Archive for the ‘Nature Writing’ Category
Filed Under (ART, Activism, Environment, Global Climate Change, Government, NJ WILD, Nature Writing, New Jersey, Preservation, Weeds, Wildflowers, wildness) by Carolyn Foote Edelmann on 02-06-2012
Long ago, –when Ilene Dube urged me to begin this nature blog for the Packet Publications–, I, who had never seen a blog at that time, discovered in the naming that I had to define “wild.
One of the key definers, so long as I’ve known of him, starting with Desert Solitaire, is Edward Abbey.
Whenever I read nature books, I write favorite lines in empty pages in the front and the back. Lines which buttress me in my sometimes daunting challenge of preserving land in our New Jersey at D&R Greenway Land Trust five days a week. Lines which form my life paradigm, actually — recognized by Ilene, who was so right that I must communicate in this 21st Century format.
One of my favorite “Abbeyisms” I just added to e-mail signatures, as AOL somehow deleted the carefully crafted sign-off that had always been there.
Basically, Ed Abbey said it all. I don’t need to write about nature for you. All we have to do is to contemplate Ed’s clarion call: “LONG LIVE THE WEEDS AND THE WILDERNESS!” (The Journey Home.)
Ed challenges all authority in ringing tones, such as, “Are we going to ration the wilderness experience?”
D&R Greenway’s Art Curator, Diana Moore, answered Ed’s challenge in her speech at our art opening reception for “Crossing Cultures” - “The message of this exhibition is that D&R Greenway saves land for all.” (Come see this edgey array, so praised by Jan Purcell in the Times of Trenton on Friday: business hours of business days, through July 27.)
Ed saw the earth as a being before the astronauts sent back their image of our jeweled sphere of blue: “The earth is not a mechanism but an organism.”
Protesting roads in national parks, he trumpeted, “You’ve got to be willing to walk!”
(NJ WILD readers - you have read these concepts in these posts ever since we began. These positions wouldn’t be so powerful in me, without Edward Abbey.)
Ed dedicated The Journey Home to his staunch father, “who taught me to hate injustice, to defy the powerful and to speak for the voiceless.”
Ed educates me not only as a naturalist and courageous voyageur, but politically: “All government is bad, including good government.”
His rage at the despoilation of nature pours forth in what used to be called “deathless prose.” Only, in today’s techno-era, –which Ed would deplore–, prose isn’t deathless any more. Ed decries “the degradation of our national heritage”, as I rail against despoilations of New Jersey. Caustically, he blurts, “They even oppose wilderness in the National Parks.”
Ed sums it all up, although s writing of the Southwest. NJ WILD reader, just substitute our beleaguered New Jersey: “THE IDEA OF WILDERNESS NEEDS NO DEFENSE. IT ONLY NEEDS MORE DEFENDERS.”
BE ONE! Support your local land trusts, and walk preserved trails weekly, to remember why preservation and stewardship are the key issues of our day.
(Yes, I know - there’s catastrophic climate change. It is slowed by the presence of nature, trees, broad rivers and absorbent, fruitful wetlands…)
Take your stand against what Ed calls “…a fanatical greed, an arrogant stupidity, … robbing us of the past and tranforming the future into nightmares…”
Filed Under (Activism, Amphibians, Animals of the Wild, Birds, Brenda Jones, Edward Abbey, Farm Markets, Forests, Hamilton Trenton Bordentown Marsh, Henry David Thoreau, Indians, Lenni Lenapes, Literature, Local Food, NJ WILD, Native Americans, Nature, Nature Writing, New Jersey, Preservation, Sourland Mountains, The Seasons, Trees, Wildflowers, books, habitat, native species, protection, rivers, wild, wildness) by Carolyn Foote Edelmann on 04-03-2012
“…unreconstructed and necessary wildness…” Michael Pollan, The Botany of Desire
Enraged Osprey of Carnegie Lake, Brenda Jones
Michael Pollan in general, and his Botany of Desire, in particular, is one of those authors everyone means to read. I hear protestations of intention all the time, always tinged with a kind of wistfulness. Recently, Public Television gave people a visual taste of this man’s paradigm. For me, the visual alone never suffices.
I’ll go so far as to insist that Pollan is an author to re-read. His subject matter is so unexpected (apples and ‘cyder’, marijuana, tulips and potatoes) and his thinking so original. It’s worth taking Pollan in hand, even if you don’t give a fig about nature. Just for the privilege of journeying with him.
Fierce Flight (Great Blue Heron), Brenda Jones
And savoring his pithy phrases, such as “Plants are the true alchemists.” His lament that now, “It is as though nature is something that happens outside,… as if we are gazing at nature across a gulf.” As he sets out in a canoe in quest of Johnny Appleseed’s seminal (couldn’t resist) journeys, Pollan relishes trusting in the river to take him wherever he wants to go.
WILD DELAWARE RIVER, Brenda Jones
In my case, re-reading The Botany of Desire reveals a delicious (pun intended) emphasis upon the WILD.
Trenton’s Apple Bounty, cfe
People can and do tease me for prating of the WILD in New Jersey. In the first segment of The Botany of Desire, Pollan takes an even more unlikely tack — seeking the wild, as did Thoreau, through apples. One of his theses is that Appleseed’s success came because he was not peddling mere fruit, but ‘cyder’ to the pioneers.
