July 2009

The two new tents I ordered came in today (Sierra Designs Asp 3). They are sweet! I pitched one in the living room to check it out (and to learn how to pitch one under optimal conditions). These are a lot easier to pitch than the big 8-man tents. I am very pleased with the purchase.

I also replaced the globes of the club’s two lanterns. We need to figure out a better way to transport them. They have twice slid off the shelf in the trailer, only to fall to the floor and shatter the globe. That usually takes the mantels out too.

Tomorrow Beth will be Baptized. Va bought a cake to celebrate. The church will be having a potluck afterwards too, and I always look forward to those.

Beth will need to bring a change of clothes, a swimsuit, and a towel. Our church practices full immersion baptism. She will wear a robe over her swimsuit. We have a large tank in the front of the church (usually hidden behind a large oak panel that can be opened). Tonight they will fill the tank and drop in the heater. It takes all night to heat that much water. I guess it must be about 500 gallons. (I just looked up baptismal tanks online, and yeah – that’s about right).

I’m going to try my hardest to get pictures. Whether they turn out good or bad, I’ll post them tomorrow.

Today I met our Pathfinder Club’s previous director (my predecessor) for a lunchtime tour of the wildflowers of Concord. She is working on her Flowers honor and I offered to help her ID some plants. We started out from the Market Basket parking lot and walked north along Storrs Street. We only went a couple of blocks and then turned around, because lunch is only one hour long, and we were stopping to take pictures every 100 feet or so.

She got pictures of 37 species. I had told her I thought we could knock out 35, and I guess that was a pretty good guess! I don’t think I can name all 37 of them now because I didn’t take pictures of them all. But here’s what I do remember:

Butter and eggs, bitter dock, yellow goat’s beard, rabbit’s foot clover, birdfoot trefoil, showy tick-trefoil, soapwort, Canadian goldenrod, American nightshade, bittersweet nightshade, common milkweed, jewelweed, Sandspurry, wood sorrel, common yarrow, Queen Anne’s lace, lespediza, black swallowort, St John’s wort, evening primrose, celandine, pokeweed, groundsel, red clover, sweet white clover, hedge bindweed, burdock, lamb’s quarters, Virginia pepperweed, meadow sweet, and dandelion. Whew!

As soon as I tried to take a picture of my first specimen, I noticed that I had left my camera’s big memory card in my laptop. Luckily, I carry my emergency backup memory card in my camera case, so I popped that in. It’ll only hold six photos at full resolution, so I reduce the image size to 640×480 – enough to document my findings.

When I got home I took another stab at photographing the woodland sunflowers. There are more than half a dozen in bloom along the road in front of the house now. I also tried getting a decent shot of some boneset and a few others.

Beth had left a tub by the catchment pond, and I had noticed what I thought was a dead bug in there yesterday. Today I saw it swimming! I don’t think Beth caught this one and put it in the tub. I think it may have caught itself somehow. Anyhow, I caught it in the bug net and set it out in the sun so I could get some pictures of it. After taking several, I noticed I still was taking 640×480 shots. Doh!

So I changed it back to high res (3456×2592) and took some more. Then I redid the sunflowers. I am not positive, but I suspect this is a Hellgramite – the larval form of the dobsonfly we saw at Taco Bell Sunday. Update: it’s a dragonfly nymph. Thanks Bugguide.net!

Dragonfly nymph

Hellgramite? Maybe!Dragonfly nymph

It is even more scary-looking in larval form than it is as an adult! After switching to hi-res mode, the little bugger wasn’t as cooperative as he was at first, and kept trying to slip away. I took another half dozen ill-posed shots, and then dumped it back into the plastic tub. Maybe it’ll still be there tomorrow and I can try again when it’s less ornery.

Today the Woodland Sunflowers (Helianthus divaricatus) bloomed. I noticed one along the roadside on the way home, but I wasn’t sure that’s what it was. There’s a big patch of it growing at the end of my driveway, so I was on the lookout for it when I pulled in. Yup! Two and a half blossoms! I went in and got my raincoat and tripod. The two fully opened blooms were too high for my tripod to reach, and it was quite overcast, so I didn’t think I could free-hand a shot with out it. So I took one of the half-opened one:

Partially open Woodland Sundflower (Helianthus divaricatus)

Partially open Woodland Sundflower (Helianthus divaricatus)

I’m not 100% confident I got the species right, as there are 62 species of Helianthus in the U.S. Many of them are nearly indistinguishable, especially by an amateur like me. But that’s my best guess. Maybe later tonight I’ll go through all 62 and take a careful look at all the ones that supposedly grow in NH.

Speaking of genera with too many species, another one of those bloomed today. Some sort of aster.

Some sort of Aster

Some sort of Aster

The Aster genus is so confusing as to give professional botanists fits. Furthermore, they keep inventing new genera and moving plants out of Aster and into these new ones. In my Peterson’s Field Guide, he lists a couple dozen species of purple aster, and the closest one I can find there is Aster radula. But according to the USDA and WIkipedia, that one has been moved to a new genus – Eurybia. Those whacky taxonomists! I don’t see how I can ever hope to master the aster.

