December 2011

It snowed a little today. We got about zero inches. I noticed the flakes out the attic window. Yup – I was up there installing more insulation. I am now well past the half done mark, but that includes the work I did two years ago too. I’m pretty sure I will finish it (or come very close to finishing it) before my holiday break ends.

When I had about all the insulating I could take in one dose, I headed down the stairs. Poor Penny had not been taken outside for exercise all day. David has been sick with a sinus infection, and Va was in town running errands. So I grabbed my camera and took her down to Sandogardy Pond.

It has frozen over now, but I don’t think the ice is safe yet. I did go out on it, but if I had fallen through, it would not have been deep enough to wet my knees. It was plenty slick though.

Sandogardy Pond is frozen

Sandogardy Pond is frozen

The puddles in my driveway are frozen now too, so it’s almost like it’s paved now. In places.

Penny and I headed down the trail that parallels Little Kohas Creek. Penny does not like the bridge that crosses the creek, but the last time we were down there, she crossed it anyhow. She thought about wading across, but I told her not to. Then she tried the other side, and again I told her not to. Then I told her to sit. I was not going to go very far. I was looking to see where Kohas might have built his cabin (no luck there). But Penny could not stand it. She carefully treaded over the bridge with much trepidation. Of course that meant she would have to cross it again, but on the return trip, she went over without hesitation (but still with plenty of trepidation).

Today she toddled right over. I still have no idea where Kohas’s cabin was, but I am planning to plant a geocache along the creek in his honor. I found a place to hide it last time I was there, but then got to thinking about the snow. When it comes, it will make the cache inaccessible. It’s better to hide them higher up so they are accessible year-round. But it’s also harder to find a hiding place up off the ground. I thought I had found a spot, but now that I think about it, it might not be above the creek’s high water line. Or maybe it is. The pond regulates the creeks depth pretty well.

While I was out looking for a place to hide my cache, I spotted a strange fungal formation in a tree.

Funny Fungal Form

Funny Fungal Form

There are two growths there. A very large one on the trunk, and a smaller (but still large) one growing on a dead branch. It looks a little like the lid to a teapot to me.

But back to the cache. I ordered some plastic toys which are models of some Powhatan Indians. Kohas was probably a Pennacook Indian, not Powhatan, but the Powhatans were the only eastern tribe I could find on the Innernets. Most are Plains Indians (and come with cowboys). When my Powhatan come in, they will go in a Lock-n-Lock container along with the cache log, a pencil, and maybe a little more swag. I will eventually find a place to hide it.

I am also going to hide a cache near the Northfield Union Church. That church was built in the late 1800’s and given to the city of Northfield so that any denomination that wanted to use it could, and free of charge. The first four to do so were the Methodists, Congregationalists, Freewill Baptists, and Adventists. Each one of these denominations has an organizational logo, so I am looking for lapel pins depicting them to go in the cache as trade items.

The Adventists who met there were probably not Seventh-day Adventists (because there is no mention of anyone meeting there on Saturdays), but I am going to go with an SDA pin, because that is my own denomination, and I have a dozen SDA pins already (mostly from Pathfinders).

For the Freewill Baptists, I may have to go with a more generic Baptist pin. I plan to check out a local Christian book store to see if they have anything like what I want, and if not, I will turn to the Internet again. Keychains would work just as well as pins.

When Penny and I got home again, I was pretty tired. I sat down for a few minutes and then broke out the vacuum cleaner and ran a load of dishes. Va was in town running errands. By the time she got home, I was snoozing on the couch. She made a nice pot of chili and a batch of cornbread, and that revived me again.

I’m not a perpetual procrastinator, but sometimes it does seem like I am. Yesterday I wrote about my plans to work on the Eternal Insulation Project. And today I did work on it. I carried a few more things from the attic to the basement, all the time thinking that reversing that process is going to be a lot harder, because then my arms will be full while I’m ascending the stairs.

Once I had some space to work, I realized that I could not find any staples for the staple gun. It is not difficult for me to convince myself that I need to make a trip into town instead of doing an unpleasant task. But I may as well make the most of the trip, right?

I counted the baffle panels I have. Those are necessary to allow air to flow from the eaves up to the ridge vent. You can’t just press insulation up against the underside of the roof. I found that I would need about another 30 or so panels.

