January 2013

Keeping up with the spirit of the hunt, we had twelve enthusiastic volunteers join us for the annual search for praying mantis egg nests. It was an incredibly warm, sunny January afternoon, and once everyone had found at least one nest, volunteers were sent into different fields to start bagging the camouflaged egg cases. The competition heated up as our two hours dwindled, and by closing time, we had found 144 nests. Bravo to Ms. Mikela Neary for being our top finder this year! We all theorized as to why there were so many fewer nests than last year; in our discussion, we remembered that some of the nests hatched early last year due to a very early series of warm days, but when the weather turned cold again before spring actually sprung, many of those poor, confused mantises probably perished. Hopefully all of these eggs will hatch at a more opportune time and fill our fields with mantises and nests for next year! The eggs that we collected will live in their protected cage until the fields are mowed, at which point we’ll take a little hike and return them to the grasslands. Great job again, team!

On another beautiful January afternoon, four volunteers spent an incredibly productive afternoon with bamboo. First, we made quick work of clearing out broken and bent bamboo that was blocking the path between the fence line and the pond. Once that was clear, we begin to brainstorm about what to do about the broken fence rails. The answer seemed so obvious: take lengths of cut bamboo and use them as fencing! So the volunteers became a lumberjack, sawmill, and construction crew, and the results were fantastic. Arboretum visitors will be delighted with the clear paths and new, improved fencing!

We were excited to jump into our first bee-habitat creation program, and our enthusiasm was evident in the results! In one afternoon, our six volunteers assembled a wide variety of structures to attract and house native bees. We drilled, cut, and assembled logs, bamboo, twine, and wood, and we ended up with five different types of bee habitats. We will keep a few of these creations for Avalon, but share the rest with our friends at preserves, arboretums, and parks across the island!

Two ambitious volunteers joined us on this morning all the way out and down in Long Beach to help the community efforts to rebuild and protect the town. It was an incredible display of high-spirited teamwork as approximately 40 folks of all ages gathered to place donated and town-collected Christmas trees in chicken-foot formations along the beach. The crew then went back through and cut off and collected all of the plastic netting and ropes from the trees to let the branches open and prevent freed pieces from causing environmental and aesthetic issues on the beach. Over the next two months, sand will blow onto the trees and form a dune, completely covering the trees and creating a fairly stable dune to protect the town from storm surges. What a great use of used and unused Christmas trees and a great way to bring the community together to help their town!

On this afternoon, 7 volunteers came together and split into two groups to tackle part two of two tasks: building native bee habitats and separating seeds from flowers, pods, and grasses for the State Parks’ use. Both groups jumped right into the projects and had a laugh as milkweed seed pods created a fairyland inside of the barn with all of their fluff, and the volunteers downstairs had similar results with sawdust. At the end of our three hours, bags and bags of seeds had been separated, and the bee boxes were brought very close to completion. One more day should do it for both of these projects, and then the seeds can be returned to State Parks to scatter around in the springtime, and the bee boxes can begin finding homes around the island!

February 2013

There are few things more exciting than talking about what will be popping up throughout the year in Arcadia! Everyone worked together to first survey the garden, then decide what kind of deliciousness they’d like to be producing, and finally figure out which crops should be grown in which beds based on crop rotation and companion planting strategies. It’s going to be a very yummy year at Arcadia!

Our other winter project wrapped up on this day: the creation of many native bee habitats. Unlike bee hives, these creations are made to house native pollinators with no intention of disturbing them for honey, as true native bees do not create honey in the same way as our honeybee friends. In fact, of the 20,000 species of bees around the world, only 7 make honey! But their pollinating powers are still very necessary for the creation of flowers, vegetables, and much more. We used wood, bamboo, string, logs, and other materials to construct a variety of pieces that resemble things in nature that native bees would find attractive for housing. These structures will be placed at nature centers and preserves around Long Island to await their new resident.

