Archive for the ‘Agriculture’ Category
Double Brook Farm Autumn Zinnias by Tasha O’Neill
Those of you who know me, know [-- long before my own year in Provence --] that my favorite fragrance in the entire world is lavender. A close second, –with the added benefit of that pungent evergreen flavor–, is rosemary. When I lived in Cannes, lavender honey was the key treat of weekly visits to its marche/market. Fresh herbs were a given, in that land where the mistral infused the very air with rosemary. However, never did I expect to taste rosemary ice cream.
[As a food stylist in Manhattan, there was nothing trickier than photographing ice cream --Robin McConaughy's masterful image of their unforgettable new specialty: ]
Robin McConaughy’s Rosemary-Caramel Ice Cream!
I tasted this remarkable creation, –rich as Devonshire cream, darkly complex with caramel, redolent of rosemary–, in next-door Hopewell, at Double Brook farm. There is no better flavoring for lamb — but ice cream? Splendid, never-to-be-forgotten, and probably unequaled. Even Shakespeare insists, “rosemary — that’s for remembrance.”
Double Brook Farm Fresh Bean Array by Tasha O’Neill
Those of you who read D&R Greenway newsletters and the local media, know well that sustainable farming is alive and well in Hopewell, thanks to Robin and Jon McConaughy. This past Friday, friend and fine-art-photographer Tasha O’Neill attended Jon and Robin’s Friday farm produce sale, our first visit to the farm for that purpose.
Double Brook Farm Hot Peppers by Tasha O’Neill
(This energetic young couple had hosted D&R Greenway’s Down-to-Earth Ball a year ago. Their handsome cattle are carefully moved a prescribed number of times per day, from grass field to grass field, on D&R Greenway’s St. Michaels Farm Preserve off Aunt Molly Road in Hopewell.)
Double Brook Farm Tomatilloes, Tasha O’Neill
THIS day, Tasha and I encountered Double Brook Farm’s raison d’etre, FRESH LOCAL PRODUCE and salumi (exotic meats from their own tenderly animals — Tasha bought lardo and I soppresata) cameras in hand. She was kind enough to send her images this morning, so I’m sharing them with you.
Double Brook Farm Salumi, Slow-Food-Snail-Seal-of-Approval Tasha O’Neill
As we insist, over and over in these virtual pages, New Jersey is beautiful. She produces such spectacular produce, ‘right in our own back yards.’
Garden State Bounty, Double Brook Farm by Tasha O’Neill
Here is Double Brooks web-site — Robin herself could be a fine art photographer: http://www.doublebrookfarm.com/
Double Brook Okra by Tasha O’Neill
Put yourself on Robin’s e-mail list, so you’ll know when the farmstand is open again. When the store on #518 is fully restored and providing this sort of bounty year-round. When the restaurant, on #518, that exquisite red brick home, is brought back to life and its brick-lined paths trimmed and ready for visitors. Tasha and I and I had been invited to explore the flower paths, the herb gardens behind the soon-to-be restaurants. But we “had promises to keep…”, in another dear old NJ Town, Kingston. So we don’t have herb pictures for you.
Robin’s and Jon’s Rubies - Red Onions of Double Brook Farm by Tasha O’Neill
But we do have some of the essence of Double Brook Farm in these new scenes.
Succulent, Tender, Subtly Irresistible Shiitakes of Double Brook by Tasha O’Neill
I am awash in gratitude, as you know, to those who KEEP THE meaning of GARDEN in the Garden State.
Preserved Farm, Salem County, New Jersey cfe
I thank you for reading NJ WILD so often and so studiously. Last month’s statistics included 3500 viewers, most of you staying on for a page and a half, from virtually every country/continent. How can that be? Because New Jersey is beautiful and bountiful, and we’re lucky enough to live and farm-shop here!
SALEM COUNTY’S BUCOLIC HISTORY - ALLOWAY CREEK cfe
NJ WILD readers know my favorite places to travel are the wild ones of New Jersey, –especially central and southern–, particularly near water, salt and fresh.
