Friday, July 22, 2011

A Day in Nature

That's how I wanted to spend my birthday on Wednesday.
Michael and Anna took me on a hike at High Ledges Wildlife Sanctuary, a Mass Audubon property about 45 minutes from home.  When we finally made it to the ledges, our efforts were rewarded by a beautiful (if somewhat hazy) panoramic view of the Deerfield River Valley.  Anna was appropriately cautious of the edge, but did manage to relax at last.
Michael didn't think he'd make the blog, but here he is with his new hiking shoes!
I'm always interested in seeing plants and plant communities, and although we were past orchid season (no blooms in the "Orchid Swamp"), the lowbush blueberries were lush and fruit was ripening, and we saw Indian Pipes - always a thrill.  They seem more like a fungus than a plant since they don't have chlorophyll, but they are actually in the same family as Rhododendrons, and their flowers provide nectar for bees, who in turn pollinate the flowers so they can produce seeds.
The highlight of the hike was the vernal pool.  Peepers were hopping everywhere - and they are so unbelievably tiny and cute!
We also stopped in Shelburne Falls for a late lunch and a stroll over the Bridge of Flowers, an old, abandoned trolley bridge that someone back in 1926 had the foresight to convert into a linear garden over the river.
I found a couple new plants of interest.  Crocosmia, which depending on the nursery catalog you read, may or may not grow in Zone 5.  That's pushing it anyway.  Although we're officially Zone 5, our elevation and the wind patterns make our little farm seem more like Zone 4b.  The Crocosmia is so big and tropical, it's definitely worth a try:
I was also loving the Astrantia.  I think it would look beautiful next to some hostas, much in the way astilbe does:
And at the end of my day in nature, I found that Anna, my little fiber artist, had been hard at work on a new felting project just for my birthday!  Isn't he adorable?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Art Behind the Barn

Our CSA had a craft fair behind the barn on Saturday.  It was very small and informal, and we only decided to do it a week earlier.  We expected to sell practically nothing based on what I had heard from other vendors, but figured it would be nice to see and chat with friends and neighbors for a few hours.  As it turns out, we had a very pleasant morning and our fleece was a huge hit!
The star of the day was Anna and her felted penguins.  She sold every penguin she brought, worked on more penguins while there and sold all of them, and even has one more penguin on back-order.  $62 worth of penguins, plus two handmade glass beads traded for a penguin - not too bad!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Down in the Bog

Literally, a bog, here in Western Massachusetts.  It's always a little exciting getting into the bog since it is a floating peat mat on a deep hole full of water.  The edges of the bog look like a normal wetland - spongy ground, wet leaves - but if you step in the wrong place, you'll sink up to your hips.
There is a small log that we usually walk across to get into the bog, although I've never been there without someone falling in at the edge.  This time it was Anna, who sunk up to her knee and slogged around with water in her boot the rest of the afternoon, and Fred, who went deep.  It's not quite as bad as it sounds because the water is clear with just a few bits of organic matter floating in it, and the high acidity keeps down bacteria levels.
Once over the watery margin and then through the dense shrubs at the beginning edge of the peat mat, the center of the bog opens up and the magic begins.  There are plants in the bog that you don't see anywhere else.  It's a unique and not especially hospitable growing environment - very wet and acidic.  The entire floor of the bog is covered in dense, springy sphagnum moss.  There are carnivorous pitcher plants which were flowering, bog laurel with the tiniest pink flower cups, sweet gale which is related to bayberry, tamaracks which are deciduous conifers, and stunted, gnarled black spruces.
There is also a species of bog blueberries - good eating when they are green according to Anna, although I'm not convinced.  We even saw a baby snapping turtle.  It's a landscape like no other.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Gooseberry Sauce

No photos, just some freshly picked gooseberries, simmered in elderflower cordial syrup, poured over vanilla ice cream, made while Michael and I were flopped on the sofa after putting up 2 loads of hay bales.  So tart and creamy.  Yum.  Thanks Anna!