Notes from Garden & Afield: Week of November 5

 

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). Notes and photographs are for the period covered, unless otherwise noted.

Pumpkins and fall foliage, both taking a last stand for the season, at the Red Wagon Farm Market on Route 33 and Smithburg Road/Route 527-A in Manalapan, Monmouth County.

SNOWBIRDS: I saw the first “snowbirds,” or dark-eyed juncos, “Junco hyemalis,” of the season on Tuesday, November 7, Election Day, around sunrise at St. James Cemetery in Monroe, Middlesex County. The birds are easy to identify by their gray tops and white undersides – “gray skies above, snow below” – and the white edges of their splayed tails as they take off. My rule of thumb is to look for these birds around Halloween, October 31, arriving for the cold weather from as close as the high ground of North Jersey or Pennsylvania and as far away as Canada. Around my yard, I look for these small birds on the ground under the bird-feeder or in bushes. I will see them around my yard to about mid- to late April.

I saw the first “snowbirds,” or dark-eyed juncos, of the season Tuesday, November 7, Election Day, at St. James Cemetery in Monroe, Middlesex County. These birds arrive from the north for the cold-weather season.

VOICES FROM AFIELD, MORE WINTER BIRDS: Diane Larson, a long-time gardening mentor, checked in on the afield side, regarding Beaver Dam Creek in Brick, Ocean County. “Another bird sign of winter – the buffleheads (“Bucephala albeola’’) and mergansers (genus “Mergus”) arrived in Beaver Dam Creek right on schedule – saw them Saturday (November 4) for the first time. We also have otters (“Lutra Canadensis”). They are very elusive, but we’ve seen them and heard them splashing in the water around 8:00 p.m. one night (during) the last week of October. We went outside and tried to see them, but they swam away. All we saw was their wake and heard their grunts.”

Canada geese, “Branta canadensis,” on the Skeba Farm in the Applegarth section of Monroe, Middlesex County.

BIRDS IN MY YARD: As I was doing yardwork, birds were feasting on corn hearts at my backyard bird-feeder: dark-eyed junco, “Junco hyemalis”; mourning dove, “Zenaida macroura”; tufted titmouse, “Baeolophus bicolor”; and Carolina chickadee, “Poecile carolinensis.”

A Mourning Dove at my Backyard Bird-feeder

A Tufted Titmouse at my Backyard Bird-Feeder

A Chickadee at my Backyard Feeder

GARDEN AND YARD: As I cut the lawn, hopefully for the last time of the year, I smelled wild onions I had mowed down. A bittersweet scent – one pointing back at the year’s peak of vegetable growing, one pointing to a gardening season that lingers. The Jamesburg-to-New Brunswick area of Middlesex County got down to about 20 degrees on the Friday-Saturday, November 10-11, overnight, pretty much bringing an end to the warm weather gardening season. However, I did find a few cherry tomatoes in my garden. (I have a cool weather crop of carrots planted. So, I am hoping for some kind of harvest.) So, this week, I cut the lawn, dumped my last barrel of gardening water, and mowed down the garden, except for the carrots. As for the yard work, I try to get that all done by Thanksgiving.

I found these cherry tomatoes in my garden. The top one was in good condition and I popped it into my mouth right in the yard and ate it.

VOICES FROM AFIELD, NO. 2, LINGERING SPRING: Last week, I mentioned I thought I heard the call of a spring peeper treefrog, “Pseudacris crucifer,” at Farrington Lake on the boundary of South Brunswick, East Brunswick, and North Brunswick in Middlesex County. They are normally early spring callers. Jean Montgomerie, an environmental scientist who lives in Freehold and works in the Pine Barrens, said, “Those were spring peepers; I heard them last week too.” Spring, in the form of fall, is playing itself out again, this year.

NIGHT SKY: With the cold spell at the end of the week, I stood in my yard between about 10:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. and looked at the night sky. With the temperature at about 23 degrees and very little moisture in the air (with a dewpoint of about 8 degrees), it was one of the clearest night skies I recall, with great views of Auriga (overhead/east); Pleiades, or Seven Sisters (overhead); Orion (southeast); the Great Square of Pegasus (southwest); Cassiopeia (northwest); and the North Star. Take advantage of cold, dry fall and winter overnights. Get a revolving star chart, turn off the outside lights, go outside and acclimate your eyesight to the darkness, and look into the night sky.

THE MOON: The moon is waning from the Full Frost Moon of the November 3-4 overnight. The next full moon is the Long Night Moon on the December 2-3 overnight.

The morning moon, with the changing colors of the fall foliage underneath, at St. James Cemetery in Monroe, Middlesex County. The moon is waning from the Full Frost Moon of the November 3-4 overnight. The next full moon is the Long Night Moon on the December 2-3 overnight.

FALL FOLIAGE: The changing colors of fall foliage are all over the place – some past full color, some peaking, some yet to come. I take the colors as they come, rather than concentrating on a peak.

The changing colors of the fall foliage along Interstate 195 in Jackson, Ocean County.

The rising sun’s light hits the top of the trees, lighting up the fall colors, at St. James Cemetery in Monroe, Middlesex County.

The changing colors between Davidson Mill Park and Pigeon Swamp in South Brunswick, Middlesex County.

DRIVE-BY NATURALIST, RED-TAILED HAWK: As I was returning home from my normal Sunday routine of lunch at the Hightstown Diner in Mercer County, I crossed the Millstone River on the boundary of Cranbury, Middlesex County, and East Windsor, Mercer County. On the Cranbury side, a large bird flew out of the trees, then low along the roadway – a red-tailed hawk, “Buteo jamaicensis.” I cranked off a shot on my camera. Not a good shot, but that is photojournalism – you take what you get, because the news does not necessarily stop for the journalist. The photo, at least, puts in perspective how low the bird was.

A red-tailed hawk flies low along a roadway on the boundary of Cranbury, Middlesex County, and East Windsor, Mercer County.

The Millstone River on the boundary of Cranbury, Middlesex County, and East Windsor, Mercer County.

VOICES FROM AFIELD, NO. 3, DEER RUT: I continue seeing normally hidden male deer, “Odocoileus virginianus,” because it is the mating season, or rut. This week, I saw one in southern Monroe, Middlesex County, at night. Then, as I was driving to work one morning in daylight, a deer bolted across a paved road in the Jamesburg Park Conservation Area in the Pine Barrens around Helmetta, Middlesex County. I did not get a good look at the deer, but, based on the way it bolted across the street and because I saw no others, my guess is it was a buck. Paul Migut checked in from South River, Middlesex County: “Spotted buck behind my firehouse. He’s been chasing two does around here.” Again, be careful driving during the rut, which should last until about mid-December.

CLOUDS: This week’s cloud shots are from St. James Cemetery in Monroe, Middlesex County. My family has had a plot there for more than 100 years, since my maternal grandfather, Michael Onda, died in 1917, October.

Clouds over St. James Cemetery in Monroe, Middlesex County.

More clouds from St. James Cemetery in Monroe, Middlesex County.

And more clouds from St. James Cemetery in Monroe, Middlesex County.

VOICES FROM AFIELD, N0. 4, SWIMMING RIVER: Rik van Hemmen, sailor and advocate for the Navesink River watershed, Monmouth County, checked in: “Two weeks ago, just before I hauled my Sea Bright skiff for the winter, we had a perfect tide going up the Swimming River with friends who had never done it before. As is common, it blew their minds to see all this natural beauty.”

Fall on the Swimming River in Monmouth County. (Photograph copyright 2017 by Rik van Hemmen.)
OCEAN TEMPERATURES: Atlantic Ocean temperatures on the New Jersey coast were about 50 degrees to 53 degrees over the November 11-12 weekend.

SUNRISE/SUNSET: For November 12, Sunday, to November 18, Saturday, the sun will rise about 6:40 to 6:45 a.m. and set about 4:35 to 4:40 p.m. For November 19, Sunday, to November 25, Saturday, the sun will rise about 6:50 to 6:55 a.m. and set about 4:35 p.m.

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

IN THE BACKYARD: As I was wrapping up this week’s “Notes from Garden and Afield,” I took a soda break. While in the kitchen, I grabbed four gourds I had on display on the table, opened the back door, stood on the back porch, and threw the gourds across the lawn into the garden. I threw one into a pitch pine, “Pinus rigida,” bordering lawn and garden. A bird must have been in the tree, because a large bird flew out and past me eye-high. Wow! On that note….

Say, good night, Pumpkin Person. (A pumpkin person at the Red Wagon Farm Market on Route 33, Manalapan, Monmouth County.)

Joe Sapia, 60, is a lifelong resident of Monroe — in South Middlesex County, where his maternal family settled more than 100 years ago. He is a Pine Barrens naturalist and a gardener of organic vegetables and fruit, along with zinnias and roses. 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 Polish-immigrant grandmother, Annie Poznanski Onda. He gardens the same backyard plot as did his Grandma Annie and Italian-American father, Joe Sr. Both are inspirations for his food gardening. Ma inspires his rose gardening. Joe is a semi-retired print journalist of almost 40 years. His work also is at @JosephSapia on Twitter.com, along with Facebook.com on the Jersey Midlands page.

 

Notes from Garden & Afield: Week of Oct 29

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). Notes and photographs are for the period covered, unless otherwise noted.

Nor’easter rain pelts the Delaware and Raritan Canal at Kingston, which overlaps the boundary of Franklin, Somerset County, and South Brunswick, Middlesex County. This photograph was taken on the Somerset County side of Route 27.

NOR’EASTER: The Sunday-Monday, October 29-30, nor’easter dropped large amounts of rain throughout the Jersey Midlands. The National Weather Service unofficial high totals from weather stations in the Jersey Midlands portion of seven counties: Hunterdon, up to 4.91 inches in High Bridge; Somerset, up to 4.5 inches in Bernards; Middlesex, up to 3.79 inches in northeast South Brunswick; Monmouth, up to 4.74 inches in West Long Branch; Ocean, up to 5.45 inches in Berkeley; Burlington, up to 4.62 inches in Roebling; and Mercer, up to 5.42 in west Princeton.
The nor’easter also brought reported maximum wind gusts of: Hunterdon, 45 miles per hour at Frenchtown; Middlesex, 52 MPH in the Raritan River/Perth Amboy area; Monmouth, 49 MPH at north Long Branch; Ocean, 58 MPH in the Beach Haven area; Burlington, 47 MPH at Jobstown; and Mercer, 40 MPH at Mercer County Airport.

Water pools on a roadway in Princeton, Mercer County, during the nor’easter Sunday, October 29.

NOR’EASTER, BEFORE AND AFTER: Before the Sunday-Monday, October 29-30, nor’easter, all seven Midlands counties had a deficit of rainfall over the last three months. After the nor’easter, only Hunterdon and Mercer have deficits. According to National Weather Service, three-month rainfalls as of Thursday, November 2, were: Hunterdon, 10.7 inches total over the last three months, minus 1.8 inches; Somerset, 12.4 inches, plus .2 inches; Middlesex, 12.0 inches, even; Monmouth, plus .2 inches; Ocean, 12.0 inches, plus .7 inches; Burlington, 11.8 inches, plus .2 inches; and Mercer, 10.2 inches, minus 1.8 inches.

Farrington Lake – here, on the boundary of South Brunswick and East Brunswick looking to North Brunswick, all in Middlesex County – in the days before the Sunday-Monday, October 29-30, nor’easter.

The same view of Farrington Lake in the days after the nor’easter.

FALLEN LEAVES ON ROADWAYS: Motorists, be careful of braking with fallen leaves on the roadway, especially in wet conditions.

Leaves cover a roadway in the Kingston section of Franklin, Somerset County, during the October 29-30 nor’easter.

FALL FOLIAGE: The fall colors have really brightened, although there is still much green out there and a lot that has already turned color. I am thinking we are in the midst of our (erratic) peak, so enjoy it while it lasts.

The changing colors of the fall foliage in New Brunswick, Middlesex County, as seen through the window of the Rutgers University Plangere Writing Center.

Shattering two myths: One, pine trees are evergreens, but they do shed needles. Here, a pitch pine, “Pinus rigida,” the most common pine of the New Jersey Pine Barrens. This one is in my backyard in Monroe, Middlesex County, but transplanted from the wilds of the Pine Barrens of Monmouth County. Two, the Pine Barrens are not barren. Actually, the Pines are a great place to see the changing colors of the fall, contrasting with the greens of pitch pines and other evergreens.

DEER RUT: As I have mentioned, I am seeing something I do not normally see – adult male deer, “Odocoileus virginianus.” But it is the mating season, or rut, so bucks are moving. On the night of Wednesday, November 1, I saw a buck as I drove through an East Brunswick section of the Jamesburg Park Conservation Area. He trotted into the woods. We appear to still be in the first phase of the rut – bucks following female deer in search of receptive does. The second phase will be mating, the third phase being the rut winding down – the rut lasting until about mid-December. With sex-crazed deer running around, be careful driving.

VOICE FROM AFIELD, JOAN GETAZ ZUMOFF: I still not have seen any “snowbirds,” or juncos, “Junco hyemalis,” at my house in Monroe, Middlesex County. But I expect them any day down for the colder weather from probably as far north as Canada. Actually, they are likely around already and I just have not seen any yet, because Joan Getaz Zumoff checked in just below the Midlands — from Gloucester Township, Camden County, where she had a first sighting Oct. 27. My rule of thumb for snowbirds at my house is around Halloween, October 31. But this has been a wacky year with the weather.

IS IT FALL YET?: Depending on the day, it could be frosty or summer-like. This week, I was shooting photographs at Farrington Lake in Middlesex County. At the part of the lake on the boundary where North Brunswick, East Brunswick, and South Brunswick meet, I am pretty sure I heard a spring peeper treefrog, “Pseudacris crucifer.” The normal time to begin hearing their calls is around early March – that harbinger of spring that sounds like sleigh bells coming from swamps – and, then, they are pretty much done as the spring warms up toward summer.

I photographed this spring peeper treefrog in the Manalapan Brook floodplain in Monroe, Middlesex County, in March. They are early spring callers. But I am pretty sure I heard the species calling this week at Farrington Lake on the boundary of North Brunswick, East Brunswick, and South Brunswick, all in Middlesex County – one of those aberrations of nature.

BLOOMING FLOWERS: Garden flowers continued blooming. In Kingston, on the South Brunswick, Middlesex County, side, for example, I saw a beautiful planting of zinnias along Route 27 in front of the Eno Terra restaurant.

Here in Kingston on the South Brunswick, Middlesex County, side of Route 27, grows an ornamental planting of zinnias with the fall foliage colors in the background.

VOICE FROM AFIELD, CHRIS BEVINS: Chris Bevins checked in from Monroe, Middlesex County, where he works for the Utility Department: “I was working on a project this morning and the irrigation pond at the end of England Road on the field had a mated pair of freshwater otters eating fish and frolicking.” I hope to see them, because I have never seen an otter, “Lontra canadensis.”

MY GARDEN: My vegetable garden – between Helmetta and Jamesburg in South Middlesex County — took a licking because of heavy rain over the summer. Other than the colorful and pollinating-attracting zinnias, it was a bad year – basically only a bit of sweet corn to show for the work. But, then this week, I harvested some of my early spring plantings of Lake Valley “Rainbow Blend” carrots. Now, I will watch to see how my late-season planting of carrots does.

Planted April 8 as part of my early crop, these Lake Valley “Rainbow Blend” heirloom carrots were harvested Sunday, October 29.

VOICE FROM THE GARDEN, PAUL MIGUT: Paul Migut, now in his early 60s, who has been gardening since childhood, reported in from South River, Middlesex County: “November 2, a balmy 75f. Garden cleaned out and tilled up. A few eggplants picked and one grape tomato plant still hanging in there. While no match for Pon’s garden from days of old” – a reference to his Uncle Stanley “Pon” Ceslowski and his garden in Monroe, Middlesex County – “my 20 feet by 20 feet section still manages to provide vegetables for the two of us” – Paul and his wife, Karen – “and then some.”

The “last of the eggplants,” according to Paul Migut, from his South River, Middlesex County, garden.
DRIVE-BY NATURALIST, VULTURES: During the nor’easter, I came across these vultures in the Monmouth Junction section of South Brunswick, Middlesex County.

Vultures across the street from the Monmouth Junction Elementary School in South Brunswick, Middlesex County.

DRIVE-BY NATURALIST, HAZY SKY: On Thursday, November 2, I awoke to weather reports warning of fog. By the time I left the house around 8 a.m., though, there was no ground-level fog to speak of, but the sky had a haze. Sunshine fighting through that haze provided a beautiful view – one to photograph.

The sun breaks through the haze over the Jamesburg Park Conservation Area on the boundary of South Brunswick and East Brunswick, both in Middlesex County.

CLOUDS, NEW BRUNSWICK: Beautiful cloud views continue. This week, for example, at New Brunswick, Middlesex County – the Douglass-Cook campus of Rutgers University and along the Raritan River.

Clouds above the Douglass-Cook campus at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, Middlesex County.

Over the Raritan River from George Street in New Brunswick, Middlesex County.

RUTGERS UNIVERSITY SQUIRRELS: As I walk through the Rutgers University College Avenue and Douglass-Cook campuses in New Brunswick, Middlesex County, Mondays through Fridays, I find the squirrels, “Sciurus carolinensis,” entertaining and numerous. If I were a squirrel in New Brunswick, I probably would pick the garden-y campus, rather than the urban sectors.

This squirrel has quite a bit of red tint.

Acting as a squirrel with acorn in mouth.

This squirrel was acting like a human, with some kind of bread in its mouth.

OCEAN TEMPERATURES: Atlantic Ocean temperatures on the New Jersey coast were about 60 degrees to 62 degrees over the November 4-5 weekend.

On the banks of the old Raritan River, looking downstream from New Brunswick, across the river to Highland Park, both in Middlesex County.

CHANGE THE CLOCKS: We switch from Daylight Savings Time to Standard Time November 5, Sunday, at 2 a.m., the clocks moving back to 1 a.m.

SUNRISE/SUNSET: For November 5, Sunday, to November 11, Saturday, the sun will rise about 6:35 a.m. set about 4:45 p.m. For November 12, Sunday, to November 18, Saturday, the sun will rise about 6:40 to 6:45 a.m. and set about 4:35 to 4:40 p.m.

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

Pictured is the Full Frost Moon on the November 3-4 overnight. The next full moon is the Long Night Moon on the December 2-3 overnight.

A PARTING NOTE, HAIKU: The Japanese poetry style of 5 syllables, 7 syllables, and, finally, 5 syllables:
Look into the woods –
The leaves are changing colors.
Yellow, orange, red.

Leaves changing colors in the Pine Barrens around Helmetta, Middlesex County.

Joe Sapia, 60, is a lifelong resident of Monroe — in South Middlesex County, where his maternal family settled more than 100 years ago. He is a Pine Barrens naturalist and a gardener of organic vegetables and fruit, along with zinnias and roses. 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 Polish-immigrant grandmother, Annie Poznanski Onda. He gardens the same backyard plot as did his Grandma Annie and Italian-American father, Joe Sr. Both are inspirations for his food gardening. Ma inspires his rose gardening. Joe’s work also is at @JosephSapia on Twitter.com, along with Facebook.com on the Jersey Midlands page.

November 4-6 #CaptureTheKing Tide

In an effort to crowd source data on local flooding hot spots and to educate people about future tidal conditions, the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve is undertaking a #CaptureTheKing Tide Initiative throughout New Jersey. The term “King Tide” is used to describe the highest seasonal tides that occur each year King Tides may result in coastal erosion, flooding of low-lying areas, and road closures which may disrupt normal daily routines. This is particularly true when a King Tide coincides with significant precipitation or a coastal storm. The highest seasonal tides for New Jersey and our Lower Raritan Watershed communities will be November 4-6, 2017.

The king tide is evident in the Raritan River as far west as the banks in New Brunswick, Highland Park and Piscataway, the tidal impact limit. The LRWP would love to get as many pictures from our Lower Raritan Watershed as possible. We need people #ToBeTheEyesOnTheRise along the shore, and help document (and educate one another) about local flooding. Flooding that takes place during a King Tide is often referred to as nuisance flooding. Nuisance flooding is the water level above the minor flooding threshold. Over time, the frequency of nuisance flooding is expected to increase due to sea level rise. According to NOAA, nuisance flooding has increased on all three U.S. coasts, between 300 and 925 percent since the 1960s. The data and photos collected through the #CaptureTheKing Tide effort will be publicly available for all to use, learn from, and document local trouble spots.

JC NEER has posted this as an “Event” on their Facebook page. You can particpate by downloading the app from https://searisingsolutions.com/ or upload pictures to their facebook page. Either method is encouraged.

Please use this brochure and the #CaptureTheKing logo to spread the word.#CaptureTheKing
#BeTheEyesOnTheRise

PS: This could be a good local SJ Green Team or elementary school science class project. Tide Charts can be accessed online to guide the field work photos.

Gubernatorial Elections and NJ Ballot Question 2

New Jersey’s Gubernatorial Elections are just a week away! Here are a few things to think about as you prepare to go to the polls.

I. New Jersey Ballot Question #2

In addition to voting for our next Governor, New Jersey voters will be asked to vote on Public Question #2, the  “Revenue from Environmental Damage Lawsuits Dedicated to Environmental Projects Amendment” question.

The LRWP encourages New Jersey voters to vote YES on this important ballot question. A YES vote would require that Natural Resource Damages funds be used ONLY for their intended purpose of restoration and environmental cleanup. In years prior, more than 80% of supposedly dedicated environmental clean-up funds were instead appropriated for the state’s general operating budget.

According to the ballot question’s interpretive statement, “This amendment would dedicate moneys collected by the State relating to natural resource damages through settlements or awards for legal claims based on environmental contamination. These moneys would be dedicated to repair, replace, or restore damaged natural resources, or to preserve the State’s natural resources. The moneys would be spent in an area as close as possible to the geographical area in which the damage occurred. The moneys could also be used to pay for the State’s legal or other costs in pursuing the claims. Currently, these moneys may be used for any State purpose.”

For more information on Public Question 2 and its history and impacts, see https://ballotpedia.org/New_Jersey_Public_Question_2,_Revenue_from_Environmental_Damage_Lawsuits_Dedicated_to_Environmental_Projects_Amendment_(2017)

II. Questions for New Jersey Gubernatorial Candidates

Every Tuesday for the last 12 weeks the LRWP has reached out (via twitter) to the New Jersey Democratic, Republican, Green and Libertarian Gubernatorial candidates, posing questions specific to how they plan improve the health of our watershed and New Jersey environment. Only one candidate responded to any of our questions, but these are questions folks concerned about water quality and environmental health should ask of anyone running for public office. Here are the LRWP’s tweets, and the candidate responses:

7.25.2017

@PhilMurphyNJ @KimGuadagnoNJ @KaperDaleForGov@Pete4nj what actions would you take as Gov to make NJ’s water sector more energy efficient?

8.1.2017

@PhilMurphyNJ @KimGuadagnoNJ @KaperDaleForGov@Pete4nj do you support the use of citizen science as input into climate change modeling for the state of NJ?

8.8.2017

@PhilMurphyNJ @KimGuadagnoNJ @KaperDaleForGov@Pete4nj do you support implementing a state-wise water reuse assistance program?

8.15.2017

@PhilMurphyNJ @KimGuadagnoNJ @KaperDaleForGov@Pete4nj will you reinstate the 2007 flood hazard area control act rules?

8.22.2017

@PhilMurphyNJ @KimGuadagnoNJ @KaperDaleForGov@Pete4nj as Governor how would you encourage integrated watershed management in NJ?

8.29.2017

@PhilMurphyNJ @KimGuadagnoNJ @KaperDaleForGov@Pete4nj as Governor do you support the creation of stormwater utilities in NJ?

9.5.2017

@PhilMurphyNJ @KimGuadagnoNJ @KaperDaleForGov@Pete4nj do you support the use of citizen science as input into watershed modeling for the state of NJ?

9.12.2017

@PhilMurphyNJ @KimGuadagnoNJ @KaperDaleForGov@Pete4nj how will you position NJ to secure funding from USEPA revolving loan program for water & wastewater infrastructure?

9.19.2017

@PhilMurphyNJ @KimGuadagnoNJ @KaperDaleForGov@Pete4nj how does closing the water infrastructure investment gap play into your plans to create jobs & strengthen the economy?

9.26.2017

@PhilMurphyNJ @KimGuadagnoNJ @KaperDaleForGov@Pete4nj how will you help NJ’s towns secure funding from USEPA’s State Revolving Loan Program for H20 infrastructure improvements?

10.3.2017

@PhilMurphyNJ @KimGuadagnoNJ @KaperDaleForGov@Pete4nj as Gov, how would you help smooth the path to alternative financing & funding of H20 & wastewater infrastructure in NJ?

10.10.2017

@PhilMurphyNJ @KimGuadagnoNJ @KaperDaleForGov @Pete4nj do you support moving the state to 100% renewables by 2035?

10.24.2017

@PhilMurphyNJ @KimGuadagnoNJ @KaperDaleForGov @Pete4nj what commitment will you make to clean energy (tidal, solar, wind) in NJ?

Response from @KaperDaleForGov: We would commit to a Clean Power Plan with goals of dramatic increases in clean energy production by 2025.

See you at the polls!

Notes from Garden & Afield: Week of Oct 22

 

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). Notes and photographs are for the period covered, unless otherwise noted.

The fall foliage colors on Lawrence Brook in the Deans section of South Brunswick, Middlesex County.

FALL FOLIAGE: The peak of the colors is a little late this year, but this coming week should be very nice for viewing. The combination of fallen leaves and rain can make slippery driving conditions. So, be careful driving.

Northeastern United States fall foliage map. (Copyright 2017 by the Foliage Network.)

DEER RUT: Speaking of being careful when driving, look out for deer, “Odocoileus virginianus,” because the rut, or mating season, is on – meaning sex-crazed deer are running around. Normally, bucks stay out of sight, while it is common to see does and their brood. But over the last few weeks, I have noticed movement by bucks. During this week, I have seen a buck along the woods edge at Helmetta and in a driveway in a wooded area of East Brunswick, both in Middlesex County. If dividing the rut into three chapters of one, bucks challenging other bucks and chasing does, two, mating, and three, a wind-down, I would say we are in stage one on the cusp of stage two. The rut will extend to about mid-December.

I shot this 7-point buck (with a camera) in 2015, October, just north of the Jersey Midlands near the Metropark railroad station area of Woodbridge, Middlesex County.

WINTER IS COMING: I have been gazing at the constellation Orion, easily identified in the night sky by its belt of three stars. When we can see Orion, it means we are in the colder weather part of the year. And cold weather means being on the lookout for snow. On 2008, October 28, it snowed in the Helmetta area of Middlesex County, but there was little, if any, accumulation. (The average snowfall in the New Brunswick, Middlesex County, area, for example, is 25.8 inches.)

A sign of winter: fencing on farmland to prevent drifting snow. Here on a farm in Upper Freehold, Monmouth County, stakes for snowfencing are in place.

A little bit of lingering warm weather, a little taste of future cold weather — that is this time of year. Here, flowers in bloom on Voorhees Mall at Rutgers University—New Brunswick, Middlesex County.

“SNOWBIRDS”: Has anyone seen the first “snowbird,” or junco, “Junco hyemalis,” of the cold-weather season? I have not noticed any yet, but likely will see one soon, because I normally see the first one of the season around Halloween.

A “snowbird” in my yard in March of this year. They are a cold-weather bird in the Jersey Midlands. Normally, I begin seeing them around Halloween.

BIRD-FEEDING: For the first time in years, I did not feed birds this summer. Although I love zoning out and watching birds at my backyard feeder, I decided to put the birds visiting my yard to work, that is, eating insects – and from my end, saving money on birdseed. But this week, with food gardening pretty much over for the year and cold weather scaring off insects, I resumed feeding. It seemed to take a few days to attract birds to the feeder, but they are now there – blue jay, “Cyanocitta cristata”; chickadee, probably “Poecile carolinensis”; titmouse, “Baeolophus bicolor”; and nuthatch, “Sitta carolinensis.” And I await more species.

A gray squirrel, “Sciurus carolinensis,” testing the squirrel guard on my backyard birdfeeder. I will have to keep an eye on it to see who wins, feeder or squirrel.

DRY CONDITIONS: All of the Jersey Midlands’s seven counties are below average for rain over the last three months. Through October 27, Friday, Hunterdon received 8.5 inches, down 4.0 inches; Somerset, 9.6 inches, down 2.7 inches; Middlesex, 10.0 inches, down 2.1 inches; Mercer, 7.5 inches, down 4.5 inches; Monmouth, 8.2 inches, down 3.5 inches; Ocean, 9.0 inches, down 2.4 inches; and Burlington, 9.4 inches, down 2.4 inches.

Middlesex County’s Farrington Lake is low. Here, looking from the South Brunswick-East Brunswick boundary across the lake to North Brunswick.

THE WIND: On the morning of Tuesday, October 24, I went to the Helmetta Post Office, where I am third generation with Box 275, to pick up my mail. There, I noticed American flags at the Fire Department and at the historic Avon Inn snapping in the wind. Judging by the flags, the wind was blowing up to 8 to 12 miles per hour. Wind speed can be judged by its impact on flags, trees, and smoke, for example.

An American flag snaps to the wind at Helmetta’s historic Avon Inn, 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.”)

Another American flag in the wind at the Helmetta firehouse and old George W. Helme Snuff Mill pumphouse, which sits on the mill race leading from the former mill to Manalapan Brook.

This is an easy-to-use wind chart from universetoday.com. (Graphic copyright 2017 by universetoday.com.)

CLOUDS OVER NEW BRUNSWICK: During a break from my work in the Plangere Writing Center at Rutgers University’s Murray Hall in New Brunswick, Middlesex County, I looked out a window and noticed the clouds over the Johnson and Johnson pharmaceutical company headquarters along the Raritan River. Again, a beautiful display by Mother Nature:

Clouds over Johnson and Johnson pharmaceuticals headquarters along the Raritan River in New Brunswick, Middlesex County. Photograph from Murray Hall on the Rutgers University downtown campus.

Another photo of clouds over the J&J building in New Brunswick, Middlesex County.

LOST MAN IN THE PINE BARRENS AROUND HELMETTA: A 68-year-old was rescued after becoming lost and weakened during a walk in an East Brunswick, Middlesex County, section of the Jamesburg Park Conservation Area. The man apparently was not physically injured. But he had suffered a stroke about 10 years ago and has physical, cognitive, and speech limitations, according to family friends and officials. Rescuers first had to locate the man. Then, those rescuers were lost and had to be guided out of the woods. A State Police helicopter was called in to light up the woods and find the victim and his rescuers. The helicopter, then, guided them out before it had to leave because it was low on fuel. The rescue took about four hours until about 9:30 p.m. Because of the swampy and woodsy terrain, the man had to be hand-carried out on a stretcher. The Jamesburg Conservation Area, which is owned by Middlesex County Parks and Recreation, is about 1,400 acres of woods, swamp, waterways, and bodies of water, including Helmetta Pond.

HELMETTA POND, GOOD FOR THE SOUL: Ralph “Rusty” Richards, a mentor of mine in the Pine Barrens around Helmetta, Middlesex County, and I were talking at Helmetta Pond when this unfamiliar woman walked by and told us she was going to wet her feet in the Pond. It sure looked good for the soul.

Wading woman at Helmetta Pond.

DRIVE-BY FARM SCENES: In my travels, I photographed various farm scenes in South Brunswick and Monroe, both in Middlesex County, and Upper Freehold, Monmouth County.

A farm in South Brunswick, Middlesex County.

Lark Nurseries in Monroe, Middlesex County.

A combine works a field in Upper Freehold, Monmouth County.

Irrigation equipment on a sod farm in Upper Freehold, Monmouth County.

OCEAN TEMPERATURES: Atlantic Ocean temperatures on the New Jersey coast were about 61 degrees to 64 degrees on the October 28-29 weekend.
CHANGE THE CLOCKS: We switch from Daylight Savings Time to Standard Time November 5, Sunday, at 2 a.m., the clocks moving back to 1 a.m.
SUNRISE/SUNSET: For October 29, Sunday, to November 4, Saturday, the sun will rise about 7:25 to 7:30 a.m. and set about 5:55 p.m. For November 5, Sunday, to November 11, Saturday, the sun will rise about 6:35 a.m. set about 4:45 p.m.
WEATHER: The National Weather Service forecasting station for the area is at http://www.weather.gov/phi/.
THE NIGHT SKY: The next full moon is the Frost Moon on the Friday-Saturday, November 3-4, overnight.
“WAR OF THE WORLDS” BROADCAST: When you look into the night sky, something may be looking back… On 1938, October 30, Mischief Night, the Jersey Midlands were invaded by Martians in Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre on the Air’s adaptation of H.G. Wells’s “The War of the Worlds.” The broadcast, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9q7tN7MhQ4I.
UPCOMING: October 29, Sunday, 1:30 p.m., from Clean Ocean Action: “There will be a commemoration of lives, homes and businesses lost as a result of (2012’s) Superstorm Sandy. There will be a rally followed by brief comments from various elected officials and the major candidates for Governor. Attendees will line the Asbury Park boardwalk from end to end demonstrating the urgent need to address climate change. The call to action will be captured by aerial photography as attendees hold hands across the boardwalk. For more information or to get involved, contact Ed Potosnak, NJ League of Conservation Voters at ed.potosnak@njlcv.org. RSVP today at njlcvef.org/sandy.”

A tree eats a traffic sign in South Brunswick, Middlesex County.

