VIC programs focus on traditional rural skills

The Adirondack Center for Working Landscapes is offering a pair of educational workshops in the coming weeks at the Paul Smith’s College VIC that are aimed at helping people develop skills that have traditionally connected them to the landscape.

The first workshop, “Horses and Hand Tools on the Homestead,” takes place on from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday, July 15. The second, “Afield with Aldo Leopold,” takes place from noon until 5 p.m. Saturday, July 19.

Adirondack Center for Working Landscapes coordinator Brett McLeod will lead the first workshop, which will include a full day of learning about draft breeds, harnessing, an overview of draft-powered implements, basic wood-lot management, felling and bucking with axe and crosscut saw, and skidding logs with horses.

McLeod is associate professor and program director at Paul Smith’s College’s School of Natural Resource Management and Ecology and the head coach of the college’s woodmen’s team.

The workshop builds off the success of the Adirondack Woodmen’s School hosted by the college in recent summers and the Adirondack Rural Skills and Homesteading Festival hosted by the VIC. The homesteading festival attracted more than 1,000 people last September.

“A lot of people have been interested in the Adirondacks Woodsman’s School but can’t necessarily do a full week, and one of the most popular things that we do during the school is a horses and hand tools day up at the VIC,” McLeod said.

This workshop will allow members of the public to learn about those skills over a full day.

“They will start off by going out and learning about draft animals and harnessing and breeds and all the basics, and then we’ll get them harnessed up and hitched to carts, and things like that, to skid out logs,” he said. “Then we’ll go into the woods on the VIC property, and we’ll talk about how you actually take down a tree with an axe and crosscut saw instead of a chainsaw. We’ll actually take down trees just with the hand tools, and then we’ll skid all the wood out using the horses.”

The second workshop will be focused on Aldo Leopold, a forester, wildlife biologist, teacher, writer, philosopher and one of the leading conservationists of the early 20th century.

Through his own experience, Leopold understood the need for humans to participate in the acts that reinforced people connection to the land, according to a description of the workshop. So Aldo Leopold Day is devoted to a celebration of people’s connection to land as Aldo Leopold and his family and friends may have experienced it. The day will feature activities, many of them hands-on, include “Reading the Landscape” (forest ecology), “Cutting through Time” (crosscutting and reading tree rings), a longbow-making demonstration, Dutch oven cookery, Leopold bench construction, nature hikes and trail-side readings, among other things.

McLeod said the Adirondack Center for Working Landscapes is an initiative that was launched in April through the VIC. It is geared toward three things: sustainable agriculture, sustainable forestry and nature-based tourism.

“That’s sort of the focus of the center and the two areas that we address are policy and practice, and so the policy stuff is things like the Forest, Farm and Fork symposium and grant writing and things like that,” said McLeod, who said the center is working in cooperation with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Franklin County. “Then there’s the hard side, which is all the practical side, which is all the hard skills.”

Cornell Cooperative Extension will do more of the agriculture workshops between the two groups, McLeod said.

For those interested in signing up for the workshops, space is limited to 12 participants and preregistration is required. The cost is $50 per workshop. For more information, call the Paul Smith’s College VIC at 518-327-6241.