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Posts Tagged ‘Sunset’

The days have lengthened enough now so I can once again get outside after work and that’s always a relief. Having to take enough photos on a weekend for two blog posts can be a challenge, especially when it rains or snows on one of those weekend days. It gets dark at about 5:30 pm now and that means an hour or so to get into the woods. Not much time, but when you live in the woods you don’t have to go far. On this day I chose a bit of woodland near my house that has an old dirt road running through it.

The sun was low and the light was just right to show you the shiny ice that covers the snow. This ice makes breaking a trail through the snow difficult, at best. I can remember how hard it was even at 10 years old.

But someone had driven down this old road with a 4 wheeler or something and that broke the icy crust and packed down the snow, so walking here was a breeze.

A young white pine (Pinus strobus) had fallen across the road and someone had come along and cut it up. We’ve lost a lot of trees to the wind this year but most were dead or dying. This looked like a healthy young tree.

There is a small stream out here that feeds into a large swampy wetland. I was surprised to see it so free of ice.

It was obvious that a large flock of turkeys had been through here. Turkeys are very active in winter and I see them everywhere, but I always seem to be driving at the time so getting photos has proven harder than it should be.

Turkeys have big feet that they use to scratch up forest litter with as they look for food. They’ll get under a stand of evergreens where the snow is thin and scratch up large areas looking for acorns, beech nuts, grapes, or berries they’ve missed on previous hunts. When spring comes they’ll eat buds, fresh grasses, roots, and new leaves. In summer they’ll eat a lot of insects, including ticks.

Mosses look so delicate but they’re very tough and will weather the ice and snow like it wasn’t even there. This is one of my favorite mosses. I like the way its fingers reach out to find new spaces to grow in.

Though there may be snow everywhere you look winter can actually be a very dry season, and this moss was so dry it’s hard to tell what it is but I think it might be brocade moss (Hypnum imponens.) Brocade moss is often very shiny and can have an orange brown color. Its common name comes from the way it looks as if it has been embroidered on whatever it grows on.

As I stopped to take photos I could hear a pine tree creaking as a breeze blew it gently back and forth. It was easy to believe that the sound would be the same on the deck of a wooden ship but it would be the mast creaking there, rather than the tree that it was made from. When this land was first colonized tall, straight pines were prized by the Royal Navy, and cutting any tree marked with the King’s broad arrow mark meant certain death. The trees became known as mast trees and the practice of the King taking the best trees led to the Pine Tree Riot in 1772. In an open act of rebellion colonists cut down and hauled off many marked mast pines in what was just a taste of what would come later in the American Revolution.

I stopped to admire the structure of a beech branch that stood out so well against the snow. Each twig is placed perfectly so one leaf doesn’t block the sunlight reaching another.

A golden puddle on the road told me the sun was quickly getting lower in the sky. This time between day and night is when the night creatures take over. I know this area well and I’ve seen some big bears near here but, though I’ve seen skunks coming out of hibernation already I doubt the bears are awake yet. It won’t be long though.

The old road leads to and around a large swamp. The breeze blew stronger here in this big open space but it was still fairly warm for February. It’s easy to imagine voices on the winds in such a place, whispering softly. For me it’s a peaceful, comforting sound but sometimes it can be a lonely one. I’ve heard that the wind drove early settlers on the Great Plains to madness but I think it was the loneliness more than the wind. It was the voices on the wind, sometimes whispering and sometimes howling, that told them how alone they really were. With a phone in my pocket I could talk to anyone anywhere at any time but they could not. Marty Rubin once said solitude is where one discovers one is not alone, but solitude is experienced differently by different people. For me it is simply a part of who I am and it brings me great joy, but I can understand how it might seem like a burden to others.

The southwest side of this sugar maple had sunscald, which is very different than frost cracking. Sunscald happens when southwest facing bark freezes at night after high daytime temperatures. Direct sunlight or sunlight reflecting off the snow can heat the bark during the day and bring it out of dormancy, and then when it freezes at night the active tissues are killed, resulting in the kind of wound seen here. Cracking and peeling bark is a sure sign of what is also called southwest disease. If this were a frost crack the crack in the bark would be absolutely vertical. This one curves like a snake and the dead bark around it covers a large area.

