circling around the kettle

11.4.20 ~ Kettle Hole Trail
Ledyard, Connecticut

Kettles form when blocks of ice are broken off of the glacier and then buried in drift. When the retreating glacier melts, so does the block of ice, leaving a depression. Kettles can be very small and hard to find if they are obscured by foliage, and if the water remained in the hole, they can become lakes.
~ Jessica Cobb
(Connecticut’s Landscape Is the Story of Glaciers website)

a stone wall surrounded most of the kettle,
it’s hard to see how far the land drops down beyond the wall

While trying to learn more about glacial erratics online I discovered kettles, and learned that we had one nearby. And so Tim & I were off to have a look at Kettle Hole in Ledyard. A loop trail circles along the perimeter. Well, it was very large and easy to find, even though it was obscured by foliage, and was not filled with water. Unfortunately, this kettle was not easy to capture in a photograph, its depth (perhaps about 50′ – 15m) just didn’t show up in a flat picture. Sigh.

Tim thought the drop might be more visible from this angle
this rock looked like it had started to tumble into the kettle

All the same, we had a very pleasant walk on a lovely autumn day. And enjoyed photographing other things. We’ve had some rain here and there so our drought level has dropped to moderate, so we’re headed in the right direction.

rotting log covered with moss
not sure what to make of this,
it looked like a miniature fern growing out of and lying on top of the moss

All through autumn we hear a double voice: one says everything is ripe; the other says everything is dying. The paradox is exquisite.
~ Gretel Ehrlich
(The Solace of Open Spaces: Essays)

acorns and oak leaves on moss
fading fall colors
princess pines ♡ little fairy forests in my mind
spotting these evokes sweet memories from my childhood

The green branchlets and stems of princess pines stay fresh-looking all winter, and they stand out prominently on the dry browns of a forest floor. Being evergreen like that may have contributed to the name, even though princess pines do not make pine cones. People often collect the tough, pliable plants and make Christmas wreaths and lush table arrangements out of them. They last a long time that way, despite the dryness of life on bare walls and tabletops. All you have to do is soak them in water for an hour or so to revive them. Although princess pines do a fine job of evoking holiday spirit, I do not want to encourage you to go out and collect great heaps of them every year. So many people are doing it already that some of these plants are in danger of being wiped out.
~ Curt Stager
(Field Notes from the Northern Forest)

40 thoughts on “circling around the kettle”

  1. I really like the many leaves of different shapes and colors. The acorn caps are also a favorite. But the princess pines are intriguing as I’m not familiar with them but I love your description of a little fairy forest. Maybe my Irish heritage is to blame but the thought of little people moving, singing and dancing about these miniature ground pines is a wonderful image. I see that they are native to the eastern United States so maybe that’s why I’m unaccustomed to these pretty little plants.

    When I was younger I dreamed of having a terrarium that housed Lilliputians. I would clothe, feed and care for my little people like some kind of demi-god, haha. My own Garden of Eden. And I would be benevolent. I have never told anyone about this but the princess pines are evocative!

    Thanks again for yet another interesting post. I awoke and saw the “By the Sea” email and a smile crossed my face.

    1. I spent many an enchanted childhood hour lying on the ground in the woods, watching the fairies in their little forests. Especially in the fall and winter because the green was so striking in the midst of a carpet of brown leaves or a blanket of white snow. I guessed the princess pines were pretty warm because the snow would melt in a little circle surrounding each one. To have kept that memory of childhood wonder is a blessing. I like the sounds of the Lilliputian terrarium you imagined. 🙂 (And am happy to know you would have been a benevolent creator!) Maybe next time I see some of these I will try to get a picture from ground level.

        1. Oh yes, Leelah. But not since I’ve grown up, although I keep hoping. But then again, I don’t lie down on the ground the way I used to. Lucky you to see one in the Swiss Alps! 💙 (I flew over the Swiss Alps once and felt a pull to be down there. It must be a magical place.)

      1. Ah, perspective! Isn’t it interesting how perspective can change the way we view something.

        Yes, I was a benevolent creator. My people were always happy, haha. But please don’t tell anyone that I see little people in my mind’s eye because they’ll have me committed! 🙂

  2. A goof reminder that glaciers were one of nature’s great depositories. Love how not only are the images in the spirit of the season, they blend different stages of life. Have a good weekend, Barbara.

    1. Thank you, Frank. That’s what the woods seem to be teaching, that all phases of life are happening together, rotting logs right next to new saplings, dead leaves and thriving mosses. The circle of life. Best wishes for a good weekend to you, too.

