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by Pete Kallin
I was out of town most of last week visiting some of my wife's relatives in Dayton, Ohio. While there, I took a four-mile hike in a local county park with some of my in-laws. It was fun to get out into some terrain that is very different than ours, but I was shocked to see so many dead and dying ash trees that had been infested by the emerald ash borer, Agrilus planipennis.
The emerald ash borer is a small, bright green beetle about ¾" long that is native to Asia that was first found in this country in Michigan in 2002. It has since spread to over 15 states and has reached Massachusetts. The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry is monitoring for the beetle and has placed strict restrictions on imports of firewood from out-of-state.
You may have noticed some of their purple traps hanging in the tops of trees along roads near ash trees. At least one trap is along Route 225 in Rome. Please help do your part by being vigilant and not importing any firewood from another state.
It felt great to get back to Maine. I spent a bit of time foraging in the woods, picking red and black raspberries, blueberries, and searching for mushrooms. It has been so dry the mushrooms are way behind where they normally. Nonetheless I found a really nice Chicken of the Woods mushroom, which I have harvested most of and shared with some friends and neighbors. This large, bright orange shelf fungus really does taste like chicken and can be substituted for chicken in various recipes, including stir fry.
I also got a chance to hike French Mountain with my old friend Margaret Pietrak and her 6-month-old son Zeke. Margaret is a former resident of Rome and was active with the BRCA's Stewardship and Education Committees when she lived here. A former park ranger and current middle school science teacher, Margaret was the primary BRCA Steward for French Mountain until she moved to Bangor two years ago when her husband Mike completed his Ph.D. at UMO and got a job in that area doing research on salmon aquaculture diseases. It was fun to share the experience of taking her new son on one of her favorite hikes.
I also hiked The Mountain this week and met my neighbor Shelly Fitzgerald, her dog Juneau, and her friends Tom and Jane, from PA and Great Pond. Shelly hikes nearly every day with her dog, usually on The Mountain. It is amazing how much you can learn about a property hiking with a dog on a regular basis. They will usually smell or see most wildlife well before you will and if you pay attention, you will learn a lot about the creatures inhabiting our forests.
Pete Kallin is a past director of the Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance.