Tag: Helmetta

Feb. 3 Clean-up of Jamesburg Park – Helmetta

Please plan to join the LRWP and Middlesex County Division of Parks on Sunday February 3, 10-noon for a winter clean-up of the Jamesburg Park Conservation Area in Helmetta!

This beautiful area is in the Manalapan Brook subwatershed. We will be cleaning the roadsides along Helmetta Boulevard, Port Street and Washington Street.

Registration required.

Driving Directions to Helme Mill Park parking lot:

From Route 130:
• Turn East onto Davidsons Mill Road
• Turn left onto Cranbury/South River Road (County Road)
• Turn right  at the traffic light onto Helmetta Blvd
• Slow your speed as you enter the town of Helmetta
• Turn right onto Maple Avenue
• Park will be on your right hand side
From Route 18:
• Take the exit for County Route 615 South
• Turn right onto Main St  (CR 615)
• Continue onto Manalapan Road (CR 615)
• Continue onto Main Street (CR 615)
• Turn right onto Maple Street
• Park will be on your left
From the NJ Turnpike:
• Take Exit 9 for Route 18(New Brunswick/East Brunswick)
• Keep left at the fork, follow signs for NJ-18 S
• Follow directions from Route 18 above  From 287
• Take exit 1B for US 1 South towards Trenton
• Take exit for Route 18 South
• Follow directions from Route 18 above

 

Notes from Garden & Afield, Week of January 7

Article and photos by Joe Sapia

This photograph is of my home thermometer in Monroe, Middlesex County, showing approximately minus 5 or minus 6 degrees at about 7:35 a.m. January 7, Sunday.

SUB-FREEZING DAYS: Our sub-freezing temperatures ran from about December 25, Monday, Christmas Day, to January 8, Monday, or about 15 days. On the morning of January 7, Sunday, we really got some low temepratures. The Hopewell area of Mercer County reported 13 degrees below zero! Wrapping up Jersey Midland lows of the January 7 morning, based on my home reading and Rutgers University:

Burlington County: Minus 3 degrees at Red Lion and Oswego Lake.
Hunterdon: Minus 4 degrees at Pittstown.
Mercer County: Minus 13 degrees at Hopewell.
Middlesex County: Minus 5 or 6 degrees at Monroe-Helmetta-Jamesburg. (Another report from the Monroe-Spotswood-Old Bridge area shows Minus 7 degrees.)
Monmouth County: Minus 9 degrees at Howell.
Ocean County: Minus 7 degrees at Berkeley Township and West Creek.

Ice-fishing on Helmetta Pond in Middlesex County.

Farrington Lake, iced over, on the boundary of South Brunswick, East Brunswick, and North Brunswick in Middlesex County.

VOICES FROM AFIELD, RIK VAN HEMMEN: Hendrik “Rik” F. van Hemmen – maritime naturalist, sailor, marine engineer, and author of “A Chronology of Boating on the Navesink River” – checked in from Fair Haven, Monmouth County. “Why do people bitch when it is cold for a few days?” Rik said. “It is really a gift and allows us to see our environment from a different perspective.” Rik sent in photos from a frozen Sandy Hook, which he and his wife, Anne, visited.

“Sandy Hook Bay is solid ice,” said Rik van Hemmen, a maritime naturalist, sailor, marine engineer, and author who lives in Fair Haven, Monmouth County. (Photograph copyright 2018 by Hendrik “Rik” F. van Hemmen)

IN MEMORY OF RUSTY RICHARDS: The Pine Barrens around Helmetta in Middlesex County lost a wonderful historian-outdoorsman and I lost a dear mentor-friend, Ralph “Rusty” Richards of Helmetta, on Friday, January 12. Rusty was 85. Rusty was a volunteer (Helmetta Fire Department, Knights of Columbus, Holy Trinity Church), but I remember him as a storytelling friend who made me laugh. Over the last year or two, Rusty, Eddie Sciegel and I, along with Jimmy Krygier more recently, would get together every several weeks for a Saturday breakfast. We are all from Helmetta-area 100-year families. But Rusty’s legacy to me was he, as a local outdoorsman, taught me about the world afield – unlike some outdoors people who selfishly guard their knowledge. Rusty and I were supposed to Jeep-tour the main Pine Barrens around now. But it never came to be, Rusty being diagnosed with late-stage cancer. Perhaps Rusty and I will get to see each other on the trail. Because, for me, Rusty simply hiked ahead and someday – But not too soon, Rusty! – I hope to see him up yonder. Rusty’s obituary said it nicely, “He was an avid woodsman with an extensive knowledge of the local pine barrens.” The obit, http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/mycentraljersey/obituary.aspx?n=ralph-j-richards-rusty&pid=187839053&fhid=17103.

Rusty Richards, in 2011, picking “opienki” mushrooms in the Pine Barrens around Helmetta, Middlesex County. Rusty died January 12, Friday, at home in Helmetta. This photograph is from the day Rusty taught me about “opienki,” or honey mushrooms, genus “Armillaria.” Around Helmetta, they also are called “stumpies.” “Pien” in Polish means “stump.”

SNOWFALL: There was no new snowfall. So, at my house in the section of Monroe between Jamesburg and Helmetta, Middlesex County, the seasonal count, so far, is 16.0 inches in five events. The seasonal average for this area would be about 25.8 inches, based on the average in New Brunswick, which is about 7.5 miles from my house.

Sunset over snow at Thompson Park in Monroe, Middlesex County.

A snowy scene along the Millstone River in West Windsor, Mercer County.

SNOWFENCING AND DRIFTING: Some may wonder about the purpose of picket-fencing along fields. Well, it is snow-fencing, put in place to prevent drifting snow on roadways.

Drifting snow where there is no snowfence in place on farmland on the Cranbury-Monroe boundary, Middlesex County.

Snow accumulates at a snowfence, keeping the road (out of the photograph in the foreground) clear. This site is on farmland in Plainsboro, Middlesex County.

BALD EAGLE REPORT: The state 2017 bald eagle report is available at http://www.state.nj.us/dep/fgw/ensp/pdf/eglrpt17.pdf. It shows 206 pairs of eagles, with 190 babies produced. The significance is the bald eagle, “Haliaeetus leucocephalus,” is “endangered,” or in immediate peril, as a breeder and, even in general, is considered “threatened,” meaning if current conditions continue, it could become endangered. Thanks to the ban of DDT pesticide and conservation methods, there has been this jump in nests from only one known nest from 1970 to the early 1980s. A breakdown in the Jersey Midlands shows about 45 pairs of eagles, with some pairs near or on county lines:
Burlington County: 12 pairs.
Hunterdon County: 6 pairs.
Mercer County: 4 pairs.
Middlesex County: 5 pairs.
Monmouth County: 8 pairs.
Ocean County: 6 pairs.
Somerset County: 5 pairs.
(See the report for more specific locations. Keep in mind, human intervention can seriously disrupt eagles, so, generally, no location is listed too specifically.)

