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Winter 2013 - 2014

a publication of the Merck Forest and Farmland Center

“Teaching, demonstrating & sustaining a working landscape”

In This Issue

Remembering Gerrit Kouwenhoven


Gerrit Kouwenhouven was an honored and respected advocate for non-profits in the state of Vermont. He grew up knowing many of the original minds that formed Merck Forest, including George Merck himself. Gerrit spent six years as part of the Merck Forest and Farmland Center Board of Trustees, five years of which he served as President. We will certainly miss his insight, care, consideration, and love for this organization.

Remembering Gerrit Kouwenhoven


Vermont Atlas of Life Foresters for the Birds: Project Update

3 Changing Chicken Management


Trail Signs Completed

Apprenticeship Testimonial

Tom Ward, Executive Director, and friend of Gerrit’s for 31 years, wrote the following letter in memorial to Mr. Kouwenhoven.

Remarkable Women

Names mentioned:


Gerrit Kouwenhoven Trustee (May 2007 to August 2013); President of the Trustees (2008 to 2013) of Merck Forest and Farmland Center, Inc.

Merck In the Community


Shipping Syrup Choosing the Grade Recipe from the Lodge: Holiday Ham


About Us & Membership

8 Fall Calendar

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

*John Kouwenhoven Gerrit’s father, friend to George Merck, and founding secretary of Merck Forest and Farmland Center, Inc. **George Merck, “Uncle George” Founder of the Vermont Forest and Farmland Center (1950), which was renamed in his honor after his death (1957). ***Dr. Carl Alwin Schenck, “Uncle Allie” Uncle of George Merck and founder of the Biltmore Forest School (1898), the first school of forestry in the United States. The early tree plantations at MFFC are named in his honor.

Gerrit, standing on the deck of the Frank Hatch Sap House at Merck Forest.

Gerrit W. Kouwenhoven, May 8, 1939 to August 27, 2013 Dear Gerrit, You left before we had the chance to resolve so many important matters. Some might be tempted to think thirty-one years would have been adequate, but not so for me. My most treasured times with you were those invested in discussing the “human side of the equation”, while seeking the best outcome for those affected. I still find it difficult to accept the reality of our separation, but I treasure the integrity, thoughtfulness, and insights you always displayed. You continue to be, quintessentially, a gentle presence whose subtle advice is a constant blessing. I believe your greatest gift was the ability to encourage those you encountered to seek their highest, best, self without being pedantic or condescending in the process… you simply were, and remain, a splendid role model. I suspect you have been embarrassed at the outpouring of sentiment, and heartfelt admiration coming in to the many institutions you served so tirelessly. For our part, the Trustees are wrestling with how we might properly recognize your years of service to Merck Forest & Farmland Center, as a member of the Board of Advisors, Board of Trustees, and, as President. There is a proud line of predecessors to which your name is now appended—despite your wish to remain unrecognized; I trust you will bear with us in our need to do so. I expect others will wish to join the trustees in this endeavor once the strategic decisions as to the what, where, and how have been made… Meanwhile, rest assured, we will continue to pursue the dreams articulated by your dad, Uncle George and Uncle Allie…pax vobiscum. Tom

Contributing to the Vermont Atlas of Life Record what you see at MFFC

By Sarah Ullman, Director of Education

Photograph by Aaron Lamp

This past fall Merck Forest became a partner with the Vermont Center for Ecostudies (VCE), an organization that promotes conservation practices to benefit biodiversity. VCE hosts a project called the Vermont Atlas of Life (VAL) on that serves as a forum for interested individuals or parties to help document Vermont’s biodiversity. Through this open source website, naturalists can post observations and upload photos of the living world around them. The VAL is specifically set-up to keep track of species throughout the state. Citizen science projects like VAL can often lead to new discoveries, new understandings of species’ movement, and in some cases, help with conservation efforts. Through the partnership with the Vermont Center for Ecostudies, Merck Forest’s 3,160 acres has been added as an official “place” on the Vermont Atlas of Life. If visitors make observations while they are out hiking in the woods or on the farm, they can upload images and information on the website, enter “Merck Forest and Farmland Center” as the location, and the info will be added to MFFC’s catalog of recorded species. Merck Forest’s first batch of observations was from the May 2013 bioblitz, and, at the moment, 294 observations and 196 different species have been recorded on the property!

