Building a Sustainable Future

William Updike, VP of Natural and Cultural Resources
Mike Brown, Maintenance Foreman
Ben Leffew, Preserve Manager
Laura Baird, Assistant Preserve Manager
Mike Moore, Farm Manager

Sustainability of natural resources is a big concept that involves, to a large degree, the implementation of environmentally-friendly practices. Shaker Village’s property is expansive, and our activities are so diverse that we are able to model sustainable practices in many ways. For buildings to be more sustainable they need to be made as efficient as possible to lower energy use. For agriculture, it’s about taking care of the soil and decreasing the use of fertilizers. Setting aside 1000 acres of prairie and 800 acres of forest as natural space and wildlife habitat all contribute to this effort.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the sustainable practices currently taking place at Shaker Village. You may find some items that you are currently doing with your own home or property – and maybe a few that you should be doing!

Building Maintenance

  • Replacing incandescent, florescent, and halogen bulbs with LED light bulbs village-wide for energy savings
  • Gradually taking older, less efficient boiler/chiller HVAC systems off-line and replacing with geothermal systems
  • Operating certain buildings with set schedules for heating, cooling and lighting for energy efficiency
  • Managing paper, cardboard, glass and plastic recycling site-wide

Land Management

  • Using rechargeable mowers, trimmers, and leaf-blowers where possible, rather than gasoline powered
  • Mulching grass clippings
  • Collecting  leaves in the fall for use in the garden beds as mulch
  • Managing tree health village-wide
  • Repairing areas where erosion takes place, and putting in preventative measures to manage erosion and water drainage responsibly
New pathways and landscaping efforts are making areas of the Village grounds more accessible, while guarding from erosion.

Gardens

  • 150 Permanent garden beds
  • Low to no-till practices in gardens
  • Strict crop rotations
  • High diversity of crops
  • Integration of livestock into crop rotations to contribute nutrients and minerals back into the soil
  • Cover cropping to prevent erosion
  • Certified USDA Organic
  • Companion cropping, to support healthy growth without chemicals
  • Creation of own-fertility through composting farm/garden and restaurant waste
  • Poultry management of compost site – “deep litter method”
Non-chemical methods for weed control, including the use of “solar tarps,” have contributed to Shaker Village’s USDA Certified Organic status.

Orchard

  • Integration of runner ducks into orchard yard to clean the grounds and prevent pests
  • Proper fruit tree pruning to manage health
  • Natural spray management to no-spray management for apples
  • Fruit variety & root-stock selection for resiliency
Indian Runner Ducks enjoying their home in the Village’s Orchard.

Livestock

  • Preservation of heritage breeds
  • Strict livestock rotation to maintain integrity of pastures
  • Multi-species grazing to diversify impact on fields
  • Long rest period between grazing fields for recovery
  • Management through soil testing
  • Integration of livestock in Preserve/native grasses for natural management of those spaces
  • Shaker Village’s rule for grazing: Graze 1/3, Stomp 1/3 and leave 1/3 of grasses behind for recovery
Diversified livestock grazing in pastures at Shaker Village.

Preserve

  • Carbon sequestration (trapping more carbon) in the roots of native grasses and plants that cover 1,000 acres of our property
  • Increasing woody acreage = increase carbon sequestration
  • Invasive species management and promoting native plants enhances the property’s resilience in a changing climate
  • Limited use of herbicides
  • Partnering for stream water quality sampling with Kentucky River Watershed Watch
Native grasses and wildflowers have much larger root systems then cool-weather grasses allowing them to “trap” more carbon.

We hope to see you on a future tour of the Village’s Historic Centre, Farm and Preserve, where you can see and enjoy our sustainable practices in action!

If you are interested in making a donation to support our efforts, please click here.

Going Batty!

Ben Leffew, Preserve Manager
Laura Baird, Assistant Preserve Manager

Bats are an integral, but often overlooked and always misunderstood, part of our ecosystem. These small flying mammals eat their body weight in insects every night, making them great at controlling pests and reducing the spread of pathogens like West Nile and Zika. The big brown bat, the largest species caught in The Preserve, eats up to 4,000 mosquitoes each night!

