Autumn Squall


The squall in the neighborhood last weekend, though short lived, brought to mind winters past. I was enthused to see the first flakes as I wondered if the grass, still green from summer, felt cold as the snow pelted it or if it simply endured, indifferent to the change of season.

There is a plant in the livingroom that lives in a glass container filled with water. It survived my self imposed “Winter of Cold”, a few years ago. I had been inspired by a friend’s admission that the climate during the winter in his trailer home was not much different than “advanced winter camping”. With my remembered fondness of sleeping in a tent in the snow, along with my pursuit of economy, I kept the thermostats set at 52.

I mated two down filled sleeping bags and used them as a comforter on my bed. During the day, I rambled around the house in down filled outerwear. The olive oil in the kitchen cupboard clouded. My back spasmed frequently. The only other plant in the house died. The dog’s breath was always visible. The few visitors during that winter never took off their coats; even so, no one stayed very long.

Now, having found that keeping the house that cold was a false economy, the thermostats are set more reasonably. Back spasms much less frequently, and, not seeing the dog’s breath makes things feel much more comfortable.

“Is it real? The roots in the water look natural, but the leaves look so perfect, artificial.” said a visitor about the livingroom plant. “That plant looks so happy – it has found it’s window!” said another recently.

I don’t feel that the plant and I have an extraordinarily close relationship. I simply maintain water above it’s roots, and rotate it in front of the window when its’ yearning toward the light postures it asymetrically. Yet, I am grateful it did not die in the “Winter of Cold”, and, given its’ steadfast companionship through dark times, I have developed somewhat of an affection for it.

They say plants like it, benefit, when you talk to them. I can’t really remember ever talking to the plant. I have, however thought at it with gratitude for it’s loyalty, and admiration for it’s capacity and resolve to survive.

Makes me wonder if plants think, or do they respond more to feeling. Some kind of process or intelligence must occur: the plant senses more bright than dark, and somehow adjusts it’s growth, turning it’s leaves, favoring facing the light.

No language, no philosophy, no hidden agenda corrupts this behaviour.

Regardless of other prevailing conditions, plants sense brighter or darker and so grow only toward or away.

A simple way to live; a sure way to thrive.

Autumn Ridge



As they have each and every year, beautiful as they are to look at, when these leaves finally wither and fall, they’ll unobscure my view of Elk Mountain.

All winter, and for some of the Spring and Autumn, the mountain’s profile, sometimes illuminated with lights turned on for night skiing and snow making, is clearly visible beyond this ridge, ready for my viewing pleasure at any given moment.

The rest of the time? My gaze casts left toward sister hill South Knob, always visible throughout the year.

Always thought it kind of coincidental that the ski trails become prominent just around the time of year where my thoughts turn seriously toward skiing.

Of course, dog and I both know that The Hill is always there, and does not disappear just because we can’t see it. We have faith, which, to some, is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1).




A couple of weeks ago, the day after the Summer Solstice, as if someone, somewhere, threw a switch, the weather changed.  That evening, the windows had to be closed against the cold for the first time since late Spring.

It has been a spectacularly beautiful Autumn. Relatively free from rain, and above normal temperatures.  The skies, noticeably brilliant all Summer, continue to draw our attention to how uncommonly beautiful they have been.

An early morning report from a friend travelling southward optimistically declared that though grey here on the hill, the sun was shining not far south, and was sure to burn off the morning fog, which eventually, it did.

Today a bit of rain is passing through the neigbhorhood. As someone once noted, sometimes, the colors of Autumn appear even more brilliant cast against a soft grey, rather than brilliant blue, sky.

Little to no rain is forecasted for the holiday weekend. The leaves are simply spectacular. Come find yourself on The Hill this weekend: Elk Mountain’s Fall Fest is a great opportunity to view the neighborhood and beyond from a chairlift. The Artists’ tour will take you through some of the most beautiful parts of the county. And just plain being outside with an open mind is sure to provoke delight.

It’s been a long Summer, it will be a long Winter. Enjoy this inbetween time now!


