Clawing: Evidence of a Bear’s Presence

[caption id="attachment_18040" align="alignright" width="420"] Recent clawing marks on a telephone pole. Image by Marcus Elam[/caption] While we were out and about, a few friends and I spotted evidence of a bear. Yes, we live in Virginia in a county with a healthy bear population. Driving along the country road, Marcus called out, 'Do you see that telephone pole? A bear did that.' He was referring to claw marks, but he also pointed out on the other side of the street a pathway the bear would have taken to get to the pole. Clawing trees and telephone poles sharpen the claws nicely! Clawing - How Convincing? Were the claw marks convincingly those of a bear. Well, you can see the marks for yourself in Marcus' images, the one being an overall…
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November 2016 Nelson County and Amherst County VA Brush Fires

[caption id="attachment_15770" align="alignright" width="440"] Part of the Eades Hollow fire in Lovingston. Photo (11-24-2016) copyright Robert D. McNeish[/caption] During November 2016—the 19th—a major fire, burning thousands of acres of woodland, began, or at least was first reported, in Amherst County, Virginia. This wasn’t the only forest fire in the vicinity, however. Adjacent Nelson County, too, was the scene of a fire that began on November 20th—the very next day. It has received considerably less media attention than the Amherst fire. Why is that? Scope and Magnitude Progressively, the Lovingston fire was listed as affecting 40 acres, then 450 acres, then 1,000 acres (as of November 23, 2016). Initially, the Amherst fire was reported to have affected a mere 25 acres. But by the time Lovingston reached 1,000 acres, Amherst had…
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Discovering Dragon’s Arum in Nelson, Virginia

Biology, Plants
Nelson County, Virginia, is the place I call home. It’s a rather ordinary place that some might call backwoods. It is not known for its technology. Indeed, they got their first stoplight only a handful of years ago. Even that wasn’t truly necessary, but I suspect they put it up as representing their idea of progress. If there are any particular things the county might be known for, it is its history of making moonshine (now wines, hard ciders, and spirits) and its homegrown peaches. Little did I suspect one day I’d be introduced to Dragon’s Arum (Dracunculus vulgaris) for the first time in good ol’ Nelson County. You see, a car group consisting typically of four people including myself makes trips throughout the county to preach and offer free…
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Newsflash! Solution to Mystery of a Tombstone Found in a VA River

[caption id="attachment_8599" align="alignleft" width="340"] A tombstone was found in a river...[/caption] There was a tombstone that was discovered in a river in Augusta County. The name was not clear, but what was decipherable included the words, “daughter of J. & S. J. Sutton, born May 17, 1869, died March 18, 1889.” What was the name on the stone? Who did it belong to? Tombstone: SUTTON The name on the stone, if the woman had been unmarried, was Martha C. Sutton. She was the daughter of Joshua and Sallie J. Sutton. But just a little research revealed much more than this. Joshua was married to Sarah Jane Ralston. Sallie is a common abbreviation for the name Sarah. This couple proved to be prolific. Martha C. married at age 18 to Ambrose…
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The Northern Catalpa in Southern Virginia

[caption id="attachment_20110" align="alignright" width="440"] Photo courtesy C. Mehring[/caption] The blooming peak of the Northern Catalpa in Nelson County, Virginia is about the 24th May. Although some call it the Catawba tree, in these parts it is called the Monkey’s Cigar tree. This is because of its elongated dark brown pods. I well remember my becoming acquainted with the Northern Catalpa. Reason for My Trip South I had lived in Camden County, New Jersey for 33 years. In my teen years, my parents had taken my sister and I on a trip to Sprouse's Corners in Buckingham County, Virginia to see a friend of my mother from her childhood days. The woman had lost her parents when she was still young. Still in her youth, she had boarded with my mother's…
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Early Signs of Virginia Spring Flora

[caption id="attachment_3603" align="alignright" width="440"] Dead Nettle - GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 by Daniel J. Layton[/caption] A special event - the appearance of the spring flora, is dear to my heart. I’m not one of those thrill-seeking lovers of wintertime sports. Although I love to be outside in the fresh air in a good, deep, dry snow in wintertime, nearly inhaling the tiny crystals as they fall, I rue the time that must follow when the white turns gray, and the snow becomes ice and slush. I hate the shoveling and the power outages. I hate the indoor cold and the outside damp. Here in Virginia, as soon as all of that is over, and the last of the snows melt in late February or early March, I look…
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