A Morning Walk Into The Bog

After tending to the sheep, I took a little walk in the bog. I love how the dew settles into that natural depression and creates a silken drapery over many of the plants. In the early morning, the bog still feels silent and still, though you can easily detect the night time activity that has passed through. Deer trails criss-cross through the spongy sphagnum moss that carpets the entire area. A fox leaves gentle footprints along the shore. Spiders have crafted their delicate webs among the branches of the larch. There’s a lot to investigate…the Labrador tea, the cranberry, the tawny cotton grass, Rhodora canadense, and so much more. Such an abundance of plant and animal diversity! You can read more about the different types of bogs and how they are formed here: https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/bog/
Do you ever have the chance to wander into a boggy area to investigate the unique habitat it provides? There are plenty of bogs in Maine to explore, many that have public access and often providing boardwalks that have been built above the sphagnum to protect the plants growing there. Bogs are fairly delicate habitats so there are some thoughtful guidelines to practice while exploring them. The bog that is close to us is not a public bog and we are very careful to walk primarily along the edge (slightly elevated from the bog itself) and occasionally along the deer paths that travel through it.
There is a bog open to visitors located in Orono and you can find information here: https://umaine.edu/oronobogwalk/bog-faqs/
Our own little bog is a canvas of red, gold, and orange hues at the moment and will continue to intensify as we head towards winter. Really beautiful. Here are a few photos from my morning excursion…

Gathering In The Bog

Tawny Cotton Grass Eriophorum virginicum

Tawny Cotton Grass
Eriophorum virginicum

Bogs are one of our favorite habitats. We are lucky to have several nearby, and we love to walk down to explore them. The closest is only 1/4 of a mile down from the edge of our woods. This time of year I go to harvest some of the wild cranberries (Vaccinium oxycoccos) that are growing there. I’ll use the cranberries in a sauce to can for the holidays and freeze some as well. I love squatting down among the now crimson red sphagnum moss (Sphagnum rubellum), the rhodora (Rhododendron canadense), and larches ( Larix laricina), to fill a small basket with the tart berries. I also love feeling the satisfaction of having this fruit, which is so rich in both antioxidants and nutrients, so close by. picture-3641
It’s quite serene in the bog, a divine stillness really. I am certain it is a place we won’t likely bump into fellow (human) ‘woods walkers’, though it is evident that deer and moose are finding refuge in the bog. We follow their trails along the edge, and we can see where they have stopped to browse many of the water plants that grow there. This particular bog does not have much open water. It is covered with a thick mat of sphagnum moss, cranberries, three- seeded bog sedge (Carex trisperma), tawny cotton grass ( Eriophorum virginicum), rhodora ( Rhodora canadense), and Labrador Tea (Ledum groenlandicum) to name a few. The color in the bog is stunning right now, although we love the beauty and diversity of these soggy habitats all year round. Now that the gardening season is winding down, it allows us to do a little exploring. If you know of a bog near you….treat yourself, and go check it out!picture-3651
Larix laricina

Larix laricina



Picture 477We’ve been continuing to take walks across the bog , right now it makes for a great snowshoe outing. At the beginning of winter and before the epic snowstorms, I took a picture of the wild cranberries that grow there. Right now, like everything else, the plants are buried in snow. Every year in late September we walk down to harvest the berries. We freeze some, make cranberry sauce, and use them fresh in muffins. Wild cranberry, Vaccinium macrocarpum, is a low growing, trailing, Maine native that is the same plant grown commercially. There are several selections that are grown for specific traits such as flavor and heavier production of fruit. It was originally known as ‘crane berry’, due to the shape of the petals and beaked anthers of the flowers that look like the head of a crane. The runners are up to 6′ in length, with upright stems coming off of them. The upright stems bear most of the fruit. In winter the leaves turn an attractive reddish brown to purple and add color to the landscape. Groups of the plants that would otherwise be overlooked in summer, standout in the fall and winter with their bright foliage. The addition of the red berries make them a worthwhile consideration to any landscape. A bog is not needed to grow them. They prefer moist acid soils in full to part sun, and can be found growing around bodies of water and along roadside ditches. We have many wild plants in our area which we harvest from late fall into winter. The berries have a better flavor after a cold period. It is said that the berries, juice, and extracts are useful in the control of urinary infections. They are also an incredible antioxidant. There has been some evidence that they play a role in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease by lowering blood pressure and platelet aggregation. We love their tart taste, and we love having a native plant that produces berries to forage from. Heading down to the pond on a beautiful Fall day to gather the fruits of wild cranberry, well it just doesn’t get any better than that!
Here’s a simple recipe for those wild cranberries you may go scouting for this Fall:

Cranberries, 1 pound
Sugar 1 1/2 cups
Water 2 cups

We often prefer to use maple syrup instead of sugar and when doing so, use 1 cup of maple syrup.
Pick over cranberries; wash and drain. Dissolve sugar in water and bring to a boil; boil for 3 minutes
Add cranberries and simmer gently without stirring 5 to 7 minutes or until skins burst. remove from heat and cool. Makes about 4 cups.
If you tap your maple trees this Spring for maple syrup, and harvest cranberries from a wet or boggy area this Fall, and pair them together , you’ll have
created a delicious foraged dish from the wilds of your own woods. Not bad!