UNINTENDED FISH TRAPS

Water Closet for August 21, 2015

 “The outlet pipe to the pond is a foot too high so won’t let the water and fish go directly on. The four-score fish admired were doomed to suffocate. “

 Friday’s Council on Aging/ Conservation Commission walkers began to feel the morning’s growing heat and humidity after an up and down two miles in the wilds of west Middleton near the North Reading line. The last half-mile on the shady, level path on the north side of Middleton Pond was welcomed by the tired old timers. Near the end of the hike they came upon a pine-shaded, clear puddle with many blue-gray fish. The cool scene delighted until its source and significance dawned on them. Despite their apparent color, one old Closeteer thought they were sunfish down from Emerson Bog three-quarters mile away. On either end of the 4-square meter pool were the open ends of two-foot diameter pipes. The one coming in from the north is from a 150 acre shallow-bushy reservoir, Emerson Bog, on Emerson Brook.   Another, 25 feet away, takes water when the pool is full a tenth of a mile on to Middleton Pond, a deeper lake-like reservoir. Water is pumped over from Emerson Bog to Middleton Pond when water is low there. Just before the road circling the pond there is a break in the pipes allowing woodland swales of water when high to enter and go under the road in the pipe to the pond. When the pump stops, the pipe from Emerson Bog empties into the shallow stone bottomed pond between the inlet and outlet pipes. The tiny pond is subject to water loss through evaporation and seepage into the ground. The outlet pipe to the pond is a foot too high so won’t let the water and fish go directly on. The four-score fish admired were doomed to suffocate.

Friday, August 14.   Pond fish trapped in a disappearing pool between the Emerson Bog reservoir and the Middleton Pond reservoir in Middleton.  In two more days their water and dissolved oxygen will be gone. - Judy Schneider photo
Friday, August 14. Pond fish trapped in a disappearing pool between the Emerson Bog reservoir and the Middleton Pond reservoir in Middleton. In two more days their water and dissolved oxygen will be gone. – Judy Schneider photo

Hiker Al Rosner suggested to an old Closeteer that he return with his dip net and buckets and transport them the hard way to the pond. The next morning the Closeteer found the puddle half the size it had been 24 hours before. The fish still seemed healthy despite warmer water and thus significantly lower dissolved oxygen. Despite this they put up a lively dance to avoid the dip net. Crevices between loose stones on the bottom provided some refuge. After two slow trudges carrying buckets, about 40 rescued fish were in Middleton Pond their fate unknown.*
While walking back and fourth the Closeteer fondly remembered walker Dave Shaw’s story of when he was a brave Middleton boy. Now in his seventies he likes to tell us on our walks when crossing over the puddle-to-pond pipe of his adventure. No doubt on dares, he and friends crawled the almost 1/10 mile starting at the pond end through the two-foot diameter pipe. After freeing the fish the Closeteer bent and looked in and saw a distant circle of light, the same that had no doubt encouraged young Dave. Thoughts of refugees moving now worldwide from war, climate change, and terrible poverty without clear views of light at the ends of tunnels crossed his mind.
Dave and companions didn’t get trapped or flushed down by water from Emerson bog but each year millions of animals, especially fish, are the victims of manmade structures built for convenience without a thought given to the lives of other creatures. Many of the millions of culverts under roads in just our state alone are built too high at their ends thus leaving traps or barriers to passage. Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife personnel, well aware of this problem, with Town conservation commissions have been slow in doing something about it. Under some fairly recent rules new construction must take these barriers and potential traps into account. As recalled here in the Water Closet before, road building Colonists and their descendents built dams and a vast network of roads fragmenting the habitats of animals that once moved freely place to place. Breeding populations were isolated and lost. Going along with our theme you might say they were “trapped” on the wrong sides of the “tracks”.

Monday, August 17.  The temporary pool’s water evaporated in the hot whether and seeped into the ground.  The trapped fish are dead. Unseen above and below are 2-ft. diameter pipes.  One brought the fish in.  The outlet pipe higher than the pool’s bottom left some water and fish behind as the water subsided.  -  Stream Team photo
Monday, August 17. The temporary pool’s water evaporated in the hot weather and seeped into the ground. The trapped fish are dead. Unseen above and below are 2-ft. diameter pipes. One brought the fish in. The outlet pipe higher than the pool’s bottom left some water and fish behind as the water subsided. – Stream Team photo

In that sense perhaps the most terrible of trappings were done by dams in rivers along our coasts. These dams trapped the anadromous fish on the saltwater sides of their lifecycles. Unable to get to the reproductive sides, ancient spawning waters up rivers, their populations quickly became endangered. The once plentiful Atlantic salmon may be approaching extinction. Few river herring are counted by Ipswich River Watershed Association volunteers each spring at the Ipswich fish ladder. Before the dams hundreds of thousands swam up the Ipswich and on into her tributaries where new generations began.
Another man-caused accident of entrapment on the tributary Emerson Brook was remembered upon Friday’s finding. About 15 years ago a Danvers Water Department worker was flushing the overflow pipe through the pump-house at the Lake Street dam. It had been a dry summer and the impounded water in Emerson Bog above the dam was low. Fish from the large shallow reservoir had concentrated in deep water just above the dam. The flushing usually takes less than half an hour; the worker left the intake gate open for several hours while off on an errand.   A couple days later a person living near the dam called the Conservation Commission’s agent about a stench wafting up from the brook. The agent checked and found several ponds in low areas of the previously drought dry brook. They were filled with thousands of dead fish and live brown bullheads gulping at the surface for air. The water was black with rotting corpses and bacteria. The fish had been trapped in the pools without any cleansing stream current to free them. The agent and fisherman friend Fran Masse lugged many buckets of bullheads back up to clean water above the dam. Bill Klosowski who made mulch each year for his greenhouse-landscaping business sent a septic system pump-out truck for the corpses and water. He must have made the richest mulch mix ever that year.
Others huge traps often recalled by an old Closeteer who grew up near the Merrimack River were those of summers and warm water when the pogies (Atlantic menhaden) came in the rivers by the millions. They were driven in by voracious blue fish and stripped bass. The warm sewage water down from the industrial cities with little oxygen due to lots of bacteria suffocated the pogies. Their rotting bodies were found in stinking rows along both banks. Boys stopped swimming on ebb tides even on hot days. The pogies came and were trapped by toxic water.   Municipal septic systems have been built thanks to the Federal Clean Water Act. The Merrimack and many other rivers are clean again.
Let coastal dams go the way of the Curtis Dam on Boston Brook and the Edward’s Dam once a barrier across the mighty Kennebec River. These dams were removed in the last decade. Spawning fish are going back up the Kennebec. The Ipswich River has two more dams to go before it is free for fish. Let civil engineers design animal friendly wide culverts to be installed at proper elevations for fish and other animals using river and stream corridors. Fish were here long before us and may be here after. It is the fair and right thing to do for their sakes and ours.
* Monday morning 42 fish were found dead on the bottom of the dried up pool. They had avoided the rescuer’s net by hiding in crevices between the bottom stones. A Danvers Water Treatment Plant worker said they had pumped water over from Emerson Bog on Wednesday and Thursday. The full pool between the pipes had dried up within 3 days. The trapped fish not removed suffocated. By Monday their corpses had loss their color and were covered with flies.
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WATER RESOURCE AND CONSERVATION INFORMATION
FOR MIDDLETON, BOXFORD AND TOPSFIELD`

Precipitation Data* for Month of: May June July Aug
30 Year Normal (1981 – 2010) Inches 4.06 3.95 3.89 3.37
2015 Central Watershed Actual 0.94 5.87 2.12 2.3 as of 8/18**

Ipswich R. Flow Rate (S. Middleton USGS Gage) in Cubic Feet/ Second (CFS):
For Aug 18, 2015  Normal . . . 6.7 CFS     Current Rate . . . 0.14 CFS
*Danvers Water Filtration Plant, Lake Street, Middleton is the source for actual precipitation data thru July.
**Middleton Stream Team is source of actual precipitation data for Aug.
Normals data is from the National Climatic Data Center.
THE WATER CLOSET is provided by the Middleton Stream Team: www.middletonstreamteam.org or <MSTMiddletonMA@gmail.com> or (978) 777-4584

RADIOACTIVE WATER

Water Closet for August 14, 2015

70 YEARS AGO AND AFTER

“The wind-water borne radiation from Chernobyl fell even further away than distant Wales where 25 years later the soils in certain pastures still grow grass that taints the milk of grazing livestock.” 

