Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Looking Into Nature

When you hear the name of Albert Einstein, what do you think of?  Advanced mathematician, quantum theory, theory of relativity, photon theory of light, his annus mirabilis (miracle year), or the publication of four ground-breaking papers within a single year, the Nobel Prize, his mass-energy equivalence formula (E=mc2), the study of molecular motion, particle theory, all jointly leading inexorably to the birth of atomic energy, but did you know he was a philosopher?
Perhaps it was in this latter pursuit that his brilliant mind finally led him to what most paddlers have discovered long ago, but need to constantly remind ourselves:  “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”  Yes, that is brilliant.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Crowder Lake - Part 2

Sneezeweed in full bloom.
The huge bloom of a Prickly Poppy.  The shorter orange flowers
are Indian Blankets.
I’m glad I have this trip to write about, because there certainly isn’t anything going on right now.  The temperature is 104-deg. with a 108-deg. heat index in the shade.  The shade is rather pointless, because the wind of 15 mph and more blows the heat right under any shade tree to carry all the heat with it.  It has been this way for the last week, and is expected to continue without any foreseeable break. 

There is another short creek running to the north, but west of Cobb
Creek, that runs into a wooded area.
A Great Blue Heron fishing along the bank.
We (my companion being my 14-ft. Kevlar Hornbeck Adirondack pack canoe, ’Buddy’) reached Crowder by going south on Rt. 54 from Weatherford for 6.9 miles after passing under I-40.  At Cty. Rd. E1100, turn left (east) for 2 miles to the first stop sign at Cty. Rt. N2410.  There is a small sign for the lake at this turn.  This will take you across the headwaters of Cobb Creek in a deep ravine that one sign identifies as Cedar Canyon.  At 2410, turn right (south) for one mile, and at the dead end, turn right again into the drive to Crowder Lake.  The gate is closed from 10PM to 6AM. The lake belongs to the Southwest Campus of Oklahoma State University.  There are five paved RV sites available on a first-come, first served bases at $20/night.  Tent camping is $12.  Seniors receive a $2 discount.  There is a very nice paved parking lot at the concrete ramp at L35.39743N Lo98.70259W.  There is also a 1-mile paved nature trail that emphasizes tree species identification.

This beaver lodge in the delta of Cobb Creek is the second largest
I've seen.

Like most Western and Plains states, any open public lands are open
to cattlemen for grazing at the rate of $1.87 a head/month.  Anywhere
you step ashore, you have cattle to deal with, and there appears to be
no responsibility for maintaining them.
The lake is great for paddlers.  Power boats are permitted, but idle-speed, no wake operation is enforced with a $290 fine as an incentive for compliance.  I have no doubt that the lake can get busy during the summer, but I had the lake to myself except for one fishing pontoon boat and a couple bank fishermen in the park.  When I prepared to leave, a university photography class arrived to take out a half-dozen large aluminum canoes, so my timing was perfect.  

Large, red sandstone cliffs hang out over the stream. 

The bridge across Cobb Creek spans what they call Cedar Canyon.
Not far beyond, the stream grows much shallower, but compensates
with a nice, firm, gravel bottom.

When we bottomed out on the gravel bar, I climbed up the steep
bank to have lunch in a grove of trees.  Nearby lay the skeleton
of a cow that had obvious laid there for a considerable span of time.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Crowder Lake

The Ram and Buddy at the Crowder Lake Park entrance.
I really enjoyed this trip.  I made this trip in June, which was before we returned to the drought and triple-digit temperatures.  I’d give Crowder Lake five stars for a day-paddle destination.  The body of the lake is small, making it accessible even when the wind is up, and there are several arms off the lake that provide protection from the wind.  They also offer interesting topographic and geologic features, as well as large patches of wild flowers which were in bloom at the time of the trip.

Whether a one-percenter or just real lucky, the owner of this home
has a beautiful commanding view of the lake and their own boat dock.