MY CHRISTMAS CARD: Did anyone use my home-made Christmas card to locate stars in the night sky? I got some interesting reaction to the card. Are you into astrology? No. Do you follow unidentified flying object reports? Not on a regular basis, although I read stories if I stumble upon them. And Cousin Rosemarie Sapia Audino said, “I didn’t know you were a stargazer.” Yes, I am. (Rose, thanks for your normal comment!)

TRACTOR SUPPLY: There is a new Tractor Supply store in my town, Monroe, Middlesex County. The other day, I stopped because it was more convenient than my regular sources for bird seed. One of the things I like about Tractor Supply is it has reading material I normally do not see in other outlets – such as Northern Woodlands and The Backwoodsman magazines, both of which I bought.

A few magazines I picked up at the new Tractor Supply store in Monroe, Middlesex County.

INVASIVE BAMBOO: Man, do I hate bamboo. It is not only non-native, it is highly invasive and tough to eradicate. This time of year, it is easy to spot – everygreen, leafy, and tall. So, I am seeing it frequently. Grrrrrr!

Bamboo in Cranbury, Middlesex County.

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

What appears to be a red-tailed hawk, “Buteo jamaicensis,” perched above the Millstone River and its floodplain, near the bamboo.

Bamboo in Princeton, Mercer County.

SKY VIEWS: This week’s sky photographs are from Plainsboro, Middlesex County, and Whitesbog in the Pine Barrens of Burlington County.

The sun “drawing water” over cranberry bogs at Whitesbog in the Pine Barrens of Burlington County. This, simply, is sun rays peaking through clouds.

More from Whitesbog.

The sky over farmland at Plainsboro, Middlesex County.

FOOD AND FLOWER GARDENS: I have been thinking about my food and flower garden and half-heartedly thinking about what to plant and ordering seeds. Now, I have to really get focused on this – first, planning the garden and, then, buying seeds.

A plot of field corn in winter in Cranbury, Middlesex County.

ATLANTIC OCEAN TEMPERATURES: The Atlantic Ocean temperature in New Jersey on the Saturday-Sunday, January 13-14, weekend ranged from about 31 to 37 degrees.

WEATHER: The National Weather Service forecasting office serving the Jersey Midlands is at http://www.weather.gov/phi/.

SUNRISE/SUNSET: For Sunday, January 14, to Saturday, January 20, the sun will rise about 7:15 to 7:20 a.m. and set about 4:55 to 5 p.m. For Sunday, January 21, to Saturday, January 27, the sun will rise about 7:10 to 7:15 a.m. and set about 5:05 to 5:10 p.m.

PENNSYLVANIA FARM SHOW: It is over for this year, but next January, if you have the opportunity, consider going to the Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg, http://www.farmshow.pa.gov. It is a show of real-deal farming, not the agri-tourism, hobby farming, and play farming taking over the Midlands. Check out the show’s famous butter sculpture.

This year’s butter sculpture at the Pennsylvania Farm Show. It took 1,000 pounds of butter and 14 days for Marie Pelton and Jim Victor of Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, to sculpt this exhibit.

A cow giving birth. Here comes a hoof….

Garden and Afield in the Jersey Midlands: What we are about…

Sky, woods, field, and water in the Pine Barrens at Whitesbog, Burlington County.

Joe Sapia, 61, 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 an organic gardener of 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.

Copyright 2017 by Joseph Sapia

Notes From Garden & Afield, Week of December 31

Article and photos by Joe Sapia (except where noted)

The Delaware River, iced-over Tuesday, January 2, at Washington Crossing — looking from Mercer County, New Jersey, to Bucks County, Pennsylvania, just upstream of the bridge.

SUB-FREEZING DAYS: After days of sub-freezing cold, how cold was it? Cold enough for a waterway – in this case, the mighty Delaware River — to freeze over.

The frozen-over Delaware River Tuesday, January 2, at Washington Crossing, looking from Pennsylvania to New Jersey.

A woman maneuvers Main Street in Cranbury during the Thursday, January 4, snowfall.

SNOWFALL, JANUARY 4: This storm produced a wind-whipped, powdery snow. Snowfall totals reported by National Weather Service:
Burlington County: 3.4 inches at Cinnaminson to 7.5 inches in the Southampton area.
Hunterdon County: 1.9 inches at Readington to 5.8 inches in the Hampton area.
Mercer County: 4.0 inches in the Washington Crossing area to 6.6 inches in the Lawrence area.
Middlesex County: 4.5 inches in the South Brunswick area to 9.6 inches at Cheesequake.
Monmouth County: 9.0 inches at Keyport to 18.0 inches in the West Long Branch area.
Ocean County: 12.5 inches in the Brick area to 18.3 inches in the Berkeley area.
Somerset County: 3.0 inches in the Montgomery area to 5.8 inches in the Franklin area.
(These totals are for these specific stations and may not be complete highs and lows for the counties.)

A snowplow pushes snow on Stockton Avenue in Jamesburg, Middlesex County, in the Thursday, January 4, snowfall.

SNOWFALL FOR THE SEASON: With the January 4 snowfall, my house in Monroe, Middlesex County, has had 16 inches of snow, so far this season. The seasonal average at New Brunswick, Middlesex County, or about 7.5 miles from my house, is 25.8 inches. The January 4 snowfall produced 7 inches at my house.

A wind-whipped, snowy field in Monroe, Middlesex County.

WALKING THE SNOWY WOODS: During the Thursday, January 4, storm, I set out from my house about 4:30 p.m., hitting the woods across the street, not wanting to pass up the pristine snowy woods. It was a brief walk, only about 45 minutes from shortly before sunset to shortly after. But I was glad I got to spend a few minutes shooting pictures of nature’s beauty and relaxing in the woods, before shoveling snow. (Weather conditions: Overcast, estimated temperature of 27 degrees, dew point of 5.5 to 6, wind sounding like a freight train.) I got thinking about this short time in the woods. Normally, I do not consider it a hike unless I do at least 3 miles. Perhaps I should re-focus and think about the mental part of the woods and try to get out there daily, even if for only a short time.

The Old Swimming Hole on Manalapan Brook in Monroe, Middlesex County.

A snow-covered treefall on Manalapan Brook in Monroe, Middlesex County.

SNOW AND THE LAY OF THE LAND: Take advantage of any snow cover. Where there is no snow cover, the woods presents itself as a homogenous picture of earth tones or green leaves – or both. But add a snow-cover; or, better, snow-cover and snow clinging to vegetation; or better yet, snow-cover, snow clinging to vegetation, and foliage and the depth and roll of the land stand out.

The snow-dusted Pine Barrens around Helmetta, Middlesex County – here, specifically, an East Brunswick section of the Jamesburg Park Conservation Area. With the snow contrasting against the earth tones of the woods, it is easy to see the roll of the land.

