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Posts Tagged ‘NH’

According to statistics November is on average the cloudiest month in this part of the country, but as you can see by the above photo not every day is totally cloudy. This was one of those blue sky, white puffy cloud days and I took this photo because of the clouds. That lower one was growing quickly and I thought it might become a thunderhead, but it never did. It just got bigger.

Many of the photos in this post were taken before the snowstorm I showed in the last post. Snow or not I won’t be seeing anymore fleabane flowers for a few months now. It’s just too cold now for flowers.

November can be a very cold month, when we start to really realize that winter is right around the corner. Frost on the windows helps remind us of that, and I caught this frost crystal growing on my car winshield. They’re beautiful things that most of us pay no attention to.

Ponds are starting to freeze up as well. Bright sunshine has little real warmth in November unless it is coupled with a southerly breeze.

I went to the river to see if any ice baubles had formed along the shore but I got sidetracked for a bit by the beautiful light.

I’ve never seen this stretch of water look gold and blue like it did on this morning.

It was like seeing molten light. None of these colors have been enhanced by me. Nature did all the enhancing.

And on another, colder day, there were ice baubles growing along the shore. If you’ve ever made a candle, you know that you dip the wick in hot wax over and over again, letting the wax harden between dips. If you think of the twigs as wicks, you can see how every wave crest “dips” the twigs in water and the cold air hardens that water into ice. Over time, ice baubles like those seen here form.

Twigs aren’t the only thing that the ice forms on. Anything that the water splashes on over and over will ice up.

The ice baubles are usually as clear as blown glass but on this day a lot of them had air bubbles trapped inside. Many of these examples were nearly round as well but they’re often more pear shaped. Along a river or stream is the only place I’ve ever seen them form in this way, though I suppose they could form anywhere where there is splashing water in winter.

On shore, the sun lit up an oak leaf beautifully.

Some of the biggest oak leaves I’ve ever seen belong to the swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor.) This is a rare species in the woods here but in 2010 the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services removed a 250-year-old timber crib dam in this section of river, and when they replanted the river banks, they chose swamp white oak as one of the tree species. Though the trees are barely 10 feet tall this leaf must have been 8 inches long. Brown is the fall color for the leaves of this oak. The New Hampshire state record for the largest swamp white oak is held by a tree in Swanzey. It is 67 feet tall and has a circumference of 192 inches. That’s 16 feet, so I’m not sure if even 4 people could link hands around a tree that size.

One characteristic of swamp white oak is peeling bark on its branches, giving it a ragged look. On young trees like these even the bark of the trunk will peel, as it was on this example. Planting this species of tree here makes sense because it is tolerant of a variety of soil conditions and can stand drought or flood. The only thing they can’t bear is beavers, and these critters have cut down and hauled off many of them.

When I was taking photos of this tree’s branches I looked down and sure enough, beavers had been at its bark. This tree is a goner, I’m afraid. It has been girdled.

At this time of year, when the soil starts to freeze but before any snow falls, you can often hear the soil crunch when you walk on it. That’s the signal that you should get down on your hands and knees and peer down into those tiny frozen canyons. If you do you’re liable to find ice needles there, because the crunching you heard was probably them breaking. Several things have to happen before needle ice can form. First there has to be groundwater. Next, the air temperature has to fall below 32 degrees F right at the soil surface while the soil and groundwater remain thawed. Hydrostatic pressure forces the groundwater, sometimes super cooled, out of the soil where it freezes instantly into a “needle.” As more water is forced out of the soil the process is repeated over and over, and each needle grows in length because of more water freezing at its base. I’ve read that each thin needle is hexagonal in shape, and that needles have been found that were 16 inches long. The needles in these photos were 1-3 inches long I’d guess, and they were frozen into ribbons. They’re another of those gems of nature that many never see.

Puddle ice has been a friend of mine for a very long time. When I was a boy, after the snow melted in spring, I’d get my bike out and ride it to school. It was still cold enough for ice to form on the puddles and I used to think it was great fun to ride through them so I could hear the strange tinkling / crinkling sounds that the breaking ice made. I have since found out that the whiter the ice, the more oxygen was present in the water when it formed. These days instead of breaking the ice I look for things in it. This time I thought I saw a penguin in that curvy shape to the right of center.

I saw a pair of mallards but this is the only shot that came out useable. I thought this was unusual because usually one will tip up while the other stands guard and watches.

An oriental bittersweet vine had reached the top of a small tree and many of its berries had fallen into a bird’s nest, built where the branches met underneath the bittersweet. Birds love these berries but I think the bird that built this nest must be long gone for warmer climes. These vines are terribly invasive so the fewer berries eaten by birds, the better.

The birds have been eating the river grapes, finally.

They have plenty to eat. It has been an exceptional year for grapes and many other plants.

I love that shade of blue on juniper berries. A waxy coating called bloom reflects the light in a way that makes them that color. I always wonder how many gin drinkers know that the unique flavor in their drink comes from this plant’s fruits. Though they’re called berries, botanically speaking juniper fruits are actually fleshy seed cones. Unripe green berries are used to flavor gin and the ripe, deep purple-black berries are the only part of a conifer known to be used as a spice, often used on game like venison, moose and bear meat. Birds also love them so they won’t last long.

The winterberries (Ilex verticillata) are covered with berries this year. This native holly holds its berries through the winter and they look great against the white snow. They have a very low-fat content and birds won’t eat them until other fruits with higher fat contents have been eaten. Other plants that fruit in the fall like maple leaf viburnum, high bush cranberry, and staghorn sumac also produce fruit that is low in fat content. That’s why you often see these plants with the previous season’s berries still on them in the spring. Due to the light of the day all three cameras I carried had a hard time with these berries but I wasn’t surprised because red is one of the hardest colors for a camera to capture.

I found a very old hemlock log. The branches had been cut off long ago but the stubs that were left were amazing in their texture. It was if someone had carved them. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this before.

Orange fan shaped jelly fungi (Dacryopinax spathularia) grew on the dark end of a log and looked like tiny lights. Actually they were more nose shaped than spatula shaped but I’ve found that fungi don’t always live up to what they were named. In the winter they’re a pretty spot of color in a white world.

But for color in winter turkey tails (Trametes versicolor) have to take the prize. These examples were beautiful, and they wore my favorite turkey tail color combinations.

I saw this foreboding sky at dawn one morning. I thought it was beautiful and I hope you’ll think so too.

In a few blinks you can almost see the winter fairies moving in
But first, you hear the crackle of their wings. ~Vera Nazarian

Thanks for stopping in.

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Last Saturday I had a plan, but so did nature. It had been raining the night before when I turned out the lights but then it got cold enough to change the rain to snow, and in the morning my world had gone white. If you read this post you might want to turn up the heat and get something warm to drink.

My plan was to climb Mount Caesar in Swanzey, seen above, and since the snow barely measured two inches that wasn’t going to stop me. Instead the cold kept me back. It was about 22 degrees F. with a strong wind that made it feel much colder, so I decided to let it be. It takes a while to get used to that kind of cold and I haven’t seen enough of it to be used to it yet. By February 22 degrees will feel balmy.