Layers of rock formation create ledges at the edge of the lake.
Crowder lake is south of Weatherford, OK, and is in grid F-2, page 40, of the DeLorme Oklahoma Atlas and Gazetteer.  The map of the lake appears on P. 62 of the Lakes of Oklahoma publication by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board and the Wildlife Commission.  The area around the lake is also nicely wooded. 
The greens were brilliant and varied.  The dark cedars blended nicely with groves of hardwoods with a broad palette of greens.   People elsewhere in the country may not see the significance of this.  Here in dry, drought-prone Northwest Oklahoma we are used to living with a palette of browns.  Seeing greens is a big deal, especially when seeing such a varied and abundant display.

Bold ridges and cliffs have eroded into the lake.  See the pedestals
near the water's edge.

When the cliff broke away, the dirt slowly eroded and washed into
the lake.  A few rocks in the dirt, however, protected the dirt
beneath them from further attack by the weather, creating a
protective 'helmet' that shielded the earth beneath to leave the
rocks on tall pedestals.

Along the remaining cliff face, swallows dig into the earth to
build nests.
Crowder Lake has an 8-mile shoreline, and was formed in 1959 with the damming of Cobb Creek.  The main extended arm north out of the lake is Cobb Creek.  Here and in the northwest arm of the lake, deltas are formed where the flowing water slows and sediment deposits to create a wide shallow area.  Once you pick your way through the shallows and reach the main channel, the stream deepens, clears, and meanders through scenic woods.  In the Cobb Creek delta, I paddled past wading cattle and a beaver lodge as I sought out the channel.  As I slowed to drift past a rock, the rock suddenly revealed itself to be the back of a huge carp that exploded in panic and threw water everywhere.  When back in the channel, the water clarity increased to two feet and the grass-covered shoreline became more interesting.  Much of the lake shoreline has steep drop-offs, but there are scattered places where you can step out to relieve the fanny fatigue, though the bottom is a bit mucky.  In Cobb Creek north of the bridge, the water shallowed into a gravel bar that gave good, clean footing and where I stopped for lunch.  When passing under the Rt. 1100 bridge, stay creek left (east side) to avoid a huge rock shelf that extends out half the creek’s width from the west bank and has a sharp edge.  Continued..........


Monday, July 17, 2017

A Ribbon of Color

Our chrysanthemums are already starting to bloom.  This blossom was a bit over two feet long.  It’s called a red stripe ribbon snake---a member of the garter snake family.  If anyone wants to disagree, that’s fine.  I’m certainly no expert on snakes, but this is the best identification I can find.  It was driven up off the ground by the spray from the hose as we were watering, and got right up in the top of the flowers.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Meet the Thudbuster

