wild azalea in the woods

5.26.21 ~ Sheep Farm, Groton, Connecticut

I had never heard of wild azaleas before. But on Wednesday, after not seeing each other for fifteen months, my good friend Janet and I took a walk in the woods where she spotted some huge blossoms, way in the distance and up in the trees. What a good eye she has!

all leafed out for the summer

Life is getting a little more back to normal… It was my first day out without Tim. Janet and I had a nice lunch out and then I got a chance to show her one of the walks Tim and I had discovered while in quarantine, at Sheep Farm. It was a lovely, sunny, breezy, late spring day.

part of Samuel Edgecomb’s grist mill’s water control foundation, c. 1750

I couldn’t get a good picture of the first blossoms Janet saw, too far away, but then, down by the little waterfall she noticed another bunch of them, much closer. We crossed the brook on a narrow little footbridge to get even closer and then I got some pictures!

little waterfall without much water
(I fear we’re on our way to another drought)

Wild azalea is a deciduous shrub that grows up to 15 feet tall. It likes moist soil near the edges of streams and swamps, but is also drought tolerant, attracting butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. They are native to North America.

part of the grist mill dam?

Enjoy the photos!

wild azalea
there is a Wild Azalea Trail at Kisatchie National Forest in Louisiana
aka honeysuckle azalea

Tell of ancient architects finishing their works on the tops of columns as perfectly as on the lower and more visible parts! Nature has from the first expanded the minute blossoms of the forest only toward the heavens, above men’s heads and unobserved by them. We see only the flowers that are under our feet in the meadows.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Walking)

aka mountain azalea
aka sweet azalea
aka hoary azalea

After admiring the blossoms ‘above our heads’ we appreciated the more common flowers ‘under our feet’ on our hike back to the car.

wild geranium
clover

It’s been a while since I’ve made note of our local coronavirus statistics. We have had 2,776 detected cases in our town. Connecticut has had 346,980 confirmed cases and 8,227 deaths. On May 26th we had 88 new cases. So it’s not over yet, even though we are feeling a sense of relief from being fully vaccinated. Overall, 1,855,397 people or 52% of Connecticut’s population has been fully vaccinated.

joe-pye weed?

Our governor held his last COVID-19 briefing. I started thinking of them as “fireside chats” every Monday and Thursday afternoon, and found his discussions about the numbers and his executive orders and the reasons behind them very wise and reassuring. In March more than 70% of Connecticut’s residents approved of Gov. Ned Lamont’s handling of the crisis. That includes us!

bark, fungi, lichen, moss (and a bird)

3.9.21 ~ The Merritt Family Forest, Groton, Connecticut

We had a lovely winding stroll through what’s becoming my favorite woods on Tuesday. It felt like a visit to an early spring outdoor art gallery. The weather was perfect and we encountered quite a few people along the way enjoying the sunshine.

Even though there were many birds chirping and flitting about I was only able to capture one of them with my camera!

tufted titmouse

And solitary places; where we taste
The pleasure of believing what we see
Is boundless, as we wish our souls to be.

~ Percy Bysshe Shelley
(The Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley: In Three Volumes)

Wednesday we went to have our income taxes done. It was the last thing we did last year before we went into self-quarantine. We double-masked up, not knowing what to expect, and our masked preparer waved us a greeting and unlocked the door. It was good to know they weren’t letting people wander in without appointments. Someone in the office had tested positive recently so most of the preparers were at home in quarantine but ours had been fully vaccinated so she was working in the office. Glad to see there was plexiglass and hand sanitizer everywhere…

So it’s been a year. We have both had our first vaccination shots. Tim gets his second Moderna on the 17th and I will get my second Pfizer on the 26th. Looks like our self-quarantine will officially end on April 9. Plans for the little ones (and their parents!) to come for a visit are in the works, most likely in May. It’s all I can think about!

