Monday, December 02, 2019

an abomnination

i have no picture of this, because even though it looked delicious, well, reason. i'll get to it later.

but i bought myself a cast iron pan for camping, which is a departure from my usual. in my younger days, i was all about backpacking equipment, and cast iron pan does not fit into that category.

you can get away with one for canoe camping and certainly for car camping or even pulk camping, which i'm now getting into.

a pulk, by the way, is a sled that's outfitted to pull behind you when you hike. winter gear is generally heavier than summer gear and why NOT bring the heavy gear if you can load it in a sled?

anyway, i'd been seeing friends and acquaintances cook things on campfires that would make your toes curl they're so good, plus sometimes i get it in my head to make things in a dutch oven so i decided i could get myself a piece of cast iron to use for camp but then i didn't know: frypan? griddle? dutch oven?

and then lodge made it easy. it turns out they have a 3 liter combo cooker that's two frypans, one shallow and one deep, that fit together so you can use the shallow one as a lid to make them into a dutch oven and it was on sale at REI last week, so how could i not?

i used it camping to roast chestnuts on an open fire and i came home and because my guests didn't eat much of the groceries i'd brought (i don't know. you can't figure some folk) i have a lot of camp things i wouldn't normally eat at home but need to get used up so yesterday i too some packaged biscuit doughs, split and lined the greased pan with them and layered in sliced turkey, tater tots, gravy, cheese, and topped it with the other halves of the biscuit doughs and baked the whole mess until it was golden brown.

not something i'm proud of, and it was kind of an abomination, but yet oddly delicious.

and i was looking at it and realized it would make a nice picture for you and that's when i grabbed the handle of the pan to get a better angle.

yeah, the CAST IRON PAN. because i'm not used to cooking in cast iron, and certainly not indoors so my first time out with indoor cast iron forgot the HANDLE STAYS HOT.

so no picture.

my hand is ok. the burns weren't too bad. it was ouchy for a while and i didn't get any pictures, but lesson cheaply learned.

Sunday, December 01, 2019

out in the cold

i keep running into a phenomenon when i am out with people winter camping and the people maybe aren't that experienced camping in winter, because winter makes a big and important difference.

i don't blame them for not understanding, because i didn't really understand how to live in cold weather either.

i tell people not to let themselves get cold.

don't let your hands get cold, don't let your feet get cold. don't let your ass get cold. if you feel chilly, move. get up and do things. do not sit with a blanket near the fire, because that fire is not putting out enough heat to keep you warm.

i tell them this over and over and they act like they understand, but their versions of not getting too cold is very much the not getting cold of people who plan to be indoors having a hot shower and spending the evening with central heat.

because how cold you can get and still have a safe and comfortable night is very different if you go out into the cold and get a little chilly and then you come inside and warm up. you can get WAY COLDER and still end up safe and comfortable.

but if you're staying outside, you absolutely cannot hang around until you feel too cold and then sit with a blanket around you until you warm up because you're not going to warm up.

you have to get your muscles moving. you have to eat hot food with a lot of calories. you have to remember to eat and drink and pee because you NEED your body to be working.

if you go to bed cold, without a hot shower or time inside, you're going to have a cold uncomfortable night while your body catches up, and your body can't afford to catch up like that too often.

if you're out with me and i tell you you need to have a hot beverage, i'm not being polite. i'm thinking of your safety.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

eggplant jerky

first, imma say that i eat meat. i think that's important because i want to stress that i do not consider this a substitute for regular meat jerky. so while i enjoy good meat jerky and even mediocre meat jerky, there's only so much dried meat my system can handle AND i like to try to eat more vegetables.

plus the more kinds of jerky you have to put in your lunch, the better off you are.

one word, my friends: EGGPLANT. if you have a mandoline slicer and a dehydrator (both things i recommend), your active prep time is about ten minutes for a batch.

i'm going to experiment later today with a different recipe, but here's more or less what i've been cranking through my kitchen ahead of thanksgiving camp:

1 large eggplant, washed
 about 1/3 cup oil, more or less. i like olive oil.
something salty- a couple tablespoons of either soy sauce or liquid aminos works great
an acid to brighten it up. i'm using a tablespoon or two of balsamic vinegar
a sweetener. i'm using as much maple syrup as i think i can get away with.
spices. however much and which kind you like. i'm enjoying a little smoked paprika, some black pepper, and a tiny bit of allspice.

slice up the eggplant. i run it down the mandoline into big slices about 3/8 of an inch thick (that's 7mm in civilized units) and then slice those lengthwise which gives you a slice about as big as a thick slice of bacon.

mix up all the other stuff in either a bowl or a ziploc bag, and dump in the eggplant. make sure the liquid gets to all the slices. there. toss it in the fridge for a couple of hours. turn it occasionally if you like to make sure the liquid is absorbing evenly.

then lay out the slices on your dehydrator at about 115°F (46°C) and forget about it for 12 to 15 hours. if you take it out earlier than later it will be more chewy than crunchy, but it's up to you how you want it.

mmmm delicious.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

fish bits

last week i made some salmon jerky.

or rather, i overdried a batch of salmon jerky, so what i have is a big bag of delicious crispy salmon crumbs.

and you know what? you can use that stuff in any application where you might use bacon bits. i mean, you have to like the taste of salmon, because it's never going to not taste like fish, but the idea of some salty crunchies to go on your food and give you a protein kick still translates.

i may do that on purpose now sometimes.

Friday, October 11, 2019

down to URth

a long time ago, i used to play a game called glitch.

unless you just met me you know that i live on this world as if i am at home in it, and that i love trees and plants and animals and rocks and i have a strong sense of place, and glitch was a game where you got ahead by being kind to the plants and animals and other players and you had to know your rocks and how to cook garden and build and it paid you to be kind to others.

it was also a game with stunningly beautiful graphics and sound. just as an example, here's me playing the quest "last pilgrimage of esquibeth".

i mentioned to you some time ago that there were two projects trying to recreate the game from its public domain assets, eleven and children of ur.