1. Visit: es/merck-forest-and-farmland-center 2. Click “Join This Project” in the top right corner. 3. Create an account. 4. Add your observations and upload your photos! If you were at Merck Forest when you made your observations, enter it as the location and it will be added to our list. 5. Become a “Follower” of Merck Forest and receive updates on new observations!

Foresters for the Birds Update on Timber Harvest and Songbird Habitat By Melissa Carll, Communications Coordinator Last winter, we wrote about a new project that is part of Merck Forest’s forest management strategy. The Foresters for the Birds project—a partnership with Audubon Vermont and the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation (FPR)—is an innovative forest management project that integrates timber harvesting and the creation of songbird habitat. Please see Audubon Vermont’s website for more info:

Main Entrance Farm

South Gate

In 2012, Chris Stone, Rutland County Forester, and Katie Manaras of VT Audubon, worked on a harvest plan, based on Foresters for the Birds principles, that was suitable both for the specified location (along East Hollow Road) and MFFC’s forest management goals. The logging for the project at Merck Forest was to take place this past spring, but due to weather constraints, the harvest was not able to take place until the fall. Once work did get underway in September, Ben Jackson, of Ben Jackson Logging, Argyle, NY, was able to log much of the western portion of the entire 40-acre harvest site. From this section of the site, 150 cords of wood were cut along with roughly 21Mbf (“Mbf” means “1000 board feet”) of sawtimber and a little bit of veneer (high quality sawlogs 16 inches or greater in diameter). To give a rough estimate, 21 Mbf of sawtimber would be enough lumber to frame a slightly larger-than-average size house or two small houses.

Stone commented, “From what I’ve seen as of my last inspection, [Jackson] has done a good job keeping residual damage to a minimum and using an appropriately minimum number of skid trails.” Parts of the site that were affected by machines have been seeded and mulched to prevent erosion. Next spring, some removal of invasive plants may need to be completed, and once the ground is dry enough, the rest of the timber will be harvested. For updates on habitat improvement and more detailed information on this project, visit our website, Facebook page, and blog. Map created by K. Manaras of Audubon Vermont, 2013


Changing Chicken Management Methods at the Farm By Colene Reed, Assistant Farm Manager The hens are getting a new visitor-friendly space at the farm. In the past, the farm has rotated a mobile coop with 50 laying hens through the farm pastures. The eggs were collected daily, washed, packaged, and sold at the Visitor Center. However, this method of production is changing this year as the farm increases its education programs and visitor-friendly atmosphere. For the past few years, the large flock of chickens would peck and graze in the pastures around their coop and leave behind nitrogen-rich manure, a great addition to the soil’s fertility. When outside the coop, the hens were confined within the electric fencing; this kept the fifty chickens out of the barns, gardens, and flower beds, but it also prevented visitors from getting to see the birds up close. An integral part of running the farm is understanding the financial details of each product we work so hard to produce. In order for egg sales to cover the costs associated with a laying flock, the farm would need to upscale to 150 chickens, but a flock of that size would require substantial new infrastructure and produce more eggs than our community could be expected to purchase year round.

Did you know...?

So, the flock is shrinking and becoming a more educational component of the farm.

Chickens love making an indentation in the dirt or sand and taking a ‘bath’ in the dust. They lie down and flap their wings, causing the dirt to kick up around them. The dust that settles on their feathers and skin deters any mites that may find chickens to be a pleasant host.

On your next visit you will find the new chicken coop located in the Harwood Barn. The farm staff has been working hard to renovate an underused room in the lower portion of the barn. It already has electricity, allowing us to provide a light and heat lamps for the hens during the winter months. The room has been outfitted with a newly painted nesting box, roosts, and ramps that lead to the door outside. The educational flock is about the fourth of the size and is comprised of young hens that will begin laying in February and older hens from the past production flock. The smaller gang of hens and roosters will be able to roam the farmyard during the day without causing too much trouble. This reduces the need for electric fencing, allowing for closer interactions with the hens. We have designed the space so that it is comfortable for the birds and inviting to guests of all ages. By this spring you will find an egg station complete with an egg scale. When you have found an egg in a nesting box, feel free to pick it up, one at a time. Carry it over to the egg station, weigh it (is it a Large or Jumbo?) and place it safely in a carton. Where do the eggs go? The eggs produced will be used during special chores, school programs and in the apprentice’s kitchen. We hope you enjoy this new interactive station, it is simply one of the many educational sites we are developing and adding to your farm experience.


