Lathrop’s Evergreens: A Home, A Banquet, A Christmas Delight

by Barbara Walvoord

It’s the season when Christians go out and cut down evergreen trees and bring them into their homes. But for many of Lathrop’s creatures, evergreen trees ARE their homes, as well as their banquet tables.

The most prominent evergreen in our Lathrop woods is the native Eastern white pine (Pinus strobus), Pictured above is the largest white pine we have found on Lathrop east campus. It lies across Bassett Brook.

The white pine is often grown for Christmas trees but has many other roles in our forests.The holes in a pine tree’s trunk can be home to woodpeckers, squirrels, and Continue reading Lathrop’s Evergreens: A Home, A Banquet, A Christmas Delight


The Waters of Lathrop #2: Vernal Pools

by Barbara Walvoord

“Vernal” means spring, which is a long way away. But Lathrop’s vernal pools are in their winter garb, covered with ice, and very beautiful.

A vernal pool by definition has no outlet above ground. It fills with water in certain seasons, especially spring, and then is generally (but not always) dry by late summer.

On the east campus, if you start at the blue shed and walk down the wide path into the woods a few hundred yards, you’ll see a vernal pool through the trees on your left.

Another vernal pool, pictured with this article, you can find by walking along that wide path all the way to the meadow, and then crossing the meadow and going to Continue reading The Waters of Lathrop #2: Vernal Pools

The Waters of Lathrop #1: Underground Waters

by Barbara Walvoord

I intend this column to be the first in a series on the waters of Lathrop–on both campuses, the brooks, wetlands, rainfall, storm water management systems, and–for today–the waters under our ground.

The closest I could get to photographing our underground water is this hole in the Easthampton woods where underground water emerges as a stream.

Our Easthampton campus sits on top of the Barnes aquifer, which provides most of the water for Easthampton and several neighboring towns, making us very vulnerable if this aquifer should dry up or get contaminated. Surface water–rain and run-off–replenish the aquifer.

Easthampton taps its aquifer by 5 wells. Two wells produce water pure enough to go directly into our homes. The others need costly treatment for pollutants. This is a familiar story, isn’t it? Some purity and some threat–same as for our woods and fields on both campuses. Continue reading The Waters of Lathrop #1: Underground Waters

Lathrop’s Electric Car Takes Residents to Woods and Fields

Barbara Walvoord

Lathrop’s electric car is not exactly an ATV (all-terrain vehicle), but on November 21, it successfully took four east campus residents on an off-road tour of Lathrop’s east campus land. In the car were Nell Wijnhoeven,  Fannie Stoloff, Jetty Wang, and Gerry LoGalbo.

Driven by our facilities director Mike (“I’ll drive anything”) Strycharz, the car visited three sites: From Cranberry Lane, it trundled down the lawn to the vegetable garden and bumped around the field to our magnificent 250-year-old oak tree. It left the paved part of Bassett Brook Road, glided along the grass past the blue garden shed, and followed the wide path through the woods to our lovely wet meadow. It even ventured out behind Mulberry Lane to view the long, beautiful vista of rolling field and wetland there.

The car’s four riders were amazed and delighted to see our land. “I never realized the enormous amount of acres!” said Nell Wijnhoven (in fact, Lathrop East has about 140 acres of undeveloped land, much more than the car riders could even see).

“It’s impressive what you could do with that land, ” said Nell. And in fact, that’s what the Land Conservation Subcommittee, working with Lathrop Management, is thinking about these days–what to do with our land, on both campuses, to sustain the birds, bees, butterflies, and other creatures we love.

The committee’s “trails team” planned this ride: team facilitator Eleanor Johnson, along with Chuck Gillies, Eleanor Herman, Roger Herman, Diedrick Snoek, and Marketing Director Michael Harvey. The team will plan more car rides, as well as other ways for residents on both campuses to enjoy our beautiful land.

Lathrop Volunteers and Professionals Attack Invasives

by Barbara Walvoord

If you East campus folks heard chain saws last week out in the woods, that was our crew of workers from Polatin Ecological Services, removing invasive shrubs from several high-priority areas of our land. This work is part of a 3-year plan funded by a grant from the Kendal Charitable Fund and by individual resident donations. North campus, you are part of the plan, so this winter or next spring, you’ll hear the chain saws, too.

AND–if you heard the snick of hand loppers and the rasp of hand-held tree saws, along with some grunts, creaking knees, and shouts of triumph, that was our intrepid group of 7 east campus residents who gathered on Thursday, Nov. 20, to remove invasive honeysuckle, buckthorn, and vines from the woods along Bassett Brook Road.

The volunteers cleared about 52 invasives from the edge of the woods, starting at the Inn, and going all the way to the corner of Bassett Brook and Mulberry. We let the Polatin crew, with their chain saws and protective clothing, go after the thickets of sharp-thorned multiflora rose along Mulberry Lane.

invasives Chris Nov 14 018

The very good news is that, while the edges of this woodland were invaded, the middle is quite pristine, and we stopped the invasives from moving farther in.

When native shrubs replace those invasives, that area of our land will support many more insects, birds, and other wildlife. It will Continue reading Lathrop Volunteers and Professionals Attack Invasives

Progress Against Invasive Plants

-Barbara Walvoord

Yikes! This fall, you can clearly see how Lathrop’s woods are being invaded by alien shrubs and vines: the bright red of burning bush, the yellow-green of bush honeysuckle, the prickly multiflora rose and barberry, the orange berries of Oriental bittersweet vine. These plants still have leaves in fall when natives have gone dormant. They have left behind the competitors and enemies that control them in their native lands, so they can take over a woods, creating an impenetrable mass that supports many fewer insects, birds, and other wildlife than native plants.

We’re making progress against these invasives! The Land Conservation Subcommittee, working with Lathrop management, has a plan, a set of priorities, some money, and a contractor. Here is what is happening now: Continue reading Progress Against Invasive Plants

Old Oak Tree Mystery Solved

-Barbara Walvoord

Last week, when I wrote about the old oak tree on the east campus across the field from the vegetable garden, several people asked me if something lived in the tree’s large hole, which quite obviously leads to a hollow in the trunk. I said, “I don’t know.”

Well, Eleanor Johnson’s daughter, who was visiting on Saturday, solved the mystery for us–a porcupine was sitting with its backside half out of the hole, enjoying the sun. When she approached, the porcupine scrambled back into the hole, leaving a few quills behind. Continue reading Old Oak Tree Mystery Solved

Nurturing Lathrop’s native plants and wildlife.