Unlike animals, trees cannot heal a wound by repairing or replacing injured tissues. Instead they wall them off, compartmentalizing them by means of chemical and physical barriers, and subsequently form healthy new growth around them. A succession of organisms, from bacteria and fungi to slugs, insects, and other small animals, moves in to utilize the nutrients and spaces opened up by a tree wound. These organisms in turn provide an important food source for many birds and other animals who live in surrounding uplands as well as in the swamp.
~ David M. Carroll
(Swampwalker’s Journal: A Wetlands Year)

We will still wear our masks and practice social distancing in public, but I think we will go more places and are even looking forward to eating at our favorite restaurant again, starting outdoors until we feel comfortable going inside…

But, fair warning, these are the latest statistics: New London County now has 19,624 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Of those, 10 people are currently in the hospital and 417 have lost their lives. That’s 2,871 new cases since January 30 when I last reported. Will a day ever come when there are no new cases reported?

Connecticut’s positive test rate is now 3.07%. 25% of Connecticut residents have had their first dose of vaccine. Connecticut has had 7,752 deaths since the pandemic began. We are still averaging 7 deaths a day in the state. These are people and families are still being devastated by the loss of the their loved ones. Each and every one of these people represented by the numbers was the most important person in the world so someone. We still have to be very careful and not let our guard down.

My hope is, when we come out of self-quarantine, that we will continue with our nature walks and not get too swept up in the demands of a return to “normal” life.

It is easy to overlook this thought that life just is. As humans we are inclined to feel that life must have a point. We have plans and aspirations and desires. We want to take constant advantage of all the intoxicating existence we’ve been endowed with. But what’s life to a lichen? Yet its impulse to exist, to be, is every bit as strong as ours — arguably even stronger. If I were told that I had to spend decades being a furry growth on a rock in the woods, I believe I would lose the will to go on. Lichens don’t. Like virtually all living things, they will suffer any hardship, endure any insult, for a moment’s additional existence. Life, in short, just wants to be. But — and here’s an interesting point — for the most part it doesn’t want to be much.
~ Bill Bryson
(A Short History of Nearly Everything)

cloudy light, goldfinch, concert

11.27.20 ~ Sheep Farm, Groton, Connecticut

On Friday we returned to Sheep Farm, last visited early in April, so we still haven’t visited when the leaves are green. Maybe next summer on a low humidity day. Autumn colors were still pronounced on this lovely day.

glacial erratics in a golden and russet meadow
very cloudy day
leaf love
struggling to stay green
a burl
beech bark
beech leaf
waterfall from above
waterfall from below
right side of waterfall
left side of waterfall
beech with lichen
lichen on twig
?
loved the contrast between the green and the rusty oranges

Most of the birds we saw were too far away but I finally spotted this goldfinch, perhaps a juvenile or nonbreeding female. I was delighted even if he/she wasn’t brightly colored or willing to come out of the foliage.

American goldfinch
I see you!
loved this spot of yellow in the middle of the browns
telephoto shot of the yellow
?
contrast again between green and straw colors

And then, after such a wonderful day, that night I had a new experience, watching a livestreaming concert on my laptop. It was wonderful!

I’ve been a Mary Chapin Carpenter fan for years. My father introduced her music to me one night when he was watching a recorded performance she had on PBS. It must have been in the late 1980s. My father played the guitar and he and I shared a love of guitar-playing troubadours. He loved Woody Guthrie. I loved James Taylor. We both loved Mary Chapin Carpenter. I started buying Mary Chapin’s CDs and playing them while driving around town in our 1988 Dodge Caravan with our first CD player that came with the car.

my father and me

Then, one day in 2012, I found out that she was going to do a show on September 15 in a cabaret setting at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts in Storrs, Connecticut. Right there in the town where I grew up! But everything was falling apart in our lives at the time. Tim had been hospitalized for several days in August with a cardiovascular event, my failing 97-year-old aunt was being moved from elderly housing into my father’s house, and my father was ill and wheelchair-bound. Even so, Tim and my brother-in-law John held down the fort so my sister Beverly and I could go see the concert together. Mary Chapin talked a lot between her songs about her life and her music and it felt very intimate. It was such an extraordinary evening to share with my sister, who is also a fan.

