Monday, August 31, 2015

stone tools

yep. still writing for venture vermont.

this year again, flintknapping is on the list.

now, i learned to do this in college, although i did not apparently learn to talk about it coherently.

anyway, for your striking stone you want something nice and hard and not fracture-y. i've using a granite against this here shale.

shale isn't ideal for it, but you can get it to fracture mostly reliably and it will make nice sharp edges, if not durable ones. you work with what you have.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

the bitterest pill

i think that a little ways back i mentioned an ambulance ride.

yeah, well.

so barb and i were doing the bitter pill. you know, like you do. and we were totally kicking butt on the navigation. when we saw that map in the morning and saw where the trek went, we KNEW we weren't going to get any more than 8 checkpoints if we did well, because ALL THOSE MILES OF BUSHWHACKING.

and it also meant we were going to have to spend our day mostly in foot travel, which is not our best thing. i move very slow on foot. biking is what we're good at.

and we were pretty much resigned to not getting to the bike portion of the race in time to ride.

well, them's the breaks.

we were pretty proud of ourselves for our awesome navigation on the trek, too, and our sheer bullheadedness in keeping on keeping on.

but then some time between checkpoints 5 and 6, i experienced some chest pain. later on when people were trying to get me to say what KIND of chest pain (burning? stabbing? aching?) all i could do was describe it as EXTREME SUBSUMING PAIN. and radiating to the elbow and up to my ear on the left side.

the kind of pain that makes you wonder if you are dying NOW.

and also shortness of breath and dizziness and nausea.

but you know, we were way up on the woodard trail and IF you're having a heart attack and you CAN still move, your chances of survival increase if you can get you over THERE where a rescue team can get to you.

you don't move fast, but you keep moving. i required a lot of resting along the way.

eventually we ran into a race volunteer, who called race direction, and together they decided to call a truck.

we kept moving, slowly, toward that extraction point.

eventually we met up with the first wave of responders, some very nice EMTs who did an assessment and decided that we could continue to proceed slowly, but that what we really needed was a paramedic.

so we kept moving. slowly.

and eventually met up with the second team with a paramedic. there was another assessment and it was decided that some more slow careful movement would not be out of place both toward the goal of getting me to the easiest extraction point, and also for some observation.

mostly, the shooty stabby i-need-to-lie-down-now pain was completely absent.

...unless we were walking uphill.

so the paramedic called it quits on the walking and we waited (turns out not too long) for colchester technical rescue to arrive. and they put me on the sled on the big wheel and heaved me out to the trailer and rode me down the mountain to the truck.

the short version of everything else is that while i did not have a heart attack, we are not yet certain that i do not have some blockages. the nice young cardiologist tells me that if i DO have blockages, they are not major blockages, nor are they in any major vessels because, among other things,  of my general level of exercise without pain up to a certain extent.

and while we're waiting to do some more tests, i ought to be just fine if when i get pain, i just back the heck off and slow down. he goes on to say that if i experience pain and it goes away if i back the heck off on a consistent basis, that's also very common symptomology for minor blockages of minor vessels and while it should not be ignored, is not immediately life threatening.

he also advises not doing any athletic stuff alone in remote places.

so there you have it.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

camp food

yep, still talking about the venture vermont challenge.

we're going to cover "cook food over a campfire" and "make a camp cooking utensil using found natural items".

foil packets cooking in fire

dinner being served

marshmallow sticks, of course.

Friday, August 28, 2015

kayak camping

back in my youth, i used to backpack.

but in my later years i find that the deterioration of my knees and feet plus the general discomfort of the camping experience puts it out of my reach.

but then as a result of the venture vermont challenge last year, the idea of kayak camping came to my notice. and yeah, i know they list it as "canoe camping", but for the purposes of reching your campsite by paddlecraft, i think a kayak will do just fine.

besides, transporting your camping gear by kayak represents some challenges that loading your gear into a canoe does not. think about the enclosed hull of a kayak and then think about piling your camping gear in there.

