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Do-si-do and promenade

First thing was to learn some of the basic dancing steps. Here is the promenade with your partner.

First thing was to learn some of the basic dancing steps. Here is the promenade with your partner.

About fifty people (it was hard to tell as people came and went at different times) congregated at the West Brookfield Town Hall to go barn dancing Saturday night. Thanks to Mark LeDoux for teaching the many steps and calling the dances. We worked through circle dances, square dances and contra dances, with lots of smiles and laughter as we made mis-steps or got it right! It was a great evening to meet new people and have fun on the dance floor.

Oh, and the food was excellent! Thanks to the Town of West Brookfield for the use of the great hall for the dance and for all who attended!

Learning how to make a left-hand star. Left-hand and right-hand stars were used consistently in dances all night.

Learning how to make a left-hand star. Left-hand and right-hand stars were used consistently in dances all night.

 

Thanks to the musicians that provided fabulous music to dance with!

Thanks to the musicians that provided fabulous music to dance with!

 

Tracking along…

Mink and Grey squirrel tracks along the river.

Mink and Grey squirrel tracks along the river.

Saturday afternoon was a beautiful sunny time along the rail trail and Ware River. Overnight it was cold so there weren’t any new tracks to find. But the group still identified tracks of skunk, fox, and mink. After debating one set of tracks that crossed over the river, we went round the bend and caught sight of a mink patrolling the far bank! Proof positive of what we were looking at!!

Snow Shoers searching for tracks on Rail Trailweb

Snow Shoers searching for tracks on the rail trail

 

Linda describes the meaning of negative space in a track.

Linda describes the meaning of negative space in a track.

Rail Trail Planning

Rail Trail Info NightEQLT will be hosting a Friends of the Mass Central Rail Trail Information Night occurring on Thursday, March 12, 7-8PM at the East Quabbin Land Trust Office at 120 Ridge Rd Hardwick MA.   This information night is regarding the Hardwick- New Braintree portion of the trail. We are looking for interest from the community to form this group which will meet periodically to discuss trail matters including maintenance days, educational programs, and family events. All ages are welcome. If you or someone you know is interested in becoming part of something that benefits everyone who uses this beautiful stretch of trail, please join us.

If you cannot make it and would still like to be notified about future updates of the Rail Trail Friends group, please contact Shelby Braese at servicelearning@eqlt.org.

Also, save the date! April 12th is our next rail trail workday to begin installing the railing at the pony truss. We’d love to have your help!!

Looking for Bald Eagles

100_5362webAbout twenty people congregated at Quabbin Gate 35 on Saturday morning. The snow flurries held off for the morning, so there was a clear view over the Quabbin Reservoir. Chris Buelow lead the group on our annual hike to look for bald eagles getting ready to nest for the season. Unfortunately the eagles were somewhere else that morning. But that just means that we’ll need to head back out in a couple weeks and check again! The group did see two coyotes out on the reservoir, and fox tracks on the way in to the water along with a ravens nest.

Dianne Davis describing eagle behavior when two bald eagles fight over the same piece of food.

Dianne Davis describing eagle behavior when two bald eagles fight over the same piece of food.

Bald eagles do nest at the Quabbin Reservoir; there are seven known pairs. Dianne Davis and her husband Bill Davis were instrumental in raising eagle chicks in the early years of their reintroduction to Massachusetts. Dianne recently published her memoir Eagle One: Raising Bald Eagles that chronicles the summer of 1985 when she lived alone at the Quabbin Reservoir raising eagle chicks.

Dianne shows the audience how the primary feathers overlap and aid in eagle flight.

Dianne shows the audience how the primary feathers overlap and aid in eagle flight.

 

 

Dianne is a wildlife veterinary technician at the Ecotarium and also worked at Tufts Wildlife Clinic. Her memoir includes lessons learned throughout her career caring for eagles, polar bears, deer, squirrels, loons, owls and a whole host of other wildlife species that have needed rehabilitative care. Dianne’s goal is to return the animals to the wild if possible, but she is also experienced with live animal presentations to educate young and old about the  many animals that share the planet with us.

