Charlie & Marian Mowatt

On what used to be a dairy farm during the first half of the 20th century, Hog Hollow Tree Farm was established by Marian and Charlie Mowatt. Currently, the Mowatt’s live on the eighty-acre expanse of land that makes up Hog Hollow Tree Farm. The property was purchased by Charlie’s parents in 1958 from retired dairy farmers. After the passing of his parents, Charlie and Marian purchased the property from his siblings in 1997 as a retirement home. They dubbed the land, “Hog Hollow Tree Farm,” after the former name of the county road that runs through the property.

The first few years at Hog Hollow were spent building a garage and updating the 125 year-old farm house. The garage was sheathed with red pine grown on the property and the basement was dug out in order to create a recreational room. After the renovations, Charlie and Marian focused their attention on the forest management of Hog Hollow.

As a former forester for the DEC, Charlie spent 32 years helping others to manage and improve their woodlots. Now at age 72 and retired, Charlie is turning more towards the biological aspects of forest management. Instead of focusing on the monetary return associated with logging and thinning, Charlie believes that foresters should focus more on the future productivity and sustainability of the forest. While many forested properties are high-graded through diameter cuts, Charlie believes that logging should be geared towards giving the best tress optimum growing space by removing less thrifty stems.

At Hog Hollow Tree Farm, thinnings and log harvests are carried out in order to improve the forest growth and development. While the added income is relatively small, it does act as an incentive to continue harvesting trees. Charlie harvests primarily to enhance future forest growth. He employs his tractor and Farmi winch to bring the harvested logs and firewood to the roadside for sale.

Aside from the logs and firewood sold at Hog Hollow, Charlie and Marian also sell Christmas trees that grow on a separate lot behind their house. What started as a barter system with their neighbor, whereby Charlie and Marian received homemade maple syrup in exchange for Christmas trees, has turned into a niche market. Charlie and Marian usually cut between twenty and thirty balsam and concolor firs a season, which are purchased by families from the area.

During the summers of 2002 and 2003, Charlie and Marian’s property was home to twenty kid goats as part of the Arnot Forest’s “Goats in the Woods” project. Volunteering their land and labor, Charlie and Marian housed the goats in various paddocks across the woodlot, in order to assess how goats affect desired and undesired forest vegetation. While Cornell University had many goals related to the project, the Mowatt’s were personally interested in how the goats would handle the honeysuckle, ironwood and beech sprouts on the property. This undesirable understory vegetation had been caused by the white-tailed deer, which consumed the maple, white ash and black cherry seedlings, leaving the undesirable species to proliferate. At the end of the two months in the woods, the twenty goats had cleared 2.4 acres worth of understory, while fattening themselves for market.

Though the goats proved to be an effective means of clearing the understory, the white-tailed deer in the area are still problematic to the Mowatt’s. Their open land policy, however, is geared at curbing the deer population by encouraging hunters to visit Hog Hollow. In addition, the Mowatt’s have enlisted the help of the DEC by enrolling in the DMAP program, which allows Hog Hollow to harvest more deer than usually permitted. Specifically, those hunting under these rules are instructed to harvest “antlerless” deer, with the aim of reducing the doe population, thus depressing future deer populations.

In addition to hunters, Charlie and Marian encourage anglers, hikers and birders to visit Hog Hollow Tree Farm. This year, a 21” five-pound bass was caught in their lake and a red-headed woodpecker was seen at one of their bird feeders. Humming- birds are Marian’s specialty, but birds aren’t the only animals attracted to her bird feeders. A few years ago the couple witnessed a black bear destroy two bird feeders and walk away with a third!

As members of the Allegheny Foothills Chapter of NYFOA, Marian and Charlie have hosted several woodswalks on their property. Hog Hollow is also the location of many picnics and gatherings, which include a family 4th of July celebration and a past AFC Christmas party. Charlie, with Marian and several others, was instrumental in starting the Allegheny Foothills Chapter of NYFOA. He represented that chapter on the NYFOA Board of Directors for 15 years.

While Hog Hollow Tree Farm is home to numerous trees of varying species, there is one tree in particular that has special significance for Charlie and Marian. A young hard maple, The Remembrance Tree is a place to remember people or events that are significant in their lives. Eric Anderson, a frequent hunter at Hog Hollow, inscribed “In Remembrance…” on a rock next to the tree. Nearby is a waterproof bench, which was donated by Charlie’s niece, Margo Chambers. As active members of the Allegheny Foothills Chapter, Marian and Charlie invite all members of NYFOA to visit and enjoy Hog Hollow Tree Farm and sit under The Remembrance Tree.

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