Director’s Note It hasn’t been long since the late winter weather felt like a purposeful antagonist in our daily work and wanderings. What a difference a couple of weeks can make—we’ve put away our insulated coveralls and puffy down coats, and buried the hatchet. The deep chill of January has been forgiven and the snows of late March all but forgotten. The grass is green, the trees have leafed out, and the open Visitor’s Center windows are inviting in a light breeze. The landscape has awoken, rejuvenated and ready for grazing sheep, growing vegetables, picking berries, hiking to distant summits, taking in broad vistas, watching storms roll over far off ridgelines, contemplating distant nebula, making pictures out of clouds, lounging by campfires, and getting lost in the murmur of forest streams. Oh Summer. I hope we’ll see you up on the mountain during this most splendid of seasons. We’ll be keeping busy caring for our landscape, and getting into a number of special projects including putting up a yurt that will serve as a new nature center, renovating our beloved Sap House, and installing a log landing on the farm where visitors will have an opportunity to learn about sustainable timber harvesting. As always, the property will be open when the sun is out, and beyond for registered campers. Come on up for a visit, and enjoy a hike in the woods or trip to the farm. If you’re interested in learning more about the work that we do, take a look at the calendar of events in the back of this issue, and join us for a guided hike, a weekend drop-in nature program, a summer concert, or a workshop. See you on the mountain. Rob Terry Executive Director Merck Forest and Farmland Center
BOARD OF DIRECTORS George Hatch, President
Ann Jackson, Vice President Keld Alstrup, Treasurer Kat Deely, Secretary
Mark Lourie, Trustee Jim Hand, Trustee Jeromy Gardner, Trustee
A View Out My Window By Christine Ferris-Hubbard A shout rang out from Kathryn, “Chris, you need to come see this!” I expected to see something unusual in the sky. It had rained, and the sun was peeking out. Instead, Kathryn pointed out a large porcupine lumbering behind the Visitor Center. The prickly creature appeared to weigh about 15 to 20 pounds, a sizeable animal to come across in the woods. The porcupine waddled up an old trail, started heading across a stone wall, then turned and made its way to the VC, slipping under the back addition of the building.
According to a UVM Settlement Fact sheet, mammals such as wooly mammoths, saber tooth tigers, and giant ground sloths inhabited Vermont between 12,000 and 9,000 years ago. Scattered mastodon fossils have been found in the region, and the New York State Museum in Albany features the 13,000-year-old Cohoes mastodon skeleton, which was found 50 miles southwest of Merck Forest. Those massive mammals eventually went extinct as humans came onto the landscape, hunted them and disrupted the ecosystems these mammals depended on.
People come into the VC asking what animals they might see while visiting Merck Forest. Small mammals such as chipmunks and squirrels abound, and there’s plenty of evidence of those porcupines. Last week I counted four chipmunks scampering about the woods along one short stretch of the Discovery Trail. We do have a few bears, as well as foxes, coyotes, and deer. Once in a great while we’ll get reports of people seeing a bear, and occasionally we’ll see bear scat. More often we’ll catch a glimpse of white tailed deer, and we often see evidence of them in the form of deer beds, trails, and piles of scat.
Today, large and small mammals often struggle to maintain their populations due to loss of habitat, as land is carved up and houses and roads are built. However, there are glimmers of hope as land is set aside and conserved, in an attempt to provide the needed habitat and range some mammals need. Merck Forest and Farmland
My thoughts turned to a piece I recently heard on NPR. That piece reported on the research of Felisa Smith of the University of New Mexico. She explores the size of mammals and how that has changed as humans first arrived in various locations. Her research shows that 11,000 years ago, the average mass of a non-human mammal in North America was around 200 pounds. Today, that average is about 15 pounds, with researchers expecting the average to continue to become smaller.
Center acts as an anchor property in the northern Taconic Range. We have been working collaboratively with the Vermont Land Trust and local landowners towards a common goal of protecting fairly unique, privately held, contiguous forest. A block of 10,000 acres now provides un-fractured habitat to wildlife, allowing animals to live without the stress of crossing busy roads or the stress of human interactions. While we may never have a large population of sizeable mammals on our landscape again, by protecting the land from development through conservation, we open the door for those that do exist to have a habitat in which they might live, raise their young, and thrive.
