Unity Farm has a rich diversity of natural woodlands, wetlands, meadows, paddocks, and orchards. The house and barn are located on an upland plateau surrounded by white pine, sweet birch, poplar, white ash, red oak, and red maple. The woodlands to the south, west and north wrap the upper plateau. The woodland zone includes a forested wetland that collects the upland water and directs it to the north via a swale. To the east, the land is a grassy 6:1 slope from the top of the orchard to the edge of the forested wetland that connects to the meadow.
Over a mile of trails connects the natural features. I've hand cut the trails with a Japanese sickle, Scandinavian Forest Axe, and Japanese folding saw.
Last weekend I added trail signs, made by the same company that creates National Forest Service markers. Here's a virtual walk on the trails of Unity Farm:
This 1000 foot trail climbs through a fern grove and over a drumlin to a grove of old cedar that once lined a revolutionary war era pasture. Old rock walls provide shelter for a variety of forest animals including foxes, fisher cats, opossum, skunks, and raccoons. I've marked the trail every 100 feet with bird houses built from old cedar boards. This year several busy Carolina Wrens raised their young in those houses. A 12 foot bridge traverses the seasonal wetland in the lower portion of the trail. I add two resting places along the walk - a painted bench at the base of an old pine and an Adirondack chair at the top of the drumlin. An old Japanese stone lantern marks the end of the trail. The Woodland trail connects to the Old Cart Path.
Old Cart Path
Sherborn was founded in 1652 and town maps show an old cart path traversing Unity Farm, connecting surrounding orchards. The Old Cart Path trail is 600 feet long and winds past our mushroom growing area, through a grove of sensitive fern, on its way down to our stream. Another 12 foot bridge crosses the stream. Along the way, a 30 year old teak bench sits in a sea of greenery next to a large pine tree. This is one of the quietest and most contemplative places on the property. The Old Cart Path connects to the Marsh trail.
We mapped our wetlands this year as part of preparing a general management plan for the property. The Marsh trail is 800 feet long, starting and ending at our stream. There are three 12 foot bridges along the path, carefully constructed to avoid shading native plants and to be completely non-intrusive to the natural landscape. The trail passes an enormous old pine, a hand dug revolutionary war era well, and the site of an old windmill that pumped well water to supply the dairy farm that occupied our property in the 19th century. The Marsh trail connects to the Meadow trail
A wildflower meadow borders the wetland and is home to woodchucks, ducks, wild turkeys, deer, and 4 of our beehives. A 600 foot trail crosses the meadow and connects to the Orchard trail.
We created the orchard in 2013 and this 800 foot trail meanders between the orchard fence and the rock walls bordering the wetland. The trail is lined with old cedar, maple, and oak. Our Great Pyrenees enjoy running on this trail in search of rabbits, guinea fowl eggs, and deer. A 6 point buck, a doe, and fawn graze along this trail, making for some interesting walks when 200 pounds of Pyrenees discover the deer (the dogs outweigh me by 35 pounds)
Although these trails have given us access to every portion of the property, there is still mystery to be found. The forests, wetland, and fern groves are so dense that I'm constantly finding new artifacts, animals, and plants. Last week I found 3 intact Horlick's Malted Milk bottles from the 1920's on the Woodland trail, a fox den on the Orchard trail, and wild Concord grapes on the Marsh trail. Building, maintaining, and walking the trails of Unity Farm could keep me busy for a lifetime.