Director’s Note Less than a month ago, the forest floor was buried beneath three-plus feet of snowpack. Beneath it all mice, voles, moles, and shrews enjoyed the relative security of the subnivean zone while foxes, coyotes, marten, ermine and the like had to work that much harder for their dinner. Flash forward to today, and the tables have turned. The ground is bare on the farm, and the leaf litter is visible in much of the forest. What a difference a couple of weeks can make. The ruts in the road that formed during the thaw aren’t the only reminder that change is coming. Our farm manager recently loaded up the boar and took him back to his home farm, ending his month-long residency. If everything went as planned, there will be piglets in the small animal barn in about two months, three weeks, and three days. Many of our ewes have been wearing a telltale chalk mark on their backs for months, a reminder that that lambing season gets closer every day. In addition to being a time of reflection, winter affords us the opportunity to slow down for a minute and make plans for the year to come. We have big plans this year. We’ll begin freshening up our cabins and give our beloved Sap House a new deck,
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
doors and siding. We’ll also be developing two new educational areas within a short walk of the Joy Green Visitor’s Center: a forest ecology ‘basecamp’ and a log landing where we’ll be able to showcase some of the sustainable forest management practices happening throughout the property. Perhaps most exciting, we’ll be staffing up on weekends to provide our visitors with the opportunity to learn more about what’s happening on our farm and in our woods by participating in guided hikes as well as farm, forest, and ecology programs. While I’m excited for things to come, I haven’t given up on winter yet. There’s snow in the forecast, and my skis are by the door. While the darkest, and hopefully the coldest, days of winter are behind us, we have not seen the last of it. And that’s ok with me. There is no season in the woods that I don’t love, but winter might be my favorite. Gliding through the landscape following a bounding Fisher’s tracks with distant peaks and ridgelines in constant view is something special. Rob Terry Executive Director Merck Forest and Farmland Center
George Hatch, President Ann Jackson, Vice President Keld Alstrup, Treasurer Kat Deely, Secretary
Mark Lourie, Trustee Jim Hand, Trustee Jeromy Gardner, Trustee
Our apprentices have arrived! Most often I interview new apprentices and staff members and write a little piece to introduce them to the Merck Forest community; this time their own introductions are so beautifully lyrical and evocative that I will just stand back and let them introduce themselves to you. Please welcome Cara Davenport and Emily O’Connor to Merck Forest. CARA DAVENPORT
Growing up, one of my main connections to the natural world was birdwatching, an interest sparked by my grandfather. Each summer, at my grandparents’ cabin in the Ohio woods, I listened to and searched for birds with him. I learned to identify the “peter-peter” coming from treetops as the Tufted Titmouse, and one summer evening, as we sat outside in lawn chairs, he played a recording of a screech owl and we heard it reply. That initial interest in nature has become a common thread in my journey as I’ve picked up other threads along the way, and I’m continuously trying to find ways to weave them all together. I ended up majoring in English and Biology at Houghton College, and have spent the last few years in a variety of seasonal jobs. I’ve worked in Alaska at a salmon cannery, on a family produce farm in southern New Jersey, at an Audubon nature center, in community gardens and a tutoring program in my hometown, on trail crews in Massachusetts and New Jersey maintaining and constructing hiking trails, and at a community bakery. Each of these experiences -- while they seem disparate and unconnected -- has contributed in some way to my understanding of humans and their relationships to the land and this planet. And each of these experiences has reinforced, in different ways, my belief that cultivating a relationship with the land and its communities is a worthwhile and beautiful thing! I’m thankful and excited to be spending a season of life at Merck alongside its staff, residents, visitors, and supporters. My hope for the year is that as the things I learn continue to shape and grow my abilities and knowledge as a steward of Earth, I can contribute to Merck’s legacy and mission to be a place that values and teaches stewardship and love for the land.
I hold in memory a meadow, bordered by big oaks and bursting with colors and critters -wild onions, Monarch-covered milkweed, flowing rivers of blue asters, greedy grey squirrels, buttons of daisies, and Bambi. That meadow was cleared, transformed into a housing development, leaving me with a childhood heartbreak and an itchy burr under my skin to remind me to honor wild and sacred spaces. I believe that this kind of sensitivity towards the land comes when people know it and seek to know their place within it. True connections are made when they spend time there, make memories there, and discover parts of themselves in woods, mountains and streams. This is what leads me to Merck, an accessible place where people can find themselves in the beauty and vastness of the land. Where people can learn to strike a balance between conservation and sustainable use. Where there is a community willing to work toward building “happiness, not in another place but this place... not for another hour, but this hour” (Walt Whitman). Since dropping out of college in 2016, I have been enrolled in the school of hard knocks, working on a number of farms throughout the world and as a salmon fisherman in Alaska. My adventures have been uniquely instructive, shedding light on the similarities and interdependencies of peoples and lands. I have found that positive personal growth does not tend to happen without a healthy dash of discomfort, hard work, an inquisitive nature, and a supportive community along the way. When I’m not being philosophical, I enjoy long hikes with lots of snacks, belly laughs, a hydro-flask full of tea, a tall tree to climb, friends with wild ideas, poems that take no survivors, a project with lots of head scratches, music all night long, and a meal where you have a story for each ingredient. I am excited to be a part of the Merck community and hopes to share my enthusiasm for life spent outdoors. At the end of my first day at Merck, I found a piece of paper stuck under my windshield wiper. I had avoided tickets during my 15,000mile road trip from Alaska to Vermont, but I resigned myself to the inevitable … Opening the slip, I found not a ticket, but a handwritten note saying, “Welcome to Vermont! “ Oh humanity, how you caught me by surprise! I look forward to many more surprises waiting for me here at Merck. 3
A View From My Window Early February sees warm weather just around the corner. Although there is a fluffy blanket of snow coating the ground and trees, we are gently sliding into spring. At the end of my workday on December 21st, the Winter Solstice and shortest day of the year, the shadows were long and the sun setting as I bundled up to head home. A glorious sunset colored the sky. The length of day? A mere 8 hours, 58 minutes. I arrived home with my headlights on, and did my chores in what light remained. Today, February 2nd, will see me leave Merck Forest with more daylight. As I put on my coat, the sun is higher in the sky, throwing brilliant rays onto the fresh snow, resulting in a sparkling landscape. According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, we have gained an hour and two minutes of additional daylight since December 21. Each day grows longer, as the Northern Hemisphere slowly tilts toward the sun. We eagerly await the warmer days. This morning, eyes were turned to Pennsylvania and that famous hibernating groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, as he was hauled out of his burrow to predict when spring will arrive. After seeing his shadow, he’s predicting six more weeks of winter. Our own groundhogs, one of our few true hibernators, are snug in their burrows, while other creatures are out and about. Skunks begin to emerge, seeking a mate starting at the beginning of February, while owls become more active, as they seek out their own mates and food. For the Great Horned Owl, that is often in the form of those emerging skunks. Trees, with their tightly closed buds formed last summer, await the required prolonged cold spell before leafing out. Cycles of warm and cold temperatures allow the sap in maples to rise and fall, allowing us to tap the sweetness within, an annual rite of spring in Vermont. I see Ethan already setting out buckets, ready to collect the rising sap. And that phoebe nest that was constructed by my window last spring? It sits empty right now, awaiting the return of the bird that so diligently wove the nest and reared a clutch of young. Before we know it, the calls of birds will change to that of love songs as they seek a mate, the hills will become tinged with greens and reds as buds swell and begin to open, and the cold winter winds will be chased away by warm breezes caressing our skin. Welcome, Spring! —Chris Hubbard 4
A History Of Dunc’s Place By Katie Connor, VC Assistant Manager As we approach sugaring season, my thoughts and senses naturally turn to the warm sweet fragrance of sap being boiled down to our favorite liquid gold. If you come up to Merck between February and March, you may see the glorious white smoke and steam rising from the Frank Hatch Sap House and breathe in the deliciousness of Vermont’s finest flavor. Our first sugarhouse was built in 1977, the result of Executive Director Duncan Campbell’s vision for producing maple syrup at Merck. Duncan met with well-known sugar-maker, Dave Marvin from Johnson, Vermont, to scope out a place to build. After considering several options they settled on a spot near White Creek, off the Old Town Road, due to the large amount of sugar maples in that section of the property. Once the location was selected, Duncan went right to work designing. With Merck timbers harvested and sawed to length, Chuck Barnoski and an enthusiastic group from the Student Conservation Association (SCA) started to make Duncan’s dream a reality.
DID YOU KNOW? The ratio of sap to syrup is typically 40 to one: 40 gallons of maple sap are needed to produce 1 gallon of syrup. Hours and hours are spent boiling, which continues through the night and into the wee hours of the morning. It is exhausting, but rewarding work.
The first few years they installed around 1,000 taps, equivalent to 1-3 buckets per tree. A team of draft horses pulling a sled was used to collect and bring the sap to the dumping station. The sap was then drawn down a pipe into a holding tank to await the fire. Eventually, they built up to 3,000 taps and replaced collection buckets with sap lines to increase efficiency. Initially there was one
A visitor is clearly impressed with the results of Duncan Campbell’s (center) and Don Lourie’s (right) sugaring. Photo courtesy of Maye Lourie Johnson. 5
evaporator; in time, a second was added to speed up the process of removing the water from the sap (the first evaporator was used as a “pre-boiler” with a connecting pipe to the second evaporator to finalize the transformation of sap to syrup). In later years, Forester Sam Schenski recalls driving the tractor down through the Glen, seeing the building’s silhouette with light coming through the cracks in the wall boards, and jets of sparks shooting 30 feet up into the dark night sky. “I remember thinking I had never seen such a truly beautiful sight. This is what the Merck sugaring experience is about.” Though the sugarhouse was in a quaint location, it was difficult for visitors to experience the sweet aromas, the delectable taste of fresh syrup and the joyful camaraderie buzzing about the room. In 2002 the Board members and Executive Director Ken Smith decided that it was time to move the operation closer to the farm for easier public access, and the current Sap House was constructed. The old sugarhouse was re-configured as a guest cabin: carpenter Ray Pratt and Merck staff and interns built two rooms and a loft, creating a new life for the building. When the renovations were complete, it was renamed “Dunc’s Place” in honor of Duncan Campbell. Instead of a place to produce our liquid gold, or to breathe in the sweet scent of boiling sap, it became a place to host the joyous laughter of family and friends and a place to create lasting memories for many years to come. Dunc’s Place was run as a sugarhouse for 25 years and as a cabin for 16 years and counting. It may have a new face and name, but will always be a special place for all to enjoy.
Northern Hardwoods Forests: The Cabin Fever Cure Winter is long and cold up here in Vermont. For Native Americans, early settlers, and today’s modern sugarmakers, sugaring season has been, and is, a celebration of spring and the renewal of life in the forest. Cabin fever is cured as sugarmakers tromp through the woods in pursuit of the sweet spring treasure: maple syrup. For this reason, my favorite natural communities in the spring are ones dominated by sugar maple trees. Many of the taps in our sugarbushes are in the Northern Hardwood Forest, Rich Northern Hardwood Forest, and the Red Spruce- Northern Hardwood Forest. As their names imply, they are similar communities, but each has unique characteristics. The Nothern Hardwood Forest (NHF) is the most abundant forest in the state of Vermont. Sugar maple, beech and yellow birch are the most common trees making up the canopy. Soils are typically loamy cool and moist. Northern Hardwood Forests support a large variety of wildlife ranging from white-tailed deer and black bear to porcupines and mice to eastern newts and wood frogs.
