CARETAKER'S LOG
AUGUST 2001


Wednesday -- August 1, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.4     Water Temperature: 76

The large, similar, strap-like leaves are planted near and lost among the daylilies, hyacinth, and daffodils in the Caretaker's garden between the quarters and the slough. Like the daffodil and hyacinth, the leaves die back and the plant forgotten. Then... one day... one looks around and there are these huge, fragrant, pink blooms shooting on stalks right out of the ground... and one realizes why it is called the resurrection lily (lycoris squamigera). Also know as autumn amaryllis, these were planted originally on the riverside of the Clubhouse where the deck now stands, and were saved by the heroic efforts of Holly Syrrakos before construction of the deck. They also serve as a monument to how rapidly the Club is changing, because the deck itself was only constructed about 8 years ago, and yet, as the waiting list now outnumbers the Members, and also because those on the waiting list 8 years ago are now new Members, this means that the majority of the families affiliated with the Club have no memory of this significant change in the physical plant of the Island... or how it has changed the way the Island looks and can be enjoyed. Can you... dear Member-reader... remember the way the autumn amaryllis was glorious and lit up the river side of the Clubhouse only 8 years ago? Who says "future shock" is not alive and well?

Thursday -- August 2, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.3     Water Temperature: 78

Well... you lucky fisherpersons... and fauna persons... a flora person, Kathy Bilton, has noted your distress in the Log at the river/fishing situation and has forwarded this excerpt by Julie Greene, published in the Herald-Mail in Hagerstown:

Chuck Tyeryar has been playing hide and seek this summer, mostly seek. Like many fishermen along the Potomac River, Tyeryar has been seeking smallmouth bass and often coming up empty. Theories abound, but the fish count appears normal, said Ed Enamait, fisheries manager in the Maryland Department of Natural Resource's Thurmont, Md., office. Tyeryar, 44, who lives north of Hagerstown, blames the weather for the fact he's not catching more smallmouth bass and he may be right, but for the wrong reason. Tyeryar thinks warm waters have kept the smallmouth bass hiding in deeper, cooler waters, but Enamait said the rain is more likely to blame. While it has not rained heavily this summer, persistent rain has fallen at the river, Enamait said. The rainfall has contributed to the water's turbidity and - along with abundant sunshine - the abnormally abundant growth of phytoplankton, a microscopic aquatic plant, Enamait said. Since smallmouth bass feed by looking for food rather than smelling it, they might be having trouble chasing down smaller fish to feed on and seeing fishermen's lures, which often imitate the look of fish, fishery experts said. The smallmouth bass appear to be feeding just fine on aquatic insects, according to a preliminary survey Enamait conducted on July 19. As long as the Potomac's water stays cloudy and there are plenty of insects, smallmouth bass and fishermen will continue playing hide and seek. "If we have a little patience, I think the river is going to clean up and the fishing is going to improve," Enamait said. The river had cleared up along much of Allegany County, Md., but remained cloudy along Washington County and points south, according to Enamait and Don Cosden, southern region manager for DNR's fishery service. For now fishermen should consider angling for channel catfish, which like turbid water, Enamait said. Sue Slick, an angler and clerk at Wolfes on the Square in Williamsport, has another suggestion. "I think we have to get smarter as fishermen," Slick said.

Some would say the Slick suggestion says it all!

Note that the river is up.

Monday -- August 6, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.3     Water Temperature: 81

Doing early morning rounds it was discovered that someone had brought two chaise lounges to the Island and left them at the swimming area near the table there. One is beige and the other yellow... of the plastic-strap-and-portable-fold-from-either-end variety. A Member trying them has pronounced them "not bad". It is heartening to see the clearing near swimming area has become popular... as it was only three years ago that this area was cleared, planted with grass, and had a picnic table installed.

Swimming Supervisor John Krasny was down early to install a life ring on the swimming float. Presently tied by a long throw rope to the ladder, it is planned to use a carabineer on the rope end so that it can be detached easily should the life ring need to be thrown further than the tied rope would allow.

Captain John Matthews brought spray paint and stencils of his own design to paint "no seat" on the thwarts of one (only) of the Old Towne club canoes. Already this year two thwarts have needed replacement because folks have sat on the thwarts and broken them... presumably because they had little canoe experience and did not know any better.

