Monday, December 24, 2018


things on my to-do list today:

wrap presents

things i did today:

make additional presents
watch youtube videos
read some chapters of a book
play games
sharpen knives
do laundry
wash and put away dishes
rinse fish ('nother story)
grocery shop
prepare and eat two meals
bake a clafoutis
walk to the mailbox

notice what's missing?

Friday, December 21, 2018

light returning

today is the shortest day of the year.

may the light grow within you as well as around you.

here's a picture of a flower i took when it was summer.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

there was this girl.

i met a girl last summer. she was in the uncertain time of her life following the death of one parent in which she was about to go and live with the other parent, in a faraway state.

that had to have been a time of tremendous emotional uprooting, a time of anxiety.

in that in between time, she kept making little crafts; knotted strings and necklaces and giving them to people.

i may see her again some time. i may not.

but if i could day one thing to her across the darkness, it would be "i have a small mess of knots on the dash of my car. i remember you, and i hope you are ok."

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

messy bessy

i used to have a dressy bessy doll. it was a long time ago.

then last week i was out doing things and all sudden i was starving and needed a reasonably priced sammidge for lunch and there's a place at the top of church street that has a sammidge called the "good time sally" which is a breakfast sammidge with a hash brown on it. i had something called the "murphy's slaw" because they were out of hash browns.

...which is only tangentially related to what i wanted to say, which was something about my dinner.

yesterday i decided to cook and lightly mash some potatoes that i had in the house doing nothing but getting old. tonight for dinner i put some 'o that in a pan and fried it until brown on both sides, fried a couple of eggs next to it, and then layered things in my bowl: spicy black bean burger with a smidge of taco sauce, fried mashed potatoes, slice of cheese, eggs.

i called it the messy bessy.

no reason why, other than it's a mess.

gooey and delicious and easy to make.

you are not sad there are no pictures.

Friday, December 14, 2018


ok, so backup, backup, backup.

i had some good apples and cider leftover from thanksgiving and i wanted to cook a little something with them and i was thinking something in a pan from the family of slumps and cobblers, but i didn't want a crumb topping and i didn't want it to be to hard (read: i am lazy) and my friend rapunsell suggested i bake a clafoutis.

so i cooked down the cut up apples a little and went from there.

and then it was so delicious plus i still had apples and cider so i made another. and then i was thinking i could make a savory one and THEN i was doing research on that and learned that properly a clafoutis is only made with black cherries, and that if you put any other fruit in it, it is properly called a flaugnarde.

so before i go off telling you how to bake these two bad boys, imma tell you the basic recipe i was working from and give you an ingredient list.

basic batter:

3 eggs
about a cup of milk (i am told alternate milks work just fine)
about a half cup flour (i am told alternate flours work fine too)
about a half cup of sugar (brown or white- whatever, and less or none for a savory batter)
2 tbps melted butter (or less. i one recipe i used none. it was just fine)
a pinch of salt. (two pinches for a savory batter)
optional vanilla, almond extract, spices, whatever you like.

basic procedure: for already soft fruits, take enough to mostly cover the bottom of your greased pan. pour the batter over the fruit and bake at 325 for about forty minutes. serve immediately (puffy) or later (dense and compact). if you undercook this slightly, you get a nice custardy center. overcook it slightly, and you get something more spongy and firm. it is really not a critical value.

there are so few critical values that i am not particularly specifying amounts of things, but i am tossing in some ballpark figures of what i used.


while you're cutting up your apples, begin to reduce cider in a pan (two cups?). this will take a while, but it does require supervision so it doesn't burn when it gets to the end. essentially you're boiling off the water and at the end you'll stir pretty constantly until you have a just barely thickening apple caramel. for right now, though, you have a pan of boiling cider.

turn your attention now to peeling your apples (for me, four medium sized apples). that done, take a couple tablespoons of butter and brown it in your pan (i'm using a dutch oven here) toss in yer apples and cook them down a little until they're a little browned and only a little softened. i like mine on the soft side, but some people prefer them crunchy. you do you.

mix up your batter so it's free of lumps. i used vanilla and almond extract in mine.

by now your cider caramel will be almost done. when the water is boiled of and the syrup starts to thicken, scrape it in to your pan with the browned-butter half cooked apples. pour the batter over it and pop it in the oven. about forty minutes later it should be golden and puffy and perfect.