A firecut, plowed by the state Forest Fire Service before a controlled burn here in the Jamesburg Park Conservation Area, is easly seen, along with the rest of the lay of the land, thanks to snow contrasting with the woods’s earth tones.

VOICES FROM AFIELD, EAGLE: Patty Byrnes Lang of Monroe, Middlesex County, checked in with photographs of a bald eagle, “Haliaeetus leucocephalus,” she saw on the boundaries of Monroe, Cranbury/Middlesex County, and East Windsor/Mercer County. In New Jersey, bald eagles are “endangered,” or in immediate jeopardy, as breeders and “threatened,” meaning if conditions persist they could become endangered,” in general. Patty described one encounter, “I caught a glimpse of him in one of the trees on the left. We got to watch as he flew off the branch he was on, circled the field, and landed on another tree.” Based on its coloring, this is an adult. It could be one of the adults that had a nest last year nearby, along the Millstone River in Monroe. This is the time of year eagles begin working on nests.

A bald eagle on the boundary of Middlesex and Mercer counties, along the border of Monroe/Middlesex, Cranbury/Middlesex, and East Windsor/Mercer. (Photo copyright 2017 by Patty Byrnes Lang)

VOICES FROM AFIELD, BLUEBIRD: Bob Kane of Cranbury, Middlesex County, checked in with a photograph of an eastern bluebird, “Sialia sialis,” taken in his town. This one is easily identifiable as a male, because of the bright coloring.

A male eastern bluebird at Cranbury, Middlesex County. (Photo copyright 2018 by Bob Kane)

RANCOCAS CREEK: The Rancocas Creek watershed is 360 square miles. It is the only major waterway that flows into the Delaware River from the Pine Barrens. And, despite being freshwater, has a tidal effect; The Delaware River has a tidal effect on its freshwater as far north as Trenton.

Low tide on Rancocas Creek, looking upstream on the boundary of Mount Laurel, Willingboro, and Westampton, all in Burlington County. Although this is freshwater, there is a tidal effect on the Delaware River and its tributaries as far north as Trenton.

Rancocas Creek, looking downstream at the boundary of Mount Laurel, Willingboro, and Westampton, all Burlington County.

GARDEN WRITING COURSE: This spring, I will be teaching non-fiction writing again at the Princeton Adult School. This time, it will be “Garden Writing,” five sessions on Thursdays, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., from March 22 to April 26. The class description: “Look at your garden and yard in a different way – through your words. Record your memories in the garden and yard through the essay and vignette. This writing-intensive course has weekly take-home assignments, with the instructor returning critiqued papers. Students will learn writing components, outlining, grammar, style, interviewing, and the importance of resources such as dictionaries and stylebooks – with all assignments focusing on our vegetables, flowers, yards – or afield, if you wish. In-class discussion will cover good examples turned in by students, common problems, and concerns. Feel free to use the class to write a chapter a week of a dream project, work on getting published, keep a journal, or just have fun.” The class costs $99. Enrollment at http://www.ssreg.com/princeton/classes/classes.asp?catID=3679.

ATLANTIC OCEAN TEMPERATURES: The Atlantic Ocean temperature at in New Jersey on the January 6-7 weekend ranged from about 29 to 30 degrees.

WEATHER: The National Weather Service forecasting office serving the Jersey Midlands is at http://www.weather.gov/phi/.

SUNRISE/SUNSET: For Sunday, January 7, to Saturday, January 13, the sun will rise about 7:20 a.m. and set about 4:45 to 4:50 p.m. For Sunday, January 14, to Saturday, January 20, the sun will rise about 7:15 to 7:20 a.m. and set about 4:55 to 5 p.m.

PENNSYLVANIA FARM SHOW: The Pennsylvania Farm Show continues through Saturday, January 13. It is a real-deal show of farming life, not faux farming. So, it has animals, tractors, food preparation, food to buy, gardening displays, and exhibitions. Visitors can get up close to it all. And check out the butter sculpture! (Unfortunately, I will miss the show this year. I had plans to go Wednesday with friends Jimmy and Kathy Krygier of Krygier’s Nursery in South Brunswick, Middlesex County, but work called. I am disappointed, because I look forward to this show.) More information at http://www.farmshow.pa.gov.

COVERING THE WEATHER: During my 31 years as a reporter at the Asbury Park Press, I never saw fellow Metro reporters whine so much about covering something than about weather stories. Me, just the opposite. I loooooooved weather stories. Still do. Was out most of Thursday, January 4, chasing the snow.

Joey on the job, here Tuesday, January 2, photographing the iced-over Delaware River at Washington Crossing, Mercer County.. (Photo copyright 2018 by Pamela B. Roes)

Joe Sapia, 61, 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 an organic gardener of 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.

Copyright 2017 by Joseph Sapia

Notes from Garden & Afield, Week of December 24, 2017

Article and photos by Joe Sapia

Soft morning sunlight contrasts with threatening skies at the high ground of Thompson Park in Monroe, Middlesex County.

A popular winter activity for generations at Thompson Park is sledding from the high ground toward the low ground around “Jamesburg Lake” (properly Lake Manalapan). The 30-acre lake is formed by the damming of Manalapan Brook at Jamesburg. Remember, there are few, if any, natural bodies of water on the Coastal Plain.

Sledding at Thompson Park in Monroe, Middlesex County, via my 2001 folk art Christmas card.

SNOWFALL: The Saturday, December 30, snowfall of 1.0 inch at my house in the part of Monroe between Helmetta and Jamesburg, Middlesex County, brought the season’s total to 9.0 inches. The seasonal average for New Brunswick, Middlesex County, about 7 miles away, is 25.8 inches. Elsewhere in the Midlands, according to the National Weather Service, with these readings based on what had been reported by reliable spotters at the end of the snowfall and perhaps not comprehensive: Burlington County: a high of 2.5 inches at Florence to a low of 1.5 inches at Moorestown; Hunterdon County: 1.0 inch in Lebanon to .8 inches at Whitehouse Station; Mercer County: 3.2 inches in Hamilton to 2.5 inches in Ewing; Monmouth County: 2.8 inches in the Howell area to .9 inches in Shrewsbury; Somerset County: 1.0 inch in Basking Ridge to .8 inches in Bridgewater; Ocean County: 3.3 in Jackson to 1.5 inches in Toms River.

Main Street in Cranbury, Middlesex County, in the Saturday, December 30, snowfall.

Iced-over and snow-covered Devil’s Brook on the boundary of Plainsboro and South Brunswick, Middlesex County.

Cranbury Brook as it drains Brainerd Lake (“Cranbury Lake’) in Middlesex County.

SAFE ICE: This time of year, and especially in the hard freeze the Jersey Midlands is in the midst of, we may be tempted to walk out on ice or go skating on it. Be careful! My rule of thumb is the ice must be at least 4-inches-thick. But various factors could come into play, such as warming temperatures, honey-combing, and running water. So, additionally, I look for crystal clear ice or blue-white ice. I am careful of melting ice, snow insulating ice, channels that may run through bodies of water, and fragile ice where water meets land or vegetation.