I’ve never seen witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) blossoming out here but here was a large shrub with the telltale cup like bracts on it. It even had the petals still coming out of the bracts but they were still there from last fall and were frozen. Native witch hazels can bloom on a warm day in January but I’ve never seen one blooming this late. The spring blooming vernal witch hazels (Hamamelis vernalis) will be starting to bloom any time now.

Indian pipes (Monotropa uniflora) are white and ghostly and grow in the dark places in the forest. They can get away with doing that because they don’t photosynthesize, but they do have flowers and when the flowers are pollinated they stand straight up from the shepherd’s crook shape seen here. This tells me that the flower seen here either wasn’t pollinated or didn’t see any need to stand up straight like all of its cousins. The seeds are fine like dust and I think the flower standing up straight must have something to do with rain being able to splash the seeds out of the capsule. Many plants and mosses use the same strategy for seed dispersal. Fresh Indian pipe plants contain a gel that Native Americans used to treat eye problems, and the common name comes from the pipes they smoked.

This is what the stained glass looks like in the cathedrals I visit.

I followed my own footprints back down the old road and saw how they meandered from this side of the road to that; a puddle of footprints where I stopped to admire something. This is how it should be for one who studies nature; meander like a toddler and be interested in everything. You see all the small, hidden jewels of the forest that way.

And find joy in the beautiful, simple things that make you smile, like a stream of molten gold weaving its way through a forest.

All this beauty, all this wonder, is right there in my back yard, and it’s in yours as well. I hope you’ll have a chance to get out and see it.

I’ll tell you what hermits realize. If you go off into a far, far forest and get very quiet, you’ll come to understand that you’re connected with everything. ~Alan watts

Thanks for coming by.

 

 

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1. Monadnock

I don’t think I’ve ever shown much of what our landscape looks like in November. Some people think there’s nothing worth seeing at this time of year; that everything is either brown or white, but that simply isn’t true and I hope the following photos will prove it. I don’t usually do too much landscape photography because I find it much harder than any other kind and because I’m not that good at it, but I probably can’t lose by starting off with Mount Monadnock. A three year old couldn’t mess up a photo of this mountain from this spot.

2. Monadnock Summit

3,165 ft. high Mount Monadnock has bald granite on its summit because a fire set in 1800 to clear the lower slopes for pasture got away from the settlers and burned every tree on its summit. Between 1810 and 1820 local farmers thought that wolves were living in the blowdowns left from the first fire, so they set fire to the mountain again. This fire raged for weeks, burning so long and so hot that it even burned the soil, which the wind and rain eventually removed, leaving the bare granite that we see today.

3. Climber on Monadnock

Monadnock is the most climbed mountain in the United States and the second most climbed in the world after Mount Fiji in Japan. It’s not unusual to find standing room only on the summit on a fall weekend, but on this morning it looked like one climber had the whole thing to himself. I’d bet that it was pretty cold up there and that probably kept people away. It won’t be long before it’s covered by many feet of snow.

4. Meadow

Something that really says New Hampshire to me is a field surrounded by stone walls. The stones were found when the field was being cleared and to get rid of them the farmers put them along the edges of the field. Stone walls built in this way are among the earliest and most common, and are called thrown or tossed walls since that’s how the stones were put there. Since forests were being cleared rapidly wood for fencing was in short supply and stone walls eventually replaced the earlier wooden fencing. If the field was used as pasture wooden rails were often added to the tops of stone walls to keep animals from jumping over them.

5. Stone Wall

Laid walls took more care and time to build and were often used for show along the front of a house or other places that were seen by the public. They are more orderly than dumped or thrown walls and show the skill of the builder.

6. Granite Gate Post

This wall had a gate with granite gate posts. You don’t see these very often.

7. Woods

I’ve been walking in these forests almost since I learned how, so I can’t think of this state without thinking of them. New Hampshire has 4.8 million acres of forest so the woods become a big part of life here. Big open spaces are rare and often have cows in them.

8. Old Road

I should have said that I’ve been following trails and old logging roads through these forests since I learned to walk. Though I’ve done it in the past just walking into these woods with no trail to follow is a very foolish thing to do. The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department handles between 150 to 200 search and rescues each year, and many are lost and / or injured. Besides, I love walking the old forgotten roads because there is often a lot of history to be found along them. Stone walls and cellar holes tell an interesting story.

