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Posts Tagged ‘Stone Walls’

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

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1. Stone Walls

Whitetail deer know if they are to survive in the winter they need to follow the sun and stay on warm, south eastward facing slopes during the day. Not only is it warmer in these places, but the abundant sunshine often means quicker snow melt and plenty of browse. Quite often in winter I follow their lead and on this day I walked along an old stone wall where the overhanging white pines and eastern hemlocks made for light snow cover and the bright sunshine meant it was considerably warmer.

 2. Shingled Rock Shield Lichen aka Xanthoparmelia stenophylla

But sunshine and warmth aren’t the only reasons I come here. Lichens and mosses grow on these stones by the thousands and this old wall has become one of my favorite places to hunt for them in winter. Many of the lichens are in their fruiting stage at this time of year, as the above example of a shingled rock shield lichen (Xanthoparmelia stenophylla) shows. The dark brown, cup shaped growths are the apothecia, or fruiting bodies. These lichens have been here probably for hundreds of years because they are quite large. I’ve seen some that were the size of grapefruit.

3. Rock Greenshield Lichen aka Flavoparmelia baltimorensis

Rock Greenshield Lichens (Flavoparmelia baltimorensis) are also quite large and are very common along this stretch of stone wall. Most foliose lichens seem to prefer growing in the sunshine and these are no different. Foliose means “leaf like” but these lichens always remind me of melted candle wax. In fact there is a lichen known as the eastern candle wax lichen (Ahtiana aurescens), but it grows on tree limbs instead of stone and leans more towards gray than green.

 4. Scattered Rock Posy Lichen aka Rhizoplaca subdiscrepans

I’m going into my third year of visiting this scattered rock posy lichen and if it has changed in that time the change is imperceptible. When I first found it, it was the only one I knew of but over the years I’ve found others. It likes to grow on granite in full sun and is one of the most beautiful lichens, in my opinion. This photo is the closest I’ve ever been able to get to it. The orange disc shaped growths are its fruiting bodies and the grayish, brain like growth is the thallus, or body. The entire lichen is about the size of a penny.

 5. Orange Crust Fungus aka Stereum complicatum

Lichens weren’t the only finds here on this day. This orange, crust like fungus is a parchment fungus called, not surprisingly, orange crust fungus (Stereum complicatum). It was growing a fallen branch. The complicatum part of the scientific name means “folded back on itself.” One of the identifying characteristics of this fungus is the smooth, pore free underside.

 6. Aster Seed Heads

There were plenty of aster seed heads along the wall, waiting for hungry birds.

 7. British Soldier Lichens

British soldier lichens (Cladonia cristatella) grew on an old rotting stump. This lichen was named by someone who thought they resembled the eighteenth century uniform of a  British soldier. It’s very slow growing, and in a good year might grow 2 millimeters. The red parts of this lichen are where its spores are produced and, since they don’t make spores until they reach at least 4 years of age, I know this one has been here awhile. British soldiers and their cousins pixie cups are frutose lichens, which is a lichen that stands upright or hangs down.

8. Rusty Rod in Stone-2

Here and there in this wall there were holes drilled into the stone. In this case a steel rod was held in the hole by an old cut nail. The wire, I think, was probably used to fasten a strand or two of barbed wire to the rod. This gave the stone wall about 2 feet of extra height and probably helped keep the livestock in. Or out, if they had an enclosed vegetable garden.

 9. Hole in Stone

In some cases the rods were gone. The quarter sized holes were most likely done by hand with a star drill and sledge hammer.

10. Hedwigia cillata Moss

Hedwigia cillata moss looked good and healthy. This moss loves to grow on exposed surfaces like stones and cliff faces in sun or shade and is common all over the world. When dry this moss pulls its leaves in tight to the central stem and loses much of its bushy appearance.  Its fruiting bodies (sporophytes) are orange but hide deep among the leaves on short stalks so they aren’t as easy to see as those on other mosses.

