Mike Seager

The Seager farm – our family farm since the time of the Civil War – encompasses about 170 acres in Allegany and Livingston Counties. It is divided by a state highway, a railroad, and the upper reaches of Canaseraga Creek. Three hills dominate the view from the house: Rattlesnake Hill to the east, French Hill to the west, and Roundtop to the north.


Rattlesnake Hill basks in an autumn sunset.

The land supports various uses. There are two woodlots, one on each side of the valley, where the land is too steep for agriculture. There are about 40 acres of fairly flat tillable field. There is an area of small trees, brush and grass that we still call ‘the pasture’ because of its past use, despite the fact that it has not held livestock in 40 years or more. There are several small wetlands.


A late fall view of the pasture, with French Hill rising in the background. Canaseraga Creek winds along at the far end of the mowed section.

We manage the woodlots for timber production and wildlife habitat. We manage the pasture for grassland, stands of wild apple trees and wetlands, all for the benefit of wildlife and a bit of foraging. The tillable acres are rented to a local farmer who plants a standard rotation of corn and soybeans.

With such a diverse property, we always have a lot of projects under way. What follows describes a few of our current efforts.

  • Timber management. With the guidance of a consulting forester, I have done a lot of timber stand improvement. This entailed cutting low-grade trees as well as girdling some. I did most of this work in the years 2002-2008. We had the French Hill side of the property logged in 2012, and the Rattlesnake Hill side is being logged now. Logging is not a pretty operation, but one needs to have faith that the damage of a well-conducted logging job will heal, while the benefit to forest health will last for many years.


A freshly built skid trail after a couple days of rain is not pretty. This will be graded before we declare the job finished.


This tree was girdled about 10 years ago as part of timber stand improvement. How many woodpeckers, songbirds, flying squirrels and other critters have found food or shelter here since?

  • Pasture management. We mow a bit every year, and try to make sure all the open areas are mowed every two or three years. It is astonishing the difference mowing makes. A field that is mowed even occasionally will support a variety of grasses and other plants, which in turn support a whole food chain of insects such as grasshoppers and crickets, songbirds and gamebirds that eat them, rodents and other critters, and raptors, foxes and coyotes that prey on them. By contrast, an unmowed field reverts in a few years to a stand of goldenrod, which shades out other vegetation and offers little in the way of wildlife habitat or soil protection.


The left half of this field was mowed last year; the right half was mowed two years ago. Note the higher density of goldenrod on the right. Left uncut, the goldenrod would dominate in just a few years.


This is what the ground looks like when the goldenrod takes over. This area has not been mowed for a number of years. Note that it is like a miniature cornfield – there are stalks of goldenrod, with bare ground between them. There is not much here to provide either food or shelter for the lowest links in the food chain, nor is there much protection of the soil from heavy rains.

  • Apple tree management. This alone is an ongoing effort and could be a career. Pruning of deadwood, release from competition and rehabilitation of damaged trees takes constant work. This spring we got a heavy snow that did not melt for a week or more. The weight of the snow broke numerous branches and uprooted a few trees.


This apple tree partially uprooted under the weight of snow in the spring. We cut off one large limb to remove some weight, and installed a prop to hold it up as well as we could. We also dumped some dirt on the exposed roots to protect them from exposure to the air. If it survives, over the next couple of years we will remove the large limb on the right, and try to coerce the tree into growing it back toward its center of gravity.

The reward for this work is the opportunity to see the natural world, at least a little bit of it. I am always surprised to get a glimpse of things going on around me that make me realize how little I see.


Sometimes even the experts disagree. I got several opinions about what kind of snake this is, but never a definitive identification. But all agreed it is harmless to people and a pleasure to have around. I saw it in the same area for a couple of days, then it disappeared as suddenly as it had appeared.


I found a dead Cecropia moth, with its nearly 6-inch wingspan, on the lawn one day. Where am I when these things are flying around? It is as big as a bat and I never saw one before.


Not all the wildlife is welcome everywhere. This young woodchuck was pretty intrepid in checking out our porch.

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