Saturday, May 30, 2020

Treasures of the Maine Woods

"How pleasant it is to meet the same flowers year after year! If the blossoms were liable to change–if they were to become capricious and irregular–they might excite more surprise, more curiosity, but we should love them less; they might be just as bright, and gay, and fragrant under other forms, but they would not be the violets, and squirrel-cups, and ground laurels we loved last year. Whatever your roving fancies may say, there is a virtue in constancy which has a reward above all that fickle change can bestow, giving strength and purity to every affection of life, and even throwing additional grace about the flowers which bloom in our native fields. We admire the strange and brilliant plant of the green-house, but we love most the simple flowers we have loved of old, which have bloomed many a spring, through rain and sunshine, on our native soil."
                                                                                                               ~Susan Fenimore Cooper

Did you ever guess that I love the Maine woods? 😁 I was recently down in PA and spent some time in the woods there (pictures coming soon...hopefully!). The Pennsylvania woods are lovely and almost a tropical paradise by comparison, but they aren't my woods! There's a certain wildness in these woods that I haven't found anywhere else. Often they are so thick and swampy that I have to edge my way through thickets and balance on fallen trees to avoid sinking in mud and water over my boots (the picture below was taken yesterday, and it has been very dry lately!). The bears are still around judging from the signs I've come across, but having learned more about them I actually feel more comfortable in the woods than ever before! And what treasures are hidden in these woods! After a cold start to the month, it suddenly turned HOT. We've had several days in the upper 80s and 90s. It literally took about 3 days for the trees to go from just swelling buds to summer green...I don't remember such a sudden change ever before! The flowers came fast too, and I've been out several times to greet old friends... 

Threeleaf Goldthread (Coptis trifolia)...

Painted Trillium (Trillium undulatum)...

Red Trillium (Trillium erectum)...

Pin Cherry (Prunus pensylvanica)...

Canadian Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)...

Rose Twisted-stalk (Streptopus lancolatus)...

Bluebead Lily (Clintonia borealis)...

Northern Starflower (Lysimachia borealis)...

Dwarf Red Blackberry (Rubus pubescens)...

And sweetest of all to me! The  Northern White Violet (Viola renifolia) grows on mossy fallen branches at the edge of one of the swampiest places. 

PS - I hope to do a garden update one of these days soon...things have happened so fast, I'm really behind on my posts!

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Adventures in the Maine Woods

O northern wilds! you surely hold
In your great heart some refuge old,
Safe hid and far and deep and dumb,
Where the gay world will never come.
                                                                             ~Anna B. Averhill

Well, where do I begin?! I've been meaning to do an update for a while now but never got around to it, and now I've accumulated such a variety of scenes and sightings, I'm slightly overwhelmed! 😁 I guess it's always best to start at the beginning. May 1st was my birthday, and in the evening my dad took me for a drive on some of the back roads. We were hoping to see some moose or bears, but apparently they had taken shelter from the cold drizzle because we didn't see any. The scenery still made the drive worthwhile though! I can't remember the name of this stream...

We did see quite a few deer though! 

There was still some ice along the Aroostook River...

Some of those slabs were huge!

Meanwhile, in our woods...I came upon this pile of hair one morning! It's just hair, no sign that anything had just been killed and eaten. I read that lynx molt in April and May and am pretty sure that's what happened here. There was also a giant hairball thrown up nearby and other signs of a big cat. I have seen lynx tracks multiple times this winter/early spring.

May started out quite cold. We got about 5 inches of snow last week and one day it was only 29 degrees (F) at 1:30 PM...a record even for northern Maine!

But Spring seems to have come in earnest at last. The last few days have been in the 60s and we have some 70s and even an 80 in the forecast! I have just about been living outdoors, dividing my time between the gardens and the woods. 😊

However, I am not the only one who is enjoying the spring weather! I had just stepped out of the house a few nights ago and saw something big and black out of the corner of my eye. A bear!! I rushed back for the camera and ran out into the yard to get as close a view as I dared (I was still closer to the house than the bear was to me). I do wish the pictures had turned out a little better, but the lighting wasn't good and our lovely Japanese Knotweed was in the way...

It seemed like a fairly good-sized bear, and I was just thinking that it was most likely a male, when 2 cubs came bounding out of the woods! They were awfully cute!! 

Mama only looked at me once, then went on about her business...much to my relief! 😁

I was hoping they were just passing through, but it seems they are hanging around. Yesterday afternoon I saw a couple of ducks fly overhead and land in the swampy area at the edge of the woods and went down to have a closer look at them, but the first thing I saw when I looked in was a bear! Unfortunately, I didn't have the camera with me. I watched her (assuming it was Mama bear again) briefly, but decided to put off the walk in the woods I had been contemplating! 😉

I did venture out this morning and saw plenty of evidence that they had been around. It's kinda hard to see in these pictures, but the ground at the base of this old stump is scratched up and fresh roots are exposed. It was not like this last time I was out here!

