Tree talk

On my recent visit with my family in Quebec, Canada, I spent quite a bit of time in the woods. You know the saying “can’t see the forest for the trees?” I like to flip that and notice the individual trees that comprise the forest. This forest on Mont. Rigaud in western Quebec is heavily managed, but interesting nevertheless.

A few trees, like this one, are ancient, first growth relics. The entity that manages this trail saw fit to mark it with a sign and an explanation of how dying and decaying trees, known in French as “chicots” provide shelter and food for  animals and birds.


Here’s the sign.

IMG_3020Here’s another example of how dying trees benefit wildlife. This cedar was riddled with oblong pileated woodpecker holes. Pileateds are the biggest woodpeckers in the area by far, and my sister has them coming to her peanut and sweet feeders where they hammer away at the food.

IMG_2996The beeches are also beautiful. I thought the roots of this specimen were cool –  like elephant skin. This is why mulching tree roots kills so many trees. The roots need to breathe.


There were many white birches along the trail. It’s too warm in Rhode Island now to grow these trees reliably. People have switched to river birches here.

IMG_3029Some of the maples were also tapped for sap. Tubing is the preferred method when you have a large sugar bush. It’s kind of a pain when the squirrels chew it up though.

IMG_3009I am particularly fond of fall and winter hiking because the visibility is so much better, but it’s always a good day when I’m in the woods.





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Early winter


Just back from a few days in my old home, Quebec Canada. My sister and I did a four-hour hike on Mt. Rigaud, west of Montreal. It wasn’t snowy yet but it was “gloves weather.”

IMG_3010We stopped here, on mossy rocks, for a snack. It was a bit of a climb, just enough to get your heart cranking.

IMG_2986 This pond was frozen, but not hard enough to walk on.

IMG_2989We came across this cool boulder, a “glacial erratic” I assume.

IMG_2985The marshes were quiet, except for the ever-present chickadees, which are always welcome.

IMG_3030With the light beginning to fade, we found ourselves on a road with a long nasty climb and cars whizzing past. We ended up calling a taxi to get us back to where we’d parked the car, because we didn’t want to walk the road in the dark. Sometimes, you just gotta cut bait. Still an awesome hike, though.

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Wild waters


Look at all those warnings. It is NOT a good idea to swim at the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge in Chatham, on Cape Cod, MA. This beautiful, wild place is a stunning barrier beach; constantly shifting and changing, with new sand spits and cuts being formed, then lost, then appearing again.


It is also home to a sizable gray seal population, and the seals have in turn attracted great white sharks. Between the sharks and the seals and the currents, it is a place to walk and sit. Just don’t go in the water. More warning signs await you as you descend the stairs to the beach. They aren’t taking any chances.

Here is another view of Monomoy Point. I always bring binoculars so I can gaze at the ocean, which, on this day, was a wee bit angry.


Here’s some trivia: the Pilgrims on the Mayflower first tried to land here in 1620, but the currents were so treacherous they had to give up and head for calmer waters. They ended up in Provincetown. For more on the history of Monomoy Point, click here.

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Green Fall then and now


We hiked the Green Fall trail today, my favorite. Many of the leaves are down, but the beeches are still clinging to most of theirs and the green is a nice contrast to all that brown.

There have been a few changes since we were here last spring.

IMG_2860A new bridge leads to the big rocks we always have so much fun scrambling up. This time, we scrambled down on our way back, too.

IMG_2872We saw no water flowing through the dam at Green Pond. We had such a dry summer, and the streams are only now beginning to recover.


The gorge, with its magnificent hemlocks, had a trickle of water running through it. Still peaceful and pretty, though.


This is the gnarly bridge that used to cross the river. Always fun.


Today, the logs were gone, replaced by rocks crossing what has become a tiny stream.

IMG_2883Ferns and mosses were still thriving in the clear autumn light.

IMG_2863It was a great day on the trail. But aren’t they all?


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Protect yourself



Hunting season in RI opened in September. The regulations are complex and arcane, but I don’t hunt, so all I have to know is that when I go into the woods, I am obliged by law to wear blaze orange. My dog often accompanies me, so she now wears her own safety vest.

Even thus attired, there are trails we avoid altogether at this time of year. There are so many hunters, it’s just too risky. We often meet people on the trail who don’t know the regulations or simply don’t care. But they’re breaking the law and they could be shot by mistake. It happens.

It seems to me that there’s almost always some season for hunting something. There are a couple of months during the summer when we don’t have to wear blaze, but those aren’t our favorite hiking months, anyway, and we often skip a week because it’s too darned hot and buggy.

It’s the one down side of fall, which is an otherwise perfect hiking season.


