Archive for August, 2009
A Story of Seasons, at Sandy Hook - for the Dog Days of Summer
The Boathouse, The Base of Sandy Hook Light -
America’s oldest continuously operating Lighthouse
There’s a secret birders know: New Jersey Beaches hold gifts in all seasons. Sandy Hook is one of my favorite birding spots. There I have quested for Bohemian waxwings among the winter robins.
Bohemian Waxwing, Marie Read, for Cornell Lab of Ornithology
There, also, Anne Zeman loaned me her Swarovski’s (Ur-binoculars) so I could focus on the impossible silhouette of the scissor-tailed flycatcher. There I have walked hot sands until my toes actually blistered, egrets to my left, tankers on the horizon to my right, impeccable shells on all sides, and silence, in August… There, Betty Lies, Janet Black and I withstood nearly gale-force winds to take winter’s drama fully into eyes, lungs and soul.
Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher, Brian Small for Cornel Lab of Ornithology
Sandy Hook is one of the New Jersey nature sites that teaches me, repeatedly, “The Journey is the Destination.” Yes, we’re going for birds. But a major part of the joy is riding over and back through Lexington-like horse farms of Monmouth County, then over Swimming River Road (called that because the faithful swam that river to reach services on the Sabbath), and into true opulence just before coming upon rivers that nuzzle the sea.
Birders are allowed into Sandy Hook without paying beach fees, because we truly are not interested in taking up beach or parking space in order to sizzle in the sun. For birders, it’s the back roadways, subtle bay beaches, the hawk watch platform at North Beach that lure. For birders, winter is NOT the empty time!
Even ‘fruitless’ birdquest, such as mine at Island Beach and Sandy Hook for Bohemian Waxwings (Mark Peel ultimately teased me, “Carolyn, you are 0 for 5!”) brought enormous gifts. Island Beach granted me a Northern Shrike instead, my first ever accepted call-in to a Birders’ Hotline, with Scott Barnes. Sandy Hook gave me an enormous flock of robins and waxwings, all of them muffled in a fog as dense as Chatham, Cape Cod. I couldn’t even see the hood of my car - but I could feel the blessings of those avian silhouettes.
Sandy Hook Dunes and Sea, from Inside Life-Saving Station
The first time I met Sandy Hook was nine years ago right now. From that platform, we marveled not only at a great egret wading in a tide pool in the dunes. This truly wild creature was feeding within binocular range of the Verrazano Bridge and the World Trade Center Towers. Their lack now is as palpable as their presence had been from those sands.
I have literally been out there at Sandy Hook in all seasons. Especially memorable are Audubon birdwalks (A winter one met and left for the wild ones at 8 a.m. from Spermaceti Cove.) I’m sure that inlet was named because whales became confused and came ashore there in the centuries before there ever was a Sandy Hook Park. I’m betting the Indians named that cove.
What I remember most of that birding dawn is February light trampolining off bay and wave-side, and (later) off grim grey military bunkers. What I cannot forget is that nearly 50 of us gathered that morning, at 20 degrees in the sea wind, ready for action.
Foul Weather Gear is in Order during Sandy Hook Winters
Sandy Hook was a fort for much of its official life. The military presence remains. Sounds of nearby gunfire starle while we are searching from the North Beach platform for migrating raptors.
People I take to Sandy Hook cannot believe it when I drive them alongside military dwellings. Long abandoned, the feel frankly haunted. One senses the tenseness of inhabitants, eternally vigilant, never really in combat… My every visitor wonders aloud why these houses haven’t been restored. Whether as residences or B&B’s or both, they could bring in significant revenue to NJ coffers. While I’m at it, let me propose Birders’ Rates…
FORMERLY OCCUPIED MILITARY HOUSING
Everyone I take to Sandy Hook is astonished at every turn; disbelieving from start to finish. Here, there is nothing boring. The word that comes to mind here, today, far from its beaches, is “pristine”. Within sight of Manhattan…
Even here at my keyboard, I feel the elation of her high surf; the beauty of flotsam and jetsam on Sandy Hook’s quiet side; the nobility and serenity of the American Bald Eagle in the towering pine of Spermaceti Cove, and everything in between. Ospreys fight over a spring nest site. A green heron arrows across a marsh. Once, Janet and I quickly put down our binoculars, which had picked up rare species indeed - nude bathers.
Scarce ruddy turnstones line up on dark rocks - resembling rocks in reality, as well as in my attempted photographs, which I’ll spare you. Midwesterners marvel at all that holly. Everyone shudders at the healthy poison ivy - but its berries are essential for fall migrants.
Sparkling Foam Among the Flotsam and Jetsam of the Quiet Side…
Among the joys of Sandy Hook are the people you meet there. Scott Barnes and Pete Bacinski are ideal birding companions, birding mentors, actually. Both are also ‘up’ on the multi-faceted history of ‘The Hook’, –from the fact that no shot has been fired from that fort in anger, to the fact its presence, right below the Verrazano Narrows, having saved Manhattan from our enemies in any number of wars.
Others who preside at information desks, at Lifesaving Station/Museum and Audubon Center, are savvy about the entire process of using the cannon to fire the rope to which the breeches buoy was attached and flung onto sinking ships. If you’re lucky, you’ll get them started on tales of lighthousekeepers (including solo females). Ask about wreckers along our coast; about submarines in recent wars…
CANNON THAT PROPELLED ROPE FOR BREECHES BUOY
When my sister, Marilyn, was here in May, the entire Audubon team worked to attach soft, comfortable Audubon neck straps to my sister’s and my binoculars, whose furnished string-straps had been cutting into our necks. We can bird longer now!
All are very helpful re plants, as well. I asked, but did not write down, the name of this vibrant native species, so it remains The Unknown (to me). Let me know, please, if YOU know. Or go out to Sandy Hook and ask. Yes, they are in among prickly pear cactus, a New Jersey native species, at Sandy Hook, at Island Beach and hither and yon in the Pine Barrens. No, the red plants are not salicornia - it was too early for that salty succulent.