Anglers on an iced-over Helmetta Pond.

ICE SAFETY: If ice is breaking underneath, displace your weight by lying flat. For would-be rescuers, follow this order: throw (a line or flotation device), row (a boat to the person), go (yourself only as a last resort). Probably the soundest advice is to immediately seek help from expert rescuers.

Prospertown Lake in Jackson, Ocean County. The lake is at the northern extreme of the main Pine Barrens.

SWAMP-WALKING: With the sub-freezing high temperatures for an extended period, this is what I look for — a good freeze of the swamps, allowing access to otherwise difficult places to get to. I love swamps!

An iced-over wet area in the Manalapan Brook floodplain in Monroe, Middlesex County.

SWAMP-WALKING, No. 2: I started off into the woods across the street from my house – in the Pine Barrens of Monroe, Middlesex County – to do some swamp-walking in the Manalapan Brook floodplain. I did do some, but I got sidetracked when I noticed the abundance of winterberry, genus “Ilex.” I did not get around to making a Christmas wreath or swag, which I decorate with winterberry, but I wound up gathering winterberry to display on its own. I came home with a nice bundle. (To conserve, I broke only one branch from each selected bush.)

Winterberry from the swamp hardwood forest of the Manalapan Brook floodplain on display on my antique kitchen table.

SNOW GEESE: I finally saw some snow geese, “Chen caerulescens,” down from the Arctic as I was driving along the Mercer County-Middlesex County boundary on the border of East Windsor, Cranbury, and Monroe. They were easy to identify by their white bodies and black-tipped wings. There were only a few, rather than a flock. I took a few minutes to see if they were joining a flock on some farmland, but I was going to work and had limited time, finding nothing in my quick search.

Canada geese, “Branta Canadensis,” is a snow-covered field in South Brunswick, Middlesex County.

ATLANTIC OCEAN TEMPERATURES: The Atlantic Ocean temperature at Sandy Hook on December 30-31 weekend ranged from about 30 to 35 degrees.

A quiet December Atlantic Ocean beach, looking from Avon-by-the-Sea to Asbury Park, Monmouth County.

MOON: The next full moon, the Full Moon After Yule, is January 1, New Year’s Day.

The near-full moon over the swamp hardwood forest of the Manalapan Brook floodplain in Monroe, Middlesex County.

SUNRISE/SUNSET: For Sunday, December 31, to Saturday, January 6, the sun will rise about 7:20 a.m. and set about 4:35 to 4:40 p.m. For Sunday, January 7, to Saturday, January 13, the sun will rise about 7:20 a.m. and set about 4:45 to 4:50 p.m.

Soft sunlight on Manalapan Brook in Monroe, Middlesex County, as it flows toward Helmetta and Spotswood, also in Middlesex County.

Joe Sapia, 61, 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.

Copyright 2017 by Joseph Sapia

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.

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.

Notes from Garden & Afield: Week of September 24

Article and photos by Joe Sapia (except as noted)

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.

Gray clouds over Monroe farmland, looking toward the Jamesburg Park Conservation Area. Beautiful cloudy skies have presented themselves in recent years over my hometown of Monroe.

FALL HAS ARRIVED: Despite the summer-like temperatures the Jersey Midlands have been experiencing, fall is here. The calendar proclaims the beginning of fall at the September equinox – this year, September 22, when the day’s light and dark are generally equal. However, I regard fall beginning September 1 and running through October and November.

A fall scene at Griggstown Farm in Franklin, Somerset County.

DEER RUT: The mating season, or rut, for deer, “Odocoileus virginianus,” normally peaks from late October to mid-December. Here is Nixle.com-South Brunswick, Middlesex County, advisory:

“The South Brunswick Police Department is reminding motorists to be alert for increased deer activity over the next six weeks. This is typically when we see an increase in car crashes involving deer. The deer can unexpectedly dart onto roads so motorists need to use extra caution. “Motorists are urged to be especially attentive and cautious during morning and evening commutes when visibility may be poor. Deer are involved in thousands of collisions annually in New Jersey, with as many as half coming during the fall mating season, or rutting season…. An adult male deer can weigh 150 pounds or more.
“In the past month there have been a half dozen crashes involving deer in South Brunswick. In past years the majority of crashes have taken place over the next 6 weeks.

“…Deer are most active in the very early morning and around sunset, when visibility conditions can be very difficult. Using caution while driving will become even more important when Daylight Saving Time ends November 6, causing commutes to align with periods when deer are most active. For motorists, low levels of light and sun glare can make it very difficult to see deer that are about to cross the road. Moreover, multiple deer may cross the road at any given moment, usually in a single file.

The following tips can help motorists stay safe during from deer crashes:

-If you see a deer, slow down and pay attention to possible sudden movement. If the deer doesn’t move, don’t go around it. Wait for the deer to pass and the road is clear.
-Pay attention to ‘Deer Crossing’ signs. Slow down when traveling through areas known to have a high concentration of deer so you will have ample time to stop if necessary. If you are traveling after dark, use high beams when there is no oncoming traffic. High beams will be reflected by the eyes of deer on or near roads. If you see one deer, be on guard: others may be in the area. Deer typically move in family groups at this time of year and cross roads single-file. Don’t tailgate. Remember: the driver in front of you might have to stop suddenly to avoid hitting a deer.

-Always wear a seatbelt, as required by law. Drive at a safe and sensible speed, considering weather, available lighting, traffic, curves and other road conditions.

-If a collision appears inevitable, do not swerve to avoid impact. The deer may counter-maneuver suddenly. Brake appropriately, but stay in your lane. Collisions are more likely to become fatal when a driver swerves to avoid a deer and instead collides with oncoming traffic or a fixed structure along the road.

-Report any deer-vehicle collision to a local law enforcement agency immediately.

-Obey the state’s hands-free device law or, better yet, avoid any distractions by refraining from using cellular devices while driving.

I encountered these deer near Rutgers University–Douglass College in New Brunswick, Middlesex County. These are city deer, allowing me to get within 30 or so feet of them.

WEARING BLAZE ORANGE: With the popular deer-hunting season underway, it is probably a good time to wear blaze orange in the woods. Actually, a few years ago, I started wearing blaze orange on my knapsack year-round, because it is hard to keep track of hunting. During the last deer-hunting season, I walked under a tree-stand with a hunter, never seeing him until he spoke to me. Fortunately, I wore blaze orange. (The incident showed me, no matter a life spent in the woods, I let down my awareness.)

My blaze orange vest and one of my blaze orange hats.

