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!


Anonymous said...

Beautiful bog! Any orchids in there?

Floridacracker said...

That bog! It's just what I've pictured in a few Steven King novels, that's Maine of course, but a couple of his tales describe such places.

Deb said...

Sue- I haven't seen any orchids, but of course I haven't walked it in the summer when things are growing. That would be a nice find.

FC- From what I've heard, Maine is very similar to here. But...Steven King novels? Now I'm scared of what may rise out of my little bog!

Anonymous said...

I once did botanical inventories on research plots in some weedy rank grass (at the edge of an industrial site). This was several days at a stretch, several times through the growing season, on hands and knees counting stems wherever my sampling frame landed. I had to watch my step for the numerous large burrows, but I got extra nervous about those burrows after I saw the badger. Mostly I'd just see the grass stirring, but sometimes I would see his masked face peeking through at me, and I dreaded an up-close encounter if one of us surprised the other. They usually just disappear into the ground in a flurry of incredibly fast digging, but I am told they can turn vicious if you get close before they have time to burrow away.

Anonymous said...

lovely to have such beauty just outside the door. nature is just amazing.

Deb said...

arcolaura- I've heard they have a mean streak. But I still want to see one!

clairesgarden- It is amazing, and too often overlooked.