October 2010


Yesterday I took this shot of Penny before I left for work:

Penny

Penny


She was waiting for me to kick a ball that didn’t make it into the photo. I did kick it for her, as I do nearly every morning before I go to work. The last kick comes just as Jonathan is pulling into the turn-around spot so I can jump in and make my escape while she chases the ball.

Then at lunch time I took a stroll around my usual route in Concord, camera in hand. I wanted to see what was still in bloom. Here’s what I found:

Oenothera biennis (Evening Primrose)

Oenothera biennis (Evening Primrose)


Linarea vulgaris (Butter-and-eggs)

Linarea vulgaris (Butter-and-eggs)


Hieracium pratense (Yellow Hawkweed, King Devil)

Hieracium pratense (Yellow Hawkweed, King Devil)


Trifolium pratense (Red Clover)

Trifolium pratense (Red Clover)


Erigeron annuus (Daisy Fleabane)

Erigeron annuus (Daisy Fleabane)


Lepidium virginicum (Virginia Pepperweed)

Lepidium virginicum (Virginia Pepperweed)


The pepperweed is one of my favorite wild edibles. It has plenty of flavor. I ate this clump right after taking the photo. The flowers are inconspicuous and can barely be seen up there at the top of the stem. The flowers turn to seed and the stem grows higher with flowers ever-blooming at the top.
Solanum dulcamara (Bittersweet)

Solanum dulcamara (Bittersweet)


I wasn’t expecting to see any bittersweet. I found none the last time I looked here, but I guess I wasn’t looking hard enough. There weren’t many blossoms, but there were a lot of berries (which are poisonous).
Solanum dulcamara (Bittersweet) berries

Solanum dulcamara (Bittersweet) berries


These are closely related to tomatoes, as both are in the nightshade family. People used to believe tomatoes were poisonous because so many nightshades are. Nobody has qualms about eating tomatoes these days though.
Solidago spp. (Goldenrod)

Solidago spp. (Goldenrod)


I don’t know which species of goldenrod this is – there are probably a hundred that grow around here, and they are difficult to distinguish. Almost as difficult as the asters. Most of the goldenrod has gone to seed, but there are still a few of them in bloom.
Helianthus tuberosus (Jerusalem Artichoke)

Helianthus tuberosus (Jerusalem Artichoke)


This Jerusalem Artichoke is from the same stand I blogged about a little while ago. I didn’t dig any more of them up, but I am going to keep an eye on them so I can maybe score some JA seeds for my place. I think I’ve found a place where I can grow them in the front of the house. There might be enough sun there.

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Our AC is broken. That’s not a huge problem since it’s late October and we live in New Hampshire, but it is a problem I intend to resolve sooner rather than later.

It was in the 70’s here the past couple of days. That’s not normally a problem either, except that it was also pretty humid yesterday. Va wanted to run the AC to knock the humidity down, but the AC would not start.

Instead, the lights in the house would dim every 10 seconds or so as the AC tried to start. I figured it was either a bad compressor (expensive!) or a bad capacitor (way less expensive, but still not cheap). I called Dad. He did heat and air before he retired several years ago. He told me how to test the start capacitor.

To do that, I would need either an analog multimeter, or a capacitance meter. My meter is digital, and it doesn’t do capacitance, so I borrowed one from work today. I needn’t have bothered.

When I opened it up, I immediately noticed that one of the wires had come off the capacitor. I also noticed that the capacitor had three leads, and I happen to know that a capacitor should only have two. Confused, I called Dad again.

This particular capacitor is actually two capacitors in one package – one for the fan, and one for the compressor. They each share a common lead.

Anyhow, one of the non-common wires was off (turns out that was the fan though, not the compressor). The spade connector was somewhat abnormal looking, having a crimp on only one side:

Faulty spade connector

Faulty spade connector


See how the one on the right is missing? The edge of that spade should curl around and grip the connector on the cap, but there’s nothing there. It was just flapping in the breeze.

Luckily, that wasn’t the worst of it. Had there been nothing else wrong with the cap, the compressor not starting would be unexplained, and that would be a Bad Thing.

The other problem was that the common connector on the cap was all wiggly. I took two pictures and turned them into an animated gif. But those are kinda annoying, so you’ll have to click “more” to see it (there’s nothing more after “more” though, so if you skip it, you’re not missing much).

Anyhow, I need to find a replacement cap (and a replacement spade connector) and swap them out, and we’ll be ready to face another New England summer. But first… we’ll have to face another New England winter!

(more…)

The sun came out today. David, Beth, and I took Penny down to Sandogardy Pond. I had noticed on Thursday that the foliage was quite brilliant, and hoped that it would still be today – but I was disappointed. The high winds we had Friday took their toll. Most of the trees were bare.

The only thing I saw that was still in bloom were some asters. I took several photos and deleted almost all of them. The sky was overcast and low in the sky, plus there was still a fairly brisk wind blowing. Low light plus moving plants equals poor photos.

Eventually, I came across a small clump of asters growing low near the edge of the pond.

Asters at Sandogardy's Edge

Asters at Sandogardy's Edge


The water in the pond was up too, so normally, these asters would not have been in the water. There was a lonely bee working the blossom. She was a bit lethargic, but I suppose that was because of the low temperature (it was in the upper 40’s). I tried to move in closer to her to get a better shot, and she took off, did a loop, and landed splash in the water! She swam about for a bit, but it was clear to me she wasn’t going to make it. So I reached in and offered my fingers as a life raft. She climbed aboard without hesitation.
Rescued!

