Notes From Garden and Afield: July 16-July 23

Article and photos by Joe Sapia

Note: The yard references are to my house in the section of Monroe between Helmetta and Jamesburg in South Middlesex County. My yard is in a Pine Barrens outlier on the Inner Coastal Plain, the soil is loamy, and my neighborhood is on the boundary of Gardening Zones 6b (cooler) and 7a (warmer). Afield references are to the Pine Barrens around Helmetta, unless otherwise noted. Notes and photographs are for the period covered, unless otherwise noted.

Queen Anne’s lace along a roadside in Monroe, Middlesex County.

THE DRIVE-BY NATURALIST: During the week, I noticed the white-flowered Queen Anne’s lace, “Daucus carota,” blooming along various roadsides. Also, blue-flowered chicory, “Cichorium intybus,” remains in bloom. This got me thinking, how we can observe nature as we drive by. As I try to point out, keep your eyes open – for plantlife and wildlife, along with looking up at the daytime and night skies. Nature is around us, so do not miss out on it. And keep the camera ready!

Here, Queen Anne’s lace, the white flower, and chicory, the blue flower, in bloom along a roadside.

ON MY DRIVE-BYS: Despite the warm temperatures during the week, I have been watching for the changing colors of foliage. Yes, it is only July, but the “fall” foliage changing of colors should be starting right about now in the wetlands in the Pine Barrens around Helmetta. I have not seen it yet, but I generally look for changing colors in swamps beginning somewhere in the July 15-to-July 31 period.

Here, leaves changing colors in 2015, late July, at Cranberry Bog in the Pine Barrens around Helmetta.

SPOTTED ON A DRIVE-BY: As I was putting together this week’s “Garden and Afield,” I shot some last-minute photographs and was driving home when I noticed some deer, “Odocoileus virginianus,” just off the road near Manalapan Brook on the Monroe-Spotswood boundary, Middlesex County. Usually when you see a fawn, Mama is nearby. On this day, though, I caught what I consider an uncommon sight, fawns and a buck (whose antlers were in velvet). Mama Deer was probably keeping an eye on the fawns from nearby in the woods.

A fawn and a buck in Monroe, Middlesex County.

Two fawns in Monroe, Middlesex County.

LOW-MOISTURE-IN-THE-AIR BLUE SKY: Ever notice days when the sky just has that clear look to it? Based on my Roman Catholic upbringing and 16 years in Catholic schools, I call it a “Blessed Mother Blue Sky,” because the sky has the look of the blue clothing associated with the Virgin Mary. Joey Slezak, my go-to science guy in the Pine Barrens around Helmetta, calls it a “Bluebird Sky.” “The first I heard ‘Bluebird Skies’ is (when I was) skiing,” Joey said. “People talking about it. You have white (snowy) ground contrasting the blue sky.” Joey, who has a bachelor’s degree in meteorology from Rutgers University and has completed his master’s degree course work in meteorology at the university, explained the clearness translates as “low moisture” in the air.

The clear blue sky is a result of low moisture in the air as the moon wanes after the July 8-9 overnight Full Thunder Moon. The next full moon is the August 7-8 overnight Full Red Moon

GARDEN ENEMIES: I have not seen the ground hog and its offspring lately, although the wood steps at one of my house doors is collapsing into their burrow. The rabbits are always around. Then, the other day, I found deer droppings and hoof prints in my garden. Finally, I found the tops of my tomato plants snipped off. Well, there goes this year’s tomato crop….

A snipped-off tomato plant in the garden.

WATERING THE GARDEN OBSESSION, NO. 1: On Sunday, July 16, for the first time since planting the food garden around May 20, I was able to water it completely by hand, using water I had accumulated in garbage can reservoirs. I used roughly 30 gallons for the 950-square-foot, or 315-row-feet garden. Now, to replenish the 20-gallon and 30-gallen barrels with rainwater, cellar de-humidifier water, water caputured while sprinkling the garden using the house system, and water from Manalapan Brook. (I keep the barrels covered so as not to promote mosquito development.)

WATERING THE GARDEN OBSESSION, NO. 2: With the water accumulated in my barrels, I thought I could cheat a little, by hooking up a simmer pump and hose to a sprinkler, rather than walking the garden with sprinkling cans. Well, I clogged the sprinkler, which required me unclogging it – but not until I gave up on using the pump for sprinkling. I guess the pump picked up gunk from the water barrel. And I am not even sure the pump was powerful enough to propel the sprinkler properly.

WATERING THE GARDEN, OBSESSION NO. 3 — MANALAPAN BROOK: I grabbed two buckets and took the walk of a few hundred feet to Manalapan Brook, the section between “Jamesburg Lake” (Lake Manalapan) and “Spotswood Lake” (DeVoe Lake). There, I was greeted by my friends, ebony jewelwing damselflies, “Calopteryx maculate.” I waded into the Brook, filled the two buckets, took some photographs, and headed home.

Manalapan Brook in the section of Monroe between Helmetta and Jamesburg, looking downstream toward Helmetta.

ELSEWHERE IN THE GARDEN: I am awaiting cantaloupe/mushmelon and sweet corn, both seemingly behind on the calendar from last year. The tomatillos, which I did not plant, are ready for harvesting; I will pass them along to a co-worker. Otherwise, I had some pea seeds laying around I decided to plant about a week or so ago; They are sprouting.

THE SIZE OF MY GARDEN: Friend, fellow hiker, and fellow gardener Priscilla “Peppy” Bath had an interesting observation about my garden: “Your vegetable garden is so good as you tell about it. I expected it to be much bigger. …Perhaps it would be interesting to others that you do not have one to two acres, but just a normal back yard.” Yes, my yard is only about a quarter-acre. “It would possibly encourage others to make a vegetable garden in their backyards,” Peppy said. I think people do not realize how productive a small garden could be. So, I reached out to friend Diane Larson, who is the home horticulturist and Master Gardener coordinator for the Rutgers University Extension Service office in Freehold, Monmouth County. The Monmouth County Master Gardeners garden is about 40 feet by 50 feet, or about 2,000 square feet. From 2006 to 2016, or over 11 growing seasons, the garden has produced 26,000 pounds of vegetables – an average of about 2,364 pounds per year, all donated to food pantries serving the needy. “The best part, besides all the produce going to food pantries, is that the MGs learn so much out there,” Diane said. “Some have never grown vegetables and they love it.”

The Monmouth County Master Gardeners garden in Freehold Township. This 40-foot by 50-foot garden has averaged a yield of 2,364 pounds per year from 2006 to 2016, with all the food donated to the needy.

Another view of the Monmouth County Master Gardeners garden.

ZINNIA OBSESSION: My new obsessive-compulsive fascination – the zinnias I planted to attract pollinators to the food garden. For next year, I plan to dig up the front lawn and plant zinnias there, too.

Zinnias in the garden.

FIRE IN THE MAIN PINE BARRENS: A wildfire has burned about 3,500 acres in Wharton State Forest. The fire remained burning as of Saturday, July 22. The good news is the fire — whose cause is, so far, undetermined — is not near buildings, which means the fire, too, will help keep the Pine Barrens a pine barrens. The Pine Barrens is an early succession ecosystem, so the fire – by knocking down the oaks that would shade out the pines – keeps succession in check. The pines may look like burned spars, but they are alive and can regenerate from their trunks, along with root growth and new growth of wildfire-spread seeds; The oaks, on the other hand, cannot regenerate from the trunks, but have to start all over, so to speak, by root growth. On Saturday, the fire was considered “contained,” meaning firefighters had a safe perimeter around it.

ELSEWHERE IN THE YARD: I am slowly reclaiming my yard after 4-1/2 weeks of a major remodeling project on my house – new roof, soffits, gutters and drainpipes, and siding. (For the first time since the house was built in 1952, it is no longer mint green. The retro green has been replaced by barn red.) So, I have been cutting the lawn and trimming shrubs, along with figuring how to approach my neglected garden. And I finally put up the screen tent that has been sitting in a box in my garage for a few weeks. Now, without getting bit by mosquitoes, I can spend warm nights in the screen tent reading, writing, listening to the radio, or just enjoying being outside. Next year, I plan to put the screen tent in a better location, farther from the house, closer to the garden. So, I put up the screen tent and almost immediately it began raining, then monsooning. …Oh, yes, the contractors still have a few odds and ends to finish, but I do have the yard back under my control.

