Sagamore Farm Trees and Vernal Ponds

The first nature walk of 2018 sponsored by the Coastal Mountain Land Trust was held on the last weekend of April, and this year they were kicking off the season with a focus on tree identification and vernal ponds. Perfect! Given my tree identification skills this was a must attend event for us, so despite the misty weather we headed towards Sagamore Farm with the hopes of actually learning something new.

Since we had already explored Sagamore Farm in the fall, we knew that it was located behind one of the inns known as The Lodge, so once we located parking on the inn property we joined our fellow explorers at the small but already full parking lot near the front of The Lodge. From there, the group walked towards the back of the property to enter the preserve. We noticed the gloomy weather had kept our numbers down, but to me, that was a good thing, for that meant we would actually be able to hear our leader. We have already attended these events with well over 50 people, all trying to hear the topic expert while walking along a single file trail.

The first tree we studied was a red oak.  I learned that the red oak actually has red markings between the deep grooves of the bark. Although it is the most common oak tree in Maine, I was soon able to tell the difference between a white and red oak by the shape of the leaf (the red oak had more pointed leaves than the white). Most of you probably already knew this, but hey, this was all new to me!

From there, the coordinator of this adventure led us to a vernal pond. He had examined the pond the day before and that morning, discovering that the rain the night before had created ideal conditions for the “Big Night”, the night when the salamanders head down to the pond to lay their eggs. After explaining the importance of vernal ponds to the eco-system, he took us closer to the pond to point out the egg masses that had been laid the night before. I must confess that while we were listening to these interesting facts about vernal ponds my attention kept focusing on the perfect reflection of trees in the water.

Not far from the water, our next stop was a grove of white birch trees, looking rather ghost like in the mist. Here we learned that the grey birch is not as brilliant white as the paper (or white) birch and often has dark triangle shaped markings. We also spotted a yellow birch which, in addition to the yellow bark, is shaggier that the other birches.

We continued on our walk, with our guide pointing out the striped maples that were budding, and the mountain ash lined with sapsucker holes. At another stop I found a perfect yet delicate spider web; a lovely work of art on this overcast outing. All too soon our lesson was over and our allotted time was up. I did learn to identify a few trees but I had also found that nature can offer up some pretty impressive artwork even on foggy days.

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Follow the Leader Quilt

I know the winter holiday season was several months ago but I still have to proclaim that this past Christmas I received one of the best gifts ever; time with my daughter learning something new in a hobby we both love. Quilting, of course!

My daughter had signed us up for a class to learn foundation piecing, using a Judy Niemeyer pattern. It was a technique that I have been interested in for quite some time but I just hadn’t taken the plunge to seriously investigate it. Even though I knew I could hunt online for any number of videos that would show me how to learn foundation piecing, this was one of those things that I really needed to be shown in person. So, near the end of January, my daughter made the trip up the day before so we could get an early start on the hour and a half drive to the full day class in Bangor.

Prior to the trip, we had cut 10 inch squares of dark and light fabrics so we would be ready to cut everything to the templates during our lesson. I had chosen to make this a scrap quilt with a variety of yellows for the lights and a combination of greens, reds and browns for the dark. My daughter opted to make a black and white quilt.

The first thing we did during the class was to cut our squares into the individual block pieces using the 10-inch template. Then we switched the dark triangles to the light pile and the light triangles to the dark pile. We were now ready to assemble our first block. And that was when things got interesting.

Our instructor showed us how to glue the first piece to the paper, trim it to a quarter inch, pin the second piece and stitch it to the first piece on the foundation paper. Sounded easy but oh contraire! It must have been a spatial problem because it took me the better part of the class to complete one block. I just could not wrap my head around the fact that we were attaching the pieces to the back side of the paper and stitching along the front. In other words, when looking at the marked side of the paper, I was actually looking at the back of the block not the front. I had to constantly check myself before stitching to make sure I had the right side of the fabric facing away from the paper. I finally had my Eureka moment by early afternoon and went on to finish another 4 blocks before the end of class.  I believe my daughter finished 6 blocks by the end of the day so all in all it had been a productive day.

Once home, I kept creating blocks over the next couple of days so that I would not forget what I had learned. I completed piecing my “Follow the Leader” quilt sometime in March. I would have to put this quilt away for a time before I decided on a hand quilting pattern for it. Time was short and I had an approaching deadline on a baby quilt for a friend.

 

Fernald’s Neck 2018

By April, winter was still holding on. Daytime temperatures lingered in the 30s and we were still experiencing mixed precipitation when the middle of the month arrived. And yet, there were signs that spring was beginning to push the previous season out of the way; ice-out had been called April 12th, I spotted the small yellow flower known as Coltsfoot the next day, the loons were calling by the 17th and the Peepers sang loud and clear by the 20th. At last spring had arrived and we were all itching to get outside. I called my hiking buddy and we headed over to Fernald’s Neck for some explorations.