  August 8, 2015. Seventy years ago our country dropped an atomic bomb on beautiful Nagasaki. It was the second of those bombs exploded over a Japanese city in the terrible heat of war. In subsequent years we learned the results of both. One old Closeteer hasn’t been able get them out of his head. Residents who survived the bombs still suffer more tangibly.
As this is being written radioactive isotopes in Fukushima ground water are leaking into the Pacific. Over one thousand miles to the southeast Bikini and Eniwetok atolls, testing grounds for atomic and hydrogen bombs, are still slightly radioactive. Native populations were evacuated prior to bomb tests there in the late 1940s and 1950s. Half a world away in the largely abandoned area around Chernobyl’s hot ruins new mutant organisms are still being found. Instruments there still detect strong pockets of radiation in soil and ground water.
In Japan, as memorial services are being held this month, debate over a bill to allow a greater role for the Japanese Self Defense Force is heating up. Many who remember the awful war of Japan’s own making oppose an increase of weapons and even more nuclear power plants.
The old Closeteer, thanks to the U. S. Navy and no plans of his own, visited Nagasaki, participated in the tests at Eniwetok, and later visited Hiroshima. Memories of those experiences are still very much with him.
The following Water Closet was written soon after the tsunami swept over the Fukushima power plant and beyond.
RADIOACTIVE WATER (WC 4-1-11)
Trinity Test, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Ameican and Russian nuclear bomb tests, Three Mile Island, and Chernobyl are events burned in old memories of when radioactive elements resulting from man’s activities got out of control purposely or otherwise. Now we add Fukushima. The poisons rose and are rising with water into the air to become part of the clouds. Water is a neutral carrier of life’s good stuff like salts in the sea and sugars, salts, amino acids, and hormones in the blood to mention but a few of thousands of natural solutes. It also carries radioactive isotopes, pesticides and herbicides in air and flowing water beyond where they ought to be. Quiet Rachel Carson, very loudly in writing, warned us a half century ago in Silent Spring of agricultural chemicals on the loose in our waters. This past week in the Boston Globe we were reminded of another outspoken woman, pediatrician Helen Caldicott, who spoke against the dangers of radiation. She started a decade after Carson bothered us and has gone on ever since. She opposes all nuclear weapons and power plants. One old Closeteer remembers attending a meeting where she in quiet fury told the group what people were doing. Sometimes the truth it is very uncomfortable. Now politicians are warned over and over, often by timid advisors, about keeping their cool. Caldicott continues to speak out from her home and medical practice in Newton. She is now watching the out of control events at Fukushima’s damaged power plants very carefully. She hasn’t and doesn’t need to say “I told you so.” The media are making that point very loudly. They remind us daily of past events and doubts; leaders around the world are listening.

The beginning at Hiroshima of what perhaps could be the end.  Is it any wonder people negotiate so hard to reduce the number of nuclear weapons?  Yet even when the country with the most tries, many object.    -   Internet photo
The beginning at Hiroshima of what perhaps could be the end. Is it any wonder people negotiate so hard to reduce the number of nuclear weapons? Yet even when the country with the most tries, many object. – Internet photo

Men, and women, such as Marie Curie, brilliantly learned to separate radioactive elements from natural rock, and later not always for the right reasons. We saw that at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Many survivors there still suffer 65-years later. Homo sapiens then decided to “harness” these elements’ tremendous power and release it slowly as is happening in several hundred power plants around the world. The nearest to us is just a half-hour up the road at Seabrook. At Chernobyl and Fukushima the faulty harnesses broke. (In most places they haven’t and provide lots of clean power.) The wind-water borne radiation from Chernobyl fell even further away than distant Wales where 25 years later the soils in certain pastures still grow grass that taints the milk of grazing livestock. Poisons that will last centuries descended with the rain. The measurable, but not dangerous we are told, plumes from Fukushima passed over the United States last week, more may still be coming. Two generations have passed since the nuclear bomb tests of the 1950s when radioactive elements in jet stream droplets circled the world. The tests in northwestern Russia resulted in strontium-90 contaminated milk being dumped in New York state 20,000 plus jet stream miles down wind. We could go on about the contamination from U.S. tests and others far away. We needn’t; past and present escapes are now being recalled daily on BBC, CNN, PBS and other media. Have you noticed how many times even the experts are saying “We don’t know.” when asked questions? That was a main point of Caldicott’s. She told us as a medical doctor who studied radiation on the side what was known and warned again and again about what wasn’t. As we have, and are again learning, even very small doses may cause harm. That is why they put a lead apron over your lap when ex-raying in the dentist’s office. They don’t want sperm, eggs, and vital organs too much affected. In Tokyo as of this writing milk and certain other foods are being banned for babies due to low level contamination.
President Obama, who is about as well read as any leader we’ve had, perhaps since Teddy Roosevelt, probably knows all the above and more. Last year he announced his administration’s energy plans; nuclear power despite daily vulnerability and the potential dangers from long lived wastes, was an important part of his plans. He and others the world over, stimulated by communications from Japan, not yet physically by abnormally high levels of radiation, are giving the whole subject further thought. We hope he and his advisors will also speak with fire brands like Caldicott. It will provide balance for the cool rational assurances they are receiving from engineers who say water will cool reactors down and keep their operations safe if systems are designed and built right. Alas, we’ve seen with the BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf and now in Japan that the engineers don’t and can’t know so aren’t fully prepared. Who would have predicted a 9 point quake and the resulting tsunami? We do know that when fuel rods, active and spent, are not surrounded by water things spin out of control. The results end up in the natural water of the sky, ground and seas and there do we know not what.
We need lots of energy that doesn’t produce greenhouse gases say the president and other movers and shakers for environmentally responsible progress. In the Closet we naively ask, why not put much more money into wind and solar, but most of all settle for less of everything? That’s just not human nature you scoff. We counter: human nature much needs changing. Naturalist Edwin O. Wilson brilliantly argues that some, perhaps much, of our behavior can be traced to evolution and is in our DNA; however, by no means all. We are not fully hardwired. Our advances in science and Wilson’s, Carson’s and Caldicott’s ideas strongly support this statement.
We end with the old saw “moderation in all things”. Radioisotopes and cosmic rays are natural constituents of our habitats. It is the excesses, which we have some control over that we should worry about. The life styles of too many are examples of excess. Huge houses with few people; multiple houses per some families; several large vehicles per household; no good public transport systems in too many places, and none even seriously asked for; thousands of acres of huge shopping centers at a distance, many like those in Danvers and Peabody covering once good agricultural land; common foods and flowers shipped thousands of miles instead of being raised here, etc., etc., etc. . . Our English teachers warned us repeatedly against the use of etc., its use likened to “and stuff”. Et cetera sure does apply to life styles in many countries, styles that are poisoning the planet.
Let’s cool it. We can see what heat is doing at Fukushima. Excessive mutations and radiation sicknesses are far too high a price to pay for the life styles of a fraction of the world’s human populations. Let us start by keeping bomb and power plant wastes from water.
_________________________________________________________________________

WATER RESOURCE AND CONSERVATION INFORMATION
FOR MIDDLETON, BOXFORD AND TOPSFIELD`

Precipitation Data* for Month of: May June July Aug
30 Year Normal (1981 – 2010) Inches 4.06 3.95 3.89 3.37
2015 Central Watershed Actual 0.94 5.87 2.12 0.75 as of 8/11**

Ipswich R. Flow Rate (S. Middleton USGS Gage) in Cubic Feet/ Second (CFS):
For Aug 11, 2015  Normal . . . 6.3 CFS     Current Rate . . . 0.19 CFS
*Danvers Water Filtration Plant, Lake Street, Middleton is the source for actual precipitation data thru July.
**Middleton Stream Team is source of actual precipitation data for Aug.
Normals data is from the National Climatic Data Center.
THE WATER CLOSET is provided by the Middleton Stream Team: www.middletonstreamteam.org or <MSTMiddletonMA@gmail.com> or (978) 777-4584

WHAT WATER AND SUN RAYS WILL QUICKLY DO

Water Closet for August 7, 2015

“The new oaks in the clear-cut are a healthy six to twelve feet high with patches of productive berries and a score of other plants, many fruiting or flowering, in between”

In the cold months of 2011 and 2012 two loggers, a husband and wife team from Salisbury, with huge machines, selectively cut from 50 acres and clear cut about 15 of New England Forestry Foundation (NEFF) and Prichard-Cudhea land in Middleton between Pond Meadow Brook and Cudhea Crick. The rough terrain is pocked with exposed ledge and boulders deposited by the glacier. The loggers were mainly after red and white oak for lumber, firewood, and chips. Much of the fine mature forest became a maze of raw skidder trails leading down to a log yard on Cudhea land near Prichards Pond off North Liberty Street. Stumps and some slash not chipped were left behind. Old timers had a tough time hiking place to place on once familiar land.

Fukiko Cudhea picks blueberries on a New England Forestry Foundation lot where there were few four years ago before the land was clear-cut.  Her family owns woodland just to the south.  After loggers took the shade away many new plants grew.  - Judy Schneider photo
Fukiko Cudhea picks blueberries on a New England Forestry Foundation lot where there were few four years ago before the land was clear-cut. Her family owns woodland just to the south. After loggers took the shade away many new plants grew. – Judy Schneider photo

The high tech loggers following an NEFF plan and marks on trees put there by foresters knew what they were doing.   Diagonal berms across main skidder trails kept sediment in runoff from the wetlands which also had no-cut buffers of fifty-feet around them. Alas, to the uninitiated much of the logged area appeared as a long term mess. Modern logging is not done with two-man cross-cut saws, axes, and horses. Great head-high skidder wheels are at times dressed in earth-ripping steel chains instead of horseshoes. We octogenarians on visits watched large oaks cut in seemingly an instant compared with our childhoods when grandpa was at the other end of a motor-less saw. Members of the modern team we marveled at didn’t get down from the cabs of their machines.
They left in early spring 2012. The cleared log yard, the Cudheas call “Log Landing”, was empty of machines and visiting trailer trucks. The lacerated woods were silent. The loggers, who now and then kindly stopped their engines to answer old visitors’ questions, were gone, probably never to be seen by us again.

After mature hardwood forests are cut increased light and heat is absorbed by soil, acorns and stumps.  New shoots grow forth from them.  These young oaks 6 to 12 feet tall arose after a logging operation was completed in early spring 2012.  A few mature oaks were left in this otherwise clear-cut as seed trees. - Judy Schneider photo
After mature hardwood forests are cut increased light and heat is absorbed by soil, acorns and stumps. New shoots grow forth from them. These young oaks 6 to 12 feet tall arose after a logging operation was completed in early spring 2012. A few mature oaks were left in this otherwise clear-cut as seed trees. – Judy Schneider photo

What was seen there on the forest floor during the days that April, May and summer was full sunlight, the first in 50 years. Cells within seeds, microorganisms, roots of damaged huckleberries, and newly cut stumps rapidly divided making more cells, fungal hyphae, and new woody shoots. Seeds long dormant followed light stimulated DNA instructions and peeped forth. By mid summer various shades of green covered patches of the disturbed ground. In the fall leaves from surrounding trees blew in and were caught by herbaceous plants that so long had waited in the wings. The scars were thus softened. The ground froze, erosion stopped. There hadn’t been much; our area’s rocky coarse sandy soils are not so prone to quickly move as are older soils with more clays and silts. The land’s surface, although roughed up, was still surprisingly intact. Snow soon covered all, protecting new tender growth. The deer did dine on new shoots coming up from hardwood stumps. On winter visits we saw where they had browsed the tips.

After a crop of oak was harvested many plants thrived such as these blueberries.  Blackberries and many Huckleberries are also found where once tall trees stood.  - Judy Schneider photo
After a crop of oak was harvested many plants thrived such as these blueberries. Blackberries and many Huckleberries are also found where once tall trees stood. – Judy Schneider photo

The following spring of 2013 after the shielding snow was gone all seemed starkly damaged again until muted shades of greens, reds, browns peeped forth from tree shoots, grasses, sedges and a dozen more soft plants along the trails. By June what some call weeds (we never do) were everywhere, some ankle and knee high. We marveled at birds seen and signs of mammals along the just-a-year-before naked trails. They like the openness of places full of sunlight where tender plants and prey are found. The once complete canopy of the mature woods had been thinned allowing light to reach the ground. Little pines, oaks, and berries were peeping forth here and there. Patches of light-green hay scented fern and New York fern invited old timers tired from the steep ups and downs to take a nap. They resisted, Yankees don’t openly snooze during the workday even when retired, and then there was the practical problem of getting back up. So they stood, some leaned on walking sticks, all delighted in the changes.
The transformation came fast, surprising even old timers who had seen such before and had forgotten. After two years the shoots from stumps and acorns were waist high. Low bush blueberry patches filled spots around resurrected black huckleberries. Witch hazel and blackberry had also found niches. The deer were still browsing but doing little overall damage; there was just too much. Stumps, branches and log fragments left behind were tripped over, but by mid-summer of 2013 could hardly be seen. Many birds were spotted; they came for insects and a dozen fruits. A new forest was underway. If all organisms were considered it was probably the life cycles of the trees most productive time.
Not yet. The late spring of 2014 showed a riot of growth chest to head-high across the 15 acres that had been clear-cut. The few straight mature oaks and pines the loggers left for seed trees made the scene savannah-like above bushes, not prairie grasses. The Indians knew of this when they cleared land by fire, not saws. Temporarily changed lands, had, from annual fires, given rise to fields of berries, flowers, and appreciative wildlife.
Last Friday on the last day of July 2015 the Council of Aging/Conservation Commission weekly walkers returned to the clear-cut and were greatly surprised by the lovely jungle encountered. The new oaks in the clear-cut are a healthy six to twelve feet high with patches of productive berries and a score of other plants, many fruiting or flowering, in between. Some hikers picked handfuls of blueberries and huckleberries which went directly into mouths. Others had brought baggies for taking berries home. In fifteen minutes a few had picked a pint. The blackberries are still red; they’ll be ready in another week.   Usually around here the birds leave few wild berries for humans. We think in the productive sunny clear-cut they may be overwhelmed with fruits and bugs. In June, the top growing month for woody plants, 8.2 inches of rain had fallen.
Plenty of water and light, where once high canopies of tree leaves stole it, have renewed the land in a most wondrous way. In the previous mature woods massive amounts of water from the ground were transported high and transpired in the breezes. Sunlight was filtered. We left this Eden, one surrounded with the fragrant white flowers of pepperbushes in full bloom on the edges of unlogged wetlands, for Prichards Pond on fading almost unrecognizable trails made just four years ago. Most of the hikers will have died before mature oaks are cut on that NEFF lot again. Until then memories of chatting, gentle joking, and picking berries still covered with dew to a background of bird songs in full morning sunlight will remain.
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WATER RESOURCE AND CONSERVATION INFORMATION FOR MIDDLETON, BOXFORD AND TOPSFIELD`

Precipitation Data* for Month of: May June July Aug
30 Year Normal (1981 – 2010) Inches 4.06 3.95 3.89 3.37
2015 Central Watershed Actual 0.94 5.87 2.7** 0.0 as of 8/3**

Ipswich R. Flow Rate (S. Middleton USGS Gage) in Cubic Feet/ Second (CFS):
For Aug 4, 2015  Normal . . . 7.9 CFS     Current Rate . . . 0.71 CFS
*Danvers Water Filtration Plant, Lake Street, Middleton is the source for actual precipitation data thru June.
**Middleton Stream Team is source of actual precipitation data for July and Aug.
Normals data is from the National Climatic Data Center.
THE WATER CLOSET is provided by the Middleton Stream Team: www.middletonstreamteam.org or <MSTMiddletonMA@gmail.com> or (978) 777-4584

THE POPE SPEAKS OUT ON THE ENVIRONMENT

Water Closet for 7-31-15 

Image #2 for 7-31-15 The Pope Speaks on Environment-160
Francis pleads with us in Laudato Si’ to take care of the Earth’s biosphere, especially for poor who are most affected by environmental degradation. – Internet photo

On 18 June the Vatican published Pope Francis’ encyclical entitled Laudato Si’.  The Pope with his moral authority has come down emphatically against man’s adverse role in climate change and environmental degradation. In 74 pages without mincing words the Pope, who chose Francis of Assisi’s name, tells us what we humans are doing to and what we should be doing for life on our precious planet.  The strongly worded document is addressed to us all, not just Catholics.  The encyclical is now being read in the Water Closet thanks to John Bacon, leader of the Middleton Stream Team from 1998 to 2013 and a stalwart member of St. Agnes Church.  On request he found an English translation on line and printed it in bold, good sized print for old eyes.

image #3 for 7-31-15 The Pope Speaks
Here on and around Middleton Pond we see our wonderful water resting for awhile. Environmentalists including Pope Francis worry about what our actions are doing to the Earth’s ice, especially that at the poles. – Pam Hartman photo

The requesting Closeteer, who is carefully reading the encyclical, thinks all people young and old should read it especially the score of Presidential candidates.  Its language is plain and not technical.  After finishing, the Closeteer may write a review for the Water Closet.
Here in the States environmentalists wish the timing of publication hadn’t coincided with news of major Supreme Court decisions, of presidential campaign announcements, and of the impending treaty with Iran.  The media largely ignored the Pope’s important warning and plea.

Pope Francis in his encyclical marvels at the wonders of the world as Middleton Pond, surrounding woods, and sun-lit sky seen here.   -  Barbara Zagami photo
Pope Francis in his encyclical marvels at the wonders of the world as Middleton Pond, surrounding woods, and sun-lit sky seen here. – Barbara Zagami photo

A sample from Laudato Si’, a section about water, our subject, is presented below.  The very strong five page introduction should be read first; however, it is too long for our weekly blog.

LAUDATO SI’ (Praise be with you):

ON THE CARE FOR OUR COMMON HOME

 

Section II of Chapter 1 – THE ISSUE OF WATER

 

Other indicators of the present situation (environmental degradation) have to do with the depletion of natural resources.  We all know that it is not possible to sustain the present level of consumption in developed countries and wealthier sectors of society; where the habit of wasting and discarding has reached unprecedented levels.  The exploitation of the planet has already exceeded acceptable limits and we still have not solved the problem of poverty.

Fresh drinking water is an issue of primary importance; since it is indispensible for human life and for the supporting terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.  Sources of fresh water are necessary for health care, agriculture and industry.  Water supplies used to be relatively constant, but now in many places demand exceeds the sustainable supply, with dramatic consequences in the short and long term.  Large cities dependent on significant supplies of water have experienced periods of shortage, and at critical moments these have not always been administered with sufficient oversight and impartiality.  Water poverty especially affects Africa where large sectors of the population have no access to safe drinking water or experience droughts which impede agricultural production.  Some countries have areas rich in water while others endure drastic scarcity.

One particularly serious problem is the quality of water available to the poor.  Every day, unsafe water results in many deaths and the spread of water related diseases, including those caused by microorganisms and chemical substances.  Dysentery and cholera, linked to inadequate hygiene and water supplies, are a significant cause of suffering and of infant mortality.  Underground water resources in many places are threatened but the pollution produced in certain mining, farming and industrial activities, especially in countries lacking adequate regulation or controls.  It is not only a question of industrial waste.  Detergents and chemical products, commonly used in many places in the world, continue to pour into our rivers, lakes and seas.

Even as the quality of available water is constantly diminishing, in some places there is a growing tendency, despite scarcity, to privatize this resource, turning it into a commodity subject to the laws of the market. Yet access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of our human rights. Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity.  That debt can be paid partly by an increase in funding to provide clean water and sanitary services among the poor.  But water continues to be wasted, not only in the developed world but also in the developing countries which possess it in abundance. This shows that the problem of water is partly an educational and cultural issue, since there is little awareness of the seriousness of such behavior within a context of great inequality.

Greater scarcity of water will lead to an increase in the cost of food and the various products which depend on its use. Some studies warn that an acute water shortage may occur within a few decades unless urgent action is taken. The environmental repercussions could affect billions of people; it is also conceivable that the control of water by large multinational businesses may become a major source of conflict in this century.

(This Water Closet ends here at the end of Section II.  Section III of Chapter 1 “The Loss of Biodiversity” which follows is very important and interesting.  The encyclical may be revisited here in the Water Closet after it has been studied in its entirety.  We hope by then readers will have read Laudato Si’ on their own.  It is clearly addressed to all humans.)
pope.Entire encyclical available here for download in pdf.

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WATER RESOURCE AND CONSERVATION INFORMATION

FOR MIDDLETON, BOXFORD AND TOPSFIELD

Precipitation Data* for Month of: April May June July
30 Year Normal (1981 – 2010) Inches 4.53 4.06 3.95 3.89
 2015 Central Watershed Actual 2.38 0.94 5.87 2.6 as of 7/27**

Ipswich R. Flow Rate (S. Middleton USGS Gage) in Cubic Feet/ Second (CFS):

For July 28, 2015   Normal . . . 6.5 CFS             Current Rate  . . . 6.0 CFS

————————————————————————————-

*Danvers Water Filtration Plant, Lake Street, Middleton is the source for actual precipitation data thru June. 

**Middleton Stream Team is source of actual precipitation data for July.

Normals data is from the National Climatic Data Center.

THE WATER CLOSET is provided by the Middleton Stream Team: www.middletonstreamteam.org or <MSTMiddletonMA@gmail.com> or (978) 777-4584

ON THE RIVER BEFORE THE HEAT

Water Closet for 7-24-15 

“As the Stream Team has so many times before urged here, get out there with kayak, canoe, or just walk where you can along our river’s edges.”

At seven-o’clock last Sunday morning the Ipswich River passing through Middleton, and probably all the way from source to sea, was quiet. Much heat and humidity were predicted. An old Stream Teamer slid his canoe down the stone stairs Vito Mortalo had kindly built for the public more than a decade ago at Farnsworth Landing. He was alone. No other cars were in the parking area, or paddlers on the river. Without a crewmate the old timer filled two five gallon jugs with water and stowed them far forward to balance his weight in the after seat, thus trimmed he headed south up river. Noisy Route 114 fell quickly astern, even the sound of its traffic seemed to disappear when not given any thought. Walls of lush Reed Canary Grass and Smart Weed, shoulder-high, became the channel’s low walled green canyon. Half of the water’s surface was covered with floating Ribbon Leaf Pond Weed, its dark lance shaped stems and leaves pointing down stream with the current. Here and there were loose patches of Duckweed, nothing compared with the masses now covering still ponds. The sun light peeped through haze over the woods to the east in Danvers and fell on the wide jungle flanking the river’s squiggly path. Reddish our day time star promised more heat and mugginess, but had not yet swept away all the night’s coolness. Out of sight and sound of peoples’ machines, bird song broken silence enveloped him in peace as he easily paddled against the current and skimmed through water down from distant Burlington and Wilmington. The coming heat didn’t worry at all, he had but to dip his hat in and put it back wet on his head.   When younger his whole body would periodically go in on hot days.

The wonderful blue of Pickerel Weed flower spikes now decorates the edges of our brooks and river.  These surround the blooming white blossom of a Button Bush so common in shallow water. -  Judy Schneider photo
The wonderful blue of Pickerel Weed flower spikes now decorates the edges of our brooks and river. These surround the blooming white blossom of a Button Bush so common in shallow water. – Judy Schneider photo

While not a botanist the plants, many in bloom, held his attention. The Button Bushes so dominant a few years ago were scraggy looking; half their spikey stems are without leaves. They are being slowly drowned by beavers whose many dams keep water higher year around. Smart Weed with delicate florescences of tiny white flowers in vertical spikes is thriving this year, twice the height remembered from previous years. Reed Canary Grass, a handsome grass that took over from Purple Loosestrife the last few years, is graced with ripe brown heads above light green leaves. Only a half dozen loosestrife, now in full bloom, were seen in two miles. Standing alone they really catch the eye as rare beauty does. Ten years ago millions covered much of the floodplain.   They are rivaled only by the brilliant red of the few Cardinal Flowers seen. The old Stream Teamer upon seeing them thought of Francis not long ago a cardinal and now pope and recently author of the encyclical Laudato Si on climate change. Alas, in the media here his great admonition about caring for the planet was drowned out by news from the Supreme Court and the Iran treaty negotiations. Too bad, the Ipswich River and all habitats, those of animals’, including humans, and plants’ sorely need the attention of the wise. Such thoughts were fleeting as the surrounding masses of plants and bird sounds emanating from them restored the peace on his leisurely two hour paddle. The Pope, briefly in the forward seat, was replaced by thoughts of Henry David Thoreau who usually alone rowed his skiff on the Concord River west of here. He is often the old Stream Teamer’s imaginary companion. When with Thoreau’s ghost the Stream Teamer never dares to speak aloud. He wonders what such a crew member might have thought and said while passing by all this life. He certainly would have seen and maybe mentioned twice as many species of plants and birds heard and seen. He might drop phrases in Latin and Greek now and then on his companion without such scholarship.

Brilliant red Cardinal Flowers now grace the edges of our streams and river.  Beaver felled trees cross in the background.  Note how lush the vegetation along the river is.  -  Judy Schneider photo
Brilliant red Cardinal Flowers now grace the edges of our streams and river. Beaver felled trees cross in the background. Note how lush the vegetation along the river is. – Judy Schneider photo

At a low beaver dam up-river a mile from the start the water dropped a few inches. It flowed against the old paddler who charged an opening that could have easily been surmounted by two paddlers. Thoreau had disappeared and couldn’t help. The old paddler in his large canoe gracefully gave way to age and turned to join the flow, the direction the pond weed stems and leaves were pointing.
On his downriver run the many odonates, dragon and damsel flies, were noticed. In two hours never a mosquito was seen or felt. These voracious beauties are the probably the reason why. They flit along the edges of the channel resting on plants sometimes lighting on gunnels or paddle.

