NAA: Reading the Landscape

The old Bald Hill School site

I never miss a field trip with Robert Wesley if I can help it, and this was to a site new to me. We hoped to add some tools to understanding ecosystems by finding clues to past land use, with a smattering of biology thrown in.
Near the original schoolhouse site at the edge of Bald Hill School Rd., we saw typical evidence of a former inhabited site-myrtle and daylilies. The Acer saccarum (sugar maple) and Fraxinus americana (white ash) in the woods are 25-30 years old, but larger trees run along the road, indicating perhaps the age of the road and/or a property boundary.

Hedgerow trees along Bald Hill School Rd

Hedgerow trees along Bald Hill School Rd

Pinus strobus on right

This Pinus strobus (white pine) has wide lower branches. When the pine was first growing, it must have been open around it, as further evidenced by the young Acer rubrum (red maple) nearby. It must have once stood in a field, which still existed until fairly recently,as the forest is still young.

Following Robert Wesley

Following Robert Wesley quick

As we walked, and by walk  I mean sometimes we ran, we got quick lessons in botany and tree identification.
No one needed any help identifying the black flies, but according to Robert, they don’t bite for the first few days they appear, and sure enough, they didn’t. Like most bloodsucking and all stinging insects, only the female bites. (Hey, they need to, for the babies. And those ovipositors evolve into such handy weapons!)

Sapsucker damage on American elm

Sapsucker damage on American elm

Sapsuckers really did a job on this Ulmus americana (elm), and yes, they can kill a branch or even a whole tree by girdling it.



We also saw a rather magnificent oak (note the tiny figure standing next to it).>

Pits & mounds

Pits & mounds

We then came to an area that, though it had been logged extensively, had always been a forest. We saw the pits and mounds, typical of unplowed ground, which are caused by trees tipping over and then decaying.
On the other side of the road we saw the opposite-evidence of plowing. When a slope is plowed, the soil moves downhill at about a foot at year and raises the height at the bottom of a field.



Since a field on a slope was generally plowed from top to bottom each time, at either end you might see the dip of a “dead furrow” or the ridge of a  “back furrow”.

Farmland that has returned to forest is not as fertile as if it was never farmed. As it reverts, the first trees will be those who don’t have to germinate in shade, such as red maples and white pine (or if it is wet, ash or elm), depending on the seed source in the area. Later the white pine will die out and be replaced by shade tolerant species such as beech, Tsuga canadensis (hemlock) and sugar maple. Other trees species may grow where an “event” such as a blowdown, has occurred. Check the leaves on the  forest floor to  to get an idea of the relative quantity of tree types. Pastures leave behind Crataegus (hawthorne), Malus (crabapples) and Rhamnus (buckthorn), which the cattle or sheep don’t eat. Long term pasture use can level the ground almost like plowing.

Remains of a stone wall

We came across a rock wall near the road, usually evidence of “getting rid of” rather than construction, and so often evidence of a field edge.

Further along, a large patch of old fashioned Narcissus pseudonarcissus told us we were near former civilization.

Narcissus pseudonarcissus

Narcissus pseudonarcissus

Soon  we came upon the basement of an old homestead. The lower stones were dry laid, but the upper ones were cemented with concrete, which means repairs were made after its arrival in America in the late 1800’s. We also saw a seep, which might indicate a good spot for settling. Nearby stood ash and Juglans nigra (black walnut), probably planted by the former owners.

House foundation

House foundation

The lessons never stop…On the hillsides as we drove away we saw red maple in full bloom-perhaps evidence of poor soil. Hilltop soils are less fertile, because the soluble nutrients run downhill.
I look forward to applying what I’ve learned today, probably coming up with more questions than answers. The more I learn about reading the landscape, the more sense of place I feel where ever I am.

Recommended reading:
Forest Forensics: A Field Guide to Reading the Forested Landscape by Tom Wessels


NAA:Regional Geology

1) Generally I am not directly quoting anybody, unless you see quotation marks. All factual errors are mine!

2) Re: above-Corrections are appreciated!

Dan Karig, emeritus Professor in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, briefly described our glacial history, mostly from the most recent Wisconsinan glaciation, as the ice advanced and retreated over thousands of years. Dr. Karig has a particular interest in Six Mile Creek and the Willseyville trough, so I listened carefully…and retained little. Between the slides he showed and the tantalizing hints of familiar names, I became anxious to add geologic history to the Big Picture of local ecology, and the intertwined pattern of life here in the Danby Divide. (In addition to intellectual curiosity, perhaps I am motivated by a younger life of yearly moves and a dsylexic sense of direction.)
After the lecture, he took us  to the Ringwood Wildflower Preserve, where we were shown glacial features such as kettles (shallow bodies of water), kames (irregularly shaped mounds), and eskers (sinuous ridges made up of gravel,originally very steep). We also visited the Moss Creek moraine, mostly from our cars…

CCE:Beneficial Insects

Cornell Garden-Based Learning Regional Training for CCE Educators and Master Gardener Volunteers

——–2013 Growing Season Educational Campaign:Beneficial Insects——–
-Lori Brewer,Jason Dombroskie,Abby Seaman,Betsy Lamb

1) I took notes, but I only vouch for the notes within the limits of my ignorance and a little post-workshop research.
2) Generally I am not directly quoting anybody, unless you see quotation marks. All factual errors are mine!
3) Re: above-Corrections are appreciated!

We arrived in Binghamton a bit late, so we missed the welcome speeches and got right to entomology 101.


It’s a critter with 3 body parts (head, thorax and Biological_classification_L_Pengo_vflip.svgabdomen), 6 jointed legs, 1 pair of antennae, a metamorphic life cycle and compound eyes. They have 4 wings or less.  (Of course, this is awfully simplified).  They are in the Phylum Arthropoda, Subphylum Hexapoda (6 legged),Class Insecta. Most living things are Hexapods, and most of these live on land. We saw a number of phylogenic trees with a great deal more detail than that flash by in the power point…
All the creatures we learned about are Arthropods, but not all are insects. For instance, spiders are in the class Arachnida.They have 2 body segments and 8 legs, so are not insects. Going forward, though, I will just use “insects” for everyone, though not “bugs”, since insects are not bugs-bugs are a kind of insect!


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