The Big and the Small of the Hundred Acre Wood

As my friends know, I’m not one to say no to an invite to explore their land. And so this afternoon’s adventure found me spending time with Beth on the 100 plus-acre property she, her husband and parents call home in Oxford County.

b-view 2

Their sense of place begins with a field of wildflowers yet to come, the entry to their wood lot and a view of Ragged Jack Mountain. My sense of excitement to explore their place was heightened by this jumping off point.

b-Maine trail

Trails loop throughout the property and the family has taken the time to name and label all of them.

b-pine 4

We wandered along and suddenly Beth noted that we’d reached their champion pine. I looked at a small spruce before us and wondered what all the fuss was about. Then she pointed to my left.

b-pine 2

One massive Eastern white pine gallantly towered over us. At some point in its early life the terminal leader was injured–perhaps by a weevil or weather. But . . . this tree carried on and continues to do so. I felt like we were standing below a giant in the woods.

b-pine bark

It’s characterized by layers upon layers of bark.

b-pine 3

And it’s wider than any tree I’ve ever seen. Here are the stats on this champion: According to Beth, it towers 108 feet tall, is 256 inches in circumference (21.3 feet) and has a crown of 15.75.

b-pine 1

Yup. It’s big. Or rather, BIG!

b-dam:lodge2

We weaved our way along the trails and Beth shared favorite spots with me as she told tales of her experiences with this land and water.

b-mora 1

Mara, Beth’s springer spaniel, shared her own tail. She was happiest when mud and water provided opportunities to play. We had to wonder other times when she cowered behind us or tried to hide between Beth’s legs. What did she sense that we weren’t aware of? We did hear a few critters, including baby grouse that Mara visited, and saw the tracks of moose and deer, plus coyote and fox scat, and maybe even bobcat scat, but our only official mammal sightings were red squirrels.

b-pond

Among Beth’s sharings was this spot she refers to as the Accidental Pond. Accident or not–it’s enchanted.

b-split granite

Here and there throughout the woods, she pointed out glacial erratics. This one we particularly wondered about. What came first? The rock split on its own or the hemlock caused the split?

b-bracken 1

Those were the big things, but we were equally wowed by all the small stuff we saw along the way, like this bracken fern just beginning to unfurl.

b-cinnamon ferns

Several times we wandered in the land of the cinnamon fern, where the separate fertile fronds sport the cinnamon color for which they are named. It won’t be long before those fertile fronds bow down to the earth and the large, arching sterile fronds are all that will remain.

b-caterpillar 2

And then something else caught our attention–a green caterpillar on the fertile frond.

b-caterpillar 1

We weren’t sure who it was, but we saw it on several stalks. Always something to wonder about.

b-royal

Royal fern also offered a display, especially beside the brook. Look closely and you might find the fertile frond “crown” on this one. It’s a rather “Where’s Waldo” presentation, but it’s there.

b-gilled 1

We found some gilled mushrooms we also couldn’t identify, but appreciated their existence.

b-lady 3

The lady’s were in bloom.

b-lady's slipper

Take a look at those hairs.

b-web 3

And it’s spider web season so we paused and admired the work of an orb weaver who built a spiral wheel-shaped web.

b-spider web

Also among our sightings, a well-built high-rise structure woven among the remains of winter weeds.

b-toad 3

Camouflage is everything. Just ask the American toad.

b-wood frog 1

We found the wood frog easier to spot.

b-blue-eyed grass1

But I had my eye on the blue-eyed grass.

b-blue 5

These are the shy ones. They only keep their eyes open if the sun is shining. On a cloudy day it’s almost impossible to recognize them.  And they love damp open woods, slopes and stream banks so it’s no wonder we found them today.

The big and the small . . . Beth’s property has it all. And this was only a sampling from her hundred acre wood. Winnie the Pooh and his friends–they too, would love this place.

 

 

 

Book of June: The Giant’s Shower

Since it’s June and Midsummer’s Eve occurs in June, I thought I’d post this fairy tale I wrote years ago.

fairy home-2

Book of June

Once upon a Midsummer’s Eve, on Sabattus Mountain, a group of fairies gathered in a circle for a night of magic and merriment. All wore crowns of wood sorrel and ferns about their heads. Their sparkly skirts matched the color of their hair, purple and green and yellow and orange and blue. Together they danced and sang this tune:

We whirl and twirl and dance around,                                                                                                     Our feet, they barely touch the ground.                                                                                                     We wish and wish and wish tonight,                                                                                                        For a Midsummer’s Eve that is fun and bright.