Winter Species Sampled

Part of the group after cataloging species for the morning.

Posing after cataloging species for the morning. Thanks to Shelby, Dick, Caren, Ann, Cynthia and Becky. Marshall and Tom are not shown.

The morning was cold and there weren’t many birds moving, but that didn’t stop the small, but hearty crew from walking around the 43 acre Pynchon’s Grist Mill Preserve today. All told we registered 65 species of vascular plants, 7 birds, 5 mammals, 5 tree lichen, and several insects. A good total for a cold day in the middle of winter. Other Bioblitz events are scheduled for May 23rd and July 18th to capture other species, like spring wildflowers and breeding birds, that use the land during warmer times of the year. More details about those events will be available closer to their dates.

Of course included in the plants are a whole host of invasive species – the kind we really don’t want on the property, and unfortunately several were more widely spread than expected. For instance, burning bush or winged euonymus has made its way up the hill sides, spread by birds and other animals enjoying the seeds. Invasive plant control will be an ongoing stewardship practice for the foreseeable future!

IMG_3997webBack in December Shelby and several Clark University students visited Pynchon’s and took water samples. The goal being to document the many small phytoplankton, zooplankton and insect nymphs in Sucker Brook and the mill pond. Today we looked at the samples under microscopes after lunch in the West Brookfield Town Hall. Mostly we’ll need an expert to identify what was found, but we did see nymphs of dragonflies, mayflies and stoneflies. Finding those means that the water quality is good!

 

Susan Gainley describes what she found about the Frohloff Farm after researching the deeds, probate and town records about the land and people that lived on the land.

Susan Gainley describes what she found about the Frohloff Farm after researching the deeds, probate and town records about the land and people that lived on the land.

Nearly fifty people packed into EQLT’s meeting space yesterday afternoon to learn about the history of the Frohloff Farm. Over the past year, Susan Gainley spent significant time working through the registry of deeds searching the ownership transfers since the original colonists claimed the land in the 1700s. She also spent time searching for wills, reviewing the History of Ware and Ware census information among other sources.  All of these pieces of information put together a picture of how the land moved from one family to another and how many people lived in the house and what products they made.

Here’s some interesting pieces of her research:

1. For a period exceeding two hundred and seventy-five years, the property known as the Frohloff farm changed hands more than fifteen times.

2. The only family to own the farm through multiple generations was the Frohloff family. It was lived in by three generations for nearly one hundred years, from 1913 until 2007, before being sold to the EQLT.

3. Three times the farm was sold from one brother to another.

4. The longest any one family owned the farm before the Frohloff family was twenty-three years.

5. Eight men who once owned the farm died while in possession of it.

6. Two owners came into possession of the farm through marrying the widow of the previous owner.

7. According to census records the greatest number of people living in the house at one time was thirteen in 1840.

8. At least twice there occurred a shared ownership of the property, including the house.

9. Except for the last two generations of Frohloffs, all who owned the farm were farmers by occupation.

Ed Hood with an image of the Frohloff Farm house, circa 1800.

Ed Hood with an image of the Frohloff Farm house, circa 1800.

With pictures during the recent renovation coupled with his architectural knowledge of early building construction, Ed Hood placed the farmhouse construction in the Federalist period between 1780 and 1830. Ed shared details from Benjamin Asher’s construction guide that provided builders with design patterns and details for fine homes of the era. The design guide included house layout choices and details for mantels, window and doors, and wainscoting among other architectural details. We know the current ell is an addition because in the attic the original main house roofing is still visible where the ell roof matches the house. However, there must have been a single story ell originally because sections of hand hewn lathing and other sections of machine made lathing uncovered in the current kitchen area. Plus the second door from the kitchen to the formal parlor has different trim that is not as fancy as the original entry. Ed shared these details, plus plenty more during the talk!

Smoke in the sky

Smoke in the sky above the Wendemuth Meadow barn as brush was burned yesterday.

Smoke in the sky above the Wendemuth Meadow barn as brush was burned yesterday.

The sky over Wendemuth Meadow got hazy yesterday morning as we began the process of burning brush piles. It was a beautiful day for burning, but a little more wind would have helped the process! We used leaf blowers to create some of our own wind as we worked to reduce the size and number of piles left on the ground.

