Archive for the ‘Bucks County’ Category
EXCURSION TO THE BARRENS
I like to watch old farms wake up
ground fog furling within the turned furrows
as dew-drenched tendrils of some new crop
lift toward dawn
three solid horses bumble
along the split-rail fence
one rusting tractor pulsing
at the field’s hem
just over the horizon
the invisible ocean
paints white wisps
all along the Pinelands’
blank blue canvas
as gulls intensely circle
this tractor driver’s
frayed straw hat
from rotund ex-school buses
long green rows suddenly peppered
by their vivid headgear
as they bend and bend again
to sever Jersey’s bright asparagus
some of which I’ll buy
just up ahead
at the unattended farm stand
slipping folded dollars
into the ‘Honor Box’
before driving so reluctantly
away from this region called ‘Barren’
where people and harvests
still move to seasons and tides
CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN
This old farm is Hobler Park, Great Road and 518, Blawenburg
That at the top is a Bucks County Barn
I work in Robert Wood Johnson’s working barn, D&R Greenway Land Trust off Rosedale Road in Princeton
Johnson Education Center, D&R Greenway Land Trust
Bill Rawlyk (Hunterdon County) Farm Blueberries in
D&R Greenway’s Pergola, Summer 2009
There is NO SUCH THING as TOO MANY FARMS!
SAVE GARDEN STATE FARMLAND!
WHEN FAR IS NEAR:
April Scenes An Hour or So from Princeton
GO WITH FRIENDS
SHARE THE GAS
APPRECIATE NEW JERSEY
AND ALL OF THESE PRESERVED!
Beach Where Piping Plovers Will Soon Nest
Cape May Easter 2011
Reading Richard Louv’s newest book, “The Nature Principle”, on the reunion of humans with nature, I come across a phrase that describes all these years of NJ WILD for the Princeton Packet: NEAR IS THE NEW FAR.
Constable Scene - Spizzle Creek Bird Blind, Island Beach
This is the week I’ve first seen gas at $4 per gallon for regular, the week a friend paid $54 to fill her tank at a reasonable station.
Bluebell Enchantment April 30, Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve
All along, I’ve been insisting, New Jersey is rich in nearby natural beauty. Maybe now, everyone will listen. Adventure, remember, is right around the corner.
Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve is just across our beloved Delaware River, in Bucks County, just below New Hope.
Trillium/Bluebell Apotheosis - Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve today
Island Beach is less than 100 miles from here, just below Bay Head, Mantoloking and Lavalette.
Surf Fisherman, Bay Head, NJ - yesterday
Sandy Hook is just over a new bridge from Atlantic Highlands.
Tasha O’Neill and I in Bahrs (Restaurant) Window Across Bay from Sandy Hook -
two weeks ago
Each offers something rare, something I require - land’s end. Above all, Cape May is land’s end, for humans and for birds in migration. Even the Cape May Bird Observatory is under 100 miles from my door. I do all as day trips, but stayed this time in Cape May at the dear Jetty Motel - from which we can walk the beach at low tide to Cape May Lighthouse and the Hawk Watch Platform.
When we climbed these steps, ospreys were everywhere, fishing madly.
Kettles of vultures swirled overhead.
Kettles of vultures swirled overhead
one mute swan settled onto her nest in the reeds
full breeding plumage of one great egret lofted on the wind
and one peregrine zoomed
The peregrine falcon is the symbol of my April - for peregrinations are wanderings. Short nearby nature journeys restore the soul, as I’ve written and written. Richard Louv repeats and repeats this mantra. Nature is no luxury. It is essential. The wild is neither remote nor extraneous. It, too, is essential. You can find wild nature in this state in a matter of minutes - even right along our Towpath. But a sense of adventure remains imperative.
Wouldn’t you think I’d been far, far from here? Instead:
Lenni Lenape Ancient Dugout Canoe
behind Bahrs Restaurant, on hem of Sandy Hook
wouldn’t you think I’d've been down South to find this sign last Friday?
FIRST ASPARAGUS OF THE SEASON
CAPE MAY COUNTY
We bought the asparagus from a woman who’d just picked it an hour ago on her farm.
Farmstand of Asparagus, Sweet Potatoes and Hydrangeas
Simple Seaside Supper at the Jetty Motel
New Friends Near Barnegat Bay, Island Beach - yesterday
New Fiddleheads Unfurl in Freshwater Pond near Ocean, Island Beach
Hopper Scene, Island Beach
Lobsterman’s Relic - Barnegat Bayshore, Island Beach
Island Beach is a true barrier beach, never built upon, pruned only by sea winds sometimes laden with salt, sand and/or snow. History is everywhere there - fishermen, brigands, frigates, smugglers, Indians gathering clams, early whalers - as in Cape May. Silence reigns at Island Beach. True Pine Barrens plants burgeon. Ferns unfurl magically in fresh peat water, only yards from the tumultuous ocean.
New Jersey WILD
On all of these nearby nature adventures, the spirit is renewed.
Majestic Trillium, Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, this morning
Pennsylvania Vista - Carousel Farm cfe
NJ WILD readers know that I sometimes stray across my beloved Delaware River (windows open so I can take in her aura through almost all senses) to Bucks County. When I lived there, from 1981 through 1987, I explored every back road.
Carousel Farm Welcome
Even so, I was not aware of Carousel Farm — where animals for Broadway shows thrived on rolling fields between performances. Many theatre people peopled Bucks County in those days, from Hammerstein onward — this may be the Bucks County connection. Today, those supple hills bloom every summer, lavender to the horizon, its scent on the air and the sound of happy bees in my ears.
