Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Late Autumn Palette Within A Community of Trees

In thinking along the stream of thought inspired by Wendall Berry, I have been pondering 'my place' within my place and the community I am blessed to have membership in. I am speaking of the land, of the trees and shrubberies, of the species of butterflies and bees and birds that coexist here at Flower Hill Farm. There is a language I have come to understand and the understanding came as soon as I let go of the ideas of gardening I held true and when I stopped and listened to the needs of the life all around me. 

A Shagbark Hickory out in the upper garden and a Rock Maple (Sugar Maple) on the south side of the old farmhouse are both wearing cloaks of Climbing Hydrangea. The Rock Maple's yellow fleece will be getting a good trim once the leaves have all fallen, for I do not wish to cover the maple's beautiful bark.

Copious carpets of leaves linger until a blustery wind whips them around the gardens. Like a down comforter the leaves softly lay upon the ground sheltering many sleeping insects.

The community I belong to here is so wildly wondrous and giving. 

Our favorite Black Cherry had a rough beginning but with determination it grew over and above the conditions trying to hold it back. 

Ever reaching towards cloud and sky, the native cherry also survived losing half of its canopy two years ago.  I believe all the neighboring members of the community felt the shock and I was deeply concerned for its survival. 

In the photograph above, taken in October of 2009, the Black Cherry was still sporting its full canopy of flaxen tresses. There is danger in a V when worn by a tree.  Just at the V. . .  the entire branching going off to the right split off and was hanging threatening a deadly tear. It was skillfully cut off before that could happen.

The singular serpentine Black Cherry sometimes makes me imagine a wild black stallion with a golden or green mane grazing in the north field. There is an ongoing dialogue and connection between the cherry and two White Oaks nearby. They together form a triangle. The trees are in constant communication through their network of slender root tendrils below. Perhaps there are also connections being channeled above ground.

Besides it unique form this Black Cherry also holds a dear friend's ashes within its roots and crusty body. We call it 'Michael's tree'. He was a man who loved trees and is forever a beloved member of this community.

The Black Cherry seems to be thriving and continues to be the preferred canopy of the Baltimore Orioles each spring and summer. 

Autumn's blaze is more muted now with sturdy White Oaks painting the landscape burnt sienna. Throughout the gardens, the shrubberies and plants are still turning yellows and reds but the hillside is all gray, evergreen and burnt sienna.

It has been one of the most beautiful and long lasting falls I can recall. It was as if every tree sang out . . . a choir of vibrant leafy voices carried by a breath of wind throughout the landscape. The river and rivulets below join in plashing their melodious meanderings about the wood. It was a joy to experience it all.

Two weeks ago I eyed an Eastern-tailed Blue in the south field. It was about 70 degrees and there were still some late blooming asters . . . a blossom here and a bloom there. This butterfly over winters as a larva often within a pod of some of the vetches or clovers that grow here . . .  so I do not know what to make of it . . . I hope it had a good life for a few days at least, though other members of the community may have spied it too.

During my walk I also caught sight of a perfect Mourning Cloak . . . who by now has crawled within a crack or crevice of bark or under a rock or fallen branch in its full butterfly form and hopefully will safely sleep throughout the winter months. I will not move any fallen wood at this time nor disturb any assemblages of detritus for they may be home to tiny, delicate members of this diverse commune of life.

Many members feed other members of our community. It is hard at times to love all the species equally and be detached. We have enjoyed a few Yellow-rumped Warblers as they dart about gleaning dried seed heads of goldenrod and other plants scattered within the fields and gardens. They are busy in the trees too harvesting tiny larva and other meaty members. I do not recall seeing these curious warblers in the gardens this late before.

The Yellow-rumped Warblers have now cast off their brighter breeding costumes or perhaps this is a juvenile. 

Come spring again the warblers will be wearing their dark masks and their return will surely be a treat.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Light and Leaves At Play In A Bright Autumn Landscape

It has been a gorgeous fall with leaves clinging to the trees far longer than I recall in recent years. The rain has held off, but the trees are slowly releasing their leaf fasteners and hundreds of their leafy members, like golden rain, are falling with the gentlest of breezes throughout the dry days and nights. The sounds of falling leaves . . . flights of leaves . . . piles of leaves . . . walking and kicking up leaves are all quintessentially 'Fall'. I am not one to run out and rake any away, however. 

