i woke up at 10am this morning, still not having decided where i'd be going today to get my nature on. i had cereal for breakfast, then went about plants all my vegetables including the 4 clay pots julie let me borrow. there's something satisfying about working with dirt. the basil and the cilantro into the 2 blue glazed ceramic pots, the peppers into the 3 medium clay pots i bought from home depot on wednesday, the tomatoes into julie's large clay pots, with the parsleys going into the plastic trough. for each i put down about 2/3 miracle grow dirt (leftover from my father's, it contains time release fertilizing capsules) with the rest being topsoil. i ran out of miracle grow by the time i worked on the parsley so i used the bag of composted dirt i bought on wednesday (the good stuff julie raved about after she used up her whole bag). after watering everything, i admired my handy work. i wonder how long it's going to take before squirrels dig up my vegetables though, like they did with my moonflowers. they can't resist the dirt, when they see the stuff it triggers their natural instinct to dig. but biting all my moonflower seedlings was just downright mean. my private war with squirrels is back on again.
by that time i had decided i'd be going to the oxbow national wildlife refuge. i first discovered it last night, when i saw it mentioned in the back of my new england regional audubon field guide as a recommended place to visit. according to the refuge website, oxbow "consists of approximately 1,667 acres of upland, southern new england flood-plain forest, and wetland communities along nearly 8 miles of the nashua river corridor." though no direct mention of it, it seemed like the ideal place to spot efts.
the weather however was only partially cooperative. the day was definitely wet, it had rained last night (thunderstorms), and the sky was still cloudy, with the possibility of more showers. that part's fine, efts are most likely to appear after a rainstorm. what didn't help though was the temperature, barely peeking above 50 degrees, a surprising cold snap. i decided to take my chances and go anyway, so i took the 25 minute walk down to the cafe to borrow my parents' toyota camry.
oxbow is pretty easy to get to, about 30 miles outside of boston, just follow route 2 until you get to harvard, massachusetts (exit 38B). driving the camry was a pleasure, with its v6 engine it's got some kick and accelerates effortlessly (i drove the ford explorer last weekend, it feels like a jalopy compared to the camry). without thinking about it, you could easily hit 100 mph with just a gentle tap of the gas pedal.
when i finally got to oxbow, i had to cross a train track, then followed a dirt road. it seemed kind of sketchy, but there were well-marked signs, so the place was legitimate at least. the parking lot was competely empty. on a cold wet day, not many people want to come out and do some naturing. the first thing i did when i got out of the car was to cover myself with bug spray. having learned my lesson the hard way last weekend, i didn't want a repeat performance, even though i was thinking there wouldn't be any mosquitoes around because of the wet weather. nevertheless, better safe than sorry, so i sprayed my arms, my hands, my neck, my face, and even the top of my head. with that done, i marked my location with the gps. once again, it's one of those lessons learned the hard way. with that taken care of, i picked up a trail map from the box below the welcome sign and went into the refuge.
much of oxbow is just wild, no trails. as a matter of fact, it's even open to hunting, small games like turkey, pheasants, rabbits, and squirrels, which i didn't realize until after i left the place. there is however a small 2 mile looping trail that follows the nashua river then into the forest (crossing several small ponds) and back around on a service road. the place seemed ideal for amphibian life with all its swamp lands, but maybe the weather was too cold, or maybe it's still early in the season, but i didn't see as much wildlife as i thought i would. what was abundant were the mosquitoes. it's been a while since i've encountered this many mosquitoes, and it would've been suicide if i went into the forest without spraying. they couldn't land on me long enough to get a bite, so instead they'd park on my clothes, waiting for the bug repellent to wear off. i'm happy to report that i didn't receive a single mosquito bite except for one on my back when i bent over to take a photo, revealing a bit of naked flesh that one lucky mosquito took advantage of (i tucked in my shirt after that point). i think on a warmer day, in a matter of weeks, there place will be teeming with life. but this cold and wet saturday seemed to be lacking in activity. i did see what appeared to be a beaver or a muskrat, i couldn't tell. it swam like a beaver, with only its head peeking out of the water, but when it saw me it dove into the river like a muskrat, very panicked and with a big splash. there was a beaver lodge along the trail, not sure if it was still in use or not. i also saw a great blue heron, i probably scared it just as much as it scared me as it suddenly flew out from some tall grass where it was resting.
grabbing some thai with eliza and seeing coffee and cigarettes in harvard square (also: showing her my magical shoelaces):
late night flan factory: