Category Archives: Around The Hill

Walking Stick

From a distance, it looked at first like a piece of grass, or maybe pine needles that had blown against the wall and stuck.

Closer inspection revealed movement – it is a bug – a walking stick!

Wikipedia reports:

The Phasmatodea (also known as Phasmida or Phasmatoptera) are an order of insects, whose members are variously known as stick insects in Europe and Australasia; stick-bugs, walking sticks or bug sticks in the United States and Canada; or as phasmids, ghost insects or leaf insects (generally the family Phylliidae). The group’s name is derived from the Ancient Greek φάσμα phasma, meaning an apparition or phantom, referring to the resemblance of many species to sticks or leaves. Their natural camouflage makes them difficult for predators to detect, but many species have a secondary line of defence in the form of startle displays, spines or toxic secretions. The genus Phobaeticus includes the world’s longest insects.

Members of the order are found in all continents except Antarctica, but they are most abundant in the tropics and subtropics. They are herbivorous with many species living unobtrusively in the tree canopy. They have a hemimetabolous life cycle with three stages: eggs, nymphs and adults. Many phasmids are parthenogenic, and do not require fertilised eggs for female offspring to be produced. In hotter climates, they may breed all year round; in more temperate regions, the females lay eggs in the autumn before dying, and the new generation hatches out in the spring. Some species have wings and can disperse by flying, while others are more restricted.

Breakfast Buddies

On my way to make my morning tea, I glanced out the back door. There under the apple tree, a deer and rabbit enjoyed their breakfast of newly fallen apples. 

When I went to open the back slider to photograph them, I could see yet another buck breakfasting on the other side of the tree.

A buck, a buck, and a doe, or a buck, a buck and a buck? 

Before I could figure out, they noticed me and all were quickly gone to the rest of their morning.

Dragon tongue bean

Dragon tongue bean

Curiosity got the better of me earlier this summer, when I came across a small plastic envelope labelled “Pole beans” that had hid in a kitchen drawer for the better part of a decade.

Uncertain if they were still viable, on a whim, I planted them expecting flat green beans. I became pleasantly surprised as the seeds sprouted into dramatic Dragon tongue beans.

Wikipedia reports:

Dragon tongue bean is a flavorful, juicy bean whose seeds are encased in a buffed colorful pod with mottled burgundy patterns throughout the shell’s surface. The shelled beans are pale pistachio green in color, their size, petite, and their shape, ovate and slightly curved.

Dragon tongue bean can be harvested, picked and used for their pods as well as for their seeds like a green bean (snap bean) or allowed to mature into a shell bean for using their seeds only.

Climbing Nightshade

Climbing Nightshade

Wikipedia reports:

Solanum dulcamara, also known as climbing nightshade, bittersweet nightshade, blue bindweed, Amara Dulcis, felonwood, poisonberry, scarlet berry, snakeberry,… is a species of vine in the potato genus Solanum, family Solanaceae. It is native to Europe and Asia, and widely naturalised elsewhere, including North America, where it is an invasive problem weed.

Solanum dulcamara has been valued by herbalists since ancient Greek times. In the Middle Ages the plant was thought to be effective against witchcraft, and was sometimes hung around the neck of cattle to protect them from the “evil eye”.

John Gerard’s Herball (1597) states that “the juice is good for those that have fallen from high places, and have been thereby bruised or beaten, for it is thought to dissolve blood congealed or cluttered anywhere in the intrals and to heale the hurt places.”

Sundial Eclipse

Sundial Eclipse

All of a sudden it seemed, the day of the eclipse arrived. Friends had shared plans to travel hundreds of miles to “the path of totality” to experience a total eclipse of the sun.

Monday morning, I realized that I was woefully unprepared. No welding goggles, no eclipse viewing glasses. I found paper plates in the cabinet, and experimented with different size pinholes.  At least I would see the eclipse’s shadow.

I had gone to the farm stand and picked up fresh vegetables to make a casserole, portion and freeze. Maybe leave some in the freezer long enough to have a taste of summer when things turn winterish.

