Here are some flowers that are in bloom for Mother’s Day:

Wild oats (Uvularia sessifolia)

Wild oats (Uvularia sessifolia)

Dwarf Ginseng (Panax trifolius)

Dwarf Ginseng (Panax trifolius)

Colt's foot (Tussilago farfara)

Colt’s foot (Tussilago farfara)

Trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens)

Trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens)

Wild strawberry (Fragaria spp)

Wild strawberry (Fragaria spp)

Violet (Viola spp)

Violet (Viola spp)

Another violet (Viola spp)

Another violet (Viola spp)

Periwinkle (Vinca minor)

Periwinkle (Vinca minor)

Goldthread (Coptis trifolia)

Goldthread (Coptis trifolia)


Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

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This is the first flower of the year to bloom on my property.

Trailing Arbutus (Epigaea repens)

Trailing Arbutus (Epigaea repens)

When I checked two days ago none had opened. But by today, we’re in business. I guess spring is really here (delayed a bit, no doubt!)

Happy Earth Day.

I thought I’d write a little bit about the best and worst aspects of spring in New Hampshire. I’ll start with the worst.

You! Shall not! Pass!

A sign of Mud Season


A synonym for spring here is “mud season.” This is really only a problem on unpaved roads, but since I live on one of those, it’s a reality I have to deal with if I want to go anywhere. Some places are worse than others, so during mud season, I do alter my normal route to maximize the pavement. Even if it minimizes the scenery.

The other unpleasant aspect of spring is this:

This is why NH and ME are not overrun with people like MA.

Black Fly, defender of the North Woods


They are not swarming yet, but I saw several dozen of these nasty boogers in my woods today. Pretty soon several dozen will become millions. Between the black flies and the mud, I’d just as soon that winter give spring a miss and go straight to summer.

But as I said, it’s not all bad. I went for a couple of short hikes today. On the way home from dropping Beth off at school, I stopped at the Quentin Forest. I saw several of these aerial roots suspended in midair.

Aerial roots?

Aerial roots?


I’ve never seen these before. I’m not 100% positive, but I think these are highbush blueberry. My first thought was that it was hobblebush, since that plant has the habit of growing new roots on branch tips (like this), lower the new roots to the ground, and then they take hold. This creates branches that are rooted at both ends forming a loop. Horse would sometimes trip on these, from whence the “hobblebush” name comes.

But hobblebush belongs to the viburnums, and viburnums have opposite branches. These were all alternate. Everything else about the plant said highbush blueberry. I really ought to look it up to see if they do this.

Update! This is apparently a manifestation of Witches’ broom (Pucciniastrum goeppertianum), a fungus that does indeed infect blueberries. The cure is to remove all the fir trees within 500 feet and kill the blueberries with an herbicide. Infected plants will not produce fruit, so I suppose that might be warranted in a cultivated blueberry patch.

On the way out of the forest, I spotted a pile:

Moose scat

Moose scat


My best guess is that this was left by a moose. It’s the right size and shape, and it was near a boggy area. Perfect moose habitat.

When I got home I took a lap around my own woods. The trailing arbutus is working on its flowers, but they’re not ready for delivery just yet.

Trailing Arbutus (Epigaea repens)

Trailing Arbutus (Epigaea repens)

Then I decided to take Penny down to Sandogardy Pond. I haven’t been there for a couple of weeks, and as soon as I spoke the word “Sandogardy” Penny’s ears perked up and she was doing her little “Take me! Take me!” dance.

They were grading our road. The mud will be tolerable. Right in front of the dump truck, I found a small stand of coltsfoot.

Cure (cough) for a cough (cough)

Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)

When I got to the pond, I found that the patch of garlic mustard I “wiped out” last month came back.

Enjoy the halitosis!

Garlic Mustard


I was not surprised. I picked a bunch and ate one leaf. I left the ones I harvested on the ground. A little garlic mustard goes a long way.

