Pierce Pond 2022 Restoration

Published in the Weekly Packet’s ‘Another View’ on July 14th, 2022

Driving along the head of the Bagaduce River during the alewife migration, one can easily spot dozens of Bald Eagles feasting on this keystone species as they make their way up to reproduce in the freshwater ponds that dot the watershed. According to Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, ‘alewives tie the ocean, rivers and lakes together and are recognized as an important ecological ingredient for restoring healthy fisheries and watersheds” Spearheaded by fishery activist, Bailey Bowden, the successful restoration of the alewife fish ladder into Pierce Pond has revived local alewife populations which in turn has increased available food for wildlife while bolstering our local fisheries by providing desirable bait fish for lobstermen.

Keystone species are organisms that help hold an ecosystem together, and without them our wildlife communities would look quite different. In contrast, invasive species disrupt functioning ecosystems, harming the local environment. Invasive species are often introduced to a site with fill dirt that is brought in during construction. Unfortunately, the highly invasive ‘Bishop’s weed’ seems to have exploded from some of the fill that was used in restructuring the road behind the public boat launch into Pierce’s Pond, and it has started to spill into the pocket-sized meadow along the fish ladder.

Last summer, members of the Halcyon Grange joined the Blue Hill Garden Club to start the long and arduous process of suppressing this invasive species. Because the site sits along the stream, chemicals are not allowed, and it will take time and diligence to oust this aggressive species. If even a tiny bit of the root material is left behind, it will take hold and return with gusto. Over the several years since the completion of the ladder, local community members have done an extraordinary job in stepping up to account for the increased numbers of fish making their way up to the pond. Now locals and visitors alike are invited to participate in tending the shoreline in order to eradicate the weed before it takes over the entire site.

On Saturday, August 13th the Open Air Arts Initiative will host a free workshop where participants will creative a collaborative ‘habitat sculpture’ atop the patch of weed while learning how to quell invasive species without the use of chemicals. A collaboration between the Cynthia Winings Gallery, the Blue Hill Heritage Trust and the SEED Barn, OAAI inspires people to creatively connect to the natural world around us. Deep connections with the landscape are fostered through tending it. During the process of creating a sculpture using materials found on site opens the space to express ourselves in ways that considers our relationship with the natural world around us.

Because the process of ousting this invasive species will take so much time, the organizations are approaching the shoreline restoration with the idea of long-term collaborative tending of this common access space. Instead of simply accomplishing this task with a singular event, folks from here and ‘away’ are invited to participate as they pass through and enjoy the site. ‘Many hands make light work’ and instructions on how to expel the Bishop’s weed as well as how to tend to the long term needs along the lakeshore area are posted online as well as at the site itself. Look for information on the kiosk located in the outdoor classroom and at www.virtualvoices.org

When you see the emergence of the Bishop’s weed, please feel free to help eradicate it by either digging it out and placing all of the plant material in a garbage bag before disposing of it at the dump, or suppressing it with several layers of cardboard which may be camouflaged with sticks an leaves found on site.

The invasive Bishop’s weed, or ‘Snow on the Mountain’ in it’s natural form
If you see this plant, help eradicate it!

What IS Bishop’s weed?

Aegopodium podagraria or Bishop Weed is the wild form of the nursery plant, ‘Snow on the Mountain’ and is very, very aggressive. Snow on the Mountain has variegated leaves and was promoted by the nursery industry as a shady ground cover. After going to seed, it reverts to its non-descript native form of solid green leaves. It is native to south central Europe and was used as a food plant by the Romans, and as a medicinal herb by monks, who carried it into northern Europe. It can still be found growing in patches around monastic ruins throughout the continent and descriptions of its use are found in monastic writings such as Physica by Hildegard von Bingen.

Pierce’s Pond Outdoor Classroom

Drawing influence from ancient practices of tending the landscape, we teach students about relationships with plants. Historically, Penobscot of this area did not cultivate crops in a way that disturbed the soil, instead they work within the landscape, like forest gardening….suppressing plants that are not as useful and encouraging those that served a purpose.

