Monday, August 28, 2006

Reading the Woods

It was a long day today on the road and one would have thought that I'd sit a minute and rest once I got home. Some folks think things slow down at Vermont Flower Farm when we head into September but that's far from true. The list of things to do kept dancing around my mind today and when I headed out of Windsor, Vermont after lunch, I kind of decided to cut a tankful of firewood and then look for some Trillium undulatum seed pods for Eric.

People measure things in various ways and I sometimes measure firewood by tanks of chainsaw gas. To me it's a safety feature. Today I felt up to working safely but I knew I had been active all day so one tankful of gas would have meant I sawed about enough wood and didn't get overtired. I never do more than two tanks at a time anymore.

If you know what you're doing you can saw a lot of wood in that amount of time but then someone has to clean up the mess. I like to end each cutting with a clean slate so I pile the brush and at very least throw the wood in a pile. Some of the trees I have been cutting of late are old bruisers that have dead spots and lots of left overs so I don't always finish as I usually plan. Tonight I finished a maple I didn't get through yesterday and then I downed a dead cherry which was quite well dried. Between the two trees, I had more than enough work for the limited time before dinner.

The woods I was cutting in face north and are on somewhat of a slope. Trillium undulatum are scattered here and there and this time of year some have beautiful bright red seed pods. I knew yesterday I'd really be pressing my luck if I didn't get out and find some soon. I had promised Eric some and actually intended to take him into the woods with me if he showed up Saturday. He showed up but Gail left for the day so I was faced with customers and Eric left with a bag of Clintonia borealis seeds. This is the blue-bead lily I mentioned before. Eric already has some but now he has some more.

I found a few trillium seed pods but most had already fallen to the ground and were swept away by any number of creatures, big and small. I have seen deer eat them, chipmunks carry them and ants help plant them. No telling who was involved in the latest dispersal operation but I only came home with 9 pods. If you train your eyes to look 10"-14" above ground level they are easy to spot if they exist at all. I think Eric will be pleased to have some when he appears over Labor Day weekend.

Just being in the woods is a tranquil time for me. The woods are like a giant set of encyclopedias, and from A to Z there is infinite life to explore. I sat on a dry ironwood log for a minute and scanned the flat for seed pods. Recognizing the amount of decaying trees reminded me of a piece I wrote for our website a couple-three years ago. I called it Our Forests, Our Responsibilities
(Can be found at
In the piece I discussed problems with trees and insects and I mentioned a book entitled The Dying of the Trees: The Pandemic in America's Forests by Charles Little.

As I sat looking from tree to tree I tried to recall how I learned to read the woods. Surprisingly, much of what I know was self taught as a matter of spending time in the woods, reading, and drawing pictures of the surroundings. That life was a fantacy of sorts which permitted escape from tough times which seemed too prevalent for our family. I can remember finding my first basswood tree and my first yellow spotted salamander( Ambystoma maculatum). I can remember eating my first beech nuts and banging my fingers while trying to open my first butternut. These were all parts of the woods and I learned to read them well.

Now I know how little I really understand about our forests. They offer a calm place to rest and energize. They offer questions and they offer challenges. Today they offered some seed pods of Trillium undulatum. Eric will be happy to have them although it will be years before the seeds grow to plants big enough to have nice red seed pods. Until then, he'll have to read the forests and remember where he sowed the seeds........I hope!

Gardening wishes from the mountain above Peacham Pond, where the crickets are singing, and a small spider is sitting inside the corner of my office window. The web is separated by the window screen which makes the prospects of a nice supper rather slim.

George Africa

Don't forget Saturday, September 16th, only from 8-10 AM. Bee Balm Day. A good shovelful for $10. Bring your own container, box, bag, bucket.

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