April 2014


Penny is such a funny dog. When Jonathan and I got home from work, she dashed out to greet me. I threw her a stick and headed to the front door. She fetched the stick and got to the door before I did, frantically pawing at the door to get in so that I could let her out the back door where I might throw sticks for her. Silly dog! We’re already outside! But no, she wanted to go outside, not just be outside.

I indulged her (and myself). Camera in hand, I did a lap around the woods looking for blooms. The trailing arbutus is still about the only thing in bloom, but there are others that will be in bloom very soon. Here’s one:

Canada Maylily (Maianthemum canadense)

Canada Maylily (Maianthemum canadense)


Another name for this is false lily-of-the-valley, but I have never been enamored with the idea of a plant being “false.” Yeah, it’s not lily-of-the-valley, but it is a Canada lily, so why not just go with that name?

I was looking for some goldthread, when I found this instead:

Dwarf Ginseng (Panax trifolius)

Dwarf Ginseng (Panax trifolius)


Cool. This is another I had been looking for ,and truth be told, there is a little goldthread leaf there in the lower center “photo-bombing” my dwarf ginseng shot (as well as another Canada may-lily right behind it).

But there we also a few goldthread plants here and there – none in bloom yet though.

Goldthread (Coptis trifolia)

Goldthread (Coptis trifolia)

And the whole time I was looking for blooms, Penny was looking for sticks. She found a few:

Penny (Canis lupus domesticus)

Penny (Canis lupus domesticus)


Which I dutifully threw for her. It wasn’t long after this that she found a vernal pool and plopped down in it to cool off. I guess gathering and chasing sticks is hot work even on a cool day.

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This is the first flower of the year to bloom on my property.

Trailing Arbutus (Epigaea repens)

Trailing Arbutus (Epigaea repens)

When I checked two days ago none had opened. But by today, we’re in business. I guess spring is really here (delayed a bit, no doubt!)

Happy Earth Day.

Last weekend I took the Pathfinder Club on our annual spring camping trip. We camp four times per year, twice in the fall, and twice in the spring. Twice with just our club, and twice with the conference (camporees). Yes, four twices makes four, and I’m sure you can figure that out.

We had several goals for this camping trip. The first was to prepare for the competition at the upcoming conference camporee. We’ve been working on this during the last couple of meetings, but there were some parts that just had to be done on a camping trip.

For this competition, the kids are divided into teams. We will be fielding two teams. They are each given a series of compass headings, and if they follow them correctly, they will find their victim. The first order of business is to render first aid to said victim, who has suffered a simulated head wound, burned hand, and sprained ankle. Unlikely as that is, it could still happen.

While part of the team is doing that, another part of the team must build a fire and brew some pine needle tea (which is not bad!) They also need to build a shelter using a 6’x8′ tarp and not more than 25′ of rope.

Then they take down the shelter and use the tarp to build a make-shift stretcher, on which they carry the victim out.
They are judged by how well they do each task, not on how fast they do each task.

So we learned the first aid, navigation, and shelter building during the past three meetings. I saved the tea-making and stretcher-building for the campout.

I had seen plans for a DIY backpacking stove online and thought it would be perfect for the tea-making part. I asked the conference if it would be OK, and they said it would be, provided I sent an email out to everyone with a link to the plans (so it would be even). Here the link if anyone cares.

One of my friends works at a place where they build stuff out of sheet metal, and since I wanted a couple of these, I thought I’d build one, and ask him if he wanted to build one too. He passed the request to a co-worker who punched the plans into one of their laser cutters. Bingo, out came a dozen stoves. 🙂

We tried it out over the weekend, and it worked remarkably well:

Stove in action

Stove in action

The advantage it affords over a DIY alcohol stove is that you don’t have to carry fuel – it burns pencil-sized sticks, and those are lying around all over the place. The disadvantage is that wood fires make a lot of soot which blackens the cookware. So we’ll need some bags for these.

A second goal was that we invited Peter Wannemacher from the Limington Lanterns (a Pathfinder Club in Maine) to join us for the weekend and teach us the Sign Language honor. He is an excellent teacher, and we learned a lot of ASL. I almost think I could communicate with a deaf person. The kids really enjoyed having him, and they learned an awful lot as well. Some of them already knew quite a bit which surprised me.

The third goal was for us to finish the Wilderness Living honor we started last fall. For that we needed to collect drinking water using two methods. In the past we have collected rain water from a tarp, and we have filtered water from a stream. But I like to mix things up a bit and try new things. Since I was a child I have known about the solar still technique, but had never tried it, so we gave that a go.

To make one, you dig a hole, place a cup in the center, and add a bunch of wet material around the cup. Then cover with transparent plastic, weight the edges of the plastic with rocks, and place one rock in the center of the plastic sheet right over the cup. The sun evaporates the water which condenses on the underside of the plastic, runs down the the weighted center, and drips off into the cup. I bought a nice, large piece of crystal-clear plastic for $4.00. We got about a fifth of an ounce of water. Yeah. $20.00 per ounce is a little pricey!

Maybe if it had been hotter outside it would have worked better. Too bad I didn’t take any pictures of it.

Thursday morning Beth and I drove up to Freeport Maine to attend the Northern New England Conference’s 34th Annual Music Clinic. I think this was Beth’s sixth time going (and my third). In previous years she participated only in piano, but this year she was in the choir as well.

I brought my work laptop with me, found a quiet place to hang out and worked Thursday and Friday while Beth attended her practices. She very much enjoyed the weekend, and I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t.

I was treated to three concerts – one Friday evening, one Saturday morning, and another Saturday night. We had Saturday afternoon off, so we decided to hike up Hedgehog Mountain, the tallest mountain in all of Freeport. Yeah, at 300 feet above sea level, it’s not quite a mountain.

There was quite a bit less snow on the ground in Freeport compared to our house, but the trail was still covered with it.

The trail is snuggled up alongside several stone walls.

The trail is snuggled up alongside several stone walls.

The view from the top was very nice, but not spectacular. After all, we were only 300 feet up. We still enjoyed the view.

View from the top

View from the top

On the way back down we saw this weird pool.

An odd pool

An odd pool

It took me a little while to put my finger on it – the bottom of it is covered in ice. Ice is less dense than liquid water, so when it freezes it floats to the top. That’s why ponds and such freeze from the top down. They do not freeze from the bottom up. If they did, fish would have a very difficult time surviving New England winters. In fact, it might not be possible for them to survive at all.

And yet here it was, a pool with an ice floor. I’m pretty sure that the way this came about was that the pool was not very deep when it initially froze, and it probably froze solid, gaining a death grip on the ground underneath. Then as spring arrived, the surrounding snow pack melted and flowed in on top of it, burying the ice in a foot of water. It was pretty cool looking, and I was really glad to have seen it.

The hike didn’t take much time, so we headed back to the school. Most people were still gone for the afternoon. Beth decided she had not played enough music yet at the point, so she went up on the stage in the empty auditorium (save me and one other person) and played all the non-clinic songs she had brought. The set was still lit up on the stage, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to get a photo without interfering with a program.

Beth plays during some downtime

Beth plays during some downtime

It wasn’t long after this that Va arrived for the evening concert which was pretty awesome. I had saved us a pair of seats, so we weren’t stuck in the back as in years past.

The concert finished up around 10:00pm, we got in our cars and drove home arriving around 12:30am.

It was a long weekend, but it was sure worth it. I’d do it again.