A Visitor Enjoys the Lavender (a cloudless sulfur butterfly)
This July (2010) was clearly stressing these purple stalks, even though (I know from my life in Provence) they are drought-tolerant to the max. Soaking hoses twined among sage-green foliage, as yet another 90-+-degree day surrounded my excursion companion and me.
Espaliered Apples Ripen
Carousel’s products are what drew me there in the first place. Their fragrance is that of French lavender, not the less pungent, too-sweet English scent. And their creams actually soften skin, lasting for hours, unlike too many ‘hand lotions’ which only coat then vanish.
Here are scenes of July 2010. Wander lavender fields with us:
Looking from Arbor toward Stable
Lavender Farm’s Private Haven
“Vive La France” in the middle of Bucks County
The Quiet Garden - a fine place to write poetry…
The Good Life, Carousel Farm Donkeys
Carousel Farm Beauty and Precision
(the stable is so clean, it smells only of oatmeal…)
Nobility of Yesteryear, Carousel Farm
Cloudless Sulfur [Butterfly] Sips
Stable and Espaliered Fruit
Lavender Abundance - ‘Lavender Fields Forever…’
WHY SAVE FARMS!
Tomorrow, I am returning to the Carousel, to the scent of lavender brushed by hot summerwinds, to the buzz of very happy bees, to Pennsylvania’s soft rolling hills outside Doylestown. Here’s how it was last time. How will tomorrow be different? Stay tuned…
NJ WILD READERS know how I am about preserving and utilizing farmlands…
Provence-in-Pennsylvania : Carousel Farms Lavender
Carousel Farms Barn
When is a farm more than a farm? When it’s a source of lavender, –the color, strength, extent and fragrance of lavender fields of my beloved Provence. Near Doylestown, Pennsylvania, we are privileged to have not one but TWO lavender farms to visit.
For beauty alone, these sites are worth the journey. For scent alone, –admittedly arriving on gentle Pennsylvania breezes, not upon the strafing mistral. One is Peace Valley Lavender Farm, the other is called Carousel.
The pictures are of Carousel Farm, taken last September. This haven is named for stage animals kept there for use on Broadway and at the Met, in those heady years when New Hope and Doylestown were star-studded, literally.
Algonquin Round Table bons vivants visited, bought homes, a remarkable coterie of our most successful artists and writers, residing and createing in Bucks County. They brought along friends, enemies, lovers and family for inspiration in the country. And when they needed live creatures for all those Broadway plays, from Carousel Farm they would come.
Nowadays a man from Crete, whose air is Provencal, instead tends various lavender species. A splendid photographer, from him, you can buy not only true lavender oil, la vraie essence, but also soaps, candles, hand and body cremes [that really nourish the skin while imparting my favorite scent upon earth], as well as this superb photographer’s book of remarkable scenes.
All this and all organic! Open only on Saturdays from 9 - 5, I made the excursion because I’ve bought Carousel Farms lavender products, in Frenchtown, in Clinton, and always been amazed (1) that the scent is that of Provencal lavender; and (2), the products work! http://store.carouselfarmlavender.com/index.html
His lavender products, of two French and two English species of the flower, do not simply just smell good and feel good. Hours later, my hands and arms and anywhere else are still soft, even gleaming.
One of my favorite products, –bought from a farm wagon last September, in addition to creams and real lavender oil–, is their lavender candle. One burns it after certain cooking tasks, such as making soup or bacon… NJ WILD readers know that I love cooking and cooking aromas, but not several hours later. Carousel Farms’ lavender kitchen candle, –studded blossoms of real lavender embedded in opulent wax, in its square tin with the handsome Carousel label–, solves that dilemma.
5966 MECHANICSVILLE RD, MECHANICSVILLE PA. 18934
PLEASE ENTER FROM ENTRANCE ON SHEFIELD DRIVE
Here is the all-too-humble owner’s description from his website:
The Carousel Farm, first established in 1748, has had many lives over the centuries, –once a dairy farm, later a horse farm and, in the mid-20th century, an exotic animal farm.
When we moved to the farm 7 years ago, our challenge was to put our unique imprint on the farm, maintaining its rural beauty, yet enhancing it with something beyond.
Our farm, with its fieldstone farmhouse, 18th-century stone barn and rolling fields broken only by fieldstone walls, seemed the perfect place to replicate the South of France.
Our fields, now over four years old, are nothing short of amazing. Despite our initial worry that the harsh Northeast climate might not be ideal for the project, after testing the soil we carefully selected four varieties of plants, both French and English, and the plants are flourishing.
We have over 15,000 organically-grown plants, each one planted, pruned and harvested by hand. The beauty of our fields is attested to by the many of local painters and photographers who spend their days drawing inspiration from the fields.
Good for the Bees, Good for the Butterflies
As you can tell, we are proud of our lavender fields, but perhaps we are most proud that, despite the striking natural beauty of Bucks County, we have found a way to enhance this historic community with something at once rural, beautiful, unique, and–yes–all organic!
All Organic Means, Good for the Bees
Old Ways Are Best, Where Real Farming is Concerned
Having given an art opening for two hundred or more at D&R Greenway Land Trust last evening, I waken ready to roam.
All week, I’ve not only had this major reception ‘on my plate’, quite literally. I’ve also been absolutely alone with all phone calls. My office mate is on a long journey, her back-up down with asthma. You get the picture. Long before 9, I was in the car, not knowing why nor where. Knowing only that I had to be untethered.