Many of the tasks we tackle here at STATE are much more easily and quickly done by many hands than just one, and separating seeds from native plants to give to our state parks was a prime example of just that. When we took on the job and looked at the 10 or so landscaping bags full of dried marigolds, milkweed, black eyed susans, and big blue stem grass, we figured it’d take an afternoon to get through it all. Three afternoons, lots of sneezing, and many passes with a broom later, we were all done. All in all, it took about 90 person-hours to finish the job. We were so glad to send back small paper bags full of seeds, all ready to be sprinkled in fields this spring to grow into more native plants on Long Island!

March 2013

The volunteers took a few hours on this Friday afternoon to start their weekend off right. First, we helped our friends from the Garden Club, clearing an area of sticks that had fallen during the hurricane, then cutting back baby bamboo that began popping up in undesirable areas. As if that wasn’t enough, we headed over to the pathway between the arboretum and Frank Melville Memorial Park, where over 100 bamboo pieces had snapped and fallen to block the entire pathway. With the help of a FMMP volunteer and his handy chainsaw, the volunteers hauled away every last 20+ foot tall bamboo piece, stacking them neatly in a pile for others to come harvest and use for garden structures, fencing, décor, or other projects. With a clear path, and less bamboo in the world, the volunteers walked away feeling quite pleased with their end-of-the-week deeds.

This event has become the first sign of spring for STATE. Volunteers have fun putting our 10×10 greenhouse together, coming across a new challenge every year, and securing it to its base so that it doesn’t end up across the fields. Then, volunteers filled seedling boxes with growing medium and planted our early seeds: tomatoes, peppers, onions, eggplant, and much more. We always feel as if we are planting warmth and reaping it just a month or so later when spring finally arrives.

What’s better in the springtime than an afternoon on a farm with lambs, chickens, and plenty of work to keep a roving group of volunteers busy? First, we installed two bluebird boxes, as New York’s state bird had been spotted there earlier in the season, and areas of the farm are prime habitat for the bluebirds. Next, we disassembled, relocated, and remade the farm’s pig pen. It is moved each year so that the area it had been can become an incredibly fertile garden. We loved the volunteer’s ship design for this year’s pen! Lastly, we planted some peas in freshly tilled land to give a warm, enthusiastic welcome to the 2013 growing season. All the while. FIOS1 news was following us around and interviewing volunteers for an Earth Day special. What a fun, productive day!

Early spring in the garden is always a head-scratcher. We find ourselves thinking back on the late-summer garden of the previous year, wondering how it’s possible that these stark beds could ever grow such bounty again. But we pull the weeds, plant our seeds, sprinkle them with water, and hope for the best. Of course, they always grow into big, healthy plants, producing the best vegetables we’ve ever tasted in a matter of months. All it takes is patience, care, and a lot of love!

April 2013

This was our first venture out to Hallockville Museum Farm, and despite the chilly wind that blew, the warmth from community members working together to open their garden for the year was all we needed. It is always inspiring to see so many folks buzzing around, helping each other wherever need be, stopping only when all the work is done. Our volunteers jumped right in, lining paths with woodchips, clearing the back section of rubbish, and fixing fences. We are already excited to return to Hallockville to help with their Fleece and Fiber Fair in May!

Our friend Sally over at Historic Old Field Farm approached STATE with a problem: when they host horse shows, hundreds and hundreds of plastic water bottles are brought, emptied by thirsty riders and attendees, and end up in the trash. There aren’t any recycling bins there, but Sally felt that, even if there were, folks might not catch on and do the right thing unless something really caught their attention. Rebecca and Andrew jumped on the design issue, and with Andrew’s diagrams and printouts, the STATE team took an afternoon to execute the construction of horse head recycling bin tops. Everyone worked together to trace the pieces onto plywood, cut them out, sand the edges down, and fashion them together. The result was just great as everyone had hoped for. Our resident volunteer artist Silva C. worked all afternoon to figure out paint schemes for each of the three horses, and we are now biting at the bit for the second part of this event when we get to paint the ponies, attach signage about recycling, and send them along to Old Field in time for the first show of the season!

We love visiting new parks and preserves, and Shu Swamp was no disappointment! The preserve and its surrounding area were beautiful and well maintained, but we were there to help beat back an unruly patch of English Ivy that was choking out the native wild leeks and delicate forest floor flowers. Over the course of a few short hours, our pile grew immensely as we worked with other park stewards and Americorps volunteers. Our reward was a hike around the park, seeing 800+ year old Tupelo trees and trout streams, along with the knowledge that our work helped create more habitat for the beautiful little native plants of the forest.

The only thing better than a carnival is an eco-carnival! We are always so glad to join our friends at Seatuck to help with their educational, hands-on nature stations at this festival. Our volunteers helped people of all ages search through bark and grass for bugs, do tree and leaf rubbings, explore the marsh and its creatures, write poetry and draw pictures about nature, and introduce folks to the joy of bird-watching. In addition, we brought our Truck Farm to spread the word about unconventional gardening. All in all, a very fun day!

The Earth Day weekend celebrations continued at Smithtown Historical Society’s Come Alive Outside festival. Again, guests were delighted by different outdoor activities, from clam-raking to bubble blowing. Our volunteers helped facilitate the painting of fence pieces that would surround the new community garden, which we also had a hand in helping to create and plant. Truck Farm joined us again, sending kids home with beans in plastic bags, all ready to sprout and be planted in pots and gardens all over the island. We love getting folks of all ages excited about nature and the great outdoors!

How could STATE volunteers NOT do something on Earth Day?! In preparation for their annual Arbor Day celebration, our friends at the TVGC Arboretum asked for some extra hands cleaning up the remaining bamboo mess after the winter full of storms we experienced. Everyone got a good workout hauling the 20+ foot lengths from all areas of the bamboo patch to one neat pile. With endless energy and enthusiasm, we got it all tidied up for the elementary school children’s enjoyment later in the month.

With the threat of a hard frost (hopefully) gone, we went ahead and planted our second set of seeds. Someone had mentioned that the blooming of dogwood trees signal the prime time to plant corn, so that’s just what we did. After prepping that bed and adding some fluffy compost, we got our corn seeds in, and then moved on to prep our tires for potato plants. The day ended with a delicious asparagus harvest, and as they say, all’s well that ends with asparagus.

May 2013

Once the garden gets rolling, there’s no week that can go by without attentive hands making their way around its beds! Especially in the beginning of the season, we’re busy fighting the weeds away from our tender little seedlings. Sometimes it’s tough to tell one from the other, but with only a few casualties, we left the beds relatively weedless for our small veggie and herb plants to make their way up and up and into something delicious. Thankfully, some of our plants are already producing, so our labors paid off with a nice pile of kale and collard greens!

Invasive species pulls are very important, but can surely be a bit of a drag at times, especially when dealing with prickly or stubborn varieties. Fortunately, garlic mustard is neither of these things! Not only this, but it’s one of our only edible invasives. We were joined by the Spanish Honors Society from Ward Melville High School, who provided many helpful eyes to seek and sets of hands to pull this pesky plant. With huge buckets full of the stuff at the end of the afternoon, we didn’t feel at all guilty taking a break to mix up some pesto and enjoy it on crackers, and later, pasta! We hope that this effort grows every year, so that soon enough, we’ll have no more garlic mustard in Avalon. No worries: we’ll get our fodder for pesto from any number of other locations nearby.

We love all of our nonprofit partners equally, but some places fill us with an extra bit of joy when we’re there helping, and one of those locations is Turtleback Farm! We were glad to arrive as a small army to help farmer Jen set up her vegetable beds for the year. A job that would’ve taken one person over a week to do was brought near to a finish in a few short hours. On this, one of the first hot days of the year, we sweated while we labored, but it was hard to frown at all when there were spring lambs frolicking and bleating all across the adjacent fields.

