January 2012

About a month ago I wrote a post about how I wanted it to snow so that I could go snowshoeing with Penny. Well, we’ve had some snow since then, but not enough to justify wearing snowshoes. I wrote about the route I would take, and the things I would see. And today, Penny and I walked that route and saw those sights, albeit sans snowshoes.

Penny brought me some sticks to throw

Penny brought me some sticks to throw

I headed down the road and turned into the field that until recently was a forest. I was looking for animal tracks as I went, and found some nice ones. Here’s a set left by a squirrel:
Squirrel tracks in snow

Squirrel tracks in snow

A little farther down the remnants of the forest path I saw some deer tracks. I think these were left by at least two animals, as the tracks are two different sizes.
Whitetail tracks

Whitetail tracks

We crossed the road then and walked to Sandogardy Pond. It has been warm the past couple of days and the ice is not stable. When it gets thick again, I will hike across the pond. I just like the idea of hiking across a pond (and I have done it before). It’s a lot farther to the other side than it looks.
Sandogardy Pond

Sandogardy Pond

Since the ice was unsuited for foot traffic, I had the place all to myself. I do enjoy the solitude. I looked for muskrat tracks, but that’s hard to do with Penny along, because she dashes out ahead of me and often confuses any tracks that are there. I didn’t find any, so we headed down the path along Little Cohas Brook, and crossed the footbridge that spans it. Penny thought better of swimming across and reluctantly used the bridge. Good girl, Penny.

That path took us to the railroad tracks. The tracks become a snowmobile path in the winter, and they have definitely taken advantage of that.

Walking south on the tracks

Walking south on the tracks

As we headed down the tracks, I continued to admire Little Cohas Brook.

Little Cohas Brook

Little Cohas Brook

It was just a short walk until we arrived at a house that originally served as a railroad depot. I had been wanting to take a photo of the place from the tracks, and that was almost the point of the journey today. Too bad I didn’t bring my tripod.

Northfield Depot

Northfield Depot

I don’t know when the depot was built, but it was there when the Union Church was built in 1883. That’s how I came to know that this unusual looking house had been a railroad station in the first place. It’s pretty close to the church, and that’s how most people who attended got there. I can picture them all dressed up in their Sunday best getting off the train.

About a hundred yards to the south of the depot is a little dirt road which connects to Sondogardy Pond Road (yeah, it’s spelled differently than the Pond is). So Penny and I used that rather than trekking through someone’s yard. We headed back to our house, but stopped to take a few shots of the Union Church.

Northfield Union Church

Northfield Union Church

Nobody meets here anymore. I think it was last used in the 1990’s, but I’m not sure. You can get a key from the town clerk, and I will do that one of these days. I want to go inside and have a look around.

Penny and I walked home from there, and as you can see from the photos, it was getting dark. I put my light clip on my hat and turned it on so I could be seen by the cars. We took the paved bridge over Little Cohas Brook, and Penny didn’t seem to notice our crossing this time.

It was a refreshing walk, and I really needed to recharge my batteries. Virginia and I have a packed month coming up. We’ll come up for air again in March I think. Tomorrow the Pathfinders have our annual inspection. Next weekend is Camp-in for the Adventurers, so Va and I will need to make the church basement look like Nazareth. The following day, the Pathfinders will use those decorations for a backdrop for some video we will shoot (and I need to finish writing the scripts for that tonight). The next week we will continue practicing the play that we will present during the church service on Pathfinder Sabbath (Feb 18) – the same day as the Bible Bowl and Pinewood Derby. Less than a week after that the Pathfinders fly out to Arizona for our mission trip to Holbrook Indian School.

So posts may be sparse between now and then. I will have a lot to say, but not a lot of time to say it!

I spent today (and part of last night) in Woodstock, Maine for Pathfinder Leadership training. This is the church where the training is being held:

Woodstock Adventist Church

Woodstock Adventist Church

And here’s what I saw tonight as the sun was setting:
Sunset in Woodstock, ME
It has been pretty cold here so far. The thermometer in Melissa’s van read -8F as we headed from the church to the house where we are being lodged. It fluctuated too quickly for me to believe that number though, going from -8 to -4 in under a minute. It was cold enough to freeze the hair in my nose though, so maybe it was eight below.

We also had snow throughout most of the day. It didn’t amount to much, but it was pretty. And here I am without snowshoes (and with a full schedule).

David and I are supposed to write a script for Pathfinder Sabbath. We will present the worship service in its entirety in about a month, and that’s not a lot of time to pull off what we have planned. David and I made a rough outline last night, but that’s as far as we got. The kids wanted to make a movie. We compromised, and instead we will be doing a series of “television newscasts” from Egypt during the ten plagues. The news anchors will be behind a desk and live. The reporters “live on the scene” will all be pre-recorded. We will use the fearless kids for the live action, and the eager, but less fearless for the pre-recorded parts. This will require costumes, sets, and a ton of video editing. Then the live actors have to practice banter with the on-the-scene reporters. It is ambitious for the amount of time we have, but I think we can pull it off.

