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!

to whole handfuls of jewels

5.11.21 ~ Haley Farm State Park
Groton, Connecticut

What a gorgeous day for a walk! First we strolled through a meadow full of blooming buttercups…

a sea of buttercups
brown-headed cowbird

Even though Brown-headed Cowbirds are native to North America, many people consider them a nuisance bird, since they destroy the eggs and young of smaller songbirds and have been implicated in the decline of several endangered species.
~ All About Birds website

path leading uphill to a forest
“the smallest leaf”

Nature will bear the closest inspection; she invites us to lay our eye level with the smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain. She has no interstices; every part is full of life.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Excursions)

“an insect view”
Tim looking out

We climbed until we reached the lookout indicated on the map.

looking back down at the meadow
Chester Cemetery from above

Wouldn’t you know it, we spotted a tiny cemetery right below the lookout. We kept following the trail hoping to find a way down there. A man about our age came up behind us, noticed my camera and asked if I had spotted anything. I mentioned the gravestones and he led us along the path and pointed us to another path and gave us directions on how to get there.

more small details
the woods seemed to go on forever
“just as bright, just as blue, just as green”

To-day is very beautiful — just as bright, just as blue, just as green and as white and as crimson as the cherry-trees full in bloom, and half-opening peach-blossoms, and the grass just waving, and sky and hill and cloud can make it, if they try. How I wish you were here, Austin; you thought last Saturday beautiful, yet to this golden day ’twas but one single gem to whole handfuls of jewels.
~ Emily Dickinson
(Letter to William Austin Dickinson, May, 1854)

for my snagged oak leaf collection
unfurling
on and on we walked

It was a long way around but we finally came to the side path leading off to the right and to the cemetery. Much to my delight there was a “wolf tree” on the corner.

one side of the wolf tree

For an explanation of wolf trees see this post: snow melting in the oak-beech forest

Chester Cemetery

Sacred
to the memory of
Starr Chester Esqr.
who was born
Aug 23rd 1759
and died
Feby 12th 1812

This spot contains the ashes of the just
who sought to honour; and betray’d no trust.
This truth he prov’d in every line he trod.

Sacred
to the memory of
Mary Chester
relect of
Starr Chester, Esqr.
Born Nov 11, 1758
Died Jan 12, 1826
May faithful angels guard my moulding dust
until the general meeting of the just.
Then rise triumphant from the dark abode
to realms of light, to love and praise the Lord.

Since I have both Starrs and Morgans (Mary’s maiden name) on my tree I imagine these are distant cousins of mine…

While inspecting the stones two unusual things happened. First, a young man appeared above us at the lookout with a dirt bike. He rode off the edge of the precipice, flew through the air and landed a few feet away from us. As if he did such things all the time, as I’m sure he does.

the other side the wolf tree

Another retired couple was a little ways down another path and saw the flight, too. We got to talking and stood there for at least half an hour chatting about all kinds of things. They moved here from Pennsylvania to retire. They love the area, close to the sea. They’ve explored many of the same parks we’ve been exploring.

After we parted ways, we finished following the other trail, stopping to see the wolf tree as we joined it. When we got close to the car I heard and finally spotted another catbird. 🙂 What a lovely ending to a pleasant ramble!

gray catbird

west garden, box garden, rock garden

5.6.21 ~ water tower ~ Harkness Memorial State Park
Waterford, Connecticut

So… I decided to combine the west, box and rock gardens into one post because they pretty much flowed into one another. Please enjoy the pictures!

I don’t divide architecture, landscape and gardening; to me they are one.
~ Luis Barragán
(Designing Outside the Box: Landscape Seeing by Doing)

Roman Renaissance Revival architecture
common grackle
johnny-jump-ups
Beatrix Farrand was one of the two women who designed these gardens

