Monday, July 26, 2010

Planting in the Hedgerow

Four volunteers were hard at work with me on July 10 planting native plants, like Oregongrape and Nootka rose, in the hedgerow by the Jacob Ebey House. With the opening of the Jacob Ebey House as a visitor center, we expect more foot traffic down the farm lane, so building up the hedgerow is part of an effort to be courteous neighbors to those people living just on the other side of the fence. This was the first time planting for the three girls, yet working as a team, we were able to get 40 plants into the ground and have a lot of fun while we were at it!

Ruby holds up a Nootka rose before planting it in its new home.

Briana is working hard, but always with a smile on her face.

Madissyn digs the next hole.

After digging lots of holes in the hot sun, Nick deserves a break.

Another first for Ruby: She got to be the photographer for this one.

After the fun of planting was done, this awesome team all became Ebey's Reserve Junior Rangers.

From everyone at the Reserve, thank you to the volunteer crew!

Post and photos by Sierra Young

Jacob Ebey House

The National Park Service crew has been hard at work restoring and renovating the Jacob Ebey House. On the way to Perego's Bluff from the Sunnyside Cemetery, the Jacob Ebey House overlooks Ebey's Prairie and is the future home of a visitor contact Station for Ebey Landing National Historical Reserve.

The house was built in 1855 by Jacob Ebey, father of Isaac Ebey. Isaac staked his donation land claim on Ebey's Prairie in 1850, and that swath of land from Ebey's Landing back to Cook Road still looks much like it did 160 years ago.

The house has also changed very little from the outside, except for the ramp, which was added to make the house accessible. Go for a walk on the Bluff Trail and be sure to pass by the Jacob Ebey House to check out the progress over the next several months. We hope it will be open to the public with our first exhibits by next summer.

Post and photos by Sierra Young

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Boyer Barn

To learn little bit more about the history of the Boyer Barn and the farmland there, I spoke with Freeman Boyer. This year's Preservation Field School Project is to install new cedar shake shingles, using historic construction techniques, to the roof of his barn. The structure has been in continuous use since the 1860's, and hopefully with this community restoration work, it will stand for another 150 years or more.

Here is what Freeman had to share.

Hugh Crockett came here in 1862 and staked out a claim of 160 acres under the Oregon Land Act. He married Rachel Bond. Hugh Crockett was the first sheriff of Island County. He then sold his claim to Captain B. F. Loveland. Loveland sold it to the Kaehler family. They sold the land to James Huston after many years, in 1942. James Huston, however, was not much of a farmer and did not have aspirations to devote his life to working this piece of Crockett Prairie. In fact, as Freeman tells it, Huston only bought the land as a way to avoid being drafted for WWII. Thus, he sold it only two years later to Freeman Boyer Sr. in 1944. Freeman Boyer started working on the farm as a young boy and took it over and farmed with his father until he took over the operation.

When I asked Freeman what they farmed, he said matter-of-factly, "We farmed just about anything we could make a nickel on." This meant they grew barley, wheat, and various vegetables. They also raised sheep and would rotate both crop fields and sheep pastures. While the sheep were on a particular field, they would eat the grass, but they would also fertilize the soil for the next round of crops that would be planted there once the manure was tilled into the topsoil.

Going into the barn, Freeman pointed out that the barn was constructed entirely without nails. Instead, the hand-hewn beams were fitted together using a tongue-and-groove technique.

The barn used to have a second-floor loft for storing loose hay before they used bales. Now the barn is open from the wooden floor all the way to the roof, but the beams that supported the second floor are still intact. Bales could be stacked much higher and did not need the same air flow that piles of loose hay did, so the loft was no longer necessary. However, the original hay hook still hangs in its track on the ceiling of the barn.

The other piece of machinery that sits in the barn, no longer in use, is the floor saw. It is the predecessor to the modern chain saw and has a seven-foot blade and a one-cylinder motor for cutting logs. Two people could move the heavy saw.

Post and photos by Sierra Young

A Modern Take on Historic Barn Raising!

Volunteers needed for 3rd annual Ebey's Reserve Community Barn Raising Project at the Boyer Barn

The Trust Board's 2010 Preservation Field School will focus on completing the protection of one of the Reserve's oldest barns--the Boyer Barn on Crockett Prairie, circa 1860. The Trust Board, National Park Service, Coupeville Lions and volunteer crew members will complete the restoration of the barn's cedar shake roof using historic techniques, which began in 2009. The Preservation Field School is scheduled to run four weeks, July 19-August 12th.

Field School participants will experience, first hand, what it was like for pioneers to build barns--before electricity, heavy machinery, or modern convenience. This is an opportunity to split cedar shakes with mallets, pound nails, work aside friends, and experience the satisfaction of helping retain an invaluable historic resource for another 150 years.

