Trees, like all plants, need light to survive. The need for light is so strong that it shapes trees, forcing branches and trunks to grow in sometimes odd directions as the leaves reach for the sun. When out in the woods, you may notice some of these differences in growth patterns, which can tell a story about the trees that took root there.
There are things in the natural world that defy randomness.
The Fibonacci sequence is one of them:
1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21 . . . Can you see the pattern and figure out the next number?
Because the water comes from underground it stays at roughly 50 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. Before modern refrigeration, the presence of a good spring on one’s property was far more convenient and practical than the use of ice houses.
Why the name Freddy? Richard Proenneke was a self-educated naturalist/conservationist/wildlife photographer who kept daily journals during his nearly 30 years spent in an isolated cabin in the Alaskan wilderness. He referred to all red squirrels as “Freddy.” Since I have thoroughly enjoyed all of his journals, so do I.
My wife Jess and I moved into our Stamford, NY home during the last weekend of January 2021. Temperatures were in the teens and there was knee-deep snow on the ground. That sounds tougher than it was. We were tickled to be homeowners and when we weren’t moving furniture, the oil-fired, water-filled baseboard heating system kept us warm.
Are you pining for a warm summer morning, sipping your beverage of choice on the porch while the warmth of the day comfortably envelopes you?
Water bars, rolling dips, broad-based dips, and open-top culverts are examples of water diversion devices (WDDs) used on forest roads and trails. Their primary purpose is to control the volume and velocity of road surface runoff, thus preventing erosion.
Leaves are part of an amazingly fine-tuned cycle, the nutrient cycle. Let’s take a look at how this cycle works in the woods:
Leaves, leaves everywhere! It is that time of year when the newly fallen leaves pile up on your lawn and in your woods.
My mom used to say: “Get out and get some fresh air.” She would basically kick me out of the house. I never thought about it at the time, but she knew something about the natural world that we are realizing more and more.
Have you ever been driving and something catches your attention? Something that you can’t quite make sense of, so you stop to investigate?
“We’re always looking for more wild apples,” explains Martin Bernstein, co-founder of Abandoned Cider, a hard cider company based in New York’s Hudson Valley that incorporates apples from wild trees into many of their cider products.
Did you know that trees in a woods can communicate with each other and the animals in the woods? They send out information when they are getting attacked. Information that helps others come to their rescue. Check out how this works.
Fungi may conjure rotten thoughts. But fungi can be very helpful. Check out how mycorrhizal fungi help trees grow and stay healthy.
Have you ever stared in wonder at a sunset in all its brilliant colors? Or had your jaw drop at an incredible move by an athlete? Or heard a song that gives you goosebumps? YOU ARE BEING AWED!
The Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley studies this phenomenon and they discovered that being awed makes you healthier and makes you feel more connected to others.
What can landowners do to protect young trees from deer? This blog provides a range of deer exclosure options and cost-share opportunities for family forest owners.
I recently discovered a fun smartphone app called Relive that uses GPS to track your hike/run/bike and other outdoor activities. You might be thinking, “So what? Many hiking apps already do that”.
You might think dead trees in your woods mean something is wrong. But death is part of the woods, and dead trees, called snags, are important for a host of wildlife.
Creating your own georeferenced .pdf map allows you to customize a map of your property to use on your smartphone.
Smartphone mapping apps are an easy way to become more familiar with your woodlot.
About 24 hours after I collected my monarch eggs I had three teeny tiny wiggles to feed and look out for.
Summer in the northeast is transformative. The earth seems to come alive again; trees are green, flowers are blooming, and monarchs have arrived.
April 22nd is Earth Day, and woodland owners are in a better position than most to make a difference. Here are ten projects you can do this Earth Day (or just about any day) to give back to nature.
A heavy timber harvest leads to scratches, stains, and engorging of blackberries.
Have you ever heard that trees are like an iceberg, mostly hidden from sight?
I started using trail cameras in 2019 to scout for deer and to capture photos of other Catskill Mountain wildlife I might not easily see on woods walks. I did my homework before I got started, but sometimes the best way is to learn by doing. Hopefully some of these takeaways will help you out.
At a skidder bridge building workshop a few years back, several loggers had innovative ideas to improve the bottleneck of drilling holes in the bridge cants. However, no one suggested getting a bigger drill.
If a tree falls down in a forest, does it ever grow back?
Are your woods hiding any spooky secrets?
New research suggests that it is possible to use forest chemistry to locate missing human remains. However, more research needs to be done for this to be applied practically.
The major leaf fall has occurred in the Catskills and the landscape has turned drab brown. But wait! There is still vibrant color out there.
It was 6:00 AM on October 3rd. I had just turned off my headlamp after getting situated in my climbing treestand. Everything was dark except for some white splotches on the ground beneath me.
In New York, migrating birds can be seen flying south in fall on their way to wintering grounds in the southern United States, Central and South America. Birds migrate to fulfill two primary resource needs – food and nesting locations. In fall, available insects and other food sources decrease, so some birds migrate to areas with higher amounts of food resources.
What makes a good tree planting site and how do I qualify for Croton Trees for Tribs?
Guest author Jack Van Buren has a road-side chat with a logger to learn more about what loggers do for a living and what goes on during a timber harvest.
A sharp-eyed commuter notices a new bridge over a stream on her way to work. She stops to find out what’s happening in the woods in the middle of winter.
Have you seen the not-so-obvious things that are made from wood? Well, now here is another one: wooden nails, along with some other interesting items.
Winter is a great time of year to scout for wildlife sign, or to simply take a nature walk. The leaf-off season means you can see long distances in the woods and snow-covered ground serves as a short-term record of wildlife using the area.
Skidder bridge replacement job done at Siuslaw Model Forest. Thank you B&B Forest Products Ltd. of Cairo, NY!
I was lucky enough to get a deer during the 2021 early bow season in the Catskills. After processing it in the garage, I had about 40 lbs. of venison, 25 of which would become deer burger.I debated about what to do with the remaining deer carcass. Then I remembered some amazing bald eagle photos that MyWoodlot team member Tom Pavlesich captured by placing roadkill deer in front of his backyard trail camera.
If you wander your woods on a snowy day, you might come across an area of surprising green, like the one in the photo below. These areas are called seeps, and if you’re fortunate enough to have one, you have an excellent winter home for wildlife on your hands.
It’s a cold January morning, and leaves are a distant memory. Or are they? Just because the cold has made the hardwood leaves drop (and larch needles, our only deciduous conifers!) doesn’t mean we can’t sharpen our tree ID skills. Winter is a great time to focus on evergreens like pines, hemlocks, spruces, and cedars.
Another day, another emerald ash borer (EAB) discovery. That seems to be the way things are going lately. On October 28, logger Jake Rosa was harvesting a woodlot southeast of the Dry Brook Ridge near Arkville, NY in the central Catskills. It was a sunny, cool fall day. Jake was cutting some ash trees when he noticed a lot of woodpecker peck holes (small foraging holes) in the top of one of the trees he had cut down.
My family always eats a big meal around Christmas, and this year, that got me thinking. What do deer eat this time of year? During the spring and late summer they feast on new growth – leaves, grasses, and herbaceous plants (like spring wildflowers). In the late summer and fall they shift to fruits, nuts, acorns, and farm crops.
Few woods-related topics are as important – and as emotional – as white-tailed deer. In his 2013 book Deerland: America’s Hunt for Ecological Balance and the Essence of Wildness, Al Cambronne delivers a thorough, well-researched, rational discussion of this often irrational topic.
The sound keeps going, and I realize it’s coming from a white pine tree in front of me. I look up, and as I do the chirp suddenly accelerates into a sharp, staccato burst. It’s like no bird call I’ve ever heard.
On a nice late fall day I wandered back to one of my favorite spots in a local nature preserve. As I sat looking out over the valley where only the oaks still held their leaves, I noticed the carpet of reindeer lichen and moss around me.
If you take the time to learn the root, stem, branch, and leaf traits of different trees, you’ll gain a whole new perspective when you’re in the woods.
For weeks now, the pin oaks on my block in Queens have been bombarding passers-by with fertile missiles. Neighbors compete for the few parking spaces outside the strike zone, hoping to avoid a dented hood … or head.
Culverts are popular choices for roads, trails, and driveways in the woods. If you ever foresee installing a culvert in your woodlot, keep the following three tips in mind.
In my last post, I talked about why leaves change color in the fall. But as I wandered my local woods this October, another question came to me. Why do different trees turn different colors?
Fall may just be my favorite season. I’m not a fan of what follows it, but for those precious few weeks in September and October, fall is an amazing time to be in the woods.
When summer turns to fall, keep an eye on the ground underneath your black cherry trees. Why? Because this time of year black cherries are ripe, delicious, and ready to eat.
This question has been on my mind lately, ever since my recent early morning visit to Bear Spring Mountain Wildlife Management Area in Walton, New York.
I step out of a patch of beech brush onto an over-gown dirt road marked by the subtle wheel ruts of old farm traffic. A flash of white on the ground catches my eye as I chart a course between the ruts.
On a muggy July morning—the kind where your clothes feel like they’re glued to your skin—I’m out hiking through a deep hemlock grove on the West Branch Nature Preserve.
I don’t have a specific destination in mind. I just want to explore, to see what catches my attention.
On a recent woods walk I found something I’d never seen before: half a dozen mounds of stacked stones. Each pile was about 3 to 4 feet high, and they varied from 6 to 15 feet wide.
This summer to fall, Stefni Krutz captured the transformation of monarch caterpillars into butterflies in her backyard.
College students are wrapping up for summer, parents are signing up the kids for camp, and it seems like every other week another coworker is flying off on some exotic seaside getaway. But what about you?! You’re in need of some time off, too, but you just don’t have a week to spare. Well, do you have 4 minutes? You do? Great. That’s all you need.
Learn how to create a georeferenced PDF map of your NYC Watershed property, or one of the many NYC Watershed Recreation lands, in just three steps.
In 2018, which was Year 1 of ash mortality monitoring at Siuslaw Model Forest, 15 of the 42 trees we assessed had succumbed to the emerald ash borer. As I planned to return to help with Year 4 data collection, I thought we’d have a short field day because all the ash would be dead.
You know you’re in for an adventure when the first thing a landowner says to you is, “So have you heard about my psychotic deer behavior?”
Warning! It’s the week of Thanksgiving, which means I’m feeling sentimental. By the time you read this, it’s likely I’ll be at home with my extended family.
Winter and I do not agree. But even I have to admit there’s some beauty in the cold, as I discovered one morning when hoarfrost coated the woods.
Last week, I shared how I placed a deer hide (from a deer I processed) in front of a trail camera to capture photos of scavenging wildlife. This week’s blog shows what happened after I put out the rest of the carcass.
When you look at your woods, you might think they’re a wild place, but there are marks of people’s influence all over them. Some are obvious, like cabins and trails. But others are so subtle, you might not even realize that they have a human history.
Is it possible to be awesome at trail camera photography or videography? I mean, the camera does all the work, right? MyWoodlot guest-author Matt Smetana proves it’s all about camera placement.
This summer, I found a berry patch loaded with blackberries and blueberries and I had it all to myself. Use this blog to help you know when and where to look for your own wild berries in the Catskills.
Can you name the exotic insect pest responsible for this egg mass? The egg mass was found in August 2020 on the bark of a red oak tree in Albany County, NY.
When I come across an unfamiliar bird I usually rely heavily on field guides and the knowledge of others to help me learn which species I’m looking at. I didn’t have any field guides or ornithologist friends with me on this walk, so instead I pulled out my phone and opened my Merlin Bird ID app.
In 2018, researchers at SUNY-ESF published a paper about the profitability of timber harvesting, from a logger’s perspective, in the NYC Watershed and surrounding areas (link to article). The study examined 23 logging jobs and found that almost half were losing money.
