Sunday, September 20, 2020

botanizing a campsite

 i accidentally went camping. it happened like this: barb called me up and asked if i wanted to go paddleboarding and i was all like "oh, no. i would be sad if i was there but not camping" but the ranger was holding a site he said i could have so there was no reason NOT to be camping.

one night, right? yeah, ok. it turned out to be a week, but i had time to botanize.

so i drew a map of my campsite, and attempted to identify as many of the woody plants as i could.

1) white pine. these are not hard to identify. there were eleven of them in and around the campsite.
2) red maple. these are also not hard. (3)

but then we get to 


it's maybe a sand cherry? i spent most of a day going back and forth about it and sand cherry is the best fit. it looks cherry-like, but it lack the cherry smell and it's maybe too shrubby for sand cherry.  if you guys know what it is, i'll be delighted.

and then there are

4) THE APPLES. this whole area is ancient orchard. there are nine apple trees of at least two varieties in and around the site and dozens more up the outhouse trail and beyond the botanized area.

5) morrow's honeysuckle, one big patch of it, and more patches in a lot of places just outside the campsite.

6) staghorn sumac, young, a few of them, and only at the sandy border where the land drops into the lake.

7) MYSTERY II: belongs to the birch group. maybe musclewood? it doesn't really fit what i know. trunk has lenticels like black birch but is muscle-y. and no birch smell. the trunk shoudl either look more like a musclewood or it should have a birch smell. i hate this.

and then there were
8) american elms, five of them.

there ya go.

one campsite, one week. harder than i thought.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

2020 Vermont Venture: Weave a basket using natural materials

 i know it would have qualified if i had just made a basket and INCORPORATED natural materials,  but for me the overarching principle of of the Venture Challenge is to do, practice, learn, observe.

so i decided to try to make a basket out of garlic mustard straw, because that's a material that i had never used, but had noticed that it's strong and maybe bendy enough to weave with, plus garlic mustard is an invasive species and it's not possible to overharvest it.

but then i ALSO decided to experiment with weaving a twill basket, because not only had in never weaved a twill pattern, but i did not even know what the word was. i saw a pretty basket weave and thought: "huh. let me try to see if i can figure that out" and then once i figured out the pattern, i was able to search it up on the interwebs and learn that the name for that is twill.

my first try was a disaster, but i at least learned how to make the pattern. my second try is much better, but i still have a lot to learn. it would be easier, probably, to buy commercial materials, but i'm all about processing what i find.

here's my basket. the bottom view shows the weave best.

Friday, September 18, 2020

2020 venture vermont: Go for a walk around your home or community while staying at least six feet away from anyone else.

 i went for walks in the time of covid, up and down my road in order to get exercise. i sang as i walked, to strengthen my lungs.

here are the songs that i sang:

and then i walked at night in the rain to track amphibian migrations. i did a lot of walking, both alone and distanced with my friend barb, in camel's hump state park, bushwhacking off the honey hollow road, looking at plant life.

then i walked every old where, looking for sedges.

because yanno. walking. outdoors.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

2020 Venture Vermont: Find a historical fact or story about a Vermont State Park

 Following the 1903 forest fires, a fire lookout was installed on Camel's Hump in 1911. it consisted of a cement map stand, and later that year, a telephone line.

i maybe don't want to tip my hand about all my sources, but if you're into reading about camel's hump state park, i am really going to recommend THE CULTURAL LANDSCAPE OF THE CAMEL'S HUMP MANAGEMENT UNIT and the Camel’s Hump Management Unit [...] Long Range Management Plan .

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

2020 Venture Vermont: Build an animal habitat for your favorite animal in your home or backyard

 i am choosing to interpret this as build a habitat for my favorite animal that is in my backyard, because that seems like it will do some good.

this summer i noticed some little pickerel frogs hopping around in my backyard, taking shelter under my back steps. and i had some spare plant pots, so i cut some little doors in them to place under the steps to give the little dudes a nice place to hang out and eat bugs.

