Why I volunteer at the Nature Center
My parents moved to Carlson Court in 1956, I grew up “in the woods” which is now protected Nature Center land. Directly behind my house is the top portion of the “orange enclosure” When I say I grew up in the woods….I spent many a full day there, exploring, building tree houses, playing Army, climbing trees, exploring nature, marveling at the different trees in just different areas of the woods. There were and still is a small area of gigantic beech trees that lined a trail that is no longer there….Many of the beech trees have fallen, they are all in the Orange enclosure . There were “sticker bushes”, ‘brackleberry batches” that we called “VALLEY OF THE THORNS”, its actually also within the Orange enclosure by the Holly bush….the Holly bush that appeared in the early 80’s which I trekked my kids to stand in front of for a “Christmas card photo”.
When the town put sewers into this side of town, they did construction at the bottom of Carlson Court/Mead Court and the construction created a swampy area that we skated on in the winter and had hockey games on as 10 year olds.. I remember getting a flash drop in the temperature-and “arctic freeze” that froze the swamp that we skated on, OVERNIGHT, and as we skated on the new ice the day after this arctic blast of two days, we could see the water underneath the ice, the ice was clear as glass……we were able to see a muskrat swimming under the ice 🙂 We would race him, us on top, it under the ice 🙂 It was quite a sight…This area is just to the south of bottom portion of the "Orange Enclosure"
When my parents moved onto Carlson Court, they were the first house of 5 to be lived in that were all built at the same time. My siblings took rides on a pony from our house on Carlson Court to Lupardi’s Nursery on Blanch ave.- there was NO Marion Village at the time. (attached pictures you can see the Greenhouses that are now Rose Court- (It used to be Rose houses- enclosed Rose Farms)
As you can see by the pictures circa 1956-1965, the “woods” were a lot more lush back then. There were areas that were impassable and the species of trees were also much more abundant….Look at the beautiful White Birch trees which are no longer there, gone for over 35 years. My mom told me the story of my dad getting lost in the woods when they first moved into the house in 1956, and the only way that he found his way out was he could see the “smoke stack” that was on the Greenhouse in the middle of Marion Village…..Now the forest has been stripped and the number of trees has decreased incredibly. The trees and saplings have died or been eaten by the deer. Where once we would look out into the “woods” and see nothing but darkness at night, now we see the lights of Reuten Park- off of Ruckman road. It is sad. I am hoping that these enclosures will help bring back the forest, and I will help in any possible to make that a reality.
The hardest part about volunteering for me has been putting on taking off my newly acquired waterproof boots. I recommend this for anyone that takes up this very enjoyable “volunteer monitor” position as there are some areas that are quite swampy….but the boots solve that issue 🙂 Right now I am “monitoring” the Orange enclosure. This entails the very easy task of walking in the woods around the enclosure and checking for breaks/breeches in the fence that will allow deer to enter. When there have been breeches mainly due to fallen branches or small trees falling, I have easily fixed these with snap ties and fasteners that the Nature Center folks have outfitted me with. There have been a few big breaks and after reporting these to Marc Gussen, they have been repaired with a great work crew that get to enjoy some time together in the woods :).
For those that want to know, there were no deer in the woods in the 50s and 60’s and early 70’s. I KNOW this first hand because of the amount of time I spent in the woods. They started to come back in 1975-1977 because I almost fainted when I came upon a doe in the woods. I remember where I was, where she was when we crossed paths.
--Jim Oettinger, Winter 2020
>> Naturalist Notes & Musings:
When fall turns to winter, it's time for many wonderful sights in the world of nature. One of my favorites is winter bird activity- and the ease of viewing them in the sleeping majesty of bare forest trees. Another that gets little attention but amazes me every time I see it: needle ice. Needle ice forms when the air temperature is below the freezing point but the subsoil water is above the freezing point. Water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, or 0 degrees Celsius and typically turns to ice. Needle ice is unique, in that the still-liquid soil water wicks up through the soil and forms a network of needle-like columns of ice. After a cold December night you might find needle ice that forms when the air temperature drops, and groundwater rises up in a small but magical display.
We see it often here at the Nature Center, as it frequently forms in the damp soil of most of our 136 acres. Sometimes the Nature Center's trails can be littered with these cold weather gems. Often, December hikes through our trails can be to the beat of needle ice crunching under foot.
Look for it in damp places in your yard- or better yet, come here one morning and take a stroll. Look up for birds and down for the needle ice!
See you on the trails!
Marc Gussen, Naturalist