Aisling stopped suddenly and stared at the delicate pink lady’s slipper they circled around.

“What is it, Aisling?” asked Carys. “Why did you pause?”

“I had a vision,” Aisling said. Her wings fluttered as fast as a hummingbird’s, which they always did whenever she had a vision.

“Tell us,” insisted Imma.

“It’s about Falda,” said Aisling.

“Oh, will my wings work again?” pleaded Falda, for her wings were folded and though she could dance and jump, she could no longer fly.

“No, Falda. It’s not that, but something even better, I think. And there’s a nice ogre too,” explained Aisling.

“Tsk. Tsk. A nice ogre. Whoever heard of such a thing?” demanded Biddie. “The only ogre we ever knew was a devil. Remember his sign in Crawford Notch: ‘Devl Hom.’ That ogre was so mean, he couldn’t even spell.”

The fairies continued dancing and forgot about Aisling’s vision for a few hours. When the merriment was over, Falda and Biddie, the older fairies, returned to their homes beneath the thick foliage and moss-covered tree stumps. Imma, Carys and Aisling used pine needles to sweep the area so no hikers would discover them.

“Tell us more about your vision, Aisling,” said Carys. “Who is the ogre? And what does he have to do with Falda?”

“I don’t know for sure,” said Aisling.

“Biddie always says that there was a giant who lived near our old home in Crawford Notch. He was cursed and not to be trusted,” said Imma.

“Let’s go back there and check him out,” suggested Carys.

“Yes, let’s,” said Aisling. “Remember, we can always avoid contact with him by reciting the backward chant: Ogres bad big with contact eye avoid always.”

“OK,” agreed Imma. “Let’s go.”

In a twinkle and a flitter, the three fairies left their home in Lovell, Maine, and reached Crawford Notch. The rising moon glowed on the giant’s staircase made of carefully placed tree trunks.

Aisling was the first to smell something awful. “What stinks?” she asked.

“I think it’s him,” said Imma, pointing to where the giant stood building a two-hundred-foot high granite wall. “Biddie said his smell is why we left.”

“Shhh,” whispered Carys from her hiding place high up in a beech tree. “Listen to him.”
This is what they heard: “Humph. I sure hope I can find water to flow over this fall. Then I can finally take a shower. And who knows, maybe Sweet Falda will hear that I’m clean and she’ll finally return.”

The three fairies held their noses and giggled.

“That’s your vision, Aisling,” squealed Imma.

“Humph. What was that sound?” the giant demanded. In the gruffest voice he could muster, he said, “Who goes there?”

Imma quickly waved her magic wand and a breeze moved the leaves. The giant could no longer hear them. He returned to his work of stacking granite boulders on top of one another.

“We’ve got to figure out how to get Falda and the giant together,” said Carys.

“Don’t you think he’s a mean, old ogre?” asked Imma.

“Not at all,” said Carys.

“Me either,” said Aisling.

“OK then. I have a plan, but I’ll need to ask my cousin to help,” Imma said.

In a twinkle and a flitter, the fairies returned to Sabattus Mountain and their village under the moss-covered tree stumps in the old pine grove.

“Falda, Biddie, wake up,” they called.

“What is it?” Falda asked as she walked out of her wee house, rubbing sleep from her eyes.

“We just came from Crawford Notch and we saw the most amazing thing,” said Carys.

“Tsk. Tsk. There’s nothing amazing left in Crawford Notch,” said Biddie.

“Oh, but you are wrong, Biddie. We saw a giant staircase, a giant waterfall . . . well, almost waterfall, and a certain giant himself,” said Imma.

“Almost waterfall?” asked Falda.

“Yes, it just needs water,” said Imma.

“Tsk. Tsk. Did you say ‘a certain giant’?” asked Biddie.

Carys fluttered up and down. “Yes, Aisling’s vision is coming true. We saw a certain giant building the almost waterfall and . . .” She was so overcome with excitement that she choked up and cried happy tears.

