Thoreau’s Journals Provide a Wealth of Data for Climate Scientists

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.”

Highbush blueberry in bloom at the Colman Reservation    Image credit: C Adler

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.

A page from Thoreau’s Journal, May 5, 1855

 

Birds that migrate long distances, such as this Great Crested Flycatcher, have not adjusted their schedules to stay in sync with the earlier arrival of spring in Massachusetts.    Image credit: C Adler

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.

Landscaping with Native Plants

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.

Volunteers Needed for Ten Mile River Clean-Up

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.

Barrows House Offers View Into Attleboro History

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:

Barrows House Video

Current Volunteer Requests

  1. Help us fill wet spots in the existing trails at the Nickerson Preserve
  2. Volunteers needed to mark our boundaries and post trail signs
  3. Helpers with graphics and editing skills needed for publicity
  4. Bookkeeper/accounting

We are an ALL-Volunteer operation.  Please contact Roy Belcher (serenade_w4@yahoo.com) if interested in learning more about volunteering.

 

 

Community Garden Opening Day 2019

Thanks to everyone that came out to get the garden ready for the 2019 season.  A special thanks to  Cooper and Ben, the two Eagle Scout candidates who presented their projects to us that day.

Photo Credits: Jenny Smith

 

Author Confronts History in the Wilds of Attleboro

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.”

While reenacting the journey of Anne Hutchinson, Jane Breakell pitched her tent in the Phil and Ginny Leach Wildlife Sanctuary, in a spot near this lean-to, which Jane described as “a fortuitous illustration of the kind of structure the Hutchinson party probably slept in.” The exact route taken by Hutchinson is not known, but Jane said “I passed through Attleboro because it was the only place I was able to camp out that was even close to where I thought she walked–most of the way was really lacking in anything like wilderness.”    Image credit: Jane Breakell

Annual Survey Monitors the Health of the Ten Mile River and Its Inhabitants

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.

Fish survey volunteers receiving their instructions.    Image credit: Keith Gonsalves

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.

Community Garden Registration Sessions Scheduled

Dates have been set for the Attleboro Community Garden 2019 Season Registration Sessions.

If interested, please join us for one of our sessions which will take place at the Attleboro Library.

  • Saturday, February 9, 10:30 to noon
  • Wednesday, February 13, 6 to 8
  • Saturday, February 16, 10 to noon
  • Monday, March 11, 6:30 pm – includes a Seed Starting Workshop

Please note:

  •  All new and returning gardeners must attend one of the registration and orientation sessions in person.
  • There will be a 20 minute Orientation at each of the session
  • The plot fee for 2019 is $25
  • New gardeners will be placed on a wait list on a first come basis
  •  If inclement weather causes library to be closed, registration session will be cancelled.
  • March 2nd Session including a workshop on seed starting rescheduled to March 11

For more information, contact Juliet Teixeira, texjade@yahoo.com, 508-222-2569 or visit the Attleboro Community Garden’s Facebook page.

 

Mother Nature Reminds Us Who Is In Charge!

Although we thought we had completed the boardwalks at the Richardson Nature Preserve a year ago, last winter’s storms told a different story.  You may remember that one storm took out the Wilmarth Street bridge over Chartley Brook.  Freezing, thawing, and flooding all took their toll on one of our boardwalks.  Repairs were made in the spring.  On December 1, a volunteer crew completed additional work to raise the boardwalk by six inches.  The crew consisted of (from left to right) Charlie Adler, Phil Boucher, Bruce Ingram, Bill Lewis, Dick Cheyne, and (not pictured) Russ Pray and Jim Keiper.  Since then, further structural support has been added.  We have our fingers crossed that we will get through this winter without any further difficulties.  Mother Nature, of course, will have the last word!