Monday, May 30, 2011

Vermont Peanut Butter Company

I was asked by some friends at Simple Nation, a web design company, to shoot product images for a new site they were creating.  I didn't have much experience in this field, but knew it would be a great learning opportunity.  After experimenting with indoor and outdoor lighting, perfecting focus and depth of field, and over consumption of tasty peanut butter, I sent off the photos for use on the new website.  The site went live recently and looks great.  Check out my photos, Simple Nations' beautiful web work, and great VT Peanut Butter at:

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Finding Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

We found this yawning garter snake staring at a second snake leaning against a log at Niquette Bay State Park.
Yesterday I spent most of the day driving south on Route 7 to Massachusetts. The rain didn't let up during the four hours I was on the road and continued on into the night. On days like these I make sure to find my way outside to explore. I pull on my rain pants and rain jacket, aim my feet at my bog boots and top it off with my baseball hat. Whether rain or shine the natural world is full of activity, especially in early spring. We'd like to share our discoveries with you. Enjoy the photographs below and be sure to get out and appreciate your area's own natural treasures.

Photo Locations: Niquette Bay State Park, Colchester, VT and Raven Ridge Natural Area, North Ferrisburgh, VT (the ridge is off limits and signed in the early spring for nesting ravens and bobcats, but the rest of the area is open to curious explorers).

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) possesses a root that exudes bright red sap resembling blood. Please don't pick. These spring ephemerals (short lived plants) inhabit mesic woodlands with rich soils. Native Americans called it "Puccoon" and used is as red dye.
Sharp-lobed hepatica (Hepatica acutiloba) is tolerant of poor (acidic) and rich (alkaline) soils. According to the "Doctrine of Signatures" it was used for liver ailments and over 400,000 pounds of the herb was used in 1883. The Doctrine of Signatures held that plants resembling body parts could cure ailments associated with those organs.
Trout lily (Erythronium americanum) has green mottled leaves that are one of the first to pop up from underneath the duff layer in the early spring. This red and black beetle may be a pollinator for the plant (we are working on the beetle ID) that produces its nectar at the base of its yellow tepals.
We came upon these two wood frogs (Rana sylvatica) mating uphill from a large linear vernal pool blending in well with the organic matter bordering the walking path. Jim marked them with a few sticks to keep them safe from unsuspecting hikers.
This is the early first stage of the cedar-apple rust fungus. The fungus is found on eastern red cedar trees and during early spring after a rain, gelatinous fingers sprout out from the holes like tentacles. They release spores which can travel up to six miles and land on shrubs or trees in the Rosaceae family such as apples, hawthorne, and serviceberry (see photo below). The fungus then starts the second half of its life cycle which appears as colorful dots on the leaves of the host.
Serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.), or shadbush is one of the first flowering native shrubs of the spring season. You'll notice them flowering on the wooded borders of the highway if they haven't been out-competed by honeysuckles. Their dark blue berries are edible.
My favorite part about rainy days is the increased chance of seeing traveling amphibians. This tiny red eft is traveling through the moist woodland probably to find food and a new water source.
Here are the unfurling fronds of the evergreen Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides). They are found in moist woodland habitats in the eastern United States.

Thanks for following us on our adventure!