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Planning for Useful Fun
On our troop outing this weekend, we toured Root River Hardwoods sawmill where they logged hardwoods (oak, cherry, walnut, maple, hackberry, ..) and turned them into rough boards. Then, we toured their shop where they turned dried, rough boards into molding and finished boards.
After these tours in the morning, we made lunch at camp and then went on a cave tour in Mystery Cave.
After the tour, we stopped at Pine Tree Apple Orchard to learn how apples are harvested, graded, packed, and sold.

It was a very busy day with a great introduction to 3 different industries - agriculture, tourism, and lumbering. Unfortunately, no scouts in the troop are taking the Farm Mechanics, Forestry, Geology, or Woodworking merit badges. We did not take advantage of a good opportunity because we did not plan ahead far enough.

Looking ahead, the troop has scheduled a shooting sports outing next month. I've discussed the availability of the Rifle Shooting merit badge with the patrol organizing the outing in the hopes they will use its requirements as part of their agenda and tell the troop that it is available.

More importantly, I've made it part of my agenda to always check what merit badge or other award might be applicable to any outing the troop plans. And, then make sure the scouts organizing the event are aware of the opportunity for advancement well ahead of their event.

Scout On
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Posted: 0:00 09-19-2005 30
Scoutmaster Conferences
I really enjoy the times I get to sit one-on-one with a scout for a scoutmaster conference and try to see his view of the troop and scouting. In our troop, we have 59 scouts and 20 of them are new so it is a challenge finding time on outings and at troop meetings to talk with many of them. The scoutmaster conferences are very important to keep in touch with those scouts that don't attend some events.

I have a few goals in a conference with scouts that have not achieved First Class rank yet. I try to find out how their scouting experience is going their first few months. Are they having experiences they expected? Have they done things they were surprised to be doing? What skills have they learned to do? I mostly just ask prompting questions and then listen to their thoughts.

I also like to hear what they do besides scouting. Since I only get to interact with them at specific times, there's a lot more they do that I don't know about. Remembering who does what can be a challenge so I try to keep notes.

Finally, I believe its important to share with them what I feel is important in scouting. I simply share that in today's world we really need people willing to lead, help, and care for others, and to have the skills to help when needed. Also, I tell them to keep their eyes on the older scouts and try to figure out what makes a good scout. At every conference, I ask them if they've figured out any more of the puzzle. It's sometimes enlightening to hear from a scout that has really been taking this to heart and searching for an answer.
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Posted: 0:00 09-08-2005 29
Hurricane Relief
This week my problems and challenges seem pretty insignificant in comparison to the hardships in the southern states after hurricane Katrina. Sending prayers and donations is a great help but being an active bunch of scouts like we are, we felt the need to do more. 
Fortunately for us, a wonderful local television station Fox 9 Hurricane Relief Drive organized a relief drive and put out the request for volunteers. I got the notice at our Roundtable meeting last night (good thing I attended!) and sent email out to all the patrol leaders about the need. I left it up to them to organize their patrols and do a Good Turn as they saw fit. 
At noon today I got a call at work from my son (Tenderfoot rank) saying his patrol would be participating today from 1 to 5 and I was needed to drive. What a good excuse to get out of the office! I zipped home, got on my scout t-shirt, and we were off on an adventure. 
It's now 6 hours later and after 4 hours of unloading bottled water, diapers, food, and supplies from cars pulling up, then stacking everything onto pallets and loading it onto semi trucks, I feel great! We filled 2 semis that are now on the highway heading south - I'm told its about a 20 hour haul from Minnesota to Louisiana. I figure we loaded 75,000 bottles of water so that should help someone a bit. 
I sure wish we hadn't needed to do this, but I'm proud of the troop for stepping up and its a lot better than sitting and watching the news. 
We have more patrols pitching in throughout the weekend and help is needed as long as the cars keep driving up. 
Scout On! 
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Posted: 0:00 09-02-2005 28
Philmont Trip
Yes, it DOES rain at Philmont! We just got back from our 12 day trek and half the days were rain. But, other than that, it was a most excellent adventure.
8 scouts and 3 adults did Trek #12 that covered 65 miles with about 15 miles of side hikes thrown in. We made the top of Trail Peak to see the bomber wreckage and the top of Shaefer's Peak for some terrific views. The last morning, we climbed Tooth of Time and it was just as fun as everyone says.
Our ranger, Wade Hawkins from Atlanta, was a great help on the first couple days and he did a good job of explaining the Philmont way of backpacking with advice about bear danger, lightning, campsites, food clean-up, Leave No Trace, and other common concerns.
We saw no bears or cougars, but did see mini-bears, deer, turkey, grouse, burros, horses, cows, and crows.
We participated in blackpowder shooting, branding, blacksmithing, goldpanning, horseback riding, and rock-climbing. We ate a chuckwagon dinner and took a mine tour.

