Click below to read our monthly electronic newsletter, intended for distribution over social media, that includes news of what is happening at our conservation properties, as well as general conservation topics. There are also articles on Attleboro history, with a focus on the Barrows Farm (now the Richardson Preserve) and what seasonal tasks the Barrows family might have been working on as they derived their living from this land 300 years ago. News of the Attleboro Community Garden is also a regular feature.
This publication is being produced by the Education and Outreach Committee of the Attleboro Land Trust, local volunteers, and some of the classes at Attleboro High School.
Contact us if you would like to subscribe to the email version of this newsletter.
A team of Sensata employees returned to the Richardson Preserve on May 23 to install 270 linear feet of split-rail fencing. This completes a boundary fencing project begun by the same team last year.
The Attleboro Conservation Commission provided funds to purchase the materials for this project. Generous support was also received from National Fence of Attleboro and Liston Portables.
Each week brings changes to the Richardson Preserve, some from native plants that are flowering, others from plants cultivated by Deborah Richardson when she lived and practiced her horticultural skills here.
Spring is coming earlier than it did in the nineteenth century, a scientific study has found. One of the indicators of spring is the blossoming of trees and flowers. Author, naturalist, and philosopher Henry David Thoreau was deeply interested in the unfolding of the seasons. On his daily walks in Concord, Massachusetts, he took notes whenever he observed such seasonal changes. He wrote in his journal “I often visited a particular plant four or five miles distant, half a dozen times within a fortnight [2 weeks], that I might know exactly when it opened.” An entry on May 5, 1855, notes “High blueberry beg[in] to leaf in some places yesterday.”
Biologist Richard Primack has mined Thoreau’s journals for these observations and compared them with current data. In 2010, for example, highbush blueberry first flowered in Concord on April 7. Comparing 32 plants from Thoreau’s time to today, Primack found the first flowering dates were now occurring an average of 11 days earlier. According to a United Nations panel, human activity has caused average global temperatures to increase 1.0 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. In Concord, a suburb of Boston, the increase has been at least 2.0 degrees Celsius because of the “heat island” effect of dense development, pavement, and energy use compared to rural areas. Plants are responding to this warming by blooming earlier.
In recent studies, Primack has found evidence that insect populations shift their schedules in sync with the plants they feed on, which is not surprising. However, the arrival of birds who winter in the tropics has not, on average, shown much of a shift. As a result, one of the consequences of climate change may be a mismatch between bird populations and the availability of the insects they feed on. In 1852, Thoreau voiced a similar awareness of the importance of climate in the circle of life, noting that an unusually long winter could have deadly consequences for returning birds. But he did not foresee the steady retreat of winter that we now face.
Grow Native Massachusetts, based in Waltham, is a great resource for anyone interested in gardening and landscaping with native plants. They hold an evening lecture series every year from February to May at the Cambridge Public Library. Videos of past lectures are available online. They also have a plant sale coming up in Waltham on June 1, 2019.
The city’s 13th annual Ten Mile River Clean-Up will be held from 8 to 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 4, rain or shine.
Volunteers are needed to help clean up along the river banks and walking trails.
Sign-up will be at the Community Garden on Riverbank Road, just off Hayward Street. Trash bags will be available.
Free refreshments will be supplied by Dunkin Donuts.
Sponsors include Mayor Paul Heroux, the Attleboro Land Trust, the Conservation Commission, Friends of the Ten Mile River, and Dunkin Donuts.
Volunteers and groups can sign up on the day of the clean-up.
Bill Lewis got involved with the Deborah and Roger Richardson Preserve through serving as a site steward along with other members of the Attleboro Geocachers Alliance. After helping to repair the exterior of the Barrows House, his passion for history led him to dig deep into historical records for the property and the family that lived there for more than two centuries. Drawing on these records, as well as a general knowledge of how colonists were able to survive and prosper using the technology of the times, Bill has developed a detailed history of the Barrows House and farm.
He shared this story at a meeting of the Attleboro Historic Preservation Society on March 21. For a short interview with Bill, check out this YouTube clip by our local cable company, DoubleACS:
There is no end to the variety of fascinating requests the land trust has received over the years for activities to be conducted on our preserves. Last spring, writer Jane Breakell set out to retrace the steps of banished Puritan dissenter Anne Hutchinson, who walked from Quincy, Massachusetts, to what was to become Portsmouth, Rhode Island, in April, 1638.
On April 10, 2018, Jane, midway through her journey, spent the night in a tent on the Leach Sanctuary. Two days later, she crossed Narragansett Bay by boat to reach her destination, Aquidneck Island, as did Anne Hutchinson before her. Below are some brief excerpts from an essay that Jane wrote about her experience for a recent issue of the New England Review (Vol. 39, No. 3).
Write Like a Puritan by Jane Breakell
“A woodcut shows a woman in a long black dress with a square white collar and a black hood, one hand at her side, one fist held to her chest, speaking, it appears, to a group of old men who are seated at a table, pulling at their beards, peering at her. If anyone can talk to God, then anyone can justify her own choices, words, actions, with or without the approval of the elders. From this kind of magical thinking, it is no great distance to amoral anarchy. When she would not recant, they kicked her right out. She had been a voluntary exile from England, braving the wilderness of the New World. She was now also an exile from Massachusetts, but she considered neither home. The bounds of my habitation are cast in heaven, she said, and walked out of Boston, into the real wilderness. She resettled herself on an island to the south, in what became the state of Rhode Island, not far from where I grew up. What takes ninety minutes by car today took her, on foot in 1638, six days. Eventually she left Rhode Island for New York. There, after refusing to evacuate during a Siwanoy raid (against the advice of her more experienced neighbors), she was killed.
“I’ve come to understand that Anne Hutchinson’s story, the struggle between doubt and assurance, the voices of elders and the voice in her own head, must be part of mine.
“…Specifically, I must retrace Anne Hutchinson’s long journey from Boston to Rhode Island in an attempt to reconsider New England—home of self-satisfied tradition—as wilderness, frontier. By reenacting this long-past drama of belonging, I want to learn about those questions we still ask ourselves: what is the right way to live? On whom can we rely to tell us? What do I need to do, where do I need to go, to be the right kind of person?
“…Instead of woolen clothes and wooden overshoes, I wear yoga pants and hiking boots with Gore-tex. Instead of carrying or gathering food, I stop for lunch at Ruby Tuesday’s; instead of sleeping out, I book Airbnbs for all but one night. And while Hutchinson sent a scout ahead to plot a route through forests, I follow a route chosen by Google Maps. She walked through forests, dunes, and swamps that have since been replaced by paved roads, village squares, college campuses, and Dunkin Donuts. When I read the names of the towns we will pass through, they evoke not wilderness but radio commercials for discount shoes and tires.
The point is to walk where she walked, which I do. It’s just different now.”
On September 22, volunteers from the Ten Mile River Watershed Council assisted ranger Jacob Gorke of the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council of Rhode Island in conducting a survey of fish species in the Ten Mile River at Larson Woodland.
The fish are stunned temporarily with an electric shock, netted and removed to be identified, then released back to the river. The survey is conducted annually.
This is just one of many activities conducted year round by the Ten Mile River Watershed Council to promote and protect the river. For more information, contact Keith Gonsalves Keith@tenmileriver.net.