First Vermont Spring wildflowers along the trail.

Trout-lily

Eastern Trout-lily

A couple of days short of Memorial Day here at the October Country Inn and, after a few days of light rain, a spot of warm weather has settled in.  Our world has exploded in green.  Seems like in a week’s time, the maples have leafed out, lilac and apple trees have bloomed, and roadside weeds are knee-high.    Before this crescendo of botanical abundance, a mere couple of weeks ago, only the hardiest of Vermont’s Spring wildflowers decorated the trailside.

Purple trillium

Purple trillium

Trout-lilys (Erythronium americanum) were the first to appear.  The name comes from their leaves that resemble the color and pattern found on native brook trout.  Trout-lilys are native to north-eastern woods and grow in colonies that can be  300 years old. The Trout-lily is a myrmecochore, meaning ants help to disperse the seeds and reduce predation of the seeds. To make the seeds more appealing to ants they have an elaiosome which is a structure which attracts the ants.  Another early bloomer is the purple trillium (Trillium erectum). It is also a native to north-eastern woodlands.  It is a spring ephemeral, a herbaceous perennial whose life-cycle is synchronised with that of the deciduous forests where it lives.  Its name is derived from its three lobed leaf arrangement and a flower with three petals.

Common blue violet

Common blue violet

Lastly, the small but mighty common blue violet (Viola sororia) grows low to the ground and can be easily overlooked.  Also called wood violet, or the lesbian flower, it is also native to north-eastern woods, and is the state flower of Illinois, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and Wisconsin.  This plant has historically been used for food and for medicine. The flowers and leaves are edible, and some sources suggest the roots can also be eaten. The Cherokee used it to treat colds and headaches.  The common blue violet is also called the lesbian flower because in the early 1900s, lesbians and bisexual women would give violets to the women they were wooing. This symbolized their “Sapphic” desire, so-called because Sappho, a Greek lyric poetess, in one of her poems described herself and her lover as wearing garlands of violets. This practice became popular in the 1910 – 1930 time period, and has become a substantial symbol for lesbian and bisexual women in the modern era as well.

A local mystery: Who built this stone chamber, and why?

chamberAbout a thirty minute drive from the October Country Inn, and after navigating a particular route through the tangled web of Vermont back roads, stands a leaf covered mound in the forest covering most of what may be a 2,000 year old stone structure.  Similar structures are found throughout the east coast and beyond.  Fifty-two stone chambers have been found in Vermont alone.  The majority of these stone chambers, as with this one, are found on upland valley slopes, ridges or hilltops facing the south or southeast.

Slabs of stone used to form the roof.

Slabs of stone used to form the roof.

The origin of these stone chambers is far from settled.  A study done in 1950 by Vermont state archeologist Giovanna Neudorfer concluded that these structures were root cellars made by early Vermont settlers.  However, more recent archeological opinions do not share such a definitive conclusion.  For one thing, the roofs and other structural members of these chambers are composed of massive slabs of stone weighing many tons.  Although it may not have been impossible for an early settler to split and move such stones into place, why would they?  There are much simpler methods to construct a root cellar.

View of the inside looking toward the back wall.

View of the inside looking toward the back wall.

Most interestingly, however, is that the winter solstice sun rises in the center of this chamber’s entranceway when viewed from inside.  These chambers are also often found in association with other stone features, platforms, walls, and cairns whose alignments correspond to specific celestial events.  Their use may have been a kind of prehistoric calendar.  Backdating with modern computer astronomical simulations to determine when a particular chamber would have existed in order to be in alignment with a important celestial event, dates these chambers to about 2,000 ago.  It has been suggested that these chambers are of ancient Phoenician or Celtic origin.  Who knows?  Maybe.  Why don’t you visit this chamber, look around, and decide for yourself.  First visit the October Country Inn.  We’ll tell you how to find it.