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Crow’s Nest: About those cedars

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

A preserve visitor today stopped in today and talked with my wife Denise; he wondered why the cedars in the deep woods are dead, while others (presumably in hedgerows or other sunny places) are doing fine.

I wasn’t at the preserve today to answer this, one of my favorite questions. This query addresses the history of the land use as well as plant physiology, and references one of my favorite books, “Reading the Forested Landscape” by Tom Wessels with illustrations by Brian Cohen. It is part of the story we tell about the history of the land here, along with the cobblestone quarries also visible along our Deep Woods Trail, and barbed wire embedded in our trees.

The visitor didn’t leave his name or contact, so I mention it here. I wrote about this subject a while back. The presence of dead Eastern red cedar in our woods indicates that these woods were once clearcut. Cedar is an early-successional species that was later shaded out by the forest canopy that grew up around it. Cedar wood is rot-resistant so many of these trees died many years ago and their trunks and branches are left standing, indicators of the land’s history. Nature is a library, if we just know how to read it.

Crow’s Nest: Inside the house renovations

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

For those who missed our open house in October, here are some photos inside the “Jacob House” at Crow’s Nest Preserve. Our Building Stewardship staff has done a complete renovation of the building into two units for staff and interns. Later I’ll post a few before and after photos. These are a few details the work:

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Above, a corner of the kitchen cupboards with built-in window seat. Below, detail of a fireplace trim, carefully stripped and repainted. The house was originally the home of Henry and Elizabeth Swinehart and was built in 1817.

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Our staff added a window into one of the original walls to show what the original framing and lath look like beneath the plaster. Much more work went into this project than is visible in the finished product!

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Luke DiBerardinis made all of the handles and latch hardware, as well as the wall sconces.

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Even the stairs to the attic are dramatic:

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The main stairs were rebuilt but the handrail is original.

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The attic is a beautiful space with surprisingly airy light, at least until it gets filled with items to store.

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Here’s the kitchen shelves and looking into the living room, taken from within the walk-in fireplace.

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And the walk-in fireplace, once buried behind drywall.

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A closeup of the door Luke made for the bread oven in the fireplace.

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We hope you enjoy these photos! We are very fortunate to have talented, dedicated people on staff who do this work, and private donors who are willing to fund it. Although it was difficult to corner them for a photo, the three people who worked on this project every day for years are Steve Holmburg, Scott DiBerardinis, and Luke DiBerardinis. Bob Johnson supervised the project and several more people joined the effort to complete it: on staff Steve Longnecker helped for the last few months and volunteers Eloise and Pete Smyrl did a lot of the wood trim prep, painting, and cleaning. Many others contributed time and labor—thanks to you all!

 

Crow’s Nest: Welcome Cody Hudgens

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

Cody Hudgens

He’s already been here a month and intern Cody Hudgens has jumped in on several projects. Cody comes to us from Riverside, California, and is looking forward to new experiences at Crow’s Nest and with our east coast climate.

Cody has a background in Geographic Information Systems and has extensive experience working at kids’ nature camps. He also managed a theater and its staff. He has helped out with the fall kids’ programs here, taken on fall vine control, undergone chainsaw training, and helped at a Force of Nature volunteer day.

He has moved into the apartment created in the newly renovated house at 401 Piersol Road, just up the road from the visitor center. We’re happy that Cody is here. If you see him on the preserve please welcome him!

Mariton: Wilderness First Aid

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Back in 2008 several Natural Lands Trust staff members participated in a Wilderness First Aid and CPR course.   The course was conducted by Wilderness Medical Associates at our Hildacy Farm headquarters.  This is an intensive two day/16 hour course, with about half of the time spent covering how our bodies react to an array of injuries that one might encounter in places where help is not a quick call to 911.  The other half of the course is spent outside (rain or shine, cold or hot) analyzing a number of mock scenarios, and treating patients for everything from lightning strikes to bad falls.   It was a wet and cold November weekend, so if you were a patient in one of the scenarios you could be lying on the ground for some time while your “rescuers” figured out what the problem was and came up with a course of action.  We usually conducted our analyses of the various scenarios outside also.  (We froze.)