Tuesday -- August 7, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.3     Water Temperature: 81

And so... gentle reader... the next time someone suggests that one might, by simply upgrading one's hard drive, achieve orders of magnitude of improvement in speed and performance and memory... be prepared for unknown tribulations along the way. The Island possesses an old computer (3 years?) that is now blindingly fast and with a 20-fold increase in memory (theoretically). Previously, one might have clicked to open a browser or to log onto the web and then gotten up to fix a cup of coffee. Opening any application was a prelude to yawning or walking around or making a call while waiting for it to come up. Just the boot time was almost 4 minutes. But all that is past... and just like discovering for the first time things like air conditioning or color TV... there can be no going back to staring at the hour glass... although getting from there to here was not easy. You will be spared the story, but be assured there were villains (Microsoft: are they evil or just unbelievably incompetent?) and heroes (Tryon Wells: our own webmaster who appeared Gandolf-like to throw back the forces of darkness). The entire exercise was a lesson in how ancient priests (read: Microsoft) maintained their importance by pretending authority over unknown mysteries and did not want the peasants to learn to read... and then deliberately obscured even the simple things to maintain their own mystique, and income. All of this is thus a long-winded explanation of why the Log has been recently absent and late.

Wednesday -- August 8, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.3     Water Temperature: 84

This afternoon, at approximately 1330 hrs, while the island was being visited by 46 students and staff of the Discovery Creek School, two 19 year old trespassers and their black and white dog swam to the Island unnoticed until they stole the ferry and took it to the towpath landing. The caretaker noticed the two strangers and their dog leaving the Island on the ferry and went down to the landing to call out and ask them to return the ferry to the Island, but only received a rude comment. They did not tie the ferry at the towpath landing, but left it adrift in the river. This was especially inconvenient because the stranded teachers and students were lining up to leave the Island and return to the waiting busses. A canoe was put in and the ferry ultimately retrieved and put back into operation. The Caretaker was able to call Park Police dispatch at 1351 hrs and speak to Officer Greeve. A request was made to apprehend the suspects and return them to the Island to make an apology. Barely ten minutes later, the caretaker received a call from Officer Whiteman of the Park Police who reported that he had the suspects in custody and asked the caretaker to meet them at the towpath ferry landing. The two suspects introduced themselves as Taylor and Ed and apologized. They appeared appropriately contrite, but this could be because Officer Whiteman explained that one word from the caretaker would be enough to have them arrested and thrown in jail for trespassing, theft, and vandalism. The caretaker went to great lengths to explain that each incident that resulted in a report to authorities increased the probabilities that the rope swing tree would be cut down, and suggested that the teens could redeem their bad manners, selfishness, stupidity, and unlawful activities by helping to spread the word that already there were people who wanted the tree cut down, and further incidents involving the Island would likely cause more reports to be made and thus the end of a wonderful resource used and enjoyed by many people. Following the release of the teens, Officer Whiteman asked to be shown the illegal rope swing, and expressed surprise that late night partying often occurs after dark, despite the rule that the Park is closed at night. On any given night there are likely to be many people on this stretch of the towpath, and not all of them are swimming or fishing. The Park Police is to be commended for their quick and effective response, and especially for the professional conduct of Officer Whiteman.

The Club Captain reports that when returning from canoeing yesterday towards sunset he noticed that the rope at the illegal rope swing had been cut.

Members attending tonight's meeting are reminded that should you wish to come early and join the pre-meeting potluck, the grill will be ready to cook on at 7PM.

Thursday -- August 9, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.2     Water Temperature: 85

Despite the forecast 100-degree temperature today, and the 97 degrees of yesterday, the Island thermometer never rises above 90 degrees. Surrounded as we are by the enormous heat sink of the river, the river imposes a microclimate upon us that usually works to moderate whichever seasonal extreme is afflicting you folks up the hill at the top of the gorge. Or as we say down here... up in the real world. Yesterday, arguably the worst day yet this year, was nonetheless a somewhat busy day down here... and this during the day , even before the monthly meeting. Cleaning up after the meeting, the upstairs thermometer registered 88 degrees... proving again the hardiness and dedication of some Members in the service of their Club and their Island. But the real lesson seems to be... remembering all those beautiful days when so few people came... and comparing them to the awful weather of the busy yesterday... that it is the state of Member's lives and schedules and not the state of the weather down here that determines attendance. One might even remark that it shows that Members think it is beautiful down here all the time... and especially anytime they can be here... regardless of the weather... a priori proof of smart Members.

