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.

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