The whorled loosestrife has bloomed.

Whorled loosestrife (Lysimachia quadrifolia)

Whorled loosestrife (Lysimachia quadrifolia)

Penny woke me up from a nap this afternoon, so I went outside (it was beautiful). I was tooling around the backyard when I noticed the loosestrife in bloom. As I was taking the picture, Beth was sneaking up on me. She’s been trying to do this for some time, but I usually detect her when she’s quite a way off. Not today. She was right there when she announced her presence. I think she was pleased with herself (I know I would have been).

Then she asked if I wanted to go to Sandogardy Pond, and of course I did, so we stopped in the house for Penny’s leash and then set out.

The bugs weren’t bad, and the temperature was right around 70, or maybe even below (it’s 66 now). She talked pretty much the whole trip, which I enjoyed. We picked up trash, and she couldn’t figure out why people would just throw it on the ground like they do. I have to admit that it boggles my mind as well.

When we got to the pond I walked along the edge of the water looking for pipewort, but found none. Instead, I found a plant that I did not know:

Stiff marsh bedstraw (Galium tinctorium)

Stiff marsh bedstraw (Galium tinctorium)

These flowers are tiny. I don’t think they’re even an eight of an inch across, and that made them pretty difficult to photograph. Autofocus couldn’t find them, so I had to whip out the tripod, put my finger next to the bloom, let it focus on that, move my finger, and then press the button (with a two-second delay since the exposure time was longish). This one came out semi-respectably. I found another clump of it further down the beach, and since it had a denser cluster of blooms, I took a shot of it as well.

Stiff marsh bedstraw (Galium tinctorium)

Stiff marsh bedstraw (Galium tinctorium)

Then I looked it up in Newcombs (3 for 3 petals, 4 for whorled leaves, and 2 for smooth leaf margins, or 342). That’s the same index number as trilliums, but the index number is really just to get you close. Bedstraw was on the next page.

This is an unusual plant in that it’s a 3-petaled dicot. Most plants with three or (six petals) are monocots (i.e., narrow leaves, with parallel veins in them, like corn and lilies). The dicots have broader leaves (in general) and have branched veins.

I can’t think of another 3-petaled dicot. I may have to open the books again!

In other news, I have finally gotten around to working on restoring those canoes again. Miss Nancy is ready to varnish. Once that’s done, I can make her a new thwart, attach it, and mount the two seats, and she will be ready to paddle. Miss Emma will need gunwales attached (I milled them last fall), re-varnished, and then she can get trimmed out with the thwart-seat combo I made last year, plus her two original seats. Miss Sally only needs a section of gunwale repaired, and then have her thwart reattached. That’ s pretty much all that’s left.

We might get to paddle them by September.

I have almost finished building a new deck for Miss Nancy. I inlaid our Pathfinder Club’s logo with zebrawood.

Central New Hampshire Flames Logo on a canoe deck in zebrawood

Central New Hampshire Flames Logo on a canoe deck in zebrawood

First I drew the logo onto a couple of quarter-inch thick pieces of zebrawood. Then I cut it out with a coping saw and placed it on the deck (which I had previously glued up from maple and walnut). Then I hit it with a light layer of spray paint, because that seemed like a good way to trace it. Turns out, that’s not precise enough, so I ended up laying the zebrawood shapes on the deck again and tracing them with a sharp knife. Once I had the shape transferred, I deepened the cuts with a very sharp knife and scooped out the in-between with a chisel. That was the hard part. For whatever reason, the elbows on both arms took the brunt of the soreness. It took me all day yesterday to get it to where I could fit the pieces into the cavities.

Then I mixed up some epoxy, added a bit of ash sawdust (well… sanddust, since it was from sanding, not from sawing) and mixed that in. Having the sanddust in there gives the epoxy a more solid look, and I wanted that in case there were gaps between the zebrawood and its cavity (and there were).

With the epoxy mixed up and poured into the cavity, I set the zebrawood in place, and then poured more epoxy on top of it to fill in any voids. Then came a part that was even harder than scooping out the cavity – waiting for the epoxy to set!

I left it overnight. The zebrawood was about an eighth of an inch higher than the deck, but that was OK. I had borrowed Warran’s benchtop sander (he’s one of the Pathfinder staff members), so I turned the whole thing over on top of that and sanded it until the zebrawood was level with the deck and the spray paint was gone.

