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.


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