Archive for Maryland

Swallows Are Back!

Posted in Nature Studies, Poems, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on June 29, 2016 by Drogo

ON THE WILD SIDE for June, 2016 by Christine Schoene Maccabee

The Swallows Are Back !

“Birds, the free tenants of land, air, and ocean,

their forms all symmetry, their motions grace…”

James Montgomery, British Poet

I often wonder how many other people feel a thrill when the swallows return to our area in early May. In late April this year I began to watch for them with high expectation. Every year the swallows are drawn back to my home like a magnet, much to my amazement and joy. Their nest of mud and grasses, lined with soft feathers, is perched in a corner of the eaves of my A-frame house. Due to the strength of this nest, and how well it is “glued” to the wood, it has lasted through many a fierce storm. It is the second nest the swallows created there in more than 20 years, the first one falling down just a few years ago. That particular spring, upon their return, they built another strong nest in the very same place, and I expect it to last just as long as the other one.

The first sign of the return of my feathered tenants is their excited chirping, and my day is immediately happier upon hearing them. They sound like they are having a lively conversation, which I guess they are, and my loneliness is displaced by their cheerful company. Since arriving here several days ago, the mated pair has been zooming all day through the skies eating whatever they can find. Every spring and summer they keep my atmosphere completely free of mosquitoes, so no Zika Virus here ! However, due to all the rain and cool weather this spring, the flying bug population is not so great yet. Hopefully the birds had plenty of food while traveling north after wintering somewhere in Mexico or some country in South America. Some swallows winter as far away as Argentina !

I wish I knew my swallows’ entire story, but at least I do know part of their story here in northern Frederick county. I have seen mothers, and fathers, sitting on their nest until the babies hatch. Thereafter the wonderful partnership of the parents continues, taking turns feeding the nestlings, and themselves. It takes a lot of energy zooming around all day. It is a true joy to watch them fly far out over the fields, gathering what they can at lightening speed, and then bringing the food back to their eager nestlings. Usually there are four young ones, and once these fledgelings leave the nest the mother and father occasionally settle down to raising 4 more.

Birds, as we all know, are amazing creatures. We humans are fascinated with both their flight, and their songs, not to forget their amazingly artistic colorations. Many a poet has written eloquently about them and artists such as Audubon have painted detailed representations of them (more than 1,000 to be nearly exact!). Songs like “The Little Red Lark”, an Irish ballad, portray their amazing flights and songs, and airplanes were invented as we grounded humans decided we too had to fly. This idea may or may not have been a good one. After all, birds are following their natural inclinations, whereas humans do not, and we are definitely polluting our planet with all our unnatural contraptions, are we not ?

So, perhaps that is why I am so mesmerized by birds, particularly the swallows. They are so small, seemingly so vulnerable, and yet they can fly such long distances with the greatest of ease. In fact, once here, it is estimated they can fly the equivalent of 600 miles a day in quest of food for their young, according to the Audubon Field Guide to North American Birds. So how is that possible ? you ask.

In my research I have learned, as many of you likely already know, that birds are very light (as light as a feather in fact) due to the fact that their bones are hollow and filled with air. Also, according to a book on Natural History by Bertha Parker, connected with a bird’s lungs are tiny air sacs scattered throughout its body. These air sacs act like tiny hot-air balloons ! Therefore a typical swallow weighs far less than a mouse, lizard or frog of the same size. A birds streamlined body is another help in flying. Humans have tried to mimic these qualities, the closest coming to gliders of various types, and hot-air balloons. I will not say anything about all the other larger, costly, heavy planes, especially of war, which have completely digressed from Nature’s perfect plan.

So, back to feathers. Feathers also serve the purpose of protecting birds from rain and cold. They shed rain because they are a little oily and the intricate parts of the feathers are cleverly put together in lovely, serviceable patterns. Feathers also keep the birds body warm, trapping the heat ; think of your down sleeping bag. This winter I remember telling my chickens to huddle close and keep warm, as I closed them up for the night in their unheated coup. I even worried a bit, but they weathered the cold winter beautifully as they are fully and thickly feathered.

