A Day Of Sleeping and Reading

The Robin’s Nest in the low bush

Fate and Zinnia run under the Japanese Honeysuckle ahead of me.  It’s the perfect height for them, but I’d have to crawl to get through it.  I’ve been ducking under that bush for years, it’s one of the archways that lead me further into the Orphaned Woods. But now it’s lower than usual.

When I get closer I see the dead branch that fell on top of the bush pushing it down.  It’s only as I reach to remove the branch that I see the robin’s nest and four bright blue eggs.

The blue is like neon among all the spring greens that color the woods.  I can’t take my eyes off them.  For the first time, I wonder why they are so blue.  Then I snap out of it.  The mother must be nearby, waiting for me to leave.  I take a picture and walk carefully around the bush.

That was a few days ago.

Today I’m laying on the couch spending my time reading and sleeping.  My stomach is queasy and I’m too tired to do much more than feed the animals and throw the fabric that Judy and Fran sent me into the washer and dryer.

I tell myself that if I rest today, I’ll feel better tomorrow.  And I believe it.

I’m halfway through Suzanne Simard’s book Finding The Mother Tree, Discovering The Wisdom Of The Forest.   It’s a memoir about Simard’s discoveries of how the trees in the forest are connected by a network of fungus that transport nutrients, minerals, and water between them.

I don’t get all the science, but I do get the essence of what she is writing about.

It’s because of this book that this year I planted the ten saplings that I got from The Arbor Day Society in the woods close to other trees instead of in a clearing as I’ve done in the past.

The place I chose for them is in a grove of young Hornbeam trees.  Their smooth bark is so like the stretched muscles of an athlete that they always seem to be in movement to me.  The soil beneath them is moist and rich.   I planted a couple of the seedlings in the humus of a fallen birch.

I never thought of how seedlings grow in the shade of the trees around them.  That they need sunlight, but not a pounding sun.  And now I know that the saplings have a better chance of surviving when their roots grow mycorrhizal fungus which connects them to the roots of other trees and helps nourish them and even find water under the ground.

It is this network of fungus that all those mushrooms that I found in the woods last year grow from.

As I lay on the couch, reading about the old-growth forests in the mountains of British Columbia, I’m thinking of the woods behind the farm.

Tomorrow when I’m feeling better and I’m watering the saplings I’ll be wondering if they’re growing that life giving fungus on the tips of their roots.  And I’ll be thinking about the world below my feet as well as the one above.

The Orphaned Woods, Flowers, Feathers and Neighbors

“I really shouldn’t be walking in the woods this time of year,” I said to Jon as I pulled another tick off of me.

But I knew there would be wildflowers and the trees are budding.  I could walk on my neighbor’s paths but then I’d be missing what’s happening in the Orphaned woods behind the farm.

It was last week that I realized I could begin to identify more trees when I saw the tiny pinkish-red bouquets that littered the ground.   I didn’t need binoculars after all, I just had to wait for the flowers and catkins to fall.

The Red Maples were the first to scatter their clues at my feet.  Every time I saw the small red flowers, I’d look around me to find bark that looked like Maple.  I have a good feeling for it now, but there are so many kinds of Maples.   I’m still now sure I could identify a Red Maple just by its bark.

Red Maple flowers that conveniently (for me) fell on the bark of the tree it came from.

The next thing I saw was the Marsh Marigold growing along the bank of the little stream.

Marsh Marigold

I knew there would be more wildflowers, so I kept my eyes to the ground.   These bright orange mushrooms were growing on a dead Black Cherry Tree that had fallen along the boundary of our woods and our neighbors.

There’s so much new life in the woods this time of year.  But so much of it, like these mushrooms, come from another species dying.  I wondered if we interrupted someone’s meal when I came across a dead chipmunk, that someone had obviously started eating.

Then there were the feathers, mostly gray and white, but a few with a swatch of purpish blue.  At first, I thought it was from a Blue Jay but they didn’t look like the Blue Jay feathers I’ve found in the past.  And they were much more purple.

I put one feather in my hat and was surprised when I spotted the thin white fur, not too far away.  It was hardly visible laying with the pine needles that were a similar size and shape.  I thought at this point that my eyes must be keen to seeing the stories of the woods.

The thin strands of animal hair in a small pile

I had a feeling there would be more flowers.  First, there was the purple one.  I can’t figure out what it is. But I bet someone reading this knows. The buds coming up close to the ground were covered in soft fuzz.

Then I found a cluster of what I believe is Rue Anemone.  It’s hard to distinguish the flower, but the leaf is telling.

Rue Anemone

I had seen the new posted signs as I walked through the woods and assumed they were put up by our new neighbors.  When Moise and Barbara Miller, visited us a couple of weeks ago I told Moise how I walk through the woods that lead all the way to Lake Lauderdale.

“Then you must walk in my woods,” he said and told me I was welcome there.

