A Day on the Trails

by melissa on July 25, 2014 | 0 comments

Sarah bucking up a log on the trail.

Sarah bucking up a log on the trail.

Merck is an exciting place because it holds true to its title of a forest AND farmland center.  While we apprentices spend a lot of time working on the farm, every day we also get to play in the woods: be it on our hike down the hill from the Lodge, hitting the trails on our off hours, or getting things done with the sugaring crew and forester during work.

Yesterday apprentice Bryan and I did the latter; we got to work out in the woods with Will up near the Barn Cabins.  The tasks (common ones here at MFFC) were these: clear felled trees off the road, waste as little as possible.  If these tasks require using awesome and fun tools, so be it.

Will (left) and Bryan (right) working the wood splitter.

Will (left) and Bryan (right) working the wood splitter.

The first step was Will giving us a refresher on chainsaw safety, use, and maintenance, which you can never hear too often.  After we checked that we had all our ducks in a row, so to speak, and all of our safety gear on, he showed us the appropriate cuts to use for bucking up the trees into pieces that could fit into our cabin stoves.

Next, we got introduced to our amazing new Timber Wolf wood splitter.  Bryan and I were smitten.  This is a seriously cool and seriously serious machine, and it sure does beat chopping by hand.

By creating three stations: one sawyer, one person running the splitter, and one unloading the splitter and stacking, we were able to get the road cleared off and start the stockpile of wood for the Barn Cabins quite efficiently.  One log at a time, we’re making sure guests have an enjoyable experience in the Merck woods and have warm fires come cooler weather to toast their toes after a brisk day.

It is so nice to get into the woods, and always nice to learn from pros like Will.  Yesterday definitely whet our appetite for the Game of Logging Course we apprentices and will are taking at Merck this August.  Pictures and updates from that to come!

- Sarah

The shed filling back up with split wood. Our campers will most certainly appreciate the heat source next winter!

The shed filling back up with split wood. Our campers will most certainly appreciate the heat source next winter!

Jenna, Cartoon, Sheep Dog Trial

by melissa on July 16, 2014 | 1 Comment

Jenna Woginrich of Cold Antler Farm, a nearby farm, attended the Sheep Dog Trials and Farm Festival both Saturday and Sunday.

She is a local author, blogger, homesteader, and has raised her own border collie, Gibson. For several years, she has visited Merck Forest and attended the annual Sheep Dog Trials.

When I saw Jenna on Saturday, she was sitting under the viewing tent in the late morning. Her collie, Gibson, sitting by her side. Though he wasn’t contending in the trials, he seemed to have that always intense stare that comes with the breed. They know they are supposed to be herding those sheep. They always seem  to be calculating the best move.

Jenna returned on Sunday as well. She was asked to help keep scores during the day.

Patty snapped a picture of the cartoon collie Jenna drew while keeping scores. A good chuckle, indeed.

Caption says: "I'll use sheep-fu". What if all the collies are doing is using a variant form of kung-fu?

Caption says: “I’ll use sheep-fu”. What if all the collies are doing is using a variant form of kung-fu?

Fun at the Sheep Dog Trials and Farm Festival

by melissa on July 15, 2014 | 0 comments

Border collie running the sheep during the trials

Border collie running the sheep during the trials

This year was a great year at the Sheep Dog Trials and Farm Festival. We had nearly 700 people attend, Sherman’s General Store in West Rupert provided great food, and 10 fiber artists from all over the region brought their beautiful assortment of wares to vend.

Despite the weather reports, Saturday dawned clear and sunny, and though Sunday was muggier, the rain held until 3 pm.

Families, groups, all attended. Some stayed for only an hour, some spent the better part of the day watching the trials, meandering through the gardens, visiting a very pregnant Peggy Sue (the sow), observing chicks hatch in the Outside In, play games, watching the draft horse demonstration, and more.

The viewing tent for the Sheep Dog Trials.

The viewing tent for the Sheep Dog Trials.

More images will follow. It takes a bit of time to decompress from putting on an all weekend affair. Photos have to be sorted, thank you’s written, chairs put away…

But many thank you to all who visited; to the volunteers that made the weekend work so well; to the Northeast Border Collie Association for providing us a reason to host a festival; and to the staff for putting in so many hours in before, during, and after the event.

