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Posts Tagged ‘Maple Sap Collection’

1. American Bittersweet Berries

I don’t see many American bittersweet vines (Celastrus scandens), so I was happy to see this one. The invasive Oriental bittersweet is far more common in this area and is quickly outpacing the natives, mainly because its berries are more enticing to birds and its seeds germinate much faster. The easiest way to tell American bittersweet from Oriental is by the location of the berries on the vine; American bittersweet berries grow on the ends of the vines and Oriental bittersweet berries grow all along them. While both vines climb trees and shrubs, American bittersweet is less likely to strangle its host like Oriental bittersweet will.

 2. Black Eyed Rosette Lichen aka Physcia phaea

I’ve been seeing these very small lichens all over the trees and even though they all seem to be fruiting at the moment, I’ve struggled with their identity. With the help of the book Lichens of North America I think I can finally say that they are black eyed rosette lichens (Physcia phaea). At least with about 80% certainty. They are very common; in fact they are so common that they are one of those things that you see so much of, you stop paying attention. This winter I noticed that they all had fruiting bodies (Apothecia), which are the tiny black disks with gray margins, and that got me interested because I had never seen them produce spores. Why so many lichens do it in winter is still a mystery to me.

3. Boreal Oak Moss aka Evernia mesomorpha

This beard lichen and the dead tree it was on looked so ancient that I had to get a photo. ‘Methuselah’ was what I thought as I clicked the shutter. I think this is boreal oak moss (Evernia mesomorpha) because of its antler like shape and because of the way that it looks like it has been here since the dawn of time.

According to many scientists it might be possible, because many believe that lichens never really die. Even if you chop one to pieces the pieces just make more lichens. They have even survived 2 weeks in the vacuum of space and grew on like nothing had ever happened when they returned to earth. Some believe that lichens have the best chance of any earth bound life form of colonizing other planets.

4. Highbush Blueberry Buds

I took a few shots of these bright red highbush blueberry buds (Vaccinium corymbosum) and was surprised when I saw what the camera did to the shadows on the snow in the background. They came out looking like studio portraits, and very patriotic ones at that.

5. Hemlock Bark

I’ve been paying attention this winter to the way the cold can make some lichens change color and how white pine sap turns blue in the cold, but I’ve also noticed that cold also enhances some colors and makes them more vibrant than they are in the warmer months. I know this old eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) well since it grows near my house but, though most hemlocks have a red tint to their bark, I never noticed the deep red on this tree’s bark until this winter even though it must have always been there. Now I’ve got to remember to watch it and see if the color fades as we warm up.

6. Hemlock with Zig Zag Scar

I wanted to visit another eastern hemlock to see if its zig zag scar had changed any since last year. It hadn’t.  I never have been able to figure out for sure what would have caused this scar, but it comes right up out of the ground, travels for about 3 feet up the trunk and stops. It’s a very deep scar so the wound was made quite a while ago.

7. Hole in Pine Tree

I thought I saw a bird peeking out of this hole in an old white pine but it turned out to be just a clump of leaves and pine needles. But how did those leaves and pine needles get in there? Maybe it’s a woodpecker’s nest.

8. Wisteria

I don’t know if a bird or a human planted this old wisteria vine, but it has grown up into the crown of a tree just off the parking lot of an elementary school. It has been there for quite a while and flowers beautifully each year, full of very fragrant white and blue flowers that hang down from the tree and make it look as if the tree is flowering.

9. Wisteria in Fence

It has also grown through the school’s chain link fence; so much so that it’s hard to tell where the vine ends and the fence begins. Of course its new growth sprawls all over the place like wisterias will do, but since the vine isn’t technically on school property there is only so much that can be done. Each year the maintenance people at the school chop off everything they can reach but of course the wisteria just says ‘thank you very much’ to that treatment and grows even more vigorously. It’s hard to win when you’re doing battle with a well-established wisteria.

10. Wisteria Buds

I stopped to take a photo of the wisteria’s beautiful dark buds, which remind me of those of black ash.

 11. Snowmelt

This photo might not look like much to the uninitiated but to the winter weary it’s like a dream come true. Each spring, ever so slowly, the snowbanks begin to retreat back from the road edges and little strips of grass appear and start to green up quickly. Seeing it happen is akin to taking a good dose of spring tonic, and it gives us our second wind.

12. Sap Bucket

This is the newfangled way to tap maple trees; at least for smaller operations. The large maple syrup producers have the plastic tubing strung from tree to tree with vacuum pumps at the end that keep the sap moving and literally sucks it out of the trees. The sap should be running this week; it’s getting warm enough now.

13. Skunk Cabbage Swamp

I went to the place where skunk cabbages grow but the snow was still too deep to see any. Since they can raise their internal temperature above that of the surrounding air through a process called thermogenesis, I’m sure they are melting the snow around themselves as I write this. If the warm weather keeps up I might see them within a week or so.

