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Summer 2014

a publication of the Merck Forest and Farmland Center

“Teaching, demonstrating & sustaining a working landscape”

In This Issue

10th Annual Sheep Dog Trials and Farm Festival


Tickets sold at door: $5/adult, $3/ages 4 - 12, under age 4 FREE

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 Kat Deely, UVM Grad Student Researching Natural Communities

7 About Us & Membership

8 Spring Calendar

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

July 12 & 13 Sat. & Sun. 8 am - 4 pm

The Sheep Dog Trials and Farm Festival are returning to its early summer spot this year, Saturday and Sunday, July 12 and 13, 2014, from 8 am - 4 pm. The annual event has reached its tenth year, and this year will be better than ever. Merck Forest invites you to come spend the day at the farm: watch the sheep dog trials, learn a little about Vermont farming, and take part in the activities.

The Northeast Border Collie Association puts on the trials: handlers and their border collies compete for the title at the Merck Forest Open! The dogs will begin running in the morning and will go through the afternoon. On Sunday, the award and hand-carved crook made especially for the tenth anniversary will be given to the winner. MFFC’s Farm Festival spans both days of the weekend. As usual, visiting parties can enjoy wagon rides up to the farm. Once at the farm, a variety of activities will be available. Sit under the big tent for the sheep dog trials, peruse the items from the Northeast Border Collie Association, and step into the Sap House to see a variety of regional fiber artists, eleven in total, demonstrate their craft (including alpaca, sheep, and angora goat fibers, felting, spinning and looming demonstrations, batik arts, etc.). Explore the children’s activities, go in seach of ripe Merck Youpick raspberries and blueberries, and enjoy the good food served up by Sherman’s General Store in West Rupert (including Merck’s own pork kielbasa and sausage). Learn more, and see the list of vendors and sponsors, at Our staff looks forward to hosting another great event this year. We hope to see you there, and, please call 802.394.7836 or email if you have questions, or if you would like to volunteer.

Volunteers are always needed for this event: - Collect admission - Direct visitors to and around the farm - Help with set-up and take-down - Children’s activities - Direct vehicles If you are interested in volunteering for this event, please contact or call 802.394.7836.

A Breeding Orchard of Chestnuts for more information on the American Chestnut Foundation, visit their website.

By Tom Ward, Executive Director “Under a spreading chestnut-tree the village smithy stands….”

- Longfellow

Both the chestnut tree and the smithy had gone into the gloaming by the early 21st century. The difference between the two is there may be a glimmer of hope for the return of the American Chestnut tree; a tree that was once the most important commercial hardwood tree species in the United States. Native stands of American Chestnuts were decimated by an exotic fungal pathogen in the early 20th century. Homes that were built prior to the introduction of the blight featured woodwork, floors, doors, cabinetry, and trim from the American Chestnut wood, recognizable by its beautiful grain and coffee-colored hues. It was also highly valued on farms for its rot-resistance and durability. In the forest, chestnut trees were high mast producers, providing nuts rich in protein, fiber, vitamin C and other nutrients that were consumed by wildlife and people. Today, the American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) and its Vermont/New Hampshire Chapter are working toward breeding trees with some inherent resistance to the diseasecausing fungus. The organization is crossbreeding local resistant trees with Asian x American chestnut hybrids propogated at the TACF Meadowview Research Farm; these trees they have already demonstrated increased resistance to the pathogen. The resulting progeny will then be planted in a “breeding orchard”, and those that display resistance will ultimately be planted in a “seed orchard”. The latter is dedicated to producing quantities of chestnut seeds that will be used to introduce resistant cultivars back into the forests of the northeast. Over the next two decades, Merck Forest will serve as a test-site for the crossbred chestnut trees. In mid-May we planted a breeding orchard here at Merck Forest & Farmland Center. The Vermont/New Hampshire Chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation will periodically come check on the growth of the trees and monitor the results of the orchard.

Fern and Arch were used to plow the furrows in which the chestnuts were planted.

Volunteers and staff led by two members of the VT-NH Chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation planted both seeds and sprouting trees into the gorund. Various crosses are demarcated by colored flags. A week after, compost, landscape fabric, and mulch were put down around the tubes, the latter of which protects seedlings from deer.

Updates in Brief Reminder: Dispersed Tent Camping Available

Recognition of the 2013 Donors

If you’ve been wanting to tent camp in some of the more remote areas of Merck’s forest, please call to obtain a permit (permits are a requirement). Rates are $5.00/person per night, with a 7 night maximum stay. Goups, numbering up to 12 people, are welcome.

In the Spring newsletter we unfortunately missed including names in the list of donors. We apologize for the omissions, and again want to say thank you to everyone who has donated to Merck Forest and Farmland Center during the past year. If we still ommitted your name from the list, please let us know, and we will make Robert Menson the amendment.

Dr. Stuart Bartow

Merck Forest always tries to be as conscious of land stewardship as possible, and we ask the same from our dispersed campers. Please respect the “Leave No Trace” policy. More information on dispersed camping can be found on our website.

Many thanks!


New Faces at Merck Welcome to five individuals new to Merck Forest and Farmland Center. We are happy to announce that the forester position has been filled by Will Bunten. Will comes to Merck with a varied background doing forestry work and teaching. He started work in mid-May, and as he gets settled in, MFFC will once again be offering more forest-related programs. New faces in the Visitor Center include Katie Connor, Darla Belevich, and Keith Drinkwine; all of whom will be handing out maps and answering visitor questions, canning syrup, conducting cabins checks, and more. Bryan Markhart started as an apprentice in midJune. He graduated from Bennington College a year ago, and Bryan has already worked on a number of farms. We look forward to having him share his knowledge while also learning more about agriculture during his apprenticeship.

The Berry Boom The first week in June, the berries arrived in boxes labeled with green bold letters: “LIVE PLANTS”. This shipment of fall-bearing raspberries, blackberries, and black raspberries will create a berrygrowing boom at the farm. The farm staff ordered the fallbearing raspberries with the hopes that we will be able to extend the You-Pick berry season through September. Three rows will be planted, and though they may not produce this year as their roots will need to establish in the soil, hopefully next year will see a good fall crop.

UVM Graduate Student Resides at Merck for the Summer We feel quite fortunate to have Kat Deely residing at Merck Forest and Farmland Center for the summer. She is a University of Vermont graduate student who is studying in the Rubenstien School of Natural Resources’ Field Naturalist & Ecological Planning program. While at Merck, Kat will be working on an assessment of the natural communities that are located on Merck’s 3,162 acre property. Kat will spend much of her summer walking through our 3,162 acre property in search of a variety of natural communities, and plotting out the sites. Her work, which will include GIS mapping, may lead to a more informed approach to managing the MFFC property. An additional benefit of Kat’s work will be to give Merck Forest & Farmland Center’s Trustees a tool with which they can determine how we might adopt conservation easements on the land in the future. While she is here, Kat and her dog, Moose, will be living at the Lodge.

Thank you to the 2014 sponsors for the Sheep Dog Trial and Farm Festival: ★★★★★★ ★★★★★★ ★★★★★★ ★★★★★★ ★★★★★★

The blackberries and black raspberries are an experiment. The varieties ordered will be planted by the old greenhouse site. We are testing them to see if they can withstand Merck’s cold winters. If so, these berries will also become part of the You-Pick season! Top: Berries arrived in seven different boxes in early June; they were planted already. Bottom: Last year’s raspberry crop was great for the You-Pick season.


