May 2011


The Pathfinders had our annual yard sale yesterday. This year we decided to split the proceeds 50/50 with the Friendly Kitchen, but I’ve written about that before, so I won’t rehash it again.

Sunday evening I stopped by the church and set up our new kitchen shelter (minus the walls). I wanted some cover to put things under in case it rained, or, barring rain, I wanted some shade. Paul and Barbara (our associate conference PF director) were planning to show up that evening sometime to set the conference shelter up as well, but I wasn’t sure exactly when they would arrive. So I got there on the early side.

I set up our shelter all by myself. After I carried all the parts to the front yard, it took me an hour to get the thing up. By then, Paul and Barb had not shown up yet, but since I was sure they would be there in a few minutes, I decided to go snag a nearby geocache. That took 15 minutes, and when I came back, they had just arrived.

Barb’s brother was there too, and it took the four of us only 30 minutes to get the second shelter up. Then we went home.

I was back at 8:00am with four kids in tow. Beth always likes to come to our yard sale, so there’s no leaving her behind for those. David, being in Pathfinders was obligated! I also picked up two other kids and gave them a ride in.

The first order of business was to haul a dozen tables out to the shelters. With those set up, we started bringing our donated goods out. Early birds showed up, but I don’t think a one of them bought anything!

We also set up our life-sized model camel and attached a couple of “YARD SALE” posters to it, one on each side. I figured that would draw some attention, and it did.

Since our club has converted over to three-man tents, I thought it would be a good idea to try to sell our old 8-man tents. We had two same-model Coleman’s, and an old Eddie Bauer. I figured we’d keep the better of the two Coleman’s back in case we ever needed it. I had some of the kids pitch them, and it wasn’t long before someone asked about the Coleman.

This tent was in pretty fair shape. It had always been stored dry, so there was no mold whatsoever. It did have a cracked pole (which I had successfully addressed with duct tape), and a few rips in the pole sleeves. But it was still water-tight, so it was really a decent tent. I explained why we were getting rid of it, and asked they guy (whose name was Dave) for $20. As you will soon see, that was demonstrably too low a price.

Dave (correctly) thought that $20 was a pretty good deal, so he jumped on it. I had the kids strike the tent. As they were doing that, another guy came up and asked about it. One of the kids told him it had already been sold, so he asked who bought it. Dave was identified, so the other guy approached him and asked how much he had paid. Dave answered him “Twenty dollars.” and the guy countered, “I’ll give you $40.” Dave told him, “I won’t take $40, but you can give them $40 and I’ll let you have it.” What a guy!

Dave then took a look at our other tent. I offered it to him for ten, since it was about half the tent (quality-wise) as the Coleman. That tent had not been put away dry one time, and the mustiness was pretty evident to me. Also, the elastic inside the poles was a bit worn out, and there were a few duct tape patches in the fly. Dave agreed to buy it for ten, and told me to just leave it up. He said he’d come back at the end of the day to pick it up, but if anyone offered more, I was to accept that offer. He paid us the ten bucks before he left.

Well, somebody did offer more. Twenty-five bucks! So I reluctantly gave it to him. As the kids were striking the tent, I came to the decision that we really did not need that second Coleman that I was saving back. Kindness like Dave’s simply has to be rewarded! I asked one of the teens to go get it out of the trailer, and when Dave showed up, I gave it to him. He insisted on paying me ten more.
I accepted, since that’s what he was originally going to pay for the other Coleman, and this one didn’t have a busted (but duct taped) pole, and its canvas bag featured a functional zipper to boot.

I really like Dave.

He told me that he has a 16 year-old son, and he was looking for something like Pathfinders for him to be involved in. I told him that we would start up again in August, and that his son was more than welcome to join. Then he jokingly offered to give us his son. I told him I’d take him for eight nights a year, and explained that we have four two-night camping trips. I think he liked that idea. I think I’ll see him in August, if not before then.

