Archive for July, 2010
When Ilene Dube asked me to create and maintain NJ WILD, I promised poetry.
To tell you the truth, I’ve been so caught up in the beauties of our New Jersey, and sometimes Pennsylvania,
and the urgency of the Gulf (my Packet story on plight of migrating birds toward gulf through eyes of local birders may appear on Friday),
and the essentiality of preservation, that I’ve almost forgotten poems.
I need to keep my promise to Ilene — until so recently Time Off Editor of the paper that has sustained me since 1968…
Thoreau upon the Merrimack
it’s 3 p.m. and a Friday
I’m stroking with urgency
within my red kayak
upon the placid waters
of the Delaware & Raritan Canal
they let us out early on Fridays
from profane corporate halls
to honor summer weekends
but I honor Henry Thoreau
who counted the day lost
when he did not spend several hours
sometimes taking to his canoe
for day after endless northern days
I envy him both boat and brother
time, and strong arms for rowing
upriver all the way
from Concord to Concord
but most of all, I covet
his finding a “foundation
of an Indian wigwam
– perfect circle, burnt stones
bones of small animals
– here, there, the Indians
must have fished”
in my life at its best
I row with Thoreau
Pennsylvania Vista - Carousel Farm cfe
NJ WILD readers know that I sometimes stray across my beloved Delaware River (windows open so I can take in her aura through almost all senses) to Bucks County. When I lived there, from 1981 through 1987, I explored every back road.
Carousel Farm Welcome
Even so, I was not aware of Carousel Farm — where animals for Broadway shows thrived on rolling fields between performances. Many theatre people peopled Bucks County in those days, from Hammerstein onward — this may be the Bucks County connection. Today, those supple hills bloom every summer, lavender to the horizon, its scent on the air and the sound of happy bees in my ears.
A Visitor Enjoys the Lavender (a cloudless sulfur butterfly)
This July (2010) was clearly stressing these purple stalks, even though (I know from my life in Provence) they are drought-tolerant to the max. Soaking hoses twined among sage-green foliage, as yet another 90-+-degree day surrounded my excursion companion and me.
Espaliered Apples Ripen
Carousel’s products are what drew me there in the first place. Their fragrance is that of French lavender, not the less pungent, too-sweet English scent. And their creams actually soften skin, lasting for hours, unlike too many ‘hand lotions’ which only coat then vanish.
Here are scenes of July 2010. Wander lavender fields with us:
Looking from Arbor toward Stable
Lavender Farm’s Private Haven
“Vive La France” in the middle of Bucks County
The Quiet Garden - a fine place to write poetry…
The Good Life, Carousel Farm Donkeys
Carousel Farm Beauty and Precision
(the stable is so clean, it smells only of oatmeal…)
Nobility of Yesteryear, Carousel Farm
Cloudless Sulfur [Butterfly] Sips
Stable and Espaliered Fruit
Lavender Abundance - ‘Lavender Fields Forever…’
WHY SAVE FARMS!
NJ WILD readers know that I choose farm markets for restoration on any number of fronts. The Trenton Farmers’ Market is what my father would call, “The Grandaddy of them All”, showcasing the treasures of our Garden State long before there was that marketing word, ’showcasing’.
When I go to the Trenton Farm Market, my ‘trick’ is to make several circuits.
I ‘eat with my eyes’, up one aisle and down another.
Then with my camera.
I apologize that their hefty, hearty peaches outshine Russo’s truck on the pavement behind. You know I often stop at Russo’s farm. It’s in the Pine Barrens (Tabernacle), and my source for first blueberries from their own bushes, first strawberries from their fields. The last spinach of November comes from Russo’s, along with Pine Barrens wines - Chambourcin a favorite. A major delight is to find bulging bags of applesauce apples outside on a wooden table at Christmastime. You’ll fold three dollar bills for a year’s applesauce into the slit of a metal box. You’ll find Russo’s apples so spicy, it is a travesty to add sugar or even a cinnamon stick. It freezes beautifully, and actually lasts longer than a year, I just discovered.