West Windsor’s Apple Bounty — cfe
Michael sets the tone with phrases such as “A handful of wild apples came with me” (on his Johnny-Appleseed-Quest.) He insists that “sowers of wild seeds are to be prized.”
Cedar Ridge Preserve Meadow, cfe
Cedar Ridge Wild Mushrooms — cfe
Pollan laments that “we live in a world where the wild places where wild plants live are dwindling.” You’ve heard this line from me in ‘posts’ beyond counting, coupled with urgings to support your local land trusts, especially D&R Greenway, to preserve New Jersey’s wild remnants and to plant New Jersey Natives wherever we can.
Baldpate View, Ted Stiles Preserve, Brenda Jones
Let Michael define “the best of all possible worlds”: “WE’D BE PRESERVING THE WILD PLACES THEMSELVES.”
The next best possible world: “ONE THAT PRESERVES THE QUALITY OF WILDNESS ITSELF.”
Female Harrier Aloft, Pole Farm, Brenda Jones
Male Harrier, “The Grey Ghost”, in ice at Pole Farm — Brenda Jones
The generating thesis of NJ WILD is that the wild exists right in our own back yards:
Wild erupts with the whiff of fox along mown paths of The Griggstown Grasslands. This lovely lofty set of trails, with its compelling Sourlands and Watchung views, awaits but a mile or two north of me on Canal Road, before/beside Griggstown’s Causeway.
Fox Alert, Griggstown Grasslands, Brenda Jones
The wild surprised me last week In burgeonings of wildflowers, deep in the duff of the forest floor, on Bull’s Island in the Delaware. These petite fleurs lifted up the blinding waxy yellow of buttercups. 8 to 10 petals rayed out from yellow centers. These premature spring heralds were nevertheless inviting pollinators. On my hike, they seemed like pieces of eight flung onto the leaf-strewn forest floor.
Why call a delicate plant WILD? Because they arrived there on their own, blooming despite winter on the calendar, pushing through flood detritus that resembled the graphite dust of Thoreau’s pencils. A key quality of the wild is RESILIENCE — New Jersey specialty!
Sourland Mountain Rocks and Water, Brenda Jones
WILD in New Jersey, for me, requires Lenni Lenapes. The land was tended by these peaceful tribes, at least 10,000 years ago. Their vanished presence is palpable on many of my hikes, most especially among Sourlands boulders. Also on trails near Mountain Lakes House, and at Ringing Rocks just across Delaware at Upper Black Eddy. In each case, majestic boulders that render Stonehenge puny rest exactly where they were revealed by water wind and time, before time. The huge stones are frequently encountered in a massive ring. I FEEL Indian councils there, planning tribal actions for the season about to begin. Seasons which, for Lenni Lenapes, triggered travel either to or from hunting to gathering.
Mink at Play, Brenda Jones
In the Hamilton/Trenton/Bordentown Marsh, the Lenapes convened with selected other tribes, before leaving central Jersey hunting grounds for Shore gatherings. This journey and the seasonal constellation of other indigenous peoples was triggered by natural phenomena. Spring’s took place when pickerel weed pierced still waters like arrows.
New Jersey’s Apple Bounty, cfe
Michael Pollan plants a wild tree in his own home garden. His hope - “that such a tree will bear witness to unreconstructed and necessary wildness.”
What can you do about wildness right now, as elusive winter gives way to spring?
Go in search of it.
Buy only native NJ species for your gardens.
Read Michael Pollan
well, you know….
REMEMBER, WILD IS ALL ABOUT HABITAT!
Rare Box Turtle, Camouflaged in Natural Habitat - Cedar Ridge cfe
Generously support D&R Greenway and other Land Trusts, preserving New Jersey’s wild wherever it exist.
Filed Under (ART, Activism, Adventure, Animals of the Wild, Birds, D&R Canal & Towpath, Delaware River, Destruction, Environment, Global Climate Change, Migration, Migratory Flocks, NJ, NJ WILD, Nature, Nature Writing, New Jersey, Pollution/Poisoning, Preservation, Restoration, Tranquillity, Winter, World Trade Center, raptors, rivers, trails, wild) by Carolyn Foote Edelmann on 28-11-2011
One of the Many Forms of “A Beautiful Day…”
Upon reading “Her Idea of a Beautiful Day”, in My Story As Told By Water, my first thought was, ‘Well, what would be MY idea of a beautiful day?’ Its subjunctive question immediately appeared - ‘What is YOURs?‘ – readers of and cherished commentors upon NJ WILD–, what renders a day beautiful in your life, at this moment in time?
My Story as Told By Water is a riverine memoir by David James Duncan. This man is a modern bard, in prose and diatribe, of the endangered American West, –particularly its rivers, especially of its salmon. Over and over, Duncan teaches, “As salmon go, so go the rivers.” And the indigenous people whose lives since time immemorial have depended upon the rivers and their creatures. With salmon and salmon people go the state, the region, the nation and ultimately the globe. Especially here in the east, we do not GET it about the peril of and the implications of industrial murder of salmon.
