Monday, December 16, 2013

Oliver Lawton's Farm

Peter Warren was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1703.  By 1744 he was in command of a 16 ship squadron of the English Royal Navy.  He had become a wealthy man.  Using some of that wealth he purchased thousands of acres of land along the Mohawk River in central New York in the colonies in 1738.  Peter hired his nephew William Johnson, born in 1715, to manage his property.


William sold farms to settlers, and then opened a store to sell goods to those farmers.  He also began dealing as a fur trader which earned him vast sums of money.  William took Molly, sister of Mohawk Chief Joseph Brant, as his common law wife giving him special status with the tribe.  In 1746 he became Britain’s Manager of Indian Affairs.  That same year he was awarded a Chieftainship in the Mohawk Nation.


In 1760 he was “given” 66,000 acres of land by the Mohawks.  He reciprocated with a gift of $24,000 and some trade goods.  In 1763 a Royal Proclamation forbid individuals from purchasing Indian lands.  William applied for a special confirmation stating he had not purchased his land, but that it was given to him, which was approved in 1769.  His land then became known as the Royal Grant.  In 1775 William died leaving the bulk of his estate to his son James.


The next year the Revolutionary War began, and James made the decision to side with the British, rather than the upstart rebels.  After the war the heavily in war debt New York State confiscated William’s lands and began to sell the first allotment of them at public auction in 1784.  They were all sold by 1789 at which time a second allotment was offered.  Oliver Lawton of Rhode Island purchased 500 acres as the first lot, located in what became Herkimer County, of that second allotment.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Keep Refrigerated

While pouring a glass of milk yesterday I noted it said on the carton to "keep refrigerated."

Not wanting to break some law or something I decided this morning to obey the message. I removed all of the shelves in the refrigerator, which entailed removing all of the food items which I placed on the kitchen counter. The milk was on a door shelf so it remained in place.

I then climbed into the empty space to pour my milk without removing it from the fridge. I told my wife I would tell her when I wanted to get back out.

So who knew it was dark in there? Did you realize the little light goes out when you close the door? By feel I got the milk carton and my glass more or less lined up and poured milk in my lap.

I then asked the wife to let me out, but she said later she never heard me say anything. So who knew you couldn't hear through a closed refrigerator door, or is it possible she has selective hearing which only works part time?

Fortunately, after a while, she didn't want her Pepsi sitting on the counter to get warm so she opened the door and I was able to shiver my way back to the kitchen table.

I am now still shivering, eating dry cornflakes, while the little woman with all her wisdom is inquiring if my pants are wet because I was afraid of the dark?

To hell with it, tomorrow the milk is going to be on the table.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

How I "spent" my day

Over the past few days my jaw became all swollen and it hurt like hell so my daughter got me an appointment with the dentist as I thought I needed some teeth yanked out.  When I got to the office Huldah sat me in a sort of leatherette chaise lounge chair, left, and stayed gone for about a half hour.  When she returned she asked how I was doing?  I told her not overly well, my teeth hurt.  She told me I needed an Xray.  She led me to a torture room where she placed me standing with my head on a plate and a stick in my mouth wearing a heavy coat.  She told me to hang in there while this machine sent a pot whirling around my head a time or two.  Okay, enough of that shit.  I was getting dizzy, so they took me back to my lounge chair.

She said, “We’re going to have to pull those teeth.”

I said, “Well that’s what I come for.”

After some more time passed along came this guy in a little brown coat.  He told me he was going to have to pull them teeth.  I decided I was finally getting through to them now.  “However,” he said, “I’ve got to get an impression first.”

I’m thinking that his impression was that he was going to pull the teeth, but instead he had Huldah the Hun (he called her Hun a lot) mix up a batch of some really crazy pudding.  She got out this funny looking cup thingy and put large gobs of the stuff in it, and then put some more in a squeeze tube.  She told me to open wide, and durned if she didn’t start squirting that stuff around inside my mouth like I couldn’t eat by myself.  When she got done with that she stuffed that entire cupful, cup and all in my mouth and told me not to talk for a while.  Now having two cups of pudding stuffed into a one-cup space is not entirely fun you might guess, but she did it, and let me tell you talk was out of the question.  After an eternity she pulled that entire mess out in one glob.  Whew!

