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Enjoy this recently made video that explores what several visitors to the Hardwick Community Fair think is so special about our region.

LCC logo fullThe E.-T.E.A.M. summer camp was a six-week program run by the North Brookfield Youth Center and North Brookfield Public Schools. Tuesday and Thursday afternoons the students spent at Wendemuth Meadow. The summer program received funding support from the North Brookfield Local Cultural Council, 21st CCLC & ASOST grants, and MassLIFT Americorps program.

It seems fitting that my service year ended at Wendemuth considering it also began with the Fall Friends of Wendemuth dinner. I feel fortunate to have experienced each of the changes the seasons bring to the Preserve.

Tuesdays and Thursdays came to be the most exhausting, yet most rewarding days of my summer.  I looked forward to each day’s activities and the eagerness of the kids.

The 6 week camp consisted of several learning topics including forestry, agriculture, wildlife, and birding. One of the most important topics was the general history of Wendemuth and Town Forest. The first week we had the kids explore the perimeter trail of Wendemuth Meadow. They were able to view multiple settings including the barn, the stone walls, and the hay fields. We were also given the chance to introduce them to the visible effects of the prescribed burn and how quickly the meadow recovered throughout the summer.

Walking through the meadow during summer camp.

Walking through the meadow during summer camp.

Our first guest visitor, Janine Drake, came in to speak about the history of Wendemuth, why she got involved with the Friends of Wendemuth, and how East Quabbin Land Trust acquired the property with the town to promote local species of interest, prevent development, and keep the property available for the community to enjoy year round. Janine also got the kids to explore insect activity throughout the meadow where they saw spittle bugs, water striders, arachnids, grasshoppers, and crickets. These viewings showcased the importance of the different species and how they contribute to the surrounding ecosystem. Exploration of the town forest park with Devon Jurczyk showed the kids the connection trail to Wendemuth Meadow along with other interesting learning opportunities such as trail markings and learning how to age trees by counting the rings of the trunk. Ross Hubacz came later in the summer to lead the kids back through the Town Forest Park Connection Trail and speak about the timber sale, forest management, and the tree species present throughout the town forest.

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A round bale on the back of Ralph Buzzell’s tractor.

Farming was a topic that really interested the kids. Ralph Buzzell came with his nephew, Sam, and informed the kids about farming techniques throughout history. He spoke about his time growing up on the dairy and how much it has changed from having to go out and hand milk cows multiple times daily, to having a milking machine. He spoke about haying and how practices progressed from loose hay that would be pitched from the ground up to hay lofts to balers that make round hay bales. Sam brought his work experience from Sturbridge Village and a few old farming implements, including pitchfork and scythe. Ralph’s talk ended with a hay ride through Wendemuth Meadows and around the hay fields where the bobolinks were nesting. The kids also got to enjoy hanging out with a few animals thanks to Mike, the father of two of our campers, who brought in a mini pig, two goats, one hen, and a few chicks in order to introduce the kids to livestock care and management.

Ann Hicks was one of our most dedicated and eager volunteers. The kids loved all of her activities and learned a great deal from her. She first introduced the kids to the birds of Wendemuth by playing bird songs by a variety of birds including the bobolink, song swallow, red-winged blackbird and the calls of a kestrel. We then proceeded to take a silent walk towards the bobolink nesting area while listening for bird songs along the way. The kids were very excited to identify the song of a song-swallow and see multiple red-winged blackbirds and bluebirds. One group was lucky enough to hear and see a kestrel falcon chiding us for coming to close to its nest. Ann returned to incorporate art with the musical stylings of the birds to depict how each camper viewed the birds’ calls. We listened to the bird songs and with a frequency line drawing, were able to express our depictions of the bird songs on paper.

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Tom Ricardi with the summer camp students after the Birds of Prey Program.

We finished off our activities about birds with Tom Ricardi and his Birds of Prey program. He brought in non-releasable educational rehab animals to teach the kids about wildlife rehabilitation and the impending dangers of habitat loss and poaching. After his presentation the kids were given nothing but their imaginations to create giant birds’ nests using sticks collected at the school and hay from the hay fields. Each camper got to test out their nests for comfort.