Monday, September 14, 2020

2020 Venture Vermont: Sit in a quiet area and observe nature. Write down or draw a picture of what you see

 maybe it's careless venturing, but since i do a LOT of observing nature and writing down or drawing what i see, here's a page from my notebook.

this is some of my observations from my sedge class this summer.

because sedges.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

in the driveway

I went out to the driveway thinking i would just make some notes on woody plants i already knew and sent some hours having to sort out things i THOUGHT i knew.

Here’s my list:

White birch
Grey birch
An assortment of white ash saplings
Some saplings of some kind of shadbush?
Spirea alba?

white birch. two sizes of teeth, telltale bark.

catkins in groups of three. i did not not know about the catkins


grey birch. leaf much pointier, triangular branch scars on trunk

i made a sketch of the grey birch leaves. took me a whole day.

ash sapling

the buds make me think it's white ash

this is a spirea, and checking against newcomb's wildflower guide, i think it is a spirea alba.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

2020 Venture Vermont: Learn to set up a tarp or hammock

sometimes with these items i have to get creative, because when it says "learn to..." sometimes i'm running into some difficulties.

for instance, i already know how to pitch a hammock, and i'm pretty good with tarp as dining fly, wind shed, and plow blade.

sometimes i feel i satisfy the requirement for an item like this (and one like this is always on the challenge) by learning a NEW setup, like if i figure out a friend's new setup for them. for instance, this summer my friend barb got a new hammmock setup and i helped her set it up and taught her some knots to use for tarp slinging, and then when another friend with a tarp that needed more knots arrived at our campsite, i helped barb itch that, which was her first time tying a bowline, a clove hitch, and a trucker hitch under application.

but also i like to learn new things. this isn't strictly learning to pitch a tarp, but i did learn how to build a baker tent OUT of hardware store tarps and duct tape and learned to pitch it. only took me seven months.

tent on my worktable
here it is on the worktable

tent in yard
pitched outside

it's made with silver colored tarps to reflect heat, and the top and back are lined with silver emergency blanket. it has a roll-down clear plastic front, and the idea is that you build a fire in front of it and it traps heat.. so while it makes a handy windshed and shade in summer, it is intended for winter use. it packs up pretty small and will fit well on my sled.

view from inside, front down
view from inside with the front down

folded tent
folded up

but also i'm not opposed to learning new tarp piches. they're harder with a rectangular tarp, but i'm learning to do some. this one is not very complex, but is new to me.

pitched tarp from front

this is a very stable pitch and would give very good protection from the elements. the line and front stakes can be left off entirely; with the inside pole you can pull the whole thing taut without the front lines to stabilize it. you'd still want them in a high wind, though.

Friday, September 11, 2020

2020 Vermont Venture: Create a meal cooked on a campfire

 i'm going to admit that i cheated a little on this one, because mostly my friend liz did the cooking while i tended the fire.

Liz says it counts as helping because often she has to cook WHILE building and tending the fire.

i'm counting this meal because it has the best associated photo, but the truth is i go camping, and camping means you're either making food on a camp stove or on a fire. as the weather gets cooler, you're going to have fire anyway, so there you go.

This is a venison stew. Liz is a campfire wizard.

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

2020 Venture Vermont: Create art out of rocks

 ok, so i colored a rock for my mom.

but also i had to pick up some river rocks for another project and i have some little ones hanging around and i've decided to stack them up from time to time and learn how they balance, and it's kind of a cool meditative experience.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

boil water

 i'm under an boil water order here at home now, until further notice. this is because our regular water was shut off and we were placed on a grade level cistern while the nice workmen do their project of replacing the entire water system, which will take  some weeks yet.

i am more put out by the boil water notice than i was about the original "hey, you drinking water is radioactive" notice.

i mean, it's not "leaky nuclear plant on top of your groundwater" radioactive", it's just "you live in new england and there's granite" radioactive.

anyway, i'm using my spiffy camping filter to make my water safe to drink, because that's a thing.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

