Steve Madewell

Pedestrian Ramblings

Last week we had the first “sugar snow” of the winter. “Sugar snow” comes in February or March. 

As the grey days of mid-winter drag on and the chill seems to settle deeper and deeper I often hear people complain about winter fatigue. I fight these same demons, but a late winter sugar snow fall triggers a wave of wonderful, emotional recollections for me of younger years, and the beginning of the long relationship with the love of my life.                

Nearly anytime spent on the stream is special but there are many “extra” special times. Sunrise, twilight, a moon lit night, the roar of a flood but two events on the creek are alway magical to me, when the stream is freezing and when it is opening up. Some folks call this ice up and ice out. 

Sometimes ice out is triggered by a warm rain. Combined with a heavy snow melt the release of energy can really be dramatic. If thick ice is on the stream, huge plates of ice get pushed up on the shore, scouring the banks and gashing big chucks of bark off of trees. Some plates melt on the shore others get broken apart into smaller pieces and float down stream. Ice jams often form at stream bends creating dams which can cause rapid fluctuations in water levels.

When temperatures gradually warm however ice out can be relatively gentle.  Right now we are enjoying a slow thaw in the valley and the creek is coming alive after several weeks of bitterly cold temperatures. Generally, the ripples are the last places to close up and the first ones to open. These rivulets within the frozen stream are like windows into the flowing water below the ice. The water is clear, the gravel is bright. It is a beautiful thing to behold as the late winter steelhead season begins.


So You Want To Be the Boss? 

Observations and thoughts on the transition from front line interpretation to administration.

Moving into a supervisory role is generally regarded as essential part of career advancement. The the transition however, from front line interpretation to an administrative or supervisory position often requires significant changes in attitude and self motivation. These shifts are necessary to accommodate changes in responsibilities. Taking the time to recognize that this is an essential process can enhance a successful transition, avoid unnecessary stress or a bad career decision.  

Op Ed I wrote regarding open space and public lands.



Great Expectations:
My bee boxes were empty this winter. Both colonies bolted, as in the bees left. I suspect this occurred in September. I was very consumed with wrapping things up in Toledo and didn't have time to get back to the creek house and check on them at the end of the summer. Long story short, I ordered some more bees this spring. Two, three pound packages. One for the back yard and one for my brother-in-law's farm.
It is always a trip to transfer a package of bees into a hive. There is something that is very counter intuitive to opening up a container full of thousands of stinging insects and dumping them out. Mixed with this base, primal emotion there is a high level of attentiveness and care to do this adroitly and this is all tempered with the great expectation of a honey yield to follow.

Since last year's bees bolted they left a great deal of honey and I will be using this to help the new bees get established. These bees are enjoying the privilege of not only having honey in the hive when they arrived but they are also setting up residence in hives that have established comb. Creating or building comb takes time are energy so having frames with existing comb is a tremendous asset for a colony. Consequently it is certainly feasible that there could be enough surplus honey to warrant a harvest this fall.

I also picked up a bee gum this spring. That is a traditional term for a bee hive that is situated in a hollow tree or log. Phil and his crew were working on some trees in Madison and they dropped a big cherry that had a hive in it. The fellows cut the log into a manageable section and we got it loaded into my truck. Back at the house I was able to get the log out of the pickup with the little tractor and end loader. With a little bit of pushing and shoving I got it situated on a couple cinder blocks behind the barn. Cool!

There isn't that much room in the log and I am hoping that this colony will thrive. If they do well, they will certainly swarm several times this summer. If I keep an eye on them and I am lucky I might be able to catch a couple swarms and get them established in my commercial hives.
Yet another great expectation.

When I was driving back from picking up the packaged bees I witnessed something that I will surely never see again and I hope I will always remember when I reflect on my aspirations and expectations.

I was driving north and on the west side of the road was a hay field, on the east was a block of mature trees. A pair of geese were grazing in the field and a red-tailed hawk came floating out of the woods clearly on a stoop toward the goose that was closest to the road. Both geese flushed but the hawk was on a perfect Intercepting vector. At the last minute the target goose folded its' wings, turned sideways in the air and literally dropped like a rock. The hawk overshot its intended prey and continued flying aimlessly along as the other goose was well on its way to a safe escape.

This was a remarkable thing to witness. First, the evasive maneuver was simply mind boggling. The goose just collapsed in the air and fell. Second, I couldn't believe I saw a red-tail hawk attempt to take a goose! Talk about great expectations! Geese are big birds. And finally I have to wonder what would have happened if indeed the hawk would have grabbed the goose? Geese are not only big but they are tough birds. I have to assume that a goose would severely beat a red-tail up. The expectations I have for my bees have nowhere near the dire consequences of life or injury as those that could have unfolded if the hawk would have realized his mark. I suppose the moral of the story is some time it just might be best if our expectations are not realized.


Some Dusty Woods:

Being back at the Creek House for the past 6 months has certainly illustrated some of the benefits of the loft condo living. When you leave, you lock the door walk away and forget about it, no sump pumps, down trees, plugged driveway culverts, nothing like that.