I am in total admiration of birds in general, and sometimes I wish I were as free as they are, unfettered by coats and boots and layers of clothing, and independent of automobile expenses. I envy them for their ability to fly and feed themselves without growing their own food or going into a grocery store.

However, as Popeye so wisely said, “I yam what I yam, and tha’s all what I yam”, and there is no escaping that fact ! I do rather like having two strong legs, and arms I can reach to the sky with, giving praise for all the wonders of life. I am also thrilled to have my swallows back here for another season. I will miss them when they gather to go south in August, and I can usually tell when the time is coming by all their excitement as they zoom around my house with their happy, chirping fledgelings, full grown by then, and fully independent. Sigh.

I wish I could fly free as a bird, and be light as a feather !

Christine is a Master Wildlife Habitat Naturalist and can be reached at songbirdschant@gmail.com with any questions or stories of your own.

Boonsboro MD Green Fest 2015

Posted in Cooperatives / Communities / Networks / Travels with tags , , , , , , , on May 13, 2015 by Drogo

Boonsboro MD Green Fest

May 9, 2015

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For years I had been meaning to visit my neighbors in the local area town of Boonsboro for their Green Fest, and finally through SCOD networking I was able to advertise for it and attend it. From10am-5pm dozens of tents (200 vendors) were set up all over a generous sized town park with stone bridges and a large stone gazebo and three pavilions. Merchants and groups from all around the area were vendors; artists, crafters, designers, landscapers, healers, alternative techies, stewards, farmers, and brewers. Most of the vendors had claim to some kind of ‘green’ product or service, or both. Even the infamous ‘Dan Ryan Builders’ were oddly among the list of sponsors; perhaps due to some guilt from destroying thousands of acres of farmland and wilderness, but more likely smart propaganda from social pressure to sustain profits. Greedy profits are being challenged by community based exchange when events like this increasing spread scod alternative architecture and environmental and historic preservation concepts. There was also live music and tons of play structures for children, and wine and beer for adults. Most impressively there was a huge clothing swap and recycling exchange area! My only practical criticism was that there should have been more trash cans and recycling bins along the tent paths. With 150 volunteers and thousands of visitors, the event is clearly successful.

Perhaps some year I will risk paying the vendor fee to sell my books like BOG Peeps and SCOD Thesis, however I might not sell enough books to make back the cost of the tent and space. However it does seem more artistic and intellectual than other outdoor events with emphasis on other things like outdoor athletics, music, or food / drink. or had less people. Among the many vendors I visited and spoke with were Moonshine Forge Blacksmith Shop, Windsong Healing Arts, Farm of Peace, Rose Sanders-Mendez Artisan Jewelers, DM Designs, Western MD Solar Panels, Mtv Solar Electric Cars, Branching Out UMD Woodland Stewardship program, Valley Co-op, MOMs Organic Grocery, Common Market, and Natural Fusion Hair Stylist. It was wonderful to see so many people into the ‘Green’ movement, see old acquaintances, and meet new people too! One of the most interesting strangers I spoke with was Mr. Wallace M. Yater. ‘Wally’ as he is affectionately known, is a brilliant modern philosopher that deserves an entire essay and book based on his ideas, practices, and experiences. Wally handed me his theory on the importance of mutations in biodiversity, called ‘Why Everything In Biology and Life Depends On Very Rare Random Molecular Mistakes’; but that is another story….

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SCOD Site Flora

Posted in Environmentalism with tags , , , , , , , , on April 1, 2015 by Drogo

The trees (20-70 years old) form woods that follow the rolling hills. Often the woods are sparse, but thorns and shrub bushes make dense thicket patches. Spiral trunks occur on one young tree per acre (apx.). Spiral trees seem to result from the influence of parasitic vines, like honey-suckle, but some trees out-live their vines. There are more young trees than old trees on the site. Although it is difficult to tell the age of a tree from the outside size, inside trunk rings are more accurate because growth rates vary.

