Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Don't Be a Hater, Save the Pollinator!

ATC has just finished converting a large plot at the back of its Kellogg Conservation Center property into native pollinator habitat.  This project, funded through a USDA NRCS EQUIP grant as well as a contribution from the Lenox (MA) Garden Club, is one of the many ways that the Appalachian Trail Conservancy is actively engaging in land stewardship on this 98-acre property.  The area we chose is an old apple orchard that had been long abandoned.  Over the past few years during our volunteer workdays we have labored to clean out encroaching brush from around the trees, effectively releasing them.  As a result apple production has increased.  In order for apple trees to be pollinated, however, there must also be a healthy bee population (in addition to compatible species of apples.)  It is our hope that this 1-acre pollinator habitat will serve that purpose as well as generally providing plants that attract other native pollinators.  We plan to register the site as a Monarch Waystation as well.

As with many abandoned or marginal field edges, this site had a significant invasive plant infestation. The grant monies paid for a licensed herbicide applicator to treat the site twice this summer to kill unwanted vegetation.  We waited 6 weeks after the last application and then mowed down the dead stalks of what remained, raked the dead thatch out of the way to expose the soil, broadcast a pollinator mix from Ernst Seeds that is specific to the northeastern U.S., and then drove over the area thoroughly with a pickup truck to ensure good seed contact with the dirt.  With a little luck, this area will be a pollinator mecca next summer!

After the final herbicide treatment:

After mowing:

After raking:


Rolling to get good soil contact:

The finished product:

Out of curiosity, I did an internet search for pollinator slogans and here is what I came up with:

*Action is in order to stop colony collapse disorder

*Give Bees a Chance

* Let's agree to save the Bee

* Insecticides used on corn will make beekeepers mourn

And my favorite: "Don't Be A Hater, Save the Pollinator"

Monday, October 6, 2014

Berkshire Shepherd's Hut

I drove up to work this morning at the Kellogg Center and noticed a new addition to our grounds - a moveable sheepherder's shack!  Our neighbor, farmer J. Peter Maggio of Mayflower Farm, has been grazing sheep on the fields here and needed a way to occasionally keep watch o'er the flock by night.  This tastefully done structure allows him to spend some quality time with the critters while keeping predators at bay.  The shack, constructed of mostly locally sourced lumber, is on loan from Berkshire Shepherd Huts of Sheffield, MA and will be around for a week or two.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Housatonic Heritage Hike to Jug End

The fall brings the Housatonic Heritage Walk weekends.  They are held one weekend in September and one in October. The 2014 Heritage Walks are a partnership of the numerous heritage organizations in the Upper Housatonic River Valley, the Berkshire Visitors Bureau, and the National Park Service. The Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area is one of only 49 in the country designated by the federal government.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Yoga Hike Partnership Event: Hike Jug End & Yoga at KCC

This Sunday, September 14,  we were able to host the first Appalachian Trail Hike and Yoga event at the Kellogg Conservation Center. We welcomed the rays of sunshine after a chilly morning and rainy Saturday. This event was held in partnership with the organization She Jumps.  She Jumps mission is to encourage women to get outdoors. They have an outdoor education, youth initiatives, and Get the Girls Out programming. Tracy Remelius of Tracy Remelius Yoga, based in Tyringham, MA (a town the A.T. crosses through) is a Regional Coordinator for She Jumps who agreed to help guide the hike with Silvia Cassano, Trail Management Assistant here for ATC in Southern New England. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Feeling SHEEPish

The Kellogg Conservation Center recently welcomed some new additions to the property: sheep!  Our neighbor, Peter Maggio of Mayflower Farm, is using the southern pastures behind the barns to do rotational grazing with his sheep.  This allows him another option for pasturage and the opportunity to expand his operation while helping us keep those fields "mowed" and fertilized, as well as occasionally hayed.  We are excited to have livestock back on the farm again after an almost 2-year hiatus.
I found an old photo, below, from nearby Great Barrington, MA a while back that I thought was kind of cool.  Notice the lack of trees - it is hard to find a hillside like that nowadays in the Berkshires that has so few trees.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A.T. Community Summer Wrap-Up

This July, the Appalachian Trail Community of Great Barrington hosted a few events to get the word out about the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) in the Great Barrington area. It was a successful month and we engaged many community members and increased the awareness of the A.T. and volunteerism on the A.T. in our area.

