for it knew now where it was going

3.3.23 ~ Sheep Farm
remains of 18th century grist mill dam

We first came to this open space property three years ago, at the beginning of the pandemic, and have been here many times since. Since we know we’re going to North Carolina in a few months this visit seemed special because we were well aware that we may never pass this way again.

standing on top of the dam looking upstream at Fort Hill Brook

A few days ago I spent some time sorting through my “walks” index file, pulling our favorite walks out of the rotation so we might visit them one last time before we go. Please forgive me for this very lengthy post. I want to save as many picture memories as possible!

the lower side of the dam

Usually we walk down to the waterfall and back up the hill, but this time we explored two side trails. First we walked upstream to the dam and walked out on it until the break which lets the brook through now. Then we hopped down off the dam and walked along the brook, getting a different view. With no leaves on the trees yet we could see a lot of the features in the woods.

dam in upper left quarter of picture
the break to restore the water flow is visible between the two dam sections
the dam is above the waterfall, behind me

By the time it came to the edge of the Forest, the stream had grown up, so that it was almost a river, and, being grown-up, it did not run and jump and sparkle along as it used to do when it was younger, but moved more slowly. For it knew now where it was going, and it said to itself, “There is no hurry. We shall get there some day.” But all the little streams higher up in the Forest went this way and that, quickly, eagerly, having so much to find out before it was too late.
~ A. A. Milne
(The House at Pooh Corner)

turning around, looking down over the waterfall to the footbridge below

We had never been at the top of the waterfall before. Tim even went out over it a little bit. My legs didn’t seem long enough to jump down where he was.

Tim at the top of the waterfall
from near the top of the waterfall

Then we found the main trail again and made our way down to below the waterfall. I was looking forward to getting pictures of an old tree with amazing roots extending into the brook.

an impressive glacial erratic on along the trail down to the waterfall
the back of the old tree with amazing roots
looking at the waterfall from the footbridge downstream
looking at the waterfall from the opposite side of the brook
the front of the old tree with amazing roots

After crossing the footbridge and getting the above pictures we decided to follow a new trail for a little bit. Sheep Farm South, a property adjoining this one, was purchased by the Groton Open Space Association in April 2021. New trails were created on it and linked to the existing ones on Sheep Farm. So we started down this one which passes by a large moss covered outcrop. It was taller than Tim.

there were many kinds of mosses on this large outcrop
a dripping icicle at the end of a branch sticking out of the outcrop
layers at the top of the outcrop
moss sprouting out of lichen
looking back along the outcrop
moss at eye level, a different perspective than usual

After we passed the outcrop we found a path that went up above it and walked through the woods a bit until we circled around and spotted the waterfall below us. I’m pretty sure the little vine below is partridge berry. It looks like the plant my brother-in-law identified for us at Connecticut College Arboretum, although not as lush looking.

partridge berry (Tim found it!)
waterfall viewed from up high above the outcrop
scorias spongiosa on beech leaves
scorias spongiosa coating beech twigs
one side of the old tree with amazing roots

Before crossing the footbridge I noticed a side view of the tree with the water hugging roots. It was a rough trip back up the long hill to the parking lot because Tim’s sciatica started acting up, but he made it. Perhaps we strayed a little too far this time but we did get to see a lot of things we haven’t seen before.

one side of broken tree with hole
other side of broken tree with hole

Packing boxes have arrived and I’m feeling overwhelmed with the enormity of the task before us but it was great spending a little time outside in the woods we will miss so much.

winter wanderings

1.22.23 ~ Leo Antonino Preserve, Groton, Connecticut
first brook crossing on the yellow trail

On a cold and cloudy winter morning we decided to explore a relatively new open space property pretty close to home. Leo Antonino Preserve was acquired by the Avalonia Land Conservancy in 2018. What a pleasant surprise we had as we meandered along the loop trail, so many twists and turns, ups and downs and bubbling brooks to cross. We haven’t had any accumulating snow this January, not even a coating. But the woods did smell like winter and the crisp cold air soon gave us rosy cheeks and runny noses.

spotted wintergreen

We were curious about this mysterious black stuff we saw on lots of the beech trees. Is it another symptom of beech bark disease?

