Another Haven

About 15 minutes my house are the Whitemarsh Foundation properties, preserved land that includes an open space area, a historic farm, and the Dixon Meadow House. This farm is privately owned but protected from development; the open space is for the public to wander and enjoy; the house is used for various activities related to the land.

This location is very near Chestnut Hill College, Morris Arboretum, and the beginning of the Green Ribbon Trail. All of these locations lie in or near the watershed of the Wissahickon Creek.

Earlier this week I took a short trip to this peaceful spot. Here’s a view from the house, where I parked the car:

and here is the view from the opposite site of the open space – you can see the house off in the distance.

There is a boardwalk across the wetlands section and I saw a lot of milkweed.

 

I also saw a LOT of large milkweed bugs. The season is coming to an end for them.

Whitemarsh #7 10-3-17002

 

Whitemarsh #6 10-3-17001

I noticed tiny orange insects on a few pod stems.

I did a little research and I think these are milkweed aphids. Opinions seems to be that they are not harmful, or maybe they are a little harmful, but what it takes in getting rid of them is more detrimental. It also seems that not much is known about these insects. Maybe people are paying more attention now that milkweed is being grown on purpose, rather than being seen as just a weed taken for granted. Monarch butterflies have friends and friends of monarchs like milkweed, so I have the feeling there will be more information coming along.

I am happy to have this location for me to enjoy and for the monarchs, other butterflies, grasshoppers galore, and lots of birds to have a place to thrive.

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Walk Through A Changing Landscape

Since my husband changed offices, from the city to the suburbs, he has been exploring different places to walk – necessary rehabilitation of his serious knee injury nine months ago. He has found some places we never knew existed. I’ll show you one today.

It’s the Gwynedd Wildlife Preserve, a property of Natural Lands, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and restoring land in the eastern PA – southern NJ area.

This property was a farm for over a century. It’s now located in suburbia, about five minutes from Montgomery County Community College (of poetry marathon and Senior Games fame). The idea is to return the land to a native state. The site has different areas in transition; there are a lot of open fields as well as some wooded areas.

The preserve also connects to the Green Ribbon Trail, which winds along within the Wissahickon Creek watershed. (We hope to connect with and check out this end of the trail soon; you might remember me mentioning it in connection with a section I frequent, some miles away, nearer my house).

My husband was very enthusiastic about the site. So we went for a walk there on Sunday morning, October 1. We parked in their tiny lot and started out up the blacktop road.

There are several well-marked trails designated by color, but you can wander around without worrying too much about it, as long as you have some sense of direction. I think I’ll just show you pictures and describe them, since we did just that – wander.

Here is what a lot of the place looked like. Mowed paths and long views. You would have no idea that a lot of people live very near.

This caterpillar crossed our path. The photo is blurry because my hand shook, not because he was moving so fast. We saw a lot of these little guys on the ground. I love them; I like their outfits and their sense of purpose.

There was a pile of split wood near the office/garage. Look at the insect holes – what a pattern.

I do not know what kind of tree this was but I liked the leaves.

This bush also is unknown to me, but I like the dark berries and the sparkly sunlight coming through the leaves.

How about this birdhouse? I loved the look of it up there on this tall pole.

A good portion of the site is wooded. We went through two sections, this one pictured here, and then we crossed the road into another section.

After we finished walking in the woods, we came to where a woods is being created. These trees have been planted with the idea that they will turn into a forest. We saw oaks, maples, sassafrass…of all ages and sizes. The white sheaths keep them safe from hungry deer.

I do know what this tree is. Hickory. This specimen was at the top of a hill, alone. A farm tree in the middle of fields, that has been its life. The big green cases hold the small brown nut; they dry on the tree and split open, and the nut falls to the ground.

And my favorite – milkweed. They are drying up, splitting open, and spreading their seeds. I LOVE milkweed. Just saying.

And here is some more milkweed, with some really well-turned out insects hanging on. I researched them and learned they are specimens of…the large milkweed bug. Yes, that is truly their name, and they feed on milkweed. There is something very satisfying about this straightforward name they have, isn’t there?

All right, there you have it. I’ll come back to this spot. It was tranquil, a place for contemplation and enjoying being alive.

Bur Oak

On Sunday morning, September 24, my husband and I took a walk in Norristown Farm Park. I’ve written a lot about this park, especially recently. We are exploring here, though we have been acquainted with the location for some years.

If you are interested in some information about this fascinating site, the former farm attached to Norristown State Mental Hospital, look here for a start.

