Archive for the 'trees' Category



We left Vermont nearly two weeks ago, and I’m just now starting to get caught up here.

raspberriesftf.jpgwading and boulder hopping in the Winooski River
picking wild berries
the jewel greens of mosses and ferns in the forest

heronftf.jpgchasing and (rarely) catching frogs and snakes
the susurration of wind in the trees
swimming in a cold lake on a hot sunny day
eating lots of maple ice cream

mossftf.jpga campfire on the beach
carpets of pine needles on forest floors
seeing the amazing night sky*, including the Milky Way and shooting stars during the Perseids
walking along the top of Vermont

lichenftf.jpgspotting hummingbirds and herons
kayaking and canoeing on the lake
Queen Anne’s lace everywhere

thistlesftf.jpgeating a picnic lunch at the bottom of a cliff bordering Lake Champlain
the beaver lake and dam down the dirt road from our cabin
visiting the place where we got married

leavesftf.jpgWe built a lot of great memories this year. We are already looking forward to next year’s trip.

*”The stars were so many there, they seemed to overlap.”–“The Painted Desert,” 10,000 Maniacs


In the blink of an eye

I took these just over two weeks ago. Already, the tulips are long gone, and the lilacs are nearly all spent as well. The pale-green new leaves have grown into full canopies on most trees in the area.




Spring outing

p3316800marchbankftf.jpgTuesday was one of those spring days that are just about perfect. You know what I mean? Sylvia didn’t have school that day, so we decided to celebrate the arrival of spring with a trip to Winterthur, a self-described “museum and country estate.” It was built by the DuPonts, and it’s a pretty amazing place. The house now houses a museum with several collections of the sorts of things that make the Antiques Roadshow hosts start to drool. I much prefer the grounds, which are a delight to explore in any season. On this visit, Sylvia and I got to see the March Bank covered with a carpet of periwinkles.

p3316826greenmanftf.jpgWhen we got on the open-air tram (Sylvia loves to ride it), the driver looked at us and said, “I bet I know where you’re going. The Enchanted Woods, right?” You bet. We call it “the fairy garden,” and it’s our favorite part of the entire estate.

As soon as we got there, Sylvia visited the Green Man, hopped on some stepping stones, and ran a labyrinth (so much for its meditative aspects!). We visited the fairy ring and the little (kid-sized!) thatched cottage and the giant bird’s nest and all of our other favorite spots.

After that, we just walked around and explored. We saw one of our old friends, a 250-year-old sycamore. By late morning we had shed our coats and by lunchtime the sun was warming up everything nicely. All told, we spent four hours there, finding signs of spring everywhere we went. All over the place are huge swaths of dark green, where daffodils are pushing through. I expect they’ll be blooming in a week or two. And we’ll probably go back to see them.










p3046456yarnbox.jpgA few years ago, I started saving my yarn scraps and snippets in a large Mason jar. They’ve proven useful for crafting with Sylvia (yarn cuttings make great hair), and last spring she enjoyed spread handfuls of them outside for the birds to use in nest-making.

This year we decided to kick our bird-aiding efforts up a notch and made a little box to hold the yarn bits. I covered this Barilla pasta box with packing tape (to make it a bit weatherproof), and Sylvia decorated it with stickers that she thought the birds would like. I punched holes for a little perch and punched yarn holes. She then filled the box with yarn from the jar, and pulled some strings through the holes to give the birds a hint. (I think of this as akin to the “suggestive change” in a busker’s open instrument case.)

We hung the yarn box on the dogwood tree outside our dining room window. It’s just a branch away from the birdhouse and a different branch away from our new goldfinch feeder. All of this is easily visible from the dining room, so I hope this spring nature will provide us with some mealtime entertainment.


The view in my yard a few days ago





Vermont: The great outdoors

p8122429beaverpondftf.jpgHere are some pictures from the two weeks we spent in Vermont in early August.

First, a beaver pond not far from where we were staying. The three of us went there on bicycles (Sylvia was in a pull-behind trailer) and found a little side trail leading to this spot. Here we had a great view not only of the entire pond, but also of the beaver lodge and the dam itself (on the left side of this photo)!

p8102395mossftf.jpgIs it just me, or do northeastern forests have a fundamentally different smell from forests in other parts of the country? There’s a cinnamon-y aroma surrounded by a pleasant mustiness. Interestingly, I’ve encountered the same smell in the Pacific Northwest, but not anywhere in the Mid-Atlantic or the Midwest. Hmmm.

