QR TOUR GUIDE
The first preserve acquired by the Putnam Land Trust, Field Farmstead was donated by Helen Field Gatling in 1971. This 21-acre parcel was once a part of the farm belonging to her ancestor Samuel Field. Mr. Field was the first settler of record in the Town of Southeast.
Exploring The Preserve
Years of farming provide the opportunity to observe the process of natural succession from field to mature beech-maple woodland habitat. Gradually, much of the field is changing as shrubs have begun to fill in what will eventually become forest. The wooded trail leads to great hog-back ridges. These outcroppings were formed millions of years ago by the earth’s cooling crust being thrust upward. Erosion has collapsed the domes, forming a natural amphitheater.
Dominated by White and Black Oaks, the preserve includes other mature hardwoods including Beech, Red Oak, Black Birch, and Sugar Maple. Witch Hazel shrubs are found here along with ground cover which includes Partridgeberry, Pipsissewa, Christmas Fern, and Clubmoss.
Summer wildflowers include Great Yellow Mulleins. Often six feet tall, their golden yellow spikes tower over the larger grasses. Their seeds are a favorite of American Goldfinches. Milkweed provides food for butterflies. The blue flowers of Chicory and the lacy white flowers of wild carrot, known as Queen Anne’s Lace, are abundant
About the Trails
- White Oak – SOS plaque, 0.2 mile
- Whaleback Ridges, 0.26 mile
- Amphitheater, 0.3 mile
- Witch Hazel, 0.35 mile
- Forested Area, 0.4 mile
- Wildflower Fields, 0.57 mile
Located off of Field’s Lane about 1/4 mile south of its junction with Route 124 (June Road). Enter preserve from the driveway for the Brewster Ice Arena. The preserve is at the top of the hill. Markers on trees serve as guides.
Hiking, Snow shoeing, Cross-country skiing, Photography, Nature Study
Please sign in before beginning your hike.Help us protect and preserve the plant and animal life found on this property by not disturbing the area, staying on the paths, and by observing the trail regulations posted at the entrance.
Welcome to the Field Farmstead Preserve and the QR Tour Guide. My name is Lucas Bertone. I am an Eagle scout with Brewster Troop 1 and the QR Tour Guide is my Eagle Scout service project. The rank of Eagle Scout is the highest rank one can achieve in Boy Scouts, and it involves completing an Eagle Scout service project for a benefactor to improve the community. Part of the project is getting help from community volunteers like the scouts and leaders in my troop, as well as friends and family, and while it’s my name on the project I couldn’t have done it without their help.
I wanted my project to combine modern technology and the outdoors, and after doing some research I eventually decided to create something that resembled a museum tour, but was for a hiking trail. The community volunteers and I found, researched, and documented ten points of interest on the preserve: The Trailhead(This post), Pump House, Fallen Chimney, Whale Back Ridges, Grassy Slope, Horseshoe Gate, Overgrown Meadow, SOS(Save Open Spaces) Marker, White Oak Wolf Tree, and Natural Amphitheater.
The Points of interest can be visited in whatever order you like. Enjoy your hike, and enjoy the tour.
Looking past the plants in front of you, you’ll see a foundation made of concrete blocks. Because it is made of what looks like cinder blocks, we can gather that this was probably a more recent structure from the late 1840’s or early 1900’s when electricity was first used in houses. However it’s likely that the pump house was originally a well or manual pump, and was later updated when more advanced technology was available. It lies at the bottom of a hill making it a good spot for collecting water, so if it has rained recently, the area is most likely filled with water. When it was still a well or pump, the water would have been gathered in a bucket and brought up to the house by hand, and when it was upgraded, it most likely pumped water directly into the house.
SOS Trail Marker
If you look at the gate in front of you, you’ll see a trail marker made from the lid of a tin can with the letters SOS on it. This isn’t referring to the distress signal, but to a previous name of the Putnam County Land Trust; Save Open Spaces Inc. The Putnam County Land Trust is one of the oldest land trust organizations in New York. Founded in 1969 under the name Southeast Open Spaces Inc, they looked to preserve land and wildlife within the Town of Southeast. The Field Farmstead is actually the first property the Putnam County Land Trust acquired, donated to them in 1971 by Helen Field Gatling. As time went on, and demand grew for a county-wide land trust organization, Southeast Open Spaces acquired properties outside the Town of Southeast and eventually changed their name to Save Open Spaces Inc, then later changed it again to its current name, Putnam County Land Trust: Save Open Spaces Inc. If you’re interested in other preserves in Putnam County, you can find many options on the Putnam County Land Trust Website. A link to it can be found in this video’s description.
