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For a week’s worth of words, open Bay Weekly

All the puzzles on Bay Weekly’s expanded Activities Page have me thinking synonymously.
    Amalgamation … composite … everything but the kitchen sink … fusion … gallimaufry … grab bag … hash … hodgepodge … marriage … medley … mélange … miscellany … mishmash … Noah’s ark … odds and ends … olio … omnium-gatherum … pasticcio … pastiche … potpourri … salad … salmagundi … scramble … stew … and my favorite, dog’s breakfast, a ­Canadian idiom I immediately understand. Like the lunch salad my husband generously made for me, this Bay Weekly is full of little bits of good things.
    Come to think of it, newspaper belongs on that list.
    (I’d make that memo to Mr. Peter Mark Roget (1779-1869), were he still around to read it, or his Fifth Edition successor, Mr. Robert L. Chapman, had he not, alas, left this world back in 2002.)
    For what is a newspaper but a periodic anthology of all the stuff that’s come to its editor’s hand by way of assignment, diligence and timeliness?
    I go gallimaufrying as I read my morning newspapers (The Washington Post and The Capital plus a section left over from the plentitude of Sunday’s New York Times). Gallimaufrying, in case you didn’t know (I didn’t) is a “conflation” of French words meaning to amuse oneself and to gorge. And what I seek is to breakfast on the unexpected, from five appreciations of Nancy Regan to stories of love and marriage to who may be who on the Supreme Court to defiances of death to cartoons to advice on the complexities of daily life.
    At Bay Weekly, we’ve gorged ourselves on gallimaufrying in making this paper, so you can expect to go gallimaufryin, too.
    Your reading this week will inform, enlighten and entertain.
    Start with edification. The Chesapeake Waterkeepers, in a new monthly feature by Mitchelle Stephenson, will keep us up to date on front-line actors and action in restoring the Bay, river by river.
    Then learn how researchers and citizen scientists at Smithsonian Environmental Research Center are looking long-term into a future, planting a forest of 20,000 trees to learn lessons in diversity.
    That’s a forest you can visit any day, but what about those saplings you’re passing on every day’s drive? There’s another part of Bay Restoration, planted by the State Highway Administration to improve the health of the Chesapeake watershed by capturing pollution-producing nitrogen and phosphorus in their root systems.
    For news you can use, read Kathy Knotts’ stories on tax advisors ready to help you meet your date with Uncle Sam and Mr. Franchot.
    For what’s happening in the animal world, you’ll read how you can help Chesapeake conservancy set up a new nestcam to spy on a blue heron rookery.
    Speaking of diversity, that, Moviegoer Diana Beechener writes, is the lesson behind the very entertaining Zootopia.
    You’ll find more entertainment in Get Your Skates On, wherein first-time contributing writer Karen Holmes takes us visiting area hockey bars, where fans watch their beloved Washington Capitals score.
    You’ll find entertainment every day of the week in 8 Days a Week, your go-to source for fun and festivities.
    Once your head is full, you’ll be ready for word puzzles four ways: Crossword, CryptoQuip, Kriss Kross and Anagram. Full of words? Stimulate other parts of your brain and satisfy other appetites in this week’s Sudoko and Coloring Corner.
    All that for free 52 weeks a year in Bay Weekly. All we ask is that you support our advertisers.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

Blue heron next in line for Internet stardom

The race is on for the debut of the latest Internet stars in the Chesapeake Conservancy’s lineup. The urgency? Getting the cameras in place before the stars arrive.
    The intended reality stars are great blue herons nesting in a rookery on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
    “We must move fast, as the heron customarily return to their nests in the next two weeks,” says Jody Couser, director of communications. “We have to mount the camera quickly so as not to disrupt the rookery.”
    So great is the rush that the Annapolis-based organization is seeking crowdfunding.
    The Chesapeake Conservancy did not plan to launch a third webcam, so funds are not in this year’s budget. Then the property owner invited the Conservancy to set up its third live-streaming webcam at the rookery where, for the last 10 springs, about a dozen great blue herons have nested in a small loblolly pine grove. Once the large blue eggs hatch, the population grows to roughly 50 herons.
    Webcams help the Conservancy connect people to the Chesapeake and the species that call it home. 


