One of the many jobs we have as the North Woods Stewards, and one of my favorites, is to help out in the Skidmore Community Garden. This summer we have been spending our Fridays, what we call “Fruitful Friday’s”, assisting the garden manager, Eli, with several different projects.
Our first task was to help complete the new permaculture bed in the garden. Permaculture is design method that utilizes growing patterns found in natural ecosystems. When productive, this bed will be packed with layers of plants, tall blueberry bushes creating shade for leafy greens and lanky dill plants nestled next to potatoes. Permaculture is NOT typical practice as there are fewer regular rows and spacing, instead the plants are intended to complement each other, from their soil chemistry to their shade/sun needs. It’s often a dense growing style that looks more “wild” than the typical symmetry of long monoculture rows. We helped by adding the final layers of compost and wood chips to the top. Underneath the layers we spread, there is first a layer of cardboard, then straw and finally soil. The bed must rest and lay fallow for a season before being suitable to grow crops. Once the bed is ready, Eli’s plan is to plant lots of perennials in it as well as try a paw paw fruit tree.
Next, we helped to install the drip irrigation system throughout the garden. Drip irrigation is an irrigation technique that uses a network of hoses with small holes throughout the garden beds that drip water directly into the roots of each of the plants. This method allows for a more efficient use of water in the garden. To install the system, we cut the pipes in strips so that they were the length of each row in each bed. Then we laid them down so that they touched the stem of each plant and either connected the pipes or closed them off at the end.
One of the big projects Eli was working on that we were able to help out with was creating an herb spiral. An herb spiral is a vertical garden that helps to maximize space, conserve water and creates diverse microclimates to allow for the growth of many different herbs. We had to stack and place large rocks to build the spiral. It was a difficult task to find rocks that not only fit together, but were the right size needed to create the desired elevation and shape. After two weeks, the herb spiral was finally completed and ready for planting!
We also learned how to build trellises for the cucumber plants to give them something to climb on as they grow. We build these structures using recycled wood and string. While building the trellises, the cucumber plants were new and very small. Now, a weeks later, they have grown so much and have started using the trellises!
Last Friday, we helped Eli do a large harvest. We harvested three different types of kale; curly leafed, dinosaur, and red Russian. We also harvested collard greens, two types of chard and New Zealand Spinach. After harvesting, we washed the produce, tied them into bunches and weighed each bunch before delivering them to the dining hall. The food from the garden helps to support our goal of having 25% sustainable food in Dining Services by 2025. Working in the garden is such a fun experience that I have learned so much from, and there are plenty of opportunities for all students to get involved! Garden work parties happen every Sunday during the academic year from 3-5pm. Join the Skidmore Community Garden Group on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/skidmorecommunitygarden/ to learn more! I hope to see you in the garden this fall!
Hi friends of the North Woods! I am Michaela, one of the North Woods stewards this summer. The past couple of weeks have been busy! We have learned a lot about the North Woods: removing fallen trees, identifying different plants and leading tours. We have also taken some time out to explore the New Lands that were donated to Skidmore. In December 2010, the Roohan family donated land to the college for education and research purposes. Exploring the land was a great opportunity. It is beautiful and has many great view points. A land management plan will be developed by the Campus Sustainability Subcommittee and as North Woods stewards we are crafting a list of recommendations for the subcommittee. During our visit to the New Lands, Kurt Smemo, Assistant Professor in the Environmental Studies and Sciences Program, showed us around. Professor Smemo brings his class to the New Lands regularly for research projects.
Our mission for the day in the New Lands was to explore the property boundaries of this land and clarify the points of interest. Using a Garmin GPS, we were able to create a track of where we walked and created way points of important places.
Walking through the New Lands, we saw many newts, large ferns, and boulders. We also saw ATV/Snowmobile trails, hunting stands, and old campsites. The New Lands has a steep ridge running through the property, which contrasts significantly with the overall flat layout of the North Woods. There are also large rocks that create outcrops in the New Lands, while the North Woods is not very rocky. There were also many patches of raspberry bushes in the New Lands! Exploring both the North Woods and the New Lands is very fun!
Throughout the rest of the summer I hope to continue to develop land use recommendations for the New Lands and explore and learn more about the New Lands and the North Woods!
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Hello everyone, my name is Zoe and I am one of your North Woods Stewards for the summer of 2018! Our first week was jammed packed with lots of fun tasks that I would love to share with you all. … Continue reading
This summer has been full of exploration, hard work, and fun, but sadly, like all things, it is coming to an end. As Jingling and I wrap up the work we have done in these past 10 weeks, we thought it would be nice to look back at some highlights and our favorite moments this summer.
