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.

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.

Tomorrow after church, I will lead the Pathfinders on a food drive, so there are plenty of things that I need to do before then so we can be ready.

Can Collecting is done in two phases. During the first we distribute bags with letters stapled to them. The letters explain what we’re doing, and how the recipient of said bag can help. Phase two is when we go around and collect the bags.

In the morning I need to make 300 copies of the letter (I bought some orange paper for this) so the kids can staple them onto the bags. I also need to prepare maps so I can hand them out to the drivers, and I need to figure out which kids are going with which drivers. Each driver will also need copies of the medical release forms in case of emergency. So I have some photocopying to do tomorrow.

Two years ago when we did this, we were working the collection phase, when one of the kids (a first-year member) went up to a house, looked in the bag on the porch, and then returned to the car without it. Here’s how that went:

Girl: I don’t think that one was for us.
Me: Did it have food in it?
Girl: Yes.
Me: Then I think it is for us. Who would leave food in a bag on their back porch on the very day we’re collecting cans for a food drive?
Girl: I dunno.
Me: Go get the bag.

She went and got the bag. When we got back, we were sorting the food, and we found one that had tulip bulbs in it. And fertilizer. It only took me a couple of moments to realize what had happened. She thought the tulip bulbs were onions, so when I asked if there was food in the bag, she thought there was.

We had stolen someone’s gardening supplies.

The next day I returned to the house where we had found the bulbs. There were bags of mulch piled up along the sidewalk, and all kinds of gardening evidence. I rang the bell, but I secretly heaved a tremendous sigh of relief when no one answered. I put the bag of bulbs (and fertilizer) back on the porch and made a hasty retreat.

Hopefully, we will not repeat that error this year.

When I got home I took the dog out and checked in on my garden. It would be difficult to characterize this year’s effort as a success. The three sisters are a bit… sickly. I just don’t have enough sun I think.

So far I have harvested a grand total of nine green bean pods. And the beans are done now.

I have two squash that are roughly the size of my pinky, and both are growing on plants with three stunted leaves. Not a lot of hope for converting sunlight into squash there, but who knows. They might pull a rabbit outta that hat. But I sure doubt it.

The corn never got more than four feet high. All the stalks have male flowers (the tassels) and female flowers (the silks), but shortly after I planted them, I read that you need about eight times more corn than I planted for them to pollinate one another. The silks have no substance beneath them to suggest a cob, much less kernels.

Next year I may need to cut some trees down to give this patch a little more light. But I hate to cut down my (living) trees because I actually like the shade. I might cut down a small cherry though, as I don’t think it’s anything more than a coppice anyhow. Plus it’s a tent caterpillar magnet.

On the other hand, I have harvested about three quarts of blackberries on the place. I didn’t plant a one of them. I didn’t water them. I didn’t fertilize them. But there they are. I picked another double-handful of berries tonight in fact, and there were prolly double that still on the canes out front (but my hands were full).

Maybe I should stick to edible wild plants.

Today, for the first time in about a month, I cut the grass. I’m pretty sure the last time I cut it was just before we went to KY at the beginning of July. It’s not that it didn’t need it before now, it’s more like, this was the first time it has been dry enough when I had time to do it.

When I pulled the mower out from under the deck (which is where I park it), two American toads (Rufus americana) came bounding out from there. Not being terribly eager to cut the grass, I went back in the house and fetched the camera. I set it up and approached the larger of the two toads. It leapt under the deck. Ahhh, forget it. I’ve got plenty of toad pictures already.

My lawn is fascinating to me. Most people who take pride in their lawns do so because they work very hard to turn it into a monoculture – one plant species, and always a grass at that. I probably have 30 species of herbaceous forbs in my yard (meaning not grass). Before I got started, I set a rock near the bluets. They volunteered in my yard, and as of right now, that little patch is the only place I know where they are still blooming. I do not want to cut them down! Last year I did just that. The rock saved me from making the same error this year.

