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1. Stone Wall

If there’s one thing we have plenty of here in New Hampshire it is stones, and you can hardly walk a mile even in the deepest woods without seeing a wall built with them. Though there are many types of stone walls the most common in this area are “tossed walls.” Farmers worked from dawn to dusk in Colonial New England and tossed walls required the least amount of time and effort because smaller stones were literally tossed or thrown on top of one another. In the early years getting rid of the plentiful stones quickly and efficiently was more important than enclosing the fields and boy, did famers get rid of them. In 1872 there were an estimated 270,000 miles of stone walls in New England. Today these masses of stone collect a lot of heat from the sun and snow melts from them quickly, leaving perfect places to explore in the winter.

2. Sulfur Firedot on Stone

I can remember when I was a young boy reading a book (by Beatrix Potter I think) which showed a painting of a stone house. The stones were all colors including blue, orange and yellow, so I knew right off that whoever wrote this dumb old book had never seen anything built of stone. Why, everybody knew that stones were gray! As I grew older and started paying closer attention to the world around me I realized once again that I didn’t know what I was talking about because, as whoever illustrated that book knew, stones could indeed come in many colors. The orange yellow color in this example comes from sulfur firedot lichens (Caloplaca flavovirescens.)

3. Sulfur Dust Lichen aka Chrysothrix chlorina

An even brighter yellow is found on stones colored by sulfur dust lichens (Chrysothrix chlorina). This lichen doesn’t like to be rained on so it is usually found hiding under some type of overhang.

4. Hedwigia ciliata  Moss on Stone

Stones can be green when covered by a carpet of moss. This stone was too big for three men to carry and wore the biggest patch of Hedwigia ciliata moss that I’ve seen.

5. Hedwigia ciliata Moss

The white leaf tips drawn out to long, fine points help confirm the identity of Hedwigia ciliata moss.

6. Orange Granite

Sometimes stones don’t need any help from lichens to show their colors as this orange granite shows. Granite comes in many colors, including red, brown, pink, blue-gray, black, and white. Often though, over the years the wall stones will weather to a uniform gray before the lichens move in and lend their colors to the wall.

 7. Hitching Ring

My grandfather was the town blacksmith for years in Westmoreland, New Hampshire so I always look for old wrought iron hardware in stone walls. This photo shows an old iron hitching ring for a horse, which its reins would have been passed through to keep it from running off. Why the landowner wanted to hitch his horse to this exact spot in the wall is a mystery. Maybe it was shaded at one time.

8. Chain Hook

This chain hook was my favorite find during this walk. A link from a chain would have been hooked over it and then another link hooked over a similar hook a certain distance away. Chains were (and are) often hung across roads or driveways as a way to say “no admittance.”  What I like about this example is the way the blacksmith tapered the hook over its length and finally ended it in what looks like a dragon’s tail. He didn’t have to do any of that because this was something that would have hardly ever been seen and it meant more time and effort, but he had the skill and used it and took pride in his work. I also like the Cumberland rock shield lichens growing all over the stone.

9. Cumberland Rock Shield Apothecia aka Xanthoparmelia cumberlandia

Cumberland rock shield lichens (Xanthoparmelia cumberlandia) have cinnamon to dark brown fruiting bodies, called apothecia, where spores are produced. They produce spores quite regularly so it is always worth stopping to get a closer look. The curled margins of the apothecia cups are helpful with identification.

10. Squirrel Leavings

Squirrels and chipmunks choose the flattest stones to have their lunch on, which in this case consisted of white pine (Pinus strobus) seeds.

 11. Gray Lichen on Stone possibly possibly Thelotrema lepadinum

Plain old gray lichens are plentiful and easy to walk by without a second look, but you might be missing something quite fascinating if you do.

12. Gray Lichen on Stone Apothecia possibly Thelotrema lepadinum

This is a close up look at the gray lichen in the previous photo. I think it’s a barnacle lichen (Thelotrema lepadinum.) The darker bits are its apothecia. It looks like some kind of alien landscape.

