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20170415_103000webYesterday morning we had a terrific walk and talk at Susan Lincoln’s property in Ware. We gathered by the house for a round of introductions and then headed to the woods. On the way to the valley overlook, the conversation meandered from reasons for harvesting (or not) wood, erosion from roads and the importance of water bars, to historic stone foundations and invasive plants that follow along in the wet seeps of the land.

20170415_105900webAt the overlook we read an essay by Aldo Leopold, “Axe-in-Hand”, to think about why we make choices to favor trees or remove trees during stewardship of our woodlands. On the way down to lunch there were snippets of conversation about long-term conservation of woodlands and family priorities for our woodlands. It was a great morning of sharing and learning from one another.

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Check out this video that highlights the American kestrel box design by Harrison Achilles!

20170408_102652webChanging weather patterns – with warmer temperatures and shifting amounts of water – is evident in our daily lives. But what does this mean for the natural world that sustains us?

Rebecca Quiñones, the rivers and streams project leader at MassWildlife, shared her expertise and ongoing research into the changes already happening in our cold-water streams. A startling fact is that temperatures are increasing faster in the northeast US than any where else in the country. The prevailing winds warm up as they cross the continent, and then the large ocean mass is cooler, not allowing the heat to shift away from the land. In central Massachusetts this means more stress our our cold-water fisheries as water temperatures rise even a modest amount. When water levels drop (like last summer) so far that fish can’t move up and down stream, that causes additional stress.

20170408_101728webWe talked about ways we can help. A principle way is to ensure that our streams stay connected to one another. Poor culvert design, which block fish passage from one side of the road to another, can hamper fish movement. There is already information about which culverts in the East Quabbin region are most in need of re-working. Various members were going to check out different areas to see if we can make improvements in our region.

 

The Hardwick Town House was at capacity Sunday afternoon as people from all over the area came to learn more about Finding Native American Artifacts. Thank you to Jen, Mark, Charlie and Boo for sharing their passion for finding and preserving, mostly stone, artifacts left by native peoples that inhabited the local area. By walking recently plowed fields, near waterways or other ideal settlement locations, anyone willing to spend hours searching the ground might find a piece of history. You might find an arrowhead, drill, adze, grinding stone or some other stone shaped to make life easier. Native peoples had tremendous skills in shaping stone to make useful things. No doubt other materials like bone and plant parts were similarly worked, just less durable so we don’t find them anymore.

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A full house listens to speakers as they describe some of the artifacts found on the surface of fields or water’s edge.

An array of native American artifacts found over the years in central Massachusetts that show the ingenuity and skill of native peoples.

An array of native American artifacts found over the years in central Massachusetts that show the ingenuity and skill of native peoples.

20170304_093740webThe multiflora rose took a serious hit today at Mandell Hill. With help from Martha, Bill, Fred, Elliot, Tom, Kane, Mark, John, Robin and Cynthia the outline for the llama paddock is clear. We’re expanding the paddock to about 3-1/2 acre area from just over an acre last year. This will give the llamas lots more to eat, which is great since they’ll be at Mandell Hill for a full growing season.

Can’t wait to see how different the paddock looks this fall!

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Planning for the future

20170223_185117webLast night we had a great session talking about land conservation and estate planning. About 20 people converged on the North Brookfield Senior Center.

We heard from Harry Webb about their experience moving to Hardwick and growing understanding about the farmland stewardship responsibilities over time. They have done several timber harvests over the decades, and started the process of conserving the farm. First, with the sale of some land to the Commonwealth for inclusion in the Muddy Brook Wildlife Management Area and then donating a conservation restriction on another portion of the farm. More to come.

20170223_192458webAttorney George Dresser shared insights about estate planning in Massachusetts. This often focuses on strategies to reduce or eliminate federal or state estate taxes. The threshold for paying federal estate taxes is over $5 million, so doesn’t affect many landowners. But the threshold for Massachusetts estate taxes is at a $1 million, which catches many more families when their loved-ones pass away. To plan properly the family needs to share their goals for the land and all their financial assets. When possible, you want to fully use the available deductions, including the marital deduction and annual gifting.

20170223_184310webA key lesson for the night is to start estate planning as soon as possible. Have the important family discussions as soon as possible, and formalize your estate plan.

We had a successful day at Wendemuth Meadow at the start of the 2017 burning season. Two big piles were tackled, one at the corner of the wet meadow. The second up slope near a big rock. This will probably be a permanent burn pile location. In fact more brush is already pushed back into that spot for next year! Thanks to everyone that helped with this work day.
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Happy New Year 2017!

We had a terrific walk at the Mass Central Rail Trail today – a beautiful sunny afternoon, with clear air and mild temperatures. We started from the former New Braintree train station at the intersection of Hardwick and West Roads and headed towards Wheelwright. Our annual group photograph was taken on the pony truss. The group walked along the rail trail up to Maple Street and then took the short loop trail over to the Ware River, and back again to the rail trail. It was great to show so many people the new loop section recently opened for walkers. A number of people walked past the train station and continued down to the lattice truss or beyond, at least 4 miles of walking, if not a bit more. A great way to start 2017 outdoors!

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Supporters came from all over the East Quabbin region to celebrate the holidays together with good food and cheer. Everyone had such a good time, we’re already planning on getting together next year!

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20161203_113648webNicks and scratches from the multiflora rose was just one outcome from the work accomplished on Saturday morning, but nobody seemed to mind. It’s satisfying seeing all the brambles and brush cut away from the wall and in a windrow, waiting for a tractor push into a pile. And that’s just what happened along the loop trail at Mandell Hill along the stone wall just over the style near the Ellison birding platform.

Come check it out!

Linda cutting brush and brambles along the stone wall.

Linda cutting brush and brambles along the stone wall.

Many thanks to Harrison, Linda, Rod and Cynthia for making it possible!

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