April 2010

Today I got a call from Jonathan around 11:00. He had registered for a class for the summer semester and needed someone to come and pay for it. So I drove over there and bought him some more education.

Then we headed back, and I stopped at a boat launch on campus and grabbed a geocache. Yay. Then we went to a Chinese restaurant for lunch and went back to the office. I was just getting settled in when I got a call from one of the church members.

The garage canopy had been picked up and hurled into the trees by the wind. And I can say that it was gusting pretty hard too. We had staked it down with tent stakes, but that was obviously insufficient. I was worried that it might be. I should have listened to the doubts.

Jonathan and I immediately went to Home Depot and bought $15 worth of steel stakes. Then we went over to the church to assess the damage.

Three of the joining members were bent badly – two doubled over completely. I did have an extra set of hardware that had been through a similar bit of stress, but I had made it known that I wanted it gone. And it is gone. If I can track it down, I’ll try to salvage some spare parts from it.

We disconnected the (now torn) canopy and rolled it over. I removed the two badly bent joints and shortened the structure by six feet. Then we staked it down, but I decided to put off reattaching the canopy. We dragged that into the building out of the wind and folded it up.

That was heartbreaking.

Before we finished with that, Va showed up to collect Beth from school. Jonathan went home with her, and I went back to the office. I had to work late because I missed such a huge chunk of my day.

Then I went shopping for food for the camporee this weekend. I got most of what we need, but I’m holding off on a few items.

My Mom came home from the hospital. They figured out that the TIA’s were being caused by a sudden drop in her blood pressure when she stood up. Her doctor is adjusting her meds, and she should be right as rain again.

It did snow today, but there was no accumulation. Jonathan remarked several times that it’s only two weeks away from his summer vacation. He couldn’t get over it.

Tonight I am baking a pine log.

Is it ready yet?

Is it ready yet?

The one shown here is one I baked two weeks ago. The Pathfinders are camping this weekend, and one of the competitions is to split a pine log with a hatchet, making fuel, kindling, and tinder. Then lighting it with a match and boiling a can of water. The parameters on the log are that it be pine, and that it be no longer than 12 inches long. They do not specify the diameter, leaving it up to us to find the constraints there.

If the log is too big, there’s no way a kid will be able to split it with a hatchet. If it’s too small, it won’t boil the water. The one shown here was about 6″ in diameter, and it took the kids in our club about 40 minutes to get it split in half. So I’m thinking that’s too big. I cut one the other day (from the same tree, but higher up), and it’s about four inches in diameter. And like the one before it, it’s not exactly dry. I put it in the oven to try to dry it out.

The first log baked for about two hours, and when the kids drove the hatchet into it, water oozed out of the cut. Ouch. But it was raining the day I felled that tree (it had its top snapped out in our ice storm in December 2008). I removed this chunk over the weekend when it was dry outside, and it had been in the garage since. I did remove the bark from it tonight, but I should have done that right away to help the drying process along even more. I suspect that it will still not really be dry enough.

If I were more competitive, I suppose I would have gotten on this a lot sooner. Oh well. If they don’t win this competition, the world will continue to turn.

The house is starting to smell like rosin.

I cut down two trees tonight. One of them was a dead oak (four inch diameter) and the other was another topless pine (six inches). I will use these on Beth’s cabin. I fitted another log onto that tonight, so that’s coming along.

I talked to my Mom today. She went to the hospital at 1:30 am last night, after suffering a TIA. They did a CT scan, and everything looks pretty OK. She thinks she will come home tonight, and I sure hope she does.

The forecast for tonight is for us to get about an inch of snow. The North Country (i.e. Northern New Hampshire) is supposed to get 6-10 inches. Wow.

Fish and Game got back to me today and confirmed the identity of the wood turtle I saw yesterday. They also thanked me for the report, so yay me!

I noticed today that Google Maps finally has updated imagery of my house. Their previous imagery was taken before the house was built (construction started pretty close to six years ago). What was also painfully evident in the new imagery is the logging that was done about a quarter mile from my house. I still grieve for those woods, but at the same time, they weren’t mine, and I wouldn’t want anyone telling me I couldn’t cut them down if they were mine. Here’s what it looks like from space:

The green arrow is the forest that is now a field. The red A is a random something Google decided to plop down on the map. I’m not going to try to figure out how to make it go away, so you’ll hafta live with it I guess. It’s not my house.

It has been raining here all day, so I didn’t spend much time out in it. I did meet Jonathan at Dos Amigos for lunch, and then we headed back to the office together after we got our burritos. On the way I stopped and took a couple of photos of the redbud blossoms:

Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)

Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)

I walked around for five or ten minutes in the woods looking for starflowers (Trientalis borealis), but didn’t find any. Yesterday when I was doing that though, I found a book belonging to the Concord Public Library. One of the neighbor kids left it there. Beth has been playing with these kids a lot lately, and they all seem pretty nice. But I don’t think I’ll loan them any books! I made the kid who claimed it take it in his house right now. A couple weeks ago I found three pairs of kid’s footwear (two pairs of shoes and a pair of boots) by our swingset. They had been rained on. I had Beth deliver them to their house, and their mom was pretty relieved to know what had been happening to her kid’s shoes. I don’t know which kid they belonged to, but they were all the same size, and I’m guessing the inventory might have been significant;y depleted at that point.