13. Marginal Wood Fern

Many plants hug stone walls for the winter warmth given off by the stones and protection from mower blades. Everything from lowly mosses to towering trees can be found along these old walls.

 14. Marginal Wood Fern Sori

Many ferns release their spores in the fall and if you want to see how it all works all you need to do is follow a stone wall, because there are sure to be ferns growing along it. This example shows the many sori (clusters of spore producing sporangia) on the underside of a marginal wood fern (Dryopteris marginalis.) Thicker cells on one side of the sourus create tension as it ages and dries out, and causes its cover (indusium) to burst open and release its spores. These burst indusia can be seen in several places in this photo. Not all ferns have covered sori; some, like the polypody fern’s (Polypodium vulgare,) are naked.

15. White Pine Stump

In this region white pine trees are common and they (or their stumps) are especially common along stone walls. Old, rotting pine stumps are great places to look for mosses and lichens.

16. British Soldier Lichens on Stump

New Hampshire was nearly 150 years old when the Revolutionary War began and though no battles were fought here we still have our British soldiers- in the form of lichens (Cladonia cristatella). These were found on the base of the old white pine stump in the previous photo.

Like a negative to a photograph, stone walls are most visible when life is most invisible. Typically this occurs in January when snow frames the wall from bottom to top and when the strengthening, crystal-clear sun casts strong shadows. ~Robert M. Thorson

Thanks for stopping in.

 

1. Ashuelot Waves

It has been more like spring than winter here for the past week, with above freezing temperatures and lots of rain. With all of the rain and snowmelt I thought that I might look for some roaring water. My first stop was the Ashuelot River on the one sunny day that we’ve had in over a week. I like the challenge of trying to read the rhythm of the river so I can catch its waves when they’re curling like ocean waves. The deep rich blues and greens and clean, bright whites that appear in the water on a sunny day can be really beautiful.

2. Brook

When I visited 40 foot falls in Surry there was no sun to be seen but I found that there was still plenty of snow in the woods, though in my own yard it’s all gone. Before you can get to the falls you have to cross what is normally a small stream but on this day because of all the rain it had swollen to twice its normal size, wider than I could jump, so I had to follow it upstream and find a place to cross.

3. Crossing

Footprints told me that someone else had crossed here where the stream narrowed so I crossed using the stones as a bridge, hoping that none of them were slippery or tippy. Luckily I stayed dry.

4. Lower 40 Foot Falls

The lower falls were a bit of a letdown because they didn’t seem to be running any stronger than they had been last fall when I first visited this place. It could be that there is a beaver dam further up that regulates the flow. Next summer I’ll find out.

5. Middle 40 Foot Falls

The middle falls weren’t any better as far as volume, but I decided to blur the water so it might look like more was spilling over. I’ll let you be the judge of whether the effort was successful or not. I didn’t bother going all the way to the upper falls because even with Yak Trax on it was slippery. They don’t help much when it is leaves instead of ice making it slippery, I’ve discovered.

6. Beaver Brook Abandoned Road

I hadn’t been to Beaver Brook falls for a while so I decided to give them a try. The snow on the old abandoned road was melting where it saw sunshine.

7. Beaver Brook Abandoned Road

I was happy that I had worn my Yak Trax on the shadier parts though, because the packed snow had turned to ice. It’s hard to tell from the photos but it’s a steady and gentle uphill climb to the falls and ice makes it difficult.

8. Beaver Brook

Beaver brook was roaring along almost at the top of its banks, so I had high hopes that the falls would be roaring too, as long as they hadn’t frozen.

9. Along Beaver Brook

It was a beautiful warm sunny day and in places along the old road it looked like spring might be right around the corner.  Just two more months and it will be spring if you go by meteorological rather than astronomical seasons, and I do. If you’d like to know the difference between the two just click here.

10. Beaver Brook Ledges

In other places winter still had a firm grip on the landscape.