BALDFACED HORNET NESTS: As we transition from the warm weather season to the cold, baldface hornets, “Dolichovespula maculate,” will abandon their nests. The abandoned nest is not a threat and may make a folksy bringing-of-the-outdoors-inside ornament. I have two hanging, with another waiting to be hung, in my cellar “cabin” area. Scope your nest now, but wait for colder weather to make sure it is fully abandoned. (Even in season, these nests are not a threat, if far-enough away from human activity. See this Pennsylvania State University Extension factsheet, http://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/baldfaced-hornet.)

A baldfaced wasp nest on display in my cellar.

MONARCH BUTTERFLIES: Last week, I mentioned monarch butterflies, “Danaus plexippus,” would be heading on their southern migration to either Florida or, more likely, Mexico. The monarchs we see now are a “super generation,” the great-grandchildren of last fall’s migration and these making the complete trip south, if they survive. This week, I was able to photograph one in my garden as it visited the zinnias.

A monarch butterfly on the zinnias in my garden. If all goes right, this butterfly will migrate to at least Florida or, more likely, Mexico. Good luck!

ZINNIAS AND LETTUCE: This week, my zinnias went to Teddy’s luncheonette in Cranbury, Middlesex County, and the Hightstown Diner in Hightstown, Mercer County. The fall lettuce crop in my garden is growing nicely.

The fall lettuce crop in my garden.

GARDEN VOICES: Paul Migut, who gardens in South River, Middlesex County, checked in: “(I) pulled out all Rutgers and yellow tomatoes. (I) still have two grape/cherry tomatoes and two bush beans. And, of course, the ‘surprise’ turnips still growing. Enjoy the Fall season.”

Cherry tomatoes and bush beans from Paul Migut’s garden in South River, Middlesex County. (Photograph copyright 2017 by Paul Migut.)

BEAUTIFUL CLOUDS: The beautiful cloud formations continue. This week, among the places I photographed them was “Jamesburg Lake” (properly “Lake Manalapan”) on the Jamesburg-Monroe boundary, Middlesex County.

Clouds over “Jamesburg Lake,” Middlesex County.

The Delaware and Raritan Canal on the boundary of Rocky Hill and Franklin, Somerset County.

OCEAN TEMPERATURES: Atlantic Ocean temperatures on the New Jersey coast were about 68 degrees to 70 degrees during the weekend of September 30-October 1.

SUNRISE/SUNSET: For October 1, Sunday, to October 7, Saturday, the sun will rise about 6:55 to 7 a.m. and set about 6:30 to 6:40 p.m. For October 8, Sunday, to October 14, Saturday, the sun will rise about 7:05 a.m. and set about 6:25 p.m.

THE NIGHT SKY: The next full moon is the Full Harvest Moon Thursday, October 5.

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

UPCOMING: Another “Rally for the Navesink” meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, October 3, 5:30 p.m., at the Monmouth Boat Club, 31 Union Street, Red Bank. The Rallies are an effort of environmental groups, the community, and municipal, Monmouth County, and state governments to promote improvement of the Navesink River in Monmouth County. The river suffers from high fecal bacteria counts and depleted oxygen levels. More information on the Rally is available from Clean Ocean Action, telephone 732-872-0111, website www.cleanoceanaction.org.

The Navesink River in September, looking downstream from Middletown toward Sea Bright, Monmouth County.

The recent photograph shows Sandy Hook, where the Atlantic Ocean and Raritan Bay meet, from an airplane flight leaving LaGuardia Airport in New York City. Humans, how small we are! (Photograph copyright 2017 by Dan Mulligan, a Long Branch, Monmouth County, kid who, now, lives in Cranbury, where he is on the Township Committee and has served as mayor.)

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 & Afield: Week of August 20

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.

Flowers of the “Bidens” genus growing along South River Road/Route 535 in Cranbury, Middlesex County.

YELLOW FLOWERS IN FIELDS: This time of year, it is common to see a yellow flower of the “Bidens” genus on overgrown farmland. Over the last dozen years, I have seen them begin blooming from about August 20 to August 25. This year, I saw the first blooming August 24, Thursday – in this case in Cranbury, Middlesex County.

IN THE GARDEN, SWEET CORN: I wrapped up the sweet corn harvest, which produced a poor, but usable, crop. The ears developed only partially, basically one half with kernels, one half without. The poor development may be attributable to poor pollination. Corn should be planted in blocks so its pollen can fly back and forth to the plants in the wind. If pollination was the problem, I see two major reasons – one, my corn block was probably too small, in part thanks to a house re-modeling project that fouled up my garden area and by planting a bigger garden this year, I lost area to plant corn in larger blocks and, two, the wet weather may have kept down the spread of pollen. Because I like eating the corn raw off the cob or, if cooked, then sliced off with a knife, the poor development did not affect me in eating what I could harvest. But the quantity of the harvest also was terrible, meaning I had less corn to eat.

A half-developed ear of corn from the garden.

ELSEWHERE IN THE GARDEN: The early cool-weather harvest was so-so – great pickings of lettuce, carrots having a low yield, and peas bombing out. The jury is still out on the summer crop – I gave up on growing tomato plants from the seeds I planted and bought plants, only to have something eat the tops off of them; as I said, the corn generally bombed; the cucumbers bombed, probably because of too much rain, and I still have hope for mushmelon. My first-time planting of zinnias has saved the summer crop.

This may be the culprit that is eating the plants in my garden – a ground hog, “Marmota monax.” It was photographed in my next-door neighbor’s yard.

GRATEFUL FOR THE ZINNIAS: If it was not for my zinnias, planted in the food garden to attract pollinators, I would not have much of a summer harvest. Not only do the zinnias attract pollinators, but they are nice to look at – and give away.

Zinnias as a gift for the eye doctor’s office.

Add some Knock Out roses for the eye doctor’s office.

Zinnias, along with tomatillos, for the kitchen table.

ZINNIAS AND BUTTERFLIES: My morning zone-out time, just after getting up, would be watching the birds at the feeder. This summer, however, I gave up the feeder – saving money on top-quality (and costly) feed of corn kernels and putting the birds to work harvesting insects in the yard. So, until cool weather comes and the feeder goes back up, my only meditative exercise was watering the garden. Now, I found something new – watching the butterflies in the zinnia. I have discovered if I just go about my business of walking through the zinnia patch or harvesting zinnia, the butterflies just go about their business. They do not fly off by my intrusion. The butterflies and I have become friends. I am becoming one with the zinnia patch.

I believe the butterfly on the zinnia is a sachem, “Atalopedes campestris.”

DRAGONFLIES AROUND THE YARD: My yard seems to have hosted a lot of dragonflies this summer. Now, I have to learn to identify them.

A dragonfly in my backyard.

Another view of the dragonfly in my backyard.

KEYPORT HARBOR: On a free-lance writing assignment, I had to go out to the Raritan Bayshore of Monmouth County, so I stopped by Keyport harbor to crank off some photographs.

Jaws at Keyport Harbor, Monmouth County

From Keyport harbor, looking to Staten Island, New York City, in the hazy distance.