We began July by doing some outreach at the local Great Barrington Farmer's Market, at it's new location at the newly revived Great Barrington Fairgrounds.  It was a really fun day! Locals and visitors were asking questions, taking maps, and looking for day hiking tips and suggestions along the A.T. and other trails nearby. We had an abundance of Great Barrington Trails and Greenways information and handouts as well.  We also received many useful suggestions from locals that have helped hikers in the past, or want to help out along the trail, we had some questions regarding finding trailheads from occasional hiker hosts, suggestion to make a day hikes on the A.T. in Great Barrington list, where to get a map set, and so on.

All in all, we reached a lot of people that we wouldn't normally reach that had a curiosity and interest about the A.T., local trails, and the fact that the Kellogg Conservation Center is a regional office for Appalachian Trail Conservancy and Appalachian Mountain Club staff. If the opportunity arises again, I think it would be fun to table again (especially if the goat sausage vendor is right next door again, mmm).

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Local Color

The flower gardens at the KCC are brilliant this time of year.  Below are a few photos of the gardens around the office on the south side of the building.  ATC has been working the past two years to improve these beds and reinvigorate them.  Thanks to the donation of expert advice, materials, and labor by Greg and Christine Ward of Ward's Nursery and Garden Center in Great Barrington (as well as other dedicated vols), we have been able to steadily bring a flush of seasonal color to highlight the property.  

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Spring projects herald the arrival of summer

As spring is giving way to summer - albeit a little more slowly than normal - the warmer weather is allowing us to address some lingering facilities issues such as rotten clapboards, painting needs, and gutters.  These issues are pretty much a constant on an old structure and the earliest part of the KCC dates to 1744.  Super volunteer Frank Morrison has been instrumental this spring in helping me assess and prioritize the work that needs to happen and how to go about getting it done.  He makes the trip out from Boston for a couple of days each week and his advice and skill as a tradesman has been invaluable.  Below are photos of him and his friend Owen putting a fresh coat of paint on the garage that houses all of the Appalachian Mountain Club's program tools and equipment.  The front of the structure was rotting away where the corner boards met the paved pad in front of the door, as were the first few courses of clapboards.  The gutters need attention as well, but that will probably not happen until next year.

Summer is also heralded in by the advent of haying season.  Old New Englanders had a saying that went something to the effect of "a rainy May means a barn full of hay".  I don't think our May was particularly rainy this year, but the hay has been growing.  Louis Aragi, of Pine Island Farm in Sheffield, showed up yesterday to begin this years first cutting.  He has a pretty well-oiled operation and they made short work of the fields.  The hay will go to feed his dairy cows.  

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Garlic Mustard Galore with Undermountain Elemetary's Trails to Every Classroom (T.T.E.C.) Students

We are lucky to have such an enthusiastic bunch of A Trail to Every Classroom (T.T.E.C.) students within 5 miles of the Kellogg Conservation Center. Fourth grade teacher at Undermountain Elementary, Sue Garcia, recently joined the T.T.E.C. program, and is very excited to have this great outdoor resource so close to her students’ indoor classroom.

Her students have had the chance to take to the outdoor classroom of the Appalachian Trail, going on several naturalist and invasive plant identification hikes with A.T.C. staff and Berkshire Appalachian Mountain Club/Berkshire A.T. Committee volunteers, and Great Barrington Trails partners.  They have had guest speakers talk about thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, and they learned about the Boundary and corridor protecting the Appalachian Trail.

On May 7th, Mrs. Garcia’s class came to the Kellogg Conservation Center (KCC) to work with us on an invasive plant removal project. Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is invading the trail near the KCC, especially on the East side of Route 41. The 13 students with their teachers and chaperones, listened attentively as ATC’s Northern Resource Management Coordinator, Marian Orlousky, explain and show what Garlic Mustard is, why it is non-native, why this time period in May is best to remove it (before it flowers and seeds), how to remove it, and how to dispose of it.

