Tag Archives: beech trees

December 19 – farewell frigid fall; welcome warm winter

We’re getting close to what, technically, should be the last day of autumn (the day before the solstice), but it hasn’t felt much like fall for the past month.  This year, it seemed like winter moved in early and decided to stick around; we have had frost nearly every night for the past month, and the past few days have been gray, breezy, and raw.  This morning was no exception; the leaves that I’m using to mulch the garden (and the one chard plant that has inexplicably survived the fall) were covered in a layer of frost.  As they have been most days this month. Image

here’s a closer photo.Image

But, oddly enough, today was also  first day of what is forecast to be a fairly dramatic warm spell.   This afternoon was the warmest it’s been in months, and the next few days (including the first day of winter) are supposed to be even more pleasant– temps in the 70s with no frost this weekend!  It messes up the narrative somewhat, but after so much cold weather so early in the season, I’m happy to take some sunshine and warmth.

Just after lunchtime, it was warm enough to walk around comfortably in just a long sleeve shirt, so I took advantage of some free time to do some exploratin’ in the sun-drenched, leafless, forest.Image

Not much color out in the woods today, just the brown of leaves on the ground, the gray of tree trunks, and the gray of this old cabin on our property.Image

We had a bit of freezing rain a couple of nights back, just enough to put a tiny trickle of water in this creekbed.  A chain of tiny pools in the forest, linked by tiny cascades and waterfalls.Image

At one point, I came across a tree that had fallen sometime in the past year, that was being devoured by some sort of orange fungus, lit up all dramatic in the late fall sunlight.Image

Here’s a closer photo of the fungus.  It really was that color!Image

As the leaves have fallen from the trees, it’s been nice to once again see and appreciate the revealed shapes of the trees themselves.  This is especially true of the beech trees, and this open bit of woods is the greatest concentration of beech trees on the land.Image

Just a pretty shot of beech trees all contrast-y against a bright blue late fall sky.Image

I crossed over the creek right at this spot where, years ago, one beech tree fell into another one.  Somehow, they both lived, and joined together into a single trunk.Image

And, across the creek, a spot where a single birch fell or was knocked over, but managed to survive and turn three of its lower branches into trunks.Image

I saw some sort of bird fly out of this hole, but it was gone before I could get close or figure out what it was.  It was a small bird of some sort.Image

A spot where it seems like two trees grew together, wrapped their branches around one another, and went on growing.Image

A fallen log with the remnants of some polypore, which has probably been there for months, rotting away.Image

On closer inspection, I think that it may have at one point been an enormous chicken of the woods, which has turned white after months of exposure and frost.Image

Further along, I walked through a depression that holds an intermittent stream, one which runs during and immediately after storms, but most of the time is just muddy.  I came across several spots where pine needles had been picked up by the runoff from recent rains and deposited in ‘liquid-y’ shapes and patterns as the water receded.  It made for some very interesting patterns on the forest floor.Image

Not too far off, an old stump in a state of advanced decomposition, covered with unusual dark brown fungi.Image

And inside of  the equally-decomposed trunk of the tree, a pile of curiously round gray pellets that could be some sort of animal crap, but looked more mineral-y and less organic-y than one would expect.Image

At this time of year, even close to mid-day, the sun is low on the horizon in the south, which creates interesting light effects whichever way you turn.  It’s harder to photograph the way things are lit up when you’re facing into the sun, but this captures some of the effect.Image

A close-up of the same scene, dramatic backlighting bringing out unexpected color.Image

After kicking about on the other side of the creek for an hour or so, I jumped back over to the ‘civilized’ side at this crossing, trying without success to keep my feet dry.  A pleasant enough walk to mark the end of frigid fall and the beginning of  our curious winter warm spell.Image

November 29 – chilly Thanksgiving

It’s Friday morning now, and I’ve got a bit of time to catch up on the past few days.  It’s been chilly and wet all right; it might be that we’re just getting a week-long cold snap, but right now it’s definitely feeling like winter’s come early this year.

