Last weekend I went on our annual spring camp out with my Pathfinder Club. I was afraid I was going to have an adventure since I did not have as much time to plan as I usually take. But there were no adventures, so all was well.

We camped on my friend Ken Haggett’s farm. We have camped there many times in the past, but this time we moved to a new area since we discovered last year that our old camp site is prone to flooding. I wrote about that last year so I don’t need to rehash it. The new area is quite a bit drier.

I had several goals for this trip. Every year we make plaster casts of animal tracks. Sometimes we find tracks out in the wild, but in a pinch, we will take our old casts, impress them in some sand, and cast those. We do this to meet one of the class requirements for the Companion class, but don’t have time every year to earn the full Animal Tracking honor. I like to make the time every 3-4 years, and this was one of those years.

The Haggett Farm has a lot of wild turkeys, and sure enough, we had no trouble finding their tracks.

Turkey track

Turkey track


I have been wanting to cast a turkey track for a long time. I have even stopped the car a couple of times when I’ve seen turkey’s cross the road in front of me, got out, and looked for tracks. But that never came to anything. But now we have cast this turkey track in plaster, and have added it to our collection. We also made casts of deer, frog, squirrel, and coyote tracks over the weekend, but we already had examples of those.

On the way back from casting these, I took a photo of some Bluets (Houstonia caerulea).

Bluet (Houstonia caerulea)

Bluet (Houstonia caerulea)


I hadn’t seen them yet this season, but now I can check that box.

Another I hadn’t seen yet this year was goldthread (Coptis trifolia).

Goldthread (Coptis trifolia)

Goldthread (Coptis trifolia)


I only took one shot of it and got lucky. It’s hard to concentrate on photography when you’ve got 12 kids in tow.

At one point during the trip, I aimed my camera at two of the girls. They decided to pose for me by kicking their feet up and trying to put them on one another’s chairs. That led to a slight imbalance which led to an all-out tumble.

Whoops!

Whoops!


Those are the same two girls who were wading in the ocean last year on Pathfinder Fun Day when they began splashing one another. It ended much the same way then as it did this weekend (only there was less water this year).
Fun Day 2011

Fun Day 2011

I managed to catch these flies in the act on our kitchen window screen.

Flies on the tent wall

Flies on the tent wall


They were oblivious to my lens which I got to within less than an inch of them.

On Saturday evening, Ken came down to visit with us. We had a nice fire going, and I asked Ken to tell us a story. He reluctantly agreed.

Ken getting ready to tell us a tale

Ken getting ready to tell us a tale


The first time we camped on his farm, Ken came down and told a story that was just hilarious. We have camped on his place several times since then, and until this weekend, he had not been able to make it down for a story. I was so glad he did this time.

He makes these stories up as he goes along, and it’s mostly about how he hung out with Kit Carson, Jim Bridger, John Colter, and Jason Grimes, the one-armed mountain man as they explored the Yellowstone area. These are all real people, and Ken knows his material (he teaches history at a nearby high school). As the story progresses, it gets more and more ridiculous, ultimately building up to a point where he scares the kids. They love it. Last time he told a story, it involved the legendary two-legged fur-bearing trout. This year it was the giant warm-blooded black fly (and I know exactly where that inspiration came from – the tiny, cold-blooded variety were thick).

After the story the kids played a game in the woods in the dark, so they were clearly not seriously scared. I let them stay up for a while and then sent the pre-teens to bed. When I was about to drop myself I sent the teens to bed and turned in myself. Then we had a gentle rain that lasted through the night. By morning it was pretty much done and the temperature had dropped into the 50’s. That was enough to tamp down the black flies, so it was very welcome to everyone.

After breakfast we worked on the Camping Skills honors as well as Wilderness Living. We finished Camping Skills and made a sizable dent in Wilderness Living (we’ll finish that one up in Maine in two weeks). We also practiced building a ladder from poles and ropes. That’s the other competition we’ll have at the Camporee in Maine (along with the cardboard boats).

After lunch on Sunday we started to break camp. Since we were on Ken’s farm and not at a public campground, we decided to leave the tents up to give them a chance to dry out. Otherwise the kids would have taken them down, and I would have had to pitch them again at my house when I got home. Then strike them again after they were dry. Sometimes the drying part takes 10 days, and it looks like this might be another one of those times. The forecast is calling for rain every day for the next week. Sigh. I might go back to the farm and move the little tents into the kitchen tent. I think I could get six of them in there. Then they’d have a shot at drying out before we take them to Maine.

I had the day off today, so I slept in a little (but not too much). We got a little bit of snow, but not as much as was forecast, and not even close to as much as I wanted. But I will take what I can get.

I went for a short walk around my woods and took photos of several tiny evergreens. I would hazard to guess that when most people hear of a tiny evergreen, this is what they think of:

Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus)

Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus)


This is a tiny eastern white pine. If it survives, it will not remain tiny though. I think the tallest trees on my property belong to this species. But there are plenty of evergreens that stay tiny their entire lives. Here are a few of them.

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)


Wintergreen is a tiny evergreen. The berries are delicious, and only moments passed between me taking this photo, and me eating my subject. Mmmm.

Goldthread (Coptis trifolia)

Goldthread (Coptis trifolia)


Goldthread is another tiny little evergreen. It’s roots are little gold threads. This one has two different binomial names: Coptis trifolia, and Coptis groenlandica. I learned it as C. groenlandica first, but I think C. trifolia is more commonly accepted.

Groundpine (Lycopodium)

Groundpine (Lycopodium)


Groundpine looks for all the world like a Christmas tree – except for its size. It is also called clubmoss. It is neither a pine, nor a moss, but rather, a flowerless plant belonging to its own eponymous class.

Trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens)

Trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens)


Trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens) is another evergreen. It has leathery leaves sporting sharpish hairs. It blooms early in the spring, and the blossoms are edible. I tried them for the first time last spring and found them to be quite tasty.

Sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia)

Sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia)


Sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia) is not edible. It’s other names attest to this: lamb-kill and sheep-poison. I suppose I’d have to tear it all out if I wanted to run sheep back here. But the flowers are among my favorites. Like the other plants listed in this post, it too is an evergreen.

Partridge berry (Mitchella repens)

Partridge berry (Mitchella repens)


The last evergreen in today’s post is partridge berry (Mitchella repens). I have had several kids tell me that its berries are poisonous, but this is absolutely not true. I eat them all the time, and I have found no literature indicating that it is toxic. It reminds me of a wee tiny apple; not as crunchy, and not as sweet, but it is something I would gladly eat in great quantities.

So there we have seven tiny evergreens that I found growing in my woods today.

On Saturday, I took a hike down to Sandogardy Pond with Beth, David, and Penny. I took photos along the way and while there, but haven’t gotten around to getting them off the camera until tonight. I also have been walking around in my woods snapping away over the past couple of days. Here’s what I’ve found:

Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)

Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)


Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) was once considered a premium cough remedy. It has not proven to be effective by modern science.

False Hellebore (Veratrum viride)

False Hellebore (Veratrum viride)


The photo above is False Hellebore (Veratrum viride). It looks like it would be really good to eat, with all those leafy lush greens. But that would be a mistake as it’s pretty toxic, causing the body to reject it almost immediately via emesis. Failure to purge is fatal. Some Native American tribes used this as a bravery test when selecting a new chief. The candidates would eat some, and then bravely try to keep it down. Last one to barf would be named the bravest, and thus, the new chief. But sometimes such bravery proved fatal, so they would have to go with the second-bravest-but-slightly-wiser candidate instead.
Violet (Viola spp)

Violet (Viola spp)


I’m not good a identifying violets down to the species level. There are a lot of them to choose from. This was in my backyard.
Lowbush Blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium)

Lowbush Blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium)


The blueberry blossoms are almost ready to open.
Butterwort (Pinguicula vulgaris)

Butterwort (Pinguicula vulgaris)


This little beast is carnivorous. The leaves exude a mucus that catches bugs. And here I thought all carnivorous plants were exotic and probably tropical. Never expected to find them in my backyard.
Dwarf Ginseng (Panax trifolius)

Dwarf Ginseng (Panax trifolius)


When I saw these on Saturday, I knew it was spring.
Goldthread (Coptis groenlandica)

Goldthread (Coptis groenlandica)


I think this is about the most stunning wildflower in bloom at my place right now. The white petals are actually sepals. The actual petals are those yellowish clubs hanging out between the stamens. This plant gets its name from its roots which look like little gold threads. Chewing on them is purported to be an effective treatment for mouth sores, which is where its alternate name – canker root – comes from. I took a lot of shots of these. Here’s another:
Goldthread (Coptis groenlandica)

Goldthread (Coptis groenlandica)


None of the leaves around this flower belong to this plant. I didn’t take any shots of the foliage today (shrug), but they usually show up as three wedge shaped forms joined at a central point with jagged edges on the opposite side. The leaves here are from the star flower (Trientalis borealis), but those aren’t in bloom yet.

