ridge line a publication of the Merck Forest & Farmland Center
teaching and demonstrating the benefits of innovative, sustainable management of forest and farmland.
2 From the Executive Director By Rob Terry
I stepped into the Joy Green Visitor Center on March 20th, the first day of spring, to begin my journey as Executive Director here at Merck Forest and Farmland Center. In the month and a half that has passed since that first day, I’ve been amazed at how much is happening here: I’ve plotted trees with seventh grade scientists, helped raise the frame on a replica cabin celebrating the 200th anniversary of Thoreau’s birth, dug rocks out of what will soon be an interactive children’s garden, driven our team of draft horses, sat down for a pancake breakfast with 800 visitors, seen over 1,000 gallons of syrup produced, welcomed 12 piglets and 29 lambs to the farm, and enjoyed long, winding conversations with our apprentices about the value of this space that we steward. Through these experiences, it has quickly become clear that community is at the heart of MFFC—it is the thread tieing our farm, forest, ecology, and recreation programming together. Our community is comprised of visitors and learners who make our work worthwhile, staff and volunteers who make it happen, and members and donors who make it possible. Thank you for being a member of our community: it is through your love of MFFC and support that we’re able to accomplish all that we do. I hope to see you up on the hill soon!
From the Farm 3 Reflections on the Past Two Years at Merck Forest and Farmland Center After a demanding two years as manager of Merck Forestâ€™s farm, I am heading into a new season in my life. I am marrying the love of my life, Miriam Gust, on July 7th, and in August, I am assuming a position as Farm Operations Manager for Marmilu Farms, in Trenton, Tennessee. With every new season comes a new set of challenges and as individuals, we either grow to meet these challenges or we shrink from them. I enjoy a good challenge, and when I took over in the summer of 2015, there were plenty of challenges to engage me. Principal among these was defining the role that the farm should occupy within the ethical framework and mission of MFFC. During my tenure at Merck I have grown immensely in my understanding of the nonprofit world, have further developed my management skills, and have learned an incredible amount about farming. Now I am looking forward to this new opportunity. It is one in which I will be able to meet new challenges head-on and continue to grow in becoming a more effective change-agent within our nationâ€™s food system. As I approach my final few weeks here at Merck, I want to recognize a few people who have made my time here special and significant. The staff members -- especially forester Ethan Crumley, with whom have I worked so closely -- have been extraordinary teammates, pitching in when extra hands were needed and making the work enjoyable. The apprentices with whom I have worked were remarkable students and made teaching gratifying. I appreciate the passion that the Farm Committee -- and especially chair Margaret Mertz -- have for the farm and its future. My assistant farm managers, Erik Schlener and Alessia McCobb, were tireless workers and amazing supporters. Executive directors Tom Ward and Rob Terry placed a huge amount of confidence in me. I do not take it lightly, and I deeply appreciate their trust. The overall mission of Merck Forest is something that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Indeed, I feel called to demonstrate and teach to others the benefits of a sustainable land management ethic, a method which has roots firmly entrenched in mimicking and fostering the design of creation. I feel beyond thankful for my time here, and am satisfied that the farm is in better condition than when I started. My hope is that my successor will pick up the reins and carry on, continuing the great legacy of teaching and demonstrating sustainable farmland management here in the Northeast. God bless, Jonathan Kilpatrick Farm Manager
4 The View from My Window by Christine Hubbard, Education Director
Over the past month, the view out my window has changed, as winter white has given way to springtime green. The gash in the ground is still in my view. But now, at ground level, dashes of green are emerging from the warming ground. The tightly packed leaf buds of winter are unfurling into green and red flags. An Eastern phoebe perches on a branch outside my window; its tail flicking as it sways in the breeze. The sun beckons me to head outside for a closer inspection of the changing scene. The phoebe has built her nest -- a construction of mud, moss and leaves -- above the window trim. Phoebes typically lay a clutch of two to six eggs, and I’m waiting to hear the peeping of hatchlings, since the nest is located too high to peer inside. The mottled leaves of a trout lily – a spring ephemeral -- have emerged, grabbing what sunlight is available. Spring ephemerals are nature’s early risers, emerging to capture sunlight before being shaded for the summer. They pack their life cycles into a few short weeks, only to disappear until next spring. Bunchberry leaves fringed in red have emerged, but it will be later this spring before flowers appear, with berries following later in the summer. And wild oats, a member of the lily family, are blooming. A single elongated flower bows its head on a slim stalk. I’ll be watching to see what changes occur over the next several months: what fruits appear on the wild oats, when the flowers appear on the bunchberry, and when the trout lily dies back. And I’ll watch for the phoebe, bringing food to her nestlings, as spring gives way to summer.
