Monday, December 9, 2013

The new perspective

A careful eye might notice the wall of Stihl chainsaws or the handle of a snowblower in the background. The subject matter of the photo that I wanted to highlight are the tires on the A220. The A220 skid-steer has somewhat of a middle child mentality out here, on Arington Tree Farm. Its doesn't have the speed of the Bobcat 5600 Toolcat utility vehicle. It also lacks the lifting capacity or the go anywhere attitude of the T300 tracked Bobcat. Simply put, this skid-steer is somewhere in the middle. 

However, the life of this middle child does have at least one perk. The A220 is lucky enough to be reshod biannually. Let me preface that the shoe change isn't a new pair of shoes twice a year. It's simply switching back and forth between a nice weather pair of loafers (turf tires) and bad weather pair of steel toe boots (utility tires). The spring time, turf tire swap is waited for with bated breathe as it signifies the start of the more temperate weather. The winter, utility tire swap is something more of an ominous event. Irregardless of the date on the calendar, our winter starts once the A220 has the aggressive tire pictured in the foreground. 

So the significance of this photo is; I have resigned to the the fate that Old Man Winter has in store for us out here on the farm. The proper foot ware is currently being worn (on all four tires even) by our lovely middle child. And in parting I'll make a confession. It might not be a confession, as much as an act of rebellion on my part. I won't put the chains on those dang winter tires until the night before they are needed or before the first major winter storm. Which ever comes first. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

A farewell to Holly

The last 1065 days at the Arington Tree Farm have been quite interesting.  That is the number of days that Holly has worked with us.  Of course we did allow her some time off for holidays, weekends, vacations and the occasional sick day.  Over this time she has brought so much energy and professionalism to our team.  It has not quite settled in that today is her last day before going on to greener pastures.  My sense is, we are all in a state of denial.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

31 new land stewards

Walbridge students have been visiting the farm over the past six years, but yesterday's visit was a bit different, more special than any of their visits in the past. 

We've dedicated part of our woods to the Walbridge students. As we made the announcement yesterday, it was awesome to see the pride and honor on their faces. They've been to the Farm a number of times, but their whole demeanor shifted when they realized they now had a special place here.  

Joe making the Walbridge Woods announcement.
We started the day off by dodging rain drops as we toured around Walbridge Woods. Arik pointed out different tree species, invasive plants and pests, and introduced various management concepts to the students. 

Arik leading a tour through Walbridge Woods.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The best tree ever!

Quercus macrocarpa, the mighty Bur oak. This particular specimen holds a near and dear place in my heart. It is my favorite tree on Arington Tree Farm. But if we can keep that a secret between you the reader and myself, I would appreciate it. I would hate to be waylaid by a branch from one of the jealous Boxelders that bookend my special oak.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Introducing... Walbridge Woods!

It's hard to believe but we've been working with Walbridge School over the past six years! Walbridge students and staff come to the Farm a few times during the year to learn...


and play.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Making the video!

Earlier this summer, before the National Tree Farm Convention, a videographer visited the Farm. He spent the day interviewing Joe, chatting with the grandkids, and watching Arik work in the field. The footage was edited and turned into this little ditty, which was used to announce Joe as the National Tree Farmer of the Year:

Here's the lowdown on what that day was like "behind the scenes!"

Friday, September 27, 2013

Fish fry on the Farm

Last week we invited our Tree Farm friends and family over for a night of food and music. Similar to our wine night back in June, we wanted this to be a fun, social outing - bringing people together and to the Farm not necessarily for an educational purpose but to relax and enjoy the outdoors. (And give a hip-hip-hooray to Joe on his award!)

However, the weather forecast was predicting Mother Nature was finally going to give us some rain, so we moved the event indoors. On the flip side, our barn cleans up awfully nice!

Joel helped us with a delicious cheese course and we had our new, beautiful mugs on hand to hold everyone's drink of choice.
Thank you Deneen Pottery - we couldn't love the mugs more!
About the time the caterers had the fish fry ready, some ominous clouds started rolling in. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

It's a bird.. no a plane!.. No, definitely a hot air balloon

This morning Arik ran into the office yelling "Holly, you don't want to miss this! And grab a camera!"