Tonight when I was walking about the yard taking pictures, I came across some dewberries. These look all the world like strawberries to me, only the fruits turn out looking exactly like blackberries. Indeed, I can’t tell dewberries from strawberries when they’re in flower. That’s something I’m going to have to work on.

Anyhow, I took this shot:

Crab spider disguised as a style

Look closer

Apparently, I had to get pretty close to the flower to get this shot. I was looking through my photos tonight when I stopped on this one and thought, “The styles on that dewberry look positively weird.” And then I noticed a little growth in the center. It didn’t take long to realize then that those weren’t styles at all – it’s a crab spider! I was right on top of this thing taking its picture, and I didn’t notice it.

This is why it’s a good idea to not delete photos straight off the camera.

Today just before lunch Va called me to let me know that Beth’s lunch was still on the counter top. Today was Beth’s first day back to school following Spring Break, and I guess we weren’t quite back in the swing of things. There was no time for Va to drive to the school before lunch, so I went to Taco Bell and got her something. I also grabbed something for myself. I got to the school just as Beth was leaving the classroom to get her lunchbox, so I guess that was cutting it pretty close.

I went to a small park near the church and ate there. This is a tiny little park, and you would never know it was there unless you knew it was there. So to speak. I parked the car and walked down to a little oxbow. There is a beaver lodge there, so I sat near it hoping to see some beavers. I saw a couple of Canada geese and dozens of redwing blackbirds, but no beavers.

Then I heard something crashing in the trees behind me. I turned around, but didn’t see anything. I watched. Pretty soon, I could see bushes shaking, but I still couldn’t see what was making all the ruckus. I got out my camera, stood up, and walked over there. Here’s what I saw:

Wood Turtle (Glyptemys insculpta)

Wood Turtle (Glyptemys insculpta)

I know that NH Fish & Game has an interest in turtles – they have a reporting program for reptiles and amphibians. Some species are endangered with extirpation in these parts, and F&G really wants to know about them. Well, I had no idea what kind of turtle I was looking at, so I took several photos, getting as close as I dared (a snapping turtle can remove a finger in an instant). I also had the GPS with me from our geocaching run on Saturday, so I turned that on, waited for it to lock, and then jotted down the coordinates.

When I got back to the office, I checked the F&G website. From the turtles they had listed there (complete with photos and identification tips), I decided that it was most likely a Wood Turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) – and that’s one fo the species F&G cares deeply about. So I sent in a report, complete with the photo above and the latitude and longitude.

I haven’t heard back from them, and I’m not sure I will. They can check it out if they so desire. But I sure thought it was cool seeing one. I never expected to see one on “the list.”

When I got home, I tramped through the woods some more. The gaywings (Polygala paucifolia) I wrote about yesterday have indeed opened now.

Gaywings (Polygala paucifolia)

Gaywings (Polygala paucifolia)

Can you see the propeller, fuselage, and wings?

After that I worked a bit more on Beth’s cabin. I managed to get two more logs laid and fitted. It’s coming along.

The mystery plant from yesterday turned out to be False Hellebore (Veratrum viride). This one has been in my Unidentified file for a couple of years now, so it’s good to finally know what it is.

Veratrum viride

Veratrum viride

It also turns out to be a pretty interesting plant! First, it is highly toxic, so it’s a good thing I didn’t decide it was close enough to cabbage that I could eat it (I would never eat an unknown plant though, and I highly recommend that no one else do that either). It usually causes vomiting, but if it doesn’t, it will be fatal. Some Native Americans used to have potential chiefs eat the root (which contains the highest concentration of the toxin), and which ever one was last to vomit – he got to be the new chief! I wonder if they ever accidentally killed their two best men with that approach.

I took a walk through my woods again today. I was surprised to find these:

Gaywings (Polygala paucifolia)

Gaywings (Polygala paucifolia)

I like these plants. Once those blooms open for business, they look like a little airplane, with a fuselage, propeller, and wings (thus the common name, I suppose). I’ll look for them again tomorrow to see if they’re open. This is another species that has bloomed two weeks early. Last year they bloomed on May 4.

Around 1:00 I headed over to the church. We had planned a closet clean-out for today. I set up the canopy I scored in December. I had help setting it up this time, and between forgetting the instructions at home, and having almost two sets of all the steel parts, it took a while to figure out how it went back together. A bit over two hours in fact. And that was in 70 degree, sunshiny weather (unlike the blizzard I fought when I took it down).

On the way there I stopped and took several shots of the hobblebush again. I’m still not happy with any of my pictures of this plant. Here’s the best from today, featuring some sort of insect I have not yet attempted to identify:

Hobblebush (Viburnum lantanoides) blossoms

Hobblebush (Viburnum lantanoides) blossoms

I might need to talk to my friend Paul about what I can do to get a better shot. Maybe I just need to bring the tripod along, I dunno.

Common Merganser?

Common Merganser?