Anyway, today we were walking. Near the former dairy barn and milk processing area, now the park offices we came upon a snowstorm of these odd items scattered on the ground underneath a tree.

They were just littered thick under our feet. I picked one up. I peered at it. An acorn. Yes, it was.

Here they are in the tree.

There was a little info plaque nearby. We learned that this tree is a bur oak (or burr, sometimes spelled). This particular tree has a historic ancestor tree. The plaque tells you all about it.

Well, we picked up some acorns with the idea that we could come home and see if we could get any seedlings to grow. Now, we’ve tried this before with acorns from a chestnut oak. We were doing well there, too, until we got overconfident and underestimated local hungry squirrels. This time we will be smarter and will protect the acorns until any seedlings are BIG.

But I am getting ahead of myself. We brought the acorns home and now we are researching how best to get them situated. It seems we need to soak these acorns for 24 hours; any ones that are floating after that point are not going to germinate. So we’ll try that and see if we brought home any possibilities. If not, well, we can always go back for more, as long as we do it pretty soon.

I took some pictures of the acorns. I am entranced by their shaggy beards, their overlapping scales, and their ghostly look. See what you think.

In Which We Visit Norris City Cemetery

On Sunday, September 10, my husband and I ran/walked at Norristown Farm Park. In our continuing exploration of the park and its environs, after we finished we drove over to the Norris City Cemetery, adjacent to the park.

I’ll mention that it is so adjacent that in an earlier run, I got lost (as I do so often and so easily and with so little ability to stop myself) and did a loop through the cemetery while I got myself back on track.

I’ll also say that once I run a route, I don’t get lost again. I did like the detour through this peaceful spot and I’ll do it again, on purpose.


All right, back to the topic. The cemetery is located on a hill next to an East Norriton township park. The township now owns the cemetery and maintains it (beautifully, I might add). We parked at the back of the cemetery next to the bocce courts and went in the rear entrance.

The cemetery was founded about 160 years ago. It was non-sectarian and seems to have been most used during the period 1880’s to about 1920.  It’s not filled up and I gather you could still be buried here, if you wanted.

(For all information on the history of the site I refer you to the cemetery’s really thorough website, which is where I got my information, Norris City Cemetery . There are also some great then-and-now photos of the cemetery. Thank you to the creators of this site.)

It’s a simple, open site. It flows down a hill, with plenty of room between the rows. We wandered down the hill.

There are not a lot of elaborate monuments here; this was the biggest one we saw.

Most of the monuments are marble or granite. As I’ve seen in other cemeteries, time has not been kind to the marble ones in particular. This stone was representative. To figure out the inscription you might be better with a rubbing rather than trying to decipher it.

But there is plenty to see, all the same. I’ll show you a few things that caught our eyes.

We noticed a bluish monument and took a closer look. I thought it might have been painted. But no; when I tapped it, it rang metal.

We didn’t know what to make of it at the time. We could tell it was hollow. Did that mean it was a container as well as a marker? My husband did some research when we got home and we learned that this monument was an example of a white bronze marker. (All information I mention on this subject is from A Grave Interest, “White Bronze – A Monument of Quality” – take a look, it’s fascinating.)

Long and short of it, the monument is hollow, does not contain anything, and is actually zinc. These markers were manufactured for only a short time around the turn of the last century and were a cheaper alternative to stone markers. Each one was custom made and therefore quite personal. Here is more of the Steiner monument:

Once we knew what to look for, we saw some more. This one:

This one, with a detail of the kind of information you could have included on your monument – the plates you chose were screwed into the structure:

And this one, which is big and elaborate:

All of these markers were in great shape. Apparently the manufacturer claimed these monuments would stand the test of time better than stone. From what I saw here, I would agree.


 

We saw some examples of cemetery symbolism: Lilies, for the resurrection of the soul:

And what looked like a dollar sign with too many vertical lines. (A dollar sign? A dollar sign? I thought.) Later research revealed it to be the IHS monogram (first three letters in Jesus’ name, in Greek.)

I’m glad this was cleared up, but not before I had some thoughts on “you can’t take it with you but maybe I’ll try…” I’m sorry, those thoughts just came into my mind and I couldn’t help it.

I had this thought about the life of Emma Louse Supplee – she lived one-half of her life on one side of 1900 and the other half on the other side. I liked that symmetry. I will need to live until 2042 to achieve the same.

We made our way down the hill. As we did, we noticed something I really liked: the view of the cornfield along one side of the cemetery. It’s part of the Farm Park.

