Mary Holbrow

Cambridge MA
I'm a retired journalist, mother of 5, grandmother, birdwatcher, garden lover. I live in Cambridgeport, work as a free-lance editor.
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Recently posted by mholbrow

September 17, 2012 - 10:45pm Photo: Monarch butterflies, on their way to Mexico, feed on New England asters in Cambridgeport. The fall Monarch migration is in full swing here. As many as ten of the black-and-orange butterflies (Danaus plexippus) at a time hovered overhead or settled on the New England asters in a tiny Pearl Street garden on this sunny afternoon. The butterflies were choosy; they went only to the purple asters, ignoring pink ones and white ones. This week is the height of their fall migration season here in Cambridge (latitude 42.38), according to the chart published by Monarch Watch, an educational program that engages citizen scientists in research involving the butterflies. Based at the University of Kansas, Monarch Watch operates a tagging program to track the migrations. The majority of Monarchs live only up to five weeks, a National Wildlife Federation account reports, but the last generation of the summer – the current generation – may live eight months or more. In the eastern United States, these longer-lived butterflies migrate to Mexico for the winter; they will head back again next spring, stopping on the way north to reproduce. Those in the western states will winter in the San... read more
August 6, 2012 - 4:52pm Herb Stern (photo, above) reached into the cab to operate the controls of the clamshell truck parked beside the storm drain at the corner of Pearl and Allston. The special feature of this Cambridge Department of Public Works vehicle is the clamshell, which appears to be an industrial-strength version of a post hole digger (below). Stern had moved the grate away from the storm drain. Now he guided the steel-jawed apparatus down through the opening into the catch basin below, raised it back up with its dripping burden, and swung it over to unload in the bed of the truck. It was August 3, the first Friday of the month, so a city crew was busy sweeping the upper surface on the odd-numbered side of the street. Stern was dealing with what lay below. “We pick a street sweeping day to work on the storm drains – people park on the other side then, so there aren’t any cars in the way,” he said. The catch basin, a barrel-like container that sits below street level under a grating, is part of the storm water management system designed to protect the city from flooding and pollution of the Charles River, Alewife Brook and other local bodies of water. The system criss-crosses the two... read more
July 26, 2012 - 8:56am Photo, above: Monarch butterflies are threatened by the invasive black swallow-wort, a deadly host plant for their larvae. The plant is spreading throughout New England and crowding out native plants. The star-shaped black swallow-wort flowers, below left, are tiny and purple. The Monarch above had a better choice in the butterfly garden at the Museum of Science.   On July 21 volunteers Helen Snively and Rebecca Ramsay of the Friends of Fresh Pond Reservation (FFPR) stacked a table in the lobby of the Cambridge Main Library with black swallow-wort vines and seed pods, informational brochures, and Pod Patrol lapel buttons promoting joint efforts by FFPR and City of Cambridge to limit the spread of black swallow-wort. Snively and Ramsay were there to talk with Saturday morning library-goers about ways to help control the noxious weed. “You’ve seen this plant," Snively said. "It’s everywhere. I pulled this piece off a chainlink fence on Cambridge Street. It’s a member of the milkweed family, which is the Monarch babies' normal food.” The female butterflies mistake the swallow-wort for native milkweed and lay their eggs on it, she explained. The plant is toxic to the caterpillars... read more
July 14, 2012 - 11:04am Photo: Documents bearing John Hancock's well-known signature were part of the July 10 Harvard University Archives exhibit during the Cambridge Open Archives tour. Revolutionary-era patriot John Hancock shared the spotlight with "Unabomber" Ted Kazcynski, local poet E. E. Cummings (e. e. cummings to some), and aviator Amelia Earhart in special displays at three Harvard libraries on July 10. It was Day 2 of “Famous and Infamous,” Cambridge’s Fourth Annual Open Archives Tour, a.k.a. the Archives Crawl. The July 9-12 Open Archives event featured displays at a dozen local libraries and collections, three on each of the four days. The Day 2 tour, reported here, included historical treasures at three Harvard sites: the University Archives and the Houghton and Schlesinger Libraries. Destinations for Days 1, 3 and 4 are listed at the bottom of the page. For a report on Day 1 of the tour, see Siobhan Bredin's article: Cambridge Open Archives City Collections Tour 2012. Her piece includes an interview with Gavin Kleespies, Executive Director of the Cambridge Historical Society, which organizes the event. Photo, below: Harvard's baseball team played the Red Sox on April 9, 1912, in the... read more
July 3, 2012 - 11:22pm Photo: Overseeing a summer art project in front of the Main Library Tuesday were Public Art Administrator Jeremy Gaucher (at left, leaning over for a close look) and Jerrie Lyndon (right) of the Cambridge Arts Council. The artist (center) goes by his nickname, Luffy. Pedestrians at the corner of Broadway and Trowbridge on Tuesday morning, July 3, paused to admire a striking scene: half-a-dozen kids of high school age were using colored chalks to create an interlocking array of images on the pavement in front of the library. Jerrie Lyndon explained that the sidewalk art was part of the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program (MSYEP). Lyndon is active in city arts projects and served as Coordinator for the 2012 Cambridge Open Studios. Through the Department of Human Services, MSYEP offers 20-hour-a-week work opportunities for local kids aged 14-18 for six weeks in July and August. See the video (below) for a tour of the display. Summer Art - Youth Employment Program from Mary Holbrow on Vimeo. Some of the pictures on the sidewalk were done; others were still getting finishing touches. There was a wide range of subjects and interpretations, as described by the artists... read more
