Welcome Red winged blackbirds have returned. Heavy machines are hard at work on the road. Ewes have doubled in size from thick winter fleece and coming lambs. Snow has retreated to north facing slopes and the highest elevations. It is spring—the season of awakening. In short order, trees will bud and leaf while green grasses emerge in pastures. Salamanders and frogs will emerge from their winter denizens searching out the comfort of nearby vernal pools. Ephemerals will carpet the forest floor with their fleeting beauty. First, there will be mud and maple syrup. Whenever we’re making syrup, we encourage visitors to come up and experience the process. We are regularly joined by families of three or four, while on busy days we welcome school groups of 80 or more. There is, however, one weekend that stands out: Vermont Maple Open House. Instead of serving up a host of flowery words to describe our annual Pancake Breakfast, I’ll let the numbers paint the picture. With 14 inches of fresh snow on the ground, over two days we served: • • • • • •
103 dozen eggs, 147 pounds of pancake mix, 225 pounds of sausage, Eight gallons of syrup, nine gallons of OJ, and 750 cups of coffee.
Totaled, that is approximately 900 breakfasts nearing 1,000,000 calories. Success requires full commitment from our 14 staff members, a heroic effort from over 40 volunteers, and two long days for one county sheriff keeping folks safe out on the road. It is a wonderful coming together that convenes old and new friends, celebrates the joy of sugaring, and kicks off our year.
George Hatch, President Ann Jackson, Vice President Kat Deeley, Secretary Keld Alstrup, Treasurer Jeromy Gardner Jim Hand Mark Lourie Sam Schneski Sue Van Hook Brian Vargo
STAFF Eli Crumley Grounds/Maintenance
Thank you to our staff and volunteers, who worked hard to make the weekend possible, and to all of our members and visitors that made the trip up the mountain to celebrate the arrival of spring!
Ethan Crumley Forestry/Sugaring Operations
Rob Terry Executive Director Merck Forest and Farmland Center
Kim Davis Weekend/Visitor Center
Cara Davenport Program Coordinator
Tim Duclos Conservation Manager
Bruce Putnam was a dear friend of Merck Forest & Farmland Center who cared deeply about the natural world. Bruce’s kind nature and level-headedness was a grounding force for the organization’s Board of Trustees from 1999-2008, during which he served as both Treasurer and President. Following Board tenure, Bruce served as an Advisory Council member, frequently attending meetings and sharing valuable insight. He will be missed by the MFFC family. A Memorial Service in Bruce’s honor will be held at Old St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in New London, New Hampshire on August 3, 2019 at 11am.
BOARD OF TRUSTEES
Dylan Durkee Farm Manager Sarah Elliott Visitor Experience Coordinator Chris Ferris-Hubbard Education Director Kristian Moore Resource Assistant Kathryn Lawrence Assistant Executive Director Marybeth Leu Communications Coordinator Liz Ruffa Director Of Institutional Advancement Rob Terry Executive Director
Staff Calls Our team is hardworking and awesome! When asked these questions, they responded: What current work excites you and why? I’ve been working on getting confirmations out to regional schools as they plan their end-of-year field trips….. It’s always exciting to see the expectant faces of kids as they disembark from their buses for a day of exploration at Merck Forest…… I’m excited for all of the upcoming opportunities to engage students and visitors in the flora and fauna that exists on the land; bird walks, pond exploration, spring ephemerals, the July BioBlitz, tree ID workshops….our deepening partnership with the Mettawee Community School….. the energy and enthusiasm that local partners are showing to help us reach new audiences….… working on systems improvements for our sales and membership efforts… coming up the mountain still excites me every day after years of doing it!…. I have been busy sugaring - tap to sap to syrup is always fun and it is great to share the process with the students that come up to learn…seeing new members join our Merck Forest community. What are you grateful for? I’m deeply grateful to have this incredible opportunity to practice my craft here at MFFC and join such a great staff and community……I’m grateful for our team….. without everyone here at Merck, we would not be able to do what we do here - it takes a team to pull it all off……I am grateful for all of the volunteers and partners who made Pancake Breakfast a resounding success again this year…. I love living in a place where community members share a collective love and respect for natural and working landscapes..…I am grateful that I get to experience this majestic property continuously… I am grateful for the opportunity to drive up the access road, always looking forward to the changing colors in the view shed, animal tracks in the unbroken snow or bird calls in the forest canopy……I am glad to be able to work outside….. I am grateful to be able to revive the lost art of timber framing..…I am grateful for the atmosphere that the MFFC team brings to our work. And what are you looking forward to?, I’m looking forward to spring, with the fresh new grass and newborn lambs scampering about!….. I’m excited to be part of the VC redesign team and look forward to helping to create a more visitor friendly environment which relates to our current programming and initiatives….. I’m excited for a symphony of birdsong throughout the woods once more……I am looking forward to seeing Page Pond come alive and seeing a heavy cohort of next generation naturalists…..I am looking forward to participating in this year’s Annual Members Meeting on June 8…. Our push forward with educational programming to attract more children to time on the farm and in the forest is gratifying and our burgeoning calendar of activities is very exciting….i look forward to being able to better serve our visitors who want to come and camp!.. looking forward to improving aspects of the landscape and the facilities that we have here….