I was enthusiastic about taking the course, because emergency personnel would have difficulty quickly reaching some areas at Mariton and other NLT preserves in the case of an accident.  The fact that I spend a bit of free time in remote places with friends and loved ones made taking the course even more relevant.  Quite frankly, the course was intimidating and I left feeling concerned about my abilities.  The class was great and I did very well, but I felt a little overwhelmed by all the circumstances that one needs to take into consideration when assessing a patient.

Still I thought it was important knowledge, so I decided to recertify in 2011 at the Adirondack Mountain Club’s Heart Lake Center.  I felt much more comfortable after taking the class a second time.  I was still nervous, but I felt I processed the information better the second time.  The instructors were fantastic and brought real world scenarios into the classroom that made understanding the materials easier.  The weather was challenging during that class also.

This past weekend I returned to the Adirondacks for a recertification course.  (The course is offered all over the world, but this was the only course that worked with my schedule.)  It was cold and snowy, but I knew the drill and came prepared for the situation.  (Saturday started in the teens and reached 30F.  Sunday was a balmy 38F, but there was still snow on the ground.)  Well, the third time was the charm.  I came away with much more confidence.  The information really clicked this time.  I did really well in the scenarios; quickly analyzing patients’ problems and formulating treatment.  Again, the instructors were great at making all this information understandable.

One of the things that kept coming up (and has guided me for many years during my work and play) is that prevention is key.  Being prepared for anything prevents a lot of accidents.  Preparation also keeps those minor accidents from becoming life threatening situations.  Donning a life jacket before getting into your kayak, or wearing micro-spikes when it is icy are two examples of simple things that can protect us when we do what we love outdoors.  So, be careful out there.  (Sorry, no photos.  As I said this class is really intense.  There were opportunities for the camera, but I stayed focused on the class, not photo documenting it.)

Crow’s Nest: Luckier than it looks

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

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This is probably not the kind of photo you’d expect to see on this blog. But there is a story here about good fortune, generosity, and skill. If a person is going to break down in an aging Natural Lands Trust preserve truck, let it be at ChesLen Preserve.

I arrived Wednesday for a habitat management meeting at ChesLen, a central location for the parties involved, and there was smoke pouring out of the left rear wheel well. I had driven the truck so that I could also pick up a box grader from our Stroud Preserve for grading gravel driveways—we always try to combine trips for efficiency.

Fortunately Preserve Manager and mechanic David Casteneda was in his workshop that morning, and offered to take a look at it. By the time I got out of the meeting he had already purchased a replacement brake caliper and was installing it. The rubber seals around the pistons had degraded, dirt got in behind the piston and wouldn’t let it retract.

David had stopped all his work to get me back on the road. And he said, the brake pads come in sets of four, so let’s do the ones on the other side too, that will be one less thing to do when it gets inspected.

By lunchtime I was back on the road and brought the road grader back to Crow’s Nest. This isn’t the first time David has come through for me. I recall a late Friday afternoon once when our mower broke down and he fixed it and had me on my way so that the mowing could resume immediately. Thanks, David!

It’s pretty wonderful to be a part of an organization of people who have varied skills and who are generous with their time.

Mariton: Stumping for Wildlife

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Wildlife stump

The credit for this idea belongs to Marilyn, a member of the Mariton’s informal Bird Club.  She was having tree work done at her house after Hurricane Sandy, and while the crew was there she had concerns about a tree with branches hanging over her house and the neighbor’s property.  Common practice would have been to cut the tree completely down, but she asked the company to cut the tree to a height that would not endanger structures if it fell.  She stood resolute in face of the tree trimmers’ misgivings and ended up with a standing tree trunk.  Two years later, that tree trunk provides a natural bird feeder and wildlife habitat in her yard.

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She told me about her plans at the time and I thought it was brilliant.  Lots of sources suggest leaving dead standing trees for wildlife, but Marilyn’s idea of converting a tree that needed to be removed into a standing stump is a novel approach.  As birders, we reflexively check out snags, dead trees,  and stumps because we know they attract insects which in turn attract a variety of birds like woodpeckers, chickadees, and nuthatches.  These snags also provide hunting perches for birds like bluebirds, flycatchers and hawks.  The photo examples in this article are from Mariton.  Some will continue to stand for decades; some are nearly compost. All have been visited by wildlife regardless of whether they are skinny, wide, short or tall.

