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In This Issue

2 The Forester’s Lesson

3 Farm and Field Recipe from the Lodge

4 Education Director’s Update Upcoming Events

5 Try This!

6 Staff Notes

7 About Us Membership Form

8 Did You Know? Trekker Tips

3270 Route 315, PO Box 86, Rupert, Vermont 05768 p. 802.394.7836

a publication of the Merck Forest and Farmland Center “Teaching, demonstrating & sustaining a working landscape”

Hike-A-Thon at Merck

1 Reflections on the BeBrave Hike-a-thon

Winter 2016

By Tom Ward, Executive Director In the spring, Kathryn and I were approached by two remarkable young women from Pawlet and Dorset. Riley Callen and Sarah Shehadi shared their stories about dealing with benign brain tumors, and their desire to raise some sorely-needed funds for research into this disease complex. Riley and Sarah are striking in their ability to cope with the changes brought on by multiple craniotomies, but even more so in their unflinching determination to help others deal with the difficult issues confronting those with brain tumors. In the early going, these young women and their supporters, led by Riley’s mother, Laura Callen, hoped to raise about $10,000 by setting up a “Hike-a-Thon” to be held at Merck Forest & Farmland Center, Inc. We readily agreed to provide the use of the Frank Hatch Sap House and to co-promote the event on our website, leaving all of the heavy lifting to them. To say they exceeded expectations is a substantial understatement. The event ran from 8:00 am to 5:30 pm, attracted several hundred participants, with many supporters coming from the Chatham, New Jersey, area, and as of the end of October had raised $105,000 for brain tumor research. In a period when so many of us are self-absorbed, these two young women set about addressing a problem they encountered and surmounted, with exceeding grace and good humor. It is truly inspiring to see what Riley, Sarah, and their supporters accomplished by setting a goal and working tirelessly to reach it. We would do well to emulate their approach. The BeBrave Hike-a-thon on October 3rd was wildly successful, as 400 people registered to hike Merck Forest Trails on a spectacular autumn day. Through registration fees, sponsorships from generous local corporations, raffle sales, and related events locally and in Riley Callen’s and Sarah Shehadi’s hometown of Chatham, New Jersey, the BeBrave organization raised $105,000 to support research into the treatment of benign brain tumors. Laura Callen, President of BeBrave, expressed her gratitude for the generosity of the Merck Forest community: to the sponsors who donated raffle items with values ranging from $150 to $800, to Tom Ward, Kathryn Lawrence and the rest of the Merck Forest staff, to the Equinox Valley Senior Bulldogs who presented Riley and Sarah with signed footballs, and to all the hikers who participated. Laura is looking forward to next year’s Hike-a-thon, which will take place on Saturday, October 1, 2016. Save the Date!

2 The Forester’s Lesson by Ethan Crumley

Wood Chips: Winter Tree Identification Part of the enjoyment of a hike in the woods is being knowledgeable about the forest elements around you: the animals, the wildflowers, and -- of course -- the trees. In the summer, there are many distinctive leaves which aid in the identification of each species you encounter, and with a trained eye or a good field guide tree identification is easy and enjoyable. Once winter comes, however, the deciduous trees have shed their leaves and leaf characteristics are no longer helpful. But don’t retire your field guides to the bookshelf until springtime. Unlike lawn mowing, gardening, and soccer, tree ID does not require warm weather or a plane ticket to Florida: tree ID is an activity that can happen all winter long!

There are three important tree characteristics to pay attention to in the winter: bark, twigs, and buds. Let’s take a look at each one. Bark: As a forester, this is the characteristic I look at the most. One advantage of being able to identify a species by the bark is that you can ID a tree from a distance. Also, you can ID logs on a log landing, log truck, or log yard without any leaves, twigs, or buds attached. No matter which season it is, the tree’s bark looks the same. To many eyes, tree bark is tree bark. The key is to pay attention to the subtle differences. Look at the color, texture, and bark pattern. Each detail is important. Try to think of something to compare the bark with in order to remember it. One of my professors, for example, compared the bark of black cherry to burnt potato chips. Twigs: This part of the tree can play a helpful role in tree identification. Characteristics to examine on the twig include color, texture, pattern, smell, diameter, and the pith. The texture can range from smooth to hairy to rippled. Two patterns on twigs to pay close attention to are bud arrangement (opposite or alternate) and leaf scars. Leaf scars are where last summer’s leaves attached to the twig, just below the bud. The size and shape of the scar along with the arrangement of the vein scars can be important defining characteristics. Some tree twigs, like black cherry and yellow birch, have distinct smells. Try sniffing the twig after scratching away the bark with your thumb nail or a small blade. Even though twigs may be tens of feet up in a tree, their size can still offer an important clue. For example, the twigs of white ash trees are much thicker than other twigs, such as those of basswood, whose bark can otherwise look very similar to white ash. Lastly, if you have a knife, the twig can be cut diagonally to reveal whether the pith is chambered, solid, or diaphragmed.

