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a publication of the Merck Forest and Farmland Center

ridge line

Summer 2016

teaching and demonstrating the benefits of innovative, sustainable management of forest and farmland.


2 Hiker’s Arboretum NATIVE TO NORTHERN TACONIC HILLS OF VERMONT & FOUND AT MERCK FOREST

Species

Common Name Location

Abies balsamea Balsam Fir Intersection of OTR & Lodge Road Acer pensylvanicum Striped Maple Island in front of VC Acer rubrum Red Maple Island in front of VC Acer saccharum Sugar Maple Island in front of VC Acer spicatum Mountain Maple Alnus rugosa Speckled Alder OTR across from OTR pasture Amelanchier arboretum Serviceberry Island in front of VC Betula alleghaniensis Yellow Birch Betula lenta Black Birch Stone Lot near stream Betula papyrifera White Birch Island in front of VC Betula populifolia Gray Birch Intersection of OTR & Lodge Road Carpinus caroliniana Musclewood Carya cordiformis Bitternut Hickory Carya ovata Shagbark Hickory Cornus alternifolia Alternate-leaved Dogwood Cornus stolonifera Red-osier Dogwood Crataegus spp * Hawthorn* Stone Lot Road Fagus grandifolia American Beech Fraxinus Americana White Ash Silviculture Trail Juglans cinerea Butternut Juniperus virginiana Red Cedar Old Town Road just east of VC Ostrya virginiana Hardhack Picea rubens Red Spruce Island in front of VC Pinus resinosa * Red Pine* Lodge Road across from woodshed Pinus strobus Eastern White Pine Along Farm Trail Populus deltoides Cottonwood Populus grandidentataBigtooth Aspen Island in front of VC Populus tremuloides Trembling Aspen Along OTR east of VC Prunus pensylvanica Pin Cherry Prunus serotina Black Cherry Prunus virginiana Chokecherry Pseudotsuga menziesii* Douglas Fir* Quercus alba White Oak Quercus bicolor* Swamp White Oak* Planted in front of SapHouse Quercus rubra Northern Red Oak Island in front of VC & Silviculture Trail Quercus prinus Chestnut Oak Master’s Mountain Trail Quercus velutina Black Oak Antone Road Quercus palustris* Pin Oak* OTR south of intersection w/Lodge Rhus typhina Staghorn Sumac Robinia pseudoacaciaBlack Locust Salix nigra Black Willow Sambucus canadensisElderberry Sorbus americana Mountain Ash West of Viewpoint Road Tilia americana Basswood Tsuga canadensis Eastern Hemlock OTR near stream – South Gate Ulmus Americana White Elm North of parking lot

* Planted Specimens


From the Executive Director The Hiker’s Arboretum at Merck Forest

3 by Tom Ward

Most arboreta consist of planted specimens maintained in a well-designed, albeit human construct. The Hiker’s Arboretum at Merck Forest & Farmland Center is set, instead, in natural stands of northeast hardwoods here in the northern Taconic Mountains. There are approximately eighty species of trees which are native to Vermont, and there are forty-one of those that we have found growing naturally in our forest stands. This spring we engaged two undergraduate students from the University of Vermont’s Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources to help us geo-locate exemplars of the forty-one native tree species found so far. After spending two days this winter traversing our forest stands, they identified good examples located relatively near to existing roads and trails. From these data points, they created an overlay on our existing trail map, showing where the trees are to be found. When we print up these new maps for interested hikers, there will be a list of which tree species are located where on the property. This summer, crews of middle school students working at Merck will create short spur trails to these specimens, and then this fall our staff will put new signs in place at each of the trees on the list. The hope is that interested individuals and groups will learn more about our native tree species. Additionally, we expect that amateur and serious botanists will take up the challenge to add to our list of native tree species. The files created by our friends at UVM will allow us to add new species as they are located and verified. The final phase of this project will entail enlisting the help of our colleagues at the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation, to obtain seedlings of the remaining forty tree species which are native to Vermont, but not yet growing at Merck.

IN MEMORIUM It is with a deep sense of loss I report that Corinna Wildman passed away suddenly on May 20th. Corinna served Merck Forest & Farmland Center in many capacities over the years and was a devoted advisor and trustee. Her real passion was the farm and all its activities, which she supported financially and intellectually. She was a treasured colleague and friend who will be dearly missed.

