Tuesday, September 13, 2016


At bedtime last night, the temperature inside the cottage was 70˚F. and doubtless several degrees less than that outside. Even so, I decided to leave the whole-house fan going—pulling cool air in through every open screen.

When I got up at 5:00 a.m., the outside temperature was a chilly 56˚F…exactly the same as the temperature inside the cottage!

Nope. That's not a complaint!

Fact is, I feel great—energized, rarin' to go. I've already fixed breakfast for Myladylove and myself, washed the dishes, taken a short walk along the river and made a few photos, written next week's column which is due tomorrow, and driven the few miles to my local Home Depot where I spent nearly an hour picking out GFCI plugs, looking at mirrors and vanity lights, and trying to sort through the options for a ventilation system I want to put together and install at this stage of my remodeling job.

That's more stuff accomplished already than I've sometimes managed for an entire day when temperatures climb toward the 100˚F mark!

Life is is not a beach…it's frost on your pumpkin. I'm cranked when it's cool!

Friday, September 9, 2016


Early morning…a great blue heron takes a drink from the rain-refurbished river.

It rained last night. A long, soaking drizzle which began about 9:00 p.m. and continued until an hour or so before dawn. The passing storm cooled things off considerably, invigorating the air, while the steady drip and patter coming through the open screen provided great ambient noise for sleeping. Today, the landscape looks fresh-scrubbed and the river seems livelier—murky rather than muddy, up by maybe a couple of inches.

For the past few days I've been working on the final phase of our bathroom remodel. This necessitated removing drywall off two walls, rerouting various electrical lines and fixtures, plus making several temporary plumbing adjustments—even though a neighbor and I plan to convert the cottage's entire plumbing system to PEX in a couple of weeks. 

Neither the bathroom or laundry area, the two rooms in which I was working, offer much ventilation. With all the drywall dust being created, fans were not an option. So in a "dead air" room of a non-air-conditioned house, outside temperatures of 90˚F and higher assure sauna-like working conditions inside. Hot, stuffy, tough on breathing. Sort of like working inside a nailed-shut coffin. 

I drank water by the gallon, sweated it out as fast as it went in, and had the quickly discharging energy capacity of an old iPhone battery that needed replacing years earlier. Not fun.

Occasionally I needed a break from these sessions of necessary abuse—when the heat, exhaustion, lack of oxygen, dust inhaled into my lungs, and near-blindness caused by the steady bath of salty sweat streaming into my eyes became unbearable. So I adjourned to the side yard where I'd set up my sawhorses and work tables, for an alternate project constructing a floor-to-ceiling cabinet for the bathroom. 

Yes, the oxygen supply outdoors was more plentiful. And I am indeed smart enough to have placed my work site in the shade under several towering sycamores. But 92˚F in the shade is still 92˚F…an oven is still an oven! And the once-per-hour lethargic stirring of the air—not anywhere close to being sufficient to call a breeze—brought little in the way of relief. 

But I persevered, prevailed, and survived. I think. And yesterday evening, amid much shoving, cajoling—and when that failed, judiciously applied application of a few vicious whacks with a rubber mallet—Myladylove and I managed to set this recalcitrant cabinet in place.

Now, if only it stays cool for awhile…

Saturday, September 3, 2016


Here's something you don't see every day…a black groundhog! I've only ever seen one other black-furred woodchuck—and that occasion, several years ago, afforded merely a fleeting, drive-by glimpse at some distance.

Like spontaneous magic, this amazing individual simply appeared in my yard the other morning, pausing no more than ten feet beyond the window! I was truly flabbergasted!

The expected coat coloration for groundhogs is a basic, run-of-the-mill brown. Black-furred wild critters are few and far between here in Ohio. A few black squirrels in small colonies scattered throughout the state—though none anywhere near my southwestern bailiwick. And in Ohio's Appalachian foothill regions—miles away from these pastoral precincts—you might spot one of the handful of black bears who call the Buckeye State home.

Otherwise, the only black mammals you'll see are wandering cats and dogs. My visitor was a genetic anomaly—an atypical, dressed-in-sable, melanistic-phase whistle-pig!

Melanism is an overdevelopment of the dark-colored pigment—melanin—in fur, skin, feathers, or scales. It's the opposite of albinism, which is a lack of color pigment, and can occur in any animal, including birds and reptiles. Those classy-looking black squirrels are really melanistic-phase gray squirrels—a fairly common occurrence. 

Over the years I've seen any number of melanistic-phase animals, including various hawks, whitetail deer, raccoons, and foxes. But when it comes to groundhogs, I'm told melanism is extremely rare. 

I'm fortunate such a unique creature came my way—and glad I can share this singular treat.