Thursday, March 31, 2011

an early spring walk in the woods

A friend whom I seem to see only at the food coop, when I do my member hours bagging groceries, called me up the other day and we hatched up a plan to go walking in the woods out where she’s living. The plan: ascend the ridge behind her house and peer down over the edge into the adjacent watershed.
We made our way across the back yard, examining mole holes, ground spiders, and such mysteries as the seedhead shown above, and then contemplated the hill above us.
On a recent hike, my friend – an experienced educator and tracker – had seen evidence of a bobcat and, following fresh tracks, had surprised a “medium-size mammal” at the top of the ridge. She wasn’t sure if it was the bobcat, or a coyote. Either way, her neck of the woods is home to a bobcat, and what’s not to love about that?
Naturally, I kept stopping to take pictures of buds and whatnot.
When I was learning how to identify 80+ species of trees and shrubs in winter conditions, lo these many years, our professor gave us a big pass on willows. We never took the time to learn individual species. So a vague Salix something-something is the best I can do.
And the berry of some kind of as-yet-unidentified ground cover plant.
The snow is melting in the woods, starting around the bases of the trees.
You remember beech leaves, right?
By this time of year, they are as pale as another sun-starved Vermonter I could mention, dessicated, and fragile. They’re starting to break off, making room for their replacements.
The higher up the hillside we went, the more open ground appeared.
We came across a dead birch tree. Most of the inside was rotting out, but there was just enough left to hold up five feet worth of outer casing of bark.
Here’s a view down into the trunk. And those are Amy’s legs!
We finally got to the edge of the ridge we were ascending, and contemplated the other mountain on the other side. Or, what passes for a mountain, here in Vermont. That ridge tops out at about 1,650 feet.
We saw only some old melted-out turkey tracks – no bobcat deliciousness – but it was a great day to be in the woods. I wasn’t even wearing a jacket.
A happy red-osier dogwood (Cornus stolonifera) saluting the sun.
There is much other news to report on the home front – power tools are involved, as well as plastic sheeting, and terrified cats. But you’ll have to wait until tomorrow for that.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Mmmmm…mud season!
We’re in a cold snap. It’s been about 32° all day, and it’s supposed to go down to 17° tonight. On today’s perambulation, I noticed ice forming in the ruts:
Let’s see how the buds are coming along, shall we?
Lilac – Syringa vulgaris. Lilacs, along with ashes, maples, some dogwoods, and a bunch of shrubbier things like viburnums, are “opposite” – meaning their branches are paired. You see that even when they are wee little buds, and interestingly, as I saw today, sometimes one bud is bigger than another. I wonder what that will look like when the buds pop open.
I may have evidence that the ashes are waking up just the tiniest bit.
Here’s the terminal bud of an ash sapling on March 15th.  See how tightly clasped the two bud scales are?
And here’s the same sapling, nine days later. Doesn’t the top seem to be opening up a bit? Which would be odd, if only because in my experience, the ashes are among the last to get going in the spring.
Witchhazel – Hamamelis virginiana, as of March 18.
No obvious change as of today. BUT, I knew there was something different about it lately…I racked my brain.
My brain suggested I google my own blog, and lo and behold, check this out:
January 10. It’s gray! Not yellow! Aha!
Gray birch – Betula populifolia. I really don’t have much to observe here, but I figure this will be a good point of reference when this opens up, eventually.
Same gray birch – a male catkin. When the catkins explode – that will be fun. That’s got to be weeks away. I love the basket weave look of this. I do wish this were in a bit crisper focus.
More gray birch…
And now, on a sadder note, let’s look at some black knot fungus.
These cherry trees are infected. I don’t think there is much to be done about it – the fungus spreads via spores, and once it takes hold, it gradually spreads over the whole tree and snaps the twigs. Eventually the tree succumbs.
The pathogen's presence disrupts the normal growth of the twigs and a tumor-like growth forms at the infection site. Infections may take place as much as a year or more prior to the development of these characteristic "knots", therefore, the swellings are normally not noticed until the winter of the second season of infection. It takes a keen observer to notice the subtle, initial symptoms present during the first season of infection.  Source
And now, as your reward for studying all the buds with me, here are some landscapes.

The thing to notice here is, the profusion of buds. Let’s zoom in.
Ahh! the buds are actually opening up, too! Yay!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

life is skittles, and life is beer.

I wish spring would get here already. Oh, that’s a Tom Lehrer reference, in case you’re clueless.

Exciting news, gang: all the snow has melted off the Honda and we’ve manoeuvered it into prime position.
It’s still too muddy to use this car. But we don’t have the use of the truck for a few days, as it’s getting some upgrades and deferred maintenance taken care of. Remember that bit that fell off the other day? That was the thing that protects the gas tank from accidental puncture. We’re having that fixed, and, ever hopeful even in the face of a forecast of snow, we’re having the snow tires swapped out for normal tires. Plus we’re having some deferred maintenance taken care of, including, um, something that has to do with the airbag actually being, you know, an airbag. This will all cost a pretty penny, but the way we figure it, we’re buying a (not) new-to-us used truck – one that gets great mileage, is already inspected and registered to us, that runs great, and that even already has a bunch of our crap in the back of it. You betcha!
I’ve been pretty quiet here lately. Have you missed me?
I’ve been offline partly because I’m fed up with “just kidding” snowfalls. On Saturday, knowing it was going to snow on Sunday, I went for a long run – 11.2 miles – and managed to neglect to bring water with me. I didn’t notice this as a problem (since it was cool, in the 40’s) until I was nearly home, and it was then that I remembered that the instructions for the yummilicious electrolyte chews I eat…
…are to have a chug of water with each one. I ate three of ‘em. No water. Whoops. As soon as I stopped running I knew I’d goofed. My legs felt AWFUL. I downed a boatload of water and ibuprofen and eventually felt better.
Then on Sunday, we got the expected snow – three or so inches. Noooooo! I was super-glad I’d already gotten the long run out of the way! We both immediately went into a carb frenzy. TAKE THAT, NATURE.
That’s cinnamon bread on the left – yes, in a variety of artistic shapes. You can’t blame the guy – he was working with a mismatched assortment of dishes and loaf pans. I can assure you that the results were tasty.
Then Monday, then Tuesday, and now Wednesday. And I have left you in the dark This Whole Time. So sorry! I’ve just been in an internal place, and not inspired by Nature, either. Well, there was the robin – at twilight, so all my shots turned out weird and grainy, but here’s the handsome fellow, on the cable line into the house.
I’ve been reading a truly fascinating book, which – despite the Amazon-thieved photo, I purchased at an actual brick-and-mortar store.
Light Emerging: The Journey of Personal Healing
It’s all about the different layers of auras, what their function is, etc. And – bear with me, those of you already rolling your eyes – it’s surprisingly non-woo-woo. I’m actually OK with woo-woo, in the privacy of my own home, or in the company of some folks (you know who you are!) I think energy medicine is the way of the future, or one of the ways, at any rate. It just plain makes sense to me. I don’t happen to be – at least at this point in my development – one of those people who can physically see auras and work with them. I have taught people how to find their chakras though. That’s fun. At any rate, this type of thing fits in well with Reiki, so I’m open to learning and developing my capacities. Reading this has been a start.
And hey, I like her name. (No relation.)
Whoops, time to go whomp on the Egyptians. No no, not a reference to the recent revolution – it’s time for choir rehearsal, and Handel’s “Israel in Egypt”. You remember. The one where God smote all the firstborn, unleashed fire, hailstones, rivers of blood, and lice, and then chucked some dude on a horse into the sea, etc. etc. etc. Rather like the Tom Lehrer tune, but a bit less tongue in cheek.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

mud season: when getting home’s a competitive sport

Ahhh, a sunny day. I have an 11-mile run scheduled for tomorrow, so today, Best Beloved and I hopped into the truck to scout out the local roads. Just how muddy are they? Will they suck my running shoes right off my feet? Are the shoulders on the paved roads sufficiently clear of snow that I have a place to go when the pickups go flying by?
About four miles from the house we came across an old Toyota sedan mired in mud halfway up the left-side tires. We pulled over to help, but didn’t get far before one of those fast-flying pickups approached and its driver – actually an angel in disguise – managed to tow the kid out. When we started up the Escape to continue our journey, the undercarriage made the most obnoxious grinding noise. Huh. We made it home fine, and Best Beloved performed outpatient surgery. (That’s when the car stays in the driveway.)
We don’t need this bit, do we?
Aahhhh…the shoes he got married in.

Friday, March 18, 2011

ham on wry

I hate puns, but this came to me like a flash, like a vision, the answer to a question I hadn’t asked:

If I were a sandwich, what kind of sandwich would I be?

This concludes the random portion of this post. Let’s look at what nature had to say for herself today.


Witchhazel. We’ve seen this before. I’m going to keep a watch on this and post pictures as it opens up. I like how it looks like it’s been dipped in gold dust – it’s one of the few colorful items on display these days.

It was warm today – just an overshirt needed, no jacket. BRING IT! Warm means melt…and melt means mud. Here’s a rivulet coming down from the hill above our house – it goes through a culvert under the shared driveway. It’s got a waterfall, but I don’t think you can see it – I didn’t feel like wading into the snow to get closer.


Next up: the brook, upstream. Water’s pretty high. That’s muddy snow on either side.


And now for the downstream. The lower left corner is where the brook jumped the banks recently. Needless to say, the heart rock collection I’d assembled on a tree stump is long gone. That’s OK. There are always heart rocks to be found.


Just for kicks, here’s the downstream, and the upstream view, August 8, 2010:


Back to the present moment…here’s the field, where the stream had its passionate fling with freedom recently…


Ah, mud season… this is why the recently-revealed Honda will have to wait a few more weeks before I can take it out for a spin. It’s a wee lass, not up to the challenge.


And here we have the eastern contributor to our pond – a little freshet that runs adjacent to the road and under a fat culvert by the mailboxes. That’s a Beaver Prevention Device in the entrance to the culvert. Damn, it’s wet out there.


The redwing blackbirds are here – the males. They’ve actually been here for a while. I first heard them the first day we got back from South Carolina, and I have no way of knowing how long they’d been around. There is a whole flock of them down at the south end of the pond, clustered around some … spruce trees, I think. Maybe pine. I should know that! I was unable to get any close-ups, or even medium-ups, of these guys. They didn’t like me standing by the side of the road with my camera, and lifted up, circled around, and landed in the top of the spruce tree here. You can see a handful of them in the picture below. The whole time, chucking, whirring, clicking, revving up their little personal buzz saw voices – a song to warm my impatient, cranky heart. I just want spring to BE HERE already – it takes forever around here to get going.


Speaking of impatient critters,


This is what feeding time around here looks like. Usually I feed the beasts, but Kevin did the honors this evening and I enjoyed trying to capture the mayhem. That’s Maggie, resting her paws on the drawer handles. Naughty child.