3


4 Merck as Classroom by Christine Ferris-Hubbard

MFFC/NGSS School Partnership Program is Expanded to Include Sixth Grade Students Students from the Mettawee Community School, The Dorset School, and Sunderland Elementary School spent several days exploring ecosystems at Merck Forest in a continuation of the MFFC/NGSS School Partnership Program pilot. The sixth-graders followed up on last year’s field explorations of biodiversity, decomposition and non-native species and participated in a variety of scientific practices such as making observations, measuring abiotic factors, estimating and classifying biotic factors, recording and reporting data. The students learned how ecosystems regenerate after disturbances, in an investigation of a blowdown in the forest that occurred 18 years ago, and they explored how available resources affect what organisms are found in an ecosystem. We are excited to be working with our local schools and students, helping teachers address the Next Generation Science Standards with their students in an outdoor setting with hands-on science experiences.

Summertime Farm Chores Date/Time: Thursday afternoons from 6/23 through 8/18, 2 to 4 pm Cost: $2.50 per participant; Pre-registration is required. Join the Farm staff as they go about their daily chores: feeding horses, collecting & washing eggs, picking berries, pulling weeds. Youngsters will learn about farm routines and products, and will be introduced to farm animals under expert supervision. This hands-on/hands-dirty workshop is suitable for children ages 3 and up (must be accompanied by an adult).


From the Farm

5

by Jonathan Kilpatrick, Farm Manager

We have certainly been busy with lambing: currently 44 lambs are in the fields with their mothers, and they join Peggy Sue’s ten piglets as the newest residents of Merck. This year we planned to have the ewes lamb in May. Many sheep farmers normally lamb in February or March, in order to have products to offer for springtime religious and cultural holidays, but here at Merck we don't sell lamb in those markets so we don't need to lamb at that time of year. The most efficient use of our resources calls for lambing in May. Lambs born then are weaned at around eight to ten weeks old, in late June. The energy demands placed on their mothers by suckling babies is greatest about two weeks earlier, when the lambs are about six weeks old. The volume and nutrient quality of grass growth in Southern Vermont is at its peak in mid-June, which coincides with the ewes’ greatest need for nutrition. Of course, lambs weaned in June eat fresh grass instead of expensive stored hay. Lambing in May more closely follows a natural life cycle, and any time we can mimic nature in our management practices, raising livestock is more enjoyable, profitable and rewarding. Most importantly, a May lambing season has a “quality of life” impact since winter weather in Vermont is not favorable for healthy lambing. It is so nice to walk out to the fields in May and find newly born lambs lying in green grass under a warm sun. We tag and record information about the little ones and our work is done – no cold nights doing lamb checks, no dealing with heat lamps, no trying to revive cold lambs. It’s easier on the lamb, the ewe … and the shepherd! We are getting ready to plant the garden; garlic will be ready for sale by the end of July and U-Pick berries will follow shortly after. August 15th through the 21st, we will be participating in the Vermont Open Farm Week. We have an exciting lineup of activities, with additional events in the planning stage. Check the website www.merckforest.org for a complete listing closer to the date. To keep up to date on the latest and greatest from the farm, check Facebook or watch your Instagram stream (@merckforestfarmlandcenter). We hope to see you up at the farm or hiking the trails. Have a great summer!

Photographs courtesy of Angela Kilpatrick


6 Events Upcoming Events:

To learn more about our upcoming events, visit our website www.merkforest.org or call the Visitor Center at 802-394-7836. Advance reservations -- made on a first-come first-served basis -- are required for most events due to space limitations or scheduling considerations. For outdoor events, please dress for the weather: sturdy shoes, layered clothing, raingear, snacks, water, and flashlights if necessary. All outdoor events are held weather permitting: if there’s any question please call the Visitor Center to confirm that an event will be held.

With Eyes on the Skies

There’s lots going on in the summer sky and the view from the farm is vast. Bring a flashlight and a blanket and join us for adventures after dark (weather permitting). HIKE UNDER THE SOLSTICE MOON Monday, June 20, 7 pm. Suggested donation: $5 per person It’s the shortest night of the year and you don’t want to miss it! Chris Hubbard will lead a group hike in the moonlight.