Here’s another shot I took of the “ducks” earlier today. I went ahead and posted this one too, in spite of how craptastic it turned out, because it was the best shot I had with the male (?) present. I’m thinking these might be Common Mergansers (Mergus merganser), but… not sure.

Today after church (and after lunch) David and I took Penny down to Sandogardy Pond. I’ve been seeing a mystery plant on the edge of the Interstate lately, and I thought there might be some along the trails by the pond, so I wanted to check that out. When we got there, I saw a whole bunch of it, just as I hoped I might.

Mystery Plant

Mystery Plant

This plant looks a little cabbage-like. It grows about three feet high in shady, wet places (i.e, in swamps in the woods). It has leaves that are about a foot wide. I have never seen it in bloom, and that makes it difficult to find in any of my field guides, as they all organize plants by bloom color.

When we got back, Beth and I then took Penny to the Winnipesaukee Trail. There are several geocaches along the trail, and I figured we could bag four of them. And we did! One of them required a bit of bushwhacking, and when Beth found it, it had a hole in the lid. The contents were soaked to the point where I didn’t think we could sign the log. Oh well.

Penny chased sticks the whole time, and I did my best to keep her moving at top speed. I could tell she was starting to get tired, because she would run after the stick, scoop it up, and then lay down and wait for us to catch up instead of dashing back to us with the stick. This was a good day for her – she doesn’t generally get nearly as much exercise as she needs.

I spotted several wildflowers along the path, including some strawberries and violets. We also saw three or four ducks paddling around a rock in the river. I took some pictures, but didn’t have my full-sized tripod with me, so I had to try to steady the camera by hand. That’s hard to do when zoomed in to the max (40x).

Mystery Ducks

Mystery Ducks

I’m going to get my bird guides out in a little bit and see if I can’t figure out what these are. If anyone knows though…

Why Goldthread (Coptis trifolia) is called "Goldthread"
I read up on Goldthread after taking all those pictures, and meant to write a bit about it here – but I forgot!

It gets its name from its thread-like, golden-yellow roots. Another name for it is canker root, because the Native Americans and colonists alike would chew on the root to relieve canker sores. Whoduthunkit? Wikipedia does not have any photos showing the roots, so I decided I would have to dig some up and see just how yellow they are. I would say the plant was aptly named. I’ll upload this to Wikipedia later.

After my walk and after supper, I went back outside to work on Beth’s cabin:

The log cabin

The log cabin

Beth has been making all kinds of plans for this, so I guess that obligates me to finishing it. Its longest dimension is the rear wall on the left. I used yet another pine log that had its top snapped out last year (December 2008) to add to that section tonight. I cut it to length, and then trimmed off all the bark. If the bark is left on, bugs move in, because they like the semi-waterproof housekeeping that provides. I took the first strip of bark off with the axe, but then decided that was way to much work, especially since I have a drawknife down in the basement. I fetched it, and the rest came off much more easily. I cut some notches on the logs where it will lay, but by then it was getting close to dark. I still need to cut notches in this new log. Since I had the drawknife out there, I went ahead and smoothed the notches I did cut though. That does a better job than either the axe or the hatchet.

I probably ought to bore some holes through the notches and peg the logs in place too. That would just make it a little bit stronger, and it’s not that much work, so why not?

The lilacs near my office bloomed yesterday, and the redbud bloomed today. Just so you know.

Yesterday I mentioned that I had taken several shots of some Goldthread (Coptis trifolia), and I thought that maybe some of them had come out pretty OK. Well, I think maybe this one did!

Coptis trifolia

Coptis trifolia

I liked this one so much I uploaded it to the Commons and added it to the WIkipedia article on the plant.

You can see a hi-res version there if that sort of thing interests you.

I’ve been calling this Coptis groenlandica, which is the name Peterson listed for it in my Wildflowers field guide, and that was how I first identified it. However, the more widely accepted name is C. trifolia, and that’s what the USDA, Lady Bird Johnson WIldflower Center, and WIkipedia all call it. I still have it listed as C. groenlandica in my photo database and at Wikiversity though. Maybe I’ll switch over completely some day, but… I’m in no rush.

I had to leave work early today so I could take Penny to the vet. On the way there, I stopped and took a couple of pictures of some bluets:

Azure bluets (Houstonia caerulea)

Azure bluets (Houstonia caerulea)

I stopped though because I thought I spotted some blooms where I knew some wood anemones (Anemone quinquefoilia) grew last year. Unfortunately, I didn’t see them, and Penny was starting to get agitated in the car with David. So I quickly took the bluet portraits and went on.

On the way back though, I thought I saw the anemones again. So I stopped again, and found that I was right:

Wood anemone (Anemone quinquefoilia)

Wood anemone (Anemone quinquefoilia)

When I got home, I went outside and worked more on Beth's play-house cabin. I think that counts as aerobic activity, so I'm going to just call it that. I did find that the cabin already had at least one resident, though it is not human:

Huge ant

Huge ant

I saw this ant yesterday on the same log, so I shouldn’t have been surprised to see it again today. It’s about an inch and a quarter long. I haven’t yet tried to determine the species, but I’ll try to get to that later tonight.

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