Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Treepedia Author to Speak at Veblen House in Herrontown Woods


Joan Maloof, author of the delightful book Treepedia: A Brief Compendium of Arboreal Lore, will speak on the wooded grounds of Veblen House in Herrontown Woods, on Friday, Sept. 24 at 6pm. The Friends of Herrontown Woods is excited to be hosting the event, which is sponsored by the Princeton Environmental Film Festival.

Joan is a professor emeritus at Salisbury University, and founded the Old-Growth Forest Network to preserve, protect and promote the country's few remaining stands of old-growth forest. She has written many books about trees, with a particular focus on forests of the eastern U.S.. Treepedia is part of Princeton University Press' "Pedia" series.

Labyrinth Books will be on hand at the event with copies of the book as well.

This is a free outdoor event, with the Community Room at the library serving as backup in case of rain.

To park close to the event, please enter the Veblen House driveway at 452 Herrontown Road and join us on the lawn in front of Veblen House.

You can also park in the main parking lot for Herrontown Wood opposite the entrance to Smoyer Park. Follow the Orange Trail for a 5 minute walk to the Veblen House.




Saturday, August 14, 2021

"Among Trees" a Great Step FOHWard

A remarkable community act took place next to Veblen House this past month. Herrontown Woods has always sat quietly on the outskirts of Princeton, beyond many people's awareness, but on July 15, 

more than 100 people found their way to Herrontown Woods on the same enchanted evening. Chances are, that means another 50 or so were orbiting somewhere in the vicinity, searching but not quite finding this elusive destination. The record breaking congregation came together in response to the vision and talent 

of two professional actors, Vivia Font and Ben Steinfeld, who had assembled the scripts and performers for an evening of poetry, prose, and locally sourced music, aptly entitled Among Trees. Much of the script came from submissions by local writers, the inspired readings of which were interspersed with a broad array of musical vignettes. 

Adding greatly to the success of the event was the collaboration of the Princeton Public Library, whose public programming librarian Janie Hermann did so much to promote the event. Some of her photos are included in this post. 

Among Trees would not have come to pass if not for a chance encounter at the Small World cafe on Nassau St, where the Friends of Herrontown Woods' president and vice-president, Steve Hiltner and Pallavi Nuka, happened to be meeting to discuss Veblen House. At the next table over, Ben and Vivia were meeting to brainstorm ideas for theater performances in Princeton. Steve, having taken one of Ben's Shakespeare workshops, said hello, and everything followed from that. Small World contributed refreshing drinks for the event as well. 

A number of the performers have connections to the university. John Burkhalter is subsciptions manager for PU concerts by day, player of 18th century instrumental music by night. 

Monica Mugan and Beth Meyers formed the duo Damsel after becoming neighbors in Princeton. Both have partners associated with the university, and it's interesting to read that Monica and her partner Dan Trueman have been heavily influenced by Norwegian folk music, including use of a hardanger fiddle--a national instrument of Norway that originated not far from the Valdres Valley, where Oswald Veblen's grandparents lived before immigrating to America. 

According to a Norwegian American website article:
The central Norwegian regions of Hallingdal, Valdres, and Telemark have long been known for their rich concentration of folk musicians. With proximity to the Hardanger plateau, this region has a special claim on one of the most “Norwegian” parts of Norway’s cultural inheritance, the Hardanger fiddle.

Fiona Tyndall sang a lovely Irish ballad, Blooming Heather, accompanied by Ben.
Percussionist Mika Godbole performed a fascinating "speaking percussion" work combining poetry and percussion, using differently toned flower pots, entitled "To the Earth" by Frederic Rzewski.

It takes great skill and training to read a text while connecting fully with the audience. Actors Ben, Vivia, and Katharine Powell Roman handled this beautifully. One particularly moving reading was of Robert Frost's poem "Birches", read by Katharine and her son. 

The stage for this performance, a lawn next to Veblen House, was years in the setting. The house has sat empty since 1998, and through decades of neglect the grounds had become overgrown with invasive shrubs and vines, all of which began getting cleared by Kurt and Sally Tazelaar and other FOHW volunteers starting in 2013, revealing a tranquil and beautiful setting. Andrew Thornton, seen setting up a garden torch behind the stage, has been in many ways the keeper and fashioner of the grounds, both at Veblen House and the Barden. 

From trees came the setting, many of the instruments played, the stage, and even this bench, which was fashioned by volunteer Victorino out of a fallen black locust tree on the Veblen grounds. 

Thanks to the performers, the writers, and all those who have been setting a stage for good things to happen at Herrontown Woods.


