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