Often in quest of birds, rare yet plentiful.
You also know that the places I choose are havens on many levels.
However, I may not have emphasized enough that one can visit NJ WILD sites, even on major ‘Holidays’, without crowds.
Hancock House Historic Outbuilding - Revolutionary Site — cfe
If you pull up NJ WILD, it has a search feature. Write in ‘Brigantine’ or ‘Pine Barrens’; ‘Sourlands’ or Sandy Hook; Bull’s Island, the Delaware River, Island Beach, etc. You’ll be given a string of posts on their wild beauty, and directions are often part of the saga. For deepest solitude, plan birders’ hours — first light and last light.
In general, Take The Pretty Way, the back roads.
Salem Preserves — cfe
Tomorrow, a friend and I will launch her new Prius into Salem and Cumberland Counties. We’ll be treated to golden stretches of marshland; to shimmering rivers with splendid Indian names, such as the Manumuskin. We’ll ride on and laugh at the sound of Buckshutem Road. We’ll wonder, as you always must down there, where on earth will we eat? Of course, there’ll be the freshest of Jersey Fresh produce on weathered stands in front of farmhouses of other centuries. Of course, we’ll slide coins into Trust Boxes, as we settle agricultural jewels into our sustainability bags to take home.
We’ll see rare birds, especially eagles. Salem County held our only productive eagle nest during the grim DDT years, which my county (Somerset) is about to reinstitute, as it ‘adulticizes’ mosquitoes in the week ahead. Now, I am not kidding, in Salem and Cumberland Counties, we could see more eagles than we can count.
American Bald Eagle Floating - Brenda Jones
Osprey Claiming Nest, Brenda Jones
Cabbage Whites Nectaring — Brenda Jones
Especially ditto purple martins, but they had all left the Brigantine the last time I was there, weeks ahead of schedule. Theory is that our drought hinders the insect population to such a degree that martin migration is over. I’ll know tomorrow. If not, there could be hundreds of thousands of them, bending the marsh grasses, then darkening skies, along the Maurice River.
Alloway Creek, site of British Massacre of Colonial Soldiers, Salem County — cfe
Look up these sites, and find them for yourselves. There won’t be anyone else on most of the roads to the unknown, actually usually forgotten, Delaware Bay.
Salem County, Tranquillity Base cfe
When a Manhattan friend takes the bus to Kingston, what is the greatest contrast you can provide? One, for sure, is kayaking - which we did the next morning, along the D&R Canal.
Kayak Central, Princeton, Brenda Jones
Her welcome-to-NJ contrast, however, was to head straight west into Hopewell, up Greenwood Avenue, turn left at the red barn, head into and beyond Ringoes and Sergeantsville to Rosemont and over to the Delaware River. Such a brief ride, for such a major transition — and all in golden afternoon light.
Bull’s Island Fern Grove, Carolyn Foote Edelmann
Walking Bull’s Island is always a treat, moored like a verdant ship in the middle of my beloved Delaware. Its trails and woods are frequently inundated, needless to say. This can make for very soft trails, cushioned by charcoal-y basalt from the bottom of the river. Floods, of course, bring nourishment and new species — some blessed, some not so blessed.
Bull’s Island Footbridge, Carolyn Foote Edelmann
Friday evening, after a quick trek over the silvery footbridge to the Black Bass and back, –interstate hiking–, we entered the woods to a chorus of cedar waxwings. Masked and certain feathers gilded, there is no more handsome bird in my lexicon. Leaving sunshine for dapple, we were suddenly surrounded by the wood thrush’s liquid ascending, then descending notes. My friend is accustomed, from Catskill stays, to veeries near woodthrush, and soon we were awash in veery magic.
Cedar Waxwing, Brenda Jones
On either side, ferns rose, — not fragile and furtive as those I usually encounter. But feisty, even aggressive. Some were taller than we are! The Alice in Wonderland sensation was appealing. My friend then decided we were “in Jurassic Park without the critters.”
