James Lesher's Comments

January 8,  2012


The Smiths renovated and re-chinked the early cabin in the late 70's. They will re-chink again this summer using Brian Bastress's skilled help. Brian, by the way, worked on the Centre Furnace Mansion's chimney a few years back .

Of the farm's 70 acres, they continued to let out the marginally tillable soils-roughly a third of the acreage. A typical farmpond was created. Then, the steep hillsides and seasonally wet areas were released. The pastures became young woods and hay fields wet meadows.

About seven years ago a pivotal change was made. The marginal cropfields were taken out of production and enrolled in conservation practices: tree and prairiegrass plantings through FSA's CREPS program. Then things began happening in regular progression. A grant from PVCA helped with excavation and grading for two vernal pools. The NRCS's WHIP helped establish a pollinator habitat and incentivize successional woodland management and purple loosestrife control. Incidentally, a cattail marsh became recognizable at one corner of the property and they opened it to foot traffic. With two streams snaking through these various areas, they began teasing out and managing plant communities: in the fields and woods, in riparian zones, and in the natural and constructed wetlands.

Coincidentally, last fall, Mrs. Smith asked that we begin browsing through old deeds and pouring over old maps to uncover an historical record. This, we hope will give a glimpse as to what the land might have been like prior to its agricultural use. Certainly, a social history would help, too. Since their recent retirement, they began building a website with database to manage and share information and have now formulated their goals for the farmstead: to promote ecological diversity in plants and animals; open it up to education and research; and foster artistic interpretations of the wild landscape. Admittedly, there is some naiveté in this for they value its seclusion and solitude. But, they will open it up this summer with 2 or 3 field days to support their mission. One is set for August 18th, which will bring together various people and agencies, like Ann Donovan, who have helped start conservation projects or carried out management activities. You might say then, an extended community of people and ideas have helped the Smiths in their Chicory Lane Farm endeavor.

January 18, 2012