So instead of following my plan I drove around looking for snowy scenes like this one to show you. I know many of you don’t get the kind of snow we get here and some of you never have snow at all, and I know many of you like to see it.

I chose to drive along an old class 6 road in Swanzey. Class 6 roads have no winter maintenance, so it won’t be long before this road is impassable to all but four-wheel drive trucks. You would have a rough walk ahead of you if you got stuck out here in winter, so I stay away.

On this day the road was easily passable and I was glad I chose it, because the forest views were pretty. When it rains before it snows the snowflakes stick to everything, so everything becomes covered in white.

Christmas ferns (Polystichum acrostichoides) are evergreen but heavy wet snow can flatten their fronds. These weren’t flat but by spring they will be. Once they get completely buried under snow they usually stay that way until spring. Only when the new fronds, or fiddleheads, appear in spring do the previous season’s fronds turn yellow and then finally brown. The dead fronds then form a mat around the living fern that helps prevent soil erosion.

Some of the smaller ponds had frozen and beech and oak leaves were trapped in the ice.

Other leaves were just beautiful. You can always count on seeing at least some color, even on a snowy day.

Beech trees provide a lot of color in winter.

Sometimes the blue of the sky seems to be the only color I can see.

Bright sunshine broke through the forest but it held little real warmth.

In full sunshine the snow-covered forest was beautiful. As William Sharp once noted “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.”

I happened upon a small stream that was also clad in radiance. It isn’t cold enough to freeze streams and rivers yet, but it probably won’t be long if temperatures like these keep up.

I thought I might see some ice starting to grow along the stream edges but there wasn’t any.

There was quite a lot of aquatic grass growing in the stream and I loved the way it moved with the current. I don’t know if it was eelgrass or something else. It was a little cool to go wading to find out.

Deer tongue grass (Dichanthelium clandestinum) is another plant that adds a little color in the winter.

Mallards swam happily in water that was probably a lot warmer than the air was.

The rain falls equally on all things, and so does the snow.

There is grass under there and I took this photo to show you just how little snow we had gotten. It was loud, icy snow that crunched when you walked on it. Luckily there wasn’t enough of it to have to shovel. Maybe 2 inches in some places but I’d say it averaged maybe an inch or so over all.

Every twig on this tree was covered, but it’s hard to see that in this shot.

This shot of a hillside across Swanzey Lake shows that not a single tree escaped the snow. As wintery as it might look the sun did its work and most of it had melted by the end of the day.

Snow or not the witch hazels still bloomed. These flowers are pollinated by owlet moths, which purposely shiver to keep warm. They can raise their temperature as much as 50 degrees, and this allows them to fly and search for food when it’s cold.

I hope you enjoyed this unexpected post and I hope it didn’t make you feel too cold. There’s nothing quite as beautiful as the first snowfall and I’m glad that it happened on a weekend so I could show it to you immediately after it happened, when the snow was fresh.

The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found? ~ J. B. Priestley

Thanks for coming by.

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Every year at this time I like to go and see 40 foot falls up in Surry. It’s a very dark place because of the tree canopy, but once the leaves fall it opens up enough to take photos. It’s the only place I know of with a waterfall that you can get close to. We’d had quite a bit of rain the day before so on this day it was roaring.

This trip comes with a price and that is the climb. It can be a little dicey, especially on wet oak leaves, but if you’re careful it isn’t too bad. I found a nice straight and stout tree branch to use as a walking stick.

Years ago I read somewhere that you should slow down water in a photo to show movement. Now, I’m fairly certain that anyone who reads this blog knows that falling water has motion but just in case someone comes by who doesn’t, here it is in full slow motion. I’ve always thought that it was really done so a photographer could show off their camera skills, but that’s just my opinion and I should probably keep it to myself.

I prefer the real myself, and this is as real as it gets. By the way, that boulder over there wouldn’t fit in a pickup truck. Not only does this water have motion, it has great force as well. You’ll most likely note all the downed trees in these shots. They aren’t saplings; they’re mature trees. Or they were, anyway. When this brook floods people tremble. Severe flooding in August of 2003 washed away large parts of the road that the brook parallels, and flooded houses. I’ve read enough about it to know that I don’t want to be anywhere near here if it happens again.

What I believe were late fall oyster mushrooms (Panellus serotinus) grew on on a log. Oyster mushrooms exude “extracellular toxins” that stun fungi eating nematodes, and once the nematode has been stunned mycelium invades its body through its orifices. The mushrooms also consume bacteria in order to get nitrogen and protein, and all of this means that oyster mushrooms are a truly carnivorous mushroom.

Here is a look at the underside of one of those oyster mushrooms. I’ve read that the late fall variety are chewy and nearly tasteless, but I’ve never tried them.

A large number of smoky eye boulder lichens (Porpidia albocaerulescens) grew on a boulder. Their fruiting bodies (apothecia) were beautifully blue and the bodies (Thallus) were golden just like they are at Beaver Brook. I think this is the first time I’ve seen them looking like this outside of the Beaver Brook Natural Area. This is a very beautiful lichen and is one of my favorites so I was happy to find them. It’s like finding jewels sprinkled on the rock.

There are three waterfalls along this section of the brook. We’ve seen the lower falls and this is the middle falls. I think this one is the most photogenic.

There used to be a snowmobile trail up here with a bridge that crossed the brook but flooding tore it apart. This steel cable is all that’s left and it’s slowly being engulfed by trees.

Other miscellaneous pieces like this steel strap can be found here and there.

An old culvert once ran under the trail but the soil of the trail has been washed away.

A tinder fungus (Fomes fomentarius) grew on a dead tree. The Fomes part of the scientific name means “tinder” and the fomentarius part means “used for tinder.” They are called tinder fungi because of their age-old use as tinder to start fires. The Cree tribe of Native Americans used these fungi to carry coals from one place to another. Tinder polypores produce huge amounts of spores; measurements in the field have shown that they release as many as 800 million spores per hour in the spring and summer. They grow on dead deciduous trees and logs. This one was quite pretty, I thought.

This is the first place I ever saw beech scale (Cryptococcus fagisuga) and unfortunately it is still here. Excessive feeding by this scale insect causes two different fungi, Neonectria faginata and Neonectria ditissima, to produce annual cankers or blisters on the bark of the tree. The continuous formation of lesions around the tree eventually girdles it, resulting in canopy death. It has killed many trees.

Heartleaf foamflowers (Tiarella cordifolia) grew in a small colony that I’ve never noticed here before. They’re one of our prettiest late spring flowers and are easy to spot because of their hairy, maple-like leaves and foot high flower stalks. Native plants have leaves that are bright green at first and then turn a darker green, sometimes mottled with maroon or brown. Many hybrids have been created and foam flowers are now popular in garden centers and are grown in gardens as much for their striking foliage as the flowers. They are an excellent, maintenance free choice for shady gardens that get only morning sun.

Now we’re up above the middle falls, and we’re done climbing.

Because you don’t climb that. I can’t guess how deep this canyon is but I do know that I wouldn’t want to be up there on the rim.

The stream bed is course gravel, made up of stones that have presumably fallen or have been washed from the canyon walls.

The boulder against that tree wasn’t there the last time I was here. You can see how all of the bark has been scoured from the base of the trees, most likely from stones hitting them. Losing their bark kills them and then the brook then just tears them out by the roots and washes them downstream.

