My guy happens to be Irish so it seemed only appropriate that I propose to him today following the example that St. Brigid set when she struck a deal with St. Patrick. Yes, we’ve been married for 25+ years, but I proposed anyway.
And he accepted. So today’s Mondate found us at Roberts Farm Preserve in Norway. Norway, Maine, that is.
In her book, Hikes and Woodland Walks in and around Maine’s LAKES REGION, my friend Marita Wiser states that the preserve was “farmed by the Pike and Roberts family for 200 years.” She adds, “The property was purchased by the Western Foothills Land Trust in 2007.”
Though the trails are mostly maintained for Nordic skiers, we didn’t see any today.
Had it been open to skiers, we wouldn’t have been able to do what we did–follow the network of trails around the perimeter of the property.
We’d only walked a few feet when I had to pause–the burnt cornflake look of black cherry bark insisted upon being noticed.
Visiting here a couple of times previously, one of the things I’d come to like about it is the opportunity to gush over Northern white cedar bark.
I love its red-brown color, sheddy strips that intersect in diamond formations and habit of spiraling left and then right with age. In his book BARK, Michael Wojtech states of the cedar: “In the 1500s, the native Iroquois showed French explorers how to prevent scurvy using a tea made from the bark, which contains vitamin C. The name arborvitae means ‘tree of life.'”
Equally beautiful are its flat sprays of braided, scale-like leaves.
Since I’m on the topic of tree bark, I have two others to share, including this one–the red inner bark of Northern Red Oak made a stunning statement.
Displaying its shaggy presentation was the hop hornbeam.
My heart leaped (appropriate movement for today) when I saw these papery fruits on the ground–hop hornbeam is named for its fruiting structures that resemble hops.
Stone walls crisscross the preserve and provide evidence of its former use as a dairy farm.
Barbed wire adds to the story.
Installed long ago, this tree formed a grimace in response.
Along the edge of some walls stand much happier trees–those that were allowed to grow tall and wide in the sun, like this Eastern white pine. Perhaps it provided a bit of shade for Roberts’ Jerseys.
The land was farmed until 1968. Since then, it returned to woodland, was sold and logged and sold another time–finally to the land trust. Generational gaps are visible throughout. This is the perfect place to take some youngsters and ask them to locate a white pine that matches their age.
We cross several streams that I’m sure sustained the farm and its inhabitants. Today, they sustain the wildlife that wanders here, including deer.
We realized there had been a recent turkey trot and
Birds also have played a major role in this community. This pileated woodpecker-created condominium has been around for a while.
From the trail, I spied the largest pile of wood chips I’ve ever seen and of course, had to investigate.
The old beech was recently excavated for new condos.
Below, the wood chip pile was a couple of inches deep.
The best part–lots of scat cylinders filled with insect body parts. Good stuff to see.
Pileated woodpeckers aren’t the only ones in the building industry.
I think you’d agree that Quinn and Mike did a fabulous job constructing this birdhouse.
In several open areas we spotted the winter display of common mullein.
Its crowded performance of two-parted capsules atop a tall, fuzzy stem made it easy to identify.
The pointed prickly bracts of thistles also offered a winter show.
Lungwort tried to hide on the backside of an ash tree, but I found it. I only wish we’d had rain, or better yet, snow, recently, because I love the neon green that it becomes once it is wet.
Be careful what you wish for. Though the day was sunny at the start, it began to rain as we ate our sandwiches on lunch rock overlooking Lake Pennesseewassee, aka Norway Lake.
It wasn’t a downpour, but enough that it encouraged us to eat quickly and move on.
Well, I didn’t move far. Within steps, I found a shrub I was seeking yesterday–beaked hazelnut.
It’s a member of the birch family and features catkins–the male flowers that will release pollen this spring to fertilize the shrub’s delicate red female flowers.
Another quick find–Christmas fern–one pinnae topped with a birch fleur de lis.
Typically, during the winter there is only one trail open to hikers. Today, however, we figured it would be OK to walk on the ski trails because they are either icy or bare. It was definitely a micro-spike kind of day, which has been more the norm this year.
Other than birds and squirrels, we saw no wildlife. But we did stumble upon the “Painted Cows” created by Bernard Langlais in 1974 and gifted to the land trust by Colby College and the Kohler Foundation.
We had planned to explore the inner network of trails, but the cold raindrops drove us out. Despite that, I think my guy enjoyed himself as much as I did. And he was extremely patient each time I paused. Sometimes he even gave me a heads up–I took that to mean he didn’t mind that I had to stop, wonder and photograph. This is one Leap Date I hope we don’t forget.