'nuff sed?

anyway, barb and i went from the blush hill boat access to a remote site on waterbury reservoir.

it was about nineteen different kinds of awesome and i want to go again soon.

morning on the campsite

midmorning paddle

lazy afternoon

wasp preparing to lay eggs

evening paddle to LRSP

our cove

packed up and going home

Thursday, August 27, 2015

you need a hat.

yesterday was MB's birthday.

and of course MB needed a party hat.

of course.

so with a little help from the nice people down at richmond home supply, i made one.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

dinner at my house

so i had a whole bunch of wild mushrooms at my house.

this is what i did with some of them:

i simmered the chicken of the woods in homemade (of course) vegetable stock and then tossed them in a pan for a light sauté with angel hair pasta and milkweed stems.

yes, milkweed stems.

some people will tell you they're bitter and you have to boil and rinse them, but MB tells me that if you pick them when they're tender, you needn't bother.

and MB is right.

you can use them just like asparagus.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

draw a map

it's no secret that i like maps. one of the items on this year's venture vermont challenge is to "draw a map of your favorite natural area"  and there's a bonus of "draw a map of your favorite hiking trail".

i may be stretching the rules just slightly here, because these trails are multi-use (ski, snowshoe, run, bike, hike), but this summer i made an exhaustive and zoomable interactive map of the entire honkin' trail system at catamount outdoor family center, which is a jewel of preserved greenspace in williston.

i drew this map with the help of a sweet set of free online mapping tools, and i drew both using GPS and satellite imagery. the trail map is keyed to show singletrack (blue) and doublewide (dark blue), and it can be put on a number of map backgrounds, including topo maps.

i'm working on a downloadable .GPX version of the trails that can be put on people's handheld devices for live navigation, and i am also working on a version that color codes the trails according to terrain and difficulty.

so, yeah.

map drawing.

it's what i do.

Monday, August 24, 2015


if you've known me for more than ten minutes, you know that i am fond of fungus.

here are some pictures i took of some fungus i found.

lovely and floral. and moist.

no comment.

gonna be some kind of bolete

oyster mushrooms

spiky and jelly-like

chicken of the woods

Sunday, August 23, 2015


i take a lot of pictures of flowers. it's a thing i do. i also like to identify plants. i'm just like that.

but the venture vermont challenge has an item on it: "photograph and identify five species of native Vermont wild plants."

i'm sorry, but i couldn't stop at five, so here are the pictures i like best:

wood anemone (anemone quinquefolia), williston

red trillium (trillium erectum), willsiton

bluets (houstonia caerulia), williston

columbine (aquilegia candensis), williston

unidentified berry bush, genus rubus, williston

swamp milkweed (asclepius incarnata), williston

common st. johnswort (hypericum perforatum) (alien), bolton

indian pipe (monotropa uniflora), williston

view of flower parts

indian pipes are unusual as flowers and unusual as plants in that they have no chlorophyll and feed entirely on decayed matter. they function pretty much like a fungus in the ecosystem, except for the thing about THEY'RE FLOWERS. real actual flowers.


Saturday, August 22, 2015


you guessed it.

it's another entry for the venture vermont  challenge!

this one's "photograph and identify three different kinds of pine cones" and for the purposes of the challenge i'm going to assume that the cones of all conifers are acceptable because really? a lot of people are probably going to use red pine, white pine, and hemlock, because those are easy.

or blue spruce. or balsam fir.

you get my point.

here are mine:

white pine (pinus strobus)

scotch pine (pinus sylvestris)

northern white cedar (thuja occidentalis)

Friday, August 21, 2015

fun and games

one of the items on the venture vermont challenge (why, yes. i am going to talk about this a lot.) is to play a game outside. if you are a grownup and you spend most of your outdoor leisure time biking or paddling or some other such thing in which you are not hanging around and you did not bring toys or even other people, this item can be a bit tricky.

last year i played dominoes between a mountain bike and lunch with my friend barb, who is very accommodating in this regard.

this year i thought it would be a snap to play a game of something while we were out camping and saturday afternoon barb wondered if we could play dominoes, but it turned out that i had left my emergency dominoes at home.

yes, i have emergency dominoes. if you've ever been holed up at a campsite during a storm, you understand the value of emergency dominoes.

anyway, i did not have my emergency dominoes even though i was outdoors and had an actual live person willing to play a game.

but we are nothing if not resourceful.

and when barb ordered us pizza to eat friday night, the pizza came with some nice plates.
...which can be cut into reasonably serviceable flying rings.