start by soaking your dried tomatoes (about 1.5 ounces dried). i used homemade vegetable stock (a cup and a half) and a sprig of rosemary, but you can use water. you can cut the tomatoes before soaking with scissors if you like, or after with a knife. a little salt in the soaking solution will help them absorb better.

if you soaked these ahead of time and you want a flavorful glaze on the bottom (fancy!), you can just start here with taking the soaking liquid and tossing it in a pan with some balsamic vinegar (enough that the whole thing looks black?) and begin to reduce it until it just starts to thicken.

now's a good time to make your batter. i seasoned mine with a little black pepper and just a little ground sage.

turning your attention to the tomatoes, brown a tablespoon or two of butter in your pan (again, i'm using a dutch oven). the browned butter adds a nutty sweet flavor that i like. here i tossed that sprig of rosemary in to squeeze out a little more rosemary flavor before i fished the sprig out and threw it away.

your balsamic reduction is probably finishing up right about now. set it aside for a few moments.

toss yer tomatoes in the pan and let them just toast up a little until they darken. this deepens the flavor of them and brings out some caramelized sugars. spread them out in the bottom of the pan, and then scrape the balsamic tomato reduction into the bottom of the pan. scatter the crumbled goat cheese (about 2 ounces) around among the tomatoes, pour the batter in, and pop the whole thing in the oven for about forty minutes or until it's nicely golden on the top.

the balsamic reduction will look like you burned the dish, but it makes oh so lovely a sauce on the bottom.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

river of light

i keep meaning to write to you when things are still news, but let's face it; neither of you lives near here so i guess it's all news.

a couple of weeks ago barb called me up to ask if i wanted to go to the waterbury river of light.

of course i did.

it's kind of an amazing community festival. it is beautiful, brief, and has no ideological underpinnings besides "yay, waterbury!" and "the winter is too damn dark".

they always pick a general theme for the lanterns, but anybody who has a lanterns or some lights can just step into the parade and be a part of it. as the parade passes where you are, you usually step off the curb and process down the street to the rec field where there are bonfires and fire twirlers.

this year the general theme was farm to table, and because i was on the street above the klezmer band (which only marched half the parade and picked up the procession at the corner of main and stowe streets) everyone who joined the procession before that corner got swept up INSIDE the parade instead of after it, which was cool.

Monday, December 03, 2018


unless you just walked in ten minutes ago, you know that i like challenges.

some of the challenges i do are set for me, like the venture vermont challenge.

others are things i challenge myself to do.

this year i decided that i would like to camp in every month of the year. i guess it was because i was talking to someone about cold weather camping and i realized i hadn't actually camped in every month of a year, or something like that. i don't recall fully. it was last january when i decided to do it.

i figured the hard part would be getting january, february and march, since the other months seem to take care of themselves, but the ultra cold extra snowy thanksgiving followed by the gigantic snow dump that left my power out for the better part of three days cut short my november/ deember outing, meaning that to complete the challenge i had to make a special trip in december.

complicating the planning is that the easiest place to camp, little river state park, is really only super easy to camp in until december ninth, when they close the gate at the conclusion of muzzleloader season and you have to hike in just like anywhere else.

so i looked at my calendar and the forecast and my package tracking.

that's right. package tracking. because i order myself some spiffy new down camping quilts and i wanted to go with those, yah-boo.

anyway, they arrived saturday.

satuday was nice and warm, but then... rain. but there was a break in the rain for about an hour so i went out there. this morning i woke up out there in rain, but no biggie. i had my toasty quilts and a good book and even a thermos of hot tea, so at around ten o'clock this morning when there was a break in the rain for about an hour, i struck camp and made a run for it.

challenge complete.

here is the view from my bed:

and here is the view of my campsite:

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

things you won't often hear me say

so yesterday i was going to write you but then i noticed that my blog was still on its summer colors and i changed that over to the winter colors because somewhere along the way autumn seems to have disappeared completely and i was JUST about to begin writing something about thanksgiving camp or something...

