I have been wanting to go snowshoeing pretty much all winter, but things have seemed to conspire against me. Either I didn’t have enough snow, or I didn’t have enough time. Today, I had enough of both, so Penny and I set out for Sandogardy Pond. I don’t know when I was last there, but I do know it’s my first time since taking a new job in NH in November.

I always like to take pictures of Cross Brook (or as I prefer to call it, Little Cohas Brook).

Cross Brook

Cross Brook

Penny was afraid to cross the bridge, so she started making motions to swim the brook. I called her off, but she really thought I was going to cross and didn’t want to be left behind. I attribute that more to her being a dog than to anything special about me. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I told her to sit, and she did.

Penny waits obediently

Penny waits obediently

I took another shot or two of the brook and then turned around and came back across to her. She seemed relieved.

I didn’t notice this at first:

Stray paddleboat

Stray paddleboat

It’s a paddle boat. It’s owned by some people who live on the pond, but I’m not sure exactly which house they live in. Also, I didn’t see an easy way for me to rescue their boat without risking hypothermia, so I let it be. Maybe someone with an ATV or snowmobile could pull it out.

This hike was very much needed, both by me and by Penny who has not had a decent hike since at least November. I’ve been busy with so many things. One of them was this:

Ship in a Bottle

My Pinewood Derby entry

My Pinewood Derby car. Yes, it’s a ship in a bottle. Lots of people asked how I got it in there, and I told them I had a shrink ray and that it was a real boat. I had shrunk it smaller than that so I could fit it through the mouth of the bottle and then put it in reverse and tapped it a few times. It didn’t unshrink the bottle though, because the bottle is glass and the ray would just go straight through it.

But the real answer is that the mast folded down (towards the stern). It slipped in fairly easily with the mast pushed back, and once it was in there, I pulled it up with the rigging. I tacked the thread to the jib-boom with s dot of super glue (which sailors of old surely lacked).

The sails are made from a tea bag, and the ship is set in the bottle in wax. Once I had the boat inside, I shaved some wax, dropped it in, and set it on the stove until it melted. Then I set the boat in position and let the wax harden.

Nothing to it!

The Pinewood Derby was the last part of a very long day. It started with our annual Pathfinder Sabbath. We did a “Newscast” from Jericho in the time of Joshua. The kids did a great job, but the whole program was plagued with technical difficulties. After that we had a potluck lunch, and then went into the Bible Bowl, which is like a quiz show. This year the material all came from the book of Joshua (which is why we selected that for our newscast).

Then we had supper followed by the Pinewood Derby. All-in-all, I very much enjoyed the day, in spite of the technical difficulties.

This weekend we had our Pathfinder Bible Bowl and Pinewood Derby in Vernon Vermont.

The View at Mountain View Adventist Church

The View at Mountain View Adventist Church

We arrived there in time for the church service with all of us in full dress uniform. After church we ate lunch and then settled in for the Bible Bowl.

The Bible Bowl is basically a quiz that we answer in teams of no more than six. Adults and kids are on separate teams and do not compete with one another. Then the moderators ask questions, we write down our answers on slips of paper, and then run them up to the judging table. The kid team who gets the most right sets the bar. Any team scoring 90% of their score or higher gets a gold bar to hang on their Bible Bowl pin (though we will not get them until this spring sometime). Any team that scores below 90%, but above 80% gets a silver bar. All others get a bronze bar.

Beth’s team got a gold bar. They had the second-highest score for any of the kid teams which is pretty good! She was stoked. My team also earned a gold bar, but we had a very good team. I took our portrait:

My Team's Portrait

My Team’s Portrait

When that was over, we had supper, and then prepared for the Pinewood Derby. That took longer than anticipated, as Paul (our conference director) had brought a lot of equipment for car weight modification. He, another area coordinator, and I weighed the cars and added (or subtracted) weight until they were not more than 5 ounces, and as close to 5 ounces as we could get them. We probably should have just subtracted weight from the overweight cars, as we were not able to get the derby started until 8:30pm.

