nichepoetryandprose

poetry and prose about place

Archive for the ‘along the roadside’ Category

wildflowers in the ditches

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The season certainly flies by! This week I am noticing the flowers in the ditches. Daisies, bedstraw, vipers bugloss, sweet clover, yarrow and so on. Today I am curious about a white flower occurring in soft low mounds along the highway. Bladderwort campion or maidenstears.

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Bladderwort campion, Silene vulgaris, is a kind of faerie-tale flower, because of its bladders, small enough to be used by the faerie-folk to transport their drink. The alternate name ‘maidenstears,’ is also fanciful. The flowers are white, sticking above the top of a red-veined bladder. Reminds me of newly-bought vegetables poking above a grocery store paper bag.

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The bladder is made of fused sepals. The flower has five petals, each deeply divided into two lobes. Bladderwort campion is common, found in ditches, meadows and other waste places.

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Scanning the ditches for new plants is a habit I developed in my early days as a botanist. Even now I keep a list, in my head, of the plants I see as we drive along any road. A pleasant pass time for summer!

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All my best,

Jane

Written by jane tims

July 12, 2021 at 7:00 am

northern bush honeysuckle

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There are always surprises waiting for me in our lane. Today, it was a wild plant I haven’t seen for a while, although it is quite common. The name ‘lonicera’ popped into my head, because it brings true honeysuckle to mind.

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This plant is Diervilla lonicera, northern bush honeysuckle. It is a low-growing native shrub with opposite leaves that turn red in fall. The flowers are honeysuckle-like: each flower is a yellow tube with 5 lobes, 5 extended stamens and a single pistil. Fertilized flowers take on a reddish tinge. The plant provides browse for moose and deer, nesting habitat for birds and nectar for bumblebees.

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The flowers have a sweet scent and are persistent once established. I can look forward to many years of bush honeysuckle in our lane.

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Keep your eyes open for new plants you may see!

All my best,

Jane

Written by jane tims

July 3, 2021 at 7:16 pm

hiding in the leaves!

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On our return from our cabin last week, I saw something dark among the leaves of an old birch tree. I put the truck in reverse, in time to see two turkey vultures take off. Their red featherless heads and white beaks were in full view. A third vulture was in the tree and we managed one camera shot before he spread his wings and flew after his companions. The photo shows his glossy feathers, his red head and his huge nostril. But his white beak is hidden behind a leaf!

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Thirty years ago, turkey vultures were a rarity in New Brunswick, but today they are common and even overwinter here. They are exclusively carrion-eaters and play a role in our food chain and nutrient cycle.

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All my best

Jane

Written by jane tims

June 18, 2021 at 4:20 pm

roses by the road

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A few years ago, we trimmed out the bushes all along our cabin road, to prevent our truck from getting scratched. During the trimming, my husband saved a small prickly rose bush near to the road edge. Each spring we watch for the pale pink of its blooms. Each fall, we count the red rose hips as we drive by. This year, the bush has grown as tall as me! Today, it was covered with pale pink roses and smelled so sweet!

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This is the swamp rose (Rosa palustris), a common wild rose in New Brunswick. You can recognize it by its pale pink flowers, its hooked spines, and its narrow stipules (winged sheaths at the bases of leaf stalks). In fall, it will have small round red rosehips.

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All my best,

Jane

Written by jane tims

June 13, 2021 at 8:13 pm

ice falls

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Last weekend we took a drive along Highway 8 from Fredericton to Boisetown, a relatively new road to bypass Marysville and the older winding road along the Nashwaak River. For some of its length, the highway has been carved through bedrock and includes several impressive road cuts. I find these interesting because they show the geological formations in the bedrock. In winter, they are beautiful, a result of the frozen curtains of runoff and overland flow.

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Some of these cuts show thick ice flows, frozen waterfalls and dripping icicles.

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Most are browning in colour, probably from inclusion of sediments, but some are clear and blue.

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In a few places, it’s possible to look through gaps in the flow, and get a glimpse of the still, cold spaces lurking just out of sight.

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curtain of ice

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frozen land drools, and water

follows contours of rock

encounters cold, sculpts

cataracts and waterfalls, builds

frozen walls, solidifies

panes of glass, stitches

curtains of frost and filigree

icicle knives

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behind the curtain are caves

spaces where light glimmers,

diffuse where whispers shiver,

muted, protected from wind

glimpse inward layers

through flaws in rigid curtains

frosted shards of rock

icicle knives

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For more on ice falls, including another poem, see

https://janetims.com/2012/03/10/snippets-of-landscape-ice-falls-on-rock-walls-2/

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My best always,

Jane

Written by jane tims

February 8, 2019 at 2:30 pm

swallowtails and Alexanders

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Last week we did the first of our forays to get material for a new set of poems I am working on. Our drive took us to the area north of Stanley, and some two-track roads where settlements and home-sites have been abandoned.

