Archive for November, 2022

Pleistocene Walnuts (Juglans sp.)

November 24, 2022

Walnuts first appear in the fossil record during the Eocene, 45 million years ago. Some scientists believe this is when walnut trees first began to diverge into different species, however, this belief is inconsistent with the results of a recent genetic study. Today, there are 21 species of walnuts, but the genetic evidence suggests they didn’t begin to diverge from a common ancestral species until about 1.5 million years ago. Some scientists believe 1 walnut species occurred from North America across the Bering Land Bridge through Eurasia before Ice Ages began. The genetic study (referenced below) determined species divergence began after Ice Age climate conditions isolated different populations of walnut trees. The authors of this study suggest the 15 known fossil species of walnuts, dating to before the Pleistocene, are actually just 1 species that lived in a multi-continent zone of equable forest. Another odd finding of this study determined there were no population declines in walnut populations during the Last Glacial Maximum when temperate forest zones were replaced in northern latitudes with boreal forest zones dominated by spruce. Also, plant diseases appear to be a greater or equal influence on walnut populations than climate.

The 21 species of walnuts all belong to the Juglans genus within the Juglandaceae family which also includes the hickories. The English walnut (Juglans regia) is the commercially grown walnut found in grocery stores. This species originated in Iran. Ice Ages caused the extirpation of walnut trees in most of Europe. Two species of walnuts are native to eastern North America–the black walnut (J. nigra) and the butternut (J. cinerea). The latter species is in serious decline due to a disease pathogen. Black walnut wood is prized by furniture makers, and the nuts are a little tastier than English walnuts. The shells are much harder to crack. I find it necessary to use a meat mallet on the hard floor…standard nutcrackers won’t work. Black walnuts are not grown commercially on a large scale, and most of the ones found in grocery stores are gathered from the wild. There are also different species of walnuts found in California, Texas, the West Indies, South America, China, and Japan.

I could have gathered bushels of black walnuts at Chickamauga Battlefield Park. I took as many as I could fit in my pockets.
There were many black walnut trees on the edge of the woods here.
This species is prized for its wood used in furniture making, but the nuts are tasty too.
The shells can be used as a brown coloring agent. Removing the husk can stain everything they touch, so use rubber gloves.
Black walnuts are hard to crack. I use a meat mallet and the floor. Before they can be used, they must be seasoned. I left mine in a warm car for 2 weeks.

Walnuts are an excellent source of nutrition. They are 14% carbohydrate, 15% protein, and 63% fat. The nuts are high in B vitamins, minerals, and the healthy kind of fat also found in salmon and other fatty fish.


Bai, Wai-Ning; et. al.

“Demographically Idiosyncratic Responses to Climate change and Rapid Pleistocene Diversification of the Walnut Genu Juglans (Juglandaceae) Revealed by Whole Genome Sequences”

New Phytologist November 2017


6 Restaurant Meals in Charleston South Carolina for $137

November 17, 2022

My wife wanted to stay at the Ansonborough Inn in Charleston, South Carolina for her 60th birthday. I granted her wish, though we made reservations too late to make it in time for her actual birthday. Our vacation was a couple weeks later. We researched restaurants in Charleston to prevent getting suckered into an establishment with what I call are kiss-my-ass prices. I feel insulted, if a restaurant charges $38 for a plate of shrimp and grits–a popular dish in the area. Wholesale cost for a bowl of shrimp and grits is about $4. I looked for soul food restaurants, knowing that they wouldn’t charge extravagant prices for good food, and I found Hanibal’s.

My daughter ate ribs, collard greens, and rice. Yum.
My wife ate grilled shrimp, braised cabbage, and candied yams.
I had crab rice. This is a Gullah dish.

