I saw our fox as I was returning from walking our dogs this morning. He darted across the road, holding one front foot off the ground. He was moving pretty well for three legs. I hope it’s just a temporary thing, like a sprain, but it does not bode well for its long-term survival.
Dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!
Our dogs get along with our cats, and vice versa. With the exception of Zoe, who doesn’t really get along with anyone.
Zeus was a good dog, and we miss him. Chloe is a good cat, maybe the best we have, and she’s still here. The duck was not very popular with cat or dog.
The Marshall Forest Preserve is a 300-acre site with a large area of old-growth pine-hardwood forest located near the Coosa River just outside Rome. There is apparently some debate about whether it contains any true virgin forest, but it at least has been undisturbed by human activity for more than 100 years. The old growth forest covers about a quarter to a third of the 300 acres. It was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1966. We had never been there, so last Monday Leah and I went to take a look. One thing I wanted to see was longleaf pines, since I have become a fan.
This is what the forest looks like.
This and the other photos here were taken with my phone.
The part we saw was hilly and fairly open, with quite tall trees and relatively sparse undergrowth. It’s a mixed pine and hardwood forest, which is what we see on Lavender Mountain as well. But the pines in particular are significantly larger.
This is a big pine for our area. I estimated the height of a similar tree at 80 to 100 feet.
I think it’s possible to differentiate between a loblolly and a longleaf by the bark, but I can’t do it. I have to look up towards the crown to see the foliage. These pines are tall, and surrounded by hardwoods, so their crowns are not easy to see. But I was able to find one next to the path.
I don’t look happy, but I am. This longleaf is larger than the largest one I have seen on Lavender Mountain, and I think it’s significantly taller.
This is how hard it is to see the needles on these trees.
There are a lot of oaks and hickories in the Marshall Forest, but I saw very few chestnut oaks, which is the variety that seems most common around our house. The Nature Conservancy Web site says that there are chestnut oak stands here in addition to the pine-oak and mixed hardwood stands.
I wouldn’t expect this forest to be a particularly good environment for longleaf pines to survive, since they typically do not compete well with hardwoods or our other types of pines. The Nature Conservancy site says, “It is thought that periodic ice storms (like the 1993 blizzard) and fires open the canopy for pine growth, preventing domination by a single plant community.” We didn’t see many open areas, but we did see several very large downed trees, all of which were pines. They appear to have been uprooted fairly recently, probably by one of the strong storms we had a couple of months ago.
I wasn’t sure what to expect of the Marshall Forest, and I don’t think we saw enough for me to draw any conclusions about it. The part we saw looked similar to some parts of the forest on Lavender Mountain that have not been disturbed for a relatively long period. That was not too much of a surprise since the Marshall Forest is located at the base of Mount Alto, which is the same sort of environment we have on Lavender Mountain. Mount Alto is visible from our deck as the first long ridge visible to the east. I don’t think we saw any hardwoods that were noticeably larger than the hardwoods on Lavender Mountain, but the pines were definitely larger. The only place near here that I have seen loblollies that tall is along Redmond Road, which is the boundary between Berry College and the western part of Rome. I lived on Redmond Road until I was a teenager, and I can remember the very tall pines along that road. Most of those trees were removed when Redmond Regional Hospital and some other medical offices were built.
I think one possible indicator of the level of human disturbance to a forest is the presence of poison ivy. I am (or used to be) very sensitive to poison ivy, so I look carefully when I walk in the woods. There is a lot of poison ivy around our house, mostly at the edge of open areas like the roads, but I saw only one small plant in the Marshall Forest, next to the path. So that is one difference between the forests of Lavender Mountain and the Marshall Forest.
I want to see more of the forest, so I’ll be going back. We met two men and a dog on the trail, so I think it will be safe to bring Zeke with me the next time I go. And the next time I will make sure to put a memory card in the camera.
A dog has appeared at our house, apparently another victim of bad humans. He looks like a lab mix, but smaller. I guess he’s about 40 pounds, and probably under a year old. We already have enough animals, so we don’t want another (although I do want another doberman. Dobies are different.)
I think he would make a good pet. We have emailed a picture to a local pet rescuer, but they are full now. The last stray ended up in a transport to some place like Wisconsin, where apparently dogs and cats are valued more than they are here.
I look forward every year to the dogwood trees blooming. If you walk through the woods at the right time, dozens, or scores of flowering dogwoods are visible into the distance. The neat thing is that they usually bloom before the trees leaf out, so the forest is open and you can see fairly long distances. Once the dogwood blooms fade and the trees leaf out, the forest closes in, and there is no way to tell that there are so many dogwoods out there. But things seemed different this year. I don’t completely trust my memory about things like this, but a letter to Walter Reeves, who does a gardening and plant column in the Atlanta newspaper, confirmed my impression. The letter writer asked why the dogwoods bloomed so sparsely. Reeves didn’t know the answer, but, as he noted, neither drought nor a late freeze could explain it.
Here is a dogwood in our yard from 2008.
I was hoping for something like that this year, but this is what we got.
It’s pretty enough, but there are fewer blooms, and note how much foliage there is, not only on the dogwood itself, but also on the oak next to it. These photos are five years apart, so the trees have grown since, but the bare trunks are visible behind the dogwood in the 2008 photo.
This is a view from the north face of Lavender Mountain, looking into Little Texas Valley.
There are a few dogwoods in this photo, if you study it. In what I consider a normal year, they would stand out against a nearly leafless background.
It has been something of a disappointment, but apparently it’s natural, and not a sign of a significant problem. Maybe next year.