11. Beaver Brook Falls

Beaver brook falls fell with a deafening roar and didn’t disappoint. Since I was wearing Yak Trax I decided, for the first time in winter, to climb down the embankment so I could get a better photo. Sitting and watching the water, all I could think of was the boy who was fishing above the falls last summer and somehow fell in and got swept over the edge of this monster. He fell at least 40 feet into the rocky pool below, suffering a broken arm and shoulder and many cuts and bruises. He had to be flown out by helicopter strapped to a backboard, but thankfully he lived to tell about it. I was thinking as I listened to the roar that this boy now has a story to tell that few if any will ever believe. And who could blame the disbelievers, especially if they had seen what I was seeing? I can hardly believe it myself and I know it’s true.

12. Beaver Brook Falls Climb

The price you pay for having dared climb down the steep embankment to get an unobstructed view of the falls is climbing back up. I never would have made it without my trusty Yak Trax on.

13. Island

Even the pond ice is starting to melt. I saw three wooly bear caterpillars this fall and every one had a wider brown band in its middle section than I’ve ever seen. Folklore says the wider the brown band, the milder the winter, and I’m beginning to wonder. Of course, maybe it’s just wishful thinking; I still haven’t forgotten the three straight weeks of below zero nights we had last winter.

When the seasons shift, even the subtle beginning, the scent of a promised change, I feel something stir inside me. Hopefulness? Gratitude? Openness? Whatever it is, it’s welcome. ~Kristin Armstrong

Thanks for coming by.

1. Winterberries

The weather has been terrible here since last Sunday with pouring rain almost every day, so I’ve had to break open my hoard of nut, berry and seed photos for this post.  As the above photo shows the winterberry bushes (Ilex verticillata) are heavily laden with fruit this year, and that comes after a barren winter last year when they hardly showed a single berry. Many trees and shrubs will have a barren year after exhausting themselves with a year of heavy production and some, like certain species of oak, can take several years to recover from a heavy fruiting.

2. Winterberries

If you are trying to attract wildlife to your yard and have a pond or a swampy area on your land then winterberry is an excellent choice of native shrub. They like very wet soil and, like other hollies, need male and female plants to produce berries. Because the berries have a low fat content birds and animals eat them quite late in the season, so the berries will color the landscape for most of the winter.

3. Grapes

Wild grapes are a favorite of everything from blue jays to black bears but the wildlife doesn’t seem to be in too much of a hurry to eat them this year. This was a great year for all types of fruit, nuts and seeds and I suppose they know what they’re doing better than I do.

4. Pokeweed Berries

Pokeberries (Phytolacca americana) are also withering on the frost killed plants. I found out last fall that birds usually snap these up just as soon as they ripen. I wanted to get a photo of the ripe berries but every time I went to take one the birds had eaten every one. I’ve read that birds can get quite drunk from fermented pokeweed berries so maybe that’s why they’re avoiding them. I ran into a drunken cedar waxwing one day and I’ve never forgotten how it flew right at my face and then pulled up at the last second. It seemed to be a bit of a lush because it did this over and over until I moved away from the berries it wanted.

5. Hemlock Cone

The seeds of eastern hemlocks (Tsuga canadensis) are eaten by small birds like black capped chickadees and pine siskins, and several species of warblers like to nest in the dense foliage. Bigger birds like turkeys, owls and grouse will often roost in the branches. Hemlocks are very good at shedding rain because of the way their branches grow. I’ve stood under them in quite heavy rains and barely felt a drop. That’s a good thing to keep in mind if you’re out with a camera and it starts raining.

6. Aster Seed Heads

Aster seeds get eaten quickly, it seems. Goldfinches and other small birds will land on the plants and in the process of eating their fill will knock enough seeds to the ground to take care of the bigger ground feeders.

Though we have been conditioned by seed and feeder salesmen to believe that birds won’t make it through winter without our help, nature takes care of her own. There is nothing wrong with feeding birds but unless we have an unusually harsh winter they will do just fine without our help.

