An Eastern comma butterfly was captured sunning itself between the stormy and windy weather on Saturday, March 26. Commas are some of the first butterflies of the season because they overwinter in the area as adults.
Water and light
Reflection is defined as the throwing back by a body or surface of light, heat, or sound without absorbing it. I fancied the words "throwing back" in the definition. The phrase totally embodied a few recent photos that I had taken.
In essence, water was throwing back the light from the sun.
I have always been fascinated by the textures and patterns created by the sunlight on the water. Sometimes, the surface of the water almost had a metallic quality. Other times, the sunlight filtering through various ripples created delicate designs.
It turned out that I'm not the only one who thought that way. An internet search turned up several quotes on the subject. However since most of the quotes were found on the internet, readers should be cautioned that quotes may not be factual or attributed to the right person. So the phrases in this post and many, many Pinterest photo-quotes could be wrong.
Nonetheless, several statements expressed my sentiments about light, water and reflections.
The quote, "You are a pool of clear water where the light plays," was attributed to English writer Jeanette Winterson.
American author William Maxwell was credited with the saying, "Happiness is the light on the water. The water is cold and dark and deep."
"We cannot see our reflection in running water. It is only in still water that we can see," was said to be a Zen Proverb.
Jamaican spiritual teacher, Mooji, was responsible for the words, "Your self-image is as ephemeral as the play of light dancing on the surface of the water. "
"It is life, I think, to watch the water. A man can learn so many things," was attributed to American writer and novelist Nicholas Sparks.
Laozi, an ancient Chinese philosopher is credited with the phrase, "Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong."
I found that statement interesting since my mom had commented on some Facebook posts saying that some of the photos reminded her of photos of canyons. It was kind of ironic, because most canyons were indeed carved out by water.
Nonetheless, some photos required clear waters to see the textures and patterns of the rocks below. However, several somebodies have bee known to muddy the waters upstream.
That's just the nature of things 'round here.
It's "snow" surprise
After this week's return to wintry weather, I felt like I should issue a formal apology for my last post. I wrote about how it was a rather mild and snowless winter. Mother Nature apparently took notice and replied with a "challenge accepted."
According to some weather observations posted by the National Weather Service office in Pittsburgh, Franklin received between 2 to 3 inches early Tuesday morning. A report from Tionesta stated that the area had seen around 4 inches of snow. Here in Pinegrove Township, I believed we got at least 3 inches. However, it was hard to tell as the wind created drifts in various areas. Nonetheless, it provided enough snow for Clem, the bloodhound, to dump, Gus, the St. Bernard, into.
With only days left until the calendar declares it's spring on March 20, the snowfall seemed like a slap in the face to those of us waiting for warmer weather. It was especially hurtful because of the mild February weather. The stats for February, according to data on the National Weather Service's website, recorded that Franklin only had 1.3 inches of snow for the month and at least two 68-degree days. So far for March, we have dumped on February's total. As of March 15, it was reported that Franklin had a total of 4.2 inches of snow and only one 64-degree day so far.
Some of my photos from 2020 and 2012 showed that there were crocuses out in the yard and even tadpoles in the neighbor's pond. In contrast, this year only a few crocus leaves have emerged and the pond still has ice cover.
Meanwhile, a trail camera photo from last year shows that this year has followed suit as far as snow cover in March.
Although, an extra hour of daylight in the evening, has been a bit of a blessing. The sun actually showed up on a few occasions. In fact, by Thursday, March 16, the temperature had climbed to 52 degrees and most of the snow was melting. This was a little disappointing to at least four canines who rather enjoy romping in the white stuff.
"Are we done with the snow?," was a question I asked myself. I even hesitated to write about a possible warmup for fear of retaliation from Mother Nature. That's just the nature of things 'round here.
“Spring, are we there yet?” That was a question I kept repeating to myself over the fluctuating weather of the past weeks.
The calendar boasted less than 15 days until spring, or the vernal equinox, which is scheduled for Monday, March 20. On a side note, we spring forward an hour for Daylight Savings time on Sunday, March 12.
As the offices welcomed the beginning of their spring, they also wrapped up February’s weather stats.
A Feb. 22 post from the National Weather Service Office in Cleveland, Ohio, said “It could be one of the least snowiest Februarys on record! Cleveland, Toledo, and Mansfield are currently (as of Feb 22) on track for No. 1 least snowiest. Youngstown and Akron-Canton are on track for No. 2 least snowfall. Erie, Pa., is No. 3.”
A graphic listed that, as of Feb. 22, Erie had 1.6 inches of snow for this year which was only slightly above the total .50” for 1998.
A post by Erie News Now's meteorologist A.J. Mastrangelo said that “snowfall (or lack thereof) was the 6th least in recorded history.” A graphic on the page touted that the city’s average winter snowfall is 77.5” compared to this year’s dismal 19.3”.
The post relayed that the city saw more snow in November than during the rest of the season.
The National Weather Service office in Pittsburgh posted that “February 2023 was the least snowy February on record with just 0.2 inches of snowfall and the fourth warmest February on record for Pittsburgh.”
The Pittsburgh office celebrated the first day of meteorological spring on March 1 by saying “five of our six climate sites either tied or broke their daily record high temperature."
“Pittsburgh fell one degree short of the record, clocking a high of 71°, with the record 72° set back in 1972,” the post continued.
The office went on to report that “winter 2022-2023 was the 12th least snowy winter for Pittsburgh with just 11.1 inches between December and February (meteorological winter). It was also the eighth warmest winter on record.”