The design of 'ahhhhh.'
Most paddlers just enjoy the tranquility of self-propelled travel, as well as the exercise, so if they can’t get on the water, they will often grab a bike for some two-wheeled journeying.  Therefore,  I don’t feel bad about posting a bike item here.  
About a decade ago, my wife made me a great gift of a Specialized Expedition XL mountain bike.  It is a well-built and reliable bike, but I had a problem with it.  Actually, the problem was more with the rider (me) than with the bike.  I don’t recall rider weight, the number two criteria in bike selection (immediately behind the type of riding the bike is intended for), being a big topic of discussion at the time, and I’ve eaten a few boxes of chocolate-chip cookies since then.  I was now looking to my bike to provide enough exercise to help reverse the scales, but to stay on it long enough, it definitely needed to be more comfortable.
The average bike is designed for a rider of not more than 220 pounds, my research has shown.  Bikes are made for heavier riders, but are often not among the normal off-the-floor models.  At 6-ft, 2-in and 285 pounds, I was overloading my poor bike, and the horribly rough roads around us were punishing the bike even more.  First, I was breaking one rear wheel spoke after another, so I had to have all the rear spokes replaced with stainless steel.  That was a $60 upgrade.  Then the seat post had a straight shock-absorber design, and my weight usually bottomed-out the post and produced more shock than absorber.  The shock-absorber finally blew apart, so I had to replace it with a fixed seat post.  That transferred the shock next to the saddle with its plastic frame, so when it broke in two, I had to replace it.  I was slowly rebuilding the bike one piece at a time.  
The biggest problem, however, continued to be the pounding ride.  The expansion joints in area roads have collapsed from age, heavy traffic, and heat so that the bike wheels drop into 1 to 3-inch deep grooves roughly the same radius as the wheel, and they occur about every 25-feet or so, making the pounding continuous.  At times I felt like my spine was about to be driven through the top of my skull.  Every ride of more than an hour was making me more and more frustrated, so I turned to Specialized for a solution.  They couldn’t offer one, but referred me to Cane Creek Cycling Components of Fletcher, North Carolina.  Cane Creek offered the Thudbuster seat post. 
The Thudbuster ST (short travel) used a single elastomer to cushion wheel impacts of 1.3 inches.  The Thudbuster LT (long travel) uses two elastomers, is a bit heavier, but absorbs impacts of 3-inches, making it much more attractive for touring bikes where a few extra ounces are no issue when comfort is the goal.  Both are sold for maximum rider weight of 250-pounds.  I called Cane Creek to see if I could squeeze 35 more pounds out of the post.  It was then I learned that the elastomers are available in different densities, so the standard #5 elastomers can be easily switched out in a few minutes to accommodate a heavier rider.  The elastomer cylinders ride on a rod, so it is simply a matter of removing a nylon aviation nut from one end of the rod, remove the two cylinders and a coupling washer that are on the rod, lubricate the rod, slide on the two new elastomers with the coupling washer between them, replace the nut, and hit the road.   
The shock from the rear wheel is driven into the rider in an up and forward direction.  Even if of a size able to handle the rider’s weight, seat springs and shock absorber seat posts flex vertically, meaning they don’t meet all the force exerted from the saddle.  The Thudbuster flexes in a down and back direction, as a flexing parallelogram, directly opposing and depleting the force of the road’s impacts from the rear wheel.  I was desperate, so I purchased the post with its two #5 standard elastomers, but also purchased two #7 elastomers.  There is also a #9 elastomer.  It wasn’t cheap at $169, and with two firmer elastomers at $7.50 each and shipping, the total was bumped to $205.48.  However, once I hopped back on the bike, I detected a clearly audible ‘ahhhh’.  Why this option wasn’t made known to me a decade ago, I don’t know, but it would have made a world of difference, and that’s why I’m passing this nugget of information to you.  If you want a smoother ride, regardless of your weight, or need something beyond your bike’s standard equipment, I’d strongly recommend the Thudbuster. 

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Arkansas & Missouri RR - Part 2

Much of the history in the beautiful countryside is being preserved.
The bridge in the background, that no longer meets modern specs,
is being moved intact to where it can be used rather than being
torn down.

Our return trip was in car 107 with its beautiful patterned tin
ceiling, called a Wunderlich ceiling.

The 139.5 mile-long line was built between 1880 and 1882 by the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad, a predecessor of the Burlington Northern.  On the trip out and back, we used two different coaches.  Car 105 was built in 1927 in Wilmington, Delaware, and Car 107 was started in 1955 and completed the following year.  The Victorian coaches are fully restored in the greatest detail with mahogany interiors, plush velvet upholstery, and pressed tin ceilings called Wunderlich ceilings named for the Austrian manufacturer.  The rails twisted and turned through the mountains.  We crossed three trestles that carried the train across the creeks and gave miles of visibility.   Two were about 110-feet above the creeks, and one, the Winslow trestle, is 125-feet high.  This makes it 1,735 feet above sea level and the highest railroad trestle between the Appalachian Mountains and the Rockies.  This leads the train into the 1,702 foot-long Winslow Tunnel.  With all the twists through mountain passes, across and along numerous creeks, and over elevated trestles, it would have been a train modeler’s fantasy dream.
In my youth, these double-decker 1940's-era Zephyr Vista Dome
cars were the epitome of first-class travel.  I had always wanted to
see one, but it wasn't until this trip that I climbed on one with the
cleaning crew hard at work.  Fortunately, I found this picture on
the Arkansas & Missouri web site sans cleaning crew and vacuum

