Adventurers Club


I am sitting at the airport in Omaha, Nebraska as I write this, though I was not expecting to be here right now. My journey here started a month or two ago when I was invited to sit on the North American Division Pathfinder Honors Taskforce. This is the committee that reviews submissions for new Pathfinder honors and revises existing ones. I was invited because of the work I have done on the AY Honors Answer Book wiki.

It was a thrill for me to have been invited. Pathfinder honors have been a pretty big part of my life for a number of years now. It was not to go without a few hiccups though. The first was that my club had scheduled March 9 for our annual Pathfinder Sabbath, during which we present the church service in its entirety. But I am blessed with a large and capable staff, so I figured they would be able to cope with my absence quite handily. So we pressed on with preparations.

Our presentation this year was to be similar to the one we did last year – a broadcast television newscast set in Biblical times. This year we decided to cover events from the Book of Mark. We pre-recorded all of our “live action reporters in the field” so that we could project their performances on the screen, while our anchor desk interacted with them live during the presentation.

But one week before we were to make our presentation, the hard drive containing all of our footage – every single second of it – was subjected to a most unfortunate accident. So we rescheduled for April 13. The upside to this is that I will be able to attend the performance, and the kids all knew their lines even better when we did the re-shoot.

But I digress. I am still sitting in the Omaha airport.

I flew out here on Friday and met my friend Mark. He is the webmaster for pathfindersonline.org (and other sites), and he too flew in to Omaha, but from the DC area. We decided to share a car, so he waited for my arrival. Then we set out for Lincoln. We picked up a couple of geocaches on the way. Our car was a tiny little Fiat. It was so tiny, that I think I could have lifted the whole thing with one hand.

Mark and I standing in front of a Virtual Cache in Iowa.

Mark and I standing in front of a Virtual Cache in Iowa.

There is a trick of geography near the Omaha airport. The Nebraska/Iowa border was originally set by the course of the Missouri River. But after the boundary was set, the river changed course, though the boundary did not. So there’s a little spit of land on the west side of the Missouri that still belongs to Iowa. It’s funny to drive through that section of Iowa and see the signs say “Welcome to Iowa” and then “Welcome to Nebraska” in the space of about a half mile.

The cache above was in Iowa, and it features a monument honoring York, a slave who belonged to William Clark. When we got to the monument, I looked at the sculpture, and it showed a black man being pawed over by several native Americans. I said to Mark, “Hey, I bet that’s York, a slave belonging to William Clark!” We walked around the back of the monument, and there was a plaque declaring as much. Talk about a guy feeling pretty smug!

On Saturday, we went all over the Lincoln area finding more geocaches. I think we found nine of them.

A virtual cache in Lincoln.

A virtual cache in Lincoln.

We also saw three bald eagles. Two of them were juveniles, and one was an adult. I got a bad photo of the juveniles, but couldn’t get one of the adult.

Juvenile Bald Eagles

Juvenile Bald Eagles

The meetings started Saturday night around 6:30pm. I very much enjoyed them, which is a strange thing to say about a meeting, but we were talking about a subject about which I am highly passionate.

When I woke up on Sunday morning, there was an inch of snow on the ground.

The Blizzard Begins

The Blizzard Begins

It was still snowing quite heavily, and the wind was blowing a gale. It was a full-fledged blizzard. I kept an eye on the situation, as I was slated to fly out from Omaha at 6:45pm. My meeting ended at noon, and the situation outside was looking pretty grim. I consulted with Va and with those in control of the Division’s purse strings, and we all agreed it would be best if I stayed put in Lincoln for one more day. It seemed foolhardy to tempt the roads in a toy car.

The Toy Fiat

The Toy Fiat

My instincts were correct. Mark’s wife and new baby (12 weeks old) were schedule to fly into Omaha Sunday afternoon too. They were twelve minutes from landing at Omaha when the airport was closed, and they sent the plane back to Minneapolis. Not to be deterred, she tried another flight, this one directly to Lincoln. They took off, gained some altitude, and then the Lincoln airport was likewise closed. So she landed again. I don’t know how many frequent flier miles that would be worth, but a trip from Minneapolis to Minneapolis is about zero miles, even if you do it twice.

Meanwhile, the Nebraska State Police closed Interstate 80, so even if she had landed at Omaha, she would have been very hard-pressed to make her way to Lincoln.

There were a ton of other meetings scheduled for Sunday all the way through Thursday, and all related to my youth ministries. I was invited to sit in on a subcommittee meeting going over some new Adventurer Awards. I asked Va to provide some input on one of them, and she sent it to me straight away. It took me a little longer to get her input to the subcommittee, but they were all very excited about it, and I think it will make it into the Award requirements.

