Tag Archives: 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 23 – coming home, looking ’round

Last Wednesday, I flew back from to Richmond, then drove back to Twin Oaks. Despite having a lot of indexing work that’s been keeping me indoors, I have managed over the past couple of days to get out and about here and there, to take a look around and see how the season is unfolding.

During the week I was in Maine, the forest trees around Twin Oaks lost pretty much all of their leaves and fall colors.  The woods here have taken on a very wintry aspect, which is pretty much they way they’re going to look until next April.  There was no rain at all during the week I was gone, and at this point, we’ve gone about a month without any measurable precipitation.   I’m not expecting that there will be any mushrooms around, although I’m not entirely ruling out a flush of late-season oysters if and when we ever get rain again.

Here’s how the woods are looking these days.Image

Friday was an unusually warm and humid day, despite being overcast and windy, it was actually warm enough to walk around in a thin cotton shirt and still be completely comfortable.  I liked the look of the naked gray sycamore tree against the gray sky.  The intricate architecture of trunk and branch is much more noticeable now that nearly all the leaves are gone.Image

A couple of photos from my back yard on Friday afternoon.  Some of the fruit trees and bushes are still hanging on to a little bit of leafy foliage.Image

and the blueberry bushes, in particular, have turned a lovely bright red color.  Notice the fig tree next to the blueberry bush, completely bare and leafless.Image

Saturday was another beautiful day, sunny, cool, and comfortable.  There is a major cold front moving in, so Saturday was the last really pleasant day we’re going to have for a while.  The day’s ultimate frisbee game was well-attended, and the late afternoon sun on the line of sycamore trees was quite dramatic.Image

Another shot of the treeline, all lit up with slanty late afternoon sunlight.Image

I left the game a little early to stoke the sauna; as I came to the top of the hill, I saw the trees all along the edge of the forest lit up all dramatic-like.  Image

Just a few minutes before sunset.Image

Sometimes the most dramatic sunset colors aren’t of the setting sun at all, but the intense color and light effects created by the few moments of sunlight.Image

Heading down to the sauna, I was particularly impressed with the reflection of trees and sky in the mirror-still pond.Image

All in all, it was a very pretty end of a very pleasant day.Image

I stoked up the wood stove in the sauna.  As I waited for the fire to heat it up to a proper sweaty temperature, I sat on the front deck of the sauna and watched the sunset colors in the sky, the reflection of trees and sky in the pond.  I particularly like this “mirror image” shot.Image

November 17 – a Maine event, pt. 3

On Saturday morning, we drove into Skowhegan to do some errands.  The “city” of Skowhegan isn’t especially beautiful, and the drive to town, passing through mixed farm and forest country, isn’t especially dramatic.  This field, studded with bales of hay, bounded by old farmhouses and piney woods, is pretty typical of the region.Image

We made it home in the early afternoon; with a few hours of daylight left, I set out to explore my family’s 100 acre woods, to check in on the current state of our forest, and the various wood-cutting operations we’ve got going on.

For the past five years, we’ve been working with local woodcutters to thin our woods, with an eye towards harvesting mature fir and poplar, and thinning around some of our healthier and more valuable pines and hardwoods.  As I walked through the recently cut land, I was glad to see that the forest had been harvested in such a way as to leave plenty of healthy trees standing.Image

Another part of the woods that had been thickly overgrown, which is now a bit more thinned out.Image

In 1973, just before my family bought this land, the previous owners had all of the mature sugar maples cut, which I’m sure had something to do with the low price that my parents paid for the hundred acres.  Even forty years later, we have stands of skinny sugar maples, but not many big ones.Image

This pine tree, a gnarled, twisted, multi-trunked beast of a tree, is the largest single tree on our property.  The way that the trunk is split again and again is probably what makes it of limited economic or timber value, and is also probably the reason that it has been allowed to grow so big and old.Image

This stand of pine trees was one of the first part of our woods that we had thinned.  Now, about five years later, it’s one of the most pleasant areas to walk through.Image