Aisling continued, “ . . . and he mentioned you, Falda.”

Falda’s cheeks turned as pink as the lady’s slippers that bloomed around them.

“Tsk. Tsk. You talked to that devil? Didn’t I always teach you that he is a cursed ogre and not to be trusted? Did you use the backward chant?” demanded Biddie.

“Oh, Biddie, don’t worry. We didn’t talk to him,” Imma said. The she whispered, “Yet.”

“No, we didn’t talk to him. We just listened to him,” said Aisling.

“I never even knew his name,” said Falda. She twisted her wee hands together. “He used to leave me beautiful gifts though, like a pinecone wreath and an oak picture frame.”

Biddie said, “Tsk. Tsk. He’s the devil, I tell you. And he stinks.”

“Yes, he did have a certain odor,” said Falda. “That was one reason we moved to Maine.”

“Maybe he smelled bad because he was always busy building something and couldn’t take a shower,” suggested Carys.

“Tsk. Tsk. He’s the devil and we’ll not return to Crawford Notch. It’s obvious that he put a curse on Falda and her wings got caught on a branch when we landed here. Now they are folded and she cannot fly,” insisted Biddie. “Enough of this nonsense. Go back to bed all of you.”

Aisling, Imma and Carys returned to their homes . . . momentarily. A few minutes later, when they were sure they could hear Biddie snoring, they met under an oak leaf behind Aisling’s house.

“I’ll ask Cousin Arethusa to provide a spring so water will flow over the boulders,” said Imma.

“Oh goody,” Carys said as she clapped her hands.

“Shhh,” Aisling whispered. “Quiet or they’ll hear us. We must act quickly before the sun rises on a new day.”

Silently, the three fairies formed a circle. Imma held her magic wand high and swung it in a sweeping arch above their heads. Fairy dust sprinkled upon them. Out of the dust, Cousin Arethusa appeared. In a whisper, Imma explained the need for a spring in Crawford Notch to which Arethusa agreed as long as the waterfall would be named for her.

“Thank you, Cousin Arethusa. Now we must go,” said Imma.

In a twinkle and a flitter, the three fairies returned to the Notch. They found the giant placing the last granite boulder on top of the wall.

He blinked when they landed on it. “Humph,” he growled, again using his gruffest voice, which wasn’t really gruff at all. “Who might you be?”

Immediately the three fairies covered their noses and gasped for air.

“Oh my. Do I smell that bad?” the giant asked. His cheeks turned red as the wintergreen berries that grew on the forest floor.

“Yes,” Carys squeaked.

“But if you turn around three times . . .” gasped Aisling.

“ . . . And say ‘water, water, everywhere’ five times fast,” added Carys.

“ . . . Water will flow over the falls and you can finally shower,” finished Imma.

“Really?” asked the giant.

“Try it,” said Carys.

“And hurry,” added Aisling.

“Do it for Falda,” finished Imma.

“Fal . . . da? You know Sweet Falda?” asked the giant.

“Yes, but hurry . . . you need to shower,” said Imma.

“Oh, yes.” So the giant turned around three times, said, “Water, water, everywhere,” five times and water flowed over the falls.

“Look, Arethusa Falls,” exclaimed Imma.

“I can’t believe it. I’m not very good at being mean and scary, but I can make wonderful things with my hands. Only I did wonder how I’d make this shower work,” said the giant.

“Well, you must thank Arethusa for that. And by the way, Biddie thinks you ARE mean and scary,” said Imma.

“Biddie. As I recall, she’s just an old biddie,” said the giant.

The fairies giggled.

“Why are you laughing?” he asked.

“Because that is exactly what Falda always says about Biddie,” explained Aisling.

“Oh, Sweet Falda. I must shower now so I can see her again.”

The fairies told him that Sabattus Mountain was only a few giant steps east of Arethusa Falls. Then in a twinkle and a flitter they returned to their village.

A few winks later, the Earth rumbled. All five fairies quickly gathered at Falda’s house.

“What was that?” they wondered together.

“Sounds like thunder,” said Falda. “A storm must be approaching.”

“But I thought I saw the sun rising as I rushed over here,” said Carys.

Suddenly, the sky darkened. The fairies fluttered closer together. Falda lit a candle. Then they heard a tapping sound near the entrance. She peeked out, but saw no one. Curious, the fairies cautiously walked outside. Standing atop the mountain was a certain giant.

“Oh,” said Falda and her face brightened with a smile.

“Tsk. Tsk. If it isn’t the devil himself. And he’s flattened the trees,” exclaimed Biddie.

“The devil? Why on Earth do you say that, Biddie? And sorry about the trees. I tried my best to tiptoe,” said the giant.

“Tsk. Tsk. That’s what your sign said, ‘Devl Hom,’” said Biddie.

“Oh, that sign. It broke in an ice storm. I just never got around to fixing it. I was too busy building other things. My name is Devlin. That sign should read, ‘Devlin’s Home,’” said the giant.

“Tsk. Tsk . . . you stink too,” stammered Biddie.

“Not anymore. Now I can shower whenever I want. You must come see all the changes in the Notch.” Devlin leaned down, picked Falda up and placed her in the palm of his oversized hand. “What happened to your wings, Sweet Falda?”

“Nothing really. Just a wee accident,” she said.

So Devlin carried Falda over to Crawford Notch for a visit. In a twinkle and a flitter, Carys, Imma and Aisling followed behind him. Biddie tagged along, tsk-tsking all the way.

And they all lived happily ever after. All but Biddie were happy, of course.

Arethusa Falls and Sabattus Mountain Hikes

Guess what! You can hike to both locations mentioned in The Giant’s Shower. First, climb the giant’s staircase to Arethusa Falls in Crawford Notch, New Hampshire. Be sure to pack a snack or lunch to enjoy beside the falls. Who knows, you might even see Devlin working nearby. If he smells, remind him to take a shower.

The trailhead to Arethusa Falls is located on Route 302 at the southern end of Crawford Notch in the White Mountains. The hike is easy, but it does take about 45-60 minutes to reach the over 200-foot high falls. Several trail options are available so be sure to check local guides, such as the Appalachian Mountain Club’s White Mountain Guide and bring a map.

And only a few giant steps east of the falls is Sabattus Mountain in Lovell, Maine. If you are traveling via car rather than giant steps, Sabattus Mountain is about an hour and a half from Arethusa Falls. Follow Route 302 East to Route 5 North in Fryeburg, Maine. Stay on Route 5 through the villages of Lovell and Center Lovell. Just after the Center Lovell Inn, turn right onto Sabattus Road. Drive about 1 1/2 miles, then turn right onto Sabattus Trail Road.

The trailhead and parking area are a half mile up the road and clearly marked. The round-trip hike takes about 1 hour and is fairly easy, with one moderate spot. From the top, you will see Kezar Lake and Pleasant Mountain to the south. The White Mountains of Maine and New Hampshire are to the west.

For more information about this hike, check Marita Wiser’s guidebook, HIKES in and around Maine’s LAKE REGION, which is sold at local stores.

Hike up the right-hand trail. You’ll reach the top in about 45 minutes. Take time to enjoy the view left behind when the giant flattened trees with his footsteps. Some trees still stand tall, because he was only tiptoeing. Continue along the ridge until the trail turns left to descend.

In an old pine grove along this trail, you might suddenly feel the presence of fairies. Their homes are among the moss-covered tree stumps. They enjoy visiting Crawford Notch, but Sabattus is now their forever home. Pause a bit and let the magic of this place overtake you.

Do be sure not to add to or take away from the fairies’ homes. These are natural homes and you shouldn’t disturb them.

Happy hiking! And say hello to Carys, Imma, Aisling, Falda and Biddie for me.

**********

Meanings of names used in the story:
Aisling–vision, dream
Carys–love
Imma–water bearer
Falda–folded wings
Biddie–strength
Arethusa (Ara-Thuse-A)–spring
Devlin–brave, one of fierce valor
Pink lady’s slipper–moccasin flower, large, showy orchid found in the woods of Maine and New Hampshire

How to make your own fairy dust:
Combine dried flower petals, leaves and birdseed in a small bowl. Crush together. Sprinkle outdoors wherever magic is needed.

Fairy houses:
Best if made from natural materials, e.g. bark, sticks, leaves, pinecones, rocks, grass, moss, berries, wood chips and flowers.
Fairies particularly like the thick foliage of moss and old tree stumps.
Remember, they hope that humans won’t discover them, so be cautious and don’t upset nature.

