Farm Jeans

jeans old1

Jeans with a history.

I still have the pair of Carhartts from my farm days. Mostly for sentimental reasons, but also because they are nice, “airy,” work jeans as the holes in the knees are quite substantial. Hoof black, from getting the draft horses ready for the parade, stained a Nike-esque swoosh on one leg. Blood from assisting with countless lamb births is also present. There are grease stains from the tractor, paint from painting the barn, and, honestly, many more.

A perfect ninety degree tear in the cuff shows where I misjudged the height of the barbed wire. The other day, cleaning out closets, I found an old raincoat with T-post connectors for electric fence. I worked on the farm over a decade ago, so I either have way too many coats or need to clean my closets more often!

I loved, and still love, farm work. The connection with the land nourishes me and makes me a better steward. I no longer have to coax cattle into new pastures, toss 400 hay bales into the mow, or spend 10 hours at a time spreading manure on spring fields. I do still garden, raise chickens, and take care of a little plot that I call my own, though truly the land belongs to itself, not me.

Working with the land to grow grass and clover, which in turn grew beef and bacon, made me a better naturalist. Class after class in college can teach you ecological concepts, but animal husbandry and farming will teach the concepts better and make it a reality in a fraction of the time you sat behind a desk. Hands-on learning, seeing it for yourself, having first-hand knowledge is priceless. Some lessons you never forget.

Which is why, on the drive to work the other day, my stomach flipped in a sickening way as I saw the monstrous farm tractors with mowers bigger than I knew existed, cutting hay. Flashbacks to mangled fawns and orphaned turkey eggs haunted me. I know hay is a necessity. I know the weather this week is ideal. I know that spring we’ve had has been great for growing fields. I know that bigger, faster tractors make the work easier.

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Whitetail deer fawn in the brush.

But I also know that the fawns are too new to get up and run. I know that the hen turkeys are so close to hatching their first broods that they won’t abandon the nest even as the tractor bears down on them. I know that the sparrows, Bobolinks, meadowlarks, and countless other ground-nesting birds have eggs and nestlings tucked safely in the fields. Even fox kits, snakes, and rodents are shaken up by mowing hay even though they retreat to their dens and burrows until the machines are gone.

The tractor does not know what it can do. It is a well-designed instrument of efficiency, made to make the work lighter on the farmer’s shoulders. Perhaps it does that too well in the cases where, in the closed and air-conditioned cab with the radio on, the driver never hears the panicked screams of the fawn’s last cries, the slight hiccup of the machine as it consumes a turkey, or the wingbeats of terrified birds trying desperately to escape. The tractor doesn’t know. But the farmer should.

All landowners should. Brushhogging before July 9 is a death sentence for so much. Even regular mowing can be destructive. I know that before I mow I walk the yard. In my scouting walks I have found nests fallen from trees with baby birds still alive inside, wood frogs hiding in the tall grass, three foot long Milk Snakes hunting voles, and bunny nests. By taking the time to walk first, I wreak less havoc on the animals that also use the lawn.


Turkey eggs by Jeff Tome.

Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for farmers and the work they do. Honestly, the fact that mowing is happening this week might be a blessing. It is early, yes. But many birds have time to re-nest. Many fawns are not yet born. There is time to start over should the parents-to-be make it out alive. There is always a struggle, a balance, the agonizing knowledge that in harvesting what we need to sustain the farm and keep the livestock alive, we will cause death and trauma to countless other living things. It should be hard. The taking of the land’s produce should give us pause.

Not just for farmers, but for all of us. Every single human lives off the land, takes from it to sustain ourselves. Timbering, gardening, clearing land for a house takes away from the land and the makes the ecological system less efficient. There are kind ways to do all those activities, just as there are kinder ways to farm. In order to truly appreciate each forkful of hay as you toss it over the fence, you need to have gingerly collected a dozen orphaned turkey eggs and tried to hatch them in an incubator. To know the value of an onion, you need to first build a new house for the toad before you unearth him from his burrow in the middle of the onion bed.

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The jeans, when they were new.