Here is Beth’s car:

Beth's Pocketknife Car

Beth’s Pocketknife Car

And here is mine again:

All Mixed Up

All Mixed Up

I actually modified mine since I posted it last week. I was at the recycling center and I stopped in the “junk exchange” room and found a tiny little candle holder. It was a better bowl than the plastic jug I had pressed into service, so I snagged it, and replaced the other one. I think it looks a lot better. I put it on the scale, mixed up some epoxy and cocoa, and poured it in until it weighed five ounces.

I also like Saralyn’s car (she is one of my Pathfinders).

Saralyn's "1st Place" car

Saralyn’s “1st Place” car

She was not able to come to either of the Pathfinder meetings during which we worked on our cars, so I helped her get started and sent her home with my tools last week. I think she did a pretty good job. She won third place for creativity in the teen division. But no matter what, she knew she’d go home with a blue ribbon.

Paul has been competing in Pinewood Derbys for a long time, so I knew his car was going to be the one to beat.

Paul's "Seven Dwarf's Mine" car

Paul’s “Seven Dwarf’s Mine” car

Here is is from the front.
Front of Paul's car

Front of Paul’s car

And I was right. His car was the fastest, and he earned second place for most creative. I am too humble to tell you who edged him out on that. ๐Ÿ˜‰

My car placed second for speed and third for craftsmanship. I think I could have done better in the craftsmanship department, but the strangest thing happened. I already wrote that I poured epoxy into the mixing bowl until it weighed five ounces. And I weighed it again before taking it to the registration table – it was 5.00 ounces. But when we put it on the exact same scale at the registration table it had somehow gained half an ounce. I cannot understand this. I can understand the other thing that caused problems though – my car was too tall. I could have chopped the handle off, but instead, I sliced the whole top off and removed a chunk from the center. It was still way over the weight limit, so I spent another ten minutes hollowing out the inside of the mixer. When I finally got it down to 5 ounces again I glued the top back on. Where did that extra weight come from? I think I will never know!

In the end though, it still looked good enough to gain a third place ribbon for craftsmanship, a second place for speed, and… yes, a first for creativity. But I think that had to have been a difficult decision for the judges.

Meanwhile, Beth snagged two blue ribbons!

Beth collects a blue ribbon for fastest car in her division

Beth collects a blue ribbon for fastest car in her division

Hers was the fastest in her division, and she too took first place for creativity. The blade on hers would open and close. I did help her with the engineering and the power tools, but she did most of that work herself. I am very proud of her, and she was obviously pretty pleased about this too.

The derby ended at about 10:00pm. We had arranged to spend the night at the church there, and I was very grateful to be able to do that. I think the next time our church hosts the Derby, we will certainly make ours available to anyone who wants to stay. I will even stay with them.

I got up at 6:30, got dressed, and then put some water on for oatmeal. The rest of the club got up in their own time. One we were all dressed and fed we loaded the cars up and made sure the church was clean. Then we went home.

First thing I did when I got home was take a nap!

Here is my entry for the Southern Northern* New England Pinecar Derby.

All Mixed Up

All Mixed Up

*The Northern New England Conference has two Pinecar Derbies. One in the northern part, and one in the southern part. We will go to the southern one.

And here it is posing beside its model.

Mixie and her Mommy

Mixie and her Mommy

The batter in the mixing bowl is a special recipe of my own. Two and a half teaspoons of epoxy resin, a half teaspoon of hardener, and one teaspoon of cocoa. Mix well, pour, and allow to harden.

After I mixed it up, I dipped the beaters into it, installed them in the mixer, and allowed them to drip onto the bowl stand. I made the beaters themselves from paper clips, hot melt glue, and a couple of disks I punched out of a milk jug (you probably can’t see the discs, but the are just above the bowed out part that one would normally lick clean).

The bowl stand is the lid from a container of Play-Doh. I painted it black because neon pink just didn’t seem right.

