A Single Species: An End-of-January Investigation

There is sometimes too much, or too little, simplification that goes on when “environmental education” takes hold. Starting with a single species, as Fresh Pond Reservation staff in Cambridge, Mass., will do on January 31st with “The Secret Life of White Oaks,” can make a path for kids, families, anyone, to start small and grow curious from there.

White oaks are the ones with rounded lobes on their leaves; and oaks, in general are trees that keep their leaves well into the winter.

Information about the Secret Life of White Oaks walkabout at Fresh Pond Reservation

What’s your single favorite or familiar species—the one that drew you in to a fascination with nature more broadly, or that you still hold in your mind’s eye, or that’s a talisman in everyday life? Flora or fauna notwithstanding, a single species is a direct line from the human to the natural world.

Coal Plant Shutdowns: Economic Justice for Communities

On November 12, 2013, I attended the hearing of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities & Energy at which Rep. Lori Ehrlich of the 8th Essex District testified in support of H. 2935. Here’s my Storify record.

  1. Here @ state house 4hearing on H.2935, An Act to Transition to 2 #CleanEnergyCommonwealth and its community transition fund #climatechange
  2. Amazing confluence of several streams this morning at #MA state house: #Parenting, #ClimateChange, #Envirojustice. 1/2
  3. #Climatechange hearing @ MA state house. I’m here w/ @mothersoutfront and residents of communities w/#coal plants t.co/M8IVYir6AF
  4. Gr8 2B w/so many @MothersOutFront 2day 2demand progress on #climatechange WITH attention 2communities impacted (jobs, tax revenues). #MAPOLI
  5. Cancer survivor, Somerset resident whose grandson is an asthmatic now speaking. #climatechange MT @Mothersoutfront t.co/ZkBjR2tfd7
    Pro-active approach needed so towns historiclly dependnt on taxes from coal plants=better prepared.@BetterFuturePro t.co/Z3JKxvXrxj
  6. #AppalachiaNorth is what those who support H. 2935 feel Holyoke, Somerset, Salem should be considered. #climatechange MT @Mothersoutfront
  7. Resident of Salem since ’79 now speaking …Salem skyline dominated by stacks..visited Appalachia to see what #coal co’s do when leaving.
  8. Toxics Action Center Campaigns was proud to co-host a lobby day with Coal Free Mass today! Coal plant owners… t.co/pBSQzfXRic
  9. @loriehrlich speaks at Coal Free Day. Natural gas prices leading to closing of coal plants. #mapoli @EnviroLeagueMA t.co/gvulWRFqPi
  10. Three residents (Holyoke, Somerset, Salem) now testifying in support of H.3945. #climatechange #ecojustice #coal t.co/J4kbYbIIGt
  11. Holyoke res Carlos Rodriguez: wife has been 2ER 4x this yr (asthma). 1visit: half of others in ER were there for same reason. #Envirojustice
  12. Pauline Rodrigues:Somerset tax base red. fr $13M to $975K now that #BraytonPoint closure.. 200 workers now @plant. Asks 4healthy industries.
  13. Reuse planning needs 2have community voice, restoration of land and water, says Salem resident supporting the bill #CleanEnergyCommonwealth

“Clean the owl …

“Clean the owl cage.”

Rockport, Massachusetts: Halibut Point State Park, where the mental owl cage gets a sprucing up.
Rockport, Massachusetts: Halibut Point State Park, where the mental owl cage gets a sprucing up.

Those who ponder the variants, whys, and wherefores of outdoor education will want to read this terrific post by Sean Musselman on what’s become a buzz phrase—”authentic learning experience.”

Meanwhile, as I write this,  I’m cleaning my own metaphorical owl cage by taking two disparate generations of family members on a coastal New England kite-flying expedition.

Stop Press: Bill McKibben of 350.org in Cambridge, Mass. 7/21

Bill McKibben will be speaking in Cambridge on July 21st.

