Snake Charms and Where It Leads

You might remember that last fall I showed you a couple of carved snakes on the Green Ribbon Trail in Fort Washington/Flourtown, PA:

I wrote about them in this post. Since that time I have corresponded with the artist and learned that they would become part of a scavenger hunt through the park, with clues scattered. Well, this idea became reality this spring and my husband and I have slowly been making our way along the path of clues.

I’ll tell you up front I don’t have great photos to show – I’ll try to do better inthe future. But you want to hear how it’s going , right?

OK. Here’s where we are.

About 4-6 weeks ago my husband located the first offering on a trip he made to the trail. Events intervened and I did not document it. But, he had a photo on his phone of the clue for the next section. On Sunday we found ourselves in another section of the park, a couple miles away, and decided to see if we could find the location.

We correctly identified the area as being in the group camping section. Once we got there, we needed to find a graffitied beech tree.

Beech trees have very smooth bark and they are a popular surface for people to carve into. Around here you often see these trees with hearts and initials and dates and words in their trunks.

We located several sets of beech trees, and once got sidetracked by something that had been set out by someone else:

But we knew it wasn’t the right one. Following the running trail behind the campsites, we found the location.

I couldn’t get a good picture, but the clues referred to where Sue sits, and a pine grove, and downhill. Hmmm…

We knew where to go for this one, after a bit of thought. We headed down the main drive to where the Green Ribbon Trail opens. There are pines – check. We have walked downhill – check. And where Sue sits – well, it’s a memorial bench dedicated to a woman whose first name was Susan.

We were in the right place. The clue also implied that the next clue needed to be looked up at. Well, there is only sky above. So we looked under the bench. Yes!

We will be following this clue for our next location, the next time we come to the park…

Beach Trip

My husband and I had planned to take a short overnight trip to a museum about 3 hours away, but family circumstances had made the previous week very event-filled and we didn’t feel like being away overnight. We did need a bit of a spirit-lifter, though, and on impulse Saturday morning, we decided to take a day trip to a water site.

I love the water – lakes, bays, oceans, creeks, you name it. If there is water, I am happy being around it. I had a spot in mind – Slaughter Beach, Delaware, about 2+ hours from our house.

I’d been reading up on the Delaware beaches – there are bay and ocean beaches in the state – and this one was tops on my list because of a recent visit a friend had made. So we hopped in the car and took off.

Slaughter Beach is a tiny strip of beach along the Delaware Bay, about 15-20 miles north from the first ocean beaches in Delaware. There are several small places like this all the way up to Wilmington. The ocean beaches are vastly preferred by the public and are the typical shore experience around here – crowds, boardwalks, amusements, restaurants, etc. Where we were going is not the popular experience. Just some pebbly sand, low waves, lots of open marshland around, and few houses or buildings or people. Much better, to my way of thinking.

We arrived around 10:30 or so in the morning on a beautiful sunny July day. We parked at the firehouse parking lot where the main beach access was. Here’s the main road as we arrived:

We put on our water shoes and headed across the street to the beach. The bay is very wide here. You can see two container ships heading upstream way out in the distance.

The houses are set back from the water across a line of dunes. The beach is narrow and pebbly, and once we left the main access area, we passed very few people. We waded in the surf; the water was warm and the waves very gentle. As I usually do I had my eye on the ground looking at the stones. They are rounded and washed by the water and so many colors! I made the conscious decision not to pick up too many this time – I wanted to remind myself just to walk along slowly and enjoy the day. I could certainly see returning for a hunt, though…

We ate our lunch, hoagies picked up at a Wawa on the way, in a little park by the parking lot, overlooking the marsh view.

Now I’ll show you photos of the beachcomber herself, in different moods, all good…

Reforesters Update 7/4/21

This morning my husband and I took a trip over to the Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust (PERT) to count our trees, do some upkeep, and maybe clear away some more invasives. I am a little behind on my report, since I haven’t been here since mid-June. Recovering from my shingles vaccine took a week and last week was either very hot or else thunderstorms, so I didn’t come over here.

Well, we are here now. It’s very green and lush these days here in the preserve.

We decided to count the trees first. I think this session we finally have found all our trees and cleared them. The count is 35 trees alive, 3 dead, and 2 vounteers we also are caring for.

