August 2012


I haven’t been taking many pictures lately as I have been a very busy person. That’s a poor excuse as I read blogs written by busier people, and they somehow manage to take pictures even when they are busy.

Because of this, I am digging back a couple of weeks into photos that didn’t make it here because I was too tired to post. Looking at them, I think I know the story they want to tell:

Summer’s going fast,
Nights growing colder
Children growing up
Old friends growing older

Those are lyrics to an old Rush song, and I think of them at this time every year. They are appropriate.

So here are the photos.

Black Nightshade (Solanum americanum)

Black Nightshade (Solanum americanum)


I found a large stand of these in Concord last week. Many people believe them to be toxic, but they are not only quite edible, they are eaten in large quantities in both Africa and South America. I learned that fact only this year, so have avoided the berries. But I will try them hopefully this fall. Tomatoes, being in the same family, were also once believed to be poisonous, and were thus eschewed by Europeans, even in the face of incontrovertible evidence of their edibility – Native Americans ate them with aplomb.

Growing near the black nightshade I found some butter and eggs.

Butter and Eggs (Linaria vulgaris)

Butter and Eggs (Linaria vulgaris)


This is such a cool plant. It’s in the snapdragon family, and is one of the (seemingly) few non-composites that persist until late into the summer.

The City of Concord has a little garden at he corner of Storrs and Pleasant Street. That’s where I discovered this Kousa dogwood.

Kousa Dogwood (Cornus kousa)

Kousa Dogwood (Cornus kousa)


For a long time I didn’t know what this was, and since it was in a garden, I didn’t try very hard to find out. Gardens often feature strange hybrids or non-native plants that you will never see in a Field Guide, and that makes them doubly hard (for me) to identify. When it flowered, I knew it was a dogwood, and armed with that info, I was able to figure it out. As it happens, the fruit of the Kousa is also edible. I’m waiting for these to ripen, and then I plan to raid The City of Concord’s little ornamental garden.

This stuff is growing like a weed in the church yard.

Rabbit tobacco (Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium)

Rabbit tobacco (Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium)


I think what I like best about it is that its genus name contains the word “dognap” in it. As a result, that’s what I call it when I’m talking to myself. Also, it’s a neat looking flower.

Today I did a little more work on my canoe. I hauled it out of the garage and began sanding it down again. I hit it with some 80 grit paper on a random orbit sander. It’s coming along nicely, and I managed to finish about two thirds of the port side. (I think it’s the port side – the boat’s upside down on a pair of sawhorses, and that always makes it harder to figure that out). Once I finish both side with the 80 grit, I’ll hit the gunwales, and then go over everything with some 150. Then… varnish and declare victory. With any luck I might be able to have it on the water next weekend.

Today at work I got a call from Va. The toilet would not flush. It has been awfully sluggish of late, and I was having a hard time getting it plunged. She suggested that perhaps our septic tank needed attention, and I reluctantly agreed.

We’ve been in this house for eight and a half years now, and we’ve never done anything to the tank at all maintenance-wise. So it was time. I called four places. One doesn’t service my town, though their ads suggest that they would since they service NH, ME, VT, and MA. With that kind of coverage, one would think that they would serve all the towns in those states, but no.

The second place I called was nearer to my house. The phone rang, went “click,” then then went silent. I tried them twice. On to the next one. His truck was down, but he suggested that I call another guy and gave me his number.

I like it when people do that.

I called Al’s Laconia Septic, and his wife agreed to send him out. He’d be there between 3:30 and 4:00. I knew Va would not want to handle this at all, so I thought I’d just come home a little early to deal with it. And that’s when Beth’s teacher called.

Beth was sick and wanted to come home. So I went and got her, and then set up shop at home to finish out the work day.

Al’s wife said that it would cost a minimum of $50 if Al had to dig the hole to find the tank. She also said, it was never just $50. Methinks Al does not like to dig the hole, and I sure don’t blame him. When I got home, I offered David $50 to dig (and later bury) the hole. We got out the plans and he dug several test holes before he found the cover. It took him maybe an hour. That’s pretty good pay for hole-digging.