Now, we've all got our arrowhead patches and memories of wet trails hiked, crunchy meals eaten, and challenges conquered - until next time.

Scout On!
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Posted: 0:00 08-17-2005 27
Memories of Camp
Some memories in my head from camp last week that I'd better jot down before I forget...

Some things to remember:
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Posted: 0:00 07-21-2005 26
Survived Summer Camp
Man, it doesn't get any better than this!

I just finished signing a stack of Blue Cards about a foot high for merit badges earned at camp. We had excellent weather with few bugs and lots of sun - only one big rain storm and that was on Monday evening so it was forgotten by the end of the week.

It was great to see seven patrols running their own camp and how they improved over 6 days. You could hardly tell our 3 new scout patrols were 'new' by Friday.

The staff at Many Point do an excellent job of filling a week with activities and learning. They build the biggest bonfires I've ever seen and really have enthusiasm!

Things our scouts did:

Merit badges:

Now, that was a busy week - I can hardly wait for next year! We've got two campsites reserved so we'll have a competition between two halves of the troop. And, we'll definitely give a bus a try.

Scout On!
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Posted: 0:00 07-20-2005 25
Ready for Camp
Sunday we leave for a week of camp at Many Point Scout Camp. With the troop growing so much the past two years, we are taking 47 scouts to camp this year - 40% more than last year. 11 vehicles driving to camp and back - next year I believe we'll be using a bus.

Going to camp is an exciting time for scouts, especially those going for the first time as 19 of ours are. But, for the Scoutmaster, I've learned the time leading up to camp is awful hectic with lots of planning, arranging, changing, form filling, and re-arranging. That is followed by juggling, shuffling, accomodating, reiterating, and reminding. To tell you the truth, I'm really excited to get to camp just so its actually happening rather than planning.

But, if the scouts get there and back having no idea what went on behind the scenes to make the week work, then it was a success. I can't do anything about the weather, and very little about the activities they choose, but as long as I've got rides for them, payments made, and forms turned in then that's good.

This will be my 4th year in a row going to Many Point. The lake is clear, the staff is great, the program is full, the food is good, and the raccoons are friendly. I'll let you know how it went when we get back.
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Posted: 0:00 07-08-2005 24
Knives and Knicks
This past weekend, a new scout was eager to earn his Totin' Chip. He had missed the previous outing where some Eagle scouts had taught safe axe, knife, and saw skills and then tested scouts before handing out the Totin' Chips.
So, I sat down with this scout and he showed me his very cool 75th Anniversary Cub Scout pocketknife. I taught him how to pass a knife, sharpen it, and care for it. He demonstrated that plus safe cutting, folding, and carrying skills.
Then, we moved on to the axe and talked about all the safety concerns and how we make a cutting yard on all our campouts. He showed me perfectly how to carry, pass, and use an axe.
Finally, we covered the same topics for a camp saw. He did just great so I told him he had earned his Totin' Chip and he could now use his knife and the hatchet in the cutting yard.

No more than five minutes later, two other scouts were getting to practice their abilities to administer first aid for 'minor cuts' on this little whittler! :-)
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Posted: 0:00 06-24-2005 23
Return From the Wild
Both crews from the Boundary Waters canoe trip returned safely, worn out, tanned, and full of stories. The 14 scouts and 4 adults that made up the two crews explored lakes 1, 2, and 3 for four days in the same perfect weather we enjoyed on our local campout.
Many fish were caught and a couple nice walleye were filleted for dinner one evening. Lots of stars at night and a beautiful, blue sky all day made for a great time on the water.

Scout On!
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Posted: 0:00 06-21-2005 22
When a Plan Comes Together
When I was young, my brother and I watched 'The A Team' and George Peppard's line of [I love it when a plan comes together] is just how I feel after this weekend.
The weatherman came through for us and I doubt we will have a better setup for camping the rest of this year. A little breeze kept the mosquitos away and nice temperatures made the days and nights very comfortable.

We arrived early and each patrol located a site, set up tents, and got organized. The Senior Patrol Leader had one patrol map out a short hike and lead the troop on it. On the way back, everyone collected wood and a fire was made.

A new snack was tried - Dessert Burritos - and they were a big hit!

Many scouts learned how to locate and recognize the north star. The moon was so bright, we even set up a sun compass using the moon.

Saturday morning, scouts walked the trails after a big windstorm a few days ago and did a one hour service project picking up limbs and stick from the paths. We encountered some horse riders so we got to review and practice trail etiquette. We saw a deer and her new fawn right in the trail no more than 30 feet ahead of us. We identified a few animal tracks, some trees, and other wildlife.

In the afternoon, an orienteering course kept them busy for 90 minutes finding markers, writing down the secret word found there, and identifying a knot for extra points.

Fire starting skills were practiced after that with the new scouts learning about the 3 things needed for a fire and different ways to lay a fire.
A few scouts that had not earned their Totin' Chip got to earn that - and one proceeded to immediately nick his finger with his knife. :-)

The Senior Patrol Leader organized the other 14 scouts to prepare a big meal for parents and families invited to come out for dinner. After the dinner, dessert was Banana Boats.
A short campfire entertained the guests for a half hour and then they left around 9:45pm.

The scouts did more skits and stories and ended the evening with stuffed apples cooked in the coals before bed. Most scouts left their rain flies off and enjoyed the stars and cool breeze.

Sunday included a nice breakfast, site clean-up, signing off of completed requirements, chapel service, and reflection. From my point of view, just an excellent weekend!

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Posted: 0:00 06-20-2005 21
Perfect Camping
There are 52 weekends in a year. Only a couple of those will have everything come together for a perfect camping opportunity - temperature, humidity, cloud cover, moon, wind, and bugs. This weekend looks like it just might be the best one for this entire year.
It's supposed to be mid-60s at night and mid-80s during the day with no clouds, 8mph wind, and 40% to 60% humidity. We've also got a bright moon, not yet full and the mosquitoes haven't gotten too bad yet.

So, 14 scouts in our troop are going to take advantage of this opportunity and camp! The guys up in the Boundary Waters must be having an excellent time, but those of us left behind (mostly younger scouts) are going to a local park for two nights of scouting. One Life scout will be taking on the SPL role which should be a good learning experience and everyone else will be doing activities to help advancement towards 1st Class.

I'm trying some new meals for the adults - Egg in an Orange, Tuna Tortillas, and Pig on a Stick. We're going to try Dessert Burritos tonight and Banana Boats tomorrow after the campfire program.

Back on Monday.
Scout On!
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Posted: 0:00 06-17-2005 20
Crews Away
Our two Boundary Waters crews of 7 scouts and 2 adults each are on their way this morning. At 6:45am, during a downpour that promised to blow quickly through, I handed off medical forms and a Guide to Safe Scouting book to the trip leader and watched them pack up.
Everyone was ready except for one of the two oldest scouts who had not arrived yet and was holding up departure. The one thing I tell all new scouts and then repeat many times is Don't Be Last! I think that's a good goal to set since you don't need to be first or the best, but its better to not make others wait on you.
This afternoon, after 6 or so hours on the road, the crews will hit the water for 3 days of excitement and hard paddling. Man, I wish I was with them! :-) The forecast is for 80+ temps and lots of sun so they'll have an awesome time. The worst part will be the traffic for the first hour getting out of the city - that 20 minute delay waiting for one scout will cost about 45 minutes of sitting in traffic.
They have 165 pounds of food so no one should starve. A few scouts took collapsible fishing poles and high hopes. Everything is packed in plastic bags inside plastic liners inside Duluth packs. They are using an outfitter in Ely this year so no canoes are being towed.
Each crew has defined their own canoe route on lakes 1, 2, and 3 but they plan on asking the outfitter for campsite recommendations when they arrive. They'll change their plans as weather and interests demand but remain in the same general area. I can hardly wait to see the pictures.

Scout On!

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Posted: 0:00 06-15-2005 19
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