Then, and only then, with my ’sustainability bags’ and coin purse.
That way I know who has the most luminous corn despite dire drought. Whose tomatoes come from their own fields, more precious than rubies to your writer. Whose onions equal those of Renoir, Sterling Clark’s favorite of all masterpieces in his museum overflowing with Impressionists in Williamstown, Mass.
An interesting facet of the Trenton Farmers’ Market now is that the food shows, the existence of ‘Foodies’ in our midst (interesting that we’re not to call ourselves gourmands, let alone gourmets, any longer…) brings exotics to the weathered wooden stands on either side of strolling shoppers.
New Jersey Exotics
Some of the fruits of last week’s pilgrimage follow.
Words pale beside the jewels arrayed for us by New Jersey farmers.
Rejoice, Nj WILD readers, that we still have farmers in our midst.
My favorite road sign is the yellow and black icon for tractor crossing…
Be thankful for every tractor that still lumbers up one row and down another, turning over rich New Jersey soil for purposes of nourishment and delight — not for yet another crop of McMansions.
Do everything you can to preserve farmland: in the voting booth, at your computer writing to legislators, and especially all year round in New Jersey’s vital farm markets.
Otherwise, Rutgers scientists predict New Jersey will be the first completely built-out state, in close to thirty years (if that). You can alter that prediction by your shopping choices. And, besides, it is not only gastronomically thrilling, shopping farm markets brings aesthetic delight.
Remember, when spinach was poisoning Americans recently, New Jersey spinach was safe and healthy.
The best part is, many of those fruits and vegetables were picked that very morning - it’s as though the dew were still inside those corn husks when you open them for the feast.
Tomorrow, I am returning to the Carousel, to the scent of lavender brushed by hot summerwinds, to the buzz of very happy bees, to Pennsylvania’s soft rolling hills outside Doylestown. Here’s how it was last time. How will tomorrow be different? Stay tuned…
NJ WILD READERS know how I am about preserving and utilizing farmlands…
Provence-in-Pennsylvania : Carousel Farms Lavender
Carousel Farms Barn
When is a farm more than a farm? When it’s a source of lavender, –the color, strength, extent and fragrance of lavender fields of my beloved Provence. Near Doylestown, Pennsylvania, we are privileged to have not one but TWO lavender farms to visit.
For beauty alone, these sites are worth the journey. For scent alone, –admittedly arriving on gentle Pennsylvania breezes, not upon the strafing mistral. One is Peace Valley Lavender Farm, the other is called Carousel.
The pictures are of Carousel Farm, taken last September. This haven is named for stage animals kept there for use on Broadway and at the Met, in those heady years when New Hope and Doylestown were star-studded, literally.
Algonquin Round Table bons vivants visited, bought homes, a remarkable coterie of our most successful artists and writers, residing and createing in Bucks County. They brought along friends, enemies, lovers and family for inspiration in the country. And when they needed live creatures for all those Broadway plays, from Carousel Farm they would come.
Nowadays a man from Crete, whose air is Provencal, instead tends various lavender species. A splendid photographer, from him, you can buy not only true lavender oil, la vraie essence, but also soaps, candles, hand and body cremes [that really nourish the skin while imparting my favorite scent upon earth], as well as this superb photographer’s book of remarkable scenes.
All this and all organic! Open only on Saturdays from 9 - 5, I made the excursion because I’ve bought Carousel Farms lavender products, in Frenchtown, in Clinton, and always been amazed (1) that the scent is that of Provencal lavender; and (2), the products work! http://store.carouselfarmlavender.com/index.html
His lavender products, of two French and two English species of the flower, do not simply just smell good and feel good. Hours later, my hands and arms and anywhere else are still soft, even gleaming.