"The preservation field school introduces a new kind of community barn raising," said Mark Preiss, Reserve Manager, "instead of community coming together to build a new barn, the community is coming together to restore one of its heritage buildings--as well as learning and applying the preservation trade."

"Restoring old buildings is a real pleasure," adds Ron Boyer, Coupeville Lions member. "We learn techniques and methods on how to preserve old buildings, actually restore a valuable barn, enjoy the company of other volunteers and appreciate the work that is accomplished."

The Trust Board seeks volunteers to complete the project. Volunteers with any range of experience are welcome, especially individuals with a background in carpentry and construction. The four-week Field School will run Monday through Thursday from July 19 to August 12, 8 AM to 5 PM.

Sign up to participate as a member of the crew today! Volunteers are welcome for one day, or for all. Shifts are 8am-Noon and 1-5pm. Pre-registration is required; sign up at 360-678-6084,

Program Background

The Reserve's field school was established in 2008 to provide technical support to the owners of the Reserve's historic buildings, and to gove community members a hand-on opportunity to help preserve nationally significant buildings for future generations.

National Park Service Preservationist, Jason Benson will manage the project and oversee the crew of volunteers. All work will be consistent with the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.

Benson attributes previous restoration project success to volunteer engagement. "The sheer enthusiasm and energy the volunteers bring makes the job easy," Benson said, "It is inspriing to witness people obtaining a new set of skills at all ages and finding meaningful ways to give back to their community."

In 2009, the field school completed half of the Boyer Barn roof, in addition to priority stabilization. In 2008, the Preservation Crew members reconstructed the roof of the Alexander Blockhouse, owned by the Island County Historical Society.

Boyer Barn

"The Boyer Barn's structure is very unique with large interior beams hewn, or split, by and, and fitted together with wooden joints," said local historic building expert, Harrison Goodall. "And the interior structure is in very good condition, considering its age of over 150 years, which makes it an especially important barn to preserve."

Goodall has evaluated the Boyer Barn and prepared the Stabilization Plan for the project. The Boyer Barn, circa 1860, retains a significant portion of its integrity as both the exterior and interior has changed little from its construction date. Its historical significance is tied to its form, shape, and scale including a textured shingle roof, vertical rough-sawn siding, hewn timber frame, mortise and tendon joinery, and original setting within the building complex and surrounding fields. The nature and quality of the craftsmanship, construction details, and evidence of specific tools that were used are especially unique.

The Boyer Barn is one of over 400 contributing historic structures within Ebey's Landing National Historical Reserve, most of which are privately held. By establishing a preservation field school, property owners and community are given tools to protect national treasures for future generations. The 2010 Ebey's Reserve Preservation Field School is a partnership between the Trust Board of Ebey's Landing, National Park Service, the Coupeville Lions Club, Freeman Boyer, and volunteers.

Monday, July 12, 2010


If you take a moment to picture the British countryside, hedgerows probably come to mind. These are rows of brush, weeds and flowers that line roadsides and fields, acting as fences and property lines. There are over 500,000 miles of hedgerows in Britain, some over 1,000 years old.

The hedgerows at Ebey's Reserve play a similar role in the landscape to the woody British icons. While the hedgerows at Ebey’s Reserve date back only to 1850, the time of early Euro-American settlement, they, too, provide a link to the past of the prairie and the first farms in the area. Hedgerows mark some of the original Donation Land Claim boundaries.

Hedgerows in the Reserve start as unmaintained fencelines, where grasses and shrubs are left to grow up rather than getting mowed. Birds that land on the fences excrete shrub and grass seeds, and more seeds are deposited by wind and water movement, or by small mammals, farm machinery and other vehicles. Before long, the fence becomes hidden among the vegetation, and the hedgerow can grow to be eight feet wide. Over time, a greater diversity of plant species in the hedgerow attracts more wildlife that works to protect the crops.

Hedgerows are beneficial because they…
• Control water runoff by slowing water down as it flows through allowing it to filter into the soil and the aquifer and deposit suspended silt onto the fields, as opposed to it washing into road ditches as it would without a hedgerow.
• Prevent loss of topsoil from wind and water movement. When nutrient-rich topsoil is lost, farmers make up for it by applying fertilizer, which is both expensive, and can overload water bodies with nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus.
• Buffer wind to maintain soil moisture, leading to increased crop yields. Hedgerows with brushy vegetation and taller trees can increase precipitation over fields by up to fifteen percent.
• Help control pests by providing habitat for insect-eating birds, insects, small mammals and amphibians. Some resident birds feed on weed seeds. If this habitat is destroyed, farmers must instead use poisons, which, like fertilizers, are expensive, and can kill beneficial organisms, and often become ineffective against resistant strains.
• Improve wildlife habitat by providing shade, shelter, food and nesting sites for many mammals and migratory birds. They also provide habitat for bumblebees, which pollinate clover and other cover crops.

Photos by Sierra Young; post adapted from the Ebey's Landing "Hedgerows" brochure