Resources: https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/04/19/604031141/new-study-says-ancient-humans-hunted-big-mammals-to-extinction https://www.uvm.edu/landscape/learn/Downloads/settlementhistory.pdf 3
Twentieth Anniversary of Ned’s Place By Katie Connor Camping at Merck Forest is an experience you’ll never forget and each cabin has a quality which makes it different from every other. Ned’s Place is no exception, with its three levels, Italian style design and, of course, the person for whom it was built in tribute, Ned Winpenny. Ned served as a Merck Trustee from 1984 to 1996. As a young man, Ned studied English literature at Swarthmore College, where he met his wife Patty, and he briefly attended Vermont Law School before he realized he could “read the law” by clerking for attorneys. An athlete, Ned had a passionate love for nature, camping, tennis, and backcountry skiing, which he enjoyed in travels in Vermont, Canada, Italy, France, and Switzerland. He moved to Vermont in 1974 and started doing his own maple sugaring. When people would ask what he did for a living, he would always tell them, “I make maple syrup, keep bees, and have a wonderful family. I’m also an avid gardener and an attorney.” He worked 20 years at DeBonis, Wright and Winpenny (now Marthage) in Poultney, Vermont. On August 21, 1996, Ned died suddenly and painlessly of a rare congenital heart condition. Ned’s Place was conceived by executive director Richard Thompson-Tucker, Ray Foster and trustee Alan Calfee, as a memorial to Ned’s service and his love of nature and backcountry camping. Many family members donated almost $25,000 to create and build the cabin in his memory. Ned’s best friends and ski buddies, Merle Schloff, George Turner, and Peter Helmetag, were instrumental in designing this cabin to reflect Ned’s favorite huts and cabins in Gaspe (Quebec) and Italy. Craig Little was the master builder, Steve Holman donated the beautiful cherry door, and Dan Mosheim designed and presented the table at the dedication of Ned’s Place on October 31, 1998. In the twenty years since its dedication, the cabin has been the setting of many joyous memories and lots of laughter as groups of friends and families return year after year. Ned’s Place, on the lower slope of Mt. Antone, will continue to provide refreshment and relaxation to visitors for many years – we invite you to come make memories of your own. 4
The Worth of the Woods Vermont is losing 1,500 acres of woodland annually. To put that in context, if it was happening here at Merck Forest, we’d be treeless in a little over 24 months. Is this a problem? Well, it isn’t as simple as “land with trees is better than land without, therefore any and all loss of forest is bad.” Working agricultural land has tremendous value and early successional habitat is critical for healthy ecosystems. Still, understanding that the fracturing of forests is already having a negative impact on wildlife throughout the Northeast, the idea that the forested landscape is shrinking is, at the least, cause for consideration. To begin to wrap our minds around this phenomenon, we’ll begin this multi-part series by exploring the value of the base unit in our forests: an individual tree. In a world driven by data, is calculable value king? In monetary terms, harvestable board footage is often considered the single most important variable in determining a tree’s worth. If price does equate to value, the most valuable tree in our woods is the Maple. Four-inch thick slabs of Vermont’s state tree fetch as much as $13 per board foot. This price can increase in instances where the wood features what’s called a bird’s eye or curly figure that adds aesthetic depth to finished pieces. The prevalence of sap lines in Vermont’s woods are demonstrative of the fact that board feet alone cannot determine a tree’s worth. Once tapped, maple trees lose their lumber value because tap holes create gaps that will appear in sawn boards even once the tree has healed, and the wood surrounding those tap holes takes on a stained appearance. Nonetheless, according to the USDA, it is estimated that 5.41 million maple trees were tapped in Vermont in 2017. That is 5.41 million of the most valuable trees in the northeast that were not only left standing, but also deliberately devalued as saw logs. What gives? Many farmers and forest managers leave their sugar maples standing, tapping them year after year instead of felling them and selling them as saw logs due to the monetary value of the annual crop they produce. In 2017, 1.9 