Friday, April 28, 2017

Enjoying a Mix of Nature and Culture at Herrontown Woods

Update: Henry Horn, the one-of-a-kind professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton University, died March 14, 2019. I looked back and found this account of a walk he joined us on at Herrontown Woods two years ago.

Sunday's nature walk mixed the serene beneficence of the awakening forest with the charged drama of the county's determination to tear down Veblen House, even after the Friends of Herrontown Woods submitted a detailed proposal to begin repairing the house and other buildings donated by the Veblens long ago for public use. We had a surprise special guest for the walk, retired professor Henry Horn, who spoke about the preserve's geology and helped with identification of flora and fauna. We had about 25 on the walk, with only a few days notice, and lots of curiosity about all the plants and creatures encountered.

We saw the various wildflowers shown in the virtual walk at, and a Sigmoria millipede, which usually smells strongly like black cherry, but did not. That's a wineberry stem in the background.

Professor Horn suggested that the millipede may only emit the odor when it feels threatened. I asked if there were any nature haters willing to come forward and hold the millipede in a threatening manner, but none volunteered.

Afterwards, we gathered near the Veblen House to have cider, chips and cookies, with many discussions about the battle to save the house. Lots of good ideas and leads were offered.

Thanks to all who came, and particular thanks to professor Henry Horn for sharing his wealth of knowledge.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Spring Wildflower Walk

Friends of Herrontown Woods will host a nature walk this Sunday, April 23, at 2pm. It's Earthday weekend, which is part of Earth Month, Year, Century, and miscellaneous millennia extending out beyond, towards infinite. Earth takes care of people day in and day out. It would be nice if we did the same in return.

We'll start at the main parking lot off of Snowden Lane, and walk the red and yellow trails past vernal pools and boulder fields, all graced with wildflowers and the babble of brooks this time of year. Then we'll go past the daffodil-strewn Veblen farmstead and over to the Veblen House grounds for refreshments and to check out the recently planted pawpaws and hazelnuts, which are just budding out. All are invited.

The current owner of these and other historic Herrontown Woods buildings, Mercer County, has taken initial steps that, if not countered, would lead to their demolition. They are in fine shape, remind park visitors of Princeton's farming heritage, and serve as gathering places for events. Our nonprofit, the Friends of Herrontown Woods, has submitted a detailed proposal to acquire and maintain these buildings with the same love and commitment we have shown by taking care of Herrontown Woods for four years.

Learn more during the walk, and consider getting involved in this pivotal moment in Herrontown Woods history.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Trail Improvements are a Team Effort

Kurt Tazelaar's passion for improving the trails at Herrontown Woods and Autumn Hill Reservation is proving contagious, as he got help this week from Princeton High School junior Dylan Regan. Kurt prefers the permanence of rocks to make wet trails passable in spring. Some of the rocks are a two-man job, even with the help of a cart.

Spring, when much of the ground at Herrontown Woods is saturated with water, is the time to look for dryer routes for the Blue and Red Trails on the north side of the preserve. Only through close observation at the wettest time of year do the best routes become evident.

Also helping out were Sally Tazelaar,

and Dylan's mother, Inge.

Friends Theo and Jensen helped out one day as well.

After so much work, it's good to pause for a satisfying moment to survey all that has been accomplished.

FOHW has "boots on the boulder". There should be a museum for boots, whose wear, tear, and water marks tell the story of long labors.