The food at Hanibal’s was very delicious and reasonably priced compared to most restaurants in Charleston. I was interested in trying crab rice, a dish of Gullah cuisine. It was good and kind of tasted like a Chinese stir-fry. My daughter couldn’t finish her collard greens, so I helped myself to about half of hers. I love collard greens, especially the pot liquor. My wife’s shrimp were tasty and fresh, and the braised cabbage was sweet. Other interesting dishes at Hanibal’s include the lima bean plate and okra soup. At the Harris Teeter, they sell local specialties, but the okra soup they sell in a jar is not the same as that at Hanibal’s. The Harris Teeter okra soup is more like a tomato soup with okra. Hanibal’s lists smoked turkey neck bones and pig tails as ingredients in their okra soup. I may have to try making that at home. Most of their clientele seems to be regulars who pick up takeout orders, but Hillary Clinton and Danny Glover have enjoyed eating here.

Photos of celebrities who have enjoyed eating at Hanibal’s adorn the walls.

For lunch the following day we ate at Fleet Land Seafood Restaurant and Bar. This restaurant is very popular, and we had to wait awhile to be seated. My wife had a bacon cheeseburger…there is really not much she can eat in restaurants because she can’t eat spicy or smoked food, and rice makes her choke. My daughter had the fried flounder plate. I had a blackened grouper sandwich. My sandwich was good, but I don’t understand why they put cheese on it. On the way home the following day, we stopped at a Hardees in Allendale, South Carolina (mostly because I had to pee really bad, and there was nothing else), and I wanted either a plain hamburger or a plain hot dog. Every burger on the menu had cheese, and the hot dog had chili on it. I got so irritated; I didn’t order anything for myself. I didn’t want to have to ask for a special order for just a plain burger or dog. Jeez. I waited until we got home an hour later and made myself a peanut butter sandwich, saving $9 anyway. Fast food combo meals are $10, and I just can’t get motivated to spend that kind of money on nothing special.

My daughter’s fried flounder plate.
My wife’s bacon cheeseburger.
My grouper sandwich. My side dish was red rice, a famous side dish served in the region. My home-made red rice is much better. I serve it as a main dish with hamburger meat, lots of bacon, and plenty of onion, bell pepper, celery, and hot sauce.
A yacht sailing in the bay behind the Fleet Land Restaurant and Bar.

The Harris Teeter grocery store was right next to the Inn where we stayed–a great convenience. They have an end cap with local specialties including stone ground grits, Carolina gold rice, bags of benne wafers, local honey, Charleston Chew candy, various barbeque sauces, and sunchoke relish. Benne wafers are thin sesame crackers. I couldn’t bring myself to spend $9 on a small bag of crackers. I have made them from scratch at home, and mine are probably better.

We spent most of the morning and afternoon walking alongside the bay at the White Point public park and through their huge flea market that takes up several blocks of downtown. Women love Charleston because there are lots of shops where they can waste money on shit they don’t need. I saw 1 woman shopping who had a lunatic-like grin on her face as if she was in ecstasy. She kind of scared me a little.

That night, we didn’t feel like eating much after our large lunch, so I went walking to pick up a few slices of pizza for supper. Charleston is usually a pretty good town for girl-watching, and while walking down a narrow dark alley, I saw a tall, beautiful woman. When I got close to her, I realized it was a dude dressed like a lady. She/he seemed a little afraid of me, even though she/he was 12 inches taller than me. Maybe, he/she feared transphobic violence. White Point Park reportedly has tried to restrict gay pride marches. When I learned about this, I joked with my wife that it would be funny, if a wore nothing but a jock strap, pretended to be gay, and marched in a gay pride parade. Don’t get the wrong impression. I’m into making love to old fat ladies because that is what I am used to, and I have no desire to step outside my comfort zone.

