Tag Archives: trees

mid-week stationary field trip No. 4

on the ferry

This is a stationary field trip to North Haven, Maine, an island in Penobscot Bay. I’ve shown you one of its esoteric little rocky beaches but there’s more to it than that. It’s very much on my mind lately because I’m headed there this weekend. Honestly it’s been on my mind all summer: I need to find a way to spend much more time there, there or Vinalhaven, a neighboring island that I love only very slightly less. A week or two every year isn’t cutting it. Do any of you need to commission a lobster- and foraged crabapples-centric cookbook, or perhaps a very niche travelogue? A series of sordid libelles about lobstermen and summer wives?

make money writing short paragraphs

I’m pretty sure I could write a lot more paragraphs if I wasn’t spending ten hours a day in an office doing something else.

For the first several years I visited these islands I wouldn’t tell people about them. Friends, yes, but certainly not the whole internet. I’ve relaxed about this because my handful of readers are scattered all over the globe, and also because it’s quite the pain in the ass to get there. If you want to fly you’ll have to charter a plane, and if you want to take a car on the ferry (which you will, unless you’re visiting someone who has one on the island), you’ll have to contend with the ferry rules, which the ferry people are serious about. The people on North Haven seem slightly less serious than the people in Rockland in this regard, but you’ll have to deal with Rockland first.

ferry procedures

North Haven ferry rules. I wouldn’t test that last one if I were you.

from the ferry

The Rockland breakwater lighthouse, from the ferry.

I suppose you could come with a bicycle, but this is discouraged: it costs approximately twice as much to bring a bike on the ferry as it does to bring just yourself. I have mixed feelings about this. I like bicycling and, to a lesser extent, most bicyclists, but the roads on both islands are a series of blind curves, and it’s hard to imagine there wouldn’t be a lot more accidents if there were a lot more people on bikes. Besides, there aren’t many places to splash money about on either island, so what’s the use of tourists? (Many years ago my parents came out to visit me on Vinalhaven for a night while I was there for a couple weeks, and my mother, determined to buy something for the occasion of my birthday, had to settle for a blueberry pie). There are other little tricks seemingly intended to discourage tourism too, such as a lack of cell phone towers. I don’t make many calls while I’m there so I don’t care much, but if you’re a first-time visitor and don’t know where the good reception spots are, this might be an annoyance. Standing very near the waterline is generally a good strategy.

Calderwood Neck Rd.

Calderwood Neck Rd. on Vinalhaven in 1907 from Etsy. It looked exactly the same the last time I saw it, minus the wood railing.

You’ll also have to find a place to stay and there aren’t many of those. There’s a very nice inn on North Haven, the Nebo Lodge, but the privacy that comes with renting a house and the immersion it offers — unmediated by a host — is a huge part of what draws me there. Maybe it’s an illusion, but I feel like I’m wringing more out of the place than the dabblers who come over for a memorable meal or three and then split. Renting a house on the island is a crucial part of my infatuation with it. I’m not sure I can truly, fully love a place until I’ve experimentally pretended to live there.

new friends

Making new friends. The caretaker is a lobsterman and these hadn’t been out of the water fifteen minutes when we met.

Happily my house of choice on North Haven is conducive to this. It’s cozy and full of texture — a sun-faded braided rug; a pair of curtains with labial ruffles that measure the salty breezes; stubborn little mosses clinging to its shingles — and possesses both a sensibly-organized kitchen and a perfectly situated hammock. As in all the houses I’ve been in on these islands, important phone numbers are written directly on the wall: the general store, the doctor, the community center, the lobsterman/caretaker. The numbers don’t ever change, so why not. It’s also got a fireplace and, to my endless delight, a little trap door for getting firewood into the house. I’ve got a routine worked out with my best friend, who I’ve been visiting these islands with for many years now: He loads the firewood in and out of the car, and I stand by the little door and stack it inside. We fuss over this daily process more than is strictly necessary, but it seems to add something to the first glass of wine by the fire each night.

digging this rug


house mosses

firewood door!

exciting firewood door

not bad for NYC people

The house also has a circle of trees to protect its hammock-inhabitants, and to provide fodder for their hippie dippie daydreams. The first year we visited I asked the owner if they’d been planted this way and they were indeed; they were planted by her grandmother, who wanted a place for her grandchildren to play in.

tree circle

foggy tree circle

a hammock I spent a great deal of time in

The hammock is here if you squint a bit.

weird insect


boat passing by

My first order of business every morning while I’m there is to take my coffee on a walk around the house noticing things. Specifically, noticing whether any new creatures came to visit, or any edible things have sprung up or ripened. The perimeter of the house I used to go to on Vinalhaven was always good for at least a few blueberries or blackberries, and sometimes chanterelle mushrooms. On North Haven so far these have eluded me, but I remain hopeful.

morning spider web

hairy moth

afternoon snack in situ

If I happen to have dressed warmly enough, I’ll take my coffee a little further, down to the rocky beach I showed you once before.


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seaweed spot

Vinalhaven’s Main Street is charming and it has a stop light too, the only one on both islands. North Haven’s Main Street, as shown below, is quieter and more genteel. I’d always thought of Vinalhaven as a quiet place but North Haven manages to make it seem hurly-burly. Vinalhaven has a long history as a working island, first because of its granite quarries, then because of its access to cod and lobsters. North Haven has never had quarries and, in comparison to Vinalhaven, has few full-time lobster people. There are 350 people who live on the island year-round (and 1500 or so in the summertime), and I’m not sure what they tend to do for money. I like to imagine they have blogs with deep-pocketed readers, readers I’ve simply not connected with yet.

Main St., American Legion

The American Legion on Main Street.

Main St.

Waterman’s Community Center on Main Street.

Community Center board game pile

Waterman’s is well-equipped for rainy days.
It’s also got a coffee shop, a theater, and a preschool.

we missed the codfish relay race

It’s a good place to catch up on the news. Hopefully there will come a year when I don’t miss the codfish relay race.

Paine's Balsam Fir Incense

There are also two gift shops on Main St., at least one of which should be able to replenish my stash of balsam fir incense.

North Haven casino very early in the morning

North Haven Casino early in the morning. Not a gambling casino, a yacht club. It just turned 100 years old this August.

maple walnut?


browsing real estate

A fun thing to do with ice cream in hand: browse potential locations for my aquapod / sanitorium / research and development center.

peace barn

A peaceful barn at Mullen Head Park.


on the way

Leaving Vinalhaven, Aug. 2006.

goodbye, islands

Leaving North Haven, Sept. 2011.

I’ll be doing a separate post on the subject of eating North Haven on my food blog next week. Mid-week stationary field trip No. 3 (to the country, a bit closer to home) is here.

Lunar Camel Co. field guide to trees, ch. 4: other people’s trees

YEARS Schmiede Hallein 2011

Years, Schmiede Hallein, Austria, 2011.

Bartholonäus Traubeck, Years. A turntable plays trees by analysing “their strength, thickness and rate of growth. This data serves as basis for a generative process that outputs piano music. It is mapped to a scale which is again defined by the overall appearance of the wood (ranging from dark to light and from strong texture to light texture).” Via Need Supply.


Axel Erlandson’s tree circus in the Santa Cruz mountains, via Creatures of Comfort. Erlandson died in 1964 and the trees were then cared for by a tree-loving architect. In 1985 they were moved to a theme park in Gilroy, where they live today. Tree circus scholars can learn more from the Tree Circus Collection at Santa Cruz’s Museum of Art & History.

tree circus double knots

tree circus cube

A.E. at his tree circus

tree circus sycamore phone booth

sycamore phone booth by Mark Primack

tree circus box

the tree circus is coming to town

the tree circus comes to town by Mark Primack

Cf. Arborsmith Studios; Pooktre tree shapers; the German master of treedome shaping; unrelated German tree fence from the 1930s; Indian tree bridges; Plantware.


Italian tree tea from Buon Italia.

Erbe e Spezie tea packet

Erbe e Spezie tea  ingredients

Ingredients: coriander seeds, juniper berries, cloves, orange rinds, cinnamon bark, ginger rootstocks, mountain pine needles.

“Un sorso di salute, nel rispetto dell’ambiente” = “A sip of health, while respecting the environment.” I bought it more for making ice cream with than for drinking, but it’s nice for drinking. I was expecting it to taste strongly of pine trees the way Italian pine honey does — eating pine honey, in my experience, is like being bonked on the head with a pine branch — but actually it’s rather gentle and balanced, with no one flavor dominating. Just the thing for a hiker’s mug.


In Suffolk there’s a beech so ugly that it terrifies children and pensioners, says the Daily Mail. I admit I did not read the article closely but it’s probably a benefits scrounger, too.

the ugliest tree

ugly tree by David Garnham


Blog-friend a wild slim alien — who is in fact a tree — pointed me in the direction of Five Dials, a monthly literary mag from Hamish Hamilton. Number 22 (Why Willows Weep and Other Tales From The Forest Floor) consists of fables about nineteen varieties of trees native to the U.K. and may be read here. Five Dials is a PDF mag but you can buy a special dead tree copy of this one issue to support the Woodland Trust here. They’ll plant five trees if you do.