I also noticed that I have a bit of mold on the underside of the roof. That is because our “wonderful” builder opted to vent the bathroom fans out the eaves instead of out the roof. I asked about this at the time, but was convinced that it was OK. Later I found out that it can cause problems. As soon as the vent exhausts the steamy air out the soffit, it is immediately drawn back into the attic by the soffit vents on either side of the bathroom vent. And then the underside of the roof molds.

So – a trip to town was in order. I invited Beth, and she accepted my invitation. I prefer to shop at an ancient hardware store in Tilton – Bryant’s Hardware. This place has been in business for well over 100 years, and I really like the guy who runs the place. He is both friendly and helpful. I didn’t think he’d have attic baffles, but I thought I’d check before I headed over to Lowes (which does have them, and probably cheaper).

First I found the staples. The proprietor was busy helping someone else, so as I waited, I browsed around – his store is always filled with fascinating things.

He didn’t think he had baffles, but he could sure order them for me. I knew I would never get around to using all the ones I did have today, so I figured it’d be worth the wait. But then he remembered he did have some. He bought them a few years ago for a project that he never completed. No wonder I like this guy so much. He’s just like me. He disappeared for a few minutes and came back with a box full of baffles. We counted out 30 of them.

Then I asked about a roof vent for the bathroom fan. He didn’t have those either, but again, he was willing to order them for me. So we picked one out, and I ordered two (there are two bathroom vents in the attic). They will arrive sometime next week after New Years Day. But I have no desire to climb up on my roof in the beginning of a New Hampshire January. No thanks! I will wait until spring. That vent has been exhausting bathroom steam into my attic for seven years now. Four more months is not going to make that much difference.

Beth and I then went back home, and she wanted to know if she could help me in the attic. Well… sure! We went up and she handed me baffles as I stapled them to the roof. We didn’t put them all up though, because that would mean moving more boxes. I could have moved them into the empty space I created by shuffling junk to the basement, but then I’d have to move them again to put up the insulation. So instead, I figured I should just insulate while I had the space cleared.

By then Beth was ready to go outside and play with the neighbor girl. That was just as well, because I really didn’t want her handling the fiberglass.

Maybe tomorrow I will make more progress. As we saw today… it could happen!

I’m off work now until the new year is underway. It’s nice to have some time off. On the agenda today was to sleep in, take the recycling to the recycling station, run some errands, and resume the Eternal Attic Insulation Project.

The sleep in part went swimmingly. Once I had checked that box, I went downstairs and had some breakfast. Then I loaded the recycling into my car and backed out of the garage. That’s when Beth told me, “One of your tires is low. I mean really low.” What she meant was “You have a flat tire, Daddy!”

Yeah. I took a turn a little too tightly yesterday and bumped hard over a curb. It felt a little unbalanced on the drive home, but I figured I had thrown one of those balance weights. I had intended to take it in to have the tires rotated anyhow, so…

Of all the days to have a flat tire, I really can’t think of a better day than today. I didn’t have to be anywhere at any particular time.

I moved all the recycling out of my car and into Va’s, and Beth and I took it to the recycling center. I really wish we had curbside recycling here, but having no curbs, I guess that’s not likely to happen any time soon. And curbs don’t like me too much this week anyhow.

I took the tire off, threw it in Va’s trunk, and she and I drove to town. We ran errands (one of which was to get the tire fixed). When we got home I put the tire back on. Actually, I didn’t get the tire fixed, I got a new one. When we bought the tires in May, they came with road hazard insurance, and the curb was very unkind to the sidewall. From this we can conclude that curbs are road hazards. I paid $15 for labor (or something), but I am totally OK with that. I was expecting to hand over a Benjamin.

After supper I decided to move a bunch of stuff from the attic to the basement so I would have some room to work on the Eternal Insulation Project.

Well-insulated vs Not

Well-insulated vs Not

This photo was taken two years ago yesterday. You can see that the snow on the right side of the house is deeper than the snow on the left side. That’s because I had insulated the left side of the attic.

Actually, the whole attic is insulated – just not very well. When we had the house built we asked for an open attic with a subfloor and regular walk-up stairs. The plan was to eventually finish it out and use it as extra space. The builder did as we asked, but he insulated the attic floor, not the attic ceiling. That’s not so bad except that the door to the attic is an interior door, and the heat goes right through it, up our walk-up stairs, and out the roof.

