I saw this on our trail today and knew what it was, thanks to the lichen workshop I went to in Middletown a couple of weeks ago! It’s rock tripe, and George Washington used it to help his starving troops survive the winter at Valley Forge in 1777. (It’s not all nice and green and moist like this in the winter-time, though.) You can see the cool texture of the underside in a couple of spots where it’s flipped up. The front feels like seaweed, and the back is black and almost suede-like.
Photos from my walk on the rain-saturated trail this afternoon. The lichen and moss were especially beautiful contrasting with the wet-darkened trees and rocks. There are so many ferns out now. Everything is insanely green and lush! It felt magical.
Such a nice weekend. Dean and I had a lovely relaxing day out on the patio yesterday, watching the birds, squirrels and chipmunks while Dean trimmed Cyrus (one of our bonsai trees), and we had our first cookout of the year and even ate outside! Our grill got bashed this winter when the giant piece of ice fell off the eavestrough, but Dean fixed it and it worked just fine, although the top is still a little dented.
The ambitious chipmunk from last year is still around and climbed the bird feeding station pole again! It was the first time he did it this year, but he got the hang of it again pretty quickly and it was super fun watching him climbing up and stuffing his cheeks with safflower seeds, then running back to his home to stash away his harvest! He is so brave and hard working, I feel like he deserves all the seed he can gather. Climbing that high pole is really an impressive feat for a little chipmunk, and he’s the only one who can do it.
Today the sky was nice and clear and the weather mild, and I had a very pleasant afternoon gravehounding. First I went to Edwards Burying Ground (God’s Acre) in South Windsor, but I didn’t realize that the stones there face east, so I will return tomorrow morning. It isn’t really that far away, so getting there while the sun is on the right side of the stones shouldn’t be hard. I went there back in 2010, and last summer with my friend Rick when he was in Connecticut doing fieldwork, but I wanted to return to take a photo of Gershom Bartlett’s earliest stone, which Rick showed me when we were there together.
After stopping in South Windsor, I went to the old Ellington burying ground, then to two burying grounds in Tolland. I’d been to the Ellington one last fall, but the sky had clouded over while I was there, and I wanted to return to get photos of two very early Bartlett stones that Rick helped me find (remotely, via Facebook messaging) last time. The lighting was perfect today, and I got nice photos and really enjoyed walking around, listening to birdsong, photographing stones, and thinking of Rick. He died on Wednesday, and I will really miss sharing observations and insights with him. The sun was bright and all day long I kept noticing mica-rich schist stones gleaming with silver, which was the last thing we’d ever talked about. I’d written to him, “The most gorgeous stones, to me, though, are those particularly mica-filled eastern CT schists that shine like a slab of silver when the sun catches them just right. So beautiful…” and Rick replied, “I’m with you 100% with those mirror-like schists. Love ‘em!” :-)
I’ll post the photos of the early Bartlett stones tomorrow after I go back to South Windsor, and write a little more about Rick. It’s very rare that I actually like someone enough to be friends, and he was pretty special.
After Ellington, I drove to two burying grounds in Tolland that I’d never been to before, North and Skungamaug. They were both fairly small, and not too far of a drive, so the whole day was very relaxing and nice. At first I thought North was going to be a boring cemetery, but it was one that Rick had recommended to me, so I gave it a chance and it turned out to be really fun, with lots of Ezra Stebbins stones (I love Stebbins and wasn’t expecting that!), some wonderful Ebenezer Drake and Upswept-Wing Carver stones, and a flowering tree whose smell reminded me of playing outside as a little girl in Maryland. It made me sneeze, but I liked it. :-) Visiting Skungamaug was neat because Dean used to golf there with his dad, and it had more Stebbins stones making all kinds of amusing faces.
Since I was close to Vernon, I stopped at Rein’s on the way back for a great kippered salmon salad sandwich, and got back early enough to wrangle a big rock out of the woods and then build onto two of my previous rock arrangements on Succulent Hill in the twilight. I am very pleased with the modifications; the new stones I added look like they should have been there all along! It was a good weekend.
