The Borrowing

My friend, Dick, sent me the following message yesterday: “from a novel, Northwest Angle by Krueger … who has a series which relates to the Objidwa (sp) of the upper parts of Michigan …

‘What’s a Mide?” — ‘A member of the Grand Medicine Society,’ Stephen explained. ‘A healer. Somebody who understands the harmony of life and how to use nature to restore harmony when it’s been lost.” p246

“Belongs.” Meloux (a very senior shaman type of the Native American ‘Mide’ of the Objidwe) seemed to consider the word. “I believe no one belongs to anyone else. You, me Waaboozoons, we are all dust borrowed for a little while from Grandmother Earth. And even that dust does not belong to her. She has borrowed it from all creation, which is the Great Mystery, which is Kitchimanidoo. And if you ask this old man, I would say that another way to think about Kitchiimanidoo is as a great gift. Kitchimanidoo is not about keeping. Nothing belongs to anyone. All of creation is meant as a giving.” p 269

While I haven’t read the book or any of Krueger’s works, these words resonated with me as I moved about this morning.

m-vp

My first stop was a visit to the vernal pool, where the ice is beginning to melt.

m-vp, birch seeds

I looked for insects and found instead birch seeds and scales–meant as a giving.

m-berries

Wintergreen berries remained prolific below the power lines. While this fruit is traditionally browsed by a variety of mammals, I had to wonder if its location is the reason it was left untouched–poisoned by the herbicides Central Maine Power uses to keep the land clear. What was meant as a giving revoked.

m-leaves thru ice

Not all was bad as I followed the trail for a distance and enjoyed the beauty that has begun to emerge.

m-sphagnum color

The pompom heads of sphagnum moss contrasted brilliantly beside the running clubmoss.

m-trail light

Looking back, I noticed that today’s sunlight was captured in yesterday’s raindrops–certainly a reason for thanks-giving.

m-mount 1

And before me–man and nature in the eternal struggle for harmony. An example of borrowing.

m-pollen?1

Before I turned onto a logging road, a puddle caught my attention.

m-pollen?2

My first thought was pollen, but as I approached, I realized the little dots were moving about much like spring tails because .  . . they were spring tails. So my learning increased as I noted their color and the fact that there are aquatic members of this family. Another giving received.

m-pin cherry warts 2

On recent treks, my bark eyes have been confused about two trees–black birch (aka sweet or cherry birch) and pin cherry. As youngsters, both feature reddish-brown bark. What has thrown me off is the association with other birch trees, including the yellow birch that grows behind this specimen. Today, I made a point of noticing–the warty orange lenticels, lack of catkins and no wintergreen scent. These are three features that helped point me toward pin cherry. Black birch bark features long, thin lenticels, catkins common to birch trees and when scraped, that delightful wintergreen smell.

m-pin cherry:birch1

Despite the fact that they are not of the same family, certainly they’ve found a way to give to each other and live in harmony. A lesson.

m-porky

Just beyond the birches, in one of many stump dumps along this logging road, something caught my eye.

m-porky 1

A porcupine worked over the bark of a fallen hemlock tree. I stood for several minutes and watched. Either it wasn’t aware of me or I didn’t pose enough of a threat.

m-porky again

The leaf caught on its backside made me chuckle and wonder why we don’t see more of that.

m-porky like

I’m amazed that I saw it at all in this land that has been chopped up over the course of the last three years. Notice how leaves are similarly stuck to this shredded tree stump.

m-porky tree 3

m-porky tree 2

m-porky tree

Behind were the trees that have received the porcupine’s recent attention. While the logging is destructive, it helps heat homes, provides income to at least several people including the logger and landowner, and creates new habitat and food opportunities for wildlife. Change is difficult and I’d grown to love these woods the way they were, but they were that way because of prior cuttings. A borrowing.

m-bubbles

Most of the logging road was a combination of puddles and mud. At times, air bubbles rippled as I moved through and I was reminded of my youth years spent feeling for clams in the mudflats of Clinton Harbor on Long Island Sound. The memory itself was a giving.

m-deer 2

Like the deer that frequent this land, my boots got stuck in the muck. Sometimes, it seemed like I was being sucked in and told to stand still. But my mind wandered on and I followed it.

m-trail conditions

Going forward in time, I’ll be curious to watch the reflections in the puddles change as the pioneer species move back in and regenerate this land. The harmony.

m-spirit

In the end, as always seems the case, I was on the receiving end of the giving and grateful for the borrowing as the spirit of Grandmother Earth shared a few tidbits of the Great Mystery.

 

 

 

Gallivanting Around Great Brook

It’s been a couple of months since Jinny Mae and I last checked in on the doings in the Great Brook neighborhood off Hut Road in Stoneham, Maine.

H-Forest Road 4

Forest Road 4 isn’t plowed in the winter. That’s OK. We welcomed the opportunity to admire our surroundings as we hiked above the brook. So much to see that is so often missed as one drives.

h-paper birch blue

Though the temperature was on the rise, the blueness of a few paper birch trees reminded us that it’s still winter.

h-sphagnum

We found sphagnum moss looking a bit frosty but cheering us on with its pompoms.

h-chaga

On more than one yellow birch, chaga offered its medicinal qualities in quantity.

h-yellow and white partners

We came upon a special relationship–a yellow birch and a white pine. Rooted in this place, they embrace and share nutrients.

h-yellow birch:white pine

Forever conjoined, they dance through life together.

h-GB1

Finally beside the brook,  we couldn’t see the rocks below very well, but watching the water race over them gave us a better understanding of the forces that have smoothed their surfaces.

h-GB south

In a few more months, we’ll stand here and wonder where all the water went.

h-ice drips& bubbles

But today, it was the ice formations that we couldn’t stop admiring. Bubbling water below and dripping ice above, each adding to the other and both constantly changing.

h-ice 2

So much variation on the same theme as coursing water freezes into ice while at the same time carving into the rocks below.

h-ice pedastle support

Looking beneath, we noticed pedestals shaped like elephant legs providing support to shelves above.

h-gb ice castle

Occasionally, we saw crystalline turrets, translucent arches and frozen chandeliers of castles captured in ice.

h-sets of ice feet

Sometimes, it seemed like ballerinas danced on their tippy toes. That’s what water really is, isn’t it–a dance through time with changing tempos along the way?

H-GB

We crossed Great Brook and then paused for a moment as we decided which trail to follow.  We took the road less traveled by. I laughed when Jinny Mae referenced Robert Frost’s poem. My former students don’t read this, but that was one of the poems they had to learn and recite. And my guy–poor soul–knows it through association. Actually, he’s a better soul for that reason.

h-tree owl 2

So you may not see it, but Jinny Mae and I did–an owl hidden in the ash bark. Not a live owl, mind you. Well, that depends on your perspective, I suppose.

h-heal all

Within minutes, we knelt to admire Selfheal or Heal All (Prunella vulgarism) and its hairy calyces.

h-survey sign

We stood by the survey marker sign and realized it had been attached for many years.

h-survey marker

Perhaps 51 years!

h-frullania 1 on red oak

h-frullania 2

On a red oak, we pause to look at the reddish-brown liverwort–Frullania. There’s history in this species–dating to the earliest land plants. No matter how often we see it, and we see it often, we feel privileged.

h-leaves and ice

The trail switches from snow to ice to water and back again. Ice covered leaves draw our appreciation.

h-fnd 1a

In the neighborhood, we pause to check on the local families.

h-fdn 1 chamber

I climb down to the root cellar and discover that the porcupines haven’t visited all winter. Old scat still present in there, but nothing new.

H-Fdn 2

Moving up the colonial road, we come to the second residence.

h-fdn 2 yellow birch on mantel

Atop the mantel grows an old yellow birch. Like any TV screen above the fireplace, it offers an ever-changing display.

h-brook upland

We moved toward Shirley Brook, where we were once again in awe of ice.

h-water and ice1

Water and ice: a relationship in constant flux–at the moment.

h-brook structure

Beside the brook is a stream that’s currently dry. We look edat the snow-covered stonework that crosses over it and realized we need to return and try to figure out what the structure might have been and why it was built here. Stuff like this adds to the intrigue. Man-made. When? Why?

h-spider 3

Poor Jinny Mae. She had to wait for me constantly as I shifted from one lens to the next. But check out this spider.

h-stone piles 1

We are the queens of bushwhacking and love discovering the stories hidden in the woods. In this neighborhood, lots of stone walls tell part of the story. Rock piles enhance the chapters.

h-moose scat 1

And then we found more. Fairly fresh moose scat insisted upon our attention. We’d noted that there were some old snowshoe hare runs and we found some moose browse on a nearby striped maple, but we were surprised that there weren’t many fresh tracks. Where have all the mammals gone?

h-moose scat 2

This scat is some of the biggest moose scat we can recall seeing. A few gems followed me home.

h-lady's slipper

And then we happened upon something neither of us have seen before–at least that we are aware of. We had our ideas about what winter weed this is, but since we haven’t encountered it before our sense of wonder kicked in.

h-lady's slip pod 2

Back home, I looked it up in Weeds and Wildflowers in Winter by Lauren Brown. The capsule is woody and about two inches long. As you can see, it’s closed at both ends, but opens along slit lines–six in all, actually.

h-lady's bract at base of pod

At the back end, a long, curved bract.

 

And at the front, the slipper gone by. Yup–Lady’s Slipper (Cypripedium acaule). And the reason we didn’t recognize it–because it’s a rare find in the winter woods. Wow.

h-bear 1

We’re on our way out when we spotted these marks on beech bark. We’d looked and looked because we know this is bear territory.

h-bear NW

Compared to other bear trees, these claw marks are newer than most I’ve seen. Jinny Mae was as excited about the find as I was. I’d told her earlier as we scanned the trees that my guy has come to an unconfirmed scientific conclusion that bear claw marks appear on the northern side of trees. This one didn’t let us down. Based on the location of the sun that’s grew lower in the sky, these are on the northwestern side of the tree.

At last it was time to drive home.