A little closer to home, the National Weather Service weather station at the Franklin Airport recorded the high for March 1 at 61 degrees at 4:56 p.m.
However, things went downhill from there. The high for March 2, according to the station, was 48 degrees. Highs for March 3, 4 and 5 hovered in the low 40s.
While the warmer temps were welcome, the weather service cautioned that it may not last.
The office in Pittsburgh posted that “probabilities are increasing that the middle to late portions of March will feature below normal temperature (normal average temperature rises from 35° to 45° through the month).”
Folks can view graphics on the potential cool down from the NOAA NWS Climate Prediction Center at NOAA by clicking on "Interactive" to view different ones.
From those weather service posts, I surmised it was not, yet time go without a "clout."
An article by Ben Reed on spring season sayings inspired a new word use and phrase for me.
“Cast not a clout until May is out” is described by Reed as an "English saying that warns against casting aside winter clothing too early in the year.”
The post elaborated on the phrase by saying “'clout" is an Old English word meaning "patch of cloth." In later times, this term widened to include garments in general.
I secretly hoped that I wouldn’t have to wait until May for warmer temps. Nonetheless, I continued looking at other spring weather sayings.
Of course, there’s always the Mark Twain that said, "In the spring, I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours." The quote seemed to adequately describe the weather this season.
It seemed that snow, rain, wind, cold, sunshine and warmth could all be experienced within just a matter of hours, sometimes minutes. I felt like March’s winds and April’s showers had all been crammed into the month of February.
However, as another saying declares, "not one sparrow makes a spring."
That’s just the nature of things ‘round here.
Never Walk Alone
A recent Valentine’s Day gift of a T-shirt heat press had me thinking about the phrase “Never Walk Alone.”
The connection between the press and the phrase may seem a little farfetched, but I used the press to help recreate one of my favorite shirts.
The term “Never Walk Alone” was printed on the front of the shirt along with a hound dog and a leash.
I decided to take this phrase and design a bit further by adding a paw print and a hoof print to a hooded sweatshirt. I additionally decorated the sleeve with cutouts of representations of my walking partners. I almost ran out of room.
The back of the original shirt sported the saying, “It’s not where you walk, it’s who walks with you.”
I did not embellish the new hoodie with that for a couple of reasons. The first being, that it was plagiarism or possibly a copyright violation.
The second reason was due to the statement, “it’s who walks with you.”
Kennedy, the goat, walks with me. I didn’t feel like advertising that obvious lapse in good judgement.
Kennedy is the one who butts anyone walking beside him. The dogs have learned this. They sometimes get stuck behind Kennedy on the trail. When they attempt to pass him, they get butted.
They wait until he is distracted by food and then go around.
When Kennedy is distracted by food, he regularly falls behind, way behind. He is never in a rush to catch up.
He also must mess with every trail camera along our path. Last week, I was far ahead when I noticed he was tampering with the trail camera at the pond. “No problem. I will fix it tomorrow, “I thought to myself as we continued on. However, that was one of the windier nights that week and unbeknownst to me, Kennedy had unhinged the camera.
The next day the camera’s memory card was full and there were more than two thousand photos of a particular tree branch swaying in the wind.
Nonetheless, Kennedy continues to walk with us.
I have walked alone in order to get certain photos. If my photo subjects are near a roadway or can be easily spooked, I will go it alone.
However, for the most part, I will continue to not walk alone in the woods. I always feel kind of selfish for not taking the dogs and the goat with me. They will all stand at the kennel gate and look upon my lonesome steps with sadness, and/or jealously.
It should be noted that the dogs’ and goat should probably never walk alone for safety and sanity’s sake.
Despite the noise and the disruptive companions, we are not often alone in the woods either. The recent warmup in temperatures have the neighborhood deer herd out and about.
However, the raccoons’ winter den in the hollow tree has been abandoned. The masked mammals are roaming around looking for food and mates. The hollow in the tree now really seemed hollow without them.
Mammals weren’t the only critters on the move.
On Facebook, folks were posting about the spring arrival of certain birds.
Posters were seeing robins and red-winged blackbirds returning to their respective areas.
I had spotted a blackbird under our feeder, but I failed to get photo. The bird’s arrival was right on time, according to Gary Edwards. In his book “Birds of Venango County” he wrote that they arrive in mid-February.
Other Facebook posts showed that I was not alone in hoping that we might be ready for some spring growth.
Folks touted snowdrops and snowflakes popping through the thawing ground. More and more skunk cabbage blooms provided a little color to the woodlands.
I hoped that with these signs we were marching toward spring. I’m sure I’m not alone in wondering why this February seemed more like March with all the windy days.
The reasons behind the weather changes were a little hard to pin down.
After an internet search, I found that “You’ll Never Walk Alone” is a song that was part of the part of the Rodgers and Hammerstein show, “Carousel.”
The search additionally turned up many other song versions by various groups and singers.
The lyrics, while different in some versions, communicated that one does not have to face adversity alone.
During my search I also uncovered many, many quotes on the internet about going it alone.
There are times in life when you should walk alone and times when you shouldn’t.
Nonetheless, there are many times that I have been ready to let Kennedy walk alone.
That’s just the nature of things ‘round here.
Nature on ice
Last weekend, hundreds braved freezing temps to look at some ice in Franklin. Of course, it wasn’t the river ice or just any old ice. There were beautifully carved sculptures by some very talented folks at DiMartino Ice Company of Jeannette that were placed throughout one of the city’s parks.
Mother Nature appeared to cooperate with the display at least temperature wise.
She also managed to create some works of her own in the fridged weather.
