June 2011


This evening we Jonathan and I got home, we saw Beth and two of the neighbor kids (Haylee and her little brother) standing at the end of their driveway holding a sign. I couldn’t read it, so I figured I’d walk over there after we parked the car.

But there was no need. Beth came immediately to share her excitement. They had set up a lemonade stand, and had raked in nine dollars. From two customers. On our unpaved, low-traffic road. I don’t know if they sold any lemonade or not. They were also offering bottled water which they got from the Haylee’s mom, and I think some orange juice. They also had some ice cream, but the staff ended up eating that before it melted.

The first customer was our neighbor from across the street. He and his wife each bought something and paid two bucks each for whatever it was they got. (I’m counting them as one customer). The second customer was the UPS delivery guy who paid them five. Nice people! The kids were over the moon.

After dinner I invited Beth to come and look at my dewdrop patch. A new one had opened, and Beth took this photo of it, which is very decent!

Beth's dewdrop (Dalibarda repens)

Beth's dewdrop (Dalibarda repens)


So now she’s one flower closer to earning the honor we started on Saturday. I think Haylee must have come back out about then, and Beth lost all interest in flowers and in old Dad.

I went out again later, just before sunset. By then Beth was in the living room playing a video game, and Penny was so intent on herding Beth, that she did not hear me put on my shoes (she usually does, and comes running). I slipped out of the house unnoticed.

I checked on a patch of lowbush blueberries, and found a handful that were ripe already:

Lowbush blueberries (Vaccinium angustifolium)

Lowbush blueberries (Vaccinium angustifolium)


I picked pretty much all of these that were ripe and ate them on the spot. They were fantastic. Then I headed into the woods.

I didn’t stick to my trail this time. Every now and then I like to walk through the middle of the woods, because there’s a chance I’ll see something I don’t see every day. I was walking very quietly when the neighbor’s dog started barking. I wasn’t sure if it was barking at me or not, so I froze in place. Then I heard something crashing through the woods. It was a whitetail deer!

That would not have been exciting when I lived in Virginia. It was an unusual day back then when I did not see one. I see maybe three a year here in NH.

I remained frozen and slowly turned my head to follow her. She stopped. My camera was still in its bag slung over my shoulder. I slowly went for it. I managed to get it out and get it turned on, but by then she had moved into some thick brush, and I couldn’t get a decent shot. I don’t think she noticed me, but she well may have. Her life literally depends on her ability to do that.

Had Penny been out there with me, the doe would have continued her high-speed escape, and I’d have hardly gotten a glance.

I moved to the front woods after a bit and found an old piece of rope that the kids had abandoned out there. I decided to use it to mark a couple of maple trees I had found earlier this summer. I thought I had only one maple big enough to tap, but I’ve found three more now (quadrupling my potential syrup production).

I also found a couple of nut-bearing beaked hazels on my place. I’ll keep an eye on them too. I’d like to get a couple handfuls of nuts off them this summer. Actually, I’d be happy to get even two or three nuts, much less a whole handful. I am not that hard to please!

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Yesterday evening I noticed that one of the dewdrops (Dalibarda repens) in my woods had finally bloomed. It was missing two of its five petals, but since it was the first one, I got out the camera. As I was adjusting it, Penny came tearing along the path, doing 90 miles per hour. Since I was standing on the path, Penny veered around me and stepped right on the dewdrop. That took it down to a single, mangled petal. I did not take a picture. Instead, I went looking for more. There are three patches of this stuff in my woods, all within 50 feet of each other. Patch number two had no blooms, but patch number three had this one:

Dewdrops (Dalibarda repens)

Dewdrops (Dalibarda repens)


This is hands-down my favorite flower. It is the species that taught me how to take photos of flowers, because I found it totally impossible to photograph using the automatic settings of my previous camera. I had to learn the manual controls. This is kind of a rare plant. It’s endangered in Connecticut, New Jersey, North Carolina and Rhode Island. Actually, I just pasted most of that sentence in from the Wikipedia article, but that’s OK, because I’m the one that wrote it there in the first place. I started that article and put together the initial content. The photo in the article is also mine, and I don’t think I have ever taken a better shot of anything. That, my friends, is my best work. I use it as wallpaper on my computer.

So now that I have established my love affair with this plant for you, you can perhaps understand why I was so pleased to find one in bloom yesterday. I’ve been keeping an eye on those three patches for a couple of weeks. They have bloomed a little later this year as compared to previous years. I would have posted this last night, but my other news had me even more excited.