Why Goldthread (Coptis trifolia) is called "Goldthread"
I read up on Goldthread after taking all those pictures, and meant to write a bit about it here – but I forgot!

It gets its name from its thread-like, golden-yellow roots. Another name for it is canker root, because the Native Americans and colonists alike would chew on the root to relieve canker sores. Whoduthunkit? Wikipedia does not have any photos showing the roots, so I decided I would have to dig some up and see just how yellow they are. I would say the plant was aptly named. I’ll upload this to Wikipedia later.

After my walk and after supper, I went back outside to work on Beth’s cabin:

The log cabin

The log cabin

Beth has been making all kinds of plans for this, so I guess that obligates me to finishing it. Its longest dimension is the rear wall on the left. I used yet another pine log that had its top snapped out last year (December 2008) to add to that section tonight. I cut it to length, and then trimmed off all the bark. If the bark is left on, bugs move in, because they like the semi-waterproof housekeeping that provides. I took the first strip of bark off with the axe, but then decided that was way to much work, especially since I have a drawknife down in the basement. I fetched it, and the rest came off much more easily. I cut some notches on the logs where it will lay, but by then it was getting close to dark. I still need to cut notches in this new log. Since I had the drawknife out there, I went ahead and smoothed the notches I did cut though. That does a better job than either the axe or the hatchet.

I probably ought to bore some holes through the notches and peg the logs in place too. That would just make it a little bit stronger, and it’s not that much work, so why not?

The lilacs near my office bloomed yesterday, and the redbud bloomed today. Just so you know.

Today I noticed several plants in bloom that I hadn’t seen yet this season. Some of them are kinda early too, so I was really not expecting to see them in bloom yet. The first one was Azure Bluet (Houstonia caerulea). I didn’t get a picture of this because I just barely caught it out of the corner of my eye while Jonathan and I were driving home. It was in a spot where I didn’t know it to grow too. I wasn’t 100% sure that’s what it was, but another mile or so up the road is a place where it has grown pretty thickly the past two years. I figured if that field looked the same, then that must be it. As we came upon it, there it was. I didn’t get a picture though. Moving car plus tiny flowers equals bad photography. Last year it didn’t bloom until April 27, so it’s 12 days early (as compared to then).

When I got home, I went walking around the property. I was astounded to find the blueberries in bloom:

Blueberry blossoms

Blueberry blossoms


I’ve not seen these bloom in April before. Last year I logged them as blooming on May 4. I noticed that the ones growing in the woods were nowhere near ready to bloom yet, as opposed to the ones growing around the base of the oaks at the edge of the yard.

I turned around and almost stepped on this specimen:

Butterwort (Pinguicula vulgaris)

Butterwort (Pinguicula vulgaris)


This is a carnivorous plant. It has hairs on its leaves and exudes a sticky goo that tends to render bugs (et al) immobile. This is another one that bloomed on May 4 last year. I had notice that these had sprouted an were making leaves, but wasn’t expecting them to bloom just yet.

I walked on and saw this:

Pussytoes (Antennaria parlinii )

Pussytoes (Antennaria parlinii )


This is a crappy photo too, and that’s too bad, because Wikipedia’s image repository doesn’t have a picture of this plant. I may try to get a decent one soon to rectify that, but it might snow here tonight, and it’s supposed to rain tomorrow, so I’m not likely to get a good shot of it until the weather clears up a bit.

I made my way into the woods then and took lotsa photos of trailing arbutus, but most of those have fading blossoms now (and I have already posted good pics of those in the past couple of weeks). But I was not expecting to see this:

Dwarf Ginseng (Panax trifolius)

Dwarf Ginseng (Panax trifolius)


This is the plant I wrote about yesterday. I found a couple of them with open blossoms. This one did bloom in April last year (on the 28th) so I wasn’t expecting to see any flowers two weeks early. But here they are!

Not far from the ginseng I started looking for some Goldthread. I had spotted its leaves here the other day (and indeed, I saw several before the snow was melted). Then I found one which had sent up a stem and had an unopened flower bud on it. I took some photos, and then not five feet away, I found one that had opened:

Goldthread (Coptis groenlandica)

Goldthread (Coptis groenlandica)


The earliest I found one of these in bloom last year was on April 30, so here we are with another one open two weeks early.

The last new bloom I spotted today was this one, and again, it wasn’t expected:

Wild oats (Uvularia sessilifolia)

Wild oats (Uvularia sessilifolia)


The earliest log I had for this one was May 5, so we’re looking at one that’s three weeks earlier. This photo didn’t turn out very well either because the wind was whipping it around in low-light conditions (necessitating a slow shutter speed).

I had also taken shots of birch, cherry, sugar maple, box elder (which is a type of maple) and crab apple in Concord today at lunchtime. Those have been in bloom for about a week I guess. But I have posted enough photos for one day!

OK, so I tried to invent my own method of knitting an argyle pattern in the round. And it turned out about as I expected – a disaster! So I unravelled and took a fifteenth look at the instructions in the pattern I’m following. I think I got it. At least beyond that step. Now I’m facing the next problem, and it’s going almost as well as the last one was at first (which is to say… badly).

It was a gorgeous day today. When I got home from church I went for a walk in the woods behind my house, camera in hand. I took several shots. There is still nothing in bloom here, but there is plenty of life. The evergreen herbs are greening up first, I guess they had a head start. Those would include these:

Trailing Arbutus and Partridge Berry

Trailing Arbutus (Epigaea repens) and Partridge Berry (Mitchella repens)


The Partridge Berry is the one with… the red berry? Yes. These berries are pretty cool because they each have two eyes (leading some people to call them snake eyes). Each eye comes from its own flower, and the flowers appear in pairs, joined at the base. They fuse into a berry later leaving these eyes.

The repens part of the binomial names (in both these plants) is Latin for “sudden, unexpected, fresh, recent.” I have no idea which sense of the word they meant here, but repens shows up as a species name in several genera. They were under the snow all winter, so “sudden” and “recent” are out. I was expecting to see them, so “unexpected” is out. I guess that leaves “fresh?”

I also saw some other plants that I was most definitely not expecting. I don’t know if they are evergreens or not, but there are sure green now. The first was this one:

Threeleaf Goldthread (Coptis groenlandica)

Threeleaf Goldthread (Coptis groenlandica)


I don’t think it’s an evergreen, so maybe it just sprouted from beneath the snow. Anyhow, I was not expecting it. The other one was this:
Pyrola (Pyrola spp.)

Pyrola (Pyrola spp.)


Though I’m confident that this does indeed belong to the genus Pyrola I haven’t been able to decide which species within that genus it is. This one will raise up a stem and then have several flowers on it later this year, and they will all be at a height that would have been exceedingly difficult to photograph except that I now have those extension rods for my tripod. This plant grows in the dark woods and makes white flowers, and that combination requires long exposure times. Long exposure times require a tripod. I was not happy with the pictures I got of these flowers last year, so you can bet I’ll make another attempt again this year with my new equipment.

Spring Peeper (Pseudacris crucifer) on WIntergreen (Gaultheria procumbuns)

Spring Peeper (Pseudacris crucifer) on WIntergreen (Gaultheria procumbuns)


I saw my first Spring Peeper (Pseudacris crucifer) ever today. These little frogs are loud, so I’ve heard them many times. They are also nocturnal, and as soon as you get close, they shut up. I had seen photos of them before, so when I saw this one on the ground, I recognized it for what it is immediately. I had to chase him around a bit to get his picture. This was the best of three. Now I don’t need to convince the boys to come out to the woods with me after dark and try to triangulate on the peepers with flashlights.

I also got a few nice shots of some Coptis groenlandica, aka goldthread:

Goldthread (Coptis groenlandica)

Goldthread (Coptis groenlandica)

I took a walk at lunch today and found several other new flowers opening, including some Lepidium virgininicum (Poor man’s pepper). That stuff is great. If you strip the seeds off the stem and eat them, they taste very much like black pepper.