So far in 2019, MFFC staff has: • produced 550 gallons of organic maple syrup from 22,000 gallons of sap from 3,000 taps • continued work with UVM’s Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Sciences’ Cap-stone students • welcomed over 900 people to our Annual Pancake Breakfast over Maple Sugar Weekend • engaged in a day-long staff training about safety and best practices for woodland education • joined a new statewide forest health and integrity initiative spearheaded by High Meadows Fund and Vermont Community Foundation
“ My students’ favorite aspect of the programming was when they were able to freely explore. Every single students was beyond engaged and enthusiastic when exploring in the forest and pond ecosystem. They continued to talk about it and make connections to it after the experience.” —MFFC/NGSS partner teacher
“ Now all I want to be is an outdoor scientist.” —MFFC/NGSS student
“ Science is usually the subject that isn’t most fun to me, but when I got to not just learn ecology, but experience it, it was a subject that was the most fun to me.” —MFFC/NGSS student 4
Ways to Experience Merck Forest & Farmland Center in the Springtime NEW ARRIVALS AT THE FARM
While budding trees spell the end of the sugaring, they signal that spring on the farm is gaining momentum. As the snow retreats to higher elevations, and the sun’s rays reach the ground, legumes and grasses spring forth, returning life to fields and pastures. After what must feel like an eternal diet of hay, hay, and more hay, the flock rejoices at the opportunity to once again graze fresh browse. If the farm team has the timing right, and the weather cooperates, the return of green grass will also mark the start of lambing season. To see the lambs, come up for a stroll around the farm in late May on, and you’ll find them out to pasture with the main flock.
AMPHIBIOUS ACTION AT PAGE POND
There is timeless joy found in catching frogs down by the pond. Page Pond, down slope of the Frank Hatch Saphouse, offers endless opportunities for would-be ecologists to dive into amphibian phenology. Salamanders, newts, and a variety of frogs can all be found, along with a number of reptiles including several species of turtles and maybe, if one is lucky, even a snake. Reptiles and amphibians not your thing? Take a net in hand, and explore the subaquatic entomology and find a host of intriguing aquatic bugs as well as the nymph (larval) phase of a number of terrestrial insects such as mayflies, dragonflies, and caddisflies.
Trout Lily, Squirrel Corn, Dutchman’s Breeches, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Bloodroot— the only thing better than saying their names is seeing the spring ephemerals carpet the forest floor. These brilliant perennials take advantage of the fleeting moment when there is just barely enough solar energy and warmth to grow, and that energy is able to make it to the forest floor because the trees haven’t leafed out. If you’re interested in seeing ephemerals in person, a hike from the Saphouse to Clark’s Clearing sometime from mid-April to mid-May will do the trick.
The woods around the Visitor Center never go quiet. The winter months bring a host of songs, including the gentle but insistent chick-a-dee-dee-dee, purposeful who-cooks-for-you, and raucous ca-caw. With the arrival of spring these hearty soloists yield to a veritable symphony of species. A ramble through the woods and trails can easily take a birder into a host of distinctive habitats including grassland, shrubland, and wetland as well as edge and interior forests, each suitable to its own combination of bird species. Pack a set of binoculars, grab your life list, and set off into the landscape in any direction.