After all the roar and white water the upper falls are a bit anti climactic. I don’t know where the name “40 foot falls” comes from because the upper falls don’t look 40 feet high and the brook is far more than 40 feet long in this section of falls. I’ve tried many times to find the origin of the name but have had no luck. As I was writing this post, I found a website that claimed the falls and brook are on private land and are posted no trespassing, but that isn’t true. I’ve never seen a no trespassing sign in this area and since I don’t ignore them, this post would never have appeared if I had. I have no idea who actually owns the land but I would thank them for allowing people on it if I did.

Now comes the trip down. Parts of it are so steep and slippery with leaves I have to sit and slowly slide down, so if you come here you might want to wear sturdy pants as well as sturdy, waterproof shoes.

I saw that some mushrooms had hidden themselves inside a hollow tree stump. More late fall oysters, I’d guess.

Coltsfoot plants (Tussilago farfara) grew in a sunny spot. I always tell myself that I’ll come back in the spring to see the flowers but by then I’ve usually forgotten that I’ve seen them.

Christmas ferns (Polystichum acrostichoides) were dotted here and there on the forest floor. They are one of 5 or 6 evergreen ferns found in these woods, and their common name is thought to come from the early settler’s habit of using its fronds as Christmas decorations. Native Americans used the Christmas fern to treat chest ailments like pneumonia and to relieve flu symptoms.

If you look closely you can see that each Christmas fern leaf has a tiny “toe,” which makes it look like a Christmas stocking. Another unusual thing about Christmas fern is the shape of its fronds, which start off narrow at the base, widen in the middle, and then get narrow again at the tip. Most ferns have fronds that taper gradually; widest at the base and narrower towards the tip.

It is clear that nature rules here and maybe that’s why I come. There are few places left in this area where you can find the kind of untamed wildness found here. It makes you feel small, and everybody should feel small now and then. It keeps us humble and helps us keep life in perspective. In fact studies have shown that people who often feel a sense of awe and amazement at the vastness of nature and creation were more likely to be compassionate toward others, and more ethical when making decisions. So there is another reason to get into the woods.

Explore often. Only then will you know how small you are and how big the world is. ~ Pradeepa Pandiyan

Thanks for stopping in.

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I was happy to wake up one morning and see a thick mist rolling across the landscape. This isn’t rare here but it is rare to have it happen on a day off when I have time to run out and play in it. That’s why you see so few misty blog posts here. I quickly got myself together and off I went, into the mist.

At first being in such heavy mist seemed a bit like trying to breathe under water and I wondered if my weakened lungs would stand for it, but as usual seeing the beauty of the forest took me away to that magical place where there are no cares, and I quickly forgot about breathing issues. If, when you come out of the forest, you immediately give attention to your time spent there, you find that there were no problems to solve while you were there, no yesterdays or tomorrows to worry about, only the joy of what was happening right then and there. Nothing else existed for you. This is why, I believe, people seek out wild places, and this is why people like Jane Goodall say things like “It was in the forest that I found the peace that passeth all understanding.”

And the beeches might have seemed more beautiful than you had ever imagined they could be. How could you have missed such beauty, such serenity, and such sheer joy for so long, you might wonder. Don’t wonder; just be thankful that you have found what you have, because now, as John Muir said: “Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”

The sun kept trying to break through the mist and I kept trying to get a shot of it happening, but neither of us had much success.

What I believe was a crust fungus called Phlebia radiata, or wrinkled crust fungus, had formed a cup and it was holding water. In fact the mist was so thick on this day that everything was wet and dripping.

I admired the perfectly round holes an insect had made in a pine tree, which was now a log. I once knew what made these pencil size holes but I have forgotten, and it really doesn’t matter anyhow. At least to me it doesn’t matter. It might matter quite a lot to the forestry students at Yale University who come out here to practice their craft.

Wood ear fungi (Auricularia auricula-judae) listened to the silence. This “winter mushroom” is usually found on fallen branches in winter and early spring. It’s one of the jelly fungi and it feels just like your earlobe. They can have some color but these examples were fairly pale. My color finding software sees “peach puff.”

I saw that the mist seemed far off now. It wasn’t as close or as thick as when I had started.

And over there bright sunshine was falling on the beaver swamp. It was luminous, and it reminded me of the luminists; those American painters who tried to capture the quality of light.

Here is a fine example of a luminist painting. It was painted in 1875 by by Frederic Edwin Church, who called it “Autumn.” Luminism shared an interest in the quality of light with impressionism but that was about all they shared. There were a lot of technical differences like the quality of brush strokes between them, but I won’t go into all of that. Luminism lasted from about 1850 to 1870, and was concerned not only with light, but mood as well. Luminist paintings are calm and tranquil, with soft hazy skies and reflections in the water, just like what I found here in Yale Forest.

But here in Yale Forest all thoughts of Luminism quickly evaporated because the sun had won out and the misty atmosphere had left the place. I supposed I’d have to turn to the impressionists for the rest of my walk. It really is amazing how fast mist can disappear. I’ve raced up hillsides hoping to get shots of mist in the valley below, only to find no mist and the sun shining brightly when I reached the summit.

I found quite a few partridge berries (Mitchella repens) that the turkeys had missed at the the base of a tree. They are interesting so they’re worth a closer look.

What is amazing about these small berries is how a single berry originates from two flowers. The ovaries of the two flowers join and form one berry that contains 8 seeds, and the two dimples found on the berries tell the story of where the flowers once were. Partridgeberry is one of the lowest growing evergreen plants on the forest floor, hardly growing more than 3 or 4 inches high.

I saw a fungal garden growing on the end of a log.

And I saw some more pixie cup lichens forming. Isn’t it funny how you can go all of your life without seeing something but then when you finally do see it, you start seeing it everywhere?

There are still lots of fallen trees out here. The wind has really ravaged the place over the last couple of years, it seems.

But there was little wind on this day. It was still early in the morning and it was a beautiful day to be outside. I wasn’t too far from the beaver pond when I took this photo.

You have to cross what was a small stream to get to the beaver pond. It has gotten wider over the years so what I was once able to step over I now have to jump over. I’m always a little wary of jumping when I’m off in the woods alone but I came back unscathed. I’d rather jump than try to walk across on slippery rocks. I have a friend who tried that and ended up nursing cracked ribs for a few months.

I saw that someone had pulled the beaver dam apart again. This might seem cruel to some but it is neccessary when beavers build dams too near human structures. There is a busy road near here that has nearly flooded due to beaver dams, so the highway department keeps a close eye on them.

I’ve taken beaver dams apart and taking apart even a small one like this is hard work. They use stones, mud and branches to weave a very strong dam. It would easily take two men all afternoon just to do what we see here.

The stone wall going down into the beaver pond says two things; that this was once farmland and that the beavers came along after the wall was built.

The beaver pond drains off into the woods and the woods are turning into a swamp. Along this stream is where I come in spring to find the beautiful woodland horsetail (Equisetum sylvaticum.)

I also come out here to see hundreds of goldthread plants (Coptis groenlandicum) in bloom in spring. Their shiny evergreen leaves make them easy to find at any time of year.