...which you can play ring toss with, and then you can break the whole game down and use it to kindle your fire.


Thursday, August 20, 2015


the item on the venture vermont list reads "Build a tripod for your camp lantern using sticks and rope.", but my camp lantern really does not need a tripod.

our water bucket, on the other hand, could use a PAIR of tripods to hold it up, so barb and i set to cutting sticks and doing a little light lashing.

i am assuming that for the purposes of the challenge this will do just fine.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

trail food / house food

i needed something delicious and portable for eating during the bitter pill.

i know, some of the elite teams just go on bars and stuff, but barb and i are slow and old and even though the race itself is long and uncomfortable, we like to stop and eat real actual food, because of both nutrition and mood boost.

even if you are tired and your feet hurt and it's humid and too warm and you think you might have just missed the feature that was going to put you on the ridge where you wanted, a little rest and some delicious food goes a long way.

they're also good for eating at home, so make a couple of batches.

i made up a batch of ginger baked tofu and also some garlic peanut noodles. i did a light asian style cucumber pickle and simmered some shiitake mushrooms in master sauce. i rolled those things in rice wrappers with some greens and shredded carrots and there you have it. salts, sugars, proteins, and starches along with refreshing vegetables in an easy to carry, easy to eat package.

delicious, nutritious, and soul-restoring.

you really need that last part when you're out in the nowheres heading uphill.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

two mammals

of course i am making another blog entry based on venture vermont things.

of course.

on the list: photograph two mammals in the wild. identify the full species name and describe its behavior.

i live in an area with a lot of beaver ponds, so it's not hard at all to go look at a beaver (castor canadensis).

i saw this one up on the preston pond trails in bolton. the tail slapping behavior is usually an alarm or warning call and is more likely to be given by the female beaver, since she's the one in charge of the place.

so then on a different day i went to look at another beaverdam, because there's a pond near my house that has a rather impressive set of dams and lodges and i thought i'd take some pictures there, but my plans were changes when halfway across the meadow i came across a young bull moose feeding.

pretty much when you come across a moose (alces alces) your choices are to stand where you are or go back the way you came. moose are shy and slow to provoke, but they are very large and will stomp you flat because as much as they do not like to mess with you, they also are not afraid of you, either, because even if you DID eat that extra slice of pizza, you do not weigh a half a ton and they do.

so this moose was out doing what moose like to do on warm days, which is stand up to their shoulders in a cool beaver pond happily feeding on water plants. when we noticed each other, i stood very still and non-threatening and he decided to exit that portion of the beaver pond by way of a spit of land i did not have easy access to.

i decided it was a good time for me to go home and have lunch.

Monday, August 17, 2015

detailed camp menu

see, now, this is really super because i don't go camping in the summer very often, so all of the things you do CAMPING on the venture vermont challenge are kind of closed off to me on that account.

but this weekend i'm going kayak camping!!!

(ok, by the time you read this i will already be home, but still.)

and one of the items on the checklist is to prepare a detailed camp menu.


friday night:

large pizza, two toppings.
toasted marshmallows on campfire if desired

saturday morning:

breakfast beverage
breakfast casserole (foil packets)

saturday noon:

leftover pizza
roasted sweet corn

saturday evening:

roasted sweet corn
brussels sprouts
hasselback potatoes
salmon fillets
asparagus spears
toasted marshmallows with caramels

sunday morning:

breakfast beverage
breakfast casserole (foil packets)

Sunday, August 16, 2015


yes, i HAVE gotten to be fifty years old without ever having made an enchilada.

so my little friend flurgh advised me.

back up, back up.