From icicles to frost, expressions of the cold abounded.
At 4:56 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 4, a weather station at the Franklin Airport recorded that the temperature bottomed out at 1 degree.
The station reported the high for Saturday was 26 degrees with a windchill of 15 degrees.
The hike in temperature also let to the disappearance of many nature ice creations.
On my daily treks, countless different ice formations were observed during the cold snaps.
I was well aware that our family canines were capable of the destruction of cat-ice. As I tried to snap some photos, in the background I could hear many of the delicate formations being crushed under their paws.
Cat-ice is also known as shell ice. A post on squarespace.com said that "shell ice is a layer of ice that forms on top of a puddle. It is often widespread when it gets cold after a thaw has left puddles on the ice. It comes in two types."
The post continued with "Wet Shell Ice: Still has a puddle underneath. It usually looks a lot like new black ice. Dry shell ice: Has air underneath after the water drained away."
The post went on to say that “Wet shell ice lasts only until the water freezes all the way through the puddle. Dry shell ice forms when the water drains away before the skin freezes all the way through. The dry shell is often held up with a network of thin crystals that form as the water drains. It often lasts until the next thaw.”
This year I wasn’t as dedicated in photographing the frost as I had been in years before.
Usually, the process required me to take my gloves off in the frigid weather and change a lens.
Facebook memories from last year, showed me that I had went the extra mile to get the closer shots. I probably even had waded into the creek.
Earlier this year, some of the ground frost gave way and I slipped into the creek. When the canines saw me crawling on all fours out of the stream, they decided that I since I was down to their level that it was time to wrestle. I was not in a wrestling mood at that time.
Back to the icy memories, I was reminded that three years ago in February, there was substantial amount of freezing rain which provided an icy coating on everything.
While the warming weather took its toll on both man-made and nature ice, the plants seemed to welcome it.
Skunk cabbage, which is known as one of Pennsylvania’s first wildflowers to bloom in the spring, was popping up along the open creek beds and wetlands.
However, skunk cabbage has a little trick to help it deal with the frozen ground. The plant uses thermogenesis to produce heat.
“During the winter when temperatures are freezing, the flower buds can warm up to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, which melts the snow around the plant,” according to a post on nwf.org.
The post went on to say that while the plant loses it leaves annually, the plant itself can live up to 20 years.
Skunk cabbage wasn’t the only thing breaking through the frozen ground.
In the yard, snowflake flower leaves were seen among the grass. A few daffodil sprouts brought some green color to the dead leaves.
While the weather warms, there are still some definite chances to view some of nature’s icy art as the night lows continue to dip below freezing.
That’s just the nature of things ‘round here.
Blooms in the gloom
Lamenting the many, many colorless days this season, I headed to an unusual place to find some brighter shades. In the basement, I have sheltered some flowers that I hoped to keep alive. I planned to return them outside when the growing season gets underway in approximately five months.
There is part of my home's basement that is referred to as the back room. It was separated from the rest of the area.
It was not cemented and featured a dirt floor.
Long story short: When grandfather Stover was cementing and digging out the rest of basement, there was a stone in the back portion of the area. Grandfather decided to dynamite the stone out to continue finishing the concrete work. The blast blew out all the windows in the basement. Nonetheless, the stone remained and is still there today. Grandmother Stover was not thrilled with this attempt. I have a feeling that this disapproval halted any more blasting projects in the area.
Fortunately for me, this made an awesome place for some grow lights and a winter refuge for a few plants.
The dirt floor means that I didn't have to be careful with watering or any potting soil that might spill out. Dirt is dirt.
The grow lights that I put up featured different types of light. This casted a glow that picked up a few novel hues. That was the case when I photographed a cyclamen in bloom. The flowers were actually white.
A post on thespruce.com, described the plant as a "tuberous perennial, meaning it dies down to its thick roots (tubers) during its summer dormancy period and then regrows quickly each fall. ... It's commonly grown as a houseplant." A Wikipedia post stated that cyclamen species are native to Europe and the Mediterranean Basin east to the Caucasus and Iran, with one species in Somalia. Some of the varieties are known to bloom in the winter. If I remembered correctly, mine died back and bloomed at different times throughout the year. That may have possibly been when I forgot to water it.
Adding color to the basement darkness, was a black-eyed Susan vine. While they share the same coloring as black-eyed Susans, they are really different plants.
A post by Bonnie L. Grant, on gardeningknowhow.com described the plant as a "tender perennial that is grown as an annual in temperate and cooler zones. You can also grow the vine as a houseplant but be wary as it may grow to 8 feet ... in length." I had put mine outside during the summer and moved it inside during the winter. It has currently vined out in the basement into the floor joists and some gas lines. I surmised that moving it outside this summer might involve some pruning.
Among the blossoms, there was the plant whose name I can never remember.
I was sure it started with "diplo-something."
That prefix only brought up the dinosaur diplodocus in an internet search.
I added "flowers" to the search terms. That only brought up dinosaur planters. While cute, they were not the results I needed. Finally, I demined that the red flower is a dipladenia or rock trumpet flower.
A post on plantly.io said, "A member of the flowering plants, this species is a native of South Africa." It went on to provide tips on care and the difference between dipladenia and mandevilla plants.
The post also added, "since dipladenia are accustomed to warm temperatures, you must bring it indoors when the winter season comes."
So far, this plant has survived at least two years by being brought indoors in the winter.
Likewise, several begonias were overwintering in the basement refuge as well.
At least here, they were safe from hungry deer. Some of the begonias have been around for at least three or four years.