We have the intention of maintaining an open woodland around the outdoor classroom at Pierce’s Pond fish ladder. There are a lot of Gray Poplar that wants to fill the area with thickets. While Gray Poplar is a native pioneer species that holds wildlife value, it does serve the intentions expressed for maintaining open woodland, so we work to suppress it, while letting the beech and oak trees grow.

When the fish ladder was constructed, a deep rubber liner was sunk into the ground to cut off seepage and direct water through the ladder. This changed the moisture content in the soil, and we are curiously following the transformation from wet to dry forest. Three years after the first wave of hugelCULTURE, Gray Poplar is showing itself again. We will be coppicing the young sprouts again and using the leaves to help oust the invasive Bishop’s weed that is taking over the meadow…making use of material found on site

We start by working with Brooksville students to coppice the poplar, covering the cuts with several layers of cardboard and topping it with mulch and leaves to hide the cardboard.
Maintaining an open woodland allows for spatial connections with the pond. Hidden under these leaves are suppressed Gray Poplar, which we do not want to fill in. In the transformation from Red Maple forest that was kept wet from the seepage from the pond, to a dry hardwood forest as the liner cut off the seepage, we are following the adaptation of the trees and diversifying the forbs that grow here.
Students from the Bay School create seed head mandalas around the site, this one particularly expressive in its form.
See how slowly the seedlings grow!
The Blue Hill Garden Club worked with students from the Blue Hill Consolidated School to add plugs that were grown out over the summer in school nurseries.
New plugs are marked with rings of shells both as a nod to the connection of the river to the sea and as a way to enrich the soil with minerals as the shells break down.

Pierce’s Pond Woodland Path

The woodland path is a short trail that runs adjacent to the meadow and follows the fish ladder downstream. Find a sign at the end that follows the history of the site. We are working with plant communities that come from upland dry forests of the area.

Juliet Nalweyiso sports slippers as she sows seeds around the woodland path during COVID
The ‘before’ shot, just after the trail was structured.
Many native flower seeds need cold stratification to germinate. Directly sowing seeds onto open ground in winter is the best way to initiate a restoration because the plants become established in this particular soil from the get-go.
Seed mandalas were created by local students, this one tucked under the boulder…
Seeds sown as mandalas flourish in the following years
During the fall, native wildflower ‘plugs’ are added to the site. These plugs were cultivated from seeds started the prior winter at local schools and allowed to grow out through the summer to develop root systems before being added to the field. Cooler autumn temperatures ease the transition.
Rings of shells mark the new plantings, using natural materials connected to the sea as a nod to the opening of the fish passage. The minerals in the shells eventually break down to enrich the soil.
Plants start filling in the path area, but note the right uphill area, where too much mulch impedes the establishment of new plants
Dutch landscape architect, Mixy Montague visits the site and plants a few shade loving plants. Along the upper side of the trail, a LOT of mulch was laid down. After 3 years we can see where plants have taken hold and where the mulch is impeding growth. As we address the invasive Bishop’s weed in the meadow, we will pull from the areas of thick mulch to top the hugelcultures while opening ground to receive native seed.
The woodland path overlooking the small meadow to the fish ladder as it fills in with native large leaf wood aster and shade loving Virginia Wild Rye. As the plants fill in, we will continue to diversify the selection of natives.

Pierce’s Pond Lakeshore Restoration

In order to direct the outflow from Pierce’s Pond, a dam was constructed with a deep rubber lining going down the middle to prevent underground seepage and keep a robust flow through the fish ladder. The ground was super-compacted, making the growth rate extra slow to establish plants there. Sedges that exploded in the hard scrabble of the ladder are present, just miniature…as are many of the varieties sown from seed.

The final shots are views of the dam as it slowly fills in after 3 years of sowing seed and adding plugs.

