BSI: Bee Scene Investigator

(Note and disclaimer: The following post might actually contain factual information relevant to beekeepers.)

The bee scene to be investigated

The bee scene to be investigated

All the bees are dead and I want to know why. I want to autopsy the bees. Technically, since they are not human beings, I want to dissect the bees. But Mr. Beekeeper husband is feeling really sad about these bees. He feels like he failed to take care of his girls. We, therefore, are treating his loss with all due respect. Autopsies are in order.

I personally can’t wait to dissect…I mean, autopsy…the bees. It takes me back to the dissection unit of my 10th grade biology class. I had really squeamish lab partners, so I ended up pretty good at dissecting by the end of the unit. By the time we got to the pithed frog I felt like I was doing surgery. It was cool, even though the frog died.

John doesn’t quite share my enthusiasm. While I set up my equipment, he gets out the build-your-own-volcano kit that Harper got for Christmas. And he and Harper later go feed a pinkie mouse to the snake. That apparently is more interesting than cutting open honeybees. Nevertheless, John brings a frame containing dead bees up from the basement.

Kathy Harp, BSI

Kathy Harp, BSI

Although the bright flourescent light in the basement is better for microscope work than the warm cozy sleep-inducing glow in the log-framed kitchen, it’s cold in the basement. So, once again, the kitchen becomes the staging area. I gather my supplies:

microscope (We need 20x-50x. The one we have says 1x-2x but John swears it’s 100-200 because he researched the model number when he bought it–at work–from General Electric.)

cork (Plenty of those at our house! We have a whole jar of wine bottle corks saved for what? My sister-in-law uses hers to anchor pillar candles in sconces. I am using mine to anchor honeybees with pins.)

pins (Jos A Bank still pins men’s dress shirts, so I have a bunch of pins. It’s not like I ever use them for sewing.)

razor blade (No, I do not take apart a safety razor. John actually has blades in his shop.)

The Beekeeper’s Bible (Richard Jones & Sharon Sweeny-Lynch)

The Beekeeper’s Bible (Richard Jones & Sharon Sweeny-Lynch)

Now it is time to actually dissect the bee. Umm…what am I supposed to do exactly? It was Richard Jones & Sharon Sweeney-Lynch’s The Beekeeper’s Bible (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2011) that put this idea in my head in the first place. It tells me to pin the bee onto the cork at an angle for better viewing and then cut off the bee’s head and thoracic collar. This requires a little more research because The Beekeeper’s Bible does not provide me with critical information, like how the heck one finds the thoracic collar of a bee.

Dave Cushman’s instructions provide some clarity.

This technique can also be used for interrogating the bees. The flashlight is particularly effective.

This technique can also be used for interrogating the bees. The flashlight is particularly effective.

Oh, the cork is cut at an angle. The bee is pinned to the cork. The cut is made between the first and second sets of legs. The thoracic collar, which is to be peeled off with tweezers, is nicely highlighted in red.

Minor problem. The thoracic collars of my bees are not highlighted in red. And, second minor problem, the tweezers are not official dissecting forceps and are a little clumsy to work with. So, even if I think I know where the thoracic collar is,

This is where French teaching and beekeeping intersect–the guillotine

This is where French teaching and beekeeping intersect–the guillotine

trying to remove it to get a better look at trachea pretty much rips the bee apart. Not that I have any lack of bees to experiment with. I decide, for the sake of my own sanity, to forego the removal of the thoracic collar and just see what I can see.

And just what am I supposed to see? I have no idea. Dave Cushman has some great pictures, but they are black and white illustrations. I end up at YouTube. Jamie Ellis’ video is very helpful.

I really have no idea what I’m showing you here

I really have no idea what I’m showing you here

Here I actually see video images of what healthy bee insides look like. Our bees don’t look anything Dr. Ellis’ bees. I’m thinking maybe our bees have been dead just a little too long. Either the autopsies are strongly conclusive of mite destruction or they are completely inconclusive of anything. I lean toward the latter.

Do stale bee bodies mean the end of our investigation? Not at all. The presentation of bees in the hive tells us something. The bees are not as clumped together as we would have expected. That could be symptomatic of erratic behavior induced by tracheal mites. More importantly, we think back to the behaviors of the hives since last spring.

Hive D never did get off to a good start. It never thrived and was the first hive to die in the fall. John had thought that it was a problem with weak queens and so he requeened some of the hives. He didn’t realize that the weakness of the hive in the spring could also have been due to tracheal mites. Requeening was not a bad idea. However, according to Dr. Ellis’ report, it would have been more successful with queens who were resistant to tracheal mites. This supports our current thinking of buying Minnesota Hygienics in the spring.

