Margaret Knight>



Today is the Vernal Equinox, which leads us into spring. The sun gets as high in the sky as it does in September. I write this on a nice sunny, sort-of-warm day, but know that by Friday it could be snowing. When I drove by the Land Bank property across from Brine’s Pond this morning, they were taking down the snow fence, and I had the thought that it was a bit premature. I remember big snow storms in the end of March — but the odds are getting better every day that the snow is done.

The last couple of weeks have brought more varieties of birds to my feeder, including downy woodpeckers and purple finches, and lots of bird songs to be heard around the yard. My feeder has become a regular stop for a small murder of crows, something that has never happened before. The noisy chickadees let them know when I put the seed out, and they come to empty the feeder in no time flat. The chickadees that come back afterward sit cocking their heads, wondering what happened to all the food.

At my house, bad often leads to worse — and the inverse of the idea that bigger is better — at least in terms of pests. Destructive insects, rodents, and other invasive species seem to come in cycles, so sometimes it’s a matter of waiting it out, but right now, the cycle is producing bigger and worse pests. The mice have been replaced by rats, which I’ve noticed has happened before — there are either rats or mice, but usually not both. (I tend to be more pro-active in dealing with the rodent population.) Crows have replaced the blue jays as the big seed hogs, at least in my mind – both come and gobble all they can, but the blue jays can’t eat nearly as much.

For years, we had a problem with tiny ants. They used to come only in summer, and then a couple of years ago they were everywhere in the house, winter as well as summer. After that, the population seemed to collapse, and we hardly ever see any inside now. But last spring, a bigger kind of ant started to make its way into the house. I’d see one here and there, and I’d try to discourage them – killing any I saw, which seems as if it would be discouraging.

This February, they started coming inside again. I’ve instructed the family to kill them on sight, which no one really wants to do, including me, because these ants seem to have a greater consciousness than the tiny ones. They know when you see them, and they dart behind something. If you reach for one, it seems to miraculously disappear. Also, they’re bigger, so they’re harder to squish — the most common method of execution. Since pests eventually bring predators, maybe an anteater will show up here someday, if we’re patient.

Lights Out Martha’s Vineyard , an Island-wide energy conservation event will take place next Saturday, March 28, between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. Islanders are encouraged to join the world in turning out all nonessential lighting for one hour. This event is being held in conjunction with Earth Hour, sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund. To date there are 931 cities and 80 countries which have committed to turning out their lights for this hour. Last year, Nstar determined that the Vineyard saved enough kilowatts to power the needs of 1,032 households for one hour. Earth Hour estimates that turning lights out in the United States for even one hour could save as much as fifteen percent of the energy consumed on an average Saturday night.

We are sad to hear of the recent death of Gertrude Stevenson, of Princess Anne, Md., who had a long association with the Potter family and the island of Chappaquiddick. She originally came here in 1957 to help with baby Stephen, and ended up working for the Potters for sixteen years, doing a little of everything around Pimpneymouse Farm including driving the hay truck when needed. After that, she’d come for a visit every summer for a couple of weeks until 1999 when traveling became difficult for her.

Gertrude was always cheerful and friendly, happy to be friends with anyone. Lots of the island kids sat around the Potter’s kitchen table with her, especially the teenagers. As Tom Tilghman says, she was a good listener and treated everyone as an equal. She didn’t talk down to anyone and was totally honest, including telling Tom off when he needed it. She liked to sing, and Hatsy remembers her going to hang up the laundry singing Jacob’s Ladder at the top of her lungs.

The Chappy Horse Show, which ended in about 1973, took place at Pimpneymouse Farm, and was originally run by the Potter children. Gertrude, who was glad to pitch in on any project, took it over when they lost interest. She especially liked this one because it raised money for Camp Jabberwocky, and in Maryland at that time, being black, she wasn’t allowed to work on things like this. Gertrude came from a family of eleven children, and worked to put her five younger siblings through college. She will be much missed by the Potter family, and remembered by all the people whose lives she touched in so many ways.