Disaster Response


We got back from our trip yesterday evening, and I must say, it is good to be home again. We will use today to recover from the trip, and there is plenty of recovery needed! This trip was pretty hard on our equipment. Not only did my camera finally give up the ghost, but the motherboard in Va’s laptop bit the dust too. Because of that, we had to share my laptop, which is why I didn’t do a lot of blogging during the trip. I need to get her a new computer. Our washing machine spins only when it feels like it, so I need to look into that as well. Hopefully it will feel like it today so we can get some much needed laundry done.

But all of that is boring stuff that. Let’s take a look at the photographic haul from the trip.

Virginia buttonweed (Diodia virginiana)

Virginia buttonweed (Diodia virginiana)


This is Virginia buttonweed. It does not grow in New Hampshire, so the only time I ever see it is when we travel to the South. With the heat wave, it was not easy to find any open blossoms, but I did find a few. Here’s another.
Virginia buttonweed (Diodia virginiana)

Virginia buttonweed (Diodia virginiana)


This one seems to have caught the morning dew.

We set out for home Sunday morning, and mad our way through Tennessee. Va likes to stop at an outlet mall in Crossville. I stayed outside with Penny so she could get some exercise, which is when I saw this killdeer.

Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)

Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)


This one is in the middle of its “broken wing act,” a ruse it employs to distract a predator from its nest. I was not fooled, and Penny didn’t even notice (there were sticks to be chased!)

As we travelled, we saw plenty of electric utility trucks headed into Virginia. There was a convoy of about a hundred of them from Mississippi, and among them was this gigantic truck with Mexican plates.

Behemoth Spark Plugs

Behemoth Spark Plugs


Presumably, they were on their way to help restore power to the 3 million or so who lost it during the derecho that swept through the area.

So now we all know a new word.

We were worried that we’d have a hard time finding a place to buy gas, and that the combination of heat wave, power outage, and utility worker influx would make it hard to find a hotel. We usually just show up with a coupon book, but this time we called ahead. I’m glad we did too, because when we checked in in Wythville, VA, they were full. Breakfast was a mad house, but the scenery was not bad at all.

Hayfield in Wythville, VA

Hayfield in Wythville, VA


I especially like the lack of camera sensor dust in this photo. 😉

I also found a plant I had never seen before, but thought I knew what it was.

Moth mullein (Verbascum blattaria)

Moth mullein (Verbascum blattaria)


Moth mullein (Verbascum blattaria) is very similar to Common mullein (Verbascum thapsus). I had read about it in the past, but had never seen it until Monday. I just now looked it up and compared it to my photos, and I’m pretty sure that’s what I’ve got here. According to the USDA, it grows in NH, but I have never seen it here. I guess I should count myself lucky, as it is an invasive alien and has been declared a noxious weed by the state of Colorado.

After breakfast and repacking, we headed to Mt Crawford, VA so we could go to the Green Valley Book Fair. This is the highlight of the trip for Va. They have a huge warehouse full of books (mostly remainders) that they sell for 50-90% off. We bought about three dozen. I was hoping to pick up about a dozen copies of a field guide for the Pathfinders, but they didn’t have any that would be good for teaching an honor. I could have settled for ferns, edible wild plants, wild flowers, reptiles, or just about anything. But all they had was flowers in the western US, mammals (don’t really need a field guide for that), and one on the atmosphere. Maybe next time.

Next stop was in Pine Grove, PA where we spent the night. They have rabbits.

Rabbit

Rabbit


We’ve stayed at this place before, and they always have about half a dozen rabbits in the hotel yard. They were very concerned about Penny, but Penny was interested in sticks (so they were safe). I think the new camera takes better zoom shots than the old one. There’s still some noise in the photo, but not as much as with the 110.

We wended our way northward to NY, then to VT. We drove through Wilmington, VT and I stopped so we could see the park the Pathfinders worked on back in September after Irene rolled through. What a difference!

Municipal park in Wilmington, VT - After

Municipal park in Wilmington, VT – After


If you don’t remember, here’s what it looked like in September when we mucked it out.
Municipal park in Wilmington, VT - Before

Municipal park in Wilmington, VT – Before


Can you see the difference? I thought you could!

