Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

Urban critters

August 20th, 2014

We see coyotes, raccoon, opossums and such in our part of Boston. I scouted out a few more today at Forest Hills Cemetery and the in-town Audubon nature center.

In Lake Hibiscus in the middle of the graveyard, I was surprised to see a pretty big snapping turtle (surely undocumented immigrant). It was pretty creepy. It came from maybe 30 feet off-shore and surfaced just below me by the tiny rocky beach. As I moved about 100 feet along the shore, it tracked me. I began to feel like it was viewing me as a two-legged fish…a snack.

The lake has regular turtles, cormorants, and of course the usual ducks and geese.

A short distance down Walk Hill, I trotted the fox trail (el sendero del zorro on the sign). The hen turkeys did the turkey trot faster. They did not want to chat or play.

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Cormorants in the cemetery lake were chowing down on little fish. corm1
corm5 Several cormorants used the boulders as bases to flap and dry off.
The snapping turtle seemed to find me fascinating…maybe edible.

Less spookily, was he used to someone on land tossing bread?

snap3
smallerturtle The shiny to-scale turtles like the warming rocks in the cemetery lake.
The wild turkey hens were not happy with my being on their trail. They quickly repaired elsewhere. turkeyleave
snap2 [Jaws theme here] The snapper followed me along the shore and several times stuck its anaconda neck out to get closer.

Maple Sugar Day Sights

March 8th, 2014

Vapors were the order of the at the Maple Sugar Festival today (repeat tomorrow, Sunday, March 9th, 10AM-4PM). Many maples on the DCR’s Brookwood Farm had taps drawing sap. Stops on the trail included one with Native American forms of syrup making —keeping a strong fire going and plunging hot rocks into wooden bowl of sap to do the deed. (Insert big hiss.)

Down the dirt road was the colonial take — with the benefit of metal pots, they hung these over fires and evaporated the sap into syrup and sugar.

Further down was a small evaporator unit in the modern style. Its big sibling at the end of the path was a sugarhouse, with a massive evaporator unit. The evaporators spewed steam as they did their work.

Also along the way was a blacksmith, Michael Bergman. He showed his skills and pitched classes in Waltham at the Prospect Hill Forge.  He worked with an anvil, of course, and instead of a massive heath and forge, he worked off what appeared to be a round Weber grill.  It used coal to generate enough heat to turn the steel rods red hot, and along the way smoke up the place.

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The smith with his hand-cranked fan stoking the coal. bhsmith5
bhsmith3 The red-hot steel bar twisted quickly in a vise.
The colonial version of reducing sap to sugar used metal pots over fires. sappot
sugarhouse1 The sugarhouse is full of steam, sweet-smelling steam, as the big evaporator cooks down the sap. Your reward for walking the history trail was a little cup of fresh syrup.
Count our toes. The 300-year-old barn on the site is under rehab. The crew uses only tools available at the time. To create a beam, the team strips the bark and shapes a log into the right proportions. counttoes
bhspileguy More period drama with tool restrictions occurred at the colonial sugaring area. Here a reenactor makes a spile (a tap for a maple). He hollows a piece of wood into a tube. He then inserts this into a drilled hole in the maple to draw off the sap into an attached bucket.
It had nothing to do with sap or syrup, but Mass Audubon worked with the DCR on the event and showed up with several birds. An impressive one was a red-shouldered hawk.She survived a raccoon attack on her fledgling nest that killed all her siblings. She’s growing back the flight feathers the raccoon bit off her. She doesn’t get a name because they don’t want to treat her as or make her a pet. redshlulder4

screech2
There was also a screech owl.
Another of the hawk…just because… redshlulder2

icetongs
The barn has period relics too. Several ice tongs were on shelves, remnants of when colonists cut blocks of ice from ponds, like nearby Houghton’s, and stored them under straw in cellars for use many months later.

 

 

Pope’s Pond Action

January 28th, 2014

 

popesskaters

In retro, and even rural, play, teen guys were out of Pope’s Pond in Milton this afternoon. With their pucks and sticks, plus a snow shovel to sort of clear the very rough ice (no Zamboni),

I started out at the other end, where Pine Tree Brook was running fast, as in unfrozen water. The lads reported they’d been on the ice for 40 minutes or so and it was very solid. They admitted the surface was quite rough, but they were happy just to be out there. The temp was between 10 to 15, with a wind chill of maybe 0, so no thaw was in the works.

Around the bend, my personal version of the great white whale briefly appeared. It is the great blue heron instead and my obsession is in getting a decent photograph of it, not murdering it for revenge.

popesheron

I’ve seen him a couple of times previously and I didn’t have a camera at all. Today, I had one…in a jeans pocket…but he still got the better of me. This distant, fuzzy snap was the best I could do in pulling out the camera, pushing the on button, waiting for the lens and pointing. He seemed to have seen me at the same time and less than a second after this rushed, unfocused shot, he was gone between the trees.

