Falling gold Sunday, Oct 20 2013 

This year, is a golden year.  At least for fall color. The maples didn’t really do much, so we have been content with the sassafras (which is gold this year, instead of psychedelic orange), hickory, beech, birch, tulip-tree, and witch-hazel.  They are being followed hard by the oaks, in the standard shades of bronze. A lovely fall day, even if we have yet to have a frost!!!!  I’m cutting things down anyway, enough is enough.

Fall is a time when the bones of the forest are suddenly revealed.  For those who live here, a New England forest can never be mysterious*, unlike a tropical forest or jungle, because each year the trees and the land are stripped.  Late fall and early spring are when a landscape can be truly understood.  Each tree stands alone, even in the densest stand.

*assuming, of course, one goes regularly into the woods!


(in other news, I recall commenting about the road and the probability of having to scrape people off of it a few days ago….a rear end collision in broad daylight, with no major injuries, doesn’t really count I suppose?  I feel bad for the black car trying to turn into the neighbour’s driveway, which was solidly rear-ended by the idiot behind them.  Stop texting and Keep Your Eyes on the Road!)


The Problem of Trees Sunday, Jun 30 2013 

I keep anticipating the sound of chainsaws over at our neighbours. They, like us, have large lawns and large old trees. Unlike us, they have not been at all lucky. We lost a few trees up by the house during the hurricane last year, but all but one were minor points in the landscape. Now down in the woods, near that old willow in the last post, it looks like a giant’s game of pick-up sticks: a set of black locusts going every which way (and all are hung). But those locusts were all exhbiting serious structural issues already. However, we haven’t* lost any of the trees on the lawn.
Our neighbours, however, have lost four sugar maples and big copper beech. None were outwardly problematic in their structure, but they were all about as big as they ought to get. I have some theories, unproven of course.
First: spacing, trees are evolved to work together. Their roots are intertwined, and if their canopies touch it would stand to reason that the wind loads are, if not less, at least distributed. Extremely wide spacing forces them to stand and fall alone. The trees on our lawn are much more closely spaced, creating a high closed canopy.
Secondly: competitive growth. One of the more interesting points a state forester mentioned to me once was the Sugar Maples are designed to grow in a dense forest situation. Put them in a full sun situation and they can grow too big, too full, and too fast overtaxing the strength of their wood and their roots. It stands to reason that certain other tree species might be better adapted to standing alone; anything requiring full sun to get started, or evolved to handle fire, or perhaps flooding?
Lastly: over-fertilization. Our neighbours fertilize their lawn, heavily, the previous owners never did. This also helps create lush growth in the trees. But, it would seem to me, if the tree is already as big as it ought to get, mechanically, than a sudden spurt of heavy new growth, which catches the wind and the water, might just be too much.
Theories anyway. Probably half-baked.

*I know, I know I just jinxed us, we’ll get a storm tonight and down they’ll come.

Gravity! Thursday, May 23 2013 

The large, but muffled, crash last night has finally been identified: an outwardly healthy, Large, limb from the big sugar maple east of the house. This maple is probably closing in on two hundred years old and is about eighty feet tall. It is fairly happy, as elderly maples go, but it does sometimes drop things. In this case when I say large, I mean pushing eight inches in diameter and about thirty feet in length, falling from somewhere over fifty feet up. Interestingly, it must have caught briefly on the way down,the butt end is swung ninety degrees away from the tree. Outwardly healthy, but inwardly quite rotten: rain plus a full flush of new growth equals gravity winning. I was once told that the most dangerous time to be out in the woods is late spring/early summer after a rainstorm. Windy days can be a bit scary, but it is the calm day when everything is saturated with water that you have to watch out for, limbs drop with no warning and no sound…till they hit. In any event, no damage this time around.