The Leo Antonino Preserve is an unexpected tract of woods, wetland, rock outcroppings and erratics … The trail includes short sections of wide-open travel on packed earth and longer stretches of single-file trail that are rocky and rooty with elevation changes. The trail travels through areas of beech and oak and along vernal pools and active brooks. Erratics and upthrust sections of granite illustrate the geologic history of this section of Connecticut. Also illustrative of the history of this property, the yellow trail features the wreck of an old Chevy truck. The section of the yellow trail north of the Chevy is the most challenging with a scramble over a steep rocky ridge.
~ Avalonia Land Conservancy website

beech marcescence
very green mosses were everywhere

We made several crossings over a (or two?) brook. There were no bridges so we used the stepping stones, feeling grateful that we didn’t slip on the mosses!

another crossing
Tim left the trail, climbed the hill and then appeared from behind these erratics
yet another crossing
the wreck of an old Chevy truck
spotted wintergreen
a rusting metal circle hanging from a branch
ferns growing on top of a rock outcropping
lichen with moss
moss and lichen on different levels
sitting on top of a rocky ridge
American wintergreen
woodpecker work, I presume
???

Near the end of the trail we spotted these black lines on the path. I can’t help wondering if it’s the same black stuff we saw on the beeches…

I’ve been trying to be more selective and to include fewer pictures in my posts, but I had to make an exception for this one. When we started this hike I didn’t expect to take many pictures but it seemed like around every turn there was something interesting to notice. We’re looking forward to returning and trying the blue trail through these woods.

a few prosaic days

Besides the Autumn poets sing
A few prosaic days
A little this side of the snow
And that side of the Haze —

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #123)

After a few muggy, rainy days it felt wonderful to get out for an autumn walk in good weather. It was only in the 40s Friday so we wore our winter coats and headed for Sheep Farm. I realized we had been here in September 2021 and November 2020 but never in October. Fall is in full swing now here. We started down the yellow trail.

10.28.22 ~ Sheep Farm
glacial erratic viewed from the yellow trail
new trail markers on the trees

There were so many leaves on the trail we made good use of the new trail markers to stay on track. Love walking on dry, crunchy leaves…

leaves, moss and lichen on a glacial erratic
waterfall in Fort Hill Brook
amazing root system

The drought seems to be over (or almost over) judging by the water flowing in the brook. The drought map for Connecticut puts us on the line between “none” and “abnormally dry.” We decided to cross the footbridge over the brook and get another view of the waterfall.

waterfall viewed from other side of the brook
the same root system viewed from the other side of the brook
footbridge and huge tree with its amazing roots

The we turned around, heading up the hill and branching off onto the red trail.

golden yellow and burnt orange
other side of glacial erratic viewed from the red trail
tree with leaves in shades of green, rusty orange and brick red

On our way back to the car we encountered a very large group of mothers and children of all ages. They just kept coming and coming and the air was filled with their happy, excited voices. I wondered if they were all being homeschooled. When we got back to the parking lot we laughed because when we had arrived earlier ours had been the only car parked. Now there were a dozen (we counted!) SUVs surrounding us. Can you tell which car is ours? They sure gave us plenty of elbow room!

a new bridge

7.8.22 ~ Avery Farm Nature Preserve
daisy fleabane (?-it was a very tall plant)

Back in May a group of seven volunteers from the Groton Open Space Association replaced a dilapidated bridge over Haley Brook in this nature preserve. The new bridge is longer, wider and has more secure handrails. So on this pleasant day we decided to use some mosquito repellent and take a rare walk into the summer woods to check out the new bridge.

To compare with an autumn view of the farm relic pictured above, see here: autumn afternoon.

the new bridge
a clump of ferns by the brook
view of Haley Brook from the new bridge
spotted wintergreen flower

I didn’t want to risk contact with poison ivy or ticks so I couldn’t get too close to the spotted wintergreen flowers, but I was very excited to spot them out of the corner of my eye. I’ve only seen these plants before on my winter walks and have never seen the flowers. Tim used his walking stick to hold some of the surrounding vegetation back so I could at least get this blurry picture.

