Many in Princeton and beyond knew and loved Dorothy Mullen, for her spirit, generosity, community activism, and her many initiatives, most notably the school gardens and the Suppers Program.witness the occasion via zoom. I wrote a song called Dorothy's Garden after seeing Dorothy for the last time, back in the fall of 2019. The song on the video starts about two minutes in. I will play a recording of the song at the open mic after the service, and recite the lyrics. Here's the sheet music, transposed to G for easier reading, and a post from a couple years ago about the garden she created in her front yard, which is now being tended by the new owner of her house.
Friday, October 29, 2021
The raingarden in front of the municipality's fuel tank on Witherspoon Street finally got planted. Like just about every piece of real estate in Princeton, large or small, this raingarden has a long and turbulent history. It was presumably created to receive runoff from a roof the town had built over the fuel tank. The roof was meant to protect staff from rain while they poured fossil fuel in their gas tanks, but spurred passionate complaints from neighbors, who complained about the visual blight upon a main entryway into town.
While humans hemmed and hawed, nature began populating the bare dirt with various weeds, leading to a post on this blog called Princeton's Fuel Tank Raingarden Wannabe, identifying the various weeds and discussing which would be worth keeping. If one knows and loves plants--knowing and loving being very much intertwined--it's pretty easy to develop a new raingarden planting simply by editing what pops up on its own, augmented by taking excess plants from an existing raingarden and planting them in another. Planting one raingarden makes the next one all the easier to create at no cost beyond time spent.
We mostly hear about collateral damage, but there can be a lot of collateral discovery in the actions we take to care for nature or history.
Before a new bridge was built beside it in 1965, this old bridge was used by the Pynes of Drumthwacket to reach their horses at "Pyne Ridge", and by the Whiton-Stuarts, the Veblens and Einstein to reach what we now call Veblen House. The bridge carried Princetonians out to Herrontown Woods during its first years of existence.
Tuesday, October 19, 2021
It's gone now, but for ten days, a beautiful white dove lingered at the street edge in front of a recently vacated house on Franklin Avenue in Princeton.
The fact is, I don't remember ever seeing a bird quite like this. It wasn't a rock dove, or a mourning dove, or a seagull. It looked like a displaced pet, yet when I approached, it suddenly flew up like a bolt of lightening, and made a breathtaking arc far above. It began to circle back, saw I was still there, then headed north beyond the trees. I had never seen such a fabulous flight. The next day, it was there again. The neighbors who told me the dove had been there a week and a half said it "looked like it was waiting for an Uber."
Sunday, October 17, 2021
Phyllis was mayor of Princeton Township for 14 years. For those accustomed to Princeton having an all-Democrat town council, it's astonishing to read that when Ms. Marchand was first elected in 1986, she joined a township committee that had been all-Republican. Her long tenure preceded the merging of township and borough. Since I lived in the borough, she was not really my mayor, but her environmentalism has had a lasting impact on the natural areas I've helped to manage over the years.
Among her many achievements, her courage in starting a deer culling program 21 years ago had all kinds of longterm benefits--dramatically fewer car accidents, recovery of native plant species, improved wildlife habitat, and a healthier deer herd. The culling program was very controversial at the time, with Mayor Marchand and other supporters having to endure heated criticism and personal attacks.
The data are very strong on the benefits of annual culling by professional hunters. Here is some data collected for a post about deer hunting in 2013. Deer killed in roadway collisions dropped from the high of 342 in 2000 down to 68 in 2010. In 2019, 555 deer were killed in the township by vehicles and amateur hunters. In 2010, after ten years of professional deer management, the total number killed by vehicles, hunters and professionals had dropped to 286. Thus, one can say that investing in professional deer management actually has served to reduce the total number of deer killed each year.
The township tried to save money by cancelling the deer culling in 2014, but deer numbers rapidly increased and the annual contract with professional hunters was quickly reinstated.
Given all of Phyllis Marchand's contributions to society through her long life, I had assumed that the deer culling issue was larger for me given my primary interest in nature. But the NY Times began its lengthy obituary with a detailed account of the controversy surrounding deer culling, including one sentence that is demonstrably false:
In the end, town officials declared the program a success because it had reduced collisions between deer and vehicles by 40 percent. But it didn’t solve the problem. The deer remain abundant, and while Ms. Marchand had contracted with White Buffalo for only five years, the town is still using its services.