We also saw remnants of stone piled along a section of the perimeter, in the brush. We knew that the cemetery had been derelict before the township took it over about 30 years ago. We figured these were broken/destroyed stones of various purposes and beyond saving. I say this because it is obvious that a lot of care was taken to rehabilitate all that could be, given the present look of the site.

Everything is transient, it says to me.

Here is a view from the bottom of the hill, near the front entrance of the cemetery.

I am glad we stopped and took the time to look around. There is a nice feeling to this location. The township park next door, with all the people and activity of today. The fields with their yearly cycle of growth and death and rebirth. The sky and the trees. The little American flags set on veterans’ graves. The care that today’s living are still taking for those gone long ago and to whom they have no connection other than living in the same city, decades and centuries apart.

Being remembered. It’s nice to think about.

 

Let’s Get Better Acquainted

I’ve mentioned Norristown Farm Park several times in the past. It’s a county park not too far from my house; I’ve done several orienteering events there, including the Montco Senior Games in 2016 and 2017 and in July, I ran a 5K on its grounds.

But I never spent much time there otherwise. I found the network of roads and trails confusing and I had no idea how to map out a run that would get me back to where I started. Then…my husband changed his office to a nearby location after his accident in December, 2016. He started exploring local parks, the Farm Park being one of them. And guess what: A Boy Scout Eagle Project has resulted in a 5K course all laid out nice and neatly.

Suddenly a trip to the park was necessary, so that I could try this route out.

A bit of history. This park is the former farm attached to the adjacent Norristown State Mental Hospital. In the early days of the hospital (founded in the 1880’s) this land was a working farm that provided food for the patients as well as occupation. It was thought that healthy outdoor work of this type would be beneficial to their recoveries. The farm included crop-growing fields, dairy cows, a dairy, stables, and even a fish hatchery (still in existence).

If you want to know more about Norristown State Hospital, which is now in the end stages of winding down (all that will be left is the forensic unit, meaning people who are in the hospital as part of the judicial/correction systems), you can see my experience in an orienteering event I did this summer on the grounds of the hospital. I will say that every time I go into the park I remember the people who have walked over and worked this land in the past; there is a history that needs to be respected, I feel.

Anyway, today, though, the idea was to try out this route. It’s different from the one I did in the competition in July and covers a lot of the same ground I did in the Senior Games events. The start is at the same place, the pavilion area. I was amazed at how different things look with 8-foot tall corn in the fields:

September, 2017

Here are a couple of places in the park –  the same locations at different times of the year. Things change.

My husband and I parked in the pavilion parking lot and set out. We planned to walk the 5K route. Corn all around us.

There are still signs left from when the park was a farm. There are many buildings, bridges, and other structures scattered over the acres.

 

Our route took us over a freight line crossing through the park.

As I said, there are a lot of buildings on the property, many of them falling into ruin, though some are being restored for other purposes. We saw a small brick and concrete building covered by undergrowth and took a look. I don’t know what its purpose was; I later found it on a 1950’s map when I did some internet searching, but I could not read the blurry print to find out what its function was. I liked the look of it so I took pictures.

We passed along Stony Creek – it runs through much of the park. The Stony Creek Anglers now run the fish hatchery.

We came upon this building. It appears on the 1950’s map I mentioned earlier, as being a stable. We took a look around.

The building and adjacent sheds appear to be used for nothing, really, although some picnic tables are stored in the shed. They look very out-of-place with the architecture and feeling of the buildings. Jarring, in fact.

Details of the stable building:

We saw this wagon back under the shed.

Well, we had to take a better look.

And a closer look at that set of gears.

 

I also liked the appearance of this door – it’s to a room in the shed.

I would have loved to have been able to see inside the stable. Maybe some other time it will be possible?

We got back on the road. We made our way to the finish of the 5K route, ending up at the pavilion area again.

I now feel I understand more about how the park is laid out, and I will be happy to come here and run on my own. I look forward to seeing how things look here later in the year.

 

 

Back On My Old Turf

On August 9, I took a little trip into Philadelphia; my husband had a meeting to go to and I got a ride in with him.

I walked all over Center City and the historical district; I’ve shown photo results of my day in the last few posts. Today I’ll talk about change and my life at work.

I am not originally from Philadelphia; I went to college in the area and then took a job with a local bank in 1980. Things were a lot different in those days, as you can imagine.

For instance, this building, a downtown mall, is being totally renovated. I remember it brand-new. I walked through the construction area on my way east on Market Street.

My destination was this location: 5th and Market Streets. I worked in this building, then known as the PNB Plaza, for many years. It looks exactly the same, except for the WF sign on top.

