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Posts Tagged ‘Walpole’

1. Distant Hills

There are great views of distant hills but that isn’t how Distant Hill Gardens gets its name. The property sits up on a knoll which was once called Distant Hill. What started out as 21 acres has now grown to 58 acres and includes its own Christmas tree plantation and a sugar bush that produces plenty of maple syrup each year.

2. Pond

There is a pond on the property along with several vernal pools and a cranberry bog as well.

3. Water Lily

I think this was the smallest water lily I’ve ever seen. It was a beautiful little thing that would have fit in a tea cup.

4. Bog

My favorite part of the property is the cranberry bog where round leaved sundews, pitcher plants, tawny cotton grass, cranberries, and rose pogonia orchids grow.  Originally a pond with a small island, the island has grown into a floating mat of sphagnum mosses that now covers a large area. I’ve never heard of this happening so quickly but it has all happened since Michael and his wife bought the property. Michael figures that nearly a foot of peat has been produced in a little over 30 years, and that is astounding. I’ve always read that peat takes many thousands of years to accumulate.

5. Boardwalk

Technically the bog is really a fen, which has less peat and more plant species than a bog. A boardwalk lets you walk right out into it and get close enough to the plants to touch them.

6. Cranberry

There were plenty of cranberries to be seen though they were far from ripe at this time of year. When they ripen the Nerries will harvest them.

7. Tawny Cotton Grass

Tawny cotton grass (Eriophorum virginicum) is really a sedge and has tufts of silky hairs at the end of a long slender stem. These examples were just starting to bloom but as the season progresses the white hairs will grow longer until the whole mass looks like a ball of cotton at the end of a stick. The white hairs are actually the flower bristles and the “tawny” part of this plant’s common name comes from the way they are often tinted a reddish brown coppery color. It was great to be able to see it up close just as it was starting to bloom.

8. Eyelash Fungus

Near the cranberry bog is a seep where all kinds of fascinating things grow. I never would have seen this tiny eyelash fungus (Scutellinia scutellata) without Michael’s help because I have trouble seeing red and it wasn’t much bigger than a pea. This fungus gets its common name from the eyelash like hairs that grow around its rim. You have to look closely at this photo to see them, but they’re there. This fungus seems to like a lot of water; this example grew on a rotting twig that was lying in water. Another common name is Molly eye-winker.

9. Swamp Beacon

Another oddity that grew in the seep were swamp beacons (Mitrula elegans,) one of the only fungi that I know of that grows in water. They are classified as “amphibious fungi” and use a process called soft rot to decompose plant material in low-oxygen areas. Since they only decompose soft tissue they aren’t found on twigs or bark and this photo shows how they are growing out of a saturated leaf. Another common name is “matchstick fungus” and that’s exactly what they remind me of because they are just about the size of a wooden match. I had never seen this fungus before my visit to Distant Hill Gardens but now I’m seeing them everywhere.

10. Pitcher Plant

Back in the cranberry bog a clump of northern pitcher plants (Sarracenia purpurea) grew far enough from the boardwalk to be just out of reach. Michael said that these plants were dying and you can see the progression of their death in this photo, from bright red to brown to white, where they finally fall over and lay like sun bleached bones on the reddish moss. He said he suspects that the plants are struggling because the pH of the water has changed slightly. That’s the thing about bogs and fens; the plants that grow in them are very fussy about growing conditions. Everything has to come together perfectly, and that’s why these plants are rarely seen.

11. Round Leaved Sundew

Though many bog and fen plants are rarely seen, when they find a spot that they like their numbers can be amazing. Round leaved sundew (Drosera rotundifolia) was a good example of that and grew everywhere you looked. This is another plant that I have trouble seeing due to its color and very small size, but now that I’ve seen them growing naturally I hope to see more. Since bogs and fens are so low in nutrients this plant and others like the pitcher plant have evolved to be insect eaters. By doing so they get all the nutrients they need.

12. Rose Pogonia

In just a short time at Distant Hill Gardens I saw more than a dozen plants and fungi that I had never seen before, and the high point was the rose pogonia orchids (Pogonia ophioglossoides.) This is a plant that I’ve hoped to find for years so I was very happy to see it. They were there by the hundreds and it looked like the fen was alive with pink butterflies. Michael surprised me by saying that they hadn’t been there but for a few years. Once the island in the pond started to grow and form sphagnum mats the orchids just appeared, as if they had been waiting for just such an opportunity. They were beautiful things and I felt very lucky to be able to get close enough to smell their delicate fragrance.

