Friday, January 11, 2013

Nature Descriptive: Five Weeks in Monroe

May 3, 2010

Home for the day by mid afternoon. I planted two blueberry bushes that I bought from Reny’s. I haven’t felt quite right today—a bit lightheaded so I lay down for a bit. An hour later I decided to go walking in spite of the heat, the wind and how I felt. I followed the loop by the river. I heard a group of crows raucously calling to each other. They must have been near the farmer’s field across the river. The wind brought me whiffs of manure and the throttle of a tractor. Under the oaks the wind threw some acorns at me, and I wondered about the wisdom of this walk in the woods. I decided not to dawdle too much today.

The water is already down to its summer level. No more opportunity to run the river. I have thought about it a number of years, but have yet to actually do it. During the heat of summer I will tube from the falls to my rock, the beaver’s rock, the turtle’s rock. You have to walk periodically, but it is still a fun way to get cool.

As I rounded the last bend in the river before heading east into the woods, I got a clear view of very dark and ominous clouds. I realized I better hustle even more. I did check to see if the lady slippers were beginning to show, they weren’t, and I checked a little boggy area. By the time I got to the field, drops of rain were sprinkling down. I made it to my yard just as the wind increased with a loud roar, and I heard a tree fall. Just as I ducked onto the porch the rain let go with a fury. Such incredible timing. I sat on the porch and watched the wind and rain. After the ten minute squall, the sun is now clearing and the temperature has dropped from 82 to 75.

I have to eat an early supper and head off to a Conservation Commission meeting. I spend time inside, talking with others about how to help conserve and maintain trails on some town properties. It is the least I can do for the privilege of having woods to roam.

May 8, 2010

A rainy day. I’ve actually stayed in a good part of the day; I am feeling tired and lazy. Yesterday, I had someone cutting down many of the dead standing oaks around my property. I strategically left some that could be used for woodpecker habitat, but I now have a good start on the winter’s supply of wood. When I got home yesterday, Dave, the wood cutter was still hauling the firewood that was felled along and across the driveway. I donned outdoor work clothes and helped to bring it in. While working, I could hear the oven bird, with its song of “teacher, teacher, teacher” and the hermit thrush off in the distance. Hauling wood wasn’t in my evening plan, but it was a good end to my day, but something that needed to be done.

This morning I was up very early. It was drizzling, but not enough to force me in. I split some of the wood, and moved compost, which also got delivered this week. I will have wood splitting on the chore agenda for quite a bit. I planted some raspberries that I ordered too.

The leaves on the trees have emerged and grown overnight. It always seems to happen like that. One day they are small, the next, especially after a rain, they are full grown. I guess when the seasons are short; nature has to work more quickly. Already it is harder to see the birds that are coming through. One evening during the week a white throated sparrow landed on the railing of my steps. From inside, I was able to get about three feet away. The reflection on the glass must have been just right, because he didn’t react to me. It was exciting to see the bird so close. There was a little patch of yellow just forward from its eye, and a little patch of white outlined in black on its throat. I even managed to get some good pictures of it.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

It appears that anything posted from now on is superfluous to my college career. However, I had enjoyed the nature writing, so will continue until life takes a turn and the urge to write dies out.

It’s Mother’s Day. I talked to both of my children earlier in the day. They’ll be up next weekend! As my gift to me, went for two walks. It is very chilly today. Three layers and gloves, and I still felt chilled. I took the loop along the river; I try to make it a daily ritual, or at least three times a week. The leaves have popped out quite a bit, since last time I went around. The fiddleheads that I picked last Sunday are now waist high, and I could not find any that were small enough to eat. It was windy which was nice; between the wind and the cold, the black flies were not around. I checked out the vernal pool on the property line. My neighbor and I share the pool and we both watch to see how life is progressing. I saw no egg masses, nor tadpoles, but I did scare a frog. Unfortunately, I didn’t see it. The Rhodora is beginning to bloom in the wet places. I spotted some Canadian Dogwood in bloom also.

After I got home, I hopped in the car and drove over to Northern Pond. It is some property that the town of Monroe put under an easement, and is open to the public. Being on the Conservation Commission and on the Board of the Land Trust that holds the easement, I am there for work quite a bit. I don’t get there enough for just the fun of it. I don’t think I have ever been there alone either. Well, I did have some purpose; I took the camera to take pictures for the land trust. Since it rained yesterday, the leaves were damp and my footsteps muted. If not for the wind I may have noticed more birds, I certainly would have been able to sneak up on them. I did see a warbler, and that is the closest I can get to naming it. I wish I knew birds better! The painted trillium was in bloom, and there were many scattered along the path. It felt like I was on a scavenger hunt, and just when I thought I wouldn’t see anymore another one was there in front of me. I wondered if the person before me happened to notice them, or were they too busy walking their dog. Up on top of the Hemlock ridge, I took a break and marveled at the stillness under the trees. The slope was too steep to log, so large hemlocks were left standing. It is a peaceful spot and a place where I am reminded that I am small. Then down the hill through the beeches. They are leaving out and an incredible emerald green right now. I think if the word verdant, when I see spring greens. To be green, to think, live and breath green. It is so alive and explosive, not like the lazy heavy greens of summer, when you want to sleep and dream green.

May 12, 2010

An exhausting three days, but sometimes I wonder what else is new. Work can be draining no matter what. There are ten to twenty children always hovering and needing. I love it, but I do get tired.

Monday amidst the chaos and din of children’s voices, singing, fighting, yelling, laughing, we watched a female cardinal build a nest two feet from the window. She methodically brought twigs to a sheltered area in a bush by the window. Every time she arrived with a new twig, she nestled into the concave center of the twigs, placed the new twig and turned a full circle adjusting and rearranging. By the end of the day it looked like she had a completed nest. Many of the children sat and watched for brief periods of time. Then we of course created a teachable moment and brought out some books that we have on birds and their nests. I did not see the cardinal on Tuesday or today. I inspected the nest while outside. She has twigs, and some leaves and a bit of plastic; all rather solidly molded together. I do not know if she decided to abandon that nest, or if she is taking a few days reprieve before she is ready to lay her eggs. The male continues to sing in the trees nearby, though.

I haven’t been around the river since the weekend. I had dinner with the neighbors and we talked about the fish they caught in the pool that adjoins our property, and I told them about the small patch of fiddleheads I found on their bank. (They bought the house last fall, and come up when they can while working another year or two before they retire).

Monday, May 17, 2010

The first arrival to a party that I had on Saturday was a snapping turtle. I happened to look out into the driveway to see a small dark shape moving toward the house. Upon closer inspection, I realized it was a turtle. I think it was moving from a drying up wet area, and looking for a new place to be. I went out and moved it into a vernal pool on the other side of the house. I begrudged the fact that the tadpoles would soon become the turtles lunch and dinner. By rescuing the turtle, I have caused the demise of many amphibians, but we are all part of a circle. In order for one creature to live another must die, and there is a balance of sorts in the chaos of the ecosystem. Will this one act cause a greater imbalance, probably not? But many of the other things I do may. If there were just my action s to consider, there may not be an imbalance, but compound my human actions by all the other humans doing the same things (consuming resources, creating waste, creating a monoculture in our lawns… and the list goes on and on.) Even this journal I keep…

Tonight, Monday, I hear the white throated sparrow and oven bird out the window. I have been preparing myself for a public meeting with a CMP representative and towns people. CMP is upgrading their power lines to meet the demands of the North Eastern Grid. I do not know that any of us have a real say in the matter at this point, but…we shall see.

As the sun descends toward the western horizon, the shade is getting deep. The oaks are still unfurling their leaves, but the poplar and maples are fully developed. The verdant color of spring is darkening. And I hear the new call of the Green Frog in the nearby pool.

Thursday, May 27, 2010
I haven’t even had the computer on for days. It has been nice after needing to use it everyday for the last semester; I feel liberated.

The heat of a few days ago reminded most of us of August and seemed quite abnormal. One of those hot evenings, I decided I better water the garden, the peas are stunted and the seedlings were looking droopy. As I readjusted the sprinkler, a humming bird quickly took up pursuit of some fresh water. He stayed within the arch of the spray and appeared to be drinking the drops. Tonight, I again watered some seedlings, and the little hummer came by for another drink. I don’t put out a bird bath since I live next to the river, but I guess for the hummingbird fresh drops of cool water were a treat. I wonder if he goes out in the rain to catch drops?

With the garden needing planting and tending, my focus has been on the small circle of my yard. I tend to notice the bird songs, but my head is bent over the ground and my field of view has shrunk. I keep finding worms. Three years ago I had none here, so I am doing something right. I have added compost, wood chips and many bales of hay or straw, along with leaves each fall. The slug population has diminished. I think the chickens helped that while they foraged for two years; I wonder what will happen without them now.

There is a pair of chickadees nesting in a rotten birch stump (which is about four feet high) by the garden. They nested there last year too. Luckily for them it is near the asparagus patch and I have don’t go in that area very often. It is fun to watch then flit in and out. Right now they are in most of the time. The cardinal at the day care where I work abandoned her nest with one beautiful spotted egg. It is mottled grays and browns, and blends in almost perfectly with the grasses and leaves that the female built the nest with. We think they have made a new nest outside of the play yard, where the children don’t make so much noise.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Thank goodness for the rain. What I had in the garden was looking quite parched when I returned home from a stint in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. I watered when I got home, but the rain was a blessing.

I took a trip to my sister’s for the long weekend. Last year at this time she took me to a Heron Rookery, where we saw probably twenty nests; there were at least twice that in actuality. This was the first time I saw a rookery. I did not realize that herons nest in the tops of the trees. They seem too big and ungainly to be able to land and rest on thin branches, but they do and with grace at that. This year we visited a sheep fair, and helped around the gardens. I got to see the robin’s nest that a robin built on their porch railing, unfortunately she came home from work one day last week to find the robin gone, one broken egg and two missing eggs. The robin has not returned.

I made a brief check on the swimming hole in the early evening. The beaver was taking a probably well deserved break. It was floating in the water with its forelegs outspread, and its tail and hind legs stretched out behind it. For the first time ever, I saw it just floating. When it heard me, it moved off upstream. I think I had found its den in the bank on one of my jaunts in the late spring.

Supper is beckoning…

June 7, 2010

I just got back from a walk in the woods. It is nice to have the sun back, but I admit we were in dire need of rain. The river is back up to the level it should be at, and my sump pump is happily humming away. I’m not sure it liked the hiatus, even though I did, at least for it. The lady slippers are going by, there were far fewer blooming this year. In the field the milkweed is beginning to bud. I pick a few for tonight’s supper. They do have oxalic acid, but if you rinse them a few times and change the water while cooking, you should be ok. I like them, but I don’t know too many people that are willing to try them, and those that did, didn’t really like them (like my children).

I spent Saturday afternoon in the garden. I finally have the lettuce and other greens, the beans, corn and s1uash seeds planted. I took advantage of the rainy forecast and got in all the seedlings that I had bought. I then mulched and put up a fence for the stunted peas. I hope they aspire to some height now that they have something to cling to.

I have to say that I will probably be caught lying many times if I keep this blog up for long. Right now my favorite shrub is in bloom. It is sheep’s laurel; the northern stunted (Maine) version of the mountain laurel I grew up with in Connecticut. The lie will be the fact that I will often say my favorite flower is in bloom. Just wait until full summer! I guess I forget the beauty and the thrill of the flower until I see it again. I am like that with food too. I can never use my favorite food for password protection for pin numbers, because depending on what is in season my tastes change. I am a fickle person, I guess.
Ah well there are worse things to be in life.

June 9, 2010

I was driving in to work today and came upon a road-kill. A turkey vulture was sitting atop it and tearing off pieces as I approached in my car. The vulture was not immediately intimidated by the size of my matrix and lifted its wings up and out to “scare" me off. It thought better of it a few seconds later and flew into a nearby tree, to watch me pass. Then as I turned onto route 141 where I can see the workings of a growing gravel pit, I noticed a flock of vultures circling over the torn and scarred earth. How symbolic to have vultures, harbingers of death and destruction hovering over the dying earth.

I remember my first experience with vultures. I was about 12 years old and we were visiting relatives in Pennsylvania. Our older cousin, Jonathan, took us for a hike, through farmers fields, past cow pastures and up onto a nearby mountain. In one of the fields there were a dead animal and a flock of vultures raucously feasting. At that point, they seemed as tall as me. Jonathan led us very close to the birds, which were not the least intimidated by us. They hissed and lifted their wings to increase their visual size. I was thoroughly frightened, but I was not about to show it to my cousin and my sister and brother. I skirted the scene as far from them as I dared without looking like a chicken; but I couldn’t help imagining the vultures plucking my eyes out.

On a more pleasant note: I checked out the swimming hole in the evening yesterday. The beaver was sitting on the sandbar near the opposite bank. I watched it for a few minutes as it ate, then moved to the bank and returned to the sandbar with a twig of alder. As I watched it was oblivious, then I heard a giant smack in the pool below me, the lookout beaver spotted me and let out a warning smack on the water before diving under. The other beaver quickly swam up stream and around the bend. My beaver now has a friend. I hung around for a while, but neither one returned.

Copyright (c) 2010 by Rebecca C.

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