Rained Tuesday during tofu delivery.  Tuesday afternoon and evening was more of the same, mostly rain mixed in with some slushy snow/sleety stuff.  By Wednesday morning, it had dropped back down to persistent drizzle, but the ground (and everything outside, really) was fully soaked.  By the afternoon, the temperatures were enough above freezing that I made a quick trip to town for some wine and pre-thanksgiving treats.  Along the way, I shot this picture of the South Anna River, where it goes over the dam.  The low-lying fields near the river were covered with a shallow layer of standing water, and the dam was no more than a ripple beneath the swollen river.

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When I was in town, we got a few minutes of real snow, big puffy white flakes blowing through the air, but the ground was too warm and wet for any accumulation.

Back at the Oax, I took these photos of our garden, where little is still growing except nearly indestructible kale and white ground cover cloth, which can give some of our cold-hardy crops just a few degrees of extra warmth.  Although it looked like the sun was about to set, it actually wasn’t any later than 2 in the afternoon– it was just that kind of a day.  Image

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late November in Virginia– bare branches against a colorless sky.

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Arriving home, I was pleased to see that someone had been stoking the fire.  It’s unusual this time of year to keep a fire going all through the day and night, but it’s been necessary this year.  Looking at this website for Charlottesville, it says that the average temperatures for this time of year are about 57 high and 37 low.  Since last Sunday, we’ve been averaging about 40 degrees high, getting down into the high teens every night.

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Thursday–Thanksgiving day–was no warmer, but at least the sun was shining.  Mostly I was too busy with the holiday to do much observatin’, but I took this one photo of the trees just out in front of my house in the late afternoon, just to have some sort of reminder of the kind of day it was.

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Last night was another cold one, and when went downstairs in the AM, the entire back yard was covered in frost.  The way the morning light caught the frozen ground made it twinkle in a lovely manner, but I was unable to capture that particular effect in a photo.

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With a bit of spare time, I went out for a quick morning walk, to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine.  I actually really enjoy walking outside on mornings like this one, the sun bright in the sky and air cold enough to tromp around in a sweater and long undies and not get overheated.  Now that the leaves have all fallen, I am back to enjoying the smooth graceful trunk curves of the big de-foliated beech trees around the property.

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A few weeks back, I discovered a spot in the woods where an oak had fallen and splintered into many chunks.  Each of the pieces was alive with oyster mycelium, and it seemed like as soon as we got decent conditions, there would be a big flush of oyster mushrooms.  I was curious whether all the recent rain had brought any out, or whether it had been too cold.  As it turned out, there was a bit of both.  There were lots of shriveled frozen mushrooms, looking like they had tried to grow in the wet conditions, but the daily hard frosts have just been too much for them. Image

Despite the cold, the field up by the cemetery remains bright green.  In fact, if I remember right from the early days of this journal, it stays pretty much that color all winter long.Image

A couple of weeks ago, the oldest member of Twin Oaks community died during the night.  It was at once sad in that “someone we know and love has died” kind of way, and a relief in that “she had lived a long and full life and died swiftly without suffering” kind of way.  I had to work during her funeral, so this was the first time I had seen her grave up at the cemetery.  The ground all around the grave had been disturbed, and there was a lot of this effect, where slender pillars of ice push tiny clods of dirt an inch or so out of the ground.  I first noticed this phenomenon years ago while walking the Appalachian Trail in Maine, and it never fails to impress me.  I don’t really understand it (something about water expanding as it freezes), or understand why it happens in some places but not others, but it sure is cool looking.  Image

A close-up of the tiny ice pillars

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Walking on home, through the late November forest, long shadows pointing north despite the fact that it’s past 10:30 in the morning.  We’re only a few weeks away from Winter Solstice, and you can definitely see that the sun isn’t getting all that high in the sky, even at noon.

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And finally, returning to my back yard, where the ground remained frost-covered wherever it was still in the shade.  It would be cool to do a time-lapse photo of the frost retreating as the sun climbs higher in the sky throughout the morning.

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