Lakeside daisies are in early bloom

Lakeside Daisy Nature Preserve by Bruce Stambaugh
Daisies in full bloom at the Lakeside Daisy Nature Preserve near Marblehead, OH.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Bee and daisy by Bruce StambaughThe Lakeside daisies are in full bloom. That may not sound like earth-shattering news. But apparently due to the unusually warm winter here in Ohio, the daisies, like most other flowers, plants and trees, are blooming early. Plus, if you are a lover of all things nature, and especially wildflowers, you don’t want to miss this yellowy exhibition.

The Lakeside daisies are particularly special. They only bloom in a limited number of locations on or near the Marblehead Peninsula in northwest Ohio. In addition, their buttery blooms only last a week before they begin to fade. If you want to see them in person, you had better make tracks to the Lakeside Daisy Nature Preserve near Marblehead. My wife and I were there Sunday, and the preserve was a splash of yellow against the dull limestone gray ground.

The daisies growing in a small patch inside Lakeside were beautiful, too. They’re located right along the Lake Erie shore at the east end of Lakeside near Perry Park.

Lakeside daisies by Bruce Stambaugh
A bee enjoys one of the daisies in a clump of Lakeside daisies in a small preserve in flower’s namesake, Lakeside, OH.

Unfortunately it looks like the blooms will be gone before Marblehead’s annual Daisy Days scheduled for Mother’s Day weekend. Naturalists will lead walks through the preserve, so you can still learn a lot about the lovely little flower even if they aren’t blooming.

The Lakeside daisy (Hymenoxys herbacea) has been listed as an endangered species by Ohio since 1980. If you can’t make it to see this beautiful flower in person, enjoy the photos I took Sunday. If you look closely, you’ll notice some of the petals on the flowers are already starting to wilt.
Nature Preserve sign by Bruce Stambaugh

Lakeside Nature Preserve blooms by Bruce Stambaugh

Clump at Lakeside by Bruce Stambaugh

Daisies at Lakeside by Bruce Stambaugh

Daisies at Lakeside, OH by Bruce Stambaugh
© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

Minding our Ps and Qs, 21st century style

Williamsburg VA by Bruce Stambaugh
By Bruce Stambaugh

I couldn’t help but sense the irony and wonder in it all. My wife and I were visiting my older brother and his wife near Williamsburg, Virginia.

We all were enjoying a pleasant spring evening on the back porch of their lovely home. My wife was using her iPhone. My sister-in-law toyed with her iPad. My brother and I each were surfing around on our MacBook Pro laptops.

The evening was dark and still, except for the occasional distant rumble of thunder. The only light on the porch was the glow from the screens of our electronic gizmos.

My brother and sister-in-law own a lovely home just minutes away from Colonial Williamsburg. Founded in 1654, Williamsburg played a significant role in the development of our country to say the least.
Williamsburg home by Bruce Stambaugh
We had spent the heart of the day walking the streets of the historic town. If you have never been there, it’s a bucket list kind of place, beautifully restored and maintained with lots to do for children and adults alike.

Williamsburg actor by Bruce StambaughEven though I had visited Williamsburg before, I again thrilled at just the thought of strolling the same streets that a young Thomas Jefferson once did. With so many guides and actors dressed in period attire, it was easy to imagine being back in time.

Plush carriages pulled along by noble teams of horses plied the once muddy streets, now paved for the comfort of the tourists and the convenience of the staff. The night before we had enjoyed a delicious meal in Shields Tavern, where we were careful to mind our Ps and Qs.

That old saying, still heard today, could very well have had Williamsburg roots. In those days, a tavern’s bartender simply kept a chalkboard ledger of what customers consumed. If they drank a pint, a P was lettered under their name. If a quart, then a Q was marked. At evening’s end, the bill was tabulated and the customers properly minded their Ps and Qs by paying their bill. Today it simply means to take care of your own business.
Williamsburg carriage by Bruce Stambaugh
As the four of us sat quietly on the darkened porch, we could have been minding our own Ps and Qs by paying our bills online. With the rumbling thunderstorms growing closer, it seemed a bit surreal using our 21st century technology to check in with the world while sitting in the shadow of a bygone era. The town crier was definitely no longer needed to announce the time.

I thought about other familiar sayings we utter without knowing their origin. We derisively chatter about big wigs without contemplating the phrase’s original meaning. For the record, “big wigs” came from the 17th century society custom of wealthy people wearing expensive wigs made of human hair. The taller the wig, the more aristocratic you were.
Williamsburg hats by Bruce Stambaugh
You could say we went the whole nine yards at Williamsburg. That reference was attributed to a bolt of fabric, which equaled nine yards. Clearly I enjoy linking the past with the present.

As the line of storms hit our area, it rained cats and dogs, but not long. Even well before colonial times, superstitious persons believed cats symbolized the rain and dogs the wind; thus, the saying.

Back on the porch, we powered down for the night, thankful for both the generous hospitality and the opportunity to reconnect with the origins of our democracy. I wondered if somewhere, someplace Thomas Jefferson and Steve Jobs were both smiling.Williamsburg wisteria by Bruce Stambaugh

Celebrate all of spring’s colors, trees included

Red roof barn by Bruce Stambaugh
By Bruce Stambaugh

I feel a touch sorry for the budding leaves of the many varieties of deciduous trees. My sympathetic compassion isn’t confined to the recent series of frosty morning temperatures either.

As my wife and I drove home from Virginia’s beautiful Shenandoah Valley after visiting our daughter and her family, we were in awe of the rainbow of colors that exploded before us at every turn. Traversing the old wrinkled mountains of Virginia and West Virginia, there are more turns and twists than in a pretzel factory. In the spring, the mountains are loaded with colors.
Redbuds by Bruce Stambaugh
The most obvious were the amazing redbud trees, which were in full bloom, a lavender testimony to spring’s arrival. Against the dull gray, brown and black trunks of towering oaks, maples, wild cherry and ash, the diminutive redbuds’ beautiful blooms radiated glory on the steep hillsides.

We drove for miles and occasionally only saw a loner blooming as robustly as it could, like a child demanding adult attention. Without warning we would round a corner or top another hill and a burst of redbuds greeted us on both sides of the highway, as if a purple curtain had been drawn for us to pass.

As much as I appreciated that kindness, I couldn’t help but notice streaks and blotches of background colors, more muted, but rich nonetheless. After months of dormancy, the leafy buds of stately hardwoods were just beginning to unfurl.

Though subdued and understated, they too added to nature’s ever-changing paint palette. Hints of lemon, lime, russet, auburn, scarlet, gold, orange and brown were bursting forth. At wood’s edge, the branches reached out from top to bottom. At the thick forest canopy, the trees stood as freshly dabbed artists’ bristles awaiting application to canvas.
Budding trees by Bruce Stambaugh
In the valleys, the dogwoods and wild apples were beginning to compete with the redbuds. They added a lacy texture to the purple hue where the species cohabitated. In towns and villages, ornamentals were well ahead of schedule in blooming their reds, whites and crimsons.

The further north we drove the trees and flowers were less showy, but still emerging. Buttery daffodils and jonquils were in various stages along our route, from dying in Virginia to perfect bloom in Ohio. Every now and then, congregations of coltsfoot and dwarf dandelions lined either side of the road brighter than the yellow centerline striping.
Dwarf dandelions by Bruce Stambaugh
The flowers of spring get photographed, picked, and adorn coffee tables, bringing the outside inside. The unfolding leaves, rich in their own hues, tend to take a back seat to the flora extravaganza. For me, that’s the injustice.

It’s the fall when people generally start to pay attention to the kaleidoscope of colorful leaves. It was intriguing that these emerging spring beauties mimicked the same colors exhibited in the fall.

Just like autumn, the spring’s natural art display will disappear all too quickly. Only instead of falling, the leaves magically transform to various shades of green.

I was fearful these picturesque landscapes would go unnoticed or even unappreciated. I need not have worried.

When friends of ours arrived for a visit shortly after we returned, they proclaimed, “Did you see the leaves coming out? It looks like fall.” Yes indeed it does.

Connecting the dots in unexpected ways

By Bruce Stambaugh

Life has a way of connecting dots in unexpected ways.

Nearly three weeks ago, our two-year-old granddaughter became ill. Her mother, our daughter, took her to the doctor on back-to-back days.

Maren by Bruce StambaughUnsure of the problem, the doctor thought it best if Maren were hospitalized for observation and tests. It was to be an overnight stay. When her fever didn’t subside, and the tests proved inconclusive, another night in the hospital was needed. Of course, we stayed in close contact with our daughter, albeit long distance via emails, text messages and occasional phone calls.

When Nana heard the news that Maren was to spend a second night in the hospital, her helper mode ratcheted into high gear. Nana hastily threw together her traveling items and headed to Harrisonburg, Virginia, where our daughter and her family reside.