We are not the only creatures on the planet, and we are simply a blip in the biological history. Someday humans will be gone and there will be another dominant species. We don’t know yet what that might be, but we should know that we took the best possible care of everything here and helped to nurture the lives that will come. We should drive the tractor slower, with the windows open and the radio off. We should stand in silence at the sight of a new fawn lying in the grass and then come back tomorrow to mow. We should hold onto the lessons we’ve learned that remind us to be better humans. And every once in a while, put on an old pair of Carhartts and recall fond memories when life became richer than you ever imagined it could be.

Visit Audubon Nature Center for a better connection with many living things. The trails are open dawn to dusk, and the building is open 10:00am until 4:30pm daily except Sundays when we open at 1:00pm. Visit for more information or call (716) 569-2345 for upcoming events and information. We are located at 1600 Riverside Road, just off Route 62 between Warren and Jamestown.

Sarah Hatfield is a naturalist.

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Butterfly Expert and Photographer at Nature Center’s First Friday, June 3


Jamestown, NY – Jeff Zablow is a biologist with a passion for photographing butterflies. That passion has led to his capturing the images of butterflies as nearby as the Audubon Nature Center and as far away as Israel.


The Pittsburgh resident will share his beautiful photographs at the Nature Center’s First Friday Lunch Bunch on June 4. As a special feature of his presentation, he will lead a field walk after the brown bag lunch that follows.

Butterflies captured Zablow’s imagination when he was a young boy growing up in Brooklyn, New York. At the time, small fields still existed in the city, and he would go to them to watch and marvel at the bejeweled creatures.

Over the years he has shared his passion for butterflies with his high school biology students as well as many others through presentations and through his blog He set his own personal challenge: to work to produce photographs of butterflies that were superior to those in butterfly field guides.

Zablow has not succumbed to digital technology and continues to shoot with Fuji slide film. His technique is simple, with hand-held camera only, and his subjects are wild, not captive butterflies.

The usual BYO brown bag lunch and conversation will follow the program, with coffee and tea provided. Zablow will lead a field walk for those who can stay after the lunch.

The fee for attending is $8 or $6 for Friends of the Nature Center. Reservations are not required.

The Audubon Nature Center is at 1600 Riverside Road, one-quarter mile east of Route 62 between Jamestown, New York, and Warren, Pennsylvania.

To learn more, call (716) 569-2345 or visit


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Dozens of Activities at Audubons’ June 3-5 Allegany Nature Pilgrimage

Allegany Nature Pilgrimage2

Whatever your level of experience and expertise, if you love the outdoors and want to learn more about it, the June 3-5 Allegany Nature Pilgrimage weekend is where you want to be. An Old Growth Forest hike through Allegany State Park, like the one pictured here, is just one of dozens of walks and programs that can teach you more about the natural world.

Jamestown, NY – Imagine a walk in the woods, soaking up the many sights, sounds, and smells around you. If you smile at the thought of learning more about that natural world with fellow nature lovers, then then you’ll want to be part of the June 3-5 Allegany Nature Pilgrimage.


This annual outdoor weekend in Allegany State Park combines fun with a variety of nature-oriented activities, welcoming both the seasoned naturalist and the inquisitive beginner.

Allegany State Park is comprised of over 60,000 acres and abounds with plants and animals. With some of the best examples of Old Growth Forest in the region, 176 bird species have been recorded there.

A variety of naturalist-led nature walks, lectures, and programs begin Friday afternoon, June 3, and continue through Sunday morning, June 5.  Registration covers admission to dozens of  different activities including Fairy Houses and Toad Abodes, geocaching, bird banding, owl prowls, beginning and advanced birding, beaver walks, insects, trees, wildflowers, star watching, Underwater Monsters, and a Splash Hike where adventurous participants wade up a stream in search of natural curiosities.

In addition to the lectures, walks, and other activities, a tent program is held each evening.  Friday night’s tent program features award-winning author and environmental educator Ken Keffer, who will give a lighthearted presentation on his naturalist work from around the globe. Highlights will include coyote scats in the Tetons, flying squirrels in Alaska, monitoring black-footed ferrets for Ted Turner, and chasing camels around the Gobi Desert of Mongolia. Lowlights include getting shot at by prairie dog shooters and a brief stint with reality television. Keffer will discuss conservation lessons gleaned from his experiences.