We finally rolled into our driveway around 7:30pm. I unloaded the trunk, but that was about it. I was too tired to do much of anything else. Sitting on your duff for three days straight takes it out of you!

I am back from the NNEC Pathfinder Fall Camporee, and sufficiently recovered now that I can type without falling over from exhaustion.

Executive summary: it was a huge success.

We arrived Friday evening about an hour later than I had intended. One of the kids was running late, and I didn’t think to force her onto the “late train” until it was too late. The “late train” is the vehicle that leaves last to pick up the kids who can’t get out of school early, and I know there was one seat available there. I got as far as calling the late train conductor and reserving a seat, and then calling the parent of the kid who was late. But by then she was within minutes of arriving, so we just waited.

It was pouring rain when we arrived. Luckily, our camp site had a lean-to on it, so we were able to pitch our little tents in the dry and then move them out into the rain and stake them down. I love using little tents, and I will add this to my long list of reasons why.

It poured all night and was raining when we woke up. I got everyone up at 6:00am and got the breakfast crew started on breakfast. Even with an early start like that, it still took forever to get breakfast ready. I am still trying to figure that one out. I think I am going to try to recruit a cook for the camporees. Most of the other clubs do this, and I understand that things go much more smoothly that way. I will still have the kids cook when we’re having a club campout and I am in control of the scheduling though, because they need to know how to do that. It’s just that I don’t think they need to learn that skill when we’ve got a ticking clock racing us.

We made it to flag raising on time, and three kids from our club raised the American flag. Then we had Sabbath School and church in a pavilion. During one of those service, the refugee girls from our club presented a song in Kirundi – the language of Burundi. It was very well received, and they did a great job.

About the time church was over, it finally quit raining. Then we had lunch. Mike Ortel, the president of our conference ate with us, and I enjoyed chatting with him. He’s a great guy. We also had Kurt Amos over for lunch. He’s a new area coordinator with our conference, and he was running this camporee. I really like him too. He was unable to stay for lunch though, as it was once again taking the kids an eternity to get the food ready, and since Kurt was running the camporee, he was unable to stay long enough to eat. I hope he found food somewhere.

By the time the kids finished eating, it was already time for the afternoon activities to begin. They had not yet washed their dishes, so I made the executive decision to send them along anyhow, and I did their dishes for them. David offered to stay behind and help me, and I very much appreciated that.

When we finished the dishes, we had the choice of finding our group in the activity rotations, or just relaxing a bit. We decided to relax, so we kicked back for half an hour and chatted. Then we caught up with our group as they finished the last two rotations.

Then it was time for a supper of grilled cheese, which seemed to go a lot smoother than the previous two meals. Maybe that’s because grilled cheese is so easy to make. Also, my friends Robbie and Coral were cooking for the Portsmouth club and had way too much soup. They gave us about two gallons of it, and it was delicious. That saved us from having to open our canned tomato soup (we’ll use it on the next campout).

We went to the evening program, the highlight of which is always a talent show (well – without awards or judging). David had written a skit (including lots of easy-to-learn parts for the kids). It was mocking an infomercial advertising “Stench-B-Gone” a fictitious deodorant. His skit was hands down the best one presented. If there had been awards and judging, this would have won.

We went to bed after that, and got up early Sunday to get ready to work the hurricane relief project I had lined up for the conference. Somehow, breakfast was ready in record time and we were ready to go when we needed to go.

Paul, David, myself, and two teen boys from my club drove up there together and checked in at the Chamber of Commerce where we met Sarah Shippee, who was our contact. She took us down to the park and explained what needed to be done.

I had intended to take lots of pictures while we worked, but found that if I did that, I couldn’t get much work done. It’s hard to shovel mud or pick up debris with a camera bag slung over the shoulder. I did get a few shots though.

Tennis Court

Tennis Court


This is the tennis court where the bulk of our work was done. We had about 90 Pathfinders there. The court was covered with mud about two inches deep, and we shoveled all that out. We also cleared the debris from the fence. The water line went up about 8 feet on the fence.