Construction of the New Coop (1)The previous style of the chicken coop allowed the larger flocks room to move about in the pastures, but they were difficult to keep temperate through the summer and winter seasons, so the smaller flock is moving into the barn; (2) It took several weeks to revamp the old storage room in the Harwood Barn, and this image shows the beginnings of construction. The tree stump is repurposed from an old education station; (3) A glass door allows visitors to see the chickens in the coop, and nest boxes have perches made from tree limbs; (4) The smaller flock walks around comfortably on wood shavings inside, and the birds can use the ramp to move in and out of the coop.





Rupert Leisures: A Shared Monthly Meal At the October gathering of Rupert Leisures, the seniors’ luncheon held monthly at the Rupert firehouse, Dan Raymond of Sherman’s Store, West Rupert, catered his usual delicious meal. In past years, Merck has made an annual donation of food to this event, and this year the farm supplied a harvest of mountain top grown root vegetables and hams for the occasion. A number of the staff went to the lunch; they helped serve food and bussed tables after everyone’s plates were cleaned. We attend and serve at Leisures monthy, and it’s always a joy to see members of the community gathering together to share in updates, recollections, and a hearty meal.

By Melissa Carll, Communications Coordinator

Trailwork at Hebron Nature Preserve: Local Non-Profits Support One Another In April 2013, our staff responded to a post from the Pember Museum, Granville, NY asking for volunteers to help clear trails at their nature preserve in Hebron, NY. The MFFC staff spent three hours clearing the southern portions of the paths with chainsaws, loppers, snips, rakes, and man-power. In return, we tabled and sold our syrup and meat at the Pember Library’s First Friday event.

Photograph by Melissa Carll

Merck in the Community

Photograph by Pat Wesner

This fall, Pat Wesner, the director of the museum and Hebron Nature Preserve Jesse chainsaws through one of the downed called and asked if we could come back trees at the preserve. out again, a few more trees blew down on the northern section of trails. We agreed.

The Merck Forest group posed for Pat to snap a photograph. From left to right: Chris (Trail Maintenance Coordinator), Tim (Farm Manager), Emilie (Apprentice), Melissa (Communications Coordinator), Jesse (Resource Specialist), and Carolyn (Apprentice).

It was a wet, but not terribly chilly, Halloween morning several weeks ago when the MFFC staff went back. We met Bernie and Pat at the trailhead, ready to get to work. With three chainsaws and many hands, in a few hours the trails were cleared of huge downed hemlocks, scraggy sumac, and some of the incorrigible, invasive honeysuckle. The preserve is a lovely spot, just over the Vermont-New York border on the Black Creek, and the habitat quite variable from MFFC’s upland ecosystems. It felt good to help this piece of land be available for the public and classes to enjoy, and to assist another local non-profit. We hope to see Pat and Bernie as volunteers at the Maple Celebration and Pancake Breakfast this year: one good turn for another.

The new signs contain directional arrows and list the distance between destinations.; they are much more informative than previous signs.

Several issues ago, we mentioned that Chris Wall, Trail Maintenance Coordinator, had been working on new signs for the hiking trails here at Merck Forest. It’s been a long process—figuring out which junctions needed signs, what the aesthetics of the new trail markers would be, which material would prove most durable and environmentally respectful, and finally finding a company that could produce signs on recycled aluminum, the chosen material. After planning and designing, Chris began pounding the new sign posts into the ground (a not-so-easy project because, often on this mountain top, rock sits just below a thin layer of soil). At the end of October, all the trail signs were up.

So far the reviews have been good, the change well-received. We hope that this is a modification to the landscape that will make visitors feel more comfortable walking in the forest. Please, let us know your thoughts, and if you see trail signs that tree branches fell on, or signs that have been tampered with, let the staff in the Visitor Center know.


Photograph by Melissa Carll

Photograph by Kathryn Lawrence

New Trail Signs Improve Hiking Experience

Remarkable Women

Apprenticeship Testimonial

By Sarah Ullman, Director of Education

By Carolyn Loeb, 2013 Apprentice

On December 20th, our year-long apprentices, Becca, Emilie and Carolyn, will be heading back out into the world armed with all sorts of new skills: sheep wrangling, chain sawing, tree tapping, horse driving, hay hauling, tractor plowing and of course, pig breeding, to name just a few.

