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Archive for January, 2011

Mariton – Snow Load

A lot of people are beginning to compare this winter with the Winter of '94.  There are several similarities in both temperature and snow fall amounts.  My friend, Carole Mebus, keeps a weather journal and occasionally emails excerpts from past years to help us keep things in perspective when the news media are selling doom and gloom. 

Anyway, recalling history is a good thing.  I remember that winter because we were stuck in a weather pattern similar to this January's.  A large quantity of snow would be dumped mid-week, and it would take almost two days to clean up.  Then it would warm up on the weekend and we would get another round of rain/freezing rain. 

You may not recall the weather pattern, but you probably recall the news reports of roofs caving in all over the northeast due the snow load .  Most of the cave-ins were on the flat roofs of warehouses, firehouses and stores.  Because of that winter, I stay conscious of the snow loads on the buildings at Mariton. 

For instance, the snow this past Wednesday yielded 1.35 inches of water when melted down.  A square foot from that snow event weighs 7 pounds.  So, a roof that is 20 feet by 20 feet has a snow load of about 1.5 tons.  Not that bad.  Some of the weight will sublimate (essentially evaporate) into the air, lessening the load.  But if you are like me, you have more that one snow event piled up there on the roof.  So, you stay aware of that situation, and take precautions when necessary.

And who really knows?  We could break this pattern and have a balmy February and March.

Mariton – Snow Plowed Here Also

We received 12+ inches of snow at Mariton.  The parking lot took quite a bit of time to plow as there was a layer of ice on the pavement beneath the snow.  The truck got stuck a couple of times.  I ended up roughing out things with the tractor (which has chains), and then "mopping" up with the truck's snowplow.  I am running out of places to pile the snow. 

As Dan said, it is beautiful.  I hope to get out later today and tomorrow to enjoy it.  I skiied most of the trails yesterday afternoon.  The conditions were great, so this new layer of snow should make things even better.

Beautiful snow!

Our parking lot is cleared and this snow (about 16") is the most beautiful one of the winter so far. Come out and enjoy it! I'll post photos when I have a little more time.

Losing a friend… Denis Manchon


 

We are saddened to hear that our friend Denis Manchon has passed away. He was a frequent visitor to Natural Lands Trust’s Mariton, Crow’s Nest, and Fulshaw Craeg Preserves who took amazing photos of the wildflowers here (you can view a thumbnails slideshow of just a few of them above).

These photographs changed the way we look at the preserves; they are artistically beautiful but also unique in how they capture individual wildflowers—some of the resources we are protecting on our preserves. The images also document the flora of the preserves, not only that these wildflowers are present in this place and time but also on what date they reached peak bloom.

Denis was a perfectionist in getting the photo. He corresponded with us and followed this weblog to know what was coming into bloom. Photography wasn’t passive for him: when he arrived he would crawl around the flowers to get the perfect composition. And he sought out the best specimens: the ones the insects hadn’t chewed on yet, that time and weather had not faded. One time he spotted a better cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) across French Creek from the ones he was photographing, so he just waded right in the water to get the better photo.

Denis was also generous with his expertise. He donated albums and digital media of his photographs for Natural Lands Trust to use to further our conservation mission (you can see the albums at Mariton and Crow’s Nest). And he helped us with our own photography efforts, offering encouragement and advice.

We’ll really miss Denis. We are grateful for the time he spent on the preserves and hope you also enjoy seeing his work. Seeing flowers like these on a day as cold as this one is a reminder that spring will come and that those wildflowers are out there now and will be ready to return.

 

Crow’s Nest: Good snow conditions

We're plowed out here too and with each successive snow the skiing conditions have gotten better. Hope to see you out here!

Mariton – Parking Lot Plowed

It is 10 a.m., and the parking lot is plowed and beginning to melt.  Sunnyside Road has been plowed and is slushy.  I still have more shoveling to do.  If you are off and want to snow shoe or ski, you can get in to park now. I broke some trails the other day with the tractor, so there should be good ski trails, as well as walking trails.

Deer Resistant Trees – Willow Family

I have never witnessed deer browsing much on members of the Willow Family (Salicaceae).  Rabbits and mice, however, will girdle young trees by eating the bark in the winter.  Beavers also seem to like branches of these trees for winter stores. This family is made up of two genera, the Willows (Salix) and the Poplars (Populus).  