 ©  The Giant’s Shower by Leigh Macmillen Hayes, first published June 1, 2015, wondermyway.com, written in 2004

Pool Side

Today was a day meant to be spent outside. Temp in the 60s, brilliant sunshine, not a cloud in the sky. It was almost too hot. Certainly a day to sit pool side.

I spent the late morning/early afternoon hours enjoying lunch at a picnic table outside The Good Life Market in Raymond, and interviewing a friend for an article. (Thanks JVP :-))  The Supreme Aubergine was delish even if I couldn’t pronounce its name. And she had the Grilled Chicken Cobb Salad.

But that wasn’t enough time outdoors, so I packed up my camera, drawing supplies and stool, then headed out the back door later in the day.

mole work

Where the snow has melted in the yard, there is evidence of mole work. Though they eat some vegetation, moles are insectivores and they aerate the lawn. Let them eat grubs, I say.

Vole tunnel

Behind the barn, a vole tunnel melting in the snow. These little field mice are more destructive as they are herbivores, but there’s a cat who likes to hang out in our yard. Here kitty, kitty.

pussy willows 1

My destination was the vernal pools, but along the way I had to stop and smell, I mean touch, the pussy willows.

pw2

Spring’s certain harbinger.

gall1

Sadly, some teeny tiny midges attacked one of the willow trees last year.

gall2

The result, this pineapple-shaped gall. It has its own certain beauty and when you think about the number of papery scales and size of the insect that created it, it is amazing.

vp2

VP2–the vernal pool furthest from home. I stood there for a while, watching and listening.

leaves

And admiring the leaves below the water. They’ll soon provide the perfect hiding place for the wood frogs, who will disappear underneath when I approach.

pine candelabras

On my way back to VP1, the pool in the neighboring woodlot, the candelabras on the white pines again made their presence known.

leaves waiting to be released

It’s getting easier to walk along the rocks that form the perimeter of this pool and take it in from all sides. Here, the leaves wait to become part of the organic matter on the pool’s bottom.

leaves hanging on

While just above, others still cling to the mother tree.

water on vp

In the southwestern corner–water atop the ice.

vp1

Overall, a rather slushy topping. I set up my stool and sat to sketch it.

poolside

When I look at this now, it looks like the bubbles are frogs or something. Not so. Oh well. I was happy to be pool side . . . until I fell backward as the soft snow gave way. A reason to chuckle and head home.

Thanks for joining me to wonder as I wander.

Wetland Wonders

wetland 1

The Greater Lovell Land Trust’s Tuesday Tracking group returned to the wetland at the John A. Segur Wildlife Refuge today. It’s one of those places that I could spend hours upon hours exploring and still only see a smidgeon of what is there. I’m overwhelmed when I walk into a store filled with stuff, but completely at home in a place like this where life and death happen and the “merchandise” changes daily.

insect

Walking across the snow was this small insect. So . . . we were in a wetland. Tomorrow will be April 1–no kidding. The insect is about an inch long. It has long antennae and a pair of cerci or appendages at the posterior end of its abdomen. I’d say we found a common stonefly nymph. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

artists 1

On first glimpse, this may look like a pile of dried grasses and twigs.

artists's conk?

But stepping in for a closer look reveals what I believe is an artist’s conk. An old artist’s conk. We didn’t cut it off, but apparently you can age one by cutting it and counting the layers–much the same way you can age a tree by counting the number of rings.

old beaver lodge

There’s evidence of beaver work throughout the sanctuary, but none of it is recent. So . . . my friend decided to play Queen of the Lodge.

dam crossing

We crossed Boulder Brook via an old beaver dam–one-by-one in the name of caution.

lobster lichenlobster 3

 Color draws us in for closer inspection. I’m betting on Cinnabar-red Polypore (Pycnoporus cinnabarinus) as this one’s ID. If I learn otherwise, I’ll let you know.

lungwort

Remember this lungwort I shared last week in my Island Hopping blog?

