A Blue Bird Kind of Good Friday

When Jinnie Mae picked me up this morning, our destination was the Narrow Gauge Trail. But somewhere between here and there, she pulled a U-turn and drove to Narramissic Farm owned by the Bridgton Historical Society.

It had been just over a year since I last visited and I wanted to show her the shagbark hickory buds. And maybe even the bear trap.

n-Pleasant Mtn to Narramissic1

We crossed the field behind the house and started off on the path to the quarry and bear trap, but snow and water in the woods resulted in another U-turn. We’d been talking so much, we’d hardly noticed our surroundings, but the view stopped us in our tracks.

n-Pleasant Mountain

To the left, the long ridge line of Pleasant Mountain, where the ski trails of Shawnee Peak Ski Area made themselves known.

n-Narramissic

And in front of us, the Temperance Barn and Peabody-Fitch homestead, built in 1797. We had the place to ourselves and reveled in the quiet of the day–when we weren’t talking, that is.

n-shop and flagpole

Heading to the road for our tree bud search, we passed by the blacksmith shop where horseshoes were probably made in the day.

n-temperance barn

And at the Temperance Barn, so named “because it was raised without the traditional barrel of rum,” I can never resist admiring the structure even though it’s in great need of repair.

n-ash tags

And then we were stumped by a flowering tree. It sure looked like an ash as Jinnie Mae suggested, but what were those lacy tips? What came to my mind first were the tags on red oaks that I didn’t understand a few years ago until a friend helped me realize that they were leaf stems left behind when the wind finally claimed the dried leaves. Was this the same?

n-double-wide stonewall

Climbing onto the double-wide wall, I took a closer look.

n-white ash danglers 1

Turns out Jinnie Mae was right. But my question still remains. Were these the stems of the ash samaras or compound leaves?* For some reason I’ve never before seen them left behind. Ah, there are so many things to discover in this world.

n-black walnut 3

We continued down the road, noting budding pussy willows and flowering red maples. And then I spied the bulbous buds I wanted to show her. Only, it turns out that we hadn’t reached the hickory trees yet.

b-black walnut leaf scar 2

The monkey face leaf scar should have been a clue. But my brain was stuck in hickory mode and I completely forgot that black walnut leaves leave such a formation. At home, I pulled out Forest Trees of Maine and then seesawed between black walnut and butternut (aka white walnut). Both feature leaf scars shaped like a monkey’s face. But the top of the leaf scar serves as the give away–this one did not have thick fuzzy eyebrows like a butternut, so I’m going out on a limb and declaring this a black walnut.

n-shagbark bud hairy 1

A bit further down the road we spotted more bulbous buds. These were definitely the ones I was looking for–shagbark hickory. In the moment and because the two trees weren’t close together, we thought they were all one in the same. But hindsight being 20/20 as it is, the photographs tell the story.

n-shagbark bud 6

The subtle colors and fuzziness wowed us and we both took numerous photos.

n-shagbark leaf scar1

Then there were the leaf scars–definitely more heart-shaped than the previous trees.  And lacking that smiling face. We smiled for them.

n-Long Lake below

It wasn’t enough to find the small saplings beside the road and so we crossed another field in search of the mother tree.

n-grasshopper 1

Along the way, Jinnie Mae spotted a wee grasshopper–the first of the season for us.

n-shagbark bark from distance

And then her newly trained shagbark hickory eyes keyed in on the momma.

n-shagbark bark 3

If you go, it’s located behind the barn.

n-shagbark bark 5

And shouts its name in presentation.

n-shagbark bark 4

Looking upward, we could see the bulbous buds on the twig tips contrasted against the bright blue sky.

n-bluebird

Happiness is a blue bird kind of day–sweetened by time spent exploring with Jinnie Mae, making discoveries and watching bluebirds move between the field and the trees. Indeed it was a Good Friday.

Now we need to return and find the mother black walnut.

*Thanks for Maine Master Naturalist Pam Davis for IDing the ash strand as the rachis of the compound leaf. She reminded me that I have seen these on the ground in the fall. But–to be still dangling from the tree was new to my eyes and mind.

 

To Bear Trap and Back

A change of plans today meant I had time for a trek to Narramissic Farm and the historic bear trap in South Bridgton before the rain began.

N-view from road

From Ingalls Road, where I decided to park, I took in the view of the front fields and house.

N-Narramissic Road

Narramissic Road is passable, but I wanted to slow down and soak it all in.

N-pussy willow 1

From pussy willows to

N-staghorn

fuzzy staghorn sumac, I was thankful I’d taken time for the noticing.

N-house & attached barn

The Bridgton Historical Society acquired the 20-acre property in 1987 when it was bequeathed by Mrs. Margaret Monroe.

N-house

Turning the clock back to 1797, William Peabody, one of Bridgton’s first settlers, built the main part of the house.

Peabody sold the farm to his daughter Mary and her husband, George Fitch, in 1830 and they did some updating while adding an ell.

N-barn front

The Fitches had a barn erected that has come to be known as the Temperance Barn; historical records claim it to be so named “because it was raised without the traditional barrel of rum.”

N- barn face

Both the barn and the house are in need of repair, but I couldn’t help but wonder about what mighty fine structures they were in their day. While today, a visit to the farm feels like you’re in the middle of nowhere, during its heyday it was located in the center of somewhere–at the junction of two roads that have since been abandoned.

When Mrs. Monroe purchased the property in 1938, she named it Narramissic, apparently an Abenaki word for “hard to find” because it reflected her long search for just the right piece of real estate.

