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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stove in action

Stove in action

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

The trail is snuggled up alongside several stone walls.

The trail is snuggled up alongside several stone walls.

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

View from the top

View from the top

On the way back down we saw this weird pool.

An odd pool

An odd pool

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

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

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

Beth plays during some downtime

Beth plays during some downtime

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

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

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

I glassed the inside of Miss Nancy today. First I had to sand the interior hull, and I guess that took about an hour. I used up my last sheet of 40 grit paper and had to switch to 80 before I finished. That took about an hour or maybe two – I don’t know what time I started. But it was ready to glass at noon, and the temperature was right at 70 degrees – perfect.

But first I ate lunch. Once that job starts, there’s no stopping until the first layer of epoxy is on. First I cut the glass cloth to length and laid it in the boat.

Ready for epoxy

Ready for epoxy

I smoothed it out as best I could, and then started wetting it out with epoxy, starting about a quarter of the way from the bow and working towards the bow stem.

Wetting out the bow.

Wetting out the bow.

Up near the stem was far and away the most difficult place. There’s not a lot of room there, and you can’t even think about applying the epoxy with the squeegee. I had to use a paint brush. I got epoxy all over my sleeves too, but I knew that was going to happen before I got dressed this morning. So I was prepared.

Once I reached the stem, I went back to the starting point and started moving towards the stern.

Moving aft

Moving aft

I cut the glass off at the sheer line as I progressed. That was because the weight of the dead glass was pulling the “live” glass off the hull up near the gunwales. Removing the weight put an end to that.

It took me four hours to get the first layer of epoxy down.



Then I needed to wait three hours and add the second layer. By then Beth was home from school and excited about going to “Safe Kids 500,” a bicycle safety event at the New Hampshire Speedway. That was the first I had heard about it, but it sounded too cool to pass up. They would have helmet checks (etc) and then the kids got to ride their bikes around the racetrack. It was just over a mile long (Wikipedia says it’s 1.058 miles). It took her about five minutes per lap which I guess is about 12 MPH.

After the first lap

After the first lap

I would not have been able to go at all except that Eric and his daughter Joy were planning to be there too. Beth really wanted me to be there, and I kinda wanted to see it and get a few pictures. I still had two hours before the canoe needed the second coat of epoxy, so I was in.

After Eric & Joy arrived, I didn’t stay too long at all. Epoxy waits for no man.

Leaving the infield

Leaving the infield

I got home just in time for the second (and final) coat. That one only took about thirty minutes since the glass was all in place and it doesn’t need to soak in like the first coat does. I’m not sure I’ll be able to work on it any tomorrow, but if I do, it will be time to sand the epoxy. I didn’t have time to “scupper me gunwales” (which I like to say in a pirate voice) so that task still awaits. Once they’re scuppered, I can attach the inwales & decks, then the outwales, then the seats and thwart. Actually, I need to make a thwart, but that’s a fairly quick task since it will be a simple yoke with no seat (unlike Miss Emma’s yoke).

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. 😉

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!

Yesterday I dropped my car off at the body shop. It will be there for about three weeks. Then Va and I went to the church to wait for Beth to get out of school. I decided to explore the wetland behind the church. Before I got to the edge of the woods (before the wetland) I came across this iris pod lying on a bed of moss.

Iris pods

Iris pods

A little further into the woods, and we find some of the forts that Beth and her schoolmates build on a routine basis.

Teepee fort

Teepee fort

I like that they get to do this. I think the most fun I had as a kid when I was Beth’s age was in building forts in the woods. This generation appears to be fairly adept at the practice too.

I finally got to the wetland.

I found I could navigate my way through it by hopping from one clump of trees to the next. After about five minutes of that I broke through to the other side and came to a tiny creek that drains he wetland.

I had to walk along its banks for about thirty yards before I found a place narrow enough to cross. From there it was an easy trek back to the church (over higher ground).