THE ECLIPSE OF THE SUN: My plan was to stay inside during the August 21, Monday, solar eclipse, so as not to be tempted to look at the sun and possibly ruin my eyesight. Well, I was working at my desk during the eclipse, realized I left my camera in my Jeep, and went outside to retrieve it. I grabbed a kitchen strainer and, with my back to the sun, let the sunlight shine through the holes of the strainer onto my back porch. It was pretty cool, watching dozens of shadows of the sun in eclipse. With about 75 percent of the sun covered around 2:45 p.m., sun shadows were obvious, but the sunlight had the soft glow of dusk. Insects remained calling and a butterfly flew by.

The eclipse through the strainer.

BLUEBIRD SKY: While out in the yard August 24, Thursday, I noticed how clear the sky was – a “bluebird sky.” Jet airplanes could be clearly seen, with that I-almost-can-touch-them look. That means there was little moisture in the air – a dew point of only 52.

With low moisture in the air, this United Airlines flight, headed to Newark Liberty International Airport from Tel Aviv, Israel, looked very close to my backyard. It was actually flying at an estimated 3,000 feet.

Another view of the “bluebird sky” from my backyard.

DEW POINT: My go-to science guy – Joey Slezak of Helmetta, who has a bachelor’s degree in meteorology and is now working on his master’s in meteorology, both from Rutgers University – tells me dew point, not the humidity reading, is the real gauge of moisture around us and how we feel in it. Here, according to www.fredericksburg.com in Virginia, is how we feel at these dew points — under 55, pleasant; 56 to 60, comfortable; 61 to 65, getting sticky; 66 to 70, uncomfortable; 71 to 75, oppressive; more than 75, miserable.

BOBWHITE QUAIL IN NEW JERSEY: A Philadelphia Inquirer article about restoring BobWhite quail, “Colinus virginianus,” to the Pine Barrens, http://www.philly.com/philly/columnists/kevin_riordan/bringing-back-a-bird-that-once-made-a-signature-sound-of-the-pine-barrens-20170822.html. See Cornell University’s All About Birds website for more on the BobWhite, https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Northern_Bobwhite/id.

CRICKETS IN MY CELLAR: As an only child, I inherited the house I grew up in and which my parents owned for almost four years before I was born in 1956. I never remember crickets in the cellar when I was a kid. But after I took over the house 15 years ago, I noticed a cricket invasion from about August until the fall weather set in. Now, a cricket-chirping cacophony is pleasant, but one or two crickets in the wee hours while one is trying to sleep is AN-NOY-ING – and it turns me from Dr. Naturalist to Mr. Killer, Serial Killer if there is more than one of these little nuisances calling away. But I just had a $38,000 re-modeling of my house, including new siding and insulation. The best $38,000 I could spend on eradicating crickets from the cellar. So far, and it is already late August, only six crickets – none of which are with us anymore. I mean, if a cricket wants to live outside and chirp away, I get it. But if a cricket wants to invade my cellar and rub those little ugly legs together, NO. (OK, OK, OK, now that I feel sort of bad about cricket killing, I will tell you about Revenge of the Crickets. A few years ago, I saw a cricket in the cellar. And I had had it! So, I picked up the pail I used to empty de-humidifier water into and SMASHED the cricket. I poured the de-humidifier water into the bucket — and the water spilled onto the cellar floor. Yes, I had cracked the bucket when I obliterated the cricket. I never learn – whenever I act surly, I pay for it.)

(Sorry, no photo of a dead cricket.)

OCEAN TEMPERATURES: Atlantic Ocean temperatures on the New Jersey coast were in the range of about 74 to 77 degrees.

SUNRISE/SUNSET: For August 27, Sunday, to September 2, Saturday, the sun will rise about 6:20 to 6:25 a.m. and set about 7:30 p.m.

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

UPCOMING: September 9 and 10, Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Wild Outdoor Expo at the Colliers Mills Wildlife Management Area, Jackson, Ocean County, WildOutdoorExpo.com.

DOES ANYBODY ELSE…?: …Go to a fast-food restaurant and instead of tossing in the garbage all the paper packaging and so on, take it home for recycling?

Sailboats at Keyport harbor.

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

Notes from Garden & Afield: Week of August 13, 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.

Etra Lake, in East Windsor, Mercer County, sits on the Inner Coastal Plain. Most, if not all, bodies of water on New Jersey’s Inner and Outer Coastal Plains, are human-made – in Etra Lake’s case by the damming of Rocky Brook. Rocky Brook is part of the Raritan River-Bay watershed. The damming of the lake appears to go back to the late 1700s to create a power source to run a grist mill. The name “Etra” actually is an acronym, “ETRA,” after a prominent resident, Edward Taylor Rosel Applegate, born in 1831 and died in 1915.

THE CUESTA: Of New Jersey’s four land regions, two are in the Jersey Midlands – the rolling terrain of the Piedmont and the generally flat Coastal Plain. The Coastal Plain can be broken down further – the Outer and Inner. What people may not realize is the Coastal Plains are divided by an on-again, off-again hill system – the cuesta. The cuesta essentially runs from Sandy Hook in the northeast to the Philadelphia area in the southwest. It can easily be traced on a map through place names, from northeast to southwest – Highlands, Atlantic Highlands, Crawford Hill (391 feet above sea level) and Telegraph Hill (360 feet) in Holmdel, Quail Hill (258 feet) in Manalapan, Backbone Hill Road (250 feet) in Millstone, all in Monmouth County; Arneys Mount (230 feet) in Springfield, Mount Holly (183 feet), and Mount Laurel (173 feet), all in Burlington County. The cuesta or cuestas may rise hundreds of feet around surrounding land; Crawford Hill, for example, is the highest point in Monmouth County and rises about 350 feet over surrounding lowlands. The cuesta formation was formed at the time of the late Cretaceous and early Tertiary ages, two periods of geologic time that met about 66-1/2 million years ago. It basically was formed by water runoff, eroding the surrounding land and leaving the cuesta. The cuesta remains because it is cemented together by ironstone.

2017, August 6, Sunday — A view of the cuesta from the Union Transportation Trail in Upper Freehold, Monmouth County. The view is looking toward the Shore, so the abrupt rise in the terrain is seen. From the other side of the cuesta, the change in terrain is more gradual.

2017, August 6, Sunday — Another view of the cuesta – here, near the Horse Park of New Jersey in Upper Freehold, Monmouth County.

2016, January – Looking at the cuesta, about 200 feet above sea level, across Sandy Hook Bay from Sandy Hook.

BUTTERFLIES IN THE ZINNIA PATCH: Last year, my newspaper reporting travels took me to Bobby Laurino’s farm market in Colts Neck and Andy Capelli’s farm market in Middletown. I was amazed by the bees and butterflies attracted to their zinnia patches. Here was this abundance of pollinators and they were fun to watch. So, I did some research on zinnia – liking it because it is an annual, not a perennial I would be stuck with – and planted it in my garden, about 35 to 40 row feet. I wish I planted more! In recent days, I have spotted these butterflies: painted lady, “Vanessa cardui”; spicebush swallowtail, “Papilio troilus”; cabbage white, “Pieris rapae”; silver-spotted skipper, “Epargyreus clarus”; and monarch, “Danaus plexippus.” I try to become one with the zinnia patch, or at least letting the butterflies do their thing and me doing my thing, which allows me to get close to them and take great photographs.

