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.

Preserving the Barn

When we purchased the 1835 house and barn built by John Cheever, the barn was sagging and at risk of needing to be torn down. The previous owners had poured a new foundation for the main house, but the barn was in sad shape. A big reason for buying this home was the barn space, so we felt it was worth saving. The lofty space is relatively cozy for a barn with a dramatic stone fireplace that had been added later. The way the wood was put together evidenced mastery of material expressed by the shipbuilder who constructed it. We also felt the space would be improved by playing more to the surrounding water, so we took measures to bring the outdoors in through large openings cut into the walls as set of three tall windows facing Conary Cove and four sets of French doors. The double glass doors open to the patio, a new front porch built as a formal entry, and the typical raised bed greenhouse designed by Peter Leonard (grandpa). Through her career of owning a boutique Denver Real Estate firm, Sonja Leonard Leonard (grandma) took on multiple renovations of old houses. She developed a refined sense of preserving the historic characteristics of a house, while updating the style of living to fit today’s taste and standards. As with other properties in Denver and Taos, we collaborated as a family to determine the interior architectural design as well as the finishes to make the cohesive space.

The wooden interior of the barn is rich with history, as if the antique planks of wood held the stories of generations of families who shared the space. We wanted to preserve the ancient wood, but we also wanted to extend the season in which we could comfortably use the space, so we framed the outside of the barn to add insulation. This allowed us to mount a set of solar panels on the south side, above the greenhouse. The greenhouse offers passive solar heat gain which warms the space through the colder seasons. While it’s not enough to dwell comfortably without extra heat from the renai, it certainly takes the edge off while leaving it cold enough to preserve the seeds we are working with as part of the SEED barn. We then shocked the community by choosing a soft, sea green color for the exterior. The response from our neighbors being, “We don’t paint barns green here.” Typically people don’t cut giant holes in their barn either, so we dismissed it as simply being from ‘away’.

We had a LOT of dirt from excavating around the perimeter of the barn. In order to provide a bit of protection from road noise, we stretched out the pile along the front of the house as the foundation of the garden intended to be a living seed library for native plants that would be used in restoration work around the peninsula. using the excavator to place the large stones that came out from under the original floor, a layer of ‘good’ dirt was delivered and spread over the fill to provide a nourishing hold for the new plants. The high clay content of soil from this land provide moisture even through dry seasons, so it is a nice balance to establish a new garden.

Preserving the SEED Barn in Blue Hill Falls village, Maine
Thatcher Gray and grandpa explore the excavated foundation.
The frame of grandpa’s greenhouse is visible to the left.
Pouring the new foundation to preserve the SEED Barn
New foundation set, the excavator pulls the excess dirt around the front of the property to establish a berm for our new garden.
Preserving the SEED Barn while redesigning the structure to invite the view inside.
Large holes cut into the cove-side wall invite the view of Conary Cove indoors
Interior view of the barn renovation
New floors being framed along with the large window and four sets of French Doors.
Disrupting the large expanse of lawn, a virtual desert for pollinators, and transforming it into a sculpted landscape to support wildlife.
Exterior framing allowed for the addition of insulation so that we could comfortably extend the seasons where we could actively use the barn.
Pushing foundation dirt along the front of the property and around what will become the site for a small fresh water pond.
Grandpa directs the sculpting of the berm, placing rocks as visual features and structural elements to the emergent garden.
A layer of ‘good’ dirt is spread over the fill.
Thatcher Gray shows off his creation. He decided to plant wild blueberries along this section of the berm, establishing a blueberry barren for a delicious treat!