Ideally trees provide shelter, food (fruits and nuts), and fuel for cooking and heating our fires. In turn humans should plant, care for, cultivate, and protect trees. Failure to look after each-other results in us cutting too many trees down, using poisons that hurt every-thing, and trees falling on houses and branches and sap falling on cars. Increased awareness of our trees is phenomenological respect for life. Respecting trees has a beneficial effect on our ecology. Sages know the wisdom of tree stewardship. Some trees have been alive for thousands of years. Fire-wood should be gathered mostly from dead-fall logs, branches, and twigs. Reducing dead-fall on forest floors can reduce wild fires.

Here is a list of local plant and tree types, most of which can be found on the SCOD Thesis property site. All the families listed here are at least currently regional, if not native. Obviously not all types of vegetation are listed here, but it is a reasonable list: maple trees, box-elder trees, sycamore trees, oak trees, ailanthus trees, mulberry trees, apple trees, evergreen trees, elm trees, willow trees, catalpa trees, princess trees, ginkgo trees, walnut trees, beech trees, sumac trees, mosses, mushrooms, shelf-fungi, lichen, herbs, vegetables (wild leafy-greens and planted crops), berries, roots, vines, grasses, shrubs, ferns, thorns, nettles.

Friend In Need – Christian Witchcraft

Posted in Book Reports, Crafts, Religions with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 17, 2015 by Drogo

This is a reprinting of an extremely rare (only one copy known to exist by experts) old American spell book by the Wizard Zittle. Pennsylvania-Deutsch (German immigrant) braucher pow-wow hoodoo folk-lore magick literature, spread into Boonsboro, Maryland. Inspired locals like Michael Zittle made and used original and pirated books for medicine cures and magical charms of self-help, self-reliance, and self-sufficiency. While considered dark-evil ‘powwow magick’ during the 1800s, these independent publications were Christian folk-lore witch-craft; as most European immigrants were proudly Christian Protestants (Lutheran) and Catholics. This curious occult local artifact has now been revived by local occultist, and Pagan Priest Drogo Empedocles!

Order a copy of ‘FRIEND IN NEED: Sympathetic Knowledge

1st Edition Kindle Ebook

1st Edition Amazon Paperback

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East Coast Sonic Boom Will Kill Thousands

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 13, 2014 by Drogo

Sonic Detonation for Oil & Gas Reserve Testing along the Atlantic Coast – America

US Government (Obama) is allowing Fossil Fuel Reserve testing from Maryland to Florida along the East Coast which can kill or maim over 100,000 marine animals. The Republicans are ignoring any environmental concerns (as usual), and they are selling the testing as a great thing for oil and gas production and sales. This story seems to be lost upon the public.

The following is from a Baltimore Sun article, the only other evidence found by searching this issue after hearing it referenced quickly on NPR.

Baltimore Sun Article, Maryland:

“The use of seismic airguns is first step to expanding dirty and dangerous offshore drilling to the Atlantic Ocean, bringing us one step closer to another disaster like the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill,” said Claire Douglass of Oceana. She noted that the federal agency has estimated that the testing could hurt and possibly kill up to 138,000 marine mammals, while disrupting the feeding, mating and migratory behavior of many more.

U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, a Democrat who chairs the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife, also objected to the proposal. “The Mid-Atlantic is just too environmentally sensitive for drilling,” he said in a statement. “I urge the Administration to reconsider its plans to allow this testing which will only serve to harm Maryland’s coastal communities and the natural resources which drive our economy.”

The administration’s move to allow seismic testing had been opposed by some municipalities, the Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council and by more than 100 biologists, who earlier this year called on the bureau to postpone its decision until new guidelines could be finished for protecting marine mammals and fish from the acoustic impacts of the tests’ underwater vibrations.

Drilling had been banned in the 1980s off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, but Congress lifted the moratorium in 2008 amid concern about rising gasoline prices. The Obama administration was preparing to hold a lease sale off the Virginia coast in 2010 but canceled it when the BP oil spill occurred in the Gulf of Mexico.

