If you’ve lived in Cincinnati for any amount of time, the name Fernald likely evokes a knee-jerk negative reaction as someplace you’d rather stay far away from. From 1951 to 1989 Fernald, a short drive outside the city of Cincinnati, produced high quality uranium metal for the U.S. weapons program.
The general public paid little attention to what was going on at the 1050 acre site inside a secured fence line until 1984 when the Department of Energy (DOE) “reported that nearly 300 pounds of enriched uranium oxide had been released to the environment. . .That same year, DOE also reported that in 1981, three off-property wells south of the site were contaminated with uranium. The impact of nearly four decades of uranium metal production suddenly became the center of public controversy.” (Fernald Secrecy)
Negative news about Fernald was in the local paper headlines during the 1980s and early 1990s. In 1984 local residents filed a class action lawsuit for emotional distress and decreased property values. In 1989 the DOE paid $78 million dollars in settlement fees to individuals and industries within a five-mile radius of the Fernald site.
Fernald gained national and international publicity in 1986 because of the venting of two waste storage silos and a crack in the pilot plant vessel.
“In 1988, two nearby camps for children closed, citing concerns about Fernald and attributing reduced attendance to the negative publicity.” (Fernald Secrecy)
A local joke sprang up in Cincinnati about being able to see a “green glow” if you were driving near Fernald at night.
“Approximately 136 acres in the center of the site were used in the actual production process; the remaining acreage included administration facilities, laboratories, waste storage areas, and buffer land. The production area contained 10 primary plants, each with a specific mission to support the uranium metal production process.” (Fernald Secrecy)
“In 1989, after 37 years of operations to support the U.S. weapons program, site management shut down uranium metal production to concentrate on environmental compliance, waste management and remediation.” (About Fernald)
In 1992 the cleanup of Fernald was begun.
The cleanup included the following projects (the links take you to the Fernald website where you can see photos and project information):
Silos 1 and 2 – 8,900 cubic yards of low-level radioactive, radium bearing waste
Silo 3 – 5,100 cubic yards of low-level radioactive waste
Waste Pits – 790,000 tons of low-level radioactive waste
Soil and Disposal Facility – 2.2 million cubic yards of contaminated soil
Building Decontamination and Demolition – 223 buildings and structures
Aquifer Restoration – 170 acres of the Great Miami Aquifer
Waste Management –2.5 billion pounds of waste
Nuclear Material Disposition Project – 31 million net pounds of uranium product
You can see a slide-over photo of the Fernald production facility and the Fernald nature preserve plan here.
The good news is that today Fernald is a uranium-free nature preserve with unique sustainable site solutions that you can read about here. “The ecological restoration is transforming the site into a haven for wildlife. Over 170 varieties of birds including waterfowl, shorebirds, and songbirds have been observed.” (Fernald)
Hopefully with enough time, I will think of Fernald only as the beautiful serene healed prairie land that it is now and it will evoke only memories of swaying golden fields, flittering monarch butterlies, and a great blue heron on the wing.
Sometimes good things just come your way.
When Mark and I were at the Balloon Glow in July and I was standing there juggling my tripod and my camera trying to get a good shot or two, a woman standing beside me, with an awesome camera, struck up a conversation. She invited me to the West Chester Photo Club which happens to meet just a few miles from our home.
Although I haven’t made it to a meeting as the date conflicts with my writing group, I have been able to participate in a fun weekly event called Scoot and Shoot. Every Thursday morning club members who are so inclined visit a nearby site to photograph. The photo session is followed by lunch. How could I resist?
A couple of weeks ago I went, along with three others, to Island Park in Dayton, Ohio. This was a blast from the past for me. I grew up in Dayton and remember participating in an event at the shell-shaped stage there.
Island Park is an oasis of shade trees, flowering plants, and interesting wildlife surrounded by water where the Stillwater River flows into the Great Miami just a few miles north of Dayton’s downtown area.
In the late 19th century, this piece of land was known as the White City Amusement Park and had a dance pavilion, amusement rides, canoe lockers, refreshment stand, and other recreation features. By 1907, the park had fallen into disrepair.
