Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Morse Preserve Workday - Sunny Days Only Please!

Morse Preserve in Alton is one of our favorite places to hold a workday.  You really can't beat the views at lunchtime on this reservation!  That's why, when socked in clouds and thunderstorms were predicted for the first day we picked for this workday, we decided to wait for a more "appropriate" weather forecast.  Not to mention, it's no fun to be wielding metal tools on the exposed top of Pine Mountain in a lightening storm...

Land Stewards and staff go over the task list
Our second try at hosting the Morse Preserve workday was perfect- bluebird skies and comfortable temperatures too.  A group of 9 staff and stewards fanned out across the property to get some work done.  Two volunteers went to prune dead wood off of several old field apple trees, in anticipation of using this reservation as the site of our annual spring Wild Apple Tree Release and Pruning workshop next March.  The pruners were undaunted by vicious tangles of multiflora rose (ouch!) and the height of some of the dead wood in these trees.  Jason and Len pruned off mountains of dead wood, and then Wendy helped finish off the process by removing the really big dead limbs with a chainsaw.  Sagging limbs were propped up with birch supports, and the trees are already looking happier in advance of their big pruning workshop debut.

Jason Morris climbs up to prune an old apple (photo by W. Weisiger)

Apple tree, post dead wood removal (photo by Jason Morris)
 Also on the task list was a lot of trail maintenance.  The trails at Morse Preserve pass through many open areas of early-successional habitat.  It is one of our goals at the property to maintain a rotation of early successional habitats (field, shrubs, and young saplings) for the many wildlife species that either need or use these areas.  But trails through these open areas grow in fast, even with regular use, so we spent a good portion of our workday brushing back the trail system.  Brush saws and loppers helped us do this, and we also spent some time popping up stump-sprouting roots where the trail passes through woods.

Suzanne removes trimmings from the brush saw from one of the open trails
Bella finds some shade (photo by Jason Morris)
Lunch was... well, amazingly beautiful as usual, from the top of Pine Mountain.  The only thing missing was that handful of ripe blueberries that you can forage on the top.  The trails are looking better than ever, however, in advance of blueberry season- so don't forget to stop by!

Bob and Bob take in the views at lunch

Sidney Butler Smith Workday

The Sidney Butler Smith Woodland is a beautiful little forest right on Tuftonboro Neck that sticks out into Lake Winnipesaukee.  Up until two weeks ago, I had never been there (believe it or not, with more than 170 properties to keep track of, there are still some that I haven't set foot on yet!).  But a recent inventory, along with some monitoring reports from our land stewards at Sidney Butler Smith, convinced us that it was time to have a workday there.  

Tasks for the day included replacing a rotting footbridge with a new, pressure treated model, installing some new signage, re-marking the trail system (which is a short loop trail perfect for local folks walking dogs or going for a trail run), and painting the gate.  With a crew of about 10 people, we were in good shape to get all the tasks done by mid-afternoon, even with a leisurely lunch in the forest.  Thanks to Jim and Karen for preparing us well for this workday and guiding stewards and staff  (like me) that had never been to the Sidney Butler Smith Woodland!

Ray tries out the new bridge (photo by Bart Hunter)

Friday, June 6, 2014

Sign Workdays 2014

Paul Groulx and Jason Morris at work
This year's sign workdays were as busy, noisy, and saw-dusty as ever.   The group on Day 1 included about ten people, only one of whom hadn't been to the sign days before.  We (staff) will take that as a good sign that volunteers keep coming back year after year!  People got right to work sanding, planing, stenciling, rasping, routing and staining, and by the end of the first day we'd gotten about 40 signs done through the first coat of brown stain.  Amazing!  I swear this group gets better and better every year.  For the first few years, Jason was the only one brave enough to route the signs, since free-hand routing does take some steady nerves... but this year we had 3 other volunteers routing at the same time as Jason, and I know there are others who want to try it next year.

Alan Cort routing a sign
Day 1 at lunch
The weather was less than beautiful to start Day 2 of the sign workshop, but the hive of activity continued undaunted.  The number of signs completed this year, from smaller trail markers to large wooden property signs, was a little more than 70 total.  Excellent job, and thank you to everyone who participated and loaned their power tools to the process as well.  The only thing left now is to paint a whole lot of white lettering... if you've got a steady hand to lend for that in the next few weeks, please shoot me an email!  We can set you up with some tunes and a brush and jar of paint anytime the office is open!