Once David had found the hole I got the GPS out and got its coordinates. Then I wrote them on the septic plan.

Al arrived right on time and was delighted that the hole had already been dug. He got right to work.

Al Taking Care of Business

Al Taking Care of Business

David's Hole

David’s Hole

Beth poked her head out the door and asked if this was going to stink. Al told her it would not, and to my surprise, it really didn’t. He said it would sure get ripe next to the truck though, because as he pumps the sewage in, it has to let the air out (otherwise is would compress all that air in his tank, and sewage under pressure seems like it could be a Really Bad Thing).

Al finished his work in short order, and Va wrote him a check. He was such a pleasant guy that I can hardly wait until I need to have this done again.

But I will!

Forked bluecurls (Trichostema dichotomum)

Forked bluecurls (Trichostema dichotomum)


I was just going through my photos this evening and saw this shot I took yesterday of the forked bluecurls (Trichostema dichotomum). I liked it so much I thought I’d share.

I spent today working on my canoe (not to be confused with the three I bought for the Pathfinders last month – this is the one I built in 1998).

Wetting out the fiberglass

Wetting out the fiberglass

Over the past 14 years, it had developed a few splits in its fiberglass sheathing. I had to cut away the loose fiberglass and then sand it down. I also mixed up some sawdust and epoxy to fill some of the cracks in the wood, and then sanded that down again. Then I washed it down and let it dry. And that brings us to today.

Glass fiber draped over my canoe.

Glass fiber draped over my canoe.


I bought 5 yards of fiberglass over the Internet a few years back. In typical J Omega T fashion, that’s how long it takes me to get around to a major project. I dug it up and draped it over the canoe. Turns out they shipped me six yards, so I had to cut one yard off. I’m OK with that, as I can certainly use the extra on the club’s canoes later.

With the glass covering the boat from stem to stern, I started wetting it out with epoxy and a plastic squeegee. I had to use a paint brush on the more vertical sections.

Mixing some epoxy

Mixing some epoxy


I mixed little batches of epoxy at a time and then spread it on. I’m using West System epoxy, which is really some great stuff – even for woodworking in general. Epoxy is a two-part liquid, a resin, and a hardener. Each component will remain liquid until they are mixed – then slowly (or not) it turns into a solid. West System comes with measuring pumps. One squirt of resin and one squirt of hardener, and I get the perfect 5:1 ratio that I need. Then off to the boat to apply it over the glass.

The first coat took a couple of hours to apply with no breaks in the action. Once you start, you have to finish, or suffer disaster. The first coat is most difficult because that’s the one that glues the fiberglass down. I did get a few bubbles in the cloth, and I’m not sure how I’m going to fix that. They say you can inject epoxy into the bubble with a syringe, but I’m given to understand that syringes are not easy to come by in these days of hep-C outbreaks, etc.

See how the epoxy makes the glass cloth transparent?  Cool.

See how the epoxy makes the glass cloth transparent? Cool.

But with the first coat on, we went to lunch. When we came back I applied the second coat which went much more quickly. I waited an hour and then applied the third and final coat. I also re-glued a couple of failed scarf joints on the gunwales while I was at it. Hopefully, they will hold a little better this time around.

The epoxy will take a full day to cure (actually, it will continue to cure for about a month, but it will cure enough to work with again after one day). Then I will sand it down with some 80-grit paper. This will make it look horrible, but once it’s varnished, it will regain its glory again. With any luck, I will finish this in time to get it back in the water again before it freezes.

Oh – one more thing. All of these except the last shot were taken by Beth. Let’s give credit where credit is due!

Today was my firstborn’s last day at work, and my lastborn’s first day of sixth grade. We’ll start with Beth, because that happened in the morning.

Beth's First Day of Sixth Grade

Beth’s First Day of Sixth Grade

And then we’ll move along to Jonathan’s going-away lunch at work today.

