Beth and I took Penny to Sandogardy Pond today. I wanted to look for the late summer aquatics, and though we were able to find quite a few, I didn’t find all the ones I was looking for.

Before we got to the pond we found some Indian tobacco.

Indian Tobacco (Lobelia inflata)

Indian Tobacco (Lobelia inflata)


This is also called “puke weed” and I think that’s what I’m going to call it from now on. I suspect that “Indian tobacco” is a racial slur, as many plants with “Indian” in the name are. As in, “tobacco only good enough for Indians.”

Not far from the puke weed, we came across some hazel cuttings.

Beaked Hazels

Beaked Hazels


These are the shells from beaked hazels (Corylus cornuta) which were growing nearby. I have a lot of them on my property too, but have never really been able to harvest any. The squirrels and chipmunks tend to harvest them before they ripen. You have to be careful when gathering them too, because those husks are full of fine spines which have a tendency to stick in your skin and break off. Just imagine shelling one with your lips and teeth!

We got to the pond, and the first blooming plant I noticed was this spotted water hemlock.

Spotted Water Hemlock (Cicuta maculata)

Spotted Water Hemlock (Cicuta maculata)


It is important to be aware of this plant if you plan to eat wild carrots, because they are superficially similar, and spotted water hemlock is the most toxic plant in North America. One taste can kill.

Just offshore from the water hemlock, I could see the floating heart in bloom. I took off my shoes and waded out to it.

Floating Heart (Nymphoides cordata)

Floating Heart (Nymphoides cordata)


You have to be careful when photographing these, because the tiniest waves you make tend to wet the flowers, and when that happens, they turn from white to transparent. I have dozens of photos of transparent floating heart blossoms. I managed to avoid that this time.

Down the beach a little ways I found some Marsh St Johnswort.

Marsh St Johnswort (Triadenum virginicum)

Marsh St Johnswort (Triadenum virginicum)


I always have a hard time remembering the name of this one, because I keep wanting to put the “Virginia” part of the binominal name into the common name. Virginia St Johnswort? Nope. Virginia Swamp St Johnswort? Nope. Someday I might be able to remember without the aid of the Internet.

I had already put my shoes back on when I found some seven-angled pipewort. I didn’t want to take them off again, so I leaned way out and snapped this shot.

Pipewort (Eriocaulon aquaticum)

Pipewort (Eriocaulon aquaticum)


Leaning out doesn’t make the greatest photos, and we can see that here. I looked for these earlier this summer but could find no sign of them. But today, here they are.

A little farther down I found some square-stemmed monkey flower.

Square-temmed Monkey Flower (Mimulus ringens)

Square-temmed Monkey Flower (Mimulus ringens)


This plant got me into a little trouble once. A friend of mine breeds poodles and typically names them after flowers. Knowing that I was a plant-guy, she asked me to suggest a name for her next “keeper” dog. She was not pleased when I proposed square-stemmed monkey flower. I guess it just doesn’t roll off the tongue.

“Here, Square-stemmed Monkey Flower! Here girl!”

Nope.

Today I took Penny down to Sandogardy Pond. Since I have been bike riding of late rather than walking, she hasn’t had a chance to come along (it’s hard to take a dog on a bike ride).

When we got there, it was a tad crowded, with eight or ten people swimming in the pond and another dozen or more sitting on lawn chairs on the beach. Kids were immediately drawn to Penny, and Penny made it clear to them that she would like them to throw sticks. So they did. Meanwhile, I took pictures of some of the flowers blooming at the water’s edge.

Indian tobacco (Lobelia inflata)

Indian tobacco (Lobelia inflata)


I found some Indian tobacco growing all up and down the beach. I posted a shot of some of this yesterday, but I think this one is better. Another lobelia is water lobelia (L. dortmanna).
Water lobelia (L. dortmanna)

Water lobelia (L. dortmanna)


I think this is the prettiest lobelia. They are somewhat more difficult to photograph, as they grow out in the water complicating the use of my tiny tripod, and there’s not a lot of flower there making it hard for the camera to find what to focus on. But this photo came out pretty nice.

Pretty soon Penny was trying to get me to throw sticks instead of the kids (they were throwing them into deep water where Penny has a hard time retrieving them). The kids followed and began peppering me with questions.

“Whatcha doin’?”
“What kind of plant is this?”
“Are you taking pictures of frogs?”
“Do you want me to catch one for you?”

I didn’t want them to catch any frogs, but was powerless to stop them. They only caught one, and it was an unusual one.

Pickerel Frog (Rana palustris)

Pickerel Frog (Rana palustris)

No telling where its fourth leg went. My guess is that it just never developed (I was going to say that it was born without it, but duh – all frogs are born without legs).

Penny was getting pretty tired, and the kids kept throwing sticks for her. She needed to rest, but wouldn’t as long as there were willing stick throwers about. I ended up calling her away so she could lie down and drink.

The kids tried to follow as we set out down the trail along Little Cohas Brook, but their parents called them back. We went down to the bridge (where the trail crosses the creek) and I spotted what I initially thought was a stand of Joe Pye weed. I went in for a closer look.

Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)


Nope. It was swamp milkweed (Asclepias incaranta), and it had a large contingent of butterflies. Nice. This is a milkweed I don’t see that often.

Penny followed me into the mud for a look at the milkweed, but unlike me, she was not careful to keep her feet clean. So we went back to the pond. I threw a stick in the water to get her to go in and wash some of that off. It worked, and she was soon presentable again. Then we headed back to the house.

Earlier his week while I was walking around the church yard, I spotted a common mullein (Verbascum thapsus) in bloom. Michael (a youngster in our congregation) was tagging along, and he spotted this goldenrod crab spider (Misumena vatia) on the plant before I did.

Goldenrod crab spider (Misumena vatia)

Goldenrod crab spider (Misumena vatia)


These spiders have the ability to change their color from white to yellow, and all shades in between. They will typically match the color of the petals, but I have seen them match the color of a flower’s styles as well. Tricky little beasts they are!

Here are some other shots I have taken this week.

Cow wheat (Melampyrum lineare)

Cow wheat (Melampyrum lineare)


Pipewort (Eriocaulon aquaticum)

Pipewort (Eriocaulon aquaticum)


Yet Another Dewdrop (Dalibarda repens)

Yet Another Dewdrop (Dalibarda repens)


Indian tobacco (Lobelia inflata)

Indian tobacco (Lobelia inflata)


St John's wort (Hypericum perforatum)

St John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum)


My week has been a little off. On Sunday we took Beth up to Maine for summer camp. We haven’t heard from her since then, which feels pretty weird. I have enjoyed the quiet, but I have missed my little girl! I will go fetch her on Sunday.

I’ve been riding my bicycle some this week. Wednesday I got it out and turned left out of my driveway to ride straight up a long, steep hill. It goes up and up and up for about a mile. That will take the wind out of any guy with too much tummy. The ride down was over in an instant though.

One of the things I want to be able to do is ride my bike into Franklin and then back. Not that there’s anything so great about Franklin – it’s just a destination.

When I got home I looked at some topographic maps with the idea that if I had turned right (downhill) out of my driveway instead of left (uphill), and then hung two more rights, I would be on Oak Hill Road, which also goes to Franklin, but it is closer to the river. I figure that since it’s closer to the river, it should have less in the way of hills. The topo confirmed this.

So on Thursday, I figured go I’d try going that route, although not all the way to Franklin. Instead, I was planning to do a circuit. The problem is that Oak Hill is connected to Shaw Rd (where I live) by Gile Rd, and that road climbs 60 meters in about a kilometer – 200 ft in a half mile. That is one steep, hill. It’s basically the sum of the hill I went up on Wednesday, plus the hill I’d go down leaving my driveway. But I did it anyhow. That climb was brutal. The circuit was 8.3 miles, which is pretty much all I can do when there are 10% uphill grades involved.

I did it again today.

I think when Beth gets back, we may have to try the trip to Franklin. If we stick to Oak Hill Rd, I think we can manage it. Especially if we stop for ice cream when we get to Franklin.

Our remodelling project at the school is on hold now. We do need a building permit, so until we get one, we’ll just cool our heels. I expect that won’t happen until Friday or so.

When I got home from work today, I had a package (this time, one that I was expecting) in the mail. I had ordered a ten-pack of solar powered flashlights. Yes, you read that right. Solar. Powered. Flashlights. That used to be a joke, but with the addition of a rechargeable battery, it starts to make sense.

Unfortunately, they sent me the one-pack instead of the ten-pack, even though I paid for the ten-pack ($18.67 at Meritline). I sent them an email to hopefully clear this up. They are certainly worth $1.87 each, but I did not want to pay $18.67 for just one.

I plan to use a couple in a hacking project I have in mind. I want to build a heliostat (that is, a sun tracker) so that my solar phone charger can always point at the sun. I’ll use one of the solar panels from the flashlight to drive a motor which will rotate my big charger until the little panel finds itself in the shade and stops the motor.

I also noticed today that the Indian Tobacco (Lobelia inflata) is in bloom now.

Indian Tobacco (Lobelia inflata)

Indian Tobacco (Lobelia inflata)

Tonight I made another attempt to photograph the Lobelia. It didn’t go so well, but this one is good enough:

Indian Tobacco (Lobelia inflata)

Indian Tobacco (Lobelia inflata)


Yesterday I wrote that I thought it was Lobelia spicata. Well, I’ve changed my mind. Now I’m thinking pretty strongly that it’s Lobelia inflata, aka Indian Tobacco. I went through all my photos that I had tagged as “Unknown species” and found the ones I had taken last year of this plant. Then I retagged them as Lobelia inflata.

All the plants in the genus are poisonous, which would explain a couple of the names I found for the genus as a whole: Pukeweed, and Vomitwort. Is it somewhat emetic? Yes it is!

While I was taking pictures Beth came up to me with some training wheels I had bought at the Pathfinder yardsale back on Memorial Day and asked if I would put them on her bike. I had put some old training wheels on there last year, but they were missing a part – the part that prevents them from folding forward or backward leading to certain crashitude. Which is why I bought another set when I came across them. I put the camera away and got the tools. Then I gave her bike riding lesson number one: how to stop. Here she is putting it into practice:

Beth learning to ride a bike

Beth learning to ride a bike

When I taught Jonathan (my oldest) how to ride a bike, I kinda learned how to teach a kid to ride a bike. A parent’s natural inclination is to make the bike go slow so no one gets hurt, and that’s what I did with him. But that’s all wrong! It’s REALLY hard to balance a bike when it’s going slow, and it’s dead easy to balance when it’s going fast. Once I figured that out, I took him to a grassy hill, and sent him down. I applied that technique on David right away, and he picked it up pretty quickly. We’ll see how it goes with Beth. The problem with grassy hills is that they often lead to trees, and that’s true of our place here. And that’s why lesson one is “how to stop.”