    “We get to see straight into their nests. We can share the wonder of these majestic birds live on your screen 24 hours a day,” Couser says
    Infrared camera technology enables viewing even after dark.
    Intimacy breeds stewardship.
    “We know that once you care deeply about the Bay and you have access to the Bay, you will help take care of it,” Couser says.
    The two active web cameras feature an osprey duo and a pair of peregrine falcons. Boh and Barb, the falcons, nest outside the 33rd floor of the Transamerica Building in Baltimore. The osprey, Audrey and Tom, should return to their seasonal nest near Kent Island around St. Patrick’s Day.
    “These cameras are wildly popular,” Couser says. “We get more than one million views each year for each webcam.”
    Those viewers come from all over the world and more than 100 countries.
    The Conservancy has secured a donation from a tree service based in Rehobeth, Del., to mount the cam in the 80-foot-tall pine. Discounted equipment and installation come from Skyline Technology Solutions, Inc., the company that helped launch the other webcams.
    At press time, $4,000 had been raised toward the $10,000 goal.
    Donate at www.gofundme.com/6cru5qxg.

One man soars toward his dream in this winning underdog tale

Eddie Edwards (Taron Egerton: Legend) isn’t a winner. With braces on his legs and thick glasses covering most of his face, Eddie doesn’t look the Olympian. Yet that’s his dream, and when the braces come off, training begins.
    But for what? He starts chucking javelins, attempting high jumps and lifting weights. Eddie breaks plenty of pairs of glasses — but no records — as he fumbles toward Olympic glory.
    Eddie’s mother is endlessly supportive. His father wishes Eddie would stop with this nonsense and become something respectable, like a plasterer. Eddie perseveres, deciding to go for gold as an Olympic ski jumper.
    Three problems get in the way: First, Eddie has never ski jumped. Second, no ski jumper has represented England in the Olympics for decades. Third, ski jumping is one of the most dangerous winter Olympic sports; an inch off on a landing can shatter a jumper’s legs or spine.
    His first few runs are disastrous. He’s the laughing stock of the slopes. Practiced at ignoring ridicule, he continues his dangerous pursuit. Eventually he catches the eye of ski jumping burnout Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman: Pan). Eddie and the former Olympian team up for an unconventional story of Olympic glory.
    A multitude of sports movie clichés should make Eddie the Eagle unwatchable. Yet Jackman and Egerton’s winning chemistry make the film charming. Director Dexter Fletcher (Sunshine on Leith) lets his actors do most of the work. His big burst of originality is the montage of young Eddie seeking his sport.
    Taron Egerton brings a marvelous oddity to the role of Eddie. He is a twitchy, nerdy little man, but his many quirks belie his steely nerve. You can’t help rooting for him and might well break into applause during his death-defying jumps.
    Jackman gives one of his best performances in years. Instead of shouting and gesticulating, he pulls back, making Bronson’s a sardonic figure instead of a clown.
    A sweet story of one man’s journey to Olympic greatness, the film will leave you cheering.

Good Sports Comedy • PG-13 • 106 mins.

A gas giant, that isIt’s a Gas

Jupiter is brilliant from dusk to dawn, rising in the east at twilight, at its highest due south around midnight and low in the west at dawn. The gaseous giant is at its closest, and Tuesday marks its opposition, when it is directly opposite the sun in relation to earth. The planet is at its best for viewing, and even a modest telescope will reveal its colored bands and its four largest moons.
    Mars rises around midnight and is well placed in the south as daybreak approaches. Over the next three months the red planet grows in size and brightness as it moves closer to earth.
    Saturn rises around 1:30am, trailing Mars by 20 degrees. Come dawn it’s high in the south-southeast. The bright star to its lower right is Antares.
    Venus twinkles just above the east-southeast horizon a half-hour before sunrise, while Mercury is a few degrees lower still, and almost lost now against the coming sun.