13. Rose Pogonia

John Muir once found a rare calypso orchid and wrote “I never before saw a plant so full of life, so perfectly spiritual. I felt as if I were in the presence of superior beings who loved me and beckoned me to come. I sat down beside them and wept for joy.” As I knelt beside the rose pogonia with the water of the fen wetting my knees I knew just how he must have felt.

Life isn’t measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. ~Anonymous

Thanks for stopping in. If you’re able to I hope you’ll visit Distant Hill. It’s an experience you won’t soon forget, of that I am certain.

 

 

 

 

 

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1. Sign

I was lucky enough to be able to visit Distant Hill Gardens in Walpole, New Hampshire a few times this year. The gardens started out simply enough; in 1979 Michael Nerrie and his wife Kathy bought 21 acres of land in the hills of Walpole that had been farmed since as early as 1773. As landowners always do they started exploring their acreage and what they discovered is, if I had to describe it as simply as possible, mind blowing.

2. Stone Wall

One of the first things seen as you enter the property is the stone wall that marks the edge of the woodland. There are many different types of stone walls and fine examples of nearly all of them can be found on the property. What many people don’t realize about New England stone walls is that their original purpose, more often than not, was simply a way to get rid of the tons of stone that littered the landscape. In the 1600s instead of walls the stones were often just piled, usually in an unused corner of the property. These oldest examples of stone removal are very hard to find but they can be seen here at Distant Hill. I would call the wall in the above photo a “tossed wall,” which was built just as its name suggests. Stones were tossed out of the way to clear the field and over time became a sort of wall that usually marked the property line or was used to keep the cows out of the corn.

3. Stone Wall

Laid walls are another type of stone wall but considerably more effort was used to make them beautiful as well as functional. These walls were usually built in the front yard or other places that were seen by the public. This excellent example was built by Michael. I’ve built many dry stone walls and I can say that he did a fine job, especially since he had little experience in wall building when he built it.

4. Bird's Nest Fungus

Bird’s nest fungi are so small you could easily step on them without seeing them and that would be a shame because they’re beautiful and unusual little things. I think these examples are fluted bird’s nest fungi (Cyathus striatus.) They were growing on a bit of twig right in the lawn.

5. Bird's Nest Fungus

The “bird’s nest” is actually a splash cup called a peridium and when a drop of rain falls into it with enough force the “eggs” are splashed out. These eggs are really disc shaped spore cases called peridioles. Once ejected from the splash cup the peridioles degrade over time to release the spores. These were the first examples of this type of fungus that I’ve seen.

6. Bronze Fern aka Botrychium dissectum obliquum

Something else I’ve never seen is the bronze fern (Botrychium dissectum obliquum.) Its common name comes from the way its sterile evergreen leaf turns from green to bronze in winter. It is also called the cut-leaved moonwort.  No matter what we might call it, it is a grape fern, so called because the fertile frond develops a cluster of tiny spherical spore cases (sporangia) that resembles a bunch of grapes. These ferns usually only have two leaves; one sterile and one fertile.  The fertile frond appears in late summer.

7. Cutleaved Grape Fern aka Botrychium dissectum

Michael is lucky enough to have discovered two grape ferns on his property. This one is the cut-leaved grape fern (Botrychium dissectum dissectum.) Its lacy, evergreen sterile leaf also turns from green to bronze in the winter but they look very different than those of the bronze fern. The sterile leaf withers away in spring when a new one appears. Both of these ferns are very rare in this area so seeing them was quite a thrill.

8. Dwarf Rattlesnake Plantain Orchid

There are also orchids here, and plenty of them. I’m very familiar with the downy rattlesnake plantain orchid (Goodyeara pubescens) but I had never seen this one, which is in the same family. I’m not sure but I think it might be the dwarf rattlesnake plantain (Goodyeara repens,) also called creeping lady’s-tresses, but it’s hard to be sure because there are several different Goodyeara species here and they could be producing natural hybrids. Something that surprised me about these little orchids was how they lacked the light or dark stripe down the center of each leaf that most plants in this family have.

