Tenmile Mondate

I’d never heard of the trail system my guy and I hiked this afternoon until my friend Marita introduced me to it about a week and a half ago. And then, the temps were frigid and our time limited, so we only snowshoed to the Kettle Hole Bog. But . . . that, in itself, was well worth the journey on December 28, 2017.

t-kettle bog

It blows my mind to think that kettle holes are unique features formed over 10,000 years ago when big chunks of ice became stranded and partially buried in glacial outwash or other coarse ice-contact deposits. Eventually, the ice chunks melted, leaving ponds in holes in the ground, with no inlets or outlets. Among the vegetation variety in such a bog is black spruce that stood tall like church spires.

t-spruce caps

Because our initial visit followed the ice and snow storms of the previous weekend, most of the spires donned winter caps.

t-rhodora's winter look

And in the low shrub level, rhodora and other heath shrubs offered their winter form.

t-tenmile 2

We were traveling in the Tenmile River Demonstration Forest and within a few minutes of the kettle bog, Marita and I reached the river.

t-tenmile 1

It was late afternoon when we visited that day and the low temps meant lots of ice had formed.

t-ice on oak leaf

Of course, the ice storm of Dec 23rd added to the frozen display.

d-oak stained glass

And so, when my guy and I visited late this afternoon, I was curious about our finds. Some trees still sported icy sculptures, but much of it had blown down in recent winds. Instead, we looked through a different stained glass window as we traversed the property.

d-sign

The Tenmile River Demonstration Forest was donated to the Oxford County Soil and Water Conservation District (OCSWCD) in 1950 by Frank Merrifield, three years after the Great Fire of 1947.

Back in October 1947, catastrophic wildfires erupted throughout Maine during what became known as “The Week Maine Burned.”

It hadn’t rained for 108 days and the dry woods were like tinder. Here in western Maine, Fryeburg, Brownfield and Denmark thought they had a fire under control, but overnight a strong wind blew and gave it new life. About 2,000 acres burned by the next night as the fire spread to the edge of Brownfield.

With the winds continuously shifting, town folks began to panic. Farmers either turned their livestock loose or herded them to neighboring towns. Others packed as many belongings as they could and evacuated.

By morning, most homes and public buildings in Brownfield were mere piles of ash. Stately places including the Farnsworth Place where Dr. Philo Farnsworth, a pioneer in the field of television, spent his summers, had burned. Churches, schools, the post office, Grange hall, library and town hall all went up in smoke–only twenty houses survived. In the end, 85% of the town was destroyed.

This past fall, I had the honor of listening to storyteller Jo Radner honor the stories of Brownfield residents with her rendition of Burnt into Memory. If you ever have the chance to be in her audience, I strongly encourage you to attend and listen. Jo not only shares the stories, but also the voices.

d-kiosk

According to the property brochure available at the kiosk, “The District Supervisors replanted the property with red and white pine.” The replanting took place between 1950 and 1960. The brochure states: “It was their plan to turn the land into an example of wise and sustainable forest management and to use it as an education resource area to demonstrate good conservation management practices.”

d-whites and reds

Immediately behind the kiosk the whites and reds were obvious–white pines to the left and red to the right.

d-wetland trail

As we set out today, we found ourselves breaking trail for it seems not many wander this way in the winter. Our intention was to traverse several loops along the land of rolling hills.

In 2012, the pines that had been planted back in the ’50s and ’60s were harvested with the intention of creating an open forest to allow sunlight to reach the forest floor. The overall goal was to encourage new growth and regeneration.

d-wetland view 1

Our journey along the Wetland Trail led to a shrub bog and . . .

d-wetland 2

a marshland above Round Pond. Where’s Waldo? Or rather my guy? I didn’t realize it at the time, but he had found a branch and was headed to the wetland to check on the ice. Meanwhile, I stood on it.

d-hemlock samara 1

As we broke trail, we noticed others who had done the same, including junco foot and wing prints.

d-hemlock samara

And by those footprints, we kept seeing Eastern hemlock seed samaras–minus the seed. How cool is that? While the seed depends on its wing to fly to a new home, our winged friends only care about the seeds.

d-porky trail

A porcupine had also traversed the property and as time would tell, it knew much of the over-200 acre forest.

d-snowshoe hare trail and scat

Snowshoe hare also traveled here. We were thankful for their teachings of packing trails to make movement easier, especially since we were taking turns breaking trail today. Note the touches of scat along the runway of this particular hare.

d-Round Pond overlook

As a demonstration forest, the Oxford County SWCD received a grant in 2012 from the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fun to not only show how a forest harvest can be carefully planned and carried out, but also to install interpretive signs that point out special features and describe best management practices.

d-clearing the bench

Also installed at key points, benches offering views. If you go soon, you can thank my guy for clearing the seat overlooking Round Pond.

d-pitch pine

Continuing on, we noted how well marked are the trails. And sometimes such marks made us notice other things, like the fact that this chosen tree was a pitch pine, an important fire adaptive tree. Such adaptations allow it to establish and/or regenerate on burned sites through a variety of options offered by the tree and its buds.

d-beaver lodge bench

Our continued journey took us to the bench and signage for a beaver lodge, though with another foot of snow you’d hardly know it.

d-beaver lodge

Before the bench, we could see the old lodge, though it seemed abandoned given no sight of a vent on it or any new cuts nearby.

d-beaver lodge signage

But still, a sign once cleared, describe the activity and what one might expect to see within such a home.