Last spring while I was out looking for a geocache I took a “shortcut” back to the car. I quickly regretted it, as the shortcut led me into a bog and my shoes were getting soaked. It turned out to be rather fortuitous though, because the bog was filled with wild cranberries. There were still berries on the plants even after the winter. I decided I would return when the new cranberries were out.

I’ve thought about that bog many times since then, and even a few times after the new berries came in. But it wasn’t until today that I made time to pick some.

The bog is in a very surprising place. It doesn’t look anything like a bog.

Cranberry bog? Yes.

Cranberry bog? Yes.

This bog is on a power line right of way. Indeed, this is where the infamous “Northern Pass” project would go if it were ever approved. I don’t know if it will be approved or not, as it is very nearly universally loathed by the New Hampshire public. But power companies have deep pockets, so who knows?

That aside. I went to the bog/power line right-of-way today after lunch. The plan was to pick some cranberries until it was time to go to Durham to fetch Jonathan from college.

Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon)

Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon)

I had about a cup of them in my little food storage tub when my phone rang. It was Va, and her “check engine” light was on. So I abandoned the bog, drove to Walmart, and bought a gallon of 5W20. Then I met her at the church and added half of that to the engine.

Don’t know if that’s why the light was on or not, but that’s what the car has been doing. My mechanic can’t find an oil leak, and the plugs are clean as a whistle. But it goes through oil. I’m taking it in again next week. But that’s an aside.

School was almost out, and I thought Beth might like to pick some cranberries with her old dad. And I was right. We ran a few errands, and then went back to the bog.

My helper

My helper

We picked about a quart, which was all I needed for a recipe I had heard on NPR (not Susan Stamberg’s recipe, but a different one).

Then we headed to Durham to fetch Jonathan. He came riding up on his bike just as we parked in his lot. He disappeared into his dorm to get his laundry, etc, and then popped out again. I made him drive home.

He had a good week at school.

After we got home, and after we ate supper, I got out my cranberries and washed them off. I also had to pick the stems off each berry. That’s a lot of work! With the berries clean, I hopped on the Innerwebs to find that recipe, but all I could seem to find was Susan Stamberg’s. I guess a read a dozen recipes for cranberry relish, and I figured that gave me about all the info I needed. I made up my own.

  • 4 cups WILD cranberries, picked today.
  • zest from one orange
  • 1/2 cup water
  • innards from one orange
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon

Wash the cranberries and remove the stems. I guess they don’t really have to be wild or picked today, but since that’s all I had…

Put the cranberries in a sauce pan. Grate off some orange zest into the pan until you get tired of grating off orange zest. Then slice the orange in half and scoop the innards into the pan. Add half a cup of water, 1 cup of sugar, and 1 tbsp of cinnamon. Mix it all together and bring to a boil. I guess I boiled it for 20 minutes. I stopped when 90% of the cranberries had burst open. I thought about boiling it until all of them did, but decided I liked being able to see a few whole berries in there.

Then I poured it into a plastic storage dish. Thought better of that, and poured it into a ceramic bowl. You could skip the plastic storage dish step if you’d like. I will next time. I covered it with plastic wrap and popped it in the fridge. It’s supposed to sit in there for two hours, and maybe it has been two hours by now.

I’d take a picture, but I’d have to clean the kitchen to Va’s satisfaction first, and I don’t want to do that. I can’t eat a quart of cranberry relish before it goes bad all by myself (and no one in my family is interested in trying it), so I will take it to our potluck lunch at church tomorrow.

Maybe I’ll take a picture of it then.

Today when I wasn’t looking, Beth got into some of my things.

A Spitting Image

A Spitting Image

It started when she found a name tag that I had a while back. She’s wearing it in the photo, but I don’t think you can read it (flash photography is not my forte). That inspired her to get my hat, jacket, and boots. I completed her guise with my camera bag.

Now if only she could grow a beard…

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