9. Downy Rattlesnake Plantain

This photo I took earlier of a downy rattlesnake plantain orchid (Goodyeara pubescens) shows the different colored line down the center of the leaf that is so characteristic of these orchids. Sometimes light and sometimes dark, seeing an example without it was surprising.

10. White Hepatica

Longtime readers of this blog most likely know that I’ve been looking for hepatica plants for a long time. I finally found them here and that’s because the soil is rich in limestone. Hepatica and many other plants prefer soil that is on the sweet side rather than the acidic soil found in most parts of our county. Walpole lies on the Connecticut River just across from Vermont and Michael and I were marveling at how, by just crossing the river, a completely different world of plants can be found. That’s because much of Vermont was once part of a sea floor and its sedimentary bedrock is made up of calcium materials extracted from tiny marine organisms that floated in the water. Much of New Hampshire is made up of mostly igneous granite but some areas like Walpole and Westmoreland are really more like Vermont, at least in their underpinnings and flora.

11. Purple Hepatica

I’ve waited a long time to see these little beauties. You really can’t tell much in the way of size from a photo and I was surprised by how small hepaticas were. That’s why visiting a place like this is so important if you want to go out and find plants growing in their natural habitat. There’s really no substitute for seeing where they grow, what time of year they blossom, how much sunlight they get, what other plants and trees they grow near, and whether or not they grow near water. Usually once you’ve seen a plant growing naturally it will become much easier to find more of them.  The fern guide that I use says that the same thing is true for the rare grape ferns we saw previously, and I hope to see many more examples of them as well.

12. Hepatica Stems

I had to laugh at the hairy stems and buds of the hepatica. It seems that something like this would be hard to miss but again, how are you supposed to know what time of year to look for them if you’ve never seen an actual plant? Now I have the exact date stamped on these photos, so next spring I’ll know when to start looking.

13. Perennial Beds

If you’re not one to go crawling through the woods in search of plants that you’ve never seen before there are plenty of other things to see at Distant Hill Gardens. For instance you’ll see some of the most well-tended flower gardens that you’ve ever seen. Michael has surrounded his house with flowering perennials and it is really something to see. I should mention that though the flower beds are full of mostly cultivated plants, the plants found in the wooded areas are natural and have had no human intervention. That’s one of the great things about the place; the native plants remain just as they were found.

14. Vegetable Garden

There are vegetable gardens too, and much of the produce grown here gets donated to local food pantries. This is something all of us with more vegetables than we can eat should consider doing.

15. Sculpture

I don’t know how Michael finds any free time but when he does he welds found objects into sculptures, and they can be seen throughout the property. There really is something for everybody here, especially in the way of plants. I saw more previously unseen plants and fungi in two hours than I have in the last two years, and there is much more to come in part two of this post.

There are many more things I’d like to show you but even with a two part post there is more to see here than space and time will permit, so I hope you’ll take the time to visit Distant Hill Gardens if you are able to. I can guarantee that you won’t be disappointed. I’ve put a permanent link to their website over in the “Favorite Links” section, but you can also find it here: http://www.distanthillgardens.org/

Land, then, is not merely soil; it is a fountain of energy flowing through a circuit of soils, plants, and animals. ~Aldo Leopold

Thanks for coming by.

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1. Muddy Logging Road

I took a muddy walk up an old logging road through Warner forest to the High Blue trail head in Walpole, New Hampshire recently. It is a walk I’ve taken a few times.

2. High Blue Sign

Before you know it you’re through the mud and at the trail head. I came here not just to see the view but also in the hopes of seeing some coltsfoot in bloom, but the plants that grew here appear to have been destroyed by logging. It’s too bad because it was a beautiful display-the most coltsfoot plants I’ve seen in one place.

3. Coltsfoot Flowers

This photo is of the coltsfoot colonies from last year. They extended off to the right well out of the photo. I’m hoping some of them survived being plowed up by a logging skidder.

4. Hobblebush Bud

Hobblebushes (Viburnum lantanoides) line the roadside up to the trailhead, and their flower buds are just starting to unfold. Their common name comes from the way the stems grow so close to the ground. Unseen under the leaves they can tangle the feet of or “hobble” horses. I got firsthand experience in how they work last year when I was trying to examine a bush. My feet became entangled in the stems and I went down fast and hard. Ever since then I’ve been more careful around them. Soon theses bushes will be covered by large white flowers that are among the most beautiful in the forest.

5. Fan Club Moss

I’ve always called this plant fan clubmoss (Lycopodium digitatum) but some call it southern ground cedar or running ground pine, even though it isn’t related to either pine or cedar. The name fan clubmoss comes from its distinctive shape. This plant was once harvested to near extinction for use in making Christmas wreaths and flash powder, and is still rarely seen. This is one of the few places I know of to find it. It can grow undisturbed here because the plants are off the trail in the woods, so anyone who goes looking for them has a good chance of ending up lost. Every now and then I receive emails from people saying they’ll buy all I can find or asking where they can find it. I’m usually pretty good about answering people’s questions, but those emails go unanswered.

6. Meadow

The meadows are still quite brown but it won’t be long before they green up. There are three or four large meadows in the area, still used for hay cutting as they have been since the 1800s. Since there was no water power for mills in the town, Walpole was dependent on agriculture in its early history.

 7. Pileated Woodpecker Chips

I saw a huge pile of wood chips at the base of a dead beech tree and that was my signal to look up.

8. Pileated Woodpecker Hole

This is the biggest pileated woodpecker excavation I’ve ever seen. It must have been 9 or 10 inches long and at least half as wide. It looked more like a nesting hole than a feeding station.

9. High Blue Sign

I always take a photo of the sign that tells you that you are at the overlook, just for the record.

10. High Blue View

The view across the Connecticut River valley was beautiful as usual, and also very blue. It is this “blueness” that gives this place its name.  The winds were light and the air warm, so I sat for a while admiring the view and the puffy clouds.

11. Stratton Mountain from High Blue Lookout

They’re still skiing on Stratton Mountain over in Vermont, but if we have many more days as warm as this one was it won’t last long.

12. Stone Ruins

As I sit and admire the view from this place my mind always wanders to the people who used to live here. They left pieces of themselves behind in things like this old stone ruin. Some say it’s a chimney and others a foundation, but whatever it is it is clearly very old and is a sign that people once lived here. I was reading a town history a while back that described the many dangers of living in places like this in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Chief among them were mountain lions (catamounts), wolves, and bears, and women and children never went into these woods alone.

13. Stone Wall

I’ve built a few stone walls in my time so I know how much work went into these walls. Add to that cutting all the trees with an axe and pulling stumps and plowing the forest floor with a team of horses and it just boggles the mind. I suppose, when your very existence depends on it, you can do just about anything.

14. Elderberry Buds

There are elderberry bushes growing here and I wonder if they were planted, because this hill top is an odd place to find them. Maybe the farmer and his wife sat sipping a little elderberry wine at the end of the day, watching the sunset behind the Vermont hills.

15. Mount Monadnock

As you re-enter the meadow after coming back down the hill, in spring, fall, and winter you are greeted by a view of Mount Monadnock, the largest mountain in the region. It won’t be long before this view is almost completely hidden by tree foliage, and it will stay that way until next fall.

There may be more to learn from climbing the same mountain a hundred times than by climbing a hundred different mountains. ~Richard Nelson

Thanks for stopping in.

 

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I apologize to those who came hoping to see snail’s tongues or some other minute wonder of nature, but every now and then I like to be standing up when I click the shutter, rather than lying in a prone position in the forest litter. A wider view is a little easier on the knees, which seem to creak and pop a little more now than they used to.

1. Full Moon on 4-25-13

Sky and Telescope’s Sky Week program told me that I’d be able to see Saturn just above and to the left of the full moon last week and I saw what looked like a very bright star, but all my camera could see was the moon. I was happy to see that it had some yellow in it and had lost the harsh, white coldness of winter. Of course the moon doesn’t change color and was yellow only because I was seeing it through our atmosphere, but I kind of like this color. It feels warmer.

2. Green Field

The sun was also playing color games. Last year corn was grown in this field and then last fall the farmer planted a cover crop of some kind. In the late afternoon sunshine it was such an impossible bright green color that I had to stop and get a picture of it. My color blindness cheating software tells me that it is yellow green.

3. Monadnock

I went to one of my favorite viewing spots in Marlborough, New Hampshire over the weekend to get a picture of Mount Monadnock. I don’t really need any more pictures of the mountain but I can’t seem to stop taking them.  When I was about 15 or so I foolishly thought that someday I would have made a list of every wildflower that grew on its flanks. I quickly realized that two lifetimes wouldn’t be enough to compile such a list.