The other notable thing that happened during the yard sale came when someone asked if our camel was for sale. Melissa (one of our staff) said “No, it wasn’t,” but she was mistaken! I had asked the guy who built it back in February if we could sell it, and he gave us his blessing. There are not a lot of places to store a 7-foot tall camel in our church. Anyhow, the lady who was asking was thrilled. She took a photo (why didn’t I think to do that?) and sent it to her husband with a text message him asking him what he thought. So I’m thinking, “Uh oh, no sale.” But he didn’t answer the text. So she paid for it and told us her husband would be by later to pick it up.

He showed up about an hour later, and said, “I think my wife bought your camel?” He didn’t look too thrilled. I went over to the camel and showed him how to remove the head (it detached from the body for easier transport). Then we loaded it onto his truck. Just as he was getting in, he told me, “they’ve name him Josh if you want to know.” I sure felt sorry for that guy.

At the end of the day, the guy from Chichester showed up to take our remants. He was collecting yard sale leftovers for another yard sale to benefit the Chichester Old Home Day. I was sooooo happy he was there, because disposing of remnants has been the Achilles heel of this fund raiser. Goodwill never wants more than 10% of what we have left, and the Salvation Army and the dump are both always closed on Memorial Day. So this guy was sent from heaven, in my opinion.

We loaded his truck – twice, and we took down the canopies. Barbara came by and we loaded the conference shelter into her van (thanking her as profusely as I could).

Then we counted the money. I don’t remember the exact figure, but it was something like $670. That’s not bad considering that during a “good” year, we usually make about $500. Of course half of this is going to The Friendly Kitchen, so our take is down a little bit, but it’s certainly not out of line as compared to a typical year.

We will get a check to Friendly Kitchen ASAP!

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This afternoon Beth and I took Penny down to Sandogardy Pond. Beth rode her bike, and I held Penny’s leash. I kept my eyes to the sides of the road most of the way there looking for flowers, and such.

Here is some “such”

Unknown Fungus

Unknown Fungus


I took a stab at identifying this little fungus, but came up empty-handed. There were three clumps of it growing in the ditch beside the road. Whatever it is, I like it!

Nearby, I spotted some False Solomon’s Seal (Maianthemum racemosum) just beginning to bloom:

False Solomon's Seal (Maianthemum racemosum)

False Solomon's Seal (Maianthemum racemosum)


I have some of this on my own property, but it’s not as far along as this specimen. I guess I’ll be seeing more of it over the next couple of weeks.

We soon came to the Class VI road (meaning it is not maintained at all) that leads to the pond. About halfway down that road under a large white pine is the only place I know where I can find Lily-of-the-valley. I’ve been checking on it every time I go down there, and today I struck pay-dirt:

Lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis)

Lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis)


Too bad these flowers won’t last very long.

All along that road I saw plenty of pink lady’s slippers (Cypripedium acuale). Even though I’ve posted plenty of lady slippers in the past couple of weeks, I could not resist these triplets growing towards the end of that road.

Three pink lady's slippers (Cypripedium acuale)

Triplets!

When we arrived at the pond, I found a nice northern highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) in bloom. I’ve got plenty of the lowbush variety at my place (and all along the road and trails to the pond), but there aren’t very many highbush:

Northern highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum)

Northern highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum)

Then I checked one of the bunchberry haunts.

Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)

Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)


These were spotted in Maine last week, so I knew I should find some here just any time now. Bunchberry is an interesting plant. It belongs to the same genus as the dogwood trees, but it sure seems pretty different to me. Also, those white petals are not petals at all, but rather, sepals. The petals are little tiny things in the center of the sepals.

I walked around the beach to the trail that follows the stream draining the pond. There, I found a large patch of indian cucumber root (Medeola virginiana) in bloom.

Indian cucumber root (Medeola virginiana)

Indian cucumber root (Medeola virginiana)

A little farther down I came to the patch of corn lily, aka blue bead lily, aka Clintonia borealis.

Clintonia borealis

Clintonia borealis


These flowers will turn into blue bead-like berries later this summer. They look delicious, but are not edible. The leaves are supposed to be, but they should be picked before they uncurl. I think they’re well beyond that stage now. Maybe next spring I’ll try them.

The trail along the creek ends when it hits the class IV road. At that point, the road is much more a trail than a road, and there’s a small wooden bridge used by snowmobiles and ATV’s. In the marshy spot along the creek right there by the bridge is a stand of false hellebore (Veratrum viride). That’s a plant I learned only recently. Last year I tried keeping an eye on it so I could get a shot of its flowers, but I never saw any. So I continue with that this year. I’m getting close:

False hellebore (Veratrum viride)

False hellebore (Veratrum viride)


I don’t know if I missed them again, or if they’re about to open. I’ll try to get back again as soon as I can to check them out.

Dwarf Ginseng (Panax trifolius), including the tuber

Dwarf Ginseng (Panax trifolius), including the tuber


A little more than a year ago, I happened to notice that dwarf ginseng (Panax trifolius) had a listing in Peterson’s Field Guides, Edible Wild Plants. Since that stuff grows in abundance in my wood lot, I went out to find some and try it out. But I was too late! This plant dies back pretty quickly after it flowers, and I couldn’t find any trace of it when I went looking. But there’s always next year, right?

Well that would be now. They are finished flowering now, and many have gone to seed, so I figured if I wanted to try this edible wild food, I’d better strike while the iron was hot. I dug up these six tubers after about five minutes worth of effort.

Six P. trifolius tubers

Six P. trifolius tubers


The first one I pulled up didn’t seem to have a bulbous tuber, so I went to the next one and dug a little more carefully. I wasn’t sure if it was too early for the plant to put its energy into the tuber, or if I had just lost it in the dirt. I struck gold with the second plant, and after digging up the third, I went back to the first and probed around in the soil – and found the tuber.

The part of an edible plant that you eat, depends on where the plant is storing its energy. In late fall through early spring, the food energy is stored in the roots. Then as the plant sprouts, the energy goes from the root to the shoot, then to the flower, and then to the seeds. Finally, the energy returns to the roots (for perennials, anyhow).

I brought my catch into the house, washed it off, and then got out my copy of Peterson to make sure I remembered how to prepare these for consumption. There are two options – eat them raw (as a nibble), or boil them for 5-10 minutes. Half a dozen tiny tubers hardly seemed to justify the energy necessary to bring even a cup of water to a boil, so I opted for the former.

I thought they were pretty good! They have the texture of radish, and are quite reminiscent of that domestic tuber – but with a hint of carrot. I don’t think I’ll plow up my woods in search of a bushel, but I will take another nibble next spring for sure.

I took a walk to the grocery store during lunch, and was surprised to see several new blooms. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised – these things are fairly predictable! Here’s some of what I saw:

Greater celandine (Chelidonium majus)

Greater celandine (Chelidonium majus)

Cherry (Prunus spp)

Cherry (Prunus spp)


I’m not sure what kind of cherry tree this is. In fact, it might even be some sort of crabapple. I really ought to learn this.

Spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana)

Spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana)


This spiderwort grows in a little garden by our main entrance. There was also a bit of salsify about open up, but the photos of that were not really postable.

When I got home I put on my rain gear and headed into my wood lot. Penny came along in case there were any sticks out there. I think it was raining lightly, but with rain pants and a good rain coat, it was hard to tell. Actually, I was also wearing my replacement Tilley! It came in Saturday when I was in Maine. That was a lot quicker than I was expecting, and of course, I am delighted. Here’s what I found around my yard and in the woods:

Canada mayflower (Maianthemum canadense)

Canada mayflower (Maianthemum canadense)


The other name for this is “false lily-of-the-valley.” But when I found it had a more honorable name, I adopted that instead. It’s a beauty in its own right, and I don’t think “real” lily-of-the-valley holds anything on this one.

