August 2008

I got a couple of blisters on my left hand today. One of them opened up and hurts pretty much all the time. ouch. About a week ago we had some wind come through here, and it blew down a dead oak in the woods behind the house. That oak hit a witch hazel, and the witch hazel bent over and laid its crown on the trail I made earlier this year. The oak was too heavy for me to move. I thought about cutting the witch hazel to reopen the trail, but decided that since the oak was the one at fault here, I needed to do something about it and restore the hazel to its upright position. So I grabbed my axe and cut the oak in two. In this picture, you can see the witch hazel on the right.

Oak log

Oak log

Once I had the oak cut in half, I was able to easily move it off the hazel. I stood it back up, and then walked the trail.

Sometime last week I took the mattock out to the trail to try to level it up a bit. There are several places where the trail rises and falls a foot or more over a four foot stretch. I guess I leveled out five spots like that. This morning on my way to the oak, I noticed some deer tracks in some of the fresh dirt left after my leveling attempt. We don’t see them very often here, but it’s nice to know they are around.

I guess I would see three or four deer a day back in Virginia. I see three or four a year here. I think it’s because NH is so much less developed than VA, so the deer have much better cover, and use it as much as they can. Or maybe the deer are just less dense here, I dunno. The suburbs really do make pretty decent deer habitat, so I guess they could just be overpopulated there.

My squash bloomed today. One nice, fat blossom, and it was on one of the smaller plants. I looked more closely and saw that at least a half dozen plants have flower buds on them. It’s a race now between the squash and the frost. It remains to be seen which one will be the victor. I watered the squash this morning, and again in the evening. I want to give it as much of an edge over its adversary as I can.

Va, Beth, and I went into Concord today. Beth wanted to buy some shampoo for the Bags-of-Love program we have running at our church. This program was actually started in Hopkinsville, KY at the church Va went to until we moved to VA. Our pastor’s wife found out about it and got our church involved. These bags are given to kids (mostly teens, I think) who are taken from their homes by the State. This happens for a variety of reasons, chief among them being parental incarceration (I would guess). The bags are filled with comfort items to help the child get through what promises to be a very traumatic time. Beth wanted to buy some shampoo, so that’s what we got.

I also bought some sponges, car soap, and poster board, and if that sounds like almost everything a person would need for a car wash, that’s because the Pathfinders are having a car wash tomorrow. I will also bring two hoses, a fourth sponge, and two buckets. Beth helped me make a poster when we got home, and she did a pretty decent job! I outlined the letters (FREE CAR WASH) and she colored them in. I taught her to think ahead so she didn’t have to drag her hand through wet marker ink, and she followed those instructions perfectly. No smudges, and no messy hand. But… I still need to color another!

I also worked on teaching her to ride a two-wheeler today. I have some training wheels on a bike, but they’re cobbled on. If she leans to the right, the training wheel tends to fold back. I guess I need to slap an extra bolt on there so that quits happening. Right now it’s OK, because she only rides it when I have my hands on the handle bars helping her balance. The lesson today was how to pedal and brake. Balance comes later.

I learned when I taught the boys to ride that the secret is to make them go fast. Most people (me included when I was first teaching Jonathan) tend to go slow at first, but it is incredibly difficult to balance a bike that’s creeping along. Fast makes it easy to balance. When I taught David, we went to a grassy hill and sped down it. He caught on pretty quick. I’m hoping Beth will too. It’d sure be nice to take her bike riding.

Oops! I almost forgot! I saw a pickerel frog (Rana palustris) today. Beth spotted him. I would have walked right by. Here he is:

Rana palustris

Rana palustris

OK! Thank you both for reading!

My friend Brian had the sermon today. It was part two of one he had given a while back about “getting off the roller coaster.” I really, really wanted to listen to him, but I have a problem probably a lot of other people have – I have a very hard time staying awake during the sermon! But today, I employed a tactic that has worked every time for me – I took notes. Basically, I wrote as fast as I could the whole time Brian preached. I had a notebook and a pen with me because I was signing kids up to be scripture readers. I just opened it to a new page and filled it front and back with Brian’s sermon. I very much identify with Brian because we were both ordained as elders on the same day. He is a very earnest man and I believe the Lord is using him in a powerful way. Some people are involved in church, but Brian is committed.

When we got home I had a little lunch. I was hoping to talk a couple of my kids into driving up to Lincoln with me and hiking to Franconia Falls. It’s three miles, but then it’s three miles back to the car. The pass I bought for my backpacking trip with Beth was still good (it expires Monday), and I wanted to get the most out of it. But it looked like it was going to rain, and none of the kids were even remotely interested. Bummer. So I took a two and a half hour nap instead.