Veery, Brenda Jones
One creature we did find, a handsome toad who seemed the monarch of the glen. He was not atall ‘afeard’ of humans — sitting there, permitting our presence in his territory.
Lowering light gilded every leaf, especially super-sized jack-in-the-pulpit plants and fading Mayapple.
Mayapple Profusion, Bull’s Island, Carolyn Foote Edelmann
All the while, the river coursed alongside, deceptively quiet, a welcome change from her Manhattan life and even the bus ride out here.
A superb dinner at the Carversville Inn was not only gastronomically superior, but also time travel. In that case, the mid-1800’s surrounded us, as palpably as if we had stepped through ‘the veil.’
Home brought us through fields where some corn is already hip-high, well before the Fourth of July, and silos gleam and preside like church steeples. Sacred farm structures from other centuries were the norm most of the way back to Princeton.
Yesteryear’s Barn, Carolyn Foote Edelmann
All of this in our beautiful New Jersey. Help preserve it — especially her farmland and o, save that river, in every sense.
Your local land trusts do this for you, but we (as in D&R Greenway) require your support. It’s taken us 23 years to preserve 23 New Jersey landscape miles and many waterways. Help move preservation forward, every way you can.
Fog Along the Delaware, Brenda Jones
And get out there and enjoy the unique unpeopled beauty that is still ours, in the beleaguering 21st Century.
Mute Swan, Brenda Jones
NJ WILD readers know me pretty well by now, all 1600 page-views of you per week. You know I have NO patience with developers, under any name. That New Jersey is my haven, and I’ll pay any price, bear any burden to bring her glories to the fore, well beyond our (three - unique) shores! That preservation is the name of the game, not only in our state. That local sustainable real food from real nearby farmers is the way to health and life as a state and as individuals. And so forth.
What you may not realize is that winter has become my favorite season. Partly because winter finally reveals the intense abstract beauty of New Jersey’s trees. Partly for winter’s subtleties — it’s a real challenge to find life and color in this season, which only renders nature’s vibrancy-for-all-seasons all the more spectacular.
I particularly cherish winter in New Jersey preserves. Rabbit tracks leading me a merry chase in new-fallen snow in Plainsboro Preserve. Moss blinding as patches of green sequins alongside my favorite Sourland Mountain Trail, off Greenwood Avenue, even in January. Bluebirds swirling around my head and shoulders on the grassy northern reaches of Griggstown Grasslands last Monday. In fact, at Plainsboro and Griggstown Grasslands, my friend and I could hardly hear ourselves whisper “bluebird!” over their merry insistent chattering song.
Bluebird, Brenda Jones
Now, as new hip enters its 13th week of miraculous healing, I’ve returned to the Marsh, as in Hamilton/Trenton/Bordentown. This time, I could walk on my own, with the trekking poles - not lean on my long-suffering, never-complaining friend’s right arm. This time, I could walk not only one edge of Spring Lake (named by the Lenni Lenapes for the spring which formed it), but circumnavigate the lake. We were out so long and mesmerized by so many signs of winter life, that we returned actually sunburnt. In February.
(This warmth, while easing my recovery, never ceases to alarm me for the sake of glaciers, polar bears and corals, among other natural phenomena. If it’s twenty or so degrees warmer than usual now, how is it going to be around here in August?)
Even so, I can’t pretend I am not relishing benevolent days in the woods.
Spring Lake was literally awash in winter gifts. Regal mute swans seemed to pose in a perfection of light, as we began to hit our stride. A lone gull floated like a bathtub toy, accented by irresistible coots, whose tiny white beaks never seem large enough to capture, let alone gulp aquatic foods. An elusive raft of ducks had the elegance and elusive ways of ring-necks. Between their fast-swimming-away shyness and the bird books’ admitting “ring nearly impossible to see”, we could not confirm that guess. Home again, Sibleys in hand, it’s very likely we were granted ring-necked ducks, but we shall never know.
