Walk Through A Changing Landscape

Since my husband changed offices, from the city to the suburbs, he has been exploring different places to walk – necessary rehabilitation of his serious knee injury nine months ago. He has found some places we never knew existed. I’ll show you one today.

It’s the Gwynedd Wildlife Preserve, a property of Natural Lands, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and restoring land in the eastern PA – southern NJ area.

This property was a farm for over a century. It’s now located in suburbia, about five minutes from Montgomery County Community College (of poetry marathon and Senior Games fame). The idea is to return the land to a native state. The site has different areas in transition; there are a lot of open fields as well as some wooded areas.

The preserve also connects to the Green Ribbon Trail, which winds along within the Wissahickon Creek watershed. (We hope to connect with and check out this end of the trail soon; you might remember me mentioning it in connection with a section I frequent, some miles away, nearer my house).

My husband was very enthusiastic about the site. So we went for a walk there on Sunday morning, October 1. We parked in their tiny lot and started out up the blacktop road.

There are several well-marked trails designated by color, but you can wander around without worrying too much about it, as long as you have some sense of direction. I think I’ll just show you pictures and describe them, since we did just that – wander.

Here is what a lot of the place looked like. Mowed paths and long views. You would have no idea that a lot of people live very near.

This caterpillar crossed our path. The photo is blurry because my hand shook, not because he was moving so fast. We saw a lot of these little guys on the ground. I love them; I like their outfits and their sense of purpose.

There was a pile of split wood near the office/garage. Look at the insect holes – what a pattern.

I do not know what kind of tree this was but I liked the leaves.

This bush also is unknown to me, but I like the dark berries and the sparkly sunlight coming through the leaves.

How about this birdhouse? I loved the look of it up there on this tall pole.

A good portion of the site is wooded. We went through two sections, this one pictured here, and then we crossed the road into another section.

After we finished walking in the woods, we came to where a woods is being created. These trees have been planted with the idea that they will turn into a forest. We saw oaks, maples, sassafrass…of all ages and sizes. The white sheaths keep them safe from hungry deer.

I do know what this tree is. Hickory. This specimen was at the top of a hill, alone. A farm tree in the middle of fields, that has been its life. The big green cases hold the small brown nut; they dry on the tree and split open, and the nut falls to the ground.

And my favorite – milkweed. They are drying up, splitting open, and spreading their seeds. I LOVE milkweed. Just saying.

And here is some more milkweed, with some really well-turned out insects hanging on. I researched them and learned they are specimens of…the large milkweed bug. Yes, that is truly their name, and they feed on milkweed. There is something very satisfying about this straightforward name they have, isn’t there?

All right, there you have it. I’ll come back to this spot. It was tranquil, a place for contemplation and enjoying being alive.

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Bur Oak Update

The bur oak saga continues. Look here for our initial meeting…

I put the acorns into a bucket of water for 24 hours, as advised by some research my husband did on the internet about planting them.

The idea is that the ones that sink to the bottom, well, they are eligible for planting. The ones that are floating after 24 hours, sadly, will not germinate.

After the time was up, four of the acorns were sinkers. OK, on to round 2!

Once again, guided by the internet, we put them into a plastic bag with some dirt, and stored them in the refrigerator until we can plant them. Maybe in the next day or so. My husband said he will get a few deep pots for them – apparently these little guys put out a tap root that requires room. No shallow yogurt containers will do.

Here is the refrigerator scene. We will see what happens next…

Bur Oak

On Sunday morning, September 24, my husband and I took a walk in Norristown Farm Park. I’ve written a lot about this park, especially recently. We are exploring here, though we have been acquainted with the location for some years.

If you are interested in some information about this fascinating site, the former farm attached to Norristown State Mental Hospital, look here for a start.

Anyway, today we were walking. Near the former dairy barn and milk processing area, now the park offices we came upon a snowstorm of these odd items scattered on the ground underneath a tree.

They were just littered thick under our feet. I picked one up. I peered at it. An acorn. Yes, it was.

Here they are in the tree.

There was a little info plaque nearby. We learned that this tree is a bur oak (or burr, sometimes spelled). This particular tree has a historic ancestor tree. The plaque tells you all about it.

Well, we picked up some acorns with the idea that we could come home and see if we could get any seedlings to grow. Now, we’ve tried this before with acorns from a chestnut oak. We were doing well there, too, until we got overconfident and underestimated local hungry squirrels. This time we will be smarter and will protect the acorns until any seedlings are BIG.

But I am getting ahead of myself. We brought the acorns home and now we are researching how best to get them situated. It seems we need to soak these acorns for 24 hours; any ones that are floating after that point are not going to germinate. So we’ll try that and see if we brought home any possibilities. If not, well, we can always go back for more, as long as we do it pretty soon.

I took some pictures of the acorns. I am entranced by their shaggy beards, their overlapping scales, and their ghostly look. See what you think.

Tiny Travelogue

I don’t go far from home. I don’t travel much. I like being home. And lucky for me there is a seemingly endless supply of things to explore right under my (geographic) nose.

