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All kinds of surprising things expire — car seats, makeup, fire extinguishers, bike helmets, bug spray. How about life jackets?
    Yes and no, depending on the type of life jacket and how much wear it has.
    Foam life jackets typically do not expire. You do need to be cautious about crushing them, however, so don’t use them for a kneepad, which can result in lower buoyancy. Also, ensure that they are not damaged as this could compromise their flotation or allow the floats to escape. If your life jacket has any rips, tears or the foam seems to be degraded, it’s time for a new one.
    If your life jacket is inflatable, you need to check the manufacturers recommendation about how frequently the CO2 cartridge needs to be changed. It varies from jacket to jacket, from every year to every few years. You also want to inspect inflatable components every few months for corrosion or dirt.
    As you return to the water, remember that a well-maintained and properly used life jacket can save your life. Almost 90 percent of people who drowned following a boating accident were not wearing life jackets.
    Take time to check out your life jackets prior to your maiden voyage this season to ensure you and your boating companions have dependable safety equipment.


Chesapeake Curiosities investigates regional oddities and landmarks to increase understanding of our unique local culture and history.

Has a sight stymied you? Does an oddity bewilder? Your curiosity may be featured in an upcoming column. Send your questions to chesapeakecuriosities@gmail.com.
 

Goshen Farm, powered by grassroots

“The grassroots is the source of power. With it you can do anything,” wrote Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson of the wattage behind his bright idea.
    Is it shining still?
    Take an Earth Day No. 47 visit to Goshen Farm, and you’ll see the light.
    From the grassroots, a community rose to save the last Colonial-era farm on the Broadneck Peninsula. Its work has created a hidden oasis of 22 undeveloped acres, surrounded by Cape St. Claire and Walnut Ridge on the Broadneck Peninsula.
    “I became slightly obsessed,” Barbara Morgan, told Bay Weekly of her discovery that a ramshackle neighborhood property was settled in the mid-17th century.
    From Morgan’s obsession, the Goshen Farm Preservation Society rose to save the old house from demolition by the Anne Arundel County School Board, which owns the property.
    It took four years, from 2006 to 2010, for the Society to gain its renewable lease. Then came a Sharing Garden, the offshoot of Nicole Neboshynsky’s dream. Like the Goshen Farm Preservation Society, the garden found many hands.
    More dreams and more hands followed. Volunteers and visitors range from neighbors to school children to scientists to Midshipmen.
    “We’re integrating the concept of environmental awareness into their daily life,” says Society president Lou Biondi. “It’s not just something they learn, it’s something they do.”
    Visit to see for yourself three gardens, a tunnel greenhouse, an orchard and apiary, all producing food for the Sharing Garden’s 60 families plus local food banks and Goshen Farm festivities. The Colonial Kitchen Garden and the Henson-Hall Slave Garden honors 12 slaves known to have lived and labored on the farm; namesakes, Jack Henson and Nace Hall, are recorded by surname in the Maryland State Archives.
    Four more preservation sites feature tobacco, cotton and a grove of white oaks, Maryland’s state tree. The oddest, the Goshen Farm Soil Health Pit, was dug by the U.S. Naval Academy Midshipmen Action Group as a classroom on sustainable soil.

Space America Museum director turns his focus to film thriller

A murder at a Department of Defense facility and the theft of top secret files leads to the discovery of a dangerous spy organization operating in our nation’s capitol.
    Such is the plot of Fatal Deception, The Archuleta Files, a film written by Alan Hayes, of Owings, who also heads the production company, Spaceman Productions LLC.
    Hayes is best known in Calvert County as the director of the Space America Museum in Prince Frederick.
    Most of the filming is being done locally, key scenes shot in Washington, D.C., as well. The company will be traveling to Los Angeles shortly for a few days of additional shooting, then back to Bay Country for the final scenes.
    Expect to see Fatal Deception, The Archuleta Files later this year or early next year, with the full-length sequel Fatal Deception arriving late next year or early 2018.

