Shawnee News Star Sunday Article   August 27th Becky Emerson Carlberg The past week was full of excitement.   I suspect the large black ants have somehow been excavating the interior of the cat perches, leaving piles of fluff, called frass, between the storm door and the outside door.   Black carpenter ants work at night, but all [...]

Shawnee News Star Sunday Article   August 27th

Evening sunlight beams are called Crepuscular rays

Becky Emerson Carlberg

The past week was full of excitement.   I suspect the large black ants have somehow been excavating the interior of the cat perches, leaving piles of fluff, called frass, between the storm door and the outside door.   Black carpenter ants work at night, but all is not copasetic on the ant front.   No living ants are visible around the door each morning, but a few ant carcasses remain, often dismembered.   Some workers have strong mandibles and these ants can bite.   They send out a shot of formic acid to further aggravate the problem.   Either the ants are quite testy and aggressive or are having turf wars.

In nature carpenter ants create channels in soft moist wood of some trees searching for insects and plants.   They are considered forest decomposers as they chew away to make nest cavities.   This does not sound like a good plan if these guys are foraging at my doorstep and may have invaded some of the outdoor wood of the house.   Boric acid, pyrethrin, and diatomaceous earth are all good remedies that take care of ant nests and discourage future activities.   Time for action before the ants bring down the side of the house Tornado Bob attempted to do but failed.

Did you see the partial eclipse?   I peered through my cereal box camera obscura for the first part of the eclipse.   The Cheerios box was converted into a peep-hole type camera, with the inside bottom covered in white paper and two squares cut from each end of the top.   One square was covered in foil and a pin punctured the center, leaving a small round hole.   You aimed the box in the opposite direction of the sun and tilted it to allow the sun's rays to enter through the pin hole.   The other hole was for viewing the eclipse now projected onto the white bottom.   Clever idea.

It was thought possibly Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 BCE) mused 'Why is it that an eclipse of the sun, if one looks at it through a sieve or through leaves, such as a plane-tree (sycamore type) or other broadleaved tree, or if one joins the fingers of one hand over the fingers of the other, the rays are crescent-shaped where they reach the earth?   Is it the same reason as that when light shines through a rectangular peep-hole, it appears circular in the form of a cone?'   Aristotle never came up with an answer, but Italian mathematician and astronomer Francesco Maurolico in 1521 concluded the circular shapes on the ground were pinhole images of the sun and thus became crescent-shaped during an eclipse.

Many of the OBU Student volunteers at the JPG

The eclipse tailed the Oklahoma Baptist University student community service morning.   Before 9 am, twenty people had assembled at the Japanese Peace Garden (JPG.)   Five groups were spread out across the large garden and work commenced.   Despite the fact all the students brought water, and water was available, the hot humid work took its toll on a few people.   One student had to rest and cool off in shade with a throbbing headache.   A master gardener took to a bench in the teahouse feeling light headed and dizzy.   We took an extended break about halfway through the morning for all to recharge their batteries.   The new students collected in the cool teahouse, many introduced themselves to each other and they all talked about the up and coming semester.   When 11:30 am came, two small buses arrived to pick up the students and whisk them back to OBU for lunch.   The Japanese Peace Garden looks grand.

The other casualty of the JPG workday was my right knee.   While taking the cross country path to the Zen Garden, my feet got tangled up in two foot tall Dallisgrass (Paspalum dilatatum).   Dallisgrass is a difficult to control perennial turfgrass that grows in clumps and spreads by rhizomes (modified underground stems that send out roots and shoots.)   The native of South America entered the USA in the late 1800s.   Let's all thank A.T. Dallis, the Georgia farmer who thought it would be a dandy grass for pastures. The hardy big green monster, as Neil Perry wrote in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, thrives on being cut short.   The tough seedheads twirl with the mowing blades and often survive intact, popping back up proud and tall.   Every on-line site about Dallisgrass approaches it from an eradication point of view.

Too bad Dallisgrass enjoys living in the JPG.   After my feet became wrapped in the seedheads, I launched headfirst into the Kidney Garden taking a bulls-eye on the three small boulders.   Some fancy footwork prevented me from a nasty fall, but both my knees jammed, the right taking the brunt of the impact.   Nothing stopped me from watching the eclipse.

The JPG gardening stint ended as the eclipse started.   I drove home and stood outside in the dimming light and crescent shaped shadows to watch the shadow cross the sun (using my special solar sunglasses and peep-hole camera.)  When the maximum partial eclipse had passed, I hobbled inside and turned on the television.     Propping up my foot and wrapping the knee in ice, I first saw kids and adults at Science Museum Oklahoma with their ISO 12312-2 eclipse glasses and telescopes fitted with solar filters.   From Oklahoma the televised celestial event traveled from one large city to another directly under the umbra (total eclipse.) In Nashville the clouds were thick and never parted to allow viewing.   Charleston, S. C. was socked in with clouds, but at the last 10 seconds the sky opened and there was the sun cloaked in shadow.   The longest eclipse time was at Columbia, S.C. lasting 2 minutes and 30 seconds.   Wherever the eclipse occurred, the temperature dropped.

Eclipse Shadows

Next total eclipse will be April 8th 2024.   Mark your calendars.   This one will cross southeast Oklahoma.  I am ready.