Arrow Head, a common water plant, in full bloom -  Judy Schneider photo
Arrow Head, a common water plant, in full bloom – Judy Schneider photo

In the large floodplain south of Farnsworth Landing there are no longer any trees to speak of for a mile along the river. The several exceptions are large fallen and mostly dead willows appearing to be leaning in their dotage on the water. Birds are attracted to their few still skyward pointing leafless branches. These like the Red Maples and Swamp White Oaks just upriver are victims of the beaver-raised water. Swamp Dog Woods and Button Bushes are now the dominant woody plants in this stretch. They too are dead or showing signs of stress. Softer, herbaceous plants are taking over. A vine, Climbing Hempweed, is growing up and over the bushes’ corpses. It is now showing grayish blossoms above dark green leaves. In late fall its parts above the water will have all died and become gray-brown.
As his trip quietly continued down river a mile past the start, the wonder seen above the water and imagined below ever more impressed him. Biologist use “biomass” when they speak of the total weight of all living organisms in a unit of volume. Farmers if they could drain the water and cut the Reed Canary Grass alone might get three tons of dried hay per acre. One old timer told the Stream Teamers that when a child long before the beavers returned he saw farmers mowing portions of this, then dryer, wild floodplain in August. If one counts the layers of life from the bottom of the roots deep in the mud to the top of the bushes five feet in the air the biomass is enormous.

The Ipswich River in all its mid-summer glory.  Left to right are Swamp Dogwood bushes, Reed Canary Grass, and the large leaves of shorter Arrow Arum.  - Judy Schneider photo
The Ipswich River in all its mid-summer glory. Left to right are Swamp Dogwood bushes, Reed Canary Grass, and the large leaves of shorter Arrow Arum. – Judy Schneider photo

After an uneventful two hours, which is what he wanted, the Stream Teamer pulled his canoe out at Farnsworth, his mind as peaceful as the river seemed. His amateur’s list of plants admired has 26 species. Had Thoreau or another good naturalist been with him the list might be three times as long with as many animals included.
As the Stream Team has so many times before urged here, get out there with kayak, canoe, or just walk where you can along our river’s edges. It is blossoming and fruiting time. Go any time; it changes week to week, month to month and especially year to year.
_______________________________________________________________________________

WATER RESOURCE AND CONSERVATION INFORMATION FOR MIDDLETON, BOXFORD AND TOPSFIELD`

Precipitation Data* for Month of: April May June July
30 Year Normal (1981 – 2010) Inches 4.53 4.06 3.95 3.89
2015 Central Watershed Actual 2.38 0.94 5.87 1.9 as of 7/21**

Ipswich R. Flow Rate (S. Middleton USGS Gage) in Cubic Feet/ Second (CFS):
For July 21, 2015  Normal . . . 7.2 CFS     Current Rate . . . 5.4 CFS
*Danvers Water Filtration Plant, Lake Street, Middleton is the source for actual precipitation data thru June.
**Middleton Stream Team is source of actual precipitation data for July.
Normals data is from the National Climatic Data Center.
THE WATER CLOSET is provided by the Middleton Stream Team: www.middletonstreamteam.org or <MSTMiddletonMA@gmail.com> or (978) 777-4584

GRAY TREEFROGS

Water Closet for July 17, 1015

“Gray Treefrogs seem to be expanding their range, and I have never found out why this is.”

Tiny Gray Treefrogs have huge voices in a sound to size ratio. We in the Water Closet after reading naturalist Fred Gralenski’s piece below about humans and Gray Treefrogs wondered again about the lack of basic education in our schools. Certainly all young folks should know about some of the common animals and plants, small and large, in their neighborhoods. Perhaps if they did they wouldn’t grow up to be so willing to get “rid” of them. Maybe just hour-a-day walking field trips away from their high-tech low-nature classrooms would do. It would be relatively easy for students in our suburban-rural schools to leave the glowing screens and speakers and go forth to view the clouds, plants, and animals in season. Naturalist Fred grew up in a small town near the Connecticut River. As an old man with a still open young mind, he continues and expands upon his boyhood observations in a small town in way Down East Maine. Here is his latest biweekly Quoddy Nature Note. Thanks Fred for letting us use it here. Middleton Stream Team
QUODDY NATURE NOTES
GRAY TREEFROGS by Fred Gralenski
We received an Email from a relative in Massachusetts. They asked, “What is this bird in the attached audiofile?” We replied, “That’s not a bird. That’s a Gray Treefrog. He’s got romance on his mind, and he’s singing his heart out to attract a lady treefrog.”

Gray Treefrogs are musicians like other male frogs.  Despite loud voices, they tiny and well camouflaged are not easy to find.  – Fred Gralenski photograph
Gray Treefrogs are musicians like other male frogs. Despite loud voices, they tiny and well camouflaged are not easy to find. – Fred Gralenski photograph

The next response was disheartening. “What can we do to get rid of them?” They asked. Now I like the calls of Gray Treefrogs. I thought everyone did. Are my likes and dislikes so out of date or away from the mainstream of humanity? I don’t care. I told them if they wanted relative silence they would have to live in the Sahara desert or maybe the North Pole if the elves didn’t sing too loudly. But Gray Treefrogs do sing rather loudly. A good chorus of our frogs is as loud or louder than any chorus of other frogs noted in North America. The male frog invests a lot of energy in his calling, and although a frog may be in good physical condition at the onset of the season, he rapidly loses weight and capability as the season progresses. His success at spawning is greatly dependent on the decibels that he can produce, so the females are responsible for this quirk of evolution. The quality of the call, at least as judged by people, seems to be of lesser importance, but I rate musical quality of the call of the Gray Treefrog second only to the American toad.
Gray Treefrogs seem to be expanding their range, and I have never found out why this is. One reference stated that there is an ‘isolated’ population in Southern New Brunswick, Canada, but even the 1999 issue of ‘Maine Amphibians and Reptiles’ indicates a continuous extension of the population from the US east of the Mississippi River into Southern New Brunswick. I can remember as a youngster growing up in Western Massachusetts and there were no Gray Treefrogs. I can remember when members of the local chapter of the Audubon society first heard Gray Treefrogs in Pembroke, and that was about a dozen or so years ago, and their colonizing of the peninsulas around Cobscook Bay is still progressing.
The Gray Treefrog is a very capable animal, compared to our other frogs. It is pretty tolerant of the cold winters, but not as rugged as its cousin the Wood frog. Last winter seemed to result in a later breeding season for Gray Treefrogs, but the surviving and current breeding numbers seem to be very good. Like Wood frogs and Spring Peepers, Gray Treefrogs are terrestrial after spawning. They can tolerate higher temperatures and desiccation almost as good as the American toad, but Gray Treefrogs forage and essentially live in trees, so their access to these insects is better than their relatives. The camouflage of Gray Treefrogs is better and they can change color pretty well from green to gray to brown to compensate for the type of tree that they are on. After studying these critters for quite a bit, I am pretty satisfied that Gray Treefrogs, as adults, are exploiting an ecological niche not used by any other frog in our area. Are they affecting any other types of insect eating animals, like birds or something? What about as tadpoles? The numbers of Gray Treefrogs do seem to decline in clearcut areas, and they prefer deciduous trees over conifers, so I’m pretty sure they will be affected positively by climate change. While recovering from a Fourth of July celebration, I like to ponder these questions, watch the fireflies and listen to the Gray Treefrogs boast of their prowess.
_______________________________________________________________________________WATER RESOURCE AND CONSERVATION INFORMATION
FOR MIDDLETON, BOXFORD AND TOPSFIELD`

Precipitation Data* for Month of: April May June July
30 Year Normal (1981 – 2010) Inches 4.53 4.06 3.95 3.89
2015 Central Watershed Actual 2.38 0.94 5.87 1.6 as of 7/14**

Ipswich R. Flow Rate (S. Middleton USGS Gage) in Cubic Feet/ Second (CFS):
For July 14, 2015  Normal . . . 8 CFS     Current Rate . . . 20 CFS
*Danvers Water Filtration Plant, Lake Street, Middleton is the source for actual precipitation data thru June.
**Middleton Stream Team is source of actual precipitation data for July.
Normals data is from the National Climatic Data Center.
THE WATER CLOSET is provided by the Middleton Stream Team: www.middletonstreamteam.org or <MSTMiddletonMA@gmail.com> or (978) 777-4584

POND LILY TIME

Water Closet for July 10, 2015

“Pond lilies provide food, shade, protection, substrate for small creatures and perhaps even aesthetic delights as clouds above us do.” 