I also cut down a lot of wood sorrel, some oak ferns, Indian tobacco, red clover, white clover, hop clover, birdsfoot trefoil, hawkweed, dandelions, fleabane, Queen Anne’s lace, yarrow, various asters, goldenrod, milkweed, and plantain. To me this is far more fascinating than some boring monoculture. And you can believe it when I say that I didn’t cut down all of any species. If I don’t know of another place where something grows on my property, I will mow around it. For example – the bluets. I keep a weedy section in the back too. It’s too rocky to mow, and I get boneset, milkweed, loosestrife, and goldenrod in abudence there. That’s also where my monkey flower and ground nut grows. Also some cow vetch. And asters galore. But mostly blackberries.

I think I’ve got some lavender growing in the middle of the back yard too. It’s pretty low though, so I didn’t put a rock by it. It must have escaped from the garden. I’m sure it’s better off in the middle of the yard too, because is sure ain’t makin’ it in the place I planted it four years ago.

Speaking of the garden, I killed only one Japanese beetle today, and it was on a milkweed plant. My squash bloomed yesterday too, and today I found five more blossoms. We’ll see if it does anything this year or not. The corn seems somewhat dwarfed. I guess I just don’t have enough light. The beans are a bit on the sparse side too, and that was before the beetles invaded.

Tonight on the way home, I stopped at the home of two of my Pathfinders. I wanted to make sure they were both ready to go to Oshkosh with us next week and give them their T-shirts. When I got there, I found that one of them had changed his mind and would not be joining us.

This did not exactly make me happy. They did not buy their tickets because they cannot afford them. Instead, some donors covered that cost for them. Easy come, easy go.

An email went out to all the Pathfinder directors in our conference yesterday, asking if anyone had a ticket (they have been sold out for months). In the back of my mind, I suspected that I might, because this kid has a history of agreeing to do things like this and then backing out. Frankly, if he doesn’t want to come with us, I would rather he no go. So when I got home, I answered that email. Yes, I have a ticket. So now someone who really does want to go will be able to. She can’t afford it either. I did contact our donor and clear it with her before committing the ticket.

In other exasperating news, I got a message from another Pathfinder tonight. He’s on vacation with his family, and they wanted to know what time we were leaving Sunday morning, and if there was anything else they needed to know. Well, there was plenty! Like we want all of their stuff at the church Thursday evening so we can load it up. I do NOT want to be loading stuff on Sunday morning. We have arranged to spend the first night in a church (for free) in Ohio, and I want to get there before 10:00pm. I have asked that they FedEx his stuff to Oshkosh. The other monkey wrench this throws into the works is that I need his medical release form by Thursday too. Filled out and signed. I have to make copies of these – one for each staff member, and each kid wears the original in a plastic badge holder. I need time to make those copies, stuff them in envelopes for the staff, and fold & insert the original into the badge holders. Looks like there will be some faxing in his future.

I killed about 20 Japanese beetles tonight. Plus I killed at least that many Friday, and again on Sunday. These little blighters are doing a number on my green beans. I am probably going to break down and buy some Sevin for them to dine on later this week, as I will not be able to pull them off and crush them when I’m at Oshkosh next week.

While I was out beetle-killing, Beth came out and reminded me that I wanted to go to the library tonight. She had some books that are due tomorrow, and I wanted to go check the place out and get a library card. So we did that. I checked out a book on macrame, and another on house painting. Not that I am all that interested in either. Rather, I would like to learn about them so I can write up some answers to the Macrame and House Painting – Interior honors in my Wikibook project.

My approach will be to actually earn the Macrame honor first, then write it up. I may do the work twice – once to earn the honor, and then again a second time so I can photograph the steps to illustrate the chapter. Of course it would not hurt to photograph the steps the first time either, and if everything turns out OK, I’d be finished. Yeah. I’ll try it that way.

As for house painting, I have done that more than once. I just wanted to see what the professionals had to say about some of the finer points.

Friday was Beth’s last day of school, so I didn’t have to pick anyone up or drop anyone off on the way to work. I managed to sleep 30 minutes later and still get to work at 8:00, so that was pretty OK.

