Category Archives: Small town stuff

Six inches of melting snow + warmer weather + 3 inches of rain = December flood

Well. Let’s just say it’s been a pretty weird week, given that we’re just a few days from Christmas.

The deluge began on Friday, the day before the first day of winter. Except for a few moments, it continued into early Sunday, the day after the first day of winter. One week earlier, we’d been digging of first one snowfall, and then another. So not only did we have the onslaught of 3 inches of rain but we had 6+ inches of melting snow.

And what happens with so much water? Flooding. Odd that we should have a flood on the first day of winter, but this is Ohio, land-of-the-weird-weather.

10500-saturday-night-rain-continues-and-riley-risesBy Saturday evening, we could see the lights of Bluffton University’s library reflecting on the green space directly across the creek from our house. That’s usually the first hint that the creek has spilled over its northern bank. Fortunately, we live on the high side of the creek.

My husband went out late Saturday, intending to photograph and videotape images for our website, The Bluffton Icon (www.blufftonicon.com). By the time he returned, the local police department had begun encouraging those in low-lying areas to move to higher ground. Memories of the August 2007 flood were still lingering.

By morning, streets were closed due to high water, and the high school football field was waist-high in water. But even by then, the water had begun to recede. By all accounts, we were pretty lucky, although those with soggy basements might not share that feeling.

1222-9.m.sundayAnd now? Just 24 hours after the water had begun to recede, the temps have dropped from 48 degrees to 30, and a few flurries have reminded us that we’ll likely see snow before we see that much rain again.

But it’s nearly Christmas, and thanks to the winter solstice, the days are getting longer. It’s the beginning of the end….of winter’s darkness, at least.

*For a video of the flooding, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FPZ49fOaDag

(Photos and video courtesy of the Bluffton Icon.)

 

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Sights, sounds, and colors of fall

What was with that whacko weather last Saturday? If — like me — you live in Northwest Ohio (or happened to be visiting), you were probably wondering whether you’d been teleported ahead or back to March. It was cold (30s and 40s), windy (40 mph gusts), and dreary. The vendors at the final farmers’ market of the season were bundled up in parkas and the customers zipped through their shopping. But..to make up for it, Sunday arrived in full fall bloom — one of those beautiful crisp, sunny days that are the perfect setting for the gorgeous changing colors of the trees.

tree

Saturday’s long run was a battle with the elements — with the wind, it was fine, but against the wind, not so fine. As if to make up for that, Sunday was the perfect day for a long walk. At the     quarry, we were entertained by the usual ducks and — surprise — two herons in the same location!heron2

heronUnlike Saturday’s run, today’s was perfect — clear, calm and starry — with the smell of fall in the air.

Early morning runs in a small town are usually quiet with limited traffic. But in late October the quiet is often interrupted by the sound of farm tractors pulling wagon loads of corn to the local elevator. Here is one of today’s early arrivals — I suppose an eery site to those unaccustomed to rural life.

photo (10)This guy was one of only two farmers waiting for the elevator to open this morning, but a few weeks ago, the picture was different. The line was long and moving slowly. No one seemed antsy or in a hurry — clearly, they were happy for the chance to talk.

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Day 2 of Mary’s Excellent Adventure: Eagles, bluffs, and a babbling brook

Today started with an early morning run on the Chaseburg Nature Trail, a one-mile paved path that crisscrosses a field of wildflowers and cattails  and at times borders a babbling brook. Really! I never really understood the term “babbling brook” until seeing — and hearing — this one.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAPSmdeZlus

Across the water are a bunch of cows who alternated between loud mooing,  grazing. and staring at the crazy woman running in a circle.

Actually, it’s pretty amazing that a tiny town like Chaseburg (pop. 283) can maintain such a path. Donors funded the path in honor of families displaced by a flood in this lowland area. Benches line the brook and miniature street lights were just added along the path.

Four miles passed quickly because I was busy watching for Sand hill cranes, unusual birds like indigo buntings, cows, and wild animals. image (17)

Then it was back to academia — work for my daughter, exploring a new campus for me. Here are some of the sights…instead of the Beaver mascot that surrounds my job, there were signs of the Eagle mascot.photo (14)

Later in the afternoon, we drove up Grandad Bluff — about 600 feet up from the land around it. From there, you can see a panoramic view of La Crosse and the three rivers — Mississippi, Black, and La Crosse.photo (13)

From there we went to the local farmer’s market, lined with vendors selling the usual produce, but also organic cheeses and meats like buffalo and alpaca. Supper was at Kate’s Pizza — pear and Gorgonzola   on one and spinach, yellow squash and garbanzos on the other.

