Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Apple Blossoms

Now is the time to enjoy the blooms of the apple tree. I have to admit that the apple is my favorite tree. In my wanderings through the Alleghenys I've often stopped and wondered about the history of an old apple tree struggling to survive on the side of a ridge planted years ago by some long dead homesteader. Every year since 1979 I've planted apple trees on my land. Never one to go the "normal route" I've searched through nursery catalogs for heirloom apples with names like " Hudson's Golden Gem", "Purdy", and "Swaar". Trees that have survived for years and sometimes centuries because of some unique characteristic. With most of my land being old "homestead ground" I also have quite a number of volunteer apple trees that have sprouted from seeds of old trees now long gone. As a kid I roamed around on this very ground and remember the old trees that my grandmother called "Rusty Coats". Gnarled old things mostly hollow with a limb or two still alive and producing fruit in the fall. Planted by some long forgotten farmer in the 1800's they are all gone now but are remembered in the seedlings trees that sprouted from their fallen fruit. I believe my passion to plant apple trees is a desire to leave something still alive after I'm gone and to hope that someday some future hunter will pause under a tree that I planted and wonder about the person who took the time to nurture it to maturity.
A Doglo crabapple tree I planted near my "Man Shed".

A wild apple tree growing in our pasture. More of a shrub than a tree it defied the odds, sprouting from a fallen seed and growing into a fruit bearing tree.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Signs of Spring in the Alleghenys

Here are a few of the things that I look for to assure me that spring has indeed returned to the Alleghenys.
The Serviceberry tree also known as the Juneberry or Shadbush is a small open-branched tree that blooms a small white flower before the leaves appear. In mid-April my eyes search the mountains looking for the wispy white flowers that stand out among the drab bare trees.

Coltsfoot often mistaken for dandelion is one of the first flowers of the spring. Introduced by settlers long ago , its a native of Europe and Asia. Used medicinally as a cough suppressant and for lung ailments. The leaves which appear after the flower resemble the foot of a colt hence the name.

Skunk cabbage named after the pungent odor in emits when a leaf is damaged. It is a plant of the swamps. I find this plant in the lowest lying spots in my Shawnee covert.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Wandering the Tuscarora

I headed north and east toward the Tuscarora Mountain on Easter afternoon with Emma to explore for new grouse coverts. At my first stop along the spine of the mountain I found this fresh cut. Looking like ground zero of a nuclear bomb blast I know that in years to come it will become a magnet for all forms of wildlife.

My next stop turned out to be a classic Allegheny Mountain clearcut, steep and rocky growing back in birch, oak, maple and in this one tulip poplar. I'll be back in the fall to challenge it for a shot at a grouse.

I love the anticipation of what I'll find around the bend on a strange logging road.

This one turned out to be an older cut but looks to have potential. Grown back in birch, maple, pine and mountain laurel it's rocky ground with lots of spring seeps. This logging road runs for about 1/2 mile till it ends near the far end of the cut.

The day ended with several grouse moved and several new coverts found. Hopefully I'll have the time to come back to these coverts and make some memories in them this fall.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Food in the Alleghenys

Grouse in the Alleghenys have a wealth of food to choose from. Over the years I've enjoyed opening the crops of shot grouse to see just what they were feeding on. Grapes, black birch buds, and greens (small green leafed plants usually growing along streams and spring seeps) have been the favorite food. At one time or another I've found the following fruits in grouse crops I've shot.


American Dogwood

Multiflora Rose








Black Haw