Five Dials Number 22


how to get a tree to speak

EOS magazine’s talking tree has been telling the world about its life in Brussels for a year or so now. There doesn’t seem to be any sound coming through on its YouTube channel but you can listen to the tree on SoundCloud.


Chapter 3 of my field guide to trees is here.

Lunar Camel Co. field guide to trees, chapter 3

It’s been warm enough for me to continue making observational field trips. I’ve decided to Do Something with my tree photos this spring, health permitting — details will be announced here, naturally, at some point — and I need to keep collecting them in the meantime. This latest batch is from Connecticut.



I’ve been reading Forest Forensics with great interest and I’ve learned that some of these holes that my camera is so drawn to are basal scars, “scars at the base of tree trunks created by the removal of bark from fire or some form of impact, such as from logging equipment.” That big, stretched out-looking hole above very closely matches the basal scar examples shown in the book, which are somehow presented in a less suggestive manner. I’ve still got a long way to go in learning about trees, though, so many of the things I’m seeing are still just mystery holes and nubbins to me.







Recommended related reading: “The Man Whom the Trees Loved” by Algernon Blackwood. You can read it in pdf here.

The Man Whom the Trees Loved

It’s not about the painter of trees one meets there on page one, actually; he’s a relatively minor character. It’s about a couple who live in Hampshire, on the edge of the New Forest. The husband is a retired forestry worker and his wife is troubled by the intensity and mysterious nature of his relationship with trees. The painter comes to stay with them for a couple weeks and then he’s gone.

I have some issues with it as a story, but the weird atmosphere and the vivid writing about trees and about being among trees make it worth reading. The character of the wife is a religious nutter who becomes old and pinched and mothering, and the story gets a bit melodramatic, particularly near the end, and its fluttery Victorian punctuation and tense emotional pitch get to be nearly too much. But there is something fascinating going on in it.

Supernatural Tales dust jacket

Supernatural Tales spine

The husband spends more and more time in the woods, at first coming home for lunch, then taking a lunch with him and spending all day with trees.

From morning to night he wandered in the Forest; often he went out after dinner; his mind was charged with trees—their foliage; growth, development; their wonder, beauty, strength; their loneliness in isolation, their power in a herded mass.

The trees eventually become an intrusive force, a sort of psychic presence, in the couple’s home.


Blackwood sounds like an interesting guy. According to his wiki page, he “had a varied career, working as a milk farmer in Canada, operating a hotel, as a newspaper reporter in New York City, bartender, model, journalist for the New York Times, private secretary, businessman, and violin teacher.” He eventually settled in Switzerland and then his native England. From the introduction to my copy of The Best Supernatural Tales of Algernon Blackwood (Causeway Books 1973), which “The Man Whom the Trees Loved” appears in, here is AB when he was seventy, writing about his time in Canada and the U.S.:

During these years my one and only passion was—Nature. I read, of course (from free libraries), with a starving hunger to learn and know. Imaginative literature in French, German, English crammed me; scientific reading came much later. But no desire to write lay in me; in my years of newspaper reporting I betrayed no talent; I had one yearning only; intense and passionate; to get away into the woods or forest by myself. Nature apparently, gave me something that human nature could not give. . . . Meanwhile, fed by my few possible excursions into wild nature, and by tasting something of the bitter dregs of life in the raw as well, I was—presumably—developing. My intense interest in the so-called ‘psychic’ region rushed uppermost. Most of my books deal with imaginative speculation in this debatable region. I have been called the ‘Ghost Man,’ so that when I broadcast it must preferably be a ‘ghost story’ of sorts. My real interest here, however, lay always and still lies in the question of a possible extension of human faculty and the suggestion that the Man in the Street possesses strange powers which never manifest normally.

Ehh. Anyhow, many of the stories in the book focus on nature, either as vividly-described atmosphere — the New Forest (“The Man Whom The Trees Loved”), a storm-lashed bungalow sitting in isolation amidst sand dunes (“The Sea Fit”), lonely moors (“Accessory Before the Fact”) — or as a character itself, like the menacing copse of woods in “Ancient Lights” or the alpine forest surrounding the ski resort in “The Glamour of the Snow.” I’m really enjoying them. A Guardian profile from 2007 reports that while in NYC, Blackwood lived in a boarding house on East 19th St., where he “found his separation from nature in the city intolerable, and the ‘indifference to beauty’ of those about him inexplicable.”


Chapter 2 of my field guide to trees is here.