Sunfish, Baldpate Mountain Pond, Brenda Jones
Edward Abbey taught us first the evil of dams. David James Duncan blows on Abbey coals. My Story As Told By Water is my favorite title of the genre, the way Dickens’ “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” is my favorite opening line of any novel. Young Duncan fell in love with water using a garden hose in his childhood driveway. His first love was abruptly relinquished for the real thing, when the boy fell INTO his first trout stream, discovering crawdads and fish. Duncan’s chapters tango between ever increasing passion for natural waterways, and fury at all who would destroy them. His rage and eloquence increase exponentially in our era of greed-enthronement.
The boy describes having been stunned by his grandmother’s rabid devotion to her job as a real estate agent: “Her idea of a beautiful day was one that increased the likelihood of her selling a house.” Nature, to Duncan’s grandmother, “had an unwashed, unsaved ring to it.”
Needless to say, “a beautiful day” to this author involves water, usually fresh, with the promise of fish. David James Duncan forces me to consider my own definition of a beautiful day. The instant answer is any day with friends, sharing nature with the perfect blend of passion, knowledge, and curiosity. Remarkable food is often involved, and frequently art. But if I had to choose but one factor for “my beautiful day”? NATURE.
I was frankly stunned to discover that “my beautiful day” need not be fair. “A beautiful day” to me is something that hardly ever happens any more — a time of long soft soaking rain. Gentle in quality and quantity, lowering a scrim over the harsh world. Rain that whispers, at most sizzles. This precipitation is neither so white and stiff as was my bridal veil, nor so dense and weighty as Jacqueline Kennedy’s widow’s veil — which cast a pall over my life, and was first worn in the impossible aftermath of this very day, November 22, in 1963. The most beautiful day to me now, in New Jersey, in the year 2008, is rain that tiptoes along the thirsty earth. It simply nourishes seeds, –without dislodging soil, let alone removing pebbles. A beautiful day’s rain never topples trees because of both quantity and intensity, without even factoring in damaging wind. What I require now is rain as it was before global warming.
Lately, as NJ WILD readers know, I’ve learned to be out in what the Brits call “a mizzle of rain.” There’s a blessing in it — tactile, even spiritual. I may prefer the days of rain and fog because they soften the impossible harshnesses of the 21st Century. You also know, nature is my church, and the Towpath and Canal in particular. David James Duncan says it better: “Church became a place where I waited for rain.”
“Pine Drops” hold the rain, by Lauren Curtis
Read the rest of this entry »
Filed Under (Animals of the Wild, Environment, Garden State, NJ WILD, Nature, Nature Writing, New Jersey, Oceans, Solitude, Tranquillity, Trees, rivers, wild) by Carolyn Foote Edelmann on 23-11-2011
The First Thanksgiving Painting, Jean Louis Gerome Ferris
Brenda Jones’ image of Geese Overhead echoes Charles Goodrich’s signature phrase
Fellow poet, Penelope Schott, sent me this delightful essay from someone else wise and wild in her new home town, Portland, Oregon: Charles Goodrich.
I e-mailed Charles, receiving merry permission to share his (diatribe, polemic, or just plain delicious excursion?) with NJ WILD readers. I relish his unique sign-off/signature - don’t you?
Charles knows what to do on the days of Thanksgiving. That feast did not come into being so that people could shop. At 4 a.m. in beautiful New Jersey, people could be out tracking in a wood, following a river, coursing over the bounding main, seeking wild creatures– not elbowing aside other frenzied humans in mad excesses of materialism.
Wise Indians talked surviving Pilgrims into setting aside days of thanks for the harvest, much of which would not have been in hand without the steady assistance of the so-called savages.
Thanksgiving is meant to be a celebration of gratitude. In the wild world, gratitude can be engendered by watching wild turkeys, in this case, battling - rather than fighting off fellow shoppers.
Brenda Jones’ Battling Turkey Cocks
Here is a fellow nature enthusiast, engendering thankfulness the real way.
Thank you, Charles, and I look forward to your new book, GOING TO SEED: DISPATCHES FROM THE GARDEN, due out in April from Silverfish Review Press.
Charles suggests, “You might also want to check out the website of the program I work for, the Spring Creek Project for Ideas, Nature, and the Written Word. We sponsor a couple of writing residencies and a bunch of other events and programs that you and your readers might find interesting: http://springcreek.oregonstate.edu/
Keep up the good work there in the Garden State. I know there are precious pockets of wild nature in your midst. Glad to know you are helping folks toward the great remembering.
geese overhead, mice in the compost,
Use Charles Goodrich’s web-site, to track down other thoughtful musings. Meanwhile, take a stroll in wild Oregon with this fine thinker and writer.
Deep in the brambles, a winter wren scavenges insects for her supper, talking to herself in buzzing little syllables. Otherwise, things are quiet in the woods.
It’s the day after Thanksgiving, signs everywhere of recent feasting. Beside the river, a scrubby willow has been clipped off, the clean impression of beaver teeth indented in the stump.
At the base of a cedar, a fresh owl pellet, chock full of white bones and gray fur.
And here, in the center of the trail, splayed out in artful array, the scrub jay’s wings sail on through a scatter of gray and blue breast feathers, right where the fox left them.
I’m sure it will be a busy day at the mall. There are supposed to be bargains galore.