The tarantula visited with many students during the Creature Teacher presentation.

The tarantula visited with many students during the Creature Teacher presentation.

My favorite part of the camp was teaching the kids about wildlife. We spent one day making plaster paw prints to teach the kids about tracking and animal gaits. The kids got to imitate different animals and tried to walk like their favorite animals. The meadow was soon filled with tigers, snapping turtles, kangaroos, birds, and elephants. We did micro-investigations to see the differences in insect activity from various areas of the meadow and we culminated the wildlife section with a presentation from the Creature Teachers. They brought in educational animals to show the kids similar species to those found in the meadows. The tarantula they brought was a fun way to get kids that were originally scared of spiders engaged and open to the idea of spiders as an important aspect of the environment. We also talked about skunks, ferrets (and their relation to weasels), sugar gliders (and their relation to flying squirrels), and bearded dragons and snakes (and their relationships to other reptiles and amphibians that may be found in the meadow).

In addition, Bob and Sue LaFlamme taught the kids about orienteering with each of their visits to the meadow, each session building on the last to ultimately provide the kids with the skills necessary to complete a geochaching challenge at the school. Sherry Peterson helped the kids develop their creative writing styles present and express the ideas and activities they came across during their time at the meadows.

The weeks of summer camp culminated into one final exhibition day where the kids presented the information they learned to community members. It was great to see how the kids were able to express the importance of Wendemuth Meadow and its natural resources to their family members, friends and community members that attended.

Enjoying the warm evening on the patio before dinnertime.

Enjoying the warm evening on the patio before dinnertime.

Over 130 supporters of the East Quabbin Land Trust descended on the Cultural Center at the Eagle Hill School in Hardwick on Saturday to celebrate the 15th Annual Dinner and Silent Auction. After a social hour we sat down for dinner and dessert. During the evening we shared the various projects completed or underway at the land trust over the last year. The silent auction offerings included a vacation week in Maine, sea kayak, perennial plants, dishes, bark mulch, garden arch and much, much more. Fundraising total for the silent auction was $6,000.

Judy perusing the silent auction items.

Judy perusing the silent auction items.

Thank you to our corporate sponsors for their generous support!  New Harbor Financial, Pioneer Valley Environmental, Dresser & McGourthy Attorneys at Law, North Brookfield Savings Bank, Common Grow LLC, Highland Press and the Cultural Center. In addition, through a generous challenge grant we also raised over $22,000 in direct contributions in support of the East Quabbin Land Trust’s conservation and stewardship mission.

Gene and Pattie enjoying an evening out in support of EQLT.

Gene and Pattie enjoying an evening out in support of EQLT.

 

Kim and Lisa catching up at the Dinner and Silent Auction.

Kim and Lisa catching up at the Dinner and Silent Auction.

 

The musicians sharing their talents!

The musicians sharing their talents!

 

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Forester Jim Dimaio with the map of the Hunter Farm orienting tour participants before heading out to see three different treatment areas on the farm.

Forester Jim Dimaio with the map of the Hunter Farm orienting tour participants before heading out to see three different treatment areas on the farm.

The Hunter family has owned the land since the mid-1700s. There are at least four hay fields, several pastures, an apple orchard, a tremendous marsh, and woods. A big section of woods is mixed hardwoods, like oaks, maples, ash, and cherry. A few American chestnut sprouts are still growing, showing that the land once included these majestic forest giants. There’s also an area of deep hemlock woods.

Forester Jim Dimaio took us on a walk to see and explain some of the changes over the past year. Two things jump out. First are big piles of logs, mostly on the smaller side that look like firewood quality. Second are the skeletons of multiflora rose along the roadside and field edges. They’ve done a treatment for invasive plants. The two key invasive plants on the Hunter Farm are multiflora rose and bittersweet. We walked into one of the treated areas and could see where the “mature” plants were, but also some new sprouts were coming up. A second treatment is planned in July, with possibly a third later in the season. By repeatedly treating the area, the number of new plants is reduced and it’s possible to control with much less effort.

