June 2009


Several months ago, the hinge on my work laptop started to give up the ghost. I asked our IT guy about getting it fixed, but since I had had the laptop for over three years, it was out of warranty, and he figured it would be better to replace it. OK. So I’ve had this new laptop for a while. I took the broken one home and let the kids use it. But every time they would open or close it, the hinge got just a wee bit worse. This week it finally popped. So I opened it up to see what it would take to fix it.

Basically, it’s going to take a new hinge. I found several on eBay and ordered a set. Then I started tearing into it a little more. Now I’m worried that it needs more than just a hinge. When it boots, I get the splash screen, but as soon as it switches video modes, the screen goes black. Most of the time anyhow. I found that I could plug it into an external monitor, and everything was cool – as long as you can get it to send the video to that monitor.

Tonight I removed the integrated display. Now it doesn’t even talk to the built-in one and goes straight to the external one. That’s good. I just hope that when I get the hinge fixed and the regular display/lid re-attached, it all starts to work again. It may need a new power inverter in the display though. Dunno!

What do you say when your daughter asks you to have a picnic in the yard with her? There is only one correct answer:

Beth and I enjoying a picnic

Beth and I enjoying a picnic

Huh. I just noticed that today is the one year anniversary of starting this blog. 352 posts in one year isn’t quite every day, but close enough! I hope everyone has enjoyed reading this as much as I have enjoyed writing it.

I went down to Sandogardy with Beth and David today as planned. We all brought swimsuits. I brought mine because I wanted to wade out into the water to get a picture of a Bullhead Lily (Nuphar lutea). I lugged my tripod out there too and set it up in the water so I could get a decent shot. I took about a dozen pictures, but I like this one best:

Bullhead Lily (Nuphar lutea)

Bullhead Lily (Nuphar lutea)


But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before we even got to the pond I was surprised to see a Heal-all (Prunella vulgaris).
Heal-all (Prunella vulgaris)

Heal-all (Prunella vulgaris)


I really need to check the logs to see what should be in bloom right now so I’m not surprised like that. This one was in the neighbor’s yard.

When we got to the pond I found some sort of St. Johnswort (Hypericum) with which I am unfamiliar. It’s not Common St. Johnswort for sure, but I haven’t been able to determine the species yet. It was very small which makes me think that this bloom hadn’t been open for very long. Here it is:

Some sort of St. Johnswort

Some sort of St. Johnswort

Finally I made my way to the southeast corner of the pond where the Bullhead Lilies grow. I was looking for Lobelia and Pipewort along the way, but I didn’t see either of those. What I did see though were thousands of tiny frogs. Last time we were there I saw thousands of tadpoles, so I’m guessing these are one and the same. Or one million and the same. They were pretty skittish too which made it pretty hard to photograph one. But I did manage to chase one down and wear it out enough to make it sit still for a few seconds. Long enough to take this:

Baby Frog, unknown species

Baby Frog, unknown species


I have no idea of the species. It looks kinda like an American Toad (Bufo americanus), but I won’t make the call just yet. It was only about a quarter inch long. That’s tiny!

I headed toward the Bullhead Lilies again. I waded in, and that’s when I saw the Floating Heart (Nymphoides cordata). I setup the tripod and took several shots. That was harder to do than it might sound, because the tripod has the tendency to snag the stems of this plant, and that would pull the surface parts under water. Oops! Luckily, there were lots of specimens to choose from, and I was able to get set up pretty close to a couple and get off some good shots. Here’s the best one:

Floating Heart (Nymphoides cordata)

Floating Heart (Nymphoides cordata)

Once I thought I had enough photos of that, I waded out some more, still making my way to the Bullheads. I waded through some Bryozoa, but didn’t take any photos. As I already wrote, I took several shots of the Bullheads, and then I noticed some White Fragrant Lilies (Nymphaea odorata) farther out. These flowers close up in the afternoon, and they were closed when I found them. I still took several pictures, but since they don’t do the flower justice, I won’t bother uploading any.

Having exhausted all the aquatics, I went ashore and checked on the Sheep Laurel (Kalmia angustifolia). I have a little of this on my place, but my plants are puny. There’s a plant that grows at Sandogardy, and in fact, that was the first one I had ever identified. It was in full bloom with lots and lots of pink flowers. I took half a dozen shots including this one:

Sheep Laurel (Kalmia angustifolia)

Sheep Laurel (Kalmia angustifolia)


What a gorgeous plant. Poisonous, yes, but still gorgeous.