CoU isn't as fully functional as eleven, but anyone can go in and wander around. i recommend you do. also, zhoen, you should probably apply to get into eleven if you can. i imagine you will love tending your flowers there, and wandering around peaceful streets with nice music.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

2019 venture vermont: now i wait

i totaled my points and checked my documentation.

i sent off my form yesterday.

soon, i hope, i will receive my new medal.

hopping up and down on one foot

Friday, October 04, 2019

2019 venture vermont: Carve a spoon.

it's weird, but i was sure to get this one because spoon carving is a thing i do.

and yet this was hard, because there were other things i had to carve, and for some reason i insist on carving spoons out of applewood, which is hard and has irregular grain.

this spoon isn't finished, but it's pretty obviously a spoon.

i'm going to remove some material yet on the handle, and make it more graceful.

this summer i was working on another spoon and some kids were watching and one of them asked me if i thought it was a good spoon. i said i thought it wasn't yet, because it needed a lot of work still but that it was clearly a spoon. all the kids in that immediate area seemed relieved that i wasn't calling it done; it was almost like it was a test of my own perception and ability.

i sort of felt like if i'd said i thought it was a fine spoon they would have stopped trusting my opinion.

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

2019 venture vermont:Learn a tongue twister and say it as fast as you can.

i found a tonge twister that i like: "how can a clam cram in a clean cream can?" and in the course of learning to say it, i came up with this little ditty.

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

2019 venture vermont: Hike in a VT state park. also, firetower.

i love me some vermont state parks, so "Hike in a VT state park" isn't super hard for me to complete.

the tricky bit these days is finding an easy enough hike and hitting it on a relatively pain-free day.

so i was on my way to ricker pond state park...

this isn't a joke.

ricker pond state park is about an hour from my house, and allis state park is about an hour from my house and allis state park is about an hour from ricker pond state park, so of course i decided to go to allis state park ON THE WAY to ricker pond state park.

news flash: you can't get there from here.

why, you may ask, did i do this thing?

because i had the time. and the weather was nice. and i was feeling good.


"but flask", you are probably not saying, "but flask- isn't there a firetower on spruce mountain in the LR Jones state forest, which is contiguous with the groton state forest and reasonably close by?"

why, yes. yes there is. the thing about that, though, is that i typically only hike to that firetower in the winter months because some hikes are just easier for me with snow on the ground. and gile mountain is far away and hard. ditto belvidere. mt. olga isn't that bad, but it's a LONG drive. ever been to the fire tower on glastenbury mountain? yeah, that's a two day project.

what i'm saying here is even if it's off-season and you have to go up from below the gate like i did, the tower on bear hill in allis state park offers a gentle hike i can do on nearly any day. plus it has fantastic views.

so i went.

then later in the day after i pitched camp i went for a drive and i didn't mean to but i went up owls head and i wouldn't have called that a firetower, but apparently the stone lookout functioned as a firetower when it was built in 1935, so it could also count, i guess.

and then for good measure i hiked up owls head again on saturday afternoon because my friend barb likes a view.

self portrait with tower

Monday, September 30, 2019

2019 venture vermont: Camp in a tent at a VT state park.

from the files of "i wasn't expecting to get this one": a little while ago i was on my adventure day with my friend barb and we were looking at the campgrounds in and around moosalamoo and we made plans to go out for a one night backpacking trip so i could ding "Go on an overnight backpacking trip with everything you need in your backpack" but then barb broke her collarbone and i was all like oh, noooo.

she thought she'd try and feel better in another week and maybe go, but i've HAD a broken collarbone and no. just no. nope, nope, nope. you don't have to give up your fall camping weekend just because you broke a collarbone. we'll go car camping and i'll get us a lovely site near some water and we'll take it nice and easy so i made a reservation at ricker pond state park and that was lovely.

here's a picture of the table in the site, and if you know me pretty well, a lot of the things in the photo identify this as uniquely MY campsite: my walking stick, my beloved luci lantern, my ubiquitous nature journal, and a mushroom field guide the size of my head.

it was perfect weather, and i'd never been to ricker pond state park so bonus delights.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

2019 venture vermont: Identify each of these three types of rocks: igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic.

i live in an area where the rocks are mostly metamorphic; i live near the spine of the Green Mountains, which have been raised and pushed and pressed so many times and in them you can see the folds and almost imagine days when they were plastic.

but to my west there are sedimentary rocks, the sandstones and shales of the Champlain Valley, and to my east are the granites of Barre and the northeast.

i went down into the bed of the Huntington River to look over some glacial till, because there you can usually find a lot of kinds of rocks.

i found this sandstone.

and this lovely banded gneiss.

and i thought maybe this was a granite, but it's not. it WAS a granite before it was metamorphosed, but now it's also gneiss.

so no big deal, right? if you can't find igneous rocks in the state of vermont, you are clearly not near barre, and not in the Northeast Kingdom. the geology of a lot of the state involves the Green Mountains, but west of that range are the Taconics (southwest corner) and just east of it are the great volcanic plumes of the Northeast Kingdom and the granite beds of Barre.

so, yanno. all you really have to do to find igneous rocks is head east of the Green Mountains and look for granite mountains or granite quarries, or really, you could just look for any modern cemetery or city edifice built of granite...

uh, anyway. up on owl's head in Groton State Forest are piles and piles of granites.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

2019 venture vermont: Ride your bike or go for a run on a rail trail.

i didn't think i was going to get this one; often i am riding a rail trail for some other reason and just get this one by accident, but this weekend a short trip to groton state forest fell into my lap and my friend barb and i went for a little jaunt up the rail trail from ricker pond to the sign on the north side of stillwater road.

it was hard riding for me. i'm struggling a lot this year with increased pain and increased fatigue, but we did it.

then on the way back were were thinking that we wanted some cold sodas, but had't brought any.

but then it dawned on us: we are GROWNUPS with CARS and MONEY. so we went to the general store and they have moxie.

life is good.