9. Porcupine Falls

If there’s one thing New Hampshire has plenty of it is water, and even in a drought most of the streams run. The water is clean and clear and many people still fill bottles with it at local springs. I like to just sit and listen to streams chuckle and giggle as they play and splash among the moss covered stones. At times nature is like a little child and this to me, is that child’s laughter.

10. Ashuelot

The Ashuelot River is also fairly clean now but it wasn’t always that way. I can remember when it ran all colors of the rainbow, depending on what color dyes the woolen mills happened to be using on any given day. To now see people catching trout in this river and bald eagles nesting along its course seems truly miraculous to me.

11. Ashuelot

I like going to see parts of the Ashuelot River that aren’t that familiar to me like this section up in Gilsum, which is north of Keene. I particularly like this stretch because of its wildness. Major floods tore through here a few years ago and scrubbed the river banks clean of soil right down to the bedrock in places. A steel suspension bridge that crossed near this spot was torn loose and wrapped around trees and boulders like it was made of aluminum foil and pieces of it can still be found bent around various immoveable objects to this day.

12. Pond at Sunset

But enough about flooding; I prefer the placid waters of our many lakes and ponds. I was thinking as I started putting this post together that I can’t think of a single town in this region that doesn’t have a lake or pond, and most have both. The pond pictured is Wilson Pond in Swanzey last Saturday at sunset.

13. Hills at Sunset

Other things we seem to have a great abundance of, at least in this part of New Hampshire, are hills. In fact Keene sits in a kind of bowl and no matter which direction you choose to leave it by, you have to climb a hill. So of course I wanted to show you hills, but I found that photos of hills in November aren’t very exciting. On this day though the setting sun in the previous photo turned the sky a peachy color and the hills a deep indigo blue, improving their appearance considerably I thought.

14. Hills at Sunset

As the sun continued to set the color of the sky became richer and deeper. I was driving home at the time and had to keep stopping to take another photo because we don’t see skies like this every day. It was so beautiful that I spent more time just sitting and staring than I did taking photos. This kind of beauty isn’t just seen; it’s felt as well, as if you are bathing in it, and I don’t see how anyone could have room for anything but peace in their hearts after witnessing such a display.

15. Stream at Sunset

Just to see if I could do it all of the photos in this post were taken in one day, and what a day it was. But as every day must this one had to end, and I just happened to be near a stream when the light began to fade. I expected the pink and orange reflected sky but I didn’t expect the beautiful blues. A perfect end to a perfect day.

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

Thanks for coming by. I hope everyone has a safe and happy Thanksgiving Day tomorrow, or just a plain old good day if you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving.

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1. Pearl Crescent Butterfly

I haven’t seen many pearl crescent butterflies (Phyciodes tharos) this year but this one landed nearby and let me get quite close. I wondered if it needed a rest after flying with such a torn up wing.  I’ve read that males have black antenna knobs, so I’m guessing that this is a female.

2. White Admiral Butterfly

This white admiral butterfly (Limenitis arthemis) landed in the leaves at the side of a path. It seemed like odd behavior for a butterfly but I thought it might be looking for some shade. It was a hot day.

3. Branch River

The branch river in Marlborough has more stones than water in it at the moment. It’s a good illustration of how dry our weather has been. Rain is a rare commodity here lately, but they say we might see showers this weekend.

4. Forest Clearing

Last year at this time I found a northern club spur orchid (Platanthera clavellata v. Ophioglossoides) growing in this spot but this year there wasn’t a sign of it or any other orchid. A tree fell and opened up the forest canopy to let the sunshine hit the forest floor and last year I thought that it might be the reason the orchid grew here. Now I wonder if the extra sunshine is what caused the orchid to no longer grow here. I’ve noticed that many of the smaller orchids I’ve found seem to prefer shade.

5. Hobblebush Leaves

Signs of fall are creeping from the forest floor up into the shrubby understory, as these hobblebush leaves (Viburnum lantanoides) show. This plant gets its name from the way it can “hobble” a horse because it grows so close to the ground. My own feet have been hobbled by it once or twice and I’ve taken some good falls because of it, so now I walk around rather than through stands of hobblebush.

