Tornado and Cornfield

A few weeks ago Hurrican Ida visited my area, southeastern Pennsylvania, and left flooding in its wake. You may have seen photos of a highway in Philadelphia that looked like a canal – the Vine Street Expressway in Center City was flooded with muddy water from the Schuykill River. And that was just one episode among countless stories of floods, wind, and destruction.

I showed you photos of flooding damage along the Perkiomen Creek in an earlier post: look here.

I’ve lived in this area for 40+ years, never seen anything like it, never want to do so again. Our house was spared any damage, for which I am thankful. However, a tornado (one of several in the area) touched down about 5 miles from my house and left a swath of destruction that is still being cleaned up and/or assessed. Some of our favorite areas along the Green Ribbon Trail are now forests of topped trees with their leaves blown off, clear sky where there was shade and green before the storm.

And a lot of people lost roofs, trees, parts of their houses, and there was injury and death as well. My heart goes out to all who are just entering a recovery from this storm.

Tornadoes are dangerous. Goes without saying, but until you see it with your own eyes, the level of dectruction is hard to imagine.

A few days after the storm we were walking along the Power Line Trail in Horsham. One area is planted in corn. Take a look.

I grew up in Tennessee and tornadoes were an annual feature, but they are not common in Pennsylvania. We had tornado drills in school and in one memorable storm a house near us was cut in half, the middle destroyed and the two sides left standing, as the tornado plowed through its middle.

It’s a characteristic of tornadoes to bounce and weave their way across the countryside. An area totally destroyed can be right beside one left untouched. That’s what you see here with this cornfield. Notice the flattened areas next to an intact row. That’s how precisely a tornado can move.

I’m still shaken, remembering that day through these photos.

Next time your area has a tornado warning, think of these photos and go straight to your basement. That’s your best chance. If you are outside, look for a low spot in the landscape, such as a ditch or culvert. Cover yourself if you can to protect against flying debris. Most of all, pay attention when conditions exist for tornadoes to form and take the warning seriously.

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.

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.

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.

Visit to the Allentown Art Museum 5/30/21

A visit to a favorite museum.

Claudia McGill and Her Art World

Our weather has been chill and pouring rain and clouds and more rain for this weekend. But my husband and I knew what to do – visit the museum. Off we went to the Allentown Art Museum in Allentown, PA, on this date.

Two new exhibits have just opened and both were of interest to me. I’ll do a quick rundown and then show you how I participated myself into an exhibit. Sort of. Kind of. If you stretch the definition…

But I digress. Let’s go.

The first we viewed exhibit is called Roots. It focuses on art or craft made by community artists and what happens when the mainstream art world discovers it and appropriates it or redefines it.

The exhibit contained quilts, furniture, sculpture, beadwork, and imagery. Pieces made by the community artists were shown along with works inspired by or derived from, or in some cases…

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Reforesters Update – 5/16/21

This morning my husband and I stopped over at the Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust to do a checkup on our trees there. As you know, we are caring for small trees and clearing an area known as the West Powerline Corridor of invasive plants.

Today is our 34th wedding anniversary, and this is how we chose to start things off for another year. With our trees in a favorite place we have known for some time.

All right. We’ve made a couple of stops here since my last update, but have done no major work. One thing that did happen in the interim is that the PERT staff cleared some of the undergrowth using machinery, as they had mentioned in our orientation session. There were some sections that would not have been practical for us to clear, and once we had located the trees, they knew where they could do some quick cleearing for us.

You can see in this photo looking down the trail that goes next to our plot many piles of dried up brush piled up ready to be taken away, from that clearing session.

Believe me, this is a big help. Some of the thickets were almost impenetrable and with hand tools it was very difficult to work our way through. We had made some “tunnels” to some of our trees but getting more clearing done would have been very slow. Some of these wild roses have stems as thick as my finger and threaten me with millions of thorns on each one. Never mind the arching wineberry that weaves itself together into linked-arm squadrons!

Now we have more access to the interior of the plot. You can see there is a lot of work to be done still.

We decided to start at the bottom of the hill today and work up. We cleared trees (honeysuckle vines being the most troublesome – they grow quickly and snake right up the wire cages into the tiny trees’ crowns almost as you watch).

Today I focused on removing overhanging branches of spicebush, so that some larger “teenager” trees, as we call them, could have more light. I also decided to tackle a section of brush enclosing a circle of trees, that I had previously cleared.