Wood Duck, Brenda Jones
Color accents impossible to believe among the almost funereal array of coots were the glowing wood ducks. Kindly men of the Marsh, Clyde Quin and Warren Liebensperger, rigorously tend to wood duck and bluebird nests each year, –raising the boxes, tallying hatchlings, cleaning them when breeding is over, and putting them back in place in time for boxes to make up for a serious deficit of sturdy hollow old tree trunks. I don’t know whether ‘our’ Picasso-esque wood ducks are Clyde’s and Warren’s summer residents, or simply passing through. It doesn’t really matter. The wonder is the privilege of “woodies”, right in the middle of Trenton, on a winter’s day.
Nuthatch with Seed, Brenda Jones
We were mightily enlivened, not only by the birds of Spring Lake. Our tangly walk was also studded with tinier avian creatures among the underbrush. Feisty nuthatches bopped down fattest lake-side trunks. A fugitive white-throated sparrow fed right alongside us as though it encountered humans every day of the year.
White-Throated Sparrow, Brenda Jones
The day’s auditory miracle was the whuff whuff whuff of air in swan wings, as pair after pair arrowed over us. My friend, originally from Britain, had never heard this rarity. We were blessed with it by more pairs than we could count, the entire time we circled that lake.
At the rim of other water, an almost blue jay, though uncharacteristically silent, puzzled for awhile. Until it took off down, not up, uttering that kingfisher rattle that never ceases to stop me in my tracks. Kayaking on the canal, when you hear that tattoo, look toward the sound, then down, not up. For kingfishers fly toward water, their main food source. The females of this species are the more colorful.
Belted Kingfisher in Flight, Brenda Jones
My energy was high, my new hip cooperative. We almost skipped over the little bridge and into the Marsh woods itself. Here and there, we’d go off-trail, scuffing through leaves. These feet, all to recently, all too accustomed to hospital corridors, managed roots and leaves and stones and mosses, until a certain measure of caution intruded, saying, probably enough for today.
Never enough for my spirit.
But it will have to do.
And meanwhile, our Marsh proved to me anew, how very much life there is in winter.
We could not have taken that walk, and those native species could not have safely swum and fed in that Marsh, had not D&R Greenway Land Trust and Friends for the Marsh done all in their power ‘then and now’ to preserve and provide stewardship for this critical freshwater tidal wetland.
Winter’s Fruits from Farm Markets cfe
NJ WILD readers know I have been ‘hors de combat’ for some months now, recently remedied with hip/femur replacement. Beginning walks in nature — so glad to have feet on green growing matter and real earth after all those hospital and rehab strolls.
One of the first events I’ll be visiting, of course, will be Indoor Winter Farm Markets - always a treasure to me, as NJ WILD readers know.
Bill Flemer’s Riverside Bluegrass Band at D&R Greenway Johnson Education Center cfe
January 14, D&R Greenway, where I work, will host this constellation of foods, hand-made items, homemade music, and the like.
Brilliantly Crafted and Named Cherry Grove Cheeses at D&R Greenway cfe
Our barn is always a convivial setting for parties - usually art (new exhibit, Textures and Trails, awaits on its weathered walls.) Music reverberates among the ancient beams, most from 1900, some from the 1800’s. Horses, cows, chickens, pigs and eggs once filled the stalls where we now work and you enjoy art and science to further preservation.
Home from Indoor Winter Farm Market - Slow Food/D&R Greenway cfe
This from Jim Weaver, Founder/Chef of Tre Piani Restaurant at Forrestal as well as co-founder of Slow Food Central Jersey. Enjoy and join us! You’ll not only be happier for it, you’ll be healthier, And so will New Jersey land, farmland and her farmers.
