Thursday, October 07, 2010

Lichens and Rock Ferns

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Just past noon, 44°, with 5-8 mph wind gusts and continued rain. Outside garden plans for today fell to the wayside as I decided to go for a hike on the backside of Marshfield Pond. This is a hike I only made one time before and it kept taking a back burner to other chores until today. I told Gail I was scouting for deer and looking for oyster mushrooms as I turned off the lights and closed the back door at about 6. Karl the Wonder Dog was obviously disappointed at the exclusion but I wanted privacy, not interference. I should have been more specific about where I was going before I left, but that became an after thought.

It was darker than a pocket with patches of heavy fog that made me flick the high beams on and off trying to get the best vision in case a deer, bear or moose walked in front of me. As I headed down the old railroad bed, two woodcock stood senseless in the road until the truck inched too close and they burst straight into the air. I was not surprised to see them but was surprised that at the end of a 3/4 mile strip I had counted a total of 21 birds. They had been eating worms in the road and had found temporary residence in the adjacent swamp. The last time I saw so many was one spring perhaps three-four years ago when I was working on an amphibian migration project with spotted salamanders and frogs. That night I felt as if Alfred Hitchcock was nearby doing a remake of The Birds as woodcock were everywhere.

For the second time in as many trips I failed to reach two goals. I wanted to at least get to the bottom of a giant glacial erratic that sits in the middle of a mid level swamp and I wanted to climb at least half way up a mountain I had just spent an hour walking to. The rain was falling so intensely by that point that both boots were full of water and rendered inappropriate for difficult climbing. Slipping off a rock crossing a brook did not help my boot problem either.

I noticed a series of very large glacial erratics to my far right and decided to give them a look-see. I was not disappointed. Up top is a picture of one of the groups that caught my attention. Visualize in excess of 50 feet in height and 70-80 feet width. The rock faces were covered with rock tripe and the tops were blanketed in rock ferns, one of my favorites. No place within the interior structure of the giant rock pile did I find any signs of animal life--no scat, no bone shards, no hair, no animals.

Rock tripe, Umbilicaria mammulata, in contrast, was everywhere. It is known to be very sensitive to air pollution so what I saw today gave me a good feeling as this was the biggest I have seen in the forests around here. Despite what I have read about it being edible or being coveted by rug hookers for creating a beautiful purple dye, I gave no thought to taking any home even though collection would have been very easy.

I leaned against a maple for a few minutes contemplating the beauty around me and then I headed back down the mountain. The water was rising in the stream and I was happy when I made it safely across. In a few weeks when the temperatures drop and the rains cease, I'll return to this area and maybe reach one of my goals. Still didn't make it back to Camel's Hump this year.

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where Canada geese are flying at lower levels and robins eat sargentii crab apples as if there is no tomorrow. There will be, and I'll be here.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
On Facebook as George Africa and also Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens
On Twitter as vtflowerfarm


jodi (bloomingwriter) said...

Ah, George. You write so very very well. Are you posting links to your blog posts on your Facebook page? More people need to enjoy your skills.

George Africa said...

Thanks Jodi! I just returned from visiting gardens on the Maine coast and will get back to blogging in a day or so. I appreciate your nice comment. The Vermont Gardener gets posted to my personal Facebook page, George Africa, and I need to get it to automatically post to Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens, our FB business page.