It’s not such prickly work after all

A Bay Weekly reader who has tried and failed many times asks how to grow cactus plants from seeds.
    It’s possible. Here’s how.
    For growth, cactus plants need full sun, dry conditions except for a few days of rain in the spring, sandy rather poor alkaline soil that’s hot in the day and cool at night. These are exactly the same conditions you must satisfy to be successful in germinating seeds. 
    To prepare a seed germinating mix, blend one-fourth cup of garden soil with two cups of play sand and one rounded teaspoon of agricultural grade dolomite limestone. Moisten with water and mix thoroughly. Place the mix in a metal or Pyrex pan and bake at 200 degrees for one hour, cooling in the oven. By doing this, you are pasteurizing the soil to kill all weed seeds and living organisms that are not common under desert conditions. Put two tablespoons of the sterilized soil in a clean, sterile container or plastic bag. Place the rest of the sterilized soil in a clean, shallow four- or five-inch pan with drainage holes in the bottom.
    Uniformly scatter cactus seeds over the surface of the mix, allowing one-eighth to one-fourth inch between them. Cover the seeds with the saved pasteurized soil using a tea strainer. Water the seeds carefully with a rose bulb or fine sprinkler until water drips from the bottom of the container. Place the pot near a window facing south where it will obtain full sun all day and cool temperatures at night.
    Commercially, cactus seeds are germinated in lighted cycling chambers with 80 degrees of bottom heat for 12 to 15 hours under grow lights and nine to 12 hours of darkness at temperatures 60 to 65 degrees. You can best achieve the commercial germination chamber with a gooseneck lamp with a 40-watt incandescent light bulb. Adjust the light to 10 to 12 inches above the pot and place both in the middle of a room. Turn the light on soon after you rise in the morning and turn it off before going to bed at night. The heat and infrared rays of the incandescent light bulb will not only provide light but also warm the soil during the day. When the light is off, the soil will cool.
    Most packets of cactus seed contain several species, so germination is very erratic, anywhere from a few weeks to a month or more. Check for soil moisture daily. If the soil feels warm, irrigate lightly. If the soil feels cool, withhold irrigation.


Ask The Bay Gardener your questions at DR.FRGouin@gmail.com. Please include your name and address.

Mine wouldn’t be so harrowing had I had Bay Weekly’s annual Camp Guide

I sure wish I’d had this week’s Camp Guide back when I coerced my mother into sending me 800 miles from home into the wilds of Minnesota for six weeks at Camp Wood ’n’ Aqua.
    Parents, read on lest your kids wander into an experience like mine. Our annual Camp Guide will give you choices, and I’ll give you some practical guidelines in the form of questions I wish I, or my parents, had thought to ask.
    If you’re past that life stage, read on, reminisce — and keep right on reading into Camp Guide. There you can dream, because the camps we’re writing about are awesome.
    Camp Wood ’n’ Aqua had sounded pretty awesome the afternoon its owners pitched its wonders to the assembled third through eighth graders of Our Lady of the Pillar school. I came home after their talk — illustrated with slide images of the Land of Lakes, woods, paper-bark birch trees, canoes and happy campers — to tell my parents they had to send me.
    Persuasion took some doing. Wasn’t the distance far and the stay long? I was nine years old and had never been away from home alone. I was also a pest, and I drilled them like mosquitos around a campfire till they could take no more.
    Preparation was an adventure. Mother and I shopped for a shining black metal chest and filled it with neat stacks of required camp wear. She bought labels printed with my name and stitched them on every blouse, pair of shorts, jeans, underpants and socks, sheet and towel. She gave me lessons on fixing my own hair, and along with soap and shampoo we packed hairbrush, hair bands and bobby pins. I added a stack of books and comics, and she tucked in tablets, envelopes and stamps.
    In the grand dark caverns of St. Louis Union Station, Mother, Dad, my grandmother and most of the staff of our restaurant waved and wept. The train trip north could have been my little ride on the Orient Express — had I not been in oxygen deprivation, holding my breath to keep terror at bay. Instead it felt like a first-timer’s journey on the Hogwarts Express. Despite my stiff upper lip, I was already lonely.
    On the first day of 42, I discovered that we girls weren’t the only swimmers in Minnesota’s thousand lakes. In the bathhouse, as we pulled off our wet one-piece swimming suits, we found shiny black blemishes on our legs and stomachs. Our lake was inhabited by leeches. We poured on salt — boxes were on hand for that purpose — to remove the slimy parasites.
    Rule 1: Ask what flora and fauna you’ll go to camp with, and how camp organizers promote peaceful coexistence. Campers can be taught to avoid poison ivy, like the vine entangling my granddaughter’s camp cabin, and skunks. Avoiding leeches means staying out of the water, but what’s the fun of camp if you have to stay out of the woods? Check out tick precautions.
    At Camp Wood ’n’ Aqua, I spent my time on the water instead of in it. That’s where I learned to paddle a canoe. The amber waters, cloudscapes and peppery smell of ozone before a storm drew me back years later for long canoe and camping trips on the Canadian side of the Boundary Waters. On these adventures, we made up our own family party of two or three, so I had the fellowship you hope for at camp instead of loneliness. Which brings up …
    Rule 2: Ask how counselors promote friendship, defuse cliques and guard against bullying.
    Whether camp friendships are easy or hard, campers are never alone. For an only child used to being solitary, the constant companionship of this big makeshift camp family felt like being in the zoo instead of visiting it. So I suggest …
    Rule 3: Make sure your camp provides quiet time. Camp days are full steam ahead. Most kids, wild things as well as introverts, need the relief of calming quiet time.
    Finally, Rule 4: Broaden your choices. The camps you’ll read about this week in Bay Weekly’s Camp Guide offer about everything under the sun, from animal training to zip-lining, all in manageable installments from hours to half days to overnights to weeks. As you find ones you and your kids like, go beyond the introductions we make in these pages. Study websites. Take notes. Visit camp fairs and open houses; you’ll find many noted in these pages. Talk to organizers, ask questions and consider what you learn. Imagine what it will be like to be there. Then go have fun — or envy the kids who will.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

