September 2009

Yesterday I had to come home a little early so Va and I could go to the city building to renew our vehicle registration. I also needed to change my address (it was originally listed as a PO Box, because when we first moved to NH, we were housed in temporary quarters). On the way there, I began to wonder when my driver’s license expires, so I fished out my wallet and checked. 9/20/2009. Gah! Nine days ago!

I had been driving illegally for over a week!

So this morning after I illegally dropped Beth off at school, I went straight to the DMV. Well, not straight. I did stop at a Dunkin Donuts shop and get an egg and cheese croissant. At the DMV they had me fill out a form and pose for a deer-in-the-headlights photo. They offered to take another, but I think it’s traditional to have an awkward-looking photo on your driver’s license, so I let it stand.

Then they gave me a temporary license. The real one will be mailed sometime in the near future. I was outta there in half an hour.

I was a little surprised that they didn’t hassle me about letting my old license expire. A guy I know from Virginia accidentally let his license expire, and they made him retake the test. And he flunked it. He had been driving for over thirty years when that happened, but no matter. It expired, and he flunked the test, so then he had to get a learner’s permit. I think if that had happened to me, my kids would never have let me live it down.

Almost four years ago, our Pathfinder club piloted the Internet honor. That means we tested the honor and gave feedback to its author before it was submitted to the NAD for approval. It was approved the following month (with several of our suggestions incorporated). All we had to do then was wait for the patch.

Which has not been forthcoming.

Every time I went to buy honor patches for the club, I would check for the Internet patch. Cheryl (my predecessor) had been doing the same thing. But no patch.

Until tonight.

I was looking for something else on the website where such things are procured (AdventSource), and was having difficulty finding it with their search box. So I started digging manually, looking at everything they had. And that’s when I saw the Internet patch. I put 25 of them in my shopping cart (even though only six of us earned it four years ago).

When you buy 25, you get a heavy discount. I figure I’ll be teaching that one again soon, so I might was well stock up!

It’s about time.

Today after work I went out and took a look at all the tents I had pitched in the yard. They were mostly dry except for pools of water on the floors. So I grabbed a huge sponge and soaked it up (mostly). I guess I sponged out two gallons of water from two tents. I didn’t bother with the two smaller ones, but maybe I will tomorrow. It’s supposed to rain sometime tonight and all day tomorrow though. Theortically, the inside of the tents will stay dry, but in practice… who knows. They do get wet on the inside when it rains on a camping trip, but I suspect that’s mostly from wet people tramping in and out of them.

I’m back from the campout. The beautiful numbering job I did on the tents didn’t stick. When we woke up Saturday morning, the temperature was 27°F with a nice thick coating of frost on everything. And most of the numbers had simply flaked right off, completely intact. Huh. Wasn’t expecting that.

Saturday afternoon I took the kids on a hike. We were going to try for five miles, but the morning program went about an hour longer than I was expecting, and the kids were taking their own sweet time cooking their lunch, eating it (especially eating it), and washing up. I had intended to get off site at about 1:00, but we didn’t leave until 2:45. No way we could get five miles in with a start like that.

Instead we did what I always do when I’m hiking with time constraints. I figure out when I want to get back to the trailhead, and hike until we’re halfway to that time. Then we turn around. That system works pretty well, but I suppose it ought to be obvious to anyone who thinks about it for a second or less. The trick is to remember to check the time when you set out and do the math. And then stick to the plan. Here’s a scene from our hike:

Smart's Brook Hike

Smart's Brook Hike

When we got back from the hike I had a bit of trouble from one of the kids. I don’t think I’ve written about this before, because I don’t like to share a kid’s problems, but I have a feeling this is going to absorb a lot of my time in the future. I won’t go into his problems except to say that when he becomes unhappy about something, he deals with it by fleeing the scene. This is very dangerous behavior on a campout or a hike.

I am very happy I recognized this tendency during our first meeting of the year and had the foresight to formulate a plan. I met with him and his mother and went over it. Unfortunately, I had to activate that plan yesterday, but fortunately, we all knew the consequences ahead of time (a 30-day suspension).

We were camped about 30 minutes from his house, so I had him pack up and I took him home. I hope this will be a learning experience for him.

I got back just in time for the evening program. This is always a lot of fun as the kids from the various clubs put on something of a talent show. Our group was the first up. David and another kid had written a skit on our way home from Oshkosh last month.

