Monday, May 30, 2011

Moving the Rhubarb

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The new rhubarb bed.

Years ago, I found a beautiful Canadian red rhubarb that I love. I had two plants but I never divided them. They were huge. They provided a lot of rhubarb and photographs. One summer, Wingnut and I wouldn't cut the rhubarb because it housed a huge aphid farm for ants. We followed the life of the farm until it suddenly simply stopped existing. But this year, we had to divide the rhubarbs. They were simply too big.

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Rhubarb after it was dug up with the tractor.

The rhubarb plants had to be dug out by the backhoe on the tractor. It had to be done carefully so that the plant wasn't damaged. I was stunned to see the size of the roots. Each carrot-like root is a plant, but we couldn't even count how many there were, so we divided the rhubarb into four plants.

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The huge rhubarb roots.

Last summer the new septic system was installed, with an access that sticks out of the ground. I had planned on a wreath of rhubarb around the cap, but John built a raised bed with a stone wall in a semicircle around the cap.

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Preparing the new bed for the divided rhubarb.

John had already moved a rhubarb we had found growing behind the house that I never knew was there. We don't know where it came from. But it is flourishing in front now. John used the backhoe to dig holes for each of the four new plants that we divided.

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Planting one of the four rhubarbs divided from the one plant.

Even after using the backhoe, we weren't sure if we had planted them deep enough, .But now, two weeks later, the plants are producing more stalks and are growing huge once again. We have to finish the project with the other red rhubarb. There is also one green rhubarb that I want Amelia to take home. And friend Barb has given me a pink rhubarb. In return, she desires one of my divided red plants. In the end, we will have at least 9 rhubarb plants out front. Now we think we have to make another rhubarb bed because they are growing so large!

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Planted and watered.


Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Runaway Pond Moose

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On May 9, I was driving south on Route 16 in Glover when a moose popped out of the woods at Runaway Pond. My camera was in its bag, but I got it out (while driving) and shot a few frames (while driving) through the filthy windshield (the photograph above) . I decided that even though I was late to an appointment, I would stop and follow the moose, who had entered Runaway Pond. I parked and hiked into the dry pond. I got the photographs below. She was a big moose and in good condition. She did not like me following her, and soon went into the woods. The moral of the story: always keep your windshield clean. Mine is still filthy.

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Mother’s Day

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A bouquet from Andrew

Mother's Day was three weeks ago and I continue to have wonderful memories of the day. Andrew sent the bouquet of flowers above. Amelia brought over the hanging basket of lobelia, shown below. I made my perfect pancakes for everybody. Anna called, and Danielle PMed me on Facebook. There was church and a good chicken dinner, followed by movies for just me and John here at home that night. It was a great day. So while all you other mothers posted timely thanks to your families on Mother's Day, I am only now giving mine. I have a wonderful family, a loving, thoughtful, hard-working husband, a marvelous home, cats who can be loving when they care to be, and friends and co-workers who are also loving. And tolerant. My life is full of activities and adventures. Not many women are as blessed as me.

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My basket of lobelia bathing in the sink.


Friday, May 27, 2011

A Harrow Underground

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A tine from a spring tooth horse-drawn harrow

After last year's flash flood, when we suffered damage, John has been grading the land around the house and digging out the original stream beds for the brooks. As part of this project, he had to grade the back dooryard, which slopped right into the basement from the brooks. He has excavated the area so that it is flat and level with the brook in the back yard. While digging, he found dozens of antique bottles and horse paraphernalia. Obviously, there used to be a barn on this site. Up the road at the culvert close to Stevens Mill, there are many rose bushes. We think the original farm house was there. There are also huge maples there that people usually kept about their house.

John also uncovered a stone foundation for a barn in the back yard. He has taken out the most dangerous of these boulders and built a stone wall at the bottom of the rise out back. I apologize for not having photographs of this project. The blackflies have been ferocious this year. I don't know how John works out there with those things, but I can't tolerate them and have not shot his work. The back bathroom and hall are usually muddy now because of the work, so I sweep and vacuum almost every day. We are planting on top of the stone walls — rhubarb, chives, horseradish, daffodils, lilacs, cucumbers and even tomatoes. There are also plans for sunflowers, sedum and a fern garden. There will be photos soon. Promise.

Anyhow. During the excavation of this barn foundation, John found this tine of an old spring tooth harrow. Click here to see a photograph and description of a complete harrow. John is positive that the entire harrow is underground, but it is not threatening to be pushed to the surface by frost, so he didn't search for it. This harrow was a one-horse harrow and had a wood frame, some of which we have. Harrows were used after fields were plowed. The harrow prepared the land for seeding.

Besides photos of the project, I will be photographing all of the artifacts that were dug up. This project was more of an archeological project than a grading project. We now have three known household dump sites on this land.


Thursday, May 26, 2011


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Underground spring bubbles up through quicksand

There is a large underground spring in the orchard that comes up out of sand and flows down to the bog. Quicksand. The sand looks like any other sand but it will suck you down in. How far? Probably to China. So it’s probably a good spot to rid oneself of big, heavy evidence . . .


An American Toad

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Anaxyrus americanus
old Bufo americanus americanus

After living here nearly a decade and only seeing one toad, I have now seen two in one year. Hopefully the toad population is rising. This toad was very tiny and was in the apple orchard above the house near one of the brooks. As I tried to silently move blades of grass that were obscuring this toad, it disappeared. We found that it went down a hole in the ground!

