Here are some flowers that are in bloom for Mother’s Day:

Wild oats (Uvularia sessifolia)

Wild oats (Uvularia sessifolia)

Dwarf Ginseng (Panax trifolius)

Dwarf Ginseng (Panax trifolius)

Colt's foot (Tussilago farfara)

Colt’s foot (Tussilago farfara)

Trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens)

Trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens)

Wild strawberry (Fragaria spp)

Wild strawberry (Fragaria spp)

Violet (Viola spp)

Violet (Viola spp)

Another violet (Viola spp)

Another violet (Viola spp)

Periwinkle (Vinca minor)

Periwinkle (Vinca minor)

Goldthread (Coptis trifolia)

Goldthread (Coptis trifolia)


Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

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It has been a pretty good weekend for me. Yesterday the Pathfinders went out to the Laconia church to present our “Plagues of Egypt” newscast. We left the Concord church at 10:30 (meant to leave at 10:15, but sometimes that’s the way it plays) and arrived at 11:00 (or a few minutes after). When we got there we discovered that the computer that had all the “”live action report” video on it was still in Va’s car back in Concord. Things got frantic! We made some phone calls and found that one of the Pathfinder parents had just left the Concord church. We asked them to turn around and get the computer. I also called Va to let her know to give them the computer.

So it was on the way. We had some other things to present including a children’s story, and we talked about our trip to Holbrook. We sang some songs, I told a story, and then the computer arrived. We set it up as quickly as we could, and then began the video presentation. All in all, it went pretty well in spite of the major gaff.

When that service was over, the Laconia church laid out a spread to feed the Pathfinders. I couldn’t hang around for that (though I would have liked to) because Va needed me back in Concord for the Adventurers meeting. When I got back to Concord, the potluck dinner was still going strong, so I made up a plate and had some lunch. Then we had the Adventurers meeting.

Once that was over we went home and I had the choice between a nap and a hike. I took the hike – just me and Penny on this one. Almost as soon as we set out, I found some coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) in bloom.

Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)

Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)


This is a plant that was introduced to the Americas by the Europeans. They used it as a cough medicine. Note how the Latin name “Tussilago” is similar to the modern-day medicine “Robitussin.” That’s not an accident. What is an accident (I guess) is that coltsfoot is no more efficacious against a cough than a placebo. The same goes for cough drops that you can still buy at the drug store in spite of this recent finding. I was not surprised at all by this, as cough drops never did anything for me.

Penny and I continued on our hike. We went to Sandogardy Pond, but I didn’t find any more new plants in bloom (lots of trailing arbutus, but I’ve already posted photos from those twice this month). One thing I will note however – trailing arbutus blooms are edible. And I ate some yesterday while I was out.

As we were walking along Little Cohas Brook, a pickup truck pulled in. That’s pretty unusual. It is a class VI road, so I guess 4WD vehicles can get around there – they just don’t very often. A guy and his son (about 8 years old I would guess) got out. At least they didn’t try to drive over Penny’s bridge (I thought he would for a few seconds). Then he told me that he had beaver traps set in the creek. I didn’t know people still did that. I watched him wade into the creek (with waders) and check his trap. Meanwhile his son had crossed the bridge and checked one on the other side. “Hey Dad!” he called. “There’s something in this one! I think it’s a catfish!”

Penny and I left them in peace and continued our hike. We walked up to the railroad tracks and then along them until we got to a log that crosses the brook. I headed across thinking Penny would swim. She did, but that was not her first choice:

Penny tries to cross the log

Penny tries to cross the log


I was amazed that she tried this. She couldn’t get around that branch, but she tried for several minutes before giving up. I stayed on the far side of the creek and headed to Little Cohas Cache. Penny found a place and swam across.

Meanwhile I heard the pickup truck start the engine and drive away. Penny and I did some bushwhacking and got back to the trails. Then we went home.