Here’s how my rock wrangling is going. The two deposits of rocks just whumped down randomly in the front and on the left are ones I’ve collected from the woods but haven’t arranged yet. The ones that look more composed and have plants near them are a few of my arrangements. (There are a bunch more off the edge of this picture towards the right.) The arrangement in the center of the photo is my favorite, because you can use the big flat rock at the base as a seat, and pet the soft artemisia with your right hand while you sit. My arrangements are inspired by how rocks and boulders occur in nature, and I always try to keep rocks that I found next to each other together, since they’re pals. There are looooots of field stones and boulders in this area, so I have plenty of inspiration.
I know it doesn’t look like that many rocks, but rocks are really really heavy and I moved all of them by myself, with the exception of a few of the very largest ones, which Dean helped me with. The six I did yesterday are on the far left of the front group. I have to carry them from wherever I find them, which is usually far away, out on the woods, and by the time I get near Succulent Hill I am almost always ready to collapse. Sometimes I have to drop them a few times along the way, rest for a minute, and spur myself on. I always carry as many as I can possibly handle—only one if they are large, or three or four if they are smaller ones. Rooooocks. They are the best.
I planted portulaca today! (They are my favorite.) I got them at Draghi, and mixed together two kinds: Sundial Mix and Sundance Mix, so there should be lots of colors! Gooood, because the vast expanse of Succulent Hill needs color. Portulaca are annuals, but they last until frost and produce lots of flowers all summer long, so it’s worth it. I got 48 little plants for only $16.
I know they look kind of sparse now, but they will spread a lot and fill in over the summer. And the reason that area is all dark is because I watered them to get them started, but mostly they like it dry and sunny, which is perfect for Succulent Hill. :-) As you can see, the sedum are doing pretty well and have grown a lot since they started reappearing early this spring. I noticed some of them have spread to new areas. Pretty cool.
After I planted the portulca, I did some rock wrangling and added a few rocks from out along the trail to the pile I have built up to work with when making new rock arrangements on Succulent Hill. It was pretty exhausting since rocks are so heavy, so I only did about five or so. Now my muscles hurt, in a good way.
It was a nice temperature for doing stuff outside today. A little cool, but not ABSURDLY FREEZINGLY COLD like yesterday.
Oh, the first pic is the current state of the lettuce/herb bed (which I also watered). The spicy-tasting lettuces that the picky-eater rabbit hates are doing great, but the sweet lettuces are little stubs that you can barely see. The cilantro, fennel, and parsley are growing back a little, but the rabbit might just waiting for them to get bigger so he can snack again. I don’t think the dill will grow back. The herbs that he hates look good, though, except the tarragon, which seems a little sickly.
Moss. So much moss. And lichen. Textures and patterns and colors, covering rocks, climbing trees, wrapping around sticks. Up at the ridge: dripping, and foam, and sodden moss, and dead leaves faded pale, collaged together in zillions of overlapped shapes, layered thick, quiet, soft, flat.
I can barely think or move; I’m bordering-on-lightheaded with that deep, satisfying exhaustion of being in nature and doing until you can’t anymore, then sitting still, centered, feeling it all sinking in. It’s a little chilly, a little breezy, steely gray and almost-rainy, but it was good.
I walked around the whole yard and climbed the whole trail and hack-pruned the big hydrangea and hack-pruned the butterfly bushes and dragged it all away. They are monsters, those butterfly bushes. It was a battle. I hack them to stubs every year and then they shoot out five feet of new growth over the course of one summer, and smell like wine and swarm with butterflies.
So many things are showing Signs now. Not pretty signs, yet, but just tiny bits of green appearing where a week or two ago it looked dead and brown. The perennials, the grass, little eager flowering weeds. They are subtle bits of green, and you have to look. But some of the Succulent Hill action is visible from my window, now! Little lumps of color sticking out of the weathered mulch. I looked up close at the individual plants with binoculars before I went out, because I am silly that way. They are glistening with captured raindrops, although the binoculars don’t show that detail.