Arik never yells... or runs... so I knew this was serious! I grabbed the camera and followed him outside. This is what we saw:

Monday, September 23, 2013


The last few weeks have been full of activity here on Arington Tree Farm. September 20 was the move in date for the new office space. I had a few responsibilities leading into that date, one of which was to build a desk for Holly. My hope was to use some of the live edged Bur oak. However, it is still being kiln dried and therefore unavailable. My only other option was using the lumber from my sawmill test drive.

For the desk frame I used 1"x3" rectangular steel tubing. My hope was that the desk design would allow for access from either side. The rectangular steel tubing added a dimensional depth to the legs over the square tubing that I have used in previous projects.

The photo below shows the for legs cut to length. Also shown in the photo are levelers on the bottom of the legs. These allow the desk to be adjusted for an uneven floor.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Perfect day for a swim

The temperatures in the second half of the summer have sure changed from the cool and rainy June. The work project that this blog entry focuses on is a project perfect for a warm day. 

Remember our pesky resident beaver? Our last battle with him was in December and all signs indicate I was victorious as we haven't seen it since. 

However, the damage that was incurred from the beaver was still noticeable as the Kitchi-Manitou pond level was precariously high due to a plugged pipe. The only solution was to go for a swim and get things flowing again by unclogging the pipe.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The future is in our hands

During the last few weeks of my internship at the farm we  spent the majority of our time in the Walbridge Woods. While working on the approximately 15 acre forest, we constantly heard birds calling, saw chipmunks playing and were fully aware that the mosquitoes were alive and well. We even saw a painted turtle scoot across the trail the other day.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Friday, August 30, 2013

When things don't go as planned...

Arik is taking advantage of the dry August days by using the Bobcat to mow some typically swampy areas. I wanted to capture this for the blog, so headed down Husker Road hoping to catch him action. And I did get a couple action shots:

And then, this:

Thursday, August 22, 2013

What grows up, must come down

Arik and I

Through most of this summer I have been working on timber stand improvements on the farm. I have been making my way through the woods working from the ground up. I started by using the brush mower to clear the knee high shrubs and trees. Then, I transitioned into using the brush saw to remove thumb size diameter trees and shrubs. The hand saw (my favorite) came next to cut down small trees (6” in diameter or less). I have been driving the tool cat andusing the bobcat with the grapple. But, up until last week, something had been missing from summer experience.  You guessed it—the chain saw!

While working the Walbridge Woods, I got my first hands on experience with the chain saw. Arik briefly went over the functions and safety of the chainsaw while we were in the woods, and demonstrated how to do a wedge and bore cut on an Elm before letting me tackle my first tree.
Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I created this image to give a better understanding of what a wedge and bore cut looks like.

Arik started by using the chain saw to score the bark where I would be making my cuts. We discussed what would happen with each cut, about the tension and compression of the cells and how the cuts would effect them.
Arik scoring the tree

Monday, August 19, 2013

Save the Cup Plants!

The last week has been warm and dry, prompting us to dive head-first into a plant advocacy campaign:

The plugs got a good drink on planting day and a couple days after when 0.4" rain fell. However, the sun has been relentless lately. We have a thirsty field of cup plants crying for H2O. 

Arik, the Tree Farm's Bruce Wayne, heard their plea and effortlessly came to the rescue with this rigged up watering system: 

Friday, August 16, 2013

ALF intern work day at the Farm

On Wednesday the Tree Farm hosted an intern work day for my fellow interns at the Aldo Leopold Foundation (ALF). Arik lent us his time and knowledge on some bigger equipment that we do not have at ALF. I have been fortunate to be able to use most of the equipment on a regular basis while working here this summer and I was thrilled to be able to share the experience with my fellow interns: Leann, Cameron, and Emily.

The three of us girls started the morning by familiarizing ourselves with the Stihl brush saw. We worked as a team to cut down Buckthorn and clear the area. One of us used the saw while the others removed the small trees and the other treated the stump with Garlon. We put the Buckthorn in piles in order to practice using the grapple attachment on the 220 Bobcat.

Emily handling the brush saw in the thicket of Buckthorn

Leann cutting out Buckthorn using the brush saw

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Who is Susan? And how did she get a blackeye?

I cannot say with certainty that this is the first of our black-eyed Susan to bloom, but it is one of the first. On Sunday we received almost a half-inch of much needed rain which must have provided the catalyst for the plants flower. On my Monday morning commute, this lovely sight greeted me. 

The overall status of the black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) field is promising. The first three weeks after the seeding, Arington Tree Farm like much of Wisconsin, had an abundance of rain.

I have continued to mow a perimeter around the planting to prevent Canada thistle from going to seed and infiltrating the field. However, we do have two weeds in the field: common lambsquarter and pigweed. Agrecol will soon be spraying Prowl, a water-based herbicide, to control these weeds.

Stay tuned, I will post more photos of the field once more black-eyed Susan bloom and keep you updated on the cup plants.

Monday, August 12, 2013

20,000+ plugs later...

Last week we finished our prairie project by putting in roughly 20,000 cup plants!

Agrecol brought out a tractor, the planter, and a truck-full of plugs.

These plugs started as seeds at an Agrecol green house.
It is a good thing we had a whole crew lined up to help - all of those hands were needed! Six people sat on the planter and fed plugs. Another 6-10 were needed to walk behind the planter to ensure it was calibrated correctly, make sure the plugs were going in okay, and quickly break up any clogs in the planter.

Getting the planter loaded with cup plant.

Part of the work crew in front of the fully loaded planter.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Makin' some lumber

On Monday, Rachel and I took a road trip to the sleepy little town of Johnson Creek, Wisconsin. The purpose of our trip was to use a bandsaw mill to saw two white oak logs and to view a lumber drying kiln. 

The Alaskan chainsaw mill that we have put to work on Arington Tree Farm has given us a stack of live edge, slab lumber. Unfortunately, before we can build anything with it, we will have to get some moisture out of the wood. The passive approach would be allowing the lumber to air dry. However, with the thick slabs that we milled, it would take years to dry to a workable level - approximately 6-8% moisture content for interior applications. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

National Tree Farmer of the Year!

Last weekend we traveled up to Minneapolis to attend the National Tree Farm Convention. During the closing banquet we heard the announcement we've been waiting for -- Joe was named National Tree Farmer of the Year!

Joe and family receive the award.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Birds of all shapes, sizes and colors!

Yesterday Aaron and Graham presented their bird, amphibian and reptile survey findings.

Aaron and Graham presenting to the Farm family and crew.
Throughout their two months of surveying, they spotted 73 different species of birds (including the yellow-bellied sapsucker that was posted on our Facebook page)!

A photo collage of all the birds spotted on the Farm - click here to see a labeled collage.

We have six distinct types of habitat here (mature forests, ag fields, ponds, grasslands, tree plantations and marshland), so it was interesting to learn about the species that were attracted to each area of the Farm. Our plantation areas, or stands with relatively young trees, seem to be most attractive to birds - and also offered Aaron and Graham the best opportunity to view a wide variety of birds.

They're working on a more in-depth report and management suggestions; we'll share a copy of it here once it's ready to go!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Cleaning up Husker Road

This photo was taken  about half way through  the project.

Over the past few weeks Arik, Graham, and I have been diligently working on the south side of Husker Road to improve aesthetics and prepare it for future trees. Removing the under story vegetation will allow for more sunlight to hit Husker Road in the winter and allow for the snow to melt more easily. 

This particular area has been habitat to buckthorn, honeysuckle and grapevine for approximately the last fifteen years. The grapevine that we removed was unbelievably huge! 

When the vines get this big they can suffocate the host trees. They climb up the trunk and take over the canopy with their broad leaves shading out the other leaves and  twist tightly around the branches. Arik and I have decided to remove the vine when and where we can.

Here Arik is removing a grape vine and Graham is rolling up a bit of rusty barbed wire.
This stretch of land that we have been working on is not very large, but it has a lot of history and character. We left a couple of neat looking snags and stumps that keep stories from the past alive. We removed an old barbed wire fence that at one point must have been used to outline a pasture for cattle. Along the fence we found glass soda bottles and old Pabst Blue Ribbon cans. It is interesting to see into the past of the people that worked the land before us.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Snakes alive!