When it comes down to it, we can’t have anything without our native plants. No native bees to pollinate, no native birds to fly and sing, no sweet little mammals to hop and crawl around: nothing. This is why we head out to the Long Island Native Plant Initiative’s headquarters whenever possible to help them propagate true Long Island native plants. From Long Island collected seed, flats of crowded plants grow, and we spend a few hours now and them separating out the nearly hair-thin grasses and plants into their very own places in 6-pack containers. Before we know it, they’ll be root bound and ready for the ground or an upgrade in housing!

With the horse heads all assembled, they were biting at the bit for a few coats of primer and a sweet paint job. Artistic team leader Silvia Cohn helped other volunteers prep and paint these beauties. The end result was magnificent! In need of only a little bit of signage, these ponies will be placed on barrels at Historic Old Field Farm for every horse show this year, aided by recycling interns, to collect hundreds, perhaps thousands, of plastic water bottles.

While we love getting down and dirty, there’s something undeniably delightful about helping children enjoy the wonders of nature and farming at festivals like this one. STATE volunteers assisted the little ones with crafts, finding needles in hay stacks, and other fun. Truck Farm was nearby, giving kids all they needed to germinate a bean in a bag. During breaks, we checked out what the festival had to offer, including sheep trials with dogs and sheep shearing. We don’t know who had more fun: us or the kids!

It’s always wonderfully exciting to transplant our carefully grown seedlings into their new, big homes in the garden’s beds. Though the tomatoes were are now tiny, and the peppers look pale, lots of sunshine, water, and great soil will help these inch-tall plants become big and fruitful. It’s always hard to believe, but give it time!

 As the season becomes warmer, we excitedly begin to plant the warm-weather crops, such as cucumbers. We also had fun with our compost pile today, as there were a great number of plants growing off the top of one of the more mature piles that were recognizable: tomatoes, cilantro, onions, marigolds, and more. Volunteers transplanted these volunteers into beds where they’d be able to grow happily for the rest of the season. What a great start they had!

Who gets to say that they helped to build a chicken run after school? These girls do! We used recycled materials from around the farm to put together a large cage where baby chicks could run around on the grass without the threat of predators like foxes or hawks. Nice work, ladies!

June 2013

We love helping our friends at the Long Island Native Plant Initiative! We spent this lovely summer morning helping them transplant tiny little seedlings into bigger containers. It’s hard to believe that these one-stemmed, tender, delicate things will become many feet tall with expansive root systems, but they surely will, and when they do, they’ll provide food and habitat for native creatures of all sorts!

Just when invasive species removals start to become a little repetitive, summer comes and we throw something new in the mix: kayaks! Everything’s more fun on the water, so volunteers had an extra great time getting rid of this river-top pest, Ludwigia.The crew pulled up hundreds of pounds of the invasive weed, freeing habitat for native plants in the same niche that will provide habitat, food, and breeding grounds for all of the insects, fish, and amphibians in the river.

We’ll admit that most field science research isn’t glamorous, but this is one of those great exceptions. The volunteers love to gather on the beach near midnight a few times in May and June to help collect data for a national database. We take environmental data first, like temperature, wind speed, and visibility, and then begin to walk down the beach, counting the crabs we see and noting their location. Then comes the best part: tagging the crabs. We measure them and then drill a small, harmless hole into their shells to stick an ID tag. If we see any ID tags from previous taggings, we record the number and their size again. It’s a late night, but always a good one!

We absolutely love installing native gardens wherever they’re wanted. On this day, we not only put in a garden, but we put on a show: Kings Park Day was going on around us as we planted. Our time was doubly well spent as we dug holes for bird and bug supporting bushes, flowers, and grasses, as folks stopped by to say how beautiful it was, and stayed long enough for us to educate them on the benefits of native plants. We even got a blue bird box, a native bee box, and a stone wall for little critters in the garden space. Long live the natives!

