For those of you who couldn’t make it to the first of the Lectures on the Lawn series at Topsmead, (DEEP Master Wildlife Conservationist Ginny Apple’s February presentation on the resurgence of bald eagles in Connecticut), do not despair. Ginny will be back at Topsmead to give us a slide presentation on the state of the black bears in Connecticut. You know, those black and fuzzy bundles of adorable-ness romping through the countryside of our back yards, those ravenous critters who despoil and devour our seed-filled bird feeders, those ebony hibernators who are at this very moment awakening from their winter slumbers as March careens into warmer temperatures. Come to the carriage shed at 1:30pm on Saturday, March 14, for a fact-filled, photo-full presentation on these critters. If you have a few spare minutes, why not come a bit early to help Janet Blauvelt, the indomitable organizer, set up the new slide screen and set out cozy fleece blankets on the chairs to welcome the crowd. And oh, there might even be some hot chocolate!
Topsmead was literally asleep for parts of January and February because of its treacherous blanket of ice. The DEEP struggled to find an effective treatment to combat the icing of the parking lot and even closed the property on days when the footing was deemed too hazardous. The DEEP has closed the property to the public on March 3-5 to conduct a clean up of the many hazardous tree branches and boughs brought down by the winter ice and do maintenance tree work along the road and in the woods along the trails.
The warmer temps are not only waking up life at Topsmead, they are also waking up spring volunteer opportunities. Friends of Topsmead Annual Field Work Day is scheduled for May 17. This annual landscape clean up will be organized by Jared Rice, our Topsmead Unit Park Supervisor. Sure it is two months away and who knows what winter still has in store for us, but save the date and mark your calendars.
Another volunteer opportunity that is waking up as we move towards spring at Topsmead is Janet Blauvelt’s bluebird box trail project. The boxes will be needing folks to help with nest box repairs so the boxes will be ready to welcome our returning bluebird population.
All of which brings us to the good news that FTSF has a new volunteer coordinator: many thanks and welcome to Marylou Gottler. If you would enjoy working outside and would like to make Topsmead and its flora and fauna happier and more beautiful this year, let Marylou know what volunteer opportunity or opportunities you are interested in signing up for. She would be delighted if you would volunteer by emailing her at friendsoftopsmead@gmail and writing “attention Marylou” in the subject line.
Stay tuned for more volunteer opportunities as Topsmead continues to awaken.
Meandering about the frozen landscape of Edith Chase’s Topsmead on the strangely thawing, mist-enveloped, first Thursday afternoon in early February—ice-encrusted blades of grass crunching beneath my boots, the disturbing chaos of the ice-burdened pine boughs torn from their trees and randomly arrayed around the feet of their former tree trunks—I couldn’t help but be grateful for the professionals and the volunteers who have helped to maintain this property, frozen in time, so that generations after Edith can enjoy its serenity. On that note, we have a Valentine heart thank you to honor recent staff turnover and Valentine heart welcomes for some new folks.
We would like to honor Jani Golding who, for the past twenty years, has been the DEEP Senior Environmental Maintainer for the historic house, its gardens and its fields. The Friends of Topsmead have been fortunate indeed to have Jani as a partner, ably complemented over the years by Gene Patchinski in the gardens, and as an advocate for Topsmead at the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). Jani has just retired, and we will mightily miss the energy and enthusiasm with which she kept Topsmead well groomed and environmentally healthy in all seasons. Heartfelt Valentine thanks, Jani! (Just a heads up: the DEEP is working on hiring two new maintainers, one full time and one part-time, to fill Jani’s boots.)
A hearty Valentine welcome to Jared Rice, new Topsmead Unit Park Supervisor, who will be filling former supervisor Jack Hine’s boots. Jared brings a wealth of experience, and we are looking forward to working with him. He started working for DEEP in 1997 at Black Rock State Park in Thomaston as a seasonal maintainer and then worked full time for about ten years with Support Services for the Western District Park Manager. In 2015 he returned to Parks as the Supervisor of the Lake Waramaug Unit. As I look at today’s pine bough chaos wrecked upon the landscape by the combination of ice and wind, I can’t help thinking that there will be a mighty clean-up job demanding his attention. Thank you in advance, Jared!
Finally, a Valentine heart welcome encore to former FTSF board member Bob Orintas whom the Friends of Topsmead has appointed to be its first official Advising Historian. In this position, Bob will be a resource to FTSF in all things related to Topsmead history. He will continue his research into life at Topsmead, the operation of Topsmead Farm, and the Chase home at 33 Church Street in Waterbury. He is currently working on a book titled Things No Longer at Topsmead and plans to present a copy to FTSF upon its completion. We are hoping we can convince Bob to autograph that copy when the time comes!
Please know that the fickle weather challenges of the February season won’t interfere with our sending out love-filled Valentine hearts to Jani and Jared and Bob for their contributions to Topsmead yesterday, today, and tomorrow.