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the road to Mavis Mills, an abandoned community

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The main road was busy with butterflies: Papilio canadensis, Canadian tiger swallowtail.  These are familiar butterflies, very similar to the eastern swallowtail, and once considered the same species. The males are yellow with black-rimmed wings (with a dotted yellow stripe in the margin) and four black tiger-stripes on the upper part of each fore-wing.

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The butterflies were congregating on the road near water puddles. They were interested in the muddy areas rather than the water. This behavior is called “puddling” and is a way for the butterfly to get sodium ions and amino acids.

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We took an old, two-track road to the abandoned hamlet of Mavis Mills and found the old settlement house sites. The once-cleared areas were populated by a pretty yellow composite flower, a member of the parsley family: Zizia aurea, golden Alexanders. These plants are usually under 30 inches high, with three serrated leaves (or three leaflets divided further into three’s) and a flat umbel of yellow flowers. The stems are red and the whole plant appears red in the fall. It is a host plant for the caterpillars of species of swallowtail butterflies. The plants grow in wet meadows and abandoned fields.

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field of golden Alexanders in an abandoned settlement

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We had an enjoyable drive, looking at abandoned homesteads and settlements. Since I am a botanist, I am interested in what has happened to the plants that once grew in the gardens of these homes. Some of the plants have vanished, but a few persist at the home-site and a few escape to cover ditches and countryside in bloom.

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an old lilac bush continuing to thrive near an abandoned house

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All my best!

Jane

 

 

Written by jane tims

June 25, 2018 at 2:59 pm

Coltsfoot – first flower of spring

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Although other flowers quickly follow, the first flower to bloom along our New Brunswick roads is Coltsfoot (Tussilago Farfara L.). Its bright yellow flowers are often mistaken for Dandelion, but Coltsfoot is recognised by a quick check for the leaves … Coltsfoot blooms before its leaves appear.

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The yellow blooms of Tussilago form large patches in waste areas, beside brooks and roads, and on damp hillsides. Its dandelion-like flowers are borne on scaly, leafless stems. Later, the large, woolly leaves appear. Other names for the plant are Son-before-the-Father, which refers to the appearance of flowers before the leaves, and pas-d’âne (literally donkey-steps). The scientific names are from the Latin tussis, meaning a cough and referring to the European use of the plant as a remedy for such ailments, and the Latin word for coltsfoot, farfarus. The plant was named by Linnaeus, the Swedish botanist who established the present day system of naming plants.

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Coltsfoot

Tussilago Farfara L.

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Gold-

splashed beside the road

like prints

of a frisky colt’s feet

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at first glance-

an early dandelion!

but-

too early

stem scaly

no leaves          below the bloom

no perfume.

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Coltsfoot,

Son-before-the-Father

(flowers before the leaves).

Introduced from

far away.

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Old wives say

boiled greens

will ease

a cough.

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Long ago

Tussilago

sprang from where

a burro trod

among the palms

(pas-d’ane).

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Poem published as: ‘Coltsfoot’, Winter 1993, The Antigonish Review 92:76-77.

Copyright 2018 Jane Tims

 

Written by jane tims

May 4, 2018 at 7:30 am

signs of spring

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Here are few of the signs of spring we saw on our drive last weekend:

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a skunk running through the apple orchard …

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pussy willows …

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muddy roads …

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beer cans and other returnables, released from their cover of snow …

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and a New Brunswick can-and-bottle collector out for walk …

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Happy Spring!

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Copyright Jane Tims 2018

Written by jane tims

April 9, 2018 at 7:01 am

birdwatching on a winter drive

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Yesterday we went for a drive along the Saint John River. As the snow disappears from the fields along the river, eagles and hawks sit in the trees to catch a glimpse of possible prey. Sure enough, as we approached the Jemseg Bridge, we saw a male Bald Eagle, looking twice his normal size due to fluffing of feathers against the cold (-4 degrees Celsius). Since Bald Eagles live an average of 20 years, this may be a bird we have seen many times in our drives along the river.

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I missed a good photo the first pass, so we retraced our route between the Gagetown and Jemseg bridges and were rewarded when the first Bald Eagle was joined by a large juvenile.

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As we watched him, he prepared for flight, either perturbed at us for pulling over or at the other eagle for moving into his tree. At last he took off and settled in another old tree just along the road.

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These are magnificent birds, often overlooked in our area since there are large numbers living in the vicinity of our landfill and at various places along the river.

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Copyright 2018 Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

February 24, 2018 at 7:00 am

cornfields and Canada Geese

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I have been away for a while. Off to a driving vacation in Ontario, Canada. We saw the last of summer in the cornfields of Southern Ontario.

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Canada Geese were everywhere. They are considered a nuisance by farmers and almost everyone else. But we enjoyed spotting the flocks in the fields and the ‘V’s in the sky. And once, we waited as a group of geese crossed the road in front of us.

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I will have more about our trip in the next few days, as I check out my photos and process the memories!

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Copyright 2017 Jane Tims 

Written by jane tims

September 27, 2017 at 5:34 pm

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