The gist of the skit was that a bank robber (the other kid) came to rob the bank where David was the teller. The teller informs the robber that he cannot complete any transactions without a bank identification card. So the robber fills out an application. That part contained my favorite gag:

Teller: “Social Security number?”
Robber: “Man, I can never remember that.” (digs out wallet). “Here it is. 123-45-6789”

No one ever accused a bank robber of being smart! In the end, the teller assesses half a dozen (successively higher) fees, including one for performing a transaction on a day ending with ‘y’. Here they are:

Bank Robbing the Robber

Bank Robbing the Robber

Afterwards, I went to a director’s meeting and Paul shared lots and lots of info with us about upcoming events. His planning skills are very impressive (and very much appreciated). During that meeting, someone burst into the tent (actually, an “instant garage” canopy) and told us that a drunk, shirtless man had burst through the woods into one of our clubs’ campsites. He asked “Where’s the store?” and was directed that way. Then he disappeared into the woods again. That was a bit… alarming? Police were called, and all the adults in our organization were on alert. As it turned out, he had been camping on the other side of the creek (same campground), got drunk, and assaulted his own mother. She called the cops. He fled into the woods, removed his shirt, jumped into the creek, and swam across to our area. He was apprehended after a couple of hours.

David’s observation was something like, “Drunk guy, no shirt, hiding in the woods in New Hampshire on a cold September night with a 100% chance of rain in the forecast. Not very smart from a survival skills perspective.” I heartily agreed. A very large percentage of the wilderness tragedies we hear about in these parts sound remarkable similar (especially where alcohol is involved).

We stayed up pretty late and had a nice fire going when Paul came by and told us the guy had been caught. We all went to bed feeling quite a bit less apprehensive. The forecast was true to its promise too, with the rain commencing at about 3:30. Joyce was up when it started (she was on her way back to her tent from the bathroom). I didn’t notice that it was raining until 6:00am, and that can only mean one thing: I slept soundly from 3:30 to 6:00. And by soundly, I mean I was probably snoring pretty loudly!

I got up at 7:00 knowing that the day’s events were almost certainly cancelled. Paul came by and confirmed that soon enough. So we finished breakfast, struck camp, and headed home.

When we got here I learned that our microwave is broken. A cable in the door snapped, and we cannot retreive Jonathan’s burrito. It’s still in there. Normally, I would attack such a problem with my large arsenal of tools, but microwaves are another kettle of fish. If you mess up the seal, it can easily begin emitting microwaves into the environment, and you can’t really tell that until one of two things happens (or maybe both): people in the family get sick, or (worse!) the wifi quits working.

We’ve had this microwave for something like 22 years. It has been good to us. But maybe it’s time for a new one. So Va and I went and bought one. My suspicion is that no one makes microwave ovens capable of lasting 20 years any more. I put the new one in its place and we tried it out. When it’s running… no wifi! Aaaaagggghhh!

After I got the microwave set up, I donned my rain pants and rain coat and pitched four tents in the yard. I know they won’t dry tonight (still raining!), but as long as they’re set up they won’t mold either. I still need to pitch my little one-man tent though. I’m thinking living room.

Today after work I “dashed” off to the vet to get some HeartGuard and tick meds for the dog. Of course they’re in the middle of a road construction project in the middle of Concord, and I didn’t know about that. So I had some traffic to slog through.

When I got home and after I ate supper, I pulled the three-man tents out and painted numbers on them with some fabric paint. It’s probably completely unnecessary, but I really like having numbered tents. I’ve come up with a new scheme for doing this, which is good since none of the other tents are numbered yet.

The two I numbered tonight are T09.1 and T09.2. T for Tent, 09 for the year of purchase, and .1/.2 for the serial number. I numbered the fly and the bag. I don’t think I’m going to bother with the poles or canopy though. That should be enough.

I also numbered two of the three chairs I bought. I didn’t label the third, because I’m not 100% positive which one it’s supposed to replace. Maybe 7. The other two are plain old 1 and 2. No fancy schemes for the chairs, because I assign seats on campouts.

In fact, every camper in our group gets what I call an “Issuance Number.” That’s primarily to identify their dishes, but we extended it to chairs a little while back. We assign people dishes so that they are accountable for them (in the case when a dirty dish gets abandoned by a kid, which is surprisingly frequent). We extended this to chairs because people were leaving them out in the open overnight. Rain or dew makes them rather uncomfortable, so now when that happens, the perpetrator is the only one who has to suffer. This has cut WAY back on that. But it also kinda mandates simple whole numbers for the chairs, which is OK.

As soon as the paint dries, I will repack the tents and the chairs. I still need to get the roof bag out and get it on my car. I have already packed my backpack, and I have most of the things ready to go for tomorrow. But not everything. I’ll hafta either get up early tomorrow or stay up late tonight taking care of that.

