We've started hearing and seeing red-winged blackbirds in trees and near the cattail marsh. And last night in the warm rain I heard the first tentative peeps of spring peepers.
Archive for February, 2009
In the list of senses: sight, sound, smell, taste and touch, we overlook some more than others (and even our language, "overlook," expresses this bias). We encourage the use of all senses when visiting the preserves, except for taste—you'd be surprised how many plants contain alkaloids or other toxic defenses against predation! And of course also use caution with touch: we do have stinging nettle and poison ivy. But you will find your experience richer if you are open to more ways of experiencing nature.
There will be a forum this Saturday, February 21 from 1 – 4 pm at the Chester County Historical Society entitled "The Future of Open Space in Chester County." Featuring a keynote by Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Michael DiBerardinis, there will also be community discussion.
Because of the high winds on Thursday, I wasn't surprised when we lost electricity at 4:00 p.m. We used to lose power frequently, so Maureen and I have made preparations because we know it will happen eventually.
We have the wood stove which will heat the house at temperatures of 20 F and above. Below that temperature, we can warm the house by opening and shutting doors to target heat flow into certain rooms. I also keep spare propane for emergency heat and for the grill. So, we can cook and heat water on the wood stove. We can also use the grill, or the camp stove out side on the porch.
Camping a lot makes living without electricity less complicated. We keep over 10 gallons of drinking water always ready. Two 5 gallon jugs are always filled, and I recycle the water regularly to keep it fresh. We can get buckets of water from the spring for flushing toilets. Non-scented baby wipes, that we take camping, make a very good substitute for a shower.
Because we camp so much, Maureen and I are nuts about flashlights. We have an array of lanterns, headlamps, and wind-up flashlights, along with a selection of different Mag lights. Maureen is great about keeping a closet stocked with batteries to power everything.
So, when it got dark last night, we were ready. We called neighbors, emptied the fridge, set out a tray of food, lit candles and lanterns, put a CD on the battery powered radio, and then talked and ate for hours in front of the wood stove.
This morning, when the power was still off, I hooked up the generator. Years ago, I decided that a generator was a worthwhile investment (and it has been!). We had the breaker box rewired so that we could connect simply and safely to power the essential circuits. So, I flipped on the water pump and furnace and we took showers. Then I charged the freezer and fridge for a while. When that was done, I shut down, gassed up, and put the generator back in storage all ready for the "next time." Sure we could have survived the 20 hours without electricity – we have done it before. But it is nice to know you are prepared. Preparation is power.
A week from Saturday there will be the annual Chester County Keep Farming First conference at Octoraro High School. The keynote speaker and breakout sessions will address Alternative Energy and Energy Conservation Options and there will be a lunchtime session on issues important to local farmers.
This Friday, Mariton will feature the film Pennsylvania: Conserving Nature's Diversity. Produced by PA's Wild Resource Conservation Fund, this film looks at the different key habitats in the state, and explores the roles that they play, as well as the things that live there. It also does a great job explaining what Bio-Diversity is, as well as why it so important life on Earth. The movie is about thirty minutes long.
After the movie, we will walk in the snow and the moonlight. It should be beautiful, and the there is always the chance that we will hear owls, foxes and other nocturnal forest dwellers.
The movie starts at 8 p.m. on Friday. Call if you plan to attend (610-258-6574). We will be making popcorn. Dress appropriately if you plan to join us for the walk.
Yesterday morning; the plowing was finished. I came into the office to post a photo of the sunrise on snowy branches, and to encourage people to get outside. Dan had already beat me to it with his post Step Away From the Computer. I thought to myself: "Thanks Dan." So, I put the boots, hat and jacket back on and took his advice. It was a gorgeous day.
After lunch, Ryan (the Stewardship Assistant) and I checked the trails. The main purpose was to strengthen Ryan's winter tree ID skills. NLT's Preserve Managers are darn good at identifying trees. It is part of our job. I think it is also part of our job to make sure that the Stewardship Assistants know their trees, as they will probably be Preserve Managers someday. Ryan has learned a lot in the last year. Jim Thompson, at Paunacussing Preserve, has been tutoring him also - a lot apparently.
So why are Preserve Mangers so good at tree ID? Just a guess, but I think we all spent a lot of our childhood climbing trees. You can learn a lot about a tree when you trust it with your weight (and even more when you fall). The Latin and identifying characteristics came later. From my experience, I entered my first Dendrology (study of trees) course with an established jiz for tree ID. In Dendro, I just learned the tricks that helped me hone that awareness.
Our neighbor Doug mentioned yesterday that one can see the old fire tower in French Creek State Park from a spot just a few feet outside of the preserve. We were talking about how hard it is to judge where a distant ridge leads, given our jumbled local valleys, twisted roads, and vistas limited by the deciduous forest. I've lived here almost 13 years and never knew you could see the tower from this direction.
This site's bloggers, Tim Burris and Dan Barringer, along with Dr. Andrea Stevens, Director of Natural Lands Trust's Center for Conservation Landowners, will be speaking live at the Pennsylvania Recreation and Park Society conference on March 10 in Hershey. The talk is designed for municipal recreation board members and park staff. We will discuss managing parks for natural diversity: converting turfgrass to native warm-season grass meadows, controlling invasive plants, managing deer, and where to turn for more help.