Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Birds in Spring

     One of spring’s gifts here in the northeast is the return and presence of the birds.  First the red-winged blackbirds call out their territorial presence in the marshes and wetlands. Soon after, the robins return, often before the snow has melted, to hop about the cold ground in search of a meal.  The partridges beat their wings to drum a call in hopes of attracting a mate and the white-throated sparrows call out their song from the tips of the tall spruce trees in the woods.

  Eagles and osprey cry out or fly with soft wings over the Utica marsh and West Canada Creek, as great blue herons singly and silently wing their way to quiet, hidden spots among the wetlands tall grasses. Chickadees sing their spring song and other species come through on their north~ so many colors and sizes, a variety of trills, chirrups, calls and pure sweet songs.
     The call I listen for, which touches my spirit, with its melodious piping tune is the wood thrush, a shy bird of the forest that sings early, early morning and later in the day. A pure delight to hear. I wonder at the connection of the birdsong and early spring wildflowers~ and like to believe that the songs wake the woodland ephemerals and trees encouraging their flowering.

    Last weekend I visited a dear friend in western Massachusetts ~a gifted and dedicated gardener and artist who has created such beauty on her land. As we wandered the gardens I saw an elder shrub that was blooming weeks earlier than I would expect. 

Coming closer to investigate, I discovered Robin’s eggs gently cradled in a woven nest of grass, tucked into its branches. Holding the promise of life, the rich vibrant turquoise color stunned me in its beauty. Nature herself paints with a rich palette and sings through our winged friends. Perhaps we also are awakened by birdsong and color in the flowers, reawakening to a season of life and beauty!  Enjoy!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Scots Pine Pollen Gathering

    There are tree flowers and tree fruits, tree nuts and seeds.  The evergreen tree  “flowers” are unique in their form, which reflects their form of pollination~ the pollen being carried on the spring breezes and gusts of wind.  The pollen is held in tiny parcels, of which there are many, that spiral round the male strobile (see photo). Around the end of May these strobiles mature and open to release a tremendous ( Hmmm, tree-mendous?) amount of soft, silky grains of pollen that is blown about in every breeze. 

    We wash it off our car windows, notice it covering puddles in the street and the surface of ponds.  Some may know the pollen as the culprit that triggers an allergy-like response that ends when the evergreens have finished their pollen dance, for a dance it is.  The windborne pollen grains ride the air up to land on the tiny female cones, most of which emerge at the tops of the trees.  Amazing to think of the billions of pollen grains a tree produces to be sure of the best pollination of the much smaller number of female cones.
Then again, in human procreation, there are quite a few sperm swimming up to find the one or two eggs awaiting fertilization!

   Stephen Harrod Buhner, author of many books including The Vital Man, found in his research that both Black Pine and Scots Pine pollen had been studied in depth and that their pollen could be used to support the endocrine system, in providing the building blocks of testosterone.  Please refer to Stephen’s book for further information on the pine pollen.

    Several years ago we went out to gather the pollen from our local Scots Pine trees and were delighted to find the process quite engaging.  The window of time is quite brief- only a few days each Spring, as the trees are in tune with each other and “bloom” at the same time. 

   This year we gathered as a team, our berry baskets at our sides, picking the strobiles that were at the correct maturity, talking and singing, or quietly tending to this sweet work.  The trees gathered us into their embrace~ we noticed the spiral aspects of the trees, their circle of limbs, their fragrance and prickly needles.  They felt protective and ancient.  They felt like elders and friends.  They are rich with essence in their pollen and presence.  They shared their wealth in tiny grains of gold, and we are deeply grateful as we process this gold into plant medicine to help others enliven their own essence!

  What a joy it was to spend a few days in the pine grove gathering with friends and the Scots Pines.  Thank you dear Trees for all your gifts in all the seasons.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Great Island - October 2010

We sit, resting on the beach of Great Island, after walking slowly and quietly through the dune woodlands of oak and pine. The sandy forest floor holds a blend of lichens, moss and uva ursi, cushioned with gold-brown pine needles and fallen dry oak leaves. We feel autumn’s dryness underfoot as we wander, several yards apart, seeking edible mushrooms, hoping to find King Bolete aka Boletus edulis. Noted as “Choice” in our mushroom handbook, we remember last year’s harvest when we discovered this mushroom to be delicious, sweet and tasting of earth, sand and pine.

So many other species of mushrooms dot the ground, some pushing up bunches of pine needles, still others melting into the soil. Though the number of tree species is few, basically oaks and pines, there is a richness here, a diversity of easily recognized plants and fungi along with a few shy plants, including spotted wintergreen and round leaf pyrola. We recognize beds of reindeer lichen, a lone bayberry shrub and wee pink flowers on slender stalks that I cannot name.

The sunlight plays on the branches and under our feet; it fills the space around the trunks, branches and needles of the pines. It shifts and highlights, glows and caresses each plant and tree. As we wander I feel surrounded by the light, immersed in its clarity and its dreamy quality.