        1. Thanks, Frank, but I don’t feel that wise. Lately I’ve been feeling like I missed a lot over the years, but at least my curiosity is still intact. 🙂

  3. I first saw ground cedar in Door County, Wisconsin, and now I find it in the North Woods near the UP where my son lives. It is a wonderful plant and I hope people don’t remove it from the woods. I love your pictures. It IS hard to convey depth in a a photo, isn’t it? I’ve had the same problem. You sure live in a beautiful corner of the world!

    1. Thank you, Melissa. Now I know why some filmmakers are so devoted to perfecting 3D technology. 🙂 You know, it’s funny, but growing up I never had the urge to pick one of these and take it home.

      I never heard of ground cedar and so looked it up. It’s different than a princess pine, although they are both clubmosses, which aren’t true mosses, being more closely related to ferns. I found this blog post which shows pictures of both and a good explanation of the difference. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a ground cedar in this neck of the woods.
      https://blog.nhstateparks.org/princess-pine-a-tale-of-two-misnomers/

  4. Your last photo of the princess pines is delightful. They’re so cute and green. I know I’ve seen them but didn’t know that was the name for them. Your region is lovely.

    1. They are adorable and so cheerful. My mother told me they were princess pines when I was a little girl. And she identified those tiny flowers called bluets for me. Probably the only two plant names from the woods that I remember from childhood. 🙂

  5. A Lovely autumn walk in the Northern woods! I have seen “fairy pines” I believe in my many journeys within the woods. I never heard of a Kettle before either though there may have been one on the land at Easton Mt in New York, several stone walls and depressions in forest along with large boulders standing in the middle of nowhere.
    I’m glad you had the opportunity to experience this.
    Great photos too!

    1. Thank you, Jeff! You know, when I first started blogging ten years ago I found plenty of inspiration for nature photography from the gorgeous photos you posted on your blog. So your compliment means a lot to me. Since New York was under that Laurentide Ice Sheet, too, I’m sure you had some kettles and glacial erratics in those woods, too. The range map of princess pines covers New York as well. So much to discover so close to home!

      1. Barbara,
        I’m honored and grateful to have my work/art be an inspiration! Nature is the inspiration of course and she is there for all of us to appreciate. The camera is a great tool to allow us to see beyond what we are looking at. As you use research to enlighten and inform you about what is around and even your extended family ancestors…

        1. Appreciating the myriads of connections this morning, Jeff. Inspiration, friendship, work, art, nature, cameras, research, ancestors, perception, delight — all woven together and part of the wonderful universe. 💙

  6. I love the princess pines! I’ve never seen or heard of them, but ‘fairy forest’ is such an imaginative description. And that mossy log? Such a beauty! Looks like a wonderful walk, and that’s a great quote by Gretel Ehrlich!

    1. Thank you, Debbie! The mossy log was quite a find, it was completely covered from one end to the other. There were other fallen trees nearby which made us wonder what it was about that particular log that the moss liked so much. 🙂

    1. Oh, wow, Leelah, you started me off doing a search on Jettegryte and now I am learning about the Scandinavian Ice Sheet. Can’t wait to talk to my sister when she finishes her current teaching semester. (She lived in Sweden for a year doing research for her geology PhD. I was so busy raising my children that I didn’t show sufficient interest in her passion back then.) The bug kettles you describe sound very enchanting.

      1. I vividly remember the first time I saw one of these at the southern coast of Norway, at our little summer hut – and my father told me that WATER had done this – and i saw how steady an ongoing soft influence on the hardest material yields so beautiful results

        1. What a wonderful moment to remember! Isn’t it amazing how a whole new understanding of the world can open up to a child when someone takes the time to teach them something new, something simple but awe-inspiring? Defining moments like these are precious. 💙

    1. You’re welcome, I certainly knew nothing about kettles before. 🙂 Yup, being on the southernmost border of New England we are the last to see the autumn colors peak. It has some advantages…

    1. Thank you, Donna! I think I still have much to learn about the geology of this area. It was fascinating how completely the moss covered that particular log, still wondering about it.

  7. This was a great Fall hike and one I would get much enjoyment out of. I like the contrast between the brown and dry leaves with the bright green of the princess pines and especially the moss glistening. I did not know about kettles, so once again I learned something in this blog post Barbara.

    1. So happy you enjoyed the walk, Linda! Next time I come across some princess pines I’m going to try to get down on the ground and and get an eye-level close-up of one. In the winter I won’t have to worry about bugs climbing onto me, at least I hope not! 🙂 I think I may know where there is another kettle in the area…

      1. I did enjoy that walk Barbara – you have a keen eye for what to photograph and what intrigues you, does me as well. I’m no fan of bugs either, believe me, so I would be reluctant to drop down on the ground if I couldn’t make a quick getaway and cold weather when the bugs hibernate for the Winter would suit me just fine.

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