Close to the end of the workday today, Va dropped Beth off at my office. She wanted to load some songs on her iPod, and I have been storing those on my desk computer there. We took care of that, and then set out for the Haggett Farm where we camped last week. You might recall that I decided to leave the tents pitched so they’d have a chance to dry. Well, it was time to check them. I figured if any were dry, I could put them away, and if any were not, I could move them into our kitchen shelter where they would stand a fighting chance (the forecast is for showers every day for the next umpteen days).

Wet tents and a dry one

Wet tents and a dry one


The results were mixed. The tent in the foreground was dry, but the ones behind it were wet. As it turns out, they were the only wet ones of the lot, and their wetness was confined to the inside. You might be saying, “But I only see one tent in the background!” and I could not blame you for that. It was a big part of the problem (if not the sole cause). The girls who used these tents decided to join them together, which is something they were not designed to do. That prevented the flies from being pulled tight, which is a requirement for keeping the rain out. And since they were improperly pitched, they let the rain in, and that’s where it still was when I got there today.

I unstaked them and poured about a cup of water out of each one. Then I moved them into the kitchen. I’ll try again perhaps on Friday.

When we got home, I took Penny out for a lap around our wood lot. Our neighbor has been doing some work.

Change, it is a comin'

Change, it is a comin'


He is getting ready to build a house back here. The one on his lot is sort of a shack, and he is anxious to get into some better digs. His parents will be building a second house back there too. Unfortunately for me, this is going to let a lot of light into my woods and completely change its character. The flora I have along this edge of the property is completely different from the flora along the northern border. Down here, I have dewdrops (Dalibarda pratense), dwarf ginseng (Panax trifolius), goldthread (Coptis trifolia), and a couple of others that I can’t think of right now. This is the only place I know where these plants grow, and I believe them to be shade lovers. With the neighbor’s woods opening up, I will no longer have the shade they need, so I expect I won’t be enjoying them much longer.

The dwarf ginseng was blooming today though.

Dwarf ginseng (Panax trifolius)

Dwarf ginseng (Panax trifolius)


I will enjoy it while I can.

Farther up the trail (where the woods are more open), I found a pink lady slipper (Cypripedium acuale) shoot. This should bloom in another two or three weeks.

Pink lady slipper (Cypripedium acaule)

Pink lady slipper (Cypripedium acaule)

Then I made my way around to the front of the house. Va’s phlox has bloomed.

Phlox

Phlox


It has not yet reached its full glory, but I expect it will by this weekend.

I also found some white violets.

Violets are white

Violets are white


I do not pretend to know which species this is, but the genus is almost certainly Viola. And the leaves are quite tasty.

At the edge of the yard I have several chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) bushes. This is one that I had misidentified initially, but had enough doubt that I sent a photo of it off to Mr Smarty Plants. They came back with A. melanocarpa.

Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa)

Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa)


Samuel Thayer has lots of good things to say about this plant, and he stresses over and over again that it is chokeberry, not chokecherry. My bushes don’t produce enough for me to really get more than a taste of their berries.

As I continued my walk, I noticed a gaywing in bloom.

Gaywings (Polygala paucifolia)

Gaywings (Polygala paucifolia)


I had seen several unopened blooms in the west woods, and took several shots of them. But hey! this one is open. So I chose to post a photo of it, rather than the others. By this time the light was failing. I put the camera on my little tripod (even though the mount is still stripped – guess I need to get a helicoil), backed the F-stop down to the minimum, and took this shot. It’s a little dark, and I don’t like the depth of field too much, but it’s still not too shabby.

Wild strawberry (Fragaria spp)

Wild strawberry (Fragaria spp)


As I emerged from my little forest and came out onto the driveway, I saw the strawberries in bloom. I have no idea which species of strawberry this is – probably F. virginiana. It is nearly indistinguishable from dewberries, which are in the same genus as blackberries and raspberries. For a long time I thought the dewberries were strawberries, until I found that they produced blackberry drupes instead of strwaberries. They both grow along the edge of the driveway. Dad taught me to tell them apart – dewberries have thorns (little tiny ones) and strawberries do not.

I headed back to the house and checked out the “turn-around” spot in the driveway. There at the edge of that was another violet.