This picture blurred as I tried to take it from the train as we flew past,
but it was important enough I felt it should be seen anyhow.  The
construction on the Winslow Tunnel began on Sept. 26, 1881 with
a 300-man crew.  Conditions were severe, and once inside the tunnel,
the air was scarce and stale.  Men's skin turned yellow as they
grew weaker.  Then smallpox swept through the crew with many
deaths, some buried in nearby cemeteries, some buried right along
the tracks they were laying.  With the warming of spring, malaria
was added to their health challenges.  The work had to be completed,
but the railroad president felt so bad about the toll in human life
(a condition I doubt we'd see in American industrial life today),
that he stipulated in his will that his body be returned to lay with
his workers on the mountain, and here he lies between two of
his employees.

Winslow was a small, isolated mountain town until the Winslow Tunnel broke though the mountain and made it a picturesque town that was popular with people from Van Buren and Fort Smith wanting to escape the summer heat by retreating to the mountains.  Winslow became the movie set for two movies.  “Frank and Jesse,” was a 1995 film about the James brothers, and starred Rob Lowe, Bill Paxton, and Randy Travis.  A 1975 film, “Smoke in the Wind”, was about a southern family’s struggles following the Civil War.  It was Walter Brennan’s last film.  He passed away in September, 1974, before the film was released the following year. 

Greater Downtown Winslow.  There is one more red building
to the left of these.

Arkansas & Missouri Railroad still runs passenger service from
this depot.

The perfect Ron Howard-styled movie set.

The Talimena National Scenic Byway is a beautiful 54-mile drive through the Kiamichi Mountains and the Quachita National Forest.  We had wanted to make this trip for some time, so decided to tack it onto the train trip.  Dropping south on Rt. 71 from Fort Smith, we started at the east end of the byway in Mena, Arkansas.  Right in the heart of town by the train station, Mena Street turns north off of Rt. 71 and becomes Rt. 88 or Grandview Heights.  It was a fun, twisting ride through the mountain tops with magnificent vistas and interesting places to stop.   At the Oklahoma/Arkansas state line, Rt. 88 becomes Rt. 1 and continues to its terminus at Talihina, OK. 
Sunset on the Talimena Trail.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Arkansas & Missouri Railroad Excursion

This is not a paddling tale, but was a train excursion we took
last November.  It was great fun.

Like Sheldon Cooper (Big Bang Theory), we feel there’s a lot to love about trains and railroads.  Jean has been wanting to make a rail excursion for some time, so this past November we made a 134-mile, one-day fall foliage trip on the Arkansas and Missouri Railroad starting in Springdale, Arkansas.  Of the 19 things Trip Advisor recommends doing in the area, this excursion is No. #4.  We traveled through the Boston Mountains of the Ozarks Range, made a layover in Van Buren, which sits across the Arkansas River from Fort Smith, and then returned.  The old railroad line runs through what is called ‘the Bottoms’ and follows small streams, like Rock Creek and Frog Bayou, and passes through Fayetteville, Woolsey, Winslow, Chester, Rudy, and then Van Buren.  In spite of some problems that surfaced along the way, this was a very enjoyable experience we would recommend.

Arkansas-Missouri Railroad's Springdale, AR, station and museum.

