Today, for the first time in about a month, I cut the grass. I’m pretty sure the last time I cut it was just before we went to KY at the beginning of July. It’s not that it didn’t need it before now, it’s more like, this was the first time it has been dry enough when I had time to do it.

When I pulled the mower out from under the deck (which is where I park it), two American toads (Rufus americana) came bounding out from there. Not being terribly eager to cut the grass, I went back in the house and fetched the camera. I set it up and approached the larger of the two toads. It leapt under the deck. Ahhh, forget it. I’ve got plenty of toad pictures already.

My lawn is fascinating to me. Most people who take pride in their lawns do so because they work very hard to turn it into a monoculture – one plant species, and always a grass at that. I probably have 30 species of herbaceous forbs in my yard (meaning not grass). Before I got started, I set a rock near the bluets. They volunteered in my yard, and as of right now, that little patch is the only place I know where they are still blooming. I do not want to cut them down! Last year I did just that. The rock saved me from making the same error this year.

I also cut down a lot of wood sorrel, some oak ferns, Indian tobacco, red clover, white clover, hop clover, birdsfoot trefoil, hawkweed, dandelions, fleabane, Queen Anne’s lace, yarrow, various asters, goldenrod, milkweed, and plantain. To me this is far more fascinating than some boring monoculture. And you can believe it when I say that I didn’t cut down all of any species. If I don’t know of another place where something grows on my property, I will mow around it. For example – the bluets. I keep a weedy section in the back too. It’s too rocky to mow, and I get boneset, milkweed, loosestrife, and goldenrod in abudence there. That’s also where my monkey flower and ground nut grows. Also some cow vetch. And asters galore. But mostly blackberries.

I think I’ve got some lavender growing in the middle of the back yard too. It’s pretty low though, so I didn’t put a rock by it. It must have escaped from the garden. I’m sure it’s better off in the middle of the yard too, because is sure ain’t makin’ it in the place I planted it four years ago.

Speaking of the garden, I killed only one Japanese beetle today, and it was on a milkweed plant. My squash bloomed yesterday too, and today I found five more blossoms. We’ll see if it does anything this year or not. The corn seems somewhat dwarfed. I guess I just don’t have enough light. The beans are a bit on the sparse side too, and that was before the beetles invaded.

Today was the day my family and I were planning to eat my birthday supper. We always go out for birthday meals. I wanted to go to someplace the family never goes. It didn’t really matter where – just a long as it wasn’t someplace we typically go. My first thought was what I always call “The Hermanos Brothers Kitchen Cucina.” I call it that because it drives all the people in my house who have taken Spanish nuts. Hermanos means brothers, and cucina means kitchen.

When we got there, we found that they don’t open until 5:00pm on Sundays. Boo. So I thought we’d go to the Common Man. But they were still serving a brunch buffet, and it didn’t look all that great to me. Certainly not good enough to blow a birthday meal on! So we went across town to TGI Fridays. We haven’t been to one of those since we lived in VA, and the one there was never all that great. But this one was pretty OK! I want to go back a few more times at least so I can try some other things on their menu.

My original plan for today was that I was going to go pull some wire over at the school/church so we could get the computer networking in place. But… I just didn’t feel like it. The thought of gathering up my tools is really what put me over the edge. I’ll need a wallboard saw, a fish tape, drill, screwdrivers, prolly a hammer, and most certainly my crimper tool. And more besides, I’m sure. But by the time the thought occurred to me that I was going to need to gather tools, I was already hungry. So I decided not to.

This morning I cut some poles – all from dead standing trees. A maple, two pines, and a chestnut. I used them to lash up a teepee. Beth and I went to Lowes and I spent three bucks on a clear plastic drop cloth for the teepee skin. Too bad I didn’t think carefully aboutall three dimensions. I thought of the length (9 feet) and the thickness (2 mils), but for whatever reason, I thought 12′ would be plenty long. Ideally, it should have been double the width so I could cut it into a semicircle. Oh well. The teepee greenhouse went up, but it remains to be seen if it will be effective or not.

Today is my birthday, and I had to give someone a spanking – luckily, it was the Scrabulous robot:

Birthday Spanking

Birthday Spanking

I have been playing this robot every couple of days lately, and the score here is artificially high. When you play a bogus word, the program simply tosses it off the board, but you get to go again. That’s how I found RATTENER. I had no idea if that was a word or not, but since there’s no penalty for trying… why not?

