Faerie Shelves


Life is everywhere in the woods:  even in winter, even in death.  Three fungus growing on a dead tree stump don snow caps and pose for an artist's rendering of a roadside still life. 

Great Horned Owl Encounter




  Paul spread his arms at shoulder height to demonstrate the wingspan of the large grey owl that he spotted in a section of his woods, a stand of White Pines known as the Cathedral.  The owl sat for several minutes—long enough for Paul to have a good look.  He noticed that the bird had tufts of feathers on its head that looked like ears.  The owl swiveled its head back and forth a few times as owls do while the man stood motionless, frozen in his spot.  Then the bird flew up the mountain leaving the pines behind and lit on another tree.  Paul marveled at how such a large bird could navigate through a dense thicket of   maple saplings with such ease.   Paul’s sighting of the Great Horned Owl—Bubo viginianus—was received with excitement by his neighbors who now have high hopes for encounters of their own.  

Baltimore Oriole



Dec. 23     Today  I saw  a  Baltimore Oriole's  nest near the top of a  big  maple at the edge of the hay  field  next to the old sugarhouse.   I  observed  that most trees do not have nests and  I  wondered what makes a tree special enough to host a  bird  family.

Stub


Today's the day to mend that fence across the pasture
As my bull romped through it yesterday.
Along with a wild roll in its eye,
Because a queen bee buzzed him in the thigh.
Damned cow.

Chased 'im wild over the knoll, mid afternoon

before I roped him,
Not a hand held him but my own.
See, I've stood the farm since my twelfth year,
Pa, on his deathbed, says in my ear,
"You keep the farm Stub, ye hear?"
I heard...

Should go chop's more that birch for this sullen

ol' bachelor of a man.
Do it this afternoon know the perfect dead birch,
This afternoon, of course,
After Alice calls.

She rings for me once a day, see,

Jes' to hear how things 'r goin'
Check up on me.
Well jes' two and twenty years ago today
She fixed 'erself up with that trapper, Buster,
good honest man,
Let 'im set places on my back marshes to trap beaver,
See Buster's been helpin' me with the hay...

stanzas from  Stub by Paul Mollomo, II

First Astronomical Day of Winter

Dec. 21     It is  perfect weather for the first astronomical day of winter--the fluffy snow that fell in the night was tossed around  by great gusts of wind early this morning.  Then sleet, rain and more  gusts of wind  arrived .  Many  people are without power and the number is growing. 

Cooper's Hawk



Nov. 22     Thanksgiving  dinner was at sixes and sevens when the phone  rang and our neighbor informed  us that a "Chicken  Hawk" had  killed and was eating one of our  laying hens.  We dashed  out and saw the offending  bird--a Cooper's Hawk sitting in a nearby maple tree  waiting for us to leave. 

Great Horned Owl




Nov.  2     Paul held  his arms out at shoulder height to show the wingspan of the  large grey  owl that he spotted  in the woods today.  The owl  had  "ears"  and  we  have  identified  it as  a Great Horned Owl.  We   all hope   to see  and/or hear more of this   bird. 

November, 2012



Nov. 1     November is my favorite month.  The leaves are gone and I can see the bird nests from past summer.  The days are short and we can dine by candlelight.  It is cold enough for a crackling  fire.  It's Thanksgiving and sometimes it snows!  For me, it is a lovely time of year. 




Leafless tree with empty birdfeeder



Lonely tree with empty birdfeeder waiting for the first snowfall. 



Dark-eyed Juncos and Pine Siskins

Oct. 15     The temperature rose in the night and may get into sixties today.  Our neighbood is filled with Dark-eyed Juncos and Pine Siskins flitting about the trees, lawns and especially Sally's Wild Garden.  I have seen several White-crowned Sparrows on the lawn--they are welcome visitors both spring and fall.  The great exedous of honking geese reminds us to finish up the fall chores. 

White River Rock



Big rock - a head
Fissures for eyes, blinking content and
drooping with age.
Fissure mouth extends across
in a long, cracking grin,
Mass at the corner is moist tongue,
The head rests, supporting youthful play.


Poem by Paul Mollomo, II
Portland, Maine

First Killing Frost

Oct. 13     The first killing frost of the season greeted us this morning.  Last week R turned over the soil in his pumpkin patch and when I walked over it this morning on my way to let the chickens out, it was frozen hard. 

First Snow, 2012

Oct. 12  Although brief, the first snow of the season fell during the afternoon.  The hard pellets, known as gropple  or graupel-- are one of the words that describe a specific type of snow. 

Liliesville Pop. 6


Wild Turkeys

Sep. 30     Sixteen wild turkeys grazing on the lawn and in the field this morning look like giant turtles as they glide through the grass. 

