Wednesday, June 29, 2016

sand castle

i always imagine that my sand castle is going to be awesome.

it isn't. maybe i just don't have a good enough concept of design, or maybe i just don't have enough practice.

anyway, Build a sand sculpture at a state park beach (5 pts) is on the venture vermont challange this year.

of course it is.

so i went over to waterbury center state park with a couple of containers and a couple of tools and got down to building. i made a timelapse video of me building the thing, but it didn't turn out interesting even by my standards, so there are only a couple of still shots.

what i learned is that sandcastle building is kind of hard on the back and knees.

who'd 'a' thunk?

still. i made a castle. i think it would have looked better if i'd added a door.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

in which we play golf

i took up disc golf some years ago because it looked fun and because i'm the sort of person who is more likely to go out and do a thing if i have a little goal. also, the more choices i have for fun things to do, the more likely i am to find one that will sound good enough to get me out of the house.

anyway, so i play disc golf. i'm not very good at it.

more specifically, i have problems with a long enough throw, with aim, with wild throws, and with not being able to coordinate the muscle movements involved in LETTING GO OF THE DISC at the end of the swing.

so i'm terrible at it. but it's still fun. i like a little walk on some trails with a thing to do, like  toss discs. plus you get all the additional exercise of bending over to pick them up.

i hadn't golfed at all since last season, and when i got to center chains i didn't see the red tee. the blue and white ones had been updated, but i did not see the children's tee, which is what i have habitually played off of, because even at that short distance with easy lies i'm still not very good at it.

so since i didn't see a red tee on the first hole, i played white for the front nine.


wow, suckage. that course is par 3 on every hole and i managed to shoot 6 and 7.

for the back nine i decided to shoot from the red tees, which are not just present, but well marked. that makes a big difference for me. i shot 4s and 5s on nearly everything, and even managed to shoot par on the 15th! so yay!

so here are some pics.

nope, not in the basket.
the views from this hole are pretty.
best hole of the day.

Monday, June 27, 2016

in which we go geocaching. again.

in a happy surprise, this year's venture vermont challenge includes "try geocaching", which is kind of  a no brainer for me, since i have been geocaching more or less regularly since 2002. it's A Thing I Do.

so last week when i called up my dad, he asked if i wanted to come spend the day geocaching over around glens falls and i was all, like, sure. he likes to leave his house at 0900 so i left my house at 0700 and off we went.

on the way to glens falls (and if you are with an obsessive geocacher, there is ALWAYS something on the way) we had to stop and get three geocaches in the putts creek wildlife management area near crown point.

then we went on our way. by day's end we managed to find fourteen caches (plus one i'd found already that for some reason my dad and stepmother hadn't?) and because i'd rather not be spoilery about the caches, i am not telling you which ones are pictured here.

fresh beaverwork
here's chickie signing a log.
this little cache has its own spooky gazebo.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

simple pleasures

this is a post sort of about the venture challenge but-

no, ok. it is about the venture challenge. but also about some larger things.

sometimes it's hard for me to get out of bed, hard for me to get up the energy to go somewhere or do something, but i do pretty well with a list of fun activities with some kind of goal.

in my youth i liked backpacking, but let's face it. my knees and back do not carry that kind of load, and i simply can't carry enough gear to sleep comfortably, and i can't risk sleep deprivation.

but because canoe camping was on last year's venture challenge, i tried it. and now i have remote camping back in my life. comfortably, too, because you can tow a LOT of gear on a paddleboard behind your kayak.

i like to read, too. i sort of stopped doing a lot of reading for a while because i had trouble concentrating and sometimes focusing my eyes, plus i like to have someone to talk to about the book who is maybe also reading it, and i have sort of lacked that.

but mb likes to read, and we have taken to reading books together, which is also a nice togetherness activity that we can do even though we're not together a lot.

and i learned last summer how gloriously lovely it is to put my feet up on a summer day in a nice outdoor setting and read.

and doing that is on this year's venture challenge! and bonus points if it's a library book! and i love libraries!!

so. i had never read the hobbit, and mb had only read it long ago, so i went down to the library and checked that out and on friday when i was out at button bay state park i decided to stop at that little bench that overlooks the water halfway out to the nature center and read a chapter.

so that was nice.

plus, you know. ten points.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

spiral slide

it's on the venture challenge, of course it is: Visit a state park playground (5 pts).

i was on my way home from my dad's house and button bay state park is very nearly on the way. DAR state park IS on the way, but button bay has, i think, the best playground of any i've seen at state parks.

so i went there.

then i spent a number of hours hanging out and birdwatching and talking with the nature center lady and i general enjoying the day.

here i am at the top of the spiral slide, and as a bonus, here is also a video of my trip down. it was more fun than i expected.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

leaf morphology

you may have noticed that this year's flask nature scavenger hunt is heavy on leaf morphology. why? because there's an item on the venture vermont challenge about leaf morphology, that's why.