11. Moss Covered Boulder

This boulder was covered with carpet mosses and lichens. In her book Gathering Moss author Robin Wall Kimmerer says that lichens pave the way for mosses on stones and other smooth surfaces. Lichens produce acids that slowly etch surfaces just enough to give rootless mosses enough of a purchase to anchor themselves to. The acids in lichens are powerful enough to etch even glass, and they have been known to damage stained glass in some of the great cathedrals of Europe. The yellow square in the above photo shows the area where the following macro photo of moss came from.

12. Brick Carpet Moss aka Bryoerythrophyllum recurvirostrum

This is an extreme close-up of what I believe is brick carpet moss (Bryoerythrophyllum recurvirostrum). There are many different low growing moss species that form carpets and, in my experience, are very hard to identify. These mosses seem to grow in the harshest conditions like on boulders in full sun, but mosses are tough. Robin Wall Kimmerer notes that mosses held dry in herbarium cabinets for 40 years revived in just a few minutes after being given water.

13. Common Goldspeck Lichen aka Candelariella vitellitta

Common goldspeck lichen (Candelariella vitellitta) is uncommonly beautiful. This bright yellow lichen grows on calcium free stones and the examples that I’ve found have always been quite small.  This was the first time that I’ve seen this lichen fruiting. The apothecia or fruiting bodies are disc shaped and slightly darker in color than the granular body, and are so small that I can’t think of anything to compare them to. In fact, I didn’t even see them until I looked at the photo. This one was a real test of the macro capabilities of my camera-all that you see in this photo would easily fit on a dime with room to spare.

14. Golden Moonglow Lichen

Golden moonglow lichen is another small but beautiful, greenish yellow squamulose lichen that grows on stone in full sun. The example in the photo grew on granite and was about the size of a penny, but I’ve seen them larger. This example had quite a lot of dark, disc shaped fruiting bodies showing in its center. A squamulose lichen falls somewhere between the leafy foliose lichens and crusty crustose lichens and has “squamules,” which in this case are the curled lobes around its outer edges.

There is no absolute scale of size in nature, and the small may be as important, or more so than the great. ~Oliver Heaviside

Note: I’m sorry that I don’t remember which of you told me about the Gathering Moss book, but I’d like to thank you for doing so. It’s a great book.

Thanks for coming by.

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Swanzey Lake is a place that I visit quite frequently because of the easy accessibility of the surrounding forest. Like most lakes in this area there is a road that goes completely around it. Off this road, near a huge boulder covered with rock tripe lichens, is another road that I’ve wondered about for years. I was able to finally hike it recently.

 1. Class 6 Road Sign

This is a class 6 road which means, unless you know someone who has traveled it, you’re better off walking it than driving it-at least for the first time. I know of another class 6 road with two old timber and plank bridges out and nowhere to comfortably turn around.  I had no idea where this one might lead, but I was determined to find out.

 2. Class 6 Road

It wasn’t long before I was regretting leaving the Yak Tracks behind, but as it turned out the icy spots were relatively easy to avoid. I’m not in a Yak Track frame of mind yet, but I’d better get in one soon. Some of these old roads just end in the forest and others connect with networks of other old, forgotten roads.  There’s really no telling where they lead, and that’s part of the fun. Fun that is, as long as you carefully note any detours onto other roads that you might have to take. In some cases it’s possible to get seriously lost out here if you aren’t paying attention. I haven’t heard of any lost hunters yet but it usually happens every year at about this time.

 3. Ice Needles

I saw the longest ice needles I’ve ever seen along this road. The ones in the photo were at least 6 inches long and had frozen together to form thick ice ribbons.  Since they are extruded from the ground by hydrostatic pressure, they are almost always covered with sand or soil.

 4. Ice Pillars

Instead of curling like they usually do these ice needles grew straight up and brought stones along for the ride. Several of these ice pillars were capped by tiny pebbles.