STAR GAZING EVENT Saturday, August 13, 8 pm. Suggested donation: $5 per person A waxing gibbous moon will be in the sky this night -- helpful for viewing the Perseid meteor showers. This event occurs during our celebration of Open Farm Week, so wrap up a day of fun on the farm with a nighttime look at our celestial neighbors.

VERMONT OPEN FARM WEEK ACTIVITIES Monday, August 15th through Sunday, August 21

EVERY DAY: Come explore the farm - visit the lambs, tickle a piglet under her chinny-chin-chin, check in with the chickens, pick berries, picnic on the hillside, and enjoy spectacular views of the Southern Adirondacks. We’re firming up plans for even more activities and demonstrations, so check our website (www.merckforest.org) as the date gets closer. Currently, scheduled activities include:

Teen Workshop with Fern & Arch

Tuesday, August 16th, 12:30 to 3:30 pm Fee: $40, Pre-register at: 802-394-7836; info@merckforest.org If you are between the ages of 12 and 15 years old, here’s your chance to get some hands-on experience with Fern and Arch, our Suffolk Punch draft horses. Learn about heritage breeds, receive instruction on how to care for our two gentle giants: groom them, check on their hooves, and give Katie a hand harnessing and driving them around. This workshop is limited to four participants.

Celebrate Your Farmer Pizza Party

Thursday, August 18th, 5:30 to 7:30 pm Suggested Donation: $10 per person Mangia! Celebrate an evening of community as we host the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA-VT) pizza social with delicious wood-fired pizza made from locally-sourced ingredients.


News

7

Merck Forest and Farmland Center presents a screening of

AMERICA’S FIRST FOREST

Carl Schenck & the Asheville Experiment Riley Center for the Arts, Burr & Burton Academy 57 Seminary Avenue, Manchester, VT June 24, 2016, 7 pm to 8:30 pm. A discussion period will follow the screening. For more information, visit www.merckforest.org or call 802-394-7836

Merck Forest & Farmland Center

Annual Meeting Saturday, June 11, 2016 9 am to 12:30 pm At the Saphouse

Keynote Speaker:

Gil Livingston

President, Vermont Land Trust Community Conservation: Vermont’s Citizen-Led Land Protection History and the Future of Land Conservation Agenda: 9:30 10:00 11:00 12:00

Coffee Business Meeting Keynote Address Lunch

RSVP: INFO@MERCKFOREST.ORG OR CALL 802-394-7836

Congratulations to Ethan Crumley, the farm staff, and Chad Virkler and his family, for an outstanding season of maple syrup production. Running 3000 taps, Ethan, Chad, Jonathan, Erik, Sarah & Alessia produced nearly 1,400 gallons of some of the best maple syrup you’ll ever taste. That volume represents .47 gallons per tap, up from .19 gallons per tap only four years ago. What is remarkable about the increased production is that it is not due to an increase in the number of trees tapped, but instead -- in part -- to better management of the tapping system, resulting in reduced sap loss.


8 Education Director’s Message by Christine Hubbard

Lushoto, Tanzania and Rupert, Vermont -- two small towns, continents apart. On a recent trip to Tanzania, I had the opportunity to visit the Irente Farm Lodge and Biodiversity Reserve. What immediately struck me was the similarity of this small farm and forest in the Usambara Mountains and our own Merck Forest and Farmland Center, set in the Taconics. Both Merck Forest and Irente Farm are involved in farming and producing farm products. Both have hiking trails and camping venues. We are in the process of developing a hiker’s arboretum. Irente had paths with trees labeled with their common and scientific names. And both are concerned with the environment, with Irente focusing on biodiversity protection, and Merck on educating about sustainable farming and forestry practices. Concerns about our environment truly are global. Here in the northeast we see mild winters with little snow and stronger storms. Tanzanians comment on unusually high temperatures

Hiking near Lushoto, Tanzania

and delayed rains. The world is facing myriad environmental problems, including climate change and air and water pollution. It is essential that our children, in Vermont, in Africa and around the world, be prepared to tackle these challenges. At Merck Forest we have been helping students learn about the natural world. With the launch of the Merck Forest and Farmland Center/Next Generation Science Standard School Program for fifth graders last fall, and for sixth graders this spring, students are learning first-hand about biodiversity, the cycling of matter, and how available resources affect which organisms will be present in an ecosystem. Other students come to learn about insects and plants, ecosystems and sustainable farming practices. By being actively engaged in exploring the natural world, students will develop a better understanding of, and appreciation for the environment, and will be better prepared to work towards finding solutions to the issues facing us today.