Annual Meeting We look forward to seeing you on Saturday, June 8 from 9am until 2pm for Merck Forest & Farmland Center’s 69th Annual Meeting at the Frank Hatch Saphouse. All members are encouraged to attend the Annual Meeting with Trustees, Advisors and Staff. We will then take a walk, led by Rob Terry and Tim DuClos and reconvene for lunch at the Saphouse, followed by a facilitated conversation about unfragmented forests and Merck Forest’s unique location in the Taconic Mountain Range. Please RSVP to the Advancement Office, 802-394-2579; firstname.lastname@example.org
Advancement Office Update 2019 has gotten off to a great start, with scores of new members and donors supporting MFFC’s mission to inspire curiosity, love and respect for the natural and working lands. From my office at Visitor Center, I have been so impressed by the constant stream of winter campers - families, athletes, nature lovers, and dogs! - and their collective passion for this landscape, as well as by the brisk business that the Friends of the Forest Store generates. In an effort to widen the net and attract new visitors, MFFC launched a wildly successful Maple Syrup Raffle in March! 428 people participated in this outreach event to win a 1/2 gallon of Merck’s Maple Syrup. Thanks to support from our local partners - Barrows House, Dorset; Dorset Bakery, Dorset; Dorset Union Store, Dorset; Mountain Goat, Manchester, Nature’s Market, Manchester and Pendleton Wool, Manchester. Our winner is Pam Goldman, a Manhattan resident with a second home in the area. Pam and her husband know the Northshire well and enjoy the many seasons of Vermont, not just winter. After spending time up in the Mountains, the Goldmans have settled down in the Manchester/Dorset Valley and come up to Merck Forest to recreate whenever they can! Congrats to Pam!
The Power of Place: Educational Programming at MFFC Rob Terry, Executive Director Looking roughly west from the Harwood Barn, the Frank Hatch Sap House dominates the foreground. On a quintessential spring evening, patches of snow make their final stand alongside the rutted, muddy farm road. As evening falls, vibrant hues of orange blanket the southern Adirondacks while steam from the evaporator erupts from the stacks. Place is powerful. In The Fate of Place: A Philosophical History, Edward S. Casey punctuates this simple fact by reminding us that: “We are surrounded by places. We walk over and through them. We live in places, relate to others in them, die in them. Nothing we do is unplaced.” Nothing we do is unplaced. Nothing. Every visitor to Merck Forest & Farmland Center carries away a bit of this place in their hearts, while cabins, trails, and ponds on the property bear the names of those who long ago shaped this place and called it home. This holds as true for a community’s children as it does for its adults. In the 1980s and 90s, educational leaders in the Northeastern U.S. recognized that the drive for standardization and globalization was subordinating students’ connections to the communities in which they lived. Laurie Lane-Zucker of the Orion Society summed up this phenomenon in Place Based Education: Connecting Classrooms and Communities, observing that: “In an increasingly globalized world, there are often pressures for communities and regions to subordinate themselves to the dominant economic models and to devalue their local cultural identity, traditions and history in preference to a flashily marketed homogeneity.” For decades, this “flashily marketed homogeneity” led to classrooms where connectivity to community was supplanted by standardized testing and curriculum. That is not to say that there is no room for standardization—for with standardization comes equity. However, when that equity comes at the cost of disconnection to place and loss of agency, it comes at too high a price. In 2013, the State of Vermont adopted the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), which identify what students should know, and be able to do, relating to science. With standardization comes textbooks, rubrics, and digital resources optimized for the classroom. NGSS is a comprehensive framework that spans the scientific disciplines, including ecology, biology and earth sciences. For elementary aged students living near Merck Forest, the natural world is just outside their classroom window. With less than 20% of students nationwide currently living in areas classified as rural, while not unique, this opportunity is certainly not ubiquitous. Recognizing this opportunity, Merck Forest began collaborating with local schools and supervisory unions, harnessing the growing body of place based educational pedagogy to develop a series of experiences that bring students out of the classroom and into woods, pastures, ponds and streams. By combining local experiences and expertise, field trips, service learning, and curriculum with context, Merck Forest encourages educational opportunities that use the community as a classroom where students can, through inquiry and investigation, create projects that solve real world problems. While the organization’s mission leads to a focus on environmental education, this place-baseda framework has application across all academic subjects. At Merck Forest, this work starts in preschool with a focus on classroom visits and field trips. As students approach midelementary, the program shifts to multi-day, curriculum driven NGSS lessons and activities that blend time in the field at Merck Forest with lead-in and follow-up activities in the classroom. In middle school, and on into high school, activities increasingly shift toward service learning and introduce collaborative problem solving. Collaborative learning continues beyond high school to include undergraduate opportunities for project management and graduate level research. By sequencing its educational programming, Merck Forest provides a continuum of