Archive for June, 2009

Back to normal with rain and ‘shrooms

June 22, 2009

dennis20090622

Following the weekend rains, we’re almost back to normal rainfall for the year. At this point on the calendar we usually have 21 inches of rainfall in Sussex County. As of last week we were up to 18.5 inches. A couple of more block parties and garden tours ought to get us there. In the mean time, mushrooms and other fungi are loving the weather.

There’s no wonder why people think of mushrooms as having magical qualities. They appear suddenly, as if all of their growth is in another dimension. Then, when people aren’t looking, they become visible. Such is the case with the mushroom shown here that sprouted last week in the mulch ring around a sycamore tree at Nassau Valley Vineyards. It is without a doubt the largest mushroom I’ve ever seen and that counts mushrooms that I encounter deep in the woods where dead trees host thick growths of wet moss begging for mushroom conventions.

I carried a Mountain Dew can with me to photograph with the mushroom to show scale. Lying on my belly, I shot from gnome height and the mushroom took on majestic proportions, looking almost palatial with its color of white marble. The giant popped up overnight. Maybe it was a controlled natural explosion. They obviously don’t call nuclear blasts mushroom clouds for nothing.

Attitude, posture and Delaware’s moment

June 12, 2009

“Attitude and posture must be cultivated your whole life.” – John Steinbeck

Like the ring of fine crystal, wisdom carries a permanance and unassailability that make it akin to God.  As Delaware winds down toward the final hour of dealing with its $900 million budget shortfall, the uncertainty and weight of the final remedies are affecting attitude and posture of people near and far.  Pessimism makes our attitudes and our bodies slouch.

Two encouraging aspects of this dark scenario are deadline and law.  June 30 – the end of Delaware’s fiscal year – will be here in less than two and a half weeks.  Unless the sun ceases to rise and fall and the earth ceases to spin on its axis, that day will inevitably arrive.  By law, when that day finally ends, Delaware’s lawmakers must approve a balanced budget.  They must  make the overall cost of state government balance with 98 percent of the state ‘s projected revenues for  fiscal year 2010.  The other two percent of projected revenues – again by law – must go into a rainy day fund which helps insure Delaware against natural and other emergency-grade catastrophes.

Delaware’s lawmakers seek their positions and are paid well to represent their constituents.  Now it’s decision time and we’re all waiting to see how the other shoe will drop.  In fact, one of the reasons why our attitudes are sagging  along with our postures is the uncertainty about just how many more shoes will drop before this major economic correction levels off.  In the mean time, it’s like we’re on a roller coaster’s longest downhill run, hurtling at speeds our churning guts tell us can only end in crash, disaster and pain.  On the roller coaster, we see the end of the run and know that relief is ahead, so long as the structure doesn’t collapse.  June 30 for Delaware is like the end of the run ahead of us.  Let’s hope and pray that when this ride ends, the collective wisdom of our representatives will put us back on steadier ground so we can return to cultivating our attitudes and posture.

It’s gonna take an ocean . . .

June 10, 2009

. . . of Calamine lotion.

Poison ivy has had all of our wet and wonderful spring to get its engine in motion.  As part of the great alchemist that all of nature is, the ivy reaches its roots down into the soil and its leaves and vines up into briars and trees to combine nutrients and sugars converted from the sun.  Those  leaves aren’t shiny for nothing.  Caught in that glistening sheen  are millions of tiny little  venom drops  that wreak havoc in the skin of human beings.

Last weekend, clearing phragmites and briars from a bank along a coastal saltwater pond, I had the season’s first encounter with this year’s new crop.  I grabbed hold of a vine about an inch thick and began pulling like a mule in the traces of a wagon filled with logs.  Unlike briars, deeply rooted and tough as Kevlar, the ivy pulled easily from the ground.  It was only then that I noticed the three-leaved clusters stretched along the vine.  I rolled down my sleeves but but then  it was too late.

Two nights ago I awoke every hour to arms itching with alacrity between elbow and wrist. I resisted the urge to scratch the reddening patches, popped two ibuprofens, listened to thunder storms rumbling in from the west and finally fell asleep:  “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep.  If I should die from this poison ivy before I awake, I pray the Lord my itching soul to take.”  Then I started asking for blessings on everyone I know and everyone else in the world and even thanked the posion ivy for giving me that opportunity at 2:23 in the morning.

Now my arms are slathered with pink Calamine lotion.  The poison will run its course as it always does, going through the reddening stage, proceeding to the bumpy stage and then the oozing stage, before total break out and then drying up and healing.

Then I’ll head back into the wild, this time with sleeves rolled down from the start and work gloves in place, ready to tackle the briars and phragmites again, all the while the great alchemist of the universe soaring over in the guise of ospreys and night herons, dreaming up more ways to awaken me in the middle of the night to remind me to count my blessaings.

Leaves of three?  Let them be.

Making our communities nicer

June 9, 2009

dennis20090609As a community, we continue to tolerate too many problems that bring our neighborhoods down. This burned out house in West Rehoboth has marred the streetscape of the area for far too long. In fact, in the past couple of years, the house has burned twice. At this point, the best use of the structure would be for a controlled burn to help train the dedicated volunteers of Rehoboth Beach Volunteer Fire Company. West Rehoboth is a community of real people with a variety of widely divergent neighborhoods whose residents deserve better than walking and riding by a burned-out shell every day. The days of Hebron Road being a dead-end haven for drug dealing and other outlaw activities ended when the road was connected to Holland Glade Road and Church Street. Structures such as this one are not only hard on the eyes, but also create danger zones for children. If the property owners wont remove the eyesore themselves, Sussex County should bulldoze the structure and put a lien on the property to cover those costs. The property where the structure sits is a valuable corner lot. Its sale would more than cover the cost of removing the burned out building.

Engines roared, no one snored

June 1, 2009

Lloyd Graham displays the 850-hp Dodge engine that powers Air Force No. 43.

Lloyd Graham displays the 850-hp Dodge engine that powers Air Force No. 43.

Dover was lit up in every direction Sunday for the Autism Speaks 400 NASCAR race. I never realized how heavily invested our federal government is in NASCAR. Outside the Monster Mile’s massive grandstands, I spoke with Lloyd Graham who’s part of the Richard Petty Driving Experience Mobile Marketing division. He stood by a NASCAR racing machine powered by a Dodge engine and sponsored, primarily, by the U.S. Air Force. Motorheads surrounded him as he explained a brand new engine on display. “It’s 850 horsepower,” he told me. “It will be run hard, but probably for only 600 or 800 miles,” said Graham. “Then back to the shop to be totally taken apart and gone over and examined with a microscope to find any problems – the slightest crack or sign of wear.” The oils too will be carefully examined. “These teams spend a million dollars a year on engine oil alone,” said Graham. It’s all mind-boggling and impressive.

A few hundred yards away, tucked behind the track’s monster, a car sponsored by the U.S. Border Patrol attracted attention. It was a place to learn about the border patrol and the car it sponsors, and sign up for a stint with Uncle Sam’s immigration service if you wanted.

Inside on the infield, the National Guard had a major facility set up.

It took a while for all of it to click in my mind. NASCAR fans, country music fans – they represent rich recruiting ground for the government. “It’s all motherhood and country here,” one fan said when I mentioned the different government-sponsored exhibits and cars.”

What a show. What a country.