Gallivant: go from one place to another in the pursuit of pleasure or entertainment. Over five miles and almost five hours later, we were thankful for the opportunity we shared today to gallivant around Great Brook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Community-centered Mondate

While it wasn’t the first Mondate I wrote about, one of our early Mondates in the past year occurred at the Greater Lovell Land Trust property we headed to today–Back Pond Reserve in North Waterford/Stoneham.

m-eagle 1

On our way we were forced to stop by Bear Pond for a regal sight.

m-Ron

And another regal sight along the trail–I’ve given thanks to Ron before and I know I’ll thank him again (RIP Ron) for his foresight in encouraging the greater community to protect the water quality of the Five Kezar ponds by purchasing and placing “The Mountain” area in conservation easement.

m-climbing view

As we climbed through the beech/oak forest, I paused to take a photo. Lo and behold, my camera didn’t work. I was certain I’d charged the battery, but it wouldn’t click. I tried a back-up battery to no avail. Frustration set in, but my guy reminded me that I could always take photos with my phone. I’m not one-hundred percent convinced that I’ve mastered phone photos, but decided it was better than nothing. This meant, however, less time focusing on photos and more time focusing on us. And that got me thinking about time. We were on a bit of a time crunch today, but the more important thing was that we were spending our time together doing what we love doing–hiking and being in each other’s presence. We spend so much time worrying about all that needs to be done and making money to do those things. But really, in the end will that matter? I don’t think so. I think it will be far more important that we learn to appreciate what is around us and figure out how to share that wealth with others. It won’t always have a monetary value attached because as they (whoever they are) say, “Money isn’t everything.” Is money anything? It certainly doesn’t grow on these trees. Or does it?

m-community changes trail conditions

Though there was snow underfoot for most of the beech/oak community as we climbed, under the hemlocks it was a different story.

m-bare summit

And when we reached the summit of The Mountain Trail, nothing but bare ground due to its southwest orientation.

m-summit phone

We sat on a rock and enjoyed the sun while absorbing the view below and beyond. With the  phone I captured the moment.

m-view

And then I pulled out my camera again. Determination is the name of my game. Turns out I’d been wearing mittens as we began and my big muffs must have hit the wrong setting–creating a 10-second time lapse. Had we wanted to pose for a photo we would have been all set but that’s not our style. Hardly a selfie in our photo album. It is curious to notice the difference in color and wider range of the phone photo. But I prefer my Canon.

m-trailing arbutus

Near the summit, trailing arbutus announced its future plans.

m-connector trail

While trail maps show The Mountain Trail and Ron’s Loop, we long ago learned by chance that the two are connected via a trail down the backside. Today we reminisced about the first time we ever traveled this route and how we struggled to find our way. Though it still has its share of obstacles, it’s now much more obvious.

m-no snow under hemlock

The community changed from evergreens to hardwoods with occasional evergreens. And with that, the snow conditions also changed. We paused below this hemlock to admire the subtle transition.

m-hare

And we recalled our delightful experience of observing a hare in this very spot almost a year ago.

m-snowshoe hare scat

Today only tracks and scat alerted us that hares live in the neighborhood.

m-bobcat 1

Hare tracks weren’t the only ones we saw. All along the trail, though not quite as clear, we recognized that a bobcat had made a pass.

m-first bear tree

We also recognize dmarks we’ve previously admired on some old beech trees.

m-bear claw marks.jpg

I could almost feel the claw grasping the bark–both front and hind visible here. But there’s so much more going on with this tree. It hosts a community of visitors from big black bears to minute beech scales that cause the bark to develop cankers around its invasion. And in between–other insects and woodpeckers.

m-bear tree variety of life

It’s a tree of life even as it reaches toward death. Eventually it will fall and we will no longer celebrate its bear claw marks, but as it decays, it will leave a legacy on which these woods depend. The cycle of life. The work within the community.

m-pileated.jpg

Another beech down the trail displayed its form of the same gift.

m-broken bridge crossing

We reached the first of the crossings–this one still on the connector trail that once served as a snowmobile trail. For as long as we’ve traveled this way the bridge we were about to cross has been broken.

m-new bear tree

Though conditions were good, with my camera working again, my journey slowed. My guy accused me of searching for bear trees. And he was right. And I was further rewarded. I found one neither of us recalled seeing before.

m-new bear 2

m-new bear 1a

One foot atop another. Upward mobility in search of sustenance.

m-beech nut 2

It’s here for the taking.

m-yellow birch scales and seeds

At last, we found our way onto Ron’s Loop, where we turned right at the bridge and continued on. The community changed and here we found the fleur de lis and winged seeds of yellow birches settling onto their community of choice–moss upon a boulder.

m-fungi community

Creating a dense bouquet is the violet-toothed polypore community– a reminder that there’s beauty in age.

m-lonely pine

And beauty in singleness.

m-deer browse 2

We’re in the neighborhood where deer browse red maples.

m-raccoon prints

And raccoons venture forth on semi-warm winter nights.

m-raccoon diagonal

We rejoiced in recognizing the alternate-angled pattern of the trail they leave behind.

m-birch polypores

There were always surprises. Birch polypores decorated this paper birch that masked its condition with a healthy appearance.

m-brook

Despite my caution, we made several successful brook crossings.

m-my guy's prints

And I followed my guy to the end of the Earth–well, at least to the end of the trail–though I suspect he knows I’d follow him anywhere. He’s a good guy. Actually, he’s a great guy.

m-map.jpg

We paused at the kiosk to check the map. Imagination is a necessity–no kidding. For this moment you must connect the summit of The Mountain Trail to the far end of Ron’s Loop–thus re-creating the connector trail between the two.

m-5 kezar ponds road

Suddenly we are back on 5 Kezar Ponds Road headed toward our truck.

m-hornets nest

And here we found remnants of another community that is integral in the overall system of life.

As we drove home, we paused again by Bear Pond and the bald eagle didn’t let us down. Though the ice fishermen and women weren’t about today, it knew this community to be prime hunting grounds.

As for us, our hike was quick today because we had our own community efforts to join–he had a Lions Club meeting and I had a Maine Master Naturalist board meeting. We do our best to provide support in any way we can. It’s important to us to be community-centered–even on a Mondate. And by the way–the Lions are always looking for contributions to support their eye-sight programs; and the Maine Master Naturalist Program is still accepting applications for its Tier One course being offered from May-Sept this year in Bridgton, Farmington and Mount Desert Island.

 

 

 

Celebrating a Year of Wonder-filled Wanders

One year ago today I invited you to follow me into the woods. More specifically, I invited you to wander and wonder with me. I had no idea where the path would lead, but that didn’t seem to bother you. Occasionally I got fake lost, as was the case today, but still you read on. And other times I gave you the wrong information, but you quietly corrected me and continued to read. Thank you for your time, curiosity, encouragement and endless wonder. This one is for all of you.

b-woody1Check out this tree that I pass by each time I step into our woodlot. My guy and I were commenting on it just the other day–he tried pushing, but it stood firm. This morning, fresh wood chips indicated that the pileated woodpecker had paid a visit in the last 24 hours.

b-woody tree 2It’s a well-visited tree. What will the woodpeckers do when it finally does fall? Two things. First, they’ll continue to visit it because apparently it’s worthy of such. And second, they’ll find other trees; there are several others just like this.

b-powerlineI was feeling a bit grumpy when I headed out the door, but finding the recent woodpecker works and emerging from the cowpath onto the power line where I was captured by the whitegreenbluegray of the world as I looked toward Mount Washington put a smile on my face. My intention was to walk along the barely used snowmobile trail as far as I could. I wasn’t sure if open water would keep me from reaching the road, which is a couple of miles away, but decided to give it a try.

b-cat following deerJust because that was my plan doesn’t mean that’s what happened. Maybe that’s what I love best about life–learning to live in the moment. This moment revealed the spot where deer sunk into the snow just off the snowmobile trail and a bobcat floated on top.

b-cat following deerSoft snow made for distorted prints. And these prints made for a quick change of plans.

b-cat:voleI turned 180˚ and found more tracks on the other side of the snowmobile trail. And so began today’s journey into the woods. I was feeling proud of myself for backtracking the animal–following where it had come from rather than where it had gone so I wouldn’t cause unnecessary stress. Yet again, I stress out all the mammals because of my constant movement–and so many I don’t see because they hear me coming. Anyway, I followed the bobcat for quite a while, noticing that it continued to follow the deer and even crossed over a couple of vole tunnels that already have their spring appearance. It’s much too warm much too soon.

b-cat-2 printsWhat I discovered is that this mammal was checking out stumps and along the way circled around them. And then it seemed that there might be two because suddenly I was following rather than backtracking. So much for that plan. What I do like is how this photo shows the mammal’s hind foot stepping into the same space the front foot had already packed down–direct registration, just a little off center.

b-cat nurse logIts prints are in the bottom right-hand corner, but then it appeared to walk across the top of this nurse-log. After that, I had to circle around looking for the next set of prints.

b-no snowUnder some of the hemlocks, there was little to no snow. Eventually I lost the bobcat’s trail, which is just as well.

b-widowmaker1I didn’t realize until I looked up that I was still in familiar territory.

b-widowmaker 2I first spotted this widow maker 20+ years ago. It never ceases to amaze me.

b-deep snowI decided that rather than return to the snowmobile trail, I’d continue deeper into the woods. I had an idea of where I’d eventually end up, but if you’ve traveled these woods with me recently (Marita and Dick can vouch for this), you’ll know that the logging operation has thrown me off and not all of my landmarks are still standing. It’s that or they just got up and moved. Anyway, I was lost for about an hour, but continued moving slowly through sometimes deep snow (relatively speaking this winter) and other times puddly conditions. It was a slog to say the least. My friend, Jinny Mae, had warned me about water hidden beneath the snow and I found it. More than once.

b-brit 2I also found other cool stuff. British lichen bearing bright red caps.

b-hemlock yearsA hemlock wound that indicated the last time this land was logged. I counted to 25. That makes sense.

b-hemlock cone:seedsA hemlock cone and seeds on a high spot of snow–not the usual stump, log or branch, but still a high spot. Apparently the red squirrel that had gone to all the work of taking the cone apart to eat the seeds had been scared away. Perhaps it will return, or another, or I’ll be admiring hemlock saplings in a few years.

b-porcupine scatPorcupine scat below another hemlock.

b-porky twigAnd a few snipped off twigs–porcupine style.

b-hemlock debrisA mystery perhaps. I love a mystery. So, scattered on the snow–bits of hemlock bark.

b-hemlock 2aAnd an apparent path up the tree. But . . . look up. This tree is dead. I don’t think this is porky work.

b-hemlock 2Could it be that where the bark is missing a woodpecker has been at work?

b-striped maple browseI found fresh browse on striped maple–that had been previously browsed based on the scars.

b-deer browse red mapleAnd red maple that had received the same treatment.

b-witch hazel browseWitch hazel was not to be overlooked. I think this is the longest deer tag I’ve encountered–to date.

b-scat 2You may not appreciate this, but I couldn’t resist. So . . . to whom does it belong? Either a coyote or bobcat. It’s filled with hair and I’m leaning toward the latter. Of course, I want it to be the latter.

b-doggy bagI, um, brought some home in a doggy bag. Not all of it, mind you, because it is a road sign to others. I’m not sure how they do it, but members of the same family can apparently identify gender, health and availability by such works. And members of other families may read this as a territory marker. There was a copious amount, so it could be that the same or two animals used this spot. Just sayin’.