On the hunt in November

The antlered buck posed statue-like in full-focused attention in a valley surrounded, at a fair distance, by the houses of Fairhaven Cliffs. Perhaps he’d seen me seeing him from my perch well above him, but not assuring him safety were I a bow hunter. That hunting season lasts most of November, the month — this odd sighting reminded me — when Maryland’s 227,000 deer are at their most visible.
    November is rutting season, when bucks go in search of mates, and here one was, where deer, especially bucks, are not everyday sightings. The does and their families, our usual visitors, prefer Kudzu Valley, across the village, where groundhogs are the only neighbors. This was not the only buck I’d seen this month, when deer in Chesapeake Country are about as common as squirrels, and just about as oft seen dead along the roadsides.
    Not only are deer out and about in November, they are single-minded, both males and females hormonally driven to mate — as well as driven to distraction. Thus deer-vehicle crashes peak in November as well, bringing death to over 10,000 deer — and often injury to people as well as to their vehicles.
    The end of mating season coincides with the opening of the modern deer firearms season on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. That’s when most of the deer harvested in a year are taken. Last year 95,863 deer were harvested.
    From November 28 through December 12, hunters will be out in search of deer. So maybe for that time you should leave the woods to them.

Highway medians become home to the birds, bees, butterflies

The tiniest employees of the Maryland State Highway Administration are hard at work while we sit in traffic. Glance out the window to see them buzzing about their daily routines. In exchange for their work, MSHA provides room and board — in the medians of state highways.
    Important work is happening in these often overlooked parcels of land: over 100 acres along Maryland highways are now wildlife habitat for pollinators.
    Medians along interstates and rural roads — places historically mowed and manicured — are now meadows of wildflowers, native grasses and perennials.
    “If we go back 20 years ago, we looked like golf courses,” says Highway spokesman Charlie Gischlar. Now, the medians provide beauty and habitat while fulfilling their original purpose of creating restful driving conditions and screening out oncoming headlight glare at night.
    In 2008, with the economy tanking and state agencies looking to tighten their budgets, highway planners asked biologists and landscapers for ideas. The Statewide Native Plants Establishment Program was born.
    “This program is a win-win situation between the built and the natural environment,” Gischlar says.
    “We realized we could stop mowing and save money.”
    The number of acres mowed went from 110,684 in 2005 to 51,751 in 2013, saving the cost of rising fuel.
    The second benefit is habitat for birds, bees, butterflies.
    Pollinators help the reproduction of 85 percent of the world’s flowering plants. And, according to the Xerces Society, nuts and seeds feed “25 percent of all birds and of mammals ranging from red-backed voles to grizzly bears.”
    Habitat loss is one of the top threats to our nation’s pollinators. The loss of bees and butterflies has a direct and dire impact on agriculture.
    “It’s actually pretty scary what’s happening to our honeybee population,” Gischlar says. “Colony collapse is a very serious issue.”
    While scientists study this mysterious disorder, bee populations continue to decline. Without a good mix of native plants, bees miss out on the proper nutrition from a variety of pollens. Restoring meadows with plants like butterfly weed, sunflowers, asters, coreopsis and black-eyed Susans is a vital component to giving honeybee colonies a chance to recover.
    Highway plantings make conditions favorable for these insects by reducing roadside mowing, using insects for vegetation control and creating meadows of nectar and pollen-producing native species.
    Invasive plants edging out the wildflowers that pollinators need are attacked along highways with a careful strategy of mowing and herbicide application. Two of those invasives, Canada thistle and Tree of Heaven, are notorious for choking out the natives.
    Elmer Dengler of Bowie has been following the plight of the monarch butterfly since he was 12 years old.
    “We need more Joe Pye weed and native goldenrods for these butterflies to survive,” Dengler says. “We need to encourage private landowners to work along with the highway departments to promote these native plants.”
    When monarchs find plants, egg-laying remains a risky business, Dengler says, due to a lot of unnecessary mowing.
    Along highways, however, some mowing is necessary “First and foremost,” Gischlar says, we have to maintain sight distance in critical areas, to protect drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.”
    Are efforts to bring back pollinators working?
    The outlook still looks grim, according to Chip Taylor, founder and director of MonarchWatch and an insect ecology professor at the University of Kansas.
    “Unfortunately,” he writes, “as of late July, it appears that the fall migration and the overwintering numbers will be similar to those seen last year. A substantial increase in the number of migrants and the area of the forests in Mexico occupied by overwintering monarchs is highly unlikely. I was expecting much better.”

Bernie Fowler’s Sneaker Index measured 44 inches — the best in the annual Wade-In’s 28-year ­history but a long way from the days of his youth

Ninety-one-year-old river warrior Bernie Fowler added some new followers at his 28th annual Wade-In to measure his beloved Patuxent River’s clarity by Sneaker Index.
    Chesapeake chronicler Tom Horton flew in on water taxi. The Patuxent Voices sang a tribute, adding a capella artistry to Island Girl Deanna Dove’s folk hymns and bridging the gap opened by the 2010 death of Chesapeake bard Tom Wisner, Fowler’s inspiration in the now-famed ritual.
    Gov. Larry Hogan was not among Fowler’s followers, though governors Bob Ehrlich and Martin O’Malley have joined Fowler’s past Wade-Ins.
    For this year’s walk, Fowler wore brand new white tennis shoes. His battered original pair was retired last year and now belongs to history, preserved at Calvert Marine Museum.
    His bright white shoes faded from view, obscured by murk, at 44 inches, as measured by long-time followers, powers in their own rights, Congressman Steny Hoyer and Maryland Senate President Thomas V. ‘Mike’ Miller, both representing Fowler’s district.
    Forty-four inches is the highest in Wade-In history, though far short of the 63 inches of Fowler’s boyhood, the gold standard of his Index and quest.
    Don’t go believing, however, that high visibility represents improved river quality.
    The Patuxent has been studied every day for 90 of Fowler’s 91 years by the Chesapeake Biological Lab at the river’s mouth at Solomons, Lab director Tom Miller told this year’s gathering. “We know what the temperature and clarity of the river were on the day of the bombing of Pearl Harbor … on the day the planes struck the Twin Towers. Even on the evening the Beetles sung on the Ed Sullivan show,” he said.
    By such scientific measures, the Patuxent is not a healthy river. It earned the low mark of D on the most recent Chesapeake Bay Report Card.
    “We’re not sure Bernie will ever see his feet again,” his son Bernie Jr. said. But, he added, the goal “is worth continuing to fight for.”
    Thus, the tradition continues, in hope of recruiting the next generation of warriors to fight for the river.

Watermen sentenced to year-plus

Four commercial fishermen from Maryland’s Eastern Shore have been sentenced in federal court for illegally netting and selling more than 90 tons of rockfish and pocketing almost a half-million dollars in profits over four years.
    The watermen used gill nets, particularly effective gear used in the Chesapeake since 1873. Gill nets snare fish by the gills in a mesh that allows the fish’s head to enter while preventing its body from following. Some 300 commercial gill-netters operate on the Chesapeake.
    Almost impossible to detect once anchored in place, three technological developments have made these nets so deadly that they may be a threat to our rockfish population.
    First was the development of translucent, nylon monofilament. Gill nets constructed of this material are virtually invisible to the fish and much more effective in catching them.
    The second development was the electronic fish finder. With fish finders, watermen can easily locate populations of rockfish, especially in winter when schools tend to linger in an area.
    The final development was the GPS. While greatly assisting commercial watermen in navigation, GPS also enabled poachers to set anchored nets with geographic precision and to return under cover of darkness or bad weather and quickly locate them for retrieval.
    Because of proven by-catch mortality, anchored gill nets have been outlawed in Maryland waters since 1992. Only legal are attended, free-floating drift nets with a five- to seven-inch mesh size that limits most rockfish catches to legal-sized fish. Gill nets can legally be up to 3,500 yards long, though in practice most are less.