Friday, September 27, 2019

2019 venture vermont: Photograph and identify three different kinds of pine cones

i have been recklessly and prolifically photographing the cones of assorted conifers across vermont and new hampshire with the intent to collect three good photos and post them together to satisfy this item.

and i always hesitate when talking about "pinecones", because are we talking about the cones of all conifers? or just the actual pines? i have white pines that grow near my house and some red pines, which are the result of reforestation in the late '20s, but i think past that i'd have to go to what i think is some pitch pines i met this summer but then i think that for the purposes of this challenge it's probably ok to use the cones of spruces or firs or even -heaven help us- northern white cedar.

so i think what i've settled on- and let me stress that me decision about which cones to use for the challenge is as much informed by which photos i could find all at one time the soonest as any other factor- i present to you the red pine, red spruce, and tamarack.

the red pine is from a tree that appears to be an escape or maybe a volunteer descendant of a reforestation in richmond. the forest around it is mostly white pine, hemlock, and yellow birch. there are two other red pines in this area.

 this red spruce cone is from a tree on bear hill in allis state park.

 this tamarack is located at the nature center in groton state forest. tamaracks are unique in the world of north american conifers because they are deciduous.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

2019 venture vermont: Make a tin can telephone.

i haven't done this since i was a child!

and i did it so authentically this time, too, because i didn't have any empty cans at my house SO I ASKED MY MOM FOR SOME.

i made my telephone while in the groton state forest hanging out near ricker pond.

what a blast.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

2019 venture vermont: Try a new technique when building a campfire.

i always get worried that i'll run out of new things to try.

but recently i was at an event (teaching firebuilding) and this guy asked me if i'd ever built an upside-down fire. i hadn't, because my favorite fire lay is the Unholy Mess, but i'd seen some cool vids about them and this guy i was talking to me said it was really worth my time.

so recently i found myself camping with a friend at ricker pond state park and we bought a load of firewood and while we were out exploring we picked up some good tinder and kindling and i decided to try lighting the whole thing with a ferro rod and charcloth, because i've never been able to successfully blow up a spark ignition into flame.

to be sure, i have sparked an accelerant and that's pretty spiffy, but i had never yet successfully used the charcloth with spark, so i decided to try that on top of my upside down fire because either way i will have used a new technique and let's face it: even if i had failed, i still would have TRIED.


the upside-down fire, by the way, works a charm. if you lay it right, it burns right down to a fabulous bed of coals with nearly zero maintenance, which is a big plus. would do again.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

2019 venture vermont: Learn how to tell time without a clock

i'm a big fan of all the map / compass / clock skills.

if you can find true north, you can then use that knowledge to make a sundial.

there are a lot of ways to make a sundial with varying degrees of accuracy. the trick is that you either need to plant it in one place and construct it to be accurate for its place and season, or you need to angle and orient it whenever you use it to have the hours line up properly.

i like this little number from sky & telescope because it has an easy to use printout page that you can use to build an easy and pretty accurate sundial. you have to face it to true north (or south, if you live in the souther hemisphere), but if you've folded it to match your correct latitude, it's pretty accurate. you have to adjust for daylight savings on your own, but it works.


Monday, September 23, 2019

2019 venture vermont: Clean up trash from one of your favorite areas and send us a before and after photo.




*wipes tears from eyes*

ok, i know you guys were hoping for a dramatic before / after photo but there just isn't one.

i know what the department of forest, parks, and recreation had in mind was a one-time trash cleanup that we could all point to and say "there. doesn't that look nicer?"

but instead (either cheating or overachieving) this month i accepted a two-year term as one of the land stewards of the Sara Holbrook Floodplain Forest, which means not only have i agreed to go down there and regularly pick up trash, but i have agreed to monitor the parcel usage, the health of our forest and riverbank, help develop a management plan for the parcel, and engage in community education and discussion about conservation on the parcel.

last week when i went down there all i got was two beer cans, but this last time i had a meeting with a team from the UVM NR206 course, in which students engaged in a capstone project will help the town of bolton develop a management plan.

so yeah, let's just say i picked up some trash and call it good, ok?

Sunday, September 22, 2019

2019 venture vermont: attend and support a local event

so as a result of some of my other work a nice lady from service unit #241 called me up to ask if i could come and be an instructor at their fall camping event, and of course i could.

it turns out that if my girl scout troop were registered in the town where i live, that would be my service unit, but we're not, so it's my local community but i don't belong to it administratively.

she hadn't firmed up her list of instructors for the event, so i told her to just have me do whatever she wanted from my skillset.

she ended up asking me to do two sessions of firebuilding and two sessions of music with nature.

i helped with setup and takedown, as well as helping some of the other instructors find their places. f'rinstance the archery instructor is a guy who more habitually teaches archery on our property at camp seawood, and he had never been to our camp so i helped him find the range and open the shed and all that.

also they had a woman come in to do a foraging thing, but i know when i go to a place to do foraging i prefer to have time ahead to wander around and look at what's there so i took her on a walk to show her where we had the plants that were of interest to her.

i don't have pics of that because of course i don't have authorization to photograph the minors present, but there are witnesses. i did the thing.

and i may have gone and got myself committed to do other things.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

2019 venture vermont: Write a poem or song about your favorite outdoor space and send it to us

unless you just walked in in the last ten minutes, my favorite outdoor spaces these days are the girl scout camps of the Girl Scouts of the Green and White mountains.

i felt there was a need for one song that spoke of the bond between the camps, because we're all one council, all one movement, and i wanted to frame the camps as friends.

so i wrote this song.

here's a quick and dirty recording of it.

Four Friends

There were four friends as solid as rocks
A dragon and a turtle and an owl and a fox (1)
Like fingers in gloves or keys in locks, 
They all went out to roam together  
And they all went out to roam.

They danced in a meadow high on a hill
In the green Green Mountains while the summer stood still
But the seasons turned as the seasons will (2)
And they all went out to roam together
And they all went out to roam.

They paddled on a lake both sparkling and sweet
And they went to Seven Gables by their wings and by their feet (3)
But the travel of the friends was not complete 
So they all went out to roam together
And they all went out to roam

They went exploring down by the shore
And they took a trail so far that they could see a dinosaur (4)
All thanks to the Daughter of Appledore (5)
They all went out to roam together
And they all went out to roam.

In Sebbins Pond they swam all around
And Sandy is the other pond and sandy is the ground
An american chestnut tree they found (6)
but they all went  out to roam together 
And they all went out to roam.

But a piece was missing from the fox's heart
She wanted to return to the place she got her start
So to Twin Hills turned and they traveled apart (7)
And she said i love to roam together but i love to be back home.