This concert was special, too, livestreaming with two hours of music, but no talking in between the songs. It must be strange singing without being able to see and get feedback from your audience. Mary Chapin’s voice has gotten deeper over the years but is still beautiful and expressive. I found myself comfy and cozy on the couch, content to be enjoying the unfolding of a new memory.

autumn afternoon

10.17.20 ~ farm relic ~ Avery Farm Nature Preserve
Ledyard & Groton, Connecticut

We don’t usually take walks after lunch, but yesterday Tim had a lot of meetings in the morning so we decided to take an afternoon walk. We visited Avery Farm Nature Preserve back in May so this time we went back and took a different trail. We got some rain a couple of times last week, so it was good to see a brook with some water in it.

leaves in Ed Lamb Brook

There is still a lot of green on the trees, and mostly yellow on the ones that have turned. It was a challenge finding red or orange ones, but maybe they will appear next week when the colors are supposed to peak.

looking down Ed Lamb Brook
this tree with some root aboveground seems to be bound to the boulder
same tree, different angle, and an interesting assortment of orbs
sunlit sapling poking through leaf litter
bandit hiding behind glacial erratic
golden yellow
yellow and green
the largest glacial erratic of the day
tangle of twigs and leaves
crimson

I wonder what you are doing to-day — if you have been to meeting? To-day has been a fair day, very still and blue. To-night the crimson children are playing in the west, and to-morrow will be colder. How sweet if I could see you, and talk of all these things! Please write us very soon. The days with you last September seem a great way off, and to meet you again, delightful. I’m sure it won’t be long before we sit together.
~ Emily Dickinson
(Letter to Josiah Gilbert Holland & Elizabeth Chapin Holland, Late Autumn, 1853)

rusty orange
double burl
study in brown
mellow yellow
sunlit trail
burnt orange

The light was beautiful, the air crisp and delightful to breathe in. We even caught a whiff of smoke from someone’s woodstove. Quite a few excited woodpeckers were calling and flitting from tree to tree. Autumn. It felt good to be alive!

in the woods again

9.23.20 ~ The Merritt Family Forest, Groton, Connecticut
woodland aster (?)

Wednesday we took a walk in the woods at the Merritt Family Forest. This was our second visit — the first was in May — and this time we took a different trail. The sunshine coming through the leaves this time of year is exquisite. Tim felt good and kept going so we wound up walking for an hour and a quarter. I’m so happy we can get out in the fresh air once again!

goldenrod
sunbeams finding a glacial erratic
stone wall corner
patch of sunlight
Tim inherited a walking stick from his stepdad’s stepfather. It has a bicycle bell attached to it which he rang now and then to warn any bears of our presence.
autumnal sun
pincushion moss
fern bed
leaf and bug caught in abandoned web
bug eyes
are you a fly or a bee?
forest meets meadow
dragonfly!
dragonfly on aster
American burnweed (?)
goldenrod
severe drought has left Eccleston Brook completely dry

Looking forward to many more autumn walks, but hoping for some rain, a good soaking rain, to keep us inside sometimes. There have been a few forest fires in Connecticut so far, but they are nothing compared to what is happening out west.

A 1,000 lb. beefalo, now named Buddy, is still on the loose in the state after escaping slaughter several weeks ago. But he was last spotted about 70 miles from here, so we’re not too worried about an encounter. A GoFundMe page was created for him so he was purchased from his owner and when caught, he will be sent to Critter Creek Farm Sanctuary in Florida. $8,500 was raised to buy him and put towards his retirement. He’s on the news almost every night, with warnings to stay away from him because he is aggressive.

And of course, bears… The things one thinks about when wandering around in the woods.

persuaded to live with trees

5.14.20 ~ The Merritt Family Forest, Groton, Connecticut
a colonial stone slab bridge crosses Eccleston Brook
This property was acquired by the Groton Open Space Association
in May of 2008
5.14.20 ~ robin in the Merritt Family Forest
I loved the way this tree was growing on a flat stone “stage”

The tempered light of the woods is like a perpetual morning, and is stimulating and heroic. The anciently reported spells of these places creep on us. The stems of pines, hemlocks, and oaks, almost gleam like iron on the excited eye. The incommunicable trees begin to persuade us to live with them, and quit our life of solemn trifles. Here no history, or church, or state, is interpolated on the divine sky and the immortal year. How easily we might walk onward into opening the landscape, absorbed by new pictures, and by thoughts fast succeeding each other, until by degrees the recollection of home was crowded out of the mind, all memory obliterated by the tyranny of the present, and we were led in triumph by nature.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
(The Essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson)

living with trees

The Merritt Family Forest is part of a large block of forested open space. The upper portion includes a steep, rocky, wooded upland with a mature hardwood forest. Descendants claim the forest remained uncut since the family acquired the property in 1848. The lower portion includes a meadow, and hosts a Tier 1 vernal pool and two Class A streams – Eccleston Brook and an intermittent tributary. Eccleston Brook flows into Palmer Cove, Fisher’s Island Sound and Long Island Sound.
~ Groton Open Space Association website

glacial erratic
moss
ferns
5.14.20 ~ Jack-in-the-pulpit, side view
5.14.20 ~ Jack-in-the-pulpit, front view