On the Mountainside
5 by Kathryn Lawrence, Assistant Director
A letter to Cabin Aficionados: Every spring we head out to the cabins for Cabin Clean-up Day (a misnomer: it’s actually two days by the time we hit every cabin and shelter area, and complete all the work on our list). We visit shelters at the Stone Lot, Beebe Pond and the Glen, and the Barn Cabins, Spruce, Viewpoint, Ridge, Dunc’s Place, Nenorod, Ned’s Place and Clarks Clearing cabins. Our supplies include cleaning supplies, brooms, rakes, shovels, a saw, screw gun, buckets, weed whacker, etcetera -- literally a whole RTV-full of tools to accomplish a list of chores, including • • • • • • • • •
Washing windows Scraping wax Cleaning tables & shelves Sweeping out the interiors of cabins & outhouses Raking around each cabin Cleaning and rebuilding fire pits Replacing smoke alarm batteries Replacing binders and notebooks Scrubbing storage coolers
There are a few things that guests can do to help keep the cabins in good shape between our maintenance visits: • Do not leave any food behind when you leave. • Use the storage coolers for your food while staying at the cabins (dry goods only). • Porcupines are attracted to salt in any form, so do not urinate on or near the cabins. • Close cabin & outhouse doors when you leave; if there is a hook, use it to latch the door closed. (It helps deter animals and also keeps loose doors from blowing in the wind). • Mice love to use toilet paper for nesting material. Please place t-p in the tin cans or plastic containers provided to keep it from them.
Here are a few other tips to remember as you enjoy your visit to our rustic cabins: Porcupines are not dog-friendly. In order to keep your dogs safe, it is best to keep them leashed. (The little critters can be annoying, but remember we are invading their territory, not the other way around.) You should always boil or treat water from sources at Merck. Never assume that the water is safe to drink. Snacks & supplies available for purchase at the Visitor Center include tick-tweezers, bug spray, cold drinks, peanut butter, local honey and maple syrup for your morning pancakes, and delicious pasture-raised lamb & pork products. The Visitor Center is open for your convenience from 9am to 4pm, year-round.
Running into a Porcupine can ruin your whole day!
What’s Going on Here? Upcoming Events at Merck
Here is the lineup of workshops and events in the works. Please call the Visitor Center at 802-394-7836 or check the website at merckforest.org to confirm dates/times/fees and other details about the activities which interest you. Pre-registration is necessary for the workshops, as most have limited enrollment.
Thoreau Cabin Project
Thoreau Cabin Dedication. Free. Wednesday, July12 On the bicentennial anniversary of Henry David Thoreau’s birth, we will celebrate his legacy of self-reliance, thoughtful intentional living, and intellectual rigor with the dedication of our newest cabin: a facsimile of his tiny house erected, not on the banks of Walden Pond, but alongside Rasey Pond. Check the website for program details.
Thoreau Cabin Workshops Roof Shingling, $50, June 3-4 9am-4pm Plastering, $50, August Chimney Build, $50, August
Saturday, June 10, 9:30am. Members are invited; reservation is required. Professor Betsy Sherman of Bennington College will deliver the principal address.
Solstice Hike June 21, 7pm, $5 Join Education Director Christine Hubbard on a hike over hill and dale to celebrate the return of summer.
Fairy Houses in the Forest: A Family Workshop The property at Merck Forest & Farmland Center is open dawn to dusk year round. Unplug your electronic devices and enjoy simple summer pleasures like a hike or a picnic with family & friends.
June 24, 1-3pm $20 per house There’s magic in the woods at Merck Forest! Scour the woods for special materials to construct tiny magical dwellings for wee folk, and then gather in the classroom to assemble your creation. This is a workshop for children of all ages (actual children must be accompanied by an adult). Please call 802-394-7836 to reserve your place in the class.
The Visitor Center is open daily from 9am to 4pm.
Farm Chores for Children Thursday afternoons from 2 - 4pm, June 29 through August 17. $2.50 per person. On Thursday afternoons through the summer, from 2 to 4 pm, children (and their adult companion) may join the farm staff at Merck Forest & Farmland Center for daily chores. Youngsters may feed the horses, pick berries, collect eggs and perform other tasks. These farm-centered "workshops" are designed to introduce children to simple farm routines and products, and to meet our animals under expert supervision. These hands-on/hands-dirty activities are suitable for children ages 3 and up. Please Pre-Register early, because participation is limited. Cost is $2.50 per participant.
Save the Date ... Game of Logging, Level 1 Saturday,July 8, 8am-4pm, $180.
Learn how to handle a chainsaw with expert instruction from Northeast Woodland Training forestry pros. Detailed descriptions of the curriculum & course requirements may be found at www.woodlandtraining.com. Classes start promptly at 8am and end at 4pm. Students must bring a sound hard hat, lunch & water, long pants, gloves, sturdy work/hiking boots and weather/work-appropriate outerwear. Classes are rarely cancelled due to weather and will be held even in light rain or snow, hot or cold temperatures; students should dress accordingly. Classes will only be re-scheduled in the event of high winds, lightning or heavy rains. Class size is limited, pre-register early by calling 802-394-7836.
7 Perseid Viewing August 12, 8pm, $3 Bring a blanket and prepare to be awed by the immensity of the skies over the Merck-y mountains.
Mushroom Identification Workshop Sunday, August 27, Fee. Mycologist Sue Van Hookâ€™s popular class will surely fill up quickly. Call the Visitor Center at 802394-7836 for all the details.
Bluegrass Concert: Bob Amos & Catamount Crossing Open Farm Week August 14 through 20
Saturday, August 5, 6pm. Free. Bob Amos & Catamount Crossing return for another of their popular concerts. Bring a picnic supper to enjoy on the west-facing meadow above the saphouse, then mosey down to the saphouse for a toe-tapping good time.
Fall Festival & ContraDance Saturday, September 16 9am to 2pm Dance at 3pm, Fee. Celebrate the harvest season with friends & family. Games, good food and good times. Finish up your day at the Fall Festival the way farmhands used to do, with a rollicking contradance. Pete's Posse will perform.
Activities daily for young and old: farm tours, workshops, demonstrations of farm-related skills, and of course, chickens.
8 Leaves from the Forest The Natural Communities of Merck Forest: Mesic Red Oak/Northern Hardwood Forest
Forester Ethan Crumley describes the unique natural communities found at Merck. We believe that an understanding of our special natural communities will add new dimensions to your explorations, and infuse new excitement in your hikes here.
As you visit the new Thoreau cabin this summer, I invite you to explore the natural community surrounding the site. Covering over 1,000 acres, the Mesic Red Oak/Northern Hardwood Forest is the most common of all the communities here at Merck. As its name implies, the site is typified by moderate moisture conditions (Mesic). It is very closely related to the Northern Hardwood Forest with its sugar maple, beech, and ash trees, but differs in that the forest also contains a large amount of red oak in the overstory. Without much disturbance, the overstory will be tall and straight with sparse shrub and herbaceous layers. Witchhazel and shadbush are common shrubs. Christmas fern, wood fern, and Indian cucumber root are found in the herbaceous layer. I have found evidence of both porcupine and deer close to the cabin site. Because of the oak component, animals that feed on acorns, such as black bear, turkey, and grey squirrels, are also likely to be seen. The forest surrounding the cabin is not an old forest, and would not have existed during Thoreau’s lifetime. In fact, as evidenced by land records from the period and by the stone walls meandering through the area, it was likely farmland or soon-to-be farmland. A large dying red maple that I cut down in clearing the site was about eighty years old. Aerial photography of the area dated 1942 show parts of the stand open.
Did You Know? by Katie Connor . . . that Thoreau’s name was actually David Henry? He started calling himself Henry David Thoreau after he graduated from Harvard, but never legally changed it. . . . that Henry worked sporadically throughout his life in his father’s pencil factory? He also reinvented a grinding machine that made better quality plumbago (the mixture of lead, graphite and clay inside a pencil). . . . that in April 1844 Thoreau and his friend Edward Hoar accidentally set a fire that consumed 300 acres of Walden Woods? . . . that after Thoreau left the cabin in 1847, the history of ‘little house” took on a life of its own? Thoreau sold the house to Emerson, who sold it to his gardener who sold it to a farmer named James Clark in 1849. Clark moved the building to a nearby farm and used it to store grain. In 1868, the roof of the building was removed and used to cover a pigsty, and in 1875 the rest of the structure was used as a shed before its timber was used to fix Clark’s barn. Today, you can see replicas of Thoreau’s house near Walden Pond in Massachusetts. Sources: article by author Suzanne Raga, Wikipedia, and the Thoreau Society website
Bits & Pieces
9 A Sweet Update from the Mountain
Crowds flocked to the Meet the Lambs event this past Saturday. With summertime just around the corner, there will be lots of opportunities for fun at Merck. Keep us in mind as you plan your summer activities.
This little fellow was born just as we were wrapping up this edition for publication. Member Julie Pipe let us know that Mama Ewe seemed to be in some distress, so Heather, Marybeth, Kat and Karl headed up to the SapHouse pasture to help her out, happily with a good result for all. After Mama Ewe catches her breath, she’ll clean up Little Lamb, and they’ll spend the rest of the summer together in Merck meadows.
