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John O'Keefe talking to the Leadership Circle members about the dioramas at Harvard Forest.

John O’Keefe talking to the Leadership Circle members about the dioramas at Harvard Forest.

Yesterday members of EQLT’s Leadership Circle got a guided tour through the newly renovated Fisher Museum at the Harvard Forest in Petersham.  John O’Keefe, retired Museum Director and EQLT member, shared his insights on the changes to New England forests over the past several centuries, the original goal of Dr. Fisher and Harvard University in establishing the Harvard Forest at the beginning of forestry in the US during the early 1900s, and the terrific artistry of the dioramas.

20170625_145115webThere are over 20 dioramas, basically 3′ x 3′ three dimensional depictions of a typical landscape. The first group of them recount the major forest transformations, from pre-colonial woods and the first settlement farms, to the height of agriculture in mid-1800s, farm abandonment and forest regrowth and subsequent harvesting. The sequence ends in 1930 when the dioramas were originally built.

20170625_144310webOther dioramas depict different silvocultural strategies to weed, thin and regenerate New England’s regrowing woods. There’s also a terrific diorama of Harvard Pond. Each diorama is filled with unique details, and a scavenger hunt encourages visitors to look deeply at them all. Where is the squirrel, wood pecker, two jackets on a rock, bee hives, cattails and much more. It’s definitely worth a visit to the Fisher Museum, which is open on weekend afternoons and staffed by volunteers.

The base of the Witness Tree, a 100 year old red oak that is the central character in Lynda Mapes' book Witness Tree

The base of the Witness Tree, a 100 year old red oak that is the central character in Lynda Mapes’ book Witness Tree

We also took a short walk on the grounds to learn a bit more about the current research at Harvard Forest and see the Witness Tree.  The Witness Tree is the central character in a newly published book by Lynda V. Mapes, as she details the forest changes over the past century or so with a particular eye on how climate change is impacting the wooded landscape. The Witness Tree is a fascinating read; and we will be hosting a book discussion this fall and hope to have Lynda join us too.

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Camping Out!

We collected a lot of downed branches to keep the fire going. The kids even re-kindled the flames in the morning to toast bagels.

We collected a lot of downed branches to keep the fire going. The kids even re-kindled the flames in the morning to toast bagels.

The weather was pretty perfect for our first-ever EQLT sponsored camping trip. This time we slept out at the Coxhall Kitchen Garden. Everyone was impressed with the size of the stone wall enclosure, and amazed that it was built back in 1774 to be a kitchen garden, which was popular back in England at the time.

The day was warm, with a gentle breeze. At one point late in the afternoon the clouds looked a bit threatening, but we didn’t get rained on. The clouds cleared out so we could see the stars, with the big dipper directly overhead. It was a magical experience for the eleven kids who joined in the fun.

20170610_180349webA group of us walked the trail loop – over to Fish Brook, the hay field and overlook ledge. On the way we found a huge mushroom, plenty of scat, lots of animal holes, and a toad! Great fun for all involved. Thank you to all the parents and adults that made this such a successful event. We’ll be planning other local camping opportunities 20170610_175503webin the future!

 

 

 

 

The timber decking on the short I-beam bridge that runs over a farm field access point in the Hardwick section of the Mass Central Rail Trail was showing signs of decay. Mushrooms were growing and several timbers were punky.

With a generous donation from Howe Lumber of new timbers, the dedicated land trust volunteer core set about disassembling the timbers and reinstalling with new Southern Yellow Pine pressure treated timbers. Following are some photos from the two days of work!

Denis, Mark and Becky prepare to remove the railing.

Denis, Mark and Becky prepare to remove the railing.

Becky and Mark work to remove the curbing pieces.

Becky and Mark work to remove the curbing pieces.

John is unscrewing the decking timbers so they can be lifted off.

John is unscrewing the decking timbers so they can be lifted off.

 

 

New decking in place at the end of the first day, thanks to John, Mark, Cynthia, Denis, Becky and Dean.

New decking in place at the end of the first day, thanks to John, Mark, Cynthia, Denis, Becky and Dean.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dean, Kane and Mark moving the railing back into place.

Dean, Kane and Mark moving the railing back into place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The I-beam bridge with new decking.

The I-beam bridge with new decking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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