Rescued!


I looked at her a bit as she crawled around. I was pretty sure she would not sting, and I was correct about that. I moved my fingers back to the flower, and she made a “bee line” for it (sorry, I couldn’t resist).
Back in Business

Back in Business

I had also noted that there was plenty of goose scat all over the beach, especially near the dock where these aster grew. After I rescued the bee, Beth pointed out the geese on the water. We were pretty far away though, so it was hard to tell if they were geese or ducks. David had forgotten his glasses so he couldn’t tell either. I zoomed in with the camera and took a couple of spectacularly bad shots. They were good enough to id the birds as Canada geese, but not good enough to post here! I also photographed a sample of the scat, and it turned out pretty good – but I’ll spare you!

We had hail yesterday and snow today. It was coming down lightly when I left for work. It came down more abundantly after I got to work. The bank thermometer said it was 43 degrees, but coupled with the wind it felt like -43. It was chilly!

It didn’t amount to anything, but it was an unmistakable sign of the coming winter.

I’ve been thinking about snowshoes lately. I have some rawhide that I bought about five years ago so I could make a traditional pair. I also cut down a small maple and rived out a stave. But that’s as far as I got. White ash is the preferred wood, but I don’t have any of that on my place. I might go out and buy a plank. If I’m going to put in the effort to make a pair, I’d rather use the right wood.

I will probably also end up buying at least one pair too, because I don’t want to go snowshoeing alone. I’m sure Beth would be game for it, and David probably would be as well, but that’s probably about it in my family.

I guess I would have been a terrible meteorologist. It was raining this morning, but I didn’t bring my rain coat. I was planning to make a bank deposit and get a haircut, but neither of those was so pressing as to get me out in the weather without proper gear.

I glanced out the window again in the afternoon – no rain. So I strolled down to the bank, made my deposit, and then stopped at the barber’s. About the time I got in the chair, there was a very loud thunder boom. Thirty seconds later, the hail came. It was pouring outside. It only last a couple of minutes, but I’d guess we got at least an inch of rain during that time. We also got a half inch (in places) of hail.

Hail piled up on the curb

Hail piled up on the curb


Hail on the Chief

Hail on the Chief


It all blew over by the time I was ready to leave.

Jerusalem Artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus)

Jerusalem Artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus)


Yesterday during lunch I went for a walk through Concord. I took my usual route, only in reverse. There’s a taxi cab parking lot along the way, and at the edge of it is a little stand of Jerusalem Artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus). If it’s not obvious enough from looking at the photo, these are in the same genus as the common sunflower.

When I first started in Pathfinders, I was very interested in the Edible Wild Plants honor. One of the requirements in that honor is to find, prepare, and eat an edible tuber. I bought a copy of Peterson’s Edible WIld Plants, and started looking for plants with tubers that grow in my area (which was Virginia at the time). Jerusalem artichokes were listed (and Peterson indicated that they are excellent), so I went off searching for them. But didn’t find any.

I eventually did find some edible tubers to meet the requirement, but the problem is, that’s how I had approached all the requirements. I would identify a plant, and then go out and look for it.

That approach is backwards. I later began working on the Flowers honor which requires the identification of 75 wild flowers. Instead of finding what I had identified, I began to identify what I had found. It is fundamentally different. As I identified flowers around my house, I would remember having seen them in Peterson’s EWP book. Then I’d look it up there, and sure enough – it was indeed an edible. I eventually identified all the flowering plants that grow on my property, and I would guess that at least half of them are edible at some point during their development.

I also began identifying all the flowering plants that grow along my walking route in downtown Concord. One of them was the Jerusalem Artichoke that I had hunted for so diligently for eight years. That was last year. When I came across them again this year, I decided to dig up a tuber or two to try them out.

Jerusalem Artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) tubers

Jerusalem Artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) tubers


I stuffed them in my pocket, and reconsulted Peterson when I got home. They can be eaten raw, and since that’s the easiest preparation method I know, I went with that.

I washed them off as best I could and popped one in my mouth. They do taste remarkably like potatoes. I think I might gather some of the seed later this year and see if I can get any to grow here at the house.

Beth trying out the trail

Beth trying out the trail


Today after work I cut a new trail across the woods in the front of the house. It’s only about 150 feet long and runs north-south. Or south-north, depending! It’s about 30 feet from the road, so that puts it right there at the front of the property.

I’ve been wanting to do this for quite some time, and mentioned it to Beth as a possibility. She asked me if I could work on it tonight, and I figured that I most certainly could. I didn’t think I was going to actually finish it tonight, but that’s exactly what happened.

I cut all the brush with a set of pruning shears, except for two trees that were a little bit too big for those to handle (they were both under two inches in diameter though). I used a bow saw on them. I also lopped off all the overhanging branches. It took maybe an hour.

The new trail starts at the frog pond and ends at the driveway. I don’t think anyone could tell it was there from the road. It’s about six feet wide, so that should be plenty of space for a speeding bicycle.

With the addition of this trail, Beth can now ride her bike in a circuit all the way around our property. I was a bit too tired to join her in that tonight (having just cut a trail and all), but maybe tomorrow we can give it a go.

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