New Education Director

by melissa on | 0 comments

Patty's view from the back of the haywagon during last week's haying.

Patty’s view from the back of the haywagon during last week’s haying. Patty helped move bales during her first week.

In the rush to get ready for this past weekend’s Sheep Dog Trials and Farm Festival, I neglected to post that Merck Forest has hired a new education director. Patty Wesner joined the staff last Monday, and comes with  a thorough background in teaching and education.

During her first week, Patty took some time to become better acquainted with the property. She took several hikes, walked around the farm, chatted with staff and looked over the work that’s been done before. We are excited to have her here, and Merck will be offering school programs once again in the coming months.

See Patty’s bio on the staff page.


Eggs are Incubating

by melissa on July 8, 2014 | 0 comments

Egg incubator.

Egg incubator.

The incubator has been running for the past two weeks in the Chicken Coop. We are hoping to have a few chickens hatching during the Sheep Dog Trials, this coming weekend.

Eggs take 21 days to hatch, and the incubator tries to remain at a steady 99.5 degrees F, the right temperature for the chicks inside of the eggs to grow.

If you come up in the next few days, stop into the coop and see if any of the shells are breaking open. Definitely, by this weekend, little chicks should be breaking into this world.



Haying in Earnest

by melissa on June 22, 2014 | 0 comments

TIm and Sarah just walked away from the tedding the  hay. You can see the cut  hay on the field to the right.

Tim and Sarah just walked away from tedding the hay. You can see the cut hay on the field to the right.

The weather was absolutely beautiful this weekend, for which we are thankful. Sunny, warm days at this time of year don’t mean picnics and leisurely hikes for most of us; rather, it’s time to start putting hay in the barn.

Last week and through the weekend the fields were cut, tedded, raked, and finally on Friday, the hay bales were put into the upstairs of the Harwood Barn. The bales will feed the sheep and horses through the winter.

A farm’s work is never just “of the moment” tasks. What we do during one season is always in anticipation of the seasons to come.






Kat Deely: UVM Grad Student at Merck Forest

by melissa on June 17, 2014 | 0 comments

Kat Deely and her dog, Moose

Kat Deely and her dog, Moose

Kat Deely, a graduate student from the University of Vermont, is researching natural communities at Merck Forest.

Three weeks ago, Kat moved into the Lodge for the summer. She has been busy ever since, walking the property in search of various natural community types. Her ecological assessment of MFFC will cover all 3,162 acres of the property. As she stated at the Annual Meeting this past weekend, she is looking for “patterns in the landscape”; the kinds of patterns that Kat is looking for stem from the book Wetland, Woodland and Wildland by Liz Thompson (the link takes you to a full PDF of the book).

Not all of Kat’s work is done on the ground, hiking through the forest; rather, she is also using tools like GIS to find where distinct bedrock types are located and what the soil types are throughout the property. She uses Google Earth to aerially notice similarities in the landscape: where, perhaps, a clear cut was done, or where there might be stands of conifers or hardwoods, indications of different eco-types.

GIS will be the tool she uses to map and document her findings, adding the layers of her work into visual analyses.

Historical research is also a key to understanding how the land was used in the past. Historic landuse affects which natural communities might be present. Old farmsteads with grazed land will grow back differently from land that was once logged, as different vegetation will favor the how the land was left.

The work is important, as Kat stated, because “Merck Forest is part of two different watersheds”. The streams at Merck Forest flow to the Battenkill River which flows to the Hudson; to the Mettowee River, which flows to Lake Champlain.

Kat’s work will also be useful for Merck to understand where it’s important natural communities are located. Having this knowledge will impact our landuse decisions: where it’s appropriate to log in the future, where to put in a new trail or close a trail if it goes through critical habitat, etc.

Kat and her dog, Moose, are a welcome addition to our staff this summer.

Invasives Workshop

by melissa on June 10, 2014 | 0 comments

Sarah, looking over the invasive plants common at Merck Forest.

Sarah, looking over the invasive plants common at Merck Forest.

On Friday, Tom, Will, Sarah, Rose and Melissa went to an invasive plants workshop at Emerald Lake State Park. Colleen Balch, a great educator that works with the VT Department of Forests, Parks, and Rec (and who also use to teach at Merck years ago), led the workshop. The four hour workshop was both hands-on and lecture-based.

