Church


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.

This weekend we had our Pathfinder Bible Bowl and Pinewood Derby in Vernon Vermont.

The View at Mountain View Adventist Church

The View at Mountain View Adventist Church

We arrived there in time for the church service with all of us in full dress uniform. After church we ate lunch and then settled in for the Bible Bowl.

The Bible Bowl is basically a quiz that we answer in teams of no more than six. Adults and kids are on separate teams and do not compete with one another. Then the moderators ask questions, we write down our answers on slips of paper, and then run them up to the judging table. The kid team who gets the most right sets the bar. Any team scoring 90% of their score or higher gets a gold bar to hang on their Bible Bowl pin (though we will not get them until this spring sometime). Any team that scores below 90%, but above 80% gets a silver bar. All others get a bronze bar.

Beth’s team got a gold bar. They had the second-highest score for any of the kid teams which is pretty good! She was stoked. My team also earned a gold bar, but we had a very good team. I took our portrait:

My Team's Portrait

My Team’s Portrait

When that was over, we had supper, and then prepared for the Pinewood Derby. That took longer than anticipated, as Paul (our conference director) had brought a lot of equipment for car weight modification. He, another area coordinator, and I weighed the cars and added (or subtracted) weight until they were not more than 5 ounces, and as close to 5 ounces as we could get them. We probably should have just subtracted weight from the overweight cars, as we were not able to get the derby started until 8:30pm.

Here is Beth’s car:

Beth's Pocketknife Car

Beth’s Pocketknife Car

And here is mine again:

All Mixed Up

All Mixed Up


I actually modified mine since I posted it last week. I was at the recycling center and I stopped in the “junk exchange” room and found a tiny little candle holder. It was a better bowl than the plastic jug I had pressed into service, so I snagged it, and replaced the other one. I think it looks a lot better. I put it on the scale, mixed up some epoxy and cocoa, and poured it in until it weighed five ounces.

I also like Saralyn’s car (she is one of my Pathfinders).

Saralyn's "1st Place" car

Saralyn’s “1st Place” car


She was not able to come to either of the Pathfinder meetings during which we worked on our cars, so I helped her get started and sent her home with my tools last week. I think she did a pretty good job. She won third place for creativity in the teen division. But no matter what, she knew she’d go home with a blue ribbon.

Paul has been competing in Pinewood Derbys for a long time, so I knew his car was going to be the one to beat.

Paul's "Seven Dwarf's Mine" car

Paul’s “Seven Dwarf’s Mine” car


Here is is from the front.
Front of Paul's car

Front of Paul’s car


And I was right. His car was the fastest, and he earned second place for most creative. I am too humble to tell you who edged him out on that. ๐Ÿ˜‰

My car placed second for speed and third for craftsmanship. I think I could have done better in the craftsmanship department, but the strangest thing happened. I already wrote that I poured epoxy into the mixing bowl until it weighed five ounces. And I weighed it again before taking it to the registration table – it was 5.00 ounces. But when we put it on the exact same scale at the registration table it had somehow gained half an ounce. I cannot understand this. I can understand the other thing that caused problems though – my car was too tall. I could have chopped the handle off, but instead, I sliced the whole top off and removed a chunk from the center. It was still way over the weight limit, so I spent another ten minutes hollowing out the inside of the mixer. When I finally got it down to 5 ounces again I glued the top back on. Where did that extra weight come from? I think I will never know!

In the end though, it still looked good enough to gain a third place ribbon for craftsmanship, a second place for speed, and… yes, a first for creativity. But I think that had to have been a difficult decision for the judges.

Meanwhile, Beth snagged two blue ribbons!

Beth collects a blue ribbon for fastest car in her division

Beth collects a blue ribbon for fastest car in her division

Hers was the fastest in her division, and she too took first place for creativity. The blade on hers would open and close. I did help her with the engineering and the power tools, but she did most of that work herself. I am very proud of her, and she was obviously pretty pleased about this too.