The group walking past the skeletons of multiflora rose that was killed after one herbicide treatment.

The group walking past the skeletons of multiflora rose that was killed after one herbicide treatment.

The woods were harvested multiple times over the centuries, unfortunately the remaining trees were not of high quality and weren’t growing quickly. Jim knew that because he aged the trees by taking cores and counting the rings. The outermost rings show the recent growth pattern. If those rings are tight together, then the trees are not growing well. A clear indication that the trees are cramped. It’s very similar to gardening, where you leave every fourth lettuce plant, removing the ones between to make sure they grow quickly and to full size.

Talking about how a log landing was improved with gravel and better access to the road.

Talking about how a log landing was improved with gravel and better access to the road.

With the timber harvesting completed, the Hunter family can now access and explore all corners of their family land! The changes are dramatic, from an overgrown woods and impenetrable field edges to a more open landscape. Under the guidance of Jim Dimaio the family is ready to continue stewarding their newly found land.

The area behind Jim was thinned, leaving the best trees to continue growing. New seedlings and stump sprouts are already knee-high.

The area behind Jim was thinned, leaving the best trees to continue growing. New seedlings and stump sprouts are already knee-high.

This walk was a partnership between the East Quabbin Land Trust and the MassConn Sustainable Forest Partnership, with funding from the US Forest Service through an LSR grant.

Looking down the recently cleared and brushed trail at the Town Forest Park in North Brookfield

Looking down the recently cleared and brushed trail at the Town Forest Park in North Brookfield

Thanks to the hard work of Reshma, Becky, Harrison, MJ and Cynthia on Saturday, plus the efforts of Marty and Devon on other days, the trail on the North Brookfield Town Forest Park that connects with Wendemuth Meadow is now open. Including the loop trail along the ridge!

And just in time for summer camp to start! The campers will be hiking on the loop trail tomorrow.

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Taking a break from the clearing work, resting on the granite outcrop at the edge of the powerlines.

We hope you get out there and explore yourself.

Using a drip torch to light the thatch under the grasses and sedges on fire.

A firefighter using a drip torch to light the thatch under the grasses and sedges on fire.

Today the fire crew from Northeast Fire and Forest Management, with assistance from the Town of North Brookfield and Mass. Dept. Conservation and Recreation, turned their attention to the wet meadow at Wendemuth Meadow. The goal was to burn as much of the thatch lying under all the grass, sedges and bushes to burn off. The vegetation was thicker here than at Frohloff Farm, and since it is lighter material there was some question about how fast the fire would move.

From the visitor stand point the whole burn went smoothly. The far line was burned and the crew had water to hose down the break to keep fire from getting into the stone wall. The main crew walked back and forth across the wet meadow starting lines of fire and the wind pushed the fire westward into the area previously burned. That keeps the fire contained. Check out our Facebook page for more photographs.

From behind the barn looking westward across the wet meadow as the fire crew works through the burn area.

From behind the barn looking westward across the wet meadow as the fire crew works through the burn area.

 

The southern edge of the burn area shows the patchiness of the burn with the mowed meadow trail meandering along the wet meadow.

The southern edge of the burn area shows the patchiness of the burn with the mowed meadow trail meandering along the wet meadow.

 

The crew who handled the prescribed fire includes members from Northeast Forest and Fire Management, Mass. DCR District 9 & 10 fire fighters.

The crew who handled the prescribed fire includes members from Northeast Forest and Fire Management LLC and Mass. DCR District 9 & 10 fire fighters.

Big orange signs along Church Street warned passers-by that a Prescribed Fire was in progress, but plenty of people slowed right down this afternoon as smoke wafted up over the Frohloff Farm. The easterly wind  helped disperse the smoke, including lots of water vapor because it was so green.

The 8 acres that were burned includes sandplain grasses and pitch pine-scrub oak community which are fire tolerant. In fact these vegetation types do much better after fire; other plants are killed or knocked back leaving more space to grow, the blackened surface draws in solar heat speeding up growth, and the flush of nutrients helps spur faster growth of the living plants.