New Jersey Farm Market Produce - grown and sold the ‘Slow’ Way… cfe
Contact: Beth Feehan, 609 577-5113, email@example.com
Stockton, NJ: Slow Food Central New Jersey presents an indoor winter farm market at the Johnson Education Center, a beautifully restored barn from 1900, on the grounds of the D&R Greenway in Princeton. D&R Greenway is located at One Preservation Place off of Rosedale Road in Princeton. This market will run from 10am-2pm. Visit www.drgreenway.org for directions.
Why NJ Farmstands, cfe
On February 19th, Tre Piani Restaurant in Forrestal Village in Princeton hosts the Market from 11am-3pm. Tre Piani is the original site where the Markets started seven years ago with Slow Food Central New Jersey. For directions to Tre Piani, visit www.trepiani.com.
Terhune Orchards at Slow Food/D&R Greenway Indoor Winter Farm Market cfe
Saturday, January 14
D&R Greenway Land Trust, Princeton
609 924-4646 www.drgreenway.org
For more information, call 609 577-5113. For up to date information on vendors, visit Slow Food Central New Jersey on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/groups/279661868722992/.
Red-winged Blackbird, Sunset, by Brenda Jones
NJ WILD readers know that the catalyst for all my nature experiences is birding. You may not know that I’ve been barred from it, increasingly, this year, by a mysteriously deteriorating hip.
On Wednesday, November 9, that hip will be replaced with something shiny, smooth and functional. My orthopedist insists, “We’re going to be very aggressive re rehab, because we want to get you back in the kayak and out on the trail.” And that means new stories for all of you — 1000 to 1200 per week - always a miracle to me, and greatly appreciated.
NJ WILD readers also know that D&R Greenway Land Trust preserved the St. Michael’s (Orphanage) land in Hopewell, 300+ acres that would by now hold 1200 houses, had we not raised what I recall as thirteen million dollars by the Ides of March that year. Bill Flemer, IV, of the legendary Princeton Nursery family, works for D&R Greenway now, managing the farm preserve.
The New York Times recently wrote at length about our native plant seed project there, under Bill’s, as well as Jared Rosenbaum’s, of our Native Plant Nursery. We are growing hundreds of native wildflowers there for their seed. It will be taken, in partnership with New York City’s Department of Parks and Restoration, to re-seed, reclaim the direly named Fresh Kills. You may realize that World Trade Center debris was taken to that site. Because of preservation and stewardship in your own back yard, flowers will bloom there, and blow in the wind. Flowers that belong, that will seed themselves in the sea wind…
Support your local land trust wherever you are, especially D&R Greenway.
Mockingbird Singing, by Brenda Jones
And rejoice at this recent e-bird list, thanks to Jim Amon, our Director of Stewardship, for this good news, reminding me that there are birds in our world.
St.Michael’s, Mercer, US-NJ
Canada Goose 10
Autumn 2011 Titusville Bridge, Brenda Jones
NJ WILD readers may or may not know that my favorite season is autumn.
Even this year, when that segment of the year holds my hip replacement in the wings… the miracle which will ultimately return me to the trails and to the kayak, where I belong.
But this autumn, in New Jersey, is bare, barren and sere.
Leaves did not turn color - not even poison ivy, woodbine or wild grape. The more or less tarnished, and wild winds took care of most - whatever hue.
I’m asking and asking, “Without color, how do we know it’s autumn?”
In my Michigan childhood, we never had that color problem. Sugar maples were the flags of fall, on every side, not only in the kaleidoscopic autumn forests of northern Michigan.
Even so, it was never autumn until our mother read us the following poem. What is autumn to you, Dear Readers? What WAS autumn, in your childhood, wherever…?
TO BE READ ALOUD, preferably to children…
When the Frost Is On the Punkin
James Whitcomb Riley
Why Choose Jersey Fresh: West Windsor Farm Market cfe
Cumberland County Fall Farm Bounty, CFE
NJ Wild Readers are well aware of my passion for farms, farmers, farmlands and farm markets.