A cinnamon fern hung on to one last leaf.

But I’m sure it must be part of this pile by now.

As I was leaving I saw an old man, asleep in a pine branch, with a jelly fungus for moustache. I took a couple of quick shots and let him sleep. I hoped his dreams were pleasant ones.

If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. ~Tecumseh, Shawnee

Thanks for coming by. I hope this post helped make your day a little brighter, and I hope everyone will have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

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I thought I might see some good foliage up at Beaver Brook but by the time I got there most of the leaves were on the old abandoned road. But not all of them; I did see some color a little further up the road.

Someone had swept away the leaves on part of the road so you could see the old no passing zone lines.

I stopped at the old bridge over Beaver Brook, which still has its guard rails made of channel iron beams and stout cables.

It’s not a bad place to get a glimpse of the brook as long as you’re steady on your feet.

The beeches were still colorful, which is what I expected.

And the hillsides were full of them.

But of course all the other trees like maples and birches had already dropped their leaves. I used to like moss hunting on the ledges here but there have been some big rock falls so I stay away from most of them now.

I did get close to this ledge so I could show you the icicles, but I didn’t stay long. It was cold in the shade.

The wet leaves below the ledges showed that the icicles were melting.

These were my favorite icicles. That rock on the right with an icicle on its chin reminded me of a skull.

The exposed ledges show that the place is quite literally crumbling away. Much of the stone here is soft, as in feldspar, and it looks like it has shattered. It’s no wonder there are rock slides happening.

The place is slowly putting itself to bed for another winter and once again it will sleep under a blanket of leaves. Seeing them covering the entire length of the old road showed me that.

The brook is slowly eating away the road and evidence of this is everywhere, like in the stilted roots of this golden birch. All the soil has been washed away from them and now the tree hangs precariously out over the brook.

These birches have some impressive root systems but they’re shallow, and the trees do fall over.

I saw a place where I could get to the water without breaking my neck. I noticed that one of the concrete guard posts had been washed up on shore but I didn’t want to think about how the brook would have had to rage to move such a heavy object. They’re about six feet long.  

When I reached the water, I looked upstream…

…and I looked downstream. I saw that the brook was being very well behaved and staying within its banks. It isn’t always so. Someday, I thought as I sat here, in the summer when it’s hot and dry and the water is low, I’d like to walk across this brook and explore the other side. The only thing I know for sure about it is that there is a boulder as big as a house in one spot.

I saw an animal den. It looked like maybe a woodchuck in size but I doubted they would dig so close to water. I don’t think they would find enough to eat here. They’re more a meadow or hayfield animal. Or your flower or vegetable garden.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a frost crack on an eastern hemlock before but I think these warty growths were a healed frost crack. If so, it would now be called a frost rib.

I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen a red maple leaf this color before either. I like it.

What I call the disappearing waterfall usually only runs down this hillside in spring when the snow melts, but here it was running in November. It shows how much rain we’ve had. It’s a pretty scene and I’ve seen lots of people stop to take photos of it.

Once again, especially with all the slippery leaves, I couldn’t talk myself into crawling down the steep embankment to get a shot of Beaver Brook Falls. I did get a side view though. It was roaring.

The old road dead ends and there isn’t much to see after the falls so I usually turn around and head back the way I came. I admired more beautiful beech trees along the way.

And some colorful turkey tail fungi (Trametes versicolor.) They’re doing well this year and I’m glad about that because I like seeing them. There must be a thousand variations in color. I like the blue and orange ones.

I think it was my blogging friend Eliza who asked me last year if I ever saw any bigtooth aspen leaves. I believe I told her that I didn’t but I should have said that sometimes I miss things, because they were everywhere.

The presence of a path doesn’t necessarily mean the existence of a destination. ~Craig D. Lounsbrough

Thanks for stopping in. I hope none of you are seeing any severe winter weather. So far, so good here.

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This small maple burned brightly when caught in the early morning sunlight, but as you can see all of the trees behind it were bare, and that’s the way it looks in many places now. Will this be the last fall color post? Normally I would say most definitely but I can’t say this year because it seems to go on and on.

This is what I saw on a back road recently. These are mostly beech with a few maples here and there. It was a beautiful drive.

Here was a lone beech also looking very beautiful, I thought.

This is a forest scene I drove past at first but then I had to turn around and go back. Mostly oak with a few beeches I think, with the tallest evergreens white pines.

This was one of the most colorful native maple leaved viburnums that I’ve seen. This is a great shrub for a woodland garden because they can take quite a lot of shade, and then just look what they do in the fall.

I love the soft, quiet color of these ginkgo leaves. Fossils of Ginkgo leaves have been discovered that date back more than 200 million years.

A red maple was beautifully orange.

In this closer shot of a red maple you can see how the leaves that are shaded by other leaves are yellow, while the leaves in full sun are orange. This is the first year I’ve noticed that some leaves are darker in full sun. It must have something to do with either the way or the timing of how the chlorophyll leaves them. Does it disappear quicker in shade?

I’ve seen the same thing in blueberries but this one was beautifully red.

Forsythias can be beautiful in the fall, with mostly reds and purples showing.

Another ornamental shrub, called Fothergilla or witch alder, is also beautiful in the fall. The bottlebrush like flowers in late spring are also very pretty. It’s a shrub that really is underused in gardens.

Oaks and beeches go so well together.

Here is an oak that shows that same light and dark shading caused by sun and shade.

I hope you can stand more beech trees. I can’t get enough of them.

The sumacs have also been beautiful this year. I’ve seen lots of vibrant reds everywhere.

These sumacs were shiny due to a rain storm but they were also very red.

For those who have never seen one, this is what the leaves of the ornamental locust called sunburst locust look like in the fall. Sunburst is an appropriate name.

Though there was sunshine there was also frost at the Ashuelot River in Swanzey.

But with a wider view you couldn’t tell that it was frosty at all. I saw that the oaks were still showing a lot of color.

Here is the same view in the rain. It was more of a drizzle, actually.

I went to the river specifically to see the burning bushes that grow in the forest there. They’re showing good color this year and don’t seem to be in any hurry to shed their leaves. I know that they’re terribly invasive and all the reasons for not having them here are good ones, but you can’t deny their beauty in a setting like this.

They look kind of magenta to me. Since they grow in the shade they never seem to achieve what I’d call red.

Slowly over time their leaves lighten until they’re a very pale pink–almost white, and once they’ve lost all their color they’ll drop. This year they’ve held on quite nicely but I’ve seen years when every leaf dropped over night.

Here is a closer look at the colors of the “wild” burning bushes. When you’re surrounded by them in a forest it’s almost like floating on a pink cloud.

Any time I get the chance to end a post in November with a flower, I’ll take it. The witch hazels bloomed beautifully this year.

I watched the surrounding landscape with great curiosity, and I wanted to discover the words that could describe all its unspoiled beauty. ~Daniel J. Rice

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Last weekend I was working on the mushroom post you saw last Wednesday but it wasn’t coming together. I was getting all tangled up in it and I needed to get away from it for a while, so I decided to go out for a walk and maybe catch the last of the fall color. I chose a familiar rail trail that I know as well as I know myself, so I hoped I wouldn’t have to search for the name of anything I saw there. I thought maybe I could just put my mind in my back pocket for a while and enjoy the beauty. The above shot is looking west across a cornfield that runs alongside the rail trail, and looks over to some of the many hills that surround Keene. We sit in a kind of a bowl that is surrounded by hills, and since cold air acts like water and flows down hills to fill valleys like this one, it can get cold. Most of the trees were bare over across the cornfield but it was still a colorful scene.