...when the power went out.

and then it came back in the afternoon...

and then out again this morning.

because it's been pretty much snowing nonstop for some days and really HARD this last two days and you know i am not likely to say this but at this point even *i* would enjoy a break in the snow.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

too cold

traditionally i go camping for thanksgiving.

and this year i had planned to go today with a friend and then have another friend join us thursday night and another on friday so PARTY but the weather forecast for tonight has the temperatures dropping into the LOW single digits with steady winds of fifteen miles an hour. the temperatures are not expected to rise above twelve degrees and the wind isn't supposed to be less than 13 mph until midmorning friday and i hope i do not need to tell you that this represents a dangerous situation, beyond what you ought to do on purpose.

so i'm going to sit on my ass for an extra two days and we'll go camping, all of us, on friday.

i've been driving in and out of the park every couple of days to pack down the snow and keep it accessible (important because the one friend has a broken foot and just had a plate and pins installed and while i'm happy to sled my gear in, it's really important to be able to drive right to camp this time), and while i'm there i drop off firewood at our site.

and for the record because i know peg will ask, yes, being in the woods is lovely and relaxing if you are comfortable. especially in winter when it is deserted.

you just wear proper gear, and if it's cold at night you have proper insulation.

i have proper clothing and a crapton of gear (i partially outfit my friends as well) and there's something very satisfying about being outside at 20 degrees and being toasty warm. you just build a hot fire and keep drinking hot beverages and when it's bedtime you burrow in.

without any particular modifications my regular setup is good down to 15 degrees. with modifications it will be good down to five. after friday morning temps will not be below ten again for a week or so, and that should get me to the end of my trip.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

absolute zero

i can't seem to get it together for blogging, so i'm going to tell you a story from a really long time ago.

like my junior year of high school. the two biggest fuckups in my chemistry class, dave and i were dumped together as lab partners because nobody else wanted us. if you had a chemistry lab, we could get it significantly wrong.

so there was this experiment to extrapolate the value of absolute zero because it's a thing you do in high school chem.

dave and i set to work cautiously but steadily, as if we tried hard and never got anything right.

and at the end of the lab we're drawing our line graph and ours looks NOTHING LIKE anybody else's, but we had a pretty straight line that came out at -274 celsius and we shrugged our shoulders and decided to turn it in anyway, because what the hell, we had tried out best and if our results were terribly wrong and different than everyone else's, it wouldn't be the first time it had happened. we were immune to the disapproving eyerolls of debbie and dickie and peggy and the other kids who didn't fail every chem lab. we looked at each other and said "well, if your'e going to fail, fail big."

so the chemistry teacher looks at our paper and calls us up to talk to him. and he's getting all ready to drop cheating on us and we were all like "if we were going to cheat, why would we have picked a result SO TERRIBLY WRONG?"

it turns out that dave and i have no actual clue what the value of absolute zero is in celsius. we have in our minds some OTHER number that to this day i don't know what it was, but it was not anywhere near -273.15

i'm not sure what else that teacher did that day when he was out of class, but i'm pretty sure laughing was a part of it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

bad, bad blogger

i have been a very bad blogger.

because to be a good blogger you need to be writing things.

i've been camping, and doing girl scout things, and learnings. OH SO MANY LEARNINGS.

also playing ingress a little crazily and also reading books.

oh. and since the day before halloween i've been playing the google doodle game.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

hot flash

yeah, it's time for TMI!

i recently heard hot flashes described as a "personal tropical vacation".

i'm currently taking a break from my busy morning because suddenly it is ninety-eight bazillion degrees in here even though my thermostat is set to 60 and it's cold outside and i am nearly naked.

i am really looking forward to thanksgiving, when i will be able to call myself done with the whole business of having an active reproductive system, and it is a thing i have been looking forward to ever since i heard that periods were a thing and i was going to start getting them.

i'm not into it.

