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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.

 

Wendemuth Kiosk Installed

Harrison looking out one of the kiosk windows. Thank you Harrison for your hard work designing and building the kiosk.

Harrison looking out one of the kiosk windows. Thank you Harrison for your hard work designing and building the kiosk.

This summer we will install more interpretive features at Wendemuth Meadow. The first step happened yesterday with the installation of a kiosk on the old grain silo site next to the barn, at 25 Bates Street, North Brookfield. Harrison and his able crew did a tremendous job designing and building this kiosk. Thank You!! Be sure to investigate during your next time to Wendemuth.

The interpretive trail and brochure that links Wendemuth with the Town Forest Park is still in production, but should be completed by mid-summer. Just in time for the North Brookfield Youth Center summer camp, which is partially hosted at Wendemuth this summer.

The view from inside the kiosk looking over the wet meadow and hay fields beyond.

The view from inside the kiosk looking over the wet meadow and hay fields beyond.

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The 6 x 8 kiosk sits on the old silo foundation, welcoming visitors to Wendemuth!

Discovering Thoreau

Eagle Hill School students and their teacher looking at frog eggs in Fish Brook.

Eagle Hill School students and their teacher looking at frog eggs in Fish Brook.

A dozen students from Eagle Hill School spent yesterday exploring the Coxhall Kitchen Garden and Deer Park Preserve as part of their year-long exploration of Thoreau’s writings. The group did a variety of things, including building a human-sized bird nest as a piece of installation art, collecting freshwater insects from Fish Brook with Lee McLaughlin, a fisheries biologist, looking at scat and an owl pellet along the trails, and observing nature as Thoreau might have done.

It was a beautiful day to be outdoors!

Building a kiosk to install in Wheelwright at the rail trail entrance.

Building a kiosk to install in Wheelwright at the rail trail entrance.

This week, while the schools were out of session, many students were busy helping the East Quabbin Land Trust with a variety of stewardship projects.

Raking out the burn break in preparation for the prescribed burn at Frohloff Farm near the Ware River.

Raking out the burn break in preparation for the prescribed burn at Frohloff Farm near the Ware River.

  • We continued working on the loop trail along the Ware River in Wheelwright,
  • We pulled and cut invasive plants along the Rail Trail,
  • We started construction of two kiosks, to be installed this spring,
  • We raked out the firebreak at Frohloff Farm in preparation for the prescribed burn.

Thank you to all the students for their hard work and dedication! Izzy, Emma, Will, Emily, Lauren, Kayla, Sadie, Nathan, and Kyle.

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