As if that wasn’t enough, she began mixing up another batch of that pudding.  Same routine, except this time she did the roof of my mouth, and told me to breathe through my nose.  I sure as hell was not going to breathe any other way except maybe through a tracheal tube.  When she finally pulled that glob out it was like the first one, all turned into a rubbery mass, and completely ruined as far as having a snack.  Huldah and brown suit looked it over and said that was enough, and they kicked me out the door, after I paid $350 for the pudding.  As I left they told me to come back in about three weeks and they’d pull some teeth.  I hope it’s cheaper than that damned pudding I never did get to eat.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Do you see that old tree?  I placed it right in the center to draw your attention to it.  I believe it is a White Pine, a species that lives for hundreds of years.  This one is quite obviously an aged specimen, and probably was fully grown when the first Europeans arrived in the New World.

It reminds me of myself and mortality.  Although it yet stands straight and tall, one can easily note the loss of strength as branches, like muscles, die.  In its elderly state, the top has thinned leaving a rather bony appearance.  Time has taken its toll, and its demise is inevitable.  No man, no living, nor inanimate, object is impervious to time and the ravages of nature.  Trees come and trees go, as does mankind.

I was out and about riding my old Kawasaki ATV when I found myself at an old abandoned gravel pit.  Apparently all of the usable gravel has been removed, and it hasn't been touched in years now.  I roamed around among the vast deep pits, filled with water, like a tourist seeing the sights.
After a while I found a small ditch through which water ran off from the surrounding area into one of the pits.  At some time in the past someone had stretched a plank across it for ease of moving about.  As I sat there contemplating crossing it to see what was over there, a small furry friend came scurrying across the rocks on my side of the ditch.
It seemed it wanted to cross the plank, presumably headed toward home, as its cheeks were full nearly to bursting with food it was taking home for its winter supply.  About the time it got to the edge of the ditch-crossing plank it apparently spotted my presense as it stopped in midstride before crossing.  Not wanting to get caught in the open crossing the plank it stood, cheeks bulging, lost in contemplation of its next move.
I took several photos, as I am wont to do, before I retreated and let the pretty little creature return to its fall food storage duties.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Recently, here in northern New York, there has been an unusual number of garter snakes present.  I have stumbled on many of them this spring, summer, and early fall.  I happened to take photographs of some of them as we crossed paths.

This first photo is a rarity in my mind.  I was picking blackberries along a fencerow that has grown up to bushes.  I had picked a small containerful, and was nearing the end of the fencetow when I reached for a succulent berry only to note this garter snake inches from my hand.

I realize they are relative harmless, yet I recoiled a bit.  I had previously never seen a snake up off the ground in a bush such as this one was.  It was around four feet up from the ground, and I believe obviously going for the very same berry I was.  It is also possible it was using the berry for bait in an attempt to lure some hapless victim to dinner.

While out and about on an ATV one fine late summer day, September 19th, to be more exact, I spotted this fine specimen.  It spotted me as well, but seemed in no hurry to leave the area.  We looked each other over for a minute or so while I took several photos.  Ultimately we went our separate ways.  I might guess I've had as many as twenty such encounters this year, where other years two or three might be more common.  There abundance may have something to do with weather, but that is merely speculation.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Beaver Ingenuity

On my neighbor’s property about half of a mile from my home there is a small stream which drains the surrounding land.  Some of this land is very good crop acreage, while some of it is more swampy, and of little farm use.  My neighbor, needing access to his crops on both sides of the stream built a farm road across it.  He hauled in sandy soil building the road up to about 4’ higher than the stream bed to make it high and dry.  In the process he installed two sluice pies at the original stream bed level.  One of these is about 30” in diameter, while the other is near 16” across.  They are located approximately 20’ from each other.
Shortly thereafter a pair of beaver moved into the area upstream from the road that my neighbor had built.  Whether by instinct, or constructive thought, the enterprising beaver found this to be a relatively easy place to form a pond.  All they had to do was stop the water from flowing through the two pipes, and magically over a short period of time a pond would materialize in which they could live relatively safe from most predators.
Bucky and Eagar Beaver, as I named them, set to work as busy beavers will do, and before long had completely blocked the end of the large pipe with sticks and mud dug from the bottom of the steam bed thus deepening the water at the same time.  They continued adding material until they had their plug several inches higher than the top of the pipe, and extended well beyond the extremities of the pipe itself.  This would seem to be rather an instinctive bit of engineering as building ponds by blocking water flow is what beaver have been doing for centuries.
However, when it came to the smaller pipe the workaholic animals used a completely different tactic.  Instead of plugging the end of the pipe as they had done with the large one, they instead built a dam some two feet back from the end of that pipe completely surrounding the inlet end of the pipe, but leaving the end of the pipe open.
Due to abnormally heavy rainfall recently the pond has been growing deeper, and at the same time larger.  Yesterday the water began to overflow the dam at the end of the smaller pipe effectively maintaining the water level at the dam height.  This ensures the water level in their den built some 100’ back from the dam will not rise to a height threatening their living quarters with flooding.  As of this time they have made no attempt to slow, or stop, the flow of water over the dam.  Thus it would seem this is a well-thought-out water level control system.  Is this yet instinctive, or can it be real thought? 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