RED MYSTERY PLANT, GREEN PRICKLY PEAR -
out of whose fruit the Indians made/make jam…
Sandy Hook is a good place to take people who are grieving, as is my recently widowed sister. The limitlessness of the full ocean always makes its mark. The quiet side blesses with remnants of other eras, –from abandoned bunkers to weathered driftwood to the skeleton of a fish on the sparkling beach. Everything, even subtle tidal change reminds of cycles, of renewals.
And, afterwards, over superb plain fresh seafood at Bahr’s Landing, on the water (obviously) one can stare out to sea, thinking long thoughts, letting the healing in.
Finding out that one can be distracted from loss is a major part of the process, as I was forced to learn in Provence…
There Once Was a Fish - The Quiet Side…
My sister, Marilyn, is pensive in this picture, because her late husband Bill so loved boats, especially pleasure boats. Many are in view from Bahr’s, tucked in among rough solid fishing craft that matter most to me. My sister still relishes her Bahr’s memories. We take Bill with us wherever we go.
A Good Day on the Bay
Fishing Boat From Bahr’s - Lunching, we watch cleaning of fish, feeding of gulls…
VISUAL TOUR OF BAH’RS: http://www.bahrs.com/virtualtour.html
Here is Sandy Hook Light, Winter and Summer - we don’t have to choose!
“Relentless reporter, fearless crusader”
Move over, Henry and Rachel. Someone’s coming to join you in my pantheon of Nature Heroes.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Everglades Crusader
Outside Her Coconut Grove Cottage — early 1920’s
I’ve finally found Marjory Stoneman Douglas’ seminal work, The Everglades, River of Grass, at the Mercer County Library on Darrah Lane. Her eco-masterpiece was written before ecology existed as a concept.
Here is a sample of her vital book, via Wikipedia:
Douglas characterized the Everglades as an ecosystem of rivers worthy of protecting, outlining its imminent disappearance in the last chapter titled “The Eleventh Hour”:
I’m tearing through River of Grass ‘to stiffen my spine’, in my own crusades against development, for preservation and stewardship. Impelled, compelled, I had to order Marjory’s autobiography.
Her autobiography, Voice of the River, with John Rothchild, ‘hath me in thrall’, as though I were curled up on childhood’s windowseat, wrapped in Arthurian tales. Marjory lived a code not unlike Arthur’s - the spare and focused existence; lifelong errantry (wandering about in search of adventure); frequent-to-constant jousting with enemies. And this feisty woman often achieved the success of Arthur’s knights.
Original Cover of The Everglades, River of Grass
Marjory’s chivalry was devoted to quite a female - Mother Nature. Marjory’s enemies were among our nation’s most powerful, - politicians, oil-drillers, sugar-cane-magnates, and the Army Corps of Engineers.
In Marjory-paragraphs, I find precursors of my own recent posts on the megalith of Canal Pointe Boulevard prefigured - in her words, “GROSS MISMANAGEMENT IN THE NAME OF PROGRESS.”
For awhile, the Miami Herald was Marjory’s ‘bully pulpit’, as she followed her father’s 1906 lead, writing editorials against development and draining of young Florida in general and the Everglades in particular.
NEVER TOO LATE!
Marjory seems to have been born a curmudgeon. She turned that quality to good use — but it stuns to learn that she first officially championed the Everglades in her late 70’s! Nearly blind, she traveled for decades after that, right up to her death at 108. Marjory Stoneman Douglas became the international voice of the river nobody knew, –that coursing, essential water hidden in ‘The Glades.’
Author Peter Matthiesen, no slouch himself on nature matters, calls her “a distinguished writer and eminent conservationist.”
Despite Douglas’s demure appearance (5 foot 2, 100 pounds), she was known for getting her point across. Jeff Kinkenberg of the St. Petersburg Times, writes: “She had a tongue like a switchblade and the moral authority to embarrass bureaucrats and politicians and make things happen.” I need more of Marjory’s moral fiber.
VOICE OF THE RIVER - Marjory’s Autobiography
“Her ferocious involvement” is John Rothchild felicitous phrase for Marjory’s engagement in preservation. His introduction to her Autobiography is appropriately titled, “Notes From a Fan.”
Mrs. Douglas was half the size of her fellow speakers and she wore huge dark glasses, which along with the huge floppy hat made her look like Scarlett O’Hara as played by Igor Stravinsky. When she spoke, everybody stopped slapping mosquitoes and more or less came to order. She reminded us all of our responsibility to nature and I don’t remember what else. Her voice had the sobering effect of a one-room schoolmarm’s. The tone itself seemed to tame the rowdiest of the local stone crabbers, plus the developers, and the lawyers on both sides. I wonder if it didn’t also intimidate the mosquitoes … The request for a Corps of Engineers permit was eventually turned down. This was no surprise to those of us who’d heard her speak.
Reading Marjory’s own words in Voice of the River, one is tempted to rename those meander-straighteners “The Army Corps of Mistakes.”
The word “indomitable” would have had to have been invented, had it not existed to describe Marjory’s ceaseless crusades.
“Indomitable” is what I must remain, as I am called to task for my own shock over nearby development of over-concreted New Jersey.
“Get a grip!”, cries one.
“Carolyn, you can’t be against all development!”, insists another.
Ah, but I AM. And so was Marjory, especially in the Everglades. And so am I, especially in New Jersey. And, above all, in the Pine Barrens!
Honors and degrees mattered not a fig to Marjory Stoneman Douglas, although her own excellent Wellesley education illumined her inner life all her lifelong.
For those who need confirmation of Marjory’s impact, way back in the last century, she was inducted into the National Wildlife Federation Hall of Fame and the National Women’s Hall of Fame, protesting all the way - “Why ‘Women’s’? Why not ‘Citizens’?!” The National Parks Conservation Association established the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Award in 1986 to honor those who go to great lengths to protect National Parks - far more fiercely needed now than in Marjory’s day! President Clinton awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, our nation’s highest civilian honor. In his proclamation, Marjory was cited for personifying “passionate commtiment,” christened the “Grandmother of the Glades.”
