Page 1

ridge line

a publication of the Merck Forest and Farmland Center

Autumn 2016

teaching and demonstrating the benefits of innovative, sustainable management of forest and farmland.

2 From the Executive Director By Tom Ward

Why construct a replica of Henry David Thoreau’s House at Merck Forest? Henry David Thoreau (b. July 12, 1817; d. May 6, 1862) lived most of his life in Concord, Massachusetts, and we have no indication he ever set foot in the state of Vermont. So it seems a fair question: Why build a replica of the simple (10’ x 15’) post and beam house Thoreau built near Walden Pond, here in Rupert? Thoreau was a gifted thinker, far ahead of many of his contemporaries, and wrote numerous essays, poems, philosophical treatises and books over the course of his life. He was deeply interested in distilling life to its simplest essence so as to be able to think unencumbered by the expectations of society. When he embarked on the work of constructing a small house in the woods, his mindset was informed by his commitment to minimalism, with a strong emphasis on a strictly utilitarian approach to the project, and his plan to live in the woods simply. In the early spring of 1845, Thoreau cut young straight white pines on property owned by his friend and mentor, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and hewed them into timbers of appropriate dimensions. By May of the same year, the house was ready to be raised, and he moved in on July Fourth after using planks salvaged from a shanty in town, which he bought from a railroad worker named Collins. Over the course of the summer he built a serviceable hearth and chimney atop the stone footings he had put in place below ground. By the time winter arrived, Thoreau had finished putting shingles over the plank sheathing on the roof and sides, and had applied lath and plaster to the interior walls. Our plan is to follow Thoreau’s ethic, using locally available spruce trees, which will be hand-hewn on site. The rough timbers will be transported to the Frank Hatch Sap House, where mortise and tenon joints will be cut into the timbers in advance of the house-raising to be accomplished in the spring of 2017. We will try to have the exterior sheathed by July 12th in time for the celebration of the 200th anniversary of Thoreau’s birth. The house and furnishings will be finished over the course of the summer and fall, using skills, tools, and materials consistent with those employed by Thoreau in 1845. Merck Forest & Farmland Center is committed to employing sustainable management methods in its forests and on its farmland, and we aspire to educate interested folks about these topics. Hence we feel the tenets by which Thoreau lived, and specifically those he modelled in the two years he occupied the house at Walden Pond, are central to our mission. The Thoreau House will be available seasonally, for rental to interested writers and thinkers.

Photo Courtesy of Tim Callahan

IN MEMORIUM Robert Taggart, of Sleepy Hollow, New York, and Pawlet, Vermont, a long-time trustee and supporter of Merck Forest and Farmland Center, died in June of this year. His ready smile and inquistive dialogue will be much missed, and we extend our sincerest condolences to his wife Anna and his family.

Thoreau House Initiative


Happy Birthday Henry David Thoreau! The Bicentennial of Henry David Thoreau’s birth is July 12, 2017, and at Merck Forest and Farmland Center, we intend to honor his legacy of self-reliance, thoughtful and intentional living and intellectual rigor with a project in keeping with our own mission. Deep in the Merck Forest Woods, we will erect a facsimile of the house he built on the banks of Walden Pond, using materials harvested at Merck Forest or sourced locally, employing local artisans to lead interested students in construction workshops, and using hand tools and work techniques consistent with the historical period. We are putting together a package of workshops related to the design and construction of the Thoreau cabin. At this point, dates/times/tuition fees are still tentative, so check the website ( periodically to confirm the details of a workshop which interests you. Participation for most workshops is limited to ten people; young people aged 12-16 may participate if accompanied by a participating adult.

October 15/16 November 12/13 December 10/11 January 2017 February 2017 May 2017 May 2017 June 2017 July 12 August 2017 TBD

Sitework and Laying the Stone Foundation at Racey Pond Hewing Workshop: Prepare timbers for construction Joinery Workshop: Timber-framing, Mortise/Tenon Joinery Board feathering, Shingle and Peg Workshop “Overflow” / “Catch-up” Workshop Cabin Raising Sheathing Workshop: Roof and Walls Shingling of Cabin Cabin Dedication (Thoreau’s birthday) Plaster and Lath Workshop Chimney Workshop

4 Merck as Classroom Adventures with Lunch Learn and Play This summer the education, forestry and farm staff worked together to develop a service-learning program for Salem (New York)’s free summer camp, Lunch, Learn and Play. As in past years, Merck provided two full weeks of adventures and fun for the fifth and sixth grade group and their counselors. We were VERY appreciative of the many extra hands, as we tackled numerous service-learning projects -- weeding the garden, harvesting garlic, clearing trails, and learning how to use power tools to create a “TaleTrail” story. Not only did this talented and energetic group master using sharp tools, but they also sharpened their orienteering and critical thinking skills: one of the favorite activities of the week was the completion of a tricky orienteering course set up by our forestry team of Ethan and Tim after instruction in the use of compasses from Customer Service Specialist Darla. When the students weren’t practicing navigation skills, they LOVED exploring the many nooks, crannies and creatures to be found in Page Pond - frogs, red-spotted newts and dragonfly nymphs, oh my! Our time with Lunch, Learn and Play ended, appropriately, with the picking of Merck blueberries for some tasty blueberry pancakes (a must-try!) after a night of camping at the Glen. Not to worry, all the kids, counselors and parent chaperones were accounted-for after the hike back down. The Lunch, Learn and Play program provides lunch and afternoon programming for children of all ages at no cost to local families.

Take a Walk on the TALE TRAIL This September will see the launch of Merck Forest & Farmland Center’s TALE TRAIL attraction. Spaced at intervals along the Discovery Trail – an easy, family-friendly hike from the Visitor Center to the farm – the TALE TRAIL will feature pages from a picture book which relate to the surrounding woods. Parents will be able to read a story to their children and introduce them to the environment at the same time. The first TALE TRAIL story features Anthony D. Frederick’s Around One Log, a story about a rotting log and the creatures who make it their home. Come for a hike, read a story, and explore the world around you with your youngsters.

Summertime Farm Chores & Salem (NY)’s Lunch, Learn & Play Groups It’s always a good day when you get to work on the farm or in the forest with Merck Forest’s talented Education Apprentices, Sarah and Alessia. Young children love our hands-on/ hands-dirty workshops and chores. They never even realize that they’re learning lessons about food sources, about work habits, about empathy for animals, about taking instructions, and about working cooperatively with teammates.

Education Director's Notes

5 by Christine Hubbard

MFFC/NGSS School Partnership Program The sultry days of summer are upon us. Even so, evidence of coming cooler days of fall can be seen, as the first color-tinged red maple leaves begin to carpet the ground. The end of summer brings the start of school, and with that, the second year of the Merck Forest and Farmland Center Next Generation Science Standards School Partnership Pilot Program (MFFC/NGSS). This program, focused on 5th and 6th grade students, involves full-day field experiences, classroom lessons, and Expositions for students to show off their work at the conclusion of the program. After a successful launch of the program last school year, we analyzed feedback from our teacher/partners in order to bring an even better experience to local students. We are pleased to announce that our 5th grade program has doubled in size, with Manchester Elementary and Middle School joining The Dorset School and Sunderland Elementary School. Students will engage in lessons in environmental science and ecology as they explore decomposition, biodiversity, and non-native and invasive species in our ponds, fields, and forest. With generous support from Orvis and r.k. Miles, as well as memorial bequests from Gerrit Kouwenhoven, this program is provided to our participating schools free of charge, enabling students a chance to explore science in the natural world. We look forward to working with our young scientists this fall.

PRESENTATION AT NATIONAL FARM-BASED EDUCATION CONFERENCE Education Director Christine Hubbard and Education Department Apprentices Sarah McIlvennie and Alessia McCobb will lead a workshop at the Sixth National Farm-Based Education Network Gathering in Concord, Massachusetts, this November. The topic of their workshop is “Biodiversity in the Sugarbush and Beyond.� Their discussion will identify biodiversity requirements of healthy organic sugarbushes, and will address the critical importance of biodiversity in ecosystems in general. In addition, they will present to the educators a variety of interactive games designed to help children understand the importance of biodiversity in healthy ecosystems. The Farm-Based Education Network exists to strengthen and support the work of educators, farmers, locavore advocates and food-policy makers, who provide access to and experiences of, working farms. The conference is an opportunity for members to come together to share skills and resources.


From the Fields


by Jonathan Kilpatrick, Farm Manager

We have had some significant changes up at the farm this quarter: we are sad to announce the departure of our assistant farm manager, Erik Schlener. Erik has moved on to different challenges and will be missed. It is also with mixed feelings that we inform you that our long-time sow, Peggy Sue, has retired and moved on from Merck’s pastures. Due to her age and to the increasing difficulty she experienced in farrowing litters, it became apparent that we needed to make a decision about her future. The exciting news is that out of ten piglets from her last litter, eight are females, giving us options to chose some of her progeny to carry on. We will be choosing not one, but two gilts (young female pigs) to replace Peggy Sue. It is abundantly apparent that our sow and her piglets are a popular attraction at Merck. With two sows, we can alternate the breeding and have more piglets each year. This translates into more opportunities for you to come up and see the cute little pigs, rub their bellies, scratch around their ears, and select some of our great pork for your table. Wait . . . pork? Yes, another advantage to having two sows will be a more consistent supply of our delicious pork. Our pigs, raised outdoors on pasture and in the woods, are fed a locally grown and milled non-GMO feed. We take great pride in raising the best pork and want to share it with you.

Of course, work up on the farm is something that never changes. Recently we have been busy making hay, entertaining berry pickers, tearing down an old building that is no longer used, and keeping the livestock happy. It has been a bit of a dry summer, but some recent rain has provided much-needed relief. Please come by and pick some raspberries, be entertained by the pigs, watch the sheep graze, and enjoy the beautiful fall weather at Merck Forest!

Forester's Notes


by Ethan Crumley, Forester

The Natural Communities of Merck Forest

Among the pleasures of walking through the forest is identifying woody and herbaceous plants, mushrooms & fungi, and birds and other animals. The observant hiker will notice patterns in the plant, bird and animal species found in proximity to one another. Ecologists refer to these patterns as “natural communities.” Their identification in the landscape provides a powerful tool for natural resource managers; and hikers familiar with the concept and knowledgeable about specific natural community associations will find their experience of the woods enriched beyond measure. In 2014, Merck Trustee Kat Deely (then a graduate student in UVM’s Ecological Planning Program), mapped and identified eleven separate natural communities in Merck forest. These communities include Dry Oak Woodland, Dry Oak Forest, Dry Oak-Hickory-Hophornbeam Forest, Mesic Maple-Ash-Hickory-Oak Forest, Mesic Red Oak-Northern Hardwood Forest, Hemlock Forest, Boreal Talus Woodland, Montane Red Spruce-Yellow Birch Forest, Red Spruce-Northern Hardwood Forest, Northern Hardwood Forest, and Rich Northern Hardwood Forest.

Forester Ethan Crumley through the lens of a cruising prism. Photo courtesy of Tim Callahan

We are excited to bring to our readers a new series looking at each of the natural communities found at Merck: in upcoming Ridgeline issues we will explore what makes each of these communities unique and where to find them at Merck. We believe that an understanding of our special natural communities can add new dimensions to your explorations, and infuse new excitement in your hikes in the Merck forest. _________________________________________ Deely, Kat. “An Ecological Assessment of Merck Forest & Farmland Center Rupert, Vermont.” 2014. Thompson, E. and Sorenson, E. Wetland, Woodland, Wildland: A Guide to the Natural Communities of Vermont. Published by Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife and The Nature Conservancy. 2000.

Photo courtesy of Tim Callahan

8 News & Upcoming Events Everyone’s heading to Merck Forest & Farmland Center for the

Fall Festival. Family Fun plus chickens!

Saturday, September 24 from 9am to 3pm

2016 BeBrave Hike-a-thon ANNUAL SECONDOctober Saturday, 2nd The second annual Be Brave Hike-A-Thon fundraiser will take place at Merck Forest on Saturday, October BENIGN 2nd from 10 am BRAIN to 2 pm,TUMOR rain or AWARENESS shine. Funds raised during the festivities assist individuals affected by benign brain tumors and support research for a cure: last year $80,0002nd was donated research SUNDAY, OCTOBER 10 am -to 2 pm facilities in Phoenix,MERCK Arizona,FOREST and Boston, Massachusetts. 3270 Route 315 ~ Rupert, Vermont Scavenger Hunt

