Saturday, June 27, 2009

My Wood Turtle (Glyptemys insculpta)

As I was driving on New Hampshire Route 114, I saw this turtle on the double yellow line slowly walking to the other side of the road. I stopped, stopped the other car or two that came by, and put her on the passenger floor of my car. The other people asked if she was OK, and she was. They said they knew where to put her, but so did I. What better place than home with three ponds, far from the road, abundant food and no interference? They agreed.

John and I put her in the clover in the back of the house and she quickly lifted her head and smelled water near by. We checked her out all over — not only to see if she was hurt, but to learn about wood turtles and identifying them. She is beautiful and her feet are fascinating and strong.

The underside of each turtle specie is unique.

Above: John found that she had been hit by a car and was bleeding from a spot where her shell was broken. He says she will be OK and will survive.

The "insculpta" part of her scientific name is Latin for sculpted shell. It is a stunning shell.

John carried her to the first pond, the most remote pond and placed her on the sandy beach near where reeds grow. I watched her as her head came out of her shell and she surveyed the area. Then she quickly walked to the water and slid in and disappeared. I look forward to watching her in the days and months ahead.

Glyptemys insculpta

NH Conservation Status: Species of Special Concern, Wildlife Action Plan Species in Greatest Need of Conservation. Legally protected in New Hampshire: possession, sale, import, and take (harm, harass, injuring, killing) is illegal.
State Rank Status: Vulnerable to extirpation and extinction
Distribution: Throughout NH except regions of high elevation.
Description: A 5-8 inch turtle characterized by its highly sculpted shell where each large scute takes an irregular pyramidal shape. The neck and forelimbs are orange.
Commonly Confused Species: Juvenile snapping turtles.
Habitat: Found in slow-moving streams and channels with sandy bottoms. Extensive use of terrestrial habitats during summer, including floodplains, meadows, woodlands, fields, as well as wetlands.
Life History: Lay 4-12 eggs in shallow depressions in sandy, well-drained soils. Nest sites are usually near streams but may also be in clearings, agricultural fields, or other disturbed areas. Hibernate in slow-moving streams and rivers under riverbanks, root masses, or woody debris.
Conservation Threats: Road mortality, Habitat loss and fragmentation, stream alteration, human collection, and increased abundance of subsidized predators.

Wood Turtle Set

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Northern Redback Salamander

Plethodon cinereus

John found this little salamander for me to photograph. He is holding it in the palm of his hand. It moves so fast that it was very, very difficult for me to photograph. This is my first salamander photo.
NH Conservation Status: Not listed.
State Rank Status: Widespread and secure, abundant.
Distribution: Throughout NH.
Description: A small (2-4 inches) dark salamander with a reddish or orange stripe down the back from the head to tail. There is also a “leadback” phase where the body is uniformly dark. Both phases have a white and black “salt and pepper” speckled belly.
Commonly Confused Species: Northern two-lined salamander, Four-toed salamander.
Habitat: Wooded areas. Found underground or underneath logs, stumps, rocks, and moist leaf litter. During rainy nights, may climb vegetation in search of prey.
Life History: Eggs are deposited within or under rotting logs and stumps. Hibernates underground in decaying root systems.
Conservation Threats: Species is secure.

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Friday, June 26, 2009


Different roses in the gardens at home. Above, an old garden rose from a nursery. It has no fragrance.

Above and below: white wild, or heritage, rose. The most wonderful fragrance. These roses are all over the property.

Above and below: wild roses. I've always called these beach roses because they grow on the Connecticut beaches on Long Island Sound. They are my favorite roses.

Below: a red heritage rose (mislabeled as a garden rose on Flickr):



American beech (Fagus grandifolia Ehrh.) seed

1 ounce of beechnuts contains 1.8 grams protein, 7 grams fat, 3 grams carbohydrates. and 6 calories.
(source: The Nut Factory)

One of the great features of fall is the ripening of beechnuts.

When one considers the fact that the kernel of a beechnut is so small that it may defy the force of gravity--not to mention the taste buds of man--it is difficult to imagine the import of this tiny seed.

But many things happen when beechnuts ripen--not the least of which is the fact that this natural phenomenon can anchor me beneath the low limbs of a beech tree where I shuck the twin hard inner shells out of their spiny covers, then shave off one side with my thumbnail (or the smallest blade of my Old Timer pocket knife) for a delightful woodland snack.

You will earn every tasty morsel you extract from a beechnut, but to experience this beautiful, woodsy taste of a ripe beechnut is well worth the effort . . . even the sore finger tips that will come with handling the spiny outer shells of the nuts.

I never know quite where to start in describing beechnuts. But when I think of the entire nut--including the spiny outer husks--I fancy that they are half trapezoidal and half pyramidal--a sort-of three-dimensional trapezoidal pyramid. The outer husks tend to split and yaw a bit as they begin to dry on the ends of beech twigs. If left alone the outer husks will open, as if hinged at their base, and the twin inner nuts, which remind me of little half pyramids, each having three sides, will tumble to the forest floor. It is inside these little compartments that the kernels (roughly the same shape) form.

Incidentally, each of the little inner nuts will show three sides, one of which is more flat than the other two. And that is where those who seek the tasty kernels attack.

Before the inner nuts are dry, this flat side can be removed by placing the thumbnail or knife blade under the base of this flat side and lift it off to reveal the kernel. Kernels often fit so snugly that the firm sides of the inner nuts appear swollen. The swollen sides of an inner nut are a sure-fire sign that a tasty treat awaits inside. But nuts that are not swollen still can offer great little nuggets.