Preservationists aren’t doing it for honor. Their quests are inner-driven.
Next time you think it’s too much trouble to answer a hot link or write your letter to the editor over some imperiled nature in your region, think of Marjory.
Better yet, pick up at least these two of her ground-breaking, water-advocating volumes, and stiffen YOUR spine.
The Everglades themselves are Marjory’s Monument: http://www.marjorystonemandouglas.org/
What Hurricane Bill Hath Wrought along Towpath below Alexander Road
When you awaken to the squabbling of ducks, you know there’s been a flood. At least that’s my Canal Pointe reality, where the catchment basin is the color of someone’s old cold coffee overfull of old cold milk.
I had actually learned the truth about this weekend’s rain at 1:24 a.m., when a roar worthy of Niagara blasted me from sleep. I knew what it meant - the Millstone River had overflowed its banks again, luckily across the well-termed floodplain, over at the canal below Alexander. Hour after hour, I’d doze, then wake to torrents of sound.
GOLDENTHREAD OF EVENING, D&R CANAL
One of my all-time favorite poems is Jane Kenyon’s “Let Evening Come.” When Evening Came tonight, I dug out some OLD hiking shoes, my trusty camera, a bottle of water (totally consumed, for the first time this summer, in all that heat and post-hurricane humidity), and headed out to see what Niagara had generated in the night.
Paddling in Flood-Time
Coreopsis After Flood
Jane Kenyon had an indomitable spirit. She seemed the human embodiment of Mother Nature, Herself. I love seeing flood-smashed grasses already lifting laden heads; bright wildflowers such as the roseate marsh mallows and these sunbursts of coreopsis, still flood-slanted, but rising.
The resilience of Nature is her blessing and her curse. We take that bounce-back for granted. Never forget that many individuals and groups strove to save the D&R Canal and Towpath, to turn it into a State Park - among them the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, and ‘my own’ D&R Greenway Land Trust. Vigilance remains necessary, to preserve, protect, defend, repair and provide stewardship for this historic waterway, whose presence caused the genesis or renaissance of many a New Jersey town in the 1830’s. Never relax that vigilance. Support your natural land trusts. They’ve worked miracles. And, by the way, it’s our drinking water… Never forget…
ENTICING D&R TOWPATH BELOW ALEXANDER
(This looks like the scene the Packet chose for our NJ WILD BLog a year ago…)
THE CALM AFTER THE STORM - OUR OWN RAINFOREST
CARDINAL FLOWER OF D&R CANAL, TOWPATH - Sign of healthy water
I once walked the Towpath, 9 years ago right now, with a very wise girl, who’d been running on ahead. She skidded to a halt before this stand of coreopsis, hurtling back to say, “Take time to see these hot flowers!”
May I always remember to take time for flowers. May YOU!
[Something learned since writing this post, through a kindly commentor named Carl: "All of the shrimp at The Crab Shack (at the Trenton Farmers Market) are wild, not farm-raised. You must try to taste the difference! Our prices are also considerably lower than of any supermarket." Don't you just love learning of new access to excellence!]
The vegetables and fruits of the Trenton Farmers Market are my jewels of choice.
I’d rather have a crown of fresh basil, or my Provencal olive wood bowl full of Jersey tomatoes and peppers, than any emerald or ruby. The Trenton Farmers Market yielded this trove two weeks ago. Cooked and raw, I have been feasting on freshness and flavor, while relishing sheer visual delight.
FARMERS MARKET ‘PEARLS’ [and not of great price...]
BOUNTY OF BEANS - vibrancy of local foods!
But August is Peaches-and-Cream time at the Trenton Farmers Market. If you’re there on ‘the right day’, as we happened to be, Jack, the Market Manager, will be handing out fresh-cut ripe local peaches cascading over a hand-made sheet cake with a big pouf of whipped cream. For Betty Lies and me, this was an unusual, but welcome, breakfast. A Jersey Fresh breakfast!
Halo Farms is your place to shop for freshly bottled milk, for cream and cottage cheese, butter and yogurt. Children flock to the picture windows showing the milk cartons whirling past on their filling journey. Parents marvel at the low low prices - it feels like they’re giving it away.
HALO FARMS — CREAM -AND-MILK CENTRAL
a Barn, to remind us where it all started!
Peaches in baskets stretch to the horizon.
PEACH BOUNTY - EARLY AUGUST, 2009
“An Apple A Day” - for the rest of your life!
“autumn’s first tart apples…”
The point of shopping at the Trenton Farmers Market is the abundance as well as the quality of New Jersey’s produce. Not to be overlooked are aesthetic delights (I make one camera round each trip, after having filled my “Consciousness Bags” [fabric/reusable] with fruits, vegetables, condiments and sometimes meats. For a person whose degree is in Foods and Nutrition, the vitamin content and conscientiousness re pesticieds rank high.
But, for me, the irreplaceable joy resides in talking with the those who planted, nourished, weeded, tended, harvested [or supervised harvest of] and are now selling Jersey’s Jewels.
Farmers tell it like it is. Here they hand over tomatoes at a lesser price, telling us they’re ugly. Well, except for supermarkets, I never met a tomato I didn’t like. These “Uglies” are beauties to me.
“Ugly”, They Say — Trenton Farmers’ Market August Scene
NO BLIGHT IN SIGHT
“Local” and “Sustainable” are bandied about a good deal nowadays. This handsome picture of Russo’s small panel truck says it all - a handful of people pick enough produce to fill old-fashioned baskets, to load this compact vehicle. A short ride from Russo’s in Monmouth, Russo’s of the Delaware Bay region, and your live vegetables and ripe-picked fruit are at the Trenton Farmers Market. Manager Jack travels to each vendor throughout the year, assuring that the produce on TFM tables is truly grown by purveyors as claimed.
So, not only is your food real, but its market journey is a matter of an hour or two, and it does not arrive by 18-wheeler, faded in color, sapped of nourishment…
“The Old and the New”: Russo’s Produce Truck at Trenton Farmers Market
from harvest site to web-site!
AN ELECTRICITY OF PEPPERS
DID SOMEBODY SAY ‘VEGETABLES?!’
Along the sides of the Trenton Farm Market, inside and out, one may gather flowers fresh from the fields; select oysters, clams and other seafoods; permit the generous Vitella’s to share homemade tomato sauce with meat (below), their fig and asparagus salad, sublime olive oil. One brings back the slender bottle to have it filled with liquid gold for a lesser price the next time, Italy’s oil cascading from a towering casque right out of the ear of clipper ships.
Nearby await the olives of France, sold by a most charming woman at “And Everything Nice.” She also provides succulent, tender, flavor-bursting homemade mozzarella. Asked about all the rubbery ‘home-made’ mozzarella that has fooled me even in markets lately, the proprietress laughs crisply: “Don’t buy it unless the seller knows the puller!” I hastened to agree with her, “Otherwise, mozzarella tastes like erasers!”
The whitest sausages, the pinkest hams are handed over swiftly, even reverently at the ever-busy Polish meat counter. Their pickles bring back Ohio Foote Family Reunions. Never go home without Cartlidges’ veggie burgers [for those nights when even I cannot cook!] Cartlidges is owned and run by the Pennsylvania Dutch now, with all of the attention to quality and purity that this implies. Your guests will gasp at fresh-ground peanut butter from the next-door stand, Pine Barrens Honey from the next.
Heaven on earth. That’s all. Beauty and freshness and low low prices. Heirloom tomatoes, worth their weight in gold, at 99 cents per pound! And sold by the woman who sold pecks of late ripe tomatoes to me, when I had my daughters, so I could simmer winter’s tomato sauce in our Braeburn kitchen.
The pictures above are my evidence for the urgency of saving New Jersey farms and farmland.
KEEP THE GARDEN IN THE GARDEN STATE!
HOME WITH MY JEWELS
Right on the range maps, we’re shown that the northernmost range of the roseate spoonbill is the southernmost tip of our southernmost peninsula, –Florida.
Hindsight from this vantage point renders all the more amazing our encounter, yesterday, at “The Brigantine”/Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey, with the usually intensely tropical roseate spoonbill.
Mid-day birding is generally a no-no. Other matters had delayed our bird pilgrimage to “The Brig” until noon and thereabouts. We’d read on hot-line e-mails and heard through grapevines that a roseate spoonbill had been spotted at ” The Brig.” I figured it’d be right up there with the Stone Harbor Purple Gallinule a few years ago - seen by everyone right before and right after my sister’s and my visit, never by us. Yet the quest itself had been worthy of that journey.
Yesterday, however, moments after entry, from the gull tower, down among those living hieroglyphs — the glossy ibises–, there slumbered a round pouf, a pink fluff, a bird most indeedly roseate, –a hue never experienced in all my years of birding the Brig. [Well, except when I watched the last sun of a century set on the breasts of snow geese and mute swans in Absecon Bay.]
THE SPOONBILL’S RELATIVES - GLOSSY IBIS - John James Audubon image/stamp
Yesterday noon, visible to our naked, disbelieving eyes, in a pond below and to the east, directly ahead of the old peregrine tower, there, indeed was this legendary creature, this antedeluvian being - the roseate spoonbill.
From Internet: “Spoonbills are a group of large, long-legged wading birds in the family Threskiornithidae, which also includes the Ibises. [Spoonbills] have large, flat, spatulate bills and feed by wading through shallow water, sweeping the partly-opened bill from side to side. The moment any small aquatic creature touches the inside of the bill—an insect, crustacean, or tiny fish—it is snapped shut. Spoonbills generally prefer fresh water to salt but are found in both environments. They need to feed many hours each day.
The only information my friends and I knew with certainty was that spoonbills need to eat crustaceans, mostly tropical, often ruddy, in order to maintain life, health and color. Slipping from naked eye to binoculars to the scope, we wondered aloud what this creature was finding to suit in New Jersey’s bays and impoundments of varying salinities.
Fellow birders on the gull tower platform told us this is not the spoonbill of 2008. Rather, ‘bird of the year’, as last year’s had been a mature. Research today reveals that immatures are paler.
‘Ours’ looked as though someone had stirred a bit of raspberry jam into Devonshire Cream, especially as it appeared contrasted to those sharp dark ibis. The spoonbill remained somnolent. A a long time and longer patience was required for a glimpse of that, yes, spoon-shaped round bill. It seemed tennis-ball sized, but by no means that color. We left before the spoonbill, and his equally ancient relatives, departed the refuge of that pool.
Last evening, just before sunset, we squeaked through the Brig’s timed gateway, for one last ‘run’ of rarities. Two whimbrels had been among our treasures. Black-bellied plovers beyond counting mingled with dapper skimmers in their own snazzy tuxedos, accented by red, –flaming to orange in late light–, bills. Similarly attired were any number of oystercatchers. It seemed that a teddibly formal event had been proclaimed among the shorebirds of the Brig. I encountered more plovers in that one evening than I have encountered in my entire birding life.
At least two of the Brig’s many osprey platforms and adjacent feeding platforms held feisty families, each pair having successfully fledged three young. All five at each point looked well nourished, hefty and ready for migration.
Scanning the tuxedo crowd one last time, Mark suddenly announced in a hushed shout or a shouted whisper, “I think we have the spoonbill.” Sure enough - there it was, directly ahead, slightly to the west of the second observation tower.
A wind from the south had kicked up. It played with the spoonbill’s tail feathers. Inside all that pink marshmallow fluff radiated gradations of scarlet and claret and flame. It seemed that the South Wind himself was blowing on coals, beneath those soft pale feathers, which rose then fell with the gusts in warmth and hue.
The spoonbill began to wade the waterway, gracefully, –first to one side, then the other. It indeed used that ruddy round bill as a spoon — sweeping determinedly sideways in the water. It could have been Julia Child, using a red spatula to fold egg whites into batter, as deft as she was delicate.