You know i love to roam together
but Twin Hills is my home.

(1) these are references to the four mascots of the camps: the twin hills fox, the farnsworth owl, the kettleford dragon, and the seawood turtle
(2)this sounds like the least specific of the verses, but it is really a reflection of being in my mid-fifties playing in the same meadow where i played as a child.
(3) seven gables is a place at camp farnsworth
(4) at camp seawood they have a rock called dinosaur rock. it is pretty far out from main camp.
(5) this is an obscure reference. celia thaxter was a prominent 19th century poet and her family donated the land for this camp to the girl scouts. ms. thaxter lived on star island for much of her adult life, but her father was the lighthouse keeper of appledore island and she spent some of her childhood there. it's not the best lyric, but it acknowledges the gift and if fits the rhyme scheme.
(6) camp kettleford borders two ponds, sebbins pond and sandy pond. they have actual american chestnut trees there, which gives me hope for the future. and yes, the soil is very sandy.
(7) the lyrics to this verse and the coda change according to where the song is being sung.

Friday, September 20, 2019

2019 venture vermont: Make a map of your favorite natural area.

i'm not sure if i'm cheating or if i'm overachieving.

arguably my favorite natural area is twin hills girl scout camp, where i am the naturalist.

i can't so much say that i drew a map of it, but i did do the scouting to find the route of the old blue trail and use GPS to map it out. we're trying to identify its old path that was disrupted by logging operations and we're looking for places to repair or reroute it.

additionally, we need to plan some connector trails and most importantly on our to-do list for that is we need a new trail sited that will be appropriate for use by very young girls or for groups looking for an easy and pretty accessible walk instead of the monster that the old blue trail was.

if you want to look at my map, it's here.

this represents my walking of the property. the blue trail is represented by the blue line, and stone walls and other points of interest are also marked. i have annotated some of the proposed areas for new trail, but i'll be working this fall with an intern to set new trail in the vicinity of the pink line.

does this count as drawing a map? does putting it on the anr atlas count as sending it to the department of forest, parks, and recreation, which is a subsidiary of the anr? i really hope so, because i'm counting it.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

2019 venture vermont: Take a human powered boat on a lake or pond

the weird irony of my life these days is that i used to spend a lot of time out doing camping and boating and thinking that it would be cool if i could teach these skills to, say, girl scouts.

so now i spend most of my time teaching these things to girl scouts but i don't do as much of it myself.

not a complaint; i'm doing what i wanted.

i have gotten out on the water some though.

i went canoeing with my girl scout troop, and i guided a canoe trip from a girl scout camp.

i'm not in this photo. i'm behind the camera. but i promise, i'm in a boat on the water.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

2019 venture vermont: Hang your laundry outdoors to dry instead of using a drying machine.

this one seems very simple and i had been tempted to dry this way some of the time, but i do not have enough rack space for a full load of laundry and i have no space to hang a clothesline.

but ten points on the venture challenge is ten points, and i used that motivation to do me some problem solving.

problem #1: not enough rack space
solution: buy a second rack.

problem #2: no laundry basket big enough to haul things up from basement where laundry machines are located
solution: buy a laundry basket.

so i did those things, and right now i have a whole load of laundry drying outside in the sun.

that feels awesome.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

2019 venture vermont: Pack a picnic for someone else to enjoy

this summer a group of girl scouts was hiking a portion of the long trail near my house.

now, in 1976 i was a girl scout on a hike on that same terrain and i remember what it was like to encounter trail magic.

but because the trip leader is a friend of mine, i was able to find out what things the girls would especially enjoy to find in a magic box, and they wanted chocolate milk and a baguette.

ok, that's weird, but ok.

so i got them good chocolate milk from a reputable local dairy and a good baguette from a fine local bakery and while i was at it i got them a wedge of brie and some tomatoes and some milky ways.

and because it's bad manners and probably bad luck to leave out special things for only your hikers but not share, i bought some sodas and some water and i wrapped up the things for the girl scouts and left a note encouraging all passing hikers to help themselves to the drinks and the rest of the candy  and all morning our girls were hearing southbound hikers telling them their box was at the trailhead which was a total surprise to them and the trip leader tells me they
practically ran down the mountain to get it.

it turned out that two of the girls were french, so a good baguette and a wedge of french cheese was very welcome.

but while that PROBABLY qualifies as making a picnic lunch for someone else to enjoy, on my adventure day with my friend barb i went to the grocery store and picked up some sandwiches and such and packed here a surprise lunch that we ate in a clearing in the green mountain national forest.

Monday, September 16, 2019

2019 venture vermont: Go on a hike you’ve never done before.

these days the amount of hiking i can do is limited by pain or fatigue or both. fortunately my friend barb does not mind hiking at my pace, which is slow. very, very slow.

so after we were done looking for the cave that's on the nature trail at branbury state park, we went and hiked the lower cliff trail. the views are lovely, and the cliffs are impressive.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

2019 venture vermont: Sit in a quiet area and observe nature. Write down or draw a picture of what you see.

i had been keeping a nature journal of sorts until i took up study as a Vermont Master Naturalist, and then i started KEEPING A NATURE JOURNAL and in particular going to the same place in all seasons and most weathers to sit and observe and record.

here's a picture of two pages.

i'm trying to do less writing and more sketching, so so far i'm not very good at that.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

2019 venture vermont: Learn a bird call. Send us a recording.

this spring while i was up on girl scout camp property, i kept hearing a hawk. i was able to identify it as a broad-winged hawk (buteo platypterus), and later in the spring there was a lot of territorial hawk calling and then when i was up there with some people we thought we saw a nest.

oh yes. the female went and put her nest right in our parking lot, right over the place where the busses disgorge the campers and the parents pick up and drop off girls and sure enough the precious little chick (really a huge bird, even right out of the egg) hatched JUST before camp started and what had seemed a perfect quiet neighborhood was  now an alarming one teeming with juvenile top-level predators, although eventually i think the mother was able to piece together the basic fact that while we are a species that eats eggs and poultry, we are not for the most part going to climb that slender tree and eat her chick and our presence both discourages tree climbing predators and increases the amount of delicious, delicious rodents, because children leave a surprising amount of food crumbs, which rodents love.