The other thing I did tonight was to fill a plastic water bottle with gravel as per Michelle’s excellent suggestion in a response to yesterday’s post. So far so good. Shaking the bottle wasn’t quite enough to break Penny’s concentration on Beth, but whacking her with it sure was. She was far more subdued at bedtime tonight than she has been in a while. But what was especially good was that she sought me out for solace as soon as Beth had gone upstairs.

I also tried it on Penny’s other favorite frenzy inducer: the TV. She just goes nuts when anyone turns that on. My guess is that the 15KHz buzz (which is beyond my hearing range) drives her crazy (unlike the not-silent whistle I bought yesterday). Or maybe she dislikes it because it’s an attention hog.

When anyone heads towards the living room, she goes on full alert. Sometimes David will pick up the remote, point it at the TV, and imitate the sound of the TV coming on. That sets her off too. With the TV it’s amusing. With Beth it’s disturbing. Amusement aside though, I need her to quit doing that, because when the kids leave a DVD lying on the floor in front of the TV, Penny will step all over it during her fit. She has ruined more than one DVD that way.

Today after work I ran about eight dozen errands.

I was going to go to a pet store first, but there’s an L.L. Bean in that same plaza, and I have some birthday money (thanks Mom!) So I went in there first and looked around. But I didn’t buy anything.

Then I went to the pet store. I was looking for a dog whistle. Penny has been getting after Beth, and we need to do something to disrupt that. The only whistle I found said it was shrill and loud, and that it was meant for dog training, but I wanted something beyond the range of human hearing, and this didn’t look promising. So I went on.

Next stop was to drop off a blank permission slip for one of my Pathfinders so she can come on the camp out this weekend. Check. Then I was off to her cousin’s house to do exactly the same thing. But as I left the housing development, cousin’s mom was driving in. So I did a U-turn and caught up with her. Check.

Then I went to Ken’s farm to take down the tents I had suspended beneath a tarp last week. I saw Ken’s mother (Emma) and visited with her for a few minutes. She’s really looking good. She had been shucking corn and snapping green beans. Ken and his two sons (both Pathfinders) were busy putting Tyvek up on one of the barns. I chatted with them for a few minutes. Then I headed down to the woods and got the tents.

Then it was off to a different pet store to see about a dog whistle. While I was there, I also wanted to price out a training collar (the kind that delivers an unpleasant electrical stimulus to the dog when you press the button on the remote control). Those things are expensive. I may end up getting one anyhow though.

They had dog whistles. I got the one labelled “Silent Whistle.” Then I went across the parking lot to a sporting goods store to look for camping chairs. We threw three of those away in Oshkosh, so I needed to replace them.

It took an eternity to do that though. I found the chairs quickly enough. Problem was that none of them were marked. I chased down an employee, but he was busy with another customer. I eventually gave up on him and made my way back over to the chair section. When I got there I saw another employee and snagged him. They had three styles of chairs at three different prices: $10, $20, and $30. The $20 and $30 chairs both claimed to be capable of support a 350 pound occupant. The $10 one was rated at only 225 pounds. I went for the $20 model.

Then I set out for home. As I was waiting at a traffic light, I opened the “silent” whistle and gave it a test blow. It was most decidedly not silent. I read the instructions – it has an adjustable pitch. Unfortunately, it looked to me as if it were already adjusted for its highest pitch. I made adjustments anyhow, and as expected, the pitch went lower. Bummer.

When I got home I had Beth give the whistle a try. It didn’t seem to faze the dog AT ALL, so I’m going to take it back. Also, it is NOT silent. Next step is to try one of the remote trainers. I guess. I’ll price them online though, as they are far from cheap.

Tonight after work the family and I went to Tio Juan’s in Concord for dinner to celebrate my recent birthday. Yay! David pronounced his meal inferior to the offerings from Taco Bell. Boo! My food was far and away better than anything I’ve ever had at TB. So I have no regrets.

I routed the family through a mini-park in the middle of town on the way to the restaurant. It’s full of art, so we got some culture while we were out. Here’s Beth posing in one exhibit:

Beth with Art

Beth with Art

I purposfully omitted the top of the sculpture from the picture, because there was a paper Pepsi cup on top of it. A good photographer would have removed the cup and then taken the picture. Meanwhile, Jonathan and David were going on about how the Pepsi cup represented the futility of man or some such rot. I can’t remember exactly what they were saying (or which of them was saying it), but it was funny. Now I’m sorry I didn’t capture the cup on top of “Rock with hole in it.”

