Page 1


In This Issue 1

Strategic Planning: Power Challenges, Infrastructure Changes


The Creation of the Root Cellar: “From Stump to Sticker” and “From Sticker to Storage”


How to Make Your Own Storage Boxes Recipe from the Root Cellar


Recap on Workshops and Events: WreathMaking and Tractor Parade

5 Upcoming Events: Sleigh Rides, Owl Walk, Piglets & more!

6 Apprentice Corner: In Anticipation of Winter

7 About Us & Membership

8 Apollo and Zeus, “The Jersey Boys”

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

Winter 2014-2015

a publication of the Merck Forest and Farmland Center

“Teaching, demonstrating & sustaining a working landscape”

Strategic Planning: Power Challenges, Infrastructure Changes Dear Member, There are two interrelated infrastructural issues that currently have significant impact on the quality of the visitor experience at Merck Forest & Farmland Center: our ability to sustainably produce power onsite (as we are currently “off the grid”), and adequate toilet facilities and wastewater treatment capabilities.

“ ...There are several problems associated with generating our own power... ”

First, as Merck Forest’s staff and use of technologies has grown, so has our need for power that allows for our operations to exist. We currently use 27 Kilowatt Hours (KwH) per day of electrical power, and, to net that amount, we actually generate 33 KwH per day, primarily from a propane generator.

There are several problems associated with generating our “off-the-grid” power, foremost among them is the cost per KwH, which is over ten times the amount we can expect to pay for electrical energy produced on the grid. A second, albeit primarily aesthetic, issue is noise pollution produced by running the propane generator for about 6.5 hours per day. Anyone within close proximity to the farm can hear the generator when it is running, even from the top of Mount Antone on a calm day! A third significant disadvantage in our current power production model is the environmental impact of the manufacturing, maintenance, and recycling of lead-acid batteries used to store energy created by the generator.

“ The the Sap At the same time we debate the challenge of power, we are constructing a septic field capable of handling House will enable us to the wastewater produced from a flush toilet in the attract more classes to Caretaker’s Cabin, and the possibility of new toilets at Merck Forest. ” the farm and in the Frank Hatch Sap House. There will still be outhouses available throughout the property, but we feel the addition of low-flush toilets will make the property more visitor-friendly and will be a significant improvement over the composting toilet used previously in the Caretaker’s Cabin. As we move forward with our educational program development, the addition of bathrooms in the sap house will enable us to hold more classes to Merck Forest. The trustees have authorized the use of a line of credit to enable us to begin construction of both these projects with completion expected during the 2015 calendar year. We also anticipate coming to you with details on a capital campaign to diminish the need for an amortized loan at the end of the construction phase. These are very significant improvements indeed, and the staff and trustees are quite excited at the prospect of bringing these to fruition. We hope you agree. Warmest Seasons Greetings to each of you. Peace. Tom Ward, Executive Director


1.From Stump To Sticker...

By Will Bunten, Forester

In August of 2014 Merck Forest and Farmland Center hosted Levels 1 & 2 of the Game of Logging Chainsaw Safety Training, a course that focuses on safe and efficient operation of chainsaws (you can read more about that class in the Fall 2014 Ridgeline). The class was open to the public, and some of our staff also took part. For the Merck crew, learning how to fell the trees was only the beginning. The trees we felled during our training were mostly white ash (Fraxinus americana) that were in poor health due to a disease that causes poor growth, decline, and eventual tree mortality. Of the trees we felled, approximately half were small diameter saw logs, straight with no defects, no rot, and little taper. The rest were cut to 32” length to fire the sugaring arch for next year. At the same time that we felled trees for the Game of Logging, on the farm there was a push to build a root cellar in the bottom of the Harwood Barn. The purpose of the cellar is to store root crops: potatoes, carrots, cabbage, and other winter storage produce grown on farm. The lumber to frame the cellar was available locally; however, we found it more difficult to source locally milled wood, which we could use to build the storage crates needed for our crops.

We used Fern and Arch, our draft horses, to haul the trees out of the cut site; these trees were made into root cellar boxes.

In late August, when we were using the horses to pull the trees out of the Game of Logging cut site, we got in contact with Chris Stone, the Rutland County Forester. Chris was helping to organize a sawmilling demonstration at the Vermont State Fair. With the help of students from the Stafford Technical Center, Chris custom cut our ash logs into the stock sizes needed to build the root cellar crates. Once the lumber was back on farm it was stickered for storage and to dry. The hand-cut and milled wood was a team effort to make and then create into the boxes now in our root cellar (see below)!

