My Summer Adventures - An Internship in Central Maine

  • Fowler Bog. Very Cool.

    Fowler Bog. Very Cool.

    Fowler Bog rules. When I first set foot on the property I thought how awesome it is. The place is so green and just overflowing with life. Blue sky above, Green to the left, green to the right, even green at your feet! It really is thriving with life. You can't step foot on the property without hearing the flies and bugs buzz happily around your head. It seems like that happier the bugs are the less happy the people are that they are bothering!

    I guess that can be a good indicator of a healthy, happy environment. Healthy bugs, healthy plants, healthy animals, and a healthy ecosystem! I mean, a seriously healthy ecosystem. Just look at the ferns! This place was cut hard by the previous owners and almost decimated. Take a look on Google Earth and you can see where the property line is, between an older healthy forest and the property where they cut. But cutting isn't always a negative thing, especially since this piece of land is now able to thrive with the SRLT. 

    I've gotten to know this place pretty well since I have been conducting an ivnasive plant survey on the property. I've spent countless hours wandering through the trees and underbrush, although 'wandering' may not be the correct term. I should say squeezing, hopping, slipping, tripping, squishing, sliding, and plowing my way through the insanely dense forest. This forest is growing back in ridiculous prosperity. I mean, it is actually so dense in some spots that I just cannot walk through the stand of young Pines and I have to walk around. 

    The hierarhchy of plants is pretty astounding. You can look at forest health in two ways, first being horizontal. This is a pretty big piece of land and most of it is forested. It spreads over a wide area of about 240 acres, this forest is pretty healthy horizontally. But vertically this land is blowing up. At the ground level, grasses, trailing vines, clovers, bugs, snakes, spiders, and all kinda of life just on the ground! You move up a layer to the middle ground of young pole trees (pine, hemlock, beech, birch, sugar maple, red maple, spruce, larch (if you've never seen a larch tree, check them out because they are SO cool!)) and the ferns that seem to cover every part of the forest. Up to my chin! Move past the ferns to reach the higher up trees and form the canopy. Its so dense in some spots I feel like I'm in the dark!

    This is a forest in a beautiful stage of its life. All the life in it has the chance now to flourish and explode with green, without having these huge old growth trees overshadow (literally) their bright futures. Its not often that forests are in this stage of development. Lots of times they're just beginning with a grassy field and a few shrubby trees. Or sometimes they are really old growth with spread out giants and not much of an understory. But Fowler Bog has got it all, and it is very cool. It is truly an awesome site and I think, if you have the chance, check it out.

  • Summer Camp and The Future of Farming

    As the summer officially gets under way, it also begins camp season! The weather heats up, the lemonade starts flowing, and worries seem to disappear. As a kid, summer camp can be such a spiritually enriching experience. There's no better way to spend the day than running around with friends and letting yourself be free. It's a really important experience for kids to develop their own personalities and find out things about themselves they never knew before. 

    Almost every morning kids shuffle into the Hart to Hart Farm for their week on the farm. They come in all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds but they are all there for one reason: to have fun! (and maybe to learn a little while they're at it). This is not your typical summer camp though. These kids get to spend a week on a FARM: getting to know the animals, learning about agriculture, and exploring the future of America's food production! This is really a special experience. 

    At the beginning of the week, each camper is paired up with an animal to become aquainted with and to grow with as the week moves on. Some animals are easier than others to get comfortable with. Taking a week old calf out for the first time in a halter isn't easy for anyone, but these kids have a drive like no other. Each day they work hard with the animals to keep them under control. The animals pull this way and that, lay down when you want them to move, and are sometimes more stubborn than an ox. But the campers learn a lot about themselves, and especially their patience. Its truly awesome to see the campers accomplish their goals at the parade at the end of each week, and the huge smiles on their faces reflect the hard work they have put in. I've heard it from Linda herself, who has seen it over and over again, "These kids learn more about themselves in this one week than they have in their whole lives," and I believe it. 

    The kids might not realize it at the time, but there is a seed planted in each and every one of them at the close of each week of camp. Each one of them is brighter and more informed about farming and agriculture than at the beginning of the week. There's no doubt that summer camp is an amazing experience for kids, but farm camp is even more amazing. Some of these campers will nurture this seed planted within them and grow up to own a farm themselves. They will preserve the tradition of farming and help to contribute to the local and global food markets. It's an extremely important trade, especially with the growing population. 