5. Stone Wall

Stone walls mean this land was cleared once, and somebody lived out here. In 1822 the New Hampshire State Board of Agriculture suggested what farmers should do with all of the stones they found in their fields:  “Almost all farms have stone enough to make a wall for every necessary division and enclosure. Labor used in this way answers a double purpose; it secures the fields from the ravages of stock, and improves them by removing rocks which are not only useless, but inconvenient and injurious in their natural situation. A farmer ought to consider it his proper business, as he has means and opportunity, to secure his lands by stone walls.”  All he needed was a horse, a stone boat, and a strong back. And a couple of sons would have come in handy, too. By 1871 there were an estimated 252,539 miles of stone walls in New England and New York, enough to circle the earth 10 times at the equator. Today it is almost impossible to walk through these woods without finding them.

 6. Hilltop Wood Lot

Somebody is still cutting trees here. None of these are very old and most are hard wood.

7. Hoar Frost Almost every inch of this hemlock twig was covered in ice.

8. Puddle Ice

It must be wind that makes waves on mud puddles-even small ones-this one couldn’t have been a foot long.

 9. Birch Log

Puddles weren’t the only things displaying wave patterns. This fallen birch was as big around as a truck tire and might have made some interesting lumber. Spalting is a caused by fungi growing on dead trees and the wood is prized by woodworkers due to the unique colors and patterns that can form in the log. I was wishing that I could cut a slab or two just to see what the grain pattern would look like. This could be a very valuable log.

10. Sugar Maple

Next to the birch log stood a nice old sugar maple (Acer saccharum.) I don’t know why sugar maples are so often found near roads, but I’m guessing they were planted there so the sap buckets would be easier to get to. A paper titled Relationships between Soil Salinity, Sap-Sugar Concentration, and Health of Declining Roadside Sugar Maples by Graham T Herrick says that scientists all over the country are seeing dying sugar maples along roadsides. Road salt residue in soil inhibits plant water uptake and tips of branches in the crown start dying off. Before long the entire tree is dying. The strangest part of the study shows that the amount of sugar in the sap actually increases as the tree dies. The tree in the photo has probably never seen salt used on this old road, so it has had a chance to live a long, healthy life.

 11. Hemlock Varnished Bracket Fungus aka Ganoderma tsugae

I found several hemlock varnished bracket fungi (Ganoderma tsugae) growing on an old eastern hemlock stump (Tsuga canadensis.) It has a white outer edge and underside when it is young and looks very different than those in the photo. They are annuals that grow new from the mycelium each spring, and these examples were at least a year old, I think. This mushroom is said to be among the most valuable medicinal fungi. The Chinese have used it in their medicine for over 2000 years.

 12. Jelly Fungus

It was cold enough to freeze this orange jelly fungus but the sun must have thawed it out.

 13. Frosty Hole

This hole in the ground was about as big as a quarter-just right for a snake. Judging by the hoar frost around its rim there was plenty of moisture of coming out of it.  At this scale it looks like a cave.

 14. Icy Road

I won’t be leaving those Yak Tracks behind again until March, I guess. Snowmobile and four wheel drive clubs do a great job of keeping these old roads open, but there’s nothing they can do about the ice.

 15. Suburbia at End of Road

Suburbia. Not exactly the wilderness I was hoping for and not what I was expecting to find at the end of a class 6 road, so back I went the way I came. At least now I don’t have to wonder where this road leads and I know where I can go for a short walk that has plenty of interesting things to see.

An old road always looks richer and more beautiful than a new road because old roads have memories. ~ Mehmet Murat ildan

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1. Dim Sun

Here in New Hampshire November is always the cloudiest month but I looked out the window one recent morning and saw a beautiful, sunny day. I didn’t want to waste it so I set off for the High Blue trail north of here in Walpole. By the time I parked at the trailhead the sun was just a white smudge on a sky so flat and gray it looked as if it had been painted by a melancholy watercolorist. It would have been a great day for wildflower or foliage photography, but it wasn’t too good for landscapes.

 2. High Blue Sign

The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests maintains the trail that leads to ledges that, at 1588 feet above sea level, look out over the Connecticut River valley into Vermont. It’s an easy, quick walk to a great view and I come here quite often.

 3. Mossy Ledges

I especially like to come here at this time of year when the bones of the forest are revealed. At any other time of year you could walk right by these mossy ledges without seeing them, but now they really stand out. This is a great place to find many different lichens and mosses.

 4. Rock Tripe Covered Boulders

A closer look shows large boulders covered with rock tripe lichen (Umbilicaria mammulata)

 5. Rock Tripe

It is said that soldiers stationed at Valley Forge under George Washington ate rock tripe to stay alive. But they also ate their shoes, and rock tripe is considered barely edible even though science has shown that it has a very high nutritional value. On this day it was dry and brittle but when it rains it will become pliable and algae will blossom up to its surface, turning it dark green.

 6. Beech with Beech Bark Disease

Rain isn’t going to help our beech trees, I’m afraid. This is called beech bark disease and I’m seeing it more and more. Sometime around 1890 a European Beech was imported in Nova Scotia, and it was infected with a scale insect called wooly beech scale. This scale is a sucking insect and it makes holes in the bark to get at the sap. These wounds allow certain types of fungi to begin growing and killing the inner bark of the tree. If there are enough wounds and they circle the tree it is girdled and killed. Since both the scale insect and the various fungi that follow it are wind borne, the future doesn’t look bright for the American Beech (Fagus grandifolia) in this part of the country.

7. Beech Drops

Beech drops (Epifagus virginiana) is a plant that parasitizes the roots of beech trees, but doesn’t do any real damage to them. I usually look for this plant in the fall when it blooms, but this time I found it gone to seed. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, because information on this plant’s seeds and how they are dispersed is just about impossible to find. In fact, I found only one other photo of its seeds, and it was out of focus, so the photo here is something of a rarity, apparently. If only I’d known when I was in the woods! I did find one article that said it is thought that raindrops, landing in the open, cup shaped pod seen in the photo, would disperse the seeds, but nobody really seems to know for sure.

1. Toothed Fungus

I thought this odd colored toothed fungus was interesting. I think it is a bear head fungus (Hericium americanum) but I’m not sure if that comes in this color. It was a very cold morning though and this and other fungi were frozen solid, so that might have affected the color and changed it from the usual white. The icicle like appearance of this fungus was very appropriate on such a cold morning.

8. Stone Wall

If you like stone walls this is the time of year to look for them. They’re much easier to see now that the leaves have fallen. Here in New Hampshire you don’t have to go very far to find one-any forest will do. Many, if not most, of these old walls still mark property boundaries.

9. Foundation Stones

Cellar holes and old stone foundations are also much easier to see. This is the corner of what was once the foundation of someone’s house. We might wonder why someone would be living “out in the middle of nowhere” because it’s easy to forget that just one hundred years ago most of these hills were cleared and used as pasture land.

10. High Blue Cairn

This is new. When I was up here last August I didn’t see any cairns, but now there are three. I’ve never seen a source of loose stone here either but there must be one nearby. I can’t imagine anyone carrying that much stone all the way up here. Cairns have been built since before recorded history for many different purposes but I’m not sure what, if anything these ones are supposed to mean.

11. High Blue View

The view of the Green Mountains off to the west from the ledges was blue as it always is, but also hazy. I think the clouds were low enough to limit the viewable distance somewhat. The wind was coming at this spot from right over Stratton Mountain and it was cold.

12. High Blue View

It’s no wonder the wind coming over the mountain was so cold. According to the Stratton Mountain Ski Area web site, they’ve been making snow and are expecting some natural snow someday this week. If it snows I hope it stays on that side of the Connecticut River and doesn’t make it this far east. I’m not ready for it yet. I wish I had made it up here when the foliage colors were peaking.

 13. Monadnock from High Blue Trail

As you walk down the trail at this time of year Mount Monadnock can be seen to the south east. It too will be snow covered soon.  When there are leaves on the trees this view is mostly blocked.

You never climb the same mountain twice, not even in memory. Memory rebuilds the mountain, changes the weather, retells the jokes, and remakes all the moves. ~Lito Tejada-Flores

Thanks for stopping in.

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