A school of baby alewives….the ladder is working!
Standing with ankles immersed, we can enjoy the light nibbles of fish eating dead skin off our toes.
The dam just after construction. We tried laying screen down in one area to see how much of a difference it made in seed germination. It did not make much of a difference! We felt like it was not worth bringing the foreign material to the site to protect the seeds, they emerged regardless.
Many Maine native plants need winter cold to germinate. The best time to sow seeds onto open, disturbed ground is in the late fall and winter. Grasses do not need a period of cold to germinate and may be sown at any time.
The creative act of making seed head mandalas with materials found on site. Students from the Bay School visited the site to create ephemeral artworks that assisted in re-seeding the site.
Plugs were sown at various area schools during the winter & grown out over the summer. When autumn approached, the young plants had developed enough roots to be transplanted in the field. The cooler temperatures eased the transition.
Plugs are planted quite literally in the stone since we cannot dig into the compacted dirt on the dam in order to preserve the integrity of the structure. We take away stone until the compacted soil is exposed, place the plug on top then surround the plug with stones so the soil does not dry out. There is seepage up to the lining, so the roots stay moist on the pond side of the liner, despite dry conditions.
Sticks brought by the beaver help shelter plugs by providing dappled shade during the heat of the day
Growing native plants from seed is a slow process. The compacted soil makes it even slower! This is the view three years after the initiation of the project, where the dam is slowly filling in with green.
Other, less compacted areas provide grounds for pioneers like this Rudbekia to flourish, despite the gravelly nature of the soil. While the plant communities are based on the book, the Natural Landscapes of Maine, we are also working with native plants that are already present at the site.

Accidental Migrants

ACCIDENTAL MIGRANTS

Maine’s forests were severed in the first wave of colonialism as European settlers reaped the rich resources of this land. Felled trees were first used to build ships, then were carried off to construct plantations through the Caribbean, laying in place colonial structures of systematized racism that persist today. Indigenous practices in both geographies are helping to heal the land, recognizing that non-human species are essential members of our communities.

Haitian-centered organizations effectively support re-wilding & Eco-cultural restoration:

The Lambi Fund of Haiti: www.lambifund.org

SAKALA: www.sakala-haiti.org/agronomy/

Sadhana Forest: www.sadhanaforest.org/haiti/

SOIL: www.oursoil.org

HUMMINGBIRD Habitat

Hummingbird Habitat

Northeastern native flowers loved by hummingbirds include bee balm, blue lobelia, butterfly weed, cardinal flower, columbine, foxgloves, jewelweed, New Jersey tea, shadbush, Soloman’s seal and virgin’s bower. They have a tubular shape and generally grow upright. Plant these as large clumps and as a succession of blooms to welcome hummingbirds to your garden through the season.

Creating vertical structure in a garden will produce an inviting habitat. Shrubs, small trees and canopy trees planted together with flower gardens and a water source will provide for their needs.

Avoid Pesticides and keep cats away!

MOWING for Wildlife

Mowing in summer is severely disruptive

MOW in NOVEMBER or APRIL

Pollinators need flowers!!
Mowing in summer causes pollen and nectar to disappear – reducing the number of insects. The easiest way to install a Pollinator Pathway is to STOP mowing from May through October!
Farmers who harvest hay may consider leaving strips to grow out along field edges, or around the periphery of their farms.

Birds need insects & SEEDS!
Some birds eat insects…if flowers are cut & insect populations decline, birds loose this food source.

Grassland nesting birds are some of the most endangered. Mowing their nesting grounds before their young fledge drains the population.

Many birds eat seedheads. When flowers are cut mid summer, they do not have time to seed out to feed migrating birds as they return south. It takes away an important winter food source for resident birds.

SEEDS regenerate!!
Allowing seedheads to fully ripen regenerates the population of flowering plants that feed wildlife.

TIPS for maintaining an open meadows

Alternate Areas
While it is important to mow to maintain open meadows, we only need to mow every other year. Leaving un-mown areas over the winter increases habitat for mammals and birds who overwinter here.