Mark, a handful of other people, and I were treated to dinner at El Toro, an authentic Mexican restaurant in Lincoln. The food was very good, but I could only eat half of it. I took the rest back to my room and forgot it in the fridge.

Mark’s wife and baby eventually did make it to Lincoln, and she had a car (as per the plan). So I returned our toy Fiat to Omaha. Along the way, I counted 28 cars off the shoulder, stuck in the snow. Most (perhaps all) of them had police tape on them. None of them were barely off the shoulder either. They were all way down embankments, pointing every which way, and I thanked God He guided me (and Mark’s wife) away from that fate yesterday.

While I was waiting here for the storm to pass, David was in Concord playing in a chess tournament. It pretty much took all of Sunday, but he played four games and won all four of them. This bumped his ranking up to 1985 (15 to go David!) and he will have to enter the “open” section from now on. He won $200 in the under 1900 section (as he was ranked under 1900 when the tourney began). I am very proud of him, and wish I could have been there with him to share the moment. But we shared via text & voice, so it was almost like being there.

So now I find myself with a bit of downtime. I needed to get the car back here by 2:15 to avoid another day’s charges, but my plane doesn’t leave until 6:45.

So there is time to write a blog post.

Saturday Va took the Adventurer Club to Ken’s farm. I worked on a few patches with my group (Trees and Beavers). Va worked with her group on something else, but I don’t know what. The plan was to go down to a beaver pond after that, and since the weather was threatening, we decided to make the run sooner rather than later.

Ken took us down to his brother’s farm where there was an active beaver pond. I would say they have been quite active by the looks of this tree.

Beaver-cut tree

Beaver-cut tree


It was at least 18″ in diameter. I like how the heartwood never gave up, bending rather than breaking.

In short order we found ourselves at the edge of the pond. They had built the largest beaver lodge I had ever seen. It was at least three times larger than the biggest one I had seen before that day.

Massive Beaver Lodge

Massive Beaver Lodge


This monster was about eight feet tall and a good twenty feet wide at the waterline. It had to have been even bigger beneath the surface.

The kids gathered at the edge of the pond, and I wanted to get a shot of that with the pond, then them at the edge, but with their faces showing. I saw a little spit of land jutting out into the pond, and thought I’d go out on that to get the angle I was after. Bad Move. I stepped onto what looked like solid ground, and my foot began to sink into the mud. Before I could shift my weight to the other leg, I was in up to my knee. It took five minutes to extract my foot. When I did, my boot was still firmly attached to my foot, and I count that as a good thing. My sock was even dry, which is a testament to this boot (a Scarpa if you must know).

The sky opened up before we were done, so we high-tailed it back to the cars and headed for home.

Meanwhile, the Pathfinders were out distributing bags to the south end of Concord as we do every year. It’s phase one of our annual food drive. I did not join them, as I was helping Va with her group. She’s short on staff, and I have an embarrassment of riches in that department. So my staff handled the Pathfinder project quite ably as I helped Va with the Adventurers.

Phase two came the next day. We used to give people a week to gather food, but found that giving them a day works just as well. For as many people who don’t give because they need to go shopping, we used to have as many who would forget because an entire week went by. It all comes out in the wash.

While we were out collecting the filled bags, I spied this awesome plow truck.

Work Horse

Work Horse


I shot that photo through the unwashed passenger window from the driver’s seat, so there’s plenty of room for the photo to have improved. But I was more interested in the subject of the photo than in the artistry.

The Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) is in full swing now.

Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)

Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)

I’ve been working on those wooden canoes I bought for the club a little while back. I have one outwale removed from the 19-footer now and most of the inwale too. The gunwales (inwale+outwale) were attached to the hull with no glue, and I needed three different types of screw drivers to get them off (flat, Phillips, and a square S-2).

I bought a 20′ long ash board today at Goose Bay Lumber in Chichester. I went there during lunch, and hadn’t been planning on that trip ahead of time. Thus, I didn’t have a way to get it home. I left it at the lumber yard and asked Va to bring my roof rack when she came to Concord to pick up Beth from school. She obliged, so after work, I went and got the rack and then the board. I also bought some shorter lengths of ash and a 4′ length of maple, I will fashion a new thwart from that.

I need to rip the 20′ ash plank into four 5/8″ pieces now. I haven’t decided if I want to try that on my table saw or if I want to try to talk Ken into doing it for (or with) me. Once I have it ripped into four chunks I will cut scuppers into two of them to serve as inwales. Before attaching them though I will need to resand the hull and probably add some fiberglass here and there. It sounds like a lot of effort, but I don’t think it really is.

I’ll keep you posted.