3270 Route 315, Rupert, Vermont 802-394-7836

Poster_BeBrave_2016.indd 1

Images from Open Farm Week August 2016

Draft Horse Workshop for Teens

Basket Bonanza

7/25/16 2:09 PM

PLEASE HELP US PICK NAMES FOR OUR NEW SOWS! Submit your suggestion and information about how to contact you to info@merckforest. org. We will collect all entries and the staff will select the two best names in mid-October. Winners will be contacted and will win a prize. (Please note: only submissions with contact information will be considered)

Farrier & Farm-Skill Demonstrations

NOFA-VT Pizza Party

Silent Auction

Food & Beverage Sales Musicor ~ Brielle Edborg as a For a schedule of the day’sLive events to register hiker orRegister hiking team, go to the & Donate @ website: BEBRAVE.LIFE

991 bales and counting -- the farm staff has been busy haying in advance of a long winter.

The Pot O’ Gold at the end of the rainbow is the MFFC float in the Rupert Old Home Days Parade, built by Chris Hubbard, Sarah McIlvennie & Alessia McCobb.

Updates on Special Projects Clark’s Clearing Cabin Rehabilitation

After a long hiatus, the cabin at Clark’s Clearing will soon host overnight guests. The restoration has taken a while, but there has been a steady drumbeat of progress over the course of the past year, and we expect to re-roof the cabin in the next few weeks.

Memorial Bench Installation

Regular visitors to Merck will notice a new feature in the landscape: a granite bench on the south bank of Page Pond, with the inscription: “In Loving Memory of Robert and Susan Jensen -- and many fun family adventures at Merck Forest.”

The family of Robert and Susan vacationed at Merck Forest for many years, and sons Erik and Chris Jensen have honored Merck Forest by memorializing their parents with this thoughtful gift to the Merck community.


10 Porcupines & From the Lodge The North American Porcupine

by Katie Connor

Have you ever camped at Merck Forest, and in the dead of night heard a strange scraping sound reverberating through the cabin walls? Don’t be alarmed, it’s just a nocturnal gourmet snacking on the best-tasting wood around: a Merck Forest porcupine gnawing on your cabin. Porcupines -- while a nuisance -- are nonetheless fascinating creatures. They are typically nocturnal and while primarily vegetarian, they will also eat antler drops from deer, moose and elk, and they love processed wood -- especially plywood -- for the minerals and salts contained in adhesives. They have poor eyesight but excellent hearing and a great sense of smell. Adapted to be terrific tree climbers, they may be seen up in the canopy, nibbling twigs, buds and fruit; oddly, they fall out of the trees fairly frequently and stick themselves with their own quills upon hitting the ground. Thankfully for the porcupine, they have special antibiotics in their skin to prevent infection from the resultant punctures. An adult porcupine has an average of 30,000 quills covering its body (except belly, face and feet); these are barbed hollow-spiny hairs, only loosely anchored in the skin. They serve the porcupine in a couple of ways: not only are they used for self-defense, but they also serve as insulation for the animal in winter. Most of the time the quills lay flat against the body but when a porcupine feels threatened, muscles under the skin contract, causing the quills to bristle outward. The porky’s quills are easily dislodged and become airborne when the animal turns from an attacker and swishes its tail in distress. The principal predator of the porcupine is the fisher or fisher cat, a member of the weasel family. Fishers are capable tree climbers, and can force a porcupine out of a tree onto the ground, where the two animals engage in a deadly dance. Slow-moving and awkward, the porcupine is often out-manuvered and defeated by the fisher. So if you hear that gnawing sound at your cabin door, corral your dog. Our nocturnal gourmet has just stopped by your cabin for a little nosh. Once again our foraging apprentices, Sarah and Alessia, report that they are eating grand from the land as Merck continues to provide both cultivated and wild treats: eggs, meat, veggies, and berries. The Lodge garden is exploding with produce, providing zucchini and squash at every meal of the day: sauteed, grilled, or as chocolate chip zucchini bread, ratatouille, or frittata. Sarah and Alessia are creative with what Merck has to offer: it turns out that leftover pork breakfast sausage from the Pancake Breakfast combines egg-cellently well with fresh Merck eggs for a new take on Spaghetti alla Carbonara. Merck blueberries give a pop to pancakes, home-brewed kombucha, cobbler, and are super delicious frozen with by Sarah McIlvennie and Alessia McCobb a dash of cream on top. Recently the apprentices treated departing Assistant Farm Manager Erik to a completely local meal: baba ghanoush atop Earth Sky Time Bakery bread, salad from the garden, Merck pork sirloin, roasted root veggies and mini cantaloupe. Few things bring people together as well as a wonderful meal made with fresh local ingredients.

