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Archive for September, 2005

Mile-a-Minute: Early Detection, Rapid Response

It is too late for Early Detection, Rapid Response (EDRR) in Southeastern Pennsylvania for the mile-a-minute vine (Polygonum perfoliatum). The horse is already out of the barn. When you see it along the roadside, you probably no longer register surprise. It isn’t everywhere, but it’s getting pretty close.

But it has just started to invade the lower Hudson Valley in New York, and I travelled there to be a speaker at a conference convened to develop a strategy for pushing back the invasion. My role in part was to frighten attendees about the risks of not controlling this plant, and to give an “on-the-ground” perspective of someone who has managed mile-a-minute for over a decade. I related the pattern of invasion we have observed, and despite our thorough efforts, how the populations have continued to expand. (Unless everyone in the region is controlling it, then it is difficult for anyone to control it.)

State or region-wide strategies are needed to manage most invasive species, and I am very pleased to see New York engaged in this kind of effort, particularly so early in the invasion.

Adaptive Reuse

Barn_tourOur “This Old Barn” program Saturday night was a hit! The evening began with an outstanding spaghetti dinner created by Patience Kaltenbach, Scott DiBerardinis and their family. Then we rode a haywaygon up the road to tour the job site of the barn undergoing restoration that will become our maintenance center. Upon returning to the visitor center barn, we had a slideshow showing the challenges of restoration and reuse over the fifteen years Natural Lands Trust has been working on structures at Crow’s Nest Preerve.

Bob Johnson, carpenter and project supervisor, and Lou Schneider, engineer-architect, talked about finding a 65-foot beam for the forebay of the Houck Barn (we selected one from the roadside nearby), the decisions to rebuild stone walls that had cracked badly on the Jacob barn (pictured), and bringing the racked Houck barn back into plumb. I spoke about the green aspects of our buildings: the natural engery efficiency of a south-facing bank barn, the reuse of many materials from the buildings in their restoration (and indeed, the decision to reuse the buildings themselves), the local sourcing of materials, and our choice of renewable engery used in the projects.

Then the 55 attendees shared their potluck desserts and toured the tenant house, another restoration undertaken by the Natural Lands Trust crew. The event gave the buildings team a chance to show off their outstanding work, and the people who attended gained confidence in Natural Lands Trust’s ability to protect and restore historic buildings.

Soaring with the Hawks

SoaringThe fall WebWalkers season started with a glorious afternoon when hawks and vultures obliged us by showing up when we went looking for them. The kids saw early fall in its best light as turkey and black vultures kettled overhead. Heading into the woods, we saw a sharp-shinned hawk diving and zooming through the trees. We saw racoon prints in the mud by the creek and praying mantises clattered past us to land, camoflaged, in the multiflora rose.

Kayaking with OWLs

On SatuP1000866arday, I got to paddle the Delaware again.  This time it was a cooperative effort between Natural Lands Trust and the Outdoor Women League (OWL).  OWL promotes outdoor activities for women in New Jersey including hiking, camping, hunting and fishing.  Find out more at   Natural Lands Trust provided the kayaks and coordination of the trip.  Steve Eisenhauer brought the equipment up from southern NJ where it is stored (and took these photos).  Jim Thompson drove up from Paunacussing Preserve to help with kayak instruction.  Maureen and I set up the transportation support and picked the route.  We all added bits of natural history information.

P1000937a First off, Jim, Maureen and I were driving on Route 611 to meet everyone else, when I looked up and saw a bald eagle fly above us into the trees on Mariton’s cliffs!  I figured that was a great omen.  Unfortunately, we didn’t see an eagle while paddling on the Delaware.  We did see an osprey though.  We also saw several great blue herons, a lot of chimney swifts and swallows, and several belted kingfishers.  The weather was perfect.  What’s more, we got to share our love for the outdoors with others on a pretty day, on a pretty stretch of the Delaware River (including this stretch right in front of Mariton).

October Dance

SquaredanceLater in the day on October 1 we will also host the Elverson Dance for another night of contras, squares, waltzes and more. (When we say more, some of the dances are very old and resist categorization. When you dance them you feel connected to the long-gone people who also danced them.)

The caller is Greg Frock and music by Fingerpyx. Admission payable at the door is $7; $4 for high school students and seniors. Instruction for beginners is at 7:30 p.m. The dance begins at 8 p.m.

It is not necessary to bring a partner; please wear soft-soled shoes and bring a snack to share at the break. Everybody says they enjoy dancing in an old barn!

Chester County Day

Oldbarn_3The week after next we will be part of the Chester County Day tour. Now in its 65th year, Chester County Day is a house tour to benefit Chester County Hospital. The restored visitor center barn will be a part of the tour, allowing ticket holders to see the restoration and learn about the conservation activities of Natural Lands Trust.

Each year the “Day” highlights a different quadrant of the county. Ticket holders tour historic or interesting private homes. Advance ticket reservations are recommended. For more information see

The wreath and snow pictured here are absent from the barn right now; fall is a beautiful time to visit the preserve and the Day should prove spectacular.

John, Jane, and Doggy Q.

Now that the dizzying heat of summer has broken, visitors to Stroud have increased with every day of crystalline weather. Hikers, invigorated by the changing weather, can be found at the most remote reaches of the trail system. School students are led around the Preserve like dumbfounded toddlers by professors unraveling the mysteries of the natural world. As I watch the visitors to the Stroud Preserve, I feel the weight of our role in our community.