Carolyn Loeb spent the last 11 months working as an apprentice. She wrote the wonderful testimonial below. Her full letter is posted on Merck Forest’s blog; see the website for more...

When I arrived in Rupert in January 2013, my hope was that I would gain the skills during the coming year to eventually run a homestead of my own. My secondary goal was to be directly involved in agriculture so as to integrate responsible land use with a career in environmental problem solving.

These three have never ceased to impress me with their cheerful demeanors and ability to work; work done with more strength, grace and know-how than I could have ever imagined. There’s no doubt that Merck Forest and all of us on staff are better off for having known their awesomeness.

depth and breadth of “...the opportunities for learning have blown my mind...

Adventure-on BEC—we’ll miss you!

Photograph by Sarah Ullman

During the year, the depth and breadth of opportunities for learning have blown my mind. At work, I’ve cried in frustration while learning how to harness and drive the horses or when that darned piece of equipment just won’t work; and I’ve laughed while chasing muddy pigs around the farm yard, working in the woods with the teen trail crew, playing farm games with kindergartners or simply eating lunch with the farm staff. I’ve found peace in the sugarbush, hayfields, and berries, and been given a run for my money with the goats and rams. Working at Merck has been nothing if not new, daring, and wonderfully fun (and funny) at times. I can say with certainty that working at Merck has taught me more skills that will be relevant to my future than any other employer. Yes, we work with livestock and grow high quality food, engage with the public, as well as drive tractors and make hay—all of which have been extremely satisfying. I can now comfortably use a chainsaw and a crosscut saw. And working with draft power has been one of my favorite parts of the apprenticeship.

The apprentices caught a ride on the hay wagon during June’s Hay Days Festival.

“...working at Merck has taught me more skills that will be relevant to my future than any other employer...

Photograph by Sarah Ullman

But the less flashy aspects of the apprenticeship have also been valuable. Before January, I had no idea how to fix most broken implements, or do basic carpentry, or maintain vehicles, or use a plow truck. These skills, which should be a part of high school or college (and are not), will be relevant to me for the rest of my life. When I describe my experience at Merck to family and friends, I say that this year has been like getting a degree in farming and life skills. And it’s also wonderful to know that our work here is integral to Merck. As a farm staff of five, three of whom are apprentices, the farm really relies on apprentice power to function year-round. Now that’s what I call a win-win situation.

In the winter, when Emilie, Becca, and Carolyn were learning to drive the horses, they hitched Daisy up to the sweetheart sleigh and rode up to the Lodge, taking up necessary items and bringing down their recycling and garbage. Practice sessions like that help horse and drivers learn how to work with one another.


MFFC Maple Syrup Ships Anywhere in the Lower 48 Whether it’s Vermont Fancy or Grade B, or something in between, Merck Forest and Farmland Center ships its Vermont Certified Organic maple syrup throughout the contiguous United States. Year round, there are frequent requests from states such as California and Montana for a pint or quart. In the fall there are emails in the inbox for a shipping order posthaste for the holidays. Syrup does go well with those sweet potaoes, pies, holiday breakfasts, and more.

Merck Forest’s Vermont Certified Organic maple syrup can be shipped anywhere in the lower 48 states.

Recipe from the Lodge Holiday Ham with Spirit Glaze (From the Joy of Cooking) As the days get shorter and the temperatures colder, I find myself sitting down by our wood stove and reaching for my favorite cookbook—Joy of Cooking–more and more often. This recipe is a classic. - Carolyn Loeb Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. To prepare spirit glaze, mix: 1/2 to 1 cup dry red wine 1/2 to 1 cup bourbon whiskey 1/2 to 1 cup brown sugar 6 bruised cloves 2 tablespoons grated orange peel Place your uncooked ham on a rack, in a shallow roasting pan. For a whole 10 to 15 pound ham, allow 18 to 20 minutes per pound; for a half—5 to 7 pounds—about 20 minutes per pound; or for a shank or butt portion weighing 3 to 4 pounds, about 35 minutes to the pound. In all cases, cook uncovered until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F. Baste your ham with spirit glaze prior to cooking, and continue to baste ham every 15 minutes for the duration of the cook time. I also cover my ham with aluminum foil once the top has browned nicely to stop over-browning from occurring and to keep in moisture and flavor. Do you have a recipe to share? We love to see what MFFC members and visitors conjure up in the kitchen. Send your recipe (specifically ones with lamb, pork, or maple syrup as ingredients) to info@merckforest. org. We’ll post it and give credit to you!