 4. Ginger

I saw some fuzzy wild ginger leaves (Asarum canadense,) but no blossoms yet.

5. Bracket Fungus

Once again I found a “late fall polypore” that didn’t know it was mid spring. This is Ischnoderma resinosum, whose common name is literally “Late Fall Polypore.” These are said to fruit on hardwood logs late in the year, but I wonder if temperature and day length isn’t a trigger for them. Days can have the same length and temperature in the spring as they do in fall and these seemed relatively fresh.

6. Big Mud Puddle

I expect trails to be muddy at times but this was ridiculous. Luckily there was plenty of room in a field off to the left so I could go around it.

7. Frog Eggs

It has been dry enough here to raise the brush fire danger to high. The water in the giant mud puddle in the previous photo went down so fast that the mud around the edges hadn’t even hardened when I saw it. Unfortunately frogs, counting on April showers that never came, miscalculated and didn’t lay their eggs deep enough to survive the lack of rain. Even nature makes an occasional mistake and in this case the price paid is fewer frogs in the forest, and that means more black flies and mosquitoes.

8. Vernal Pool Reflections

I stopped at a small pond hoping to see some frogs but all I saw were reflections and pollen.

9. Turkey Tails

I saw some colorful turkey tail fungi (Trametes versicolor) but no turkeys.

 10. View from High Blue

Sometimes you have to climb a hill to see a mountain and that’s exactly what I had to do to see across the Connecticut River valley to Stratton Mountain in Vermont. On Sunday I climbed the hill known as “High Blue” in Walpole, New Hampshire. Whoever named this hill got it right because the view is always very blue. It has been quite warm so I was surprised to see snow still on the ski trails.

11. Trailing Arbutus

I’m seeing a lot of trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens) flowers now. These are one of the most fragrant flowers in the forest, but since they grow so close to the ground you have to get down on your knees to smell them.  While I was down there smelling them I thought I’d get a picture too, so all of you who were betting that I couldn’t get through an entire post without at least one macro shot were right.

The influence of fine scenery, the presence of mountains, appeases our irritations and elevates our friendships. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Last weekend when I wasn’t climbing up Beech Hill in Keene I was climbing another hill in Walpole, New Hampshire. Walpole is a small town on the Connecticut River north of Keene.                       There wasn’t anything remarkable about the trail itself, but it did go up and up-and then it went up some more. Those beech and oak leaves are very slippery and hide loose stones that can give you a nasty ankle twist when they slip quickly out from underfoot, so it is wise to watch where you step at this time of year. This is the view from a granite outcropping at the top of the trail, looking westward toward Vermont. I can’t find the name of the hill that this view is seen from, but it is part of the 165 acre Warner Forest preserve. This trail is called “High Blue,” because at 1588 feet it is higher than the surrounding terrain, and because the view is indeed blue-especially when you zoom in on it with a camera. This photo shows exactly what the camera saw, but I don’t remember everything being quite as blue as it is seen here. The mountain floating on the clouds is Stratton Mountain in Vermont. You know you’re there when you see the sign and the view and need to sit for a bit to catch your breath.

Finding quartz in New Hampshire isn’t special, but finding an outcropping of pure quartz certainly is. This ledge was large and quite long, and it’s the only one like it that I’ve ever seen.Other boulders were covered with rock tripe lichens. Because it hadn’t rained in a while the rock tripe was brittle and would break in half like a potato chip. After a good rain it becomes pliable and bends without breaking. I’m not sure if this is a jelly fungus or a slime mold but there were several large, half dollar size examples on a fallen log. It had a rubbery consistency. Someone used to live up here, and this is all that’s left of their house. Behind this foundation corner was an old chimney that had toppled long ago. Finding stone walls and abandoned foundations in the woods is very common here in New Hampshire. In fact, you could walk for days into the wilderness to a spot where you thought nobody had ever been and you would probably find a stone wall there.I’m still seeing mushrooms in spite of the cold nights. These orange ones grew on a sun washed stump.

We do not go to the green woods and crystal waters to rough it, we go to smooth it. We get it rough enough at home, in towns and cities ~ G.W. Sears

Thanks for stopping in.

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