million gallons of maple syrup was produced in Vermont. With gallons of organic syrup fetching as much as $70 in a retail setting, it is easy to see why so many of the region’s maples wind up tapped. Cash, it’s said, is king. However when assessing a tree’s value, there’s more to the equation than dollars and cents. The Forest Service (USFS), whose mission is “To sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations,” has developed its own system to assess the value of a tree. iTree, a software suite created by USFS, allows the value of a tree to be calculated by the service that it provides its community. That’s right, the service that it provides a community. Like a good neighbor? Not exactly, but close: beyond revenue generation, iTree values trees by taking into account: carbon compensation, air filtration, air conditioning, shade, flood prevention, stress relief, food production, and insect habitat. That’s that then, we’ve gotten beyond revenue while remaining ensconced in the safety of peer reviewed science and a steadfast commitment to calculable data. Whew. But wait, there’s more… The USFS’s value matrix doesn’t cut it for Peter Wohlleben author of The Hidden Life of Trees. He comes straight out with it right in the book’s introduction, reflecting on how his perspective changed because “Visitors [to the forest he managed] were enchanted by crooked, gnarled trees [he] would previously have dismissed because of their low commercial value.” There is no monetary value in a crooked, gnarled elm tree with its exposed roots wrapped around a glacial erratic. If found deep in the forest, the same tree provides negligible marginal gains in terms of: carbon compensation, air filtration, air conditioning, shade, flood prevention, stress relief, food production, and insect habitat. Nonetheless, it has worth. Its aesthetic value alone may make it a key refuge for those who, seeking solitude and solace in the woods, might spend time sitting with its roots in quiet contemplation. At Merck Forest, one need not venture far from the parking lot to see an example of one such treasured tree. Less than one hundred yards from the Visitor’s Center, on the side of the road to the farm, sits the Hope Tree. Something of a forensic mystery, the Hope Tree has two origin stories. One tells the tale of an old red oak whose heartwood rotted long ago. In the second, and more sensational version of the story, the red oak was logged out generations ago, and the tree in its stead came to life when a cadre of ambitious stump suckers grafted themselves together, reaching skyward as one. Unlikely? Could be. Fun to imagine, nonetheless. Either way the resulting cavity in the center of the tree is large enough for a reasonably sized family’s worth of small children to squish themselves inside—inside of a tree, a living, respiring tree. Assessed as a saw log, it’s value is $0. Plug it into iTree, and a similar valuation results. Nonetheless, in our 3200-acre forest, no tree is more treasured. Somewhere in the stew of the revenue it can generate, the service it provides to its community, and the incalculable, lies the value of an individual tree. So, should we be concerned about Vermont’s shrinking forest? As is often the case, inquiry opens as many doors as it closes. In part two of our series, we’ll mix metaphors ensuring that we don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees by exploring whether the whole, in this instance, is greater than the sum of its parts. As you await the arrival of the Fall Ridgeline, come on up and step inside the Hope Tree, or delve deeper into the landscape in search of the many trees that have grown in surprising ways, intertwined with their neighbors, gnarled and twisted, or perched atop exposed ledge—simultaneously worthless and priceless. 5
“Our kinship with Earth must be maintained; otherwise, we will find ourselves trapped in the center of our own paved-over souls with no way out.” —Terry Tempest Williams 6
Maintaining Forest Health By Cara Davenport In late March, Forester Ethan Crumley, fellow apprentice Emily O’Connor and I stepped off Old Town Road onto a forested slope. Ethan carried a spray bottle of bright blue tree marking paint; Emily had a Biltmore stick (a forestry tool for measuring tree dimensions); I had a notebook and pencil ready. We tromped through the snow, our boots punching through the crust with every step, to a white birch not far from the road; after some discussion and measuring I marked it down in the notebook while Ethan sprayed a shot of paint on its trunk.