A planter of Shasta daisies was added to those plants that were "saved" from the cold.
A post on almanac.com said, " A European native, Shasta daisies are now naturalized throughout North America. Like clockwork, these daisies return every spring or early summer and bloom until early fall. "
The post additionally warned that the daisies were considered aggressive growers.
This was my first year growing the daisies. After reading the information, I decided that I will likely keep the daisies in their planter.
However, aphids have attacked some of the daisies. I have had problems with the little buggers before, but they usually resolve themselves. It's funny how I have never really had problems with aphids when the plants were outdoors.
The blooms in the basement had me yearning for some spring blooms. I planted several poises including some white daffodils last fall. However, I was curious to see if I actually placed the bulbs in the flower bed. I had a feeling that there may be several white daffodils located two or more feet from the rest of the flowers.
A look back at spring photos in the past provided a timeline of growth. Last year, it was Feb. 24 for the first signs of green shoots outdoors. In 2021, on Feb. 28, there were tulip leaves popping up through the snow. In 2020, snowflakes, the flowers, were budding through green grass on Feb. 24.
While the weather outside is frightful, there are signs that we are progressing toward spring.
A Facebook post Monday, Jan. 23, by C&A Trees, a Clarion greenhouse, said, "Happy Monday! Two weeks from today we start planting in the greenhouse and 56 days till spring..."
Hopefully, it won't be too much longer until I view a little more color outside.
However, the timing of the growing season is up to Mother Nature.
Until then I will enjoy my artificial growing season and its blooms. That's just the nature of things 'round here.
Up and at 'em
On Thursday, many Pennsylvanians will wait for mammal meteorologist Punxsutawney Phil to emerge from his den.
As temperatures warmed recently, I noticed that other animals were out and about.
According to the wildlife notes on the Pennsylvania Game Commission website, "Woodchucks begin denning up with the hard frosts of October. Few remain active past the first of November."
The note went on to say that the males emerge from hibernation before females, and during February and March fight aggressively.
I thought to myself that might be something to see, a woodchuck fight. With my walking companions I can say that we have never encountered a groundhog on our walks.
So, it was possible that they were out and about for breeding season. Coyote litters are born from mid-April to early May. The note added that "Coyotes are monogamous; they maintain pair bonds for several years. The social unit centers around the mated pair and its offspring."
As well as the coyotes, the trail cameras grabbed some photos of a fox or two in my parents' backyard.
"In late winter, foxes can be heard barking at night, making their presence known to members of the opposite sex. Breeding usually takes place in February," said a game commission wildlife note.
Meanwhile, several gray squirrels have been spotted under the bird feeder and have triggered quite a few photos on the trail cameras. According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, "squirrels never actually hibernate in winter but will hole up and sleep soundly through several days of snowstorms or extreme cold."
The post went on to mention that there are peaks in the squirrels' breeding activity in January and February. There are peaks from May to July, but that squirrels can be reproductively active throughout much of the year, the post continued.
Also holed up during the winter weather, were some raccoons. I tried several times to get a good photo without imposing on their den. I believed there were at least three or four raccoons in the hollow tree.
"Many family groups (mother and offspring) stay together through the young raccoons’ first winter," a wildlife note on the game commissions' site said.
In spring, the juveniles will disperse from the areas in which they were born, the note continued.
This is most likely do to fact that breeding takes place in January or February and a new litter will be born in March and April.
While the raccoons stayed cozy in their tree, the deer were left to brave the snow and wind. However, a Facebook memory from January of last year, showed that they had it a little easier this year in terms of snowpack.
Meanwhile, the Applegate canines were also out and about. They enjoyed the snow and battling each other in it. Sometimes they rolled around in it and ate the non-yellow parts of the snow. However, they are fortunate to return inside to a heated house where they can hibernate on the couch.
That's just the nature of things 'round here.
50 days of gray?
I saw a shiny object in the sky the other day. I was confused and wasn't sure if I had viewed such a thing over the past few weeks.
I took several photos to document the occasion. I even pulled out my crystal ball to make sure the sighting was real.
Sure enough, it was the sun, and it made an appearance for the better part of two whole days.
When it sank below the horizon on the first of those two days, it made graceful and colorful exit.
However, by the second day the clouds started to absorb the sun before it even had a chance to make to the horizon.
Over this winter season, it seemed to me that the sun had gone into hibernation like some of the animals in the region. Nonetheless, whenever the sun came and went, it did make a brilliant entrance or exit.
In fact, a sunset on Dec. 28 was very spectacular.
It appeared that its brilliance wasn't just limited to this area.
Facebook pages and posts from across the state graced my newsfeed that evening and into the next day.
However, it seemed that that event must have been a grand finale of sorts before the sun went back into hiding.
I was determined to try to narrow down just how many the days the sun had been incognito. With help from some National Weather Service data and an internet search, the sun appeared to have been out of sight for quite a few days.
If I tallied things up correctly, there have been 28 overcast days observed from Dec. 1, 2022, to Jan. 18, 2023, by a weather station at the Franklin Airport. However, within that time span, there were 15 days of missing data. These were times when the instrumentation did not measure the sky cover. So far only Jan. 15 and 16 were listed as days pegged with the clear designation.
A little further research on the internet turned up that western Pennsylvania winters are more clouds than sun. A post on the Current Results site listed the "Cloudiest American Cities in Winter." The post included a chart listing the major U.S. cities averaging 50 or more days during winter when clouds covers over three-quarters of the sky. Pittsburgh came in with an average of 64 days of heavy clouds which added up to 71 percent of the winter days. The steel city was beat out by Buffalo, New York, that posted 68 cloudy days totaling 76 percent.
