Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Apples, anyone?

This spring we held our annual Apple Tree Release and Pruning Workshop at the Fells Historic Estate & Gardens and the Forest Society's Hay Reservation, both in Newbury.  The classroom session was inside The Fells's offices, and we snowshoed across the street on the Hay Reservation for some field practice.

Land Steward Henry Taves tries out a pruning saw

Nigel (red hat) shows the group how to make a proper pruning cut
 As usual, our very own Nigel Manley, director of the Rocks Estate, led the workshop.  A dozen participants attended and asked lots of excellent questions about fruit tree pruning.  We found two old apple trees near the cellar holes of the old Sarah Bartlett Farm to work on, and they did indeed need work.  We pruned about a third of the live wood out of one of them (all that is recommended for a single year) and several workshop participants tried their hand at using the aluminum pruning ladder and pruning saws.  Opening up the canopy in these trees should increase air flow and sun exposure, and will eventually increase fruit production for wildlife.  Despite heavy snowcover still, it was a fun and productive workshop!

Trying out the pruning ladder
Several kids on the workshop enjoyed the large cellar holes of the Bartlett Farm
Way up!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Celebrating our 20th Anniversary Year!

Stewards show of their new 20th Anniversary Tees

The Forest Society's land steward program began in 1993, with the very first class graduating in 1994.  Since this past year was the 20th anniversary of the program, we all celebrated the milestone at our Land Steward Annual Meeting in February.  More than 60 land stewards and Forest Society staff attended the meeting, which included a delicious potluck dinner and a presentation about the projects and workdays that land stewards accomplished during the year.  We also had a slideshow of photos of stewards over the past 20 years, and a presentation from Betsey McNaughten, a steward who works at NH Fish & Game.

Stewards and staff enjoying dinner
Jane Difley with one of our long time land steward, Lee Baker.  Lee was in the very first class of land stewards!

Stewards Betsey McNaughten (left) and Bob Macentee (middle) kidding around

Several land stewards were recognized for their outstanding work in 2013 during this event.  Moose Mountains stewards Jason Morris and Scott Lavoice were noted for their amazing efforts to create hiking opportunities at Moose Mountains, including significant work on a new trail up Phoebe's Nable this past summer.  Land Steward Bob Macentee, who looks after the Wilkins-Campbell Forest in Deering, was also recognized for his outstanding work assisting the Forest Society in removing numerous buildings and infrastructure associated with a former summer camp and returning the lakeside property to natural conditions.

Land Stewards Scott Veale (left), Hal Busch (middle) and Martha Twombly (right)

All stewards at the dinner received a 20th Anniversary Tee Shirt, made especially in a tie dye brown color that will hide dirt and look great through hundreds of workdays to come!   If you are a steward but missed the dinner, don't fret!  There is a tee shirt waiting for you too, the next time we see you at an event or workday!  Happy 20th Anniversary to the Land Steward Program!

Bob Macentee receiving a token of appreciation for his work at Wilkins Campbell Forest
A group of stewards hold up their new tee shirts!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Effingham Hike Series Kicks Off!

Land Steward Kamal Nath took the "Field Trip 101" workshop last year, and has really fulfilled his promise to lead at least one hike on a piece of conservation land in New Hampshire.  Kamal has scheduled a series of four hikes in the Effingham area in 2014, two of which are on the Forest Society's High Watch Preserve on Green Mountain.  The first of these took place on New Year's Day.  Below is Kamal's description of the day's outing.

Several winter-hardy hikers celebrated the New Year in Effingham by enjoying a snowshoe hike up the
North-West side of Green Mountain.  On a crisp, cold, but mostly sunny morning hikers enjoyed views of
Davis top, Green Mountain, and glimpses of Leavitt Brook flowing downhill.  The return views
encompassed the NH Mountain ranges to the North and west along with the Ossipee Lake, its bays and
other water-bodies.  Walking on the powdery snow, visitors learned about recent animal activities
(tracks of hare, mice, squirrel, deer and others).  On the trees, hikers saw evidence of recent porcupine
chewed bark and bear activities on beech trees, etc.

This was the first of the four Explore Effingham Landscape -2014 programs organized by Kamal Nath (co-led by Johanna Vienneau) under Speaking for Wildlife Field Trip 101 (UNH Cooperative Extension), sponsored by the Effingham Public Library and co-sponsored by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, Green Mountain Conservation Group, Effingham Conservation Commission.  The remaining three hikes dates are below.  Contact the Effingham Public Library at to register for any of these hikes!

  April 13 (Sunday) A Bird-Watch Walk: explore birds on such wetland habitats
 as the Larry Leavitt Preserve (ECC) and the Watt’s Preserve
 (Audubon). Total walk ~ 1 ½ hours.

  July 4 (Friday) A Green Mt. Hike: on Libby Rd. Trail by a tributary to Wilkinson
Brook and an area with the aftermath of the 2008 tornado. View
southeast Effingham and beyond from Hanson Top. Total hike ~ 2
¾ hours.

 October 31 (Friday) A Forest Walk: explore a leaf-littered forest forensic walk
(stone wall, cellar holes, cemetery) by Wilkinson Brook in the
Pine River State Forest. Total walk ~ 1 ½ hours.

First Day Hikes with NH State Parks!

