Monday, December 17, 2012

Lubrecht Fall Retreat

Blog entry by Jocelyn

"This is it! We're done! 18 essays, dozens of books, and countless field trips later, we made it to the end of the the semester! I can hardly contain my excitement. I now have time to read books... FOR FUN."

To celebrate the end of the semester, the Wilderness and Civilization group took a trip up to the Lubrecht Experimental Forest owned by the College of Forestry and Conservation here on campus. We left on December 12 at about 1PM and drove the hour long drive up to Lubrecht. After arriving, we threw all of our stuff into the various old boxcars where we would be staying the night, put on our boots/skis/snowshoes, and spent the afternoon playing in the snow. We split up into two groups and took off in different directions: one with skis and snowshoes and the other with nothing but our boots. But, alas! Both groups were on the same loop trail and we met about halfway through the hike. Both groups howled. The ski/snowshoe group hid behind the trees waiting to attack and the other group ran in their direction armed with snowballs. An epic battle occurred. Only one was injured and there was no clear winner of the battle. We then continued in separate directions.

At 5:30 we met back in the kitchen for dinner and made an amazing meal of spaghetti, mashed potatoes, and salad. After dinner, we went up to the conference room where a Christmas tree and Santa Claus (aka Sarah Hitzemann) were waiting. We all enjoyed some spiced apple cider that Natalie made, the most amazing brownies ever made by yours truly, and even made our own ice cream. Each person was told to bring a present up to Lubrecht for this trip, so we put all of the presents under the tree, and then sat around for a gift exchange. Dixie ended up with all of the materials necessary to play Rolling for Chocolate, Avery got a blister kit with detailed instructions by Jessica, Leydon got a solar powered battery charger made by Shannon, lots of people got various foods, and Natalie even ended up with a plastic pink dolphin from Brazil. Successful gift exchange. Later that night we all went back to our box cars. My box car sat around in our long underwear by the wood stove real late talking, relaxing, and reading.

The next morning we had an amazing breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, and coffee/tea then cleaned, packed all our stuff up, and headed to the Swan Valley. We met Adam Lieberg from Northwest Connections in Ovando, Montana for a lesson on winter animal tracking. Adam took us into the Blackfoot Community Conservation Area (the same place we went with Jim Stone from Blackfoot Challenge) and we hiked through the snow looking for tracks. It was the perfect day to be out there: it was relatively sunny that there was probably half a foot of snow on the ground. Adam taught us how to identify tracks in the snow based on gait, the distance between tracks, etc. We found so many tracks while we were out there: weasels, snowshoe hares, elk, coyote, red squirrel, etc. Sadly, we never found any "sexy" carnivore tracks. But it was a great day and Adam is an incredibly passionate and knowledgeable teacher. After tracking with Adam, we all got back in the cars and headed back to Missoula.

Getting lost at Lubrecht?

Small group photo while hiking at Lubrecht.

An epic battle in the snow.

Santa Claus with a salad.

How to keep warm at Lubrecht-continual stokage.

Tracking with Adam from Northwest Connections.  Here we saw some coyote tracks.

Local Food in the Bitterroot-A visit to Lifeline Dairy Farm

Blog post by Dixie and Caleb

Today, our class had the opportunity to visit the Lifeline Dairy Farm and business to observe and learn about sustainable farming practices and local food in Victor, Montana. The first stop was the Lifeline Farm business/manufacturing plant, where we got a tour of the facility and got to learn about the process to make cheese and milk. They have a variety of cheeses to choose from including: pepper jack, monterey, cheddar, and swiss cheese. In addition to cheese, they also carry beef and pork products. Their products are mainly shipped across the state of Montana in the towns of: Missoula, Kallispell, Stevensville, Helena, Bozeman, Florence, Hamilton, Billings, Choteau, Great Falls, Butte, Gardiner, Lewiston, West Yellowstone, and Big Sky. They also ship on the western coast including the state of Oregon, Washington, and California. Some of their biggest orders are in Missoula's Good Food Store and the Co-op. On a busy day, they use 2,000 gallons of milk to convert into cheese products. On a side note, we got an interesting fact about the creation of monterey jack cheese. Cheese requires a constant temperature to make, and one day a person, assumed to be in monterey, got the temperature too hot, and quickly cooled it down with some cold water. This accidental step was necessary  for monterey jack cheese as we know it today.