CLIFFORD TOWNSHIP PA–A very special place continues to come alive in Clifford Township. Since last spring, the Clifford Township Historical Society (CTHS) has been working tirelessly to raise funds, to collect designs and ideas, to build, install, and plant to literally ‘grow’ the group’s newest and most unique project: a Children’s Garden.

“It’s an ongoing and wonderful project that involves so many people,” said CTHS President Sandy Wilmot. “All summer long, everyone has been coming together so supportively to turn the Children’s Garden into a reality for Clifford. Since the beginning, lots of local children have been especially helpful and very hands-on involved to move this project forward. They’re not bashful either, as they’re always coming up with new, fun, and very imaginative ideas to make their garden extra special.”

The concept for Clifford’s Children’s Garden was initially developed to create a safe and interactiveplace for children to play and was modeled after the Ithaca Children’s Garden. Looking beyond mere swings and slides, the CTHS offered a way in which children can play while also learning about nature, the area’s own rich history, and its inherent ecology. With the enthusiastic support of the township supervisors, the one-acre site next to the Community Center has literally been growing throughout the summer months, as countless volunteers have shared their time and lent their helping hands to turn a fun-filled idea into an expressive reality. Funding for the project has been provided through grants and donations.

“The Historical Society received a $4,000 mini-grant from the Endless Mountains Heritage Region to initially help construct the garden,” Wilmot said. “It required a 100 percent cash match, which we’ve happily surpassed through the amazing donations that have generously come from so many area folks.”
“Clifford’s Children’s Garden is unusual in that it’s a different and very unique way to engage kids in fun and creative play, and all within a safe environment,” added Annette Schultz, Executive Director of the Endless Mountains Heritage Region. “And with the teaching elements of history involved to help visitors better understand the background, the people, and the lives of those who were here before us … well, that’s a definite added asset.

“I visited the Children’s Garden site a few months ago and could see the remarkable things that were happening in Clifford,” Schultz continued. “There’s so much imagination and creativity involved, it’s really amazing. But looking beyond the garden itself, this project has some great potential to become an asset to all of the four counties of our region. Over time, it could perhaps serve as a pilot for other towns throughout the region to help jumpstart new and developing ideas of their own. I can’t wait to see the garden’s completion and to help promote Clifford’s idea to other towns throughout the region.”

Working toward that completion, about a dozen children aged 2-15, along with their parents and friends, gathered on a recent fall weekend to paint the four doors of history, install sign posts, plant the 180-foot willow tunnel, hand-shovel dirt and carry unwanted sticks to a clean-up pile, erect standards for a musical mountain, create a human-sized checkerboard, hand built a giant dinosaur’s nest, and so much more. They also ‘seeded’ a self-created mine shaft that replicates the old Clifford Shaft, which was the area’s northernmost end of the anthracite coal vein. “It was an amazing work weekend,” Wilmot said. “We made great progress. The kids went home tired and dirty – it was great!!! There’s still much more to do, but seeing everyone come together like this was absolutely motivating. I hope to schedule two or three more such events before winter.”

Among some of the jobs still to be done, Wilmot said, “We need to plant several donated berry bushes, finish building the log cabin and lean-to barn, install the concrete horses, turn an old farm wagon into a covered wagon, and install a bathroom in the house. Throughout the winter, some of the older kids plan to do some of the research for the signage and story boards that will be located throughout the garden. Then in the spring, we’ll build the Indian village with its long house and sister garden. It’s definitely an ongoing project, but one that will be enjoyed and shared for generations to come.”
For additional information about the CTHS or to share and participate in the Children’s Garden and their various activities, contact them at 570-679-2723, or at Known locally as “the little society that does big things,” Wilmot believes that the Children’s Garden will be another project that will make the Society, the youth involved, and the entire community proud.


Conrad, Christine, and Ava Depew of Clifford have fun gathering cornstalks to sell as a fundraiser for the Clifford Children’s Garden.

Conrad, Christine, and Ava Depew of Clifford have fun gathering cornstalks to sell as a fundraiser for the Clifford Children’s Garden.