We kicked the summer off with an alumni tour where we got to meet a lot of former Skidmore students, from different walks of life and in different stages of their lives. It was a very enjoyable walk full of good company. Towards the middle of the summer we went downtown to hand out pesto samples we made at home using garlic mustard. It was great getting to meet some of the people we see in the woods so often, and you helped us a lot by filling out our survey. Our last event, and one of our favorites, was watching WALL-E outside the Tang. It was beautiful – but buggy – night out and it was great to unwind and watch a cute little robot follow his heart. We were so happy to see how many people showed up! Some other favorite events and moments were when we gave some folks at the library a tour, hosted a s’mores-making event, and recently led an activity-filled walk with Camp North Woods (a day camp for 4th-5th graders).
From the events, to the tours, and all the other work in between, it’s been a lovely summer and we have been very happy to share it with you. Cheers to another great summer, happy exploring!
Recently the college has been gifted several acres — Skidmore’s total acreage now reaching close to a thousand at this point. Some of these new swaths of land are considerably larger than our humble 155-acre North Woods. Jingling and I have had a lot of fun getting to see this new scenery and exploring it quite a bit.
Jingling and I have been walking through these new parcels identifying areas that need to be cleaned up, figuring out the most ideal spots for signage indicating the boundary lines, and understanding how to better encourage community members that visit this land to be more respectful of it. We have been taking apart some campsites, collecting litter, and enjoying the new landscape.
We have also been fortunate enough to go on several walks in these new lands with different people of varying aspects of expertise. On our walk with Drew Roginski, one of the lead members of Saratoga Mountain Bike Association (SMBA), we enjoyed getting to see and appreciate the impressive layout of their trails, some of best in the country, and very rigorous. They cross over onto our parcel from the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) land which the mountain bike trails are largely on. We enjoyed the all-around beauty of this parcel. On our walk with Kurt Smemo from Skidmore’s environmental department we were able see other parcels to the Northeast of campus. We learned about the wetlands and the flora and fauna that exist there. This parcel includes areas of large wetlands and very few trails, all of which are unmarked. On one of our walks we were even lucky enough to spot a deer munching leaves in the distant. We’ve also seen at least 50 red efts, one of my favorite critters in the area.
On campus the Skidmore Lands and Grounds Committee are the ones who are working towards creating more cohesive plans for land use and management. The group consists of faculty, staff and students that get together to discuss the future of these parcels and seek to collaborate with the Saratoga community. It’s very exciting to have these new lands, and more exciting still to consider how this land might be used in subsequent years.
- The McGregor Fault line that is the visible drop on the blue trail is the reason why Saratoga Springs has natural springs and when the foliage along the highest point on the Blue Trail is gone you can see 42 miles out all the way to Stratton Mountain, VT.
- In 1879 the Woodlawn estate, which mainly existed where the campus is now, was purchased by Judge Henry Hilton. In 1880, he built a series of mansions on land which also contained a beautiful pristine forest.
- Having worked on the Central Park Commission, Henry Hilton was dissatisfied by Frederick Olmsted’s vision and would later go on to carry out his version of what Central Park in New York City should have been in the North Woods.
- The reason the North Woods does not contain any old growth is because in the 1916 to 1919 the then owner of the property, businessman Charles Morse, hired Canadian woodcutters to chop it all down to sell for the war effort.
- In 1916 Lucy Scribner wanted to purchase the property but for reasons that are unclear, Hilton’s relatives did not receive that request in time.
- Just off of the orange trail there used to be small body of water called “Lover’s Lake” or the “Vly”. Some locals of Saratoga still remember having swam in the Vly. It once had a boathouse and got its romantic name from lover’s boating on the Vly while courting.
- The 19th-century Glen Mitchell Hotel used to be located near the intersection of the orange and blue trail, and one can still come across the foundations of the old Hotel. If you’re lucky you might stumble on the old lamp posts, see the steps that led up to the dance pavilion, or the water pump in the stream.
- The North Woods was once part of a Native American Saratoga-Montreal Trail and the trail extended down into New York City. There is actually a famed Indian Spring in the woods, that made this route so appealing. Travelers could fill up on potable water before continuing on their journey. In the 1930s the post master attempted to pin down its exact location.
- In 1886 Hilton allowed the elite Saratoga Toboggan Club to build a massive toboggan slide. It was built up and shaped with blocks of ice cut from Saratoga lake. Measuring an impressive 40 feet height and 120 feet long, some say that speeds upwards of 60 miles could be reached. Industrialists from New York City would even come up on the weekends and the younger Hilton’s would host skating parties on the lake.
