Outing on the Outlet

This morning dawned clear and chilly, with the temperature at 50˚ when I headed toward Lovell at 7:15. After placing some “Land Trust Walk Today” signs in pre-planned positions, I headed to the dam on Harbor Road in Fryeburg to wait for a ride.

u1-outlet dam

Water flowed over the tiered dam, which was built in the early to mid 1900s at the request of the Pepperell Manufacturing Company in Biddeford. The townspeople contested its existence for it would raise the water level on Kezar Lake, but the textile mill located many miles away on the Saco River won the rights to construct such at the site of an 1800s saw & gristmill. Thankfully, though it did raise the level of the lake water, not all of the predicted problems came to pass.

u2-Harbor Road bridge

The dam was our intended take-out for today’s paddle co-sponsored by the Greater Lovell Land Trust and Upper Saco Valley Land Trust. Though it’s located off Harbor Road in Fryeburg, it’s owned by the Town of Lovell. No longer used, it still serves to provide a historic reference. And a great place to either portage and continue on to the Old Course of the Saco River and then the “new” course, or take out as we intended to do.

u5-silver maple

While I waited, I poked around, and rejoiced in the sight of trees that like wet feet. High above the dam, the leaves of a silver maple shown brilliantly in the morning light.

u3-green ash leaves

Other leaves also caught my attention for their coloration–with veins of red interrupting their olive greenness. Green ash, another tree that likes wet feet but isn’t as abundant as its siblings, white and black ash, also stood tall beside the dam.

u7-preparing to launch

My dam-side exploration ended a few minutes later when Jesse Wright of Upper Saco Valley Land Trust and her friend, Shareen, pulled into the landing. We hoisted my kayak onto her already laden truck and found our way over the bumpy road to our intended put-in at a private residence–thanks to the generosity of its owners. Slowly the number of boats increased by the water’s edge as twenty-plus folks joined us.

u6-map by Will from USVLT

Once all had gathered, Jesse showed off the map of our intended paddle, the red dots indicating our path from beginning to end, and I shared a bit of information about the fen, a GLLT property purchased in 2005. Today, the symbolic boundary between the two land trusts disappeared as we ventured off together.

u9d-Linda 1

It takes good neighbors and lake stewards to pull off such an event, and the Wurms are such. They helped us arrange the put-in, gathered a couple of canoes for several paddlers and took photos at the start.

u9a-LInda's view 1

Linda’s view included Jesse heading off as our lead,

u9c-Linda's view 3

and the rainbow of colors once we hit the water.

u8-on the water with Jesse and gang

It took us a wee bit of time to get all the boats onto the lake, but it wasn’t a day made for rushing. And once in the sun, we began to warm up.

u10-send off by Linda

Before we headed off, we gave thanks to Linda (and Remy).

u11-and Heinrich

We also thanked Heinrich, who drew our attention skyward . . .

u12-drone

as he flew a drone above us.

DCIM100MEDIADJI_0056.JPG

Our first destination was to paddle north for the view.

DCIM100MEDIADJI_0061.JPG

The drone spied the mountains before we did.

DCIM100MEDIADJI_0059.JPG

And spotted our intended course . . .

DCIM100MEDIADJI_0067.JPG

into the fen.

u18-veiws from the lake

A quick turn-around from the water gave us bearings as we noted the Baldfaces to the west.

u19-heading toward the fen

We circled an island that serves as an environmental study plot for the US Forest Service and then paddled southward.

u20-Jesse in the lead

Jesse led the way through the pickerelweed.

u21-more mountain views

As we followed, the view got better and better.

u22-slowly we followed

Acting as sweep, I took up the rear while the group snaked along.

u25-early fall color

We followed the twists and turns of the water trail, where red maples showed off their autumn display from the canopy.

u28-red leaf

Occasional leaves fluttered down, begging to be noticed in their singularity.

u-cranberries 1

Though we didn’t get out of our boats and actually walk into the fen, we did stop to chat about what it had to offer. The GLLT owns 260 acres of the 500-acre fen, an acidic ecosystem with a deep layer of organic material including peat moss atop a sandy substrate. Several bird species of concern breed or hunt in the fen, including American bitterns and Sandhill cranes, the latter of which we had the good fortune to hear but not see. Long’s bullrush, a globally rare sedge, also grows here. But the crème de la crème for many are the cranberries. Folks on today’s paddle weren’t familiar with the plant and I couldn’t show them at the time, but I shared with them the experience of picking in the past with students from Molly Ockett Middle School in Fryeburg.

u-cranberries 2

On a fall day each year, about thirty students in the school’s MESA program (Maine Environmental Science Academy–an experiential place-based curriculum for 6-8 grades) visit the fen with the GLLT’s Executive Director, Tom Henderson.

u-cranberries 3

They learn about the hydrology of this place, but one of their highlights is to pick cranberries, and to that end, they become very possessive. As one student approaches another, a common statement is shared: “Don’t come over here. There aren’t any cranberries here.”

u-cranberries 4

Over the course of several hours, they fill their bags and sometimes even show off their creative talents in other ways–all in celebration of the cranberries.

u30-weir1

Continuing along the river this morning, we noted beaver activity and talked about scent mounds and their usefulness within the beaver community. And then we reached the fish screen.  Jesse had paddled the course last Sunday and made it under the screen without any issues.

u31-clearing a beaver dam

Since then, the beavers had been busy damming it up. One of our members worked to adjust some of the branches so we could all get through.

u34-offering a shove

Of course, sometimes a helping paddle was needed to push a boat forward.

u33-cow 2

While we took turns, our efforts didn’t go unnoticed.

u35-other side measurement

On the other side, a ruler indicated depth.

u36-approaching the bridge on Harbor Road

And then, and then, in what seemed like only minutes but was actually a couple of hours filled with camaraderie between familiar friends and new, plus a touch of natural history thrown into the discussion, we found ourselves at the bridge and the end of the journey for some. Others chose to paddle back rather than hitch a ride. We had come full circle.

As we pulled boats out, we were surprised at how warm it was since we were out of the shade, the temp having reached into the 80˚s.

Our outing on the Kezar Lake Outlet would not have been doable without Jesse Wright, who did the yeoman’s work of pulling it together, William Abbott, USVLT’s executive director who created the map, the Wurms and their neighbors who contributed land, boats, photographs and time, and all who ventured with us on this most lovely first full day of autumn.  Thank you all.

 

 

 

Poking Along Beside Stevens Brook

Raincoat? √

Notecards? √

Camera? √

Alanna Doughty? √

This morning I donned my raincoat, slipped my camera strap over my head, and met up with LEA’s Education Director Alanna Doughty for our reconnaissance mission along Stevens Brook in downtown Bridgton. Our plan was to refresh our memories about the mill sites long ago identified and used beside the brook.

Lakes Environmental Association maintains a trail from Highland Lake to Long Lake, which follows Stevens Brook’s twists and turns and passes by twelve power sites originally surveyed by Jacob Stevens in 1766.

s1-5th power site 1

We skipped the first mile of the trail and slipped onto it from the Route 302 entrance by the Black Horse Tavern, knowing that that will be our entry point for a walk we’ll lead with Bridgton Historical Society‘s Executive Director Ned Allen later this month. Alanna suggested I not pull out my notecards, and rather rely on my memory. Oh my.

As we made our way past the old trestle that once carried coal from the Narrow Gauge railroad to the Pondicherry Woolen Mill at the fourth power site (the other three are located between Highland Lake and the 302/117 intersection), we recalled that the now deceased Reg Fadden used to claim he knew the color of dye because as he walked to school each day he noted the color of the water. Scary thought.

At the fifth power site, we went off trail to look around a bit. The water flowed over the rocks with such force that sometimes we couldn’t hear each other.

s2-5th site-Narrow Gauge trestle bridge

Before us was another former trestle spot–this one being part of the track that carried the train across the brook and on toward Harrison as part of a spur from the main line.

s3-5th site, nurse log

In front of it, large trees placed years ago to prevent anyone from crossing the now gone trestle, served as a nursery to many species. But it wasn’t just what grew there that gave us pause–it was also the textures and lines that seemed to reflect the water below.

s-poison ivy 1

As we walked, we looked at the lay of the land and wondered about mill ponds and berms. We also noted the one plant we wanted to avoid–poison ivy.

s-poison ivy 2

It grows in various forms, but the safe thing to know is that the two opposite leaves have short petioles that attach to the main stem, while the third and leading leaf has a longer petiole. As the saying goes, “Leaves of three, leave them be.”

s7-6th site water power

Site number six is one that we’re not sure we’ll share on our public walk. It’s a wee bit of a challenge to get to and was apparently never developed–though we did note the drop and some stonework on the far bank.

s8-blue-stemmed goldenrod 1

Before we stepped onto Smith Avenue for the next site, a goldenrod shouted for attention. We tried to figure out how many rays it had, but as it turns out, that number can vary from three to five. The flowerhead formed a ladder that climbed up the stem and this is one that we should recognize going forth for its display struck us as being different than other goldenrods. We’ll see if we actually do remember it the next time we meet.

s9-7th site, Lower Johnson Falls 1

As is often the case, it took us about an hour to walk a half mile. At last we emerged onto Smith Ave, by Lower Johnson Falls. The curious thing would be to note which was faster–the water or us. I have a feeling the water might win, but perhaps another time we should test that theory.

s11-coffin shop

For a few minutes we watched and listened and took in the view of the only mill still standing. I suspect this building was constructed in the 1860s as a sash and blind factory. Eventually it became the coffin shop, where Lewis Smith, the town’s first undertaker, built furniture and coffins.

s13-8th site, sluiceway different view

For about a tenth of a mile we walked down Kansas Road and then slipped into the woods again. I think this site is my favorite–site 8 and former home of the Forest Woolen Mill. There were actually two Forest Mills, one on either side of the road and connected by an overhead walkway.

s15-8th site, sluice way from above 2

Today it was the sluiceway that drew most of our attention. First we looked down.

s12-8th site, sluiceway1

And then we climbed down–paying attention to stones, bricks, cement and rebar, all necessary to build a foundation that still stands today.

s17-piece dangling

Well, most of it still stands. We were awed by a piece that appeared to dangle at the edge of the sluiceway.

s16-tree root in sluiceway

And a root that wound its way around the same cement stanchion . . .

s14-hemlock atop cement

which happened to provide the perfect growing conditions for a hemlock.

s18-false Solomon's-seal berries

Crossing Kansas Road again, we ventured on. In a section under the current power lines we found flowers a many. The fruits of the false Solomon’s-seal looked like miniature strawberry and cherry-vanilla candies.

s19-winterberries

As we stepped onto a boardwalk across a wet area, winterberries glowed red and reminded us that the cold season isn’t all that far off.

s20-virgin's bower fruit, feathery plumes

It was there that we spied the feathery-fruited plumes of virgin’s bower,

s21-red-stemmed dogwood

red-osier dogwood berries,

s24-cat-in-nine-tails

and cat-in-nine-tails.

s22-cardinal flower

But our favorites: a cardinal flower still in bloom and . . .

s23-Northern beggar-ticks

northern beggars-tick.

s28-10th site, CMP above

We passed by the tenth power site, knowing we’d return to it on our way back. Instead, we stood below and looked up at the water flowing over the improved dam.

s27-water below 10th site

It was in this section that the brook dropped 25-30 feet and created the greatest power at one time. It was also here that the eleventh site was located and where a penstock once provided a way to get water to a powerhouse in order to furnish local homes with electricity.

s31-Alanna laughing by skunk cabbage

For us, it was a place to make more discoveries and share a laugh as we looked at the huge leaves of skunk cabbage.

s32-first witch hazel bloom

We also spied the first witch hazel flower of the season . . .

s33-maple-leaf viburnum

and a maple-leaved viburnum showing off its subtle fall colors.

s34-milkweed pods

In a spot just above the Central Maine Power substation, we found a garden of wildflowers including milkweed seed pods and . . .

s37-New England aster 2

New England asters offering a deep shade of purple.

s27-chicken of the woods

We also found some chicken of the woods.

s38-honey mushrooms?

And fruiting on the same stump, what I think was honey mushrooms (Armillaria mellea). I know a few fungi experts who occasionally read this, so I know they’ll correct me if I’m wrong with my ID.

s39-Stevens Brook outlet into Long Lake

The second half mile took us just as long as the first, and at last we reached the outlet into Long Lake.

s40-10th site, CMP dam

And then we made our way back, crossing over the bridge at power site 10, which was possibly the spot where Jacob Stevens, for whom the brook was named, built the first sawmill in 1768. We do know that in 1896, the Bridgton Water and Electric Company acquired the site and improved the dam. Eventually it passed on to the Western Maine Power Company and then Central Maine Power. In 1955, it was transferred to the Bridgton Water District. Through all the time, we could only imagine how the reflections changed.

s42-milkweed tussock moth caterpillar

To save time, we decided to walk along Lower Main Street as we made our way back. And to that end, our discoveries continued, for on a milkweed, Alanna first saw the chewed leaf and knew to look for the milkweed tussock moth caterpillar that was filling its belly.

s43-common snowberry

We also saw what I’ve always referred to as popcorn shrub because it reminds me of such, especially when I’m hungry for lunch. But really, it’s common snowberry. And not edible.

s46-northern white cedar bark

And then we found a tree that I didn’t know grew there–and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run or walked by it: a northern white cedar with its scraggly striped bark.

s44-Northern white cedar 1

As much as the bark, I like the overlapping scale-like blue-green leaves.