opportunities that grow alongside learners. Kindergarteners from the Mettawee Community School recently visited the farm for a field trip where they listened to traditional stories about sugaring, tapped a tree, toured the sugar house, and tasted fresh syrup. At the other end of the continuum, a group of seniors from UVM’s Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources recently completed a project in which they drafted amendments to the organization’s sugarbush management plan to ensure improved forest bird habitat, ultimately allowing Merck Forest’s sugarbush to be certified by the Audubon Society as “Bird Friendly Maple.” Nothing we do is unplaced. Creating authentic opportunities to connect with local experiences, expertise and regional life-ways and facilitating time and energy dedicated to solving real world problems, is the heart of Merck Forest’s place-based educational programming. 7
Connecting for Conservation Tim Duclos, Conservation Manager There are so many aspects of Merck Forest that makes this land unique and tremendously valuable. From a human use perspective, we have over 30 miles of trails and remote overnight huts, prominent mountain views, substantial timber and sugaring potential, extensive woods, waters, and wildlife to explore- not to mention our 62 acres of farm and field- the modest remnants of a legacy spanning 300 years of farming this land. An asset in many ways, Merck Forest is the perfect place to recreate, relax, refocus, teach, enlighten, and enjoy the rich offerings that sustainable land use provides. Yet, while all these elements truly excite me, as an ecologist, what I find even greater about Merck Forest is the conservation value of this land; the extensive rich northern hardwoods intermixed with a patchwork variety of forest stands and community types, all scattered across stark topographic relief; the fields, ponds, and streams- together these factors are the medium on which biodiversity is achieved. Furthermore, all of this is existent under the purview of a single organization; at nearly 3200 acres, a continuous plot of land of this size and character is regionally unique and of high conservation value. Yet, beyond the diverse flora and fauna found here, itâ€™s really the unfragmented nature of this land amongst a much greater unfragmented landscape, that altogether makes both Merck Forest, and this region, a chief priority for conservation. Species require multiple scales of connectivity among suitable habitats to reproduce, migrate, and adapt to natural environmental stochasticity. As such, habitat loss and fragmentation is the single most pressing threat our regional ecosystems face. Moreover, this threat is dramatically exacerbated by a rapidly changing climate as species attempt to keep pace with cascading environmental changes. Of course, land use change has a deleterious effect beyond flora and fauna; our forests and fields sequester carbon and recycle our air, and our wetlands retain and purify our water resources; the ecosystem services our intact landscapes proved are numerous, complex, and all interconnected. This is not to mention the economic and cultural value of our lands and waters. As a species, we absolutely depend on these resources. The need to find a way to sustain an ecologically functional landscape at all scales has never been greater. This, my friends, is our call to action- and we all have a role to play in addressing this challenge. Thankfully, resource managers in Vermont, and across the greater Northeastern area, are keenly focused on this prominent issue. The Staying Connected Initiative (stayingconnectedinitiative.org) and Vermont Conservation Design (vtfishandwildlife.com/ conserve/vermont-conservation-design) are two prime examples of comprehensive cross-organizational collaborative efforts focused on identifying and strategizing ways to maintain regional connectivity through conservation planning. The basic idea is this: by identifying key linkages between ecologically unique areas of the state, we can strategically prioritize our conservation efforts within these areas to maintain this connectivity. A substantial deliverable associated with this work is the BioFinder tool (anrmaps.vermont.gov/websites/BioFinder2016). Exploring BioFinder, we see that Merck Forest exists at the axis of one of these key linkages (Figure 1). Merck Forest is located at the northern tip of the Taconic mountain range, connecting the Hudson Highlands to the Green Mountains- as such, we play a key role in maintaining connectivity across the Taconic range. The land also exists at the convergence of headwater streams of two watersheds, each ultimately leading to two separate ends
of the continent - the Hudson River drainage to the South and the St. Lawrence Seaway to the North. Moreover, Merck Forest is located within a 42,000 acre unfragmented forest habitat block identified as a high conservation priority. To our northeast, exists substantial blocks of conserved land- we have the Green Mountain National Forest, Smokey House Center, as well as those conserved by municipalities, land-trusts and other NGO’s, and private parties. However, with ~80% of Vermont lands privately owned, there exists a plethora of individual decisionmakers within this matrix that, together, comprise much of the currently connected lands. Individually, land use decisions being made every day by landowners determine much of the fate of the future of our landscape-level ecological integrity. Figure 1. Map produced by the BioFinder tool displaying Merck Forest (blue polygon) located at the convergence of three biophysical regions, within a 42,000 acre habitat block, and otherwise nested amongst a landscape of conserved lands. The goal of this initiative is to achieve greater collaboration among regional stakeholders so as to affect conservation planning that preserves vital connectivity across this region.
So here at Merck Forest, we are positioning ourselves to meet this challenge head on- we recognize our value in the landscape and see a responsibility to work collaboratively with our neighbors to achieve a greater level of landscape-level conservation. Over this past year, we have been collaborating with students from the University of Vermont’s Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources to begin exploring strategies to first identify, and then work towards, convening local landowners, conservation-focused organizations, agencies, and other stakeholder groups from within our forest habitat block. Results of surveys sent this past fall to a select group of local landowners suggest that the majority of landowners in this area have both a management plan in place for their property, as well as an interest in partnering with Merck Forest as a resource for conservation planning. Currently, students are building upon prior efforts by working to identify a broader geographic extent of stakeholder groups within our forest block as well as research existing collaborations focused on connectivity within the region. By gaining a better understanding of these regional stakeholder groups- their values, efforts, and organizational structure, in this next chapter of Merck Forest, we aim to be a partner, asset, and resource for land conservation across the region. In the end, as a landowner focused on conservation, we have a responsibility that extends beyond Merck Forest; we cannot sustain ourselves as an island and withstand the imminent threats facing conservation alone; we must work collaboratively with our neighbors to achieve something much greater than ourselves. We hope you will join us in this effort- because, as the saying goes: ‘united we stand, divided we fall’. 9
We believe that every student deserves hands-on opportunities to learn about the natural world immersed in the woods, not solely through a classroom window.
NEXT GENERATION SCIENCE STANDARDS (NGSS) Ecology Programs $25 / student / day $500 / class of 20 / day 2018: 578 students 1178 on-site student days Direct Cost to MFFC: $44,450 Direct Cost to Schools: $0
Please support this critical work! Contact the Advancement Office for more information.
Sharing Our Learning Chris Ferris-Hubbard, Education Director In November, Cara, Tim, and I visited The Dorset School to see the Fifth Grade Expo, a culmination of their experiences during the Merck Forest & Farmland Center / Next Generation Science Standard School Partnership Program this past fall. During their time with us, students were engaged in hands-on learning as they investigated decomposition in the forest and on the farm. They explored species diversity in the forest and in the pond with surveys, and ecosystem diversity with a mapping exercise. On their last day with us, they explored and then tackled the problem of invasive species as they attempted to remove honeysuckle bushes. Back in the classroom, students compared and contrasted the rate of decomposition in sets of tanks - one with worms and one without - in an attempt to see if there was something more at work than just worms. They delved further into the lessons presented at Merck Forest, and then worked to present their learning to others. Their Expo gave them a chance to share what they had learned. As we walked into Mrs. Loveâ€™s room, the anticipation of the students was palpable. They stood by their presentations with eager faces. As I moved from group to group, students shared their learning on topics such as trophic levels, life cycles, food chains and webs, and invasive species. Science notebooks were on display, showing the collection and analysis of data, and PowerPoint presentations were on view, enhancing the posters that were evident throughout the room. Interactive displays promoted hands-on learning for the younger students who came in to visit the Expo. Kindergarteners were engaged in learning about invasive fish populations through a game involving pom-poms and plastic utensils while second graders sorted animals according to their place in a food pyramid. Students spoke confidently about their topics and their learning, as they addressed not only younger students, but parents and teachers as well. When talking to students, their enthusiasm for their hands-on, outdoor learning experiences at Merck Forest was still fresh. Faces lit up when they talked about exploring the landscape, getting their hands dirty and wet, as they examined fungi and salamanders, peeled into rotting logs and leaf litter, and dug into warm compost and cool earth. Curiosity drove them to explore, and awe and wonder was on their faces.