Marian Orlousky shows the students garlic mustard plants.

The very excited group predicted they would pull-up about 30 odd pounds of garlic mustard in their 3 hour timeframe. The group was joined by Steven Smith, the Mass A.T. Committee Natural Resources Coordinator, and Silvia Cassano, the Trail Management Assistant in Southern New England  based out of KCC.

Working feverishly, the group started filling more bags than they thought, focusing on getting all the garlic mustard in each square of space they were working on close to the trail.  The guessing for the total weight of the bags kept growing. A section-hiker even walked by and thanked them for what they were doing, and the kids asked him what his trail name was. Pulling invasives can get tiring, so the work was broken up by a few Leave No Trace Trail Ethic lessons. How far is 100’ off the trail? Your disposable water bottle takes how long to decompose? These kids have it down.

Busy at work
In total the 4th graders succeeded by ATC estimation (magical scales of experience) to have pulled up about 287± pounds of garlic mustard! They were very excited to be able to contribute the pounds they collected to the Garlic Mustard Challenge that The Stewardship Network out of Michigan hosts each year.

So many bags of garlic mustard!
We at the Kellogg Conservation Center /Appalachian Trail Conservancy look forward to working with Mrs. Garcia’s class and future classes again! Thank you to Steve Smith for helping to coordinate this day! We hope her students keep teaching what they know to the people in their lives. They already have become great stewards and are knowledgeable on so many topics involving hiking and the outdoors in the Berkshires! Three “Water Hydration Break Toasts” to Mrs. Garcia’s 4th Graders!

Other Resources:
-Read more about A Trail to Every Classroom
-Read Mrs. Garcia’s Blog Post on “Passing on the A.T. Bug”
-Another T.T.E.C. teacher’s blog on speaking to Mrs. Garcia’s Class on Thru-Hiking the A.T.
-Great Invasive Plant Guide on how to ID and control invasives:  “A Guide to Invasive Plants in Massachusetts”
-Quick Visual of Common Invasive Plants in Massachusetts by Mass Audubon
-Very Science-Minded article on Garlic Mustard from Harvard

-Leave No Trace Outdoor Ethics Activities for Kids!

Mrs. Garcia's Garlic Mustard Pulling Team

And one for fun...

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Day of Gracious Living

Students from nearby Berkshire School returned to the Kellogg Center property to participate in Gracious Living Day, which is a school-wide day of community service.  We received 6 hardworking students and 2 teachers (also hardworking!) that lent a hand to continue with spring clean up projects that were lingering after Saturday's annual volunteer workday.  ATC greatly appreciate's Berkshire School's interest in helping out in the community and several of the students had even spent time working or hiking on the A.T. via the Elbow Trail which is a blue-blaze side trail that leaves right from campus and is maintained by the students.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

7th Annual Volunteer Workday

The 7th Annual KCC Volunteer Workday on Saturday April 12th started with dense fog and cool temps which quickly yielded to spectacular spring sunshine and warmth.  It was a glorious day to be outdoors in the Berkshires and a record number of volunteers (28) - including 12 from the Madeiros family - undertook a wide variety of projects to help make the grounds considerably more vibrant and ready for the summer season.  The projects included garden restoration, farm gate installation, raking and re-seeding, fence removal, landscaping, staining of the barn,  and painting prep (scraping) on the house.  This is a great example of how volunteers of a variety of ages and possessing a diverse skill set can come together and all be engaged in what is going - there really is something for everybody to do.  Following the workday was the traditional BBQ provided by ATC.  It can safely be said that fun was had by all!

Special thanks to: Ward's Nursery in Great Barrington, Frank Morrison, and the Madeiros Family
Signing in

Scraping paint

Garden restoration

Mother and daughter gardeners

Staining the barn

Installing new farm gates


A future AT trailbuilder and her helpers 

Accepted gardening practice: watering new plants with...Budweiser??