The Will of the Wasps

While doing some work on our house today, I suddenly heard a thump and then saw my guy down on the deck. Huh? He’d been on a ladder last I knew. I grabbed the phone as I dashed out the door.

With a grin, he assured me that he was OK, but that he’d been stung on the ankle, first by a bee and then a double sting by a wasp. Neither of us was surprised, given the wildflowers in the garden where the ladder was placed so he could reach a second floor eave.

I spend hours watching all the pollinators at work, getting to know them by species and habit. But . . . I stand still for the most part and they fly around me. His movements were much quicker and more intentional.

h-hornets nest 1

As we surveyed the garden and figured the best path for his return to it, we made a discovery–the wasps were building a home of their own right beside the narrow path my guy had been following to retrieve different tools. Notice the topaz-colored wing? It fluttered like mad, though that wasp stood still.  Was it sending some sort of message to others?

h-hornets 4

If so, there were plenty of workers available to receive the memo–each doing its job of contributing to the construction project.

h-hornets 8

Below and above, they came and went, the tools of their trade being within their mouths.

h-hornets 10

They’d collected plant and wood fiber, mixed it with saliva, and chewed it into a papier-mâché of their own form.

h-hornets 11

The location of choice for this latest construction was against an old tractor wheel that leans against the house. Over the years, we’ve found them building everywhere, but what my guy doesn’t know …

h1-horn 1

is that a few months ago a queen began an umbrella-like structure in the back door jam.

h1-horn 2

I watched the dangling nest slowly take form.

h1-horn 3

Within each cell . . .

h1-horn 4

an individual egg was deposited.

1-horn 5

Two wasps never seemed to mind that I pulled a kitchen chair over and climbed up to watch the action.

h1-horn 6

Work continued from morning to night, the wasps slipping away through a sliver of space in the outer door and then returning. Late in the afternoon, they settled on the nest and didn’t move until the next morning. Eventually, I knew I had to put an end to this construction project and while the adults were off seeking more fiber, I removed it. And felt guilty. But, I didn’t want my family to get stung–famous last words.

h-hornet on goldenrod

Paper wasps aren’t typically aggressive unless they perceive a threat–and today, much to my guy’s dismay, they felt threatened.

Despite the confrontation, we have to remember that they are beneficial to the garden as pollinators and predators.

My guy survived and for a bit longer, so will the wasps.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

From wet to sweat

“Will I need waders?” I asked before we departed from the Lakes Environmental Association’s office  early Wednesday morning.

Dr. Rick Van de Poll looked down at my hiking boots and said, “No, you should be okay if you don’t mind getting muddy.”

l1-into the fen

And so, LEA teacher/naturalist Mary Jewett and I joined him to begin a two-day survey of LEA’s Highland Lake Preserve. The 325-acre property was the gift of the David and Carol Hancock Charitable Trust. Except for two logging roads, there are no trails.

Our first destination was in the middle of the fen. OK, so Mary and I should have known better because we know how much it has rained this summer. But really, it was quite hot that morning and our feet did get wet.

In fact, she found a deep hole on the way in.

l1-fen plot

Once reaching the plot, our tasks were several.

l1-flag

We helped delineate the boundary with measuring tape and flagging, the first being 10 meters by 10 meters, and then found the center, thus creating four quarters.

l1-Rick 1

Under Rick’s patient guidance and teaching, we began to survey the site, section by section, while he recorded our findings.

l1-measuring trees

Trees were first and needed to be measured to make sure they were trees after all, and not considered saplings.

l1-rhodora 1

Layer by layer, including shrubs,

l1-tamarack

seedlings,

l1-round leaf sundew 2

and herbaceous ground cover,

l1-round-leaved sundew 1

we made our way down.

l1-wasp pupa on hornworm 1

Along the way, other discoveries presented themselves, including wasp pupae on a hornworm,

l1-garden spider 1

black and yellow garden spiders,

l1-garden spider 2

weaving their signatures,

l1-eastern pondhawk

eastern pondhawks,

l1-eastern pondhawk 1

up to the measure,

l1-green frog

and of course, green frogs.

Swamp Thing

Four hours later I found a deep hole as we departed that plot. We slogged out, water swishing in our boots, and quickly ate lunch.

l2-hemlock plot

And then it was back into the woods for the afternoon, this time a hemlock grove. On the way, we marked off a site for Thursday’s work, before reaching our destination for the afternoon.

l2-surveying the site

This plot was 10×20 meters and so within we had nine smaller plots to examine in the same manner.

l2-squirrel bites

Though we identified all the species from top to bottom, we also noted more cool finds like squirrel chews on a striped maple,

l2-glue crust fungus

a crust fungus that acts like a glue and attaches dead wood to live,

l2-spotted wintergreen

and spotted wintergreen, listed as S2 meaning this: “Imperiled in Maine because of rarity (6-20 occurrences or few remaining individuals or acres) or because of other factors making it vulnerable to further decline.”

