Now that spring has truly finally sprung, my phenology place has as well. While it is not in its full vibrancy, you can see the beginnings appearing. Underneath the leaf litter there are small, green, leafy plants poking through. The buds on a few of the trees are beginning to appear more colorful, though many of the trees in my place are evergreens. The most notable change is that the stream that flows through my place has melted and been flowing full force once again and that the birds are back. While I was not able to spot any birds, their calls were a welcome reminder of the warm weather and greenery ahead.
Nature and culture are inextricable in my place. As a natural area that is open to the public, it is a place where people can come and truly experience and appreciate nature. Historically it has been developed either for agriculture or recreation purposes. There are walking paths that pass by close to it, so humans and their animals often interact with the landscape there. It also provides a valuable place of learning for students like myself.
I do not think I consider myself a part of my place. I more generally consider myself a part of Burlington and a part of Vermont because of the time I have spent here, but it is not my home place. Centennial Woods itself was just a neat place for me to visit and observe, and I have not grown a strong emotional attachment to it. I was not able to spend enough time there and did not have a significant event happen there, which are things that tie most people to place.
My place over Spring Break is my backyard at home. Since I live in a city, especially in the winter, it is hard to find somewhere in nature where there is a lot of nature that I can spend time in. The area where my house is in is a neighborhood of Boston called Roslindale. The name comes from a Scottish town named “Roslin” and the fact that the area is surrounded by hills creating a “dale”. I live on top of one of those hills! My place does not have a lot of specific history because it is such a small place. In general, most of downtown Boston was built on top of landfill, so earlier in time my home was actually pretty close to being coastal property. The hills that are here were probably carved out by the retreating glaciers. The area used to be a railcar hub for the area, and there are remnants of that history in a nearby station that has the end of the railways for Boston currently.
For my place in particular it was probably at one time heavily forested. Up and down my street there are some very large, old trees that have been built around, probably at least 100 years old for some of them. My house itself is 100 years old, so I know that the area was developed at least a hundred years ago. However, when my house was built it was the only house in the area and what was once its carriage house is now a house across the street. The soil is pretty rocky and not fertile (we have tried many times to plant in it).
Unfortunately, in all the time I spent outside (the time from sunset to when i got dark), I did not see any wildlife besides my cat and some squirrels. I was listening for birds but did not hear any, however I do know that there are birds in the neighborhood. Mostly, I hear them and do not see them. The other day when I was shoveling I heard an owl hoot and in the mornings there are usually birds. The only woody plants in my area were some shrubs that we keep (I have attached pictures). They seemed to be budding, probably because of the warm streak that happened before the winter storm. I broke into one and saw the inside was still green, so it was alive. There are a couple of trees in the yard behind mine, so I was able to look at them but not up close. They had lost their leaves, but their bark seemed unscathed so they were in good condition.
Since my last visit, things have certainly changed. There is now snow on the ground, the deciduous trees have shed their leaves, and many of the plants are gone, dead, or covered by snow. One of the happiest changes for me is the lack of bugs at my place, as before since it was so close to a stream, there more than a few. The stream itself was pretty frozen, and the sand/dirt on its banks was much harder as well.
Thankfully, there had just been snowfall the day previously before my visit. Unfortunately, it had snowed through the night so there weren’t many tracks and most of the forest floor where there would be twigs and leaves and other, older tracks were covered as well. The snow coverage was surprisingly light for such a mostly sheltered area, but underneath a lot of it there was a layer of ice that made walking quite treacherous.
From my observations, the tracks that I found exclusively at my site were dog and human tracks. It makes sense because the snowfall would have covered many of the nocturnal animals tracks, and my place is right near the main path of Centennial. I have included pictures of what I assume to be dog tracks. I thought they were dog tracks because of the messy and dragging pattern that they have which Walter said that dogs have most of the time because they’re so excited and happy. Some of the tracks also had some defined prints that I believe looked like dog.
I did find a mystery print, but I have a sneaking suspicion it is dog as well. The thing that threw me off was the odd shape of the print in the snow, it doesn’t look like any print I could think of because it seems that there are two pads or a very large middle toe or something.
Since my area didn’t have many trees to begin with, it was hard to find a bud. I did find a young tree that was small enough I could examine a bud.