Colleen and her co-workers, Heather and Elizabeth, met us under the pavilion with hot coffee ready to be consumed; a great treat since Friday was a little damp and rainy. Our group got organized for the day: picked out appropriate sized gloves, and each person was put in charge of a tool for the day. After Colleen signed out everyone’s borrowed equipment, we gathered back under pavilion for an introduction.

With one volunteer being an exception, all of the participants in the workshop were from Merck, and Colleen catered the information to items that would be particular to our group. Her discussion honed in on the invasive plants that she has seen at MFFC: garlic mustard, honeysuckle, buckthorn, and barberry.

Will talking to Heather during the removal of the garlic mustard.

Will talking to Heather during the removal of the garlic mustard.

While our staff is knowledgable about invasive plant species (invasives are plants that are non-native to an area and harmful to the ecosystem of that area), it was great to learn more about the major plants that are threats to the region. We spent time pulling garlic mustard, cutting out japanese barberry and muliflora rose, and watched a way to remove common buckthorn–all the techniques can be applied where there are invasives here at Merck Forest.

The workshop was informative and fun. We each had a great time. VT Department of Forests, Parks, and Rec did a great job with this program, which is available to all interested parties. Anyone that is interested in learning about invasive vegetation, and who want to get out and spend part of a day in a Vermont State Park, should contact: Colleen Balch at Colleen.Balch@state.vt.us.


And the name is….

by melissa on June 2, 2014 | 0 comments


Of all the names submitted, and there were many good names to choose from, the name chosen for the rooster is Antone. He’ll be called Tony for short.

Thank you to everyone that submitted a name. You made it hard to decide on the name of our rooster.


Busy Sunday

by melissa on June 1, 2014 | 0 comments

There were quite a few people out on this lovely Sunday afternoon. The parking lot was full, even as the campers started to check out at noon. Several groups of horses came through. It’s good to see so many people using the trails.


What’s in a Name?

by melissa on May 23, 2014 | 4 Comments


There is a young rooster on the farm, and he is in need of a name. We thought it would be fun to have a naming contest for the bird — would you like to help us out?

He is a Rhode Island Red rooster, and he likes to hang out in front of the Harwood Barn with the hens. He’s got a tall comb on top of his head, and beautiful (or, should we say, very handsome) feathers.

What would you name this fellow?

We’ll take a vote for the best name next Friday, May 30, 2014!


Welcome Fern and Arch to the Farm

by melissa on May 17, 2014 | 0 comments

Fern and Arch were a little camera shy this morning as they get adjusted to life at Merck.

Fern and Arch were a little camera shy this morning as they get adjusted to life at Merck.

We’d like to welcome two new horses to the farm. Fern and Arch arrived yesterday from Essex, New York. They are the new draft team at the farm, and once they get acclimated to Merck, they’ll be busy out in the fields.

(There will be a longer post, in a few days, about the team).

Out on Pasture

by melissa on May 12, 2014 | 2 Comments

The grass is growing and the animals are happy to be eating green vegetation again.

In the winter, the sheep ate hay that was baled during the previous summer, but as soon as the fields turn green, the sheep are turned out to graze. At MFFC, we rotationally-graze the animals–meaning that the animals are moved every few days to a different pasture. This allows the animals to have a continuous diet of fresh greens, and limits their impact on a single area of land.

Sheep are happy to be out on pasture again.

Sheep are happy to be out on pasture again.

Colene has moved her rabbits back out in their hutches. Right now they are located around the caretaker’s cabin, foraging for food.


The lambs are in-between nursing and eating grass. Several weeks ago, they were mimicking their mothers, chewing on blades, but not necessarily eating grass as their main diet. Between a month and two months the ewe’s will start to limit the lambs’ nursing. In the photograph below this lamb is still getting mom to provide the meals, but pretty soon she’ll start to walk away or lay down when her lamb tries to feed.


Spring Improvements

by melissa on May 11, 2014 | 0 comments

Now that winter is over, and the freeze and thaw has abated, it’s time to get the roads in shape. Anyone that visits during winter and mud season knows that the drive in can be a bit hairy sometimes. Once the road has dried out, the potholes are still in need of touching up.

Gravel was spread last week on the road up to the farm. Along with some improvements with the water drainage, it should make the drive a bit easier. Soon the town will come and smooth out the driveway a bit too.