It was a busy day at church today. We had a triple baby dedication plus the Adventurer Induction service. That was followed by communion (which includes a foot washing). Jonathan is helping out as an Adventurer counselor this year, so he was not able to run the sound. I’m “officially” in charge of that, but Jonathan runs it almost every week. Since I can run it, I was going to today. But David asked if he could, so I sat with him and showed him how. As soon as Ken got to the podium, he said he had one announcement, but he couldn’t make it until Jim Thomas came into the Sanctuary. Everyone in the congregation wished me a happy birthday, and Ken gave me a card that many people in the church had signed. I was a little embarrassed, but I was also glad they did that!

We got home around 1:30, freed Penny from her crate, and then had some lunch. After lunch, David, Beth, Penny, and I went down to Sandogardy Pond. I left my broken camera at the office, so I brought along a little notebook for logging blooms. There were not very many to log though. Summer may not be officially over until the 22nd, but it’s pretty much over here now.

I have covered my squash the past two nights to keep the frosties off. I’m sure it’s a lost cause, but I continue anyhow. I’m thinking of getting a large piece of clear plastic at a hardware store tomorrow and setting up a greenhouse in the form of a teepee. Maybe that will allow me to extend the growing season long enough to get at least one squash out of the deal! Next year I will start earlier. I will also fertilize this time, and if I make the teepee, maybe I can get a jump start.

In the spring, my plan is to plant what the Native Americans called the “three sisters”. They planted beans, squash, and corn together. The beans would climb the corn stalks, and the squash would shade the ground, thus retaining moisture. I guess if I wanted to be truly authentic, I would bury a fish beneath each plant. But naaaahhh. I don’t wanna go out and buy a rod & reel, or get a license, or catch any fish!

I went to the dentist today. When I got up this morning I went ahead and flossed my teeth. I don’t usually do that (I am a bad person), but since I had an appointment today, I thought it might be a good idea. My plan had been to floss every day for a few weeks before the appointment so when they asked if I had been flossing I could say “Yup!” But I was never sufficiently motivated to carry though.

Anyhow… I almost forgot to go, but Va called me forty minutes before the appointment and she remembered for me. Otherwise, I woulda forgot.

I was in a groove at work today too. I’m working on some code that I was not looking forward to writing, but once I got into it, it got more interesting. But I won’t bore you with the details. Just as I had a good train of hacking going, I was interrupted. I was asked to drop what I was doing so I could make a tweak to something else. So I did, just before I went to the dentist. When I got back, I was able to get back on track, finish writing the code, compile it, and start the debugging process. Maybe by the end of the day tomorrow, I’ll have something useful (and cool).

I had meant to bring some tiny screwdrivers home from work today, but forgot. And Va didn’t call me with a reminder this time! I have still not decided if I want to attempt the repair myself or not. Maybe I’ll take it to a camera store and see how much they think it’ll cost, and THEN decide.

We have a frost warning for tonight. My squash is still blooming, but no veggies on ’em yet. I don’t think they’re going to make it. I covered them with a tarp to keep Jack away, but they really just aren’t far enough along. It’s probably a lost cause.

I got a couple of blisters on my left hand today. One of them opened up and hurts pretty much all the time. ouch. About a week ago we had some wind come through here, and it blew down a dead oak in the woods behind the house. That oak hit a witch hazel, and the witch hazel bent over and laid its crown on the trail I made earlier this year. The oak was too heavy for me to move. I thought about cutting the witch hazel to reopen the trail, but decided that since the oak was the one at fault here, I needed to do something about it and restore the hazel to its upright position. So I grabbed my axe and cut the oak in two. In this picture, you can see the witch hazel on the right.

Oak log

Oak log

Once I had the oak cut in half, I was able to easily move it off the hazel. I stood it back up, and then walked the trail.

Sometime last week I took the mattock out to the trail to try to level it up a bit. There are several places where the trail rises and falls a foot or more over a four foot stretch. I guess I leveled out five spots like that. This morning on my way to the oak, I noticed some deer tracks in some of the fresh dirt left after my leveling attempt. We don’t see them very often here, but it’s nice to know they are around.

I guess I would see three or four deer a day back in Virginia. I see three or four a year here. I think it’s because NH is so much less developed than VA, so the deer have much better cover, and use it as much as they can. Or maybe the deer are just less dense here, I dunno. The suburbs really do make pretty decent deer habitat, so I guess they could just be overpopulated there.

My squash bloomed today. One nice, fat blossom, and it was on one of the smaller plants. I looked more closely and saw that at least a half dozen plants have flower buds on them. It’s a race now between the squash and the frost. It remains to be seen which one will be the victor. I watered the squash this morning, and again in the evening. I want to give it as much of an edge over its adversary as I can.

Va, Beth, and I went into Concord today. Beth wanted to buy some shampoo for the Bags-of-Love program we have running at our church. This program was actually started in Hopkinsville, KY at the church Va went to until we moved to VA. Our pastor’s wife found out about it and got our church involved. These bags are given to kids (mostly teens, I think) who are taken from their homes by the State. This happens for a variety of reasons, chief among them being parental incarceration (I would guess). The bags are filled with comfort items to help the child get through what promises to be a very traumatic time. Beth wanted to buy some shampoo, so that’s what we got.

I also bought some sponges, car soap, and poster board, and if that sounds like almost everything a person would need for a car wash, that’s because the Pathfinders are having a car wash tomorrow. I will also bring two hoses, a fourth sponge, and two buckets. Beth helped me make a poster when we got home, and she did a pretty decent job! I outlined the letters (FREE CAR WASH) and she colored them in. I taught her to think ahead so she didn’t have to drag her hand through wet marker ink, and she followed those instructions perfectly. No smudges, and no messy hand. But… I still need to color another!

I also worked on teaching her to ride a two-wheeler today. I have some training wheels on a bike, but they’re cobbled on. If she leans to the right, the training wheel tends to fold back. I guess I need to slap an extra bolt on there so that quits happening. Right now it’s OK, because she only rides it when I have my hands on the handle bars helping her balance. The lesson today was how to pedal and brake. Balance comes later.

I learned when I taught the boys to ride that the secret is to make them go fast. Most people (me included when I was first teaching Jonathan) tend to go slow at first, but it is incredibly difficult to balance a bike that’s creeping along. Fast makes it easy to balance. When I taught David, we went to a grassy hill and sped down it. He caught on pretty quick. I’m hoping Beth will too. It’d sure be nice to take her bike riding.

Oops! I almost forgot! I saw a pickerel frog (Rana palustris) today. Beth spotted him. I would have walked right by. Here he is:

Rana palustris

Rana palustris

OK! Thank you both for reading!

Today was Beth’s first day of second grade. That means my days of sleeping until 7:30 or 8:00 are over for the next nine or ten months. I took several photos of her walking to the car because we always do that on the first day of school. I have not yet grabbed them off the camera.

They are nestled on the CF card next to several unlogged blooms and unreported reptiles and amphibians. Maybe tomorrow.

I saw a garter snake in the front yard this evening. I managed to get two pics of it. I also took several of the green frogs (Rana clamitans). We’ve had a nice dry and very pleasant spell of weather here lately. That’s very good for outdoor putzing around, but the frog pond is shrinking fast. They really have to huddle in there now.

I watered my squash plants tonight too. Their growth seems to have stalled, which really makes me think I will get exactly zero squash from them this year. Oh well. I’ll try again in the spring.

Today is virtual Monday for me. Since I took a couple of vacation days Monday and Tuesday, I had a long weekend. Today I went back to work, so it feels just like a Monday to me. But I will have a short week, so that’s nice.

It has been raining almost the whole day. There have been periods of no rain, but not very many, and not very long. On the way to work this morning I swung by the church to return the Pathfinder camping gear we borrowed for our trip. It was raining then. I got to work, and was the first one to park in the garage. Rainy days like this make me very happy to park in a garage. Snowy days make me even happier about having a garage both at home and at work.

I was the first one upstairs at the office today, so all the lights were out. I usually just leave them off, because I don’t need them. My office has a motion sensor to turn the lights on and off. I requested one because when they remodeled, the “only” place they could put the switch was way on the wrong side of the office. I suggested the motion sensor, and the landlord leaped at the idea. But last week I figured, “why not turn that off?” I have a window overlooking Main Street, and it provides plenty of light. So I turned it off, and worked happily for a couple of days. But today it was so dark and rainy I decided to turn it on again. When the weather clears up, I’ll turn it off again.

Not only am I thankful for having a garage to park in, I am also glad that my camping trip ended before this rain came in. I managed to dry the tent off yesterday afternoon. Cheryl and Dirk borrowed it for their camping trip this morning – I don’t know where they are going, but if it’s anywhere local, they are going to have a wet trip!

When I got home, it was not raining, so I went out and walked the trail. I found a lot of blueberries, so I picked them. It was just over 60 degrees, so I had borrowed Jonathan’s jacket. When my hand was too full to easily hold any more blueberries, I emptied it into his pocket. Then I picked two more hands full. I think I doubled my blueberry harvest today. I also found about ten blackberries. I put the blackberries in a freezer bag and chucked the blueberries in the plastic container with the rest. Then I put them both in the freezer. If all the blackberries I have growing wild here ripen, I might get as much as a gallon of them. We’ll see.

The squash is doing nicely. All the seeds I replanted came up except one, so now I have twenty-four plants. I hope they can make something before the first frost. I’m thinking about surrounding them with clear plastic later this fall to make a mini-greenhouse (a four foot cube). Maybe that will extend the growing season long enough for me to get a squash or two.

Today I went to Market Basket to buy some lunch. I often buy a box of instant oatmeal for $2.00 and get 5 lunches out of it. This time I spotted some bing cherries on the way to the cereal aisle, and noted that they were $2.99/pound. They looked good. I saw a package for $1.16 and figured that was about right. Then I grabbed my oatmeal and checked out. As it turns out, the cherries were not at all $1.16. Rather, they were 1.16 pounds, or $3.47. The thing that makes me reely stoopid is that it said $3.47 in huge, gigantic print. Duh. But I bought them anyhow they tasted pretty good. I ate about half of them and stowed the rest in the fridge.

A little later I glanced out the window and saw that it was raining. Wow. I wouldn’t have predicted that based on my lunchtime excursion. It was beautiful then! A little after that it was beautiful again. Go figure! It was gorgeous the rest of the day too.

When I got home I decided to rehang David’s and Beth’s bikes. I have two little bike racks that were attached to the wall, but somehow, I tore them off a while back. I don’t remember how, but the heads on the screws holding them to the wall just popped off! I grabbed some quarter inch by 3″ lag bolts from the basement and socked those in. I think the studs will come down before the bike racks come off next time. Hopefully though, it won’t come to that!

After I hung the bikes, I collected the tools I had abandoned in the garage a couple of weeks ago working on Samuel’s bike and my snowblower, and I put them away. I really ought to collect them as soon as I finish whatever I’m doing, but that almost never happens. Once I had all that squared away, I was able to park my car in its designated space. Yay!

Beth and I shot a few arrows after that. She was doing pretty OK until I thought it was time to teach her how to aim. After that, she was not pulling the string back far enough, and the arrow would just kinda amble out from the bow and plunk unceremoniously on the ground in front of her. No hurry! She found that frustrating. I shot a few rounds myself and managed to hit the hay bail with every arrow (from 60ft). That’s a bit of a trick with this bow, as it will barely propel an arrow that distance, even when fully drawn (and then some).

While we were out there, we saw Ila and her mom Melissa for a few minutes. She asked if Don (her husband) had spoken to me about a community garden. They are thinking about clearing some ground and planting a large garden next year and wanted to know if I wanted in on it. Yes I do, thanks! I have written before about the severe lack of sunshine on my property. I would frankly rather have trees here though than a garden, but if they’re going to put one in and invite me to plant, I will be there in a heartbeat. They also want to put out an orchard. Melissa wants to learn to can and freeze, and I have done both, though not very much. I will share what I know.

Va told me the other day that Mellisa and our other neighbor Hadley were talking about some animal leaving scat in their driveway. They all agreed that I (of all people!) could probably identify the animal based on the scat. I think I probably could, but I would rather not go poking around someone else’s driveway looking for scat without an invitation. Also, I have mixed emotions about being pegged as the “scat guy.” On the one hand… well – it’s scat. But on the other, it’s wildlife. I guess I’ll have to take it either way.

I’ll end this post with a couple of halfway decent green frog photos I took at the storm water pond:

Green frog

Green frog

Another Green Frog

Another Green Frog

I really liked today’s “Get Fuzzy” strip:
Get Fuzzy, 23 July 2008

I think what I liked the best was the phrase “Interfenestral monkey penetration.” I learned the German word “Fenster” (meaning “window”) back in ninth grade when I took German. Then I learned the word “defenestrate” (meaning “to throw out a window”) in the 80’s when Windows 3.1 came out. In fact, I used a binary editor to change the phrase “Now exiting Windows” to “Defenestrating” in windows.exe (yes, it was that easy back then).