When I woke up, Beth, David, Penny, and I drove down to Sandogardy. It still looked like it was going to rain, so that’s why we took the car. I photo-logged several flowers, but quite a few of them have stopped blooming now. There was no Floating Heart or White Lily or Virginia Marsh St. John’s Wort. There was some Norwegian Cinquefoil though, and the Pickerelweed was still just barely hanging on. I doubt it’ll be in bloom next week though. The Turtlehead was still going strong, as was the Rattlesnake Root ( a type of wild lettuce).

This morning before Sabbath School started I had a few minutes, so I stepped outside and saw a flower that was unknown to me: Trichostema dichotomum. It’s a pretty blue flower, and I took several pictures. Two of them were OK enough that I decided to upload them to The Commons (they had no photos of this plant).

Trichostema dichotomum

Trichostema dichotomum

I asked our IT guy today if he had any surplus networking equipment that could be donated to the School. And he did. The company recently upgraded its networking infrastructure and I got one of the old switches. It’s far better than anything I would have dreamed to have bought: a 10/100, 24-port switch. Cool. DLink still sells it for a bit over $100. Score!

I spoke to Camille (the teacher) this morning. I had emailed her a proposal to install a K12LTSP server and convert the six student PCs to thin clients. She thought it was a great idea, so now this project will actually be a joy for me to work on.

I do think it would be a good idea to pilot the project before spending anything over and above what we would otherwise spend. So Jonathan and I might install K12LTSP on the AV computer to that end. We’ll see.

Whether the pilot program succeeds or not, I will still need to get 250′ of Cat6, some RJ45’s, wall sockets, etc. Also, a wireless router. And maybe an UPS.

I picked a pint of blackberries tonight. There are still a lot of red berries out there, and i probably picked too many that weren’t quite ripe. But when I start picking, I can’t help myself.

I also finally decided that the sunflowers growing at the end of the driveway by the road are Helianthus divaricatus. Wikipedia redirects that to H. microcephalus, but I think that’s incorrect. The USDA thinks those are two separate species, and I have a feeling that microcephalus means “tiny little pin head”. But the flowers on these are 2-3 inches across. Not exactly a resident on the “tiny” scale.

Today was Beth’s first day of second grade. That means my days of sleeping until 7:30 or 8:00 are over for the next nine or ten months. I took several photos of her walking to the car because we always do that on the first day of school. I have not yet grabbed them off the camera.

They are nestled on the CF card next to several unlogged blooms and unreported reptiles and amphibians. Maybe tomorrow.

I saw a garter snake in the front yard this evening. I managed to get two pics of it. I also took several of the green frogs (Rana clamitans). We’ve had a nice dry and very pleasant spell of weather here lately. That’s very good for outdoor putzing around, but the frog pond is shrinking fast. They really have to huddle in there now.

I watered my squash plants tonight too. Their growth seems to have stalled, which really makes me think I will get exactly zero squash from them this year. Oh well. I’ll try again in the spring.

Looks like I’ll be wiring up my second school for Internet access. I did that in Vienna, VA back in 2000, and now I have been asked to do it again here in Concord. Luckily, I like that kind of work. I’m going to approach my company about any surplus equipment they might have kicking around that I could take off their hands for a good cause. I have an old PC in the basement I will dust off and use as a firewall/web filter. It’s old, but it has more than enough power for that task. It will run Linux.

I plan to run Ethernet cable for the six student PC’s, and wireless for almost everything else.

I think the main cost will be getting a spool of Cat5e Ethernet cable plus a bunch of RJ45 connectors. Also, I will need a wireless access point or two. And maybe an UPS.

Let the fun begin!

I met Ken at the church this evening at about 5:00pm so we could strip and paint a post for a basketball goal. He brought a couple of angle grinders and we got to work. The cap on the top of the post has a split in it – no telling why – and Ken suggested that we caulk it before painting it. I remembered that we still had a bit of caulk in the Pathfinder trailer from where I put a vent in the roof earlier this summer, so I went and got it.

Hmmm… come to think of it, I don’t think I locked the trailer! I guess I’ll swing by in the morning and lock it up.

The tip was naturally quite clogged with caulk, so I unscrewed it and attempted to clear it out with a chunk of wire I had in the trunk of my car. On the first pass, I made a wire-sized hole in the caulk which collapsed upon itself as soon as the wire was pulled through. So on the second attempt, I bent the wire over double to form something like a hook. Then pulled it through again. As I pulled it out, the hook caught my thumb and tore a nice wire-sized hole in it. It did not collapse on itself like the caulk did either, but rather, began to bleed. And there I was with rust and dirt all over my hands from where we had been stripping paint and rust. I went in and washed it out as best I could which was not all that great, because I had (and still have) caulk all over my hands.

