November 2010

Tonight Va brought some sheets into the living room where I was sitting, listening to Beth practice the piano. She wanted me to help her fold them, so I got up and grabbed a corner. A dryer sheet fell to the floor. Penny got up to investigate, sniffing it with GREAT interest. Then, as Va and I folded the sheets, Penny got down and started rubbing her neck, shoulder, and head all over the dryer sheet.

She usually does this with much less savory odors (i.e., “presents” left on our property by other animals). We couldn’t help but laugh. At least this time I won’t need to giver her a bath.

I guess the dryer sheets smell like our family since all our clothes are tumbled with them. Now Penny gets to smell like family too. It could (and has been) worse!

I had to take the dryer sheet away when she tried to eat it though.

We woke this morning to a bit of ice cover. Not too much – just a glazing. I found it to be a refreshing contrast the the weeks of brown we’ve been having. I should have taken some photos, but I didn’t.

We spent most of the day cleaning the house. I worked on Beth’s room (with Beth there helping) and Va worked on the family room. The house looks way better than it did, but could still use more work.

We went to lunch at Chili’s. The roads were quite passable by then as the ice was melting fast. It looked like it was raining as it ran off the trees. I had to use the wipers.

I very much enjoyed lunch. Afterwards we stopped at a few stores to get a few items- I’m not sure what – Va went in and I stayed in the car with the kids. All I know for sure is that she bought no Christmas presents (Black Friday or not), but she did buy a box of raisin bran (my favorite cereal).

I did a little raking when we got home. Either someone else has been raking the yard, or the wind has been doing this chore for me. There just wasn’t that much there. Penny was out with me and ever so helpfully brought me sticks to throw. I obliged.

November is brown. Everywhere I look I see brown. In October the leaves are yellow, red, and orange, and in May through September they are green. After November we get snow, and that makes everything white. But November is brown.

That makes it challenging to find things to photograph, which is perhaps why I haven’t posted many photos lately. On top of that, we switched back to standard time this month, so when I get home, it’s already too dark to take any pictures. But since I didn’t have to go to work today, I made an effort.

Beth and I rode our bikes down to Sandogardy Pond. I had Penny on the leash, but when I’ve done this before, it was hard to keep from running her over with the bike. I tied an extra six feet of rope to her leash today, and that worked out much better. She was able to get out ahead of me with enough distance for me to react to any sudden changes of course. Yay! But it was harder to keep the rope/leash from getting tangled in the bike. Still, it was an improvement, and Penny loves to go for a nice run like that.

When we got to the pond we saw… brown. There is a little ice on the surface near the shore, and I took a few shots of that, but none were post-worthy. Then when we headed back I noticed some unusual ice structures in the dirt.

Ice Needles

Ice Needles

These ice needles were over an inch tall – maybe an inch and a half. I have no idea how they form, but I do find them very interesting. They crunch when you step on them or ride a bike over them. Also… they are mostly brown.

When we got home we did not have to wait long for dinner. Va had prepared an awesome meal. We’ve been picking at it for the rest of the day, and I am still to be considered overfed at this point.

Beth and I then set out in the car to see if we could collect some geocaches. I’ve been working on what they call and “unknown cache”. They call it that because the coordinates are not usually published – you have to solve a puzzle to get them, or complete some sort of quest. The one I’ve been working on is called “17”, and to get that, you have to find 17 (or more) “unknown caches”, and they have to constitute at least 17% of your finds. I still have a little ways to go.

The one we grabbed today was my 11th out of 66 total, which puts me a hair under 17%. All I need to do is find 6 more, and I can grab “17”. I have solved enough puzzles to do it – I just need to go out and get them.

I’m staying home for Thanksgiving this year. We’re going to have dinner at our house with just our immediate household.

I do plan to knock out a few things that haven’t been getting done, and I actually started on that tonight when I cleaned out a junk corner next to the couch where I hang out. Tomorrow I plan to change the oil in the snowblower and maybe rake the leaves (but only until I’m sick of raking leaves). Maybe Beth and I will go snag a few geocaches too.

On Friday, I might hit the leaves a little more, and we’ll work more on cleaning the house. I will not be going to any stores. I might install a little more insulation in the attic – a project I started a year ago and have neglected for far too long.

So! Excitement!

I went for a walk today during lunch. My main goal was to check out the Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) patch and maybe collect some seeds. But before I got there, I came across some Virginia pepperweed (Lepidium viginicum). I didn’t nibble on any of it today, but on most other days I certainly would have.