While I cannot pinpoint the history of my spot exactly, there is abundant documentation about the history of the land on which Centennial Woods is now located. In my spot in particular it easy to notice the sandy soils, especially around the stream. This is because the hill behind my spot is actually a large sandy deposit left by the retreating glaciers. The retreating glaciers left the sand as well as some of the noticeably larger rocks that are in my stream. Continuing on, around three to four thousand years ago there was Native American settlement. This was discovered in 1998 by UVM students who found evidence of Native American tool making such as stone flakes, stone tools themselves, and even a spear. It is likely that there was Abenaki settlement in that particular area because it is located along Centennial Brook, which would have provided a water source. It is hard to find the deeds, but maps of land ownership show that the land was indeed owned by different men (naturally) by the late 1890s.
Going forward, there is a UVM pamphlet that points out that the land near the stream on the trail, what they refer to as “the overlook” was owned by Fred Fiske, a former UVM student who used the land for agriculture. The abundance of white pine in the area, as well as some barbed wire found in various places around the woods, are good markers of how this land was probably previously cleared and then used for farming or pasture. There are also rumors that the Green Mountain Boys, a militia that was active in the area, used the land to train.
Coming closer into the future, the area used to be home to the South Burlington Kiwanis Ski Area. The ski area opened in 1962 according to “The History of South Burlington Vermont 1865-1965” but closed down for the 1967 season and never reopened again because of a fire lit by arsonists. The area was small, consisting of only a 500 foot rope tow, however it had the potential to have led to disturbances in my area of the woods.
The University of Vermont had been acquiring the parcels of land that now make up Centennial Woods from 1891-1965. In the late 1990s, in conjunction with the Vermont Land Trust, UVM made the land a protected natural area that is meant to be undeveloped in perpetuity.
While my two places are quite different, they have more similarities than one might think. The first is located within a forested park, off the beaten path, with little interaction with people. The second is a backyard in a bustling city where any number of people and urban factors could interact with it. The first has a stream running through it, leading to the creation of wetlands. There’s also a greater variety of plant life, from the trees to the shrubs and the ferns. This is in stark contrast to my backyard, where there is grass, some old vegetables, and a few hedges. However, it seems that my backyard has more wildlife than my Burlington spot. In my backyard I saw a wren, a blue jay, my neighbor’s cat, and a squirrel. In all my time in my Burlington spot I am yet to see wildlife, though I have heard some birds.
As I walk through my backyard I cannot help but wonder what was once here. The allotment we have for our yard is barren of most life besides some grass. Nuts are scattered along the ground, broken open by a smokey grey squirrel. The grass is beginning to yellow under the weight of the brown, crunchy leaves. I notice a thin, frail oak leaf. I wonder where its tree is. There are not many trees left here, they were cut down hundreds of years ago. Some were replanted, most were not. I more often see the birds and the squirrels nesting and playing on telephone and electrical poles than branches and trunks. While the man-made poles rises into the sky, seemingly challenging all the houses in its vicinity, I can’t help but wonder why the animals prefer this foreign object to their natural homes. While I sit on the stone wall that my father built, I ponder whether I could have once seen deer strolling through my yard, a story I hear often from my friends in suburbia. Could a deer have pranced up my hill and laid among some trees or a meadow where my house now stands? Would the leaves continue to crunch the same way under their hooves as it does under my feet? Would they nibble on the nuts as voraciously as the raccoons do? I will never know.
My place during break is my backyard. Living in a city makes it hard to find a spot that has little human interaction, so I decided on my backyard because it is a place of greenery that is relatively undisturbed and I can easily access.
Here is the link to my place during Thanksgiving break: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1KT0zhW40CwF9BPO8Atp1Jv14BUfjhpRj&usp=sharing
Now that fall has truly arrived, my place has become more vibrant, though no less lively. The leaves of the coniferous trees are changing color, in some hues of orange, yellow, and red, but not with the usual beauty that’s associated with a New England fall, more of a drab, muted tone. The brook has more pine and maple leaves within it. The grasses in the wetland are beginning to yellow and become brittle and dead, however they weren’t very healthy to begin with. During my expedition I did not encounter much wildlife. There was the occasional, unidentifiable rustle of leaves and caw of birds. I did see a chipmunk race across the forest floor from behind me. The most prominent and abundant wildlife was no doubt the insects. Especially within the eroded edges of the brook there were hundreds of midges, flies, and mosquitoes. There was though, a noted absence of the ladybugs that I have been seeing all over campus. The overall look of my place has not changed, unless you count the mild change in foliage color and the beginning of the decay that the cold brings.
I have attached some sketches of a map that I did of my place. There aren’t many woody plants in my area, so most of the empty space is dominated by dirt, grasses, and ferns. I tried to mark the inclines that surround my place using longitudinal lines (grey in the colored picture) and any notable, distinguishing factors of my place. It’s a bit childish and rudimentary as far as maps go, but I believe (and hope) it gets the job done.