All in all, our one mile journey took us just over two hours and we did recall some of the info about the mills without referring to my notecards. But what was even more fun was our wonder and awe as we made new discoveries while poking along beside Stevens Brook.

If you care to join us, the talk by historian Sue Black will be on Wed, September 27 from 5-7pm at LEA’s Maine Lake Science Center and the walk will be the next morning from 9-11. We’ll meet at Bridgton Historical Society on Gibbs Avenue for that. Be sure to register for either or both by contacting Alanna at the following address: alanna@leamaine.org.

 

Falling Toward Autumn

It’s another nine days until the autumnal equinox, that time of year when the shift from sultry summer weather gives way to the crispness we all love about fall. But . . .  over the past few weeks we’ve been on the cusp. Warm days, some a little less warm than others, and cool nights, some a wee bit cooler. And with the change in temp comes a change in coloration of the world around us.

o-morning view 4

And so this morning as Marita and I approached Overset Mountain in Greenwood, our fancy was tickled by the tapestry reflected on Hicks Pond.

o-boulder in river

At last we reached the trailhead we were seeking, and first hiked beside Sanborn River, where the flow of the water added a voice to the display.

o-jack in pulpit fruit

On one small rocky outgrowth I spied something red and we quickly realized it was a lonely jack-in-the-pulpit in fruit form.

o-following marita

After a little more than a mile, the trail we chose to climb Overset Mountain turned right, away from the river and soon we passed under a power line, where energy hummed in a manner we couldn’t hear above. From our waists to our feet, however, the pollinators buzzed.

o-aster gone to seed

While many flowers were still in full bloom, a few, like this aster, were ready to send their young forth on individual parachutes.

o-Indian cucumber 2

Others also shared their colorful youth-filled fruits, including Indian cucumber root,

o-hobblebush

hobblebush,

o-bluebead lily

blue bead lily,

o-witherod berries

witherod,

o-maple-leaf viburnum

and maple-leaf viburnum.

o-overset pond and mountain

At last we reached Overset Pond, its water as calm as could be while it clearly reflected the sky and mountain we were soon to climb. Here and there, touches of color peeked out among so much green.

o-overset cliff

As we circled the pond, our voices echoed off the cliff above–our destination. We were going to climb up the rock face . . .

o-marita just before summit

but decided we’d take our time and hike up the trail instead. (And if you believe we would have attempted that cliff, think again.) We’d describe the hike as a moderate climb to the summit. The terrain changed with the natural communities, so while we’d been on soft duff beside the river, we encountered some granite, including steps, on our skyward leg of the journey.

o-approaching the summit

About an hour and a half after starting, we reached the view point, where lunch was served–BYOB style, of course.

o-Noyes Mountain

To our left, we recalled a recent climb up Noyes Mountain.

o-tapestry begins

To the right, a colorful tapestry that changes daily.

o-heart-shaped overset pond1

And below us, Overset Pond, which appeared heart-shaped from this vantage point.

After lunch, we continued on the loop trail, paying attention for a ground nest we’d been forewarned about. Thankfully, we spied it before the bees spied us and were able to bushwhack around to avoid being stung. We continued on and finished up the mountain hike, then decided to also follow the Sanborn River Loop, thus covering about seven miles by the time we were done.

o-blood milkwort

And near where we’d parked I spotted some flowers I met for the first time the other day–purple milkwort. It’s always that way–meet something for the first time and then realize it’s everywhere. In this setting the milkwort added its own variation to the start of the fall tapestry.

I love all seasons and the in-betweens as well. That being said, it’s always hard to give one up for the next. But I guess that’s the job of the in-betweens–to help us transition. Right now, I’m falling toward autumn.

 

 

 

From the Bonny Banks to the Highlands

It had been ten years since we were last in Scotland. With our tween sons in tow, we had rented a house in Duns for a week as we toured the Scottish Borders and Edinburgh. But it was to the Highlands that I really wanted to return and so when an opportunity arose for us to do such, we hesitated for a wee bit and then embraced the invite.

After landing in Edinburgh quite early on September 1, we walked to the car rental, debated size, upgraded our choice, and in true Hyacinth and Richard style (BBC’s “Keeping Up Appearances”), drove off on the wrong side of the road—that being to the left of the center line.

s-ll in morning light (1)

Our first destination was Loch Lomond. Upon reaching the loch and locating our weekend stay, we were several hours too early and so decided to drive north—oh my.

s-tight squeeze 1 (1)

An exhausted driver in a rental car, and a tight squeeze between a retaining wall and lorries aren’t necessarily a good mix. Especially if you are Hyacinth. I constantly encouraged Richard to slow down with a flap of my hand while I muttered under my breath. Lucky for me, he didn’t come completely to a halt and make me walk. What surprised us both was that we were on the A82, a main road between Tarbet and Crianlarich. It hardly felt like a main road. With no other option for our return, we squeezed our way south as we finally headed to our place of rest.

s-Castle Steadings 1

Through Airbnb, we’d rented the Wee Wing at Castle Steadings in Arden, a most delightful spot.

s-starlilies

I knew we’d chosen correctly when I spied the star lilies in bloom by the front door, for my wedding bouquet 27 years ago had included these beauties.

s-breakfast spot

A mini-suite it was, with a large foyer, bathroom, bedroom with sitting area and private outdoor patio.

s-Balloch river 1

After a shower, which woke us up (sort of), we again hopped into the van and drove five minutes down the road to Balloch, a small tourist town at the River Leven outlet of Loch Lomond. It was there that we first walked along some trails beside the loch and then made our way to the pub at The Balloch House (a recommendation of our hostess, Amanda). Hans Christian Anderson had visited the hotel in 1847. What impressed us most about the cozy pub was the fact that dogs were welcome—and well behaved. We chatted with a couple at the next table, ate an early dinner of fish and chips for my guy and a burger for me, and then our heads began to bob and we knew we needed to return to the Wee Wing.

s-Loch Lomond in morning

Sleep greeted us quickly and in a flash morning dawned. My guy headed off for a run beside the loch, while I walked. The mountains were obscured by the clouds, but slowly they lifted.

s-breakfast at Steadings

Back at the Wee Wing, we again knew we were in the right place when each morning breakfast mysteriously appeared behind a curtain in the foyer. Fresh strawberries, yoghurt, croissants and muffins—we filled our bellies, skipped lunch and didn’t need to dine again until later. Blueberry muffins the first morning and chocolate the second, both fresh and delicious.