I can believe it, because the catkins of the wild filberts are already an inch long. And now the wren flits to a branch above the trail and scolds me for undisclosed offenses. Prosperity abounds!
Winter Sparrow by Brenda Jones
Brenda Jones’ Wren of Summer
evokes Charles’ Goodrich’s winter wren in another season
Spring Creek Project
The challenge of the Spring Creek Project is to bring together the practical wisdom of the environmental sciences, the clarity of philosophical analysis, and the creative, expressive power of the written word, to find new ways to understand and re-imagine our relation to the natural world.
Filed Under (Activism, Adventure, Animals of the Wild, Birds, D&R Canal & Towpath, Destruction, Environment, NJ, NJ WILD, Nature, Nature Writing, New Jersey, Poetry, Preservation, Winter, stewardship, wild) by Carolyn Foote Edelmann on 21-11-2011
Olga Sergyeyeva’s Fine Art Photography evokes my beloved D&R Canal and Towpath.
Olga Sergyeyeva’s Masterpieces evoke autumn along my “Dear Canal and Towpath”:
Here is a poem which Rich Rein, founder of US 1 Newspaper, published when they honored me with an entire calendar (2006) of my canal and towpath photographs. They were slides — remember slides? So I cannot add those images to this post. But I can give you the culminating poem - perhaps the first - to grace a US 1 Calendar.
I have lived beside you
four long decades
walked there with daughters
tugging myself away
too long after sundown
into you, my tears have dropped
and I have dipped hot hands
to rest from paddling
until this gelid day
have I slid down your brief bank
–setting first one boot, then the other
onto your glimmer of surface
walked out to where it seemed I saw
your great heart pulse
and, deep in darkness,
the quicksilver of fish
CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN
View at the Top of the Scott and Hella McVay Poetry Trail
Greenway Meadows Park/D&R Greenway Land Trust
by Carolyn Foote Edelmann
NJ WILD readers know that Ilene Dube, of the Packet, asked me to create this blog to include New Jersey nature, preservation and poetry. All three will combine at D&R Greenway Land Trust on the 18th of August, when U.S. 1 Newspaper’s Annual Summer Fiction Issue Party unfurls. Anyone is welcome, but call 609 924 4646 to register.
Guests may arrive at 4 for an informal walk of the Scott and Hella McVay Poetry Trail. At 5, Rich Rein and his staff from U.S. 1 (Business) Newspaper will host the reception and reading.
All writers will be introduced; poets will read. Find this issue on-line at www.princetoninfo.com. Papers will be provided at the reception. Guests are known to take the paper around, asking prose and poetic writers to sign ‘their page’ - the new game in town.
All events at D&R Greenway further awareness and preservation of nature. Where would the poets be without the wild… But you have heard this often enough from me. Imagine: It has taken D&R Greenway twenty two years to save twenty two miles of our New Jersey.
Part of our preservation is Greenway Meadows, upon which our 1900 barn, once Robert Wood Johnson’s, serves as fulcrum. We are at One Preservation Place, off Rosedale, between Elm Road/the Great Road and Province Line Road.
A literary treasure exists in our preserved Greenway Meadows, managed by Princeton Township. The Scott and Hella McVay Poetry Trail, launched last autumn, winds up a hill from which one can see the Sourland Mountains to the west. This trail is studded with poems. Many of these signs flanked their authors who read during recent D&R Greenway poetic treks. On August 18, guests may read for themselves, often sitting upon natural wood sculpture-benches, to contemplate the nature enshrined there.
It is a miracle to me that a business newspaper turns over two issues each year, for fifteen years, to creativity. Salute Rich Rein, whose brilliant idea this is. And join him, his staff and D&R Greenway to hear this year’s poets celebrate our region - not only its nature.
|Special reading & reception celebrating
local prose and poetry at D&R Greenway
U.S. 1 Newspaper Summer Fiction Issue reception
Meet the writers and poets who contribute to this annual literary event
Thursday, August 18
5 p.m. reception, 5:30 p.m. readings
you are invited to arrive at 4 p.m. to walk the Scott and Hella McVay Poetry Trail
on your own
at the Johnson Education Center
One Preservation Place, Princeton, NJ 08540
(click for directions)
|L to R: Founding Editor, U.S. 1 Newspaper, Rich Rein, hosts the business and entertainment newspaper’s annual Summer
Fiction Issue Reception and Reading, with Issue Editors
John Symons and Nell Whiting.
D&R Greenway invites the public to join the U.S. 1 Newspaper staff for the reception celebrating U.S. 1’s annual Summer Fiction (and poetry) issue. For fifteen years, founding editor Rich Rein has given two weeks of each summer over to this issue, showcasing the best of local prose and poetry. The call for entries requested work relevant to life in and around the U.S. 1 Corridor, the area that this business and entertainment weekly serves. This is the first time this annual event is being hosted at D&R Greenway’s Johnson Education Center.
The reception will begin at 5 p.m. and the prose writers and poets’ readings will begin at 5:30 p.m. This is a highly anticipated annual event celebrating poets and writers of our region. RSVP early to reserve your spot.
