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Arbor Day 2011

Categories: Trees

As you would expect from a bunch of tree fanatics, Arbor Day is a flexible holiday. The national holiday is the last Friday in April, but Vermont has snow experience in April, and pushes the date back to the first Friday in May. Here at Middlebury, we’re pushing it back even a little further, as a welcome diversion from studying for finals.

Come Celebrate Middlebury College’s Arbor Day

Wednesday May 11

Take a break before Finals start and celebrate Middlebury’s new title as a Tree Campus USA, designated by the Arbor Day Foundation! After over a year of planning and coordination, Middlebury was named a Tree Campus by the Arbor Day Foundation for 2010 this February. We are one of only two schools in New England to receive this recognition.

 

The schedule for our celebration is the following:

1:30 pm- Tree campus tour, beginning from McCullough patio, ending at Bi-Hall, in time for—

3:00 pm- Tree planting, located between Coffrin and Bihall. Plant your legacy on campus. Planters get eternal gratitude, and an ice cream sandwich.

4:30 pm- Tree-K running race (3mi, starting from McCullough patio and following the cross country course). Touch 20 or so trees on the McCullough Quad before finishing back at the patio. Fastest Male and Female students win a gift card to the Campus Bookstore, Fastest Faculty/Staff to win a blueberry bush.

5:00 pm- Saplings kids’ race (1/4 mi loop around the main quad in front of Old Chapel, start at the McCullough Patio)-Prizes and ice cream for all kids.

 

Winter Carnival-Snow Sculptures

Categories: Outdoor Art

There is a lot more to snow sculpting than meets the eye. Our department does quite a few things, but probably one of the most unusual is making giant blocks of snow for the annual Winter Carnival snow sculpture contest.

Not this year, obviously, but some years the primary ingredient can be a little tricky. I’ve heard stories of past years: hauling snow from breadloaf, or moving it from Kohn Field. This year, we merely pushed snow up in piles right out in the quad near where we need them. Didn’t even have to push from any sort of distance.

We start with the box itself. Hopefully you’ll get a feel for the size from the picture-it’s about 7′ tall and about 6′ wide. 4 panels mate together, and then are held by ratchet straps.

We then start some mixing. Yes, with a backhoe. We’re talking quite a bit of snow here. By adding water to a fluffy snow it packs better, like the perfect snowman snow you used to wait for growing up. We blend it until it is about the consistancy of mashed potatoes. Some years this part of the process is miserable, what with the cold and all. This year, the day started in the teens, but quickly warmed into the upper 30’s.

Next, we start adding the snow to the molds. I’ve always been a big fan of the power of hydraulics, never more so than figuring out how to get several yards of snow 8 feet up in the air.

The snow gets placed into the molds in what civil engineers call ‘lifts’, or many individual layers each compacted to remove air pockets. This is a pretty important step. We work about 1′ of snow at a time, and carefully fill the edges of the crate, and use a tamper across the entire surface. Student volunteers are very helpful at this stage-that’s Grace (I never got her last name), she’s the organizer of the competition this year, working with Brian Paquette from our landscape department. And yes, that’s me behind the camera, not avoiding work, I took the next turn.

We fill the boxes to the top, wait for them to set up for a little bit, then take the ratchet straps off and move the contraption to the next location. This year we made 5 snow cubes, as only 5 teams entered. Then, later during winter carnival, the students have at it. We supply shovels, ice scrapers, and other implements of mass destruction.

Here’s one of the teams. Like I said, it was warm that day. This team wouldn’t tell me what they were making at the time. I had no idea the competition was so cut-throat. I came back briefly to campus over the weekend to photograph the finished sculptures, and, like most years, was impressed by the creativity. I never seemed to have progressed past snowman, or feeling expansive occasionally, snow fort.

This was what the team above made, couch and tv set. I’m hoping the antenna for the tv came from the ground, not a live tree.

One of my kids liked the ice cream cone best. It was about 10 degrees outside when taking this picture, so maybe this inspiration came from the middle 50’s of the previous day.

I liked the idea of the mini-Mead Chapel right below the larger version.

We don’t know what this is. Cobra head? Squirrel tail? Modern snow?

This was the winner, both by Grace the judge, and by my kids (not that they had any say in the matter.) Wine and cheese, obviously. Pretty cool.

Why?

Categories: Trees

7-18-6.

Not a fertilizer label, but an accounting of the fall semester at Middlebury. Seven-the  number of weekends in a row we’ve seen vandalism against trees. 18-the total number of trees affected. And 6-trees killed outright.

We come into work Monday morning, and, in addition to picking up the inevitable and ubiquitous litter and detritus from the weekend, now survey the damage as well. I was not writing of it, hoping to sweep our problem under the rug, hoping that these acts were random, solitary, maybe just an aberrant mutation on an otherwise pristine campus, a passing social deviation that would go away on its own.

And I’m preaching to the choir, here, after all. I’ve discussed vandalism in the past on Middland, and am quite frankly a little sick of telling the tale. I’ve reported this problem to my superiors, and they’ve approached community council. And I was going to get on with life, and write posts on annuals, the Sustainable Sites Initiative, and put some more work into Turf Battle.

Last night, Dean Shirley Collado wrote a piece on One Dean’s View called Plates and Privilege. We’ve all heard about the missing plate problem, thanks to Aunt Des and the great communications department. But Shirley’s take is different, and had me thinking all night (well, until 9:30 or so, I can’t seem to stay up like I used to) about privilege. Let’s let her say it best:

I would like to call students to action to think more critically about the human face behind the dish problem. Think about what it says about us as a community when these small acts of thoughtlessness create a collective problem that impacts all of us in a negative way. This thoughtlessness speaks volumes about what kind of people our students are going to be when they leave this institution.

So, I thought, our tree vandalism is a problem of privilege, like the many beer cans scattered around on a Monday. It’s easy to take trees for granted, and yes, sometimes they do get in the way (I’ve wondered on one or two broken branches if the offender was tall-sick of running into the same branch every day).  But then I cleaned up some of the damage today, and came to a different conclusion.

We have a problem of violence.

Pictures won’t even do it justice, and even my words won’t. In the service building? Come by my office, I’ve saved a couple pieces of broken limbs. But let me try to explain what’s going on here.

The offender (I hesitate to use the word ‘student’, as surely this individual isn’t really learning anything here) is breaking limbs off of trees. Serious limbs. I climb trees, and, while I still resemble the pasty geek I was in high school, I’ve jumped a couple of weight classes. Limbs broken would hold me and my chainsaw with room to spare. Limbs that are not just snapping off, but need to be bent, wrenched, moved back and forth hoping to break 3” of bark and wood to separate it from the tree. Entire small trunks of immature trees not only bent to the ground, but shaken, trampled, twisted and torn, sometimes breaking completely, sometimes left hanging , or lying in ground, waiting for a chalk outline to surround it. This is an act of rage, of violence, well beyond wanton destruction of property, senseless passing violence against an animate object incapable of screaming or defending itself.

A 3” limb, counting rings, is probably very well older than the person breaking it off.

Monday will come again, and again we’ll go out, willingly pick up the remnants of a privileged life, but hope and pray that no more violence has befallen our silent friends.