A painted lady butterfly in my zinnias.

Painted lady in the zinnias.

Painted lady on a zinnia.

Spicebush swallowtail in the zinnias.

Cabbage white in the zinnias.

Silver-spotted skipper, lower, and monarch, upper, in the zinnias.

Monarch in the zinnias.

Monarch on a zinnia.

SOURCES, BUTTERFLIES: I love this Internet site of the North American Butterfly Association (NABA)-North Jersey Butterfly Club for identifying butterflies, http://www.naba.org/chapters/nabanj/butterflies.html.

GARDEN VOICE NO. 1, DEBBIE MANS: Debbie Mans reported, “We were just comparing notes at work on our gardens and we are all not seeing great results — split tomatoes, fizzled squash, slow on the tomatoes ripening, etc. This is in Monmouth County and Essex County. I am hearing more and more from others, too. You are not alone!” (Debbie is executive director and baykeeper for the New York-New Jersey Baykeeper environmental group based in Keyport, Monmouth County. Here is a profile I wrote of Debbie last year, http://tworivertimes.com/debbie-mans-midwesterner-with-jersey-sand-in-her-shoes/.)

NAVESINK RIVER BOAT RIDE: Debbie Mans’s New York-New Jersey Baykeeper group is sponsoring a Navesink River boat ride September 19, Tuesday, out of Atlantic Highlands, Monmouth County. Last year, I sailed with the Baykeeper on a Sunday afternoon on Raritan Bay and the Shrewsbury River – a great time! So, if free, consider the Navesink River ride. Monmouth County’s Navesink River, one of my favorite places in the Jersey Midlands as it flows along the cuesta emptying into the Shrewsbury River. For the Navesink River Sunset Eco Cruise.

2015, December – Along the Navesink River.

GARDEN VOICE NO. 2, JACK MAHON: South Jersey gardener Jack Mahon and I recycle dehumidifier water, using it for gardening watering. But, this year, both Jack and I have noticed something – the heavy rains have left us with an overabundance of water. “The rain has been so heavy at times that the dehumidifier is way ahead of the trees’s need for water,” Jack said. Ditto. In recent days, my two barrels of water for the garden, totaling 50 gallons, have been full.

IN THE GARDEN AND YARD: I continued harvesting flowers, both zinnias and Knock Out roses, along with sweet corn. The fall crop is sprouting. And I watch the cucumbers and cantaloupe, hoping something comes about. The cantaloupes look OK as they grow, but the cucumbers seem to be victims of too much rain and I wonder if I will even get one to use.

A male Eastern goldfinch, “Spinus tristis,” perched on a zinnia flower in the garden.

MONROE TOWNSHIP COMMUNITY GARDEN: I visited my lifelong hometown’s Community Garden and Park. It is a nice setting along the Millstone River. But I wish Monroe, which continues to develop heavily, would practice greener principles. For example, abandon magazine-photograph lawns and replace them with more productive organic gardens. Me, I am trying to go with as little lawn as possible – and my lawn is chemical-free. I know, I strive for an Old Monroe in a New Monroe whose population over its approximately 42 square miles is an estimated 45,000, a big difference from the estimated 5,000 when I was born in 1956.

Tomatoes in the Monroe Community Garden and Park.

Flowers at the Monroe Community Garden and Park.

THE ECLIPSE OF THE SUN: On Monday, August 21, New Jersey will be treated to a partial solar eclipse. It begins at 1:22 p.m., peaks at 2:44 p.m., and ends at 4 p.m. DO NOT LOOK AT THE ECLIPSE UNLESS YOU HAVE SPECIAL PROTECTIVE EYEWEAR. (While I find the eclipse exciting, I do not want to take chances of looking up. So, I will take a nap, work in my cellar or garage, or follow the eclipse on the computer or television.) See https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/.

CARDINAL PHOTO: The photo of a cardinal, “Cardinalis cardinalis,” in last week’s “Garden and Afield” drew a nice response from backyard neighbor Fran D’Aiello Rosuck. Fran and her husband, Ed, have been my family’s neighbor for about 40 years, or since about the time I went on my own after college. Then, after my parents, Joe Sapia Sr. and Sophie Onda Sapia, died, I, as an only child, moved back and took over the house. This summer, the outside of the house was remodeled. Fran said, “I always read that a cardinal is a visitor from Heaven. Your mom is probably saying the house never looked so good.” What a nice comment to find on my “The Jersey Midlands” page on Facebook.com.

The cardinal at my garden. Actually, it is on backyard neighbor Fran D’Aiello Rosuck’s fence.

OCEAN TEMPERATURES: Atlantic Ocean temperatures on the New Jersey coast were in the range of about 75 to 77 degrees.

SUNRISE/SUNSET: For August 20, Sunday, to August 26, Saturday, the sun will rise about 6:15 to 6:20 a.m. and set about 7:40 to 7:50 p.m. For August 27, Sunday, to September 2, Saturday, the sun will rise about 6:20 to 6:25 a.m. and set about 7:30 p.m.

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

Rabbit, genus “Sylvilagus,” 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; Week of August 6

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.

Looking across my backyard garden to the Knock Out roses and the house.

IN THE GARDEN: I began harvesting sweet corn – it tastes so good! I continued harvesting zinnia, mostly giving them away. Because zinnia are so beautiful, make nice bouquet gifts, and are so attractive to pollinators, I plan to really expand on growing them next year, taking over what is now a waste of lawn. I finished planting seeds for fall crops of beets, carrots, lettuce, and peas. Including early season, summer and fall crops, my garden is about 450 row feet. I began keeping a record of my harvest, so I have an idea how productive the garden actually is. Next year, I plan to keep the record from Day 1 harvest to Last Day harvest.

A zinnia bouquet heading to friends at my Sunday lunch stop, the Hightstown Diner.

A BAD GARDENING YEAR: I thought my garden was bombing out because of my lack of skills, but I continue to get reports of it not being a productive vegetable year. Paul Migut, a childhood friend and a gardening mentor of mine, checked in from South River, Middlesex County: “Agree, not one of the best garden years, here either.” Jack Mangano of Helmetta told me his family’s plot is not doing as good as it should. The weather has been fickle, one day monsooning, another day sunny and in the 90s – seemingly more fickle than a normal Jersey hot and humid summer with thunderstorms in the afternoon. I found a split cucumber, which, I suspect, was a victim of the rain – the rain forcing it to grow faster than it was able to maintain, resulting in it finally bursting.

A split and ill-forming cucumber, an apparent victim of too much rain.