Saturday night Robin Foster will speak on the Eastern Hellbender, a unique aquatic salamander found only in the eastern United States. Hellbenders are “living fossils” that have remained virtually unchanged for millions of years, giving us a glimpse into our ecological past. Foster will discuss the natural history and conservation of this fascinating species and describe how we can aid in its conservation in the Allegheny region.

Since 1959 the Allegany Nature Pilgrimage, founded by Gib Burgeson of Jamestown, New York, has been a cooperative presentation of Allegany State Park and volunteers from the Buffalo Audubon Society, Rochester’s Burroughs Audubon Nature Club, Jamestown Audubon Society, and Erie’s Presque Isle Audubon Society.

For all the details and to register, visit


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Workshop on Wild Edibles at Audubon Nature Center Thursday, June 2

Lambs Quarter

At the Audubon Nature Center’s “Edible Audubon – Spring into Summer” workshop, you can discover how to identify edible plants and distinguish them from those that may look similar. Seeds of the Lambs Quarters, pictured here, germinate with warmer soil temperatures. The class will be on Thursday evening, June 2.

Jamestown, NY – Some people gather wild plants to eat for survival, others to save on the grocery bill.

Foraging can also be a wonderful way to spend time outside, learn plant identification, try new foods, and strengthen your connection to the earth and the food it produces to nourish our bodies.

On Thursday evening, June 2, you can learn to identify late spring/early summer greens, flowers and other wild edibles at the Audubon Nature Center’s “Edible Audubon – Spring into Summer ” workshop.

At the 6-8 p.m. class participants will discover how to recognize edible plants and distinguish them from those that may look similar.

After reviewing some basic ground rules and safety considerations about harvesting wild edibles, the class will head outside to identify those growing and blooming in the late spring/early summer. Also covered will be some popular plants you definitely do not want to eat. Back inside, participants will taste samples and discuss easy ways to make wild plants part their meals.

Instructor Katie Finch is a naturalist at Audubon who has been enthusiastically eating “weeds” for several years.

This class includes a walk up to one mile on flat ground. Remember to dress for the weather.

The fee is $20; $16 for Friends of the Nature Center and children ages 9-15.  Paid reservations are required by Tuesday, May 31: Stop by, call (716) 569-2345 during business hours, or use the online form by clicking on “Edible Audubon – Spring into Summer ” at

Nature Center education programs are funded with support from the Carnahan Jackson Foundation, Jessie Smith Darrah Fund, Holmberg Foundation, Hultquist Foundation, Johnson Foundation, and Lenna Foundation.

The Audubon Nature Center is at 1600 Riverside Road, one-quarter mile east of Route 62 between Jamestown, New York, and Warren, Pennsylvania. The building, with its collection of live animals, interactive exhibits and the Blue Heron Gift Shop, is open 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 1-4:30 p.m. Sundays.  The grounds, including trails, gardens, picnic tables, arboretum, and Liberty, the Bald Eagle, can be visited from dawn until dusk daily.

To learn more about the Nature Center and its many programs, call (716) 569-2345 or visit


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How Much Land


Chautauqua County in all its green glory

I recently did some traveling that required an airplane flight. As I left my land bound life on the east coast I looked down on Earth. I examined the spaghetti-like roads, orderly housing, and people moving among them like ants from my new perspective. Admittedly, I was a bit disgusted at the sprawl of human built structures across the landscape. But as we pulled farther away from Earth, I was surprised at the large amount of open space.

For a time I reflected on the question about the population of our planet. Are there too many people? In the city it seemed so. But there were also huge tracts of uninhabited land. This controversial and complicated question led me to another one. Exactly how much land does one person need to be able to survive?


A fall harvest from the garden.

This question made good dinner conversation. Answers ranged from 5 to 20 acres needed to supply our basic needs- food, water shelter and air. Of course the answer depends on where and how a person lives. Vegan or omnivore? Modern life or just the basic needs? What environment- Northeast or Southwest United States?