Farmer’s market the community hub

It was a pretty typical August Saturday morning in Bluffton, Ohio. The sun was shining and by 9:30 a.m., the local farmer’s market was bustling. As I waited for a vendor to wrap my sunflowers ($3 for 15 stems) in newspaper and twine, the woman next to me asked if the market was always this full of vendors and buyers.  She’d come to town to visit the local quilt store and just happened to see the market.

photo (10)How can you not love a good farmer’s market? It’s not just the food — which is the best around — but the camaraderie, seeing lots of friends, sharing ideas of what to do with unusual produce like the lemon cucumber I picked up today.

It’ll be a week of veggies again — and trying out some new recipes. And while the sunflowers make me smile every time I look at them, my best purchase of the day was an eggplant. Not just any eggplant — this one was just begging for a face. Not sure what this one will become but for now, it’s also making us laugh.

photo (12)So here’s what I picked up today. Brown eggs, cucumbers, squash, cabbage, swiss chard, lettuce, white carrots, red and green sweet peppers, muskmelon, and a loaf of the best hearty, whole wheat bread (saves me from having to bake immediately).

Any suggestions for what we should be cooking?photo (11)

Send me some recipes! I love trying new things.

 

 

 

 

 

Weekend sightings: snapping turtle, geese and — maybe — blackberries

Yesterday before the onslaught of rain arrived, the water in the creek near our house was still low enough to see whatever creatures were swimming. That’s when I saw a HUGE snapping turtle, his lumbering body swimming upstream. Of course, I had no camera, not even my iPod, but the body (not including the neck and head) was roughly the size of the horseshoe crab I found on Tybee Island earlier this summer.IMG_0514[1]

Later we went by to see if he might be hanging around but the creek was full of muddy, rushing water. We did see a cute little frog who appeared to be riding the rapids on his back.

Today, I was ready with my iPod. No turtle, but the geese that hang out at the local quarry seemed to tolerate my presence far longer than usual. One of them began a halfhearted attack but even he seemed to agree that a Sunday morning stalemate was called for. Phew. Hissing geese can be a little scary!
IMG_0162[1]IMG_0163[1]
Leaving the geese to hiss at the next innocent passerby, I headed off to check on my blackberries. Here’s the thing. They’re not really mine and I’m not really sure if they’re blackberries. Are they black raspberries? I’m not sure…maybe someone out there can identify these for me. They grow wild on low-growing bramble bushes and are just slowly turning black.
Oddly, I’ve never like raspberries or blackberries until recently when I discovered some wild patches  on one of my running routes. I brought some of the raspberries home and my husband — who likes them — was hesitant to eat them. I think he thought I was trying to poison him.
Anyway, last year I decided to try the blackberries, which are huge and tart. I love to eat them off the bush — especially when I’m really thirsty on a hot, sweaty run.
So…who knows what these are? Please tell me!
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A gaggle of geese

When our kids were little, we got into the practice of assigning age groups to young ducks and geese, based on their size. The tiny, fluffy ones were “newborns,” and from there graduated to grade school, junior high and adult. Somehow the distinction of high school never entered the picture.

So this morning as I ran around the west end of the Buckeye quarry, I came upon a gaggle of geese. They were happily searching for food on the ground and didn’t seem too bothered by my presence so I was able to photograph them. But then a dog barked and everyone hustled down the banks to the water.

I wanted to join them — the humidity and heat were beginning to rise and the water looked pretty inviting.

Here’s a photo and a video:

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Pottery, ceramics, and the snap of a tongue serve as reminders of a beloved man

When you asked Darvin Luginbuhl the age-old question, “What is art?”, he’d turn it right around and respond with a pointed “What do YOU think art is?”

It’s a difficult question and one for which Darvin probably never answered point-blank. Because, artist that he was, Darv never put “art” into a box. He could find art in everything and wanted everyone else to share that experience of discovery.

