Leucistic Buzzard


While driving from Clifford toward Elkdale in the valley through which the east branch of the Tunkhannock Creek flows, I noticed a kettle of turkey buzzards riding a thermal to who knows where.

I did a double take, noticing that one of the birds was nearly completely white. It’s not uncommon to see more than one type of bird riding together on thermals, and figured a hawk of some kind had gotten into the mix.

But, after watching for a while, it was apparent that the white bird was a Turkey Buzzard. It’s flight pattern, with slightly twitching wings was the same as everyone else. Both the top and bottom of the wings were white, as was the entire body. The underside of the wings retained the silver feather pattern as typical buzzards,

Yup, that’s not something you see everyday.

That view was just slightly less impressive than the Blue Heron that was standing in the middle of the road a couple of miles later. That fellow, however, took off to the meadow before I could get a clear picture.

I wish I got a photo of this fellow standing in the middle of the road in all his lanky splendor – it looked like he stood more than 4 feet tall!




The skies this Summer have been nothing short of magnificent.  It seems that many times while driving around the neighborhood this season, the sky looks like the day that they take photos for postcards.

Unlike a few years ago, dramatic skies were soon followed by strong, damaging storms.

This year, however, the clouds and winds have rarely conspired to wring out much more than pleasant showers, and light rains.

Dinner from Mom


No doubt animals have feelings and thoughts, or at least instincts.

Who would deny that this little guy is having one of his best evenings of the summer?

Whether that vaguely uncomfortable sensation of need in his body provoked the thought “Hungry, I better go find mother”, or the instinct to follow his nose toward the familiar warmth of mother’s scent, the end result is the same: mouth to teat, milk to belly, belly filled, uncomfortable sensation replaced with contentment ensuing.

After eating his fill, he might be thinking “Good time for a nap!”, or feeling rejuvenated and energetic from his evening meal, maybe it’s time to find some pasture mates, nip at each other’s hooves and frolic. Or maybe just enjoy a full belly and stay where the comforting scent of mother is warmest and thickest.

Certainly animals are subject to sensations. The heartiest of cows and horses still need at least a three sided structure in their pasture within which to shelter themselves from driving wind. Horses and deer will bed in snow midway down a lee slope – far enough from the crest to avoid the worst of the wind, high enough from the bottom to avoid the coldest air that rolls down the slope and pools in valleys.

Some say cows are so sensitive that they can predict the weather. If cows are lying down in a pasture, it will rain; if standing, clear weather will prevail. Or, most often observed, some standing, some lying down – no doubt a reliable indication of partly cloudy weather 😉

Habit requires thought, or at least conditioning. Some evenings require a walk into the pasture to lead the herd back to the barn for milking. Some evenings, bags swollen, all the girls come back to the barn anticipating the relief milking will provide.

It is undeniable that cows have personalities. Some will wait patiently to be milked, some will kick and thrash about. Some seem to enjoy the pressure of the farmer’s head against their belly as he sqauts and applies the milking machine. Some seem rather modest and indignant to have their nipples washed, tolerating daily milking only for the relief it provides.

If large enough, a herd of cows will develop social cliques. Even within a small herd, cows have best friends, and those individuals they will avoid. Just like people, they are naturally attracted to some, and develop aversions to others.

It’s probably impossible to say if cows enjoy sunshine more than a cool gentle rain, or if they find the shape and texture of some clouds more pleasing then others. Their sentiments may be restricted to keeping in proximity of those individuals to whom they are drawn, finding where in the pasture the combination of moisture and sun causes the grass to grow most sweetly, where a shelter, natural or man made, provides the greatest comfort from the elements.

Cast this way, it’s pretty evident that when you get down to basics, cows are not much different than people: they like their bellies comfortably filled, they enjoy the company of their family and neighbors, and shelter from the elements.

The Perseid meteor shower – August 12-13, 2015 before dawn

from: http://earthsky.org/

August 12-13, 2015 before dawn, the Perseids
The Perseid meteor shower is perhaps the most beloved meteor shower of the year for the Northern Hemisphere. Fortunately, the slender waning crescent moon rising at or near dawn will not obtrude on this year’s shower. The Perseid shower builds gradually to a peak, often produces 50 to 100 meteors per hour in a dark sky at the peak, and, for us in the Northern Hemisphere, this shower comes when the weather is warm. The Perseids tend to strengthen in number as late night deepens into midnight, and typically produce the most meteors in the wee hours before dawn. They radiate from a point in the constellation Perseus the Hero, but, as with all meteor shower radiant points, you don’t need to know Perseus to watch the shower; instead, the meteors appear in all parts of the sky. They are typically fast and bright meteors. They frequently leave persistent trains. Every year, you can look for the Perseids to peak around August 10-13. Predicted peak mornings in 2015: August 11, 12 and 13. The Perseids combine with the Delta Aquarid shower (above) to produce a dazzling display of shooting stars on what are, for us in the N. Hemisphere, warm summer nights. In 2015, as always, the Perseid meteors will be building to a peak from early August until the peak nights; afterwards, they drop off fairly rapidly. With little or no moon to ruin the show, this is a great year for watching the Perseid meteor shower.

Dinner for Two


These beings are enjoying a sweet late summer dinner, on a cozy flower for two.

Though requiring flowers and crops to be watered more often, the weather has been dry and seasonably warm; just about perfect for August.

Some of the foliage is reacting to the dry weather, and fading to a paler shade of green. Some foliage, however, is reflecting the time of season, and whether one views this as an indication of the end of Summer, or the start of Autumn, some leaves are already displaying a touch of yellow, a hint of orange.

Labor day is just about a month away – say “Yes” to any Summer activities that present – it will be a Winter away before they avail again!





I imagine if I live here long enough, and pay better attention than I have been for the past quarter century, I might be able to discern why some Summers produce such an abundance of apple, pear, grape, and berries.

Some say that it’s nature’s way to provide for, and prepare the beings in the neighborhood for an impending strong Winter. Others say that the amount of Summer fruit is determined by the previous Spring.

This past Spring was fairly gentle – buds did not have to suffer much freezing; no strong storms blew blooms from the trees.

We’ll keep an eye on what happens this Autumn and Winter. Meanwhile, it’s time to gently tug on the raspberries – if they release easily from the plant, it’s time they were eaten.

Indian Pipe

Indian Pipe
Indian Pipe

A recent walk on the cross-country ski trail led through Narnia-like woods abundant with fern, Indian Pipe, fungus; sunlit meadow is thick with clover, grass, and Queen Anne’s Lace.

Not quite three weeks past the solstice, already harbingers present: this morning was an Autumn morning – humidity free, clear, temperatures dipped into the 40’s before dawn. Abundances of apple and pear draw our thoughts toward harvest time.

Dog and I will walk the trail more often now, with focused intent: we’ll start to clear the path of downed branches that when half-buried in snow could deflect and twist a ski or paw, and twigs of thorns that could snag a trouser or ear.

Temperatures in the high eighties are in the immediate forecast; the Clifford picnic is next week.

From here on out, those of us who have been around here for more than a few summers know that hot, sultry, Summer days will become less and less common. Hoodies will be needed in the evenings. The grass will grow less thickly.

It’s the time of season when neighbor Penny inhales the evening, and noting the subtlety of it’s terroir, says: “The air is now changed, yet still familiar…. yes, it tastes like Frontier Days”.


Samuel L. “Roxy” Rothafel


The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, together with Forest City Borough, and the Forest City Area Historical Society invite you to attend the dedication of an official State Marker commemorating the accomplishments of Samuel L. “Roxy” Rothafel on Thursday, July 30th at 6 PM.

The marker will be unveiled at 600 Main Street, Forest City, the location of the Family Theater, opened in 1908 by Roxy, who went on to open many Roxy Theaters, create the Rockettes, and open Radio City Music Hall in 1932.

The Honorary Exhibit, ‘From Forest City to Radio City, a Tribute to Roxy Rothafel’ will be on display all day Thursday and Friday at the Historical Society. There will be a showing of the 1987 Forest City ‘Follies’ and old time movies throughout the day.

A reception at the Historical Society will follow the dedication. For more information on the Old Home Dayz activities, visit our website: www.forestcityareahistoricalsociety.org .




CLIFFORD TOWNSHIP PA – To some people, old farm equipment and machinery often become unusual lawn ornaments. To others, these oddities of times past merely become pieces of unused and dying junk that is left to rust in the rain. But to many of the folks in Clifford Township, old farm machinery has suddenly found a new home and a new use as these wonderful old treasures help recall bits and pieces of the township’s rich history.

With grateful thanks to George (Buster) Spedding of Clifford Township, countless items of antique farm equipment will soon have a permanent home in the township’s new Agricultural Museum. Spedding is a fourth generation farmer in Clifford Township, and his old farm equipment has seen a great deal of use through the years. But rather than just discard what he no longer uses, Spedding has offered to display some of this equipment to develop a local AG Museum to help teach others about this area’s wonderful farming heritage. A number of other farmers throughout the region with old equipment stored in their barns have also offered their unused farm items for display. Not surprisingly, pieces of machinery like this have some great stories to tell, as to how and why and when each was used.

To help share these stories and educate others about the lives of farmers throughout the area, the Clifford Township Historical Society (CTHS) has teamed up with the Clifford Township Volunteer Fire Company to develop a permanent display of some of the township’s farm machinery like Spedding’s and many of the other long-time farmers. The firemen have given the CTHS the old dance hall building on their picnic grounds to house some of this equipment and develop an AG Museum that folks can visit.

“The historical society has literally outgrown its museum space at the community center,” said Alan Fortuner, President of the Clifford Township Fire Company. “Between our two groups, there’s a lot of deep-rooted history and pride in what we all do. So helping the Historical Society by giving them some space for their new AG Museum is a win-win for us both. It’s also a great way to help continue to maintain the township’s local history for future generations.”

“We’re thrilled to have the space at the picnic grounds,” said Sandy Wilmot, President of the CTHS. “But without the support of Adams Cable Service who provided the financial backing to make this project possible, we wouldn’t be where are today with this new museum. Additionally, local volunteers Robert Kilmer and Ray Swingle of Clifford Township provided the bulk of the building materials to move forward with this new project.

“The old dance hall was originally built years ago with a spring floor,” Wilmot explained. “The floor joists are likened to coiled car springs or an old spring mattress – the floor gives with the weight placed upon it, so some of the larger equipment we’ll move into the hall will be easily accommodated. Jerry Lewandowski is one of our many workers, and he has generously agreed to help us with the major reconstruction work to turn the dance hall into our new AG Museum. We’ve also salvaged old barn walls to rebuild the museum doors and make the hall’s interior look more realistic for the displays.”

Throughout the years, the life and labors of a farmer have gone from manual to horse-driven to motorized. Generations ago, it might take an entire day to work a mere half-acre by hand or with a single horse. Today, dozens of acres can be worked with the newer mechanized equipment. Back in the old days, many farmers worked their land until they died. And with many large farming families, everyone had their own chores to do, each often requiring a particular piece of equipment. Much of the equipment that will eventually find its way into the AG Museum will be from the ‘30s and ‘40s, with some items going back to the early 1900s.

We’ll have some larger items like a single-horse plow and cultivator,” continued Wilmot, “and we’ll have smaller tools like a dog-tread mill, a bone grinder, a fanning mill, and corn sheller. Before the reapers and binders, farmers used a grain cradle to manually cut and gather their hay. There will be a wide variety of items that were used by multi-generations.” To help describe these interesting and unique pieces of antique machinery, the CTHS will prepare permanent storyboards to accommodate each item on display.

“There’s not a lot of monetary value in most of this old equipment, and there’s minimal decorative value in most pieces too,” said Wilmot. “But from an educational standpoint, it’s irreplaceable and very valuable. Together with the Clifford Township Fire Company, we’re working together to continue to preserve our township’s rich history.”

On July 23-25, the Clifford Township Volunteer Fire company will host its 67th Annual Fireman’s Picnic, located on Rt. 106 in Clifford Township (evening events will begin at 5:00pm). The CTHS will open the doors to the new AG Museum at that time, displaying the first of its continually growing collection.

The CTHS invites anyone with items and information of local and/or regional area historical significance to contact them at 570-679-2723, or on their newly designed website, www:cliffordtownshiphistoricalsociety.org. Known locally as “the little society that does big things,” the CTHS directors believe that their group’s supporters and volunteers are the backbone of its organization. They are grateful to everyone for their time, talents, and donations. Without each one, the CTHS would not be able to preserve this region’s history.

Written by Union Dale freelance feature writer Karen Bernhardt Toolan for the Clifford Township Historical Society, with thanks to the Susquehanna County Room Tax Grant Fund through the Endless Mountains Visitors Bureau.

How much different can heaven be?