For the past few years, the Forest Society has partnered with NH State Parks to offer guided hikes on the first day of the new year.  The motivation is to get people out and enjoying NH's natural environments on the very first day of the year, hopefully influencing folks to make a resolution to continue that practice as the year progresses. If they can do it in the frigid temperatures of January, they can certainly handle any other month!  Land Stewards have been a huge part of that effort, helping to plan and organize the "First Day Hikes" event and leading or co-leading guided hikes.  This year, hikes were offered at Monadnock Reservation/Monadnock State Park and on the Little Harbor Loop Trail which runs through SPNHF's Creek Farm Reservation, the Wentworth-Coolidge State Historic Site, and City of Portsmouth conservation land.
First Day Hike at Monadnock
At Mount Monadnock, land stewards John and Lise Bigl led a group of about 20 explorers on a hike along the Parker Trail, which they steward for the Forest Society and Monadnock State Park.  The group had a great day- clear but cold at about 15 degrees above zero - they talked about wildlife habitat, land conservation, forestry and the storied history of Mt. Monadnock as they hiked.

In Portsmouth, the group of participants was large (over 60) and the group split into two factions to hike the Little Harbor Loop trail with SPNHF land stewards Marsha Richelli and Robley Hall as guides.  Children and families made up a good contingent in both hikes, which made for a fun and energetic time.  Check out this video put together by NH State Parks about the First Day Hikes program in New Hampshire.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Andrew Brook Trail Project

We have been busy this fall with planning and implementing a project on the Forest Society's Andrew Brook Forest in Newbury.  This forest will eventually be the site of a new trailhead and parking area for the Andrew Brook Trail which climbs up the southern slope of Mount Sunapee to a high elevation tarn, Lake Solitude.  From Lake Solitude, hikers can and often do continue on to the summit of Mt. Sunapee to enjoy the panoramic views.  Currently, parking for the poplular Andrew Brook Trail is a small pullout on the side of Mountain Road, which is often overcrowded on beautiful summer days.  We hope that the new trailhead parking area, which is slated to be constructed next spring, will provide a safer and more practical area for hikers to park.  
Volunteer Jim Harnett surveys Wendy's handiwork notching a log

Jim Harnett, Bob Lyon, and Todd Wagner steady a hemlock log while Wendy notches it
The other great thing about the new traihead is that once the lower section of trail is re-routed, the Andrew Brook Trail will be entirely on conservation land, effectively guaranteeing that this amazing hiking opportunity will remain available to the public for generations to come.  The Forest Society has secured a grant from the Recreational Trails Program (RTP) administered by the NH Trails Bureau to fund this work.  Although the parking area has not yet been constructed, SPNHF staff and stewards had several workdays on the property this Fall to construct three bridges that will be needed on what will be the new section of trail connecting the trailhead to the existing Andrew Brook Trail.  Two of the bridges were built using felled hemlock timbers, so construction of these bridges involved a lot of time peeling logs and slowly moving them into place using a griphoist.  All of the hard work eventually paid off, though, and I think we all had a little fun in the process too!
Ray Jackson doesn't know his own strength with a pick mattock!
Wendy's dog Bella was convinced there was a chimpumk in the muddy stream
Dave Anderson rips a saw down a hemlock log, while Bob Lyon (R) drills holes for rebar
The crew on Day 3 - bridge completion!

Finished Staircase!

I thought you might all like to see the finished staircase completed during the Moose Mountains Reservation rock work training workshops held in September and October.  Thanks to all of you who participated in the workshops and to Nate Preisendorfer of Northstar Trails, who provided the instruction.  AND a huge thanks to the Fields Pond Foundation for funding the project!

Last workshop day's crew, on the finished staircase (photo: J. Morris)

photo: J. Morris

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Gap Mountain Work Day

Today was a major trail work day on the North Trail on Gap Mountain.  While the SCA Trail Crew was on the mountain earlier this spring and completed some significant rock work, much work remains on this heavily utilized trail.  Today we continued the improvement effort by knocking off more of the areas that really needed some tender loving care.

This is a picture taken during the spring.
It shows a typical section of trail needing attention.
Our group of volunteers arrived and by 9 AM we were ready to get to work.  Many thanks to Bob Curly and his crew from Massachusetts and to Frank Bequaert for organizing this event !

Work crew ready for action!
Today was a super October day for some heavy lifting with fair and cool weather.  And NO BUGS.  When the SCA crew was here this spring there were swarms of black flies.  Today the flies and their mosquito friends were long gone and no one missed them a bit.

After a short 1/2 mile hike to the work sites we were ready to go at it.  Now that most of the leaves have fallen, a distant view of Mount Monadnock was our constant companion.

Most of the day was spent on new water bars and rock steps.  The work sites had been mapped out in advance, all 25 of them!  No, we did not expect to finish all the work today, just continue to pick away at the list. 

Frank Bequaert and Bob Curly planning the construction
of steps on a steep section. 
With the large crew of enthusiastic volunteers, a lot was accomplished.  Here is a small sample of today's activities.

Upgraded water bars

New Rock Stairs
More new stairs.  Frank Bequaert and Walter Weeks adding a bit
more brush to direct hikers on the trail.

Basic maintenance to many water bars.

At the end of the day we declared our work a success and headed home to watch the game.  Go Red Sox !!!

Thanks again to everyone that participated today.