Friday, October 12, 2018


this week i saw a post in laughing squid about boomwhackers. more specifically, it was a post about the students of THUD performing don't stop believin' on boomwhackers.

go ahead. i'll wait.

a lot of people are amazed because they did not know boomwhackers were even a thing.

i am amazed because i bought a couple of sets of boomwhackers for my classroom when they were a NEW thing and although i understood that they had this potential, performing with them like this takes a LOT of skill. have you ever seen a really good handbell choir? yeah, that's the basic principle.

and if you can't figure out what the black things are they keep putting on and off, those are endcaps.

a boomwhaker is an open pipe, and the endcap makes it a closed pipe, which drops the pitch an octave because effectively the vibrating air column is now twice the length. physics is fun.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

word garden

out behind the waterbury public library they have a word garden.

it's sort of like magnetic refrigerator poetry, only with very satisfying stone pieces on gravel. i was there with my friend rsr (ingress, boys and girls! we're the BLUE team!) and we wrote this poem:

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

i was out camping.

um, yeah, so...

neither of you are going to be surprised that i took off and went camping, because of course i did.

i don't know if i told you or not, but i made a goal for myself of camping in every month this year.

and now october is complete.

later on, (yes, i always promise later ons) there are going to be some pictures and stories. right now i'm concerned with unpacking and airing out gear so it will be nice for the next camping, doing the laundry, and maybe cleaning the house.

oh, and studying for the VMN class upcoming. and preparing girl scout things.

adulting, both basic and advanced levels.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

wayward children

some months ago somebody posted something in one of my slack chats from seanan mcguire's tumblr feed. i liked what she had to say on her tumblr feed, so i started following it.

and then i realized that seanan mcguire is not just an awesome human being, but also a bestselling author.

only her books are in some genres that are usually too scary for me. but i love her so much from things she says i want to read her books. but i don't want to have nightmares. but i want to read her books. but afraid.

well, one awesome thing about her is that she actually talks to random people who write in to her tumblr. many people write in to say "whoa! i only just heard of you! where should i start?" and she points them to this page.

the wayward children series. it appeared to be gentle enough even for me, but i was still on the fence.

and then i decided to pull on my big girl pants and went down to my local library to get every heart a doorway and while i loved it, i felt it was ... incomplete. i wanted to learn more about these worlds and these characters.

but wait! there are more!

so now until the fourth book comes out, i'm having to start one of her other series, and i am hoping they are not too scary.

i now have a bona fide author crush.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

returning property

have you guys seen this story?

are you seeing the major flaw with the police position?

they're saying the guys should have turned it in immediately to a nearby BUSINESS.

as if businesses are institutions of safekeeping. as if a subway is not full of people being paid minimum wage who might steal something.

i'm not saying they're inherently dishonest, but seriously? a business is not better guarantee of getting lost property back to a person than any honest citizen.

in the last year i have returned hundreds of dollars worth of things to people who had lost them or even just left them behind in remote parking lots.

that stuff goes in my car until somebody calls to identify it. i am more confident that i will get it back to the proper owner than some random person working in a nearby store.

this story is one where the police have an overconfidence in businesses as entities that are somehow better than citizens. that officer didn't say the man should have turned it in to a police department or government agency. he's saying the man is being charged because he did not turn it in AT A SUBWAY RESTAURANT.


this is part of an increasing trend to criminalize people for just being people.

Friday, October 05, 2018

2018 venture vermont: identify two kinds of drgaonflies

this is hard, because they don't love to be caught.

and it's hard to photograph them clearly enough if they're not caught.

i'm going to hope for the purposes of this challenge that we're including damselflies in this category, because  a lot of people don't rally distinguish the two.

plus they're easier to catch.

anyway, here's a variable dancer:

and this is a stream bluet:

two of them, actually. i do not know how they fly like that.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

2018 venture vermont: practice skipping stones

it's hard for me to get the spin on the throw, but the challenge isn't to be awesome at skipping stones.

it's to practice.

and practice i did, on and off, all summer. i am not often in a place where the stones are built for it (rounded,  flat,  light) which would help a lot, but a skilled stone skipper can skip nearly any stone, even on choppy water.

last week i managed to skip one stone nine times, in a long, curving arc.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

2018 venture vermont: create your own state park song or poem

274 raymond road

you might miss the turn 
even if you were looking for it, 
and end up somewhere better-known
but less desired.

you might miss the opportunity, slotted into your day
between this and that, packing a lunch,
making an appointment,
unable to escape.

but let's say you find your way 
and find yourself slotted in 
between the ledge and the sandbank;
you have to choose early.

but once you do choose
(and maybe you do go up on the bank or over the rock ledges,
but this isn't about that, not today, not this path)
once you do choose to go down the center slot

every other way becomes less likely
every other choice is uphill
i won't tell you there's no escape
but why would you make the bushwhack?

why would you try to get out of this slot,
this wide road down
that when it opens
it opens

on wide lake and sky

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

2018 venture vermont: identify three habitat types by your house

i guess i could just call them forest, field, and grassland, but i just got a copy of wetland, woodland, wildland so i think i can do a little better.

this here is the verge of a section of northern hardwood forest.

it may be a mesic red oak variant,but it is an area that has undergone considerable disturbance and being sure requires more study than i have time for this week.

soon, though.

here's a beaver meadow,  most likely a shallow emergent marsh.

this grassland used to be mowed, but isn't anymore.