Despite the absence of the sun, the days are getting longer. According to timeanddate.com, Oil City should see nine hours and 34 minutes of sun, when the clouds part. The site listed that the sun currently rises at 7:41 a.m. and sets at 5:16 p.m.
By the end of January, the site posted that the sun is scheduled to set after 5:30 p.m. Whether or not we will be able to see the sunset through the clouds remained up in the air. The 10-day forecast on several weather sites didn't appear very optimistic about any sunny sightings. That's just the nature of things 'round here.
Feature photo: A little blue
Blue skies partnered with some sunshine brought to light an eastern bluebird on Sunday. Local birding expert Gary Edwards in his book "Birds of Venango County," listed the bluebird as a common year-round resident. He wrote that their numbers have fluctuated over the years, but "the numbers continue to increase."
Sherman's snow day
Not to be excluded, photos of the younger Gus were also posted. However, Gus was too busy exploring the snowy scene to stop and pose for photos.
Perhaps, Sherman could teach him a thing or two about being a model.
However, Gus did teach the old dog some new tricks. Sherman wasn't sure about crossing a creek until he saw Gus do it.
Sherman hesitated at first. Gus had no hesitation.
Of course, Sherman and Gus, were not the only ones entertained by the snow. Sadie, a Newfoundland, and Clem, the bloodhound, were stirred by the snow. They also stirred the snow up in several places.
Kennedy, however, was not exuberant about the cold white stuff. Nonetheless, he trudged on.
Meanwhile, I was delighted with the weekend covering of snow. Perhaps, it was just the change from gray and brown to some white and blue hues.
To me this was the perfect snow. It fell softly and slowly outlining bare tree branches as it piled up. It was unlike the blowing vortex of flakes over Christmas that were driven by winds up to 50 mph. As I walked our daily trek, I couldn't help but exclaim to myself, "How beautiful." Despite the panting of a curious canine or two, the woods were silent.
It appeared that no creatures were stirring. Before the snow fell, we had spooked a herd of at least eight deer on a couple of our walks. However, the deer must have hunkered down over the wintery weekend. I didn't even see very many tracks once the snow covered the ground.
While the wild animals didn't seem to be out and about, there were still plenty of photo opportunities.
Snowflakes clustered atop some common burdock burrs created a slight spectacle. Whether or not the snow will stick aroundt is up for Mother Nature to decide. Short-term forecasts show a warming trend with rain instead of snow. However, these forecasts like the weather are up in the air.
That's just the nature of things 'round here.
What a difference a few days made. Last week, the Allegheny River and Oil Creek in Oil City were packed with ice. This week only remnants of the icy chunks remained on the river and creek banks. The river was clear of everything except fog on Wednesday.
Last Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, the ice pack could be seen clogging up the river from the Wye Railroad bridge to at least a half-mile past the Oil City Marina.
An inquiry to the National Weather Service office in Pittsburgh last Thursday prompted a cautious response about the dangers of a possible ice jam.
"We're watching carefully, but (it) should be warm enough tonight through tomorrow night to continue melting a good bit of the ice," the office said. It also said that rainfall forecasted for last Saturday shouldn't have been enough to cause significant issues.
The office's statement which was issued last week was right on the money.
This week the river was cleared of most of the ice. However, some fog lingered, and recent rains helped river levels rise. A chart on the National Weather service's site, provided some information. On Jan. 2, the Allegheny River at Franklin was at 6.55 feet. The level jumped to 8.62 feet by Jan. 4 and had risen slightly to 9.25 feet on Jan. 5.
Reports from the Kinzua Dam on Jan. 4, said the Allegheny River temperature was at 36 degrees which was at least 15 degrees cooler than the air temperature that day. By Thursday, Jan. 5, the river had cooled a bit to 35.8 degrees. The Tionesta Lake reported on Jan. 4 that its stream temperature was 33.4 degrees, and that the lake temperature was frozen. Tionesta Lake officials also reported on Jan. 4 that "we are starting to discharge a higher volume of water to compensate for the rising lake levels." The lake's stream temperature climbed to 37 degrees on Thursday. Meanwhile, the National Weather Service office in Pittsburgh is looking for some help reporting river ice conditions. In a Facebook post, they reported that at 4 p.m. Jan. 11, they would host a training seminar on Facebook Live on how to report river ice throughout the winter season.
While the ice exited this year without incident, folks more than 96 years ago were not so lucky. My grandmother had kept some photos that were found in the backseat of a used car they had purchased. The photos stamped with the name Jerry M. Lynch were of the 1926 March flooding in Oil City.
A post on the website greenerpasture.com listed a several news bulletins. One with the dateline Oil City, Pa., on March 21, 1926, said "Flood waters are rapidly rising here. A flood stage of twenty-five feet and six inches of was reached by the Allegheny River late tonight and the water is still rising."
The post continued with another bulletin also on March 21, 1926. It said that the ice had covered the river since Feb. 26, 1926, had started to move. The ice piled up at "the eastern end of the city, with the result that the lower parts of Oil City, along the river were flooded," the bulletin continued.
While the old photos provided some visual insight into the catastrophe, it was hard to imagine just how much ice there was. One photo was labeled as a picture of the ice above the railroad bridge in Siverly taken on March 14, 1926. After enlarging the picture some, I surmised that the black figures on the ice were humans, albeit not smart ones.
