If you recall, two weeks ago the Fairs, Farms, and Fun Homeschool 4-H Group decorated a tree(s) as part of the Maine Christmas Tree Scavenger Hunt.
Their biodegradable ornaments were mighty tasty, smeared in peanut butter and bird seed much to the good licking of birds, squirrels, and deer.
Since the first decorating party, we led a fun walk where participants adopted a scavenger hunt attitude and examined all evergreens along the way until they spotted the special tree(s). And then, because we’d packed more peanut butter and bird seed, and some of the youth had gathered pinecones on the way, we spent time creating new ornaments. That was on Saturday. By Monday, those had also disappeared.
As has been the case in the past, only the hearts cut from fallen birch bark remained.
Taking a tip from our neighbors at Western Foothills Land Trust, which is also participating in the Maine Christmas Tree Hunt, I added orange and apple slices to the tree(s) and a few higher branches.
I hope you’ll challenge yourself and your family and friends to go on the hunt.
I also hope that some of the ornaments will still be there. But if not, know that the mammals and birds are dining in style.
In fact, their style reflected in scat I found included more than the offerings we’d supplied. On this rock, it looked like the local staghorn sumac had provided some nourishment.
That wasn’t the only scat in the area. It took me a moment to realize what I was seeing atop the snow. The scat of larger birds also decorated the trail and I wondered what predators might be about.
So here’s the thing–when you go in search of the tree (or on any walk in the woods) take some time and look for scat. And while you’re at it, see what else might draw your eye in.
Maybe you’ll spy an empty sawfly cocoon.
Or one that will protect the larvae as it pupates within over the winter months.
When you go, look for the unusual among the usual. I found this pine tree snag that struck me as most intriguing. How tall had it grown before its life tumbled down?
No matter. What did matter was that its whorled limbs still reached outward in star-like fashion.
And inward as well.
Above, its kin stood tall.
When you go, make time to enjoy the scenic view opened this past summer by staff and volunteers.
When you go, look for interesting sights like this one, where one pine embraced another.
Pines typically self prune, but these two chose to keep their lower branches and snuggle together for the rest of their lives.
So close did they grow that the “arms” of the tree to the left had grafted to the tree to the right so that their hug included shared energy.
When you go, look for the other old pines along the stone wall–those that grew up when the landscape was more open and their structures could stretch out more than up.
And below them, notice the squirrel middens. I wasn’t sure there would be many middens this year since it wasn’t a mast production year and few cones had formed.
When you go, let your imagination see the discarded pine cone scales and cobs as toppings on a bowl of ice cream.
When you go, look for the amber nuggets of pine sap hardened on old bark.
When you go, if the apple slices remain on the tree(s), notice the star shape of the core.
When you go, look for all of these . . . or better yet, make your own really cool discoveries.
I do hope you’ll go to the Chip Stockford Reserve or any of the three other sights in western Maine where trees are decorated. But . . . if you can’t go here, go somewhere. And when you go . . . have fun!