Alternate Branch/Bud


Buds: Buds are easy to overlook when identifying a tree. Despite their size, buds offer a wealth of tree identifying information. Pay attention to the bud’s shape. Is it long and pointy or short Alternate Branch/Bud and round? The bud scales, on the outside of the bud, can have several different arrangements. If multiple bud scales overlap like shingles covering the bud, it is called imbricate. If a bud has two bud scales that come together like a clamshell, it is called valvate. Some species, such as willow, have only one scale that covers the entire bud. Others, like hobble bush, are naked and have no bud scale at all. Even if there are no buds at ground level, they can still be helpful. A trick to differentiating between red and sugar maple in the winter is to look up at the buds in the canopy. If the buds are slightly bulbous and distinguishable, it is red maple, but if you cannot tell much difference between the twig and the bud, it is likely a sugar maple. Just like any other skill, tree identification, especially in the winter, requires practice. Even though the leaves of spring are months away, the bark, twigs, and buds provide all the information you need. So grab your coat, field guide, and a friend, and head out into the woods!

Opposite Branch/Bud

Farm and Field 3 Garlic is Coming!


Back by popular demand: Those of you who requested that we include garlic among the crops sown at MFFC will be heartened to know that Josh has been busy planting garlic bulbs ... to infinity and beyond (apologies to fans of Toy Story!) Those savory, spicy little garlic heads will be harvested in July, around the time of the sheepdog trials, and we’ll bring them to you with some tasty recipes.


Recipe from the Lodge

Braised Lamb Shanks Ingredients: Extra-virgin olive oil 4 lamb shanks (@ about 1-1/4 pounds; 1 shank is a portion) Kosher salt 1 large Spanish onion cut in 1” dice 3 medium carrots, cut in 1/2” dice 3 celery ribs, cut in 1/2” dice 2 cloves garlic

1/2 6 ounce can tomato paste 2 cups hearty red wine 2 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary leaves 10-12 thyme branches tied together in a bundle 3-4 cups water 4 bay leaves Gremolata (recipe below)


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Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a large Dutch oven (not cast iron) with olive oil and bring to a high heat. Season the shanks generously with salt and add them to the pan. Brown well on all sides. Remove the shanks from the Dutch oven and discard excess fat. Puree the onions, carrots, celery and garlic in a food processor until they become a coarse paste. Add a little more oil to coat the bottom of the pan and add the pureed veggies. Season them with salt to taste. Saute the veggies low and slow until they are brown and aromatic. They will develop a sort of crust on the bottom of the pan: don’t let this burn, since this is where a lot of flavor is. Add the tomato paste and brown for 5 minutes. Stir in the wine, chopped rosemary and the thyme bundle. Stir frequently until the wine has reduced by about half. Put the shanks back in the pot, add the bay leaves with enough water to submerge the shanks. Cover the pot and put it in the preheated oven. Cooking time will be 2-1/2 to 3 hours. Turn the shanks over about halfway through the cooking time. Check the shanks every 45 minutes or so: if the liquid has reduced too much, add more water. Defat the liquid as you go. Remove the lid during the last 30 minutes of cooking time for maximum browning. Transfer the shanks to serving plates and garnish with Gremolata.

Gremolata In a small bowl, mince and combine the zest of 1 orange, the zest of 1 lemon, 1/4 cup parsley leaves, 1 small garlic clove; mix in 2 tablespoons of freshly-grated horseradish.

This recipe comes to us from Anne Burrell by way of the Don’t forget to pick up your lamb shanks from the Merck Forest larder!

4 Education Director’s Update

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c h e s o f fCollaborative Education By Christine Ferris-Hubbard, Education Director Program: i ra n r v i ng d m . e . . e v e h o n e ys u c k l to t e s



These are a few examples of the experiences fifth graders from The Dorset School and Sunderland Elementary School had while exploring science, during the pilot season of the Merck Forest and Farmland Center / Next Generation Science Standards School Partnership Program. Each school participated in three full field-day experiences and one in-school classroom lesson. Bringing their hard work to fruition, students had the opportunity to showcase their discoveries during Expos which featured students arguing a claim and backing it up with evidence and knowledge gained from their experiences at Merck Forest. They presented their work to fellow students, parents and administrators, as well as Merck Forest staff and trustees, as they spoke about non-native and invasive species, biotic and abiotic elements of an ecosystem, the importance of biodiversity, food chains vs. food webs, decomposition, and energy transfer. Guest speakers joined the students at the Expos, with John Van Hoesen, Associate Professor of Geology and Environmental Studies at Green Mountain College, and Kyle Mason, Bennington County Forester, captivating the budding scientists and assembled guests. Along with the MFFC/NGSS program, Merck Forest has seen a wide variety of students visiting over the past months. Students have explored the lands of Merck Forest to learn first-hand how seeds are dispersed, observed the nutrient cycle on the farm, and learned how the land has changed over time, both in terms of geology and human intervention. It has been exciting to be able to work with students as they discover the world around them, digging in the dirt, smelling the fresh mountain air, or listening to the various creatures that abound in the fields and forest. We anticipate this program will become the cornerstone of our educational programming going forward.

Upcoming Winter Events:

To learn more about our winter events, visit our website or call the Visitor Center at 802-394-7836. Advance reservations -- made on a first-come first-served basis -- are required for most events due to space limitations or scheduling considerations. For outdoor events, please dress for the weather: sturdy shoes, layered clothing, raingear, snacks, water, and flashlights if necessary. All outdoor events are held weather permitting: if there’s any question please call the Visitor Center to confirm that an event will be held.

WreathMaking Workshop 12/5/15

Holiday Sleighrides By Reservation

For the Birds: Making Bird Treats (for Kids) 12/28/15

Nature’s Critter Ornaments (for Kids) 12/29/15

Snowshoe Walk in the Moonlight

Owl Ramble at Twilight

Chair-Caning Workshop




Try This!


Let's Go Snowshoeing: Notes on Gear and Clothing by Darla J. Belevich Snowshoes – The most popular current versions are metal-framed with neoprene decking and built-in metal claws for traction on hard surfaces. Traditional wooden and gut models have no cleats for traction, but work well in deep fluffy snow, as they are great floaters. They all come in various sizes (typically 21, 24 and 30") and you determine which to use based on your height and weight. Do your research and seek help for your ideal fit from the pros at your local outdoor sports stores. Poles - Ski poles or expandable hiking poles are fine, but be sure to add the wider baskets for winter. Your lower arms should be parallel to the ground when gripping the handles. Boots - the best boots are the ones that keep your feet warm, especially on extended adventures. Insulated and waterproofed is your best bet. They should come up above your ankles. Gaiters - for the lower cut boots, or when trekking through very deep snow. These are essential to keep your boots from filling up with snow. Socks - Wool, wool-over-liners, or a warm synthetic blend of wool and nylon are the best. On really cold days, you can use toe warmers in your boots. Top Clothing Layers - Inner layer of moisture wicking material - nylon, polypropylene, silk. Middle layer is your warmth layer - fleece, flannel, techwik, soft-shell. Outer layer is your wind and water resistant shell/ jacket - nylon, gore-tex or canvas type material. Bottom Clothing Layers - Long johns (or jills) - under-layer of nylon, polypropylene, spandex or silky tights. Outer layer of snow pants, running suit or hiking pants - nylon, fleece or flannel lined. (NO jeans! Jeans are very heavy and very cold when wet. Remember "cotton kills" and "cotton is rotten" in the winter. Anything cold and wet against your skin lowers your body temperature quickly, thus enhancing the chance for hypothermia...Yikes!!) Hats - Ski hat/cap - fleece or wool the best; Hood, balaclava or scarves also helpful on blizzardy days. Gloves/Mittens - Gloves with liners - nylon or gore-tex over fleece or wool; mittens with or without liners; hand-warmers can be a big help on very cold outings. Remember: Even in winter when it can be very cold, you still need to hydrate. Bring water, but also bring a thermos of hot water, tea or hot chocolate in your pack. Other essentials include food or snacks, flashlight or headlight, map and compass, knife or leatherman, matches or lighter, kleenex, a first aid kit, extra socks and a bandana. Always sign in at the Visitor Center or Kiosk by the gate, and tell others where you are going. Dress warmly and have a safe and funtastic time in the woods.