Braiding Sweetgrass, A Recommended Read Chris Ferris-Hubbard, Education Director As an avid reader, I always have a book nearby. After reading books on heavier topics, I felt the need for something “lighter”, and asked my son, also an avid reader and a bookstore employee, to give me some recommendations, preferable some fiction. He left the room and returned with a book. “I had her as a professor at ESF,” he informed me, “ I think you’ll like it,” as he placed a cream-colored paperback in my hands: Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants, written by Robin Wall Kimmerer, a SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor of Environmental Biology at SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry College. In Braiding Sweetgrass, Kimmerer, a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, writes about plants and the natural world, as she weaves plant science, family stories, and history with an Indigenous worldview in an intertwining prose that I found lyrical. I found myself reading aloud to myself, just to hear the words trip off my tongue. That doesn’t happen very often. Kimmerer speaks of our interconnectedness with the natural world, and of the plants and animals being our oldest teachers. She writes, “We say that humans have the least experience with how to live and thus the most to learn - we must look to our teachers among the other species for guidance.” The idea of gratitude and reciprocity are twined through the pages: as we receive gifts from the plants and animals, we should be thankful and give back. There should be reciprocity in our relationships. Kimmerer’s writing reminded me of our new mission statement: to inspire curiosity, love for, and a sense of responsibility toward our natural and working lands. This became evident early on in a chapter on strawberries. Curiosity, with her observation and fascination as a child of how strawberries would develop and how mature plants sent out runners to make new plants. Love, as she speaks of gathering what the Potawatomi call ode min, or “heart berries,” her father’s love of the berries, and her mother’s love of baking strawberry shortcake for him. And finally, responsibility, as she talks of an obligation to give, receive, and reciprocate. The strawberries give to her family, and her family gives back by tending to them. The theme of reciprocity and of gratitude harkens to responsibility, of taking care of what takes care of us. Upon finishing the book, I found myself looking at how we reap natural resources with a new lens, with a renewed sense of gratitude for what we receive from the earth, whether it is boughs to be used in a wreath, or syrup tapped from a tree. I came away with a new sense of responsibility to take care of the gifts given by the plants and animals. I hope you find the same. “Gifts of mind, hands, heart, voice, and vision all offered up on behalf of the earth.
Whatever our gift, we are called to give it and to dance for the renewal of the world.” ~Robin Wall Kimmerer
Birch Balm Dear Merck Staff: Thank you for all you do to make MFFC such a hospitable place and beautiful experience. I was there on Saturday 2/16/19 - for only the second time but already I’m a huge fan. I’m also writing, at the suggestion of a friend, to share a poem I wrote about those two wonderful big birches which are in the field near the road, close to the saphouse. It’s attached, along with a photo of one of the birches that my friend took while we were there on Saturday. Thank you again, and best wishes for a fine February finish. —Joe
Feb. 17, 2019
Old Merck Road has two white birches and anyone who elsewhere searches may seek in vain for such as these magnificent and grand old trees. Not like a birch within a wood which ever tall and straight has stood reaching, stretching for the light. No, these have spread, to my delight their branches outward, free to go on many paths. How well they grow. For me they mirror my own life which also (despite wind and strife) has let me try out many ways. On this cold, bright winter day I stand by them, beside their field their forms and smooth white bark reveal a grandeur simple, wise and calm which to my eyes and heart is balm.
