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Archive for November, 2011

Crow’s Nest: Freeing Trees

Our work is not finished when we plant new trees. Each year we check on our young charges, making sure they are free from vines and still adequately protected from deer browse by a tree tube shelter or a cage. We usually check tree tubes in the winter, since sometimes bees make their summer home inside them.

I planted the white pine in the photo above when it was a 6″ seedling; now it’s about 15 feet. It’s one of several that I planted more than twelve years ago to fill a gap in a hedgerow. Each year I spent a few minutes clearing vines off of the cages, made from concrete-reinforcing wire, that surrounded them. This year, I am finally able to remove these cages (and will reuse them on other new trees).

Rain barrel, redux

The initial way I had routed the downspout straight into the rain barrel resulted in too much water entering, and blowing the lid off the barrel during hard rains (we had lots of experience with that this fall).

So I purchased a device that regulates the water intake and turned the overflow spigot into the input, so it will fill the barrel gradually and let some water pass directly to the existing stormwater pipe underground.

The device lets the first flush of a hard rain pass straight through to send debris and contaminants on beyond the rain barrel. Then it lets a portion of the rest of the rain go into the barrel while still screening leaves. It has a shutoff switch so that it will not freeze up in the winter. So now the barrel is full again but not overflowing.

With frequent recent power outages this source of water has come in handy for flushing toilets. It will also be used for rinsing feet when returning from the creek at camp, and watering the garden and houseplants.


Crow’s Nest fall nature clubs wrap up

We’ve had a good time exploring the preserve at WebWalkers, WebWigglers, and WebWanderers this fall despite the frequent rain.

We were studying seeds and seed dispersal but we also spent time visiting the calves and  goats, crossing Pine Creek on the wire bridge, and climbing on fallen trees, of which we now have many new ones. One of the groups even got to play in the gondola of a hot air balloon that had landed at the preserve (while I pulled the chase vehicle out of the mud with our tractor).

We had a few warm days without rain so some of the kids went on a hayride. We’ll begin our winter series of programs on January 18, 19 and 20.

Crow’s Nest: Chipping along roads


I made another round with the chipper yesterday to clean up more damaged limbs that have been dropping over the few weeks since the freak snowstorm.

A family member was wondering why I have been spending so much time chipping storm damage along the local roads that run through or alongside Crow’s Nest Preserve. (We have about eight miles of road frontage if you count both sides of the roads that bisect the preserve.) How should it be that a land trust should be responsible for roads? We aren’t, but as good land managers I believe we still have a role to play.

Our township does a fantastic job of maintaining local roads. I view my work managing the roadside parts of the preserve as working in partnership with the township road crew. After the storm hit the township crew had the roads cleared very quickly—before I’d even arrived home from that weekend’s travels. Additionally, power companies were working to get trees off the wires and further cleared areas along the roads. But their goals are respectively to make the roads passable and to restore power; ours is to manage the adjacent forest for the trees that grow there, to maintain the beauty, safety, and integrity of those woods.

In clearing the roads and wires a lot of debris was left piled beside the roads. Other trees near the roads were damaged by the snow and needed to be pruned or removed so that they didn’t become a future hazard. We chipped the accumulation of branches and cut down trees that would not recover. (Deeper in the woods and away from trails, all of that storm damage is left since it does not pose a hazard.)

Our objectives are to prevent those branches from becoming all you see from the road, from becoming a ladder for vines to climb other trees, and from obstructing access to the preserve. One of the fastest ways to do this is to run brush through the chipper and direct the chips into the woods. We keep the chute moving so that the chips are scatted and not left in unnatural mounds.

Many people experience the preserve only from their cars as they pass through, and we want their impressions to be positive. We don’t want our open space to impose any burdens upon the township staff; we’d like to be counted among the most responsible landowners.

We’d like to think that our expertise and care stewarding these lands sets us apart from many other conservation organizations. Our preserves are demonstration sites for our work.

Crow’s Nest (and other preserves): Why we don’t want you to dump your yard waste here

As the storm cleanup progresses I can’t help noticing that some of the preserve neighbors have been putting the brush that fell in their yards, back in the woods—not their woods but on our lands that are the preserve. “It’s just woods,” or “Nobody will notice,” or “It’s biodegradable.” Here’s why we’d prefer you didn’t.

Of course, if the branches fell from the preserve’s trees, call us and we will remove them or chip them. (Call us also if there are branches from our trees that look like they might fall on your property. We’d much rather control where and when they fall if they are a concern to you.) If the branches are from your own trees, why not create a space in your yard to store that brush?

The problem with dragging it onto the preserve is that it may contain seeds of non-native and perhaps invasive plants that we don’t want to encourage at the preserve. While we do keep brush piles for habitat at the preserve, we choose carefully where to put them and we also maintain them to be free of vines and weeds. And we don’t make brush piles from branches already loaded with weed seeds such as those of Norway maple.

Just yesterday I was pulling a patch of the invasive groundcover periwinkle (Vinca minor) that arrived with someone’s yard clippings.