Yesterday I went with Va’s Adventurer Club to the Miller Farm. This is a working dairy farm in Vermont, and the conference Adventurer leadership team had a full day planned.

Arrival at Miller Farm

Arrival at Miller Farm


We brought two refugee girls with us – one from the Sudan, and the other from Burundi. There were other kids from our club there too, but they came with other adults.
Beth finds a new friend

Beth finds a new friend


Beth is too old for Adventurers now, but we wanted her to come with us anyhow. She was not the only Pathfinder-aged kid there either. She didn’t want to participate in the “kiddie” things, so she found a barn cat and played with that pretty much the whole time we were there. I think she enjoyed herself.

Of course no trip to a farm is complete without a hayride, so we had one of those.

Hayride!

Hayride!


I was amazed when our host threaded the tractor and wagon through an S-curve made by a barn and an outbuilding. Pretty sure I would have snagged a post and brought the barn to the ground if I had tried that, but he did it masterfully.

Just kidding!

Just kidding!

They had a half dozen goats on the farm, but the main focus was clearly on the dairy cows. This one tried to eat my pants, but I wasn’t having any of that.

Milking the goat

Milking the goat


They showed the kids (err… children) how to milk one of the goats, and several of them tried their hand at that – and most were successful. Va gave it a shot too.

Va milks the goat

Va milks the goat


They also let them hand milk one of the cows. Va tried that too and said the cow was a lot easier to milk than the goat was.

...and a cow

…and a cow


That surprised me, but I guess it shouldn’t have.

They told the kids that if they wanted to be farmers, they would have to get in shape. So it was exercise time!

Exercise builds strong muscles

Exercise builds strong muscles


In addition to these push-ups, they also did some chin-ups. Then it was off to a field to sow some grass. This is where I tell you that the farm abuts the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power plant. Really. See the power transmission lines?
Sowing seed next to Vermont Yankee

Sowing seed next to Vermont Yankee


Both the state and the power plant test the water and milk at this farm on a regular (and frequent) basis. I don’t know if that would make me feel better or worse if I lived there.

The kids sowed the seeds a little… unevenly.

Seeds!

Seeds!

With that job done, it was time for more fun. The kids got to bob for apples.

Bobbing for Apples

Bobbing for Apples

As an added bonus, one of the cows calved while we were there.

Calving

Calving


Ewww! When that was done I turned to one of my friends and remarked that this was just as repulsive in cattle as it is in humans. He agreed!

It wasn’t too long after that that it was time to milk the herd. I think this is my favorite shot of the day:

In the Parlor

In the Parlor


Beth abandoned the cat and came with us to see that.
More Parlor Shots

More Parlor Shots

We left pretty soon after that. It was a two-hour drive back to Concord, and Jonathan and David met us there for dinner. Then I took Jonathan back to UNH, and finally got home around 9:30pm. I was pretty tired. It was a long, but interesting day!

I made another attempt at photographing the Sand Jointweed (Polygonella articulata) at the church today.

Sand Jointweed (Polygonella articulata)

Sand Jointweed (Polygonella articulata)


This one is almost passable, but I’m still not 100% satisfied with it. The background is still too cluttered, and this one was lying over instead of erect. I was still fighting the wind though, and this low-lying one was the only one holding still.

After church today we had the second Adventurer meeting of the year. I taught my group about weather, and Va’s group studied rainbows. Va made these cupcakes, which are best appreciated when they have been bitten into.

Rainbow Cupcake

Rainbow Cupcake


The kids had a great time.

Tomorrow is the annual Adventurer Fun Day, and we will be taking them to a dairy farm in Vermont. I’ll try to take a few photos and share them here.

It has been a week since I posted anything, and since I don’t see any hope of recapping the past seven days with any kind of detail, I’m going to have to jump forward to the present.

But the quick recap is that I went to Spring Escape with Va and Beth last weekend, then haLd a Pathfinder meeting when we got back Sunday afternoon. I had a merit point make-up session on Tuesday, and I’ve hardly had time to sit down.

Pathfinder Investiture is coming up fast, and that’s always the most difficult aspect of being a director. I am responsible for determining what insignia every person in the club has earned, recording by insignia (so I know what to order), and then again by person (so I know who to give it to). Mathematically, that would be a simple matrix transpose operation, but I don’t know how to do that in a spreadsheet. So I do it by hand. I filled out the online order form last night – that took about an hour. I usually sit on my order for a day in case I remember something else, and of course, I did remember some things tonight. So I added them, placed the order ($450!) and then remembered a few more things. But once I’ve pulled the trigger, it’s too late. I’m sure I will remember a few more things in the next two weeks, so I always just plan to place another order after Investiture. Sigh. And this after about six hours of pouring over honor documentation!

