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Archive for January, 2009

Mariton – Snow and Trails

The trails at Mariton are snow covered, but great walking.  There is a slight crust because the last snowfall ended as freezing rain.  You can break through the crust easily for traction.  It probably isn't deep enough for skiing.

The parking lot is clear and dry.  Sunnyside Road is also pretty good.  So, access to Mariton's trails isn't an issue.

CEDAR BERRIES 003 Bluebirds have been seen feeding periodically in the Eastern Redcedar in front of the Nature Center.  Bluebirds and Robins enjoy the berries on the tree.  Other birds also like the berries including (obviously) Cedar Waxwings.  Pileated Woodpeckers are still active on the eastern side of the Sanctuary.  Bald Eagles are occasionally seen from either the River Lookout or the Chimney Rock.  There are lots of tracks to examine.  You can easily find Red Fox and deer tracks, but you should also be able to find the tracks of squirrels, racoons and turkeys.

Mariton – Waterwalker Movie

RAYSTOWN.08 025 This Friday, Mariton will show the movie, Waterwalker.  This movie features the late Bill Mason as he canoes northern lakes and rivers.  Mason describes the film as: "Just you and me paddling the biggest and most spectacular lake in the world:  Lake Superior."  He is being modest; Mason was an accomplished cinematographer.  There are some wonderful wildlife shots, but the film is known for its magnificent scenery.

In the film, Mason chats about his philosophy on canoeing, camping and the way we treat the Earth.  Bruce Cockburn contributed a wonderful soundtrack.  The film also features background sounds and various bird songs (especially White-throatedSparrows).  Bill Mason was also a talented painter and the film features him at work discussing his inspirations.

The program is free.  If you plan to attend, please call ahead (610-258-6574), so that we will know how much popcorn to make.

Crow’s Nest Outdoors


It really has been beautiful outside; I hope you are getting a chance to enjoy it! I have been monitoring easements and preserves like this one along the South Branch of French Creek. We've also started mowing meadows. And today I took down a hazard tree along a roadside.

It is fun to see my neighbors ice fishing on their pond. If you'd rather experience some of this beauty vicariously there are many opportunities! We have friends who started through-hiking the Appalachian Trail on New Year's Day—in Georgia. They are not alone; you can read about the community of hikers on Trail Journals

I also notice that there is an Environmental Film Festival on February 12th, 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm at Unionville Elementary School auditorium; $15 tickets. It's a benefit for the Stroud™ Water Research Center; for more information contact them at (610) 268-2153 x247.

And this weekend there is another cool event that will help spring seem closer: it's the Down to Earth farming conversation and concert. It will be held at the Chester County Historical Society this Saturday, January 24th. From 3 to 5 pm there will be a community conversation, "Abundance and Need in our Local Food System" which is free. Then from 7 to 10 pm there will be a concert: "Mugs and Music" with local bands and samples of local food and drink, tickets $24. There will be handmade artists' mugs for sale at both; sales benefit the Chester County Gleaning Program and the Chester County Buy Fresh Buy Local chapter.

Mariton – Bald Eagle Sighting

MEBUS BaldEagleFlyingAcrossRt32 Yesterday, when I walked to the Chimney Rock, I saw a mature Bald Eagle.  I was looking at the river 200 feet below when eagle entered my view.  I think it had perched in a tree along the river and spooked as I walked down the trail.  The eagle was below me, so I got the rare opportunity of viewing an eagle from above.  This photo by Carole Mebus shows an eagle going over. 

While Bald Eagles are not rare in the neighborhood, they haven't gotten to the point where I can predictably take someone to see an eagle.  I see them almost every time I canoe down the Delaware River, between Easton and Riegelsville.  We were fortunate to see them on most of the kayak trips that we lead this fall.  It is still a thrill. 

If you have never seen a Bald Eagle, now is a great time to visit the upper Delaware River, say from I-80 north.  Take your time and you should be rewarded.  Don't forget that immature birds lack the white head and tail feathers, but are just as magnificent.  If you spot an immature Bald Eagle, keep looking and you will probably see a mature eagle. 

Crow’s Nest: Beautiful Snow


We've gotten about three inches of dry powder. It's beautiful and just might be enough for some cross-country skiing.

Mariton – Yes, it is cold, but…

No, I never walked ten miles to school in waist-deep snow.  I did, however, spend many blue mornings during my Michigan youth waiting for the school bus.  Only, we didn't know that one day was any colder than the next.  We played "Duck, Duck, Goose", "Keep Away", and made snow angels.  Many mornings the mercury dipped to -10F and occasionally the wind chills were -30F.

I do remember that when I was about 10 years old they did close school because the wind chill was below -50F.  That was back when kids actually waited for the school bus outside – by themselves.  I suppose the administrators thought that was even too cold for us to wait for the bus.  Maybe the Superintendent's car wouldn't start.  I just remember we had the day off from school  Guess what we did?  We bundled up and went outside to play.  (Never waste a day off from school by staying indoors!)  We found a drift bank and tunneled in to make a shelter.  We probably played Jim Bridger or John Colter.  (That was during my Mountain Man phase.)  We occasionally left the shelter as part of the imagination to "check traps or shoot elk".  It was pretty cold, so we quickly returned to our cave, but we spent a couple hours outdoors that day.

The point is, that while it is cold, you can dress appropriately and still have a wonderful time outdoors.  Proper dress in 2009 is much more comfortable than it was when I was 10.  (Remember being as wide as you were tall in your snow suit?)  Yet, we have more excuses than ever not to venture out.

I was thinking about that this morning and realized TV weather forecasters bear some of the blame.  Now, I love watching TV weather, and appreciate and respect the different broadcast personalities (and I watch all of them).  I do pick on them, however, because I think they should be more honest about the accuracy of their 3 – 5 day predictions.

Anyways, when a snow flake falls, or the temperature dips, all you hear is doom and gloom.  They remind us to stay inside for our own safety.  Today it suddenly hit me.  They work for a TV station.  The TV station makes money when people watch it.  Telling people to stay home because of the weather is part of the marketing plan.  It doesn't matter if it is too cold or too hot; too wet or too dry.  Part of their job has morphed into keeping people in front of the tube (or should I say screen).  So, buck the trend this weekend.  Dress for the occasion and take a walk.  When the temperature gets this cold, there is a clarity to the air that you won't find at any other time.  The world feels clean.  And you will miss it if you stay indoors.

Crow’s Nest classroom outreach


The kids from the Cassidy School in Philadelphia graciously welcomed me to their classroom today, even though I am not a smoke jumper. They were reading about these wildland firefighters last week and invited me to come to talk about our fire program. We use prescribed fire to manage some meadows and serpentine barrens on Natural Lands Trust preserves.

I recently realized I have participated in 51 prescribed fires for Natural Lands Trust over the last twelve years, and was happy to share my experiences and demonstrate the tools and required personal protective equipment.

I put on the Nomex jumpsuit which, though washed, still smells of smoke and has a few holes from embers. The kids' questions were sharp and covered most of the concerns a wildland firefighter would have about personal safety, fire behavior, smoke management near public roads, how to put fire out, and how nature responds to fire.

The William Penn District 17 of Pennsylvania's Bureau of Forestry generously provided Smokey Bear rulers, stickers, and bookmarks. I am grateful for the opportunity to meet these kids!

Conferences & Lectures

There are lots of interesting conferences and seminars scheduled in our region this year:

This week the New Directions in the American Landscape Series will have its 20th annual symposium on Native Landscape Design at Arboretum Villanova, January 13 and 14. It might be too late to register for that one but here's another sponsored by Morris Arboretum: Claire Sawyers (director of Scott Arboretum) will lecture on February 22 on "The Authentic Garden: Five Principles for Celebrating a Sense of Place." This is based on her recent book by the same name.

Earlier in the month is the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture's 18th Annual Farming for the Future Conference February 5 – 7. One of the keynote speakers, Bernard W. Sweeney, Director of the Stroud Water Research Center in Avondale, also conducts his research at Natural Lands Trust's Stroud Preserve in West Chester. This conference, held at Penn State, is filled with farming techniques, good health, and good eating.

At the same time Longwood Garden's Professional Gardener Training Program is holding its 19th annual Today's Horticulture conference. It covers topics from landscape design to native plants to what it is like to be a professional gardener, and includes speakers Dan Benarcik from Chanticleer, landscape architect Rodney Robinson, and Dr. Doug Tallamy, author of "Bringing Nature Home" (reviewed at the same link as Claire Sawyer's book above).

Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve is holding its 9th annual Land Ethics Symposium: Creative Approaches for Ecological Landscaping on February 19. Topics will include natural design of stormwater retention facilities, native perennials, and protecting trees during construction.

Chester County is holding its Certified Master Composter Classes at three locations this March: "Do the 'rot' thing."

And save the date for the Native Plants in the Landscape Conference at Millersville University June 4 – 6.

I am struck by the longevity of these conference series; these are topics of importance and the organizers put together a good program. Over the years cumulatively I have managed to attend most of these seminars at least once and always learned something and returned to the preserve energized.

Also don't forget to check our Natural Lands Trust calendar of events periodically: notable on there now is the February 7 Cumberland County Winter Eagle Festival, including a walk led by our New Jersey Regional Director Steve Eisenhauer.

Crow’s Nest: An off year for persimmons

In 2008 there were few persimmons to be had on our local, native persimmon trees (Diospyros virginiana): Weather, natural cycles in production, or other factor—I don't know. This is a great native tree with inconspicuous flowers and unusual fruit. The fruit only begins to ripen after a frost and when they become soft—so they would not travel well. It's a local delicacy and an acquired taste. (Eaten raw too early and they make your mouth feel like it is stuffed with cotton.) Last year we had lots of them—and left lots for wildlife. Raccoons are reportedly largely responsible for spreading it around, but I am sure lots of animals eat the soft fleshy fruit as it begins to rot on the ground.

My wife has a family recipe for persimmon pudding that her grandmother in southwestern Virginia has given us. It makes a moist, cake-like dessert that is a real treat. This year, we made just one small pan.

Combine first:

2 cups persimmon pulp

2 cups grated sweet potato

  Then add:

1/2 cup condensed milk

2 eggs, beaten with milk

1/2 stick butter

1 teaspoon vanilla, mix with all the above and set aside.

Mix dry ingredients:

2 cups self-rising flour

1 3/4 cup sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp allspice

Mix and add to persimmon mixture.

Pour into greased and floured large baking pan and bake at
325 for 45 – 50 minutes.
Let cool completely, cut in squares and serve. Refrigerate
leftovers; may be frozen. Let thaw while still wrapped.

All dressed up and no place to go…

With a forecast of six inches of snow this weekend I put firewood ballast in the back of the pickup and attached the snowplow. All we got was a dusting…

At least our relatively new plow is easier to attach than the old one. Three factors contribute: We now have a restored barn to store it in, a flat surface making lining up the pins much easier. Second, the newer plow has a quick attachment design, so there are no hydraulic lines to attach, only mechanical and electrical connections. These first two factors alone mean no more busted knuckles. A final improvement: plow dollies. The plow can be rolled around and lined up without having to jump in and out of the truck a dozen times (and then rolled into a corner for summer storage).

I plow a few gravel driveways at the preserve and our parking lot, so there has to be substantial snow before the surface can be plowed. I hope we have a little this winter.


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