June 14, 2012 - 7:54am Photo: "Don't Drive Like My Brother!"  A number from Car Talk: the Musical!!! was a highlight of the annual Taste Of Cambridge on Tuesday. Cast members on stage, l. to r.: Christian Denzel Bufford, Elyse Collier, Jonathan Luke-Stevens, Edward Tolve, Scott Severance (singing), Desi Klock-Perez, Leigh Burnett. Composer/Director Wesley Savick (not shown) provided spirited accompaniment from beside the stage. The show opens June 14, at the Central Square Theater. Taste of Cambridge marked its 10th anniversary here on Tuesday, June 12. A crowd lined up at the entrance at the corner of Sidney and Franklin for the 5:30 p.m. opening;  inside, people flocked to the stands hosted by local restaurants, merchants, and brewers from Abigail’s to Zuzu — some 90 businesses in all. Strolling from hors-d’oeuvres to main-dish samples to bite-size sweets, and washing things down with local beer, wine, and soft drinks, folks could network and schmooze, hear live music and catch up on public affairs with local politicians. The weather forecast had been iffy, but in fact it was a balmy afternoon here at 42.37°N   71.13W.° In addition to showcasing local businesses, Taste of Cambridge was raising... read more
June 9, 2012 - 9:25am Photo: This charming turtle is also a rattle, created in the spring semester ceramics class at the Morse Community School at 40 Granite Street. Displays and demonstrations of after-school activities will be featured there Friday, June 15, at the Community School's Semester End Showcase and Cookout from 5 - 8 p.m., according to Director Stanley Rogers. Students in the program choose from a rich mix of classes that includes gymnastics, drum circle, sports and games, story-telling, math and science, film-making, Scouts, and lessons in art, music, dance, and cooking.   As Chair of the Citywide Community School Council, Carolyn Shipley (photo, left) has been going to bat for Cambridge’s Community Schools for more than 22 years. The city’s eleven Community Schools are not public schools, although they do use public school facilities. They are OST (out-of-school time) programs that take place after regular school hours, during school vacations, and in summer. The Community School program is deeply rooted here. In 2009 Shipley and others active in it were honored at the Glitter Gala celebration that marked its 40th anniversary. The event was reported in the 2010-2011 edition of "The... read more
June 7, 2012 - 11:47am Photo: This garden will be part of the Secret Gardens of Cambridge tour, coming up on Sunday. A bumblebee stopped in early to check out the foxglove (Digitalis purpurea). Many of the people who will take this week-end’s Secret Gardens of Cambridge tour discovered the joys of the garden as kids, when they found Frances Hodgson Burnett’s 1911 classic, The Secret Garden, in the children's room at the library. (See illustration at the bottom of the page.) This year's tour, a biennial benefit for the Cambridge Public Library, is Sunday, June 10, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Bright weather is forecast. “It’s going to be great,” organizer Bruce Mays says. “Eighteen of the gardens are absolutely new to the tour, and there are a number of others that haven’t been on it for years.” “This tour also has four ‘open secret’ gardens,” he adds. “They are right along the street, not behind fences.” Photos from a couple of them are included here; their whereabouts will be revealed for the tour, but until then, of course, it’s a secret. Cambridge's secret gardens are located all across the city, from Strawberry Hill to Cambridgeport. Mays tried to group them near each other, “so people can see... read more
May 10, 2012 - 1:50pm Chef Barry Maiden (photo, above) of the Hungry Mother restaurant in Kendall Square was excited about the new catfish. It was just in:   wild-caught blue catfish from the Rappahannock River in Virginia, his home state. “As of tonight, it’s on the menu!” If you’re a fan of traditional Southern cooking, or of good eating in general, Hungry Mother, located at 233 Cardinal Medeiros Avenue (, would naturally be your place to take Mom on Mother’s Day for a dinner of fried catfish—provided you have a reservation already. But be warned -- although it's a welcoming kind of place, the dining room is already full up for Sunday. Maiden was working alongside the kitchen staff when I stopped in Wednesday afternoon. Hungry Mother opens at five, but his co-owners in the business -- Rachel Miller-Munzer, her husband Alon Munzer, and John Kessen -- were already busy out front with details of settings, seating, reservations, and the serious wine and beer list. Maiden stepped into the cooler and came out with a hefty slab of the firm white-fleshed fish to show me. “The texture and the flavor are just wonderful – very fresh-tasting,” he said happily. The cuisine... read more
April 21, 2012 - 10:48am Why is the planet Mars red? “Because it’s rusty.” Astronomy hobbyist Christine Moulen (standing, above) was helping Slava Arabagi of Brighton to get a look through one of five telescopes set up in front of City Hall last night. Her telescope was trained on Mars. Iron oxide is plentiful in the soil of the planet, Moulen explained. The rust color helps us to identify Mars in the night sky. Moulen is a member of the Amateur Telescope Makers of Boston, Inc., a.k.a. ATMoB.  The organization hosted the viewing event titled Urban Astronomy on Friday evening, April 20, which was Day 1 of the 10-day Cambridge Science Festival. Slava Arabagi was one of some forty adults and kids lined up around the instruments at about 10 p.m. The City Hall lawn was one of ATMoB’s two viewing stations; the other was at Harvard Square. Mars, the planet Arabagi is looking at, was named by the Romans after their god of war because of its ruddy color, as described in Shakespeare’s Henry IV:  “The mailèd Mars shall on his altar sit/ Up to the ears in blood.” Viewing conditions Friday night were unusually good for this urban area, with heavenly bodies showing up well despite some haze and occasional clouds... read more