Crow’s Nest Preserve: Looking like a farm

May 21, 2011

Crow’s Nest is foremost a “Preserve”—protected open space that Natural Lands Trust owns and manages for its native species, ecological value and public use. But historically it was a farm and some of it remains that: we lease about a quarter of the preserve to Frank Hartung who grows crops on our fields.

But recently other parts of the preserve have taken a farming turn. We added goats to perform prescribed grazing in one habitat for clearing multiflora rose. These Nubian wethers are pets with a job and are outstanding employees of Natural Lands Trust (out standing in the field).

We also just added a couple steers, again for a specific habitat restoration goal. In past years we borrowed some steers but transportation logistics made it more attractive for colleague Jack Stefferud and I to go into partnership on a pair that belong to us personally but will be used for habitat restoration here.

My wife Denise who has put off my interest in chickens for a couple years (while we had Owen, for example) came home the other day and told me we needed to get some “tonight.” So we did. The three of them are delightful, still in the barn, and will be egg-layers and family pets. I’ve never seen anything grow faster, except perhaps mile-a-minute weed. There’s no habitat restoration component to their arrival, though we plan to run them in a portable “chicken tractor” moved each day so they will eat plenty of bugs, and the kids in our nature programs have enjoyed visiting with them.


And our neighbor Brent Sanders has been busy adding bee hives all over the Crow’s Nest, pollinating and making honey. I don’t know what is next but I am excited to see the return of animals to fields that historically were pastures.