Monday, February 29, 2016

The 31st Year

It was in 1985 that my wife and I purchased the property that was to become known as Blue Jay Barrens, making this our 31st year of living here. I feel that now is an appropriate time to look back at my management efforts over the past 30 years and see how the property has developed over that time.

I spent the first five years getting to know the property. Effective land management requires that you have both an intimate knowledge of a property attributes and a well-defined vision of what you desire the property to become. At the end of five years I had a basic understanding of the geology and soil, land use history, and flora and fauna composition. I realized that this property had something special in the way of rare flora and fauna associations. The enhancement of these uncommon natural history components became a priority with me, so in 1990 I developed a five-year plan of action that identified goals and activities that would direct the natural ecological changes towards the development of healthy, native systems.

I am now in year one of my sixth five-year plan. I have accumulated a large bulk of lists, notes, sketches and related documents pertaining to my discoveries at Blue Jay Barrens. To be of future practical value, the information contained in this material must be synthesized into a more compact and easy to understand form. Accomplishing that feat is a high priority item in my current plan.

Identification of plant species growing at blue Jay Barrens has always been a priority. Goals were set identifying numbers of new species that I thought I should be able to add to the list each year. I created forms that made it easy for me to record information on new plant discoveries. A simple line drawing of the property and an accompanying table allowed me to quickly capture name, location and a few brief notes about each discovery. I could return later to record more detailed observations. A second priority in the current management plan is to revisit each of the 540+ plant species on the Blue Jay Barrens flora list to confirm its identity and record information on its current status.

For the more uncommon species, general distribution maps have been maintained. These maps will be updated as needed as the flora list updates are completed. When I began my management activities, many of the common information recording devices, such as GPS receivers and digital cameras, were not readily available, so records were kept in the more traditional manner of pen or pencil scrawls and sheets of paper.

Much of the work in the earlier plans revolved around clearing woody growth in the overgrown fields, to allow sunlight to reach uncommon species that were in danger of being eliminated as their habitat became more shaded. Eastern Red Cedars were the primary shade producing species in the open fields. Records were kept identifying the boundaries of the each work area along with the date the work was done and the total hours spent performing the task. For each work area, I would compute the time required to complete a specific unit. In this particular area it was taking a proximately three hours to clear 1/10 of an acre of land. It makes me tired just thinking about how much effort it took to hand cut all of those Cedars and physically drag them over to be stacked on a brush pile.

The evidence of all of that early clearing work has almost entirely disappeared. Huge brush piles have rotted down into small mounds, medium and small cedar stumps have decomposed and disappeared, and vegetation has filled in the bare areas left by the shadows. The work done back then has had a tremendous impact on the condition of the fields now. Even though knowing what was doesn’t change what is, that knowledge can have a profound effect on our efforts to guide the property towards what it could become.


  1. Sounds like an incredible amount of work! I'm impressed with you dedication and record-keeping!

  2. Congratulations on your 31st year! The property is lucky to have gotten such amazing stewards!