In case you were wondering, I did find my way out–another three+ hour tour. As I slogged along, I recalled a spot I often returned to for quiet contemplation. I can no longer locate it because so much has changed as this area has been logged for the past three years. But . . . I came to the realization today that I don’t need one spot. Any will do. That being said, I pulled out my camp stool, colored pencils and journal back at my sit spot by the edge of the cowpath.

b-deer run:sit spotIt’s right beside a deer run. In the past two years, the deer visited this spot, but I’ve noticed much more activity this winter. The stone wall is hardly an obstacle. And the junipers–prickly as they are to me, the deer seem to enjoy them.

b-sheep 1One thing I did notice that I don’t understand. The sheep laurel that grows here has recently been browsed.

b-sheep2Deer tracks below it and the nature of the work lead me to believe that the ungulates fed on it. Hmmm . . . I thought that sheep laurel was poisonous to wildlife. But then again, deer are browsers, not staying in one spot long enough to consume a large amount so perhaps it doesn’t affect them if they eat a bit here and there. If you know otherwise, please enlighten me.

b-spring tailsAnother thing–yes, if you look closely at leaves, you’ll find them. These hot chili peppers don’t appear just on the surface of snow. They are snow fleas, aka springtails. With their spring-loaded tails they can catapult themselves an inch or so. We never look for them once the snow melts, but they are still abundant on organic debris. They’re easiest to locate on leaf litter, but also can be seen on soil, lichens, under bark, decaying plant matter, rotting wood and other areas of high moisture as they feed on fungi, pollen, algae or decaying organic matter.

b-pine sap 2Though it was warm under the sun, my fingers were getting cold as I sketched, so I packed up to head home. Back in our woodlot, I decided to follow a deer trail rather than my own. And to them I give thanks. Beside a hemlock tree, pinesap’s woody capsules called out. I’d found some at the start of winter–along the cowpath. And now a second patch. It really does pay to go off my own beaten path.

b-Indian pipe 1While pinesap has several flowers on one stalk, a few feet later and I came upon Indian pipe, which has one flower (now a woody capsule) atop its stalk. Notice how hairy the pinesap is compared to the Indian pipe.

b-goblets 1I’m afraid this photo is a bit fuzzy, but I’m still going to use it because it’s too dark to head out and take another. These cup lichens serve as my pixie goblets to all of you who have stuck with me for this journey–both today’s and the past year. Thank you so much. The year flew by and I’m a better person for this experience. Well, I think I am. What has made this past year so special is the paying attention. The slowing. The recognizing. The questioning. I’ve learned a lot and I trust you’ve learned a wee bit as well. Who knows where the path will lead me next, but I sure hope you are along to wander and wonder.

To you, I raise these goblets!

 

 

Pure Bliss Mondate

It took us a while to get our act together today, but finally we heard the call from the Ledges Trail up Pleasant Mountain. Since it was late morning, we packed a lunch. Very late morning. 11:30 a.m. start.

ledges sign

And a very warm day. February first and the temperature is 53˚ in western Maine. Unreal. The  breeze was downright balmy and more reminiscent of a spring day. Will the ground hog see his shadow tomorrow?

ledges trail 2

Trail conditions varied from mud and soft snow to slush and ice. Not a snowshoe-type of day at all. We haven’t had too many of those lately. Micro-spikes were the right choice.

ledges O 2

Of course, I was still a slow-poke. But that’s okay because as he waited for me along the way, my guy began to notice his surroundings. OOOOh my! He started pointing out the oddities in the beech trees.

ledges beech elbow

This one struck him as an elbow–well, not literally. Popeye’s biceps perhaps.

ledges beech joined in dance

And then there were the two that joined hands in a woodland dance.

ledges wedge 1

We even found a couple kissing a long gone relative.

So what causes a tree to graft? Under the bark is the cambium layer, which consists of living cells. Outside the cambium layer, the cells divide and multiply, thus creating bark tissue. And inside, they create woody tissue. The newest cells act as a two-way system–moving  water and minerals that the roots sucked from the soil up into the tree and carbohydrates made by the leaves down.

In order for two trees to create a union by fusing together they have to be compatible–so a joint fusion occurs within one tree or between two trees of the same or closely related species.

Of course, the tree or limbs have to be in direct contact and under pressure for the cells to naturally graft. A dash of magic also helps.
ledges laughing faceThis woodland spirit laughs at us for gawking at its relatives. But really, it is amazing and worth a wonder.

ledges green leaves

Here and there, leaves litter the trail. But this one stopped me in my tracks. Green leaves? How can that be? Another mystery.

ledges Canada mayflower

Because the snow was melting rapidly, we found bare ground here and there showing off some treasures, like these Canada mayflower leaves. We all know that one person’s junk is someone else’s treasure–so for every person who sees this as a dead leaf, I bet there are as many of us who are fascinated by the design left behind by the vascular system and rejoice in the nutrients the leaves have contributed to the earth as nourishment for future generations.

ledges trailing arbutus

That wasn’t the only find. I’m reminded by this sight that Trailing Arbutus, also known as  Mayflower, has evergreen leaves. If today’s temperature is any indication of what’s to come, it won’t be long for these harbingers of spring to bloom. I’m not ready for that and can only hope that the woodland spirit can pass on the word that more snow would be most welcome.

ledges glacial 2

Glacial striations mark some of the bare rocks. Those glaciers must have been crazy as they retreated–melting and scraping this way and that. 😉

ledges icicle 2

No matter what season we pass by this rock, water drips from it. Today, it’s suspended in a milky icicle.

ledges mossy maple

Mossy maple polypores gathered at the base of this old tree while

ledges toadskin tripe1ledges smooth rock tripeledges toadskin 2

smooth rock tripe and common toadstool lichen decorated the rocks nearby.

ledges mooseledges lunch view

Lunch rock provided us a view of the middle basin of Moose Pond on the left and lower basin on the right.

We stayed just long enough to eat our sandwiches on the ledges. We didn’t have time to head to the summit. On the way down, both of us left plenty of handprints on the trees that grow beside the trail–happy to have their support.

ledges bliss

We had an errand to run in Portland this afternoon, and then it was home again, home again, jiggity jig. Our day was topped off with a supper of blueberry pancakes coated with maple syrup while watching the Beanpot hockey tournament. Thanks to Pam Lord Bliss for the amber treat–this Mondate was truly pure bliss.

The Homecoming

The other day a friend handed me a piece of paper and told me to read it later. We were about to go tracking, so I stuck it into my pack and forgot about it. This afternoon, as I prepared for a hike up Mount Tom in Fryeburg, I found the paper.

I’d originally thought it was an article, but instead, it’s a quote from the October 1967 issue of Yankee. A friend had given it to him and he passed it on to me: “We hunt as much for the memories as for the birds. For the memories, and for the hours afield in the autumn woods where a man can get back, for a while, to remembered realities, to a time and a way of life close to the eternities of the land. It’s hard to explain this to the outlander who never knew such things. He thinks of it as an escape. To us it is more like a homecoming. We live here, of course, but only in the leisure after we’ve done the stint at our jobs do we go out on the hills and up the brooks. There we find the truth of our world, even the truth of ourselves.” ~author unknown.

trail sign

I reflected upon those words as I slipped into my snowshoes at the trail head. I’d made a decision to end one of my freelance writing/editing jobs this week (not Lake Living, which is my all time favorite writing job. Hard to believe the spring issue will mark my tenth anniversary!) and declutter my world.

porky paths stump dump

It will never happen, but certainly the porcupines that inhabit this mountain should consider the same.

stump dumpporcupine den

I had a hunch I’d see evidence of their existence once I got up into the hemlock neighborhood, but a small stump dump early on provided ample den space.

porcupine tracks 1

I didn’t even realize as I climbed toward the summit that I wasn’t taking too many photos. Instead, I was cued into the tracks left behind by two people who had traveled this way before me and the porcupines, deer, hare, coyote, bobcats and little brown things. While the people stuck to the trail, I wandered this way and that as I tried to decipher what I saw–my own zig zag trail reminiscent of those I followed.

logged community, thin trees

I didn’t get lost today, though truly, when I do get fake lost, it’s a time to understand myself better– listening to my inner self sort things out. Most of today’s trail is an old logging road. And most of what I saw was familiar. Perhaps that’s what it’s all about–knowing a place so no matter where you are, you recognize it.

hemlock community

The community changes abruptly from birch, beech and maple saplings to hemlocks and pines. I, too, can change abruptly and have a tendency to be blunt. I don’t see that as a bad thing, though occasionally I do regret what I’ve said.

striped maple scrapes

And then I began to look up and notice other parts of my surroundings like these old deer or moose scrapes on striped maples. Forever scared, they provided nourishment in the past–and may do so in the future when the time is right.

striped maple samaras

One striped maple still sported a few seeds that have yet to go forth in the world. What’s holding them back? Don’t they know the time has come to let go?

frost crack

Amongst the evergreens  a paper birch offered a twist on life. I believe this is the result of sun scald–the heating and freezing of thin bark. Typically, the white reflective bark helps the tree avoid such danger–but something obviously happened to cause this candycane-like stripe..

sun on hemlocks

Though it was getting late in the day, rays of sunshine illuminated the darker side of things.
white oak leaf

As I followed more porcupine tracks at the summit, a dried leaf captured my attention. In my ongoing attempt to draw an imaginary line showing the boundary of white oak, I added another dot.

white, beech, red oak

Nestled within animal tracks, three leaves told me more about the members of this neighborhood–white oak, beech and Northern red oak.

white oak 2 white oak 3 white oak layers

So then I searched for the white oak trees–and found them. My bark eyes still don’t cue into this one immediately and I need to learn its idiosyncrasies, including its ashy gray color and blocky presentation.

bird nest 1 bird nest 2

I discovered a snow-covered nest that made me ask–bird-made or human-made? It’s constructed of reindeer lichen and sits upon a base of sticks about four feet up in a scrubby old oak. I was as excited by the find as I was by my wonder and lack of an answer. What fun would it be to know everything?

summit

From the summit, I could see Pleasant Mountain’s ridge–giving me another sense of home. The view isn’t spectacular, but that isn’t the point.