But we are back, living in "Some Old Dusty Woods”.  Which happens to be one of my favorite Greg Brown songs.  (Lyrics posted below) 

Last night I was on a step stool killing dozens of some kind of beetle on the living room ceiling.  Obviously one of the window screens has a crack, or maybe one of the doors. This past week I have been waging war on carpenter ants, carpenter bees and wasps.  

And my little woodlot has been invaded by a spreading force of invasive plants: Japanese knot weed, two types of honey suckle, multiflora rose, English ivy, periwinkle and several others.

I have enjoyed engaging in the war but I know that ultimately all of my actions and efforts are transitory which helps to remind me not to take this too seriously.  It is in effect recreation.  These things are not essential to my survival but engaging in these endeavors are indeed part of the human condition.  

Entropy is a crazy thing.  After being not living here for four and a half years the amount of small repair and replacement is staggering. And the large projects  I left behind seem even bigger.  

It is really overwhelming what to do in any sort of order, so I just do whatever happens to strike me as important or what seems essential to do in order to do the next thing. 

So there is tractor work, planting bed restoration, rock wall landscaping, pavers work, lots of chainsaw and fire wood and tree work and the creation and management of storage and order.   

And then there is music and outdoor pursuits.

Excuse me but I’ve got to go play guitar for a bit.   

Dusty Woods

Greg Brown Slant 6 Mind

(a vision of Robert Johnson)

He's riding in the back of a wagon and his city choes are dragging

and the sweat is pouring down his back

One eye west and one eye south

Two words fall out his mouth

He jumps down, waves, walks across the railroad track


He's in some dusty woods outside of town


Got a piece of paper folded in four, a stub pencil from the hardware store,

and a guitar that looks like it's been used

The birds shut down their song

He can't stay too long

There's something up ahead he's just got to do


He licks the pencil, looks around, writes a few words down,

and pulls a moan from his guitar

A hound dog answers low and he stands up real slow

He's got a ways to go, he don't know how far


He's in some dusty woods outside of town.

Pedestrian Ramblings: 

Took a shot with the phone of the super moon through the trees, over Big Creek.  There was a fair about of cloud covers so there was a hazy image to begin with.

I am going into my second month of “retirement” from the pubic sector.  I believe that October was the first month in 35 years or so I haven’t gone to a park board meeting and that was pretty nice.

The past few weeks however have been a ride!

Moving is always an adventure and the move back to NEO was just that.  Evidently I cracked a tooth somewhere along the way and have had quite the run with antibiotics and several folks involved with the dental profession. 

Happy to report that I am going the right direction, and now that I have lost that tooth, you should hear a marked improvement in the tonality of my blues singing.   I was thinking “A Mouth Full of Trouble” would make a great theme for a blues tune!


Maybe because of this transition period in my life I have just been enamored with Chris Smither and his tune “Leave the Light On.  Whatever the reason, it is a great song and Chris is a wonderful musician and song writer!

Summer Abundance 

I'm sitting on the porch at the creek house with the occasional whirring sound of humming birds in my ears as they dart to and from the feeders.  After a breakfast topped off with biscuits from the oven, fresh honey and Irish butter I am nearly in a coma.  The roar of the 17 year cicadas has finally began to deminish and the tree branches where they have deposited there eggs have browned.  Other than that all of the vegitation is lush and green with the occassion patch of summer blossoms or early seed heads.   

Yesterday was the first day of a 10 day vacation and it was a big day.  It with a 7:30 am stop by the Toledo Farmers market to buy blueberries and sweet cherries grown by some friends in Michigan then across state to the NEO winery region.  At 12:00 I was performing at the Firehouse with the Next Best Thing.  Behinds us we had the spectacular blue sky, blue water backdrop of the Lake Erie Central Basin.  Got done at 4:00 and bolted over to Kosicek Winery for a second show and there was a smile on my face when I hit the bed.  

Although it has been extremely dry across the northern half of Ohio the temperature has been nearly perfect for the past few weeks with exceptional blue sky and remarkable sunsets.

Life is good here.

Before breakfast I was playing around with a Doc Watson inspired version of Columbus Stockade Blues.  This is a great old traditional tune that is often thought of as a bluegrass song.  Doc recorded it in a minor scale that is really engaging and with a little tinkering I came up with a suitable arrangement for me.  My mom and Aunt Pearl used to sing this and this has always been one of my favorite songs.  I am looking forward to performing this version.    

As I was driving over from Toledo yesterday I happen to listen to Rod Stewards Maggie May which always brings back a host of memories from when I first heard that song.  I was in the 8th grade.  For the first time I started to think about what was going on in England in the early '70s to inspire his album Every Picture Tells a story.  Mandolin's were not a common instrument in popular music at that time and is featured in both Maggie May and Mandolin Wind.  

Brits are often credited with re introducing American's to US blues, fascinating the think they might have played a role in re introducing this instrument into American popular music. 

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