poetry and prose about place

Archive for November 2011

my favorite tea

with 4 comments

Since I wrote a post on drinking ‘tea-berry tea’ [see Eastern Teaberry (Gautheria procumbens L.) November 16, 2011), I thought I would try a Poll, just for fun.

Drinking tea, for me, is an enjoyable experience, especially since there are so many varieties available. A cup of tea is definately part of my ‘niche’.

Teas are traditionally classified based on the processing technique (information from Wikipedia; you can also find out more about tea from the Tea Association of Canada

White tea:  wilted and unoxidized

Yellow tea:  unwilted and unoxidized, but allowed to yellow

Green tea:  unwilted and unoxidized

Oolong:  wilted, bruised and partially oxidized

Black tea:  wilted, sometimes crushed and fully oxidized

Post-fermented tea:  green tea allowed to ferment

To this I add the various Herbal teas.

No matter how many varieties of tea are available to me, I often select Red Rose.  This is an orange pekoe tea produced originally in Saint John, New Brunswick.  It’s slogan was: “Only in Canada, you say? …What a pity!”   Today it is also available in the United States.

Written by jane tims

November 17, 2011 at 7:26 am

Posted in strategies for winter

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Eastern Teaberry (Gautheria procumbens L.)

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When the wind is chill and fingers are cold, what better remedy exists than a cup of tea?  After years of attending meetings where there is a box of fancy teas to choose from, I now have my own wooden ‘tea box’.  I replenish it from time to time with a new blend, but I find the old standbys are my favourites:  Red Rose, Earl Grey, and Chamomile.

When my son was little, we used to have fun making ‘tea-berry tea’.  I still go out occasionally to my patch of Gaultheria procumbens, also known as Eastern Teaberry or American Wintergreen.   A few leaves, crushed and steeped in boiling water, make a lovely, fragrant tea with a delicate green color.   In French, Eastern teaberry is le petit thé du bois (the little tea of the woods).

The leaves contain oil of wintergreen; the chemical in this oil is methyl salicylate, known for its anti-inflammatory properties and closely related to aspirin.  For this reason, use caution and only drink ‘tea-berry tea’ occasionally and if you are not sensitive to aspirin. Methyl salicylate is also found in twigs of yellow birch and it also makes a fragrant tea.  Methyl salicylate will build up an electrical charge when dried with sugar and rubbed… you can try this yourself with wintergreen-flavoured hard candies.

1. never eat any plant if you are not absolutely certain of the identification;
2. never eat any plant if you have personal sensitivities, including allergies, to certain plants or their derivatives;
3. never eat any plant unless you have checked several sources to verify the edibility of the plant.

The leaves of Eastern teaberry are thick and evergreen, so they can be found this time of year.  The flowers are white, waxy, nodding, and bell-shaped.  The bright red berries are also waxy and sometimes still found in November.


                 Gaultheria procumbens L.


small leaves gathered, crushed

oils weep into water, pale

green tea, pink aroma

sugar and midnight sparks

sweet steam and aspirin make

undelicate my heart



1. never eat any plant if you are not absolutely certain of the identification;
2. never eat any plant if you have personal sensitivities, including allergies, to certain plants or their derivatives;
3. never eat any plant unless you have checked several sources to verify the edibility of the plant.

©  Jane Tims   2012

© Jane Tims  2011

Written by jane tims

November 16, 2011 at 6:50 am

the ideal property

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A few years ago, my younger brother lived in New Brunswick for a while and we were able to see him and my sister-in-law quite often.  We had some great times, camping one weekend on Grand Manan, watching Survivor together, seeing their terrific Christmas decorations, and just visiting.

One of the weekends I remember well was our drive to see their new property along the St. John River.  Although they eventually sold the property, it remains one of the best plots of land I have ever seen.  My poem will tell you why!



Land For Sale



two acres

one of cleared field

one of woods

silver maple, curly fern, rocky shore

transparent water and wobbling waves

an island over there

(conservation land)

(no buildings to intercept

the view)


plans manifest

the house here

the driveway    a garden    a gate

a path through the maples

to the shore and a dock

two good-natured chairs

turned toward one another

skating in January     bonfires in July

promising neighbours

reasonable price


and the clincher?

the deal maker?

the heart breaker?

a crooked bush

with five fat blueberries

ready to pick


1. never eat any plant if you are not absolutely certain of the identification;
2. never eat any plant if you have personal sensitivities, including allergies, to certain plants or their derivatives;
3. never eat any plant unless you have checked several sources to verify the edibility of the plant.


©  Jane Tims 2011

Written by jane tims

November 14, 2011 at 6:27 am

plans for a rocky road

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This fall, we have begun a new landscaping project, using rocks to embellish a length of road on our property. 

On our travels this summer, we were impressed by the many ways home landscapers use stone as a signature element.  Some of these ventures were as simple as a stone wall snaking through the woods.  Some had elaborate stone benches, stone sculptures, or carefully-built piles of stones. 

We have an offshoot to our driveway, intended some day to form half of a circular road.  Over the years, we have added some stone embellishments to this road and its associated path, so it seems to me to be the perfect place to develop our own rock project.  

To date, we have the following features in place, some in an advanced state of disrepair:

  • two stone pillars, about three feet in diameter – each is a page-wire cage filled with rock
  • an ‘old-fashioned’ rock wall constructed of granite stones, each about the size of a large honeydew melon
  • a lopsided (fallen-down) sundial built of small angular rocks in the shape of a cone 
  • a chunk of black basalt, a five-sided, columnar volcanic feature, harvested from the shore where my ancestors came to Canada via shipwreck
  • a stone ‘stream’ built years ago before we purchased more property and Fern Gully Brook entered our lives – this stream is a one foot wide course of small stones screened from a pile of pit-run gravel.  It ‘runs’ from a small artificial pond and is now completely overflowing with dry leaves.
existing rock and stone features on the road and path

Over the next months, we want to add some features to the road:

  • rebuild our formerly wonderful granite fire pit in a new location along the road
  • create two new lengths of stone wall to match the existing wall
  • build a stone statue or monument 
  • lay out a circle of stones to mark the one area where we can see the Milky Way from our property (star-gazing is difficult since we have so many trees) 
  • build a stone embankment-with-moss feature to emulate a lovely roadway we saw at my brother’s wedding last year.
rock and stone features we plan to add

Over the next year, it is my intention to report back on the progress made on our Rock Project.  If you never hear another word about this project, remember – I like to plan.


Copyright   Jane Tims 2011

Written by jane tims

November 13, 2011 at 7:27 am

Twinflower (Linnaea borealis L.)

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As we enter the winter months, I like to remember the woodland plants now waiting under the layers of fallen leaves to flower again next spring.

Twin-flower (Linnaea borealis L. var. americana (Forbes) Rehd.) is a low-growing, creeping evergreen, found blooming in late June in wooded swamps, coniferous bogs and clearings. 

Each slender stalk bears a set of two delicate, nodding, fragrant flowers, white in color and tinged with pink.  Other names for the plant are pink bells and, in French, linnée boréale.  The specific name is from the Latin borealis, meaning northern. 

The European variety was a special favorite of Linnaeus, the founder of the present system of naming flowers. 



            Linnaea borealis L.


                                    conifer cathedral

                        slanting light

            Linnaea carpets

stains the forest floor

            to the edge

                        near the forest door

                                    a woodland pool


                                    on slender stem


                in the pool

       and in the air

twinflower rings

pink boreal bells

            at vespers

                    in whispers

                        a whisper

                                    the rule


                                    creeps under roots

                        and fallen leaves

            Linnaea trails

over rude beams fallen

            from fences built

                        when woods

                                    were pasture


                                     twin flowers

                                     settle back to back

                                     nodding heads

                                     they cease to ring

                                     and sleep 


© Jane Tims  1992

Written by jane tims

November 12, 2011 at 7:47 am

mood of the lake

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One of the very enjoyable experiences of having a property near the lake is listening to the loons.  There is a least one pair of loons on our lake and we see them often.  Usually they call a few times at mid-day or in the evening.  Their cries are varied, ranging from a laughing tremolo to distinctive and melancholy wails, hoots, and yodels.   

We have always been interested in loons and the protection of their habitat.  Loons are especially vulnerable to quickly changing water levels and wave action because they build their nests just at water level.  `Watch Your Wake` programs help boaters protect loon habitat.

In 1994, we participated briefly in the North American Loon Project.  Today there is a similar program, the Canadian Lakes Loon Survey, sponsored by Bird Studies Canada.  This is a long term study, using data from volunteers, to assess the health of Canada’s loon population.   

We had little time in those days to participate fully, but we did visit Peltoma Lake in southern New Brunswick, to look at the loons living there.  My journal entry for our visit to Peltoma Lake reads:

May 1, 1994  Sunday

Trip to Peltoma Lake to see if there are any loons.  We are preparing to canoe the lake

about three times this year to make observations.  Disappointed at first

as the lake is lined with cottages and we could see no loons. 

Then we stopped near a small bay and there they were

– nine black and white beauties!     They left the cove as soon as they saw us.


I also wrote a poem about the lake – the mood of the poem suggests it must have been a damp and miserable day.

Last Sunday, we drove out to Peltoma Lake to take some photographs.   The loons and most of the people are gone this time of year.   Although it was cold, the lake sparkled in the sunlight and was anything but dreary.


Peltoma Lake– Sunbury County


Peltoma in rain

is a faded black and white photo

layers of misery, thick and still

the lake, the shore, the mist

the thin chill drizzle


in the coves

the cedar and birch swoon above the water

moved to tears at reflection

the lake broods

over her loons

and the cell-thick pall of algae

smoothed to the shore


cottages hug the lake

like campers huddle a fire

cheerless and smoky

pines on the esker reach

blank windows keep watch

for sparkle on waves 

back flips from the dock

paddles flashing sun

the day is bleak without answer


a muskrat tows a line on the shallows

loons quit the cove

diminish to mist


Peltoma is scowling


© Jane Tims  1994


Written by jane tims

November 11, 2011 at 8:02 am

making friends with the ferns #1

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November is an odd time to think about identifying ferns, I admit.  But identification of the evergreen ferns is still possible, as they hang on to their identity in the frosty air and even beneath the snow.  Also, ferns are so beautiful, it is fun just to look over the field guides and reminisce about the days of summer.

a pressed Long Beech Fern in my copy of Boughton Cobb’s ‘Field Guide to the Ferns’

Ferns belong to the group of vascular plants known as the Pteridophytes.  They have stems, roots and leaves but no seeds.  Instead, they reproduce by spores and have complicated life cycles.

Ferns grow in many habitats.  In our area they are found in moist and shaded woodlands.  They are also inhabitants of fields, cliffs, wetlands and cityscapes.   I have even seen ferns growing deep within the Howe Caverns of New York State where they have taken advantage of the scant habitat provided by artificial lighting.

The uniform ‘greenness’ of ferns and their highly patterned leaves make them popular as a motif, especially for home decorating and at Christmastime.

In New Brunswick, fiddleheads, the tightly coiled new leaves of the Ostrich fern (Matteuccia Struthiopteris (L.) Todaro), are collected for food every spring along the banks of rivers and their tributaries.


waking from a dream

                        Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia Struthiopteris(L.) Todaro)


bottom-land thicket

naked in spring

a rumpled bed

the throws of hibernation


new growth cocooned

in dry leaves, bent skeletons

of last summer’s fern


sun surge

an insult

between curtains


green fiddlehead


head down

fist thrust

between pillows and down

fingers stretched

filigreed shadow

new blocking of sun


brown coverlet



new green bedspread

new green canopy

green shade


© Jane Tims 2011

Written by jane tims

November 9, 2011 at 6:48 am

Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata (L.) Gray)

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In contrast to October, November is a colorless month.  The exception – November’s red berries.

They punctuate the roads and ditches – Highbush-cranberry, Staghorn Sumach, American Mountain-ash, Hawthhorn and Rose.  Eventually the birds claim every one for food, but through most of early winter, the berries remain to cheer us.

Highbush Cranberry in November

Last November, my husband and I took a walk in the thicket of saplings above the lake.  As we came around the edge of a clump of alder, we were surprised to see a sturdy bush of Winterberry Holly.  It glowed with orange-red berries, set off by sprays of bronze-coloured leaves, not yet fallen.  We are used to seeing Winterberry along the lake, but in the grey and white thicket, the little bush was a gift.  We went there again this past Saturday, and there it was, glowing in the morning sun.

our bush of Winterberry Holly

Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata (L.) Gray)  is also known as Canadian Holly, Swamp Holly, Inkberry, Black Alder and Feverbush.    The shrub is usually found in wet areas, including wetlands, damp thickets, moist woods and along waterways.  The leaves turn a brassy purple-brown before they fall.  The fruit is a small, hard orange-red berry, remaining on the bush until January.       

In my poem, the words ‘lexicon’ and ‘exile’ are included as imperfect anagrams for Ilex (ilex)


Canadian Holly 

          (Ilex verticillata (L.) Gray)


drab November

            and lexicon


umber leaves

grey verticals

dull stubble



astound the wetland

            red ink on page

            and words explode

            from exile


fever flush and holly

above December snow

icicles vermillion



© Jane Tims  2011

Written by jane tims

November 7, 2011 at 7:27 am

yellow rain

with 10 comments

In October, we still have at least one more autumn display, the shedding of the tamarack needles.   Tamarack is a deciduous tree and loses most of its needles this time of year.  We have a number of tamaracks on our property, so the golden needles fall as a constant ‘rain’ during late October and early November.

Tamarack (Larix laracina (DuRoi) K. Koch) is also known as Hackmatack, American or Black Larch and, in French, épinette rouge.   Tamarack is a large tree, with a narrow pyramidal canopy and pendulous branches.  

In my head, I can still hear the voice of my undergraduate botany professor, who was interested in the origin of growth forms of plants, saying, “the tamarack has, here, both short shoots and long shoots”.  The short shoots emerge from the sides of branches and resemble small bunches or tufts of needles, and the long shoots grow at the ends of each branch and are elongated, with single needles along the length.  The needles are small and generally very soft to the touch compared to other conifers. 

Today, there is evidence that the ‘amber rain’ has begun, just a few needles on every outside surface.  By the end of next week, the windshield of the car will need a swipe of the wipers to clear the yellow needles.

Tamarack needles on the frozen water of the birdbath



Amber Rain


autumn fades

bright carpets

            swept away

pale ghosts rattle

            from beech and oak

limp rags hang

            on frosted pumpkin vines


but still

a touch of autumn 

            stands of larch

            yellow in the afternoon


and now

a gust of wind


the amber rain


            pelting needles

            fill the air

            soaking ground

            strewing gold



fairy straw

washed to the edge

of puddle shores

flooding borders

of roads, driven

by wind, a storm

of gold


            needles patter

            gentle chatter


where begins

the amber rain?

is it larch

or hackmatack,


or tamarack?

who sends the amber rain?



© Jane Tims  1992

Written by jane tims

November 6, 2011 at 7:19 am

preface to fire

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I always associate November with bonfires and the smell of smoke and burning leaves.  I love sitting in front of a fire, with friends and family, sharing stories and talking about days ahead. But even in the midst of having fun, I am reminded – fire is not always a friendly force.

In 2002, we encountered the negative side of fire when we took an extended car trip to the west.  In Quebec, Ontario and Alberta, we saw evidence of the destruction of recent forest fires. 

One of the places we visited on our trip was Portal Lake, near Mount Robson, in British Columbia. We were at Portal Lake for about an hour.  We hiked along the east side of the lake, and sat on the mountain rocks to dangle our feet along the rock face.  The berries were brilliant, glowing like embers.  Although there was no burnt land at Portal Lake, the paths were like tinder, the lichens dry and brittle.  The lakeside had the thickened scent of drying vegetation. 

The smell of smoke was in the air, as well as the faint smell of sulphur.  We had just visited the hot spring at Miette.  I had dangled my hands in the warm water and the sulphurous odor still lingered.

It was a kind of foreshadowing.  Later in the week, the Rockies would be hazy with smoke as we made our way south of Banff.  Two weeks later, we were back home, watching the reports on the Weather Channel.  The Parks, Jasper, Banff and Kootenay, were all closed due to forest fire. 



Portal Lake – British Columbia



gateway to wildfire

preface to cinder

smoke and ember



Xanthoria ochre, pale juniper

mountain titanium and grey

rose hip and raspberry

smilacina and cranberry



granite transfers the burn

to the calves of my legs

hot as the sulphur spring

the air pine scale

and mosses


winds arrange the shallow lake

the surface in lines

on the bottom, sun shadows cast

                        sun shadow sun shadow sun

lily pads are lifted and settle

                        are lifted and settle


succession of fire, ashes and green



© Jane Tims 2002

Written by jane tims

November 5, 2011 at 6:41 am

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