The Log is amended to note a situation with the Clubhouse electrical wiring that required formal report be sent to the House Supervisor.

Friday -- August 10, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.1     Water Temperature: 86

Members are warned that violent and stormy weather is forecast for this afternoon... a price eagerly paid to end this heat wave. Also note the river temperature is 86 degrees! Can it get any warmer than that? Surely there is a point above which it cannot rise... because surely there must be a point where the surface water is connected to the sub-surface water which is a constant 55 degrees, and a heat sink effect kicks in.

Yesterday there was a mad dash off-Island to get cat food. Some of you no doubt understand why one does not come home to a house without cat food... better to check into a hotel for the night than to face feline ire. Unfortunately, a large bag of dry cat food was left on the porch overnight and this morning the aftermath of massive critter partying could be seen spread across the porch. So this morning the Caretaker had to clean up the result of his own carelessness... really, there was no excuse, the border that defines indoors and outdoors down here always has consequences... and the neighbors down here pay close attention to what goes on and is left out in everyone else's front yard just like any subdivision. It looked to have been quite a party.

Rounding a corner yesterday the Caretaker was surprised to encounter four geese. They seemed pretty bedraggled and looked to be travellers, but still, it is unusual to see them this time of year. And then, going in and opening yesterday's Wall Street Journal, the front page of the Marketplace Section featured a large article entitled: The Bane of the Billionaires: Their lush lawns befouled by Canadian geese, Seattle's moguls fight back - to no avail. The article was an examination of how the geese are spurning traditional migration habits and becoming year round residents... encouraged by large grassy lawns that are ideal goose habitat. It was also a humorous romp that poked fun at the massive resources of money and personnel and gadgetry that Seattle's wealthiest have dedicated to the problem, "to no avail", in order to avoid stepping in goose poo. The article will be clipped and kept upstairs for any Member who still harbors a forlorn hope that the meagre resources of the Club can affect our own problem.

Saturday -- August 11, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.1     Water Temperature: 86

Matt Barres of the Potomac Conservancy visited the Island yesterday. Many things were discussed, among them: 1) the good health and status of the baby sycamore trees the Club is growing for the Conservancy; 2) the Second Annual Potomac Watershed Weekend, October 20-21, and the possibility of the Club's participation in that event; 3) the possibility that the Conservancy might provide guidance and support should the Club wish to organize a weekend event for Members to take on a project to eradicate certain invasive non-natives from the Island; 4) the possibility that the Potomac Conservancy could contribute informative and entertaining programs at monthly meetings of the club; 5) a determination to continue to explore areas of possible collaboration between the two sister organizations; and, 6) the participation of the caretaker in the River Monitor Program. Draft copies of the River Monitor Data Sheet were left and will be posted in the Clubhouse.

Monday -- August 13, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.3     Water Temperature: 80

Despite the weekend deluge (what better word to use?) the river is not forecast to rise very much, and Members should take advantage of the excellent weather forecast for this week to be here. The only caveat is a reminder to bring or be mindful of the mosquito repellent that is kept just inside the screen porch door. There have heretofore not been many mosquitoes in evidence, but those lurking about the Island have developed stealth capability. More alarming... the Caretaker seems to get bit once almost every day... during the day!

All visitors to the Island are requested to report sightings of paw paw fruit to the Caretaker. You may recall that early in the Spring there were an unusually great number of paw paw blossoms and some speculation about what this might mean in terms of actual fruit resulting... especially since the last few years have seen so little fruit produced in the area despite the constant increase in the numbers of trees. Paw paw trees are not tasty to deer, and thus is one of the few species whose saplings survive the incredible over-population of deer that is killing the forests gradually by eating all new growth tree saplings that are six feet and smaller. The paw paw is prolific on the up-river end of the Island despite being found suitable for consumption by beaver. But where is the fruit? Examples of paw paw fruit can be seen now as one walks beneath the large paw paw tree long that hangs over the up-Island path in "outdoor room" number four.