How many snakes do you see in this photo? Scroll down for the answer!
In addition to the bird survey, Graham and Aaron are also conducting reptile (snakes!) and amphibian (frogs!) surveys on the Farm this summer. All of these surveys will help us understand the different species and varieties of creatures that habitat here.

Last week I told Graham I would "love" to go along with him when he does his next snake survey. Well, not literally love it - snakes creep me out! - but interesting to see what it was all about. However this morning I was unprepared when Graham rolled up to the office and told me today was the day - my opportunity to see snakes! It's probably a good thing I forgot - likely would have kept myself awake last night, fretting about it.

A Northern redbelly getting comfy in Graham's hand. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Tears in my coffee

This is not exactly a photo of vitality. It is a photo of one of the Kentucky coffee trees that was planted this spring here on Arington Tree Farm. The reason for this saplings current sad state isn't a mystery to us. But, it is most definitely a learning experience.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Feeding "The Hungry Hippo"

Hi! For those of you who have not met me yet, my name is Lyndsey, and I am a summer intern at the tree farm. I am working at the farm in partnership with the Aldo Leopold Foundation (ALF). I spend three days a week at ALF and two days at the farm. While at the farm I spend most days working with Arik. 

We began working on a timber stand improvement (TSI) project on June 12th. We are working in the Spruce/ Hardwood stand just north west of the Husker Barn. The stand was planted in 2000 with goals of tall straight hardwoods. The Spruce is planted to increase the straightness of the hardwoods. The plan is to remove the spruce for pulpwood after about 30 years to allow the hardwoods to better utilize the space and nutrients. 

The picture above shows what the stand looked like before we started the project. The stand has rows of Spruce with rows of oak, walnut, and hickory between them. We have been working hard to clean up the rows and remove some of the under story species.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

It's getting snappy here on the farm....

It's that time of year again here on the farm. New life is popping up all over and the rebirth is in full swing.

One species that has become a regular sight lately here on the farm is the snapping turtle.  It's not uncommon to see them on Husker Rd. as they are busy trying to find the perfect spot to lay their eggs.

 A female Snapper laying eggs.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia commons

In fact, a few weeks ago Arik witnessed a snapping turtle climbing to the top of our mulch pile.  He was able to capture a photo of her big adventure.  

Female Snapper here on the farm looking for a nesting spot
A week or so later, as I was shoveling mulch, I stumbled upon a large pile of ping pong shaped eggs.  I immediately covered them back up, well, after a picture of course, and have been checking daily to make sure they haven't been disturbed by predators.

Friday, June 14, 2013

My stint as a Bird Habitat Assessment intern

Aaron and Graham, students from UW-Madison, are conducting a bird and reptile habitat assessment on the Farm this summer. Early each morning, they observe birds at various points around the Farm; the inventory they're creating will help us understand what birds are using our property and how we can further enhance the habitat here. An absolute novice, I was curious about their work so on Tuesday morning joined them in the field. Here's how it all went down: 

5 AM – My alarm goes off. Snooze!

5:47 AM – I've made it to the Farm and eat a quick breakfast while the Keurig brews a hot cup of joe.

6:22 AM – Where are these dudes?? We were supposed to meet at 6 but I don't mind waiting. It's a beautiful morning on the Farm. Mist is rising off 4 Winds Pond and the bullfrogs are shouting to one another. 

4 Winds Pond, 6 AM - a little piece of heaven.

6:28 AM – Graham and Aaron arrive, offer me some binoculars and talk about the morning's agenda. They have hit the majority of the 80-some observation points plotted around the farm. I bought new rubber boots last night and am anxious to get them dirty and wet, so I request some points that are in the marsh. Request denied - they hit all those points the day before.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

1 fish, 2 fish, red fish, blue fish: what's in our ponds?

As shown on our Facebook page, Dave the Pond Expert was out recently doing some testing of 4 Winds Pond and Kitchi-Manitou. This testing included chemical analysis, depth measurements and fish sampling to give us an idea of how we can better manage these water resources.