Parking is free and plentiful at the Johnson Education Center, with overflow parking at Greenway Meadows Park (parking lot across the street from Johnson Park Elementary School on Rosedale Road).
The event is free and open to the public. Please call 609-924-4646 or email email@example.com to RSVP.
Poetry flags, made by Hella McVay, at the beginning of the McVay Poetry Trail
Guests are welcome to arrive at 4 p.m. for an informal stroll on the Scott and Hella McVay Poetry Trail, inaugurated last autumn. The trail stretches up Greenway Meadows hill behind D&R Greenway’s Johnson Education Center — formerly General Robert Wood Johnson’s circa 1900 working barn. Forty-eight nature-related poems adorn this wooded walk with its welcoming benches.
From the top of the hill, the Sourland Mountains provide a sweeping viewscape. D&R Greenway has preserved and provides continuing stewardship for 1000 acres of this contiguous forest, important to migratory bird habitat.
D&R Greenway Land Trust | at the Johnson Education Center | One Preservation Place | Princeton | NJ | 08540
Filed Under (Adventure, Brenda Jones, D&R Canal & Towpath, Forests, Journalism, NJ WILD, Nature, Nature Writing, New Jersey, Preservation, The Seasons, Timelessness, protection) by Carolyn Foote Edelmann on 17-07-2011
NJ Wild readers know I used to write long and colorful nature articles for the Packet, for US 1 (Business) Newspaper and occasionally, West Windsor Plainsboro News. Jersey Sierran and New Jersey Countryside also published nature pieces of mine, back in the days when print journalism was thriving and free-lancing was an exhilirating profession.
Here’s a long story of those golden days, covering favorite near-Princeton walks, bearable on the blistering days. Be very aware, everyone, that without preservation organizations, such as D&R Greenway, Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, Friends of Princeton Open Space, Montgomery Friends of Open Space, we wouldn’t have these dappled places to restore ourselves. Shall I dare to mention the cc word? - and flee catastrophic climate change!
Preserved land absorbs CO2 - but you all know that. I don’t know why the government does not.
Miracle-worker Brenda Jones inserted images for us, to convey visual enticement to our readers. I’ve walked these woods in all seasons, and could not name a favorite. What is yours?
“The Woods are Lovely, Dark and Deep”:
Cool Walks for Blistering Days
You’re psyched for a hike, but the Weather Channel reports temperatures over 90º. What to do? You’re in luck! The Princeton region abounds in sites offering cool walks despite blistering days.
It helps to get out on trails at first light or last. Birders and photographers know to choose times of low sun for best results. As the “Dog Days” of August approach, early and late become your best friends. Named for Sirius, the Dog Star, –which rises in that month–, I would watch the Provençals, gesturing furiously, castigate the entire season that they call “La Canicule”, (from Latin word for dog). In the South of France, this is a time of increased madness, of wildfires in pine and oak woods. For the entire interval of “La Canicule” 1988, firefighters camped out on our L’Observatoire Hill above Cannes — good chance to practice my French. No shade anywhere, then! Least of all in the charred (even the roots!) Esterel Forest, where I had become seriously sunburnt that January. As Global Warming creeps on its far-from-petty pace, this searing time could tempt you to bark.
In Princeton’s Dog Days the rule of thumb becomes, “Be out there when sun’s below treeline.” This is easy along the D&R Canal Towpath, which my employers, D&R Greenway Land Trust, were created to save for our overpopulated state. The canal was a vital commercial artery, now a New Jersey State Park. However, at all hours, in our mercifully wooded region, there are nearby hiking havens. Here you can literally escape heat, enhance fitness, experience wild beauty without absolutely wilting.
My benchmark for temperature relief is New Jersey Audubon’s Plainsboro Preserve. If I were giving Cool Stars, its beechwood haven earns the full five. Four, I award to Community Park North, — especially John Witherspoon Woods, thanks the vigilance and preservation successes of Friends of Princeton Open Space and the Princeton Garden Club. Three stars go to Shipetaukin Woods, just over the line in Lawrence Township, with its shy and melodious Shipetaukin Brook. Two Cool Stars are earned by our Towpath, –with the exception of areas along Carnegie Lake. (Its dredging removed venerable tree cover, so lakeside walks this time of year can feel like forced marches on a griddle.) Of course, the all-time best way to be cool near the towpath is to kayak along the canal, especially south from Princeton Canoe and Kayak on Alexander Road.
Lovely, Dark and Shallow, thanks to Brenda Jones
Your first steps, alongside McCormack Lake (former gravel pit, now waterbird heaven) are along its sandy entrance road, admittedly exposed to sun. A trail beckons to the left almost immediately. Take it to enter the beechwood. In any season, there is a significant ‘change in the weather’. Its moderation is a welcome 12 to 15 degrees, –cooler in summer; warmer in winter. In this enchanted forest gleam frail white Indian pipes. These saprophytes are haunting in the dappled dimness, plants that thrive without chlorophyll. Their dark ruddy relative, beech drops, erupt here and there, nourished by submerged long-dead beech trunks.
In the Packet’s glossy magazine, you recently were treated to a superb color picture and story, by Anthony Stoeckert, about the spirit behind Plainsboro Preserve, Sean Grace. Intensely knowledgeable about wild plants and wild creatures, with an artist’s sense for the beautiful (he sometimes leads sketching walks), there is no better guide to the gentle wilds of Plainsboro Preserve than Sean.