The best way to harvest beechnuts is to pick them off the trees before they start to fall naturally. However, if the nuts have reached maturity and have fallen into the humus and dried leaves of the forest floor, a blanket or tarp, and a little effort will net plenty of the inner half-pyramids.

Just spread the blanket/tarp on the forest floor under the tree. Scoop leaves onto the blanket, gather the four corners and shake the blanket well. This will allow the nuts to fall to the surface of the blanket. The leaves can then be removed and the nuts separated from the other chaff of the forest floor. The nuts may also be gleaned by sifting through leaves on the forest floor with the fingers.

Although it is easier to extract the tiny kernels before the nuts lose all of their moisture, the meats of well-dried nuts are more crisp (and perhaps more tasty). Roasting the nuts in an oven or on the top of a wood-burning stove also produces good results.

Beechnut meats will add zip to salads and many other dishes, but it is difficult to extract enough for such purposes when they are so tasty as snacks.

Those interested in sampling beechnuts, must remember that the American beech tree is a temperamental species, especially so in terms of mast production. Some trees never produce nuts with well-formed kernels. Others produce only in some years. With this in mind, It is a good idea to check the nuts of a tree before inviting your friends out for snacks.

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Quechee, Vermont

I've fallen behind, again, on posting. This was taken two weeks ago in Quechee Village when Andrew and Dan visited and we all went to Simon Pearce to view the falls. Two boys were swinging on a rope swing under the bridge.


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Quechee Gorge

Andrew & Dan came to Vermont last week. We all went to Quechee Gorge and viewed it over the bridge on Route 4. We had no plans to hike the trail down because of rain that was supposed to be over the entire area but wasn't. Someday. The weather was overcast, which still gives me problems photographing the sky.

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Fields of White Mustard

Brassica hirta

This field was photographed on the last day of school, Thursday, June 11, during Field Day games. We were surrounded by the Green Mountains and the mountains of Canada (which is what you see here) and by these fields of white mustard. I have also seen it called yellow mustard, and I have seen the scientific name spelled Brassica herta. The fields were so regular that it seems that they were cultivated.

According to the Nature Conservancy's, this plant is not invasive in either Vermont or New Hampshire.

White mustardhas medicinal qualities. From
Mustard seeds stimulate circulation. A white or yellow Mustard seed plaster can be used to eliminate chest congestion. It warms the skin and opens the lungs to open the airways. Powdered black Mustard seed is used to relieve arthritis, rheumatism, toothache, and other types of soreness or stiffness. Black Mustard seeds also make a soothing footbath and can eliminate colds and headache. The Chinese use Brown Mustard to treat colds, stomach problems, abscesses, rheumatism, lumbago, and ulcers. They use the leaves to treat bladder inflammation. Taken in small doses, Mustard is a wonderful appetite stimulant that also helps with digestion. Taking larger doses though can cause vomiting. Due to the oil and fat content in Mustard seed, it works well to use as a laxative. Oil from the hulls of seeds promotes the growth of hair. Mustard seed oil is also used in massage therapy.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Viceroy Butterfly

Limenitis archippus
These beautiful butterflies look much like Monarchs except they are smaller and have the horizontal black band crossing the vertical bands on their wings. They have been abundant here in New Hampshire this weekend. To me (and I know nothing about a butterfly's life cycle) they appear to be drying themselves off in the sun. You can see how this butterfly was resting in the bright sun on the sand driveway. This photo also shows how prevalent beach sand is here in this region of New Hampshire. It is everywhere and moves with you everywhere — in the house, in the laundry, in the car. You can't escape it.

Viceroy Butterfly Set

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Sand Blackberry

Rubus cuneifolius Pursh
I need to find a lot of blackberry recipes because they grow in riotous numbers here in New Hampshire. I see them by the roadside, in parks, and all over our land. They grow as a creeper, short bush and tall bush, with thorns and without. The blossoms are lovely.
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Oxeye Daisy

Leucanthemum vulgare
Once again, an invasive plant. But one of my favorite flowers. I like this photograph of this blossom because of the spirals in the yellow and the black with the too bright white petals. They grew in my fields in Vermont and are in the gardens in New Hampshire. I may even encourage them in the fields here in my new home.
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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Cinnamon Fern

Osmunda cinnamomea
Below the Blackwater Dam, Webster, NH
Cinnamon Fern Set

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Silvery Cinquefoil

Potentilla argentea
We've noticed that many plants are called cinquefoil. This is one that has five yellow petals on a creeping woody vine. According to, it is an invasive species. This photo was taken below the Blackwater Dam but we have it growing at home, also.

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Indian Cucumber

In the forest below the Blackwater Dam in Webster, NH, John was searching for patridge berries and came across this Indian Cucumber. He has wanted to find the cucumber for quite a long time so that I could taste it. It is an unusual plant — a low pedestal base, a tall stalk and a crown of three leaves. The white root tastes cool, crisp and sweet.
Medeola virginiana


Sunday, June 7, 2009

Eastern Tent Caterpillar

When I first started visiting John in Wilmot I noticed many tent caterpillars in the trees. As we were planting the garden yesterday, we saw this one crawling in the thatch nearby. John complained that there were a lot of them this year and I mentioned that I had thought there were fewer than this winter. Now I realize that of course I don't notice them anymore — the caterpillars have left the tents and are crawling around.

These are the gypsy moth caterpillars. You can read more at these links:

Malacosoma americanum

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