Willows.  I will be honest.  I can’t tell willows apart.  The flowers were too small to differentiate in my field botany classes, so everything was referred to as Salix sp. (meaning we knew the genus, but not the species).  I called all trees Black Willows (Salix nigra), which was probably accurate most of the time where I grew up.  I referred to all Willow shrubs as Pussy Willows (Salix discolor) which was probably less accurate.  While I grew up with Black Willows that always had their feet in water, I think that the Missouri Willow (Salix eriocephala) is probably a better native tree for most landscapes.  It grows quickly, lives a little longer, and doesn’t need constant water.  It would be a great tree for stabilizing a stream bank.  While Weeping Willow (Salix babylonica) is a popular choice, I actually prefer the form or our native willow trees over the Weeping Willow.  I think the native trees have more character. 

The Pussy Willow (Salix discolor) is a great shrub, and doesn’t require a wet area.  There are tons of cultivars out there, and many are attractive.  In this case, using a native will make your landscape unique.  Pussy Willow is one of the first things to bloom while winter is still entrenched in the north.  I remember cutting the first blooms that I would find on my boyhood tromps and taking them home to my mother.  She always seemed to brighten.  To her, pussy willows were a signal that the days would soon get longer and sunnier. 

The Poplars, or “popples” as my Grandpa called them, are better known as Aspens to most.  These are beautiful trees with very interesting light gray-green bark.  The buds are an important food for many birds.  I love them because they shimmer in a slight breeze.  The leaf petiole (or stem) is flat and at a ninety degree angle to the plane of the leaf, so leaves seem to flutter.  As a kid, I could predict the weather by watching the leaves.  Those leaves turn a brilliant yellow when the elk begin to bugle.  (By the way elk, rodents and rabbits eat the bark of aspens, but I have never seen deer eat their bark.)  As a pioneer, they love lots of sun and can tolerate poor soils.  While they may not live for centuries, they will live longer than most homeowners who plant them.  Give them some room and they will form a dome shape colony (or clone) of genetically identical individuals.  For sentimental reasons, I prefer the Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides) slightly more than the Bigtooth Aspen (Populus grandidentata).  Both are attractive trees and more interesting to me than the Lombardy Poplar (Populous nigra) that is often seen planted in yards. 

(Incidentally, Tulip “Poplar” or Yellow “Poplar” (Liriodendron tulipifera) is in the Magnolia family, and isn’t a poplar at all.)

Prescribed Fire Training

Sandbox table

Over the last few years Natural Lands Trust's Stewardship Staff, which has been doing prescribed fire for more than fifteen years, has been undergoing additional training to comply with new standards and practices which we helped craft. Three of us just completed S-234, Ignition Operations, along with about 30 staff from the Bureau of Forestry, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Above we are standing around a sandbox—used to model terrain, fire conditions, and our response to manage it. It's a new technique for training courses but we've been using it in-house at Natural Lands Trust for a couple of years now (we use kitty litter instead of sand, and also raid our kids' toy collections). We can create the exact shape of the topography of our preserves and talk about the challenges, responses, and contingencies of a prescribed fire or wildfire there.

 

Crow’s Nest: We’re plowed too

I have been attending Prescribed Fire training this week so didn't get back to the preserve until this afternoon and immediately started plowing and shoveling. We had about 4 – 5" of fresh snow today.

Our parking lot is gravel, so plowing doesn't exactly clear it—but now you won't get stuck.

As the temperatures drop over the next couple days the conditions should be outstanding for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing here. And the snow has made the countryside beautiful.

I enjoy the change of seasons; but if pressed I'd say I'm more of a summer person. However, I love a "real" winter that has crunchy snow underfoot and crisp air, and I prefer snow over gray rain.

Come out to Crow's Nest to see the animal tracks and reduce the effects of cabin fever.

Mariton – Turkey Flock

TURKEY 2011 005 

We have been seeing wild turkeys at Mariton again.  Sometimes we go a few weeks with very little turkey activity.  Lately, we have been seeing them everyday on the preserve, and it is a flock of almost 30 birds.  This morning, they walked through the yard, past the Nature Center and up into the woods.

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