New gravel on Old Town Road.

New gravel on Old Town Road.

Sarah Finds Spring Ephemerals

by melissa on | 0 comments

Spring Beauties

Spring Beauties

Sarah and Rose have been helping Chad to clean out the sap lines up in the sugarbush, and they’ve been seeing quite a few of spring’s early plants. The sugarbush, with its marked steep slopes, is a great place to find spring ephemerals. These early growing plants thrive in undisturbed soil. You can often tell the history of the landscape by noting where spring ephemerals are found. In places that may historically have been pasture, you are not likely to spot Spring Beauties, Dutchman’s Breeches, Trout lilies, and more. Grazing, even done decades ago, can compact soil and disturb the dispersal of spring ephemerals’ seeds (see this awesome article on ants and plants). On the steeper slopes of the sugarbush, historic sheep grazing probably wasn’t so prevalent, and so the vernal plants remain.

Trout Lily

Trout Lily

For more information on Trout lilies click here and for more info on Spring Beauties click here


Goofing Around

by melissa on May 10, 2014 | 0 comments

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Colene is strong, but she certainly isn’t as strong as an ox. This picture was just too good to pass up! 

Preparing the new garden

by melissa on May 9, 2014 | 0 comments

The garden is moving this year…

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Rose, driving the horses. They spread lime and manure over the turned soil to help prep the site for planting.

The new location will be east of the wind turbine, a location originally selected for the expansion of the blueberries. We decided not to plant the blueberries there after all, after more consideration of how they will grow (or not grow) in the wind. Since the soil was already turned, and the location is easier for visitors to access, it made sense to move the garden. You’ll still be able to come and taste the plants that grow there this season.

Mae and June were great help in prepping the soil for this year.

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As Sarah said, this photo was taken from “behind the lines”.

Hopefully, it doesn’t snow again…

by melissa on May 7, 2014 | 1 Comment

Colene and Sarah driving the horses to pick up the snow fence.

Colene and Sarah driving the horses to pick up the snow fence.

We’ve finally picked up the snow fence along the driveway. The ground has been clear for a few weeks, but they are reporting more snow for the Adirondacks later this week…hopefully, we are safe from the weather.

Mae and June got some exercise today as they took the flat bed down to the field.


Return of the wool

by melissa on May 6, 2014 | 0 comments

P1070484  P1070482

Sarah posted last week about the raw wool we took up to Green Mountain Spinnery weeks ago. On Friday, Colene drove back up to Putney to pick up the processed wool.

We received six large boxes full of the double worsted yarn, much of which Katie was able to wrap up into skeins on Monday.  The dark grey, light grey, and white are all back in stock!

A Thread In A Fabric

by melissa on May 2, 2014 | 0 comments

Here’s a post from Martha, a past apprentice. We’ve been following her as she works to process raw wool from Merck Forest.

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Most days, everything I wear is either knitted or woven, and so is the bedding I sleep on. With the exception of synthetic materials such as a “fleece jacket” (not to be confused with a “sheep’s fleece”), knitted and woven materials dominate fabric construction. Knitted fabrics, which includes most cotton shirts, socks, nylons, sweatshirts, pillow cases and bed sheets are made up of one continuous thread that starts with a loop pulled through a loop, pulled through a loop, and so on. If you pull the tail of the last loop, the knitted fabric effortlessly unravels*. Woven fabrics, i.e. most duvet covers, rugs, jeans, and plaid shirts, are made up of many threads over- and under-lapping each other at 90-degree angles. Fold your hands with your elbows out like wings. Keeping your fingers interlaced and your elbow wings out, slowly straighten your elbows and your fingers will weave.

Why does this all matter? Because clothing… 

(Click the above link to finish reading Martha’s fantastic article)

Visit Martha’s website: http://www.marthabrummitt.com/

Recap on Lambing

by melissa on May 1, 2014 | 0 comments

Ewes are placed in a "jug" prior to giving birth. Lamb and mother are left in the jugs for a few days after birth to bond.

Ewes are placed in a “jug” prior to giving birth. Lamb and mother are left in the jugs for a few days after birth to bond.