SPOT mowing targets aggressive foreign grasses to suppress them and revive flora populations.

Human pathways may be mown through the meadows to increase ease of access for walking and observing the life that will burst forth when open meadow ecology is restored.

Mown path borders along bushes will keep them at bay.

2020 SEED engagements

March 19-22: Slow Fish in Durham, New Hampshire

March 29th:
SEED Swap & Scion Exchange
MOFGA Common Ground Education Center, 10am – 4pm
Installation of the SEED Sensorium & dispersal of Native Grasses
Join us for the 3rd year of installing the SEED Sensorium, pick up seed saving information and native grass seed to support habitat for pollinators. Find us in the alcove, next to the exchange.

April 4th:
Master Gardener Symposium: Gear Up for Gardening
Moore Center, 12:30 – 4:30-5pm
Creative Frameworks for SEED Dispersal ~ Lee Lee
Working at the intersection of art and ecology, Lee Lee will present her methodology in cultivating creative frameworks for public engagement around wild land restoration. Material will include cultivating networks of living SEED libraries, SEED Sensoria, HugelCULTURE and following seasonal rhythms to respond to specific attributes of place in culturally relevant ways. 
Other workshops include: Grow your best Veggies by Marjorie Poronto of the Master Gardeners Extension program, Grow your best raspberries by David Handley, UMaine, Biodiversity by Reeser Manley, Creating a community garden, Edible Millbridge, and Improving soils by Paul and Karen Volkhausen of Happytown Farm.

April 4th: Sweetgrass talk with Carol Dana
Part of the Blue Hill Heritage Trust’s winter lecture series

May 9th 1 – 3pm
Garden Day at the Blue Hill Heritage Trust
Learn what native seeds may be sown in spring and collect native grass seeds to take home and plant for pollinators. A workshop on composting will be presented by master gardener, Zabet NeuCollins.

May 23rd 9am – noon
Blue Hill Public Library Plant Sale
Find SEED under the apple tree as we disperse spring sown native grasses and wild mint along with sipping tea and drawing pollinators who benefit from these meadow plants

The above events cancelled or postponed due to COVID 19

May 23rd 2-4pm (rain date May 24)
Mapping the Labyrinth Meadow workshop at Tapley Farm
As a community, we will map out the geometric path that will be maintained at Tapley Farm in Brooksville as a collaboration between the Tent Project, the Open Air Arts Initiative and SEED :: disperse. The labyrinth will offer a platform on which to creatively explore our relationship with the meadow landscape. Challenging the dominant local mowing practice of severing this important part of local ecology, this event kicks off a series of workshops to educate people on how to maintain meadows in ways that best support the pollinator and bird communities that are essential to healthy natural systems.

May 30
Alewife Festival at Pierce Pond
Join the Penobscot Alewife Committee, the Blue Hill Heritage Trust & SEED to celebrate the maturing landscape around the restored fish ladder into Pierce Pond. Learn about the plants that make up shoreline communities and the network of life supported by them.

July 11 – 27th: SEED Barn Artist in Residence: moira williams
Learn more about moira’s walking based creative practice:
I-Park Kicks off Seventh Art Biennale in East Haddam

July 25th 2-4pm (rain date July 26)
Embodying the Landscape: Walking the Labyrinth
We invite the community to walk the labyrinth with intention as we explore the plant communities that make up the meadow at the Tapley Farm. We will speak of how important it is to hold off on mowing our meadows until November by paying attention to the teaming life that fills the maturing meadow. We will think about the localized movement of pollinators as they weave their way through the landscape and think about the shelter provided by tall grasses for seed dispersers who call the meadow home. Open source images of the network of life that abounds in meadows will be available for creative exploration through words, movement and drawing.

August 22nd 10a-4pm
Blue Hill Maritime Festival
Discover the colonial medicine chest and tea gardens at the Pendleton House with the establishment of a new SEED library dedicated to preserving these heirlooms brought to Maine from across the sea.