I still have to square off the bottom, and varnish the underside (that would be difficult to do if I waited until it were installed). I will varnish the top side after it’s installed, and I am tempted to cover it with a layer of fiberglass just to be sure that zebrawood stays in place forever (fiberglass is transparent when it sets up). Before I can install it, I have to measure the required bevels so that the edges are flat against the gunwales. It will be a rolling bevel, meaning that it is different up at the tips verses down at the base. That part is not easy either.

This deck is a bout 18″ long. It’s funny that something this small is even called a “deck,” but it is. The decks go between the gunwales at either end of the canoe. One normally thinks of a deck as being something that can be stood upon. I suppose you could stand on these, but unless your balance was exceptional, not for very long!

Canoe seat/yoke

Maple & Cane

Last night I finished the new canoe seat/yoke for Miss Sally, the 19′ cedar strip canoe I am restoring for the Pathfinder Club. She had a thwart when I got her, but it was a rough, unplaned, pine plank with a yoke notch apparently chopped into it with a hatchet.

I was just going to make a plain yoke, but decided a seat/yoke combination would be a better option. This canoe is 19′ long after all, so having a seat in the middle is a definite bonus.

The frame is made of maple, and the side bars are set into the cross bars with hand-cut mortise and tenon joints. I didn’t make the mortices very deep because I didn’t think it was necessary and I was afraid it would weaken the cross bars. When someone sits on the seat, it’s going to pull those joints together rather than push them apart.

I went with a cane seat because all of the other seats are cane. I had never made one before, but it’s not that hard to do (the Internet knows how to do almost everything). Caning the seat took me three days of fairly dedicated effort, and the tips of my index fingers and thumbs are pretty sore for the effort. But I think it was worth it.

The cross bars are currently four feet long which is wider than the canoe. I will cut them to size when I am ready to install the seat. I can’t do that until I make some new gunwales though.

When I do mount it, I am going to put the yoke toward the stern. Normally, I mount a yoke on a canoe so that when I am carrying it, it goes bow first. However, if I did that, then the person sitting on the seat would have that uneven yoke edge poking into his thighs. This will be far more comfortable for any bow-facing passenger.

Even though it just seems wrong to carry a canoe stern first!

Sorry I haven’t posted anything here in a while. I just checked and saw that I hadn’t written anything since I went for a hike on New Year’s Day. Time flies by when you’re having fun!

I’ve spent a lot of my time this week working on one of the cedar strip canoes I bought on behalf of the Pathfinder Club back in August. This one will be named “Miss Nancy” after Nancy Nichols, a much-loved member of our church who died a couple of years ago. The other three will be named “Miss Emma” (after Emma Haggett), “Miss Sally” (after Sally Machia), and “Miss Margaret” after Margaret Meyers. All of these women are deceased members of our church, and all were connected with the Pathfinder Club to some extent or another. I like having them named this way.

Anyhow, here’s what I found when I stripped the glass off Miss Nancy’s stem:

Miss Nancy's Stem

Miss Nancy’s Stem

She was a mess! I wiggled the stem to see how sound it was, and snapped off a six inch section. I will have to fashion a new one. It might be tricky getting it installed, as that normally happens before the planking goes on (the planks are attached to the stem). But I think I can manage. I’m going to try to heat it up to get the rotted stem out. I’ve already traced the shape onto a piece of cardboard which I will transfer to a piece of particle board. The new stem will be formed around that. Then I’ll have to add a rolling bevel. I’m going to also make an outstem while I’m at it, so this canoe will have a proper and complete stem!

Shaving the hull.

Doesn’t that look so much better?

Once the glass was off, I still had lots and lots of epoxy on the hull. I’ve been working on getting that off too. If it were just a light layer of epoxy, I’d leave it alone, but it’s a quarter inch thick in places! So off it comes. My preferred tool for that is a spokeshave, and that will be followed by a random orbit sander. Unfortunately, the velcro on my sander’s foot pad has lost its grab, so a disc stays on for about a minute. I have ordered a replacement part.

The problem I had with using the spokeshave is that this canoe is unsupported. Thus, when I apply pressure to the spokeshave, the canoe gives, so I can’t really press the blade into the wood without just pushing the wood out of the way. Normally when smoothing (or fairing) the hull, the canoe is still on the form so it doesn’t do this. But I don’t have a form for this one. But I do have my own canoe, and since Miss Nancy has her seats, gunwales, thwarts, and decks removed, she fits nicely inside mine. So I lowered mine from my garage ceiling and found that it made a pretty decent mold. By doing this I was able to spokeshave off a lot of epoxy (and smooth the planks so they are no longer offset from one another).

I have to be careful in doing this, because a spokeshave is a lot like a hand plane, and a sharp, well-tuned hand plane is my favorite tool. When I built my canoe I enjoyed the planing a little too much, doing so with what Alan Greenspan at the time would have called “irrational exuberance”. The net effect was that I reduced the thickness of the hull to zero in one spot. I ended up replacing that plank, but the lesson was learned – don’t overdo it on the planing!

I got my car back from the shop on Monday. It’s nice to have it back, but somebody put a canoe in its parking place! Since I’m waiting for a part for my sander, I decided to just hoist Miss Nancy and my own canoe up to my canoe’s regular parking spot.

My canoe embraces Miss Nancy

My canoe embraces Miss Nancy

Now I won’t have to scrape the frost on my windshield in the morning. Speaking of which, at least until my employment situation changes, I will be teaching computers (and programming) to the grade 6-8 students at our school starting tomorrow. This is a volunteer position.

I guess I need to prepare a lesson!

For the past three or four days I’ve been stripping the fiberglass off a cedar strip canoe. This is one of the three I bought back in August for the Pathfinder club, and it is most definitely the worst of the three. It would be generous to say that it was inexpertly fiberglassed when it was built. Whoever did it did not get the glass to lay flat on the hull, so there are wrinkles and waves about every foot or so. Not only does that not look good, but it allowed algae and spiders to set up camp between the fiberglass and the hull.

Algae growing beneath the gunwales.

Algae growing beneath the gunwales.

I read on Canoe Guy’s Blog that you can remove fiberglass from a wood/canvas canoe using a heat gun. I have a heat gun, so I whipped it out and gave it a shot. It worked marvelously! I had been dreading this step thinking I was doomed to several hours of tedious sanding.

Today I finished removing the glass from the inside of the hull. It is looking so much better now. The original builder (let’s call him OB) “corrected” his wrinkled glass errors by pouring some kind of gunk on it. I don’t know what it is, but it’s a light yellow color and has something like a latex feel to it. Or wood filler. Or carpenter’s glue. I just don’t know what it is, but it was sure ugly, and I don’t think it was very effective either (didn’t keep the spiders out). I removed a bunch of that too. I think OB must have used some bondo on the hull to instead of fairing it properly with a plane, or using epoxy+wood flour as filler. I’ve been chipping that crap off the hull too.

He also didn’t take the planks all the way to the stem.

Planking is shy of the stem

Planking is shy of the stem

He should have made the planking overlap the stem so that the planking had something to attach to. Instead, he glommed on more of that latex/whatever stuff and a quart or two of epoxy. The stem is a mess, but it’s salvageable. Normally a canoe will have an in-stem and an out-stem. All he has here is an out-stem. I will make an in-stem and epoxy that to the inside of the out-stem as well as to the planking. I think that will do the trick. I believe I should do that before I strip all the crud off the canoe’s nose, or the planks will just spring apart. They are threatening to do that up at the top where I have already removed a lot of the junk.

I also got a start on removing the glass from the outside of the hull.

Pulling back the glass

Pulling back the glass

I think I will wait on finishing that until I have made and fitted the new in-stem.

I didn’t take a photo of the inside of the hull like I should have. It looks so much better now that the glass is off. I will still need to sand it though, and then smooth it with a hand plane and a sander. But it will look so much better once it’s glassed properly. This – the worst of the three canoes – will probably end up looking the best, because I am taking it down to the wood. I can’t afford to do that to the other two, as it will take a full gallon of epoxy (which runs about $90) plus about 12 yards of 60″ wide fiberglass (which I haven’t priced yet, but it’s not cheap either).

Glassing should be done at about room temperature, so I can’t do that until I get some space cleared out in the basement or until the weather warms up. And speaking of weather, we did end up with a white Christmas this year. It snowed about an inch over night. The better news is that we have another foot or so on the way starting tomorrow night.

Maybe I can get some snowshoeing in then.

Saturday Va took the Adventurer Club to Ken’s farm. I worked on a few patches with my group (Trees and Beavers). Va worked with her group on something else, but I don’t know what. The plan was to go down to a beaver pond after that, and since the weather was threatening, we decided to make the run sooner rather than later.

Ken took us down to his brother’s farm where there was an active beaver pond. I would say they have been quite active by the looks of this tree.

Beaver-cut tree

Beaver-cut tree

It was at least 18″ in diameter. I like how the heartwood never gave up, bending rather than breaking.

In short order we found ourselves at the edge of the pond. They had built the largest beaver lodge I had ever seen. It was at least three times larger than the biggest one I had seen before that day.

Massive Beaver Lodge

Massive Beaver Lodge

This monster was about eight feet tall and a good twenty feet wide at the waterline. It had to have been even bigger beneath the surface.

The kids gathered at the edge of the pond, and I wanted to get a shot of that with the pond, then them at the edge, but with their faces showing. I saw a little spit of land jutting out into the pond, and thought I’d go out on that to get the angle I was after. Bad Move. I stepped onto what looked like solid ground, and my foot began to sink into the mud. Before I could shift my weight to the other leg, I was in up to my knee. It took five minutes to extract my foot. When I did, my boot was still firmly attached to my foot, and I count that as a good thing. My sock was even dry, which is a testament to this boot (a Scarpa if you must know).

The sky opened up before we were done, so we high-tailed it back to the cars and headed for home.

Meanwhile, the Pathfinders were out distributing bags to the south end of Concord as we do every year. It’s phase one of our annual food drive. I did not join them, as I was helping Va with her group. She’s short on staff, and I have an embarrassment of riches in that department. So my staff handled the Pathfinder project quite ably as I helped Va with the Adventurers.

Phase two came the next day. We used to give people a week to gather food, but found that giving them a day works just as well. For as many people who don’t give because they need to go shopping, we used to have as many who would forget because an entire week went by. It all comes out in the wash.

While we were out collecting the filled bags, I spied this awesome plow truck.

Work Horse

Work Horse

I shot that photo through the unwashed passenger window from the driver’s seat, so there’s plenty of room for the photo to have improved. But I was more interested in the subject of the photo than in the artistry.

The Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) is in full swing now.

Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)

Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)

I’ve been working on those wooden canoes I bought for the club a little while back. I have one outwale removed from the 19-footer now and most of the inwale too. The gunwales (inwale+outwale) were attached to the hull with no glue, and I needed three different types of screw drivers to get them off (flat, Phillips, and a square S-2).

I bought a 20′ long ash board today at Goose Bay Lumber in Chichester. I went there during lunch, and hadn’t been planning on that trip ahead of time. Thus, I didn’t have a way to get it home. I left it at the lumber yard and asked Va to bring my roof rack when she came to Concord to pick up Beth from school. She obliged, so after work, I went and got the rack and then the board. I also bought some shorter lengths of ash and a 4′ length of maple, I will fashion a new thwart from that.

I need to rip the 20′ ash plank into four 5/8″ pieces now. I haven’t decided if I want to try that on my table saw or if I want to try to talk Ken into doing it for (or with) me. Once I have it ripped into four chunks I will cut scuppers into two of them to serve as inwales. Before attaching them though I will need to resand the hull and probably add some fiberglass here and there. It sounds like a lot of effort, but I don’t think it really is.

I’ll keep you posted.

I haven’t been taking many pictures lately as I have been a very busy person. That’s a poor excuse as I read blogs written by busier people, and they somehow manage to take pictures even when they are busy.

Because of this, I am digging back a couple of weeks into photos that didn’t make it here because I was too tired to post. Looking at them, I think I know the story they want to tell:

Summer’s going fast,
Nights growing colder
Children growing up
Old friends growing older

Those are lyrics to an old Rush song, and I think of them at this time every year. They are appropriate.

So here are the photos.

Black Nightshade (Solanum americanum)

Black Nightshade (Solanum americanum)

I found a large stand of these in Concord last week. Many people believe them to be toxic, but they are not only quite edible, they are eaten in large quantities in both Africa and South America. I learned that fact only this year, so have avoided the berries. But I will try them hopefully this fall. Tomatoes, being in the same family, were also once believed to be poisonous, and were thus eschewed by Europeans, even in the face of incontrovertible evidence of their edibility – Native Americans ate them with aplomb.

Growing near the black nightshade I found some butter and eggs.

Butter and Eggs (Linaria vulgaris)

Butter and Eggs (Linaria vulgaris)

This is such a cool plant. It’s in the snapdragon family, and is one of the (seemingly) few non-composites that persist until late into the summer.

The City of Concord has a little garden at he corner of Storrs and Pleasant Street. That’s where I discovered this Kousa dogwood.

Kousa Dogwood (Cornus kousa)

Kousa Dogwood (Cornus kousa)

For a long time I didn’t know what this was, and since it was in a garden, I didn’t try very hard to find out. Gardens often feature strange hybrids or non-native plants that you will never see in a Field Guide, and that makes them doubly hard (for me) to identify. When it flowered, I knew it was a dogwood, and armed with that info, I was able to figure it out. As it happens, the fruit of the Kousa is also edible. I’m waiting for these to ripen, and then I plan to raid The City of Concord’s little ornamental garden.

This stuff is growing like a weed in the church yard.

Rabbit tobacco (Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium)

Rabbit tobacco (Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium)

I think what I like best about it is that its genus name contains the word “dognap” in it. As a result, that’s what I call it when I’m talking to myself. Also, it’s a neat looking flower.

Today I did a little more work on my canoe. I hauled it out of the garage and began sanding it down again. I hit it with some 80 grit paper on a random orbit sander. It’s coming along nicely, and I managed to finish about two thirds of the port side. (I think it’s the port side – the boat’s upside down on a pair of sawhorses, and that always makes it harder to figure that out). Once I finish both side with the 80 grit, I’ll hit the gunwales, and then go over everything with some 150. Then… varnish and declare victory. With any luck I might be able to have it on the water next weekend.

Today I got to the school at 9:00am to help on getting it ready to open in eight days. I worked on some of the playground equipment with Ken.

A while back we bought a climbing dome – sort of a half buckeyball I guess. When it was originally assembled, some of the bolts were stripped and/or the threads ruined so that they could not be fully tightened. Also, the health inspector insisted that we anchor all twenty of its legs to the ground with concrete. It took 14 bags.

Another crew was working on the inside of the school gluing baseboard to the wall and other such things. I helped in there a bit too, making miter cuts to some trim around the windows. One of the guys suggested that we could not proceed because we didn’t have a compound miter saw on hand. Pshaw! I had a handsaw, and I am far more accurate with it than I am with a power tool. So I did the cuts, and they came out very well thank you. Also, thank Roy Underhill of the Woodwright’s Shop, as I learned the technique by watching him do it on PBS.

At about 5:00pm, Va, Beth, and I broke away and got some supper at Applebees. Then we headed back to the school for the annual birthday party (the school is three years old now).

I had left my camera at home, so I was unable to get any photos (though Va did have hers, and if I had been sufficiently motivated, I could have used it).

Now I’m home, utterly exhausted. I need a bath (too tired to stand in a shower), and then maybe to bed.

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.

Today after work I decided to do a little more work on Beth’s log cabin. I stripped a log of bark with my drawknife and fitted four notches. I need to set two more short logs and then the cabin will be four logs high. A couple of weeks ago I dragged a couple of pallets to the cabin. I plan to use them as the floor. I have three of them from when I had insulation delivered to the house, and that should be sufficient.

I would like to put a thatch roof on this. The main reason I want to do that is so I can photograph the process and flesh out the Thatching honor in the answer book I’ve been working on since forever ago. My main obstacle is that I don’t have long grass to use. I could possibly use cattails, but I don’t have any of that either.

At the church we do have some long grass that I think I could use. It’s growing on the berm that separates our new playground from the wetland. There’s a narrow patch about 300 feet long I guess, and it’s about three feet high. That might do the trick. I just need to clear it with the church board and harvest it. Oh – and then figure out how to thatch a roof.

The other thing I worked on this evening was a game I’m putting together for the company picnic next month. It will take the form of a ladder with rope uprights and wooden rungs, and it will be strung between a tree and the ground at a 45 degree angle. Each end will be anchored at a single point so that the whole thing will twist and throw the climber to the ground if he loses his balance. The goal is to make it to the top and ring a bell (which I will need to procure). I am using some of the trees I thinned to light up the garden earlier this week. I cut them to 30″ lengths yesterday, and today I stripped three of them of their bark and smoothed off the knots with a hand plane. I need to get some rope and figure out how I want to attach it to the rungs.

I could either bore holes in each rung and pass the rope through them, knotting them in place, or I could gouge out some grooves to lay the rope in and tie it that way. Haven’t decided!

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