Lunar Camel Co. field guide to trees, chapter 2

I’ve blogged about trees kind of a lot. Some of my favorite specimens are here, here and here. My friend Jim asked if I’d seen any good ones lately and I said yes of course, the woods are full of them, and it is easier than ever to spot vague obscenities in the off-season, when there isn’t so much distracting greenery about.

treehole with stuff in it

We don’t have nearly enough trees in Manhattan so I’m thinking about doing something more public with my collection of them.

trees of Harriman State Park, figure B

I don’t mind showing them to you like this but they’d be much better big, 2′ by 3′ prints or somesuch.

trees of Harriman State Park, figure A

I’m recovering from surgery at the moment but looking forward to adding to my tree collection soon. It’s been a mild winter in my part of the world, so I haven’t really had to take a break from my observational field trips. I keep thinking every hike will be my last for the year, but there’s always another. I thought a November hike in CT would surely be my last until spring. The air smelled like snow, and with the dressing rooms closed for the season the little beach on the lake by the park’s entrance looked lonelier than ever.


The trees looked lonely too, or maybe just self-conscious about their nudity.

the trees have eyes


It was the time of year when allegedly pumpkin-flavored donuts come out. They seemed like an ideal post-hike snack but the actual flavor was closer to orange-colored holiday.


This famous beardo ice-scraping system I admired at a local discount store probably would’ve made a better souvenir. As Mr. Lunar Camel Co. noted, “it looks like he has the ice under control.”

famous beardo heated ice scraping system

There were strangely compelling breakfast systems on offer too. Plastic crap, yes, but if bears could take crap like this back to their caves and have it there when they awaken from hibernation, they probably would. I think that is the idea, to settle in for a very long nap, a nap so long your hands will tingle with pins and needles for days afterward, leaving you unable to prepare breakfast without these contraptions.

outlet shopping breakfast section

Later in the season, when I went for a hike at Harriman State Park, I found an ideal hibernation spot, a small cave protected by icicles.

icicles of Harriman State Park, figure D

There’s all sorts of exciting, twinkly bits like this in the woods in the winter. You just have to wear more layers to go look at it. Here is something I’d never seen before, because — I am guessing — it only happens at very particular temperatures, when the ground is a certain temperature in relation to the air: spindly strands of ice poking out of the dirt. They’re strong enough that I could easily pluck a few out and set them on a nearby rock for looking-at with minimal breakage.

weird ice

mystery ice specimen

I’m going to read up on weird things like this until I can get out into the woods again. In my cart right now:

Winter Tree Finder

Winter Tree Finder: A Manual for Identifying Deciduous Trees in Winter by May T. Watts and Tom Watts. I like leafsnap but one needs a book for leafless moments.

Forest Forensics

Forest Forensics: A Field Guide to Reading the Forested Landscape by Tom Wessels. I always want to know what I’m looking at so I’m excited about this.

Gathering Moss

Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses by Robin Wall Kimmerer. Not winter-specific; I just really like mosses.

Do you go hiking in the winter or do you prefer to look at trees on the internet until it’s warmer outside? Recommend any books or unusually cozy socks for me?

This and that No. 3


The Philips microbial kitchen, via The Guardian. Click on the images to read more about it.

I wish I were making this Thanksgiving’s pies in this lovely microbial kitchen. It is the kitchen of the future, says Philips. The heart of it is the bio-digester island, which is basically a poop- and vegetable scrap-repurposing contraption: burning methane powers the stove, and the “residue” (blessedly, magically dehydrated) can be used as fertilizer.

the larder
the larder close up

The larder.

The part of the microbial kitchen that really excites me is the larder, which has “a twin-walled terra cotta evaporative cooler” consisting of “compartments and chambers [that] vary in wall thicknesses and volumes . . . designed to keep different types of food at different optimal temperatures.” I am ready for this now. I am already mentally arranging my mushrooms and cheeses. You know what this reminds me of, this amazing styrofoam kitchen of the future from 1978:


Styrofoam kitchen by Lino Schenal, from Joan Kron and Suzanne Slesin’s High-Tech(1978).

I got High-Tech after seeing this outdoor hangout room from it over at Wary Meyers. There are loads of good ideas in the book and the styrofoam kitchen has stuck with me. I often bring home new kitchen equipment that I don’t have just the right spot for, and with a kitchen like this I could scoop out a compartment for, say, my new ice cream machine. It isn’t as high-tech as the microbial kitchen, but how great would it be to combine the two, with terra cotta inserts for the scooped-out wall, like the larder? Such that one could open a little door to a personal-size cheese cave? Or a mushroom-growing cabinet. I have been trying to grow mushrooms inside my componibili and this would be an improvement. One could have a mushroom-growing cabinet right next to a pipe carrying cool, clean water and have one’s mushrooms misted automatically. Or via phone.