October 3rd 2-4pm (rain date October 4)
Meadow Restoration workshop at Tapley Farm
We will look at techniques for restoring meadows for the final event in the Labyrinth series in collaboration with the Tent Project and the Open Air Arts Initiative. Thinking about the transformation from flower to seed, we will look at the community of seed eating birds who are supported by mature meadows as they migrate south for the winter. We invite people to wait until November to mow so as not to disrupt this important food source for the birds. Autumn is the best time for planting plugs and we will share techniques on how to best introduce native plants to meadow environments to broaden the diversity of what is growing around us.

October 8-12th: Terra Madre

Mountains Beyond Mountains

Restoration Liberation
2019 Ghetto Biennial

Katelyn Alexis + Getho Jean Baptiste + Wesner Bazile + Rossi Jacques Casimir + Noel Edgard aka Papouche + Lee Lee + Mimi Sheller + moira williams

We are exploring historic connections between Maine and Haiti with a series of workshops and performances; looking at the entangled mobilities between plant-human and non-human relationships held sacred by indigenous communities. We will consider the role plants played through the Haitian revolution and how plant-based practices in both geographies may inform each other as we navigate our way through food sovereignty, sacred/medicinal relationships and rewilding
efforts. We are interested in counterpractices that push against industrial agriculture and hybrid seeds.

I :: White Pines from Dawnland
The tall, straight trunks of Maine’s white pine trees were marked and severed from the landscape by French settlers to build ships that carried lumber to Haiti. Hawthorn trees were equally struck from the land, stripped of their thorns then used as nails in the same ships to Haiti (Hawthorne is resistant to rot unlike pine). Both Pine and Hawthorne trees carry sacred/medicinal relationships with indigenous people. Additionally, both trees were used to construct plantations that in turn, served as frameworks against which the Haitian revolution took place. Our project begins with tracing the ghosts of White Pine and Hawthorn trees. We will travel rural areas to find their traces, look at the functional differences between in-tact plantation grounds versus fragmented land passed down equally through generations of families after the revolution. We will connect these ghosts to the sacred/medicinal microgardens found in the pots and doorways of Port-Au-Prince through recorded conversations, knowledge sharing and movement.

SEED Barn - Blue Hill Falls, Maine
The SEED Barn was crafted by boat builder, John Cheever in 1835. Here it is seen with a schooner under construction in mulatamicuwon, now known as Conary Cove in Blue Hill, Maine

II :: Mountains beyond Mountains
The indigenous Arawak people met the first free Africans in Ayiti (Haiti), during the 1800’s. Ayiti means ‘mountains beyond mountains’ an expression from and of the land. Both cultures recognized one another’s interconnected, sacred relationships with the land. As a result, the Arawak shared their knowledge of the land and the medicinal qualities found in Haiti’s endemic plants with the Africans. Plant, food and soil knowledge continues to be cultivated, interwoven with multiple cultural nuances, as interventions of restoration and liberation throughout the tightest corners of urban Port-Au-Prince. These same plants are grown in microgardens around the Grand Rue.

III :: Control
Moringa trees provided Haitians essential nutrients during the petrol revolts this year. Moringas were brought to Haiti from Africa as seeds and thrive in areas where little else can grow. We will plant more Moringa trees, save their seeds to establish a nutrient dense Grand Rue – if you control food, you control people.

Confronting the failures of our work in the previous biennales, we will install a functioning SEED library at SAKALA. They have the capacity for preservation and are interested in seed saving due to food security threats from hybridization. Informed by the progress of SEED work in Maine with the Halcyon Grange and Blue Hill Heritage Trust, we will call on Haitian organizations to maintain a preservation ring. Potential SEED library branches AJDHVD network of school gardens, Minister of
the Environment, Botanic Gardens, SOIL & Lambi Fund farmer networks.