The brand-new, and rain-drenched, screen tent in my backyard.

SOURCES, BOOK NO. 1: One of my book sources is “Dictionary of Plant Names” by Allen J. Coombes, 1985 to 1989, Timber Press. I have had this book for an estimated 25 or more years and have repeatedly turned to it. It lists plants by common and scientific names, cross-referencing the two – for example, mountain laurel, “Kalmia latifolia.” It goes on, saying the genus name is from naturalist Pehr Kalm (who did work in the 1700s in the South Jersey area) and the species name translates from Latin as “broad-leaved.” Mountain laurel, according to the book, is also known as “calico bush.” I use this book both on its own and in conjunction with plant-illustration books.

“Dictionary of Plant Names” by Allen J. Coombes

TURKEY FOLLOWUP: Bob Eriksen, a retired turkey biologist of the state Department of Environmental Protection, made some observations after seeing the photograph of the wild turkeys, “Meleagris gallopavo,” in the Pine Barrens around Helmetta published in the July 9 “Garden and Afield.” Bob said, “Good to see a hen turkey with at least three poults. They are all old enough that they likely will survive to adulthood.”

A turkey hen and her three poults in the Pine Barrens around Helmetta, specifically in the Jamesburg Park section of East Brunswick, Middlesex County.

ATLANTIC OCEAN TEMPERATURES: The ocean temperatures have run from about 70 degrees to the lower 80s. On July 18, Tuesday, Glenn “Hurricane” Schwartz, a Philadelphia television Channel 10 meteorologist, said online, “The Atlantic City ocean temperature is now up to 80 degrees. That’s practically unheard of for July. (It) peaks in August. 10 degrees above average.”

UPCOMING COUNTY FAIRS: Monmouth County Fair is July 26, Wednesday, to July 30, Sunday, in Freehold Township, https://www.monmouthcountyparks.com/page.aspx?ID=2492. Mercer County 4-H Fair, July 29, Saturday, and July 30, Sunday, in Hopewell Township, http://mercer.njaes.rutgers.edu/4h/fair/. Middlesex County Fair, August 7, Monday, to August 13, Sunday, in East Brunswick, http://middlesexcountyfair.com/. Somerset County 4-H Fair, August 9, Wednesday, to August 11, Friday, in Bridgewater, http://www.somersetcounty4h.org/fair/. Hunterdon County 4-H and Agricultural Fair, August 23, Wednesday, to August 27, Sunday.

SUNRISE/SUNSET: For July 23, Sunday, to July 29, Saturday, the sun will rise at about 5:50 a.m. and set about 8:18 p.m.

WEATHER: The National Weather Service forecasting station for the area is at http://www.weather.gov/phi/.

A blue jay rests in the garden, surrounded by sweet corn, tomatillos, and zinnia.

Joe Sapia, 60, is a lifelong Monroe resident. He is a Pine Barrens naturalist and an organic vegetable-fruit gardener.
He gardens the same backyard plot as did his Italian-American father, Joe Sr., and his Polish-immigrant, maternal grandmother, Annie Poznanski Onda. Both are inspirations for his food gardening. Joe is active with the Rutgers University Master Gardeners/Middlesex County program. He draws inspiration on the Pine Barrens around Helmetta from his mother, Sophie Onda Sapia, who lived her whole life in these Pines, and his Grandma Annie. Joe’s work also is at @JosephSapia on Twitter.com, along with Facebook.com on the Jersey Midlands page.

NJDEP – Notice of Rule Proposal CZMA, FWPA, FHACA

NJDEP – Notice of Rule Proposal

July 17, 2017

Coastal Zone Management Rules, N.J.A.C. 7:7
Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act Rules, N.J.A.C. 7:7A
Flood Hazard Area Control Act Rules, N.J.A.C. 7:13
Proposed amendments, repeals, and new rules

PUBLIC NOTICE
Take notice that the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (Department) is proposing amendments, repeals, and new rules to the Coastal Zone Management Rules in response to issues identified through stakeholder outreach and to address other issues that have arisen since the July 6, 2015 adoption of the consolidated coastal rules. The proposed amendments are related to shellfish aquaculture, filled water’s edge, dune walkovers and other beach and dune development, CAFRA findings, V zones, scenic resources and high-rise structures, permits to apply herbicide, trails, building access in flood hazard areas, application requirements, and rule rationales. Amendments and new rules are additionally proposed in the Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act Rules and Flood Hazard Area Control Act Rules as part of the Department’s continuing effort to align the three land use permitting programs to the extent possible.

The proposal is scheduled to be published in the New Jersey Register dated July 17, 2017. A copy of the proposal is available at http://www.nj.gov/dep/rules/proposals/20170717a.pdf and from LexisNexis free public access to the New Jersey Register, www.lexisnexis.com/njoal.

Public hearings concerning the proposal are scheduled as follows:

Thursday, August 10, 2017, at 6:00 P.M.
City of Long Branch Municipal Building
Council Chambers, 2nd Floor
344 Broadway
Long Branch, NJ 07740

Tuesday, August 15, 2017, at 10:00 A.M.
Campus Center Theater
Stockton University
101 Vera King Farris Drive
Galloway, NJ 08205

Written comments may be submitted electronically by September 15, 2017 at http://www.nj.gov/dep/rules/comments; or in hard copy to:

Gary J. Brower, Esq.
ATTN: DEP Docket No. 11-17-06
NJ Department of Environmental Protection
Office of Legal Affairs
Mail Code 401-04L; PO Box 402
401 East State Street, 7th Floor
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Notes from Garden and Afield: July 9- 15, 2017

Article and photos by Joe Sapia

 

Note: The yard references are to my house in the section of Monroe between Helmetta and Jamesburg in South Middlesex County. My yard is in a Pine Barrens outlier on the Inner Coastal Plain, the soil is loamy, and my neighborhood is on the boundary of Gardening Zones 6b (cooler) and 7a (warmer). Afield references are to the Pine Barrens around Helmetta, unless otherwise noted. Notes and photographs are for the period covered, unless otherwise noted.

Blooming along a roadside in East Windsor, Mercer County, the beautiful, but non-native, chicory, “Cichorium intybus.”

IN THE FOOD GARDEN: I picked a cherry tomato and some carrots. Otherwise, the garden is between harvesting the early season crop of lettuce and awaiting the warmer weather crop of sweet corn, cantaloupe/mushmelon, and more tomatoes. So, come on pollination – the sweet corn has begun forming tassels (the male flower) and some silk (the female flower), while the mushmelon continues to flower in yellow.

Tassels, or the male flower, on the sweet corn in the garden.

ZINNIA IN THE FOOD GARDEN: Hopefully attracting pollinators to the food garden this year are the score of blooming zinnia of orange, yellow, purple, pink, white, and rose. I have been watching more and more flowers develop this week and, in turn, various pollinators – butterflies, bees, and flies – visiting the zinnia. This is my first year using zinnia, getting the idea from watching pollinators visiting the zinnia at Bobby Laurino’s R.J. Laurino Farms in Colts Neck (www.rjlaurinofarms.com) and Andy Capelli’s Capelli Farms in Middletown (www.capellifarms.com). For next year, I plan to go zinnia-crazy, interspersing rows throughout the food garden and converting more lawn to zinnia growing.

Zinnia in bloom in the garden.

FRUITING IN THE WILDS: Heads up in the wilds, blackberries, genus “Rubus,” should be fruiting here and there. Yes, they are edible – and taste great! From the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, http://www.nj.gov/agriculture/farmtoschool/documents/seasonality-chart/F2S%20Blackberries.pdf.

