Friday, February 25, 2022

Bird and Plant Walk at Herrontown Woods this Sunday, Feb. 27

A bird and plant walk is coming up this weekend at Herrontown Woods, from 9-11 this Sunday morning, Feb. 27. We'll have multiple walk leaders with expertise ranging from botany to birds to amphibians. Princeton natives John L Clark and Fairfax Hutter will be joined by naturalist and Hopewell teacher Mark Manning and Steve Hiltner. 

The walk is open to all. We'll have some extra binoculars in case anyone lacks a pair. Meet at the main parking lot off Snowden Lane, across from Smoyer Park

Thanks to the Princeton Public Library for helping get the word out about this event, which is in addition to our usual Sunday morning workdays that start around 10:30.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Princeton ECHO Features Herrontown Woods

The Princeton ECHO is starting 2022 with a wonderful feature article on Herrontown Woods. The article is written by Patricia A. Taylor, who took her grandkids to the preserve and had great fun exploring the trails and the Barden. The article, entitled "History and helpful hands in Herrontown Woods," explores the history of the preserve and our Friends of Herrontown Woods nonprofit. She also tells the story of the dugout canoe in the Barden, and how it was originally constructed for an Odyssey project at Princeton High School. 

Ms. Taylor is hoping readers will be inspired to explore Princeton's open space preserves in the winter, when the woodlands are filled with light and long vistas. Copies of ECHO are available downtown, at the Shopping Center, and elsewhere.

Friday, December 3, 2021

May's Barden Cafe returns this Sunday, Jan. 2 (and Feb. 6)

May's Barden Cafe welcomes the new year at Herrontown Woods this Sunday morning, Jan. 2, from 10am to noon. Stop by for some fine coffee and pastries, served up near the Barden's gazebo. just in from the main parking lot off Snowden Lane. Nicole Bergman has been teaming up with Joanna Poniz to host the Cafe, with coffee from Small World.

The event--first Sundays through the winter--coincides with the weekly Herrontown Woods workdays, making for a nice mix of socializing and volunteer activity. 

May was the nickname for Elizabeth Veblen. She and her husband Oswald donated Herrontown Woods long ago, and also started the tradition of afternoon tea at the Institute for Advanced Study. 

The road down to Herrontown Woods is directly across from the main entryway to Smoyer Park. 600 Snowden Lane is now the official address for the parking lot.       

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Nature Walks This Sunday, Nov. 14, 10am and 1pm

To take advantage of lingering fall colors, Steve Hiltner will lead two nature walks this Sunday, Nov. 14, at 10am and 1pm. The Princeton Public Library is helping organize the 10am walk (shifted to Sunday from Saturday due to freakish weather forecast), so the morning walk may be more crowded. If you aren't already signed up through the library for the 10am walk, it would be best to come at 1pm if possible. 

Meet at the main parking lot off Snowden (600 Snowden Lane) across from Smoyer Park. Extra parking at Smoyer Park if needed. 

Sturdy shoes recommended.

The usual Sunday morning workday will be happening as well.

Friday, October 29, 2021

May's Barden Cafe is Born

Update: Through the cooler months, May's Barden Cafe will be open the first Sunday of each month, from 10-12, weather permitting. Mark your calendar for Nov. 7, Dec. 5, and so on.

There's a delightful new happening at the Barden in Herrontown Woods. Nicole Bergman, with help from Joanna Poniz, is hosting May's Barden Cafe. 

From 10-12 on Sunday, Oct. 24, they served coffee from Small World and some teas, along with a delicious pastry Nicole made. 

The name comes from Elizabeth Veblen's nickname May. Born in England, May was the force behind developing the tradition of tea in the Princeton math department and also at the Institute for Advanced Study. Nicole and Joanna are very much taking a cue from the Veblens' love of bringing people together. 

The pleasure of conversation and drink mixed well with the weekly workday that was going on at the same time. There's seating and tables at the gazebo as well as at various places along the pathways.

Future openings of May's Barden Cafe are planned for the first Sunday morning of each month, 10-12. That would make Nov. 7 a good time to come by. Thanks to Nicole and Joanna for bringing this idea so quickly from inspiration to fruition.

Thanks to FOHW board member Inge Regan for the first two photos in this post.

Friday, October 8, 2021

The Barden: Building a Better Bridge to the 21st Century

At the Herrontown Woods Barden (short for Botanical ARt garDEN), we like to think we're building a better bridge to the 21st century. 