He’s a big one and I really want a good shot. This is the third time I saw him there out of maybe 30 hikes.

I’ll be back. He fooled me today; he only has been by the brook fishing in warm weather.  The water can’t have been much above 32F.

From now on, not only will have a camera just in case, but I’ll have it out. Maybe I’ll waste some battery by activating the camera before I start the Pine Tree Brook Trail. If he’s ready, the least I can do is show the same respect.

Mike Bunyon, TV Star

November 19th, 2013

We had a very tall, very sad ash — double base with three trunks — next to and sometimes plunging limbs into our garage. No more.

The uxorial unit got estimates and located what turned out to be a relative celebrity arborist, Specialized Rigging & Tree Care.  They did their acrobatics today, left only stumps and hauled the rest away.

Turned out they were featured as one of four tree slayers in the National Geographic series Big Bad Wood. They were the one of the four services that sent their climbers straight up with tackle and chainsaws. As a bonus, the main climber shared my first name, Mike.

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We started with a lot of ash tree, in three pieces. treetriple
treeready Thick or thin stem seemed to make no difference. Up he went and attacked.
The ground crew was ready to retrieve each trunk piece or limb, pull as necessary and be available on command. treecrew
treecling Mike scampered up each trunk, strapped himself, hooked the part he’d cut, and brought up his chainsaw.
A Timber! moment, one of many. treefall
treeparts Tree parts staged in the drive ready for chipping or trucking.
All but the biggest pieced got the Morbark chipper treatment. treemorbark

treestump
Poof. Then it was gone…almost.

Alas, Neponset Giants

July 20th, 2013

Since I last walked the banks of the Neponset from Boston’s Hyde Park into Milton, the parks maintenance folk have visited. Several huge as well as numerous smaller tries, evergreens and deciduous alike, have been removed or had surgery.

treesickly

Two in particular were striking in their feebleness or injury, as well as size. They are huge in circumference and height. They are old. They looked hale, virtually immortal.

These are effects of aging and illness that leads us (OK, me) to strained metaphors of human life.

The American beech, here left, had clearly been rotting from the inside for a long time, perhaps a century. I have a fondness for these magnificent trees. Our previous house in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood shared the yard with a specimen at least 250 years old. It was coming to the end of its time and with sadness, we had arborists crown perhaps 30 feet off to prolong its life.

These sturdy gems are the stuff of carved lovers’ hearts, climbing, swings and treehouses. The only drawback I know is that when they produce nuts ever few years, those are multitudinous and damned hard on bare feet. They also would take forever to compost.

Here’s the big metaphor. It is often the largest, strongest looking of us who are rotting away inside, by cancer or other disease. Either through obvious symptoms or accidental discovery, the seemingly invulnerable are enfeebled or felled.

We could worry this trope to death with comparisons of dealing with found illness, carrying on, giving up, blah blah. It’s enticing, but let’s not.

Around the corner, a huge evergreen apparently suffered from our huge winds. If you can apply intelligence to a tree, you’d have to wonder what it was doing putting out such a huge limb and so low. The injured limb had to go.

neponsetamputee

There’s a simpler metaphor for the amputation. Moreover, this obviously was not the first such operation for this tree.

evergreentears

These pine-family plants do not have the longevity or to me the beauty of the beech. Still the metaphors of blood and tears flow with the fluids. The running, hanging sap does in fact look like what a human might produce in such adversity.

No one knows now whether the pine will heal as well from this injury as the previous one. This will be a rough season for it, rife with nasty insects, viruses and bacteria that can invade an open wound much more easily than a sealed bark.

It will take a year or two to see how well the tree’s defenses worked.

It surely is sensible and safe for the park crews to cut and remove damaged limbs and living hazard trees. Yet it’s tough for us ambulatory tourists to take too. We can foresee the decline and demise of these grand lifeforms.

Caught at a weak moment, we can also fall into the poetic and even religious traps of comparing cellulose lifeforms to our own…particularly when they are weeping.

Really Deep Two Inches

March 8th, 2013

We likely shouldn’t complain when the forecasters err on too little snow. They have been wrong — to our relief — almost every time this winter the other way, as in a foot of snow turning out to be 1 inch. Last night though, they said two more inches on top of the two on the ground. It appears to be 12 and still coming hard in a two to three-day storm.





fluff
It started out gently, soothingly, with fluff decorating the bushes.
Yesterday, our youngest was off to college in the early morning and back again while we hid inside. Then this morning a neighbor on Highland looked in a snow Sisyphus trying to keep up with the heaps before and around him.ikefeet snowsysiphus
fairmountfeeders Today the birds are finding wee, wet perches in snowy bushes waiting to get to the feeders.
The Neponset always seems to show the best of the snow. neponsetdroop
fairmountsign The commuter rail to town was less inviting…
…even less so at its main entry and walkway.fairmountchute fairmountstop

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Quadruple Arf

February 23rd, 2013

My wife and I went to Stony Brook today to watch the Boston Snow Dog Run. Two or three small teams of four, plus one solitary skijoring guy with his pooch, made the most of the remaining snow near the skating rink.