At Stroud, as well as at other NLT preserves, we try to facilitate public access and enhance the quality of the casual preserve visit with interpretive signs and friendly chats. Public use of the preserve doesn’t come without a price, however, so we must struggle to find a balance between encouraging people to visit the preserve and maintaining its ecological integrity.

For example, Stroud frequently receives visitors with canine companions. Dogs, including my own, love the outdoors. They enjoy the freedom open space provides – NLT saves the land that we all enjoy. However, dogs can become a problem when they run loose on the preserve, where they may destroy (or kill) wildlife. In addition, even the friendliest of dogs may intimidate other preserve visitors (whether they are people, horses, or even other dogs.) Not all dogs cause problems on the preserve, of course, which is why we must struggle with how to respond when dogs do become a problem; we want to find a balance between letting people and their dogs enjoy the preserve, while still respecting the needs of the natural world and other preserve users. (Note: our preserve rules require dog owners to keep their dogs on a leash while on the preserve. This is the best way we have found so far to address this issue.)

Please keep in mind this is an example – I don’t mean to pick on dogs (or their owners). Dogs on the preserve are just one example of our greater quandry: how does an organization encourage public use on a nature preserve and maintain the integrity (ecological and educational) it envisions – especially when inappropriate uses (although infrequent) result from public use? It is a question Natural Lands Trust struggles with every day; let us know if you have the answer!

Canoeing on Delaware

I had the opportunity to paddle my canoe down the Delaware River twice last week.  I enjoy Mariton_1 canoeing.  I really like paddling from Easton to Riegelsville.  It is a great stretch of river with a couple rapids, some big open stretches, (mostly) considerate boaters, and wonderful scenery.  Plus, it takes me right along Mariton’s frontage of the River, which gives me a great view of the Sanctuary. 

Group1 Friday, the Conservation Services Department at Natural Lands Trust came up to paddle the Delaware, followed by a barbecue at Mariton.  These are the hard working folks at NLT that preserve land.  They do it by working directly with townships to better-think zoning laws.  They do it by better-thinking how to develop land for housing.  They do it by working with landowners to set up conservation easements and protection projects.  They do it by securing funding for the many different projects.  You can find out more about what they do by checking out the NLT website.

These folks have been going full steam for the last several years and have done a remarkable job atUp_close protecting thousands of acres of land in southeastern Pennsylvania, the Pocono’s, and southern New Jersey.  Friday was a retreat for these folks; a chance to have fun as a team, celebrate successes, and recharge.

We had a great day on the River.  We saw great blue herons all the way down the river.  There were a couple that kept flying ahead of us, but I think we saw at least 10 different great blues.  We saw a couple green herons, a few belted kingfishers, and a cormorant or two.  We saw two different flocks of common mergansers.  We saw osprey fishing, and even saw one osprey flying with a huge flapping fish.  Above Riegelsville we saw a flock of chimney swifts, and just below Riegelsville we paddled through a flock of bank swallows that were foraging just above the water’s surface. 

This Old Barn

Flying_barnWe are having a program on Sunday, September 24 about the building restorations at Crow’s Nest. Starting with a spaghetti dinner (and potluck desserts) at 5:00 p.m. The building team will talk about the challenges of adapting old buildings for new uses. We’ll meet in the restored barn, then tour a barn project in progress, and end the evening with a slideshow of the restoration of other structures on the preserve. A program for children (grade 2 through 6) of participants will be offered at the same time. The cost is $5, and space is limited. Please register by calling 610-353-5587.

Precipitation Records

It hasn’t rained at Mariton since the night of August 31.  We received over 0.80 inches of precipitation during that last week of August.  Some of this moisture was associated with Hurricane Katrina pushing gulf moisture ahead of the low.  We actually ended up with almost 4 inches for the month.

Since then it has gotten very dry.  Vegetation is beginning to wilt in Mariton’s woodland.  Fortunately, it looks as if moisture from Hurricane Ophelia will head towards the Delaware Valley later this week.  Hopefully, it will arrive as a pleasant rain and not a deluge.

Due to the nature of my job, I tend to watch the weather forecasts.  (Maureen and I also air dry all of our laundry.)  I have been keeping rainfall records since I came to Mariton.  Unfortunately, data from the early years were lost when lightning hit my computer during a thunderstorm.  But I still have complete records going back to 1997. 

At Mariton, precipitation for 2005 has been very close to average (based on data from 1997 – present).  This year, the monthly precipitation compared closely to the 8 year average for each month with two exceptions.  In April, we had about 3 inches more than average; and in May we had about 3 inches less than average.  So, those two months cancelled each other out.  At the end of August, Mariton had 1.68” surplus of precipitation for the year, compared to the 8 year average. 

Now, the precipitation here could be quite different from where you live.  My friends, Carole and Virginia, also keep rainfall records and we often compare notes.  One lives in Springtown about 4.5 miles west southwest.  The other lives in Raubsville about 2.5 miles to the north.  Mariton’s precipitation is usually within a few hundredths of an inch from one or the other.  But there are many times, especially during thunderstorm season, when all three locations differ by several tenths.  Generally, Mariton will fall in the middle, but not always. 


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