Anyone know any tips for washing caulk off your hands?

I put a bandaid on it and it was almost as good as new. Then we painted the post. Once that job was out of the way, we went into the school room and hung a couple of strips of cork on the wall so the teacher (Mrs Brace) could hang student papers on it. Ken started knocking on the wall with his rust-covered hands and made some very impressive smudges on the wall. He couldn’t decide where a stud was, but then I noticed a spot on the wall where joint compound had been applied. That invariably means a sheetrock screw is right behind it, and that’s a pretty good stud indicator. Ken couldn’t see the joint compound and asked me where it was, so I pointed it out, leaving a second smudge on the wall. Then I found another 32″ away and left a third smudge. I washed the smudges off before we left, or Mrs Brace would have killed us both! We socked the cork strips into the wall (firmly anchored to two studs), and called it a day.

Beth and I drove to Lincoln, NH yesterday and backpacked into the Pemigewasset Wilderness for an overnight stay. She did pretty good too. We had to ford a couple of creeks which included a bit of rock hopping, and she performed swimmingly (look it up – it doesn’t mean she swam!)

We did not make it all the way to the Lincoln Trail as I had wanted, but it wasn’t because she was tired. The Franconia Brook Trail forked, and the way to the Lincoln Trail was really boggy looking. The other fork looked much better, and after following it for a quarter of a mile, we came to a nice looking stream. So we found a place to pitch the tent and made camp.

As soon as the tent was pitched, I set up the Penny Alcohol Backpacking Stove I built about two years ago and set some water to boil. Rather than waiting for it to boil, I went ahead and added two packs of Ramen noodles and promptly turned the pot and the stove over. Doh! Luckily, most of the noodles stayed in the pot, and the ones that slipped out were still raw and dry – so I chucked them back in and finished cooking them.

Naturally, this was the first thing Beth told Va about when we got home.

We washed our dishes and I hung my backpack in a tree (hopefully) out of the reach of any bears or raccoons. Either that worked, or they didn’t notice, because everything was quite intact when we got up in the morning. We went to bed around 8:00, and Beth nodded off almost immediately. I know I slept a couple of times because I remembered some of my dreams – they were both involved human visitors to our camp, but I have forgotten them both by now.

My little one man tent that I bought for Father’s Day was a little too cramped for the two of us, but we managed. I was kinda stiff in the morning though. The sun started to come up around 5:30, but we didn’t roll out of bed until 7:00. I started breakfast immediately after getting my backpack out of the tree. Unfortunately, I had forgotten to bring any oil, cooking spray, or butter, so the pancakes were doomed from the get-go. I made my best attempt, and it would be charitable to call the result scrambled pancakes. We drizzled syrup over them and ate them anyhow, and I told Beth we’d stop in Lincoln on the way out and get some better pancakes. I was thinking McDonalds, but after a while it became pretty obvious that we wouldn’t get to the car before noon, and I expect Mickey D quits serving breakfast long before then. Luckily, I also remembered seeing a Pancake House on the way in, so we set our sights on that instead.

Naturally, this was the second thing Beth told Va when we got home.

We hiked back down to the 3-mile point and hung out at the edge of the Pemi for a bit. Beth had collected several rocks the previous evening and lined them up on a boulder. To my surprise, they were all still there:

Beth on the Pemi in Lincoln

Beth on the Pemi in Lincoln

We decided to hike another quarter mile or so up another trail to see Franconia Falls. Beth insisted we go, but once she caught her first glimpse of them, she had had enough. I’m sure there was a better view farther down the trail, but I didn’t want to press her. I knew she was tired, and I wasn’t sure she’d be able to make it back to the car without having me carry her pack.

And I was correct. The bargain was for a three-mile backpacking trip, and I had taken her at least four before we added the half-mile detour to see the falls. So I took my pack off and hung hers on the back of it (the shoulder straps fit nicely over the tent I had strapped to the top). The funny things is that my pack didn’t really seem any heavier with hers on it as well. Perhaps that’s a testament to the lightness of her pack, or more likely, to my inability to judge weight.

We got back to the trail head at 12:05pm. Beth took a potty break, and then we drove into Lincoln and stopped at the pancake place. Beth ordered three pancakes and I ordered a vegetable omelet. It was a good omelet, but I was not able to eat all of it. Beth didn’t even come close – the pancakes were huge! we paid up and then drove home.

I am almost ready to embark on my summer backpacking trip. Beth and I will be going up to Lincoln and hiking up the Lincoln Woods Trail, then hitting the Franconia Brook Trail. If she’s not too tired, we’ll hang a left and go a bit up the Lincoln Brook Trail and camp somewhere along there.

