Friday, December 30, 2011

The World's Longest Cadillac Parade


On August 17, 2011, Barton hosted the world's largest Cadillac Parade, which kicked off the Orleans County Fair at Roaring Brook Fairgrounds in Barton. The parade was over an hour long and lots of fun as the entire town turned out to view it. Lori Seadale organized the parade, and I don't know how she did it and did it so beautifully. The library and stores in the village closed as the cars rolled by. My camera battery died, but young friends of mine saved the day and ran into the library to get my other battery for me. I was going to post only my favorite Cadillacs in this post, but there were too many to show, so I give you the slideshow of all of the cars that I photographed (I shot over 250 of the 298 cars in the parade). 

The Cadillac Parade was the world's longest parade of Cadillacs. The Guinness Book of World Records was on hand to count and certify the achievement. The record was easily broken, but the count of 298 would have been bigger except some cars overheated in the parade and never finished the route. I heard that other Cadillacs were late, and there would have been almost 350 cars but for these problems. But the day was a wonderful success and I am amazed by Lori's efforts and achievement! Congratulations!

You can read more about the parade here:
Guinness Book of World Records
New York Times
General Motors Cadillac Press Release

You can view individual photographs here.


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Bent Wood

Bent Wood-1.jpg
This is what happens when a tree falls on you.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Grumpy Buddy, Stomping Oscar

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Buddy wants to go thataway . . . 
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. . . but grumpily follows Oscar. . .
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. . . as Oscar shows off his two-legged Godzilla stomp.

Two More New Flowers

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Clingweed (Galium aparine)
When I was out I liked the looks of this slender, tiny flower. I didn't think to identify it at the time, but this week John saw the photo and knew exactly what it was: clingweed. He says that when it goes to seed, there are small burrs that will scratch you and adhere to you. It is also called also called Cleavers , Clivers, Goose Grass, Catchweed, Sweet Woodruff, Goosegrass, Stickywilly, Stickyjack, Stickyweed, Stickyleaf,  Robin-run-the-hedge and Coachweed. Whew!

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Indian-tobacco (Lobelia inflata)
Indian-tobacco is another very small flower. Again, I never thought to identify it (and it has been in the back of my mind to look for it for years). If I had found that it was a new species for my portfolio, I would have returned for a better photograph. Don't smoke this — it causes hallucinations and stuff. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Common Yellowthroat

Mystery Bird.jpg
Geothlypis trichas
This little bird has occupied my life the last few days. My sister-in-law, Marcia, told me it was a Common Yellowthroat warbler. Unconvinced, because the web photos I saw showed a little fluff of feathers with a black mask, I posted this bird to Google+ and got a mess of responses. But I now agree with Marcia because of this photographer and comments by other birders. This is an immature Common Yellowthroat. These photos were taken on a beautiful August morning when the cats and I were taking our daily walk.
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Mystery Bird-13.jpg
The little bird followed and watched us closely.
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I caught it flying to another perch.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Oscar’s Bugs

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Leaping Oscar

Oscar became our best mouser after a summer of bug hunting. His stalking and leaping skills were finely honed. He won't touch ladybugs and continues to enjoy cluster flies. These are three of his favorites from the summer.

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Carolina Grasshopper (Dissosteira carolina)

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I ended up spending the summer stalking Oscar as he lept after bugs.

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Two-Striped Grasshopper (Melanoplus bivittatus)

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Skidding to a dusty stop.

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Female Shadow Darner (Aeshna umbrosa)

I managed to rescue the dragonfly above and release it outside. But unfortunately, Oscar often brought in other dragonflies. He ate all but the wings. I never saw which species he would catch.

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Oscar, 4 months, relaxing after hopper hunting.


Thursday, December 08, 2011

An Abandoned Penstock and Turbine

Abandoned Penstock & Turbine in Westmore.jpg

I wanted to find the flumes that everybody talks about in the summer. They are in Westmore on Mill Brook on the Long Pond Road. I am trying to learn how to photograph water scenes better (because I don't like landscape photography). On the way down to the brook, we found the relics of a large penstock and turbine. We don't know what they powered — a sawmill? village water? But it's all there in the woods and it looks nice and historic.

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Abandoned Penstock & Turbine in Westmore (looking uphill).jpg

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Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Oscar the Hopper Chopper

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Yup, that's Oscar, our little yet great grasshopper chomper. Here he is after leaping through the air and catching, in flight, a Carolina Grasshopper (Dissosteira carolina). Those are the big grasshoppers you see during the last half of summer flying with the black wings. We probably all think at one time or another that they are huge butterflies, but they are big, prehistoric grasshoppers. You can view the original photo size here for more detail. After spending the summer learning how to expertly catch these hoppers, Oscar is now the champion mouser of the family!