Should it not be remembered that in setting a garden we are painting a picture?
~ Beatrix Farrand
(Beatrix: The Gardening Life of Beatrix Jones Farrand, 1872-1959)

buttercups
frog

It therefore results that the enjoyment of scenery employs the mind without fatigue and yet exercises it, tranquilizes it, and yet enlivens it, and thus, through the influence of the mind over the body, gives the effect of refreshing rest and reinvigoration to the whole system.
~ Frederick Law Olmsted
(America’s National Park System: The Critical Documents)

cutting garden

5.6.21 ~ Harkness Memorial State Park
Waterford, Connecticut

Finally a spring day found us both feeling well and free of appointments. Off to explore the gardens at Eolia, the elegant summer mansion at Harkness Memorial State Park. So many birds and greenery to delight the senses. I took more pictures than usual and will probably make three posts out of our visit. 🙂 First, the cutting garden. Not too many flowers yet but plenty of birds and squirrels and even a bunny, who was too quick to be photographed.

gray catbird singing its heart out

His black cap gives him a jaunty look, for which
we humans have learned to tilt our caps, in envy.
When he is not singing, he is listening.
Neither have I ever seen him with his eyes closed.
Though he may be looking at nothing more than a cloud
it brings to his mind several dozen new remarks.
From one branch to another, or across the path,
he dazzles with flight.

~ Mary Oliver
(Catbird)

gray catbird
copper beech leaves
bluebells
northern mockingbird

I was very excited to spot this mockingbird. I had taken a picture of one back in 2011 but didn’t know what it was. Not too long ago I was going through old pictures and decided to post that old picture on the “What’s This Bird?” Facebook group and they identified it for me. I was pleasantly surprised to correctly identify this one when I saw it, but I did check with the group to make sure. (I’ve been known to get my shorebirds wrong…)

northern mockingbird
northern mockingbird
110-year-old Japanese threadleaf maple

I spent quite a bit of time lingering under this enchanting tree. The birds seemed very fond of it, too, singing away in the upper branches. Peeking out I could see Long Island Sound in the distance. A perfect place to curl up with a good book and, just as I was thinking that, a woman showed up with a book, looking for a place to read where she couldn’t hear the lawnmower. It wasn’t until she mentioned it that I noticed the noise droning away in the background. The lawns of the grounds of this old mansion property are vast and must require a lot of maintenance! Anyhow, I hope she was able to get some peaceful reading in, listening to all the birds.

Long Island Sound in the distance

As we left that wonderful tree Tim spotted three squirrels chasing each other in another tree. They were so cute!

playful squirrel
scratching acrobatics
dandelion dreams
beautiful mourning dove
mourning dove

Pretty doves, so blithely ranging
Up and down the street;
Glossy throats all bright hues changing,
Little scarlet feet!

~ Harriet McEwen Kimball
(The Doves)

mourning dove
tulip
Jonquil ? and ?

I will try to make my next posts about the west, box and rock gardens. We didn’t even get to the east garden and the orchard! Another time…

red maple blossoms

4.13.21 ~ White-Hall Park, Ledyard, Connecticut

We returned to White-Hall Park on Tuesday, this time to take the lower trails around the pond and to get a closer look at the blossoming red maples. Hopefully these pictures captured some of the magic of springtime!

Let us live for each other and for happiness; let us seek peace in our dear home, near the inland murmur of streams, and the gracious waving of trees, the beauteous vesture of earth, and sublime pageantry of the skies.
~ Mary Shelley
(The Last Man)

Newsflash: Some of you may remember me writing about Buddy, the 1,000 lb. beefalo who escaped slaughter in August and was still on the loose in Connecticut in September. Well, he managed to evade capture all winter long but was finally taken into custody last night! I assume he is on his way to the sanctuary in Florida… Story at the end of this post: in the woods again.

Not much else to report, except that we are having a winter-like nor’easter for weather today. Nice to be tucked inside, daydreaming about this enchanting walk…

natural stone throne

4.7.21 ~ White-Hall Park, Ledyard, Connecticut

One of Tim’s friends told us about this lovely park. This bridge goes over the overgrown tracks of the Norwich & Westerly Railway.