I prefer nature-oriented vacations, so I didn’t particularly enjoy this one…I was doing it for my wife. Pushing her wheelchair around Charleston for hours was not fun for me. I had to be careful and roll her slowly along the sidewalk and pier because hitting a bump too abruptly could cause her to fall out of her wheelchair. I got to know every fucking crack on every sidewalk in Charleston. Areas of the sidewalks around trees were troublesome. The roots push up the sidewalk, and it was quite an adventure every time I had to navigate one. I did see some nature, however. While driving, I saw a bald eagle for only the 5th time in my life. This was near the Burke County/Screven County line in Georgia. I was hoping to see dolphins in the bay. I didn’t but I did see common loons fishing in Charleston Bay. This was a first for me. Common loons spend summers up north but do migrate to the coast during winter. I’m not usually near the ocean this time of year. I tried to photograph them, but they dove below water level to fish as soon as my camera had one in focus. They spend an amazingly long time fishing underwater without coming up for air, and they don’t spend much time above water when they do take a breath. I also saw a pair of belted kingfishers. I’ve seen them near fresh water, but I didn’t know they spent time near saltwater. And, of course, ring-billed gulls were common. Road killed animals seen while driving from Augusta to Charleston included 8 deer, 3 skunks, 3 opossums, 2 armadillos, 1 raccoon, 1 coyote, 1 bobcat, and 1 vulture. A turkey vulture was scavenging a deer carcass, and a black vulture fed upon the dead raccoon.

Geological Features of Ice Ages in Ohio

November 10, 2022

My family moved from Ohio to Georgia during 1976 when I was 13 years old. I occasionally wonder how my life would have been different if we never would have moved. Would I have a blog entitled Ohio Before People instead of Georgia Before People? My interest in Pleistocene mammals began before we moved when I read a Time Magazine article about saber-toothed cat bones found at the First National Bank Site in Nashville, Tennessee. Maybe I would’ve had a natural history blog focusing on Ohio instead of Georgia.

Evidence of Pleistocene Ice Ages is abundant in Ohio because glaciers repeatedly advanced and receded over the state. Scientists believe there were 17 major glacial advances in Ohio over the past 3 million years, but geological evidence exists for just the last 2–The Illinoian (230,000 years BP-132,000 years BP) and The Wisconsinian (118,000 years BP-11,000 years BP). These last 2 glacial advances scoured away geological evidence of the previous 15, and the only geological evidence of the Illinoian glacial advance is south of where the glacier advanced during the Wisconsinian Ice Age. During the Illinoian Ice Age the glacier advanced all the way into northern Kentucky.

The following is the geological evidence of Ice Ages in Ohio.

Map showing the maximum extent of the most recent glacial advance during the Wisconsinian Ice Age. During the previous Ice Age, The Illinoian, the glacier advanced even further into northern Kentucky.

Lake Erie

All the Great Lakes were formed from melted Ice Sheet. Before Ice Ages began, the now extinct Erigan River System flowed through where the Great Lakes exist today. The advancing glacier took the route of least resistance and scoured out lake basins in this former river valley. There is no evidence of Great Lakes following previous Ice Ages, but it is likely there were previous incarnations of the Great Lakes. Present day Lake Erie is only 5000 years old, and it evolved from previous post-glacial lakes.

Kettle Lakes

Punderson Lake, a kettle lake in Ohio. Our family went for a picnic here in 1967 when I was 5 years old. A kettle lake is a melted chunk of glacier left behind when the glacier retreated.

Ohio is dotted with kettle lakes. They were formed when the glacier retreated but left big blocks of ice behind in low lying areas. Sometimes these blocks of ice became buried in sediment. Eventually, this melted ice became a small lake.


A kame in Scotland. (I couldn’t find a good photo of 1 in Ohio). Kames are sandy knobs that were outwash of sediment carried by meltwater streams on top of the glacier. When the glacier underneath melted, they slumped, but many are still higher than the surrounding terrain.

When the glacier was in the process of retreating, meltwater floods and wind often carried sediment on top of the ice sheet. This sediment piled up into hills. Eventually, the ice underneath melted, and the sediment slumped but was still higher than the surrounding terrain.


Diagram showing sediment pushed forward by a glacier and left behind after it recedes.

