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!

It did snow today, but there was no accumulation. Jonathan remarked several times that it’s only two weeks away from his summer vacation. He couldn’t get over it.

Tonight I am baking a pine log.

Is it ready yet?

Is it ready yet?

The one shown here is one I baked two weeks ago. The Pathfinders are camping this weekend, and one of the competitions is to split a pine log with a hatchet, making fuel, kindling, and tinder. Then lighting it with a match and boiling a can of water. The parameters on the log are that it be pine, and that it be no longer than 12 inches long. They do not specify the diameter, leaving it up to us to find the constraints there.

If the log is too big, there’s no way a kid will be able to split it with a hatchet. If it’s too small, it won’t boil the water. The one shown here was about 6″ in diameter, and it took the kids in our club about 40 minutes to get it split in half. So I’m thinking that’s too big. I cut one the other day (from the same tree, but higher up), and it’s about four inches in diameter. And like the one before it, it’s not exactly dry. I put it in the oven to try to dry it out.

The first log baked for about two hours, and when the kids drove the hatchet into it, water oozed out of the cut. Ouch. But it was raining the day I felled that tree (it had its top snapped out in our ice storm in December 2008). I removed this chunk over the weekend when it was dry outside, and it had been in the garage since. I did remove the bark from it tonight, but I should have done that right away to help the drying process along even more. I suspect that it will still not really be dry enough.

If I were more competitive, I suppose I would have gotten on this a lot sooner. Oh well. If they don’t win this competition, the world will continue to turn.

The house is starting to smell like rosin.

I cut down two trees tonight. One of them was a dead oak (four inch diameter) and the other was another topless pine (six inches). I will use these on Beth’s cabin. I fitted another log onto that tonight, so that’s coming along.

I talked to my Mom today. She went to the hospital at 1:30 am last night, after suffering a TIA. They did a CT scan, and everything looks pretty OK. She thinks she will come home tonight, and I sure hope she does.

Today just before lunch Va called me to let me know that Beth’s lunch was still on the counter top. Today was Beth’s first day back to school following Spring Break, and I guess we weren’t quite back in the swing of things. There was no time for Va to drive to the school before lunch, so I went to Taco Bell and got her something. I also grabbed something for myself. I got to the school just as Beth was leaving the classroom to get her lunchbox, so I guess that was cutting it pretty close.

I went to a small park near the church and ate there. This is a tiny little park, and you would never know it was there unless you knew it was there. So to speak. I parked the car and walked down to a little oxbow. There is a beaver lodge there, so I sat near it hoping to see some beavers. I saw a couple of Canada geese and dozens of redwing blackbirds, but no beavers.

Then I heard something crashing in the trees behind me. I turned around, but didn’t see anything. I watched. Pretty soon, I could see bushes shaking, but I still couldn’t see what was making all the ruckus. I got out my camera, stood up, and walked over there. Here’s what I saw:

Wood Turtle (Glyptemys insculpta)

Wood Turtle (Glyptemys insculpta)

I know that NH Fish & Game has an interest in turtles – they have a reporting program for reptiles and amphibians. Some species are endangered with extirpation in these parts, and F&G really wants to know about them. Well, I had no idea what kind of turtle I was looking at, so I took several photos, getting as close as I dared (a snapping turtle can remove a finger in an instant). I also had the GPS with me from our geocaching run on Saturday, so I turned that on, waited for it to lock, and then jotted down the coordinates.

When I got back to the office, I checked the F&G website. From the turtles they had listed there (complete with photos and identification tips), I decided that it was most likely a Wood Turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) – and that’s one fo the species F&G cares deeply about. So I sent in a report, complete with the photo above and the latitude and longitude.

I haven’t heard back from them, and I’m not sure I will. They can check it out if they so desire. But I sure thought it was cool seeing one. I never expected to see one on “the list.”

When I got home, I tramped through the woods some more. The gaywings (Polygala paucifolia) I wrote about yesterday have indeed opened now.

Gaywings (Polygala paucifolia)

Gaywings (Polygala paucifolia)

Can you see the propeller, fuselage, and wings?

After that I worked a bit more on Beth’s cabin. I managed to get two more logs laid and fitted. It’s coming along.

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.

Yesterday I mentioned that I had taken several shots of some Goldthread (Coptis trifolia), and I thought that maybe some of them had come out pretty OK. Well, I think maybe this one did!

Coptis trifolia

Coptis trifolia

I liked this one so much I uploaded it to the Commons and added it to the WIkipedia article on the plant.

You can see a hi-res version there if that sort of thing interests you.

I’ve been calling this Coptis groenlandica, which is the name Peterson listed for it in my Wildflowers field guide, and that was how I first identified it. However, the more widely accepted name is C. trifolia, and that’s what the USDA, Lady Bird Johnson WIldflower Center, and WIkipedia all call it. I still have it listed as C. groenlandica in my photo database and at Wikiversity though. Maybe I’ll switch over completely some day, but… I’m in no rush.

I had to leave work early today so I could take Penny to the vet. On the way there, I stopped and took a couple of pictures of some bluets:

Azure bluets (Houstonia caerulea)

Azure bluets (Houstonia caerulea)

I stopped though because I thought I spotted some blooms where I knew some wood anemones (Anemone quinquefoilia) grew last year. Unfortunately, I didn’t see them, and Penny was starting to get agitated in the car with David. So I quickly took the bluet portraits and went on.

On the way back though, I thought I saw the anemones again. So I stopped again, and found that I was right:

Wood anemone (Anemone quinquefoilia)

Wood anemone (Anemone quinquefoilia)

When I got home, I went outside and worked more on Beth's play-house cabin. I think that counts as aerobic activity, so I'm going to just call it that. I did find that the cabin already had at least one resident, though it is not human:

Huge ant

Huge ant

I saw this ant yesterday on the same log, so I shouldn’t have been surprised to see it again today. It’s about an inch and a quarter long. I haven’t yet tried to determine the species, but I’ll try to get to that later tonight.

So about five years ago I started building a log cabin for Beth. I worked on it off and on, but pretty much abandoned the project last summer, doing not one thing on it in all of 2009.

But Beth asked me to work on it again, so I did. It had started out as a rectangle, but it’s just too small. She wanted it to be bigger. So I tore it down and started over. I still want to use the too-small timbers, so I decided to build it in an L-shape. Maybe it’s more like a square with one corner chopped out. I plan to put a square roof over it, so the missing corner will be sort of a covered porch.

I’ve got the foundation layer down now, and it has just about wiped me out. I don’t have a chainsaw and could hardly justify buying one for this project. I’m using an axe and a bow saw. If nothing else, it does give me exercise.

I did stop on the way to work today and took a couple of pictures of the hobblebush blooms, but I don’t think they’re worthy of posting. The light was too low, and I didn’t have my big tripod with me. Also, I’m not sure my big tripod would have been tall enough anyhow. I might try again. I saw another patch of hobblebush about a hundred feet from this one, and this patch had more specimens from which to choose. Maybe one of them will have blooms low enough for the tripod to reach.

When I got home I tramped through my woods and took a couple dozen photos of the gold thread (Coptis groenlandica). I haven’t looked at them yet, but I suspect I might have some decent shots there.