Notes from Garden & Afield, Week of February 28, 2018

Article and photos by Joe Sapia

 Photographic art, “The Approaching Nor’easter,” using a battery-powered lantern; a bottle of an old Jersey Midlands recipe, Laird’s Applejack; “Down Barnegat Bay, a Nor’easter Midnight Reader” by Robert Jahn; and my enamel-top kitchen table.

The nor’easter came,

rather calmly at my house.

Then, it disappeared.

NOR’EASTER:  The nor’easter moved through from the Thursday-Friday, March 1-2, overnight through Saturday, March 3. It snowed, sleeted and rained. There was some minor and moderate flooding, along with power losses. Perhaps the only uniform part of the storm through the Jersey Midlands was high wind. Otherwise, the storm affected areas differently. My travels took me from my home in Monroe, Middlesex County, to the Jersey Shore at Belmar-to-Sea Girt in Monmouth County, on to Prospertown Lake in Ocean County, and back home. During those travels and at home, I witnessed snow, sleet, and high winds, but really nothing of major concern. My home had no power loss. Again, though, the nor’easter impacted the Midlands in different ways….

The nor’easter surf of the Atlantic Ocean at Spring Lake, Monmouth County.

The Atlantic Ocean beach at Sea Girt, Monmouth County, during the nor’easter.

     NOR’EASTER SNOW:  On Friday, March 2, the nor’easter brought a coating of snow, as measured at my house in the part of Monroe between Jamesburg and Helmetta, Middlesex County. This brings the season total to about 22 inches. The season’s normal snowfall is about 26 inches, as measured at New Brunswick about 7.5 miles away. With about 9 weeks of probable snow weather, we have a good chance to reach the season average.
Other preliminary snowfall totals in the Jersey Midlands, as reported by the National Weather Service. These reports are not necessarily complete, but are valid reports:
Burlington County:  .2 in the Burlington area to 1.5 inches in the Medford area.
Hunterdon County:  .5 at Readington to 4.5 at Byram.
Mercer County:  .1 in Hamilton to .5 in the Hopewell area.
Middlesex County:  .5 in the South Brunswick area.
Monmouth County:  .4 in the Long Branch area to 3.3 in the Clarksburg area.
Ocean County:  .2 in the Brick area to 2 in the Berkeley area.
Somerset County:  .3 in the Franklin area to 4.0 in the Peapack-Gladstone.
In next-door Bucks County, Pennsylvania:  .7 in the Langhorne area to 6.1 in the Perkasie area.
Other totals beyond the Jersey Midlands:   Morris County, Green Pond, 11.8; Sussex County, Branchville, 16.5; and Monroe County, Pennsylvania, Coolbaugh, 23.6.

 Nor’easter snowfall at Ye Olde Yellow Meeting House cemetery in Upper Freehold, Monmouth County. More information on historic Ye Olde Yellow Meeting House,

NOR’EASTER WIND:  Despite different impacts of the nor’easter through the Jersey Midlands, the unifying factor was the high wind. The National Weather Service reported these high gusts in the Jersey Midlands. The listing may not be complete:
Burlington County:  51 miles per hour at McGuire Air Force Base.
Hunterdon County:  71 MPH at Lebanon.
Mercer County:  54 MPH at Trenton-Mercer County Airport, Ewing.
Middlesex County:  55 MPH at Perth Amboy.
Monmouth County:  54 MPH at Keyport.
Ocean County:  62 MPH at Harvey Cedars on Long Beach Island.
Somerset County:  49 MPH at Somerset Airport, Bedminster.
Bucks County, Pennsylvania:  51 MPH at Perkasie.
Other totals outside the Jersey Midlands:  Brandywine Shoal on Delaware Bay, 74 MPH (the minimum speed required for a hurricane), and at the Cape May Buoy, 68 MPH.

Blowing snow during the nor’easter at Prospertown Lake in Jackson, Ocean County.

USE OF ‘NOR’EASTER’:  Early on in my reporting days at the Asbury Park Press, I refused to use the term “nor’easter,” finding it to be a bit pretentious to define the powerful type of storm with winds out of the northeast. Instead I would write about a “northeastern” storm. I mean, I am not a sea captain or something. As time went on, I succumbed. I mean, people do know the term “nor’easter.” But I found something this week that has got me thinking to go back to the old way — the passion of Tom Halsted. Halsted wrote, “That gimcrack word ‘nor’easter’ is a made up, fake, pseudo-Yankee neologism that came from the same plastic cracker barrel as ‘ye olde Tea Shoppe.’ It should be shunned as silly and pretentious.” Thoughts?

