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I came across this fern, set off by itself, and it caught my attention

In many ways I’m a hopeless generalist. One of the things I don’t know much about are ferns, but I find them interesting. Identifying them can be a little daunting.

I came across this fern down in the swamp below my house, a little off my regular walking trail. It was in shady, moist – though not wet – woods, somewhat uphill of the wetter areas. Rocky but not dry soil.

I’m thinking it’s either one of the spleenworts or a polypody. Maybe someday I’ll be able to figure it out. I have a copy of Cobb’s Field Guide to the Ferns which contains excellent illustrations and explanations. But even with that at my side, I’m still uncertain.

Anyway, I just thought I’d share it.

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Nottingcook Forest in Bow, NH, is a piece of town-owned land meant for people enjoy – hiking, canoeing, picnicking. Some people have other uses. They dump rubbish there, apparently mistaking it for the town dump. Four-wheelers like to drive around the place tearing things up.

The local snowmobile club, with the approval of the town, spent several thousand dollars to put up gates and signs to limit access. Two weeks after they were up, vandals destroyed them. The club has put them back up.

Now some residents who live on the far side of the forest say the gates cut off their access to the center of town. They suggest keeping the gates unlocked, and having people report any unwanted activity.

That would be nice, if it would work. They should give it a try.

Unfortunately, by the time anyone can respond, the damage is done and the perpetrators are long gone. That’s been the experience elsewhere.

Without being too scientific about it, I was under the impression that there was a fair amount of public support for wind energy here in Massachusetts. And what’s not to like about it?

No need for oil spills, no need for mountaintop removal to get at the coal, no radioactive fuel rods to store for the next millennium, no greenhouse grass emissions. Other places – Texas and parts of Europe – have jumped into wind power with both feet.

Here in Massachusetts, things have been a bit slow getting off the ground. There are only 22 licensed wind turbines in the state. Gov. Patrick would like to see that number increase to 3,000 in a few years. The proposed wind farm in Nantucket Sound has been stalled for 10 years. Residents are fighting smaller facilities in Brimfield, Munroe, and a few other places. There’s opposition to an offshore wind farm in Rhode Island, too.

It seems that while a lot people like the idea of wind power, they’d like it to be someplace else.

I’m not sure that large-scale wind farms are the way to go, unless they’re comfortably offshore. They seem to be successful in northern Europe, where there are several, and several more being planned. A large land-based wind farm may not be appropriate here in Massachusetts. I do think smaller-scale projects should be encouraged.

The town of Princeton has two or three located on Mount Wachusett that provides a generous amount of power for the town. They recently upgraded to newer models to produce even more power. I’ve hiked around there, looked around at the older ones when they were operating (I’ve haven’t yet been up to see the newer ones) and my impression was that they were pretty unobtrusive.

I think it would be an entirely different matter if someone decided to try to put up a couple dozen wind turbines on the mountainside. That would be intrusive.

No method of generating electricity is perfect. There are going to be trade-offs. As long as we have an appetite for inexpensive power, we’ll have to accept those trade-offs.

The growing opposition, even to small-scale wind power development, is an ill wind that blows nobody any good.

Bucky Dumaine's Headstone and memorial stone benches

I had always thought it was private property, maybe a part of the nearby Groton School. After all, no signs point to it. From the road, it’s just a brick wall and a wrought-iron fence.

But there always seemed to be cars parked outside the fence, several, and generally didn’t seem to be the same ones. So finally my curiosity got the better of me, and went to check it out.

I had found The Groton Place.

It’s a curious place.

It looks like part of an estate, because that’s what it used to be – part of the estate of Frederick “Buck” Dumaine. Today, its 54 acres and 150 acres of the adjoining Sabine Woods are managed by the New England Forestry Foundation, and open to the public. Wide, well-tended paths wind through the area, including about a half-mile along the east bank of the Nashua River.

Crossing a small bridge between the main gate and the grounds, the first thing you see is a memorial to the fox hunts that were held here during the first half of the 20th century. Dumaine and his favorite horse, “Pat Rooney” are buried on a spot overlooking the river. Dumaine’s stone just carries his years 1866-1951.

There’s no other information about him anywhere on the grounds.

A quick internet search doesn’t give us much more.

The family money came from the Amoskeag Mills in Manchester, NH. He also became a railroad tycoon. He’s characterized as a sportsman and aggressive businessman. Other than that, no one seems to have anything nice to say about him.

Not exactly a wild place, because of all the past plantings and landscaping, but as the years have gone by, it has become less groomed, giving it a forlorn look. Still, an interesting place for a walk.

The Nashua River in Groton

I came across a nice trail that runs along the bank of the Nashua River in Groton. Walking there now, it was difficult to recall that much of where I was had been under water when I first came here in the spring.

Today was different. Late-summer warm, the river quiet, hardly seeming to flow at all. People walking their dogs. Families canoeing down the river.

I had hoped to do some birding, but there was a bit too much activity. Still, it was a pleasant afternoon walk to be in among tall trees and the river.

It was a time and a place given over to contemplation.

Not long ago I read of a study that established (as if they needed to!) that walking out in nature can change a person’s moods. That’s certainly true for me.

I went in feeling the crush of all those things that need doing, scolding myself for taking the time for a walk when I should be getting something done. By the time I finished, everything was back in perspective, and I felt energized, ready to plunge on.

Is this a Fowler's Toad?

I came across this little guy while walking at the Flat Rock Wildlife Sanctuary in Fitchburg, Mass., not too long ago. He was quite small, maybe an inch long at most, fairly light brown.

Looking at the markings, he seems to be a Fowler’s toad, a bit less common than the American toad, but I don’t think it’s a threatened species.

He was in dry rocky area off the old Scott Road. He was pretty well camouflaged, but a slight movement caught my eye.

It’s getting to be an exercise in mass denial.

Today’s Providence Journal carries an article about this year’s unusually early harvest. Pumpkins are ripening way ahead of schedule. So are apples. Lots of things are.

“Don’t hasten to point the finger at global warming,” warns the reporter. To be fair, he’s not the only one.

June 2007, in American Scientist “researchers say that global warming has nothing to do with the decline in ice at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro.”

February 2009, in a piece about the rise in temperatures in Florida cities in floridatrend.com “It’s hot, but don’t blame global warming.”

June 22, 2010 discovery.com “leading scientists say the idea of blaming global warming on El Nino doesn’t look so hot.”

January 2010 aolnews.com “don’t blame California storms on global warming.”

September 2006 nationalgeographic.com “Don’t blame the sun for global warming.”

The lesson from all this?

If the Patriots don’t win the Super Bowl, whatever you do, don’t blame global warming.

Even though there’s a law prohibiting ATVs from driving on public and conservation properties, even though there are signs prohibiting driving on such trails, even though fines for violating those laws have been increased, it just doesn’t seem to make any difference.

ATV riders continue to tear down the signs, vandalize the property, and as for the law, they just ignore that.

The most recent account comes from Westminster, Mass.

A story in today’s Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise describes the plight of people trying to protect the trails at the town’s conservation and recreation areas.

Gov. Deval Patrick signed the new Massachusetts law July 31. It attempts to bring ATV use under some form of control. It’s a good idea, and a good law. Other New England states are wrestling with the same problem.

Enforcement is the issue. Local and state police officers have more important things to do than chasing after some ATVs.

Maybe it’s time for citizen action, in the form of photographing and/or filming ATVs and vehicles carrying ATVs at restricted areas, and filing complaints with the local conservation and/or police station. Would it be possible to get them to issue summons? Even if it’s not enough to formally prosecute, maybe the hassle would be enough to sow down the destruction.

Just a thought.

New leaves sprout from what's left of a splintered trunk

I came across this tree as I was walking along the White Rock Trail at the Flat Rock Wildlife Sanctuary in Fitchburg, Mass.
I’m not sure exactly what happened, but something shattered what looks like a Swamp White Oak. Other trees were down around it, in a fairly small area, but whether it was an ice-storm or maybe a micro-burst I couldn’t tell.

What first attracted me was the splintering of the trunk, and then I noticed the sprouts of new leaves along what was left of it.

Now I’m wondering what it will look like in another few years.

Flint’s Pond in Hollis, NH, isn’t a big pond, only about 48 acres, but it has a big problem, one plaguing many New England ponds and lakes: Eurasian milfoil. Once the invasive weed takes hold, it pretty much chokes out everything else.

A few years ago the Army Corps of Engineers estimated it would cost $9 million to dredge the pond – a lot more than the town could spend. But if nothing was done, the pond would eventually disappear, first becoming a swamp, then eventually a forest.

The town did approve some money for hydro-raking, which will at least clear up the pond for a time. And there are recommendations that they treat the pond with an herbicide to keep the weeds from growing back. In any case, they may have to keep coming back, raking up the weeds every few years.

Opinion in the town is divided. Some say the ones to foot the bill should be the ones who live around the pond, since they’re the only ones who benefit, and town money would be better spent elsewhere.

Those are hard issues, and it’s up to the people in Hollis to make those decisions. I would just say that some things are worth doing, even if everyone doesn’t get a direct benefit.

For now, they’re doing what they can, it’ll do some good for awhile, buy the pond some time until they figure out what to do. I think they’re doing the right thing.

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