Friday, April 19, 2024

Our 2024 Earthday Celebration--a Recap

Though the day began with a light sprinkle, by mid-morning we had a cool but comfortable day, as several hundred people came to enjoy the woods, five walks, good food, and many exhibits, both at the Barden and up at Veblen House. This was the third Herrontown Woods Earthday celebration--the brainchild of board member Inge Regan, developed in collaboration with the Princeton Public Library, with lots of ideas and organizational effort added by board members Shefali Shah, Pallavi Nuka, Nicole Bergman, Scott Sillars, and Adrian Colarruso. We held it a week early, April 13, to avoid overlap with other Earthday celebrations in Princeton. 

Herrontown Woods' Earthday 2024 began with a 9am frog and flower walk led by Princeton native Fairfax Hutter. Kids crowded around to see crowds of newly hatched wood frog tadpoles in the vernal pool.
Then I led a tree walk through what I'm calling the "Valley of the Giants"--accessed via a new trail meant to show off some particularly large tulip trees, oaks, and ironwoods that thrive on a seepage slope along the ridge. It took six of us to fully hug this tulip tree. 

The photo was taken by Alastair Binnie, who has been donating his time, funds, and organizational capacities to create a Tour of Trees for Herrontown Woods. During the walk, we used our phones to access an inventory of some 300 tagged trees that Alastair had just posted on the FOHW website. 
The tree walk ended on the Veblen House grounds, where kids and adults quickly became immersed in various displays. The Princeton Public Library helped promote our Earthday celebration. Their staff and volunteers hosted a table and later held a story hour for kids. 
Beekeeper Allison Gratton had many stories to tell about honeybees, 
and some wonderful products made by the bees, including some honeycomb from the remains of a wild beehive we had found in a fallen tree this past winter, and the heavenly smelling propolis that bees use for glue. 
Bhavya, a Princeton High School student who has been studying vernal pools in Herrontown Woods, hosted a table on salamanders. Earlier in the spring, FOHW organized a Princeton Salamander Crossing Brigade that involved Bhavya and other PHS students in helping amphibians cross the road to reach their breeding grounds. 

Philip Poniz shared his knowledge of mushrooms, edible and not. He and his family have a long tradition of collecting edible mushrooms. 
One of the tree walk participants collected the wild onions that pop up in the lawn. They are not native, and we think of them as weeds, but he and his family use them like chives for cooking. 
Nicole Bergman hosted her fabulous May's Cafe at the Barden. 
The popular restaurant Ficus donated some savory sandwiches to go with Nicole's sweets and coffee. 
Sophie of FloreOrganicBotanics sold pressed flowers, donating some of the proceeds to FOHW. 

FOHW board member Adrian Colarusso led a fun children's walk, past the streamside skunk cabbage and the ping pong/skeleton barn, up to the Veblen House grounds in time for the story hour presented by the Princeton Public Library staff. Photo from Town Topics.

An afternoon geology walk was led by not one, not two, not three, but four geologists from Princeton University. Thanks to Lincoln Hollister, Blair Schoene, Laurel Goodell and Frederik Simons for explaining some of the deep history of Herrontown Woods and the Princeton ridge. 

Meanwhile, fritillarias and primrose bloomed in the Veblen House garden. The most gratifying thing for me was seeing how much fun kids were having, clambering over rocks on the cascades, watching the tadpoles, listening to stories. The many talents and interests brought to bear in organizing the event are a reflection of the many dimensions of Herrontown Woods itself, where flowers, trees, geology, amphibians, and multiple cultural histories come together. 

We took a group photo of the geology walk, with the boulder field in the background. Back in the Barden, people lingered long after the 3pm finish time, in a kind of afterglow. A
special day at Herrontown Woods.