Looking around you, there aren’t any interesting structures or land formations, so you may be wondering why I chose to point this area out. You can assume from the title that it used to be an open meadow that has become overgrown with time, but that is most likely the case for many other areas of the preserve, so why draw attention to this spot in particular? I do so because of the plant that grows through much of this area, barberry. Barberry is native to Japan, and was first introduced to the United States in 1875. It was well received and used everywhere due to its colors, the animals it attracts, and its ability to endure harsh conditions. Also, its deep roots allowed it to stabilize soil making it a favorite of landscaping companies who used to line highways and prevent erosion. However, with its lack of natural predators, it spreads rapidly and can out-compete native species for resources. It is also able to survive in a variety of habitats, making it difficult to control. Additionally, it produces a large amount of seeds that can be dispersed by birds and other animals, allowing it to spread even further. It doesn’t take long for this plant to completely take over an area. This is the case with the environment around you, what was once a beautiful open meadow, has now become a minefield of invasive brambles.
Keep in mind, the stewards of this property remove much of the barberry when they do trial maintenance, but it still grows back at an alarming rate. I wanted to use this post to draw attention to the issue that is invasive species, and show the impact they can have in the wild. Be careful when releasing non native plants, animals, and bugs into the environment. If you’re looking to plant, release, or dispose of a non-native species, do some research first, and be aware of the impact they could have on the ecosystem.
Looking in front of you, you can see an old gate with horseshoes on it. It is common in older agriculture or equestrian establishments for horseshoe gates like this one to be used as a border or property line, and to contain large animals such as horses or other livestock. The presence of the horse shoes suggests that the Fields kept horses on their property, and as the horseshoes fell into disrepair, they were removed from the hooves of the horses and recycled for the gate. While there are only two horseshoes left on this gate, you can see the holes where the other six used to be. On another part of the trail where the SOS trail marked is posted, there is another horseshoe gate. This indicates that the stretch of land between the two gates could have been part of a road or path. As you drive around the town of southeast, you’ll probably notice a few areas where the road or the space under a bridge is oddly narrow, this is because many of those roads used to be paths just like this; meant for horses and horse drawn carriages, not cars. If you think about it, there are probably paths like this all over Putnam County. Who knows; maybe one used to run right through your own backyard.
White Oak Wolf Tree
The tree in front of you is a White Oak, and is what’s considered a Wolf Tree. A Wolf Tree is a tree that grew before the other plant life around it, allowing it to capitalize on sunlight and resources, preventing other trees from growing in its immediate vicinity. White oaks have the capacity to grow much older than the trees around them, making them more prone to becoming a wolf tree. To grow, a white oak needs a lot of sun and water, as well as soil that’s open, deep, and slightly acidic. From this we can gather that the tree in front of you most likely grew when the preserve was still a farm. At that time the forest around you was mostly open land with only a few trees like this one scattered around the property. The conditions were perfect for this tree to grow; the lack of surrounding trees gave the oak plenty of sunlight and an open space for its branches to grow and spread out. After the farm was no longer maintained, other trees grew around it creating the scene surrounding you now. What I find most interesting about this tree is that it probably saw the whole lifespan of the Field Farmstead all the way from its purchase in 1732, to the hikers walking the preserve today.
I call this small area in front of you the Grassy Slope. During the warmer months it is lush and green with Pennsylvania sedge, which is the “grass” that gave me the idea for this point of interest’s name. You can see around you that there are mostly just black birch trees; a few larger adult ones and many smaller younger ones. This suggests that this area was once maintained by the Field Family, who removed most of the trees and other plant growth. Unfortunately this area’s true purpose has been lost to time, but it could have been used for farming crops, or maybe to hold cattle or other livestock. We can assume that after some time, the farmer must’ve gotten what was needed from the area and no longer maintained it. A few stray black birch seeds fell into the ground, and grew. This created shade making it difficult for other plants to grow except for the Pennsylvania sedge and the other, younger black birch trees which are most likely the offspring of the older trees around them. This series of events lead to what you see before you. If you hike at the right time of day, the sun will hit this area just right and it is quite a beautiful sight to behold.
The rocks surrounding this area have created a beautiful natural amphitheater. I find that this is always a nice spot to have a seat, have a drink of water and a quick snack. As you do so here is a little bit of the history of the area, as well as the Field Farmstead and the Field family it belonged to.
