Hole in the Clouds

July 2012

Invasion of the Giant Hogweed

Jul 11, 2012

Giant hogweed has spread from the Caucusus region of Russia across central and northern Europe and now across the northern United States and Canada. It's an invasive species that takes over roadsides and the edges of pastures and creekbanks. You don't want it near you.

It doesn't look so bad. It's got big, toothy leaves that green up very early in the spring around a central stalk that can grow ten or twelve feet tall, topped by lacy white flowers. But it's a terrible neighbor, full of bad habits. Even its early spring growth is problematic, because its leaves shade the ground all around, stunting or killing the native grasses and other plants. If it spreads to a creek or riverbank, its shallow root system can lead to rapid and severe erosion.

Cows don't like the taste of it, and that's a good thing for the cows. People, on the other hand, don't know to stay away. They might brush up against it as they are walking by. They might even pick the flowers. Children have been known to use the stems as pea shooters. None of this is a good idea.

Giant hogweed produces chemicals that make skin extremely sensitive to sunlight. If you touch any part of the plant and then stay out in the sun, you will wake up the next morning with severe, blistering sunburn.  If the hogweed touched the eyes or mouth, the resulting burns can cause permanent tissue damage, even blindness. Fatalities have occurred.

As shown above, giant hogweed eradication efforts can involve serious herbicides and hazmat suits. Some infestations are best countered with a herd of goats; goats eat the weeds happily, especially in early spring when the leaves are still tender and small. In either case, the hogweed will grow back and must be attacked repeatedly for at least a couple of years.

landscape   weed   invasive species   herbicide  


Jul 12, 2012

The Moorish-style synagogue in central Sofia, Bulgaria, was built in 1909, when it served as the religious and cultural center for a Sephardic Jewish community of about 20,000. Today, the congregation numbers about 50. Bulgarian Jews were not executed by the Nazis, but almost all left for Israel after the postwar Communist takeover.

Sofia   Bulgaria   synagogue   (Image credit: Katrin Maldre)  


Jul 13, 2012

Yesterday, the scene at this Food City supermarket in Livermore Falls, Maine, looked a little different: all the snow was long gone, of course, but so was all the ice, including the ice from inside the double-doored cooler visible here in front of the store, where bags of cubes usually sit quietly frozen in summer as well as winter.

Overnight, someone broke into the ice chest and stole all 67 bags of ice inside. The ice was said to be worth about $75, with the damage to the cooler estimated at $250.

According to newspapers in Maine, the Livermore Falls police chief reported no suspects and not a clue as to motive.

Maine   crime   Livermore Falls   grocery store  

Buddy System

Jul 14, 2012

It's time for another visit with the Brownies of Troop 1714 from Portland, Maine, this time during their daylong excursion to Boston, which was funded by Girl Scout cookie sales. The Brownies rode buses and subways; visited the aquarium, the IMAX theater, and Fanueil Hall; and dined and danced at Hard Rock Cafe. Girls and leaders survived the adventure thanks to the buddy system.

Emily   Boston   Massachusetts   children   Brownies   South Station   (Image credit: Susan Wiggin)  

Rocky Mountain Lead

Jul 15, 2012

The main street of Creede, Colorado, led to the mouth of an important lead and zinc mine in 1942, when the picture above--part of a small series of color photos commissioned by government agencies in the 1930s and 1940s--was taken for the Office of War Information. The mine remained active until 1985 and has recently been reopened; in fact, it is currently advertising for mechanics to troubleshoot and maintain lead mining equipment.

Back in the late nineteenth century, silver was extracted from Creede ore, and more than ten thousand people crowded into the area. But ever since the silver panic of 1897, local mines have produced mostly lead, and fewer than a thousand people have lived here; the 2010 census counted 290.

A Western based on the Lone Ranger story and starring Johnny Depp will feature scenes shot in and around Creede. It is set for release in 2013.

Below is Creede's Main Street as it looked in 2005.

streetscape   World War II   1942   mine   Colorado   Office of War Information   Creede   (Image credit: Andreas Feininger)  

Two Chucks and a Bob

Jul 17, 2012

The boy at left, with his eyes closed, is my cousin, Charles Horowitz; the boy at right, with the big grin, is my brother, Charles Horowitz, who will turn 56 in a couple of weeks. In the middle is my father, Bob Horowitz; his brother Lee, the father of my cousin Charles, must have been behind the camera.

The four Horowitzes were camping and fishing that weekend in approximately 1966 at Deep Creek Lake in western Maryland. The two Charleses were both named after their grandfather, whom they never knew; he died shortly before they were born. Both boys were called Charley when they were young but go by Chuck as adults.

Cousin Chuck is a psychologist in San Francisco. Brother Chuck is a physicist in Indiana. I've not heard that either of them is much interested in fishing these days.

Bob Horowitz   Maryland   cousins   Charles Horowitz   Deep Creek Lake   1966   fishing  

Summer in the City

Jul 24, 2012

Two days ago, a major water main burst around the corner from our house, collapsing the street into a sinkhole big enough to devour a couple of Mack trucks. The water gushed out unchecked for five hours, flooding the street and the sidewalks and, of course, hundreds of basements. Our house escaped with trivial damage, but some of our neighbors' homes were devastated.

The crew from the Water Department described the event as a triple calamity: ruination of a major 48-inch water main, a gas line, and steam pipes. Young guys with the crew said it was the worst incident they'd ever dealt with; an older guy said no, it was the third worst.

streetscape   Philadelphia   Kater Street   flood   21st Street