Monday, October 01, 2018

2018 venture vermont: donate to your local food bank

it's really easy.

you tear off the coupon at the store and pay a little extra on your bill.

they have these at the richmond market.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

2018 vermont venture: play disc golf

usually when i play disc golf, i play at center chains in waterbury.

but i was looking up disc golf courses for the venture challenge and i saw there's a course behind williston central school that's open to the public.

so saturday i went there.

i still suck at disc golf, so i have to be ok with my horrible play being visible to others, but it's a very nice little 12 holes packed into a pretty small space and someone designed it to be very pleasant and playable. maybe with a course closer to my daily activities, i will play more often and maybe suck less.

Friday, September 28, 2018

2018 venture vermont: make a weaving using natural materials

i have an interest in primitive basket making and cordage, so yeah. this one is always on my list.

i started off thinking about just weaving something basket shaped from grasses, but i did not figure a way to keep my weavers separate or how to manage splices and avoid tangles, and i ended up with a vaguely bowl-shaped matted thing.

it will bear more research, because i'm sure over the millennia people have made baskets from grass.

after than i just decided to make something in a soft sided basket with daylilly leaves.

i whipped up some two strand cordage for my spokes and used regular leaves as weavers, and off i went. it's a little basket, and i am not sure how i would go about a future one, but it's an experiment.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

2018 venture vermont: one square foot

the direction is to use a string to rope off a square foot of forest and count species.

i cheated just a little and used a place where a small meadow borders a forest, because last time i did this i worked in a dry oak forest and there just wasn't that much i found.

so here's my little parcel. i did my best to identify what's in it. which took a stack of field guides, and some internet searching.

white pine (cone)
delicate fern moss
white clover
greater plantain
common yarrow
wood sorrel
new york fern
teeny little unidentified brown insect

it turns out that grasses are hard to identify unless you really know grasses AND watch your specimens for a WHOLE SEASON. ok, then. it's like watching grass grow.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

2018 venture vermont: learn to tie three knots, working edition

yeah, i know they put "learn to tie new knots" in two different columns, but i am trying real hard to become expert in knots both for myself and as part of my girl scout work.

there are a number of craft projects that are traditional to camp that require knotting, but more importantly, there are a lot of things you can do in life if only you know how to tie five or six important knots.

if you go shopping and need to haul something on the top of your car, you'll always be prepared if you know some basic knots. if you're outdoors and a storm blows up, if you have a tarp and some rope you're sheltered.

and maybe in your modern life you can get by without them, but i firmly believe that having some practical skills make people feel competent in a world that is sometimes threatening.

i have this friend who so far declines to learn proper knots, deciding to get on with some overhand knots or not-really-hitches. we were hauling some recreational gear up a hill on sleds and i did mine up with a bowline and a girth hitch, a turn or two, and a trucker hitch. i got my sled up the hill and then turned around to help carry the stuff that fell off my friend's sled, because of course while she had managed to tie the sled and the things on it together, she had not used friction or opposing forces to keep her stuff ON the sled, so it became a matter of the things falling off and dragging behind in the snow.

the more you learn about how knots work, the more you begin to appreciate some of the more specialized knots.

plus if the venture challenge wants you to learn NEW knots every year, you have to branch out.

so for this year:

often when you tie a knot you put in what's called a stopper knot at the end just in case. this is especially important if you're supporting the weight of anything important. you just put a knot in the end of the rope to keep the loose end from sliding through in case the knot loosens.

there are a lot of different stopper knots; a lot of times a simple overhand knot will do just fine. sometimes you need something a little beefier or want something a little fancier looking, so i learned to tie a new stopper knot.

this is a double figure eight. (ABOK #523)

even people who have never tied a bowline know that a bowline is a thing, because it's an awesome knot. it's strong, it's pretty simple, and it comes untied pretty well even after having been under load. but you need to be at the end of a rope to tie a bowline.