2. ...From Sticker to Storage...

Summarized from Rose Karabush’s delightful blog article on the creation of the root cellar and storage boxes (to read the whole article visit

With a great harvest from our storage garden this past season, we’ve been working on some carpentry projects to help us preserve these crops for the coming months and for the new apprentices coming in January. First, we added a root cellar to the lower part of the Harwood Barn (see article above). This room uses the temperaturemoderating effects of the soil and a passive ventilation system to keep our produce refrigerated. However, we realized without the proper containers to store vegetables, a ventilation system might be for naught. After a couple of days of work, we made more than forty handsome and sturdy stackable wooden crates which will ensure that adequate ventilation gets to every beet, cabbage, and onion! The boxes were fun to make and are future apprentices well.

Cricket poses with the harvest. The wood for the boxes was cut onsite, milled in Rutland, and crafted by the apprentices into the storage boxes.

highly functional. We hope they will serve


3. ...From Our Farm to You

Design drawn by Melissa Carll, Communications Coordinator











The creation of the root cellar boxes was a collaboration on the part of the farm staff. The design for the boxes was drawn from research on how to make a well-ventilated, stackable box and the combined ideas from all participating parties. We are happy to share our design with you. Happy root cellaring! 2.5”



18.5” 1”


2” 1.5”


The boxes made on the farm roughly measure 22” x 17”x 18.5”. A gap of an inch or two exists between the boards on the side, to help allow for ventilation. The braces protruding upwards from the crates allow another box to be stacked on top, while still allowing air to move through.


Your box does not have to measure to the same dimensions: it’s just important to make them sturdy and able to ventilate. The addition of handles will make carrying the storage containers much easier too.




1.5” 0.5”

Recipe from the Root Cellar

Cider-Braised Cabbage and Apples Ingredients: 2 Tbsp of Merck lard (or butter) 2 medium-sized onions, thinly sliced 2 medium-sized apples, cored and thinly sliced 1 medium head of cabbage, chopped

1 1/2 cups sweet apple cider 1 bay leaf 1/2 tsp of salt, course salt works well 2 Tbsp of apple cider vinegar

Submitted by Kathy Ciambolis, Rupert, Vermont

This recipe works great with items you may have in storage! Pair with pork tenderloin, and for a cooking variation try adding MFFC maple syrup for a bit more sweetness.

Directions: 1. Render the lard in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. As the lard melts, add in the sliced onion. Fry the onion until it becomes translucent (6-8 minutes), then stir in apples and cook until they become fragrant (2-3minutes). 2. Turn heat back to medium, add cabbage to the pan, stirring to mix together the ingredients. Cook for another 5 minutes. 3. Pour cider into the skillet, add the bay leaf, and stir. Simmer, uncovered, for approximately 30 minutes until the cabbage and apples soften and the liquid is largely evaporated. 4. Sprinkle the salt over dish and stir in the apple cider vinegar. Cook for another 2 to 3 minues, and then serve.

Recap: Workshops and Community Events


Merck at the Manchester Lighted Tractor Parade On December 6th, our staff took part in the Manchester Lighted Tractor Parade, a holiday event that incorporated many of the businesses and people from the town and surrounding area. We drove a wagon (with one of the sleighs strapped on) to Dorr’s Field. From there, the parade wound its way through town, and we ended the evening by singing carols at Equinox Terrace nursing home. While the event was great fun, things got even better when we learned that we won first place for our float!

Wreath-Making Workshop: Annual December Fun! This past December Merck Forest once again hosted the Wreath-Making Workshop. On Friday, December 5th, a private party returned for their second year. Three families joined in the festivities, making and then designing their wreaths with bows, pine cones, birch bark, and acorns. We hope this lovely group will return next year too!

Fern and Arch, our draft horses, hauled the boughs that were harvested for the wreath-making workshop. On Friday, the horses enjoyed a few ear scratchs from the workshop participants.

On Saturday, December 6th, eleven participants enjoyed making wreaths. Even though the day was snowy and rainy, everyone was cozy with the woodstove burning merrily in the Visitor Center. We hope everyone has a Happy Holidays!

Moonlit Owl Walk Guess who’s having piglets? Peggy Sue and Lady Cybil are both due in January (the 6th and 15th). Be sure to stop in the Small Animal Barn then and see the lil’ oinkers.

Friday, January 9, 2014, 8 pm - 9:30 pm Suggestion donation: $5.00/person Join naturalist, Patty Wesner, on a walk to listen for courting owls. Owls begin courtship in January, and they start nesting in February (ahead of the spring rush!). Participants will have a good chance of hearing or seeing Barred owls, Great-horned owls, and maybe lucky enough to call in a Saw-whet owl or Screech owl. This walk is open to families. Please come dressed for the cold weather and possible snow. You may also want to bring a flashlight for the walk out to the site. Please register for this event.