Cornell Cooperative Extension developed a method called Assessing Vegetation Impacts from Deer (AVID) that anyone can use to assess deer browsing impacts in their area. Annual measurements of seedling heights are the basis for quantifying the impact of deer browse. Over time, this data can help to inform management decisions to reduce deer browsing impacts so that desirable tree species may grow.
While standing dead trees (aka snags) provide wildlife habitat, you don’t want them hanging over your house. Follow along as I begin the planning process to bring them down.
Why is that lumber for my DIY project or new home costing 3x what it did last year at this time?
Would you ever guess a one-inch, worm-like larva could slow erosion in a stream?
Who doesn’t get excited for spring, especially in the north country? When I finally emerged from winter torpor, I started woods hiking like it was my job. Along the way, I came across several harbingers of spring, as well as some decidedly random woods finds.
Yorktown’s popular Sylvan Glen Park Preserve has a rich land use history that has shifted from mining to hiking trails, but one thing that has remained constant through the years is the need for a strong riparian zone.
When Lake Waccabuc needed help fighting erosion and runoff, the Three Lakes Council turned to trees to save the day.
Who else might have drunk the water you drank today? Where in the world did it came from? South Africa? Hong Kong?
A compound found in the boreal woods of Finland is being developed into antiviral products to help us with the coronavirus.
Getting leeks (or ramps) to spread in your woodlot for future harvest.
Now is a great time to identify and remove some common non-native invasive plant species from your woodlot.
Hang the poncho by the door and change the batteries in your flashlight. It will soon be time for “Big Night”, when amphibians meet at the local vernal pool to mate.
I spy with my little eye… something colorful in the woods.
Should I harvest my ash trees ahead of an Emerald Ash Borer infestation? Many family forest owners in the U.S. have grappled with this decision. In this week’s blog, landowner Frank Winkler explains how he prepared for and oversaw an ash-only harvest on his Catskill woodlot. He’s been busy after the harvest as well, participating in an integrated pest management study, promoting vegetative regrowth on skid trails and replanting red oak acorns among the logging slash.
Here is a prehistoric, miniature bamboo looking plant that is worth checking out.
It is important for landowners and loggers to understand the equipment, labor, supplies, and time required to install forestry BMPs. This blog post provides an example of remediating a quarter-acre landing area and 1000 feet of skid trail.
After doing three EcoTracks research trials at SUNY-ESF’s Heiberg Forest in Tully, NY, we did a fourth trial, this time in the Catskills. Not only did we change location, but we beefed up from a Timberjack 360 cable skidder to a John Deere 648H grapple skidder.
Building a Hugelkultur mound was labor intensive, but the payoff made it all worth it. Check out our fruit and vegetable haul!
Do trees cling to the soil or does soil cling to the trees?
The observations you make in the woods can tell you quite a bit about land use history and forest disturbance events, like windthrow and logging. Once you know what to look for, your woods walks will become even more meaningful.
This story is about a NYC Watershed farmer’s multifunctional riparian buffer project. He guides you from adoption of the concept and planning stages, through site preparation, planting and protection efforts. Imagine food production and carbon sequestration from streamside areas devoted to water quality improvement!
Do you have small oak trees (< 6’) that you would like to see grow into large oaks that produce many acorns? Does it seem like they never really grow taller? Find out how to solve that problem.
Do you want to keep your oak trees healthy? Here are ways to give them the space and light they need to grow and produce an abundance of acorns.
Have you ever thought about using an outdoor wood boiler to heat your home? For the past six years, Heather Hilson has used one to keep her house warm during the heating season in Upstate New York. In this week’s blog, Heather shares her experiences with installing, operating, and maintaining an outdoor wood boiler, including installation and operating costs.
Do you like oak trees? Do you want to promote them on your property, but just can’t find them? Here are some ways to find even the smallest ones so you can help them grow up and produce acorns in abundance.
Hugelkultur beds can be a great way to grow vegetables when existing soil is poor or space is limited. Hugelkultur is a German word meaning “hill culture” or “mound culture.” These are raised mounds 4-5 feet high from which plants are grown on all sides.
Have you ever treated the clothing you wear to the woods with permethrin? I was late to the game with regard to this tick prevention practice, but I was able to treat my deer scouting clothes safely and efficiently one mid-July morning. This blog demonstrates how I did it.
Under some spruce trees just outside our house there have accumulated grayish-fuzzy clumps about the size of golf balls. Upon quick examination they appear to be reconfigured mice. That is because they are!
“Why eat chipmunk when you can have chicken?” This is the scenario that has been playing out somewhat regularly around the Krutz household this summer, ‘round about late afternoon-early evening. It’s a time they call… “The Foxing Hour”.
The WAC Forestry Program’s 2020 survey of New York City Watershed landowners showed that over two-thirds of study participants were unfamiliar with New York’s Forest Tax Law Program, otherwise known as 480-a. This program helps landowners with 50 or more contiguous forest acres to reduce the property taxes they pay on their forestland in exchange for a commitment to the long-term conservation and management of their woods. This blog post highlights 480-a and its potential benefits and problem areas to encourage eligible landowners to explore how 480-a might work for their woodlots.
New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Watershed recreation lands provide the public with many opportunities for outdoor fun, including hiking, fishing, and hunting. Since January of 2020, I’ve been running four trail cameras on several DEP properties. Well, three now that one “went missing”. Recently, I programmed the cameras to take videos, and in this blog, I share the highlight reel.
What is that bright blue armor wrapped around those skidder tires? They’re called Eco-Wheel Tracks, manufactured by the Swedish company Olofsfors, and they are marketed as helping to improve traction, reduce compaction and rutting, and last longer than traditional tire chains. But do they? Taylor Richmond, a Master’s student at SUNY-ESF, digs into these questions for the WAC Forestry Program.
Have you ever thought of all that trees do for us, for wildlife, and for the planet? Take a break and ponder how amazing and diverse they are!
