April 2009

I’ve spent the evening getting ready for the Camporee this weekend. I have about a thousand things to do. Tonight I planned the menu and entered it into a pretty slick spreadsheet I developed a couple of years ago. For a given number of people it calculates how much and what kinds of foods I need to buy. For example, the meals we have that will feature bread as an ingredient are grilled cheese sandwiches, French toast, and PB&J . The speadsheet tells me I’ll need 12 loaves for that, which kinda makes sense. That’s roughly half a loaf per person. It does this for every ingredient I could think of for each meal, and since I’m reusing the menu from a previous time I used this spreadsheet, it should pretty much cover everything (it did before).

When I got home from work I took a quick walk on the trail through the woods. I found a goldthread (Coptis groenlandica) in bloom. Last year I didn’t see one of those until mid-May. Maybe this year I was looking closer? Here’s the pic I took of it.

Coptis groenlandica

Coptis groenlandica

This photo doesn’t show its leaves (I had to trace the stem beneath the fallen tree leaves to find this guys leaves a couple inches away. Once I found those, I remembered what this guy was). The leaf behind the bloom is from another plant, False Lily-of-the-valley (Maianthemum canadense). Those should bloom in a couple more weeks.

I think it was yesterday when I found my first Dwarf Ginseng (Panax trifolius) in bloom. That’s another interesting plant. The stem forks into four branches about halfway up. One goes straight up and sports the flower. The other three branch out away from one another and sport the foliage. Here’s what it looks like.

Panax trifolius

Panax trifolius

This year I might try my hand at identifying grasses too. But we’ll see. It’s hard enough keeping up with the plants I’m familiar with, much less adding grass.

Sunday night I went to bed early (after clearing brush, etc all day, I was tired). I woke up at 3:30am and couldn’t get back to sleep. Then I remembered that the International Space Station would be visible at 4:10am. I got up and checked the web to make sure. Nope. 4:35. I surfed a bit, and then went outside at 4:34. It was a little cloudy, but I could still easily make out all the stars in the Big Dipper. And then the ISS appeared. It slowly crossed the sky, passing right across the lowest star in the Dipper’s Bowl. Cool.

I came back in after it disappeared (a four minutes show) and then went to bed. But while I was up waiting for it, I went to the bathroom and found a tick near my knee. I pulled, but it was hanging on pretty doggedly. I kept pulling firmly and eventually got it. But it wasn’t moving any more, which leads me to believe that its tiny little head is still under the skin. Bummer. I chucked it in the toilet, but it did not struggle or swim or anything like that. Hmmm.

Next day I checked the site and noticed two things: a nasty bruise, and a red ring around circling it, about the size of a dime. It was also itchy and sore to the touch. When I got home from work I asked Va who my doctor is. I haven’t been to a doctor since we moved up here five years ago, so I figured maybe it was time anyhow. I called and made two appointments. One for the tick, and another for a physical.

The tick appointment was this morning at 8:00am. Doc didn’t seem concerned at all, so I don’t see a reason that I should be either. Since the tick had been in there for only about 12 hours, he said there was very little chance of a Lyme’s infection. His recommended course of action was for me to keep an eye on it, which I will do.

I’m trying to think up the menu for our camping trip this weekend. I have heard complaints about the way we’ve been running the Friday evening meal, and perhaps they are valid. Basically, we’re not going to arrive at the camp site until 6:00pm at the earliest. That gives us 90 minutes to set up camp before it gets dark. Also, we’ll end up shuffling the kids off to flag lowering and the evening program, so the staff will pretty much have to set up camp by ourselves. And cook. By the time the food is ready, it’s sure to be 8:00pm. Everyone will be starving and thus – cranky.

The suggestion is that we bring supper in a sack. My only problem with that is we always plan a sack lunch for Sunday. That way we can start tearing down the kitchen as soon as breakfast is over. I can’t think of two cold meals that I think all the kids in the club will eat. So maybe it’ll be PB&J twice.

I was worrying over this when some neurons in my brain randomly fired and dredged up a vague memory from the depths of my subconsciousness. It is possible to cook food in the engine compartment of a car. A little Googling reveals the last word on this subject – a book with the fabulously clever title: Manifold Destiny.

I am so going to cook my food on my engine manifold on the way there. My plan is to make some Boca burgers and maybe some taters and carrots. I will also have a kaiser roll with tomato, lettuce, onions, and pickle on hand in the passenger compartment. If the Boca works out, the patty goes on the kaiser. If not, it’s veggie sub city for me.

Everyone else can slog through a cold supper.

Tonight we finished working on the HMS Sinkytowne. Here’s a pic showing the boat’s name, but before it was finished being painted:

HMS Sinkytowne gets christened

HMS Sinkytowne gets christened

We did finish building the boat tonight. I intend to strap it to the top of my car and transport it to probably the coldest lake in North America next weekend for our Spring Camporee.

But man… I am one tired dude tonight. I got a call from my neighbor Don this morning. The dirt has been delivered. So I went over and we shoveled loam and compost into the raised beds. I had to leave before we finished. We did get two of the beds filled though, and we made a good dent in a third.

I came home at 11:30 and grabbed some lunch. Then the kids, the dog, and I piled into the car and we drove to Ken’s farm. Ken had hired the Pathfinders to stack brush (we do this almost every year). We brought the dog just to keep her out of Va’s hair. Also, Penny loves going to the farm. And best of all (from her viewpoint), we were doing things with STICKS! Her favorite thing!

We worked there until 4:30, then went over to the church to finish the boat. We also had some pizza. And then we came home. And I am still very tired.

Oh – happy birthday Dad! I hope it was a good one, and I hope you enjoyed your fishing trip!

Today’s promise to be busy was kept. Va and Jonathan got up at the crack of dawn. Va made breakfast, and then they headed to Vernon, VT for the Master Guide Seminars. I got up before they left and worked on the Tom Tom. I know now to check it whenever I program it, and it’s a good thing I did. It would have sent them way off course. Instead, Va printed off the Google Maps instructions.

Beth was up by the time they left. We had some breakfast, and then I woke up David. I took a shower, and then the three of us headed off to church.

I taught Va’s class and Cheryl taught mine. That went pretty smoothly. As soon as that was over and I had put away all the felts, we headed home (before the regular church service started). I cooked us some lunch, left David in charge of the dog, and Beth and I headed over to VT.

We got there a little early, and the other three seminars had run late. So Beth and I got to explore their church and grounds. They apparently bloom a bit earlier than we do here. Dunno why. The trialing arbutus there was starting to fade (brown spots on the petals), whereas they just opened here last week. Also, they had bluets in bloom, and I don’t expect to see those here for another week or so. I took several photos of their flora, and several of their fauna as well (in the form of insects and spiders). Some turned out pretty good. I’d post them, but I’m just a wee bit tired.

I gave my talk and they served us supper. Va grabbed a quick bite and then hustled off (she was worried about David). Jonathan and I ate at a more leisurely pace and visited with some of the other Pathfinders there for a bit. Then Beth wanted us to walk a trail they had just built the previous week. I can’t resist something like that, so off we went, up the side of a mountain. It didn’t look very steep, but my legs contradicted my eyes. It was a short (but tiring walk). We hopped in the car and I drove us back into New Hampshire. As soon as I got a chance, I stopped, and Jonathan and I traded seats (it’s not legal for him to drive outside NH yet). I was having a hard time staying awake, but Jonathan suffered no such problems. We got home at about 9:00-ish.

So. Now I’m tired and thinking I’ll go to bed early. Tomorrow we stack brush for Ken (he’s paying the Pathfinders to do that). Then we finish the cardboard canoe.

More and more species of flowering plants are blooming every day now. It’s hard to keep up with them. Today it was tulips, periwinkle, birch trees, sugar maples, and a couple I have not yet identified. I went for a quick walk after lunch today and took several pictures. But I didn’t have a lot of time to dally around, because we have a lot to do in the office. I went for my walk anyhow because it helps to clear my head and keep me awake after lunch.