And the jewel tones in the green moss…that’s mostly a northern thing, too.

p8082204thiscloud0808.jpgAnd finally, here’s a photo of the pond next to our cottage. It’s really hard to capture the sense of a place like this in a photo. I took gobs of pictures, but—like attempts to photograph sunsets—the results don’t look quite like the real thing. It’s enough to jog my memory, though…and enough to keep me going until next year’s trip.


Autumn on my doorstep

p9183480dogwoods.jpgDogwoods are the first trees to flower around here…and the first to start showing fall color.

Remember last spring’s dogwoods? Here’s what they look like now.


It’s definitely here

pa107829anemones.jpgLast week we had summer-like temperatures, but now, as the air is cooling, it’s obvious that autumn is truly here. There are a few flowers left in my yard, such as these anemones, which were planted by my Dutch father-in-law, a horticulturalist who knows the Latin names (but not always the English ones) of pretty much every plant in my area (and in lots of other places, too). It’s an autumn-blooming perennial. When I see its stems start to rise from the ground in late summer, I wonder, “Will the flowers arrive before the winter?” And they do–and it’s a joy to see these delicate white blossoms that seem to float in the air.

pa107838hydrangea.jpgAnd then there are the hydrangeas. We have one large plant near the patio and three smaller plants in other places; they all produce blue-green blossoms. I didn’t cut a whole lot of them this year, so the plants are covered with flowers that have been slowly drying out over the past few weeks–fading to pale green and eventually turning into brown paper.

pa107834leaves.jpgThe early days of autumn are always a surprise to me. The river birch along the back fence is one of the first trees to shed its leaves, and it does this even as most of the trees are still quite green. A handful of golden brown leaves scatter themselves across the lawn…and in the blink of an eye, it seems, the grass is obscured by a carpet of leaves (and it’s a thick carpet: last year we composted forty paper lawn bags of shredded leaves) and all the trees are bare.



Today’s Booking through Thursday (and yes, the Marsha suggested therein is me!):

Suggested by Marsha:

Buy a Friend a Book Week is October 1-7 (as well as the first weeks of January, April, and July). During this week, you’re encouraged to buy a friend a book for no good reason. Not for their birthday, not because it’s a holiday, not to cheer them up–just because it’s a book.

What book would you choose to give to a friend and why?

There are three books that I’ve given to people with some regularity. One is The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. I’ve read this one in the original French and in English, and I’m pleased to say that this lovely tale about innocence and imagination and love translates remarkably well.

Another is The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster. From the first sentence (“There was once a boy named Milo who didn’t know what to do with himself–not just sometimes, but always”) to the end, it’s filled with clever wordplay, memorable characters, imagination, and humor. I love this book.

Unlike the first two choices, the third is one that most people don’t know, I think, and therefore one that I’m most likely to give these days. (In fact, it’s in the prize package for the blog-birthday contest I’m running right now. My own responses are here, if you’re curious.) It’s The Man Who Planted Trees, by Jean Giono, the tale (some say it’s true, though Giono says it’s not–the public’s insistence that it must be true is, I think, testament to how eagerly people want to believe in something good) of a man in Provence, France, who pretty much singlehandedly reforested the region by planting acorns every day during the first half of the twentieth century.

I love this book because of its optimism about how much good a single person can do and because of its encouragement to fill one’s life with meaning. I also love this book because, well, I love trees. They’re central to my doctoral research (on the so-called timber wars of the U.S. Pacific Northwest), so I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about them intellectually and professionally. And I’m reminded of them every day in my personal life: my husband (also a tree lover) and I named our daughter Sylvia.


Ghost trees

Whenever I go for a walk in the woods in the spring after (or during) a rain, I’m always struck by the contrast between the water-dark wood of tree bark and the tiny new fresh-green leaves. The contrast is especially strong with dogwoods, whose just-opened new flowers are a pale green. It’s easier to get a sense of this ethereal quality when in an actual forest and not in the suburbs, surrounded by neighbors’ homes. But the half a dozen dogwoods on our property (a happy legacy of previous owners) are enough to take me a real forest in my own Proustian moment.