– Baltimore Sun newspaper, writer Tim Wheeler

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WAR WEARY : Turning to Nature for Solace

Posted in Critical Commentary of Civilization, Homesteading, Memorials / Obituaries / Epitaphs, Poems, Rhymes, Riddles, Spiritual with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 10, 2014 by Drogo

August 2014

There is no one on this earth who is not affected by all the wars, and rumors of war, these days. Of course, all through the history of mankind there have been wars and rumors of war, and according to some thinkers and writers this is how it will always be, forever.

However, that is not what I want to debate, or discuss. I only wish to convey a few of my personal feelings about how war is affecting people, all people, and the natural world upon which we depend for survival. Whether people are aware of it or not, those in the muddle of the Middle East countries, or here in the USA where we are not hearing air raid sirens daily, we are all affected. There is not one thing on this earth that does not affect another.

Now how can I say that ? Aren’t we insulated from the worst of it here in America? Actually, we are not. “Whatever happens to the least of these happens to us”. Some very wise person said something like that 2,000 years ago. Actually, the words are more like this: “Whatsoever ye do to the least of these, ye do also unto me.” No wiser words were said.

Most natives of America thought along the same lines. They were natural ecologists, born and bred with “all our relations” in mind as a way of life. Some wise native said that we are all connected, that what befalls one part, affects another, and more…that a great sadness would befall us, as human beings, when there are no more sounds of nature and we loose the company of wild creatures. They are here for our use, but also to uplift our spirits with their amazing beauty and diversity. The earth and all of its inhabitants are a profound miracle! So, as I look around at what war and materialism have done to the natural world, and are doing, I feel a great sadness that I cannot seem to shake.

Such is the sadness we all feel on different levels, whether we are conscious of it or not. We are all war weary. Weary of wars between each other, and war against the natural world. The earth itself is weary too, its water, its air, its swamps and rivers, its plants, its butterflies, bees, birds, the polar bears, and on and on. Shall I list every remaining species?

As I wandered my gardens this morning, picking dried peas for next years planting (now there is an act of hope) and herbs for a healthy tea I need to make, my thoughts were solemn. What if there comes a day, due to rampant human ignorance upon the face of this beautiful earth, what if someday, there is no pure air to breath, or clean water to drink, or swampy breeding grounds for myriad birds and amphibians to thrive and procreate. In Syria, Gaza and Iraq,and many other places around the world they are already experiencing serious problems, and my heart bleeds for them. Innocent, hardworking people, with children and old people, all suffering due to the ignorance of their leaders. There is no clean drinking water and poor sanitation is pervasive. Swamps are drying up, rivers and lakes polluted. The inhabitants are war weary, and so am I, and so are we all. So is the Earth….

Yet, there is always hope. There are people doing their best to keep the balance between … and I will say it as it is…good and evil. To water it down, between dark and light, life and death , is stoically philosophical, though true. But this is not a philosophical exercise. This IS a war, another sort of war, a genuine fight for survival, and not just for survival of humans, but for the entire delicately balanced ecosystem.

So, how not to groan and lament the demise, the poisoning, of such a gift? Why are we throwing this precious gift back in the face of the Giver, the Great Spirit, as well as our OWN spirits. Doesn’t , shouldn’t, everyone know that without the purity of the earth, we will all sicken and die, together, some sooner, some later? I suppose some people simply do not care enough, or think, or feel for that matter. If egotistical ignorance and materialism continue as they are, and if misguided leaders feel only hate and fear, then we are doomed indeed.

Am I war weary.?… You bet ya I am. So are you. Now, what to do about it ?

I say, turn to the purity of nature, and fiercely protect and nurture it, wherever, however you are able. That is our only salvation, our only hope. Then someday, when we are truly weary of this life, and it is our time to say farewell; with forgiveness in our hearts for those who knew not what they were doing, we will die in peace knowing in our hearts that we did the best we could.