The Red Spruce- Northern Hardwood Forest (RSNHF) is similar to, and often surrounded by, the Northern Hardwood Forest. The trees in this forest community occur in mixed stands dominated by red spruce, sugar maple, beech and yellow birch. A distinguishing characteristic of the RSNHF communities is the presence of boreal herbaceous plants, such as blue bead lily. These communities are often the product of shallow soils that are well to moderately well drained. The Rich Northern Hardwood Forest (RNHF) has noticeably more productive soils than the above forest communities. It is often found where the soils are enriched as coves, gullies, and concave slopes collect soil nutrients as they move downhill. The over story is dominated by sugar maple and white ash trees growing fast, tall, and straight. Another sign of productivity is the often abundant shrub layer. A study of RNHFs in Vermont and other types of hardwood forests in the Adirondacks compared herbaceous species diversity. It found a greater number of herbaceous species in the RNHF: 48 to 27. These species include spring ephem-
erals such as wild leaks and dutchman’s breeches (both favorites of mine to smell and see towards the end of sugaring) and the later emerging species such as wood nettle. Spring is a great time to get out and enjoy the natural world. It is a joy to see spring ephemeral wildflowers popping out of the forest floor and leaves bursting out of their swollen buds. For those interested in seeing the Northern Hardwood natural communities described above I would suggest hiking the McCormick Trail. The trail starts on the western side of Old Town Road just south of the Old Town and Gallop Road junction. It begins heading downhill into a NHF. Once you see spruce trees you are in a RSNHF. About two thirds of the way on the trail you will notice that you are hiking up the bowl of the mountain. This is the RNHF. Be sure to stop by the sugarhouse or the visitor center to complete your cabin fever cure with a taste of pure maple syrup.
Works Referenced: Deely, Kat. “An Ecological Assessment of Merck Forest and Farmland Center Rupert, Vermont” 2014 “Managing rich northern hardwood forests for ecological values and timber production: recommendations for landowners in the Taconic Mountains.” (n.d.). Montpelier, VT: Nature Conservancy. Thompson, E. and Sorenson, “Wetland, Woodland, Wildland: A Guide to the Natural Communities of Vermont,” Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Nature Conservancy, 2000. 6
Decision-Making On The Farm by Dylan Durkee, Farm Manager Every day on the farm we make decisions: --what is the work priority today? –-who is available to fix that water leak? --when can we start haying? --what do we need to do to improve the yields in the berry patches? –can we repair/rebuild that equipment ourselves? There are lots and lots of decisions – but among the most important ones we make involve the health and wellbeing of our animals. Since our goal at Merck Forest is to provide for the comfort and safety of our animals during their time here, we constantly monitor their condition. As we do chores we evaluate the animals. We look at their behavior within the flock; we monitor their vigor, their size relative to their peers, their appetite, even their expressions. With decades of experience handling animals, I see each animal in the flock (or herd) individually, and recognize when something is wrong with one or another animal. And I know that delaying a decision about an animal’s “off ” behavior can quickly result in serious injury or its death. We recently had the experience of discovering a problem with three lambs: they trailed behind the flock to food, and they seemed to lack the energy typically displayed by healthy lambs. It does not take long for young animals to fail, so I isolated the three from the flock immediately, sent samples to a local vet for diagnostic lab tests and started them on medicated feed. We saw a quick response to the vitamin-mineral mix in the feed in two of the lambs as their appetites and activity levels increased. Once a course of de-wormer medication was prescribed, they were well on their way to recovery; but one baby still struggled, even failing to stand up to reach food and water. At intervals each morning and night for about a month I held this little one upright, to keep him flexible and to maintain muscle tone. After weeks of supporting him, he was finally able to stand on his own for 10 to15 seconds at a time. After another week of this “physical therapy” he attempted to stand on his own, and has subsequently started walking again. At this point, one of our “patients” has returned to the flock, the other two will remain in the Harwood Barn until they’re fully able to manage being outside. Our commitment -- to give these little guys the best possible start in life -- drives all of our decisions for their care.
Prelude To Piglets by Cara Davenport Coming this spring to a Forest and Farmland Center near you -- an exciting addition to our farm family: a litter of piglets! The father of these potential piglets, an 800-pound Berkshire boar named Sir Arthur, lived with Suzy and Lulu for about a month this winter. Sir Arthur was trailered back to his own farm in mid-January, leaving Suzy and Lulu to themselves again in their Small Animal Barn pen. Suzy and Lulu are Gloucestershire Old Spots, a breed of large, floppy-eared spotted pigs from England. Each individual adult weighs around 500 pounds. That’s a far cry from their birth weight of around three pounds: if we have piglets, they will have a lot of growing to do before they reach adult size and weight. We don’t know yet if we’ll have lots of piglets or none at all, but if you visit us here around the end of March there may be new piggy faces to greet you in the Small Animal Barn!
Farm Joke: What is the difference between bird flu and swine flu?
One requires tweetment, the other requires oinkment!!
• Having a litter of piglets is called “farrowing”, and we expect Suzy to farrow. Lulu is still “gilt”, as she has never had piglets before. • A litter’s gestation is three months, three weeks, and three days (plus or minus a few days), and a litter typically has 10 to 12 piglets.
“In every walk with nature, one receives more than he seeks.” —John Muir
A New Viewpoint By Emily O’Connor “Every walk is a sort of crusade,” Thoreau wrote in his manifesto for the spirit of sauntering. And who among us has not walked -- in the silence of a winter forest, amid celebration of birds, and crunching of fresh snow under their own feet -- to conquer some territory of their own interior world? Hiking up Old Town Road, layered with glossy sheets of ice, I carefully shuffled upward. Having completed my first week as one of the newly arrived apprentices at Merck, I had plenty to reflect upon. Yet instead I was drawn outward to the snow-covered world. What better way to quiet the chatter of the inner world than with the suggestions of the outer? I started in on recognizing the tracks of the animals that had traveled this way before me, then moved on to identifying the different tree species that Forester Ethan had been quizzing Cara (fellow apprentice) and me on during our tree hikes through Merck. Features started jumping out with new clues to decipher, from specific bark composition, bud shape and color, arrangement of branches, the peculiarities of the site, etc. Passing by different stands, I nodded to them as a sort of introduction to friendship. There is a certain indescribable excitement to be felt in experiencing the new that is bound by time and circumstance to develop into something familiar. Reaching the junction of Old Town and Antone, I stopped to read the sign, realizing that soon enough I will know my way without hesitation. But now is a time to take it all in, commit it to memory. I set out on the hike after finishing evening chores and had not planned any further than to chase some of the last rays of the day’s sun. So, at the junction I made a quick decision to head towards Viewpoint. By all indications it was shaping up to be a brilliant sunset and Viewpoint sounded like the place to be. Arriving at Merck in the middle of January poses various challenges but it also allows Cara and me more time to settle in and to truly experience Merck through all its seasons. In Adam Gopnik’s love letter 10
to winter, he observes that “If we didn’t remember winter in the spring, it would not be as lovely.” So here I was following the tracks of a white-tailed deer when a loud “swoosh” informed me of a Barred Owl flying overhead as I was cutting the corner onto Viewpoint trail. I thought -- not for the first time, nor the last -- “ How lucky I am to have these woods as my backyard and these animals as my neighbors!” After pausing to be with the Barred Owl for as long as it would allow before taking off again, I continued up the steeper sections of the trail holding onto the trunks of the trees, remembering too late, Katie Connor’s suggestion to grab ice cleats out of the Maintenance Building. A forgetful mistake I will not soon repeat! My hands soon became sticky with red spruce pitch and I inhaled deeply to take in its deep fragrance. By that point in the hike, I had reached an elevation where my phone found a semblance of service. By some magical motherly power, my mom knew to call just then, presumably checking in to see how my first week on the job went. But considering the fact I was setting out into the winter world with Thoreau in mind, it did not seem right to listen to the demands of my phone. So I ignored the call, saving it for a later date (sorry mom). And besides, I was so near the top, ready to take in the view, no technological distractions were welcome. I appreciate the art of timing hikes to sunsets, expertly reaching the peak as color really starts to spill out onto the sky. I did not go all the way up to Viewpoint cabin in consideration of potential campers but
instead compromised in landing on the pad situated slightly below. I took stock of where I was and where everything was in relationship to where I was, using the sun as my guide. In the last half year I have gotten around. Fortunate to have seen the sun setting over a wide variety of landscapes from the midnight sun pouring over the waters of Alaska, to the expansive wilderness of the Yukon and British Columbia, to the Pacific Northwest, to the ancient Redwoods, to the dry lands of Nevada and Utah, to the rolling corn fields of Iowa, to the familiar background of Lake Erie, to the Blue Ridge Mountains, to the Shenandoah Valley, and finally here- the Taconic Mountains. After living and working out at sea last summer and driving over 15,000 miles to get to Vermont, it might not be a surprise to hear: it felt wonderful to be on my feet, on solid ground, with a beautiful sun setting overhead and a cozy cabin to go back to. In the spirit of gratitude, I found myself writing a message in the snow. In big cursive letters, I walked across the smooth white canvas to spell out “Thanks”. Not to anyone in particular and certainly not to be seen but to move my body in the shape of the word and physically feel its meaning as I carved through the snow. The completed project was certainly nothing special; I can never seem to get a cursive ‘k’ quiet right. But there it was, an exterior marking of my interior world - giving thanks for the places, thanks for the community and especially thanks for the places that bring communities closer together.