NEW BRUNSWICK IN FLOWER: I work part-time at Rutgers University’s Jules and Jane Plangere Writing Center at the College Avenue Campus in New Brunswick. But my parking area is cross-town, about 2 miles away at the Douglass College campus. This time of year, especially, I try to walk both ways. The walk gives me a great opportunity to photograph the city of my birth – St. Peter Hospital, Class of 1956. This week, I photographed flowers – white, light pink, dark pink, yellow, red. (Side note: For about half of my 31-year newspaper reporting career at the Asbury Park Press, Mr. Plangere was an owner. Mr. Plangere died in September at 95 years old – but he is still taking care of me!)

Flowering New Brunswick.

More of flowering New Brunswick.

STARLINGS: Blame these European invaders on lovers of playwright William Shakespeare! According to Cornell University’s All About Birds website, “All the European Starlings (“Sturnus vulgaris”) in North America descended from 100 birds set loose in New York’s Central Park in the early 1890s. The birds were intentionally released by a group who wanted America to have all the birds that Shakespeare ever mentioned. It took several tries, but eventually the population took off. Today, more than 200 million European Starlings range from Alaska to Mexico, and many people consider them pests.”

A starling on a New Brunswick lawn.

GARDEN TOOLS: As an only child, I inherited the house I grew up in, moving back to it in 2002. My parents, Joe Sapia Sr. and Sophie Onda Sapia, are the original owners of the house, dating to 1953 and my maternal grandmother, Annie Poznanski Onda, moved in with us in probably 1966. So, basically, three generations have lived here, meaning three generations of “stuff” reside here. When I moved back, I rented a 30-cubic-yard trash bin and cleaned house, except for things that were sentimental and things I figured I could use. So, today, if I need something, before I go out and buy it, I check if I have it around the house or check to see if I can rig something together from what I have around the house. This includes gardening tools. I have a shovel I use frequently and a garden claw for weeding, both with loose handles. A few days ago, I got tired of this loose-handle stuff. So, I used a technique Uncle John Onda taught me when I was a kid: place the item in water, the wood will swell, end of the loose object. I taped the claw and the shovel to the way I wanted the handles positioned, then I put them in my 20-gallon garbage can of gardening water I keep handy. About 36 hours later, I pulled them out – gardening tools that no longer have loose handles. This week, I took another shovel and am doing the same thing.

This shovel is about to be soaked in the barrel of garden water.

The shovel handle soaking, and swelling, in the barrel of gardening water.

OCEAN TEMPS: Atlantic Ocean water temperatures at the Jersey Shore are running at about 73 degrees to 76 degrees. The average at Sandy Hook for July 16 to 31 should be 71 degrees, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

RIP CURRENTS: This season, you may have seen various warnings of rip currents during television or radio weather reports. Rip currents – also referred to incorrectly as “rip tides” – are currents of water being returned to the ocean from the beach. A rip current dissipates within hundreds of feet, but that is enough time to sweep a swimmer out into the ocean or make it difficult for that swimmer to swim back to the beach against a rip. Basically, there are three things a swimmer can do. One, rips are relatively narrow, so the swimmer can try getting out of the rip by swimming parallel to Shore, rather than back in, until he or she is out of the rip. Two, ride out the rip and, then, swim parallel to Shore and back in. Three, float and signal for help. See NOAA’s advice, http://www.ripcurrents.noaa.gov/surviving.shtml.

WHITE ORCHID IN THE PINES: As its name suggests, the pink lady slipper orchid, “Cypripedium acaule,” generally has a pink flower. But rarely, the flower can be white. During this year’s pink lady slipper blooming season, basically late April-early May into June, outdoorsman Jay Schoss, who is a trustee of the Outdoor Club of South Jersey, found a rare white one in the Whitesbog, Burlington County, area of the Pine Barrens. I have never seen one that I can recall in my 60 years! A great find. (Thanks to outdoorswoman Faye Bray, an Outdoor Club member, for taking the photo and coming through in supplying it. The white variety was “freaking remarkable” and “absolutely beautiful,” Faye said. If you get a chance, take an OCSJ hike led by Jay or Faye. Both are great leaders and great people.)

rare white flower of a pink lady-slipper orchid.

LAST WEEK’S DRAGON FLY: Roger Dreyling, a lifelong Jamesburg area outdoorsman and my cousin through marriage, identified the dragonfly I could not identify last week. It is a common whitetail, “Plathemis lydia.”

A common whitetail dragonfly in the garden earlier in July.

SUNRISE/SUNSET: For July 16, Sunday, to July 22, Saturday, the sun will rise at about 5:45 and set about 8:25 p.m.

WEATHER: The National Weather Service forecasting station for the area is at http://www.weather.gov/phi/.

NORTHERN LIGHTS: Mass ejections from an explosion at the Sun are to reach Earth Sunday, July 16, possibly enhancing viewing of the Aurora Borealis, or “Northern Lights.” The National Weather Service is saying the Northern Lights may be visible as far south as the Great Lake States and New England. Hmmmm, close enough to us to take a look into the Night Sky on the Sunday-Monday overnight.

I HAVE GOT MY YARD BACK: After almost five weeks of a house-remodeling project (altering the roofline, new roof, new siding, new gutters and drainpipes, and little things here and there), I have reclaimed my yard from the contractors – not totally, because a few odds and ends remain in the coming week or two, but generally. This means, I can get back to some very-needed yardwork – cutting the lawn, trimming the shrubs, and maintaining the garden.

The hardwood forest at Van Dyke Farm, a combination of farm and woods in South Brunswick, Middlesex County.

Joe Sapia, 60, is a lifelong Monroe resident. He is a Pine Barrens naturalist and an organic vegetable-fruit gardener.
He gardens the same backyard plot as did his Italian-American father, Joe Sr., and his Polish-immigrant, maternal grandmother, Annie Poznanski Onda. Both are inspirations for his food gardening. Joe is active with the Rutgers University Master Gardeners/Middlesex County program. He draws inspiration on the Pine Barrens around Helmetta from his mother, Sophie Onda Sapia, who lived her whole life in these Pines, and his Grandma Annie. Joe’s work also is at @JosephSapia on Twitter.com, along with Facebook.com on the Jersey Midlands page.

 

Notes from Garden and Afield: July 2-July 8, 2017

Article and photos by Joe Sapia

Note: The yard references are to my house in the section of Monroe between Helmetta and Jamesburg in South Middlesex County. My yard is in a Pine Barrens outlier on the Inner Coastal Plain, the soil is loamy, and my neighborhood is on the boundary of Gardening Zones 6b (cooler) and 7a (warmer). Afield references are to the Pine Barrens around Helmetta, unless otherwise noted. Notes and photographs are for the period covered, unless otherwise noted.

A rainy day begins to clear at a farm on Plainsboro Road in Cranbury, Middlesex County.

IN THE GARDEN: Harvesting-wise, the garden has slowed down, with the lettuce taking on a bitter taste, suggesting it is done for the cool season. I will plant more lettuce later in the summer for the fall season. Otherwise, I wait for tomatoes, corn, and cantaloupe. I do not know what happened to my cucumbers, except that I cannot find any growing. So, again, it is the three Ws: Water, Weed, and Wait. But the big discovery, or re-discovery, was the tomatillo plants growing, and fruiting, in the garden. I never planted them, but, for at least three gardening seasons, there they are. So, add them to my future harvest.

Tomatillos, which I never planted, fruiting in the garden.

AROUND THE YARD: I try to observe, whether it be looking around the yard or the sky (both night and day). As the week wrapped up and I was in the garden, I saw a red-tailed hawk, “Buteo jamaicensis,” soaring over the neighborhood. The Knock Out roses continue blooming nicely, the second bloom of the season. And I am visited by rabbits, probably “Sylvilagus floridanus,” and one of my favorites in wildlife, the catbird, “Dumetella carolinensis.” A catbird, unsure if it is the same one, keeps me company in the yard, whether I am gardening or simply hanging out.

A red-tailed hawk soaring over the neighborhood.

The yard’s Knock Out roses are in their second bloom of the season.