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Autumn is for rambling

IMG_2680As the bracken dies back, the effect of the brown fronds is lovely, don’t you think? This is the time of year when I spend more time in the woods, and on the road. Fewer bugs and no crowds.

IMG_2674Here’s the funny “smoking frog” rock that we always admire when we’re in Audubon’s Maxwell Mays refuge. The “cigar” is sticking out of the left side of his mouth.

IMG_2687In a swampy section of the refuge, dead trees stand out against an intense autumn blue sky.

IMG_2501We drove up to Maine for a weekend. The asters were amazing.

IMG_2516The weather was perfect, so we stopped at this beach for a while.

IMG_2509Our dog wasted no time in going for a nice, long swim.


She also enjoyed the rocks at one of our favorite spots: Kettle Cove.

IMG_2540It was a beautiful weekend. Perfect for a little ramble.

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Love this plant!

IMG_2692 For those Anemone lovers out there, my friend and occasional guest blogger HerbDoc has discovered an interesting alternative to Anemone blanda:   

About a year ago in August I was visiting a local theatre which has beautiful and bountiful perennial gardens. One of the plants that immediately grabbed my attention was Anemone tomentosa “Robustissima.” The only anemone I had previously grown was Anemone blanda, known to most as Grecian windflower. The small tubers grow into low mats, and I was far from pleased with its hardiness.

Anemone tomentosa led me to my books to identify it and its hardiness. At the time I spotted it, it was covered with honeybees which I’m always trying to attract to my garden. The entire plant also seemed pest free. Sure enough, my research indicated that not only is it free of unwanted pests, including rabbits and deer, but pollinators of all kinds adore it.


Named after Anemone, the daughter of the winds in Grecian mythology, it is easy to grow in sun or partial shade in neutral soil and is hardy to Zone 3a. It grows in a low mound of grape like green leaves with taller branching stems of soft pink, cupped flowers. (24-36”)

If you decide to grow it, give it room to thrive and mass it for a gorgeous display during August until frost. It is very robust, hence its name, and will spread, but not in an annoying manner. It can be propagated by division of the root ball in the spring.

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A small solution update

You may remember a post I wrote way back in June about a shallow planter where nothing grew and how I had turned it into a miniature garden of sorts. I was very pleased with the results, but I decided rather than fuss over it, I would wait to see if anything seeded itself in there.


Here’s the same planter now. The verbena that I tried to grow in it two seasons ago? That’s it growing happily, all purple and healthy.


The sweet little marigold I planted last summer? The one that just disappeared? Here it is, still putting on a glorious show.

DSCN1148The driftwood, pebbles and the omnipresent piglet are still there, but now they are nestled among thriving plants.

DSCN1150Over the summer, I added a few finds, like this small horseshoe crab shell, carapace, whatever you call it.

This interesting and rewarding experiment confirms what most gardeners already know: plants that seed themselves can thrive in places where the same cultivars had failed. And I am also blown away by the tenacity of those seeds that stayed in the crummy soil for two years or more, invisible to me or even the birds, only to surprise me with awesome flowers when I least expected it.

The garden is full of miracles.


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At last



Summer is everyone’s favorite season – almost everyone’s. I prefer Fall. Here on the southern RI coast, the summer crowds are gone, the air is clean, you can hike without mosquitoes and deer flies harassing you, and you’re not in a sweat all the time.

On the salt marsh, the egrets are “staging” or flocking together before they leave for the winter. There were a few great blue herons in this group, too.



We saw this massive hen of the woods mushroom on a recent hike. It was at least a foot across. Fungi love Fall, too.

IMG_2405The poke weed is ripening and birds everywhere are cheering. They can’t get enough of those juicy purple fruits.


This pond, called “Yawgoog” pond, shows how dry it is around here these days. The water level is way down, as you can see. Founded in 1916, the Yawgoog Boy Scout reservation, in Rockville, RI, is the fourth oldest continuously operating camp in the United States. The 1,800-acre property is stunning. It was the location of the movie “Moonrise Kingdom.”


And those wild asters… more thing to love about the season.



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Helianthus by night

In my last post, I rambled on about my helianthus giganteus, or giant sunflower, and how large and flamboyant it is.

I wanted to show you what this perennial looks like at night. It transforms the front of the house into a mysterious, tropical jungle.

IMG_2333The foliage looks awesome when I turn on the outside light. But it gets better! Hanging out in the leaves is a tiny  frog.


I am usually pretty good at identifying wildlife, or at least looking stuff up, but this one has me stumped. It doesn’t look like a grey tree frog, but I think that must be what it is.

IMG_2342Here’s a closer look. It’s obviously an arboreal frog, and RI only has two of those: grey tree frogs and spring peepers.

Please let me know what you think.

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