Top Navigation  
U.S. Flag waving
Office Hours Momday - Friday  8 am - 5 pm Pacific 1-800-835-2418
Facebook   YouTube   Twitter
 Home Page
 Current Issue
 Article Index
 Author Index
 Previous Issues

 Kindle Subscriptions
 Kindle Publications
 Back Issues
 Discount Books
 All Specials
 Classified Ad

 Web Site Ads
 Magazine Ads

 BHM Forum
 Contact Us/
 Change of Address

Forum / Chat
 Forum/Chat Info
 Lost Password
 Write For BHM

Link to BHM

Where We Live by John Silveira and Richard Blunt. Photos and commentary from Oregon and New England.

Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post.

Archive for August, 2012


WalkingTour of the Emerald Necklace—The Arnold Arboretum

Sunday, August 26th, 2012

The Arnold Arboretum is a 265 acre botanical garden located in the Jamaica Plain and Roslindale neighborhoods of Boston. It is owned by the city of Boston and leased to Harvard University for 1000 years beginning in 1882. This park is the second largest link in the Emerald Necklace, featuring a rolling landscape with meadows, forests, and ponds with 4000 different varieties of woody plants and 15000 varieties of trees, shrubs and vines. The Arboretum was founded in 1872 when the president of Harvard University became the trustee of a portion of land owned by a wealthy New Bedford whaling merchant. The  land was deeded to the city of Boston in 1882  and incorporated into the Emerald Necklace in the same year. The first president of the Arboretum, an American botanist, Charles Sprague Sargent. working together with Fredrick Olmsted designed the road and pathway system and outlined the collection areas, in the Arboretum, by plant family and genus.

The Arboretum is a free, safe and accessible resource that is open to the public every day of the year. As a university based living collection, the Arboretum shares a wealth of knowledge with the public in a way that is engaging and substantive. My mother-in-law  lived her entire life just a few miles from the Arboretum. Through her life she, her family and a group of close friends and neighbors made regular visits to the Arboretum. She often spoke about touring the Arboretum on Lilac Sunday with the whole family, which included my father-in law, Arthur, my wife, Tricia, her two sisters and her brother.  Of the thousands of flowering plants in this magnificent garden, only one, the lilac, is singled out for a day long celebration. On this special day my mother-in-law, her friends and thousands of others from all over New England gather to picnic, watch English Morris dancing, (a form of English folk dance) and tour the Arboretum’s extensive lilac collection.

For my tour I followed a path often described during my conversations with Gertrude as one of her favorite walks. I entered the Arboretum at the main gate near the Hunnewell Visitor Center. After a brief visit at the center to get directions, I started walking along Meadow road to Linden path heading toward my first stop– the Leventritt Shrub and Vine Garden. From there, a short path led me to my second stop, the Larz Anderson Bonsai Collection.  Continuing along Linden path to Bussey Hill road led me to my final destination, the Explorers Garden on top of Bussey Hill. To return to main entrance, I followed Bussey Hill road down to Meadow Road. Along the way back, I snapped photos of trees most often mentioned in conversations with Gertrude

The main entrance gate

The Hunnewell Visitors Center building was donated to the Arboretum by Horatio Hunnewell, a railroad financier, armature botanist and one of the most prominent horticulturists in the nineteenth century. He is believed to be the first person to cultivate and popularize rhododendrons in the United States.


I began my tour at 10 in the morning. This is only one of the several family groups were there when I arrived.

Leventritt Garden is is a three acre garden that showcases 737 conifers, shrubs and vines. It was made possible through the generosity of Frances Leventritt and her son and her son Danial.

This is one of the artistic linear planting beds in this garden. It is bordered by terrace walls constructed of New England field stone.

This shot was taken from an open air pavilion that provides a gathering place for visitors and a planting area for flowering vines.  It shows the gentle winding path that visitors follow from Meadow road to Leventritt gardens.

The Larz Anderson Collection of Japanese Dwarfed Trees

Larz Anderson served as the United States ambassador to Japan for ten weeks in 1912. He resigned the post when Woodrow Wilson replaced Howard Taft as president. Along with an impressive collection of horse-drawn carriages, sleighs and vintage motorcars, he also owned a collection of 40 bonsai trees. When he died in 1937 his wife Isabel Anderson donated most of the plants to the Arboretum.The core of the collection consists of  seven specimen of hinoki cypress purchased from the Yokohama Nursery Company, estimated to be between 150 to 275 years old. The exhibit is open from mid April to November. Special care is taken to house the plants during the winter months in a concrete block structure that is maintained at temperatures between 33 and 36 degrees Fahrenheit to protect them during the cold months.