Around that same time, I used to play a game called WordZap. They still make a version, but it’s not quite the same as the original. The game would present you with a grid of random letters from which you made words. The words had to be between 3 and 7 (?) letters and as you made them, they would appear in a “rack”. When your opponent (which could be the computer) made the same word you had, the words disappeared from your rack and from your opponents. The first player to get seven words that the other one did not won the round.

I was quite addicted! Around the turn of the millennium, I had the idea that I could write something similar which I will call “MathZap.” In this version, you’d get numbers and operators (plus, minus, times, etc) and would have to make a true equation. I think I could get addicted to that too. Maybe someday I will write this program.

Va called me just before lunch. We were out of nearly everything, so she was coming into Concord and thought it would be a good idea if we all ate lunch together at the Pizza Hut. So that’s what we did. When we got there, I immediately noticed some Monarda didyma (Bee Balm) which my sister Kathy posted about the other day. My friends Andy and Sandy Cheney have some of this growing at their house, but I have not been over there this summer to log their blooms on the Bloom Clock. I am in the neighborhood of the Pizza Hut on a semi-regular basis though, so I will be able to log these through the rest of the summer (or for however long they bloom).

Speaking of the Bloom Clock, I identified the mint I found along the banks of the Merrimack yesterday as Mentha arvensis.

After work I went to Walmart so I could buy some supplies for David’s science project. He’s trying to simulate and measure erosion, and he needed a steady source of water. I bought an aquarium water filter for $10. He also needed something to erode (sidewalk chalk, $0.97) and some carbonated water (another buck). We spent part of the evening rigging up the filter. Now he’ll run water over his chalk for a day or so and see how much of it erodes away. He also plans to repeat the experiment with quartz and sandstone. He’s been freezing some sandstone in water too, and to his delight, a small piece flaked off! I have an aquarium air pump we’ll rig up tomorrow so he can simulate wind erosion, but I do not really have high hopes for that. An air compressor might be a better choice, but I do not have one and they are a lot more than $10. He’ll hafta make do!

My squash is doing nicely. I still don’t know if the growing season will last long enough for me to get any squash out of it, but hey! Maybe next year!

Squash sprouts

Squash sprouts

My squash has sprouted, yay! I did not count the sprouts, but it looks to be over half of them. We’ve had some hot weather with afternoon thundershowers, and I guess that’s pretty much ideal for germinating seeds. I will replant any that refused to come up probably on Wednesday.

The forecast today was for thundershowers galore, so the church social was canceled. That means no lovo, and no Cultural Food Preparation honor. Maybe some other time. We did go ahead with the Pathfinder summer planning session. We made a few adjustments to the calendar, all for the better in my opinion. We are currently projecting four new members, and there’s the possibility that we may reclaim two old members. I expect to retain eight of the nine we had last year, so if all that happens, we will have 14 members. There’s also the possibility of picking up another four or five kids. We will be running five classes this year: Friend, Companion, Explorer, Pioneer, and Guide. The staff accepted my proposal for who would counsel each unit too, and I couldn’t be more pleased with that.

If the social had not been canceled, we would have finished up on time for it to start. But since everyone had blocked out that time anyhow, most everyone stayed and we talked about fund raising plans. We’ll be adding three or four fund raisers. The best one, I think, is Saturday evening babysitting from Late October through December. The staff will take turns manning this one so no one has to dedicate every Saturday night for two months to Pathfinders. We’re also going to collect used ink cartridges, do a couple of car washes, and maybe add a bake sale to the yard sale. We will also press forward with the citrus fruit sales, parking lot sweeping, and Memorial Day yard sale. Hopefully, we’ll be able to make a huge dent in the funding we need to go to Oshkosh in August 2009.

I was about ready to leave when Melissa suggested we clean out the closet. It did need to be cleaned, so we dove in and did it. I guess that took an hour, but we tossed all kinds of trash and found a few things we forgot we had. We would like to move the cubby-hole cabinet into our closet (if we get the OK from the church) so that each Pathfinder can have a cubby as a place to put their work in progress. That should add some accountability to the mess anyhow. We’ll see.