Monday, December 05, 2011

Monkshood (Don’t Touch This)

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Aconitum napellus

We finally did it — we found a rare plant. And wouldn't you know it, it's deadly poisonous. I'm glad we didn't pick it for identification later. We frequently do that but we were on our way to photographing Common Wood Nymph butterflies on Telfer Hill Road when we found it. We pulled by the side of the road just to give me time for quick shots for an ID and we pulled out.

Aconitum Napellus commonly named 'Monkshood' is one of the most toxic plants known to man. In Europe the poison, that was collected from this plant was used to kill Wolves and mad dogs hence its other name Wolfsbane or Dogsbane. Monkshood is a genus of over 250 species of Aconitum that belong to the Buttercup - Ranunculaceæ family of plants.

All parts of the Monkshood plant are poisonous and it must be handled with care. You should wear gloves and wash your hands after touching it as even a mild dose of its poison can cause a serious allergic reaction that can render the 'victim' in need of medical treatment.

You don't have to take in the poison by mouth, it can be absorbed through the skin. Be it the stem, the sap, the petals or the roots, this plant is a killer if not given all due care and respect. Many people through the ages have been killed either accidentally or even on purpose by this plant...the assassins (sic) plant of choice !

Source: Killer Plant: Monkshood

So be careful out there next summer! Monkshood sort of looks like vetch (it did to me), but close up I knew it wasn’t. The leaves are lobed (vetch isn’t) and the color, height and stems are different.


Sunday, December 04, 2011

I Want Some Elecampane

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Inula helenium

I found a field of elecampane up on Telfer Hill Road this summer and I want some. John and I returned to to the field to chase butterflies that afternoon. I don't know why I didn't dig up some of these wildflowers then, but I will next summer. The field was alive with the buzzing of insects. We think the bug in the photo above is a bee mimic fly of some sort but aren't sure. It could be a type of hover fly. In the days to come, you'll see the photos of the other bugs we captured there.

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Elecampane looks like a tall, frilly sunflower. It is actually an aster, though. In France they use elecampane to make absinthe. The scientific name helenium is because legend says that where Helen of Troy's tears fell, elecampane sprung up. It is also, I learned on that marvelous afternoon, a butterfly magnet.

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving Sunset

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The snowy roof of the Duquette Barn is in the distance

I don't like shooting landscapes or sunsets, but I couldn't miss this sunset Friday night. I wanted more practice with the next two nights, but I read through the one on Saturday night and I napped through tonight's sunset. Hopefully, they were cloudy sunsets so I didn't miss much at all!

After I shot this photo, I downloaded The Photographer's Ephemeris software (available for PC, Mac, Linux and Apple and Android apps). It tells you the astronomical data you need to shoot sunrises and sunsets. TPE gives you elevations and all sorts of information you need to get your outdoor photography lighting done well. Try it — it's free.


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Review: Our Thanksgiving Dinner

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Corn Casserole
The recipe is here. John likes it hot and cold, I only like it hot.

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John's apple pie from our apples
Sorry but there is no recipe; John wrote it himself.
The best pie ever and it is all I ever want in life.

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Pie crust pinwheels
I flavored them with maple sugar cinnamon but forgot the butter and cooked them too long.
Not enough cinnamon and so dry they almost killed me.

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Yvette's Pickled Beets
The best I have ever tasted. Delicate flavors with the pickled tang.
Bought at E.M. Brown
Pickled In Vermont:

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My cranberry sauce
Same old great recipe and the berries were good this year.

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Squash Pie
Made with our Red Kuri squash from the garden.
Note to self: decrease brown sugar for this sweet squash. Recipe here.

Turkey (cooked the day before, which was the best thing we have ever done), stuffing, potatoes
Note to self: Be sure to do the same next year. Or maybe at Christmas!


Christmas Cacti, Shamrock and Rosemary

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Zygo cactus

I picked up a new Christmas Cactus last week because mine, even though it is flowering, is still very small. This is much bigger and a different color. It is in full bloom now and gorgeous. I can't seem to be able to take photographs of it that I like but I'll keep trying.

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Rosmarinus Officinals

I also picked up this rosemary bush. I hope I don't kill it: it needs a lot of water and I have already stressed it because of lack of watering. But if it survives, it will be fun using the rosemary in new recipes.

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The new teacup pot for the mini-shamrock

Had to have this new pot! II like the green and blue combination here. This plant was repotted twice in two weeks because I didn't like the first pot. But I can't kill this shamrock. Even when it seems to die from lack of water, it revives immediately when I water it again.

The jelly is Amy's apple caramel jelly made from our drops. She traded it for one jar of John's apple chokecherry jelly, which they are crazy about.

I hope you are all having a wonderful, long weekend!