Next door, the National Constitution Center stands; it’s behind a construction fence – it is getting some kind of work done to it. In my era, this area was a giant paved plaza with a fountain that had some problems staying on the job.

Underneath it all (even today) is a parking garage; I zoomed in and out of there in my tiny car on my way to visit customers once a day, if not more often.

You may notice the tourists in the Plaza building picture. Many many tourists in this area – that is one thing that hasn’t changed!

Independence Hall is across the street and over a little.

In the past I was easily identified as a local, wearing my business clothes. Those tourists pictured earlier might have picked me out as a good person to ask for directions.

Today, I was just a late-middle aged lady wearing a sun hat. Oh dear.

Well, times change. I admit I was glad to see the Plaza building right where it ought to be, though.

On my way back uptown, I passed the hospital where my 2014 retina operation was done and my sight was saved. Thank you, Wills Eye Hospital, for giving me the ability to be out walking around today like this.

What Number, Please?

I took a little day trip into Philadelphia on August 9. I spent my time in Center City down to the historical area – from about 18th and Market to 5th and Market, and then over a block or two, and back up Walnut Street. A round trip of 3 or 4 miles.

On the way I took pictures of various sights. Now here is one that’s come up recently in my life: telephone booths.

I am of the age to remember and to have used pay phones. I remember when they still cost a dime. Enough said.

Pay phones are not too common these days. On east Market Street I saw one, though:

and I saw where one had been.

On my way, I stopped in the Curtis Center building to see the Dream Garden mosaic. I worked in a nearby building for some time and the mosaic was a favorite spot of mine to visit. And I remembered another landmark in my personal life. Past those stained glass windows, see that little alcove area with the stairs?

Here’s what is in there. The sign on the door says: Bell Telephone Pay Station.

Phone booths! I remember these two from way back when. They had a phone, phone book on a shelf, and a little wooden bench seat inside. You went in, closed the door, and it was…QUIET. I remember stopping in, not to call anybody, but to get a moment of QUIET.

I was puzzled, though, as to why the windows were so…white. My memory told me they should be dark; the booths had a light that went on when you closed the door, but it was not so bright as this was. On closer examination, I realized that the windows had white paper over them; through a tear, I saw that the booths no longer existed. The area behind had been torn out, enveloped into a larger space, and the whole thing immersed in mid-construction for offices.

Well, what do you know.

I’ll show you a quick look at another feature of this building, right around the corner from the phone booth remains. Curtis Center is actually built as a hollow square, with a huge atrium in the middle. I do not know what the space looked like when the building was put up in about 1914; I do know this format was used in the pre-air conditioning days as a way to get light and air into all the floors and all the areas of the building.

As a note, this building was the home of the Curtis magazine publishers, and all operations were done here, including the printing and binding. So, in summertime, air circulation would have been important.

The atrium now looks like this:

Nice, isn’t it? My husband tells me the building does a good business in hosting weddings and other events.

All right. More Philadelphia visit information later on!

Seeds of the Present

My husband and I took a walk in the Morris Arboretum on Saturday, August 12, a muggy, gray day. We didn’t spend a lot of time, about an hour; we wanted to walk around the wetlands area and see what things looked like.

We visited the arboretum about two weeks ago, and the wetlands section really caught our attention.

We circled this pond and then ventured out to the creek – a walk of about one and a half miles.

Two themes emerged: seeds/nuts, and insects. Let me start with the first category. I’m going to show what I saw. I don’t know the names of any of them, except for the walnuts and milkweed. I just liked looking at the seeds in their various incarnations. See what you think.

I think this tree may be called “button ball” but I am not sure. From our observations, the balls start off green, turn red-orange, explode into white, and then fade away in brown. Obviously they are attractive to bees.

I do not know what tree this is, but I have seen these brilliant red leaves on the ground later in the fall. Here are berries and one early-turning leaf.

Dangling seed pods. I LOVE the look of these.

These grasses were near the creek. I love the woven look of the seedheads.

I don’t know what these are. Are they related? I photographed two different trees and didn’t pay enough attention as I was doing it.

These look like they should come from a maple tree, but they don’t. Look at the leaf.

Walnuts! Walnuts! I love walnut season. I love kicking them with my toe as I go along the trails. Walnuts!

Now that I recognize milkweed, I see it everywhere in the wetlands. The broad leaves stand out almost horizontally; I liked how they captured the rain. And those seedpods…

What is this? I don’t know. I saw it next to the parking lot.

I am intrigued by the variety of seedpods and nuts and I am interested to see how these plants progress through the autumn. The shapes and forms are beautiful and functional. Plenty to look at here, isn’t there?