Lepidium virginicum

Lepidium virginicum

I was a bit surprised to find any still bearing seeds (most have dropped from the plants by now), much less still in flower. Cool.

The pepperweed was probably less than a hundred feet from the Jerusalem artichoke. When I got to the JA patch, I did manage to find some dried flower heads. I plucked off almost half a dozen, and then photographed this one still hanging on:

Helianthus tuberosus

Helianthus tuberosus

I plan to plant some of the seeds on the south end of the flower bed along the front of the house this spring. It will only get morning sun there, but maybe that will be good enough. We have a domestic Helianthus cultivar (some showy sunflowers) growing in that vicinity, so perhaps the sunlight will be sufficient. I hope so!

Last time I wrote, I talked about how I had bought a not-new-but-unused tent. I also mentioned that I had three more on order from L.L. Bean. Well one of those three arrived today, and it too looks like a pretty decent purchase.

I was a little concerned that I had ordered three but that only one arrived, so I dashed off an email to them. They got back right away and told me that my other two tents shipped today. I should receive them tomorrow.

I’ve already pitched the one that showed up today. It’s in the living room. It’s not quite as roomy as the Eureka! tent I bought from Craigslist, but I think it will serve our needs nicely. I will most likely have the younger kids sleep in these though, since there’s not quite as much room, and they’re not quite as big as the older kids.

I bought a new tent yesterday from a guy who listed it on Craigslist. I think it was a pretty good deal. The tent is a four-season, two-person model that had never been used, but it was ten years old. He bought it for an expedition to Baffin Island, but he lost his job just before they were to set out.

The first thing I did when I saw the tent was open it, jam my face into the fabric, and inhale deeply. I needed to know that there was no mold, and that is really the best test I know of for detecting that. It was clean. It had all the (important) parts. It was perfect. So I bought it. New tents with these specs start at about $500, and I paid a quarter of that.

I set it up in the living room when I got home, and am still very pleased with the purchase. It is missing a couple of guy lines (which are easily replaced), and the bottle of seam sealer was empty (but that’s also easily replaced), so I am pretty stoked about this. Though it’s billed as a two-person tent, I think it’s about the same size as the three-person tents we’ve been using. It looks to be plenty roomy for two people anyhow.

I’ve probably written here before about why I am switching the Pathfinder Club over to three-person tents, but that won’t stop me from enumerating those reasons again!

Kids today refuse to change clothes in view of other kids of the same sex. So when we’re at a Camporee and we have to get into full dress uniform, they each take turns getting dressed. Each kid takes at least five minutes to do this, so if I have six kids in a tent, there goes thirty minutes. With two kids per tent (even in three-person tents), that only takes ten minutes.

It’s a lot easier to find four small tent sites in the woods than it is to find one large tent site.

Small tents are better for backpacking trips. Large tents are still very heavy even when divided into three packages. Kids just can’t handle the additional weight in a backpack.

Kids take ownership more readily if it’s just them and one other person in a tent. They take better care of their quarters that way too.

Before an inspection at a Camporee, I do my own inspection. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen a stray pair of tighty-whities in the middle of a tent floor, that no one will claim. With two kids per tent, that’s a more tractable problem to solve. It’s either yours or yours. Deal with it.

Eight two-person tents are more easily allocated among 16 kids than two eight-person tents. If I have eight girls and eight boys it doesn’t matter, but if I have six boys and ten girls, I have a problem. With eight small tents that problem goes away.

So there it is, probably for the second or third time. I’ve got three more tents on order from L.L. Bean too, so I think we’re finished with big tents now. The three on order are two-person, three-season tents. I expect them to ship next month sometime. Too bad we aren’t scheduled to camp again until April!

Tonight we had our first TLT meeting. “TLT” stands for Teen Leadership Training, and it’s part of the Pathfinder program. “TLT” is also what we call the teens who are taking part in that program. We’ve had TLT’s in the club for several years, but this aspect of the program has really never been well-organized or smooth-running. I hope that has changed tonight.

Part of the problem has been that we never set aside a specific time to engage in the TLT activities, and it just doesn’t work to try to wedge it in during a meeting. This year I somehow managed to convince Cheryl to come back into the club as the TLT director. She was the club director before me, and I learned an awful lot from her. I’m very happy to have her back again.

At the beginning of the year (August) I thought we’d try having a 30 minute TLT meeting just before the regular club meetings, but that didn’t work with Cheryl’s schedule. So we finally found a time that would work for her and for the teens – Wednesday evenings.

That’s when the choir usually meets for practice. None of the three TLT’s are in the choir, but the mother of one of them is the choir director, so he has a ride to the church then. That works – except tonight, because the choir director, her husband, and her son (the TLT) are out of the state this week. But since all but one of the pieces fell together tonight, we went for it anyhow.

The TLTs are supposed to help run the club, and that means I need to hand over some of my responsibilities to them. I think that’s going to be harder for me than it is for them, but if we have weekly TLT meetings, I think it will be easier. I can be sure that they are doing what I’m no longer doing and have confidence that it is actually getting done.

Each TLT will take a different aspect of club management and run with it. One will take on some Administrative tasks, and another will handle Finance/Clerical tasks. The TLT manual has all this spelled out. I don’t know which of the remaining four areas the third TLT will do – he’ll get to choose when he returns. Then halfway through the year they will switch to a different area.

I’m excited that we’ve finally got this thing moving now. I think it’s finally going to work.

Earlier this week, Sandy, a fellow New England blogger, posted a photo collage of some forest floor evergreens. I love all those plants, and found another she could have included in that category (if it grows in her local neck of the woods – which I assume it does).

Pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata)

Pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata)

This is pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata). I got home before dark today – probably for the last time for several months since Daylight Savings Time ends this weekend – so I took a walk around our property. I came across a scrawny specimen and thought about taking a photo, but since it was pretty banged up, I looked around a bit longer to find a nicer looking one. This is it.

It was cloudy, and nearing dusk, and in the woods, so the lighting was less than excellent. Because of that, I got out my tiny tripod and bumped the exposure time way up – 1.6 seconds if I recall correctly. I think I must have forgotten to put the camera in macro mode though, so even though I went through all that trouble (tripod, etc), the results are still suboptimal! All it takes is one error to wreck a shot. 😦

Maybe I’ll try again tomorrow.

The leaves are mostly down now, but the beeches do hang on all winter. Their leaves aren’t brown yet either, so it’s the most spectacular species I have at the moment:

Hanging on

Hanging on

Here is some correspondence I had with an HVAC supply company this week. It starts with an inquiry I left on their website.

“Tonight on your web site I found a replacement capacitor that I need for an AC unit. I was trying to figure out what the cheapest way to ship it would be, so I clicked the “send me a quote” box on the “next action” part. The page it took me to indicated that my order had been sent, but it also included a quote for the part.

I’m not sure if the order went through or not. I would really like the part, but I want it shipped in the least costly way possible (won’t need AC until June at the earliest, so if you strap it to a turtle and point it in my direction, that might just work).

The part is still in my shopping cart, but since I’m not sure if the quote request resulted in an order, I’m not going to click “order” a second time until I can get some clarification.
I really don’t want two of these. Just one please.”

Hello James,

We do thank you for your inquiry and the email we received with the subject: ‘Follow Up” (pasted below). I also liked your sense of humor. Thanks for making our day brighter.

First, when you request a quote, it comes to us as a quote, not an order. (It is below your pasted email.). So as of now, it is not ordered.

Second, shipping options. Thanks for being so specific as to when you wanted the part and the parameters of the cost of getting it to you. We are normally asked to get the parts to the customer fast, like yesterday. We still have not invented faster-than-the-speed-of-light delivery, so most customer have to pay extra to get it tomorrow. In your case, we were stimulated to think differently, which we did.

If you can wait, we can order the part in our normal order cycle from the supplier who will get it in his normal order cycle. That means it will be placed in a box with other stuff and hence, reduce our cost to get the part. It may take us two to three weeks to get the part. Then we can ship it to you one of three methods:

1. Very low cost, no tracking what so ever – that will be US normal first class mail. – It may cost $2 – $3 (my guess and take a few days
2. US Priority mail – track only if lost – this costs around $5.00 – 2 – 3 business days
3. UPS Ground service – full tracking – costs $10.50 – two business days normally
4. Turtle carrier – Indian tracking only – priceless – could be unlimited, never guaranteed to arrive.

If you place your order online, you can include a comment as to the type of shipping you want and refer to this email.


My follow-up inquiry was also placed via the web, so I don’t have a transcript of that. But I did request first class USPS service rather than via turtle. Turtles are notoriously poor navigators. If anyone who reads this is looking for an HVAC parts supplier, these guys get my full endorsement.

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