Earth Matters

Every two weeks, the Hitchcock Center publishes a column, "Earth Matters: Notes on the Nature of the Valley," in The Daily Hampshire Gazette. Writers include Hitchcock staff and board members, former board members, presenters in our Community Programs series, and friends of the Center. Look for the column at the end of Section C of the weekend Gazette or on their website. We will keep a complete list on this site, so if you miss seeing a column in the newspaper, or want to see it again, come here at any time.

Proliferation of plants feeds the food chain

By Lawrence J. Winship

Because of the pandemic, I’ve spent much more time in our gardens this year. There is so much to see and do on our little half-acre lot. Over the decades, trees have filled in and gardens expanded and, through neglect, much has “gone wild.” New England gardeners know all too well what happens when you take your watchful eye off bittersweet, wild grape and multiflora rose. Add in hundreds of tree seedlings and you get the picture.

Published in Earth Matters on September 5, 2020.

For the love of lampreys

By John Sinton

Consider the sea lamprey. Who couldn’t love such a face? With their ancient heritage, their complex lives and their glorious culinary history, these jawless, boneless fish are among the most fascinating of creatures. They live among us, out of sight, wanting only to feed and migrate to the ocean.

Published in Earth Matters on August 31, 2020.

Nature blossoms in our retreat

By Christine Hatch For the Gazette

Did spring seem unusually long this year? Did you notice the miracle of new plants you’d never seen before pushing out of the earth and into your garden? When stay-at-home orders rained down we were on the off-ramp of winter, last year’s dead plants still plastered to compacted earth, and we had nowhere to go but — here. And so we did. We looked outside and registered anew our reduced “home range.”

Published in Earth Matters on August 8, 2020.

Welcoming fresh faces to the great outdoors

By Kari Blood For the Gazette

Do you enjoy being outdoors — hiking, fishing, watching birds or paddling a kayak? Think about how you came to experience that for the very first time as a child or a teen, or even later in life. Like most of us, you probably didn’t head out all by yourself: Someone else brought you there, showed you where to go and what to do. They shared their love of being outdoors with you. Whether this person was family, friend or teacher, they were part of your community.

Published in Earth Matters on July 24, 2020.

The secret of the well-equipped naturalist

By David Spector

How might  you equip yourself for an expedition to observe nature? The answers vary with where you’re going, the targeted aspects of nature, how long you expect to be outside, your level of interest and expertise, the time of year, etc. Here are some of my answers for day trips in western Massachusetts.

Published in Earth Matters on July 11, 2020.

‘Murder hornet’ hysteria takes toll on beneficial bees

By Joshua Rose

The headlines started in March, from media nationwide. From CNN: “Invasive ‘Murder Hornet’ spotted in United States.” From The Associated Press: “‘Murder Hornets,’ with sting that can kill, land in US.” Here’s The New York Times: “‘Murder Hornets’ in the US: The Rush to Stop the Asian Giant Hornet.” Even in our own Gazette, a recent letter to the editor was headlined “Beware of the ‘murder hornet.’”

Published in Earth Matters on June 27, 2020.

Sustainability must be a global goal

By Michael Dover

I recently reread a short essay by the late Donella Meadows from 1992 called “What does sustainability mean?” It’s still relevant, pointing the way to what we as a planetary culture need to think about and do. Meadows was a brilliant analyst of global ecological, social and economic systems, and a principal author of a breakthrough report, “The Limits of Growth,” in 1972. She taught at Dartmouth College until her death in 2001, and was equally at home writing for a technical audience and for the public, publishing a regular column, “The Global Citizen,” in her local paper, including her essay on sustainability. Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the idea of sustainability had a pretty decent pedigree. Meadows quotes the World Commission on Environment and Development 1987 report, defining a sustainable society as one that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Published in Earth Matters on June 13, 2020.

The evolution of a pollinator gardener

By Ted Watt

I love to grow stuff. I’ve been gardening since elementary school. When I grew my first sweet corn in fifth grade, I was so amazed when I went to the garden one day and the corn plants were taller than I was! Since then, I’ve learned a lot about how to keep plants healthy and happy, and have experimented with a wide range of species. In the process, I’ve had successes and a great many failures. With all the recent talk of planting for pollinators, I’ve lately been adopting a perspective in addition to my long interest in promoting diversity.

Published in Earth Matters on June 9, 2020.

How pigeons found their niche alongside us

By David Spector

A story: Many thousands of years ago a bird species nested on cliff ledges from central Asia, across north Africa, to parts of Europe. This bird fed on grassland seeds, often many miles from the cliffs, and could find its way over long distances between feeding grounds and nests. Its population was probably limited by availability of cliffs within reasonable commuting distance of seed-producing open country.

Published in Earth Matters on May 9, 2020.

Will we heed viral lesson from ‘broken’ tulips?

by Lawrence J. Winship

Hundreds of years ago, the flowering bulb markets of Holland were overcome by tulip mania. Buyers bid up highly desired varieties to astronomical prices, paying enormous sums for rarity and flamboyance. Fortunes were made and lost. One of the most sought-after varieties was the Semper Augustus, with striking streaks of white in its red petals — strange, magnificent, and deadly to other tulips.

Published in Earth Matters on April 25, 2020.
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