Thank You to the Gratiot County Community Foundation!

The Gratiot County Community Foundation has awarded us a generous grant in support of our Living Forest lesson that we do in the spring!

Second Graders Becoming a Living Forest:

Each year the Gratiot Conservation District gives the second graders in Gratiot County a free tree seedling. This past spring the kids had the opportunity to learn more about trees, the value and importance of them, and how to plant and care for their tree.

The second graders became a living forest! They learned to thin their forest by holding out their ‘branches’ so that they were rooted far enough apart, then received stuffed animals and paper towel rolls and books and magazines to learn about the animals that live in the forest and the reasons why trees are cut down to make the goods we use everyday. They learned about invasive bugs and forest fires and lightning and wind storms that cause us to lose trees.

These exercises helped the kids to recognize the importance of planting more trees to replace the ones that are lost.

This helped them to understand that trees are a renewable resource and that when they plant their little tree, they are helping to ensure that we will always have a thriving forest!

Altogether about 575 second graders in Gratiot County got to participate in the Living Forest lesson and almost 1,000 trees were donated to local kids!

This coming spring the Living Forest lessons will be sponsored by the Gratiot County Community Foundation from the Clyde and Maude Mizer Memorial Fund! We wish to thank them for their generous support!

-Julie Spencer
Gratiot Conservation District Administrator
301 E. Commerce Dr
Ithaca, MI 48847

Living Snow Fence - Demo Sites Needed in Gratiot County

Living snow fences help prevent blowing and drifting snow that make your roads and driveways impassable.

They act similarly to rocks in a stream, creating an eddy effect that alters wind speed and direction, causing snow to settle where you want it.

Gratiot Conservation District held a presentation workshop on December 5th to teach about how to get started. We are still in need of several land owners who are willing to allow us to come and photograph their property this winter prior to planting the living snow fence, then documenting the next year as it is planted and grown, and displaying the results next winter.

Here is an example of a local land owner who has planted a special kind of switch grass near the edge of the road to act as a living snow fence.

This spring 2013, Gratiot Conservation District is going to be offering for sale this unique fast-growing switch grass to interested land-owners as part of this three year study.

The switch grass will be sold as plugs that are ready to be planted and come to the customer about the size of a tree seedling.

We were privileged to have Jerry Grigar, NRCS State of Michigan Agronomist, coming to our office in Ithaca to conduct a presentation about the process of planting living snow fences. He is available to answer questions from land owners and community members, and to help get projects started.

For more information or to set up a time to meet with Jerry, call Julie Spencer at the Gratiot Conservation District at 989-875-3050 or on her cell phone at 989-560-1144.

Forestry Stewardship Workshop at Forest Hill Nature Area

Forest Hill Nature Area welcomed Mike Smalligan, Michigan Registered Forester to teach about forest management at a workshop supported by a grant from the Michigan Association of Conservation Districts (MACD) Workshop Sponsorship Program. The workshop was hosted by the Gratiot Conservation District with support from the Gratiot Isabella RESD and the Gratiot County NRCS field office.

The workshop included a training seminar presented by registered forester Mike Smalligan to a group of guides, teachers and partners of Forest Hill Nature Area who will be involved in a long-term study that will be conducted at the unique outdoor learning center. The workshop took the group on a site visit through the forests and grasslands of the Nature Area in preparation for the forester preparing a Forest Stewardship Plan for the property. The long-term intention is to enhance the teaching programs by including more forestry education.

The morning began with a presentation by Forester Mike Smalligan titled: Developing a Forest Stewardship Plan for Forest Hill Nature Area

We headed out to the main entrance where we evaluated the young trees

We could incorporate a pruning demonstration into our curriculum, now while the black walnuts are still young.

Student film crews from the Mt. Pleasant Area Technical Center showed up to film the workshop and site visit.

As we headed for the North Woods, we passed by the Mallard Marsh and talked about how it would be good to plant some Tamarack along the wetland environment.

Upon entering the North Woods, we came across a tree which showed signs of infestation by the Emerald Ash Borer.

Forester Mike Smalligan pointed out that because the tree was so close to the trail, it would be important to take the tree down once it has died from the infestation.

Next we began a demo on measuring trees!

It's a mystery to discover! Why are these Birch trees here? And why are they the only two Birch trees in the entire North Words?

Gratiot Conservation District is honored to have on staff Michigan Agricultural Environmental Stewardship Program (MAEAP) Technician John Switzer and Biologist Jeff Kalin. We were glad to have them along, as they added a good deal of expertise.

We found a strange fungi for which none of us knew the name. We decided it would be an interesting thing to research and maybe even include some lessons on this in our future curriculum.

I took a picture of this leaning tree just because it looked cool!

While standing near the Succession Field, we discussed the differences between invasive species and exotic species. For example, Box Elder trees are invasive but not exotic whereas Autumn Olive is exotic and invasive.

"Just because my name is John doesn't mean that I like apples!"

Director of Forest Hill Nature Area Dr. Dave DeGraaf and Forester Mike Smalligan look up information to help one of our guides identify a particularly interesting tree. They look...stumped!

Trudging up the hill towards Artist's Overlook.

The kids love it when we show them these deer bones.

We always ask them if they know what kind of animal they came from.

Inevitably someone always answers "dinosaurs!"

That is a fascinating White Pine!

Bit of trivia: do you know the name of Michigan's State Tree? Hint: you're looking at it!

Let's see how big it is!

Forty five point seven inches!

Exploring the historic Brady Cemetery...

Some of the stones date back to the Civil War.

And some are much more recent.

Ever done any Geocaching? We have two of them here!

One in Brady Cemetery and one on Reflection Hill.

This is possibly one of the oldest stones in the cemetery, but we can't tell because it's weathered so much that it's impossible to read.

We're still amazed by that White Pine!

It's actually now called the Seville Township Cemetery, but the locals will probably always call it the Brady Cemetery. (Looks like we could use a new sign!)

Any idea what that is?

Heading back to the barn...I did not want the hike to end. This was a great day! Several of us stayed in the classroom building for another half hour or so discussing ways to incorporate some of the things we learned into future activities, including Director of Forest Hill Nature Area Dr. Dave DeGraaf, Forester Mike Smalligan and myself.

Signing off for now. -Julie Spencer, Gratiot Conservation District Administrator