The more mysterious biological and transformative aspects of the future kitchen remind me of this fallen tree that Mr. Lunar Camel Co. and I recently encountered at Rockefeller State Park Preserve in Sleepy Hollow, NY. Are these the ghosts of insects struck by lightening? Whatever happened here happened to the entire length of the tree.



This and That No. 1 is here.

This and That No. 2 is here.

mid-week stationary field trip No. 3

This week’s stationary field trip chronicles an actual field trip: last Monday Mr. Lunar Camel Co. and I skipped work to go for a hike upstate. The first thing to do was pick up a Zipcar next door to this trendy urine spot.

OK, got it.

It doesn’t take long to get to THE COUNTRY and Route 22 is a nice way to get there.

out the car window

We stopped for lunch at McEnroe Organic Farm and left with bags full of apples and pumpkins and whatnot. Also a surprise pet — more on that later.

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We went to Rudd Pond State Park. I’m sure it gets crowded during the summer and on weekends but on a Monday afternoon we pretty much had the place to ourselves.

Rudd Pond State Park

Can you believe they’re using this gorgeous old cabin to store tools instead of letting me do arty things inside? If you live in NY please write a letter to your representative about this!

cabin, Rudd Pond State Park

In the woods we encountered trees living together in unconvential relationships.

trees in love

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Also several incongruous signs. Upstate NY humor.

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Best of all, we found a deserted cabin with a cozy look-out spot.

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A stoned tree guards the lookout spot.

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We returned to the small beach on the lake near the park entrance just in time to watch the sun set and we stopped in a crazy taco place on the way home, but by then my battery was dead, sorry. I would have been shy about taking photos anyhow because the taco lady had an intimidating face full of makeup.

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The next day I discovered I’d brought home a new pet, a snail living in my farm stand herbs. I thought it was dead from being in the refrigerator but after a few moments it was crawling around on my kitchen table. It now lives in my lavender plant. I showed my snail to my friend Ami and he was afraid it might have babies and eat all my plants — when he was a kid he brought home some cool-looking pods he found in a field and they promptly hatched and filled his bedroom with hundreds of baby praying mantises — but I looked this up and it takes two snails to make more snails. I also learned that they “will communicate to the other snail for an average of two to twelve hours.”

new pet snail

The snail’s name is McEnroe after the farm it came from. It isn’t a he or a she because snails are hermaphrodites.

souvenir potatoes farmstand herbs

Stationary field trip No. 1 is here and No. 2 is here.

Lunar Camel Co. field guide to trees of Connecticut, chapter 1

Sorry about the silence here, I’ve been dealing with some health issues. I had surgery, I lolled around with a bottle of Vicodin, I am having more surgery. I’m going to post some music soon but in the meantime here are some trees for your collection. My friend Jim says this one looks just like it has “a squinty brown eye.” Hmm!

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Here is another, are you feeling closer to nature yet? Or something?

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The woods aren’t just full of puckered treeholes and gaping treecrotches; there are subtle faces too, waiting to be encountered by attentive hikers. Like this eye, which appears to have been scarred years ago.

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All photos from Chatfield Hollow State Park in Killingworth, CT, where we did not saunter out of the woods with forbidden trout crammed in our pockets.

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I went to CT for the weekend and had my first hike of spring on Saturday at Chatfield Hollow State Park in Killingworth, CT. That sort of thing can be very exciting in its way. Do you people like nature? I find it tremendously restorative to walk in the woods, even when it’s chilly and damp and the trees are still bare.

exciting hidey hole

What sort of creature lives inside an exclamation point-shaped hidey hole?

bare trees

round perfect tree


Here’s the beguiling Flintstonian lavender floor at the Parthenon Diner, Old Saybrook, CT. While I was taking this photo my stepfather said “That is a very famous pattern. It’s called ‘bathroom floor.'”

diner floor

f / m / k The Professor, Diva, Dude, Ginormous Egg? They’re at the Stop n’ Shop in Old Saybrook.

choco rabbits

Sunday was too cold for hiking so we bundled up and went for a walk on the beach instead.

clam shells

boats, Grove Beach

sand pattern, Grove Beach

at Grove Beach

seaweed, Grove Beach

driftwood nubs, Grove Beach

Saw this on the way home on I-95. Go ahead and take down the number for your friend. You can’t really see it here but one of the people painted on the windows is saying “hey man, got a smoke?”

going to the clink

There are older photos from a similar field trip on my other blog here if you are really into having a mental visit to CT today. Playlist too.