Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Among Trees Rescheduled for Saturday, June 18, 4pm

Among Trees, rained out this past weekend, has been rescheduled for this Saturday, June 18, at 4pm. This is a free event--a celebration of nature in songs, scenes, poetry and more--outdoors next to Veblen House in Herrontown Woods. Some of the readings, by professional actors, will be of new nature writings gathered from the Princeton community. The Princeton Public Library is co-hosting the event.

Parking at 452 Herrontown Road. Or park at the main parking lot at 600 Snowden Lane, across from the entrance to Smoyer Park, and walk up the orange trail to Veblen House.

Donations go to support the work of the Friends of Herrontown Woods. 

More information and a map at HerrontownWoods.org.

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Event: "Among Trees" Postponed Due to Rain

The return of Among Trees to the Veblen House grounds has been postponed, due to thunderstorms in the forecast.

Last year's Among Trees brought together on stage for the first time professional actors Vivia Font, Ben Steinfeld, and Kathryn Powell Roman, who have since formed the Princeton Actors Collective. 

Among Trees intersperses readings of nature poetry with music by area musicians, in the shade of the Veblen House grounds. 

Rescheduling is in the works. The postponement underscores the need for a sheltered indoor/outdoor space as a fallback for events such as this.

Friday, June 3, 2022

Recent Sightings at the Barden

One thing people love about the Barden is that there's always something new. In that respect, it is a dynamic landscape like a beach, or a river. Here are a few recent sightings. 

Thanks to Montgomery resident Laura Heil, the Barden now has a Free Little Library, tucked behind the kiosk next to the parking lot. The Princeton Public Library will be providing books. 

The gazebo at the Barden is one of several structures at Herrontown Woods saved from demolition. It was moved from 145 Ewing Street, where for decades it had been part of a lovely backyard garden. We also salvaged a rose bush from that garden, and this year, reunited with the gazebo, it is blooming. 

The Veblen Circle of native wildflowers is beginning a season of blooms with beardtongue, in the plantain family. The Barden is a great place to learn your plants, with many labeled.

One thing we're trying to get organized about is selling native plants. The many native plants we have in the Barden produce many seeds, many of which sprout wherever they fall, often in pathways and other places where we can't let them grow. Many of these we are digging up and potting up. One of these days, one of us will make a sign with a QR code so that people can pay online for any plants they wish to buy. 

Felix showed off some minnows he'd found in the stream that cascades down from the ridge, not far from the Barden. They soon found their way back to water. He's also found crayfish in the streams near the parking lot.

Many young visitors to the Barden have enjoyed taking a ride on Champion, the great rocking horse that we found on the curb on Aiken Avenue a couple years back. Champion was defintely not ready for the landfill. Recently, though, Champion had a bit of a fall and needed to go to the vet, who performed a complicated spring reattachment procedure. 

All went well, and Champion has returned, to rock the place once more.

The Barden is a botanical garden after all, and spring is a wonderful time to get acquainted with all the grass-like plants that aren't grasses. Here's blue-eyed grass, also called Sisyrhinchium, which if you look closely you'll see it has flat leaves and is actually related to iris. Providing a subtle background is pathrush, which looks like grass but is a rush, most commonly found growing in pathways, where it apparently likes getting stepped on.
Another grass-like plant is the sedge. Sedges have edges, meaning they have triangular stems. There many kinds of sedges, each kind with a differently shaped seedhead. This one's called morning star sedge--a fitting name. 
Softrush keeps its dark green leaves through the winter, then grows a whole new batch in the spring. The seeds perch on the stems like earrings.
New growth on a witch hazel had an unexpected color this year.
Little did we know that Herrontown Woods was listed as one of the Best Hikes for Children in New Jersey, in 2005. The book's description motivated a family to come from Long Beach Island to visit us with their three adorable little kids. What they particularly appreciated was how close everything was to the parking lot--the Barden, the vernal pool with tadpoles in it, and the stream just a little bit down the trail. 

The Barden is a place not only to see new things, but also to make new friends.

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

A Reading of Roxaboxen -- Saturday, June 4

At 10am on Saturday, June 4 at Herrontown Woods, a Princeton Public Library Youth Services librarian will read the timeless picture book "Roxaboxen" by Alice McLerran.

The reading of the story, about kids who build their own village out of rocks and boxes out in the Arizona countryside, will be followed by an hour of free play in the Botanical Art Garden (Barden), next to the preserve's main parking lot off Snowden Lane.

Thursday, May 5, 2022

1st Annual Earthday Celebration a Great Success

Graced by a beautiful day, the first annual Earthday celebration at Herrontown Woods was a delight beyond all expectations. Hundreds of people found their way to the preserve to learn and explore at an event we called "Becoming a Steward of Your Local Environment -- An Introduction." As described in a Town Topics article, the event was given first momentum by board member Inge Regan, and greatly helped by collaboration with staff at the Princeton Public Library.

With tables at Veblen House and at the Barden, and seven nature walks, it was the first event hosted by the Friends of Herrontown Woods that made full use of the preserve's many destinations. It also took the full participation of the board to coordinate an event with so many moving parts. 