Lungwort

Same species. Same tree. Nature–worth wondering about.

myatery 1

Then there was the mysterious event.

mystery 3

Very fine tags dangle from the upper edge of the scraped bark. Not the work of a deer, beaver or porcupine. Not a hare or little brown thing. Maybe a bird? No holes, just the fine layer of outer bark delicately scraped off.

deer scrape

Here’s a deer scrape as a contrast.

tree within tree

For this next wonder, you’ll have to look closely inside the hollow yellow birch. Peer to the left of the hole toward the rear. Think vertical.

tree 2

Do you see it? It’s in the center of this photo.

tree 3

And here it is further up in the hollowed out tree. A tree within a tree. Another yellow birch or birch root growing up through the center of this dead snag. Life and death. Together. One within the other.

spider

This guy was dashing across the snow, but had the decency to pose for a photo op. Given that he wasn’t wearing boots, I don’t blame him for running along.

crossing dam again

And suddenly, we realized we’d spent over three hours exploring and it was time to head back over the beaver dam.

white pine

On the trail again, we paused to admire spring growth on a small white pine–a mini candelabra.

Thanks for wandering along and wondering my way.

Bark Eyes

powerline

Looks Like We Could Walk to Mount Washington

Though it was a blustery day, the wind wasn’t much of a bother in the woods beyond the power line. I crossed the snowmobile trail and slipped into my peace-filled mode.

pine

Until a couple years ago when I was working on my capstone project for the Maine Master Naturalist Program, I didn’t know a lot about tree bark. Since then, I’ve been developing my bark eyes. Seriously, I have a difficult time driving down the road–my distraction isn’t a cell phone. It’s tree bark.

pine sketch

I like the pattern visible on the plates of Eastern White Pine–its numerous horizontal lines remind me of writing paper. Hmmmm . . .

What better way to get to know it than to sketch it. One thing I’ve learned over the years about sketching is that it doesn’t have to be exact. Only God is perfect–thank goodness I don’t have to aspire to that goal. So my sketches represent what I see.

red oak

red oak sketch

The red inner bark of Northern Red Oak is visible through the furrows. In older trees, the flattish furrows look like ski tracks coming down the tree.

ash

Do you know this one? Can you see the diamond shape? Some people see a letter A. Others see the rind of a cantaloupe. I guess, whatever works for you is the best way to describe it.

white ash sketch

White Ash it is. I feel like we’re not only on a texture tour of trees, but also a color tour 🙂

Last one for today before I share a few other cool things that I discovered.

red maple

This one always catches my eye. No only is it known for the color of its twigs, flowers and fall foliage, but look at the bark. Do you see the bull’s eye pattern in the cracks? Bull’s Eye Target on Red Maples is caused by a fungi that only affects this species. Most Red Maples in our area display the target. It doesn’t appear to kill the tree–immediately.

red maple sketch

Though the snow is still deep, it’s getting more and more difficult to move–crusty on top and then, whoosh, suddenly I sink in–snowshoes and all.

porc tree

As I tromped along, my eyes were drawn to the area under a large hemlock that I’ve visited many times this winter. At first there was activity there, and then nothing, until today that is.

porc cut

The porcupine had nipped the branches and you can see the incisor marks on this one. The fallen branches become prime deer food.  Deer had been under the tree. I took a photo of their tracks and scat but, alas, the wrong camera setting and it was overexposed.

Also seen under this tree, a spot where a red a squirrel paused on a branch to strip a white pine cone–and let the scales and leftover cob fall to the ground. Another cafe in the woods.

  porc scat and cone

Porcupines scat as they eat. Under this tree, I found some of the largest porcupine scats I’ve ever seen. The one photographed here is normal size, but I wanted to show it beside a hemlock cone. They do look similar until you get up close and personal. While the scat is woody, the cone has scales.

large porc scat

I couldn’t resist sharing this one. One rather large porcupine scat.

hare gnawing

I hope you are still with me. A mystery that I think I’ve solved. Unfortunately, the tracks were diluted by the recent warm temps we’d had but I had a general idea of the movement this critter made.And there was no scat–I looked around as you can imagine.

hare 3

A closer look. Did you notice that the work is all toward the base of the saplings?

hare 4

Final clue–an angled cut. Rather clean cut, unlike those made by ungulates (deer and moose). This critter has sharp teeth. And we can thank it for our ability to move on the snow. What is it? Any guesses?

As you wander, take some time to wonder about the bark in front of you. I’ll keep sharing more as my bark eyes continue to develop.