May 1st
By now Pete has split all the wood we cut for next winter, and after stacking it and taking into account last year's leftovers, we've come up a little shy of the two full cords we like to have on hand. Rather than cut another tree, we might scavenge some from along the creek bank and roadsides. Both the local power company and the highway department periodically clear the brush, branches and small trees from along the powerlines and roadways. Sometimes this includes some fairly good sized trees. The branches and brush they usually put through the shredder, leaving only piles of sawdust and woodchips. Some of the larger logs, however, they leave whole by the roadside to rot. These are the ones we are looking for.

A few miles down the Hadley Road we spotted two good hardwood lengths and stopped to pick them up. They were both too large to fit in the trunk of the car, and too heavy to lift as well. Disappointed, I began looking around for some smaller logs or branches as a consolation prize. Pete had already gotten back in the car and started the engine when I hit the jackpot. Blooming amidst the rocks and leaf litter I spotted the elusive Dutchman's Breeches. This is a plant I have seen for years in every identification guide and wildflower book I have looked at, and until this very minute had never seen it in the wild. I believe I actually shrieked.

Pete must have thought I got bit by a snake or something, as he leaped out of the car to my rescue. “What is it?”

“Dutchman's Breeches,” I said.

I had, as far as I could see, little choice but to stay put and record this delightful plant right then and there in my sketch book, which luckily I had on the front seat. Pete had a library book on hand as well for just such anticipated occasions.

Dutchman's Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) is a distinctive and most attractive plant apparently common in the woods throughout the Northeast. The bright white bloomer-shaped flowers with yellow waist bands hang delicately in a neat little row upside down from the fragile arched stem looking much like a petite wood elf or perhaps an enterprising Victorian salamander had just hung out her undergarments for a day's drying in the sun. Two long-stalked leaves flank the sides of our lady's wash line with the most finely cut blue-green compound leaves imaginable. The leaf and flower stalks are both pink.

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