I always get excited when an issue of lake living is published. This spring issue contains great articles including three by moi (so of course they are great!)–groundcover (a quiet garden oasis in Bridgton) , Into the Box (Lovell Box Company) and The Art of Collaboration (where glass meets wood at Studio 448 in Norway). Click on the link and enjoy!
My guy was on an unexpected road trip all weekend and didn’t arrive home until lunchtime today. So, while I waited for him, I did what I do best–stalked the garden.
I’m not sure I ever noticed this black and white bee previously. Its hairy body shimmered in the morning sun.
At the same time, the great golden digger wasp moved quickly about, using its jointed antennae to search out nectar before it honed in on the sweet stuff.
In a similar manner, a thread-waisted wasp also visited the mint flowers.
As I made my rounds, I was thrilled to find turtlehead about to bloom. This late-blooming flower is one of my favorites (turtle theme), and I’ve watched it move from spot to spot in the garden. This year, it’s plentiful in a shadier place than usual.
While the turtlehead sported new life, the black-eyed Susan spoke of days gone by. But even still, I think it’s stunning.
On the deck I noticed a cricket. Really, they are everywhere right now and sing all day and night–thus the reason we named our homestead Cricketchirp Farm. Don’t get it wrong–we don’t farm–we just live in an old farmhouse. Our best crop–insects.
And then I noticed I wasn’t the only one doing the watching. The red-legged grasshopper broke through a spider web and turned its head to keep an eye on me. Nice lips.
Finally, my guy was home and eager to stretch his legs. So I convinced him to explore several properties in the Oxford Hills region with me. Our journey began at Ordway Grove.
The trailhead is located on Pleasant Street in Norway and begins beside a quaint shed. Though the trail isn’t long, its history is worth reading on the Norway Historical Society’s Web site.
This is land where large red oaks are supported by much smaller beech, and . . .
towering white pines speak volumes about the last few hundred years.
The trail includes a few peeks at Lake Pennesseewassee, aka Norway Lake. Our only disappointment–signs of man’s disturbance, aka trash and some graffiti. Why?
After we completed the loop walk and stood in awe among the giant trees, we continued up Pleasant Street to the trailhead for the Witt Swamp Trail owned by the Western Maine Foothills Land Trust. At the kiosk, an attached note provided warning. The register was a bit destroyed–perhaps due to a wasp encounter. It was cold and breezy when we arrived so we didn’t see, hear or feel a single insect.
The beginning of the trail leads through a variety of youthful evergreens including red and white pines, balsam fir, hemlock and cedar.
Because they are saplings, I was able to take a closer look at the cedar leaves. Can you see the oil glands that give cedar its aromatic smell when the leaves are crushed?
My eyes were constantly drawn to the waviness of cedar bark, which creates a pattern not equaled by others.
Cedar works and . . .
cedar legs speak of their family genes–cedars are members of the Cypress family.
Two trees and a few signs encouraged us to pass through–so we did.
Other signs also indicated the direction to follow–this one much like an oversized arrowhead.
Not to be left out, a hemlock hugged the rock and itself.
After another rather quick journey, we drove to Paris Hill. Our destination: Cornwall Nature Preserve, a 147-acre tract donated to the town of South Paris by Alice Cornwall. We decided to follow the wide white-blazed trail toward the purple trail leading to the Ice Pond.
We found the old dam, where water trickled through the rocks, but didn’t realize that somewhere in this vicinity we missed what may have been the ice house–or perhaps a rock foundation of sorts. Now that I know we missed it, I’m eager to return for a closer look. Back in the day, ice was cut and probably stored in the ice house. As a kid growing up in Connecticut, I recall going to an ice house on Route 1 in Clinton. Ice blocks stored in an insulated icebox kept perishable food chilly.
We did see a few mushrooms here and there, but this summer’s drought means a low amount of mycelium’s fruiting form. A few artist conks made themselves known.
Without field guides, I think I ID this correctly as oak fern. Though similar to bracken, its stem was delicate and its height low. I should have looked for sori, but only had time for a quick shot–I was with my guy, after all.
Again, there were stonewalls throughout the property–this one covered with moss. Like much of Maine, this was once farm country.
The Cornwall Nature Preserve has a variety of trails, but no maps other than the one at the kiosk. We figured out the layered trail system and encircled most of the outer part of the property. Much of it seems worthy of further exploration and enchantment.
We certainly felt enchanted to finally celebrate an afternoon Mondate.