I Will Survive

Do you see that old birch right there in the right foreground? Well, let me tell you I feel akin to that aging tree. It has seen better days, but it's still hangin' in there, and ready for another year as spring readies itself in the manifestation of new buds that will transform into leaves once again. It may be aging, worn, and bent; it may not even survive too much longer, but while it's around there is yet some grace left in its sagging branches. Its bark may be curling as it withers, but it hasn't given up as of yet. Every year as spring rolls around it takes another gasp, and you can almost hear the wind in its branches singing "I will survive."

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

 On April 12, 2013 I awoke to the pitter-patter of falling raindrops.  Normally this is a fine way to awaken in the spring, but on this occasion the temperature was below freezing.  You guessed it, the rain was freezing to whatever it fell upon.  This first photo is of our budding lilac in front of a short needle pine.
The second photo is of an Mackintosh Apple tree in my side yard backed up by the same evergreen.
This third photo is obviously my front deck bird feeder.  The ice gives it a Chinese pagoda look to me.

The next photo is a general photo of a part of my eight acres behind my old country home.  You can note that the ice has built up on all of the trees in the area.
This photo shows the resiliency of a white birch tree.  The ice can weight it down, but it will bend until its top touches the ground before it snaps.  When the ice melts it returns to its original shape none the worse for wear.  In the meantime it makes for some interesting patterns.
This larger birch tips almost unbelievably with the weight of the accumulated ice, but it remains in the upright position.  This one probably will not return to its former upright status.
Here is a shot of a long-needle pine.  It looks rather bedraggled with its ice coated long needles bearing a heavy load.  The pines, unlike the birches, will snap long before they will bend to the ground.  This one was nearing its weight bearing capacity, but luckily it held until it thawed.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Flowers For Mama

