Pence Eco-Center at McKeon Reserve Receives Donation

Kennebunk Savings Bank Helps Local Land Trust Project

July 11, 2019

Sanford/Springvale Mousam Way Land Trust is thrilled to announce the generous $10,000 donation from Kennebunk Savings Bank towards the Trust’s ongoing community-orientated effort: Sanford Community Garden at the Pence Ecology Center in The McKeon Environmental Reserve in Springvale. The Center and Garden, separate projects but growing together, will both be well served by this thoughtful gift.

Brad Paige, Kennebunk Savings President and CEO, explained the Bank’s Community Promise program, begun in 1994 by then Bank CEO Joel Stevens, who thought that a mutual institution should pay dividends to not only its investors, but also to its communities. The subsequent 25 years has seen the Bank donate $13 million to more than 1,200 organizations. And in this 25th year, a record $1 million will shared to area non-profits. Along with this, the Bank’s dedicated employees will have volunteered personal time at local non-profits, nearing the 10,000 hour mark in 2019. 

As stated on the Bank’s Facebook page: “When we heard about the Sanford/Springvale Mousam Way Land Trust’s new community gardens and ecology center for environmental education, we knew we wanted to provide support for this amazing project. In addition to its educational focus, the center’s community gardens house 24 raised beds that will be used by local nonprofits and families to grow healthy, fresh food. The collaborative spirit of this project truly resonates with us and we’re excited to see the remainder of this project come to fruition!”

Mr. Paige stated that Kennebunk Savings Bank has been very successful in its communities over the years, helping to build many homes and businesses, so to help preserve land for future generations is the ethical and moral thing to do. Mousam Way Land Trust is grateful for the Bank’s forward thinking and their Community Promise program donation.

Community Garden at the Farm Walk!

The Mousam Way Land Trust is pleased to be partnering with the local horticultural community’s farms during Springvale’s 5th Annual Farm Walk this summer, July 28. During your visit, via shuttle if you wish, you’ll be offered: 

  • Tours of Sanford’s brand new Community Garden project; 
  • The University of Maine Extension Service’s Kids Can Grow program demonstrated by the York County Master Gardener Volunteer program;
  • An introduction of the Trust’s growing David & Linda Pence Community Ecology Center;
  • An assortment of Kids’ Games, including a giant croquet game that kids can run through, or push/kick huge inflatable balls;
  • Free Shain’s Sea Dog Biscuit ice cream bars!

More info is here. 

Sanford Community Gardens receive grant

(As reported in Journal Tribune, June 27, 2019)

SPRINGVALE — The York County Chapter of the University of Maine Extension Service Master Gardener Volunteers, and the Maine Master Gardener Development Fund has announced the awarding of a $500 grant to the Sanford Community Gardens.

The Maine Master Gardener Development Fund supports the establishment or expansion of horticulture-based educational projects in communities across Maine.

Located at the Pence Community Ecology Center in the McKeon Environmental Reserve on Blanchard Road in Springvale, Sanford Community Gardens has begun its first year of providing raised bed plots where folks who lack access to suitable land can grow their own organic vegetables, flowers, and herbs.

More information can be found here: mousamwaylandtrust.org/2019/03/07/sanford-community-garden/.

Local Master Gardener Project Coordinators and Mousam Way Land Trust Directors form the Community Garden Advisory Committee which oversees the project. Master Gardener volunteers assist the raised bed gardeners with all aspects of gardening: initial soil testing interpretations, compact and season-extending gardening methods, organic weed, pest, and disease controls, to safe harvesting techniques and winter bed preparations.

For more information about the Master Gardener Program, email: extension@maine.edu

Lending a Hand

(As posted on Journal Tribune Newspaper website).

As hundreds of volunteers from local businesses fanned across York County for the United Way’s 2019 Day of Caring event, these Pratt & Whitney employees  worked alongside Mousam Way Land Trust members at the trust’s Pence Community Ecology Center at the McKeon Reserve to clear areas for a future access road and parking lot. They also built a stone berm along a future greenhouse area, and installed fencing to help protect the Sanford Community Garden from hungry, determined deer and other critters.

