Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Earth Day/Arbor Day at Arington Tree Farm

It was another successful Earth Day/Arbor Day celebration here at Arington Tree Farm.  


Each year we invite the Fourth grade class from Cambridge Elementary School, as well as the students of Walbridge, our partnership school, to join us in celebration of Earth Day and Arbor Day.   

We break them up into five groups, to rotate through stations and learn about different aspects of the environment.

This years stations included Tree Planting, Birds of the Farm, Aquatic Plants and Wildlife, Tree Cookies and The Good Oak.


For Tree planting, the students took turns digging holes and planting trees that will live here on the farm.  They were taught the importance of planting trees and how to properly plant them. They were assisted by the interns of the Aldo Leopold Foundation, as well as our staff here on the farm.



Students of Cambridge gather around a planted tree.
Students of Walbridge digging away.





From there, they moved on to Bird watching.  They were guided by Dan Schneider from WDNR.  Dan taught the students different bird sounds to help them identify the birds that live here on the farm.  They also used binoculars to get a closer look and to identify where the sounds were coming from.






The next station they visited was Aquatic Plants and Wildlife lead by Clare Carlson from Friends of Glacial Heritage Area.  Clare used games and a tour of the pond to teach the kids how water plays a crucial role in supporting wildlife, plants and a healthy ecosystem.






The Fourth Station, Tree Cookies, was a chance for the students to learn about the rings of the trees and what these rings can tell us.  They were lead by Loren Hanson of the WWOA Blackhawk Chapter.  Loren had the children examine an old stump to see what they could learn from it.  They also used this time to decorate individual tree cookies.


Students checking out a tree stump and it's rings.
Making tree cookies of their own.


The final station, The Good Oak, was lead by Carson Main from the Aldo Leopold Foundation.  Carson used our signature Oak tree to discuss with the kids the Oak trees age, what the tree has seen and experienced through the years, and how this applies to the students and their own lives.  He had the students use journals to draw their own tree rings and to describe, as best as they could recall, something significant that happened to them during each of these years of their lives.



Students gathered under our signature Oak Tree to learn about the Good Oak.

We finished the day with the Walbridge students, the Cambridge students had to head back at lunch time, painting the picnic tables they had constructed during their visit in March.  They also had some free time to fly kites and adventure around the farm.






We couldn't have asked for a better day or better company.  We look forward to doing it all over again next year.

I'd like to extend a special thank you to all of our volunteers who made this event possible, Loren Hanson, Carson Main, Dan Schneider, Clare Carlson, Holly Schnitzler, Marie Burgette Bach, Kristin and Russ Stockwell and Dain, Dan, Carl and Emily, interns at the Aldo Leopold Foundation.  It couldn't have gone on without you.


Friday, April 18, 2014

frosted cup plant...



frosted Silphium perfoliatum...

An April morning sun salutation.


For those of you, who unlike the author, are not in a constant state of learning and then as quickly forgetting the scientific names of plants, may God bless you. This is the same plant that I was watering last year at the whopping rate of one-tenth of a mile per hour. When a guy spends fifteen hours in a Bobcat his mind has only so many directions to go. I used that time to actually put to memory Silphium perfoliatum.


The view from the Bobcat watering cup plants last summer.

I had hoped that the harsh winter of 2013-14 and the late start that we gave these plants wouldn't be their doom. A few days ago, I saw the first Silphium peak through the cold, wet soil. It would appear that we all have truly made it out of winter. I will try and keep you posted as to how my study of scientific names go and to the progress of the cup plant.





Thursday, March 13, 2014

A visit from the Walbridge School

Yesterday, we hosted Walbridge, our partnership school, here on Arington Tree Farm.  There is a section of the farm that we have designated to them, called fittingly, The Walbridge Woods.  They come 4 times a year to maintain and improve it.  

The Students and Staff of Walbridge.



Joe with some of the kids.



The day started out cold and snowy, but we kept warm by putting the kids to work, hauling wood and brush.

The students made an assembly line to move wood and brush out of the woods and onto the trail.

They then loaded the wood up onto the Bobcat, for Arik to take to the wood pile.




Dennis picked up the brush pile with the Grapple, and took it to the trail head.
 The students then added the brush to a bonfire. This kept them busy and warm, and they had big fun doing it!




After lunch we put them to work building picnic tables, that will be placed in their woods, so they have a place to sit, eat lunch and enjoy all of their hard work.  





It was a great day!! 
 Thank you students and staff of Walbridge.  We look forward to many more adventures with you in the future.


Monday, March 3, 2014

Making room to grow.

It still feels like the dead of winter here in Wisconsin, and with no end in sight, the winter pruning continues here on Arington Tree Farm. Today's winner, The River Birch, located along the beautiful  4 Winds Pond.  

Arik assessing who stays and who goes.


The River Birch were planted in 2004 and have continued to thrive with the great soil and sunny location they are provided.  However, they were planted with the anticipation of being thinned, and with these beauties thriving like they are, spacing is getting mighty crowded.  