I have a million things to do before we go to Oshkosh in less than two weeks. I did a couple of them tonight. Our Union T-shirts came in, and I sorted through those and tagged them with names. I wrote a rough draft of the packing list too, but I want Va to turn that into a nice-looking checklist. We’re going to have a packing drill on the Thursday evening before we leave, and the teens in the club will be responsible for making checkmarks on the checklists.

I still need to find out what I was thinking when I ordered the Union pins. I have them, but I have not counted them, and I don’t remember how many we’re supposed to have. Also, I don’t know who needs what. Luckily all that info is tucked away in various emails, so I should be able to sort it out. It’s just gonna take some time and effort.

I ordered to new tents for the club tonight. We bought two 3-man tents, and they were not cheap. We used to pay about half what I spent on each of these for an 8-man tent, but over the past five years of camping with Pathfinders, I have learned that cheap tents are kind of expensive. They fail. They leak. They have to be replaced.

I talked with my staff about what kind of tents to get, and we weighed the pros and cons of various options. The 3-man tents seem to be the best compromise. I intend to replace all our 8-man tents with these over the next couple of years.

A three man tent can be divided into three piles: poles, canopy, and fly. Each of these piles can be stuffed into a kid’s backpack, and the kid should still be able to carry it three miles.

When we aren’t backpacking, we can put two kids in each tent and they will have more room. They will also have more ownership in pitching it, and these are a lot easier to pitch than an 8-man tent. The “ownership” aspect teaches responsibility.

Sometimes we break camp in the rain. Sometimes we break camp when there is still dew on the tents because it won’t evaporate off before it’s time to go. If you store a tent wet, it will mold and mildew, and then… the tent can no longer be used. So when we break camp with wet tents, I end up taking them home and pitching them either in the yard if it’s not raining, or in the garage if it is. I leave them up until they are bone dry.

Drying them out in the garage is always lot’s of fun, because then we can’t park in the garage when we most want to – on a rainy day. Maybe with smaller tents, I can send them home with provably responsible individuals and they can find a corner in their house to dry them out. Or… I could pitch a couple in the basement. It’s just more flexible for stuff like that.

Sometimes we camp in the woods and it’s difficult to find a large enough patch of ground to pitch a big tent (those cursed trees!). I think it will be easier to pitch several smaller ones (just like when we dry them out).

So – that’s my rationale.

Tonight on a whim, I decided to Google for “sock+repair+felting”. The second hit was a previous blog entry that I wrote. The first and third hits take you to places where a) you can buy sock repair felting kits, and b) you can read about how to repair your socks using something very much like the method I invented. Remember the dull sewing machine needle I used to pull the fibers through the sock? You can buy those. There is no need to de-time your sewing machine so you can repeatedly bash the needle into the bobbin, thereby causing the needle to develop a barb at its tip. Apparently they’ll do that (or something like it) at a felting needle factory, for that is exactly what they call it peeps! A FELTING NEEDLE!

So! Take THAT you time-wasting pioneers of yesteryear!

Did you know that if you have a set of World Book Encyclopedia’s, there’s still an amusing use for them? You can rearrange them on the shelf to spell something other than World Book!

Fun with World Book

Fun with World Book

Our bookshelf is not long enough to hold the whole set, so I was free to omit an O. Don’t cha just love anagrams!

Tonight I took the boys to a Pathfinder Staff meeting so we could work out plans for Oshkosh. We got outta there at 9:00 and were pretty hungry by then. So we stopped at Taco Bell. On the way out I saw this huge bug on the sidewalk:

Huge Bug

Huge Bug

As you can see from the dime I put there for reference, this dude was about 3.5 inches long. It may be the largest insect I have ever seen. As soon as I finish posting this here, I’m going to post it on BugGuide.net and wait for someone to ID it for me.
Update: BugGuide came through as always. This is a male dobsonfly (Corydalus cornutus).

Today when I got home from work I putzed around the yard, the front half acre, and the back acre and took some pictures. For some reason, things worked out pretty well picture-wise today, and I got some really nice shots (in my opinion). I uploaded several of these to the Wikimedia Commons. I may or may not nominate them as Quality Images. Anyhow, you should be able to click on these and it will take you to the Commons where you can see a full-resolution version.

Juvenile Wood Frog (Rana sylvatica)

Juvenile Wood Frog (Rana sylvatica)

This is a juvenile Wood Frog (Rana sylvaticus). They grow up to be about two inches long, but when they’re young like this, they’re tiny. I didn’t think I could convey their tinyness without a reference, so I dug the only coin I had out of my pocket and put it in a clearish spot on the ground. First I tried putting it next to the frog, but it was pretty intent on not staying near me and would hop away. So I corralled it near the coin, but before I could get a shot off, it would hop away again. Eventually I resorted to capturing it, and plunking it down on the coin. I regretted that later, as I remembered I was wearing a pretty thick coating of Off (frogs breathe through their skin, so it basically ingested a heavy dose of deet. I hope it lives).

