Monday, November 19, 2012

Patch Update

Winter landscape - Nells Hill and Flat Mtn.
Before I return to normal blogging, I thought I’d present readers with some general impressions so far about my little patch of forest that I’m studying. I still haven’t measured it, as I don’t want the edges of it to be that rigidly defined. I’ve only been looking at this patch for a few weeks now. I started not long before Hurricane Sandy struck, and I can’t always study it every day, though I do try to spend some time looking it over at least three to four days a week. Sometimes even on those days I spend less time there than I’d like. The shortened hours of daylight are partly to blame. It’s not very light when I leave the cabin in the mornings, and it’s within a very few minutes of night when I return.

Hurricane Sandy did change how the patch looks. Before Sandy, the leaves that covered the ground were light and buoyant, tossed around with the barest hint of a breeze. After Hurricane Sandy, the leaves were wet and heavy, and several sodden layers thick. The one bare spot was on the opposite side of the patch after Sandy passed through.

Over the weeks I’ve noticed a lot more fungus in the patch than I thought was there at first glance. Two of the small branches on the ground came down during 2011’s Halloween snow. I’m sure of that because the branches have been cut with a chain saw, which was only used then. Before that storm, the branches were alive and attached to one tree or another, so the fungus has only been growing on them since “snowtober.” Virtually all the downed branches have at least small spots of fungus on them. I’ve seen what I think is tiny turkey tail fungus, as well as a nearly pure white parchment-type fungus.

I’ve already had a pretty “big” change in the patch. When I first started looking I noticed a nice-looking acorn embedded in the moss, and I had high hopes this acorn might sprout in the spring. There are other acorns in the patch, but they all seemed less likely to sprout. One might be upside down, another looks flat-ish and perhaps malformed, a couple are already rotting. But this one looked promising. Alas, it was not to be. Something, likely a squirrel, dug into the moss and dug it out. I could see the scratch marks in the moss and now there’s a fairly substantial hole where the acorn used to me.

I think it’s something of a not-so-minor miracle that any acorns actually get to sprout, let alone grow into the 100+ year old oaks that make up much of my front forest. It’s a long and rough trip from acorn to oak, I am sure of that.

Over the winter I have a few plans—identify all the species of tree leaves that are on it, to better identify the fungus, to investigate the rock and the lichens that cover it, and to take look at the seed pods to name a few.

I plan to make semi-regular updates about the patch here on Roundtop Ruminations over the next year. Perhaps once a month, perhaps more often, depending on what is going on. In winter, especially if I get some snow cover, the updates could be less frequent. In spring, certainly, more often is likely. I just hope the patch isn’t too big for me to handle!

1 comment:

Scott said...

I think that squirrels' work is what ends up "planting" most oaks, Carolyn. I think squirrels just forget where they've stashed some of the acorns. However, I've got to agree with you in another sense; I often dig young oak seedlings out of my vegetable garden with the intent of replanting them somewhere else in the preserve. If I dig them out and then put them in a pot near the house until I can get around to replanting them, a squirrel (or chipmunk) inevitably finds my handiwork and digs up the plant. The thief severs the seedling from the acorn, makes off with the partially-germinated acorn, and leaves the seedling limp and dead on the surface of the pot. I wonder how many oaks end up like this out in the "wild."