The sounds of wind in the trees, the waves beyond the dunes, and busy nuthatches short, quick cranking tones blend with the crunch of pine needles and dried lichen underfoot. Our senses are caressed, filled, heightened, and we feel one with this place. We do find three King Boletes, marveling over each one- noting the similarities and the differences in color, size and overall appearance- delighted to find these edible treasures. We will soon be savoring the fragrance as they cook, the flavor rich as we taste each morsel, taking in the wildness of the land, the light and sounds, all the richness of the woodlands~ knowing we are in the land and the land is in us…

The rains that fall, the morning dew and evening fog…the onshore wind, the clear light, the acid, sandy soil, the calls of seagulls…the elements woven into seashore magic!

Autumn Blessings,


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Wild Crafting Season

It is the beginning of our wild crafting season. The roots of the spring tonic plants are ready. We have been digging nettle roots to tincture, wild sarsaparilla root to dig. Birds fill the forest with the music of courtship. I spend a lot of time in wild places gathering the many herbs we use in our products and I also gather some other quiet things. The experience of the forest is an opening to the many expressions of nature found in small discovery. Each new plant or animal stirs an emotional response in our inner selves. These emotions act like fuel for our spirit to keep on seeking new moments in the flow of life. I have had my most healing by being captured by simple creation happening all around me. Moments of this  quiet kind of witnessing  are the reason I have chosen the path of the naturalist.  It is now summer in the parklands and much is happening out in those woods. The elusive orchids of the park are now starting to bloom. I have found three new species in a fen we visit from time to time. Grass pink, large white fringed orchid and small white fringed orchid as pictured . The orchids have a quiet and profound presence in the forests and wetlands. Some like the pink butterfly orchid exude an  almost tropical fragrance. {pictured}. The search for orchids is always a challenge because most of the Adirondack orchids live in deep forest or remote bog and wetland settings. I have spent many hours in bogs moving slowly before seeing what was right in front of me. Today I will go searching my own local bogs to see who is around.

Take good care Don

Thursday, May 14, 2009

May Woodlands

I hope tonight will be our last frost. The endless job of covering our new garden plants will soon be over. The forest is still open with the beginning of leaves on the trees. Kate and I took our son Sean to hike into the Ferris wild forest [ about 200 square miles ] on the 10th. The wild flowers slowed us down as we made our way to Good Luck Mt. This small mountain has class-12 cliffs, good for climbing and great for witnessing the stone of the earth. The cliffs are over 100 feet tall with a boulder field at the base. Where a boulder field exists, the environment for unusual plants is very good. Goldthread [ Coptis groenlandica ], both Painted Trillium and Purple Trillium, Dutchman's Breeches and Dwarf Ginseng are plentiful and in full bloom. Giant glacial boulders have small gardens of prickly gooseberry and Polypody ferns. The landscape has a feeling that giants created a woodland rock garden. The Yellow Birch trees dominate the forest with Mountain Ash, Mountain Maple, Striped Maple and White Spruce. A pair of Ravens live on the cliff face and gave us warning to give their nesting site plenty of room. The walk in this rare space gave all of us a feeling of discovery and peace both inside our own being and as a group that has walked these woods together for many years. The more time we can spend in the wild forest quietly seeking the large and the small wonders of nature, the greater our appreciation of life. Go out and enjoy.
From the Adirondacks Don

Monday, April 20, 2009


April, a time for new partnership . Birds are finding nesting sites, bears are moving about, foxes with their kits are learning hunting skills. The snow is still over a foot deep on the north slopes. The forest is filled with clear spring light tinged pink and violet as the sunlight passes through the spring buds on the trees. The forest floor is warming and the spring ephemerals are starting to spring up, reaching towards light. The amount of energy gently waking the land as the earth slowly turns to the south creates a bloom wave, waking the buds on the trees . This is my favorite time of the year for wandering in our wilderness landscapes. The secrets of the landscape are revealed to the trained eye. Forest types, glacial features, water courses, and the general topography are open to see clearly. This is a great time to learn about the tree and forest floor flowers. Trout lily, spring beauty, wood violet, and dwarf ginseng are some of the first to bloom. Quaking aspen, red maple, and the alders are some of the trees and shrubs to flower first. To identify these early blossoms is to create a base for our relationship with all the seasons and the evolution of the coming greening. Spending time in the forest at the beginning of the seasons is a great start . Enjoy.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Spring Time

Today, March 30th, it snowed and the wind blew hard with 32 degrees at best. Lucy the dog and I went out for a walk along the old back road we live on. The sky moved over us and dipped down sometimes to rush around and make us look up squinting into small snow and ice. The trees bending and talking to the creek in flood stage with the snow melt. Geese way up there somewhere but not to be seen, just heard. Small birds going with the wind hopefully to the destination they set out to. In all of the wild and unpredictable spring wind and snow there is a solid feeling I get of the earth under my feet and the sky breathing in the changing season. I cherish the time I have in the natural world and look forward to the spring flowers on the forest floor as well as the tree blossoms to come. More spring walks soon. Don