Whatever it was gleaning, that bird was being satisfied. Transfixed, we watched that spoon-dance, ready to stay beyond sundown, if need be.
Then the pink bird rose, surely, inexorably, heading towad that red ball of sun. With every wing beat, sundown darkened its colors. No sense of its being off-course, confused. Rather, master of all it surveyed.
As ever, Mother Nature outperformed Disney. As it should be, sunlight on feathers outshone the most brilliant Hollywood “Special Effects.”
Psychedelic and real at once. And then it was out of our view.
No one knows why the roseate spoonbill arrives in New Jersey, let alone stays in New Jersey.
On-line description: Range & Distribution: Only the northern edge of the Roseate Spoonbill’s range lies within the United States. This neotropical bird can be found in many areas around the Gulf of Mexico, and breeds in Texas, Louisiana, and Florida. Florida populations occur in the southern half of the state. Roseate Spoonbills are also found in Mexico, Central America, and South America, as well as across the West Indies and Greater Antilles.
I can only hope that this is not a symptom of global climate change. I would like to be left with wonder.
The spoonbill impressed John James Audubon…
Sunday Night, I find this post on WILD NJ - opposite name, same focus, evidently:
‘Our’ Spoonbill was much paler - the color of cotton candy… cfe
Wild New Jersey Exclusive: Roseate spoonbill spotted at Brigantine
Photo credit: Brian E. Smalls/BirdCapeMay.orgA roseate spoonbill, usually found in the tropics, was sighted at Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge -better know as Brigantine - this past weekend. For more information on visiting Brigantine, click here.
Jersey Fresh at its best — West Windsor Farm Market Scenes
Vaughn Drive off Alexander, Saturdays 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.
I don’t know who was more surprised, my sister, or myself, when I realized in a recent phonecall : “Most I’ve eaten this summer, I have chatted with the person who planted, tended, harvested, brought that food to market and/or sold it.”
My sister made me realize, [as is not her good furtune in Illinois], our much maligned New Jersey is so rich in farm markets, I’ve become a locavore without even trying.
At D&R Greenway, when our Director of Land Preservation, Bill Rawlyk, arrives with produce from his 3rd-Generation PRESERVED family farm, the dew is still on that zucchini. He’s tucked native grasses in with purple coneflowers, so I can create natural bouquets for our offices. Long before taking up his negotiation mantle, Bill is out in that cornfield with a host of birds, harvesting what he has sown.
CORN OF THE MORNING
Our miracle is that the rest of us can recreate that level of freshness at our local farm markets. West Windsor’s satisfies upon a host of levels:
AN EXULTATION OF POTATOES
Central to this locavore realization of mine is that most of the food I’ve eaten this summer has been very very alive! That must be why my energy levels, not only creatively, but also professionally, are the highest I’ve known in years. Maybe even why I’ve lost the tenth pound.
JERSEY’S JEWELS — BLIGHTLESS WONDERS
One reason for my high levels of satiety and vitality is West Windsor’s Farm Market. Another is Trenton’s. At each, I am nourished by human interactions with those whose lives are food in the most basic sense, the growing sense. At each, I am nourished as much visually and aesthetically as gastronomically back at home.
THE WONDER OF WATERMELONS
FAVORITE PHRASES: “HAND-PICKED, ALWAYS FRESH, FROM OUR FARM”
I’ll create a post of Trenton Farmers Market scenes sometime next week. It is the height of August, and the harvest is upon us.
Meanwhile, feast with me at West Windsor:
BLUE CHEESE WALNUT BREAD FROM LAWRENCEVILLE BAKERY
AESTHETIC NOURISHMENT - Where is Vincent when we need him?
West Windsor’s market is brainchild of the delightful, Beth Feehan. She’s not only called forth Harvest Central, but created a community. Everyone smiles. Known and unknown, smiles are the norm. I watched two perfect strangers, one of them a food writer of renown, decide to share a basket of green beans so lively they could barely be constrained by that container. Five-year-olds help their mothers sell white peaches and gold, white corn and yellow, with a merry salesmanship. Memories last - return, as I consume the foods this child has urged upon me.
MUSHROOM HEAVEN for someone who “never met a mushroom she didn’t like,” in Faith Bahadurian’s food column observation…
I am sauteeing his luscious oyster mushrooms as we ’speak’.
A RIPENESS OF MELONS
ANY QUESTION ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF SAVING NEW JERSEY FARMLAND?
PEOPLE OF OTHER LANDS TURN GASTRONOMIC TALENTS TO JERSEY FRESH
MORNING COOL! The Supermarket was never like this!
This is the StraightJazz trio, with Tom McMillan on bass, John Henry
John Henry’s web site: http://straightjazz.com/default.aspx
INSPIRATION CENTRAL - WEST WINDSOR ARTS COUNCIL
Someone I greatly respect, –who devotes a great deal of her life to nature in general and birds in particular–, recommends that I “get a grip” regarding my fury over the new impervious surfaces and hideous megalith - otherwise known as “Class A Office Space” – replacing the wild green tangle which used to cushion homeward rides to Canal Pointe.
Her reason for this demand is that I live in this place which, itself, replaced green tangles; this, yes, development, which itself sits where wild creatures used to feed and breed, where both parents and young used to be safe.
This is true - although I do not know when Canal Pointe was built, nor how long I’ve been here - 15 years?
What I love, and did not know when I saw this apartment in Hallowe’en dark, is that trees surround me here. In summer, I see nothing man-made but my own porch. In winter, through these sheltering trees, I do see my beloved D&R Canal and Towpath. One winter, from my bedroom window I watched 10 deer play follow-the-leader, tiptoeing over its ice, breaking through, each swimming doggedly to the other bank.
Often, nights on my balcony reveal the silken course of skunk, the fluid drive of fox, the stumbley trajectory of opossum. Now, fireflies waken and rise, lighting each layer of branches on towering blue spruce. Sleep can be interrupted by the trill of peepers (minuscule frogs), the flutter call of the so-called screech owl, the courting connections of great horned owls. Red-bellied woodpeckers drum on my downspouts. Rose-breasted grosbeaks feed on the porch of my downstairs neighbors. Without expecting it, I moved into a nature center, that long ago Thanksgiving weekend. And I am thankful, daily and nightly.