Thanks to Harrison, Jeff, Doris and others the property has seen huge changes since EQLT purchased the land in early 2014. Nearly 80 blue spruces used to line Bates Street and they were entwined with multiflora rose and poison ivy. Other pines were planted in various locations. Those trees and invasives were cut down and piled up, waiting for brush burning season to begin.

Shelby, Caren and the Friends of Wendemuth Meadow collaborated with our stewardship committee to begin burning brush. We’re off to a good start, with more to come!

Harrison with his tractor pushing a burning pile.

Harrison with his tractor pushing a burning pile.

Harbour, Becky and Dick are keeping a close eye on the brush pile. Tom and Nathaniel are taking a break as the afternoon passes.

Harbour, Becky and Dick are keeping a close eye on the brush pile. Tom and Nathaniel are taking a break as the afternoon passes.

 

 

 

Burning brush piles near the Wendemuth barn.

Burning brush piles near the Wendemuth barn.

Mark and Linda at a pile.

Mark and Linda at a pile.

The group standing with the historic marker for the Mass Central Railroad in New Braintree.

The group standing with the historic marker for the Mass Central Railroad in New Braintree.

We welcomed in 2015 with a morning hike along the New Braintree and Hardwick section of the Mass Central Rail Trail this morning.  About thirty people and half a dozen dogs explored the area under a beautiful sun and chilly breeze.

Along the way we talked about the rail trail, the origins of the Mass Central, possible connections of this three mile trail eastward into Barre and westward to Gilbertville and Ware. As each portion of the rail trail gets opened for public use the broader vision for a 104 mile rail trail linking Northampton to Boston and all the communities in between gets stronger!!

Taking a break at the pony truss bridge, we enjoyed the view of the Ware River and a brief introduction to the bridge design.

Taking a break at the pony truss bridge, we enjoyed the view of the Ware River and a brief introduction to the bridge design.

We also stopped at the historic pony truss that crosses the Ware River. Mark shared his knowledge of the bridge design, who invented it and the builder. A full article on the bridges will lead off our Winter 2015 newsletter and available in mid-January. Caren shared some of the botanical interests, including wild rice that grows along the river here.

The land trust is interested in getting feedback from users of the rail trail about how they are using the trail, what they like about it, and if they want to be more involved in the rail trail. If you haven’t already done so, please take this quick survey by clicking here. If you do want to be more involved, please email Shelby at servicelearning (at) EQLT.org to get connected.

 

 

Happy Holidays to All!

Party goers helping themselves to some goodies during the holiday open house.

Party goers helping themselves to some goodies during the holiday open house.

Last night friends and supporters of the East Quabbin Land Trust gathered at our offices on Ridge Road to share good holiday cheer with each other.  It’s quickly becoming a tradition to gather on the first Friday of December.  People bring their favorite dish or drinks to share.  With the wood stove on and the room quickly filling up at 5 pm, there was lots of seasonal warmth to go around.

It is a busy time of year. That we know. We thank those who were able to carve out an hour or two in their busy schedules to spread some joy with us! And if you weren’t able to make we hope to see you soon at another EQLT event. We wish everyone a happy holiday season!

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Mark is driving the tractor home after a successful day at the pony truss!

Mark is driving the tractor home after a successful day at the pony truss!

 

We’re pleased to announce that the decking on the pony truss is down, bridging the gap over the Ware River between New Braintree and Wheelwright!! All 160 feet of it. Many thanks to the crew that helped with this last push, including Mark, Denis, Ric, Wyatt, Dane, Jen, Becky, Lucinda, Josh, Ian, Renee, and Dave.

Work at the pony truss will continue in the spring. Other tasks include installation of the railing and curbing. Once that’s done we can officially open the bridge for use!

Becky and Josh rotating and positioning the last couple of decking timbers.

Becky and Josh rotating and positioning the last couple of decking timbers.

Wyatt ratcheting the lag screws with curved washers that hold the timbers in place.

Wyatt ratcheting the lag screws with curved washers that hold the timbers in place.

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