2020 Venture Vermont: Go to a VT state park you’ve never been to

 yesterday i found myself traveling for an errand and i thought: "hey! is there a vermont state park ear here that i can visit and scope out?"

why yes, yes there was. 

so i went to Bomoseen state park and i was going to do this history loop but there were some ugly looking clouds so i thought "i'll just roll up to this spot here near the parking and do a little field study of woody plants" because what's here is unlike what's at home and i was just starting to diagram when the sky opened up and i was soaked before i got back to the car.

but then i didn't ave a nice picture of be at Bomoseen State Park, so i schlepped an umbrella out and went over to the sign near the bathhouse.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

how to eat like my mom

 ok, really, it's more how to cook like flask, only i got this recipe from my mom and have translated it into my own style and adjusted it for how i cook. my mom used a ruler on her version.

my mom wrote out the recipe for 4-6 people, but imma tell you how to make it at home for me, because i live alone. i make two servings, because i like it leftover.



one medium sized tomato per serving. it should be fresh and picked ripe from the vine.

a little olive oil, not important exactly how much, but somewhere around a teaspoon per serving.

somewhere between 4 and six ounces of brie

a half handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped

a pinch of salt

some little red pepper flakes. a few if you're me, a whole bunch if you like pointy food.

approximately one clove of garlic per serving, minced

a serving of pasta. i like something that holds sauce because the sauce is the point.

some parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top.


peel and chop the tomatoes. this is very important, the peeling.

peel and cut up the brie. also important. you want it without its rind.

toss then together in a bowl with the other sauce ingredients. give it a good stir and leave it be for a couple of hours, stirring occasionally. what will happen is the tomato and the brie will marinate and make a lovely pink velvety soup.

just before you're ready to eat, cook the pasta. 

drain it, and pour it hot into the bowl with the lovely pink sauce.

sprinkle with parmesan.

if you like, go ahead and garnish with more basil.


struggle mightily to eat a moderate helping.


Monday, August 17, 2020

2020 Venture Vermont: Learn a new technique to purify water

 there aren't that many practical ways to purify water on the trail.

but i was taking my friend barb for her first backpacking camping (a short one) and i have a sawyer mini i had never used before, so we brought that to try out which is very fortunate because barb has one too that she bought for work in case she needs to go to a place with dubious drinking water.

i have an old pump ceramic filter that i've been using, but this is my first time using one of them newfangled nanotube filtration jobbers.

we collected water from a stream some distance from our campsite and filtered it onsite for our cooking and washing.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

2020 Venture Vermont: Go on an overnight backpacking trip with everything you need in your backpack

this one continues to be hard.

but ok.

it's harder to do this one now because as a high risk person in the covid era, trails and camping at trail shelters is not acceptable risk.

but my friend barb just got herself and actual good camping hammock and tarp setup and we headed off into a vermont state forest for some dispersed  primitive camping. a lot of people don't think about dispersed camping, but it's a thing you can do if you have the appropriate skills and gear, and it's legal if you follow the guidelines.

so we did that.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

2020 Venture Vermont: Write Haiku or other nature poetry based on things you observe in nature around you

 a couple weeks ago i was doing a thing with some kids and one of our activities was to write a haiku, but we rolled a die to determine some of the required elements. we did this twice, so here are my haikus.

I)  theme: flowers

    character: snake

    required word: green

everywhere are blooms

green grass, riot of flowers

follow the snake.