Two of my girls (one being Beth)

Two of my girls (one being Beth)


Here are two girls from my club (one of them being my daughter, Beth) picking up sticks, leaves, and trash all embedded in the fence and caked on with mud. We did this for a while when Paul decided that having 90 people in this one spot was not terribly effective. He asked me to take a group to the other park Sarah had shown us and work on that. I think it was a brilliant move, as there was a lot of crowding in the tennis court and its surrounding area.

Here is the trash we removed from the other park.

Debris pile

Debris pile


There must have been a hundred miles of yarn in that debris. My guess is that a low-lying yarn store was just upstream. We also found a lot of fire wood. I found that particularly heart-breaking, thinking about some guy diligently cutting, splitting, and stacking firewood to warm his house this winter, only to have it all swept away in one night. We stacked the firewood in a separate pile. I hope somebody picked it up and will use it, even though we only found a small pile. Still it might have been enough wood to heat a house for a week.

Around 11:30 we headed back to the tennis courts. A lot of people from Wilmington stopped and thanked us. Some honked and waved, so we waved back.

A thankful resident with her two kids, Harry Sabnani, and Sarah Shippee

A thankful resident with her two kids, Harry Sabnani, and Sarah Shippee


The lady on the left in this photo walked to the site with her two kids. She is a resident of the area and was just beside herself with joy that we were there. She cried and everything. The guy in the middle is Harry Sabnani, our conference Youth Director. Paul answers to him. The woman on the right is Sarah Shippee who arranged the project for us. She was fantastic too.

By lunch time we had finished clearing debris from the park as well the tennis courts. It was an amazing difference, and I failed to capture that difference with my camera. Sorry about that!

Some people from Home Depot had set up a free barbeque and invited our group to come and eat all the food we wanted. Little did they realize that most of our group was vegetarian, and that eating pork is against our religion. But they also had sodas, cupcakes, cookies, and bottled water which the kids gleefully accepted.

I talked with some of the people there while the kids ate cookies. He wanted to know who we are, so I gave him a briefing. He thanked us several times for coming out, and I thanked him for feeding us cookies.

Then we all headed back to Molly Stark State Park where we had been camping. We had our closing ceremonies, broke camp, piled in the car and ate a sack lunch on the way home.

I heard several people tell me that they thought this was the best camporee they had ever been on (in spite of the rain). I was absolutely thrilled that we were able to serve that community. I think it would have been a crime for us to camp in the middle of a disaster zone and do nothing more than roast marshmallows.

When I got home I had six wet tents to pitch, but I just tossed them onto the deck too exhausted to do anything about them. I pitched them this evening though, and when they are dry, I will take them down again.

I am still pretty tired! And now I need to go down to the basement and see if I can figure out why the washing machine doesn’t spin. :-/

I spent part of last evening on the phone with some people from Vermont. Those of you who have been following this blog for the past month or so can probably guess what that was about – the Pathfinders have a volunteer assignment to help clean up after Hurricane Irene.

Our Conference Pathfinder Fall Camporee has been scheduled for Molly Stark State Park in Wilmington, VT for about a year. Actually, it’s been a little longer than that. It was either last year of the year before that we were scheduled to have our Camporee there, but there was a tremendous storm in the forecast, so we had to back away. This was more than a thunderstorm, but less than a hurricane. I think it has taken us two years to get back to Molly Stark.

My first Camporee in the Northern New England Conference was at Molly Stark, and I was looking forward to going back there.

Then came Irene.

It didn’t look like we would be able to camp there at all, since parts of Wilmington were unreachable by road. However, Molly Stark was (and is) still reachable, and it sustained little damage (even though it was right in the thick of it).

My involvement with Pathfinders and Adventist Community Services – Disaster Response (ACS-DR) put me in a unique position to try to get our organizations to coordinate and help out. I thought ACS-DR might deploy to set up a warehouse, but that did not happen (we do not have a formal agreement with Vermont yet). Then I asked our conference Pathfinder leadership if they would be open to having us help out while we were there camping. They were open to it if I could find us an opportunity.