Whorled Loosestrife (Lysimachia quadrifolia)

Whorled Loosestrife (Lysimachia quadrifolia)

As I walked along, I noticed that the Loosestrife flowers were mostly off the plant now. So I went looking for some that were still attached and found this one. The only reason I took the photo was so I would remember to log it at the Bloom Clock. It might be my last log of the year for this species. But instead of a quick snapshot, the photo came out like this. I call that a keeper!

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)

The wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) first bloomed a couple of weeks ago when we were in Kentucky. Ever since then, I’ve been looking for a picturesque specimen, and I think I found one here.

Starflower (Trientalis borealis) in fruit

Starflower (Trientalis borealis) in fruit

This is a Starflower (Trientalis borealis) showing its fruit. These bloomed back in May or so and had flowers for only about a month. But lately I’ve been noticing them around the woods with a little nubbin on the end of the flower stem. Today I looked closer, and that is what I found. It looks like an ultra-tiny blackberry or something. I guess that fruit is about a 16th of an inch across. It’s pretty tiny!

Anyhow, I really like today’s photos, and I hope you enjoy them too.

Earlier this week I ordered a replacement power inverter for the LCD in my old laptop. It came in today. I installed it. It doesn’t work as well as the one I replaced. Grrrr. I should pursue this, but I don’t know if I will. That’s a lot of headache to go through for something that will likely not end the way I want it to anyhow.

Tonight I made another attempt to photograph the Lobelia. It didn’t go so well, but this one is good enough:

Indian Tobacco (Lobelia inflata)

Indian Tobacco (Lobelia inflata)

Yesterday I wrote that I thought it was Lobelia spicata. Well, I’ve changed my mind. Now I’m thinking pretty strongly that it’s Lobelia inflata, aka Indian Tobacco. I went through all my photos that I had tagged as “Unknown species” and found the ones I had taken last year of this plant. Then I retagged them as Lobelia inflata.

All the plants in the genus are poisonous, which would explain a couple of the names I found for the genus as a whole: Pukeweed, and Vomitwort. Is it somewhat emetic? Yes it is!

While I was taking pictures Beth came up to me with some training wheels I had bought at the Pathfinder yardsale back on Memorial Day and asked if I would put them on her bike. I had put some old training wheels on there last year, but they were missing a part – the part that prevents them from folding forward or backward leading to certain crashitude. Which is why I bought another set when I came across them. I put the camera away and got the tools. Then I gave her bike riding lesson number one: how to stop. Here she is putting it into practice:

Beth learning to ride a bike

Beth learning to ride a bike

When I taught Jonathan (my oldest) how to ride a bike, I kinda learned how to teach a kid to ride a bike. A parent’s natural inclination is to make the bike go slow so no one gets hurt, and that’s what I did with him. But that’s all wrong! It’s REALLY hard to balance a bike when it’s going slow, and it’s dead easy to balance when it’s going fast. Once I figured that out, I took him to a grassy hill, and sent him down. I applied that technique on David right away, and he picked it up pretty quickly. We’ll see how it goes with Beth. The problem with grassy hills is that they often lead to trees, and that’s true of our place here. And that’s why lesson one is “how to stop.”

The pastor came over this evening and talked with us (mostly Beth) for about an hour. She has a green light for her baptism on August 1, yay!

It has rained most of the day. Normally, that doesn’t stop me from going outside, but today, I guess maybe it did. Well, actually there were other things that kept me indoors today. I worked through lunch so I could come home early and help get the house straightened for our visit. And then when I got home, I helped straighten. So no ventures out, and no photos today.

I’ve been going through the photos I took over the past couple of days though. There is some sort of lobelia we have growing in our yard, and there’s more of it down at Sandogardy. It’s difficult to photograph because it’s tall and narrow, so the camera doesn’t seem to “see” it, and focusses on something behind it. I could do a manual focus I guess, but I’m not very good at that. Sometimes I’ll put my hand in the scene so it can focus on that, then move it out of the way for the photo. I get mixed results with that approach. Sometimes the magic works, and sometimes it doesn’t.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll make a concerted effort to take a picture of that lobelia so I can send it off to Mr Smarty Plants and get an id. I think it might be Lobelia spicata, but I’m not sure. I’d post a pic tonight, but… none of them are any good!

The other thing I noticed while going through my photos was that I had a bullfrog in the catchement pond last week. There were three frogs in there all at once, and two of them were green frogs. Since that’s what we always have in there, I assumed all three were, but one was definitely a bullfrog. I retagged the photo. Here he is:

Bullfrog (Rana catesebiana)

Bullfrog (Rana catesebiana)

Looks like a male to me. Otherwise, I guess we’d hafta call it a cowfrog? (Sorry!)

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