The work consisted mostly of taking out – yes, you guessed it, roses and wineberries – but I was also able to access a couple of larger trees with vines growing up into their branches and cut them at the base. Such vines inhibit leaf growth which the tree needs to survive not to mention adding weight that eventually snaps limbs.

Look at this photo. To the right is the area I cleared – to the left is what it looked like before, and is the area I will attempt to work with next time.

You might ask what I do with all the trimmings I remove. The answer is, I put them on the ground and stomp them good. They will wither and dry up and their presence might help keep down some re-growth for a bit. We were told that it was fine to leave the clippings and cuttings where they fell by PERT and I only remove them if I have to for better footing or the like.

My husband worked on accessing the back line of the plot. There are some small trees along that area that need attention and we can’t easily get to them. Maybe you can see him; that speck of red is his shirt, in the middle of the photo.

Well, that is the update. The trees pretty much look healthy and even the weakest ones are hanging in there and putting out some leaves. Crossing fingers that everyone keeps growing and reaching for the sun.

Visit the Museum See Rembrandt, Dresses, and Pottery, and Enjoy Yourself.

The title of this post sums up a trip my husband and I made to the Allentown Art Museum in Allentown, PA, on January 30.

But… how about some details?

First off, Rembrandt. Long story short, the Museum was presented with a painting some decades ago that was originally thought to be done by Rembrandt, then not, and now…with new research and conservation techniques, it turns out it really is! For the whole story from the museum’s site, look here, and for my version, I’ll tell you right now.

I’m not a fan of Rembrandt’s work, really, but this painting is very important to the museum and the reattribution of it to the painter was thrilling. So I wanted to find out more. It’s a picture of a young lady:

The exhibit is set among other paintings of its period, but with a full explanation of the research that was done to verify the painter’s identity. I show you the center panel of a large horseshoe-shaped display – and I was interested to see that they had a guard on the painting, standing just as close as this the whole time. Well, it’s not surprising, is it? This painting is a celebrity.

We were able to get quite close to the image and examine it. For some reason, I was most taken by the rendition of the jewelry the woman wore, and her clothing details. Up close, they look like abstract color – step back, beautiful sparkling lively gems and metals. It was like magic to see this happen.

We also looked around the rest of the works in the room. Some are familiar friends (St. Margaret, who we met when we came to the Museum’s scavenger hunt a while back). Others I had not noticed before – such as this picture of a mother and baby. I thought, what if my little granddaughter had to wear outfits like that? She would not be very comfortable, plus, think about how hard it would be to get something like this clean. Because you know babies do not worry about the effects of their actions on their clothes!


We next visited an exhibit I was particularly interested in – New Century, New Woman, which viewed women’s fashions in the context of women’s changing roles in society in the period 1900-1920 or so. Now, for me personally, fashionable I’m not, and I wear a version of the same thing day after day. Dpending on the time of my life, this has consisted of little girl pouffy dresses, schoolgirl knee socks, teenager 1970’s pants, and then at work, suits and dresses and pumps – and for the last 25 years, jeans or shorts, t shirt or turtlenecks, and all in the same colors of black, gray, white, and blue.

But I LOVE looking at fashion. And as aside, this museum has a focus on textiles – fiber objects comprise a big collection and the museum presents many exhibits of various aspects of this field. You see some beautiful works that other museums don’t seem to show as often or as well.

So, fabric! Historic clothing! This exhibit was made for me! Let me show you some photos.

One thing that struck me was how tiny the dresses, and by extension their wearers, were. It’s hard to tell from these photos, but these women were short, 5 feet tall being average, I think. I can’t express how diminutive the waists and how narrow the width of the shoulders were. The shoes I saw were for tiny skinny feet. The long sleeves of the dresses would have been more like 3/4 length on me. It gave me a new perspective on the photos I see of women from this time – likely I would have towered over them at 5’6″.

I also was entranced by the details of the dresses and the amount of hand-sewing needed to make these beautiful embellishments. Because none of these clothes were sewed with a computerized programmed pattern embroidery machine or serger, were they? No, they were not. Each dress had several people directly creating it with their hands and needles.

I hope to go back to the museum and look this exhibit over again.


The last stop in today’s tour was a ceramics exhibit, the work of Toshiko Takaezu. Her work exhibited here, and much of her career work, focused on non-functional closed forms – she made vessels entirely enclosed except for a small hole so that air could escape during firing.