This led to an even more interesting discussion about where all our “stuff” comes from. Everything we use comes from the land. We use our natural resources for food, water and shelter. There are no unnatural resources. But where are the resources that supports us? For example, even at this simple dinner we had potatoes from Idaho and olive oil from California.

When I looked at the human sprawl, the idea of escaping the urban areas to a self-sustaining tract of land was attractive. I could grow all my own food. Some sources say a person needs an acre of land to grow their own food for a year. But is it really only an acre? Where do the seeds, the additions to the soil, the tools used to plant, tend and harvest come from?

Even if I could gather and harvest food, materials to build a shelter, and water on my own tract of land, what am I going to wear? I could be extreme and deer skin clothing would be OK. But how much land would the deer need? And what happens to my waste? How much land does it take to clean the air and water?

And what if I didn’t want to be extreme and spend all my time just to support myself. What about the stuff I have in my modern life- car, phone, TV? How much land do these things require to be created? And how many people to make them?

When I look at the basic things I need and want, I have to admit I am connected to people and land around the world. I am part of a commercial system that crosses pavement, oceans and air. In order to exist in today’s modern society, I need something more like a planet than an acre of land.


The simple yet complicated pencils

Leonard Read wrote an essay “I, Pencil” from the point of view of a pencil describing how it’s made. From harvesting the cedar tree to mining the aluminum for the metal piece (called a ferrule) that holds the eraser, this simple object’s creation is more complicated than we commonly think. In fact, the essay states that no one person can make a pencil without the help of others. When we examine our lives it is the same way.

It all seems too complicated. We’ve built a society that’s so intricate, so complex in its relationships. It requires connections to one another through trade of goods and services. To live in today’s world, I’m not sure we have a choice to live completely independently of that system.

But we do have a choice about how we participate in that system. We can choose how far goods and services travel to reach us. And how many we buy. We can choose what we purchase based on what goes in to producing our food, clothing, shelter and other amenities. You can’t argue that we are not connected but you can choose who you are connected to.

In my search for the answer to this question I did turn to, where else but the internet. The search engine automatically completed, “How much land” with “does a man need”. I was hoping someone had scientifically calculated an answer. But, How Much Land Does A Man Need is the title of a short story by 19th century Russian author Leo Tolstoy.

In the story a man tempts the devil by thinking if he has enough land, he would not even fear the devil. The man goes on to greedily acquire more and more land. Eventually, as happens with most deals with the devil, he loses. He is successful in his task to grab as much land as he wants but he collapses from exhaustion and dies. And he finally finds out the answer to the question of how much land a man needs. It is about 7 feet- in the ground.

We live in a world of complicated questions. Some questions have no answers though we strive for certainty. Some truths are inevitable through we try to ignore them. What we can do is attempt to live the best life we can within our beliefs and values. It comes down to how we want to live in relation to other people and the rest of the living things on this planet.

Katie Finch is a naturalist at the Jamestown Audubon Nature Center located at 1600 Riverside Road in the town of Kiantone, one-quarter mile east of Route 62 between Jamestown, New York and Warren, Pennsylvania. Our trails are open year round from dawn until dusk. For more information, visit our website at, or call (716) 569‑2345.


A fall harvest from the garden

The simple yet complicated pencils

Chautauqua County in all its green glory




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So Many Photo Contest Possibilities at the Nature Center

Exhibit play-fishing

With the new “Jamestown Audubon Nature Center” category in its 2016 Nature Photography Contest, now is the time to visit and to shoot your potential prize winner “taken in the building or on the grounds that exemplifies the Nature Center experience.” Along with Landscapes, Plants, and Wildlife, the Jamestown Audubon Nature Center category will also win $100 first prizes in both Youth and Adult divisions. Capturing your children “fishing” in the indoor “pond,” like those pictured here, is one of so many possibilities.

Jamestown, NY – With the multitude of activities at the Audubon Nature Center in May and June, the opportunities for taking a prize-winning photograph abound.

