Morgan Bulkeley’s Big Berkshire Trees — Winter Tree Week

Morgan Bulkeley’s Big Berkshire Trees — Winter Tree Week

Over 50 years ago, prolific writer and avid naturalist Morgan Bulkeley contributed more than 750 articles for the Berkshire Eagle. Under the title, “Our Berkshires,” Bulkeley illuminated the local history, people, and nature of our richly beautiful Berkshire home. 
During the years of 1968-1970, Bulkeley challenged local readers to contribute to a list of the largest and most notable trees in the Berkshires. Responses were swift and steady and 100+ trees were ultimately recorded.
I’d like to find out if any of these trees are still standing. To document the trees still in existence and the fates of the fallen soldiers, or even add a new tree to the list!
I’m asking for your help!
Below you’ll find a spreadsheet of the trees Bulkeley compiled. If you’re a resident (or curious visitor!) to any of the towns listed, head to the location and do some investigating. Keep in mind that references to certain names, homes, & locations may have changed over 53 years and may require some extra sleuthing. (And avoid private property!) Email your findings to: berkshirefamilyhikes@gmail.com
If you have a new big tree to add to the list, check out this link for instructions on how to measure basic tree circumference and email your findings to: berkshirefamilyhikes@gmail.com
In an effort to rekindle and deepen our connection with our natural communities, as well as honoring a man who truly understood what it meant to appreciate earth’s gifts, get outside and look around! Let’s go on a Berkshire county-wide scavenger hunt – a vegetation investigation!

We created a spreadsheet of the 1968-1970 Big Trees that Bulkeley compiled. If you have knowledge of a particular tree still standing, let us know! 

Print out the spreadsheet and join in the hunt! Let us know what you find. Email berkshirefamilyhikes@gmail.com

 Berkshire Eagle Archives 1968-1970


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Conifer Confusion — Winter Tree Week

Conifer Confusion — Winter Tree Week

Spruce, Pine, or Fir? 

Not gonna lie, for the longest time I called all evergreens pine trees. Conifers solely existed in Christmas tree world, and countless holidays went by without realizing that the oh, Tannenbaum I was trimming was actually a fir — tannenbaum meaning fir tree German.

Until the fateful day we brought home a blue spruce for Christmas…

One of the reasons we annually lug a real live tree into our living rooms is the smell, right? That unmistakable sharp, sweet, freshness that conjures up Christmas days of yore, and this tree was no exception — fragrant, shapely and silver-tinged, a holiday shrub that dreams are made of.

And then the needles began to fall, and the dream turned into a nightmare. Have you ever stepped bare-footed on a Lego? Yea, it’s like that, BUT SHARP. Like, an overlooked fragment of glass sharp, just nestled in the deep fibers of your carpet, lying in wait and no vacuum can touch them.

This spruce abuse stuck around for a few seasons and we swore off anything but firs for Christmases to come. But it was this rude introduction that got me to pay attention to evergreens in the first place.

So, How Do You Tell?

The Conifer family include pines, spruces, firs, hemlocks, larches (these are not evergreens), and true cedars. They all bear cones, most have a single, straight trunk, a conical shape, and appear dark green in color. In order to tell them apart, we’ve got to get a little but closer. 

Shake Hands with the Tree

Go on, grab a branch and introduce yourself.

Pine needles are long. They grow in clusters of two or more and the number in a packet tells you the kind of pine. Red pine has packets of two needles, pitch pine three, and if a twig bears needles in packets of five, it’s a white pine. I remember that because “white” has five letters.

PINE: Playful Packets of Pointy Pins

Let’s meet someone else. Spruces can be stand-offish, even stiff, so take care when sidling up to say hi. Pull off a needle, and roll it between your fingers (I dare you). If it rolls easily, it’s a spruce. Careful not to prick your fingers! 

SPRUCE: Spiny, Stiff, Sharp as a Syringe

Fir trees are much friendlier. Fir needles are softer and flat, and cannot be rolled between your fingers. If it feels flat and doesn’t roll easily, it’s a fir.

FIR: Friendly, Flexible with Flat needles

Hemlocks seem shy to me, their branches always drooping towards the earth. Hemlock needles are flat and short, with blunt tips. These needles are attached to the twig by a small peg or “stem,” such that when you pluck one off, it is left behind. 

HEMLOCK: Hanging Hems Have Stems!

Hopefully, this helps clear up any conifer confusion you may have had. Remember, the best way to get to know a tree is to introduce yourself!

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Let’s Go Burl-lunking! — Winter Tree Week

Let’s Go Burl-lunking! — Winter Tree Week

Tree Warts, as my 7-year old calls them, are actually burls. And what exactly is a burl, you ask? A burl is a gnarly-looking, extraneous growth found on a tree.

Scientists are still not sure what causes these bulges to occur, but have theorized that a burl may be made when a tree is experiencing stress, injury, virus, or fungal infection. Other scientists believe that certain trees may have a genetic predisposition to forming burls as a result of certain environmental factors, like pollution or the mineral content in the soil.

Although they seem ugly on the outside, burls are highly prized by woodworkers who know what magnificent designs are often found on the inside. Kevin Smith, a plant physiologist at the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Research Station, published a piece in 2012 on burl biology in the newsletter of the Massachusetts Tree Wardens’ and Foresters’ Association. Next to his article was a report detailing several Massachusetts burl thefts, including one where arboreal bandits climbed 30 feet into a “very old sugar maple” to steal two burls from either side of the trunk. 

I’m no burl-poacher, but I will steal a word from Berkshire cave-explorer Clay Perry. Instead of going spelunking, why not try burl-lunking! Skip the cavernous outcroppings, and instead hunt for the burliest growths. Grab a ruler, dive through the winter forest and see who can find the biggest, baddest, burl. (I’m making this up as I go folx, as we do). 

Some great places to go burl-lunking are Golden Hill Town Forest in Lee, Old Mill Trail in Hinsdale/Dalton, Dorothy Frances Rice Wildlife Sanctuary in Peru, Greylock Glen in Adams, Kennedy Park in Lenox and Bullard Woods in Stockbridge. 

 

Want to recreate the swirlicious beauty found on the inside of the burl? Try out one of the painting techniques below! Do a Google image search “inside burls” for inspiration. 

Burl Fork Painting

Materials:

  • Heavier paper or cardstock
  • Paints
  • Paintbrushes
  • Forks

Cut out a loose cross-section of a tree. Do it freehand, trees are all shapes & sizes! (I saved the scraps for another project.)

We taped our paper wood cookie down on the table and started to paint a small section. Then while the paint was still wet, the kids grabbed a fork and created their designs!

Milk Swirl Painting

Materials:

  • Shallow dish
  • Milk (Fuller fat milk works best)
  • Food Coloring
  • Dish Soap
  • Q-Tips
  • Paper

Fill a shallow dish with milk just so the bottom is covered. Choose 3 or 4 colors of food coloring and add a couple of drops of each in the center of your dish. 

Carefully pour one drop of dish soap into the center of the food coloring and observe what happens!

The kids then dipped their q-tips in soap and swirled the food coloring into different designs before it all mixed together.

We dipped a few of our paper scraps into the swirls before they were thoroughly mixed.

 Sources: The Biology of Burls

What is a Tree Burl

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Winter Tree Week

Winter Tree Week


 It’s no secret. Trees are my favorite. Nature and the outdoors are my jam, but trees hold the wooden key to my heart. Strong, silent, and crucial to life-sustaining oxygen, like Richard Power’s wrote, ““This is not our world with trees in it. It’s a world of trees, where humans have just arrived.”

If you love ’em so much, why don’t you marry them?” Maybe I will friend, maybe I will. Google marry a tree, it’s a thing.

Sylvan nuptials aside, we all stop and take notice of these stoic sentinels during their colorful fall transformations, when we’re seeking the summer shade, and maybe even during their spring rebirth.

But it’s during stick season, that trees are often overlooked. When we slow down and take notice, we can discover the subtle changes of the dormant dendrites as they branch out under the winter sky, quiet, lying in wait for the earth’s axis to tilt towards the sun.   

This week we’re celebrating the trees of winter, taking time to notice the typically overlooked. This observation requires you to up your perception from low-res to high, to perceive things that may have been invisible to us, and to “break bud” with our tree friends, as we all wait for the promise of spring. 

 This week, join us as we go for a sky swim, go burl-unking, learn the 3 B’s of winter tree ID, hunt for Bulkeley’s big Berkshire trees, clear up conifer confusion, and notice, shift, & rewire our mindset with tree silhouettes. It’s gonna be tree-mendous!