The Norwich and Westerly Railway was an interurban trolley system that operated in Southeastern Connecticut during the early part of the 20th century. It operated a 21-mile line through rural territory in Norwich, Preston, Ledyard, North Stonington, and Pawcatuck, Connecticut to Westerly, Rhode Island between 1906 and 1922. For most of its length, the route paralleled what is now Connecticut Route 2.
~ Wikipedia

carolina wren

It’s a blurry picture but I was so excited to finally see a Carolina wren in Connecticut. I first heard its pretty song and saw a few of them while at my daughter’s home in North Carolina in the fall of 2018. I’ve been hearing them sing in the spring and fall since returning to to Connecticut but haven’t been able to spot one until this day.

moss on the ground alongside the trail
lichen up in the trees
northern cardinal, another blurry “masterpiece”
budding red maple, a hint of spring colors to come
this photo by Tim ~ note his walking stick leaning
against the natural stone throne

A “Natural Stone Throne” was indicated on the map but we almost missed it behind all the brush. Tim bushwhacked his way up a steep incline and got the above picture on his cell phone. I wasn’t about to follow but then he noticed a cleared trail joining the main trail a little ahead of where I was. So I walked around and up and got the following two pictures. I made one attempt to climb up and sit on it but it was too high to pull it off!

natural stone throne
natural stone throne
glacial erratic

We proceeded up the hill and found ourselves at eye level with the top of the 23-story Grand Pequot Tower at Foxwoods Resort Casino, a mile and a half away (2.4 km).

Foxwoods Resort Casino in the distance
Grand Pequot Tower
moss looking like little trees

A little farther along we got to the end of the trail at High Ledge Overlook. Thank goodness there was a fence marking the edge. It was a long way down. And then we turned around and noticed different things on our way back down the hill.

view from High Ledge Overlook
an assortment of at least 4 kinds of mosses
marcescence
seed pods
branches and vines

How little there is on an ordinary map! How little, I mean, that concerns the walker and the lover of nature…. The waving woods, the dells and glades and green banks and smiling fields, the huge boulders, etc., etc., are not on the map, nor to be inferred from the map.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Journal, November 10, 1860)

we were struck more than usual with the mosses and lichens

4.5.21 ~ Beebe Pond Park, Groton, Connecticut

Yesterday we took a side trail in Beebe Pond Park, which led us through a field of glacial erratics and tree shadows, then circled back to the pond.

Some of the boulders were bare and some covered with mosses and lichens. It makes one wonder…

glimpse of the pond in the distance

I took so many pictures it was difficult to cull the batch down to size. The weather was perfect and breezy and we met two other pairs of hikers, a father and young son, and two women. All were wearing masks and we exchanged friendly greetings from our six-foot apart positions. The father and son were new to the park and asked us some questions about the trails. It still feels strange interacting with people in the greater world!

so many shadows, so much moss
huge clump of moss on the edge of the pond
small burl on tree near the pond

Delightful day; first walk in the woods, and what a pleasure it is to be in the forest once more! The earlier buds are swelling perceptibly — those of the scarlet maple and elm flowers on the hills, with the sallows and alders near the streams. We were struck more than usual with the mosses and lichens, and the coloring of the bark of the different trees; some of the chestnuts, and birches, and maples show twenty different shades, through grays and greens, from a dull white to blackish brown. These can scarcely vary much with the seasons, but they attract the eye more just now from the fact that in winter we are seldom in the woods; and at this moment, before the leaves are out, there is more light falling on the limbs and trunks than in summer. The ground mosses are not yet entirely revived; some of the prettiest varieties feel the frost sensibly, and have not yet regained all their coloring.
~ Susan Fenimore Cooper
(Rural Hours)

no more drought here

Six months ago when we visited the pond the severe drought had lowered the water level drastically. You can see a picture on this post: by courtesy of the light But the pond is full to overflowing now, and water is running down the stream.

skunk cabbage emerging!
Beebe Pond

There was a strong breeze this day, making little waves on the pond.

underwater #1
underwater #2
underwater #3
pink lichen?

And of course, I couldn’t resist taking pictures of the leaves left over from autumn.

On Friday it will have been two weeks from my second shot and I will join the ranks of the fully vaccinated. We made appointments to get haircuts and plan to celebrate and have our first restaurant meal in 15 months. Outside. To me, being vaccinated feels like having a parachute. Even with a parachute I don’t want to jump out of an airplane and I think going inside to get a haircut will feel almost as scary as skydiving.

strong as a great oak

3.3.21 ~ Great Oak Park, Ledyard, Connecticut

After a bitter cold snap we managed to get out for a good walk on Wednesday. Another new place for us. This time I brought my father’s cane to use as a walking stick so I wouldn’t have to find one in the woods. It fit perfectly and had a good energy! Papa was very fond of his cane because his father had carved it and used it. (A couple of pictures of him with it here.)

photo by Tim

Our daughter-in-law mailed us our old camera a couple of weeks ago so I could see how it compares to the one I’ve been using for several years now. But so far I haven’t felt inclined to pick it up so Tim took it along on this outing. It was fun with both of us having a good camera.

beautiful blue sky
still a bit of ice and snow in places

We were looking for the remains of a famous huge oak tree in the woods here. Before long we spotted the sign and were saddened to see just how very little was left of it.

