The Trillium Arboretum

Today we visited Carolyn Summers on her property near the Neversink Reservoir. Carolyn has turned what was originally a dairy farm into an extensive arboretum for native plants. She showed us a thousand fascinating things in a tour that ranged a meadow of milkweed and monarchs to a threatened hemlock forest (her hemlocks have just recently been exposed to the wooly agelid, an insect pest that has been decimating hemlock stands since the 1950s).

A few highlights included three ten-year-old American chestnuts not yet affected by the chestnut blight (the most I’ve seen in one place, I believe!) and some gorgeous native orchids that she recently discovered growing in a former cattle pasture behind her home. We also got some great audio from Carolyn about why encouraging native planting is such an important ecological principle, whether it’s across large areas or just in a single gardener’s backyard.

Walking through a converted pasture.

Carolyn inspects one of her American chestnuts for blossoms.

Bees on a lovely native plant of which I forget the name! Anyone remember?

Ground cover in the hemlock forest.

Carolyn points out a black willow oak, one of the alternative species she's trying to bring in to replace the hemlocks as they die off.

A small white fringed orchid in the meadow behind the house.

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First Draft of the Online Component

The platform and router, best friends forever

Today I had a productive coding day after our big adventure around town yesterday. I was able to compile some of our sound recordings and photos into the first draft of the online component of the project. If you go to neversink.info you can see the current revision!

At this point it’s very simple, a set of three interview recordings each coupled with illustrative photos. Ellie and I are intending to keep the interface pared down since many of our users will be accessing the content from a mobile device. But I do anticipate making a few more improvements in the coming days.

We still have a lot of recordings to edit down and sync up with photos and, of course, more interviews to record!

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Busy Sunday on the Neversink

Wow, Dan and I were busy today. We started off with a stop at the Claryville Fire Department’s monthly pancake breakfast. There we were lucky enough to spend a little time with Bob Richards and Michal Heron, who live on Red Hill. They told us some great stories, which will definitely become part of Neversink Transmissions.

Here is a very rough edit of some audio we recorded during the day.

Right to left: Michal Heron, Bob Richards and Patricia Eakins at the pancake breakfast.

Next we were off to meet Joe Weise at his place down the river. We chatted in his workshop for 45 minutes or so, and then he took us across the road to the river, where he showed us Junction Pool, the spot where the east and west branches converge. We also stopped at the river across from the church, where we saw a small dam built in the 1850s, and the beginnings of the raceway that fed the tannery. We also had the opportunity to gather some excellent branches for the tower!

Joe has been writing down reminiscences from the time he and his wife Barbara ran the general store in Claryville, 1975-81. He read some aloud for us.

Joe reading from his reminiscences.

An old map of Claryville, showing the various residences.

Joe and Barbara have cultivated their land in many ways over the years. Here you see the various signs they used to hang out by the road to advertise their wares.

Looking down the main branch of the Neversink, just below the confluence.

Story telling at the confluence.

Joe Weise at the confluence.

In front of the garden.

The dam behind the church.

After that visit, we spent a lovely hour at the Wellington residence. We went for a swim, ate some watermelon, and saw Duke’s trout pond. Pat and Duke told us about the trout pool and the water system that brings spring water to the pool and the house. We also heard about the massive rock that slid down onto Frost Valley road back in the early 90s. It became the source for much of Duke’s rock work.

The Wellington's trout pool. The right edge is is built on the repaired rock work of the old grist mill that used to sit at this site.

The rock that provided material for Duke's rock walls and pools.

Our final visit of the day was on the west branch of the Neversink. We rode our bikes up to Leroy’s pool, where we met Hovey and Margaret Brock. They showed us their beautiful swimming hole and told us about the changes they’ve seen there over the years. Then they took us up to meet Gioia and Mitchell, Hovey’s parents. Their family has lived on this part of the Neversink for generations. In fact, it is they who are responsible for the lack of power lines going through this part of the river! Gioia’s mother decided that the power lines should run on land, up in the forest, rather than disrupting the her scenic river. To this day, the west branch of the Neversink is free of power lines, and the power company has to send its men hiking in the forest to do maintenance!

Looking down on Leroy's pool.

Above the waterfall, Leroy's pool.

