Sugaring Season

April 12, 2014

Buckets for collecting maple sap

Buckets for collecting maple sap

I’ve never seen the workings of a maple sugar camp.  I’m surprised that my frugal parents did not ever make the effort to tap the maple trees in the woods and make syrup for our large family.  We were content with Mrs. Butterworth’s.

My sister took me to see this sugar bush near Rachel Lake in northern Minnesota.  The day was too cold for the sap to run, so the camp was temporarily abandoned.  But buckets were hung ’round the maple trees in readiness for the temperature to cooperate and set the sap running.  It would have been fun to see the operations in full swing.  I hope they had a successful season.

Spiles sunk into the trees

Spiles sunk into the trees






Maple trees stripped of leaves

Maple trees stripped of leaves

This post concludes my year-long Tree-Watching Project.  I started this project in December of last year and followed my “adopted” willow and maple trees through all four seasons.  I will, of course, continue to notice, observe, and remark upon interesting tree happenings in the year to come, but my “official” project is over.

My “adopted” maple and willow trees have now been stripped of all their leaves after a very rainy, windy, and blustery few weeks.  What leaves have not blown away remain in soggy ground cover beneath the trees.

Wet maple leaves stuck together in the grass

Wet maple leaves stuck together in the grass

The maple tree is now bare of leaves

The maple tree is now bare of leaves

Decaying maple leaf stuck to the sidewalk

Decaying maple leaf stuck to the sidewalk


Fallen willow leaves, almost iridescent and velvety to touch

New life, new buds on the willow tree

New life, new buds on the willow tree

It seems fitting to end this series with the promise of new life, the first buds on the willow tree.

You may recall that I found the inspiration for my tree-watching project from reading Seeing Trees: Discover the Extraordinary Secrets of Everyday Trees by Nancy Hugo.  So for the book lovers among you, here is a review of some remarkable tree books published this year, which I found listed in this article in the New York Times Sunday Book Review.  I’ve already reserved most of these titles at my local library.  Enjoy!

Last maple leaf withering on a branch

“There’s a name for these old leaves that stay on the trees until a strong wind or new spring leaves push them off — marcescent.”
—  Nancy Ross Hugo, Seeing Trees:  Discover the Extraordinary Secrets of Everyday Trees

I’m sure I’ll learn a lot this year while I work on my tree-watching project.  Today, for example, I’ve learned a new vocabulary word, marcescent.  It gives me a new appreciation for those solitary last leaves that hang on, withering on their branches.  There’s a lesson about persistence there, and luck (perhaps), and hanging as long as you are able through the final winters of your life.

I’ll be using my tree-watching project as a platform for making watercolor sketches as well as writing and photographing, for there are good lessons in all of these creative pursuits, too:

“Drawing, photography, and journaling are other useful adjuncts to the viewing.  Any time you draw something, no matter how successful you are from an artistic point of view, you learn more about it, so it’s good advice to draw more if you want to see and remember more.  If we all approached drawing as a means of fixing a memory as opposed to creating a work of art, we’d do more of it and see more as a result.”
—  Nancy Ross Hugo, Seeing Trees:  Discover the Extraordinary Secrets of Everyday Trees

Watercolor sketch of marcescent maple leaf

A Cloak Spread for a Queen

November 12, 2011

A gallant cloak of red

“A queen might be proud to walk where these gallant trees have spread their bright cloaks in the mud.”
— Henry David Thoreau, “Autumnal Tints”

Beautiful red maple leaves

Maple leaves hanging like red jewels

Watercolor sketch of maple leaves

Frosty Mornings

December 11, 2009

The frost on my car window looked like falling stars.

Morning reflections in a neighbor's outdoor ornament

The last maple tree with leaves -- like a dying flame

Slippery footing on this icy log

We’ve been having a string of days with temperatures below freezing.  Here are a few photographs from my frosty morning at Green Lake taken shortly after sunrise at 7:47 a.m.

Scattering Clattering Time

October 30, 2009


Joggers at Greenlake on an autumn morning


Maple trees lining the path at Greenlake

Fallen maple leaves cover the ground

A red carpet of fallen leaves

by Debra Reinstra

now is the wind-time
the scattering clattering
song-on-the-lawn time
early eves and gray days
clouds shrouding the traveled ways
trees spare and cracked bare
slim fingers in the air
dry grass in the wind-lash
waving waving as the birds pass
the sky turns, the wind gusts
winter sweeps in
it must it must.