I had an especially good time enjoying the paths through the trees on that lovely, warm spring day. And I had an enjoyable afternoon creating this post today, a month later. A pleasant memory to savor. It’s been rough the past few weeks, battling the poison ivy. Tomorrow will be my last dose of prednisone and it will be nice to say goodbye to its side-effects, for me, anxiety and a headache. It’s no fun being up half the night with a panic attack! I’m ready to start living again. 🙂

eastern towhee

5.7.20 ~ Avery Farm Nature Preserve
Ledyard & Groton, Connecticut

Back in April we had a great walk in the Candlewood Ridge open space property which led to a sand plain with a glacial erratic on top of a ridge in the distance. On May 7th we decided to explore the property north of it, Avery Farm Nature Preserve, and followed a trail to get to the elevation from the opposite direction.

5.7.20 ~ welcome!

This historic 305-acre farm spans the border of Ledyard and Groton in a scenic rural setting. It is contiguous to the 91 acre Candlewood Ridge property, Groton and Ledyard town-owned open spaces, and to the Town of Groton conservation easement on a 7-acre former cranberry bog. Combined, over 430 acres of habitat area are available for wildlife and watershed protection.
~ Groton Open Space Association website

Avery Farm is part of a critical large block of diverse wildlife habitats highlighted on the State of CT Natural Diversity Database maps: grasslands, hedgerows, early successional forest, oak-hemlock-hickory upland forest, Atlantic white cedar swamp, a habitat managed power utility corridor, forested peatlands, kettle type bogs, poor fens, multiple seeps, several Tier I vernal pools, Ed Lamb Brook, Haley Brook, and the southern portion of a 38 acre marsh.
~ Groton Open Space Association website

The walk through the woods was lovely as we ascended gradually. I took more pictures on the way to the overlook than I did on the return part of the loop trail, which went through a low wetland.

5.7.20 ~ Tim with a glacial erratic

What on earth is that noise? Who goes there?

5.7.20 ~ eastern towhee

A strikingly marked, oversized sparrow of the East, feathered in bold black and warm reddish-browns – if you can get a clear look at it. Eastern Towhees are birds of the undergrowth, where their rummaging makes far more noise than you would expect for their size. Their chewink calls let you know how common they are, but many of your sightings end up mere glimpses through tangles of little stems.
~ All About Birds website

As we were walking along we heard a lot of rustling a few feet off the path and I tried to get a picture of the bird making the commotion. The “best” one is above. At home I used my new bird identification app and learned it was an eastern towhee. Had to laugh when I read the description above. Our sighting was definitely a string of brief glimpses and the rummaging was quite loud!

5.7.20 ~ We finally reach the large glacial erratic overlooking the sand plain!
We approached from behind it.
5.7.20 ~ we did not sit in the chairs, keeping COVID-19 in mind
5.7.20 ~ view from the overlook across the sand plain,
down to where we were standing the month before
5.7.20 ~ taken with telephoto lens

Then we climbed down the steep trail to the sand plain and returned by the lower wetland trail. On that portion of our walk we encountered four people coming from the other direction. We always got six feet off the trail and let them pass, wondering if they would have done the same for us if we hadn’t done it first. One man was operating a drone which we couldn’t see but could hear buzzing nearby. Another man was jogging. And two women were looking for a waterfall. (I think they may have mistaken this property for Sheep Farm.)

5.7.20 ~ moss and lichen
5.7.20 ~ spotted wintergreen

The walk lasted about an hour and a quarter, our longest one yet. ♡

candlewood pines

4.17.20 ~ Candlewood Ridge, Groton, Connecticut

On Friday we tried the new-to-us park again and this time there was noone in sight at the trailhead – yay! This property was acquired in 2013. After crossing a little bridge over a brook we climbed up to Candlewood Ridge and enjoyed looking up and down the ravine on the other side. We followed the trails for over an hour. Tim’s legs and back did much better and I’m wondering if walking on the earth is better for him than walking on hard surfaces like pavement and concrete.