The lambs are all here! We greeted the last one to arrive on Saturday, April 19th—a little guy with jet-black wool and a very protective mama. All of our ewes and their babies are now out on the hillside behind the maintenance building, enjoying the fresh grass and warming weather. Stop by and see the lambs doing what lambs do best: running, leaping about like mad, climbing all over their mothers and baa-ing with surprising volume.

It seems like a long time since the first lamb was born; though, it was barely more than a month ago. Their little wooly faces marked an exciting new season at Merck: the long-awaited beginning of spring…or, at least the promise that spring was just around the corner!

The farm had been preparing for the new arrivals for a while: in the Small Animal Barn, we set up seven small pens (called “jugs”) to house delivering ewes and their newborns. We were also gradually increasing the nutritional density of the ewe’s meals, to deliver the larger amount of nutrients that their bodies needed despite the shrinking of their stomachs as the unborn lambs grew larger.

Setting up the Small Animal Barn for lambing involves gathering towels, tools, and vaccines at the ready.

Setting up the Small Animal Barn for lambing involves gathering towels, tools, and vaccines at the ready.

To the apprentices, the approach of lambing season also meant poring over books on sheep husbandry, learning how to spot a ewe in labour, and listening carefully to Colene’s exciting stories of sheep births in the past. As the flock’s due date drew closer, we helped set up the lambing bucket, full of the tools, towels, and vaccines we would need to take care of the lambs as they came into this world.

This year, about two-thirds of our flock were first-time mothers, and the first couple of births were complicated ones with no surviving lambs. When our third ewe gave birth, just a couple of days before the Maple Breakfast Celebration, we were all very happy to see an easy birth—and a healthy lamb!

In the next two weeks, we saw as many as seven new lambs each day, and for each one we carefully recorded the birth day, weight, parentage, whether they were male or female, and went through our process of “Clip, Dip, Flip, and Sip,” to make sure that each lamb was checked out, cared for, and had started nursing. About three days after they were born, the lambs went with their mothers back out to the flock, now sporting a bright yellow ear tag that we use to keep track of each one.

Sarah, helping a lamb to nurse for the first time.

Sarah, helping a lamb to nurse for the first time.

The roughly scheduled nature of lambing season means that there are many long nights—whomever is on duty will check the newborn lambs and the main flock every three or four hours. Especially on cold nights, it was critical that the newborns were dry and nursing, and some lambs needed help starting out. It can be frustrating to get a slimy, squirmy little thing to start drinking, particularly when it’s 2 am, the inexperienced mama won’t stand still, and the lamb seems inexplicably determined to do the exact opposite of what ever you want it to do… But there’s also nothing like the coziness of a little barn brightly lit against the cold, dark world outside, with all the mothers and babies inside sleeping warm and peacefully. And when you walk into the barn the next morning and all the lambs are healthy and growing bigger each day, there’s an amazing feeling of shared accomplishment in having helped the ewes bring all these tiny, adorable new creatures into the world.

- Rose



Following Martha…

by melissa on April 28, 2014 | 0 comments

Box of raw wool that Martha received.

Box of raw wool that Martha received.

A few months ago, we posted about the raw wool that former intern, Martha, is turning into yarn. See previous post here.

She’s been busy working on the process, posting to Twitter several images of her work:

martha brummitt ‏@mbrummitt  
#drumcard #rawwool from Romney #sheep ready to spin into yarn thanks @merckforest ! http://instagram.com/p/kEEoxFleA-/ 
Thanks @MerckForest for the #rawwool I will sort, wash, pick, card, spin, and knit! Feeling grateful :) pic.twitter.com/DghtN4HngZ
Later this week, Martha might be sending up another update on her work. She is so creative and talented, we can’t wait to see what she’s got for us!

Observations from Friday: Plants are growing

by melissa on April 27, 2014 | 0 comments

Ramps (wild leeks) grow before the trees get their leaves, and the sun still hits the forest floor.

Ramps (wild leeks) grow before the trees get their leaves, and the sun still hits the forest floor.

Kathryn goes out weekly to check the cabins, make sure that they are in good shape, and sometimes comes back to the Visitor Center with some goodies that campers have left behind. This week, the forest was ripe with new vegetation. Below are Kathryn’s observations from her hike:

Spring ephemerals are coming!

Violets dotting the ground.

Violets dotting the ground.