After I painted everything, I photographed the Mommy Mixer’s labels, scaled them, and printed them out. Then I cut them out with an X-acto knife and glued them in place. There are three such decals: the one with the knob, one along the top of the handle, and one on the front of the mixer.

The Derby is in two weeks.

I am pretty pleased with the result. ๐Ÿ™‚

As expected, yesterday was very busy. It was Pathfinder Sabbath at our church, so my Pathfinder club presented the worship service. I was hoping someone would have made a video recording of it, but… I don’t think anyone did.

The kids did a TV newscast of the plagues in Egypt leading up to Passover. We prerecorded several “Live Action Reporters” interviewing both Egyptians and Hebrews about the events, and we have an live anchor team (and they really were live) reporting the stories. They interacted with the pre-recorded segments (as if they really were live) and it all went pretty well! There were a few technical glitches here and there, but all in all, I was very proud of them. Hats off to Eric Atherton, one of the parents who did all the video editing. I received a ton of positive comments about the program after it was concluded, so I have every reason to be pleased with the kids. They were terrific.

Following the church service we had lunch, and after that we hosted the annual Bible Bowl. This is like a quiz show game where the participants (including adults if they want to participate) are asked questions about an assigned section of the Bible. We do separate the kids from the adults, and the kid-team with the highest score sets the bar for all the other teams. Any team scoring within 90% of them wins gold, any within 80% wins silver, and everyone else gets bronze.

Then we had supper and started the Pinewood Derby. I did not have time to build a car this year, so I did not enter. But Beth made one, and here it is:

Beth's Bunny Car

Beth's Bunny Car

I had the idea of making a tortoise car Wednesday, but by then, it was too late for me to pull that off. Oh well. Maybe next year.

Here’s her car crossing the finish line (after having lost an eye):

Crossing the finish line

Crossing the finish line

Her car won first place in the creativity competition for the junior division, and she won third place in the speed competition. I was not at all surprised about the creativity, but kind of was about the speed. We didn’t really do anything to it to make it fast other than polish the axles. But I guess that was good enough. Who knows what would have happened if we had added graphite to the wheels and smoothed them down?

We finally went home around 9:00pm. It was a very long, but satisfying and fun day.

Last Saturday, Beth and I went back to the Richard Smart Conservation Area to visit Devil’s Den. The trails were covered in ice, and the steeper parts were pretty slick. As a result, we walked to the side of them in the snow where the footing was much better.

We set out on this hike a lot later than I had meant too, due to a much needed nap that I had taken earlier. But it was worth it. ๐Ÿ™‚

This is one of the things I saw:

Hemlock stump

Hemlock stump

This is the stump of a hemlock tree. In most trees, the bark decays before the wood does, but with hemlock, the reverse is true. So they leave stumps like this with an outer sheath of bark standing up higher than the rest of the stump.

I didn’t get a lot of photos as the light was failing fast. I had taken my flashlight out of my camera bag the previous week and loaned it to Beth, and I had neglected to get it back from her. Therefore, we really needed to hustle to get back to the car before it got dark, so all the shots I attempted of the woods at sunset were too rushed. Here’s one:

Racing the Sun

Racing the Sun

The trail here winds around in a very serpentine pattern. I think the intent was to make a longer more enjoyable trail in the limited space available. I was tempted to leave the marked trail and cut through the woods to shorten our hike, but resisted the temptation. That would have been a good way to make our trek even longer, and almost would have guaranteed we’d still be there when it got dark.

There was hardly any snow on the ground, which is the big story of our winter this year. The winter that was not. Maybe we’ll get some snow before the season is over, but I’m starting to resign myself to a snowless winter.

Tomorrow will be a busy day as it is Pathfinder Sabbath at our church. The club will be responsible for the entire church service. We are doing a three-act skit, most of which has been pre-recorded. Our video enthusiasts have been working pretty hard all week to get the video editing done, and last night the live actors were able to rehearse interacting with the video segments. That went pretty well I thought. Yes there is some less-than-optimal acting involved in the pre-recorded segments, but we work with what we have. And everyone had fun, so I count this as a success. I believe someone was planning to record the skit (the live and pre-recorded parts together) – if they’ll upload it to the innerwebs, I’ll link you to it.