 14. Daffodils in Snow

I’ve never heard of daffodils having thermogenic capabilities but there they were, coming up through the snow. Maybe they’re in as much of a hurry to see spring as the rest of us are.

 15. Daffodils

It sure is nice to be able to see and smell some dirt again. There are other signs of spring that I couldn’t show here, like the feel of the warm breezes out of the south or the sound of ice falling off the roof and the constant drip of what doesn’t fall. Skunks are just coming out of hibernation and the Boston Red Sox are back on TV playing spring training baseball games, so it really does seem like spring is finally on its way.

Science has never drummed up quite as effective a tranquilizing agent as a sunny spring day. ~W. Earl Hall

Thanks for coming by.

 

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 1. Sap Buckets

People who collect maple sap the old way in buckets like these are becoming a rare breed. The sap is flowing but syrup producers say it’s coming slowly, in fits and starts, because we’ve had so many cold days. Daytime temperatures need to be in the mid-forties and nighttime temps at around 28 degrees  for optimal sap flow. Though some days and nights have been perfect it hasn’t been consistent. We’re still seeing below zero nights and, since the 4-6 week season ends in early April, each cold snap brings a renewed sense of urgency. Last year New Hampshire produced 176,000 gallons of syrup. In the abnormally warm winter of 2012 producers didn’t even see half that amount, and this year it might be cold that hinders production.

 2. Muddy Road

When we have the kind of cold we’ve had this year it drives the frost deep into the ground. In spring when the soil begins to thaw the water can’t seep into the frozen ground so it sits on top, saturating the soil to the point where it can’t hold any more water. When the soil in question happens to be a road, things can get very interesting. Here in New England we call it “mud season” and when I drove over the road in the above photo I knew it was upon us, because it felt like I was driving on gelatin. Our roads become quaking quagmires that have been known to swallow even 40 foot long school buses.  If you’d like to see some photos of mud season in all its muckiness, just click here.

 3. Peat Mosses

In the swamps, peat mosses aren’t wasting any time. They seem to green up almost immediately after the snow melts. I just read that scientists took a piece of moss from part of an Arctic ice core sample that was over 1000 years old. When they exposed it to light and warmth the ancient moss grew just fine. This moss that is now green once again was alive when Rome was in its infancy. This is why some people wonder if mosses and lichens ever really die.

 4. Skunk Cabbage 

Skunk cabbages (Symplocarpus foetidus) are growing fast in spite of the cold nights. Since they produce their own heat through a process called thermogenesis, they don’t care how cold it is. This photo shows skunk cabbage spathes partly out of the soil. Once they reach full size they will open so flies can visit the flower covered spadix within.

 5. Vernal Witch Hazel 

The vernal witch hazels (Hamamelis vernalis) keep poking out their strap like petals, only to roll them back up again because of the cold. They, like the maples, are going through fits and starts this year.

 6. Red Maple Buds

Red maple (Acer rubrum) and other tree buds are swelling and the hills off in the distance have taken on a reddish haze that is impossible for me to take a photo of, so I settled for a branch. Red maples are one of the first trees to flower in spring and I always look forward to seeing them because they are very pretty. The sap can be made into syrup just like that of sugar maples but it turns bitter when the buds start to break. Since they appear earlier than those of sugar maples, the season doesn’t last as long.

 7. Red Maple Buds

Both red and sugar maple buds are high energy foods and eastern gray squirrels eat them in spring. These buds also have high moisture content and that means that squirrels don’t have to leave a tree for a drink at this time of year.

 8. New Fern Growth 

I spotted this fern growing on a boulder. The cluster of round buds in its center will grow into new shoots, called fiddleheads, before too long. The only fern in this area with fiddleheads that are safe to eat is the ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris). They are considered an early spring delicacy but they need to be prepared and cooked correctly or they can make you sick. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has investigated a number of outbreaks of food-borne illness cause by raw and undercooked fiddleheads. They should always be boiled for at least 15 minutes.  Some say you can also eat lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina) and bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum) fiddleheads but there is a great debate raging about the safety of eating them, so I can’t say for sure if you should or shouldn’t.

 9. Trailing Arbutus

The snow has melted enough to reveal the tough, leathery, evergreen leaves of trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens). My grandmother always called this plant mayflower but I’ve found its fragrant pinkish flowers much earlier in April. Because it has been so cold this year though, it might live up to its common name. I usually find it in mixed forests growing on sunny embankments.

 10. Oak Leaf on Snow

Last year’s oak and beech leaves are starting to fall. More signs of spring.

 11. Grasses in the Sun

The afternoon sun catching these dry grasses looked very spring like, but the scene looked better in person than it does in the photo.

12. Melting Snow

Sometimes spring comes creeping in quietly and slowly and is hardly noticeable, so we seem to go from winter right into summer. I have a feeling that this year will be that way.