s-C Hill trail marker

Our plan for Saturday was to hike in the Trossachs National Park and so off we went in search of a trail. Much to our surprise, the park office in Balloch was closed, but we ventured into Tesco, where a young man suggested we drive toward Balhama.

s-view of C Hill from island

At last we found what we were looking for and began our ascent up Conic Hill.

s-hiking up C Hill

It was a pilgrimage of sorts for so many were the people. All ages, all abilities, and all nationalities shared the trail.

s-loch lomond fault display (1)

Conic Hill features a sharp summit along the Highland Boundary Fault, a division between the Lowlands and the Highlands as demonstrated by this model. The fault traverses from Helensburgh on the Southwest coast to Stonehaven in the Northeast. To the north, the stone is hard, impervious schist, while to the south it is permeable sandstone, which is softer and offers good drainage.

s-Loch Lomond below

The last leg of the journey was a bit of a scramble, but everyone offered suggestions and we agreed that staying close to the edge was the right choice. The view was well worth the effort. We’d learned from a park ranger that it was from this summit that postcard photos are taken—no wonder.

s-C Hill from harbor

Once we’d climbed down, we made our way to the small boat yard where we looked up to the summit.

s-SS Margaret

And then we boarded the SS Margaret for a five minute journey to Inchcailloch, also part of the national park. There are twenty-two islands on the loch and their names were all coined originally in Gaelic. “Innis,” now anglicized to “inch,” means island. The name, Inchcailloch, can be defined as Island of the Cowled Woman for Saint Kentigerna supposedly set up a nunnery here and was buried on the island in 734 AD.

s-summit view 5

In an hour and a half, we took the high road first and climbed to the summit trail to take in another view of the bonny loch from Tom na Nigheanan or Hill of the Daughter.

s-island cemetery 1 (1)

And then we followed the low road, stopping at the foundation of the parish’s first stone church built in the 13th century and its adjacent cemetery. Apparently, folks were lucky to be buried for we read that in “a late 18th century account of a burial on Inchcailloch, the Highlanders are reported as having drunk so much whisky that they nearly forgot to bury the body.”

s-Tom Weir

Back on the mainland, our hiking continued and we explored one more trail before finishing up for the day. Then we paid homage to the man responsible for all the trails we’d traveled—Tom Weir. He was quoted in 1976 as saying, “We revel in the totality of the natural world as we dump our bag and fairly dance up the airy ridge.” To Mr. Weir we gave thanks—for our chance to dance up the airy ridge . . . indeed.

s-arrochar

Sunday dawned a bit on the gray side, but once again breakfast mysteriously appeared behind the curtain at the designated time and we sat on the patio to enjoy it. And then we took off, again heading north but rather than following the road beside the loch, we turned left at Tarbet, a village where my sister and I once spent a long Easter Saturday in 1979 when I was a student at the College of York and Ripon St. John (now it’s just St John College) in York, England.

s-bus stop, Arrochar

She and I took the train to Tarbet, walked to Arrochar and waited for what seemed like hours to catch a bus to Adraishaig. The most wonderful part is that except for the updated bus, everything looked the same as I recalled.

s-view of Loch Long and Mountains by Arrochar

The view my guy and I shared of Loch Long was the same that she and I had had so long ago. Memories flashed through my brain of our ride to Adraishaig, where at the bus driver’s recommendation we walked uphill and knocked on Mrs. Hastie’s door to ask for a room. A view of Loch Gilp, some little cheese sandwiches, a long chat with Mrs. Hastie, and hot water bottles in our bed—it was all quite perfect and when our mother learned of her hospitality, she wrote Mrs. H a thank you note. For years they corresponded.

As was our intention back then, our destination was Castle Sween. The approach was the same, but the journey different, for in 1979 at Mrs. Hastie’s suggestion, we hitchhiked.

s-sheep on way to Sween

Perhaps the sheep that traveled our route this past week were descendants of those we’d encountered in the past.

s-phone booth by sween

At the red telephone booth, we parked and then walked down the road to the right.

s-Big Eric 2

Our first view was of a deer and since another favorite British show is “Monarch of the Glen,” we wondered if perhaps we’d found Big Eric.

s-Castle sween approach

And then we saw the castle overlooking Loch Sween and my excitement increased.

s-Macmillen tower 3

It was the 15th century Macmillan tower we came to see and I’d donned my flannel tartan (thanks for LL Bean for creating these two years ago) for the occasion.

s-Macmillen tower and faces

We poked around inside the castle remains and with ghosts of the past viewed the tower through a window. I suspected it was my long lost relatives who made their presence known in the stone, so many familiar faces did I see.

s-inside castle sween

Our tour wasn’t long, but I gave thanks to Alexander MacMillan, keeper of the castle in the 1470s. On a plaque we read the following: “With its towering curtain wall, Castle Sween is the most impressive of the early stone castles on Scotland’s west coast. Originally, the mighty walls enclosed several light wooden and stone buildings, serving as storage and accommodation . . . The MacMillan Tower had a kitchen in the basement with two storeys of private accommodation above.”

When I had traveled this way with my sister, we were able to hitch another ride from about a mile north of the castle back to Lochgilphead, where we caught a bus to Tarbet. Once there, we waited and waited for a train as the ticket man sat in his little building and sang to his heart’s content. Our journey this time was much faster and more convenient.

s-Inverary 2

The weather had turned from gray to drizzle and so as we drove back toward the Wee Wing, we decided to take a tour of Inveraray Castle, the setting of “Downton Abbey.” It was also a place I’d visited previously, but only to the outside for I was with my college flatmates on a grand tour of Scotland. If any of you are reading, I hope you’ll recall that this is where we met Herman the Vurm.

s-inverary dining room 2

Though a castle has stood at this spot since the 1400s, the Palladian and Gothic-style building that we toured was built in the 1700s and still serves as the monarchial home for Clan Campbell.

s-inverary guns

Despite all its pomp and circumstance and colossal displays,

s-charm stones and fairies (1)

it was the wee things that appealed to me most.

At last, we made our way back to the pub in Balloch to enjoy a pint before heading to bed; our departure would be too early for the mysterious visitor who left breakfast each morning, but since we were in Scotland, I trust it was a fairy who placed the covered tray on the wee stool behind the curtain.