One of my favorite products, –bought from a farm wagon last September, in addition to creams and real lavender oil–, is their lavender candle. One burns it after certain cooking tasks, such as making soup or bacon… NJ WILD readers know that I love cooking and cooking aromas, but not several hours later. Carousel Farms’ lavender kitchen candle, –studded blossoms of real lavender embedded in opulent wax, in its square tin with the handsome Carousel label–, solves that dilemma.
5966 MECHANICSVILLE RD, MECHANICSVILLE PA. 18934
PLEASE ENTER FROM ENTRANCE ON SHEFIELD DRIVE
Here is the all-too-humble owner’s description from his website:
The Carousel Farm, first established in 1748, has had many lives over the centuries, –once a dairy farm, later a horse farm and, in the mid-20th century, an exotic animal farm.
When we moved to the farm 7 years ago, our challenge was to put our unique imprint on the farm, maintaining its rural beauty, yet enhancing it with something beyond.
Our farm, with its fieldstone farmhouse, 18th-century stone barn and rolling fields broken only by fieldstone walls, seemed the perfect place to replicate the South of France.
Our fields, now over four years old, are nothing short of amazing. Despite our initial worry that the harsh Northeast climate might not be ideal for the project, after testing the soil we carefully selected four varieties of plants, both French and English, and the plants are flourishing.
We have over 15,000 organically-grown plants, each one planted, pruned and harvested by hand. The beauty of our fields is attested to by the many of local painters and photographers who spend their days drawing inspiration from the fields.
Good for the Bees, Good for the Butterflies
As you can tell, we are proud of our lavender fields, but perhaps we are most proud that, despite the striking natural beauty of Bucks County, we have found a way to enhance this historic community with something at once rural, beautiful, unique, and–yes–all organic!
All Organic Means, Good for the Bees
Old Ways Are Best, Where Real Farming is Concerned
not news to NJ WILD readers:
“…approaching tipping points”
“cumulative impacts of multiple
CAPE MAY - WHAT WE STAND TO LOSE FIRST [cfe]
For several months now, books I’ve taken out of the Princeton Public Library have centered upon catastrophic climate change. This just out, via Science Magazine, echoes everything I’m reading, the pages of notes I’m inscribing.
We cannot remain ostriches. It’s not just the oil in the Gulf. The ocean — our amniotic fluid—is being destroyed. Never forget that the oceans spawn air currents, their temperatures launch hurricanes and cyclones, the Atlantic’s Gulf Stream moderates temperatures in the northernmost sections of Britain and Europe, and is thawing polar ice.
This isn’t ‘just’ about water.
At least NJ WILD readers will be informed.
We have turned the planet into the Titanic, and captain and crew are saying, “What iceberg?”
Instead of optimism, I MUST say, “Be worried. Be Very Worried.”
Previous NJ WILD posts cover what one can do.
Be that 1.
Buy planet-friendly appliances and bulbs
PROTEST increasing addiction to dirty coal
Science Daily, June 19 2010 reports on the effects
of climate change upon the world’s oceans:
now changing at a rate not seen for several
The growing atmospheric concentrations of man-
made ‘greenhouse gases’ are driving irreversible,
dramatic changes to the way the ocean functions,
with potentially dire impacts for hundreds of
millions of people across the planet.”
[how tragic that they only mention humans!]
two of the world’s leading marine scientists,
one from University of Queensland, Australia;
one from University of North Carolina, Chapel
Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, lead author of the
report and Director of The University of
Queensland’s Global Change Institute, says the
findings have enormous implications for mankind,
particularly if the trend continues.
He said that Earth’s ocean is equivalent to its
heart and lungs. “
Quite plainly, the Earth cannot do without its
This study reveals worrying signs of ill health.
“It’s as though the Earth has been smoking two
packs of cigarettes a day!”
