Winter 2002
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                                                                           Winter 2002



Sharing the forest with the spirits today,

In the milky sunshine of Winterís way,

Like vapors rising from a sunbaked road,

With unspoken words the past is told,

With but a hint yesterday revealed,

A momentary connection of a time that is sealed,

In the hungry wind-pushed birds that sail,

And the crow induced flicker of a hunting squirrelís tail,                                    

And the usually hidden whitetailís lair,

Exposed by sleeping leaves and green briars bare,

If their voices were louder, perhaps they might say,

ďTake a look at what is happening to earth todayĒ.

As eyes become focused on the land in despair,

It slowly decays from wont of care,

So many distractions from which to choose,

Such a precious thing for man to lose,

And as I sit against a tree the vision disappears,

And the diesels are running, validating my fears,

And commercials keep coming at every turn,

Money to be made and money to burn,

For it is our evolution to forget the past,

And the release the hand of natureís grasp,

But our spirits are the ones paying the cost,

As things that are pure are slowly lost,

Replaced by wantings of needy ideals,

With few words left to slow the wheels,

And if I had but one dream, one idea, one wish,

The litter of life would not line the ditch,

And thought would be given to our every move

The concerns of profit, I would surely remove,

And the hands of man would be placed on the ground,

To feel the musky moisture and the dirt that is found

To permeate the soul of wayward thought,

From the path in which our lives are caught,

To know each creature as a sister or brother,

And never forsake our life giving Earth Mother,

For I shared the forest with the spirits today, In the milky sunshine of Winterís way.


                        ------ Nighthawk





Towards the end of winter we look forward to enjoying the spring landscape and the forest of urban trees as the buds start to swell and the leaves poke through.  It is time to freshen up the mulch rings around our trees and re-mulch those shrub and perennial beds.

            As previously stated composted wood chip mulch is best to help hold the late winter and spring moisture in the soil and hold at bay, as long as possible, the drying and cracking of soil that comes with summer draught.

              It is time to start or continue a tree fertilization program.  Remember:  when you take the tree out of the native forest and place it in the disturbed soils of our subdivisions and cities, you have removed it from its natural source of sustainable nutrition.  This is the nutrient base that includes leaves and other plant parts that have decomposed and incorporated with the mineral content of the soil to create fertile topsoil.  Mulching is a good first step in recreating this condition but additional input of organic based nutrients may also be needed to help trees stay healthy. 

            Are you contemplating planting some new trees?  Let me give you a few tips that will contribute to the establishment of the new transplants:

Good drainage is essential and one of the biggest challenges to providing ideal growing condition especially in compacted clay soils. You can test drainage by digging the planting hole filling with water and seeing how long it takes to drain.  If it takes more than an hour, you should create an active drainage path using drain tile or a French drain using peagravel in a channel.

Donít plant too deep.  The single most common problem I observe in newly planted trees is that the tree was planted deeper than the edges of the planting hole and then back filled flush.  Keep the top of the root ball at or slightly above the average grade of the planting hole.  Never put more than a half inch of loose soil on top of the root ball (if youíre mulching as you should be you donít need any soil on the very top of a balled and burlapped tree)

            Dig the hole extra wide.  The more loose soil you give the tree to the sides of root ball the better.  Make the hole at least 6Ē wider than the ball; 12Ē is even better.

            Watering is very important.  Make sure the water goes down and doesnít just run off the surface.  The best procedure when planting is to get the tree set   and straightened while firming in two thirds of the backfill.  Then water.  When the water has drained, finish backfilling and create a small berm or dike on the outside of the hole so that the water goes down. Then water again.  You can keep this berm around the tree for a year or so or until the plant gets established and then rake it out.  Also a note about you backfill soil: if your native soil is friable and loose, do not amend it, if it comes out in chunks the size of eggs or larger you must pulverize it with a tiller, amend it with peat or completely replace with high quality topsoil.

            The time to plan new planting is in the winter months so youíre ready to go in the spring.  Plant Selection: It is important to choose a tree or plant that is suitable to a site.  Impulsive buying at garden centers can cause a lot grief in the form of wasted time and money in the long run.  Garden centers get in plants that attract the eye but are not necessarily suited for your site.  In addition, certain plants that are sold every year in abundance are susceptible to insect and or disease problems that will cause plant decline practically from the day you plant them

            Here are a few plants to avoid: Purple leaf plum is extremely susceptible to borers. Austrian pine and Scotch pine are also susceptible to borers and fungus problems.  Blue Spruce is under attack by two fungus problems. Of course, it is important to remember that any plants will be less susceptible to potential problems if nurtured with all the aforementioned cultural practices.

