Dear New Canaan Land Trust supporters: Week three was a short one filled with high heat, a holiday, and a hurricane.

After a day off on Monday, the crew started at Fowler on Tuesday. We have been taking the first part of the morning at most properties to do a comprehensive trash sweep. It’s unfortunate that there always seems to be lots of garbage to pick up no matter which property we are on. Later in the morning, NCLT board member Susan Bergen gave the interns a short talk about wildflowers and pollinators and led us on a little tour through the meadow. Afterwards, we helped her beautify the area by weeding the meadow path, weeding the council ring area, and adding more wood chips to suppress future weed growth. In the afternoon, the crew blasted through cleaning out some water bars. Then I worked with each of the interns individually to get them to become experts at identifying burning bush in all of its growth stages. Once they all had the eagle eye for the pervasive invasive, they went to town pulling the tiny shoots up.

Wednesday was a farm-filled field trip day. We went deep into Wilton to visit Millstone Farm, a diversified regenerative farm. Farm Manager Drew Duckworth gave us a tour of the breathtakingly beautiful property. He talked to the interns the history of the land and how it thankfully got saved from subdivision and was put under conservation easement. He explained to the kids what diversified and regenerative farming mean and how livestock are an important tool in building soil. The interns found it interesting to see all the heritage breed animals raised at Millstone, like Gloucester old spot pigs, Shetland sheep, and highland cattle. Goat pets were had by a few of us. We also learned about other regenerative practices in place, like a native pollinator garden and prioritizing “edge” habitat. Edge habitat is where one ecosystem meets another, e.g. field meets forest, and has higher biodiversity than other areas. While on the tour, avid birder Avery spotted and heard some red-shouldered hawks while we were walking around. We ended our time at Millstone by helping out with a work project – weeding some of the horse pastures. Oh, did I forget to mention that Millstone also has the most gorgeous horse barns you could every imagine?! And filled with a dozen stunning dressage horses!

I hadn’t quite decided where to take the crew for the afternoon, but Farmer Drew’s suggestion that Weir Farm was the place to go sealed the deal. A short drive from Millstone, Weir Farm surprised and stunned us. Not only are the grounds and buildings simply gorgeous, but we learned that Weir Farm is Connecticut’s only national park. We also learned that it’s the only national park being managed for an artistic aesthetic due to its history of having artist owners. The landscape has been maintained to stay the same as it was when the 19th century impressionists were painting it. While at the property, we talked a little about how farms can be an ally in preserving open space in our highly developed community, as well as the importance of maintaining New England’s agricultural heritage.

Thursday found us at Browne Preserve, where we spent the majority of the morning picking up a lot of garbage. I mean a lot, including a tire, a huge box of used swimming pool filters, and several buckets of these red plastic “U”s which have so far defied explanation as to what their past purpose might have been. The interns also cut some cedar logs and for a project over at Watson-Symington. As they are now boardwalk building professionals,  the new section at the north entrance of Watson-Symington took no time at all. Check it out next time you go for a walk there! We ended the day by cleaning out some water bars, looking for downed branches, and lining more of the trail. The intense thunder caused us to wrap up our outdoor time early. We instead finished the day at the office writing our thank you notes for the week.

Friday was a remote day due to the severe weather in the morning. The flooding, manhole and storm drain geyers, rushing rapids, and stranded cars that I encountered during my 45-minute drive from Rowayton to New Canaan was a stark reminder of the importance of maintaining open, undeveloped spaces in our community so that water has a place to go and be absorbed. The interns had just one task for today – to work on their own blog post about a topic that sparked their interest so far during the past three weeks. Please be on the look out for their additions on our blog in the near future.

As always, if you see us on the trails, please say “Hello” and ask the interns what they have been working on. And, if you notice any storm damage on any of the properties, let us know so our interns can get to work next week (their last week!) clearing the trails.