Sunday, June 27, 2021

More Chainsaw Artistry, Thanks to Victorino

If you see Victorino coming up the trail, his chain saw slung over his shoulder, you know that some work is about to get done.
Good work that wouldn't happen otherwise, like getting a very big fallen tree cut up and rolled off the trail.
Sometimes the beautiful trunks of fallen trees become beautiful boards, cut by eye with the chainsaw. These he thought we could use as planks for a boardwalk, but they look too good for that. Benches, maybe? 

Where we might see only problem, impediment or hazard--more wood to noisily grind into chips--Victorino looks at the crook in a fallen tree and sees possibilities. 

He'd been working for two hours. It was time for a break. Cut a section of the tree just right, and one half becomes a chair, the other a table. The chair is angled just right to get you looking up at the cicadas' flying high in the canopy. Give him enough time in a woods littered with fallen trees and he'd build a whole house. 

What break in the day was ever more deserved? Thank you, Victorino.

(The chair's a couple hundred feet in along the righthand trail from the Autumn Hill Reservation parking lot. Best enjoyed with a cool beverage.)

Sunday, June 20, 2021

A Week of Magical Moments at the Gazebo

The leadup to a magical moment can seem mundane enough: a ladder leaned against the gazebo at the Barden at Herrontown Woods. The Barden, short for Botanical ARt garDEN, has become magical in and of itself, but this past week had a series of magical moments. 

On Friday, a solar panel was mounted on the roof of the gazebo, thanks to Princeton architecture professor Forrest Meggers.

A bit of wiring followed, and some stringing of lights, all mundane-seeming, at least until evening, 
when we gathered to celebrate in the glow of all those rays of light captured from the day to illuminate one small corner of the night. 

Two days earlier, on Wednesday, a group of kids had come with parents to explore the Barden, then sit down for an outdoor supper. Just as they were leaving, I took out my clarinet to riff with the cicadas. The kids came over to listen and applaud, and asked me to play different tunes--a jazzed up version of Mary Had a Little Lamb, and some others. 

When one of them asked me to play Ode To Joy, I figured the parents were needing to get going, so I led the kids down the Barden path to the parking lot, playing Ode to Joy like a pied piper. In the parking lot, we jammed for awhile, the kids using sticks to beat out rhythms. 
The day before that, on Tuesday, we spotted a monarch butterfly in the Barden--the first sighting of the year. What is more magical than a monarch, flying generation by generation up from Mexico each spring to join us for the summer? In one particularly delightful moment, it flew in a circle around the Veblen Circle of wildflowers, from one cage to the next, returning to where we'd first seen it,

on a purple milkweed. 

Photo below: "Moon Over Flying Pig"

Thursday, June 17, 2021

EVENT: Yoga with Gemma, Saturday, June 19

Gemma and Gratitude Yoga return to the grounds of Veblen House this Saturday at noon. You can just show up, with a mat if you have one, but are encouraged to register. More information on Gemma's website. Thanks to Gemma for leading these free classes at Herrontown Woods.

"We will meet in front of the historic Veblen House for an uplifting Vinyasa Flow class to celebrate our connection to nature and to one another."


Saturday, June 12, 2021

The Many Gifts of Girl Scout Troop 71837

Herrontown Woods was the recipient this year of what surely is one of the most ambitious and multifaceted efforts by a girl scout troop to have a beneficial impact on a nature preserve. Girl Scout Troop 71837, with girls 10-11 years old led by Danielle Rollmann and Heather Harnley, contacted the Friends of Herrontown Woods back in August of 2020. Since then, they have contributed their time and effort to the preserve in many ways. 

For starters, during a remarkable spring workday, they swept the parking lot area clean of garlic mustard--an invasive species that spreads aggressively if not pulled up before it goes to seed.

They were fascinated by the big skunk cabbage leaves along the stream, and took a break to check out the little frog pond at the Barden.

With guidance from their leaders, they then quickly became adept at using power tools, drilling holes and setting screws in repurposed wood to construct boardwalks for wet spots on our trails.

Another initiative spurred by the girl scouts' involvement was a new trail map for Herrontown Woods. The girls walked the trails with GPS tracking software, then sent the files to graphic artist Alison Carver, who worked with the girl scouts and FOHW to create a beautiful and detailed new map. Troop funds paid for the first 500 copies.

The scouts also painted new trail markers to greatly aid hikers in finding their way through the preserve. In the photo, you can see remnants of yellow paint, very possibly from when another girl scout troop helped mark trails, many decades ago, 

A particularly innovative project the girl scouts helped with is the creation of a Veblen Circle of native plants around the gazebo at Herrontown Woods' botanical art garden (nicknamed the Barden). Working with FOHW board member Inge Regan, the girls developed informative labels for thirty species of native wildflowers. 

Visitors to the Barden can see the wildflowers growing up in their individual cages, becoming like the pictures on the labels.

With help from Deane, the grandfather of one of the girls, the scouts made ten birdhouses, which FOHW volunteer Robert Chong then installed at Herrontown Woods' three landmark sites: Veblen House, the Cottage farmstead, and the Barden.

The scouts' volunteer efforts worked much like a matching grant. The positive energy and persistence they brought to the project prompted a similar input of energy and focus by FOHW's board members and other volunteers, completing projects that might otherwise have remained indefinitely in the "good idea" stage. 

The Friends of Herrontown Woods is grateful for all the work and spirit these confident girls brought to the project, and the opportunity to witness and participate in the mentoring of another generation of stewards of nature. 

May they return many times to Herrontown Woods to enjoy the fruits of their labors.