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Mowita’nej Epijij Garden

Bringing Bats, Bees, and Birds Back

By Margaret Gerber, BTLT Director of Stewardship

On a cold and clear Sunday in December, Eagle Scout Luke Page visited Crystal Spring Farm. It was a nice afternoon for a walk, however he didn’t come empty handed, or alone. He brought with him 10 bumble bee boards, one bat box, two bluebird boxes, and a robin / cardinal nesting box. Armed with power tools and help from a fellow Eagle Scout, his troop leader, and the helping hands of parents, he installed another seven bat boxes, two bluebird boxes, and three robin / cardinal across Crystal Spring Farm, Tarbox Preserve, and Androscoggin Woods.

Hanging these boxes will help promote these species by providing shelter, and can be seen along field edges where bluebirds like to nest, hidden among hemlock or cedar bows where robin and cardinals are protected and hidden, and 14 feet above the ground facing south to keep bats safe from predators and in tune with the sun.

BTLT is grateful to Luke and his troop for their hard work, and we hope you’ll enjoy spotting these boxes next time you’re at the community garden or out on the trails at Crystal Spring Farm, Tarbox, or Androscoggin Woods!

 

 

Queer Wild Edibles Walk

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  • Queer Wild Edibles Walk
    October 16, 2021
    12:15 pm - 3:00 pm

-REGISTRATION IS FULL- Please email lydia@btlt.org to be put in the waitlist BTLT’s first collaboration with Queers of Greater Portland! Join us for a beginner-level wild edibles walk and plant ID exploration at Crystal Spring Farm. This event is for members of the LQBTQIA+ community for a chance to connect and enjoy the outdoors! Knate (more…)

Forest Bathing with Jade Integrated Health

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  • October 1, 2021
    1:00 pm - 3:00 pm

Join Meaghan Harmon, L.Ac of Jade Integrated Health in Brunswick for this mindfulness-based practice. This event will consist of a short stroll from Jade Integrated Health’s office (12 Windorf Circle), through the woods to the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust’s Labyrinth in the Woods on Crystal Spring Farm. To begin, Meaghan will introduce herself and discuss the (more…)

Stewardship Tour Series: Invasive Plant Identification

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  • August 12, 2021
    5:30 pm - 6:30 pm

Interested in learning about some of the invasive species that have made a home for themselves among our native plants? Join George Jutras, BTLT Land Steward, to learn about the natural history of some invasive plants such as bittersweet, multiflora rose, honeysuckle, and Japanese barberry as well as the (more…)

It’s Blueberry Season!

It’s once again blueberry season at Crystal Spring Farm. A portion of the farm on the south side of Pleasant Hill Road consists of a rare natural community of plants known as a sandplain grassland, which is ideal habitat for low-bush blueberries. It’s July, so the blueberries in the barren are ripening now!  

Please note that the Land Trust only owns a small section of the barren. The much larger adjacent property is leased and managed by Seth Kroeck, Crystal Spring’s farm manager, for the commercial sale of organic blueberries. Please do not pick beyond the Land Trust’s clearly marked property boundary. 

Kroeck described his growing process for us. “Growing blueberries is a two-year cycle. We prune the plants, either by mowing or burning, the spring after the harvest. The next year they regrow and it is on this new growth that they make flowers and then fruit. By dividing the field in two, each season we have one section of plants in regeneration and one ready to harvest.”  

BTLT undertakes a similar management practice, and this spring half of the section open to the public was burned to promote healthy growth of this unique habitat. Because of this, there will only be berries in the western section this year. 

  • . The boundary line is marked with metal stakes and signs, and the lone trees in the middle of the field mark part of the boundary. 

Kroeck also noted that “Bees for pollination are rented from Swan’s Honey in Albion. We truck them back and forth, loading in the evenings when the colonies are inside the hives. It takes 30 to 40 hives to pollinate this crop.” There are also a few ‘resident hives’ on the north side of Pleasant Hill Road that help to pollinate the blueberries when they are in flower.  

Mowing, bringing in hives to pollinate, harvesting, and processing are all labor and capital intensive for Kroeck and Crystal Spring Community Farm. But, blueberries have become one of the farms’ most important crops, and can be found in natural food and grocery stores up and down the coast. This significant investment is also why we ask the community to be mindful of only picking in the areas BTLT has set aside for public gathering. 

The massive “barren” at Crystal Spring doesn’t just produce blueberries, though. The area is a rare natural community home to sedges, birds, reptiles, and butterflies that depend on sandy soils and full sunlight to thrive. Once common along the northeastern coast, development and changing land uses have all but eliminated this unique biome, and the Maine Natural Areas Program lists it as “critically imperiled.” The unique habitat is a product of geologic history and human actions. The sand and gravel deposited by melting glaciers at the end of the last ice age provides a level, well-drained base that acidic plants love. Both Native Americans and European settlers used fire deliberately as a way to maintain the area as grassland and promote blueberry production. 

In 2019, BTLT hosted a “bioblitz” at the property to help catalog the many species that call this place home. The recent prescribed burn of the blueberry barrens will help ensure this unique habitat is sustained, and BTLT will carefully monitor the recovery and the species that it has impacted. 

If you’re interested in learning more about the prescribed burn and this rare natural community, join the Land Trust’s Stewardship Manager, Margaret Gerber, on July 27th at 5:30 PM. She’ll take you through the process of planning on the ground for a prescribed burn and what the Land Trust hoped to accomplish by burning 14 acres of the barren in April, as well as any other questions you have around land management. To learn more about the event and register, you can click here. 