Do these wings look weird to you?

Do these wings look weird to you?

There is one really obvious symptom of tracheal mites that we have observed but were clueless as to its significance: bees walking around the beeyard. More specifically, bees with odd wings walking around the beeyard. Bees don’t walk places. They fly. Walking bees, particularly if they walk up a blade of grass and are unable to take off in flight, are not normal. We found this phenomenon fascinating. In hindsight, those are the bees I should have been dissecting. Those were the bees afflicted with tracheal mites. Instead, we watched doomed bees wander around on the ground while we sipped chardonnay and beer, oblivious to the knowledge that the doomed bees’ sisters were infected as well.

Oh, how callous we were! Oh, how expensive a lesson we learned. We’re like detectives who went out for a drink with the prime suspect and let him get away. And now there are bee bodies everywhere. Really. John dropped a few coming and going to the basement. He thinks he picked them all up, but he didn’t. The evidence speaks for itself.

Evidence

Evidence

 

Kathy Harp – visit her personal blog Maywood Living.

Are you receiving your free digital subscription to The Zone Magazine?  If not, click here!
 
 
 
 
Posted in Mondays at Maywood | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Are we too late?

Global WarmingOne day it is time to get out the suntan lotion and a couple of beach towels because temps are nearing 70 degrees in the middle of January. Three days later we are facing the coldest part of winter. It’s just an abnormality in the weather, the die-hards are saying, but in reality this climate “problem” is real and it is too late to stop it. We can still slow it down to a degree but at this point it is something we all had a hand in and we all need to do our part in an attempt to delay the inevitable.

I am 83 years old and that one fact, along with some health issues, makes this a problem that I really need not concern myself with. By the time the first wars are fought over potable water, I will be gone and forgotten, but there will still be a whole lot of Langrehrs around discussing unbearable summers and how much they got for all those snowboards and skis they just sold because they had not been able to use for years. I dislike taking on the role of an alarmist but it is difficult to find anyone who will think seriously for more than 5 minutes about global warming, let alone discuss it.

When the world made that turn many years ago to go with “lands of many automobiles”, we sort of sealed our fate. We’d never even heard the expression “fossil fuels”, and if there was a scientist or two a hundred years ago who raised the question, he or she was quietly and quickly silenced by the powers that then and still do control the destiny of our planet. A few years ago, when we were fighting at least 2 wars that no one can truthfully explain, we were all told that oil supplies were finite and we must pollute the planet further by drilling in every open spot on earth. They have eventually gotten their way and there is drilling in backyards across the country. This monster “Fracking” is polluting billions upon billions of gallons of drinking water that is permanently poisoned and can never be recovered.

TIt was many years ago that owners of the oil in the middle-east were beginning to have potable water concerns and half-serious, half tongue-in-cheek, talked of towing icebergs to their countries and letting them melt there to supplement their drinking water. Now they would have trouble finding an iceberg to tow. So what did they do? They began massive building programs, created land masses where there was formerly water, and water usage is so great that they have gone a long way towards depleting the aquifers that lie deep beneath them.

Mother earth is a “closed system” and as such, has no way of increasing the amount of water available to sustain life on the planet. We have the same amount of water available now as we did a million years ago. There is roughly 326 million trillion gallons of water on earth but only 2 percent of that is fresh water and most of that was once locked in the polar ice caps and icebergs. When our polar ice melts due to global warming, then the fresh water mixes with the ocean’s salty brine and we are losing more of our fresh water that we need for life.

While we are in the water, so to speak, I’d like to pass along to you another gem to add to the whereabouts of water on our beautiful planet…Each living human, for every 100 pounds of weight carries over half of that in water and water weighs just under 10 pounds per gallon…so the more people the more fresh water walking around the planet that is part of that grand total. We know where it is but it is being put to use. These are approximate figures but close enough to show you just what our H20 is into.

I am no great authority on all the solutions to global warming which is a problem we should have made #1 yesterday. Most times I have felt like John the Baptist, like that voice of one crying in the wilderness. Like to know what you think, or if you even think about where we are headed. Maybe we are too late…

global warming 3

 

Don Langrehr

Are you receiving your free digital subscription to The Zone Magazine?  If not, click here!

 

 

Posted in Thoughts for Thursday | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hundreds dead in Hereford

The bees are dead. All of them.

A sad sight...a lost hive

A sad sight…a lost hive

John is distressed. In the fall, he loaded each hive with fondant (bee candy made from sugar-water) for them to eat. He insulated their hives. They should have been warm and cozy with plenty to tide them over til spring. This past week, when he was home on a warmish January day, John visited the hives to check on their fondant supply. He discovered all the bees dead with plenty of honey and fondant still in the hives. Many of the dead bees had fallen to the bottoms of the hives, but small groups still lay in clusters, faces into the frames. It appears to be a classic case of starvation death by cold.