If it’s looking like a curled wood saw, it’s time for a new one

While walking close to the stern of my trailered boat in the drive yesterday morning, I felt a tug. My pant leg had hung up on the outboard’s prop, and for good reason. The edge of the offending blade looked like a curled wood saw.
    Fishing shallow water has its rewards, but it can be hard on boat propellers.
    You’re sometimes navigating where your skiff’s propeller is pushing through sand, silt or worse. You are inevitably going to hit a rock or two, possibly even a boulder.
    If you have a stainless steel prop on your outboard, you must be eternally cautious or have deep pockets. Stainless is expensive and doesn’t easily bend or deflect. While superb for deep-water cruising, stainless props will fracture, or fail when encountering rocks of size.
    Aluminum props are much more forgiving, bending and deflecting from collisions with the hard stuff in the shallows. My propellers for the last few decades have been aluminum for just that reason. Though they can eventually lose their operating efficiency when the blades become too rough or misshapen, replacing them is rather simple.

Know Your Propeller
    Next to the horsepower and torque of the motor itself, the propeller is the most critical link to moving through the water. The propeller and its shape determine, among other things, your top speed, fuel economy and how promptly your craft comes up on plane.
    An outboard prop’s performance essentials are identified by the numbers inscribed on the hub of the prop (which means you have to take the propeller off to determine what they are). These numbers indicate pitch (how far the prop theoretically drives through the water in one revolution, measured in inches) and the prop’s diameter (also in inches). It should also denote the direction of rotation (usually right or clockwise).
    If you are pleased by the past performance of your propeller and merely intend to restore lost efficiency (caused by dents, gouges and misshapen blades), purchase a new one with the same pitch, diameter and rotation direction as your original.
    At propeller-changing time, you can also modify any aspect of your craft’s general on-the-water performance. Choosing less pitch, or a slightly smaller diameter for your new prop can likely generate higher RPMs (engine speed) and a greater WOT (wide open throttle) speed. Expect, though, that the change (as long as the RPM increase is within the safe range of the engine’s specs) may also result in your craft coming up on plane a bit more slowly.
    If you are a shallow-depth dervish intending to cruise the shoalwaters and wanting your skiff to jump up on plane faster, choose a greater pitch or a bit larger diameter prop, recognizing you may lose a little top-end speed.
    One caveat: It is impossible to predict exactly how a different prop will affect your boat’s performance on the water. So when you decide to try a new setup, exercise care in unpacking, installing and running the new unit. If it doesn’t perform as you wish and the parts (and packaging) are still in new condition, you can return it in exchange for another better suited to your needs.
    Don’t discard a banged-up prop. It can come in handy as a backup. If you’re handy and have a hammer and a butane torch, you might restore a dinged aluminum unit to useful condition.

11 minutes a year can really add up

The moon wanes through late-night and early-morning skies this week, reaching last quarter Tuesday. The moon rises Thursday around 9pm, with the bright star Spica trailing about 10 degrees behind. Far to the west of the moon is Jupiter, the next-brightest object. Friday night Spica rises ahead of the moon, but now the two are less than five degrees apart.
    The moon rises just before midnight Sunday followed only minutes later by the red planet Mars, roughly five degrees to the southeast. As sunrise approaches Monday you’ll find them high in the south.
    The moon rises around 1am Tuesday, and now it’s six degrees to the left of Mars. Another red light, Antares, the heart of Scorpius, shines to the moon’s lower left, and it, the moon and Mars form a tight triangle. Ten degrees east of the moon is golden Saturn. The moon and Saturn are spectacular Wednesday before dawn, with the moon just two degrees above ­Saturn.
    Venus still glimmers low above the southeast horizon in the half-hour before daybreak. You may even spot Mercury lower still, though you may need binoculars.
    Monday marks Leap Day, that time every four years when we recalibrate our calendars to celestial time. You see, it takes the earth a little more than 365 days to orbit the sun, so we add a 366th day on each Leap Year to keep things in synch. You might think that Leap Year is a modern development. In fact, it was first enacted by Julius Caesar more than 2,000 years ago.
    Those early astronomers were able to track the earth’s annual passage around the sun to within 11 minutes — pretty good considering the telescope would not come along for another 1,400 years. While 11 minutes may seem insignificant over a typical year’s 525,600 minutes, it adds up to a full day every 130 years. By the 1500s, the vernal equinox fell on March 11 rather than the 21st.
    Enter Pope Gregory XIII, who in 1582 wiped from that year the days of October 4th through 15th. Further, he ordained that Leap Years would continue in years divisible by four except those ending in 00 — unless those 00 years were themselves divisible by 400. So back in 2000 we observed Leap Year, but in the year 2100 we will not. This reduces the difference between a solar year and our calendar year to 26 seconds, one day every 3,000 years!
    Again, pretty accurate computations at a time when the abacus was the most advanced mathematical instrument.

Put yourself in its place

Oh, the stories I’ve heard of abuse to cactus. I’ve spent many afternoons and evenings in plant clinics where people wheel in large barrel or drum cacti with decaying centers. Often water was oozing from the bottom where it had begun to rot. One elderly lady arrived in a chauffeured limousine. She sent the chauffeur inside to bring me out to examine her plant, a three-foot-tall Saguaro cactus. Before she would allow me to examine her cactus, she requested my credentials.
    My first question to her, and to the other cacti owners I advised, was where the plant was kept at home. Most often, I was told, in the middle of the living room.
    Where do cacti grow? The desert.
    Cacti growing as houseplants need to reside in an area with full sun.
    Cacti are succulents and store large amounts of water in their cells. Because the epidermal layer is thick between the spikes and covered with a chitin like material, they lose little water by evaporation. In the home, most cacti should not be watered more than once a month and should only be fed with a liquid fertilizer once a year.
    They’ll need repotting every four to five years. The soil can be made by blending 10 percent garden soil with 90 percent sandbox or builders sand. To each cubic foot of cacti soil, add one-half cup of agricultural limestone and blend thoroughly. Heat garden soil at 200 degrees for one hour to kill weeds, insects and worms or grubs.
    Because most cacti have sharp spines, they are dangerous. To handle them, crumble many sheets of newspaper into large, tight balls. Put the paper balls over the spines, pressing firmly into place until you can no longer feel the sharp ends.
    To remove a cactus from its pot, slide a long sharp knife along the inner side the container and the root ball. Tip the container on its side and slide out the root ball. If the root ball does not slide easily, strike the bottom of the container with a rubber hammer or with a two-inch-thick board cushioning a carpentry hammer to prevent breakage.
    The new container should be at least three inches larger in diameter than the old and one to two inches deeper. Measure the depth of the original root ball and add soil to raise the top of the root ball to within one inch from the top of the pot. Stand the plant upright and lift into the middle of the new container. Wear thick gloves and get your hold on paper, not spikes. Use your repotting mix to partially fill the space between the root ball and the wall of the new container. Then wash the new soil into place with a steady stream of water. Add more prepared soil and water until the new soil is level with the top of the root ball.
    For large cacti, repotting will require several hours of intensive labor.