IV :: Restoration
In response to concerns that urban youth are being severed from the land, traditional plant, soil, health and cultural knowledge, we will weave aspects of re-wilding into our SEED work to promote
a whole-body ecologic revolution. We will do this with seed saving workshops and a combined art, citizen science, movement
workshops in the Grand Rue and SAKALA (SAKALA has a “wild” field). We will provide a school bus and invite the Grand Rue TiMoun to participate.

2019 installation:
Accidental Migrants

2019 Ghetto Biennale: THE HAITIAN REVOLUTION & BEYOND

2020 update

Because of the revolts over the course of 2019, we decided to elongate this effort by drawing out programming to support workshops on a month to month basis. We started with open source images of Ruby-throated hummingbirds & cedar waxwings printed for the installation for the 2019 Biennial. Both birds are considered ‘accidental migrants’ from the northeast. The woodworking community that makes up Lakou Basile are carving representations of these photographs on a workshop platform with neighborhood youth to learn relationships of flowers with pollinating hummingbirds & fruit dispersal through birds. The woodblocks will be sent to the SEED Barn and used to demonstrate printing techniques of Ukiyo-e style of woodblock printing during the 2020 season. In hopes this exchange ignites consideration of the ecologic and historic geographic relationships we maintain with lands which host migratory wildlife enjoyed throughout the Maritime region during the summer.

Meadow Mandala

Meadow Mandala at the SEED Barn Maine
Thatcher Gray basks above the completed Meadow Mandala in the wet meadow alongside the SEED Barn.

Broadening perceptions of HOME to include outdoor spaces helps cultivate an understanding of the interrelationships between humans and wildlife. As for humans, good homes for wildlife include plenty of food, safe access to water and shelter, and enough space to raise the next generation. In this outdoor workshop, participants are invited to create an on-site, mandala inspired sculpture woven through the meadow landscape that will provide winter habitat for seed dispersers.

In the process, we learn how to work with natural materials in our own gardens to augment habitat for wildlife through winter months.

This is the final installment of the 2019 Open Air Arts Initiative Field Works, a collaboration between the Blue Hill Heritage Trust, Cynthia Winings Gallery & the SEED Barn. The culmination exhibition will take place at Parker Point the weekend of September 27-29.
https://www.facebook.com/events/596899880842603/

The SEED Barn is located at 53 Falls Bridge Road in Blue Hill Falls www.virtualvoices.org
http://www.openairarts.org/
https://bluehillheritagetrust.org/

Meadow Mandala at the SEED Barn Maine
Exploring different methods of working with materials on site, participants share ideas as the spiral form of the mandala is established
leaf chain
A leaf chain is woven with yarn and Norway maple leaves from the eradication of the invasive tree on another part of the property.
Leaf chain for the Meadow Mandala
Assembling the Meadow Mandala at the SEED Barn Maine
Working together to assemble the Meadow Mandala
Meadow Mandala at the SEED Barn Maine
The finished mandala
Meadow Mandala in winter. The structure persists into the winter and highlight the animal passages through the underbrush.
Mandala in Winter

Bagaduce Alewife Celebration


Join the Penobscot Alewife Committee, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Blue Hill Heritage Trust and Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries for the 2nd Annual Bagaduce Alewife Celebration!

Saturday, May 18th, 11am – 3pm
Pierce Pond in Penobscot


Learn about the native plant restoration work being done at Pierces with the SEED Barn & Blue Hill Heritage Trust.

Demonstrations on sowing native seeds, transplanting seedlings and providing habitat will compliment an art installation of cast paper butterflies. The public is invited to participate in this community restoration project by learning about the ecologies along the land water interface. Add your voice by composing messages to wildlife who use this passage, and bring home an assortment of native grass seeds to plant in your own yard!

Guided tours of future restoration locations will take place on on Parker Pond (9:30am)  and Walkers Pond (1pm)


Explore the Water!
Catch alewives to make observations, view a freshwater fish observation tank, taste smoked fish, and much more! There will even be a Virtual Reality set up so you can “swim with the fishes” through Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries!