[for a very long time, and it already has cancer,
metastasizing at our hands, at our indifference]
He went on to say, “We are entering a period in
which the very ocean services upon which
humanity depends are undergoing massive change
and in some cases beginning to fail,”
“Further degradation will continue to create
enormous challenges and costs for societies
He warned that we may soon see “sudden,
unexpected changes that have serious
ramifications for the overall well-being of
including the capacity of the planet to support
“This is further evidence that we are well on the
way to the next great extinction event.”
[the extinction you witness may be our own...]
The “fundamental and comprehensive” changes to
marine life identified in the report include rapidly
warming and acidifying oceans, changes in water
circulation and expansion of dead zones within
the ocean depths.
These are driving major changes in marine
ecosystems: less abundant coral reefs, sea grasses
and mangroves (important fish nurseries); fewer,
smaller fish; a breakdown in food chains; changes
in the distribution of marine life; and more
frequent diseases and pests among marine
Report co-author, Dr John F. Bruno, an Associate
Professor at The University of North Carolina, says
greenhouse gas emissions are modifying many
physical and geochemical aspects of the planet’s
oceans, in ways “unprecedented in nearly a million
“This is causing fundamental and comprehensive
changes to the way marine ecosystems function,”
Dr Bruno said.
“We are becoming increasingly certain that the
world’s marine ecosystems are approaching
These tipping points are where change accelerates
and causes unrelated impacts on other systems,
the results of which we really have no power or
model to foresee.”
The authors conclude: “These challenges
underscore the urgency with which world leaders
must act to limit further growth of greenhouse
gases and thereby reduce the risk of these events’
Ignoring the science is not an option.”
The above story is reprinted (with editorial
adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Global Change Institute.
Peaceful Delaware, accessible by The River Line, Riverton cfe
It’s a flawless Saturday in June, the kind of just-washed morning that simply requires an excursion. Luckily, a friend and I have one all planned. Debbie and I meet at the Light Rail Line station in Bordentown, because it’s nearby, pretty, free and safe. I particularly treasure the miracle of waiting at the River Line Station, studying the nearby Delaware, sparkling, enticing — the reason for for this train.
Artisanal Tiles Tell the Story of Each River Town Riverside cfe
Once upon a time, commerce in New Jersey (and across-the-Delaware Pennsylvania) took place under sail along this glimmering and capacious body of water. Today, Debbie and I will hop aboard, with our validated two-hour tickets tucked in a handy pocket, in case some official might ask to peruse them. The beautiful weather puts us in such a dreamy mood that we don’t care which way we go - north or south. Whichever train comes first. There are printed schedules on the walls of each shelter/station, showing that trains arrive (like clockwork - well, they were built by Swiss), and you never have long to wait for the next one. When your ticket runs out, which it will, no big deal - our tickets were 70 cents — because of our venerability! — others are probably $1.50 or so, and each ticket grants two hours of light rail magic. The trains have hooks for bicycles, so people can bike to the train, train far and wide, lift up the bike and bike off again. Terribly civilized. Terribly European, it all seems to me. But it’s actually very New Jersey. A reason for great pride in our state.
Ready to Roll, on the River Line cfe
What arrives is the northbound train, to Trenton. We know not to stick the little purple tickets into the validation machines until we see the beaming headlight of the Little Engine That Really Can! Brightest Blue and Sunflower Yellow, these zingy Swiss two-ended, two-engined trains zing up and down from Trenton to Camden and back all day and a little bit into the night, carrying people to new jobs and restored towns all along the route. After a certain hour, the tracks revert to carrying freight. Until the next morning, and the next round of commuters.
I’ve watched a woman in medical attire intensively studying all the way from Camden to Trenton. This day, we would be across the aisle from a young exhausted mother, who managed sleep the whole way with babe in arms, –modern madonna, modern pieta. Her slumbrous child was wrapped as in some ancient land, but in a blanket decorated with tiny soccer balls. I’ve listened as greetings conveyed to new arrivals with the eagerness and delight of family reunions. The train serves as a kind of moving neighborhood. I’ve heard youngsters practicing their drumming from Camden to Trenton, where a competition awaited. I’ve taken the train myself twice, though unsuccessfully, to try to enter Whitman’s house in Camden, to see the room where our legendary poet who changed poetry forever wrote, entertained visitors, even died. But the house is not open when I’m there. Nevertheless, it was important to make the pilgrimage.