So excited, in fact, that I didn’t get much sleep last night because I couldn’t shut off my brain. I woke up early thinking about it too, so I did something most unusual for me – I got up. It was about 5:15 as I recall. I got dressed, went downstairs, got Penny’s leash, and we set out for Sandogardy Pond. Along the way, I spotted some beaked hazelnuts (Corylus cornuta):

Beaked hazelnuts (Corylus cornuta)

Beaked hazelnuts (Corylus cornuta)


Sandy, if you’re still wondering if you found American or beaked hazel, this would be a good time to go check.

I also found some Pyrola along the way:

Pyrola (Pyrola spp)

Pyrola (Pyrola spp)


I’m not sure what species of Pyrola this is – they are all pretty close to one another. Maybe roundleaf (P. americana), but I’m just not sure.

It was quiet at the pond. Foggy too:

Penny wades

Penny wades


I walked along the beach and saw that the floating heart (Nymphoides cordata) was in bloom now:
Floating heart (Nymphoides cordata)

Floating heart (Nymphoides cordata)


It’s not hard to tell how it came about its common name, is it?

The swamp candles (Lysimachia terrestris) had bloomed too:

Swamp candles (Lysimachia terrestris)

Swamp candles (Lysimachia terrestris)


That can only mean that the pickerelweed should be blooming soon too.

At the end of the beach we turned right and headed into the woods along Cross Brook (which drains the pond). There is a patch of Indian cucumber-root (Medeola virginiana) growing there, and it’s been in bloom for a while now. But I don’t think I have posted any photos of it this year, so here we go:

Indian cucumber-root (Medeola virginiana)

Indian cucumber-root (Medeola virginiana)


This plant has a delicious tuber which tastes just like… yes – cucumber. If you don’t like cucumber, you should probably eschew Indian cucumber-root. I don’t eat much of it because there’s never much of it around.

Penny and I headed back home after that. I took a shower, and Jonathan and I headed to the office. I napped in the car a bit. I guess the walk helped me turn off my brain. 🙂

When we got home I went out and admired my Dewdrop blossom again. Then I went to the catchment pond where there’s a bit of Pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata) growing. This plant has been threatening to bloom for about two weeks now. But today, I found a single blossom open (out of about two dozen).

Pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata)

Pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata)


This flower is pretty closely related to wintergreen and pyrola, but it looks a lot more like pyrola. And like pyrola, it doesn’t present its best side to humans. That privilege is reserved for ants. I tipped the blossom upwards to get a shot of its innards:
Pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata)

Pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata)


Nice!

In Pathfinders, we work on “honors” which are most easily described as being very similar to Boy Scout merit badges. The organization has a couple of official publications relating to honors. The most obvious one is the Honors Manual which sets forth the requirements for earning each one. There are also four “Answer Books” that serve as the teacher’s manual. These four volumes cover four of the nine different categories under which the honors fall.

Back in 2005, I was getting ready to teach an honor, and I didn’t realize that the Answer Books were incomplete. So I started a project on Wikibooks to start to fill that gap.

My friends on the Pathfinder forum encouraged me to go ahead and address all nine categories rather than just the missing ones. The official Answer Books hadn’t been updated since 1998, so this would be a good way to provide answers for the honors introduced since then, and also to refresh some of the thinking.

When I started the project, I had hoped Pathfinders from all over the world would contribute material, and that all I was doing was organizing the work and supplying some of the answers. There were probably a half dozen people who did that on a regular basis at first, and countless others who made the occasion correction or addition. But truth be told, I ended up doing the bulk of the work.

And I learned a lot. I started with the honors with which I was most familiar. Then I started working on the ones in which I was interested. Then I worked on some in which I had less interest. Forward wind to today, and there are 255 honors which have answers to every requirement (out of 380 honors).

When our club went to Oshkosh for the North American Division (NAD) camporee, I could not help but notice that a lot of the honors being taught were making extensive use of the Wikibooks answers. I noticed the same thing at the Atlantic Union camporee last May.

But tonight, something even bigger happened. I spent 40 minutes on the phone with a member of the NAD Pathfinder leadership team. They are looking to set up a Wiki to address the Pathfinder curricula, and they want me to help them with that. Furthermore, they would like to host the Honors Answer Book that I started, making it decidedly less “unofficial”. 🙂

There. I just spent six paragraphs giving background information for news that only took one paragraph to recount. Suffice it to say that I am pretty excited about this!

