Sunday, February 21, 2016
Late Winter Woods Walk
Our days huddled inside in response to the bitterly cold arctic air that recently swept across here have finally ended. It was time to have a walk about to examine the status of the plants. This reddish fungus may well have been the object of a fall photo when it was alive with new growth. Now its two nearby companions are clearly dead while this one may still hold some life. The piece of hickory nut shell is as it was found but general housekeeping was performed before I moved on. Luck continues to stay close by me since the dead grass stem was seen to be surrounded by fungus before the mighty tug. No damage was done.
This nearby tree sports fungal growth of a kind that I have never seen before. The dark groove near their base is an opening into the interior. Its function remains unknown. Return visits to this tree may reveal the growth cycle if this fungus is indeed growing now.
This shaggy yellow birch prompted a memory of a John Burroughs confession. In trying to plan my retirement, I read of the outdoor experiences of naturalist authors. Burroughs was a favorite since his time was spent in a nearby section of New York State. This made it possible for me to visit Woodchuck Lodge and his camp nearer to the Hudson River. In one of his essays he describes a questionable act while tramping about in the Catskills. On the spur of the moment, he set fire to the highly flammable bark curls on a standing yellow birch. Flames climbed far up into the top of the tree. Having read of his regret of his questionable actions, I did not follow in those footsteps. My evil smile was prompted by the thought of such a blaze. It must have been an impressive sight. Birch bark curls have long been used to start a campfire burning.
This is our twice transplanted sycamore tree. One of the dear older ladies that took some delight in our village gardens gave us a sycamore seedling. It was planted near the septic system since these trees appreciate ample moisture. A short time later we found our rural retirement land. Baby Sycamore was among the first plants moved to what would become our new home. Most of our land consists of deep glacial deposits of freely draining dry gravel. We do own a small section of bedrock ridge. The water that seeps from the base of the ridge keeps the sycamore tree suitable wet. The tree has reached a sufficient size now to be shedding its tan bark, revealing white bark that marks a maturing tree. The frigid polar air turned the surface water to ice making it possible to walk here without getting wet feet. A visit to this tree always brings to the surface pleasant memories of Ellie and all the help she freely gave to these then young gardeners.