Once our strawberry plants start producing, they’re nearly impossible to keep up with! With multiple volunteers sifting through the leaves, it still took us 20 minutes to find most of the ripe berries. I mean, we’re certainly not complaining: everyone went home with a big box of strawberries! The day held much more than just picking; we took down our greenhouse, grateful for another season of successful seedlings from within its shelter. We also collected seed from the cover crops— vetch and rye— that had gone to seed so that we could plant them again in the autumn. Lastly, we pulled up dormant areas of the beds and planted things like corn and beans.

If we’ve learned anything about farm work, it’s that the farm makes your to-do list for the day, despite whatever it was you had planned. Our first task was mounding the rows of potatoes so that they could be even more productive. We then headed over to the compost pile where we emptied bags of horse manure to cook up in the hot sun and become food for the veggies. We even found a turtle friend hanging out near the pile, and saved him from a very stinky fate. After all of that hard work, we took it easy, helping to tend to the sheep and lambs, and collecting the best eggs on the island from some very happy chickens.

We fight so many invasive species who got their roots dug in deep before folks knew just how awful they could be. The Arboretum has a new invader though, and we’re doing our best to keep it from becoming the next multiflora rose or garlic mustard. Last year, we’d found three patches of Mile-a-Minute weed, and done a thorough job removing them, but of course, because of the spread of seed, it popped up in a few additional locations this year. We spent the afternoon collecting the prickly plant, stuffing a leaf bag entirely full. Beware, terrible vine: we’ll be back! The day ended with our usual clearing of the path near the pond.

With school finally out, we’re free to volunteer any day of the week! Our first Monday had us at the beach, helping with ongoing terrapin turtle research. We had some veterans and some newbies, so we worked together to bring everyone up to speed on the search for test holes, predated nests, and the turtles themselves. We didn’t see any turtles, and the test holes were scarce, but even that is important data!

It’s always a pleasure to work at the beautiful Sweetbriar gardens. We helped save some shrubs and trees from very ambitious vines, and pulled invasives and weeds out of a few beds that needed a hand before they, too, were swallowed up. It’s always easy to see the product of our labor there!

There’s never a dull day in the garden! We finally installed our dry erase map of the garden beds so that we’ll know what’s in where and what’ll be ready when if the crop is underground. The summer strawberries were plentiful and we happily shared with one of Ms. Sue’s groups of children. Everyone went home with plenty of beans, herbs, peas, and more!

It was such a pleasure to take part in this workshop! It was a peek into just how hard so many folks are working in order to preserve genetic diversity within our native plant species. The process was long and very scientific, but each piece is as necessary as the next, and it was incredibly interesting to see how they collect and file away seed. We hope to do this ourselves and send it in to the Northeast Seed Bank sooner than later!

July 2013

Jen had a super cool project for us this day: turn a fallow field into a three-sisters’ garden, making the mounds of corn, bean, and squash plants in the pattern of a turtle’s shell. We planted a wide variety of colored corn and beans. With so many hands, the project was over and done with before we knew it. Good thing there’s always more to do on the farm! We helped pick the spring bean crop, and then strung up tomato plants to help keep them away from the ground and more exposed to the sun.

It was yet another day of bountiful harvest at Arcadia! We pulled our first crop of carrots and couldn’t have been happier with the results. We also mulched under the tomatoes for the first time in an attempt to prevent soil-based bacterial issues on the leaves. After collecting seeds for use in the fall, and of course a bit of weeding, we packed our bags full of goodies and headed home.

This is such a beautiful time of year at Sweetbriar! The gardens are nearly in full bloom, but the feeling of more beautiful things to come is still in the air. We helped clear out unwanted plants so that those meant to be in their areas have more room to spread out all summer long. It’s impossible to be unhappy with so many lovely flowers and butterflies around!

One of our favorite things to do is to build habitat for our struggling native bees, bugs, and birds. Not only did we plant a variety of native plants, but we also installed a native bee habitat box and a bluebird box. There were already winged takers for the buffet and shelter as we were packing up!