II) theme: wind

    character: horse

    required word: green

as if galloping

he blows the grasses over

green and flexible

and then because i had a few minutes left, i wrote a double dactyl on the same foundation:

hurchison murchison, galloping overland

blowing green grass on an incoming breeze

pounding and sounding the


signs that there's pollen to make you to sneeze


Friday, August 14, 2020

2020 Venture Vermont: Create a scavenger hunt for you and your friends and find everything

 i went for a walk with my friend barb in a state forest, and i asked her if i could make her a scavenger hunt, and good sport that she is, she said sure. i had to teach her some things for her to be able to find all the items, but it helps here learn her plants and teaching helps me retain my knowledge.

so here was our list:

  • three kinds of maples
  • an amphibian
  • a sedge
  • a grass
  • a compound leaf
  • two kinds of pine trees
  • a vine
  • the footprint of a mammal
  • an animal scat
  • a birch tree
  • a beech tree
  • a polypore
  • a gilled mushroom
  • something in the rubus genus
  • a feather
and good for us, we found everything, too.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

2020 Venture Vermont: Hang your laundry outdoors to dry instead of using a drying machine

this is a hard one for me because i do't have a place to put an outdoor line, and although i can put racks on the patio, it's got to be a really warm and dry day with a breeze, and  leaving it to evening's no good, and an afternoon storm's no good, so that's unreliable at best.

but i figured that the spirit of this item is served just fine if i put the racks inside the house and it's a bit of a PITA to walk around them in the living room, but the clothes smell as good as if i'd done them outside and i save energy. it's also easier on the clothes.

i'm trying to do this regularly now. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

weathering the storm

 last week we got the tail of a tropical storm coming through here, which meant a lot or wind and a LOT OF RAIN. i have two tomato plants, one of whom (yes, i am granting them personhood) has been having a hard time. initially i was overwatering it, and then you can't just stop watering a thing entirely so i was trying to figure that out and then there was ALL THIS RAIN and the poor thing just had a fit.

there was literally a moment when it went from looking like a distressed plant to one that had given up and was dying.

and i could not just let it drown. one of the problems is that the container, large as it is, does not drain., which is fine i guess if you haven't overwatered at all. there was nothing to do besides go out into the storm armed with a power drill, gently tip it sideways and drill some holes.

and a LOT of water came out. 

but it was still raining.

so i dragged this thing over to my door and up one step and then onto a big plastic tarp and right into my living room on MY TAN CARPET.

and then i brought in all the other containered plants to join it and good thing too, because that's about when the WIND started.

they all seemed to enjoy their little sojourn as indoor plants and my poor little overwatered friend has recovered sufficiently that it now has brand new foliage and is starting a second set of blooms.

i am enjoying roughly one fresh ripe tomato every day.

and my carpet looks fine.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

2020 Venture Vermont: Photograph and identify five species of wild growing native Vermont plants

 it's never hard for me to complete this item; learning the plants that grow around my home and on the natural areas i love are a thing that i do all the time.

so i'm just going to pick five that i liked from the past few weeks.

this is a plaintain leaf sedge, Carex plantaginea, which is one of the first plants to green up in spring.

it blooms right about the same time as

Canadian wild ginger, arum canadense, with its beautiful furry leaves that make it look shiny, and its fantastic three-clawed red flower.

this one is sallow sedge, carex lurida, and if you're wondering at this point why my native plant identifications are heavy on the sedges,  it's because i just finished taking a course on sedges with Jerry Jenkins.

here is a native plant. it is very teeny. i found it looking through a microscope, but i assure you, it is a plant.

this is a micrasterias rotata:

and here is one last sedge to round out my five:

this is a straw colored flatsedge, Cyperus strigosus.

that's my five for documentation purposes.

the more i learn about plats, the easier it is to pick five i haven't done before.

Monday, August 10, 2020

2020 Venture Vermont: Roll down a grassy hill

 this one is always fun because as a grown-ass adult people look at you a little odd when you, alone, trudge to a hilltop and then instead of doing any of the usual things adult humans do at the tops of hill, you roll down, pick yourself up and continue about your day as if nothing weird had just happened.

Sunday, August 09, 2020

2020 Venture Vermont: Take a human powered boat on a lake or pond

 this one's pretty easy to do, but this year i have been avoiding boat landings most days because COVID.

but on a wednesday afternoon traffic is light and it felt good to be on the water, sciencing and just enjoying.

on board with me are my orang deck bag ( dry bag) some sedge samples for study, my mask and fins, and a mesh bag to carry wet things.


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