Inside the River Line cfe
Today, Debbie and I luxuriate in a timeless sojourn, beginning with north through the Marsh (The Hamilton-Trenton-Bordentown Marsh). Here I’ve hiked, relished birding walks with Ornithologist Charlie Leck and Lou Beck of Washington’s Crossing Audubon, as well as legendary bird author/artist David Allen Sibley. I’ve relished wildflower journeys with Mary Leck, emeritus professor of biology at Rider. Here we’ve scouted for beaver-breath at 20 degrees, curling white and frail above their scattered-looking lodges, Here I’ve found the great horned owl nest although so well hidden in its tangley vines, just before sunset. In the Marsh I’ve followed dawn’s fox tracks. We could tell when he was sauntering, hunting, just going back home in light fresh snowfall. I’ve kayaked the creek we now begin to cross, Crosswicks, then nipped off onto Watson’s Creek and strange encounters under highway abutments, where cave swallows have made the most of all that concrete. Ultimately, we’d emerge in wetlands (freshwater tidal) belonging to egrets, herons (green and blue), wood ducks that look like Picasso designed them, owls being mobbed by ferocious crows, and American bald eagles themselves, nesting again in the Marsh where he belongs, now that DDT is behind us and them.
All of this in the heart of New Jersey’s State Capitol. And nobody knows its there. But you can ‘to and fro’ through the magical Marsh on New Jersey’s enlightened River Line Train.
Turning south, I find an egret for Debbie off to our right, where the Marsh gives way to the Delaware herself, and pickerel weed at low tide is standing tall as toy soldiers, the water a long long way from those bright green pointy leaves. In the afternoon, full moon tides having come back in, big-time, those leaves are nearly submerged.
Swiss Designed River Line Car at Station cfe
The train is cool but not cold, its windows large and gleaming. I like to sit the same way the train is going - with an engine at either end, half the passengers are always riding backwards, not my favorite way to travel. A written led display and a formal woman’s voice announce each new station. Roebling arrives, coming back to life after its years as one of the first company towns, much of its amazing industrial might still in situ, and a new museum being spiffed up off to one side of the tracks.
River Line tracks arrow straight through the center of these Delaware-side towns, these former ports, these formerly abandoned villages. Evidence of New Jersey’s industrial past is on either side, sometimes still thriving, sometimes thriving anew, sometimes in ruins as evocative as Tintern Abbey.
We puzzle over the large abandoned building beside the Riverside tracks — a few years ago, it had been festooned with signs promising condominiums there by the train. There’s the Madison Pub beside the train stop there, just below the eagle statue with the River Line train painted on its back - mixed emotions here… Madison Pub, I was told, has been there since before Prohibition - medicinal purposes only, I guess. Now it has more than doubled in size, fed as it feeds passengers on the River Line.
But our goal is sleepy little Riverton, almost to Camden. Flower-bedecked, Victorian-restored, it’s a newer town than 18th Century Burlington, but their histories are equally palpable. We’ll lunch at Zena’s, right beside the track, noting that the train comes at 7 after and 37 after the hour. But first, a stroll.
Flower-Bedecked Riverton cfe
‘Down By the Riverside’, Riverton cfe
Shorebird Breakfast, Riverton Yard cfe
Riverton Yacht Club, on the Delaware cfe
Moored in the Delaware cfe
Riverton Yacht Club Through the Sycamores cfe
What Used to Be — Riverton, Restored cfe
Rooftop Garden, Riverton cfe
Zena’s - our Mecca cfe
I’ll save the story of our superb lunch, the ride back north, our sojourn in Burlington - which was the capitol of The Jerseys when we were two provinces separated by Province Line Road — and our antiquing in the building where many-masted ships were formerly repaired, for another day.