When I got home I took Penny outside and looked around the property for more blooms. Comptonia peregrina (sweetfern) is blooming right now. That’s not a fern at all, actually, which is why is can bloom in the first place. Ferns do not have flowers, nor do they have seeds. Rather, they produce spores. They also have a pretty interesting (i.e., non-traditional) life cycle. They produce male and female gametes which grow large enough to easily see with the naked eye. In humans (et al), gametes are the sperm and egg cells. But with ferns, these can exist independently for some time. Eventually, they get together and form a new plant. I don’t remember how exactly they do this, but I do recall that it involves water.

Anyhow, sweetfern is not a fern at all. The leaves are very fragrant and can be used as the basis for an herbal tea. If you are so inclined. In my study of edible wild plants, I found that MOST of them are great for making herbal teas. So if you’re ever stranded in the wilderness and want a tea-like drink, you’re in luck. Wintergreen, yarrow, goldenrod, and a whole slew of other plants fall into this category. You might still be hungry, but your tea cravings are sure to be satisfied.

Tomorrow promises to be busy. Va and Jonathan are heading to Vermont to take four seminars towards their Master Guide class (that’s a Pathfinder thing). I’m going to teach one of the seminars, but I have duties at church, so I won’t show up there until the afternoon. I’ll take Beth with me, but leave David at home to tend the dog. I have asked Cheryl to take my Juniors Sabbath School class, and I’m going to teach Va’s kindergarten class. I’ve never taught that age group, so this should be fun.

Spring is here at an accelerated pace now. I’m generally finding 3-4 new species of plants in bloom for the first time of the year. Yesterday I noted the following:

Japanese Andromeda (Pieris japonica )
Common Hyacinth (Hyacinthus orientalis)
American Elm (Ulmus americana)
Common Chickweed (Stellaria media)
Forsythia (Forsythia x intermedia)

The first two of these are new plant to me. The Common Hyacinth is what I originally thought must be a crocus, and which Dad thought was a Grape Hyacinth. Dad was way closer than I was! Not until the blooms fully opened was I able to tell that it was the Common Hyacinth rather than Grape. Japanese Andromeda is an ornamental, and my excuse for not knowing that one until this year is that I pretty much ignored cultivated plants for Bloom Clock purposes. This one is clearly a non-native (the name says as much!)

Today I found that the Beaked Hazel trees on my property are in bloom too. These trees have tiny little flowers – male and female:

Male and female Beaked Hazelnut (Corylus cornuta) blossoms

Male and female Beaked Hazelnut (Corylus cornuta) blossoms

I’m not positive, but I think the catkin is male and the red one is female.

The Azalea’s (Rhododendron spp.) also bloomed today. There’s another tree in flower on my property that I still haven’t figured out what it is. I’ll know it when it puts out leaves later, but I don’t yet know it by the flower. These are tiny little flowers no more than an eighth of an inch across (if that).

As yet unknown tree blossom

As yet unknown tree blossom

It thought it might be a Glossy Buckthorn (Frangula alnus), but the photos I’ve found online don’t seem to match exactly. So maybe not. If that’s what it turns out to be, I will rip it out since it’s an invasive species. The state of New Hampshire has declared it a “forbidden” plant, but I’m not sure what that means. Maybe it’s illegal to sell them or cultivate them. I see these things everywhere, and when I find them, and if they’re small enough and if they’re on public property (or my property), I tear them out. The berries are poisonous too, so I say good riddance! I’m just waiting for the day when I get arrested for vandalizing by doing this. I don’t know how much success I would have in convincing a cop that tearing out an invasive plant on public property is a good thing.

It has been raining most of today. In spite of that, I went outside when I got home from work. I’ve been looking for some Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) for a couple of weeks now, and today I found it pretty much right where it was growing last year:

Tussilago farfara

Tussilago farfara

I knew where it was going to come up within about a 20 foot radius, and today, it finally reared its head. This particular plant is edible and is purported to be medicinal as well. It has traditionally been used as a cough remedy, but in my opinion, any such effects are purely psychosomatic. Seems like I read a while back that no cough remedy on the market performs better than a placebo, and that agrees with my own personal experience with all cough drops.

The latin name for the genus (Tussilago) means “cough suppressant”, and that root also shows up in the word “Robitussen” (the active ingredient of which was the subject of the previously cited study).