Two weeks after our last visit, we were able to return to see what had taken and what hadn’t in the three sister’s garden, so we started by supplementing the corn and bean seeds in our mounds. We then went about harvesting other goodies, enjoying the experience of trying new things like lemon cucumbers and purple beans.

Sometimes fun surprises pop up in our garden beds. This week, we found nearly 100 little kale seedlings where last season’s kale stood and went to seed, so we spent some time transplanting many of them to new beds in hopes of escaping the bug that has been bothering that family of plants. We then thinned our bean plants to up production and then harvested all of the loot to take home and enjoy.

The butterflies, birds, critters, crawling creatures are all of the place this time of year! The gardens are lush, providing food for both ourselves and the native wildlife. With most of the season’s plants in place, we worked on projects that are often overlooked in the busy springtime, like clearing the brush pile and mulching beds.

We love collaboration, especially with folks from so far away. STATE was joined by a volunteer group from Minnesota to tackle some unruly trail footage at Hallockville Museum Farm. Volunteers compared stories and accents while hacking away at bushes, clearing off the trailhead’s sign, and hauling away the clippings. We look forward to returning to keep working on the trail!

It was Christmas in July, so Santa Claus visited the garden to gather goodies for everyone in his bag. The children of the world wouldn’t be disappointed, as cucumbers, herbs, tomatoes, beans, and more were plentiful. We also collected dill seeds to be planted later in the season, and trimmed back our tomato plants so that they could send their energy towards making more yummy fruits.

August 2013

Another hugely successful day pulling ludwigia from the river! We’re so glad to be a part of this effort, bagging up literally tons of the invasive, destructive plant alongside volunteers from the DEC and many other organizations. It’s one of our dirtiest events, but certainly one of the most fun, as we spend most of the day kayaking around a gorgeous river and lake.

We had back-to-back events this morning and afternoon, and all volunteers stuck around for the both, making it a fun, social day while accomplishing a great deal of work. First, we bustled around the garden, harvesting, planting, thinning, trimming, and making sure those summer weeds stayed under control. Then we went inside the barn, joined by our friends from the Long Island Native Plant Initiative, to help them prepare fliers to be mailed out about their exciting annual conference. Not all environmental work is outdoors!

We were lucky to be teaming up with strong forces from all over the island this summer at so many of our different locations. Another youth volunteer group joined us to help give Sweetbriar’s floral residents a little more room in their beds. Others worked on transplanting into newly cleared territory. I’ll never get over the amazement of how quickly so much work can be done with a great number of hands!

On this morning, volunteers came to maintain the hard work they’ve been putting in all year to see that the arboretum remained tidy and invasive plants remained at bay. We fixed up some unruly fence railing, beat back some patches of dreaded mile-a-minute vine, and cut away some fallen bamboo from the trails. It’s so lovely to be thanked by park users as they walk by because it lets us know that our efforts are making a difference right away!

The rain doesn’t stop produce from being ripe, and so it won’t stop us from harvesting. A little summer rain never hurt anyone anyway! Our bold volunteers donned their raincoats and giggled between picking beans and tomatoes and wiping the rain out of their eyes. Even the chickens didn’t seem to mind the weather, as they were anxiously awaiting our arrival with the rotten tomatoes to enjoy as a delectable snack.

The garden is just about at its peak this time of year, and volunteers’ hard work is paying off. We start these days with a little bit of weeding, some fall-season plantings, and pruning, but most of the time is spent harvesting the delicious produce. Our celery is finally ready to come out, and what a crop it is! We’re going to have to start bringing bigger bags to these events…

The third event in an extremely successful series, volunteers have near completely restored this historic path. Their ivy efforts have really pushed the aggressive vines back, and the azalea bushes are sure to be even more spectacular this spring. We cleared the trail all the way down to the community gardens, so hopefully park users will begin to use it more regularly.

We spent the afternoon getting the last of our fall crop planted, and so so many goodies harvested. The cherry tomatoes taste like candy, and the leafy greens are plentiful. If only we could eat so well all year round!

September 2013

After taking a long break to get settled back into school, volunteers were back in action to get out, stretch their legs, and enjoy the approaching autumn. We first helped out with a big effort at Nissequogue River State Park. STATE volunteers helped to lead teams of younger scouts and sports team members down different trails in the park, not only picking up the trash they found, but categorizing it on a standardized form so that the park can identify the most pressing issues. Of course, we returned to Arcadia to spruce it up after a long hiatus, and pick all of the lovely, ripe, fresh food it was waiting to hand over to us. Lastly, we took a long afternoon at Ship’s Hole Farm to harvest black walnuts and learn how to cure them so that we’ll have ready-to-crack nuts by the holidays, as well as helping to move fences around and harvesting the best eggs in the world from Jen’s Hens. It’s sure to be a productive season with STATE!

October 2013

This is one of our favorite times of year to be out and about. The hot weather has retreated, so we get to work just as hard while sweating less. There were multiple visits to Arcadia, where things are winding down for the most part, but volunteers still go home with bags full of herbs, beans, root vegetables, and squash. We started the month by trying to shake the swiftly-growing population of Mile-a-Minute population at Three Village Garden Club’s Arboretum. It’s looking bleak in a big picture sense, but we still have to make our efforts to uncover the native plants and stop the vines from completely taking over. At least it’s not too tough to pull! We then spent another wonderfully fun weekend helping out at the Bayard Cutting Arboretum’s annual Fall Festival. Between face painting, pumpkin bowling, finding a (big knitting) needing in a haystack, and pumpkin decorating, we helped young kids and families enjoy being outdoors while raising money for the horticultural society there. The next weekend, three of us were flown to California after winning first place in EmPower’s Solar Competition. We soaked up as much information as the solar panels were soaking up sun! Upon our return, we had our first experience with an organic herbicide called Brightman’s Best. We’ll be experimenting more with this product next year. Next, we had our first experience helping out our friends at the Rotary club with their beachside garden in Stony Brook. We began clearing it out and brainstorming on which native plants could take root in all of the empty space next spring. Our last event of October had us finally tackling the small pond at the TVGC Arboretum. Our very dry weather left it entirely drained, so we marched in there to get the bamboo and other big pieces of debris out, as well as cutting out some invasive species. We hope to plant native semi-aquatic plants there in the spring to start to establish a healthy ecosystem.

November 2013

The first signs of winter can’t keep STATE volunteers inside! We threw on our coats to tackle a typical November. Our month started with an owl prowl and bonfire where over 15 volunteers saw two types of owls and enjoyed a warm fire alongside some messy s’mores. The next day, we were bright eyed and bushy tailed at the Smithtown Historical Society, helping them clear an overgrown area to make more pasture for their sheep. Volunteers got to climb into a tractor scoop and be lifted up in order to tie onto stubborn vines. The tractor then pulled the vines down to relieve the trees of a big tangle, and volunteers piled the pesky vines up to be taken away. We then returned to the Rotary memorial garden near Sand Street Beach in order to finish the cleanup. The garden hasn’t looked this good in many years! We took out dead bushes, trimmed back plants, pulled weeds, and removed trash, leaving a clean slate for beautiful springtime plantings. Our next task had us in Ronkonkoma at the Lily Pond County Park. Our friends from the Four Harbors Audubon Society help steward the property, so we figured we’d help them help the land and wildlife. First, we reinstalled a swallow birdhouse near the marshes. We then pulled some enormous truck tires out of a muddy stream bed so that they’d stop collecting water for mosquitoes to breed in. During our final weekend in November, we cleared and widened a length of trail at Nissequogue River State Park, then finished by clearing out Arcadia for the year. We’re already looking forward to picking these projects back up when warm weather returns!

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