Thursday, December 19, 2019


It's been another year of moving FOHWard at Herrontown Woods. The lease we negotiated with the town for the Veblen House and Cottage awaits town ratification this January. We built a new trail and continue to restore existing trails and habitat. The botanical garden is growing into a sea of wildflowers. A girlscout troop and other volunteers contributed to improvements in the grounds and signage. Ongoing research is expanding our appreciation of the vision and pioneering spirit that helped Oswald Veblen achieve so much in the world and our community.

Please support our work, and join us out at Princeton's first nature preserve.

  • Completed negotiations with Princeton to lease the Veblen House and Cottage, beginning early in 2020

  • FOHW volunteers continue to care for 220 acres of public land at Herrontown Woods and Autumn Hill Reservation
  • A very wet spring prompted many trail improvements towards making trails useable year-round
  • Constructed a new trail through 7.5 acres of sloping woodland donated to Princeton in 2018 through FOHW’s initiative
  • Botanical Garden: With ongoing care, we are transforming a forest opening into a sea of native wildflowers and grasses to feed summertime pollinators, with 100 native plant species.
  • Collaborating with Town on control of invasive species

  • Keeping buildings secure and dry
  • Evaluating structures in preparation to begin repairs in 2020
  • Converting window covers to shutters to expedite window repair.
  • Redirecting runoff away from buildings and into attractive raingardens
  • Grounds around house and cottage mowed, maintained, invasive plants removed, paths installed.
  • Nurturing an edible forest of pawpaws, hazelnuts, butternuts, persimmons and plums.

  • Girlscouts Cadette Troop 72905 installed interpretive signage telling the history of the Veblen House and Cottage
  • Designed and produced educational flip cards for nature adventure backpacks available at the Princeton Public Library
  • Ongoing research and website posts about nature and the fascinating history of Veblen House at, and
  • Renewing connections with local schools
  • Regular nature walks led by area naturalists
  • Hosted our second annual Oswald Veblen Birthday BBQ in June. 

  • New board members and some particularly engaged friends of the preserve are adding their energy and expertise to FOHW’s work.
  • Had our second board “retreat” to develop strategic planning

  • Additional progress towards our initial goal of raising $100,000.

Thanks to all who have contributed to making these achievements possible.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Creative Reuse at Veblen House

Creative reuse is central to nature's vitality, and a central theme in our work at Herrontown Woods, where houses and a nature preserve, generously donated long ago for public use, had been left to languish for lack of care and attention.

As a formal lease moves towards town ratification early in 2020, we've been doing some small fixes at Veblen House and grounds, as part of our stewardship of the property. Most of the invasive species have been cut back, reopening vistas of the stonework and gardens. Some small berms and swales have nicely diverted surface runoff away from the house to feed raingardens. In preparation for last summer's Veblen Birthday BBQ, we expanded parking simply by cutting back vegetation that had long disguised the original width of the gravel driveway.

More recently, we collected lawn signs after the fall election and have used them as shingles to repair the wellhouse, which had lost its roof over the years. A few scavenged boards and the lawn signs were all that was needed to put the well house right again.

One of our board members, Peter Thompson, contributed a couple rainbarrels that are now catching runoff from gutters we added to the roof of the garage. Since there's no running water as yet at Veblen House, the collected rainwater will be handy for watering new plants during next year's growing season.

Also near the Veblen House, we've installed a leaf corral that holds leaves, but also has a critter-proof central cylinder that can hold food scraps. Once the corral is filled, the leaves will disguise the food scrap composting and provide insulation to speed decomposition. Earthworms and other decomposers rise up from the ground and into the leaves and food scraps to do their work. No turning of the contents is required.

The leaf corral, called a "Wishing (the Earth) Well" because it looks a bit like a wishing well for leaves instead of coins, made a good conversation piece at the end of our autumn nature walk.

Here's what it looks like with some snow and some leaves, which surround and disguise the inner cylinder of food scraps, brought by one of our board members who lacks a home compost bin.