Perhaps this morning’s was the oddest reason for a breakfast choice that I have ever known. Headed toward my cherished Delaware (River), I’d thought Lambertville was the breakfast-site-of choice. However, the radio filled my car with the flower song from Lakme, Sutherland above all. Followed by my ‘Ur’ duet - that from the Pearl Fishers. So long as it cascaded around me, no WAY could I stop to eat, not even at the Full Moon. Onward and upward I drove, on the New Jersey side, along the River, (the ONLY river…), as the voices of Warren and Bjoerling swirled as they had in my twenties. Then, I lived on Kellogg’s K, in order to afford Obstructed View Seats at the Old Met. There, I met (pun intended) Tebaldi as Traviata, Siepi as the Don (Giovanni), Warren and Bjoerling over and over until Leonard literally died on that well-worn stage. I was not in attendance, but I had heard him that very week. And now, that voice was stilled forever. Until May 15, in the 21st Century, when Warren and Bjoerling swept me north along the Delaware River, to an unexpected feast.
All the electricity of last night’s art reception still swirled about me, but I had to keep driving, north, through small but not forgotten villages of this state I have come to call my own. Except that my geographical center is not a state, but a Valley, the Delaware Valley.
The villages were sleepy, still, as I was not. Other drivers seemed captured by the morning’s scintillation. They were all driving a good ten miles below the speed limit - how amazing in the 21st Century! And even more astonishing, I didn’t care - I was glad they were doing the car equivalent of sauntering - about which I wrote for NJ WILD readers when this blog first began.
Sun on spring leaves had that special glint of light when there’s a river near. I drove green tunnels all a-glimmer, green upon green, and under that the black glisten of rocks that winter garlands with white ice.
No one else is on so many stretches of my runaway drive! So color dominates. There is a sudden eruption (are there slow ones?) of pink and mauve and magenta, and I realize it is the season of wild phlox. Tall, stately yet dainty, the clusters resemble innocent prom girls, when voluptuousness was the farthest thing from those pristine minds, when dresses were sewn by tender mothers from fabrics with names like dimity. Shy, the way we were, these blooms, nodding, like Asian women behind coquettish fans, hiding in spring shadows. The prom-flower maidens are suddenly stirred by river winds - as we were by currents of the future.
Pearl Fisher majesty ends. I am in Stocton, New Jersey. The town of “There’s a small hotel, with a wishing well,” which song I heard at midnight on a May night when I’d voted at dawn to DUMP THE PUMP, then hustled into Manhattan to share a musical with a Michigan friend. And what song was the center-piece of that production, but ‘There’s a Small Hotel.” Written at the Stockton Inn, beside a wishing well I knew in my other life, with my once splendid husband. And when I heard that song on the bridge in the middle of the Delaware River heading home to Bucks County, I knew our referendum had won. What I didn’t know was that it was non-binding. Our opponents were laughing up their sleeves, knowing what I could not foresee — that the Pump would be built that year when I ran away to Provence. That all the land owned by lawyers and judges and chemists and utilities insiders would suddenly pass its perk tests and be worth thousands if not millions. That Bucks County would be profaned. That McMansions would rise on all sides in that rustic, rural Paradise. That my few years in Bucks County would prove to have been its apex, lost forever.
Probably that battle, that loss, fuels me even now. I will never get over the perfidy of all politicians save Peter Kostmayer, –who did win, whose position papers, speeches and release I wrote, who did name as much of our beloved Delaware as could possibly qualify, as WILD AND SCENIC. Without whom, we wouldn’t have all those shad fishermen and shad festivals up and down her banks in the 21st century. So wall was not exactly lost. But Bucks County will never be the same.
Stockton is fully alive this early. River light blinds me, though I cannot quite see the river. Only after I park do I realize I am before “one of my favorite things” — as though this town could have heard me singing: a Farmers’ Market! Tiny triangle flags in simple primary colors strain at their moorings in this morning’s gale. Hand chalked lists of today’s specialties inform me that the quaint wine shop next door proffers wine tastings at noon. Well, that ’s a long way off. Imagine shopping for local sustainable produce (and, I learn, for fish, for shellfish, for chocolates, for lavender, for cheeses, for grass-fed beef, for quiches and cookies and muffins and pies, for dried herbs and glass gardens (nearly succumbed to this) and baguettes and bacon, and on and on and on, to the tune of a country fiddler. I have to go back, in a produce mood, do justice to the Stockton Farmers’ Market.
Sun dazzles, so that I am stopped literally in my tracks, at THE tracks of the Delaware and Belvidere Railroad. Of course, it was ultimately gulped by the omnivorous Pennsylvania Railroad. Which is why I somehow overlooked this precious journey opportunity - from Trenton to Easton, awash throughout with the ‘belle-vedere’ — beautiful viewings — which gave this train its name.
A Sicilian restaurant mis-spells its signature fish, which I am sure will be succulent and unforgettable nonetheless, were I to be here in the fish hour, which I shall not.
My quest is Miel’s - the quirky restaurant where I shall feast on crispy/fluffy corn fritters and hearty sausage patties. Miel’s has presided at this simple corner since I lived in New Hope for most of the ‘eighties. It was the brain-child of feisty women, and I swear the same ones are still here, turning out the identical home cooking specialties, which were exotic in the eighties. They had roast turkey and stuffing, also meat loaf and mashed potatoes, every night of every season, back in those stupid years of la nouvelle cuisine….
What I love about Miel’s, in addition to its feisty women and hearty real food! - is their mismatched plates, cups, glasses, and the like - as though out of an Ohio great aunt’s kitchen. On the walls now is an historian’s dream of Shad Festival posters. It looks as though the shad itself has gone somewhat out of favor. Cats appear. Buildings are honored. The river’s scarce. The funniest is words - “To Shad or Not to Shad?”, “Shad Now or Later?”. My favorite is a standing shad, in a red convertible, with a white scarf, a la Lindbergh or Isadora, take your pick. This year’s was so clotted with information as to be nearly illegible, non-informational for all those words, and the shad a ghost of its former self. I lived in New Hope when we all, on both sides of the Delaware, celebrated the historic return of the fish that McPhee insists saved our army, its general, and created our nation, that First Fish…
But I’m not here for fish. I don’t even need the menu. Bring me those corn fritters, that unlikely raspberry mayonnaise, the sturdy homemade sausage patties. Ply me with water full of ice, as I wish the Arctic still could be, for my cherished polar bears. Bring me coffee that stops me in full flow of description and memory with its hearty redolence.