Crime and Punishment
    The watermen in question broke the law in several ways: by using unattended, anchored gill nets; by fishing outside of the commercial season; and by falsifying catch records and evading Maryland regulations. The fish were sold to wholesale markets in surrounding states.
    Federal law under the Lacey Act prohibits crossing state lines to sell fish caught illegally. Thus the sentences came in U.S. District Court.
    “The scale of this conspiracy was massive,” said federal prosecutor Todd Gleason. “It coincides with a steady decline of striped bass. We are heading back to the levels near the moratorium.”
    The two Tilghman Island watermen running the operation were each sentenced to more than a year. Michael Hayden Jr., who also was found guilty of witness intimidation, will serve 18 months plus three years home detention. William Lednum, who expressed remorse, was sentenced to a year and a day. One helper was sentenced to 30 days to be served on weekends; another escaped with probation and a fine.
    Three of the four were each fined $40,000. The two main operators were also made liable for restitution of rockfish valued at nearly $500,000. The penalties are among the most severe ever handed down for Natural Resource violations.
    These are also the first major instances of illegal netters brought to justice in Maryland despite years of rumors about illegal wintertime netting. According to one of the principle defendants, William Lednum, these illicit activities have been a common practice among many watermen, but he was the only one caught. The witness operating the station where the fish were checked in, and who testified to falsifying documents with the watermen to cover the illegal catches, also explained that his actions were merely a routine industry practice.
    Understaffing at Natural Resources Police is one key reason for these problems. The number of water-patrolling officers has been reduced by half over the last decade, while Department of Natural Resources personnel dedicated to verifying and double-checking reported catch data and seafood wholesaler records continue to be low. Cheating and under-reporting commercial catch information thus remain unchecked.
    No further discoveries of illegal gill netting of this scope have been made since these arrests. However, considering the extreme difficulty of detecting the activity, the vastness of the Chesapeake and the significant financial rewards to be gained it would be foolish to assume that it is not still occurring.

Coast Guard’s sea turtle rescue brings them Internet fame

It’s all in a day’s work.    
    The day was August 12, when a boater reported an entangled sea turtle 30 miles off New Jersey’s southern coast.
    Using the boater’s GPS coordinates, the Cape May Coast Guardsmen and staff of Marine Mammal Rescue Center set out on a rescue mission. Finding a turtle in the Atlantic could have been as hard as finding a needle in a haystack. But the coordinates led straight to an ensnared leatherback.
    The team got close enough to grab the offending gear — a floating marker on a long pole ending in a rope. Then, the Coast Guard team “used their bare hands to control the struggling 800-pound creature.” Amid the grappling, the line was disentangled and the turtle swam free.
    Videotaping actions is also in a day’s work in the modern Coast Guard. Over the last two weeks, YouTube viewers chose the Coast Guard’s Video of the Year from 10 action-packed sea rescues and adventures. The leatherback rescue earned second place. So in sweet symbiosis, the sea turtle saved by the Coast Guard makes the rescuers stars.
    See the Coast Guard’s Top 10 of 2014 at www.youtube.com/user/USCGImagery.