An article published March 24, 1926, in The News-Herald estimated the flood loss in Oil City to be around half a million dollars. Companies that sustained substantial damages included the National Transit Pump and Machine Co., Joseph Reid Gas Engine Co. and the Kramer Wagon works. Oil City wasn't alone in flooding woes. The ice also took out the Big Rock Bridge at Franklin on March 21.
While much has been done over the years to prevent the flooding, Mother Nature is still very unpredictable and sometimes dangerous. That's just the nature of things 'round here.
A White(out) Christmas
Nonetheless, the weather-tough critters of the Applegate clan decided to brave the weather to continue their daily walks. However, the human leader of the pack did limit their time exposed to the frigid temperatures.
Nonetheless, the Applegate canines appeared to enjoy the snow in spite of the subzero temperatures.
There were a few times that Clem displayed the "cold foot" pose. However, that didn't stop him from exploring the frozen tundra.
One area of exploration included the neighbor's pond which had frozen solid in what appeared to be overnight. The smooth white surface provided an interesting backdrop for photos.
My animals were not the only ones withstanding the freezing cold. The bird feeders were filled with puffed up birds sporting snow encrusted eyes. Visitors included dark-eyed juncos, tufted titmice, white-breasted nuthatches and American goldfinches. The feathered ones struggled to find shelter from the winds in the garden debris and in the trees.
Meanwhile, the beginning of this week was a different story.
The wind died down and the temperatures started to climb.
Our walks became more endurable and enjoyable. One could not draw a breath without nostrils freezing together.
Remnants of the previous week's freezing rain could be seen on the trees.
The forest animals were on the move again. Over the past weekend almost no deer tracks were seen. At the beginning of this week, the deer were everywhere.
They visited my yard, my parents' yard and traipsed around our trails in the woods.
As the warmup continued, a Facebook post on the National Weather Service's Pittsburgh office's page said things were looking up temperature wise. "Confidence is high that above average temperatures will occur in the Ohio River Valley between Dec. 31, 2022 to Jan. 4, 2023," the post said.
It also added that there would be an above average chance of precipitation and that would most likely fall as rain.
As we approach the new year, the birds appeared to lose weight. It was not due to their resolutions. Merely they just smoothed out their feathers a bit. While the Christmas weather was white and wicked, it seems that New Year's will be warmer and wetter.
That's just the nature of things 'round here.
What is picture perfect?
Several years ago, I decided to torture my pets by dressing them up for the holidays. My main concern then was to create a perfect photo for our Christmas cards.
There was lots of crying, screaming and gnashing of teeth from all parties involved. I learned a few tricks over the years. Treats and positive reinforcement were much more successful than yelling and scolding.
Additionally, adding elastic straps kept hats in place just long enough for a photo.
For this year's session, I was blessed with a sunny day over the Thanksgiving holiday. My parents' house was often seen in the background of my holiday photos. So, this year I decided to use my porch Christmas decorations as a backdrop and for the most part, the photos turned out well.
I got what I considered a perfect bunch of photos to use for Christmas cards. However, it was the shots that were imperfect that provided the most delight.
Finding joy in life's little imperfections may just be the perfect way to enjoy the holiday season with less stress.
That's just the nature of things 'round here.
It was nice to see the sun on Tuesday and even nicer to view a phenomenon called a sundog or sun dog.
A post at foxweather.com repeated the same information. "These 'side suns' are colloquially known as sun dogs, officially known as 'parhelia,' which is Greek for 'next to the sun.' And just like other rainbow-type displays in the sky, sun dogs result from light refracting off precipitation ...," the post continued.
However, an excerpt on Wikipedia said, "A somewhat common misconception among the general public is to refer to any member of the ice halo family as a 'sun dog' (especially the 22-degree halo, being one of the most common varieties). However, sun dogs represent just one of many different types of halos. For referring to the atmospheric phenomenon in general, the term (ice crystal) halo(s) is more appropriate."
Taking in the natural beauty of the sky in all its different forms is like a delicious treat for the mind and the eyes. That's just the nature of things 'round here.
Brisk temperatures created some intricate shapes on the surface of the neighbor’s pond. The angular and almost geometrical shapes glittered as the light played off them.
A post at squarespace.com provided a little more clarity for me on the subject.
“Lake ice is crystalline and comes in a few crystal arrangements. Various classification systems have been developed to describe them,” said the post.
The post first listed a “simple and practical classification" from Tony Gow, a well respected glaciologist. I’m not so sure I would have used the term simple to describe what followed.
That list included unseeded ice, seeded ice and snow ice.
As near as I could decipher, the ice I had been seeing was unseeded ice which Gow explained was” large crystals with a vertical C axis.”
Meanwhile, the simplest explanation I found, was the answer to the question “Why does ice on lakes and ponds sometimes freeze clear and other times not? on Quora.com.
However, it was hard for me to verify the answer by Edward Mahoney of Salt Lake City, UT.
“Ice forms in elongated crystals. When the ice first forms on a lake or pond, it’s usually clear and you can see through it. Those first ice crystals are lying flat. They grew with their long axes oriented in the direction of least stress, parallel with the water surface,” Mahoney posted.
“As the surface of the water body freezes over, the ice crystals become confined. As they grow and expand there are horizontal stresses. The direction of least stress becomes vertical, rather than horizontal. The ice crystals reform themselves into larger crystals, with the long axis vertical, rather than horizontal,” he continued.
He also went on to describe bubble formations in ice.
Feeling slightly more knowledgeable and only a little less confused, I believe I might have a handle on ice identification.
However, whether it was P1, P2 or unseeded ice, it was still a sight to see. That’s just the nature of things ‘round here.