Jonathan

Jonathan

These two events happening on the same day caused some logistical difficulties. Jonathan now has an apartment near UNH, and is ready to move in. The apartment was originally a dormitory, but UNH sold it to a commercial interest some time ago, and now they call it an “apartment.” But it is a dorm as far as I’m concerned. Apartments don’t have common bathrooms for everyone on the floor – dorms do.

It was not furnished though, so in that regard it is a bit more apartment-like than I’d like it to be. We’ve been scrambling trying to get stuff together for him. He needs a bed for the next two years. I had been intending to build a bed for Beth, so when she outgrew her crib, we got her a cheapo particle board and contact paper bed until I’d have time to make a nice one. But I never found the time. Rather than buy a bed intended to last only two years, we decided to have Jonathan use her old cheap one. It’s not a girly bed or anything like that – just not a very high quality one.

So we bought Beth a nicer new one, and I put that together a couple of nights ago. We wanted to load it into my car (it fits if the back seat is folded down), but since it was the first day of school for Beth, we needed the back seat for her.

We ended up stuffing it in Va’s trunk. She came to Concord after lunch (Jonathan’s going away lunch), and we moved it to my car. We could have just had him drive her car to UNH, but… he can’t drive a manual transmission. I have failed my fatherly duty. 😦

He and David went to UNH to wait for the cable guy to come and install his new Internets and to shuffle stuff from the car to his room. They were not able to get the furniture together (the bed plus a desk). I will go there tomorrow evening and make that happen. Second failure.

It has been over a week since I have posted anything, and that’s because I have been utterly exhausted every night for the week and a half. Work has been mentally draining, and on top of that, we had our annual Honors Week last week.

Honors Week is how I kick off the Pathfinder year. We teach one honor per evening for five days. That way people can come and check out the club to see if it’s the kind of thing they think they might enjoy, and new members get the chance to earn five patches for their otherwise blank sashes.

This year we taught backpacking, chess, candle making, wool and spinning, and Bible marking. Chess and spinning are new honors that have not yet been submitted to the national organization. Honors have to be piloted by three clubs before they are submitted, so we piloted two of them. Unfortunately, that means any new kids could earn only three patches for their sashes this year. Oh well – them’s the breaks.

On Sunday I ran a backpacking stove building clinic. We made a dozen penny alcohol stoves. I’ve been using one of these for about five years, and I love mine. I used to use denatured alcohol for fuel, but it burns with a nearly invisible flame, especially in full daylight. We found that 91% isopropyl rubbing alcohol works just as well (70% does not though), but it burns with a yellow flame that is easy to see even in full sunlight. That should be a lot more safe.

Penny Alcohol Stove with Isopropyl Alcohol for Fuel

Penny Alcohol Stove with Isopropyl Alcohol for Fuel

What I love about backpacking is that it is one of the few times when I can eat whatever I want without having to think about what other people like. Everyone will pack their own food. I will pack food for no one except myself. And I am going to have penne pasta with garlic, mushrooms, and broccoli cooked in olive oil. Mmmmm. I can’t wait.

Actually, I won’t wait either. I intend to make some at home before I go to try it out under low-risk conditions. If it fails, I can work out the problems or choose something else. Maybe tomorrow.

This morning when we got to church I stepped outside to see if I could find some forked bluecurls (Trichostema dichotomum). Found some!

Forked bluecurls (Trichostema dichotomum)

Forked bluecurls (Trichostema dichotomum)


I had seen some out in the field earlier this week, but there were no blossoms, and I was pressed for time. This is one of my favorite late summer flowers. I have a better photo I had taken a couple of years ago – it can be seen on Wikipedia

After church I took a nap, and then Beth and I took Penny down to Sandogardy Pond. Penny was beside herself with anticipation. She knows when we’re heading to the pond.

Along the way, I saw these asters. I don’t even try to place them in a genus any more. There are hundreds of asters, and they are very difficult (at least to me) to distinguish.