It was just last fall that I walked through the Miller’s cornfield for the first time. At the time,  I didn’t know it belonged to them or that our new neighbors were Amish.   I did see the big white house that was being built and not visible from Route 22.

Today as me and Fate and Zinnia took one of the paths leading home I saw two of the Miller kids in the cornfield with their dog, and two draft horses pulling a stoneboat.  They were too far away to even wave to, but I imagine they were picking rocks from the field.

In all the years I’ve been walking in these woods, I’ve only seen other people a few times.

That may be changing.  The Millers will probably log the woods in the winter.

But still,  I’m grateful that our new neighbors are farmers and millers who care about the land and not developers who clear-cut and build houses.

The Orphaned Woods: Puffballs

It was late summer, Jon wasn’t home and I was sitting on the back porch eating lunch when I heard the tree fall in the woods.

I’d heard a tree fall once before so I was familiar with the sound. But this time there was no cracking or braking, no rumble as it hit the ground.  There was nothing violent about its descent.   It came down slowly, the sound of it falling softened by the branches and summer leaves of the surrounding trees.

It felt gentle. I thought of that trust exercise that people do when they intentionally fall back into someone’s arms, believing they will be caught.

That afternoon when I went for a walk in the woods, there was the big old apple tree, dead for as long as I can remember, laying across the path.  It had toppled from its rotted roots.  It just couldn’t stand upright anymore.

Since then the dogs jump and I step over the fallen tree.  It’s thick enough that I’d have to cut it was a saw to clear it from the path.  Each time I pass it, I think that maybe next time I’ll bring my bow saw and cut it up.

That hasn’t happened yet.

Today, just before stepping over the fallen apple tree, maybe because of the snow topping it off like a hat, I noticed the puffball.  It was about the size of one of my dryer balls and when I bent down to look at it then take a picture, Fate checked it out too.

Fate sniffing the puffball

I didn’t know much about puffballs, except that the first time I kicked one by mistake, a brownish puff of smoke came out of it.

Since reading about them, I discovered that the big white mushrooms that grow in the pasture are puffballs before they turn brown.  They’re basically mushrooms without the stem or gills.

Their spores are the brownish “smoke” that comes out of them.  So when I kicked that puffball, I was actually helping to spread its seeds.  If some animal doesn’t step on them and break them open, their outer skin eventually cracks or breaks off exposing their inside.

Even a drop of rain can kick up the powdery spores and release them into the air.

When I was in kindergarten we took a walking field trip to Duffy’s Park, a few blocks from the school.   It was just an open lot of grass with some trees on one edge. Miss Corin, my teacher, picked one of the dandelions that grew there.   She plucked the yellow petals revealing their fluffy white seed roots.

It seemed like magic to me when she told us that the yellow dandelions turned into those white balls of fluff that I made wishes on.   That I was actually spreading the seeds when I blew on them and made a wish.

I never made the connection between the big round mushrooms growing in the pasture and the brown or purple puffballs I also found there.  I obviously didn’t learn my lesson in Kindergarten but it’s finally sinking in.

Some plants and flowers can be unrecognizable in their many stages of development and throughout the seasons.   The bark on a Black cherry tree looks completely different when it’s young than when it’s old.  And there are so many variations of pine and oak trees I can’t imagine identifying them without being able to also see their leaves, pinecones, and/or acorns.

This spring I’m going to keep an eye on those big round white mushrooms that grow in the pasture.  It might be like watching grass grow, but I’d love to witness their gradual transformation into puffballs.

I’ve also read that some of them are edible.  But I’m not ready to go there yet.

The inside of another puffball I found in the woods.  This one was about six inches round, exposed and already rained on.

Fate knocked the Puffball with her nose, breaking it open.  So I gave it a squeeze to see the spores drift out.

A Rippling Ocean Of Moss

“oh oh oh, a mushroom way out of season, magical, it got up to 62 in southern VT, the morning of the great snow melt-off it was warmer here than in the Fort Lauderdale FL area. The Fungi Kingdom rules!”

That’s a comment Sharon left on my blog when I posted a picture of a mushroom that was growing in our woods out of season.  She’s referring to the movie, Fantastic Fungi, which is now streaming on Amazon and worth seeing if you have any interest in mushrooms.

I thought about what Sharon said about the warm temperatures when I was walking in my neighbor’s woods this afternoon and saw the brilliant green moss growing on the rocks and trees. It was so bright and lush, in contrast to the grays and browns surrounding it.

I almost felt like I could see it growing.  The fine hairs of moss, though still, looked like a rippling ocean.

And then there was the small pile of branches, the scale of a  pinecone, and the broken shell of an acorn.   It probably fell from a  nest,  but I like to imagine a squirrel noticing the moss as I did and taking advantage of a soft place to have a meal.  What a luxury, especially after the snowstorm that would have buried the moss under two feet of snow.

Autumn Mushroom

After at least a week of spring weather, the temperature started to drop today.  With it came rain and a typical gray November sky.