it was a horrible hot week and i did not want to make freezer burritos, and i said flurgh! flurgh! i have some flour tortillas! what should i do?

and flurgh said do you have cheese?

so that is how i learned to make quesadillas.

and then the next week i was doing the shoppings and i picked up some corn tortillas and some enchilada sauce and we were off and running.

i fried up my toritllas on both sides like flurgh said, which makes them rollable.

and i put in a little pit of beans, an asparagus spear, some FRESH SWEET CORN, and cheese.

and then into the pan with the sauce and into the oven and oh, my, good.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

you are here.

one of the items on the 2015 venture vermont challenge is to "Use a map and compass or GPS to place yourself on a topographic map."

now, i do this sort of thing all the honkin' time, so the hardest part of that is choosing which instance of that to use.

this year it's kind of a no-brainer, since it represents for me an opportunity to show off some of my best map and compass work ever.

i've talked some about the bitter pill, but what may not be at the front of your recollection is that for this entire race you navigate by MAP AND COMPASS so it's not so much a matter of locating yourself on the map, but locating yourself on the map and then using it and your compass to somehow get yourself to another predetermined location approximately a mile away and on rough terrain without the benefit of a trail.

you'll know if you did it right when you come out at an orienteering checkpoint hanging gaily in a tree.

if somehow you do this wrong and you have misidentified your location, it may be a LONG time before you see another checkpoint.

if you are doing this with a number of teams on the same course, when you leave a checkpoint there will be a good deal of herdpathing for a little while, but not too far along people's paths spread out and you're on your own until -BAM- the glorious moment in which you arrive at a catching feature and all of a sudden you see bootprints and broken ferns and you know other teams have come this way.

your plan may sound something like this: let's follow this ridge until we get to 2400 feet and then hang a right and try to go uphill by the gentlest slope, keeping uphill on our left.

it's not really as simple as it sounds because on rough terrain just following a ridge can take some guesswork. and you keep in mind which direction you should be heading just in case your bearing isn't completely accurate over the mile of travel, because a fraction of a degree a mile later can make a big difference so you have to figure out how to make your planned route more forgiving of mistakes.

sure, this route is a little longer, but if you made a mistake you end up just short of the checkpoint instead of trapped against a cliff.

so anyway, here's our route more or less from the transition area at waterbury dam to checkpoint 6. we made a small navigation error and ended up topping the ridge before checkpoint 4 a little bit to the west of where we planned, but no harm was done.

about halfway between checkpoints 4 and 5 (right about at the forest boundary) some 50 or so feet off to our left we spotted a board in a tree, so we went over to look.

it was two boards in two trees, and lucky we found them, because they were trail signs. actual honkin' trail signs. and they marked the place at which the woodward trail starts being blazed, which is a great deal sooner than the woodward trail is marked on the topo map, so that is one lucky discovery.

it's a ski trail and not really a hiking trail, so it's not worn in, but you can see the blue blazes well enough to follow if you keep your eyes sharp. you have to look sharp for the blazes, too, because they're really intended to be seen when there are no leaves on the trees.

so there we are, slotted in on an actaul honkin' TRAIL that we believe will take us more or less right to checkpoint 5 and eventually 6. we are happy.

high fives all around.

Friday, August 14, 2015

scavenger hunt

it's game time, boys and girls!

now you can play the flask nature scavenger hunt!

downloadble googledoc

flask’s nature scavenger hunt

please provide photographic evidence and necessary text explanations that you have found the following (one point each, unless noted):

  • a grass
  • a sedge
  • a rush

BONUS: find a grass, a sedge AND a rush for an extra 2 points.

  • a high water line
  • a browse line
  • a fire line
  • abandoned fishing line

BONUS: find all four for 6 extra points.

  • a heart-shaped rock
  • anything that forms a smilie face

BONUS: if the smilie face is naturally occurring, take an additional 5 points

  • a tree growing in the shape of the letter “Y”.

BONUS: 1 additional point for each additional letter you can find.