He will be joined by other veteran climate and economic justice activists to discuss the growing fossil fuel resistance movement and a just transition to a green economy  All proceeds will support the legal fund of the Summer Heat action at the Brayton Point Coal Plant –  http://joinsummerheat.org/massachusetts/.

McKibben recently won the international Sophie prize for environmental work.
Suggested Donation: $15 dollars at the door, or whatever you can give.

The event is from 7:00-9:00PM at the First Parish Cambridge Unitarian Universalist, in Harvard Square.

 3 Church Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138
Prior to the speaking event, many of those participating in or supporting the action at the end of July will be gathering to make signs and banners at 4:00PM.
More information is available on the facebook page, where you can also join the event on the 21st.


Triangle Points: The Scrawl, the Funnels and Me

Funnels—those are what the Brayton Point coal-fired power plant’s cooling towers look like.

The image has run across my screen fleetingly over the past several months. Those concrete twin cylinders are like a little fly in my peripheral vision.

It’s one of a hundred thousand images or more I’ve registered in that time, that is,  since I’ve known Brayton Point is the target of Mothers Out Front, 350.org, and others in Massachusetts who want coal-fired plants outta here. The other one that’s stuck in my mind is a six year old’s garrulous, scrawled, ebullient list of observations during a visit to Fresh Pond Reservation.  She came in after barely two hours in the simplest of habitats—the littlest bit of only one segment of our watershed here in Cambridge— sat in the circle, and diligently recorded her findings and those of her classmates. The kids ranged in age from four to six. They did not have the adult filters which relegate a goldfinch to the status of wallpaper, the bee to expendable background.

There is no expendable, until you’re taught so.


Thank you for the garrulous, scrawled record of busy animals and a sycamore that can hold a handful of kids in its hollow, little girl whom I shall not name here. Thank you, Mothers Out Front for trying to shut down Brayton Point.

I’m betting some mothers and some six-year–olds in Somerset, Massachusetts—where the funnels are more than just a fly across the visual field—as  well as those farther away—none of us expendable—will be better off without a coal-fired plant in our midst.Image

August Update: Nature Programs &Etc in Cambridge



Dave Brown Wildlife Walk

1-3 p.m. Join Tracker-naturalist David Brown, who conducted a pair of wildlife surveys in the park a decade ago,on a wildlife walk on the North trail of the Alewife Reservation.  No Cost, All Ages welcome.

Getting Ready to Honk!

3–5 p.m. Join Ranger Jean Rogers and Julie Croston at Fresh Pond Reservation to make dragonfly (Wandering Glider) and damselfly (Blue Fronted Dancer) wings, or an algae hand-puppet, to wear in the Fresh Pond Creatures Contingent at the Honk! Parade on October 13th. For families with ages 5-11; rain or shine. Meet at Fresh Pond Reservation Ranger Station. Offered by Friends of Fresh Pond Reservation and Tobin Friends of Fresh Pond.



Cambridge Residents: Appeal to City Council for Silver Maple Forest funds

6 p.m.  Join Friends of Alewife Reservation’s Quinton Zondervan at Cambridge City Hall, Sullivan Chamber to support this appeal for funds from the Community Preservation Act.



Telling Your Natural Story: A Storytelling Workshop

1–3:30 p.m. Come take a short walk with Ranger Jean to learn the stories of nature at Fresh Pond, and then, over tea and cookies, storyteller Amy Tighe will show you how to create and share your own stories. Register at jrogers@cambridgema.gov.



A Fresh Pond Reservation Walkabourt

6–7:30 p.m.  Take a walking tour of recently restored areas at Fresh Pond Reservation and learn about both ongoing and future restoration projects. Watershed Manager Chip Norton will answer your questions about the past, present, and future of landscape management at Fresh Pond. Meet at Purification Facility front door, FPR.



Anne Marie Lambert Little RIver Nature Poetry Walk

3-5 p.m.  Join Belmont Citizen Forum guide Anne Marie Lambert, who has been leading groups since last year and enjoys sharing perspectives, history and wildlife information.