The City of Dayton first leased and then bought the property and has turned it into a MetroPark that “contains outstanding specimen trees of floodplain forests such as sycamore, cottonwood, burr, oak, American Elm and many others.” (Island Park)
“Many migratory birds and animals such as beavers and softshell turtles are commonly seen here.” (Island Park)
Scoot and shoot provides members with not only companionship, but also a sense of security as we visit places where we might otherwise not be comfortable going alone. We all stayed loosely connected in the park, while going our own separate ways and taking our time. I was interested in reflections,
and plant and animal wildlife, as you might have guessed.
I was debating on how to best get a shot of the beautiful willow trees along the water’s edge when I noticed that Jo-Ann and Harry both were intently focused on something.
I love Blue Herons.
And this little guy strolled across the river bank and back,
a little too far away for the scope of my camera.
But patience paid off,
and he came down closer to the river.
I don’t know whether he was hungry and just trying to fish,
or was basking in his moment of fame.
I distinctly recall the first time once of these little hummers buzzed past me. I jerked back a step and made myself small, thinking it was a very large bee, or hornet, or at least an immense, undesirable flying insect.
Now I watch for, and celebrate, these little charmers as they dart about my yard from the Mandevilla to the Butterfly Bush to sip the nectar.
You are always welcome here tiny bird.
I was driving home from my writer’s group meeting just before dark last night. When I started down the private drive that runs in front of our house, I noticed a quick movement in the neighbor’s grass to my right. Two fawns were lying, curled up, in the grass near the drive and a buck stood above them. I immediately slowed the car to a crawl and crept to the far side of the drive so as not to threaten them. I made my way into the driveway that leads to our house at a snail’s pace while keeping my eyes on the buck and the fawns, who had stood up. The three did not leave their spots. Even as I got into the house and peered out the window as the night darkened, I could still see them standing there. Then the other neighbor on our drive drove down a few minutes behind me and the deer fled into the woods.
It seemed like such a sad scene to me. The buck trying to bed the fawns down for a rest, and the three of them being threatened and running away. Where is the doe?
If there is anything I am learning from watching nature, as I have been privileged to do while living here in our house bordered by woods, it’s this: Ultimately we have to fend for ourselves. Others may try to help us, and give us a lending hand. But in this great design of life on this planet, mostly we are on our own. And conversely, although we may desire to, or even attempt to, help others, largely there is little we can do. Like us, mostly they are on their own with their trials, tribulations, pain, and suffering.
I would love to reunite the doe with her fawns, and maybe one day soon I’ll see them together again . . . or maybe she’s lying dead in a ditch somewhere. In any case there is absolutely nothing I can do.
You loyal readers know that I often struggle with my dad’s situation as he gradually loses his abilities to do almost everything because of his Alzheimer’s. I visit. I try to cheer him up. I try to give him something “fun” or interesting to do. But ultimately the hell he is living is his own battle to fight and endure. I can’t do it for him. I can’t even help him carry the load for any significant amount of time.
Like the people in the stories we see on the news who lost their homes to wildfires or tsunamis, who’ve lost their kids to abductors, who’ve lost their children or spouses or other friends and loved ones to an irrational act of violence in a movie theater, there’s very little I can do.
I can send money, prayers, good wishes. I can ladle soup in soup kitchens. I can do a little here and there. But I can’t take away someone else’s suffering. At best, I can only apply band-aids.
When it comes down to it, we are all on our own.
The strength we require ultimately has to be found within.
I looked out my kitchen window yesterday at dusk and spotted a deer and a fawn near the creek by our stone patio.
I’ve been watching for the doe with the injured leg, and thought this might be her. So I was also looking for the second fawn that Mark has been seeing with our doe.
The adult and the fawn wandered down the creek bank (and are visible in the background) when this little frisky guy showed up. This fawn appears to be a bit larger than the other one, and much more energetic. I would bet 10 bucks, no pun intended, that this is the little fawn I saw strolling alone down our drive last month.
Here was the surprise. The adult was a buck, not our doe. I was unsettled by this and worried that something has happened to our lame doe. I googled buck and fawns to see if the father sometimes takes care of the babies to give the mother a break, but couldn’t find any information. In fact, I found the opposite: bucks usually do not hang around the does and fawns. What about Bambi? His father stayed in the picture when Bambi’s mother died, didn’t he?
I don’t know if this is the fawns’ father or Uncle Dan, but he clearly was in charge of the fawns for the evening.
I was trying to take good photos through the kitchen window, using my 300mm lens and a high ISO because of the low light conditions. But the fawns were frolicking all around like two young children at a park in the early spring. Most of the pictures of them are a blur of brown.