We will be monitoring the changes over the summer and in the next couple of years. It will be exciting to see the little bluestem grasses increase and hopefully more pitch pine sprout along the Ware River.

Starting to ignite the fire.

Starting to ignite the fire.

 

Crew members regrouping after igniting the slopes along the former railroad bed.

Crew members regrouping after igniting the slopes along the former railroad bed.

 

 

One area after it was burned today.

One area after it was burned today.

 

 

Walk around Flat Brook

Nancy and Byron Stutzman sharing information about American chestnut they planted on their woodland.

Nancy and Byron Stutzman sharing information about American chestnut they planted on their woodland.

Over twenty landowners and others joined Byron and Nancy Stutzman to walk their woods and learn about some of their stewardship practices on the woodland in Ware and Hardwick. They’ve been working on improving the forest health, diversifying the species and improving access. Several timber sales over the past decade have improved spacing and the quality of remaining trees. The next timber sale will focus on removing white ash in the northern area of the property. White ash is threatened by the emerald ash borer, and many trees are already suffering from a general decline that is afflicting white ash throughout the area.

The Flat Brook flows through the property. The beaver have left their mark along the waterway, by plugging up the culverts and cutting many trees. A large beaver dam is found on the eastern edge of the large ponded area. Great blue herons are using several of the standing dead trees for their nests.

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A Great blue heron nest is just visible above the tree line in the middle of the pond.

This walk was co-sponsored by the MassConn Sustainable Forest Partnership, North Quabbin Regional Landscape Partnership, Massachusetts Tree Farm Committee and the East Quabbin Land Trust.

Bloodroot blooming near the edge of the pond part of Flat Brook.

Bloodroot blooming near the edge of the pond part of Flat Brook.

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The 2015-2016 Americorps MassLIFT members during one of the training sessions.

The East Quabbin Land Trust is excited to announce that it’s hosting an Americorps MassLIFT Youth Education Coordinator for the 2016 – 2017 session. This will be our seventh year hosting a person dedicated to providing service and educational opportunities to youth throughout our area. Click here if you’re interested in more information.

Becky and Bill picking up brush along Church Street during the Saturday workday at the Frohloff Farm.

Becky and Bill picking up brush along Church Street during the Saturday workday at the Frohloff Farm.

The dedicated volunteer crew didn’t give up despite the periodic rain showers on Saturday. Thanks to Becky, Paul, Owen, Jason, Denis, Josh, Bill, Darrell and Cynthia so much work was done in four short hours. Everyone who passes by the Frohloff Farm on Church Street in Ware will benefit from their tremendous efforts.

Seven bags of trash (plus other stuff) were gathered along this stretch. We were amazed at how many recyclables and returnables were blithely tossed out the window! Hopefully travelers will notice the difference and wont toss their unwanted items any more!!

The biggest difference people will notice are the walls exposed by cleaning out the brush and downed limbs. Several small dead trees were also removed. This summer animals will graze in the field closest to the road so travelers will get to experience the farm a little bit closer than before. One of the key reasons for conserving this property was to revitalize the farming and build a healthy farm. Each year this vision comes closer to reality!

Darrell, Josh and Paul are clearing unwanted brush away from the stone wall lining Church Street.

Darrell, Josh and Paul are clearing unwanted brush away from the stone wall lining Church Street.

Also, the final step in creating the burn breaks along the bluff were completed. Jason, Owen and Cynthia did the final step of raking out the three-foot line the forms the perimeter for the prescribed burn. Some time in May or June an eight acre area along the Ware River and former railroad bed will be intentionally burned. The goal of burning off the leaf and duff layer is to provide a quick flush of nutrients for the surviving vegetation and help to control unwanted vegetation. In this area there are lots of common buckthorn growing, which is an invasive plant. Plus white pine will take over if not kept in check. The pitch pine and sandplain grasses growing in the area will be stimulated and hopefully will expand the number of plants because of the burn. This is another step in our wildlife habitat management plan began several years ago with the removal of twenty acres of trees and multiple treatments to control invasive plants.

 

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