Cape of Dud Boat
Friday, July 31 2015
location: southeast shore, Twenty Ninth Pond, remote Minerva Township, Essex County, New York
Ours is a big cabin with solid walls, but it's only got one bathroom near our bedroom, and I didn't want Gretchen beginning her day with sounds similar to the ones dubbed over the scenes in Orange is the New Black where the kitchen staff cuts open a huge plastic bag of "beef wellington" and dumps it into a tray. So I when I got up this morning with a need to produce a similar-looking substance (my stools have been loose the whole time I've been here), I headed off into the woods. This time, though, I made sure I'd found boulders small enough to pull loose from the ground before dumping my payload. This allowed me to completely bury it, preventing the dogs from plaguing us with diarrhea-face later in the day. After that, I walked down to near the pond's edge and came back parallel to that. At some point I stepped on an empty tube of birch bark and a little yellow and black bird started cursing at me. It flew to a branch only a couple feet from my face and kept at it. I had a good enough look at it that I could later identify it as a Magnolia Warbler, a north-woods species misnamed by an ornithologist who first encountered it in the Appalachians of Mississippi. I hope my careless steps hadn't destroyed his or her nest. I've become increasingly aware of all the empty birch bark scattered throughout the forest. Being water-repellant and (unlike the wood it comes with) relatively rot-resistant, it must make fantastic habitat for birds and other small-to-medium-sized creatures.
Evidently yesterday's showers had marked the arrival of a cold front, because temperatures today were markedly colder than they had been. The pond water was still warm enough for Gretchen to swim in, but when she climbed out onto the dock, the cold winds quickly made her uncomfortable, especially when the sun disappeared behind clouds (which it often did today). Meanwhile, while Throckmorton the Loon (or, for that matter, any loon) failed to return, Leonard the Frog kept showing up near the dock, often resting on a lily pad.
I made further progress on my weather station project, working out kinks in the careful serial-connection conversation that happens beween the client that will one day present the weather data and the barometric windvane that will one day collect it. One of the issues I tackled was how to make it so an automated query by the client of the barometric windvane doesn't interfere with an ongoing data feed (one where I tell the windvane to give me data at a regular interval). So I implemented a syntax allowing commands to be serviced without stopping ongoing data feeds. I also moved blocks of code around so that there was less latency when the windvane responded to queries. All of this was necessary so I could implement a primitive multi-trace temperature graphing functionality in the client. Periodically the client would query the windvane for a dump of all temperature data and then store it as an array element in a larger array. Once enough data had accumulated, the client could then be instructed to graph the temperature data (for now the command to do this is "gt"), and it would dutifully be displayed on the Digole LCD screen as traces in different colors for all sensors reporting data. This functionality is still very primitive, but the essential elements are all there. Eventually the data will be stored on an SD card instead of in memory (which, even on an Arduino Mega 2560, is very limited) and will be timestamped using data from a real time clock. This will allow me to page through the data or display graphs with different time scales.
This afternoon, I paddled the kayak over to the cape that separates the two lobes at the north of the pond. After beaching the kayak, I stumbled into its forest and soon determined that a low hill marked the center of the cape. Indeed, the land was so low north of this hill that if the pond's level were to rise five or ten feet, the wetlands on either side of the cape would be connected by water, the hill would form an island, and perhaps Throckmorton would have claimed it for nesting. While thinking of these things, I stumbled across an old flat-bottomed aluminum canoe abandoned beneath some tree branches on the cape. It was mostly upside-down and looked to have served as shelter for various creatures in recent times. While it still had potential as a roof, there was no way it would ever float again; its bottom had a bad tear and there were a number of other holes as well. Before leaving the "Cape of Dud Boat" (as I would later call it), I found one last treasure: a single grey wing feather from the Great Blue Heron who has been stalking the pond's adjacent wetlands for the past couple days.
This afternoon as we did our various things on the porch, there was an unearthly roar and then I saw single military jet flying low over the hill to the west of the pond. Evidently the airforce trains over the remote Adirondack wilderness, something they never do near our house in Hurley. (As a kid, I'd occasionally hear close jet flybys in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, though I don't think I'd ever seen the jet responsible for such noise.) Another jet flew over several minutes later, but this time it was concealed by the treeline.
Tonight Gretchen made another Asian meal involving kale, edamame paddies, and wontons served with gochujang sauce. Later, after watching our customary two episodes of Orange is the New Black, we went on a moonlit canoe paddle of the pond (this time without Ramona). In the full illumination of the moon, the trees on the shoreline had a gorgeous ethereal glow. But on the paddle back southward, the moon blazing down through clear black skies blinded us of the ability to see anything but the skyline. Even the dock was invisible, though we could find our way back using hearing alone; the dogs had found a reason to stand on the dock and bark into the night.
After Gretchen went to bed, I stayed up at my computer (in its evening location in the living room) drinking whiskey and writing. I took a recreational ambien, in part because the abence of an internet connection ensured that I wouldn't be posting things that would embarrass me tomorrow on Facebook. Still, there's really no telling what to expect when I take ambien (particularly while drinking), and that's what makes it such a compelling drug. And though I wouldn't end up waking up tomorrow morning out in the forest or face down in a canoe in the middle of Twenty Ninth Pond, I wouldn't remember going to bed either.
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