My wife and I live in an old country farm home.  I don’t know how old it actually is, but easily dates back into the 1800s.  When this home was built everyone used outhouses, and although it was gone before I moved here in 1976 there is no doubt one would have been here.  Back in the day a lot of people planted lilac bushes near their outhouse as a deterrent to odoriferous conditions.  We are fortunate to have the prerequisite lilac remaining at the corner of our home.  Each spring for well over a hundred years that lovely lilac has bloomed as one of the first spring flowers in this area.
Each spring for the first few years we lived here a wonderful little lady would stop her ancient automobile beside the road in front of our home.  She would come to the door and ask if she could pick some of the lilacs to place on her mother’s grave in the cemetery in sight of our home.  Of course, she was always welcome to do so.  I never learned her name, or place of abode, but after several years she stopped coming to place those Decoration-day lilacs.
The above true story formed the basis of the fiction I wrote below several years ago.
Bless You For The Roses
Leo Lawton
Tom had been a hard worker in his youth, but after the accident he was never the same, and hard labor, which was all he knew, was now out of the question.  The train yard where he used to work was sorry to lose a good man, but they couldn’t be expected to pay a man that couldn’t work could they?  In his heart Tom longed for the day he could return to the yard and earn a good honest dollar like he used to, but his head told him it was impossible.
Marilyn had picked up where Tom had left off.  She went to work in the cotton mill, sitting twelve hours a day at the looms.  The problem was that she was only paid about half what Tom used to earn in his ten hour shift.  Only infrequently could Tom find some odd little chore he could complete for a neighbor with his one good arm, but the income from that made little difference in their day to day existence.
Mary and Tommy were both willing to help with the family income too, but Tommy’s shoe shine stand did little business on the cold January days.  Everyone wore overshoes as they trudged through the snow, and they were not about to stop and remove them to have shoes polished to complete a shift in the mill.  Mary mostly did chores around the house that it seemed her mother never had a chance to do.  Once in a while she baked a batch of sugar cookies, took them to Tommy’s shoe shine stand, and attempted to sell them, but few people had money enough in 1930 to buy sweet stuff.
When spring arrived the lady came again.  The poor lady had no money, but she always stopped by to ask for a single rose to place on her mother’s grave.  Marilyn was home because it was Sunday, her only day off from the mill.  She watched as the elderly lady picked a small blossom.  Marilyn picked a larger one and asked that she place it on the grave for her.  A little weaker each year, the frail old lady shuffled off to the cemetery up the road.  As she slowly returned past the house, she spoke to Marilyn who was hanging a bit of wash out to dry.  It was Sunday, but she had no other day.  The old lady spoke, “Bless you Ma’am, I talked with mother, and she told me she loved the roses.”
Tom asked who the lady was.  Mary said she thought she lived over near the Sprague place.  She had heard the poor old lady went through the garbage cans over at the little cafĂ© by the mill in the night, sifting for morsels.
Summer and fall sped by, and once more it was winter.  The mill was having a hard go of it, and there were rumors of it possibly shutting down.  As it were Marilyn was working only four shifts a week.  Her lowered income barely put food on the table, much less anything else.  Lord, how was she to put anything in the kid’s stockings on Christmas Eve?  There were patches on the patches on Tommy’s trousers.  If only she could afford even a small ribbon for Mary.  She had such beautiful hair.  She was behind seven months on her $12 monthly mortgage payment.  How much longer before the bank foreclosed?
The postman, who never stopped at their mailbox, made a brief halt one day in mid-December.  Mary rushed to get the small package addressed to “the folks at 101 Ruffles Lane.”  For the remainder of the day she could hardly wait for her mother to return from work.  Her father would not open the package.  He said, “Mother is now the breadwinner and it’s her responsibility to handle the mail.”  The hours dragged by as Tom and Mary took turns staring at the small brown paper wrapped package.  What could it be?  Tom decided it must be some sort of practical joke.  They didn’t know anyone that would, or could, send a Christmas present, but what else could it be?  Mary chose to wonder if it could be some small item her mother had ordered from the catalog store.
When Marilyn returned from work, long after dark, she was met at the door by her daughter saying, “Mother, come quickly, we have a package.”  Marilyn picked up the package as Tom and Mary watched in anticipation.  She slowly removed the string holding it together, then began unwrapping the dirty brown paper.  She clasped her hand to her mouth to suppress a scream as she dropped the package.  Wrinkled dollar bills scattered across the floor.  It had to be some kind of a mistake.  This must be meant for someone else.  She checked the address on the paper again.  It said, “them foks at 101 Ruffles Lane.”  That was their home.  Who could possibly be sending them money?  While Mary bent over and picked up the spilled bills, Marilyn studied the brown wrapper, and noted on the inside, printed in small neat letters were the words, “Bless you for the roses.”
Mary softly spoke, “Mama there’s more’n a hundred bills here.”

The destitute old lady didn’t return the next spring.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Louis Bowen Lawton - Medal of Honor Awardee

He was born March 13, 1872 at Independence, Iowa the son of Albert Wheeler Lawton, and grandson of Nathan Lawton the surveyor of a village in Michigan.  When asked by the town’s future postmaster the name of the village Nathan remarked he did not know, so the town of Lawton, Michigan was named for him.  Nathan was the grandson of Oliver Lawton, who along with his family had moved west from Rhode Island to central New York in 1789.
Louis graduated high school as the class of ’88, and entered West Point in the class of ’93.  He married the former Theresa Kelsey in that same year of 1893, and they had a daughter Josephine in 1894, and another, Anna Marie in 1899.  He entered the service in July 1900 as a 1st Lieutenant with the 9th U S Infantry.
            The Boxer Rebellion was an anti-foreigner movement that began in northern China in 1898.  Its main purpose was to force all foreigners from Chinese soil.  The Righteous Harmony Society, known as Boxers by non-Chinese, believed they were invulnerable to bullets, but that did not seem to be the actual case.  An eight nation force, including the American 9th Infantry, was sent to put down the rebellion.
            During the battle of Tientsin, where Colonel Liscum was killed, Lawton crawled on his stomach through a muddy field, where the bullets spattered like hail, to bring re-enforcement to his regiment. He was shot twice, but he kept on crawling and accomplished his mission before he collapsed. His injuries were such as to necessitate his retirement from the army, and he was promoted to the rank of major just before his retirement.  The regiment took a 10% casualty loss.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Henry Ware Lawton - Medal of Honor Awardee