anyway, the chick stepped out of the nest early and plopped to the ground while we were sitting right there one day and then it flailed around in the bushes trying desperately to get out of our sight while we politely DID NOT LOOK AT IT.

it was fun for me, as the staff naturalist, to explain to the children why we would purposely not look at such an awesome thing, but we got that all sorted out and over the next week or so we kept hearing the chick and the mother calling to each other and seeing behavioral evidence that the now huge but still flightless chick was still being cared for and assisted somewhere on the ground in our forest.

then, at about the time when the chick should have been fully fledged, i stopped seeing them so much. i hope they're both well.

my recording of this female hawk can be found on an inat observation page here:

Friday, September 13, 2019

2019 venture vermont: Make a crown out of natural materials.

i was out at a girl scout camp, doing preparation for a foraging session, and i picked a couple of stems of meadowsweet and goldenrod to make this crown. i wove in a stem of new england aster for good measure, because pretty.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

2019 venture vermont: ID three different invasive species.

here's autumn olive (elaeaganus umbellata), which is invasive and delicious.

i found it growing at button bay state park.

this is multiflora rose, which is pretty and also edible.

i caught this one growing in the sarah holbrook floodplain forest.

here's some morrow's honeysuckle:

there's a patch of it with some tatarian honeysuckles growing in a logged patch at a girl scout camp.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

2019 venture vermont: attend a state park you've never been to

i know this seems improbable, but i had never actually been to Branbury State Park.

and i needed to go see a cave and attend an interpretive program and there wasn't going to be a program near the smugglers' cave (which i've been to a lot), so i decided to make a whole day adventure out of it.

here's the view of lake dunmore from the lower cliff trail.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019


they gave me the honor pin, which is kind of a big deal.

i dunno, it sort of felt like too much. i'll be the first one to tell you that my work is good and that i do a lot of it, but it doesn't seem that, uh, -elevated- to me?

still, it's gratifying to be noticed for my work, and a little terrifying to feel i have to live up to the honor. i sort of like flying under the radar better. maybe i can turn it into opportunity. if people have heard of your program, they're more likely to sign up for it.

that's the thing, you know- i've been honored for basically playing around and doing the stuff i wanted to do, not because anybody said they needed it but because it pleased me and it just happened to be useful.

right place, right time.

in related news, they also made me a torchbearer, which is an honor i had hoped to someday qualify for, and i'm surprised to be given it this soon. it is an award for adults who are instrumental in providing outdoor education and that is a thing about which i am passionate.

funny story: somebody way higher on the food chain was also honored with this award (which comes with an actual honkin' TORCH), and they'd tasked her with the job of getting me to the ceremony, because i'm way too likely to skip an evening session to go to bed early, and they called her name and she said "what, ME?" which earned delighted chuckles from the assembled crowd.

when they called my name, i let out an involuntary yelp and may have cried a little.

Sunday, September 08, 2019

2019 venture vermont: Find a cave and take a picture with it

the venture vermont scorcard helpfully mentions that there are caves to be found at both smuggler's notch state park and branbury state park, and i've been to the smuggler's cave, so we headed off to lake dunmore to visit branbury state park.

Saturday, September 07, 2019


this summer more than once i had to stop children from playing pretend CPR. while i applaud the intention of children playing at lifesaving, that's a thing you really have to step in and stop.

kids have a hard time grasping the concept that doing CPR on a beating heart may damage or actually stop it. they also do not get the part where if you're doing CPR on a person, it's going to hurt. it's probably going to break ribs.

but then WHY DO WE DO IT? is a reasonable question.

equally reasonable but not necessarily evident is that if your heart has stopped beating, some broken ribs are way better than dying.

that's why we practice on dummies, kids.

Friday, September 06, 2019

2019 venture vermont: ID 2 different types of caterpillars

caterpillars can be hard, because there are so may variations and here's a thing you maybe did not know about them: many species of caterpillar molt five times before they pupate, and each instar (that state between molts) can look very, very different.

i got a couple of good ones this year, though.

this is an abbott's sphinx, which will become an abbott's sphinx moth (sphecodina abbottii). when i saw it, it was a little green guy but in a later instar it will have become some fantastic yellow and brown with more or less triangular dazzle camo.

this is a pine imperial moth (eacles imperialis, spp. pini). it has reached its fifth instar and has now climbed down out of the trees to find a suitable burrow in which to pupate. in this stage of life it's known as a prepupa, and this unfortunate fellow appeared to have been in the process of being eaten by wasps.

Thursday, September 05, 2019

2019 venture vermont: Create a secret handshake

here's my secret handshake: it's for people who have done the secret work of forest fairies, which is a pretty broad definition.

it is executed in this fashion: both people make the letter "f" (for both fairies and forests) and you interlock them, flying them up.

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

2019 venture vermont: Attend a state park interpretive program


if you leave your venture vermonting go all summer and wait until labor day weekend to get serious, you're going to have to go to heroic measures in order to do the Vermont State Park thingies, like going to an interpretive program, because not all parks have interpretive programs, and by labor day most of the programs are shutting down.

my local park (little river state park) has interpretive programs still running, but i needed to go to a park i've never been to before (tell you later), so i had to find one that wasn't too far away from a park i'd never been to before.

anyway, we ended up at Button Bay State Park for the flora and fauna hike led by Stefan who is a very nice young man who has a nice way of leading a nature walk for a mixed audience.

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

2019 venture vermont: identify a painted turtle and a snapping turtle


sometimes i go more than a year without a bona fide photographable turltle sighting, let alone one each of painted turtle and snapping turtle in one season. but i saw them this year.

actually i saw two snappers and a painted turtle, but one of each is good enough.

and here they are:

common snapping turtle
chelydra serpentina

painted turtle
chrysemys picta

Monday, September 02, 2019

2019 venture vermont: catch a butterfly or dragfonfly with a net

ok, technically this one is neither a butterfly nor a dragonfly. it is a damselfly, which ought to count for the purposes of the challenge because most people don't make the distinction.

i found this one on lake abenaki in thetford. it was my first time using my BRAND NEW PROFESSIONAL GRADE BUTTERFLY NET.

anyway, it's an eastern forktail (ischnura verticalis).

Sunday, September 01, 2019

2019 venture vermont: make a recording of a toad or frog's call

i kept trying to get a recording of some wood frogs i know, because that's a SOUND but for some reason every time i approached them with a recording device, they fell oddly silent.

i was able to get a recording of some peepers (psueudacris crucifer) and in the background are some grey tree frogs (hyla versicolor) if you listen closely.

just for funsies imma tell you that i do a pretty good impression of green frogs (lithobates clamitans) and that any conversation is pepped up a little by the addition of frog songs.

you can get away with this if you're a naturalist, i guess.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

2019 Venture Vermont: sleep under the stars without a tent

oh, my. it's already nearly september and i have not written one single venture vermont entry and my excuse is i was BUSY.

like, i don't know if i will be able to complete the challenge busy. my ingress sojourner badge broke the weekend of my lifeguard training and i've barely played that since. because busy.

busy doing outdoor things, teaching outdoor things.

but let me try.

anyway, weekend of june 7-9 my girl scout troop camped at Little River State Park and of course there are no pictures of that i can share with you, but there are pictures and i could probably scare up a receipt if i had to.

the naturalist at little river will remember we were there, because as campers there were were the sunset adventure paddle and boy, wasn't that a time.

the weather was very nice, so for the first time ever i pitched my hammock and left the tarp off, and imma have to say that counts as sleeping under the stars; at least it counts as lying awake half the night under a blanket of "it's so pretty".

last time i checked sleeping under the stars had no requirement about sleeping on the ground. i'm not into that anymore. stars = A-OK.  ground = nope.

since that first night (which i did because of this item on the challenge), i have enjoyed several other nights under the stars, a thing i had not done since maybe the late '70's?

i'm calling that one thing checked off on my list.

Monday, August 26, 2019

a conversation with MB

i dropped some food on the floor.
i went to pick it up and pop it in my mouth.
the thing i picked up and tossed in my mouth wasn't food.
it's time to vacuum the closet.
carpet. it's time to vacuum the carpet.
the closets are all pretty clean.

Yeah, or you could stop eating food off the floor. That might be easier
But at least vacuum

it was food-adjacent!


why you no like food adjacency?

Because adjacent to food isn't the same as BEING FOOD

but still good enough to TRY.


Sunday, August 25, 2019


i have known for a while that some people can echolocate effectively.

here's a youtube video that helps explain how.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

fairy houses

children at girl scout camps have a fondness for building fairy houses. one time we had very many notes to the fairies and we needed to close camp and get business done, so i wrote a letter. i signed it with the glitch name of a real person, so i can't take credit for that, nor can i take credit for using the glitch calendar system to date the letter. i just thought it would lend a lovely not-quite-of-this-world quality to it and quite frankly, i do not think i could have invented a better name for the purpose.

so here's the letter:

Hairday, 29th of Fever
Year 66
Wye Pond Hill

Dear Children,

Your eyes cannot read our Fae language, but I and some of the others have some learning in your letters.

Wee are very fond of Girl Scouts ever since they named Brownie Scouts for our cousins, the Brownies.

Wee have enjoyed so very much your gifts, and when wee are small wee love living in the houses you build. It has been so much fun trading notes and surprises with you that wee will be a little sad to get back on out tour bus after our convention is over.

Wee have stayed perhaps too long in the houses of our sisters and brothers on Wye Pond Hill but they will enjoy quiet again soon.

Remember that wherever there is a spirit of kindness, a playful spirit or merrie magic, wee are near. Take care of yourselves and take care of each other. Be kind to the land and the water and the air and care for all the creatures that walk, crawl, slither, swim, or fly.

Thank you for your kindness, and look for us again in green forests where there is laughter and delight.

Yours Truly
With Love and Respect,
Voluptua Sneezelips
Corresponding Seretary
Jethimadh Chapter
International Guild of Traveling Fairies

Friday, August 16, 2019

festival of pernicious odors

two weeks. four different camps. a limited number of showers. no shortage of opportunities to get dirty and sweaty.

clothes for paddling, clothes for swimming, camping gear, naturalist equipment, nine pairs of shoes.

in short, my car smells terrible.

Monday, August 05, 2019

things go to hell

facsism is on the rise. nationalism is on the rise. racism is on the rise.

sometimes i just have a difficult time coping with all the shootings and the poverty and the fear.

what helps me is to go to camp.

yeah, going camping is nice, but i'm talkin' 'bout summer camp. with children.

for the girl scouts in particular, but it would work with any camp, i guess.

because when things are going to hell in the adult world, i like to retreat to a small enclave where i can talk to children about Being Good People and what that looks like.

it looks like taking turns. it looks like settling arguments fairly, with as little adult intervention as possible. it means not calling people nicknames they don't like. it means giving everyone a chance to try things and not criticizing them if they're not good at everything yet, or if they don't know things.

i get to work with girls especially and teach them how to use sharp tools and do experiments that require safety glasses and i get to take their concerns and their lives seriously. i get to help them negotiate practicing adult skills because, i tell them, one day you will be an adult and you will be glad you practiced this.

i'm a nicer person when i'm helping young people do things. i don't have as much time to ride my bike or go camping myself or read novels, but i can feel a little better about one little corner of the world.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

i'm sure my neighbors love this

because it is camp season, i do some bugling.

it's nice to have some snazzy bugle calls to help people know it's time to move. mostly i just play assembly when it's time for everyone to meet and Go To A Thing and i play taps for close of camp, which is at variance to military usage, but it's how girl scouts ceremonially close a day.

yeah, i CAN play retreat, but it's kind of arcane for the purpose.

anyway, if you're going to bugle, you have to PRACTICE bugling.  i try to keep the exercises to a minimum and in the mid-morning, but in the evenings at home i blow tattoo and then an hour later i blow taps.

funny, but any loud parties going on in the neighborhood become mellow gatherings after tattoo and i don't care if they stay up after taps.

in a couple months i have gotten pretty decent at it, and i think it sounds pretty.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

too stupid to live

today i saw a young man about whom, i am sure, people will say "such a tragedy" and "couldn't have been prevented"-

he was riding a skateboard downhill on the main road from jericho into richmond, which is a road on which a person on a bicycle can easily coast up to 45 MPH, and he was going fast. taking up a whole lane (as he should, moving at the speed of traffic), and not wearing a helmet.