Darker December days may indeed create more color. Despite gray days, I had captured some stunning sunsets as the area moved toward the winter season.
My observations led me to search the internet for why it seems winter sunsets and sunrises appearmore brilliant.
Articles pointed to a few factors that aided in the brightening of the winter skies. A combination of low humidity, the angle of the sun and clouds have led to some stunning displays.
An article by Brian Resnick titled "Sunset color science.." posted at this site said, “Low humidity + cleaner air = more intense sunset colors.”
In the post, NOAA meteorologist Stephen Corfidi explained how tiny particles in the air called aerosols can attract water vapor in more humid weather and hinder the way we see colors.
“They’re essentially acting like a paper napkin in the air, they’re scattering the light,” he said. “They’re reducing the intensity of the light, and they are reducing the spectral purity.”
Corfidi was also quoted in an article titled “Why winter sunsets are best, according to a meteorologist” posted at The Optimist Daily.
In the piece, Corfidi said peak sunset season for the middle latitudes (… Northeastern United States) is November through February, and it has to do with the confluence of a few meteorological factors.
Meanwhile, Resnick wrote in his article that as “we approach the winter solstice, the time the sun takes to set lengthens, due to the angle the sun takes in setting into the ground. … the sun sets on more of an angle, drawing out the time it takes to set.
Resnick explained that “sunset colors linger closer to the winter solstice, which allows us to enjoy them for longer.”
Additionally, Resnick’s article mentioned that clouds could add to the sunset displays.
Corfidi is quoted as saying, “In the wintertime, it’s more likely you’ll get well defined cloud systems.” Corfidi said the systems are the result of a stronger temperature gradient between the north and southern latitudes, and a stronger jet stream.
Nonetheless, the winter solstice is approaching quickly.
The December solstice in Pennsylvania is at 4:48 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 21, In terms of daylight, this day is five hours, 52 minutes shorter than the June solstice. In most locations north of the equator, the shortest day of the year is around this date, according to www.timeanddate.com.
The site also mentioned that the earliest sunset is on Dec. 7 or Dec. 8.
Despite the lack of daylight, I was able to use my crystal ball or lens ball to capture the colors as the sun faded into the darkness.
That's just the nature of things round here.
Trail camera troubles
Photography can be trying at times. For me, the troubles aren't just limited to the camera I carry. The trail camera that had been taking snapshots for years at the neighbors' pond finally decided to call it quits.
While age and wear may have had something to do with its demise, Kennedy might have had more to do with it. He insists on biting or butting the camera. He gets scolded when I catch him, but I'm usually too far away to make an immediate save.
Despite my best efforts, Kennedy insisted on terrorizing the trail camera. However, he held no prejudice against just the pond camera. He has attacked all the game cameras.
However, some of the resulting photos can be entertaining after my anger has subsided. Most are up close and personal photos of Kennedy with me in the background wearing a disgusted look.
Meanwhile, I get to view what shenanigans happen in the background while I'm distracted doing something.
A new camera for the pond site was purchased so I could keep an eye on things.
However, it didn't seem to be making many captures and there were no nighttime shots. Then there were no photos at all. Dead batteries seemed to be the culprit this time.
Then the camera reset to factory settings.
I checked it the next day and the display said the memory card was full. This seemed suspicious. There were over 1,000 photos on it. After checking the card, it had been a windy day and the swaying fall grasses had tripped the camera.
Someday I will have to read the instruction booklet and figure out how to change the settings and fix the date so it isn't 2021.
Meanwhile, the camera in my parents' backyard also was taking hundreds of photos in a week. I suspected that weeds or leaves in the wind had triggered that device as well. However, that was not the case. My parents' field was a hotbed of deer activity.
There was a series of 15 photos of two young bucks that were up to shenanigans.
As the rut was in full swing, the camera snapped photo after photo of bucks pursuing does.
Some of the photos suggested that the bucks' attention was unwanted. One day while walking we spooked a buck that was stalking a doe. The doe was used to our presence and seemed to use our appearance as a deterrent against the horny buck. After we moved out of the area, the buck came in and doe ran off.
The rut has since wound down. However, the deer are still on the move as deer rifle season opened Saturday.
Meanwhile, everyone in my posse is sporting orange vests for visibility during hunting season. It was a good thing that the vests were wash and wear as Sadie and Clem decided to wear them into the pond to "fish" for some ice chunks.
That's just the nature of things 'round here.
Tribute to a terrible jerk
Kyle, “The Goat,” Applegate, 10, of Sawtown, passed peacefully from this world Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022, at a veterinary office in Seneca from possible urinary stone complications.
Kyle was born March 5, 2012, on the Fox family farm on Pinegrove School Road in Venus. He was the son of Hailey, the Alpine goat.
He then made his home with the Applegates in late spring 2012.
He enjoyed the companionship of Brently, the Nubian goat, until Brently’s passing three years later from a urinary stone.
In 2015, he was joined by his half-brother Kennedy, who he leaves behind to mourn his loss.
Kyle enjoyed freedom from employment all his life. He worked very hard at bullying his fellow pasture-mates and family dogs. He was also the unwilling star of a children’s book published in August 2015. It was titled, “Kyle: The Goat Who Ate Christmas.”
He was preceded in death by a brother, Stan, in early childhood.
Additional survivors include his caretakers, Shane and Anna Applegate, and several canine and feline fur family members.
There will be no viewing or services.
Memorials can be made to Precious Paws, the Venango County Humane Society or to a charity of one’s choice.