Our backpacks are loaded, except I need to buy some pancake mix. I also need to pick up a water bottle for Beth. And grab my camera. Right now I’m waiting for Beth to finish her peanut butter sandwich, and then we’ll head out.

For dinner, we’ll have shells and cheese, and if we’re still on the trail at lunch time tomorrow (and I suspect we will not be), I have some Ramen noodles. I expect we’ll be home by lunch time tomorrow though.

Today was the first birthday for Capital Christian School. To celebrate, we had a birthday party. A few weeks ago, Va put an apple tree on the bulletin board at church with several “apples” on it. On the back of each apple was the name of a book the school wanted for its library. Several people took apples and either wrote checks or bought the books and donated them.

At the party, we had some egg races, a three-legged race, and a balloon sitting race (I dunno what else to call it – the kids ran across the yard, grabbed a balloon, sat on it until it popped, and then ran back). We also had some face painting. The kids seemed to enjoy it, and I know I enjoyed talking with the adults there.

At one point David walked up to Ken, Brian, and I, and said “Par-tay!” Ken responded, “butter.” Brian and I got a huge kick out of that, but David didn’t get it – not nearly old enough to have seen that commercial!

Beth found me a patch of slime mold, so I took a few pictures of that. She showed several kids too, and they were all pretty amazed by it.

Ken brought a post for a basketball goal, and we unloaded that. We plan to meet there Tuesday evening to strip it and paint it. We’ll prolly meet again to set it in the ground. He also has a basketball goal that we’ll clean up and mount. I pushed for this because one of the Pathfinders asked if we could work on the Basketball honor. Once that’s in place, we’ll be able to do just that!

Before we went to the party we ate Jonathan’s birthday dinner at Tia Margarita’s in downtown Concord. We hardly ever go there because it’s downtown. I’d go there for lunch sometimes, but they never open until 4:00pm.

And before we ate, I spent some time outside picking berries. I got maybe a pint of blackberries, and perhaps a half pint of blueberries. They are in the freezer now. We’re going to get a lot more blackberries soon though, because there are a ton of unripe ones still on the canes.

I did cut several canes down around the log cabin I started for Beth three or four years ago. That project would progress a lot quicker if I had a chainsaw. There were almost no berries on those canes anyhow, though I suppose there would have been next year (blackberry canes live for two years – they make fruit only during the second). I ought to go berry picking at the church. I saw several bushes with ripe berries when I was at the party tonight. Who know – I might!

My poor wife got almost no sleep lat night because of he sinuses. She rolled out of bed sometime between one and two I think and went downstairs. She didn’t sleep a wink. We bought her some four-hour Sudafed while we were in Concord.

Tomorrow and Tuesday I will be backpacking in the White Mountains with Beth. Jonathan will be taking some finals so he can’t go, and David still has a ton of school work so he can’t go either. So it’ll just be the two of us. I’m looking forward to this. My plan is to hike until Beth is tired, then rest for a bit. Then hike until she’s tired again, and rest again. Then we’ll start looking for a camp site. I don’t want to push her too far, or she’ll have a hard time making the return trip.

Note: I edited this to correct some info. The “frog spawn” turns out to be a Bryozoan, possibly Pectinatella magnifica. It’s an animal similar to coral!

When I woke up from my nap today, I took David, Beth, and Penny down to Sandogardy Pond. It was pushing 80 degrees, or it may have been in the 80’s for all I know. It was perfect swimming weather though, so we all brought our swimming trunks (except for Penny).

Along the way I took pictures of the flowers that were in bloom. I was looking for some fringed loosestrife in particular but didn’t see any until we were on the way back. When we got to the pond, Beth swam, David got on the swings, and I took Penny around while I looked for my aquatic flowers for the Bloom Clock. Away from the swimming area a bit, I waded out into the Pickerelweed so I could get a shot of some Nymphaea odorata. I didn’t see any last time I was there, so I thought it was all done for the season. But there it was. Before I got to it though, I saw these huge brain-looking masses under the water. It was frog spawn, probably from Rana clamitans, but I’m not totally sure. I had never seen wads of frog spawn this huge though. I talked David into wading out there with me so I could lift one out for a photo. I didn’t think I could lift it out and take the picture, and David was happy to oblige:


Not Frog Spawn, but a Bryozoan

Holy cow! That is huge! There were a few that were maybe 50% bigger than this one, but I’d have had to wade through more brains to get to them, and they were in deeper water. But this one was one of the biggest out there. Cool. My hands were pretty slimy when I put it back, but I was able to wash them off to my satisfaction in the pond.

When we turned around to wade back to the shore, Penny was there with the look. That is, the one she gives when she wants us to throw one of her toys, or a stick, or kick a ball that she has brought to us. She had brought us a stick and laid it on the surface of the water, and was expecting us to throw it. So we did!

Next Page »