Ravens

Sep. 14     Eleven ravens passed over this morning circling higher and higher in  the warm humid air.  They were heading in a westerly direction.  All  were silent except for one loud bleat that provided stimulus for me to look UP. 

Baby Turtle

Sep. 2     We found a small baby turtle crossing our driveway.  Probably just hatched, she was heading toward the ponds in the back yard.  It may be the offspring of the large snapping  turtle that was seen by a neighbor laying eggs near our house. 

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

July 31     I watched two juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers tap their way up a telephone pole in the back yard this morning.  Then they started  tapping on the pressure-treated upright poles of the pergola.  Finally, they went for the hydrangea and the old apple tree.

Blueberry Fields Forever

All the signs say it’s a blueberry day.  The late July sky is cloudless.  Locusts sing their hot-weather song while dragonflies slip out of their cases and dry slowly in the sun.  Wild blueberry bushes have transformed sun, soil, rain and air into sweet round fruit that must be ready for picking.

“Are the blueberries ripe?” I ask the man who answers the phone at the National Forest Service’s Middlebury Ranger District.  There is a pause on the other end of the line long enough for me to think of all the reasons why I shouldn’t pick blueberries today:  I have work to do;  it’s almost noon and I won’t have enough time;  it’s too hot;  I’m tired.  But when he confirms that the blueberries are ripe, I seize my car keys and leave for the Blueberry Management Area in Goshen. 

Upon arrival, I choose a well-trodden path among the ankle-high bushes and find a place to pick.  Glancing around, I note that the open field where I now sit picking berries on Goshen’s Hogback Mountain is surrounded by trees.  Without intervention, weeds, bushes and eventually trees will fill an open field.  That’s succession, the gradual replacement of one community by another.  Such a community, this blueberry area for example, is called a seral stage.  The whole series of communities from hay field to mature forest is a sere. 

Early settlers cleared these fields.  Stone walls stand witness to their efforts.  Years later the fields were kept open for a downhill ski area.  When this was abandoned, blueberry bushes sprouted from seeds spread by fruit-eating birds and animals.  The low-bush blueberry, Vacinium angustifolium, likes open fields with shallow, dry, acid soil.  Finding these conditions on the south end of Hogback Mountain, they thrived. 

For the past 20 years, the U.S. Forest Service has prevented succession and maintained the blueberry fields as an upland wildlife opening.  Turkeys, partridges and deer feed here.  It is also a popular spot for human visitors from mid-July to early August when the blueberry shrubs are bearing their fruit.
 
“How do you prevent succession?” I later ask a forester. She explains the process of controlled burning and rotation that is used.  The blueberry area is divided into three units.  Each year, one of the units is burned in the spring before the leaves come out.  After the removal of dead stems and competing plants, the blueberry bushes sprout vigorously and spread by sending out underground stems called rhizomes.  They will not produce fruit until the following year.  While one unit is regenerating, two units are producing blueberries.  This is how the seral stage in which blueberry bushes  grow is maintained indefinitely. 

I pick a single blueberry and study it carefully.  It is covered with something that resembles frost.  I polish is gently.  Underneath, it is so blue, it is almost black.  One end twinkles like a star. 

Time passes and the monotony of picking sets in.  Wild blueberries are small—sweet and delicious and small!  It takes a long time to cover the bottom of a pail—longer still to fill it.  But the good thing about repetitive work is that eventually, my mind shifts into neutral where it is free to journey through a universe of thoughts.  That is why I am here—that and the blueberries.    

This piece written by Linda Lunna  was  published  in Vermont Life magazine as "The Peaceful Pursuit of Wild Blueberries"  in the Summer 1999 issue.

Illustration: Sally Wickham, August, 2012

Beaver Dam



Today I walked down to see the dams the beavers constructed during the past ten to fifteen years. Beaver dams are a natural disturbance that create a new wetland community and in certain areas are welcomed for the diversity of plants and wildlife that accompany the changes they bring.  The snags, hummocks, partly submerged logs and water create a wonderful diverse habitat for many creatures.


I walk slowly and quietly through some spruce and balsam trees and emerge in a secluded spot beside the dam. I am surprised to see a group of eight or nine Canadian Geese swimming in the shimmering green water apparently not noticing my presence.

                                      



 In the distance, I hear another group of geese honking. Still moving slowly and quietly, I sit down on a flat rock. I am surprised again to see an olive-green turtle as he basks on a partly submerged log. It’s the first turtle that I have seen here and remaining seated, I surreptitiously snap a photo. 




A Red-winged Blackbird, remarkable for their ability to defy gravity, lands on a slender reed and calls out what sounds to me like “Booker T.” 