Kearsarge 2

Heading down, a second old favorite came into view–Kearsarge North. I stopped frequently as I descended–to listen and watch. And smell. Twice, a strong cat-like pee odor tickled my nose. The tracks were there, but I couldn’t find any other bobcat evidence. One of these days.

paper 4 paper birch 1 paper birch 3 paper birch rainbow paper burgundy Paper pastel

A rainbow of color presented itself among the paper birch trees–such variation for what is commonly called white birch.

Mount Tom cabin 1 Mt tom cabin 2

Near the bottom, the Mt Tom cabin speaks to an earlier time when living off this land was the norm. Though I like to think that I could stay here by myself for a week, I’m not so sure. Of course, that would force the issue and surely the truth about myself would be revealed. Maybe it’s best left a mystery. 😉

staghorn sumac1 staghorn red

Before slipping out of my snowshoes, I paused beside the staghorn sumac. It was my height, so I had an opportunity to examine its hairy features closely. Animal from The Muppets must have cloned himself.

Full moon

There was a time when I was easily unnerved being in the woods alone. And I still have moments–especially when a ruffed grouse erupts. Geesh–that can certainly make my heart sound like it’s going to jump out of my body. But, the more time I spend out there, the more time I want to spend out there–exploring, discovering, wondering. This afternoon, I finally followed the full moon home, thankful to find even an inkling of my spirit. I recognize that the word “home” has come to mean more than one place. Our abode is our home, but time in the woods is also a homecoming.

 

 

Snow Be It

The action at the bird feeders was crazy busy this morning–as if a snow storm might be on the horizon.

goldfinch 2

goldfinches, mid air squawk

Some goldfinches managed to dine together in peace, while others displayed a midair squawk over perch choice.

male hairy woodpecker

The hairy woodpecker often had the suet to himself, until, that is, the nuthatches, titmice and chickadees flew in.

female cardinal

And somehow the female cardinal managed to pose upon a perch across from a chickadee. She never looks quite comfortable up high.

male cardinal

cardinal and squirrel

Her guy always checks out the local scene before foraging for seeds on the ground. He’s not the only forager in the neighborhood.

ice rink 2

And beyond the feeders, the ice rink is open. Of course, if you want to use it  you need to bring your own shovel. My days of being the human zamboni ended a few years ago.

raccoon prints

I’d intended to join friends in Falmouth for a tramp today, but with the impending storm, I decided to stick closer to home. And so this afternoon found me exploring familiar grounds, wondering what I might see. What could possibly be different?

Ah, the intrepid raccoon had passed this way. I love the pattern it leaves behind, with each set of prints on the opposite diagonal.

vernal pool 1

And then there’s the vernal pool. Nothing new about that, but at the same time, it’s ever changing.

Queen Anne's Lace 1

The fact that dainty Queen Anne’s Lace is filled with spiky seeds seems almost an oxymoron. A beautiful one.

The snow was just starting to fall when I happened upon the QAL. And so I continued on, crossing the road and disappearing into a familiar place–Pondicherry Park.

ice form 2ice form 3ice formation 1ice rays

With every step, I needed to be mindful of where I placed my foot to avoid slipping. Though I’m weary of ice, I never tire of the formations it manifests.

ash 1 Ash 2ash seeds 3

I’m going out on a limb here, but believe based on the structure of the single winged samara that these are green ash seeds that litter the ground. As the wing surrounding the seed tapers toward the tip, it is straight versus the slight curve seen in a white ash. In addition, the white ash samara is wider than a green ash.

ash leaves 1

And then there is the ash leaf mystery. Leaves still on trees? Ash leaflets are not marcescent so why have these leaves withered and stayed attached to the twigs? Ah, but when some trail management was conducted this past summer, the cut branches that crowded the path were tossed aside. The leaves died then and there, thus not being “cut” off by the tree and falling in a normal manner.

 witch hazel color contrast

contrast beech leaves

Of course, the marcescent leaves of witch hazel and American beech against the blue of Willet Brook provided a display worthy of attention as the snow began to collect.

witch's butter on red pine

Witch hazel isn’t the only witch in the park. Witch’s butter decorates a red pine trunk.

jelly ear fungi

Likewise, witch’s butter isn’t the only fungi. Jelly ears decorate a fallen oak branch.

snag sap

There’s always plenty to wonder about. In this case, a very, very dead snag–leaking sap. How can that be so?

Willet Brook

The ice lining the banks of Willet Brook crinkled and crackled with the flow of the water, adding an eerie sound to the landscape.

mallards

Meanwhile, in Stevens Brook, several pairs of mallards quacked constantly, announcing their presence.

Stevens Brook

The snow increased as I crossed the Bob Dunning Memorial Bridge and

dam

walked past the Stevens Brook dam.

still Christmas 1

At home, it’s still Christmas. Snow be it.

Sunday Surprises

As I headed into my smiling place today, I was certain that I wouldn’t find anything of interest. But this Sunday wander made me realize that the gift of wondering means being open to surprises.

I began my traipse following one of the more recent logging trails where sliding over slash is the name of the game.

slash

I can’t wait for three feet of snow to make this an easier adventure. In the meantime, I made do.

sinking

Some moments I did think I was sinking to China–where my friend Judy Lynne would have to be on the lookout for me.

cinnabar 2

And then pumpkin orange polypores called out, proving slash is good for something. Cinnabar-red Polypore (Pycnoporus cinnabarinus) I do believe. It pays to have Fascinating Fungi by Lawrence Millman in my pack.

cinnabar 3

As is its habit, it was growing on a downed cherry log. I picked one fruit to show the pore surface beside the cap. Millman describes it this way: “Caps are kidney-shaped orange to dull reddish-orange, azonate and covered with warts and wrinkles in age. The pore surface, in the words of mycologist Gary Lincoff, ‘looks as if it had been seared by a hot iron.’ The pores themselves are usually more angular than round.” I had to look up azonate when I got home: without zones or circular bands.

cinnamon 2

Cinnamon fern grew abundantly in this boggy land and as usual, I was drawn to the drama it provides in death.

cinnamon fern

Most of the pinnae or leaflets have fallen to the ground, where their curved forms add texture and interest even as they begin to break down and give back.

British soldiers

Watching over all–a large colony of British soldiers, their red caps ever so bright in this miniature world.

muddy logging road

I reached the main logging road at last. A few weeks ago I thought that the logger had finished his mission, but apparently not. That’s okay, because after I found a bunch of bobcat, coyote and deer prints, I headed back into the woods leaving the muck behind.

pine needles 1

Bunches of white pine needles adorn many of the young hemlock trees–all in keeping with the season.

haircap geometry

And the hair cap moss speaks of starry, starry nights and geometric designs.

pigskin poison puffball

But my best find of all was a total surprise. In fact, I didn’t think it was natural at first. An old baseball or tennis ball that somehow landed in this place where few venture? I touched it and it felt almost leathery. Inside, the duff was powdery. Time to turn to Millman again. I think my ID is correct: Pigskin Poison Puffball aka Earthball (Scleroderma citrinum). WOW! Look at that warty surface. And it was huge compared to other puffballs. My heart was singing. (Fortunately I kept the song in my heart though I was in a place where no one would have heard me!)

wintergreen veil

Eventually I made my way back to the snowmobile trail where I continued to wander for a while. Wintergreen is the plant of choice for this stump garden.

bronze bracken fern

Bracken ferns have turned from green to a light bronze patina. Most have fallen or been knocked over. This one especially appealed to me because it has retained its structure and even portrayed an uplifting spirit.

the ice princess

The past few days have been delightfully, though unusually, warm, but I found some ice. And even an ice ghost.

witch's 2

From ghosts to witches–in the woods, I never know who I’ll happen upon. Witch’s Butter (Tremella mesenterica) is another that stands out amongst the grays and browns of the December landscape.

colors 2

Not all is gray and brown. As I wait for snow, the colors of the season remind me that without its covering, there’s much to enjoy.

grassy trail

droplets on grass

I was about to head down the grassy path that leads to our cowpath, when two things gave me pause. First, the droplets of water that adorned the grass.

meadowsweet gall

And second–this gall on a meadowsweet plant. I’ve passed it numerous times and decided today was the day to try to figure it out. If my guess is wrong, please feel free to correct me. I think this is rose bedeguar gall, aka Robin’s pincushion gall. Meadowsweet is a member of the rose family, so maybe I’m right. Then again . . .

sheep laurel fruit

One last find that I always enjoy looking at–the fruits of sheep laurel extending  below the leaves and reminding me of jingle bells.

home

At last I was home again, thankful for a Sunday wander wonder-filled with surprises.

Giving Thanks

I’ve so many reasons to give thanks and making time to wander, wonder and ask why is high on the list.