The derby ended at about 10:00pm. We had arranged to spend the night at the church there, and I was very grateful to be able to do that. I think the next time our church hosts the Derby, we will certainly make ours available to anyone who wants to stay. I will even stay with them.

I got up at 6:30, got dressed, and then put some water on for oatmeal. The rest of the club got up in their own time. One we were all dressed and fed we loaded the cars up and made sure the church was clean. Then we went home.

First thing I did when I got home was take a nap!

I am still alive and well, but it would be hard to tell that lately from my blog. I have been busy, and I have not taken very many pictures. I guess it would be fair to say that my camera drives this blog. It would also be fair to say that this blog drives my camera.

Fall has peaked and ebbed here. I was able to catch some of it, but not nearly as much as I wanted to.

Ripe hawthorns (Crataegus spp)

Ripe hawthorns (Crataegus spp)

Sandogardy Pond

Sandogardy Pond

American beech (Fagus grandifolia)

American beech (Fagus grandifolia)

Northfield Town Forest

Northfield Town Forest


The colors here were a lot more vivid in real life. They got better when I switch the camera’s white balance setting to “cloudy” vs “automatic.” It’s probably still on cloudy, as that’s not something I usually think to check.

At the beginning of this month the Pathfinders collected food for the needy. Last week our Church’s Community Services director came in and we helped her sort and store it. We also packed up a couple of boxes for people who requested them. I handed my camera to one of the kids, and he took several shots for me including this one.

Packing a box

Packing a box


I think he did a great job.

That was the same day we did the President’s Challenge Fitness Test. That includes five events – the mile, the shuttle run, V-sit and reach, curl-ups, and push-ups. I always participate in the test with the kids because I think it sets a good example. My own challenge to them was that I would give a dollar to any kid who could beat me in the mile. I also told them that if they wanted to beat me, they would have to run the entire mile, because that’s what I was going to do. I figured I’d be out six or seven bucks, but that motivator only cost me one dollar. I wish it had cost me fifteen. Maybe if the motivator was “whoever is less sore than me tomorrow” it would have.

The day before all that we had our annual induction service. It served as our church service, and I had a ton of work to do to get ready for that. It went pretty smoothly except that I had double-booked one of the parts to two kids. I also forgot to alert the person who had signed up to be the scripture reader that day ahead of time. Sigh.

David played in two more chess tournaments since I last wrote. One was a “quick” tournament where the players had 20 minutes per game. He placed second in that one. The other was a “standard” tournament – his first. In a standard tournament each player gets more than 60 minutes (they had 65 unless I am mistaken). As a result of that tourny, he now has a provisional standard rating – 1843. That’s pretty good. It’s the best rating in his local chess club, and I think he said the 11th best in New Hampshire.

On the heels of all this, we are going to go camping this weekend. I bought all the groceries tonight. I still haven’t packed my things (and Beth has not yet finished packing). Tomorrow I will buy the last few remaining items (such as ice).

The weather is supposed to cooperate, so hopefully I won’t have to dry tents while Sandy blows through New England.

Washington, NH is the home of the Washington Adventist Church, the first church where Adventists met to observe the seventh day as the Sabbath. It is a historic place. Last spring our local church was invited to provide church services for a few weeks there this summer. I volunteered, as did my friend Dan Orlinski. Another pair of our church leaders volunteered for an earlier date, but today was my date.

I suggested to Dan that rather than get up real early and drive there, we ought to just camp out Friday night. Dan is an avid outdoorsman, so he agreed without hesitation, and when I invited Beth, she was likewise enthusiastic.

So yesterday after work the three of us set out. I had meant to stop by the Pathfinder trailer and fetch my dutch oven on the way, but that somehow slipped my mind. Oh well.

We arrived at the Washington Church around 7:00pm. I unlocked the building (having been given the combination to the lockbox containing the key), and we went in to look around.

Washington Adventist Church

Washington Adventist Church


I have camped here with our Pathfinder club three or four times, but had never been inside the church, so this was a nice treat.

We locked it back up, pitched our tents, and then relaxed a bit. Then we hit the sack. Beth and I shared a tent, and Dan had one to himself. I slept as well as I always do on a campout, which is to say not very good. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I got up at about 6:30 and began preparing breakfast. A few years ago I made a “penny alcohol stove” from an aluminum beer can (which I got from the city recycling center). Google that for details if you’re interested. It weighs almost nothing and cost me a penny to make (except that I still have the penny). It burns for about ten minutes I guess, but I didn’t time it. That’s long enough to boil a quart of water, but I was making pancakes and eggs, not boiling water.

I had intended to cook the pancakes on the dutch oven’s lid, but having neglected to bring that particular item with me, opted to use my backpacking mess kit instead. It is not optimal for cooking pancakes, as it’s pretty hard to get underneath them to flip them over.

Frying pancakes

Frying pancakes


They tend to get scrambled during the flip, resulting in this:
Scrambled Pancakes

Scrambled Pancakes


They still tasted great even if they weren’t much to look at.

In addition to forgetting the dutch oven, I also forgot to bring a fork or a spoon. We keep that sort of thing in the Pathfinder trailer, so I don’t usually have to think of it. So I didn’t. Lacking a spoon, I fashioned one from the handle of the pancake bottle (seen the the photo two pics back). It worked out pretty well.

I also made up some scrambled eggs, and they came out about like scrambled eggs are supposed to. Beth passed on the pancakes, but eagerly ate some eggs. I ate some of everything.

After cleaning up the dishes, we took a short hike. There is a trail on the church property there called the Sabbath Trail, and it’s about a mile long. We didn’t do the whole mile right after breakfast though. It features 31 stops along the trail with a bench at each stop and a slab of polished granite with an episode recounting the history of the Sabbath etched into each.

We had to cut the hike short because we were supposed to open the church up at 10:00am for Sabbath School, and then a church service at 11:00. So we hustled back to camp and changed into our church clothes.

Several of the Seventh-day Adventist Church pioneers visited this church, including Joseph Bates, James and Ellen White, and J.N. Andrews. Beth was excited at the prospect of sitting in the same seat that these people had sat in 100 years ago, but since she didn’t know which ones they sat in, she decided to sit in them all. And she did, including in the balcony.

I set up Beth’s electric piano (plugged it into my car – it has a battery compartment, and I bought batteries for it, but even with that, it wouldn’t turn on). Then Dan led out for Sabbath School.

After that, we had a church service. No one was there except for the three of us. We were there in case someone else showed up, but no one did. A couple of hikers walked by, but they didn’t come in. Dan pointed out that there were enough of us there so that someone sat in every seat. Even if that someone was Beth.

I had prepared a sermon, and I will be giving the same one in Concord next week. This was good practice though, and I will change it a bit. Beth and I played Amazing Grace for special music – with me on the alto recorder, and her on the piano. We also played it with Beth on the organ (they have a very old, but working pump organ).

Then the church service was over, so we changed clothes again and finished our hike on the Sabbath Trail.

Along the way we saw several American toads, including this one:

Infected American toad (Bufo americanus)

Infected American toad (Bufo americanus)


It has what I think is a fungal infection around its eye. I have seen toads with this malady before, and initially thought it had gotten mud on its eye. But I don’t think this is mud. This will probably kill the toad, either directly (from the infection) or indirectly (from not seeing a predator approach from the right).

Soon, we crossed a bridge over a creek, and next to the bridge found some swamp candles (Lysimachia terrestris) growing:

Swamp candles (Lysimachia terrestris)

Swamp candles (Lysimachia terrestris)


These look a lot like whorled loosestrife, and are in fact in the same genus.

I also found a stand of partridge berry (Mitchella repens).

Partridge berry (Mitchella repens)

Partridge berry (Mitchella repens)


These are past the flowering stage on my property. I still see a few here and there, but for the most part, they are finished.

I was delighted to find this violet wood sorel (Oxalis violacea).