Canada geese have been coming to this cornfield by the hundreds for as long as I’ve been here, and here they were again. This year though, they would get a surprise because there was no corn grown in this field. I’ve always thought that the geese came after the harvest so they could eat all the spilled kernels of corn but for the past two years drought stopped the corn, and this year the fields flooded, so they’ve had slim pickings.

When I got to the rail trail I noticed that some of the trees weren’t that colorful but that was fine, I thought the shrubs more than made up for it.

Here was an invasive but beautiful burning bush. I’ve only just discovered that the red color is more prominent when they grow in sunshine. I’ve shown the pale pastel pink and magenta bushes along the river in Swanzey on this blog many times, and now I know that their paler colors come from them growing in shade. That shade doesn’t stop them from growing into an impenetrable thicket though.

They were loaded with berries and the birds love them, so in the future we’ll have more burning bushes.

Goldenrod still bloomed and I could hardly believe it.

They were covered in small flies. This one had a buzz.

Dandelions bloomed as well and, since I’ve seen their blooms in every month of the year, they were a little less surprising.

At times I had to just stop and look, and then take a photo or two so you could see what I saw. What a beautiful day it was. I was happy to be outside away from the computer, but then I’m always happy to be outside. It never gets old.

The rains we’ve had have washed all the joy out of our native clematis called traveler’s joy apparently because their seed heads were looking a little bedraggled. This native vine is also called old man’s beard and I thought maybe that name was more appropriate on this day.

Its deep purple, almost black leaves are usually quite pretty. I’ve never seen them splotched with green like this.

The American hazelnuts are ready for spring.

The seedpods of wild cucumber had empty chambers where the seeds grow, so it is also ready for spring. It’s an annual that grows new from seed each year and the vines that grow from those seeds can sometimes reach 30 feet long in a single summer.

Some of the maples still had leaves and they contrasted nicely with the red of the oaks.

This staghorn sumac was trying to be pumpkin orange.

And this one wanted to be tomato red. Or maybe plum purple. They have quite a color range.

The American beeches are slowly losing their yellow but they’re still very beautiful. They’re easily one of our most beautiful trees at almost any time of year.

Another nearly 5 inches of rain the previous week had caused Ash Brook to flood and the woods near it were flooded all along the trail. This has been happening for a long time here and the silver and red maples that grow here can take it. What can’t take it is corn. The cornfields have deep drainage ditches around their perimeters but they can’t keep up with this much rain. The Ashuelot River takes all the runoff away to the Connecticut River and then on to the Atlantic, but the river is also being overwhelmed. Come to think of it there must be a lot of silt spilling into the Atlantic these days.

The old rail trail wasn’t like a Manhattan sidewalk on this day but it was fairly busy with dog walkers, bike riders and joggers. The area south of here, where the bike rider in the photo is heading, is densely populated and over the years people have discovered what a great trail system they have right in their back yards. It’s nice to see more people getting outside.

I think the boards that the snowmobile clubs put down on the trestles helped bring a lot of people out onto the rail trails. A lot of people were scared to walk over them when there were gaps between the ties. Until I was about ten I was afraid as well but I finally found the courage to cross, and then I had the whole world in front of me. I was a bird that had escaped its cage, and I flew. Stephen King once said: Some birds are not meant to be caged, that’s all. Their feathers are too bright, their songs too sweet and wild.

There was a lot of water where there normally isn’t any.

Despite the flooding the railbed was high and dry, and so very pretty. I hated to leave.

When I got back to the car, I stretched my zoom lens out as far as it would go and took a last shot of one of the distant hills. I was surprised to see so much color still on the trees. It was the perfect end to what had turned into a beautiful afternoon. Now I thought, maybe I could finish that mushroom post.

If you seek creative ideas go walking.
Angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk.
~ Raymond I. Meyers

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Though there are mushrooms known as “winter mushrooms” we’ve had a few nights of freezing temperatures now so I think our mushroom hunting season is over. What you’ll find in this post are all the mushrooms I’ve found since the last mushroom post I did in September. Mushrooms can be both interesting and beautiful, and by the end of this post I hope you’ll agree. Hen of the woods (Grifola frondosa,) shown in the above photo, is an edible polypore that often grows in the same spot year after year. I usually find them at the base of very old oak trees. They are called the “dancing mushrooms” in Japan. That’s something my imagination won’t let me see, but I can see the back of a brown hen’s ruffled feathers, and that’s how they come by their common name in this country. They are also called ram’s head or sheep’s head.

Lion’s mane, bear’s head, monkey head, icicle mushroom-call it what you will, Hericium americanum is a toothed fungus that is always fun to find in the woods. Soft spines hang from branches that reach out from a thick central stalk, making it look like a fungal waterfall. They can get quite large and I thik the biggest one I’ve seen was about the size of a grapefruit. Every one I’ve seen has been growing on a log or a dead tree as this one was. Though it was slightly past its prime I thought it was still pretty. This mushroom is edible but unless you can be 100% sure of your identification you should never eat a wild mushroom.

Carnation earth fan (Thelephora terrestris) is also called the common fiber vase. It is a small, tough, inedible fungus that grows on soil. It is said to like sandy soil under pine trees and that’s just where I found it. It is also said to have a moldy, earth like scent, which I didn’t smell. It does look like a carnation. I like its deep reddish-brown color and frosted white edges. It has a cousin called the stinking earth fan (Thelephora palmata) but it looks quite different.

I found quite a large colony of common ink caps (Coprinopsis atramentaria) on a lawn at work, and it was a good thing I found them when I did because the cap margins were starting to roll up.

Once the cap starts rolling like this, this mushroom doesn’t have a lot of future left. Common inkcaps are said to be edible, but they become toxic if consumed with alcohol. For that reason they are known as “tippler’s bane.” They create a strong sensitivity to alcohol by inhibiting the liver’s ability to break it down. You don’t die but you do get very sick.

Inkcaps release their spores by a process called autodigestion, dissolving into an inky liquid which contains their spores. The black, spore rich liquid that this mushroom becomes was once used as ink for printing. They come and go quickly; I’ve seen them disappear in just a day.

White worm coral fungus (Clavaria fragilis) is one of the club fungi, and is also called fairy fingers. Each fruiting body is tubular and unbranched, and they usually grow in clusters like those seen in the photo. I found these very clean examples at the edge of a swamp. They’re fragile so if you want a photo of them complete it’s best not to touch them.

Cockscomb coral mushrooms (Clavulina cristata) are ghostly while and, like many coral mushrooms, seem to prefer growing in hard packed earth like that found on woodland trails, and they often grow in large groups. It’s startling to see something so pure white come out of the dark soil.

The deceiver (Laccaria laccata) gets its common name from the way it resembles many other small mushrooms. When young like these in the photo were they can appear reddish, pinkish brown, or orange. As they age, they can change enough to even appear white or sometimes nearly colorless.  

