Are We Criticizing your Lily of the Valley?

For Lamp Post “Easy Being Green” August 7, 2014

by Barbara Walvoord

Nope, we’re not.
The Land Conservation SubCommittee is not interested in criticizing anyone for their choice of plants in their garden. You don’t need to apologize or feel embarrassed for anything you grow. We’re focused on the woods, fields, streams, and wetlands. We’ll help you find resources if you want to plant native plants, but we’re not sitting in judgment.

Our request is that when you discard plants or parts of plants from your garden, don’t put them in the woods or fields, because they may spread from there and become invasive.

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Here’s a personal story of what can happen. When Sharon and I moved into our home in Williamstown, MA, we had a beautiful two-acre woods with native Jack-in-the-pulpit, Star flower, Baneberry, and other plants that support native insects and all the critters that depend on insects.

But someone had obviously dumped some clippings of vinca and pachysandra, both alien invasives, into the woods, and these were taking over, forming an increasingly large mass of roots and vines in which nothing else could grow. These plants were part of the alarming spread of alien plants that have escaped cultivation and are crowding out natives throughout the country, swallowing an area the size of Delaware every year and costing billions of dollars to fight. (Douglas Tallamy, Bringing Nature Home).

Sharon and I were just learning about invasives then, and very naive. We sprayed the invasives; everything around them died, but the invasives came back–now stronger because they had no competition. We smothered them under old rugs; they climbed out from the edges of the rug. We dug them up; they grew back more vigorously. Once established, alien invasives are very hard to get rid of. Before we left that property five years later, we had vanquished the vinca by smothering and pulling, but in our dreams, sometimes, we still see those little green creepers pushing their grasping fingers up out of the ground, strangling the Jack-in-the-Pulpit, climbing the trees, racing over the ground, burying the yard, bringing down the lamp post, covering the garage, the house…..

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Report to Residents July 30, 2014

Report of the Land Conservation Subcommittee of the Green Committee

July 30, 2014

by Barbara Walvoord, Chair

Committee Members: Adele Dowell, Jim Dowell, Alfred Eipper, Sharon Grace, Chuck Gillies, Lyn Howe, Eleanor Johnson, Gillian Morbey, Diedrick Snoek, and Barbara Walvoord

Since our last report, the committee has moved forward in each of its eight lines of work:

  1. Master plan, finances, infrastucture
  2. Agricultural fields
  3. Removal of invasives
  4. Bushwhacking, mowing
  5. Herbicides, pesticides
  6. Planting natives
  7. Trails
  8. Programming and information

Particularly, watch for these developments:

  • Tomorrow, July 31, the state Biologist and the state Soil Conservation Planner are coming to walk our fields and give us ideas about how best to support wildlife, especially grassland birds like bobolinks and meadowlarks, which are increasingly at risk. Support for grassland birds and other wildlife is one of three alternative uses for our fields that we are researching. The other two alternatives (not mutually exclusive) are organic/sustainable farming, and a possible 5-8-acre solar field on a piece of our land not visible from our homes. A representative from a solar cooperative called Community Solar is coming August 18 at 10 a.m. in the Inn for a very early exploratory discussion. Nothing may come of it, and no commitments will be made without a GREAT DEAL more investigation and discussion with the whole Lathrop community, board, etc.
  • Presentation in August or September by our naturalist consultant Laurie Sanders about the natural history, present status, and future of our land.
  • Development of a native wildflower garden in front of Cranberry House. We’ll be sharing the plan with all of you and inviting you to participate in (or come and watch) a planting day in the fall.
  • We are contacting contractors who can help us remove invasives in our fields, woods, and wetlands that are threatening our native plants and wildlife.
  • We need information from residents about their needs and desires for walking trails.

Lathrop’s Wet Meadows

Lathrop’s Wet Meadows: A Unique Treasure

For Lamp Post, July 31, 2014

by Barbara Walvoord

Our consultant Laurie Sanders, who walked our land in early July, raved about our “wet meadows” as treasures increasingly rare in the Northampton area and nationwide.

Lathrop’s east campus has three: one behind Cranberry/Spiceberry/Teaberry houses (those folks get to look out on this gem every day), one at the end of the wide wood mowed path (you can walk to it easily), and one to the south behind the Mulberry houses.

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Wet meadow behind Mulberry Lane houses. Photo by Barbara Walvoord, 7/14/14.

So with new appreciation, last week I walked through our wet meadow just behind the houses on Cranberry/Spiceberry/Teaberry. Yep, it’s a meadow–lots of grasses, flowers, and few or no shrubs. Yep, it’s wet–the ground squishes underfoot, and some spots have standing water. One of a wet meadow’s jobs is to catch water and
prevent flooding. Continue reading Lathrop’s Wet Meadows

Minutes of the Land Conservation Subcommittee Meeting of July 25, 2014

Minutes of the Land Conservation Subcommittee Meeting of July 25, 2014

The committee met in the Inn on the east campus on July 25 from 10:30 a.m. to 12 noon.

Present: Adele Dowell, Jim Dowell, Chuck Gillies, Sharon Grace, Michael Harvey, Lyn Howe, Eleanor Johnson, Diedrick Snoek, Barbara Walvoord (chair), and Thom Wright. Gilliam Morbey was unable to attend, but we plan to hold a meeting on the north campus in August with her and other friends there, to discuss plans resulting from the visit there of Laurie Sanders.

The first hour was spent in open-ended discussion of Laurie Sanders’ visit, viewing photos of our land shared by Chuck Gillies, and exploring issues about our land. We discussed the extent to which we want to open our land to hikers and others outside our own residents. We generated ideas for programs, trails, and other ways to engage residents. We talked about the various parcels of our land and their management. We talked about how to raise funds and how to get residents engaged in invasives removal. We discussed the plans for a native plant garden at the Cranberry House.

During the final half hour, we discussed the task list and signed up people to make progress on the tasks. Attached is the revised task list, which incorporated the new sign-ups as well as points and suggestions made during our discussion.

Respectfully submitted,

Barbara Walvoord, Chair

Butterflies! Even a Monarch!

Butterflies! Even a Monarch!

by Barbara Walvoord

Monarch butterly on swamp milkeweed in the townhome garden of Barbara Walvoord and Sharon Grace, July 14, 2014.
Monarch butterly on swamp milkweed in the townhome garden of Barbara Walvoord and Sharon Grace, July 14, 2014.

Our Lathrop fields are full of butterflies!

Here is how you can easily see them:

  • East campus: Walk down to the vegetable garden and follow the path along the tall grasses. OR walk down the wide mowed woods path to the meadow and follow the mowed path or just stand on the edge where you can see into the grasses.
  • North campus: I have not looked for butterflies there, but walk to your open areas with tall grasses and/or flowers.

Monarch butterflies, once numerous, are in disastrous decline. “I’ve only seen one monarch this year,” said Harvey Allen, prominent local naturalist who leads butterfly walks, and who visited our campus July 18.

One major reason for the decline is the disappearance of milkweed, due to use of herbicides and to land development. Monarchs may sip nectar from many flowers, but they lay their eggs only on milkweed plants, and the larvae can eat only milkweed.

Lathrop can help, because our meadows have milkweed. Some residents have tried to nurture the native milkweed that appears in their townhome gardens, but the plants sometimes fall over. Sharon and I planted, in our townhome front garden, a native species that has sturdier stems, so it is not falling over, but it still supports monarchs. It’s swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata). We purchased it at Project Native in Housatonic.

On July 14, we saw a monarch butterfly on our swamp milkweed!

Here is that butterfly’s history, taken from a July 16 Washington Post article:

[Monarchs from the eastern coast]winter on a dozen forested mountain tops in central Mexico about two miles above sea level….From Mexico, as spring arrives, they head northward in a journey of generations. Members of the early generations have short life spans and don’t get all the way north. Each generation lays eggs and dies shortly thereafter, passing the mission onward to their progeny as they continue heading northward and then breed in the summer. The final generation-the fourth or fifth-is a super-generation, capable of living for nine months and flying the entire distance of up to 2,000 miles in the fall, back to the warmth of that exact spot in Mexico. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/07/16/this-animation-of-the-migration-of-the-monarch-butterfly-was-the-work-of-thousands-of-citizen-scientists/). Learn more at monarchwatch.org.

Consultant Analyzes North Campus Land

By Barbara Walvoord

Consultant Laurie Sanders (left) advises residents (from left) Jim Dowell, Barbara Walvoord, and Mary Willard, during a July 3, 2014 walk on the North campus
Consultant Laurie Sanders (left) advises residents (from left) Jim Dowell, Barbara Walvoord, and Mary Willard, during a July 3, 2014 walk on the North campus

How can we best manage our woods, fields, brooks, and wetlands so as to nurture birds, bees, butterflies, and other wildlife? To help us answer that question, the Land Conservation Subcommittee of the Green Committee, together with Lathrop director Thom Wright, engaged consultant Laurie Sanders to walk our land for three mornings, ending June 3 with a walk at the North campus. Continue reading Consultant Analyzes North Campus Land

Nurturing Lathrop’s native plants and wildlife.