(It is white water lily time again. The following Water Closet piece was first published in the Tri-Town Transcript on July 4, 2008. Visit Stearns Pond in Harold Parker State Forest to see a mile long watery field of these beauties or almost any shallow water body including beaver impoundments. Favorite viewing spots in Middleton are Webber’s Pond on East Street, Prichards Pond on North Liberty Street, and coves of the Ipswich River above the Bostik Dam.)
POND LILY TIME
Check nearby ponds for Nymphaea odorada “white water lilies”. You can’t miss them floating in the shallows. There seem to be more this year.
Some are reminded of Japanese Obon festivals where white paper lanterns each on a tiny wooden float are launched at twilight bearing a candle. These represent visiting spirits being sent gently back. As they sail before the breeze, prayers are silently offered by kin and spectators. There is really little comparison. Lily blossoms open in the morning and close in early afternoon. Clusters of the finest white, often pinkish, petals supported by a few green sepals are moored by soft cables to large bottom stems called rhizomes, a favorite food of muskrats.

The shallows of Prichards Pond, a third mile long bulge in Boston Brook, are now  White Water Lily gardens. These beauties are framed in even shallower water by Pickerel Weeds in blue bloom.  - Judy Schneider photo
The shallows of Prichards Pond, a third mile long bulge in Boston Brook, are now White Water Lily gardens. These beauties are framed in even shallower water by Pickerel Weeds in blue bloom. – Judy Schneider photo

Join these aquatic rodents looking skyward as they munch. There, just a couple muskrat-lengths above are circular islands; lily leaves and flowers, each a third-muskrat in diameter. Flat leaves, maroon beneath, appear as anchored clouds. The green upper surfaces are pocked with microscopic openings called stomata. The leaves of most plants surrounded by air have these gas exchanging portals on their undersides. Let us leave the island analogy for a moment and think of these sun-facing surfaces as solar panels, which they truly are. The chloroplasts in their cells absorb light and convert it to electro-chemical energy. Carbon dioxide enters through the stomata and with water from surroundings and tissues below, reacts in the processes of photosynthesis to make sugars, which diffuse to stems and roots where they are used or converted to and stored as starch until the following spring.
Imagine thousands of creatures, scores of species, from otters to fish, from tiny crustaceans to insect larvae and even tinier protozoa, all in this shady dining hall. Pond lilies provide food, shade, protection, substrate for small creatures and perhaps even aesthetic delights as clouds above us do. Each leaf is a raft, smaller denizens clinging to the bottom.
Upon visiting such places reach or wade out and pluck a blossom leaving only a short piece of stem. Pop into a bowl of water so it floats. Bring home and observe your captive beauty’s daily openings and closings. Play the visiting insect, lean down and sniff. The smell is as lovely as the look.

This White Water Lily, one of many now on shallow ponds and beaver impoundments, is surrounded by its round raft-like leaves, green on the top and reddish-orange below.  Each submerged surface is an upside down island for small organisms and a protective cloud for fish below.   -  Judy Schneider
This White Water Lily, one of many now on shallow ponds and beaver impoundments, is surrounded by its round raft-like leaves, green on the top and reddish-orange below. Each submerged surface is an upside down island for small organisms and a protective cloud for fish below. – Judy Schneider

If you like the idea of Obon think of your stolen lily as some departed soul on an early summer visit. See it off with thankful thoughts. Leave the more tangible parts to the muskrats.
_______________________________________________________________________________WATER RESOURCE AND CONSERVATION INFORMATION
FOR MIDDLETON, BOXFORD AND TOPSFIELD`

Precipitation Data* for Month of: April May June July
30 Year Normal (1981 – 2010) Inches 4.53 4.06 3.95 3.89
2015 Central Watershed Actual 2.38 0.94 8.2** 0.8 as of 7/7**

Ipswich R. Flow Rate (S. Middleton USGS Gage) in Cubic Feet/ Second (CFS):
For July 7, 2015  Normal . . . 12 CFS     Current Rate . . . 37 CFS
*Danvers Water Filtration Plant, Lake Street, Middleton is the source for actual precipitation data thru May.
**Middleton Stream Team is source of actual precipitation data for June and July.
Normals data is from the National Climatic Data Center.
THE WATER CLOSET is provided by the Middleton Stream Team: www.middletonstreamteam.org or <MSTMiddletonMA@gmail.com> or (978) 777-4584

SMALL BOATS POWERED BY MUSCLES OR WIND

Water Closet for July 3, 2015
   

“It had two plywood planks, one each side, attached to a lance shaped, pointed at both ends, ½ inch plywood bottom.”

 Boat designer Philip C. Bolger lived until his death at 82 in 2009 ten leagues east of the moldering Stream Teamers’ shack on its raft of pine logs on the Ipswich River in Middleton. In a discussion the other day, a couple old Stream Teamers fondly remembered this man they’d never met, but they do know something of a couple of his many boats. Last month here in our weekly Water Closet we praised kayaks for their light weight and low cost, thus making them available to most anyone and transportable on car roofs with racks. Bolger’s medium was largely plywood, marine or otherwise, for his often-strange light boats that could be pulled around on trailers. One two-masted schooner had a central hinge so it could be folded up to half its length. Another sailboat called a Dovekie had a wide beam, very shallow draft, and large port and starboard leeboards in place of a keel that could be pulled up and down on different tacks. It was designed for explorations in shallow water. His novel designs, mostly for those not rich, seemed endless. Now and then he’d come up with a boat that was practical, pretty and popular. Sometime late last century a Kittiwake, one of our smaller gulls, visited Phil as he was looking across the water at a dory at its mooring. The gull whispered in his ear. The next morning on Phil’s drawing board was a sketch of a small boat with elegant dory and light Kittiwake lines of the simplest possible design. It had two plywood planks, one each side, attached to a lance shaped, pointed at both ends, ½ inch plywood bottom. Amidships was a thwart acting as a rib that kept the planks apart yet held them firmly in place. Light rails of oak curved from stem to transom, a narrow triangle of somewhat thicker stock that gave the curved planks even more strength and beauty. Nothing new here you might say, just another small dory. Not so. This one, 15 feet long over all with a 4 foot plus beam, has perfect lines and is as light as can be. The curves in the two planks, one making up each side, as in bridges and all structures with an arc, give it greater strength despite its ¼ inch thickness. Bolger made the plan known and within a decade there were hundreds perhaps thousands around the continent. We have no idea but guess there are now tens of thousands. The gull can be easily and cheaply built by amateurs in their back yards. Bolger perhaps remembering his feathered visitor the evening inspiration struck called this dory “Gloucester Gull.” This story about the Kittiwake, one the old Closeteer made up, probably has nothing to do with what went on in Bolger’s fertile brain. The Kittiwake flew away, so no answers there.

Rings Island Rowing Club, Salisbury, members in their club built “stretch-gull” dory, circa 1998  - Courtesy Alice Twombly
Rings Island Rowing Club, Salisbury, members in their club built “stretch-gull” dory, circa 1998 – Courtesy Alice Twombly

A Gloucester Gull caught the sharp eyes of a woodworker friend of the old Closeteer. Fred Carne taught woodshop classes at Triton Regional School. As a hobby, talented Fred makes fine instruments. He built a lovely Gull from Bolger’s plan and added a couple fine features of his own.   He and his outdoorswoman wife had other craft so he kindly gave his copy of Bolger’s classic to the Rings Island Rowing Club (RIRC) in Salisbury. High schoolers at his school were the nucleus of the club that had four student-built copies of Banks’ fishing dories that won fame and fortune on the fishing banks off our coasts. The school boats’ lines were those of the dories stacked saucer-like on 19th and early 20th century fishing schooners. The club’s plywood 17 foot long copies were for recreation, educational trips, and races, not fishing. Now added to the fleet was a lovely Gull named Maureen after Fred’s good wife. Nancy Sanders, a stalwart of the club and dog Esker were often seen in Maureen on the Merrimack River. Nancy did the rowing. On night rows Esker howled beautifully upon coaching in the dark. The old Closeteer and other members of the club much enjoyed the Gull’s relatively easy rowing even against strong tides.
At races a new longer version of the Gull was admired. Someone designed a modified Gull for two oarsmen. These faster 19 footers were put in a separate “stretch-gull” class at races. Greater length gives a boat, other things being more or less equal, greater speed. The RIRC decided to build one under the supervision of member Doug Scott, a master boat builder. It was built evenings in his barn. The result outdid in beauty other stretch-gulls we’d seen. She was named Chris-Tina by the old Closeteer after the club’s co-founder Chris Faris and good wife Christina. Chris-Tina when in the hands of two lads or lad and lassie did the club proud at saltwater races from Mystic, Connecticut to Rockport, Maine.

Gloucester Gull dory designed by Philip C. Bolger -  Courtesy of internet
Gloucester Gull dory designed by Philip C. Bolger – Courtesy of internet

Club members grew up and went their separate ways. The Town of Salisbury took back its boathouse on Rings Island for the harbormaster’s use. The four original Banks dories went the way of all old wooden boats. Their heavier, roughly worked, fishing ancestors with three pine planks per side frames lasted on average ten years after being hoisted daily in and out of schooners. The club’s with much less wear lasted thirty plus. Maureen is still in use by the rowing program at venerable Lowell’s Boat Shop on the Merrimack, Point Shore, Amesbury. The old Closeteer just finished painting the stretch-gull still in very good shape at his home. It will join the Lowell fleet soon.
And speaking of boats from kayaks to small schooners, a truly remarkable monthly magazine out of Bob Hick’s home in Wenham is readily accessible to those who mess about in boats named wisely “Messing About In Boats” from a famous line in Kenneth Grahame’s “Wind in the Willows.”   Bob with the help of good wife Jane have been sharing information on boats of all shapes and makes, many homemade, for three decades. The magazine like Bolger’s designs has something for a wide range of people. The designer has been mentioned hundreds of times in its pages. This is no glossy yachting publication featuring huge plastic boats and whisky ads. The old Closeteer has been happily subscribing for years. Bob and his flock have never lost the spirit of kids building rafts and vessels from whatever they can find. Editor, commentary writer, reporter, publisher and owner Bob, friend of the Water Closet, Lowell’s Boat Shop and all “messers about” including those in rowing clubs, kindly lets a wide range of contributors spin their yarns within.
We, Stream Teamers, recommend small boats propelled by paddles, oars, and sails especially those made by self or friend. They are easier on the ears, water and atmosphere than motor craft. If you are after exercise and strong muscles, all the better. Much better than going nowhere on a rowing machine in front of TV. Josh Withe, who was a long time stalwart member of the RIRC, now has a wife and four young children who are all comfortable on the water thanks to Dad’s home made small boats. If you don’t design your own craft get the plan for a Gloucester Gull. You are welcome to take measurements called “offsets” from Maureen and Chris-Tina.
_______________________________________________________________________________

WATER RESOURCE AND CONSERVATION INFORMATION
FOR MIDDLETON, BOXFORD AND TOPSFIELD`

Precipitation Data* for Month of: March April May June
30 Year Normal (1981 – 2010) Inches 4.65 4.53 4.06 3.95
2015 Central Watershed Actual 3.62 2.38 0.94 8.2 as of 6/30**

Ipswich R. Flow Rate (S. Middleton USGS Gage) in Cubic Feet/ Second (CFS):
For June 30, 2015  Normal . . . 17 CFS     Current Rate . . . 74 CFS *Danvers Water Filtration Plant, Lake Street, Middleton is the source for actual precipitation data thru May.
**Middleton Stream Team is source of actual precipitation data for June.
Normals data is from the National Climatic Data Center.
THE WATER CLOSET is provided by the Middleton Stream Team: www.middletonstreamteam.org or <MSTMiddletonMA@gmail.com> or (978) 777-4584

 

WOODEN TABLE FROM OLD ELM

Water Closet for June 26, 2015

“The tree we admired was a great robust ball of dark green a hundred-feet in diameter poised above a sturdy trunk, sixteen-feet in circumference at waist height.”

Fred Rossi’s fine table, made from the wood of a late great Ipswich elm, now graces the Ipswich Town Library. It was dedicated to the library earlier this month. Last week, an old Streamer and his good wife who had long admired the live elm from which the table was made visited Ipswich’s fine library and viewed the round 3-ft. diameter work of art made of 18 pie shaped pieces of wood. Now they hope someone will make a simpler but much larger table, or wall display, from a cross sectional slice of the remaining saved trunk that will show two centuries of concentric annual rings.
In the table’s dedication brochure is the poem “Elm” by John Updike who as a close neighbor knew the great tree well. The last verse begins with these lines.
“Great shape, most godly
thing I know, don’t die.”
Like all Yankees Updike knew about the threat of disease hanging over our elms.
The following Water Closet essay about this elm was published a couple years after the Dutch elm disease had found it.
RECENTLY DEPARTED IPSWICH ELM (Water Closet 8/24/12)
Here in temperate climes trees lay down a yearly layer of wood made basically from water and carbon dioxide. The other day the old Closeteer returning from clamming on an Ipswich flat stopped at a recently cut American elm on the corner of East and County streets in Ipswich. He and his clamming buddies had been admiring this late great beauty for many years. Only a waist high, five-foot diameter, stump is left. He stopped to count the years clearly seen on most cross cut stumps because spring and summer growth differs. The no-growth period during the fall and winter makes a distinctive line between the smaller cells, hence denser wood, of summer and the larger cells of spring wood. The widths of concentric growth each year are called annual rings. He counted about 190 from the bark back to the administration of President James Monroe. Someone with similar interests had gotten there before him and labeled rings 1875 and 1850 with a black Sharpie. The closeteer’s count closely agreed with that of the unknown tallyman. He plans to return with plane to smooth rough places where the count was iffy, especially back between Monroe and Andrew Jackson when the fast growing sapling had wide rings not easily seen.

This dead American elm weathered almost two centuries of nor’easters off the Rowley and Ipswich salt marshes.  In the spring of 2012, it failed to leaf out. - Ipswich Chronicle photo, Gate House Media
This dead American elm weathered almost two centuries of nor’easters off the Rowley and Ipswich salt marshes. In the spring of 2012, it failed to leaf out. – Ipswich Chronicle photo, Gate House Media

Maybe he’ll do what Aldo Leopold famously did in his classic Sand Country Almanac. Naturalist Leopold and helper leisurely cut down a large oak with a two man cross-cut saw, the kind the closeteer and his grandpa used. Leopold thought about the local history corresponding to the years as the saw teeth encountered them. With such a saw there is neither irritating noise nor noxious fumes. Talk or silence is easy from opposite sides of the tree. There seemed no hurry. Grandpa would now and then admonish his young partner when he day dreamed or pulled too hard. “Wake up.” or “Let the saw do the work.” And the saw if sharp did so quietly with a pleasant sawdusty whisper. There was plenty of time to think while going back through time. We closeteers imagine cutting the great Ipswich elm with a muscle powered cross-cut instead of a howling chain saw. The first layer of sap wood under the bark would be that grown in 2011. There was no growth this year. A few minutes later the wood formed during candidate Obama’s first presidential campaign would be encountered. Soon we’d be back to when President Clinton was being tried for impeachment by the House; and so on deeper in time. We’ll try to think of something positive when passing through 1973 to 1963 the years of the Viet Nam war.

This elm that long graced the corner of County and East streets, Ipswich, was removed from its mighty stump in June, 2012.  The stump measures 16 feet in circumference at waist height.  In past summers its robust canopy shaded a seventh of an acre. - Stream Team photo
This elm that long graced the corner of County and East streets, Ipswich, was removed from its mighty stump in June, 2012. The stump measures 16 feet in circumference at waist height. In past summers its robust canopy shaded a seventh of an acre. – Stream Team photo

Before continuing on this trip let’s return to the magnificent elm that caught so many peoples’ fancy, including author John Updike who lived across the street for awhile in the 1960s. Perhaps its graceful umbrella was a rendezvous for the careless Couples in his undistinguished novel by that name. Eight generations of more innocent couples probably stole kisses in its shade. The tree we admired was a great robust ball of dark green a hundred-feet in diameter poised above a sturdy trunk, sixteen-feet in circumference at waist height. Up until three years ago it was the picture of health. We thought it one of those immune survivors of Dutch elm disease that so devastated our towering, fountain shaped, beauties in mid last century. There are still a few big elms around; we’d call their shapes willowy if they weren’t elms. This one, also lovely in form, had gravitas; a Rubenesque stockiness that whistled and swayed violently in scores of nor’easters coming in across the salt marsh and up the nearby Ipswich River. Two years ago branches of its northeast quadrant suddenly turned brown. Last year the whole tree looked a bit peaked. In passing we worried out loud but took no action. This year it didn’t leaf out. It was condemned and then cut while human fans held an impromptu service singing goodbye. What were neighboring trees feeling?