7. Milkweed Seeds

Milkweed seeds apparently aren’t eaten by anything, which seems odd. Or if they are we don’t know much about it because I’ve searched and searched and haven’t found a single reference to these seeds being used as food by anything. It must be because of the toxins in the plant. Though I don’t know how much toxin is in the seeds I do know that the seeds in some poisonous plants carry some of the highest concentrations.

8. Thistle

Bull thistle seed (Cirsium vulgare) is another favorite of birds like goldfinches, but how they get them without being stabbed by all of those spines is a mystery to me. In Europe part of the Latin name of the European goldfinch Carduelis means “eats seeds of thistle.”

9. Burdock Seed Heads

We all know how burdocks (Arctium) get their barbs into our clothes, but what we might not think much about is how those same barbs can also catch on the feathers of small birds when they land on the plants to eat the seeds.

10. Bittersweet

The orange berries and yellow bracts of oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) are pleasing to see, but when birds, mice, voles, rabbits, squirrels, and an army of other berry eaters eat the fruit, they help it spread. These berries seem to be loved by all including humans, and that’s why it has become so invasive. This vine is so tough it can choke trees to death and I’ve seen it do just that numerous times.

11. Twisted Beech

Here’s an example of what oriental bittersweet can do to a young beech tree.

 12. Hickory Nut

I haven’t seen many beechnuts this year but we have plenty of acorns, hazel, and hickory nuts like the one in the above photo. Nuts are important foods for many birds and animals including wood ducks, woodpeckers, foxes, squirrels, beavers, cottontails, chipmunks, turkeys, white-tailed deer, black bears, mice, and raccoons.  The name hickory comes from the word pohickery which, according to Captain John Smith of Jamestown, is from the Algonquin Indian word pawcohiccora, a drink that the Native Americans made from the crushed nutmeat.

If you seek the kernel, then you must break the shell. And likewise, if you would know the reality of Nature, you must destroy the appearance, and the farther you go beyond the appearance, the nearer you will be to the essence. ~Meister Eckhart

Thanks for stopping in.

1. Icy Roadside Shrubs

I felt like seeing the world from up above recently so I decided to climb Pitcher Mountain in Stoddard. We’d had rain all day the day before but when I left Keene everything was sunny and dry. Stoddard is north of Keene and the weather had obviously been different there. As the bushes along the roadsides showed, the rain froze on contact.

2. Trail

The trail was covered in loud, crunchy snow so sneaking up on birds or animals was out of the question.

3. Icy Bush

If there is anything in the way of weather that New Englanders dread more than freezing rain, I don’t know what it is. Nothing can bring down trees and cut power like an ice storm, but neither is any other kind of weather quite as beautiful.

4. Ice Covered Pine Needles

Ice covered everything and limbs drooped over the trail.

 5. Icy Bud

It seemed to have frozen quickly.

6. Birches

The birches had just recovered from being bent under the weight of the Thanksgiving eve snowstorm, but the ice bent them once again.

7. Monadnock

Mount Monadnock loomed over a crystal forest.

8. Meadow View

There was a lot of ice but little snow. The only real snowstorm we’ve had this season was on Thanksgiving and it has just about all melted in this area.

9. Icy Branches

The ice caught the sunbeams like crystal prisms and flashed blue and gold, but apparently catching that in a photo is difficult. I tried several times and this is as close as I could get to what I was actually seeing.

10. Fire Tower

The fire tower had a few icicles on it but otherwise came through the storm unscathed. When you reach this point you’ve reached the steepest part of the trail. Getting all the way to the top from here was tricky due to the ice coating the rocks, but coming back down was worse because part of it was done by sitting down and sliding. If it wasn’t for the Yak Trax I wore it would have been even more difficult.

11. Ranger Cabin

I noticed that the old fire warden’s cabin is leaning to the left just a bit. I wonder how many more winters it will be able to withstand. The weather can be brutal up here.