Two of the mushers apologized to us about the quartets’ seeming lack of focus. Those of us with images of driven Ititarod racers fairly devouring 1,000 miles of ice and snow were obviously amused at the huskies playing with each other and sometimes pulling in different directions. It seems they are largely pets who have a great time. Getting them competitive is not always easy.

They were beautiful in behavior as well as appearance though.




dogshill
The huskies seemed to live for this stuff. Pets or not, when they got perking, they were enthusiastic.
A single skijoring fellow accompanied the dogs, first in the woods, then in the field. The huskies ignored him and his pulling dog. fieldmush
HPmush Not the typical Hyde Park dog walker.
Make your own dog tail/tale jokes. When the team got working in the open field, they became one. huskytails
dogskindofteam The huskies were frisky sorts and as the mushers said, there was some question about who was really in charge.
Mush, Mom! mushmom

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Snow returns to Boston

February 9th, 2013

Yeah, we had and are having some snow in Boston, over two feet.

I recall in the ’60s when I was on the South Carolina swim team and it snowed in Columbia during practice. We had guys from Florida and even Australia who had never seen the stuff. They ran outside wet and in their tank suits just for a touch and look. Good they did; it was all gone within the hour. That’s not likely happen here and now.

snowdacha Last night, before the real stuff, the deck looked like a scene from Dr. Zhivago’s dacha.
By this morning, we were at two feet and both storm doors were doing their job. They required considerable oomph to force open enough to get out. stormedin
stormsun Our touchstone for snow is the New Mexico pottery sun on the garage. Snow it is.
With the strong winds, much of the snow was horizontal overnight. Most of our windows were more ornamental than useful. snowvoc
Sarahscars View from the side to our neighbor’s. Those are two vehicles and not snow forts.
The warm and cozy backyard cafe is not as inviting this morning. notteatime

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Snow to Come

February 8th, 2013

Little stuff in prep for the 2 to 3 feet and 70MPH gusts…

unstorm As a reference for the white nasties, our front looked like this before the flurries started.
Easter abandoned, perhaps with hope for future candy, in an open lot on upper Milton Avenue. Surely no one felt the need to discard old baskets in preparation for the storm. exeaster
birdswait The birds were not deterred by the flurries. Rather they crowed awaiting shots at the feeders.
No warning to the lilacs that are eager for spring. prelilacs

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The claw comes to us

October 31st, 2012

Hail to Da Mare and his minions. Post-Sandy, we’re feeling good about city services here in Tom Menino’s city of Boston and neighborhood of Hyde Park. The big old tree is gone. The last of it just went away in a big old truck.

We aren’t uninjured. A good sized limb was driven into the garage roof. We’ll need to fix that or have it fixed.

The tree though…the tree. A chum in Winchester had the same situation in the storm. A large pine fell on his property. There was no damage to his house, but he’s gotten estimates of a thousand for a clean up and $3,000 for the works including tree removal.

Here on Fairmount Hill:

  1. a 40 to 50 foot pine in our front yard fell across the yard, sidewalk, street, and neighbor’s sidewalk and yard
  2. my wife and numerous neighbors independently called 911, the local police station and Public Works
  3. within a half hour, crews worked in the wind and rain to clear the street
  4. a Public Works truck could haul away some of the smaller pieces they had gotten off with a chain saw
  5. a Public Works loader moved the big trunk pieces to our lawn and sidewalk — four massive trunk pieces and the huge root structure
  6. the crew head said (to my incredulity) that Parks would be by to pick up most of it and if we were nice all of it
  7. this morning a contract tree firm showed up to chip and take away the branches
  8. they ended up also loading up the two smaller diameter trunk pieces, clearing the sidewalk
  9. a few minutes ago a green truck (Parks contractor?) showed and took away the rest

Here’s overkill on boys-with-toys. The final process, pix because I have ‘em.

The trunk remainder was pretty massive still.
The guy operating the truck and its arcade-claw-machine style crane was clearly not new to the job. He made quick work of our residue and was off to the next job.
A single trunk piece was too inefficient or slow or not fun enough. He doubled up.
The Public Works crew had also sawed through the trunk at the root structure, or he would have had it all at once.
Double dump.
He had to swing the claw back for the roots. (It made me think of Toy Story — “Farewell, my friends. I have been chosen. I go to a better place.”)
The nasty, gnarly root structure was up…
…and gone. And like The Lone Ranger, “Our work is done here,” and he was gone too.

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Actually, I thought the Public Works crew was optimistic. I have a small electric chainsaw and two bow saws. I considered what lengths I’d cut and such.

But I didn’t have to.