Thursday was a really, really lousy day at work! Started out in the wee hours with a power failure in the server rack, then a yahoo co-worker moved a couple of networked printers before their time putting them out of use, then the HR manager's PC died, and on and on and on. By the end of the day I was stressed out, my body hurt from head to toe, I was angry, frustrated, and I was physically exhausted having stayed up late with observatory programming the night before and scrambling to work an hour early when I discovered there was a crisis in progress. This morning was a time to unwind a bit on my way to the place of Thursday's torments.
One of my favorite local places is a city park in Olmsted Falls. There, amongst hand-carved rocky walls, grow mosses, flowers, and trees. Nearby a river slowly wears down its rocky bed creating the falls for which the town is named. The light and the atmosphere are peaceful there. It's on my way to work.
An unkempt and smelly lily pond is adjacent to the park's tiny parking lot. I was looking for frogs or turtles, and even heard but did not see a bullfrog. Then I noticed the tiny black dots floating amidst the tangles of pond weed… tadpoles! Hundreds, maybe thousands of tadpoles were swimming everywhere. Most were of a very small, deep brown or black variety dotted with yellow. What I thought were bubbles of gas burbling occasionally to the surface turned out to be much larger bullfrog tadpoles! They darted to the surface, gulped air, then dove back to the relative safety of the pond floor!
Before leaving, I strolled to the bridge carrying a street over the river valley and crossed to the north side. There, perched just on the river bank, is a house of enviable location. Still, I got my respite and a bit of stress relief through a much less permanent visit to a tiny city park. One of my favorite places for, now, several decades, David Fortier River Park.
It was a rainy and cloudy weekend so no stargazing this time. We did, however, attend the groundbreaking for what will be a unique public facility: the Geauga Park District's Observatory Park. The park will celebrate nature from the ground beneath our feet to the cosmos of which we are a small part, all under skies recognized as some of the darkest in our region (very good but not great). As a part of the development the District acquired the Nassau Astronomical Station from Case Western Reserve University and will rehabilitate its 1957 building and research-grade 36-inch telescope for Park use. A second 36-inch reflector has also been donated to the cause. Park officials expect the facilities to be open for use next year. As a boy I dreamed of observatories of the design seen at Nassau (and at Baldwin-Wallace College)… their turret-domes, telescopes, control rooms, and catwalks enthralled me then and now. It was a thrill to visit Nassau this weekend as a part of the Park's groundbreaking. Hopefully the facilities will continue to fascinate and inspire for many generations to come, both by themselves and as stairways to the stars.
It was another beautiful day of sunshine, blue skies, and tolerable temperature (about 45 degrees (F)) — we could not stay home. She Who Must Be Obeyed had a great idea. She recalled that the Malabar Farm State Park (Ohio) was staging their Maple Syrup Festival today. We quickly piled into the Insight and headed for the freeway and a quick trip to the Mansfield area. The rural area surrounding Malabar Farm is lovely, rolling terrain. The drive itself was a pleasure.
Arriving at Malabar, we were guided to one of the last two prime parking spots on the property. From the parking lot we boarded a trailer towed by a John Deere tractor and headed for the actual farm. It was a bit muddy and there was a long line (without a long wait) where we boarded another trailer, this one towed by a pair of draft horses. There were, as I recall, nine teams working transportation this day and they easily pulled their loads up wet, winding, earthen hillside lanes to the sugaring area. Draft horses are pretty impressive; the hind quarters of one of the pair pulling our trailer were well above my head as stood nearby –higher than six feet–and the animals weigh in at around 2,000 lbs. … each!
We were treated to a demonstration of how maple sap is collected, then boiled down to reduce it to syrup. An open-air demonstration delivered historical stories of how Native Americans and early settlers made sugar (not syrup) from the tree sap. Moving indoors, we saw how a more modern, though wood-fired, operation works. The park ranger delivering the talk did a did a fine job of it as we stood inside the sugar house and watched thick clouds of steam rise up through the rafters and out into the cool air. Ohio is one of the top producers of maple syrup in the country though, according to the ranger, Canada produces 95 percent of the world's supply.
Heading towards home we had a relaxing cross-country journey enjoying the sun's warmth, smooth roads, and picturesque surroundings. AND I was finally able to finish the big annual publishing project that's been weighing me down for weeks now! The account rep picks it up tomorrow for delivery to the printing plant.
A sweet day it was down at the sugar shack!
I spent Saturday afternoon applying the color coat the the walls of the observatory dome room. It's a deep sky blue color the paint company calls "Pacific Panorama." It's a radical departure from what has been seen there in the past and I hope traditionalists aren't going to be too upset. Because they now look so drab (faded yellowish-gray) I'll next paint the facing edges of the capstones –the stone slabs at the top of the curved dome wall upon which the dome rails are mounted– a shade of terra cota.I'll post a photo when I've finished.
Today She and I spent the afternoon on a quick trip to West Branch State Park — an Ohio park with a large lake and reservoir as the focal point. Beautiful drive out and a rather nice woodland hike of about a mile and one-half according to the GPS. The cloudy skies made photography difficult but we both managed to capture some nice views of nature. I had many that "got away" but used my brand-new 50mm macro lens to record a rather nice shot of some Queen Anne's Lace along the roadside. I didn't know until later that there's a single, tiny set of red petals at the very center of the complex collection of tiny blooms! (Look at the photo "full-size.") The macro checked out just fine and will be a lot of fun to use but, on darkish days like today, the depth of focus is practically nil though sharpness of the new lens is superb — really can't ask for more from it. I may post another photo or two from our little walk at a later date.