Huh, you say? No, it was not Mrs. Peacock in the library with a candlestick.

Bees maintain a constant temperature in their hive around 96 degrees. In the winter, they do this by clustering together in a huddle and vibrating their muscles, kind of like when we shiver. As the bees on the outside get cold they move inward and others take their place. (It reminds me of geese flying in the V formation, who take turns in the lead and fall back when they need a break.) If the temperature gets too cold, the bee colony won’t be able to maintain the proper temperature. Or, if the bee colony is lacking in critical mass, they won’t have enough bees to generate enough heat.

Capped honey on the left and a cluster of dead bees on the right

Capped honey on the left and a cluster of dead bees on the right

If bees get too cold, they will stick together to conserve heat and to protect any brood in the hive rather than move over to get food. So, a cold cluster of bees will actually starve to death, even though there is food nearby.Our bees had honey and they had fondant. They had been eating the fondant. They must have gotten cold.

Why? It hasn’t been terribly cold here. We understood, a couple of years back, when the bees did not survive Snowmageddon. That was an extreme winter. We had a little bit of snow last month, but overall the weather has been rather mild. So we are confused.

One hive died before Thanksgiving. That was disappointing, but since that hive had never been very strong, it was not too surprising. The other three hives went into winter very strong. All three hives had young queens who were very productive through the summer. To lose those hives is very unexpected.

One current working theory is that the bees we have been buying from Georgia are not suited to Maryland winters. Georgia is a popular source for bees because the mild southern winter means that bees are ready to be shipped north earlier in the spring than bees from, say, Ohio. An earlier shipment means Maryland beekeepers can have bees taking fuller advantage of the spring blooming. It means getting more honey that first year.

Another theory is that something caused a massive loss of adult bees in the late fall. If many bees died off, there would not be enough bees to keep the hive warm. The usual suspects for such a die-off are the varroa mite and the tracheal mite.

There is evidence in this photo. Wish I knew what it was

There is evidence in this photo. Wish I knew what it was

Mr. Beekeeper did not notice evidence of mites. And Mr. Beekeeper has tossed away the dead bees that were lying in the bottom of the hive. Will the remaining few dead bees on the frames reveal anything? Were they infected with anything or just innocent victims of the cold?

Do we need to do some bee autopsies? I may be a French teacher, but I was really good at dissecting in my 10th grade biology class. Give me some tiny tools. Get me the microscope. I want to KNOW!

I had no idea when John starting doing beekeeping that I would have to study bee forensics. We have a mystery on our hands. We need to solve it. Buying new bees every year is a very expensive way to get honey. After four years of this, we were rather hoping to be able to start expanding the number of hives. Instead, we find ourselves with a lot of beekeeping equipment but no bees. Clearly, something needs to change.

Last October when we went to the Lima Bean Festival in Cape May, we got talking to a beekeeper from New Jersey. He tipped us off to his preferred bee– the Minnesota Hygienic. He has 150 hives and has never lost a hive of Minnesota Hygienics over the winter. They have the advantage of being bred in a more northern climate and (this is the hygienic part) they keep a very clean hive which greatly reduces their susceptibility to the varroa and tracheal mites.

It looks like John will be spending the winter researching a good (northern) source of Minnesota Hygienics. I will carry on my forensic research on the probable cause of death of the Maywood bees.

Kathy Harp – visit her personal blog Maywood Living.

Are you receiving your free digital subscription to The Zone Magazine?  If not, click here!
 
 
Posted in Mondays at Maywood | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Teaching Our Children Respect – Another Idea

RespectIf things go as planned and March 2013 shows up like it is supposed to, I will have completed twenty years of retirement after a 40 year hitch at McGraw-Hill Inc. I left there in February 1993 and two weeks later I was embarking on another career, as one of the assistants in a golf pro shop, a private club, Winters Run Golf Club in Bel Air Maryland, doing 15 years there until forced by health to retire.  If I could walk, I would still be working, enjoying golf and my family.  As many of you may already know by the blogs I have written before, I have been working one way or another, including the military, since I was 12,and in my case I think this is what enabled me reach my 83rd year.

It got better as it went along, feeding my need for people. There were 70 years of “Thank you”, “Yes sir”, “No sir” and starting each day with a smile. I still address people of authority with “Yes ma’am” and “No ma’am” or “Yes sir” and “No Sir”, even if I am their senior. I even addressed my Mother and Father as Ma’am and Sir most of the time. My editor, who owns and runs The Zone Magazine, is probably more than 40 years my junior and I am very comfortable addressing her with ma’am. I also always address my elders, if I can find anyone older than me, with a polite ma’am or sir.

