Phil Lamontagne’s 7-minute video shows us a potter wasp’s craft in building a nest from tiny balls of mud it brings to a plant stem. The video periodically advances to show all stages of the process. Note the intricate opening to the nest the wasp shapes toward the end.
The Jonah Center has long envisioned what major landscape art installations would do for our community. Below are some examples to stir your imagination. (Clockwise from upper left: Face of the Earth by Vito Acconci at Laumeier Sculpture Park in St. Louis, MO; Wave Field by Maya Lin at Storm King Art Center in New Windsor, NY; Low Building With Dirt Roof by Alice Aycock at Storm King; Ball Made From Sticks by Strijdom van der Merwe, Stellenbosch, South Africa.)
During the 2022-23 academic year, Wesleyan film students under the leadership of Professor Sadia Queraeshi Shepard produced a short documentary film, The Pameacha Problem, on the citizen campaign to save the pond. The City of Middletown had been planning to turn the pond into a stream and wetland area by removing the deteriorating dam. The film is a good example of using the aesthetic tool of film to tell the story. The film may be viewed here. An article about the film in the Middletown Press can be viewed here. The Jonah Center was instrumental is getting the students interested in this community issue.
Is this adorable bunny, enjoying a feast of plantain, a New England Cottontail or an Eastern Cottontail? If you can tell which, let us know. Notice the ear action. Thank you, Phil LeMontagne, for providing this closeup video to our viewers.
Beavers are wary of humans, so they are not easy to observe in the wild. But of course there are other ways to get acquainted with our non-human neighbors. Local wildlife photographer Phil LeMontagne shared with us this video taken last winter during one of his hikes in the Maromas section of Middletown.
Local artist Nanette Albright Fresher’s paintings are on exhibit at The Buttonwood Tree Performing Arts Center, 602 Main Street in Middletown. Below are some of her paintings that capture the spirit of some familiar scenes. Gallery hours at the Buttonwood Tree in December are; Sunday 12/18, Friday 12/23, Monday 12/26, or Tuesday 12/27 from 1 to 4 p.m.
The locations are listed at the bottom of this post. Some other paintings in the Buttonwood Tree show can be viewed on the Buttonwood’s website here.
Our Alive Outside initiative features articles, stories, and artwork that help us connect with the world outside. Thanks to Jim Fellows for arranging this piece by local gardener and environmental advocate, Elisabeth Holder.
When I was in high school, I worked for an Englishman named Mr. Follet who’d retired from running a nursery in my hometown. My main job was helping this 86 year old man keep up with the weeding, but he took some time every day to teach me something. Some of the lessons that I’ve retained for the last 5 decades were to “know the weed” before you pull it, always take good care of your tools, and sharpen them frequently so they cut easily and cleanly.
I plant most of my vegetables in raised beds, but grow onions, garlic, and rhubarb in well-mulched areas at ground level. They seem particular about having good juicy soil and lots of mulch, but they don’t need as much care as some of the others.
I divided 4 of my mother’s spindly rhubarb plants in 1992, expecting to get about 8-10 new plants. I ended up with 20 and have been dividing and replenishing them ever since. There must be over 100 progeny planted now, from upstate New York to Massachusetts. This shows the refurbishment of the bed around 2014, involving the dividing and replanting of the plants with spindly stalks, adding lots of compost, but leaving the strongest plants alone. Vigilant 60-pound hound dog for scale.
Tend your compost piles, treasure your autumn leaves, and hope for a good snow cover to insulate the precious roots. And, most of all, enjoy the company of the creatures all around — the catbird that watches intently to see what I will dig up, the chipmunk that dashes away with a giant June bug grub in its mouth, and the bluebird that just seems to find me amusing.
The Jonah Center recently became aware of the artwork of Steve Cronkite, a longtime Middletown resident and artist. Steve is a semi-retired civil engineer who enjoys biking and paddling in our area. He and his husband Paul love to grow interesting trees and shrubs in their yard. Steve volunteers as a literacy tutor and is curating a new pinetum at Wickham Park in Manchester. Other paintings by Steve may be viewed on his Instagram page @s.n.cronkite_art . (The pinetum, an aboretum of pines or conifers generally, may be viewed on Instagram @wickham_park_tree_fan.)
The paintings below help us appreciate the special beauty in our own corner of the world. Do you know the scenes or locations featured below? Answers can be found at the bottom of this post.
Where is this paddler? What bridge is shown, from which direction?
What is the name of this hill, and where was the artist standing?
Can you guess what kind of tree this is, and where do these trees grow locally in abundance?
This type of tree is large and rugged. It thrives in an urban environment, even under harsh conditions.
- “Coginchaug Paddle” — on the Coginchaug River approaching the railroad bridge near the kayak and canoe launch from upstream.
- “Higby Nightscape” — Mt. Higby viewed from the Country Club Road bridge over Interstate 91.
- “Moondance” — Cottonwood Tree, common near the mouth of the Mattabesset River and on Wilcox Island
- “Sycamore” — Sycamores and their related hybrid species, London plane trees, are common in our area.
Answers, clockwise from upper left:
Green Wheat Fields, by Vincent Van Gogh; Uferlandschaft, by Paul Cezanne; Breton Landscape by Paul Gauguin; and Path in the Wheat at Pourville, by Claude Monet.
I’ve often wondered about espaliered trees, and they even figured in a short piece of fiction I once wrote. Espalier is the art of training dwarf trees to grow in a flat plane along a wall, fence, or trellis. They create an atmosphere of mystery, wonder, and an evocation of some kind of Garden of Eden. I’ve stopped to admire them at botanical gardens and occasionally at Ballek’s nursery in East Haddam. Because we see them in famous gardens, we tend to think of them as expensive or unattainable, as something no longer possible. As you will learn, you can easily grow an espaliered fruit tree for under $20 (under $30 if you choose a tree with four different types of apple or pear bearing branches) but you’ll need some simple hardware that might cost another $15. Or, you could just use bamboo, the way growers do. You will likely have fruit much sooner. I never bought an espaliered fruit tree from a nursery, but I did buy a very tiny birch that Nancy Ballek had pruned on dwarf rootstock that was highly contorted. Sixteen years later it is still 30” tall and about 40” wide. That demonstrates the power of dwarf rootstock. And that is the secret of espalier. Continue reading