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 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?

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.

Re-Orienting Myself

It’s early May, and that means that the Montgomery County Senior Games have rolled around again.

You may remember that last year I competed in several days of this week-long event. I did orienteering, running, and speed-walking. I wrote a whole series of posts about my experiences:

Let the Games Begin

Orienteering Myself

I Run as Fast as I Can on a Track

Walk This Way

In my introductory post for last year, I wrote about how I had set the goal of competing to help me start back into regaining my former fitness levels – I was a good runner and swimmer and loved doing those things, but my various illness, surgeries, bad antibiotic reactions, stress fracture in my foot – all of these had slowly stripped away my strength and almost all of my ability to pick myself up and try.

I wrote about how I hoped the event would be the beginning of returning to my old ways. Well, it wasn’t. I experienced more eye issues later in the year and then, when my husband had his accident in December, 2016, for the next four months I pretty much gave up – exercise came near the end of the list.

All right. Here we are today and I am saying the same thing – I hope that the Senior Games mark the beginning of returning to normality as far as my athletic activities.

This year, I decided to do just the orienteering and walking events. My motto was to be: Complete, not compete, meaning – finish the event, not try to bust a gut winning it.

With that in mind, I arrived at the Norristown Farm Park this morning, site of the orienteering event. My husband accompanied me – his new office is very close, and so this year he was able to attend. That was nice, to have his support. We had an absolutely gorgeous sunny day, a bit chilly, but just perfect for this event. Compare it to last year’s day and you’ll see why all of us at the event were thrilled. Here is 2016:

And now, 2017:

Last year I was a green newbie at orienteering, but I liked what I had experienced of it. If you don’t know much about it, you run around the countryside from point to point (called “controls”) following a detailed map, and you are timed. I am not really able to do trail running anymore because of my eyesight, so this sport really appealed to me as a substitute.

This year I am a slightly less green newbie, and I am game. Let’s go, I said. We got signed up at the pavilion and received the all-important T-shirt.

After some explanatory remarks, we headed over to the start. Now, how this works is simple. You get the map when you start, you take off looking for your controls, and you just keep going to the end. You have to go in order, but you can get from place to place any way you want to. You have a small device that you insert into a reader at each control – it keeps your time. The race starts for you when you click in at the start control.

In larger events, there are courses laid out for different difficulty levels over the same plot of ground. Competitors choose the level desired and get the map for that course. So, the people you see as you traverse your course may be doing a different course altogether – you don’t assume their control is one you want for your course.

This event, though, has only one course. So it’s possible to follow another competitor and get to the controls without orienting yourself on your own. Remember this point – it matters in my story!

Here I am at the start point:

And looking over my map, having just clicked the start. You can’t review it beforehand.

And, running off down the path.

The trick to this sport is to stay focused and continue to adjust and re-orient yourself as you go along. Watch your map closely. I try to plan out what next landmark or location I need to hit in a series of moves to get to a control point. A straight line is not always the best route!

Well, I was zipping along. And very quickly I realized that another woman near me was, well, she was watching my moves. Plain and simple. And given how the course was set up, I could do nothing about it. Several times it was clear to me that she would not have found the control if I had not led her there.

Well, complete, not compete, went out the window. I guess I wasn’t surprised. I’m pretty competitive. Yes. So I got a little aggravated and that put some speed into my feet. Down paved roads, dirt trails, crawling up a trackless hill – we did it all. She was ahead of me at the last control but just a little; that cranked up the aggravation level and I took off for the finish. Hard. And I got there first.

I’m the tiny black speck. I don’t know who that man is who was caught up in our drama.

Well, I’ll tell you, it’s a small thing, but I felt as if I had done something big. I didn’t give up and I didn’t back down. Makes me feel that I am really on my way in this new start.

Thanks for reading. And Happy Orienteering, if you try it.

Egg and Extra

Lots happening along the Green Ribbon trail in Flourtown/Fort Washington, PA, today.

I left home early today and parked the car at the day use area along Mill Road. Headed down the trail and for a change, at the fork I went left instead of right, toward Stenton Avenue. I’m not sure why but I almost always go to the right fork first. Why I mention this fact will become clear, I assure you.

It had rained hard all day yesterday and things were still very wet today. I was skipping from puddle to puddle when I hit this dry stretch.

What is that in the middle of it? I got closer. Look! A robin’s egg, and guess what – no robin in it now, which means a new little bird somewhere in a nest nearby.

I felt sure it had been there since at least yesterday, since it had a little puddle inside it. And look, I match.

Well, I continued along my way, coming up to the last little bit before the trail ends at the gate at Stenton Avenue – the trail parallels the road here.

At this spot I heard a discreet beep of a car horn – not enough to startle me but enough to make me look. Guess who – my husband, driving by on his way to work. He pulled into the little area to say hello. He told me he had seen my car at the lot on the other side of the park – I’d left before him this morning –  and he knew I was in here somewhere, never thinking I’d up and appear. And I thought, what a good thing I went to the left rather than the right at the fork this time. What a nice surprise for us both.

So he turned around and went off on his way.

I did the same.

Later on, I came on this area where water is trapped when the creek overruns the banks. I was very taken by the reflections in the still water. Then I had the idea of throwing a stick in the water to stir things up. The trees became wiggly strands waving away at me. Now this amused me and I can’t say why.

I took a picture of this tree on April 19 and here it is on April 26. There is a lighter green hue to the groundcover now and it is taller.

Green Ribbon Tree 8 4-19-17 small

April 19

April 24

Here’s a warning – this nice-looking light green ground-covering plant is not nice. It has a Velcro-like stickiness to it and where it touches your skin, it will itch and burn, leaving no mark, just that maddening pain.

It grows all over this flood plain. My husband calls it “seven-minute itch weed” but I am here to tell you it can be with you more like seven hours, if you are dumb enough to run along a trail, bare-legged, brushing your legs past it at every step. Don’t do this. Wear long pants.

Finally, I ran up the hill to the bird stand and then back down the access road. Here are two birds that have got baby birds under their care – I heard the chirping. These two let me get quite near. I thought they were chickadees but I am not sure – they had a blue cast to their feathers? I am hoping my bird-expert friend Diane can tell me.

Well, I went on my way from here – the remainder of this very nice walk was uneventful but refreshing, in a light misty rain, and with lots to think about.

Walk Around the Park

The other day I was telling my friend John N. about a great walk in the Fort Washington State Park. He’s done the roads there, but not ventured out into the wilds. I told him I’d take him around the loop to show him the route. Later I started to think – how long will it be before we can get together to do this? In the meantime, John is missing a really nice walk.

I was at the park on April 17 and I decided to photo the route. I think it will be enough guidance for John to try on his own if he wants.

Background – this circuit is about 2 miles. It’s part of the cross-country course run by several local high schools in their meets. I became familiar with it running charity cross-country 5K events in the park. Now I go there and do it on my own – sometimes running and sometimes, like today, walking it. The route is composed of a big loop (the one I am showing today) plus a smaller half loop covering much of the same ground and including the dreaded Power Line Hill. We’re not going up that hill today but I will point it out.

The weather was off-and-on rain showers and quite mild the day I took these pictures. OK, John, here goes!

1. Park in the lot next to the bird watching stand and the bathrooms.

2. Go over to the bird stand and start down the hill, aiming for the two benches down there at the bottom.

3. Head down the trail.

4. You’ll come to this fork. Go to the right. And as a note, if you went left, you’d end up on the Green Ribbon trail by the creek. Nice to know this as it’s a good way into that part of the park. And notice the rail line – here’s a good view of it.

5. Now just go along the path. It’s easy to see. It parallels the freight rail line on the left.

6. Keep your eyes open and look to the right when you see the power poles. This is the Power Line Hill. In an actual 5K race this hill comes along about 70% of the way through (the race start is in a different location than where I started). Believe me, this is a killer hill. Looks pretty easy? Remember, it ends way off up there in that open area.

7. Keep on going along the path, until you come up to this bird house on a pole.

8. You veer off to the right – the path is still clearly visible.

9. Look, beach volleyball on the right.

10. Keep going along the line of brush until you see this signpost.

11. Don’t be startled if a train comes along while you’re in this section. I’d say about half the time one passes while I am here.

12. Follow the arrow on the sign and veer right, keeping pretty close to the brush. You’ll see birdhouses all over the park, by the way. And the baby trees have plastic sleeves around their trunks so that the deer can’t eat them.

13. At this point your aim is to get over to the park road that is in front of you (past the pink trees – hard to see in this picture). You can angle over or you can go straight to the pavement.

14. Once on the pavement, you head to the left.

15. When you reach the intersection, you’ll turn right. I always like to do a loop around the little island first…

16. Walk down this road a short distance, until you see the signpost on the left.

17. Now we are at my favorite part of the loop. Pick up this little trail going into the woods.

18. Follow the trail up the hill. If I am running, it takes me about two minutes or so to get to the more level section.

19. At the fork, go right. If you go left, you will end up on the upper park road and you’ll eventually end up at the same finishing point, but – the dirt trail is just more fun.

20. This section of trail skirts the brush on the right, with the overnight campsites on the left. You will see several groups of picnic tables and so on. And at times, the trail gets a bit vague. Just stay along the edge of the vegetation.

21. When you see this bench and the power pole, it’s time to get on the paved road.

22. But wait – I will show you where the Power Line Hill exits – look to your right and down the line of poles.

You say, So what? OK. I’ll walk a little way down it.

And I turn around and look back up. I have seen people crawling at this stage of things, in a 5K race.

23. Back on the route. It’s all easy from here. Go down the hill on the paved road and pass around the gate.

24. Come out to the main road. Does this look familiar? You have finished the loop!

Well, I hope that this travelogue was useful and I especially hope that John will be able to follow it, because I think he’ll enjoy the walk. I know I’ve enjoyed reliving it!

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