If you can’t wait - take the River Line right now. Any time. Any direction. For a day you will never forget.
Lake Oswego Heaven - Fourth of July Late Afternoon- NJ Pine Barrens South of Chatsworth
NJ WILD readers know that ‘the world is too much with me’, too often. The world of oiled birds and abandoned fishermen’s families waiting for checks so that they may buy toilet paper and dish detergent. The world of catastrophic weather as the new normal. The world of governments’ having changed without dire conditions changing for the better. ["Yes We Can". "Yes We Did". And so what?]
The world in which migrating shorebirds will soon be staging for their southward journeys, expecting to feed in marshes covered in oil the color of rusting tankers, before setting out to cross the interminable poisoned Gulf.
What Will be Happening Soon at Brigantine National Wildlife Refuge near Smithville
Next stop - oiled Gulf
Pine Barrens Byways photograph
So I take myself to New Jersey Wilderness to be restored. Sometimes it is enough simply to be there, especially among the Pines and the sands of our so-called Pine Barrens.
Lake Oswego Pines and Sedges cfe
Sometimes I do have to bring back photographs, at least.
Ripening Grapes, Historic Building, Tomasello Winery, Smithville, Pine Barrens cfe
Ideally, farm markets are open and I can return with treasures grown by real people in real soil in our own very real state. Not thousands of miles away, growing stale dead and flavorless as they cross interstates. Pine Barrens markets are rich in foods alive with the best energies of earth, blessed by those who planted, weeded, tilled, tended, harvested and sold them to this eager customer. Foods whose prices are so low, you think they have to be a mistake.
Home from the Markets, July 4 2010 cfe
Here are cameos from yesterday’s trip to the ‘Barrens’. The market for the pristine and slender Jersey asparagus and the first berries is Russo’s. Those berries come to them from nearby Indian Mills. They preside at a key corner in dear little Tabernacle, on Route 532 just slightly east of #206. The last Lenni Lenape, Indian Ann, is buried in the Tabernacle churchyard. I want to wake her up and get her to talk of her life there, teach us her language. Instead, I talk crops with the real farmers of Russo’s.
Freshly Hard-Boiled Organic Eggs from Market cfe
The dark and hearty pumpernickel bread under the smoked salmon is from The Bakery, a tiny place whose origins, in Smithville, are pre-Revolutionary. They used to age the hams and sausages upstairs. I tell my favorite waitresses, “I drive 80 miles for your sausage patties.” The eggs taste like eggs. I mean, you can close your eyes and know what is in your mouth, what is blessing your palate. The coffee is hot, steamy, non-sophisticated (no &*(&^ hazelnuts!), and constantly refilled by joshing waitresses who’ve been there forever. When I first went to the Bakery, its current owner was a baker there. He saved his money and now it’s his. On the walls are antique farm implements, signs for Provisions, “God Speed Ye Plow” and a wooden plow, Campbell’s soup tins of long ago, and saltine tins, and wire whisks and, well, go see for yourself.
The smoked Atlantic Salmon and the avocado are from Trader Joe’s, which store is local if not these food items — but it feels like a farm market in there. That is my highest praise, as NJ WILD readers know.
Pine Barrens Blueberries from Indian Mills via Russo’s cfe
What I don’t have on the table is the blueberry champagne, bought as gifts next-door at Tomasello’s Winery - wine of the Pines. Everyone expects it to be in some way a joke - it is sublime - outdistanced every bottle of Prosecco at a recent dinner party here.
All the way down and all the way back, except of course for 295 and 206, there was no one on most of the roads but us. On the Fourth of July. Try me - try Labor Day. But only if solitude is blessed to you.
Lake Oswego Solitude, Fourth of July cfe
Only if solitude, for you, pushes away that too-much world.