Tuesday -- August 14, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.4     Water Temperature: 79

Disaster was averted as staff has learned through painful experience to unplug computer equipment at the sound of thunder. So when the lightning struck and blue sparks shot out of the wall plug, all that was lost was the Island's electricity. Fortunately, the phone system has its own current, so we were able to call the Pepco "emergency power out reporting line" to make a report. Of course... we got an automated recording system asking that we enter our telephone or account number. Now think about this... all the phones except the upstairs phone are cordless and thus to work require that stuff that goes away when the lights go off... and the upstairs phone has an old fashioned dial... and the bills with the account number go somewhere else... and besides, what would a person do had it been dark instead of merely dusk and with the lights off been unable to read any account number if one had been at hand. Club Captain John Matthews called to check on us... bless his heart... and offered to call the extreme emergency number for "lines down"... but although he managed to speak to a human... he was told that according to their records the Club and the Island do not exist... so how could they help? What? Did they forget that they had to string a new line down here only two years ago? OK... now we know we have to start all over at the bottom and call customer service. Imagine our surprise to be told: "Gosh... we would like to help you... but we have no record of any customer with that name... or at that address... or with that telephone number." Now the nagging thought begins... that if we do succeed in finding someone who can help with our problem... will it cause someone to discover that the billing department has been looking for the "Lost Club" to pay a ten year old bill. Does the Caretaker care?? Certainly not!! The Caretaker has morphed into a far more important role: that of Husband-Whose-Wife-Lost-Power-While-Cooking-Dinner. Again the system is attacked... how to prove that we exist? Along the way staff start to grumble about "What has this country come to." When we lived in Easten Europe one went through the motions without any expectation anything would happen... unless you knew the right person to bribe. But this night we thought it was all so cruel... after all... in America one has expectations things will be fixed. At one point we even talked to a customer service representative that had been a meter reader and knew where the Island was. But his "system" was partially down... so he suggested we call back and get someone else. Right... now the problem is not that a thing is broken but that some software is broken... this is certainly a sign of the times. Finally, we got a lady who stayed with us and searched the database. And here is what we learned: the Club is not listed under its legal name "Montgomery Sycamore Island Club" at its legal address on MacArthur Blvd... but there is a Sycamore Island Club in Brookmont, on 100 Sycamore Island Drive. It was not clear if there was a billing address. Customer service was informed that there was no such place and a request was made to change their record of the Club's address to the correct legal address. We were informed that this address in Brookmont had been assigned to the Club by the National Parks and Planning Commission, and could only be changed by them. Anyway... a report was taken of our distress and at approximately 2200 hrs the electricity service was restored. God Bless America!

Wednesday -- August 15, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.8     Water Temperature: 80

Reading about the paw paw project in the Log... yesterday Lisa Kliefoth came down with five small and very energetic helpers to survey the Island and take a paw paw fruit census. The news is bad! When taken to the tree where the Caretaker had been monitoring two growing fruit... only one was still dangling. Worse, a thorough survey determined there were no other paw paw fruit to be seen growing on the Island. Curious to see just what the numbers were... this morning the Caretaker took a casual stroll along the main up-Island path and counted 167 paw paw trees even before reaching the large paw paw grove/stand/thicket towards to top of the Island, where they were too thick to continue. Granted... not all were full grown... but this is an impressive number that should certainly be capable of producing more than two fruit on the Island.

Again this morning the Caretaker considered... with great trepidation... taking on the utility drawer. You all have a drawer like this... where you have put the flashlight, screwdriver, and tape so that you can easily find it. And it also collects anything else that seems important but for which timing or convenience inhibit proper filing, so much so that after a while it is downright difficult to find the flashlight, screwdriver, or tape without taking most of the contents out while the drawer is rifled through. One day... and in our house this seems to occur about every three months... the utility drawer becomes so full it is difficult to open. Then ensues a month of denial... until it becomes near impossible to open... and finally must be taken out and examined next to the garbage can... where a third is thrown out, a third is stashed somewhere else, and a third is left in... like starter yeast to make it grow again.