Plainsboro Preserve in summer is a place for atmosphere and escape, more than adding to your life lists of birds and plants. Winter is the time for the rarest of their 150 species of birds to take center stage. Threatened and endangered plants are proudly listed at Plainsboro, although seldom encountered on ordinary excursions. Maps and announcements at entry reveal a broad spectrum of guided family activities, including owl prowls and backcountry wildflower quests.
Trail blazes on trees are plentiful and clear. The white trail segues into the red which curves into the yellow, looping back to the white. Take them all in the ‘Dog Days’, with shade as your companion. Blue takes you out onto the peninsula in 50-acre McCormack Lake, the former quarry. There, you’ll hike among fragrant bayberry shrubs, above reindeer lichen and other green growing things you’d have to drive all the way to Island Beach State Park to discover. However, the peninsula is sun-exposed. (No swimming, fishing, dogs nor bikes in this Preserve.)
Directions - Scudders Mill Road East, off Route 1; North/left on Dey Road; West/left at light at Scott’s Corner Road. South/left into park at small sign on right. Open sunup to sundown, locked otherwise.
Community Park North, John Witherspoon Woods:
Here’s the place for woods truly “lovely, dark and deep”. They face you as soon as you lock your car in the parking lot. Trails lead north and south. North (near what used to be our Shakespeare Theatre) is more exposed. Blazes are sparse, but trails well utilized, so that you can follow your feet. This preserve can be very wet after continuous rain. South trail lifts you onto a paved road, toward Mountain Lakes House. In no time, you not only do not hear Route 206 any longer – you forget there is any such thing as traffic. You might even forget sun. Some days in Princeton, as in Provence, sun can be enemy, woods your only defense.
For darkest woods, turn right at pathways into John Witherspoon Woods. After crossing a stream or two, you may be blessed by the great horned owl (early or late), or the privilege of wood thrush chorus. Henry David Thoreau’s favorite bird, the thrush is becoming increasingly scarce in our region, as deer browse destroys its essential understory.
Evocative rocks outline well maintained, but somewhat rough, trails. Occasional water crossings are abetted by convenient logs and rocks. Trekking poles are useful, but not required. Inescapable sun does erupt on the road and in the gas line clearing. The large body of (dammed) water lures (too many) geese. Obvious trails wheel in all directions, granting profound escape from ‘civilization’, as well as from rays.
Directions - 206 North (toward Township Police Station); right/north jughandle for Mountain Avenue; right/west at large sign, into generous parking area.
Three trails diverge in a greenwood. Take center or left, both clearly blazed. Even at entry, edge-habitat birds abound. They are near and unbothered enough by your presence in this secret enclave that you can study them without optics. Inside the forest, sun is blessedly swallowed. You’re knee-deep in ferns, among jack-in-the-pulpits to your hips. Tracking, you read fawn tenuousness, stag certainty; you step between raccoon prints. Look for turtles and waterstriders along the winking creek. This is a small walk, but dense. Tree blazes tend to be few and far between. It’s near enough to Terhune Orchards that you can mosey on over there afterwards for cool and natural refreshment. Shipetaukin reminds me of [Spencer] Tracy’s praise of Hepburn: “…Not much to her; but what there is, is cherce.”
Directions - 206 South; west/right onto Province Line Road alongside Squibb; left/south on Carson; right/west on Carter –[only one car-length!] IMMEDIATE left/south into Shipetaukin. From Princeton, small sign cannot be read. Entry road is rudimentary, narrow.
The working canal and towpath ran from New Brunswick to Bordentown. The shadiest towpath stroll is from Alexander Road South, in late afternoon and evening. One can park under trees at Turning Basin Park, across from Princeton Canoe and Kayak.
Parking at the Quaker Bridge Road/Province Line Road South (alongside Nassau Park/Wegman’s Shopping Center) provides a mercifully silent walk. Evening is best, although always less shady than the Alexander South stretch. As you come out from under Province Line Road Bridge, a scene right out of French Impressionists unfolds. Our Canal could have inspired Sisley, Pissarro, Monet and the gang, especially near Auvers-sur-Oise. Rare birds abound here, although US 1 is so near – rose-breasted grosbeak, green heron, yellow-shafted flicker, evening grosbeak, great-crested flycatcher, hawks often aloft.
Be warned: The most sun-exposed stretch of the D&R Canal and Towpath is the one we know best, Harrison Street and on north.
Brenda Jones Captures Cool
Other shady opportunities include the Institute Woods (park and enter near the adolescent Mercer Oak, on Mercer Street south of town; or on Alexander near the Canal). Celebrated in birding guides, this nature mecca shelters wood thrushes, occasional pileated woodpeckers. However, severe deer browse has had its way with this understory, seriously reducing bird and wildflower populations.
North of town, Herrontown Woods and Autumn Hill Reservation beckon shade-seekers. Herrontown Road leads direct to Autumn Hill; take Herrontown Road to Snowden Lane to reach Herrontown Woods. Both preserves can be exceedingly wet after lengthy rain. Each offers cool density, intriguing rocks, towering trees and bird richness.
