Saturday, January 27, 2007

Sharks and Suet

I know you all have seen the filming of a weakened frilled shark off the coast of Japan. What made this exciting is that this species of shark is rarely seen alive because its natural habitat is 2,000 feet or more under the sea. The frilled shark was captured on film by staff at the Awashima Marine Park in Shizuoka, south of Tokyo.

Marine park staff caught the 5-foot long creature in shallow water. This critter is often referred to as a “living fossil” because it is a primitive species that has changed little since prehistoric times. Frilled sharks, which feed on other sharks and sea creatures, are sometimes caught in the nets of trawlers but are rarely seen alive.

The shark appeared to be in poor condition when park staff moved it to a seawater pool where they filmed it swimming and opening its jaws. The shark died a few hours after being caught.

With thoughts of frilled sharks in my mind, I am busy this morning preparing suet for the birds. They love the recipe that was shared by Mary Lee McPherson. For you folks that feed the commercial suet, I would recommend trying this recipe.

2 cups of quick oats
2 cups of corn meal
1 cup of flour
1/3 cup of sugar
1 cup of peanut butter
1 cup of lard

I always multiply the ingredients by four so that I will have an adequate supply for our feathered friends. I heat the lard and, once it has melted, pour into the dry mixture. Mixing with the hands is therapeutic for this arthritic! It smells wonderful. I then place the suet into two 10X16 inch pans. Letting it solidify either outside or, if temperatures are warm, I place the suet in the refrigerator. After cutting in blocks, I put them in sandwich bags and store in the refrigerator until needed.

We use a log suet feeder which the birds love. It is a hanging log with holes drilled into the wood so that suet can be placed into the holes.

I have also drilled suet holes in the tree base of our open feeder.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Moose Mucus

Each year in front of our house, we always have a great population of algae-like masses thriving in the gravel by the road. I call these growths - Moose Mucus. It is extremely slippery and, when one accidently steps in this biological goo, your body slides across the road. (OK- maybe a little exaggeration!)

I sent a sample to my botantist friend, Peggy Romeo, who teaches in Florida. She reported back that this " is definitely filamentous Cyanobacteria. ....... looks like the genus Anabaena. It's a really healthy specimen; I'm going to use it when we get to the prokaryotes this semester. Also, the water around that little sample was F-U-L-L of zooflagellates and ciliates zipping around! You would have loved it!!"

Peggy, you are correct! I love it! How exciting to see those microscopic critters speeding through the water droplets! Most folks looking at these green, slimy masses have little knowledge that there is another world living within the strands of the cyanobacteria.

By the way, cyanobacteria was in my old biology world known as blue-green algae. Actually it is a photosynthetic bacterium of the class Coccogoneae or Hormogoneae, generally blue-green in color and in some species capable of nitrogen fixation. Is that enough background for you all on these procaryotes? (OK- look up procaryotes for thy selves!)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


This weekend we had the pleasure of visiting our grandson, Sam. (OK- pleasure was also visiting with Jeff and Sarah! Chuckle) A snowstorm on Sunday extended our Sam visit for a day longer.

Sam loves to play with Dad and Mom. Here Sam is wrestling with Dad.

Guess Sam won and Dad is worn out. Tis Daddy's rest time.

OK- Mom is preparing to give Sam an upside down ride. He loves the new upside down game.

It is lunch time. Sam acts like a little bird when he sees the spoon. Yummy! Notice how neat an eater this lad has become. Wonder who his hairdresser is these days?

After getting the ole belly full, it is once again playtime!

Friday, January 19, 2007

98 Year Old Railroad Tickets

I am sitting at my desk thinking of the past. How often I have thought that it would be super to travel back in time? H.G. Wells, where are you? Mr. Wells wrote his book, The Time Machine, in 1895 so even back then folks were contemplating past and future events.

I would love to have seen Glenville in the early 1900s with its dirt streets and businesses such as the Whiting Hotel.

The students that attended Glenville State College (then Glenville Normal School) traveled to our small hamlet first by railroad and then boarded steamboat river packets for their journey down the Little Kanawha River. River packets were the vessels that carried dispatches, mail, passengers, and goods. Over the years, the Little Kanawha River has been filled with silt and now in some places not even a canoe could float downstream.