Hiking the Silviculture Trail at Merck Forest


Not Yet Out of the Woods The Chestnut Plantation Report by Assistant Forester Tim Callahan

The American chestnut is as iconic of the American wilderness as the panther and the red wolf, the tall grass prairie and the hunting grounds of ‘Kain-tuck-ee,’ and Daniel Boone and Tecumseh.*

The American Chestnut was once the most dominant and important tree in eastern North America. When the Chestnut blight was introduced in New York City in the late 19th century it began killing chestnuts throughout its range until they were functionally removed from the ecosystem. The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) has worked for decades to produce a blight-resistant chestnut through crossbreeding American with Chinese Chestnut species. In 2010 Merck Forest joined TACF in the endeavor, and planted a chestnut plantation east of the farm in 2013 and 2014. Recently, new scientific technology has afforded researchers from the New York Chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation and at the SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry an additional tool to use in their efforts to create a blight-resistant strain of Chestnut: by employing the relatively new science of genetic engineering scientists are providing the trees with a means of combating the effects of the blight. The mechanism by which the blight kills a tree is to create a buildup of oxalic acid, which causes cankers to develop on the stem; the cankers prevent nutrient and water flow through the tree. A gene from the wheat plant – oxalate oxidase – breaks down the oxalic acid before it can produce the fatal cankers. The genome of the genetically engineered chestnut is 99.99% identical to the original American chestnuts compared to the 96% of the Chinese-American chestnut hybrids. Studies at SUNY ESF have shown that there are no unintended consequences with the transgenic chestnuts therefore scientists do not expect any unwanted side effects. With this small change in the genome, it is possible that the American chestnut may eventually be restored to the eastern forests. For more information on the American Chestnut Research and Restoration Project at SUNY ESF please visit www.esf.edu/chestnut/. *From the American Chestnut Foundation’s 2014 Spring appeal.

Photo of mature American Chestnuts courtesy of the Forest History Society of Durham, NC

9


10 Farmers Notes Suffolk Punch

by Katie Connor, Customer Service Specialist

The Suffolk Punch is one of the oldest heavy draft horse breeds in England, with documentation for the breed dating back to 1506. All current-day Suffolks can be traced back to one stallion called “Crisp’s Horse,” foaled in 1768 and owned by Thomas Crisp of Ufford, England. Suffolks were originally bred to be plow horses and are noted for their power, stamina and docile personalities. They were popular in the area of East Anglia, England, and brought to Canada in 1865 and to the United States in 1880, but they were not widely used outside of England until the late 1930’s. Today they are used for farming, forestry and other heavy draft work. While they do not compare in size to larger draft breeds, such as the Percheron, Clydesdale, or Shire, they are impressive in their strength. Their stout frame, muscular forequarters, powerful arching neck and wide back give them enormous leverage and pulling strength; in addition their short stature makes them easier to groom and to harness. They are always chestnut in color and sometimes can have a bit of white on their face and around their feet. The Merck Forest Suffolk Punch team, Fern and Arch, provide the muscle for wagon and sleigh rides, small-scale logging and light farm work. They have great personalities and love being worked. Fern is definitely the more energetic of the two and is always eager to be harnessed up. Arch is a sweet guy to work with and is without doubt easier-going: he takes things in stride and just keeps putting one foot in front of the other. They work really well as a team and it is a joy to see them in action. Be sure to visit them up at the Farm, since they love attention and lots of petting. Thanks to the following sources for information about this wonderful breed: ruralheritage.com, wikipedia.com, livestockconservancy.org, suffolkhorsesociety.org, suffolkpunch.com.

Letters from the Lodge – Eating Grand from the Land by Sarah McIlvennie and Alessia McCobb

One of the perks of living on the Merck Forest property is that we sustain ourselves with products and produce from the farm, and edibles foraged in the forest. The farm yields non-GMO, pasture-raised eggs, lamb and pork, and crops -- mostly onions and potatoes -- harvested last fall and held in cold storage (historically a mainstay of northeasterners diets). Complementing the farm products are wonderful springtime gifts from the forest: wild leeks (or ramps) which love the rich moist soils of our sugar bush and surrounding slopes, and violets, which add color and taste to a cool summer salad. We’ve combined potatoes with wild leeks for a creamy, green Leek Potato Soup; we’ve made pesto, quiche (with Merck eggs and onions), and sautéed ramp greens with butter. Recently Alessia made an exciting discovery: morel mushrooms in the forest. Stay tuned to the Merck Forest Blog (on our website) for updates on our mushroom exploits and for tasty summer recipes as our gardens (and forest) grow. Happy Spring!