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Wolf Trees on a Wolf Moon – Road’s End Wildlife Sanctuary

Wolf Trees on a Wolf Moon – Road’s End Wildlife Sanctuary

 

 

 

Where We Went: Mass Audubon Road’s End Wildlife Sanctuary / Worthington

When We Went: January 10th, 2020

Difficulty/Boots 1-10: 2 Boots

Trail Length: 1 mile

How Long it Took Us: 2.5 Hours

Overview : January 10th – it’s 5PM and the moon is full. We spent some evening time in our backyard, marveling at the moon’s brightness, absorbing it’s brilliance before heading inside for dinner. The very first full moon of 2020. The Wolf Moon.

Why is the new year’s moon called the Wolf Moon? There are so many ancient ties between wolves and January’s full moon, it’s hard to nail down a specific origin. The Gaelic word for January, Faoilleach, comes from the term for wolves, faol-chù. The Saxon word for January is Wulf-monath, or Wolf Month. The festival of the Japanese wolf god, Ooguchi Magami, is held in January and the Sioux tribe called January’s full moon the Moon Where Wolves Run Together. A medieval favorite has roots to the days of Odin, Loki, and Thor. 

In this Norse myth, two wolves – Skoll and Hati – spend their lives chasing the sun and moon across the sky. On the day of Ragnarok, the Norse apocalypse, the wolves were said to finally catch their elusive prey, with Skoll swallowing the sun and Hati gobbling the moon, plunging the cosmos into darkness.

Rewind the day’s clock 6 hours and you’d find us outside on another, separate wolf adventure.

Wolf Tree in Lanesborough

 If you’ve ever taken a walk in pastoral New England and spotted a large, low-branched tree that looks strangely out of place in its surroundings, you’ve probably seen a “wolf tree.”

Also called legacy or pasture trees, the term “wolf tree” was most likely coined by foresters stumbling upon these lone wolves in the woods. Often left uncut in open fields to provide shade for grazing livestock, many are found near remnants of stone walls because of an old “rule” that you didn’t cut down trees along your property boundaries.

Much like the Norse wolf Skoll, these wooden wolves also had the ability to “eat” the sun. Left all alone in abandoned fields, these alpha trees monopolized nutrients and prevented the growth of other trees. Today, it’s important to understand how much these giants now benefit their surroundings. Michael Gaige, a conservation biologist who studied the use of wolf trees by wildlife, found that the trees are favored over more typical forest trees. Birds and mammals both frequently utilize wolf trees, Gaige “concluded unequivocally that wolf trees are a boon to wildlife.” You can read more about wolf trees and his findings here. 

At Road’s End Wildlife Sanctuary in Worthington, the wolves are out in full force. Ancient sugar maples line the access road, showing their age in the splintering limbs and deep cavities. Within the woodlands, look for these solitary giants providing critical nesting sites for area birds. Conserved and protected by Mass Audubon, Road’s End is a typical abandoned farmstead. The forest may be coming back, but the clues to it’s former past linger everywhere. Go hunting for wolves, full wolf moon optional.

What We Dug: Road’s End has all the distinguishing characteristics of land that was once used for agricultural and lumbering purposes, now being reclaimed by the forest. Rock walls, cellar holes, and the mixture of old growth and new growth woodlands. It’s the perfect spot to put your land use detective skills to the test! As we walked, I tried to get the kids to imagine what the land used to look like, asking them to picture sheep and cows grazing in the fields (with the snow as a mental roadblock, this lasted approximately 25 seconds). The Nancy Weiss Trail was the perfect mix of flat area sidling along next to a freshly awakening brook.

Syncing up with the wolf moon, we spent some time hunting for wolf trees, but this is an activity you can do anytime. Check out this link for a FREE printable wolf tree activity!

Another fun activity to try when you’re walking amongst a grove of pine trees is to try and count their age. As a pine tree grows each year, new branches form a circle, or “whorl”, around the trunk. These branch “whorls” each signify one year of growth. The number of whorls is an approximation of the age of the tree. By counting from base to crown, you can estimate how old the tree is. This can be difficult on older trees. Although it’s not a wholly accurate indicator of age, it is fun for kids to guess-timate and practice their counting skills.

For the older nature sleuth, or my fellow adult investigator, I can’t say enough about terrestrial ecologist Tom Wessels and his books, “Reading the Forested Landscape” or “Forest Forensics“, both invaluable resources on deciphering the past lives of New England’s landscapes. If you’re more of a visual kinda person, the 3-part video done by New England Forest is available, FREE, here on Youtube. Skip to 13:35 on Part 3 for his input on wolf trees.