Find and photograph these 3 leaf types (10 pts): Toothed, lobed and compound

by the way, if you are reading this blog at all, i encourage you to play the scavenger hunt. you do not have to do all the items or categories to play, and you can submit your entry over the internets AND there will be prizes. you love prizes, right?

uh, anyway. leaf morphology. there are a LOT of ways you can categorize leaves, but the venture challenge only asks for three.

golden alexander, yellow mustard, and stinging nettle are all good examples of toothed leaves.
golden alexander
yellow mustard
stinging nettle

oaks and maples all have lobed leaves.

probably a scarlet oak
sugar maple
in the field of compound leaves, it's had to do better as a class than ferns, but ferns by no means hold a monopoly on the compound leaf.

cinnamon fern
honey locust

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

beaver run

one of the things on the venture vermont list is "Find and photograph a wild animal path in the woods (10 pts)".

here's a short vid showing you a beaver run that crosses a trail from the woods into the beaver pond.

Monday, June 20, 2016

no, a different scavenger hunt.

a'ight. i belong to a scavenger hunt meetup in the greater burlington area. saturday afternoon we had our second scavenger hunt, which was some serious fun. the guy doing it is really skilled with puzzle setting and is just crazy enough, i guess, to have the desire to organize such a thing.

maybe it's an instance of having to create the kind of world you want to live in.

my teammates were smart and funny and had a more than passing knowledge of the terrain.

i'm only putting that in the past tense because the event is over. the people are still probably smart and funny and they still probably have a more than passing knowledge of the terrain.

the most comedically rich bits of the hunt come with the bonus items, which often involve enlisting the help of random strangers. because really, who doesn't love it when a carload of strangers comes screeching into a gas station to ask you if they can get pictures of themselves helping you fill up your tank?

this is us on a slide.  i wish to stress that we ASKED the present adults to be in the picture with us, but the child either volunteered or was volunteered. we did not snatch a child off of a playground.

the REALLY funny thing, i think, is the part where we ask some total strangers to sing "i'm a little teapot" with us. with motions. on video. the first couple we asked were not just random strangers, but limited-english-speaking tourists who may have been amused to help, but did not know the song.

the second people we asked were happy to help.

Sunday, June 19, 2016


oh, look! another post about the venture vermont challenge! so this item reads "Make natural tea using pine needles, spruce need les, or birch tree twig tips ( 5 pts)"

i have, in my day, made a lot of teas using these things. if you're caught in a survival situation, they can provide nutrients you NEED. plus it's just cool to know how to do it.

but let's face it: any tea made from anything in the evergreen family tastes a lot like chewing on a pine tree. or a hemlock or a spruce. they don't all taste the same, but have similar qualities.

birch twigs similarly can be pressed into service to make a not-unpleasant tea that taste a lot like birch twigs. go on, go outside and bite the twigs of some birch trees. i'll wait.

while i'm waiting, here is a totally unrelated video i like.

ok, are you back?

birch twigs have a fairly pleasant wintergreen taste. if you put some of the twigs in your tea infuser and drop it in boiling water and let it steep, you get a tea that tastes a lot like birch twigs.

so i made a cup of it and drank it while i sat on the front step working on my cordage! yes! i am making natural fiber cordage! it is very exciting and later there will be pics. you want to guess WHY i am making cordage? of course.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

finding myself

i decided to grab my junior naturalist bag and go up to the preston pond trails for a walk.

i thought i'd also go to a place that later on i could find on a topo map to do that thing from the venture challenge, "Use a map and compass or GPS to place yourself on a topographic map (10 pts)"

i'm all about fun and games, especially fun and games that involve maps, so the trickiest bit of this one is figuring which episode of this i'd like to document.

libby's look is good for this because a) it is close to my home and b) it is kind of a distinct geographical feature that you can see on satellite imaging and check your map work.

libby's look is a nice outcrop with a view and now it has a loop trail instead of the original spur trail. a bit before i ran into the lower end of the loop trail, i came across a pretty clear road sort of thing.

you know what these look like if you spend time in the woods. they're very LIKE a road, but you can tell what they're for most times by the presence of slash or sugar lines, sometimes both.