After the church service we will eat lunch, and then the Bible Bowl starts. Bible Bowl is something like a quiz game. I don’t know how much the kids have been studying 1 & 2 Corinthians, but I have reminded them every week for about two months. The rest is up to them.

When that’s over, we will have dinner, and then the Pinewood Derby starts. I did not have time to build a car this year, but Beth made a pretty nice one – it looks like a rabbit. Only when hers nearly finish did I finally get an idea for a car of my own – a tortoise. What better competitor to her hare? But by then, it was too late for me to execute, so… no car for me this year. I’ll take some pictures of her car for you tomorrow during the race.

Yesterday was Pathfinder Sabbath. That meant that the Pathfinders presented our church service in its entirety. I thought the best part was the skit we put on – “Showdown on Mt Carmel.” It was the story of Elijah vs Ahab set to the Old West. We had background music from a couple of Clint Eastwood’s spaghetti westerns, a minute of Foggy Mountain Breakdown, and the theme from The Magnificent Seven. It was pretty well received.

At one point, a couple of cowpokes each took a pail of water and used it to douse Elijah’s altar. We had laid down a brand new tarp for this, and had four broomsticks arranged underneath that in a square so that the water wouldn’t run off the tarp. But when it was poured on, some of it did indeed splash right off and hit David in the face. That was… funny!

After the church service, we had lunch, and then the Bible Bowl. Bible Bowl is like a Scholastic Bowl, where the kids (and adults!) study a given section of the Bible before the event. In our case, it was Exodus 21-40. On the day of the event, the kids are put in teams of up to six. Adults form their own teams. Then the questions are asked, and the group writes down an answer and runs it up to the judge’s table.

After that, we had supper, and then came the Pinewood Derby. My car was not very fast compared to the others, and when I saw some of my competition, I was convinced that I would probably not get a blue ribbon in either creativity or craftsmanship.

The competition.

The competition.

I thought the best I could hope for would be a red ribbon. I thought Paul’s Moose Mobile was utterly fantastic, and Warran entered in red sports car with a very professional-looking paint job. Nice.

I didn’t even place in the speed contest, but I didn’t come in last place on all the races either. Here’s a shot of my car crossing the finish line in second place (for that run).

Close Contest

Close Contest

This shot is pretty grainy. I was aiming for a quick shutter speed in dim light, so I had to make some compromises. I didn’t want to use flash, as that would likely impair the judge’s view just as the cars crossed the finish line.

Much to my surprise, my car took the blue ribbon for both creativity and craftsmanship. I was in total disbelief.

I’ve nearly finished my entry in this weekend’s Pathfinder Pinewood Derby race. I will be pitted against other adults, so no boohooing about me competing with kids. Anyhow, here’s the car. No wheels yet, and the paint is still wet:

Boots & Backpack

Boots & Backpack

I started with the hiking boots (modeled after my own).

Hiking Boots

Hiking Boots

The backpack was an afterthought. Either it’s not to scale, someone has a tiny backpack, or huge feet. Such are the limits of the pinecar medium (at least in my hands).

Most of the work was done with a coping saw, half inch chisel, and a pocket knife (but mostly chisel). I think it came out pretty OK, but I doubt it will be fast. The hardest part was the shoelaces (by a long shot). They are not one piece. I did drill holes for the shoe’s eyelets and poked one end of the thread into each. Then I laid them across the tongue, clipped them to size, and glued them down. But tying the laces was even more difficult than getting them on the boots in the first place. I almost went for the untied look, but hey – Pathfinders are supposed to be neat, so I persisted.

I have made no attempt to make this car fast. I usually go for the creativity or craftsmanship ribbons. Hopefully this will bring one of those home!

My Plane Car got 1st place for ceativity in the adult division, and second place for craftsmanship. My friend Warran got first in craftsmanship, and it was well deserved. I think my car was fourth fastest, but they don’t hand out ribbons for fourth place.