In no way are you demeaning yourself by just being polite. Most people, just by their age or position, are deserving of our courtesy and those who may not, or we think may not, can be won over by this simple pleasantry.

Part of every child’s education in their early school years should include common courtesy. But, as with all education, courtesy and respect have to begin at home. If Mom and Dad have no respect for each other or for authority, chances are the kids will grow up the same way. One solution for this problem of lack of respect would be a radical change in the way we raise our kids. It is done with success in other countries around the world and would work here if all children, rich and poor, were required to participate.

Uncle Sam - RespectI am talking about a two-year mandatory service in the military (or in some other kind of service to the country for all others) as long as you are physically able. You would be paid enough to support yourself and the country would profit and benefit from your services. By delaying College for two years, most children would better know what they want to spend the rest of their lives doing. Most would quickly learn respect for authority, that there is a place we all start from in this world – at the bottom – and our behavior goes a long way to take us up the ladder.

Most kids spend the first three years of college, maybe all four years, trying to decide what they are they’re going to do with the remainder of their time on this planet, only to realize they wasted a lot of time finding their life’s work. I am not implying college is not something to aspire to, but two years of growing up might help with the long-term decision-making.

Now this would only work if that word “mandatory” was strictly enforced. The well-to-do owe as much or more to this country as someone from the inner city and in most instances they all need to learn respect for authority and courtesy. The country could be rebuilt and long neglected parks and wild areas could get the help they need. The two years spent in service to your country would be counted for your service time should you decide to stay in the Military or other government employment. If we don’t do something radical, we are going to “personal freedom” our way to the bottom of the pile and eventually right out of existence.

Give RespectWhat do you think? Let me know what you think about respect and courtesy in our country today. How important is it in our everyday life and what could/should we do to improve it?

 

Don Langrehr

Are you receiving your free digital subscription to The Zone Magazine?  If not, click here!

 

 

Posted in Thoughts for Thursday | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

After Thoughts

Mayan calendarWe made it! We survived the end of civilization, predicted by the so-called Mayan experts, and a few days later another hectic season of Christmas celebrations slipped by. Now it is all part of our history.

Most are enjoying this break between years but the Maya, who were expecting something ranging from the proverbial Black Hole, here-to-fore not talked about, that is tucked neatly in a crease in our galaxy that would have sucked us into oblivion. Or, at the very least, resulted in some increased calendar sales, are analyzing their predictions or maybe just analyzing their predictors.

Then, there are those that think or believe “outside the box”, who could afford a trip to some exotic place on the Mayan-doomed Earth to escape or better view the coming catastrophe.   Their “Spots” ranged from some remote village in Asia to a series of caves and tunnels several hundred feet underground. Sorry guys and girls, there are no refunds on travel or lodging, since the Maya, as a Race, called it quits hundreds of years ago.

Asteroid 2011Now we hardly had time to catch our breath, when NASA tells us there is another disaster waiting in the wings.  Seems they have been keeping a scientific eye on Asteroid 2011 lurking out in space and by previous calculations, it was going to do a number on us similar to that which did the dinosaurs in. Seems it could have wiped out 80 to 90 percent of life on earth, but after further calculations, measuring the size and shape,  they figure it will probably miss us by 500,000 miles.

They even had a date for the collision, February 5, 2040. I am  not sure if they figured out where it was going to impact, but no matter where it came in, something that size could be classified as world-ending for most species. Wonder when they were going to announce the arrival date of our visitor so we could prepare a suitable welcome, or maybe they figured why do we need to worry for 27 years about that asteroid when we still have to worry about falling off the fiscal cliff this week.

The scientists at NASA have been working on ways to alter the orbits of asteroids and comets, with some success. They have discovered that even landing a light-weight probe on an asteroid, as they have done before, will push it just slightly out of its orbit. It takes a lot of calculating to figure just how far to push that hunk of rock so they won’t just be lining it up for a better shot.  It is thought that there are hundreds of objects out there that could cause that catastrophe, if they collided with Mother Earth.

After Christmas SaleSpeaking of world-changing disasters, did any of you participate in those day-after-Christmas sales? Harford Mall opened at 7AM, as did most Malls in the area, and after spending nearly 600 Billion dollars before Christmas, yes that’s right Billion, those shoppers still had some dollars left for those post-Christmas bargains. We began shopping in September when all the stores started their Christmas advertising campaigns, we took a break for Christmas day, and then thousands of us went out there looking for bargains for next Christmas or just bargains because the price is right. What began in years past as a way to get rid of Christmas Cards and wrapping paper that was left,  now has turned into a full-blown sales campaign by stores, large and small. There are coupons available to get further discounts on bargains that are already selling at “cost”.