I go to the Pines to watch grapes ripen and peat waters ripple and rare birds feed…
Good news re Refuges about to be funded by U.S. Fish and Wildlife for our birds — my beloved ‘Brig’ - Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge near Smithville - point of yesterday’s journey.
Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, Ocean County, New Jersey – Protect 243 acres of wetlands and upland fringes, the last natural open space on the northern portion of Barnegat Bay. The area provides essential migratory habitat for waterfowl and passerine birds species, as well as several state-listed endangered and threatened bird species.
When ‘the world is too much with me,’ when especially the 21st Century is too much with me, NJ WILD readers know I have to head out.
Hunterdon County Barn and Clssic Truck cfe
So last Friday became my “Reading-the-Farms” Day. Throughout bucolic Hunterdon County, farm signs began to delight as roads began to rise, as I headed west toward the river:
“Windcrossing.” “Windtryst.” “Windfall.” “Sonbob.” “Stonehedge.” In and out of these signs are others that bring great joy: That gold and black icon that means Tractor Crossing. Thank the Lord and New Jersey preservationists that there are still tractors. “Saws Sharpened.” “Farrier.” “Saddlery.” “For Sale by Owner — Bit of Heaven.”
My favorite, right outside of Hopewell, is always “Featherbed Lane - No Outlet.” It was so named because colonials tied bits of quilts (featherbeds in those days) tightly to horses’ hooves to hush them as these heroes rode these roads to protests in the time of King George III. Here both Hart and Stockton were pursued, sometimes eluding pursuers, although Stockton’s capture led to dire torturing from which he never recovered. Hart is buried in the Hopewell churchyard I just passed.
Featherbed Lane has stories to tell, not only of the Revolution, but also of migrating Sourlands songbirds. Known by birders as passerines, these winged creatures are tended as nestlings and as travelers by the legendary Hannah Suthers. “No Outlet” is misleading - for the road Hannah often monitors on horseback leads to great beauty in the landscape, as well as during spring and fall songbird migrations.
Carolina Wren, by Brenda Jones
I head either due west or due south to re-fill the well, my well, in our New Jersey. My spirit level which can be taken down too far by oiled birds, the leadership gap, ever-forecast storms which never materialize, cracks in the yard outside my new apartment looking like Kansas cornfields in August, general indifference to the crisis in the Gulf, in our environment, developers, bulldozers - well, you know all this…
Friday, therefore, became Farm-Quest day. I headed out early, into Hopewell, up Greenwood avenue, past the Sourland Mountain Preserve, to the red barn with the black and white Holsteins, where I turn left to get to my beloved Delaware. NJ WILD readers know she has just been named the most endangered river in America because gas well drillers are hoodwinking unwary property owners all up and down the Delaware watershed, wherever Marcellus shale holds so-called natural gas. In order to get AT that gas, ‘frakting’ has to take place. ‘Frakting’ the chemicals of which process poison wells and sickens families who sold gas right on their land to those convincing drillers. Have you heard this song before? Do you know that the drillers are still insisting “Frakting is safe.” Remember that BP gave us a number of 5000 for oil leakage in the profoundly globally important Gulf. The ruiners are the measurers, over and over and over.
Brenda Jones’ dawn-peaceful, pristine Delaware, which measurers, drillers, would profane:
So, I needed to escape this century. I required silvered blue siloes rising into baby-blanket-blue skies. I needed wind-stirred grasses, still dew-damp, reflecting morning light. I needed stone house after stone house, all resembling and one BEING one of George Washington’s headquarters in the 1700s. I needed that dear New Jersey winery to be nestled by a stream along a curve with a quirky old bridge - not to stop there, just that it BE there. Grapes ripening. Nature prevailing.
I needed those increasingly rolling hills, as Delaware’s surround became ever more riverine. I had to have every single one of those pouf clouds, the kind children draw in kindergarten and first grade, alongside lollipop trees of impossible green. Except, yesterday, westering toward the Delaware, everything was indeed impossible green of first slender Crayola boxes and kindergarten simplicity and trust.