During the summer of 1969, the gypsy moth defoliated an estimated 260,000 acres of trees in northeastern woodlands — more than triple the defoliated acreage of 1968.
~ Ralph L. Snodsmith
(The New York Times, April 19, 1970)

image credit: Ledyard Historical Society
The Ledyard Oak, c. 1910

The famous oak didn’t survive the gypsy moth assault in 1969. Fifty-one years later this is all that is left of it:

decomposing
devastation from an invasive species

My feet will tread soft as a deer in the forest. My mind will be clear as water from the sacred well. My heart will be strong as a great oak. My spirit will spread an eagle’s wings, and fly forth.
~ Juliet Marillier
(Daughter of the Forest)

This little oak was planted beside the original in 2009.
Maybe 400 years from now…

We continued walking and found a historical cemetery.

interesting roots
Lester family cemetery, early 1800s
In memory of Solomon Lester who died Dec. 4, 1840 aged 69
Miss Lucy Lester died Apr. 18, 1814 in her 70th year
unused fence post and its shadow on a tree
some kind of moss or lichen
a huge rooster
a hen (?) and said rooster

Within this park are more trails and the Nathan Lester House & Farm Tool Museum, presumably the home of the chickens. We will have to wait to explore when the pandemic is over.

tipping rock

2.24.21 ~ Hewitt Farm, North Stonington, Connecticut

Because of the winter storms we hadn’t had a real walk in the woods in over a month. “Get out there!” my favorite TV weatherman advised on Wednesday morning. We opened the door and the birds were singing and it felt like a spring day at 45°F (7°C). Most of the snow had melted. So we headed out to a new park for us, the Hewitt Farm in North Stonington.

This 104-acre park and recreation area was purchased by the Town of North Stonington in 2008 for the enjoyment of its residents and visitors to the region. The property consists of forests, fields, wetlands and streams; more than a mile of hiking trails, including the town’s Bicentennial Trail; the Shunock River; 3.5-acre Lower Hewitt Pond and dam; and several structures. The dam originally provided water-power to John Dean Gallup’s woolen mill located nearby.
~ Hewitt Farm Trail Map

a preview of the bigger rock to come

We took the Bicentennial Trail. It felt so good to be outside with a just a sweatshirt and no gloves needed! We walked for an hour and a half, up a hill to Tipping Rock, a huge glacier erratic that didn’t disappoint. From the top of the hill we could see the wooded landscape 360° all around us. But there was also lots to see along the way.

moss texture
another glacial erratic with a different energy
interesting root formation

For most of us knowledge comes largely through sight, yet we look about with such unseeing eyes that we are partially blind. One way to open your eyes is to ask yourself, “What if I had never seen this before? What if I knew I would never see it again?”
~ Rachel Carson
(The Sense of Wonder)

perhaps the largest burl we’ve encountered

Not sure how long the trail would be we were thinking of turning back but then we saw the sign. So we pressed on up the hill…

first glimpse (telephoto lens)
what? could that be a ladder?
yes, indeed
no, we do not “do” ladders!
photo by Tim

After much oohing and aahing we headed back down the hill. It was a lot easier and faster than climbing up, but we still paused to see a lot of nature’s delights.

pincushion moss, I think
another interesting root formation

About half way down we heard the delighful sounds of excited children approaching. Two mothers with two babies and four little ones between them were coming up the trail so we took our usual six-feet-off-the-trail position as they passed. We exchanged pleasant greetings. They were wondering about the ladder…

remnants of autumn and winter

We were so happy to be out and about, as much as is possible, during the pandemic. Tim got his first shot on the 17th. Next one scheduled for March 17. My age group opens up on Monday but it may take a while to get an appointment because there are a lot more people in my age group than there are in Tim’s.