Snipes Farm and Education Center — a regional presence since the Morrisville, Pennsylvania, farm began operating in 1808 — has a new addition this spring: The Blade Bluebird Trail. The nature trail featuring 30 bluebird nest boxes opened to public in May.

The boxes were donated by a family of one of the participants in the Penn State University Extension’s Master Gardener Program held at the center and reflects Snipes’ mission to connect people to the land.

It was Yardley, Pennsylvania, resident Heidi Blade who saw the need to foster the bluebird population on the farm and surrounding area.

It happened while she was engaged in the required 50-hour hands-on-portion of the master gardener program that a conversation with Snipes Farm board president Carolyn Dorph led to the idea to install the bluebird boxes around the farm.

Blade engaged her father, Ward, who lived in her hometown of Neversink, New York, about 100 miles north of New York City.

Ward Blade - Bluebird Trail.JPG

The late Ward Blade in his workshop.

Blade says her father has made more than a 100 bluebird boxes over the years, but “he never sold them. He gave them away to people for their properties.”

A civil engineer who was a graduate of SUNY, Delhi, Ward Blade’s career was spent managing the reservoir system in New York State that supplies the drinking water for New York City.

Born in 1938 and generally self-taught in farming and woodworking, Ward Blade was also skilled enough to build his own two-story home and farm apples and blueberries.

“He really enjoyed making things from wood. The house was filled with the outcome of his woodworking. He made tables, picture frames, tool boxes, duck boxes, and bird houses. The woodworking fit in with his engineering mind, and he really could figure out how to make anything.”

That included something for the New York State Bird, the Eastern Bluebird.

“My dad did not have a real strong affection for the species, but he knew they were in decline and thought by his making nesting boxes for them he could help out and help keep them safe,” says Blade.

It was in the fall of 2022 that Blade suggested installing a quantity of the bluebird boxes from her father’s inventory at the farm, in an attempt to lure more bluebirds to the farm and to keep them coming back.

Bluebird Trail.JPG

One of the bluebird boxes Ward Blade built has been installed at Snipes Farm.

“I loved the idea,” Dorph says. “It was so generous of the Blade family and was a great fit for the mission of the farm. The bluebirds eat insects and like to nest out in the open. In February we had the boxes installed on posts, facing east-southeast, as is the prescribed best practice. We have begun monitoring the boxes by performing daily rounds and recording the data. We already have bluebirds nesting in two of the boxes, which is very exciting. The offspring tend to stay close by, so we are counting on the coming years to achieve full bluebird occupancy.”

When Heidi Blade told her father of the idea, he was excited to help and see his work put to good use. He was also very sick at the time. “The bluebird box project 175 miles away invigorated him enough that he went to his garage workshop and built five more boxes.”

However, Ward Blade passed away in December, 2022, at the age of 84 and was unable to witness the installation of the boxes on the trail that would come to bear his name.

Nevertheless, his work connects with the Snipes founding family’s Quaker tradition of helping the community and building relationships with the people therein.

Now a nonprofit educational organization, Snipes employs about 25 people to make the farm work and run its programs. “We are always in need of volunteers and would love to help people get out of their pandemic malaise and get them out into the fresh air. We will need monitors for the Blade Bluebird Trail if people would like to ease into volunteering around the farm,” Dorph says.

In addition to its various programs, Snipes Farm offers CSA shares, community supported agriculture weekly vegetable subscriptions to the public, from spring to fall.

The farm also allocates at least 50 percent of the food grown to local organizations that are on the front lines of providing nutritious food to underserved segments of the community. Some of the organizations helped are Bucks County Emergency Homeless Shelter, the Trenton Health Team, the Interfaith Food Coalition, Robert Wood Johnson Barnabas Health, and Bucks County Senior Centers.

Heidi Blade, who moved to Yardley in 2017 with her husband Chris Gesenberg, says the family is moved that Snipes Farm named the trail after her father. “My mother, Sandra Blade, has recently moved nearby,” she says, and they were joined by Heidi’s Connecticut-based sister, Amanda, at the trail’s dedication.

The trail itself is about a half mile and an easy walk. It is also a celebration of life, of nature, of conservation, and of community.

“I think my dad would really enjoy this. His woodworking is doing what it was designed to do, help support the bluebirds and enhance the community. Yes, I think he would like this a lot.”

Blade Bluebird Trail, Snipes Farm and Education Center, 890 West Bridge Street, Morrisville, Pennsylvania. For more information:

Thomas Kelly is a New Jersey based painter represented by several galleries. His narrative work has a signature style with its roots in expressionism.

Recommended for you