Saturday, July 11, 2020

FOHW Celebrates the Veblens' Birthdays With Jazz and Candlelight

On a lovely summer evening, the Friends of Herrontown Woods celebrated the birthdays of Elizabeth and Oswald Veblen, who donated the nature preserve and their homes more than 60 years ago. Research revealed that their birthdays are two days apart, on the 22nd and 24th of June. For Oswald it was his 140th, his legacy still going strong.

2020 marks our third annual birthday celebration. Normally, we would invite the public to attend, but this year mostly board members came to test the concept of “distanced gathering,” dispersed beneath the tall trees surrounding Veblen House.

Two days before the event, we still lacked tables, until our artist in residence Victorino came to the rescue, carving sturdy and attractive tables out of a fallen red maple in front of the house. Candles and flowers from FOHW vice-president Pallavi's garden added a festive ornament.

The event was the brainchild of board member Inge Regan, an ER doctor who labored long to come up with protocols that would keep everyone socially distanced.

A pandemic causes us to behave more like trees, keeping our distance one from another, though of course couples were still able to cluster.

On the edge of the celebration was the Sustainable Jazz duo, performing its original music for the first time since COVID changed everything. Herrontown friend Perry provided a battery to power Phil Orr's piano, and FOHW president Steve Hiltner explored the enhancing acoustical effects of a reverberant forest on his saxophone and clarinet. Since the Veblen House can't be used yet, they were termed the "Near the house band."

As the evening progressed, candlelight merged with the fireflies to create a magical effect, with the Veblen House playing for now the role of landmark to loosely congregate next to. Happy birthday, and thank you, to Elizabeth and Oswald Veblen!

House Wren Votes Kiosk #1 Bird Habitat

We have a kiosk at the Herrontown Woods parking lot, built by the county many years ago in such a sturdy fashion that it will surely rival the boulders up on the ridge in longevity.

The kiosk was for a long time, like Herrontown Woods, a blank slate, but we have finally populated it with maps and photos and information, and realized some of its possibilities.

No matter how solidly built, the kiosk still has a soft spot for nature, as we discovered not long ago when we stood near the kiosk long enough to notice a house wren's comings and goings. The reason for its visits became clear only when the young chattered loud enough to hear, and a closer look at the rafters revealed

a hole in the hollow metal beam that fit the house wren's needs.

The reason for lingering around the kiosk long enough to notice the nest was the installation of a gutter to direct runoff from the kiosk into a cistern. There have been long dry spells this summer, necessitating bringing gallon jugs of water from home to water new plantings at the botanical garden next to the parking lot. Half the kiosk's small roof is more than enough to fill the cistern during a good rain.

The cistern was donated by board member Peter Thompson. The gutter and a small section of hose needed to repair the cistern were found on the curb, and the wood to elevate the cistern is rot-resistant black locust from a tree that fell in a neighbor's yard. Serendipity serves both people and birds.

Photo below: A scene in the Herrontown Woods botanical garden, with beebalm and wild senna, the "walking tree", and a yurt that some highschool students built earlier this summer.