PINE BARRENS AROUND HELMETTA: Over the week, I walked afield only once and briefly. But I am around the wilds and drive paved roads through them daily. And I keep the camera at hand. I photograph a lot in a capture-the-moment way. So, I avoid using a cellphone, because it takes too long to unlock and it is too difficult to maneuver one-handed, instead using a point-and-shoot camera. I keep the camera at the ready — on the dashboard of my Jeep or, when I am doing yard work, in my pocket. Alas, this week, I was driving, I could not stop the Jeep, grab the camera, and focus the camera quickly and properly, missing a good photo of a group of turkeys, “Meleagris gallopavo,” with a deer, “Odocoileus virginianus,” in the background, around a woodpile as I drove past a house in the woods of Jamesburg Park. But I did photograph the turkeys and deer separately.

The deer in the Jamesburg Park section of East Brunswick.

The Jamesburg Park turkeys.

WATERING THE GARDEN: I continue to obsess over watering the garden. This year, I have avoided “brown water,” or already used water such as bath water. Instead, I use freshwater, a combination of house system water, water from Manalapan Brook, captured rain water, and water from the cellar de-humidifier. I water daily, always before 10 a.m. so water is not lost to evaporation in the heat of the day and leaving the day for the plants and soil to dry, keeping fungus away. Now, I am considering watering fewer times a week, but in heavier doses. Friend, gardener, and environmental scientist Virginia Lamb had these thoughts, “I only water maybe twice a week and directly on plants, individual or rows. Probably roughly 2 quarts per plant. … Also you need to add mulching to your list of three Ws. …It will help retain moisture and keep weeds down. Also, add compost to the soil.”

EBONY JEWELWING AT THE BROOK: Manalapan Brook, which my family through my maternal side has lived along more than 100 years, runs about 400 feet from my front door. I regularly take a walk across the street and head to the Brook at the edge of the woods. This week, I encountered one of my favorite wildlife species, the ebony jewelwing damselfly, “Calopteryx maculate” – a beautiful combination of neon green and deep black. Two were flying around. I was hoping at least one would land on my outstretched arm, but not on this day. Eventually, I grabbed a bucket of water for my garden and went back home.

An ebony jewelwing rests along the bank of Manalapan Brook.

DAMSELFLY OR DRAGONFLY: When I was visiting Manalapan Brook, I also saw a dragonfly. What kind? I do not know. But I knew it was a dragonfly because at rest, its wings were like those of an airplane, parallel to the ground. A damselfly rests with its wings perpendicular to the ground.

A dragonfly on the bank of Manalapan Brook.

SPOTSWOOD LAKE: Spotswood Lake, also known as DeVoe Lake or Mill Lake, is formed by the damming of Manalapan Brook. I happened to be at Spotswood Lake this week when the moon rose above it early in the night. So, there was a nice combination of the moon and soft sunlight.

The moon over Spotswood Lake.

Soft sunlight on Spotswood Lake.

BALD EAGLES: I saw a Facebook report of a bald eagle, “Haliaeetus leucocephalus,” on road kill in Jamesburg. Debbie Sullivan Farrell reported, “Did anyone else see the eagle by the rescue squad at 9:50 this morning? I turned onto Gatzmer from Hillside and was going towards the tracks. An eagle was checking out some road kill and flew off towards the firehouse. It was huge!!! Then I saw the unmistakable white head. It was about 20 feet from me. It was an amazing sight.” The state Department of Environmental Protection 2016 bald eagle nest summary, http://www.conservewildlifenj.org/downloads/cwnj_736.pdf. Bald eagles are “endangered” (in immediate peril) as breeders and “threatened” (could become endangered if conditions persist) as non-breeders. In 1982, there was only one bald eagle nest in New Jersey; Last year, there were about 150.

GROVERS MILL: Does the name of this village in West Windsor, Mercer County, sound familiar. Well, it was the site of the Martian landing in the 1938 radio play adaptation -– by Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre on the Air — of H.G. Wells’s novel, “The War of the Worlds.” Here is the broadcast that scared the country, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xs0K4ApWl4g. Here is the story of the “panic broadcast,” http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/infamous-war-worlds-radio-broadcast-was-magnificent-fluke-180955180/.

A view of Grovers Mill Pond from the spillway. The Pond is formed by the damming of Bear Brook.

RECORD GARDEN THOUGHTS: As I work the garden, I have thoughts on how I can improve it in 2018. I likely will not simply remember these ideas, so I am writing them down – things such as rotating crops, keeping only a lawnmower’s width between rows, maybe doing less space between plantings, and so on.

“FALL FOLIAGE” IN THE PINE BARRENS: Summer lovers, you probably do not want to hear about colder weather coming. But those of you venturing into the Pine Barrens, start looking for the changing colors of leaves in the swamps – up here in the Pine Barrens around Helmetta, roughly between July 15 and 31; maybe a week or two later in the main Pine Barrens to the south.

SEX!!!: Last week’s photo of the man turtle loving the woman turtle seems to have recharged the batteries of some readers of Garden and Afield. One woman emailed, “Love that perched turtle.” But this is my favorite e-mail exchange:

“You men love to watch herpetological porn!,” she said. “I’ve seen more pictures of snakes and turtles mating. LOL. Goes across species boundaries.”

“Baptist girls know about herp porn????” I replied.

“I do not seek out frog, turtle or snake porn!” – a likely story.

“It arrives on my desk via studies on sites like the Stafford Business Park, where the native northern pine snakes there were monitored for seven years via radio telemetry,” she continued. “The largest amount of notes was always on how much each individual male scored each season with which female. LOL. Pages and pages and pages of data and photos.”

Uh, she is an environmental scientist who studies herpetological pornography for a living….

SUNRISE/SUNSET: For July 9, Sunday, to July 15, Saturday, the sun will rise at about 5:35 a.m. to 5:40 a.m. and set about 8:25 to 8:30 p.m.

WEATHER: The National Weather Service forecasting station for the area is at http://www.weather.gov/phi/.

CORRECTION/CLARIFICATION: In the 2017, June 4 to 17, issue of Garden and Afield, I referred to a rabbit in the yard. I, likely, had the wrong scientific name. The correct scientific name probably is “Sylvilagus floridanus,” the eastern cottontail.

Some kind of dragonfly in the garden.

Joe Sapia, 60, is a lifelong Monroe resident. He is a Pine Barrens naturalist and an organic vegetable-fruit gardener.
He gardens the same backyard plot as did his Italian-American father, Joe Sr., and his Polish-immigrant, maternal grandmother, Annie Poznanski Onda. Both are inspirations for his food gardening. Joe is active with the Rutgers University Master Gardeners/Middlesex County program. He draws inspiration on the Pine Barrens around Helmetta from his mother, Sophie Onda Sapia, who lived her whole life in these Pines, and his Grandma Annie. Joe’s work also is at @JosephSapia on Twitter.com, along with Facebook.com on the Jersey Midlands page.

Notes from Garden and Afield: June 25-July 1, 2017

Article and photos by Joe Sapia

Note: The yard references are to my house in the section of Monroe between Helmetta and Jamesburg in South Middlesex County. My yard is in a Pine Barrens outlier on the Inner Coastal Plain, the soil is loamy, and my neighborhood is on the boundary of Gardening Zones 6b (cooler) and 7a (warmer). Afield references are to the Pine Barrens around Helmetta, unless otherwise noted. Notes and photographs are for the period covered, unless otherwise noted.

Pickerel weed flowering in Helmetta Pond.

Sunset at Helmetta Pond.

TURTLES: I am still hearing a lot of talk about people coming across turtles, including misidentifying box turtles, “Terrapene carolina Carolina,” as water turtles. While a box turtle will go into water, it is generally a land turtle. So, if it is necessary to move a turtle for its safety, simply move it in the direction it is traveling. In recent days, Garden and Afield reader Bill McGovern came across two box turtles in his yard in Brick, Ocean County, and he reported, “Of course, I didn’t disturb the moment!” But he did supply a photograph of the mating turtles.

Mating box turtles in Bill McGovern’s front yard in Brick, Ocean County. An easy way to identify the gender of box turtles is by their plastrons, or underside. A female’s is flat. A male’s is concave, so he can ride the female in mating, as shown in the photo.

BLUEBERRIES: Sophie Majka, a long-time neighbor of my family in the Pine Barrens around Helmetta, told me a little bit of local lore: Blueberries are ready to pick on St. John’s Day.

Saturday, June 24, was St. John the Baptist Day. So, a few days later, I did a quick check of the woods and found a few berries — actually, probably black huckleberry, “Gaylussacia baccata.” A few ripened blue, most still green. Based on reports I have been seeing from the main Pine Barrens to the south, they have been ripe there for several days. The berries will be around for the upcoming weeks.

Black huckleberry — along with low-shrub blueberries of the genus “Vaccinium” — are found on the uplands as the shrub understory of the forest. In the fall, these low-shrub berry plants are easy to identify because they turn flame red with the changing of “fall foliage” colors.

For those more daring, head to the swamps for taller blueberry bushes of the genus “Vaccinium.”

Just a note: Wild blueberries are not commercially cultivated berries, so they are smaller.

A few years ago, Mrs. Majka and I spent some time up Jamesburg Park, picking the low-shrub blueberries. Mrs. Majka died at 92-years-old in March. This week, in the area where she and I picked, berries were ripening, providing a nice memory of Mrs. Majka.

 

 

“Blueberries,” probably black huckleberries, at Jamesburg Park.

IN THE GARDEN: I am harvesting carrots, but not to the extent I thought I would. Lettuce has taken on a bitter taste, so I stopped harvesting that. Cantaloupe and zinnia plants are flowering. Also watching tomato, cucumber, and sweet corn grow. Aside from harvesting carrots, I am back to the three Ws: Weed, Water, and Wait.

Zinnia, with which I hope to attract pollinators for the food plants, beginning to bloom in the garden.

GARDENING KNOW-HOW: I use various sources to learn about my food gardening: my colleagues at the Rutgers University Cooperative Extension/Middlesex County Master Gardening program, other gardeners, farmers, farm-garden shows and articles. In her column this week in the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper, Sally McCabe talked about gardening deadlines associated with the Fourth of July, including it being the last time of the season to plant tomatoes. I had already planted tomato by seed and plant, but with the early lettuce done, I had gardening space to spare. After Sally’s column, I happened to be near one of my favorite gardening centers, Tony’s Farm and Garden Center in Windsor, Mercer County. At Tony’s, I picked up 12 plants in six varieties of Chef Jeff’s tomatoes. And following grandson Tony Ciaccio’s advice, I got them in the ground immediately.

A last planting of tomatoes – various Chef Jeff’s brand – in the garden.

WATERING THE GARDEN: I water the garden daily, giving it a good soaking before 10 a.m. I either use hose-and-sprinkler, tapping house water, or I use a sprinkling can, using mostly rain, recycled cellar dehumidifier water, or recycled water from my sprinkling. When I use the hose-sprinkler system, I aim for 20 minutes; When I use the sprinkling can, I probably would use about 30 gallons to cover my entire garden of approximately 315 row-feet, or about 950 square feet. But, now, I am re-thinking this – Perhaps, I should go to a more soaking sprinkling, but fewer times a week. Thoughts?

AROUND THE YARD: Knock Out roses are starting to bloom for a second time this season.

Rain clinging to a pitch pine, “Pinus rigida,” in my backyard.

FEEDING BIRDS IN THE YARD: This summer, I am trying something different – essentially not feeding birds, except with the finch feeder. I am keeping the finch feeder because I love the colorful males of the state bird, the eastern goldfinch, “Spinus tristis.” The idea of not feeding this summer is to let the birds enjoy my yard, with the three birdbaths I keep filled, and help me by eating insects. Birds, nature’s pesticide! Of course, not buying expensive bird seed saves money. However, I still have seed in a garbage pail in the garage. When I am home, I usually have the garage door open and, of course, the squirrels, “Sciurus carolinensis,” have discovered the garbage pail. Clang! That is the sound of the squirrels knocking something down as they open the garbage pail.

A birdseed thief trying to hide in the garage.

PEDDIE LAKE: Peddie Lake, created by the damming of Rocky Brook, is approximately 15 acres in Hightstown, Mercer County. Rocky Brook is a tributary of the Millstone River, part of the Raritan River-Bay watershed.

Peddie Lake

NIGHT SKY: After the Saturday, July 1, storms, the night sky was clear around 10 p.m., offering a southwest view of the half moon, the bright planet Jupiter to the lower right, and the star Spica to the lower left. The moon is waxing to the Full Thunder Moon on the July 8-9, Saturday-Sunday, overnight. Jupiter is the largest of our solar system’s eight confirmed planets. It is in orbit on the other side of Mars from Earth. Earth is in the third orbit, Mars in the fourth, and Jupiter in the fifth. Jupiter ranges 365 million miles to 601 million miles from Earth. Spica is the 16th brightest star seen from Earth. It is 260 light-years away — that is, about 186,000 miles per second over 260 years.

The moon with Jupiter to the right and Spica to the left.

SUNRISE/SUNSET: For July 2, Sunday, to July 8, Saturday, the sun will rise at about 5:35 a.m. and set about 8:30 p.m.

WEATHER: The National Weather Service forecasting station for the area is at http://www.weather.gov/phi/.

“Pickerel Weed in Bloom at Helmetta Pond,” plein air, colored pencils.

Joe Sapia, 60, is a lifelong Monroe resident. He is a Pine Barrens naturalist and an organic vegetable-fruit gardener.
He gardens the same backyard plot as did his Italian-American father, Joe Sr., and his Polish-immigrant, maternal grandmother, Annie Poznanski Onda. Both are inspirations for his food gardening. Joe is active with the Rutgers University Master Gardeners/Middlesex County program. He draws inspiration on the Pine Barrens around Helmetta from his mother, Sophie Onda Sapia, who lived her whole life in these Pines, and his Grandma Annie.
Joe’s work also is at @JosephSapia on Twitter.com, along with Facebook.com on the Jersey Midlands page.

 

 

Clean Water Rules Rollbacks

Last week the EPA published a statement of their intent to repeal the “waters of the United States” regulation, also known as the Clean Water Rule (see EPA proposal to rescind clean water rule – June 2017). The Clean Water Rule clarifies protections for the headwaters, seasonal streams and wetlands that feed drinking water supplies for more than 117 million Americans, and protects the wetlands that provide critical flood storage and wildlife habitat. If the Clean Water Rule is repealed, federal protections will be reversed on 60 percent of U.S. streams and 20 million acres of wetlands. What is the goal of this policy reversal? To make it easier for these already-vulnerable lands to be used for extractive projects: open-pit mining, gas fracking, tar sands oil and other pipelines, all uses with tremendous impacts on our local ecologies, especially our local water systems.

If you think that our New Jersey streams and wetlands are protected because earlier generations in the Garden State had the foresight to create the nation’s strongest freshwater wetlands protection measures (the 1987 New Jersey Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act), think again. Since 1990 our Lower Raritan Watershed has lost 3,461 acres of forested wetlands, 2,891 acres of emergent wetlands, 1,086 acres of agricultural wetlands, and 593 acres of disturbed wetlands (Sustainable Raritan River Initiative, 2016). Negative effects of wetlands loss in the LRW include an intensification of flooding of our communities, and pollution loading in our Raritan River and area streams. And earlier this year the NJ Department of Environmental Protection submitted FWPA rules revisions proposals that significantly cut protections from these valuable lands (6.25.2017 – public comment on FWPA).

By repealing these federal and state rules we put polluter profits ahead of the needs of our communities, businesses, and environment. Repealing these rules is an assault on basic protections for clean water that puts millions at risk.

But here’s the thing — the EPA won’t get rid of the Clean Water Rule without public input. As soon as the comment period opens we need to flood the EPA with our comments. We need members of Congress and businesses speaking out. We need citizens demanding their elected officials fight for our right to clean water.

EPA’s repeal proposal will soon be published in the Federal Register. Once published the public will have 30 days to submit comments. Check back on the LRWP “Clean Water Rules Rollbacks” blog post for updates on how you can help defeat this very misguided rollback.

Notes from Garden and Afield Week of June 18-24, 2017

Article and photos by Joe Sapia

Note: The yard references are to my house in the section of Monroe between Helmetta and Jamesburg in South Middlesex County. My yard is in a Pine Barrens outlier on the Inner Coastal Plain, the soil is loamy, and my neighborhood is on the boundary of Gardening Zones 6b (cooler) and 7a (warmer). Afield references are to the Pine Barrens around Helmetta, unless otherwise noted. Notes and photographs are for the period covered, unless otherwise noted.