Saturday evening Beth and I drove into Franklin and walked the western half of the Winnipesaukee River Trail. I started telling her the names of the flowers we were seeing (and taking photos of them), and she started naming them back every time we’d pass one she had just learned (which was about once per second, because there were a lot of them).

So I challenged her to see if she could learn 35 of them, which is how many she’d need to satisfy the first requirement of the Pathfinder Flowers Honor (she will be joining this fall). The other part of that requirement is that she photograph, draw, or collect them. We had a camera, and so long as she wore the wrist strap, I figured it would be safe enough (and it was). I think she learned 32, not all of which were in bloom, but the requirement says nothing about them having to be in bloom. In my book, and plant that produces a flower is a flower, and that include trees! But we stuck to herbacious forbs. We even saw one that I recognized from Peterson’s Edible Wild Plants, but which I had never seen – the purple flowering raspberry (Rubus odoratus).
I helped her with the camera settings, because I figure she may as well learn that too. Not all her shots came out all that great, but they will do. Here are her photos:

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Whoops! The heal-all slipped in there twice, so there are only 31 unique plants in the slideshow, not 32.

Four more, plus the remaining requirements, and she’ll have the Flowers Honor.

Oh – and we ate that strawberry (and several more just like it).

Today Jonathan and I went to a deli a couple of blocks from the office for lunch. We walked back via the back allies. I wasn’t intentionally looking for blooms, but once you’ve trained your eye to do that, it’s hard to shut it off. I found an American nightshade (Solanum americanum).

American nightshade (Solanum americanum)

American nightshade (Solanum americanum)


I had always thought this plant to be deadly poisonous, but a new book I received this week – Nature’s Garden, by Samuel Thayer, says otherwise. Thayer holds that the ripe berries and the leaves are both edible and quite palatable. I will have to test his assertion later this year!

We soon ran out of alley and went back onto Main Street which has a row of Basswood (Tilia americana) trees. They were in bloom, so I stopped and snapped a shot.

Basswood (Tilia americana)

Basswood (Tilia americana)

We finished off the day, and then headed home. Penny was very excited (as she always is) and was more than ready to go outside and chase sticks and/or balls. I put down my laptop and headed out the back door with my camera bag still slung over my shoulder.

First I went to the woods in the back where I found that the partridge berry (Michella repens) had bloomed sometime during the past several days of rain.

Partridge berry (Michella repens)

Partridge berry (Michella repens)


I took several shots. It was still very cloudy out so the light was dim. This is not normally a problem except that the tripod mount on my camera is stripped. I packed it full of Quicksteel (a steel-infused epoxy) so that I could drill that out and re-tap it later. But later hasn’t come yet! Also, I’m not sure where I put my set of taps. As a result of this shameful state of disorganization, I had to take these photos with the camera either held in my hand, or sitting on a rock. Some of them turned out pretty OK:
Partridge berry (Michella repens)

Partridge berry (Michella repens)

I also checked in on the Pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata). The flowers have still not opened for me, but they must soon!

Pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata)

Pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata)

These unripe blackberries are growing at the end of my driveway.

Blackberry (Rubus spp)

Blackberry (Rubus spp)


Then Beth called out to me with an irresistible question, “Dad! What’s this flower?” I rushed right over and saw my first Heal-all (Prunella vulgaris) bloom of the year:
Heal-all (Prunella vulgaris)

Heal-all (Prunella vulgaris)


While I was taking that shot, she also found some birdsfoot trefoil, but I’ve already taken shots of that this summer. I may even have posted them. Instead, I spotted some white campion (Silene latifolia) growing amongst the sweetfern (Comptonia peregrina):
White campion (Silene latifolia)

White campion (Silene latifolia)


and some sort of wild mustard (Brassica spp):
Wild mustard (Brassica spp)

Wild mustard (Brassica spp)


These are supposed to be good to eat as well, and mustard can indeed be made from the seeds. I’ll have to try that one of these days.

I then looked for some cow wheat (Melampyrum lineare) that has a habit of growing nearby. I’ve been looking for it already this summer, but hadn’t seen any until today:

Cow wheat (Melampyrum lineare)

Cow wheat (Melampyrum lineare)

And just for good measure, I took another picture of some whorled loosestrife (Lysimachia quadrifolia):

Whorled loosestrife (Lysimachia quadrifolia)

Whorled loosestrife (Lysimachia quadrifolia)


By then Penny had chased her ball into the catchment pond (which is quite full again, thank you). When she saw that I was not going in after it, she did. And even though she was good and wet, I was ready to come in.