This particular spot is populated by mature white birches with young sugar maples and a few other species interspersed. Our goal was to create more space for the sugar maples to grow, and to identify birches to be cut down during a scheduled Game of Logging course. As we walked, we looked up into the canopy, paying attention to the crowns of trees and noting which ones were getting sun and which were being shaded out. “A forester is really more of a light manager than anything else,” Ethan remarked at one point as we stopped and stood in a small clearing made by a recently fallen tree. This is a new perspective for me. As a youngster, I read any number of stories written from the perspective of animal characters in which a happy, thriving community is thrown into chaos and devastation as the result of their forest home being razed to the ground or otherwise damaged by human activity (think “Once Upon A Forest” and “The Lorax”). The 7
humans in these stories were often callous and greedy and either didn’t understand the effects they were having or didn’t care. The perception that grew in me over time from these stories was that compassionate, thoughtful people don’t cut down trees; and I developed the belief that the best thing humans can do to take care of the natural world is to leave it alone as much as possible. Of course, these two convictions have co-existed with my awareness that I use and depend on things that are a direct product of trees being harvested daily, so I have had to acknowledge that timber harvesting is a “necessary evil” (with an emphasis on ‘evil’). A new realization – one which is slowly coming into focus for me -- is that as little as we really understand about forest communities, our interaction with and consumption of trees doesn’t have to be a necessary evil; it can even be something good and meaningful. At Merck, one of the core elements we focus on is the idea of our “working landscape”. From the perspective of forestry practices and logging as “necessary evil”, the concept of actively managing and harvesting from the entire landscape seems excessively invasive and wasteful. Shouldn’t we only manage and ‘work’ a small part and leave as much as possible alone? My old way of thinking says that since we need timber and tree products, we ought to take only what we need and leave the rest entirely alone -- sacrifice a portion so that the majority will be untouched. I’m learning that there are actually many ways in which thinning and other forestry practices can be beneficial for wildlife and for the forest itself. And while having untouched “wilderness” is valuable, actively managing the forest – the middle ground between our demand for timber and our
defense of forests -- is far from the necessary evil I imagined. The idea of stewardship relates closely to this topic, for me. I’ve often considered stewardship to basically mean that you have a resource, and your responsibility is to protect and maintain that resource as much as you can. The financial equivalent: take the money you have and keep as much of it as possible in a savings account, only taking out what you really need. But stewardship can and should, I think, mean a much more dynamic relationship with the resource. If you put it away mostly untouched into a vault, it may be safe from being spent. But you’re only protecting it from yourself, and your sense of its value and worth will be mostly remote and theoretical. The fact is that the use of wood is a big part of most people’s lives in our society. We can embrace that fact and try to do and understand forestry well, or we can choose to live in that space with dissonance, living off of something that we try to keep at arm’s length. I think that there is a lot of value in trying to actively maintain a balance – in going into forests and making choices about which trees to take out, balancing the commercial aspects with the health and vitality of the forest ecosystem. Recognizing that that tension exists and doing what we can to hold the two pieces together, even when it’s hard, seems extremely valuable to me. It feels like a privilege to be able to participate directly in that dynamic relationship with Merck’s forest this year, as I’ve already had some opportunity to do.
Forestry Management and Products By Dylan Durkee As I work in the beautiful landscape of Merck Forest, I am always thinking about how to make this space and the facilities better, more functional and more beautiful than they already are. I grew up as a dairy farmer and we were constantly buying lumber to maintain existing buildings or to build new ones. Just a couple years ago we had project that seemed too far out of reach: building a large equipment shed (112 feet by 60 feet, 30 feet high at the peak) to protect our farm equipment. The cost of the lumber alone was beyond what we could afford. But we owned 100 acres of forest, with a mix of hard- and softwood species. So I had a conversation with my dad about buying a portable sawmill so that we could use the resource we already had to make this dream a reality. After a lot of researching I ended up buying a Norwood sawmill. Our planning processes included scouting trips into the forest, where we selected trees, calculated what useable lumber would come from each log (1 board feet = 2” x 6” board), and decided how much we would need to harvest in order to get the material we needed. But even as we made decisions about harvesting for our project, we took the time to evaluate the overall health and condition of the woodlot as a whole. We