In John Masefield’s words, you may be “tired of brick and stone, and rumbling wagon wheels.” If so, seek out Princeton area woods, “full of the laugh of the leaves and the song the wind sings.” Even on blistering days.
http://www.canoenj.com/prince1.htm Princeton Canoe and Kayak
http://www.nynjctbotany.org/njnbtofc/shipetaukinwdstr.html Shipetaukin Woods Trail
http://www.dandrcanal.com/gen_info.html D&R Canal State Park
http://www.fopos.org/achievements.html Friends of Princeton Open Space re various outdoor ops available because of their vigilance in preservation.
http://www.njaudubon.org/Centers/Plainsboro/ Plainsboro Preserve
http://www.princetontwp.org/herron.html Herrontown Woods
http://www.princetontwp.org/authill.html Autumn Hill Reservation
http://www.princetontwp.org/instwoods.html Institute Woods
Filed Under (Animals of the Wild, Birds, Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve, Brenda Jones, Butterflies, Climate Change, Global Climate Change, Migratory Flocks, NJ, NJ WILD, Nature, Nature Writing, New Jersey, Preservation, Trees, Weeds, habitat, stewardship) by Carolyn Foote Edelmann on 03-07-2011
Drama in Your Own Backyard
Fox Listening for Vole, Pole Farm, Brenda Jones
NJ WILD readers know my enthusiasm for everything wild, everything nature in our state, which is far more beautiful, natural and wild than anyone realizes.
Fierce Great Blue Heron, Brenda Jones
You’re also pretty familiar with my choice in reading: anything about nature, especially New Jersey, and always lately, catastrophic climate change. Now even the Weather Channel is admitting that “This year, everything is a record.” Of course, they’re still blaming that on Mother Nature, not on human greed…
Never lose sight of the importance of countering climate change - particularly for the sake of New Jersey’s wildflowers and elegant pollinators:
Cabbage White Butterfly Nectaring, Brenda Jones
On the subject of that partnership, a new publication crossed my D&R Greenway Land Trust desk this week. It’s the spring newsletter of The Native Plant Society of New Jersey: www.npsnj.org. They were kind enough to give inside front cover placement to a vivid description of our April Native Plant Sale here, which was so well attended and patronized. Princetonians are eagerly taking to heart our Native Plant Nursery’s lessons on natives in the home garden.
Dogbane/Indian Hemp Brenda Jones
Pamela Ruch authored the newsletters column, titled Learning Tolerance for Native Weeds. Her first line grabbed me: “Keeping a field journal is a discipline that does not come easily to me.” Frankly, it never occurred to me. Even though a birder, I am not ‘a lister’, what the Brits call ‘a twitcher’. But wouldn’t it be grand to have a notebook chronicling the arrival of each flowery sign of spring, against which to compare next year and next year and next year? Admittedly, it could give evidence of catastrophic climate change. But how valuable and pleasurable such a diary would be! And the process carries hidden benefits at many levels.
Pamela discovered that “observing, drawing, putting details into words,” she made surprising discoveries. Such as the fact that many of the plants that we term ‘weeds’ are native plants, not to be sneezed at, pun intended.
Yellow Warbler with Insect, Brenda Jones
Your plants that feed the insects feed the birds and their young…
NJ WILD readers have ‘heard’ me ad infinitum on the value of native plants. Our Stewardship Staff here at D&R Greenway spend hours ‘in the field’ in all seasons and most weathers save ice, removing invasives and planting natives.
Black Swallowtail Among the Loosestrife (Invasive…), Brenda Jones
One of the main reasons for doing so is that native plants evolved with our regional animals and insects. Our Stewardship Staff has taught me that, if you see leaves uneaten in the fall, they’re invasives and of no use to the creatures who evolved to be nourished and sheltered by them.
Other reasons include the fact that natives can withstand drought, as intensifying climate change renders this facet more and more crucial.
Natives can better deal with other extremes, as well, such as needing less water and less nourishment, because they were ‘born’ to these soils.
The one factor with which natives cannot deal is invasives, who crowd out everyone by a whole ‘raft’ of means and measures. Who, having no enemies here, soon eliminate even young hardwoods. Japanese stilt grass alone can prevent the hardwood forests of our future.
Native plants attract pollinators, such as butterflies, worthy rivals of the vivid flowers upon which they suckle, then go on to propagate.
Courting Cabbage Whites, Brenda Jones
Our compromised bees need the flowers of native plants, as well
Birds need natives as nest sites, as well as food suppliers.
Puffed December Mockingbird, with Berries, Brenda Jones
Migrant birds depend upon inner compasses, forged millenia ago. You could see birds as winged GPS systems. Birds chose their routes in ancient times, based on the presence, for example, of native berries.
Ripe native fruit, signaled by early red leaves, provides crucial calories/stamina/sustenance/energy for autumn migration.
Birds count upon native insects, who count on native plants in spring migration, and to feed vulnerable young after successfully breeding here.
Home gardens can be as important as woods and fields to certain avian species.
And, according to Native Plant Society of New Jersey’s columnist, Pamela Ruch, if you keep a Field Journal of your garden, you’ll make discoveries: What the French call la richesse, richness, of plants will be revealed, that you never otherwise might have known. She writes, for example, of discovering, describing and researching wild lettuce, which provides pollen for bees and seeds for finches.