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So, if you need a tree removed in your yard because it poses a hazard, you might consider leaving the trunk at a safe height.  Nature made the stumps in these photos, but there is no reason we can’t simulate what nature does in our own yard (just as we do when we put up bird boxes).  One of Marilyn’s great success stories is watching Hairy Woodpeckers visit the stump that she left standing for wildlife.

Another Stump

Crow’s Nest: Force of Nature cleanup

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

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Force of Nature volunteers made a lot of progress this weekend at Crow’s Nest Preserve, cleaning up a dump that is on land that is a relatively recent addition to the preserve. This is the third FoN workday we’ve spent on these acres; for the first two we focused mainly on invasive plants. But our interns also worked on the bigger trash items over this past summer. Now we’re left mainly with household trash, bags that were dumped in the woods instead of disposed of in a landfill. The bags decomposed just enough that they broke into little pieces and all the cans and bottles had to be picked up and put in new bags.

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This is one of two piles we generated Sunday. Three TV’s, a child car seat, a bunch of tires we will take to be recycled, and a dozen bags of trash for this workday. On the plus side, our cleanup over the summer generated scrap metal that we traded for $99!

Some of the trash contained artifacts from the late 1980′s or 1990′s—so after a time when people should have known better than to throw their trash in the back 40, not to mention that it could have been recycled. Most of the dumps we have cleaned up at the preserve in the past were much older, from a time when dumping was a common, even accepted.

I am aware of the irony of picking up trash in one place only to bury it in another, but I work from the understanding that a landfill is a place where the trash is managed, contained, and where it has a less negative impact on natural resources.

We’ll have another workday here in the winter of the new year, feel free to join us for a satisfying afternoon. Check back for details.

 

Paunacussing Preserve

(*Click on the photo to enlarge)

Diabase Farm Preserve

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Mariton: Rolling Climax

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager.  Photos by Carole Mebus and Ed Norman

NORMAN FALL COLOR 10-28-14

Photo by Ed Norman

On Tuesday, Susan asked about peak fall color timing.  I have become less fond of this term, even though I still use it quite a bit.  Over time I have noticed some differences between autumns here and my boyhood home in Michigan.  It took me quite a few years to put my finger on it, but I finally think the difference is all about species diversity.  Growing up we really did have peak colors when all the leaves seemed to turn at once and humble you with the beauty.  If you went farther north the peak was even more apparent.  But, if you got a heavy rain or an early frost your fall colors could be lost instantly.

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Photo by Carole Mebus

Mariton is dazzling too, but much more gradual.  Right now, the leaves on several species have long since fallen, but the oaks and beeches are still green.  The hickories are flame yellow, the maples are flame red, and the Sassafras are flame orange.  Only a couple weeks ago, the palette was a totally different set of species and amazing colors.

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Photo by Ed Norman

When you get to locales with limitations for plants you are going to have less species that can thrive under the conditions.  The limiting parameters could be temperature extremes, amount of rainfall, amount of wind, etc.  Or it could have to do with soil types, soil pH, amount of water in the soil, and even which direction the slope faces.  When you have less species, it is more likely that you will have these short but dynamic peaks of autumn color.

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Photo by Carole Mebus

At Mariton, and most of Southeastern Pennsylvania, we are blessed with a moderate climate and good soils.   We are also at the crux of several eco-regimes:  the coastal plain, the Piedmont, the Pocono plateau, etc.  It gives us a huge diversity of species.  It also gives us a rolling climax of colors and enjoyment.  So you shouldn’t plan to go out just one weekend to take in the color, but every weekend for two months.

Norman Milkweed art

Photo by Ed Norman

I hope your “socks are knocked off” by these amazing photos.  That was my response when Ed and Carole sent me these photos following Tuesday’s walk.  If your socks are knocked off, then put them back on, lace up your shoes and get outside to enjoy the amazing scenery!

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Photo by Carole Mebus

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