Kim Grabosky spring 2009 039

Photos and Text by Elizabeth Henderson

After we dance around the May Pole, come to the woods of the Kraai Preserve!

There are three ways to get there.  You can drive by turning right onto Welcher Road out of the farm driveway, and then turning right again onto Norsen Road, going to the very end of the road and parking.  There is a sign at the entrance to the Kraai Preserve. Or you can walk straight across the Peacework fields to the woods.  But I invite you to join me in taking the trail we have created along the Ganargua.  To get to the trail, we walk from the barns to the north along the grassed banks of the little stream that is overgrown with watercress, past the hoop house and the hay bales until we get to the Ganargua.  There we turn left and follow the trail marked with small Genesee Land Trust signs. Peacework leases our farmland from the Genesee Land Trust with a 25 year rolling lease.  CSA members contributed the money so that the Land Trust could purchase the farm ten years ago. This May Day Party is a significant anniversary, celebrating a full decade of cordial and productive cooperation between the farm and the land trust!  The Kraai Preserve is a nature preserve that honors the memory of Doug Kraai, a passionate conservationist as well as bison farmer, good friend and founding father of NOFA-NY.

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Along the trail are ceramic plaques that identify some of the plants and trees. Students of the ceramic arts of CSA member Carol Bell made the plaques. There is an impressive patch of Horsetail or equisetum, one of the most ancient plants on earth.  Horsetail is rich in silica and makes a good spray to boost the immune system of vegetable crops like tomatoes.

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Beavers have been nibbling on the bark of these sugar maples. Amazing that these trees can survive even when beavers have consumed over half of the cambium layer.
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The Black Cherry trees have a distinctive bark and beautiful wood, cherished by furniture makers.

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Along the banks are many shag bark hickory trees – this shows the new leaves unfolding. Our challenge is to beat the squirrels to the nuts.  There are enough hickory trees along this trail to supply everyone in the Peacework CSA – if we could find a way to gather them!

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By agreement with the Genesee Land Trust, the farm will not tap the maples in the Preserve. There are Silver, Red and Sugar Maples.

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Just opening their  reddish, serrated leaves are the many poison ivy plants, hidden demurely among the wild flowers.  If you touch the poison ivy, we have Technu, a nasty smelling product you put on your skin, leave for 2 minutes and then wash off. If you still get the itchy rash, take the homeopathic remedy (available at Abundance Coop) – rhus toxicodendrum – it will keep the rash from going systemic and covering your whole body if you are one of the super-allergic, like me.
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The woods are rich in old stumps and dead trees that provide homes for many creatures.

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The bluebells are off towards the north of the trail near the Norsen Street entrance – we neglected to ask for a ceramic marker for these lovely flowers.

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Wild ginger grows in abundance – the small red flower hidden under the broad leaves.  Like the cultivated ginger root, the root has a pungent flavor.

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Also called wild leeks, the ramps taste more like garlic.  If you dig some up to eat, be sure not to take more than 1/10th of the plants to ensure a sustainable harvest.

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Skunk cabbage just emerging.
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The skunk cabbage plaque is being repaired!

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There are both red and white trillium in glorious abundance!

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Late April and early May, when the wild flowers are at their height, is a wonderful time to take this walk together.  Soon, as the temperatures climb, the mosquitoes will arrive, making the woods far less welcoming to us humans. So let us put on our walking shoes while the moment is ripe.  See you in the Kraai Preserve, May Day!
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