12. Icy Blueberry Bush

The view from the top was of a frozen world, with sparkling ice in every direction.

13. Lempster Wind Turbines

I was finally able to get a photo of the wind turbines over in Lempster, New Hampshire. In the past it has always been too hazy to see them.  There are twelve 400 foot tall turbines at the wind farm on Bear Mountain in Lempster and they produce 24 megawatts of electricity. It was windy enough on this day to make me wonder if they might be spinning about as fast as they ever do.

14. Ice Covered Tree

The bright sunshine was deceiving. Up here the 30 mile per hour wind took care of any warmth that the 30 degree temperature might have provided. It was mighty cool but thankfully I’d had sense enough to dress for it.

 15. Icy Blueberry Bush

Dressed for it or not after a while the biting wind gets to your exposed skin, so I didn’t stay long. Climbing a mountain after an ice storm is something I’ve never done before this trip but I would do it again. The beauty of the ice is something I’ll most likely never forget.

It occurs to me now that I have never seen the ice-storm put upon canvas, and have not heard that any painter has tried to do it. I wonder why that is. Is it that paint cannot counterfeit the intense blaze of a sun-flooded jewel? ~Mark Twain

Thanks for coming by.

 

1. Snowy Path

There was a blog post coming up in just a few days and I had nothing; not even an idea, and I wondered if, for the first time in almost 4 years, I’d miss a post.  I shouldn’t have wondered at all because I know that all I have to do is free my mind of expectations and walk into the forest. If I go into the woods expecting or hoping to find a certain thing then I usually don’t find it, but if I just walk in with an open mind and let nature lead, I often see things that I’ve never seen before.

2. Snow on Ice

If you have ever walked down a woodland path with a two year old child then you know that they’re open to anything and fascinated by everything. They also walk very slowly down a crooked path, toddling from this to that and back again with a sense of wide eyed wonder. That’s exactly how to see the things in nature that others miss-let yourself be a child again. I walk at the pace of a two year old and my path is never straight. I stop and look around often, never knowing what I’ll see, and if I have to get down on my knees to take a photo I’m sure to scan the forest floor around me for a full 360 degrees before I stand up again. I’ve seen some amazing things by doing that.

3. Orange Crust Fungus

One of the first things I found on this day was this orange crust fungus, which I think is the crowded parchment fungus (Stereum complicatum.) The complicatum part of its scientific name means “folded back on itself.” This fungus often grows on fallen oak limbs and parasitizes some types of jelly fungi.

4. Puffballs

Before I stood up I followed my own advice, looked around and saw these pear shaped puffballs (Lycoperdon pyriforme,) which grew on a log and stood out against what I think is a bright white lichen background, possibly whitewash lichen (Phlyctis argena.)

5. Whitewash Lichen

I walked further down the trail and saw this excellent example of whitewash lichen. From a distance it looks like someone has painted the tree. These lichens can cover quite a large area and can be greenish white, silvery, or bright white. They usually grow on hardwoods but can occasionally be seen on conifers as well.

6. Small Stream

Naturalist John Burroughs once said “to find new things, take the path you took yesterday.” I’ve found that to be very true and am always surprised by what I’ve missed on my first, second and even third visits to a place, so though I’ve followed this small stream a hundred times I decided to follow it again.

7. Partridge Berries

Partridge berries (Mitchella repens) aren’t new to me but though I’ve seen them a thousand times they are always a welcome sight, especially when there is snow on the ground. I don’t know about partridges, but I do know that wild turkeys eat the berries. Though the plant creeps along the forest floor like a vine, botanically speaking it is considered a “sub-shrub,” which simply means that it is a dwarf shrub, usually woody at its base.