Violets are also blue

Violets are also blue


Nice.

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This week I went to Castle in the Clouds with my employer and several customers. I enjoyed it very much, and managed to get this sunset shot. I’m not very good at landscape photos, so from me, this is as good as those get.

Sunset at Castle in the Clouds

Sunset at Castle in the Clouds

I have another big weekend planned… actually, the next three weekends. Tomorrow the Pathfinders will fan out across a neighborhood in Concord and execute phase one of our annual food drive. We distribute bags with notes in them explaining the purpose of the bags. Then on Sunday (after our regular Pathfinder meeting) we will go back out again and collect the bags (and presumably the food people have donated). The food is given to people who ask our church for help.

To that end, I have made up some maps dividing the target neighborhood into seven sections. Actually, I found the maps I made last year and printed them out. We will only have five teams this year, but that’s OK. I also bought another thousand T-shirt sacks at Sam’s Club (that is, those plastic grocery bags that say “Thank you!” on them. Va made 100 copies of our plea, and I made another 200 after work. The copier at church will not make more than 100 at a time or it overheats and jams. Thus, the two phases.

Tomorrow the Pathfinders will staple the sheets to the bags and then distribute them.

On the following weekend we will go camping (just our club rather than the whole conference), and the weekend after that will be our Induction ceremony during the church service. That’s a lot of stuff to plan, but luckily… I like to plan things.

Drying six tents

Drying six tents


I set these tents up in my yard Monday so that I could store them dry (otherwise they will mold). They were nearly dry Wednesday, but I didn’t manage to take them down before it rained. It rained all day Thursday, and a little bit this morning. It’s supposed to rain basically every day until Thursday, so I thought I should do something else.

This evening I moved four of them into the garage and one into the basement. The sixth one will not be used by us next weekend (one of my Pathfinders left it in our trailer last spring, so it was accidentally used last weekend). I sent a couple of the kids to the trailer to fetch the “four person” tent, and they found his instead. I didn’t notice until they had pitched it in the rain, and since it was already wet by then, I figured it would be best to just use it and then dry it out with the others. I will leave it in my yard and let it dry after this week of forecast rain passes.

Winter just won’t let go:

Tulip in the snow

Tulip in the snow


This is what we found when we got home from church today. I didn’t think the ground was cold enough for the snow to stick, but I guess I was wrong. We had more snow here at the house than we did at Concord, but it’s still not enough to have to plow.

Yesterday most of the tents were dry enough to take down. The four season tent was still wet on the inside, so I moved it to the basement. The forecast was for rain today, but you’ve already seen what we got instead.

Flock of tents

Flock of tents


We’ll use these again in about two weeks when the club attends the Atlantic Union Camporee. There will be about 3000 people there (as compared to the North American Division camporee in Oshkosh which had ten times as many people, or the Northern New England camporees which have a tenth as many people).

Last time I wrote, I talked about how I had bought a not-new-but-unused tent. I also mentioned that I had three more on order from L.L. Bean. Well one of those three arrived today, and it too looks like a pretty decent purchase.

I was a little concerned that I had ordered three but that only one arrived, so I dashed off an email to them. They got back right away and told me that my other two tents shipped today. I should receive them tomorrow.

I’ve already pitched the one that showed up today. It’s in the living room. It’s not quite as roomy as the Eureka! tent I bought from Craigslist, but I think it will serve our needs nicely. I will most likely have the younger kids sleep in these though, since there’s not quite as much room, and they’re not quite as big as the older kids.

I bought a new tent yesterday from a guy who listed it on Craigslist. I think it was a pretty good deal. The tent is a four-season, two-person model that had never been used, but it was ten years old. He bought it for an expedition to Baffin Island, but he lost his job just before they were to set out.

The first thing I did when I saw the tent was open it, jam my face into the fabric, and inhale deeply. I needed to know that there was no mold, and that is really the best test I know of for detecting that. It was clean. It had all the (important) parts. It was perfect. So I bought it. New tents with these specs start at about $500, and I paid a quarter of that.

I set it up in the living room when I got home, and am still very pleased with the purchase. It is missing a couple of guy lines (which are easily replaced), and the bottle of seam sealer was empty (but that’s also easily replaced), so I am pretty stoked about this. Though it’s billed as a two-person tent, I think it’s about the same size as the three-person tents we’ve been using. It looks to be plenty roomy for two people anyhow.