considered how best to manage the forest so that our current needs didn’t overwhelm the resource (we kept in mind that once a tree is cut, there is no putting it back!). Sustainable management and good stewardship means that every decision looks forward to the needs of future users. For our equipment shed, we did a selective cutting, taking mature trees and other trees whose harvest would be beneficial to surrounding trees. We milled the logs into lumber, hauled the lumber to the site and built our shed. This was surely a project I will never forget, with my younger brother, father and both grandfathers pounding nails till the structure was built. I have always had a passion to work with wood -- cutting, sawing or doing woodworking projects -- but buying a sawmill has elevated my interest in making different wood products; since the completion of the shed I have upgraded the sawmill to a Wood-Mizer hydraulic, put in a kiln and bought a molder/planer. Here at Merck we are constantly envisioning improvements and I can’t wait to see some of these projects/dreams become a reality. Just as importantly, I am excited to continue learn how to benefit our forest by employing sustainable practices and to have a hand in making this forest heathier and more beautiful
Eat Your Way Through Spring By Emily O’Connor What does spring look like to you? (no, not mud season -- let’s just skip right over that for conversation’s sake). I never particularly liked Spring as far as seasons go – barely even recognized it to tell the truth -- until now. It was so fleeting, just a hiccup until summer hit. But the more I open my eyes, ears, nostrils and mouth, the more I am able to recognize Spring. To me, Spring is a verb. It is the awakening of the world around us, the yawn and stretch before we really wake up in Summer. Spring is a flirtation with something that was never meant to last, but we love it anyways. What I love most about Spring are its wild, edible foods. My personal favorite springtime edible at Merck is the Ramp, Wild Leek or Spring Onion (Allium Tricoccum). Ramps are the gorgeous perfect little cousin of the onion: delicious when fried in bacon grease, prepared with eggs, made into a pesto, put in a jar and pickled, or simply eaten raw. Ramps are one of the first vegetables to emerge from the defrosting soil. To find a Ramp patch try hiking through a shady hardwood forest; they like rich, moist soil, and are found in shady patches with running water. Avoid marshes or swamps because they cannot grow in standing water. They are easy to identify and fun to harvest. But like anything, take only what you will use and with the intent to leave enough for others. Leave some for others to harvest, but especially leave some for the earth to turn back into Ramps come next year. Next, let’s explore a frequently overlooked taste sensation, the common Dandelion (Taraxacum). Now put aside any prejudice you may hold against this lowly weed and hear me out: dandelions are a-ma-zing. They are everywhere you look and every part of this plant is tasty raw or cooked—from the roots to the blossoms. Dandelion leaves can be harvested at any point in the growing season, and while the smaller leaves are considered to be less bitter, the bigger leaves can be eaten as well, especially as an addition to a green salad with a zesty dressing. If raw dandelion leaves are not convincing then you can steam them or add them to a stir-fry or soup. The flowers are sweet and crunchy, and can be eaten raw, breaded and fried. (Everything tastes good fried, right?) Lastly, the root of the dandelion can be dried, roasted and used as a coffee substitute, or added to any recipe that calls for root vegetables. I urge you to accept the fact your lawn is not going to look like the Dorset Field Club and instead of fighting the Dandelions, eat them! Once you’ve had your fill of ramps and dandelions, it’s time to set out in search of Vermont’s most iconic edible wild plant, the Fiddlehead. Fiddleheads are ferns before they become ferns, the furled-up stage of an Ostrich Fern when they just start to shoot through the ground in Spring. They look a little like aliens or tiny green sleeping dragons. It is important not to blink before harvesting because before you can even say “fiddleheads” they are gone. Although all ferns have a fiddlehead stage, it’s the Ostrich Fern, a specific edible species, which is the wild edible fiddlehead. They can be found growing in wild and wet areas. And that’s why I love searching for them. They are likely to take you a bit off the beaten path along the edges of rivers, stream banks and swampy areas. Part of the joy of wild edibles is going out and finding them -- there’s nothing quite like stumbling across a patch that no one else knows about. But if you are unfamiliar with any wild edible, check reference guides and above all go out with someone who is confident in identify. They might not share their personal spots but I am sure they would willingly share their knowledge! There are so many ways to tap into Spring and for me, foraging for wild edibles is one of them. Foraging takes you outside, helps you understand the landscape and, as a bonus, it feeds you. Enjoy the abundance this Spring, and don’t forget to leave some joy behind for others to taste!
“A Girl’s Garden”, by Robert Frost A neighbor of mine in the village Likes to tell how one spring When she was a girl on the farm, she did A childlike thing. One day she asked her father To give her a garden plot To plant and tend and reap herself, And he said, “Why not?”
