Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Orchid Sleuth

Years ago I read the Orchid Thief. I thought of it as I went on my search for the Lady's Slipper. I heard it to be out on the west side of the Blue trail. Had I overshot the round-a-bout location Cassie the ranger detailed for me on the map? Yes, I had gone too far. Now backtracking, looking harder. This is not something easy to spot. Just one flower, could be anywhere on the trail. Could be gone, too. I've never sought out an orchid before and had made no attempt at research.

There are two things I recall from the Orchid Thief. One is the weird photo of the author, Susan Orleans, on the back flap, and the other is that some orchids grow near tree trunks, or even on them. I remember that as I spot these particular leaves, the kind of which I had just noticed another pair just a few feet back. I thought, hmm, a set of leaves with no where to go. A set of leaves that seems to be missing something. And now a pair sitting at the base of an oak tree. This must be the spot, but did I miss the bloom? No way...

There, beneath the canopy of Mountain Laurel, what appears to be growing out of oak leaves littering the rock face, a spot of sunlight on the Lady's Slipper!

Cypripedium acaule, family of Orchidaceae. Lives off highly acid substrates, dry or wet. There was another about ten feet behind this one, and many bare sets of leaves about. I only saw the two blooms however. All these photos are of the same bloom.

My wife's mom was licensed to grow and sell native orchids in the state of Minnesota. She would have liked this one; her soil was sweet and pink slippers were difficult.

Looks less like a slipper to me, more like a floating maiden with arms out.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Those Are Some Weeds

White Campion or Silene alba

Does your Convallaria majalis patch look like this? Hmm. Lily of the valley, mountain, and field!

Iris versicolor, or not? Hmm. Native Iris? Hmm. Farm Iris?

This is definitely native blueflag, photo taken in the woods, above a wetland.

'Member this one? Thats the Rubus. Yep, has small thorns.

Go over the foot bridge at the outlet of Weir's Pond (home made!). Below the earthen dam, you'll find amongst the skunk cabbage and fern, that Ragged Robin. Why so ragged, Robin?

Friday, May 29, 2009

Moss Definitely

One of the things that makes farming tough in New England is the surface bedrock. When you can't move it, farm around it. This rock is in the center of the farm field and is quite a bit larger than the small part I show here. On it grow a variety of mosses and lichen, and some grass. I can not name them (because my moss book is at home), but they look good to a non-farmer.

The moss book, by Bill Cullina, Native Ferns, Moss, and Grasses.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Art Farm

The radar has been showing no rain for hours, but for hours I've looked out the window and saw mist, sprinkles, and rain. I went out for a walk, to make some more movies, and to get out.

In NYC, one rarely has the feeling they can slow down, move slowly through a space or landscape. (Only people doing that are tending to hand held devices -outa my way!) As I move through the grassy fields I became aware of intention in the form of this "art" farm. Its about the light transitioning to the dark, abruptly sometimes, other times gradual. It appears rather designed, although it may be incidental to the stone wall and field structure. Along the stone walls, trees grow and they create dark spaces then punctuated by the bright, grassy fields beyond, then again broken by the deeper woods. Light and Dark have long been of Art.

And now, for my next number, a suite of bleeding hearts in the rain.

My wife arrives tomorrow, so I'll send this out to her.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

In The Forest

Its taken me some time to get my first woods hike here at Weir Farm onto the blog. No doubt, in part due to the trouble identifying woodland plants -which is new to me and less chronicled on the web. But the hiking has been sweet as can be. So many damp forests I've hiked in spring or summer are swamped with mosquitoes, black flies, and deer flies. Nothing can send me packing faster than a swarm of any of these boogers. But to my great pleasure, they've all been on vacation.

The White Trail is a short loop into the mesic forest of southwestern Connecticut. I've also had some difficulty identifying the types of forest on the preserve. This is in part because the trails here traverse what appears a patchwork of forest communities. I'm seeing at least three: Beech-Maple Forest and Chestnut Oak Forest in the uplands with Red Maple-Hardwood Swamp in the low. While any number of species inhabit all these communities, the named species are dominant and they affect the type of understory plants, and possibly some fauna, in addition to the overall look and feel of the woods. Now on to the woods....

The trail...

On the east branch of the White trail, look up and down, and you'll see this tree. From a distance, I thought this was a Tulip Tree, making me think this was an Oak-Tulip Tree community.

Getting closer, looking at the leaves led me to mountain maple, Acer spicatum. But the samara are reddish on the mountain maple, where these are green. A friend of mine calls this a "goosefoot maple." I'm going to call it Acer pennsylvanicum or Acer striatum.

We called the maple fruit "polynoses" when we were kids; I suppose still do and I'm not the only one.

Many of these Liliaceae in the woods -but which one? Hairy Solomon's, Smooth Solomon's, or Rose Twisted-stalk? I'll have to go back and take a closer look.

Another Lily, the Canada Mayflower. Sometimes 6 inches tall, but often quite diminutive.

The pink azalea, Rhododendron periclymenoides, growing well in the understory of maple and beech.

No scent that I could make out.

My new favorite tree. I knew what to call it as soon as I saw it and although I've never seen it before, I surely heard or seen the name -Shagbark Hickory or Carya ovata.