So I have been insulating the attic ceiling. But not fast. My goal is to finish that project before I have to go back to work. Tonight all I will do though, is clear out some working space. The nice thing about having the ceiling half-insulated for two years running is that I know that when it is finished, it will do us some real good. I can see it every time there’s snow or frost on the roof. And I am reminded then, that I should really get up there and finish that project off.


Moving Pictures

Moving Pictures

A few years ago I got this puzzle (provided by my brother Steve) during a Dirty Santa Christmas swap. I got it out a few days ago and started working on it. It’s nearly finished now, with only black pieces remaining. It’s the classic situation I see at work all the time – where the last 20% takes 80% of the time.

The puzzle depicts the cover of my all-time favorite album. It may also be my favorite album cover. It was beautifully staged photographed. I listened to it while I worked. Since I’m rattling off favorite things, I might as well say that the fifth track, “The Camera Eye” is also my favorite song (and has been for a very long time).

In the Moving Other Things department, I helped a friend move yesterday – Christmas Day. They bought a new house (built in 1780) and needed to be out of their apartment post haste. I found out that he was planning to do the move on Christmas, so I asked him who was helping him. He said it was just he and his wife. No way! So David and I went over there around 11:00am yesterday. Two of his brothers showed up too (I had never met them before), so we had five able-bodied men at the scene.

Yes, it included a piano.

We loaded the truck, drove to his new place, and then unloaded it again. We were done by 2:30. I wanted to grab lunch at Taco Bell, but David reminded me that they’re closed on Christmas. So we went home and had a snack. Va fixed us something very nice for dinner.

My original plan was to go over there around 9 or 10 am, but I noticed there was a new geocache hidden not too far from my house, and no one had found it yet. So I went and grabbed it. I have tried many times to score a first-to-find (FTF) on a cache, and there have been several occasions where I was 10 minutes too late. But not this time! I got my first FTF on Christmas Day. Hooray! I also stopped and too a picture of this fallen chicken house:

Collapsed Chicken House

Collapsed Chicken House

It collapsed sometime last summer. I had kept meaning to get a photo of it, but just couldn’t manage to find the time. I would imagine that taking it down the rest of the way would be a fairly dangerous proposition. Maybe the snow this winter will flatten it a little more.

I had the day off today, so I slept in a little (but not too much). We got a little bit of snow, but not as much as was forecast, and not even close to as much as I wanted. But I will take what I can get.

I went for a short walk around my woods and took photos of several tiny evergreens. I would hazard to guess that when most people hear of a tiny evergreen, this is what they think of:

Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus)

Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus)

This is a tiny eastern white pine. If it survives, it will not remain tiny though. I think the tallest trees on my property belong to this species. But there are plenty of evergreens that stay tiny their entire lives. Here are a few of them.

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)

Wintergreen is a tiny evergreen. The berries are delicious, and only moments passed between me taking this photo, and me eating my subject. Mmmm.

Goldthread (Coptis trifolia)

Goldthread (Coptis trifolia)

Goldthread is another tiny little evergreen. It’s roots are little gold threads. This one has two different binomial names: Coptis trifolia, and Coptis groenlandica. I learned it as C. groenlandica first, but I think C. trifolia is more commonly accepted.

Groundpine (Lycopodium)

Groundpine (Lycopodium)

Groundpine looks for all the world like a Christmas tree – except for its size. It is also called clubmoss. It is neither a pine, nor a moss, but rather, a flowerless plant belonging to its own eponymous class.

Trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens)

Trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens)

Trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens) is another evergreen. It has leathery leaves sporting sharpish hairs. It blooms early in the spring, and the blossoms are edible. I tried them for the first time last spring and found them to be quite tasty.

Sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia)

Sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia)

Sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia) is not edible. It’s other names attest to this: lamb-kill and sheep-poison. I suppose I’d have to tear it all out if I wanted to run sheep back here. But the flowers are among my favorites. Like the other plants listed in this post, it too is an evergreen.

Partridge berry (Mitchella repens)

Partridge berry (Mitchella repens)

The last evergreen in today’s post is partridge berry (Mitchella repens). I have had several kids tell me that its berries are poisonous, but this is absolutely not true. I eat them all the time, and I have found no literature indicating that it is toxic. It reminds me of a wee tiny apple; not as crunchy, and not as sweet, but it is something I would gladly eat in great quantities.

