In This Issue 1 10th Annual Sheep Dog Trials Set For 7/12 and 7/13
Chestnuts Planted at the Farm Updates in Brief
3 What Stands Between the Farm and the Forest
4&5 Draft Horse Update: MFFC Says Goodbye to Daisy and Ellie, Thank You to Mae and June, and Hello to Fern and Arch
6 New Faces at Merck Forest
a publication of the Merck Forest and Farmland Center
“Teaching, demonstrating & sustaining a working landscape”
A New Director (and Direction) for Education By Melissa Carll, Communications Coordinator
Patricia Wesner is the new Director of Education at Merck Forest and Farmland Center. She joined the staff in July, and comes to MFFC with an extensive teaching and non-profit background. Patty spent several years teaching elementary and secondary school classes, and she devoted the past twenty five years to the Pember Museum and Library in Granville, New York, working as their Museum Director, Museum Educator, and Naturalist. She recently retired from the Pember and came to join us on the mountain top! Patty is no stranger to Merck Forest, as she has visited in the past, and she certainly does not find the dynamic nature of working farm and forest daunting. Patty says that she “loves being outdoors”, and as she lives on a small farm in East Greenwich, New York, she is very comfortable with the farm setting. Patricia has her sights set improving education at Merck Forest. She hopes to “encourage more visits from schools and groups by offering programs that collaborate with teachers, schools, and state curriculum mandates.” She stated, “We have a unique opportunity to give children and adults a chance to see a working farm and a well managed forest. Surprisingly, many students don’t have the chance to participate in farm activities and Merck does this well with Weekly farm chore activities. Also, Merck’s ability to demonstrate forestry practices focusing on sustainability is one way to get students out of the classroom and into the woods where they can develop an appreciation for our unique landscape. I also plan on developing programs on local wildlife and habitat improvement- which is my passion. We hope to further collaborate with local colleges —encouraging participation of students and professors in either experiential learning or research.”
Kat Deely, UVM Grad Student Researching Natural Communities
We are excited to have Patty on staff. Her long-time love and curiosity of nature and animals, plus her insane memory for natural history facts, is keeping us all more aware of what is happening around us in the forest and on the farm.
This fall, MFFC will begin to offer more education programs for the public. Keep an eye out for our Owl Walks and Forestry Walks—we’ll have them posted online and in area posters.
About Us & Membership
8 Spring Calendar
3270 Route 315, PO Box 86, Rupert, Vermont 05768 www.merckforest.org p. 802.394.7836
Now at the Visitor Center Sheepskins have arrived just in time for the holidays. Just picture your rocking chair with a warm, fuzzy cushion on the back as it rocks by the woodstove. Ahhh, absolutely delightful. This year many of the sheepskins are larger then in past years, and there is also a variety of cream, brown, and gray skins for sale. Price for the sheepskins depends on size, but typically they range from $150.00 - $200.00. The Visitor Center is happy to ship the sheepskins nationally. Also, it’s time to submit your orders for maple syrup. Our Vermontcertified organic syrup sells quickly before the holidays. You may call to purchase or use our secure online site to make an order.
Game of Logging
By Will Bunten, Forest Operations Manager
On August 15th and 16th, Merck Forest and Farmland Center hosted the Game of Logging chainsaw safety training course. The class, which we offered last year as well, is a worldrecognized program taught by Al Sands from Northeast Woodlands Training. In attendance were apprentices Bryan, Rose, and Sarah along with Will, our Forest Operations Manager. The focus of the class was safe and efficient operation of chainsaws, a tool we use regularly here at Merck Forest. The curriculum was designed in the 1960’s by Swedish logger Soren Eriksson. Soren was a woodcutter, a critical thinker, and an amateur boxer. Working the woods all day and boxing at night, he quickly realized he needed to find a more efficient way to cut wood so he would have the energy to pursue his other passion. Carefully considering all movement in the woods, Soren developed a system where he felt he was cutting wood with the least amount of effort per unit cut. His results were recognized by his superiors who - seeing the high volume of wood he cut daily - paid him the compliment of asking that he teach the other woodcutters his methods. From these trainings Soren developed a curriculum that is now called the Game of Logging. Many people wonder at the title of the courses and how something as inherently dangerous as chainsaw operation could be considered a game. We did too! The idea behind the “Game” in Game of Logging is the fostering of friendly competition in trying to accomplish the best possible results while cutting wood; more specifically to encourage people to always have a winning plan or strategy when working in the woods. As we learned the 5-step strategy for felling trees and the 5-point checklist for our saws, we all came to appreciate the game plan, the repetition of steps, and the safety of the operations that result. Thanks to Northeast Woodlands Training for help organizing the training, and thanks to Al Sands for providing a safe and very informative couple days in the woods.
A Slyer Adventure at Merck Forest (c.1974) By John Slyer, MFFC Member
It was our good fortune that my parents found Merck Forest when my two brothers and I (ages 8,9 & 10) were growing up. We had recently lost one of our grandparents, moved to a new neighborhood and school, and found ourselves in need of an vacation from the challenges we had endured. My parents, Jack and Flo Slyer, discovered Merck while visiting some cousins (the Geraghty’s) in Rupert, Vermont. We all fell in love with Merck Forest, and we have been coming back ever since. We first hiked into the barn area and took in the cattle, hens, sheep and the small sugaring operations. We then took to hiking to Clark’s Clearing and decided to come back for a week-long vacation. Believe it or not, we actually brought our two dogs and two cats up the mountain for that week. My parents were mighty brave souls. What an adventure! We struggled to get our backpacks, coolers, and animals up to the Clark’s Clearing cabin. It was like a castle to my brothers and me. We learned so much on our first adventure and even more as we continued to return over the following 40 years. Merck Forest experiences had a grounding and life-changing impact on me, my family, and the hundreds of individuals we have introduced to Merck over the years. I look forward to sharing many of our adventures in upcoming newsletters. I can be reached by email at: john@SKYHIGHadventures.com
John Slyer is a member and a regular visitor at Merck Forest and Farmland Center. He is the father of three girls (two of whom are pictured above, camping at MFFC this summer) and a Science Teacher at Shaker Jr. High School located in Latham, New York. John is also CEO and director of SKYHIGH Adventures Multi-Sport Life, an organization specializing in youth and adult adventure camps, programs, and triathlon training. www.SKYHIGHadventures.com
Learning from the Land
By Sarah Jackson, 2014 Apprentice
While talking to visitors at Merck, one common topic of curiosity is the history of the land. Did people live here before Merck Forest and Farmland Center was established? How long has the property been MFFC? What was on the land before it became the educational and recreational locus we know and love today? These are some questions that inquisitive minds roaming the property ask; questions that I personally love to discuss with folks.
Historic photo of the Harwood Family, taken in the 1800’s. Notice that the barn is still standing, but the other outbuildings and house are now a part of history.
Foremost, when visitors pose such queries, I offer what I know of the land’s history from where we are standing (usually the farm yard): that the land was once several farms and was clear cut up to what is now a visible line of evergreens on Gallop Peak; the hilltop was used by several farms in the production of livestock and wood; a house once stood at the aptly named Old Home Site. Second, I always make sure to point out to visitors the collection of photos on display in the Sap House. The pictures, some taken around the turn of the 20th century, offer a glimpse at the then naked mountain, the families that made their livelihood from the land, and the incredible draft creatures they used to work the fields.