The rather deep gills of the deceiver are a mixture of long and short. Though when young these gills are dark colored, they lighten as they age and get covered by this mushroom’s white spores. They are said to be edible but with their ability to mimic other mushrooms and a name like the deceiver I’m not sure I’d eat them.

Every time I do a mushroom post I have photos of mushrooms I can’t identify, and this is one of those. I’m adding this shot to this post because they’re a pretty color and fun to look at, and you don’t need to know a name to be able to see their beauty.

In case you’re searching for a name for that mushroom in the previous photos, here are its gills.

I found a big cluster of red painted suillus mushrooms (Suillus spraguei) in a lawn. It is also called the painted slippery cap and red and yellow suillus. The caps are dark red when young like I think these examples were, and develop yellowish cracks as they age. They also have mats of reddish hairs on the cap but it had just rained so they were hard to see.

The real surprise was the hairs on the underside of the cap. They looked like spun sugar, but are really the remnants of a partial veil that once covered the spore bearing surface. Along with the marbled stem and yellowish elongated pores, they made this mushroom very pretty. It does indeed look like it has been painted.

A young thin maze, flat polypore (Daedaleopsis confragosa) might fool you into thinking it was a turkey tail fungus, but one look at its underside would tell you otherwise.

On a turkey tail fungus the underside is full of round pores that look like pin holes, but the lower spore bearing surface of the thin maze polypore is maze like, as its name suggests. Michael Kuo of Mushroom Expert. com says that this mushroom’s appearance is highly variable, with pores sometimes appearing elongated and sometimes rounder. With mushrooms it’s always about increasing the surface area that its spores grow on so it can produce more spores, so I’m guessing this one produces an amazing number of them. These polypores grow on fallen branches and logs.

Usually, if you say the word “polypore” to someone who knows mushrooms they think of a mushroom with pores on the underside of the cap but as we saw with the thin maze flat polypore, they don’t always have pores. In fact, sometimes they have gills, like the rusty gilled polypore (Gloeophyllum sepiarium) seen here. I found them growing on an old timber at work and that made sense, because their job is to decompose dead wood like white pine, which our forests are full of.  It’s a velvety, colorful mushroom that often grows into a lozenge shape like that seen in the above photo.

And here is what the gills on a rusty gilled polypore look like. There are always unexpected surprises in nature.

The velvet footed pax (Tapinella atrotomentosa) is a large bracket type fungus that grows on conifer stumps and logs. Though it is considered to be a bolete it has gills, so it’s easy to get confused when you find it. The most interesting thing about it is how it contains several compounds that repel insects, so it is unlikley that you’ll find any fungus gnats on it. All those insect repellants will also make you sick, so it’s best to let it be. It looked like an animal ran its claws over the cap of this example but I didn’t see any insect damage. The depressed center and rolled rim help with identification, so I think I have this one correct. It matches several examples I’ve seen online.

The real clincher for indentification on the velvet footed pax is its velvet foot. Black to brown velvety hairs cover the base of the stem (stipe.) One of the things that bother me about this one is how the outer rim isn’t rolled under quite as much as I’ve seen on a few other examples.

Pear shaped puffballs (Lycoperdon pyriforme) grow in clusters on stumps and logs but I’ve also seen them growing on a rotted part of a living standing tree, and that is never good for the tree. Their common name comes from their kind of upside-down pear shape. As they age pores open in the top of each one so its spores can be released. This one is fairly common but I see it more after it has released its spores than before.

I’ve seen a lot of yellow spindle coral fungi (Clavulinopsis fusiformis) but I’ve never seen them do this. These fungi usually grow in tight clusters often in the hard packed soil on the side of the trail, but I’ve found them on the forest floor as well. I’m not sure why they would have entwined like that.

Surprise webcaps (Cortinarius semisanguineus) appear in early fall under pines, and the pine cone in this photo shows where these grew. They are also called red gilled fibercaps because of the fine fibers that grow on the orangey brown caps.

The semisanguineus part of the scientific name means “half blood-red,” which is a reference to the bright, blood red gill color, and this is what the “surprise” in the common name also refers to. Though my color finding software sees “Indian Red” I think this color would pass.

This group of yellow mushrooms, so tiny I couldn’t see enough features to help in identification, have to take the prize for smallness in this post. The penny shows you just how small they were.  

I think this (parasol) mushroom has to take the prize for simple beauty. I’ve had a bear of a time trying to identify it though, and even though I started trying a month ago, I still don’t know its name. But not knowing a name isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, it can be a good thing. As Henry David Thoreau said: I begin to see an object when I cease to understand it.

Of course the prize for the most colorful mushroom in any mushroom post has to go to the turkey tails (Trametes versicolor) with their bands of vivid color. Just after the leaves fall but before it snows is the perfect time to find them, and I’ve been seeing a lot of them. I hope you’ll have a chance to see them in person as well.

Nature makes nothing incomplete and nothing in vain. Aristotle

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Just before Halloween as I do every year, I visited Willard Pond in Hancock. It’s about as close to a wilderness as you can come these days, at least in this area, and it’s very beautiful. Even the road in was amazing.

Unless you have time to go to a place each day to watch the turning of the leaves you can only go by experience, which in this case means what you’ve seen in the past. In the past I’ve always found the oaks and beeches in this forest at their peak during Halloween week, but there were a lot of bare trees over there. But no matter; I knew it would be beautiful. We’re going to walk right along the shore of that hillside.

It was a windy day and the wind turbines that just peek up over one of the hills were spinning faster than I’ve ever seen. I remember being shocked by their size the first time I saw them.

Though I don’t remember if this photo shows the start of the trail, it does show what the trail typically looks like. It follows along very close to the water and in many places it’s one person wide.

Since you have the hill on your left and the water on your right on the way in, it’s virtually impossible to get lost, but just in case the trees are well blazed. By the way, it’s a good idea to know what trail blazes mean and how they’re used.

From here on it is total immersion in a kaleidoscope of color and beauty. There’s nothing quite like a hardwood forest in the fall; some of the most beautiful fall foliage I’ve seen has been seen right here.

Small maples that had been cut along the trail had grown back, and they were beautifully red.

But most of the maple leaves had found their way into the water of the pond.

There are several places where small streams come down off the hillside to the pond but there are boardwalks in place. Still, wearing good waterproof hiking boots here is a good idea.

Maple leaf viburnums (Viburnum acerifolium) were beautiful as always in reds and pinks but they were also untouched by insects, which is unusual.

Big, hand sized hobblebush leaves (Viburnum lantanoides) weren’t quite so pristine but they were still  beautiful. I noticed that all their fruit had been eaten already.

The hobblebushes had their buds all ready for spring. These are naked buds with no bud scales. Instead their hairs protect them. The part that looks swollen is a flower bud and come May, it will be beautiful.

As is always the case when I come here, I couldn’t stop taking photos of the amazing trees. It’s hard to describe what a beautiful place this is, so I’ll let the photos do the talking.

There was a large colony of corydalis growing on a boulder and if I had to guess I’d say it was the pink corydalis (Corydalis sempervirens,) also known as rock harlequin. That plant blooms in summer and has pretty pink and yellow blooms but since I’ve only been here in the fall, I’ve never seen them in bloom. Next summer though, I’ll have a lot more free time and I’d love to visit this place in all four seasons.

A tiny polypody fern (Polypodium virginianum) was just getting started on another boulder. Polypody fern is also called the rock cap fern, for good reason. Though I’ve seen them growing on the ground once or twice there must have been a rock buried where they grew, because they love growing on stone. They are evergreen and very tough, and can be found all winter long.

There are plenty of boulders for rock loving plants to grow on and this is one of the largest I’ve ever seen. Easily as big as a garage, the black coloring on it and other boulders comes from the spore bearing surface of rock tripe lichens (Umbilicaria mammulata,) which grow here by the many thousands. Rock tripe is edible but I imagine they must taste like old rubber. Still, they were a source of emergency food for Native Americans and saved the lives of many an early settler. Even George Washington’s troops are said to have eaten rock tripe to survive the brutal winter at Valley Forge in 1777.

A beaver once gnawed on this huge old yellow birch and it was in the process of healing itself, which is something I’ve never seen a tree this old do. The will to live is very strong in all living things, and this is a great example of that. Though I didn’t see them in person I see some polypody ferns growing at the base of it in this photo. Whether on an unseen stone or on the tree itself, I don’t know.

Something else I’ve never seen is target canker on a yellow birch, but here it was. Target canker doesn’t harm the tree but causes its bark to grow in circular patterns of narrow plates which helps protect it from the canker. According to Cornell university: “A fungus invades healthy bark, killing it. During the following growing season, the tree responds with a new layer of bark and undifferentiated wood (callus) to contain the pathogen. However, in the next dormant season the pathogen breaches that barrier and kills additional bark. Over the years, this seasonal alternation of pathogen invasion and host defense response leads to development of a ‘canker’ with concentric ridges of callus tissue—a ‘target canker.’” Apparently, the fungal attacker gives up after a while, because as the tree ages the patterns disappear and the tree seems fine. What interests me most about this is how I’ve read that target canker is only supposed to appear on red maples. Now I can no longer say that is true.

A common earth ball (Scleroderma citrinum) grew beside the trail and looked as if it was nearly ready to release its spores. Another name for it is the pigskin puffball and it is toxic. It likes to grow on compacted soil like that found on forest trails. They often have a yellow color on their surface and are also called citrine earth balls because of it. I’ve seen them with a beautiful lemon-yellow color.

My grandmother was with me in spirit when I found a berry on an American wintergreen plant (Gaultheria procumbens,) which she always called checkerberry. It was the ffirst plant she ever taught me and we used to go looking for the minty tasting berries together. It is also called teaberry because the leaves were once used as a tea substitute.

The big leaves of striped maple (Acer pensylvanicum) had taken on their yellow fall color. They’ll lighten to almost white before they drop.

I saw many things here I’ve never seen before on this day, and one of them was the seeds (samaras) of striped maple. I’ve seen thousands of these trees but this is the first time I’ve ever seen the seeds.

Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) grows in abundance all along the trail. Though I’ve seen them blooming profusely here, on this day these were the only blossoms I saw.

This little wooden bench is usually as far as I go for two reasons; because by the time I reach this spot I’ve usually taken far more photos than I can ever use, and because I like to sit in this quiet place and enjoy the serenity and splendor of nature. It just doesn’t get a lot better than this, in my opinion.

As I sat on the bench I watched the ripples for a while as they flowed over the still fresh and beautiful leaves on the bottom of the pond. I could hear a loon calling off on the far shore and I wasn’t surprised. I hear them almost every time I come here but I’ve never seen one. Probably just as well, because they’re an endangered bird. They die from eating lead fishing weights, and that is why only fly fishing is allowed here.

Sometimes when I sit on the bench I watch the water, and sometimes I turn around to see the colors. One is just as beautiful as the other but colors like these can’t be seen year-round.

As I got back on the trail to leave a chipmunk ran up a tree root and stared, as if to ask why I was leaving so soon. Though it had seemed like hardly any time at all, I had been here three hours. I hope all of you have beautiful woodland places to visit. They’re very uplifting.

If you are lost inside the beauties of nature, do not try to be found. ~Mehmet Murat ildan

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Anyone who has read this blog for very long knows I like to play on the banks of the Ashuelot River, which meanders through several local towns. Though when I was a boy it was terribly polluted, now people fish for trout along its banks and eagles can sometimes be seen flying over it. That’s why a few years ago I was disturbed when I saw an oily sheen on the water that filled my footprint on the shore. It looked much like the puddle I found on the shore in the photo above and I posted it on this blog, saying how I was hoping I’d never see such a thing on these riverbanks again. Then happily, thanks to several knowledgeable readers, I found out that this sheen might easily have come from natural sources. Iron rich ferrous hydroxide that occurs naturally in soil can cause the oil like sheen on water, as can bacteria which generate hydrocarbons in oxygen depleted soil. I was very happy to hear that because though I don’t want to see this river polluted, I do think that this film on the water is beautiful. Just look at those colors.

While I was at the river, I spotted trees that had grape vines loaded with grapes growing in them. Wild river grapes (Vitis riparia) like a lot of rain, and I know that because we’ve had a lot of rain and I’m seeing more grapes than I’ve ever seen before. The odd thing about it though, is how the birds don’t seem to be eating them. These grapes are a favorite of many birds and they are often gone even before I can get a photo of them, but on this day I didn’t see that a single one had been picked. That’s a little disturbing.

Also disturbing is how none of the Oriental bittersweet berries (Celastrus orbiculatus) have been eaten. They are another favorite of the birds and they disappear as quickly as the grapes, so why aren’t they? This vine is very invasive and can strangle trees to death so I don’t want it to spread, but I do wonder about the birds.

While I was there wandering along the river, I took a shot of the Thompson covered bridge, named after playwright Denmon Thompson, who was a native son, and built in 1832. The bridge design is known as “Town lattice,” patented by Connecticut architect Ithiel Town in the early 1800s. The open lattice work lets a lot of light into the bridge and this is unusual because many covered bridges are dark and cave like. In the 1800s being able to see daylight inside a covered bridge would have been the talk of the town. The Thompson Bridge is considered by many to be the most beautiful covered bridge in New England but the person who ran the wires must not have known that.

This bridge is known as the Cresson Bridge, also in Swanzey and also crossing the Ashuelot River. It was opened to traffic in 1859 and I wanted you to see it so you could get an idea of how dark it was inside these old covered bridges. The tiny square windows didn’t let in much light, and that’s why Town truss bridges like that in the previous photo were such an innovation, and why they were so welcomed by the traveling public. By the way, back in those day traveling was done by sleigh in winter, so snow had to be shoveled onto the plank floors of covered bridges so sleigh runners would have something to slide on. What a job that must have been.

I finally found a blue bead lily plant (Clintonia borealis) with a ripe berry on it and now you know why I call it “electric blue.” That might sound like the title of a Jimmy Hendrix song but it is a very unusual shade of blue, to these eyes at least. It seems to sparkle in the right light and it is a deer magnet. From seed to berry can take 14 years, with two of those years taken up by seed germination. This is not a fast-growing plant.