anyway, i walked up this thing, thinking that maybe it would be another way up to libby's look or maybe it would take me to the trail higher up or if not i could bushwhack over.

i got to the top and i was clearly in streeter's sugarbush. i turned on my GPS to mark the spot for reference, but also since i have topo maps on my GPS, i was able to use that to set a course for libby's look based on geographic profile because libby's look is not a location that gets labeled on most maps.

based on direction and contour lines i had two possibilities for it, and chose to set course for the near one because you can always go on, but backtracking kinda sucks. either way i had some bushwhacking to do on pretty steep terrain. i suprised a VERY large deer and yah-boo, i will tell you that meeting an animal that large will get your adrenaline going.

also there were some nice plants and cute little birds, so yay!

my bushwhack necessarily had to bring me down again before i could go up again, and i was figured to run into trail. i didn't run into it right where i expected it, but pretty close. and then of course the trail took me up pretty close to my guessed destination, which turned out not to be libby's look, but it was a simple matter to just stay on the trail until i DID get to libby's look.

view from here

and the MAP!!

Friday, June 17, 2016

people are awesome

i don't just toss my gopro into a bag; the part of the casing over the lens might get scratched. i have a sweet little mesh fabric bag with a drawstring to protect it.

and a couple of days ago i took the camera out of the bag to harass some tadpoles up at preston pond (well, not really preston pond, but the beaver pond above it). when the camera is all wet or muddy on the outside, i don't put it back in the bag until i have it rinsed at least, often dried.

so i didn't notice until two days later that i was missing the bag.

yesterday i was up on the trails playing junior naturalist and i thought maybe if i dropped it somewhere i could retrace some of my steps and i would find it.

and nearly back to the parking, hanging on a little painting in a tree (we have such things), was my bag.

so thank you, anonymous person who found a nice bag and assumed i would come looking for it.

thank you.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

coming undone

peg asked for this, so here are some pics of the unweaving of the hammock.

and vid!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

eggs and tadpoles

of course it's on the venture challenge, but i don't really need much of an excuse to go look at cool stuff outside.

it turns out seeing things is a bit easier than taking good pictures of things.

and if the pond your frogs are laying in has a lot of salamanders in it, frog eggs will be in short supply, because salamanders will eat anything that's mouth-sized and frog eggs are delicious.

anyway, i managed to get a pic of some frog eggs (it think? because they don't match the eggs of species i KNOW, yet they are not clearly not frog eggs? which is to say that they appear to be frog eggs but they could be some other kind of thing like a salmander or a snail, but little critters are not really visible in there) and i was going to go back a few days later to take pics of their progress, but all the egg masses in the pond were gone.

so either it was a quick hatch or else, well, you know. frog eggs are delicious.

but wait! there's more!

because yesterday i was up on the preston pond trails and the beaver pond has a LOT of tadpoles in it right now. fat happy tadpoles who will soon be large enough to eat salamanders.

because a frog will eat anything that's mouth-sized, and salmanders are delicious.

they're skittish little critters, though. they do not want you to notice them, and that includes noticing them with a camera. my guess is that not being shy is sort of a bad evolutionary strategy if you are made out of delicious meat and have no defenses.

but i managed to get some video of one tadpole that has not yet fled my approach.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

better homes and gardens

the item on the venture vermont challenge reads "Find and photograph 3 wild animal homes (10 pts)".

i guess it intends strict residences or nests or such, because these here frogs just live in the mud in this ditch.

do you see three frogs? the third one prefers not to be seen.

this is a beaver lodge on the east shore of preston pond. i live in an area with a lot of beavers.
this is a different beaver lodge in my neighborhood. the pond has no name, but the beavers created it.

beavers are kind of awesome that way.

this is a chipmunk hole. you can tell it's a chipmunk hole because if you watch it for more than a few minutes, you will see the chipmunk go in and out of it.

of course, it's not strictly his home, but one of the doors TO his home. or her home. i do not have a knack for sexing chipmunks.

presumably chipmunks know, and that's what matters.

this is where the chipmunk's hole is, so keep your trail mix locked up.

a pair of robins decided that my neighbor's satellite dish would be an awesome place to build a nest.

seriously, though. that place has all kinda shelter without being too cramped.

this of course, is not the full home, but one of the doors. ants live here.

bitey ants.

because of the size and shape of this nest hole, we can guess that PROBABLY it was made by a hairy woodpecker, but there's no telling what little hole-dwelling creature might use it now or in the future.

