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Archive for November, 2018

Keeping the Thanksgiving tradition alive on a day after hike is one of the enjoyable ways of renewing our family relationships. I find that the quieter, slower pace and distance between hikers perpetuates more personal conversation. It’s when I really catch up with where family members are at. And I met one new extended family member, too.

The best time to see waterfalls and cascades is when there is plenty of water. This must have been a record rainfall year. Chuck said the area is 10 inches above normal so far. And there had been a big storm just two days before.

The hike we took was on Rhododendron Creek in Greenbriar. I’m told it is not an official trail, but given the traffic, it might as well be. Toward the end of the 2.6 mile stroll we came to cemetery that had numerous Whaley’s in it. There was a curious story about how two distant cousins in my family meet, genealogically speaking.

When we got back to the road, my niece and I ran about 1.3 miles down the gravel to retrieve the cars. I am so happy that I can begin to run again. It was a pleasant hike all around.

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Ready for a hike even on a damp day

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Every little stream full to overflowing

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Hi-ho, hi-ho!

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I like to slow it down a little

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Plenty of water

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The crew at a destination

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A very bushy lichen (Anyone help with the ID?)

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Leon and Chuck

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To read and see my brother’s description of this and another hike, click on Chuck’s Description of the Hike 

While at one of the seven cascades, my niece decided to take a selfie. As she described it in her e-mail with the attached picture, this is the picture with my ‘crazy uncle’. That crazy uncle was trying to go see the next cascade up that was hidden in the rhododendron above. My nephew followed and you can see the site below.

 

Emily with me in background

My Niece’s Photo Bombed Selfie

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‘Crazy Uncle’ Cascade

Some people reading this blog may say that Leon (aka ‘crazy uncle’) seems to think that he has to tag on a thanksgiving or praise to God at the end of a blog entry. I don’t always, but if you look at the title and subtitle of this blog, you will see that it reminds me that He is the one worthy of praise and thanksgiving for our existence, provision, and salvation. I intend never to stop praising His glorious name, and enjoying and thanking Him for His provision of all things good and beautiful. Among those provisions are good health, the beauty of creation, and the warmth of family.

 

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I don’t take stock in premonitions, but I may have had one the other day. Whether I did or didn’t did not enable me to influence or change the outcome in any way. After doing some yard work, I was walking around my backyard enjoying the sunshine, which we haven’t had much of lately, and looking up at the tree branches to see how much more work would be raining down. I saw the large Virginia Pine behind my shed that overhung it. I paused and thought, ‘I wished that I had taken that down (about 16 years ago now) before I built that shed. It is going to fall on that shed one of these days soon.’ I had not taken it down because it was probably on my neighbors side of the line.

We had a wholly unexpected ice storm on Saturday morning, November 24th. My son called me to tell me what happened, because my wife and I were still away visiting relatives for Thanksgiving. ‘A large branch broke out of the oak tree next to house, but it missed everything. It didn’t even hit the gutter.’ I think that was his warm-up sentence. ‘You know the big pine tree behind the shed? It broke off and landed on the shed. It didn’t put a hole in the roof or break the rafters.’ What he didn’t tell me was that there was an ice storm. What he did not know, nor did I, was that the tree had a rotten trunk. There was no external evidence of it.

So, I had planned to finish my wood splitting this week for the season. Instead, I get to take down a ‘widow maker’ lying on my shed. I cut a four foot section hanging beyond the back of the shed. I was concerned that it would drop, knocking my ladder out from under me. So when the gap in the cut began to open up as I sawed down through the log, I stopped and climbed down. Then I retrieved a pole with a hook on the end and pulled the log down. Sure enough, it knocked the ladder aside. I had not moved the ladder, because I thought I might have to climb back up and saw a little more.

I finished today’s session at dark by clearing as many branches as I could reach. Sawing over your head is tiring. At the ground you have to choose the branches to cut that will not cause the tree to flip over or slide off of the roof while you are under it.

The next step will involve easing it down a cut at a time followed by one last knocking a block out to bring it down.

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The One That Missed

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It’s giving me a headache

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This can’t be good

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That is so much weight

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The rotten, splintered base

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That looks like a tedious job

I worked on it two more hours this evening before dark. It slid down a few inches at a time, perhaps three feet in all. I took all of the branches but two that now support in on the ground. The next step I have planned is to tie a rope to the large end and pull it off the shed with my truck. That way I will be well out of the way when it comes down. There is no way without a bucket truck to take it down without a little further damage. Oh well, I’m impressed that it didn’t collapse the roof, and I am thankful that nothing hit the house.