We did some clearing. Those vines I mentioned in the last post, the ones with very weak stems and small heart-shaped leaves, are everywhere now. If they had any heft to them we’d be unable to fight our way into the plot. As it is, they have their own weapon – they are very sticky, meaning sticky like velcro, not sticky like popsicle juice, and if they touch your skin, it hurts to pull them away.

Ugh. Luckily, gloves and our usual array of cover-up clothes does the job. I pulled some vines away from this little tree. Ick, they arise in a mass and seem to stick to each other too, in order to get where they would like to go. I still don’t know their name – I need to look it up.

But today, I have a really exciting story to tell. Do you remember back at the end of May, I uncovered a dead tree still standing in its cage, buried under a huge mound of vines, weeds, and wild rosebushes? (Look here for that post if you don’t). I tagged it pink and left it. It then appears in several subsequent posts, a forlorn remnant, as I continued to clear brush.

Today I checked it, out of curiosity more than anything. I noticed some leaves that looked very much like oak leaves at the bottom of the cage.

Here it was this morning:

And those leaves…hmmm… I thought maybe a little volunteer oak was coming up, though I didn’t see any parent oakds nearby.

I found the former trunk of the tree and snapped the top off easily. Dead, yes. but I still wasn’t satisfied. I removed the whole cage and cleaned around the leaves. I found that they were growing out of the very bottom of the trunk. The tree was not dead!

Digging a little further, I found the nursery tag from the tree:

I was right, it is an oak tree. I carefully cleaned around it. I will be paying special attention to this little guy. It has survived years of living under a thicket. It’s strong. I will help it grow.

Well, that is it for today. Until next time.

Museum Visit – the Berman Museum of Art at Ursinus College

A nice summer day on June 27, and what to do with ourselves? My husband and I spent part of it on the campus of Ursinus College in Collegeville, PA, about 30 minutes from our house. We visited the Berman Museum of Art and toured the campus to look at the sculpture collection that fills the grounds.

This small liberal arts college has a big art presence due to its benefactors, Philip and Muriel Berman, who donated art and facilitated the founding of the museum in the 1980’s. If you want to know more, look here. I’ll keep moving on to our actual visit today.

We walked across the quiet campus (I can recommend it for a nice peaceful experience), looking at some of the sculptures. Sculpture was an important art form to the Bermans and evidence of this is all over the campus. There is a map and guide to the sculptures alone and a tour of the grounds to look at them is worth a trip in itself.

On our way we stopped at the labyrinth and did a walk.

This labyrinth featured a pattern I had not encountered before. Additionally, the lines of demarcation were not high contrast with the body colors. It was therefore necessary to pay close attention to the experience in order to follow the pattern. I liked how that worked out in practice, and I also enjoyed looking at the pattern the spirals made as a whole.

We arrived at the museum.

I had to wait outside for a few minutes while my husband went back to the car for his mask (turned out he didn’t need it) and noticed this face looking up at me:

Was it meant to be a work of art, underfoot? I don’t know. A companion a few feet away had no such personality:

I choose to believe that however it came to be, the little face was meant to be noticed, and I am glad I did.

Once inside we chatted with two students who were manning the information booth and learned about the exhibits currently running. I will show you my favorite one.

It’s called MAPPING CLIMATE CHANGE: The Knitting Map and The Tempestry Project. It’s a two-part experience, but both sections involve the use of knitting/fabric/tapestry to map out a visual picture of time and the environment. Here are the materials used.

In the first section, The Tempestry Project, knitting is used to depict, through colors, the changes in temperature/weather over periods of time. Each knitted strip represents a different time frame. Some strips covered decades and some one year. Others showed the changes over a large geographic land mass, the US, and then moving down to our state, Pennsylvania.

I found this concept fascinating and I began to wonder about doing something along these lines myself. Not just weather/climate change, but also, how this concept could make a visual diary of all kinds of subjects that evolve over time. Hmmm…

In the next gallery, the exhibit continued with The Knitting Map, a project done in Cork, Ireland, about 15 years ago. In this enormous textile, the variables are the weather and also the time of day. Weather conditions and the level of activity in the city were broken down into knitting stitches and colors, so that a rainy cool day at rush hour was depicted by a certain combination vs. a hot sunny day at the quiet time of dawn would be another combination. About 2500 knitters participated to make this fabric.

