A Demonstration with “Bang!”


The above is:

A) A very adult beverage

B) Site of Revolutionary War battle

C) A river important as a power source for early US industry

If you nodded at both B and C you are correct.

My first acquaintance with the name was as one of the early encounters – losses – of the Colonists during the Revolutionary War. The battle along the waterway occurred September 11, 1777.

Twenty-five years later, 1801, a family arrived from France – fleeing the aftermath of that revolution – and set up businesses. Along the Brandywine River they found multiple places to take advantage of the rapid fall of the river, construct dams, and use waterpower for factories.

While one brother constructed a cotton mill, the other brother assessed the need of the United States and used his expertise to begin the manufacture of a different product — black powder. This business prospered and during the next century many small to moderate size stone buildings were constructed for the different steps in the process. Many of these employed the “safety device” of one weak wall and a weak roof to direct any accidental explosion toward the river and away from nearby structures. Workers lived in homes and dormitories on the property. The owner built his own house a little higher on the hill.

Manufacturing at this location ended in 1923. Today tourists are welcomed and guided through the main house, the “first office” (built after 35 years of business), and other portions of the grounds. Foundations are all that remain of many of the buildings but others have been maintained and restored – some with a new purpose. They even give a “bang-up” demonstration of black powder, the primary product of this factory for over a century.

Preparing for device for demonstration of black powder quality.
Preparing device for demonstration of black powder quality.

Trees and Water – A Scenic Combo

On my recent travels I got a taste of the West Virginia and Maryland Appalachians. Unlike their younger, taller, mountain range cousins in the western states, these mountains wear forest all the way to their crown.

While my passenger remarked on the stratification of the rocks revealed in the cuts for the highway I concentrated on traffic with frequent glances at the larger view.

Where are the farms? A person could get lost down there. Too steep for anything but a goat. I tried not to think of myself as a confused hiker, trying to follow a creek downstream to a sign of civilization. A sprained ankle could turn life threatening.

No, I wanted the big picture. The variations of green that sweep over the hills (pardon me, mountains) for miles and miles until they meet the clear blue sky.


Thank you to Maryland for supplying the rest area with this view. You are looking at the Youghiogheny River and Reservoir. According to the sign, the water from here flows north, into Pennsylvania where it joins the Monongahela River.

How awesome to think a leaf that falls into this lake could make it’s way along the Monongahela to the Ohio passing miles and miles of wilderness, industry, and agriculture before joining the Mississippi, dodging barge traffic and at long last meeting the salt water of the Gulf of Mexico.


Crossing the River

When the United States was a young nation, rivers aided travelers and commerce. They were important routes to move people and goods – either raw, natural resources or later on, manufactured products.

As time and technology moved along the rivers became obstacles as well as trails.

Highways could ford a small stream. If it wasn’t running in spring flood. But larger bodies of water needed bridges. Yes, bridges have been built for centuries. Some of the old, stone structures are beautiful as well as practical.

But a new, growing nation needed more and more bridges to move more and more products on railroads and highways. Cities grew along rivers and begged for connection to the other side. Boats and barges using the waterways demanded unimpeded passage.

My hat’s off to the engineers of the bridges in the USA. Working within all sorts of restraints of time, space, and resources they have managed to give us routes, and alternate routes, to pass safely from one side of the river to the other.

Double deck highway bridge across the Ohio River.
Double deck highway bridge across the Ohio River.

Exposing my Roots

Regular readers of this blog have put some pieces together by now.

I’m a rural girl. Transplanted to the city years ago. I’m also old enough to recognize museum pieces. Every so often they feature an item on Antiques Roadshow that either our family or a neighbor owned – and used routinely.

I suppose my brother and I were looking for trouble of  a sort when we went to a small museum in northern Wisconsin a year ago. And there it was — an implement that our family used for a short time when I was in elementary school. A piece of equipment that my mother washed countless times, beginning in her elementary school years.

It worked by man (or woman) power. A crank, a wheel, gears. Gravity moved the milk from the top. The mechanism created centrifugal force in a collection of metal cones (42 according my cousin – she washed one for years) and separated the lighter cream from heavier skim milk.  Farmers sold to the local “creamery” and used the skim (a waste product —  they were paid for the butterfat rich cream) for feeding calves and hogs – and children.

Symbol of Labor Intensive Dairy Farming
Symbol of Labor Intensive Dairy Farming

Apologies to Charlie

Creep. Always going where he’s not wanted. Impossible to get rid of.

If your name is Charles, nickname Charlie, you may not want to continue. Or perhaps you’ll go Latin on me and skip over the common name, Creeping Charlie, and go to Glechoma hederacea. But if your spelling abilities are near mine you go common.

This plant has nice little leaves, similar to the common geranium. Growing habits are more similar to ivy. It loves the shade. And keeps a low profile. The little patch behind my patio spreads over gravel, sending vines over the top and rootlets through the tiny spaces until they find a little nutrition.

Has he found your lawn? He doesn’t read signs, so you’ll have to watch for him. An alert yard owner will find him early and pull out his network before he settles in for a long summer – and the next year — and the next.

A Creeper eager to Run.
A Creeper eager to Run.




Green to the Extreme?

Going green in construction is the newest thing. Or the oldest?

Rooftop gardens are touted in magazine articles for their ability to capture rainwater and moderate heating.

It’s an old method with new publicity. Like lady’s hemlines, if you wait long enough it will come into fashion again. (I’m currently waiting for something closer to knee than mid-thigh.)

Thick walls of adobe or stone have been used for centuries for stability of structure and temperature. Perhaps this is man’s attempt to reproduce the constant, cool temperature of caves used as housing and storage.

This green (in every sense of the word) roof is worth noting. The pitch repels snow. The sod absorbs water. The thick matt provides insulation.

Sister Bay - the goat is live

The goat, and his companions out of camera range, provide landscaping service. And they also attract patrons to this excellent Swedish restaurant in Door County, Wisconsin.


A Weedy Tale

Asclepias syriaca, or common milkweed tale that is.

It was very common in the pastures and roadsides when I was a child. I don’t see it as often know – I don’t frequent pastures often and roadsides get more herbicide.

Milk weed. Break a stem and you find the source of the name in the white sap. As weeds go it didn’t cause much of a bother. An elementary school art project used the empty seed pods one year. With milkweed and a few other common plants plus lots of silver, gold, and vibrant paint we created original bouquets.

Anecdotes from my oldest brother and his peers tell of another use. During WWII the pods were collected when full and almost ready to burst. The fibers attached to the seeds were then removed and used in insulation for Artic military gear. (Details on this were scarce. Where did they turn them in?)

War Volunteer?
War Volunteer?




A Visit with Angie Fox

Today’s Writer Wednesday guest is New York Times bestselling author, RITA nominee, and energetic lady of many talents — Angie Fox. She writes about biker witches, demon slayers and things that go bump in the night.

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How did you come up with the idea for the Monster MASH series?

I wanted to write something different. Plus, I love writing books that are not only about the hero and heroine, but also about the community where they live. A quirky, paranormal M*A*S*H unit sounded really interesting, and fun to write. The hero is a demi-god special ops soldier and the heroine is a surgeon who saves him (in more ways than one).

 The MASH series definitely has your trademark humor. How natural is it for you to write “funny”? Is it ever a challenge to rein it in for the more serious parts?

One of the challenges – and the great joys – of writing this latest series was balancing the humor with the stark tragedy of war. Petra and her colleagues at the MASH 3063rd have been drafted until the end of the war, which is bad for Petra but even worse for people like her vampire roommate, Marius. They’re living in this quirky, ad-hock camp, trying to make the best of it while they work long hours in the OR, putting soldiers back together – knowing that they’re probably going to see them again and again – if they’re lucky.

The underlying tragedy brings the oddball personalities in the camp together. They develop ways to keep their sanity and to create the kind of relationships that offer a port in the storm. That’s where a lot of the humor comes from.

Can you go a bit more into the mythology of this world you’ve created – for instance, Petra can’t reveal to the gods that she speaks to the dead. Can you share other rules you’ve designed strictly for this world?

