It’s that time of year and the lower hayfield has been ready for several weeks. We looked at the weather map this morning and wondered about the highs over Wisconsin and if they would be enough to keep the moisture away. Over coffee we decided to take down the lower field. More than twelve hours later and with the dinner dishes cleaned the forecast looks good. A number of dark clouds passed overhead this afternoon but the skies have cleared and the sun is winking at me as it drops behind the mountains above us. When the morning dew has lifted I will wait until the sun strengthens and the winds combine to dry the exposed surface of the harvested crop. I will then rake the field by flipping each windrow to expose its damp, green, underside to the sun and that will be all I can do tomorrow – one must not rush the making of dry grass hay. I will spend the morning on Thursday greasing the baler and refueling the 1520. The latter is underpowered for what I will ask it to do later that afternoon; it will struggle and blow streams of black smoke when it travels up hill with a loaded bale chamber. It will relax going down hill and on the flat. The Vermeer baler will work its fortieth season and I have come to an unspoken understanding with it … I grease it, maintain its many bearings, watch the oil in the gearbox, and attend to the trailing bits which stream from the belts as they wear with each new bale … and it works very, very hard. Now that the cows are gone we have surplus bales from last year and from the year before. I will need to find a home for those to make room for the new bales that I will stack in the lean-to on Friday morning. This is how we make hay. This is how we’ve made hay. This is how we will continue to make hay … it’s what we do … it is ritual.
Charles Darwin’s last book bears the unusual title The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms. It was published in October of 1881 and in it Darwin focused on the myriad ways in which many of the earth’s smallest creatures can, over very long periods of time, change the face of the planet. How in the world … you must be thinking … can this have anything to do with a bicycle ride along P.E.I.’s Confederation Trail? The bedrock which forms Prince Edward Island is composed of sandstone, a highly erodible (sedimentary) rock. The Provincial government there has estimated that coastal erosion currently occurs at a rate of between 0.5 and 1.5 m per year. In contrast to the time scale upon which Darwin’s worms influence the formation of vegetable mould (what we call soil), the effects of ocean storms along the coast of P.E.I. must be visible to the careful observer. Joanna and I reached North Cape on day five of our adventure. Because the bike trail took us through the interior of the island we hadn’t seem much of the coast and so took time at trail’s end to visit the ocean and to look around a bit. What impressed us most were the beautifully sculpted red sandstone faces which lay exposed along the shore. The ground at the North Cape Wind Energy Interpretive Centre is fully 10 meters above sea level, and this leaves plenty of surface upon which the erosive force of the ocean may work. We were eager to explore. The shallow cave from within which the image below was taken may have backed 5 m into the bedrock. Leaning against its cool back wall provided a nice view of blue skies and puffy white clouds out over the Atlantic. Click the image to view a larger version with higher screen resolution.
I’m not sure whether I’ve mentioned before that one of Joanna’s many preoccupations is the study of botany. Although the topic of her graduate work concerned matters of plant ecology in particular, she has always had a thing for systematic botany (a field which is concerned with the names of and relationships among plants). She absolutely must know the name of any particular plant that catches her eye. If we are hiking, biking, or out for a walk in the woods and we should happen upon a plant that she does not know, she does not not-know it for long. Among texts belonging to her personal library are a number which will allay any questions or curiosities. Having said all that you may imagine that our bike trip along P.E.I.’s Confederation Trail gave Joanna ample opportunity to see many old botanical friends and to make new ones as well. Of the two pedaling positions on a tandem bike the front one is called the steersman (or captain, or pilot) and the rear position is held by the stoker (or rear admiral, or navigator). Because the latter does not have to steer, she is free to scan the countryside as long as continued attentions are paid to the quads, hamstrings, calves, and gleuts. For something over 200 miles of the P.E.I. rail-trail I was treated to running botanical commentary. Among Joanna’s favorite finds were Wild Calla, Pink Lady Slipper (the Provincial flower of P.E.I. by the way), Canadian Dwarf Cornel, Sheep Laurel, and Wild Azalea. The image below is of an Iris which goes by the name of Blue Flag. Click the image to view a larger version with higher screen resolution.