I required burgeoning crops. Though I was startled, since it is only June, to be absolutely dwarfed by corn on both sides of the road. One crop looked as though it had tasselled out already. Whatever happened to “knee high by the Fourth of July?”
I’m ever so slightly able to rejoice in patriotic songs again now, now that fascism seems to have receded in our land, that flags are Old Glory again, no longer banners of insularity and revenge. So “Amber waves of grain” came to me pleasingly, as my car purred between broad swathes of fully ripened wheat. Frankly, that grain was beyond amber - all the way to toast.
Summer Wildflowers, Essential to Cabbage White Butterflies, by Brenda Jones
I needed summer-new wildflowers. I didn’t really want them to be this early, because of global warming and all. Yet, my heart leapt up at every bonnie blue burst of chicory; each airy disc of Queen Anne’s lace; the sturdy, determinedly sunny spurts of first brown-eyed Susans.
Chicory by Anne Zeman
Delaware’s generous signature was everywhere, as the rounded shoulders of her neighboring hills welcomed, then compelled me to her shores. The skies, the very air itself hold sparkle and a scintillation when Delaware is near.
A hearty breakfast at Meils in Stockton fortified me for two brief shopping errands. The Stockton Farmers’ Market, with a handful of purveyors is tucked in at the back entrance on a Friday. It’s cool and dark as a cave in there. Crossing the threshold conveys an air of secrecy and blessing. There is the sense that only those truly determined to shop with (o.k., MAD for!) local farmers come tiptoeing between saucy flowers at entry. Inside, the cognoscenti know they will be rewarded by exuberant produce, freshest eggs, the savory gold tomme cheese aged three full months in a cave, in New Jersey!; fat hearty cookies; hefty cuts of home-raised meats; succulent quiches and handmade soaps and tiles.
Vibrant Indoor Produce, Stockton Farm Market Fridays cfe
Garden State Produce, Indoor Stockton Farm Market Friday cfe
Highland Cattle, raised by Highland Farm Market, Sold at Stockton Farm Market cfe
En route home, I stopped at Maresca’s, that old-world, personable butcher shop just around the bend from the Sergeantsville covered bridge. I stock up on their sweet/smoky tender yet sustaining bacon ( which I’d enjoyed at Meil’s). I asked if he could cut me some filets an odd way so that they can be thick enough to be rare inside, but not overwhelming for one person. Delight was Emil’s response, as he checked and measured until he had exactly the number, shape and size that I wanted, one for tonight, the rest to freeze. I added their sublime lemon pound cake and a few almond cookies like soft biscotti. All that food made there or cut there, sold by those who bring it to market, in the shadow of mysterious white conical flowers that look like heaven for bees — my total was $23. I thought they forgot to add in the sweets. Quite the contrary - he gave me all the rest of that delicate filet — I may do boeuf tartare as my reward for surviving inner and outer challenges of the week just past.
Lavender Farm in Bloom cfe
Somewhere near Hopewell, I remembered a sign for fresh lavender, $3 a bunch. Sure enough, there it was, in a broad flat delicate basket that would have been carried by one of Monet’s willowy models, in flowing white gossamer, stiff/floppy hat, blue ribbons at the waist. Wading through poppies. Instead, lavender bunches lay in waiting right by the side of the road, wrapped in crinkly paper. I put my $10 bill (nothing smaller) in their unlocked box and closed it. I drove on home with the sweet tang of true French lavender, for which I always long since my life in Provence, suffusing my modern American car.
Through the grainfields. Back through the black-green Sourlands woods. Over the back roads. Home.
Leaving one bunch of lavender in the car (forever!), bearing the other two into my bedroom, I realized, my entire journey had been “Outlet”.
Twenty-five miles each way. Timelessness. Time-travel. To a world where the far-sighted, such as D&R Greenway Land Trust, but not limited to us, are preserving the Garden State.
The Garden State - Farm Near Hopewell, by Anne Zeman