This elaborate display, put together by Philip and Joanna Poniz, introduced visitors to mushroom identification and lore. Princeton Public Library staff had a table on pollinators, to go with an exhibit they are hosting at the library. Other tables provided a chance to learn about invasive species, recycling, herbs and vinegars, and nature mandalas. 

Nicole Bergman and her helpers hosted May's Cafes at both the Barden and the Veblen House. Something of a historic first for any organization: there were t-shirts available to buy. And Mathilde Burlion taught visitors about native plants, and sold some recently dug from the Barden.

Meanwhile, down at the main parking lot, Princeton University architect Forrest Meggers was giving people's bicycles a spring tuneup. 
He, Georgette, and their four daughters seldom use a car, preferring to bike around town, towing their dog in a toddler trailer. 

The seven nature walks were led by Fairfax Hutter, geology professor emeritus Lincoln Hollister, Tim Brown, and FOHW president Steve Hiltner. 
Plants like this sensitive fern were just opening up their leaves.
The evergreen Christmas fern was showing two generations of leaves. The darker leaves from last year lay flat on the ground, while fresh new leaves rise from the center.

At the Barden, ostrich ferns were unveiling their fronds in a beautiful fashion.
The event wound down around 3pm. The next day, painted earths still hung from a tupelo tree in the Barden. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

New Website for Friends of Herrontown Woods

In addition to this blog, the Friends of Herrontown Woods now has an honest-to-goodness website at HerrontownWoods.org. The new website is the go-to for the latest information on our organization and upcoming events. Many of the blog posts I have here can also be found on the new site. Thanks goes to Pilar Castro-Klitz and her team at More Canvas Consulting for building the new website.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Spring Flowers at Herrontown Woods

Herrontown Woods is starting to shake off winter and generate some color.  

Redbuds young and old are blooming next to Veblen House, and there's one at the Barden. It's a native, though all of these were either planted or proliferated from trees planted previously.
Dotting the woodland understory are crabapple trees. There is such a thing as a native crabapple tree, but I don't know if those at Herrontown Woods are among them.

Daffodils have been in their splendor near Veblen House and Cottage. They could have been planted by Elizabeth Veblen herself, or by one of the garden clubs that worked hard to renovate the gardens after she died in 1974. The daffodils follow early sweeps of snowdrops and scilla. 

Less dramatic yellow is the native yellow violet blooming near the Veblen barn, the small red structure near the cottage. 

Among other flowers to look for at Herrontown Woods this time of year are trout lilies, spring beauties, wood anemones and rue anemones.

Friday, March 25, 2022

Renovating Autumn Hill Trails

This year we've set out to improve the trails at Autumn Hill Reservation. The Friends of Herrontown Woods has used a similar approach at Herrontown Woods with success.  

The aim is to reroute a few of the trails to minimize muddiness and highlight some of the features that would otherwise go unseen, such as these four big boulders that got lifted up into the air by a tree's rootball as it fell. 

This old quarry site is hidden just fifteen feet from one of the trails. Click on the image and look closely to see the drill marks they used to split the boulder into chunks to haul away. That would have been about a century ago.

One thing we'd rather hikers not encounter is the ponding in some existing trails in late winter. Winter, when leaves have fallen and the woods is flooded with light, is the best time to search for better trail routes. In this case, we found higher ground running along an overgrown rock wall just a few yards to the left. 

If we didn't get around to moving the trail years ago, it may have something to do with the incredibly dense tangle of invasive shrubs--autumn olive, Linden viburnum, privet, and worst of all, thorny multiflora rose. It took four work sessions to cut through the thicket that not only blocked access to a better trail route but also obscured part of the preserve's history--the rock walls that once bordered farm fields. 

The fishhook-shaped thorns on multiflora rose punish anyone who thinks they can overcome this formidable, sprawling shrub with brute force. It takes a patient, even gentle approach to navigate through all the thorny branches to cut the shrub at the base. Even then, the thorns prove unavoidable. Anyone who forgets their work gloves will pay. 

There's a payoff, though, for all the hard work of cutting through fallen trees and clearing invasive shrubs. Mixed in with the invasives are some native spicebush, high bush blueberry, and flowering dogwood. It's satisfying to rescue these from the burden of invasive overgrowth. 

A few more work sessions and visitors to Autumn Hill will be able to better experience the preserve's historical and natural features while walking on drier ground.

Saturday, March 12, 2022

A Geology Walk at Herrontown Woods (POSTPONED)

On Sunday, March 13, Princeton geology professor emeritus Lincoln Hollister will lead a guided walk through Herrontown Woods explaining the geological features and history of the area. If you thought the boulders were deposited by a glacier, you're in for a surprise.

The walk is at 1pm. A limited number of spots are available. Click here to sign up.

Next time you walk the yellow trail, notice how the boulders along the stream start out squarish, but become more rounded as you head up onto the ridge. These two shapes were produced in different geologic eras.

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.