A Red Bat (Lasiurus borealis)

In early July, a private contractor surveyed The Preserve’s bat population by setting up 30 foot tall nets across various parts of our trails and creeks. We set up three nets every night, checking each of them every ten minutes between sunset and 2:00 a.m. In five days of netting we caught over 50 individuals representing five different species:

  1. Big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus) – one of the largest and most common species in Kentucky, associated with man-made structures.
  2. Red bat (Lasiurus borealis) – a common, forest-dwelling species, roosting in trees instead of caves.
  3. Gray bat (Myotis grisescens) – listed as a threatened species in Kentucky and an endangered species federally, this cave-dwelling species migrates between breeding caves in the summer and hibernation caves in the winter.
  4. Small-footed bat (Myotis leibii) – a tiny, state threatened species, associated with cliffs.
  5. Evening bat (Nycticeius humeralis) – listed as a species of ‘special concern’ in Kentucky, primarily roosting in trees.

Interestingly, our most endangered species was the most commonly caught – over 40% of our caught bats were gray bats!

A Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys volans) who found its way into our “bat net!”

Up next for the Preserve Team is migration songbird banding. This helps us determine which bird species utilize our habitat as a refueling station for their trip south of the border for winter. To ensure the health of the birds, this event is not open to the public. Don’t worry, we take lots of pictures to share!

Milkweed and Monarchs – Oh My!

Ben Leffew, Preserve Manager
Laura Baird, Assistant Preserve Manager

Monarch butterfly in the Shaker Village Preserve

Entering the summer months marks not only a transition in the seasons on the calendar, but also a transition in the species of blooming plants which act as sources of nectar, pollen, and sites for insects to lay eggs.

Spring forest wildflowers offer a food source for pollinators as early as February, when they can take advantage of sunlight hitting the forest floor before the trees start to shade the understory. As spring ends, most forest plants have finished blooming and the show picks up out in the prairies, where wildflowers can thrive throughout the warm months without having to compete for light with large trees.

Of the many diverse, vibrant wildflowers of summer, milkweed stands out from the rest as both an excellent nectar source, providing liquid energy for wide variety of insect species, as well as being the only plants monarch butterflies lay their eggs on.

Five species of milkweed have been confirmed in The Preserve at Shaker Village: common (Asclepias syriaca), butterfly (Asclepias tuberosa), green (Asclepias viridis), swamp (Asclepias incarnate), and four-leafed (Asclepias quadrifolia). Not surprisingly, common milkweed is the most abundant on the property as it is large, extremely tough, spreads itself easily and responds well to our prescribed fire regime.

Pipevine swallowtail on butterfly milkweed

The relationship between monarchs and milkweeds is one of the most famous examples of specialization in the insect world, and dates back millennia. Milkweeds produce a thick, sticky, toxic sap reminiscent of white latex, and have small hairs on the leaves to deter insects from taking a bite. Despite these physical and chemical defenses, several insects have evolved the ability to not only consume milkweed, but consume it exclusively. Monarchs are the most famous of these, requiring milkweed to lay their eggs.

Swamp milkweed

If it seems like monarch butterflies are getting a lot of attention these days, it’s for good reason. Monarchs have become an ambassador species for both large-scale prairie habitat restoration and small, backyard pollinator gardens and waystations. Providing good, milkweed-rich habitat for monarchs also benefits hundreds of other insect species that thrive in the prairie and in turn feed our many birds.

The Preserve at Shaker Village has miles of trails crossing through native prairies for you to explore! If you would like to learn more about monarch butterflies first-hand, you might enjoy our Monarch Butterfly Tagging workshop in September!

Bird Banding 101

Just like every department, The Preserve team has unique ways in measuring successes for Shaker Village. Since we started converting cool season pastures to native warm season grasses and wildflowers in 2009, we have dramatically changed the vegetative composition of the landscape. The majority of the changes we’ve made to the landscape were done to enhance the habitat of grassland obligate songbirds, such as the Northern Bobwhite Quail. Essentially, if you build and maintain good habitat for quail, then you raise the level of habitat for all songbirds. So, how can we tell whether this project has been a success?

Bird Banding at Shaker Village from Shaker Village on Vimeo.

Bird Banding is a metric we use to determine if we have been successful with our habitat enhancement that involves capturing birds using the protocols set forth by the Institute for Bird Populations’ Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) program. We set up mesh nets and check them at regular time intervals. The birds are removed from the nets and placed in protective bags, then checked for fat stores, breeding condition, feather wear and age by trained wildlife biologists. After that, the birds are released back into the wild.

This project was set up to obtain four years of baseline data in an abandoned cool season pasture, then convert the pasture to native warm season grasses and wildflowers, while continuing to collect data for a total of 10 years. This gives us an idea of how the property was used before the conversion, as well as what impact our conversion has had on bird health and overall numbers. What we’ve found after nine years of MAPS efforts is that birds LOVE what we’ve done with the place. Number of captures have been slightly up during the breeding season (May-July), but way up during the migration season (September-November). On Sept. 7 of this year, we captured our 100th species at the Shaker Village banding station! This milestone is significant in that not only are our capture numbers high, our diversity is high as well. High population numbers, along with high levels of diversity, equate to a high-five from the bird community!