6. Bracken

Bracken ferns are also starting to show their fall colors. This fern is one plant that will not tolerate acid rain, so if you don’t see it where you live you might want to check the local air pollution statistics. We have plenty of it here so acid rain must be a thing of the past, thankfully.

7. Cranberries

This seems to be a bountiful year for fruits as these cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon) show. Most were unripe when this photo was taken but you can see one reddish one in the upper right.  Cranberries, along with blueberries and grapes, are the only fruits native to North America that are grown commercially and sold globally.

8. Sumac Pouch Gall

Someone from the Smithsonian Institution read another post where I spoke about sumac pouch gall and contacted me to ask if I knew where they grew. They are researching the coevolution of rhus gall aphids and its host plants the sumacs. A female aphid lays eggs on the underside of a leaf and plant tissue swells around them to form a gall. The eggs overwinter and mature inside the hollow gall until spring, when they leave the gall and begin feeding on the plant. Scientists have paleobotanical evidence that this aphid has had a relationship with its sumac hosts for at least 48 million years. They are studying this relationship at the Smithsonian and I told them that I could show them where many of these galls grew. We’ll do that sometime in September, after they collect galls from Georgia, Arkansas, and Ohio.

9. Chanterelle

This chanterelle mushroom held a good amount of water in its cup. I never thought that the coating on a mushroom was water proof, but it looks like I have to re-think that.

10. Chestnut Leaves

This might not look like much but it is a rare sight. 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. Many botanists and other scientists are working on finding and breeding disease resistant trees. I’ll be watching this one.

11. Mini

Mini the wonder dog comes trotting out of the darkness with tongue wagging, ready to save mankind from the scourge of the chipmunk. Mini lives with friends of mine and I call her the wonder dog because I really have to wonder if I’ll ever see her sit still. She’s very energetic and loves a good chipmunk chase. She never catches them but that doesn’t keep her from trying.

12. Sunlit Clouds

I saw the sun light up the clouds one evening but I couldn’t stop driving right then and had to chase the view until I found a good stopping place. It was amazingly colorful and reminded me of a Maxfield Parrish painting.

13. Sunlit Valley Maxfield Parrish

For those unfamiliar with Maxfield Parrish; he was a painter who moved to Plainfield New Hampshire in 1898 and painted here until he died in 1966. His paintings are known for their saturated colors and sunlit clouds. There is often a beautiful woman dressed in Native American or other unusual clothing somewhere in the painting. This painting is titled “Sunlit Valley.” The clouds I saw reminded me of it.

14. Blue Moon

Last month we had a blue moon and I went out and took photos of it but then forgot to put them into a post, so here is a nearly month old photo of the blue moon. Obviously it isn’t blue but is called blue when two full moons appear in a single month. According to Wikipedia the suggestion has been made that the term “blue moon” arose by folk etymology, the “blue” replacing the no-longer-understood belewe, ‘to betray’. The original meaning would then have been “betrayer moon”, referring to a full moon that would “normally” be the full moon of spring. It was “traitorous” in the sense that people would have had to continue fasting for another month in accordance with the season of Lent.

The appearance of things changes according to the emotions; and thus we see magic and beauty in them, while the magic and beauty are really in ourselves. ~Kahlil Gibran

Thanks for stopping in.

OF LOCAL INTEREST: The following was sent to me recently:

2015 NH Permaculture Day – Saturday, August 22, 2015 Anyone who wants to learn ways to live in a more sustainable and self-sufficient way should attend the third annual NH Permaculture Day – Saturday, August 22 from 8 am to 5 pm at Inheritance Farm, in Chichester, NH, presented by the New Hampshire Permaculture Guild in cooperation with UNH Cooperative Extension.  Experts will lead more than 30 activities on such topics as growing, harvesting, preparing, and preserving food; herbs; mushrooms; raising farm animals; historic barns and natural building practices; and sustainable energy. Tickets are $35 for adults, children ages 6-15 are $10, and ages 5 and under are free. A local organic farm-to-table lunch is included.

Locally-made products will be for sale in the vendor’s area, and supervised activities and crafts will be offered all day long in our Children’s Corner.

Tickets can be purchased online (via Eventbrite).  For more information, go to the event page at http://extension.unh.edu/2015-NH-Permaculture-Day.

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