And then, let us not forget those millions of dollars in Gift Cards that the  sellers would like the holders to cash in so their bottom line looks better for 2012. To make it a more interesting day, it began with a snowstorm, dumping several inches south of the I95 corridor which was followed by rain and sleet.  North of that so-called corridor, the accumulation was a little more and the sleet and rain came a little later.

Another big part of that crowd were people looking to exchange their gifts for another color, another size or maybe a credit for a different gift altogether or like some extra “persnickety” people we all know, just like to pick out their “stuff” themselves.

All-in-all, we survived another Holiday Season, unscathed except for thinner wallets and lighter bank accounts.  Just a few more months of winter and we will be welcoming another Spring back on the scene.

Don Langrehr

Are you receiving your free digital subscription to The Zone Magazine?  If not, click here!

Posted in Thoughts for Thursday | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I’m no longer Santa

Wanamaker SantaI’m not Santa.  I have played his representative at this household for …um…thirty years, but I suddenly find that my term is over.  All my girls have their own little ones and, hence, have assumed the role of Santa for themselves.  And all my girls have their own guys who are responsible for ensuring Christmas happiness and long life for themselves by buying the appropriate girly-pleasing gifts for them.

I am off the hook.

WOO HOO!!!

What does this mean exactly?  Well, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I spend less on Christmas.  Relinquishing the role of Santa corresponds with assuming the role of grandmother–to an ever-increasing number of grandchildren.  (Insert smiley face.)  Consequently, even though I had said that the grands were getting only one thing, I still zipped over to the Hereford Pharmacy to buy some cute little stuffed critters.  I just couldn’t bear to give them each just a plastic thing. For toddlers you  get a lot of bang for your buck with plastic toys, but on Christmas Day, when their naps schedules are all messed up, they need something cuddly to calm them down.  They do.  Trust me.  I’m a professional.   I’ve been doing this Santa thing a loooooooooong time.

Ho Ho HOThere are categories of Santa presents.  If I’ve told you this before, bear with me.  It’s just that it’s important.  Pathetic little tears on Christmas are at stake.   Categories start simple.  Little ones don’t even know Christmas is coming, so lights and boxes to play with are enough.  Soon, very soon, categories become essential.

  • Category 1:  Something to do.  The gift has to keep them  busy for at least part of Christmas Day, and preferably days thereafter.  That is why six-year-old boys are given 1000 piece Lego sets.  Anything smaller will be assembled in less than twenty minutes.  This could also be called the technology category–Ipads, Ipods, Iphones, I-whatevers.  I..I..I… (me…me…me…?)
  • Category 2:  Something to cuddle.  For little ones, it (hopefully) soothes them through a disrupted nap schedule.  For older ones,  it (hopefully) soothes them through the disappointments of the day.  I failed to fill this category the year my oldest stopped believing in Santa.  She went to bed in tears because she did not get a teddy bear.  How was I supposed to know that it was her test item–the only item on her list that she told no one but Santa?  This category continues to be important through the hormonally treacherous teen years.
  • Category 3:  Something to wear.  Initially this is more a gift to the parents than to the child.  Once the school years begin, it is really important that the child have something new to wear back to school in January, preferably something that is “cool”-whatever “cool” happens to be that year.  Underwear technically fits this category but, for lack of coolness, does not count. Clothing continues to be significant until the child is old enough to work at, say, White House Black Market or Loft.  Once that happens, there is no reason to compete with their hefty discount.  They should be buying you clothes at that point.
  • Category 4:  Something to take to bed.  This can be combined with Category 2.  But usually this involves pjs.  You can’t go to bed with a Lego set or a bicycle.  The perfect Christmas Day ends with warm snuggly pajamas.
  • Category 5:  A surprise.  It’s no fun to only get what you asked for.  That reflects a lack of creativity on Santa’s part.  Some children make this a very difficult category to fill by providing extensive wish lists.   A certain six-year-old I know thinks he didn’t miss a thing on his list this year.  Responsible adults in the family informed him that even Santa doesn’t have a TV in his room.

 

This list is comprehensive but not complete…Santa must fill in missing categories.

This list is comprehensive but not complete…Santa must fill in missing categories.

So, since I’m no longer Santa, I don’t have to worry about categories.  I am not responsible for their Christmas happiness.  They are responsible for their own families.  And they have men in their lives to fulfill their deepest longings.  So all I have to do is get them a present.  The happiness of the day does not depend on what I get them.  What a relief!  If Christmas Day is a gift-giving disaster, it won’t be my fault.

I repeat the mantra to myself: Not the Santa, not the Santa, not the Santa…  It’s liberating, like when my daughters got married and I was no longer responsible for them.

 

Kathy Harp – visit her personal blog Maywood Living.

Are you receiving your free digital subscription to The Zone Magazine?  If not, click here!
 
 
Posted in Mondays at Maywood | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Welcome back Don!

Don2In case you might be wondering just what the status of your Thursday blogger is, I have been in and out of Upper Chesapeake Medical three times since Labor Day,  fighting off one of our number one public enemies – cancer.  I told you in an earlier blog about the great care that I received there during the first week of my stay and the great people on the first floor that treated me almost like Family.  I was discharged for a few days but had to be re-admitted and spent almost three weeks on the third floor and again I can’t say enough good things about Upper Chesapeake Medical Center and the people who work there.

I have had some transfusions, infusions, trying to come to some conclusions about how to fight off this invasion of one of my vitals called the bladder.  Like the saying goes, progress is as good as can be expected so far, under present conditions, and we’re looking at it with the old “fish eye” until January. That sounds about as vague as Lawyer talk, doesn’t it?  Now let’s get to some important stuff.

I am now residing in luxury at son Lance and his wife Robin’s house in Essex, not the Essex of Merry Olde England, but the Essex on the edge of Baltimore… beautiful  spot… five acres of woods surrounding a new house, being waited on hand and foot.  You may still catch me in some flashbacks about my patio on the Rumsey Island Canal,  but in truth, I had to give up my perch on that Gunpowder waterway.

I will miss that great horned owl that sits in a tree across the Canal at dusk, hooting his heart out, to get a reply from one of his compatriots in a big Oak along the Little Gunpowder Falls, before he sets out on his nightly hunt. And I often wonder if that wild turkey hen will be running by the patio one of these cold winter mornings as she did earlier this year. Ieagle soaring can’t forget the Bald Eagles who fished the Canal in front of my apartment or the Osprey who were also on constant fishing patrol, taking them back to their young who were in nests nearby. I was nearly on a first name basis with some of the hundreds of Canada Geese who frequented the waterway and came to the patio door looking for a hand-out after the Mallard ducks were done begging.

I am also so grateful that I was able to spend that last 10 years of peace and quiet there, observing all those beautiful sunsets and sunrises, eight years of which was with Joan, my wife of 60 years who passed away on December 22, 2010.

The first ten years of my life, I was born on and spent nearly the entire 1930’s, in the peace quiet of a very rural farm of ten acres. Ironically, I have lived the last ten years just a few miles from where I was born.  I went back there recently, to try to recapture some of that “old farm” feeling, I suppose, but alas, it was gone, the farm and the feeling. It has been written that we can’t go back and ‘tis true.

Both the farm and the old barn had disappeared, part of the open fields are filled with houses and a small piece became part of Gunpowder State Park, still leaving room for all the wildlife along our Big Gunpowder River.  That is one thing I can still  count on, winding its way through Baltimore County, on the way to the Chesapeake Bay and then to the Atlantic Ocean.

You haven’t heard the last of  my weekly tales or monthly articles and hopefully I can tell you of  some new adventure or ideas, or maybe recall  a past happening that will deserve your attention.  If you remember anything about old Kingsville or Bradshaw or St. Stephen Church and School,  let me hear from you.  I am on Facebook or you can comment at the bottom of this blog….I am also available by e-mail at dlangrehr@aol.com.  I am looking forward to hearing from you.

 

Don Langrehr

Are you receiving your free digital subscription to The Zone Magazine?  If not, click here!

Posted in Thoughts for Thursday | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Ways to make your workouts fun!

lifting weightThe #1 reason people stop exercising is because they start feeling bored and unchallenged.  Okay, so I don’t know that for a FACT, but there’s one thing I know and it’s that people are more successful when they challenge themselves.

I should clarify. When I say “challenge yourself” I do not mean you should take your body beyond what it can handle. The word challenge has been horribly misinterpreted because we live in a black-and-white world. People think if they’re not killing themselves, then they must be taking it too easy.

WRONG.

A challenge could be as simple as trying out a new type of exercise, deciding to work towards a particular goal, or just stepping outside your comfort zone every once in a while.

Even if you fail from time to time, you’ll feel so much more accomplished if you push yourself to do new and challenging things, than you would if you just keep doing what you already know you can do.

spin classFeeling accomplished is probably the best way to have fun while training. Let’s face it: kicking ass is fun. 

It may sound lame, but learning is fun. I always say – knowledge is power!  You don’t have to admit it publicly, but you know I’m right. Whenever you learn something new, you feel a sense of accomplishment.  Which is what should happen and it’s a damn good thing!

So, imagine how much more fun you’d have if, instead of focusing on “powering through” exercise, you focused on learning how to master your body through new skills.   Everyone does what they’re good at.  In my opinion you’ve succeeded there, when it’s easy, then its time to do something new.  The things that we don’t like or find difficult are usually the exercises that we should be working on.

Not to mention, you can do some pretty fun things with your body once you learn how – get your mind out of the gutter! I’m talking about doing things like burpee pull-ups and handstands!  Don’t hesitate to email if you’re ready for a challenging but fun workout.

Diane Meola

Are you receiving your free digital subscription to The Zone Magazine?  If not, click here!

 

Posted in Wellness Wednesdays | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Peace on Earth

crying angelDiscord.

Joyful images to “like” on  Facebook: six-year-old grandson grinning the gap in his smile from his newly yanked front tooth; one year old twins in candy-cane striped pjs caught in the act of “emptying” the dishwasher and trying to escape Mom’s “wrath.”

Candlelight images pleading for us all to pray for the families of the little children and the teachers gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School for no discernible reason.

Joyful image of toddler grandson playing “peek-a-boo” in a closet.

News report of first grade teacher hiding her students in a closet, cradling their faces in her hands and calming them by saying, “Let me see your smile.”

Our perfect Christmas tree, decked out in glory, glows warmly in the background.

A firehouse, set up to sell Christmas trees but now a staging area for national media, beams Christmas red and green in the background.

Boxes of Christmas gifts pile up at my house from all the online ordering I have done.

The guidance counselor at my school notes, “Those children have Christmas presents that they won’t be opening.”

Peace on earth.  Goodwill to men.  As if the tragedy weren’t enough, it comes now–during the season of comfort and joy.  Where’s the comfort?  Where’s the joy?  How can one even enjoy what one has when the pain of others is so, so hard?

My Bible reading this morning took me to seemingly random places that turned out to be not so random at all.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  That’s from Philippians 1:2.  It’s the standard opening line for the New Testament letters.  Oh.  It’s God’s standard opening line.  Grace and peace.  From God.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more… (Philippians 1:9).   In an online essay (“Americans, united in horror for a moment”), AP reporter Ted Anthony quotes dear old Mister Rogers speaking on coping with tragedy:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, `Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping,’” he once said. “To this day, especially in times of `disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”

Thank you,  Mister Rogers, for still keeping our eyes focused on the good in the midst of evil.  May love abound more and more–as  we act on the grace and peace.

The people all tried to touch (Jesus), because power was coming from him and healing them all. … Looking at his disciples he said, “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.”  (Luke 6: 19, 21)  There’s that discord, tackled head on.  That line about “blessed are those who weep” can sound really hollow when in the midst of the weeping.  It’s like people trying to comfort the  bereaved by saying, “He’s in a better place.”  It really doesn’t take the hurt away.  Ah…but what if the one saying it had such power that people were trying to touch him to be healed by it?

This is about when Karen Carpenter popped into my head–just a fragment of tune and lyrics.  I had to scroll through my mental Rolodex to place the song.

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

Their old familiar carols play,

And wild and sweet the words repeat

Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,

The belfries of all Christendom Had rolled along

the unbroken song Of peace on earth,

good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:

“There is no peace on earth,” I said,

“For hate is strong and mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;

The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,

With peace on earth, good will to men.”

It is still the season of comfort and joy.  It’s just that today we are conscious of how much we need it. And, like the Who’s in Whoville,  we know that it won’t come from packages, decorations or roast beast.

God rest you merry gentlemen

Let nothing you dismay;

Remember Christ our Savior

Was born on Christmas Day

To save us all from Satan’s power

When we were gone astray;

O tidings of comfort and joy.

Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our  Lord Jesus Christ.

Christmas Angels

 

Kathy Harp – visit her personal blog Maywood Living.

Are you receiving your free digital subscription to The Zone Magazine?  If not, click here!
Posted in Mondays at Maywood | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Oysters on the half shell, oyster stew and… oyster beer?

Indian Summer has finally given way to crisp chill of oyster weather.  It’s November, the third month from September through April containing an “R,” and we are well into oyster season, but it took a monster late season hurricane/nor’easter/winter weather event to usher in the appropriate chill.  Which raises some questions:  how do oysters fare during such an extreme weather event?  Are they safely snuggled in their oysters beds while a storm rages overhead? Or are they, too, in need of disaster relief?  Will there be Blue Points for Thanksgiving?  And if not, will it be because of a lack of oysters or because the oystermen are still pumping out their homes?

This calls for some research.  Hmm…high winds, heavy rains, and storm surge all cause problems for oyster beds.  Pounding waves can physically damage their beds; storm surge can bring damaging sedimentation; and heavy rains or ocean surge can bring about extreme changes in salinity.  Ocean surge can dramatically increase the salinity of bay oysters; storm run-off can dilute the salinity of ocean bivalves.  This does not bode well for the Blue Points this year.  Or the incredibly tasty Cape May Salts.  The Chincoteagues were spared the violent brunt of the storm, but it remains to be seen if the huge rainfall and storm water run-off impacted them.  The Susquehanna watershed is pretty big.

I partook of my first oysters of this season last month in Cape May.  The local Cape May Salts are a good briny oyster, and I thoroughly enjoyed slurping the tender, slippery, sea-salty bivalves.  A couple of weeks ago we were dining in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, and enjoyed some salty Chincoteagues.  Now our mouths are primed for oysters, and we’re pining for more, especially the Blue Points that we traditionally have on Turkey Day.

Friday night, John stopped at Gibby’s to buy oysters on his way home from work.  Being way too tired to want to shuck them himself, he bought them in a plastic container.  Normally, we prefer to eat the oyster from its own shell, but pre-shucked oysters are better than no oysters at all.  I’ve even figured out how to serve them—on deviled egg plates.  Seriously, how often do I make deviled eggs?  Once a year on Easter.  But those egg plates, shaped not-unlike an oyster shell, have twelve little scoopy spots that are just perfect for serving shell-less oysters.  I plop twelve oysters into each of the two plates and serve one to John and one to me, ideally topped with my mignonette or a bit of cocktail sauce.  Ta dah.  It sure looks nicer than a little bowl of gray oyster loogies.

(Personal note to this year’s Thanksgiving oyster initiate:  you did not just hear me compare oysters to loogies.  If you can eat tough, chewy clams, you most certainly can eat delicate oysters.)

Friday night’s oysters were fine, but they weren’t salty.  Alas, the seafood store could not attest to their origin.  They did not shuck those oysters themselves; they just accepted delivery of oyster-filled containers.  For all we know they came from the Gulf of Mexico.  They would have tasted better with a good mignonette, but I was too worn out by my Hurricane Sandy induced one-day work week to chop up the ingredients.  Anyway, by Saturday night they were destined for oyster stew, a worthy culinary fate.

John’s Oyster Stew

Here’s the recipe for John’s Oyster Stew.  The one he made Saturday was perhaps the best ever, so, even if I don’t rave over a raw oyster, that does not mean I won’t rave over it in a stew.

John’s Oyster Stew

  • 1 quart shucked oysters, strained with  1 cup oyster liquid saved
  • 4 cups milk
  • 2/3  of a half-pint of heavy cream (Yeah, it’s  a weird amount but that’s what he used. I think I’d dump the whole container in, but, hey, it’s not my recipe.)
  • 6 tablespoons butter, divided
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Worcestershire to taste
  • tabasco to taste
  • fresh parsley for garnish
  • oyster crackers

Saute the strained oysters in large soup pot with the 4 T of butter until oyster edges curl and liquid has started to boil.  Add the milk, 1 cup oyster liquids (the “liquor”), and the cream.  Add the remaining butter.  Heat the stew until hot–the butter should melt, the soup should be steamy but must not boil.  Add salt, pepper, Worcestershire, and tabasco to taste.  When steamy hot, remove from heat.  Serve garnished with fresh parsley and oyster crackers.

I like my stew to have a little zip to it.  John does not want to actually taste the Worcestershire or the tabasco.  He wants the oyster flavor to shine, but the Worcestershire and tabasco are still necessary to add interest and complexity to the milk based broth.

So support the oyster industry–go buy some (preferably local) oysters.  Or, if you really can’t swallow an oyster, show your solidarity by drinking a Flying Dog “Pearl Necklace” Oyster Stout.  I don’t know how they make beer with oysters, but this is a nice one.  Really.  And it doesn’t taste like oysters at all.  Here’s hoping–and praying– that the East Coast oystermen and their oysters make a speedy recovery from Hurricane Sandy.

Yeah, it’s made with oysters. And proceeds benefit Chesapeake Bay Oyster Restoration.

Kathy Harp – visit her personal blog Maywood Living.

Are you receiving your free digital subscription to The Zone Magazine?  If not, click here!
 
 
Posted in Mondays at Maywood, Tasty Tuesdays | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment