Features

Saw-whet owl

Give a hoot

Nocturnal, secretive, and steeped in folklore, owls are cryptic wild critters that give up the details of their lives only grudgingly. Blake Mathys, a member of Marysville-based Union Rural Electric Cooperative, hopes to shine a little light on the subject this winter.

“My main reason for developing the project is that, for a number of reasons, owl sightings often don’t get reported, even by citizen-scientists and serious birders,” Mathys says. “I want to provide a secure outlet to get a better idea of the true numbers of owls in our state during the winter months.”

Wild boars

Wild hogs

Lon Swihart cares for 120 hogs on a bucolic farm in rural Preble County. Hog farming is part of the landscape and cultural fabric here in towns like Eaton and West Alexandria.

Today, many of the pork producers are larger, corporate-owned operations where the pigs are kept indoors and escape is impossible, so many of the fences have disappeared. Swihart’s farm has a 4-foot-high cement wall and double fencing. But, it turns out, the best fences are made from love and happiness.

“My hogs don’t want to go anywhere — they are happy here,” Swihart says. He can count the times on one hand over the decades that a hog has gotten loose, and each time it has come back. His hogs prefer life on the farm over a life on the lam.

Gold pan

Glacial gold

Most folks familiar with Ohio’s geography know that glaciers covered two-thirds of the state, sparing only the southeastern portion from the cold crush of a Pleistocene winter. 

The glaciers also left a little prize that they picked up on the slow slog south: gold.

Yes, there is gold in Ohio. You can find it in perhaps most any stream that flows over glaciated Ohio, but the vast majority of the fine flecks of the yellow metal occur where the glaciers advanced their farthest and fell apart — melted — dropping what they had carried along.

Miles Gallery

Where the child things are

What are some lovable wild things, a colorful and very hungry caterpillar, and a big red dog — along with 16,000 of their friends — all doing in Findlay, Ohio? 

There, Dan Chudzinski meticulously cares for thousands of works of original art from much-loved books like Where the Wild Things Are; The Very Hungry Caterpillar; Clifford the Big Red Dog series; The Cat in the Hat; Arthur the Aardvark; and many, many more.
 
“By day, I’m the curator here,” says Chudzinski, who also works as a professional artist. “I look after this amazing collection of children’s-book art and give people a reason to care about the art and experience it firsthand.” 

Randy and Koral Clum

A different kind of farm

In Buckeye State forestry circles, having your woodlands named Ohio Tree Farm of the Year is a big deal. To have your woods named National Tree Farm of the Year is a really big deal. To garner both those titles in back-to-back years is simply off the charts.

The Clums are members of the Ohio Tree Farm Program — first organized in 1946 — a part of the American Tree Farm System. The goal of both the national and state programs is to assist private landowners with better managing their woodlands for wood, water, wildlife, and recreation.

Frosty the Snowman

Need a little Christmas?

Given the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems as if everyone could use some holiday cheer, and Castle Noel in Medina is just the place for a healthy dose of everything merry and bright.

Yes, Klaus is his actual last name, and with his white beard and lifelong love of Christmas, he not only looks like Kris Kringle but also possesses a kind of Clark Griswold-like zeal that one would expect of someone who has amassed the world’s largest collection of holiday movie costumes, props, and memorabilia. 

Kelleys Island students

Winter's tale

Kelleys Island is both the largest American island on Lake Erie and also the town that covers the island’s entire 4.4 square miles of land. During summer, it’s one of Ohio’s most popular travel destinations, drawing upward of 250,000 visitors during the tourist season.

There is no bridge to Kelleys Island from the mainland, 5 miles away. Air service is available year-round — but only weather permitting. Kelleys Island Ferry Boat Line schedules service into late fall and resumes service in the spring, but some years, the lake ice can linger, and spring fog can cause flights and ferries to be canceled. It’s never a sure bet whether you can get on or off the island in a pinch. 

In the early 1900s, it was common for more than 1,000 residents to brave the conditions and stay the winter, but today that number is more like 100 to 150.

Kane Lewis and Rachel Jarman

Staying in the game

Nineteen-year-old Kane Lewis’ life changed instantly on Nov. 16, 2019. While he was on a hunting trip, he had a seizure that caused him to fall from his tree stand — breaking his back and leaving him paralyzed. 

Working with state agencies, AgrAbility helped Lewis get a lift to put him on farm machinery, an Action Trackchair that will go over any terrain, and an automatic barn door opener. 

“AgrAbility has given me so much more freedom than I could have expected,” Lewis says. “I didn’t [have to] slow down.”

Just a month and a week after his accident, Lewis was back in college, where his classmates raised $13,000 to buy him an electric wheelchair to get around campus easily. By spring, he was back planting corn and soybeans.

Jared Shank

Treasure hunt

We all know that Ohio is full of treasures. From Cincinnati chili to Cedar Point to the hollows of Hocking Hills, the gems gleam. Legends abound, however, of treasure in the more traditional sense — buried or stashed around the Ohio countryside. 

Stark treasure

It was 1755, and the French had been trying desperately to repel attacks by the British on Fort Duquesne, France’s outpost in Pittsburgh. Fearing the fort’s imminent fall (it actually held out until 1758), some French soldiers started to evacuate valuables from Fort Duquesne — including a hoard of gold and silver used for military payroll.

Dogman of Defiance

Cryptid Ohio

CRYPTIDS [crip – tidz]: Animals or other creatures whose existence is only assumed or believed in based upon anecdotal or other non-compelling evidence.

Since President Rutherford B. Hayes owned a Lake Erie island where his family vacationed, he quite possibly heard tales about South Bass Bessie. Maybe he even saw the creature (though he never reported it if he did). The Ohio native and his wife, Lucy, left the White House in 1881 and retired to a country estate that is now the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library and Museums in Fremont.