Joe Sapia, 60, is a lifelong resident of Monroe in South Middlesex County. He is a Pine Barrens naturalist and a gardener of organic vegetables and fruit, along with zinnias and roses. 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 Polish-immigrant grandmother, Annie Poznanski Onda. He gardens the same backyard plot as did his Italian-American father, Joe Sr., and Grandma Annie. Both are inspirations for his food gardening. Ma inspires his rose gardening. Joe’s work also is at @JosephSapia on Twitter.com, along with Facebook.com on the Jersey Midlands page.

 

 

Notes from Garden & Afield: Week of Oct 1-8

Except as noted, 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). Notes and photographs are for the period covered, unless otherwise noted.

Morning on Farrington Lake, looking from East Brunswick to North Brunswick, both in Middlesex County, at the Hardenburg Lane bridge. Being on New Jersey’s Coastal Plain, where there are few, if any, natural bodies of water, Farrington Lake is created by the damming of Lawrence Brook between Davidson Mill Pond Park and Milltown.

FIRETOWERS: New Jersey’s fall wildfire season coincides with leaves falling and normally runs until about Thanksgiving and that time of year’s colder temperatures. But there could be a wildfire threat at any time if conditions are correct — and, now, we have had both falling leaves and dry conditions. So, the state Forest Fire Service is staffing its lookout towers. Visitors are welcome to go up in the towers when they are staffed – but, remember, you not only have to walk up the tower stairs, but you have to walk down. These Forest Fire Service towers are in the Jersey Midlands: Jamesburg/Middlesex County, Lakewood/Ocean County, Cedar Bridge/Ocean County, Medford/Burlington County, Lebanon/Burlington County, Apple Pie Hill/Burlington County, Batsto/Burlington County, and Bass River/Burlington County.

“Jamesburg Tower,” actually outside of Jamesburg in a Monroe Township section of Thompson Park, is about 65-feet-tall, sitting on high ground of about 150 feet above sea level over the Raritan River watershed.

GREAT HORNED OWL: Late at night, as I was at my desk, I thought I heard one of my favorite night sounds, the resonating hoot, hoot, hoot of a great horned owl, “Bubo virginianus.” I went outside and heard what I thought was a faint call of one, then nothing. The great horned is an early breeder, so the calling, signally both territory and looking for mates, should increase. More information, including audio of its calls, is at Cornell University’s All About Birds website, https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Great_Horned_Owl/id.
BALD EAGLE, OCEAN COUNTY: Diane Larson, the home horticulturist and leader of the Master Gardeners program in Rutgers University’s Cooperative Extension Office/Monmouth County, sent in this photograph taken by her stepson, Danny Larson. It is a juvenile bald eagle, photographed on the afternoon of Thursday, October 5, on Beaver Dam Creek in Brick, Ocean County. Diane was leaning toward bald eagle, “Haliaeetus leucocephalus,” but raised a question if it could be a golden eagle, “Aquila chrysaetos.” Two New Jersey Audubon Society naturalists, Pete Bacinski (retired) and Scott Barnes (active) made the identification via this photograph. “It is a juvenile bald eagle,” Pete said. “The bill is too large for (a) golden.” “Yes, definitely a juvenile bald eagle,” Scott said. (Thank you, Danny, Diane, Pete, and Scott, for the team effort.)

Danny Larson photographed this juvenile bald eagle on Beaver Dam Creek near his family’s house in Brick, Ocean County. (Photography copyright 2017 by Danny Larson.)

DRIVE-BY NATURALIST, DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT: As I drive through the Pigeon Swamp area of South Brunswick, Middlesex County, I pass a warehouse area. There, I often see a double-crested cormorant, “Phalacrocorax auritus,” at a retention pond.

A double-crested cormorant in a retention pond in South Brunswick, Middlesex County.

STEAMING FARRINGTON LAKE: When water temperature is much warmer than air temperature, bodies of water look like steaming soup. I caught this view of Farrington Lake on a cool morning. A few winters back, when we experienced real cold temperatures, this phenomenon was seen at the Atlantic Ocean – a really cool view.

A steamy Farrington Lake, looking from East Brunswick to North Brunswick.

FALL ON THE FARMS: It is fall, so farms are displaying pumpkins and chrysanthemums. Field corn, or feed corn, awaits harvesting.

Field corn awaits harvesting in South Brunswick, Middlesex County

Acres of field corn await harvesting in South Brunswick

Chrysanthemums at Davino’s Nursery in East Windsor, Mercer County.

CLOUDS, NO. 1: One of the week’s beautiful clouds and sky view was from the East Windsor Community Garden in Mercer County.

Beautiful clouds and sky view at East Windsor Community Garden in Mercer County.

CLOUDS, NO. 2: Another view of beautiful sky with clouds was from my backyard in Monroe, Middlesex County.

A clouds-in-the-sky view from my backyard in Monroe, Middlesex County.

Another clouds-in-the-sky view from my backyard.

OCEAN TEMPERATURES: Atlantic Ocean temperatures on the New Jersey coast were about 69 degrees to 71 degrees during the weekend of October 7 and 8.
SUNRISE/SUNSET: For October 8, Sunday, to October 14, Saturday, the sun will rise about 7:05 a.m. and set about 6:25 p.m. For October 15, Sunday, to October 21, Saturday, the sun will rise from about 7:10 to 7:15 a.m. and set about 6:10 to 6:15 p.m.
THE NIGHT SKY: The next full moon is the Frost Moon on the November 3-4 overnight.

The moon over Manalapan Brook and its floodplain in Monroe, Middlesex County. This moon is waning after October 5’s Full Harvest Moon.

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

A view from Jamesburg Tower, looking south toward Monroe Township High School, from the spring of 2014.

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. Copyright 2017 by Joseph Sapia

Protecting the Rutgers Ecological Preserve

Article and photos by Daniel Cohen, Rutgers University junior

As a lifelong resident of Highland Park, and currently a student at Rutgers I have greatly enjoyed hiking throughout the university’s Ecological Preserve, a relatively pristine area located on the Livingston Campus. The Rutgers Preserve was established in 1976 as an ecological resource. Its purpose is to serve as an aesthetic, educational, and recreational area for the Rutgers community as well as for the residents of New Jersey. This 360-acre Eco-Preserve is the habitat of numerous creatures including migrant songbirds (warblers and towhees). It is also the home of the white-tailed deer. The Preserve is the site of native plants such as Spring Ephemerals and Jack-in-the-Pulpit, as well as Ash, Beech, Hickory, and Red Oak trees.

Anyone concerned with environmental matters in the Lower Raritan Watershed should be aware of the proposed Rutgers “Innovation Park” (IP) plan – an infrastructure project to be constructed adjacent to the Rutgers Eco-Preserve site. Rutgers has requested that the New Jersey Commission of Budgeting and Planning allocate $4.75 billion for infrastructure projects on its campuses as part of a Master Plan. Included in this proposal is funding for IP, a major project to be built on the edge of the Preserve. According to the Rutgers publication Business Plan and Implementation Strategy (2016), its purpose is to “promote research collaborations, technology transfer and commercialization, job creation, and public-private partnerships.” IP, an inter-disciplinary learning site with a goal of furthering environmentalism is well-intentioned.

However, a project whose mission is environmental may nevertheless be harmful to the Preserve’s ecosystem. A major building project occurring just outside the Eco Preserve’s borders may well threaten fauna and flora within the Preserve itself. The project will result in pollutants from trucks and construction machinery as well as in greater noise levels. Fossil fuel emissions, the primary cause of climate change, have already caused the destruction of species of animals and plants worldwide. Excessive construction noise is harmful to the well-being of animals and plants as fossil fuel emissions and increased decibel levels will not stop at the Preserve’s periphery. The essential question is to what degree, the site will be impacted.

If it has not yet done so, Rutgers must conduct a thorough environmental review of the effects of this infrastructure project. Although in the Rutgers publication there is an environmental assessment of the IP site itself, there is no reference to its impact on the adjacent Eco-Preserve. There should be a comprehensive environmental assessment regarding how the IP project will impact this area. Residents of Central New Jersey and beyond, including members of the Rutgers community who care about protecting this vital habitat, must be given the opportunity to interact with those involved with this project.

May I List You as an Entrée Today?

Article and photos by Joe Mish

The food chain is not a one way street, as a turtle whose kin may feed on baby ducks, gets picked on by a bald eagle

It is unthinkable to imagine a restaurant where the diners are often listed as menu items. Though when seated at nature’s dinner table, the catch of the day takes on a whole new meaning as predators and prey freely alternate position. The dietary choices are also a surprise as the variety of delectable meals is often at odds with expectations.

Sorting through my library of photos, I was perplexed trying to categorize some images showing two species in close contact. Obviously notable was the reversal of who was eating who.

The first image which prompted these thoughts was captured as I launched my canoe. Here was a very young painted water snake, brilliant colored markings, with a fish sticking out its mouth. Comparing the size of the snake to the fish, I wondered if the snake ‘bit off more than he could chew’, as they say. The fish was wider than the snake and it didn’t look like much progress was being made in the attempt to swallow it. I couldn’t identify the species of fish but thought it a moment of karma as small mouth bass which inhabit the river are well known to forage on anything that swims or crawls in the waters of the south branch. A small snake would hardly be ignored by a hungry bass.

Another image shows a larger painted water snake suspended on o vertical river bank holding onto the tail of a gold colored catfish. As the snake was in an awkward position and didn’t want to go into the water, it was a standoff with the advantage going to the snake. The fish would struggle and then lay still. Eventually the fish broke free. I then remembered a series of images documenting another struggle where a snapping turtle grabbed a painted water snake by the tail. As I paddled along, I saw a water snake swimming across the river and as it neared the opposite bank it suddenly reared up and began to thrash about. Mystery solved as a snapping turtle soon surfaced holding on tight, as the snake now alternated struggling and lying still. As I drifted closer, the turtle was intimidated into releasing its grip and the snake swam off.

A painted water snake has a catfish by the tail. The snake is barely holding on to the vertical bank , using a tuft of grass to secure its precarious position. the catfish would struggle mighily and then rest. After several tries the catfish appeared dead and lay still for quite some time. Suddenly the catfish came to life and broke free. Again, the scene was captured from a canoe.

A painted water snakes has the tables turned on it as a snapping turtle reached up to grab the snake swimming across the river.

Turtles are not immune from the proverbial soup bowl as they are prey to many birds and animals that share the same habitat. Even large water snakes will easily swallow a turtle hatchling seeking cover in the water, as will great blue herons, mink, fox, skunk, raccoon and birds of prey.

In a twist of fate, the turtle that killed baby ducks in a farm pond yesterday could very well be on a larger bird’s menu today.

Such was the case when I spotted a bald eagle standing on a log near shore, intently pulling and tearing away at what was probably a deer carcass or white sucker. The eagle would occasionally look up and certainly it saw me from two hundred yards away, apparently not at all intimidated. As I closed the distance, a bright yellow object was clearly visible and the focus of the eagle’s rapt attention. I began to take photos, drifting ever closer and as I started to pass the eagle, it flew off. It was then I realized the eagle was dining on a painted turtle!

Across the land where rivers flow, the lines between predator and prey begin to blur. Don’t be surprised when a squirrel is seen carry a baby crow or a muskrat is swimming underwater holding a baby blue jay or a blue jay is flying off with a dead vole. If you can’t imagine it, it is happening somewhere along our wild rivers.

Muskrat with a bluejay swims into its den’s underwater entrance. Mystery for sure.

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.

Garden & Afield: Week of October 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). Notes and photographs are for the period covered, unless otherwise noted.

A bit of a strange scene in my backyard: forsythia blooming among the fall foliage changing of colors.

SPRING IN THE FALL: Years ago, I recall seeing sheep laurel, “Kalmia angustifolia,” a spring bloomer, flowering in the fall in the Pine Barrens around Helmetta. Twice this week, I noticed a bird or birds singing away, seemingly a springtime song; And a red-bellied woodpecker, “Melanerpes carolinus,” drummed against my house. Also, this week, I noticed another spring bloomer in flower – forsythia. It flowered in my backyard. I normally see forsythia blooming for the first time of the season in early March to mid-April. What does it all mean? I just think the fall conditions are replicating spring conditions, especially the summerlike temperatures.

The backyard forsythia in bloom.

THE PINE BARRENS “FALL FOLIAGE” PEAK: The Pine Barrens’s name is a misnomer, neither a place of all pines nor barren lands. And it is a great place to see the changing colors of the fall foliage – the deciduous vegetation changes, with blueberry bushes turning flaming red, and contrasts with the greens of pines, cedars, and laurels. Normally, I look for the fall foliage color peak in the Pine Barrens on October 13 in the wetlands and October 20 in the uplands. This year, that schedule is running behind. The woods around Helmetta are still quite green. (“Fall foliage” is a misnomer, too. In the Pine Barrens around Helmetta, one can observe the changing colors beginning in about mid- to late July.)

The colors are changing at Helmetta Pond October 13, Friday, but not yet peaking

An October 12, Thursday, map from the Fall Foliage Network.

DRIVE-BY NATURALIST, PHEASANT: I just happened to be reading about ring-necked pheasants, “Phasianus colchicus,” the other day. Then, I saw one between the Applegarth and Wyckoff Mills section of Monroe, Middlesex County, the first time I recall seeing one afield in maybe 20 or 25 years. These are non-native – introduced to America from Asia in the 1880s, according to Cornell University’s All About Birds website, allaboutbirds.org. Now, they are naturalized in the United States. This one could have been a naturalized bird or one released for hunting.

This is a rather blurry photograph, because I came across this ring-necked pheasant unexpectedly while I was driving and had to quickly crank off a photograph before it fled. I am using this photo because it shows a full view of the bird. Also, I did not crop out the roadside litter, to illustrate how wildlife competes with human carelessness.

Notice the white, forming the ring around its neck.

CLOUDS: This week’s spectacular cloud scene was in Middlesex County, at North Brunswick, looking toward Milltown. I stopped at the McDonald’s restaurant for breakfast, looked at the sky, and there they were.

Clouds over North Brunswick, Middlesex County.

VOICES FROM (FAR) AFIELD, JUDY AUER SHAW: Judy Auer Shaw, author of “The Raritan River, Our Landscape, Our Legacy,” checked in from Ohio, reminded by a suggestion in a previous “Garden and Afield” to wear blaze orange in the woods in hunting areas: “I have a story from my teaching years in Michigan. I organized a nature hike for my kids (7th graders) and we all wore browns, grays and greens. As we approached the hiking trail, we were behind a carload of guys wearing orange. It finally dawned on me that we were going out on the first day of hunting season — in complete camouflage. Yikes! Needless to say, we were fine, but I was one worried den mother that day!”

Judy Auer Shaw’s 2014 book.

The pumpkin patch at Giamarese Farm on Fresh Ponds Road, East Brunswick, Middlesex County

YARD AND GARDEN: I planted five “false cypress,” or Crippsii,” I picked up at Krygier’s Nursery in South Brunswick, Middlesex County. The Knock Out roses and zinnias continue blooming – the zinnias being visited by such butterflies as the painted lady, “Vanessa virginiensis,” and cabbage white, “Pieris rapae.” Despite blooming, the zinnias are losing their luster, covered with powdery mildew, “Golovinomyces cichoracearum,” and a leaf spot disease. I also found my first raspberry on some bushes planted earlier this year.

Five “false cypress,” or Crippsii, have been added to my yard.

A raspberry fruiting in my backyard garden.

FARMING PERILS IN THE MIDLANDS: I was visiting Krygier’s Nursery, owned by husband and wife Jimmy Krygier, in South Brunswick, Middlesex County, and two perils were obvious – encroaching development and damage caused by browsing deer, “Odocoileus virginianus.” The nursery, a Krygier family business for three generations of about 100 years, is on Route 535, also known as Cranbury-South River Road, Cranbury Road, and South River Road. What was adjoining cornfield up to months ago is now a warehouse property, for example. And one only has to see how the deer have shaped the arbor vitae trees through their browsing. (Krygier’s Nursery is at the corner of Route 535 and Dunham’s Corner Road, South Brunswick, near the Middlesex County Fair Grounds).

Development encroaches Krygier’s Nursery in South Brunswick, Middlesex County.

Notice the odd shape to the arbor vitae. It is caused by deer nibbling on the trees.

DEER DOCUMENTARY: “The Deer Stand” is a documentary about deer over-population in the Jersey Midlands. See the movie at https://vimeo.com/233572156.

In fall of 2016, Anna Luiten, an ecologist with the Monmouth County Park System, stands in a Thompson Park forest area over-browsed by deer. The fenced area contains a lush understory, because it is protected from deer.

SNOWBIRDS: Anybody seeing dark-eyed juncos, or “snowbirds,” yet? The birds, “Junco hyemalis,” come down to our area from as far away as Canada during the cold-weather months. I normally begin seeing them in my yard around Halloween. Their color pattern of slate gray on their backs and white on their fronts suggests, “Dark skies above, snow below.”

A “snowbird” in the snow in my yard in early 2017.

OCEAN TEMPERATURES: Atlantic Ocean temperatures on the New Jersey coast were about 67 degrees to 69 degrees during the October 14-15 weekend.
SUNRISE/SUNSET: For October 15, Sunday, to October 21, Saturday, the sun will rise from about 7:10 to 7:15 a.m. and set about 6:10 to 6:15 p.m. For October 22, Sunday, to October 28, Saturday, the sun will rise about 7:20 a.m. and set about 6 a.m. to 6:05 a.m. We switch to Daylight Savings Time November 5, Sunday, at 2 a.m., the clocks moving back to 1 a.m.
THE NIGHT SKY: The next full moon is the Frost Moon on the November 3-4 overnight.
WEATHER: The National Weather Service forecasting station for the area is at http://www.weather.gov/phi/.
UPCOMING: 2017, October 28, Saturday, 1 p.m. book signing and 2 p.m. lecture with Marta McDowell, author of “Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life,” at Jamesburg Presbyterian Church, 175 Gatzmer Ave, Jamesburg. $30 at the door. More information is available from the Earth Center Conservancy (of Middlesex County), www.ecc-nj.com. Beatrix Potter, born in 1866 and died in 1943, was a children’s writer and illustrator. She wrote and illustrated “The Tale of Peter Rabbit,” 1901.

Author Marta McDowell will sign books and speak in Jamesburg, Middlesex County, October 28, Saturday.

Gray squirrels, “Sciurus carolinensis,” appear to be active, burying acorns, preparing for winter. This one was at Rutgers University’s College Avenue Campus in New 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. 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.

Imagine a Day Without Water…

Thursday October 12 is “Imagine a Day Without Water” Day. Can you even begin to imagine a day without water? It isn’t just your personal use of water – brushing your teeth, flushing your toilet, taking a shower – though those rituals are vital. Water is also essential to a functioning economy. What is a college campus or a hotel supposed to do if there is no water? They close. How can a restaurant, coffee shop, or brewery serve customers without water to cook, make coffee and beer, or wash the dishes? They can’t. And what about manufacturers – from pharmaceuticals to automobiles – that rely on water? They would grind to a halt too. An economic study released by the Value of Water Campaign earlier this year found that a single nationwide day without water service would put $43.5 billion of economic activity at risk.

Imagine a Day Without Water is an annual day of awareness that highlights the importance of safe, affordable water to all facets of everyday life. In recognition of the 2017 Imagine A Day Without Water, the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership is unveiling our new “Community Resources for Water Quality” tool developed to improve the accessibility of information about preserving water quality for folks in the Lower Raritan Watershed. The “Community Resources for Water Quality” tool lists and describes publications and other types of materials available through the Rutgers-New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES) specific to maintaining or improving water condition in our communities. The tool is designed to assist Environmental Commissions, Green Teams and/or other interested residents to improve, preserve and restore stream areas and watersheds. We think it’s pretty neat!

Water is a public health issue, it is an economic issue. No community can thrive without water, and everyone deserves a safe, reliable, accessible water supply. Our new tool highlights things that every one of us can do to preserve and improve our water resources to make sure that no one ever has to imagine a day without water again. Please check out the tool, and let us know how it inspires you to preserve or restore our water resources!

With thanks to Rutgers-NJAES and Joan Kaplan with the Rutgers Environmental Steward program for their assistance in developing this tool.

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