Beside me rises an iconic hand-made quilt, featuring panels of other times, exhorting guests to choose the MOST DELICIOUS HAMBURGER EVER @ 25cents, or TRY OUR BLUE PLATE SPECIAL
We don’t have blue plates. Glasses are striped with Depression-era hues of orange and brass and chartreuse. Blue willow is the oval holding my sizzling sausage patties. My crunchy yet gossamer corn fritters, studded with real corn kernels, rest on a pink version of faux-Spode flowers of simplistic Crayola colors. A sturdy crock holds heftily-seeded raspberry jam, so thick it does not move as I tip the pot to see what treasure it holds. In my daily life, in a more sophisticated venue, everyone’s health is so compromised that I can never find seed-filled jams and preserves any more. A tinier pure white ‘petit pot’ holds butter I will not need.
Waitresses exult, “Great!”, “Fantastic!”, as dazzled customers finally make food choices. In all this time, I haven’t been called a guy, nor subjected to overhearing narratives studded with the useless and to me thoroughly discouraging word, “LIKE”! True, one woman speaks of financing, financiers, her desk, the Internet. But she is the only one, in her hammering cadence, to interject these remnants of the bottom-line work world into my Stockton retreat.
Someone asks the waitress about all the pictures on the menu, high schoolers of various eras, seemingly especially the 60’s. “Everyone who works here,” the questioner is told.
In the bathroom are murals of the wooded hills through which I drove to reach this true restaurant - for the phrase in France came after their Revolution, when chefs without aristocrats were driven to prepare soup for anyone, referring to these sites and those meals as something that restored: hence “RESTAURANTS”.
A French opera brought me to Stockton this day. I will not go on to Frenchtown, erroneously named for a Swiss - they couldn’t tell the difference.
I will, instead, seek out Bowman’s Wildflower Preserve, see if the yellow lady’s slipper is anywhere to be found.
And forever thank Bjoerling and Warren, for luring me north to Stockton on this limpid Saturday morning!
Rocks That Ring, Bucks County, PA, by David Hanauer
Most people claim, when I mention Ringing Rocks Park, –above Upper Black Eddy on the New Hope side of the Delaware–, that they’ve always been MEANING to go there.
However, most people I know visit for the first time at my side. And, frankly, they don’t quite believe me that we’ll strike boulders with hammers to call forth a concert. Frankly, I am usually the only one determined enough to carry a hammer.
Barren Rock Field, Dense Tree Line, Visitors Ring the Rocks - David Hanauer
Except for the time I was privileged to introduce a Princeton University geologist to the rocks — he portaged an entire collection of purely metal professional hammers, which resulted in the finest rock music of my nature-life.
At Ringing Rocks, minerals and placement are proposed as the reason that certain rocks ring. Humans need hammers to call forth the chorus. Some use other rocks, but that exquisite pinging sound does not result from rock on rock. Hammers without cushioned handles strike the purest notes. Rocks with white ’scars’ in profusion, tend to be the ones that ring best - others insist red rocks sing most truly. I don’t know and I don’t care — the experiment is the whole point!
This rock field has been measured at ten feet thick. Basically nothing grows among the boulders, unlike the rest of the forest in this Bucks County Preserve. I’m assuming this will change in a few millenia.
Oddest of all is that the rocks were not left by glaciers, which did not progress this far. And they are not at the base of a mountain, not a rock slide, not tumbled there by coursing waters. ‘My’ geologist insisted it’s all about weathering of rocks once molten… Hard to believe — but he should know.
In addition to music and new playfulness, there are other gifts in Ringing Rocks — above all, what calls me forth any day, WILD BEAUTY.
Near the Waterfall in Winter, Chuck Rudy
Other life essentials exist at Ringing Rocks in profusion. For example, the opportunity to listen to silence.
Birding by ear is a vital skill in this dense forest. We heard red-wings, robins, distant crows, the purring of the red-bellied woodpecker, the insistent identification of Phoebe! Phoebe! - who conveniently, but needlessly, revealed himself upon a waterfall-side bare branch. We were blessed by red-tail shadow and the tipping search of the turkey vulture. On the way over from Hopewell through Sergeantsville, we’d had bluebirds upon bluebirds, flashing iridescent beauty at the side of the road.
Bells of Solomon’s Seal Also Ring at Ringing Rocks, cfe
Photographer Anne Zeman Zeroes in on Waterfall’s Gifts
Birding-by-ear was also essential, since our eyes (and lenses) were fully occupied with a bounty of ephemerals - spring wildflowers that will vanish the moment the tree canopy fully leafs out.
Jack-in-the-pulpit, some with burgundy stripes; some with royal purple. May apple - well before May, its white smiley-face blossom peering out from green umbrellas at every trail meander. Sensitive fern, hay-scented fern, Christmas fern, and some even my garden-savvy friends could not name. Spring beauty - already bleached, barely revealing the red/pink landing-stripes that guide pollinators earlier in their blooming. Violets peeked from below heart-shaped leaves - mostly truly violet, some yellow, some even white, — elongated, slim ballerinas upon the stage of that woods, rock music pinging in the background. Best of all, at the brink of the falls, saxifrage lived up to its name, literally breaking the rocks of Ringing Rocks, nodding sturdy-delicate white tufts above the rush of falling water and its delicate spray.