I stayed behind. I had long-scheduled doctor appointments, meetings that convened only monthly, and other community commitments. Besides, I believe that too many adults in the same household at the same time can be, well, sometimes touchy, especially with youngsters.

The situation with Maren grew worse. She was transferred to a noted children’s hospital for further examination. Nana took care of our two grandsons while our daughter and her husband watched over sweet Maren.

Of course I was anxious to join them. We had previously planned on leaving for a weeklong visit with the grandkids anyhow. Maren’s illness just bumped up the trip’s urgency. But I didn’t necessarily want to have two vehicles 350 miles from home if we could help it.

Arriving home by Bruce Stambaugh
It was nice to have Maren arrive home, even though she was tired and peaked.
Being the workhorse that she is, Nana kept busy with household chores in Virginia. When the recycling piled up, she decided to take it to the recycling center. One other person was there, a middle-aged man who noticed Nana’s Ohio license plates.

The man said that he used to live in Ohio, Kidron to be exact, 12 miles from our house. The assertive person that she is, Nana asked this nice person if he happened to know of anyone coming down to Harrisonburg from Ohio on Sunday afternoon.

To her astonishment, and mine once she told me the story, the man replied that indeed he and his wife were visiting in Kidron, Ohio that very weekend and would be returning on Sunday afternoon, the exact time I had wanted to leave. He said he would be glad to have me ride along if I could find a way to Kidron.

As it turned out, my ride and I discovered we had mutual friends who lived near Kidron and who just happen to attend church with us. Our friends shuttled me to the rendezvous with this charitable couple. Like clockwork, we met up and transferred all my belongings I needed for the extended stay in Virginia from my friends’ car to my new friends’ car.

Given all the mental stress I was under, I was relieved to have someone else do the driving down the winding path to the

Feeling better by Bruce Stambaugh
Maren was glad to be home, playing and active as her strength would allow.
Shenandoah Valley. He proved an excellent driver, and delivered me right to my daughter’s door. It couldn’t have worked out better. The next day, Maren returned home, having been diagnosed with a perforated appendix, a difficult and unusual illness for a toddler.

Thanks to a common household errand and the interchange of two gregarious strangers, I got to welcome Maren and my daughter home. I am exceedingly glad those two divergent dots got connected.

This column appears weekly in the Holmes Bargain Hunter.

Unwanted attention: Amish and the media

Wheat and corn by Bruce Stambaugh
Picturesque rural scenes like this one attract millions of people every year to Ohio's Amish country.

By Bruce Stambaugh

The Amish in the Holmes County, Ohio area have been in the news in recent months, and the news hasn’t always been good. The bizarre hair-cutting incidents, murders, financial fraud and accidental shootings all had the bright lights of media coverage shining on the normally peaceful and private Amish folks.

By faith and by lifestyle, the Amish wanted none of the attention. Yet, Amish are humans, and subject the same extremes and circumstances as any other individual, family or group of people. When something disturbing and uncanny happens among the world’s largest Amish population, the media swoop in to tell the world about it.

Certainly, the media has its right and responsibility to report stories it deems important. When it comes to radical events concerning the Amish, like the renegade group led by Sam Mullet of Bergholz, Ohio, it seems the world can’t get enough information.

Indeed, that desire to know is understandable, especially when it involves the normally reserved Amish. Violence in a usually peaceful and peace-loving community is an anomaly, and definitely incongruous with the Amish lifestyle.
Spring plowing by Bruce Stambaugh
The problem is, of course, that the Amish really want nothing to do with publicity, whether positive or negative. Humility is a main premise to their way of life. They believe that no member should be the center of attention, whether for doing good or doing ill. The Amish culture is centered on community, not individuality.

It is when the extraordinary in the community occurs, like the recent hostile beard cutting incidences, that that norm is broken. The unusual acts are extensively reported, and the world responds with questions and fascination. Again, the Amish prefer not to be featured as a general rule. But they also want the world to know that these extreme human behaviors are exceptions, not the rule, in the regular work-a-day-world.
Open buggy by Bruce Stambaugh
Just their choice of slower living lifestyles alone actually brings about media attention to Amish country. Many film and TV documentaries have been recorded and broadcast depicting the Amish and their less hectic lifestyle. Unfortunately, many of these productions often misinterpret or misrepresent the Amish and their values. When that unusual lifestyle is interrupted by extreme circumstances, the reporters from around the world flock in to get the scoop.