We don’t want the edges of our property to look like, well, a dump. Lines of brush piles on our boundary block the view into the preserve and can become a ladder for vines to get up into the trees. After I finish storm cleanup at the preserve I will be knocking on doors to see what we can do to get your brush off of the preserve.

Crow’s Nest: one more trail open

After another half day of chainsawing and chipping the service road (tractor path) between Harmonyville Road and Northside Road is open. I was pleased to get this done before we had any significant rain since it required towing the heavy chipper through farm fields that will not be accessible after tomorrow’s rain. I also did more clearing on Northside Road and around the Jacob house. I’ve started to generate firewood-sized pieces in addition to smaller brush that I chip and have set them out across from the Jacob barn for people to take. They won’t last long but there will be more to come… there’s still about ten larger trees down in farm fields to cut up and a couple more trails with blockages.

One of those days…

Momma told me there’d be days like this…

I took a forced break from storm damage cleanup due to circumstances: the goats have started getting out, among other things. The solar fence charger was no longer charging. So I weed whipped the fence perimeter this morning to make sure that weeds weren’t shorting out the wires. A few hours later the boys were out again. So I spent my Monday time with Owen (Natural Lands Trust graciously lets me flex my time for a few hours on Mondays while my wife Denise works) replacing the solar charger with one that seems to work. Time will tell, and all the neighbors have been alerted to keep an eye out for Seamus and Duffy.

Then I had a few extra minutes and I thought I’d mow a trail that had been neglected due to the extensive rains earlier this fall. It is likely as dry now as anytime between now and next June, or so I thought. I did finish the area I had in mind, but decided to do just a bit more. Too much more. For the first time ever I got stuck in our 6-wheel drive mower, sunk beyond belief (I’ve come close before, but never beyond getting myself out). When you work alone, this is cause for some consternation, if not despair. Luckily farmer Frank Hartung was willing and available in the afternoon to pull me out.

That’s not including the splinter I put all the way through my thumb, just opening the gate to the goat pasture. Just another day at the office.

The forecast of rain has also cast a shadow on my project priorities. Instead of dealing with some dumping we’re experiencing in the woods along Northside Road and continuing storm damage cleanup, it was suddenly pressing to do that mowing now, as well as buy more straw for goat and cattle bedding, and while I was out, lay in a supply of calcium chloride for clearing sidewalks and driveways this winter. The other stuff can still be done in the rain…

Crow’s Nest Trail Update – 11/11/11

You know I just wanted to write today’s date.

As of this afternoon the Fox Hill Trail has been cleared, so most of our forested trails are open, also including the Creek Trail, Deep Woods Trail, and Hopewell Trail. Some of our service roads are still blocked, and there are about a dozen large trees down in farm fields yet. The list of places we need to take the chipper grows as more branches fall and we discover more damage. We’ll be into December before everything is cleaned up—and we might leave a couple trees down in the farm fields for the kids to play on at our Nature Clubs, at least until the end of winter.

I cut down a lot of spring poles, trees with snags, and other widowmakers this week. There are only a couple of right ways—but many wrong ways—to go about releasing the pressure that builds up when a large tree or branch pins down a smaller tree. The training we all received in the Game of Logging has paid off.

The new Fox Hill trail is open and follows the same course as it was designed to, but it does look different than it did a couple weeks ago. We tried to clear things so that hikers won’t feel like they’re walking through a hallway lined with firewood. But the original plan did not include cutting down so many trails to make a space for the trail. Many beech trees were snapped off or bent over into the trail, so they needed to be removed. The rest of the woods look the same, and you can see this from the trail.

Now that I’ve spent a lot of time on this Eagle Scout Project trail I am really liking it more and more. It weaves naturally though the woods and imperceptibly climbs the ridge, crossing at a subtle saddle so that suddenly you realize the peak of the ridge is on your right instead of your left.

I hope you’ll visit and make a point of exploring these wooded trails on both sides of Northside Road.

A Day on the Water

I am not quite ready to put my canoes into storage for the winter.  So, I was able to talk a couple of buddies into paddling the Tohickon Creek during the dam release this past weekend.  The Tohickon is a pretty stream in any season, and during the release it is just down right fun.  The photos can’t do the landscape justice.  There was ice forming on some of the steep ravine walls.  The blue sky was unbelievable when we broke into the open areas.  There were even beautiful leaves in places.

We saw lots of wildlife.  A Great Blue Heron flied with us for about a mile.  A Red-tailed hawk checked us out several times.  We saw several flocks of ducks.  One male Wood Duck winged over our boats and took our breath away when the sun caught his colors.  Belted Kingfishers splashed in the water ahead of us as we paddled.  It was a great fall day to be outside and enjoying nature.

Mariton: October Precipitation

I am writing yet another post about my amazement of the previous month’s precipitation.  Mariton received 5.28 inches of precipitation in October.  That is actually only slightly above the average of 4.90 inches.  Of course 1.50 inches of that came as rain and wet snow.

The total for the year so far is now 71.41 inches!  That is more than TWO FEET more than average for this point in the year.  Amazing.


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