Moraines are sediment pushed in front of glaciers. They appear as hills and show how far the glacier advanced. Glaciers alternately advanced and retreated. The most southerly moraines in Ohio show the farthest extent of glacier advance during the Last Glacial Maximum. Recessional moraines show where glaciers re-advanced during cold climate fluctuations after the Last Glacial Maximum. Spruce tree logs are commonly found buried in the moraines, showing where glaciers rapidly advanced through forests.


The glaciers often melted rapidly, and the meltwater flooded down stream and river valleys carrying loads of sediment including gravel and sand. This sediment can be found in stream-like patterns throughout the state, though they are covered with vegetation. There are also lake sediments where the glacier blocked streams and rivers, forming temporary glacial lakes that eventually drained.


Erratics are large boulders left behind by retreating glaciers. They are usually rocks not found in the region.

The glacier pushed big Canadian boulders into Ohio, leaving them behind when the ice melted. The big rocks do not match the local geology. The only Cambrian-aged rocks found in Ohio originated from Canadian outcrops.

The Shape of the Ohio River

Before Ice Ages began most rivers and streams in Ohio flowed north. But glaciers blocked the flow and forced the rivers to change course. The Ice Sheet shaped the course of the Ohio River which was actually created during the Ice Ages. Glacial advance extinguished a major Pliocene-aged river system known as the Teays. See also


Camp, Mark

Roadside Geology of Ohio

Mountain Press Publishing 2006

The Wilds, a Reclaimed Strip Mine in Southeastern Ohio

November 3, 2022

Big Muskie was the largest excavator ever manufactured. This monstrous machine was 6 stories high and as wide as an 8-lane highway. A single scoop from Big Muskie’s bucket contained 325 tons of rock and dirt, and it could remove 19,000 tons of overfill in an hour. Big Muskie operated from 1969-1991 when the Central Ohio Coal Company, a subsidiary of American Electric Power (a utility corporation), used it to strip-mine at the Muskingham Coal Mine. Eventually, changing economic conditions combined with stricter environmental regulations ended operations at the mine. A 1947 Ohio state law required American Electric Power to restore the land they had destroyed with their strip-mining. Some forest and prairie had never been touched by the mining operation, but many trees and other plants had to be planted. Now, the land has been reclaimed and is known as The Wilds. Since 1984, the land has been used as an area to breed rare and endangered animals in conjunction with the Columbus Zoo.

Location of the Wilds. All the images in this blog entry are from the linked reference below.
Big Muskie, the largest excavator ever manufactured. It operated from 1969-1991 and could remove 19,000 tons of dirt in an hour.
Another view of Big Muskie. It was 6 stories high. A crew of 7 operated it.
Before and after view of the Muskingham Coal Mine, now known as The Wilds. A 1947 Ohio state law required companies that strip mined to restore the land. In conjunction with the Columbus Zoo rare and endangered species are bred here, and native and non-native plants have been planted. It’s also a haven for native wildlife.

The Wilds currently includes 4600 acres of pasture and grasslands with 700 acres of native prairie, 4000 acres of forest, and 1400 acres of ponds, streams, and marshes. The forests consist of oak, maple, ash, beech, and tulip. Native wildlife thrives here, notably deer, bobcat, beaver, and eastern meadowlark. Endangered animals bred in captivity on The Wilds includes 2 species or oryx, Bactrian camels, Bactrian deer, King Pere’s deer, banteng (a species of wild cattle), Persian onager (a species of wild donkey), Pryzelwalski’s horse, zebra, giraffe, white rhino, Asian rhino, Chinese wild goat, African wild dogs, dhole, cheetah, red-crowned crane, trumpeter swan, ostrich, and eastern hellbender. The scimitar-horned oryx was actually extinct at its original range in North Africa, but individuals raised here were used to re-establish a population on their original range. Tourists can take safari tours of The Wilds. If I lived closer, I would definitely visit.