David got second in the teen division for creativity. His car was a log flume. He had glued some birch bark to his and mounted Lego men in it.

Beth got first place for creativity in the under 10 division. Her car was a subway train. I think my family were the only people in our club who entered non-cars. I’ll see if I can post some pix tomorrow. I’m too tired right now.

The puppet show went well too btw.

Pinewood Derby car imitating a bench plane.

Plane Car

Here’s my finished plane car. I kinda like it. I went to Lowes tonight and bought a three-foot chunk of 1/4″x1″ slab of steel. I did some calculations and found that it was going to be very difficult for me to drill holes in this thing and fill them with lead to get the weight up to 5 oz (aka 141 grams). I weighed it first, and it came in at 52 grams. That’s a wee bit on the light side. If I drilled a quarter inch hole into the sole and up through the rear grip, it would have to have been something like 7 inches deep so that when filled with lead, it would add another 90 grams. A half inch hole was more like it, but the handle isn’t a half inch wide, so the tolerances aren’t just tight – they’re impossible. So I turned to the next strategy which was to replace the wooden blade with a steel one. a quarter inch thick blade one inch wide would need to be just under 3 inches to weigh in at 90 grams. And yes, I love converting between metric and English. Not.

Thus the trip to Lowes for a slab of steel. I ground an edge onto the end, and then measured off three inches. I cut it a little short, but that’s OK, because I had forgotten to weigh the thing with the wheels and axles first, so everything will be off anyhow. Then I tapered the top end and sanded the black junk off the steel. And of course this gets more ridiculous, because then I put it in my sharpening jig and zipped it over my 1000 grit stone. I refrained from using the other side of the stone which is 6000 grit. No need for that much overkill!

Once I was happy with my blade of steel, I glued it on. I couldn’t find my bottle of Gorilla glue, so I just used Elmers School glue. I am almost certain to regret that, but it is what it is. I really need to reweigh the whole shooting match now just to make sure I’m under 141 grams, but our balance only has 100 grams of weight! To get semi-close though, I filled a cup (with non-zero mass) with about 140ml of water (eye-balling the line between 125ml and 150ml). That should be pretty close to 141 grams, and it was heavier than the plane car. But we’ll see. I ought to bring my drill and a bit along in case I need to drill a hole in the blade to reduce the weight. Or just say “forget it” because this car is really not built for speed anyhow. I’m hoping to win the in the “style” department.

I finished my first sock last night. I knitted it without any errors (that I know of), but I have decided I don’t really like the pattern. It’s kinda hard to tell that until you’ve knitted one though. I guess. So now I’m doomed to knit another sock just like it, or have a half pair of socks. I went ahead and started the second sock tonight. Maybe the pattern will grow on me after I wear them a bit.

Today at lunch, Jonathan and I went to the Tea Garden, a Chinese restaurant. We stopped at the bank on the way so I could make a deposit. I thought the food was pretty good, and Jonathan said he enjoyed it as well. Plus it wasn’t any more than a deli, except that I gave nearly a 30% tip (on $3.00 on an $11 check). Still a $3.00 tip seemed pretty lean.

We walked back to the office the back way along the railroad tracks. That’s the path I usually tread when I take a lunchtime walk in the summer looking for blooms to log. There were no blooms today.

After I finished the sock last night, I went down to the basement and sawed up some PVC. Then I assembled it into a puppet theater. I think it’s going to work out pretty OK. I had the idea later today that the back drop could be made from a thin white sheet (or white linen of some sort), and then we could project scenery onto it from behind. How cool would that be? Answer: All the way cool.

But of course there’s no time for that for this production. I still need to cut up and stitch the canvas covering together for it. And maybe paint it, but I think that will have to wait too. Plus with the sewing machine out of commission, I’m going to have to wait on doing any stitching anyhow.

I also need to wedge a little time in this week or next to paint my Pinewood Derby car. I guess I should go out and buy some paint.