With that in mind, I headed to Perky’s Path in Lovell this morning.

perkys path

I love wandering along paths I’ve traveled many times before and making new discoveries.

dam 1

The path has two stream crossings, the first leading into a marsh. As I stood on the trail and looked toward the marsh, my eyes were drawn to a wall of sorts.

dam 2 infinity

I bushwhacked to get a closer look and was in awe. The wall is an old beaver dam that I’d never noticed before. Water trickles over it, but in the world of real estate, it has created an infinity pool. Wow–properties with such pools sell for a high price. Fortunately, this property is protected by the Greater Lovell Land Trust. 

fresh 4

That discovery, however, led to more bushwhacking. Beaver works galore. All along the perimeter of the marsh they’d completed some selective cuts.

fresh beaver root

Even tree roots, like this yellow birch that hugged a slice of granite, were at the mercy of this industrious critter.

fresh beaver works 1

Big or small, it didn’t matter. If it could be felled, it was. Of course, some disappeared–to be added to the lodge, I presumed. I couldn’t see where they’d been taken. Larger trees were left where they’d fallen, but their branches became snacks.

fresh beaver, ironwood

This beaver wasn’t fussy–Red Maple, Beech, Ash, Yellow Birch and Striped Maple all became part of the inventory. But . . . one tree proved its nickname–Hop Hornbeam, aka Ironwood. After an unsuccessful attempt at this hardest of hardwoods, it was left standing. Lucky for the hornbeam.

platform viewplatform 2

Moving along, I paused at the viewing platform to take in the view to the north and south.
sparkles 3The morning sun glistened on newly formed ice creating its own art statement.

ice sparkles 1

Amazing.

selfie

As I sat on the bench and soaked in the sun’s warmth, I wondered about the mysteries before me, the mysteries behind me and the mysteries to my sides. And I gave thanks for the opportunity.

perkys

There was more to see, so I moved on. At the second stream crossing, I looked around for more beaver evidence. Last year there was some, but none this year.

perkys 2

The water was high, however, and so I again began exploring the perimeter of the marsh.

woodpecker

A pileated woodpecker left its sign and lots of chipped wood below, but no scat. Drats.

wintergreen wintergreen berry

Wintergreen grows abundantly in this forest, and so I foraged a few berries. Remember Teaberry gum–this is the source. Both the leaves and berries are the source of the flavor (before it was created artificially). Try one. You’ll like it.

bristies

bristles

And then I came upon a mystery and feel like I should know this, but don’t. At first, I thought it was a mammal’s tail, left behind. But . . . it’s almost woody and quite bristly. (I found some at another property later in the day. ARGH!)

lodge 2

And finally, after wandering along the marsh, I found the lodge.

lodge, Perky's

It’s been recently mudded–well, before the ice formed, that is. A raft of chew sticks appears to the right front–ever-ready snacks.

broken ice

Something caught me eye–chunks of ice on top of the ice near the water’s edge. What happened here?

otter 2

The area leading to the ice was a bit disturbed.

scat 2otter scat 1

Then I realized I was in the presence of not one, but two aquatic mammals. Yes, the beavers may have made a hole in the ice, thus leaving the chunks on top, but someone else has also spent some time here and could be responsible for the disturbed area as well. A river otter. I knew this by the scat deposited on a rock–filled with fish scales. The thing is–otters prey on beavers. So . . . now I have to wonder.

old beaver 2

I left Perky’s Path with questions on my mind. Later in the afternoon, I walked to Pondicherry Park in search of answers but found only more questions. Old beaver works are still evident. Some were made last year at this time when several beavers inhabited this space. As of today, I have not seen any beaver activity here. Why? Where did they go? Did they move away of their own doing, or were they helped? Did a predator get to them–man or mammal?

old parchment

0ld crowded2

As I bushwhacked along the brook, I came across this Red Maple. I can’t remember when it fell, but crowded parchment has since taken up residence. One thing always leads to another.

mallards

Mallards swam about while the vegetation cast late afternoon shadows.

royal fern

Beside the water, a few Royal Ferns still sported their crowns of sporangia, albeit withered.

winterberry

As is its custom, Winterberry has lost its leaves, making the bright red berries all the more showy in the landscape.

crosier

And Cinnamon Ferns are curling into themselves–appearing almost like the crosier form with which they begin life.

changing light, PP

The sun was setting as I headed home, thankful for the time I’d had to wander and wonder.

And thankful for my parents who always encouraged me to ask questions and continue to sit on my shoulder and nudge me today. I’m also thankful that they gave me life all those years ago.

cake

And I’m thankful for my guys, who helped me celebrate when I got home.

Wer-if-est-er-i-a-ing A-long

12074842_10153632630537731_2769008110586363497_n

Thank you to my friend, Judy Lynne, who shared this word with me today. I know I do it, but I didn’t know there was a word for it. And I love that it’s an Old English word–takes me back to college days and my History of the English Language Class where we learned to read in Old and Middle English.

And so it was that today I wandered longingly through the forest in search of mystery with five other naturalists–all MMNP grads who will bring the Master Naturalist course to Bridgton in the spring of 2016.

After a tour of Lake Environmental Association’s Maine Lakes Science Center, we took care of some housekeeping items (coursework) before heading out the door. I made them practically run through Pondicherry Park–well, maybe run is an overstatement, but we moved quickly for us–not much time for werifesteriaing.

It was our afternoon tramp at Holt Pond when we allowed ourselves more time to pause and wonder.

HP snake

As we started down the trail, Beth saw this snake hidden among the leaf litter. It’s the third garter snake I’ve seen this week. The day was overcast and we weren’t sure if he was coiled up because he was cold or if something had attacked him.

HP Muddy River

We stepped onto the boardwalk to view the Muddy River and it almost sank beneath our weight. The water is quite high and I suspect I know why.

HP beaver works

Off to the side, we saw fresh evidence of beaver works.

HP beaver lodge, Muddy River

And in the river, a lodge topped with new sticks. I think the dam down the river has probably been rebuilt.

Looking from this vantage point, the layers of communities are pronounced, with the wetland plants like leatherleaf, sheep laurel and sweet gale growing low by the river, topped by alders and small red maple trees, topped by tamaracks, topped by white pines, hemlocks and Northern red oaks.

HP layers from Muddy River

Similar layers surrounded us with the bright red winterberries forming the creme between two wafers.

HP pitcher 1

As happens each time I pass this way, I am forced to photograph the pitcher plants.

HP pitcher 2, picture

Have you ever noticed the pictures on the hairy inner lip? Do you see what I see? A woodland landscape–trees with extended branches, a layer of colorful foliage and a grassy edge leading to the lake (water in the cup)? I know the hairs and design are important for the attraction of insects, but I never really paid attention to the actual design before.

HP Wooly aphid

We also found more woolly alder aphids, which Joan and Ann held in their hands so everyone could get an unclose look at the squiggly insects. Rather disgusting, yet fascinating.

Holt PondHP north 2

Even a single moment at Holt Pond translates into tranquility. (And I had to channel this moment for Judy Lynne.)

HP bog boardwalk, water

Gordon, Beth and Joan tried to keep their feet dry as we examined the plant life along the quaking bog boardwalk.

HP cranberries

Karen spotted one cranberry and then another, and another, so everyone could sample the tart flavor. Pucker up.

HP owl pellet

Our next fun find–a raptor pellet comprised of hair and bones galore. For the naturalist course, this will come into play.

HP raining leaves 3

Every once in a while, I’d ask if it was raining. It was–beech and oak leaves.

HP old hemlock varnish conk

While we stopped to admire several older hemlock varnish conks, something else caught our attention.

HP mystery bark

Do you know what it is?

HP fur

And then Ann spotted this little tidbit–leftover from someone’s dinner. We still don’t know who ate whom. Or if it was related to our earlier find of the pellet.

What we do know is that we spent a delightful day werifesteriaing along.

HP fun mystery

As for the mystery photo–the inside of hemlock bark. This is the bark that I think of when trying to remember how trees decay–hardwoods rot from the inside out, softwoods rot from the outside in, but hemlock bark often remains. In the 19th century, hemlock bark was used in the tanning process because the tannins found in the bark preserved a hide and prevented natural decay while giving it a brown hue. At the same time, the tannin left the leather flexible and durable.

Here’s hoping you’ll have the opportunity to wander longingly in search of mystery.

Questions To Be Asked

A friend and I drove to Evans Notch today with the mission of exploring a trail that was new to us. The Leach Link Trail connects Stone House Road to the Deer Hill trail system.

IMG_1338

We started at Stone House Road and turned back at the Cold River Dam. Not a long trail, certainly. And rather flat for the most part. Despite that . . . it took us four hours to cover 2.4 miles. You might say we stopped frequently.

There was a lot to see along this enchanted path. And questions to be asked.

CB 2

We walked beside the Cold River as we passed through hemlock groves and mixed hardwoods covered with a myriad of mosses and liverworts.

lungwort

Because it had rained last night, Lungwort, an indicator of rich, unpolluted areas, stood out among the tree necklaces. Why does it turn green when wet?

water strider

The shadow of the water strider tells its story. To our eyes, it looks like their actual feet are tiny and insignificant. What we can’t see is the  fuzzy little hairs that both repel water and trap tiny air bubbles, thus allowing them to float or skate along the water’s surface. But still, why is the foot shadow so big while the body shadow is more relative to the strider’s size? Is it the movement of the foot against the water that creates the shadow?

bobcat

While the river was to our right on the way to the dam, we noted ledges on the left. Prime habitat for the maker of this print: bobcat. You might be able to see nail marks in front of the toes. We always say that cats retract their nails, but in mud like this, traction helps.

bobcat & coyote

A little further along we discovered the bobcat was still traveling in the same direction and a coyote was headed the opposite way. What were they seeking? What was the difference in time of their passing?

CR4

Periodically, we slipped off the trail to explore beside the river.

WH 3

Ribbony witchhazel blossoms brightened our day–not that it was dark.

grasshopper 1

We weren’t the only ones taking a closer look at hobblebush.

hobblebush berries

As its leaves begin to change from green to plum, the berries mature and transform from red to dark blue. Will they get eaten before they all shrivel? We think they’ll be consumed by birds and mammals.

doll's eye

Most of the “doll’s eye” fruit is missing from this white baneberry. The archaic definition of “bane” is something, typically poison, that causes death. I’ve read that  ingesting the berries can bring on symptoms such as stomach cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, delirium and circulatory failure. Think: respiratory distress and cardiac arrest. YIKES. So what may have eaten these little white eyeballs? Wildlife may browse it, but it’s said to be quite unpalatable and low in nutrition. Interestingly, birds are unaffected by its toxic qualities.