It Started with Thoreau by Rob Terry, Executive Director In the center of our 3200-acre wood sits a tiny house. The house, a scant 10 by 15 feet, is appointed with a fireplace, table, bed, desk and three chairs. While physically small, these 150 square feet evoke a defining moment that rooted nature and wilderness in the American conscious. In 1845, Henry David Thoreau began work on a small house in the woods outside of Concord, Massachusetts, a stone’s throw from Walden Pond. Thoreau describes the impetus for this effort saying “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” In many ways, his adventure into the woods represents the physical embodiment of the values espoused by his fellow Transcendentalists—a movement he came of age alongside in the 1830s. In spite of his being only 19 when Emerson published “Nature,” Thoreau has come to be recognized as one of the movement’s key thinkers. Many themes emerge from Thoreau’s musings, among them: individualism, materialism, and nature. An unapologetic nonconformist, he felt that “if a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” It seems the music he heard was often out of sync with his companions, and frequently society as a whole. In a world already tied to the acquisition of material things, Thoreau instead believed “wealth [to be] the ability to fully experience life.” The natural was a key component of that full, rich experience for Thoreau often emphasized the physicality of the natural world, evidenced by his saying “nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain.” Nearly 200 years later, many of Thoreau’s values echo in American culture. Through the tiny house movement of the last decade, modern nonconformists continue to eschew the drive to acquire more. Every year, a greater number of outdoor enthusiasts go mobile, opting for the Van Life—driving from adventure to adventure immersing themselves in long hikes, open spaces, and the wealth of experience. However, Thoreau’s ideas don’t live on solely at the fringes of society. There is a movement in some corporations to create time for deep work, by providing an opportunity for employees to close out the many distractions that make it difficult to maintain the deliberate, sustained and purposeful focus extolled by Thoreau. There are even physicians prescribing time spent in nature as a cure to the psychological pressures of the modern world. This legacy draws over 500,000 people to Walden Pond every year. It is not uncommon for these visitors to express their surprise at how close they are to the heart of Concord, Massachusetts. In his writing, Thoreau does a masterful job of evoking a sense of isolation—of being deep in the woods and removed from the trappings of society. He has inspired generations of writers, photographers and adventurers to set off into the world – many of them empty-handed -- to experience life in the raw. In his book “Dharma Bums”, inspired in part by Thoreau, Jack Kerouac predicted a rucksack revolution in which millions of young “Zen lunatics” take to the wilds and have “visions of eternal freedom to everybody and to all living creatures.” To this day, countless Americans take to the wilds to transcend their daily lives and connect with the rhythm of the natural world. Some sped hours, others months; some walk past our Joy Green Visitor Center on their way into the Vermont woods not knowing the debt of gratitude they owe to Thoreau for claiming a space in the soul of America for the natural world. For not only helping to ensure that generations to come would see these trees and mountains not only as an economic opportunity, but also a place of spiritual renewal. A place where a person can, as Thoreau recommends, “rise free from care before dawn and seek adventures.” 11
Wind from the North, the sap cometh Forth. Wind from the East, the sap runneth Least. Wind from the South, there is a Drouth. Wind from the West, the sap runneth Best.