Forest Giants Monday, Apr 1 2013 

New England doesn’t really have giant trees; but we do tend to have any number of large and picturesque ones.  What always impresses me is why some of them can continue to stand.  This one, on the lane, is a big ash.  Its days are probably numbered because of the ever expanding road and the combined set of diseases and insects that are killing ashes.  These are bigger threats than the rather major structural failure.  For more than thirty years it has had the cavity in its base.  A few years ago, the spiral crack, splitting from the roots and curving up and around developed.  It creaks in the slightest wind, so there is probably quite a bit of movement.  However, since that crack developed it has weathered two hurricanes, several vicious thunderstorms, and any number of gusty, sustained wind days.  Any number of other, seemingly structurally sound, trees have failed in these events.  Would it surprise me to look out one day and see that it had finally ripped apart? No.  But it doesn’t surprise me to look out and see it still there.  Of course, when it does go it will be quite spectacular; the forces on it must be tremendous.  (for scale that road is a car and a half wide there, the wall is about 3 feet tall)




From small beginnings Wednesday, Mar 27 2013 

come giants.  A photo I ran across the other day that caught my eye.  Note the seedling Norway maple there by the trunk of the big Cucumber Magnolia.  Or, I should say, by a small buttress section of the Magnolia’s trunk…


Photo of the day (or weekend) Sunday, Mar 3 2013 


The old redbud in winter

Brothers (photo of the day) Tuesday, Dec 11 2012 

Sugar Maples by the West Meadow, why two of these grew in almost the same way is now hard to say.  The ones with the curving branches are probably around 150-180 years old; the others, just based on placement, may be a bit younger.


Experiment fail Tuesday, Nov 6 2012 

An interesting exercise.*  Spruce clearly splits with reasonable ease from the butt end, if the length is less than the distance to the next whorl.  That is, it splits with no more or less grace than red maple.  Nowhere near as easily as ash or birch, nowhere near as impossible as elm.  This means you could, if you liked sparks, create billets for a stove or campfire without killing yourself (you wouldn’t be having fun though). 

What spruce does not do is split lengthwise for rails.  Splits stop at the whorls and the sufficient number of crossing fibers makes getting the wedges back out a bit of a nuisance.  There is a reason you always, always keep one wedge free.

I think we shall now go hack it up into movable hunks.

*I’m sure you all reading think I am bats!

American Beech (Photo of the Day) Monday, Oct 22 2012 

New tree! Friday, Oct 12 2012 

Well, not really.  At the south end of the Yellow Mountain swamp, really a bog, I have often watched various birds.  The bog is caught at the top of the watershed and perched on the top of the hill, it actually drains to the north, in between two steep ridges.   While cold, the ridges protect the area from the wind, and most of the surface water is collected, unable to penetrate the bedrock of the ridges.  This protected habitat shelters birds, while the bog prevents tree cover leading to an impenetrable tangle of blueberry, dogwood, and ilex.

In any case, I haven’t paid much attention to the trees I was under.  About twenty feet tall, with the overall appearance that many understory tree/shrubs take on: incredibly slow growing trunks only a few inches in diameter but decades old, arching and bending to reach the light.  But I noticed them this time.  Instead of the ubiquitous yellow of witch-hazel (the dominant, next to laurel, understory tree), these were a fluorescent orange shading to red. 

So I look a bit closer, poke at the bark a bit, ponder this….grab a leaf for further identification.  I thought I knew, but I wasn’t sure… continue on my way.  Note several more trees of this type, some a bit larger, all in the protection of the ridge but at the sunny edge of the bog.

My initial, ‘but it can’t be’, identification turned out to be right: Nyssa Sylvatica, also known as Black Gum, Tupelo, or Pepperidge.  A bit farther south this is a spectacular and immense tree, rivaling oaks in stature.  It has beautiful fall colour, birds and bees Love it, and it is as tough as the proverbial nail*; but while I have two nursery grown babies that are beginning to take hold…now that I have moved them out of the wind…I thought that Fairfield County was its northern natural extent, with maybe a few in the major river valleys farther to the north.  But on further research, it turns out that ‘cold mountain swamps’ are another of its natural habitats, extending its range to Ontario, if there is enough water and enough wind protection.  I feel a bit stupid, but very happy!

*Naturally, it has been completely ignored by the nursery trade in favour of invasive and/or far less elegant species

« Previous PageNext Page »

%d bloggers like this: