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Mariton: Tipping Stumps

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

While clearing the trails after Superstorm Sandy, I am taking quite a bit of satisfaction tipping stumps.  When many of the trees were blown over, their roots masses were unearthed with the trunks.  Contemplate for a moment how much wind it takes to blow over a hundred year old tree, roots and all. 


Getting the root mass to go back is fairly easy within a week of the storm.  The roots are still anchored and have enough tension that they will pull the stump and root ball back into the hole.  This stump (above photo) along the Woods Trail went right back when it was freed from the trunk.  For scale, the stump is about six feet high and about 2 feet in diameter.  Before tipping back, there was a hole in the trail three feet deep and pretty much all the way across the trail.  The root mass probably weighed at least two tons.


Conversely, the root mass of the tree above moved when the tree went over, and just couldn’t settle back in its hole.  It is about the same size as the previous stump.  Both stumps were flat on the ground before I cut them.

Here is a series of photos of the process.  First the tree laying across the trail.  Check out the root mass sticking up in the air on the left.  My chainsaw helmet is used for scale.

Then with the main trunk cut, the stump is released back into its hole.

Finally with the trunk pulled off of the trail.

Mariton: Plodding Progress

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Kevin and I are making progress opening trails after the storm.  Actually, we have done pretty well up to this point.  We are now to the worst sections (the Squeeze and Turnpike), knowing that it will take several days of work just to open one section of trail. 

There are three separate large concentrations of storm damage (and several small areas) at Mariton.  We were lucky that the trails were on the perimeters of two of those areas.  There was still a lot of tree cutting to clear trails around those areas.

However, the Squeeze and Turnpike Trails run right through the middle of one of the bigger blowdowns, and the going is slow.  Check out how small the tractor looks in the middle of this blow down area.  Sometimes there is just a large tree across the trail.  We can cut it on either side of the trail, roll it to one side and continue.

Then there are the areas where the tops of several trees land right in the trail.  Here the cutting is slow and methodical.  After cutting, the branches have to be dragged or heaved off the trail.  There is already a lot of brush in these areas which makes this job more laborious.  But we are making progress.


Mariton: South Fox Trail Open

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

The South Fox Trail is now open from the Chimney Rock Trail all the way up the hill to the North Fox Trail.  If you haven’t visited Mariton since before Hurricane Sandy, now is a good time to see how much damage was done by the storm.  The Turnpike and Squeeze trails remain closed, but you can see a lot of the storm’s impact from the Spruce and Kit Trails.

Reading Sigurd F. Olson

by Tim Burris, Mariton Preserve Manager

I enjoy reading, but don’t consider myself a voracious reader.  Recently I have been reading works of Sigurd F. Olson.  Olson was a prolific environmental writer and 20th Century conservation icon .  He lived in Northern Minnesota near what is now the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA).  Amongst canoe travelers, Olson is referenced as a must read, and often quoted.  While I realized he was very instrumental in the conservation movement, I had never read any of his works.  With the winter solstice approaching, I figured it was time to find one of his books and curl up in the chair by the woodstove.

I started with one of Olson’s earlier books:  The Singing Wilderness.  What a great read.  His writing really captures the sights, sounds, smells and inner reflections of spending time in the back country.  For me it reinforced my avocation (and recreation).  The Singing Wilderness is a series of reminiscences and essays that guide the reader through the seasons, and in the process brings the North Country to life.  Olson takes the reader along as he canoes through the vast waterways of Minnesota and Canada.  His descriptions of the plants and smells will trigger instant recognition if you have spent any time in the north.  He takes us along on a night time cross country skiing jaunt outside of Ely, Minnesota.  I could hear the swishing of the skis and felt my lungs burn in the cold air.  We stand beside him as he watches squirrels hiding nuts, and ermine hunting for food.  Olsen covers all of these things in a well written, easy reading style.

Before finishing The Singing Wilderness I had already procured a copy of Reflections From the North Country, which I am presently reading.  This is one of his later works and a collection of essays about protecting wilderness for the health and preservation of our own species.  Olson was one of the early writers that reasoned that wilderness is so ingrained in our DNA, that if we eliminate wild places, we could ultimately eliminate ourselves.  I could have said that these were “thought provoking essays”, but really they are just “common sense”.  Unfortunately for some reason, this nation’s leaders are not endowed with common sense.  As we helplessly watch the erosion of the environmental enlightenment of the last century, we should all sit down with an Olson book this winter.  And pray for another inspirational voice to step forward and help lead this century’s environmental renaissance – sooner better than later.

Remembering Tim Parkany

This fall Natural Lands Trust lost a great supporter, a co-worker who contributed so much to building stewardship on our preserves and beyond. Tim Parkany passed away on October 29, 2012, far too early. This past weekend there was a memorial service, an opportunity to share stories and remember what he has added to our lives.

As a few of his close friends pointed out, he might have been skeptical of such a service. But the content was personal and meaningful. I learned things about Tim I hadn’t known before—he had a life outside of Natural Lands Trust and was generous with his time, using his extensive skills to help others.

He was a perfectionist too—that I knew. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. He didn’t just do things, he wanted to know why—how they fit in to the big picture. Although he was a member of the Building Stewardship Department, he attended land management training sessions on hazard trees and more, so that he could fit that in to how he worked with materials and on the buildings that support our conservation mission. He was an artisan as well as a talented artist.

He loved to debate and challenged what many would take for granted. He leaves behind a legacy of structures and improvements on our preserves that will not be forgotten, from Saunders Woods to Paunacussing to Gwynedd Wildlife Preserve. He was a mentor to many, and inspires us with his not taking shortcuts that would shortchange future generations. One of his last projects was the solar array at the Management Center at Gwynedd Wildlife Preserve.

Tim, we can’t believe you’re gone, and we miss you terribly.

Posted by Daniel Barringer on December 10, 2012.

Paunacussing Preserve

Diabase Farm Preserve


Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia)


Mariton: Precipitation Perspective

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

We are on course to end the year quite a bit below the average precipitation.  October was wet with almost 7 inches of rain from a couple large rain events.  We received about 2 inches from Sandy and its remnants, but there were other large rain events, as well as showers and rainy days throughout the month.  Many of our Tuesday Morning Walks were cancelled because of rain.

Following Superstorm Sandy, November was very dry.  I recorded only 0.92 inches of precipitation, including the snow after Thanksgiving.  In 1998, I recorded 0.86” in November, but my average for the month is 3.36 inches.

At the end of November this year’s total is 37.64 inches.  With one month to go, that is DRY.  My driest year so far was 1997, when I recorded only 40.39 inches.  The average for December is just under 4 inches…so this year could be close.  Interestingly, 2011 was the wettest year I had ever recorded (nearly 14 inches more than the next wettest year).

Crow’s Nest: Volunteer vine cutting day December 9

Accompany the Force of Nature Volunteers this Sunday, December 9 for an afternoon of vine cutting at Crow’s Nest Preserve. It’ll do you good to get out for some fresh air and perspective during this otherwise hectic yet joyous season, and you can’t beat the camaraderie. Bring gloves and pruners if you have them. We’ll be working on vines that are overwhelming our hedgerows and woods. We’ll meet at 1 pm at the visitor center barn, 201 Piersol Road, then travel to the job site for a couple hours of the most satisfying work. Call 610-286-7955 for more information.

Posted by Daniel Barringer on December 3, 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.


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