Today after supper I decided it was time to hay the lawn. Or mow it. It was pretty tall. I’d have cut it days ago except that it has been rainy. In actuality, I cut the front lawn and had Jonathan cut the north lawn. David was to do the south lawn, but it started raining by the time Jonathan finished his segment.

American Toad (Bufo americanus)

American Toad (Bufo americanus)

While I was cutting the front lawn, the mower chased four frogs out of the grass and into the woods. So I shut off the mower and went in for the camera. Frog photography is more important to me than short grass!

Last summer, frogs were conspicuously absent from my place. I used to see green frogs, bull frogs, American toads, wood frogs, spring peepers, and even a pickerel frog on occasion. But that was not the case last summer. I hardly saw any. It looks like they might be making a comeback now.

I think the frog absence was because my neighbor flew into a panic. She and her daughter have both been diagnosed with Lyme’s disease, so she got a pest control company to give all the neighbors quotes for spraying our property. This is the same person who refused to put DEET on her kid two years ago, and now she’s advocating the wholesale poisoning of even her neighbor’s property.

I did not want to have our place sprayed. I like observing (and photographing) insects and frogs. I figured that spraying would put a damper on that. So I told her I wasn’t going to do it.

Then I heard from the kids in the neighborhood that the pest company had indeed sprayed our property when we were not at home. I do not know how reliable that information is, so I said nothing, but I think she paid them to spray our place.

Then this spring we got a renewal notice from the pest company, which raised my suspicion even more. I called them and made it clear to them that they were under no circumstances to spray my property. They insisted that they had not, but could not explain why we had received a renewal notice if there was nothing to renew. I was pretty irate.

After I hung up I noticed that the address on the renewal notice had the wrong address on it. Our street skips numbers, and this was a number close to ours, but non-existent. It’s the same address that our neighbor uses when she sends Christmas cards, etc.

I called the pest company back and told them that I think they had our address wrong. By then, there was no way they were about to admit having sprayed our place without proper authorization. And honestly, if my neighbor was less than truthful with them, it was really not their fault. Too much (they should check these things!) But I guess business is business.

Of course this is all conjecture, and I’m not a litigious person. But all the same, I’m pretty sure I know what happened, and I’m not happy about it. Other than this incident, we have been on good terms with our neighbor, and I wish to remain on good terms with them. So I will not pursue this.

Then we had another neighbor move in (different house). I stopped and chatted with this guy last month, and he asked about the catchment pond. He was sure that it was causing his yard to flood. I explained that the city had built the pond, that they had a right of way to do so, and that they come and remodel it every couple of years. Therefore, there wasn’t much I could do about it, so if he wanted something done, he should contact the city.

Instead, he came onto my property at night with a flashlight strapped to his head, and dug a ditch, draining my pond! This didn’t make me any happier than when my other neighbor had my yard sprayed. This pond is where the green frogs and bullfrogs live, and without water, they pack their bags and move out.

I assessed the situation from an engineering standpoint. Fact: the city’s catchment pond is uphill from my neighbor’s place. Fact: draining a water body uphill from a flooded area is unlikely to reduce the flooding – instead, it adds more water to the area. Ergo: this guy is an idiot. I filled his ditch back in. If he comes back onto my place to re-open it, I will have words with him. I’m pretty sure the law is on my side on this one.

So with all the rain we’ve had the past couple of days, the pond has been refilling. And since the pest control company has been strictly enjoined from spraying my place, maybe the frogs have a chance to make their comeback. The four that fled the wrath of my mower are a very good sign.

Yesterday before I ate my lunch I headed out the office for a walk-about. It had been a while since I made the rounds, so I decided to just take a lot of pictures. This was one of the first photo-worthy things I encountered.

Rose Hips

Rose Hips

I don’t usually take photos of cultivated flowers, but made an exception here because rose hips are edible. Moving along, I found some butter and eggs.
Butter and Eggs (Linarea vulgaris)

Butter and Eggs (Linarea vulgaris)

These are very common around here. Indeed the species name vulgaris means “common” so I suppose it is aptly named. I really like the shape of the blossom.

I almost missed this next one. There were two blossoms poking up through a tiny patch of mowed grass in amongst a huge patch of grapes, goldenrod, and Virginia creeper. I guess if it hadn’t been mowed, these would never have had a chance.

Deptford Pink (Dianthus armeria)

Deptford Pink (Dianthus armeria)

Pinks (Deptford and Maiden) are both stunning flowers. This one looks as though it had seen better days, but this late in the season, that shouldn’t be a surprise. After I took this shot, I turned my attention to the weedy section surrounding the pinks and was met by this.
A Collage of Color

A Collage of Color

The purplish berries are Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), and the red ones are wild cherries (Prunus spp). There was also some pokeweed right in there among the cherry & creeper, but I didn’t manage to get a good shot with all three in there.