Friday, August 6, 2021

Yoga and Habitat Next to Veblen House


This tiny frog made a surprise appearance on the grounds of Veblen House just as Gemma's Gratitude Yoga class was about to begin. Gemma's weekly classes, meeting Saturdays at 11am, are the perfect example of how we seek to set the stage at Herrontown Woods for good things to happen, whether it be for people or for frogs, which you have to think would be great at yoga if they gave it a try. 

Gemma's classes are "donation-based", meaning they are free, with all donations generously going to benefit the Friends of Herrontown Woods. 

The yoga classes add a spiritual dimension to weeding in the various gardens around Veblen House, as Gemma's voice wafts over the grounds, reciting a progression of positions for participants to take. 
The energy of the yoga sessions is very positive, and in a way, the weeding of a garden seeks to direct nature's energy towards more positive ends. Pulling the weedy plants like stiltgrass acquires more meaning if there are desired plants like boneset, Hibiscus and buttonbush that get liberated in the process and are given a better chance to grow. 

A greenheaded coneflower blooming in front of a birdhouse that a girlscout troop made--it's all positive, nurturing, like a yoga class.
Hanging out among the wildflowers has other benefits, like witnessing a clearwing moth close up, sipping nectar from this golfball-like congregation of buttonbush flowers,
and some other dainty pollinator that lacks a name. 
The creature was so insubstantial that it came as a surprise to see it cast a shadow. 

In the bottom photo, it can be fun to look for the three insects, two of which are casting shadows. 




Thursday, July 15, 2021

"Among Trees" -- Theatrical Event Tonight, July 15, 7pm

The Friends of Herrontown Woods will be hosting its first ever theatrical event tonight, Thursday, July 15 at 7pm, in a clearing next to Veblen House. Entitled "Among Trees," the hourlong performance will include a mix of classic texts and writings about nature contributed by the community, along with evocative musical performances on flute, Irish drum, and other instruments.

The event is free, with any donations going to the Friends of Herrontown Woods. The programming has been put together by professional actors Vivia Font and Ben Steinfeld. Ben is with Fiasco Theater and Vivia has connections to the Lewis Center for the Arts. The Princeton Public Library is co-sponsoring the event, and Small World Coffee will provide a refreshing beverage.



PARKING: There are two parking lots, with the closest being at 452 Herrontown Road. Take Snowden Lane to the end, go left on Herrontown Road, and take the first left into the gravel driveway. Parking at the main parking lot off Snowden involves a five minute walk up the orange trail to the Veblen House.

Bugs haven't been too bad this year, but some bug spray could be useful. We're providing chairs, but bring your own if you want.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

More Chainsaw Artistry, Thanks to Victorino

If you see Victorino coming up the trail, his chain saw slung over his shoulder, you know that some work is about to get done.
Good work that wouldn't happen otherwise, like getting a very big fallen tree cut up and rolled off the trail.
Sometimes the beautiful trunks of fallen trees become beautiful boards, cut by eye with the chainsaw. These he thought we could use as planks for a boardwalk, but they look too good for that. Benches, maybe? 

Where we might see only problem, impediment or hazard--more wood to noisily grind into chips--Victorino looks at the crook in a fallen tree and sees possibilities. 

He'd been working for two hours. It was time for a break. Cut a section of the tree just right, and one half becomes a chair, the other a table. The chair is angled just right to get you looking up at the cicadas' flying high in the canopy. Give him enough time in a woods littered with fallen trees and he'd build a whole house. 

What break in the day was ever more deserved? Thank you, Victorino.

(The chair's a couple hundred feet in along the righthand trail from the Autumn Hill Reservation parking lot. Best enjoyed with a cool beverage.)



Sunday, June 20, 2021

A Week of Magical Moments at the Gazebo

The leadup to a magical moment can seem mundane enough: a ladder leaned against the gazebo at the Barden at Herrontown Woods. The Barden, short for Botanical ARt garDEN, has become magical in and of itself, but this past week had a series of magical moments. 

On Friday, a solar panel was mounted on the roof of the gazebo, thanks to Princeton architecture professor Forrest Meggers.

A bit of wiring followed, and some stringing of lights, all mundane-seeming, at least until evening, 
when we gathered to celebrate in the glow of all those rays of light captured from the day to illuminate one small corner of the night. 

Two days earlier, on Wednesday, a group of kids had come with parents to explore the Barden, then sit down for an outdoor supper. Just as they were leaving, I took out my clarinet to riff with the cicadas. The kids came over to listen and applaud, and asked me to play different tunes--a jazzed up version of Mary Had a Little Lamb, and some others. 


When one of them asked me to play Ode To Joy, I figured the parents were needing to get going, so I led the kids down the Barden path to the parking lot, playing Ode to Joy like a pied piper. In the parking lot, we jammed for awhile, the kids using sticks to beat out rhythms. 
The day before that, on Tuesday, we spotted a monarch butterfly in the Barden--the first sighting of the year. What is more magical than a monarch, flying generation by generation up from Mexico each spring to join us for the summer? In one particularly delightful moment, it flew in a circle around the Veblen Circle of wildflowers, from one cage to the next, returning to where we'd first seen it,



on a purple milkweed. 

