The Kissing Trees

Hello Friends! Tonight’s feature image is titled “The Kissing Trees” and is available for purchase by following the instructions at the bottom of the article.

Out near the forest edge and by the creek is one of the most unique things that I have ever seen in nature. Technically, a natural graft between two trees would mean that they share a root system and are at least the same genus. Two Apple trees grafted into one by a nurseryman can yield a tree that gives different kinds of apples. But here are two trees that aren’t even the same family much less the same genus. What is occurring in the feature image isn’t really a graft. It’s more of a kiss. I’ve enjoyed these two trees that seem to be locked into a kiss that spans centuries. So much so that I decided that they need their own legend…

Once a long time ago, two young children would meet by the water and play in the mountain stream. A boy and a girl. They did everything together. They would catch crawldads and minnows for fish bait. They played hide and seek in forest. And they would climb the trees and look out at the world from the branches. As they grew up a little they decided to build a cabin out of sticks and play house. The boy would pretend to come home from working in the mines and the girl would serve him mud pies. One day the boy came walking up the creek on his pretend trip home from work and the girl met him in the usual spot. Only this time something was different. The boy had a funny look on his face. As if for the first time he realized that his best friend and playmate was a girl. A difference that she had already realized several times. As they met at the threshold of the little play cabin they each paused and for the first time in each of their lives, they kissed. That day their friendship grew into something that included something more. As they matured into a young couple the little stick cabin and it’s mud pies game gave way to plans of a real house and a real family. They had a long a happy life and when they passed away their family spread their ashes in the spot where their love was born. Shortly after the brief but meaningful ceremony these two trees sprung up. And that first kiss now plays out forever.

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Among The Bracken

Hello Friends and thank you for your support of my page. Tonight’s feature image is titled “Baby Bracken Fern” and is available for purchase by following the instructions at the bottom of the article.

Just below the blanket of last season’s leaves the infrared light of the sum warms the sleepers. They’ve spent the winter curled up into little balls dreaming of the day when they will push back the blanket and reach out for the light. Their line is one of the oldest in the forest. They’ve completed this spring ritual since the day of their creation. They even remember the thunder of the dinosaurs feet. Although they can sprout from spores the braken commonly sprouts from underground runners. The unfurling of the fronds can take on the appearance of ballet when viewed through the magic of time lapse photography. The term “fiddleheads” can refer to any emerging fronds but is most associated with the ostrich fern and it’s edible form. The dense coating of fur on the bracken and the hazard of possibly causing cancer makes the bracken unappealing as an edible. But as part of the landscape it adds just the right amount of a primeval feel to inspire visions of mist covered landscape from long ago. Perhaps even an alien world covered by a dense jungle.

As l look around at the fiddleheads in various stages of unfurling I have to imagine that the first one to finish makes a “Ta-Da!” sound as it does.

I wasn’t able to find the ostrich ferns that I was looking for but I was able to get out and enjoy the fresh air and spend some time in one of my natural sanctuary spots. I took a few minutes to breathe the fresh air and listen to the birds for a while. Finding that moment of peace was the real prize on this trip.

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On The Edge Of The Storm

Hello Friends! Tonight’s feature image is titled “On The Edge Of The Storm” and is available for purchase by following the instructions at the bottom of the article.

The sun hangs low in the sky and a cold damp chill sweeps through the Appalachian Mountains. In the distance I hear the frogs singing as they prepare to invade the newly formed puddles that sprawl across the old logging trails. It’s rained off and on most of day but the nightfall brings a downpour. We’re on the edge of a storm. I have been running about ten minutes ahead of front and that has kept me out of the high winds. Behind me the sky hangs in ragged tatters as the gathering clouds are ripped apart by the oncoming surge.

A quick snapshot of the oncoming storm as seen through my windshield

Yet in spite of the ominous signs of a major weather event the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains brings you sense of peace. Perhaps it’s the expectations that the mountains provide a degree of shelter. Or maybe it’s knowing that God has a way of working things out regardless of the storms.

I always feel more at ease once I pass by the old trestle bridge in Gauley Bridge. Not only does it mark the point where I’m almost home but it’s also the point where I enter the most sheltered terrain. We’ve had some bad storms in my area. In 2012 a straight line wind came through and did a lot of damage. Then there was the flooding in 2012. But through it all God took care of us. He never really promised that there wouldn’t be storms. He did promise that it would be okay.

As the big blue truck carried me deeper into the hills and mountains the storms were nipping at my heels. As I stepped into the house the rain finally caught up with me and the wind howled in the trees on the ridge line above. There will be the dead and broken branches in the yard to clean up and the odd piece of trim to replace but I thank God for the shelter of my mountains and that we’re all safe and warm.

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Trout Lilies – Forage Friday 4

Hello Friends! Tonight’s feature image is untitled. However, if you want to purchase a copy please use the contact instructions at the bottom of the article.