Now, how about a few insects I met along the way:

I would love to have shown some of the many dragonflies I saw, with their electric blue features, but they were too quick for me…


I am intrigued by the variety of seedpods and nuts and I am interested to see how these plants progress through the autumn. The shapes and forms are beautiful and functional. Plenty to look at here, isn’t there?

Swim in the City

I made a trip to Center City Philadelphia on August 9 – my husband was going to a meeting and I took the opportunity for a chauffeured ride in.

I worked in the city for quite some time, but those days are in the distant past – 25 years ago I left office work. Still, those days at work here were some of the most important of my life. The memories are vivid and the streets of the city are full of places I have known for a long time.

I’ll give you a little tour of something new and old, all at once. Let’s start at 18th and Market, where my husband’s office was until his fall in December, 2016, and where he was going to his meeting today.

I started walking east toward City Hall along Market Street. City Hall is set in the very middle of the original plan of Philadelphia. Its location was originally the center square of five (the other five are still open space).

In the 1870’s construction began on City Hall and it took about 30 years to finish the building. It is monumental, to say the least, and a really interesting place. Courts and other functions are now handled in other more modern buildings around the square, but it is still full of offices, including the mayor’s.

In the early 80’s I used to cut through the building on the way to my office in the winter, coming from the train. That way I got to walk about a block in the nice overheated halls before I went back outside for the quick sprint to my office.

Anyway, I went east. Took a little detour through the Penn Center complex, but always there is City Hall in view.

But…things have changed here, too, at least outside the building. What used to be a grim granite plaza of varying levels, punctuated by non-fountaining fountains, desperate trees, and a lot of trash, is now a welcoming space. I’d been here last fall for the holiday events:

But I had no idea that in the summer – the plaza is a splash park! Fantastic!

There were tourists, locals, adults, kids…and one park policeman on lifeguard duty. I wondered if he wished he could take his shoes off and stand in the cool water.

There were “paths” through the jets to drain the water – I walked through the site for a while. This version of Dilworth Plaza, as it is known, is much better than the one I remembered from those years back.

OK, I’ll stop now. More later on.

Tiny Travelogue

I don’t go far from home. I don’t travel much. I like being home. And lucky for me there is a seemingly endless supply of things to explore right under my (geographic) nose.

Today we decided to explore the Morris Arboretum. It was established on the grounds of Compton, the summer home owned by the wealthy Morris family starting in 1887, who collected plants and were interested in furthering horticultural education; it is now part of the University of Pennsylvania. Not located near the main campus, though – it is only about 15 minutes from my house.

We became members not too long ago – I thought it might be a good place for walking, especially for my husband, as he continues to gain strength after his knee injury. Believe it or not, in almost 40 years of living close by, I had never visited the site, though I had often thought of doing so in recent times, because I drive past it on my way to Chestnut Hill College (of poetry marathon fame!) all the time.

It is expensive for a single visit, but a membership could pay off for the two of us after three visits – and being members makes a quick stop just for a walk much more likely. I signed us up.  Today was a reconnaissance mission.

It was a stunning day – sunny, warm, and low humidity. We parked in the lower lot – other people had the same idea as us to visit the gardens on such a nice day – and walked up the hill to the main building. I noticed I could see the roofs of Chestnut Hill College across the way – it is next door.

We walked around the upper areas following paved paths past manicured lawns and many trees. I found some details interesting:

Small structures dotted the area as well as sculptures:

There were other attractions, such as a garden railway exhibit and a treehouse/walkway structure; fernery; rose garden. Today, these areas were crowded with families; even if they hadn’t been, they didn’t much appeal to me. If this had been all there was to the place, I would have been lukewarm on it. I will say, though, the level paths would make a nice circuit for an easy walk (or run, if you came on a non-crowded day).

We made our way back down the hill to the wetlands area. This section was deserted and quiet. Just birds, insects, trees…

Now I was interested. Look at this milkweed.

A bee was working very industriously at this flower head.

This dead tree’s stark appearance amid all the greenery made it a landmark.

Mowed paths guided us through this section. There was so much to look at.

My assessment of the arboretum: I thought the main area tame and uninteresting. The wetlands, fantastic. I could see visiting that section often just to see the changes in the landscape. I much prefer walking on grass to asphalt. Wilder to manicured. Full of detail to edited. I’ll come back and concentrate my attention on this area, I think.

It would be a great spot for a walk after a poetry marathon session or for my husband to visit during lunchtime. I’m glad we checked out the arboretum.

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