My guy happens to be Irish so it seemed only appropriate that I propose to him today following the example that St. Brigid set when she struck a deal with St. Patrick. Yes, we’ve been married for 25+ years, but I proposed anyway.
And he accepted. So today’s Mondate found us at Roberts Farm Preserve in Norway. Norway, Maine, that is.
In her book, Hikes and Woodland Walks in and around Maine’s LAKES REGION, my friend Marita Wiser states that the preserve was “farmed by the Pike and Roberts family for 200 years.” She adds, “The property was purchased by the Western Foothills Land Trust in 2007.”
Though the trails are mostly maintained for Nordic skiers, we didn’t see any today.
Had it been open to skiers, we wouldn’t have been able to do what we did–follow the network of trails around the perimeter of the property.
We’d only walked a few feet when I had to pause–the burnt cornflake look of black cherry bark insisted upon being noticed.
Visiting here a couple of times previously, one of the things I’d come to like about it is the opportunity to gush over Northern white cedar bark.
I love its red-brown color, sheddy strips that intersect in diamond formations and habit of spiraling left and then right with age. In his book BARK, Michael Wojtech states of the cedar: “In the 1500s, the native Iroquois showed French explorers how to prevent scurvy using a tea made from the bark, which contains vitamin C. The name arborvitae means ‘tree of life.'”
Equally beautiful are its flat sprays of braided, scale-like leaves.
Since I’m on the topic of tree bark, I have two others to share, including this one–the red inner bark of Northern Red Oak made a stunning statement.
Displaying its shaggy presentation was the hop hornbeam.
My heart leaped (appropriate movement for today) when I saw these papery fruits on the ground–hop hornbeam is named for its fruiting structures that resemble hops.
Stone walls crisscross the preserve and provide evidence of its former use as a dairy farm.
Barbed wire adds to the story.
Installed long ago, this tree formed a grimace in response.
Along the edge of some walls stand much happier trees–those that were allowed to grow tall and wide in the sun, like this Eastern white pine. Perhaps it provided a bit of shade for Roberts’ Jerseys.
The land was farmed until 1968. Since then, it returned to woodland, was sold and logged and sold another time–finally to the land trust. Generational gaps are visible throughout. This is the perfect place to take some youngsters and ask them to locate a white pine that matches their age.
We cross several streams that I’m sure sustained the farm and its inhabitants. Today, they sustain the wildlife that wanders here, including deer.
We realized there had been a recent turkey trot and
Birds also have played a major role in this community. This pileated woodpecker-created condominium has been around for a while.
From the trail, I spied the largest pile of wood chips I’ve ever seen and of course, had to investigate.
The old beech was recently excavated for new condos.
Below, the wood chip pile was a couple of inches deep.
The best part–lots of scat cylinders filled with insect body parts. Good stuff to see.
Pileated woodpeckers aren’t the only ones in the building industry.
I think you’d agree that Quinn and Mike did a fabulous job constructing this birdhouse.
In several open areas we spotted the winter display of common mullein.
Its crowded performance of two-parted capsules atop a tall, fuzzy stem made it easy to identify.
The pointed prickly bracts of thistles also offered a winter show.
Lungwort tried to hide on the backside of an ash tree, but I found it. I only wish we’d had rain, or better yet, snow, recently, because I love the neon green that it becomes once it is wet.
Be careful what you wish for. Though the day was sunny at the start, it began to rain as we ate our sandwiches on lunch rock overlooking Lake Pennesseewassee, aka Norway Lake.
It wasn’t a downpour, but enough that it encouraged us to eat quickly and move on.
Well, I didn’t move far. Within steps, I found a shrub I was seeking yesterday–beaked hazelnut.
It’s a member of the birch family and features catkins–the male flowers that will release pollen this spring to fertilize the shrub’s delicate red female flowers.
Another quick find–Christmas fern–one pinnae topped with a birch fleur de lis.
Typically, during the winter there is only one trail open to hikers. Today, however, we figured it would be OK to walk on the ski trails because they are either icy or bare. It was definitely a micro-spike kind of day, which has been more the norm this year.
Other than birds and squirrels, we saw no wildlife. But we did stumble upon the “Painted Cows” created by Bernard Langlais in 1974 and gifted to the land trust by Colby College and the Kohler Foundation.
We had planned to explore the inner network of trails, but the cold raindrops drove us out. Despite that, I think my guy enjoyed himself as much as I did. And he was extremely patient each time I paused. Sometimes he even gave me a heads up–I took that to mean he didn’t mind that I had to stop, wonder and photograph. This is one Leap Date I hope we don’t forget.
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