When you think about wood products, is this what comes to mind? Check out what wood can do.
Trees are tough. This week on MyWoodlot.com, Stefni Krutz shares examples of trees that are alive and well (mostly), despite some ghastly injuries or harsh growing conditions. Don’t look if you’re squeamish.
When you’re looking for a new place to explore, sometimes it’s best to start small.
With the rise of the Asian ladybeetle, it can be difficult to find one of our many native ladybug species. To increase your odds of success, you have to know where to look.
Last summer, I looked up and noticed something strange about the sugar maple tree that shades my favorite picnic table. Many of the leaves were brown on the margins.
New York has a vast ‘solar farm’ in that about two-thirds of the state’s land cover (18 million acres) is forested.
At some point, you’re probably going to face some big decisions about the future of your land. When you do, will you know your options? Our ongoing study looks at this question for landowners in the NYC Watershed.
What is THAT?! Use the free, powerful iNaturalist app to help identify what you find in the woods.
When digging weeds out of my garden area this spring I dug up more earthworms than you can shake a trowel at. In the midst of this earthworm fest, I came upon a curious creature: an earthworm with two tails.
Clearpool Model Forest is hitting back against black swallow-wort.
Such beauty. What fragrance! Do you have what it takes to remove her?
Some observations are best begun at the beginning, but this one will be more interesting if we begin at the end: with this green object in the middle of a mud puddle.
Caterpillars can be so stunning that many people want to place one in their palm. If this sounds like you, it’s probably best that you read this first.
Cooking can be cathartic. This week on MyWoodlot, Heather Hilson shares her Winging-it Venison Stew recipe, cooked low and slow. It’s hearty and comforting – perfect for those colder rainy spring days in the Catskills.
Spotted salamanders weren’t the only amphibians laying eggs in the pools. Something had laid eggs in a single line that often spiraled. Some of these eggs were laid on top of the salamander masses.
Vernal pools play host to many forms of wildlife. An important part of these are the invertebrates which have roles as both predator and prey.
A vernal rut’s not a bad place to grow up if you’re a salamander.
This high-grade harvest has a silver lining.
Did you think red leaves were just a fall color? So did I, until I noticed some leaves are red in spring and summer.
Unlike making rotisserie chicken, streamside (riparian) tree plantings are not a “set it and forget it” activity.
WAC researchers help to improve understanding about the likely sources and pathways for stream sedimentation associated with logging in the NYC Watershed.
You never know what you might find on a walk out in the natural world.
Bugs on snow? What?
One week had passed since I installed trail cameras on public land in the Catskills. Was I the only animal that had stopped by?
Winter can be overlooked as a time for outdoor activities, but it has plenty to offer.
This week on MyWoodlot.com, Kris Brown shares his first experience with setting up trail cameras on public land in the Catskills.
Have you ever been on a winter walk and seen this?
The cold of winter kills off the sign of many plants that lay dormant under the snow. But there are telltale signs that stick up above the snow for us to discover.
Winter can be kind of a drag, but I’ve learned the best way to enjoy it is to get outside and embrace it.
Most of us learned growing up that ladybugs are “good bugs” but is that still true?
Nature inspires art. This is especially true of the Art Nouveau movement popular from 1890 to 1910. A major proponent of this style in the United States was Louis Comfort Tiffany.
We were in a stand of white pine that had been thinned to allow the best trees to get the most nutrients the site could offer. We heard a bird from above and looked up to spot a male common yellowthroat on a hemlock branch.
Check out this plant’s impressions! What impression do you leave?
The word porcupine comes from the old French word porcespin, meaning thorn pig.
Snow reveals wildlife activities that are usually hidden from us. It catalogs the actions of animals and holds them frozen in time for our perusal. It tells us stories.
“Tell me the bat story,” my toddler says. The bat story is a favorite around our house. I get this request weekly.
The WAC forestry program helped to repair the decking on a bridge at a timber harvest in Windham, NY.
It’s a bumper crop year for red oak acorns in the Catskills.
Just because Halloween is over doesn’t mean we can’t tell spooky stories.
In honor of Halloween, Stefni Krutz penned this poem about Monotropa uniflora, The Ghost Flower.
What if you were an aquatic insect preparing to spread your wings for the first time and saw this?
We want to know where, why, and how often Best Management Practices fail.
Everyone does it, though not everyone does it in the woods. But hey, poop happens.
Puddling… it’s a thing that butterflies do.
Do certain things catch your eye as you wander through the woods? I get drawn to things like: different colors, different shapes, things that seem out of place, odd looking things.
Have you ever walked through the forest and stopped to backtrack because you saw a tree that looked like wings? Or a knot that looked like a gargoyle playing basketball? A canker that looked like an iris or a stump that looked like a goat eye? Nature has many amazing shapes and our human minds just yearn to make sense of them. Glance through the following photographs and see for yourself. Do you see the same thing I do or something else entirely? Let us know on Facebook or post your own examples on the MyWoodlot.com forum.
From late-August and several weeks into fall I saw monarchs flutter by, enjoying the late summer sun and blooms. Every time I saw one pass, I stopped and wondered if it was one of the caterpillars I spent so many hours looking after.
You may have seen scruffy or even bald cardinals at your bird feeder. What causes that, and is it anything to worry about?
It lurks along waterways, shading out native plants and starving the animals that eat them. Colonies haunt the roadsides. What is it? It’s the Tasseled Menace.
Guest-author Brendan Murphy is torn between two loves: bonfires and pileated woodpeckers.
The Anti-Rent War was centered in the Catskills and pitted farmers against the landowning elite, known as the UpRenters. The Anti-Renters believed they had been misled into entering leases that were unjust. The UpRenters believed a contract was a contract.
Students from Ossining High School planted trees to protect water quality at Hilltop Hanover Farm in Yorktown Heights, NY.
My toddler continues to teach me lessons about nature. On a recent backyard playdate, she taught me not once, but twice.