From the Bonsai exhibit I head back down the path to Bussey Hill Road and begin the gentle climb to the top to  the Explorers Garden. This garden is a horticultural hot spot. It is located on the south side of Bussey Hill, which rewards it with the greatest amount of sunlight and warmth. The gentle slop of the hill caused cold air to move down hill rather then settle into deadly frost pockets. These features make it an ideal spot for plants that require mild growing conditions. The garden features an impressive display of rare and interesting trees that, unfortunately, were not available for viewing because of important tree maintenance  being  performed in the area. I am told that October is the best time to visit this garden. I will be there with camera in hand.

On my way back to the main entrance I was able to snap shots of some trees that my mother-in-law often mentioned

The Amur Cork Tree is one of the fifty fundamental herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine. It produces petrochemicals, a discovery that has attracted considerable scientific attention over the past few years.

Gertrude loved this painted maple because it’s leaves remained bright green, even in very hot summers. In the fall the leaves turn bright gold wit crimson fall color.

The White Pine is no stranger to us living on the East coast. In fact, there is a 70 foot specimen across the street from my house. Every three to five years this tree produces an abundance of pine cones that blanket my lawn from October through  following May. Gertrude and Arthur also had a White Pine in there yard small back yard. During peak pine cone production, Arthur had a special name for this tree, which will not be repeated on this page. White pine forests once covered most of the northeast, only about one percent of the original trees remain untouched by the extensive logging operations of the 18th century. Virgin stands of White Pine still exist in Great Smokey Mountain National Park and in the Huron Mountains located  on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Pictured above is a stand of Black Walnut trees bordering the right wide of  Meadow road. These trees can be found  from Massachusetts to Georgia and west to the great plains.The Black Walnut is an imposing tree with a long history of use by people. I grew up in a neighborhood that had one  large Black Walnut .  In October the yellow-green husked fruit would ripen and fall to the ground. Me and a couple of friends would gather these fallen nuts and attack then with hammers in an attempt to get at the oily fruit inside. The nuts were so difficult to crack that we usually abandoned the effort after opening two or three. We would also soak the nuts in a bucket of water overnight. The next morning the water would be a dark brown. We would take this water to an out of sight spot on the Franklin Park golf course and dump the water on the grass. In a few minutes earth worms would start popping to the surface to be scooped up and used for bait our fishing trip.

The dark, chocolate brown heartwood of this tree the most sought after native American wood. The world wide demand for the wood is so high that this tree has become rare in nature. Unfortunately, we harvest more Black Walnuts than we plant,  and a newly planted tree needs, at least, 60 years in the ground to produce a reasonably large trunk. It is my hope that this all-American tree will continue to be appreciated by those who recognize it’s beauty. The Black Walnut is not currently in danger, but they are becoming less common on the American landscape.

The wood of the Paper Birch has many uses. It used to in the manufacture of furniture, flooring,  toys and Popsicle sticks. Yet these trees offer another resource that is largely untapped here in New England–the sap.  Birch syrup production is an emerging cottage industry in Alaska. In spite of the fact that sugar maples are plentiful on the East coast, we also have plenty of birches scattered around. It would be nice to see some enterprising Yankee tapping birch trees for syrup production. Occasionally, when I can afford, it I buy a bottle of birch syrup to enjoy on the blueberry pancakes that my wife, Tricia, makes with  blueberries that she harvests from the two bushes in our front yard. My mother also loved this syrup. She often said that it had a more distinctive  flavor than maple syrup. Unfortunately, birch syrup, is expensive; an 8 ounce bottle can cost 20 dollars. This is because it takes about 100 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. It is probably one of the rarest gourmet food products in the world, and the most difficult to make. Marketing New England made birch syrup might be a tough sell, but with a little education it is possible.

This tree was formally the state tree of Kentucky. I first saw this tree growing along the path leading to George Washington’s house while on tour of Mount Vernon several years ago. It is native to the mid west, and is generally planted in parks and city streets for ornamental purposes. The tour guide said that the seeds of this tree can be used as a substitute for coffee beans. He also added the caveat that the seed is also toxic in large quantities. It is a handsome and relatively fast growing tree that sheds it’s leaves in the early fall, leaving with a bear and almost dead looking branches for over six months of it’s growth cycle. The Greek genus name for the Coffee tree translates as ” naked branch”.

This tour covered only a small portion of a very large and beautiful park. I will return in October to record the spectacular fall foliage show.


Pelicans in Oregon, Part 2

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

Pelicans are my second favorite birds, just behind ospreys. Unlike ospreys, which I like to photograph because of the way they dive into the drink feet first and pull fish out with their talons, pelicans dive in head first but, when they surface, you don’t see their catch. However, if you watch closely, you may see them throw their heads back and observe a little lump move along the pouch that makes up the lower part of their bills. That’s the fish being swallowed.

