Monday, March 24, 2014

Field Trip

Demonstrating the white-tailed deer trap
Members of the Society for Ecological Restoration's Mid-Atlantic Chapter visited "my" preserve on Saturday afternoon, March 22, to review forest restoration and white-tailed deer research projects underway here.  This field trip was one of three trips scheduled to coincide with the Chapter's annual conference that took place the day before at Temple University.
Deer researcher explaining how he remotely springs the deer trap from his laptop
A research and teaching colleague from a local college began by reviewing the white-tailed  deer movement research he has been conducting since 2006 using collared deer and digital telemetry. 
A chapter member from New York City Parks pointing out chestnut blight canker
The group then took a walking tour of an old-growth woods recently cleared of invasive plants, several reforestation projects (including one project that incorporated American chestnut trees, now exhibiting signs of chestnut blight disease), riparian reforestation projects, and the preserve's 160-acre native grasslands.  We also took advantage of the fact that one of the tour participants was a former University of Pennsylvania researcher who had established a forest succession research project in the preserve in 1990 - a project he had not been back to review in over two decades.

Former University of Pennsylvania researcher explaining a research project in the background

Fortunately, the day was partly sunny and warm - the warmest day so far this year, with temperatures in the mid-60s.  I had expected the preserve's trails to be muddy after the endless winter snows, but they were pleasantly firm and dry.  Participants seemed to have enjoyed themselves - even if it was just to have a chance to be outside on a nice spring day.  We even heard spring peepers trilling in one of the wetlands!

Timing for the tour was fortuitous - there's more snow forecast for tomorrow!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Spring in Winter

We're now at Friday at the end of Kali's spring break week.  (For that matter, it's my spring break week, too, because I'm adjunct faculty at one of the universities in Philadelphia.)  In prior years, Kali and I often traveled during this week, but this year we decided to stay in town because the weather has been so bad and unpredictable that we didn't want to risk losing power (and heat), only to return home to find burst pipes (a very distinct possibility this year).  And, we didn't look forward to flight interruptions because of inclement weather.

Because we stayed in town, we decided to spend Wednesday afternoon and evening at the Philadelphia Flower Show, the largest and oldest flower show in North America.  While we had pretty much made up our minds last weekend to attend the show, the show organizers on Monday made the unprecedented decision to offer a significant reduction in the entrance fee because meteorologists had forecast the worst snowstorm of the season for Sunday night into Monday, a storm which - fortunately - veered to our south and only brought us 1-1/2 inches of snow instead of the forecast 12 inches.  The discount offer, which was good for any day of the show but had to be purchased on Monday, clinched our decision.

The theme of this year's show was ARTiculture (art + horticulture).  Most years, the displays seem to have only the most tenuous connection to the theme, but this year the designers really took it to heart.  My favorite display is depicted in the image at the top of the post - a backyard garden incorporating sculpture and plant material.  The design is bold and has clean, distinct, uncluttered lines.  Exactly to my taste.

Another of my favorites was a joint effort between the Brandywine Conservancy, a regional land trust, and a garden designer.  The Brandywine valley, located 20 miles west of Philadelphia, was the home of the Wyeth family, including such well-known artists as Andrew Wyeth and Jamie Wyeth.  The conservancy's exhibit incorporated a facsimile of a portion of Andrew Wyeth's painting studio into native woodlands.  The design also included the most natural-looking artificial stream I have ever seen in my life.  Another impressive achievement.       
Andrew Wyeth's studio in the woods
Native woodland garden outside Wyeth's studio
Much less ambitious but equally delightful was a small display created by the Hudson Valley Seed Library.  This non-profit organization is dedicated to saving, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds.  In addition - and this is the good part - they sponsor a contest for artists to create paintings based on the heirloom flowers and fruits, and then the Seed Library incorporates the winning artwork into the seed packets they offer for sale.  The Library's display included both the winning artwork and the seed packets that resulted from that artwork.  What a great idea!  The Library had also set-up a booth in the vendors' area where they were selling the seeds.  I bought some basil, chard, and Tiny Tim Tomato seeds. 
Hudson Valley Seed Library's art-inspired seed packs