Oak Tree Trilogy Part 1 – Sentinel Oak

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Sentinel Oak with The Balsamean’s head in the lower branches to be removed soon. Remove the branches, not the head.

In 2005, the birth year of Balsamea, my father asked if there were any oak trees on the property.  I had not seen them.  Over time, I learned that there were many red oaks.  They are one of our minority trees, but the mature ones number about one per acre, and there are dozens of seedlings and saplings.  We would have many more oaks, were it not for the deer munching on their buds every winter.  I have seen them kill a 3-foot healthy oak in two seasons.

On that day in May 2005 when I closed on the property purchase, I immediately installed a cable gate across the entrance.  Dumpers had abused the property, a practice that ended that day, and became a considerable process of remediation for me.  Still I find things resurfacing from below ground.

While opening space for access to the right trees to attach the cable, I noticed two little red oaks about two feet tall each.  One was in excellent condition.  The other was crushed under a fallen gray birch.  I left the latter alone to grow in its own way, and it has done well.  The former, I nursed and lightly pruned over the years, to encourage a nice geometric shape.

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Winter Wonderland

I shot these pictures today, 12/25/2012.  I have better winter pictures from February 2012, coming soon to a blog scribblement near you, but today I wanted to share pictures taken today.

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This has nothing to do with Christmas, but boy-oh-boy if you are into Christmas, in my part of the world the sky and the snow are performing just as Bing Crosby dreamed for on Christmas.

"Yo!  Tannenbaum!" German Tanne (fir) + Baum (tree).

“Yo! Tannenbaum!” German Tanne (fir) + Baum (tree).

For our nightly walk this most celebrated day of the year, in a brisk thirteen degrees (no problem when walking briskly, unless into a stiff headwind, then you have nose issues, but we were in dense forest cover with NO wind tonight) we had the “perfect storm” of combined crystal-clear sky, moon nearing full, and Jupiter parked a finger’s width from the moon, yet blazing its strong light right through the moon’s white-out drowning of all other stars near it.  I wondered what could be so bright?  Is there a kid being born by autogenesis in a manger somewhere?  Should I pack up some balsam incense and head east?

Since Rudolph’s nose isn’t white, and the light was not moving, I decided to check with StarDate, who told me it was a special presentation of Jupiter.  Just the gods playing around in the sky, as ever.  Orion was swashing his buckle just below the moon, also standing out against that moon-washed sky of few visible stars.

The timing was great, too.  The moon was not far from apex just when we set out for the walk, around 8:10 PM.  That makes the light pierce down through the trees with less shadow and more light hitting the snow.

We have a complete snow cover that developed slowly over a period of three days, totaling about four inches accumulation.  With temperatures staying low, the snow is staying put, and still sticking in billows to not only the balsam fir boughs, but to the upper surfaces of many maple and beech tree branches that don’t get hit by a lot of wind and/or sun.  I love the way it puts a white lining on the branches that are otherwise just sticks all winter (unless glazed in ice).

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Way – Scribblement 20121222

Saturday, December 22, 2012.  The second day of winter.  I meant to write something yesterday, to celebrate winter solstice, but I exhausted myself out in the woods being The Balsamean, celebrating for real, not just on paper.  Er … I mean, in pixels.  (That’s trite, isn’t it?)

If ever I lose the ability to walk in the woods as much as I do, maybe I would use the time to write a book (about what, I have no idea).  Unfortunately, most of my best inspiration arises while walking in the woods, the flow of creativity juices increasing proportionate to the time spent walking.  No walking, no writing.

Here on the second day of Winter 2012-13, finally we have some genuine winter weather.  On our morning walk, we had a beautiful 25 degrees and steadily falling snow, adding to the half-melted and re-frozen crunch-bed of snow underfoot.

Viewed from the window in front of me as I scribble, the snow is not falling so much as driven horizontally by strong winds roaring in from the west.  Deep in the woods, where the wind lives mainly in the treetops, the snow floated peacefully down to me during our morning walk.  (By the way, proper making of scribblements at Balsamea is with a window in front of you, if not outdoors.)

This morning, in addition to meandering through some passes and paths, Buddy took me on our usual walk around Balsamea’s perimeter trails.  He tends to want to go clockwise, beginning on Balsamea Way, to the west terminus of Stumpy Way, then Stumpy to the northeast half of Kiefer Loop, then across the east side of Beech Loop, around the southeast corner of Birdsong Loop, and back to the house via Whitetail Way.  Today we also ambled through part of Aranyaka Maze.  We walked about half of the entire trail network.

I cleaned yesterday’s crusty, icy accumulation off all the fireplace and woodpile covers.  This is a routine activity on every walk after snow.  We have large rock fireplaces (that’s large fireplaces made with large rocks) at five locations: Camp Balsamea, Turkeyfoot, Tettegouche, Silviden and Kieferhaven.  This year I made permanent covers for the fireplaces, to keep snow and ice out of them (I use all of them year-round).

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9/11/12: First Frost is ICE!

Despite the sobering remembrances of another 9/11, I’ve declared 9/11/12 a holiday at Balsamea, in honor of our first frost coming four days earlier than the average (9/15) AND it was not merely FROST, but ICE!  I had a zillion tiny puddles of ICE on the roof of the car at 7 AM (in the shade).  Solid enough that I could not move them without considerable force.

Every year I look forward to First Frost day as the launch of my favorite time of year: from now to the end of December, and often all the way to February.

So despite all the effort going into multiple drafts of deeper posts pending here and elsewhere, among a thousand other things life wants me to do for myself, I had to drop everything and say YAY FOR FIRST FROST DAY!!!

One of the ways I celebrated was with a little campfire until 8 AM.  One of life’s greatest gifts is the pleasure of feeding a little fire on a chilly morning as the sun reaches the point where it sends rays zapping at hard angles through the trees, catching your campfire smoke in dazzling arrays.  Didn’t have the camera with me this morning, but there’s one from another time if I can find it.