A week or so ago, I discovered something else about pelicans. I was on the south jetty at the mouth of the Rogue River, here in Gold Beach, Oregon, and I saw pelicans doing something I’d never seen them doing before. What I observed is explained in the cations to the photos.

All but the last photo were taken with my Canon 5D Mark III and either my EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM lens or my EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens. (You can figure out which lens I used by looking at the focal lengths beneath the photos.) In the last photo is my friend, Earl Yager, holding a pelican. That photo was taken with a cell phone.


I was on the south jetty of the Rogue River, and saw scores of pelicans flying parallel to the jetty as they flew into the river’s mouth.

Shutter speed 1/1000     f-stop 5.6     ISO 100     focal length 400mm


The pelicans were heading for a small pool that has formed in the middle middle of the spit of sand and gravel that is all but strangling the mouth of the Rogue. Scores more of pelicans were either already in that pool or on the spit. The pool itself is filled and drained by the changes in the tide as sea water seeps through the sand and gravel.

Shutter speed 1/1000     f-stop 7.1     ISO 320     focal length 70mm


The tide was high and the arriving pelicans headed straight for that little pool, as the pelican in the center is, before going to the spit itself.

Shutter speed 1/1000     f-stop 7.1     ISO 320     focal length 200mm


The pelican in the center of this photo is also a new arrival.

Shutter speed 1/1000     f-stop 5.6     ISO 200     focal length 400mm


Before heading for the spit, each of the pelicans bathed and splashed in the pool. Twenty or more at a time were busy splashing around while the pelicans that had already visited the pool were resting on the spit. I suspected those splashing in the pool, they were washing away mites and other parasites, but I had no other evidence to support that hypothesis.

Shutter speed 1/1000     f-stop 5.6     ISO 200     focal length 400mm


I watched as each bird “bathed” then took the short flight to the spit to join the others, as the pelican at the center of this photo is doing.

Shutter speed 1/1000     f-stop 5.6     ISO 200     focal length 400mm


This is my friend, Earl Yager. He works for the Port of Gold Beach. He had rescued the pelican he’s holding, after it had landed between a shed and a fence near the port’s offices. Because of the limited space the bird had landed in, it was impossible for it to spread its wings far enough to take off, again. That’s when Earl stepped in. The photo was taken by his boss, Port Manager Debbie Collins, just before he released the bird. What I found interesting is that Earl said that, a while after he’d let the bird go, he looked down and his jacket was covered with thousands of mites. It was enough evidence, for me, to confirm my suspicions that the birds were washing away as many mites as possible while they were splashing around in the water of the pool.


Cell phone photo.



A Walking Tour Of Boston’s Emerald Necklace

Saturday, August 11th, 2012

The Emerald Necklace is a five mile long series of  parks that start in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood and end in the Back Bay section of Boston near the Charles River. It represents over 1000 acres, nearly half of Boston’s park parkland. It is the only remaining linear park designed by America’s first landscape architect and civic visionary Fredrick Law Olmsted Sr. I grew up about two miles from Franklin Park in Dorchester, and Dave Duffy(Publisher of Backwoods Home) lived a little further away in Hyde Park. We often set out on adventuresome hikes to visit explore all six parks.  Today, I will share, with you some memories of the two parks closest to our homes, Franklin Park and Jamaica Pond.  As I continue my walking tour, I will share memories of the other four parks: the Arnold Arboretum, Olmsted Park, the Back Bay Fens and the Boston Common/Public Garden.

White Stadium is a 10,000 seat art deco designed stadium, that home for all championship events for Boston public schools. It also serves as home field for schools that do not have one of their own. During our high school years Dave  and I played  football for such a school. As a quarter back, Dave scored the only touchdown of his high school career by running over me while I laid face down after making a block.

White Stadium together with the Franklin Park zoo and the 18 hole William J Devine  golf-course are part of what is considered the crowning jewel of Olmsted’s work. This 527 acre park features 15 miles of pedestrian and bridle paths, along with a woodland preserve that provides plenty of active recreation and sports for the surrounding communities. The park  is a 15 minute walk from where I lived and 30 minute bus ride from where Dave lived. The park offered me, my friends, and thousands of other people, of all ages, a relatively safe year round play ground rarely found in a large urban setting.

The Devine golf course, established October 26, 1896 is the second oldest golf course in this country behind Van Cortlandt Park in New York city. Willi Campbell, the man who won America’s first professional match became the first pro of this course. Hall of Fame golfer, Bobby Jones, honed his craft playing on this course. Golf Digest rated this course one of the best to play on in 2007, 2008, and 2009.  The current layout of this course was designed by the Michelangelo of golf, Donald Ross, who also designed of some of this nation’ s most memorable and playable courses.  In high school I earned a few some extra money as a caddy on this course.