Draft Teams at Merck: The Year in Review By Melissa Carll, Communications Coordinator

would the horses need to be able to do? Could we find a team that was broke? A team that would be patient with a number of apprentices learning to drive them and calm around visiting school groups? Our farm staff spent just as much time looking for an appropriate buyer for Ellie and Daisy, as for a team that would fill the mares’ place at the farm. (Fortunately, Ellie and Daisy have found a happy home, see page 5). In the middle of the winter, Tim, Farm Manager, located a team up in Essex, New York. The team, a mare and a gelding, named Fern and Arch, were perfect: calm, patient, broke, also Suffolk Punches. Tim stated,

Becca, 2013 apprentice, driving Elllie and Daisy before Daisy had Equine Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy, a condition that had made her unable to work for most of the past year.

You may have noticed several changes in the draft horses at the farm this year. Ellie and Daisy, Mae and June, and Fern and Arch are all teams that have lived on the hilltop over the past twelve months. Why have all the teams been a part of the farm, you may ask? Well, it all began last summer... In June, Daisy contracted Lyme disease, which prohibited her from helping Ellie with the draft work. Though, as the summer went on, and she was cleared from having Lyme, Daisy still wasn’t showing signs of improving. More testing diagnosed her as positive for Equine Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy (EPSM). Equine Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy is a genetic disease that will often affect draft horses. It makes the horse unable to digest grains effectively, and when a horse with this disease is exerted, damage to muscle tissue occurs. Daisy would become very stiff after working; tripping when she walked or spending time lying down in the pasture (which led to a host of other health issues including colic and hoof abcesses). EPSM prevented Daisy from working on the farm, which effectually prevented Ellie from being used as well.

In making our decision to purchase Suffolks again, we were looking for a powerful team that could manage the heavy work loads on the farm and forest, especially considering the terrain. We were also looking for a team that could be harnessed by everyone on our staff. As you know, apprentices come to MFFC to learn to work horses as novices. The right team of Belgians and Percherons can be docile and calm, but are often 17 -18 hands tall, making it difficult to harness without assistance, especially for someone who is working with horses for the first time. Suffolks, with an average height of 16 hands, combine power with a medium stature, which make them a great fit for our program. Suffolks are also renowned for their endurance, which is a desirably trait when haying on hillsides. Fern and Arch have worked full time on farms and forests since they started at 4 years old. [They will be well-adapted to Merck’s working farm, and they are] especially suited for forestry work. [Futhermore], Suffolks continue Merck’s interest in heritage breeds of livestock, and [the new team] is a good example of a situation where the right breed, matched with the right environment and situation, makes a successful application of modern usage of heritage breeds. With thanks to several key donors the offer was made for the team. Fern and Arch arrived mid-May, and they are adjusting to life at MFFC very well. As the summer goes on, keep a watch for what the team will be working on.

Suffolk Punch: Just the Right Size

Our staff debated long and hard over what to do with a draft team that could no longer work: should we keep a retired team when such a big learning component of our apprenticeship and classes depend on having a working draft team? Could we find a buyer that is willing to take a horse that would need to be in retirement for the rest of her pastured days? Do we continue to loan Mae and June (the Belgians from True Love Holsteins Farm), or do we pursue the purchase of another draft team? It was also important to consider what kind of buyer would be knowledgeable enough about the disease to make sure that Daisy was being fed proteinrich foods, lightly-exercised on a daily basis, and looked out for her—and Ellie’s—well-being.

16 hands = 84 inches 16 hands

Suffolk Punch horses are just the right size for Merck’s farm. They are hardy, have lots of endurance, and, for a draft horse, are small enough that apprentices can learn to work with them more easily than a larger breed.

These big questions led into smaller, but not inconsequential, queries: what is the ideal type of draft team for Merck’s farm? What kind of work



Many thanks... ... to Mae and June, the Belgian mares we leased through the winter months. They worked hard pulling the sleigh this winter, skidding logs, and helping the farm start off the growing season. The mares are now back at their home in North Rupert. A special thank you to Ken Leach of Tru-Love Holsteins Farm, the team’s owner. He was great to work with, and we especially enjoyed his visits to the farm to check on the girls during the 5 months they lived at Merck.

An Ironic Ending...