What I USED TO LOVE about living here is that I drove home through a dappled tunnel of green. Now, an enormous chunk has been ripped from that tunnel, –the way people lose lengths of intestines after alarming colonoscopy results. I confront that austere megalith by day, its blinding inner lights and street lights by night. No physician diagnosed the green tagle as compromised. No white-coated professional gave the patient any choice before the operation.
Instead of green silence in my car along Canal Pointe Boulevard, in the place of delicate bird song that was my only alarm clock, US 1 cacophonies now pour into my unwilling ears. Rather than acres of corn, –as well as the late lamented “green tangle”, I pass the strafed earth, the missing Flemer trees, once the pride of our legendary Princeton Nurseries.
The person who commands that I “get a grip” makes a very real complaint that, –when Canal Pointe was built–, it displaced the old trees that purple martins needed nearby, emptying Rogers Refuge of that splendid species that I travel most years to the Maurice River and Delaware Bay to witness. I do not dismiss the tragedy of the martins.
Regarding Rogers Refuge and nature, I do provide this recent picture. My friend, superb nature photographer, Brenda Jones, found this great egret in Rogers Refuge this spring, securing for itself a savory supper. Talk about “local/sustainable!”
I hope NJ WILD readers realize that I appreciate and consider all comments on NJ WILD.
However, I hereby declare that, where new development is concerned, no matter at whose hands, and for what (to me, spurious) purpose, I will ABSOLUTELY NEVER “GET A GRIP”!
I repeat what I wrote at the end of the earlier post — If this destruction-termed-construction seems both hideous and pointless, to say nothing of destructive on many levels, send checks to D&R Greenway Land Trust, One Preservation Place, Princeton NJ 08540 - www.drgreenway.org
LET’S PRESERVE WHAT’S LEFT OF GREEN NEW JERSEY, AND HOMES OF WILD CREATURES
As many know, every summer U.S. 1 Business Newspaper turns two weeks over to their ‘Summer Fiction Issue.’ Call for Entries goes out to writers, who forward to other writers, and soon, lo!, another two weeks’ worth of valuable newsprint is turned over to creativity.
We are blessed to have this in our region; blessed that Rich Rein, founding editor of U.S. 1, is such a fan of creative prose and poetry, honoring both each year.
Thursday night at Tre Piani Restaurant, from 5 - 7, the short story writers will be introduced, and attending poets will read - to a back ground of Chef/Owner, Jim Weaver’s, legendary hospitality. I find this night a privilege every year, and will “be there with bells on.”
Rich Rein always requests submissions relevant to Princeton. I sent a harsh poem, a true interaction, hearkening to my earlier life in this town, before nature took over. Here is “Disclosures” which Rich accepted.
What’s New in Princeton & Central New Jersey?
Reprinted from the July 22, 2009, issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper
by Carolyn Foote Edelmann
over the dregs of lunch
in the hypocrites’ cafe
she purred of course
you have heard about the suicide
she dealt the details slowly:
House Party Weekend
Class of ’80
someone I know knew her . . .
oh, a girl . . .
I wondered she did not
decry her clothes
later, journalists took care
of that — “blue shirt/beige skirt”
I wondered they could tell
with all the blood
and did you know
she left a note
police will not disclose
her murmurs eddied
til I felt a solitary jumper
loose in space/no foothold
and no second chance
Carolyn Foote Edelmann
Carolyn Foote Edelmann was the first member of the community accepted into Princeton University’s Creative Writing Program in the 1970s. An ardent preservationist, Carolyn serves as arts & education associate at D&R Greenway Land Trust. She also creates events and writes press releases for creative people in our region.
Last year, –when NJ WILD had just begun at the Packet’s request–, I was horrified to waken one morning to desolation, where trees and shrubs and wildflowers had sheltered birds, butterflies and other wild creatures. Adjacent to the lost greenery, across Canal Pointe Boulevard, verdant cornstalks have always burgeoned. Driving home through our tunnel of trees, beside that cushion of corn, all adding oxygen, removing carbon dioxide from our all-too-corporate environment, I felt literally and metaphorically blessed. My thoughts turned to the wild creatures safe in all those trunks and vines. My spirit was soothed by trees that met overhead, cushioning not only hot sun but also muffling the traffic sounds from nearby U.S. 1. No longer.
DESTRUCTION IN THE NAME OF CONSTRUCTION
Across from my ‘tree house’, at Canal Pointe, someone had shattered the wild environment. Calling to ask “Why on earth?”, I was told in a lilting voice, as though this would be delightful to me, “They’re going to make it look just like Carnegie Center!”
Right, I thought, X million cubic feet of office space. What I said to my blithe informant was, “Just what Princeton needs, New Jersey needs: More impervious surface!” She had no idea what I meant.
When I wrote of this disaster (which means ‘torn from the stars‘) in NJ WILD, I called our new reality “Slaughter on Canal Pointe Boulevard”.
INSTRUMENT OF DESTRUCTION
Friends who live directly across from the devastation had gone to sleep to our usual wild greenery, awakening to scraped earth. From last summer through now, skies have been pierced by rapacious cranes. The wild scene has given over to the hideousness and racket of dinosauric earth-moving vehicles.
Then and later, to make way for more macadam and concrete (imperviousness), we watched the felling of handsome, healthy trees of the famous, late lamented Princeton Nurseries. In a matter of moments, at the hands of men with buzz saws, we lost healthy deciduous trees. In a moment was negated the passion and precision of our storied Flemer family. Since the early 1900’s that family, that Princeton Nursery, had developed, grown and shipped healthy cultivars to replace diseased trees (such as chestnuts and elms) all over our country.
Each night, driving home, instead of a tunnel of peace, every nerve is set ajangle on Canal Pointe Boulevard, as I pass DESTRUCTION IN THE NAME OF DEVELOPMENT.
