April 2012


Saturday afternoon I took a walk around my woods to look for (and photograph) wildflowers. I found some.

I was looking specifically for some wild oats (Uvularia sessilifolia), so I went to the places where I have found it in previous years. Yup. Found some in bloom.

Wild oats (Uvularia sessilifolia)

Wild oats (Uvularia sessilifolia)

This is another one I went looking specifically for.

Pink lady Slipper (Cypripedium acuale)

Pink lady Slipper (Cypripedium acuale)


This is not the same one I posted last week. I looked for that one too, but couldn’t find any sign of it. I have no idea what happened to it, but I guess that’s the way nature goes sometimes.

When I go out looking for blossoms, I look everywhere for surprises too. This was one of those:

Wild Sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis)

Wild Sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis)


This will become a Wild Sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis) flower. I don’t know that I’ve ever caught one in this stage before. I have dug up the roots of this plant and brewed it into a tea. I don’t think it was worth the effort though, so it’s not something I am likely to repeat.

This is one I was looking for. I saw a few when we went camping last week, and they do grow on my property too. So I looked in the usual places and found a few. I suspect I will find even more this week. I was fairly pleased with this photo, so bonus!

Goldthread (Coptis trifolia)

Goldthread (Coptis trifolia)

Here’s another three-leaf plant (trifolius) but with a different Latin conjugation. If I knew Latin, I would probably understand the difference between trifolia and trifolius.

Dwarf ginseng (Panax trifolius)

Dwarf ginseng (Panax trifolius)


I posted an image of one of these last week too, but liked this one enough to repeat it. I do that sometimes.

Here’s another repeat. I set out to get a really nice photo of this one, and it turned out OK – not stunning, but OK. I suppose the light was a bit too harsh. It was mid-afternoon when I took the shot, and this one wasn’t in as shady an area as most of the others.

Gaywings (Polygala paucifolia)

Gaywings (Polygala paucifolia)

Right after shooting the gaywings, this fly alighted on my thumb. I haven’t tried to identify it yet, but I did think the photo came out pretty well. Better than the gaywings anyhow (even if it’s not as nice a subject).

Unidentified fly

Unidentified fly

The wild strawberries are still going gang busters.

Wild strawberry (Fragaria spp)

Wild strawberry (Fragaria spp)


It’s another repeat, but I think it’s worth repeating.

I still don’t have any bluets on my place, but I have seen vast swaths of them in fields from the car this week (and last). I might have to stop and get some photos soon. I’ve also been looking for wood anemones and hobblebush from the car, but no luck so far. I have yet to see a trillium this year either, and I know those are almost finished now. Maybe I’ll find some in Maine this weekend. I know I will be looking for them anyhow!

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We had some bad news on the cardboard canoe front. The boat had collapsed under its own weight. In my opinion, the real canoe was taken out of the cardboard one a little too soon. When the drywall tape was added to one side, the combination of the weight of the tape and glue, and the wetness of the glue conspired to doom the boat.

They kayak was still in great shape though. Unfortunately, I don’t think there would be time to let the kids make 12 runs in the kayak. Also, the chances of everyone doing well in the race are greatly improved by mixing strong paddlers with weaker ones. So we really needed the canoe.

On Thursday evening, I stopped by the church and picked up a trunk load of large sheets of cardboard. I moved my car out of the garage and spent three or four hours making an emergency backup canoe. Since there was no one for me to argue with, it went along pretty well. I spent three more hours on it Saturday night (I was in the garage until midnight), and this morning I added a little more cardboard to it, heaved it onto the top of my car and brought it to our Pathfinder meeting.

It was unanimous that we use the replacement version. It would have taken way more work to salvage the original one.

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The goal for the day was to get both boats ready to paint. Our meetings usually run from 1:00-4:00pm, but I knew we’d need more than that to get the boats into paintable condition. So I invited the kids to stay after and work on the boats until they were ready. One of the staff members bought pizza, and almost everyone stayed until after 7:00pm.

During the meeting I had the kids glue non-corrugated cardboard over the seams of the corrugated cardboard. The idea there is to keep the water out of the seams. If it gets in, the boat will become a sponge and its time afloat will be severely limited. They did a mostly good job. After we paint it (and the paint dries), we will add some duct tape to the places they missed.

We also cut the floor out of the failed canoe and glued it into the floor of the replacement. There’s a photo in the slide show with a bunch of the kids (and Warran) standing in the canoe to press the new floor down. Once they got out, we loaded the boat down with paint cans. Otherwise, they’d have had to spend the night in that canoe.