All the while I was taking pictures, Beth and David were swimming in the pond. I took a few shots of them too:

Penny, trying to get Beth to throw a stick for her

Penny, trying to get Beth to throw a stick for her


Yes, Penny was trying to get Beth to throw her a stick. If you look closely, you can see the stick bobbing in the water off Beth’s right shoulder (left side of the picture). Talk about a dog with a one-track mind.
And here’s David.
David, showing off his mussels

David, showing off his mussels

There have been lots of new blooms in these parts lately. I noticed three yesterday and two today. The two I saw today were Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora), and Partridge Berry (Mitchella repens). I took some photos:

Mitchella repens

Mitchella repens


Monotropa uniflora

Monotropa uniflora


There are cool things about both of these plants. As you can see from the photo of the Partridge Berry, it produces flowers in pairs, joined at the base. These flowers eventually become a single berry, and the berry has two little eyes – remnants of the two flowers that formed it. The berry stays on the vine all winter long, and persist until the new flowers come in. So I guess the berries ought to be dropping off pretty soon.

The cool thing about Indian Pipe is that it is a plant, not a fungus. The first time I ever saw one was on a hike with Beth and David to Sandogardy Pond about four years ago. We thought it was a fungus then, and it sure does look like a fungus. But fungi do not make seeds, and this plant most certainly does. However, it does have one thing in common with fungi besides its looks – it’s a parasite. It feeds off other plants. It is white because it does not produce chlorophyll.

Yesterday I went for a walk at lunchtime. My mission was two-fold: walk to LL Bean to buy some new shoes, and take a long walk to help the wool in my sock to felt up some more. Also, I kept an eye out for flowers.

While I was at Bean, I saw a solar phone charger. And I’ve been wanting one of these for about a year. The price looked pretty OK to me, so I bought it. Usually when we go camping, it’s in some place where there is no cell phone signal. The phone responds by boosting its own signal, and that drains the battery in short order. So unless I remember to turn off the phone, I need to recharge it. Plus when we go to the Camporee in Oskosh in August, I will need to recharge it then too. I think this is just the ticket. It has an internal battery, so I can leave it on the dashboard of the car during the day, while I have my phone in my pocket. Then at night I can retrieve the solar charger from the car and use it to charge my phone while I sleep.

Now back to plants. On the way to Bean, or on the way back to the office, I found a new-to-me variety of Cinquefoil. Silvery Cinquefoil, or Potentilla argentea. I usually just group all the Cinquefoils together, or divide them into two groups – tall and short. But there are several species of this stuff around here, and some of them are pretty difficult to distinguish. So I will try learning to do that.

I also noted that the Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana), Bitter Nightshade (Solanum dulcimara, White Sweet Clover (Melilotus alba), Hawthorn (Crataegus spp), and Common Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) were all in bloom. I’m guess they did that while I was sick and didn’t feel much like walking about.

I logged them at the Bloom Clock. First time I had done that for a couple of weeks too. Don’t know if I mentioned it, but the Butter and Eggs (Linaria vulgaris) bloomed a couple of days ago too (Wednesday?)

So now I’m pretty much all caught up on the Bloom Clock. I’ll keep a sharp eye out for blooms over the next couple of days. I’m always on the lookout for new blooms at the end of the month, and old blooms that are still just barely going at the beginning of the month. We don’t have anything planned for after church tomorrow, so maybe I’ll take a walk down to Sandogardy. I hope to find some Floating Heart (Nymphoides cordata) in bloom, and maybe some White Water Lily (Nymphaea odorata) too. And maybe some Swamp Candles (Lysimachia terestris) and some Water Lobelia (Lobelia dortmanna). Lotsa stuff to look for anyhow! It’ll prolly rain, but I do have a rain coat and some rain pants, and I know how to use them!

You’ve all been dying for the photo, so wait no longer.

Felted Sock Patch, Day Two

Felted Sock Patch, Day Two


Pulling the wool fibers through the sock fabric helped tremendously. The patch stayed in place all day. I did not wear the socks (or shoes) to bed last night, but rather, peeled them off as gently as I could. Then I put them on again in the morning. I do not normally wear a pair of socks for more than one day, but I that was a sacrifice I was willing to make in the name of pioneering sock repair techniques. I have advanced the art. If I were to write a thesis on this, I would get a PhD in sock repair.

While I was at it, I added a few hanks of wool to the other sock. It has some thin spots, but no holes. It would be fair to call this a preemptive sock patch. I used the dull needle trick to pull the wool fibers through the sock fabric to make a better bond, and those reinforcements are now seemingly quite solid. Yes, I have reinforced the veterans. There is no need for humility here – we can just say it. I am now a Master of Sock Repair.