So there we have seven tiny evergreens that I found growing in my woods today.

Phrozen Phlox

Phrozen Phlox

We had a very light dusting of snow when I got up this morning. I took this shot while I was waiting for Beth to come out to the car. If you don’t know, that’s a close-up of some not-wild phlox we planted in front of our house.

It’s not enough snow as far as I’m concerned. I want a foot or more. I want to put on my snowshoes and go for a hike at night. Or during the day, it doesn’t matter too much. I just want to get out into the woods.

I suppose I could go for a night hike without the snow, but it’s a lot harder to do it then. With snow on the ground it’s easier to see things, so it’s almost like it’s not night. And with the sun setting just after 4:00pm now, night is really the only time I have available for hiking.

Our little snow dusting turned to rain later in the day, and when the sun set, that started to freeze. It’s not nasty out, but it’s not very nice either.

If I had a nice snow I know just where I would walk too. I’d head for Sandogardy Pond and look for animal tracks on the beach. Then I’d cross Little Kohas Creek and try to imagine where Little Kohas had a cabin there. I’d keep going until I got to the railroad tracks. Then I’d hike another half mile or so where there is a house that used to be a railroad station. I would bring my tripod and make a long exposure of that house from the vantage point of the tracks (it would be dark you know).

Penny could come with me, and she would find sticks for me to throw. She would also stand on my snowshoes every now and then, and maybe make me fall over. But she wouldn’t mind, as long as she could find a stick, and especially as long as I would throw it for her.

If I could figure out how to get to the road from there without trespassing or causing too much alarm, I’d walk from the railroad station to the Northfield Union Church and take a long-exposure shot of that as well. Depending on how tired I was after that, I might head to Beth’s geocache and see what it’s like when it’s dark there. Then I’d hike towards home along the trail.

But for now, I will hike on the treadmill in the basement. And I will wait for snow.

Today we had our last Pathfinder meeting of the year. Attendance was a down because one of my families had their annual Christmas gathering today (that took out three kids plus a counselor). But we still had a good time.

We worked on the Computer honor, but only got through the first requirement. I used to design computers (before I switch to writing software for them), so they are not much of a mystery to me. It’s difficult to understand what others don’t understand. Asking questions helps a lot.

Although it’s not required, I explained how the binary numbering system works. It seems impossible that a computer can store any (rational) number as a string of ones and zeros, but once you understand the mechanism, it’s pretty cool. I think they all came away with that today. I lined four kids up to form a half-byte. Each kid represented a binary digit (aka, a bit), and they could be a one or a zero, as indicated by a raised or lowered fist. Then I taught them to count.

I brought an old PC in with me and we opened it up and took a look inside. I pointed out and explained the function of the CPU, RAM, hard drive, CD-Rom drive, and mother board.

When the meeting was over, I had to hang around for two more hours so people could pick up their fruit orders. I borrowed Ken’s truck on Friday and drove to Keene to pick up 60 cases. That’s a two-hour drive each way, and it pretty much took out the whole day. The fruit arrived at 11:00, so I had to leave here around 9:00. We got it to the church and finished unloading it around 2:00. No point in going back to the office after that.

That’s about as boring a post as I think I have ever written, and that’s after a week of things to choose from. I did have a pretty intense week at work, but I try to avoid writing about that. I think it did factor into the shortage of writing material though – I was just too tired after I got home to do anything, and unless I do something, there’s not much to write about.

I’ve not been able to get out and do much photography of late, as it gets dark here a little after 4:00pm now. Actually, I believe tonight is the earliest sunset of the year. I find it odd that the earliest sunset is not on the winter solstice, but is most certainly is not – it comes about a week before. The latest sunrise comes about a week after the solstice. The solstice is the shortest day of the year, so it sits halfway in between.

But that was a tangent!

Since there hasn’t been much in the way of light when I have time to take pictures, I don’t have many. So I decided to see what pictures I took, liked, but didn’t share yet. We’ll have to go back to Thanksgiving weekend for that. I took a walk with Penny down to Sandogardy Pond, and made a side trip into the town forest, past the sandpit, and to the area where Beth and I have hidden a geocache. This is some of what I managed to capture during that walk.