Another thing you’ll see in the slide show are the kids cutting out “C” shaped forms. These will be glued together in a stack and placed in the kayak to form a seat. That will do two things. It will keep their butts out of the drink, and it will provide something substantial they can put all their weight on when they get in the boat. If they put their weight on the thin(ish) cardboard walls, they might collapse. But with these bulkheads, there is absolutely no danger of that happening.

We will paint them on Tuesday evening. Then on Friday we will haul them to Maine for the competition. When we paint them, we will name them. Whoever shows up for that part of the project will get the privilege of voting on a name. The one I like best so far is “KAYAK” backwards. Ha ha – since it’s a palindrome. To make it clear that it’s backwards, we will write the K’s backwards. Well, we’ll also write the A’s and the Y backwards, but it will be harder to tell we’ve done that. 😉

I am well pleased with both of our boats. I’m thinking that we will have the two fastest boats. In 2009 our cardboard canoe tied for the fastest time, and our canoe entry this year looks at least as good as that one did if not better. I’m convinced that given a competent paddler (and we have several), the kayak will beat the canoe. The kayak it was molded on runs circles around the canoe, so if that translates (and I think it will) we should have a winner. I’ll be sure to let you know after the race (win or lose).

This has been an exhausting weekend. I’m surprised I’m still awake!

Close to the end of the workday today, Va dropped Beth off at my office. She wanted to load some songs on her iPod, and I have been storing those on my desk computer there. We took care of that, and then set out for the Haggett Farm where we camped last week. You might recall that I decided to leave the tents pitched so they’d have a chance to dry. Well, it was time to check them. I figured if any were dry, I could put them away, and if any were not, I could move them into our kitchen shelter where they would stand a fighting chance (the forecast is for showers every day for the next umpteen days).

Wet tents and a dry one

Wet tents and a dry one


The results were mixed. The tent in the foreground was dry, but the ones behind it were wet. As it turns out, they were the only wet ones of the lot, and their wetness was confined to the inside. You might be saying, “But I only see one tent in the background!” and I could not blame you for that. It was a big part of the problem (if not the sole cause). The girls who used these tents decided to join them together, which is something they were not designed to do. That prevented the flies from being pulled tight, which is a requirement for keeping the rain out. And since they were improperly pitched, they let the rain in, and that’s where it still was when I got there today.

I unstaked them and poured about a cup of water out of each one. Then I moved them into the kitchen. I’ll try again perhaps on Friday.

When we got home, I took Penny out for a lap around our wood lot. Our neighbor has been doing some work.

Change, it is a comin'

Change, it is a comin'


He is getting ready to build a house back here. The one on his lot is sort of a shack, and he is anxious to get into some better digs. His parents will be building a second house back there too. Unfortunately for me, this is going to let a lot of light into my woods and completely change its character. The flora I have along this edge of the property is completely different from the flora along the northern border. Down here, I have dewdrops (Dalibarda pratense), dwarf ginseng (Panax trifolius), goldthread (Coptis trifolia), and a couple of others that I can’t think of right now. This is the only place I know where these plants grow, and I believe them to be shade lovers. With the neighbor’s woods opening up, I will no longer have the shade they need, so I expect I won’t be enjoying them much longer.

The dwarf ginseng was blooming today though.

Dwarf ginseng (Panax trifolius)

Dwarf ginseng (Panax trifolius)


I will enjoy it while I can.

Farther up the trail (where the woods are more open), I found a pink lady slipper (Cypripedium acuale) shoot. This should bloom in another two or three weeks.

Pink lady slipper (Cypripedium acaule)

Pink lady slipper (Cypripedium acaule)

Then I made my way around to the front of the house. Va’s phlox has bloomed.

Phlox

Phlox


It has not yet reached its full glory, but I expect it will by this weekend.

I also found some white violets.

Violets are white

Violets are white


I do not pretend to know which species this is, but the genus is almost certainly Viola. And the leaves are quite tasty.

At the edge of the yard I have several chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) bushes. This is one that I had misidentified initially, but had enough doubt that I sent a photo of it off to Mr Smarty Plants. They came back with A. melanocarpa.

Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa)

Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa)


Samuel Thayer has lots of good things to say about this plant, and he stresses over and over again that it is chokeberry, not chokecherry. My bushes don’t produce enough for me to really get more than a taste of their berries.

As I continued my walk, I noticed a gaywing in bloom.