If you can’t make the walk but would like to visit the blueberry barrens, 

  • now is a great time of year to do so while the blueberries are ripe for the picking. We also recently installed interpretive signage at the farm that helps describe this unique community.  

Our blueberry barren is located south of Pleasant Hill Road. To access it, you can park at the Crystal Spring Farm trail parking area and take the East Trail.  Where the East Trail intersects the Blueberry Loop, take a right toward the field and you’ll find blueberries! 

As you enjoy the blueberries and engage in this wonderful rite of summer, please respect a few important rules: 

  • Stay on our property: The map at the end of this post shows the location of our property boundary. These maps are posted at primary entrances to our property.
  • Park responsibly: While we prefer that people use the parking area described above and walk to the barren, it is also possible to park along Pleasant Hill Road near the gate approximately 0.75 mile from Maine Street. If you park on Pleasant Hill Road: 
  • DO NOT BLOCK THE FARM ROAD OR GATE! The road must be accessible to farm and fire equipment at all times. 
  • Park only on the south side of Pleasant Hill Road (the side the blueberries are on). With cars parked on both sides of the road, pedestrians crossing, runners and bikers, and farm equipment all converging – it makes for a very unsafe situation. 
  • Have fun! And share your best blueberry recipes with us! 

If you have questions, give us a call at 729-7694. Happy picking! 

New Signage at Crystal Spring Farm

By George Jutras, BTLT Land Steward
The BTLT stewardship team recently finished installing some new interpretive signage at Crystal Spring Farm. Signs near the Farmstead parking area at the East Trail trailhead detail the history of farming and conservation at Crystal Spring. They highlight the chronology of events that has led to the successful coexistence of a popular public access trail system and active farm, all concurrently managed for ecological conservation of the land. A sign at the intersection of the East trail and Ravine Trail remembers the Indigenous history of the area, highlighting the Wabanaki People and their longstanding connection to and ecological maintenance of the area in which Brunswick and Crystal Spring Farm now lie. An additional sign near the intersection of the Blueberry Loop and the East Trail discusses the natural history and ecological significance of the Sandplain Grassland ecosystem. It comprises a significant portion of the Crystal Spring Farm area, particularly the blueberry barrens on the southern side of the property.

Now Hiring: Farmers’ Market Parking Coordinators

Farmers Market Parking Coordinators  

(2 positions) 

 

About BTLT and its agricultural programs: 

The Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust (BTLT) offers the Saturday Farmers’ Market and Tom Settlemire Community Garden (TSCG) at Crystal Spring Farm on Pleasant Hill Road in Brunswick. This 321-acre property plays an integral role in our mission, which includes conserving and protecting our region’s natural resources, as well as supporting local agriculture and fisheries now and for generations to come. It is our goal to support and develop the local natural resource-based economy to keep farmland, forests, and fisheries open, working, and productive. We are also working to make strides toward providing significantly more of our community’s food needs through local production. The Saturday Farmers’ Market commonly sees several thousand visitors on a busy summer weekend, hosts over thirty diverse vendors, and has kept millions of dollars in the local food economy.  

 

About the role: 

The Farmers’ Market Parking Coordinators are part time, seasonal employees who, as part of a two-person team, implement the set-up and break-down of the farmers’ market site, and manage the parking during the hours when the market is operating. This includes being on site at the Market Saturdays, 7am to 1pm, for the months of September and October, in rain or shine conditions. 

Skills Required: 

  • Great interpersonal skills, and experience working with the public 
  • Physical ability to lift 45 lbs and carry equipment
  • Organized and detail oriented
  • Valid drivers license

Duties: 

  • Set-up & put-away cones and market informational signage before and after market
  • Assist market manager with set-up and break down of market booth & informational materials 
  • Manage traffic flow & parking at farmers’ market site
  • Interact with market patrons & vendors

Compensation and Benefits: 

This part time position includes an hourly salary of $16/hr. 

How to Apply: 

To apply, please submit a cover letter and resume to apply@btlt.org. Please use “Market Parking Coordinator” as the subject line of your email. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis as they are received, with a deadline of August 16, 2021. 

 

About Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust:  

BTLT is an independent 501(c)3 nonprofit with a mission to steward the cherished landscapes and rich natural resources of our communities, to connect people to nature by providing recreational opportunities and other engaging community activities, and to support local agriculture and fisheries, now and for generations to come. We were founded in 1985 and have grown over the past 35 years into a robust organization that holds over 2,500 acres in conservation, provides diverse programming, and works closely with an array of community partners to enhance the environmental vibrancy and health of our region.  Our organization has approximately 1,000 members including a vibrant business membership. We have five part- to full-time staff, a board of directors of nearly 20, and dozens of active committee members. Learn more about our mission and programs at www.btlt.org 

Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate based on race, color, creed, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other legally protected factors. We actively encourage community members with diverse backgrounds, beliefs, and ways of life to consider working with us. 

Guided Walk & Holiday Forage at Crystal Spring Farm – CANCELLED

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  • November 29, 2020
    1:00 pm - 2:30 pm

Join Stewardship Manager Margaret Gerber for a guided walk of Crystal Spring Farm (North) to forage for items from nature, such as red berry and evergreen tips, to decorate your home leading into winter.  Margaret will talk about what materials make a charming holiday wreath and a bit about the history of forestry on CSF; answer questions about how land trusts work to conserve land, provide (more…)

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