Today marks the first day this year that I have had no snow on my property. We had some yesterday, but it is gone now. I guess that means spring is really here now. I heard some spring peepers today too, so there’s another sign. I suppose I can put the snowshoes away now.

The big question now is whether the snow will be gone at my friend Ken’s place this weekend, as the Pathfinders will be camping there. We need to finish up the Camping Skills honors and polish off the Pioneering honor. I also need to teach Stars – Advanced to a few of them. Unless it’s cloudy (the forecast is calling for rain). That’s OK too though, as one of the requirements for Camping Skills is to light a fire in wet weather. I make them all do that whenever we camp in the rain, as I don’t want to find myself in the position of hoping it rains on a campout so they can meet that requirement. It’s better to take advantage of the situation as it arises (which is plenty often enough).

When I got home tonight I went into my woods to look for trailing arbutus. There’s plenty of it around since it’s an evergreen plant, and they are almost ready to bloom. Maybe by the end of the week. Here’s how they were looking today:

Epigaea repens

Epigaea repens

Our church has been conducting some seminars in Franklin about five miles from my house this month. I went tonight to help out with the kids, but there were no kids there. On my way to the car I was greeted by this:

Sunset on the Mill

Sunset on the Mill


I assume this building was once a mill of some sort, as it looks old and is located right on the banks of the Winnepesaukee River. I guess the composition could have been better, but the sunset was fading fast and I had the camera perched on the top of a chain link fence (with barbed wire along the top) surrounding an electrical substation. I didn’t think the substation would add much to the photo, so I zoomed until I was shooting over it.

Fog

Fog


As soon as Jonathan and I got off the Interstate after work today, we were greeted by some awesome fogginess. So I parked the car, got out and took some photos. I think this one turned out the best. Just beyond that treeline in the back is the Merrimack River.

The snow is only about a foot deep in my yard now. I put the snowshoes on when I got home so I could check my sap bucket. It doesn’t seem to have gained any so far this week. Oh well. There are several vernal pools in the pathway between the house and the bucket though. I went around. Even though snowshoes make me float on snow, I don’t think they’d be very effective at keeping my feet above liquid water. I stopped and peered into several of the pools looking for salamanders, but found none. I didn’t spend a lot of time looking though. I will look again as spring progresses.

Here are some bird photos I took at Dad’s house. I don’t have a lot of photos of birds, and I will say that taking pictures of them is a LOT harder than taking pictures of bugs, and especially of plants. With bugs I can get pretty close, and plants pretty much stay still unless with wind is blowing. Birds on the other hand, always move with quick jerks. They never do anything slowly. Must be a metabolism thing, I dunno. Birds also don’t let you get close to them, so macro photography is right out (unless the bird is dead, but I don’t really want dead bird photos).

Most of these photos were shot from some 30 feet or so away, and all had the zoom pretty much maxed out. Most were also through glass. I did clean the glass first, but I also missed a few spots here and there, and they all show up (not in these necessarily, but in some of the others). Anyhow, here they are:

Indigo Bunting

Indigo Bunting


Redwinged Blackbird

Redwinged Blackbird


White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch


Chipping Sparrow (left) and Goldfinch (right)

Chipping Sparrow (left) and Goldfinch (right)

When I get home I intend to remove a screen, pull back a curtain, and set up a bird feeder. Then I need to buy some sunflowers and maybe a suet block. We’ll see what happens!

A couple of days ago I wrote about nominating one of my photos as a “Quality Image” at the Wikimedia Commons. I thought that it was one of the best pictures I have taken, but I was a little worried that it would be brutalized by a gang of professional photographers. Well, that didn’t happen. Instead, the photo was ignored for almost a week, and then someone commented that they thought it was an OK image and recommended it for promotion. He also suggested that the white balance may have been a little too blue. Well, maybe he was right, I have no idea! (I’ll have to do some research on White Balance and find out how to adjust it).

After two days with no objections, this guy’s imprimatur was sufficient to get my photo listed as a Quality Image. Yay! So here it is again.