l3-plot 3 (1)

I had to miss the Thursday morning session due to a GLLT hike, but met Rick and LEA’s education director, Alanna Doughty, as they finished their lunch. I think they extended it a few minutes as I was a wee bit late. This time, Alanna and I sat on the tailgate of Rick’s truck as he drove down a logging road–I, of course, held on for dear life, while she nonchalantly acted like it was a walk in the park. The best part of the ride was the smell of sweet-fern that our feet occasionally dragged over. And then our march began with a short trek through a wooded forest, before we reached the highbush blueberries and other shrubs that acted like hobblebush and made for careful movement.

l3-black and red spruce 3 (1)

The first afternoon site was in a black spruce bog and for once, I could confidently differentiate between black and red as they stood side by side–both by their colors, the black having a blueish hue, while the red was more yellowy-green, and their gestalt.

l3-cinnamon and chain ferns

One of my favorite learnings from that plot was the difference between cinnamon fern and Virginia chain fern. Again, they were easy to ID by their colors, the cinnamon already dying back. But notice the similarities.

l3-chain fern

And then we looked at the back side. While cinnamon has a separate fertile frond that forms in the spring and then withers, chain fern’s sporangia are oblong and on the underside.

l3-chain spores 2

The area was thick with the chain ferns and our every movement meant spores flew through the air.

l3-pitchers (1)

Every movement also meant we had to watch our every step, for so numerous were the pitcher plants. It was a great opportunity to ask Rick about the color of these–I’d been told that green is rare, but he said it’s just a matter of sunlight and age, all eventually take on a redder hue in veins and then overall leaf coloration as they mature.

l3-pitcher plants

Their flowers were also plentiful in this lush space.

l3-chanterelle waxy cap 1

Among other things, Rick is a fungi expert (and an overall fun guy with corny jokes–the mark of a teacher), and so our learnings were plentiful, including these chanterelle waxy caps.

l4-plot 4 (1)

After making our way back out through the tangle, we hopped back onto the tailgate for a short ride and then headed off into a mixed forest for the final 10x 20 plot.

l4-deer skull

Our cool finds in this one included a much gnawed skull,

l4-orchid

and spotted coral-root.

l4-bristly clubmoss

I also learned to ID one clubmoss–bristly tree so named for its bristly stem.

l4-back up the road

It was dinner time when I again held on for dear life as we drove up the road. To say we were sweaty, stinky, hungry and pooped would be an understatement. By the same token, I think I can speak for Mary and Alanna to say that we were more than grateful to have spent so much time learning from Rick. From wet to sweat–it was well worth the effort.

 

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.

 

Propinquity

I slipped into a kayak this morning and rather than paddle two miles north into the islands, decided to turn the bend round our point and search the shallows closer to home.

c-stump garden

It is there that the old stumps remind me once again that this water was once land until it was dammed back in the early 1800s. The stumps have given way to gardens and I have to wonder about the age of the mosses and plants that call them home.

c-fragrant 5

In a water garden below the stumps, fragrant water lilies added grace.

c-fragrant with visitors 2

And within, they offered a feast for those who foraged.

c-feather

Nearby was evidence of another foraging expedition. It didn’t bode well for the young bird that sacrificed its life, but I suspect a larger bird gained a few jules of energy.

c-cove views

Everywhere I turned, there was another garden to inspect.

c-spider 1

And friends to meet, be they spiders . . .

c-dragonhunter exuvae

dragonhunter exoskeletons . . .

c-meadowhawk 2

or meadowhawks.

c-spatulate-leaved sundew and insects

Among my favorites were the sundews and I watched several insects approach a spatulate-leaved bent down to the water.

c-round-leaved sundew

Among the spatulates, another showed its face–the round-leaved sundew standing tall above its family members.

c-pickerel 1 a

As I continued to swoon over those beauties, a different color caught my attention.

c-pickerel frog 1

As still as could be, a pickerel frog posed and waited . . . I suppose for me to move on.

c-bullfrog 1

Eventually I did, and then I met a large male bullfrog–its external eardrum or tympanum larger than its eye. This guy was certainly all ears. 😉 (The female’s eardrum is about the same size as the eye). He sat in wait . . .

c-bullfrog youngster

while a young bullfrog of two or three years tried to hide about eighteen inches away. A bullfrog is a carnivore and while its diet consists of crayfish, water beetles, snails and dragonfly larvae, they also dine on fish, small turtles, young water birds . . . and other frogs. Beware little friend.

c-bullfrog reflection

For a while another bullfrog and I took a stab at a starring contest. He won.

c-beaver scent mound

Again I moved on and at last found one of the reasons I headed around the corner. I’d been  wondering about beaver works in this area–and found a scent mound that looked rather fresh.

c-beaver lodge

Across the way was the lodge–that’s been in place since I’ve frequented Moose Pond, which means for just over thirty years.

c-beaver lodge garden

I noticed that the beavers have their own kitchen garden from which to choose–and poking out from it were a variety of sticks. Which ones came from our property? And how many more will be added in October, for I know that’s when they’ll come shopping.

c-camp from south side

Finally, it was time to head back out of the cove to our humble abode on the point.

c-camp 2

It was there that I would finally join my guy for some time in our  rocking chairs.

Propinquity.

Into the future

Turning the clock back two months, I can recall my slight apprehension about working with three interns at the Greater Lovell Land Trust this summer. Hannah I knew and loved from our time together last year, but the other two were complete unknowns. Not only that, but in the past we’ve always had two interns, so what would it mean to throw a third into the mix?

i-11

And then I met them and our first hike was a bug-ridden adventure to Otter Rock at Heald and Bradley Ponds Reserve on the evening of the summer solstice. To say the mosquitoes were intense that night would be an understatement, but Dakota, Kelley and Hannah didn’t complain.

i-9

In fact, their broad smiles that would accompany them throughout our time together broadcasted their strength as individuals and a combined force. And I knew all would be well.

i-12

Each week they joined us for the Tuesday Tramps the GLLT docents take on the properties to learn from each other. And occasionally they had an opportunity to show us the efforts of their hard work, for they built solid benches and platforms, cleared trails, and even built water bars to prevent erosion. They learned about land conservation and spent hours developing an understanding of the inner workings of a land trust.

i-6

On Tuesday Tramps the main focus was to develop a better understanding of species that call this place home–both flora and fauna–and all of us shared knowledge and asked questions as we poked along.

i-19

At our annual docent training, the interns jumped right into the flower ID workshop,

i-22

and worked on their new skills . . .

i-23

while studying details.

i-18

Their skills grew, but one was especially evident for wherever we went, they found the blueberries first.

i-7

They also helped us with the Lovell Rec Summer Camp Nature Program we provided each week. This was our third summer offering said program, and based on last year’s numbers we’d split the group in two–divided mainly by younger and older kids, with a few overlaps due to interest levels. As it turned out, the Rec Program numbers doubled in size. Because I knew she has a talent for working with young children, Hannah became the mainstay of the younger group, while Dakota and Kelley took on the task of leading the older kids who wanted “less talk, more walk.” Speed hikes were the name of their game.

i-interns at annual meeting

Somehow, the summer passed by much too quickly and though it isn’t over yet, suddenly it dawned on this week and it was their turn to be the featured speakers at our Wednesday night program and then to say something brief at this morning’s Annual Meeting. The triplets, as I fondly referred to them for they had formed a bond that I hope will last a lifetime, had to face the crowd. Wednesday night wasn’t so bad for they had a developed a slideshow and had fun recalling the various aspects of their summer job in front of a friendly crowd, most of whom they knew. But this morning the crowd reached 105. As they stood there, they looked like they were jail mates, but with steady voices they shared pieces of their combined experience.

i-Kelley 2

The moment to shine, however, wasn’t over. This afternoon, they led about twelve people on a walk along the Homestead Trail at Heald and Bradley Ponds Reserve. It’s a trail they knew well, but still they wowed us with their knowledge . . . of ferns,

i-Hannah at plantain

rattlesnake plantain, and

i-Dakota 2

even the forested landscape.

i-Kelley and Dakota up close

They looked for the tiniest of details,

i-Dakota, number on scythe

and took pleasure in recognizing old tools long ago left behind.

i-caesar explanation

With her hands, Hannah explained how when a Caesar’s mushroom expands, its universal veil is broken and the bottom of the veil forms a cup-shaped volva.

i-caesar 2

Then she pointed to one nearby that was a couple of days old and all wondered about the variation in shape.

i-Dakota explains foundations

It was our immense pleasure to travel the trail with them this afternoon and be in awe by all that they had learned and could share. One of the fascinating things for me was to hear their hypotheses, for there isn’t an answer to everything we see, but they asked questions and considered various answers.

i-2

I know I wasn’t alone in the fact that I didn’t want today’s walk to end, for that meant this team of three would head off toward their next adventures.

Tree 3 (1)

I can only hope that some day in the future when I least expect it, I’ll hear my name being whispered in the breeze . . . and I’ll recognize the voices and look up to see the triplets.

If our future is in their hands, we are in the best of hands in the land.

I want to end by sharing a poem written by Hannah. And I should add that writing and reciting poetry was another talent we discovered they have for we host a poetry workshop each summer followed by an open mic night of sharing and once again, their voices were powerful.

One who walks the woods often

Has learned silence is power

Silence allows for you to see

What lies beneath trees of tall green

Dragonflies of iridescent magic flight

Birds perched and ferns unsearched

One that has been rewarded the gift

after silence

Teaches others the wonders 

of observation

Appreciation for what surrounds us

Nature’s beautiful creations. 

~ Hannah Rousey

Thank you, Hannah, Dakota, and Kelley. As you travel into the future, I hope you’ll remember friendships formed and paths created this summer. I know I certainly will.

Until our paths cross again . . .