A blog focused on nature, science, environmental topics, and happenings at the Pocono Environmental Education Center (PEEC).

A Naif in the Forest by Darrell Berger

Wing Tips to Hiking Boots: Musings of a New, Full-Time Poconos Resident

Our first autumn in the forest, my wife asked me to plant daffodils.  I accomplished this several times in the suburbs. I dug my little trowel six inches into the ground, cleared a space slightly bigger than the bulb, then covered. The most interesting aspect was placement: three bulbs at the corner of the house, five or six near the sidewalk. Spring imagined, as winter approached. 

I carried bulbs and trowel to our new back yard. A clump on either side of the clearing would be good. I stabbed my trowel into the ground. It penetrated at most an inch before I hit solid rock. My wrist, then arm, then shoulder recoiled from the resistance. This was my intimate introduction to the Marcellus Shale. The photograph shows an outcrop. Outcrops are gray because the sun has burned away the carbon that makes the underground shale very dark. 

The more than 90,000 square miles of shale that comprise this formation and covers a significant portion of the state, ends at the Delaware River. It varies in thickness from five to 250 feet and was formed approximately 390 million years ago. While much of the Marcellus Shale is a huge reservoir of natural gas, I am led to believe by informed, if not expert, opinion that none of it is under our part of the forest. Natural gas formation requires a specific cooling process. Our shale cooled too slowly. All the gas burned off. 

I bought my first pickaxe. I swung it mightily, again and again. At last I created a space in this most formidable mountain large enough to plant a tulip bulb. I repeated this until all the bulbs were planted. I celebrated with my favorite anti-inflammatory and a long, hot bath. We have since spread several loads of topsoil, making future plantings less of an ordeal. 

What lies beneath a task can be harder than what one anticipates, and the effort required to attain success far greater. I never appreciated daffodils as much as I did those that, the following spring, bloomed in the shale.



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