On the Run

Let’s say you are getting off the exit at Paper Mill Road off 309, Springfield Township. You look to your right as you come up to the light.

You look some more.

You look some more. What is that dangling from the branches of that tree? Some new kind of fruit, just now revealed by the leaves falling?

Look one more time.

OK, I’ll explain. Behind that fence someone had planted gourds in a garden. The vines left home and traveled up that tree perched in the no-man’s land at the highway exit. Gourds like to hang as they grow, so the vine made a great decision.

I love seeing the triumph of ingenuity and the motivation of hope, no matter who is exercising it!

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Corn and Soy and Harvest

On November 12, my husband and I went to Norristown Farm Park to take a walk. The temperature was right around freezing; in fact, we’d had a hard frost the night before, first one of this season.

We wanted to see the state of the harvest. As you know, this park is a working farm, carrying on a 100+ year-old tradition. Formerly part of the state mental hospital property and tended by patients in years past, it is now a county park. Corn and soy are grown over much of the grounds.

My husband had been in the park earlier in the week and observed the harvesters at work. Now that they are finished and gone, things are very different. The roads in the park had felt very enclosed by the 8 ft. tall corn; now it is possible to see great distances across the land. The surrounding roads and suburban development are visible after having been hidden for the last six months from park-goers in the interior.

Still, the park is large and in most places you can imagine yourself quite alone.

The row patterns are revealed now that the corn is cut down.

Take a look at the same location with the passing of two months:

And you may be wondering about the soy crop, as so far I have only shown corn. Our walk did not take us up into the main soy fields, but we skirted the lower edge of one I showed a couple of weeks ago. The soy looked like this in the field at that time.

It has all been cut and the fields are bare now.

November.

Soy. Just Soy.

Ho much do you know about growing soybeans? If you are me, not much.

I got curious about it as I’ve been noting the fields at the Norristown Farm Park, where we run or walk among acres of corn and soy. This park is still a working farm; its past is that of a farm attached to the Norristown State Hospital, where patients worked the fields as part of their treatment years ago. In the past, it was thought healthful for mental patients to have occupation, and this land grew all kinds of crops plus housing a dairy herd and trout farm.

These fields were green earlier this year and have turned golden and now faded to this tan color.

Details of the plants, photos taken last weekend:

I took a small stalk home, as I wondered when the harvest would occur and I wanted to inspect the plant more closely.

I learned through some internet research that the plants must be thoroughly brown and dried before they will be harvested. You can see the stalk of this plant is still a little green.

I took some photos for details.

Now I understand what will happen next. One day a harvester will come through the fields and the soybeans taken away, the fields shorn down.

I like being informed about what I see going on around me. Even if it is just – soybeans.

Look Up to the Sky

October is a time for beautiful skies in my area, the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA. Take a look at these photos.

October 11, red sky at morning – sunrise. Taken from my house, looking out into the back yard.

Glenside/Jenkintown, PA, October 16, taken as we were driving to the grocery, about 7:15 AM.

Another sunrise from my back yard. October 19.

Another Haven

About 15 minutes from 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.

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 Update

The bur oak saga continues. Look here for our initial meeting…

I put the acorns into a bucket of water for 24 hours, as advised by some research my husband did on the internet about planting them.

The idea is that the ones that sink to the bottom, well, they are eligible for planting. The ones that are floating after 24 hours, sadly, will not germinate.

After the time was up, four of the acorns were sinkers. OK, on to round 2!

Once again, guided by the internet, we put them into a plastic bag with some dirt, and stored them in the refrigerator until we can plant them. Maybe in the next day or so. My husband said he will get a few deep pots for them – apparently these little guys put out a tap root that requires room. No shallow yogurt containers will do.

Here is the refrigerator scene. We will see what happens next…

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.

 

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?

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