The White trail connects with the east-west running Yellow trail. After crossing the drainage, you begin a gradual incline, meeting again at the White trail and turning to the north.

As you climb, the drier, rocky soil gives way to a Chestnut Oak forest community. The understory has large tracts of Mountain Laurel. The mountain laurel and oak forest make up most of the western branch of the White trail loop.

I prefer the B&W photo over the color -looks like some kind of Burtonesque army of stick-people on the march.

Since the laurel forest is part of the understory, the shrubs are less leafy and many had little to no flower buds. Those that will flower are setting buds now, and I hope to see the bloom.

Anyone could miss this, but what a nice memorial. "The Anna White Woods, In Loving Memory"

It gently reminded me of the garden of Ian Hamilton Finlay.

Plant and mineral rubbin' bums!

Round things on oaks. Those woodpecker holes are fresh in a live tree.

I found this plant shooting through the floor of oak leaves. What is it?

The Blue trail is a north-south running trail that connects to the Yellow. It runs along the edge of a rocky ridge, winding among the oaks and mountain laurel. It is on this trail that I found the Lady's Slipper.

Cool Today

Its cool and damp today. I like the air and even light. I made two stop motion movies this morning and afternoon. Time flies. I spent too long looking for small LCD video viewers this afternoon, imagining using these to show the stop motion. Hmmm. Well, we'll see.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Here Comes The Rain....

Here comes the rain, this time for real. Its cool and breezy here at the farm. Yesterday, I did spot the Ladie's Slipper! Post later, after the camera batteries charge.

Really Wish I Could ID This One


I've since looked at this one again in the field. It has a trailing ground stem that is woody, reddish-brown, and other flower stems shoot off this stem. It lies tangled in the grass and other plants of the meadow, rather like a strawberry. I've looked at wild-strawberries, cinquefoils, even avens. All which could be flowering now, but none with this distinct slender white flower. Also look at various bramble berries, but the ground hugging, vining, stem seems wrong there. Any ideas?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Wild Orchid II

This morning I go on my trek to find the elusive lady slipper. Yesterday's thunderstorms kept me inside. Hoping my camera batteries, which have been blinking low for two days now, have enough reserve for two or three shots.


Yesterday evening while on my dusk walk, I saw two young humans on mountain bikes doing jumps off the granite staircase into the "sunken garden" that I posted pictures of the other day. Like some kind of Smokey the Bear I emerged from the woods a spectre of authority. One look at me and !! we're outa here. I'd be lucky to have that effect on city kids.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Gross Indifference to the Suffering of Others

I'm one full week into my stay at Weir Farm. I've not left the site since arriving. I brought my food with me. I've used enough to think am I using too much. You think about food differently when there isn't a store around the corner. And what am I reading while pretending I can't get food from town? Reading Ordeal by Hunger by George R. Stewart. Written in 1936 by a man obviously enthralled with 1846, it is full of all the bigotry of its day. Yet still it rapidly reads like a transcription of a campfire story told by a veteran story-teller. Its a gripping tragedy, gruesome in a way that is unfathomable. I've spent a good amount of time traveling the western states, and its first hundred pages seem all too possible to me. A party of farmers and merchants in a mountain and desert landscape follow a shady salesman's new route to the Sierra Nevada. Lost time saved none, and imagine the feeling of being trapped between a snow bound route over the mountains and the desert before it through all of winter. Food low, animals starving, most possessions dumped. Men, women, and children stuck on a trail with no way of surviving on their own. Meanwhile, the terribly depicted tribes are all around, and there is no communication, no ability to find out how they survive the climate. The party is trapped by their own relationship to the world. As Stewart ominously puts it "the trap has clicked behind them."


Not much painting getting done today. This should be okay, but it never is. Reading about the painter and the farm today. I got a tip from the NPS park ranger Cassie that there are some Lady Slippers blooming in the woods. This evening I search them out. Like the Holy Grail of woodland flowers. I've also noticed that the farm fields are growing quick, I could almost see the growth. Yesterday evening, I was stooped, looking at a spider on a plant, I heard a rumpus in the woods. I look up to see two large deer chasing each other wildly in the woods, circling around and around. Must've been fun. They don't worry about deer ticks like us humans do. I must say its difficult to fully inspect oneself.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Today in the Field

One thing I am invested in doing while I have an old farm and woods to myself is learn what is actually there. What am I looking at? It appears that I am finally looking, which is a start to then understanding. My art work tends to take the long view, the big, take a step back view. But I'm now asking, what kind of tree is that-look at its funky bark. How come these plants here look out of place, or are they? I've been taking b&w photographs of the woods. Here, but in NYC too. B&W takes away all that lush green, opens up texture and value, and even though it appears nostalgic, I love the play of light.

This evening I made my first experiment with stop-motion photography or stringing photographs together in order to display them in a linear fashion. With just a few shots left, I saw the spider below. I erased some shots to shoot these things in the old farm field.

Spider's doing the heavy lifting.

Some kind of buttercup, anemone, ranunculeae -closed.

Some kind of buttercup, anemone, ranunculeae -open.

Common Fleabane or Erigeron philadelphicus

I think another buttercup.

Whoa nelly! This is that plant I got from A at the plant giveaway. Star of Bethlehem.

Our dear, native poison ivy. Look at those shiny red leaves, I could just lick them. Innocent Reader, please don't.