The Amish deplore any violence, whether it is done to them or others. In the case of the accidental killing of a 15-year old girl riding in a buggy, the shooter himself was Amish. Within days, the two families reconciled privately, saddened by the unfortunate and unexplainable one in a million chance that took a young life. The families forgave, and worked at getting on with life as best they could. That precious act of communing drew no media attention, which was just fine with all involved.

The Amish understand society’s need to know. They just don’t want to have their beliefs violated in gathering the sordid facts. If they do agree to a rare journalistic interview, Amish do not want their faces shown on television or in the newspaper.

Volleyball by Bruce Stambaugh
Amish youth meet regularly for hymn sings, bible study and good old-fashioned fun, like a volleyball tournament. No trophies are awarded, and there are no losers.

That bit of advice certainly should be followed by anyone visiting Amish country. Knowing that Amish prefer not to be photographed, it is best to take pictures of them from the back and from afar. In other words, take a picture of a field being plowed with the horses and farmer going away from the camera.
Serving by Bruce Stambaugh
Out of respect for their beliefs, facial pictures of Amish adults should be avoided.

When in a large crowd with mostly Amish folks like at one of the area’s numerous benefit auctions, be sensitive to the setting. Photographs of individuals would be discouraged.

The global media infrequently descends upon Amish country to report unusual stories. When they do, the Amish prefer to steer clear of any of the attention. They understand that the story needs to be told. They just don’t want to be a part of it.

This article appears in the current edition of Ohio’s Amish Country.

Over the river and through the woods to a basketball game

Youth basketball by Bruce Stambaugh
Youth basketball in Harrisonburg, VA.

By Bruce Stambaugh

It’s time for March Madness again. As much as my wife and I enjoy watching the college games on television, we had other basketball priorities. That’s the way it is with grandparents.

Our seven-year-old grandson’s basketball season was winding down, and we hadn’t seen him play yet. We used that as an excuse, as if we needed one, to drive the 350 miles south and east to Virginia’s lovely Shenandoah Valley to see him play. Across the Ohio River and through forested West Virginia mountain passes we went to cheer him on.

mountainpassbybrucestambaugh
One of the mountain passess in West Virginia we cross each time we travel from Ohio to Harrisonburg, VA.

Unfortunately, Evan was ill when we arrived. His 103-plus fever kept him home from school for a couple of days. But sports nut that he is, Evan’s fever subsided and he was ready to roll by game time Saturday morning.

We all piled into our daughter’s van and headed a few miles down the road to an elementary school where the basketball games are held. Other parents and grandparents filled the meager bleachers, too, as you might expect.

Huddle up by Bruce Stambaugh
The coach gives instructions to the young players.

I was impressed with how the operation was run. After all, seven is a young age to be playing a contact sport. After the usual warm-ups were completed, the coaches gathered the players for instructions.

The main referee, a lanky teenager, also helped the players. He talked to them before each jump ball and as the game progressed. In fact, once the whistle had blown, he often demonstratively showed the players the correct way to guard or shoot.

Helping referee by Bruce Stambaugh
The young referee took time to instruct the young players, too.
Of course, as soon as play resumed, it was like nothing had been said. The kids were pretty young to grasp the full aspects of the game. They were mostly out to have fun, and win, even though no score was kept.

Another plus was that the baskets had been lowered to make it easier for the boys to shoot. In addition, they used a smaller sized ball, one that was much easier for their small hands to handle.

This game was a lot of fun to watch. A few parents and grandparents, who shall all remain nameless, hollered out instructions to their favorite player. But just like they did the coaches, the kids seemed to ignore the advice and played on, dismissed rules and guidance in favor of trying to make a bucket anyway they could.

Playing on by Bruce Stambaugh
The youngsters emulated NBA players with their style of play.
In fact, the play of the youngsters, combined with the loose officiating, reminded me of an NBA game. Dribbling seemed to be an option, and shooting was far more common than passing the ball.

Back home, Evan practiced his skills with his younger brother, Davis, by playing an electronic game on the TV with the Wii. Davis tried his best to teach me, but I guess I was just too old to jump properly to make a basket. I seemed to be showing my age in both the virtual and real world.

Maren by Bruce Stambaugh
Our granddaughter, Maren.
Their baby sister, Maren, had tolerated Evan’s game just fine. She took along her baby doll for real entertainment. She didn’t have much interest in the Wii game either.

Maren was much too preoccupied with more important things, like playing quietly by herself until her brothers interrupted her privacy. Then another game began, which their lovely mother refereed, no whistle required.

Admittedly it was a long way to go to watch a basketball game, but well worth the time and effort. This grandfather can’t wait for youth baseball to begin.

