March 21, 2015 – Forest Restoration Workshop Report

Forest Restoration Workshop (223),  Mar. 21,  2015 Note its been awhile since I got any reports out,  so this is an old report compiled from notes…

A soft snow had fallen overnight; with little wind, so all around branches were mantled with a 3″ layer of fluffy, white snow. The view from picnic tables at Loosestrife swamp was magic, a tracery in high contrast black and white. Looking across the swamp we could see precisely the wind shadow created by the surrounding hills; up to a certain level branches were mounds of white, but above they were bare and stood out starkly. It was almost as if an artist had been chalking them from bottom to top and abruptly stopped part way up for lunch.

We had gotten a “heads-up” that the Cub Scouts would join us again, and so they did, but this time for the most part a different group of kids. During the usual confusion while everyone greeted and sorted themselves out we got organized by circulating the sign-up sheet and opening the tool shed to get out what tools and gloves we though we’d need. It was swiftly warming up and piled snow began flaking off the branches in huge chunks. I pulled off my hat and plunked our paperwork on the trunk of a nearby car just in time to get a load of snow down my neck and all over the sign-in sheets. For some reason the others thought this was amusing…

We passed out gloves and pruners to the kids and weed wrenches and large loppers to the adults. After the obligatory warning to carry the pruners point down or let a big guy or girl carry them, we set off along the trail to Pumphouse Pond beside the Moravian Cemetery fence. We planned to cut and pull whatever invasive vines and plants we found along the way, and I feared we wouldn’t have enough for everybody to do some work. As usual, I shouldn’t have worried.

It didn’t take long to encounter our first patch of Aralia sprouts, dozens upon dozens, all small. The melting snow and some rain the week before made the ground soft enough that most of the kids could uproot the smaller sprouts by hand. Many sprouts that could have been pulled were cut, I suppose just to use the tool. We didn’t have to go far to find larger plants that needed mechanical aid to uproot. Sometimes 2 or 3 of the scouts had to pull at a plant, and sometimes they called over of the adults with a weed wrench. Often they manipulated the wrenches by themselves and eventually produced several piles of thorny, tangled sticks which we left off the trail.

Had it been a little later in the year we could have harvested some of the Spring buds which I am told by foragers are quite good to eat. Almost everyone says they have to be new buds, however, thumb sized or so. (Should you search on the web, make sure that you are looking at recipes for the oriental plant, Aralia elata, and not our other Aralias – there are several very different native plants in the same genus. Most of the recipes seem to be for tempuras.) Walkingstick buds are a foragable food I’d like to try, but it seems I’m either too intent on rooting the plants out to think about collecting some, or I’m too late in the season for the delicate spring buds… Well, someday…

We continued to Pumphouse Pond where we took a break for cookies and oranges. A cursory look around indicated that we had pretty well cleared that spot of Araila, and that we could ignore it for the next few seasons until new shoots have sprouted. The temperarture was fast rising, and there was little snow left on the branches. The snow on the ground was wet and easily packed, so the scouts got busy rolling it up to build a snowman on the trail. It seemed appropriate to use cut Aralia for the arms, and some of the many fallen sweetgum seedballs for the eyes, etc. (Thanks, Brian, for the pic) To do anything else would have been anticlimactic, so we then gathered our stuff and went home.