Mondate Afternoon

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.

n-morning white faced wasp

I’m not sure I ever noticed this black and white bee previously. Its hairy body shimmered in the morning sun.

n-morning golden digger wasp

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.

n morning wasp

In a similar manner, a thread-waisted wasp also visited the mint flowers.

n-morning  turtlehead

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.

n-morning black eyed susan

While the turtlehead sported new life, the black-eyed Susan spoke of days gone by. But even still, I think it’s stunning.

n-morning cricket

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.

n-morning grasshopper

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.

n-ordway sign

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.

n-Ordway trailhead

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.

n-oak on beech

This is land where large red oaks are supported by much smaller beech, and . . .

n-giant pines

towering white pines speak volumes about the last few hundred years.

n-Penneseewassee

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?

n-wasp Witt Swamp.jpg

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.

n Witt Swamp evergreens

The beginning of the trail leads through a variety of youthful evergreens including red and white pines, balsam fir, hemlock and cedar.

n cedar leaf

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?

n-cedar waves

My eyes were constantly drawn to the waviness of cedar bark, which creates a pattern not equaled by others.

n cedar works

Cedar works and . . .

n-cedar legs

cedar legs speak of their family genes–cedars are members of the Cypress family.

n-squeeze between 2

Two trees and a few signs encouraged us to pass through–so we did.

n-arrow at Witt

Other signs also indicated the direction to follow–this one much like an oversized arrowhead.

n-hemlock hugs

Not to be left out, a hemlock hugged the rock and itself.

n cornwall map

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.

n ice pond dam

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.

n-artists conk

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.

n-oak fern

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.

n-Cornwall stonewalls

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.

 

 

Sundae School

I went on a reconnaissance mission this afternoon and visited a land trust property I’ve never stepped foot on before. My intention was to scope it out for possible use with a future Maine Master Naturalist class. My realization from the get-go was a happy heart. I can’t wait to return and take others along so we can make discoveries together.

n Preserve sign

I’ve only been on one other Western Maine Foothills Land Trust property, so had no idea what to expect. The small parking area for Shepard’s Farm Preserve is at 121 Crockett Ridge Road in Norway. (Norway, Maine, that is.) This is one of seven preserves owned by the trust. I should have known I’d enjoy myself immensely just by the name. Though we spell Shephard with an “h,” it’s a family name for us. Who knows–maybe there’s a connection.

n-trail sign

On the back of the brochure I grabbed at the kiosk, I read the following: “Originally owned by Benjamin Witt, the high undulating pasture of Shepard’s Farm Family Preserve was transferred to Joshua Crockett in 1799, Charles Freeman in 1853, John Shepard in 1910, and to Bill Detert in 1984.” Mr. Detert and his family donated the property in memory of his wife, Jan, to the WMFLT in 2010.

n-Indian pipe bee 1

My lessons began immediately. What to my wondering eye should appear, but a bee pollinating an Indian pipe. And in the middle of the afternoon. Huh? I’ve always heard that they are pollinated by moths or flies at night. Of course, upon further research, I learned that bees and skipper butterflies have been known to pay a visit to the translucent flowers. Add that to the memory bank.

n-Indian pipe

As I continued along the trail I found the upturned mature flower and again wondered–who stopped by for a sip of sap? Lessons should evoke further questions and a desire to learn more.

n-hawkweed

The trail offered other familiar flowers, like hawkweed,

n-pearly everlasting

pearly everlasting, goldenrods and asters, Queen Anne’s lace, boneset and jewelweed.

n-monkeyflower 3

And then I come upon a wildflower I don’t recall meeting before. The lesson included a look at the leaves, their arrangement on the stem, and the flowerhead.

n-monkeyflower 1

The answer to the quiz–lavender-flowered Sharp-winged Monkeyflower. Monkeys in the woods! You never know. Sometimes I think that red squirrels sound like monkeys when they chit at me, but in this case, it’s the fact that the flower looks something like a monkey’s face.