Photo below: "Moon Over Flying Pig"



Wednesday, June 16, 2021

EVENT: Yoga with Gemma, Saturday, June 19

Gemma and Gratitude Yoga return to the grounds of Veblen House this Saturday at noon. You can just show up, with a mat if you have one, but are encouraged to register. More information on Gemma's website. Thanks to Gemma for leading these free classes at Herrontown Woods.

"We will meet in front of the historic Veblen House for an uplifting Vinyasa Flow class to celebrate our connection to nature and to one another."


 


Saturday, June 12, 2021

The Many Gifts of Girl Scout Troop 71837

Herrontown Woods was the recipient this year of what surely is one of the most ambitious and multifaceted efforts by a girl scout troop to have a beneficial impact on a nature preserve. Girl Scout Troop 71837, with girls 10-11 years old led by Danielle Rollmann and Heather Harnley, contacted the Friends of Herrontown Woods back in August of 2020. Since then, they have contributed their time and effort to the preserve in many ways. 

For starters, during a remarkable spring workday, they swept the parking lot area clean of garlic mustard--an invasive species that spreads aggressively if not pulled up before it goes to seed.

They were fascinated by the big skunk cabbage leaves along the stream, and took a break to check out the little frog pond at the Barden.


With guidance from their leaders, they then quickly became adept at using power tools, drilling holes and setting screws in repurposed wood to construct boardwalks for wet spots on our trails.


Another initiative spurred by the girl scouts' involvement was a new trail map for Herrontown Woods. The girls walked the trails with GPS tracking software, then sent the files to graphic artist Alison Carver, who worked with the girl scouts and FOHW to create a beautiful and detailed new map. Troop funds paid for the first 500 copies.

The scouts also painted new trail markers to greatly aid hikers in finding their way through the preserve. In the photo, you can see remnants of yellow paint, very possibly from when another girl scout troop helped mark trails, many decades ago, 


A particularly innovative project the girl scouts helped with is the creation of a Veblen Circle of native plants around the gazebo at Herrontown Woods' botanical art garden (nicknamed the Barden). Working with FOHW board member Inge Regan, the girls developed informative labels for thirty species of native wildflowers. 

Visitors to the Barden can see the wildflowers growing up in their individual cages, becoming like the pictures on the labels.

With help from Deane, the grandfather of one of the girls, the scouts made ten birdhouses, which FOHW volunteer Robert Chong then installed at Herrontown Woods' three landmark sites: Veblen House, the Cottage farmstead, and the Barden.

The scouts' volunteer efforts worked much like a matching grant. The positive energy and persistence they brought to the project prompted a similar input of energy and focus by FOHW's board members and other volunteers, completing projects that might otherwise have remained indefinitely in the "good idea" stage. 

The Friends of Herrontown Woods is grateful for all the work and spirit these confident girls brought to the project, and the opportunity to witness and participate in the mentoring of another generation of stewards of nature. 

May they return many times to Herrontown Woods to enjoy the fruits of their labors.






Saturday, May 29, 2021

Outdoor Yoga with Gemma at Herrontown Woods, June 5, 1-2pm

Join us Saturday, June 5, 1-2pm, for a yoga class taught by Gemma of Gratitude Yoga. 

Outdoor Yoga with Gemma at Herrontown Woods -- This is a free event. Any class donations "will support Friends of Herrontown Woods' ongoing efforts to create a place of restoration and growth for the Princeton community." The class will take place next to Veblen House. Info about location and parking is on the registration page.

This is looking to be a unique experience, outdoor yoga while being serenaded by cicadas. 

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Disadvantaged Woody Species Find a Home in the Barden

A post at the PrincetonNatureNotes blog tells the story of disadvantaged woody species that are finding a place to thrive in the botanical art garden (nicknamed the Barden) at Herrontown Woods. By disadvantaged, we mean species that once prospered but have in our era been laid low, whether by heavy shade, excessive deer browsing, or introduced disease. 

Active human intervention can compensate for these forces of suppression by giving these species the sunlight and deer protection they need to show their true natures. 

The native pinkster azalea in the photo, bearing more flowers than any azalea in the preserve has managed in decades, is one of the showier examples. Other native species finding a home in this forest clearing are hazelnut, hearts-a-bustin', pawpaw, shadbush, pagoda dogwood, persimmon, American chestnut, butternut, and, most recently, Kentucky coffee tree. The latter is disadvantaged because the megafauna that once spread its seeds went extinct about 15,000 years ago.