Tuesday, February 28, 2012

these woods used to be pasture

I went up the hill into the woods again today, imagine if you will.


Exploded mushrooms with two birch seed casings.


Coolness. I bet Kevin’s allergic to this. Fortunately, he’s nowhere near.

You can learn a lot about land by just staring at it for a while. When I was in grad school, I took a couple of courses from Tom Wessels, author of “Reading the Forested Landscape”. In his Terrestrial Ecology class, we’d go off into the woods, and figure out what explained what there was to see, particularly in the presence of abrupt shifts in forest composition. What accounts for differences? underlying bedrock and soil type? human intervention? fire? hurricane? etc. In one class, we deciphered something like 300 years worth of history of a quarter acre spot in the woods, just by looking at the shapes of the land and the composition of the forest. Crazy stuff.

Well, there’s nothing like standing in the woods on your own property, looking at two stone walls meeting each other, without a building or road in sight, to get you thinking. Who used to live here? When were these pastures cleared, and when were they abandoned? Who was the last person to come up here – really come up here?  It didn’t even occur to me to take pictures. I stood so still that a ruffed grouse perched in a tree above my head for a good ten minutes. I looked at the land, and the land looked back at me.

We have essentially two or three layers of former meadows above our house. At one point, each meadow stood open with only a single gigantic sugar maple to watch over things:


Here’s one such grandfather tree. Naturally, I interpret the green orb as the resident spirit, come to mind over me.



The main leaders were long ago carved off and probably used for firewood.



Here’s another other wolf tree.



Stumps: who know they could be so tasty?





And now – I’m cheating! Here’s a similar shot on a rock, I believe, in April of 2011:


Snow is on the way. Bring it, I say. I heard the red-winged blackbirds today for the first time. This afternoon, while we waited for our respective vehicles to get loaded up at Agway, a woman from the town on the other side of our ridge told me she heard them three weeks ago. Welcome back, harbingers of spring!

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