CORPORATE POND, CORPORATE TREES
“WHERE THE WILD THINGS WERE”
I felt you should see that for which we have sacrificed wild greenery, and the creatures whose cocoons and nests had been safe therein for decades.
GAZING FROM WILD GREEN TOWARD CORPORATE REALITY
What do you think: worth it?
�If you feel as helpless as I in the face of this so-called progress, there is something you can do.
Write checks to D&R Greenway Land Trust, One Preservation Place, Princeton 08540, and HELP US PRESERVE THE GREEN SPACES THAT REMAIN.
HOMESICK FOR FRANCE:
“The Keys of Alexis…”
The Home of Alexis: Chateau Prieuré-Lichine
It is no secret that, beneath my passion for New Jersey, even New Jersey’s wild nature, throbs an ever-present homesickness for France. I would listen in shock to my Michigan friends, returning from first trips abroad, wanting to kiss the soil of America. My response would be the polar opposite: leaving France would always feel like being ripped from the womb.
Once upon a time, it was 1964. My Swiss-American husband’s fellowship at the Mayo Clinic was complete. Our daughters were with my parents in Michigan. Werner and I were in Europe at last! — his seventh trip; my first. We had brought our awkward American car along on the S.S. France, little knowing how stiff it would prove on twisted byways of the old world.
S.S. France, Underway
Our main goal was to learn art; secondarily, to meet the wines of France. Minneapolis friends had arranged visits with their colleagues, Alexis Lichine in Bordeaux and the Bouchards of Burgundy. It was late April when our sturdy little Rambler bumbled along narrow Bordeaux lanes. In gingerly fashion, Werner pulled into the circular gravel driveway of Chateau Lascombes, — to be our home away from home for several days. Our bed was in a tower, our bathroom circular, where a cricket sang and echoed. Outside, vines stretched to the horizon. http://www.chateau-lascombes.com/
The welcome of all who worked for Alexis Lichine know no bounds. His right-hand-man, Tony Wood, soon took to the wheel of his Peugeot, to drive us from one legendary label to another. Bordeaux light poured Sauternes-gold over every wall and vine and stream. Minuscule bridges marked boundaries between domains we had known and savored in half bottles during penurious “Fellowship” years. Mere streamlets made all the difference between a Premier Cru and vin ordinaire. An early surprise was that many Bordeaux Chateaux did not have chateaux.
Chateau Lascombes bottle
At Lascombes, an art exhibit was being installed that very afternoon: “Le Vin et La Vigne”. We could have spent the entire day studying those paintings, enhanced by that stony chateau. That art marked the beginning of Alexis’ commisioning French artists to design labels for vintages that needed no gilding. But gilt light was glancing off lush vines beyond leaded windows. Tony urged us steadily forward. There were wines to be tasted,– most unusual wines –, at the hands of Alexis Lichine.
Chateau Lascombes, Alexis Lichine, Margaux
And so we were driven to meet our congenial host, over at Margaux. Alexis proved larger than life, –that international being, whose audacious publicity had put Bordeaux wines in general and the ’59’s and 60’s on everyone’s tongue. His French rolled with vigor that revealed his Russian forebears. Alexis sincerely checked on our comfort in that tower room (which to this day graces the Chateau Lascombes label.) We could reassure him that all was superb. Alexis shared deep laughs over the resident cricket’s musical gifts.
Chateau Prieure-Lichine Bottle, Alexis Lichine, Margaux
Around Alexis, laughter was the norm. Right off, he ‘took us with him’, describing a recent visit to Maxim’s, which Alexis normally scorned. (A client made him do it.) As Lichine attempted to order Chateau Lascombes, (whose ‘S’ is firmly pronounced), Maxim’s sommelier precisely repeated the name his way, without the S. Alexis pounded his solid fist upon the table, bellowing, “I OWN the place!” With every refill, the Maxim’s man frostily mispronounced wine Lichine himself had crafted.
A deuxieme cru, meaning second growth, Lascombes boasts a proud motto - which could also stand for Alexis: “second certes …mais premier dans les esprits” – Second, certainly. But first among spirits….
At Margaux, Alexis and Tony proceeded to introduce us to new wines we could never have known; would not meet again: In the cellar, wine of the year, curvatures of our silver tastevins reflecting meagre light among stony walls, above earthen floors.
Whites as reds. Reds as rosés. Alexis fairly gloated: “They said it couldn’t be done!” A genius at marketing, this man was somewhat suspect in the 1960’s wine world . During those heady years, no one told wine’s story more memorably than Alexis. He had a new book out on wine, an Encyclopedia, which we would purchase as soon as we moved to New Jersey, our home-to-be. But that’s another story.
Each night culminated with supper at the chateau in which Alexis and his young family actually lived. Not Margaux. Not Lascombes – Chateau Prieuré-Lichine. It had indeed been a priory. We would dine at the refectory table. Within their luminous living room, the little ones would join us. For the first time, this Midwesterner heard French pour ‘out of the mouths of babes’. The younger son, “Sasha”, was pressed into service to pass exquisite amuses bouches, as though it was the most normal act in the world for a five-year-old. Sasha was alarmingly elegant, even dapper, in a lordly summer bathrobe of palest blue.
Suddenly, his mother appeared, soundlessly, adrift in chiffon. She was ravishing, raven-haired. The children clustered at her multiple hems, as she deftly welcomed these guests fresh from Minnesota austerities. Mme. Lichine of course, had been ‘born with the scarf-tying gene’, the essence of springtime. Breezy, almost windblown, had he been present, Botticelli would have immediately taken up his brush. My sensible white pleats and navy blouse looked even more Michigan than they had on the ship.
Werner and Alexis were deep in machine-gun conversation. I had never seen my husband like this. At Minnesota dinners, I had to shepherd discussions. I suspected a bond between these two men, residents in lands not their own. Obeying an invisible symbol, sudden kisses, bows and curtseys passed among the family, before the children wafted upstairs.