She was interested in, among other things, the idea of the mystery of an interior that you could never see – you can only judge the vessel by its exterior. I found it an interesting idea. Think about it. There is a whole inner world to these vessels that you know is there, just on the other side of those clay walls, but you cannot get to it. All you have is what you see on the outside.

Some of these vessels were small – you could hold them. In fact, she sometimes fired them with clay balls inside so that they would rattle. While we were there the display intermittently played the sounds of several of her works being shaken. It was soothing, strangely enough, to listen to them.

And then, as you can see from the photo, some of these creations are huge – as tall as I am. That takes a lot of skill to construct and to fire such work. I am respectful of that effort and I marvel at the results.


On our way out, I bought a couple of postcards of local sights in the gift shop. We emerged into a cold but sunny day. Here is a look at the Arts Park across the street. Events are often held here and even in pandemic times, there have been arts walks through the cultural district here.

So there is our trip to the Allentown Art Museum. I recommend a visit to the museum if you are in Allentown – you will enjoy it, and you will learn something new each time.

Art Drop-Off 11/24/20

Another trip around the Nana Loop* four mile circle on this date, and what did I do? I left another set of tiles on the little concrete wall at the culvert at the little bridge on Penllyn Pike.

I leave tiles here a lot. And they get picked up fast. Let’s do it again today.

Well, you know I try not to get caught setting out art in public. But today, my husband and I were talking and we didn’t hear a dogwalker coming up behind us. Luckily, he paid no attention but kept right on going.

*Nana Loop – we walk a four mile circular route in Penllyn PA that wanders through neighborhoods, a park, along the road in front of three Wissahickon school district schools, past a chicken coop, a Little Free Library, through a nature trail on protected land…and there is a section that goes through the condo development where my in-laws lived when I first knew them – this walk is named for what her grandchildren called my mother-in-law – Nana.

A Tiny Environment Revisited

Do you remember this little scene from a post I did about a walk I took near the Glenside Library in Glenside, PA, a few weeks ago? It was a small concrete planter set in front of a house.

I was in the neighborhood again just last week. Here is an update.

And the two together.

Montco Trail Challenge #10 – 202 Trail 9-13-20

Good news! The Montgomery County PA Trail Challenge is on for 2020. We will be walking trails in our county to meet the goal of visiting 10 local trails. For my post with a full explanation of the challenge, look here. And here is the challenge website.

Now we have met the goal of the challenge – visiting 10 trails on the list!

On September 13, my husband and I visited the 202 Trail to accomplish the goal. Now, let me back up a little and say, we’ve decided to try to get to all the trails on the list – there are 13 – plus adding two wild cards for a total of 15. But with this walk we met the official goal and I’m going to send in our ID photos to the county as our entry.

And speaking of ID photos, here are the ones from this trip:

Let me tell you a little about this trail. It runs alongside Route 202, a major highway through the Philadelphia area – it begins in Delaware and according to Wikipedia, ends up in Maine. We are not going that far today.

We parked at the County Line Road parking lot (the counties being Montgomery and Bucks). Our car was lonely – there was one other vehicle in the lot.

Now, I’ll confess. I don’t like this trail and I would not choose to travel on it except for meeting a requirement of this challenge. Why?

Well, US 202 is a busy highway and this section is a parkway of sorts – there are a few stoplights on the 8+/- miles or so, but mostly it’s set up for cars to move along quickly. The intersections are enormous, usually 6 lanes, and if you have to wait for a light, you…wait…and…wait.

This section of 202 is fairly new and a bike access/trail component was required for its approval. This trail is part of that component. (If you can believe it, they have made a tiny bike lane on the actual highway. I have never seen anyone use it, though the trail itself does get a good bit of bike traffic.)

Now, don’t get me wrong. If you are driving this road, it’s great – a curvy hilly route that simplifies trips to Doylestown, say – cutting down travel time and offering some pleasant scenery.

The trail, though…it runs close to the road. Sometimes it veers away a little and there is a bit of land between you and the traffic:

But mostly you are quite close to the traffic. And those feeble fences will do nothing to stop a car taking a curve too quickly. You never have to go far to see where a car has crashed through, in fact.

I guess you see I don’t like this trail at all, in fact. I can’t remember the last time we chose it for a walk or run. It scares me, it’s noisy, crossing its intersections is annoying, and it scares me.

So, as I said, we started off at County Line Road and headed to the Montgomery County side. We did a couple of miles and then returned to the car. Enough.

I left some tiles at the parking lot.

So, there is the story of today’s trip. I’m happy we made the official goal and I am looking forward to completing the “bonus round”!

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