Over the past 2 or 3 years, Arik has done a great job vista pruning the River Birch to open up the view of the pond.  But, the time has come to say goodbye to 12 of the trees, so that the survivors can spread out and continue to grow and thrive.  


Arik used a tree sheer to remove the chosen ones.

Dennis then piled up the wood and hauled it away to be used in our boiler.



The finished product is stunning.  It has opened up the view immensely, and it's pleasing to know that the remaining trees will have the opportunity to spread out and grow.

The finished product.


In just 40 short years, they will be mature enough to harvest.
Stay tuned!!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Orderly Oaks and Winter Reflections


The other day, I spent four hours pruning oak trees. The trees were a combination of Bur oak, Swamp white oak, and White oak. The White oak varietals do get a little worked up about not having a fun descriptor like "swamp" at the beginning of their name.  As a result, I try not to mention the soggy bottom boy's name in earshot of that which keeps his/her feet in drier climes. 

My purpose in pruning these trees is to produce a clear log. And no, clear does not mean a David Blaine illusion of see-through wood. Clear, means a straight tree with no branches coming off the main trunk until the upper half.  A log lacking branch unions creates wood that has no knots and therefor keeps the grain desirable, straight, and strong. Straight grain wood is characterized by all of the wood fibers laying in the same alignment. If you go to Steinhafels and look at any wood entertainment center, you will be looking at straight grain wood. 

The attached photo shows how nicely the row of trees look after pruning. With these trees properly pruned, I have better access to manage this woodlot for invasive species. The financial return, albeit a long time from now, on clear logs is vastly greater than trees that have never been touched by the pruner's saw. The aesthetic of the line of trees is also undeniable. These trees were planted in a straight row more than ten years ago with the use of a mechanical planter pulled by a tractor. Straight to slightly curved rows are the only spatial arrangement options when using a mechanical planter.




Here is where I get romantic. This woodlot is clean and orderly, or at least it will be once I get Dennis to pick up the brush, but it isn't natural. In my observations of nature, I have never seen such linear order. Nature is the murmurations of sparrows. Nature is acorns planted scattershot by the hopping grey squirrel. Nature is a glacial erratic found in a leafless wood

I find it incredibly ironic how hard I have worked at this woodlot to create a valuable product. I am developing high grade lumber, which is the intended purpose for the trees in this woodlot. A pruned row is notable, but it isn't beautiful. So as I continue with my work, I will appreciate the beauty of nature which is more valuable than my straight rows, straight trunks, freshly pruned oak trees. 





I don't like to use qualifiers. In editing my blog entries, I am consistently reminded of my verbosity. Every blowhard has someone to keep terra firma underfoot. Becky is my Muse and that who keeps me grounded. In other words she qualifies me as being relevant. Here we are on a nice winter walk, chasing away cabin fever.




Thursday, January 16, 2014

Someone, get me some cheese.

It's Christmas, yet again, here on the farm.  Our cheese boards have arrived. If you can't tell by the look on Arik's face, we are thrilled.

Arik eyeing up the goods.

The cheese boards were made using the wood of one of our beloved trees that was taken down in December of 2012 due to safety concerns.  It was a big oak and it stood here on the farm for approximately 200 years.

The Big Oak.

Each cheese board is unique and beautiful in it's own way.  The big challenge is going to be picking a favorite.

No two alike.

The finishing touches of adding our logo will be underway soon.  Once complete, these lovely cheeseboards will be looking for new homes and some delicious Wisconsin cheese to accompany it.  We'll be sure to keep any of you folks who may be interested in one posted.


While I'm here, I'd also like to introduce you to our newest employee, Dennis (aka "D").  He recently moved here from Wyoming and started here on the farm last week. He's a great addition to our team and has been a huge asset to us already, mostly assisting Arik.  We are happy to have him and look forward to our journey ahead.

Welcome "D."

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A sawmill for Christmas

To say the Farm closed out the last quarter of the year with a bang, would be a monstrous understatement. As autumn was coming to a close and Old Man Winter was settling in with all of his white, fluffy goodness, we were anticipating a very special delivery. During the first week of November we ordered a TimberKing portable sawmill. The lead time on the order was four to six weeks. Needless to say, we were waiting anxiously and on Tuesday, December 31, the mill arrived.


This photo isn't particularly in focus. Overnight lows were -10 and this picture was taken with temperatures having inched up only a handful of degrees. I suppose my phone camera didn't want to work in such extreme temps, and I can't blame it…..I didn't want to work in them either.

One of the reasons the tree farm has had such success in forestry management, and I'd like to think a reason we won the Tree Farm of the year award, is because we have always had a plan. The addition of a sawmill is the Farms first major step of a new plan.

The sawmill will give us the ability to efficiently cut logs into lumber. The farm has access to wood that will make beautiful slabs for coffee tables, dinning tables, desk, and benches. Here is a photo of book matched hickory. The next few steps of this new plan include building a kiln out of a storage container and creating a space in the Husker Barn to do woodworking. 


Stay tuned, if we get some warmer weather, I'll do a post on using the sawmill. Additionally, I'll share with you my furniture design ideas, think live-edged slabs with metal bases. And also, how to create a kiln out of a shipping container.