This first year of the Great Mountain Forest orchard on Under Mountain Road in Falls Village provides a new orchard for CT/TACF and on-the-ground education for me and local students. The most satisfying part of this experience is the inclusion of the Housatonic Valley Regional High School Vo Ag Science/Tech Department students as project partners. In late May under the tutelage of Leila Pinchot, these students laid out the planting, mixed soil and fertilizer, rolled tubes, and planted the nuts: In half the time anticipated! according to Leila. Subsequent Ag/Ed classes will follow through with chores when school is in season. Several individuals have offered summer help.
Canaan Mountain Rises behind the Orchard which is a partnership of GMFC, TACF and Housatonic Regional High School – Photo by Leila Pinchot
Arranged by Leila, the land–donated by Great Mountain Forest for TACF use — is an acre and a half lot on the slopes of Canaan Mountain. This perfect setting is conveniently a few hundred yards from Chubby Bunny Farm, a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) operation owned and farmed by Dan and Tracy Hayhurst. I asked Dan whether he would be my back-up when I was unable to tend the orchard; his reply: Wow! American Chestnuts! That's great! I'll help any way I can. Dan has deep rototilled to prepare the land for planting and watered when I was unavailable, as well as providing me with the watering equipment for those dry summer weeks. In addition to my initial brush hogging of this old Christmas tree lot prior to planting, I have mowed twice–with the red tailed hawks swooping from high pine perches on the sides of the field to snatch voles and rabbits.
With seventy-five percent germination, and an average height between 17 and 20 inches this third back-cross generation is doing fine, now wintering over in blue tubes poking through the meadow snow, the tall ones with bag-caps to discourage the deer. We are working toward financing for a fence to keep the deer out, probably to be in place this coming summer. Toward that end, the Berkshire – Litchfield Environmental Council Executive Committee has just authorized a small grant.
I thank, in addition to teachers Mark Burdick and Dave Moran, the community members who have taken an interest, volunteered to work, weed and wonder that the American Chestnut is on its way back to our woodlands.
Ellery W. Sinclair, Manager
Great Mountain Forest Orchard