I had an eye doctor’s appointment, and of course it and the non-refundable train tickets fell on the same day as our departure.  We started the 5-hour drive to Springdale after the doctor’s visit, and since my pupils were dilated, Jean took over the driving for a while.  Heading into the mountains in November, I had packed for autumn weather, so naturally we would suddenly encounter record-breaking high temperatures.  As soon as we left the optometrist, the first stop was a clothing store for a short-sleeved cotton/polyester blend shirt to augment my duffel-filled stack of long-sleeved flannels.

Engine 68 provided the muscle for our day-long trip.

On any trip, we have to make allowances for our traveling zoo, so I had called ahead to find a motel that would accommodate our two cats.  Fortunately, the aviary was remaining at home.  We showed up with our two-day reservation to find that the motel we had booked was only suited for wildlife of the red-lighted, two-legged variety.  The business had been given over mostly to an electronic cigarette sales operation.  We found a couple homeless men sleeping in the lobby as we walked to the reservation desk.  It was obvious that we needed to see the room before registering.  The room gave the appearance of having normally been rented by the hour.  It was dirty, run down, the quilt had tears in nearly every square foot as evidence of the numerous physical encounters between guests, and when we lifted the covers, a cockroach ran between the mattress and box springs.  I told the clerk we would have to look elsewhere.

Car 105 from 1927.

The unpredictable nature of travel now left us without a room and two cats that most businesses would not accept.  We traveled down the main road and encountered a line of ‘no pets allowed’ signs.  Another such sign was at the Super 8 Motel, but after explaining our plight, they bent the rules in exchange for a $15/per night/per cat surcharge.  So, not only was our room now more expensive, but the cats also had premium lodging for an extra $60.

Car 105 was completely rebuilt and renovated in the Victorian
grandeur of mahogany, brass, and velvet.

The good news was that the motel was being completely renovated.  That gave us the privilege of being the first to use a new king-sized mattress and bed that had just been moved into our room a couple hours before.  The room was really nice, but the finishing touch was a huge framed wall covering that featured the Buffalo River with a canoe pulled up on a gravel bar opposite huge, sheer, 200-ft. cliffs.  The 5-by-5-ft. mural was surrounded by a satin black frame that matched the bed frame, and was particularly appealing.  If it wasn’t for being tired, I would have thrown my pillows at the foot of the bed and just laid there soaking in the view of the Buffalo River.

Most people understand that when you go out into nature, you
have to accept nature on her terms.  One traveler didn't get the
message.  While nearly everyone rated the trip as 5-star, one gave
it a 1 or 2-star rating because the foliage wasn't as spectacular as
he expected.  While the dro
ught had deprived the trees of their
normal fall glory, they were beautiful all the same.  The trip
itself, was still 5-star.

The bad news was that they were not finished with our room.  We had to make the room available for their crew to switch out the remaining room furnishings the next day while the two cats remained in the room during our absence for the train excursion.  The cats had to be accommodated in the bathroom with everything they would need for the day.  We had to make sure notes were left for the day manager and the work crew to ensure that the bathroom door wasn’t opened.  We had a sign posted on the door, and the doorway was barricaded with the pet carriers in case the workers ‘no habla Ingles.’  It all worked out fine in the end, but it was just that much more stress added to what should have been a relaxing getaway.

The Boston Mountains

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Lake Perry

Buddy, my 14-ft. Hornbeck Adirondack pack canoe, waits while
a disabled fishing boat limps back to its trailer.

Anyone that has ever done any type of construction, or just stood there and watched the construction being done, knows Ditch Witch.  It has been the go-to machine for trenching to lay pipe, cable, telecommunications lines or anything else that has gone underground since 1949.  Perry is the birthplace of Ditch Witch by the Charles Machine Works Company. 

On September 16, 1893, 100,000 men, women, and children would rush west from the county line when the gun fired at noon in order to lay their claim to Indian land the U.S. Government had opened for settlement.  By nightfall, 40,000 tents were erected in the new town.  The record for both speed and entrepreneurialship goes to Jack Tearney, who arrived on the town plat in 31 minutes.  By 4 p.m., he had erected the “Blue Bell Saloon,” and was selling beer for a dollar a bottle, a price he justified because of the lack of water.  According to inflation, that glass of beer would now cost $25.64.  He sold 38,000 glasses of beer.  The blossoming new town became known as “Hell’s Half Acre,” and within short order, others hoping to cash in on Jack’s success had erected about 110 saloons and gambling houses.  Most of them were within the half block east of the current town square.