Upcoming Community Activities and Events Winter Sleigh Rides Return Tis’ the season for sweaters, carols, mugs of hot cider, and... one (and two) horse open sleighs! The Merck Forest sleighs will run this winter, starting just before Christmas, on December 20, 2014. With ample snow and great views, a sleigh ride is a wonderful way to see Merck’s farm and forest. We have two options for you to choose from: Sweetheart Sleigh The Sweetheart Sleigh seats two adults, and costs $150.00 for a forty-five minute tour. This sleigh travels through the forest and around the farm—on a clear day, you’ll be afforded wonderful views. Group Sleigh The Group Sleigh is available for groups as large as twelve people. There is a flat fee of $185.00 to reserve the sleigh. Tours last for approximately forty-five minutes and travel wooded paths and across the open pastures on the farm. If you plan on reserving a sleigh ride, call ahead. Also, it’s always best to come dressed for the cold! Wool blankets are provided for extra warmth, and hot drinks and a cozy fire are available in the Visitor Center at the end of the ride. For more information on the sleigh rides and how to reserve your sleigh, please call the Visitor Center at 802.394.7836.

Intro to Light-Weight Winter Backpacking Course Merck Forest and Farmland Center will host winter backpacking pros, Tim Jones and David Shedd of, as they offer an Intro to Lightweight Winter Backpacking course January 24 and 25, 2015 (note: this course was supposed to run in December, but was postponed). Shedd and Jones will show participants the lightweight gear, clothing, and accessories (even packable woodstoves that run on dead twigs and branches!) for safe, easy, comfortable winter camping. They’ll teach you step-by-step how to stay warm, dry, and comfortable, even in unexpected weather. Participants are welcomed and encouraged to spend the night at Merck Forest as part of the guided course. For more information, cost, syllabus, and packing list please email Interested parties should reserve their place no later than January 14, 2015.

Volunteers Needed Maple Celebration and Pancake Breakfast March 28 & 29, 2014

10 am - 2 pm, Sat. & Sun. Volunteers are always needed to help make this big annual event a success. You can help set-up, take-down, make pancakes, sausage and eggs, collect admission, and more. Please, call the Visitor Center if you would like to sign up. 802.394.7836 Volunteers eat for free!

In Anticipation of Winter

6 It has been an interesting and exciting time experiencing the seasons while living here at Merck. Having started my apprenticeship this past June, instead of the usual January start time, I have gotten to know Merck Forest and Farmland Center (as well as my home at the Lodge) during a most beautiful and pleasant time of year. It was warm, sunny, a little bit of breeze. The mountains made the air pleasantly hot with a soft breeze, unlike the sweltering summer days in the valley. And then there are the views! This has been a wonderland. All the while that I was loving the sun, the nicely tempered heat, the views, and the breeze, I was warned (sometimes subtly, sometimes overtly) about the realities of this place on the flip side of the calendar. My fellow apprentices, Sarah and Rose, spoke of the winter as an “apocalyptic horror land”. A mountainous ice rink with snow drifts fifteen feet high, and wind so strong and unrelenting it would blow me right off my feet--working its way deep within my soul until all I would want to do is huddle around a woodstove that will never get hot enough to ward off the chill. And then in the midst of all of this there is still the care of the farm: animals to husband, sows farrowing, pregnant ewes to care for, lambs to deliver... Could any of it really be as bad as their tales make it seem? Despite Rose and Sarah’s warnings, I somehow still decided to extend my apprenticeship through the winter. There are still many experiences Merck can offer me, and perhaps in part I want to test my endurance. So far, summer has faded beautifully into the magnificent colors of fall in New England. I have watched our forests transform from green, to a full bloom of color, to the more subtle bare gray forest with spots of evergreen that will cover these hills until spring. As the last stubborn trees lost their leaves, my anticipation grew for the inevitable and invaluable months of cold ahead. On the farm this means getting everything ready to function at subfreezing temperatures, ensuring that all our animals will have access to shelter and water and accounting for tire chains, etc. It’s funny how much harder many things become once water freezes—a reality I had somewhat overlooked until recently. For me, however, winter preparations have meant more than simply finding and/or buying the necessary boots, jackets, pants, gloves, hats, layers, and blankets to work and live through the Merck winter. For me it is also a mental game. I thoroughly appreciate the place that winter holds in the cycle of the season. A time of introspection, hibernation, and yes, some hardship that allows the rebirth of spring to be that much more meaningful and magnificent. However, unlike many other critters of the north, we humans can not simply sleep the winter away- and how lucky we are! It can be such beautiful time of year. And at least for now this next season is a time that I look forward to with some apprehension, but plenty of optimism. We will just have to see how accurate the tales of dread and hardship I’ve heard really are. But enjoyable or not, winter will come, life will be lived, and the work will be done, if for no one else than for Fern and Arch, Peggy Sue and Cybil, and the rest of our critters.