Friday, November 25, 2011

Misidentification or How We Spend Our Winter Evenings

Northern Evening PrimroseNorthern Evening Primrose (Oenothera parviflora)

I recently edited a batch of photographs that I took in July. When I edit the photos so long after I take them, it is often difficult to remember enough information about the day to identify the plant or animal in the shot. That's what happened with these photographs. My memory told me that a tall yellow flower was Common Mullein. But something about that rang wrong with me. I checked and confirmed that this was not Common Mullein. But what was it? John and I spent one whole evening this week trying to identify it. We searched yellow, 5 petal wildflowers in our books and on the New England wildflower sites and came up with nothing. I had already posted this collage on Google+ for my 365 Project and a couple of scientists offered their opinions, but still we had no definitive ID.

Finally after a few hours of failure, I sat in front of the photographs in dejection. We seldom fail to identify stuff, and I knew this was not a rare flower, so why hadn't we found it? And suddenly, I saw why. I had miscounted the petals! There are only four petals on this flower! Within five minutes, I found that this is a Northern Evening Primrose. I was pretty put out by myself because now I had to re-tag all of the photos in Lightroom on my computer and on Flickr. But I was also happy that this mystery was resolved.Go to the posts on Google+ by clicking here to see the time table of the online discussion.

During our search this week for this flower, we came upon a length discussion of a topic that has baffled me for a long time: the C value that you always see in the USDA and other scientific descriptions of flora. C stands for the coefficient of Conservatism and refers to a plant’s floristic quality:

The method assigns a Coefficient of Conservatism to each native plant species based on that species tolerance for disturbance and fidelity to a particular pre-settlement plant community type. The aggregate conservatism of all the plants inhabiting a site determine its floristic quality. Refer to Swink and Wilhelm (1994) for a thorough discussion of the method and how to calculate a Floristic Quality Index.

The concept of species conservatism is the foundation of floristic quality assessment. Each native species is assigned a coefficient of conservatism (C) following the methods described by Swink and Wilhelm (1994) and Wilhelm and Masters (1995). Coefficients of conservatism range from 0 to 10 and represent an estimated probability that a plant is likely to occur in a landscape relatively unaltered from what is believed to be a pre-settlement condition. For example, a C of 0, is given to plants such as Acer negundo, box elder, that have demonstrated little fidelity to any remnant natural community, i.e. may be found almost anywhere. Similarly, a C of 10 is applied to plants like Potentilla fructicosa (shrubby cinquefoil) that are almost always restricted to a pre-settlement remnant, i.e. a high quality natural area. Introduced plants were not part of the pre-settlement flora, so no C value is applied to these.

While C values are assigned based on collective extensive experience with the flora though out an area the assignments are still somewhat subjective. The conceptual difference between a value of 0 and a value of 1, or between 9 and 10, is slight, while the difference between a value of 0 and a value of 3 is more distinct.

Also certain species are known to exhibit varying degrees of conservatism over their range. For example Thuja occidentalis (northern white cedar) in southern Wisconsin is restricted to relatively few habitats and may justify a C of 8 or 9. In the north the same species is found over a broad range of natural communities and even disturbed sites, so it might justify a C of 1 or 2. For such cases an intermediate C value may be assigned. Concerns over any particular C value are usually compensated within the floristic quality assessment method since it requires the average C value of all the individual species that occur at a site.

Numerical values assigned to a particular species are based on the observed behavior of populations within a defined geographic area. As one travels away from this region these locally assigned values may be less valid. The further away one goes the more likely these values do not reflect local conditions. In addition to the Chicago Region Coefficients of Conservatism have been assigned for Northern Ohio, Missouri and Michigan.
Source: . .

In the winter, after a busy summer photography season, John and I usually spend our evenings identifying plants and fungi. We learn a lot and make a lot of connections about our natural world as we rifle through guidebooks and Internet posts. One year, it took four months of work to identify all of the mushrooms that I had photographed that summer! But good company and warm fires while the snow blows outside make the work enjoyable. Now we have a new topic to research on stormy winter nights: What is the mean coefficient of conservatism for Vermont? for the Kingdom? for us on our land?


Review: Kindle Fire

My New Kindle Fire-1
My Fire all zipped up in a Marware case

I bought a Kindle Fire, Full Color 7" Multi-touch Display, Wi-Fi and it came last week. On Monday and Tuesday this week, I took my new Fire to an in-service with all my teacher friends and they were so polite about my "cute" little mobile device. They had iPhones and iPads.

I began thinking of buying a Kindle months ago because my friends at the library and church were raving about it. Women my age were reading in bed comfortably and in the dark with large text. And they were carrying their books around in their purses instead of lugging a large school bag full of books like I do. They were slowly convincing me that a Kindle, especially when prices dropped, would be the thing to get.

Why didn't I consider an iPad or iPhone? I could read books on either one (for $500 I could read a book on an iPad and that's ridiculous). But I need a fully functioning laptop for photography and schoolwork away from home and I don't want to spend the money on one yet. I definitely don't want a mobile phone — ever. Having a laptop and an iPad would be silly.

I was going to buy a little black and white Kindle for myself for Christmas. Then Fire was introduced. I read everything I could find about it. I got the itch and decided that I simply had to pre-order it. I've been a happy reader (and game player, e-mailer, movie and TV watcher) ever since.

My New Kindle Fire-2
My Fire in the open Marware case

I bought a pretty, red Marware jurni Kindle Fire Cover for the Fire a day after the Fire came in the mail. I don't want the screen scratched in my school bag. You can see the strap on the left side of the case that allows you to comfortably slip your left hand in the strap and hold the Fire securely when you fold the left cover to the back of the Fire. The Fire only fastens into the case in one way. If you are left-handed, you can still use this case and have the strap on the right side (but the Marware logo will be upside down when you close the case).

My New Kindle Fire-3
Some of my favorite apps, books and links on the Fire

Some of my favorite apps, books and links are the Amazon e-mail app, Daily Bread (Bible devotions) app (99¢), NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha for $10 (this was released on November 22 and has been my favorite purchase, but it has no maps. It does have a concordance). Also, I have a free Netflix app (I only subscribe to streaming movies, so this app is perfect for me), a Facebook app (by Amazon), an Amazon app, my Google contacts on the free Amazon contacts app, my current Agatha Raisin book, Google+ (via a mobile web page on the Silk browser), Pulse (free) and some other stuff. I have Weather Channel (free) and a few great games (Angry Birds, Greedy Spiders, Sudoku, and Mahjong,all free). I also bought a $6 hidden object game called The Mystery of the Crystal Portal. The only apps that have crashed have been a couple from third parties. Everything Amazon makes has worked perfectly.

My New Kindle Fire-5
The Twenty-third Psalm on the Fire

Reading on the Fire is a joy. It is backlit, which I didn't think it was going to do. I can read in the dark or in the light. It is easier for me to read on the Fire than to read text on paper with bright lighting. I can adjust the brightness of the screen and the size of the text.

For some reason, I have a copy of the New Oxford American Dictionary on my Fire. I don't know if I had gotten it earlier or if it came with the Fire. But really, Oxford! There is no table of contents or navigation in this book so you have to flip through hundreds of pages to find your word. How stupid is that?

My New Kindle Fire-6
Angry Birds splash screen

The Fire screen can be turned upside down and sideways for all applications except for some apps like Angry Birds. I never liked Angry Birds, and now I know why: playing with a mouse is lousy. Play it on a touch screen and it sings. It is also free from Amazon.

You get another great offer from Amazon with your Fire: a month of free Amazon Prime. It normally costs $80 a year. With Amazon Prime, you get to borrow books for an unlimited time, once a month, from Amazon. I borrowed Mary Roach's book Bonk from the Amazon Lending Library. You also get faster shipping with Amazon Prime, which is great but not worth $80, and “unlimited” videos. I don’t know if the video offerings are better than Netflix ($8 a month), but if they are, then it is worth $80. The lending library is definitely worth $80 to me.

Wednesday I bought the Kindle Fire PowerBolt Duo USB Car Charger with USB Cable by Kensington for $30. The battery in the Fire works for about 8 hours according to the specification sheet. I keep the charger cable by my bed so that I can charge it while I sleep. That works well  if I remember to plug it in (which I don't). This Kensington charger works in the car. It also comes with a USB cable so that I can charge the Fire on my PC and transfer data (docs and photos) from my PC to the Fire.

I do have four complaints about the Fire:

  • There is no keyboard or mouse. I know this can't be fixed, but I'm used to big keyboards and mice, so typing is difficult for me. How do you people ever text on those tiny phones?
  • The Kindle Fire needs a good camera and video camera.
  • There is no multi-tasking: I can't use my Daily Bread Bible Devotion and have the Harper Bible open at the same time and go back and forth. But I don't think any mobile device can do this. These are not desktop PCs, after all.
  • The biggest problem is that there are no Google apps available (yet) for Kindle Fire. This is a huge problem. This may be fixed soon by Amazon (according to rumors) or you can hack your Fire and fix it yourself (which I doubt I will do).

My total expenses so far are $200 for Fire, $30 for the case and $30 for the charger/cable. I have bought 2 apps and 3 books. The\ apps and books are so cheap that I haven't paid attention to the cost but perhaps I should. I absolutely recommend the Kindle Fire. It’s not for everybody, but it’s a great product. If you click any of the Amazon links in this post, you will go directly to the store and can buy your Fire from here.