Thursday, July 04, 2019


rotifers are an ancient species. they have their own phylum. in some of their species whether or not they reproduce sexually is a heritable trait. one species has not been known to have any males in it for millions of years.

and here is a little video i made of some i found in my backyard.

because these days you can do this on your phone.

excuse me, young people, while i get all amazed at the speed of technological advances in my lifetime.

uh, anyway:

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

nationalism is bad

i'm from vermont.

i love my town and my mountains, because i am of this place.

your town is probably pretty cool too.

also your mountains. or your lake. or your seashore.

go, local sports team.

people by and large are awesome.

but look around. fascism is on the rise. nationalism is on the rise. wherever there is an in-group trying to keep everyone else out, somebody is making money off of that. somebody is consolidating their own power by making others fear outsiders. somebody is exploiting you.

if somebody is selling you an agenda that doesn't include dignity for all, don't buy it. if your country doesn't define itself by its care for the least among you, your country is shitty. you have a duty to act.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

i write to my congressman.

presented without comment is my recent letter to peter welch (D-VT):

representative welch,

at this point i have to question the soundness of your judgement because you have not yet gone on record as being in favor of impeaching the president.

really, how many laws does he have to break? how many women does he have to assault? how many people need to die in concentration camps?

oh, mercy.

i never in my life expected to be in a position where i could be writing those words without even a hint of hyperbole.     

nothing is going to get better in this world while we are still on an inexorable march toward fascism. impeaching the president would be a nice start.

good luck to you and please stop allowing us to come to harm.

Saturday, June 01, 2019

viola sororia

violets are up all over, bless them, coming up in lawns and woodlots and forests.

i got it into my head that for some event later on in the year i should have some lovely violet simple syrup from which to make soft drinks, so that meant getting down and funky with the back-breaking labor of harvesting thousands of the little blossoms. a friend of mine and her grandson helped me with some of that, but still. it was a lot.

so then after you get a big wad of violets you steep them in freshly boiled water. but you don't BOIL them because you will lose the color.

and what you get is a fantastic teal liquid. fantastic. only for violet syrup you kind of want it to be purple, and you change it back from teal to purple through adding drops of lemon juice because apparently the color is a function of pH.

who knew?

anyway, then you add the sugar until you have simple syrup and you probably want to skip the step where you spill a half cup of it in your kitchen thereby kicking off two days of mopping.

then MB said that id i was going to do all THAT for a tea party i may as well make violet ice cubes wherein a single violet blossom is placed inside an ice cube at its maximum freshness and beauty and as usual MB is right.

there are no pictures of that, though. you have the internet. you can google it if you want to see what the precious little darlings looks like.

yeah, that.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

don't panic, i'm a naturalist

i'm all gradumated and stuff, which means i have a shiny new certificate and a fancy new hat.

and the girl scout council is wasting no time making hay, because if you thumb through the program guide the words "with a Vermont Master Naturalist" are sprinkled liberally throughout, which makes me both proud and a little terrified.

i'm having fun preparing for events that are still five or six months away. f'rinstance there is a wildflower tea party coming up in october, which will be the end of goldenrod season, but i have made garlic mustard pesto (in my freezer) to serve along with other spring delicacies like knotweed pie and violet sodas.

i hope to make touches like that be the difference between "that was cool" and "WOW that was cool."
it isn't hard to do if you put some things by, like the violet syrup or the knotweed purée.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

i guess i should tell you some things

i think i mentioned that i am studying in the Vermont Master Naturalist Program?

yeah, i am. our last class is next saturday and i will be a bona fide Vermont Master Naturalist.

really you don't pass until your project is complete, but you only need 20 hours of project work and my project is kind of just a down payment on a never ending multi year plan and i'm over 50 hours on that so far, sooooo.

last weekend i went to a training at a girl scout camp, as an instructor.

before the training proper i played chef flask and whipped up some ramps 'n' taters and wildflower fritters with birch syrup for the other instructors.

i also field tested my new homemade hammock stand rig, which only settled the question for me if i need the storeboughten one.

answer: yes. the one i made hangs the hammock just fine but it's hard to put up a full sized tarp and also my rack is eight feet long to transport, which is Not Convenient.

also i seem to have gotten caught up with the town conservation commission, because when you start to do outreach in the community to support your project for the girl scouts, you start needing favors or at least goodwill from the community, so now i'm helping to monitor the health of one forest and i'm on the hook for a written report for a historical society.

it's all turning out fine though since i'm still a volunteer and can pick and choose both my work and my hours and because i don't get paid, everyone is happy to have me do the work i want.

i am able to turn hours and hours of labor into free camping trips...

...on which i perform more labor.

but it's all good. i'm having fun.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

inter-library loan

i am currently working my way through all the books of seanan mcguire, but since my library doesn't have a lot of them, they have to come through inter-library loan.

...which is kind of fascinating to me.

so of course i'm making a map of where all the books are coming from.

because of course i am.


Thursday, April 11, 2019

the screaming stump

i'm sorry; i do not update y'all as often as i should. i'm still reading about your cat and your crazy clients and your kids.

let's just say that i've been busy studying. and stuff.

anyway, today i was out at my study location having a good luck at this stump...

no wait, backup, backup.

this winter on many occasions i saw the tracks of a little cottontail rabbit. and the rabbit was browsing the brambles around the stump and then i noticed a lot of poop outside some holes in the snow and it was clear that the little cottontail lived there and then one day there was one perfect wingprint in the snow and a great deal of fur, but no blood, so it was unclear to me whether or not the little cottontail survived the raptor attack, but i didn't see new tracks or new poop, so i sort of thought not.

but that was more or less where i lost my glasses, so i keep looking around there and as the snow melts (we had fresh yesterday!) i can see more and more where the fur is scattered about and i was looking at that today and some diggings around the base of the stump when i heard (or more like felt) a vibration and then a scream and i thought maybe a bird?

but the noise seemed to be coming from awfully low to the ground and then i heard it again and i was just coming around to the other side of the stump to look in the hole and i saw...


at least i thought it was an eye. i was kind of standing there thinking "did this hole have a thing in it that looks sort of like an eye before? was it always so dark in there?"

and then the eye BLINKED.

and the thing screamed. loud. and the vibration buzzed in the hollow under the stump.

and i said "hi, neighbor. didn't mean to upset you" and i'm sure i looked legit startled and i wandered away, letting the little cottontail believe i had been scared away.

i don't know if it's the original little cottontail, but it is A cottontail.

i didn't use to think of rabbits as animals with fearsome screams, but there it is.

and now that stump will forever be the screaming stump to me.