It’s truly monumental, isn’t it?

Taken together, the two rooms gave me a new way to envision the passage of time and how things change, and it is a way that I myself could take and apply to something in my own life or experience. I found the idea very exciting. I also took in the message about the environment in a way that I had not before, as a continuum that unrolls as time goes on. A lot to see and think about here today.

For information about the exhibit from the museum’s website, look here.

Reforesters Update 6/17/21

Today I visited our tree plot at the Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust (PERT) to check on the trees and do some clearing. It was a lovely sunny morning, cool and with little humidity and a light breeze. Perfect for being outside with the trees.

I appreciate everyone’s patience with the continual stream of pictures of green trees and green weeds and green tangle. I use these posts to help me remember my experiences in order to write up my monthly report. It can get repetitive to see what looks like the same scene over and over. I wish you could come along with me to the plot and explore the whole area. There are many little landscapes within this big green one.

I thought that today I would focus on some details I noticed as I worked. I covered the ground in a wandering kind of way and did a variety of tasks – clearing trees of vines and debris, cutting away more invasisve plants from the area I have been working on, and clearing vines from some larger trees at the bottom of the hill that I have not visited much.

OK, let’s go. In no particular order.

Here is a close-up of that velcro-like vine with heart-shaped leaves as it begins its journey up a spicebush.

It looks innocuous enough, and it is a very weak plant – you can tear it away with your hands. I don’t think it enacts long-lasting harm on the trees. But I think it can cause difficulties in growth when it gangs up in a mass, and it adds to the weight on a plant when it combines with other vines as you see here:

Ugh, and it is really unpleasant when you touch it with your bare skin – it’s like sandpaper.

Here is a tiny tree inside its cage, besieged by vines and plant growth. If the tree is this small, I lift the cage away from it and clear out the whole area, then drop the cage back on it and re-stake it.

I have mentioned the strangling effect of the honeysuckle vine. Unlike the other vines I have observed, it has a tough fibrous quality that resists being broken or snapped, and it can grow to be huge – finger-sized. It twists around branches and trunks as you see in the first photo – I’m showing you sections left after I clipped the vine.

Sometimes the vine has embedded itself into the tree so that I can’t remove it, just clip it. The tree continues to grow but it is marred by the experience. The second photo shows a spicebush (I think) that has endured this situation. At some point the vine ceased to grow or was removed, but the scars remain and the later growth reflects the results.

I see instances of the damage the honeysuckle does all over the plot. In addition to wrapping trees it grows up into the crown, weighs the tree down, and eventually starves out the leaves, if left in place. It also provides a nice platform for quicker-growing and lighter vines to leap on to.

I have changed my opinion about how nice a honeysuckle vine is since I have been working here.

*****

Moving on. Lots of wild raspberries coming out now. I am of course dedicated to removing them but I have a more lenient feeling about them than other plants here. Their fruits are useful. A lot of people around here pick them when they are ripe – I’ve seen people with baskets of them.

Here you see a tall tree in its cage., looking spindly and bent. This tree had vines growing up into its crown as I described above, when we first saw it. Now it is clean and maybe it will have a chance to gain strength and even out its growth.

This tree was in the middle of a clearing and growing pretty well, but needed more sunlight. We have cut back some of the surrounding spicebush and given it a little more room, but it was already pretty strong. Nice to see it doing well.

I spent some time today clearing around the base of these larger trees. I’ll need to continue the job, but I did clear a number of invasives from the base area and I pulled a lot of vines from the foliage. If I can’t pull the vines (in the case of the larger older ones or ones that are way up in a tall tree) I cut the vines, so that they will die up in the tree. Here you can see cut vines hanging in mid-air.

Here are trees I did not attempt to approach. Why, you may say? Well, those vines are poison ivy. Remember, leaves of three, let them be, and hairy is scary (meaning the vines are, well, hairy looking). Shout-out to my friend Diane for that latter hint – I’ve found it useful. Anyway, in our PERT orientation, we were told that the poison ivy vines do not stress the trees as the other vines do – they don’t travel tree to tree or leap branch to branch and create a mass and destroy foliage. My observation is that they stick to the large branches and they are very light.