For example, my husband once asked Darv if he would help him design a children’s Christmas coloring contest for the newspaper he edited. Darv very subtly suggested that the traditional Christmas picture of Santa or Christmas scene — meant to be colored by each child — lacked inventiveness and would produce nothing more than a colored picture. Instead, he suggested including a blank page with instructions that each child draw or color a picture of Christmas. It was his way of encouraging youngsters to discover art from their hearts. It worked.

Growing up, our back door was a quick, 30-second jog from the Luginbuhl’s back door. I say back doors because there was no need to use the front door. Darv and my dad, who were on the faculty together at Bluffton University for about 30 years, were often found in the middle of one of their respective gardens or in Darv or Dad’s shop. Their wives — Evelyn and my mom — still share a friendship as close as sisters.

Our house was always filled with various pottery and ceramic items created by Darv. Because his son, Bill, and I were childhood buddies, my Christmas and birthday presents were often a ceramic pot filled with candy. When my husband and I married, my mom asked Darv to make a tea set for us. The gray and blue-glazed teapot and mugs are still in use after nearly 33 years.Tea-Set

So when Darvin died yesterday at age 91, it felt as if a huge piece of this small, Swiss community had gone with him. No more would we hear his cheery, “Vie gehts?” Even in the past few years as he struggled with health issues that interfered with his mobility, that cheerfulness remained intact and conversations were always entertaining.

Little bits and pieces flit through my mind as I thought about Darv’s contributions to life in a small town, as well as to the wider art community. For as much as we knew him as a small-town Swiss boy who produced beautiful pottery and ceramics, the art world knew him as a creator of fine art and a man of great knowledge.

But there are other, more intimate memories — like Darv and Dad calling us  home from wherever we were playing. Darv could snap his tongue against the roof of his mouth so loud that we could hear him at the old college track field nearly a quarter mile from home. At the same time, Dad blew through a conch shell, producing a quirky “conch honk” that could be heard just as far away. Who needed cell phones? If we missed one, we’d hear the other.

When we wanted to earn quick spending money, one of them would hire us to dig dandelions. We always went to Darv first because he paid a penny for a dozen and Dad made us fill a whole bushel basket. Or something like that…

Ah Darv, we’re going to miss you. We’ve got pieces of pottery to remind us of your creativity, but more importantly you left us with a passel of memories.  Thank you.

Hopscotch — alive and well in 2013

Remember hopscotch? Guess what? It’s still alive and well….at least in our neighborhood. Yesterday we had one of those glorious early spring days that just begs for playing outside in shorts.

Anyway, with temps in the mid-60s, my two favorite next-door neighbor kidlets were busily designing their own hopscotch board on the front sidewalk. I bet them that they couldn’t extend it beyond their property line all the way to our driveway.

The almost-6-year old (he made sure I knew exactly the date on which he turns 6) was drawing the squares and numbering them under his 8-year-old sister’s giggling directions. 2013-03-10 14.23.41

When I asked if I could test it, they looked at me in that dubious way that only children can. After all, in their minds, I’m OLD. My children are MUCH OLDER than them….so old they barely remember them. But being the cheerful kids that they are, they allowed me to take a test hop. 2013-03-10 14.23.532013-03-10 14.23.38

When I reached the final squares, I heard Xavier breathe a sigh of relief. He grinned. “I thought you were going to fall.” Ali giggled. Ahhh, the forthrightness of youth.
He then proceeded to show me the rock they intended to use for their game. Apparently, their version involved throwing the rock on a distant square. If it fell in a square, they could take a turn. Okay, so this is not the version I remember. So what? Are games not designed to be played with whatever rules one chooses to assign?

This is the joy of being a child and having plain old fun on a beautiful sunny afternoon in Ohio. And what better way to do this than by dressing for fun?2013-03-10 14.24.59

Chattanooga Choo Choo

Nearly 34 years later, I can clearly remember my first date with the man I eventually married. Not because it was particularly romantic and not because of the exception food. No, what I remember clearly is approaching a railroad crossing as the gates lowered and lights began flashing. Here’s how I remember that conversation:

Me: Oh no, a train. I hope it’s not a long one.
Fred: Yes! A train! I hope it’s a long one.