Indian Cucumber root

Berry season is important to migrating birds. The purplish black berries of Indian Cucumber-root are only consumed by birds. Other animals, however, prefer the stem and cucumberish-flavored root of this double decker plant. Why does the center of the upper whorl of leaves turn red? Is this an advertisement for birds?

state line

Soon, well, not all that soon, we arrived at the state line and passed onto Upper Saco Valley Land Trust property.

dam 3

And then we came upon the dam.

dam 2

It was the perfect day to sit on the rocks and eat a peanut butter and jam sandwich–with butter.

 tree face

As we walked back toward Stone House Road, we realized we were being watched. Perhaps this tree muse has all the answers.

Thanks to P.K. for a delightful wander and a chance to wonder together.

Renewing the spirit

My guy and I drove to the central Maine town of Madison this morning to join Master Naturalist Kate Drummond on a walk that combined the natural and historical context of a trail beside the Kennebec River.

The Pines

The Pines, as this area is aptly named, once served as an Abenaki settlement.

Kate D

Kate began by sharing the history of Father Sebastien Rasle, who lived among the Abenakis, learned their language and converted them to Catholicism. For more than thirty years in the late 17th/early 18th century, he served as a Jesuit missionary and built at church here. Father Rasle educated the children and developed a dictionary of the native language. He also helped keep the English at bay when they tried to encroach upon Indian lands–until that fatal day–August 23, 1724.

While Father Rasle had earned the respect of the Abenakis, the English militia was wary of him. They combined forces with the Mohawk Indians to destroy the village and killed at least 80 Abenakis and Father Rasle 300 years ago today.

And so it was that Kate chose to honor Father Rasle and the Indians he lived amongst by sharing the trail with local townspeople (and us–from two hours away) to tell his story and recognize the natural elements that were a part of their daily life.

Kate is a high school chemistry teacher, so captivating her audience is a part of her makeup. To begin, she asked us to stand still for a minute and listen, look, be in the moment. After we shared our observations, she took us back in time, to imagine what the area looked like three hundred years ago.

matching cards to cool facts

matching cards

And then our real work began. We were given a set of cards and had to match the photos to the card listing cool facts about a particular species. Thankfully, there was no quiz at the end, but I suspect this group would have passed with flying colors–everyone was equally engaged.

We found some cool finds along the way:

acorn plum gall

Our first was a mystery. This speckled red ball, about the size of a jawbreaker, had us puzzled. We found several on the ground beneath Northern red oaks and Eastern white pines. Cutting one open, it looked rather fleshy and we could see what appeared to be an insect, but we still weren’t sure. And when we later found an empty acorn apple gall, we realized it was the same size. Well, a quick Google search for “large speckled red ball beneath oak” revealed acorn plum gall. It’s the home of a wasp species that uses this as a nursery. The grub slowly eats the gall’s tissue and metamorphs into a pupa before changing into a small wasp that eats its way out through a hole. This particular gall grows at the base of the acorn cup.

red and sugar maple leaves

A red maple and a sugar maple stood side by side, making for a lesson on leaf id. Red on the left, sugar on the right. Red–more teeth, or as Kate said, R=rough. Sugar–a U between the lobes, and as Kate said, Sugar has a U in it. It’s their sap that the Abenakis knew.

beaver works

Though we didn’t see any fresh sign of beaver activity, we knew by this statue that they’ve been here in the past. I love that those who actually cut the rest of the tree down to prevent it from falling across the path, had the foresight to leave the beaver works for all to see. The beavers were important to the Abenakis for a variety of reasons, including as food, tools and warmth.

basswood leaf

The asymmetrical base of the basswood tree makes it easy to identify. It was the bark, though, that was of prime importance all those centuries ago–the stringy fibers were used to make line or rope.

jer art 1

In bloom were the Jerusalem artichokes. In Notes on a Lost Flute: A Field Guide to the Wabanaki, author Kerry Hardy writes, “Peeking out of the woods at Old Norridgewock are Jerusalem artichokes, the penak [ground nut]of the Abenakis who lived here.  I believe these plants must be descendants of those grown here centuries ago.” How cool is that? The plants tubers are edible.

jersaleum artichoke

On this day of reflection, remembrance and revelation, they shown brilliantly, perhaps a sign that reconciliation is possible.

Kennebec River 2

We spent some time beside the Kennebec where eels and alewives were important food sources.

immature bald eagle and nest

And an immature bald eagle let us know of his presence. He’s in the oak on the right, while his nest is toward the top of the pine on the left.

FR monument 1

FR mon 2

FR school

It is Kate’s hope that more people will want to learn about the history of this place. Kudos to her for embarking on renewing its spirit.

A World in Miniature

trail

I feel my dad’s presence when I enter a forest where mosses carpet the damp  floor and blanket once exposed rocks and tree trunks. To dad, this was home to the faeries or fair folk. Indeed, it is.

desk top 2

Yesterday, I took a closer look. With hand lenses, a field microscope and a copy of the Princeton Field Guides: Common Mosses of the Northeast and Appalachians,  friends and I set out to identify a few common species.

Mosses (and liverworts) are bryophytes, bryon being Greek for moss and photon for plant.

A sea of green surrounds us. Moss green. OK, so what does that mean exactly? Each species has its own shade of green and even still, several variations of that shade.

fern moss

Above is a fern moss, with its fern-like leaves and yellowish-green hue. What would its name be on a paint chip? Below, you can see its brown spore-bearing, pointed capsules born on a wiry stalks sticking out from the side of a tree stump.

fern moss spore capsules

If you look closely, you’ll see something else on this old stump.

liverwort

Green worms. Zillions of them writhing about. Such is the illusion created by thin overlapping leaves that curl under along the outer sides–giving them a 3-D appearance. This is a liverwort–three-lobed Bazzania or Bazzania trilobita.

mystery fern mat

Nearby, another mat caught our attention. It reminded us of one we’d seen earlier, but we needed to spend time with it.

mystery fern moss 3

We knew by its structure that it was another fern moss species–but which one? The red stem stood out to me as the missing link. It became our mystery moss for the time being, but I think I’ve figured it out. Pleurozium schreberi or red-stemmed moss. I also found it as Phoenix feather moss. And big red stem moss. Yeah, I know–that’s why I should learn the Latin. Ah, Mr. Cretella, you are still sitting on my shoulder trying to get me to stop using Spanish words to fill in the answers on Latin quizzes.

spag 3

We discovered springy, wet sphagnum moss. I always think of it as being in a more bog-like setting, but it is quite damp here.

pincushion moss

One of the common species that grows in small, easy to see mounds scattered about the area, pincushion moss. To some, it resembles a sea urchin. Using our hand lenses, we looked for air bubbles that are supposed to be visible at the base, but mostly we saw tears welled up in our eyes from laughing.

desk top display

After three hours, it was time to pack up the items on our our tree stump desk and head out. We’d only walked .2 of a mile down the trail, so it wasn’t a long haul out.

wood frog

Movement made us pause. Not a faerie, but a large masked wood frog who wanted us to think he wasn’t there.

bobcat and haircap

Someone else had previously passed by. We’d seen tracks on the way in and knew what it was, but I waited till the end to photograph this bobcat print. Do you see it in the mud? And the hair cap moss above it and to the right?

Acro moss

I’d sketched this previously. Looking at it now reminds me that we reviewed the three basic growth forms of mosses and found examples of all three in this little space–acrocarp, pleurocarp and peat moss.

Acrocarp–simple or sparsely forked stems typically grow in upright position. (pincushion, haircap)

Pleurocarp–stems typically trail along the ground and feature opposite branches. (fern mosses)

Peat moss–stems stand upright; often have mop-like or pom-pom heads. (sphagnum)

I’m thankful for friends who love to learn (P & B K. and D.S.). We hardly scratched the surface. I can’t wait to spend more time among this miniature world beneath our feet.

Through Rose-Colored Glasses

Beaver works was the name of my first adventure today. Last fall, some of the Greater Lovell Land Trust’s docents and I walked along the trail of this private property and saw the beaver trees, dams, ponds and lodges. But today, I felt like I was stepping into a completely different territory.

This week, thanks to the generosity of the landowners, we have a walked planned on the same property and someone has been rather busy–cutting off the path with a fallen tree and a flooded pond. With today’s pre-hike we have a sense of what to expect.

beaver path

You know they are busy when you see their well-traveled path

beaver 2and downed trees.

beaver tree

Or those that have been girdled but have yet to fall.

beaver dam

This old dam is quite large and no longer productive–you can see that the pond it once held is diminished to a small stream. The vegetation on top provides another sign of inactivity.

web in raccoon print

Inactive on the part of a beaver perhaps, but someone else passed by and left a baby-hand type print in the mud recently–or sorta recently.

beaver works--walk around

The beavers moved on and changed things up elsewhere–one needs wellies in order to follow the straight line. We chose to go around.

beaver pond

In the process, we got to see another beaver pond. They’re everywhere!

The landscape is constantly evolving. I used to think it took a hundred years for a forest to change–that belief founded on what a junior high school science teacher said. I now know a wee bit more–it’s all in a state of constant flux. I think the same can be said for us–growing and changing with the years–physically, mentally, emotionally, socially and spiritually.

Off my soapbox–There are other fun things to see along this particular trail. I’ll only mention one–some bear sign. And yesterday morning, while placing a land trust sign on Route 5, I watched a young black bear cross the road–less than a mile from this trail and in a seemingly straight line with what we found today. I know that because of my X-Ray vision. (Disclaimer–what we found wasn’t created by the bear yesterday, but it shows evidence of a bear’s presence. Then again, there’s lots of bear sign in these woods.)

My guy was working and it’s been a while since I’ve gone on a solo trek, so I decided to journey on at another GLLT property–Flat Hill and Perky’s Path.

red-purple trail

I was on the purple trail to begin and surrounded by hues of green.

red maple stems 2

So shades of red like the stems of red maple leaves became my focus. They were subtle, but I was surprised with how many examples I found.

red oak

The salmon-colored inner bark of northern red oak.

red striped maple

Striped maple leaf stems.

red sarsapirilla

Wild sarsaparilla leaves.

red pinkish mushroom

A Rusulla, I think.

red squirrel sign

The kitchen table of a red squirrel.

red pine bark

Sandstone-patterned red pine bark.

red wintergreen berry

Wintergreen berry  and

red-partridge berry

partridgeberry.

