You may know Fountain House’s rural arm, Fountain House Farm at High Point, as an alpaca farm or as the site of our ever-expanding organic garden or as the source of timber for some of the new furniture around the House, but the farm staff and a group of enthusiastic members have been working to transform a portion of the 477-acre property into a wetland habitat.
In 2009 farm program coordinator Steve Pike met with representatives of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to discuss the possibility of the NRCS paying Fountain House to enhance the wetland area on Fountain House Farm at High Point which covers approximately 10 – 15 acres of land. The people from the NRCS really liked what they saw, and together, we formed a plan to improve the wetland. The plan involved providing ideal breeding grounds for the various amphibians that populate wetland areas and developing a cedar swamp. In August 2010, we signed a contract with the NRCS, and in the spring of 2011, we began work on the project.
The initial work involved a lot of excavation which was done by farm staff. With our backhoe tractor we began digging vernal pools – temporary pools of water, usually devoid of fish, that allow the safe development of native amphibian and insect species. In digging these pools we aim to encourage amphibians such as newts, frogs and toads to return to the area. Each pool covers no more than 50 square feet and is no deeper than 3 feet. In total, we excavated about 2 – 3 acres creating these pools.
The next phase was to plant trees. The NRCS helped us to choose the right type of tree for the wetland: the Atlantic White Cedar. The trees thrive in wet areas as they have excellent rot resistance properties. They were once highly valued and used extensively in many forms of construction, particularly in boat building. At one time there were many cedar swamps on the eastern seaboard, but because of heavy demand, many of these swamps were cleared of this valuable resource. We have a total of 1600 trees to plant. The first 800 trees arrived at the beginning of May, and the next 800 will arrive at the end of May. So far we have planted over 600 of these trees thanks to the hard work of our members.
We will continue to plant the trees throughout the spring and early summer. We still have 1000 Atlantic white cedars in pots ready to go into the ground, and we are counting on the continued assistance of the Fountain House community to complete this environmentally important project.
-Steve Pike and Abigail Jackson