Pamela reports a major advantage of Field Journaling: “I took away a more thoughtful posture toward my landscape.” She vows not to focus so exclusively upon her “garden vision that I would refuse [natives] space to provide for the many creatures, seen and unseen, that live among us. I will also try to refrain, starting now, from calling them ‘weeds’.” …Noble discoveries and declarations which any of us can emulate, for the betterment of the natural world in New Jersey.
Golden-Shafted Flicker Feeding Young, Brenda Jones
What Pamela teaches is that, what seem weeds to us are life preservers for wild creatures. Even aged and compromised trees, become cradles for life.
Pamela ought to know: She serves as horticulturist at Morven Museum and Gardens, where the Stocktons presided before and after our sacred Revolution. You’ll likely see the fruits of her studies and labors if you visit Morven for a quiet, historic celebration of Fourth of July.
Lambertville Fourth of July, 2010, Brenda Jones
You may also meet and even purchase native species here at D&R Greenway’s Native Plant Nurseries — sometimes we sell between our major seasonal sales; and always at Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve below New Hope.
Filed Under (Animals of the Wild, D&R Canal & Towpath, Delaware Bayshores, Destruction, Environment, Migratory Flocks, NJ, NJ State Parks, Native Americans, Nature, Nature Writing, New Jersey Pine Barrens, Pennsylvania, Preservation, habitat, native species, wild) by Carolyn Foote Edelmann on 28-06-2011
THIS JUST IN: Steve Hiltner’s marvelous Sustainable Jazz Ensemble will be playing at Labyrinth Books every other Friday in July - July 1, 15, 29. Labyrinth is at 122 Nassau, and the music takes place downstairs. Steve’s inimitable humor assures us that “no virgin timbres are harvested for these performances.” Michael Redmond, Lifestyle and Time Off Editor of the Packet, urges, in his Packet Pick: “Be There or Be Square.” The time is 6:30, and BYO is o.k., says the Packet Pick.
On Another Note Altogether, Steve and I are in synch. I have his permission to use his Princeton Nature Notes posting on the beavers of Princeton:
Steve Hiltner, of Friends of Princeton Open Space, writes of a joyous beaver memory within a moonlit pond, hoping that such scenes “can serve as a bridge of kinship between people and nature.” Recently, that bridge was seriously shattered in our community.
I am fascinated to see results, when I Google, Princeton, Beavers, on electronic sites, showing that others are still disturbed that the lovely waters of Pettoranello Gardens proved fatal rather than life-sustaining to our Princeton beavers.
Steve maintains a charming blog, Princeton Nature Notes, which I have quoted here in the past. He officially linked to NJ WILD recently on the beaver tragedy.
Steve is also a superb musician - whose jazz last Friday graced Labyrinth Books, in their summer Friday jazz program. I so enjoyed it many Fridays last year - hearing jazz with friends surrounded by books — what could be better. Keep an eye on the Labyrinth web-site, to see when we can hear Steve’s jazz anew.
I was at the Brandywine Museum that night for Jamie Wyeth’s opening of his farm art. More to come on that after I download pictures from his father’s beloved Kuerner farm site, setting the tone for Jamie’s impeccably rendered farm creatures.
Here’s Steve’s wise reading of the beaver situation. Thanks for linking, Steve, to NJ WILD and to D&R Greenway, which shares your preservation mission in our region.
The killing of two beavers at Pettoranello Pond two weeks ago brought into the spotlight two sharply contrasting views of the animals. Beavers are adorable, and impressive in their craftsmanship. One of my most serene memories is watching a beaver swim peacefully across a moonlit pond. Their approach to living–find an auspicious spot, transform it to your needs, and make a living there–has parallels with ours, and so can serve as a bridge of kinship between people and nature.
Their inclination to change their surroundings, as in the sticks and mud they were using to obstruct water flow under this bridge, also triggers a distinctly negative view of beavers as nuisance animals. People get a pond just the way they want it, plant some pretty trees, and then a beaver comes along, changes the water level and starts eating the trees. That’s what was happening at Pettoranello Pond. Of course, if beavers are stigmatized for changing the environment, imagine what an animal community that could form and hold opinions would be thinking about us.
Beavers have been living in the canal and Lake Carnegie for a long time, and I had been wondering why they hadn’t made it up Mountain Brook to Mountain Lakes and Pettoranello Gardens. Now that they have, I’d expect more will come. My hope would be that some way could be found to accommodate the beavers while keeping the pond level stable and any valuable trees protected. There are devices that allow water through dams without the beavers being aware. In my opinion, the beavers would do Pettoranello Gardens at least one favor by thinning out its thick stands of alder along the water’s edge. If the beaver’s additions to the dam obstructed storm flow, then a spillway for heavy runoff could be dug somewhere along the bank. The pond already has a bypass upstream of it for storm surges.
Filed Under (Agriculture, Bucks County, Farmers, Farmland, Farms, Garden State, Harvest, Jersey Fresh, Local Food, Nature, Nature Writing, New Jersey, New Jersey Pine Barrens, Oceans) by Carolyn Foote Edelmann on 07-06-2011
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!