Saturday, December 16, 2006
finding wildness close to home
This is the view across a tiny bog just yards from my tiny house. The house is fairly evident; in fact if you look closely you can see the silver-tarped roof of my new house-in-progress just to the right of the house.
My point is, I don't have to walk far to see an ecosystem totally different from the usual ground on which I walk. We have lots of bogs around here, some covering many acres. The distinguishing characteristic of a bog is acidic soil/groundwater, which leads to a growth of Sphagnum moss and any of a number of bog-specific plants. Tamaracks do well in boggy conditions, as do black spruce, but the spruce grow so slowly in bogs that a very old tree might just be fifteen feet high.
The Sphagnum moss forms hummocks in which other plants grow. In this picture the tawny stuff on the right is some kind of sedge, with some kind of grass beyond. (My knowledge of field botany stops at grasses and sedges, but I'm still learning...) The reddish stuff to the left is leatherleaf, which produces small white bell-shaped flowers in the summer. The moss also provides good habitat for burrowing critters such as voles; I actually saw a couple of them scurrying along their mossy trails. The delicate-looking tamarack branches would be a perfect spot for a great gray owl to perch and hunt for a meal.
Not far from the bog and house, there is a path that, I may have mentioned earlier, is an old logging railroad siding. I don't walk this path as frequently as I should (daily would be nice) but I know it enough to know that these holes appeared quite recently on the path. I'm thinking the excavator may be a badger, but I didn't reach into a hole to check and see. I have never seen a badger, and they are mostly nocturnal, but it's pretty cool to think one may be that close to my house. No wonder the dogs have been going back that way a lot lately!