Water is strong, but tree canopies help to soften the raining blows.
Guest-author Jennifer J. Lerner gives you the tools to be a Spotted Lanternfly vigilante.
This week on MyWoodlot, the Agroforestry Resource Center of CCE Columbia Greene describes how you can promote biodiversity in your backyard.
Humans and water go together like peas and carrots, salamanders and vernal pools, summer and ice cream.
If you have ever seen this little beauty of an orchid, also known as the Moccasin Flower, you will remember it!
Establishing baby trees is critical for your woods’ future, but like any parenting, it takes patience and hard work.
Logger Tom Wormell shared his expertise in skidder bridge construction during a Trained Logger Certification course in Saugerties, NY.
Mother Nature takes issue with the idea that NYC’s drinking water is unfiltered.
Do you know where NYC’s drinking water comes from?
A watershed is a shed that holds water, right?
High-grading removes the best trees and damages your woods. Turn it around and practice “worst first” forestry to boost your woods’ long-term economic and wildlife values.
Catskill sugar maple trees are likely being used to make many of the baseball bats you will see in a Major League Baseball game.
If a woodpecker pecks on the ground instead of wood, is it still a woodpecker? Isn’t it a ground-pecker?
It’s easy to take the American robin for granted, but these tidbits about Turdus migratorius will have you looking at this common bird with a new sense of wonder.
I’ve never been described as a multi-tasker, but that all changed when I went snowshoeing and boundary line posting (both for the first time) at Siuslaw Model Forest.
Do you ever get curious about what you see when you walk in the woods? What if you saw this?
Protecting water quality during a timber harvest can be a challenge, but working with loggers to find practical, cost-effective solutions is what we are passionate about.
High-grading and diameter-limit cutting are two common logging practices. They provide short-term income, but they damage your woods in the long run. Avoid them in favor of “worst first” forestry.
What’s with that pile of stripped pine cones? Was some sort of seed collecting machine set up there for a while? Well, yes actually.
Feeling blue about emerald ash borer (EAB)? Don’t just throw your hands in the air. You can help scientists find EAB-resistant trees (which provide great hope for ash restoration) by tracking the health of some of the trees in your woodlot.
Nothing but deer tags to eat this year? Don’t sulk. Get out there and start scouting.
The stone wall in front of the office is being demolished, one stone at a time. It isn’t father time taking back his children; it’s the hand of man removing what has become “untidy”, “unsightly”, and time-worn.
MyWoodlot team member Tom Pavlesich has posted about his experience tapping the maple trees in his backyard and then using the sap to make maple syrup. If Tom’s posts have inspired you to tap some maples yourself, one of the first things you’ll need to know is how to identify different kinds of maple trees
Looking for a cheap and effective way to collect maple sap in your backyard?
Doing nothing and “letting nature take its course” may seem best for your woods, but in certain cases doing nothing can actually reduce your woods’ health and wildlife habitat.
New York City pizza and bagels are widely considered the best in the U.S., but why? It’s the water.
You didn’t think you were going to take a chainsaw safety class and not fell a 15” tree, did you?
The lack of squirrels in the woods didn’t seem like a big deal to me at first, but after seeing one predator after another, I couldn’t help but link the two.
It is always interesting to figure out the age of giant trees on your property. Doing so accurately is not always easy.
I took out my journal and began to write. I started by describing my hike and my experiences, making sure to focus on my emotions and sensory observations.
The Pound Ridge Land Conservancy is saving their trees by cutting vines.
Then we heard the sound of a large animal moving through the brush…
It’s said that Cleopatra herself incorporated rose water potions into her own beauty routine. Unfortunately, we can’t all afford to live like a queen and regularly buying rose water to use as a facial toner or hair and body mist can get quite pricey. So to save a few bucks, I decided to try making rose water with petals from my garden.
“What’s that smell?” I thought, as a fresh minty scent swirled into my nostrils. Did this beaver use mouthwash?
We don’t have to trick kids into liking nature. They already do.
To save a disappearing shrubland and the birds that rely on it, the Westchester Land Trust installed a deer fence—and cut a few trees.
Box elder is commonly mistaken for poison ivy.
Looking at old junk in woodlands through the lens of history and aesthetics.
A woodlot owner in Pound Ridge saves important wolf trees by cutting vines.
Japanese Stiltgrass invaded my meadow. Here’s what I did about it.
A move from upstate New York to southern Pennsylvania brings a surprise: a change from black-capped to Carolina chickadees.
Chainsaw is a common yet very dangerous tool. The best time to review chainsaw safety is now.
Spotted lanternfly reached the eastern US in 2014, and it’s already spread rapidly and caused immense damage to trees and fruit farms. Learn about this devastating new invasive pest before it hits your land.
Jack-in-the-pulpit gets its name from the plant’s flower, which resembles a preacher wrapped around by the pulpit. You can find it in rich, moist woods in the spring starting in May to early June.
Sycamore Anthracnose is a native fungus that we’re seeing a lot of this spring thanks to the cool, rainy weather. Fortunately, your sycamores will probably survive.
At first I was excited to get some good deer photos. But when I looked closer, my excitement turned to concern. What was wrong with these deer?
This is the first blog in a series that shares the experiences of a new woodlot and lawn owner as he tries to make his small corner of the world a little better for wildlife.
While driving down the road in early spring, you may see yellow flowers and think the dandelions are back. But those flowers aren’t dandelions at all. They’re coltsfoot.
I am moving through the slowly falling snow, back in the woods far from any road. There is no breeze. Suddenly it hits me. There is no sound right now. I stop to take it in, that rarest of rare finds in our noisy modern world: utter, complete, total silence.
I encountered a lot of skepticism about this “winter robin.” People told me I couldn’t have seen what I saw. After hearing that from a few folks, I decided to set the record straight.
Many tree suppliers start taking spring orders in January. If you plan on planting trees this year, order them now for the best chance of getting the number and kinds of trees you want.”
American sycamores are really catchy-looking trees, especially in winter. The other day I happened to look out a window at work and couldn’t help but say aloud, “That is a huge sycamore tree!”
Driving a country road recently on a cold, crystal-clear day, I noticed the fat red spires of staghorn sumac seed clusters silhouetted against the deep blue sky.
Like the Big Bad Wolf, oddly shaped “wolf trees” used to get removed. But they’re seeing a surge in popularity because of their remarkable wildlife value.
Last week I talked about a recent late fall hike where I found some surprising color amid the brown. On that hike there was another burst of color I spotted, and I wanted to share it with you.
Late fall may seem like a drab, brown season, but there are lots of interesting sights to find if you look closely.
There I was, minding my own business, when it suddenly leaped out at me from the side of the trail...
You might look at a leaf-covered stream and think it looks dirty. But all that leaf litter is good for water quality, both for creatures in the water and those of us who depend on it to drink.
Animals take some truly amazing journeys. Today, I’d like to talk about three animals that take yearly migrations and the reasons behind their treks.
The Putnam County Fish and Game Association installed their deer exclosure in 2014. Three years later, the exclosure stands strong because of good maintenance practices.
Hurricane Sandy severely damaged the Putnam County Fish and Game Association’s woods. They used a deer exclosure fence to protect tree seedlings and help their land recover.
In my 10 years of providing training to help loggers be safer and more profitable, I have met some exceptional guys. Ray Tallman was one of them.
Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic emphasizes the beauty of nature, but a healthy forest can be downright ugly.
Westchester Land Trust’s Otter Creek Preserve was overrun by invasive vines that threatened interior woods habitat. They solved the problem with hand tools, volunteers, and a lot of elbow grease.
Is that a really weird-looking pinecone? That was my first thought when I came across this bizarre plant the other evening while hiking.
There are a lot of reasons for weeding my woods. Increasing food for wildlife, nest habitat for birds, or timber to sell are a few. Careful weeding can even help speed my woods’ transition to that cherished and extremely rare type of woods: old growth.
When you walk your trails on a dry sunny day, you might think they’re fine, that they have no chance of washing away. But take a walk in the rain, and you may be surprised with how much erosion is going on.
Like any superhero, quaking aspen has a mild-mannered alter ego that makes people discount it. Yet behind its trembling exterior, the unassuming “popple” has amazing powers.
People aren’t the only ones who get suckered into blind faith in their camo. Animals can fall victim to the same overconfidence.
Wild parsnip is an invasive, poisonous plant native to Europe and Asia. You can save yourself a lot of pain if you learn to spot and avoid it.
For a thorough introduction to the many ways you can grow food in the woods, there’s no beating Ken Mudge and Steve Gabriel’s excellent book Farming the Woods: An Integrated Permaculture Approach to Growing Food and Medicinals in Temperate Forests.
Our guest blog series by students from Columbia University’s Earth Institute concludes with an interview of Diana Hartel. Diana is an artist, author, and former environmental epidemiologist for Columbia University.
In this third guest blog from our friends at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, the students interview Susan Roth. Susan is an urban planner, outdoor painter, and a member of the Wallkill River School of Art.
On a recent drive through the woods, I saw trees loaded with eastern tent caterpillar tents. When landowners see these tents on their trees, they often worry: are my trees doomed? And what can I do to save them?
Our guest blog series from Columbia University students continues. This week they interview Shawn Dell Joyce, a painter, educator, and founder of the Wallkill River School of Art, a nonprofit that offers outdoor painting workshops on open spaces and small farms.
I love setting up my hammock in the park near my apartment in Queens. I can turn an urban park into my very own woodland oasis with a few pieces of basic equipment. Want to get into the swing of things? Follow these steps.
Last fall, we teamed up with Columbia University students to create new outdoor projects we could share. The students came through with information on painting or drawing in nature, called plein air art. They also interviewed four artists to get their perspective on the value of creating art outside.
Take away bugs, and it doesn’t matter how much seed you put out. You aren’t providing what birds really need. 96% of North America’s terrestrial birds depend on insects, spiders, and the like to feed their young.
Shiitake mushrooms are an agroforestry crop farmed on small log bolts; the Cornell Small Farms Program is seeking bolt sellers to encourage New York State shiitake production.
Here at MyWoodlot, one of the most common reasons we hear why people don’t use tree tubes or bark protectors is that they can be eyesores. But while they might look bad for a few years, they’re worth it in the long run, as I discovered with two larches I planted.
Last week I wrote about hawthorn shrubs and how valuable they are to wildlife, especially birds. But in that discussion, I didn’t have a chance to talk about one of the most impressive wildlife interactions with hawthorn: its use by shrikes.
I was looking through my pictures recently when I noticed a trend. A lot of my bird photos had the bird in the same kind of plant: a hawthorn.
My heart rate quickens as my eyes sweep across dozens of bright green fingers poking out of the ground. It’s as if a buried creature is starting to emerge . . . and launch an attack?!
I still have a flip phone (shocking, I know!). For what I need, it gets the job done. But lately even I’ve realized my flip phone has limits. I hate to admit it, but smartphones do have some advantages for those who spend time in the woods.
The past two weeks, I’ve written about my experiences tapping maple trees in my backyard to make maple syrup, as well as some of the problems I ran into along the way. In this week’s post, all that work pays off as I go from sap to delicious homemade maple syrup.
I learned a ton of lessons by the close of my first maple tapping season. Some came from the advice of friends. Others came through epic failure. Here are a few of my favorites.
Two of the buckets were doing well. They had over eight inches of sap each. But the third was in bad shape. It had barely an inch of sap in the bucket, and this was from our largest maple tree. What had gone wrong?
I decided to tap three maples behind my house this year. I figured since my kids can’t do without syrup on their waffles, why not put their little hands to work making it?
I was trying to think of a Valentine’s-inspired forest topic for today’s blog, but I wasn’t having much luck. Then I took a trip out to the wood pile, and I finally got some inspiration in the form of a small piece of heart-shaped wood.
By now the coziness of thick slippers, warm blankets, and hot cocoa has worn thin. Winter hangs on, but don’t despair. It may be winter outside, but it can be spring inside thanks to force blooming.
It’s 15 degrees. The trees are bare. But this Saturday’s Operation Avoid Screen Time had the kids playing with leaves.
Even without leaves, winter has its advantages when it comes to identifying trees. One of those advantages is that it’s easier to see a tree’s branch structure.
The bark of white birch (also called paper birch) is very flammable. Even wet, it ignites and burns brightly. If you've never put flame to a piece of it, I promise it will surprise you!
One of my favorite holiday decorations is our trio of miniature Christmas trees that I helped Mom make years ago from the fruits of the sweetgum tree. The fruits are dry, brown, spiky balls called “gumballs” that you might see lying on the ground in parks and along streets.
The snowshoe hare uses white fur to camouflage itself during winter, but that doesn’t work so well if there’s no snow for the rabbit to hide in.
Last week we told you our recommended reads for lovers of nature and the outdoors. This week we’re building on that list with a new audience: kids!
In his own words, landowner Frank Winkler describes a few of the lessons he’s learned caring for his Catskill Mountains property, including advice on timber harvesting, improving wildlife habitat, dealing with property taxes, and much more. MyWoodlot extends a big “Thank You” to Frank for sharing his story with us.
At MyWoodlot, we’re passionate about always learning more about the woods. This holiday season, we put our heads together to create a list of ten great nature books we would recommend as gifts for the outdoor lover in your life.
Your land’s aspect is the compass direction it faces (for example, north or south). Lands that face north and east are shaded longer, so they tend to be cooler and wetter. Lands that face south and west get more sun, so they tend to be warmer and drier.
Is it a tree? Maybe a moss? No, it’s a fern ally!
Bush honeysuckle leaves stay on longer than most other plants, sometimes even past Thanksgiving. That makes it easy to spot this invasive shrub.
You’re probably familiar with “buy local,” the concept that buying goods and services made in your community helps your local economy. That applies for firewood too, but there’s more to it. Buying local firewood also helps protect your local forests, woodlands, and parks.
Trees with big leaves lose those leaves in the fall, and trees with needles keep them all year round. Right? Well…not exactly.
It’s not opinion that chickadees are the best. It’s fact. Let me give you three reasons why.
Harvesting timber is a big decision. It will benefit both you and your land for you to take your time and make an informed decision when choosing to harvest.
Something tickled my peripheral vision, and I turned my head in time to see a white raptor gliding across the valley.
This spring, we were fortunate enough to work with some senior students from Columbia University to develop new MyWoodlot content centered around rain gardens and nature-based craft projects.
Arborists specialize in individual tree care, often in urban or suburban settings. Foresters use tree measurements, landowner goals, and knowledge of forests to develop plans to care for your woods over time. And loggers are the boots on the ground carrying out the plan you and your forester developed.
When you’re walking among 200-year-old trees and see one lying on the ground dead, your first response is instinctively one of sadness. But in dying, that tree is being reborn in a host of ways.
Abandoned fields, with their patchy shrubs and short trees, may not be as pretty or easy to walk through as older woods, but these "young woods” provide homes for many kinds of wildlife that can survive almost nowhere else.
As summer winds down and kids head back to school, a tasty treat is ripening in many open woodlands. Blackberries are an easy “beginner” foraging crop to look for in your woods, and right now is the perfect time to keep an eye out for them.
In September 2008 a coworker described encountering a swarm of hundreds of small black and red beetles. From the description I assumed it was a gang of ladybugs/ladybird beetles. But she shared a picture taken that cancelled my assumption. Although similar in appearance to ladybugs, these were undeniably a different creature.
Leaves, branches, and fallen logs all contribute food for small stream critters, which in turn become food for reptiles, amphibians, and fish. Large logs also provide places where aquatic invertebrates can hang on to keep from being washed away.
As beech trees die from beech bark disease (caused by a fungus and an invasive insect), the resprouts can choke out tree seedlings and other plants, reducing diversity in your woods.
Even though I’m a forester, I don't see wildlife while I'm working as often as you might think. But even without seeing animals themselves, I’m always looking for signs of indirect evidence whenever I'm out and about.
It’s been a long time coming, but we’re finally launching an invasive plants section on MyWoodlot. We’ve overhauled our Pests area, and over the next two months, we’ll be adding almost a dozen activities to help you keep invasive plants from running amok on your land.
Spring had come, and I was ready to head out to my local woodlot and enjoy the returning migratory birds. Even as I reached the trailhead, though, I knew something was wrong. The place was silent, as quiet as in deepest winter.
Trees and woodlands can appear frozen in time, but in truth they’re constantly changing. Usually this change happens slowly, but sometimes it occurs in the blink of an eye.
Porcupines deserve a better public perception. Not just "unappreciated," many people consider porcupines nuisances, even villains! Yet I've always found them charming.
It’s June, and here in upstate New York, that means strawberries. But I might not be eating strawberries at all were it not for the help of an insect that gives a lot of people the heebie-jeebies: bees.
Dads do a lot all year long. This Father’s Day, we’re paying homage to one particularly incredible downstream daddy: the lined seahorse.
The outdoors can be a source of immense mental and physical health benefits, but they can also cause injury and illness if you aren’t careful. In honor of National Safety Month, here are a few safety tips for when you head out into nature.
In 2015, the Catskill Forest Association held a workshop titled “The Growing Deer Debate.” This event brought together national experts on deer and their role in woodlands. Thanks to a grant from the Watershed Agricultural Council, the Association was able to record those presentations and post them online.
Do you wonder if your trees are healthy? Are they getting bigger each year, or do they seem to stay the same size? Is there anything you can do to improve your woods? The Northeast Timber Growing Contest was designed to help woodland owners learn about and improve the productivity and health of northeastern woodlands.
