Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving Sunset

Sunset Friday, November 25, 2011, Barton, Vermont-1.jpg
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

New Christmas Cactus-1
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.

New Rosemary Bush (Rosmarinus Officinals)-1
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.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving (Buddy)!

Buddy Eats His New Catster Stickers-1
Buddy eats his Catster stickers

Catster, one of the favorite cat bloggers’ sites, recently offered free Catster stickers. They want you to e-mail photos of how you creatively used these stickers and will post the most creative uses on their site. My stickers came in the mail this week, so I excitedly looked over my house and stuff for a spot for my stickers so that I could photograph them for Catster. I didn’t want them on my camera, camera bag, computer, Kindle or walls. Not on my school bag, either. Finally I spied Buddy sleeping and stuck them on him. Buddy woke up very quickly and very grumpy until he spied the stickers. Then he immediately started eating them.

On this Thanksgiving Day, Buddy is thankful for anything that is edible. Even if it’s not. I am grateful for my new, rich life with John (and the cats). We have so much. Life is wonderful! Happy Thanksgiving everybody!


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Female Eastern Black Swallowtail in Flight

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Papilio polyxenes

Eastern Black Swallowtail female (Papilio polyxenes)-2.jpg

Eastern Black Swallowtail female (Papilio polyxenes)-3.jpg

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Photography on Google+

Possum sharpening her claws

I’m spending most of my time on Google+ lately. Photographs are shown in much higher quality than on Facebook. But more importantly, the range of photographers is huge. From serious professionals to hobbyists, we are all there sharing photos.

There are photography groups on G+. You can post every day to a special interest group: whether it be four-wheelers or sky shots, grass, spiders, or your town. Click here to view an updated list of the groups and instructions for how to participate. I have participated several times and am a regular participant of the Google+ Project 365. My project album is here.

I hope you come join Google+. Be sure to include me in a circle — you can reach me from the badge on the sidebar of this blog. Next on my tasks is haiku folks on G+.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Flowery Drive

We took a ride one Sunday in July and got a bunch of flowers that are new to my collection of Wildflowers of Vermont (or of the NEK). They will be showing up individually in the PAD blog, but I wanted to share a preview with you all now.

Spotted Joe Pye Weed (Eupatoriadelphus maculatus)-4.jpg
Spotted Joe Pye Weed (Eupatoriadelphus maculatus)

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Gray Dogwood (Cornus racemosa)

Creeping Bellflower (Campanula rapunculoides)-3-1.jpg
Creeping Bellflower (Campanula rapunculoides)

Fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium)-2.jpgFireweed (Epilobium angustifolium)

And my new favorite, which came in white, pink and red:

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Flowering Raspberry (Rubus odoratus)


Friday, November 18, 2011

The Crane Fly

Black Crane Fly-7.jpg

I found this beautiful black crane fly on the patio of the library on a very hot July day this past summer. I have asked to identify it but they have called in the experts for the ID. Crane flies eat mosquitoes and are one of my favorite insects. They have very long legs, and this one had exceptionally long legs (below):

Black Crane Fly-4.jpg

I was even lucky enough one day this year to photograph a crane fly larva that was in the brook in the back yard:

Crane Fly Larva Underwater.jpg
Crane fly larvae are also called leatherjackets.

I didn't even think this black crane fly was a crane fly because it was black and because the legs seemed so exceptionally long. Also, this was a heavier crane fly than I had seen. Hopefully, an identification will come along soon!

UPDATE (December 9, 2011): This has now been identified as a Giant Crane Fly (Tipula abdominalis). You can find out more by reading the bug page at here.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Zacchaeus: 2011 Vacation Bible School

Barton United Church Vacation Bible School July 23, 2011-1.jpg
A VBS banner

In July, we had Vacation Bible School at the Barton United (UCC & UMC) Church. I was the teller and discussion leader of the story of Zacchaeus who hid in a tree when Jesus visited his town. I worked with the older children. We had quite a discussion about making choices and our faith:

Luke 19: 3-13

[Zacchaeus] was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.’ So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, ‘He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.’ Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.’

As they were listening to this, he went on to tell a parable, because he was near Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. So he said, ‘A nobleman went to a distant country to get royal power for himself and then return. He summoned ten of his slaves, and gave them ten pounds,* and said to them, “Do business with these until I come back.”

Barton United Church Vacation Bible School July 23, 2011-3.jpg
Anne's bulletin board for an activity

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The tree that Zacchaeus sat in

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Snack time behind the church under the ash tree next to Crystal Lake Outlet

Barton United Church Vacation Bible School July 23, 2011-8.jpg
Pastor Evelyn gives a puppet show

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Agrimony was in bloom behind the church

Crystal Lake, Barton, VT July 23, 2011-1.jpg
We sat on the beach of Crystal Lake, at Pageant Park, as the children swam and played

We are all looking forward to our next Vacation Bible School!


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Elephant Ear

Planting Our Elephant Ear Bulb (2 of 4).jpg
April 2011

Above you see the elephant ear seed (or is it a bulb?) as we planted it in April. Below, you see the plant in July. It is huge and beautiful. If you water it properly, the water is exuded at the end of the leaves and leaves puddles on the floor. I'm glad it is on a tile floor. That way, I don't care how much it piddles away.

The pot we planted the seed in had earthworms in it because it had been outside for a year. It was a strange time: I had to feed the earthworms when I watered the plant. I used coffee grounds and bread crumbs. The worms remained with the plant until recently, when I negligently let the pot go bone dry. John said he found the worms on the kitchen floor. This is what happens when school starts: I neglect many household duties.

Our Elephant Ear plant (Alocasia macrorrhizos)-1.jpg
July 2011

If you have the room, I recommend that you try growing an elephant ear. It's a fascinating experience.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Oscar Takes a Long Hike

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Oscar in July, 3 months old

You probably know that the cats hike with us in the woods up the mountain. Oscar developed his knowledge about the area and the creatures of the forest from these hikes. Some of the hikes were very long for a small kitten and he tired easily. But in this photograph, half way through the hike, he was still bouncy and full of curiosity and wonder about the forest. I like his right rear leg perched on the log behind him, ready to take off to run and see another interesting sight. Whenever Oscar is out of sight of us, he yowls pitifully until we wait for him to either catch up or, as is usually the case, return to us. He's one of those kids that runs all over the woods without watching where his folks are going!


Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Cohosh Grove

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White Cohosh

When you walk up the slope of Barton Mountain behind the house, you will eventually come to a large grove of cohosh below the cliffs to the summit. The grove is full of white and red cohosh and Solomon’s Seal. The berries are plentiful in July. Don't eat them. Even though cohosh has been used for centuries as an herbal remedy, you need to know how to use it properly to avoid poisoning and bad reactions.

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White Cohosh berries

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Solomon's Seal is plentiful in the same grove.

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Solomon's Seal berries

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Red Cohosh berries and leaves


Tuesday, November 08, 2011

The Tiniest Wasp

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A tiny unidentified wasp on John's arm.

John called me over one day to see the tiny wasp crawling on his arm. We had been working in the garden and my camera was close by, as it always is. I couldn't even tell that this was a wasp until the photo was in the computer! It never stung him. It simply crawled on his arm, apparently looking for food. You can tell from the photos that there is pollen in its pollen bags on its legs. To see the wasp and pollen clearly, click here.

Unidentified Wasp on John's Arm -2.jpg
I like this photo because the wasp is walking.