- The North Woods is rich in limestone the result of an interesting geological history. 550 years ago the North Woods would have existed under the Iapetus ocean, during the existence of the Euramerica landmass. 6 million years ago there was an Ice Age, and 12,000 years ago the North Woods would have once again been submerged under Glacial Lake Albany. Notably, there is a large boulder on the purple trail, the only one of its kind, that was deposited after the glaciers disappeared, it’s known as “Whale Rock” as it looks like a whale breaching the surface.
- Bonus Fact: The woods actually once had a ski lift but the college had to close it down in the 1970s for liability purposes. The foundational slabs of concrete and anchor can still be seen where the purple trail meets red.
A huge thanks to Robert Jones in the Economics Department. He is a history buff with a wealth of knowledge on the history of the North Woods and Saratoga Springs in general.
Be sure to check out Robert’s new book on the history of the North Woods and stay tuned for updates on tours and other information
Thec water pump in the creek by the Glenn Mitchell
One of the lamp posts, just bellow the steps of the dance pavilion
Hello world! We’re your 2017 summer stewards, Jingling and Yesenia. We’re very excited to be in the woods exploring, mapping, removing invasives, and giving tours. That’s just to name a few things that the stewards do. We also work on independent projects, laying the foundation for future stewards and other college planning, as well as continuing the legacy of research and mapping on invasive species like Garlic Mustard, Burning Bush and Japanese Barberry as well as mapping rare/protected species such as Green Violet, Wild Ginger and Ginseng and Goldenseal. With the hope that in so doing we can ensure that the North Woods continue to be maintained and more welcoming to visitors like you. This summer we will also begin exploring new lands the college has recently acquired, which we are very excited about.
Speaking of visitors, just this past weekend Skidmore College held its annual Alumni Weekend, and we were fortunate enough to be able to give a tour of the woods to diverse group of class years, from 1962 to 2012. It was great getting share a bit of our knowledge on the history of the woods with people who got to explore it during different stages. A ‘97 graduate recalled how the trails were to be used for mountain biking and as a result were a wreck, covered in mud and overly trafficked (one of those cycling competitions actually led to the current rule of foot traffic only). She recalls her time mountain biking through the woods fondly, but also recognized that there was a marked improvement in the state of the North Woods, something we continue to strive for.
Our tour was just a little over an hour. Walking through the red trail, we were able to explore centuries of history and learn about the many figures who shaped the North Woods into the beloved woods we have now. Mostly however, we loved seeing alum talk among themselves, laugh, and reminisce on their college years.
We’re just finishing up our last week here as summer stewards! Amazing how fast these past 10 weeks just flew by. Yesterday we had the wonderful opportunity to work with Camp Northwoods during the afternoon. We got to do quite a few things with the campers, from playing “Hawk is Watching!” (a variation of red light green light), to giving them a small tour and history of the red trail, they had a lot of questions about Angeline Tubbs AKA the Witch of Saratoga, we got to teach them a bit about invasive species and what a steward is and does, and mostly we got to let them have fun exploring the woods for a bit. They also built some pretty great fairy/elf houses, photos soon to come! They had a fun time building and we had a good time seeing the light-bulbs go off as they raced to make their perfect tiny elf homes and outrageous stories about them.
Cheers to another wonderful summer, and thank you for reading!
Yesenia and Sana
This week, Yesenia is out of town so burning bush removal has slowed down a bit. However, there is a tour scheduled for this evening at 7 starting at the Falstaff’s kiosk. Learn about the historic blue trail and its rich history. Next week, we will be meeting with Camp Northwoods for some light hearted fun with little explorers and we will also be having a focus group for middle school students. The focus group will meet to talk about bike signage concerning the potential bike path that will extend from N Broadway to the middle school. Stay tuned for updates!
7/25/16: North Woods Tour 6:30-7 arrival time at Falstaff’s Kiosk
8/2/16: Middle School Focus Group (If you would like to participate please contact firstname.lastname@example.org, or Sana at email@example.com)
8/4/16: Camp Northwoods activities
Sana and I continue to work diligently in the woods. For the past 3 weeks or so we have really been focusing our attention on the Red and Blue trails. You might have even seen us working! We are trying our hardest to remove Japanese Burning Bush from this area. Burning Bush is an invasive species that is often used as an ornamental plant because it turns a beautiful red in the autumn. The North Woods are home to quite a couple of rare and endangered plants, including Green Violet which is found in no other part of Saratoga County aside from the North Woods. For this reason, among others it is imperative that we do our best to stem the spread of invasive species and maintain the rich and wonderful diversity of the North Woods.
This Saturday from 10-12pm we will be working
with the Urban Forestry Council to remove some more Burning Bush from the Red/Blue trails. We will meet in the Falstaff’s parking lot, anyone is welcome to join! Any and all help is greatly appreciated.
With that I leave you with a picture of Sana holding up and some huge branches of Burning Bush that she clipped.