Today we decided to explore the Morris Arboretum. It was established on the grounds of Compton, the summer home owned by the wealthy Morris family starting in 1887, who collected plants and were interested in furthering horticultural education; it is now part of the University of Pennsylvania. Not located near the main campus, though – it is only about 15 minutes from my house.

We became members not too long ago – I thought it might be a good place for walking, especially for my husband, as he continues to gain strength after his knee injury. Believe it or not, in almost 40 years of living close by, I had never visited the site, though I had often thought of doing so in recent times, because I drive past it on my way to Chestnut Hill College (of poetry marathon fame!) all the time.

It is expensive for a single visit, but a membership could pay off for the two of us after three visits – and being members makes a quick stop just for a walk much more likely. I signed us up.  Today was a reconnaissance mission.

It was a stunning day – sunny, warm, and low humidity. We parked in the lower lot – other people had the same idea as us to visit the gardens on such a nice day – and walked up the hill to the main building. I noticed I could see the roofs of Chestnut Hill College across the way – it is next door.

We walked around the upper areas following paved paths past manicured lawns and many trees. I found some details interesting:

Small structures dotted the area as well as sculptures:

There were other attractions, such as a garden railway exhibit and a treehouse/walkway structure; fernery; rose garden. Today, these areas were crowded with families; even if they hadn’t been, they didn’t much appeal to me. If this had been all there was to the place, I would have been lukewarm on it. I will say, though, the level paths would make a nice circuit for an easy walk (or run, if you came on a non-crowded day).

We made our way back down the hill to the wetlands area. This section was deserted and quiet. Just birds, insects, trees…

Now I was interested. Look at this milkweed.

A bee was working very industriously at this flower head.

This dead tree’s stark appearance amid all the greenery made it a landmark.

Mowed paths guided us through this section. There was so much to look at.

My assessment of the arboretum: I thought the main area tame and uninteresting. The wetlands, fantastic. I could see visiting that section often just to see the changes in the landscape. I much prefer walking on grass to asphalt. Wilder to manicured. Full of detail to edited. I’ll come back and concentrate my attention on this area, I think.

It would be a great spot for a walk after a poetry marathon session or for my husband to visit during lunchtime. I’m glad we checked out the arboretum.

Egg and Extra

Lots happening along the Green Ribbon trail in Flourtown/Fort Washington, PA, today.

I left home early today and parked the car at the day use area along Mill Road. Headed down the trail and for a change, at the fork I went left instead of right, toward Stenton Avenue. I’m not sure why but I almost always go to the right fork first. Why I mention this fact will become clear, I assure you.

It had rained hard all day yesterday and things were still very wet today. I was skipping from puddle to puddle when I hit this dry stretch.

What is that in the middle of it? I got closer. Look! A robin’s egg, and guess what – no robin in it now, which means a new little bird somewhere in a nest nearby.

I felt sure it had been there since at least yesterday, since it had a little puddle inside it. And look, I match.

Well, I continued along my way, coming up to the last little bit before the trail ends at the gate at Stenton Avenue – the trail parallels the road here.

At this spot I heard a discreet beep of a car horn – not enough to startle me but enough to make me look. Guess who – my husband, driving by on his way to work. He pulled into the little area to say hello. He told me he had seen my car at the lot on the other side of the park – I’d left before him this morning –  and he knew I was in here somewhere, never thinking I’d up and appear. And I thought, what a good thing I went to the left rather than the right at the fork this time. What a nice surprise for us both.

So he turned around and went off on his way.

I did the same.

Later on, I came on this area where water is trapped when the creek overruns the banks. I was very taken by the reflections in the still water. Then I had the idea of throwing a stick in the water to stir things up. The trees became wiggly strands waving away at me. Now this amused me and I can’t say why.

I took a picture of this tree on April 19 and here it is on April 26. There is a lighter green hue to the groundcover now and it is taller.

Green Ribbon Tree 8 4-19-17 small

April 19

April 24

Here’s a warning – this nice-looking light green ground-covering plant is not nice. It has a Velcro-like stickiness to it and where it touches your skin, it will itch and burn, leaving no mark, just that maddening pain.

It grows all over this flood plain. My husband calls it “seven-minute itch weed” but I am here to tell you it can be with you more like seven hours, if you are dumb enough to run along a trail, bare-legged, brushing your legs past it at every step. Don’t do this. Wear long pants.

Finally, I ran up the hill to the bird stand and then back down the access road. Here are two birds that have got baby birds under their care – I heard the chirping. These two let me get quite near. I thought they were chickadees but I am not sure – they had a blue cast to their feathers? I am hoping my bird-expert friend Diane can tell me.

Well, I went on my way from here – the remainder of this very nice walk was uneventful but refreshing, in a light misty rain, and with lots to think about.

Cones, Simply

Yesterday my husband and I stopped by this parking lot to check on the Power Line trail – we wanted to see if the snow had melted and the way was clear for us to run on it again. (In case you are interested, yes, it was.)

This parking lot in Horsham is at the mid-point of the trail and serves the trail and adjacent ball fields, none of which are in use right now, of course. So, the lot is handling some other jobs – for one thing, the township piled a lot of snow there from the roads – there are some nice snow-mountains along the side. And, it’s a great place for these trucks to assemble when they are off-duty.

