November 2012


Last spring while I was out looking for a geocache I took a “shortcut” back to the car. I quickly regretted it, as the shortcut led me into a bog and my shoes were getting soaked. It turned out to be rather fortuitous though, because the bog was filled with wild cranberries. There were still berries on the plants even after the winter. I decided I would return when the new cranberries were out.

I’ve thought about that bog many times since then, and even a few times after the new berries came in. But it wasn’t until today that I made time to pick some.

The bog is in a very surprising place. It doesn’t look anything like a bog.

Cranberry bog? Yes.

Cranberry bog? Yes.


This bog is on a power line right of way. Indeed, this is where the infamous “Northern Pass” project would go if it were ever approved. I don’t know if it will be approved or not, as it is very nearly universally loathed by the New Hampshire public. But power companies have deep pockets, so who knows?

That aside. I went to the bog/power line right-of-way today after lunch. The plan was to pick some cranberries until it was time to go to Durham to fetch Jonathan from college.

Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon)

Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon)


I had about a cup of them in my little food storage tub when my phone rang. It was Va, and her “check engine” light was on. So I abandoned the bog, drove to Walmart, and bought a gallon of 5W20. Then I met her at the church and added half of that to the engine.

Don’t know if that’s why the light was on or not, but that’s what the car has been doing. My mechanic can’t find an oil leak, and the plugs are clean as a whistle. But it goes through oil. I’m taking it in again next week. But that’s an aside.

School was almost out, and I thought Beth might like to pick some cranberries with her old dad. And I was right. We ran a few errands, and then went back to the bog.

My helper

My helper


We picked about a quart, which was all I needed for a recipe I had heard on NPR (not Susan Stamberg’s recipe, but a different one).

Then we headed to Durham to fetch Jonathan. He came riding up on his bike just as we parked in his lot. He disappeared into his dorm to get his laundry, etc, and then popped out again. I made him drive home.

He had a good week at school.

After we got home, and after we ate supper, I got out my cranberries and washed them off. I also had to pick the stems off each berry. That’s a lot of work! With the berries clean, I hopped on the Innerwebs to find that recipe, but all I could seem to find was Susan Stamberg’s. I guess a read a dozen recipes for cranberry relish, and I figured that gave me about all the info I needed. I made up my own.

  • 4 cups WILD cranberries, picked today.
  • zest from one orange
  • 1/2 cup water
  • innards from one orange
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon

Wash the cranberries and remove the stems. I guess they don’t really have to be wild or picked today, but since that’s all I had…

Put the cranberries in a sauce pan. Grate off some orange zest into the pan until you get tired of grating off orange zest. Then slice the orange in half and scoop the innards into the pan. Add half a cup of water, 1 cup of sugar, and 1 tbsp of cinnamon. Mix it all together and bring to a boil. I guess I boiled it for 20 minutes. I stopped when 90% of the cranberries had burst open. I thought about boiling it until all of them did, but decided I liked being able to see a few whole berries in there.

Then I poured it into a plastic storage dish. Thought better of that, and poured it into a ceramic bowl. You could skip the plastic storage dish step if you’d like. I will next time. I covered it with plastic wrap and popped it in the fridge. It’s supposed to sit in there for two hours, and maybe it has been two hours by now.

I’d take a picture, but I’d have to clean the kitchen to Va’s satisfaction first, and I don’t want to do that. I can’t eat a quart of cranberry relish before it goes bad all by myself (and no one in my family is interested in trying it), so I will take it to our potluck lunch at church tomorrow.

Maybe I’ll take a picture of it then.

Friday I had planned to go on a hike in the White Mountains, but I’d have had to have gone alone if I had gone at all. Jonathan was home for the holiday but woke up feeling unwell. David had never committed (too early for him), and I made the mistake of never telling Beth until the evening before. Oops. So instead I puttered around the house.

Jonathan suggested that we hike somewhere on Saturday after church instead. Since I was itching for a nice walk, I immediately suggested Oak Hill, which is part of Concord’s trail system. He began inviting others from church, and pretty soon we had half a dozen people lined up.

This was the goal:

Oak Hill Fire Tower

Oak Hill Fire Tower


It was only a little more than a mile from the trailhead, but we had a couple of people along who were not much used to hiking, so that was plenty. Also, it gets dark a little past 4:00pm now, so we only had three hours of daylight for this one.

It was brisk, but quite lovely. When we reached the fire tower we stopped to catch our breath for a few minutes. Then we climbed the tower. I could see Mount Kearsarge to the west.

Mount Kearsarge

Mount Kearsarge


Kearsarge is what they call a “prominence” because it stands alone – no other mountains around it. As a result, it’s not nearly as tall as it looks. I’ve been to its peak on several occasions and intend to go back there again one of these days.

Although this trail system is maintained by the City of Concord, the fire tower is just over the town line in Loudon. There’s a stone wall that divides the two towns in the vicinity of the trail, and they have a marker there to designate its significance.

Boundary Marker

Boundary Marker


Here’s a closer shot of the engraving.
C.L. 1898

C.L. 1898


I assume “C.L. 1898” Means Concord/Loudon, and that the marker was erected in 1898. It was probably set up shortly after a survey.

We headed back down the trail again shortly after that.

The Descent

The Descent

I particularly like the look of the trail as it entered this section of hemlock:

Into the Hemlocks

Into the Hemlocks

We got back to the trailhead and then took our companions home -in their mother’s van – my car didn’t have enough room for 6 people, so she suggested that we trade vehicles for the afternoon. I thought that was a brilliant plan. 🙂 Too bad I didn’t think to grab my GPS from the car though – there were several geocaches we could have collected along the trail. Maybe next time.

When we got to their house, we ad some hot chocolate and a short visit. Then we went home.

On Thanksgiving Day, I took Penny out for a walk before any of the kids were up. It was 27 degrees outside, and there was a nice frost. As usual, we headed for Sandogardy Pond. Penny likes to take the shortcut through the forest-that-is-now-a-field. That’s because when we get there I let her off the leash so she can chase sticks. Here she is bringing me one.

Cottontail Heaven

Cottontail Heaven


This ex-forest will be a forest again I suppose, but right now it’s an ideal habitat for the eastern cottontail.

I tried to capture the frost on the coppices, but utterly failed. I was getting a lot of lens flare, and even when I shaded the lens with my hand, it still turned out suboptimally. So I turned my attention to the macro level. Here’s a sensitive fern.

Sensitive Fern (Onoclea sensibilis)

Sensitive Fern (Onoclea sensibilis)


It’s called that because it is sensitive to frost. When the first frost arrives, it turns brown and dies back for the season. We had our first frost long ago, so this one has been brown for a while.

I liked this little pine/fern display. I’m assuming the cones are from a white pine because that’s what predominates here. The fern could be Christmas, Lady, or Hay-scented. I didn’t look closely enough to tell.

Cones and Ferns

Cones and Ferns

When we got the the pond I found that it had already begun to freeze over.

Sandogardy Pond

Sandogardy Pond


It was thick enough at the edge that I was able to stand on it. Had it broken, I’d have gotten my shoes wet, but not much more. I didn’t dare venture any farther than three inches deep, because that would have been incredibly irresponsible and foolish.

I hope all of you had as good a Thanksgiving as I did.

Today when I wasn’t looking, Beth got into some of my things.

A Spitting Image

A Spitting Image


It started when she found a name tag that I had a while back. She’s wearing it in the photo, but I don’t think you can read it (flash photography is not my forte). That inspired her to get my hat, jacket, and boots. I completed her guise with my camera bag.

Now if only she could grow a beard…

I went into Northfield’s town forest with Penny today. There’s a place at the end of the trail where inconsiderate people like to camp. I do not understand these campers though. They tend to haul in a bunch of gear and then just abandon it. I picked as much of it up as I could in one trip today and hauled it to the trash cans at Sandogardy Pond.

I had it in my mind that that’s what I was going to do on the way. I didn’t have a bag or anything, but figured I’d find something bag-like when I got there. And I did, in the form of a pillow case. Here it is after I loaded it to the point where it began to tear. I took a picture with Penny in it for scale.

Pillow case full of trash

Pillow case full of trash

Here’s some of the trash I was not able to take care of.

Comforter and a heated air mattress

Comforter and a heated air mattress


I picked up all the plastic bottles, as they would take an eternity to decompose. I suppose this heated air mattress (who brings one of those camping?) will also never decompose, but it was too big to fit in the pillow case.

We hiked out again with me carrying the loaded pillow case. I spotted something bright green about 20 yards off the trail. At this time of year, there’s not a lot of bright green out there (save the wintergreen and partridge berry). I left the pillow case on the trail and went for a look.