Capture a Snowflake’s Image

It’s coming! Soon fluffy snowflakes will drift from the sky to coat our landscape, turning it into a winter wonderland. These delicate crystals of ice move through differing temperatures and humidity, resulting in unique crystalline structures. You can collect these little gems during a snowfall and observe them up close, with the aid of a few simple objects. You can even capture their images, to look at later. To find out about the first person to ever photograph a single snow crystal, read Snowflake Bentley, by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and illustrated by Vermont artist Mary Azarian. This book tells the story of Vermonter Wilson Bentley, who taught himself to photograph snowflakes, and who amassed a collection of snowflake images numbering in the thousands. You can find the book in our Visitor Center.

To Observe Snowflakes:

To Capture a Snowflake’s Image without a Camera:

Piece of black construction paper Magnifying glass (Optional) Camera or phone to take a photograph

A piece of glass (picture frame glass will work) Hairspray or artists’ fixative such as Krylon Spray Coating A piece of cardboard the size of the glass Toothpicks

To best observe a snowflake, place the construction paper into a freezer. Head outdoors when the snow begins to fall, and bring the paper with you. Allow some snowflakes to fall on the paper. The black color will allow the snowflakes to show up much easier. Observe what you have collected. What do they look like? Compare and contrast them. How are they alike or different? If you have a camera, capture their picture!

Try this at home!

Prepare in advance by placing the glass in the freezer, and the hairspray/artists’ fixative into the refrigerator. You want these materials to be cold so that the snowflakes don’t melt when they are captured. When the snow begins to fall, spray one side of the glass lightly with the spray and take the glass outside. Allow some snowflakes to fall onto the glass, but avoid having too many snowflakes fall onto the glass by holding the cardboard over it once you have the amount you want. Use the toothpicks to gently move the snowflakes, if needed. Bring the glass inside where the spray will dry and the snowflakes will evaporate. Allow to sit for about 30 minutes without touching the glass. You will have an imprint of some snowflakes that you can study with the naked eye or with a magnifying glass!

6 Staff Notes Melissa Carll, Merck Forest’s Communications Coordinator for the past four years, has moved on to new challenges. The entire MFFC family is grateful for Melissa’s many contributions and wishes her well in her new ventures. And there are a number of new faces to greet you this year. Please welcome Darla Belevich, Marybeth Leu, Josh Price and Erik Schlener.


Darla Belevich is a long-time member of MFFC and last year become part of the Visitor Center staff. You will recognize Darla by her enthusiastic welcome of hikers and campers to the Visitor Center and her animated stories of growing up on her family’s dairy farm in central New York State. Darla brings to Merck Forest forty years’ experience as professor, coach and Athletic Director at the State University of New York/Adirondack. She was instrumental in the development of the College’s Adventure Sports Program, and started ACC ROCX, the outdoor-adventure club. She is a New York State Licensed Guide in Hiking, Camping and Tier II Rock-climbing. Darla taught rock-climbing, hiking, first aid, and physical education to generations of college students, and she has introduced hundreds of those students to the joys of the outdoors in trips to Merck Forest, the Adirondack High Peaks, West Virginia’s New River Gorge and the Grand Canyon, among other destinations. She writes, “I love Merck Forest and am so thankful that George Merck and his family had such a beautiful vision – for this place, and for generations to come!”


Marybeth Leu has joined the MFFC staff as Communications Coordinator, taking over the keyboard from the very capable Melissa Carll. Marybeth’s background includes an undergraduate degree in English from Northeastern University, and certificates in Landscape Design from Harvard University’s Radcliffe Seminars program and in Landscape Management from the University of Massachusetts’ Green School. Her professional experience includes nearly two decades in the Hospital Information Systems industry and over a decade as a landscape designer in the Boston, Massachusetts, area, where she was the principal in Boston Garden Gems. She is thrilled to become a part of the Merck Forest family.


Josh Price joined the Merck Forest staff this autumn and has made himself invaluable to the farm and forestry operations as Farm Assistant. He grew up in Lucama, North Carolina, where he helped out at his grandparents’ Farm and Garden Center business. Interested in the principles of sustainable agriculture, Josh studied at Wayne Community College, and later interned at Yoder Farms in Danby, Vermont. Josh rounded out his education with 2 years’ work for the City of Black Creek, North Carolina, in grounds and utilities maintenance. One of the things Josh enjoys most about his new responsibilities at Merck is his work with the farm animals. He also enjoys hiking and camping.