Violet wood sorel (Oxalis violacea)

Violet wood sorel (Oxalis violacea)


I haven’t seen any of this in about five years, and that was before I started carrying a camera around with me everywhere I went. Thus, these are the first photos I’ve taken of this species. ๐Ÿ™‚

To my further delight, I found several patches of dewdrops (Dalibarda repens).

Dewdrops (Dalibarda repens)

Dewdrops (Dalibarda repens)


Until today, the only place I knew where any of these grew was on my property, and as I’ve written before, I don’t know how long they will survive on my place since the neighbor has cut down trees, converting my shady woods into sunny woods. Well, now I know another place to find them. I might have to make an annual trek to Washington to get my dewdrop fix.

After the hike, we returned to the church (and our camp site), and sat down for lunch. I was planning to cook some Ramen noodles on my penny alcohol stove, but couldn’t figure out what on earth I had done with it. I found it later in the wrong section of my backpack, but before lunch, it was nowhere to be seen. Instead, I ate an apple, some “broccoli slaw” (which I had never had before – it’s not bad, but I don’t know if I’ll have it again), and… some raw Ramen noodles. Beth insisted that some of her schoolmates do this all the time, and she likes raw Ramen. Well, I do prefer mine cooked.

After we ate, we struck the tents, packed the car, and headed home. It rained while we ate lunch, so the tents got wet. I have them pitched in the backyard right now to dry out.

On Sunday I titled my post “Almost Finished” because we had almost finished our cardboard boats. Well, they are almoster finished now.

Tonight we painted them. There are still a lot of gaps between the drywall tape, and we’ll need to paint their names on the hulls. I fitted the seat in the kayak tonight too, but took it out while we painted. Once we get those three things taken care of, then they will be finished.

We settled on names for both boats too. For the canoe, the candidates were “Bloosh” (because we took all the blueish paint we had and mixed them together), “Redux” (because this is very much like the HMS Sinkeytown that we entered in 2009), and “Maelstrom” because David liked that name (it means a huge storm or a whirlpool). “Redux” won.

For the kayak, the candidates were “KAYAK” (spelled backwards – the intent was to paint it in mirror-backwards) and… I can’t remember the contender. We settled on “KAYAK” spelled backwards.

The paint was given to us by a coworker. He had a lot of paint. I think we used about two gallons, but he gave us close to eight. We had what I like to call “all the colors.” Off-white, beige, light brown, eggshell, taupe, tan, light brown, ecru, and ivory. As I also mentioned, there were about three quarts of different blues.

We had to hustle to get them painted though. We’ve been having some evangelistic meetings at our church for the past couple of weeks, and Va has been running a children’s program in the fellowship hall (where we painted the boats). The meetings start at 7:00, and I was determined that we would have our mess cleaned up by 6:00 so there would be no panicking. So we painted like banshees from 4:15 until 5:45, and then started the clean up.

Meanwhile, Jonathan was still at NHTI until 6:00, so I had to take a kid home, pick up Jonathan, grab some dinner, and then high-tail it back to the church so I could set up my computer for Va so she could play a DVD, and so I could help run the registration table. There was no time for the only optional thing in that list (eating) so I skipped that until afterwards.

I was rather hungry!

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.

It has been a pretty good weekend for me. Yesterday the Pathfinders went out to the Laconia church to present our “Plagues of Egypt” newscast. We left the Concord church at 10:30 (meant to leave at 10:15, but sometimes that’s the way it plays) and arrived at 11:00 (or a few minutes after). When we got there we discovered that the computer that had all the “”live action report” video on it was still in Va’s car back in Concord. Things got frantic! We made some phone calls and found that one of the Pathfinder parents had just left the Concord church. We asked them to turn around and get the computer. I also called Va to let her know to give them the computer.

So it was on the way. We had some other things to present including a children’s story, and we talked about our trip to Holbrook. We sang some songs, I told a story, and then the computer arrived. We set it up as quickly as we could, and then began the video presentation. All in all, it went pretty well in spite of the major gaff.