            For evergreen trees Norway spruce is a better choice than blue spruce.  If you  have sandy loam soil and wind protection Concolor Fir is even better.  For shade trees I recommend chinquapin oak,  sugar maple and blue ash or perhaps gingko.  For ornamental trees you might want to try serviceberry, fringe tree or redbud. Donít forget that for every species and variety no matter how highly recommended there is a potential pest problem.  Provide your trees with growing condition in which they can thrive to minimize problems.

            Trees should be pruned, if possible, during the winter months.  Most people think the best time to prune is spring and fall because of more pleasant weather, but that is not the case.  Remember:  proper pruning can help a tree to be healthier, safer and can increase life expectancy, conversely, improper pruning can shorten life expectancy and create hazardous conditions.

            We can all take great pleasure in the many varieties of trees that grow in

Kankakee County.  Learning to identify both the native trees and those you see

planted in various landscapes can be quite interesting.

            Rob Frothingham

            Certified Arborist

            Landscape Architect





            It was a bitter night in winter, when the very stars seemed frozen and ready to crack out of the sky like ice cubes from a tray.  The earth lay under a blanket of snow, silent and slumbering.  The air was thick with that which had not yet fallen to the ground, drifting slowly and heavily downward.  All was silent and cold.  That night, I suffered my own winter within. 

            We all fight the endless battle of young idealism versus old skepticism.  Teenagers and parents are on the front lines of this vicious form of trench warfare, and the battles can be merciless.   The trouble is both sides are always right in a way, but neither can see the othersí truth.

            Looking back, I canít remember what the specifics of this episode were, but I remember well the feelings of being angry, helpless, torn, and empty.  Broken; and left to seek refuge in the tatters of my soul.  Pen and pad, usually a swift balm upon my wounds, could not fill the emptiness, nor could crying, nor screaming.  In those dragging hours, I could find nothing to comfort me, and pain kept burning em away.  It felt as though my bright dreams for the future had been smothered by my parentsí irrational fear for safety and security.  It was always this fear that was their impetus Ė it was never with malice, nor hatred, and rarely because of disappointment that they checked me.  I think they feared that any path I chose for myself that they were unsure of would bring us all pain.  In what way, I did not understand.  I was empty.

That night, my dreams were as dead as Nietzscheís God was, or so I thought.  Like a broken spirit with nothing more to lose, I felt no more limits inside of me.  So out the window I went, and stole silently off into the night.

            The darkness was alive that frosty night, as my feet took me away.  My mind followed numbly, and my spirit led her softly down the silent, snow-covered street.  Past darkened windows, snow-covered cars, and through pools of cold light from the humming street lamps.  It was that silent time of night when the world seems to have forgotten that humans exist, and the wild things are beginning to move in the shadows.  With the newfound silence of my mind, a deeper part of me was awakening and becoming aware of the energy around me, while the last remnants of consciousness struggled to stay in control.  I stumbled along the broken, icy pavement, disoriented, with one foot in each world.

            Inner vision drew me away from the street and into the trees.  Silent trees Ö but the trees were not silent, that night.  They spoke softly in spiritís tongue Ė and my spirit understood.  I became trapped in a strange sort of inner duality Ė my soul lightened and knew that I was among friends, but my mind stubbornly clung to outer fear.  Forces were moving that were beyond me, and I was beginning to sense them, and to sense also that this is the order of things in the larger world.  These powerful forces awakened a feverish excitement in my spirit, as if I had awakened at last to a truth that had been there all along, simply hidden from view.  And yet I had been raised in a culture that denied the power of these ancient interconnective forces, a culture that fights for control of everything and has won only the illusion thereof.  Meanwhile, nature whispered to me.  I walked on.

            When I saw her, I knew why I had been drawn this way.  My inner conflict faded away like morning mist under the sunís first rays.  When I saw her, standing proudly in her ancient, chiseled beauty, I knew her.  She seemed to beckon to me, and I felt suddenly like a small child being called into motherís arms.  Numb with wonder, I gently laid my hand upon her roughness, and instantly felt her energy pouring through the contact and into my emptiness.  She gave it gladly, for now I too was aware of the vast energy web of which we are all a thread, and could easily call the energy into myself.  It was an almost instantaneous revelation.  In a moment both hands and both feet were upon the tree, exploring her skin, and tears were falling from my eyes.