Today Va and Beth went to Maine for Adventurer’s Fall Fun Day. The drive takes 2:45 (according to the GPS), and they were supposed to be there at 9:00am. So we got up early. They ate breakfast, got in the car, and drove way. I went back to bed. I stayed there until 11:00.

When I got up, I folded the tarps I had hung in the backyard to dry the other day. I also looked at my pathetic garden. I have two squash about the size of my thumb. Also, we had our first frost last night. I seriously doubt I’m going to get much more than two thumb’s worth of squash out of there. I’ll try again next year. I guess.

I captured a bug in the backyard too, but Va had my camera, so I couldn’t take a picture. I put it in a glass and covered the top with a saucer. Maybe I’ll take a picture in a little while, I dunno. I did find the bug in my new Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America. It is apparently some sort of blister beetle, perhaps Meloe impressus. It looks a lot like a six-spotted tiger beetle, only the abdomen is quit a bit larger and it has zero spots (that I could see).

Today was race day in Loudon, and that means bad traffic. I wanted to avoid that, so the boys and I headed to the church at about 2:00pm for our 4:00 Pathfinder meeting. They did school work while we waited, and I planted the maple trees Ken and I bought last week.

Then we had the meeting which went well. They surprised me with a birthday cake at the end. Yay me! Next week is the conference camproee, and it looks like everyone will go. I hope they do anyhow. It’s a bit more local this year, so we won’t have to drive halfway to Canada to get there.

Today Jonathan had planned a hike to the summit of Mount Kearsarge. The same group of people who participated two weeks ago joined us again, as did David.

After church, we ate a quick lunch and then drove to Winslow State Park. When we got there, I found something new that I hadn’t seen there before – an attendant. They’ve always had a little booth at the entrance to that park, and it has always had a sign on it saying “Stop. Pay fee.” But there has never (until today) been anyone there to collect that fee, nor has there been a place to deposit one. So I was a bit surprised by this.

And unprepared.

This fee is $4.00 per person over the age of 12. I had only $4.00 on me, but I had three people over the age of 12. The party joining us had one person over 12, and he had no cash on him either. So we did a U-turn.

That’s a long drive for a U-turn. As it turns out, our companions live within a couple miles of us, so I thought we might as well hike all the way around Sandogardy Pond. Some of that hike is along a couple of roads, and that part of it was rather unpleasant. But overall, it was a decent hike.

We also saw another very rare thing – a train on the tracks that skirt the pond. Trains are so rare on this stretch of track, that they actually stop when they get to the road. A guy hops off the train and flags the traffic to stop. Then the train crosses.

It might be a bit charitable to call this a train anyhow. It consisted of one diesel engine pulling an antique engine. Or maybe it was a caboose. We were too far away to really make it out. Maybe I should have taken a picture.

Today after work I went over to Ken’s house. Our mission was to go to Lowes and buy eight sugar maples so they could be planted along the edge of the new playground.

After feeding his cows, we hopped in his truck and drove to Lowes. They had maples all right, but no sugar maples. Instead, they had a mix of red maples (Acer rubrum) and a couple of hybrids that I had never heard of. I can only remember one of them now, and that’s what they called “Autumn blaze” (Acer x fremani). When I looked at it, I thought it was a silver maple (Acer sacharinum) because the leaves had the same shape (deep sinuses) and a silver underside (as does the silver maple). I was happy to learn when I got home that Acer x fremani is a cross between Acer rubrum and Acer sacharinum, so it was indeed half silver maple.

I don’t remember the name of the other cultivar – red something or another, but not plain red maple. I just checked the receipt. It was a Red Sunset maple, which is a cultivar of regular red maple. Cool.

The good thing is that you can tap red maple and get good syrup from them. That was the reason we wanted sugar maples in the first place, even though it will be years before these could be tapped. We dropped them off at the church, but I have no idea when they will be planted.

Then we went back to his farm where my car was. Lowes also had some apple trees for sale, and a redbud. I was tempted. I would like to have some fruit trees. Ken confessed that he has a weakness for fruit trees, and he is particularly fond of McGowan apples (if I spelled that correctly). He offered to pick one for me when we got to his place, and I gladly accepted. It is a very good apple, so if I can find them, I will buy a couple. I’d also like to get some plum trees.

Then I drove home, knowing that Beth would be there by the time I arrived. And she was! I kinda missed her while she was in Maine. She was excited to see me too and spent several minutes telling me about Outdoor School. She paddled a kayak (on a lake) and got stung by a yellow jacket. I guess those were the highlights.

Next Page »