Daylilies flower in front of the former Avon Inn in Helmetta.

FLOWERING OF HELMETTA’S AVON INN: The former Avon Inn in Helmetta comes to flowering life this time of year. Now a private residence, it dates back as a circa late 1800s-early 1900s inn positioned near a railroad station. (Think of the hotel on the 1963-1970 television sitcom “Petticoat Junction.”) The Avon Inn sits at on the corner of Railroad Avenue and Brookside Place (or across from the Helmetta Post Office). It is part of the George W. Helme Snuff Mill District, named to the state and federal Registers of Historic Places in 1980.

Another view of the former Avon Inn.

“OUTHOUSE LILIES”: Wild daylilies are blooming along roadsides. As their Greek scientific name “Hemerocallis fulva” suggests, “Day beauty” and “tawny” in color. Beautiful? Yes. A weed? Yes. They threaten native plants and are hard to control. It is an Asian species now naturalized locally. It was introduced to the United States as an ornamental, according to the National Park Service. In the days of outhouses, people planted daylilies around them. (Today’s ornamental daylilies began blooming earlier.)

Wild daylilies growing on North Main Street in Cranbury, Middlesex County.

FRAGRANT WATER LILIES ON HELMETTA POND: At this time of year, a floral display explodes on Helmetta Pond. Fragrant water lilies, “Nymphaea odorata,” simply dot the Pond. The flower, which blooms from about June to September, is beautiful. It has a multitude of white (or pinkish) petals and a sunflower-looking yellow stigmatic bowl. The blossom has a fresh and flowery scent. Also in bloom at the Pond is pickerel weed, “”Pontederia cordata.”

White-colored fragrant water lilies and purple-colored pickerel weed at Helmetta Pond.

A close-up of a fragrant water lily at Helmetta Pond.

AMPHIBIANS AND REPTILES: I helped a painted turtle, “Chrysemys picta picta,” as it was crossing a road at the Helmetta Pond swamp. I moved the painter in the direction it was traveling. When I got home after moving the turtle, I did yardwork and came across Fowler’s toads, “Anaxyrus fowleri.”

I netted this Fowler’s toad in my yard to study him for a few seconds.

A painted turtle crossing a road at the Helmetta Pond wetlands. As I was shooting the photograph to give perspective on traffic, the car pulled over. The driver was neighbor and Garden and Afield reader Tom DeRose.

Flower display at Catherine Lombardi restaurant in New Brunswick, Middlesex County.

FLOWERING NEW BRUNSWICK: I work part-time at the Jules and Jane Plangere Writing Center on the College Avenue campus of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, Middlesex County. Because I park my Jeep at the other side of the downtown near the Douglass campus, I often walk cross-town to and from Plangere. This time of year, I pass flowers beautifully on display at the Catherine Lombardi restaurant at the corner of Livingston Avenue and George Street.

Flower display at Catherine Lombardi restaurant.

GOLDFINCH IN PEPPY’S GARDEN: Gardener Priscilla “Peppy” Bath of Hamilton, Mercer County, reported, “Saw something interesting the other day. I have columbine plants in the yard that seed themselves so they are easy to grow. I cut some of the high stems with seed when I get around to it. I saw a goldfinch (“Spinus tristis”) holding on to the main stem and eating the seeds. I did not think the stem would be strong enough but guess the bird does not weigh much. Nice. Glad I did not cut all the seeds from all the plants.”

IN THE GARDEN: A shout out to Lake Valley Seed’s “Salad Bowl Heirloom Lettuce.” I planted it April 8 and have been harvesting it in earnest – and getting rave reviews from people I have given it to. I, too, offer a positive review. On the down side, my snap peas bombed and my kaleidoscope carrots are growing slowly; Both were planted April 8. In summary, I continue to water, weed, and watch, along with harvesting the lettuce.

IN THE PINE BARRENS AROUND HELMETTA: Striped wintergreen, “Chimaphila maculate,” is in bud. Also, this is the time of year, the woods are lush and humid with pine flies, genus “Chrysops,” buzzing around a person in numbers. Because of the harsh conditions in the woods this time of year, I would shut down my woods walking – and that was probably why I recall seeing striped wintergreen in full bloom perhaps only once in my life. But, in recent years, I have taken a new approach – or, actually, an old approach dating back to childhood – and that is tough it out and enjoy the summer woods, along with the woods during the other three seasons.

Striped wintergreen in bud in the Jamesburg Park section of East Brunswick, Middlesex County.

RAINBOW AND SUNSET: The night of Monday, June 19, provided a beautiful sky at sunset – in the sunset itself and with a rainbow. I watched it all from my yard.

Looking east, the June 19 rainbow over the Manalapan Brook floodplain.

The June 19 sunset.

SUNRISE/SUNSET: For June 25, Sunday, to July 1, Saturday, the sun will rise at about 5:25 a.m. and set about 8:30 p.m.

WEATHER: The National Weather Service forecasting station for the area is at http://www.weather.gov/phi/.

THE DESTRUCTION OF THE MIDLANDS: As much as environmental conditions have improved in many ways in my lifetime, something we have not kept up with is preservation of open space. When I see the destruction of open space, especially when heavy machinery mows down the woods in only hours, I feel sad. I drove by a site the other day in South Brunswick, Middlesex County, where the woods was being torn down.

The corner of Route 130 and Fresh Ponds Road was woods only a few days ago.

Joe Sapia, 60, is a lifelong Monroe resident. He is a Pine Barrens naturalist and an organic vegetable-fruit gardener. He gardens the same backyard plot as did his Italian-American father, Joe Sr., and his Polish-immigrant, maternal grandmother, Annie Poznanski Onda. Both are inspirations for his food gardening. Joe is active with the Rutgers University Master Gardeners/Middlesex County program.
He draws inspiration on the Pine Barrens around Helmetta from his mother, Sophie Onda Sapia, who lived her whole life in these Pines, and his Grandma Annie. Joe’s work also is at @JosephSapia on Twitter.com, along with Facebook.com on the Jersey Midlands page.

Getting to Know Resident Artist Jamie Bruno

Message and photos by Jamie Bruno.

Editor’s Note: The LRWP and coLAB arts are pleased to welcome Jamie Bruno to our work in New Brunswick. Jamie will join us for the next 9 months as our National Endowment for the Arts Resident Artist.

Hello Dear Reader. Happy to be writing to you today.

As the new Resident Artist with the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership my work is to bring people to the river and bring the river to people. Increasing that knowledge and access increases people’s value of a healthy river and watershed. Much of my work will be dedicated to CoLAB Arts and LRWP’s existing programming such as Rail-Arts-River and Trash Troubadour, within which the already incredible experience of cleaning up a stream also becomes an experience in arts and culture.

I live in Newark, NJ. My most recent work has been focused around urban agriculture, food security, food waste management, and organizing for urban agriculture alliance development. I manage a small farmers market for a local nonprofit once a week at a hospital in Newark. My most recent artwork, “And all our dead can live again,” is a functioning geodesic dome that, in many ways, is a reaction to doing urban agriculture and local food development work in a post-industrial inner city.

All Our Dead Can Live Again

As a graduate of Rutgers Mason Gross School of the Arts, I am already familiar with New Brunswick though I am still orienting to this new position and a changed city. My eyes see the river differently from the scientists, geologists and academics who study it. Slowly I will see more. For now I notice the strange interactions between humans and the human built riverfront. On my first trip re-visiting Boyd Park I see moments of departure in the landscape by an uncooperative nature, consistently unconcerned with our good intentions. And neglect by us, to simply sit and listen to her. I can’t wait to tell you more about that visit.

You don’t know me and I will only be with you, officially, for a short nine months. But within that nine months I hope that we can make sweet, passionate earth caring goodness together. Earth Care. People care. Future care. In the incredibly succinct lyrics of M.I.A.’s song “Meds and Feds”: We just “give a damn,” and, another inspiration, Y.A.L.A. (You Always Live Again as opposed to the formerly popular phrase, Y.O.L.O., You Only Live Once)… Earth karma.

Thank you for reading. If you’d like to see more of my work please visit tothedirt.net

Turtle Time Along the South Branch

Article and photos by Joe Mish

A snapping turtle mom in the process of laying eggs, remains motionless for hours, her body rising up as each egg is laid in the nest. Soil covers her face as a result of excavating a nest hole in which she will lay, according to several sources, 20 to 40 eggs.

I have always been fascinated with turtles, most likely because they were such strange animals, so different from anything else. They wore their skeleton on the outside, so in a way, they never left home even when they traveled. I learned the top shell was a carapace and the lower shell was a called a plastron. For a kid, way back when, to toss those words around, made people take notice and think the kid must be a budding genius. When asked, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” The answer was a quick, “I want to be a herpetologist!”, immediately followed by, “What’s a herpetologist?”.

A small book, A Golden Guide, Reptiles and Amphibians, was my constant companion. I studied the turtle section and noted the distribution of each species as shown in pink on a profile map of the USA. I was used to seeing painted turtles, musk turtles and snapping turtles when I went fishing, and box turtles a-plenty crossing roads on the way to the shore. There was an area in the nearby clay banks where slow flowing streams and spring fed ponds that drained into the river were overrun with spotted turtles.

A musk turtle sunning high above the water. Often when canoeing, a large splash of a musk turtle diving off a high branch causes a moment of mystery.

On occasion an uncommon turtle would cross my path. It was these rarely seen animals that really drew me in. There were wood turtles, Muhlenberg/Bog turtles and even a diamondback terrapin caught in a box style crab trap in Raritan Bay. These turtles being royalty; given their limited distribution.

 

From top to bottom: A terrapin, red slider and eastern box turtles are a few of the turtle species found in NJ. Sliders and map turtles are working their way north via the Delaware Raritan canal.

As I got to know turtles and realized how long they live and how vulnerable they can be, I felt a kinship of sorts and became a guardian of these gentle creatures. When summer is about nigh, especially the first couple weeks of June, turtles are often seen crossing roads to traditional nesting grounds where the female will lay a batch of white leathery eggs in a hole she digs with her hind feet. This is when female turtles are most vulnerable to being crushed on the roadways. I stay alert to avoid adding to the carnage and will help a turtle cross a road in the direction she is headed, when I can safely do so.

Considering some females may not reach maturity for 8 to 10 years, as in the case of the wood turtle, each lost female represents a devastating blow to an already threatened species.

This wood turtle on her way to lay eggs was killed by a mower. Considering she was at least 10 years old the situation is even more tragic.

Turtle nests may be found hundreds of yards from any pond, river or stream. Telltale signs of a nest will be the curled fragments of the white egg cases scattered around a small hole after hatching. Otherwise you will never find a nest unless you see a turtle laying eggs or a nest dug up by a fox.

Scattered scraps of leathery turtle eggs post hatching, are often the only clue of a turtle nest. A typical turtle nest hole. This was made by a wood turtle.

I recently discovered that several map turtles have been using my yard and surrounding properties as a nesting ground. Map turtles were previously only found in southern New Jersey but have moved north primarily via the Delaware Raritan canal to the Millstone and Raritan rivers. These turtles are travelling at least 400 yards uphill through thick grass to dig nests. Imagine the journey the little guys have to survive as they follow their internal GPS back to the river.

A painted turtle (top) and map turtle hatchlings make their way thru heavy grass and brush to the river.

I was fortunate to come across a snapping turtle laying eggs in a recently planted cornfield. The hours long process of laying, covering and paving over the nest by the female was captured on a GoPro camera. It is distilled down to 6 minutes and can be viewed at http://winterbearrising.wordpress.com/

A snapping turtle lays eggs in a corn field. An hours long process where she is vulnerable to predators.

As the incubation period for most turtles can vary greatly, expect a hatch to occur from late August to September. Sometimes the hatch will not occur until the next spring. The cooler the weather during incubation period produces more males and females when weather is warmer. Across turtle species, the females reach productive maturity, in some cases, years after the males.

So be alert for nesting areas and local migrations during the nesting and hatching periods. Your yard could be a turtle nursery and you might not even know it. Be kind to our turtles and honor the legacy handed down from the Unami, a matriarchal branch of the Lenapes, known as the turtle people which inhabited this part of the state.

Author Joe Mish has been running wild in New Jersey since childhood when he found ways to escape his mother’s watchful eyes. He continues to trek the swamps, rivers and thickets seeking to share, with the residents and visitors, all of the state’s natural beauty hidden within full view. To read more of his writing and view more of his gorgeous photographs visit Winter Bear Rising, his wordpress blog. Joe’s series “Nature on the Raritan, Hidden in Plain View” runs monthly as part of the LRWP “Voices of the Watershed” series. Writing and photos used with permission from the author.

Notes from Garden and Afield, Weeks of June 4-17, 2017

Article and photos by Joe Sapia

Note: The yard references are to my house in the section of Monroe between Helmetta and Jamesburg in South Middlesex County. My yard is in a Pine Barrens outlier on the Inner Coastal Plain, the soil is loamy, and my neighborhood is on the boundary of Gardening Zones 6b (cooler) and 7a (warmer). Afield references are to the Pine Barrens around Helmetta, unless otherwise noted. Notes and photographs are for the period covered, unless otherwise noted.

Mama and Papa Canada geese, “Branta canadensis,” and their young cross a road in the Dayton section of South Brunswick, Middlesex County, and stop my Jeep in its tracks. Silly geese! (On a serious note, humans could learn from the dedicated parenting of Canada geese.)

GOOD TO BE BACK HOME: Sorry for missing last week’s “Garden and Afield,” but I was down in New Orleans or traveling to and from. I was attending receptions for a medical residency graduation (of Dr. Anthony M. Sciascia II, the son of my college buddy) and wedding (of Anthony and Nancy). I had a wonderful time with the Sciascia clan who has treated me as family since our Marquette University days that began more than 40 years ago. But I always enjoy getting back home….

SOME N’AWLINS FLAVOR IN THE JERSEY MIDLANDS: New Orleans is known for its coffee made from the roots of chicory, “Cichorium intybus.” Well, guess what has began blooming in the Jersey Midlands? Chicory, the blue flower along roadsides and other disturbed areas. It is a foreign species naturalized here. That is, a weed. But a weed with a nice-looking flower.

Chicory growing on a Monroe roadside.

IN THE GARDEN: While I was gone, my garden did not get its daily watering, even more critical because we had some very hot temperatures, near 100! But I began harvesting lettuce in earnest.

Lake Valley Seeds’s “Salad Bowl Green Heirloom Lettuce” grows in my garden. Next to the lettuce is nature’s pesticide, a toad — probably an American toad, “Anaxyrus americanus.” (Thanks to Sam Skinner, a Monmouth County Park System naturalist who set me in the right direction on the tentative identification of this toad.)

MY ORGANIC GARDEN: I just mentioned the wild toad as a natural pesticide. But, nowadays, people seem to be touchy over the term “organic,” arguing its meaning or arguing that “organic” does not mean purely natural. As I was taught in journalism, say exactly what you mean, rather than using labels. So, here is how I food garden – I add nothing to the mix except water.

MANALAPAN BROOK: The Brook flows about 400 feet from my front yard, but, thankfully, I am about 150 feet from its floodplain – so, close enough to enjoy the waterway, but far enough away not to be affected by flooding. This time of year, the Brook has a summer feel, with lush vegetation growing in the floodplain and, on this day, bright sunlight creeping through the trees. My section of the Brook is between “Jamesburg Lake” (Lake Manalapan) and “Spotswood Lake” (DeVoe Lake). Its watershed drains 40.7 square miles, according to the United States Geological Survey, in Middlesex and Monmouth Counties.

Manalapan Brook, looking downstream toward Helmetta

LIGHTNING BUGS: I saw the first lightning bug, a member of the “Lampyridae” insect family, of the season June 4. On June 17, as I was putting together this “Garden and Afield,” I watched fireflies in my backyard. There seemed to be more than normal, maybe a half-dozen to a dozen, but not the numbers I remember when I was a kid. They flash to signal mates.

ELSEWHERE IN THE YARD: Also in the yard over the last two weeks were rabbit, genus “Lepus”; the state bird, the Eastern goldfinch, “Spinus tristis,”; and my friend, the catbird, “Dumetella carolinensis.” The rabbits allow me to get within a few feet of them, probably because I go about my normal business, not TRYING to get close. The male goldfinch is brightly colored, a beautiful bird – “wild canaries” in the yard. I love catbirds. When I work in the yard or hike the Pine Barrens around Helmetta, catbirds perch nearby and keep me company.

An Eastern goldfinch. Brightly colored, so it is a male.

WHITE ORCHID: Faye Bray, a friend from the Outdoor Club of South Jersey, reported a rare white variety of the pink lady-slipper orchid, “Cypripedium acaule,” in the Whitesbog, Burlington County, area of the Pine Barrens. “It’s freaking remarkable,” Faye said. (Unfortunately, we could not get a photograph for “Garden and Afield.”)

TURTLES: Turtles have been laying eggs, meaning females have been moving around. On my trip to and from New Orleans, I saw a half-dozen or so dead along the Interstate highways, apparently struck by vehicles. Up here in the Midlands, I have heard of various encounters with turtles. One, a person moved a box turtle, “Terrapene carolina,” to water. Wait, a box turtle is a land animal. Two, another person moved a snapping turtle, “Chelydra serpentina,” to a pond, possibly interrupting its egg-laying. So, my advice is, unless there is a compelling reason, leave wildlife alone. Generally, it knows what it is doing, it does not need humans to mess up its life.

TICKS: Ticks are bad this year. Essentially, they cling to vegetation and wait for a mammal to brush by them, then they attach. We have three ticks locally: deer tick, “Ixodes scapularis”; lone star tick, “Amblyomma americanum,” The female is easily distnguishable by the light-colored dot on her back; wood tick, also known as the dog tick, “Dermacentor variabilis.”

Get a tick ID pocket card. It will show the size and colors of not only these ticks, but in different stages of development. See http://www.tickencounter.org/tick_identification/guide.

There is no need to panic. Tick-borne diseases are relatively rare — I mean, if everyone in range of a tick, or even bitten by a tick, were to get sick, there would be a very sick population. However, be vigilant. In the yard, keep grass trimmed. If in the woods, take precautions by dressing properly. (If I am wearing long pants, for example, I tuck them in my socks.) And check for ticks on one’s body. When coming in from the woods or other places ticks are likely, wash the clothes and bathe as soon as possible.

If a tick is crawling on oneself, simply flick it off — It may take a few tries. If one is attached, take tweezers and grab it behind the head and pull it out. Then flush it down the toilet, throw it in a fire, or, if needed for observation, put it with an alcohol-doused cotton swab in a closed container.

If bitten, observe the bite for abnormalities, such as the Lyme Disease bull’s eye, seek medical help if concerned. The big tick disease locally is Lyme. However, New Jersey is now watching for Powassan virus.

My yard is wildlife-friendly and I take no special precautions in the yard, other than observing my clothes and body. I am always in the woods and fields, I found one tick on my body this season, but 10x or 20x that on my clothes — the point being, notice them before they get on one’s body.

Regarding the yard, keep the grass cut. I have tall-grass wildlife patches in my yard and have not found a tick on me yet while doing yardwork, etc. I would be more concerned with cats and dogs bringing them inside.
If you look them up online, use the scientific name, so as not to confuse species and colloquial names.

LETHAL ANIMALS: I would say on a daily basis, the three most lethal animals in the Pine Barens around Helmetta are the tick, mosquito, and pet dog. The former two could do a number for life, while the latter one could be hurtful for the moment.

In the Piedmont region of the Jersey Midlands, I would add copperhead snake, “Agkistrodon contortrix.” In the main Pine Barrens, the rattlesnake, “Croatus horridus.” But the chances of getting bit by either is rare.
Throughout the Midlands, a wandering black bear, “Ursus americanus,” could be a threat – but unlikely. If you see one, stay clear and that should be enough.

YOU SAY “MUSKMELON,” I SAY “MUSHMELON”: My friend Virginia Lamb, who I have turned to for advice (environmental, gardening, and general) over the years, said in reference to my using “mushmelon,” “It’s ‘muskmelon, not ‘mushmelon.’” She is correct, in a more formal sense. But I am correct, too, in a more informal way. So, I responded in an e-mail, “Local colloquialism = mushmelon. I use that only in my blog. Normally, when I talk, I say cantaloupe. (Kind of like the colloquialism “garden snake” for “garter snake.)” Yes, we are all talking cantaloupe.

SCIENTIFIC NAMES: My use of scientific names also has prompted some discussion. Sunil Nair, who has followed my Internet nature posts, said, “Love the fact that you write the genus names, too.” But Virginia Lamb noted, “Just a note on reader preference: I feel the Latin names interrupt the folksy flow of the prose and would prefer they be noted at the end. But that may just be me.” I am considering Virginia’s point. As for using scientific names, I do it so there is no question what is being discussed. “Swamp pink” could be the “Arethusa bulbosa” orchid or it could be the “Helonias bullata” lily. But a scientific name is a scientific name is a scientific name.

A turkey vulture, “Cathartes aura,” sits on a roadside utility line in Monroe after I spooked it when it was eating a dead ground hog, “Marmota monax.” Here, it is easily identified by its red head. Turkey vultures are commonly seen, soaring in a circle, their wings tipped into a V.

SUNRISE/SUNSET: For June 18, Sunday, to June 24, Saturday, the sun will rise between 5:25 and 5:30 a.m. and set about 8:30 p.m.

DATE TO KEEP IN MIND, JUNE 21: The longest daylight of the year is Wednesday, June 21, the summer solstice, when the sun rises at 5:28 a.m. and sets at 8:31 p.m. After June 21, daylight gets shorter.

DATE TO KEEP IN MIND, JUNE 24: St. John the Baptist Day. Sophie Majka, a neighbor who died March 8 at 92-years-old, had told me blueberries are ready to pick in the Pine Barrens around Helmetta on St. John’s Day, June 24. So, that is a target I look to.

WEATHER: The National Weather Service forecasting station for the area is at http://www.weather.gov/phi/.

SOURCES: As you can see, I have already mentioned various sources of information. Additionally, I enjoy listening to Mike McGrath’s “You Bet Your Garden” radio show on WHYY, 90.9 FM, out of Philadelphia – or on the Internet at http://whyy.org/cms/youbetyourgarden/. I also read Sally McCabe’s “In the Garden, It’s Time To…” column in the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper, or on the Internet at philly.com.

MORE N’AWLINS FLAVOR IN HELMETTA: Why do I love traveling in the South? Maybe because I am a boy of the South – South Middlesex County. And my local roots go back to Helmetta, whose founder, for lack of a better term, George Washington Helme, was a Confederate military officer. Although a native of Kingston, Pennsylvania, Helme was a New Orleans resident during the Civil War. After the war, he came up to Helmetta, where his wife’s, Margaret Appleby Helme’s, family had a snuff mill operation – one that George would eventually take over. The George W. Helme Snuff Mill provided my family with work for approximately 75 years, from circa 1900 to 1976. The mill stopped manufacturing snuff in 1993 and, now, it is being converted into housing.

Looking into sunlit Manalapan Brook, here between Helmetta and Jamesburg.

Joe Sapia, 60, is a lifelong Monroe resident. He is a Pine Barrens naturalist and an organic vegetable-fruit gardener.
He gardens the same backyard plot as did his Italian-American father, Joe Sr., and his Polish-immigrant, maternal grandmother, Annie Poznanski Onda. Both are inspirations for his food gardening. Joe is active with the Rutgers University Master Gardeners/Middlesex County program. He draws inspiration on the Pine Barrens around Helmetta from his mother, Sophie Onda Sapia, who lived her whole life in these Pines, and his Grandma Annie. Joe’s work also is at @JosephSapia on Twitter.com, along with Facebook.com on the Jersey Midlands page.

 

 

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