4.17.20 ~ crossing a stream, skunk cabbage

Candlewood Ridge is part of a critical large block of diverse wildlife habitats highlighted on the State of CT Natural Diversity Database maps: early successional forest, oak-hemlock-hickory upland forest, native shrubby and grassy habitat, forested peatlands, kettle type bogs, tussock sedge, poor fens, multiple seeps, several Tier I vernal pools, and streams.
~ Groton Open Space Association website

4.17.20 ~ almost to the top of the ridge
4.17.20 ~ a very tall bare tree trunk
4.17.20 ~ taken with telephoto lens, a huge boulder across the ravine

The songs of birds filled the air! A chickadee scolded us from a branch so close I could have reached out and touched it. But he flew off before I could lift the camera…

4.17.20 ~ the glacial erratics found here were fewer and more
widely spaced than the ones we saw in Ledyard’s Glacial Park

We followed the trail north along the top of the ridge and then it slowly went downhill until we reached a bridge across another stream. From studying the map it looks like the two unnamed streams join and then eventually merge with Haley Brook.

4.17.20 ~ second bridge on the trail
4.17.20 ~ a squirrel nest
4.17.20 ~ the little stream
4.17.20 ~ vernal pool?

All the green under the water (above) looked to me like drowning princess pines.

4.17.20 ~ taken with telephoto lens across the sand plain
4.17.20 ~ the sand plain with glacial erratic in the distance

We turned around here without crossing the plain and climbing that ridge!

4.17.20 ~ might these be the candlewood pines
(pitch pines) the ridge is named for?
4.17.20 ~ pussy willows
4.17.20 ~ one tree favors moss, the other lichens

Crossing the stream on the return trip, a tiny bright spot of yellow-orange caught my eye. What is it??? I used the telephoto lens to get a picture and tried to identify it when I got home. Hope I got it right. A mushroom.

4.17.20 ~ calostoma cinnabarinum, telephoto lens
(stalked puffball-in-aspic or gelatinous stalked-puffball)

Just before crossing the second stream on the return walk, a garter snake slithered across the path right in front of me. Startled, I then spotted him trying to hide in the leaves. Don’t think I’ve seen a garter snake since I was a child, sunning themselves on the stone walls around the garden.

4.17.20 ~ hiding garter snake

It was a wonderful walk!

4.17.20 ~ beauty in a vernal pool

I go to Nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in tune once more.
~ John Burroughs
(The Gospel of Nature)

two little waterfalls

4.7.20 ~ Sheep Farm, Groton, Connecticut

On Tuesday we took advantage of beautiful weather and took a very long walk at a new park that was created in 2010. We walked straight downhill through a forest to Fort Hill Brook, saw a small waterfall and then followed the stream down to another one. And then we climbed up a switchback trail to our starting point, a loop that took us an hour.

4.7.20 ~ first waterfall

The Sheep Farm has a diverse habitat including rocky outcroppings, glacial erratics, bluestem meadows, deep forest interior habitat, forest edge habitat, early successional forests, extensive wetlands, seeps, shrub swamps, a string of Tier 1 vernal pools, Class A stream – Fort Hill Brook, and two waterfalls.
~ Groton Open Space Association website

4.7.20 ~ moss and lichen on pretty striped boulder
4.7.20 ~ skunk cabbage

Twice we moved six feet off the trail to avoid other hikers, and spotted some people on other trails on the other side of the brook.

4.7.20 ~ we didn’t see one
4.7.20 ~ second waterfall

There was a better spot to take a picture of this waterfall, but, a woman was practicing yoga in a bathing suit behind the tree so this was the best I could do. 🙂

4.7.20 ~ I’m noticing boulders more these days
4.7.20 ~ almost there!

When we got back to the parking lot we had to find a rock to sit on for quite a while. A family had parked right next to our car and they were getting in and out of their car trying to sort something or other out. They were much closer than the required six feet for social distancing! But we enjoyed looking at some plantings while we waited patiently for them to leave.

We now have 11 detected cases of coronavirus in our town. Population: 39,075. (In 2017) I find myself preoccupied with statistics these days.