Saxifrage-at-the-Brink, Carolyn Foote Edelmann
Deeper into the Ringing Rock woods were the semi-circle leaves of bloodroot, the lacy leaves of Dutchmen’s britches, their frail white flowers ‘gone by’ a week or so ago, as this tree canopy leafed out.
Today, what remains in my mind, however, is what rangers call ‘bear sign’. On standing trees and fallen trees, on stumps, everywhere on either sides of their drinking water, the falls, we found paw-sized scrapes and entire raked trees. Some sites old, browned-over, and had risen, with trees themselves, far above our heads. Some were raw and golden. Even without having ridden a tree-elevator, these scrapes were well above our heads. Some were raw and golden and about at the height of our waists — baby bears fresh from winter’s den?
Bear Browse Near Falls, Ringing Rocks cfe
Bear-sign, –where I learned it, out West–, meant places where these monarchs of the glen had torn at bark in quest of insects. Preferably old bark. Preferably trees already marked as failing and therefore housing insects, –marked by the presence of turkey tail fungus, nature’s restaurant sign to woodpeckers and bears.
But here, even newly fallen trunks had been raked from brunette to blonde, and not long before our visit. Bears usually flee humans, and mid-day is not their feeding time. I admit to deep regret on these scores…
Bear Sign Near Waterfall, cfe
Where the Bears Feast, cfe
THE GIVING TREE - TO WOODPECKERS AND BEARS cfe
Second to bear browse, I remember what I call either “The Hall of the Mountain Kings” or “Indian Council Rocks”. Towering above wild greenery and us, imposing rocks remind that the Transcendentalists insisted that God, the spirit, even life itself was in everything, not only trees — also rocks.
In the center of the waterfall trail is a cluster that resounds with echoes of Indians gathering here, perhaps to debate yet again who really had a right to all those grasshoppers, essential bait for shad in the nearby Delaware. Not far north of Upper Black Eddy is Indian Rock Inn and beyond that the Indian Rock itself, where the Grasshopper War played out to its tragic ending for one tribe, victory for another. I always feel that great decisions were made among these boulders.
Some resemble whales, coming up for air. Others, manatees. One, an elephant’s eye. Bowling balls downstream from the falls. Snails. THRONES.
To presume to sit upon one of these monarch rocks is to allow rock power to stream into our beings, buttressing and sustaining.
Rock energy seeps into every cell, the way iron would seep in from a sip in the stream. Calming and strengthening, all at once.
Animate Rock, Ringing Rocks cfe
High above, all that time, is another form of music. What my sister calls ’soughing’ and no one can convince me whether it rhymes with ‘canoeing’ or ’stuffing’ — do YOU know?! It is wind’s humming, especially poignant when caught in spring’s first leaves.
There is a visual flickering which translates into the audible. Each leaf is ignited in April light. Each leaf seems a newly arrived moth, a butterfly, before we’re seeing many or even any of these, at least any we can identify. Tethered moths, attached butterflies, all a-tremble in the light breeze. And, in the background, always the ping, ping, cling of so many hammers.
Also in the distance is the song of the falls. Far gentler than either Vivaldi or Handel with their water music, which is either too frenetic or too triumphal for the sound of Ringing Rocks Falls.
It is the whisper of shy waters, so elusive, indeed, camera-shy. They seem to carol, “We will do our work,” these trilling waters, “of refreshment, nourishment, of holding the sun itself, here at the corner of these flat rocks. We choose the shadows, near-invisibility. Nearly inaudible. Essential…”
If you need ‘my’ geologist’s ‘explanation’, this is the best I can manage. Basalt, long ago deposited as molten, has been pried by time itself, its cracks intensified by snowmelt, spring surges and cataclysmic floods from the nearby Delaware before it had a name.
Violet Profusion, cfe
Striations were deepened over milennia. Now, bitter green moss fills some cavities, darkening yet highlighting. The molten time gave over to the cracked time, turned into the time of the rocks. However ‘time’ is absolutely the wrong word here, since this all happened in the time before time.
Now each rock has its own voice, shrill or dull and everything in between. Called forth by toddlers playing and singing “Jesus Loves Me” and by their parents and strangers returning to toddler, just for this moment. The ‘anvil chorus’ blends with the soughing of overhead trees, in fresh spring garments, and the hushed trills of waterfall, far far away. These woods are truly “alive with the sound of music.” Real music. Wild music.
The Kingdom of the Rocks, cfe
Rock music of the winds — true WOODWINDS! The wild music of invisible birds, bent upon breeding in the shadows.
I rejoice also in the music of children, unplugged for this one afternoon, scrambling among the boulders, heading eagerly yet cautiously toward the falls. Rapt, as we are, by light in the dark wood, caught in wildflowers beyond counting, spilled at our feet.
Only one of my guests breaks sanctuary, by having brought her cell phone, turned ON, on our wild walk. News, bad news — any news is bad news in the wild — shatters until I say, “We are leaving that, now. We are here for the WILD.”
It’s not NJ WILD, I admit. But it’s only an hour away - cross the Delaware at Frenchtown and turn north or Milford and turn south. Either way, you’ll never regret hours at Ringing Rocks.
In July, we can find Indian pipes, white bell-like flowers without chlorphyll, which feed upon decaying wood in old forests. True miracles — they enchanted the geologist’s (Certified Master Gardener) wife even more than the rocks that rang. I can hardly wait…
Starved for spring, I search NJ WILD Archives - Indeed, we had the green of spring nearly a month earlier last year. Here, if snows, sleets, rains and thunders relent, I will seek spring anew, this Sunday - March 27. Meanwhile, yes, there are wildflowers under all that brown and white!