8. Unknown Lichen or Fungus

Here is something new. So new in fact that I’m not even sure what to call it, because I don’t know if it is a lichen or fungus. I’ve never seen a lichen with fuzzy edges like these and I’ve never seen a fungus, even a crust fungus, that was so very thin and flat. I’ve searched all of my books and online and haven’t seen anything close to it, so this one has me stumped. It was a little bigger than a quarter and was growing on the bark of a standing hardwood. If you know what it is I’d like to hear from you.

Note: Biologist and botanical consultant Arold Lavoie has identified this lichen as Lecanora thysanophora, which is also called maple dust lichen. It is supposed to be common in the northeast but I’ve never seen it. Arold is from Quebec and has a website that looks extremely interesting but unfortunately I don’t read French. If you do you can visit the site at http://aroldlavoie.com/ Thanks very much for the identification Arold!

9. Blue Purple Lichen

This bluish-lavender lichen appeared in several spots on a boulder. I’ve never seen it before and I’m not even sure if it’s a lichen but if not I don’t know what else it could be. I’ve spent quite a lot of time looking for something similar in books and online and haven’t found anything. Again, if you know what it is I’d be happy to hear from you.

10. Intermediate Wood Fern

On the same boulder as the lichen in the previous photo, growing out of a crack was a tiny evergreen fern that I think is an intermediate wood fern (Dryopteris intermedia.)  Evergreen plants send sugar into their leaves in the winter to act as antifreeze, so evergreen ferns get a jump on photosynthesizing in the spring, basking in the sunshine for a month or two and growing new leaves before being shaded by tree leaves. By the time other ferns are just poking their fiddleheads from the soil the evergreens are well on their way. The boulder probably soaks up heat from the sun all day and releases it slowly at night, making this little fern’s life much easier.

11. Amber Jelly Fungus

Something else I’ve never seen is veins running through an amber jelly fungus (Exidia recisa.) Amber jellies are common at this time of year on oak and alder limbs and when I find them I like to hold them up to the light and look through them, because they often look like stained glass. They grow like little pillows or sacks of air and I wonder if, instead of veins those are wrinkles. These fungi are also called willow brain but I’ve never found one on a willow.

12. Tree Skirt Moss aka Anomodon attenuatus

I’ve seen tree skirt moss (Anomodon attenuatus) growing on thousands of trees but never on trees this small. The biggest one in this photo was hardly bigger in diameter than an average garden hose.  Tree skirt moss grows up to 3 feet high around the bases of hardwoods, especially oaks. Knowing where certain mosses prefer growing, whether on soil, stone or wood, can help with identifying them.

 13. Smokey Eye Boulder Lichen

Beautiful smoky eye boulder lichens (Porpidia albocaerulescens) are one of my favorite lichens but, though I’ve walked these woods since I was a boy I’ve never seen them growing here. I noticed this one and then took a closer look at the other stones in the area and found that they all had this lichen on them! I have to admit that at that moment I didn’t feel very observant, that’s for sure. It really is amazing what we can miss in the forest, and that’s why I keep going back to the same places again and again. Just when you start thinking that you’ve seen it all nature will show you that you haven’t even scratched the surface.

14. Tiny Pine Cone

The storm we had on Thanksgiving eve brought down a lot of branches, especially those of white pine (Pinus strobus.) There are a lot of tiny pine cones on these limbs which will never grow to release their seeds. Next fall the animals that eat them might have to hope for a good acorn, beech and hazelnut crop.

15. Whittled Branch

I found that someone, probably a young boy with a brand new jackknife, had whittled a pine branch into a tent peg. He had done a good job, too-there was no blood on it. The smell of the freshly carved pine and the thought of whittling took me back to my own boyhood and I’m sure I must have had a bounce in my step when I left the forest on this day. Not only did nature show me several things that I hadn’t seen before, but I felt twelve years old again for a time. How can you ask for a better day than that?

I can’t guarantee that everyone who goes into the woods will come out feeling twelve years old again but I can guarantee that if you walk slowly, stop often, and look closely, nature will show you things that you have never even imagined-mind blowing things, as we used to say back in the day.

