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Diane Church lives on 3,200 acres of woodlands in St. Lawrence County. She worked as a social worker for 35 years and upon her retirement bought the 3,200 acre plot along with 80 other joint owners. She is one of two members that reside on the property year-round. Diana is also a certified naturalist who loves the outdoors.
She credits her father for fostering her love of the outdoors by taking her out into the woods as a child. He taught her how to fish and she is now an avid fly fisherwoman. She is also involved in the Sport and Aquatic Resource Educational Program (SAREP). Church is involved in various educational activities and believes that we need to educate youth because "We've taken too much nature out of the children." She works with 4-H to bring kids into the forest. “People need to pay attention to what we have and understand how important it is to preserve the forest.” She occasionally leads workshops about tree identification and wildflower identification for children each spring. She is also a hunter safety instructor and teaches classes for that as well.
Church has a self-sustaining home that is off the power grid. She set up running hot and cold water with the help of her grandson. A generator is the source of most of her energy with some solar power although she hopes to do more with solar power in the future. She manages the area around her cabin although she doesn't call it work "because being in the forest isn't work." She makes good use of the forest around her, this year she collected her largest crop of morel mushrooms. She also collects fiddlehead ferns and hunts ginseng. She also worked on a project to grow shitake mushrooms. She enjoys birding on her property and was thrilled to hear Whippoorwills in recent years.
Church and her close friend Martha Grow are in the process of writing a book called "May the Forest Be with You." "We have taken ourselves back to the early 1900's writing letters back and forth." The book is about women taking back the forest because years ago women were very involved in the woodlands. Together Church and Grow enjoy kayaking and enjoying the forest around them. The two contributed to a recently published book The Plants of St. Lawrence County. They both take advantage of opportunities to continue to build their knowledge. Church is a New York Master Forest Owner (MFO) Volunteer and also the North East Coordinator for the Master Forest Owner Volunteer Program. Diane and Martha sometimes travel great distances to attend MFO Volunteer refresher courses around the state.
The 3,200-acre woodlot has an interesting history, including the ruins of an old church. The property was once the site of a Methodist Church. Current property owners roped off the location where the church once stood and some of the foundation still stands. More important, however, is the purpose of the land. The woodlot also was used as a hunting club but since purchase, has been transformed into a family-oriented recreational area. Parts of the forest were logged and clear-cut in the past and Church believes that clear-cutting had a positive effect in the forest's regeneration. The property features a large clubhouse that all the members share as a place for family members to enjoy when they are visiting.
he joint members of the woodland property are clustered geographically throughout the woodlands. Church has taken time to teach the others near her area about managing their portion of the forest including thinning the stands. She also keeps up with invasive species management in both her learning and teaching. As far as management goes, she believes that you need to know your woodlands, and its history.
Church loves the forest, more than being involved in any organization. "The forest is such a peaceful place to be, there is so much out there and so much to do, I never get bored." Her advice to others… "even if you do a little, it can be a lot, and don't be afraid to tackle a large amount of land."
PO Box 541 Lima, NY 14485
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