Our early morning departure meant a drive to Edinburgh airport where we were to gather with the real reasons for our visit. Our oldest son’s girlfriend’s mother had rented a castle in the Highlands and invited us to join her family and friends for a four-night stay. Because our group was again too early for arrival, we decided to tour Glamis Castle on the way. But . . . the second vehicle for our eleven-member group had a bit of a problem at a roundabout just beyond the airport—a burned-out clutch. Apparently, smoke filled the car and they quickly excited. Then one brave soul went back to gather their luggage—all in fear that the car might catch on fire. Miles away, we wondered where they were and finally learned of their adventure as they stood on the grassy island and awaited help. And so, we detoured.

s-The Old Course, St. Andrews 1

With a little bit of time to spare, we drove to St. Andrews, the birthplace of golf, and walked along the greens of The Old Course,

s1-flowers at St. Andrews

where our awe included the beauty that surrounded us,

s-St. Andrews 2, Sept 4 blog

as we marveled at the five courses that sit between the North Sea and town center.

s-Bobby Jones consideration

And my guy reflected upon legendary American amateur golfer Bobby Jones and his Grand Slam season in 1930. He mentioned a ball that bounced off a building and into the hole. But which building?

s-Keplies

Before leaving, we paused by The Kelpie maquettes, handcrafted by renowned Scottish sculptor Andy Scott to honor the iconic Clydesdales, working horses vital to the industries of Scotland for providing both power and grace.

s-Glamis

Soon we tucked back into the van, stuffed as it was with seven of us and our luggage overflowing the boot and packed all around.

Glamis Castle, setting of Shakespeare’s Macbeth and the Queen Mum’s childhood home, was our next stop and the point at which we finally reconnected with the second vehicle carrying five members of our group. A delightful woman named Pat gave us a tour full of stories filled with fact and fiction. We couldn’t take photos inside and it was pouring out, so we were limited in that department.

s-rose and thistle, Glamis

One of the things I found fascinating, besides the ghost who sometimes sits in the chapel, was the rose and thistle theme evident throughout and even on the roof railing—to represent the joining of Scotland and England. Of course, most of the Scots we spoke with hope the two will soon separate, but that’s politics.

s-Forter through gate, Sept 5

At last it was time for our own castle adventure to begin. On to Glen Isla we drove, passing around many a tight bend until at last it came into sight . . . Forter Castle and our own little kingdom. The castle was originally built in 1560 by James Ogilvy, Fifth Lord of Airlie, but was burned by Archibald Campell, the Eighth Earl of Argyll in 1640. From that time until the early 1990s, it was a ruin. That is until the Pooley family purchased and transformed it into our fantasy retreat.

s-Forter and Blair

For the next four days, we photographed it . . .

s-forter from trail, Sept 5

from the trail above,

s1-castle from Folda

road behind,

s-Forter through foliage, Sept 5

through foliage,

s-Forter in twighlight, Sept 7

in twilight,

s-Forter at night, Sept 7

and finally darkness.

s-rainbow

On our first evening as residents a rainbow marked the way.

s-our tower--upper floor furthest left

We noted our tower on the far left . . .

s-our writing room

with the upper window housing the writing desk . . .

s1-Katherine Pooley Room

in our posh room.

s-view from the toilet

The bathroom was equally eloquent and the view from the throne worth every minute spent sitting.

s-pistols beside the toilet

Just in case we had unwanted visitors pillaging our fortress, we could sit on said throne and take aim.

s1-stairs

On a regular basis, we gave thanks for the rope in the spiral staircase as it guided us down and saved us from slipping.

s2-great hall

On the second level, we all frequently gathered in the Great Hall for conversation, fellowship, and . . .

s-Forter fire, Sept 7

warmth from the largest fireplace we’d ever sat by.

s2-kitchen (1)

And on the first floor, a well-equipped kitchen,

s2-breakfast room (1)

breakfast room,

s2-chapel (1)

and chapel.

s-piggery, Sept 5

Even doing laundry was a treat, for we had to enter the piggery for that task.

s-Cateran Bob, Sept 5

Daily we walked or ran along the lanes outside the castle, but on our second day, our hostess, Lady Anne, hired a local guide to lead the way up the Cateran Trail.

s-following Cateran Bob, Sept 5

Bob Ellis is a recently retired counselor and also designer of the trail, so we were in the best of hands as we followed a six-mile section of this 64-mile circular route.

s-Cateran loch, Sept 5

Along the way, we stopped constantly to admire the heather and the loch below.

s-Cateran Bob's favorite spot1, Sept 5

Over stiles we climbed periodically,

s-S and H, Sept 5

and at one the two youngest in our group (and reason my guy and I were on this trip) showed off their happy faces.

s-grouse blind, Sept 5

We spied grouse blinds,

s-crow catcher, Sept 5

and crow catchers (structure just left of center) used to capture crows that harass lambs.

s-lunch rock mystery, Sept 5

And we paused by a large boulder topped by another, though of smaller scale. Bob shared with us the legend of the trail, which goes something like this: At one time, two giants, a husband and wife, lived in the area. Colly Camb, the husband, was supposedly the last descendant of the giant Fingal, who was renowned for building Fingal’s Cave and the Giant’s Causeway (we’d walked along the Giant’s Causeway almost a year ago when we visited Ireland). According to this legend, Colly lived in a cave on Mount Blair, which towered behind our castle and we could see across the way. Colly had a habit of throwing stones from the top and so the locals feared him greatly. One day, in a rage, he threw a massive boulder intending to demolish a homestead. Thankfully, he missed, but the boulder still stands where it landed in the glen.

s-lunch rock, Sept 5

For us it became lunch rock.

s-boathouse on loch, Sept 5

Our journey was almost done as we circled around and came upon a boathouse by the small loch. As is typical in Scotland, we had sun and rain and a few drops fell before our tramp was completed, but that was OK for we were prepared and the colors around us enhanced.

s-Charles throwing hammer 1

Another day was spent with Charles, our sports director. Under his supervision, we learned the fine arts of axe throwing, archery, crossbows, and air rifles.

s-Charles releasing hammer

With apparent ease and masterful form, Charles sent an axe flying toward the target.

s-Charles at target

And met instant success.

s-S&H with Charles

After demonstrating all, it was our turn to give each activity a whirl.

s-Ann aiming crossbow

M’lady Anne practiced her crossbow prowess,

s-Allen and John

while Laird John and my guy took up the air rifles.

s-sports

Charles coached us for a couple of hours and then it was time for a competition between the men and the women.

s-me with hammer

As we practiced, I discovered I could occasionally hit the axe target, as well as the crossbow and air rifle targets. The bow and arrow were definitely not my thing. When it was my turn to throw, however, and I went first, I missed each time, not exactly getting our team off to a good start. The women lost, but we all had a lot of fun and talked of creating our own axe targets. I know where I can find all the materials needed.

s-into the highlands

On the day my guy and I intended to bag a couple of Munros, it poured as we passed through Cairnwell Pass.

s-Glenshee ski area

Our intention had been to begin from the Glenshee Ski Area, but much to our disappointment, it wasn’t going to happen. Instead, we drove on.