Botany Walk on Grasses and Sedges of Alewife Reservation with Walter Kittredge 

Meet at 1:00 p.m. at the lot on Acorn Park Drive, Cambridge., Mass., for this walk. Walter is Senior Curatorial Assistant at the Harvard University Herbaria, a worldwide research collection of over 5 million dried plant specimens. Walter is also the Assistant Curator of the New England Botanical Club Herbarium. Walter has 35 years experience as a botanist and 25 years experience as a Wetlands Delineator consultant. Walter is co-author with Bryan Hamlin of Changes in the Flora of the Middlesex Fells Reservation. Walter leads educational hikes on plant identification and ecology, and created a nature trail for the Dark Hollow Pond Trail which is now called Bear Hill Habitats, Current research focuses on documenting the largest trees of the Fells using the Eastern Native Tree Society methodology. Walter has participated in Biodiversity Days at various DCR properties, and conducts floristic inventories of conservation areas throughout eastern Massachusetts.

Cancelled in the event of rain. For more information please email info@friendsofalewifereservation.org.



Online Class on Urban Agriculture through UMass

UMass is offering a 6-week online class called Urban Agriculture: Innovative Farming Systems for the 21st Century, beginning Monday, July 8.  This class earns 3 college credits and may count toward the Sustainable Food and Farming Online Certificate.  The instructor, Helena Farrell, has a Masters in Landscape Architecture from the University of Massachusetts and her course is well-grounded in permaculture principles.   The cost is $371/credit.  For more information, see: http://www.justfoodnow.org/urbanfarm.htm.Students will learn about innovative production methods and critical social, economic, and environmental dimensions of modern day urban agriculture.  Multi-media presentations by the instructor, articles and videos online, and a custom, library research guide provide a strong foundation for students to investigate important topics and evaluate the performance of real life urban farm systems. The course will consist of readings, videos, quizzes, and research assignments in which students critically assess major strengths, weaknesses and issues of 21st century urban farm systems.



SUMMER BIRD WALK at Fresh Pond Reservation

7:30 to 9:30 am. Early morning is the best time to look for birds because they are most active when the air is cool and they are hungry for breakfast. We may find adults feeding babies in the nest and fledglings that are following their parents and begging for food.  As always, beginning birders are welcome.  We have binoculars to lend and will show you how to use them. You must register for parking and meeting place information E-mail friendsoffreshpond@yahoo.com or call 617-349-7712 and leave your name and phone number to register.


July 14


1 to 3 pm. Water Purification Facility parking lot, Fresh Pond Reservation, at the Volunteer Trailer
250 Fresh Pond Parkway
Join us as we start removing seed pods from this year’s crop of Fresh Pond’s most invasive vine. We’ll work along the Pond fence digging it up where we can, and picking pods where we can’t dig. Tools and training provided. To join us, e-mail Katie at fpr@cambridgema.gov or call
617-349-7712. Co-sponsored by Cambridge Pod Patrol, a public education campaign to spread the word (not the weed) about black swallowwort in Cambridge.


July 15

UPPER WATERSHED NATURE WALK (transport to and from Cambridge provided)

6 to 7:30 pm
Water Purification Facility front door
250 Fresh Pond Parkway
Landscape architects at Bioengineering Group will introduce you to the unique habitats found on Cambridge-owned land in the Upper Watershed.  Find out where your water comes from and discover new places to explore.  Transportation provided to registered participants; call 617-349-7712 or email fpr@cambridgema.gov.

Saturday and Sunday

JULY 20/21

First Outdoors Family Camping Weekend, at Otter River State Forest, Baldwinville, Mass.