I wandered along the creek looking for wet-loving plants. I knew that false hellebore and jack-in-the-pulpit grows here, but I was hoping to find some skunk cabbage. I didn’t find any skunk cabbage, and I didn’t find any jack-in-the-pulpit, but I did find some false hellebore coming in:

False Hellebore (Veratrum viride)

False Hellebore (Veratrum viride)


This stuff looks so luscious. Every time I see it, I just want to pop huge swaths of it into my mouth. But that would be a huge mistake. This stuff is incredibly poisonous. Luckily, the problem would pretty much take care of itself, as the result of eating it is an uncontrollable urge to purge. Success in controlling this urge will result in death. Native Americans would sometimes use this knowledge in selecting a new chief. Everyone who wanted the position would be required to eat some. Last one to barf is the new chief. Unless he died before assuming the new role. And some people think the Electoral College is a bad method of leader selection.

On the way back to the house I saw a patch of partridge berry (Mitchella repens). This one had an odd berry:

An odd partridge berry

An odd partridge berry

Partridge berries produce two flowers which are joined at the base. The two flowers form a single berry, and a normal one has two “eyes” on it which are remnants of the dual-flower:

"Normal" partridge berry

“Normal” partridge berry


I’ve never seen one that didn’t quite fuse properly. These berries were on the vine all through the winter. Wintergreen is another plant that will hold its fruit beneath the snow all winter and still be palatable in the spring. I did eat a few partridge berries. I really like them as the have a subtle flavor. I think I could eat a quart of them.

So as you can see, the good really does overpower the bad in a New Hampshire Spring. I should really not complain.

But sometimes complaining is fun.

Yesterday after work I took a lap around my woodlot with Penny and found that the trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens) is coming along nicely.

Trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens)

Trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens)


So far that’s the only thing in bloom in my woods at ground level. The red maples are still going, but I think they’re on their last hurrah.

I made my way around to the front of the house and saw these:

Grandma's Irises

Grandma's Irises


I had forgotten about them. I dug them up at my parents house last summer and replanted them here. I was thinking these were my Grandma’s irises, but they could also be my Dad’s day lilies. Or they could be both, I’m just not sure. I’ll surely know later this year when they get bigger and possibly even bloom.

The photo is nothing to write about though. The sun had already gone down by the time I found them, so I set the camera on a rock and jacked the exposure time up to a quarter second. Meh.

I went for a walk today during lunch. I walked my usual route but in the reverse direction. Right outside the office I stopped where there’s a stand of curly dock (Rumex crispus). I wasn’t hungry (having just eaten), but it looked good, so I harvested a couple of mouthfuls and quickly gobbled them down. They are very tasty at this stage. I didn’t think to take a picture, but maybe I will again tomorrow.

I continued my walk and stopped by a sugar maple to see how it was coming along. At first I didn’t see anything green on it, but upon closer inspection:

Sugar maple (Acer saccharum)

Sugar maple (Acer saccharum)


I expect it will be in bloom tomorrow.

My walk took my behind some department stores and along the railroad tracks. There were a lot of dandelions in bloom.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)


I ate one of the blossoms. To me, that is the only part of a dandelion that is even remotely palatable. Other people rave about them and crave them, but I just don’t get that. Samuel Thayer (in my opinion the best writer on the topic of edible wild plants) writes that the crowns are good and has a long discussion on that in Natures Garden. So I tried one. It’s not terrible, but I don’t think I could stand to eat an entire serving of them.

Other people near here have been reporting (and photographing and blogging about) finding a lot of other plants that I think I should be seeing – but don’t yet. Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) and Japenese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) are the primary ones I’m interested in. Coltsfoot because I think it’s a cool looking plant. Knotweed because I want to eat some. In fact, if I can manage it, I’d like to decimate the stand of knotweed near my house by eating as much of it as I can. It’s an invasive alien, and I happen to know that this particular stand has already crowded out at least one native plant – Fringed loosestrife Lysimachia ciliata. Realistically, I don’t think it’s possible for me to single-handedly eat down an entire colony of Janpanese knotweed, but I’d like to give it the old college try anyhow. It tastes pretty OK!

Spring has been busting out all over the place here. A bit early I suppose, and I sure hope we don’t have a hard frost any time soon. I don’t think a lot of the plants would survive such an ordeal.

A lot of the blooms are not your typical “flowers” – you have to look up to see them.

Red Maples (Acer rubrum)

Red Maples (Acer rubrum)


But some of them are pretty close to the ground:
Trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens)

Trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens)


In fact, the Latin name “Epigaea” for trailing arbutus means something like “pretty close the the ground.”

This will just be a quick post this evening. I am going on an Internet fast for 24 hours starting at sunset. This was something I had intended to do about a month ago, but forgot I was doing it and slipped up. Then I saw this challenge which reminded me that I had wanted to do this.

I think it’s good to unplug every now and then. I don’t intend to avoid all things electronic – just the Internet. Also, I find it amusing that in order to “take the pledge” on the organizer’s website, you have to have a Facebook account. No thanks Zuck! My goal is to be less plugged in, not more!

So if you comment on my blog and I don’t answer right away, now you know why.

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.

The Pathfinders had our annual club campout this weekend. The verdict is in – it was very mixed! I am reminded of Roald Amundsen’s statement that “Adventure is just bad planning,” and I have to confess that a great deal of our problems were self-inflicted. Mostly by me I guess.

When we got there and were setting up, Ken (on whose farm we were camping) pulled me aside and told me we might want to stay clear of the barn on Saturday. One of his cows had broken a hip. They were planning to butcher her after she had weaned her calf, but she moved those plans up a bit by falling on her calf and killing it. Normally, they have their butchering done elsewhere, but since they had an immobile cow, that was not possible. OK – we’ll stay down in the woods on Saturday, no problem.
With that, our campout saga begins.

One of our staff members was planning to join us Saturday morning, so she wasn’t there when we pitched camp Friday evening. Last fall, she had taken the griddle for our propane stove home with her to give it a good scrubbing, so we were without that. That in itself is not a catastrophe, but it goes a little deeper than that. The griddle is stored in a canvas bag along with the propane regulator. Without the regulator the stove is pretty much useless.

The plan was that we would have grilled cheese sandwiches for supper on Friday evening, and a “feast in a foil” Saturday evening. Since the feast in a foil is prepared over a camp fire and grilled cheese is grilled on the griddle, we decided to switch the two around. That was a good decision.

The menu and shopping list was planned by our Ranger unit (13 year-olds). David (who is in the Guide unit), guided them through this. I provided them with a spreadsheet into which they could enter ingredients for each meal they planned as well as the number of people who would be dining with us. It figures out how much food to buy based on that. They copied the ingredients from the spreadsheet to paper, but not the amounts! Then their grandfather (Mr Stokes, another of our staff members) took them to buy it, but none of them knew how much of anything to get. And their guesses were not exactly “spot on.” So we were a bit short in the food department. I have to take the blame for this though, as I did not review the shopping list. I did see the menu, which looked pretty good, but clearly I need to look over the list from now on. My bad.

After any meal we need to wash dishes, and not having a tap with hot running water, the way we handle that is to heat some water and put it into three plastic tubs (pre-rinse, wash, and final rinse). Not having a stove meant we needed to heat the water over the campfire. So I put the kettle on the fire for a bit. When I went to take it off, I donned some heavy, padded leather gloves, which unfortunately proved to be insufficient for the task. I ended up with a blister on two fingers. Ouch! My bad again!

I sent the pre-teens to bed around 10:30 or so, and the older kids and I turned in about an hour later. The plan for Saturday’s breakfast was French toast, but since our griddle and regulator were still missing in action, we opted for oatmeal and cold cereal instead. Again, we adapted.

After breakfast, we started our Sabbath School and church activities. The Rangers were working on the Camping Skills IV honor, and for that, they needed to prepare a one-hour Sabbath activity. They thing that they came up with took all of five minutes, so I sent them back to the drawing board. It wasn’t a bad activity – it just didn’t take as long as they projected it would.

I presented a few worship thoughts for the kids to take up the extra 55 minutes, including how the furnishings in the wilderness sanctuary are arranged in the shape of the cross. To illustrate this, I had a kid stand where each item of furniture was located. When I asked what shape it made, they could easily see it. One even noted that the altar of sacrifice where the Israelites confessed their sins was right at the foot of the cross.

After church was over I got a call from Va. She shared some tragic news with us. One of my former Pathfinders had lost her baby after an 8-month pregnancy, and she was at that moment struggling for her own life. A lot of the kids in our club knew her, so this news hit kind of hard. We (and many others) prayed for her of course, and I am very happy to say that she has now turned the corner. She may be released tomorrow.

Lunch was our first uneventful meal – haystacks. There was plenty of food for everyone, and everyone was hungry. When we finished that, we headed off for an afternoon hike to see a massive beaver dam. When we got to the pond (but before we got to the dam) we took a short break. Mr Stokes and his granddaughter were sitting at the edge of the pond when Mr Stokes thought he’d grab her suddenly as if he were going to push her in. But instead of grabbing her as if he were going to push her in, he accidentally did push her in! She only got one leg of her pants wet though, and it was really funny. Mr Stokes was somewhat embarrassed about that (which is why I’m posting it here?) I had my camera in hand when this happened, so I now have the opportunity to deepen that embarrassment:

Mr Stokes "rescues" his granddaughter

Mr Stokes "rescues" his granddaughter

While we were there, I found my first fully blossomed trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens). I promised here a little while back that as soon as I saw some, I’d pop one into my mouth and report back to my readers. And today, I am fulfilling that promise. It tasted… meh! But not bad at all. I will not likely make eating TA blooms a habit any time soon.

Trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens)

Trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens)

Out in the middle of this beaver pond are several dead snags, and one of them sports a blue heron nest. We were lucky in that the blue heron came by and stayed long enough for me to get several shots of it. My little Canon does not excel at telephoto-ops, so this image isn’t really the greatest, but I will share it with you anyhow:

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

After our short break, we had to bushwhack a little more to get to the beaver dam. Here it is from the top:

Massive beaver dam

Massive beaver dam


This dam was about six feet high in the middle, and at least 200 feet long.You can see a satellite image courtesy of Google Maps here.

Trailing arbutus was not the only flower in bloom, but you had to look up to see the others.

Red Maple (Acer rubrum)

Red Maple (Acer rubrum)


These are red maple blooms. The chronology I am noting this year is that the silvers bloom first, followed by the reds. I haven’t seen any sugar maples in bloom yet, but I’m sure they will be coming along very soon.

We got back from our hike without further incident and worked more on the Stars honor (which we had started Friday night). I had the kids stand in for celestial bodies this time. My favorite thing to do with this is to have them re-enact the motion of the earth, moon, and sun. I start by having the moon orbit the earth, being sure the kid playing the moon is always facing the kid playing the earth. Then I set the earth into spin about its axis. Finally, I instruct the earth to orbit the sun while the moon tries to keep up. That’s always a lot of fun, and the kids like it every time.

We finished off the day with a new “one-hour” activity that the Rangers planned during our hike. It didn’t quite last a full hour, but I’m going to give them a pass. At any rate, this exercise should give them a pretty good understanding of how carefully the staff plan their activities.

We had our grilled cheese for dinner.

Around 8:00pm Saturday evening we had a bit of rain mixed with sleet. I think I can now say with certainty that my least favorite camping weather is raining and 35 degrees. Not a good combination. But with the sleet came warmer temperatures, and the sleet turned into a downpour. I was pretty exhausted by then, so I sent the pre-teens to bed around 8:30. The teens and I hung out in the kitchen shelter until 9:30 or so when I found myself continually waking up in my camp chair. They were pretty tired too, so we all went to bed before 10:00.

It poured all night.

When I got up at 7:00, this is what our kitchen looked like:

Deluged Kitchen

Deluged Kitchen


The water in our kitchen was two inches deep in most places. Deeper than that in other spots. Two inches doesn’t really sound that bad until you stop to consider that it’s a bit deeper than the top of your shoes. Then it seems really deep. We considered relocating the kitchen, but there was no way it was going to move more than six feet in any direction without disassembling and reassembling it. Also, there was not an abundance of dry places nearby. So I decided we should try to drain it. Since this property belongs to my good friend Ken, and two of his kids were camping with us, I knew that he would not mind at all if we did a little excavation. So we dug a small ditch and raked leaves out of the path of the water. The kitchen was drained by about 9:00 (well… kinda), and we were finally able to begin cooking breakfast. Pancakes! The first order of business was to heat some water so the dishes could be done afterwards. Then we mixed up some pancake batter (oops! Our shoppers bought pancake mix that called for eggs & milk, and not our usual “complete” pancake mix!). Then the kids went to light the burners for the griddle (which had rejoined our party), but they were having an awful time of that – because we were out of propane. My. Bad. Again.