Sharing the Sugarbush by Cara Davenport, Program Coordinator The sugaring season here at Merck Forest & Farmland Center is bracketed by extended forays up into our 3,000 tap, northern-facing sugarbush; first to drill and tap the maple trees, then at the end of the season to remove the taps. Inevitably though, at least a few times each season while the sap is running, we make additional treks up the slope to address a common hindrance to our maple syrup production: damaged sap lines. We use a vacuum system to draw the sap in the lines down into a big white tank right outside the Sap House. When our vacuum pump gauge shows that the vacuum pressure in the lines is low, it means that there are probably holes or breaks in the tubing system that connects the maples, and less sap is being drawn down into the tank. The culprit? Sometimes the wind or snow, which can bring trees or branches down onto lines or disconnect taps. Often, though, we find lines chewed by residents of our forest-- squirrels, porcupines, and even coyotes who are attracted to the sweet sap flowing inside the lines. We aren’t the only maple fans out there! It’s easy to feel frustrated when line after line has chew marks or is even bitten in half and has to be replaced or repaired. It takes time and energy to make these trips into the sugarbush, find the damaged lines, and fix them, and it affects the sugaring productivity. Ultimately, though, this seasonal sign of wildlife activity in our forest is part of what it means to be in community here at Merck Forest. The sugarbush is both a crop and an ecosystem, not a monoculture, and the more diversity that exists there the more resilient that natural community can be. Our productivity might increase if we managed our sugarbush more exclusively for maple trees, cutting out other tree species that wildlife depend on for food, or took other measures to limit wildlife activity in the sugarbush. And productivity is a key consideration in the sugaring industry, so passively absorbing the damage isn’t necessarily a constructive approach. But the relationship that we’re aiming for with wildlife is not an “us vs. them” competition for exclusive control of the sugarbush; the way forward is learning how to share the sugarbush with its natural community in ways that are mutually beneficial to the trees, wildlife, and us. As we continue to produce maple syrup at Merck Forest with this goal in mind, an exciting next step on the horizon is participating in Audubon’s Bird-friendly Maple Program, which focuses on management practices that improve bird habitat in sugar bushes. We’ll be working to incorporate their bird-specific management strategies into our existing framework, continuing to find ways to balance conservation and production in Merck Forest’s sugarbush community.
Maple-glazed Ham Loaf Ingredients 1 pound ground ham 1 pound ground pork 1 egg 3/4 cup milk (non-dairy alternative) 1 cup breadcrumbs OR walnuts 1 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon black pepper 1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 2. If you don’t have access to ground ham, cut a 1 pound piece of smoked ham into chunks and grind it in a food processor until finely shredded. 3. Mix ground ham and ground pork together in a large bowl. Add the egg and milk and stir. 4. If you’re using walnuts instead of breadcrumbs, chop the walnuts in the food processor until they are finely chopped. Mix walnuts or breadcrumbs into the meat mixture, along with the salt and pepper. 5. Scoop the meat mixture into a loaf pan and smooth it out evenly. Bake in the oven for 1 hour. 6. About 45 minutes into the first hour of baking, whisk the sauce together in a small bowl: Sauce ingredients 2/3 cup of maple syrup 1 teaspoon dry mustard powder 1/4 cup vinegar (white or cider) 7. After the loaf has baked for 1 hour, take the pan out of the oven and pour the sauce over it evenly. Return it to the oven to bake for another hour.
Save the Date for These Special Events! Meet the Lambs. May 18 from 9am-2pm; suggested donation: $3pp. 24-hour BioBlitz. July 27/28 high noon to high noon FREE. Verify details on the website. Bluegrass Concert with Catamount Crossing. August 3 from 6-7:30pm; FREE. Harvest Festival. September 21 from 9am to 2pm; suggested donation $3pp.
Just for Kids
Courses & Trainings
Forest Day Camp. July 22 through 26 from 9am-3pm; $250 per child.
MFFC Ecologist Tim DuClos: Bluebird Presentation & House Build. April 27 from 2-4pm; $25/construction crew (1 birdhouse).
Eco Day Camp. August 5 through 9 from 9am-3pm; $250 per child. Thursday Farm Chores for Children. July 11, 18, 25, August 1, 8, 15, from 2-4pm; $5pp. Children’s Mushroom Hunt. August 18 from 10-11:30am; $5pp. Explore: Children’s Garden. July 20 from 2-4pm; $5pp. Explore: Touch a Tractor. August 3 from 2-4pm; $5pp. Explore: Animals on our Farm. August 17 from 2-4pm; $5pp.