Pink Lady Slipper (Cypripedium acaule)

Pink Lady Slipper (Cypripedium acaule)


I had to venture off my path for this shot. Pretty much all the lady slippers along the path have been mowed down. I think it was probably Penny carrying a five-foot stick in her mouth as she chased down a basketball and brought it to me. Whodathunk she could wipe out so many beautiful flowers so quickly?

Starflower (Trientalis borealis)

Starflower (Trientalis borealis)


The starflowers are in full-force now. They don’t seem to hold up to rain too well though, as it makes them all nod a bit. These two were facing up more than the rest, so I chose them to represent their species today.

Striped maple (Acer pensylvanicum)

Striped maple (Acer pensylvanicum)


All the blooms on this tree were at least seven feet off the ground. The tree has several branches on its west side that are four feet high, but none of them had any flowers. I had to hold the camera up over my head for this shot. Hard to hold it still that way, so none of the shots were very impressive. I tried to frame the shape of the leaf in the photo.

Korean spice viburnum (Viburnum carlesii)

Korean spice viburnum (Viburnum carlesii)


This is a rare thing on my property – a cultivated plant.

Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides)

Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides)


I posted some photos of these at an earlier stage of development last week. Carl Strang of Nature Inquiries correctly identified them as aspen aments (catkins). If I’d have waited another week I might have been able to figure it out on my own, but it sure is nice to have Internet friends speed things up for me. I arranged these three aments in order of development. It’s easy to see why the poplars (including aspens) are also called cottonwoods.

Azure Bluet (Houstonia caerulea)

Azure Bluet (Houstonia caerulea)


I found three tiny batches of bluets. These things grow in profusion around here in a lot of places, but they just barely hang on in my yard. These grow right under Carl’s aspen (which is what I will call that particular tree now).

I have been a busy person this week. On April 30, The Friendly Kitchen was destroyed by fire. This is Concord’s only soup kitchen, and it holds a special place in the hearts of my Pathfinder Club. For the past five years, they have been one of the targets of our club’s community service efforts. Once or twice per year we make 100 sack lunches for them, and any time we have leftover citrus from that fundraiser, we take it to them. I know that’s a very small drop in a very large pool, as they’ve been serving 60,000 meals per year.

Since the fire, they have been serving meals from the Greek Orthodox Church downtown. In fact, they transitioned into their building so quickly that they didn’t miss serving a single meal. But this is a temporary measure, and they are trying to raise money to rebuild. I wanted us to do something else for them to help them with that.

Every year, our club has a yard sale on Memorial Day. This year I wanted to send some of that to The Friendly Kitchen. So I started getting my ducks in a row.

On Sunday I brought it up at our Pathfinder staff meeting. They all agreed that it was an excellent idea, and we decided then that we would give half of our proceeds to the kitchen. That’s significant, because the yard sale is our biggest money-maker, so we could be giving up a pretty significant chunk of change.

On Monday I presented the plan to the church board. We want to advertise this yard sale more widely than we have in the past, and we want to accept donated goods for the sale from the public. But if we were to do that, we would need to establish some definite hours of operation, and for that, I would need to line up volunteers to accept the goods. But I also thought it would be a bad idea to open our church to the public without the approval of the church board. When I presented the plan to them, they supported it unanimously.

On Tuesday I contacted the Friendly Kitchen. I didn’t want to do that before I had buy in from my Pathfinder staff and permission from the church board. After all, either of these would have put the kibosh on the plan. I thought it was important to get permission from The Friendly Kitchen as well, thinking that someone might call them to see what this was all about. If they had no idea, this would look like a pretty obvious scam. Unsurprisingly, The Friendly Kitchen was enthusiastic about our plan.

I then crafted an email plea to our church membership and sent it out to our list. I wanted to get commitments from people to staff the building during our donation reception hours. It was a little slow getting started, but eventually, I had commitments for nine two-hour slots.

Today (Thursday) we went to the press with it. I put an ad on Craigslist, and my deputy director sent info to the TV station in Manchester and to Concord’s main newspaper. We still need to get the info to more outlets though. I think that a Thursday notice for an event that should start on Sunday should be plenty of time for them to act. I just hope they will!

Now I have to exhale. Tomorrow Va and I are taking Beth to Camp Lawroweld for the Adventurer’s Club Annual Spring Escape. Those are always lots of fun, but there will be no Internet service there (and barely any cell phone service). This will force me to let go of the Friendly Kitchen project and leave the rest to the Lord!

Hey God – You’re on now!

When God sent bread from heaven to the Israelites, they called it “Manna” which means “What is it?” If I stick to the literal interpretation of manna, I guess I could apply it to this:

What is it?

What is it?


There are a couple dozen of these at the edge my yard, and I have no idea what they are. Are they purely plant matter, or were those nodules made by insects? I opened one up to see:
The innards of my "manna"

The innards of my "manna"


The white fibers make me think these are purely plant matter, but I am not confident enough in that to make the call. I assume they fell from the canopy above, but I didn’t see any of them in the woods. There is a young (but tall) oak right on the edge of my woods, and its canopy does cover this edge of my yard, so that could be the source. But it’s nothing I recognize.

I did take some photos yesterday of some things I do recognize though. My pink lady slippers have finally opened.

Pink lady slipper (cypripedium acaule)

Pink lady slipper (cypripedium acaule)


This blossom is a bit on the pale end of the spectrum. I have a bunch of these along my trail, but many of them have been injured before they could bloom – the flower stems have been decapitated or bent over. I have no idea what did that, but kids and a dog are prime suspects. Not much I can do about that though, so there’s really no point in fretting over it.

The wait for blooms is also over for the star flower (Trientalis borealis).

Star flower (Trientalis borealis)

Star flower (Trientalis borealis)


I expect to see many more of these in the coming days, and hopefully I can get a better shot than this.

I’ve been fighting with my camera of late. Last year I stripped out the tripod mount. I can still get the camera on my tiny tripod, but it’s pretty wobbly. It takes a lot of effort to get it pointed at the objective, because when I let go, it flops around a little. Then I set the camera to delay for two seconds before making the shot, so it can settle down after I touch the shutter button. What I’ve found myself doing instead is bumping up the ISO a couple notches so I can use a quicker shutter speed (1/25 sec or so). I can sometimes manage a halfway decent hand held shot at that speed, and it is quite a bit easier than arguing with the tripod mount. But the results are most definitely inferior.

I am planning to attempt a repair on the mount, so hopefully things will improve again after that. We’ll see!

When I first moved here I was alarmed by the amount of poison ivy I found growing in my woods. I later discovered that I had a poison ivy look-alike. I have poison ivy too, but it’s not nearly as prevalent as I first thought. The look-alike is really wild sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis). They don’t look too similar when they are grown, but when they first emerge, they are pretty hard to distinguish. Compare:

Wild Sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis)

Wild Sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis)


Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)

Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)


The sarsaparilla will often have five leaflets in a cluster; three at the end of the stem a la poison ivy, and two more bringing up the rear guard. Their fruits and flowers are pretty different too, but I didn’t take any shots of that today, on account of how I couldn’t find any mosquito repellent, and didn’t want to spend too much time out there feeding those brutes. Black flies too, actually.

The sarsaparilla sports its blossoms on the end of a separate stem that comes up from the same point as the main stem. These blooms are held beneath the leaves and form an umbel. The poison ivy blooms (and thus fruits) share a stem with the leaves.

Note how they are both reddish when young. They both go green within a few weeks of emerging.

Update: here’s another photo to try to answr Mark’s question:

Better view of Sarsaparilla

Better view of Sarsaparilla

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