By then, our dish water was nice and hot, but I decided we could put it to better use in making oatmeal. I heated a little more water for the dishes over the fire, which was lit by our Ranger unit – in spite of the previous evening’s deluge. I was rather proud of them for that, and grateful that we were able to wash the dishes in hot water.

Sometime during the morning, one of my Pathfinders came to me with a tick embedded in his abdomen. Out of all the kids in my club to get a tick, and indeed, out of all the kids I have ever known in my life, I could not have selected a worse one to suffer that fate. This kid has an irrational fear of ticks. He is terrified of them. I washed my filthy, kitchen-draining hands, went to the first aid kit, and got some tweezers. I was intent on pulling this parasite out firmly and slowly (like you’re supposed to), and he was screaming the whole time. He was also pushing my hand away. I don’t think I can justly blame his panic on what happened next, but the tick’s body came loose from his head, which is exactly what the firm-but-gentle pull is supposed to prevent. My panicked Pathfinder went into an even greater panic, which I did not think was even possible. I worked on him for another ten minutes, but I was not able to get the tick head out of his tummy. His mom managed to do that when he got home, and I have nothing but admiration for her for that.

We spent the rest of the morning working on the Camping Skills I-IV honors, with my older Pathfinders teaching the younger ones. That really went pretty well. Around 11:00 or so, one of my staff members (Ken’s wife) offered to make PB&J sandwiches up at the house instead of having us suffer through doing that in our flooded kitchen. I did not hesitate to accept her gracious offer.

While she was up making lunch, Warran, Mr Stokes, and I took the kids back into the woods to construct a rope bridge over one of the many puddles in our camp site. This was so we could finish off the Pioneering honor. The kids absolutely loved doing this. They had a blast. I don’t like to show pictures depicting the faces of other people’s kids on the Internet, so instead, I will show one of myself (Warran used my camera to take this shot of me):

Jomegat crosses the rope bridge

Jomegat crosses the rope bridge


When we were finished with this, we headed up to the house to have lunch (outside!) Afterwards, I began herding the kids back down to the camp site. As I was doing this, Ken called out to me. One of his cows was calving! Did the kids want to see that? I figured. “why not?” Three of the girls in my Friend unit (10 year-olds) were very interested, so we detoured into the barn. The calf had already been born, and mama was standing there cleaning it off, with all the attendant grossness hanging out of her back-end. Eeewwww! The girls didn’t seem to mind though. That’s when Ken’s youngest son asked them if they wanted to see two other newborn calves (one of which was his own). Why not? So ff we went to a second barn. The first calf was standing, and it’s mother was licking the kids’ hands. Then we moved to the next stall where the other calf was. But not its mother.
The calf was sleeping? Nope. No breathing action there. Turns out this is the calf that had been crushed by its mother. Ken hadn’t yet had a chance to take care of it, and his son didn’t know any of this had happened. He called out “Hey Dad! Where’s this calf’s mother?” I don’t think this affected him too much – he does live on a farm, and mortality is certainly a part of that life.

After this minor fiasco, we headed back down to the camp site to strike camp. Everything was soaking wet, but the sun had come out for a bit. We had moved the tents into the pasture to let them dry some, and some of them were actually pretty dry. Unfortunately, the field was still pretty wet, so driving back up to the house (and driveway) was something of a challenge. I thought I was going to get stuck for a few minutes, and I was also very concerned that I would tear up Ken’s pasture. I don’t think I did too bad though. Unfortunately, Mr Stokes did get stuck. We tried to push him out, but I could see all we were doing we digging him in deeper. In the hope of not making a bad situation worse, we called for Ken (who was still busy with his newly minted calf) and he came down and pulled him out with his truck.

I brought all the still-wet tents home with me, and David and I pitched them in the north yard. Of course it’s raining again now, but as long as they’re not folded up and packed away in a trailer, they won’t mold.

I guess this post is about long enough now, so I’m going to turn it loose now. Hope you all enjoyed reading it.