7 million Books for International Goodwill

B.I.G. stands for Books for International Goodwill. Taken at face value, the word tells another truth. Books for International Goodwill is big. This week, the 18-year-old Parole Rotary Club project packs its seven millionth book in its 300th shipping container.
    Those milestone figures tell only part of this big story. Books come in at the rate of 1,500 a day. Local readers make many of the contributions, dropping off loads of books 24/7 at the B.I.G. Annapolis warehouse at 2000 Capital Drive. Overprints from publishers add volume.
    Dealing with 547,500 books a year takes 600 volunteer hours, 95 percent contributed outside Rotary by citizens motivated by the B.I.G. mission.
    That would be supporting schools, libraries and literacy projects in countries where books are a dreamed-of luxury. Most are former British colonies as most B.I.G. books are in English. Uganda was the first. B.I.G. began as an effort to send books to three schools when a bookless principal there asked friend and now-deceased Parole Rotarian and B.I.G. founder Leonard Blackshear for help.
    In 18 years, books have been sent to over 30 countries in tractor-trailer loads of 20,000. Eight hundred box-by-box shipments have gone to Peace Corps volunteers and 1,000 to U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Seven million books would fill Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium to a depth of eight feet.
    The shipments are funded by donations and monthly book sales.
    “B.I.G. is a win-win-win operation,” says Rotary organizer Steve Frantzich. “Those donating books realize they will go to a good home. From an environmental perspective, B.I.G. has saved the county over 6,000 cubic feet of landfill space from once-discarded school and library books alone. Finally, recipients receive the tools they need for empowerment through literacy.”
    Browse 70,000 well-organized books and buy at bargain prices — 50¢ to $1.50 or $30 a bagful — to fund Books for International Goodwill this Saturday, Nov. 1 from 8am to 2pm at 2000 Capital Dr., Annapolis: 410-293-6865; www.big-books.org. Next sale, Saturday, Dec. 13.

Beckerman kicked his way from Crofton to Salt Lake to Brazil

The world’s sport takes the world’s stage next week when World Cup play begins in Brazil.
    Played every four years, the World Cup is the most-watched and admired sporting event on the planet. This year, Anne Arundel County has a favorite son in the play. Crofton-raised Kyle Beckerman, a 31-year-old defensive midfielder for the United States Men’s National Team and captain of Real Salt Lake, prepares to lace up his cleats and play for all the world to see.
    Bay Weekly checked in with ­Beckerman last November [www.bayweekly.com/node/19763], when he had just finished solid performances for the United States in the 2013 Gold Cup and the World Cup Qualification Tournament and was captaining a great Real Salt Lake Major League Soccer team. Since then, Beckerman’s Real Salt Lake reached the MLS Championship game in December. On May 22, Beckerman was named as a starter on coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s final 23-man roster to represent the United States in the World Cup.
    Crofton is swelling with pride for the Arundel High School alum.
    “Sure, Crofton may have Edward Snowden, but now we’ve got Kyle Beckerman to even it out. It’s so inspiring that he’s from my hometown,” says 18-year-old Patrick Russo, a life-long Crofton resident.
    “He is so awesome. I just ordered my little brother a Beckerman USA jersey as a graduation gift so he’ll be ‘repping Crofton all World Cup,” says Devin Garcia, local soccer fanatic.
    Despite hometown support, Beckerman and company will have a troublesome path to success, after being placed in what fans are calling the tournament’s Group of Death along with Ghana, Portugal and Germany. Only two of the four teams will move on to the next “knockout” stage.
    Portugal, ranked fourth in the world, claims the world’s greatest player in the 29-year old phenom, ­Cristiano ­Ronaldo, recently voted this year’s FIFA Footballer of the Year.
    Second-ranked Germany, the 2010 World Cup runner up, is arguably the most well-rounded and feared team in the world.
    Ghana, while ranked just 37th in the world, could hold more bad news for the Yanks. In the previous two World Cups, the United States’ fate was dictated both times in dramatic, controversial losses to Ghana. Will history repeat itself? Or will the third time be the charm for the Red, White and Blue?
    Doubters include even the American coach. In an interview with The New York Times, Klinsmann said that the U.S. “cannot win this World Cup.”
    “He’s wrong,” contests Russo. “That’s what everyone said about the 1980 USA hockey team. Then the Miracle On Ice happened.”
    As sure as Patrick Russo is, America’s World Cup destiny won’t be known until the games begin on Thursday, June 12. Then Crofton, Anne Arundel County and all of America will watch as Kyle Beckerman and the United States National Team face off on the world’s greatest, most prestigious stage, the 2014 Brazil World Cup.