Asters

Asters

I also spotted a patch of these a little farther down.

Ground bean (Amphicarpaea bracteata)

Ground bean (Amphicarpaea bracteata)


This is most often called hog peanut, but it turns out, that is a derogatory name for this plant. It makes underground seed pods – beans really – and the Native Americans made frequent use of them. I have eaten them myself and find them utterly delightful. The White Man cast aspersions on them (and by extension, upon the people who ate them) by naming them “hog peanuts,” a suggestion that they were only fit for consumption by hogs. Samuel Thayer prefers to call them “ground beans,” and I have adopted that name for them as well.

It began to rain before we got to the pond. Beth was there to swim though. I can never pass up the opportunity to make a joke about her not being allowed to swim in the rain, because she might get wet.

She swam, and I walked along the beach looking for flowers and wildlife. Specifically, I thought I might find some snails.

Bingo.

Viviparid snail

Viviparid snail


I have tentatively placed this snail as belonging to the family Vivipadae. The name suggests that it bears live young, but I can’t seem to find any information on their life cycle. The photo above shows the snail’s operculum, which is like a front door. The snail can open and close this at will.

I set it down and took another photo to show a different angle.

Viviparid snail

Viviparid snail


With its portrait taken, I chucked it back into the water, pretty close to where I had found it.

I bet it would make a nice meal for a muskrat.

I spent most of Sunday building a rack for the three canoes I bought for the Pathfinders. After I bought some pressure treated lumber, I got right to work. Here’s the rack – it’s not done yet, but it’s done enough to hold the boats.

Unfinished Canoe Rack

Unfinished Canoe Rack

The hardest part was digging two post holes for the two main supports. Maybe I should say “the two supports” since there are no others – those two are it.

When our house was being built back in 2004, there was a massive log dump on the property. The builder buried them in a clearing between the yard and the woods. There is a little strip of woods between the clearing and the yard. But that clearing was the ideal place to put the rack – except that it’s very difficult to dig post holes into a log grave yard.

The first hole went pretty OK. It hit a couple of gallon-sized rocks, but I got the hole down to 30″ deep without too much trouble. The second hole had more gallon-sized rocks in it, and when I got it down to the 16-inch mark, I hit the log. You’d think that after eight years of being buried, it would have rotted by now, but you’d be wrong. It was quite solid. It is next to impossible to dig through a log with a post hole digger. So I moved the second hole a little closer to the first.

Then I began milling the posts. A notch at the top to receive the ridge pole, and two dados to receive the cross bars. Halfway through that operation it began to rain. Not that the rain made me any wetter than I already was. The humidity was 96%, and digging post holes and cutting notches in lumber with a handsaw, hammer, and chisel is hard work.

There was also a break for lunch in there around noon time, and a small shopping trip to get more stuff for Jonathan’s “apartment” – which is an ex-dormitory sold by the University to a private interest who runs it as a dormitory – but they call them apartments. But I digress.

By evening, it was together well enough to receive the canoes. So Jonathan and I hauled them over and placed them on the rack. I will put a tarp over the ridge pole to keep the UV off the boats (it’s bad for fiberglass & epoxy). I will also add some ropes to tie the boats down so they stay put in gale force winds.

When I woke up on Monday morning, every muscle in my body (but especially in my arms and hands) was railing at me. Ugh. I figure that was the post hole digger, because my two arms were equally sore. And they were sore when I woke up on Tuesday too. In fact, they are still sore on Tuesday evening as I write this. But none of this has made any sign of reducing my girth.

Sigh.

Changing subjects.

Today I saw for the first time ever, a chicory plant growing in New Hampshire.

Common chicory (Cichorium intybus)

Common chicory (Cichorium intybus)


I have seen this in Vermont and in Massachusetts – within 5 miles of the NH border, and I have even looked for it in NH. A fellow New Hampshire blogger has documented it in the southwest portion of the state, but until today, I had never seen it here.

I’ve never seen it in Maine either, but first things first!

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