Sunday, March 22, 2015

Field Farm, Williamstown

Sunday, March 15, I hiked the trails at Field Farm in Williamstown with Deena Gilbert and the Berkshire County Hiking Group, a Meetup group. Field Farm is a 316-acre Trustees of Reservation property on agricultural land with views to the west of the Taconic Range and, to the east, of Mount Greylock. Beautiful! In addition, the garden has thirteen sculptures enriching the natural environment.

The site preserves two Modernist houses designed in 1948, low structures with lots of glass that, to me, look like they are growing out of the ground.  The houses are open as a bed and breakfast; six rooms, all with mountain views. There are picnic tables for day visitors.

That day, we hiked in a fierce snow squall which whited out the mountains. We snowshoed around a frozen pond, through open fields and on a trail in a mostly hardwood forest that traversed several brooks. After hiking we stopped at Ioka Farm, close by, to view the maple syrup-producing operation and eat some maple syrup-covered pancakes. Yum!

This is Field Farm's Modernist house with a large stone terrace.
The smaller house is nearest the pond.
Our happy group is ready to brave the snow squall!
View across the pond to both houses.
The Oak Loop trail included a couple of well-constructed bridges.
The trails are well-marked and easy to follow.
As we were returning, the sun almost came out!
She looks a little cold, doesn't she?
The next stop was Ioka Farm in Hancock.
With this modern oil-fired evaporator, Ioka Farm makes
approx. 6500 gallons of syrup every spring.
It takes 40 gallons of maple sap to make one gallon of syrup.
Before the sap gets to the evaporator, it undergoes
a reverse-osmosis process to remove some of the water.
This is the older and smaller wood-fired evaporator.
We tasted various grades of syrup, maple cream, and products
made with maple syrup. Then we had our pancakes!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Roeliff Jansen Park, Hillsdale, NY

It was feeling like spring might be on the way Tuesday as we snowshoed through the fields at the Roeliff Jansen Park in Hillsdale, New York. The first bird we saw was a bluebird. I've heard reports of some bluebirds overwintering here but this was the first one I've seen since last summer. By noon I had shed my jacket and was feeling the warmth of the sun on my back and shoulders. I need to get out my sunglasses!

The Roeliff Jansen Park opened in 2009. The land, which is owned by the state and managed by the town of Hillsdale, was saved from becoming a housing development. Much of the acreage is leased out to neighboring farmers thus preserving the agricultural landscape. 

The trails are easy with expansive views. The park also includes a dog park, outdoor gym equipment and several buildings.

We set out across the large fields on our snowshoes. 
The top of a rise on the Overlook Trail has beautiful vistas all around.
The wonderful openness of rolling agricultural land habitat
is preserved.
Just by way of comparison, a few days before, I walked
the same trails in a cold, windy snow squall. But now, spring is on the way!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Private Trails at Otis Woodlands, Otis

This week we explored the private trails at Otis Woodlands in Sandisfield and Otis. Even with approximately 250 homes, the area remains wooded because homeowner restrictions permit tree-cutting for the house only. The development's land abuts Otis Ridge Ski Area and Otis State Forest. 

The association's volunteers have marked and maintain several miles of private trails.
The snow had piled up on some large boulders along the trail.
Hillary Filios, a knowledgeable tracker, pointed out various animal tracks.
These tracks lead to a hole down to a ground-level tunnel
that provides protective cover for the animal,
maybe a squirrel. 
It's March and we still have freezing days and several feet of snow,
but the buds are fat and ready for spring!
This is a first for me and I was so excited to see this!
It's a long mink slide. The mink conserves energy
(and must have some fun!) by sliding down inclines on its belly.
We saw several of these, some going into a brook
where it feeds on crayfish, frogs and fish .