Monday, June 13, 2016

uncraft project

ok, so i wove part of a hammock. and then undid it and redid it. and then again. and again. and then i got finished weaving it the fourth time only i suspected it was not wide or long enough, but decided to finish it, just so i could learn how it works.

i'm calling it the protohammock.

it was comfortable, but not wide enough or long enough. surprise!

now i am unweaving it, and i am still using a netting needle made of cardboard and duct tape.

it feels very craftman-like, though.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

dawn walk

i think i told you that last year for the venture challenge i made an attempt at this activity:

Get up at dawn and go on a bird walk. Attach a list of the birds you saw and heard (15 pts)

getting up at dawn was easy enough, but when i got out there i realized i didn't know enough about the birds to be able to identify any but the most obvious. it was a hard realization for me, since i used to know a lot of birds.

the only answer for it was to go out regularly, take notes, and hit the study guides.

and then instead of picking just one morning walk for the reporting, i had to try to ORGANIZE my data because why make a list when you could make a spreadsheet?

or if you just want to look at it full size, here.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

to know them by their songs

i used to know a lot of bird songs. in my life after memory impariment, it's harder for me to retain information. things i learned last week disappear. it's not just birdsong, it' s knots i learn, french verbs, people's names, anything i don't do every day.

there are two birding related items on this year's venture vermont challenge: "Learn the calls of three Vermont birds (10 pts)" and "Get up at dawn and go on a bird walk. Attach a list of the birds you saw and heard (15 pts)"

i tried to do this second one last year, but when i got out there at dawn i realized i had NO IDEA what birds i was hearing.

so this spring i got busy with a checklist of birds likely to be found in vermont and an online library of bird songs. i like this checklist because you can configure it for your state and your preferred listing, which is handy if you want the order of it to match your guide or what have you.

here is a good collection of bird song, which comes to us through the cornell lab of ornithology.

every day i try to listen to one grouping at least and try to match the songs with my local birds. i'm having pretty good luck.

for the challenge i have to claim three species that i have learned, and i have chosen three of my neighborhood endemics:

chipping sparrow
grey catbird
american redstart

Friday, June 10, 2016

flask's nature scavenger hunt 2016

hey, everybody! last year's venture vermont challenge had on it an item for which i had to make a nature scavenger hunt and get my friends to do it. it's not on the list this year, but one of my friends was excited to play and others of my friends are at least WILLING to play, so we're having another.

it don't cost you nothin' and there will be prizes for the winners, so if you like that sort of thing, please play.

the list looks very daunting (i'm told) but it is extremely flexible to people living in different biomes. if, for instance you don't live in an area with a lot of kinds of ferns but you have tons of lizards, you are in luck.

if you are playing, you don't have to get all the things in the categories, or even attempt all of the categories.

yes, there's a lot of emphasis on leaf morpholgy this year. wow. those are a lot of terms. the good news is that if you want to call it "egg-shaped" instead of "ovoid" i'm cool with that. the point is let's all go out there and look at some leaves and their wild diversity of structures!

my prereader had some questions, which i am passing on to you in case you have the same ones.

Q: so if I identify 10 pieces of limestone, that counts?
A: no. they don't use the word "species" for rocks as far as i can tell, but they should be different kinds of rocks.

Q: How closely do I have to ID the fungi? If I know it's amanita, do I have to know it's Amanita muscaria?
A: discretion of judge. if you need a microscope to make a positive ID, pretty close is good enough. so  something like "Amanita, probably A. muscaria" is just fine.

Q: Also, for the record, there's not any kind of botanical distinction between shrubs and trees.
A: yes, but some things are clearly not trees and yet not so much wildflowers, so consider it an extra ten points you can get.

Q: Do you have a preferred place for habitat descriptions?
A: i looked up every state of a person i anticipate might be playing and there is no uniform habitat classification, but every state has some sort of classification so i decided any established system is good enough for my purposes.

and you have the whole summer to do it. if you have children, you may wish to do a family entry.

so here it is:

downloadable copy

flask’s nature scavenger hunt 2016

Please provide photographic evidence and necessary text explanations that you have found as many of the following as you like. There are a lot of categories, intended to make the list flexible for people in different biomes.

