Creature Feature: Journey of the Monarchs


Monarch visiting asters in Sugar Hill.

Floating by on their wings of black and orange that resemble panels of stained glass, the monarch butterfly is a favorite sight as summer ends and fall begins. This year, it may be harder to catch a glimpse of these late season butterflies. Over the past decade, their population has declined rapidly due to habitat loss and other environmental factors.

When monarchs arrive, they flock to milkweed plants to sip nectar and lay their eggs. The generation that emerges in NH will face an arduous 3,000-mile journey that takes them from our local fields into the mountains of Mexico.

Monarchs love milkweed, and the reason why is simple: poison. The milky sap found in milkweed leaves is toxic enough to make most animals sick, while monarchs possess a surprising immunity. Because of this a monarch will only deposit their eggs on milkweed leaves. A few days later the very hungry, green-yellow-and-black-striped caterpillar emerges and begins chomping down on the poisonous leaves. Monarchs remain toxic when they emerge as butterflies, and other animals know they will have an upset stomach if they eat one.


A monarch caterpillar munching on a milkweed leaf.

The life stages of a monarch are fascinating. On the way to becoming a winged-creature, the caterpillar molts repeatedly before it spins itself a cocoon and undergoes a stunning 10-14 day metamorphosis. Attached to the underside of a plant, the jade green, and gold spotted chrysalis houses the ‘melted’ pupa. The ‘melting’ phenomenon is exclusive to insects, where enzymes break down the body inside a chrysalis, and embryonic-like cells build the butterfly from scratch. The monarch emerges slightly damp, and allows its wings to dry before flying away.


The monarch finally emerges from the chrysalis.

As you catch sight of a monarch and track its winding progress, realize that you are witnessing something that took four to five generations to achieve. Traveling from central Mexico to the southern U.S., and then up the East Coast to New Hampshire, each successive generation completes part of the yearly, multi-generational loop. The monarchs born in NH will travel south to Mexico. Once they arrive in Mexico millions will cluster together and overwinter on the oyamel fir species that grow in an isolated mountain range. Only a fraction of the original oyamel fir forest remains, and it is one of the most endangered ecosystems in Mexico.

Monarchs overwintering on oyamel fir trees in Mexico.

Monarchs overwintering on oyamel fir trees in Mexico.

Habitat loss in both the United States and Mexico contributes greatly to dwindling monarch populations. The loss of open fields to development, and the steady disappearance of milkweed leave monarchs with limited breeding grounds. Monarchs overwinter in cool, high altitudes on oyamel firs because it provides them with a safe place to enter diapause – a state of lowered energy, but not true hibernation – that allows them to conserve energy. The illegal deforestation of oyamel firs has also contributed to the rapid decline of monarch populations.


Getting Involved

As landowners, we can help the monarch by encouraging milkweed and other species that flower in late summer. In fact, research from Antioch New England shows that mowing milkweed during the beginning and end of July promotes regrowth, and provides more habitat for monarchs to lay eggs and hatch throughout September and October.

Here at ACT, we are managing our Whipple Field Conservation Area next to Polly’s Pancake Parlor in Sugar Hill for plant species beneficial to monarchs and other pollinators.

Planting a butterfly garden full of native wildflowers that provide nectar for pollinators, and gives you the perfect excuse to step outside and see who is arriving.

Taking it a step further, you can track the butterflies and help conservation efforts through Monarch Watch.



Keep Growing Pie Contest Winners!

Some of the delicious pies that were submitted!

Some of the delicious pies that were submitted!

The announcement of the winning pies was the most anticipated part of the night. Taking first prize bragging rights was a classic apple pie baked by Bill Oliver.

Elizabeth Chow's second place blueberry-rhubarb pie.

Elizabeth Chow’s second place blueberry-rhubarb pie.

In second place was Elizabeth Chow with a delicious blueberry pie.Marie Snyder’s cherry pie took third place. Pies were judged by ACT Executive Director Rebecca Brown and ACT board members. Special thanks to everyone who brought a pie to the potluck – they were all delicious!

Finally, after much impatient waiting people lined up to buy pie for a dollar per slice. All proceeds went to the Franconia Community Church’s food pantry, and sixty dollars in total was donated.

Families enjoyed listening to local musician, Ross Boyd of Tiny Village Music in Bethlehem who sang and played the guitar and ukulele. Singer-songwriter Nick Jones also performed. Kids got messy making prints with real vegetables and fruits, playing Frisbee golf, and eating pie.

Prospect Farm was in attendance with a crockpot of their local chicken. Their meat is sold at the Co-op and at their farm in Lisbon.

We would like to thank our co-sponsors for helping us broadcast this event to the greater community. The Co-op, generously donated all of the plates, cups, napkins, and utensils for this event, and helped promote it throughout the community. Lafayette Recreation assisted with chairs, tables, and provided fun outdoor games.

Finally, a warm thank you to the ACT board members and volunteers who through their tireless dedication make these events a pleasure to attend.


Share the Bounty

An article written by ACT’s Executive Director Rebecca Brown that appeared in the Littleton Courier.


Over the last several weeks, I’ve delivered chard and lettuces from my garden to the Littleton Food Co-op. In the next several, I’ll take beets, beans, and blueberries.

I’m not a commercial grower and the Co-op certainly doesn’t need my produce. But a lot of people in the North Country do.


It’s the land of plenty right now for gardeners, so it’s a great time to share our backyard bounty with those who need fresh vegetables and fruit. Thanks to the Co-op, it’s easier than ever to do that. All you have to do is drop off your washed, bagged garden produce at the service desk any day except Sundays. The Co-op provides the produce to the local food pantries.

This simple effort addresses two big issues: poverty, and food waste.

Rural poverty is not what you see in the travel brochures and promotions for New Hampshire or the White Mountains. The fact of poverty is often a hidden aspect of life here, especially as our state scores so high nationally in measures of quality of life and health. But hundreds of local people rely on the emergency food system – the food pantries and other organizations that collect and offer food – for part of their weekly sustenance.

According to the Carsey Institute at UNH, as many as 20 percent of Coös County households experience a shortage of food: bare cupboards, empty refrigerators, and empty bellies. While New Hampshire overall has lower rates of hunger than the national average, when we break the data down by county it is clear that access to good healthy food is not equitable. Hunger rates in parts of the North Country are in line with the highest national rates.

In addition, to low income, another big challenge for many people is getting to places that sell fresh, nutritious local food. Parts of Grafton and Coös counties are considered “food deserts” – places without a nearby grocery store or other produce market, where people more often purchase from convenience stores that typically do not offer fresh food.

Food waste is another issue that we might not be aware of, yet are probably complicit in. The amount of food that is thrown away – by consumers, producers, retailers, restaurants, processors, and so on – is staggering. In the U.S., it’s estimated that retailers alone throw out 43 billion pounds of food a year. The figure the USDA uses to describe household food waste is one third: one third of all the food Americans buy is thrown away.

Bringing that home, I’ve been troubled by what I grow and can’t consume, store, or give away to friends and neighbors. I don’t mind the deer coming in December to eat my giant beets left in the ground, but I would rather have harvested those beets and gotten them to someone who could use

them. My hunch was that there are plenty of people like me, with backyard gardens and extra produce who would like an easy way to get the goods those who need them.

That’s where the Co-op stepped in this year, agreeing to try a backyard gleaning program where they’d make it as easy as possible for busy people to bring in their garden surplus. They even offered the incentive of discounted seeds this spring if you signed up to participate.

Anyone can participate, whether you signed up this spring or not. Around the country, backyard gleaning has been the most difficult type of gleaning program to make successful, for many areas lack a central place with storage, labor, regular hours, and relationships with the food pantries, as well as the mission, to make it happen. That’s why the Co-op is a perfect partner in this effort. All they need now is more people to join in.

This Thursday, take a break from weeding or harvesting and come to the Nourish Food Film Festival at the Colonial in Bethlehem. Ammonoosuc Conservation Trust, through our Keep Growing initiative to build a strong local food system in the North Country, is hosting this entertaining, informative, and provocative series of short films. It’s free – just bring fresh produce for the food pantries. The films start at 7:30 p.m.

And mark Aug. 29 on your calendar for a community potluck and harvest supper. At the Dow Field in Franconia, there will be games, music, and a pie contest. Bring your dish to share, a picnic blanket and chairs. It will be a great way to celebrate the season!



Keep Growing Pie Baking Contest

rsz_carouselHomemade pies are the crown jewels of summertime baking, and there’s no better way to celebrate the end of summer than with a delicious pie-baking contest. Time to fire up your oven, pick a filling, and engage in some friendly competition.

