Today I was putzing around in my woods looking at some of the blueberry plants when the thought occurred to me that some of the early blueberries might be ripe by now. So I went to a small patch that always blooms early.

Ripe blueberry

Ripe blueberry


Yup! Ate that one and two others. This little patch is at the base of a tree at the edge of the yard. It gets more sun than the ones growing in the woods, and I imagine that’s why it blooms and ripens earlier than its sylvan counterparts.

So that’s a plant.

Not far from the early blueberries I spotted a grasshopper of some sort.

Animal

Animal


I don’t know the species or the genus. I could look up the order I’m sure, but I just don’t have it in me tonight.

As I walked through the yard, I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye. It was this pickerel frog (Rana palustris).

Pickerel frog (Rana palustris)

Pickerel frog (Rana palustris)


This guy didn’t want anything to do with me, but I continued to chase him down anyhow. I suppose that makes me a paparazzi. For frogs. As I persisted in my efforts to capture his (or her) likeness, I would move the long grass out of the way, and as my hand approached, the frog would jump away. I finally approached with my camera instead of with my hand, and the frog didn’t seem to care about that. It’s as if it were saying, “Oh! You’re a photographer! You should have said so!”

I usually see one or two of these each year, so I’ve met my quota now. I will report this sighting on a site run by Fish & Game (they are interested in that sort of thing).

So now that I have given you a plant and two animals, we shall shoot for the middle ground – slime mold!

Slime mold!

Slime mold!


This is a weird life form. Scientists used to classify it as a fungi, but unlike a fungi, it moves. It also seems to exhibit simple brainlike functions. For example, if you divide this stuff into multiple clumps (much as this one is divided into three already), the clumps will find one another again and recombine. And get this quote from Wikipedia:

Studies on Physarum have even shown an ability to learn and predict periodic unfavorable conditions in laboratory experiments.

Awesome!

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The past three days have featured some glorious weather. I was out in it (for at least a little while) on all three days, but didn’t manage to post anything here until now. So let’s back up and see what’s been happening here.

On Sunday we had a Pathfinder meeting and began constructing our cardboard boat, or rather, boats. We’re going to try building two of them this year, both of them being molded on my canoe and kayak.

Cardboard boat-building begins

Cardboard boat-building begins


Last time we did this (back in 2009), the whole thing was built inside. We didn’t have summer weather in March in 2009. Step one was to wrap my canoe in plastic so we don’t end up gluing a bunch of cardboard to it. I didn’t bother with the kayak, because it’s already plastic, and I don’t think the glue will stick so much to it.
The first layer

The first layer


Then we started wrapping them in cardboard, and tying that down with rope (on the canoe), or duct tape (on the kayak). We’re trying two techniques simultaneously so we can compare results afterwards. That was about as far as we got Sunday. Next week we will continue by gluing cardboard onto the cardboard, until we have four or five layers on there. But I am getting ahead of myself. We’ll talk more about the process as we make progress.

When we got home, Beth and I took a walk through the Northfield Town Forest, the purpose again being to bring the GPS and map out some of the trails. The purpose was also to go for a lovely walk. We succeeded on both points.

We hiked the trail that includes this bridge over Little Cohas Brook (as I call it).

Penny crosses the bridge!

Penny crosses the bridge!


As you can see from this photo, Penny went right over the bridge. This is a first for her. In the past she has been terrified of this bridge, far preferring to swim the brook even when it is choked in ice. I have tried pulling on her leash to get her to cross and I’ve even carried her over more than once (when I thought the chill of the brook would likely kill her before we got home again). But today, she just trotted across. This photo is actually showing her crossing the bridge on the return trip. She was acting like it was no big deal, but that is not at all how she has acted in the past. It’s nice to see she has overcome her terror.

The town forest abuts Sandogardy Pond, and some of the trails lead to the beach. So of course, we found ourselves there in our quest to map the trails. It’s still iced over.

Sandogardy Pond, still iced over

Sandogardy Pond, still iced over


Penny’s nonchalant crossing of the bridge has nothing to do her fear of hypothermia. As soon as we got to a place along the beach with open water, she plopped herself right down in it and drank. Dogs are insane. I didn’t manage to get a picture of that though.

When I got home, I uploaded the GPX file recorded by my GPS and traced out the trails. Now the trails through the town forest are completely mapped (on OpenStreetMaps anyhow).

When we got back to the house, I went into my front woods looking for the pile of slime mold I posted last time. It was nowhere to be seen, so by that, I assume it really was a slime mold. They look like fungi, but unlike fungi, they move.