The contract has been in place every year since 2000 except for one, and the deer herd is now small enough that many native plant populations have been able to recover. The obit doesn't mention the ecological benefits, but the article it links to does. Spicebush--a native shrub that is particularly important for bird habitat--is a dramatic example of recovery, once liberated from intense deer browsing. And the reduced browsing pressure has allowed many native wildflowers to bloom and provide nectar and pollen for insects. Having banished wolves and other predators of deer from the landscape, we then bear the responsibility to keep deer numbers in some semblance of ecological balance. Hunting is a way of stepping in to fill the void in natural predators. Mayor Marchand understood this twenty years ago, and weathered the storm to institute a policy that has proven its worth.
Phyllis Marchand, I've learned through her family, was a great fan of music sung by Nat King Cole and others. Sustainable Jazz usually plays all-original jazz and latin, but we added some of Phyllis' favorites from the American song book, including High Hopes, first sung by Frank Sinatra--a song whose lyrics can grow on you if you happen to have a dream. It's interesting to read in wikipedia that John F. Kennedy used a version of High Hopes as a theme song in his presidential campaign in 1960.
Tuesday, October 05, 2021
The other day, I was thinking about how much I love chipmunks, and how much my sister hates them. How do we reach opposite opinions about the same animal? Are the chipmunks that now run amok in her vegetable garden the same chipmunks I fondly remember from childhood, scampering over rocks, their cheeks puffed out with their latest gleaning of nuts?
Vultures also tend to get mixed reviews. Some find them creepy; others laud their soaring skills and their ecological role of cleanup crew. There are two types in Princeton--the common turkey vultures and the less common black vultures that have been expanding their range to the north over time. Many people look up, see a bird soaring, and think it must be a hawk. More often it's a vulture, usually a turkey vulture, which is black with a feint streak of silver along the back of the underside of its wing. Black vultures' wings from below appear to be tipped with silver.
For years, black vultures have perched on the chimneys of the Veblen Cottage at Herrontown Woods. At first we considered them a bad omen, but then as we learned more about them we gained respect and began to appreciate their presence. The photo is by Julie Tennant, a neighbor to the preserve who has taken an interest in the birds. The vulture still has a ring of fluffy immature feathers around its neck.
linger far longer than usual, often perching on the chimneys of the Veblen Cottage. We were won over by the patience the parents showed as they waited for the second chick to mature.
Monday, October 04, 2021
Here's an indoor way to help out the volunteers who take care of nature trails in your local nature preserve. Sew a "rock net" for carrying the big stepping stones that help hikers get across streams and through muddy patches. I was corresponding with Alan Hershey of DR Greenway to update trail info for Herrontown Woods on NJTrails.org, and somehow the conversation turned to rocks--big rocks, the kind that work really well for trails--and how to get them to places too rugged for a hand truck. He recommended a rock net--a kind of cargo net developed by Deb Brockway, who has made several and steadily improved the design.
Below are instructions for anyone who has a knack for sewing and is looking for a good project. I know we could use one of these at Herrontown Woods, and other organizations could benefit as well. Thanks to Deb and Alan for this information.
The rock net, sometimes called a cargo net, looks like this:
Here are instructions from Deb:
Below are some helpful ideas from Deb on where to find materials:
"It is possible to buy a custom-made cargo net but they are relatively expensive, which is why I decided to make them. I have used 2-inch width recovery tow straps. The first straps I used I bought at Home Depot, which allowed me to feel the weight and clearly see the weave of the webbing. Those straps were no longer available from Home Depot, so I bought the next ones from Amazon and was not as pleased with the quality of the webbing (though there are lots of options, so I’m sure there are some with a tight weave). Next time around I will go to one of the online webbing sites to purchase it. That is a less expensive option and some of those outlets will cut all the pieces to requested lengths for no additional charge as compared to cutting a single entire length. The added benefit is that all of the ends would be (or should be) heat sealed when they arrive. If you cut the webbing you will need to melt all the cut ends to prevent fraying.
The attached document has additional information and sketches for cutting, assembling, and sewing a net like the orange one in the photo.
FYI… another option is to tie a net using thick rope. A trail crew I have worked with created such a net fashioned after a fishing net. It had a diamond net design, with knots tied at the junctures and some sort of gummy substance covering the knots."