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Summer is here

Spring flowers, autumn moon;
   summer breezes, winter snow:
With mind uncluttered,
   this is the finest season.

      –Wumen Huikai

 

Summer is, in some respects, the most interesting season. Its entrance is “the end of the beginning”—a turning where, just as the sun rests in its ascent and prepares to depart the zenith, the skyward reach of stem and bloom turns and energies shift from extension to consolidation. Petals drop in favor of ripening seed; as leaves thicken and send rich syrups back along phloemy pathways, greenwood hardens off and trunks gain in girth and vines grow like—well, vines.

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Schizophragma hydrangeoides

This is a good time to loosen belts in advance of the zucchini flood, and plant tags before they embed in swelling sapwood.

We rejoice in perennials, which in the main show for a few days or weeks at most: the last azaleas

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and kalmias

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and, where chance and habitat permit, spectacular and sometimes deliciously fragrant native rhododendron and magnolia

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R. viscosum?

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M. virginiana, sweetbay

and other-worldly spiderwort:

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Biennials and annuals, meanwhile, show themselves for a much longer season; with one life to live, they live it in full, bringing pleasure to us and sustenance to all kinds of small winged creatures

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Herbs of augury and Derby

 

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as well as others that find among the foragers their own preferred nourishment:

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This is a good time to extirpate unwanted invasives, when they are easiest to identify, and well before they set seed. It is likewise an opportunity to transform high-maintenance turf- or crabgrass lawn into the eco-haven of a wildflower meadow, mowing or string-trimming what isn’t wanted and leaving patches of diverse desirable species to naturalize into an effortless quilt of many and changing colors.

Some trees and shrubs show promise of fruit to come, like exotic beach rose

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and domestic persimmon,

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our own implausibly native cactus

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and, likewise delicious to ourselves and other creatures, staghorn sumac:

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 Seeds a-ripening depend from Eastern redbud

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bubble up from viburnum

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or condense in the haze of a smoke-tree:

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 Neither flesh nor fowl nor good red herring, slime molds of several kinds creep forth, when food runs thin or the weather just right, pulling  a dispersed society into a slow-seething mass

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that in part will differentiate again into spores, sent on the wind to new homes of humus and duff.

Just-weaned mammals may be cautious and timid

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Marmot Sinatra

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accepting but watchful

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or (at least when young) insouciant and bold

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and, in the main, ever-inquisitive:

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 The solstice brings the last turtle nestings, most of which end badly for the eggs but bounteously for predators of all sizes,

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and a rainbow of snake species slithering forth in search of crickets and the like:

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 Their winged cousins keep busier with regeneration; the eggs of March and April

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April 27th

 

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sometimes laid in awkward places

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have hatched

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grown

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and fledged;

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where food and mood align, second (or, rarely, third) nestings may help give voice to the heavens:

June 20th

June 20th

 

Nor are the skies themselves still: with maximum insolation come the greatest differentials of temperature and humidity, strong winds and fast-changing weather. Though the passing torrent may be sometimes a bit extreme, the result, at the end of the day, is very often the most elegant of transient illuminations:

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Old pine, young sycamores

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Gold above; perhaps below?

 

And even the rocks are growing

 

Fear and Hiding on April 19, 1775

Very near Farrar Pond Village, an event related to the American Revolution occurred on April 19, 1775. The story involves Mercy Hoar Farrar, wife of Lt. Samuel Farrar, Jr., a Lincoln Minute Man who fought in the Battle of Concord and Lexington. The event involving Mercy Farrar may have occurred because of fears aroused on April 19 when news of the fighting in Lexington and Concord and the burning of Colonial military stores reached Lincoln. The Colonials did not know which route the British would take to return to Boston, and many families gathered their household goods and fled because they feared their homes might be burned or shot at by retreating troops.

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The community around Farrar Pond-to-be        (click to enlarge)

The Farrar homestead, which had been built in 1692, was located on Sudbury Way (now Concord Road or Route 126). It stood in a spot near where mailboxes for 216 and 217 Concord Road now stand. On April 19, the house was a gathering place for women and children from Concord. Mercy Farrar fled with her family, including her baby Samuel 3rd, and others, down to Oakey Bottom, a forested area below the rear of the house at the southeastern edge of a marshy meadow (now Farrar Pond) through which Half-Way Brook flowed.

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Farrar Homestead, original image available from Lincoln Archives        (click to enlarge)

You might wonder why she wanted to flee, since most of the fighting that occurred as the British retreated from Concord was at the other end of town along the Battle Road of 1775. Though the British returned to Boston the way they came, they could have chosen the route through South Lincoln along Sudbury Way and then east along South Great Road (Route 117) to Waltham, Watertown, and Brookline into Boston. Had they taken this route, the British would have marched close to the Farrar home.