Fern Still-Life at Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, March 7, 2010 - first green of spring
Quick, before the endorphins fade, let me bring you spring!
This Sunday morning, I fled working on taxes. A third day seemed absolutely beyond me, since I have to list almost everything, despite being, basically, innumerate. I saw that 55-degree forecast and that rain for all next weekend, and off I went, headed for Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, just below New Hope. In no time I was crossing our glimmering Delaware into Pennsylvania.
Only on the way home did I realize the significance of this date: 29 years ago tomorrow morning, I moved from my Braeburn-off-Snowden home in the Princeton woods, to an apartment on a hill above New Hope. My soul seems to have required a re-enactment of a different sort of crossing of the Delaware…
I wanted to see if spring were anywhere at Bowman’s. My heart sank driving through the two mobbed towns of Lambertville and New Hope. I didn’t want spring to be that man in the ugly Bermuda shorts, that girl in shirtsleeves with her ears plugged with wires, not even all those red convertibles with their tops down. I wanted NATURAL SPRING.
Driving down toward Bowman’s, snow streaked the stony Pennsylvania hillsides. Trees seemed even more stark than those on my Canal Road hill. The palette inside the stately gates was brown, brown and more brown, with occasional swathes of white. My quest felt pretty hopeless, as I tromped through what we used to call “frozen granular” at Stowe, only there I was in ski boots.
The Perry Trail seems to have fine strong chiseled new slate steps, which made the descent not only interesting and safe, but also beautiful. I used my trekking poles, having learned long ago that they remove 15% of the stress on hips, knees, ankles and feet. I didn’t have problem joints when I bought the trekking poles - to me, they were wands so that I could stay out 15% longer. Today, on the heels of that Frenchtown fall with all its joint reverberations, I couldn’t have trekked all those hours without those poles.
What I was really after were our two earliest flowers — one being snow trillium, which emerges only as snow tiptoes away; and the other being skunk cabbage. The latter is exothermic - giving off heat that literally melts ice. Those ruddy monks’ cowls, my Bowman’s quest, emerge as though in silent prayer at streamside. In reality, the vivid tough red and green leaf points shelter a strange yellow flower, which gives off an odor we call skunklike, an aroma that lures spring’s first pollinators. If the skunk cabbage isn’t up, it isn’t spring.
I knew where to look for it - the Gentian Trail, over toward the pond that houses basking turtles and bellowing frogs a little later in the new season; and Marsh Marigold Trail. I headed for Gentian.
Sure enough, in feeble but welcome sun and much shadow, there were the first green wizard’s hats, poking through the grainy snow. You would think, after 72 years, that I would realize that, Carolyn, yes, spring does come every year. But I don’t. Winter goes on too long, too dark, and snows too deep, for all my cherishing of that season. Winter gets in the way of light. But skunk cabbage knows how to reach for the sun, carrying me with it.
Another inescapable spring sign is the paling of the beech leaves. Even though they’re not supposed to become this light in color, until just prior to dropping off when beeches need a burst of acid nourishment in mid-April, my heart leaps up at the way the lightening leaves hold last winter light. They also create super sharp shadows:
There is more to spring than sights, however. The sound of spring at Bowman’s on March 7, 2010, was of the loosening of the waters. Although much liquid remains white and firm and dominant on hillsides, much is coursing through Pidcock Creek. People in upper Michigan used to speak of the ’song of the waters’, — my greatest joy this Pennsylvania day.
Another sound of winter’s ending is a fragile one, of which I have never been so fully aware as at Bowman’s today: –the frisson of crisping beech leaves as they thin and pale. You may know that sound in aspen leaves out West, or birch leaves high on mountains in autumn. Beech leaves alter in texture as well as color, setting up this tremolo before they drop to feed the parent plant. It is one of the most magical of spring transitions to me. But never before had I fully realized that beech transformation is audible.
Spring is also a matter of texture. There’s a noble tree at the bridge over Pidcock Creek, a tree that’s always been there. But I’d never known its name, until the year I heard my first phoebes announcing their name among its generous branches. I scurried to the TwinLeaf Shop, managed by knowledgeable volunteers. Describing the birds in color, field marks and voice, we agreed that they had to be phoebes. Describing the tree, the volunteer announced, “Oh, you mean, the cucumber magnolia.” Today the cucumber magnolia was beginning to show the misty green buds whose shape gives the tree its name. They are fuzzy as pussy willows, though larger. I touched them hungrily, laid my cheek against a bud, soft as a newborn’s hair. Yes, yes, ‘cucumbers’ insist it’s spring.
Pidcock Creek Bridge, built by Civilian Conservation Corps in 1930’s -
where cucumber magnolia reigns
On the Azalea Trail, no evidence of azaleas, needless to say. But the first pendulousness of catkins is apparent, there and near the labeled spicebush on the way back to my car. The catkins are small, still, but soft - soft is what matters. Soft means spring. The spicebush has not one spurt of chartreuse, the first shrub flowers of spring. But, scraping a branch discreetly, that pungency that is the origin of its ‘benzoin’ name filled my nostrils and my heart. Even on the drive home, there was a whiff of spicebush on my thumb. There was a certain thrill to have been questing for spring even before the spicebush knew it was time.
Still and all, the star of this day, at Bowman’s, is skunk cabbage. Here is a portrait gallery, so you can see what I mean about their welcome drama in the winter landscape. Some are near the Gentian Trail pond; some are in the waters beside Marsh Marigold Trail. Either way, these humble plants shout of spring. Rejoice!
