Editor’s Note: The following column was printed in the Union Leader on Saturday, April 2, 1977. Written by Stacey Cole, shown in the photo, the column heading was “Nature Talks from Down on the Farm.”
MOST OF our readers tell us about their experiences with birds and animals. Occasionally, specific trees are told of. I have in mind particularly the chestnut and the hickory. But the other day our good friend Leverett Andrews of Old Dublin Road, Peterborough, wrote a fascinating letter on trees that indicates his sensitivity to nature. I am delighted to share it with you.
“It’s remarkable how much certain trees and people resemble each other. The mighty oaks and white pines are mature men. The colorful maples and silvery beeches, the matrons. The slim white birches are slender, graceful girls. The hickorys and ashes, the young men. While the boys and girls represent all young sprouts of many varieties.
“The very old and damaged trees, when it comes time for them, fall to the floor of the forest, there to disintegrate and nourish the vigorous ones which take their places. And, as in the human race, certain species of trees are decimated by disease (e.g. chestnut and elm). So also is humanity decimated by pestilence, fire and war.
“But see how skillfully nature has provided means of perpetuating its trees. Squirrels and chipmunks gather acorns and bury them for future use, often never to return for them. The winged maple seeds are blown by strong winds often to great distance from the parent trees.
“The birds enjoy the ripe wild cherries and the waxy poison ivy berries, alighting on a convenient stone wall to rid their beaks of cherry pit and ivy seed, which no doubt explains so many ivy-covered stone walls and strands of wild cherries growing nearby.
“Crows often in the winter visit wild apple trees to burrow into apples still clinging to the trees. I’ve seen them when disturbed take the apple in their beak and fly away into the woods. By this method the apple seeds are carried long distances, to spring up the following spring.
“Nature permits only the strongest trees to survive, so many never make it. They are taken by browsers, fire or winter’s severity.
“Mother Nature is surely a great healer. Where the superhighways cut through the pine woods leaving tremendous scars, she speedily covers the damage with a soft green carpet of white pine seedlings.
“How tenuous is the thread of life as each tree struggles for existence. The sweet cambium bark just beneath the rough, outer bark, carries the lifeblood from roots to branches each year, and if the tree is girdled it will surely die. Then Mother Nature sends her winged and four-footed predators to snatch some of the mice and rabbits which do most of the damage. But man is by far nature’s most dangerous antagonist, and while he does his best to foil her, she has reforested many, many areas once occupied by farms and homesteads, where the weary soil is being rejuvenated by the trees.
“Gone are the tremendous white pines of Colonial times, marked by the broad arrow brand of the King’s foresters. Here and there remains a hoary old giant, crouched near the ground, not being useful for timber.
“Each season has its own different meaning. Spring is the time of awakening when the tender green buds are born. Then summer clothes each tree with its own special shape of leaf and seed or berry. Then follows autumn with all its beauty. Here in the Monadnock region are tremendous panoramas of every conceivable tint and shade of color, from soft yellow through flaming scarlet and shades of rust to the deepest green of the evergreens. Jack Frost with his paint brush has put to shame even the most famous of artists. But autumn, though being the most colorful, is indeed the most sorrowful season, when the trees sigh and groan as the cold winds whip through their bare branches.
“But Mother Nature soon covers her children with a white fleecy blanket, where they sleep peacefully until the warm sun awakes them to once more clothe themselves with beauty. Then do I return again to the place where the giants lie side by side, those great white pines laid low by the hurricane of long ago. To the solemn peace of the place of the fallen giants.”
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The robins are back! Not perhaps in the numbers they will be within the next few weeks, but we’ve had one on the lawn and he certainly did seem to enjoy the early worm. I’m convinced he was not one of those robins who spent the winter with us as I believe we would have seen him before this around the farm.
As usual, the first robin reported from the town of Lisbon was observed by our good friend Phil Weymouth. Phil takes a special pride in spotting the first robin each year.
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When we hear of cardinals feeding they’re told of as ground feeders. Not so always, as a lady in Manchester wrote:“We’ve had a male and female cardinal for over two years. They come every day, two to four times a day. They are so nice. The male comes into our tree near the feeder, looks all around, checks the feeder, then the female comes and while she feeds in the feeder he watches her. When he’s sure it’s safe, he goes into the feeder with her and at times gives her a seed. Last year we watched them bring babies and teach them to fly and eat.”
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We certainly appreciate having our readers share their experiences with us.
Stacey Cole, Nature Talks columnist for more than 50 years, passed away in November. If readers have a favorite column written by Stacey that they would like to see reprinted, please drop a note to Jen Lord at firstname.lastname@example.org.