n-thistle young and old

Further on,  I spotted a favorite that I don’t see as often as I’d like. What I didn’t realize is that thistles are in the aster family. Always learning. Its presence here is referenced by trail conditions, which change periodically from mixed hardwoods to softwoods to open places. Thistles prefer those open places–fields and waste places. Hardly waste in my opinion. Rather, early succession to a woodland.

n-bee on thistle 2

A bee worked its magic on the flowerhead so I moved in for a closer look.

n-bee on thistle1

As with any flower, it was a pollen frenzy.

n-thistle with seeds

Seconds later–maturity! Well, maybe not quite that fast.

n-thistle seeds 1

But the seeds had developed their downy parachutes and the breeze was a’blowing.

n-thistle seed 2

They knew it was time to leave the roost and find a new classroom.

n-trail ferns

Another lesson worth more time was a look at the natural communities along the trail. Bikers and hikers share this space, but what I found fascinating was the constant change.

n-trail hay

The original trail for the Shepard’s Family Farm Preserve was located on a 19-acre parcel. Recently, the Witt Swamp Extension was added, which almost circles around a 250+ acre piece. Hay covers some of the new trail right now–giving it that farm-like feel and smell.

n-trail 1

I’m not certain of the mileage, but believe that I covered at least 4-5 miles in my out and back venture over undulating land and through a variety of neighborhoods. The trail conditions–pure bliss. No rocks or roots to trip over. Instead, I could look around for the next lesson.

n-cedar bark

One of the things I love about hiking in Norway is that I get to be in the presence of cedar trees–Northern white cedar.

n-cedar leaves

I’m fascinated by its scale-like leaves.

n-deer tracks

So are the deer, who feed on the leaves during the winter months.

n-dry stream

I found only deer tracks, and noted that all stream beds were dry, though the moss gave a moist look to the landscape. We’re experiencing a drought this summer.

n-red leaf

Due to that lack of rain, some red maples already have turned and colorful leaves are beginning to float to the ground.

n-porky 3

Deer aren’t the only mammals that inhabit this place. From the trail, I noticed hemlock trees with bases that looked like perfect gnome homes. And then I spotted this one that invited a closer look.

n-porky den

A pile of porcupine scat–the pig-pen of the woods. Even Charlie Brown would note a distinct odor.

n-toad camo

And in true “Where’s Waldo” tradition, a young American toad crossed my path. The camo lesson–blend in for safety’s sake.

n-turtle 2

Being former farmland, stonewalls wind their way through the preserve. And my childhood fascination with turtles was resurrected. Do you see it?

n-turtle 3

How about now? Hint: the head is quartz.

n-turtles

And this one? They’re everywhere. It makes me wonder if it was a style of the times.

n-stone wall ending

I crossed through a gap in the stonewall and noted two smaller stones topped by a large flat one. A reason why? The questions piled up. I need to ask the teacher.

n-stonepile

And then there were the stone piles. Why so many smaller stones around a boulder? What I love about this spot is that a hemlock took advantage of the boulder and grew on top of it.

n-stone structure 2

And another favorite find–a stone structure.

n-stone structure, flat

Created with rather flat field stones.

n-stone structure 1a

It’s near a stonewall, so I surmised it was a shed of some sort rather than a root cellar for a home. I could be wrong, but am thrilled by the opportunity to see it.

n bird sculpture

One of the coolest features of this property is that it’s home to sculptures created in the 1970s by Bernard Langlois, including this bird in flight. The sculptures were made possible recently by the generosity of his widow, Helen Langlois, Colby College and the Kohler Foundation.

n-bird lady 2

Mrs. Noah is my favorite. She has stories to tell and I have lessons to learn.

It’s Sunday and by the time I finished hiking I was hot. I’d intended to check out a few more preserves, but the thought of a creamsicle smoothie at a local ice cream shop had my focus–until I pulled in and saw this posted: “Cash and local checks only.” No cash. And though our checks would be local, I didn’t have any with me either. Lesson learned.

I drove home and made my own sundae.