From the Land, Made by Hand By Christine Ferris-Hubbard Does it come from a factory, a store, a farm, or the natural world? This is the question asked of students when we work with them exploring where our “stuff ” comes from. While students may first place objects into the “factory” or “store” category, they soon learn that everything originates from either a farm or the natural world. We can trace everything back to one or the other. Today the vast majority of our possessions are made using processes that are beyond the abilities of most people. Specialized machinery, materials, and techniques are required to create the cars, cell phones, and polar fleece jackets that we use. The carbon footprint created is enormous, as natural resources and finished goods are shipped and trucked across oceans and continents, with the transportation powered by fossil fuels. But it hasn’t always been that way. Over the course of human history, it is not that long ago when it was common for resources from the farm and natural world to be transformed from raw materials into useful objects by hand with simple tools. Wool sheared with hand clippers was spun into yarn using a spinning wheel, and then woven into cloth on a loom. Trees were felled using an ax; the logs were used to build a home or a barn near where the trees grew. Spoons, ladles, and bowls were carved from the branches. Plants were raised or gathered for food, dyes, and medicines. The carbon footprint was small, as resources were accessed, transformed, and used locally. At Merck Forest, we’re concerned with sustainability, land regeneration, and soil health. We manage our forest and farm to allow for the access of resources while insuring the health of
the land. Two examples: we felled trees from a spruce plantation located near the site of the proposed Thoreau cabin, hewed and cut the joints by hand, and raised the building with human power. This summer some of our European larch trees will be harvested, milled, and then used as siding for the Sap House. In either of these examples, we could have purchased lumber and had it delivered to the site; instead we felled trees and processed logs ourselves. The distance from standing timber and its useful application is a matter of feet, not miles, resulting in a low carbon footprint for these projects. To help connect people with the land, we have been offering our Farm and Forest Makers Series and Forest Ecology workshops. These workshops allow people the opportunity to try their hand at transforming raw materials from the farm and the forest into useful objects. This spring children felted wool from our sheep and dyed eggs from our chickens. Bliss McIntosh guided us through the process of weaving an Adirondack pack basket, traditionally made from ash splints. She’ll be back in early July to help us gather birch bark and spruce roots to create baskets. We rely on many products that are sourced from a distance away and transported to our door by carbon emitting transportation. But when we can, we might want to explore sourcing products closer to home, or creating them by hand. We might want to knit a sweater using yarn made with wool from our neighbors’ sheep or build a shed using local lumber from a neighbor’s lumber mill. Sourced from nearby, created by our hands, getting closer to the land.
“ You ought to have seen how it looked in the rain, The fruit mixed with water in layers of leaves, Like two kinds of jewels, a vision for thieves.” —Robert Frost
“You ought to have seen what I saw on my way To the village, through Patterson’s pasture today: Blueberries as big as the end of your thumb, Real sky-blue, and heavy, and ready to drum In the cavernous pail of the first one to come!” —Robert Frost
Lead-and-Follow” Rotational Grazing by Dylan Durkee This year at Merck Forest on the farm we will introduce a “lead and follow” component to our rotational grazing system for the sheep and chickens. The practice of rotationally grazing our animals consists of creating small paddocks for them to graze, then moving them frequently to new pastures. They benefit from this because in each new location, they feed on lush green grass with high protein levels, and the concentration of their manure in small areas enriches the soil. In addition, the lifecycles of their parasites are interrupted, and the sheep are at lower risk for contracting intestinal parasites. Last year, as we moved animals to new pasture, I observed that the ewes were getting the best of the lush grass first and the lambs were not getting as much as I would have liked – essentially the moms were out-competing their lambs for the best-quality grazing. So this year the apprentices and I will be modifying this grazing process. Once the lambs are weaned from their mothers, we will start the “lead and follow” system, separating our grazing animals into three groups: lambs, mature ewes and … chickens. The lambs will be first into each paddock and will get the best of the grazing. The next day, the lambs will move to a new area and the adults will take over in the first paddock. They will clean up the rest of the paddock, and a day later follow the lambs to the second field. Moving into the first paddock after the ewes vacate are chickens, who bring lots of benefits to both the soils in the paddock and to the sheep population: these chickens feast on insects and weed seeds, and they enhance the soil with a high-nitrogen waste. So as we integrate this new practice into farm processes, I am looking forward to seeing happy healthy animals grazing on the beautiful hillsides of Merck Forest and Farmland Center.
Call For Volunteers By Kathryn Lawrence Merck Forest and Farmland Center owes a debt of gratitude to the volunteers who contribute countless hours of work to the organization. From individuals to school and corporate groups, volunteers provide invaluable service in support of our small staff. The annual Pancake Breakfast is a prime example of an event which is possible only with the many hands of volunteers assisting: they crack eggs, mix batter, cook sausage, pancakes and eggs, serve plates, direct parking, and clean up. Serving breakfast to more than nine hundred people over the two days of this event would be impossible without their dedicated service. Recently a group of young adults dedicated to community service helped in an activity on the farm: pruning the blueberries. Farm Manager Dylan, Education Director Chris and Apprentice Cara each took a segment of the group, demonstrated proper pruning technique and supervised the work. This maintenance of the berry rows has a huge impact on crop yields, and through the efforts of these volunteers, this huge task was accomplished, and the participants learned a new skill. Much of the volunteer work is concentrated around the farm and sugar bush but there are opportunities around the Visitor Center as well as farther out on the hillsides. The activities for which we need help might include any of the following tasks: • • • • • • • •
Brush trails Pull taps and drain sap lines Chip brush Spread mulch Weed berries Weed flower gardens Stack wood at the cabins in the fall Report trail conditions
We have initiated a program for volunteer service on the last Saturday of each month to supplement our practice of relying on volunteers for specific community events. If you would like to become a member of our cadre of volunteers, please email email@example.com with your area of interest and a means to contact you.