N-blacksmith shop

A blacksmith shop is located between the house and Temperance Barn, and beside the trail I chose to follow through another field and off into the woods.

N-garden wall 1a

Massive stone walls indicate the fields had been plowed.

N-rock uplifting

Even today, “stone potatoes” continue to “rise” from the ground, making them one of the farmer’s best crops.

N-pearly 2

My destination was two-fold: the quarry and bear trap. But along the trail, I stopped to smell the roses. Or at least admire the beauty of pearly everlasting in its winter form.

N-gray birch litter

Several trees had snapped in the season’s wind, including a gray birch that scattered scales and seeds as it crashed to the ground.

N-gray fruit seeds

But . . . because the top of the tree was no longer in the wind zone, a surprising number of catkins continued to dangle–all the better for me to see. Notice the shiny seeds attached to the scales.

N-gray birch generations

The tree speaks of generations past and into the future.

N-jelly 2

Further along, I found a wavy and rubbery jelly ear (Auricularia auricla) beside a gray birch seed.

N-sign 2

Finally, I reached my turn-off.

N-quarry 1

N-feather 2

This is the spot from which the foundations for the buildings were quarried so long ago, using the plug and feather technique that was common in that time.

N-common toadskin 2

Life of a different sort has overtaken some of the stones–common toadskin lichen covers their faces.

N-common toadskin 3

In its dry form, it looks perhaps like the surface of a foreign planet, but this is another lichen that turns green when wet–allowing the “toad” to become visible.

N-bishop's face in ice

Speaking of becoming visible, I noticed the bishop’s face topped with a mitre as water dripped off the rocks and froze. My thoughts turned to my sister–she doesn’t always see what I see, but maybe this one will work for her.

N-young beech

Heading back out to the main trail, I startled a snowshoe hare and of course, didn’t have my camera ready. As I turned toward the bear trap, I continued in the land of the beech trees. Most are too young to produce fruit, but I looked for larger trees and, of course, checked for claw marks.

N-beech slashes

The best I found were slashes–probably caused by another tree rubbing against this one.

N-initials

Oh, and some initials carved by one very precise bear.

N-No parking

I was almost there when I encountered a “No Parking” sign. A new “No Parking” sign. On a trail in the middle of nowhere that used to be somewhere. The pileated woodpeckers obviously ignored it. Me too.

N-BT1

At last, Bear Trap! According to an August 17, 1963 article in the Bridgton News, “Enoch Perley, early settler of South Bridgton, built his first house in 1777 and brought his bride to their new home in 1778. [I believe this was at Five Fields Farm.]

As Enoch acquired livestock, he was much troubled by depredations from bears. He built a bear trap on the hill back of his first home . . .

Tradition says that four bears were caught in this trap–not enough! So Mr. Perley later had an iron bear trap made which took care of eight bears. Without a doubt, many were disposed of by him personally. A story is told that in an unarmed encounter with a bear and two cubs beside a wood road at dusk, Mr. Perley allegedly strangled the mother bear with his garters . . .”

N-bear trap 1

The article continues, “The bear trap is built of stone. A large stone door is suspended and as the bear takes the bait, he trips the lever and is caught in the stone enclosure.”

N-BT inside

I looked inside and found no one in residence. In a December 1954 issue of the Bridgton News, a brief article states: “The old stone bear trap on the mountain in South Bridgton known as ‘Fitch’s Hill,’ unused for more than one hundred years, has been reactivated by Dr. Fred G. Noble and Gerald Palmer and put in readiness to capture a bear.” As the story goes, they never did succeed.

N-BT back view

A side view.

N-BT*back side

And a rear view. A few years ago there was talk of moving this monument because land ownership had changed. I hope it stays put because its authenticity would be lost in a move.

N-pine scale?

Just below the trap, I noticed a white hue decorating only one of a bunch of young pine trees. I can’t say I’ve ever seen this before or venture a guess about its origin. I’m waiting to hear back for our district forester–maybe he has some insight.

N-heading back 1

As I headed back down the trail and the barn came into view, I spied a single red pine thrown into the mix of forest species that have taken over this land.

N-red pine

Ever on my bear claw quest, I checked the bark of this tree. Though beech provides an easy display of such marks, it’s not the only species of choice. Among others, single red pines that appear to be anomalies have been known to receive a visit.

N-hare

There was sudden movement as I approached the pine and then what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a second snowshoe hare! It paused long enough for me to snap a photo. Do you see it? Also known as the varying hare, its fur is still white.

Behind the tree, I found where it had been dining and defecating.

N-Pleasant Mtn ridge

N-farm view from back

As I crossed the upper field, the ridge line of Pleasant Mountain and ski trails at Shawnee Peak made themselves known to the west. And beyond the farmhouse, the White Mountains.

And then,

N-shagbark hickory

and then . . .  an oversized bud captured my attention as I walked back down the road.

 

Shagbark hickory isn’t a common species around here. But, Jon Evans of Loon Echo Land Trust had recently told me some mature trees were found on a property in South Bridgton that is under conservation easement. (We actually may visit them tomorrow). The bulbous, hairy bud scales and large leaf scar made even the young trees easy to identify. Curiously, according to Forest Trees of Maine, the wood “was formerly used in the manufacture of agricultural implements, axe and tool handles, carriages and wagons, especially the spokes and rims of the wheels.” That fits right in with the neighborhood I’d been visiting.

N-mud season

One final view–yup, it’s mud season in western Maine. But still worth a trek to bear trap and back. Thankfully, the rain held off until my drive home.