I never thought I would miss such a cranky caprine so much. I couldn’t count how many times I would say to Kyle, “I will be happy when you are gone.”
Those words said in anger and frustration could not have been further from the truth. I had to make “The Dreadful Decision” on Wednesday, Nov. 16, to release Kyle from his recent suffering.
He was a difficult goat to live with. He was incredibly strong-willed and stubborn. I tried several times to explain to him that other goats were not as spoiled as he was, but still he wanted things his way.
When Kyle and his first pasture-mate Brently came to live with us, they were very vocal. I immediately began to regret the whole “getting goats” idea. However, eventually, they settled in. Then I had the great idea to try to walk the goats. The first few times were very trying. At first, the little ones didn’t want to enter the “dark woods” because it was different from the open fields they were used to. Then they discovered that there was food or good browse in the woods, and they quickly changed their attitudes.
The next obstacle was several creeks we had to cross. They had a phobia of water but eventually learned how to jump across.
Brently and Kyle enjoyed several adventures as youngsters until Brently succumbed to a urinary stone at the young age of 3.
I would like to believe that Kyle cared, but he didn’t. He was too self-centered to even really know.
While Kyle may not have had anyone to share his pen with at the time, he had a very young Sherman to chase him around.
Many years later, Gus would take up Sherman’s goat chasing mantle.
Meanwhile in 2015, his half-brother Kennedy was introduced to him. Kyle was not excited to share his pen, but was somewhat delighted to have someone else to bully and push around.
He and Kennedy butted heads many times.
Kyle also butted heads with me on several occasions, but in a more figurative kind of way.
There were several times when he decided he didn’t want to go on his walk at the time when the rest of us were going. He was then locked in the pen while everyone else went. He quickly vocalized his opinion and could be heard for several acres as the rest of us continued our trek.
He continually kept butting the door of the shed while I tried to get his food ready. He had no patience.
Kyle also seemed to be able to detect which flowers I didn’t want him to eat. This spring I never saw the new tulips I had planted because he picked them off as soon as the buds formed.
The same thing happened to my peace rose bush.
For more than 10 years, Kyle’s ornery attitude just became something we delt with on a daily basis.
As my husband and I discussed this void in violence at our home, he recalled some other memories.
He said his favorite was Kyle having a verbal disagreement with an impact wrench from afar.
We kept hearing Kyle snorting and were a little concerned there was something in the yard that was a threat.
Upon going outside, every time an impact wrench sounded in the distance, Kyle would snort in a haughty reply.
He also was very irritated by the leaf blower and voiced his opinion at that piece of equipment as well.
Other memories surfaced as well as I searched through old photos of the black and white alpine.
There were photos of a little Kyle too small for his collar. That stage didn't seem to last very long.
Other pictures showed the aftermath of Kyle’s tendency to unhook things from his pen.
There were several times he got his head stuck in the hay bag or his feed bucket. I used to just chalk up the incidences to karma.
There were other shots that seemingly showed tender moments with Kennedy. They were most likely taken moments before Kyle then headbutted his half-brother.
Several images of Kyle modeling a Santa hat additionally appeared. A torture he will miss this year.
I still can’t fathom my feelings of loss for such a big bad bully.
However, I still have a lot of memories and many, many photos of the cranky caprine.
Nonetheless if Kyle could come back from the afterlife and haunt us, he totally would.
That’s just the nature of things ‘round here.
A moment in time: Part 2
Sunsets and sunrises would definitely be photos that could be attributed to divine intervention and inspiration. A rainbow on my birthday also fell into this category.
Additionally, this year’s fall foliage display was unquestionably divinely inspired. I am personally addicted to the brilliant leaves and must take a photo of just about every one.
I believed this season’s eruption of color to be one of the best I have tried to photograph over the years. The early trees were striking and appeared to maintain their colors before dropping their leaves.
Even after the earlier trees were finished, the oaks were truly grand this year. Driving to and from work, the hills around the Allegheny in Oil City and Franklin appeared to be on fire with an array of hues.
The oaks simply lit up the areas with lovely October golds and fine red burgundy colors. In previous falls, the oak leaves were usually just brown and then down.
This year the maple in our front yard did not disappoint either. It was its bright gold color. With a little experimenting with the lens ball, I was able to fit the whole tree into a photo without crossing the road.
“People talk about perfect timing, but I think everything is perfect in its moment; you just want to capture that,” said American author, chef, restaurateur, food personality, producer, and former attorney, Eddie Huang.
This made me ponder that everything is perfect in its moment and photography is surely important in capturing that moment in time. Sherman usually comes along at the right time too for many photos.
Other quotes echoed that waiting for the right timing, may in fact be a waste of time.
“If you keep waiting for the right time, it may never happen. Sometimes you have to make the most of the time you have,” said author Priya Ardis, in her book “Ever My Merlin.”
That seemed like an awesome goal to me to make the most of the time I have, especially when duties like work and chores often take a lot of that time.
Lastly, a quote from one of my favorite authors to quote, Mark Twain pretty much summed it all up.
“Don’t wait. The time will never be just right,” said a quote attributed to Twain.
"So, is timing everything?" I wondered. It is as long as we make it the right time.
That is just the nature of things ‘round here.
"The Nature of Things" features the writings and photographs of Anna Applegate, who is a lifelong resident of Pinegrove Township, Venango County. She is a graduate of Cranberry High School and Clarion University. After a 15-year career in the local news industry, she made a change and now works at a steel finishing plant in Sandycreek Township. She is a avid lover of animals and nature, and a gifted photographer.