s-Cathrie Church

At Balmoral, we stopped into a small gift shop, where a delightful tour guide and shop keeper told us that Queen Elizabeth was in residence so we couldn’t visit the castle, but we could walk up the hill to the local parish. And so we did.

s-altar

Craithie Kirk is the Queen’s place of worship when she and the rest of the Royal Family are on holiday nearby. We learned from another guide that the family sits in pews in the south transept, which they enter from a private doorway. Apparently, the count of parishioners increases dramatically from the regular twenty or so when Queen Elizabeth is in town.

s-Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria had worshipped at the former kirk that stood on this site and laid the corner stone for the current building in 1893.

s-rose window

In the west gable, the rose window added a dash of color and life to the dark interior.

s-Allen, hardware man

Our adventures about the region included a shopping trip and lunch in Pitlochry, where of course, my guy needed to visit The Hardware Centre.

s-hardware store

He also found one in Blairgowrie, where his comrades joined him for an exploration of goods.

s-weaver shop, Sept 8

It was in Blairgowrie that the ladies of the castle discovered the works of master weaver and craftsman, Ashleigh Slater and his Warpweftweave Studio. He’s famous for his Blairgowrie Berries and Cherries tartan that honors the fruits grown locally.

s-Cataran plaid, Sept 8

What they were really interested in, however, was his latest work–created in honor of the Cateran Trail. While they placed orders, I chatted with Slater’s mother and learned a wee bit about the town of Blairgowrie. We talked about the fruits grown there and subsequent festival, weather of the region, tourism, or lack thereof, mills of yore that once dotted the town and Ashleigh’s work.

s-telephone booth library1

Several times as we were out and about we passed by iconic red telephone booths repurposed as libraries.

st-telephone library, Liz

A few of us needed to . . .

st-shep

take a closer look, where . . .

s-library books, Sept 7

we were impressed with the variety of offerings.

s-woodferns, Days 1 and 2

When not shopping or participating in an event, we walked. A lot. And saw so much more, including wood ferns,

s-polypody, wall by Arrochar

polypody,

s-maidenhair fern 1

and maidenhead ferns.

s-rosebay willowherb 1, days 1 and 2

Everywhere, the rosebay willow herb grew like weeds. I so love the common Scottish name for it over the American name of fireweed.

s-thistle 10

And besides carpets of heather, thistle also grew abundantly,

s-thistle 1

showing variation in color,

s-thistle 11

and texture,

s-thistle and bee, Days 1 and 2

from smooth to . . .

s-prickly thistles

prickly.

s-fly on thistle

Some was still being pollinated,

s-thistle seeds

while others had already set seed.

s-digitalis, Sept 5

Much to my surprise, on a few occasions I spotted digitalis,

s-Jacob's Ladder

and one morning found a single plant of Jacob’s ladder.

s-lichen

Lichens were also in full view everywhere we looked–I could have spent the entire week examining the crustose, foliose and fruticose forms.

s-black slug

And then there were other forms of life to admire, from thick black slugs to . . .

s-toad, Sept 5

toads,

s-butterfly, Sept 5

butterflies,

s-hedgehog, Sept 4

hedgehogs,

s-grouse, Sept 7

grouse,

s-pheasant 1, Sept 7

pheasants,

s-brown hare

brown hares,

s-golden sheep

golden fleeces,

s-sheep 1, Sept 3 blog

rams,

s-ram 1, Sept 4

rams,

s-ram 2, Sept 7

and more rams,

s-Big Eric on Cateran, Sept 5

deer,

s-calf peeking

calves,

s-momma feeding calves

cows,

s-neighborhood bull, Sept 4

bulls,

s-cow 3, Sept 3 blog

and everyone’s favorite, the hairy coo.

s-tossing the sheep, Sept 7

Because we were at the castle located across the street from Forter Farm, we got to see some action, including sheep being returned to pasture,

s-cattle drive 1, Sept 8

and cattle driven past our gate.

s-new bridge over Forth, Sept 8

But . . . all great things must come to an end, and Friday afternoon found us driving south to the Queensferry Crossing, a just opened cable-stayed bridge across the Firth of Forth. Just after we’d headed north on Monday by crossing the Forth Road Bridge, Queen Elizabeth II had officially opened the new one fifty-three years to the day after she opened the adjacent former. Wow. Since we’d crossed both it felt like we’d come full circle on our Highland adventure. At the airport, my guy and I hugged goodbye to our lady and laird of Forter Castle, as well as our son, his girlfriend, and her family and their friends. They were returning their vehicle and heading into Edinburgh for the weekend. We drove back to Queensferry for our last evening.

s-q bridges (1)

And fell in love with one more town in Scotland, where we could view the two road bridges to the left and rail bridge I once crossed many moons ago to the right.

s-q 9 (1)

We were thrilled to discover this quaint village by the river,

s-q 2 (1)

and enjoyed exploring its main street . . .

s-q6 (1)

where the Scottish lions flew.

s-qpub 4 (1)

In hopes of finding a drink and something to eat, we stepped into The Ferry Tap, a pub where locals gather. Of course, we were too late for any vittles, so tied ourselves over with a bag of crisps each.

s-q pub1 (1)

But . . . we made some new friends for as we’ve always noticed, the Scots are among the friendliest. While one Sandra took our photo through laughter, Segna,  Sandra (II), and Malcolm posed with us. We chatted for a couple of hours before climbing the hill to our last bed in Scotland.

From the Bonny, Bonny Banks of Loch Lomond to the Scottish Highlands, we’d enjoyed a delightful nine days and only wish it could have lasted longer.

Until we meet again, mòran taing.

 

 

Home again, home again

Because we’d spent most of the summer at camp and I barely stopped at home, I hadn’t visited my usual haunts in a while. Today, that changed.

o-green cone sap

Into the woodlot I ventured, where green pine cones oozing with sap decorated the forest floor.

o-green cone midden

The remains of those serving as sustenance also lent a bit of color from the center cobs and deseeded scales left behind by red squirrels.

o-Inidan pipe from above

Most of the Indian pipes were past prime, but they remained beautiful with their flowers turned upright since being fertilized.

o-pine sap

The same was true for pine sap, which supported more than one flowerhead per stalk.

o-powerline

Emerging from the cowpath onto the power line, I found conditions to be as expected–anywhere I’ve traveled past such a line this summer, I’ve noticed that Central Maine Power has sprayed. I shouldn’t complain for I depend on that power and understand the need to keep the trees cleared, but it does make my heart cry for all that is lost.

o-sundew sad face

My sundews were among those that had suffered, brown and shriveled were they.

o-juniper

The white pines took a beating as well, but the juniper continued to grow and produce a bounty of fruits.

o-cicada

As I walked, the air buzzed with a chorus of cicadas,

o-field cricket

field crickets,

o-grasshopper

and grasshoppers.

o-red maple cotyledon

A visit to the vernal pool was a must, and in true vp form all was dry, but from the bottom new life sprang forth in the form of red maple . . .

o-vp, quaking aspen

and quaking aspen seedlings. It’s worth a try on their part, but I suspect they’ll be short-lived for soon enough the pool will begin to fill with water from late summer, fall and winter storms yet to be.

o-vp, red leaf

Speaking of fall, some red maples had already stopped producing sugar, thus the chlorophyll disappeared and anthocyanin formed–evident in the red hue.

o-vp feather

I found some other color in a small blue jay feather. I only saw two and didn’t think much of it, until . . .

o-blue jay feathers on stump

I passed by an old stump and did a double take. It appeared a young jay had served as a feast.

o-field succession

My next stop was the field, reached by passing through the two stonewalls that demark the boundary of our extended property. The field belongs to our neighbors’ parents and they recently had it bush hogged. At the western most end stood a fine example of forest succession, from mowed area to wildflowers and shrubs to saplings and finally the forest beyond.

o-small-flowered gerardia

Among the flowers at the edge I found one I hadn’t met before–small-flowered gerardia with delicate, hairy petals and needle-like green leaves bordered in their own shade of purple.

o-steeplebush

Being Sunday, it seemed apropos that the steeplebush reached heavenward.

o-meadowhawk above

As I continued to look around, a meadowhawk flitted about, pausing occasionally.

o-meadowhawk face

I knew if I stood still long enough, it would get curious and let me approach.

o-meadowhawk up close

And I was right.

o-home view

At last it was time to head in. Home again, home again, jiggity jig.

 

 

 

 

 

Artful Eclipse Mondate

Because they are so gracious, when I recently begged Faith and Ben Hall for an opportunity to follow them on a trail through the Perley Mills Community Forest, they not only invited us to walk, but planned out an intinerary, pre-hiked the trail, made chicken noodle soup for lunch and took us for a boat ride. All of this before the great solar eclipse of 2017.

h-perley pond beaver dam?

After taking a tour of their neighborhood, Faith dropped Ben, my guy, and me off to begin our first bushwhack beside Perley Pond. In a few minutes, we came upon an earthen structure and I couldn’t help but wonder if it was an old beaver dam.

h-perley pond

We were at the base of the pond and perhaps just as those who dammed it up for their mill sites, the beavers had their own intentions. Of course, I could be totally off and it could have been manmade, but such was the formation and growth above, that I’m sticking with my original thought.

h-sawdust pile

Moments later, we emerged into a clearing and grabbed handfuls of fine saw dust, letting it sift through our fingers as it slowly drifted back to the ground. Occasionally, on our tramps through the woods, we’ve encountered such mounds and have been amazed that they still exist with little vegetation.

h-mill site approach

The mound bespoke the reason for the mill up ahead. (Notice the stream beside–we crossed over it, two of us more successfully than the third, but fortunately for him, I didn’t take a photo. He preserved the rest of the hike with soaking wet pants, socks and boots, but never complained, such is my guy. Oops–don’t tell him I told.)

h1-mill site, looking down

Climbing up, we looked down. According to the “History of Perley Mills” by Arthur Rankin on the Denmark Historical Society’s website, the part of town known as Perley Mills was “1st settled by a family named Cliffords in the early 1800s. They built a road by Little Pond to connect with the stage road from Denmark to Ingalls Road and Cole Road in South Bridgton and to Biddeford. The Cole Family had apple trees. Mr. Cole was a fiddler and he used to play for the dances in Denmark and Sebago. Mr. Wallis Berry purchased the Cole farm. About 1807, Mr. Berry and Mr. Perley built a dam at the outlet of Pickerel Pond. They built a saw mill to saw staves and shingles. They made barrels. They employed many men.”

We weren’t sure exactly what we were looking at below, but pieces of the former structure remained intact in what looked like a sluiceway.

h-mill drill holes

The stone had been split using the feather and wedge technique.

h1-mill site looking back

As we looked back, I was once again reminded of the work that went in to creating the foundations of yore.

h-cranberries 2

Our bushwhack included a few other fun finds, such as a small patch growing in an unexpected place.

h-cranberries

The little green balls actually threw me off when we first looked at them.

h-cranberrries 3

But it was my guy and his well-trained naturalist eye that knew they were cranberries.

h-virginia meadow beauty 1

We also spied a clump of Virginia meadow-beauty with its delicate petals and prominent stamen. It’s also known as Handsome Harry, but I think Harriet would be more fitting.

h-survey mark

When we reached the Narrow Gauge Trail, Ben showed us the elevation maker that neither of us recalled seeing previously.

h-pickerel pond

We stood beside the pond for a few minutes, looking for frogs.

h-sharp-shined back

h-sharp-shined front

And realized we weren’t the only ones on the hunt.

h-gall of the earth

As our journey continued down the old rail bed, we all wondered about the work that went into building it. Years ago, we used to find railroad spikes, but the trail has been improved recently and that seems hardly possible any more. Instead, we found gall of the earth in flower,

h-raccoon prints

raccoon prints showing their opposite diagonal manner,

h-Faith's arrow

and either one large turkey print or a message in the sand. We knew it was the latter for Faith had preceded us and as we passed her she mentioned she’d left a note.

h-off the Narrow Gauge

It wasn’t long after Faith’s message, that Ben veered off the rail trail and took us up an old logging road.

h-following Ben

We followed him through thick and thin, the thickest being where the goldenrods bloomed and bees buzzed in former log landings.

h-approaching the stone cemetery

Along the way, he spoke of a stone cemetery. We both conjured up images of an old cemetery reflecting an earlier time. But . . . he meant a large pile of rocks that had been dumped by a previous owner who had logged the area.

h-walking the Narrow Gauge

Eventually, we met up with Faith again, then she drove to our next meeting point, while the three of us walked the Narrow Gauge in a direction my guy and I had never traveled.

h-beaver dam:infinity pool

It was there that we saw beaver works we were certain of, including a dam that created an infinity pool above.

h-swamp beside Narrow Gauge

Beside a swamp, we kept searching for moose, but never spied one.

h-thistles, Faith

At last our journey by foot came to an end . . . almost. Faith had a surprise waiting for us. And so she drove us back up their road and just past their house pulled off to the side on land owned by their oldest son. We’ve explored that property with them previously, but today she wanted to show me one of my favorite plants, which also happens to be hers.

h-thistles in all forms

Thistle . . . in all of its forms, it deserves reverence.

h-thistle 2

And so we revered.

h-Hayes True Value bucket

Back at their camp, our time together wasn’t over for we broke bread. And then they offered a quick boat ride. On the way to the dock, we knew we were in the right place, such did the signage on one bucket indicate.

h-Faith and Ben

Out onto the pond we went, thankful for a few more minutes with Ben and Faith. We cherish any time spent in their company before they head south again. And today, we were also excited to explore our local area and visit places we’ve never been to before. Thank you both for everything, from the hike to thistles to lunch and the boat ride and all the conversation in between.

h-squirrel and eclipse

Before we departed, we had one more stop to make–at Ben’s sand table, where he recreates the natural world with found rocks.