Flat Hill view

Not red at this moment, but home to many a red sunset, the view from the summit of Flat Hill. Don’t you love an oxymoron?

orange trail

Following the orange trail of Perky’s Path provided more shades of red.

red bunchberry, starflower leaves

A whorl of starflower leaves and bunchberry fruits.

red maple leaf on ground

A single red maple leaf.

red trillium 3

The fruit of a trillium.

red hobblebush

And hobblebush leaves and fruit.

red-mushrooms emerging

More Russulas emerge, displaying their red caps.

Steeplebush

And finally, a pink steeplebush.

Though my eyes were fixated on red, I did see a few other things.

yellow mushroom

A yellow Russula. (Hope my partial ID is at least partially correct.)

bird's nest

A leaf and twig bird nest tucked against the tree trunk. Surely, someone can help me ID the creator of this masterpiece.

Indian Cucumber root

And the world’s largest Indian cucumber root. Soon those berries will turn red.

I thoroughly enjoyed today’s wander through rose-colored glasses. Thanks for coming along.

Summer Fly By

It’s the height of summer. I love every season, but wish I could slow this one down and spend more time soaking in all that it has to offer. This week alone is flying by.

mystery stones

My offerings are a mishmash of what I saw and did during the week, beginning with the mystery stones on the backside of Amos Mountain at the Heald and Bradley Ponds Reserve in Lovell.

me mystery stones 2

My friend, Jinny Mae, would love this mystery, so I’m going to ask her what she thinks this is all about. It’s a huge structure and I hope some people will want to check it out with me this Saturday during the Family Fun Day–A Celebration of People, Place and Nature hosted by the Greater Lovell Land Trust.

me mystery structure and mystery legs

There’s one more mystery in this photo–four legs. Do you see them?

trail signs

I continued on to the Wilson Wing Moose Pond Bog Preserve to make some tweaks along the newly installed self-guided nature tour beside Sucker Brook.

Shout out to docent Linda Wurm for all the work that went into re-creating and installing the signs. Warning to the wise: Do not hire the two of us for any house renovations. We discovered talents we don’t possess. A humbling experience.

me hobblebush fruit

One of my favorite plants along this trail–hobblebush showing off its fruits.

me hobblebush

And letting us know that times are a-changing. Say it isn’t so–it’s too early for fall colors. I only found it on this one shrub. Phew.

Indian pipe

A docent tramp at the Chip Stockford Reserve on Tuesday took a wee bit more than the usual three hours. The loop trail is only about a mile long, but we’re passionate about checking everything out. The parasitic plants were in full bloom, like this Indian Pipe,

pine sap

yellow-flowered pine-sap, and

squaw-root

squaw-root. Kind of looks like corn on the cob, doesn’t it? Or a pine cone?

painted turtle

Yesterday, I joined the Lovell Recreation Program for the grand finale to our land trust nature program–a field trip to the Maine Wildlife Park in Gray. Though it can be disconcerting to see wild animals caged, these are here for some reason–and they give us an opportunity to see animals that surround us but are elusive.

me brook trout

What were the kids’ favorites? The turtles and brook trout. Feeding the brook trout especially.

me jf houseme jf house 2

Last night, Brian Fox and Heidi Dikeman, grandchildren of John Fox, hosted a talk for the GLLT about their grandfather and his Yankee ingenuity.  This was John’s house–at the southern end of Heald Pond. Though they thought it funny that I entitled the talk “The Legendary John Fox,” I think it became more apparent as the evening wore on and the stories unfolded that he was indeed a legend in these parts. A magical evening for many who attended.

me dam

We returned today to learn more about the mill by John’s house. Another shout out–this time to docent Bob Winship, who shared his knowledge of dams with a large crowd. The rocks–a contrast of age and history.

me beech fern

A third shout out to docent Susan Winship for helping us all learn how to identify ferns, like this beech fern with its lowest leaflets pointing diagonally outward, winged attachment to the mid vein, and growth pattern arching toward the ground.

Pam 2

A final shout out to Pam Katz, who starred in her debut appearance as a docent. 🙂

view from otter rocks

We reached Otter Rocks and looked back toward John Fox’s house.

me sr2

My final stop, though the week isn’t over–the Songo River, which is the connection in the chain of lakes–Long Lake, Brandy Pond and Sebago Lake.

me-variable-leaf

The Songo was the source of a major variable-leaf milfoil infestation that Lakes Environmental Association has been working to eradicate. Notice the red stem? Underwater, it looks similar to our native bladderwort, but that stem is the giveaway.

Songo Lock

Among the heavily infested areas–the basin just below the Songo Lock. Today, it’s part of an LEA success story and I get to share that story in a newspaper article.

bags of milfoil

These mesh onion bags are filled with milfoil handpicked from the river. But . . . this is nothing compared to the past when the milfoil team used the suction harvester and benthic barriers as their major defense. This pile represents a couple of weeks worth of finds and will warrant a trip to the compost pile soon. In previous years they made daily trips to the compost pile.

me classic boats

Before leaving the river, we saw a couple of wooden Chris Crafts travel by–enroute to Naples for this weekend’s Antique and Classic Boat Show on the causeway.

me land trust sign

That being said, come to Lovell on Friday afternoon for Bonny Boatman’s presentation on the Uncommon Common Loon, Friday night for the annual education meeting featuring Geri Vistein, conservation biologist for Project Coyote, and on Saturday for the 2nd annual Family Fun Day. Follow the signs.

Summer may be flying by, but we’ll show you how to get out and enjoy it.

Moosey Mondate

We finally moved to camp yesterday, and awoke early this morning to that hauntingly delightful sound–the cry of the loon.

loon

While I stood on the dock, wishing the pair would come closer, something else caught my attention.

suspendedsusp2

Suspended animation. I couldn’t see the web, but trusted it was there.

Black Mtn

Our Mondate began after we got some chores out of the way. A perfect day to hop in the tandem kayak and head north to Sweden. Thanks to our friends the Neubigs, who purchased the tandem for us years ago. They need to return and use it–just saying.

island shoreline

We love the upper basin because there are so many islands and stumps and inlets and coves and beaver lodges and you name it to explore.

tall weeds

The only thing that drove us crazy was the deer flies. Yeah. So we know insects are important for pollination and to provide food for fish, birds, dragonflies and others. But truly, what purpose do deer flies serve, other than to suck our blood? Mind over matter. Don’t scratch and the swelling will go down eventually. Note–like black flies, it’s the females that bite. I’d say, “Go Girls,” but hardly in this case.

dragonfly

Among the many dragonflies was this blue dasher, a common variety near quiet water. If only he would feast on those darn deer flies.

button bush

The buttonbush seems otherworldly with its pincushion styles protruding from each tubular flower.

spadderdock

The tight, waxy, petal-like sepals of the spatterdock, aka yellow pond lily or cow lily, stands upright above its leaf–featuring a small v-notch

fragrant water lily

On other ponds and lakes, I’ve seen the fragrant water lily in bloom already, but here it is just beginning to open. Its leaves are larger than those of the spatterdock and notched to the center.

pickerel

Pickerelweed is like no other. Though the upside-down heart-shaped leaves are long-stemmed and look similar to arrowhead, once the flower blossoms, there’s no mistaking it.

pick 2

The flowers are worth a second or third look. They grow in spikes along the pond’s edge. And each is covered in hair. Why?

pick 3

Not only that, but each flower is two-lipped. And each lip is three-lobed. And the upper lip has two yellow spots.

sundews 1

The pond was dammed a long time ago and stumps support a variety of life–including the carnivorous sundews beginning to flower.

sundews 2

At first glance, I thought they were the round-leaved variety, but I now think they are spatulate-leaved sundews. Love that name–for the spoon or spatula-shaped leaves that are longer than they are wide.

love is in the air

Love is in the air.

As it should be on a Mondate with my guy well spent on Moose Pond. I bet you thought I was going to post a photo of a moose.

Red Hot Mondate

It’s Monday. Time for a Mondate. But this morning, we each went our separate ways. He to run and then cut some tree limbs in the yard. Me to meet up with a friend and explore a nearby reserve.

whitney pond

I’ve visited this secluded spot three times, all within the last two weeks. And each time I spy something different.

fragrant water lily

The fragrant water lilies are beginning to bloom. They remind me of dainty china teacups.

galls

Near the water’s edge, a pink candy-crystal gall–I’m not sure of the actual name or creator because I’m still trying to identify the shrub. What causes the color?

beaver works

Bushwacking always means great finds like this beaver works. There are several lodges on the pond.

bracken 1

We were surprised to discover that something had been munching on the bracken fern. As ubiquitous as the plant is, we don’t often see that anything has consumed it.

bracken

White-tailed deer are about the only species that can tolerate bracken fern, which can poison some mammals. It produces a chemical thiaminase that prevents cows and sheep from metabolizing thiamine–they get sick and become disoriented. Cornell University’s Department of Animal Science Web site explains it this way: “When ingested, these enzymes split thiamin (Vitamin B1), an important compound in energy metabolism, and render it inactive.”

Here’s the good news about the fern–turned upside down, it makes a great summer hat and may keep mosquitoes off your head as you walk about the woods.

hemlock cones

Petite green cones dangle from the ever graceful hemlock trees.

birds

One last view before we headed back down the long and narrow dirt road–baby phoebes all in a row.

blueberries

At home, I wandered for a few minutes. It won’t be long before we’ll enjoy these.

foxglove

The trumpet-like flowers of digitalis–aka foxgloves. OK, so these are also poisonous to humans, cats and dogs. Yeegads. So beautiful and yet . . .

 lichens

A miniature world on the stone wall deserves a longer visit, with journal and colored pencils involved. I shall return to this spot to sit for a bit.

At last, I joined my guy for our Mondate.

barn 2

We’re painting the barn. Starting on the back side of the attached shed, we’ve primed it and late this afternoon I began using the actual color. You can see how high up I could reach. This isn’t the color the rest of the barn will be–but it’s so close you’ll never know the difference, unless I tell you. Oops, just did.

Yup, this was one red hot Mondate. And it looks like there will be more to come.

Taking In The Views

The Pequawket Indians of Fryeburg, knew the 1,100-foot mountain in Waterford as the mountain that would “tire um out” because climbing its steep side wasn’t easy. Fortunately, a much gentler trail that is only a bit steep at the start, has led to the summit of Mount Tire’m for many moons. And that was my trail of choice this afternoon.