Humans who spend time in the wilderness, alone, without man-made mechanical noise around them, often discover that their brain begins to recover its ability to discern things. ~Robert Anderson

Thanks for stopping in.

1. Hole in Stone Wall

I was going to do this post on the day before Thanksgiving but then it snowed so I got a little off track. Anyhow, here is another forest mystery for all of you mystery lovers out there.  See the hole in the stone wall? There is no way the wall was built with that hole there, so how did it get there and what is holding up the stones above it that appear to be floating in air? Move one stone and they all go.

2. Barberry Berries

Japanese barberry berries (Berberis thunbergii) couldn’t seem to figure out what color they wanted to be. This shrub is one of our most invasive and it has been banned here in New Hampshire but there are so many in the woods, all covered in berries, that it is close to impossible to stop its spread.

 3. Bear Claw marks

Up in Nelson, New Hampshire the black bears like using telephone poles to mark their territory and they bite and claw them to make sure everyone pays attention. They can take quite large chunks of wood from a pole with their teeth.

4. Chipmunk on Log

Does the chipmunk live in that hole in the log? He wasn’t about to go into it while I was watching so I can’t answer that question. They usually live in stone walls in these parts so I’m guessing no, but he could have a food stash in there.

5. Larches

The larches (Larix laricina) went out in a blaze of glory this year. The wood of larches is tough but also flexible and Native Americans used it to make snowshoes. They called the tree tamarack, which not surprisingly, means “wood used for snowshoes” in Algonquin. They also used the inner bark medicinally to treat frostbite and other ailments.

6. Larch Needles

Larch needles are very soft and quite long compared to many of our other native conifers. Larch is the only conifer in this area to lose its needles in the fall.

7. Deadly Galerina Mushrooms on a Log

There are good reasons why expert mycologists want little to do with little brown mushrooms, and this photo shows one of those reasons. Deadly galerina mushrooms (Galerina autumnalis) are, according to mushroom expert Tom Volk, so poisonous that eating even a little bit can be deadly. It is common on rotting logs in almost all months of the year and can fruit in the same spot several times. If you collect and eat wild mushrooms it is one that you should get to know very well.

 8. Downy Rattlesnake Plantain

Orchids might seem fragile but many are actually quite tough, like the evergreen downy rattlesnake plantain shown here. I get as much enjoyment from seeing its beautiful silvery leaves as I do its small white flowers. I was pleased to find these plants in a spot where I’ve never seen them before. According to the USDA this native orchid grows as far west as Oklahoma and south to Florida, though it is endangered there.

9. Striped Wintergreen

In the summer when there are leaves on the understory shrubs striped wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata) is almost invisible, but at this time of year it’s easier to see and I’ve found more and more plants each fall. It is still quite rare here though; I know of only two or three small colonies. It likes to grow in soil that has been undisturbed for decades and that helps account for its rarity.

10. Pipsissewa Seed Heads

Pisissewa (Chimaphila umbellata) is another native wintergreen, though not as rare as some of the others. Its glossy green leaves make it easy to see in both summer and winter. It prefers cool dry sandy soil and I always find it near conifers like pine, hemlock and larch. The large colony where this photo was taken usually flowers quite well, as the many seed pods show. This plant, like many of the wintergreens, is a partial myco-heterotroph, meaning it gets part of its nutrition from the fungi that live in the surrounding soil. Odd that a plant would be parasitic on fungi, but there you have it.

11. Starflower Seed Pod

Five chambered starflower (Trientalis borealis) seed pods look like tiny soccer balls and are very hard to get a good photo of. Luckily the chalky white color makes them easy to see against the brown leaves. I bent one over this penny so you could see how small it really was. You can imagine how small the seeds inside are. Seeds are carried here and there by insects and don’t germinate until their second year. Germination is so rare that it has never been observed in the wild and, though they are easily grown from seed in nurseries, most of the plants found in the forest have grown vegetatively from underground tubers.