So I went back through ACS-DR who went through Vermont’s VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster). Things were moving along, but slowly! Finally I got a deadline from the Pathfinder leadership – if we didn’t have an assignment by Friday, we would not be able to help. As Pathfinders, we needed time to organize the clubs in our conference and have them ready to work. That’s not a surprise we can spring on the clubs when they arrive ready to camp.

The organizations in Vermont got back to me initially saying that they were still buried. People didn’t know what they would be doing in two days, much less in a week. I was bounced back up the chain, and a guy at SerVermont kept at it. He put me in touch with someone in Wilmington, and she had the perfect opportunity for us – cleaning river debris from the municipal park.

I closed the loop with the Pathfinders last night, went to bed, and then had a hard time sleeping, wondering how we were going to manage to volunteer on Friday afternoon (we had proposed two times – Friday afternoon and Sunday morning).

I met with Paul at church this morning – this is the same Paul who has been teaching the Fire Safety and Fire Fighting honors to our club. He is the Pathfinder Leadership in our Conference, and he is a member of my local church. He had decided to cancel the activities that had been planned for the Sunday morning of the Camporee and serve that community instead. We were a go (he apparently thought that Friday was not a very workable option either). He sent the official announcement out to all the conference Pathfinder clubs this evening describing our assignment. The description included the list of tools I received from my contact in Vermont: wheelbarrows, pickup trucks, a few chainsaws, yard waste bags, iron rakes, flat shovels, work boots we can get wet, work gloves, and nitro gloves to wear underneath them.

I think it would have been a crime for a large youth-oriented service organization such as my beloved Pathfinders to camp in the middle of a disaster area and do nothing more than roast marshmallows.

All systems go.

Spider on Sandogardy Pond

Spider on Sandogardy Pond


I was at Sandogardy Pond Saturday and saw this spider hanging out on the surface of the pond. I think it’s pretty cool the way they can take advantage of surface tension to walk on water.

In other news, I just wanted to say that I am astounded Vermont has not been getting more news coverage following TS Irene. In my blogroll I have a link to Little Bang Theory. I have been reading his blog for a year or two. He lives in Western MA near Southern VT, and he has some jaw-dropping photos of the devastation there. His account is heartbreaking.

Next month the Pathfinders are scheduled to have our annual Fall Camporee at Molly Stark State Park. We expect clubs from all over VT, NH, and ME. But I just don’t see how it’s possible that we will be able to camp at Molly Stark after looking at the photos. Google Maps has removed portions of route 9 in southern VT, because Irene has removed portions of it from the face of the earth. Molly Stark is on a closed section of that road (which is a major thoroughfare in that area).

There’s a chance that I will deploy with ACS after all. We do not have an agreement with the state of VT, so setting things up will take longer. Also, I don’t know what good a warehouse would do, since it is not possible to deliver goods to the stricken areas of VT via the roads. You can’t get there from here!

Today I went to my first VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster) meeting. It was about a 15 minute walk from my office, so I went ahead and walked.

They were throwing around acronyms like a defence contractor (I would know, having spent 13 years employed by one), most of which I had no clue as to their meaning.

The meeting started at 11:00am, and they served pizza at noon thirty. I had no idea how long one of these couldbe expected to go, and for whatever reason, I had it in my head that a long lunch would be sufficient to attend the entire thing. But they hadn’t even gotten half way through the agenda by 1:30, so I bailed.

I’ll go to the next one if I can, but with a better clue as to how long I can expect it to go (i.e., forever).

After work I went to the church again to work on our renovation project. I taped and slapped some mud on a few joints, while Kevin and Brian framed up the new doorway in the hall. Jonathan dropped me off and then headed out for supper (I wasn’t hungry yet, having eaten my fill of VOAD pizza), and then on to class.

He’s finished with his statistics class now, and his grade is plenty high enough that he doesn’t have to take the final exam (hoorays!) He was pretty stoked about that. He needed a 79 on his last unit test, and knocked out a 95. He needs to sign up for the fall semester now.

In other news…
Va called me sometime during the day asking if I was expecting a package from Fair Point (our bankrupt telephone company). Nope! But there it was anyhow – a box full of Internet access. They have been putting real-estate type signs up all over the place declaring that they have broadband in our area, but since we’ve been happy with our current ISP (the local cable TV monopoly) we saw no need to switch.