Discovering a gem of a gem

Harbor sunset by Bruce Stambaugh
Sunset at the harbor, Fernandina Beach, FL.

By Bruce Stambaugh

It seems no matter how much planning my wife and I do for each trip we take, we find at least one unexpected gem along the way. Amelia Island, Florida was just such a place on a recent trip to the Sunshine state.

The unpretentious island initially was to be no more than a one-night layover to our final destination, Sarasota. It didn’t take long to realize what a diamond in the rough we had found. The island’s natural amenities alone deserved a closer look.

Amelia River by Bruce Stambaugh
A typical scene of live oaks and palmetto palms along the Amelia River.

On the way home, we stopped at Amelia Island for a two-day self-guided tour. Once we started to uncover the island’s riches, we could have spent two weeks there.

Steeped in history and oozing with natural beauty, Amelia Island’s chief charm seemed to be its modesty. Just inside the Florida line from Georgia, I sensed the island and its people knew what they had, but just didn’t want to flaunt it.

Main Beach by Bruce Stambaugh
Main Beach on the Atlantic Ocean, Amelia Island, FL.

On the Atlantic Ocean side, Main Beach runs the entire length of the 13.5 mile long island. In the off-season, resident and migrating birds far outnumbered the exploring humans combing the beach or local teens windsurfing.
Pippi House by Bruce Stambaugh
The Pippi Longstocking House, Old Towne, Fernandina Beach, FL.

On the inland side, historic Fernandina Beach graces the island’s picturesque waterfront. Here’s where the island’s modesty reigned. The beautiful little town was actually settled three years before St. Augustine, which bills itself as the oldest in the country.

Fernandina Beach lost its historic distinction when the Spanish conquistadores massacred the French settlers and all the island’s indigenous people, too. An open grassy square in the old town section still marks the spot.

Ironically, one of the many distinctive houses in the town stands adjacent to the infamous slaughter. The old place was used as the setting for the 1988 Pippi Longstocking movie.

Amelia Island lighthouse by Bruce Stambaugh
The Amelia Island lighthouse.

Back in town, the oldest bar in Florida was temporarily converted into an ice cream parlor for a scene in the movie. The island’s elementary children were recruited for an ice cream fight until the reality of the hot Florida weather melted the main prop. Colored mashed potatoes were instant replacements to complete the filming.

Well-preserved historic buildings make up the impressive downtown. Locally owned restaurants serve locally caught seafood, while upscale boutiques attract shoppers from near and far. Stately, well-maintained homes from bygone years line the north-south streets off of the main drag.

To say Amelia Island’s attitude is small town would be an understatement. A fender bender outside our hotel brought four cruisers.

Wild Spanish stallion by Bruce Stambaugh
Wild Spanish stallions still graze on the many isolated islands near Amelia Island.

The desire to keep things as they are reaches far beyond the town itself. An outstanding state park features a Civil War fort. Egan Creek Greenway runs down the middle of the island for birders, joggers and bikers to enjoy. A charming lighthouse, still in operation, keeps watch over it all.

Take a boat cruise and you discover even more gems about this unheralded island. Rare birds, bottle nosed porpoises, wild Spanish stallions, and salt truncated live oaks are all part of the treasure chest of Amelia Island.

Bailey House by Bruce Stambaugh
The Bailey House, one of many well-maintained historic homes in Fernandina Beach, FL.

Even in the two additional days of exploration, we couldn’t uncover all of the island’s hidden nuggets. That will make our next visit all the more exciting.

Fernandia Beach, FL by Bruce Stambaugh
Just some of the old buildings is historic downtown Fernandina Beach, FL.
Egan Creek Greenway by Bruce Stambaugh
The Egan Creek Greenway in the center of Amelia Island provides opportunities for birding, biking, jogging and walking.
Humphreys House by Bruce Stambaugh
Humphreys House, getting a new coat of paint.
Baker House by Bruce Stambaugh
Baker House, Fernandina Beach, FL.
Prescott House by Bruce Stambaugh
Prescott House, Fernandina Beach, FL.
Meddaugh House by Bruce Stambaugh
Meddaugh House, Fernandina Beach, FL.
Tabby House by Bruce Stambaugh
The Tabby House is appropriately named.
Fairbanks House by Bruce Stambaugh
Fairbanks House, Fernandina Beach, FL.
Depot by Bruce Stambaugh
The old railroad depot now serves as a welcome center near the waterfront in Fernandina Beach, FL.