What We Could Do Without: See those snow slugs? Yea, those slugs are mine. Truth be told, the kids were not thrilled on this hike. Even with activities prepared, they were over it 5 minutes in. Sh*t just be like that sometimes. With some bribery and mild threats, we made it through and chalked it up as an off day.

 Due to the mild day, snow was melting and Corbett Road was pretty muddy. Definitely wouldn’t attempt during real Spring thaw unless you have a car with the ability to traverse deep mud.

Keep Your Eyes Peeled For: cellar holes, wood frog, spotted salamander, bear claw marks on American beech trees, old rock walls, white pine, wolf trees, apple trees, sugar maple, beaver and beaver ponds, mink, otter, muskrat, wood duck, nuthatches, woodpecker, deer, porcupine, black bear

Must Know Before You Go’s: In the winter months, the parking area is not plowed. Parking is allowed at the end of Corbett Road and then walk to the trailhead. Leave pets at home. Refrain from running, bike riding, or driving motorized vehicles. No fishing, hunting, or trapping 

Directions: From the east: Take the Mass Turnpike (Rt I-90) to exit 4 (Rt I-91 north) to exit 19 (Rt 9). Follow Rt 9 west through Northampton and Williamsburg. Take a left onto Rt 143 west and follow it for approximately 12 miles to the intersection of Rt 143 and Rt 112 (Clark Road). Take a right onto Rt 112 north and a quick left onto Corbett Road (dirt road). The sanctuary is located at the end of Corbett Road. Corbett Road is impassable during the winter and mud season.

From the west: Follow Rt 9 east to the intersection of Rt 9 and Rt 143. Turn right onto Rt 143 east and follow it to the intersection of Rt 143 and Rt 112. Turn left onto Rt 112 north and follow directions above from “Rt 112 north.”

GPS: 42.423736, -72.930181

Website : https://www.massaudubon.org/get-outdoors/wildlife-sanctuaries/road-s-end 

Resources : https://www.americanforests.org/magazine/article/wolf-%20%20trees-elders-of-the-eastern-forest/

 https://www.americanforests.org/magazine/article/woodman-spare-that-wolf-tree/

https://northernwoodlands.org/articles/article/a-place-for-wolf-trees 

https://www.13hares.com/moons

https://norse-mythology.org/skoll-hati/

 

 

 

 

First Week Hikes 2021

First Week Hikes 2021

First Week Hikes 2021

 

The past few years we’ve celebrated the turn of a new year with a First Day Hike. Read about the changes for 2021 below and then check out this list of family-friendly winter hikes to help you plan your own First Week Hike adventure. 

First Day Hikes were an initiative that began in Massachusetts in 1992, 380 people showed up for the inaugural event at Blue Hills Reservation! Since then, it has spread all over the nation and all 50 states now recognize this tradition as an alternative start to the new year!

For the celebration of this initiative’s 30th anniversary, the DCR invites you to step into the New Year with a First Week Hike, a COVID-19 alternative to the traditional First Day Hikes. 

There are some changes to this year’s tradition in order to keep everyone safe during the pandemic:

  • Extending the traditional one-day hike to any day during First Week 2021, to prevent over-crowding due to COVID-19.
  • Introducing self-guided adventures to ensure safe social distancing
  • Picking a park near you to keep it safe and local,
  • If you can’t get to a state park or have limited abilities, try getting out of doors each day of First Week 2021 for fresh air and movement right where you live—to build a healthy habit this the New Year,
  • Sharing your DCR state park adventure on Instagram and twitter @MassDCR #MAFirstWeekHikes

Additional changes include:

  • DCR visitor centers and rest rooms may be closed due to COVID-19,
  • Hospitality options such as hot chocolate offered in prior years will not be available due to COVID-19,
  • No guided hikes are offered or allowed to prevent clustering of visitors, and
  • Masks or facial coverings will be required at all times in all state parks.

DCR has 150 state parks and thousands of miles of trails. To find an outdoor location near you, visit:  www.mass.gov/info-details/dcr-programs-and-events for a list of recommended self-guided hikes. 

You can find our 2020 hike HERE

Use the hashtags #MAFirstWeekHikes & #BerkshireFamilyHikes to be featured!