We’ve fielded several questions from woodland owners about what the recent “Threatened” listing for the northern long-eared bat means for them. This article reviews what actions you’ll need permits for and who to contact to get them.
Your woods are always changing, but from walk to walk, that change might not be obvious. One way to see how your woods grow and change is to take photos of the same subject season after season or year after year. When you put those pictures together, you get something powerful: time lapse photos.
Have you ever thought of taking a bath in the woods? Sounds crazy, but forest bathing is good for your health. This isn’t stripping down and scrubbing with a pine cone (ouch!). Forest bathing is simply spending some relaxing time in the woods to let the woods wash over you.
Have you ever driven down the road on an early spring day just feeling some joy you can’t explain? Something inside is trying to burst forth, and holding it back is a chore. You sing with a song on the radio at the top of your lungs. The world around is full of warmth and coming alive!
As we head into late spring and march on toward summer, the weather is just getting better and better for venturing outside for some fresh air and exercise. Here at MyWoodlot, we’re celebrating all this healthy living with a month of new activities designed to help get you out in nature.
Waterbars are simple, down-sloped berms of dirt dug into a trail. It might seem odd or even annoying to have bumps in your trail, but waterbars serve an important purpose: they divert water off the trail before it causes erosion.
April 29th is Arbor Day, and many of us will celebrate by planting a tree. But if you really want that tree to survive, just planting it won’t be enough. Like human babies, baby trees are fragile and benefit from some loving care. With that in mind, here are some tips for protecting your Arbor Day seedling so it grows into a big, healthy tree someday.
As a rule of thumb, I don’t like email. But that rule doesn’t apply when I get forestry questions from woodland owners. I’ve even come to expect and look forward to emails from some landowners. Carrie Sears is one of these people.
Note from MyWoodlot editor Josh VanBrakle: The emerald ash borer is the most destructive forest pest we’ve seen in decades and threatens multiple species with extinction. But as doctoral student Michael Jones explains, an emerging technique called biocontrol offers hope that we can save millions of trees from dying.
Every timber harvest has an area where logs are sorted and then loaded onto trucks for delivery to a sawmill. These areas are called landings, and they are more impacted by logging than any other part of a harvest because of all the equipment driving around. Right after a harvest, a landing can look messy, with the plants worn away and bare dirt exposed. But these areas don’t have to stay messy.
A few weeks back we brought you a special blog post from Dr. William Powell of the State University of New York talking about his work to restore the American chestnut. We’re pleased today to do a follow-up special post with Allen Nichols, President of The American Chestnut Foundation of New York (TACFNY), discussing a way YOU can help bring back the American chestnut after its decimation by the invasive chestnut blight fungus.
This spring, you might be surprised to look at a juniper or cedar on your property and see bold, orange, spiky blobs on its branches. They’re not cones or fruits on the cedar. They’re actually one stage in the life of a complicated fungal disease: cedar apple rust.
As a forester, it’s easy to fall into the trap of seeing myself as “the expert.” But I’ve found that when I interact with landowners, I usually learn as much from them as they learn from me.
This video features three woodland owners from Ohio sharing their insights, values, and reasons why they own woods. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Here at MyWoodlot, we strive to add a new activity every week, and we want those activities to be as helpful and interesting for you as possible. So while we’re happy to put up our own ideas, we’re always open to projects and resources you think would be useful to have on here.
Ok, we may not technically be there yet, but as we come into March, there’s no question that spring is on its way. The days are getting longer, the average temperature is rising, and I am slowly emerging from hibernation to get ready for one of the best times of year to be in the woods.
I’m pretty sure my grandfather could speak Bird. When he wasn’t gardening or playing music, Grandpa loved to walk and whistle. With grandkids in tow, he would take the old railroad line or walk the apple orchards near his home and call the birds down to us.
I do not enjoy winter. My apologies to skiers, snowshoers, and hockey fans, but I simply do not like it. I grew up in a place where 2 inches of snow led to closed schools, pandemonium on the roads, and a run on milk, bread, and eggs so fierce you’d swear everyone in town had a sudden hankering for French toast. Usually by December my wife and I are already saying, “We’re ready for spring.”
Note from MyWoodlot editor Josh VanBrakle: The invasive fungus chestnut blight has decimated the American chestnut, once the most common hardwood tree east of the Mississippi River. But this ghost of the past may have a new future thanks to incredible work by folks like Dr. William Powell and the American Chestnut Foundation. I’m thrilled to share this article by Dr. Powell talking about the chestnut restoration work he and others are doing at the State University of New York.
I head up the trail to check out the giant eastern hemlock and eastern white pine in this woods on the West Branch Nature Preserve. There’s a certain feeling of awe and wonder, an amazing spaciousness, when you take in this stand of nearly 200-year-old trees.
I survived the Great Snowy Blowy Blizzard of 2016!
Back in January, the Great Snowy Blowy Blizzard of 2016 (more formally known as Winter Storm Jonas) dumped more than two feet of snow on New York City. I passed the time by cooking soup, baking bread, and peeking out of my snow-encrusted windows to watch the gray fury blasting about in every direction.
Do you feel good when you spend time in nature? I do. Sometimes just walking around and looking at things is enough. Other times, I do a quick, simple activity to sharpen my senses, tickle my brain, and enhance my experience outdoors.
Last spring I was hiking in the woods, and I had a realization. The spring migrants had arrived, and the forest was alive with birdsong. I knew there were many species around me, but to me, their songs just sounded like a jumble.
Earlier this fall I was walking a woods when I rounded a bend and came upon a field of Christmas trees. I walked up to one, and it was a gem of a tree. It had a deep green color, a nice cone shape with soft needles, and a rich balsam smell. In short, it was the perfect Christmas tree.
Here at MyWoodlot, we try to focus on practical, inexpensive activities landowners like you can actually do.
Some activities, though, do cost money for supplies or professional help. Often those costs will be on you, but there are a few programs out there that can help offset certain woodlot expenses.