That takes us to Monday. I had Va bring Beth to my office after school so we could collect some seeds. She needs 15 different species. We had collected several on our walk Sunday, but she still needed some more. When she arrived, we did my normal lunchtime walk. The advantage of having phenology as a hobby is that I have memorized the id’s of several plants along that path – and I can now recognize them even from the dead stalks that are still standing.

Collecting Seeds

Collecting Seeds


Here she is collecting some hawthorn berries. The seeds are inside. We also grabbed a horse chestnut, some common yarrow, rose, cherry, black locust, round-headed bush clover, maple, and an oak-leaved hydrangea. There were three others too, but I can’t remember what they were at this point.

We both stopped and photographed some crocuses before heading back to the office.

Crocus

Crocus

That brings us up to today, the first day of Spring (or was that yesterday?) I took a nice walk around my woods when I got home. Rather than sticking to my path, I zig-zagged all over the place to see what I could find that would be different. I found what I think is a patch of pyrola.

Pyrola?

Pyrola?


This stuff grows in my woods, but I have not been able to put a species name on it yet. Pyrola’s are pretty difficult to distinguish (at least for me). They are an evergreen though, and I’ve found that the evergreens in my woods are really starting to green up. Here’s another example:
Trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens)

Trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens)


Trailing arbutus is among the first plants to flower in my woods, but that’s still several weeks away.

I also found two piles of deer sign:

Deer sign

Deer sign


I’ve not seen the perpetrator of this deed, but it’s nice to know they are around. There are a lot fewer deer here in NH as compared to VA. When we lived in VA, I’d see at least a half dozen deer per day. Here I see them about once per year. That makes them special for me again, which is a nice change.

Yesterday when I got home from work I took a lap around our property. I was on the lookout for small, straight hardwood trees. I need some poles for a competition the Pathfinders will engage in this May (lashing poles together to make a ladder). I found some suitable trees (2 inches in diameter) and cut them down. I wanted to cut them down with my bow saw, but I had left that in the Pathfinder trailer at the church. So I used my ax instead.

While I was scouting for trees I came across this bit of loveliness:

Slug surfing a slime mold

Slug surfing a slime mold


I believe this is a slime mold. I should have gone out again today to look at it – slime molds are motile, so it would have moved by today. Instead, David and I took Penny for a walk.

The path is still ice-covered

The path is still ice-covered

I wanted to bring the GPS and turn on some third-party software I loaded onto it. This software logs the position every 15 seconds or so. The reason I wanted to do this was so that I could add the trails in the Northfield Town Forest to OpenStreetMaps.org. Mission accomplished (but the trails don’t show up when I view the maps for some reason – maybe because I don’t know what I’m doing).

We covered most of the trails through the forest, but there are still a couple more I will get later. It was getting dark.

Along the road we live on their is an old chair in the woods. It has been there at least since we moved here seven years ago. Back then there was still leather on the seat and the back rest has not rotted off.
Decomposing chair in the woods
The beer bottle in the seat is relatively new though.
Decomposing chair in the woods

Today was the first of a month, so I took a nice long lunchtime walk with the camera in hand. I took photos of 39 plants whose identity I knew, and a handful of plants I did not know. I logged the 39, and I will attempt to identify the others soon.

I stopped at Market Basket (grocery store) during the walk and picked up a box of instant oatmeal and a bag of peanut M&M’s. I sometimes eat two packs of instant oatmeal for lunch. It tastes pretty good, and it costs under 30 cents per meal. Then I ate half the M&M’s which doesn’t sound too bad until I reveal that it was a large bag – nine servings according to Mars. That’s 78% of my fat calories for the day.
Some of the 39 plants were photographed after I got home. I kicked the soccer ball around for Penny as I searched for blooms, and Beth walked with me for much of the time. I went out again after supper and repeated that exercise, only it was sprinkling that time. Oh well.

While I was walking the trail, I checked the stump where I found Beth’s slugs. When the house was being built, the boys and I camped on the property and we built a fire over that stump thinking that would take it out. Well, the stump is black, but it’s still very much with us. Over the past few days I’ve been watching that stump, as it’s a good place to find weird things (like slugs). It’s also covered with moss, liverworts, and some really cool slime mold. The first time I saw the slime mold it was a dull, creamy yellow.

Yellow slime mold, 25 June, 2008

Then it turned brown (those might be Beth’s pet slugs now – I caught them on this stump).

Brown slime mold (with slugs), 28 June

The next day (yesterday) a red patch appeared next to the brown stuff.

Red slime mold appears

Today the red stuff was gone, and there’s some brilliant yellow slime mold in another spot.

Yellow slime mold, 1 July, 2008

I had no idea that stuff could change that quickly.