The second stop was the farm where we toured the grounds and handled some of the animals. This farm has not had any problems with wolves directly affecting their livestock, however they mentioned the elk have been hanging out at lower elevations than usual because of the wolves presence in the area. The elk eat their hay, and hence their money. In the future, there is potential for wolf predation.They lease about 40 acres of land in the summer to graze their cows, and own another 90 acres at the Sweathouse and Red Crow. They raise their cattle from birth to death, and in doing so have control over the conditions the cows are in. 

The dairy farm practices biodynamic agriculture, which is defined by their website as "to restore and maintain the vitality and living fertility of our soils in order to produce foods of the highest nutritional value," and uses Demeter standards. Along those guidelines they do not use synthetic fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, herbicides or hormones in their products. Similarly, their foods are not treated with synthetic chemicals or irradiated during processing, storaging, or handling. In addition to being organic, Biodynamics promotes ecological values, not just economic ones. This means, they view the soil, plants, and animals in a larger context of having an important role in the ecosystem, and not just as a means for profit. By using biodynamics as a guiding philosphy for their farm, they have a self-sufficient system that replenishes the soil with nutrients and minerals.
This was a wonderful field trip. Thank you Natalie and Lifeline Farms.

Hair/beard nets for all!!

All of this milk is slowly turning into cheese.  This batch of cheddar will produce about 2,000 pounds of cheese when finished.

The large doughnut shaped tub is a butter churn.  When paddles inside rotate, the cream is turned into butter.

This is the cold room where all the milk, cheese, butter and produce are stored.

In the packing room, a pneumatic cutter slices and dices butter and cheese so it can be packaged by hand.

Once weaned from their mothers, calves of dairy cows are held in pens with other calves of the same age.

This is Lifeline Farm's old milking parlor.  It has four milking stalls with hydraulic gates.  The electronic milking machines automatically shut off when the cow has no more milk to give.

The dairy cows live in both an open paddock and a covered barn that they can move between freely.

Lifeline raises pigs as well as dairy cowes, and a sow farrowed last week, so cute piglets were in abundance.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Field Trip with Wildlands CPR

Road Restoration Field Trip with Wildlands CPR 
Blog written by Tom and David

On Friday, November 2nd, we gathered at the motor pool on a cold Friday morning; most of the group huddled inside of the building while we waited for everyone to gather. Our guides, Adam Switalski of Wildlands CPR and David, a private contractor and former employee of the Nez Perce, met us at the motor pool, and we all drove over Lolo Pass to our first stop on the Wendover Creek road. Adam and David told us about the history of the area, and some of the road restoration efforts that had occurred. We were in an area which had been logged, and the loggers had built “jammer” roads; roads which switchback up a hill, cutting across as often as every few hundred vertical feet. These roads have many detrimental effects on wildlife, including habitat fragmentation, noise disturbance, and loss of cover. Jammer roads can leave 60 miles of road per square mile on the land, and studies have found that even one or two miles of road per square mile can have negative effects on wildlife such as bears and wolves. They also impact watersheds, as they are a chronic source of fine sediment and, on occasion, fill stream beds during landslides caused by mass road failure.
Wildlands CPR’s mission is to “promote watershed restoration,” with a “focus on reclaiming... unneeded roads.” At our first stop, branching off of an existing road, was a road that had been fully reclaimed, using many of the techniques which David and Adam told us about. It had been recontoured with heavy machinery pulling up soil from below the road cut where it had been left when the road was built. There were a lot of shrubs growing in the old road, and trees were starting to regenerate. We walked along the restored road for a few hundred yards to a wildlife camera that was being used to monitor wildlife response to the restoration effort, and looked at some of the pictures on the camera, which showed wildlife using the old road.

After lunch, we went down to the stream to look at some of the macro-invertebrates, which can be an indicator of stream health, and salamanders and frogs. Then we got back in the cars and drove up to our next stop to look at an example of the jammer roads. In some places, they make it look like the hillsides are terraced.

Our last stop was at a restored road, where we pulled knapweed for a while before heading back to Missoula. It was a great trip; we learned a lot about the effects of roads on wildlife and water, and some of the efforts to restore them.