Canada Mayflower (Maianthemum canadense)

Canada Mayflower (Maianthemum canadense)

This is a Canada Mayflower (Maianthemum canadense) poking its berries out of the snow (which is now long gone). It’s an early bloomer, and the fruit stays on for quite a while.
Witches' butter (Tremella mesenterica)

Witches' butter (Tremella mesenterica)

I believe this fungus is witches’ butter (Tremella mesenterica). According to Wikipedia, it is edible, but “bland and tasteless.” That hardly seems worth risking mushroom poisoning over.
I prefer to feast on it with my eyes.

Unidentified shrub

Unidentified shrub

I don’t know what kind of shrub this is. My intention was to try to find out when I got home, but that didn’t happen (yet). It will be a lot easier to id if I wait until spring when it puts out leaves and flowers. I’ll check back then.

Near the Cache

Near the Cache

This spot is pretty close to our geocache. The stream is wide and meandering at this point, and I’m pretty sure it’s shallow enough to wade across at about any point. But I sure think it’s pretty. I tarried here for a while and threw lots of sticks for Penny. She doesn’t seem to care much about scenery, except the extent to which it provides her with sticks.

The stream drains Sandogardy Pond and flows down into the Merrimack less than a mile from here. It’s name today is Cross Brook, but it had been called Little Cohas, Pipers, and Phillips as well. I prefer the oldest of these names, “Little Cohas Brook.” Little Cohas was the name of an Indian who had a cabin along the creek and used to hunt and fish around Sandogardy Pond in the 1750’s. I’d love to find the exact site of his cabin, but I think that is probably beyond my skill.

Today while I was at work, I found myself looking out the window (undoubtedly trying to sort our a vexing technical problem) when I noticed something odd. Do you see it?

Utility pole with a burning ember

Look closer!

There was a small light on the utility pole. This particular utility pole was installed just last week, and as you can see, they placed it within one foot of an existing pole, and I wish I had watched them do that too – they threaded the new pole right between the existing power lines. Methinks they are going to pluck the old one out soon.

Today a crew showed up and blocked off half the parking lot. Then they began digging a ditch across the lot in which to lay electrical lines. They’re remodeling the Concord Food Co-op, and apparently, that involves putting in a new electrical entrance.

They dug this ditch right up to the poles, and I think that may have destabilized the new one just a tad. Or maybe it destabilized the old one. The net effect was that the new pole was now touching the hot wire. Let’s zoom in!

Fire in the pole!

Fire in the pole!

When I figured out that the light was a burning ember, I decided to go across the street and inform the construction crew. But I must confess that since it was such a tiny little fire, I paused to take a picture or two first. Then I put on my hat and coat and went over.

“Excuse me!”
“Your utility pole is on fire.”
“Huh? Oh, hey! I can see the smoke!”
“Can you guys take care of that, or should I call the fire department?”
“I’ll tell the foreman – he can decide what to do. Thanks!”
“You’re welcome.”

So Concord did not burn to the ground today. Surely it would have had I not sprung into action (after taking a few pictures).

Within five minutes a utility crew arrived.

To the rescue!

To the rescue!

They’re almost as fast as the fire department. A guy got in the bucket and slid some sleeves over the wires. As soon as he broke contact between the wire and the pole, the fire went out all by its own self. He moved a splice down the wire a bit and left the sleeve in place. I guess that took them all of 30 minutes.

Fixin' the wires

Fixin' the wires

One thing I can say about these guys. They earn their money. I did not envy either the utility guys or the crew laying the new wire under the parking lot, as it was cold and drizzly all day. All I had to do was report a small problem.

Today as Va was getting ready to leave the house, someone rang the doorbell. It was a WMUR news crew. They wanted to interview her about a burgalry in our neighborhood. Well, Va didn’t have time for that, so she politely declined, got in the car, and went on her way.

So now her car is featured in the news story as is our mailbox.

It’s kind of funny how they show her car just as they are talking about how the burglar made his getaway in a waiting car.

David wanted to do the interview so he could game them. He was interviewed at the beach about six years ago (as a 12 year-old), and was appalled at how they took his comments out of context and made it look like he was talking about something else.

He wanted to feign intense worry, talk about all the gunfire we hear constantly, and how scared he is to live here any more.

We do hear occasional gunfire, but this is a rural area, and hunters do practice their aim on occasion. Also, he is not afraid to live here.

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