Beech hull, snail shell, turkey tail

A Change in Plans

The mountain will change your plans.

The cats came with Lance and me (Rocky declined, having ingested something foul this week, from which he’s still recovering) on what we thought would be a short hike, but the sunshine and the many things the mountain had to show us kept us out much longer than expected. This happens to us, and not infrequently.

Pippi waiting for us to head into the slough
Pippi waiting for us to head into the slough

The recent rains are making the woods wonderful with waterfalls; it’s impossible not to find yourself standing utterly still at yet another of a thousand places on the mountain, just listening. And once still, the crows, our resident hawks, and the leaf-rustle of chipmunks and sparrows add themselves to the water’s chorus.

We began as we often do, hiking through the slough, where two of our creeks join a larger feeder stream, but decided to wander up the rattlesnake orchid trail to see if our orchid colony had escaped the predation of the deer this winter. They had! And we’re considering carrying out some rabbit wire to preserve them this year. They take 4-8 years to flower, and we saw one or two of these flower a few years ago before the entire colony was eaten to the root. So we’ve kept a careful eye on the new and expanded group, hoping to see them bloom again soon.

Along the way Lance spotted a hygroscopic earthstar; we typically see these after the snows in winter, and also after the spring rains, but then they disappear for the summer.

Earthstar!
Earthstar!
Beech hull, snail shell, turkey tail
Beech hull, snail shell, turkey tail

Heading down the yellow birch trail, we picked up spent beech hulls and a snail shell; we made several little altars with our findings along the path. Pippi raced ahead to climb the giant beech that overhangs the carved bowl spring. You’ll have to see if you can find her in the photo below.

Pippi in the giant beech
Pippi in the giant beech
Pippi in the giant beech 2
Pippi in the giant beech 2

After cleaning and tending to the spring, we nibbled on new watercress and Virginia waterleaf, both coming out in abundance there. With these two water-lovers, plus the newly blooming hairy bittercress rosettes and a few of the tender day lily spikes showing up on the mountain, I could easily make my first wild salad of the year.

Watercress where the carved bowl spring joins the creek
Watercress where the carved bowl spring joins the creek
Virginia waterleaf sprouts
Virginia waterleaf sprouts
Hairy bittercress rosette in bloom
Hairy bittercress rosette in bloom

It’s good practice for me to identify all the new green things that appear in late winter in the woods; when I was new to foraging and plant identification I often had to wait until a particular plant was fully mature or flowering in order to make a confident id, but now, having observed them for a number of years and growing cycles, I know many of them as soon as they sprout. For example, the most prevalent tiny green thing showing up right now is our fringed phacelia, which, in just a month or two, will blanket the mountain with white and lavender blooms.

Fringed phacelia sprouts
Fringed phacelia sprouts
My bees can also be found working in the muddy, wet places, carrying water back to the hive. Even after we made our way back to the house, we spent time poking around in the seep nearest the house (already growing clogged with buttercup shoots) watching the bees, inspecting the wild rose canes, finding new mint sprouts, and enjoying the mud and muck of a spring-like day on our mountain.
Honey bee drinking at the seep
Honey bee drinking at the seep
Daffodil bud!
Daffodil bud!

I had intended to paint today, but ended up spending most of the afternoon outside. Sometimes it’s good to allow the drenched and greening woods to divert your plans and compel your attention. Today, I’m happy with the change in plans.

2 comments on “A Change in Plans

  1. Greg Helms

    Wonderful, thank you

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe

      Hi Greg! I’m glad you liked it. Thanks for taking the time to let me know!

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