The geese that were in the distance now plow their way into the water;  the peaceful scene is disturbed by great flapping wings, snapping bills, hissing and honking.  Waves begin to slap the shore but the turtle ignores them and  remains basking on his log.

The confrontation ends with the original group flying away.  Meanwhile, the new group has noticed me and toured to the other side of the pond so that all I can see now  is the occasional goose or gander head passing behind some bushes.  For a while, I too  just bask and enjoy the beautiful morning but I want to get a better look at that turtle. 

Ever so slowly I rise and bring binoculars up to my eyes but—whoops—the turtle slips into the water and disappears. 



Oriole

June 29     The male Northern Oriole  is showing a fledgling  his favorite spots;   the apple tree, the hydrangea and the spruce. 

Bluebird Babies

June 23     Five baby bluebirds are  nestled  in the box with the oval entrance.  Male and female bobolinks scold me as I walk past the unmowed hayfield.  Sally has Rose-breasted Grosbeaks at her feeders and the Barn Swallows are making many trips to feed their young in the nest on the porch. 

Milk Snake

June 15     I was having breakfast in the picnic area and enjoying the warm June sunshine when I noticed that I was not alone.  There was a Milk Snake  (Lampropeltis trianbulum) also enjoying the warmth of the sun on the rocks.  


Who Lives in your Garden?

Memories of loved ones live on in the plants that they cherished and shared.  One hardy, sweet-smelling rose will always evoke memories of ma belle mere--Marie Louise Yvonne Juliette Perron--a long name but that is how she signed her papers when she arrived in this country from Quebec.  Louise loved flowers and when my husband and I bought her farmhouse from the estate, we also gained her flower gardens. 

Before she died, Louise told some of her gardening friends to take what they wanted.  Other than the rose bush, a Johnson Blue Geranium and a bright pink peony, there was not much left except for a highly invasive plant that we call Mallow.  I will never know how she controlled it but she did and I didn't.  When the entire bed was infested, the only solution was to weed and dig.  It's been 14 years and this morning, I can still go out and pull a few of the long-rooted pests out of the bed.  Oh well,even though you love them, sometimes a mother-in-law can be annoying. 

Last year, when Aunt Alice died at 103 ( you may know her--she operated Alice's Garden in Manchester Center for many years)  it was while sitting by her bedside where she was surrounded by peonies from her own garden that I recognized the giant blossom and the scent of roses of the same bright pink peony in my own garden.  Cousin Angie explained that Alice called it "Gram's Pink" because she got it from her mother, Kate Chaffee Lunna from  Newport Center.  I like the name so much better than Latin and knowing that it came from my husband's grandmother's garden makes it a special way to know her--even though I never did.  

Fortunately, you don't have to die to have a plant in my garden.  A friend and neighbor moved away several years ago.  While she lived here, she gave me several plants that I especially love.  That was no coincidence.  Leah listens;  she hears what I say and she understands what I mean.  Therefore, she knows that I like plants that spread slowly, are not invasive, are hardy and have a distinctive shape.  She does  know all the Latin names and she probably knows a lot more about me than I do about her.  When I see the plants that she gave me, I wonder about the garden that she left and how her new one is growing.  I resolve to be a better listener;  a better friend. 

Today my friend Alysoun visited and brought a friend for me to meet and a new plant for my perennial bed.  We walked around the gardens, then sat on the porch  and talked and laughed the morning away until it was time for them to go.  Now I am going out with my shovel and plant the phlox that she delivered.  And when  I start looking, I am sure that I will find many more friends in my garden.  So--who lIves in your garden?  


Summer Sketches


Dino, dining on The Ridge, our favorite picnic spot looking East.  Good wine, fruit, cheese and home bread.
A Feast!






 Sitting at the old picnic table with Linda planning the day.
Beautiful wet birch tree collecting the sprinkles.


 Sally painting the birch by the pond

Snapping Turtle

Jun. 12     A Snapping Turtle was spotted crossing the road and digging holes--presumably for a place for depositing her eggs.  Our next nearest neighbor sent this facebook message to me this morning:  "Saw the biggest turtle crossing the road heading to your ponds by your house this morning -  

Migrating Songbirds


Red-Winged Black Bird in Beaver Bog
see www.vermontbirdwatching.blogspot.com


 Make Way for Mallards
see www.vermontbirdwatching.blogspot.com
Eastern Bluebird with Nest Eggs
www.vermontbirdwatching.blogspot.com

Watercolors by Sally Wickham
see FIne Art America

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers

Jun. 5     Two Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are drumming on the barn’s metal roof-- one on one side, and one on the other. I watched one drum and then he appeared to listen for the response. They tapped back and forth several times and then flew off into the woods.