Last week I decided to visit Indian Pond in Chesterfield. I’d heard about it but had never been so off I went. The trail I was to follow to the pond took me very near a place I know well, so I took a short detour to the ruins of Madame Sherri’s summer home, which is called the “castle.” Madame Sherri was a French costume designer who worked in New York City in the roaring twenties (1920s) and designed costumes for the Ziegfeld Follies and others. The chalet style castle was built of local stone found on the property, and I think what draws people to the site is what’s left of the arched outdoor stairway shown above. Two of the largest arches have come apart, so I fear this well-known local landmark won’t be standing much longer unless it is repaired.
I’ve seen the white of frost on rooftops a couple times but it was very light and from what I can see didn’t harm a single plant, so we’re still seeing a few flowers. Our average first frost date is September 15th, so we’re very lucky to be seeing them nearly a month later. I found this nice clump of what I think is purple stemmed aster (Symphyotrichum puniceum) growing on the shore of a pond recently.
I’m seeing this aster everywhere right now. It has flowers that are quite small and grows at forest edges and other dry locations. I think it’s the late purple aster (Symphyotrichum patens.) It’s rough, hairy stems tell me that it isn’t the smooth aster (Symphyotrichum laeve.) Whatever its name is, it’s a beautiful small plant that’s loaded with blossoms.
Fall continues to amaze. Especially amazing to me is how colorful everything is in spite of our drought, which seems to go on and on. Even old timers who have seen the colors come and go for years often stand agape at the current year’s brilliance, and some say it’s the best they’ve seen. But then, we say that almost every year, so you’ll have to judge for yourself.
The red maples (Acer rubrum) are really putting on a show this year and that surprises me because another name for them is “swamp maple,” which hints at how much water they like. As of right now many of our swamps, small ponds and streams have dried up, but since these trees grow right at the water’s edge I’m sure they aren’t suffering.
The yellow leaved vine in the foreground of this photo is oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus
As flowers start to fade and leaves begin to fall my thoughts often turn to lichens, mosses and all of the other beautiful things you can still find in nature in the winter. We’ve had two or three days of drizzle; nothing drought busting but enough to perk up the lichens. Lichens like plenty of moisture, and when it doesn’t rain they will simply dry up and wait. Many change color and shape when they dry out and this can cause problems with identification, so serious lichen hunters wait until after a soaking rain to find them. This is when they show their true color and form. The pink fruiting bodies of the pink earth lichen in the above photo for example, might have been shriveled and pale before the rain.
Pink earth lichen (Dibaeis baeomyces) closely resembles bubblegum lichen (Icmadophila ericetorum.) One of the differences…
Fall officially began two weeks ago but often the calendar doesn’t align with what we see, and fall colors are only just starting to appear. We’re probably a week or two away from peak color but you can get glimpses, as this view of Half Moon Pond in Hancock shows. Water cools slower than the air and fog forms on lakes, ponds and rivers most mornings now.
While at the pond I took some photos of marsh St. John’s wort seed pods, which are an amazing shade of red. It’s particularly amazing to me because it is one of the few shades of red in nature that I can actually see. Colorblindness plays havoc with reds and blues for me.
Though the drive down this dirt road was mostly green there was quite a bit of yellow to be seen as well. Birches turn yellow and usually do so quite early.
Though we’ve had a rainy day or two the drought has brought the level of the Ashuelot River down to the point where islands have appeared where they’ve never been, and they’re already covered with grasses and wildflowers. It would be quicker to walk down the middle of it than trying to navigate it in a boat. I don’t think you would even get your knees wet now, but in a normal summer it would be about waist deep here.
Extreme zooming showed the flowers were nodding bur marigolds (Bidens cernua.) I don’t know how they and the grasses grew on the islands so fast.
It’s cooling off quickly now and morning temperatures have been in the 30s and 40s, but great blue heron are still with us. They can take a lot of cold and can sometimes be seen even when there’s snow on the ground.
As if someone flipped a switch, all of the sudden New England asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) are blooming everywhere. Though they’re usually a light purple color I’m seeing more of the deep purple ones that I like so much this year. Asters are very beautiful things that provide one last ecstatic pollen gathering fling for the bees.
But the bees aren’t choosy and this bull thistle blossom (Cirsium vulgare) was as good as an aster, even though the asters bloomed just a few yards away. Last year I was in a field where light and dark colored asters grew side by side and I saw bees go for the lighter colored aster blossoms nearly every time as they all but ignored the darker blossoms. I’ve wondered since if that’s why I don’t see as many of the deep purple asters.
Sometimes when you live in a forest there is a feeling of closeness, so I like to occasionally visit more open areas to balance things out. Hill climbing usually widens the viewpoint so on Saturday I decided to climb the High Blue trail in Walpole. From up there, I knew there would be nothing blocking my view of the horizon.
There were plenty of flowers to be seen along the way, especially asters and goldenrods. They must have mesmerized me because I got home and discovered that I had no photos of the trail itself, so I have to ask you to imagine walking on your favorite forest trail as you scroll through this post.
Some aster blossoms were about an inch and a half across and that told me they were most likely New England asters. There is no other native aster as big that I know of that…
I wanted to experience what it was like to ride in the same type of war plane that my Uncle Ed Poltrack flew in the South Pacific in WWII. I’ve seen photos, taken the virtual tour posted on the Collings Foundation website and read some of Ed’s letters and flight diary accounts.
When the Wings of Freedom Tour visited Manchester Airport I had my opportunity. Before the flight we had to rotate the blades 9 times to clear out the pooling oil, something common to all radial engines.It was a thrill to hear (and feel) those twin 1700 HP Cyclone engines roar into action. After take off, I was able to crawl into the nose behind the machine gun with another “crewman”. This is a war machine and nothing about it is comfortable. We were flying low and slow, I can only imagine my uncle flying over the ocean with a jacket, gloves, oxygen mask, fully loaded with bombs and being under constant threat of being shot at.
This video has three parts, take off, flight and landing. We had to sit in jump seats behind the pilot during takeoff and landing. After we were airborne we crawled on our hands and knees through a tunnel into the nose of the aircraft behind the front machine gun. That was quite a view. The video is long but imagine doing this for hours, in frigid cold with an oxygen mask on with the chance of being shot out of the sky.
There are more than one hundred surviving North American B-25 Mitchells scattered over the world, mainly in the United States. Most of them are on static display in museums, but about 45 are still airworthy.
A significant number of these were brought together for Catch-22, a 1970 war film adapted from the book of the same name by Joseph Heller. When Catch-22 began preliminary production, Paramount hired the Tallmantz Aviation organization to obtain available B-25s. Tallmantz president, Frank G. Tallman ended up finding war-surplus aircraft, and eventually gathered not only pilots to fly the aircraft but also a ground support crew to maintain the fleet. – Wikipedia
The Collings Foundation, located in Stow, Massachusetts sponsors a Wings of Freedom tour across the United States. When I learned they were flying a B-25 into Manchester airport, the same aircraft my uncle piloted in the South Pacific, I knew I had to see this.
Tondaleyo was a exotic dancer. She danced at places such as the Cotton Club. She was considered one of the most flashiest women of her day, with diamonds, furs, and minks galore. She’s also credited for being the first black woman to own a nightclub in New York.