Today’s creation–a red squirrel devouring the seeds of a white pine cone as the moon covered the sun–an artful eclipse on this Mondate.

 

Bee Kind

Because I have the good fortune to be involved with the Greater Lovell Land Trust, I spend my summers attending talks and walks on a variety of topics. Prior to this week, we learned about lichens, bryophytes, pileated woodpeckers, fungi, flowers, ferns, medicinal plants, peat bogs, wild turkeys, and land conservation. And then last night our focus turned to pollinators and the pollinated.

Guy Pilla, a beekeeper from Fryeburg, Maine, gave an informational talk on the art of beekeeping, followed by a question and answer period, and the crème de la crème –honey tasting. How often have you had a chance to taste Tupelo honey?

w-Guy 1 (1)

This morning we met up with Guy again, as he took us to a hive he has set up on private property under conservation easement with the land trust. Twenty-six of us gathered around to listen, watch, and wonder.

w-showing the frames

In his alien costume, Guy passed around frames, giving us an opportunity to look at a range of cells as he explained about spacing for honey expansion, storage and more. We learned about the good and the bad of beekeeping, but mostly the good.

w-Gary looking at frame

As frames were passed around, we noted variations and the fact that some were lightweight and others heavy.

w-hive--bear precautions

At last it was time for Guy to open the hive. Notice the electric fence surrounding it? And the fact that it’s strapped down. Bear defense. And we know there’s at least one in the area.

w-dressing like a beekeeper

And then he walked through the crowd and chose Mary to be his assistant. She donned a hat and veil to protect her face and neck, and took on the look.

w-testing the smoker

Into the bee yard, she followed Guy. If you look closely, you’ll see two platforms on the ground and might notice that the one directly below the hive has nails sticking up (the other is turned upside down because Guy only has one hive at this location this year). Those are to deter skunks, another predator. As Mary watched from behind and the rest of us watched from a few feet away beyond the fence (and out of the bee line), Guy ignited the smoker he’d filled with pine needles.

w-smoke coming out of smoker1

It took a few minutes, but finally, smoke puffed out.

w-Mary practices the smoker

He then passed it to Mary, and her task was to press the bellows and create smoke. The smoker is an important line of defense.

w-preparing to open the hive

As we continued to watch, Guy took the straps off and explained the construction of the hive with one super stacked atop another in a vertical fashion. Though he ordered his equipment, he refashioned some of it including the roof, designed to let wet weather flow off rather than gather in puddles on the top of the structure.

w-Mary uses the smoker

As Guy wedged a hive tool into the bee glue (a resin-like propolis), Mary got ready to use the smoker. Smoke fools the honeybees into thinking a wildfire is nearby, thus prompting them to eat more honey in case they need to move to a new location.

w-showing off his bees

And with honey in their bellies, they become more docile. Note that Guy isn’t wearing any gloves. Usually he does, but Mary wore his gloves this morning and he trusted all would go well and the bees would remain calm. He was certainly calm, but spoke of his early days in the beekeeping business and how sometimes he would jump. Bees sense fear behavior exhibited by heavy breathing and that’s when stings occur. Having been stung recently after some youngsters received stings, I thought I was remaining calm, but apparently my breath spoke for me.

w-hive levels

We learned so much from Guy last night and today–about their various jobs as male drones, queens, and female workers who really do so much of the work. The workers clean out old material from inside the cells, attend to the queen, carry dead bees or larvae outside the hive, guard the hive’s entrance, fan at the entrance during the hot weather to keep the inside temperature down and to circulate fresh air throughout the hive, receive nectar and pollen,  store it away in cells, nurse newly laid egg, and seal cells around larvae at the appropriate moment. After doing all of this for about three weeks, they’ll earn the rights to collect nectar and pollen for about six. And then . . . they’ll die of exhaustion. Indeed.

w-wandering among the flowers

After our time at the hive, one of the land owners, Linda, took us on a mini-tour of the 100-hundred-acre property. Her goal was to take us to a flower meadow she and her husband have created. Originally, it was a garden with raised beds, but Linda has been collecting wildflower seeds from roadsides in Maine and New Hampshire and sowing them in the meadow.

w-learning from Linda

Today we were wowed by the results.

w-honey bee 1

And so were Guy’s honeybees.

w-honeybee on the move

They were on the move everywhere we looked.

w-bee using probiscus for honey

We watched as they sucked nectar with their proboscis mouth part.

w-bumblebee on Joe Pye Weed

Bumblebees also took advantage of the sweet offerings.

w-bumble with loaded pollen baskets

And filled their pollen baskets with the goods.

w-frittilary 1

Not to be left out, a fritillary was among those seeking reward.

w-male meadowhawk

And because we were there, we saw meadowhawk dragonflies on the prowl, he being red . . .

w-female meadowhawk

and she similar but brown.

w-Guy in the field (1)

Guy was tickled to see his bees at work and share his knowledge to all as we listened.

w-linda by her flower meadow

Linda was thrilled to see so many enjoying what she and her husband, Heinrich, had created.

w-Aa, gs 1

And speaking of Heinrich, just before we left he had one more insect to share.

w-Aa, garden 2

An orb spider known as a yellow and black garden spider or argiope aurantia had built its web near the greenhouse. I used to see these in our gardens frequently, but haven’t lately. Of course, I say that and tomorrow I’ll spy one.

w-Argiope aurantia, garden spider 4

In my brain, this is the smartest spider of them all for they create a web consisting of a series of concentric circles divided into sectors by lines that radiate out. And in the center–that amazing zigzag pattern, which is called a stabilimentum and perhaps intended to attract other insects. Or maybe its a message written in code and intended for a certain pig named Wilbur. This is Maine after all.

w-honey bee 2

We do know one message we learned in the last 24 hours: Bee kind–to one another for we’re all interconnected and we need each other to survive. And that includes letting the undesirables flourish in our yards, including the dandelions. Do so and watch them and just maybe you’ll realize they are desirable after all.

(Two final notes: Support your local beekeepers. Guy’s honey is available at Spice and Grain in Fryeburg; but really, you should buy honey from your area. And if you are interested in learning more about beekeeping, look for your local chapter of the Maine State Beekeepers Association.