Gage (age 4) and Ryker (age 2) Mead of Clifford busily paint the human-sized checkerboard for the Clifford Children’s Garden.
Gage (age 4) and Ryker (age 2) Mead of Clifford busily paint the human-sized checkerboard for the Clifford Children’s Garden.


Written by Union Dale freelance feature writer Karen Bernhardt Toolan for the Clifford Township Historical Society, with thanks to the Susquehanna County Room Tax Grant Fund through the Endless Mountains Visitors Bureau.


Fern Hall Inn New Fall Menu!

Fern Hall Inn New Fall Menu!


Butternut Bisque 5 Cup / 8 Bowl

Parsnip Bacon Chowder 5 Cup / 8 Bowl

Lobster Bisque 6 Cup / 9 Bowl


Fern Hall Autumn Salad 9 Dinner / 5 Side

Spinach, roasted butternut squash, toasted walnuts, roasted red peppers, apple cider vinaigrette


Caesar Salad 8 Dinner / 5 Side

Romaine Hearts, hand torn croutons, fresh Parmigiano, Parmesan tuilles, house made dressing


House Salad 6 Dinner / 4 Side

Cucumbers, red onion, grape tomatoes, carrots, house made vinaigrette

Roasted Beet Salad 9 Dinner / 5 Side

Arugula, roasted beets, creamy chevre cheese, crispy bacon


To Any Salad – Add Chicken 8 Add Salmon 10


Stuffed Acorn Squash 9

Zucchini, yellow squash, ricotta cheese, crispy parmesan, sun dried tomato pesto cream

Bourbon Parmesan Mushroom Crostini 8

Trio of mushrooms, garlic crostini


Maryland Crab Cakes 11

Jumbo lump crab meat, zesty remoulade


Classic Coquilles St. Jacques 11

Deep sea scallops, white wine cream sauce, a touch of mushrooms & bread crumbs, browned to perfection

Charcuterie Platter for Two 15

Assorted cheeses, olives, smoked meats, crostini


Fall Flatbreads

Pear, Goat Cheese & Balsamic Reduction 8

Bourbon Glazed Sausage & Peppers, Smoked Gouda 9

Pagash – Potato, Onion, Bacon Crumbles & Cheese 8


Fern Hall Signature Ribeye 26

Sweet potato puree, garlic haricot vert, red wine demi-glace


Pan Roasted Duck Breast 24

Spaghetti squash, caramelized brussel sprouts, cranberry gastrique


Bone-In Pork Chop 23

Mashed potatoes, sautéed shallot and garlic broccoli, apple chutney


Hunter’s Chicken 20

Leg and thigh, onions, mushrooms and tomatoes in a Hunter’s sauce, mashed potatoes


Roasted Lamb Rack 29

Mushroom risotto, grilled asparagus, apple cider reduction


Fall Ravioli Chef’s Choice of the Day

Ask server for details


Pan Seared Salmon 23

Cauliflower and parsnip puree, seasonal root vegetables


Herb Roasted Free-Range Chicken 23

French cut chicken, spaghetti squash, seasonal root vegetables


Fresh Catch of the Day

Ask server for details

Fern Hall Fall Craft Cocktails

Cherry Vanilla Chai Tea
Vanilla vodka, Amaretto, Chai tea, Simple Syrup, Half and half

Caramel Apple Martini
, Apple Pucker, Butterscotch Schnapps 

Crab Apple
Crown Royal Apple, Crabbie’s Ginger Beer, Splash of Cranberry

Cinnamon Toast
Hot Apple Cider
, Captain Morgan, Cinnamon, Sugar

Pear of Desire

Citrus Vodka, Licor 43, Pear Juice, Gingerale

Elderflower Bellini

Elderflower Liquor, Champagne, Pomegranate Juice

Moscow Mule

Vodka, Fresh Ginger, Ginger Beer

Fern Hall Fall Manhattan

Served with House Brandied Cherries

Rare Old Fashioned

Whiskey or Bourbon, Bitters, Sugar, Orange, Cherries

Nuts & Berries

Frangelico, Raspberry Liquor, Bailey’s Irish Cream, Half & Half

**Tastes just like a milkshake!!!**

Cabo Wabo Martini

Cabo Wabo Tequila, Cointreau, Cranberry Juice, Lime

Fern Hall

Delectable Desserts

Fern Hall Apple Turnover

served with Vanilla Ice Cream

Pumpkin Mousse Parfait

topped with Pecans and Whipped Cream

Crème Brulee topped with Fresh Berries

Mixed Berry Pie served with Whipped Cream

Chocolate Lava Cake

Marmota Monax


The Marmota monax pictured above enjoying some evening fruit, recently began frequenting the pear tree in the back yard.

I’ve always felt a bit of a soft spot in my heart for these beings, as they seem to be reviled by most other creatures. Cows can twist or break a leg in a groundhog hole, farmers hate them because of this, and feel no remorse in dispatching them.

Even posters showing the various hunting regulations seem to be biased: The deer season shows a picture of a noble buck with a large rack, fishing season with a picture of a beautifully colored rainbow trout, and other seasons noting dates, times, and field limits. And then, there’s the black and white picture, more of a mugshot, of a groundhog at once looking a bit shifty and nervous. Under the photo the text: “No closed season – no limit”. Yup, groundhogs, kill as many as you want, whenever you want.

I killed one many years ago as it’s presence in the yard caused dog to become frenzied, nearly choking herself on her collar trying to chase the critter from her yard. It took me several mornings to finally terminate the rodent. I would sneak along the barn with my open sited .22 rifle, clad in my mud shoes and bathrobe. Invariably, the ground hog would see me, and scurry to safety before I could get off a shot. One morning, however, it seemed that he just gave up the struggle, sat there and let me shoot him. Repeatedly.

I carried his carcass, already fattened for the winter, jiggling on the blade of my shovel, quite a ways from the house so the dogs would not roll in it as it decomposed.

When I was very young, a neighbor who had been an admiral in the United States Navy would drive around the neighborhood in his beige Ford Falcon, and take me wood chuck hunting.
Under his guidance, I was learning to shoot so well that I was quickly developing the skill to be able to “drive nails in from 100 yards away” with a high powered rifle and scope. My hands and eyes were young, strong and steady, my skills were sharp, and the rifle was powerful and accurate. After a while, it seemed not much of a sport.

There were seemingly comical times. Once, though certain I had connected on a 200 yard shot, the ground hog stayed sitting upright, tilting slightly one way,  then back the other, until finally, just like in the cartoons, he fell completely over with all paws in the air.

For a very short time, I dabbled in killing rabbits, even though I didn’t eat them. Then one cold day, I shot a rabbit that was sitting a couple of hundred yards from me, and through the rifle scope saw that it’s corpse seemed to be smoking.

I walked up to the little critter, eyes still open, and noted a small smudge of blood behind it’s shoulder where the bullet entered; right where I had aimed. Lifting one of his paws revealed that the bullet expanded on impact, and entirely removed the other side of his body. What I thought was smoke, was actually steam rising from the warm, moist entrails I had caused to be exposed to the frosty air.

When I prepared the shot through the rifle scope, the rabbit seemed to look relaxed, calm, and happy to be eating some of the last grass of the faded summer. I squeezed the trigger, and before the rabbit heard the report of the rifle, he was on his way to whatever reward rabbits enjoy for spending time on this earth.

I continued to practice with the rifle for a while, but only on paper targets. I got to the point where I could pretty much hit anything I wanted within 200 yards. I didn’t eat what I killed, and so, lost interest in developing my marksmanship.

A few years ago, a neighbor called me over to kill a raccoon that was apparently rabid. I felt no remorse sending that critter on his way. I’ve since decided that though some may feel that other beings need to die, it’s no longer my desire to be an instrument of death – I’ll leave that to others.

And the groundhog that’s frequenting the yard? Dog doesn’t seem to be bothered too much by it; pears are so plentiful this year that she doesn’t mind sharing.

I sometimes find myself glancing at the .22 resting along the fireplace mantle, and wonder if, with my older eyes and hands, I could still make the shot to the ground hog at the back of the yard.

For the sake of everyone involved, I’ll just keep wondering.