Henry Ware Lawton was born on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 1843, in Ohio.  His father, George, traveled to California in 1850 ostensibly to build mining equipment for the gold rush miners, but if the truth be known he may have sought gold himself.  In 1852 while George was yet in California his wife died leaving Henry and his siblings with no parent.  Henry was raised for the next several years by a Mrs. Moore.
April 16, 1861, barely 18 years of age, Henry joined Company E of the 9th Indiana Volunteers upon President Lincoln’s request to the nation.  On July 21st of that same year Sergeant Lawton was mustered out, his three month tour completed after having fought several battles through West Virginia.  On August 20, 1861 he joined for a second time, this time with a company of the Indiana 30th Vols. as a 1st Lieutenant.  His unit fought their way through Kentucky, Tennessee, and on into Mississippi where he fought at Shiloh and Corinth.  On May 7, 1862 he was promoted to captain.  He fought on at Chickamauga and Chattanooga.
He saw action at Tunnel Hill, Rocky Face, Dalton, Resaca, Adairsville, Cassville, New Hope Church, Kennesaw Mountain, Smyrna Camp Ground, Chattahoochee River, and Peachtree Creek all in Georgia as part of Sherman’s march toward Atlanta.
On August 3, 1864, Lawton was in command of Company A.  He led his men in an attack across open ground against the rifle pits defending Atlanta.  Two other brigades were to charge at the same time, one on Lawton’s right and the other on his left.  The brigade on his right was repulsed by the enemy, and the one on his left never attacked, but Lawton’s brigade captured the pits and managed to hold them against two determined attempts to retake them.  That November he was promoted to Brevet Lieutenant Colonel and took command of the regiment.
For his determined action leading the men in taking the Atlanta rifle pits he was awarded a Medal of Honor for “distinguished gallantry”.
Henry Ware Lawton went on to win accolades in the Indian Wars following the cessation of hostilities of the Civil War.  Lawton, Oklahoma was named after him.
In the 1890s he fought at El Caney in Cuba during the Spanish American War.  Yet later he lost his life as one might expect, engaged in battle in the Philippines.
Information from “Lawton – Forgotten Warrior” by Rudolph Rau was used in this presentation.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

John Sterling Lawton - Medal of Honor Awardee

John Sterling Lawton, born May 13, 1858 was a descendant of Thomas Lawton who, along with his brother George, emigrated from Cranfield, Bedfordshire, England in 1639 to the newly forming colony on Rhode Island.  John was born and raised in Bristol, Rhode Island.  By the age of 21 he was a Sergeant in Company D of the 5th Cavalry of the United States Army stationed at Fort D. A. Russell in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Before the coming of the whites the Ute Indians had traditionally lived in Colorado, Utah, and northern New Mexico.  In accordance with their Manifest Destiny the whites believed they were destined to own all land from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and therefore the Indians must be placed on reserved areas rather than have the right to wander wherever they chose.  After the close of the Civil War in 1865 the whites began in earnest to assimilate the entire west.  In a treaty with Colorado Territory’s Governor Evans in 1863 the Utes had been promised all Colorado land west of the Continental Divide.  Five years later in 1868, ten tribal chiefs were invited to Washington to renegotiate the treaty.  Under the new treaty the Utes were established on two reservations, one at Los Pinos and another 150 miles north on the White River.  Another five years passed until the United States government once again wanted more Ute land in 1873.  This time the Utes lost four million acres to the U S Government.  Colorado became a state in 1876.
In 1878 a new U S government agent named Nathan Meeker was assigned to the White River Reservation.  Inept at best, unscrupulous could also be considered, Meeker never got along with his charges.  By early September 1879 matters had worsened to the point Meeker asked Colorado Governor Pitkin for military protection.  Major Thomas T. Thornburgh, commander of Fort Steele, near Rawlins, Wyoming was notified by the U S War Department to move with sufficient troops to the White River Ute Agency.  Thornburgh outfitted about 200 cavalry and mounted infantry for the journey.
On September 29, 1879 Thornburgh’s men crossed the Milk River, eastern boundary of the Ute Reservation.  The Utes considered this an act of war.  Suddenly a shot rang out.  Unknown who, or which group fired it, a battle was on.  Thornburgh circled his wagons in a defensive posture.  Within the first hour Thornburgh had died and command was assumed by Captain Scott Payne who was also wounded.  Trenches were dug within the circle of wagons.  During the first night when the Indians didn’t completely surround the besieged troops, two men, Sergeants John S. Lawton and Jacob Widmer volunteered to go for reinforcement.  They were successful in their foray and three days later 35 men from Fort Dodge arrived with ammunition.  On October 5th 255 men arrived from Fort Russell in Cheyenne.  At that point the Utes decided any further action on their part was useless, and surrendered.
The two Sergeants were each awarded a Medal of Honor for their perilous ride through the night.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Stream