Thursday -- August 16, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.0     Water Temperature: 82

The Caretaker has few delights like encountering a chair that has been moved and set out somewhere on the Island by some mysterious person that seems precisely located for some purpose as yet unknown but potentially discoverable. Who can resist sitting in such a chair and trying to intuit the purpose for its precise location? Is there some direction for which the line of sight might reveal some hidden perspective, as in a great Japanese garden? Was there an angle for which some wildlife observation was just right... and hence the purpose ephemeral because connected to some moment in time? Did some personal epiphany occur, which is re-creatable for anyone able to decipher the elements of time and space and location in a certain way? What thought bubbles were loosed upon the wind from this place... timeless in importance when created... but as fragile as soap bubbles and as quickly forgotten?

Hence each chair is a game waiting to be played... and a good example can be had from the chaise lounge often set up by Sunday's substitute caretakers near the ferry. Each substitute caretaker has a personal reason for the nuances of location. In some cases the position is aligned to afford a clear line of sight through the trees to the towpath ferry landing. In others the position allows the individual to cleverly see the ferry landing while remaining hidden. But whether moved one foot or many... the location is different for every individual... and thus the Monday Morning Caretaker always makes a pilgrimage to the chaise lounge for the treat of discovery.

Friday -- August 17, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.7     Water Temperature: 81

Eureka!!! Alert!!! The minnows and/or baby fish have returned or appeared and can be seen now in great numbers at the Captain's float for the first time this year. Children of all ages should bring bread or other goodies to feed them. Fishing from the float will now be considered bad manners. And fisherpersons... despite rising until yesterday... the river is not only falling but also seeming to clear up quickly... unusual so soon on the falling cycle. Take heart!

The lawn on the Island offers some long views that are enhanced this time of year with yellow flowers along the borders that stand out at a distance. Primarily green-headed coneflowers (rudbeckia laciniata), these towering sunflower-like daisies are closely related to the black-eyed Susan. They are soon to be followed by the yellow wingstem (actinomeris alterniflora), easily identified by the flaps or "wings" on the stems. Also tucked about the Island this year and starting to peek out are more than the usual numbers of swamp rose-mallow (hibiscus palustris), whose large, hollyhock-like bloom is unmistakable. But the favorite of most Islanders seems to be the scarlet cardinal-flower (lobelia cardinalis), who are massed in their usual bed at the top of the Island, but have also spread all about the Island and can be seen this year in the most unusual places. The late summer color show is on... so Members... do not miss it.

Monday -- August 20, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.2     Water Temperature: 79

The recent rains have done little to the river except to cloud and cool the water. And make the grass grow! Usually by this time of year the Island is drying out and the foliage is no longer crowding the Island paths. Not this year! The foliage is so tall and lush that still the Island paths are maze-like, and it is difficult to tell or see from what direction which fragrance comes.

Courtesy of Swimming Supervisor John Krasny, there are now life rings on both the swimming dock and the swimming float... and new life rings bedeck the Island ferry. A new life ring had been purchased and placed on the swimming float... but always managed to mysteriously return to the swimming dock and get tied up. Now there are enough to cover all the bases. Years ago there had been life rings on the swimming float... but they were removed because the kids got into the habit of playing and throwing them at each other... so this is also an experiment to investigate improved kid manners. Hanging from the swimming area tree there is also a long boat hook pole to extend to anyone in trouble.

Tuesday -- August 21, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.2     Water Temperature: 78

An optimistic Kent Halstead came down to fish yesterday but returned to report that he "maybe got a nibble". Water clarity is still a problem and the river continues to stay above the three foot level at the Little Falls gauge... uncommon for this time of year when we should be experiencing late summer lows. A very minor rise of a half-foot is making its way down the main stem Potomac. It is at Paw Paw this morning and will reach Hancock tomorrow morning. Fisherpersons stay tuned.