When that service was over, the Laconia church laid out a spread to feed the Pathfinders. I couldn’t hang around for that (though I would have liked to) because Va needed me back in Concord for the Adventurers meeting. When I got back to Concord, the potluck dinner was still going strong, so I made up a plate and had some lunch. Then we had the Adventurers meeting.

Once that was over we went home and I had the choice between a nap and a hike. I took the hike – just me and Penny on this one. Almost as soon as we set out, I found some coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) in bloom.

Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)

Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)


This is a plant that was introduced to the Americas by the Europeans. They used it as a cough medicine. Note how the Latin name “Tussilago” is similar to the modern-day medicine “Robitussin.” That’s not an accident. What is an accident (I guess) is that coltsfoot is no more efficacious against a cough than a placebo. The same goes for cough drops that you can still buy at the drug store in spite of this recent finding. I was not surprised at all by this, as cough drops never did anything for me.

Penny and I continued on our hike. We went to Sandogardy Pond, but I didn’t find any more new plants in bloom (lots of trailing arbutus, but I’ve already posted photos from those twice this month). One thing I will note however – trailing arbutus blooms are edible. And I ate some yesterday while I was out.

As we were walking along Little Cohas Brook, a pickup truck pulled in. That’s pretty unusual. It is a class VI road, so I guess 4WD vehicles can get around there – they just don’t very often. A guy and his son (about 8 years old I would guess) got out. At least they didn’t try to drive over Penny’s bridge (I thought he would for a few seconds). Then he told me that he had beaver traps set in the creek. I didn’t know people still did that. I watched him wade into the creek (with waders) and check his trap. Meanwhile his son had crossed the bridge and checked one on the other side. “Hey Dad!” he called. “There’s something in this one! I think it’s a catfish!”

Penny and I left them in peace and continued our hike. We walked up to the railroad tracks and then along them until we got to a log that crosses the brook. I headed across thinking Penny would swim. She did, but that was not her first choice:

Penny tries to cross the log

Penny tries to cross the log


I was amazed that she tried this. She couldn’t get around that branch, but she tried for several minutes before giving up. I stayed on the far side of the creek and headed to Little Cohas Cache. Penny found a place and swam across.

Meanwhile I heard the pickup truck start the engine and drive away. Penny and I did some bushwhacking and got back to the trails. Then we went home.

I slept until nearly 9:00am on Sunday. Va made pancakes, and after breakfast Beth went outside. She came in and asked if she could plant the garden. I thought that sounded like a great idea, so out I went. I dug some fertilizer out of the garage and sprinkled that on the little 4×4 plot. Then Beth mixed it in. Then I went and got the wheelbarrow so we could get some compost. It needed some attention first:

Rotted wheel

Rotted wheel


The tire would not make a good seal around the rims as they were so rusted. Also, the bearings are shot. I had bought a replacement tire a couple of weeks ago, so I got that out, and two rusted-bolts later, it was on.
All better

All better


We went to the compost pile (basically, the leaf dump in the woods) and loaded it up. Then wheeled it over to th garden and unloaded it. We mixed it in, and I divided the plot into 9 squares. Beth planted carrots, swiss chard, peas, and some cosmos.
Planting the spring garden

Planting the spring garden


Then it started snowing.

My plan is to build five more of these 4×4 beds with enough space between them for the mower to fit. I wasn’t able to do this before today due to the broken wheelbarrow (unless I wanted to carry a bunch of stones all over the property).

We went in and had some noodles for lunch. Then Beth and I headed over to the church to work on the cardboard boats. The first order of business was to free my kayak from its cocoon. I sliced from the cockpit to the nose, but the cardboard was too stiff to get the kayak out through that opening. So I cut out the front quarter panel.

Warran preparing to help free the kayak

Warran preparing to help free the kayak


That opening was likewise insufficient, so I removed the other quarter panel as well. With that out of the way, we were able to spring the kayak out.
Free at last!

Free at last!


Then we glued some tabs to the hull and reattached the deck.
Reattaching the "hood"

Reattaching the "hood"


It’s on there pretty good now. We will add a couple more layers of cardboard, then cover it with drywall tape and paint it. I am convinced this will be the fastest boat in the competition.