For more information, please contact Blue Hill Heritage Trust at 374-5118 or info@bluehillheritagetrust.org

Participate in the Community Restoration of Pierce Pond through March by sowing native seeds specific to the river and lakeshore plant communities observed around Pierce Pond and gathered from the research in the Natural Landscapes of Maine guide published by the Maine Heritage Fund. Seeds are best sown at home, and we invite community members to establish some in their home gardens and sow some to share with the restoration project.



Great Maine Outdoor Weekend

Art is for the BIRDS!!

The Great Maine Outdoors Weekend encourages people to get outside! This year, the Blue Hill Heritage Trust is working with Lee Lee of the SEED Barn on a participatory sculpture that will be woven directly into the landscape in the Kingdom Woods Conservation Area. Part of the Open Air Arts Initiative, this arts workshop invites community members to collaborate on a sculpture that will provide winter shelter for birds, aesthetically integrating material from young oak trees that were recently cleared to preserve the heirloom blueberry field. Extending the flow of existing natural forms which stand prominently in the landscape, participants will weave the branches together, keeping in mind the space needed by bunnies to burrow and birds to flutter. In the process, contributors can explore ways we may integrate organic detritus offer winter protection for resident species in a way that piques visual interest. The Open-Air Arts Initiative is a collaboration between the SEED Barn, Blue Hill Heritage Trust and Cynthia Winings Gallery. Its mission is to use nature to ignite creativity in the young people who live on or visit the Blue Hill Peninsula.

Drawing inspiration from the land immersed arts movement of the west, Lee Lee has been bringing a new kind of community arts practice to the Blue Hill Peninsula. Working with only materials found on site, she has invited the public to work together in weaving sculptures through the landscapes around the Blue Hill Peninsula. Through the spring, she collaborated with local students to build sculptural pollinator homes. As the season transitions into fall, she is working with the wider community on ways we may increase habitat for birds through the series birdSEED.

Sculpting branches that we trim out of the garden challenges the popular but somewhat misplaced notion that tidy yards are superior. In fact, tangles of woody brush are essential habitat for birds, small mammals as well as pollinators. Downeast Audubon director, Leslie Clapp describes ways we may creatively incorporate winter protection for resident birds into our domestic spheres at home; “Building brush piles is fun and you can be as creative as you wish.  Some look like tepees, some porcupines, others bee hives. You can plant vines which cover them for more interest.  Sometimes I put a base of logs (in log cabin style) and then weave the sticks in through the logs so they stand upright. The major thing is not to pack them too tightly so the critters can’t get in.  I keep adding to some year after year because they do break down.”

Complementing the weaving of thicket style shelter for the birds, ongoing seasonal workshops hosted by the SEED barn demonstrate how to ferment and sow fresh native stone fruit seeds. Native species like wild cherries, elderberry, mountain ash and an array of viburnum and dogwoods not only feed the birds but provide important nectar sources for pollinators in the early spring.  Because fruit is an inhibitor to seed germination, it needs to be cleaned off thoroughly; as if it has passed through the gut of a bird, bear or moose. The process of mimicking bird digestion is easily replicated at home by smashing a bunch of fruit to a pulp in a Ziploc bag. Over the course of about ten days, mashing the bag daily, the bubbles of fermentation form in the macerated fruit then settle. At this point, the seeds may be cleaned by immersing them in fresh water, massaging any remaining fruit off the seed, swirling the pulp in a bowl of water and pouring off the macerated fruit. Viable seeds will sink in the vortex of the swirl, while the fruit will be picked up by the current and easily poured off. These seeds cannot dry out, so need to be planted fresh. They may be stored immersed in vermiculite in the same plastic bag and stored in the refrigerator until the season shifts; then planted right before the ground freezes. 

Supported in part by a project grant from the Maine Arts Commission, birdSEED will continue the following week with a public workshop on taming invasive bittersweet and barberry at the Blue Hill Consolidated School on September 29th.