In fact, blowing in the breeze as they were today, it was an attractive sight. But…don’t be fooled. They are lethal, if you ask me – I’m very allergic and let me tell you, the itching the oil produces is fierce and goes on for weeks.

I let these be.

Finally, here is a shot of the plot looking up the hill. From here it is easy to understand the layout – there is a cleared area all the way up under the power lines and extending back until it hits the line of trees/bushes, the area we have been clearing.

Until next time.

Reforesters Update 6/10/21

I was feeling restless today, so I thought I’d go over and take in a session with my trees at the Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust. It was a beautiful day, sunny, and not too hot. I arrived at PERT around 12:30.

On the way over I was thinking about today’s date, reminded by checking it to be ready to prepare my notes for the session. I graduated from high school on this day, 45 years ago. My goodness, what a long time ago that was, and how much has happened since then.

And then I arrived at PERT and focused on today.

First I decided to check on the trees. Now, this is harder than it sounds right now. With the rain and the sun, there is a lot of growth of all kinds of plants, and many of the trees are small. Weeds can grow as tall as they are. To compound the problem, since this area has been neglected for a long time, there is no pattern as to where the trees are, Whatever plan there was is obliterated by time and various events. So I kind of wander around and work my way in and out of the various clearings and areas in our plot.

Most trees were looking pretty good. I notice that this vine, don’t know what it is, but it is taking off right now all over the plot. It’s very flimsy; I can tear it away from the trees with my hands, but it has a sticky quality like Velcro that seems to help it grow in these masses that follow one little tendril. Anyway, it’s on every cage/tree right now. I don’t think it’s a bgi threat, but it seems to grow quickly and in the picture below several tentacles were pulling the tree limb down.

After checking the trees (I found one that we’d marked back when we started working here but the overgrowth had hidden it from us – oops. I apologized to the tree for forgetting it and cleared it posthaste of honeysuckle and gave it a more open area around it) I decided to return to the area we’ve been clearing in the middle of the plot.

I want to work to the left of the brown area today, right behind my blue tool bag.

Before I started, take a look – the brown area represents the dead cuttings from the last session.

All right. I got to work. My technique is to grab a handful of the invasives and clip, prioritizing those at eye level. (Because it is easy to walk right into a branch or rosebush cane when you are focused on something else. I have my goggles to protect my eyes but I have gotten some scratches on my face…ouch.)

I pull at the same time I clip and when I’ve gotten all the stems the tension is released and the handful comes loose. I throw it behind me.

I repeat this again and again. Eventually the interior of the clump is exposed and I can go into it, and clip the vines/rosebuseh canes/wineberry stems closer to the ground. I don’t try to pull them out – usually things are too tangled up top. Instead, I return to the outside and go back to my clipping and pulling. The difference is that now I often can pull out bigger pieces as the clump begins to clear and there is nothing holding the invasives to the ground now.

It is very surprising to me when I finish this process and find a straggly bush (usually a spicebush, they are everywhere in this plot) that was somehow surviving and holding up all these vines and other plants.

I end up with a big pile of clippings. I leave them on the ground and stomp on them. They will break down very quickly and in a few days look like those brown areas in the earlier photos.

Here’s where things ended up. It is hard to see in this photo, but in the middle, well, that is where the clump was. Now there is sunlight on the ground there.

I also found another dead tree in this thicket. I saw something shiny by my foot and leaped back, not knowing what it was. Then I realized I saw wire mesh. And a wooden stake. The cage had been smashed flat and buried. The tree was long gone, no sign of it.

I stood it up and attached a pink flag to show it had existed. It seemed the least I could do.

After a couple of hours I decided to stop work. I went down to the bottom of the hill to check on a couple more trees and took this photo.

To me this is a place of peace.

Reforesters Update 6/5/21

Well, the rain falls and the sun shines, and the green plants grow. Of all kinds. This morning, about 7 AM, my husband and I arrived at the Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust (PERT) for another session of tree care.

We’ve had torrential rains three of the last four days, I guess, and that and other things have kept me from visiting in the last week. But with sunny skies and a very warm day promised, it seemed like a good time to do some work here.

We arrived early, as I said, in order to beat the heat. I was suited up in my usual attire:

By the time we’re finished these clothes will be filthy and wet from the residual dampness from all the rain. But they do the job. Here’s what I have on:

  • shorts and tank top under a long-sleeved T shirt and scrub pants (I particularly love the pants. They are lightweight and have a number of useful pockets). I dress in these layers so that before I go home I can take off the top layers and do a quick cleanup in the bathroom.
  • white socks (supposedly they will help me see if any ticks are starting their journey up my body) tucked over my pant legs, and my heavy work boots.
  • a head covering (a gaiter, really) over my hair and my hat
  • goggles over my glasses. I have learned from experience that in these surroundings you must protect your eyes.
  • belt pack – the phone is securely zipped inside in and the ringer turned on in case I lose it. I carry it because we sometimes need to consult the PERT app’s GPS to make sure we are within our plot boundaries. I think we can also mark trees via GPS but I haven’t caught on to that yet – soon!

OK! Let’s go!

Here is a view down the hill. You can orient yourself by understanding that the trail is on the right of the electric pole. I am standing inside our plot looking straight down the hill.

We walked down to the other end, at the bottom of the hill. Here is a view uphill – the trail is now on the left. You see our blue tool bag – it’s located about the middle; and that is my husband heading into the undergrowth.

Today we decided to get right to work on clearing invasisves. The trees were in good shape a week ago and don’t need attention right now. We have made good progress through our own efforts and with the help of the PERT’s mechanical clearing some weeks back. This view shows how far back these efforts have pushed the undergrowth – when we started, it was within 10 feet or so of the trail.

Here is the area where I worked last week. The debris is dying/dead and turning brown. I spent a little time stomping around on it to settle thing for easier walking. You may notice that there is a tree trunk on the ground there. Last week, it was hidden under the growth.

This photo shows last week’s work to the right and to the left, a portion of what I want to work on this week. See that little pink tag to the right? It marks the dead tree we uncovered at the end of last week’s session.

You know, when you go into a big green mound like this, you have no idea what you might find. I used my technique of clipping stems and vines that were on the outside of the mound, taking a little at a time. Eventually this process leads to being able to get inside the growth and start taking out things from the ground level…but first you have to get there.

I found that this clump was full of wild roses, some wineberries, and a lot of honeysuckle and porcelain berry vines. I found honeysuckle vines as big around as two-three fingers. That means they have been in place a very long time.

Well, after a while, the answer as to what was inside this mess emerged. See those bare branches? That is a dead spicebush. It had served as a support for all the other plants.

Here is the same picture but closer. Note the pink-tagged dead tree to the right. Yes, it is the same one I mentioned earlier. I did a lot of clearing today all right.

The spicebush, it should be cut down, it’s dead. I will mention this to Maria Paula at PERT one day. I did find that there is another spicebush right behind it, but alive. Next week I will work to free it as I clear more in this area.

My husband worked a section to the left of mine. Here is his work.

I later cleared that small bushy area to the right while he was re-staking a tree. Just a couple of skinny rose canes and some honeysuckle.

Now we’ve got a nice big swath cleared. We will continue to work in this area, heading to the back of our plot. I think things will get easier there because there is more shade and not as much invasive growth.

Well, that is is for today. Thanks for coming along.

What’s New at the Farm Park

My husband and I took a walk this morning at the Norristown Farm Park. There was nothing exciting about it, really – but being outside on a cool morning in June, before 7 AM, and traveling a circuit of 4.5 miles or so around a place we are familiar with and yet always surprises us – it seems worth noting.

I’ll show you the photos and let you see.

We park at the East Norriton admin building/township park. The bocce court is open this summer, after being closed all last year.

The corn continues to grow up through the golden remnants of the winter cover crop.

I remembered to take a photo of the symbol for the Montco Trail Challenge – a trout. Very fitting for this park with a stocked trout fishing creek running through it, and its own trout fishery up on the hill near the hay barn.

Near the Getty Cottage, at the main entrance to the park from Germantown Pike, we decided to take the loop around the large field that fronts the road. We split up here, going in opposite directions, to meet and continue on together later.