Walk Lightly, but with a strong walking stick…

~ Christine SCHOENE Maccabee

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Waiting on the Chickens

Posted in Organic Agriculture & Horticulture, Poems, Rhymes, Riddles with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 15, 2014 by Drogo

It was late afternoon, the time of day I make my 2nd trip down to the chicken pen to feed my three birds a 2nd time. It had been raining, torrentially, off and on all day, but I decided to get my attitude straight as I put on my long German cloak and rubber boots. Those things, along with my large pale blue umbrella, kept my clothes perfectly dry, and I was happy to feel the wind and mist against my face. Breathing deeply of the purest air, there was nothing going to bring me down on my afternoon jaunt to the chickens.

Opening the door of the coop, there they were, all wet and happy. It surprised me when I first observed years ago that chickens like to stay out in the rain, scratching in the mud to find that last little worm or bug. They some tough ladies ! As soon as I opened the door, they scooted out into their yard thinking I would be throwing the sunflower seeds and cracked corn out there in the puddles. However, today my new plan on this rainy day was to keep the food in the coop. So I poured it clanging against the side of the metal feeder, hoping they would hear the noise and come running back in to eat. That way I could then close their little hatchway door and they would be in for the night, earlier than usual. Unfortunately, chickens are just like children. They don’t want to come inside until it is nearly dark, and trying to force them in is practically impossible without a lot of squawking.

Patiently I leaned against the door jam, and waited. One came in, Ma Belle, but she didn’t stay long. Darn, I thought, it is pouring out there, the food is in here, and still they play. I did not fancy having to come back down again by dark, in the rain, putting all my stuff back on again so as not to get wet, being more chicken than my chickens ! And so I waited, calling to them in a high pitched, chicken-like voice, but they refused to walk up their little plank and into the nice dry coop.

Then it struck me. I was waiting on the chickens, in more ways than one, and I do this everyday, twice a day ! I am their dedicated waitress. I bring them leftovers from breakfast , lunch and dinner, things like cold oatmeal, apple cores, rice and beans, greens, chicken bones from the rotisserie, just about everything their little hearts desire…except the brussels sprouts. The other day I put several little cooked brussels into a hollowed out cantaloupe half, and all they ate was the cantaloupe, leaving a very thin rind. Somehow I didn’t think they would care for the b.s. any more than most people, but this was only an experiment, so I was not surprised or upset. Most children don’t like brussels sprouts anyway. I eat them because they are good for me and I am one of those rare individuals who actually likes them. Children and chickens, on the other hand, are not so easily convinced !

Back to waiting on the chickens. I had the revelation about my servitude position while waiting for the chickens to come in out of the rain, but then I grew tired of waiting. Going out into the yard with them, I nonchalantly and very slowly, went around behind them and gently shooed them in the direction of the ramp. Happily it did not turn into a fiasco, with no success, as it frequently has in the past. Likely they were considering going in anyway. Or perhaps it registered in their little brains that there was no food in the yard, so it must be inside the coop.

Whatever they were thinking, or not thinking as the case may be, they all ran quickly, squawking as they ran, up the tiny ramp. Quickly, I closed the little door, saying “gotcha ! “ Whew, that was easy, I thought. Thank God, as it was beginning to pour down rain again, and I was getting hungry. All wet and happy, the three little imps began to discover the food in the dispenser, and I was happy too. I said “Goodnight girls, thank you so much girls for your eggs.” (I always thank them) and then “see you tomorrow”, as I closed the main door.

Whoever said captive birds aren’t happy ? They are no more imprisoned than I am. We might as well be happy together. I don’t mind waiting on the chickens. I serve then and they serve me. Their large brown eggs are the best, and their manure helps my organic gardens to flourish. Plus, everyday they give me a reason to get outside one more time, rain or shine, and take a walk down the hill, sometimes wading through wet grasses with the feel of mist on my face. I might even have a little adventure besides.

Who could ask for more?!

– Christine Schoene Maccabee of Mystic Meadows

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