I slept until nearly 9:00am on Sunday. Va made pancakes, and after breakfast Beth went outside. She came in and asked if she could plant the garden. I thought that sounded like a great idea, so out I went. I dug some fertilizer out of the garage and sprinkled that on the little 4×4 plot. Then Beth mixed it in. Then I went and got the wheelbarrow so we could get some compost. It needed some attention first:

Rotted wheel

Rotted wheel


The tire would not make a good seal around the rims as they were so rusted. Also, the bearings are shot. I had bought a replacement tire a couple of weeks ago, so I got that out, and two rusted-bolts later, it was on.
All better

All better


We went to the compost pile (basically, the leaf dump in the woods) and loaded it up. Then wheeled it over to th garden and unloaded it. We mixed it in, and I divided the plot into 9 squares. Beth planted carrots, swiss chard, peas, and some cosmos.
Planting the spring garden

Planting the spring garden


Then it started snowing.

My plan is to build five more of these 4×4 beds with enough space between them for the mower to fit. I wasn’t able to do this before today due to the broken wheelbarrow (unless I wanted to carry a bunch of stones all over the property).

We went in and had some noodles for lunch. Then Beth and I headed over to the church to work on the cardboard boats. The first order of business was to free my kayak from its cocoon. I sliced from the cockpit to the nose, but the cardboard was too stiff to get the kayak out through that opening. So I cut out the front quarter panel.

Warran preparing to help free the kayak

Warran preparing to help free the kayak


That opening was likewise insufficient, so I removed the other quarter panel as well. With that out of the way, we were able to spring the kayak out.
Free at last!

Free at last!


Then we glued some tabs to the hull and reattached the deck.
Reattaching the "hood"

Reattaching the "hood"


It’s on there pretty good now. We will add a couple more layers of cardboard, then cover it with drywall tape and paint it. I am convinced this will be the fastest boat in the competition.

After three hours of that, Va and the boys showed up. We cleaned up and then went out to eat. (I was dressed more for canoe construction than for fine dining, but… them’s the breaks).

When we got home I decided to start laying the walls for my second raised garden bed. I had some stones that I had gathered a couple of years ago, and dug some holes to accept the more irregular shapes (leaving the smooth edges for the top and outside). When I dug into the ground, I was reminded of why I can only have a raised bed here. Gravel. In fact, I dug more gravel out of that hole than dirt. It’s kinda hard to see in the photo, so you’ll just have to trust me on that.

It was nearly dark, so I used the flash

It was nearly dark, so I used the flash


This is where the builder stored a huge pile of gravel when the house was built. When they finished, they left a lot of it here and just buried it beneath an inch of topsoil. That makes for some pretty tough gardening! I ended up laying one wall and quarrying three more wheelbarrows of stone. I will continue to lay the walls and then fill the bed with topsoil (which I suppose I will have to buy). A yard ought to do it.

On Saturday, I took a hike down to Sandogardy Pond with Beth, David, and Penny. I took photos along the way and while there, but haven’t gotten around to getting them off the camera until tonight. I also have been walking around in my woods snapping away over the past couple of days. Here’s what I’ve found:

Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)

Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)


Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) was once considered a premium cough remedy. It has not proven to be effective by modern science.

False Hellebore (Veratrum viride)

False Hellebore (Veratrum viride)


The photo above is False Hellebore (Veratrum viride). It looks like it would be really good to eat, with all those leafy lush greens. But that would be a mistake as it’s pretty toxic, causing the body to reject it almost immediately via emesis. Failure to purge is fatal. Some Native American tribes used this as a bravery test when selecting a new chief. The candidates would eat some, and then bravely try to keep it down. Last one to barf would be named the bravest, and thus, the new chief. But sometimes such bravery proved fatal, so they would have to go with the second-bravest-but-slightly-wiser candidate instead.
Violet (Viola spp)

Violet (Viola spp)


I’m not good a identifying violets down to the species level. There are a lot of them to choose from. This was in my backyard.
Lowbush Blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium)

Lowbush Blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium)


The blueberry blossoms are almost ready to open.
Butterwort (Pinguicula vulgaris)

Butterwort (Pinguicula vulgaris)