            I climbed high and looked out upon the night. The forest that I had thought silent was in fact alive with animals moving, and spirit flickering through everything. In this tree, one of thousands, I settled into a nook between two branches and leaned into the security of her trunk.  My eyes followed the glowing moon as it gently slid across the dark expanse.  I noticed then that the sky is not actually back, but a deep, calm blue.   Darker than the deepest ocean, and just as timeless.  That peaceful night in natureís arms, I came to know many things. 

            The forest was bathed in silver light. The stars shone out of the blue night sky like moonbeams reflected on the oceanís waves Ö and suddenly I realized that they no longer seemed frozen, and at the same time my future no longer seemed hopeless.  My dreams had been rekindled by the love that nature gave me, as a creature of her own, as I rested in the arms of her ancient messenger. The tree became my grandmother that night.  And although the night was bitter, and I was lightly clad, not once in those hours did I feel cold.  As the moon finished her journey, and pink dawn touched the sky, love kept me warm.

            ------  Liz McKinney





The Wye Oak                   


On the Eastern Shore of Maryland

Is the largest white oak in the world

After 600 years itís 20í through

I visit this tree when I visit the girls

My sisters, that is, they live near by

The old Wye Mill

Where this white oak shades an acre or two

With majestic limbs that thrill

Which are braced with a hundred steel cables

To prevent breaking from their own shear weight

Thank God this tree is under the protection

Of the Old Line State

Where many champions of their species grow

And where I myself grew up

Walking the streams and the hills and the forest

With my beagle pup


Or riding my pony on dear paths under dozens

Of species of trees

Which touched my soul in a permanent way

(forgive my rambling, please)

But those trees and others have saved me

From a life of a different kind

So I pay them homage as oftí as I can

I hope that you that you donít mind.


            ---------   Rob Frothingham









Ondatra zibethicus

Order: Rodentia

Family:Cricetiae (New World rats and mice)

            Muskrat tracks have five toes on the front feet, but the small inner toes often leave no print.  The hind foot track is more distinctive than the front, with the stiff webbing of hair between toes often showing.  About four pounds in size, the muskratís diet is aquatic vegetation with occasional shellfish and small aquatic animals.  It is a large brown rat, which has a vole-like appearance, a rudderlike scaly tail and partially webbed hind feet.  They are mainly nocturnal, living in riverbank burrows or constructed lodges whose entrances are always underwater.




Didelphis  virginiana

Order: Marsupialia (pouched animals)

Family: Didelphiidae

            Opossum habitat includes woodlands and adjoining areas, farmlands, commonly near humans.  They tend to remain near streams and lakes. 

            Its tracks are distinctive because of the opposable hind thumb, which usually points 90 degrees or more away from the direction of travel, and the five front toes spread widely.  Like raccoons, opossums leave tracks in a row of pairs; each row consisting of one front and one rear print which are close or slightly overlapping.  The possumís long tail often leaves a drag mark.


Woodchuck (Groundhog, Marmot)

Marmota monax

Order: Rodentia

Family: Sciuridae (squirrels)

            Woodchuck tracks are not usually found until early spring, as they hibernate in deep winter.  They are found in open woods, meadows, fields, pastureland, brushy, rocky ravines, and along stream banks.  Their diet is almost any tender, succulent vegetation. 

            Short legged, pudgy and square-faced, they will stroll along highway shoulders seemingly unconcerned with the noise and clatter flying by. Their dens are extensive, with two or more entrances.  Active during the day, they are not particularly shy of human activity.  If they arenít snacking on highway or lawn grasses, they may wander streambanks seeking succulent plants. 




Procyon lotor

Order: Carnivora (flesh eating mammals)

Family: Procyonidae (raccoons, ringtails, and coatis)

            Raccoons love the water, and leaves tracks in the soft mud of banks while foraging or washing its food.  Most of their food comes from aquatic prospecting, but will include birdsí eggs, berries, picnic leavings, and the contents of your garbage can and food from the catís dish. Its left rear foot is placed next to the right front foot, forming paired track clusters. 


Reference: Animal Tracks of the Great Lakes States, by Chris Stall



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last updated on August 26, 2013