Sunday, May 31, 2015

Where Shall We Park?

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

The first time we came across an unusual parking sign was in Northern Minnesota, and we thought it was hysterical. It was a “No Parking on Sidewalk” sign. We couldn’t believe that a sign would be needed to remind people of that.

At various churches, we’ve often seen signs reserving a spot up front for the pastor or the organist, but at one church, there was a sign simply stating “Thou Shalt Not Park Here”.

Then in Toledo, Iowa while driving around in the rain, we came across some signs that made us scratch our heads. (And make a note to return when it wasn’t raining to photograph the signs.) One side of the street states that you cannot park on that side on Tuesday, Thursday, & Saturday.

When we checked the signs on the other side of the street, they stated there was “No Parking Mon. –Wed. , Fri. & Sun.” I guess this means “don’t come home on Tuesday, or don’t have any guests on Tuesday.”

And I wonder what it takes to figure out that 12 minutes is the maximum amount of time that someone should be spending at the Post Office, as this sign indicates in Lawrenceville, Illinois.

Or that you can finish your business with your realtor in 24 minutes?

And there is a sign here in Dane County, which Joann sees often, proclaiming free parking for customers. They took the time to make it look old fashioned, sort of like in the 50’s. But who checked the spelling on this sign? It’s been there for years, so, either no one has noticed, or they have and they hope that no one else does.

And sometimes small parking signs proclaim a love of a certain vehicle as this one proclaims in a small town in Wisconsin. Parking for Oliver tractors only, or you will be “plowed under.”

And just last fall, in Taylors Falls, Minnesota, the parking lots along the main street had signs stating
Parking All Day for 1 cent. There’s a way to use up those pennies!

Those are some of the humorous parking signs we’ve come across in our travels. Have you stumbled on any in yours? (If not, you probably just haven’t noticed them. They seem to be everywhere!)

Happy Shunpiking!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Elusive Yellow Lady’s Slipper

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

For the past twelve years, I’ve been on a fruitless search for Yellow Lady’s Slippers, which the previous owner told me grew in the woods surrounding my home. According to the USDA Forest Service, this flower is found “from the eastern United States and Canada west to the Rocky Mountains and north to Yukon and Alaska.”

The Yellow Lady’s Slipper is a member of the Orchid family and it “grows in a variety of habitats from shady, damp forest understory of mixed deciduous and coniferous forests to open meadows and along streams.” However, it didn’t seem to be growing in the understory near my home, in spite of what the previous owner had said.

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed the white flowers of the Bloodroot plant, whose common name refers to the red juice of the underground stem that was used by Native Americans as a dye. Bloodroot blooms briefly and is one of the earliest to appear in the spring.

As I write this, I can see Wild Geraniums growing at the edge of the woods. These beautiful light purple flowers bloom for several weeks from late spring to early summer.

Early this spring, I discovered another patch of Dutchman’s Breeches in my woods that I didn’t know existed. This plant gets its name from its dangling flowers that look like little upside-down pantaloons.

Up the hill in the woods behind my house, there is a large patch of Red Trillium, which are also called Stinking Benjamin due to their unpleasant odor. I photographed snow on Red Trillium in early May, 2004.

The woods is also full of large, beautiful Jack-in-the-Pulpit plants. Their large green flowers are cylindrical and hooded, with brown stripes.

I’ve walked my woods every spring for the past twelve years, but I never came across any Yellow Lady’s Slippers….until a week ago. I was patrolling the woods for invasive garlic mustard plants and, after walking almost half of the property, I discovered one lone Yellow Lady’s Slipper.

I had bent down to pull some garlic mustard and when I looked up, a small spot of bright yellow caught my eye. I’m sure my mouth dropped open as I marveled at finding this beautiful elusive flower that I had looked for every spring for the past twelve years.

There is an old Ojibwa legend about a woman who travels to the next village in the snow to get medicine for the people of her village who are suffering from a terrible disease. The next morning, the villagers hear her cries and find her collapsed in the snow, her feet bloody and frostbitten, but with the life-saving medicine in her bundle. The men carry her back to the village and wrap her feet in warm deerskins. When she dies, the deerskin wrappings become little yellow flowers called Lady’s Slippers.

I hope you have a chance to see this beautiful little flower some spring day when you least expect it.

Happy Shunpiking!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

And Then There Was One

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

In mid-May of 2013, Ruth and I left my house in the pre-dawn darkness of a Saturday morning, with a plan to begin photographing blooming lilac bushes at first light. Before we reached the lilacs, however, we passed a small marsh and realized that there was a Sandhill Crane sitting on a nest.

Sandhill Cranes mate for life, which can be 20 years or more. The female usually lays two eggs, which are incubated by both parents. The male, however, spends more of his time defending the nest, as the male is doing in the photo below.

Luckily, I have a powerful lens, so I was photographing from a distance and the cranes didn’t seem to mind my presence. However, after a few minutes, a train came rolling down the tracks across the road from the marsh and it was blowing its whistle. So the mother crane stood up, and we realized that there were two baby chicks in the nest.

The father crane then became a bit agitated by the train and began pacing quickly around the nest and sounding an alert call every few seconds.

As the train rumbled off in the distance, the family of cranes settled back down and the mother started to leave the nest. The little chicks decided they’d better follow her.

Both parents entered the water with the chicks hurrying behind them. I don’t know how old these chicks were, but Sandhill Crane chicks are capable of leaving the nest and swimming within 8 hours of being hatched.

We watched as they foraged for food and the little chicks worked hard to keep up with their parents. Sandhill Cranes are omnivorous, which means they eat both animals and plants. Their diet consists of seeds, worms, snails, frogs, and small reptiles and rodents, in addition to waste grain left in farm cornfields. Finally we decided to continue on to our lilacs.

The following morning, I visited the nest again to see if I could capture a few more photos of the baby crane chicks. When I arrived, they were finishing up their morning foraging, but to my surprise (and sadness), there was only one chick.

I watched with concern for a long time, hoping that the second chick would emerge from the water, but he never did. Although Sandhill Crane pairs usually start out with two eggs, it is typical that only one chick survives. In this case, it’s likely that the second chick was taken by a predator such as a fox or a raccoon.

When the cranes had finished foraging, the mother returned to the nest with the baby chick close behind. She then lay down on the nest.

What happened next was amazing and something I had never witnessed before. As soon as the mother crane was on the nest, the baby chick approached her wing.

Then he quickly stretched up onto his tiptoes and pushed himself up under her wing.

The mother crane spread her wings apart while the little chick settled himself on her back.

Then she folded her wings over him. If you look closely in the photo below, you will see the top of the chick’s head above the mother’s back.

Sandhill Crane families stay together through the winter, with the surviving juveniles separating from their parents the following spring. I hope this little guy made it to become a parent himself.

Happy Shunpiking!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Sold Everywhere, 5₵

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

In our travels along the rural backroads and through the small towns of America, Ruth and I are always on the lookout for old Coca-Cola signs. Sometimes, they’re pretty easy to spot, like this unique sign on the side of an old general store in rural North Carolina.

Other times, it’s more of a struggle to see them, and also to photograph them. The abandoned Arkansas grocery store in the photo below had a large rusty Coca-Cola sign on the side of the store, which you can see if you look closely at the bottom right of the photo. Unfortunately, it was overgrown with brush on that side.

You probably know by now that I don’t usually give up easily and I work hard to try to get the photo in spite of the obstacles. In this case, I crawled through the brush and set up my tripod and camera with my remote shutter release. Then I pulled back several tree branches to reveal and photograph as much of the sign as I could.

Coca-Cola was created on May 8, 1886 in Atlanta, Georgia, by Dr. John S. Pemberton, a local pharmacist. He then carried a jug of the syrup down the street to Jacobs’ Pharmacy, where it was combined with carbonated water and served as a soda fountain drink that cost five cents per glass.

The new Coca-Cola drink was promoted as “Delicious and Refreshing” and for its ability to relieve fatigue. In 1894, Coca-Cola was promoted on the first outdoor wall advertisement, which was painted in Cartersville, Georgia.

Sales were modest that first year and averaged nine drinks per day. In 1895, Asa Candler, who had finalized the purchase of The Coca-Cola Company three years earlier, announced in his annual report to shareholders that “Coca-Cola is now drunk in every state and territory in the United States."

Meanwhile, Joseph A. Biedenharn, who owned a soda fountain in Vicksburg, Mississippi, became the first bottler of the popular drink. He began to sell cases of Coca-Cola to farms and lumber camps located along the Mississippi River.

Large scale bottling began in 1899 and, in 1916, the unique contour Coca-Cola bottle was approved by the bottlers.

In 2011, The Coca-Cola Company celebrated 125 years of the Coca-Cola brand. By 2013, Coke was available in over 200 countries, with over 1.8 million beverage servings consumed each day.

Today, May 8, is National Have a Coke Day in honor of the day that Coca-Cola was invented. If you didn’t have a coke today, have one tomorrow. It’s the Real Thing!

Happy Shunpiking!