Category Archives: lamp post

It Was a Warm and Rainy Night . . .

By Barbara Walvoord

Originally published in the Lathrop Lamp Post for April 21-27, 2018

Snoopy thinks a “dark and stormy night” is the best setting for drama.  But a warm, rainy spring night is the setting for an amazing drama in Lathrop’s vernal pools.

On one such spring night, hordes of 7-inch spotted salamanders emerge from underground hibernation in the forest. They begin a dangerous, life-or-death march to a vernal pool to mate and lay their eggs.  Vernal pools dry up periodically, so they have no fish, which would otherwise eat all the salamander eggs. So it’s vernal pool or bust.

Predators’ talons, claws, and jaws snatch many of the marchers, but the rest keep going. Continue reading It Was a Warm and Rainy Night . . .


New Discoveries at Lathrop

by Barbara Walvoord

Originally published in the Lathrop Lamp Post of April 14-10

We humans at Lathrop might be a bit like Christopher Columbus, claiming to “discover” something, when lots of creatures knew it was there all along.  But, led by the distinctive “quacking” of mating wood frogs, we’ve “discovered” two vernal pools on the east campus (in addition to the ones already identified on trail maps for east campus and Fitzgerald Lake:

Wood frogs can live ONLY in vernal pools, which dry up periodically and thus have no fish to eat the wood frog eggs. (Sounds, photos, and information:

Columbus reported his discovery to his queen.  We will register our vernal pools with the state, which protects these increasingly rare habitats. Continue reading New Discoveries at Lathrop

Who’s Climbing our Trees?

by Barbara Walvoord

Originally published in the Lathrop Lamp Post of April 7-13, 2018

Archeologists say that our human progenitors started out swinging through trees, but later came down to live on land.  So our Lathrop trees don’t contain many humans (except the occasional grandchild).  But our trees do contain lots of other creatures.

One of the animals in our trees is the porcupine, photographed here on the north campus by resident Joan Cenedella.  For a porcupine, trees are home (they nest in tree cavities), dinner (they eat bark, buds, shoots, and leaves), and safety. Continue reading Who’s Climbing our Trees?

Teddy Bear Picnic at Lathrop

Teddy Bear Picnic at Lathrop

By Barbara Walvoord

Originally published in the Lathrop Lamp Post for March 30-April 6, 2018.

Massachusetts is the third most densely populated state in the nation for people, and it’s becoming more and more densely populated with bears. So the state has a website about them.

Our Lathrop bear population has undoubtedly grown over the winter, as pregnant sows have each birthed 2-3 cubs.  Out of the den by now, they’re all hungry, because the kids are growing and mom hasn’t eaten all winter.

Their first question is, “Where’s the picnic?” Continue reading Teddy Bear Picnic at Lathrop

Loners Go A-Courtiin’ at Lathrop

Loners Go a-Courtin’ at Lathrop

By Barbara Walvoord

Originally published in the Lathrop Lamp Post for March 24-31, 2018

Woodcocks are loners.  The dads mate with multiple females and take no responsibility for child rearing. The moms lay their eggs on the ground.  If the eggs are threatened, mom may feign injury to draw away the intruder, but is quite quick to abandon the eggs. Mom feeds the babies for a week, and then it’s out on your own, kids.  During the summer, woodcocks mostly stay to themselves, walking along the forest ground, eating a paleo diet—meat (from worms, spiders, beetles, ants, and thousand-leggers), with a few salad greens on the side.  When disturbed, woodcocks remain still, their mottled coloring making them almost invisible. Continue reading Loners Go A-Courtiin’ at Lathrop

Lathrop’s Landscaping and Gardens: What’s Our Goal?

By Barbara Walvoord

Originally printed in the Lathrop Lamp Post for March 10-16, 2018.

Why are we at Lathrop considering planting native plants rather than alien plants in our landscapes and gardens?  Our goal is NOT to restore some imaginary pristine past.  The futility of such a goal is emphasized in journalist Emma Marris’ The Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World (2011).

Instead, Marris suggests, we need to save nature by juggling seven possible goals: (1) protect the rights of other species; (2) protect Continue reading Lathrop’s Landscaping and Gardens: What’s Our Goal?

Farming Lathrop Land: A Long History

Seeds are for sale now at our local stores. Our community gardeners are planning their spinach, beans, peas, tomatoes, and squash.  We’re part of a very old farming tradition.  The old barbed wire on our land, as well as an old manure spreader abandoned in an east campus field, reminds us that European colonists farmed our Lathrop land for several centuries.

But in fact, agriculture on Lathrop land goes back even farther. Early European settlers tended to see the land they found as a wilderness, because it did not look like the farms they left behind in Europe.  But they were wrong.  The land they found in the Connecticut Valley was actually an extensive and well-regulated agricultural system that provided the basis of the diet of the native American tribes who lived here.

European settlers did not see the native American farms because women did the farming, and because the fields looked messy to European eyes.  English settlers assumed that only men farmed, and that the work of men was much more important, so they were blind to the fact that an Indian woman might be working up to 2 acres, raising 25-60 bushels of corn. Farming contributed up to three-fourths of total calories consumed. Continue reading Farming Lathrop Land: A Long History