    The more people that live here on Earth, the more food we consume and the more food we have to produce. Cultivating future generations of farmers and farm owners will ensure that this food is provided to us in a safe and healthy way. And even if these campers don't grow up to own a farm, they will know more about themselves and be able to live their lives in a happier, more fulfilling way. They will make new friends and strengthen bonds with old ones. 

    I just wanted to show how awesome farm camp is and how lucky these kids are to spend a week on Linda and Doug's farm. Its an amazing place and they are surrounded by amazing people. It makes me wish I had this sort of experience when I was a kid, but better yet I get to experience it now! Linda puts so much work into this summer camp and it really shows in the campers faces. She is really the lucky one, who gets to plant the seed and watch it grow. 

    /Ben

  • Down The River (Albert J. Sousa Memorial Preserve) ((this is my favorite spot))

    Down The River (Albert J. Sousa Memorial Preserve) ((this is my favorite spot))

    Just out the back of the church cemetary down the road. With it's eternally silent graves and trees. With its advertised openings (the grass is just a placeholder). The ground is soft, giving to each step, and the air is still like I'm in a big room with walls and a roof, but no floor. There's a yard sale going on next door. A sign reads "free". 

    Just through the tall grassy field, with its arms yielding to the wind and mystery shrouded in pale darkness below. Each foot placed with a tiny prayer (I'm afraid of snakes). It didn't used to reach my face but now it tickles me as I walk through. It grew. I did too. 

    Just across the tracks, so perfectly straight and permenant. With the weeds poking through to reclaim their once pristine territory ("this used to be mine!") and its seemingly endlessness. They aren't even used anymore! Just artifacts. 

    Just through the powerline cutout. Its artificialness sticking out like a sore thumb amidst the wild (it was cut by humans many years ago). Its dirty puddles giving shelter to homeless toads and bacteria. Mosquitos and moose flies (no moose yet). I avoid the dirty wet puddles with a hop.

    Just down the river, through the fern groves, through their fronds that brush past gently as if to say, "Please! Just stay a little while!" But I keep on walking. And they keep on growing. 

    Just down the river through the musclewood trees (Carpinus caroliniana) branching out and under and up. Everything is green; a bright springy green much different from the late summer green. Dipping and dancing, under and around and diving across the stream to the mud puddles on the otherside. I got splashed. 

    Just down the river scenery changes to something new. The pine grows taller, less mingling, more independent, more "grown-up". The forest grows quieter and new sounds fill the ears. Bubbling water (it's so cold and clear!). A singular snap of a twig. The flap of a wing (or two). There are eagles here. And osprey. And you can hear the wind. I don't mean the wind whistling through the trees, I mean really hear it. 

    Just down the river the old world dissolves and gives way to the real old world. The sunlight gleams. The water sparkles. The trees stand silently. The water would be cold if you put your feet in, but you don't have to. You don't have to do anything. 

  • Night Life

    Night Life

    Having never lived, or spent much time, on a farm growing up this whole experience is so new and exciting to me. It is a much different atmosphere than the rigidness of suburban living. Although the farm seems to be always moving, it takes on a much more laid back feeling. Everything seems to move at its own pace. If something needs to get done, it gets added to the long list of chores, and will get done when its time comes, but until then it sits patiently.

    Although Doug and Linda Hartkopf seem to be working their you-know-whats off every minute of every day, the beating sun seems to lend the work a sense of sleepiness. The way the tractor rolls along the dirt road followed by a cloud of dust, and the cows meander their way through the pasture all seems to be giving the same feeling.  At sun up each day the farmers take to their duties and toil away at the list, one thing after another, taking on the cows attitude of dreaminess. Don't get me wrong, they aren't lazy, they just make it look easy. All work seems to take on a carefree sort of attitude when surrounded by the green grass and blue skies. 