There’s a lot of wild edible plants on my land that I only have theoretical knowledge of. I have read the materials, checked sources, double checked the references and learned the plant’s “face” so I could recognize it when I saw it. One such plant is Trout Lily. My land is on the shady side of the mountain. It’s a wet site which means that the soil stays moist most of the time and there’s a few spots that are downright swampy. I have noticed that the Trout Lilies are always found in those spots that are moist enough for the moss to grow but not actually wet. On the edge of the forest or in the more open portions where the ferns grow well.

The mottled patterns of leaf is pretty hard to mistake.

The nodding yellow flowers are also pretty distinctive. Several of the references I learned from stated that the flower wasn’t really in large supply and that care should be taken as not to over harvest. Other sources say that they’re plentiful but should only be eaten in very small amounts. The reason why is that they are Ematic. In other words, they make you sick to your stomach. Even to the point that it was suggested that it would be useful as a medicine for purging a stomach that has ingested a toxic plant. ( Just a reminder, Forage Friday is not intended to be a substitute for proper training and education. It is for entertainment purposes only. )

With the potential for a foraging excursion gone wrong and not in need of being purged of ingested poison I elected to abstain from Trout Lilies. However, the reference books describe the flavor as being similar to cucumbers and a good addition to salads but emphasis on the vary small amounts within a twenty-four hour period. This made the plant unsuitable for my purposes of finding alternative staple crops and so I never pursued the possibilities. The short availability season also had something to do with that decision. Like the Squirrel Corn and Dutchman’s Breeches they do add a lot of beauty to the edges of my yard. And since I have never actually tried them myself I can’t really say if they’re good. But since they are included in the field guides I’m including them in Forage Friday. As with all of the Forage Friday posts I have to recommend that you don’t rely solely on this post for information about wild edible plants.

The comments are open to the public and if you’re a person who has actually tried this one I’d love to hear about your experience.

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Squirrel Corn..(continued from Dutchman’s Breeches)

Hello Friends! Tonight’s feature image is titled “Pure Hearts” and is available for purchase by following the instructions at the bottom of the article.

A couple of weeks after the Dutchman’s Breeches bloom the Squirrel Corn comes out. The two species are closely related but Squirrel Corn bloom has more of a waxy texture and is often tinged with pinks, reds or purple as seen in the feature image. If Dutchman’s Breeches resemble a fairy’s pants then Squirrel Corn would make a fancy hat.

If you compare tonight’s feature image with last night’s the first thing that stands out to me is the lack of bright yellow on the tips and the more rounded shape of the lobes at the top. The leaves are so similar to each other that I can’t really tell the difference without a bloom. And for those who wish to have native landscaping they can be planted together in order to extend the blooming season. A third relative is bleeding heart. I have yet to spot bleeding heart in the wild myself but I would imagine it could be intermixed with the first two for more color.

Both Dutchman’s Breeches and Squirrel Corn are pollinated by queen bumblebees so if you have these plants then you have bumblebees close by.

Because I’ve been writing about wild edible plants I need emphasize that none of plants mentioned in this article are edible. To the best of my knowledge all three are toxic and best used for aesthetic purposes only. I feel blessed to have them wild near my home when they just seem to appear like magic and being beauty to my world.

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Dutchman’s Breeches

Hello Friends!Tonight’s feature image is titled “Fairy Pants” because the flowers remind me of Tinkerbell’s laundry. All of the photos are my original work and are available as prints by following the instructions at the bottom of the page.

The forest floor has started to wake up. Each little wildflower I encounter on my short walk today was like a smile from God himself. I spotted wild geranium, trout lily, spring beauty, cohosh, may apples and others that will be covered in future posts.

Today is about Dutchman’s Breeches. The name, of course, comes from the resemblance to pantaloons. When I think about it, it’s easy to imagine that somewhere on the forest floor a tiny fairy sits on a mushroom waiting for her laundry to get dry.

Dutchman’s Breeches have no food or medicinal value that I’m aware of. In fact the USDA warns that they are toxic to livestock. However, that depends on your definition of medicine. Ingesting the plant is certainly not recommended and they don’t really have a pleasant scent if you crush them but the beauty they bring in early Spring is therapeutic for the soul.

Dutchman’s Breeches are also part of the natural calendar that I’ve written about a few times. They’re not edible themselves but they bloom at about the right time to dig ramps. (For my non Appalachian friends, ramps are a strong flavored wild leek). I have know of a patch of ramps close by and will try to get a good photo of them soon ( Which is harder than it sounds because patches of ramps are fiercely guarded by landowners).

Dutchman’s Breeches are an indicator species. Wherever they bloom the soil is going to be slightly acidic. If you wanted to grow something like blueberries and you have Dutchman’s Breeches then you’re going to need soil amendments in order for your blueberries to live. As mentioned above their presence also accompanies several other useful and beautiful woodland herbs. Most of them will be covered on a Forage Friday post but for now we have the beauty of the little white flowers that resemble pants.

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Reaching Home

Hello Friends! Tonight’s feature image is titled “Birdhouse 4219″and is available for purchase by following the instructions at the bottom of the article.

No matter how many miles there are in the day, the last one is worth the journey.

No matter how wondrous the the sights have been, There’s no more sight more welcomed than your own doorway.

No matter how many voices have spoken or how high the song was sung, the words welcome home are the most beautiful.

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