After three hours of that, Va and the boys showed up. We cleaned up and then went out to eat. (I was dressed more for canoe construction than for fine dining, but… them’s the breaks).

When we got home I decided to start laying the walls for my second raised garden bed. I had some stones that I had gathered a couple of years ago, and dug some holes to accept the more irregular shapes (leaving the smooth edges for the top and outside). When I dug into the ground, I was reminded of why I can only have a raised bed here. Gravel. In fact, I dug more gravel out of that hole than dirt. It’s kinda hard to see in the photo, so you’ll just have to trust me on that.

It was nearly dark, so I used the flash

It was nearly dark, so I used the flash


This is where the builder stored a huge pile of gravel when the house was built. When they finished, they left a lot of it here and just buried it beneath an inch of topsoil. That makes for some pretty tough gardening! I ended up laying one wall and quarrying three more wheelbarrows of stone. I will continue to lay the walls and then fill the bed with topsoil (which I suppose I will have to buy). A yard ought to do it.

Manchester Airport

Manchester Airport


We landed at Manchester Airport last night around 11:00pm. We were originally scheduled to land at 10:30, but our flight was delayed because of the snow. Yes! Finally some snow! More on that in a bit.

The delay was actually very good for us. We had a 30 minute layover in Baltimore during supper time, and anyone who has ever flown can tell you that 30 minutes is not enough time to feed a group of 19 and make the next flight. 60 minutes is sufficient, but only barely so. I went to an Italian place in the terminal and ordered four cheese pizzas. The girl rang me up for four slices, but I corrected her. I felt a little like Jake Blues when he ordered “Four fried chickens and a Coke.” No ma’am. Four whole cheese pizzas. She wasn’t sure they could even do that, but I was pretty sure they could. The manager concurred. It would be 15-20 minutes. David was with me, and the rest of the gang was waiting at the terminal.

While we waited, we played a game of chess. I was pretty pleased that I was putting up a good fight against him, and before he could completely destroy me, the pizzas were ready. Whew! The last time we played, we used the chess clock, and he cleaned my clock in 55 seconds. I was playing as quickly as I could too, and he is way better than me, so this did not come as a surprise.

The kids devoured the pizza, and we got on the plane. An hour later we found ourselves waiting on the tarmac at Manchester. The gate via which we were scheduled to deplane was frozen stuck. We taxied to a different gate and got off. I had the Pathfinders fall in and did a head count just to be sure. I had been doing head counts all day. Then we had a prayer of thanks and praise.

I divided up the kids who needed rides back to Concord among those who had available seats, and we set out from the airport. Va was there to pick us up, and we got home around 1:00am.

I slept until 11:00am.

Jonathan had gone to work, so Va, David, Beth, and I went to Tilton and had some lunch. Then Va ran some errands, while Beth and I took Penny for a glorious snowshoeing hike.

Finally a chance to put on the snowshoes!

Finally a chance to put on the snowshoes!


There was a foot of soft powdery snow on the ground – perfect for snowshoes. When we were in Arizona, I bought a couple of replica arrowheads, and I wanted to put them in my Little Cohas Brook cache. That was the point of the journey. Beth stayed on top of the ridge while I trekked down the bank and deposited the arrowheads. The previous visitor had left a plastic bat (the flying mammal), so I took that. I will put that in my other cache in Concord as soon as I get a chance. It will feel more at home there, as that cache is bat-themed (to a small extent).

Climbing back up the embankment was a bit more difficult, but I managed it. Then we swung by Sandogardy Pond just to look at it.

Sandogardy Pond

Sandogardy Pond

I love that pond. I don’t often see an undisturbed field of snow blanketing it. I wouldn’t dare snowshoe out onto it though, as we’ve had such warm temperatures. The ice is unlikely to be stable. Maybe that’s why there were no snowmobile tracks (or maybe that was because it was a weekday).