All of us derive security and comfort from the imaginary world of memories and fantasies and plans. We really don’t want to stay with the nakedness of our present experience. It goes against the grain to stay present. These are the times when only gentleness and a sense of humor can give us the strength to settle down.
~ Pema Chödrön
(The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times)

mushroom

There were lots of damselflies fluttering through the air. One finally landed on a leaf long enough to get some pictures. Unfortunately another leaf was obstructing the view of its body but I was happy to capture some of the detail on her wings. The white dots at the end of each wing identify her as a female.

female ebony jewelwing
aka black-winged damselfly
another mushroom
view of bridge from the other side, coming back
pine cone in tangle of branches and vines
someone planted a little garden in a stump

The bug repellent seems to have worked. I heard one mosquito around my ear but never got bit. Since I discovered a couple of things (wintergreen flowers and black-winged damselflies) I’d never seen before I wonder if it might be worth the trouble to take more summer walks in the woods…

And now the covid positivity rate in Connecticut is about 10%. Heading in the wrong direction…

unknown wayfarers

1.4.22 ~ Avery Farm Nature Preserve

I guess my feet know where they want me to go
Walking on a country road

~ James Taylor
♫ (Country Road) ♫

rusting away

We didn’t last too long out there, but we hadn’t had a walk since December 15th — because of all the holiday preparations and a long visit with family and bad weather — so we decided to go anyway, in spite of the temperature being 21°F/-6°C. With the light northwest wind the feels-like temperature was 10°F/-12°C. But the sunshine was bright and abundant!

frozen pool off Haley Brook

The brief moments I took my hand out of my glove to take these pictures were enough to turn my fingers painfully cold. Even quickly sticking the fingers back in the Thinsulate glove didn’t help. (All my other thermal layers were working superbly, though!) So that sent me back to the car to warm my hands in the warm air from the heater. Sigh. After we got home I looked online for some warmer mittens and will try them out as soon as they get here…

ice forming over running water

In our hurried pace back to the car we encountered an elderly man walking in the opposite direction. He gave us a very wide berth. We exchanged muffled good mornings but it was obvious that some of us are still trying to stay six feet apart, much like we were at the beginning of the pandemic. It made me reflect on how it was the same way with people when the Black Death was spreading in Scandinavia around 1350.

Haley Brook

Fourteen days later Kristin saw for the first time one sick of the plague. Rumor that the pest was raging in Nidaros and spreading through the country-side had come to Rissa — how, ’twas not easy to understand, for folk kept their houses, and every man fled to the woods or thickets if he saw an unknown wayfarer on the road; none would open his door to stranger-folk.
~ Sigrid Undset
(Kristin Lavransdatter: The Cross)

ice

Although we had a lovely visit focused on our family for the holidays there was the background worry about the continuing spread of covid. The positivity rate in Connecticut was 9% before the visit. After they left we saw it jump from 15% to 18% to 20% to 22% to 24%. We may be “done” with this pandemic but it certainly isn’t done with us. Our town has gone back to indoor mask mandates.

sunlit frozen beauty

I may be crazy, but we’re expecting a snowstorm, a good old-fashioned nor’easter tomorrow, and I am looking forward to it!!! Perhaps I should be careful what I wish for but it would be nice to feel a little bit of normal for January for a change.

a thing made of holes

12.7.21 ~ Pequotsepos Brook Preserve, Stonington, Connecticut

Properly bundled up for the weather, we had a nice long walk in this 44-acre nature preserve a couple of days ago. It was originally part of 500 acres given to Capt. John Gallup in 1643, a reward from the royal court in England for his part in the Pequot Massacre.

the first colonial stone slab bridge we saw
lovely moss greenery in the dull landscape
path cutting through one of many stone walls
looking up into an old oak, a “wolf tree”
a relic from farms of the past when trees along the edges of open fields
could spread their branches without competition from other trees
leftover autumn leaves
Tim was captivated with this tree,
which grew sideways before it grew up
windswept pine needles
backlit oak leaf
pine sapling nursery

There is a time in life when you expect the world to be always full of new things. And then comes a day when you realise that is not how it will be at all. You see that life will become a thing made of holes. Absences. Losses. Things that were there and are no longer. And you realise, too, that you have to grow around and between the gaps, though you can put your hand out to where things were and feel that tense, shining dullness of the space where the memories are.
~ Helen Macdonald
(H is for Hawk)

tangled up
breaking down
Pequotsepos Brook running under another colonial stone slab bridge

It was a sunny day, 41°F/5°C, with a feels-like temperature of 34°F/1°C, due to a moderate wind from the northwest. Connecticut’s positivity rate jumped to 8.33%. Sobering, indeed. So grateful we still have the woods to explore and fresh air to breathe.

hints of autumn

9.4.21 ~ Sheep Farm, Groton, Connecticut

Labor Day weekend with autumn weather! I didn’t think it was possible. We couldn’t resist taking a morning walk in the woods in spite of mosquito and poison ivy threats. I’ve been waiting impatiently for this kind of day all summer.