Besides reading the landscape and viewing the historic photos, the next best thing to understanding Merck’s history would be live testimonials with players from Merck’s past. Fortunately, that is exactly what we got this summer… One morning, as I descended the hill towards the farm, I caught site of a rare early morning visitor whose path was a bit different than that of a normal guest. He had no hiking pack, seemed to be more interested in the buildings than the critters, and moved like he knew in which direction he was aimed. After greeting the man, we made quick friends. I learned that he had grown up around the area, and he had returned to town from his home in California for his high school’s 60th reunion. After several minutes of conversation about his experiences in Rupert and Manchester decades ago, I finally asked for his name. “Dave, Dave Harwood,” he replied. As he said this, in a fashion that is not unlike classic cinematography, my eyes focused straight past his face at the sign hanging on the barn behind him, which read in bold white letters “Harwood Barn”. I was shocked and “tickled to death”, as we Southerners say. My new friend was a celebrity, as far as I was concerned! He chuckled and pointed to the Old Home Site, explaining that generations back to his grandfather had been born right in that spot, when the home stood, and had farmed that land back then. He showed me where he and his siblings would pick wild blueberries (in the area that is now a hay field north of the raspberries), told of his father driving horses to mow and plow fields as we do today, and offered some background to the historic photos, which he and his family donated to Merck. During the conversation, the staff trickled in to find me still engrossed in conversation with Dave. Will joined the discussion, and we learned that Stone Lot, the area east of the blueberry field, may have been named such because of a caretaker on the land who was named Stone, and not because of the rocky soils or stone walls.
Dave Harwood visited the farm this summer, and regaled tales of the farm’s history to the apprentices and staff.
The visit left me delighted and eager to learn more. As luck would have it, just a few weeks later another voice from the past came our way. For a week in July, Dinah Buechner came to lend a hand on the farm. Dinah, granddaughter of MFFC founder George Merck, grew up in these woods and fondly remembers the summers of hiking with her siblings through the back lots and winters of skiing on the trails. While inspecting the timber lot near the South Gate, she could recall intersections, streams, and clearings that she had not seen in years, and she instinctively knew the roads of the property. She was a wonderful help on the farm, and, like Dave, her stories had me hooked. While the historical facts are certainly interesting, it is not facts alone that enchant me with the land’s past. It is, rather, the marriage of these slivers of history with my own experiences on this farm and in these woods, with my wild imagination of the hills of yesteryear, and the amazing personal narratives from Dave, Dinah, and many others who have made Merck a home away from home, which captivate me. I am decidedly happy that I am not expected to farm in petticoats and that I can email my mom pictures of baby animals from time to time (okay, I admit, all the time), but I find invaluable and infinitely entertaining the accounts of the way things used to be on the mountains I have also grown to know so well.
Updates in Brief
Sheep Dog Trials, A Success
Get Well, Kathryn!
The tenth annual Sheep Dog Trials and Farm Festival was a great success this year. Over the course of the busy weekend, eight hundred visitors watched the Northeast Border Collie Association hold their trial event. The weekend also boasted great food served up from Sherman’s General Store in West Rupert, and there were a variety of different activities: draft horse demos, goat milkings, wool and weaving projects, as well as 10 fiber artists from around the region.
Oh no! Kathryn Lawrence, Merck Forest’s dedicated and amazing Assistant to the Director and Bookkeeper had a mishap this summer. Kathryn, an avid horsewoman, was thrown from one of her horses in the middle of July. She suffered a broken ankle and fibula, and she underwent surgery in mid-August. Kathryn is currently recovering at home with the great care of her family and friends.While she recovers, Kathryn will be working from her laptop, and hopefully, resting as much as she can.
Many thanks to everyone who volunteered, visited, and helped to make the weekend a wonderful
Please, if you call for Kathryn at the Visitor Center, understand that it may take a few days to relay the message to her and get an answer in return. Thank you!
Top: Attentive sheep watches members of her flock be herded at the trials. Bottom: Darla helped a visitor hold one of the farm’s rabbits. Photos courtesy of Tom Remp, tomremp.com
Beautiful Night for a Bluegrass Concert Snake Mountain Bluegrass and the Connor Sisters performed at the Sap House in August. This was the first time in several years that MFFC hosted a concert for the community. We are happy to report that nearly 300 people showed up for the free event! Thank you to everyone who came to the event, and many thank you for your generous donations.