A beautiful day for pond surveying!
Dave sampled the fish by electroshocking: a pole sent an electric current through the water that temporarily stunned the fish, bringing them to the surface of the pond. Dave then used a net to catch the fish, identify them, and release them back into the water, where the fish went on their happy way.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Taking Wisconsin forestry to the Nation's capital

Last month I traveled to Washington, DC to participate in the American Forest Foundation’s Fly-In. Held annually, this is an opportunity for tree farmers across the nation to meet with their elected representatives and talk forestry. I was honored and excited that Joe asked me to go, but as the only participant from the state of Wisconsin, also felt a lot of pressure!

Before coming to the tree farm three years ago, I had worked in DC for a small lobbying office. This prior experience helped me know what to expect at the Fly-In. It also meant that I knew my way around the city pretty well … although, in the few years since I’ve left plenty has changed (what is an express train and can it get me to Pentagon City??!).

The Fly-In convened with an afternoon briefing on the issues we would be taking to the Hill, including tips on how to present your story and make your case for forestry. I sat with Don and Liz from Canajoharie, New York. It was great getting to know them and learn about tree farming in the northeast! I also met John and Carolee from Pequot Lakes, Minnesota who were gracious to share a few of their photos with me!

Our mission!

A tale of two fungi

From a management perspective this time of year can be a real challenge. After the first appearance of buds in the spring until full leaf development is achieved, no pruning can be done so I am limited in terms of what can be accomplished with timber-stand improvement practices.

Additionally, the above average precipitation has made field work extra challenging -- stuck equipment and tire ruts are time consuming and unsightly.

I mainly spend this four or so weeks mowing grass and treating garlic mustard. A benefit of seeking out errant garlic mustard plants is cruising the woods during morel mushroom season. 

Farm-fresh morels

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Prairie update: soil is good to go!

Field trip to Agrecol: Rob explaining the seed collection process to Rachel and Arik.
Last month we traveled over to Agrecol to meet with Bill and Rob, and talk more about implementing a prairie here on the Farm. We learned that our proposed site (an approx 5 acre field that has previously grown soybeans) is best suited to two species: cup plant and black-eyed susan.

Monday, May 13, 2013

"I'm coffee, you're nuts!"

That's what I heard Rachel say to Arik as I ventured over to snap some photos of the planting project. No, Arik hasn't lost his mind (but he might by the end of this?); they're tag-teaming getting over 800 Black walnut, Kentucky coffee and White spruce in the ground.

Those aren't twigs! They're 3-year old Black walnut and Kentucky coffee trees.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Here come the judges!

April 27. The day we had been waiting for was finally here! The barn was swept and the deer exclosure repaired. The donuts were fresh and coffee hot. Arik even had on his custom jeans!

Saturday was a big day for us on the Farm - as finalists for the Regional Tree Farm of the Year, two inspecting judges paid us a visit. They wanted to see how Joe and the Farm incorporated the core tree farm values of water, wildlife, wood and recreation.

Talking with the judges and foresters under our "logo tree," a massive white oak. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Earth Day 2013

Mother Nature cooperated (finally!) and our Earth Day celebration went off without a hitch!

Over 130 students, teachers and aides from Cambridge Elementary School and Walbridge School participated in our program, which was held in partnership with Aldo Leopold Foundation and made possible by a crew of great volunteers!

Students worked through five stations, including:

Planting fruit trees and shrubs to create a wildlife habitat area (the walnuts and Kentucky coffee trees we had planned on planting were still frozen in the ground at the nursery!)...

Friday, April 12, 2013

Houses for rent!

I was able to navigate through the mud and muck to install a wood duck house overlooking one of the many ponds on Arington Tree Farm. Ideally these houses would have been installed a few weeks ago but getting into the field has been a challenge with the wet conditions.

Wood duck house on Arington Tree Farm

In the middle of the drought of 2012 the pond shown above was bone dry. However, after the heavy winter snow and the wet spring rains, this is a much different landscape than seven or eight months ago. 

We've seen a good number of wood ducks around the farm and are excited to offer them a place to nest.