The legendary Michele Byers, Executive Director of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, gives me willing, even eager permission to quote her recent column on these topics. Because, after all, she exults, “It’s all about education, spreading the word.”
Count yourselves fortunate to have read and experienced the glory of NJ farms in these posts. And support Michele anywhere, everywhere, everyhow - in her campaigns to keep our NJ Green and Garden-y.
Farm Market Central - West Windsor Farm Market, NJ cfe
by Michele S. Byers, Executive Director, New Jersey Conservation Foundation
Cumberland County Autumn, cfe
Cumberland County Harvest cfe
Gov. Chris Christie recently approved a new package of bills that reinforce
A Ripeness of Melons, West Windsor Farm Market cfe
One of the new laws requires “Jersey Fresh” and “Made with Jersey Fresh”
Cumberland County Decorative Corn cfe
New Jersey grows more than 100 different varieties of fruits, vegetables and
An Apple A Day, Trenton Farmers Market cfe
Only those growers who abide by the state’s quality grading program are
Cumberland County Bargains cfe
So if you can’t make it to your local farm market in the upcoming fall
Cumberland County, Jersey Freshest cfe
Just as New Jersey is a top national producer of fruits and vegetables, New
Symphony of Yellows, West Windsor Farm Market cfe
The farmland preservation funds approved by Governor Christie will help
Home From the Trenton Farmers Market cfe
For more information on the nation’s most popular farmers markets, go to
Peach Abundance, Trenton Farmers Market cfe
To learn more about Jersey Fresh products, including
Awaiting Vincent West Windsor Farm Market cfe
And if you’d like more information about conserving New Jersey’s precious
Farmstand Bounty, cfe
NJ WILD readers know my passion for farm markets. What you may not realize is my nearly phobic reaction to supermarkets, with a couple of exceptions (Wegmans being one). What I view with enormous horror is those Weather Channel scenes of people madly buying milk and so forth before storms. So this week’s Category 2, then 1 Hurricane tenses me in ways not shared by most.
On Friday, inadvertently, I found the ideal solution to readying for a storm. Drive over through Hunterdon County to the Delaware River, have a lovely breakfast at Miels, then head upriver and downriver on the Pennsylvania, then New Jersey sides.
Our river has never looked more tranquil - to the point that rare houses were mirror-reflected in nearly still water. Along her edges floated necklaces of rhapsodic people, in flamingo-pink, buttercup-yellow and hot blue tubes.
What does this have to do with hurricane-prep?
Along the way, stop at every roadside stand. Pick up absolutely vine-ripened solid round tomatoes, in a crooked shady lane in front of a McMansion, of all things. No one tends this roadside stand - there is an honor box. There aren’t even prices. You just decide and tuck in your money. You can also buy white eggs and ice-green squash.
At another tiny stand, gather field bouquets enriched with hardy zinnias in pinata colors.
Next to a huge bright green and yellow tractor, choose between white corn and yellow corn from a man who writes your purchase down on a piece of paper with a pencil.
Try to find water for your fellow explorer in a country store next to a brook and the Pennsylvania (pretty much abandoned) version of our canal. Have the cheery proprietress say, “Water? Of course! I had 8 delivered this morning!” It’s not even noon, and her waters are all gone. Revel in the peace of a part of the world where 8 gallons of water is a lot.
Stop beside a high wiry bridge back over the Delaware, which you hope won’t be threatened with the dire rains about to be our fate. Enjoy the hand-painted signs: CORN, PEACHES, TOMATOES, FLOWERS. Choose onions with Pennsylvania dirt still clinging to the roots. Pick up a couple of tiny, rosy, fresh garlic that will probably squirt you when you cut it, the way it does in France. Get some huge heirloom tomatoes under a hand-scrawled sign that says, “BEAUTY ISN’T EVERYTHING!” As you choose your peaches, tell the woman of the stand that, to you, all heirlooms are beautiful.