And the moss. Moss, moss, moss. Is this wet, drippy, soggy time the moss’ favorite part of the year? I wish I could identify the mosses and lichens, but I can’t. I don’t know their names, or even how many types there are. So many. But I can still admire them. I probably need food now but I don’t know if I can move anything but my fingers. I know this isn’t coherent but neither is my brain.
The grackles have been gobbling down the bird food too fast, so I put out safflower seed. Everyone else seems to love it! Lots of swooping action in the drizzling rain today.
After several days of showers, the lawn is now extremely squelchy, and all the trees’ darkened bark looks lovely contrasting with the rocks and ground. I was lying in my window seat looking out, and I noticed that the front boulder is SO much lighter than the back boulder, and there’s a section of light-colored rocks right next to it in the stone wall, while the rest of the wall is darker gray. I think it’s much more dramatic on an overcast day like today, and the wet probably brings out the contrast. It’s very interesting, though. The lightness must be from lichen, and perhaps the lichen is spreading along, growing its lichen family?
So many signs that the succulent bed is beginning to wake up! The second-to-last photo and the last one are the same thing, to show how super sneaky and subtle it is. If you just stand there and look at it from a normal distance, everything looks brown and dead, but if you get up close, it’s !!!
Sounds on my freezing-cold walk on our trail this sunny afternoon: dripping, wind chimes, doves cooing, dove wings fluttering, birds twittering, grackles’ squeaky-swing voices, leaves rustling. My fingers felt like they were going to drop off, and my eyes were watering like mad from the wind. I think it’s about 29°. The snow on the patio is still frozen so hard that I can stand on top without sinking in. But the moss seems so happy, and when I looked closely in the succulent bed, there were tiny tiny signs of new growth everywhere!
The melting ice formation on the ridge is all white and weird and crystal-y textured, with lots of free-standing stalagmite-y bits. Here’s how it looked a month ago.
More photos from my tromp outside this afternoon: lots of DRIPS up on the mossy glacial ridge! I love how this granite schist has all those little red pieces of garnet in it.
The doves are cooing so loudly, I can hear them all the way up at my computer desk. Is that a sign of spring approaching? I haven’t seen that much of them over the winter, and today they’re out strolling like Victorian gentleman in Hyde Park. I think they’re happy the snow is melting away from Succulent Hill, their favorite spot for perambulation. It’s cold today, but sunny.
I went on a coooooold walk in the yard and took some baseline photos for my Approach and Arrival of Spring project!
The snow is so hard I barely leave any visible impression when I walk on top, and those old footprints I’m standing next to are about 8” deep. The depth of the snow varies a lot; there isn’t really one specific depth. It’s really neat walking on the surface without sinking in!
The snow around the larger rock formations on Succulent Hill has melted, but none of the plants have begun any signs of growth yet. (If you look closely in the second photo, you can see some hens-and-chicks (sempervivum), dormant. In the third photo, some dormant euphorbia are sticking out of the snow.
If you have ever lived somewhere rural, you’ll understand the fourth photo. :)
The fifth photo shows how badly the deer have eaten our arborvitae this year. The lower part always gets a little chewed on over this winter, but this is definitely the most amount of winter devouring since we’ve moved here! Notice how the snow in that area is melted, too. That’s from the deer stepping on it.
The rather ugly sixth photo is the how the phlox look this time of year, but it will be fun to compare to later in the season when they start to green up and flower!
Seventh photo: Maggie, my star magnolia, has tiny little fuzzy buds! They are really small, so it will be cool to keep an eye on them and watch them grow big! (I had to put my hand in the picture to get the camera to focus on the little buds, but it also serves to show how cooooold my hand looks!!!)
Last photo: I found a piece of deer fur on the ground. I love the thickness and slightly wavy texture, and variation in color along the length. Really interesting!
Civil twilight today = 6:12 PM.