When I was a kid, our property was a patchwork of fields and forest.  The fields were all ringed with low rock walls, painstakingly hand-built many generations ago.  Even in these days of modern convenience and communication, it is still quite an undertaking to get through a Maine winter in an old farmhouse.  It’s incredible to think about how difficult it must have been for the folks who, on top of everything else, were dragging these rocks out of the fields.Image

White birch against a blue skyImage

A year-round creek runs through the middle of our property, from one corner to the other.  Along the edges of the creek are many acres of clustered cedar trees.Image

More riparian cedar forest.Image

Crazy curved tree at the edge of the creek.  So many places in Maine, you see trees grabbing onto the slightest bits of soil at the edges of water or rock, and curving their way into whatever bit of sunlight they can reach.Image

One effect of having active woodcutting operations is the opening of skidder trails in places that had just been dense trees.  It actually makes it much easier to walk through the forest. Image

Over the past ten years or so, I’ve been doing my own small-scale forest thinning project at the edge of the clearing in front of the house.  I’ve been trying to create a more gradual transition into the forest, with an intermediate semi-forest zone.  It’s been a year and a half since I have worked on it, but I’m pretty happy with how it looks now.Image

Another project from a few years back was our attempt to dig a “pond” (more like a large puddle)  in a low swampy area.  It looks like “Lake Anna” will need some maintenance, probably during a warmer time of year.Image

Along the edges of the old field stand a handful of enormous old white pines.  I think this particular tree is the largest of them.  I’ve thought at times about having this tree cut and milled right on the spot, and making an entire small building out of wood from this one individual.  For now, though, I think we’ll let this one grow, and see just how big it will get.Image

October 8 – fall colors, part 1

Quite a lot has been happening in the past week, and it’s been difficult to update this journal, as the internet at my home has gone out, and whenever I’ve been at a place in town with wifi, I’ve been pressed for time.  As I am now, but I am determined to move this journal forward.

So, a quick update of the past week, in which Summer finally ended and fall finally began.  I took this photo last Saturday, at about 3 in the afternoon:


as you can see, not only is it over 90 degrees, but the thermometer was in the shade.  I think it was close to 100 degrees in the sun on Saturday, one of the hottest days we’ve had all year!

All through the hot days, the leaves on the trees have begun to change– I’m still thinking that it’s early this year, and I still think it has something to do with the heat and drought.  This photo is from a maple just outside of my window, one which has consistently been one of the most colorful trees around, year after year.Image

Walking through the community on Saturday morning, looking at a small fuit tree in the Morningstar orchard that has already lost most of its leaves.  In general, I’m seeing some trees that have already lost their leaves, some of them seem to have lost leaves without even having them change color.Image

another view of the Morningstar yard from Saturday morning, with the trees on the opposite side changing color.Image

more fall color…Image

On the way into Louisa on Saturday morning, there are several trees with some fairly impressive fall color.  I still think that it’s odd to see so much red so early in October, but it sure is pretty.Image

right in front of the Louisa Library, on Saturday AM.Image

back at Twin Oaks, more fall colors.Image

Sunday was also hot and dry, much like the rest of the month so far.  By Sunday afternoon, things were looking alarmingly parched– the grass was all turning yellow and brown, the forest all dried out.  Sunday night was finally a bit cooler, and there was some overnight rain, which continued on throughout the day Monday.  In the late morning, we finally got a good solid drenching triple storm; rainstorm, windstorm, and leafstorm, as the dried dead leaves were blown from the trees.  Here’s a few photos of the view from my back door, during a lull in the storm. Image

The porch, all covered with leaves freshly blown from the trees.Image

and the maple tree that I had mentioned earlier, in full autumn color.Image

Monday was definitely the turning point– the past couple of nights have been much much cooler, and I can even imagine we might be getting frost soon.  Yesterday was finally a cool, pleasant fall day, and today has been downright cold!  I have a few more photos from the past couple of days, but I’m going to wrap this up now just to keep one step ahead.  Hopefully I’ll get the internet back at home soon and will be able to post updates without having to go into town.