A little mid-work conference

New steward Mike Casino (the only newbie on Day 1) got right down to business

 Seth and Gale are our stenciling experts

Hiel and Todd run Todd's planer

Mike Carafiello routing away
The ever cheerful Todd
Beverly & Michael Bettencourt work on sanding

Fred in the new work shirt!
Jason and Mike collaborate on a unique triangular sign

Beverly staining a new sign

Chainsaw Safety

I have to admit, I didn't stay for much of the Chainsaw Safety and Maintenance workshop this spring, as I was busy wrapping up business from the annual Core Land Steward Training.  I do know that despite the blackflies and cool weather, a good group of stewards and members headed out with Wendy and Jake Bronnenberg to learn how to stay safe while operating their chainsaws.  No matter how many years people have been running a saw, they usually tell me that they got a lot out of this workshop, which is why we continue to run it twice a year!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Land Steward Class of 2014!

A hearty welcome to the SPNHF land steward Class of 2014!  Twenty seven new stewards completed the two-day training course last weekend, which was held this year at AMC's Cardigan Lodge in Alexandria.  As usual, the new class is diverse in ages and backgrounds, but everyone seems to come to this volunteer position from a deep-seated love of the outdoors, and New Hampshire's forests in particular.  So it was not long before new stewards were bonding and making connections with others in the group.  The training covers the history and mission of the Forest Society, the basics of being a land steward, map/compass navigation and boundary monitoring, timber/forestry management, and trail maintenance.  We used the grounds around Cardigan Lodge for several of our outdoor sessions, and then traveled to Victor's Woods to look at the results of the recent harvest there.  

George Frame talking about a recent timber harvest at Victor's Woods.
Wendy measuring a pine

The group also had some down time to socialize or pursue their own activities in the late afternoon and evenings.  Some people climbed Mt. Cardigan (even in the early morning rain!) or explored the trails around Cardigan Lodge and Welton Falls State Forest.  On Friday night, the power went out for five hours (just after dinner, which was fortuitous for our bellies) so it was on to headlamps and flashlights for the evening.  The outage didn't deter our group from enjoying a nice campfire and the ambiance of the lodge by lamplight.

At Victors Woods the group learned that this reservation is a prime site for growing softwoods- 6 different species grow concurrently on the property.  Five species are pictured here in this group of seedlings- can you spot them?

Please join me in welcoming the new class of stewards to our community!  The Forest Society is proud to have so many talented, knowledgeable, and engaged volunteers helping us steward our lands!

Joslin Bennett (right) leading the map and compass session

Evening campfire on friday night

A group of new stewards taking a hike at Welton Falls (photo: G.Larson)

Lost River Gorge: still buried in snow!

At our annual spring cleaning workday at Lost River Reservation, we usually look forward to spreading mulch and pruning flower beds, painting signage and posts, sweeping the gorge boardwalk, doing some trail maintenance and pruning the native garden.  The amalanchier trees are usually blooming, and we worry about how bad the black flies will be.  This year spring was so slow in coming that by May there were no flies or flowers of any kind, and the primary task on our workday was snow removal from the gorge boardwalk!  As you can imagine, sending visitors down into a gorge filled with snow on opening day would be problematic, so our volunteers got to work with shovels and rock bars.  Dave Anderson, Rita Carroll, and Frank Allen led a group of about 15 volunteers (mostly land stewards) down into the gorge.  When the day was over and the boardwalk clear, Dave commented, "I was worried that we had too many people heading down for snow removal, but when we got down there and I saw how high the snow still was, I was glad to have all hands on deck!"  

Rita Carroll digs into the snow removal (photo: F. Allen)
A group of volunteer stewards and staff, finishing up a section (photo: D. Anderson)

Since there were more than 23 people at the workday, we still had volunteers to help with the regular pruning, mulching, painting, and trail work.  The folks with White Mountain Attractions (who operate the gorge in the summer) treated us to a delicious lunch inside the visitor center, where we could warm up from all that snow and ice and the bitter wind that was whipping during the workday.  It was a memorable Lost River spring cleaning for many of our volunteers who make this event an annual spring tradition.  Remember that year the snow in the gorge was up to our necks, and we had to shovel it all out?!?!

photo: F. Allen

Frank can't fit into this cave yet!  (photo: D.Anderson)

All clear!  (photo: F. Allen)
Some volunteers still got to shovel mulch this year.  Ken Marvin seems especially excited about that!  (photo: C.Deegan)

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!