 

 

 

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I have nothing to brag about. “For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). But I do have much to be thankful for, because I have received many good things from the hand of God. “O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.” ( I Chronicles 16:34)

On this Wednesday before Thanksgiving I am reflecting on one particular facet of what I have received for which I am thankful among the many I have been given. I am healthy enough to be active. I just finished carrying my ladder to the side of my house and then my neighbor’s house, climbing up, blowing off the roof and out the the gutters. Afterwards I blew the leaves off of a portion of my yard. Before that I got up on a step stool and cleaned a light fixture. And before that I ran a continuous mile for the first time since January. I had tried running 0.1 mile three months ago but had to quit because of pain. The beginning of November I tried again. For the last three weeks I have been building up slowly because my knee felt weak and because I was easily winded. 

At my age, I’ll not get back what I lost in speed the last 10 months, but I am so thankful to God that I can start over and make progress. I hope that I may use what He has given me to glorify Him.

I am more deeply thankful that God has saved me from my sin, has given me purpose in life, has given me a believing wife, five believing children, and six beautiful grandchildren. Beyond our relationship with God, people are the most precious gift we have. Take time to delineate your blessings this holiday and declare what you are thankful for to those around you.

1st Re-mile

First continuous mile in 10 months

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One of the projects I am involved in is the development of a trail behind our school. Given the committee’s desire to include the community, churches, and 4 schools in the development and use of the trail, I suggested naming it the Enola Community Trail (ECT). And so it is. The timing of this community trail was sequential to a student initiated emphasis on helping others, exercise, and the outdoors. An English teacher at my school took  their idea and coupled it with a trail I had already developed in the woods behind our school. (I may ask her to guest blog that huge side of the story.) She asked me how we could use the trail to get students outside and moving.

The idea for a trail originated with a class I taught for about 6 years called Advanced Biology. I basically wrote the curriculum, a fact that I should not admit to in public. That was probably the demise of the class, since it did not have a state mandated test and didn’t have an approved, curriculum specialist, set curriculum.

Now that doesn’t mean we didn’t work and learn, because there is nothing I hate worse than wasting time. In fact, if a class of 30 students wants to pack up 5 minutes early, I point out that they are intending to waste 2 1/2 man-hours of work. The class included the indoor studies like dissecting cats (once or twice a piglet and shark as well) along with a body organ quiz and extended discussion on binary classification, using stereoscopes to identify student made collections of insects, spiders, wildflowers, and also trees as the season allowed, preparing powerpoint presentations about a body system to present to the class, and researching and writing a paper on an organism of the student’s choice which included characteristics, ecological importance, range, population (including level of endangerment), and usefulness for food, medicine, shelter. The outdoor studies included making collections, trap and release studies, game cameras, succession and soil studies, reflections, creek studies (from dissolved oxygen and macro-invertebrates to erosion) and building projects. We built two bridges, one to cross a creek and one to cross an erosion ditch, two bird nesting boxes with a camera in one, and a pole with bat box and raptor nesting site above. Behind the school there was a small kudzu patch, a large briar patch, two old fields overgrown with trees (one dog hair stand and one with young trees and vines so thick you couldn’t see 15 feet), a monoculture of Eastern White Pines, a large lawn, a hay field, a riparian zone and creek, a small intermittent wetland, and a patch of what seems to be virgin forest (…or at least long undisturbed. It is still there with old growth trees next to a meander in the creek at the odd corner of 5 properties. Mayapples, Doghobble, heavy leaf cover, and 10+ varieties of large hardwoods grace the scene. I call it ‘Beauty Spot’.)

To access these places I had the students begin to build a trail. It was a narrow, single-track path, with two grades cut into the side of banks with mattocks and shovels. The students dug, trimmed, cut, sweated, and occasionally played in the creek. We would frequently stop to talk about a spider someone saw or wildflower, or a bird overhead, or the change in type or smell of the dirt. At first the students whined about the work, but by halfway through the semester they would beg to go out and work, or sit and talk about nature.

One project was fun to surprise the students with. I would lead them down to ‘Beauty Spot’, a solid 1/2 mile walk from our classroom. Then I would explain that they were to lie down in the leaf litter to look, listen, smell, and feel the surroundings for 10 minutes in stillness and silence. It was very difficult to convince them that it is OK to lie down in the leaves. Questions of bugs, snakes, spiders, filth, and more were common. I usually had to plop myself down and call for them to lie down around me. Then I would quiet them and say no talking or movement, or we start over. When I called time, I told them to write down as many things in their journal as they could remember. Next we discussed what we observed. I added as many other things as I could to help them see the need to hone observation skills. Several students would reflect then or later that it was the most amazing outdoor experience they had ever had. I was always amazed since I have spent many hours over many years doing just this, especially on backpacking trips. The opening of their minds and hearts to the significance and love of nature I called ‘Affective Biology’.