Manchester by the Sea craftsman Fred Rossi and table of elm he made for the Ipswich Town Library represented here by Dorothy Johnson present secretary and former president of Friends of the Library. -  Ipswich Library photo
Manchester by the Sea craftsman Fred Rossi and table of elm he made for the Ipswich Town Library represented here by Dorothy Johnson present secretary and former president of Friends of the Library. – Ipswich Library photo

Before returning to our imaginary two man cross-cut sawing some facts must be gathered from the corpse’s remains and Ipswich records. By the way over 99% of the trunk’s volume has been dead for some time, the center close to two centuries. The dividing cambium and a few flanking sheets of live cells below the dead furrowed, three inch thick, outer bark are but thin cylindrical layers of the trunk and branches. Only the outer few rings of sap wood, also dead, transport water up to the leaves. The inner rings of darker heartwood are made up of plugged plumbing, their function support. You’ve no doubt seen hollow trees that carry on just fine. The Closeteer fondly remembers a roadside elm in Salisbury in which four small kids waited for the school bus on blustery winter days. Its large opening faced south. That was in the early 1940s. Dutch elm disease had done it and neighbors in by the fifties. Hurricane Carol knocked it down. Disease came late to the Ipswich elm.
We’ll be back with more information on this witness to two centuries of activity on a busy main street to the town landing. Schooners on high tides used to bring coal and other cargo to Ipswich River banks where wagons were loaded then pulled by the tree. Until its cutting Ipswich Shellfish trucks laden with clammers’ harvests shook its roots. If the elm could speak there would be several volumes of history. We’ll listen carefully to its whispers as the imagined saw blade tears open year-thick pages.
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WATER RESOURCE AND CONSERVATION INFORMATION
FOR MIDDLETON, BOXFORD AND TOPSFIELD

Precipitation Data* for Month of: March April May June
30 Year Normal (1981 – 2010) Inches 4.65 4.53 4.06 3.95
2015 Central Watershed Actual 3.62 2.38 0.94 6.1 as of 6/23**

Ipswich R. Flow Rate (S. Middleton USGS Gage) in Cubic Feet/ Second (CFS):
For June 23, 2015  Normal . . . 22 CFS     Current Rate . . . 70 CFS
*Danvers Water Filtration Plant, Lake Street, Middleton is the source for actual precipitation data thru May.
**Middleton Stream Team is source of actual precipitation data for June.
Normals data is from the National Climatic Data Center.
THE WATER CLOSET is provided by the Middleton Stream Team: www.middletonstreamteam.org or <MSTMiddletonMA@gmail.com> or (978) 777-4584

LONG SOUGHT NORTHWEST PASSAGE

Water Closet for June 19, 2015
  

 “It is as if the Mediterranean Sea had just been discovered,” King said. “It’s a huge body of water”.

 As a boy the old Closeteer slept beneath a large Mercator projection map of the world. His family like most didn’t have a globe. Each night as he drifted off to sleep the greatly exaggerated northern lands of Alaska, Canada, Greenland and Russia loomed above him. Those lands of daylong light and dark were exciting; he had read of Vikings, bold British explorers, and Yankee whale ships sailing up along barren coasts and between islands in seas locked in ice much of the year. Those cold climes were the lands of the fascinating Eskimos, wise to their climate through centuries of adaptation. Others, ambitious merchants and fame seeking explorers had long dreamed of a northwestern Atlantic passage to the Pacific. While bound to fail they kept trying; many never returned. Their ships became locked in the ice in early fall. Long dark winters hid their often unknown fates. How bold, how foolhardy the newcomers were!   Now almost eight decades later, the old Closeteer, the map still lingering in his mind despite the benefit of satellite images of the Earth taken from space, watches as big steel ships with icebreakers enter the passages so long forbidden and come out on the other side. And from the land along the continent’s edges oilmen drill holes in the shallow seas with their governments’ blessings. During future late summers they’ll wave from their rigs as the huge cargo ships pass by. The boy’s once strong faith in a forever, ice-blocked north is gone.Image #1 for 6-19-15 Northwest Passage
The following is an article by Tom Groening, editor and reporter, in the June 2015 issue of The Working Waterfront published by The Island Institute of Maine. It is about plans being made for trade along shipping routes east, north and then west from his Maine around our continent, as the Arctic Ice Cap loosens its grip and as children’s maps fade in old minds. Groening has kindly given the Water Closet permission to reprint his article here. It describes not the world we environmentalist would have but rather what the ambitious movers and shakers in the saddles of “growth economies” want. These hard riders dismiss us as pesky dreamers in kayaks and Greenpeace vessels.
Stream Teamers print the following because we want folks to know what is going on in a world where short term economic gains trump the long term welfare of most species of organisms and therefore the health of the planet.
Arctic Holds Opportunities for Maine
U.S. must work for international cooperation, says Sen. King
                                          By Tom Groening
Receding ice in the Arctic is the dramatic, even shocking result of climate change, climatologists say. But despite what may be understood as environmental catastrophe, open waters in the previously ice-bound region present opportunity.
Those opportunities include new shipping lanes, oil and gas exploration and even tourism.
This year, the U.S. assumes the leadership role of the Arctic Council, a group that includes representatives from Canada, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden along with the United States.
And in a related development, Sen. Angus King, I-Maine has called attention to the region by forming the Arctic Caucus in the U.S. Senate with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.
King was a guest on the April 9 edition of the Main Public Radio program “Maine Calling,” discussing the region.
“As far as Maine is concerned, the most immediate opportunity is shipping.” King said. Shipping to and from Asia via a northwest passage “is a huge savings in time” over using the Panama Canal, “and therefore money,” he said.
“It is as if the Mediterranean Sea had just been discovered,” King said. “It’s a huge body of water”.
The region also holds the potential for geo-political conflict, King said. Canada and Russia are the nations adjacent to the Arctic, and Russia recently conducted military training operations there, he said.
The senator advocates developing better relations among the nations in the Arctic Council to help resolve any conflicts and to settle on boundary lines. But since the U.S. is not a signatory on the Law of the Sea Treaty, King said, it ability to define these boundaries is limited.
Another limitation for the U.S. to effectively use open Arctic waters is that it has “just one heavy ice breaker and one medium icebreaker,” while the Russians have 17.
“I think it is something that should have substantial benefits for Maine,” King said of the changes in the Arctic.
Patrick Arnold, director of operations and business development for the Maine Port Authority, also a guest on the radio program, said shipping via the Arctic currently “is very much seasonable, limited to a two-month period, in the late summer and early fall.”
The freight moving on the route tends to be bulk, he said, such as petroleum or iron ore. But container shipping using the northern route could develop further, realizing a savings of 20 percent to 30 percent, Arnold said.
“That is just the beginning,” he said. Consistent access through the Arctic is about ten years away, he added.
Maine Maritime Academy recently landed a $450,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to develop and teach maritime ice navigation and first responder courses.
“Ships and ice and fog simply are not a good combination,” said MMA professor Ralph Pundt, who is charged with developing the new course. He said fog is a regular feature of the environment there.
Pundt, also a guest on the show, said new standards go into effect for mariners traveling to the Arctic in 2017 and MMA course, along with U.S. Coast Guard training, is designed to meet these rules.
The Maine International Trade Center recently created the Maine North Atlantic Development Office. Its director, Dana Eidsness, said the new office’s focus is to develop trade links to northern Europe, Atlantic Canada, Iceland and Greenland.
Eimskip, the Icelandic shipping firm that now operates from Portland, offers Maine the company’s existing connections with Iceland, Greenland and the parts of northern Europe near the Arctic, Arnold said.
Though the economic opportunities through new shipping routes represent a silver lining to the otherwise dire climate change news, the Arctic environment remains fragile, and could be further threatened by more human activity.
Patty Matrai, a senior research scientist at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, began visiting the Arctic in the late 1980s, she said on the radio program, including two trips to the North Pole. Sea ice of varying thickness, is common in three seasons, she said.
“The major change is happening in summer.” Matrai said. “The sea ice is thinner.” Air temperature is rising in all seasons, but when it rises in the winter, it has its most lasting effect, she said.
“There is a lot more fresh water on the Arctic. There is a very large ‘lens’ of fresh water right now,” which is working its way south, eventually raising the fresh water content in the Gulf of Maine, Matrai said.
King acknowledged concern over the environmental impacts of exploring and using the Arctic region. Emissions that leave soot on the ice could accelerate melting there, he said.
These concerns make cooperation among nations critical, King said.
_______________________________________________________________________________

WATER RESOURCE AND CONSERVATION INFORMATION
FOR MIDDLETON, BOXFORD AND TOPSFIELD

Precipitation Data* for Month of: March April May June
30 Year Normal (1981 – 2010) Inches 4.65 4.53 4.06 3.95
2015 Central Watershed Actual 3.62 2.38 0.94 4.2 as of 6/16**

Ipswich R. Flow Rate (S. Middleton USGS Gage) in Cubic Feet/ Second (CFS):
For June 16, 2015  Normal . . . 32 CFS     Current Rate . . . 18 CFS
*Danvers Water Filtration Plant, Lake Street, Middleton is the source for actual precipitation data thru May.
**Middleton Stream Team is source of actual precipitation data for June.
Normals data is from the National Climatic Data Center.
THE WATER CLOSET is provided by the Middleton Stream Team: www.middletonstreamteam.org or <MSTMiddletonMA@gmail.com> or (978) 777-4584