Saturday, March 30, 2019


i have an interest in diction, because singer. when you're a voice major in college, you have to learn stuff about diction and how words are formed.

so there's this:

phonetic map of the human mouth

and do not miss the link at the bottom to the pink trombone.

then if you're done with that and you're brave, there's this.

Friday, March 29, 2019


MB got me this thing, which is super cute, and my new de facto nametag.

it glows in the dark!!

Sunday, February 24, 2019

daily routine

i dunno. maybe i could work blogging back into my daily routine.

this is my Year of Naturalist Studies, so that's top shelf.

so more or less is my daily routine, barring appointments, which are their Own Thing on the calendar.

i wake up in the morning more or less nine hours from when i went to sleep. note that i do not wake up nine hours from when i went to bed, because those things are different. if the day before was especially difficult in any way, i may wake up ten or eleven hours after i went to sleep. this is essential to allow my body to heal overnight.

first thing i do is check the weather and then my emails. i answer important ones. if my body feels ok and the weather is good, skiing moves onto my list of things to do for the day and i get up.

otherwise, i play a few rounds of toon blast and then practice morse code, because i'm learning that.

then it's time to read. first i read books related to my studies. then when my thinky bits are tired, i read a chapter or so of whatever book i'm reading for pleasure.

only then do i get out of my hammock for the day.

then i work on research or projects that need doing from my desk and early in the day when i am fresh and the light is good. i may intersperse this with life maintenance adulting, or gear maintenance.

at lunch time i eat at my desk, usually watching a video that pertains to my studies.

in the afternoon i go out. this trip may include shopping or errands, but it often involves a trip to my study location for research or observation. in warm weather i may take practice on the archery range as well. i always stop to tag an ingress portal because that's a thing i do every day.

then it's home to eat an early dinner, talk to MB, and that's followed by either evening project work/ research, or if needed, a quick circuit playing ingress to tidy up anything in my area that needs to be made blue.

then i sleep.

Friday, February 22, 2019

i love this woman so much right now.

go on, click through.

this here is just one reason why we need to have minimum wage that eliminates employer subsidies for tipped workers.

or better yet, eliminate tipping and institute livable wage for everyone.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

awesome. let's go look.

i think i have done something right in this life when i am the adult to whom groups of girls run when they have found a bug. or a dead thing.

this happens to me all the time.

a group of girls finds a bug or a dead thing or a pile of poop and the come running to me. "hey, flask! we found a (thing)!"

"awesome.", i say. "let's go look."

this reaction is pretty much why this cycle repeats. i am the adult in the room most likely to drop everything to go look at the thing. sometimes i am not delighted to drop everything and go look at whatever it is, but i want children, particularly girls, to be interested in natural science. i want them to be excited by the things they find, and i want them to think about how to interpret what they find.

we think this is part of a deer.

there's a trail of it leading from the far shore of the pond to the road.

maybe it's a hunter dragging a kill, maybe critters dragging dressed bits.

either way it's under the ice. it may have been ON the ice until a thaw.

and my heart swelled with pride when the girls came to find me to go look at it.

Saturday, February 02, 2019

camping equipment: crêpe pan

in october my girl scout troop went fall camping. it was colder than normal, and it snowed. you never know what you're going to get in october.

anyway, there's this kid in my troop who had her heart set on BRINGING A CRÊPE PAN so she could make crêpes for everybody for breakfast. i asked her if she was prepared to get up before everyone else to cook breakfast, to stand in the cold cooking while others were eating. 

yes and yes.

carry on, i said.

so she showed up with her crêpe pan and a big jug of batter (because everyone knows that crêpe batter is best when left to rest at least an hour and overnight does not hurt it one bit) and she stood out in the field with snow coming down all around her and she made crêpes.

afterward she said it was a dream of hers. 

and she changed her username in our troop chat to Crêpe Master.

yeah she did.

we are right now planning our menu for our winter camping this month and the other leaders were thinking breakfast should be instant oatmeal and muffins and such but this kid is all like "can i make crêpes?"

i do not understand this child's need to make thin tasty pancakes on camping trips but i sure as heck support this initiative.

it turns out one of the other girls ALSO has a crêpe pan.

this is going to be epic.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

snohaus 2019

i mentioned that there was snow, right?

there's a lot of it. and i have been working hard moving it from the plow piles my plowman thoughtfully leaves at my driveway to the MOUND.

so far it's just a huge mound of snow with some steps, because once you start digging inside, you're done walking on top.

or at least you should be.

some people aren't that prudent, but i'm not into stupid risks.

i am averaging three loads of snow a day, with the average weight of a load being 150 pounds of snow. it maybe doesn't sound like a lot, but it has to be gathered or chopped, shoveled into the boxes or onto the sled, pulled to the structure, carried to the place i want it, and unloaded.

rinse, lather, repeat.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019


you may have noticed it; i mentioned it once in my last post and it seems huge to me.

i got a promotion.

let's back up and i'll remind you that last summer i went up to the camp for a ten minute meeting and accidentally stayed to work for an ENTIRE SEASON at the girl scout camp, essentially functioning as a junior naturalist / camp life resource person.

and my Vermont Master Naturalist studies focus specifically on the town in which the camp is located, with specific regard to how i might function providing outdoor education and natural history program to the camp in the future.

it got to the point that when having conversations with people that it was just going to be a lot easier to say i'm the naturalist at the camp and it puts a handle on a lot of the things i'm doing without having to take too much time 'splainin' so i wrote to the nice lady in charge of things like that at the council and asked if i could just give myself the title.

she said that's perfect, sure. i said "great! i'll tell MB it comes with a 15% raise" and we all had a laugh.

volunteer jokes.


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