As we walked towards the Orange trail we noticed that the several nor’easters we endured throughout March had not been kind to our nature preserves. Many trees had snapped or been uprooted by the relentless winds. Clean-up crews had come through to clear the trails and there were fresh cut logs lining the sides of the path we were on. I don’t know if this was a boon for the wildlife but I did notice that someone had used a fresh stump to enjoy their dinner. The remains of this meal left me wondering how much energy is actually in those tiny pine cone seeds.

There were no wildflowers visible yet, so we spent some time trying to find the bird singing nearby. Bird identification, either by sight or sound, is not one of my talents, although I do wish I was better at it. The first problem was to determine where the sound was coming from. Once we had the direction we scanned the trees high and low before my friend located our feathered friend. We did get to watch it for some time but the best either one of us could do was to call it a sparrow of some kind. (I identify trees the same way; oak, maple or coniferous tree of some kind).

The trail followed the lake for a short time and we had some great views of the Camden Hills. I even spotted the cross on top of Maiden’s Cliff! From there, the Orange loop took us away from the water and began to gently head uphill. We passed a boggy area where we paused to listen to the frogs hidden in the vegetation.

In this section of the preserve, the melting snow formed streams not far from the trail. The sound of running water was very soothing to the winter weary soul so we just had to stop to listen and to watch the tiny waterfalls. We left the preserve feeling sure that spring had finally arrived.

 

Snowshoeing the Hosmer Brook Trail

March proved to be a wild and wintry month. Three snowstorms in as many weeks had left a rather deep layer of snow, prompting our tiny, local ski hill to stay open an additional three weekends. On what seemed to be the first sunny day in quite a long time, we decided to take out our snowshoes one more time and explore a hiking trail just off the ski trail closest to the rental shed.

We arrived late morning at the Snow Bowl and proceeded to hunt for the trail. We assumed that the trail would be clearly marked near the rental shed but we could find nothing that resembled a path leading into the woods. I finally find a staff member who was preparing to start up the lifts for the day and asked about the Hosmer Brook Trail and discovered that we had to head up along the side of that last ski run until we saw a small sign that pointed the way into the woods. From there, the trail was clearly marked with blue blazes.

Once in the woods, we noticed that this trail was also used by cross country skiers so we tried to stay close to the opposite side of the lane to avoid damaging the ski run. The temperatures climbed enough to make some areas of our hike a little challenge. Some of the melting areas revealed hidden streams with a bit of bank on either side; making for some tricky maneuvers with snowshoes.

We stopped here and there to take in the beauty around us; the ravine revealing the brook below, the intricate, swirling pattern in the wood of a remaining stump, the odd shape left on the top of a dead tree, and the snow covered pine forest. After a while we reached a split in the trail indicating that we had reached the Hosmer Brook Trail loop. We decided to continue straight and proceeded to switchback up the mountain.

At this point we were beginning to feel the effects of a sedentary life that this past winter had thrust upon us. We found that we had to stop more frequently, at times it seemed like we paused at every trail marker. Eventually, we reached another fork in the road. This one indicating that we could either stay on the Hosmer Brook Loop or diverge off towards the Ragged Mountain Ridge. Needless to say, we decided to stay on the loop trail, leaving the summit of Ragged Mountain for another day.

A Snowshoe Exploration

After clearing the roughly 13 inches of snow from the second nor’easter in a week, we decided to take out our snowshoes and explore the woods behind the house. Even though we knew that this had been a very wet snow, we were not expecting to hear the snow squish under our feet. The sound reminded me of walking on supposedly dry ground during mud season. Clearly there was a lot of water running underneath this wet blanket but everything was bright and fresh looking so we continued with our ramble through the woods.

It was early enough that the sun had not yet melted the snow and ice from the trees. I took a moment to admire the icing on the branches before heading off towards the drier side of the property. As we wandered around snow-capped branches and stone walls the white blanket started to melt, and soon we were being pelted by snow falling from the highest point of the trees around us. This still did not deter us from stopping to admire the ice ball crusted around a branch, or the shelf mushroom bearing a rather large white cap. I also paused to study the intricate design of a fungus attached to a twig on the ground. I almost walked by this find but the golden color and the unusual shape caught my eye so I had to stop.

It became harder to maneuver through the snow as we made our way to the wetter side of the property. There were many dead trees on this side and more bushy type vegetation, with a few sticker bushes thrown in. We found it more difficult to find a clear path through this jungle and soon decided to call it a day, but first, we had to force our way through this tangle of growth. Once we reached the road, we walked back towards the house anticipating a nice hot cup of tea.