~ Bryan Markhart, Apprentice 2014-15

Apollo and Zeus, “The Jersey Boys” By Patty Wesner, Education Director

(continued from back cover)... Herb spent every day of the oxen’s visit refining their working skills – preparing Zeus and Apollo for their debut at Merck Forest. The oxen will become part of the educational and public programming at Merck Forest, and specifically, a component of the draft power program offered as part of the year-long apprenticeship. Zeus and Apollo add another interesting and exciting part to Merck Forest and Farmland Center’s working landscape. In a way, the team will maintain the tradition of working oxen that has existed for hundreds of years.

At a Quick Glance: How to tell Apollo and Zeus Apart


Zeus is the lighter of the two oxen; this lighter color is noticable on his face and sides. He also has straight, pointy horns.


Apollo is darker brown than Zeus (the “color of burnt toast”). His horns curve around the front of his face.


Please fill out and mail: Merck Forest & Farmland Center, PO Box 86, Rupert, VT 05768

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!



Date: Name(s):

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Total Amount Enclosed: Payment: Cash/Check/Visa or MasterCard

Electronic copy of newsletter? Exp:

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About Us Merck Forest and Farmland Center is an educational nonprofit organization whose mission is to teach and demonstrate the benefits of innovative, sustainable management of forest and farmland.

Member benefits include: 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

Corinna Wildman

Bob Ferguson

Deirdre Kinney-Brennan

Patty Winpenny

Board of Trustees Bob Allen, Treasurer

Jeromy Gardner

Keld Alstrup

George Hatch

Axel Blomberg

Margaret Mertz, Vice President

Jean Ceglowski

Bruce Putnam

Phil Chapman

Madeline Rockwell, Secretary

Austin Chinn, President

Phil Warren


2014 Apprentices

Will Bunten, Forester Operations Manager

Sarah Jackson

Melissa Carll, Communications Coordinator

Rose Karabush

Katie Connor, Visitor Center

Bryan Markhart

Tim Hughes-Muse, Farm Manager Kathryn Lawrence, Assistant to the Director Colene Reed, Assistant Farm Manager Tom Ward, Executive Director Patty Wesner, Education Director

Who made the hole in this sugar maple?

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.

Michelle Wolf, Visitor Center

RidgeLine layout, illustrations, and graphic design by Melissa Carll

Answer: We did! This tap hole was drilled following NOFA Vermont regulations for maple sugaring. A tap will convey the tree’s sap into plastic tubing. The tubing runs through the MFFC sugarbush and transports sap to the sugarhouse, where the liquid is boiled into maple syrup.

PO Box 86, Rupert, Vermont 05768

Printed on 100% recycled paper

Apollo and Zeus, “The Jersey Boys” By Patty Wesner, Education Director “The Jersey Boys”, two Jersey oxen, Zeus and Apollo have come to live at Merck Forest and Farmland Center. The oxen are four-year-old “working steer”, a moniker of maturity in the working cattle world. Born in Vermont, as bull Jersey calves, they grew up on Martha’s Vineyard where they were handraised and trained by Sidney Morris of The Farm Institute, “an educational non-profit institution committed to connecting people of all ages and all circumstances to agriculture through the diverse operations of a working farm.”

own working team of oxen and a working team of Percheron draft horse crosses... (continued on page 6)

Because Zeus and Apollo grew up immersed in the environment of an educational farm, they are comfortable around people of all ages, driving and pulling a lot of different kinds of loads around the farm. To add to their heroics, Zeus and Apollo have actually even hauled a sailboat out of the ocean while at the Vineyard (but that’s a story for another time)! Prior to coming to Merck Forest, the oxen spent a month with Herb Trombley of Footloose Farm in Granville, New York. Herb is well-known in the draft animal community. He has his

Kathryn, Assistant to the Director, met the oxen shortly after they arrived.

Merck Forest Winter Ridgeline 2014-2015  

The quarterly newsletter of Merck Forest and Farmland Center, Rupert, Vermont

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