They are tree-trimming trucks and they belong to a company whose work consists of trimming trees for the electric company and municipalities. You see them everywhere in the winter.

Trucks 2-6-16 #1 small

And a closer look.

Trucks 2-6-16 #3 small

You know what caught my eye? The arrangement they each have on their front bumpers for carrying traffic cones. Yes, I was so intrigued by the ingenious way they were packed on to the truck. There are two methods. One is horizontal – the cones are set on a rod that is secured with a cotter pin.

The other is vertical – they are stacked in a bracket attacked to the bumper.

Think about it. Every road project, every construction site, any tree work – all of them need traffic cones to protect the site and the workers. You know this. You’ve seen it. And you’ve never thought about where the cones keep themselves when they are off duty, have you? Well, now you know.

I found it just fascinating to see these huge trucks all with their neatly stacked cones, all ready for Monday morning. I love the simple elegance of this solution. No one will ever be shouting, “Where are the #@&!* cones!” on any site where these trucks are at work.

Trucks 2-6-16 #2 small

A Lot of Trees in the Snow

This morning my husband and I took a walk on the Pennypack Trail in Lorimer Park. Now, they don’t plow the trail, so you can’t walk on it after it snows, until the snow melts. Or, you need to be willing to strap on your Yak-Trax and to pick your way along. We really wanted to get outside. So we chose the latter idea.

In the summer, you can’t see into the woods from the trail – it’s a green curtain. Not today. Each tree is clear and distinct. I love this view.

Lorimer 1-31-16 #3 small

Here are a couple of more snapshots. Nothing spectacular. I was just happy to be able to get outside after a week or so restricted by the snow – and to see one of my favorite places again!

 

Saying Good-bye, Slowly

We have a beautiful November day today, sunny, blue sky, breezy, and chilly. I have noticed that the leaves remaining on the trees and bushes are getting lonelier and lonelier each day as their less-stubborn neighbors let go and fly off. It seems so often that the last hangers-on are at the ends of the branches. I have wondered why.

On this bush next to my driveway I see an example – these two yellow leaves are about all that’s left, way out at the very tip of the branch. I took out my camera and snapped some shots, not looking at the screen but just sort of aiming in it the direction of the leaves and sky.

The portrait of the leaves is blurred – the wind kept them in motion, but they still stayed firmly attached.  Still, what beautiful colors, the blue and yellow! The bare branches make such a complicated pattern against the sky, one you don’t imagine exists when you see this bush in the summer just crammed full of leaves.

I’ll keep an eye on these two hold-outs and see how long they stay here with me. My guess is, not much longer, but I am glad I did have a moment today with them.

Can We Try This At Home?

A few days ago my husband and I were walking in the Fort Washington State Park when we noticed the acorns covering the ground under our feet. Upon examination, we realized these acorns looked a little different from the usual ones we see – these were a bit shiny, larger, and their caps were formed differently and seemed to fall off more easily.

We also noticed that these were the most enthusiastic acorns we’d ever seen – pretty much every one had a little sprout emerging from it, heading for the earth. Remember, these acorns were just lying on the ground’s surface – so these shoots were taking off on faith alone, heading through the air to where they wanted to be.

We looked up the tree – we think it’s a chestnut oak. Once we knew to look, we saw lots of them.

We got the idea to see if we could get any to root in a pot at home. Now I know this usually doesn’t work, but – why not? We took some likely candidates back with us, set them on the ground in this pot, and put it on the porch. Let’s see what happens…

Just Wandering Along

These photos were taken along the Green Ribbon Trail in Fort Washington State Park about a week ago. I was walking that day rather than running, and so I stopped over and over again as things caught my eye. I love this time of year.

Here is that beautiful red bush and a close-up of its berries. I love the red and black color scheme.

Green Ribbon 10-9-15 small Red berries 10-9-15 small

Next, I came on this huge entwined set of vines. My goodness, they were as thick as my wrist.

Tree with vines small #2 10-9-15

Tree with vines small #1 10-9-15

And a bit later, here’s an example of what I think of as a “Tarzan vine”; the park rangers cut them so that people don’t run into them, and I see them hanging down like this all over the trail. I don’t know why but I like them.

Tarzan vine 10-15 small

Next, I took pictures of this dead tree. I’ve photographed it before. It stands in a curve all by itself and commands attention. I feel almost as if it’s calling out, with that hole looking like a mouth to me.

Tree with holes #1a Green Ribbon 10-15 small

Tree with holes #1b Green Ribbon 10-15 small

The trail goes through a flood plain in this section, so there are a lot of dead trees stranded out in the scrubby undergrowth. They are left to decay as they like. I got interested in the number of holes in them – birds looking for insects.

Tree with holes #1c Green Ribbon 10-15 small

Tree with holes #3 Green Ribbon 10-15 small

These holes are not in trees but in the gateposts where the path crosses a road. Couldn’t resist taking a look inside with the camera…

And another interesting thing – this rotting tree is home to a thriving weed, growing in the crotch of the tree.

Tree with flowers growing in the Y 10-15

Interesting day out there on the trail!

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