... For A New Beginning In 2002, Merck Forest and Farmland Center purchased Ellie and Daisy from the BBar Ranch in Montana. Ken Smith, who was the executive director of Merck Forest at the time, sought out the ranch, as its known for breeding Suffolk Punch horses, a heritage breed. Ellie and Daisy were driven across country to Merck, and worked and lived on the mountain farm for twelve years. This year, as Merck staff considered what the best options were for Ellie and Daisy and were looking for a buyer, Ken heard that the horses were for sale. He inquired about them, and the farm staff was very open and honest about the challenges of keeping Daisy. Ken understands the breed well as he has other Suffolk Punch horses at his place in central New York. Thankfully, Ken was open to purchasing the team, Daisy and Ellie, before their purchase from the BBar Ranch in Montana, 2002. and he took Ellie and Daisy right after Easter. We are all very thankful that Ellie and Daisy were able to find such a wonderful new home.

Fern and Arch Fern and Arch moved to the farm in Mid-May. So far they have been a great help plowing the furrows for the chestnut plantation, pulling the wagon during school group visits, and working around the farm. You may see them pastured with the tractor this spring and early summer. They did not work with tractors at their previous farm, and we are getting them used to being around machinery.



What Stands Between Farm and Forest? By Rose Karabush, Apprentice 2014


Merck Forest & Farmland Center is a very special place. I’m sure that it’s special to many different people for many different reasons: maybe there’s a view of the mountains that touched your heart, echoes of days past in one of the cabins, or remembrances of old journeys that walk with you down our trails. Perhaps you’ve eaten a delicious picnic under the shade of a spreading maple tree, or seen your children pick up their first freshly-laid egg. As for me, Merck Forest is my home, and that means that I get to discover new ways in which this place is special every single day. But I don’t want to talk right now about Merck’s fascinating history, its mission, the wonderful view from the Old Town Road pasture, or the delights of the Barton Trail. No, I’d like to talk about an ampersand (&). “Forest” & “Farmland” are two categories that go together here at Merck, and should (for my two cents) be considered together more often. Too frequently, we think of forest and farmland as separate, or even as opposites: a farm feeds the body, whereas the forest feeds the soul. Our common vision of farmland is—thankfully—undergoing a bit of a transition, but it typically includes open fields, tilled crops, and the barnyard animals we’ve learned about since childhood. A farm requires work, and hard work at that. On the other hand, a traditionally imagined forest invites contemplation, appreciation, and maybe even understanding. It is a place of diversity and un-cultivated nature, of tall and majestic trees; it is populated only by the hiker, the naturalist, the forester, and by the mysterious creatures of the wild. Of course, if you’ve ever visited Merck, you’ll know we have both of these archetypal landscapes. But we have more than that, too. We apprentices live and work here, which means we’re constantly exploring the many fascinating interactions and grey areas between “Forest” and “Farmland.”


Take our sugarbush, for example. Walk in among the sugar maples and you’ll see a quintessential forest: a wild place teeming with birds and animals, wildflowers blooming in the dappled shade. Yet that hillside produces maple syrup, one of Merck’s most important agricultural products. Or take pigs, who are usually associated with the farmyard, and yet enjoy themselves immensely living in the pens we’ve set up among dense trees and brush.

from the


Blueberry Buckle Submitted by Marion Carll of Bridgeton, NJ

Ingredients: 3/4 cup sugar 1/4 cup shortening (butter) 1 egg 1/2 cup milk 2 cups flour 2 tsp baking powder 2 cups Merck blueberries (more berries make it juicier!) Topping: 1/2 cup sugar 1/3 cup flour 1/4 cup butter 1/2 tsp cinnamon Directions: 1. Mix the sugar, shortening and egg. 2. Stir in the milk slowly. 3. Sift and stir flour, baking powder. 4. Mix all together, and then add and gently stir in blueberries. 5. Spread into greased and floured 9 inch square pan. 6. Mix topping ingredients with fork. 7. Sprinkle on top of blueberry mixture. 8. Bake at 350F for 45 minutes.