But that’s not very photogenic, is it? Let’s start in with some photos from the past two days.

Wild blackberries (Rubus spp)

Wild blackberries (Rubus spp)


About half the wild blackberry canes on my place have bloomed now. I noticed that yesterday.

Domestic Viburnum

Domestic Viburnum


This is some sort of Viburnum growing in a planter next to my office. The leaves say maple-leaf viburnum (V. acerifolium), the flowers say hobblebush (V. lantanoides), and the habit says none of the above. It’s most likely a hybrid, but I have no idea if the two I’ve named are members of its ancestry. That’s why I dislike trying to id cultivated plants.

Blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium augustifolium)

Blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium augustifolium)


Fellow NH Blogger New Hampshire Garden Solutions posted photos of blue-eyed grass last week. I had been watching for some on my property to come up, but didn’t see it until today. But these blooms don’t stay open 24×7. And when they close, they just look like grass. So I could have missed them pretty easily. But not today!

Some sort of cinquefoil (Potentilla)

Some sort of cinquefoil (Potentilla)


I’ve had some sort of cinquefoil (Potentilla spp) blooming in spades for several weeks now. I won’t pretend to know which species this is though, and I’m too tired to try to guess tonight. I’ll happily settle for the genus for now.

In other news, I may have finally managed a permanent fix to my camera’s tripod mount. I bought a threaded insert (brass) and threaded it into the plastic. It was too long, so I put some duct tape on the camera around the insert and cut it off with a hacksaw. Then I filed down the brass and removed the duct tape (it was just there to keep me from scratching up the camera horribly). It seems pretty stable now, so hopefully this will do the trick.

Oh – and this marks my 1000th post. I wish I had time to make it a better one, but this will have to do.

We are getting close to the end of the Pathfinder year now. This is the part that I like to call the “sprint to the finish” as there are still a ton of things to do, a ton of things to schedule around, and not a lot of time left to do any of it.

We still need to teach knot tying, and I only have one week available for that. We are having a club campout in April, and conference Camporee in May.

We have been invited to the Laconia Adventist Church to present our “Plagues of Egypt” newscast, but it doesn’t look like we’ll be able to get the whole club there for that. But I would still like to do that for several reasons. It’s a lot of fun to do, the Laconia Church has asked us to do it, and they regularly record and broadcast their church services on the local cable access channel. Meaning it would finally be recorded on video and I could upload it to Youtube and link to it here.

Furthermore, the date they have offered for us is April 7 – which is the beginning of Passover. I can’t think of a more appropriate time to do our skit on the Passover than on Passover.

We also plan to take the club to a swimming pool to work on their swimming skills, and for the Camporee we need to prepare for two competitions. One is a race to build an A-frame ladder by lashing wooden poles together with rope. The other is – back by popular demand – a cardboard boat race. We did that in 2009, and I blogged about it several times then. We do not have a lot of time to get a lake-worthy boat ready, but I think we can do it. I have not been able to think of a better way to build a cardboard boat, so we’re going to do it the same way as before.

"The" Cardboard Canoe, next to my cedar strip canoe


In addition to all that, we still have two or three Honors we have started but not finished, plus we would like to pilot a new Honor that David has been putting together. From yesterday’s post, you might be able to guess what this Honor is about.

The things we have to schedule around include Easter weekend, Mother’s Day, and the conference’s annual Music Clinic which several of our Pathfinders (including me and Beth) will attend. Also the Adventurers will have their annual Spring Escape weekend which Va and I will attend too.

So the six remaining meetings we have are going to be full of frantic (but fun) activity.

Now that we have finished raising money to go to Holbrook Indian School, we need to begin raising money to go to the International Camporee in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. That will take place in two and a half years (August 2014). To that end, we will sweep the church’s parking lot (we always wait for our snow plow guy to turn in a bid for sweeping it, and then the club underbids him). We will also have our annual yardsale on Memorial Day weekend.

Then to wrap the year up, we will have our Investiture service (when we award insignia) followed by Fun Day (which is the last thing we do for the year). This year we might go to Canobie Lake amusement park.

So it looks like we will be running full out for the next two months. If I didn’t love doing this, I would be one miserable person. 😀

Elizabeth, the wool vendor

Elizabeth, the wool vendor


Well, most of the kids are asleep now. I am tired, and ought to be asleep, but I never go to bed this early. I would call Camp-in an unqualified success. Everyone seemed to have a good time, and a spiritual message was delivered successfully. The photo above shows Beth playing Elizabeth, the proprietor of a wool shop. She nailed all her lines and showed the kids how to make some sort of craft involving felting wool and soap. I didn’t pay too much attention to that part.

Next Page »