I remember looking at him and wondering what I’d gotten myself into. This man actually got his jollies out of counting train cars. Oh, and identifying each car’s company/owner, and then specifying the type of car each was.

I’m pretty sure there were at least 100 cars. Probably more. Didn’t faze him in the least.

Some might say that’s probably where I went wrong. I could have nipped that romance in the bud that very night. But no. I fell…hook, line and cowcatcher. What I didn’t realize was that it was contagious. It was like a plague. Once you’re hooked, you’re a railfan for life. I’d never claim to know even 1/100th of what he knows about trains, the history of trains, and the proposed future of trains. But my heart does a little skip when it hears the wail of a train in the night.

Here’s the thing. I’ll bet that when a train sounds in the distance at, say, 9 p.m., no one in your house stops, cocks his head and says, “That’s the 410 going through….” Well, at least unless you’re my friend, Eric Davis, who lives just 15 miles away in another small northwestern Ohio town.

My husband took this photo with a Pony Kodak in 1970 in Montana.

My husband took this photo with a Pony Kodak in 1970 in Montana.

I once asked my husband what nickname is given to train nuts (my word). His response was “railroad employees call us ‘FRF’ and ‘$&*@+%’ Railroad Fans.'”

There is a somewhat elaborate set-up in our basement featuring HO gauge train cars, but that’s only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. There are train lanterns, train schedules, items he’s collected over the years. For years now, I’ve successfully ignored much of this, but finally I got curious. How did he get interested? Who could I blame?

He claims that  “this hobby is in the

Santa Fe diesel

Santa Fe diesel

tradition of James F. West, Bluffton’s premier interurban fan; John H. Keller, Sr., Interurban and NKP steam and Lima Locomotive Works expert, Dr. B.W. Travis, O gauge model hobbyist, and my great uncle Harry Hahn, freight conductor, who was killed when a Big Four freight train backed into him in 1918 in Bucyrus.”

If you want to see just a minute amount of his collection, stop by the Bluffton (Ohio) Public Library, where some of his items are currently on display. Can’t get to the library? Not to worry…he was only too eager to offer some favorite photos.

This is now the Norfolk Southern through Bluffton. The green and white sheet of paper is from a NKP freight bill he obtained.

This is now the Norfolk Southern through Bluffton. The green and white sheet of paper is from a NKP freight bill he obtained.

Great Northern Empire Building Vista Dome.  Chicago to Seattle.

Great Northern Empire Building Vista Dome. Chicago to Seattle.

Akron, Canton and Youngstown hopper. This line is abandoned but used to go north of the old Bluffton swimming pool. In the summers, the engineer would blow the whistle and all the kids would wave.

Akron, Canton and Youngstown hopper. This line is abandoned but used to go north of the old Bluffton swimming pool. In the summers, the engineer would blow the whistle and all the kids would wave.

Fred, Lindsay and I rode this through Bluffton from Findlay to Lima. Someone else took the photo for us. This is a Norfolk and Western J Passenger locomotive. This is the last-ever steam to travel through Bluffton, circa 1987.

Fred, Lindsay and I rode this through Bluffton from Findlay to Lima. Someone else took the photo for us. This is a Norfolk and Western J Passenger locomotive. This is the last-ever steam to travel through Bluffton, circa 1987.

Facing winter head on: Increasing the endorphins with a snowy run

Here’s the problem with Ohio winters. They’re completely unpredictable. No, that’s not quite true. They’re predictably unpredictable.

On Monday, I ran in shorts and a t-shirt. Then the temps dropped to sub-freezing, the wind kicked up to 25 plus mph, and the snow followed. Back to the indoor track — for which I am ever-so-grateful. But today is Saturday, which means long-run day, and my body craved the outdoors. So I layered up, Velcro‘d on the Extreme Masque…IMG_0371[1]

…strapped on the YaktraxIMG_0372[1]

…and headed out. Toward the end of eight miles, I rounded the National Quarry on one of my favorite trails. My iTouch was on its last few minutes of battery power, so I turned on the video camera. This is for my friend, Debbie, whose heart is in ski and hiking country, but current home is in the city. This’ll probably make her even more homesick for her hometown.
Unfortunately, the battery died just before I reached my favorite rocks that overlook the water. And despite my footfalls and breathing, you get the idea of the peaceful feeling of this location.