These tracks were nearby. They weren't very formed so it's hard to tell, but I'm pretty sure they are bear tracks. They seemed too long and wide to be moose but the animal was obviously quite heavy. I weight around 130 pounds but my feet weren't making any impression here, while these tracks were at least 3 inches deep.

And I almost stepped in this! 😛

I have been reading some very informative and reassuring articles about black bears and learned that even Mama black bears are rarely aggressive. I will still be going out for rambles in the woods, but needless to say, I am much warier now! 

Monday, May 4, 2020

Hermit Thrush

In the swamp in secluded recesses,
A shy and hidden bird is warbling a song.
Solitary the thrush,
The hermit withdrawn to himself, avoiding the settlements,
Sings by himself a song.
Song of the bleeding throat,
Death’s outlet song of life, (for well dear brother I know, 
If thou wast not granted to sing thou would’st surely die.)

Sing on, sing on you gray-brown bird,
Sing from the swamps, the recesses, pour your chant from the bushes,
Limitless out of the dusk, out of the cedars and pines.
Sing on dearest brother, warble your reedy song,
Loud human song, with voice of uttermost woe.
O liquid and free and tender!
O wild and loose to my soul—O wondrous singer!
                                                     ~Walt Whitman

A few days ago, while on my morning walk, I heard the sweetest song coming from the woods. I must have heard it before, but just as I sometimes read a poem many times before the beauty in it truly leaps out at me, I never heeded this lovely feathered poet until now! Since then I've heard it several times. Sometimes I can hear it faintly from the yard, but the sound always comes from deep in the woods and seems to call me out for another ramble. Whitman's poem describes it beautifully, don't you think? 😊

Friday, May 1, 2020

May Day in New England

Can this be May? Can this be May?
We have not found a flower to-day!
We roamed the wood—we climbed the hill—
We rested by the rushing rill—
And lest they had forgot the day,
We told them it was May, dear May!

We called the sweet, wild blooms by name—
We shouted, and no answer came!
From smiling field, or solemn hill—
From rugged rock, or rushing rill—
We only bade the pretty pets
Just breathe from out their hiding-places;

We told the little, light coquettes
They need'nt show their bashful faces,—
"One sigh," we said, " one fragrant sigh,
We'll soon discover where you lie!"
The roguish things were still as death—
They would'nt even breathe a breath.
Alas ! there's none so deaf, I fear,
As those who do not choose to hear.

We wandered to an open place,
And sought the sunny buttercup,
That, so delighted, in your face
Just like a pleasant smile looks up.
We peeped into a shady spot,
To find the blue " Forget-me-not!"
At last a far-off voice we heard,
A voice as of a fountain-fall,
That softer than a singing-bird,
Did answer to our merry call!

So wildly sweet the breezes brought
That tone in every pause of ours,
That we, delighted, fondly thought
It must be talking of the flowers!
We knew the violets loved to hide
The cool and lulling wave beside:—
With song, and laugh, and bounding feet,
And wild hair wandering on the wind,
We swift pursued the murmurs sweet;
But not a blossom could we find;—

The cowslip, crocus, columbine,
The violet, and the snow-drop fine,
The orchis 'neath the hawthorn tree,
The blue-bell and anemone,
The wild-rose, eglantine, and daisy,
Where are they all?—they must be lazy!
Perhaps they're playing " Hide and seek"—
Oh, naughty flowers! why don't you speak?

We have not found a flower to-day,—
They surely cannot know 'tis May 
You have not found a flower to-day!—
What's that upon your cheek, I pray?
A blossom pure, and sweet, and wild,
And worth all Nature's blooming wealth;
Not all in vain your search, my child!—
You've found at least the rose of health!

The golden buttercup, you say,
That like a smile illumes the way,
Is nowhere to be seen to-day.
Fair child ! upon that beaming face
A softer, lovelier smile I trace;
A treasure, as the sunshine bright,—
A glow of love and wild delight!
Then pine no more for Nature's toy—
You've found at least the flower of joy.

Yes! in a heart so young, and gay,
And kind as yours, 'tis always May!
For gentle feelings, love, are flowers
That bloom thro' life's most clouded hours!
Ah ! cherish them, my happy child,
And check the weeds that wander wild;
And while their stainless wealth is given,
In incense sweet, to earth and heaven,
No longer will you need to say—
"Can this be May? Can this be May?"
                                                        ~Frances Sargent Osgood