American burnweed

To include nature in our stories is to return to an older form of human awareness in which nature is not scenery, not a warehouse of natural resources, not real estate, not a possession, but a continuation of community.
~ Barry Lopez
(High Country News, September 14, 1998)

smaller bug with bee on goldenrod

As I’ve often said, I love the sunlight this time of year, in the months surrounding the equinoxes. It seems just right, not too dim nor too bright, and it immerses everything I see in a wonderful presence. Sometimes my camera even catches it the way I perceive it.

Any patch of sunlight in a wood will show you something about the sun which you could never get from reading books on astronomy. These pure and spontaneous pleasures are “patches of Godlight” in the woods of our experience.
~ C. S. Lewis
(Not a Tame Lion: The Spiritual Legacy of C. S. Lewis & The Chronicles of Narnia)

waterfall in Fort Hill Brook
daddy-longlegs on the top trunk of a tree,
snapped off during Hurricane Henri

Impermanence and fragility are essential components of beauty, and of love. In some mysterious way, we are all here together, one whole happening, awake to the sorrow, the joy, and the inconceivability of every fresh and instantly vanishing moment, each of us a bright light in the dazzling darkness.
~ Joan Tollifson
(Facebook, February 24, 2021)

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!

snow melting in the oak-beech forest

12.24.20 ~ Poquetanuck Cove Preserve, Ledyard, Connecticut

On Christmas Eve morning we headed 13 miles north to find some snow without a sheet of ice on top of it. It was melting up in Ledyard but still looking lovely and was walkable. I was delighted! I was going to get my chance to walk in the snow covered woods!

trailhead, others had been here, too

In the winter there are fewer men in the fields and woods … you see the tracks of those who had preceded you, and so are more reminded of them than in summer.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Journal, December 12, 1859)

first glimpse of a wolf tree

The preserve’s website mentioned wolf trees, which are “relics from the agricultural era when trees along the edges of fields could spread their branches.” My curiosity piqued, I soon spotted one. I’ve seen trees like this before, but didn’t know there was a term for them.

winter shadows are long and enchanting
moss peeking through the snow
beech marcescence with splotches of lichen
part of the huge wolf tree, probably an oak

In the strictest sense, wolf trees are those spared the axe during widespread Colonial-era deforestation in order to provide shade for livestock or mark a boundary. As second- and third-growth woods filled in abandoned pasture and farmland, these titans have become crowded by dense, spindly youngsters. Where those upstarts are tall and narrow, competing fiercely for canopy light, the wolf tree they surround has fat, laterally extended boughs and a comparatively squat trunk—a testament to the open, sunny country in which it once prospered.
~ Ethan Shaw
(The Old in the Forest: Wolf Trees of New England & Farther Afield)

wolf tree bark close up
wolf tree leaves high up on a branch
my favorite picture capturing the magic of the snowy woods
Avery Hill Brook

When we got to the brook we decided to turn around because there was no bridge and crossing over by stepping on the small rocks looked like a dicey proposition. But on the way back we paid more attention to the little things peeping out from under the snow.

ice, leaves, moss, lichen, rock
oak leaf in snow
chunky snow melting on rock
lichen, moss, leaves, snow

The winter, with its snow and ice, is not an evil to be corrected. It is as it was designed and made to be, for the artist has had leisure to add beauty to use.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Journal, December 11, 1855)

more beech marcescence
part of rock surrounded by melting snow
simplicity
puffs and sparkle

We will return some day, better prepared to cross the brook and make our way to the cove, where we might find osprey and waterfowl. It was good to get a great walk in before heading home to hunker down for the fast approaching Christmas wind and rain storm.

We wound up having a good Christmas, even though it was pouring rain all day. There were treasured video calls with family. We finished a jigsaw puzzle together while listening to my winter solstice playlist on shuffle. Watched the final episodes of a Norwegian TV series on Netflix, Home for Christmas, dubbed in English. (Hjem til Jul)

“In the Still Light of Dawn” by Alan Giana

As we started to close the drapes at dusk we found ourselves awestruck. The eastern sky, opposite of the sunset, was violet!!! We couldn’t believe our eyes! The color comes from the extra moisture in the atmosphere refracting the setting sun’s light rays so that the violet is reflected.

12.25.20 ~ eastern sky at sunset

Color! What a deep and mysterious language, the language of dreams.
~ Paul Gauguin
(Perception & Imaging: Photography as a Way of Seeing)