Tony and Connie Pingitore

Six years ago, Tony Pingitore was invited to the Christmas party of NYFOA’s Allegheny Foothills Chapter and told to bring along his fiddle. Tony was asked to the holiday gathering by NYFOA members with whom he worked when donating forty bushels of his property’s butternut crop to a fund-raiser. Though he had been a NYFOA sleeper member for six years, Tony quickly began networking at the party and promptly became active in the organization. Soon afterwards he was inspired to become an MFO (Master Forest Owner) volunteer.

Tony stills plays the fiddle and is regularly accompanied by his wife, Connie, who plays the piano and mountain dulcimer. Together, they perform with their church group, mainly at nursing homes located near their residence in Stockton, New York.

Aside from fiddle-playing, Tony also fashions walking sticks from trees on his property. Fellow NYFOA member, Dan Anderson, paints folk art onto the sticks, which are then donated to a range of organizations, including their respective churches, county fairs and NYFOA. The walking sticks, carved from black cherry, beech, and hard maple and honeysuckle shrubs, are used as prizes for fund-raising raffles.

Along with the trees used to make the walking sticks, the Pingitore property also grows aspen and wild-apple trees. The assortment of aspen, ash, hard maple and cherry trees that comprise the wooded area have naturally regenerated sixty years ago from pasture land. By the time the Pingitores purchased the first twelve acres of property thirty-nine years ago, the area had already started to revert from pasture to woods. Tony and Connie purchased another twenty-one acres of land as their second installment, and then another twelve acres for a total of forty-five acres.

There was originally an old farm house on the property, but the Pingitores decided to replace it with a rustic log cabin. Tony built a major portion of the cabin himself, with the help of some hired professionals. Trees from the property are used to warm the cabin, which derives all of its heat from a wood-burning stove.

Tony harvests the low value property trees, mainly those competing with high-value or storm damaged trees, for firewood. Of the culled trees, Tony sells half of the wood and keeps the other half as his own personal use.

In cutting down the lower value trees for firewood, Tony practices crop tree management and TSI (Timber Stand Improvement) by selectively choosing trees to be used in future timber sales and cutting down the surrounding trees in order to promote growth. Tony’s most recent timber sale netted an $11,000 profit on thirty-three trees. While he harvested the trees himself, Tony relied on a DEC forester for guidance in the timber sale process.

Retired from thirty-one years as a tool and test-equipment design engineer for Moog Inc., Tony now spends much of his time walking around his property, scouring the grounds for future timber sales. With his gun in tow, Tony regularly strolls around the property, seemingly in pursuit of deer. In reality, Tony admits that he spends most of his time looking up at the trees, rather than focusing on the hunt.

While Tony may not always concentrate on hunting, he does encourage guests to hunt on the property or to fish in their man-made lake. The only activities not allowed are snowmobiling and ATV riding, as the noise is bothersome to wildlife and the soil is fragile.

Deer can always be found on the property and once in a while the resident fox can be seen just feet from the front porch. Of course, with the fox on the grounds, the Pingitores keep a watchful eye on their cat, Bob, who patrols the property with Tony. The local squirrels have already abandoned the area despite the plentitude of butternut trees. Occasionally, the fox leaves presents for his neighbors, including half of a mink on Easter Sunday, and remnants of wild turkeys at other times.

At one point, a black bear visited the property. In the past, the Pingitores managed thirteen bee hives and would sell the honey they produced, but the number of hives was significantly reduced after ten years. Eventually, the bear wiped out the last of their beehives and the Pingitores decided not to restart their apiary.

Without bee hives to manage, Tony is able to focus even more of his time on his forestry methods. One of the most important aspects of Tony’s forestry methods is the aforementioned Timber Stand Improvement and not high grading. In order to ensure the growth of the more valuable trees, Tony removes less desirable trees so that sunlight might hit the under-story, thereby enhancing natural regeneration. He also refrains from using herbicides or any other form of chemical treatment on his property. Tony does his best to share his knowledge about sustainable forestry during the informal woods walks that he gives to visitors, and visits to other’s woodlots as an MFO.

Though Tony has yet to host a formal NYFOA woodwalk at his property, the Allegheny Foothills Treasurer hopes to do so in the future.

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