Next up: yarrow:

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

I often find crab spiders on yarrow, but this one was an arachnid-free zone. This is a bloom that tends to persist well into the autumn.
Unidentified Flying Object

Unidentified Flying Object

Next I saw this lepidoptera hanging out near the railroad tracks. Maybe it’s some sort of skipper, but since I don’t know my butterflies, that’s really just a guess. I took a quick look through my Kaufman’s Field Guide to Butterflies, but didn’t spend enough time with it to even be sure it was a skipper of any sort. I bought that particular book in June, and this is actually the first time I’ve cracked it open. I should be ashamed (hangs head).
Creeping Bellflower (Campanula rapunculoides)

Creeping Bellflower (Campanula rapunculoides)

This Creeping Bellflower was struggling not too far from the railroad tracks. I think it was on its last legs. This happens to be an alien species from Eurasia, and is probably a garden escapee.

I ended my journey by going into Market Basket to buy something to eat for lunch. While I was in there I saw one of the employees who I kind of know. He lives near my house (near Sandogardy Pond), works near my office (Market Basket), and shares my first name (Jim), so we do have a few things in common. He had seen me crouching down with the camera pointed at a pile of weeds thirty minutes before we greeted one another in the store. I showed him some of the pictures I took, and he seemed to appreciate it. I know I always enjoy talking with him.

With food in hand and photos in camera, I headed back to the office.

Today I came home right after work instead of stopping at the church to work on the remodeling project. It’s really the first time I’ve had a chance to wander around the yard in the daylight since before we left on vacation on July 31. One of the first things I did was head for the neighbor’s yard to check out the fire damage.

Burn Pile

Burn Pile

I suppose it must have been pretty scary when it was happening, but it doesn’t look like the reports we had received were very accurate. For instance, it was on the other side of their property and not on our border. The fire never approached the stone wall between our place and theirs. The fire did expose a lot of trash and debris that had been covered with undergrowth, but I’m assuming that the new neighbors (who had not yet and still have not yet moved in) are going to clean the place up a bit (thus the burn pile). I sure hope they do anyhow.

While I was walking around my place, I noticed this chestnut tree.

Diseased Chestnut

Diseased Chestnut

The American Chestnut was wiped out early in the twentieth century by an introduced fungus that causes chestnut blight. We still have chestnuts here, but they don’t get taller than 20 feet or so, and the trunks never exceed three inches in diameter (like this one). These sprout up from dead chestnut stumps, grow for a few years, and then die off. I do not know for sure, but I’m guessing that the white powder on these leaves is the fungus. Nope. Chestnut blight is a fungus that attacks the bark. After having looked at several photos, I know I’ve seen bark like that on my chestnut coppices though. This leaf fungus could possibly be Sphaerotheca fuliginea though.

Woodland Sunflower

Woodland Sunflower

These are finally fully in bloom now too. It’s a Woodland Sunflower (Helianthus divaricatus). By the time I took this shot though, the sky was pretty overcast and the sun was low in the sky (i.e., low light). To compound that, it was breezy, and the flower was swaying back and forth, so the shot is not what I was hoping for. It still turned out semi-OK though.

Beth and I picked about three pints of blackberries today. I’d like to make a pie from them, but Beth wants to do something else. She doesn’t know what that something else is though – just that it’s “not pie.” I’ll probably make pie anyhow.

We got back from our trip to KY last night around 7:30 pm. I didn’t get much of a look at our neighbor’s fire damage, and it was not terribly obvious from the road as we pulled in. I think it was a backyard event.

And now that we’re back, things really kick into high gear.
Progress was made on the school remodelling project, but much remains to be done. I went there tonight and did a little, and will return again tomorrow evening as well. School starts in 11 days, so this is becoming ever-more urgent.

As part of the school expansion, the kindergarten class will meet in Va’s kindergarten Sabbath School room (there will be two kindergartens – the Monday-Friday version, and the Saturday version). In order to help them share the same space, but still have independent programs, I have offered to build a contraption so that the two kindergartens can both have bulletin boards in the same place (but not at the same time). There will be a panel behind which one of them will get lowered as the other is raised. It should be pretty easy to change from one to the other, as they will weigh about the same. Right now the design is in my head, but I need to translate that into wood.

I also have to change Va’s felt board so that it will be easy to move from one room to another. I built it in a hurry six years ago, and it’s a little on the flimsy side. I need to build a new, sturdy base and put it on casters. That design is also in my head (though not in as much detail yet), and like the bulletin board contraption, needs to be translated to wood.