Hovey Brock, after a dip in the river.

Gioia Brock, at her home above the river.

The sitting room at the Brock's, looking out over their garden.

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Refurbishing Computers and Breaking Ground!

Today Dan is hard at work combining various computer parts from Patrizia and Peter’s attic. He’s cobbling together a second server to broadcast Neversink Transmissions from the Town Hall. The first computer is successfully running Asterisk (yay!) and we managed to have it answer a call between the artist residence and the Wildcat residence. Now we just need a phone line! Below, Dan’s latest set up in the artist studio:

I spent yesterday morning breaking ground on the platform for the tower. Dan came down to document the beginning of the digging:

Later I leveled the frame for the platform, and started the process of attaching the lag bolts.

This afternoon, Peter pulled out a couple pieces of cedar from an old armoire, and we refashioned them into the decking for the platform. I finished the platform this afternoon by leveling off the posts with a handsaw and nailing down the decking. Then I took a moment to sit on a rock and stick my feet in the Neversink, which was lovely!

While I was doing all that, Dan was up at the studio coding away, and saw this visitor when he stepped outside for a break:

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Building!

Ellie Irons and Dan Phiffer are the 2011 Wildcat Fellows

Today was a good building day around Wildcat. Early this morning, as Dan and I were leaving for a bike ride up Red Hill (in search of a beautiful view and 4 bars of cell service), we saw Wildcat Director Peter Martin perched atop a scaffold, putting the finishing touches on a new Chimney.

Later in the day, when Peter had descended, he helped me plan out the platform for the tower I’ll be constructing in the coming week.

After checking out the site together, we looked through his collection of reclaimed lumber, much of it drawn from the Wildcat property. I picked out some 2 x 4’s that had been part of a barn, and some raw looking posts that used to be part of the Wildcat studio before it was renovated. A little light demo work was required, but with the aid of the right tools, all nails were removed and the boards trimmed. Soon I had the frame for the platform assembled, thanks to Peter’s nail gun. The next step was drilling holes for lag bolts to attach the platform to the poles, which Dan helped me with. Tomorrow I’ll go down to the sculpture site and dig holes for the posts!

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Wednesday Progress

Ellie Irons and Dan Phiffer are the 2011 Wildcat Fellows

We started our morning heading down to the Claryville dump to meet up with Ed Mues. The dump is surprisingly nice in Claryville, it’s orderly and managed with close attention to detail. Waste is sorted into several large bins — garbage, recyclables, building materials — all of which get locked down overnight inside a huge bear-proof shed.

We talked to Ed for a while about all the stuff that comes through the dump, and described our project at Wildcat. He seems to come into contact with just about everyone in town and keeps lists of items people are looking for.

Actually last night Ellie and I watched a video Ed gave to us the last time we visited. We may post that online some point, it’s pretty entertaining.

After some branch collecting on the main section of the Neversink, we rode our bikes back up the hill to meet with Carl Landon at the Town Hall. We showed up a few minutes early to pick out the specific location for the sculpture, and drove a stick into the ground where we expect to install it. We mostly talked to Carl about technical issues I won’t go into, but I expect we’ll talk to him again at some point about his experiences on the river.

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First Day in the Studio

Ellie Irons and Dan Phiffer are the 2011 Wildcat Fellows

"Neversink Transmission, The Artists are : in!"

Dan and I spent the morning getting settled into the Wild Cat studio. It’s an airy, rustic workspace. It has a lovely sky light, old-fashioned wavy windows, beautiful butterflies flitting in and out, and electricity! Dan was able to plug in our server and start playing around with Asterisk. What a coding environment!

In the meantime, I did my first round of branch gathering. I didn’t have to go far, since the east branch of the Neversink runs right by the base of the Wild Cat property. I found some very nicely weathered branches in the river below the Denning Town Hall, and brought them back to the studio. There I started the process of recording and color-coding them:

So far it’s been a productive day. Before lunch we also managed to meet Bill Bruning at the Town Hall, and fit in a meeting with Karen Rauter and her intern Brendan. We reviewed the stream buffer zone with them, and selected the official site for the sculpture! More about that in our next post. Below, Dan at his studio work station, accompanied by some of my in-progress branches.

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