But first we have to write a script!

Yesterday some jeans I ordered from LL Bean came in. They are fleece lined, and my legs are loving them. Last month I bought some flannel-lined jeans, and they are warmer than regular jeans, but not nearly as nice as these fleecies. I wanted fleece and settled for flannel, because they didn’t have them in my size. The flannels didn’t fit in the waist (too tight or too loose? I’m not saying!) so I bumped them up (oops!) an inch and saw that they had them in that size.

We had some flurries earlier today. I don’t think they were in the forecast. A few minutes ago Penny asked to be let outside, so I obliged. When she came in again, her coat was covered in snow! Yay! They have now updated the forecast, and we are to expect 3.2 inches of snow. What a delightful surprise!

Tomorrow I am headed to Woodstock, Maine for a Pathfinder Leadership Training weekend. Eight staff members and teens from our club will be attending. I always look forward to these weekends, as they are packed with info, and I really like the other staff members in our conference. It’s nice to see them, especially when we don’t have our hands full watching a group of kids (other than the teens, but they are pretty well behaved and low-maintenance). This is a weekend for us.

The downside is that I’ll miss the company holiday party (and the free loot) and I’ll also miss time at/near home with daylight. That would have been nice because it would have allowed me to seek a new location for my geocache. Instead, that will have to wait another week.

This morning I got a rejection letter from the geocache reviewer. 😦 The cavity I widened for my geocache is too close to two existing caches, and they have a rule (which I should have read first) against putting them too close together.

I knew about the rule, and I knew about the two caches that were already there. But I didn’t know the details of the rule, and I didn’t know how close my proposed site was. So yeah… I’m a little bummed, and I should have checked before I invested so much.

So now I am faced with the choice of abandoning my cache all together, or relocating it. I want it to be near the brook for which it is named, and it would be nice if there was not much bushwhacking involved in getting to it. Unfortunately, those two requirements cannot both be met. So there will be some bushwhacking.

I have some exploring to do in those woods now, and no daylight in which to do it for at least the next ten days. I wouldn’t mind exploring by moonlight, but we’ve had cloudy skies, and the moon is waning. So for now I am stuck with exploring via satellite.

This reminds me of a T-shirt I saw the other day at Tof Géocaching. “I use multimillion dollar satellites to find Tupperware in the woods. What’s your hobby?”

Toflabeuze left a comment on my blog last week, and I followed the link to his blog, but it’s in French, which I unfortunately do not read. Tof, I would have subscribed. Really.

Anyhow, I might have a way to get to the cache without too much bushwhacking. Right at my preferred (but disallowed) site there’s a bridge across the brook. It leads to some railroad tracks. These tracks are not used by trains in the winter, but instead are given over to snowmobiles (yeah – officially). The brook comes within 50 feet of the tracks, and if I could find a dead pine there, I could reproduce my work and create (or enlarge) a new cavity. That would pretty much make it a winter-only cache though, as pedestrians aren’t supposed to be on the tracks during train season.

I will also explore the near bank and see if I can find a place that doesn’t require the tracks. Such is the fate of those who do not follow instructions.

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After church today Beth and I went down to the cache I’ve been working on for too long. I nailed the cover over the hole in the dead pine where it is now hidden. Rotate the cover to reveal the cache.

I have not yet published the cache. I was thinking I’d wait for snow to cover my tracks (and wood chips) before doing so, but I don’t think I’ll be able to contain myself long enough for that. I might head back over there tomorrow and leave more tracks everywhere just to confuse things. David pointed out that this approach would also address the issue of the “first to find” (FTF) leaving tracks.

Before Beth went to bed last night she tried her hand at translating Abenaki so she could solve the puzzle. She managed it, but I had to help her some. Even though she has found the cache now, she won’t be the official FTF because she found it before it was published. They call those “pre-finds” and they don’t count (they’re not fair!)

This morning I found that I had been given an award for my blog by Celi. Her blog is the most delightful that I read, and you should definitely check it out. She will transport you to New Zealand or Illinois. Since she has honored me this way, I thought it would be a good idea to link you to some of my very favorite blogs:

All of these bloggers are great writers and photographers, and I love that they are all pretty regular at updating. Their blogs are a feast for the eyes and for the mind, and I thank them for their efforts. I guess you could call this an award if you want to, but I don’t know how to bestow awards. Maybe this is all there is to it!

I am almost finished insulating my attic, a project that I started before we even moved into this house seven years ago. We had snow yesterday, and because I still have four more feet of attic to insulate, I can show you what good the insulation does:

Insulated well vs insulated poorly

Insulated well vs insulated poorly

See how the snow has melted on the last four feet of the roof over there on the right (not counting the part of the roof that extends beyond the house)? That’s where there is no insulation. Heat from the house escapes through the roof right there and melts the snow. If you look closely, you might be able to see icicles on that end too. That’s where the snow melts, runs off the roof, and then refreezes. If that builds up too much, it will create an ice dam, and water will pool up behind it. Then the water will find its way through the shingles and into the house.

So I guess I’d better finish this little job.

When I posted yesterday, I had meant to include a scenic photo that I captured during my walk with Penny to Sandogardy Pond. Here it is:

Gline's Road

Gline's Road

Sorry about the water spots on my lens. I was remembering the scene, not the photo.
This little path is a class VI road, meaning it is not maintained. It is never plowed, and it is never graded. Rather, it just is what it is. I know that sometimes vehicles do drive on it, because they leave their tracks. But more frequently, it is used by snowmobiles, 😦 ATV’s, 😦 pedestrians, 🙂 and dogs. 😀
Penny and I were the first to use it after this snow. Someone actually drove on it since then with a truck or 4WD, which boggles my mind, since it doesn’t lead anywhere that the plowed roads don’t lead to more conveniently. Go figure!

Jonathan and I stopped at the pond on the way home from work. He stayed in the car while I walked the couple hundred yards to Little Cohas Cache, GPS in hand. I took some readings, and will translate them into the Abenaki tongue later tonight. I think I might nail the bark covering on tomorrow afternoon. Then if I can stand to wait, I will refrain from publishing it until it snows again. Otherwise, my tracks will lead the cachers straight to ground zero. But I don’t think I will be able to restrain myself.

We finally got some snow today. It wasn’t very much (3 or 4 inches), but it was enough to cancel school for Beth. I slept in and then did some work from home (but only managed to pull off half a day – the other half is vacation).

Penny takes a break

Penny takes a break

I took Penny down to Sandogardy Pond. I also brought my camera, a one-inch chisel, a claw hammer, and a geocache I intend to hide in a dead pine tree along the banks of the creek that drains the pond. I have written about this cache before.

I have been doing a bit of research about Little Cohas, the Abenaki man who lived near the mouth of this creek. Cohas means “small pine tree.” I believe that “Sandogardy” also derives from Abenaki – “Sandagaji” means something like “next Sunday,” as best I can tell.

So what was the chisel and hammer for? I found a large, dead pine tree with a lot of holes in the trunk. My plan was to enlarge one of them so that it could accommodate the cache container:



Part two of the plan was to break off a sheet of bark and nail it over this hole to conceal the cache. I did manage to dislodge a large enough sheet from the tree, but when I put the nail through it, it broke into four pieces. So I put the pieces in my coat pocket and took them home. They have since been glued to a piece of mason board. I drilled a hole in the top of the cache “door” and put a nail through it. The other end of the nail will go into the tree just above the cache hole. It should be easy to rotate it out of the way and reveal the cache.

This will be a puzzle cache. The coordinates are written in the Abenaki language, so people will have to do a little digging to find it. Don’t tell anyone!

My son David loves to play chess. He is pretty good at it too, to the point where he has to go online to find someone who can beat him. Unfortunately, he lets his love of chess interfere with his studies at times, so it’s something we have to watch.

Before he got into this hobby, I had no idea that chess games were timed, but apparently, they are. Some games (bullet and blitz) are pretty fast, and some games are slow. Well, they are not slow to me. I’m used to taking all the time I need when thinking strategically. But I think the clock adds an exciting element to the game.

In live matches, the players use a chess clock. It has two clock faces on it (or digital readouts) and two buttons. When a player finishes his move, he touches his button which stops his clock and starts his opponent’s. They usually count down. The game ends at checkmate or when one player’s clock reaches zero (which counts as a loss for that person).

The really good chess players don’t usually play anything other than fast games when they are online. There is a good reason for this. As a person plays, his rating changes. A win against someone with a higher rating increases a player’s rating, and a loss against a weaker opponent decreases it. I don’t know what happens when a player loses to a better player or beats a weaker one, but if it affects the rating at all, it’s not by as much.

Once a player reaches a certain level, he starts running into cheaters. These people run a chess analysis engine on their computer, and plug its moves into the live online game. This is harder to do in blitz or bullet, because making the move in those games represents a pretty significant amount of time relative to the thinking. Cheaters can’t keep up with a real chess master. And that’s why the really good players don’t play anything other than the fast games online.

So why write about this tonight? Because as it turns out, a chess clock may have other applications, and I have ordered one to try it out.