Even though a lengthy queue of images from P.E.I. has formed in my WordPress editor I could not resist telling about our visit to, and hike up, Mt. Cardigan near Orange, New Hampshire. Following our departure from P.E.I. we knew we would be traveling The Granite State and had hoped to climb Mt. Washington, having last done so more than a decade ago. When we realized that Gorham was a two-hour drive from where we were staying we opted for a visit to nearby Mt. Cardigan. Although not technically above treeline (which occurs at an approximate elevation of 4500′ in this part of the world) the 3156′ summit of Cardigan is almost entirely without vegetation as the result of a devastating forest fire in 1855. The scarcity of vegetation at and near the summit is evidence of the slow growth habit of sub alpine flora and, perhaps more to the point, the near complete absence of soil. Because its summit is bare the mountain also goes by the nickname of Old Baldy. Cardigan can be hiked at any time of year though its exposure makes for a difficult climb in winter. Cairns, like the one shown below, replace trail blazes on paths because they are more easily seen and may make the difference between a safe and an unsafe climb in poor conditions. Click the image to view a larger version with higher screen resolution.
Prince Edward Island is perhaps best known for the Anne of Green Gables series of books by L. M. Montgomery. Joanna and I brought the tandem bicycle there two weeks ago to ride its Confederation Trail. Although the provincial government doesn’t bill it as such, P.E.I.’s Confederation Trail is a Rail-to-Trail which was completed in 2000 after some savvy folks realized the potential of the railbed which had been abandoned by the Canadian National in 1989. The trail comprises a total of 357 kilometers but its main artery, which passes through the center of the island, runs 279 kilometers (173 miles) from Elmira in the East to Tignish in the West. My time on the island was spent exploring in the best way possible, up-close-and-personal on two wheels, and I learned that what I thought I knew about the place was wrong. Although we did see evidences of commercial lobster and crab fisheries along the bit of coastline at St. Peter’s and Charlottetown, I don’t know why I had expected the entire island to be awash in fishing villages and cobble stoned streets populated by fishmongers and their fishwives, but I did. Where I got this nineteenth-century view of the place I do not know. More than forty percent of the island’s 1.4 million acres are dedicated to agriculture and its primary cash crop is potatoes which account for nearly 89,000 acres of land in production. The recently planted fields along a large part of the trail were an amazement to us … long, very long and uninterrupted furrows with not a stone to be seen. That’s just a bit of an exaggeration, a single corner of almost every cultivated field was occupied by a handful (by Pennsylvania standards) of stone dredged by the plow. We made the decision to visit the island in early June to avoid the influx of vacationers which predictably commences later in the month. As such, and although some was still to be worked, most ground had been planted and some was even showing green. We saw a good number of both dairy and beef animals but P.E.I.’s fruit crops are second only to its potato production. We peddled past acres of lowbush blueberries, a cranberry bog or two, and several vineyards. In addition, the island is known for its strawberries, apples, and raspberries. Joanna observed that the trail itself was lined by wild strawberry in full bloom (and, sadly, not yet in fruit). I have concluded that its low population density, commercial focus on agriculture, and natural beauty, combine to make P.E.I. a place I could easily get very, very, used to. Click the image to view a larger, higher resolution, version.
Thanks to those who commented regarding the mystery destination of my last post and congratulations to my good friend Herr Madenford for correctly identifying it as Prince Edward Island, Canada. Several months ago Joanna hatched a plan to travel to P.E.I. to bicycle the Confederation Trail from the island’s eastern-most point to it’s western coast. Getting to P.E.I. via Maine, New Brunswick, and the Northumberland Ferry at Caribou, Nova Scotia would simply whet our senses of adventure. Although we were on a tight schedule to get to the dock at Caribou by 6:15 PM, we did take time to capture some of the beauty which is Maine’s interior (as opposed to it’s renown coast). The Wild Azalea only adds to the beauty of the wetland shown below. Click on the image to view it at higher resolution. Stay tuned … P.E.I. images to follow.
Have you noticed that this Pairodox blog has been quiet for more than a week? Perhaps the image below will help you guess where we’ve been. [You may click on the image for a version with somewhat higher resolution.] Here are some hints … we had passports along, the truck clocked more than 2,500 miles (round-trip), the bike clocked more than 200 miles (one-way), we encountered clouds of black flies and mosquitoes, and this Provincial paradise has a resident population of fewer than 150,000. Where have we been?