When neighbor's complained about the appearance of the fuel tank on Witherspoon Street, the town responded by removing the fueling station's roof, adding a brick facade, and planting the raingarden that had been built to catch and filter runoff from the pavement.
Thursday, June 30, 2022
Each year about this time, I watch as low hanging tree branches extend over sidewalks. It's a bit of a game, to see how long it takes for anyone to do anything about it.
The vast majority of people remain enduringly passive when navigating collectively owned spaces. Or maybe no one else owns a pair of loppers.
Tuesday, June 21, 2022
This notice from the University:
Date: Monday, June 20
Incident: Black Bear Sighting
At approximately 2 pm. on Monday, June 20, a black bear sighting was reported on the Lake Campus (300 Washington Road).
Black bears by nature tend to be wary of people.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has tips on black bears available at https://nj.gov/dep/fgw/bears/
A compendium of previous black bear sightings can be found by typing "bear" into the search box for this blog. They include an explanation of why black bears come wandering our way this time of year, which has to do with young males seeking new territory.
Many people wonder how to behave when a bear is encountered. Below are the fruits of my research, conducted ten years ago and adapted for a Princeton audience. These words are as relevant now as they were then. Please note that grizzly bears, which are not found around here, require a completely different response.
Black bears are near-sighted, so make noise to avoid surprising them. If the bear stands up on its hind legs, don’t worry. It’s just trying to see you better. Make sure the bear has an escape route. For instance, if it is following you out of the public library, hold the door open and give it plenty of room. If you encounter the bear in the woods, or on Nassau Street, you can back away slowly, but don't turn your back to the bear. In a calm, assertive voice, put the bear on notice that you are a Princetonian fully armed with opinions, and will not hesitate to express them.
Avoid eye contact. If it doesn't run away right off, bang the pot you happen to be carrying with you, or download a "kitchenware noise" app on your cellphone. Bears hate to cook, which explains their interest in garbage. Otherwise, clap your hands, raise your arms over your head, wave a jacket, all of which should make you look large and impressive.
On rare occasions, the bear will do a bluff charge, at speeds up to 35 mph. If a cafe is close by, this is a good time to duck in for a double latte. If that option is not available, then you'll need to dig deep. Fleeing will only make you appear weak. Perhaps the stirring words of a high school football coach will come to mind. In any case, stand your ground, wave your arms and shout. Pretend you're in front of town council, venting your outrage over moving the Dinky. The bear should veer away from you at the last moment, providing a bigger thrill than any 3D movie at the mall.
If the bear actually attacks, which is extremely rare, it's time to drop all remaining pretense of civility. Fight back. Don't worry about the bear's lack of access to dental care. Without asking permission, bop it on the nose. Bears' noses are 100 times more sensitive than ours. Use this sensitivity to your advantage, all the while reveling in what a great story this will make to tell the grandkids.Note: In case you surf the internet for more info, don't be confused by accounts of how to behave when encountering a grizzly bear out west, where the protocol is completely different and not nearly so gallant.
Saturday, June 11, 2022
Note: The memorable title "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" may not be as fresh in people's minds as it was in the 1980s when the novel and subsequent movie came out. There's nothing unbearable about white flowers, but there sure are a lot of them this time of year.
It was on a recent walk along the green trail at Autumn Hill Reservation that I suddenly noticed I was surrounded by white.
More whiteness comes from the native elderberry, whose berries make delicious pies if you can beat the catbirds,
Monday, June 06, 2022
Without volunteers wielding clippers and loppers, most trails in Princeton would quickly become overgrown. Some preserves, like Mountain Lakes, Herrontown Woods and Autumn Hill Reservation, have more organized maintenance, but in some others it's catch as catch can. In May and June, that first flush of growth begins reaching out over trails, and so a pair of clippers is handy to keep in the back pocket during a hike. Cutting back anything that overhangs a trail is useful, but as a botanist I'm also identifying as I go along. Most of the shrubs that grow out into trails are invasive species that we'd want to cut wherever they are growing, but especially along trails. There are also some natives, but I'll start with the non-natives, which are so numerous mostly because the deer won't eat them.
A common story about native plants in the wild: there's a native Euonymus, called Hearts-a-Bustin', but it's rarely seen because the deer love to eat it. We've nurtured a few specimens of it to show off at the Barden.
Bush honeysuckle -- Honeysuckle comes in the form of a vine (Japanese honeysuckle) and several species of shrub. it is frequently found along the edges of people's backyards--a sort of default vegetation that moves in on its own. It can also be numerous in some of Princeton's preserves.
Friday, June 03, 2022
A couple days ago, I was doing some outdoor work when a landscape crew nearby revved up their gas-powered leafblowers. I put up with the din for about five minutes before finally heading over to tell them, in a nice way, that the town ordinance forbids the use of gas-powered leafblowers between May 16 and Sept. 30.
He nodded that he understood. I walked away only to hear them start back up a few minutes later. The situation was all the more frustrating because they were blowing leaves not off of a lawn but out of the woods, and because the leaves were soaking wet, it was going to take them forever to do what there was no rational reason to do in the first place.
This time, I returned, didn't say a word, and photographed the machine and the address and the truck. He stopped again and got on his phone.
I know the homeowners, and texted them about the situation. I could also have reported it to Access Princeton, but figured the problem was already solved.
You could hear that most wonderful silence as the birds continued to sing through the afternoon. My hat is off to the folks (Quiet Princeton?) who navigated the local political waters with a mixture of flattery and resolve to save us from these soul-sucking machines. (More info in the comment section about those who worked particularly hard to get the ordinance written and passed.)
Update, 6/15: Quiet Princeton informed me that a compliance officer has been hired by Princeton, so it is helpful to report violations to Access Princeton. Even if the non-compliance has been resolved at a particular residence, landscapers might try to continue using gas leafblowers elsewhere on their routes.