Things you can identify specifically (e.g., spotted towhee, balsam fir, limestone):
  • Rocks (one point each kind, maximum ten kinds)
  • Grasses (one point each species, maximum ten)
  • Ferns (one point each, maximum ten)
  • Fungi (one point each, maximum ten)
  • Lichen (one point each, maximum ten)
  • Shrubs (one point each, maximum ten)
  • Trees (one point each, maximum ten)
  • Wildflowers/herbs (one point each, maximum ten)
  • Mammals (one point each, maximum ten)
  • Birds (one point each, maximum ten)
  • Insects (one point each, maximum ten)
  • Reptiles or Amphibians (one point each, maximum ten)
  • Fish (one point each, maximum ten)
  • Aquatic plants (one point each, maximum ten)
  • Non-insect Arthropods (one point each, maximum ten)
  • Non-insect, Non-arthropod Invertebrates (one point each, maximum ten)

At least TWO contrasting terrestrial or aquatic habitats (e.g., Palmetto Prairie, Eastern Boreal Floodplain, Temperate Hemlock Forest) (two points each, maximum ten)

BONUS: provide short documentation of classification system used and justification of your identification for an additional eight points each.

  • Animal scats (please identify species) (two points each, maximum ten)
BONUS: make observations about the animal’s health, habitat or diet based on the content. (eight points each)
  • Owl pellet (five points, plus fifteen if you dissect it and identify content)
  • Any wild growing edible plant (two points each, maximum ten)
  • Eggs (please identify species. five points each, maximum ten)
  • Any natural feature mentioned in a work of fiction that you have read (please identify the work and quote the passage) (five points each, maximum ten)
  • Any geographical feature formed by erosion and/or sedimentation (five points each, maximum ten)

LEAVES!! (pay attention to the scoring in this section: photos in this section will be scored with multipliers. Your photo of a plant’s leaves is worth however many leaf classification terms it illustrates. If you can identify the plant in the photo with its species name, your score doubles. For scoring purposes, each term can only be used once, although words like “palmate” may be used in as many categories as it occurs. (e.g., palmate leaf shape is counted separate from palmate venation)

Leaves can be classified on the basis of petiole, arrangement, lamina, venation, and location. An ABBREVIATED LIST of examples will be used on this sheet, but you are welcome to use a more complex or complete listing if you want to go whole hog.  Wikipedia is a good starting point if you like:

  • Leaves needle-like or scale-like
  • Broad leaves
  • Sessile / petiolate / grasping
  • Leaf shape:  elliptic, ovate, oblong, palmate, cordate
  • Leaf margin: entire, dentate, serrate, incised
  • Leaf division: single, compound pinnate, compound palmate, decompound, bipinnate
  • Leaf surface: rugose, hairy, glabrous, spiny
  • Leaf apex: acute, obtuse, truncate
  • Leaf base: rounded, cordate, sagittate
  • Leaf arrangement: alternate, opposite, whorl
  • Leaf venation: reticulate, parallel, pinnate, unicostate
  • Leaf location: basal, cauline, ramal

You are not required to find every item (or even most of the items) in order to participate. Team entries are permitted. Take your time, do as much or little as you want, and by all means look stuff up. Prizes will be given for most points and any other categories flask deems necessary. Houseplants and housepets are not eligible to be identified for this challenge, no matter how exotic your household is. Submission deadline is 1 September 2016, 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.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016


one of the items on the venture vermont challenge is  "Take a close look at a firewood pile and identify at least one species of wood in the pile (10 pts)" which can have a high degree of difficulty, depending on the woodpile, because identifying wood that's already cut is much more tricky than identifying trees.

...unless you have something like paper birch in you woodpile, in which case you don't have to look very hard.

i don't burn a lot of wood at home, so i'm blast if i remember what i had delivered fifteen years ago (yeah, i split a half cord with my next door neighbors and i can probably go two more years before i need more, unless we have a bad winter with a lot of power outages) so i went ahead an took a look at my woodpile.

i guess i could just guess, but i like to give these little projects due diligence.

so i found this handy website and i actually brought in some of my firewood to take a close look at the grain with a jeweler's loupe, just because.

here's my woodpile. on close inspection, it is mostly american beech (fagus grandifolia), which i have learned has too high a water content to be burned when first cut, but makes fine firewood when it is dried a season or two.

i have a few logs of white ash (fraxinus americana), and one or two pieces of white birch (betula papyrifera) besides. i also happen to know there are a few pieces of apple wood that i brought home for carving and may have been checked or otherwise poor carving and are now firewood. that's sort of a win, because apple burns with a sweet smell, and i probably won't burn it at home, but take it to camp for cooking.