Goodbye Ethan Our friend and colleague, Forester Ethan Crumley, has moved on to a position with the State of Vermont’s Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation. His responsibilities at Merck were many and varied, and he performed them with intelligence, diligence and sunny good humor. Even a partial list of his accomplishments would fill this page, so we will limit ourselves to mentioning a few highlights: • Supervised logging and sugaring operations • Oversaw the maintenance of over 30 miles of hiking trails. • Coordinated with external organizations for chainsaw training, organic certification of the sugarbush, federal forestry programs and the chestnut plantation • Processed timber to fuel the sugaring fires and supply winter firewood for the cabins • Maintained GIS mapping files for the property • Worked with Sugarmaster Chad Virkler in implementing improvements to the sugar-tapping system, resulting in record-breaking production runs in successive years • Processed maple sap into syrup and other maple products • Trained apprentices and managed volunteer workers We are sad not to have the opportunity to continue working sideby-side with Ethan on a daily basis, but we wish him well in his new position, and we know that the management of Vermont’s forested landscape is in good hands.
Upcoming Activities At Merck Forest We have a full slate of activities on the horizon, and there’s sure to be something that you and your family will enjoy.
EVENING HIKE SERIES
Join us on a staff-guided hike in the evening landscape. These hikes are typically of moderate difficulty and will take place only if weather conditions permit. Participants must be dressed appropriately for the weather with sturdy footgear, headlamps, water and snacks. Reservations are requested; Fee: $5 per person. • Full Strawberry Moon Walk. June 23, 6pm to 8. • Full Buck Moon Walk. July 28, 6pm to 8. • Perseid Meteor Shower Viewing. August 11, 6pm to 8. • Full Sturgeon Moon Walk. August 25, 6pm to 8. • Full Corn Moon Walk. September 22, 6pm to 8.
EVENTS FOR ALL
Bluegrass Concert. August 4, 6pm, Free. Featuring Bob Amos and Catamount
FOREST MAKERS WORKSHOP Birch Bark Baskets. July 7, 9am to 3pm, $75. Bliss McIntosh will conduct this class. Bring your lunch, a pair of (nonserrated) scissors, pencil. Call 802-3947836 to reserve your spot in this class, which is limited to 12 participants and will almost certainly fill up fast.
FOR THE YOUNGER SET Farm Chores for Children. Thursday afternoons from June 28 through August 16 2pm to 4. $5 per child. Back by popular demand! Children will assist the farm staff at Merck Forest & Farmland Center with afternoon chores. Youngsters may feed the horses, pick berries, collect eggs and perform other tasks. $5 per child; children must be accompanied by an adult companion. Summer Camp for Young Children. For rising first, second, and third graders; limited to 10 children per session. Adventure is just a wagon ride away as campers explore the farm and forest, focusing each day on a different unique habitat. For more information and to register, email Education Director Christine Hubbard at christine@ merckforest.org, or call 802-394-7836. • Session 1/July 9-13, 9am to 3pm • Session 2/August 6-10, 9am to 3pm
Crossing. Bring a picnic, bring your kids, prepare yourself for a toe-tapping good time.
Open Farm Week. August 13-19. Check in on the website for a complete listing of daily workshops and activities.
Harvest Festival. September 15, 9am to 3pm, suggested donation: $3pp. Wagon
rides, demonstrations of farm-related skills, farm animals to check in on, and wagonloads of fun.
Volunteer Bonanza Saturdays. We’re super lucky to have a core group of fabulous folks who come up and help out whenever they can, as well as a number of schools and organizations that join in every year. We were chatting about how grateful we are to have the help the other day and realized that some of our best memories every year come from working alongside our volunteers. So as not to be stingy with the joy, we’ve decided to host a drop-in volunteer day on the last Saturday of the month from May through October. We’ll pick a new project each month on our trails or on the farm, and work together to get it done! Put a star on your calendar: • June 30, 10am-2pm • July 28, 10am-2pm • August 25, 10am-2pm • September 29, 10am-2pm • October 27, 10am-2pm
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PO Box 86, Rupert, Vermont 05768
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