Yes, Petra has the ability to see the dead and to speak with them. It’s a tough ability for a doctor. She can see all too clearly what happens to the patients she loses. The soldiers she does save, she has to send back to the front lines.

Her ability has been outlawed by the gods, simply because they don’t think a mortal should have that kind of power. And the gods have a thing for strange and horrific punishments. They won’t just kill you for disobeying a law. They get all mythological. It’s like a divine version of The Godfather. Petra knows that the gods will damn her for eternity if she’s discovered. After all, these are the people that have, in the past; turned women into spiders, fastened “friends” to burning wheels for eternity; tied one of their own to some far-flung rock so he could have his liver pecked out by an eagle until the end of time. Of course she’s going to have to expose her secret if she wants to help end the war.

Where does your proclivity towards writing supernatural novels come from? Is that what you choose to write/read in your spare time? If so, what are some of your favorite novels and/or writers in this genre?

I’ve always loved paranormals. In fact, I remember discovering them back in college. In my sophomore year, there were six of us, living in this tiny place, and my roommates started talking about Interview with the Vampire. They were shocked I’d never heard of it and, like the enablers they were, they managed to put together Ann Rice’s entire vampire series, which they stacked next to my bed the next day. I picked up the first book and wow. I was always a good student, but I skipped class for the next week and read the series straight through.

Ironically, when I decided to actually try and write a book of my own, I completely ignored my love of paranormals. Because, you know, that makes sense. I decided to write mystery/suspense with lots of science and research involved. I’d outline, I’d write pages and pages of character notes, I’d force myself to do those little note cards. And I hate note cards. In retrospect, I was fighting my voice. When I was about ready to go insane, I’d sneak off and read Kerrelyn Sparks, Lynsay Sands and Katie MacAlister, just to catch a break.

It took a while for it to click and for me to realize that hmm…maybe I should write the kind of books I love to read. I had this spark of an idea about a preschool teacher who is forced to run off with a gang of geriatric biker witches and The Accidental Demon Slayer was born. Instead of a 20-page plot outline, I had a 5-page list of ideas, one of which included “but little did they know, all the Shoney’s are run by werewolves.” Instead of following the rules, I broke a few. Instead of painstakingly writing over the course of a year, I grinned my way through the book and had a complete manuscript in five months.

The opening chapters did well in contests and caught the eye of Leah Hultenschmidt, who asked to see the whole thing. Leah bought the book less than a week after I finished it. And I didn’t write one single note card. Oh, and by the way, The Accidental Demon Slayer is up for free right now on Amazon, Nook, Kobo and Apple iBooks.

How many books are you planning for the MASH series?
This is a trilogy and all of the books are out now. Immortally Yours is the first. That one was nominated for an RWA RITA award. The second book is Immortally Embraced. The third and final book, Immortally Ever After, is in bookstores now.

What’s next for you, writing wise? If you have brief description(s) / titles / release dates you can share, I’m happy to include.

Sure. The fifth Accidental Demon Slayer book, My Big Fat Demon Slayer Wedding, came out a month or two ago. The final book in the MASH series, Immortally Ever After, released last week. And right now, I’m working on the (still untitled) sixth book in the Accidental Demon Slayer series, slated to release in early 2014.

Thanks for having me!

GetAttachment[1]Visit Angie at:

Immortally Ever After
Immortally Ever After

or on Face book at:


Cool Sighting

It’s summer in the city. In the country too, but today we’re talking urban.

Within downtown St. Louis a narrow strip of green runs in a thin, almost continuous line, from the riverfront. It continues for nearly twenty blocks, broken once for the Civil Courts and again for an office building.

Portions show neglect with grass trampled to bare earth. Other portions, adopted by civic minded citizens in recent years, show care with plantings, new benches, and landscaping features.

Are you seeking a place to rest, relax, and refresh yourself – body and soul? May I recommend this small, pleasant waterfall in the heart of the city. Can you think of a finer place to sit back with a cool drink?

Urban Waterfall
Urban Waterfall