The holidays are a great time to send someone a sweet taste of Vermont. Orders can be submitted online or by calling the Visitor Center between 9 am and 4 pm (802.394.7836). Happy Holidays!

Choose the Grade that Suites Your Palette When you shop for maple syrup at the Visitor Center or from the online store, you will notice that the bottles are not all marked the same way. Syrup is “graded”, and each grade has a distinct maple taste. See below to figure out which maple syrup matches your flavor preference.

Grade A Fancy

Usually this grade is boiled at the beginning of the season. It is the lightest in maple flavor and color, and people who prefer a more delicate taste may enjoy Fancy Grade.

Grade A Medium Amber

This grade displays a more amber color, and it generally serves as the most popular table variety. Medium Amber is mild in taste but delicious on pancakes!

Grade A Dark Amber

Dark Amber is perfect for those who prefer a stronger maple taste, this deep caramelcolored syrup offers a distinct thick, maple flavor. Try using Dark Amber for cooking.

Grade B

Darkest in color and containing the deepest flavor, Grade B is a wonderful choice for true maple lovers. This grade also makes a powerful statement in baked goods.


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. 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.


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

Advisory Council Kathleen Achor

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

Patty Winpenny

Bob Ferguson

Deirdre Kinney-Brennan

Board of Trustees Bob Allen

George Hatch

Keld Alstrup

Victoria McInerney

Axel Blomberg

Margaret Mertz, Vice President

Jean Ceglowski

Bruce Putnam

Phil Chapman, Treasurer

Madeline Rockwell, Secretary

Austin Chinn, President

Phil Warren

Jeromy Gardner


2013 Apprentices

Melissa Carll, Communications Coordinator

Carolyn Loeb

Jesse Gelinas, Resource Specialist

Becca Osborne

Tim Hughes-Muse, Farm Programs Manager

Emilie Schwartz

Kathryn Lawrence, Assistant to the Director Amy Malsbenden, Visitor Center Manager Colene Reed, Assistant Farm Manager Sarah Ullman, Director of Education Chris Wall, Trail Maintenance Coordinator Tom Ward, Executive Director

RidgeLine layout, illustrations, and graphic design by Melissa Carll


PO Box 86, Rupert, Vermont 05768

Printed on 100% recycled paper

Calendar of Events Wreath-Making Workshop* December 7, 2013, 1 pm - 4 pm Get in the holiday spirit with the annual wreath-making workshop. Boughs are collected onsite, ribbons provided, but bring your own ornaments to add on! Fun for everyone! Reservations are limited to 12 persons; please call at least 24 hours before. $15/wreath.

Sweetheart Sleigh Rides* Weekends, Dec. 21, 2013 - March 2014, or upon request A sleigh just for two! The sweetheart sleigh travels both around the farm and the forest, providing a more extensive tour of the Taconic landscape. Sleigh ride lasts for 45 minutes. $150/ride.

Group Sleigh Rides* Dec. 23 - 27; Dec. 30 - Jan. 3; Jan. 20 - 24, or upon request The group sleigh holds up to twelve people, and travels a 45 minute loop around the snowy farm. Sleighs must have a minimum of 8 people to run. After your sleigh ride, return to the Visitor Center to warm your hands by the Finnish stove. $15/adult, $10/child 2-12, under 2 free.

Social Knitting Circle

Jan 18, Feb. 15, and Mar. 15, 2014, 1 pm - 4 pm The yearly knitting circle is ongoing through the winter. Bring your questions, knitting challenges, or a new project you’ve been wanting to tackle. All experience levels are welcome to join in the fun. FREE

*Membership discounts are offered!

Merck Forest Ridgeline Winter 2013-2014  

Quarterly newsletter of the Merck Forest and Farmland Center.

Merck Forest Ridgeline Winter 2013-2014  

Quarterly newsletter of the Merck Forest and Farmland Center.