This little one, trying to keep up with her brother, spun around this tree, miscalculating a bit. She ran right into it and then fell down. When she stood back up she didn’t move for a while. I think she was stunned.
This is completely endearing: the buck, seeing what happened, walked over to the little fawn, undoubtedly to make sure she was okay.
I just love watching these animals interact.
Finally, a moment when all three are standing still.
And another, although the buck is moving his head to prune our plants. Because of his apparent preference for this delicacy I think he may be the buck I saw several weeks ago. I sure hope the mother of these two little darlings is okay.
I got out my iPhone and started taking a video. The frisky little guy runs off. The little follower chases after. The big buck watches where they go, thinks,”Dang, they’re not coming back,” and lopes after them.
There’s wild animals in those them flowers.
I think I figured out this morning why the lame doe that frequents our yard bothers me so much. No one likes to see an animal suffer, and in particular, no one likes to see a juvenile animal suffer. If the lame doe has a life-threatening disease, her fawn will be orphaned.
But that’s not the whole reason it bothers me so much.
No one likes to see a person suffer, and in particular, no one likes to see a juvenile person suffer. But most, if not all, of us have and do all the time. I have permanently imprinted on my mind the women, young mothers, I knew who either were disabled or died leaving behind small children:
Michelle, mother of a one-year-old daughter, who had a severe stroke and was in a coma for weeks with a long road of rehabilitation ahead of her
Joann, mother of three children in grades K – 3, who was diagnosed with liver cancer and died about a year later
Candy, mother of 4 or 5 children and grandmother of a one-year-old, who was diagnosed with breast cancer and died after several years of treatment.
Irene, mother of kids in high school, who got ALS and slowly lost all of her abilities to function and then died.
I suspect you could make a list of your own. It’s a very tragic thing when a child’s mother dies.
We understand at some level because there is a bond of motherhood that connects women of all sizes, shapes, colors and ages. Some things are universal, and motherhood is one of those things.
I realized this morning that the bond of motherhood, for me, extends beyond human beings, to all creatures, from the tireless bird who makes continued flights to and from the nest to feed her babies, to the deer who teaches her fawn how to find food and stay safe.
This morning as I was walking Arthur at the VOA, I saw a young mother with a little daughter who looked to be about three years old. The girl had shoulder length dark brown wavy hair and was wearing capri-length jeans with a pink jacket. The mother was using a walker. The little girl was skipping and hopping ahead of her mother and then back. The mother trudged on. I don’t know her story, and I have no idea what her prognosis is. I could only tell that she struggled to walk.
I hope the mother is okay.
Whether she’s got a temporary setback, or a permanent disability, or a progressive fatal disease, the mother is living her life and taking her daughter to the park.
Just like the doe.
I’ve been looking for fawns. The past two summers fawns started showing up in our yard at the end of May. I saw newborns curled in the neighbor’s grass, and curious little toddlers eying my garden. But June arrived and no new fawns.
I did see a lonesome doe frequenting our yard. I noticed she walked with a slight limp and at first I thought perhaps she was a tired mother who had just given birth. One evening at dusk, I was sitting on our second-story screened in porch that looks out over the yard and into the trees when movement from the woods caught my eye. The lone doe stepped into the yard, bent her front legs and lied down beside the treeline. She stayed for a while simply resting, then after dark, got up and walked away.
I saw her again on a morning and I could see that she had a definite limp and a big bump on the bottom of one of her front legs. I don’t know whether she injured her leg, or is sick in some way. I also don’t know what I can possibly do for her outside of allowing her access to the food in our yard without fear of my intrusion.
The Young Buck
Mark mentioned he saw a buck in our yard. That was a surprise because we rarely see bucks here.
But sure enough, the next day I thought I was watching the doe at the base of our yard when Mark said, “That’s the buck.” It was a young buck with fuzzy antlers enjoying the plants in our yard down by the stone patio.
Sunday night at dusk Mark was sitting in the study when he called out to me to come quickly. A little spotted fawn was meandering up the road in front of our house, out for a bit of a stroll, it appeared, no adult in sight. “Oh no. I hope it’s not lost,” I said. Eventually it scampered up into the woods across the road. “I wonder if that is the lame doe’s baby,” I worried.
The next day my worries were confirmed when I saw the lame doe and the fawn together. They like to cross the road from the woods, go up into our woodland garden where they can enjoy a variety of items, and then wander down through the trees to the creek and woods beyond. (Please forgive the poor photo quality, it was low-light conditions, and I didn’t want to scare them by leaving the house.)
I sure hope the doe is okay.
Just now I heard Mark open the garage door and start his truck to leave. At the same time I saw the doe, followed by the fawn, trying to cross the road to our yard. They both turned and ran back into the woods. I hope they come back soon.
I wonder if the doe and the young buck could be the fawns another doe brought through here last year, or if it is the same fawn who uses our land as a nursery.
My laptop’s desktop is crowded with folders of bird photos. I started my lifetime bird list several months ago, and then fell way behind in posting the photos. I hope to catch up little by little in the coming weeks.
One of my folders I titled “Ducks in a tree.”
I first saw ducks in the trees in March of 2010, our first spring in this house. I assumed they were Mallard ducks, and the poor quality photo I managed to take did little to discount that theory.
I saw the ducks in the trees again this year and I was going to put together a post with recent Mallard duck photos from my walks at the Voice of America park, and my photos of the ducks in the tree that I took about a month ago.
This time I was using my new zoom lens, and the ducks accommodated me by landing in a big Sycamore tree close to our house.
I’m not bird expert, as you’ve probably guessed by now, but even I could tell upon closer examination that this duck with its white markings did not look like the Mallard ducks I had photographed at the VOA.
This explains to some degree why people were surprised that I saw ducks in the trees. I’m not sure Mallard ducks perch in trees.
But Wood Ducks do. And if you look closely at my photo from 2010, you can see the white diagonal marking on the side of the male duck in the tree. I believe this is the same pair who stopped here before, although I’m pretty sure the garden inspectors I posted about in March are Mallard Ducks.
Like most species, the female Wood Duck isn’t nearly as colorful, although she does wear an interesting mask.
I’m wondering what the feet look like, but from here they look like regular webbed duck feet. It’s amazing that they can stand in the trees.
The female moved around a little bit, gradually getting closer to the male.
I love this photo where she flies up to join him.
It almost seemed like they were speaking to each other. And if truth be known, like most other creatures, they must have a way to communicate. I love watching animal pairs, animal parents, and animal families. Amazing.
Here’s one for my lifetime bird list.
Early in the morning, the geese families wake and make their way to the water where the feeding grounds lie. If you look closely, you will see that there are two geese families here: at the back of the group are two adults behind an older gosling. There is another adult near the front beside what looks to be another old gosling, and the babies are on the right front of the group. I suspect there may be a single parent here with the older goslings.
Two adults herd the babies across the water.
The youngest of the goslings are very soft and fuzzy and still look a little yellow. These babies are a little slow to form into a line.
Another family with goslings that are a little older moves into the water. These goslings are a little bigger, a little less yellow, and their necks are a little longer. The adult appears to be organizing the goslings into a single-file line.
He or she is successful. This is the formation we see other geese families use to move across the water: an adult at the front and back with the goslings in line in between. Where are they going?
To the feeding grounds across the lake. We see what looks like two ducks, seven adult geese and three age-groups of goslings hanging out at this spot near the water’s edge. I wonder what happened to the mate of the single adult.
The adults are adept at diving for food.
The oldest of the goslings are large in size and gray in color. They have lost most of their fluffiness.
They are able to find their own food and dive with competence.
The adult floats nearby completely unconcerned.
The middle group of goslings stays close to the adults.
They are hunting for their own food under the watchful eye of the adult.
They have learned how to dive,
and seem to want to practice.
The youngest of the goslings are shepherded between the two adults who gather food for them.
They move as a group from one adult
to the other, seeking food.
They huddle close to the adult when food is brought up. I couldn’t see the adult actually place the food in the babies’ mouths like mother birds do with their young. I’m wondering if the adults drop the food at the top of the water to teach the babies how to gather their own. I may need to look this up. Do you know?
Meanwhile, in the center of the lake, the childless singles, take to flight
and head for the skies.
Geese facts from Take Flight Goose Management, LLC:
Did you know that geese:
- eat more than 1-5 pounds of grass per day
- produce about 1-2 lbs of waste per day
- average about 5 goslings per year
- weigh 20 to 25 pounds
- mate for life and will stay together
throughout the year
- are federally protected by the
Migratory Bird Treaty Act
You can read more about Canada geese at National Geographic.
Pictures taken at the Voice of America Park in Butler County, Ohio.