Turtles and Stonewalls and Wolf Trees, Oh My!

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photos contributed by Pieter DeJong

submitted by BRWA

Over the river and through the woods to Stefans Farm we went.  On Sunday, November 15, over 60 people attended a series of guided hikes organized by the Blackstone River Watershed Association (BRWA) at this 126-acre parcel of Upton Open Space. The hikers included dozens of cub scouts and their families from Pack 132.

The hikes were offered by the BRWA to raise awareness of Warren Brook, a tributary of the Blackstone River.  The brook is part of a rich ecological complex that includes fields, upland forests, streams, and wetlands.  Protecting this watershed, in part through public education, helps to protect and restore the water quality of the Blackstone River.

Along the hike, we viewed evidence of the property’s agricultural past, including a series of seven fields, stone walls, an old cart path, an abandoned hay wagon, an old stone dam, a stock pond, and an immense white oak “wolf” tree probably left intact over generations of farming to be used as shade for cattle on hot summer days.

We immersed ourselves in the natural features of Stefans Farm including beech groves, quartz outcroppings, nesting areas of state-listed turtles, trees ripped open by insect-seeking woodpeckers, beaver dams, still-flowering witch hazel, and an abundance of acorns that rolled under our feet like marbles.  The scouts especially enjoyed dispersing the white fluffy seeds of the milkweed plants that grow abundantly in the fields.

As we hiked through the fields and woods, we gained a better understanding of the management challenges facing the Upton Land Stewardship Committee.  As soon as farm fields stop being mowed or grazed, invasive plants move in.  Sunday’s hike took us past multiflora rose, Japanese barberry, glossy buckthorn, winged burning bush, autumn olive, bush honeysuckle, Norway maple, and the dreaded oriental bittersweet.

At hike’s end, everyone enjoyed cider, hot cocoa, and home-baked goods.  People interested in assisting with stewardship of Stefans Farm should email uptonlandstewardship@charter.net.  If you are interested in becoming a BRWA member, receiving our monthly e-newsletter, attending future hikes and paddles, volunteering for our annual watershed-wide EarthDay Cleanup, or learning more about the BRWA, go to http://www.thebrwa.org.

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