These weekend experiences are designed for families who are new to camping and families of all kinds are welcome! Depending on the location, activities may include: Camping Fundamentals, Nature Walks & Plant Identification, Fishing, Archery, Nature Center Exploration, Live Animal Program, Outdoor Cooking and an Evening Campfire Program.  Registration information is here on the  Department of Conservation and Recreation. Registration preference will be for those families who are new to this program.  Additional dates for this program are below:

July 27 & 28 — Harold Parker State Forest, Andover


July 29

WATER QUALITY MONITORING at Fresh Pond Reservation

6 to 7:30 pm
Water Purification Facility front door
250 Fresh Pond Parkway
Learn about the Cambridge Watershed system and the Water Quality Monitoring Program with Watershed Supervisor David Kaplan.  Find out about the parameters measured and what they tell us about the water quality.  Check out some of the tools and techniques used for sampling water collected from reservoirs and tributaries for laboratory analysis.

August 3 & 4 — Nickerson State Park, Brewster

August 10 & 11 — Tolland State Forest, Otis



image descriptionDaylight Moonlight: Nature Storytime with Children’s Author and Artist, Matt Patterson


Join the Harvard Museum of Natural History in Cambridge, Mass.,  for a special Nature Storytime with children’s author and artist, Matt Patterson, who will read from his newest book, Daylight Moonlight. This beautifully illustrated book provides a fun way for children to learn about the animals that populate different habitats by day and by night. Matt has painted 22 scenes of the forest, desert, underwater, seashore, wetlands, grasslands, mountains, public parks, and even his own backyard. (Copies of Matt’s book will be available for purchase in the Museum gift shop.)

The museum has many other good programs going on this summer.


Exploring the Urban Outdoors in Cambridge, Mass.: Events

 BOTANY WALK, April 26, 1 p.m.

Botanist Walter Kittredge is conducting a region-wide herbarium project to bring attention to the local New England flora, its presence and value, and is looking closely at vegetation at Alewife Reservation. Walter is Senior Curatorial Assistant at the Harvard University Herbaria, a world-wide research collection of over 5 million dried plant specimens.Participants will meet at the Alewife Brook parking lot at Cambridge Discovery Park at 100 Acorn Park Drive in Cambridge. Sponsored by Friends of Alewife Reservation. (usual time for this monthly event, beginning in June, will be the First Friday of the Month, 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm)

Call (617) 415-1884 for more information.


Maynard Ecology Center, lower level of Neville Place
650 Concord Avenue
When you and your dog visit Fresh Pond Reservation, your dog is probably far more aware than you are that the Reservation is the home of coyotes, skunks, raccoons, opossums, and many smaller mammals. Sightings of wild animals, especially coyotes, are increasing and have raised concerns about what we should do when we encounter these critters. John Maguranis is the Belmont Animal Control Officer and the Massachusetts representative for Project Coyote (www.projectcoyote.org). He will share with us his knowledge and experiences, tell us about coyote behavior, and instruct us on pet and human safety.  After the formal presentation, we’ll walk outside (weather permitting) to look for coyote tracks. Please register. You will receive important information on parking after you register. E-mail Elizabeth Wylde at friendsoffreshpond@yahoo.com or call 617- 349-6489 and leave your name and phone number.



Join Anne Marie Lambert for a guided walk through Alewife Reservation with Poet Richard Cambridge and Frederick Law Olmstead re-enactor Gerald Wright.  Sponsored by Friends of Alewife Reservation and the Cambridge Citizens Forum.  Participants will meet at the Alewife Brook parking lot at Cambridge Discovery Park at 100 Acorn Park Drive in Cambridge. Families welcome. Call (617) 415-1884 for more information.


Nick Woebske and Galen Mook lead a bike tour at dusk around the perimeter of the Alewife Reservation.  Edible plant expert David Craft will educate riders on the vast amount of edible plants in the area at periodic stops.  Sponsored by the Friends of Alewife Reservation. Participants will meet at the at the passenger pickup of the AlewifeT-stop in Cambridge. Visit the Friends of Alewife Reservation’s site for updated information or call (617) 415-1884.



A Toolkit for Community Planning with Regard to Open Space

Fresh Pond

A Toolkit for Community Planning with Regard to Open Space

Caveat: this array of links from Mass Audubon may not be fully up to date. However, I offer it here for those of us relative newbies interested in understanding and working on open space issues.