One of the fun happenings in my life is that friends send me nature photos and ask me to help them ID a species. Sometimes I know immediately what it is and can ask them questions to help them get to the answer. Other times I’m as stumped as they are. Thus was the case today, when I drove to Brownfield to look at a tree growing in the field beside an old farmhouse.
Beulah’s farmhouse, to be exact. My friend’s brother recently purchased it and the adjacent barn. Though the farmhouse is a fixer-upper, Beulah’s sign looks as if it was created yesterday.
This is the tree. If you know it right off, my hat goes off to you. I was in my Forest Trees of Maine mode and kept looking at it from that perspective. It’s overall appearance didn’t match what I know. We began with the key and slowly (painfully slowly as the black flies swarmed us–mind over matter, mind over matter), worked our way through the choices, two by two.
Because it’s not in leaf yet, we used the Winter Key. With each question, we paused to examine the tree–looking at the alternate leaf shoots, hairy scaled buds, pith, bark–every detail. We considered its location in the middle of a farm field, where the land sloped slightly and was rather dry. We also looked at the ground and found decaying leaves as well as deer scat. As I suspected, it wasn’t in the key. So I came home and scoured other books. I think I reached the answer and that the deer scat is actually a clue. Do you know? Now you may say so.
On our way to see one more cool thing, we paused to look at a den located beside the old foundation. Though much of the scat has since been removed, plenty of it and numerous quills painted the picture of who’d created this pigpen.
And then they had one more mystery item to show me. I hope this doesn’t freak you out. It’s part of many renovations in old farmhouses–a dried-up animal carcass. The front of the face was missing, but as we say, eyes in the front, born to hunt.
A side view of this handsome critter. Can you see the ears?
Talk about all skin and bones.
And then the foot pads and nails. Four toes, nails, about the size of a nickel. Do you know?
Because I was in the neighborhood, I visited Brownfield Bog and continued my afternoon exploration. (Yeah, I had work to do, but playing hooky for a couple of hours is allowed once in a while if I don’t abuse the privilege–ah, the life of a freelancer.)
I remember suddenly becoming aware of spring colors about thirty-five years ago, when I taught school in New Hampshire by the convergence of the Pemigewasset and Merrimack Rivers. Until then, I’d never realized that tree leaves emerge in a variety of colors–they all weren’t suddenly green. (BTW– do you see the spittlebug? )
In a quickness equal to fall foliage, spring colors may not be as flashy, but their subtle beauty deserves notice.
And those leaves that are green offered their own reasons to stop me in my tracks as I took in the details–in this case the double-toothed elephant’s trunk. What? Notice the shape and outer margin of the leaf.
The lovely elongated catkins demanded a glance that lasted more than a second.
Adding a festive fuzziness to the celebration of spring was another set of catkins.
Unwittingly, this shrub also played host to a gall gnat midge that overwintered in a structure created by the reaction to a chemical released by the larva–what would have been leaves were forced to harden into a pine cone look alike.
The subtle colors graced the meadow,
were reflected in the bog,
and blessed the Saco River.
There were bits of flashy color–do you see who was feeding on the upper branches?
And this spring beauty exploded with love and life.
At the end of my journey, I was grateful to P&K for an excuse to step away from my desk and check out the mystery standing in Beulah’s field. Especially as it led me further afield.