Beth takes piano lessons, and part of that includes 45 minutes of practice five times a week. This is a point of contention and a source of major unpleasantness in our household. She will whine and fuss and “ask questions” during practice, and all of that is intended to reduce her actual practice time. Apparently, whining is more enjoyable to her than playing beautiful music. Go figure. By the end of practice everyone in the family is mad, because no one likes to listen to this. I have tried many things to try to put an end to it, and I’m about to try one more.

Enter the chess clock.

Player one is Beth practicing. Player two is Beth not practicing. Practice ends when player one’s count reaches zero. If player two’s count reaches zero (which is not only possible – at this point it seems even probable) then… I don’t know yet. Maybe we start over. Maybe something else. The clock will be here in a week, so I have time to decide.

I spent the night at the church last night, as it was our annual Pathfinder Fun Night. In our club, we motivate behavior by awarding merit points. But merit points have no value unless they can be redeemed in some way, shape, or form. For us, that is Fun Night at the December/January crossover, or Fun Day which will happen in early June. Any child who has earned 75% of the “mandatory” merit points (and any other requirements I have added) is awarded the privilege of attending Fun Night.

This year, all of the kids in our club hit the 75% mark. I wish they had all come for the fun, but that is not always within my control.

We usually have Fun Night on New Year’s Eve in the form of a party/sleep-over at the church. The kids love doing this (we let them stay up past midnight!) and it costs very little money. We had intended to have Fun Night on New Year’s Eve this year too, but the church wanted to have a social then, so we moved Fun Night one week into 2012, i.e., last night.

The thing we did not notice was that we also had a regular meeting scheduled for Sunday morning, and we did not move that. So when we woke up this morning, got dressed, and had breakfast, it was meeting time. No one was late though.

On Fun Night we set up one of the projectors and connect it to a video game system. The kids take turns playing games on an 8′ screen (that is… on the wall). We had pizza for supper, and ice cream for dessert.

I bought a 36-pack of novelty ice creams when I picked up the pizza, and since there were only 12 of us there, I made the command decision to let everyone have 3. What is more fun than ice cream? This was a reward after all.

Now check out the difference between the picture on the box and the actual item that came out of that same box.

Truth in Advertising

Truth in Advertising

Do you see any difference? Yeah – neither did I. 😉

To prevent video game overload, we also earned the Tie-Dye honor. Two of the girls in the club teamed up to teach it. They both earned the honor themselves when we went to Rhode Island last spring, reviewed the material again last week, bought the supplies, and instructed the other kids. They did a great job too. In Pathfinders, when a person teaches an honor, they get a silver diamond to attach to their honor patch, so I will make sure these young ladies each get their diamond. Here are the shirts after they were dyed and wrapped in plastic wrap.

Tie-dye shirts "baking"

Tie-dye shirts "baking"

I got them all to bed by 12:30, which was my goal. I got them up again at 7:15, though my goal there was 7:00. I overslept (but with no alarm set, that’s easy to understand).

Va came out to cook us some breakfast. She does many, many things very well, and one of those things is cook breakfast. She made some pancakes from scratch, as she does every Sunday morning at our house. It is my favorite meal of the week, honestly.

Breakfast made with love!

Breakfast made with love!

This is not an example of good photography, but the indoor shots I take are rarely very good. I chalk that up to my inability to effectively use flash. Maybe someday I will be adequate at flash photography, but that day still lies in the future!

After breakfast the kids rolled up their sleeping bags and packed up their things. Then we had our regular meeting. I was good and tired when the meeting ended at noon.

Back when we lived in Virginia and my sons were somewhere between maybe seven and ten years old, David (my younger son) had the idea that we should try to make some chocolate soup. I thought that sounded intriguing, so we hopped in the car and drove to a grocery store. We bought hot chocolate, chocolate syrup, Hershey kisses, M&M’s, and maybe six other types of chocolate candy. I can’t remember what all we put in it, but it was over $20 worth of chocolate.

Then we melted some of the chocolate in a pan, added the hot chocolate and syrup, and stirred in the various candies. Once it was done, with “done” being defined as “a little melty” we ladled it into some bowls, got out some soup spoons and sat down to sample our creation.

It was waaaay too rich. Not a one of use was able to eat more than about a half cup of chocolate soup, and believe me, I tried. So did the boys.

Turns out, too much of a good thing is a bad thing. Whodathunkit?

This blog reached a milestone today, by reaching the 20,000 hit mark. That’s not very impressive when you factor in the amount of time it’s been “alive” – three and a half years. That’s about 15 hits a day (though these days, I average about triple that per day). This will be the 941st post, and the blog has generated 879 comments (about half of which are mine).

I still enjoy blogging, so this will continue into the foreseeable future. I also enjoy reading other blogs, and the ones I read regularly are over there on the right in the blog roll.

Thank you for reading. And since most of my readers are also writers, thank you for writing too!

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