I call this one, “King of the Skunk Cabbage”
An odd realization came to me, on Bowman’s Trails today: Winter is the time of nouns - blizzard, forecast, snowfall, snowpile, snowman, snowflake, drifts…
Spring is verbs: snows melt, waters swirl, ferns unfurl, catkins soften, spicebush spurts, an ant crawled determinedly along the railing of the bridge on the Medicinal Trail… Spring is activity, reflected even in the language we use to define, discover and describe.
ORIGINAL MEDICINAL TRAIL SIGN
When you look only at the pictures, you may see an excess of brown. Surely not the common man’s version of spring. However, beneath this tone is the color we’ve all been longing to see again - verdant shoots of plants that herald spring.
And, as an extra gift, on my way home, at the stoplight for #518 in Hopewell, what was I given but a tree whose base is completely adorned with winter aconite! That name had been in my head all day, even though I have never seen that plant at Bowman’s. Oh, yes. It was the first color of spring at our long-ago house, the house I left 29 years ago tomorrow, on Braeburn-off-Snowden. Interessant…
There’s a message in the town that holds this scene: HOPE WELL - spring is inevitable!
Peregrine Falcon, Mature, in flight, by Raymond J. Barlow
My NJ WILD readers probably have gathered that birders don’t really have favorite birds. Or more accurately, we SHOULDN’T have favorite birds. When I’m out in the field, I work hard to convince myself, “There are no unworthy birds.”
Yet I confess, among my all-time top five is the peregrine falcon. Saucy, debonair, masked, “faster than a speeding bullet” (some controversy around this, but many record 200-mph ’stoops’ or dives on prey), for me, nobody really tops the peregrine.
This good news about peregrines in our state came through a daily list serve of miracles in New Jersey, –nature miracles - the only kind about which I care, frankly…
Rejoice, yet maintain caution and vigilance. It’s a toss-up which is worse for our birds and other wild creatures- habitat destruction or DDT residues even now, Rachel Carson or NO Rachel Carson - the chemical manufacturers never give up.
Not only in terms of peregrines, it’s simple: SAVE HABITAT. ESCHEW VILE CHEMICALS.
Do, –as I write our legislators on all those hot links all the time–, DO WHATEVER IT TAKES to make the world safe for WILD CREATURES.
Peregrine Young, Raymond J. Barlow –
Successfully hatched in a region where DDT does not weaken eggshells
I am particulary intrigued by the importance of bridges to peregrines. In a 1980’s poem, written and published when we were fighting the dire PUMP determined to empty our beloved DELAWARE RIVER - “I Am The River Speaking,” I dare to become the Delaware, ending with the realization, after the long fight, after the many betrayals, nonetheless, our River declares “I, who had been barrier, am bond.”
The peregrines know the importance of bridging gaps, know and show us the way.
And ‘peregrine’ means ‘wanderer’… I have a peregrine soul
Peregrine Immature Soars - Raymond J. Barlow
REALIZE, we are in some ways making it up to Mother Nature, some of us humans in this beleaguered state DID vote YES on NJ KEEP IT GREEN - a squeaking victory - 52 to 48 - nothing we can be proud of, except, though close, it IS a cigar!
Nature in New Jersey wears a crown this month. Keep it there, keep it shining, please.
TO VAL AND THE VALOROUS
I am the River, speaking
out of my depths
out of the bounty of my shores
swept with cleansing winds
from my tumultuous clouds
for streams who suckle me
for shad yet to be born
for generations of wildfowl for whom I am nursery
for lilting swallows nesting at my banks
for the ocean who cradles me at last
to you who float me, tend me
you who cast your nets within me
you who paint me, weave me
you who sculpt beside me
you who sing me
you who work to save me
I, Delaware, carol thanks
I, who had been barrier, am bond
CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN
Published in Citizens’ Voice, DelAWARE, in honor of Val Sigstedt and his loyal crew!
THE GOOD NEWS RE ‘OUR’ PEREGRINES
State peregrine population reaching new heights [in NJ]
By BEN LEACH Staff Writer | Posted: Sunday, November 1, 2009 |
Peregrine falcon numbers continue to rise in New Jersey, but the species is still recovering from the effects of dangerous chemicals released into the environment decades ago.
That’s the conclusion drawn by the 2009 peregrine falcon report, which was released earlier this month by the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Fish and Wildlife.
New Jersey has 24 documented nesting pairs of peregrine falcons this year, up from 20 nesting pairs that were identified in the 2008 report.
The number of nesting pairs increased after four pairs were discovered along bridges that connect New Jersey to Pennsylvania.
Many of the existing pairs can be found along New Jersey’s coastal areas. This year, those nests were considered very successful, with 11 of 14 pairs producing 27 new peregrine falcon chicks during the course of the year.
With new discoveries made each year, it is possible that even more peregrine falcons could be found throughout the state.
“They can be really hard to pin down,” said Kathleen Clark, a biologist with the Division of Fish and Wildlife’s endangered species program who helped put together this year’s report.
Many peregrine nests in New Jersey are found on manmade structures such as bridges and the Atlantic City Hilton Casino Resort, where three peregrine chicks hatched in 2009.
Because of these nest-building trends, pairs can be difficult to track. Clark said the birds often build nests in places that are difficult to monitor and in many cases cannot even be seen. That’s why even though a peregrine may be spotted, biologists cannot confirm whether it is from New Jersey until they have found a nest.
“I know there are peregrines still in Newark,” Clark said. “But I can’t find them.”
The difficulty in tracking down nesting pairs extends into southern New Jersey as well. A nest for a pair of peregrines may be located underneath a portion of bridge that runs along Great Bay Boulevard in Little Egg Harbor Township’s Mystic Islands, but biologists will not list the peregrines as a nesting pair unless they see it with their own eyes.
“We haven’t gotten underneath that bridge to get a look at that pair,” said Ben Wurst, habitat program manager for Conserve Wildlife New Jersey.