We do what we can to keep our birds (and other wildlife) happy. Check out the bird blind area or take a hike on one of our trails to see The Preserve for yourself.


The Preserve and trails will be closed Mondays – Fridays from Nov. 1 – Dec. 29 for private hunts, habitat and wildlife management and trail restoration work. Learn more.


Ben Leffew is the preserve manager. A Kentucky Proud product straight out of…

Plain, Simple and Painstaking: Preserving a Village, One Paperclip at a Time

Preservation has been central to the mission of Shaker Village from the time of its incorporation in 1961 and has been an ongoing effort ever since. Because the Shakers were practitioners of preservation themselves, Shaker Village is fortunate to have surviving portions of the Shakers’ material culture. The documents, artifacts, fences, gravestones, buildings and barns, which are now under our stewardship, require attention, care and frequent preservation. From major rehabilitation projects like the upcoming work planned for the 1824 Centre Family Dwelling and 1820 Meeting House, replacing the roof and renovating the interior of the Carpenters’ Shop and restoring the exterior of West Family Wash House to housing sensitive items of the Collection in a climate-controlled storage facility, at Shaker Village, preservation is always present and always at work.

For loftier undertakings, we may bring in consultants to ensure preservation success; but the day-to-day preservation of the Village’s 3-dimensional and archival materials lies in the hands of our Collections staff. Things like sorting and rehousing piles of newspapers in acid-free boxes, using cloth tape to secure detached book covers to their bindings, removing sticky-notes from book pages, ensuring 3-dimensional objects are stored up off the ground on shelves and platforms, laying textiles flat in secure, tissue-lined cabinets and monitoring objects for pests and mold are all a part of preserving the history of the Shakers.

 

See an original copy of The Manifesto on display in the East Family Wash House as a part of our Shaker Modern exhibit.

But, the preservation of treasured materials isn’t reserved strictly to the professionals: it’s something many folks do every day without even realizing it!

You might not think about it at the time, but when you do something as simple as organize bills or receipts in a filing cabinet, you’re doing something to preserve them for when you may need them down the road. Believe it or not, that’s PRESERVATION@WORK!

Whether it be for the coming months, years or generations, we all have things we’d like to keep for the future. Here are some ways you can put preservation to work in your own life:

  • Keep documents and artifacts in a cool, dry area out of direct sunlight—not in the basement or attic where temperature and humidity can fluctuate with the seasons.
  • Avoid grouping or marking documents using metal paperclips, rubber bands, staples, tape, sticky-notes or dog-earring. While actions like this may seem harmless at the time, they can be damaging to the items you’re trying to preserve. Instead, if documents need to be grouped or marked, use plastic paper clips or acid-free paper and folders.
  • Something as simple as covering furniture with a sheet, quilt or moving blanket can help preserve 3-dimensional objects while in storage.
  • Refrain from sealing photographs, newspaper articles and other paper documents in lamination, non-archival page-protectors or photo sleeves. These types of plastics are more harmful than helpful and will actually result in a more rapid deterioration of what you’re trying to save.
  • Like living creatures, documents and objects need space and room to breathe. Never try to cram items into envelopes, folders, boxes, shelves or tight spaces. Give documents and objects ample space in their storage locations.
  • Less is more. The less you access, handle and use your prized books, documents, artifacts, textiles, furniture and memorabilia, the more time you and future generations of your family will have with them. While handling rare and special items for reference, research and display, it’s best to do so with care, caution and infrequency to ensure their longevity.

Do you have a favorite outfit you just can’t seem to part with? The Shakers did, too! Come see a dress that was rehabilitated over the years by the Shaker who wore it on display in the East Family Wash House as a part of our Shaker Modern exhibit.

Preservation can be painstaking—sometimes a matter of replacing one paperclip at a time. But whether you’re a preservation pupil or pro, it’s often the basics that end up making the greatest difference.


Take part in our history! Join us June 3 to celebrate, as we kick off our largest preservation project since the 1960s. Tour the buildings, speak with the project’s architects and learn about our grant-funded, multi-phase effort to preserve, protect and interpret the Village’s spiritual center.

Make a difference! No matter how big or small, your gift can make a difference. Help us preserve Shaker Village by giving today! 


Emálee Krulish, Archivist