Until I run these through the wash and completely dislodge the patches.

I’ve been working on my Summer Flowers of Northern New England book some more. Today I added (among other things) Whorled Loosestrife (Lysimachia quadrilfolia). Dunno why, but I love this plant, even though it looks so much like a weed. It is native, and to me, that makes it a lot less weedy. The only photos of this plant at the Commons were ones I had taken last year, and none of them were all that compelling. But it’s in bloom in my backyard right now, so I went out and took a dozen or two photos of it. This is the one I liked best:

Lysimachia quadrilfolia

Lysimachia quadrilfolia


I also found out a cool fact about the origin of the genus name Lysimachia. You’ll hafta look in the book to see it though.

The other thing I did today pretty much dispels any notion that I am not a complete dork. The other day Va saw me sitting in the floor in my sock feet and told me I had to throw away my socks. Yes, they had holes in them. But I am not one who can be commanded to part with an old friend so easily! I told her I would fix them. But would I use any tried an true method of fixing a sock? A method so ancient and revered that there is a special word for it? Maybe “darning”? Of course not! I’m a dork! I have to invent my own method of sock repair. I figure that the pioneers darned their socks because they had so much time on their hands, and they probably hadn’t even thought of the idea I had in my head. OK, they probably did, because the technology I intended to bring to bear on this problem was well known to them. It is also well known to the nomadic tribes of Mongolia, and has been for probably two millennia. Felting.

I had recently read about how felt is made. I had read about it a long time ago too, noting that the process was probably discovered when some poor sot wrapped his feet in wool before jamming them in his boots for a long, cold journey somewhere. Probably involving shepherding. When this guy got home, he had felt boot liners, yay!

Felt is made by compressing dampened wool fibers. In the shepherd’s case, the dampness was probably supplied by his sweat glands. But I figure, hey! I’ve got sweaty feet too! So yesterday I stopped at “The Elegant Ewe” and bought some raw wool. “I need some wool for felting,” I said, trying to sound as not gay as possible. And she fixed me right up. Dennis wisely waited outside, not wanting to be mistaken for the type of man who would go into a store with a name like “The Elegant Ewe.”

And just for the record, let me say that I think that name fails at Alliteration. Sure, “elegant” and “ewe” both start with an e, but alliteration is supposed to sound like alliteration, not just look like it. They should have named it “The Yellow Ewe” or something like that. In my opinion. But I digress!

This morning I picked out the rattiest pair of socks in my arsenal. An old pair of veterans with not just one, but two massive holes in them. One on the heel, and another on the ball. I got out one of my wads of wool (Hey kids! Alliteration!) and stuffed it into the sock, carefully positioning it over the ball hole. Then I wedged another wad of wool into position over the heel hole. I gingerly shod myself so as not to knock the wool out of place. I would imagine our shepherd did the same thing so many ages ago.

I checked on it at noon, and could see that the ball hole wool was felting nicely and integrating itself right into the sock as planned. The heel hole was not faring so well though. I doctored it up a bit and put my shoe back on. Everytime I went to the bathroom, or down the street to pick up lunch, or whatever, I thought to myself, “Nobody knows that I am busily mending my sock even now!”

I checked on it again in the late afternoon. The ball hole was looking fabulous. The heel hole was still not any better. Hmmm. I checked again when I got home, and it was still not working. But I have to say that the ball felt is working great. I assume that’s because it doesn’t slide around on the sock so much as the heel does? Who knows! The wool on the heel was felting OK, it just wasn’t bonding with the sock.

I figured I would have to intervene a little more. I got out a sewing needle and ran it through with no thread, hoping some wool would stick to the needle and get pulled through the sock. But that did not appear to happen at all. Then I tried again, but this time I used a dull needle. This is a needle that I had in the sewing machine this winter when I managed to untime it, causing the needle to bash into the bobbin several hundred times. That bent a nice little hook in the tip that really sucked for sewing – it would cause the cloth to pucker up and distort, almost as if I were trying to force a twig through the fabric instead of a needle. I figured that would be just what I needed. I jammed the needle through the sock and the wad of wool and pulled it out again. It brought the wool with it, right through the weave of the fabric. Yay! I repeated that maybe another two hundred times. Suddenly this is sounding like more work than the ancient art of darning, no?

So, now I’m wearing the sock again. I told Va I would probably have to wear this sock for about a week for the repair to be complete. Also, I will have to wear it to bed. And I will need to wear a shoe over it too so it will have a nice surface against which the wool will be compressed.

She just rolled her eyes, and I know exactly what she was thinking. “Dork!”

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