or do you?

because you can tie a bowline on a bight (ABOK #1081) and use the two strands of the loop as one, or you can use them as two rigid loops, provided the pull on each is roughly alike.

this is a good knot in general if you need a loop somewhere in the middle of the rope, but it is a dandy emergency rescue harness.  modern rescue equipment has webbing and buckles, but in a pinch this will do, as it

did on sailing vessels back in the day. to use it for a rescue harness, the injured person (if conscious) put a leg through each loop and hangs onto the standing end. if unconscious, a single hitch would be placed around the chest and under the armpits. it wouldn't be comfy, but it could be done in a hurry and sometimes that's what counts.

and if you've ever tried to throw a rope over a tree limb to hang a bear bag or pitch a tarp, or if you want to toss something in the water with a rock to weight it down, you may have realized that you can't just put a loop on it and expect it to work.

this is why we have the killeg hitch (ABOK #271). it consists of a timber hitch and a half hitch and it will hold the rock as long as it's under load.

you may be tempted to swing your rock around indoors after you have learned to tie it, and your knot may hold (mine did) but it's still a stupid thing to do, just in case.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

2018 venture vermont: put together a picnic using local ingredients

awright, so i had to go to the richmond market to pick up a thing for a party and it was a nice day and i hadn't had lunch so i picked up some things for a picnic. i admit, i splurged a little.

because due diligence. venture challenge. ten points.

here's my bounty:

my original intent was to make some kind of sandwich or put the ingredients together in some fashion, but in truth each thing was so delicious on its own that i just sat in the shade and ate bits of things one by one.

one ripe red tomato. delicious. from jericho settlers' farm.
multicolored carrots from pete's greens. sweet and crunchy.
grafton village cheese truffle cheddar, fancier than my usual, but what the heck?
backcountry loaf from running stone bread; a small and heavy little loaf that's gluten-free and whole grain.

i'm not a GF person, but the heaviness and whole grain-ness of the loaf appealed to me for this lunch and some others this week. plus you can freeze the loaf. it's very filling and satisfying. i tried to eat a slice with tomato and one with cheese, but the flavors in each thing warranted being eaten all by itself, so i did that.

the honey in my water bottle honey-and-vinegar is from settlement farm apiary in underhill, my favorite source of honey.

and dessert? that's a real splurge. precious and delicious little white chocolate dipped lemon shortbread from douglas sweets.

i ate alone in the shade, doing nothing but eating and being outside.

on the whole, very pleasant.

Monday, September 24, 2018

2018 venture vermont: build a fairy house

i'm thinking of really STUDYING fairy house construction.

last year i built one with some rather elaborate construction. this year i was working on something in lighter materials, maybe with some natural grass cordage but that was taking forever and a day, so i just did a little experimental jobber with a tripod loosely lashed with grasses on a stick platform with a frame of sticks claddded in pinecones and pine needles. i'm not sure how durable it will be, bu i imagine it will be warm.

because fairies like that?

anyway. location, location, location.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

2018 venture vermont: identify five native plants

woohoo! i learn so much...

i am learning to become much more specific in my identifications. i used to just call an aspen an aspen and leave it at that.

here is a quaking aspen:

it's just a little sapling, but it is among friends. and probably siblings, because this is a species known for clonal reproduction.

this here is a flat-branched tree clubmoss, sometimes called a princess pine

once harvested for flash powder. well, you learn something every day.

i've seen these in the forest forever, but for some reason never learned their names. that now seems rude. these are canada mayflowers:

and this is common selfheal:

apparently some people consider it a lawn invasive, but i guess only if you're trying to grow grass. it's native, thanks.

and woot! it's HOPNISS!

the american groundnut is a legume, and if you know where to find it and how to dig it, you will never starve.

not starving is good.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

2018 venture vermont: learn to tie two new knots (decorative edition)

this summer i learned to tie the friendship knot, which is traditional for girl scouts and girl guides. back in the old day at girl scout camp, counsleors had to wear one as part of our uniform. it is traditional to wear one tied for you by someone else.

of course, even though i knew how to tie one back then, i had long forgotten and had to learn it again.