The wind will have its way and scatter leaves throughout the gardens . . . some warm-yellow Black Cherry leaves will fly high in groups like small flocks of birds. Others will gently float downwards as they twirl similar to a kite descending free of its string and holder. Each tumble is uniquely choreographed by wind. The weight and form of the individually designed leaves, like those of dancers, will also determine their grace and movement in falling. Many will remain where they fall and may be used by some overwintering caterpillars for a cozy, safe place away from the cold and hungry eyes of birds or other predators. 

Light plays within the wide swath of forest and hillside casting its glow amongst the brightly colored canopies of Black, Gray and White Birch, Beech, Rock Maple, Oak, Black Cherry and more stately trees whose bare, crusty trunks and branches are revealed more each day as they shake their mantles free.

Sunsets bring about a particularly magical light show with an interplay of lights and shadows. Looking south easterly, towards Mount Tom, as the sun is setting in the west, slivers of light run along the ridges of hillsides . . . fleeing pursuing shadows.

Ending days pour a honey golden light along Carey and Walnut Hill changing the landscape while creating a spectacle of wonder. Mighty Oaks are only just beginning to wear a sienna or amber hue.

Changes are more noticeable day by day though they are happening minute by minute . . . hour by hour.

Each day the colors move into their full brilliant tints.

An overcast sunset casts a particular chroma within the colorful grouping of birches and the carpet of sumac sprinkled beneath and around them.

A soft fuzzy light remains as the sun sails away. 

Then on the days when there are a few wispy clouds, the lavender shades paint a lovely veil across the sky as the sun disappears. Above is our surroundings just two nights before full moon with a wide angle view.

One night before full moon after a dreamy temperate day.

October's near full 'Hunter's Moon' rising over Walnut Hill just as the sun is sinking in the western sky. If you are observing the moonrise tonight you may notice something a bit strange as there will be a minor eclipse called a penumbral eclipse. It seems the change will be very subtle. 

The changes going on all around the countryside are hardly subtle, however, as life is greatly adjusting to the coming of winter. Crops of apples, winter squash and root veggies such as beets and carrots are being harvested and put away for winter storage. Critters are scurrying around too . . .  storing acorns and other nuts for the long winter months ahead. It is an exciting time of year that many may find depressing. The cold and fading light can bring one down but there is the magic of a fire and more time to read, write and paint await. Autumn is a season of letting go and going under and deeper within. 

As I write about all this beauty and being able to embrace the seasons . . . others are trying to find means to keep warm and survive the coming winter . . . such as refugees in Syria or thousands here at home in horrid circumstances. There is such an injustice . . . inequality in our world and my heart breaks for all those who cannot simply live in peace and who do not have the simple basic needs to be happy and healthy. I never stop being thankful for the beauty that surrounds me . . . nor the freedom I have to enjoy and reap the inspiration it nurtures.

I would like to share a couple of links that I find hopeful. Food Sovereignty Prize and Center For Humans & Nature - Expanding Our Natural & Civic Imagination

There is change happening moment by moment in our fight to make a better world too. The odds are just so stacked against us, but there is hope in expanding minds the world over.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Bestiary . . . Tales from a Wildlife Garden ~ Featuring Warblers

Time does have a way of falling away from us . . . and so it goes that for nearly two years now I have been writing about the beasts that abide in our wildlife habitat. 'A Bestiary . . . Tales from a Wildlife Garden' is now featuring songbirds with warblers being the focus of my cursor. Warblers are truly delightful birds and come and go with the changing seasons . . . leaving us each late summer and fall only to return every spring . . . their departures and arrivals help us mark time . . . beginnings and endings of growing seasons.

I would be honored if you clicked and scrolled over to Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens to see more images and learn a bit about these brilliantly marked birds. There are twenty-three installments in all but you can pick and choose which you might like to visit. Before the birds I did write about the mammals that roam around and about our twenty-one acres of forest, fields and gardens . . . not lions, tigers and bears but you can awaken bobcat, opossum and bears if you like. 