I began cooking before noon. The clock drifted toward the time when the eclipse would peak. When time came, I went out to the patio where the sun dial happens to be, and observed the eclipse with my paper plates.  

Crescent shadows appeared on the paper plate as the moon obscured seventy-five percent of the sun, leaving it still too bright to look at without protection.

“Interesting and fun” I thought as I went inside to the kitchen, but not nearly as dramatic as the view from an area of totality. Everybody has a different eclipse experience, I guess.

As I turned back to cutting carrots I noticed all the holes in the colander and wondered what kind of a shadow it would cast.

I found that the colander shadow eclipsed the sundial,
a constellation of star shaped crescents cast by both moon and sun.


CTHS volunteer director Sandy Wilmot fans some of the remaining tickets waiting to be sold before the September 10th 50/50 drawing of the Clifford Township Historical Society’s fundraising raffle.

CLIFFORD TOWNSHIP — “We’re counting down the days until we draw the lucky winners’ tickets and announce their names,” said Sandy Wilmot, volunteer and director of the Clifford Township Historical Society (CTHS).

“CTHS has been selling 50/50 raffle tickets as a fundraiser this year. The drawing for the winners will be held at 3:00pm on Sunday September 10th at the Yarns Cider Mill at Suraci Farm, and we’re inviting everyone to spend the afternoon with us to see the renovation progress that has been accomplished at the mill to date.” Yarns Cider Mill is located at 1520 St. Rt. 2014 in Clifford Township, and the nearby Hoover School and the Museum of Local History will also be open from 1:00pm-3:00pm to welcome visitors.

The innovative raffle is the first major fundraiser since CTHS was founded eleven years ago. “The plan has been to sell 1,000 tickets at $50 apiece, but we still have more tickets to sell before the drawing next month,” said Wilmot. “So, I’m making a public plea on behalf of CTHS for everyone’s help. We realize that a $50 ticket can be a big expense for most folks. But if families and friends, neighbors and co-workers get together to purchase just a single ticket, split the cost and send it to us, it will be easier on each individual and a huge help to us.”

Tickets are still available at more than 20 Clifford-area businesses that display the CTHS raffle poster, and will also be sold at Greenfield Power Equipment’s tent, across from the waterfowl building, at the Harford Fair August 20-26. Tickets are also available by contacting Wilmot at 570-679-2723 or; and they are printable from the CTHS website, “The folks who’ve helped us so far have been great. But we really need this final push to make our goal a reality,” Wilmot added.

As Wilmot explained, The Endless Mountain Heritage Region, which is funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, made $12,000 available to CTHS for this year and next. “Since CTHS was founded in 2006, various grants have provided us with the wherewithal to work on our various projects. These grants, monetary donations, and the countless hours that our handful of volunteers continually donates to help match grants dollar for dollar have accomplished a lot through the years.

“And the generous donations of volunteer labor, materials, and dollars from CTHS members and friends don’t go unrecognized,” Wilmot emphasized, “for without them, CTHS wouldn’t exist, and we wouldn’t have accomplished all we’ve done to date. But right now, we still need more help.”
Since its founding, the goal of CTHS has been to collect, document, and preserve the wealth of historical information and memorabilia relating to the early settlement of Clifford and the surrounding area. Throughout the years, the group has established the Museum of Local History and its ever-growing indoor exhibits. It restored and enhanced the Hoover School, is creating the growing efforts of the new Children’s Garden and the new Agricultural Museum, and it is currently in the throes of restoring the Yarns Cider Mill at Suraci Farm.

All cash prizes offered through the raffle are based on 1,000 tickets being sold, and while the winning amounts may vary, “up to $25,000 in 20 prizes is available to be won,” Wilmot added. “If all tickets are sold, the first prize is $10,000, with others ranging downward to $100 each. With only 1,000 tickets being sold, each ticket has a 1 in 50 chance of winning. The odds are really great, but the winnings will depend on the total number of tickets that are sold by the time of the drawing on September 10th. If you or someone you know hasn’t yet purchased a ticket to help CTHS, we hope you’ll consider doing so. All of our projects enhance and enrich our entire local area … we’re keeping history alive for future generations.”

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