turns out it's in the ashley book (because of COURSE it is) as #1423, the japanese bend.

and then i was in williston one day (ingress- remember, we're the RESISTANCE!!) and i happened to have been at the grave of governor chittenden and although i have looked at his monument many a time, on this particular day the west side of it caught my attention:

i decided to learn how to tie the knots on it. i figured it couldn't be that hard. the one in the center is a square knot. but the one on the sides, well, that took a little bit of puzzling out for me and after some happy hours i was able to both tie them AND to identify them according to ashley.

the side knots are carrick bends (ABOK 1428) and are traditionally used as decorative knots for "trumpet cords and military braids".

when i tried to tie them by looking at the picture, at first i tied them and then went to pull them tight without paying attention to the dressing and of course it fell apart and i was ready to blame the sculptor for not really understanding how to represent an actual knot.

knots are fussy in that when you tie some of them, it's not just the pattern of loops and bights and overs and unders, but as you pull it tight you have to preserve the PLACEMENT of each strand else the whole thing spills and you just get a tangle.

this is called "dressing" the knot.

those knots on the monument are properly dressed, but not pulled tight. because ornamental.

so here's my carrick bend, dressed, but not pulled tight:

this is what it looks like pulled tight:

and here's the series of three knots more or less how they appear on the monument. it takes four cords.

Friday, September 21, 2018

2018 venture vermont: learn to identify two noxious plants

first, you have to find out what plants are designated noxious. the state is very helpful that way.

noxious plants are not that hard to find.

my two i learned this year are yellow iris...

and norway maple.

yellow iris is pretty easy to identify, but norway maple looks a lot like a maple tree. we're about maple trees in vermont, particularly sugar maples, which apparently  norway maples can displace.

i identified this one as a norway maple with the help of my brand new forest trees of maine but as far as i understand, the big tells are a leaf wider than it is long and a leaf stem that exudes milky sap when broken.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

2018 venture vermont: cook a meal over a fire

often when i camp alone i just can't be bothered to make a fire. it takes too long, and is more work than i like.

but i had some company on some of my campsites, which means WE COOKED SOME MEALS.

here are some highlights:

foil packet fajitas (vegetarian): chickpeas, diced potatoes, onion, peppers, sliced carrots with fajita sauce and fire-toasted tortillas. roasted sweet corn.

pudgie pies: pie-iron cooked crescent dough with filling made of sweet cherries and almond paste.

steak fry: seared beef cubed and cooked in bacon fat with potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes, and peppers.

THE PINEAPPLE OF FRIENDSHIP: whole roasted pineapple.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

2018 venture vermont: keep a nature journal

what a coincidence! i was already keeping an outdoor journal, but then i have to keep one as part of my practice for my Vermont Master Naturalist Program, so awesome all around.

here are a couple of pages from this week.

Monday, September 17, 2018

2018 venture vermont: create your own version of s'mores

i'm not a s'mores girl. usually they're done with hershey chocolate, which tastes bitter in my mouth, and i could do without the graham cracker.

but i had company out at my campsite, and we made some nonstandard s'mores.

this one is toasted marshmallow, chocolate, and almond pie filling. extremely deliciousthisthis
this one is fire-roasted pineapple with toasted marshmallow. yeah, bay-bee

Saturday, September 15, 2018

2018 venture vermont: climb a tree

this one is always hard for me, because no complete rotator cuffs and i'm heavy.

so if i'm going to be climbing a tree, i have to find one that lets me push more with my legs than pull up with my arms.


Friday, September 14, 2018

2018 venture vermont: tell stories around a campfire

often when people are telling campfire stories, those are folkloric pieces, often involving ghosts.

i'm not into ghosts at my campfire, and although i have told my share of jack tales at campfires, my favorite stories are the ones told by people about things that happened to them, often at camps.

this summer i have had several occasions to tell one of my favorite camp stories: the pixie party.

a long time ago (as these things often begin), in my very first time at girl scout camp, on the last night of session, after we were all asleep in our beds, our counselors got us up and dressed IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT (it was probably only nine or ten o'clock) and walked us out to a fire ring we had NEVER SEEN, way out in the MIDDLE OF THE FOREST (it was probably one just outside our unit that we had never noticed and made unfamiliar by darkness) where the counselors of camp (the coolest ones) were all there, dressed in weird clothes with sparkles and fairy wings and they talked in little high voices and called each other by strange names and they performed comic skits we had never seen and sang silly songs we had never heard and they called it THE PIXIE PARTY!

and then it was over. our counselors took us back to our tents and put us to bed and in the morning they DENIED EVERYTHING.