The autumn groundcover was soaked and shiny.  As were the mushrooms, on the path in the woods,  that came up in a cluster, looking like freshly fried eggs.

Fate and Zinnia hardly noticed the rain. They were too busy chasing the smells of all the animals preparing for winter.

The Wolf Spider Loses Her Home

The last time I saw the Wolf Spider in her home

Fate sniffed the coyote scat in the middle of the footbridge.  Its message was clear.

I’ve seen the dogs scoff up coyote scat before, or pee on it, reclaiming the territory.  But this time Fate just walked past it.  And Zinnia, as usual,  chose to walk through the small muddy pond under the bridge.

We were back to see if the wolf spider was at home.  But as I walked along the path and saw one freshly cut stump after another, it seemed likely that the spider’s tree had been cut down too.

I thought about how I had imagined tacking one of the giant oak leaves that were now on the ground to the tree with the words, Charlotte Lives Here and Terrific Spider, written on it.  Now, I promised to do it if the tree is still standing, like someone making a deal with God.

But there was the stump, surrounded by a litter of wood shavings, cut high enough off the ground that I could still see the familiar bend and bump in the trunk.

I imagined the wolf spider scurrying out of the hole after the tree fell and disappearing in the thick damp ground cover of autumn leaves.

Would my neighbor, who was harvesting the wood for the winter, really burn that perfectly round hole and decorative fungi doorway.  Or would he see the potential in it as a good home for someone?  Maybe nail a piece of slate on top of it and make it into a birdhouse.

This made me think about all the other animals who find homes in the woods. And how it was only the decorative doorway, that made me pay so much attention to this one.

I look for the extraordinary in the small acres of woods where I walk. The holes in the trees that remind me of childhood fantasies, colorful mushrooms, evidence of bear.

Just last week I was reading John Muir’s writings about Yellowstone.

I almost skipped over the chapter on the gray and brown squirrels.  Who wants to read about a squirrel I thought when there are so many more exotic animals and interesting land formations in that part of the country.

But I was humbled by Muir’s writing.

His knowledge and attention to detail about the lives of these two seemingly ordinary animals fascinated and delighted me.  His wonder and curiosity were infectious.  And although growing up in the suburbs I have shared my life with gray squirrels, even bottle-fed a few homeless babies, I never saw what Muir did in them.

I’ll never know what happened to the wolf spider.

She may find a home in the tree near the one she used to live in.  But I’m not likely to see it.  Unless I start paying attention in a different way. Finding wonder in not only the extraordinary but looking a little more closely at the expected and seeing deeper into what I believe I already know.

Keeping A House Happy. Potholders For Sale

My Happy House Potholders hanging next to the mushroom in their happy house.

The mushrooms grew (as mushroom often do) overnight in the maple tree outside my studio.

I saw them as I hung my Happy House Potholders that are for sale in my Etsy Shop on the tree.  Now, I thought, the mushrooms have a happy home too.

I see my Happy House Potholders as a charm to help keep a house happy.

You can see all my Happy House Potholders and buy them here.  They’re $18 each + $5 shipping for one or more.

The mushrooms in their happy house


Two Tree Stumps

I looked down on the knee-high, stump of a young tree sprouting green mushrooms and thought of the yellowish-green swirling dots I had just finished drawing on the background of my Twin Healing Trees fabric painting.

Not the same but similar.

Here the circles of the tree rings were not seen flat like when cut by a chainsaw, but three dimensional like the ruins of a castle.   I also saw the swirls and circles I made earlier with my greenish/yellow marker in the growth rings of the mushrooms.

Such a beautiful tree stump, dead, but so alive.

Then on my walk, I came to another tree stump.  This one hollowed out and big enough for me to sit inside of.  And when I did, right in front of me was a conical leaf, strung on a strand of, what I assume is, spiders web.

Even when battered by the wind, the stand held tight.

There had to be a story here.  The leaf was too much like a cocoon or nest for a small creature.  And the strand so strong.  There was nothing inside the leaf, but it was all seemed much too intentional to just be there for my pleasure.



The Yoni Tree I Know So Well….

Yoni Tree Potholder

We have three giant maples growing on the side of the house.  The one in front of my studio has a Yoni created by the two main branches (which are as big as trees themselves) twisting themselves around each other.

Spider webs guard the Yoni opening where mushrooms and a little maple tree is growing.

I hung one of my Yoni Potholders on the scaly bark to take a picture of it.

I see that maple tree every time I walk to or from my studio, every time I look out my front window.  We know each other the way I know the crows who live around the farm.   With a familiarity that borders on the mundane, yet with a little attention, awe-inspiring.

I have a few Yoni Tree Potholders in my Etsy Shop,  each one comes with one of my Yoni Tree Pins.   Just click here to see and buy them.

My Yoni Tree Pin

Full Moon Fiber Art Etsy Store

Full Moon Fiber Art