January 2021

Girl reading a book (Credit: Getty Images)

Ring in 2021

A new year is upon us. Change seems more welcome than in most years.

As we look forward to 2021, we hope for a lessening impact of COVID and a return to “more normal” social interactions. We will take away from 2020 lessons learned on remote and virtual events that provide us with new tools for business and life. The new presidential administration potentially signals a transition in the rules and regulations governing the energy sector, but regardless of the change that may bring, Ohio’s 24 electric cooperatives are poised to respond in the best interests of you, our members.

Bob Jenkins and Sam Gross

First Flight

Josh Maihle of Columbus still remembers the first airplane ride he ever took. “I remember I was just 6 years old and riding in the backseat of a small, yellow private plane,” says Maihle.

Bob and his wife, Jill — members of Consolidated Cooperative in north-central Ohio — own two small, vintage aircraft. “We own a 1947 Cessna 120 and a 1946 Piper J-3 Cub,” says Bob. “I also co-own a 1972 Cessna 172 with my son, Shawn.”

Jenkins has been flying for more than 50 years, ever since his father taught him to fly. He made his first solo flight at age 16 and earned his private pilot’s license in his early 20s.  

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.

Valerie Williams reads to her children

A book for every child

Valerie Williams knew she wanted in from the moment she heard that the Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library/Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library program was coming to Highland County.

When Ohio first lady Fran DeWine announced the program’s expansion into Highland County last March, Williams was not only one of those instrumental in promoting the program in the county, she was among the first to sign up.

Her sons, 4-year-old Porter and 1-year-old Moxley, now each get an age-appropriate book in the mail every month at no cost to the family.

Gray fox

Red fox, gray fox, and wily coyote

When wild animals face a change in their environment, they have three options: adapt, migrate, or die. When those animals happen to be three top-tier predators attempting to occupy the same habitat, things can get dicey.

According to Katie Dennison, furbearer biologist for the Ohio Division of Wildlife, an annual survey indicates “a long-term declining trend in red fox and gray fox sightings since the survey began in 1990, which is indicative of a decline in both fox populations in Ohio. However, the trend does appear to have leveled off during the past five to seven years.” Dennison adds that the survey relies on deer-bowhunter observations, so “is biased toward describing fox population trends in rural areas.” 

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.

John Ruthven

20th century Audubon

At the corner of Vine and West 8th in downtown Cincinnati, a giant mural covers the entire side of a six-story building. It depicts a colorful, swirling flock of birds: passenger pigeons, now extinct. The last passenger pigeon, Martha, died at the Cincinnati Zoo on Sept.

If it has to do with birds in or around Cincinnati, Ruthven probably was part of it. 

Born in 1924, Ruthven knew he wanted to be a professional artist from an early age, preferably a wildlife artist. Like so many young men of that era, however, his dream was deferred by World War II; John enlisted in the U.S. Navy after he graduated from high school in 1943. 

Clarksburg, West Virginia

Co-op Spotlight: Harrison Rural Electrification Association

Harrison Rural Electrification Association (HREA) is unique because it is the only electric cooperative in West Virginia. Serving 7,742 consumer-members, HREA spans seven counties on 828 miles of electrical line.

So much to do

The area covered by HREA is a vibrant community. Visitors can explore multiple festivals throughout the year, including the West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival, the West Virginia Black Heritage Festival, the Greek Food Festival, and events such as the Cecil Jarvis Greater Clarksburg 10K. In Clarksburg, there’s a rich public arts and entertainment industry. Clarksburg Amphitheater hosts live music, movies, and other events. There’s also the Robinson Grand Performing Arts Center for productions and programs appealing to all ages.

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.”

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.”