The precipitation, whether rain, snow, or other, that falls on several hundred acres of landscape ever so slowly makes its way downhill to a low-lying swampy area.  Here it gathers in pools that with the aid of a beaver dam flow together forming a pond.
Various wetland bushes and shrubs grow in and near the small valley.  These are sustenance for the resident beaver family, as well as perching and nesting sites for kingbirds, kingfishers, red-wings, and other feathered pond denizens who remain through the summers raising a brood on a yearly basis.
Living in the water in harmony with the beavers are several families of muskrats.  As they eat small reeds and grasses, there is little competition for food supplies so they get along with apparent ease.  There are also some sort of small minnows in bunches that somehow worked their way upstream.  Common frogs and bullfrogs each claim some small part of the pond as their personal territory.  That is until some larger critter decides it belongs to them.
Each summer season at least one pair of geese, and a pair of ducks will nest within the quiet waters safe from nearly all predators except man.  Occasionally a garter or water snake will prowl on shore, or take to the water if it seems to have a chance at a resting frog.
Such is life in the pond before the water spills over the beaver dam, or through an intentional spillway used to maintain a certain water level.  After a half mile travel along the small stream bed the water comes to this small pond beside the Cemetery Road.  Here resides another beaver family.  The town crew has a log placed in the water to preclude the beavers raising the water level higher than the road bed, but the beavers are yet able to maintain enough water for their use.
The water travels down through a wooded area for another half mile before arriving at County Road 10.  Here there is another attempt by man to keep the beaver from blocking the pipe under the road.
On the other side of the road is where Dean Cox and I decided to go swimming on the first day of April when we were about 14 years of age.  That was a mistake, but we didn’t know it until we were in the water.  I don’t recall there was any ice floating, but there might as well have been.  As it was a spur of the moment decision we had no towels so were forced to stand in a slight breeze to dry off before putting our clothes back on.  That was colder than the water.
The little stream moseys along for another mile before crossing State Highway 68.  All the while it is getting slowly wider and deeper as other rivulets enter its course.  It continues on for another mile or so until it joins with Lisbon Creek.  Then that flows into the Oswegatchie River near Heuvelton, NY.  So goes a flow of water that drains thousands of acres of prime farm land in this area.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Old-fashioned Maple Syruping

It would be natural to wonder why my brother-in-law, Ron, is adding wood to a woodstove set up in his lawn, when everybody knows they are designed to heat indoors, not out.  I could say that Ron sometimes marches to the beat of a different drum, but that would only partially explain this strange behavior.  Taking a second look at this photo you may note there is a pan atop the stove merrily boiling away.
The second photo shows what the inside of that little wood stove looks like when it is being properly fired.  That’s a fairly hot fire, but has to be fed regularly to stay that way.  A pile of wood can disappear into the maw of that thing more rapidly than one might think.
In this photo you can note the results of that fire under the pan.  A slow rolling boil sends clouds of steam into the atmosphere slowly condensing the maple sap in the pan into maple syrup as the water dissipates.  The piece of metal leaning against the side is ward off the slight wind from that side as an aid to boiling.
I can tell you may be wondering where that sap comes from.  It is from a sugar maple tree.  Usually a person uses a battery drill to make a small hole in the tree trunk.  A small tap with a tube is snugly set into the hole, which then has a container attached to catch the resultant flow.  The temperature must be above freezing, and it helps to have bright sunny days to insure the sap will flow freely.  This jug is nearly full and ready for collecting.  Careful observation will show the railroad tracks some 100’ away.
This is Ron collecting a full jug and pouring it into a pail which will be placed in the back of the waiting Polaris Ranger for transport to the boiling area.  Once back at that point, with fire stoked, and pan filled, it’s time for a break.