That aside, I did make some rock candy with this stuff last year. This plant will not form leaves until after the flowers go to seed, but once it does, the leaves can be collected and boiled in water for “a while.” I prolly didn’t boil them long enough when I made it. The leaves are then removed, and a bunch of sugar is added. This is boiled down until it becomes really syrupy. Then it is poured into cold water where the syrup freezes into a hard rock candy which is supposed to double as a cough drop (but we’ve already beaten that horse, haven’t we?) When I made some, it was for the candy aspect. It tasted like…. sugar. Like I said, I prolly didn’t boil the leaves long enough.

I looked into this plant a little more tonight and found that it is not native to North America. It was imported by settlers, probably for its medicinal properties. It is now a well-established invasive species. But it doesn’t seem to spread too much, so I’m going to leave it alone in case I want some more sugar candy someday.

Today was Beth’s first day of spring break. That meant I didn’t need to take her to school, which meant I didn’t hafta get up according to whatever the clock said. So I stayed in bed until 8:00, and got to work a little before 9:00.

I forgot that I still needed to go to the school, because I had to pick up the fruit ordered by my coworkers. Also, I needed to move the canoe out of the middle of the floor and get it back along the wall on the saw horses. I suggested that Dennis might want to eat at Taco Bell, take a look at the canoe and help me move it. He liked that plan, so we set out at lunch time and did just that. He also helped me carry fruit to the car. Then I took him to a car dealer where he was having some warranty work done.

Since I got to work a bit later than normal, I worked later to make up for it. It was chilly when I got home, so I didn’t go outside to tramp around. I pretty much just parked my carcass in front of my laptop and did stuff like this (i.e., write blog posts).

This morning after breakfast I went over to a friend’s house to help work on her house. A few other guys from church showed up, and we fixed her entry door. The problem is that the door frame had been fastened with ONE nail. So it was coming out. We removed the facing, door, and frame, put down some flashing, and put the frame back in. Plumbed it up, fastened it in, etc. We also fixed the stairs to her deck.

By then it was almost 2:00pm, and I had arranged to have an extra cardboard boat building session at 2:00. So I hustled over there. The plan was to remove the boat from the church basement and haul it out to the parking lot. They were having a baby shower at 2:30, and I guess most people agree that cardboard canoes do not make appropriate center pieces for such festivities. They are, of course, mistaken on that point ;-D

Va and Beth arrived for the shower, but the boys were still home. I had intended for them to come in to work on the boat, but had also neglected to mention that to anyone. So after we got started on the boat, I hopped in the car and fetched the boys.

I had also intended to have a Pathfinder staff meeting at 4:00, but I was unable to make it back to the church in time. So I called all the staff and asked that we have our meeting after the regular PF meeting. Which we did.

On the boat, we glued up some gunwales and attached them. We also painted. I assigned each kid the task of making their own paddle, so they were ALL kept busy doing that.

Just as the meeting was getting underway, a woman showed up with her kids, and they looked familiar – they had attended the Pinewood Derby back in February. The oldest kid wanted to join our club. He had attended the derby because his grandfather brought him. I know his grandfather pretty well – he shuttled us around Mississippi when we went down there to do hurricane relief work after Katrina).

Anyhow, I was not expecting another new member. I gave his mother the paperwork to fill out. I really would liked to have sat down with her and talked about te club a bit and explained what was coming up (I did do that), but I had to sub for a counselor who had a scheduled absence. Her class is the 10 year-olds, and you just can’t leave them unattended for very long and have them get anything done.

They were working the the Feltcraft honor, and I guess we covered about half the requirements. They’ll need to finish the other half some other time, but I’m not suer when that will be.

Then they did some drilling and marching while I sorted through the fruit and put customer names on it. During the meeting people came in and picked it up too, so that kept me distracted as well.

After drilling we worked on the boat some more. We painted the inside and attached the second gunwale. Then we set the bulkhead in place and strapped it in. Here’s what it looked like at then end of the evening:

Clamped gunwale

Clamped gunwale

That’s it for tonight kids! I’m turning in!

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