I still need to set up the computer lab for the school, which means relocating the terminal server and running network cables to the workstations. They also want a workstation in the kindergarten room.

And did I mention that Pathfinder Honors Week is next week? Yup. As the director, I’ll have to be there each night for that too, though I am only teaching on one of them.

It is a little overwhelming.

Va called our neighbor to get any news about the fire next door to our house yesterday. Apparently, the new owner got a three-day burn permit to get rid of some brush. What he didn’t know was that the lawn had a nice layer of accelerant of some sort on it, so when he lit his brush pile, FWAKKOOOOM! and the whole yard lit up. The house was not burned (not his, and not ours). The fire department got there pretty quickly, especially when you consider how far they are from our house. The kept it from spreading to our property, though it did make it to the stone wall that serves as the boundary.

Now that makes me worry about our well. The water in the ditch downhill from our neighbor has always looked nasty – nasty enough that we are always careful to prevent Penny from drinking from it. What was this accelerant? How did it get there? Is it in our water now?

These are not happy thoughts.

We are on the road and have been for a couple of days now. Today we stopped in VA where we lived for 18 years until 6 years ago. We went to church there and discovered that we only recognized one face in ten. That was surprising, because when we left, we knew ten faces in ten!

Former slave lodgings at the Ben Lomond Manor House

Former slave lodgings at the Ben Lomond Manor House

After church we went to our old neighborhood, primarily because someone had hidden a geocache there and I wanted to log it. It was hidden at Ben Lomond Manor House. Beth and I had no trouble finding it, and then we all hung out for a while to let Penny stretch her legs. The manor house was used as a field hospital during both Battles of Manassas during the Civil War. The photo above shows where the manor’s slaves lived.

While Penny stretched her legs, I moseyed on over to the rose garden.

Normally, cultivated flowers do not hold my interest, but since they had so few “weeds” in bloom, I decided to take a look, camera in hand. To my delight, I saw a hummingbird moth (Hemaris spp) darting among the flowers. I had never even heard of these until last week when I saw a photo on a blog I read. Here’s the shot I managed in my excitement:

Hummingbird moth (Hemaris spp)

Hummingbird moth (Hemaris spp)

After a bit we got in the car and resumed our drive. On the way, Va got a call from our neighbor back behind us. Seems the house to the south of us was fully engulfed in flames, and she wanted to be sure Penny wasn’t in our house. It must have been quite a spectacle.

One of the sad things about this incident is that we never once spoke to the people who lived there over the past five and a half years. They moved out last month, and put the house on the market. The sign came down quickly, and Beth says she had seen a couple unloading a moving van into the house. I thought it was still empty. I hope they were OK, but I really don’t have any other news on that front.

The forecast for tonight is for us to get about an inch of snow. The North Country (i.e. Northern New Hampshire) is supposed to get 6-10 inches. Wow.

Fish and Game got back to me today and confirmed the identity of the wood turtle I saw yesterday. They also thanked me for the report, so yay me!

I noticed today that Google Maps finally has updated imagery of my house. Their previous imagery was taken before the house was built (construction started pretty close to six years ago). What was also painfully evident in the new imagery is the logging that was done about a quarter mile from my house. I still grieve for those woods, but at the same time, they weren’t mine, and I wouldn’t want anyone telling me I couldn’t cut them down if they were mine. Here’s what it looks like from space:

The green arrow is the forest that is now a field. The red A is a random something Google decided to plop down on the map. I’m not going to try to figure out how to make it go away, so you’ll hafta live with it I guess. It’s not my house.

It has been raining here all day, so I didn’t spend much time out in it. I did meet Jonathan at Dos Amigos for lunch, and then we headed back to the office together after we got our burritos. On the way I stopped and took a couple of photos of the redbud blossoms:

Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)

Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)

I walked around for five or ten minutes in the woods looking for starflowers (Trientalis borealis), but didn’t find any. Yesterday when I was doing that though, I found a book belonging to the Concord Public Library. One of the neighbor kids left it there. Beth has been playing with these kids a lot lately, and they all seem pretty nice. But I don’t think I’ll loan them any books! I made the kid who claimed it take it in his house right now. A couple weeks ago I found three pairs of kid’s footwear (two pairs of shoes and a pair of boots) by our swingset. They had been rained on. I had Beth deliver them to their house, and their mom was pretty relieved to know what had been happening to her kid’s shoes. I don’t know which kid they belonged to, but they were all the same size, and I’m guessing the inventory might have been significant;y depleted at that point.

Today marked the beginning of a new routine, mostly for Jonathan, but really, it affects the whole family. Jonathan had to get up at the same time as Beth, Va, and I. (Actually, I always stay in bed for about another 10 minutes.) He rode in to Concord with us, and we dropped Beth off at school.

Then I dropped him off at NHTI. As I was about to drive off, he flagged me down. He had forgotten his student ID, which is a free pass to use Concord’s bus/trolley system. I fished out some cash and gave it to him, then I went on to work.

His first class didn’t start for another hour (at 9:00), and it ended a bit before 11:00, just after the trolley left the campus. So he had to wait until 11:30-ish to catch the next one downtown. From there he walked to my office, and we went to eat at Subway (the restaurant, not a mass transit system). Then back to my office. We found an empty one where he could camp out and do his math homework. He also spent some time figuring out his schedule and entering it into his laptop. Meanwhile, I worked.

We rode home together at 4:30. Tomorrow he’ll ride home with Va. Of course, this leaves David at home alone with just Penny for company, but I imagine he’ll manage OK.

This weekend has some incredibly complex logistics. Jonathan, David, and I are going to Woodstock, ME for Pathfinder Leadership Training. We will meet two other PF staff members from our club there, Melissa and Jessica. It’s a three hour drive from my house, so after I get off work, I’ll swing by the house, pick up the boys, and off we go. Hopefully, we’ll get there by 7:30 when it starts. We’ll spend the night at the home of some church members from up there whom we haven’t ever met.

In the morning, we’ll go back to Leadership Training. After the morning session, I will drive to Concord again so I can be there to see four of my Pathfinders get baptized. Melissa will ride with me because she has something she needs to do Saturday night. After the baptism I’ll go home and spend the last bit of the Sabbath there with Va and Beth. Then we take Beth to the neighbor’s house where she will have a sleep-over, and Va and I will go to my company’s holiday party.

Meanwhile in Maine, Jessica and the boys will attend the afternoon and evening sessions of the training, and then Jessica will transport Jonathan and David to the home of our hosts where they will spend the night. Luckily, Jonathan is 18 now, so I’ll have an adult there to manage the minor. Then Jessica drives back to NH because she has to work Sunday morning.

I can’t stay at the party too long, because I’ll have to get up at like… 4:00am. groan. That way I can be back in Maine to get the boys at 7:30. We’ll go back to Leadership and have breakfast and attend the morning sessions. Melissa will come back as well, but on her own. She’d have to get up at 3:00 if we were to drive up together. Then after lunch, we’ll all come back home again, probably exhausted. Here’s a graphical summary:

Graphical representation of the weekend travels

Left to right (at top), Melissa, Jessica, Me, Jonathan, David, Va, Beth

I think that’s about 14 hours of driving for me this weekend. So I am unlikely to post here until Sunday, and even then, I might not, as I could be pretty tired!

Snowing in Concord

Snowing in Concord

Yesterday I was wishing it would snow again since the rain made bare spots in the lawn. Today I got my wish. I was sitting at my desk with my back to the window oblivious to the weather. Then I turned around and this is what I saw. Snowflakes as big as basketballs. Well, maybe golf balls. They were big for snowflakes anyhow. I guess we got two inches.

When I got home the first thing I did was clear the driveway with my new snowblower. I am pleased to report that I didn’t even break a sweat as I did this. With the old snowblower, I would most definitely break a sweat every time. Maybe I shoulda kept it around though, because I really don’t get all that much exercise.

Once the driveway was cleared Beth and I trudged our way across the road to our neighbors and brought them the last fruit basket. I would have brought it to them on Christmas Day, but I saw them leave just before noon, and they were gone for a long time. Go figger!

It would be safe to say that I am not hungry at the moment. We went to our neighbor’s house for Thanksgiving and had a pretty good time. Poor Penny stayed home alone, but she had plenty of exercise earlier in the day. I had taken her out for a bit and kicked the ball around, and then a little later I finished raking the yard. All the while I raked, she would bring me the soccer ball, and I’d kick it into the woods for her. Then she’d tear off after it and bring it back again.

Then Daniel (our neighbor and David’s friend) came over, and he and David took Penny down to the pond for a bit. While they were off doing that, Beth had gotten out the Easy Bake Oven. I helped her with that, and we made a miniature yellow cake which we shared. As soon as we polished that off, we put on our coats and walked up my trail through the woods and over to the neighbor’s house.

They love Va’s chocolate pie. Daniel decided to have dinner at his Dad’s house (our neighbor) rather than at his Mom’s house because he was told Va would be bringing pie. Mmmm. After dinner we played some games, and then we came home again. Penny was beside herself with joy.

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