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Archive for November, 2012

Crow’s Nest: In the snow…

One of the things I love about this job is that some days I end up doing things I had no idea I’d be doing when I woke up in the morning. Shoveling snow isn’t necessarily one of those things that thrills me (the return on the effort is too short-lived), but with snow comes beauty and an opportunity to reconsider the day. No more mulching new plantings or other fall projects; onward winter.

Normally a forecast of 2″ of snow doesn’t make me bat an eye—unless it turns out to be 5″ of heavy wet snow with ice under it, a power outage, and other changes to the day’s plans.

The woods (where Sean and I were updating boundary postings) were beautiful this morning. We were soaking wet by lunch time.

With the power out and planned projects under snow, Jack and I took some time off this afternoon to move our steers to their winter pasture, where we have frost-free water and can set up a heater for the water in their trough. The steers will share the large shed with the goats.

We opted for leading them untethered down the farm lane, Jack is in front with a pan of sweet feed, I’m following to help steer their progress (no pun intended). You can see the goats on the left of this photo eagerly (?) anticipating the steers’ arrival. Three went in easily, the one in the foreground gave us some exercise.

Posted by Daniel Barringer on November 27, 2012.

Crow’s Nest: On my night table…

I have been reading David George Haskell’s The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature. Each chapter is a different day’s observation in a small circle inside a patch of old-growth woods. He also writes a blog, Ramble, that also contains his observations, many of which are made through a hand lens, and which link the very small with the big picture of cycles, rhythms, the web of life, and evolution. (Below, some scarlet cup fungus photographed at Crow’s Nest this summer.)

Want to know about fern spores, or Bergmann’s rule (the relationship of animal size and rates of heat loss, reflected in geographic trends in body size)? Or the ecosystem of a deer’s rumen, which allows these animals to make use of the vast stores of energy locked up in plant tissues? Or how maples can leaf out early, when hickories must leaf out late to avoid the risk of sap freezing in the xylem and damaging the cells?

Haskell traces the calcium cycle from the shells of snails, fed upon by birds, ground in their gizzards and dissolved in their blood. If not used immediately for egg shells, it is stored in the core of the bones in female’s wing and leg bones. He addresses some mysteries of the propagation of spring ephemeral wildflowers: for generations people thought the seeds were only ant-propagated but their short-distance planting couldn’t explain the flowers’ rapid range expansion.

These musings about the forest and the web of life impart some humility, as Haskell says, helping us find our way back to a moral vision of thoughtful management for both humans and forests. It’s an enjoyable read, and a useful one.

Posted by Daniel Barringer on November 23, 2012.

Crow’s Nest: It must be getting cold…

….if Seamus is wearing his snazzy new blanket, custom tailored to fit his thin frame.

Also we moved the cattle to their winter pasture today—three trips for four steers—about a mile down the road. It was either easier than we thought it would be or harder than it should have been… but Jack, Sean and I managed to load them on a trailer. The steers are in a new pasture that has never been grazed and so they have been rewarded with lush grass there, and they can see the goats across the driveway. The habitats they all had been grazing this year can now receive our attention to further manage invasive plants and improve conditions.

Posted by Daniel Barringer on November 9, 2012.

Mariton – Hurricane Sandy: Nature’s Reboot

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Hurricane Sandy hit Mariton pretty hard.  We are very thankful that there was no damage to the buildings and people.  We are so much luckier than so many people. 

I realize that people familiar with Mariton are wondering what the effects were.  It is pretty hard to take photos that actually show you the extent of the damage from the ground.  Brush and downed trees seem to block the view of all the other down trees.  Getting a sense of scale is also difficult to get from photos.    The above photos are from the Kit Trail looking west.  More than the trees on the ground, you should be looking at how few trees are standing in the sky.

The above photo is taken from the western side of the blowdown looking back towards the Kit Trail.  Again, you can’t see how many trees are on the ground, but you can see all of the space in the skyline that should be filled with standing trees.

The photo below is taken from the Spruce Trail looking west.  This was the Dark Habitat.  About half of this old spruce plantation was flattened.

There are three areas on the Preserve with extensive blowdowns.  When you walk the trails and look at the damage you will ask yourself what was the wind doing in this location?  Why did these trees blow over, yet that dead snag with extensive rot remained standing?  I am still scratching my head about that, and trying to answer the same questions. 

In the grand scheme of things, trees will regrow.  Many of the downed trees will send up stump sprouts.  If you have walked through the meadows, you know just how quickly a forest can begin regrowing.  However, we will have to be especially vigilant over the next few years to control the invasives that will also take advantage of all the sunlight.  It will be interesting to see how the forest responds.

Mariton: Nature Center and Trails open

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Hurricane Sandy blew down a lot of trees at Mariton.  Fortunately, the buildings were spared.  We have been working hard the last week to open up trails.  The Nature Center and Trails are now open.  I am sorry if you came out for a walk and found the driveway barricaded.  Until yesterday, it just wasn’t safe to walk on most of the trails.

Some trails remain closed.  The Turnpike, Squeeze and South Fox Trails will remain closed for awhile, as the amount of trees down there is extensive.  These trails are marked closed.  PLEASE. PLEASE. PLEASE, respect the closures and stay out of those areas.  I understand that we are all Disaster Gawkers to some extent.  I guarantee that you can see plenty of disaster from the safety of the trails that I have opened.

Thanks to Tom Kershner, Preston Wilson, Sean Quinn and Kevin Mault for rearraging their own work schedules to work at Mariton clearing trees.  Also, much thanks to volunteers Jim and Lisa Andrews for their help cleaning up after we went through.

Crow’s Nest: Fallen leaves are an asset

At a certain point last week I realized I was different than most other people (what took so long, you say?). While most people are raking the leaves off their lawns and into the street, I found myself blowing the leaves off the road and parking area and onto the lawn, where I then chopped up the leaves in place with the lawnmower to add organic matter to the yard. If the leaves stay in the road and driveway they just get damp and slippery and it still looks untidy. Chopped up in the lawn they disappear and yet provide a benefit in the form of improved fertility of the soil. Other leaves I let blow back into the woods, since we are lucky to live surrounded by them.

Posted by Daniel Barringer on November 6, 2012.

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