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!

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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Beginnings

A couple of days ago my husband and I were at the Norristown Farm Park for an early-morning walk.

The fields have been planted. I am going to show you several sites in corn, the green shoots just rising out of the remains of the winter cover crop. The pictures tell the whole story, so I will stop talking, and let you look.

Neighborhood Odds and Ends

Last weekend my husband and I visited our son, daughter-in-law, and baby granddaughter in Washington DC. Most of our time was spent marveling at, playing with, and hugging the baby, who was born after the pandemic started. This was our second visit with her and the first time we got to hold her.

But, we wouldn’t be who we are if we didn’t nose around the neighborhood a bit. We took a couple of nice walks and you know, there was a lot to see. I’ll do more photographing in a later visit, maybe. Here are just a couple of things that caught my eye.

Lots of houses are getting renovated in my son’s neighborhood. Lots of them are red brick being painted over in colors. The most popular hues are blue, gray, and white. I like the look of painted brick. I liked this house in particular – the blue is almost a purple, but not quite, and that red door grabbed my eye.

I was also taken by the array of electric and gas meters. Some people think they are intrusive. I don’t know, I just like the geometry of the composition, maybe.

Lots to look at in this one building, right?

Then, there are other houses not yet being remodeled. I like the look of this place. It’s got a nice bit of tangle and wild to it. I really love an ivy-covered brick wall, and don’t tell me how destructive the vine is to mortar – I don’t care.

If I owned this house, I would leave it just as it is.

Here is another building needing renovation and I hope that it gets it. It’s a Little Free Library in my son’s neighborhood. One day it may be ready again for books, but…

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.

L-Ott’s of Flowers

Last weekend my husband and I took a drive out to Schwenksville, PA, to Ott’s Exotic Plants. We were looking for some flowers to plant, yes, and also for a low-key outing. We found both at this place.

Ott’s is a landmark of 60 years or so. At that time, this location was way far away out in the country, and yet they attracted business from all over because of their plant selection. I have seen the store many times. Bbefore we were married my husband lived a few miles from here, and also, it is right across the street from the Perkiomen Trail and near a major intersection.

But guess what, I have never stopped here to look around. So this is my first visit, probably 35 years+ after first setting eyes on it.

And, before I go any further, I must mention the Mum Mountain. According to this story from 2015 by a local TV station, the soil left from grading the parking lot formed a mound, and it became a tradition to plant it solid with chrysanthemums. As you may expect, it drew onlookers and is a local landmark.

You can read the story I mentioned or search the internet under the term Ott’s mum mountain and click into the Images section to see many years’ worth of mum mountain scenery. I am not sure they did it in fall 2020 or if they plan to continue the tradition going forward. The company doesn’t have a website and info is hard to get. Anyway, if you look to the left of this fairy-tale cottage entrance to the store, you see the edge of the “mountain”. Right now it has the carcasses of dead mum plants neatly arrayed in rows, from whenever the display was last done.

But…But…But…

It’s not mum season. It is spring! And we are looking for color and brightness and new plant life. Let’s check out the place.

As you come in from the parking lot, you notice the domed greenhouse to the right. It’s an environment made just for people to wander into – nothing is for sale. My understanding is the building dates from the 1960’s.

Inside is a pond with fish, plants, and there is a walkway you can follow up and over the archway into the “selling” greenhouse.

As we stood looking at the fish, we noticed a cat come from above, work its way around the pond (ignoring the fish) and finally, lie on the railing, all the while paying us no attention.

Well, what do you know. And guess what, this is not the only cat we saw on the premises. Every single one of them was intent on its own business and ignoring the many customers.

Now I will show you the greenhouse.

Yes, it is enormous, and packed full of a variety of plants, flowers, small trees, herbs, cacti…you name it, I think you will find it here. We even saw a grapefruit tree high above us with a nice crop of fruit.

We had a wonderful time wandering the aisles, and we certainly found some flowers to take home. I don’t have words for how beautiful it was, so I will just show you the photos.

We paid for our plants and headed for the car through the outdoor display of pansies. I love pansies, but they are early spring flowers and I had not gotten here at the right time (to my way of thinking) to purchase them for home. Sure don’t mind looking at them, though.

What a rejuvenating experience this visit was. I will certainly return.

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