After taking in the pond, we started for home. We saw some mouse tracks in the snow, and I took three pictures of them, but none of them showed the track definition. It would be pointless to post them, as the photos look like… snow.

Penny enjoyed every minute of the trip.

Throw a stick?

Throw a stick?


There were sticks after all, and she found them even under the snow.

I am so glad we finally got some snow. It was worth the slow drive home last night. I hope it sticks around for a couple of weeks, but I think it’s supposed to rain tomorrow. It was short, but sweet.

This morning Jared, the HIS maintenance chief asked us to build a few more screens (we had already built 74 of them as he had previously requested). We were not able to build as many additional screens as he wanted though, because we ran out of the corner pieces. While we did that, Warran and his crew cleaned the shop so that we could leave it in better shape than we found it, and Shaun took the boys and a few girls to move some brick piles.

When we finished with all that, we loaded the screens into the vans and went around installing them.

Saralyn at the Administration building

Saralyn at the Administration building


Ana at the admin building

Ana at the admin building


David at one of the staff houses

David at one of the staff houses


Then at 2:00pm we all piled into the vans and drove to the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert. Unfortunately, the plan was not well laid. Our first stop was at the visitor’s center, and we got a little too absorbed there. Emmanuelina had a bit of fun though:
Ow! A dinosaur is biting my hand!

Ow! A dinosaur is biting my hand!


The kids all bought stuff, and I bought a few things for the ones who couldn’t afford anything. We met some rangers and volunteers, and they gave the kids some activity booklets. If they filled them out, they could be sworn in as Junior Rangers. That comes with a patch that they can sew onto their Pathfinder sashes, so they were all in, except for Cody and Jane. I guess they think they’re too old for that, but don’t tell them that Melissa (one of the staff) did the activities too.

We needed to tour the grounds of the visitor’s center to complete the activities – one of which was to see if you could put your arms around one of the petrified trees. Cody was the only one who pulled it off.

Mr Long Arms

Mr Long Arms


When they turned in their work it was carefully checked, and then they were sworn in as Junior Rangers.
Junior Rangers

Junior Rangers

Only then did I start to do the time-math. Dinner was at 5:30, and HIS was 40 minutes away. There was just no way we were going to be able to see much more. The upside is that by not entering the park, we avoided paying the $10/van entrance fee. But of course, it would have been worth it.

Shaun and his van left a bit before the rest of us, and they stopped at a gift store between the Petrified Forest and Holbrook. David bought a petrified wood chess set, and was exceedingly pleased with his purchase.

We made it back to HIS in time for dinner. Before I could sit down to eat, Dr. Janet Claymore-Ross (the principal) and Barbara Willis (the development director) presented us with a pottery tile.
Central NH Flames Pathfinder Club/HIS/Feb 23-Mar 1, 2012
I must confess that it was a bit of an emotional moment for me, even though I knew they were going to present this to us (they asked me for our official name before we set out from New Hampshire so they could give the information to the pottery shop). This has been a fantastic trip. Everyone in our group has loved working here, and we have grown to love the kids who attend HIS as well as the staff.

After we finished supper (another excellent meal), Barbara Willis took some of us over to the pottery shop, while the rest went to the gym for Rec Night. I bought three items of pottery, one of which is a surprise gift for my lovely bride (she knows I bought her some pottery, but she doesn’t know what it is). The other two were made by two students here at the school. I asked if I could take their pictures holding their creations, and Barbara started making calls. In short order, both girls were there ready for a picture. ๐Ÿ™‚


I bought the turtle for Beth.

Tomorrow after breakfast we will load the vans and set out for the airport. Hopefully we will make it home, and our rides will make it to the airport. New Hampshire is getting some snow tonight. Va told me on the phone tonight that we already have two inches on the ground, and the snow will continue until tomorrow evening (when we are scheduled to land in Manchester). The forecast is for about a foot of snow.

Finally, snow!

We woke up to about a centimeter of snow this morning.

Connor headed to breakfast


It was gone by lunchtime, but a lot of people here seemed pretty excited about it. Snow is not unknown here, but I guess it’s not terribly common either. I think the kids in our group learned a little more about the Desert Southwest – yes, it does snow here.