Wood Frogs

The duck-like barking sounds of the wood frog are usually the first to be heard by our singing amphibians, as they call out to their mates from their vernal pool breeding sites.  

Wood frogs are found in all types of forests, preferring damp areas like ravines, forested wetlands, swamps and bogs while foraging for a variety of insects and small invertebrates, including spiders, beetles and moth larvae.

 At 2”- 2 3/4” long, wood frogs are identified by a white line above the lip, a dark “robber’s mask” across the eyes, and their color ranges from brown, rust to shades of green…with the ability to change color. Sexes can be distinguished by examining the shape of the webbing found in the hind toes; females have concave webbing, while males are convex.

Wood frogs emerge from hibernation when warm rainfall thaws them. They participate in a yearly migration that brings them to vernal pools for breeding, starting in late February and March. Males search for a mate by hugging other frogs until they find one who is round enough to be carrying eggs. Females lay approximately 1000 eggs, often in the deeper sections of the pools and often attached to other egg masses which in turn are attached to vegetation within the pools. Eggs will hatch in 10-30 days, depending on the temperature. The larval stage, known as tadpoles, feed on algae, detritus, and the larvae of other amphibians…taking a little over a month to mature into frogs. Tadpoles die if the pool dries up prior to growing into a frog.

It is the only frog species that survives above the Arctic Circle, aided by the rare ability to withstand partially freezing. It will not urinate all winter…sometimes for 8 months in Alaska. Microbes in their guts recycle the urea, which begins to accumulated in tissues as winter approaches; and glycogen in the liver converts to glucose as the body begins to freeze. Both urea and glucose act as a sort of anti-freeze, restricting ice formation and cell damage while its heart, brain, and blood flow stop…becoming dead by conventual definition! Cells continue a limited function with a loss of cellular communication. Frogs can survive many freeze/thaw events during winter if no more than about 65% of the total body water freezes. The ability of wood frogs to successfully complete their winter survival transformation is related to the amount of insulating snow cover that exists, as well as how deep a frog is able to burrow into its winter hibernacula. Warmer temperatures bring a slow resumption of function, and they make their way to a nearby vernal pool to shower us with their springtime barking. 

As climate change continues to redistribute snowfall, wood frog habitat that begin to exhibit thinner winter snow cover are likely to suffer population declines.

The Lady Slipper

Probably Maine’s best known orchid, these beauties make their home in many parts of The McKeon Reserve.
Maine has four species of Lady Slippers; Pink, Yellow, Showy, and Ram’s Head. Two of these are rare in Maine: the Showy and the Ram’s Head. The “Ram’s Head” variety is endangered and rare world-wide. Being very beautiful, many folks would like to have some in their home gardens, but they are deep-rooted and next to impossible to successfully transplant. Lady Slippers require a specific fungus in a specific soil to survive. This fungus allows the plant to feed from otherwise unavailable nutrients in the soil. The acidic soil type is found only in Forested Wetlands, and under upland forested canopies of evergreens and thick hardwoods.
The flowers are difficult to pollinate; it’s the native bumblebees that do this by climbing through the narrow opening down to the base of the pouch where they hope to find nectar…BUT there is no nectar, just pollen! The bees soon learn that their efforts go unrewarded, so after visiting a few flowers in late spring, they stop trying and many flowers do not get pollinated and so bear no seeds. But the flowers that do get pollinated will produce thousands of tiny seeds! These seeds, like the plant, require that special wild soil fungus to germinate and grow. When they do find these rare conditions, those little seeds will send their roots over six feet deep into the soil!
These conditions are obviously next to impossible to duplicate, and would be extremely expensive, and work-intensive to do so, thus no commercial operations exist for this purpose. If you see one for sale, it has most certainly been dug up, and transplanting it is unlikely to be successful. This is one wild thing that can not be tamed, so PLEASE, enjoy it in the wild, advocate for its protection, but do not try moving it; it took a lot of work, and some luck, for that stunning plant to stand with pride in the forest, showing off its beauty!

States of Dormancy

Hibernation, torpor, diapause, aestivation, and brumation

Dormancy refers to the state of reduced activity that many organisms enter when exposed, or anticipate exposure, to environmental stress. During the dormant phase, energy is conserved within the organism by reducing metabolic activities. Chemical changes may also occur to protect the organism from freezing, heating, or drying. The five types of dormancy are hibernation, torpor, aestivation, diapause, and brumation. 

Hibernation   

Many rodents, including chipmunks and groundhogs, as well as mammalian species like hedgehogs and bats use hibernation to survive harsh winters. To prepare for hibernation, food is gorged upon and stored as body fat. Then shelter is found for their winter’s deep sleep, during which heart rates slow to as much as 90%; a chipmunk’s heart rate drops to 4 beats per minute from 350! Hibernation can last for weeks or months. Some hibernators awaken during warming periods and will eat and urinate, but soon will resume their deep sleep.

A champion of hibernation is the Arctic ground squirrel, supercooling its body from 98° to 30° for 8 months…shivering (without waking) every 2-3 weeks to reheat. The severe cold shrivels their brain neurons, which totally recover when they awaken. A protein called tau builds up in their brain cells when hibernating…and in the brain cells of humans with Alzheimer’s. The squirrels scour tau from their brains when they wake up. Studies of the squirrels abilities could provide insights into Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. 

And the only bird to hibernate is the common poorwill, close kin to our whip-o-will. Found in the Western United States and Mexico, their body temperature drops from 104° to about 41°. Other birds enter a state of dormancy called torpor.

Torpor

Some animals, mostly birds and bats, reduce their body temperatures only a few degrees for only a few hours a day, along with lowering activity levels. This dormancy state is called torpor, and is used during cold nights, when food is scarce, and as a general energy saving adaptation. Studies have shown that those few degrees save a significant number of calories from being burned off overnight.

Hummingbirds require huge energy levels with heart rates over 1,200 beats per minute; they use daily torpor to conserve energy even in the tropics, dropping their body temperature over 50%. Chickadees and swifts are other well known users of torpor.

Diapause

Butterflies are cold-blooded, so when they get too cold they can’t fly, and if too hot, they’ll dry out. To survive these conditions, they’ll enter a state of dormancy called diapause…a spontaneous reaction to certain environmental conditions. This temporarily affects their life functions and development by slowing them down to almost a stop. This state can happen at any time of year, and for varying lengths of time; it mostly affects insects, but also happens with birds, fish, and mammals. Some butterflies use diapause in the middle of a hot summer day for an hour or so, and some insects may enter diapause for months. Diapause in summer is often called aestivation.

Aestivation (Estivation)

To avoid the stresses of excessive heat, estivation is the state of dormancy in which animals in mostly desert and tropical habitats use a summer sleep for survival. The sleep is relatively shallow, allowing the critters to awaken quickly when conditions return to favorable levels. Some animals, notably insects, are common estivators. Salamanders, frogs, and snails conserve water requirements by estivating during dry times. Probably the expert is the African lungfish: it’ll burrow into the mud of a dried up lake, cover its body with mucus which dries into a water-retaining sack…breathing through a small tube. The lungfish is able to thus survive without water for up to 3 years! 

Brumation   

Brumation dormancy can be described as torpor done under ground by reptiles. Sometimes during brumating, the reptile will become a bit active during a warm spell; although not requiring food, it searches for needed water to escape hydration. So, like torpor, it’s not a true hibernation phase. Brumation in reptiles may be considered the opposite of aestivation in insects, where the former addressees the heat and the latter, the cold.  

Preparing for brumation, eating is increased to not only build up fat reserves, but also to add glycogen, which is a form of sugar and is mostly stored as energy in the muscles. Some glycogen is stored in the blood, which aids with oxygen intake in low-oxygen environments like underwater. Some turtles have areas of high blood vessel concentrations at their cloaca (butt) which can absorb oxygen from the water…a butt snorkel! And snakes will absorb oxygen through their skin. The added fat seems to play more of a reproductive part with reptiles, aiding egg production and post-dormancy mating. 

A relatively sheltered place called a hibernaculum is found and often shared with many others of the same species…sometimes hundreds! Crevices in rock piles, leaf litter, caves, burrows…even under water for some…are used. Generally, they enter dormancy in the cooler, shorter days of autumn and emerge from their rest at the arrival of the warmer, longer days of spring.