Monday, September 28, 2009

Resurrection Fern

Today is all blue skies, dry air, and wind waving the treetops. A great day to be outside. Radu, Daisy and I headed out around 11:00 to hike to the rocks in the woods at the far end of the lower pipeline. My family refers to this ridge as the "Lion King Rocks" because of the way they jut out at an angle from the top of the hill - smaller versions of the the big rock in one of our favorite movies. The scent of rain soaked earth still smelled sweet as we walked. There were lots of wildlife tracks in the dirt, and many mushrooms rising from fields and the woodland floor. We passed two that looked like small irish potatoes nestled in the ground. Will they grow taller? Guess we'll have to wait and see.

In the woods near the rocks I almost stepped on a 5" long Eastern Box Turtle who was crossing the path. The dogs ran right over it at first and continued on, so I sat to draw the little guy. However, it wasn't long before Daisy and Radu came running back to investigate why I had stopped walking. TOO bad, too. Sniff sniff sniff, paw paw, a growl or two from Daisy... I felt very sorry for the turtle so I decided to keep moving and let him get on with his day. Wild critters are hard to draw when you have dogs with you.

Arrived at the big rocks and saw that the Resurrection Fern, one of the Polypody Ferns that grows on this ridge, was lush and completely unfurled. The fern grows on the granite boulders, on ledges that accumulate old leaves that break down into and humus. In other places I've found it growing on tree trunks and branches. Its leaves are leathery and evergreen when there is enough water. During dry spells the leaves roll up and look quite dead.

While I was drawing a strong wind blew the treetops around. Occasional CRACK's and THUD!'s told me where branches were snapping and falling in the wind. A Red-Bellied Woodpecker chirred and pecked in a tree nearby. After investigating the hilltop, Radu and Daisy both took naps. On the way home we hiked with the wind in our faces... wonderful!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Rock, feather, acorn, hickory nut

It was hot today, surprisingly so for the end of September. Thinking we were early enough for cool temps, Radu, Daisy and I headed out around 10 a.m. for a good long hikeabout. Within minutes I was sticky and had walked through three or four spiderwebs - the kind that wrap around your face and leave a small black spider sitting on your shoulder... has this ever happen to you? The best way to handle spiderwebs in the woods is to pick up a long stick with branches at the end, and constantly wave it in front of you (like a big clawed hand) as you walk. I know this, but I often forget it.

I was hoping there would be a breeze on the pipeline - usually there is one. Today we had no such luck. It was just plain sticky, as if even the water molecules in the air around me were hot. This could be atmospherically correct, I suppose. Whatever, in spite of heat and no breeze, I made myself continue.

As we trekked, I noticed something weird. In the still air I could smell the scent of red clay - small pockets of fragrance that rose from the ground and swirled around me. When I got close to the woods it was the scent of pines that was the strongest. Near the creek it was the smell of damp earth mixed with fresh hay (recently strewn about by the pipeline workers to help the grass seed to germinate). Heading up the far hill I could smell crushed plants, left after the trucks and machinery finished their jobs. Maybe it's because usually a breeze freshens the air so that no one scent stands out, or maybe it was the humidity that held the air in place so I could walk through it. Whatever the reason, it was nice.

At the top of the hill I found a 4" tall honey-colored bolete mushroom rising through the weeds. I settled down to draw it. It didn't go well. First, Daisy, being only nine months old, was curious about the mushroom. She came to stand right in front of me to nose around. Second, gnats came out to buzz around me and then some tiny biting thing landed on my arm and my journal page. (not no-see-ums, but just as aggravating) Third, I was sitting a little too close for comfort to an ant bed. They worried me. I found myself looking back at them frequently. Finally I decided to just keep walking and enjoy the sights and scents of the morning. The journal could wait.

My trip back through the woods gave me a few more spiderweb encounters - oh joy! After a hot shower (to remove spider webs) I assembled the goodies I'd picked up on my walk and drew them in the comfort of my kitchen.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Mushrooms under a Virginia Pine

Such a nice morning to hike! The pipeline guys are finally gone, thank goodness, and they've taken all their heavy equipment away. What they left is a wide, very packed track to walk on, and a whole bale of hay waiting to be spread over the far bank of Meetinghouse Creek. I picked up several pieces of orange twine and sprinkled the remains of another bale along the closer creek bank. If they don't come back to finish the job in the next couple days, I'll probably do it. The hay really does help hold the grass seed they threw out, and the grass helps hold the soil.

Radu, Daisy, and I hiked back to a piney stretch of woods between two pipelines and settled under the trees - mostly Virginia Pines with various hardwoods here and there. The dogs, never completely settled for very long, soon hopped up to chase a scent into the field and then the far woods near Lawson's Fork. The clouds were heavy, the air damp from the past few days' bit of rain. Once I was sitting I noticed that all around me in the woods were tiny mushrooms rising from the ground. Some were 1/4 the size of my pinky nail. The larger ones were about thumb nail size. They were white, buff, gray, brown - all neutral, natural colors that helped them blend with the pine tree and leaf litter. I didn't see the two I drew until after I sat down.

The woods were very quiet while I was drawing. So quiet that I started hearing the soft clicks of falling leaves as they hit the ground. Click - Click - Click A wild grape leaf landed beside me. Click It was yellow with brown spots. After about thirty minutes there was more activity around and about, beginning with a crow calling his friends together. His, "CAW! CAW!" soon led to a convention-style gathering of crows. Other bird and insect sounds were identifiable as well, as were human made ones. All are listed on the journal page.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Yellow Leaves on a Windy Day

Today's weather was amazing for the first day of September. It was windy and cool on the pipeline as the dogs and I walked east. When we left the open field and followed the path through the woods the trees cut the wind a good bit, but I could still hear the wind and see the treetops swirling. Yellow leaves broke loose from stems and twirled through the air and onto the path. As I stooped to pick up a few leaves I noticed the huge Tulip Poplar tree they'd probably fallen from. It's still green, but was dotted all over with yellow leaves. Under the tree lay a carpet of yellow leave that had fallen on windless days. It reminded me of a Christmas tree skirt. Other kinds of leaves were blowing around too - all yellow.