In this case, it's literally a bridge. The Barden is a collective enterprise that has emerged out of a "fallen forest", where storms had blown down a pine grove planted long ago. Rather than neaten the place up by removing the dead trees, we have used those fallen trees as features and building material. Rootballs have become backdrops for gardens and displays, and in this case a sturdy trunk is becoming a bridge. 
For this bridge, Victorino is the primary visionary and craftsman, using skills and strategies he learned in his home country of Guatemala.

FOHW board member Keena was delighted with the project and helped clear blackberry brambles obstructing the route of the new bridge.

At a recent gathering, main caretaker of the Barden Andrew Thornton thanked the many volunteers who have made the Barden a home to delight and whimsy, along with all the native plants that border its winding pathways. He gave particular thanks to Rachelle Rebarber, Becca Shipan, Ethan Lee, and board member Keena Lipsitz for their devotion to the project in recent years.

The Barden works beautifully for a garden party, with many conversations scattered across its varied nooks and crannies, yet keeping a sense of a common gathering.

The next day, with some extra inspiration provided by the party, it was back to pulling stiltgrass and other weeds. Four years ago, the area we now call the Barden was a dense thicket of invasive, nonnative shrubs and vines. Kurt Tazelaar made it a project to turn the tide early on, laying the foundation for all the work volunteers have done since. In addition to 130 species of native plants, we also have a meditation garden, a zen garden, and particularly popular is the fairy garden of moss, sea shells, and mushroom sculptures. 

Volunteer workdays are Sunday mornings starting around 10am and continuing into early afternoon. 

Event at Veblen House Highlights Need to Preserve Old Growth Forest

On Sept. 24, the Friends of Herrontown Woods hosted a talk by Joan Maloof, author most recently of  Treepedia: A Brief Compendium of Arboreal Lore. The event was sponsored by the Princeton Environmental Film Festival, whose 2021 online programming begins Oct 12 and runs for two weeks.

From Joan Maloof's talk, it was clear that her deepest passion is for saving old growth forest. She founded the Old Growth Forest Network, which is seeking to save old growth in every county of the nation. She is seeking county coordinators to explore their respective counties for the best example of old growth forest. It's not clear whether Mercer County has one as yet. 

Mentioned during the talk was the great value of the 90 acre Landwin tract, which borders Herrontown Woods to the north and is currently threatened with development. The Ridgeview Conservancy is leading efforts to save that forest. 

A close look at the photograph will reveal that the Veblen House site has become a place not only for the community to gather, but also is now something of a community chair orphanage, where chairs abandoned curbside in Princeton can find a new home and continue their service to humanity. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Treepedia Author to Speak at Veblen House in Herrontown Woods

Joan Maloof, author of the delightful book Treepedia: A Brief Compendium of Arboreal Lore, will speak on the wooded grounds of Veblen House in Herrontown Woods, on Friday, Sept. 24 at 6pm. The Friends of Herrontown Woods is excited to be hosting the event, which is sponsored by the Princeton Environmental Film Festival.

Joan is a professor emeritus at Salisbury University, and founded the Old-Growth Forest Network to preserve, protect and promote the country's few remaining stands of old-growth forest. She has written many books about trees, with a particular focus on forests of the eastern U.S.. Treepedia is part of Princeton University Press' "Pedia" series.

Labyrinth Books will be on hand at the event with copies of the book as well.

This is a free outdoor event, with the Community Room at the library serving as backup in case of rain.

To park close to the event, please enter the Veblen House driveway at 452 Herrontown Road and join us on the lawn in front of Veblen House.

You can also park in the main parking lot for Herrontown Wood opposite the entrance to Smoyer Park. Follow the Orange Trail for a 5 minute walk to the Veblen House.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

"Among Trees" a Great Step FOHWard

A remarkable community act took place next to Veblen House this past month. Herrontown Woods has always sat quietly on the outskirts of Princeton, beyond many people's awareness, but on July 15, 

more than 100 people found their way to Herrontown Woods on the same enchanted evening. Chances are, that means another 50 or so were orbiting somewhere in the vicinity, searching but not quite finding this elusive destination. The record breaking congregation came together in response to the vision and talent 

of two professional actors, Vivia Font and Ben Steinfeld, who had assembled the scripts and performers for an evening of poetry, prose, and locally sourced music, aptly entitled Among Trees. Much of the script came from submissions by local writers, the inspired readings of which were interspersed with a broad array of musical vignettes. 

Adding greatly to the success of the event was the collaboration of the Princeton Public Library, whose public programming librarian Janie Hermann did so much to promote the event. Some of her photos are included in this post. 

Among Trees would not have come to pass if not for a chance encounter at the Small World cafe on Nassau St, where the Friends of Herrontown Woods' president and vice-president, Steve Hiltner and Pallavi Nuka, happened to be meeting to discuss Veblen House. At the next table over, Ben and Vivia were meeting to brainstorm ideas for theater performances in Princeton. Steve, having taken one of Ben's Shakespeare workshops, said hello, and everything followed from that. Small World contributed refreshing drinks for the event as well. 

A number of the performers have connections to the university. John Burkhalter is subsciptions manager for PU concerts by day, player of 18th century instrumental music by night. 

Monica Mugan and Beth Meyers formed the duo Damsel after becoming neighbors in Princeton. Both have partners associated with the university, and it's interesting to read that Monica and her partner Dan Trueman have been heavily influenced by Norwegian folk music, including use of a hardanger fiddle--a national instrument of Norway that originated not far from the Valdres Valley, where Oswald Veblen's grandparents lived before immigrating to America. 

According to a Norwegian American website article:
The central Norwegian regions of Hallingdal, Valdres, and Telemark have long been known for their rich concentration of folk musicians. With proximity to the Hardanger plateau, this region has a special claim on one of the most “Norwegian” parts of Norway’s cultural inheritance, the Hardanger fiddle.

Fiona Tyndall sang a lovely Irish ballad, Blooming Heather, accompanied by Ben.
Percussionist Mika Godbole performed a fascinating "speaking percussion" work combining poetry and percussion, using differently toned flower pots, entitled "To the Earth" by Frederic Rzewski.

It takes great skill and training to read a text while connecting fully with the audience. Actors Ben, Vivia, and Katharine Powell Roman handled this beautifully. One particularly moving reading was of Robert Frost's poem "Birches", read by Katharine and her son. 

The stage for this performance, a lawn next to Veblen House, was years in the setting. The house has sat empty since 1998, and through decades of neglect the grounds had become overgrown with invasive shrubs and vines, all of which began getting cleared by Kurt and Sally Tazelaar and other FOHW volunteers starting in 2013, revealing a tranquil and beautiful setting. Andrew Thornton, seen setting up a garden torch behind the stage, has been in many ways the keeper and fashioner of the grounds, both at Veblen House and the Barden. 

From trees came the setting, many of the instruments played, the stage, and even this bench, which was fashioned by volunteer Victorino out of a fallen black locust tree on the Veblen grounds. 

Thanks to the performers, the writers, and all those who have been setting a stage for good things to happen at Herrontown Woods.

Friday, August 6, 2021

Yoga and Habitat Next to Veblen House

This tiny frog made a surprise appearance on the grounds of Veblen House just as Gemma's Gratitude Yoga class was about to begin. Gemma's weekly classes, meeting Saturdays at 11am, are the perfect example of how we seek to set the stage at Herrontown Woods for good things to happen, whether it be for people or for frogs, which you have to think would be great at yoga if they gave it a try. 

Gemma's classes are "donation-based", meaning they are free, with all donations generously going to benefit the Friends of Herrontown Woods. 

The yoga classes add a spiritual dimension to weeding in the various gardens around Veblen House, as Gemma's voice wafts over the grounds, reciting a progression of positions for participants to take. 
The energy of the yoga sessions is very positive, and in a way, the weeding of a garden seeks to direct nature's energy towards more positive ends. Pulling the weedy plants like stiltgrass acquires more meaning if there are desired plants like boneset, Hibiscus and buttonbush that get liberated in the process and are given a better chance to grow. 

A greenheaded coneflower blooming in front of a birdhouse that a girlscout troop made--it's all positive, nurturing, like a yoga class.
Hanging out among the wildflowers has other benefits, like witnessing a clearwing moth close up, sipping nectar from this golfball-like congregation of buttonbush flowers,
and some other dainty pollinator that lacks a name. 
The creature was so insubstantial that it came as a surprise to see it cast a shadow. 

In the bottom photo, it can be fun to look for the three insects, two of which are casting shadows.