On Saturday, January 10th, over a dozen Pound Ridge and neighboring town gardeners met to hear Olga Ivanova, originally from Russia, share her talents and knowledge of growing herbs specifically selected for creative, medicinal, aromatic, therapeutic and just plan delicious, home-brewed teas. Herbs make voluptuous complements to flower or vegetable gardens and have pollinating and pest deterrent benefits when companion planted with both native and non-native ornamentals or edible crops. This indoor event during the recent cold snap, was the first in a three part winter-spring gardening series offered at the Armstrong Education Center with everyone enjoying the heat of the wood burning stove while creating their own tea mixture out of over 50 samples brought by Olga from around the world– all with varying aromas, textures and tastes. Each tea selection was related to many of the plant families we are accustom to here in the Northeast but with a twist and, as the participants learned, are suitable for backyard or growing-in-pot conditions. Olga recommends brewing home-grown herbs for tea at varying temperatures and for different times for best results. In addition, she suggests certain mixes of leaves, flower petals, bark and berries. For example, to make an English rose tea, combine red rose petals, lemon balm dried leaves, and dried rosemary, all mixed well, in a single teaspoon for each cup of brewed tea. For more of Olga’s recipes and herbal combinations for teas, healthcare and relaxation, PRLC will be inviting her back for future, hands-on workshops. Stay-tuned!
Veterans of past Energy and House Tours as well as new visitors had the opportunity to informally tour the green energy systems of the off-the-grid Armstrong House and Education Center with local experts. The tour highlighted optimization of integrated energy systems for reducing residential resource consumption. Discussion centered around the Armstrong’s upgraded 7kw solar PV system sitting cliff-side, its low-temperature radiant heating system, indoor heat recovery unit, and plans for integrating its onsite, solar thermal array into the domestic hot water and radiant space heating systems. Recent work has included upgrades with safety, maintenance and future technology integration in mind. With the 40- plus year-old well pump finally biting the dust this past spring, visitors learned about the benefits of Armstrong’s newly configured water system with its latest, variable speed well-pump technology, monitoring computer and other components lending greater efficiency to what is often one of the larger, residential energy draws. The indoor tour featured a recap for first-time visitors on the completed 5-year renovation using reclaimed, green or recycled construction materials, sustainable interior finishes, low-energy use appliances, a superefficient wood burning stove, air-exchange and ventilation systems, cell foam insulation to create that important tight building envelope and 21st century monitoring capacities to understand how residents’ behavior can increase or decrease energy consumption and water use. Visitors look forward to PRLC’s Spring 2015 Energy Tour to be held in late April.
The morning of Saturday, September 20th , with new re-generation and small, robust-looking seedlings planted by PRLC in 2013 gaining ground after Hurricane Sandy wrecked havoc on Carolins Grove Preserve, volunteers and PRLC staff installed deer fencing in three important locations in the Grove. With financial assistance from Volunteer New York! and an Americorps volunteer, community residents helped to diversify new growth and protect the Grove’s wooded landscape with native perennials. Some hung fencing wire and attached plastic 8 foot fencing materials, others dug holes, planted and watered. PRLC will continue to monitor woodland regeneration, control invasives where most important to this landscape, and bring additional diversity in the way of a variety of propagated seedlings to strengthen the Grove’s resiliency for future years and weather impacts.
Earlier in the summer, volunteers helped our community’s younger hikers stay dry when visiting the Young Explorers Loop at Carolins Grove from Pound Ridge Elementary School grounds, by constructing over 60 feet of bog bridge over seasonally muddy areas of the trail used for outdoor learning. Volunteers carried in materials, laid cross locust boards in place- all set on pre-harvested and cut cedar logs. Several high school students earned community service credits for their work.
PRLC land steward and field biologist, Krista Munger, says “we manage each preserve differently according to its important habitat”. With this in mind, PRLC staff and volunteers joined conservation groups across New York State to control invasive species and restore native habitats during Invasive Species Awareness Week. July 12th as part of PRLC’s first-Saturday-of-the-month morning volunteer work sessions, staff, student volunteers, college summer interns and PR neighbors worked to preserve a rare fen habitat at PRLC’s Isaacson Preserve. Just about 50 volunteer hours were spent hand cutting and bagging the invasive phragmites reed which inundates this sensitive and rarely seen environment, home to wonderful dragonflies and grasshoppers. Participants got to understand how difficult the actual removal of this invasive plant is and reviewed PRLC’s impact on the fen’s native vegetation through investigation of study plots from years past.
Invasive management was addressed by volunteer work sessions throughout the summer in PRLC’s 70-acre Clark Preserve where swaths of invasive barberry was removed pursuant to a forest management plan and a grant from the NYS Watershed Council. In addition, a vernal pool habitat was made more conducive to wildlife with the girdling of several invasive Norway Maples and the removal of barberry and climbing vines. A private grant has been made to establish protected areas where newly planted native shrubs will be established this fall to assist with overall woodland health and resiliency.
Five local landowners joined Krista, our land steward/educator for an insightful wetlands guided talk and tour of the mysterious and seldom visited Isaacson Preserve – one of PRLC’s 17 preserves held for wildlife and habitat protection. Krista's talk focused upon the need to view wetlands as part of larger overall systems, called watersheds, of which there are 11 in Pound Ridge.
The contiguous Isaacson and Halle Ravine Preserves are located within the Mill River North watershed, which feeds the Mill River South and eventually empties in Long Island Sound. The Isaacson Preserve encompasses a red maple swamp with open areas of grass and low shrubs which, together are called Fens. Water flowing below and slightly above the surface provides a constant nutrient source for a rich community of specialized plants and animals.
Our small group saw Swamp azalea, seldom found anymore due to deer browse. We were also treated to a broken wing display from a Black-and-white warbler, which had its nest on the ground nearby along the steep bank lining the wetland.
As there is no trail at the Isaacson Preserve, it is suggested that visitors contact us to gain guided access.
We will be hosting an important summer volunteer work session on July 12th doing work to restrain the impacts of the invasive phragmites on this delicate environment. Contact Krista at email@example.com for more information and to register as a volunteer.
You are also invited to schedule a meeting with Krista to discuss your property’s location within one of Pound Ridge's watersheds and to target management concerns related to local wetlands’ health with best habitat management practices.
Young families join Krista for an Earth Day Hike on April 22nd at Carolin's Grove; Lakeland High School’s National Honor Society clears invasives at the 70-acre Clark Preserve racking up 32 hours of volunteer time for PRLC.
Five families with seven toddlers under the age of 3 had a wonderful outdoor experience exploring the Young Explorer’s Loop Trail at Carolins Grove where they found a spotted salamander; caregiver’s learned they are dependent upon wet spring vernal pools for breeding. Also found and played with were a few red-backed salamanders which live year-round under rocks and logs, where they also lay their eggs. Caregiver’s were excited to identify garlic mustard, an invasive in our woodlands and roadsides but were happy to learn that it is edible (as Krista demonstrated!). On April 12th, 16 students from Lakeland High School’s National Honor Society- at the other end of the education age spectrum- worked tirelessly to expand an invasive-species-free zone created in conjunction with a grant by the New York Watershed Agricultural Council whose forest management program works to protect forest ecosystem integrity by supporting the removal of barberry from lightly invaded areas, before it has a chance to change the soil chemistry and further inhibit natives re-growth.
All three positions being offered for our summer 2014 have been filled with highly qualified and exuberant students from the area. These positions include Conservation Intern, AEC Preserve and Native Plant Restoration Intern for college-age students and a Working Landscape and Gardening Intern for a local high school student. Funding for PRLC’s AEC Preserve and Native Plant Restoration Intern will be provided by a grant from Rusticus Garden Club; a private funder is sponsoring a fourth position for a returning student from last year’s summer program. PRLC Land steward/educator, Krista Munger, says “ I’m very excited about our 3rd summer internship program. Students started reaching out just after the first of the year, and what good energy, enthusiasm, experience and hands-on skills they bring! A part-time, fifth college summer internship has been created for a student who expressed strong interest in the Armstrong House’s green technology. She will be creating new web-based materials on each component of the House’s solar electric, solar thermal and several other integrated technologies. Krista looked forward to interviewing several very well-qualified, field-oriented students over the past month for these internship positions as well as several more unstructured volunteer opportunities. We’ll continue to look to students who contact us with their ideas and areas of interest. For the more unstructured volunteer opportunities, all hands and minds are welcome! For more information, visit Internships or call Krista at 914-205-3533.
Our recent Volunteer Work Session held at the Russell Preserve was a great success, attended by community members aged 8 to 70+. All hands helped to clear the trail of storm-downed trees and encroaching Wineberry, a non-native and invasive species. We were also treated to a view of fresh fox tracks across the pond, setting our youngest helpers off on a hunt up the frozen "river." Thank you to our volunteers for your support of PRLC and the great camaraderie on a beautiful day in nature. We welcome you to join us for the next fun work session on March 1st at 10 am at the Clark Preserve, and if you like, stay afterwards for a guided hike showcasing forestry techniques for private landowners.
PRLC recently hosted our autumn Open House at the Armstrong Preserve and Education Center on Sunday, November 17th from 2-4p. Neighbors joined us for wine and cheese, and a tour of the upgraded and expanded off-the-grid energy systems of our land steward’s residence including solar electric and solar thermal energy systems that provide electricity, space heating and domestic hot water.
The tours presented the opportunity to explore and think about how components of these systems may be applied in your own home. Understand the use of a low-temperature radiant heating system, a heat recovery and ventilation system, the choices of spray foam, bio-based or blown in cellulose insulation and their benefits and the selection of low-water use and energy efficient appliances, among others.
In addition, our recent work on the varied habitats of the Armstrong Preserve in conjunction with the Preserve’s plan of conservation and management were highlighted during a short hike through the Armstrong meadow, vernal pool, woodland trails, and our working landscape replete with our very successful summer edible garden, newly planted coldframe, bee hive, composting system and chicken coop with a green roof.
There were questions and insights for your own landscapes shared. We also highlighted the work of our high school, college and graduate student summer interns and how their field projects and research as well as native landscaping and gardening plans will be implemented in the future at the Armstrong Education Center.
Look for our Spring 2014 Armstrong House and Energy Tour Dates on these pages!
On Saturday, November 2nd, PRLC hosted a fall photography workshop from 10-3p at the Armstrong Education Center located off Rt 121 in Pound Ridge. We were joined by a professional photographer Dan Goldman while bringing with our own camera, hiking shoes, water and bagged lunch or snack.
The workshop was free and open to both novices and experienced nature photographers. Using a hands-on approach, Dan explained basic and advanced principles of photography such as composition, depth of field, lighting and color balance. We then hit the trails and explored the beauty and mystery of the 43-acre Armstrong Preserve. At the day’s end, we had the opportunity to relax with hot chocolate and a slide show of everyone’s photographs. Students were welcome.
Dan is an award winning commercial and fine art photographer with over 28 years experience. His work has been published in national magazines,newspapers and galleries, including The Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair, Vogue, and Rolling Stone Magazine. For the past 13 years, he has been teaching photography and Adobe Photoshop to adults and college and high school students.
For more information go to Fall Photography Workshop.