Letters from the Lodge – Eating Grand from the Land

Current tasty treats found at Merck include wild blackberries (all over the property), and you-pick blueberries and garlic (for sale in the VC). Come enjoy!

Whole Lambs Available Soon! Jonathan is currently taking orders for whole lambs, to be available in September or October. Order forms may be printed off from this website link: Lamb_Order_Form.pdf or you may contact Jonathan directly at jonathan@

Don’t forget to get your garlic!


About Us

Merck Forest and Farmland Center is a non-profit educational organization with a mission to teach and demonstrate the benefits of innovative, sustainable management of forest and farmland. We offer a variety of seasonal school programs, apprenticeships and recreational opportunities to individuals and families. Through education, we hope to encourage our visitors to become good stewards of the land. Members support our educational programs and maintenance of over 3,100 acres of land and 30 miles of trails. We are grateful for their help.


Timothy Callahan wrapped up his summer assignment as Merck’s Assistant Forester, returning to his permanent position as Syracuse University’s Campus Minister. During his brief tenure at Merck, Tim was Forester Ethan Crumley’s right-hand man, and Ethan - especially - will miss Tim’s problem-solving skills and expertise with the GIS mapping software, but we will all miss Tim’s calm and cheerful demeanor and his sparkling banter at staff meetings. Assistant Farm Manager Erik Schlener has moved on to new pastures with Shekomeko Farms in Photo: DJB Dutchess County, New York. During his time here he proved to be a valuable source of knowledge, passion, and humor. We wish both men the very best in their future endeavors.

Photo: M.Leu

Board of Trustees

Keld Alstrup, Treasurer Donald Campbell, Secretary Jean Ceglowski Austin Chinn, President Kat Deely Jeromy Gardner George Hatch, Vice President Jim Hand Ann Jackson Margaret Mertz


Advisory Council

Darla Belevich, Customer Service Specialist Katie Connor, Customer Service Specialist Ethan Crumley, Forester Sarah Elliot, Customer Service Specialist Christine Ferris-Hubbard, Education Director Jonathan Kilpatrick, Farm Manager Kathryn Lawrence, Assistant to the Director Marybeth Leu, Communications Coordinator Alessia McCobb, Education Apprentice Sarah McIlvennie, Education Apprentice Tom Ward, Executive Director

Kathleen Achor Judy Buechner Sue Ceglowski Phil Chapman Ed Cotter Bob Gasperetti Bambi Hatch Dick Hittle

PO Box 86, 3270 VT-Route 315 Rupert, Vermont 05768 802-394-7836

Printed on 100% recycled paper Read our


Anne Houser Joe Lovering Jon Mathewson Bruce Putnam Liz Putnam Sam Schneski Phil Warren Patty Winpenny

PO Box 86, 3270 VT-Route 315 Rupert, Vermont 05768 INSIDE: P2 - From the Executive Director P3 - Thoreau House Initiative P4 - Merck as Classroom P5 - Education Director’s Notes P6 - From the Fields P7 - Forester’s Notes P8 - Upcoming Events & News P9 - Update on Special Projects 10 - Porcupines & From the Lodge

11 - About Us

Membership at Merck: Join or Renew Today! Complete this form and mail it to: Merck Forest & Famland Center PO Box 86, Ruper t, VT 05768 Or join online at

Membership Information Name:


Address: Phone: E-mail: May we send you communications by email? Quarterly Newletter Ridgeline: Yes ___ No ___ Event Announcements: Yes___ No ___

Annual Membership Add’l Contribution Total Amount

Payment: Cash / Check / Visa / MC / AMEX / Discover Card #:

Exp Dt:


Memberships support our educational programs and maintenance of over 3,100 acres of land and 30 miles of trails. Thank you for your help!

Profile for Merck Forest

2016 Autumn Ridgeline  

Merck Forest & Farmland Quarterly Newsletter

2016 Autumn Ridgeline  

Merck Forest & Farmland Quarterly Newsletter


Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded