During my walk through the woods today, I took this picture of a snag, stripped of its bark and protective element. As visitors to our phenology places, I think it has become important to recognize how much we must give up to submerge ourselves in nature. For some, it is mere time, and for others, it is giving up time spent studying for upcoming final exams to go out and experience nature for what its worth. I enjoyed taking a break and going outside today to see some interesting natural elements of the Centennial Trails knowing that they may not be there as the snow begins to fall.
The land is the real teacher. All we need as students is mindfulness.
-Robin Wall Kimmerer
Through my exploration of Centennial Woods, I have learned many things about the ecology and history of Vermont. Growing up, I was exposed to John Muir and his legacy, but I never really understood his language when I wasn’t inside of nature. Since August, I have become attached to Centennial Woods and the Pine Stand and have found calmness when inside. The beauty of learning, as I’m sure Kimmerer would agree, is that it is lifelong and continuous. We can never learn everything, but are always in the pursuit of gaining knowledge. Through my studies, I expect to learn more about our relationship with the landscape and how it pertains to finding our truest self.
Centennial Woods is composed of 65 acres of mixed hardwood stands, conifer stands, meadows, and riparian zones. In the early 1900s, the land was owned by a dairy farmer by the name of Fred Fiske. Fred was originally from Brookfield, VT and attended the University of Vermont prior to purchasing the land. The site contains some evidence of its past; barbed wire can still be seen attached to trees and posts along the outside of the property. It was not until much later that the Vermont Electric Company put in power lines along the adjacent meadow to supply Burlington residents with electricity.
Above: A 1974 Map of the Board of Trustees’ Distinction of UVM’s Natural Areas. In order to advance their goal of having Centennial Woods as a protected area, they instituted a strict no-firearms policy and stated that the paths could not be further developed, unless for educational purposes (Courtesy of UVM Special Collections).
Source: The Changing Landscape of Centennial Woods Natural Area (UVM Natural Areas)
One of the most important attributes of place is the feeling of belonging and love that it brings. Since I was raised close to the farm, I remember sledding down the hill, drinking hot cocoa from the porch, and watching the horses graze in the summer haze. Late autumn always brought some of my finest memories of the farm. I remember taking pictures from the hill while my mother and father made Thanksgiving dinner in the dining room. Our neighbors would always come over to enjoy a glass of wine or some mashed potatoes while I, the only child, played with the farm’s resident goose, Tyrone.
Hell have no fury like an angry Norwegian goose. Busting with testosterone and free-will, Tyrone was easily the prince of the farm. My dad, pictured below, had a strange understanding of such a “spirited” creature. When I would walk into the barn in the morning, Tyrone would flat out scream bloody murder at me and let me know his dissatisfaction. Tyrone really, however, was not fond of my mother. When she put the horses out in the pasture in the morning, he would bite at the horse’s hocks and my mother’s ankles. One time, he managed to grab on to the skin around her calf. She responded by knocking him on the beak and kicking him to the other side of the barn. Tyrone doesn’t bother with her anymore.
Centennial Woods and Greenbriar Farm have similar ecology because of their geographical locations. While Greenbriar Farm contains a large pond, Centennial Woods only has a small brook running through it. At the shores of the pond, you can notice small clumps of lilypads in the summer, while you can observe patches of phragmites along the riparian zone of Centennial Woods. Sugar Maple, Paper Birch, and Red Maple are common in both of the regions. The pine stands in Centennial Woods are full of old Eastern White Pines while disturbances at Greenbriar Farm have left few old pines and white oaks.
The Greenbriar Pond is home to several types of catfish, bullfrogs, minnows, and sunfish. These species could not thrive in Centennial Woods because of the depth of the water. Greenbriar Farm also has minimal foliage surrounding the pond, which is beneficial to Great Blue Herons and Belted Kingfishers that come to the water in search of food. In the morning, the occasional clump of turkeys will cross the meadow in front of the pond, picking at the grass for small insects and grass to eat. The carnivorous bobcat is relatively uncommon at Greenbriar Farm because of nearby housing development. Centennial Woods and Greenbriar Farm also provide a great source of habitat for browsing White-Tailed Deer.
One of the most different attributes of Centennial Woods is the lack of human contact. While the occasional student or visitor will bring their dog and enjoy a short walk on the trails of Centennial Woods, Greenbriar Farm was purposefully built for human contact. The recent addition of the covered bridge has provided habitat for nesting robins. The equine residents, Pilot and Jenny, are very alert for their feedings by the farm’s human residents. The house at Greenbriar Farm overlooks the pond, covered bridge, and six-stall stable.
This spot is located across the street from my childhood home. The farm consists of the main house, a six-stall stable with living quarters upstairs, a covered bridge, a few outbuildings, and a pond. It’s one of my favorite places to go; I fished with my dad at the pond, rode horses in the outdoor arena, and photographed the grand opening of our bridge. We have Thanksgiving at the farm every year with our family and friends.
I went to Centennial Woods today in hopes to get a couple more good shots before the trees are completely barren. I found that the maples lost about 80% of their leaves and that the pines, although recent wind and rain storms brought down some of their needles, still stand tall. The change since later summer has been immense; I do not see the same glow across the ferns that I did upon my first visit to Centennial Woods.