Gaywings (Polygala paucifolia)

Gaywings (Polygala paucifolia)


I had seen several unopened blooms in the west woods, and took several shots of them. But hey! this one is open. So I chose to post a photo of it, rather than the others. By this time the light was failing. I put the camera on my little tripod (even though the mount is still stripped – guess I need to get a helicoil), backed the F-stop down to the minimum, and took this shot. It’s a little dark, and I don’t like the depth of field too much, but it’s still not too shabby.

Wild strawberry (Fragaria spp)

Wild strawberry (Fragaria spp)


As I emerged from my little forest and came out onto the driveway, I saw the strawberries in bloom. I have no idea which species of strawberry this is – probably F. virginiana. It is nearly indistinguishable from dewberries, which are in the same genus as blackberries and raspberries. For a long time I thought the dewberries were strawberries, until I found that they produced blackberry drupes instead of strwaberries. They both grow along the edge of the driveway. Dad taught me to tell them apart – dewberries have thorns (little tiny ones) and strawberries do not.

I headed back to the house and checked out the “turn-around” spot in the driveway. There at the edge of that was another violet.

Violets are also blue

Violets are also blue


Nice.

But they might fade a little.

These colors don't run

Last weekend I went on our annual spring camp out with my Pathfinder Club. I was afraid I was going to have an adventure since I did not have as much time to plan as I usually take. But there were no adventures, so all was well.

We camped on my friend Ken Haggett’s farm. We have camped there many times in the past, but this time we moved to a new area since we discovered last year that our old camp site is prone to flooding. I wrote about that last year so I don’t need to rehash it. The new area is quite a bit drier.

I had several goals for this trip. Every year we make plaster casts of animal tracks. Sometimes we find tracks out in the wild, but in a pinch, we will take our old casts, impress them in some sand, and cast those. We do this to meet one of the class requirements for the Companion class, but don’t have time every year to earn the full Animal Tracking honor. I like to make the time every 3-4 years, and this was one of those years.

The Haggett Farm has a lot of wild turkeys, and sure enough, we had no trouble finding their tracks.

Turkey track

Turkey track


I have been wanting to cast a turkey track for a long time. I have even stopped the car a couple of times when I’ve seen turkey’s cross the road in front of me, got out, and looked for tracks. But that never came to anything. But now we have cast this turkey track in plaster, and have added it to our collection. We also made casts of deer, frog, squirrel, and coyote tracks over the weekend, but we already had examples of those.

On the way back from casting these, I took a photo of some Bluets (Houstonia caerulea).

Bluet (Houstonia caerulea)

Bluet (Houstonia caerulea)


I hadn’t seen them yet this season, but now I can check that box.

Another I hadn’t seen yet this year was goldthread (Coptis trifolia).

Goldthread (Coptis trifolia)

Goldthread (Coptis trifolia)


I only took one shot of it and got lucky. It’s hard to concentrate on photography when you’ve got 12 kids in tow.

At one point during the trip, I aimed my camera at two of the girls. They decided to pose for me by kicking their feet up and trying to put them on one another’s chairs. That led to a slight imbalance which led to an all-out tumble.

Whoops!

Whoops!


Those are the same two girls who were wading in the ocean last year on Pathfinder Fun Day when they began splashing one another. It ended much the same way then as it did this weekend (only there was less water this year).
Fun Day 2011

Fun Day 2011

I managed to catch these flies in the act on our kitchen window screen.

Flies on the tent wall

Flies on the tent wall


They were oblivious to my lens which I got to within less than an inch of them.

On Saturday evening, Ken came down to visit with us. We had a nice fire going, and I asked Ken to tell us a story. He reluctantly agreed.

Ken getting ready to tell us a tale

Ken getting ready to tell us a tale


The first time we camped on his farm, Ken came down and told a story that was just hilarious. We have camped on his place several times since then, and until this weekend, he had not been able to make it down for a story. I was so glad he did this time.

He makes these stories up as he goes along, and it’s mostly about how he hung out with Kit Carson, Jim Bridger, John Colter, and Jason Grimes, the one-armed mountain man as they explored the Yellowstone area. These are all real people, and Ken knows his material (he teaches history at a nearby high school). As the story progresses, it gets more and more ridiculous, ultimately building up to a point where he scares the kids. They love it. Last time he told a story, it involved the legendary two-legged fur-bearing trout. This year it was the giant warm-blooded black fly (and I know exactly where that inspiration came from – the tiny, cold-blooded variety were thick).

After the story the kids played a game in the woods in the dark, so they were clearly not seriously scared. I let them stay up for a while and then sent the pre-teens to bed. When I was about to drop myself I sent the teens to bed and turned in myself. Then we had a gentle rain that lasted through the night. By morning it was pretty much done and the temperature had dropped into the 50’s. That was enough to tamp down the black flies, so it was very welcome to everyone.

After breakfast we worked on the Camping Skills honors as well as Wilderness Living. We finished Camping Skills and made a sizable dent in Wilderness Living (we’ll finish that one up in Maine in two weeks). We also practiced building a ladder from poles and ropes. That’s the other competition we’ll have at the Camporee in Maine (along with the cardboard boats).

After lunch on Sunday we started to break camp. Since we were on Ken’s farm and not at a public campground, we decided to leave the tents up to give them a chance to dry out. Otherwise the kids would have taken them down, and I would have had to pitch them again at my house when I got home. Then strike them again after they were dry. Sometimes the drying part takes 10 days, and it looks like this might be another one of those times. The forecast is calling for rain every day for the next week. Sigh. I might go back to the farm and move the little tents into the kitchen tent. I think I could get six of them in there. Then they’d have a shot at drying out before we take them to Maine.

Today at about 10:00am, Jonathan came into my office and told me he had just found out that he had been selected as Senior of the Year for his department at NHTI. He also told me that the award ceremony was at noon, and there he was in a tee shirt and jeans. I had him call Va to ask her to bring him something decent.

She scrambled and got to Concord just in time. The ceremony was about two hours long, and we were also surprised that a member of our church was there for a different award. She is the parent of one of my Pathfinders, and I had no idea she was attending classes there. She told me afterwards that she had no idea she was getting an award. They told her to be in the auditorium at noon for a meeting. I took her picture and will send it to her tomorrow (when I get to the office where we have a faster Internet connection).

I took one of Jonathan too:

Jonathan on the right, not wearing a tee shirt

Jonathan on the right, not wearing a tee shirt


Some award recipients actually wore pajama bottoms to the ceremony. Jonathan said he felt over dressed, but I think that his attire was perfectly appropriate, and he was not the only one wearing decent clothes.

David came to the ceremony with us, and said later that as a result, he was suffering from Post Traumatic Boredom Disorder. Ahh… brotherly love.

Yesterday I stole a few minutes while I was exercising Penny and we went down the road a couple hundred yards where I gathered a bag full of Japanese knotweed shoots. I brought the camera with me, but didn’t take any photos – not even any bad ones! So I had to take one while I was cooking them.

Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica)

Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica)


These are delicious. They are very tangy, and have been described by others as similar to rhubarb, but since I have never knowingly eaten rhubarb, I can’t vouch for the similarity. But I can indeed say they are tangy. As usual, no one else in my family was even remotely interested in trying them, so I ate them all in two sittings (but in one evening – I had to come back for more).

Japanese knotweed is a highly invasive non-native plant, so if you have it in your area, you’ll be doing the ecology a favor by eating some for yourself. It is illegal to cultivate it in NH (and probably in many other localities) but there is no rule against harvesting it from the wild. The problem with this weed is that it takes over an area and crowds out native flora. It is nearly impossible to eradicate too. If enough people ate it though, I would imagine we could make a good sized dent in it. So bon appetite!

Yesterday I went back to Devil’s Den for a short hike. All three of my kids came with me (as did Penny). I don’t know when this last happened, but I am very thankful for it yesterday.

I took the GPS with me too so I could add the trails to OpenStreetMaps, but I haven’t done that yet. I’ve been so busy lately I’m not sure when I will get to it.

Here is the first plant I saw that caught my interest:

Canada mayflower (Maianthemum canadense)

Canada mayflower (Maianthemum canadense)


Yesterday was the first time I had seen any this year. Pretty soon they shoot out a spray of flowers and blanket the woods.

While we walked, we threw sticks for Penny, and she was so intent on that, that she missed this pair of mallards.

A pair of mallards

A pair of mallards


The mallards were clearly not comfortable with our presence there, but they never got agitated enough to fly away. By that I assume they had an active nest nearby. I made sure the boys kept Penny occupied with sticks while I too this photo, and then we moved on. Good for you Penny. Keep bringing us sticks.

A second mission (other than mapping trails) was to look for some ostrich ferns in the fiddlehead stage. I found some fertile fronds still hanging around from last year, but no fiddleheads. At least I know they are here though, so I can come back and gather some in the near future.

Instead of fiddleheads, I found a lot of this:

False hellebore (Veratrum viride)

False hellebore (Veratrum viride)


This is false hellebore (Veratrum viride). I had the hardest time identifying this a couple of years back. Some was growing along the banks of Sandogardy Pond, and I monitor it for months waiting for it to bloom. Most of my field guides are ordered by the color of the blossom, and without ever having seen the blossom, I had no idea which section to look in. I looked in all of them, but never managed to narrow it down. Until I finally did catch it in bloom (it has green flowers).

Armed with that information, I was able to get an id and then I was able to read all kinds of cool stuff about the plant. It looks absolutely mouth-watering, but it is fairly toxic. If ingested, the body will react with an overwhelming desire to expel it via emesis – which is a fancy, scientific way of saying it’ll make you want to puke. It’s best to give in to that urge, or the results could well be fatal.

Native Americans used to employ this plant as a way to choose between multiple candidates for chief. The candidates would eat a prescribed amount, and the last one to puke was the new chief! Not all candidates survived the ordeal, and I imagine they lost a lot of well qualified men this way.

Our hike led us along the banks of the Winnipesaukee, and I went down to the edge to check out some red maple blossoms that had fallen off the trees and washed up in the mud. I found this while I was there.

Raccoon (Procyon lotor) tracks

Raccoon (Procyon lotor) tracks

We continued the hike and soon came to Devil’s Den.

David was not impressed

David was not impressed


David was not impressed with the size of the “cave.” I think his exact words were “I’ve seen cardboard boxes bigger than this.” Still, I think it’s a pretty cool place. I expect it would have been more impressive had it not been for the prodigious amount of cans and bottles scattered all over the area. Even if that wouldn’t make the cave any bigger.

All three of my kids climbed up on the boulders, as did Penny. After all, that’s where the stick throwers were, and she had found even more sticks!

Boulder scrambling

Boulder scrambling

Beth posed for me:

Beth strikes a pose

Beth strikes a pose


Not the greatest photo, but the woods were a bit dark and the sky was prett bright. I opted to blow out the sky rather than silhouette my model.

Soon, we rounded the end of the loop and were headed back. We crossed a small stream, and I found what I think is some liverwort:

Liverwort

Liverwort


I still do not have a good book on liverworts. I have one in mind to buy, but it’s a tad on the pricey side, so it will wait a little longer. But since this doesn’t look like a lichen, moss, or fern, I’m going to go with liverwort.

We finished our hike and returned home, where I disposed of two ticks that had hitched a ride with me. After that I kept feeling phantom ticks, so I finally broke down and took a shower, just to be sure I had washed them all off. Then Va, Beth, Jonathan, and I headed to the church. We are having a series of seminars there, and Va and Beth are running the childcare, I was helping with registration, and Jonathan was running the PA system. That was night two. We had also been there Friday for the first night, and tonight (Sunday) for the third. Those make for some long days, especially when other things are going on too.

When I got up this morning it was bright and sunny outside. I took Penny out for a walk after breakfast and saw a brilliant stand of lowbush blueberries. So I went over to have a look. To my astonishment, some of them had bloomed already:

Wild blueberry blossoms!

Wild blueberry blossoms!


I guess I shouldn’t have been too surprised. According to my records from last year, I observed the first blueberry blooms in 2011 on April 15 as well. Huh.

We had a Pathfinder meeting from 1:00-4:00 today. The big thing that happened during that was more cardboard boat building. I forgot my camera, so I don’t have a single photo of that. I was a bad director today. I looked at my watch and noted that it was 3:30 and thought “Good, we have another 15 minutes.” The next thing I knew, Va was pulling in and it was 4:00. Quitting time! We had cardboard strewn all over the place, glue pots everywhere, and half a dozen paint brushes sitting in them. But it was time to go, so I had to dismiss the kids. That left me to deal with the mess. Because the time sneaked up on me, I was not able to give the kids final instructions before our campout next week or pass out the packing list, or tell them to bring $20 to cover food. Of course I thought of all that while I cleaned up the mess. Sigh.

I sent Va, Jonathan, and David to go on and eat without me. I kept Beth with me, because one of my Pathfinder staff asked me to watch his daughter between the meeting and the seminars. He gave me some money to feed her. I asked her where she wanted to eat, and she said “Wendy’s” but I heard “Friendly’s” – so we went to Friendly’s.

Then we came back to the church. I changed clothes and manned the registration table. And now I’m home again and pretty tired! The rest of the week promises to be just as busy, so I need to shuffle off to bed soon.

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