"can you teach us that song you sang last night?"
"we didn't sing any songs last night."
"don't you remember? the pixie party?"
"were you out of your tents last night?"


hats off to you, young women who performed this thing, because it is forty five years later and i still remember that party and i STILL haven't learned those songs and i STILL haven't given up hoping that i will discover them and learn them and pass them along.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

2018 venture vermont: pick up litter on your road or in your town

i'm going to define "my town" liberally, because i define my home rather broadly: i pay my taxes in bolton, by the seat of my soul is a large chunk of land comprising west bolton, jonesville, ricker mountain, and the waterbury reservoir.

i live on the waterbury reservoir on average three months out of a year, and my daily transportation when i am living there is by boat on the reservoir.

when i am there i try to perform some service to that land and that water. usually i pick up at least one bag of trash.

a lot of things get left out there, and a lot of things that get left elsewhere wash up after floods.

normal: single sandals

unusual: playground equipment

gross: pee bottles.

seriously. if you are squeamish about peeing in the lake or the woods, why would you pee in a plastic bottle, seal it up, and toss it out for someone else to find? seriously? there is no shortage of places to pee out here. and yet i picked up at least three full pee bottles.

ewwww. people, don't be gross.

also, don't buy or use styrofoam coolers. that never ends well.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Vermont Master Naturalist: application

this is probably the most exciting thing of the summer.

if you have known me for longer than ten minutes, you know that i love to grab my junior naturalist bag full of field guides and stuff and head out to play JUNIOR naturalist, because while i have interest and some knowledge, i have no credentials or anything.

but then i heard about this thing through the senior center (and yes, i am old enough for that AND it is a hoppin' place): the VERMONT MASTER NATURALIST  program.

when i found out about it, i was only five days out from the application deadline, and i don't live in the town that the program is for, but i live close by, and have an affinity with the town, so i wrote to ask the nice lady if i might be eligible and she said you are SO eligible; here are the applications for the programs in richmond and williston. pick one.

so i started just filling out the application without even thinking, figuring i could go back and edit and make it pretty. i ended up not editing.

here are some excerpts from my application:

if you could spend a day in the field learning about one aspect of the natural landscape, what would you choose and why?

Geology! it's the aspect i have the hardest time wrapping my head around in self-guided study, and it's the bedrock (pun intended) on which everything is built. seriously, i want to be able to understand all those pretty geological maps. i'm that lady who hangs a u-ie to pull up behind university geology field trips to ask if i can tag along.

why are you interested in the Vermont Master Naturalist Richmond Program?

because back in the '70s i fell in love with jonesville. because robbins mountain was the first mountain after camel's hump and mount mansfield i learned to name. [...] because- what? i'm sorry- i'm sure there exist people who aren't into it, but i heard about this program and i was all, like, HOSE ME DOWN!! this is for me! a comprehensive local natural history program?!? sign me right up!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

2018 venture vermont: go for a hike (summit)

the 25th of may this year was opening day of the mountain trail at vermont state parks, so i decided to celebrate by going up mount mansfield.

it had been a long time since the last time i'd attempted the hike because knees and lupus, but i did it.

i probably won't be in a rush to do it again.

it's lovely, but i'm creaky.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

um, i was out.

yeah, i just up and went camping without so much as a by your-leave.

you probably expected as much.

it's 28 days later and i have so many exciting things to tell you and some not exciting things.

but anyway, i'm back at the big tent with the stairs and the hard sides.

i have to think about it that way for a few days. it helps ease the shock.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

2018 venture vermont: attend a state park interpretive program

last year i tried to go to the HERE BE DRAGONFLIES program at little river state park, but i wasn't reading a current schedule, so i missed it and instead turned up for demystifying mushrooms, which wasn't such a bad thing because i also like mushrooms.

this past saturday i went up to get the HERE BE DRAGONFLIES program, and although we didn't catch much, i did learn some things. i learned how to properly use a bug net, and i learned what some of the better field guides are.

plus brian is always interesting.


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