While my guys (and a girlfriend) toiled at the family business, I snuck off to the mountain to enjoy the views.

green

It’s located up the street from the quintessential New England village known around these parts as Waterford Flats. Think white clapboard houses, all of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. And a triangular green. To the right of the sign is the former Lake House, which for many  years was a high-end restaurant and inn. It’s for sale now. And comes with an interesting history–in 1847, it was known as Shattuck’s Hygienic Institution, or “Maine Hygienic Institute for Ladies” and offered a water cure.

Another house on the  green was home to Artemus Ward, pen name of Charles Farrar Browne, a favorite author of Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain’s mentor.

Then there’s the  Waterford Library designed by John Calvin Stevens and his son, John Howard Stevens. And the former town office and meeting hall–ladies sat on one side of the room facing their menfolk during town meetings and were not allowed to vote or even speak. Can you imagine?

church

The Waterford Congregational Church was one of Stevens’ designs.

trail head

It’s easy to miss the nondescript trailhead located up the road from the church.

trail sign

The public path that has traversed the mountain for many years was apparently known as the Old Squire Brown Trail. From what I gather, Daniel Brown owned a large house and farm near Bear Pond–perhaps the Lake House? He was involved in town politics and went on to serve in both houses of state legislature, becoming known as Squire Daniel Brown.

Red trillium

Though the flower is long past, the leaves of Red Trillium reminded me that I need to hike this trail earlier in the spring.

 stonewall

Stonewalls announce that this land was once upon a time used for agriculture.

ash leaves 2

The odd leaf formation of this young ash tree made me stop. It has become host to either a fungus or insects who  are using the leaves as protection while they complete their lifecycle.

ash 2

Another ash has been invaded by mites that cause the raised galls.

challenges along the path

Like most trails, this one provides the rocks and roots that draw my eyes downward, so I pause frequently to look around. It’s just as well that I was alone, because not only was I taking my time, but my mind was so filled with chatter that I doubt I would have heard anyone else speak.

pine needles

On the drive to Waterford, I’d noticed that so many of the white pines are once again suffering from the needle drop fungus. The same was true on the trail. In the newspaper, an article about climate change referred to the needle drop as occurring for only the past several years. Methinks more like ten years. The fungus infests trees during a wet spring, such as we had last year and the resulting defoliation is seen the following year. So–I’m thinking out loud here–though we haven’t seen much rain lately, the needles are dropping because of last year’s infestation. While they look so pitiful right now, within a few weeks, they’ll finish dropping. But . . . do the trees have the energy to survive? And what about next year? Will it be a good year for white pines? And then I think about all the pinecones the trees produced last year–it was certainly a mast year, so maybe it doesn’t affect them to such an extreme. Yeah, this was the sort of chatter I was experiencing.

beech spots

Some beech leaves are displaying their own relationship with a fungus. Where only weeks ago, they were the site of beauty as they opened and their hairiness kept insects and others at bay, they can’t fight off everything. Nor can we.

candy pink insects

Through my hand lens, the bright pink on the Red Maple leaves has a crystal-like formation. It’s actually quite beautiful.

candy pinkcp2

I had no idea what caused this until I looked it up. These are maple velvet erineum galls, also caused by mites. Apparently they won’t harm the tree, so they aren’t considered parasitic. It’s all a wonder to me. If you do find this, take a close look.

spittle on hemlock

Growing up, whenever we saw spit on wildflowers and grasses, we assumed it was from snakes. A rather scientific observation. Do snakes even spit? And a foot off the ground? I’ve since learned that the foamy substance is the work of Spittlebugs. As the nymphs feed in the spring, they excrete undigested sap and pump air into it.

spittle 2

But I didn’t expect to see this on a hemlock. Turns out–there’s a pine Spittlebug that attacks evergreens. More reasons to keep my eyes open.

Keoka Lake and Oxford Hills

Enough about hosts and fungi. It was time to take in the views. About halfway up, Keoka Lake and the Oxford Hills are visible through a cut in the trees.

gnome home

Gnome homes are everywhere.

view

And finally, the summit with Pleasant Mountain in the background.

BP from summit

And Bear Pond and Long Lake below.

the rocks

No visit is complete without a stop at the glacial erratics.

the rocks split

Maybe I shouldn’t use the plural form as it’s obvious this was all one rock

the rocks 2

that split apart.

tr 5

Perhaps there’s more to come.

As the saying goes, “so much to see, so little time.” Thanks for joining me to take in the views.

Observing the Cycle of Life

The Maine Master Naturalist class of 2015 graduated last night and for the second year in a row I had the privilege of helping students focus their eyes and develop a strong foundation about the natural communities of Maine. And now, they are ready to go forth and educate others.

In some ways, the year reminds me of life in a vernal pool.

And at the vernal pool I’ve been visiting on a regular basis since March, the transformation continues. I know I’ve included it in several (probably more than several) posts, but today seems like a good day to reflect upon its life cycle.

VP March 25

March 25: A snow-covered depression with some indecipherable tracks crisscrossing the surface.

VP April 4

April 4: Snow, water and slush. Something caused a disturbance.

VP April 12VP April 12 A

April 12: Freeze and thaw and freeze again, trapping newly fallen beech leaves.

VP April 21

April 21: Three days ago, this was still covered in slush. Suddenly, open water.

VP woodfrog eggs, April 21

April 21: The wood frogs didn’t waste any time.

VP April 24

April 24: More and more egg masses appear–attached to the branches or each other, as is their habit.

VP April 28

April 28: Though most are wood frog, there are some spotted salamander egg masses in the mix. All are taking on the green tinge from the algae with which they have a symbiotic relationship.

VP Predacious, April 28

April 28: Meanwhile, not even bothering to lurk in the shadows, a predaceous diving beetle swims about.

VP frog May 2

May 2: A well camouflaged wood frog still hopes for some action.

 VP wood frog, sally, May 4

May 4: Wood frog egg mass at top; spotted salamanders mass at bottom.

VP Babies May 4

May 4: Tadpoles at last.

Swarm

May 4: With communal living comes warmth.

VP, larvae, May 4

May 4: Mosquito and other larvae flip-flopping around.

VP, drying up, May 5

May 5: A sign that the pool is beginning to dry up–egg masses suspended in midair.

VP, life, May 5

May 5: Meanwhile, in the water, life continues. Tadpoles and others feed on the algae.

VP, May 12

May 12: Due to a lack of rain, the pool size decreases.

VP, lower, May 12

May 12: I can only hope that these blobs are just the remains and that most of the tadpoles have hatched.

VP, May 12, more life

May 12: A peek into the variety of life below the water.

May 14

May 14: Shrinking more and more.

VP, May 14, drying up

May 14: Some masses are left high and dry.

VP, May 14, tadpole:sally

May 14: A tadpole visits the salamander embryos.

VP, May 14, peanuts

May 14: Peanut shells. What? There hasn’t been much evidence of any person or critter visiting the pool . . .  until this.

vp 1

May 28: Almost completely dried up.

wet spot

May 28: The only wet spot left.

tadpoles

May 28: Tadpoles make the most of the wee bit of water.

tadpoles galore

May 28: The wet depression boils with action.

peanuts

May 28: And peanut shells are everywhere in the pool, but only one on the snowmobile trail. Another mystery.

With the end of class, eighteen new master naturalists are heading off into the woods to teach others. I hope the tadpoles have a chance to continue their development so that they, too, can hop away from the pool.

As for the vernal pool–vernal means spring and though spring isn’t over, unless we receive a substantial rainstorm, it has almost completed its cycle of life.

Thanks for wandering and wondering with me today.

When I grow up . . .

I want to be like Ursula, my spritely little German friend who is a naturalist extraordinaire and loves to share her knowledge and stories.

Ursula

Always with a smile.

bridge

I had the pleasure of being in her company today, after an hour of birding in Pondicherry Park,

baltimore oriole

where a Baltimore Oriole serenaded us.

dwarf gensing

On to Holt Pond for Ursula’s wildflower walk hosted by Lakes Environmental Association, as was the bird walk. Looking a bit like a disco ball is the blooming Dwarf Ginseng.

cucumber root

Though it isn’t in bloom yet, I saw lots more Indian Cucumber Root today and have a theory I’m questioning about this plant. I know that if it has only one level of leaves, it doesn’t flower or fruit. It needs that second deck to be productive. I’ve heard people say that when it has the second tier it is a two-year old plant, while the first level is a year old. Is that true? The Canada Mayflower, Bunchberry and Wild Oats all do the same. Does that mean that all the single leaves we see are one and all the doubles are two and none reach age 3? Or is it that some years some of these plants put more energy into producing sugar and thus are able to flower, like trees have mast years? And furthermore, am I making any sense?

blueberries

So many flowers and so many of them white or creamy yellow, like these Highbush Blueberries.

red maple 2

Since we were crossing the Red Maple Swamp, I can’t resist showing their development.

green frog

Along the boardwalk that winds through the swamp, we saw this banjo player–a Green Frog. Some call it a Bronze Frog because more than half its body is bronze. Thus the need for those Latin names–Rana clamitans.

hand 1

My friend, CC, squatted down to catch it.

hand 2

And came away empty-handed. 🙂

cinn 1

Who do you want to be when you grow up?

crosiers 2

I pose the question to these crosiers.

cinn 5

Do you see the fuzzy brown wool coat they wear?

cinn 6

Close up.

cinn 7

Ever so slowly . . .

cinn 8

Their fronds begin to unfurl.

cinn 9

And soon we’ll know them as the Cinnamon Ferns they are becoming.

rainbow

Continuing on, one of our leaders, Mary Jewett of LEA, spotted this rainbow around the sun.

pitcher plant

As is always the case, our heads were bobbing up and down, trying to take in everything there was to see. Pitcher Plants pull us in every time. Well, not literally, thank goodness.

pp seed pod

CC found this old Pitcher Plant seed pod.

qb

We were on the quaking bog, a mass of sphagnum moss, flowering plants, shrubs and decaying vegetation that floats on the water. It looks safe to step onto, but . . . it too, would like to pull us in and preserve us for eternity.

hp

Holt Pond–like all of us, it’s ever changing as it matures.

It’s Ursula’s energy and engaging personality that wow me every time we share moments wandering and wondering. I don’t want to be her, but it would be an honor to emulate her even a tiny bit.