We happily retire to the break room, a past garage converted to a man cave, where a friendly game of eight ball can fill in a few minutes before the next tending of the fire must be performed.  The entire syrup making experience is considered no more than a good time with the happy result of two or three gallons of fine syrup at the end of the season which may last a month or so.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Amish Youth

I spent a part of the afternoon with my brother-in-law, Ron.  He is in the midst of making maple syrup.  It is only for his family’s personal consumption, and done in a very primitive way.  He has about twenty taps installed in maybe a dozen trees.  They will produce possibly 2 or 3 gallons of syrup in a month long season.  We used his Polaris Ranger to go into the woods to gather the available sap from buckets attached to the spouts.  After returning to his home we poured the sap into a stainless steel flat pan about 16’ X 24” placed on top of a small wood stove set up in his back yard.  It wasn’t long after we had a good fire burning in the stove that the sap began a slow boil.  The rising steam gave evidence the sap was beginning to thicken into the future remaining syrup.  Between 30 and 40 gallons of sap will boil down into a gallon of syrup.  We needed to tend the fire under the syrup pan every 15 to 20 minutes to insure a proper boil, but in between we played several games of pool on the table he has set up in an old converted garage.  All in all it was a fine afternoon.
Later, on my way home I came to a fork in the road.  The road I live on split off the road I was driving on, in a wye.   Very near the intersection I spotted an Amish wagon with an attached team of horses.  They didn’t appear to be moving.  I started onto my road and traveled several hundred feet, all the time watching the Amish wagon in my rear view mirror.  The wagon never moved although I could see an Amish man near the horses’ heads trying to encourage them on.  I stopped and backed up to where they were.  Then it dawned on me that these were more children than men.  The oldest was about 14, while with him were two boys of maybe 10 and 8 years old.  I asked if they had troubles.  The older boy told me the team just couldn’t pull the wagon loaded with logs onto the road.  He had come out of a wooded area and attempted to enter the roadway at an angle.  Two wheels on one side were on the asphalt, but the other two wheels had sunk in the roadside wet sand.
I asked if the somewhat small team of horses would allow me to attach my pickup ahead of them without panicking.  The elder Amish boy was unsure, but offered to unhook them if I thought my truck would pull the load.  He asked if my truck was a four-wheel-drive, which surprised me as I didn’t realize he would know anything at all about trucks.  I assured him it was, so he pulled a pin, allowing the horses to be driven away from the load.  I then backed my truck up to near the end of the wagon tongue.  The Amish lad produced a chain, hooked it to the tongue, and I attached it to a trailer ball on the back of my truck.  With the transfer case in four-wheel-low, and the transmission in 1st gear I slowly tightened the chain, and kept right on moving until all four wagon wheels were on the asphalt.  We unhooked the chain and he hooked the light team of horses to the wagon again.  He offered to pay me, but I assured him I wanted nothing for my help.  He was a fellow human needing a little assistance, and I was lucky enough to be able to help when it was needed.  We waved to each other as I drove away.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Possessed Heating Pad

As I was having some muscular problems in my left shoulder area my granddaughter delivered a small heating pad to my home.  It was her idea that possibly if I placed it on my bed under my shoulder it might relieve some of the discomfort, and actually aid the recuperation.
She showed me the pad, about 16” X 24”, and gave me the following instructions.  Plug the cord into a receptacle.  There are four green buttons on it.  Each is for a different heat setting.  Four may be too hot, so try it on three first.  That was simple enough.  How could I go wrong?
As I prepared to go to bed yesterday evening I dutifully placed the heat pad about where I thought it would be the most beneficial.  I pushed the green # 3 button as instructed and retired on the pad.  Soon my lower back seemed almost too warm, and my shoulder not particularly warm at all so I decided the pad was hotter on one end than the other.  I roused up, moved the pad higher up in the bed with the cooler end under the pillow, bringing the lower part up under my shoulder.  That seemed about right.
A little later, not knowing if I had slept or not, I noted the pad was only as warm as my body.  It seemed not to be heating.  I found the control next to my pillow, turned it toward where I could see it, and it had this big red eye blinking at me.  Now that didn’t seem right, and the granddaughter hadn’t mentioned anything at all about a red light, only four green ones.  After considering the situation for a few seconds, I decided maybe placing the end of the pad under the pillow caused it to be too hot, and it went into a reset mode.  I placed that end of the pad on top of the pillow, punched the red eye, and instead of blinking it came on steady.  Progress, or regress, I didn’t know.  I punched the # 3 green button and once more the pad began heating as when I first lay down.  It should run for the night now.
A while later I noted, once again, the pad seemed to only be body temperature.  This time I grabbed the control expecting to see a blinking red light, and I was not disappointed.  Once more I punched the malevolent red eye and the cursed blinking stopped.  I punched the # 3 button for the third time, and all seemed well with the world once again.
Yet later I once more noted the pad had quit heating.  Upon checking the control, again the red light was blinking.  I’d had enough of this nonsense.  I followed the cord with my hand in the darkness to the wall receptacle, pulled the plug, and tossed the bewitched pad on the floor.  Sleep came and I made it through the night.
This afternoon I was explaining to my granddaughter what a restless night I had experienced with the goofy blinking red light instead of the nice glowing green I was expecting.  She then informed me that there was a 45 minute timer on it.  At the end of that time the pad control shut off, and a red blinking light announced the fact.  Now she tells me. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Old Age 2

I wrote the below December 1, 2011, I shall add it here.

On Growing Old

My days are dwindling like the kindling that began the eternal flame at the tomb of the unknown-soldier.  Each day I marvel that I stand at the portals among the mortals of this planet.  My extended family is not one of longevity, but still I linger day to day among those who are young and virile as if I knew not how to leave with dignity.  Soon my life will be done, my time will come, and I beg of you to remember I did not choose to remain, it was merely my time of passing had not yet been determined.  Do not hesitate, do not meditate, but continue on.  This world will little note my passing, and that is as it should be.  We are all fleeting beings on a planet hurtling through space at breakneck speed with little idea of where we shall spend eternity.
Back in August of last year, some six months ago, I wrote of some of the foibles of old age.  That can be found here:
Yesterday, February 24, 2013, I became painfully aware of another side effect of aging.  Although I have not had it checked by a medical expert, nor do I intend to, I believe I had a small cardiac infarction, or as it is more commonly known, a slight heart attack.  It’s another way of knowing I am vulnerable to the vagaries of growing older.  If it weren’t for these periodic awakenings I would never know how lucky I am to yet be alive.
The result at this point is that the left side of my upper torso has a steady dull pain.  Also it is painful to move my left arm in relationship to the remainder of my body.  The arm and attached hand are fully functional, but it is less painful to move my entire body than to raise or lower the limb.  Such it is to live on into older decades.

Sunday, January 6, 2013


I started smoking cigarettes while still in high school at around age thirteen.  It was considered the really cool thing to do at the time.  I would beg, borrow, buy, or steal to support my “cool” habit.  After a while my poor mother gave up on me and began to buy my cigarettes for me, “but only one pack a week.”  For any more than that I was on my own.  The smoking habit stayed with me through 15 years of U S Navy service, and continued after that was over.
At age 41 I had a heart attack.  I spent 10 days in an Intensive Care Unit, and having survived that, I was placed in a bed on a regular hospital care unit.  After ten days of no smoking due to oxygen service in the ICU I was about ready to bite myself just out of pure meanness.
The first evening I was in the bed on the regular floor of the hospital my doctor dropped by for a checkup on his patient.  While he was there I asked, “Doctor is it okay for me to smoke now?”
He answered, “Yes, but your children will miss you.”
I decided I had just gone ten days without a cigarette maybe I could go eleven if I tried hard enough.  It has now been more than 33 years since I had that last cigarette.  I’m obviously still alive, as are all four of my children, none of which smoke.
I’ve often said Doctor Federico “Fred” Loinaz is the smartest man I ever knew.