Spring Newsletter from Board of John Burroughs’ Woodchuck Lodge

Spring, 2021

© J.N. Urbanski

Dear Friends of John Burroughs’ Woodchuck Lodge,

One hundred years ago –– March 29, 1921 –– on a train from California to New York, John Burroughs asked his traveling companion, “How far are we from home?” He died before Clara Barrus could answer.  

If Burroughs were to return to his beloved Woodchuck Lodge in 2021, he’d find it lovingly cared for and comfortingly familiar. 

Despite this past year’s many challenges, our board of trustees and dedicated volunteers have maintained a rigorous agenda, checking off many important boxes on the perpetual to-do list that keeps Woodchuck Lodge looking and feeling like “Uncle John’s” rustic Catskills retreat.

Were Burroughs to return, he’d find his apple orchard pruned (and expanded) with heirloom trees, the surrounding brush cleared, and wildflowers blanketing the hillside. A new “poet’s path” wends through the orchard and a selection of his own literary quotes dot the trail. We hope he’d be happy to discover new stone benches, a sundial, and a small pond!

He’d note that the woodshed he built held up remarkably well; almost toowell. Just don’t tell Mr. Burroughs that his version finally rotted and collapsed. We carefully replaced it 100 years later, and we invested in restoration of the stone wall that runs behind it.

“I always feel that I have missed some good fortune if I am away from home when my bees swarm,” wrote Burroughs. Mr. Burroughs, your bees are still very much in residence. But we’ve added a small sign to warn visitors who may not appreciate your love of the buzzing colonists. We also added a 2021-compliant address marker on your garage, and a small parking area across the road that your friend Henry Ford would surely have appreciated.

Continue reading “Spring Newsletter from Board of John Burroughs’ Woodchuck Lodge”

The Delaware County Diggers

© J.N. Urbanski

The Delaware County Diggers is a group of metal detecting enthusiasts with a passion for history and preservation. We joined them at the John Burroughs’ Woodchuck Lodge in Roxbury, NY, where they beeped and dug their way to an eclectic assortment of 19th- and 20th-century treasures. Come along with us for an archaeological treasure hunt just beneath the surface of John Burroughs’ property at the historic Woodchuck Lodge! 

Click here to listen to the podcast.

Geocaching at Woodchuck Lodge

© J.N. Urbanski

John Burroughs Woodchuck Lodge has entered the world of geocaching: just like JB’s chipmunks squirreling away their booty, trinkets and treasure await for those inclined to explore the world of Mr. Burroughs.  We invite you to come and take a leisurely walk;  enjoy the landscape; sit for a spell.  

We are certain that Mr. Burroughs would be charmed by your presence and may just join you. Listen for the rustle in the leaves, it could be JB playing with you!

Walt Whitman’s 200th Birthday on Friday May 31st & Saturday June 1st, 2019

© J.N. Urbanski

John Burroughs Woodchuck Lodge had a very successful Walt Whitman Birthday Celebration weekend with about 30 people showing up to attend the Friday night (May 31st) serial reading of “Song of Myself” at Union Grove Distillery (pictured above).

© J.N. Urbanski

30 people also attended the reading by Professor Jim Warren at Woodchuck Lodge the next morning, June 1st. This talk was Walt Whitman themed, but part of our Wild Saturday program. Jim spoke on “The Nature of Two Writers” a talk about John Burroughs and Walt Whitman.

Continue reading “Walt Whitman’s 200th Birthday on Friday May 31st & Saturday June 1st, 2019”

Allen Nichols of the American Chestnut Restoration Program at the Catskill Center, Arkville on April 13th, 2019 at 1pm

© J.N. Urbanski

Allen Nichols of the American Chestnut Restoration Program spoke to a gathering of 20 people at the Catskill Center, April 13th, 2019 at 1pm in Arkville, NY 12455. 

According to the foundation: “More than a century ago, nearly 4 billion American chestnut trees were growing in the eastern U.S. They were among the largest, tallest, and fastest-growing trees. The wood was rot-resistant, straight-grained, and suitable for furniture, fencing, and building. The nuts fed billions of birds and animals. It was almost a perfect tree, that is, until a blight fungus killed it more than a century ago. The chestnut blight has been called the greatest ecological disaster to strike the world’s forests in all of history.”

The AC Foundation is committed to “restoring the American chestnut tree to our eastern woodlands to benefit our environment, our wildlife, and our society. Unlike other environmental organizations, TACF’s mission is not about preventing environmental loss or preserving what we already have. The concept of our mission is much bolder and more powerful. It’s about restoration of an entire ecosystem and making our world a much better place than we found it.”

News from the Lodge

The Annual Meeting of the Board of Trustees: July 15th, 2018

© J.N. Urbanski

Trustees of the board of John Burroughs Woodchuck Lodge conducted their annual meeting on July 15th, 2018. All were welcome and we had an audience of members, after which we took a hike up to the new Summer House via The Trout Lily Trail. It was a beautiful day.

© J.N. Urbanski

A Visit from Germantown NY Artist Collective

© A. Curlew

Five participants from the Germantown NY Artist Collective,InStar Lodge, visited John Burroughs Woodchuck Lodge, Sunday, as part of their Community Conversations initiative. Focused on the importance of “place”, two groups of participants walked and talked together about “wonderment”, our human reaction to the variety of nature when we attend carefully to the natural world around us.


Leather-Stalking Tales with Dr. Bill Birns

What’s so exciting about Life After Tanning?

After the 19th century loads of tanned hides left the docks in Catskill heading down the Hudson River to “The Swamp” in New York City, they took on a whole new life of their own.

Yes, there was life after tanning. Come find out about it from the dynamic and exciting speaker BILL BIRNS, who will be sharing his family’s historically riveting experiences in THE SWAMP of Manhattan.

This free event has been made possible in part through the generosity of The A. Lindsay & Olive B. O’Connor Foundation, The Greene County Council on the Arts, The New York State Council on the Arts, and The Zadock Pratt Museum.

Bill’s talk is entitled “LOUIS BIRNS & SONS IN THE SWAMP”

WHEN: Thursday August 2, 2018 – 7 to 8 pm

WHERE: Zadock Pratt Museum, 14540 Main St/Rte 23
Prattsville NY 12468.

Learn more at https://www.facebook.com/ZadockPrattMuseum/

The New Summer House at Woodchuck Lodge

A new summerhouse has been built for the top of the meadow at Woodchuck Lodge where visitors and board members go to cherish the stunning view across the Catskill Mountains. Members of the board are also looking for a small, portable library to put inside the summer house.

The idea came to board members as we completed the Trout Lily Trail, to extend the trail to the east into the hog lot. We would then lengthen the trail, transition from forest to meadow at the break in the stone wall and utilize more of the property. Now, while capturing that view, visitors can sit, rest and perhaps even read awhile if we are to get our tiny library.

Steve Walker, of Beaverdam Builders, built the summer house. We provided the rough draft of what a turn of the century ‘summerhouse’ looked like. We chose red cedar for durability, round poles and twig lattice for aesthetics, a rustic bench with a simple shed roof, all to blend with the ambiance of Woodchuck Lodge.  We were seeking a modest structure to match both the man and, certainly, the budget!  “The agreement we struck was if I were to secure the materials, he would build it” says Patti Rudge.

On a tip from RyanTrapani @ Catskill Forest Association, we purchased the cedar from Todd Baldwin in Dutchess County. The hemlock, on the other hand, was harvested locally and milled just down the road in Halcottsville by John Biruk.

With the ground firmed up from spring rains and a high pressure holding, Steve had his crew up in the hog lot in the second week of June and added a bit of magic to Woodchuck Lodge. The summerhouse ‘under the maples’ is waiting to be discovered.

Newly Published Work of Poetry by Anne Richey

Church of the Robin’s Ha-Ha: John Burroughs’ Natural Religion and Other Poems by Anne Richey

Anne Richey, a docent at Woodchuck Lodge and local teacher has published an homage to the works of John Burroughs in the form of an eclectic collection of poetry and prose: an anthology of notes, quotations, prose, excerpts from an ancient diary and “found poetry”.

Chapter 1 begins with a quotation by Thoreau “Talk of Heaven! Ye Disgrace Earth” and starts as it means to go on. “I believe God is nature,” John told a friend. “Every day is a Sabbath to me”. Continue reading “Newly Published Work of Poetry by Anne Richey”

John Burroughs’ Apple Orchard Gets a Pruning

© J.N. Urbanski

March 27th was an auspicious day. Ryan Trapani of the Catskill Forest Association led a team who pruned the old apple trees in the orchard at Woodchuck Lodge. Overhead flew a buzzard with wings like long feathered fingers.

As far as we can gather, the trees have never been pruned, so Woodchuck Lodge will participate in the CFA’s tree pruning program that will take place annually over the course of the next three years at least. All the dead applewood was removed into a pile the size of a small truck. The one tree closest to the road, (pictured immediately below) was in the worst shape and less than half the boughs on its gnarly bark remain.

© J.N. Urbanski

The resultant pruned tree, looking rather like the house of a fairytale character or mythical creature, is one of our historical natural landmarks. When these trees were planted, there would have been no trees in the area and Burroughs would have enjoyed sweeping views of the Catskill Mountains in south, east and westerly directions. Some apple trees had to be felled because they were in too much of that shade.

Last year’s apples were abundant and board members picked them and used them in pies. In two years, we will consider grafting the trees to cultivate a new apple, but firstly the trees will given some time to stabilize. “Pruning is a shock,” says board member Patti Rudge.

Structural pruning of the trees will increase air circulation and sunlight through the tree, which reduces the chance of insects and diseases. The improved structure will enhance the tree’s ability to create fruit buds, withstand fruit load or wind load and the weight of bears.

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski