Image of a hot air balloon taken while looking up through a spider’s web

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.

-Albert Einstein

Somebody has said to expect the unexpected and that is exactly what may happen in our travels outdoors. No matter how many times someone may walk the same path in the woods or hills, visit the same beach, walk around the yard or the neighborhood or even enter a building, there can be pleasant surprises every time. There are changes in light or shadows, weather, cloud formations, the colors of leaves, skies or flowers, and the springing up of new plants as seasons change that present new wonders every day.

Pompom dahlia close-up

Look up, down and all around and there are sure to be even the smallest of delights, even if just for the briefest moment in time. Stunning displays in scenery or charming encounters with another creature can lift one’s spirit and become a pleasant memory somewhere down the road.

A black and white koi happened to swim by in water appearing black because of dark skies on this rainy day at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens

Annual garden Harkness Memorial State Park
110 year old threadleaf maple-Harkness
Waning crescent moon and venus predawn October 13 2020
The whole moon was visible to the observer

It doesn’t have to be nature alone that provides unforeseen pleasure to the eyes and spirit. Perhaps simply a building seen in a new light will, out of the blue, add a bit of whimsy to an ordinary bit of scenery. Sometimes buildings are far more interesting when light or reflections change everything, if only for the briefest moment. Every day the sun changes position slightly and light may differ in color just a little bit. If something strikes you, catch the image as it will probably never be seen in quite the same light again.

Pergola shadows framed an entryway for a moment in time
Reflections of building on windows of other buildings in downtown Hartford

Nature presents the most impressive compositions that are unequaled in the best of man-made designs. Every little thing can become a natural diorama

Nimbostratus cloud hanging low
Common tansy, (Tanacetum vulgare), while considered invasive, still is attractive with its bright yellow disc flowers in bloom this October along a roadside in Old Lyme.
Woodland pond with reflected yellow from maple and birch leaves  created this image when two mallard ducks took off and made some waves.
These mushrooms look like tiny parasols
Mushrooms with caps in three different stages
These mums have an artistic appearance better than any painting could try to capture.

On this October day several years ago, these majestic, ancient sugar maples formed a tunnel over the country road leading to the former Golden Lamb Buttery. Since then, many of the trees have been lost due to old age and storm damage.

Country road in Pomfret in autumn
White oak leaf displaying one of several possible fall colors this tree may have.
Staghorn sumac Rhus typhina, is related to the cashew. It has attractive red seed heads and autumn foliage.  

As the season winds down and gets less colorful, there will still be moments that will give an occasion to cheers us up and maybe makes us laugh a little Maybe something as commonplace as… a weathervane…

Cat and mouse

Pamm Cooper

The gorgeous flowers of the  horse chestnut are blooming this week. Aesculus hippocastanum is commonly called European Horsechestnut or Common Horsechestnut. The massive trees are fast growers and need plenty of room to spread out and reach high. Never plant one near or under power lines. The panicle flowers are normally white with parts of pink and yellow. There is another variety with pink flowers as shown below. Horsechestnut fruit is not edible for humans and are called conkers. The shiny nuts look nice displayed in a dish for nature lovers, just don’t try to crack and eat them!

red horse chestnut.jpg

Red Horsechestnut Flower

Luna moth sighting have been reported around the state this week. They are a strikingly large and beautiful, with only a brief seven days of life in its adult stage. They are nocturnal spending the night seeking a mate with females laying eggs for next year’s generation. Occasionally they will fly towards a light even landing on a screen door with lights on inside. Host trees providing leaves for caterpillars to eat are walnut, hickory, sweet gum, and paper birch.

Luna moth A.Saalfrankphoto 6-4-2017 - Copy

Luna Moth

In the vegetable garden asparagus beetles are very active, feeding, mating and laying eggs. As can be seen in the lower photo, eggs are laid on on point sticking horizontally at a 90 degree angle to the stem and off of the flower bud stem. Crush all eggs by running you hand up and down each stalk. Catch adults beetles and crush or drop into a container of soapy water to rid them from the asparagus patch.

asparagus beetle May 19 2019 Pamm

Asparagus Beetle

asparagus beetle eggs May 20 2019

Asparagus Beetle Eggs

Another oddity was sent to my office this week. This is an Apple Oak Gall produce by a developing tiny, cynipid wasp. The adult female wasp injects the egg and a chemical into leaf tissue, causing the leaf to distort and makes a home and food for the newly hatched larva. Once the larva is big enough, it pupates inside the gall, only coming out once the gall is empty and dry. There are not enough wasp and galls to cause harm to the tree, so they are only considered cosmetic not a pest.

apple oak gall 2, RZilinski photo

Apple Oak Gall

Another gall I found this week was the Wool Sower Gall on a white oak tree.  The gall is caused by secretions from the developing wasp larva, secretions of , (Callirhytis seminator). These galls and wasp damage are also not harmful to the tree. The wasps are not dangerous to humans as they do not sting.

wool sower gall 2 - Copy

Wool Sower Gall on white oak.

Other galls we have seen in past made by insects are the grape tube gallmaker galls on grape leaves, (Schizomyia viticola). Grape tube gallmaker is a species of mite that forms a gall on New World grape leaves. Larvae feed inside the tubes and are free from predators as they feed on the deformed plant tissue. Again only cosmetic to the plant.

grape tubemaker gall

Grape Tube Galls on grape leaf.

Finger galls form on a cherry leaf below. Eriophyid mites are the gall makers here. They are microscopic mites developing inside the raised, malformed tissue. Mites can be identified by the structures they create on their host plant.

finger galls on small cherry

Finger Galls on a cherry leaf.

Velvetleaf galls on sweet birch develop from the feeding of the  velvet eriophyid gall mite.  Reddish-patches are called an erinea, can also occur on silver maple. (JLaughman photo).

velvet gall on birch,Jean Laughman photo, 6-8-18

The soil bacterium, Agrobacterium tumefaciens, can cause galls, tumors in this case, on the crown, roots and sometimes branches of susceptible host plants. Euonymus is commonly infected. The bacterium can enter a plant via any tissue damage that normally happens during pruning or transplanting. Agrobacterium tumefaciens is also used as a tool in the laboratory in genetic engineering to introduce genes into plants in a natural way.

crown gall - Copy

Crown Gall, Agrobacterium tumefaciens.

-Carol Quish

One of the nicest things about living in Enfield is our proximity to the Scantic River in the Hazardville section of our town. We have spent many enjoyable hours walking or snowshoeing along the banks of the river.

Autumn reflections, SAPelton photo

Autumn reflections, SAPelton photo

The Scantic River runs through an area known as Powder Hollow, so named because Loomis, Denslow and Company produced gunpowder, saltpeter, sulfur and charcoal there. In 1837 Colonel Augustus Hazard bought into the company and was instrumental in building it into a major producer of gunpowder. At its peak there were 125 buildings spread over one and a half miles along the river and among these were twenty-five water-powered wheels, three hydraulic presses and three steam engines. From 1843 to 1876 the Hazard Powder Company provided gunpowder for many endeavors including the war with Mexico in 1846, the 1849 Gold Rush, the 1854 Crimean War (where they supplied both Britain and Russia with gunpowder), and to the Union forces during the American Civil War. After the Civil War the demand for gunpowder declined and the business began to fail. There were many explosions over the years and in 1871 much of the plant was destroyed. There are still several sites along the river where the old stone foundations and blast walls can still be seen. The former horse barn on South Maple Street is still in use today as a venue for special events.

Remaining foundations, SAPelton photo

Remaining foundations, SAPelton photo

Today, The Scantic River State Park runs through Enfield, East Windsor, and Somers with many areas that are suitable for hiking, fishing, canoeing or kayaking. Each season brings new ways to enjoy the outdoors. Every spring the Scantic Spring Splash canoe and kayak race is held. People come from all over the East Coast to participate in this fun event.

Spring conditions on the Scantic River. SAPelton photo.

Spring conditions on the Scantic River. SAPelton photo.

Late March is also a great time to walk along the river as the ice breaks up and the river flows quickly by. There are many places were beaver lodges and dams can be seen as well as trees that have been felled by these natural engineers. New plants are emerging and fern and skunk cabbage abound. I always think that the brownish-purple spathe of the newly emerging skunk cabbage looks as if it was transported from an alien planet.

A skunk cabbage spathe. SAPelton photo

A skunk cabbage spathe. SAPelton photo

Turkey Tail fungus (Trametes versicolor) growing on a stump. SAPelton photo.

Turkey Tail fungus (Trametes versicolor) growing on a stump. SAPelton photo.

An October hike is an adventure for the both the eyes and the ears as all the shades of autumn in New England are overhead and underfoot. The remaining stone foundations of the Hazard Powder Company become prominent as the foliage drops. Our children always loved to climb around the ruins during these walks.

Autumn colors frame the river. SAPelton photo

Autumn colors frame the river. SAPelton photo

In January or February a good snowfall followed by a 40 degree day provides the perfect setting to set out on snowshoes. The sun reflecting off of the ice and snow on the river is a beautiful sight and it is so quiet and peaceful. The Scantic River is a one of those wonderful gifts that nature offers to us and I highly recommend a visit to see it any time of the year.

A stop along the Scantic River. SAPelton Photo

A stop along the Scantic River. SAPelton Photo

The beauty of winter along the Scantic River. SAPelton photo.

The beauty of winter along the Scantic River. SAPelton photo.

Susan Pelton