In fact, with our late growing season up here in the mountains, we have yet to harvest any vegetables from the farm garden (as I write this in late May). Instead of radishes, lettuce, and carrots, we apprentices have been feasting on wild leeks, dandelions, and curly dock. We’ve picked the asparagus that still grows in an old asparagus patch long-since converted into pasture, made tea from wild mushrooms, and decorated our home with the buds of pussy willows. This fall, we’ll be picking apples from trees that have been carefully pruned and maintained, but still more fruit will come from trees gnarly and wild, who twist out of dense understories and feed legions of happy squirrels and deer, as well as hungry apprentices. This overlap between wild and cultivated landscapes is hardly new. Really, it’s probably more surprising that our culture created these two separate categories in the first place. Merck’s ampersand—and the work we do here in the intersection between forest and farmland—just brings a little more attention to this truth in a world that sometimes forgets. It allows everyone who comes here to explore the margins and the overlaps, the struggles and the harmony between these two spheres. It provokes us to ask how the forest can help feed our bodies, and how farmland can feed our souls; and so, perhaps, we may come out of our explorations twice as nourished by the land around us.


Cybil, Plum, and Peggy Sue nose around the margin between “farm” & “forest.”

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

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About Us

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 Merck’s Certified Organic Maple Syrup 10% discount on select Visitor Center merchandise 10% discount on workshops Copies of our seasonal newsletter, the RidgeLine

Bob Gasperetti

Jon Mathewson

Judy Buechner

Bambi Hatch

Axel Neubohn

Donald Campbell

Richard Hittle

John Pless

Sue Ceglowski

Anne Houser

Liz Putnam

Ann Cosgrove

Emily Hunter

Bob Taggart

Ed Cotter

Ann Jackson

Corinna Wildman

Bob Ferguson

Deirdre Kinney-Brennan

Patty Winpenny

Board of Trustees Bob Allen

Jeromy Gardner

Keld Alstrup

George Hatch

Axel Blomberg

Margaret Mertz, Vice President

Jean Ceglowski

Bruce Putnam

Phil Chapman, Treasurer

Madeline Rockwell, Secretary

Austin Chinn, President

Phil Warren


2014 Apprentices

Darla Belevich, Visitor Center

Sarah Jackson

Will Bunten, Forester

Rose Karabush

Melissa Carll, Communications Coordinator

Bryan Markhart

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 Melissa Carll

Kathleen Achor

Answer: Chives

Advisory Council

Can you name this herb?

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.


PO Box 86, Rupert, Vermont 05768

Printed on 100% recycled paper

Summer Happenings

Family-Fun Farm Chores

You-Pick Berries

Have you ever fed pigs, or given water to sheep? Peeked into nest boxes to spot some eggs? How about haltering and moving horses to pasture? Put on your boots and grab your camera. Join Merck staff for afternoon farm chores.

Pick your own juicy raspberries and blueberries at Merck Forest. We encourage everyone to bring their own containers for picking, but quart and pint containers are available in the Visitor Center, if you forget your own pail. The farm’s raspberries and blueberries are not sprayed with any chemicals.

Saturdays through June 14 Thursdays, June 19 - Sept. 4 2 pm - 4 pm Cost: $2.00/person

Farm Chores gives families the chance to learn about the farm routine and the animals--it’s a great interactive experience. Call to sign up, groups are limited to ten people.

Daily, late June - August* 8 am - 2 pm Cost: Berries are $3.50/lbs.

Come prepared to take a short hike to the berry patches, and always be ready for changes in the weather. * You-pick season is weather dependent.

Sheep Dog Trials & Farm Festival July 12 and 13, 2014, 8 am - 4 pm Tickets: sold at the door

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.

Merck Forest Ridgeline Summer 2014  

Merck Forest & Farmland Quarterly Newsletter

Merck Forest Ridgeline Summer 2014  

Merck Forest & Farmland Quarterly Newsletter