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Appreciating the wide open spaces of the meadows

Some ingredients of a Maine meadow:

Sunlight, deer flies, blueberries, piles of rocks, maybe a stone wall, an old foundation or cellar hole, goldenrod, garter snakes, sparrows, sedges where it is wet, dragonflies, bracken fern, the sounds of woodcock calling in the spring and coyotes yipping at night, raspberries, bear scat full of raspberries, checkerspot and monarch and tussock caterpillars, morning dew, turtle nests, common nighthawks, violets, spirea, deer. Do you see it yet? Virtually all meadows in Maine will have most of these ingredients, and many meadows will have them all.

Most upland (aka ‘dry’) meadows in Maine and New England share a similar origin story: homesteading European settlers in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries felled the forest and worked their form of agriculture. Researchers continue to learn about pre-Colonial Native American land stewardship that resulted in open woodlands and meadows (i.e., fire), but the prevailing understanding is that these habitats were restricted to areas of high human population–along the Atlantic coast, along major rivers, and generally with a trend toward southern New England–and they played a very small role in shaping the vast landscape of New England. When you think of meadows you should think of European farms.

A meadow is a relic of our agricultural past, a byproduct of a geo/socio/economic system. The meadow does not even want to stay a meadow; if left alone every upland meadow that you see in Maine would recruit trees and transition into a forest. To remain as meadow, it must be mowed. If I had to, I would probably admit that meadows are not all that ‘natural,’ at least not natural like a forest.

Despite this, people are drawn to meadows, and we as landowners often spend good money maintaining them as treeless, open areas. You can think of a lawn as a bastardized version of a meadow. Because of their inherent beauty, meadows have found their way into the world of landscape architecture, landscape design, and horticulture. ‘Meadow’ has officially become a buzz word in the eco-sphere, and for good reason.

The 20-acre meadows at the Little Long Pond natural lands are bursting with life and add to the landscape diversity of the Preserve. The natural lands staff have spent the past few years learning everything we can about our meadows, and we recently published a meadow management plan that shares information about the meadows including their current conditions, the Preserve’s meadow management philosophy and goals, and our current meadow management practices.

To bring the meadow management plan to life we are offering multiple meadow-focused field walks this summer where participants will have the opportunity to perhaps experience the meadows in a new way and learn how and why we manage them as we do. You can sign up for a meadow field walk here.

I consider the meadows to be among the Preserve’s most beautiful and inspirational landscapes–much more than just a place for a dog to fetch her ball. I hope to see you on one of the meadow walks!


You can watch a recording of Tate’s meadow management webinar by clicking below. Other Preserve webinar recordings are available on our website.

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