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Conservation, Woodland Narratives

Woodland Narratives: Jean Mertinooke

Jul. 06, 2016
New England Forestry Foundation

I inherited 144 acres of forestland on the southern side of Cleveland Hill Road, in Tamworth, NH, from my uncle Earle H. Remick in 1975…. The southern bound of the property runs along a lovely small brook, called Mill Brook… –Jean Mertinooke

Jean Mertinooke never misses an opportunity to walk through her woods in Tamworth, New Hampshire. So when Carson Hauck, NEFF’s Conservation Easement Stewardship Associate, invited Jean to join him on the annual visit to the conservation easement NEFF holds on her property, there was no question—Jean would be going.

Mount Chocorua, Tamworth, NHIt was a hot August day when Carson met Jean on her property. The trails winding through the trees were uneven and strewn with branches, but neither the heat nor the trail conditions could suppress Jean’s enthusiasm to be in the woods. With one hand holding Carson’s arm, and the other wielding a walking stick, the pair set off to explore the woodland.

Jean told Carson stories of the forest as they walked, describing picnic lunches by the brook, days spent working in the woods, and afternoons painting the surrounding landscape. Her family has owned and managed the land since the 1800’s, and in 1975, Jean and her sister, Joan, inherited the woodland from their uncle.

“My sister lived down in Rockford, Illinois at the time. She would come out in the summer, and we would go up there quite often. My husband and I would stay in the house and work in the woods. We thoroughly enjoyed that land.”

As the years passed, Jean and her husband, Andrew, started looking for ways to make sure their land would be permanently protected. Working with New England Forestry Foundation, Jean and her husband put a conservation easement on the land to conserve its working forest heritage forever.

“I’m glad I’ve got New England Forestry Foundation to have the conservation easement on the property, because I want it to be a working forest. I don’t want it to be abandoned,” Jean said. The easement ensures that the property will remain forested, while providing future landowners the opportunity to practice forestry. “I just love those woods, and I just want them taken care of,” explains Jean.

As Jean and Carson walked through a recent timber harvest on the property, Jean spoke highly of Peter Farrell, the consulting forester she hired in 1989 to write and carry out the property’s forest management plan. “He has done a wonderful job keeping those woods a good working forest,” Jean said.

When asked about Jean, Peter was eager to respond. “Jean is one of my most cherished clients,” Peter said; “She’s fiercely independent, and really loves her woods. While she has a really great appreciation for the beauty, she also understands resiliency, and that the forest is dynamic.”

Peter has managed the forest to meet Jean’s goals, which include maximizing wildlife benefits, sustainably producing timber and other wood products, providing clean air and water, and ensuring the forest’s scenic values. He especially enjoys working with Jean because she gives him her full confidence. “When somebody puts their trust in you, it’s just the most rewarding thing you can have. Jean has always been that way,” Peter explains.

After walking two and a half miles through the woods, Carson and Jean made their way back to her sister’s house across the street from the property.  Jean’s paintings of the woodland and the surrounding landscape cover the walls.

Mill Brook in Autumn

“I learned to paint in 1954, and I love to paint,” Jean explained. “I’ve done a lot of paintings, especially of Mount Chocorua. Quite a while ago, I took my favorite painting of Mount Chocorua to see if it could be made into a puzzle. They liked the painting so well that I ended up gradually taking more of my paintings down there, and now most of them are puzzles.”

Jean’s paintings capture the rural scenery of Tamworth, depicting quaint farmhouses, meandering brooks, forested hills, and rugged mountain peaks. With each painting, it is clear that Jean has a very strong connection to the land that she and the many generations of her family have cared for. “I just love those woods,” Jean said, “I just love them, and I want them taken care of. They’re thoroughly enjoyable.”

Ossipee Range, Tamworth, NH