12. Lichen Number Six

This powdery goldspeck lichen (Candelariella efflorescens) had a tiny number 6 on it.

13. Ice Cave

Tiny ice stalactites and stalagmites grew and pushed up a crust of soil covered ice. This formed a small cave, and I had to get a look inside. The penny gives a sense of scale.

14. Tiny Ice Formation

This bit of ice looked like a tiny trimmed Christmas tree.

15. Swamp Wite Oak Leaf-aka Quercus bicolor

This salmon pink oak leaf with violet red veins was a very beautiful thing, but I had a hard time identifying it. I think, because of the leaf’s shallow lobes and color, that it might be a white swamp oak (Quercus bicolor.) I can’t remember ever seeing another one like it.

If you reconnect with nature and the wilderness you will not only find the meaning of life, but you will experience what it means to be truly alive. ~Sylvia Dolson

Thanks for coming by.

1. Pond View

On Thursday the 27th, which is Thanksgiving Day here in the states, we woke up to this. Winter came overnight, even though we had just been enjoying 60 degree temps.

2. Snowy Cattails

6 to 12 inches of heavy, sticky, wet snow coated everything.

3. Blue Heron Tree

The old dead tree that the great blue heron sits in was frosted with snow. There won’t be any herons sitting it in for a while now, though there was one here at this time last year.

4. Snowy Trail-2

Every surface, be it vertical, horizontal, or diagonal seemed to be covered in snow. Branches drooped with the weight of it and many that couldn’t take it broke off and fell to the ground, taking electrical and telephone wires with them.

5. Beech Foliage

Trees that still had leaves like oak and beech carried a lot of weight.

6. Beech Bud

This beech bud reveals why there was so much weight on the branches. Not just snow but ice added to their burden. The storm started as rain which immediately froze solid on any surface cold enough. Then, after the snow had fallen on top of the ice the storm ended in rain, coating all of the fresh fallen snow in another layer of ice.

7. Blocked Trail

One trail that I followed ended in a dead end. Birch trees and white pine limbs had been bent to the ground by the weight of it all and closed the trail.  Birches are very elastic trees so once the sun and wind have removed all of the ice and snow most of them will slowly straighten right back up again and in a short while you won’t know they had ever been bent. I could have picked my way through and around this obstacle but I didn’t feel like having several inches of snow fall down into my coat, so I turned around.

8. Bent Birch

Some bent birches made tunnels over the roads.

9. Snowy Lichen

The great thing about having so many bent birches was that I could now get a look at all the lichens that grew in their tops, like this bright green foliose example.

10. Snowy Stream

It’s not hard to guess where a term like “winter wonderland” came from when you gaze out over a scene like this. Though this storm was destructive, it was also very beautiful.

11. Snowy Hillside

Every hill surrounding Keene had turned white overnight.

12. Ashuelot River

The Ashuelot River hasn’t frozen yet but there aren’t any Canada geese at one of their favorite spots in Swanzey this year. I would think if they were around they would be in the water where it’s warmer.

13. Upper Ashuelot

The Ashuelot River in the northern part of Keene is always beautiful after a storm like this one, so I always go there to see it when I can.

Though it created some beautiful scenery this storm also knocked out power to over 200,000 people; the 4th largest power outage in state history. Of course this meant they couldn’t cook their traditional Thanksgiving family meal and some even had to leave their homes and stay in warming shelters due to lack of heat. Power crews came from Chicago, Tennessee, Canada, and from all over New England to help and the big trucks were something quite different for people to be thankful for on a day that is almost always snow free. The weather people claim that we’ll see temperatures into the mid to high 40s by mid-week, so all of this will most likely melt away into memory.

There is nothing in the world more beautiful than the forest clothed to its very hollows in snow. It is the still ecstasy of nature, wherein every spray, every blade of grass, every spire of reed, every intricacy of twig, is clad with radiance. ~William Sharp

I hope everyone had a warm and safe Thanksgiving. Thanks for stopping in.

 

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