Two Members have now commented upon the path from the wooden walkway to the Captain's float... how established and wide it has become. The recent heavy rains have worn and eaten into it a bit as the runoff has rushed along the fastest and shortest route to the river. Folks seldom recall that the wonderful sitting float in the river is only three summers old, as it has become such a popular Island fixture, and the path is thus something that now stands out as a new thing to older Members. Previously, the only well-trodden path wound around the Clubhouse on the way to the swimming area. The path is thus a testament both to John Matthew's inspired idea to construct a sitting float that has now become the most popular destination on the Island... and to how quickly great changes are incorporated into commonplace fixtures... even the Caretaker has difficulty remembering what the Island was like without the Captain's float... such a short time ago.

Wednesday -- August 22, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.0     Water Temperature: 78

Yesterday afternoon the Island was the scene for a shoot by a 60 Minutes camera crew doing a program about Member Fuller Torrey. Dr. Torrey is a renowned expert on schizophrenia and will be featured in a 60 Minutes segment this fall. The filming concentrated on his favorite leisure pastime... kayaking... and some wonderful location and water shots will be seen that are familiar to Members. Producer Steve Reiner has vouchsafed that the Club would not be identified.

Visitors to the Island can now see flowering Virginia knotweed (tovara virginians), a member of the buckwheat family. The small, white flowers alternate on slender stems, and appear for all the world like miniature bishops miters. When first pointed out to the Caretaker they were called "bishops hat" for this reason, but the field guides ascribe this name to a different species.

Another delightful discovery this year is that of a large clump of lizards-tail, or water dragon (saururus cernuus) growing in the shallow river water on the Virginia side of the Island, just downriver from the "second" fallen sycamore tree. This large and handsome plant could be seen in abundance growing in the swampy conditions of the drained canal before the canal was repaired and refilled, but seems out of place in a rising and falling river habitat.

Thursday -- August 23, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.1     Water Temperature: 79

When the large maple tree overhanging the Clubhouse was cut down this spring, the Caretaker had noted with interest when one of the crew had cut a piece of sassafras tree root and chewed on it, claiming it was a natural stimulant. The Caretaker could also remember being told something about this as a Boy Scout back in the mists of time... something to do with Indians chewing the root. So finally... yesterday... in lieu of coffee... the Caretaker cut some root from one of the Island's own sassafras trees and chewed... to see what would happen. The root is very aromatic and it is easy to smell the connection with root beer. When chewing seemed not to make the Caretaker sit any straighter in his chair... the root was boiled for a tea. Sweetened with sugar, the tea was actually tasty. Those of us of the Forrest Gump generation can remember that the cowboy with the white hat always walked into the saloon and ordered sarsaparilla... and although Webster no longer defines just what it was... surely it was a precursor to root beer... itself allegedly a stimulant. Funny how these drinks start out... remember, coca cola originally had the same ingredient people now take cocaine for. As to the tea... yes... there was a small lift and energy increase... but not so much as to deter the Caretaker from taking "real" drugs... a cup of coffee... an hour later.

Yesterday, young Owen Berliner's foot found a nail head standing up on the swimming dock. After said bleeding foot was peroxided and covered, the Caretaker took a hammer to the swimming dock and beat upon all likely suspect nail heads. There were not many... but the serious look at the weathered wooden decking occasioned by this incident was enough for staff to recommend that before next season, the swimming dock either be re-covered or treated with some form of coating such that there are no rough edges from either nail heads or splinters.

Friday -- August 24, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.4     Water Temperature: 77

The Caretaker has had a fascination with the spiders that live in the middle of the river on the ferry rope. Many of you have noted his attempt to preserve the big web where the support rope and the ferry rope come together close enough and are connected in such a way as to make a perfect place for a spinner. Usually, however, the Ferryman is forgetful or looking the wrong way and talking or whatever and thus the poor spiders always suffer accordingly and are endlessly about their Sisyphean task of weaving new webs. Frequently they fall off of the rope and walk all over the Ferryman until they can get onto the ferry railing or deck. Just this morning the Caretaker noted with something like parental pride that there were in fact 4 separate webs at the middle juncture of the ferry rope over the river. Life... is always coming at you... one minute you are having a beautiful day... and the next a ferry passenger says something like "Wow... I've never seen so many brown recluse spiders together."

After dark last night there was a sustained, pounding rain that went on and on.... so heavy we were without TV reception for over 30 minutes. And then... sounds of loud and drunken partying came from the rope swing until after midnight. Two nights ago a visitor came down from the MacArthur parking lot to say it was almost full of teenagers assembling with coolers and grills... and although we saw them when they later trekked to the rope swing, we heard not a word. Of course... it is not the number of folks that make a loud party but the amount of alcohol. The rope for the swing was replaced two days after the authorities took it down... and while the almost everynight partying continues unabated... it is only every so often the noise is so loud as to keep us awake. The real issue is the gross numbers of continuing parties and people and how long it can go on before something foolish and bad will happen.

Saturday -- August 25, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.1     Water Temperature: 78

Botanist Kathy Bilton visited the Island yesterday and brought for Members a green 25-page booklet she had made up entitled "Some of the Plants of Sycamore Island." Some of the pages are from "The Flora of West Virginia" by Strasbaugh and Core, but the best part is where it is written on the title page:" Begun August 2001," thus the hope more pages will follow. This will be left upstairs in the Clubhouse library when the Caretaker has finished digesting it... maybe next year. Kathy was also able to confirm yesterday that what looked like Bishop's hat was in fact Virginia knotweed, so when just this morning a Member pointed to this plant, the Caretaker was able to puff up his chest and respond knowingly.

The Caretaker must report an inaccuracy in the Log for last Thursday... when mentioning that "saspirilla" was not in Webster. In fact... the correct spelling is "sarsaparilla". When wondering why spell-check did not catch this and then reading back... it was evident that spell-check did in fact catch it but that the human involved did not catch that spell-check had automatically corrected the spelling. Ahhh... software!

Furthermore... the Caretaker was foolish enough to prattle on about root beer and "saspirilla" without consulting with the Caretaker's Wife, an amateur herbalist, who was quick to set him straight. So... for those of you who might want to know... sarsaparilla is a tropical woody vine that only grows as far north as Mexico. Sarsaparilla root beer is brewed with two ounces of sarsaparilla root, sassafras root bark, and wintergreen herb... with a little tansy and brewing yeast... and a pint of molasses. The herbs are covered with water and simmered 45 minutes, and after straining the molasses is added. When cool, add teaspoon of brewer's yeast and let set for 2 hours. Then add 2 gallons of lukewarm water. It should be "worked" in 5-6 hours and can be bottled or capped and then kept in a cool place.

Monday -- August 27, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.9     Water Temperature: 80

It was a bleary morning around here... the Caretaker's Wife had slept on the couch and everyone had been up late after we had been awakened by critter sounds in the bedroom wall. There were scurrying and gnawing sounds and one could only wonder what in the world they could be chewing on in there (hopefully, not wiring insulation)... and why whatever was tasty had to be in a bedroom wall instead of some other. The cats were lectured regarding their responsibility in these matters, and actually feigned interest for a while, but neither of them showed any inclination to go outside. Mind you... it was not a loud sound... and had it been a noisy fan or partying teens at the rope swing there would have been no problem getting back to sleep. But there is something about such gnawing sounds in the wall that activates primitive emotions... especially when the last time such sounds were heard in the walls it turned out to be rats.

It was two years ago that we had this same problem. It was just after we discovered that the unusually cute squirrel eating fallen birdseed on top of the air conditioner had a most un-squirrel like tail. And instead of clawing up the side of the walls to get close to the bird feeder, these new rodents seemed to trot up vertical walls effortlessly. These were no slant-headed and squinty-eyed rats like some cartoon, but actually handsome critters... we thought cuter than the island squirrels... and they seemed cheerful and almost tame in disposition... and had they just stayed out of the walls at night we could have all lived in harmony. But a sleepy and cranky Caretaker's Wife is less eager to cross the water and climb the hill early in the morning in order to work and support the Caretaker in the style to which he would like to become accustomed, so drastic measures had to be considered. And here we are again.

Now, if we had farm cats or country cats this would not be a problem... and the Caretaker would not be so annoyed with the cats because they would "do the right thing" so he would not have to blacken his karma by killing. The Caretaker has advanced the argument in the family councils that one difference between city cats and country cats is the amount of dinner served... and that if less cat food were served the rat problem might go away. But the Caretaker's Wife always votes with the cats in such councils, and everyone is then offended and grumpy that such things were even discussed. Drastic measures can be easily considered if the option is living with grumpy cats... et al.

Tuesday -- August 28, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.9     Water Temperature: 81

The Island will be the site of a daylong teacher's meeting by the staff of the Horace Mann School.

Rumours have been circulating that there are Members who are considering acquiring and making available things such as Sycamore Island decals, patches, T-shirts, baseball caps, and/or bumper stickers. This is still all in the talky stage, but anyone wishing to encourage such goings on should e-mail the Caretaker and said mail will be forwarded to the appropriate Members.

Wednesday -- August 29, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.9     Water Temperature: 81

No report today as all efforts are bent to celebrate a special birthday of the Caretaker's Wife. However, a passing muse contributed this offering:

I thought of how it all began
And what she meant to me,

And wondered: was it merely luck
Or maybe destiny,

That I should be so late in life
When finding my Lady Love?

The happenstance was just too much
Without a nod from those above.

And now this younger mate of mine
Who makes me smile and warms my bed

Has reached the centenary divide
That I once crossed with so much dread.

She acts as though it were nothing more
Than another day in the here and now,

Yet this is such a milestone that
To Father Time we needs must bow,

And acknowledge to him our grateful thanks
To be allowed to come so far,

For we would not still tread this path
Without a guiding hand and star.

But even that star is not enough
To beckon our trip onward in time,

For the reward is in the sharing
And my soul mate's hand in mine.

So look not back to where we've been,
The trail so long with heavy load,

Each step ahead the trail is fresh:
Come stride with me tomorrow's road.


Thursday -- August 30, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.9     Water Temperature: 81

The river is now as clear as it has been all year, and Harry Schwartz reports that the fish are finally jumping in the same numbers as in yesteryears, so fisherpersons take note. About time you say.

The late autumn pageant of colors continues. The Island's ironweed (Veronica fasciculata) is bursting into its red-purple and violet-blue, especially at the top of the Island. The flat-topped clusters of the thoroughworts are everywhere starting to show white, on the Island primarily the white snakeroot ((Eupatorium rugosum), although there is another unidentified type with lance-like leaves.

This morning a search and destroy mission was mounted on stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) along the Island paths. However, several stands were not spot-sprayed because of the multitude of large, singular, caterpillar eggs that looked like monarch butterfly eggs. There is also a lot of harmless false nettle, or bog hemp (Boekmeria cylindrica) about the Island. The leaves are usually more ovate and the flower clusters more compact than the stinging kind. See the Caretaker if there are any questions.

Friday -- August 31, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.9     Water Temperature: 81

ALERT... ALERT... George Malusky and friend came down at 0630 hrs for some early morning fishing and reported back that the river has finally returned to normal for fishing purposes. The water is still cloudy but the fish can see well enough to strike and are hungry and aggressive. Also, very big large mouth bass were seen... indicating that the fish ladder is a success.

A great thing about the Log is the ability to look back in time when folks wonder aloud about things being "different from last year." Interesting things that were not different last August include:

... A similar wet weather pattern... the river was unseasonably high, closing the Island once... clouds of sediment and effluent in the river were reported early in the month;
... There were problems with intruders, the rope swing, and a canoe was stolen;
... Swain's Boathouse was going out of business because of the high cost of liability insurance, and this year Swain's Boathouse is still going out of business... it really is their last year;
... Last August we also were worrying about and fixing electrical problems in the Clubhouse;

Interesting things that were different last August include:

... Deformed frogs were seen on the Island;
... The sweet autumn clematis flowered three weeks earlier;
... Last year by 21 Aug unseasonably cool nights had diminished the spider webs... this year they are barely getting started;
... Also by this date the river water had cleared so much that visiting the Captain's float was like going to an aquarium;
... By 23 Aug we had seen the first falling leaves;

Interesting or strange things of note last August include:

... The Island phone line shorted out against a tree during a lightning storm and started a fire... it was eleven days before another line could be brought down to the Island and phone service restored;
... Lightning also blew out the lights on the towpath... literally blowing the wiring into hundreds of pieces;
... Alison Thresher disappeared near here and the towpath was searched all month for her body;
... The kitchen cabinets for the new Caretaker's addition were delivered and put out on the porch were they still sit, over a year later.