We had another great sugaring season this year: our final syrup production tally for the 2017 season is 1,044 gallons. This total is second only to last year’s record 1,395 gallons. The season lasted about eight and a half weeks (same as last year), and the greatest challenge we faced came from the extreme temperature fluctuations we experienced during the season. A great thanks to all the hands who helped us process our crop, and to our customers for their continued support! -Ethan Crumley
Don’t Waste Your Waste: Apprentice Goals in Sustainable Living Do you ever keep track of how much trash you take out? Because we carry our trash down the mountain from the lodge we are very conscious of the waste we produce. When we moved in, Kat created a waste log to see just how much landfill, recycling and compost waste we create. We are logging this information to help us put less into landfills and help us make better consumer choices. For us, reducing waste begins at the store. We purchase products that have minimal or reusable packaging and often buy bulk foods. While we proactively reuse and recycle our plastic and paper goods, most of our waste is compostable. The composting system we use is twofold. First, vegetable scraps, fruit skins, eggshells, coffee grinds and expired foods become a healthy treat for the pigs. Then, tea bags, onion skins, bones, nail clippings, dust sweepings and other organic waste go to the farm’s compost pile where it can freely decompose and return to the earth as fertilizer. While there are always more ways to improve, we have been successful at minimizing our landfill and recycling waste. In our three months living in the Lodge, we have only taken out five 13-gallon bags of trash. The small recycling bin has gone out seven times and we’ve taken out the compost for the farm eight times. The vast majority of our waste has gone to Lulu, Suzie and the piglets who have turned 32 gallons of scraps into rich manure for our fields. With our passion for sustainable living and Merck’s mission in mind, nearly all of what we consume carries on in the enduring lifecycles of the farm.
Apprentice Karl Uy
10 What are those Apprentices Up to Now? Just take a little off the top, Kat.
Heather and Peep
Dressed for Success Yes, sir, yes, sir, three bags full
Kat making a technical point in a farm discussion
Kat and Karl showing off new arrivals
At the Poultney Earthday Fair Heather in Solo Wilderness First Aid Training
Karl Atop the Caretakerâ€™s Cabin
About Us 11 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 your help.
Kim Davis is the newest addition to the Visitor Center weekend staff. Originally from western Massachusetts, Kim is a graduate of the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and Albertus Magnus College with degrees in Finance and Business Management. After twenty-five years in the Natural & Specialty Food and Confectionery industry in Connecticut, Kim moved to West Rupert in January 2016 and joined the staff at a local insurance agency. Eager to be engaged in the community, current events and life-long learning, Kim is a Rupert Kittay Public Library volunteer and a member of the libraryâ€™s reading group. Email Kim at kim@ merckforest.org.
Jonathan Kilpatrick has made good things happen at Merck Forest for the past two years ... and good things are happening for him these days: Jon is soon to be married to Miriam Gust, and the newlyweds will start their life together in Tennessee. We celebrate Jonathanâ€™s good news with him, and wish him and Miriam every happiness, even as we view his departure from us with sadness. Jonathan brought intelligence, passion, professionalism and dedication to everything he has done at Merck, and we will miss him greatly.
Board of Trustees
Keld Alstrup, Secretary-Treasurer Jean Ceglowski Austin Chinn, President Kat Deely Jeromy Gardner George Hatch, Vice President Jim Hand Ann Jackson Mark Lourie Margaret Mertz
Darla Belevich, Customer Service Specialist Katie Connor, Visitor Center Assistant Manager Ethan Crumley, Forester Kim Davis, Customer Service Specialist Sarah Elliott, Customer Service Specialist Kat Graden, Apprentice Christine Ferris-Hubbard, Education Director Jonathan Kilpatrick, Farm Manager Kathryn Lawrence, Assistant Director Marybeth Leu, Communications Director Heather Richardson, Apprentice Rob Terry, Executive Director Karl Uy, Apprentice
Kathleen Achor Anne Houser Judy Buechner Joe Lovering Dinah Buechner-Visher Jon Mathewson Donald Campbell Sarah McIlvennie Sue Ceglowski Bruce Putnam Phil Chapman Liz Putnam Ed Cotter Sam Schneski Bob Gasperetti Brian Vargo Bambi Hatch Phil Warren Dick Hittle Patty Winpenny
PO Box 86, 3270 VT-Route 315 Rupert, Vermont 05768 802-394-7836 www.merckforest.org
Printed on 100% recycled paper Read our
PO Box 86, 3270 VT-Route 315 Rupert, Vermont 05768 INSIDE: P2 - From the Executive Director P3 - From the Farm P4 - The View from my Window P5 - On the Mountainside P6 - What’s Going on Here? P7 - Save the Date ... P8 - Leaves from the Forest P9 - Bits and Pieces 10 - What are those Apprentices up to Now?
11 - About Us
Membership at Merck: Join or Renew Today! Complete this form and mail it to: Merck Forest & Famland Center PO Box 86, Rupert, VT 05768 Or join online at www.merckforest.org
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Memberships support our educational programs and maintenance of over 3,100 acres of land and 30 miles of trails. Thank you for your help!