Future for Maples: Not So Sweet

We are late to the late winter tradition of tapping maples for sap and then syrup. This is only our second season, after learning that you don’t have to have a sugar maples to get sweet returns for your efforts.

This is our yield from this year’s few days of collecting sap (up to 2 gallons a day) while the days were still cool enough to cook it up on the wood stove.

We make a little syrup for a couple of pancake suppers later on in the year. Many people make syrup for a living, or to supplement farm income, especially in the New England states.

If current trends continue, sugaring in the bush may become just a bedtime story of long ago. Forests of the north are not having such a sweet time of it lately.

Maple sap is running significantly earlier than it did in your father’s younger years. In fact, the range of temps that maples prefer may send the genus Acer far up into Canada as Vermont’s climate is becoming more like Virginia’s.

Add to that the north-moving insect pests, the increased likelihood of severe storms and drought, and the acidification of the soil—and there may be hard times ahead for many forestry-related industries, not to mention the losses of the ecological services that millions of acres of formerly-healthy trees have provided to humanity in generations past.

As I typed that last line, I looked out to see a sapsucker racketing its way up the maple. Here’s another movement of nature to come: home ranges of the familiar species—at least of those that can made the trip—will be moving north or higher in elevation. For the salamanders who need it wetter and cooler, they will just have to take what comes and live or die in place.

Sharpshooters In our Woods

P1000184sharpshooters240Some leafhoppers look for all the world like thorns on the side of a twig. Some are remarkably colorful or bizarrely shaped–if you take the time to look very closely. (In this image, the splash of color is the garden shed roof in the distance.)

These three were conspicuous, all lined up in a row on a ragweed stem, I think, up above the garden. But when I attempted to take a picture, they got shy. All of them in unison moved to the opposite side of the stem.

I tried several times with the same result, until I realized I could zoom and avoid getting so close that they hid from me.

It was only later I learned that one name for some leafhoppers is “sharp shooters.” I like it. Like snipers hiding behind trees, they position themselves so they are protected from a would-be threat by the stem or branch they are perched on.

Another feature of these creatures (give a look at the google images page) is their odd, thickened front end. That snout contains their ciborium—a massive and powerful sucking pump with which they feed. And very efficiently, I might add:

“The diet of the majority of sharpshooters consists exclusively of nutrient-poor xylem fluid from a great variety of plant species (Andersen et al. 1989). This fluid is comprised of over 95% water with small amounts of organic and inorganic molecules. Amino acids such as glutamine, arginine and asparagine, as well as organic acids such as citric, malic and oxalic acids are often present but occur in concentrations that are magnitudes lower than the nutrients found in other plant tissues.

Because xylem fluid is under a negative pressure, leafhoppers must extract it with a cibarium pump (sucking apparatus) that is powered by large dilator muscles that have their origins in the bulging front region of the head.”

“To successfully develop and reproduce by feeding solely on nutritionally poor xylem fluid, sharpshooters have high consumption rates coupled with an efficient digestive tract that features a re-circulating loop called a filter chamber. They are extremely efficient at assimilating what they have ingested and their waste is 99% water with small amounts of ammonia.

Sharpshooters have been recorded to consume, process, and excrete 17 ml per day (Tipping unpublished data). That is the equivalent of a person drinking nearly 400 gallons of water! The filter chamber allows for greater efficiency in absorbing nutrients from the dilute xylem fluid.” [link]

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Boredom, Blight and Beauty

Goose Creek

The title here came first as I sat mulling over the possibilities this morning, and so a wildflower closeup or some other oooooh-ahhhhh image would have been more appropriate perhaps, but this is what I selected from the recent Lumix shots now up at Flickr.

This landscape, maybe because I’m spending so much time OUT THERE these days, obligate slave to the grass to be mown and various other vegetative chaos like the overgrown road bank just beyond the corner of the house. Today will be my third go at that, and She is complaining about the clutter to her view out the upstairs window because of the small sassafras, pines and spicebush piled up now on Yucca Flats.

Boredom, from the fact that I have checked off most of the top-priority to-do items and have no great obligations on the event horizon. This time of year, something pops up to fill the speaking calendar, so I’m content to wait. So maybe less boredom than freedom from deadlines.

Blight is the name of garden game. I can’t stand to go out there now, after taking such pleasure in the healthy 7-foot tomatoes  now covered with green fruits mostly gray-brown with late blight. We may get not one vine-ripe tomato this year, and that was such a high priority for canning.

And yet…I go out on my sorties with the clippers, chain saw or mattock–and my camera around my neck—and almost always stop to admire, to immerse, to engage.  One aspect of beauty is very personal, and this creek view holds beauty for me because it holds meaning and story, and in that, significance to more than the eyes.

This clickable view (16 x 9 format set in the camera) is taken from our new beach-front property–a considerably-widened creek front area just below the house. The flash floods of July 3 took several feet of the pasture as we watched from the front porch. We’ve somewhat raked the area flat and clean, and its a nice shady spot to sit in a lawn chair with a cold beverage. Gnats, no extra charge.

But what you should glean from this picture is not just a pleasant landscape view. This five-foot geological cross section is a history lesson as well.

The top two feet of the pasture is sand with small rocks under a layer of plant-supporting top soil. That has taken maybe a thousand years to accumulate.

The bottom strata consists of larger rocks and boulders of various parentage that tell the story of a much more violent ancient era of flooding that carried massive amounts of rock, by way of Nameless Creek’s predecessor, down from the much higher peak of Blue Ridge rock, now largely lying in angular rubble as you see here, or as sand, mixed with mollusk shell fragments on an Atlantic beach.

There will be time enough yet for wildflowers and the insects of Autumn that always seem to take center stage photographically this time of year. It was in 2002 I think that I was identified as the “bugman of the blogosphere.”

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Tom Swift

Fence Swift

I’m not sure I have any other images these 13 years here of a lizard. They just–at least until lately–have not been able to survive winters this far north.

A generation from now, we may have reticulated pythons and Gila Monsters on Goose Creek if the warm moves much farther north.

This small “fence swift” (I have named him Tom) was down around the garden this morning, and the macro format of the Lumix LX7 handled it quite well.  The iPhone and the D200 would not have done as well in the low light. This image was taken with the digital zoom (7X) and produced a perfectly acceptable image–at least for computer monitor viewing.

I’m having issues (you can yawn now) with taking the raw files (RW2) to work them in Photoshop 5. Adobe and Panasonic are not playing well together. Maybe there’s a fix that’s not too onerous. DNG converter may qualify as unacceptable.

Where Moth Doth Corrupt

This Yrs Garden and Weed Farm

…and slugs do slither under the bare feet of the wicked. I’m serious. Somehow, more than once, orange (yet again!) slugs have appeared–or been found underfoot–on the hardwood floor of the greatroom.

This is not an experience that leaves one’s psyche untrodden. It’s bad enough that they compete (with a host of other potential invertebrate herbivores) for the garden produce. But mucoid muscular mollusks do not belong between one’s toes.

Forgive me, but I am whining the buggy blues this morning, driven in from the increasingly-verdant garden (as you can see in the picture–click to enlarge) by pests previously unknown to Goose Creek.

Once, the first summer we were here (2000) I looked down to see a trickle of blood weeping down my calf while I picked suckers off the tomatoes. This year, it happens every time I go out to work within the gulag garden-fence. We have black flies.

And we have no-see-ums. Occasionally  in past summers when the winds bring them from the coast, we’ve had a few. We have more than a few. They make me break out in welts. They love to graze my scalp, breaching the boundary of my widebrimmed hat, kicking while bitting like a cat with their spikey little feet, especially when I am helpless to swat, what with wet grass and mulch on my fingers.

The plain old ordinary gnats I used to complain about are still doing their part, to be sure–diving for ear drums and conjunctiva, with the occasional kamikaze strike to nasal or oral targets. PatttoooWeee!

Even so, the tomatoes are setting fruit, none ripe quite yet. The beans are almost all to the top of the cattle panels (8 feet) and flowering. We may, after all, replenish the canning we have depleted, and come September, be done with the Climate Chaos Critters that may be the new regulars of summer.

And oh, BTW, for you heathens, the title is from the Bible.

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. Matthew 6:19