Friday, October 30, 2009

Leaf Composting On a Balcony

Ten feet up in the air is not the recommended location for composting leaves,

but nature obviously doesn't read books on how to garden.

Ten years worth of leaves have accumulated here, on this balcony of the county-owned Veblen House, and all the organisms that make a living by turning leaves into rich fertilizer took notice and set up shop.

For compost connoisseurs, it doesn't get any better than this. The "black gold" was produced with 100% leaves and zero human effort.

Notice the earthworm, whose capacity to reach the balcony was the subject of some speculation. They are not known for their leaping ability, and have never been seen wiggling up the sides of houses. One theory offered is that an earthworm laid eggs on a leaf, which then blew up to the balcony. Maybe the daredevils among them hitchhike on the legs of birds.

Virginia creeper knows how to climb a house, and quickly turned some of this rich leaf mold into root-filled sod.

Fortunately, the decomposers took more interest in the leaves than the balcony, so that it's still possible to enjoy a fine view of the garden, newly sprinkled with compost from ten feet up.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Dam Restoration at Mountain Lakes

For many years, Princeton township has been making plans to restore the historic dams at Mountain Lakes, which were originally built to collect ice for Princeton's ice boxes in the days before refrigerators.

Over the past century, the two dams have weakened, and the lakes have filled in with sediment. The upper lake, for instance, was originally 7 feet deep, but now has only a foot of water.

Only in the past year, when an anonymous donor offered to fund the $2 million project, has the restoration moved beyond the planning stage.In the photo, township engineers and historians meet on the lower spillway to discuss details of the restoration plan. The large boulders piled against the dam are temporary reinforcement for the buckling spillway.

Interpretive signs tell the history of the ice business that once included two 3-story barns to store blocks of ice just below the dam. Hay from nearby fields was used to insulate the barns, which could keep ice for up to two years.

The restoration will include a dredging of the two lakes, and is scheduled to begin in May, 2010.