About Us

11

Merck Forest and Farmland Center is a non-profit educational organization with a mission to teach and demonstrate the benefits of innovative, sustainable management of forest and farmland. We offer a variety of seasonal school programs, apprenticeships and recreational opportunities to individuals and families. Through education, we hope to encourage our visitors to become good stewards of the land. Members support our educational programs and maintenance of over 3,100 acres of land and 30 miles of trails. We are grateful for your help.

Timothy Callahan will spend the next few months at Merck as Assistant Forester. Tim has B.S. and M.S. degrees in Conservation Biology and Forest Ecology from SUNY’s Environmental School of Forestry, where his research focussed on stem characteristics of transgenic American Chestnuts. His article on page 9 is a summary of the fascinating new developments in the effort to restore the American Chestnut to our forests. After his summer at Merck Forest, Tim will return to his post as Syracuse University’s Campus Minister, and running coach at ESF. In his downtime, Tim enjoys hiking, kayaking, and running. Sarah Elliott joins Katie and Darla in the Visitor Center. Her earliest involvement in appreciating natural communities began as a small child as she built houses for caterpillars out of rocks, twigs and leaves, and rode happily on her father’s shoulders on bird-watching expeditions. Sarah’s lifelong passion for nature led to sharing her interests with children at Farm & Wilderness Camp in Plymouth, Vermont, and she has subsequently supported environmental education in various professional and volunteer capacities. She is currently working on a series of books for children about Climate Change. Alessia McCobb and Sarah McIlvennie, our new Education Apprentices, are both from Ithaca, New York, and both studied Sustainable Agriculture at Cornell University. Alessia subsequently interned at the Wild Center Natural History Museum in the Adirondack Park, where she did programming for school groups and the public; Sarah worked at Great Camp Sagamore at Raquette Lake as an environmental interpretation intern for Intergenerational Outdoor Programming. In the past few months, they have experienced the briefest Vermont winter on record, the festivities at the Pancake Breakfast and the Return of Eliot the Ram. They've helped deliver Peggy Sue’s piglets and over forty lambs, learned to drive the horses, and instructed an audience of three-year-olds on the fine points of maple-sugaring. Board of Trustees

Keld Alstrup,

Treasurer

Axel Blomberg Donald Campbell,

Secretary

Jean Ceglowski Austin Chinn,

President

Jeromy Gardner George Hatch,

Vice President

Jim Hand Ann Jackson Dick Malley Phil Warren

Advisory Council

Kathleen Achor Judy Buechner Sue Ceglowski Ed Cotter Bob Gasperetti Bambi Hatch Dick Hittle Anne Houser Jon Mathewson Margaret Mertz Axel Neubohn Bruce Putnam Liz Putnam Bob Taggert Patty Winpenny Corinna Wildman

Staff Darla Belevich, Customer Service Specialist Timothy Callahan, Assistant Forester Katie Connor, Customer Service Specialist Ethan Crumley, Forester Sarah Elliot, Customer Service Specialist Christine Ferris-Hubbard, Education Director Read our

Blog

Jonathan Kilpatrick, Farm Manager Kathryn Lawrence, Assistant to the Director Marybeth Leu, Communications Coordinator Alessia McCobb, Education Apprentice Sarah McIlvennie, Education Apprentice Erik Schlener, Assistant Farm Manager Tom Ward, Executive Director Printed on 100% recycled paper

View from Ridge Cabin


PO Box 86, Rupert, Vermont 05768

INSIDE: P2 - Hiker’s Arboretum P3 - From the Executive Director P4 - Merck as Classroom

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P9 - Chestnut Plantation Report 10 - Farmer’s Notes & From the Lodge 11 - About Us

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Memberships support our educational programs and maintenance of over 3,100 acres of land and 30 miles of trails. Thank you for your help!

2016 Summer Ridgeline  

Merck Forest & Farmland Quarterly Newsletter

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