Tomorrow, the first day of spring, will mark the 3 year anniversary of this blog. I remember wondering how I’d ever get through 6 months of it, so thanks go to all of you who have kept it going.

The first day of spring is one thing, and the first spring day is another. The difference between them is sometimes as great as a month.  ~Henry Van Dyke

Thanks for coming by.

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As a professional gardener I was never surprised that work slowed down a bit in the winter here in New Hampshire-ground that is frozen solid doesn’t hoe well. Each year at about this time I’d start to feel a little anxious-full of energy and excitement- wanting those southerly winds to bring us some spring weather. After it finally got here and I’d had a day or two of working in the warm sun again I’d be walking with a spring in my step, whistling a happy tune.  (If you need a happy tune to whistle, just click here.)

1. Moon on March First

March 1st is the meteorological start of spring here in the North Eastern U.S., and at dawn that day I positioned my tripod on top of the crusty snow for a shot of the waning gibbous moon stuck in the trees.  The clouds parted just long enough in the morning to get a glimpse of it, and then it clouded over again. The astronomical method of dividing the year into seasons names March 20 as the first day of spring.

2. Icy Ledges

Over the weekend I followed an abandoned road that was hacked through the bedrock in the early 1700s. Ledges line parts of that road-this one is about 12 feet high with ice that looks impressive but is rotting and dangerous to climb. It’s hard to describe rotten ice but it is weakened by melt water running over and through it due to warmer temperatures. Once you’ve seen it, you know it. Since it means spring is nearby, I like to see it.

 3. Fissidens adianthoides Moss

Mosses can go through some very cold temperatures and still look like they have just come up in the spring. I thought it would be a cinch to identify this one but once again, nature threw me a curve ball. It resembles both Fissidens and Neckera mosses, so not only am I not sure of the species, I can’t even get to the genus. Whatever it is, I thought it was unusual and beautiful enough to include here.

4. Hobblebush Bud aka Viburnum alnifolium

One of my favorite native shrubs is hobblebush (Viburnum lantanoides,) which will be covered with large white, showy flowers in May. Its buds have no scales so they are open to all that nature can throw at them all winter long, just like those of witch hazel. This particular bush was really stunning last spring and I found myself wishing it was in my yard. I can’t wait to see it in bloom again. The flower bud between the two tiny leaves tells me that it will. If you would like to see what it looks like when it is blooming just click here.

5. Split Gill Mushrooms

Split gill mushrooms (Schizophyllum commune) wear fuzzy white coats in winter. Actually they wear these coats at any time, but when they’ve had adequate moisture they appear less fuzzy. The common name refers to the way the folds on their underside resemble gills that have split lengthwise. I haven’t been able to find out if they stay this way all winter or if they start growing in spring, but seeing them makes it feel like spring.

 6. Sap Buckets

Nothing says spring in New Hampshire like a sap bucket hanging from a maple tree. Once spring turns on the flow it doesn’t stop until fall. It’s a good sign that the earth is thawing.

7. Red Jelly Fungus

At first I thought this was a jelly fungus but the small bit to the left shaped like a jelly bean didn’t fit with a jelly fungus. Then, because there are lichens that mimic jelly fungi, I thought it might be one of those, but again, the jelly bean didn’t fit. I finally decided that the only thing that is tomato red and looks like a jelly bean that I know of is wolf’s milk slime mold (Lycogala epidendrum,) also called toothpaste slime mold. The smeared parts are “jelly beans” (fruiting bodies) that have been crushed. If slime molds are growing it must be warming up.

 8. Willow Gall formed by Rhabdophaga midges

I found this odd specimen on a willow branch. Since it is smiling, maybe it’s just as happy that spring is coming as I am. Actually this is a stem gall which was formed when Rhabdophaga midges burrowed into the willow’s stem last year, but I can see an eye, a nose, and a smiley mouth. And even a pointy hat.

9. Skunk Cabbage

The skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) is looking very red this year. Last year it was a much darker purple. There is a large swamp in Swanzey, New Hampshire where hundreds of these plants grow. Many grow on a hillside that is submerged for much of the winter but dries out a bit in spring, making it easier to get photos of them.  Seeing them is always a good sign that spring is near. Smelling them is difficult.

 10. Mount Monadnock

The cloud deck over Mount Monadnock shows what our weather has been like for the past 2 weeks. Short glimpses of sun are all we’ve seen through small breaks in clouds that stretch from horizon to horizon. Spring is coming, but it isn’t coming quickly or easily-it seems like it’s going to have to be pried from the cold fist of winter one warm, sunny day at a time. I’ll just have to be patient, like the mountain.

The first day of spring is one thing, and the first spring day is another.  The difference between them is sometimes as great as a month.  ~Henry Van Dyke

Thanks for stopping in.

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