When I die I must give life… (coyotes call)

When I die I must give life
To what has nourished me.
The earth receives my body
And gives it to the plants
And to the caterpillars
To the birds
And to the coyotes
Each in its own turn so that
The circle of life is never broken.
(from of a Native American prayer)

the pond hut, Siuslaw Model Forest

Yesterday I ventured into the forest, late evening. I set-up a test of the Bug Cinema light trap, just to familiarise myself with the equipment and the scale I will be working on. Although the sun sets here over an hour earlier than the UK, it wasn’t dark enough at 8pm (despite the forest canopy) and also, in retrospect I realise,  I was too far into the forest for any significant yield in moths. The deer have eaten much of the herbaceous diversity in parts of the deep forest, so that is also problematic for sustaining some bug habitat. The massive deer population is a big conservation problem, particularly here in the Catskills. Furthermore, the dominance of pine species in the forest means that (due to the high pH acidity of pine needles) the forest floor is a less hospitable habitat in which for other plants to flourish.

Bug Cinema test

I’m confident the light traps will yield better results located near the ponds in the forest. So, I’ll try that location and set-up later about 9pm onwards. It’s a lot more open at the ponds so I’ll be safer working there too…but, I’ll still carry my knife. There are plenty of bears living in the forests however I’ve yet to encounter one….

The coyotes howling call kept me company at twilight. Their pack call sounds like a tribe of Native American Indians in the distance. As the sun set, the coyote song got closer to me…


My thoughts run in a different channel…

the pond at sunset, Siuslaw Model Forest

‘My thoughts run in a different channel…if revealed, they would be little understood or appreciated…But am I better or wiser for this sense and perception of the beautiful, which I imagine myself to possess in a greater degree than the many?’

Thomas Cole  (private journal, 1836/7)

Thomas Cole was the visionary founder of the Hudson River School of Painting, which (in the early 19th century) was the birth place of American Romanticism. Cole was born, 1801 in Northern England near the town of Bolton in Lancashire. His family worked in the textiles industry until they emigrated to the United States in 1818 to find a new life and fortune. In the spring of that year the Cole family set sail from Liverpool to a new land…the rest, as they say, is history.

‘Kaaterskill Falls’ – Thomas Cole (1826)

Kaaterskill Falls is just one of many dramatic waterfalls in the area I’m currently living in out here in the Catskill Mountains. In the winter this massive force of nature freezes into an crystalline ice sculpture on a grand scale.

Thomas Cole pioneered and nurtured a poetic, aesthetic sensibility of landscape and the natural environment which has inspired successive generations of artists. Some might say that Cole’s cultural significance and art historical stature (at the peak of his career) was matched only by his British contemporaries such as J.M.W. Turner and John Constable.

As I encounter the dramatic, lush beauty of the Hudson Valley, I somehow feel in-tune with Mr. Cole’s spirit. I can’t help but wonder how his soul was stirred on his first view of the Catskill Mountains…

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth…

‘Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.’

Rachel Carson (1907 – 1964)

at the entrance to the Siuslaw Model Forest

In 1956, Eric Rasmussen a forester educated in New York State, married into the Lange family and embarked on a career as the owner of Lange’s Grove Side Resort. For the next 50 years, Eric pursued his avocation of forestry through the sustainable management of 150 acres of land owned by the resort. Eric named this property the Siuslaw Tree Farm as a tribute to the Siuslaw National Forest in Oregon, where he worked as a forester after graduating from college.

Siuslaw is a Native American word meaning ‘land of the far away river’, referring to the Columbia River in Oregon. In naming the property Siuslaw, Eric was referring to the Hudson River. In 2006, Eric and his family generously donated the Siuslaw Tree Farm to Cornell Cooperative Extension of Greene County (CCE Greene) so that the forest would continue to me managed and provided research and educational opportunities in the future.

Earlier this week I met with Eric and he expressed curiosity in the Bug Cinema concept. It was my privilege to talk with this generous man of ‘vision’. I explained my humble endeavors and how I hoped that – from a scientific perspective, at least – the project might make a small contribution to the Centre’s ecological baseline data collection, by identifying moth species which presently live in the forest; something which, until now has not been conducted.

on the edge of Siuslaw Model Forest

‘Sustaining the ecological, aesthetic and economic values of forested lands’ Agroforestry Resource Centre

In 2007, the Siuslaw Tree Farm was named one of three New York City Department of Environmental Protection’s Model Forests. The mission of the Model Forest Programme is to integrate scientific research, continuing education and public outreach to illustrate relationships between the environment and human activity, and to provide a public forum in which to improve the overall understanding of how ecological, social and economic processes shape forested watersheds.

CCE Greene is gathering baseline data on the condition of the Siuslaw Model Forest. Over 200 study plots have been inventoried for woody and herbaceous plants, as well as soil type and pH. These study plots will be monitored over time as part of the forest’s Continuous Forest Inventory. CCE Greene is cooperating with Cornell University to study the growth of agroforestry crops, such as mushrooms and American ginseng.

CCE Greene – Agroforestry Centre building

If I were to name the three most precious resources of life…

‘If I were to name the three most precious resources of life, I should say books, friends, and nature; and the greatest of these, at least the most constant and always at hand, is nature.’

John Burroughs (1837 – 1921)

Platte Clove Cabin

I’m staying in Platte Clove Cabin, the historic, rustic retreat that the American naturalist and writer, John Burroughs famously lived in during many of his adventures in this majestic, Catskill mountain wilderness. There is an old photo of John (with his iconic long, white beard and wide-brim hat) on the wall opposite my bed. I am his guest and I feel in good company knowing that there’s a part of his benevolent spirit here in this beautiful, idyllic place.

view from the cabin porch

Everything here is so green. The cabin is very quaint and the locality is thick forest, gorges and tumbling waterfalls. My nearest waterfall is only 5mins walk down the steep, craggy path from the cabin. As my abode is without mains water the Platte Clove Falls has become my personal, private bathroom. Each evening after I’ve had a wash and swim, I fill-up my 2 gallon bottles with mountain water and head back up the steep trail to my poet’s shelter.

Platte Clove Falls

…life in the woods (prologue)

Men say they know many things; 
But lo! they have taken wings, –
The arts and sciences,
And a thousand appliances;
The wind that blows
Is all that any body knows.

Henry David Thoreau ‘Walden: or, Life in the Woods’ (1854)