Ask The Bay Gardener your questions at DR.FRGouin@gmail.com. Please include your name and address.

Yellow perch break winter’s fast

Things are looking up for Maryland anglers when the first runs of yellow perch are reported. Also called ring perch, neds or yellow neds, they are the first Tidewater fish to respond to spawning urges. Leaving their wintering grounds, they will now break up into small schools and migrate toward fresher tributary headwaters to lay eggs and reproduce.
    Waysons Corner where Rt. 4 crosses the Patuxent River is usually the place yellows first appear in our neck of the woods, and this year is no different. The run there started a week or so ago and is growing. Fish up to 12 inches are being taken, but with a nine-inch minimum size and a 10-count possession limit there can be lots of throwbacks.
    Other places will soon see these fish. Maryland Department of Natural Resoures lists some 40 springtime yellow perch fishing spots on its website: dnr2.maryland.gov/fisheries/Pages.
    You might not find them the first or second try, so don’t hesitate to change locations. But if you are persistent, you will score the first fresh fish dinner of the new year — and it will be a good one.
    The migrating schools of perch tend to move up the rivers and streams on the incoming tide, retreating to deeper water as the tide reverses. The best shoreline bite is usually some phase of that high tide. Focus on the brushy shorelines, especially near downed trees, bushes and sunken debris. During low water, try channels and deep pools.
    Small male yellow perch move up the tributaries first, the larger males arriving a bit later. Both remain upriver and near spawning sites as long as females keep coming. The roe-bearing females show on their own immutable schedule and then leave soon after they spew their eggs. Yellow neds also live in most freshwater impoundments throughout Maryland and feel the same springtime spawning urge.
    Yellow perch exude their roe in accordion-like sacks designed to foul on any submerged structure, holding the roe suspended. The eggs hatch in 10 to 25 days.

Fishing Yellow
    Five- to seven-foot light or medium spin rods work well this time of year. Reels should be spooled with fresh four- to 10-pound test monofilament. Small hooks are generally best, with a No. 2 the largest for this time of year.
    Low water temperatures will limit the success of artificial lures, as this time of year most fish locate their food by scent rather than sight, and perch are no exception. Present fresh bait such as minnows, grass shrimp, bloodworms, earthworms, wax worms and butter worms on hi-low rigs. Use a sinker in deeper water and shad darts suspended under a bobber in the shallower areas.
    When fishing bobber-suspended baits, cast out and pop the bait slowly back to create sound and constant motion.
    I’ve had good results with a tandem rig with a gold No. 12 Tony Accetta spoon and a lip-hooked minnow on the long leg and a bright colored 1⁄8-ounce shad dart dressed with a grass shrimp or a bit of worm on the shorter leg. Casting this rig out to likely areas and slowly working it back will almost always draw strikes when yellow perch are around. It has the additional advantage of enticing any pickerel lurking about.
    When you locate perch in deeper water they will usually remain concentrated in that area for some time. But the neds in warmer shallow water are generally in spawning mode and constantly moving. As females begin to exude their egg sacks, groups of males follow them, bumping their sides and exuding milt to fertilize the eggs.
    Gravid females appear to be the meatiest of the perch, but most of their physical bulk is made up of the eggs. It is better to keep the legal, slimmer males and release the egg-bearing females to contribute to next year’s population.