A Trampoline.

A Trampoline.


I assume someone dragged this out here to dispose of it, but I cannot imagine a reason why. I might have to go back for that. I’ll have to bring the wagon.

The pond was pretty close, so in no time, the pillow case and its payload were deposited in a trash receptacle. Then Penny and I headed back towards the house when some ice crystals in the path caught my eye.

Ice needles

Ice needles


I’ve seen these growing here in the past. I’d like to know how they form some day.

Beyond that, I saw some turkey tail mushrooms (Trametes versicolor) growing on a fallen log.

Turkey tail mushrooms (Trametes versicolor)

Turkey tail mushrooms (Trametes versicolor)

Couldn’t leave my readers with a trash-only post.

Well things are going to be a lot different for me starting yesterday. I was released from employment. It was a good ride – 13 years and 3 months. It was my job that brought me to New Hampshire, and for that I am thankful.

I bear no ill will to them. They were a good company to work for, and there were a lot of good people there, all the way to the top. I will miss them.

This sort of thing, though necessary, is still very painful. I am glad that I have put my trust in a Higher Power, and I will continue to lean on Him. Certainly a little harder now though!

My mind has been drawn to this text from Jeremiah.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. – Jeremiah 29:11

I know in my heart that the Lord has something better in store for me. I just don’t know what it is yet. I do wish the rest of my being would catch up with that thought sooner rather than later.

Three years ago David and I dug a lovo – that is, and underground oven. By doing so we killed two birds with one stone. He had to cook a “foreign” food for school, and by doing it this way, the two of us earned the Pathfinder Cultural Food Preparation honor. I wanted to eventually do this with the whole club, and our chance came last weekend.

My friend Ken hosts an annual harvest party at his farm sometime in October. Or September. This year, he was constrained to host it while the Pathfinders were at a Camporee. To make up for it, he invited the club to his house for another one.

I did not get any photos of our lovo this time. It was dark. We had some “yams” – at least according to the grocery store. Most of the time in the U.S. yams are really sweet potatoes. But the two are actually distinct. I don’t know which one I really had. I also bought something labeled “sweet potatoes,” twenty ears of corn, a package of Brussels sprouts, and two butternut squashes. We were going to use banana leaves to wrap them in, but that didn’t quite pan out. We had the banana leaves – but they were in Worcester, MA, and my staff member who secured them for us did not have time to fetch them from there. So we used foil.

What I learned this time was that four hours is not enough time to pull this one off. The hole took longer to dig than I thought it would. We had pine for wood, and that doesn’t get as hot as hardwood, nor does it burn as long. So the rocks didn’t get as hot as they needed to. The final stroke was that we didn’t have time to let the food sit buried in the hole long enough to fully cook. We dug it up at 8:30pm, realized that it was not quite done, and put it in the bonfire we had going next to it.

All of the food was pretty good, but the Brussels sprouts were particularly excellent.

While we waited for the food to cook Ken took us for a hayride.

Ken on his tractor

Ken on his tractor

The kids had a good time, and that’s what I was going for. So we can chalk it up as a success even if the lovo didn’t quite work out. We’ll try it again sometime when we have more time.

On Sunday I took Penny down to Sandogardy Pond. I hadn’t been there in a while, so it was nice to take that stroll. I cut through the mowed-down forest on the way. I used to think it was terrible that they did that, but I have come to realize that the field as it is now is an ideal habitat for the Eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) – which is threatened in New Hampshire. Fish and Game have been incenting landowners to create cottontail habitat just like this. I don’t know if that’s what happened here or not.

But what I do know is that I saw some lowbush blueberry plants (Vaccinium angustifolium) in bloom. Yes, in November.

Lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium)

Lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium)

I had been thinking that if you looked up the word “unusual” in the dictionary, it will say something about blueberries blooming in New England in November. But this is not exactly the only place it has happened. Fellow blogger New Hampshire Gardener saw the same thing last week.

I took several shots of the one I’ve posted here, because I thought it must have been something else entirely. After all, blueberries don’t bloom here in November. I was going to try to identify it. But it is without a question Vaccinium angustifolium. We live in strange times.

Last night (and this morning) we had a Nor’easter blow through here. We got about an inch of snow at my house. It’s gone now (the snow turned to rain). I like that winter is starting to show its face. I think Penny was glad too.

Penny waiting for a stick

Penny waiting for a stick

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