By the way: if you see eggs in a pond and they are laid in a string, they are toad eggs. Eggs laid in a mass are frog eggs.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Old Eggs

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Early in May, when the snow had melted enough to move about outside and take a look around, John began using construction materials that had been leaning on the barn since last fall. And there he found some old eggs that the chickens had laid outside of their nesting boxes that were in the barn. They enjoyed laying a lot of eggs in the woods last summer — we would often hear them screeching their egg laying song out there. The chickens were moved to a warmer barn at another farm for the winter. I think of them often. They were lots of fun to watch and photograph. I hope they are doing well. I miss them.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Mystery Tree

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Poplar bark

We have tried to find the scientific name of what we, and folks here, call the poplar tree. However, we keep getting the Eastern Cottonwood scientific name returned. We are trying to find the correct common and scientific names for this tree, but we've only known it as poplar. The root is very distinctive. It is a tree that fills up bare spots in the woods and woods edge very quickly. The tree grows tall and then falls down. The wood is not that good.

What is distinctive about the poplar (or pople) tree is that the root was used as a cane. You can see John using it as a cane in the photo below. People would carve these and make them nice and sell them. The root grew at a nearly 90° angle from the tree (which is why they fall down so much). We are clearing as much poplar as possible from the woods to make room for the maples, birch, elms, beech, hornbeam and other hardwoods.

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Root of poplar tree


The Cats in Spring

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Buddy resting while walking with us in the woods.

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Buddy doesn't like our long walks anymore — he now prefers short ones close to home.

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Buddy waited on this stump until we returned.

Zorro ran up and down the trees.

Zorro scratching the elm tree near the brook.

Zorro will be 15 years old in August.

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Possum usually only grazes outside.

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Possum is the most talkative cat I have ever known.
Pansy seldom goes outside and dislikes me so much I can't even get a photo of her.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Sensitive Fern and Christmas Fern Fiddleheads

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Sensitive Fern (Onoclea sensibilis)

I knew we had thousands of sensitive ferns in the woods but had never identified their fiddleheads until this spring. I'll be sure to get photos of the mature plant. If it weren't for the black flies (which are especially bad this year), I'd be out there now getting photos of them growing. I'm able to identify five ferns now: sensitive, interrupted, Christmas, ostrich and cinnamon! I'm proud!

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Young sensitive fern

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Young sensitive fern

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Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides)

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Christmas fern fiddlehead with unidentified spider

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Christmas fern fiddlehead with unidentified spider


Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Stained Glass of Barton (Vermont) United Church Part I

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My favorite window in the church.
The Twenty-third Psalm

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Unknown symbolism.

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Jesus ascends into Heaven.

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Is this the original Tiffany window . . .

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. . . or is this?

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Again, I don't know the parable behind this window.

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Mary and Joseph present Jesus at the temple when he was 12.


Early In May

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Apple bud eaten by deer

Spring in northern Vermont begins after the last snowstorm and before the first black flies. It is when you walk your land to see what was damaged or has died and what is growing. There may be something new growing on your land or you may notice that it will be a good year for one species of plant. Early in May we saw how every apple bud up to five feet up on the trees has been eaten by the deer this winter. Apple picking will be a bit difficult this fall!

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The fiddlehead of the interrupted fern (Osmunda claytonia)

The grove of interrupted ferns on the bank of the brook near the spring well is not as lush as it used to be. That may be because we have walked in the area too much. But the many ferns that are there are strong and healthy (below).

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Spring azure butterfly

The first butterfly photographed this season was the spring azure. They are very small and startlingly blue on the top. This is the underside of the wings. The first butterfly spotted this year was the mourning cloak in April.

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And of course, the purple trillium. They were abundant this year, as were the trout lilies.

Black flies are out now, so I'm not getting out as much as before. But I've got some marvelous photographs coming up soon! Spring is a miracle.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Broken Promises

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Skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus)

John and I visited the mill ruins on April 28 and I promised myself that I would return to photograph the skunk cabbage before a week was out. It's been 3 weeks and they are too old now. I have read and seen photographs of a stage of skunk cabbage growth that is so gorgeous I wanted to make a special hike to capture it. You can view photographs from Ontario that show this.  And now, writing this, I realize that by April 28 I had already missed the beautiful purple stage. Next year!

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Field Horsetail Equisetum arvense)

Every single spring, I promise myself to document the life cycle of field horsetail. There is this brown stage and then there is a green stage. I don't understand how horsetail morphs from one stage to the other. This year I shall!

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Fruit of the blue-bead lily (Clintonia borealis)

It took me years to identify this blue fruit in the woods that I saw every summer. Two summers ago we identified it and I promised myself, last summer, that I would find the tiny yellow lily that produces this blue bead. This year!

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Interrupted fern fiddleheads (Osmunda claytoniana)

In 2008 I published almost the complete life cycle of the interrupted fern. You can click here to see the series. I promised myself to finish it. I never did. This year!

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Dead apple tree in the beaver bog.

Last summer I promised myself that I would get out into the bog more often to explore. I never did. And I have even more urgent needs to go this year. Hawks were eating birds in the bog near where this tree is. John, using binoculars, said they ate a red-winged blackbird. I worry that they ate the mallard hen because just before the hawk perched on a dead tree and began ripping the bird up, the mallard drake chased the hawk out of the water. It was a violent flight for both of the birds. I have not seen mother duck since that morning. This year, I will go exploring more often!

That's a lot of broken promises. If I were to spend some time going through photographs, I would find more. It's time I fulfilled those promises. This year!