Dalibarda repens

Dalibarda repens

I finally managed to mail my old camera to my Uncle Jim. He has agreed to take a look at it and see if he can fix it, and for that, I am very grateful. I tried to fix it a couple of times, but it is apparently beyond my skill level. He, on the other hand, it like a level 92 mage when it comes to that sort of thing. He has never tried to fix a camera, but I think the odds are pretty decent that he will succeed where I have failed.

A little before noon today I called Va to see where she and Beth were eating. They get out of school at noon on Fridays, and then they go someplace to eat. Since I had to swing by the post office to mail that camera, I decided I would join them. We met at Pizza Hut, and had what Uncle Jim has the habit of calling “a fine meal.”

When I got home I poked around in the backyard looking for things to photograph. I found a mosquito. Still no frogs or salamanders, but I’m almost certain I heard a frog. Then Penny came running up and the frog sounds stopped abruptly. I couldn’t find him if he was there, but it was not from a lack of looking.

The only flowers I know of that are in bloom is that little gang of crocuses I photographed Wednesday. I found some dandelion plants, but they haven’t bloomed yet. As soon as they do though, I will log them on the Bloom Clock.

I picked up my new glasses today. Here are the before and after shots:

See how the new specs transform me from a total doofus to a modern hip cat?

See how the new specs transform me from a total doofus to a modern hip cat?


So I guess my brother Mike was right. Now I can quit being a doofus and be one of those cool hip cats. Or something.

Today I took a lunchtime walk. I grabbed my camera and just went out looking for something to photograph. I haven’t been on a lunch walk in a couple of months, so it was good to get out again. Which reminds me – Jonathan and I were supposed to go for a run after supper, but we forgot. Maybe we should still go – it’s not that late yet. We both need to record our exercise for four months for the Guide class in Pathfinders, and we need to have that done before the end of May. That means we need to start just any day now.

But back to my walk. Nature is pretty hard to find in Concord in January. I did take some pictures of some hawthorns:

Hawthorns

Hawthorns

I don’t think I’d eat these, at this stage, but they are edible when ripe.
I saw several animal trails, but most appeared to be made by domestic cats and dogs. They were all pretty old tracks though. We’re supposed to get some snow tonight, so maybe I’ll have better luck Thursday (it’s supposed to snow from midnight tonight until late tomorrow). I found one set of tracks that were pretty fresh. I figured I’d take a picture of them too, but wanted to lay something next to them for scale. I dug around in my coat pockets and found… a tape measure! Not a bad scale at all! Here’s the best of those shots:
img_9756
Not all that impressive, and I’m still not sure what it is. Probably a house cat. So that’s about all the adventures I’ve had today. Catch you all again tomorrow!

When the alarm went off this morning, Va went to check on Beth. She still had a stuffy nose and a cough, but she seemed rather chipper. So… keep the doctor’s appointment, or not? I knew what would happen if we blew it off. She would get sicker at an even more inconvenient time. So I thought it best to take her in.

Va and Jonathan both had dental appointments, so taking Beth to the doctor fell to me. They left the house to pick up my usual riders and take them to school. They hit the dentist some time later. I guess. Taking Beth to the doctor myself was OK with me though, as I had a chance for a more leisurely morning than usual. I took a long, hot shower. I made an egg sandwich. I set Beth up to practice the piano. Then I grabbed my camera and went outside. The main mission was to retrieve the garbage cans, and the secondary mission was to take pictures of… whatever. I found some silverod gone to seed, as well as some aster gone to seed. Silverod is like golden rod, but it has white flowers. I liked this picture best:

Daucus carota gone to seed

Daucus carota gone to seed


Daucus carota is more commonly known as “Wild carrot” or “Queen Anne’s Lace.” I uploaded the photo to Wikimedia Commons, because they didn’t have a photo of this plant in this phase of its life cycle. But now they do.

Then I taxied Beth to the doctor’s office. Her appointment was at 9:30, but we got there at 9:15. And sat in the waiting room for almost an hour. Good thing I was early! I always feel a little stupid waiting to see the doctor with a kid who seems for all the world to not be sick, and that was most definitely the case today. She was chatting up strangers, playing happily with toys, and just generally bouncing off the walls in there. But once she saw the doctor, the infection was confirmed. Both ears. And her nasal passage. And her throat. One prescription later, and we were out of there.

I called Va to see if she would fill the prescription (that’s her domain), and she said she would. But today was also ice skating day, so I was instructed to drop Beth off at the ice arena, which I did. We got there about two minutes before the rest of the students from her school did. Then I went to work.

Soon after arriving, I got a call from the guy in Keene where our fruit was to be delivered tonight. It showed up last night! I made arrangements with him to pick it up at 6:00 as we had originally planned. And then at about 1:30, I got a call from Ken. He was concerned about the weather and the fruit delivery we had been planning on. He teaches at Coe Brown, a school on route 4, and they let out early – so he was thinking maybe we could go up together and get the fruit before the weather got too bad. I made several phone calls to make arrangements, and then bugged out. We grabbed a tarp from the trailer, and decided that it would be a good idea to bring Jonathan with us (he was still in Concord after his dental appointment). Then we set out for Keene. It was slow going too, because it was raining. And freezing! They don’t let school out early for no reason, ya know!

We got there before dark and loaded the fruit – all 73.5 boxes. Then we drove it back to Concord. I had decided to store it in the table closet. Andy was there, and he helped us unload. About the time we finished unloading, Cheryl called wanting to know if we were in Concord yet. I had forgotten to call her, as she and Dirk wanted to help unload. My bad! Instead, she came in and put names on the boxes. Jonathan and I then carefully drove home – the roads were a mess too. I decided it would be better for me to drive rather than allow Jonathan to. He was disappointed, but the tread on my tires could be a lot better than it is, and it was pretty slick.

We got home in one piece though. And I will be astounded if school is not canceled in the morning.

Saturday, my Christmas present arrived. Va got me a Canon SX110, and it is one sweet camera. My favorite feature is the macro focus – I can get to within 1 cm of a subject and take the picture, and it will actually focus on it. Impressively so. My new hobby is going around taking extreme closeups of things, zooming in on the camera display, and then bugging the kids to try to guess what it is. My favorite macro subject was Jonathan’s toes. I’d post the photo here, but I don’t want to embarrass him too much. Penny’s nose makes a good subject as well, but that’s a hard picture to get because she fears the camera (and anything else that’s new, and/or electronic).

My second favorite feature is the optical zoom. This one is 10x. My previous camera only had a 3x optical zoom. This is a lot nicer.

So now that I once again have a working camera, I’ll start posting pictures again.

Yesterday, just before I destroyed the carpet at the church, I was working with my sewing machine, which now puckers the cloth as it sews. Cheryl suggested that I needed a finer needle, but I didn’t have one. I also told her that the needle was working fine on some cloth before I broke and fixed it, but after… that’s when the puckering started.

But as I began thinking about it today, I realized that I had probably dulled the needle pretty severely when it was mistimed – it was, after all, bashing point-first into the shuttle. I figured a blunt tip would likely have the same effect as a needle that was not fine enough, so I swapped it out with a new one. Bingo. No more puckering.

The machine is still not quite up to par though. With the pedal to the metal, it crawls along. I have no idea why it won’t go fast anymore, but considering my sewing skills, maybe that’s a good thing.

Today was my last day off until Christmas break, and I made the most of it. I got up and had breakfast (Sunday is pancake day). Then I went to Lowes and blew $200 on some gutter heaters. When I got home, I began installation, and I worked on that until I finished the front of the house (pretty much).

I still ought to install an electrical outlet up near the eaves. Right now I’m running it on an extension cord. I’ll also need to install a switch so I can turn it off when it’s warm outside, or when there’s no snow in the forecast or on the roof. Last year we had a nasty ice dam up there. It didn’t leak into the house, but it was pretty thick. The ice nearly tore the gutters clean off the house, so I figured I ought to do something to prevent that this year.

I had intended to hang Christmas lights too, but that will have to wait. I might do it tomorrow after work – in the dark.

About 1:30 Va, Beth, and I set out for Concord. Today was to be a brush clearing day at the church, and Va had some shopping to do. We figured we’d get some dinner after that. Beth stayed with me, and Va went on her way. Beth and I were the first ones there. I let her in the church and she sat down to read a book. Then I went out and started clearing brush. I mostly used some mondo pruning shears I have, but I also used a bow saw a bit. I kept working, waiting for someone else to show up, but no one else did. Or maybe they came, saw no other cars, and left without me noticing. That’s a distinct possibility, because Va drove up at around 3:00 and called me on my cell. I didn’t know she was there until she told me so. Beth was quite bored by then, so Va took her with her to the mall, and I continued working alone. I did manage to clear an awful lot of brush, but I would have enjoyed it a lot more if others had shown up to help. I threw it in at 4:00, gathered up my tools, and called Va. She came to get me, and then we went out to eat. I was soaking wet by then because of a) perspiration, and b) snow. It started snowing almost as soon as I got there. Maybe that’s why no one else showed up, who knows. I was also pretty tired.

After we ate, we went into J.C. Penny’s and bought me three new shirts. I really like the St John’s Bay brand that they carry. Those shirts invariably become my favorites until I wear them out. I have several that I guess I ought to retire now that the reinforcements have arrived.

Va ordered my new camera for me too (before we left). She also got me a memory card for it and a carrying case. Woot! I can hardly wait until it comes in. I have missed having a camera that will focus.

By the time it quit snowing (I think it’s raining now) we had about an inch on the ground, and that was right in line with the forecast. Hopefully it will be all taken care of by the time I need to drive Beth to school in the morning.

I took a pretty good walk at lunchtime today. I looked out the window and saw that it was gorgeous outside, so I grabbed my camera and my hat and I was off. I haven’t been walking as much as I should, and this was the first walk in Concord I’ve taken in September. So as I strolled along at a pretty brisk clip, I took pictures of every non-cultivated flower species I came across (except the ones I’ve already logged this month). I didn’t count them, but there were probably two dozen. I logged them at the Bloom Clock when I got home.

It was a multi-tasking walk. Not only was I exercising and logging flowers – I was also talking to Mom! I felt impressed to call her, and we talked for about 20 minutes before the low-battery indicator on my phone started beeping at me. By the time I got back to the office I had worked up a bit of a sweat. It was a tiny bit on the hot side (but still below 90, so it’s not like it was KY or VA hot – just NH hot).

On my way home I stopped at the vet to get Penny another half year supply of Frontline (tick, flea, and lice prevention meds). Traffic was a wee bit heavy in the opposite direction, so I decided to explore my way from the vet’s office to I-89. It was not where I expected it to be, so that sent me about 5 miles out of the way. It took 15 minutes for me to get from my office to the vet, and 19 minutes to get back. It was probably a wash time-wise.

Once I got home I took a walk on my trail. Three quarters of the way around I saw a huge spider hanging in a web right across the trail. So I made its portrait. This might be the best shot:

Not so itsy-bitsy spider

Not so itsy-bitsy spider


I haven’t tried to id this guy yet, but I bought a field guide to insects and spiders yesterday, so maybe I’ll take a crack in a little bit. I took a couple of shots (including this one) with flash turned off, but whenever I do that, the exposure time is automatically lengthened. So if I don’t hold the camera perfectly still, the picture comes out blurry. I decided it was worth the effort to go back into the house and grab my tripod, so I walked around the web and fetched it. Then I set it up and got one shot (but for whatever reason, it pegged the suck meter). About then Beth stepped out onto the deck and started calling to me. I made the mistake of hollering back, and the spider high-tailed it up the web until it was about 15 feet off the ground. So much for the tripod. I’ll look for this guy again tomorrow.