We were then led into the refectory, seated at a worn and gleaming table at which monks had taken frugal meals. Along upper shelves were arrayed utensils and furnishings in use when prayer came first in these halls. Copper basins flung back candle flames.
My thoughts went back to that first “Dear Doctor” letter from Fritzi and Benny Haskell of Minneapolis, urging us to accept their magical mystery tour among friends while in Bordeaux and Burgundy: “For there really is no better way to get the feeling and essence of this great wine region, other than to stay right in the midst of the vineyards.” Indeed.
At the end of our final night at Prieuré, Werner asked if we might purchase wine to take home with us on the Mary. Alexis was delighted. “Ah, yes, and I will choose them myself!”, apparently his favorite task in the entire world. My husband wrote out a simple check, half of our wine allotment for the journey.
RMS Queen Mary, Underway
In July, a letter would meet us at Southampton, informing us of “the addition of Ch. Haut Brion 1960, because it is particularly good in this vintage, and reasonably priced.” Alexis would describe having “kept this selection pretty much to sturdy wines that will travel well and will have some lasting ability.” He actually apologized for having “slightly exceeded the $150 that you left with us, but you will notice that we based our prices on delivery to Cherbourg, [France – we would be embarking in England.], so there will be nothing additional.” Most apologetically, they requested his further payment of $37.20.
We made reluctant farewells to our lively host and subdued hostess, Werner driving with Swiss caution along dark byways back to Lascombes. That car, bucking every turn, finally brought us onto that rattley gravely driveway. I was about to bound out when I heard many barking dogs. An old phobia magnetized me to the front seat. Although Tony Wood and others we had met lived at Lascombes, not a light was on. Werner tugged at an embroidered fabric bell pull, then tried the front door for an interminable interval. Then he was back in the car.
“I can’t open the door. No one’s there.” (We’d never needed a key – they didn’t lock the place.) “What can we do?” “I don’t know!”, Werner mourned, finally deciding, “We’ll have to go back.” “To Prieuré?!” “What else?” “They’ll all be asleep, Werner.” “I know…” We’d left problems behind at the Mayo Clinic, so were seriously out of practice in resolution.
Too soon, we found ourselves at Chateau Prieuré-Lichine’s stately entryway. That building was every bit as dark as the April midnight overhead. Again, my husband groped for a bell. This time, he was successful. In a scene right out of The Night Before Christmas, Alexis “tore open the window, threw up the sash.” Moonlight shone on something white . Surely he wasn’t wearing a nightgown and a cap. I should never have said yes to that cognac after supper. I started to shiver.
“What is it?,” asked our host, most cordially, as though he held window-courtyard dialogues every night of his life.
“We cannot get into the chateau.”
With no more discourse, Alexis tossed something heavy and jangly in the general direction of my husband. It echoed on the stones. Werner called up his thanks, picked up the objects, and off we drove.
“What is that?,” I asked, amazed at the size and the heft of whatever it was between us on the seat.
“Keys,” marveled my again-monosyllabic Swiss. “It looks like all of his keys.”
I had visions of those rows and rows of warehouses lining the wharves of Bordeaux –
“Werner, the keys to the kingdom.”
Somehow, miraculously, the dogs of Lascombes had gone to bed. Magically, the first key of easily a hundred on that ring, worked. The weighty door swung open with almost liquid welcome. We felt our way in, touched our way up the stairs to the tower. That cricket never sounded better.
The next morning, we packed our bags, as planned, planning to depart after Mass, for which Alexis and his wife had given us easy directions. We were still trying to be Catholic, in a land where nobody seemed to comprends meatless Fridays. The miniature church was tucked in the midst of vines. Everything was hushed and luminous inside that townless church. Mass sounded, as ever, a thousand times more interesting in French. There were many faithful; as ever, more women than men. Werner and I, among the last to arrive, squeezed into a back pew next to the aisle.
About 2/3 of the way through the ceremony, we all sat down as one. Werner felt a discreet tap upon his aisle-side shoulder. It was our vineyard tutor/guide, Tony Wood.
“By any chance, would you know anything about Alexis’ keys?,” asked our young mentor, obviously discomfited. “Sorry,” Tony added, “but he can’t seem to find them…”
I managed not to laugh out loud – this sort of discretion comes easily to the Swiss.
“Of course!,” Werner responded. Only I would know how he struggled to keep a straight face. “They’re out in the car.”
“Could we just get them?,” requested Tony, nearly choking upon the request.
“Certainly,” Werner agreed. I waved a quick farewell, watching the two backs recess down the aisle.
Werner returned alone, managing heroically not to disturb final prayers and blessings. “Just as I thought,” he whispered in my ear. “We could have made off with every drop!”
An interesting post script is that our plan was to make the same request of the Bouchards in Burgundy. I remember two things about that lunch. One, that they served wine with the salad. When I asked how they managed this, M. Bouchard, Père looked surprised, as he proclaimed: “Wine,… vinegar — they come from the same source.”
And I recall Werner’s post-prandial query concerning the purchase of Bouchard wines to be sent to our ship.
Bouchard Pere et Fils Bottles
It immediately became apparent that this was a major gaffe, an affront to new friendship. Because of youth and Swiss ways, as well as that lovely accent, Werner pleased most people, — especially in Europe. He could ask what was wrong with our wish, adding, “It was all right with Alexis …”
“O!,” huffed M. Bouchard, “…that Russian!”
p.s. via Robert Parker re one of Alexis’ Margaux wines
[Prieure-Lichine demonstrates all the diversity of Margaux wines in one. Made from many scattered parcels of vines from throughout the Margaux geographical designation, the final result is necessarily complex and powerful. The chateau was founded on land originally part of a benedictine priory (prieure). Today its neighbours include chateaus Kirwan, Brane Cantenac and Boyd Cantenac. Prieure-Lichine was called Prieure Cantenac until 1953, when it was acquired by the eminent Bordeaux connoisseur and wine writer, Alexis Lichine, author of a best-selling encyclopedia of wines and spirits. This wine shows the unstinting care taken by those involved in making it.]