Turning Back In Time, Turning Back To The Earth by Christine Hubbard, Education Director Turn back the clock 200 years and more, and you would find, in each little hamlet and village, a multitude of workshops and home industries, with people putting their hands to work as they created the necessities of everyday life. Cloth was spun from wool or flax, all manner of wooden implements were created from locally harvested trees, and animals, in addition to providing subsistence, provided leather, horn and bone for a diverse array of objects: bone handles for utensils, horn for containers, and leather for harnesses. People had, by necessity, a close relationship to the earth. Fast-forward to today, and most, if not all, of our products are mass-produced and many are shipped to us in container ships from far-off countries made accessible due to globalization. People often feel cut off from the natural world. There is a hunger today to connect back with that early world and time, to create with our hands, and to experience what the natural world has to offer. With our farm and flock of sheep and chickens, our fields and gardens, and our vast forest, we can provide a space for you to connect back to the land. Throughout the year, we’ll be running two series of workshops - our “Farm and Forest Maker Series” and our “Forest Ecology Series”. Our Maker Series will allow people of all ages to create with materials gathered from or inspired by the farm and forest, while our Ecology Series will allow people to get a close up view of our natural world through the seasons. We’ll kick off the Maker Series on March 10th an Adirondack Pack Basket workshop led by Bliss McIntosh, a well-known basket maker. She’ll be joining us in early July as we create birch bark baskets with material gathered from birch trees nearing the end of their life cycle. In April, we’ll hold several children’s Maker workshops. Baa, Baa Black Sheep will see us walk up to the farm to meet our sheep and then create with their wool. Our popular Fairy House/Gnome Home Workshop will have us exploring the woods for treasures to add to our creations. Another workshop will see us exploring our chickens, and then creating dyes in order to color eggs we collect. Later in the year, look for workshops on felting with wool, more fairy house/gnome home workshops, and wreath-making. Our Forest Ecology Series kicks off on February 24th with an Owl Walk. We’ll start with a PowerPoint presentation and hands-on exploration of specimens courtesy of Pember Museum in Granville, and then head outside to listen for any owls that may be out and about. Join us for a Spring Ephemeral Hike in May, and a Pond Exploration in June. And keep your eye out for additional offerings, including our monthly Full Moon Hikes. Interested? You can find more information on our website, our Facebook page, or by giving us a call at 802-394-7836. Come join us, create, explore, and get back in touch with the land.
Upcoming Activities At Merck Forest We have a full slate of activities on the horizon, and there’s sure to be something that you and your family will enjoy.
EVENING HIKE SERIES
Join us on a staff-guided hike in the evening landscape. These hikes are typically of moderate difficulty and will take place only if weather conditions permit. Participants must be dressed appropriately for the weather with sturdy footgear, headlamps, water and snacks. Reservations are requested; Fee: $5 per person. • Full Pink Moon Walk. March 31, 6pm to 8pm. • Full Flower Moon Walk. April 28, 6pm to 8pm. • Spring Ephemeral Walk. May 12, (morning hike, time TBD • Full Strawberry Moon Walk. May 26, time TBD. • Full Buck Moon Walk. June 23, time TBD. • Full Sturgeon Moon Walk. July 28, time TBD. • Full Corn Moon Walk. August 25, time TBD. • Perseid Meteor Shower Viewing. August 11, time TBD.
A Note To You by Marybeth Leu, Communications Those of you who follow Merck Forest & Farmland Center on Social Media, or who have allowed us to contact you directly by email, have no doubt noticed more “traffic” in both mediums as we increase our outreach to members and friends. Certainly you’ve noticed the spectacular photos that Rob and Anna Terry, and (former apprentices) Karl Uy, Heather Richardson and Kat Graden have published of our rugged and beautiful landscape. The story they -- and the entire staff -- would like to share is of the daily experience of the farm and the forest, in both its compelling intimacy and its sweeping breadth. We are not alone in our recognition of this landscape: thousands of people over its nearly seventy-year history have visited and returned and made memories and have woven Merck Forest experiences into the textile of their own lives. They have in turn become part of the story here. We would like to invite our visitors to participate in the celebration of Merck Forest by relating to us what your experiences here have been. We would be grateful if you would share your memories -- photos, videos and stories – with us. Let us know if we might share them with our community through Social Media, or as pieces for the Ridgeline. We welcome your participation in any manner that feels comfortable to you. Thank you for being part of the Merck Forest and Farmland community.
• Full Harvest Moon Walk. September 22, time TBD. • Full Hunter’s Moon Walk. October 20, 6pm to 8pm. • Full Beaver Moon Walk. November 24, time TBD. • Full Cold Moon Walk. December 22, time TBD.
EVENTS AND WORKSHOPS Adirondack Pack Basket Workshop. Saturday, March 10, 9am to 3pm. $75/person plus $35-$50 materials fees (price dependent
upon accessories). Make your own pack basket with Bliss McIntosh’s expert instruction. Bring your lunch, a pair scissors, a flexible tape measure, 6 or so clothespins, and -- optionally -- a favorite carving knife and some small Pony clamps. Call 802-394-7836 to reserve your spot in this class, which is limited to 12 participants and will almost certainly fill up fast.
Maple Celebration/Pancake Breakfast. March 24 & 25, 9am-2pm. Save the date! Our fabulous Maple Celebration features our own sausage and syrup, and is a terrific way to send Old Man Winter packing. Wagon rides, sugar-making demonstrations, fun and games for everyone. Adults: $10 & Youngsters 5+: $5 SOLO First Aid Workshop. April 28-29, 8:30am to 5pm, $200 ($240 with optional CPR Module). Pre-registration is required; bring a bag lunch.
Meet the Lambs. May 19, 9am to 3pm, Suggested Donation: $3pp. Have your little lambs meet our little lambs: this is a popular event with the wee folk who are just learning about farm animals and prefer them pint-sized. We’ll have food and games and lots to see. Draft Horse Demonstrations. May 26-27. Details are still being worked out with the Green Mountain Draft Horse Club, but you’ll want to save this weekend, for sure! Birch Bark Baskets. July 7, 9am to 3pm, $75. Bliss McIntosh will be back with a class on another basket style: bring your lunch, a pair of (non-serrated) scissors, pencil. Call 802-394-7836 to reserve your spot in this class, which is limited to 12 participants and will almost certainly fill up fast. Bluegrass Concert. August 4, 6pm, Free. Featuring Bob Amos and Catamount Crossing. Bring a picnic, bring your kids, bring your
Open Farm Week. August 13-19. Details are still being worked out, so keep an eye on this space. Harvest Festival. September 15, 9am to 3pm, suggested donation: $3pp Felting Workshop. October/20, time TBD. Workshop for grownups. Gnome Homes & Fairy Houses. November 17, 1pm to 4pm, $25 per house; space is limited to 8 groups of crafters. Let’s spend the
afternoon creating log homes and the wee folk to live in them! We’ll start with a brief hike in the woods to gather the natural materials to embellish your creation; other materials and tools to make a house and two fairy/gnome creatures will be provided.
Wreath-Making Workshop. December 1, 10am-noon or 1-3pm, $25 per wreath. Ring in the holidays with this popular family event. We furnish the materials and tools, you provide the merriment. Pre-registration is suggested.
Children’s Workshops. $10 per child or $25 for three. Children must be accompanied to an adult companion. Chicks and Eggs. April 7, 10am to noon. Visit the henhouse to learn about what those chickens are up to, then back to the Visitor Center to learn how to dye eggs, using natural dyes. Baa, Baa, Black Sheep. April 7, 1:30pm to 3:30. This workshop is about another product from the farm: lambswool: we’ll card the wool and felt it, then make a little storage bag to take home. Fairy Houses and Gnome Homes. April 28, 1pm to 3. Small houses for small creatures and small builders. Pond Exploration for Kids. June 16, time TBD, $5 per child. It’s so much fun poking about in Page Pond. Your youngsters will have a great time learning about pond residents and pond ecology. They will need clothing and footgear that can get wet and muddy (and perhaps a change of clothes to go home in!).
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PO Box 86, Rupert, Vermont 05768
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