On my walk to check cabins today I saw what my mother-in-law always called Mayflowers (Wood Anemone) in a variety of colors, along Schenck Road, the Lourie Trail, and the beginning of McCormick Trail from Clark’s Clearing.  Ramps, ramps, ramps are all over the woods.  Trout lily leaves have emerged but no blossoms yet, although there are a few dog-toothed violets here and there with the promise of many more.  Along the Lourie Trail, I saw the feathery greenery of Squirrel Corn and Dutchman’s Breeches.  Along the Nenorod Trail I saw Trillium emerging but not the Jack-in-the-Pulpit that I know grow there.  Soon, I am sure.

Out at Beebe Pond there isn’t much life in the water yet, but I did observe lots of egg masses.  I heard a warbler singing in the shrubbery but didn’t see it and couldn’t identify it just by the call.  I did hear a Pileated Woodpecker and the call of a Barred Owl.

So much beautiful life out there!

…Oh, and I also flushed a grouse.

- Kathryn

A Visit to Green Mountain Spinnery

by melissa on April 23, 2014 | 0 comments


A few weeks ago, Colene, Rose, and I took about 200lbs of Merck’s raw (unprocessed) wool to Green Mountain Spinnery (GMS) in Putney, Vermont. The raw wool, which consisted of several bags of creamy white and several more of dark brown and black wool, is being cleaned and spun into beautiful yarn, which will be available for sale at the Visitor Center later this year.

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While we were at the spinnery, the GMS folks were kind enough to offer a tour of the place, which we apprentices enjoyed thoroughly. From the minute we walked in the door, the distinct smells of lanolin and wool welcomed us, making sure we knew that we were at The Spinnery. In the background, machines pumped away at their work, steam drifting by dreamily, and smiling faces greeted us around every corner. Everyone was more than happy to explain their task at hand.

The process of turning fleece into yarn consists multiple steps.  First, the wool is weighed. The weighing is then followed by a good cleaning, also called scouring, where the fibers’s natural oil, lanolin, is removed along with any debris.  Once the wool is clean and dry, it is carded, blended, and then spun into the yarn skeins you’ll find at Merck.

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The whole process at the Spinnery is done by a mixture of modern and antique machines that GMS has picked up along the way. The mammoth machinery immediately date themselves in a very romantic way, pairing wood and steel and modeling the designs of yesteryear.  I personally very much enjoyed inspecting the various machines and could easily envision their former lives in early industrial America. They certainly have been adopted to an excellent new home, where they’ll keep producing useful and beautiful yarn.

The tour concluded in the shop of the Spinnery, where we were surrounded by a rainbow of skeins, knitted goods, books, and knitting needles.

I am excited to receive the processed Merck yarn and turn my inspirations from GMS into something tangible (and warm!).  It was very cool to see the journey from fleece to yarn.

Thank you Green Mountain Spinnery!

- Sarah

PS: to learn more about Green Mountain Spinnery, visit their website: http://www.spinnery.com/ 

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Fern and Arch, Another Visit to Essex, New York

by melissa on April 18, 2014 | 0 comments

New draft team is still at the farm in Essex, New York.

New draft team is still at the farm in Essex, New York.


Tim has been to visit the new draft team several times over the past few months. Wednesday, he took Colene, Sarah and Rose with him to visit the horses again.

Fern and Arch will be moving here in the next few weeks!

Rose drove Fern and Arch up in Essex.

Rose drove Fern and Arch up in Essex.

Water Moving

by melissa on April 11, 2014 | 0 comments


The sound of water running can easily be taken for granted. But, after nearly three months of frozen ground, the gurgling of the vernal streams hint at an instinctual understanding that the land is waking up from a very long nap.

A wood frog must have gotten the memo. It was testing out its croaky voice down by Page Pond this afternoon.

Soon the peepers will be out.

Then the tree buds, followed by leaves.

We can’t wait.

Lamb Being Born

by melissa on April 10, 2014 | 0 comments

The lamb is covered in amniotic fluid when makes its appearance.

The lamb is covered in amniotic fluid when makes its appearance.








The mother bonds with her baby through smell.

The mother bonds with her baby through smell.








The lamb's nose was covered with the fluid when it emerged, but it quickly broke when the lamb let out very loud bahs just seconds after.

The lamb’s nose was covered with the fluid when it emerged, but it quickly broke when the lamb let out very loud bahs just seconds after.










The loud calling from the baby attracted the attention from Mom, and she quickly came over.

The loud calling from the baby attracted the attention from Mom, and she quickly came over.









The ewe helped to clean off her lamb, and in a little while the lamb was up on its feet.

The ewe helped to clean off her lamb, and in a little while the lamb was up on its feet.

On Friday, some of the last ewes gave birth to their lambs. Colene spent a busy day in the Small Animal Barn taking care of the six babies born. In the mid-afternoon another lamb was born.

The mama had been in labor for a little while. It’s interesting to watch the ewes in labor. They seem not at all concerned for much of it, but every once in a while they will start turning in circles, pawing at the ground, licking their lips, blahing, and laying down and standing up.

The baby lamb, the second of twins, had been protruding a bit from the mother’s rear–you could just see its hoof sticking out. The ewe was intermittently doing her labor dance. For fifteen minutes or so it seemed like the baby would come any second, but then mom would get up again and relax a little.

Finally, though, it was easy to see her contractions come very quickly. She laid down, and stood up, and out came the baby hoof first, quickly followed by nose and body: quite a large lamb covered in amniotic fluid.

In the first moment after the lamb drops, it’s hard to not want to rush over and clean its nose from the fluid. But, sure enough, in what seemed like a very long time, though only a few seconds, the lamb started to bleat, and its mother came over to lick it clean.


Everybody’s Waking Up

by melissa on April 4, 2014 | 0 comments

Can you spot the critter here?

Can you spot the critter here?

The critters are out and about now. These past few warmer days were the rally cry to wake up. Yesterday evening on my way up to the farm I saw a plethora of robins pouncing around the apple orchard. Two male Downy woodpeckers were squabbling over a female. The winter juncos are still flitting about here and there. A ruffed grouse poked along in front of me on the road, and coyote tracks walked back and forth through the birch trees.

Too quick!

Too quick!

In the Hope Tree, the great oak along Old Town Road, a chipmunk peeked out at me for a while. I sat down by the hole in the trunk waiting for it to come out again, which it did several times. The pictures below aren’t very good; the chippy was too quick, and my aim was really off, but it’s just proof that the forest is waking up.








OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA As observed by Melissa







Choosing Seeds

by melissa on April 3, 2014 | 0 comments

A meeting in the field office to talk about this year's garden.

A meeting in the field office to talk about this year’s garden.

This morning, after staff meeting, the farm staff sat in the field office making some last minute decisions on the garden plans. They want to grow items that will do well in Merck’s microclimate, but also include items that everyone likes to eat (or misses from home). Collards, anyone? Sarah will cook them southern style.

Unlike the years when Merck grew enough vegetables to support a CSA share system (community supported agriculture), the past few years production has been minimized to grow vegetables for the apprentices. There are so many other farms locally that grow vegetables for a living, Merck does not want to compete against those farms.

Cricket was a big help in deciding what types of squash to order.

Cricket was a big help in deciding what types of squash to order.

We will continue to have a “Grazing Garden” again this year: a place where visitors can go see how vegetables grow and taste the in-season produce. The Grazing Garden is a good way for people to experience small-scale production.

We’re still waiting for seeds to arrive in the mail, but soon there will be sprouts that compete for sunlight in the maintenance building window, and then, months from now, rows of planted vegetables ready to harvest.

We can’t wait!

Frosty morning, but tomorrow is April

by melissa on March 31, 2014 | 0 comments

Frozen trees mark the end of March at Merck Forest

Frozen trees mark the end of March at Merck Forest

Whoever says that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb has got it all wrong this year.

True, the weather is warmer now then it was 30 days ago: Old Town Road was a rutted muddy mess yesterday (a sure sign it’s warming up), but the wind just howled this weekend.

Today is just about freezing. The trees are glazed in ice, which chatters every time the breeze blows, and the road is now an avenue of frozen ruts.

The only consolation to the old adage is that we do actually have lambs in the barn. A whole mini-flock of bah-ing, bleeting, black and white wooly babies. They are spending their time today nestled between their mothers and the heat lamps, and, unless tomorrow is playing me for a fool (the weather is supposed to be toward fifty degrees), maybe the little guys will be romping out on pasture for the first of April.

Little lambs are in the Small Animal Barn

Little lambs are in the Small Animal Barn