This may come as no surprise, but the type and species of plants growing in any location depends not just on the availability of the right seeds. Also important are soil type, soil health, temperature, the presence of pollution, and the amounts of sunlight and water available. As any of those conditions change, the types of plants may change, too. In contrast to prior years, some of the swales on the farm have stayed wet all season. Now we are seeing new wetland species emerging in these areas.Our human activities of clearing vegetation for roads, parking lots, and buildings has caused what, in ecological terms, we call disturbance. These mechanical (and sometimes chemical) disturbances change the ecosystem, most often by leaving bare soil and allowing more sunlight to reach the ground. Nature does her best to protect exposed soil by sending pioneer species to protect disturbed areas. These pioneer species are quick-growing plants that quickly cover bare soil and begin to rebuild soil health. We like to view pioneer plants as the emergency responders. They deal with the emergency and improve conditions making it safe for others to return.
When we look at aerial photographs of the Horn Farm from 1937, 1957, and 1971, there is very little wooded area. By 1993, trees are beginning to return to certain areas at the farm. Our current thinking is that up until 1993 or so, there was only one stream on the farm: the one that winds along Tracey School Road. The other two streams on the farm very likely were created as a consequence of deforestation. When the native forest was clear cut to make way for pasture and fields of grain, the topsoil began to wash away. It used to be that when it rained, the raindrops fell onto the canopy of trees, the force of their fall being dissipated before the drops soaked into the rich, thick soil of the forest floor. Now that the trees were gone, raindrops fell directly onto the soil surface with the full force of impact. Without the rich, moist soil of the forest to soak in the rain, the rain began to sheet across the slopes carrying topsoil with it.
Gradually, as the soil continued to erode, gullies began to form. It appears that the stream corridor we are preparing for restoration planting this fall is a relatively new stream. We are excited to be adding trees in the fields adjacent to the stream. At the same time we recognize that these trees can help prevent new nutrients and sediment to reach the stream, but what about the tons of soil currently in the stream? Each time it rains (and we’ve all noticed that the precipitation patterns have shifted so that there is no rain and then violent storms), tons of topsoil already in the stream bed moves farther downstream. One way to stop this is with check dams.
Check dams work because reducing the speed of the water by half causes the following:
- The erosive power of the water is reduced by about four times,
- The quantity of silt that is suspended is reduced by thirty-two times, and
- The size of the particle that can be transported is reduced by about sixty-four times.
This is great news! So, we’ve begun experimenting with various styles of check dam, maximizing our use of hand tools and human power.
Check out how much sediment was trapped in just two rain events! Approximately a foot of sediment extending along the check dam and upstream was trapped at each check dam.
We are looking to connect more people with this project. Interested in volunteering and learning more about check dams, nature, and ecology in the process? Contact us for more information!
Ready to reconnect yourself even more deeply to nature? Check out these new wilderness skills workshops!Saturdays, 9:00am-4:00pm, beginning September 1, we are excited to offer four new full-day workshops designed to reconnect you to the land and develop essential survival skills. These new daylong workshops build upon skills taught in our previous Wild Lands series and are also accessible for new students with experience and comfort being in the outdoors.
Advanced Camouflage, Stalking, Awareness
Basketry, Coppicing, Netting
Hunting, Fishing, Trapping
Primitive Butchering and Cooking
Students should be in good physical condition and be prepared to hike, get dirty, sweaty, and be outdoors regardless of weather. These classes are geared towards adults, but children 12 and up are welcome with a parent. These classes are being offered as stand-alone one-day workshops but as a group provide a well-rounded introduction into these skills. Discounted package for those signing up for the full four-class series.For those ready to test their wilderness skills, we are offering a Wilderness Skills Overnight Immersion October 20 and 21. It’s not often in this culture that we immerse ourselves in the woods for a full 24 hours or more – but we should! Getting away from modern structures and rhythms is essential for reconnecting ourselves to the land. Join us as we explore the woodlands of the Horn Farm Center and learn a host of primitive skills in the process. Click here for more information!
CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Shares
This has been a tough year for growing tomatoes on the farm. Cool temperatures in the spring followed by lots of rain has translated into perfect conditions for fungal growth on the tomato plants. It will be a short tomato season, so enjoy them while you can! Here is what we plan to include in this week’s CSA shares:
September 1 – Advanced Camouflage, Stalking, Awareness
September 1 – First Saturday Volunteer Workday
September 2 – Children’s Discovery Series: Nature Speaks
September 4 – Tuesday Evening Farm Crew
September 8 – Pond Building Workshop
September 11 – Tuesday Evening Farm Crew
September 15 – Foraging: Field Walk
September 15 – Basketry, Coppicing, Netting
September 15 – Third Saturday Farm Tour
September 16 –Children’s Discovery Series: Seed to Table
September 18 – Tuesday Evening Farm Crew
September 22 – Hunting, Fishing, Trapping
September 22, 23 – Pawpaw Festival
September 25 – Tuesday Evening Farm Crew
September 29 – Primitive Butchering and Cooking
September 30 – Children’s Discovery Series: The Compassion Project
October 6, 7, 13, 14 – Bowmaking
October 7 – Children’s Discovery Series: Let’s Bee Friends
October 13 – Foraging: Wild Soup
October 14 – Harvest Festival & Annual Open House
October 16 – Bread Baking Basics
October 26 – Offal: Tongue, Brains, and More!
October 20, 21 – Wilderness Skills Overnight Immersion
November 3 – Dine & Discover – Farm to Table Dinner at the Farm
November 17 – Bread Baking Full Day Workshop
November 17 – Foraging: Roots
December 8 – Foraging: Winter
See you at the farm!