d-gray birch

Behind the bench, a family of gray birch stood taller than most given that December ice storm had causes so many of them to bow down with the weight of the world.

d-Tenmile River

From the lodge, we went in search of a couple of beaver dams along Tenmile River, and finally spied some open water. Apparently we weren’t the only ones to see it. Do you see the trail beside the river? How I wanted it to be that of an otter. But, reality struck and it was a deer run.

d-beaver dam1

As the day darkened, we did find an old beaver dam, but again, not recent works.

d-wood duck box

And just above the dam, a wood duck box. As the brochure notes, “A harvest was carefully panned and carried out to show how forestry, wildlife habitat conservation, recreation and water resource protection could all be taken into consideration.”

d-witherod bud and leaves

Not far from the river, I found a shrub I immediately recognized for it is a wee bit different from others–witherod or wild raisin.

d-white pines laden with snow

As we continued on our way out, for there was more to discover but the night was drawing close, white pines sagged with the weight of the recent bomb cyclone.

d-red pine laden with snow

And as it should be along this trail, red pines on the opposite side showed that they, too, had bowed to the burdens.

d-gateway between red and white pines

But what struck me about these two species, red pine to the left and white pine to the right, with my guy’s tracks between, was the fact that the Oxford County SWCD had had the foresight to acquire this land and follow up on its purpose as a demonstration forest.

Our journey on this Mondate was only about four miles along the Tenmile River loops, but already, we can’t wait to return and learn what else this property has to offer.

 

 

 

Oh Baby!

It’s so cold outside that probably the smart thing to do would be to stay snuggled within, but I couldn’t.

a-bluejay with seed

After all, the birds were on the move, though they were a bit puffed up, a normal behavior when the temp is below zero. Their feathers help insulate them from the cold (and my hands understand that as they were tucked inside down-filled mittens). Fluffing up traps as much air as possible, thus keeping our avian friends warm.

s-robin

Their feathers are also waterproofed with an oil coating, a good thing on this not only frigid, but also slightly snowy day.

s-frost around squirrel homes

As I wandered, I noticed that the squirrels and maybe other small mammals had decided not to venture forth and found plenty of evidence that they were huddled inside. Ice crystals formed in holes beside trees, and . . .

s-frost by stone walls

openings in stonewalls . . .

s-frost again

reminded me of the feathery display on our windows on cold winter mornings. These were the mammals’ windows–such as they are.

s-stained glass

And speaking of windows and ice, which has lasted longer than usual following the Dec 23rd storm, everywhere branches reminded me of stained-glass leading highlighting the picture of our winter world.

s-red maple buds

But, here’s the thing about ice. Like feathers, it also serves as an insulator, keeping leaf and flower buds along tree branches protected from the cold. Oh, they have waxy coatings, but the ice adds another buffer.

s-beech bud

Some of the sights I saw today made me chuckle, like the beech bud poking through one of the tree’s marcescent leaves.

s-pinecone on maple

And a maple pinecone.

s-saw-whet owl 1

But my favorite find of all flew in while I was making my way rather nosily through a dense patch of hemlocks. Another where’s Waldo moment. Do you see it?

s-saw-whet owl 2

Yes, a Northern Saw-whet Owl! A first for me in the wild.

s-saw-whet 3

We shared about ten minutes together and it was definitely an “Oh baby!” occasion (which I reported to Jean Preis for our local Bird Count).

And with that, I’m proud to say, “It’s a boy!” The bird, I’m not sure. But I’m a great aunt to Baby Bud who was born at 12:24 this morning. May he develop a sense of wonder about the natural world and a love for winter.

The owl was the icing on the cake on this special day–Oh baby!

 

Peace on Earth

One touch of nature and it seems to me we’d be able to achieve world peace, that idealistic concept of happiness, freedom and cooperation among all peoples and all nations.

o-ice on beech leaves

On a frigid winter day it would be extraordinary if only we could encourage more people to step outside and observe the beauty of the natural world. Of course, all would need to be  dressed for the conditions so they felt comfortable, and appropriately equipped so they could travel with some ease, and . . . and . . .  and. But still, surrounded by leaves blanketed with snow, and icicles extended like fingers reaching out to others, how could anyone resist sharing a collective awe.

o-ice and snow illuminated by sun

Snow and ice and more snow. And suddenly, the world transformed and branches intertwined in ways we’ve not seen before and the same could be true for all of us. Perhaps the key is to figure out how much snow and ice and snow creates such interesting intersections. And how we can do the same–make interesting interactions.

o-ice on pine like Hawaiian grass skirts

Be they conifers wearing grass skirts,

o-birch catkins enclosed

or catkins wrapped in union suits, nothing went untouched in the Christmas weekend storms.

o-ice on maple

Frozen condensation clung . . .

o-ice drips

in various formations and reflected all sort of colors.

o-ice on usnea lichens

I wished I’d seen it all transpire. But I wasn’t able to until today and then, I was grateful for the opportunity and wonder of it all. I traveled alone, but in perfect hind sight, wish I’d invited another to join me.

o-ice above

To rejoice in those sparkling high above . . .

o-gray birch arches

and appreciate the burden of others bending low.

o-gray birches meet in the middle

To recognize new dance partners in the midst.

o-ice on pine finale

One step at a time. One look. One touch. One acknowledgement. One smile. And then two smiles. And three. And four. And many more.

Peace on Earth.

One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.

~William Shakespeare