The 2016 Nature Photography Contest has added a new category for entries: the Jamestown Audubon Nature Center category is for photographs “taken in the building or on the grounds that exemplify the Nature Center experience.”
You are invited to bring your camera and choose from the many possibilities you will find. Maybe goslings will catch your eye. Or birds at the feeders or nest boxes. Or apple trees in bloom.
You could sign up for one of several classes or workshops – from Father’s Day Birdfeeder Building to one of the Coffee Shop Series — and ask your fellow participants to put on their best smiles for you.  Or do the same at a Nature Photography Club meeting or First Friday Lunch Bunch gathering.
And what could be more captivating than a picture of your child or grandchild’s eyes lighting up at bird banding or Little Explorers?
The contest is designed to encourage anyone who enjoys doing photography – from beginners to professionals – to enter their images for consideration by the June 30 deadline. It helps fulfill the Nature Center’s mission to connect people with nature, gives photographers an outlet to share their work, and raises funds to support the many education programs of the Nature Center.
With divisions for both adults and youth (ages 8-18 or still in high school) and the traditional categories of Landscapes, Plants (including trees, fungi, lichens, mosses, etc.), and Wildlife (animals in their natural habitats), there will be a total of eight winners who each receive $100. They will also have their photos printed to be displayed at the Nature Center and, along with the finalists, will be on the Photo Contest website.
Images of winners and finalists from previous Nature Photography Contests can be viewed at, where full details for the competition can also be found.
To learn more about the Nature Center and see a schedule of its many programs, visit
The Audubon Nature Center is at 1600 Riverside Road, one-quarter mile east of Route 62 between Jamestown, New York, and Warren, Pennsylvania. The building, with its collection of live animals, interactive exhibits and the Blue Heron Gift Shop, is open 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 1-4:30 p.m. Sundays.  The grounds, including trails, gardens, picnic tables, arboretum, and Bald Eagle viewing, are open from dawn until dusk daily.
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Audubon’s Annual Plant Exchange and Sale is Saturday, May 21

Plant Exchange2

You are invited to exchange plants, knowledge, tips and tricks at the Audubon Nature Center’s annual Plant Exchange & Sale on Saturday, May 21. From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., like these folks pictured here, you can find new plants to enhance your garden, share your extras, meet local gardeners, and learn more.


Jamestown, NY – Growing healthy, blooming, tasty, beautiful plants is one of the best parts of spring.

You are invited to get some plants, knowledge, tips and tricks at the Jamestown Audubon Nature Center’s annual Plant Exchange & Sale on Saturday, May 21, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Gardeners know there are always volunteer plants that spring up and need new homes. The Plant Exchange & Sale was born to share those volunteers. It has grown to include donations from nurseries to provide some friendly and in-demand plants, a sale option for those just starting out who don’t yet have extras, and some seeds and informational displays.

Bring your extras, your volunteers, and seedlings or plants you don’t have room for. Labels including the name of the plant, color (if known), and sun/shade preference are appreciated. Bring plants in pots (no plastic bags) or money, and exchange or buy plants and take them home. Plants are priced based on condition, species, and size.

Not all plants will be accepted on exchange, and it is not an even one-for-one exchange rate. Tickets are given as credit when plants are brought in and can be used towards the purchase of new plants. Audubon reserves the right to refuse plants based on species or condition.

If you are interested only in donating, plants can be dropped off at the Nature Center on Thursday or Friday, May 19 or 20. If you are interested in volunteering, Audubon can use volunteers on Friday (May 20) and Saturday (May 21) for repotting, set up, answering questions, and clean-up.

The Plant Exchange & Sale benefits the Nature Center’s gardens. To volunteer, call Audubon naturalist/volunteer coordinator Katie Finch at (716) 569-2345.

The Audubon Nature Center is at 1600 Riverside Road, one-quarter mile east of Route 62 between Jamestown, New York, and Warren, Pennsylvania.  The building, with its Blue Heron Gift Shop and exhibits of live fish, reptiles, amphibians and more, is open Monday-Saturday 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Sundays 1-4:30 p.m. Its five miles of trails, Bald Eagle viewing, arboretum, picnic tables, and gardens are open dawn to dusk year-round.

For more information, call (716) 569-2345 or visit


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