Peregrine populations have rebounded significantly since every nesting pair east of the Mississippi River was wiped out due to the overuse of the pesticide DDT in the 1960s. The chemical caused eggshells to thin and lowered the survival rate for peregrine chicks.
While DDT is no longer used as a pesticide in the United States, evidence of its past use can still be seen to this day. Clark said peregrine egg shells, especially along New Jersey’s coastline, are still thinner than they should be.
A new threat facing many peregrines is a parasitic fly. Many nests that were inspected were home to several wingless flies that latched onto the birds.
“They suck the blood of nestlings,” Wurst said. “They’re killing peregrine chicks when they’re very young.”
Wurst said these pests can be eliminated with an alcohol spray, and the birds are not put at risk from the use of the spray.
To view the entire 2009 Peregrine Falcon report, visit:
Contact Ben Leach:
Brenda Jones Shares the Gift of the Green Heron
The rare and elusive green heron, with which miracle Brenda Jones opened my Monday, brought back Green Heron Memories to share with NJ WILD readers.
My first green heron arrived one bucolic summer’s afternoon, as I was reading on the wing dam in the Delaware River above New Hope. [I lived in that arts centre from 1981 - 1987, a place where I became more of a poet, having given up wife-hood.] Bucks County was the setting for my work as a writer and publicist, to elect Peter Kostmayer. I wanted Peter returned as Congressman because he cherished and served the Delaware River so assiduously, so effectively. It was Peter who managed to get the emptier stretches of ‘my’ river (that which I crossed to freedom) named “Wild and Scenic.”
I was a Transition Consultant then, working eerily early and all too late to assist clients in catalyzing change, or in dealing with change thrust upon them. Because of their work schedules, I sometimes had afternoons open - and I turned to the Delaware to be restored. When I see the wing dam now, I cannot believe I made it my own then, my haven, my reading site. The river was gentle at my back, lowering light a curious pink-gold that I encounter nowhere else.
Probably deep in Wendell Berry or Ed Abbey, I was pretty surprised to hear a flutter of wings to my left. I moved my eyes but not my head, to encounter this compact, angular, greeny-iridescent, sharp-beaked, large-eyed creature right at my side. For so long as I stayed there reading, the unknown bird remained. No angel will be more of a surprise, more of a privilege. I had to go home to my Peterson’s Guide to discover it was what was then called the Little Green Heron.
After my year (87/88) in Provence, I still needed a setting other than Princeton: Savannah, Georgia, held dear friends and became my new home in 1988/89. There I lived literally in slaves’ quarters, impeccably updated. Read the rest of this entry »
PROOF OF SPRING - RHUBARB PREPARED TO WELCOME MY SISTER FROM CHICAGO
My Chicago sister has come and gone, and we spent every possible moment outdoors –from Rogers Refuge at sundown, seconds below my Canal Pointe Apartment, to Sandy Hook and a new journey along stunning Navesink River Road. The highlight of our journey returned us to the Pine Barrens’ magnificent Brigantine/Forsythe Wildlife Refuge, where my sister ‘met’ life birds such as black skimmers skimming and black-bellied plovers in full breeding plumage.
We returned to Princeton come upon our rarest bird - THE LITTLE BLUE HERON - finishing his early evening meal at the edge of the canal below Quaker Bridge Road near Wegman’s!
Little Blue Heron as seen along D&R Canal & Towpath, near Princeton
Black-bellied Plover as seen at Brigantine, photographed at Cape May
My sister experienced not only “life birds”, but also “life weeds” — coralline field sorrel in salty atmospheres; golden Hudsonia alongside sandy Pine Barrens roads; and eye-popping yellow flags/wild iris at Rogers Refuge and all along the Towpath.
Her rhubarb experience? We were so busy “naturing” that we barely had time for dessert until last night. Thanks to Ilene Dube, my Packet Editor who insisted on NJ WILD, we added one chunked red pear to the meltingly tangy rhubarb compote. This brought welcome color accents, returning the uncooked hue of rhubarb that might remind some people of dynamite sticks! — and marvelous texture contrasts. We couldn’t BELIEVE our tastebuds. Those rhubarb stalks came from a colleagues Bucks County Farm, the red pear from Wegman’s. My sister couldn’t remember when she had last tasted rhubarb. It would seem no rhubar experience for her had been this irresistible. Local, Sustainable — what matters more?
Here’s the original piece:
NJ WILD Readers have borne with me through a relentless and often fruitless search for spring 2009. Tonight, I loaded pictures from those quests onto my computer. The final images answer the spring question, without question:
If there’s rhubarb, it must be spring!
My sister is coming over from Illinois on Wednesday. Barbara Simmons, D&R Greenway Land Trust’s Director of Programs and Partnerships, brought me the perfect welcome gift — rhubarb from Barbara’s Country Garden, in Solebury, above New Hope.
Beautiful Bucks County, where I lived for pivotal 1980’s years, there really becoming a poet. Where I found and bought rhubarb filling the back of a station wagon, at my Lambertville bank! First rhubarb from a human (as opposed to a store.) First rhubarb for my first spring in the town of hope…
This week, I brought Barbara’s ruddy gift home to my Princeton kitchen, to cook up a treat for my sister.
A little rhubarb, a little water, a little sugar and one cinnamon stick. The briefest simmering until the chunks nearly disappeared. For Marilyn’s first dessert on this spring quest, we will relish rhubarb compote with the best ice cream I can find.
Enjoy the beauty. Find rhubarb.
Rhubarb fits into NJ WILD because it’s little more than a weed.
Like dandelion greens,
like fiddlehead ferns –
something briefly with us in these lengthening days
something to act as tonic
proving that winter is finally, finally gone!