  • a plant species not native to your area, growing wild (1 point for each, maximum 10)
  • an invasive species (plant or animal) in your area (1 point each, maximum 10)
  • an edible plant species growing wild (1 point each, maxiumum 10)
  • an edible plant species growing feral (1 point each, maximum 10)

  • evidence that a manmade structure has been modified or moved by nature
  • evidence that a natural feature has been modified by human activity
  • evidence that a manmade structure was originally sited with consideration for natural objects or phenomena
  • evidence of a manmade structure reclaimed by nature

you are not required to find every item in order to participate. prizes will be given for most points and any other categories flask deems necessary. submission deadline is 1 september 2015, and i’m assuming that if you have a copy of this list, you know how to send me your entry. yes, you may make an album on googleplus or flickr or what-have-you, but if i have to log onto facebook, no dice.

Thursday, August 13, 2015


one of the things on the 2015 venture vermont challenge is to make your own firestarter.

so i did.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

bitter pill - early in the day

so, if you're following my story at all, you know that i went out to do the bitter pill a week ago last saturday, because by now it's a thing we do.

just in case i haven't talked your ear off about it already, i will tell you that we started off the day piling onto buses at 0400 and were dropped off just before start time at the state park in waterbury center.

we were given instructions to tie glowsticks (mandatory equipment) to our PFDs and told that at the start, one member of each team would be swimming out to the boats to get the passports, which is the sheet of paper you have to stamp at each checkpoint.

i left barb to tend to the packs while i took care of the swim.

and let's just say that all those who were wearing hats did not have to try to swim one handed while keeping a piece of paper dry.

once back on land, we took to the boats for a lovely sunrise paddle, followed by a number of hours of foot travel on rough terrain.

by map and compass.

yeah, that's the stuff.

anyway, here's some video from it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015


the kind of television i like best is the kind of television i can keep on in the background while i do other things.

i have a problem with pain, and sometimes a problem with discipline. it's hard for me to concentrate on household tasks until they're done, and television provides an excellent structure for getting stuff done.

i can sit on the sofa or at my project table until a commercial comes on and then i'm all domestic goddess until the commercial is over. the BEST kind of show for this is is something with a plot that's kind of predictable and has distinctive enough voices so you can follow the story even if you come back from the washing machine late and miss a segment.

basically: crime procedurals.

so today i turned on my TV (coz i got STUFF to do!) and will and grace was on, so i flipped to the nearest crime procedural in which episode eric mccormack is being grilled about the murder of a call girl he admitted to hiring and for a few minutes i was really disoriented.

Monday, August 10, 2015

homes of animals

from the 2015 venture vermont challenge: find and photograph 3 wild animal homes.

here are mine:

 this here is a family of geese on their nest, which happens to be on an old beaver mound.
here's a squirrel nest in a tree outside my neighbor's house.
this is a chipmunk hole in the middle of a bike trail.

this is a beaver dam off of the preston pond trails.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

bitter pill 2015 checkin

last friday evening was the checkin for the bitter pill. for a lot of races, checkin means you go and collect your number and your tshirt and get instructions.

for the bitter pill, it means you schlep all your gear to the checkin area of inspection. this means you bring your pack, your bike, and all your gear and you unpack it on a table while a race official goes over the checklist of mandatory equipment.

the first year it caught me off guard.

this year i made a video so you can see it, too.

Friday, August 07, 2015

bike ride in my neighborhood

the first item on the list of this year's vernture vermont challenge is to go for a bike ride in my neighborhood.

so i went for a little ride up my road to the preston pond trails and then back.

here's video.

Monday, August 03, 2015

no assumptions?

so this happened: saturday night before they loaded me into an ambulance i said i wanted to squat and pee. the EMT said it wasn't in his plan.

he did, however, offer me both a bedpan and a urinal.

maybe i appear a little androgynous, and maybe this is just a courtesy of not assuming what kind of urinary apparatus a person has.

i hope it's that second thing, because simply offering both leaves no room for awkward corrections in a moment when you'd sort of hope you didn't have to go all gender conformity awareness on people.


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