SIGNS OF SPRING:  I am hearing birds calling — not in full swing, but calling nonetheless. Garden flowers are blooming. Herptiles are moving around.

Blooming crocuses at Heritage Park in Cranbury, Middlesex County.

     MORE SPRING, THINKING ABOUT THE GARDEN:  I have been thinking about the early spring vegetable garden and looking at the seed catalogs. Still deciding which varieties of beet, carrot, lettuce, pea, and spinach to plant.

 My garden seed catalogs.

A NEW TICK:  The Asian longhorned tick, “Haemaphysalis longicornis,” has been been found for the first time living in the United States in November — specifically, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News, on an Icelandic sheep in Hunterdon County. Previously, the tick has been found in the United States only on animals at ports of entry. The tick is a threat to livestock, but there is no known threat to humans. More information is available at

   A cardinal, “Cardinalis cardinalis,” in my sideyard in Monroe, Middlesex County, during Friday’s nor’easter weather. It is easily identifiable as a male because of its bright color.

     CHIGGERS ALREADY?:  I think of the bite and resulting crazy itch of chiggers, genus “Trombicula,” as a late summer or fall nuisance. But this week I noticed a number of itchy red spots around my left ankle, a place one would find chigger bites. Could it be?

VOICES FROM AFIELD, JOAN GETAZ ZUMOFF ON THE ‘SMOKEY GRAY’ TURKEY:  Joan Getaz Zumoff checked in from just below the Jersey Midlands in Gloucester Township, Camden County. In recent months, a wild turkey, “Meleagris gallopavo,” of thhe “smokey gray” phase has been hanging out around her yard. It is a less common coloring than the darker colors normally found on turkeys. A nice find!

  A wild turkey in a less common”smokey phase” in Gloucester Township, Camden County. (Photo copyright 2018 by Joan Getaz Zumoff)

     DELAWARE WATER GAP:  The Delaware Water Gap is a bit north of the Jersey Midlands, but it is a well known, beautiful outdoors area on the boundary of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Now, the New Jersey Department of Transportation wants to protect Interstate 80 from falling boulders by putting in a fence and wall. Is it really necessary for safety? Is it too big a tradeoff, ruining the beauty of the area? See these various stories:; and

A circa 1940 Delaware Water Gap postcard.

     SKY VIEWS:  The week’s sky view was from my backyard in Monroe, Middlesex County.

  The view from my backyard in Monroe, Middlesex County.

     ATLANTIC OCEAN TEMPERATURES:  The Atlantic Ocean temperature along the New Jersey coast was running at about 41 to 42 degrees on the March 3-4 weekend.


DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME:  Daylight Savings Time begins Sunday, March 11, at 2 a.m. Spring forward with spring, so set the clocks one hour forward.

SUNRISE/SUNSET:  From Sunday, March 4, to Saturday, March 10, the sun will rise about 6:25 to 6:15 a.m. and set about 5:55 to 6 p.m. DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME BEGINS SUNDAY, MARCH 11, AT 2 A.M.; SET THE CLOCKS ONE HOUR FORWARD. From Sunday, March 11, to Saturday, March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, the sun will rise about 7:15 to 7:05 a.m. and set about 7:00 to 7:05 p.m.

WEATHER:  The National Weather Service forecasting office serving the Jersey Midlands is at


March 10, Saturday, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Ocean County — Science Saturday, talk on striped bass management and fishing by Brendan Harrison, a New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife fishing technician,at the Long Beach Island Foundation of Arts and Sciences, 120 Long Beach Boulevard, Loveladies, 08008, $5 for non-members. More information at telephone 609-494-1241.

March 10, Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Atlantic County:  29th Annual Pinelands Short Course at Stockton University, 101 Vera King Farris Drive, Galloway, 08205. More information at

March 11, Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Atlantic County:  13th Annual Lines on the Pines, a Pine Barrens day of the written word, spoken word, art, and the performing arts at Stockton University, 101 Vera King Farris Drive, Galloway, 08205. More information at

April 9 to 15, Monday to Sunday, Mercer County:  The annual Princeton Environmental Film Festival. Stand by for the specific schedule. This is a great event — not only showing environmental films, but some that are rather obscure. I try to go every year.

A gray squirrel, “Sciurus carolinensis,” in my backyard in Monroe, 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 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, along with on the Jersey Midlands page.

Copyright 2018 by Joseph Sapia