nichepoetryandprose

poetry and prose about place

Archive for the ‘competing for niche space’ Category

abandoned spaces: fireweed

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Lately, I have been thinking a lot about abandoned rural areas and the remnants of gardens left behind. Although these properties are still owned, the homes that once stood there are gone or left to deteriorate. The gardens, once loved and cared for, are left to survive on their own.

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When these home-sites are abandoned, the garden plants:

  • disappear (most annuals),
  • persist (perennials like day-lilies or roses), or
  • escape (lupins, mallow or other easily-spreading plants).

Native plants, those liking disturbed or cleared areas, may move into these sites.

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an abandoned site in Williamsburg, New Brunswick where fireweed has colonized

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As I find abandoned properties, the pink or pale purple flowers of fireweed are often present. Fireweed, an indigenous plant not usually grown in gardens, is often a first indicator a house may once have stood on a plot of land. Often fireweed stands side by side with orange day-lilies and other garden escapes.

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on this abandoned site in the Williamsburg area, the fireweed stands side-by-side with orange day-lilies (Hemerocallis fulva), rose bushes and other cultivated plants

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Fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium L.), also known as great willowherb, gets the ‘fire’ in its name since it is one of the first plants to colonize after fire. As a pioneer species, partial to open areas with lots of light, it also moves in to any cleared or disturbed area. After a few years, other plants will move in, out-competing the fireweed. However, the seeds of fireweed stay viable for a long time and may re-colonize the area if it is again disturbed or burned.

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Fireweed is one of many tall pinkish flowers growing in our ditches and wild areas. It is distinguished by its rather loose inflorescence, the flower’s four roundish petals and its seed pods which angle upwards.

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Fireweed spreads by the roots or by seed. In the later part of the season, the seeds are spread by the wind, aided by long silky hairs. Before dispersal the hairy seeds burst out along the seed pods making the plant look unkempt and hairy.

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Fireweed (pink) among brown-eyed Susans; the stiff, many-podded plants in the upper right-hand corner are the seedpods of fireweed, finished with their blooming

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In New Brunswick we are facing a demographic trend of movement from rural communities to cities in the southern part of the province and elsewhere. This means  many small communities that thrived a century ago are now abandoned. For example, in 1866 the community of Fredericksburg, New Brunswick was a farming community with 12 families (Source: https://archives.gnb.ca/Exhibits/Communities/Details.aspx?culture=en-CA&community=1367 ). Today only a couple of homes or camps are found in the area but foxglove flowers, that once bloomed in the gardens, thrive in the ditches. For more on the demographics of small New Brunswick communities see:

Lauren Beck and Christina Ionescu. ‘Challenges and Opportunities Faced by Small Communities in New Brunswick: An Introduction’, Journal of New Brunswick Studies Issue 6, No. 1 (2015).

https://journals.lib.unb.ca/index.php/JNBS/article/view/23057

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foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) flowers thriving in the ditch in the Fredericksburg area

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All my best,

Jane

chimney swifts

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Last evening my husband and I took a drive into Fredericton to see a population of chimney swifts do their dive into a brick chimney. The chimney at McLeod Avenue provides home to a couple of thousand chimney swifts. These fleet birds nest inside brick and mortar chimneys, an ideal example of how wildlife adapts to coexist with humans. Once, swifts used large hollow trees, but these are disappearing from the landscape. When the swifts returned to Fredericton in May, a CBC newscast spread the word about the chimney and many folks turned out to watch the display CBC .

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Last evening was late in the viewing season, so we observed a few hundred birds dive into the chimney. My photography skills are always a problem, so the birds were much faster that the setting on my camera. But I really like the silent ghostly image portrayed. In fact the air was filled with their chirping and the dive of the birds into the chimney opening was like pouring water.

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Like the hollow trees before them, brick chimneys are disappearing from the landscape. Efforts are underway to protect chimneys and to provide alternative nesting for swifts, but the struggle to improve the survival of threatened species like the chimney swift must continue.

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All the best,

Jane 

Written by jane tims

June 24, 2018 at 11:26 am

volunteers

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volunteers

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I forget to mow.

Volunteers

shoulder in

from every side.

Burnished trumpets of daylilies,

cerulean forget-me-nots,

pagodas of bugleweed

overtake green.

I forget to mow.

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All my best,

Jane

Written by jane tims

June 18, 2018 at 11:42 am

A place to be still

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I love to be outside but my knees do not always cooperate. So, I make certain I have a place to sit on my walk-about. I love my concrete bench. I get a great view of the yard. In spring there are crocuses. At this time of year, a huge patch of sensitive fern. In fall there will be red maple leaves. But the bench is cold. Not a place to sit for long! Not a place to linger.

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A place to be still

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Cold concrete,

embedded, still,

where leaves

of purple crocus

press through turf,

sensitive fern

overtakes lawn,

autumn builds

layer on layer.

Cold concrete,

embedded, still.

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All my best,

Jane

Written by jane tims

June 11, 2018 at 7:00 am

Birdbath

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Our copper birdbath includes a silver-coloured metal bird, in case no real birds come to call. In the shade of the maple tree the water shimmers. But the little silver bird never flutters, not even a feather.

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birdbath

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embedded in dapple

edge of copper

silver bird never moves

never flutters a feather

never pecks a sparkle

from crystal water

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bird with heartbeat

and dusty wing-feathers

lands for a bath

sputters and splashes

chooses to ignore

immobile effigy

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All my best,

Jane

Written by jane tims

June 9, 2018 at 9:25 pm

someone has a plan!

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This time of year the winter ice on the rivers in New Brunswick is starting to break up. At the concrete bridge over the South Branch of the Rusagonis Stream, not far from where I live, there is a narrow band of melted ice.

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However, someone has plans for that part of the river. Have a look at the next two photos and guess who the ‘planners’ are.

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Beavers! Not ice scour since softer trees at the same level are not involved. Also, two of the trees have deep ‘v’s cut out on the bank side.

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We will be watching to see the next stage and the results of this plan. A beaver dam on the Rusagonis. Oh my!

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Copyright Jane Tims 2018

 

Written by jane tims

March 28, 2018 at 7:00 am

alternative energy

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On our recent trip to Ontario, we were intrigued to see how much use is made of alternative energy sources.

Especially in the windy area of Lake Huron, there were many wind turbines.  Watching the blades turn is quite mesmerizing. We saw at least one protest sign about wind energy in a farm-yard, so we know there is some resistance to wind power or the way it is managed.

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Solar power is also being used throughout southern Ontario. Many farms had large solar panels and we saw one extensive installation with hundreds of solar panels. These panels are mechanized so they “follow the sun”!

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I know there are economic, environmental, and social issues with use of wind and solar energy, but my thoughts are these:

wind turbines and solar panels alter the look of the landscape, but so do houses and other buildings

diversification seems to me to be a secure approach to ensuring energy for the future

if our society demands energy, there are consequences — we should be willing to use wind and sun as sources and work out any problems

careful evaluation of the environmental and social costs should be part of decision-making

I am so proud of human innovation when it comes to solving our problems!

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Copyright Jane Tims 2017

Written by jane tims

October 16, 2017 at 7:57 am

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