We ate breakfast and then got right to work on the bikes and window screens. At 11:00, it was time to teach the Adventurer Awards. I rounded up the kids who were going to teach Elephants and Owls, and we made it there right when we were supposed to. Except one kid was straggling, and I had to leave the classroom to track him down. When we got back, I found out that we could not teach the Owl Award. Owls are a taboo among the Navajo!

Ana and Natasha teaching an Adventurer Award

Natasha preparing to teach the Owls Award


That caused a bit of a scramble. I called Chris to see if she and Jane could get here quickly. She scrambled. Then I stepped out so I could go to the dorm and retrieve the insignia, and saw Shaun. He was in the queue to teach Sharks, and he was right there. The clock was ticking, and we only had an hour to teach the awards. I asked him to jump in, and he did. First he fetched his laptop from his room (right across the street from the classroom) and he began the slideshow/lecture portion. I called Chris back to tell her to resume her previous operations. It was good Shaun showed up when he did, because Chris and Jane were about to go to the girls’ dorm to fetch their materials and it would have been at least another 10 minutes.

But the scrambling was still not over. I had to track down Shaun’s craft supplies as well as his daughter who was also teaching. That took a little bit of time, and they didn’t get their supplies until 11:30. They didn’t manage to finish the crafts, but I’m sure they will soon.

At least Elephants went OK, except that Emma tried to pull up a video of elephants on her phone – and the first one to come up featured two elephants mating). Oops!

Then we had lunch. After we ate, we had a surprise for the kids. They have horses here, and arrangements were made for our kids to ride one of them at 1:30. So before we left the cafeteria,we told the kids we’d announce a surprise in 15 minutes. That 15 minutes was filled with incorrect guesses. At 1:15 we called them together, and Melissa told them, “At 1:30 we are going down to the barn.” Squeals of delight. Then I chimed in, “To clean out the stalls!” Groans! Every single one of them thought I was serious. Melissa let them in on my cruel little joke, and the squeals of delight returned. We headed down to the barn.

Beth riding on "Nano."

Beth riding on "Nano."


Two of the girls had never ridden a horse before.
Saralyn's first horse ride

Saralyn's first horse ride


Look at that smile!
Emmanuelina's forst horse ride

Emmanuelina's forst horse ride


Emmanuelina had never even touched a horse until yesterday. She enjoyed her ride very much. Technically, she’s not one of the kids since she’s 20 years old. She is serving as the counselor of the Companion group this year, and is just a delightful beam of sunshine.

Even I took a turn.

Karen Littell took this shot

Note the tether - I am not an experienced horseman


Horseback riding lasted about an hour, and then we got back to work. We finished making all the needed window screens, and we will install them tomorrow.
Melissa splining a screen

Melissa splining a screen


Warran and his crew have pretty much finished all the bikes now too. They were not able to fix this one (and one other). I think they could probably score some bucks if they sold this one on E-Bay.
1950's Model

1950's Model


Warran was then given a new task – periodic maintenance of some of HIS’s vehicles. Connor pitched in.
Checking the tire pressure

Checking the tire pressure

Tomorrow we will install the screens, and Jared the maintenance chief will find us another assignment.

With our work done for the day, we headed to the cafeteria for supper. I might add that I have enjoyed every single meal I have been served here. The kitchen staff is top-shelf.

One of the Navajo kids came up to us at supper time and asked if they would get to learn about owls. We told him we were sorry, but we couldn’t. If one of those kids went home with a patch featuring an owl, it almost certainly would have resulted in a beating. We asked him about the taboo, and he told us that it was related to “skin-walkers.”

I looked it up on Wikipedia.

Skin-walking is a form of shape-shifting (like werewolves), and people who are thought to practice it are considered the ultimate in evil humanity. I guess it’s their equivalent of Hitler. You can read about it at Wikipedia and know as much about it as I do.

And now… shower and bed. Tomorrow is another big day.

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