The map below shows the rail road line to Glenville. You will notice the spur that dead ends at Gilmer Station. This is where Glenville State College students would load all of their belongings for the academic year onto the steam powered boats and begin their final leg of the trip to school on the river.

I have on my desk two wonderful railroad tickets that I need to share with you. They were a gift from my best buddy, Bea Brown. She arrived at the office one day with an envelope in her hand and said. “Here, Ford and I thought you would enjoy these.”

Opening the envelope I found two railroad tickets that are in perfect condition. The first is from the Coke and Coal Railroad – one first class ticket from Walkersville to Orlando.

The second is a ticket from Orlando to Richwood on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.

You will notice the backs have been stamped on October 29, 1909 at Orlando and the next day, October 30, 1909, at Walkersville.

Here is a photo of the train depot that once existed at Orlando. Let’s sit back, close our eyes, and imagine getting on the train at Orlando! Who was the person traveling that day? What sights did the traveler see on the trip? Was this person traveling alone? Why was this person traveling those days? So many questions, that only your imagination can answer.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Stanton’s Mill

As mentioned earlier, the Penn Alps Restaurant is located between two historic structures, the Casselman River Bridge and the Stanton Mill. Let me explain about the historic mill.

Thomas Stanton conveyed water privileges for a grist mill at the site in March 1797 to Jesse Tomlison. In the same year Tomlison built a two story mill behind what is now the Penn Alps restaurant. Portions of the original mill stand today within the right bay of the current three bay structure.

Just before the Civil War the mill was rebuilt and sold back to the Stanton family. In 1888 Eli Stanton removed the buhr stones from the mill and replaced them with eight sets of steel roller mills. One roller mill could do the same work in one hour that a set of stones did in eight hours, but produced flour at a higher temperature.

In 1900 Eli Stanton enlarged the mill to its present size. After 1900 Stanton's Mill operated as a grist and feed mill until 1977. From 1977-1994 the mill operated as a feed mill only. In 2002 Kentucky miller John Childers entered into an agreement with Penn Alps, Inc. to restore Stanton's Mill as an authentic 1860-1889 stone ground grist mill.

As with most mills, Stanton's Mill has gone through several changes in its mode of power, including an undershot water wheel; two different turbines, one 18 H.P. and one 25 H.P; steam power and finally electric power. Stanton's Mill has currently been modified to operate with a high breastshot water wheel and also electric power.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Casselman River Bridge

Penn Alps is framed on one side by the Casselman River Bridge. The bridge crosses an area named Little Crossings in 1755 by George Washington, then a young military aide on the staff of British Gen. Edward Braddock. Braddock led an army against a French fort near what is now Pittsburgh. Braddock’s army forded the river at Little Crossings and also retreated back over the same spot after being defeated soundly by the French.

Indians settled in the area thousands of years before the first whites settled there in the 1760’s, after the French had been driven out of North America, Joseph Tomlinson erected the first inn several miles east of Little Crossings. The ford and the road that crossed it became a major thoroughfare of westward travelers. By the late 1700s, a mill and farm residences were built near the crossing.

Early in the 19th century, the federal government began an ambitious program of internal improvements which included widespread road construction to help knit together the young republic. The National Road project was a capital improvement program that was aimed at upgrading Braddock’s Road. The Casselman River Bridge was one of many such improvements built along the road.

At the time of its construction, the 80-foot span was the largest of its type in America. It was reportedly made longer than it needed to be in hopes that the planned Chesapeake and Ohio Canal would pass under it. A public celebration was held at the bridge on the day that workmen removed the supporting timbers. To the amazement of many the bridge did not collapse.

Little Crossings became a busy center of commerce and transportation. Stage coaches, wagons, horsemen and foot travelers crossed over the bridge. More buildings appeared, including a store, and another inn, which remains today, as the Penn Alps.

The advent of the railroads in the 1840s resulted in cheaper travel. The national Road went into eclipse but it was revived in the early 20th century when federal aid became available for the road development to accommodate a newer means of transportation – the automobile.

The bridge continued in service until U.S. Route 40 also became an important east-west artery, just as the National Road had been. In 1933 a new steel bridge joined the banks of the Casselman River. The old stone bridge was partially restored by the State of Maryland in the mid-fifties and is now the center of Casselman River bridge State Park.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Penn Alps on The Casselman

Yesterday we met Rachael and the girls along with Jim and Jane Meeker at Penn Alps located along the Casselman River in Grantsville, MD. Penn Alps Restaurant and Craft Shop are housed in the last log hospitality house on the National Pike still serving the traveler. It is situated between a 1797 gristmill and a historic stone arch bridge ( the longest single span of stone in America when built in 1813 ). Three of its six dining rooms were once part of the log stagecoach stop, Little Crossings Inn.

Grandma and Granddad Meeker live now in Arizona so we appreciate any time we can get together and visit. We had a great lunch and an equally great sharing time. You will notice that Lucy is certainly in charge of the grandparents!

The Grandpas took Flora for a walk through the Spruce Forest Artisan Village. This area, a part of the extended Penn Alps campus, has grown from a few cabins to some 12 log and frame structures of early vintage, two of which date to the Revolutionary War Period. Most of these provide studio space for artisans.

As you can see, our Flora was in charge of collecting spruce pine cones.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Tony,Tony, Look Around!

Speaking of St. Francis in yesterday’s posting, here is an important tip from another saint who is pictured above. This comes from our good friends in Lexington, Kentucky. Ralph and Mary are special folks who do medical volunteering on the island of St. Lucia. Ralph is a surgeon and Mary is a medical records person. Mary often has to find missing files and she uses a techique appealing to St. Anthony of Padua, the patron saint of lost things.

Mary recites this mantra until she finds the lost item.

Tony, Tony, look around,

Something's lost and must be found!

Try it, my friends!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Saint Judy of Assisi

This title is one that has been earned by my wife over the almost 40 years of marriage. You remember, of course, St. Francis of Assisi.

Francis was born in 1182 in Assisi, Italy. Many of the stories that surround the life of St Francis deal with his love for animals. It is said that one day while Francis was traveling with some companions they happened upon a place in the road where birds filled the trees on either side. Francis told his companions to “wait for me while I go a preach to my sisters the birds.” The birds surrounded him, drawn by the power of his voice, and not one of them flew away.

Judy also loves birds and is the bird healer at our house. Yesterday she was baking Russian tea cakes when this little Downy Woodpecker chose to fly into our large living room window. As this cute critter hit the window, I yelled that the Avian 911 Lady is needed. She went immediately to the side garden where the bird was lying on the rocks with its wings spread. Judy picked up the bird, stroked it gently, and then talked to it in her calm voice. After checking for injuries, she placed it on a pillow that is in the rocker on the porch. After a few minutes of recuperation, the Downy spread its wings and headed for the nearest tree. Through the years she has used her calming techniques to revive a plethora of injured birds from hummingbirds to woodpeckers.

After this Downy flew, within 30 minutes a Hairy Woodpecker had a similar encounter with the window. Our St. Judy went to check. Upon seeing her radiance, the Hairy flew and was apparently uninjured!

She has lost very few. I truly believe Judy has a healing gift for our feathered friends.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Last Memories Of Our
Caribbean Cruise (11/2006)

We shared our daily adventures of our wonderful cruise with you earlier in the Meads Family Blog. I did not include the photos taken by the plethora of photographers that were buzzing around the ship. The photo below was taken on our first formal dinner evening on the ship. The onesie that Sam is wearing was a hit! He was certainly a babe magnet in that formal attire.

One can not have a picture taken without including the Captain! Captain Leif Otto Bang had the ship's crew supply free champange to all during the Captain's Reception. I really think that ole Otto was on the ship just to be the centerpiece of this photo opportunity and to dine with the guests on formal dining evenings. We wondered how the captain's table guests were chosen?

Since most of the ship is computerized and he has a huge crew, what else does he have to do but eat and have his picture taken? What a job! What a name for a cruise ship captain!
(You will notice the surprised look on the wife's face. She has an explanation on what was happening, but it is not my place to share it with you at this time!)

Here is our group - Dad Jeff, Sam, Mom Sarah, Grandma Shirley, Grandma Judy, and Grandpa Jim. This is another formal dining evening taken by the sculpture in front of the Ice Skating Rink.

What is a ship on the open seas without pirates?
Notice that we were not frightened by this buccaneer.

Sam and Grandma Shirley had a similar positive experience.

Here are Mom and Dad Dodson with our favorite pirate.

Our farewell dinner photo closes our presentation of our great adventure.