The labels below reveal the names of the six different warblers framed within this collage . . . perhaps you can match them up. Their little lives here at Flower Hill Farm so enrich my life and I do feel their absence both in the silence of songs and the stillness within the branches of trees and shrubberies. Revisiting our encounters through writing the Bestiary is a joyous way of recalling all of the remarkable wildlife I am so blessed to share this land with. There are more warblers, other songbirds then hummingbirds to write about before I move on to other beasties . . . like butterflies and bees.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

October Changing Light and Hues Flights Stirring Fallen Leaves

October drifted into our lives, already alive in colors changing to their true hues, with several flocks in flight stirring up fallen leaves beneath our stately Rock Maple trees. Cedar Waxwings, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, solitary Blue-headed Vireos and Bluebirds flit about calling out in high pitched trills and tweets. A pair of Pileated Woodpeckers dash and tear the sheath of air around the shivering, nearly golden Black Cherry. Everything is in constant motion most all of the time, but just now there is an excitement to the changing season and journeys underway.

The male Bluebird returns to his garden after some weeks of silence and secrecy . . . "Where have you been?" . . .  I silently wonder. I have missed your soft murmuring warbles. The couple furtively, though in plain view, raised two broods here this summer and will claim their chosen homesite to begin again when springs slips over the land. Until then . . . come what may . . .  we will have months together, on this east facing hillside, beneath the mantels of autumn and winter. For now, I must get out and clean their nestbox.

Just at the edge of the Crabapple Orchard a Tree Hydrangea's off-white petals melt into blush pink below a heavily laden Crabapple tree. Flocks of Robins and Cedar Waxwings, along with a Flicker or two, have already been testing the tartness of these tiny apples. 

Ruby-crowned Kinglets are busy gleaning the trees of, even more tiny, insects but never seem tempted by the small apples.

Light and colors are ever in a state of change. Soon the serpentine Black Cherry will be wearing all flaxen tresses and when a large breath of wind moves through her mane . . . golden rain will shatter and fall freely like a flight of butterflies into the pathway of breeze. At this moment . . .  here . . . having lived this time . . . years upon years . . . the images are like parts of a tapestry . . . each year another woven picture within a large hanging called . . .  a seasonal life. A life well seasoned . . . nearing an autumnal age. Yet, I never tire of the excitement of such profound changes within the tides of nature surrounding me.

Plants and shrubs become poetic in exhaling one last flower before inhaling their life fluids deep into their inner trunks and cores. People too may pull in towards their winter souls and move slower through  the pages of months yet to be turned.  These last blooms will nurture our poetic natures and fuel the many pollinators still busy about the gardens and fields.

Light dances throughout the landscape creating colors of cooler and warmer tones. 

The Ruby-crowned Kinglets are delighting in the black aphid population occupying a giant Impatiens glandulifer Royal. The teeny morsels of protein will aid them in their flights south. There is an abundance for all . . . I am not sure what this tiff is all about . . . respecting boundaries I would guess. These might be females or just not very seriously upset, for if they were males and truly pissed, a bright red tuft would suddenly appear atop their heads. We all hide parts of ourselves, don't we.

This Blue-headed Vireo flies about with, and looks very similar to, the much smaller Ruby-crowned Kinglets. Careful observation reveals the true identity, however. As in all life it helps to pay attention to the details and not lose sight of the true nature of things. Not to hint at our country's present state of affairs too lightly.

This morning there is a thick blanket of fog hanging between Flower Hill Farm and Walnut Hill . . . the river below gushes rapidly from the heavy evening rain . . .  wearing and lapping down the memory of what the stones might have been. Earlier, as I was reading, soft chatter of birds and people's voices wafted in between the words and paragraphs . . . guests from Pakistan and Florida . . . a beautiful child wearing a white unicorn stealthily steps about the garden paths with her elegant grandmother who floats in a hammock for the first time in her sixty years. Her kind face, lush dark hair and rich light yellow and pumpkin colored finely woven silk shalwar  (loose trousers) and kameez (long tunic) fill the roped hammock and wild garden with an unknown joy to its being as well.

Each day the hillside fades just a bit more . . . from forest greens to oranges, yellows and reds reminiscent of springs early blooms.

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