This little beast is carnivorous. The leaves exude a mucus that catches bugs. And here I thought all carnivorous plants were exotic and probably tropical. Never expected to find them in my backyard.
Dwarf Ginseng (Panax trifolius)

Dwarf Ginseng (Panax trifolius)


When I saw these on Saturday, I knew it was spring.
Goldthread (Coptis groenlandica)

Goldthread (Coptis groenlandica)


I think this is about the most stunning wildflower in bloom at my place right now. The white petals are actually sepals. The actual petals are those yellowish clubs hanging out between the stamens. This plant gets its name from its roots which look like little gold threads. Chewing on them is purported to be an effective treatment for mouth sores, which is where its alternate name – canker root – comes from. I took a lot of shots of these. Here’s another:
Goldthread (Coptis groenlandica)

Goldthread (Coptis groenlandica)


None of the leaves around this flower belong to this plant. I didn’t take any shots of the foliage today (shrug), but they usually show up as three wedge shaped forms joined at a central point with jagged edges on the opposite side. The leaves here are from the star flower (Trientalis borealis), but those aren’t in bloom yet.

Jonathan’s passport is now in the works. He finally got everything together that they wanted, so off it goes. Along with his old passport and his birth certificate! They send him a new passport and return his birth certificate. At first we thought that meant he would be unable to drive, but I have about convinced myself that he still can. They gave him a photocopy of his old passport, and I’m thinking that he could use that for proof of age if we ever got pulled over.

Va set the gears in motion to renew her passport too now. We’ll work on Beth’s and David’s when Beth goes on Spring Break. I’m thinking we might make a jaunt into Canada this summer. I’d like to go to Upstate New York and visit Almanzo Wilder’s home there while we’re in the neighborhood.

The coltsfoot is up now. I noticed it Tuesday and took several photos. This one came out the best:

Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)

Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)

I wrote about this plant last year and its supposed medicinal properties. It gets the name coltsfoot from the shape of the leaves (which it won’t put out until later). This one was growing near the edge of my woods, and it’s a very small patch (only two stems – about the same as last year). But I know of two other places where it grows in much greater profusion. The first is just down the road from our house. The second is a larger patch near the spring on Intervale Road in Canterbury. The unfortunate thing about both these patches is that they are located on unpaved roads, so every car that passes stirs up dust that gets deposited on the leaves. Not the greatest place to gather edible wild plants.

However, that’s not a huge loss. The last time I tried to make candy from the leaves it didn’t turn out all that swimmingly.

It has been raining most of today. In spite of that, I went outside when I got home from work. I’ve been looking for some Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) for a couple of weeks now, and today I found it pretty much right where it was growing last year:

Tussilago farfara

Tussilago farfara


I knew where it was going to come up within about a 20 foot radius, and today, it finally reared its head. This particular plant is edible and is purported to be medicinal as well. It has traditionally been used as a cough remedy, but in my opinion, any such effects are purely psychosomatic. Seems like I read a while back that no cough remedy on the market performs better than a placebo, and that agrees with my own personal experience with all cough drops.

The latin name for the genus (Tussilago) means “cough suppressant”, and that root also shows up in the word “Robitussen” (the active ingredient of which was the subject of the previously cited study).

That aside, I did make some rock candy with this stuff last year. This plant will not form leaves until after the flowers go to seed, but once it does, the leaves can be collected and boiled in water for “a while.” I prolly didn’t boil them long enough when I made it. The leaves are then removed, and a bunch of sugar is added. This is boiled down until it becomes really syrupy. Then it is poured into cold water where the syrup freezes into a hard rock candy which is supposed to double as a cough drop (but we’ve already beaten that horse, haven’t we?) When I made some, it was for the candy aspect. It tasted like…. sugar. Like I said, I prolly didn’t boil the leaves long enough.

I looked into this plant a little more tonight and found that it is not native to North America. It was imported by settlers, probably for its medicinal properties. It is now a well-established invasive species. But it doesn’t seem to spread too much, so I’m going to leave it alone in case I want some more sugar candy someday.