July 17, 2023
The Wallkill Valley Land Trust (WVLT) has been working to restore native habitat to Joppenbergh Mountain by removing some of the invasive species that create a monoculture, and planting native species to increase biodiversity. As part of our most recent grant from the NYS Conservation Partnership Program, we were able to purchase native shrub saplings from the NYSDEC Saratoga Tree Nursery. The native shrubs included flowering and fruiting shrubs to improve habitat for pollinators, birds, and animals. The planting project on Joppenbergh Mountain provided an interesting challenge as new saplings should be watered often during the first growing season, and without running water on the mountain, we had to figure out how to provide water for the saplings in the event of another drought like last year.
Our Coordinator of Land Stewardship, Cara, envisioned creating a couple of rain barrels from reclaimed materials that would have otherwise been destined for the landfill. She reached out to Lisa, the Manager at Keegan Ales Brewery in Kingston NY, to ask for a couple of the blue plastic 55-gallon drums that the brewing tank cleaning chemicals are shipped in. Lisa was more than happy to donate the storage barrels and also offered her brewer, Kevin, to help with design and construction of two free-standing rain barrel collection systems.
Typically, gardeners capture the rain by redirecting water from a gutter downspout, however this usual method of rainwater collection was not possible on the mountain, so we had to get creative in order to expand the surface area where water is collected. Using strips cut from a third barrel, Kevin created boning type structures that could support plastic sheeting to create a funnel with greater surface area to collect more water. The plastic sheeting is also reclaimed material as it is found between the layers on pallets of bottles. The bottles get filled with the beer brewed on site, and the plastic sheeting is usually discarded.
Additional considerations when designing a rain barrel include methods on how to get the water out of the barrel and how to prevent the barrel from turning into a mosquito breeding habitat. We purchased a couple of faucet style valves and installed them towards the bottom of the barrels, and a WVLT volunteer named Chris offered us some old concrete blocks to raise the barrels up high enough to get a watering can below the value as well as old screens to cover the openings for mosquito prevention.
Once the units were ready for deployment, we reached out to WVLT volunteer Gary who met us at Keegan Ales with his 1992 right hand drive Mitsubishi J53 jeep and trailer to pick up the rain barrels and haul them, along with the cinder blocks, to Joppenbergh Mountain.
Final assembly took place on the mountain and the rain barrels were deployed just in time to start collecting rain.
While the past month we have had more rain than needed, the barrels will be completely full and ready for dry weather. If we have not had rain in a while, feel free to grab a watering can and give a few of the saplings a drink. There are two planting areas on the mountain, one is on the green trail before you get to the power lines, and the second is just off the red trail in the center of the loop. Please remember that the water in the rain barrels is not potable, meaning it is not to be used as drinking water. Please only use the water for the saplings and not for yourself or your pets.
If you want to be a part of the ongoing improvement work on Joppenbergh Mountain, please reach out to us and ask to be placed on the WVLT Volunteer List. We meet for an evening work trip once a month on the Third Wednesday for general maintenance trail work and we host periodic larger work trips to build bridges and create new trails on Joppenbergh Mountain, and we also host work days at our Nyquist-Harcourt Wildlife Sanctuary in New Paltz.