I headed toward the road and turned along it. The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society has been developing a learning garden here for some time. It’s now taking form.

These buildings, right up on Germantown Pike, have become an area related to the garden, though I don’t know how, exactly. Looks to me as if they have building materials here. I wonder if they are meant for the greenhouse that’s to be built?

I continued around the field. I am always struck by how, if you look in one direction, into the park, the scene is so rural:

… and then you turn to the other side and face the highway and the hospital and the suburbs…

I’m seeing these plants all along the edges of every field. I don’t know what they are – I think last summer is the first time I have noticed them. I photographed some detail and will look them up.

I also took this photo of a flyer in a kiosk to remind me to look up the park’s programs. In the past they had quite a few events, walks, and nature sightings to choose from. There was nothing last summer but this year is different.

Well, that’s about it. Thanks for coming along.

In Which I Aim at My 15 Minutes of Fame

You decide. A new icon or what, right here right now?

I am at the Allentown Art Museum on 5/30/21 posing in the kids’ area with this cutout.

Kind of nice how my mask goes with this color scheme, right? Now, here I am in my coy pose.

Icon for sure, if for no longer than it took to snap these photos. Right!

Reforesters Update – 5/31/21

Here’s another chapter in the West Power Line Corridor tree saga, starring me and my husband. We arrived at the Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust about 8 AM today, ready to work. After two days of cold and rain, the weather had broken and the day promised to get sunny and warm. We thought it would be a good time to visit our trees and do some more work.

Here’s a view from the top of our plot. As you can see, there is a lot of green, but it’s not bad green. In this area here, we’ve gotten the invasives pretty much under control – not too hard since the larger trees shade the area well and the invasives are looking for sunny spots. These are just weeds.

We set our work bag in the middle of the plot (the blue blob you see). We have a bag of pruners, goggles, hats, gloves, and other items we need out here, and the blue color helps up find our way back to the bag no matter where we set it. My husband is walking up the hill coming toward the bag.

If you turn and look the other way – that’s the PERT office. I told you we were not far into the park at all. And as I also told you, it’s nice to be so close to the bathrooms and our car if we need anything. Luxury!

Since it is the end of the month we will be making our report, so we planned to count trees. I am sorry to report that we still do not have a good count. We keep finding new ones, or we get confused in the ins and outs of our plot, which still has a lot of overgrown areas.

We did find a couple of small volunteer trees, a maple and two sassafras, and we marked them with pink tape. Maybe you’ll have to take my word for it but there is a tiny tree tagged pink in there.

There is also poison ivy. I left the area quickly – you may remember my epic case from a couple of years ago and now I am very respectful of it.

After counting trees, we gotto work clearing invasives. Last time I removed a lot of wild rosebushes and wineberries from the area where I started to work on today – I wanted to get another section removed.

Now, this picture does not look that exciting, but I took out a solid block of thicket from in front of that large spicebush. You can see it now – before it was part of a large green mound, with vines snaking up it. Spicebush is not a tree, but this one is as large as a tree and can provide shade – so it has a place in the scheme here. I was happy to make its life a bit easier.

And here is a wider view, showing today’s work on the left and last session’s work on the right.

My next target – this area to the left of what I cleared today, which you see I have squarely in my sights in this photo…

How about a closer view of my enemy?

In our work today we found another tree site. No, you are not wrong, there is no tree here – it was completely buried inside some of this overgrowth and died. The sight reminded us of why we are here – to keep the trees from being swallowed up like this one. It was of course quite dead. The invasives grow much faster than the small trees and they have no chance if they are not protected. It’s not like in a forest, where the larger trees keep the invasive growth down.

Well, that’s the story for today. I know that these photos seem to repeat the same thing, week after week – a sea of green. It’s hard to tell how things are going. Take it from us, we are making progress. We have cleared about 30 trees and continue to keep them free of invasives, and we have removed a lot of wild roses and wineberries and today, even some wild raspberries.

Maria Paula, who is in charge of this project at the PERT, is going to be evaluating our area, along with all the others, for possible tree plantings in October. I hope that we will qualify for some new trees. I think that would be fantastic.

Until next time!

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