Yesterday I made a pile of rocks in the shape of a wall. I’m working on another 4’x4′ raised bed for the garden. My goal is to eventually have six of those. Dunno where I’m going to get dirt to fill it in with, but it will need about a cubic yard. I’ve got a compost pile going in the woods, so maybe I’ll try to get that cranked up another notch.

If I end up having some loam delivered, I will wait until I have all five of the new beds built. I will use rock on those too, not because it is superior in any way, but because I have plenty of it on hand for free (money, not labor). I do kind of like the way the rock looks too. Maybe by the time I finish building all the beds out of stone, I’ll have some inking of how to lay dry stone. Or not! As I said, right now it’s a pile of rocks in the shape of a wall. Kinda.

I haven’t logged any bloom at the bloom clock in about a week I guess. I’ve been taking pictures like crazy, but I just haven’t had the motivation lately to log them. Looks like a dead project 😦

The columbine put out a new blossom today. I thought it was all done, but today it had one brand new flower on it. Here it is:

Wild Columbine

Wild Columbine

We had our Investiture service yesterday, and it went pretty well. We were both up late on Friday evening getting things ready for it, but for the most part, we aced that. I did have a few kids not finish their work, so I had to remove some insignia from their cards. That’s not too hard to do though. When they do finish their work, they’ll get their patches.

The slide show had a couple of hiccups. Dunno why, but it DID use PowerPoint and Windows. It’s probably not legitimate to blame that, but I will anyhow.

I managed to sleep until almost 9:00 this morning. That felt pretty good. I didn’t have anything planned at all today. It was raining in the morning, but not hard. Beth and I took Penny for a walk down to Sandogardy. I saw a patch of pink lady’s slippers still in bloom – ten strong. All the ones at my place are finished, and have been for about a week. I also saw a lone false lily-of-the-valley still in bloom. Plus my first whorled loosestrife (Lysimachia quadrifolia) in bloom. I found the kernel of a bullhead lily that had washed up on the beach and gave that to Beth. She wanted to plant it, but I explained that it wouldn’t grow. It hadn’t made it far enough along to turn into a seed yet. She was, however, inspired to ask me to help her plant some seeds in flower pots so she could sell the plants.

We’re going to give that a try, I guess. I bought her seven packs of seeds, seven clay pots, and one bag of potting soil. She planted them, and we used the label maker to label each pot. She planted two pots of cosmos though, because the other packet she had selected was sunflower. Don’t think they will grow in a four inch pot. We’ll find some other place to plant those.

I’d like to get some daylilies and some irises growing along the driveway. I’ve been offered some free irises – all I need to do is go dig them up. Sometime.

Friday I saw a bloom that I had failed to identify last year. I had given Va my camera’s big memory card, so I had my little tiny one with me. The tiny one will hold a mere six photos at full-res, but I was out logging blooms, so I needed more than six photos. Therefore, I had the camera set to lo-res mode, and took a picture of this plant. When I got home, poured through my books, but I couldn’t find it. Then I scoured the Internet, and still no dice. Finally, I uploaded it and asked the people on WIkipedia’s Project Plants what it was. I had an answer in about an hour: Black Swallow-wort (Cynanchum louiseae). It’s not in any of my books (sometimes a plant is in there, but I fail to find it. Not this time).

The Wikimedia Commons only had two photos of this flower, so I decided that on Monday I would venture out with my tripod and camera and see if I could get a half-way decent one at full res. Here’s the result:

Black Swallow-wort (Cynanchum louiseae)

Black Swallow-wort (Cynanchum louiseae)

Of course, the version on this blog is not full res, because no matter how big the picture is, the biggest I can show it here is 510 pixels wide. If you are so inclined, the full-res version is here.