But I guess Fair Point didn’t see it that way. Va called them and asked them why they sent that to us. They explained to her in no uncertain terms that we had ordered it three times in the past six months, which is absolutely false. They were insistent, and even got a tad belligerent with her. She threatened to cancel our land line, and they said something like “That’s your prerogative.” Maybe they didn’t know that it was not an empty threat.

I really see no reason for a land line any more. We’re going to get another cell phone and give it to David. I had been thinking we’d try to port our old number to his phone, but then he’d be all the time getting calls from the pharmacy, dentist, and relatives, and since their message would somehow get through, they’d have no reason to update their records. By abandoning the number, that won’t happen. David won’t get those calls, and the callers will have an impetus to actually update their records. Once we get a fourth cell phone, we’ll pull the plug on Fair Point.

It’s our prerogative.

Yesterday I went to Freeport, ME to attend another Disaster Response seminar. This one was held during Camp Meeting, which is an annual gathering of Adventists from all over the conference, and usually lasts about a week. Our conference (Northern New England) covers Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

Peter Robinson is our conference ACS-DR (Adventist Community Services – Disaster Relief) coordinator, and he asked me if I would be willing to serve as the conference’s NH state coordinator. We talked about it yesterday, and I agreed to take it on.

This means I will be attending some “VOAD” meetings. VOAD is for Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster… response. It consists of several organizations including the Red Cross and Salvation Army, as well as several other churches. Our church is not currently represented.

I will also be responsible to recruit more NH volunteers for disaster response, and I will need to finish my certification, which means taking the seminar I had to miss on Friday on account of Jonathan’s graduation.

Today at work, one of the guys had brought in a bunch of tomato plants that he doesn’t have room for. I took most of them – 16 in all – so I could plant them in my pathetic garden.

David had an orthodontist appointment late in the afternoon, so Va proposed that we all meet and have dinner somewhere to mark Father’s Day. OK! I choose a Mexican place within easy walking distance of my office. After David’s appointment, Va parked at my office and we walked over from there. It was pretty OK! Then I took the kids and Va ran some errands.

When I got home I dug up my garden and planted the 16 tomatoes in a 4×4 grid. Then I got my pruning shears and bow saw and started clearing some trees so my garden could get a little western sunshine. We’ll see if that improves things or not.

I usually only plant stuff I really like, and it never does well. I have failed at squash, corn, and beans (the Three Sisters), as well as several types of greens. I really like all those veggies. I like tomatoes, but I don’t love tomatoes. This is a sure indicator that I will have more tomatoes than I can shake a stick at. It happened in Virginia when we lived there. I tried planting all kinds of stuff I really love, and it never amounted to more than half a serving. And then I planted tomatoes and had more of them than I could eat. We’ll see if I have a repeat.

Last night I drove up to Maine and stayed in an Econolodge in Waterville. That was still about an hour away from Bangor, where a Disaster Response seminar was being held. I got up around 7:30, had some breakfast in the hotel (which had no wifi except in the lobby), and then pressed on to Bangor. I got there a little before 9:00am.

That’s when I learned that this seminar was one that I had already taken in Portland late last year. Groan. That was a four and a half hour (each way) trip pretty much wasted. And of course, I felt pretty stupid. The thing that fooled me was that this seminar was described as hands-on, and the one I attended was not hands-on at all. None the less, it was the same seminar. I figured this was “Part Two” but I was (very) sadly mistaken.

I stuck around anyhow to refresh my memory and eat lunch. It was supposed to end at 5:00pm, and for all I know, it did. But I left at 3:30 or so. I figured my memory was refreshed enough by then.

I did stop on the way home and pick up a geocache. This one was in the 43/70 sector of New Hampshire (that is to say, the latitude was 43 degrees and some change, and the longitude was 70 degrees and some change). There’s another cache in NH called the nine degrees of New Hampshire, and to claim that one, you have to find caches in all the nine degrees. I now have four of the nine.

Still, it was a long drive.

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