I’ve probably written here before about why I am switching the Pathfinder Club over to three-person tents, but that won’t stop me from enumerating those reasons again!

Kids today refuse to change clothes in view of other kids of the same sex. So when we’re at a Camporee and we have to get into full dress uniform, they each take turns getting dressed. Each kid takes at least five minutes to do this, so if I have six kids in a tent, there goes thirty minutes. With two kids per tent (even in three-person tents), that only takes ten minutes.

It’s a lot easier to find four small tent sites in the woods than it is to find one large tent site.

Small tents are better for backpacking trips. Large tents are still very heavy even when divided into three packages. Kids just can’t handle the additional weight in a backpack.

Kids take ownership more readily if it’s just them and one other person in a tent. They take better care of their quarters that way too.

Before an inspection at a Camporee, I do my own inspection. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen a stray pair of tighty-whities in the middle of a tent floor, that no one will claim. With two kids per tent, that’s a more tractable problem to solve. It’s either yours or yours. Deal with it.

Eight two-person tents are more easily allocated among 16 kids than two eight-person tents. If I have eight girls and eight boys it doesn’t matter, but if I have six boys and ten girls, I have a problem. With eight small tents that problem goes away.

So there it is, probably for the second or third time. I’ve got three more tents on order from L.L. Bean too, so I think we’re finished with big tents now. The three on order are two-person, three-season tents. I expect them to ship next month sometime. Too bad we aren’t scheduled to camp again until April!

Acorns from a pin oak (Quercus palustris)

Acorns from a pin oak (Quercus palustris)


Today when we got home from work I had Jonathan drop me off at the end of the driveway so I could haul the empty trash can to the garage. As I was hauling, I looked down and noticed several striped acorns. I do not recall having ever seen striped acorns before, so I bent down and picked up a handful for closer study.

This evening I did some searching and found that there aren’t many types of oak that produce striped acorns. These are most likely from a pin oak (Quercus palustris).

Before I looked up striped acorns though, I had some work to do. Today was sunny and warm, and I had four tents in the backyard. I set them up in the rain yesterday, and I was hoping they would be dry by now. We’re supposed to have a tropical weather system moving through here tonight, and it may dump up to three inches of rain on us. There are flood warnings.

The biggest tent (an 8-person) was pretty much dry. There was a wet patch on the underside, so I dried that by hand with some paper towels. Then I rolled it up and put it in the trunk of my car. Tomorrow I will put it back in the trailer.

The 4-person tent was still soaking wet, so I just let it stand where it is. It will get rained on tonight and then get even wetter.

The two 3-person tents were almost dry, and since they are so small, I decided to move them into the garage. I removed their rain flies and hung them from the rafters. Then I moved the rest of them into the garage and suspended them so air could circulate underneath.

This will preclude me from parking in the garage during the ensuing monsoon. Hopefully they will be dry before the weekend is over.

We have snow in the forecast for tonight:

Low: 34°F RealFeel®: 40°F
Cold with increasing cloudiness; a touch of snow and rain at times late

When I got home I checked out the last tent I still had pitched in the yard. It was quite dry on the inside, but the underside was still very wet. So I took down the big tent I had hanging in the garage, folded, rolled, and packed it away. Then I took down the one in the yard and hung it in its place.

The big tent I had packed away also had a split pole, so I dragged that into the house and decided it was nothing that couldn’t be effectively addressed with duct tape. I put the two broken halves together and jammed them into their socket to hold them in place. Then I had some supper. Then I got the duct tape and wrapped up the wrong section. When I went to break it down again, I found the broken section still broken. My first thought was “it’s broken in two places!” but then I realized that I was just being stupid. So I wrapped the proper section. I thought about unwrapping the first section, but I’d rather have useless duct tape on a pole than have duct tape residue in its place. So I left it.

Before I came home from work though, I swung by Sears to get a timer for our washing machine. They didn’t have one in stock, so they ordered one for me ($140). I also got a pressure switch ($10) just in case, and Sears tacked on another $16 for shipping. It should be at our house sometime around Thursday.

I guess we’ll hafta wear dirty clothes until then.