Chet and Bonnie Crosby

Chet Crosby and his wife Bonnie own a 71 acre parcel of land in Owasco, NY in Cayuga County. The property is rectangular and drops about 100 feet over the course of a half mile. The land was farmed up until the 1970’s and fence posts are evidence of this even in the area that Crosby considers the most mature woodlot. The topography of the land gives it four distinct sections each about 15 acres. Currently the top 15 acres of the property is leased to a farmer who is using the land for a hayfield. The top 15 acres is the only tillable land. The property features an esker and diverse soil types and therefore different plants and tree species. The couple lives about three miles from the property, which even though it is near housing developments still feels secluded.

Chet Crosby is a retired middle school science teacher who majored in Biology as an undergraduate. He grew up in a small town and moved to the city when he was 11. Even through the move he always had an interest in nature and as they say "you can take the boy out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the boy." His wife, Bonnie, is a retired elementary school teacher. Chet is the Vice President of Cayuga County Sportsmen Federation Club and President of the Owasco Lake Anglers Association where he helped head the project that restored Walleye to the lake. The group raised three-day-old fry and stocked the 2-3 inch fingerlings into the lake. Both Chet and Bonnie are very active in developing environmental curriculum and protecting the quality of their watershed and Owasco lake and are members of committees concerned with these issues.

The Crosby’s have three sons and three grandsons and their family is an important reason for their purchasing the property in 2004. "I feel strongly in the need to preserve the natural areas that give us an opportunity to allow our kids and friends to use them" Crosby states. The 15 acre woodlot on the bottom of the property is a mixture of sugar maple, hickory, walnut, silver maple, red maple and ash. Some of the most mature hardwoods can be found here including a 48 inch Burr Oak and 36 inch Black Walnut as well as some larger sugar maples. Buckthorn grows in areas that were once pastureland and managing the species has presented a challenge. They have thinned some of it and also, with the help of Peter Smallidge and his students, tried flame burning but the process was "not very effective," Crobsy states presumably because of the thick bark. Crosby has used NYFOA members and the DEC Forester from Cortland as resources to learn how to manage the land.

Managing the property has been a learning process. In the short amount of time they have owned the property they have seen many changes. Crosby released several wild apple trees that grew on the property by thinning. They encourage the growth of wildlife food sources such as the apples and wild grape. He has attempted some grafting of domestic apples with the wild trees growing on the property in hopes of getting a fruit that will be edible for the family. Crosby’s son Peter planted blue berries and they have been experimenting with exotic tree species and have planted Sequoias (which are growing very well), Ponderosa Pines, Cypress and English Oaks. Crosby also planted white pines, but all the tree planting must be accompanied by staking and plastic to protect the new trees from the overabundant deer population.

The couple enjoys the variety of wildlife that inhabits their property. They enjoy birds such as turkey, grouse, and pileated woodpeckers. Crosby recalls an experience while he was bow hunting in November when he was surrounded by a flock of bluebirds eating the dogwood berries around him, "they let you get pretty close," he says.

As far as predators, there are mink and coyotes and Peter had a close encounter with a red fox while he was deer hunting. The beaver that built a dam on the stream last year was both good and bad. The Crosby’s harvest around seven deer a year off their land and an over abundance of deer makes managing them important. Crosby remembers seeing three does in the field one spring and two of them had twins and one had triplets. Other than the personal encounters they have also set up trail cameras as another way to enjoy the wildlife. There are shots of a 8-10 point bucks and "some of them live on the property but most of them you wouldn’t normally see or would just catch a glimpse because they are just passing through."

In the six years that they’ve owned the land Crosby has also put in an extensive trail system that allows easy access to the different parts of the property year-round. Persevering this natural place to share with family and friends is something Crosby feels strongly about. They harvest berries grown on the land and share with friends. He also encourage their sons to experiment with the property and watch things grow. Crosby encourages landowners to gain an understanding of what is on their land. They always try to go out and find new plants in the spring and summer and have even discovered Indian artifacts on the bottomland. Crosby encourages landowners to "simply enjoy your property and leave it in a better place for others to enjoy." He quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson in saying "In the woods we return to reason and faith."


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