Luckily, she was just wet and not too muddy!

Last night Beth came down the stairs a couple of hours after she had been put to bed. She was hot. That’s when Va noticed that she was hot too, so she checked the thermostat. It was set to 74, but the temperature in the house was 81. Or something – I don’t remember.

Sigh.

Of course it was dark outside, and on top of that, it was raining cats and dogs. I did step into the garage from whence it is easy to hear if the outside unit is running or not, and of course, it was not. We turned it off and threw open a few windows, and I promised to look into it today.

As I expected, there was a rotted spade connector on the relay. I told Va it would take ten minutes to fix as I headed to the basement to get my crimper and a box of spade connectors. When I opened the drawer with the spade connectors in it, I managed to drop it on the floor.

Sigh.

It took five minutes to pick up all the spade connectors. Once I had them organized again, I selected one and headed back outside (into the rain) to fix the AC. That did the trick, but including the time it took to spill and collect the spade connectors, it took me 15 minutes.

So I’m sticking by my 10 minute prediction, which I should have prefixed with Yosemite Sam’s “barrin’ accidents” contingency.

Luckily, it’s only 61 degrees outside right now, so this hardly qualified as an emergency. We still ran the AC for a bit to knock down the humidity. It won’t come on again until it needs to (that’s what thermostats do).

In other repair news (just to make sure this blog posting is as boring as I can make it), we got Va’s car out of the shop today. It died on her last week just as she was pulling into the gas station. She was able to restart it, and the tank was pretty close to empty, so I figured maybe there was a little water in the tank. I made an appointment with our mechanic to have that investigated.

Then it did it again on Tuesday when she was bringing Beth and David into Concord for their music lessons. I drove out to where it had died (but by then she had restarted it and moved to a nearby gas station). We traded cars, and I was able to drive to the mechanic’s place with no problems (other than that it idled pretty roughly after I started the engine, but it recovered quickly from that). They said they could check it out the next day (yesterday), so I just left it with them over night.

Well, they did look at it late yesterday, so it wasn’t ready until this morning. It spit out a diagnostic code indicating that it was suffering from low oil pressure, and indeed, they only got 1.5 quarts out of it. I don’t like that either, since oil is not supposed to disappear from the engine. I’ve found no oil spots on the garage floor, and there has been no blue smoke, and as far as I know, those are the only two places oil can go.

So we’ll see. We still have a few more weeks before our annual trip to KY, and if there is still a problem, I’m sure it will present before then.

Today Beth and I went to Sandogardy again to do some more swimming. As soon as we arrived, I began looking along the side of the road leading down to the swimming area for some Deptford Pinks (Dianthus deltoides). They grew there in previous years, and I hadn’t seen any this year yet. I was beginning to think I’d have to check into one of the other places I’ve seen them grow. But no need! I struck gold.

Deptford Pink (Dianthus deltoides)

Deptford Pink (Dianthus deltoides)


This is one of the two shots that came out pretty well out of fifteen attempts. It normally does not take me 15 shots to get a good one, but here’s why it did today:


It just wouldn’t hold still!

While Beth played in the water, I waded out into the weeds. I wore a swimsuit today – too bad for everyone else who was at the beach. It didn’t take long before I saw some huge snails in the water – huge snails having a romantic interlude!
Two snails, coupled up

Snails from another angle

Snails from another angle

And one more:

From the side

From the side


I don’t have any field guides covering gastropods, so I have made no attempt to id these. I guess I could turn to Google, or maybe the NH DES has another online publication. They have them for amphibians and reptiles, so why not snails & shells?

I put the two lovers back in the water, and soon after that, Beth was calling for me. I had been telling her that in order for her to learn to swim, she had to be able to hold her head under water for ten seconds. We spent a lot of time yesterday with me timing her. “How long?” she’d ask. “Three and a half seconds,” I’d answer. But today, she had come up with a new technique to help her stay under longer. She began kicking her legs while holding herself up with her arms as if to do a push-up. She made ten seconds.

I told her she was practically swimming already and told her how to move her arms. In no time, she was swimming a good 15 feet, which is huge to me. She was very pleased too!

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