SOLO: Wilderness First Aid & CPR Training. May 4 - 5 from 8:30am to 5pm; $200/$240 pp. Northeast Woodland Training: Game of Logging Chainsaw Safety Training (Levels 1 & 2). May 25 – 26 8am to 4pm; $360 Mycologist Sue VanHook from Skidmore College: Mushroom Identification Workshop. August 18 from Noon-2pm; $10pp Biologist Alyssa Bennet from VT Department of Fish & Wildlife: Bats & Their Habitat. July 26 from 6:30-8:30pm; $5.
Spring/Summer Saturdays on the Mountain Join us at one, or all, of the spring and summer workshops, hikes, volunteer opportunities and explorations listed below. Give us a call at 802-394-7836 or check www.merckforest.org for details.
Hike: Spring Ephemerals ➢ May 11 from 2-4pm; $5pp. Explore: Changes in the Vermont Landscape ➢ May 25 from 2-4pm; $5pp. Workshop: Woodshed Raising ➢ June 1 time 2-4 pm; Free. Hike: Thoreau Cabin ➢ June 8 from 1-3pm; $5pp. Explore: Page Pond ➢ June 15 from 2-4pm; $5pp. Workshop: Bird ID & Habitat ➢ June 22 from; $5pp. Volunteer Opportunity: Work Party ➢ June 29 from 2-4pm; FREE Workshop: Map & Compass Reading ➢ July 6 from 2-4pm; $5pp. Hike: Tree Identification Hike ➢ July 13 from 2-4pm; $5pp. Explore: Children’s Garden ➢ July 20 from 2-4pm; $5pp. Volunteer: Work Party ➢ July 27 from 2-4pm; FREE Explore: Touch a Tractor ➢ August 3 from 2-4pm; $5pp. Hike: Mt Antone ➢ August 10 from 2-6pm; $5pp. Explore: Animals on our Farm ➢ August 17 from 2-4pm; $5pp. Explore: Clark Hollow Creek ➢ August 24 from 2-4pm; $5pp. Volunteer: Work Party ➢ August 31 from 2-4pm; FREE
Thank You Volunteers! Sarah Elliott, Visitor Experience Coordinator Merck Forest & Farmland Centerâ€™s volunteers always add to the warm feeling of community that runs through our 3,200 acres. We are very grateful to everyone who who came out to support the success of our monumental Pancake Breakfast event. Our volunteers add so much -- staff simply could not put on Pancake Breakfast for 900 people without their enthusiastic energy and efforts! A heartfelt thank you to everyone who showed up, shoveled snow and cooked pancakes and sausage for hours and helped with all aspects of our event from parking to clean-up. Among these ranks are two stalwart volunteers who continue to make a wonderful impact on my Merck Forest experience: a beloved octogenarian who hikes regularly, putting forth more spark than most half her age - MFFCâ€™s long-serving Trustee, advisor, historian and volunteer, lifetime Rupert resident and small animal veterinarian Jean Ceglowski. Our youngest volunteer: Will Ruffa, an engaging 12 year old who cheerfully and regularly helps with important jobs at the Visitor Center from filling the woodbox to shoveling snow and helping with administrative tasks, all so he can run up to the farm to help the crew with chores!
Will relaying messa ges between Saphou se and VC on Pancake Brea kfast weekend.
Like book ends, Merck Forest is where they both prefer to be -- Jean and Will share a spark and devotion and their enthusiasm reminds me of the best part of my job at Merck Forest aside from the endlessly beautiful landscape: the people. Jean helping with admissions at Pancake Breakfast. Pictured here with Trustee Keld Alstrup
Volunteerism is an important component of our community here at Merck Forest. We welcome individuals, families and group of all kinds to help around the farm and on the trails, at special events and at the Visitor Center. Give us a call to set up a volunteer experience, or drop in on one of our open Volunteer Days, on the fourth Saturday of each Summer month: June 29, July 27 and August 31. Call (802) 394-7836 or email email@example.com for more details! 18
PRESORTED STD US POSTAGE PAID MANCHESTER, VT 05254 PERMIT No. 3
PO Box 86, Rupert, Vermont 05768
Merck Forest & Farmland Center is on a mission to inspire curiosity, love and responsibility for natural and working lands