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Nature's Notebook

That wasn’t really snow …

November snow doesn’t count. Sometimes a cold rain that falls in the valley leaves a clean snowline halfway up the mountainside, and for a few hours the pines and oaks above that elevation are glazed with white. Or perhaps it comes on the kind of day when we say the sky looks like snow, as if the air itself were made of the stuff it carries, and soon enough flurries come wet and thick and melt on the pavement. We get to enjoy these outriders of the real winter, a guiltless pleasure that does not add inches to the annual tally.

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Put to bed

It’s more enjoyable to start the garden in the spring than to clean it up in autumn. 
In April there’s the expectation of things to come. In November, the knowledge of what you’ve managed to produce.
We had a good garden this year, earning a B+ or A. Peas didn’t do well, nor onions. Beans as usual surpassed themselves. Potatoes were fine, as was kale. Lettuce was so-so. 

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Ghost story

The scariest stories I know about our woods are seldom told around the campfire. There are waves of tree-killers advancing toward us, some that are already here and others — incipient invaders — that only vigilance at the point of introduction manages to contain. 
The free and global movement of goods and people makes new introductions inevitable. The forests of our future may well consist of hickories and red maples and not much else.

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Observant

I recently led a group of seventh-graders on a woodland hike, stressing, not speed, but awareness. Look around you, what do you see, what does it tell you about earlier activity? How does it give you a greater sense of your place?

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Autumn color: maybe in 2018

After last weekend, the latest in a string of autumn days with temperatures well above average, I looked at the drab, browning foliage and have decided it is time to call it for color this season. 
This will not play well with tourism boosters or those who are naturally inclined to be optimistic, but this year is a bust as far as fall leaves are concerned.  

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Some numbers

There are 3,135,360 acres in Connecticut. 
The highest point in the state is on the south side of Mount Frissell, in Salisbury: 2,380 feet above sea level.
The lowest point is on the coast near Long Island Sound: 0 feet.
There are 1,301,670 households in the state.
Forested Connecticut-owned land consists of 107 state parks (37,741 acres) and 32 state forests (169,394 acres). Plus unmeasured land beneath a canal and rail trail. And two fish hatcheries and 16 wildlife management areas, for which an acreage listing is elusive.

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Habitat networks as a conservation key

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Caillé au fromage

There’s a handful of thriving dairy farms in North Canaan, others are scattered around the Northwest Corner, but this can hardly be called farm country in comparison with the Eastern Townships of Quebec, around Sherbrooke and extending to Montreal.

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Potatoes

I dug the potato crop last month. It seemed early, but the tops drooped and browned, so I hoed out the underground nuggets. I only purchased three seed taters this year, cut them in half, got six plants and got modest results — better than the previous year.
I’ve stopped putting our yard mulch in the garden, as the soil was getting too dense. We’ve spread a bag or two of sand on part of the garden each spring  for the root vegetables. 
The last two years, the results were scabby and had insect bite marks. This year they were better.

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The puzzle of ‘native’ invasives

A number of years ago, I was part of a working group that developed criteria for determining whether a plant should be considered invasive or had the potential to become so in Massachusetts. 
Our assessment criteria considered whether a species had the biologic potential for rapid and widespread distribution and dispersal across spatial gaps in minimally managed habitats, but we only evaluated plants that were non-indigenous to Massachusetts. 
In other words, to be classified as invasive in the Commonwealth, a plant had to be non-native.

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