The British had gone to Concord to destroy military stores kept there by the Colonials. In the early hours of April 19, 650 to 900 British troops led by Lt. Col. Francis Smith and Major John Pitcairn left Boston, crossed the Charles River, and marched towards Concord, under orders from Thomas Gage, the British Military Governor of Massachusetts. Soon after the British left Boston, the entire countryside had been alerted to their presence. They reached Lexington around 4:30 AM and met and fired on a company of Lexington Minute Men, eight of whom were mortally wounded.

Minute Men from Lincoln and Concord, having heard about the fighting in Lexington, marched from Concord towards Lincoln until they sighted a large British force coming in the opposite direction. They turned about, marched back to Concord, and went on to the North Bridge. The British searched Concord for Colonial military supplies. Smoke from fires set by the British led the Colonials to believe Concord was being burned. At 9:30 AM they encountered the British at the North Bridge and, during the ensuing fight, fired “The Shot Heard Round the World”. News of the confrontation spread to other towns.

The British retreated to Concord Center where they regrouped, rested, and took care of their wounded. Later, when they finally started back to Boston, “the real battle began.” They were shot at from behind trees and walls and broke ranks in their retreat. Lincoln was the setting for much of the fighting.

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The British long march back to Boston from Concord   (click to enlarge)

(This map may be seen larger and in color at http://www.nps.gov/mima/index.htm; look to lower left for Park Tools→View Park Map.)

Back in Boston, six hours after the first troops had left for Concord, Gage sent out a relief column led by Lord Hugh Percy, who met up with Lt. Col. Smith’s demoralized men, collected them back into regiments, and led them back to Charlestown. Before reaching there, they fought with the Colonials in Arlington and Cambridge.

According to historian John C. MacLean, “Whatever they did, it was certain the British would march through Lincoln again. Lincoln’s traditions suggest that many families prepared by hiding valuables and some gathered together for safety.”

Mercy Farrar had additional reasons to fear for her family. Lt. Samuel Farrar, Jr. was a Minute Man and his father, Deacon Samuel Farrar, Sr., who also lived at the homestead, was a respected Colonial leader who had played a prominent role in events leading up to the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. In 1773, he was Chairman of the first Committee of Correspondence. In 1774, the British Parliament outlawed the holding of town meetings without consent from the Governor.  After this and other “Intolerable Acts” passed by Parliament, the Colonials held County Conventions to deal with their concerns.  At the Middlesex Convention held in Concord that year and attended by Deacon Farrar, the following measure was endorsed:

…if, in support of our rights, we are called upon to encounter even death, we are yet undaunted, sensible that he can never die too soon, who lays down his life in support of the laws and liberties of his country. (MacLean, p. 244)

Deacon Farrar attended the first Provincial Congress that formed an opposition government after Gage discharged their elected representatives to the General Court. This government created a Commission of Safety to call out the militia. It also initiated Minute Men groups, amassed munitions, and formed a treasury.  At the Lincoln town meeting in January of 1775, the town endorsed the Provincial Congress and sent it representatives and funds. Deacon Farrar was elected to several positions of leadership and responsibility at this meeting.

The story of Mercy Farrar’s hiding out in Oakey Bottom was later told by one of the Farrar grandsons:

The Concord families living nearest to our home fled this way for safety, and with my grandmother and others of the family left this house, and took refuge in “Oaky Bottom,” a retired piece of forest land about one-half mile in the rear of the house [now part of the man-made Farrar Pond]. Grandmother in her haste had sufficient self-possession to think of the cattle tied in the barn. These she let loose, desiring to save them from the flames that she expected would be kindled by Gage’s army. She took her babe, Samuel (the third), in her arms, the large family Bible, a loaf of bread, and a looking-glass, with what little silver she had, and bade farewell to the old dwelling, never expecting to gather her family about her again beneath that ancestral roof. (MacLean, p. 276)

As it turned out, the Farrar home was never endangered. After April 19, Lt. Samuel Farrar, Jr. participated in the Battle of Bunker Hill and helped to fortify Dorchester Heights. He was soon promoted to Captain and led a company of Volunteers throughout the War. At Saratoga, he was present when Burgoyne surrendered. Deacon Farrar died in 1783, soon after the War ended. Samuel Farrar, Jr. became one of the first Selectmen to serve Lincoln after the War and became an important town leader.

The Farrar homestead, inhabited by generations of Farrars since the 17th century, stood until the early 1950s. The last owner, a Farrar relative, after deciding the house was beyond repair, removed items of value from it, and, with permission from the fire department, had the house torn down and burned. Artifacts from it are now on exhibit at the Smithsonian and Winterthur Museums.

Sources

  1. Glass, Kerry, and Little Elizabeth, Lincoln . . . Lincoln Historical Commission, 1975.
  2. Farrar, Edward R., Birthplace of the Farrar Family in America, Lincoln, Massachusetts.
  3. MacLean, John C., A Rich Harvest, Lincoln, MA, Lincoln Historical Society, 1987.
  4. Minute Man National Historical Park, Massachusetts, Minute Man, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior.
  5. Ragan, Ruth Molton, Voiceprints of Lincoln, Boston, Northeastern University Press, Lincoln Historical Society, 1991.

This article was written with assistance from the following Lincoln residents: Jeanne Cousins, Mary E. Peterson (a Farrar descendant), and Harold McAleer.  It was originally printed in the April 2000 issue of the Farrar Ponder, a publication of Farrar Pond Village, Lincoln, MA.

© Kathy Garner 2000

 

Turtle traffic

This is the season when female turtles travel up from permanent water to lay (by usual preference) in loose, sandy, south-facing higher ground. From Farrar Pond, many—hundreds?—of painted (Chrysemys picta) and snapping (Chelydra serpentina) turtles may plod a quarter-mile or more to find or return to their favored spots, and can spend a couple of days testing soils, avoiding predators and people, depositing eggs in one nest or several, then staggering home. When a relaxing bath is available, like this constructed frog pond,

S0618121fpthey may remain there for a few days before laying, and up to a month before returning home. These charming if shy

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Up periscope!

visitors are always welcome, even though they may entirely consume a carefully maintained drift of duckweed, apparently easier pickin’s than tough lily leaves and fast-moving tadpoles. Snapping turtles—though generally quite harmless to people even when provoked—are such fine hunters that they can take a dozen or more frogs and hundreds of tadpoles in a few days. Even shyer in the water than painted turtles, they are not easily netted or otherwise sent packing. Life is a balance, even (or especially) when semi-artificially constrained.

Both species tend to lay here between late-May and early June. Typically, more than 90% of nests are predated the first night, leaving a gaping hole and scattered shells as a sad reminder.

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(More at A Long First Journey.) Gravid or post-partum mothers may be hit by speedy and inattentive SUVs as they leave the woods

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to cross streets

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or rest in the sun.

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15″ shell

A few are taken by large predators. Tiny creeping newborns

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1.5″ shell

that do appear each autumn and spring (developing embryos can overwinter if not adequately ripened before the ground chills), like these of a rarely witnessed hatching,

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Look for the eyes

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face much greater risks than their parents from automobiles

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and predators including carnivorous mammals, birds and even bullfrogs.

Non-vehicular hazards are part of the natural cycle. Offsetting the high mortality of eggs and hatchlings, turtles live for a very long time, not uncommonly half a century or more. Eggs and soft-shelled young are seasonal food for all those other species. Yet with pollution and eutrophication, their shallow-water homeworld ever dwindles. And with ever more of the surrounding land paved,

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mowed, built upon, toxified and otherwise rendered unfit, safe passage and safe nesting are ever harder to attain. So it is a courtesy to these species—cautiously recommended by conservation authorities—to lend a helping hand (or, better, calm and divert traffic) when a mother encounters paving. Newborns may safely (for all concerned) be carried across

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or even all the way down to near the edge of a nearby body of suitable water

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to make their own way in:

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Since one theory of navigation is that turtles know “home” by the taste of their first swim, it may be more important than usual not to meddle overmuch.

There are, however, times when it may be appropriate to take more direct protective action, relocating early nests or hatchlings. This pile of sand, shortly due to be relocated, was an inevitable target for both mother and multiple predators drawn by her smell and that of disturbed earth:

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But empty shells are absent; one small tragedy was averted as the 36 spherical eggs

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had been removed to a safer spot and reburied within the few hours during which they remain soft, flexible and safe to handle. Similarly, this soon-to-be-moved chip pile, though shaded, may have been attractive to both of these moms for easy digging and the internal warmth of fermentation and decay:

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One eventually moved on to lay elsewhere; the other’s clutch of 57 was again rescued

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and reburied.

A less frequent occurrence is the accidental excavation of a nest. Turtles tend to prefer the same loose, porous and sunny earth beloved of gardeners, and may place eggs near a recently installed planting or in a spot prepared for one.  One chance shovel thrust turned up a small nest with two little snappers, already hatched and just starting to dig their way to freedom:

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Though fairly long out of shell, the smaller was clearly less ready for the outer world, yolk sac not yet fully absorbed:

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Perhaps the hatching of one triggered the same in its nestmate, with multiple evolutionary advantages including cooperative digging and predator satiation.

Tempting though it be to observe the whole process, it is best to leave the mothers alone until homeward bound.

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Though not at all aggressive, they spook easily, and may be driven from preferred(and long-accustomed nesting sites if they observe observers:

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Do not tickle my chin

Having left her genetic legacy on dry land, this mother crawls off, with no knowledge of the fate of her efforts:

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–though who knows what tales these ladies may be sharing?

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Maculate conception

Cautiously inquisitive…

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Short of domestication

Even when installers don’t neglect to put landscape fabric between pavers and bedding,

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keeping a walkway weed-free can be challenging to those of limited knee flexion:

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Fortunately, many such greens are of the edible (not to say delectable) variety, so otherwise indolent residents

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Life is a sun-warmed bed of Cornus florida petals

may sometimes volunteer for the job, which to them provides its own reward:

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Now if only they could be induced to chomp up all the garlic mustard…