It's no surprise that Lake Perry is ringed by oil pumping rigs.  It is
powered by that huge one-cylinder engine behind it.

Perry’s second historical name was Wharton, named after the train station built in 1886 by the Southern Kansas Railway as part of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway.  After the land run of 1893, the U.S. Government established a land office in Wharton to oversee this and other land office towns.   The office administrator was J. A. Perry, so thus Wharton became the town of Perry, which remains as the smallest town in Oklahoma with its own newspaper. 

For those with an interest in the Old West, Perry played its part as the target of both the Dalton gang, and the Doolin gang, when they wanted to rob a train.  After one such foray by the Dalton gang, Charlie Bryant fell ill and was taken 52 miles WSW to Hennessey to see a doctor.  Deputy Marshall Ed Short spotted Bryant and arrested him.  During an escape attempt, Bryant and Deputy Short ended by killing each other in a gun shootout. 

When anything is seen on shore, it is usually just another head of cattle.
This time we chanced to catch a head of donkey.

If you wish to paddle Lake Perry, you may be confused to find two of them.  Google Earth gets confused too.  Perry lies on I-35, half-way between Oklahoma City and the Kansas state line.  There is the little Perry Lake south of town on 4th Street in the town park, which is east of I-35.  Then you will find Lake Perry south of town on Cty. Rt. N3180, which is west of I-35.  The names get used interchangeably.  The confusion could be avoided, and the names more descriptive, if the first was called the Perry Park Pond, but no one has ever called to ask my opinion. 

Lake Perry was built in 1937 as part of a Civilian Conservation Corps work project.  The lake and facilities remain much as when they were first built, which will be most evident in the restrooms.  The lake has a 13-mile shoreline, is a haven for bass and trout fishing, and has RV and primitive camping available.  The fees are $5/day for boating, another $5/day for fishing, $5/day for tent camping, and $25/day for RV camping.  Questions can be directed to (580)572-9465.  There is one small single-lane concrete ramp at L36.25014N, Lo97.33616W on the east side of the lake.

Do I stay, or do I go?  Do I stay, or do I (splash)...

I was anxious to get on the water both because recent high winds have left me sitting at home, and because the next 9-day forecast is full of non-stop severe storms and tornado threats.  I found the day to be full of surprises.  The first was the unusually high water level resulting from the recent heavy rains.  This left the water the color of tea with milk, and a visibility that only went to a depth of 4-inches if you really strained your eyes.  The water came all the way to the top of the ramp, and also flooded a bit of the loading float.  By comparison, the sky was crystal clear and blue with only tiny puffs of white cloud, and the wind was between 5-12 mph. 

Others were equally anxious to take the chance to get on the water.  I never see other paddlers with their canoes and kayaks in Oklahoma.  While on my 161-mile round-trip today, however, I spotted an SOT kayak on a trailer while I was enroute to the lake, and on the trip back home I saw a canoe on top of a Jeep.  Both were headed in the opposite directions.  Unusual for a Saturday, I only saw one other boat on the lake.  It was about a 12-foot aluminum deep-vee power boat that only ran in reverse because of the broken transmission in the outboard. 

