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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!

Here is a short video tour of EQLT’s Mandell Hill located at Barre Road in Hardwick.

Rich Valcourt, Jr., standing at the left side of the photo, is explaining how the timber sale was designed.

Rich Valcourt, Jr., standing at the left side of the photo, is explaining how the timber sale was designed.

This morning we got to walk through the Kohn’s woods, looking at the results of their recent timber sale. First we heard directly from Judy and Henry about their goals for the land, including their interest in providing places for wildlife of all kinds to live and increasing the diversity of tree species on the land. Henry and Judy are especially interested in restoring American chestnuts because they used to make up about 25% of the northeast’s woods before the blight struck in the early 1900’s. The property still includes many chestnut sprouts.

Looking at an American chestnut that has the blight, and the tree has sent more sprouts up around the base.

Looking at an American chestnut that has the blight, and the tree has sent more sprouts up around the base.

The Kohn’s forester is Rich Valcourt, Jr., and he completed the management planning and timber sale details. The woods are mostly mixed oaks and white pine in the canopy. The existing seedlings and regeneration is mostly white pine. Rich discussed the soils, and how their character influences what trees grow best on the site. Currently on the side slopes there are a mix of oaks, with young white pines growing up underneath. By removing mature trees, there is more sunlight getting to the forest floor and helping the young trees to grow.

We also looked at the woods road network. The trees were moved by using a forwarder, that’s a machine that picks the trees up into the bed rather than dragging them along the ground. The roads were in good shape and didn’t show signs of erosion or excessive compaction.  The same roads will be used for future timber sales too.

20161112_104521webThank you to Henry and Judy for inviting us to see the results of their recent timber harvest, and Rich Valcourt for leading the walk. This woods walk was co-sponsored by the East Quabbin Land Trust, MassConn Sustainable Forest Partnership, Green Natural Resource Management, and the US Forest Service.

Thanks to Harrison, Tom, Becky, Matt, Annie, Gary, and Cynthia and Rich for their efforts today at Pynchon's Grist Mill Preserve.

Thanks to Harrison, Tom, Becky, Matt, Annie, Gary, and Cynthia and Rich for their efforts today at Pynchon’s Grist Mill Preserve.

Today we made great strides in expanded the cleaned up area along the Sucker Brook pond at Pynchon’s Grist Mill Preserve. Thanks to the hard work of Matt, Harrison, Tom, Annie, Rich, Becky, and Cynthia.

The pond edge was cleared, trimming the herbaceous growth and cutting the woody shrubs to the ground. The view over the pond is clear. The wood duck boxes are ready for the return of the ducks next season.

Gary, cutting dead white pines cleaning out the area near Sucker Brook and the pond edge.

Gary, cutting dead white pines cleaning out the area near Sucker Brook and the pond edge.

We spent a lot of effort in pulling burning bush, barberry and bittersweet from under the dense white pine stand. The goal is to get the area cleared enough so that it can be mowed next year, expanding the area where the invasive plants are being controlled.

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Roasting hotdogs over the fire in the Coxhall Kitchen Garden.

Roasting hotdogs over the fire in the Coxhall Kitchen Garden.

Sunday night was a terrific night for a small fire in the Coxhall Kitchen Garden. There was still a breeze as the sun went down – just enough to help get the fire going. Then the stars came out as we enjoyed the waning fire.

We each had at least two s’mores! Plus a few hotdogs beforehand, making it a perfect evening over the open fire. Thanks to Lucinda, Ann, Gabriella, Nathaniel, Paula, Sadie, Quinn, Penny and Cynthia for heading outdoors and sharing s’mores!

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Making s'mores!

Making s’mores!

 

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