The award for “Travelled the Farthest” goes to Erik Schlener, whose most recent professional assignment was as a farm consultant in Australia. In that role, Erik assisted the owners of startup farms as they developed strategies for conducting their operations in a manner both financially viable and ecologically responsible. Prior to that he interned at Polyface Farms in Virginia, developing his knowledge of organic and sustainable agriculture. Merck’s new Assistant Farm Manager has a deeply-felt commitment to providing healthy food, and in educating people to develop healthy lifestyles, so he has a special interest in the educa tional mission of Merck and in the entreprenurial aspects of Merck’s farming operations. In his spare time, he loves to travel, and he recently bagged his first elk on a hunting trip in Idaho.

About Us

7 Member benefits include:

Merck Forest and Farmland Center is a non-profit educational organization whose mission is to teach and demonstrate the benefits of innovative, sustainable management of forest and farmland. We offer recreational opportunities for individuals and families, and encourage people to become good stewards of the land. Donations are appreciated, and your participation through membership is encouraged.

20% discount on cabin rentals and camping 10% discount on Merck’s Certified Organic Maple Syrup 10% discount on select Visitor Center merchandise 10% discount on workshops Copies of our seasonal newsletter, RidgeLine

Board of Trustees

Keld Alstrup, Treasurer/Secretary Axel Blomberg Jean Ceglowski Phil Chapman Austin Chinn, President Jeromy Gardner George Hatch, Vice President Ann Jackson Margaret Mertz Bruce Putnam Phil Warren Advisory Council

Kathleen Achor Judy Buechner Donald Campbell Sue Ceglowski Ed Cotter Bob Gasperetti Bambi Hatch Dick Hittle

Anne Houser Jon Mathewson John Pless Liz Putnam Bob Taggert Patty Winpenny Corinna Wildman


Darla Belevich, Customer Service Specialist Katie Connor, Customer Service Specialist Ethan Crumley, Forester Christine Ferris-Hubbard, Education Director Jonathan Kilpatrick, Farm Manager Kathryn Lawrence, Assistant to the Director Marybeth Leu, Communications Coordinator Josh Price, Farm Assistant Erik Schlener, Assistant Farm Manager Tom Ward, Executive Director

File Photo

RidgeLine layout, illustrations, and graphic design by Melissa Carll

Read our


Membership at Merck: Join or Renew Today! Please, help us continue to serve our mission of teaching and demonstrating the benefits of innovative, sustainable management of forest and farmland. As a member, you support our educational programs and maintenance of over 3,100 acres of land and 30 miles of trails. Thank you for your help!



Please fill out and mail to: Merck Forest & Farmland Center PO Box 86, Ruper t, V T 05768

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PO Box 86, Rupert, Vermont 05768

Printed on 100% recycled paper

Did You Know?

Trekker Tips

Compiled by Katie Connor, Customer Service Specialist

By Darla J. Belevich, Customer Service Specialist

Did you know?? This coming year will mark twenty-five years since the Small Animal Barn was constructed. It was designed and built by MFFC’s Caretakers, Denise and Tom Peterson, and volunteers in the spring of 1991.

Before going off to the trails, be sure to sign in at the Visitor Center or the Kiosk at the Gate.

Did you know?? In 1950, George Merck acquired land adjacent to his property. The resulting configuration represented the first time since 1785 that the land was managed as a single entity. Prior to that, the area was held by 64 proprietors through a Grant from the Colony of New Hampshire’s Colonial Governor.1 Did you know?? In the first half of the 1800’s, there was a huge demand for sheep products and due to that, much of the land on Vermont’s hill farms was cleared, including those on Merck Forest. By the 1850’s, almost two thirds of the land that is now Merck Forest was cleared for pasture and hay and nearly 800 sheep roamed the mountainsides. Only the tops of the mountains remained forested. After the 1850’s the demand for sheep dropped and much of the land eventually began to revert back to forest.2


Here is a short list of items to bring with you: Water Food and snacks Map of Merck Flashlight/Headlight Kleenex/bandana Camera Small Backpack

For longer hikes consider adding: Hiking poles Whistle Knife Extra clothing layers Raingear Compass First Aid Kit Sketchbook/Drawing Materials

*Note: Some items may be available to purchase or rent at the Visitor Center. Be sure to stop by the Visitor Center: you’ll meet Darla or Katie, who have lots of suggestions for things to do, trails to explore, and animals to see.

From Charles V. Cogbill’s monograph “Land Use at Merck Forest & Farmland Center: 1761 to Present”.

2016 Winter Ridgeline  

Merck Forest & Farmland Quarterly Newsletter

2016 Winter Ridgeline  

Merck Forest & Farmland Quarterly Newsletter