The most evident thing for anyone wanting to paddle all the way around the lake is the absence of any place to stop for a break.  This may change at lower water levels, but I found two types of shoreline.  There was flooded vegetation that made it impossible to land or to reach the water from the land.  I did hear a sudden crashing and splashing that was obviously a deer that I had flushed out but never saw.  Where there was the rare gradual shoreline, it had all been fenced off with barbed wire.  This made it possible for cattle to cool themselves in the water, but impossible for a paddler to reach shore.  Every arm of the lake was blocked or constricted by barbed wire.  Most of the land around the lake has been taken over by livestock and oil pumping pads.  When I saw a sign forbidding waterskiing in any of the arms of the lake, I was mistakenly impressed.  I thought how nice it was that they were insuring the peace and tranquility for paddlers and fishermen.  After going around the lake, however, it was obvious the prohibition was to prevent skiers from having limbs amputated on the steel and wood posts and barbed wire. 

It was an enjoyable day in spite of the barbed wire, at least until I returned to the take-out.  There I found a group of about 15 loud ‘trumpian’ juveniles from about 5 to 16 years of age.  The total and continuous use of vulgarity, even with an adult woman in their midst, revealed the absolute absence of any parenting or guidance in their lives.  I always felt it was imperative for adults to monitor their language and behavior to provide a positive influence on youth.  I now feel perhaps the opposite is true: the young should avoid shocking their elders.  None of the group was capable of making a sentence, clause, or exhortation that didn’t contain a minimum of at least one four-letter F word.  There are nine parts of speech: nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, prepositions, conjunctions, interjections, and articles.  I never realized until now that f—k can be used in place of any or all of these.  I couldn’t get out of there fast enough to avoid having my 73-year-old sensibilities negatively assailed.  The environment made me both sad and disgusted.  For someone that has spent his career associating with the dregs of society, that is indeed saying something---something sad for the future of our civilization.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

How Our Planet Dies (Starvation?)

Credit: pinterest
This is a bee garden too beautiful for words, but the
same ends can be accomplished with a much more
modest beginning.
There can be little doubt that we are on the wrong track for our own survival.  Here’s a good indication.  The story on CBS that I heard stated that we have lost 80% of our pollinators in North America in the last 20 years.  Pollinators, for the most part, are bees and butterflies.  In real understandable terms, pollinators are responsible for one out of every three mouthfuls of food we eat.  Without them, we cannot produce enough food to feed ourselves, let alone the rest of the world that we have historically exported to.  Between being on track to lose crops and potable water supplies from other causes, we all are looking at the foreseeable day when our children will suffer from both insufficient food and water.

Beautiful blossoms burst into bloom from new milkweeds
started this year.  There are annual milkweeds, but these
are perennials.  To tag them as weeds certainly doesn't fit.
I went looking for more data, and the picture gets more complicated depending on the species of bees or butterflies we are talking about.  For example, commercial beekeepers lost 44% of their hive populations in one year, 2015-2016.  Plus, not all pollinating bees live in hives.  Many species live their entire lives individually in plants and in the ground, but they also raise our crops.  Their numbers are estimated to have dropped by 96%, that is 96%, in the same 20 years.  Some species are believed to be already extinct.

This is our small beginning.  There are four o'clocks
in the background, orange milkweeds in the middle,
and bee balm in the foreground.  As they propagate, we
will continue to transplant further down the swale.

So, what can we do?  The current approach is to stop waiting for our governments to do anything.  We could start a whole on-line battle on what administration is eradicating the EPA, FEMA, the Food & Drug Administration and so on, and planning to destroy more efforts to protect food supplies, protect us from pesticides, etc.  And, the federal government isn’t the only problem.  Here in Oklahoma, the state is owned by the oil and gas industry.  There are ongoing problems with fracking, with water quality, with earthquakes, and too many other problems to get into, but the point is that the state has no intention of taking any measures to protect our citizens over the desires of the oil and gas industry’s demands for more tax gifts (otherwise called incentives), more tax breaks, more land rights, and so on.  They just won’t do it.  So if we can’t count on the federal government, and we can’t count on the state government, where do we turn?  The answer to that is the current move underway to get every homeowner to make a difference individually.  Here’s an example.

The four o'clocks are going gang busters.  They reseeded
from plants we had there last year.  The pollinators
love them.
We have a small swale (little gully or ravine) that runs down our back yard.  It is a mess to mow, and serves no useable function in our yard or lawn.  We are turning it into a bee and butterfly garden.  People are being encouraged to turn small tracts of ground into feeding stations for bees and butterflies.  Most people are familiar with the monarch butterfly, for example.  Twice a year, they migrate from between 3,000 and 5,000 miles to get between their summer and winter ‘homes’, with the difference in distance depending on starting and finishing points.  No single butterfly survives to make the entire trip.  Four different generations will be born, breed, hatch, and die before the great, great, grandchildren reach their destinations.  They feed and pollinate along their flight paths as they move.  Between insecticides, human lack of understanding, and loss of habitat, the monarchs are losing the ability to find enough food to keep going.  Our part comes in not understanding that many plants are essential, and spraying to kill anything that is not lawn destroys vital biodiversity.  Milkweed, for example, has been widely eradicated for this reason, and milkweed is what monarchs almost exclusively feed on.  People are being asked to dedicate poor areas of property, fence lines, back corners of yards, or fields not being actively used, to natural regions where they establish plants that are of value to bees, hummingbirds, ladybugs, and butterflies.  It reduces the property owner’s maintenance costs and time, provides critical plants for nature, and can be beautiful.  Many people think such an ignored area will look ratty, unattractive.  However, there are many plants that bloom for most of the summer, are beautiful, and like milkweed, for example, come in a wide range of colors and growing patterns.  Many folks call these areas bee gardens.  Here is one small link to explain this idea, but once you get started looking, you will find hundreds of such sites, and pictures of beautiful, not ratty, bee gardens.  They can vary between ‘left to nature’ and exquisitely fancy.  Please get hooked on this effort and jump right in.

Nibi Mocs update

Congratulations to Larry Ricker.  His NibiMocs site reached 500 subscribers today.  I'd like to think that some of you helped him reach that mark, and for that I say thank you.  If not, you still have the chance to join the ranks.  His links are in the original post.  You will really enjoy his videos, and you'll fall in love with Sam the Faithful. 

On my own front, I know I've been lazy in getting new posts out.  I've just been so depressed from not getting going myself that I've hardly had the motivation to move.  Again, I'll try to remedy that here shortly.  I just downloaded a bunch of pictures, and will start today on processing them and writing the narrative to accompany them in the posts.  Come back!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Help Larry Reach His Goal

Larry's campsite on Alder Lake.
Credit: LHR Images
Larry Ricker, who has a few aliases, like nibimocs and LHR Images, is an avid canoeist, photographer, and videographer.  While traveling with his sidekick, Sam, The Faithful, he paddles and camps throughout the Northern U.S, especially The Boundary Waters.  He has amassed a treasure trove of videos and photography that have to be loved by any paddler and nature-lover.  His work reveals his great love for what he is doing, and his gentle giant demeanor makes him easy to enjoy watching and listening to.  He’s what most of us would describe as the perfect paddling and camping companion.  If you aren’t familiar with his work, you need to do yourself a favor and check out his You Tube channel at
Larry also likes sharing his work, meeting people on line, and hearing their comments and questions.  He would love to have you subscribe to his video channel.  At the sight above, just click ‘subscribe’ in the upper right corner, watch, like (if you do), and comment.  As of now, he has 485 subscribers, and is pushing to make 500.  Please be one of his 15 friends to help him reach his personal goal.  Subscribe, then sit back and enjoy.  Although, you may find that after watching a few videos, you’ll find you have to grab the boat and gear to hit the water yourself.

Saturday, June 10, 2017


One of Jean's babies on the backyard feeder.
Oklahoma is being Oklahoma.  For us or the squirrels, outdoor life is on hold while the wind holds at 25-30 mph, where it is supposed to hold day and night for most of the next week.  At least with the bird and squirrel feeders, they don't have to depend on climbing and jumping through the treetops.