Monday, June 06, 2016

telephone survey

this conversation happened at my house, just as i was going up to bed:

(phone ring)

me: hello?

guy: hello, is (my name) there?

me: this is. what can i do for you?

guy: well, my name is (name) and i represent (company). this is not a telemarketing call. we're making a confidential survey to find out how people such as yourself feel about important issues.

me: is the proper use of reflexive pronouns on your list?

guy: ah, well, i don't know, but how about we do the survey?

me: tell you what. when your call script uses reflexive pronouns properly, why don't you call me back?

(hangs up)

Sunday, June 05, 2016

how are we doing?

yesterday morning i went into a campaign channel (the way i do every morning) and i said "anyone have any clue how we're going to do in USVI?"

and it struck me as a singular thing, because sometimes we watch sports teams and we say "we", as if WE did something to help the red sox win, or as if WE should have played a different quarterback and we confuse ourselves with the enterprise on the field.

we talk about "us" even though all we have done in this game or election is to watch and maybe post a few tweets and maybe, if we're conscientious, we MIGHT get up and vote.

but this time it's different.

Bernie Sanders keeps talking at his rallies (which by the way you mostly don't see on teevee, because the establishment media narrative is that there is not real campaign here)- anyway, he keeps talking about "us" and "we" at his rallies and he tells us it's about US and not about HIM, and we KNOW that to make him win or even to keep him in the race thousands upon thousands of us have to work hard, every day, to subvert the dominant paradigm and we know the dominant paradigm does not like being subverted.

nothing is more effective in getting out the word and getting out the vote than talking to people live.

doorknocking is actually the most effective, followed by phone calls. not robocalls. live callers who listen as well as speak.

but for all of those people to make calls or knock doors, there have to be data lists and from data lists come phone lists with accurate polling information. canvassers need lists of whose doors to knock, and maps of how to find those homes.

behind the ground forces is a small army of people who manage the lists, draw the maps, call the clerks to confirm the polling places, and even keep the phone numbers clicking through for the callers.

a lot of days we have more people than we need just cooling our heels because we know some days it's ALL HANDS ON DECK and a team might work twenty hours a day for a couple of days until the project is finished.

each and every one of us knows that if we do not do the work, it does not get done.

so for the first time in my life when i ask "how are we doing?" about a campaign, i am asking HOW ARE WE DOING? because i very much have a hand in it.

i'm not special that way, but i click those numbers through. i confirm those polling places. i make those maps for the canvassers. not just me. my team. my teams. we all pull. we all work.

calls get made. doors get knocked.

this is how we're doing it.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

boys will be boys

yesterday i was driving a backroad and came around the corner to see two boys kissing.

high school age, out walking their dogs. stopped to kiss like normal people might on a pretty spring afternoon.

i was stunned.

when i was their age, boys would have been terrified to be seen kissing. and there they were. i waved. they went on walking their dogs.

it is a different world.

a better one.

Friday, June 03, 2016

cutting mustard

ok, right. so. i like mustard. we all do, right?

did you know it grow all over the place?

so last year i decided to harvest some mustard growing wild and make artisanal small batch mustard, just because. i spent hours picking the pods and shucking them, which yielded me about a third of a cup of seeds.

this week i finally got around to grinding some of them to powder and soaking the rest and running the whole thing though the mortar and pestle with some honey and vinegar so now i have a teeny little jar of nice handmade mustard.

and in case you wondered: here's a history of the phrase.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

in which we master our fate

many anthropologists believe that the thing that enabled us as humans to develop the large brains that in part define us was that we discovered cooked food. to be certain, the ability to make fire increases our ability to adapt to a cold environment, to absorb nutrients, to expand our day.

if you're lost in the wilderness you need to be able to find food, shelter, and water. how quickly you need those things depends on what wilderness you are in.

if you are lost in a hot desert, YOU NEED TO FIND WATER FIRST. then shelter, then food.

if you are lost in a cool climate, you need SHELTER first, then water, then food.

you can survive much longer without food than you can without water, and if you cannot stay warm, you're done no matter how much food and water you have, and shelter without fire does you a limited amount of good when you're cold.

we take it for granted, fire. we turn it on with switches. we have matches, lighters, butane torches. but it's a difficult primitive skill, the making of fire.

the venture vermont challenge usually includes some firemaking activities on the list. i decided this year to try out vaseline soaked cotton balls (Make your own homemade fire starters) and to try them out with my new magnesium striker.

i used this guy's method, more or less. you can pack a bunch of them in a tin for easy carry.

once i had my little balls-o'-flammability prepared, i took one outside to test it with the striker, which i had never used.

works a charm, even on the first try.

the trick is learning how to hold it.


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