ACT is hosting this contest as part of their greater Community Harvest Potluck activities. The potluck will be held on Saturday, August 29 beginning at 5 p.m. on the Dow Field in Franconia. Best of all, this contest is free to enter. You may download this registration form and bring it to the potluck, or register on the 29th.

Categories are as follows: kids 17 and under, adults 18 and older, and culinary students or professional bakers. As always the appearance, flavor, and creativity of your pie are important.

Bring your pie to the Dow Field by 5:30 p.m., where you can drop it off at the pie table under the tent.


1.) No canned fillings may be used

2.) Pies must be baked by individual submitting them, and to avoid allergy mishaps please include a full ingredient list with your pie.

3.) Pies must be either sweet or savory and must not require refrigeration.

4.) Pies must be baked in a disposable pie tin or plate.

5.) Please do not write your name on the pie tin. Your pie will be registered a number at registration to allow for anonymity.


Each pie will be judged on the following criteria:

  • Overall appearance: crust and filling color, creative detailing, even distribution of filling, etc.
  • Overall flavor: fresh taste, texture, doneness, consistency, etc.
  • Originality: creativity in appearance and flavor

Judges for this contest will be ACT Executive Director Rebecca Brown and a few board members from the community. The winners will be announced immediately following the closing of the judging. Yearlong bragging rights will belong to the respective category winners, as well as gift certificates to local North Country stores.

Potluck attendees will have the opportunity to sample these pies for one dollar a slice. Proceeds from the pie contest will be donated to our local food pantries.

This event is sponsored by ACT through their Keep Growing initiative, the Littleton Food Cooperative, and the Franconia Recreation Department.

Keep Growing is a project of ACT to revitalize our region’s agrarian economic and grow a strong local food movement. ACT conserves farm and forestland for the benefit of the North Country.

For more information, contact Lianna Lee at the Ammonoosuc Conservation Trust, 603-823-7777, e-mail


Community Harvest Potluck


Celebrate the end of summer at the Community Harvest Potluck on the Dow Field on Saturday, Aug. 29. There will be plenty of family-friendly activities and great food. Relax with friends and neighbors and share the bounty of our gardens.

The Ammonoosuc Conservation Trust (ACT), the Littleton Food Co-op, and Lafayette Recreation are hosting the celebration. Starting at 5 p.m. there will be live music, a pie baking contest, games for the kids, and more. Bring your favorite covered dish, a picnic blanket, invite your friends, and enjoy delicious food by the Gale River.

Kids can join in potato sack races, and younger children can get creative making prints with real vegetables and fruits.

Prospect Farm will be in attendance with samples of their delicious grass-fed pork, and other local farms are invited to participate.

Please write up a list of ingredients in your dish, to prevent any food allergy mishaps. Appetizers, salads, main courses, and desserts are welcome, and BYOB.

The pie contest will feature local creations, and everyone can sample them for a small cost per slice. Proceeds will go to our local food pantries. Attention bakers: pie contest guidelines will be published on this website next week.


Food Short Film Festival


Come spend an evening with Michael Pollan, Jamie Oliver, Alice Waters, and other luminaries of the local food movement as Ammonoosuc Conservation Trust’s Keep Growing Initiative presents “Nourish,” a series of short films about food at The Colonial Theater on Thursday, July 30 at 7:30 pm.

Our food connects us with people, place, and the planet, and our food choices affect all three. The short films of Nourish explore the interrelations and many dimensions of our modern food system, and how food can nourish whole communities. Health, community development, education, and farm businesses are all highlighted by authors, advocates, chefs, and other nationally known experts including Pollan, Waters, and Oliver.

The evening will commence with a short overview of what’s happening with local food in our region and how you can get involved. Local people are doing small and big things that are helping move us toward a sounder food system. Come explore how we feed ourselves and how you can be a part of creating a food system that supports local prosperity, community vitality, environmental integrity, and healthier tastier eating.

Admission is FREE with the donation of fresh produce to support local food pantries.

For more information contact Ammonoosuc Conservation Trust at 603-823-7777 or Keep Growing is a project of ACT to revitalize our region’s agrarian economic and grow a strong local food movement. ACT conserves farm and forestland for the benefit of the North Country.


Paddle the Scenic CT River with ACT


View of the Johnson Farm from the CT River.


Join ACT for a members only paddle to explore a lovely stretch of the Connecticut River, and see the historic Johnson Farm and Islands, ACT conserved earlier this year in Monroe.

Dodge Falls extends beyond this map, and the Johnson Islands are roughly halfway between the two falls.

Dodge Falls extends beyond this map, and the Johnson Islands are roughly halfway between the two falls.

On Sunday, July 12th (rain date July, 19th) from 10 a.m. to approximately 3 p.m.  we will paddle the river between McIndoe Falls and Dodge Falls. Meet at McIndoes Falls at 10 a.m. We will shuttle cars about four miles downriver to the Dodge Falls take out point.

Bring a bag lunch to enjoy on one of the islands. Bring your binoculars, as this stretch of river may offer a host of waterfowl, waders, and songbirds.  ACT Executive Director Rebecca Brown will lead the trip, and there will be ample opportunity for birding and learning about the ecological importance of conserving the Johnson Farm and Islands. One of the islands will be used as a campsite for the Connecticut River Paddlers Trail.

The paddle will be 3.8 miles in total, and 2.5 miles downriver from McIndoe Falls we will stop for lunch on the islands.

Driving Directions: The McIndoe Falls portage is well marked and located on the Monroe side of the dam. Click here for a link to the Google Maps location. This portage is part of the Connecticut River Paddlers’ Trail and more information can be found here.

Because of parking space at McIndoe Falls, we are limited to 10 cars (you could bring one vehicle with two boats). We will shuttle cars to the take out point. RSVPs are required by Thursday, July 2nd. Please contact Outreach Coordinator Lianna Lee by calling 603.823.7777 or emailing to save your place.

Please bring your boat and gear, PFD (required!), sunscreen, bug dope, bag lunch, water, and your camera. This is easy, flat water paddling.




Summertime Bug Walks with ACT


We are excited to be offering two, unique bug walks this summer that are perfect for kids and families who love spending time outside. Both walks will be led by Native Geographic ecologist Jesse Mohr.

Bug and Butterfly Discovery Walk on July 25 from 11-12:30pm

Come join us at for a morning of hunting –with nets, of course– butterflies, caterpillars, and other insects.  Naturalists and bug enthusiasts will be on hand to help kids of all ages explore and learn about some of our region’s bugs and natural history.  The event will take place at the Whipple Field Conservation Area on Route 117 in Sugar Hill, next to Polly’s Pancakes.


Bugs of the Night on August 1 from 8:30-10pm

As many of us sleep soundly through the night, many of the region’s showiest moths and other bugs patrol the night sky.  Come join us to see and learn about some of these nighttime cirtters.  We will set up a series of lights in the otherwise dark night to bring the bugs to us.  The event will take place at the Whipple Field Conservation Area on Route 117 in Sugar Hill, next to Polly’s Pancakes.

If you have any questions, please call ACT Outreach Coordinator Lianna Lee at (603) 823-7777 or e-mail her at Cancellation in case of horrid weather can be found on this website.

We will have some nets and magnifying glasses on hand, but if you have your own net or magnifying glass, please bring them. Families and kids are encouraged, but everyone is welcome.  Parking is available next door at Polly’s


Trail Building Starting on Community Forest!


Brushing the trail in the CJCF.


Grab your work gloves and join the Ammonoosuc Conservation Trust out on the 840-acre Cooley-Jericho Community Forest. We’re going to start building trails with guidance from the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC).

A forest for all, the purpose of the Cooley-Jericho Community Forest is to provide multi-recreational trail uses, wildlife habitat, and encourage people to have fun outside and learn about nature.

On Saturday and Sunday, June 27 and 28, we will meet at the end of Trumpet Round Road in Sugar Hill and walk into the Forest. We’ll meet and 8:30 a.m. and be done by 3 p.m., rain or shine.

These work days will include training on the best techniques for trail design and building. AMC trails staff will lead the training. We will be extending a trail that Lisbon High School PAWS students began in May.


Lisbon PAWS students carrying in supplies to build bog bridges.


This is the first trail blazing on the Community Forest after over a year of planning. All skill levels are welcome – we have a lot of trail to clear!

Brushing, side hilling, reverse grades, drainage dips, and stump removal are skills and techniques that AMC trail leaders will be using. Tools will be provided, but you are welcome to bring your favorite saw or clippers.

Please wear work boots or hiking boots and clothes that can stand up to brambles and mud. Bring a brown bag lunch, water, bug dope, and work gloves. Children are welcome to attend with an adult.

If you have any questions, please call ACT Outreach Coordinator Lianna Lee at (603) 823-7777 or e-mail her at Cancellation in case of horrid weather can be found on this website.


Creature Feature: The Buzz About Bees


A honey bee collecting nectar.

Step outside into your vegetable patch or flower garden this time of year and you’ll hopefully see honeybees or bumblebees buzzing about.

Bees are one of the reasons we can eat fresh fruits and vegetables, and they play an essential part of our food system. In the United States alone, bees provide pollination services valued at billions of dollars.

Blueberries, strawberries, apples, pumpkins, and many other local crops depend on these species.

With over 20,000 species of bees worldwide, and an estimated 250 species in NH, bees are among the most important pollinators on earth. Think “pollinator” and the honeybee (Apis mellifera) may be the first thing that comes to mind. A multitude of species including bumblebees, carpenter bees, and honey bees and bumblebees help pollinate crops in our local farms. Over the past decade pollinators, and bees in particular, have been disappearing at a worrisome rate.

Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) strikes fear into the heart of every beekeeper. Go to bed one night and your bees are fine, wake up the next morning and all of your adults bees are suddenly dead or have disappeared, leaving behind a lone queen. Biologists are still unsure why CCD happens, however research points to stressors including pesticide use, habitat loss, and harmful pathogens. Hit with a single stressor, a hive can usually rebound. When a colony is faced with a combination of them, they are often unable to survive.


The tri-colored bumblebee.


Sit for a while in your garden, and you may see a variety of bumblebees, like the tri-colored bumblebee (Bombus ternarius), American bumblebee (Bombus pensylvanicus), and common eastern bumblebee (Bombus impatiens). Often overlooked, are solitary carpenter bees, mason bees and sweat bees that are all found in our region of NH.

A honey bee hive.

A honey bee hive.

Both social and solitary bees live in NH. At the heart of every social bee colony is a queen bee who ensures the continuation of her hive. Honeybees are social, building organized honeycomb nests and a single colony may include thousands of workers and drones. Solitary bees, like the mason and sweat bees live by themselves and prefer nesting in sandy ground or even decaying logs. Bumblebee colonies are smaller, ranging from 50-400 bees and also tend to form nests in the ground.

ARKive image ARK023395 - Small garden bumblebee

A bumblebee ground nest.

With honeybee colonies dying off and disappearing across the country, scientists have been studying hives to see what stressors are weakening or killing bees. Documented stressors include pesticides, harmful pathogens, and pests such as hive beetles that can wreak havoc in colonies. Loss of land that was once home to wildflowers, either to development or to row crops – and the pesticides that many farmers use – has also hurt bees, as they are forced to fly longer distances for subpar pollen and nectar yields.

Here in the North Country where winters can last for six months, it’s especially tough on our bees. During the winter honeybees surround their queen forming a dense warm ball to keep her alive until spring. Bees eat their honey stores during the winter, but if a freezing winter drags on and reserves are drained before spring the colony’s survival becomes tenuous.

NH’s bees face many challenges as they pollinate our vegetables, fruits, and flowers year after year. The next time you’re harvesting vegetables for dinner, or picking up your CSA share consider for a moment the small, but mighty pollinator that made it all possible. From CCD to frigid winters, and creeping habitat loss it may seem the deck is stacked against bees, but the good news is there are steps you can take to help.

What can you do to attract honeybees and bumblebees to your own backyard?

1.) Start a native wildflower garden, and plant it so your have a diversity of flowers that bloom at different times throughout the summer. This gives bees a reliable foraging ground and provides them with excellent pollen and nectar diversity. The Pollinator Partnership nonprofit provides an extensive wildflower plant guide with flowering times for New England.

2.) If you use pesticides or insecticides consider eliminating them entirely, or only applying them in the late afternoon when bees are less likely to go on pollen runs. Bees are gentle creatures, unlikely to sting unless provoked. Think of all the beautiful flowers and vegetables you and your neighbors are able to enjoy because of their presence.

3.) Get information from credible sources, like The Pollinator Partnership, Xerces Society, The Bee Informed Partnership, and UNH Cooperative Extension.