I have of late taken to setting the camera in manual mode. I’m still kinda learning what all this stuff means, but from what I can tell, the larger the f-number, the better the depth of field (which is how much you can focus the foreground and background at the same time – I guess). That tends to make the picture dimmer though, so to compensate, I have to increase the shutter time. Then if the camera moves, the picture is blurry. Thus the tripod. I also tend to set the camera to delay two seconds before taking the picture so that the tripod can settle down after I violently press the “take the picture” button. Well, not that violently, but any shaking at all tends to blur the photo.

I took a very nice photo of some Partridge Berry (Mitchella repens) yesterday doing this. That was a bit tricky because this stuff grows in the woods where it’s nice and shady. The exposure time was one second. No way I can hold a camera still for a full second, but with the tripod and two second delay, it came out pretty OK!

Partridge Berry (Mitchella repens)

Partridge Berry (Mitchella repens)

Friday I dug up several large rocks around the edge of the yard. I did this for two reasons: I want to build another raised bed for my garden using free, non-toxic material, and sometimes the mower blade hits these things. All I managed to do though was dig them out and make several piles. By then I was too wiped to carry them over to the garden. Also, I left my wheelbarrow over at the neighbors house.

Tonight I decided to fetch the barrow and move some rocks. So Beth and I mosied on over. We chatted for a while and checked out their garden (the one I helped put in). It seems to be doing better this week than last. There was really heavy rain that knocked down a lot of their transplants. They replanted a bunch of stuff, and I think it’s looking much better.

On the way back to the house, I noticed that they had a bit of sheep-laurel (Kalmia angustifolia) in bloom. I have some of this on my place too, and I have been waiting for it to bloom, but it has not yet. I’ve also been watching a patch at Sandogardy Pond, but I can’t check it as often. So I was delighted to see this stuff on their property. Didn’t have my camera though, so no photo. Maybe tomorrow.

I wheeled the barrow the rest of the way home and stopped at the first rock pile. I loaded them up and pushed them about 50 feet when I could hear the air racing out of the tire. I stopped. I had to. The tire was still hissing madly and going completely flat. So I carried the rocks the other 100 feet to the garden and heaved them onto the ground. Then I pumped up the tire, but it wouldn’t hold air. A quick examination revealed that the stem was completely shot. So Beth and I drove to Tilton and bought a new innertube. I also picked out a straight 10′ 2×4 for my ger project.

When we got home it was Beth’s bedtime, so I neither fixed the flat nor worked on the ger. Rather, I put her to bed. Then I placed my second order for Investiture supplies, and here I am, blogging about it.

I’ll write more about the ger as that progresses. So far, I’m $3.04 into it.

Today I planted my tiny garden. It’s only a 4’x4′ raised bed, and this year I have decided to plant what the Native Americans called “The Three Sisters” – corn, beans, and squash. The corn provides a pole for the beans to climb. The beans fix nitrogen, and the squash provides a layer of shade to slow evaporation. The squash is also said to provide those little stickers to keep out the bad guys (wascawy wabbits?) , but I don’t know how effective that is.

Of course I did it all wrong. I planted all three today, and that was my first mistake. I should have held off on the beans and squash, so I will wait until they come up, pluck them out, and replant when the time is right (i.e., when the corn is 4″ tall). I have plenty of seeds, since the seed vendors never expect that some dolt is going to try to put out a 16 square foot garden.

The second mistake I may have made was that it’s probably still too early. It got down to freezing last night, and I expect it will again sometime. Oh well. I have lots of corn seed too.

The third mistake is that my garden is too small to effectively pollinate corn. I have read that you need a 10×10 foot area. My plan is to make three more raised beds and arrange them in a square, but I will need three more yards of soil for that. Dunno where I’m going to get it either. The raised bed I do have I made by dry laying a stone wall, and then filling that in with the yard of topsoil the contractor left here when the house was built. I guess I could order a truck load, but I don’t know if they would even consider delivering three yards.

My fourth mistake… has yet to be pointed out, but I’m sure there is one.

In other news, the Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis‎) finally opened today, so I logged that. This is the first time I’ve noted when it opened. Before, I stumbled upon it sometime in June, well after the bloom opened.

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