GARDENING TALK: Paul Migut reported on his garden: “Bush beans producing the best. Cucumbers growing well (made second batch of dill pickles in my grandmother’s 100-year-old old crock). Rutgers tomatoes getting bigger, but still green. Yellow (acid-free) almost ready to pick. Eggplants, too small to pick. Zucchini started out with a bang, until worm/borer devoured base of plant. By accident, I purchased a packet of turnip seeds, never grew these before, but wow- growing very well!”

ELSEWHERE AROUND THE YARD: I took off from feeding the birds this summer, letting them, instead, eat insects in the yard and serve as natural pesticides. So, I have not kept the eye I normally do on birds, mesmerized by them at the feeder. However, I did notice a bright yellow and black (male) Eastern goldfinch, “Spinus tristis”; a bright red (male) cardinal, “Cardinalis cardinalis”; and a favorite, a catbird, “Dumetella carolinensis” – the catbirds that keep me company in garden and afield. The toads are around, presumably helping control insects. I helped a toad out of a deep well of cellar window that was recently installed. I place a branch in the well; If a toad goes in, hopefully it can crawl out on the branch – because by the time I notice it, it may be too late. Of course, the friendly rabbits are around – letting me get close and probably eating up the garden. And the Knock Out roses, in their second bloom of the season, are getting better and better.

Knock Out roses are blooming beautifully in their second bloom of the season.

A male cardinal perched by the garden. A male, because it is bright red. The female is a dull brown.

ATTRACTING POLLINATORS, ZINNIA: While I love the beauty and no-fuss growing of zinnias, my real goal for planting them this year was to attract pollinators. This week, pollinators were around:

PERSEID METEOR SHOWER: The forecasted weather is not looking good, but take a chance and look up into the night sky on the overnights of August 11-12, Friday-Saturday, or August 12-13, Saturday-Sunday, the peak of the annual Perseid Meteor Shower. If there is a clear sky, an estimated 40 to 50 “shooting stars” will be visible per hour. The Earth will continue passing through Comet Swift-Tuttle’s path until August 24. See www.space.com/32868-perseid-meteor-shower-guide.html.

THE DRIVE-BY NATURALIST, ROADKILL: I was driving south on Route 539 in East Windsor, Mercer County, heading for the Assunpink Wildlife Management Area, when I came across an interesting sight -– vultures, both turkey, “Cathartes aura”, and black, “Coragyps atratus,” eating a roadkill deer, “Odocoileus virginianus.” It was an interesting study in nature, the death of one animal providing life-support to other wildlife. But it also was an interesting interaction between wildlife and humans – basically, traffic had to avoid the vultures, rather than the vultures making a serious attempt to avoid traffic. What did I take away from this scene? The importance of us helping living wildlife by moving dead wildlife off the roadway, because other birds may not be so lucky squaring off against traffic at a roadkill. A live bird could end up as roadkill.

Notice how traffic has to move to avoid the vultures, while the vultures generally were carefree.

DRIVE-BY NATURALIST, NO. 2 – TURKEY VULTURES VS. BLACK VULTURES: Turkey vulture, red head, long tail. Black vulture, black head, short tail. (Note: I do not recall seeing a black vulture locally until probably the 1990s. They are a southern species that has moved northward.)

Turkey vulture, far left, with a red head and longer tail. Black vulture, far right, with short tail and black head.

CONNECTING WILDLIFE HABITAT: The state Department of Environmental Protection’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program has been working on a project, CHANJ, or Connecting Habitat Across New Jersey, which is aimed at creating wildlife habitat connectivity, since about 2012. The plan is to make a public push in 2018. CHANJ is looking to protecting habitat and connecting habitat through such things as land purchase, management of land, and safe wildlife passage at roadways. Roadway mitigation could include using culverts and bridges to have a safe pathway for wildlife to cross roads. The idea is have connectivity using core areas, which could be as little as 200 acres to as big as state regions such as the Highlands of North Jersey and, locally, the Pine Barrens. Core is “an area with high ecological integrity,” said Gretchen Fowles, a CHANJ biologist. “That’s a fancy way of saying it has little human influence,” she said. In Monmouth County, for example, beside the Pine Barrens as a region, CHANJ looks at cores as such places as the Navesink River, Manasquan River Reservoir, Shark River, Allaire State Park, the Turkey Swamp state- and county-owned properties, Monmouth Battlefield State Park, and Assunpink Wildlife Management Area. Then, the idea is to connect such areas as forest, field, freshwater wetlands, and coastal maritime habitats. “This might be kind of a last chance to keep areas protected and intact,” Fowles said. The CHANJ website is at http://www.state.nj.us/dep/fgw/ensp/chanj.htm. Also, a CHANJ video is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6UbBcTUfz1U.

MUSHROOMS: Remember the adage, “There are old mushroom pickers. There are bold mushroom pickers. There are NO old AND bold mushroom pickers.” Me, 60-years-old, lifelong Jersey Midlands, from a maternal Polish-Slovak family of pickers going back here more than 100 years and I will comfortably pick only 2 mushroom species: honey (or “opienki,” as my Polski side calls them), genus “Armillaria,” and morels genus “Morchella.” My confidence in only those 2 comes from being taught by two smart, non-bold pickers. Because this time of year is popular for wild mushrooms: http://www.philly.com/philly/health/n-j-mushroom-poisonings-spike-some-potentially-life-threatening-20170808.html

Inedible mushrooms in my yard.

“FALL” FOLIAGE: In the Pine Barrens around Helmetta, the beginning of the “fall” foliage usually is obvious in swamps beginning about July 15 to July 31. So, no surprise I have seen a few examples.

Changing colors in the Helmetta Pond wetlands.

Another view of the changing colors in the Helmetta wetlands.

OCEAN TEMPERATURES: Atlantic Ocean temperatures on the New Jersey coast were in the range of about 76 to 78 degrees Thursday, August 10.

UPCOMING COUNTY FAIRS: Middlesex County Fair concludes August 13, Sunday, in East Brunswick, http://middlesexcountyfair.com/. Hunterdon County 4-H and Agricultural Fair, August 23, Wednesday, to August 27, Sunday, http://www.hunterdoncountyfair.com/.

OTHER UPCOMING: August 21, Monday, solar eclipse. September 9 and 10, Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Wild Outdoor Expo at the Colliers Mills Wildlife Management Area, Jackson, Ocean County, WildOutdoorExpo.com.

SUNRISE/SUNSET: For Aug. 13, Sunday, to August 19, Saturday, the sun will rise about 6:05 to 6:15 a.m. and set about 7:50 p.m. to 7:55 p.m. For August 20, Sunday, to August 26, Saturday, the sun will rise about 6:15 to 6:20 a.m. and set about 7:40 to 7:50 p.m.

Sunset at Helmetta Pond.

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

Assunpink at the Assunpink Wildlife Management Area, here in Monmouth 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.

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