Interstate Walkway - Bull’s Island Footbridge cfe
Drove slowly south on the NJ side to Bull’s Island, and walk that dazzling footbridge over the hushed Delaware.
Think what drama is in store for your beloved river.
Stop at Maresca’s in Seargentsville, so Emil can cut you four tiny filets, three to freeze; then medium-slice his home-smoked bacon and impeccably wrap each collection of meat in real waxy brown butcher’s paper. Relish his smile and that of the woman (his daughter?) who is so helpful, who finds you their freshly gathered eggs; their fresh mozzarella; praises (so you buy it) their olive oil; and admits to having baked the biscotti and the apricot-centered tiny butter cookies.
Sergeantsville Reflection, cfe
All the way home, know that, in addition to the flavors and the vibrant health of the foods you’ve gathered pre-Irene, you will be savoring these memories.
NJ WILD readers may remember this from the ‘dog days’ of last August. As we endure triple-digit heat days in JUNE, no less (while politicians debate the reality of Catastrophic Climate Change, I find myself newly compelled to seek out dappled roadways.
We, in Princeton and near, are blessed with places where shadows caress windshields and shiny metal hoods of vehicles. Sometimes, we can even drive where trees hold hands over our cars. On Pinelands roads, we may enjoy shadowed beauty and solitude even on Fourth of July, Labor Day, Memorial Day and the like.
Come DAPPLE with me!
In this summer of drought, when enormous swathes of corn have turned the color of camels on either side of Route 518 West of Princeton, I have had to develop a new modus operandi for driving. To evade that broiler-sun, I have come deliberately to tool along, up hill and down dale, on the outskirts of towns, and through the middle of small ones, as far as possible from highways, let alone anything named ’super’. I have to go in search of dappled roads.
This searing summer, I have been taught that shade is far more important than elapsed driving time.
When I endured 1988’s Provencal August, I wrote a poem beginning, “the sun strikes its flat sword blade…” I never before knew sun as enemy. As a child, my parents would sing, “Rain, rain, go away. Little Carolyn wants to play.” And this was perennially true. Now I feel I should do penance for this wish — now I find myself singing, “Sun, sun, go away.”
Day after day, “severe thunderstorms forecast”. Night after night, I carry my too-heavy new watering can around the rudimentary garden outside my new apartment on a wooded hill. Sometimes my parched plants cry out for me to repeat this procedure in mornings before work. People near my Canal Road dwelling have been saying, “We to live in a valley, a valley where it always rains on either side of us.” The ground outside is hard as concrete. Water from the golden can skids off the soil like mercury, like a garden snake, hurrying elsewhere, not sinking into roots.
I’ve had to find ways to escape the searing sun. I drive the dappled roads.
Blue Hills Above the Delaware from Hunterdon County
One of my all-time favorite books is William Least Heat Moon’s Blue Highways. I turn to it over and over, like Thoreau and Beston, Leopold and Abbey. W.L.H.M. took off in a van on the day he lost both wife and job, traveling the blue highways of our land, the ones without ’super’. He sought out cafes, measuring them by the number of photo calendars they displayed near their cash register. He brought to life each bossy waitress, each curmudgeonly fellow traveler at a stool at his side at the counter. Moon was not on a gastronomic quest, as I often am. Rather in search of humans, real people, what we used to call Americans before a certain recent president made ME ashamed to BE one… That simple travelogue held its place on best-seller lists for months. That basic journey sustained me in many a challenging ordeal of life.
“Where ya goin’?,” a fellow feeder asked William L.H. Moon. “Dunno,” he truthfully answered. His interrogator grinned: “Can’t get lost then.”
When I travel the dappled roads, it doesn’t matter if I get lost. On the dappled highways, still green and feathery above, the smokey wash of shadow alters both my car’s blinding finish and my own dessicated mood.
Provence didn’t have shadows. I never realized shade was essential. The most important description of any Inn was “terrace ombragee”. Until I sat at on those shaded terraces, surrounded by white linen and heavy silver and Provencal specialties beneath leather-leaved plane trees, (our sycamores) I didn’t know how priceless is shade. In Provence, I tried and failed to remember a favorite poem, “Glory be to God for Dappled Things.”
This summer, I learn the value of shadows in our own country. Without linen, without silver, sans cuisine.
When you travel ombragee’d roadways, you’ll either be pretty much alone, as in the Pine Barrens. Or you’ll be surrounded by people in a pretty good mood, soothed as shade comes and goes, as the road rises and falls, as trees create sanctuaries of silence.
Dappled roads don’t just funnel one - dappled roads lead somewhere.
As to rivers - the Wading, the Delaware. As to forests — Wharton, Brendan Byrne. As to mountains, so they say, as in Sourlands. Past a funny old road house, beloved of locals. Alongside farmstands, “cucumbers, 50 cents each”. “Our own fresh eggs.”
As you drive along dappled roads in South Jersey, you can check on the blueberry crop, the busy-ness of rented bees among tiny white cranberry blossoms. If you ‘dapple’ West, you’ll study the state of the sorghum crop, and puzzle as to whether corn tassels out later, the closer you get to the Delaware River (my theory. In this year of the drought, the later-tasseling corn is faring better.)
I’d far rather know how the sorghum’s doing, than the latest catastrophe of some celebrity of entertainment or politics (it is becoming more and more difficult to tell the difference.) I can stop thinking, for a few hours, about the perilous migratory journeys of all our New Jersey birds headed toward and over the Gulf.
When you choose dappled roads, even in town, as in Princeton, you’ll pass homes and graveyards of any number of signers of the Declaration of Independence, as well as the imposing residence of the current governor. Signs exult, “Tree City”. Oxymoronic, to be sure, but I’m grateful for every monarch of old, waving leafily, dreamily above my sheltering car.
When you drive shadowed south Jersey roadways, you course along beside pristine sugar sand. Here and there will be spurts of blinding ferns despite apparent lack of water. This year, you’ll read Smokey Bear signs with exclamation points after the single word “WILDFIRE!”, where fire danger used to be listed as low, medium or high. When you drive shadowed roadways west, you see gleaming silos like cathedrals in the distance. White horses and black-and-white cattle stand so peacefully, lessons in tranquillity. Red barns and redder farmhouses rise like exclamation points in the surrounding text of crops. You’ll clunk over a white covered bridge (as in Sergeantsville).
If I’m lucky, I can take dappled roads BOTH into and out of Sergeantsville, coming and going from my shadow-quest.
Shade will bless you as you pass any number of Washington’s Headquarters, perhaps pondering the fate of America without those stony shrines and their plain but brilliant occupant during the 1770’s and 80’s…
The edges of dappled roads could have been embroidered. This morning, bright sturdy chicory lined my path all the way to Stockton, like blue French knots embroidered by impeccable seamstresses. Here and there, a brook would keep me company, its quiet gleam no match for the bonniness of chicory. Behind the blue ‘knots’, entire fields of white lace, –yes, Queen Anne’s, short and tough yet delicate–, nodded in the half breeze.
An entire field of sunflowers, right west of here on #518, caused homesickness for France, for Arles, for Vincent, sane or mad, but no better chronicler of roadside flowers in the history of art.
Blessed by leaf-flicker, I am far from matters troublous. Weaving through Washington-shrines, I either forget the nightly news, or set it firmly in perspective. Taking the shady roads, I also manage to avoid most who exhibit road rage, although there was one harsh driver at the gas station at dawn for whom the attendant apologized three times. “He is not nice, that one…”
Dappled roads are nice. Good for the soul. Gateways to the beauties of New Jersey of which so many are absolutely unaware, and even the best of us can tend to forget, in hurly burly or in drought.
On dappled roads, embroidered roadways, weekend errands don’t even feel like tasks.
Find the Photographer - Anne Zeman - at her task…