Sweet Potato Casserole Submitted by Katie and Tiama Connor
Ingredients: 23oz can of sweet potatoes (drained and rinsed) 1/2 stick of butter, softened 1/3 cup evaporated milk Topping: 1 cup cornflakes 1/2 cup coconut flakes 1/2 cup chopped pecans 4 tbsp butter, melted
This dish can be made ahead of time, and frozen until you are ready to bake it (just leave the topping off until you do bake the dish). Also, if you make the sweet potato casserole for a bigger group (or Thanksgiving dinner), double the ingredients and put in a 9” x 13” dish.
Directions: 1. Combine first three ingredients in a mixing bowl and blend with a beater. 2. Pour mixture into small casserole dish and place in the oven. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. 3. Stir topping ingredients together and sprinkle on top of the potatoes. Place the casserole dish back into the oven for 15 more minutes. 4. Serve while hot from the oven.
Can You I.D. These Leaves?
By Melissa Carll, Communications Coordinator
Many of the deciduous trees at Merck Forest have foliage five months out of the year. However, it’s easy to lose sight of individual leaves because of all the green that overwhelms your eyes. In the fall, as the foliage begins to change color, your perspective also changes. Many tree leaves are more easily identifiable because of their autumnal hues. Nature journaling is one great way for you to improve your leaf and tree identification skills. If you carry a small notebook around with you during your visit, you can quickly sketch the leaves you see with a pen or pencil. Drawing or taking notes may help you remember the interesting characteristics of the leaf, even more so than snapping a photo on your phone. If you are not confident that your sketch will help you confirm the leaf later on, jot down some notes: appoximately how long is the leaf? What colors are visible? When did you find it, and where on the trail you were located? Observation of the leaf’s physical characteristics, plus noticing what other species make up the specific habitat in which you were standing, can all provide clues for verification. Sometimes, even if you tend to carry indentification books with you on hikes, it’s not always possible to i.d. a leaf. You may have to consult another reference guide or the internet. I often tuck the unrecognizable leaf into my notebook to look up later. The more you look at each tree, the more you’ll notice the variations that occur, even within the same species. Merck Forest has approximately thirty species of trees on the property! How many can you identify this autumn?
An Oak Tree Planted In Memory By Tom Ward, Executive Director, Austin Chinn, President of the Board, and Jeromy Gardner, Trustee
It is hard for me to believe that Gerrit Kouwenhoven died a year ago August 27th, 2013. Gerrit was a great friend, mentor, and confidant, as well as being the Chair of Merck Forest & Farmland Center Board of Trustees. He and I shared the view that the relationship between the chair and the executive director was critical to the success of the organization, so the mutual admiration we had for one another made for easy sailing, for me at least. The first piece of memorializing Gerrit’s contributions to Merck was suggested and underwritten by Jeromy Gardner. Jeromy is a fellow trustee, manager of the local office of Bartlett Tree Company, and a Paul Smith’s College alum. As a forester, he has a lifelong interest in forests and the trees of which they are composed. Jeromy’s thought was to select the largest Swamp White Oak (Quercus bicolor) grown in a Vermont nursery and plant it in a suitable location. We chose to plant the tree in front of the Frank Hatch Sap House where almost every visitor to the property would pass by it. On the surface, the choice of a Swamp White Oak might seem curious for an upland farm in Vermont, but the species does well in a variety of habitats, and it is quite long-lived (300 – 350 years). Along with other white oak varieties, Swamp White Oak is popular with native fauna such as turkeys, squirrels, chipmunks, white-tailed deer, black bear, etc, because of its high mast (in this case, acorn) production. With Gerrit having exhibited such a generosity of spirit throughout his life’s work, the bountiful nature of the Swamp White Oak seems like a perfect fit. I miss my friend dearly, but remain committed to pursuing our dreams for Merck Forest, and now in also keeping alive the memory of such a wonderful man here in the Taconics, where he lived for most of his life.
Whole Lamb This fall, pre-order lamb meat from our farm! The farm will send the lambs to market in mid-October. Lamb is sold at $8.50 per pound hot hanging weight, and customers can expect a hot hanging weight between 35 - 50 lbs for a lamb. One lamb should yield about 20 lbs of meat, depending on your butchering preferences. There is a $60.00 processing and handling fee. Merck Forest asks for the handling fee as a deposit (please send a check in with this paperwork).
Please fill out information below
After processing, we will inform you of the total charge, which can be paid upon pick-up at the end of October. Please submit order form by October 1, 2014. The farm staff will notify you when the lamb is ready. Thank you! Forms are also available in the Visitor Center, or at www.merckforest. org. Please note, our staff will call you to verify the order and answer any questions you may have, or you may send in a form with just your contact information, and we will help you fill out the form.
Date: Name: Phone:
Deposit enclosed: yes/no
SHOULDER (choose 1 option)
LOIN (choose 1 option)
chops thickness: 1” 1 1/2” other:
rack of lamb (bone-in roast)
loin chops thickness: 1” 1 1/2” other:
SHANKS (check to include in order)
(choose 1 option) option one
Membership at Merck: Join or Renew Today! Please, help us continue to serve our mission of teaching and demonstrating the benefits of innovative, sustainable management of forest and farmland. As a member, you support our educational programs and maintenance of over 3,100 acres of land and 30 miles of trails. Thank you for your help!
Please fill out and mail: Merck Forest & Farmland Center PO Box 86, Rupert, VT 05768
Additional Contribution: Address:
Total Amount Enclosed: Payment: Cash/Check/Visa or MasterCard
Electronic copy of newsletter? Exp:
yes / no
Member benefits include:
Merck Forest and Farmland Center is an educational non-profit organization whose mission is to teach and demonstrate the benefits of innovative, sustainable management of forest and farmland.
20% discount on cabin rentals and camping 10% discount on Merckâ€™s Certified Organic Maple Syrup 10% discount on select Visitor Center merchandise 10% discount on workshops Copies of our seasonal newsletter, the RidgeLine
We also offer recreational opportunities for individuals and families, encouraging people to become good stewards of the land. Donations are appreciated and members are encouraged.
Margaret Mertz, Vice President
Phil Chapman, Treasurer
Madeline Rockwell, Secretary
Austin Chinn, President
Darla Belevich, Visitor Center
Will Bunten, Forester
Melissa Carll, Communications Coordinator
A monarch butterfly makes this chrysalis. In late summer the catepillar, which eats primarily milkweed, creates its green chrysalis, and after a period of 10 - 14 days the butterfly will hatch, ready to begin its journey to Mexico for the winter.
Board of Trustees Bob Allen
Katie Connor, Visitor Center Keith Drinkwine, Visitor Center Tim Hughes-Muse, Farm Manager Kathryn Lawrence, Assistant to the Director Colene Reed, Assistant Farm Manager Tom Ward, Executive Director
RidgeLine layout, illustrations, and graphic design by Melissa Carll
Photograph by Aaron Lamp
Can you name the critter that makes this chrysalis?
PO Box 86, Rupert, Vermont 05768
Printed on 100% recycled paper
Saturday, December 6, 2014 8 am - 4 pm Reserve Your Place ahead of time Come spend the day at the farm! Merck Forest and Farmland Center’s Sheep Dog Trial and Farm Festival provides a great way to experience part of Vermont’s heritage of sheep farming. The two-day family event allows visitors to see handlers and their border collies compete for the title! MFFC’s Farm Festival will include foods from regional farms, local fiber artists, horse drawn wagon rides, a variety of children’s activities, and more.