I went to see Baily Brook Falls up in Stoddard and was surprised to see how little water was actually falling. With all of the rain we’ve had I thought they would be roaring. I have a feeling that beavers are involved and if I walked upstream, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find that they’ve dammed up the stream.

Since Bailey Brook Falls werent roaring I went to where I knew I’d hear the roar of water; the outflow dam at Swanzey Lake.

I’m always amazed by what I see when the leaves start falling. Here was a wasp nest as big as a soccer ball up in a maple tree, and I had been walking under it several times each day all summer long without seeing it. I’d bet its residents saw me though, and I’m glad they decided we could coexist. I was pruning a large rhododendron once that had a similar nest in the center of it. By the time I was able to stop running I had been stung on the back several times.

When the leaves fall from the trees the wind has greater force as it whistles through the bare branches and inevitably, small bird nests like these get blown out. I don’t know what bird made this one but you could barely have fit a hen’s egg in it. It was as light as a feather and very well made of grass.

I saw a spider web on a lawn and it reminded me of the synapses in my own brain. One of the questions that has been nagging at that brain for quite a long time is why nature uses the same shapes over and over again.

I looked down into the heart of a yucca plant and thought of the Native Americans who used every single part of this plant. They pounded the leaves and used the strong fibers inside them to weave sandals, cords, belts and baskets. They also ate the flowers and fruit of the plant. The sharp points at the tips of the leaves were used as sewing needles and the roots were peeled and ground and mixed with water to make soap for washing their hair and treating dandruff.  Sap from the leaves was used medicinally to stop bleeding and heal sores. Not a bit of it was wasted.

I found this colony of wooly alder aphids (Paraprociphilus tessellatus) on an alder limb in a swamp one recent day. Wooly alder aphids grow a white, filamentous waxy covering that looks like it’s made up of tiny white ribbons. A colony of them looks like white fuzz on the alder’s branches and this white fuzz helps protect them from the eyes of predators. They are sap sucking insects which secrete a sweet honeydew on the leaves and branches of plants. This honeydew attracts a fungus called black sooty mold, but since the mold grows only on the honeydew and not the plant, it doesn’t harm plants. The aphids themselves will do far more harm because they can literally suck the life out of a plant.

I’m not sure if the aphids with dots in this photo I took previously always look that way, if they haven’t grown the white waxy covering yet, or if they’ve lost the covering for some reason. They are very small; not even half the size of a house fly. I find them usually on the undersides of alder branches. If you are lucky enough to catch these insects in flight, they look like tiny white fairies. In fact another name for them is “fairy flies.” This is the best time of year to find them.

Here is something quite rare, unfortunately. American chestnuts were one of the most important forest trees, supplying both food and lumber. An Asian bark fungus (Cryphonectria parasitica) was introduced into North America on imported Asiatic chestnut trees and the disease all but wiped out over three billion American chestnut trees. New shoots often sprout from chestnut roots when the main trunk dies so they haven’t yet become extinct. Unfortunately the stump sprouts are almost always infected by the Asian fungus by the time they reach 20 feet tall but since some trees do bloom maybe these particular examples are growing from chestnuts. I found these three or four young trees a few years ago and have watched them get bigger over the years. They look very healthy so far. Though the leaves resemble beech leaves they are much bigger with very serrated margins. Many botanists and other scientists are working on finding and breeding disease resistant trees and maybe these trees will one day fit the bill. If you happen to find any you might want to keep an eye on them.

A tree “marriage” happens when two trees of the same species rub together in the wind. When the outer bark is rubbed off, the inner cambium layer of the trees can become naturally grafted together and they will be married from then on. The process is called inosculation and isn’t as rare as we might think. This example is special because it looks like the very tip of a branch on one trunk grew directly into the other trunk. It must have taken many years of strong winds and bark rubbing before they could grow together as they did.

Frost cracks happen when the sun warms the tree during the day and the temperature drops quickly at night. If you’re in or near the woods at night in winter you can often hear the trees splitting and cracking, and sometimes it’s as loud as a rifle shot. Frost cracks can heal in the summer when the tree produces a new layer of inner bark to heal the wound but then can crack again in winter. When this repeated healing and cracking happens over the course of a few years the buildup of new tissue can create a frost rib like that seen in the photo. I’ve seen them on several different species, so I don’t think any one species is more or less susceptible to cracking than others. It’s more a matter of how the sunlight falls on a tree’s trunk. Wrapping an ornamental tree’s trunk loosely in burlap in winter can help prevent the bark splitting.

If you grow stone fruits like peaches, apricots, plums or cherries then you should know the disease called black knot. It is caused by a fungus called Apiosporina morbosa. This fungus grows in the wild and its spores can be spread by rain or wind. The spores will typically infect trees from April through June on new growth. Infected stems swell up and produce hard black knots like that in the above photo. This disease can eventually kill the tree so infected limbs should be pruned off 2-4 inches below the knots and buried or burned before bud break the following spring. Black cherry seems particularly susceptible to the disease.

I saw a hollowed-out stump that was slowly filling with fallen leaves beside a trail. From what I’ve read in the book Bark; a Field Guide to Trees of the Northeast, by Michael Wojtech, eastern white pine (Pinus strobus) and eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) are the only trees with stumps that will rot away from the inside out. It’s an interesting thing that I don’t see that often.

You would think that with all the rain we’ve had I’d be seeing slime molds everywhere, but actually I’ve seen very few this year. I believe the orangey brown material in this photo was once an active slime mold but by the time I found it, it was dry and hard. There are many different orange slime molds so it’s impossible to tell which one it is but it was still interesting. It shows how a slime mold will spread over its immediate surroundings, looking for food. Slime molds “eat” tiny unseen organisms such as bacteria and yeasts, and they are also said to help decompose leaves and rotting logs.

I’ve seen many thousands of pixie cup lichens (Cladonia pyxidata.) They’re the ones that look like tiny golf tees, but I’ve always wondered what they looked like when they first started forming. Did they always look like golf tees? I didn’t think so but I couldn’t say why. Then one day I thought I had found the answer. As you can see in this photo the little golf tees start life looking like simple pegs. You can see a few with tiny “cups” just starting to form. Pixie cup lichens are squamulose lichens with fruticose fruiting structures called podetia. Squamulose means they have scale like lleafy obes that often overlap like shingles. The parts that look like tiny golf tees are called podetia. Podetia means a stalk like growth which bears the spore bearing fruiting bodies. Finally, frucitose means a lichen with bushy, vertical growth. It is thought that some colonies of pixie cup lichens might be as old as 4,500 years. It’s good I think, to know a little more about these tiny life forms that see everywhere I go.

A boulder on the side of the road was covered by moss and though that might not seem surprising or earthshaking, it caught my attention.

Picture yourself in a small, single engine plane flying low over the treetops in the Amazon jungle, and you’ll understand why I was fascinated by this mossy boulder. I imagined that scene would look a lot like this.

Here’s a little hint of what’s to come. We finally had a frost, more than a month after our average first frost date and the second latest since such things have been recorded. But we haven’t had a freeze, and that means we still have colorful leaves on some of the trees.

It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see. ~Henry David Thoreau

Thanks for coming by.

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