    They say that farm life goes from sun up till sundown, and although this is true in a sense, from what I've noticed, the life doesn't end at sundown. At night, the farm seems to breath a new sort of life. The farmers and the cows sleep in their respective beds, and the frogs, insects, and stars come alive. The tractors are silent, and so are the cows who seem to understand that their time is during the day. The night belongs to a different breed. The air seems alive with the buzz of insects, rumble of toads and the flicker of lightning bugs, only sometimes interrupted by the intermittent passing of a car. I stand outisde and lose myself in the sights and sounds. 

    The farm does not sleep at night. I believe that the night time is when the farm really comes alive. 

  • Richardson Memorial Preserve

    Richardson Memorial Preserve

    I took off from the office bound for the Richardson Memorial Preserve and I soon found myself stopped short at the head of a Bailey Rd. The craters and mountains that encompassed the road seemed far to vast for my little 2005 Kia to traverse. I felt like an airline pilot surveying the field, making sure to avoid the peaks and not fall into the crevases. As I bumped and bounced down the road I was uncertain what lie ahead of me at the preserve; the fields not plowed, the paths not marked. My task put me in the role of explorer, set out to find marked trails, and blaze new paths not yet trodden.

    My vehicle rolled to a stop and I set out on foot through the waist high grass of the rolling fields. Ahead of me lay a vast woodlot running alongside Sandy Stream. I skirted the fields and made my way along the treeline, eyes set on the horizon scoping out what I might believe to be an opening to the trail. Alas, I stumbled upon an unnaturally bright orange flag tied tight around a twig. I entered the dark wood, hoping to find a path lain out; obvious to my eye. I was pleaseantly suprised to creep, climb, and cross my way between the silent trees following the clear path flagged out by person or persons unknown. Stepping up and over one fallen tree, squeezing between another two towering trunks, and pushing and sliding my way through the extended arms of Hemlock saplings I tuned my ears to the music of the forest. 

    The trees would be eerily silent if it weren't for the singing birds and crunching of brush under my feet. But there was something else playing in my ears: the slosh and gurgle of a meandering stream. I had just become accustomed to the darkness of the woodlot when suddenly I emerged into a clearing. The light washed over my face and my eyes adjusted to the view of Sandy Stream before me. Although the marked path ended, I was able to stumble my way along the shore to find a steep opening down to the water. I perched myself on a flat, dry rock and let myself bake in the sunshine. I took a mental note of my surroundings: a long tree long dead extended into the crystal clear water, to my left a bubbling riffle, and to my right a dark pool teeming with fish and other life. I looked up just in time to catch a Red-Tailed Hawk swoop over my head, probably flying off scouring for breakfast.

    The scene contained within it a silent serenity that is all too uncommon in our everyday lives. The goal is to get the community out into these woods to enjoy the sights and sounds that I experienced today.

    The Richardson Memorial Preserve is a mixture of agricultural fields, both in use and on standby, dense stands of trees and understory vegetation, and miles of frontage along Sandy Stream. The pristine waters will no doubt provide sights and sounds for the community to enjoy in the future. I look forward to seeing the preserve trails completed and enjoyed by the public!

  • Off To A Great Start!

    Off To A Great Start!

    Hello All,

    My name is Ben and I will be interning with the Land Trust this summer doing stewardship on the easements and preserves. I'm  really looking forward to having a wonderful summer!

    I moved into the Hart to Hart Farm last Thursday and was greeted warmly by the Hartkopf family. Coming from suburban Andover, Massachusetts, I'm really not used to living on a farm, but I'm really loving seeing cows, goats, and the beautiful rolling pasture out my window. 

    On Friday I got to work with Jennifer, assisting her in the addition of new signs at Kanokolous Bog, Freedom Forest, and a few others (I'm still learning all the names!). The whole area is so beautiful and I'm having a great time just driving and looking at the views!

    This past holiday weekend I had the pleasure of visiting Acadia National Park. I had a great time biking the Carriage Trails and hiking Cadillac Mountain. The views were spectacular!

    Today I worked in the Freedom Forest again, this time clearing and preparing a new trail. Winding along numerous vernal pools and eskers it is really a beaitiful place to spend time. I'm excited to see it finished as I'm sure you are too!

    All in all these first few days have been incredible! All of the people I've met have been wholeheartedly welcoming, and the places I have seen have been magnificent. I look forward to meeting the community, and taking part in the good work that this Land Trust carries out!

    /Ben