I guess we would have run out of trail building and significant maintenance eventually, but it didn’t happen in the six years I had the class. One regrettable reason for this continuance of need to maintenance the trail was the growing kudzu patch. I wrote above that is was a small patch. I warned and pleaded about the coming doom to the wonderful variety of habitats in such a small area, but to no avail. I even had borrowed a goat from a student’s grandfather to test the idea of goats controlling kudzu. In this preliminary study, we checked on the goat every school day to give it water. It was confined in a ten by ten, portable chain link enclosure. That little goat could denude 100 square feet of ground with chest deep (on a human) kudzu every 3 days. Oh, to have a little flock with fencing and small shed to solve the problem ecologically and educationally. Instead, the goat was stolen by a ‘concerned’ student and her uncle who thought we were being cruel to animals by ‘experimenting on a goat’. Never mind that kudzu is nutritious and edible by humans as well as goats. It was quite a surrealistic scene when the goat was returned a week later before the eyes of the class and grandfather.

To say the Advanced Biology class was the best part of my teaching career is an exaggeration and misunderstanding. It was good because of the challenge to me to find new things to study, the truly hands-on activities that didn’t include more than about 3 or 4 lectures from me the whole 90 days, the time outdoors, and the change I saw in students. But the best part of education is the interaction with young people at their moments of wanting to understand the world around them, the meaning of and best way to live life, and humor and warmth of relationship. You have to plow through a load of interaction that is anything but that to experience it, and it doesn’t seem worth it much of the time. I have had those significant discussions with individuals and whole classes in all of the various classes I’ve taught. You just have to seek it and wait for it.

So, I guess this whole blog entry is a side-track, since the title has been largely neglected thus far. When others got involved, they envisioned more of a walking, jogging, eight feet wide greenway style trail, and so it is becoming. In reality, it does not detract from my original intent of nature studies in various habitats, because the trail mostly traverses the growing kudzu patch and might hopefully be the final demise of the same. “Beauty Spot” is still there and the creek is largely undisturbed. The new trail may even result in an outdoor classroom and a wetland/catchment basin to solve an erosion problem. 

One of the problems of such a project like this is conveying and passing on vision. You might have thought I would say getting funding, but as individuals and organizations understand our vision, they want to help. But how do you get the wider community excited about something they can’t see or is only partially formed? It is as if you must reach critical mass of manifest vision before the many contribute money and manpower. We may be approaching that mass, or at least, we hope so.

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I would write more if I weren’t living life so much, but then it would all be stale reminiscing. That will have to wait for later or never. Last Friday evening my wife and I fought traffic to get to our son’s apartment (usually 2 1/2 hours but nearly 3 1/2 this rainy, dark, Friday rush hour). We ate out and spent the night. Next morning we traveled 2 hours to my daughter and son-in-laws’ house to see our sixth grandchild for the first time and help son-in-law take down two mostly dead trees. He had acquired by purchase and neighborly borrowing all of the equipment except for my larger chainsaw (He bought a smaller one.). 

Felling trees is adventuresome, challenging, and useful. Being a variety of poplar, possibly a cultivar of Eastern Cottonwood, and dying from some disease, made for a threat to his garage and house. We set up the following rig with cable, pulley, and winch. In place of the truck was a neighbor’s skid-steer loader as an anchor and winches on the other side with a pulley at the tree:

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I set to notching the tree. As I did the wind was widening the gap in the notch, demonstrating the necessity for the cable set-up. Both times the trees were slightly weighted toward the structures and the wind was pushing in that direction, too. But we put them safely on the ground within the approved drop zone.

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Dying too close to the garage

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Notching high enough to leave a fence post

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Relaxed Tension

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More work to do

The other joy was meeting my grandchild and holding him. He has many difficult days ahead with heart surgery sometime in the next several months to repair deformities. But this day he was happy and content, and looking healthier than he really is. As he grows his heart will not be able to provide sufficient oxygen to all of his body. Conversely, the doctors want him to grow larger and stronger before they attempt surgery. When is the right time? We pray that the doctors will know the time, that God will strengthen this boy, direct the doctors, and grow him in to a blood bought warrior for the kingdom. He is a handful for his parents who must give him special care and manage all of the other parts of life as well. May God superintend all their provisions for life and godliness. We are thankful to God for this young extension of our family and their new arrival.

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Mamaw holding a precious grandson

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The little man

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Nurse (big sister) holds a stethoscope or microphone?

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Drink up and grow strong, young man!

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It is good to be home after the long hospital stays.

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