Sitting at the Playstead Road entrance to the Franklin Park Zoo are two statuary groups designed by Danial Chester French, an American sculptor whose best known work is the seated figure of Abraham Lincoln in Washington D.C. Both of these groups  were originally erected over the Congress St entrance of the old Boston Post Office and Sub Treasury building. After the old post office was razed in 1929 these magnificent works faced an uncertain future. On March 19, 1929 the Treasury Department offered the two sculptures  to the city of Boston. The city moved them to the Franklin Park in January of 1930, where they were repaired,  placed on new granite pedestals and erected at the Zoo entrance. September 30, 1930 was the 300th anniversary of the founding of  Boston. The sculptures were erected in in time to greet the throngs of people who flocked to Franklin Park  celebrate the event. Among this group of celebrants was my mother. She was visiting Boston on vacation, and fell in love with both works. She became a regular visitor to the park just to view them after moving to Boston in 1942. Together we visited many of French’s works during my high school years, including: the Lincoln Memorial, The Minute Man in Concord and John Harvard at Harvard University.


This piece shows  Labor seated wearing a leather apron with his right arm on an anvil protecting a mother cradling her baby.  By his sides right is the  figure of a woman representing the arts.


This piece shows a woman seated with her foot on a closed volume. Crouching at her feet is a slave chained to a steam locomotive wheel. At her right is a young man clutching a thunderbolt as the Spirit of Electricity, symbolizing the emerging potential of science. My mother was a very strong woman. Of the two sculptures, this was her favorite.

Jamaica Pond was the first park to be included in the Emerald Necklace. It is a natural kettle pond formed  by retreating glaciers. and  is 53 feet deep at it’s center. As the largest body of fresh water in Boston, nearly 5000 tons of ice were harvested from the pond in 1874 by the Jamaica Plain Ice Company using 350 workers.The ice was then distributed in Boston and it’s surrounding towns. For many years the 1.5 mile path around the pond was a year around favorite of mine for walking and running. When my children were younger, they loved to spend hours skating around the pond in on our spring, summer and fall visits. Dave and I fished in this pond from on occasion, but I can’t recall if we ever caught anything.

 Walking  in either direction from the boathouse, shown in the pond photo, half way around the pond; you will find another sculpture by D.C. French– the Parkman Memorial. This is a deep relief sculpture considered by many art historians to be a masterpiece. Francis Parkman was an American historian considered to be one of the great masters of narrative history. This is a treasure that seems to be under appreciated by folks that flock to this park.  I spent an hour here, writing notes and eating a casual lunch. When I left I was the only one who had stopped to visit this magnificent work.

The Forest Hills Cemetery is not part of the Emerald Necklace, but it has always been a favorite walking tour spot for me and my family. It is only about a five minute walk minute  from Franklin Park. This cemetery has a number of impressive monuments created by famous artists including C.D. French. Some very well know people are buried hear including: Reggie Smith, star player for the Boston Celtics, Kahlil Gibran, sculptor and William Lloyd Garrison, abolitionist. Also, the bodies of Ferdinando Sacco and Bartolomeo Vensetti , the two Italian immigrants convicted  of murdering two men in an armed robbery in South Braintree  Mass  in 1920, were sent hear for cremation after their execution. The Boston Globe called it “one of the most tremendous funerals of all time”.  As a boy my father-in law lived near the cemetery and enjoyed telling the family about his adventures playing in the cemetery. On one occasion while being chased by police for playing in the cemetery, he fell into Lake Hibiscus, a body of water in the middle of the cemetery. Later, he built a fire in another part of the cemetery to dry his cloths. My favorite was his story about  climbing  a large tree  just behind the entrance gate to watch the funeral procession of Sacco and Vensetti as it entered the cemetery.

The Angel of Death and the Young Sculptor is privately owned piece cast in bronze. It considered one of the most influential pieces of art created by C.K. French. It was commissioned to mark the graves of James and Martin Milmore, two brothers that immigrated to this country from Ireland  in 1851. James was a stone carver and Martin a sculptor. In the sculpture the figure on the left represents a sculptor with a chisel in his hand. The figure on the right is death in the form of a winged  female gently restraining the the sculptors hand. This park-like cemetery contains over 60 classic works of art. Over the years I have spent many hours viewing all of them. I will revisit this area again and share, with you, what I find.

The next stop on this walking tour will be one of my mother-in-law’s favorite places -The Arnold Arboretum. If you are a gardener or have an interest in North American trees, shrubs and vines. The Arboretum is a must visit for you.



Copyright © 1998 - Present by Backwoods Home Magazine. All Rights Reserved.