The original settlers of this area were the Wappinger Indians. The Wappinger Indians inhabited the Putnam and Dutchess County area and spoke a dialect of Eastern Algonquian. Wappinger itself means “easterner” in the majority of Algonquian languages.
Their land was taken away by Dutch settlers who pressured them into selling their lands and joining other Algonquian-speaking tribes in Canada. However, Western bands of Wappingers refused to give in to the mounting demand. Fights between the Western bands and the Dutch lasted from 1640 to 1645, resulting in vast defeat for the Wappinger tribe. The Dutch claimed Wappinger lands for their New Netherlands Colony, and during this period, Wappinger culture experienced a substantial erasure, with many tribe members converted by missionaries or killed by disease.
In 1666, the New Netherlands was overtaken by the British Empire, and the lands formerly controlled by the Dutch were placed in the hands of the English, who quickly built their colonies in the area.
The Town of Southeast was originally a part of the Oblong, a large rectangular strip of land around two miles long that bordered New York and Connecticut whose territory was disputed for over 200 years before eventually being declared part of New York in 1731.
The Field Farmstead, primarily a livestock farm, was purchased in 1732 by Samuel Field, who is believed to be the first English settler of the Oblong. Samuel Field and his family were people of great influence in their community. Samuel Field was the first supervisor of the South Precinct of Dutchess county from 1754 to 1756. His children John and Joseph followed in his footsteps. John Field was the supervisor of the Southeast Precinct of Dutchess County from 1774 to 1776, and Joseph Field was the supervisor of the Town Of Southeast of Dutchess County from 1800 to 1803 and from 1804 to 1811. Samuel Field was also a free thinker. In 1767, he challenged the powerful Philipses family when Wappinger Indians tried to reclaim some of the land that was taken from them, and Samuel Field was the first on record in the Town of Southeast to free a slave in 1776. The Fields were also active service members. John Field, the son of Samuel Field, was a Colonel in the Dutchess County Militia, and fought in the Revolutionary War, as did his son Joseph Field who was also a colonel in the Dutchess County Militia. Eventually, in 1971, Helen Field Gattling donated a 21-acre parcel of the Field Farmstead to the Putnam County Land Trust, where it has been maintained as a hiking trail and nature preserve.
The large rock formation before you is called a whaleback ridge. Whaleback ridges in New York are a unique geological formation caused by glacial activity. They are often referred to as “whales” due to their appearance from above resembling a whales back, and can also be found in parts of the Adirondack Mountains region.
The formation of The Wailback ridges started approximately 20,000 years ago. At that time this area was covered in a sheet of ice at least a thousand feet thick called The Wisconsin ice sheet. The glacier moved over the bedrock, which is Manhattan schist, and acted like a bulldozer, grinding against it and shaping the terrain. In some areas, the erosion created a smooth, long slope in the direction the glacier came from, and a blocky, steep drop off in the direction the glacier was heading.
The ridges can range in length from less than a mile long to several miles long and have steep slopes on either side. They can also vary in width ranging anywhere from 30-750ft. Significantly, these ridges are responsible for the creation of several unique ecosystems and species of plants and animals which can only be found on them. This includes common species such as white-taled deer and fox, to more unusual ones like the fisher, an animal rarely found elsewhere in New York State.
Whaleback ridges are an important part of New York’s natural history and serve as a reminder of the state’s glaciated past. Their unique nature and ecosystems provide a valuable source of biodiversity and are an important part of the state’s ecology. As such, it is important that Whaleback ridges are protected from development in order to ensure their preservation for future generations.
The ridge in front of you is one of many on the trail, as you hike, see if you can spot more of these interesting rock formations.
Looking in front of you, you can see the foundation of an old house with its chimney still mostly intact. This house’s floors, roof, and walls were most likely made of wood and have deteriorated, however the foundation and chimney, which were made out of stone, remain almost three centuries later.
There is enough of the chimney and foundation left for us to be able to identify the time period this house existed in. We originally assumed it was built in the late 1800’s because of the copper flashing, nails, and bricks used on parts of the chimney. The bricks are from the Stiles Brick Company which was only established in 1886. However if those bricks were available when the house was built, why wasn’t the whole chimney made out of them? We concluded that the house must’ve been built before bricks were readily available in the mid to late 1700’s when the land was first purchased by the Field family, and repaired in the late 1800’s with modern materials. The house’s purpose has unfortunately been lost to history, but we can speculate that it was most likely a smaller house further out on the property for slaves, farm hands, or guests.