Monthly Archives: December 2018

Hopewell Borough Park – A rainy Friday morning with my oldest.


My oldest and I spent the winter solstice together running errands and visiting my office. It was misty, drizzly and almost 60 degrees and we were itching to get outside!  I love warm, rainy days when we can splash around in puddles without fear of freezing!

My husband and I have been reading the “Winnie the Pooh” books to the wild boys quite often lately and they have seen “Pooh’s Grand Adventure”.  Now, my oldest little dude is determined to have a “Grand Adventure” for himself.

So, it is my great honor to present to you, “The Wild Boy’s Rainy Day Grand Adventure!”

IMG_9491At first, my little dude wanted to go to the playground but when he saw the lake-puddle, he changed his mind and decided that he needed to play there instead.

IMG_9496He did not hesitate at the edge of the lake-puddle, but walked straight in.

IMG_9503An island!

IMG_9508We change the world just by being in it.


IMG_9560This morning, my sweet little dude noticed that I was wearing my Sourland Conservancy shirt and he immediately insisted that he wear his Sourland shirt, also!

IMG_9585Little Dude asked if he could take some pictures. Here is his picture of the waterfall.

IMG_9606“Say ‘Cheese’, Momma!”

IMG_9653I love how something that an adult perceives as a barrier is only a challenge for a child.

IMG_9660Hidden mushrooms. Most likely, the mushrooms growing between the logs have received some protection from the cold.

IMG_9664We still had to check out the playground, of course!

IMG_9679He really wanted to be able to float in his umbrella just like Pooh.

There was a part of me that wished that I had brought my wellies so that I could explore the lake-puddle with him… But I also really loved that I could just watch and let him explore on his own.

The magic of childhood.

Skyview Preserve – a quiet morning with an itty bitty surprise!

Skyview Preserve is located on Marshalls Corner Woodsville Rd, in Hopewell.

Link to hiking map and description.


Today was just one of those days when no matter how quickly I tried to accomplish the tasks at hand, I was always running about five minutes behind schedule. When I go into the woods, I don’t worry about such things. I usually don’t hike very far, choosing instead to spend my “alone time” in nature looking through leaf litter or searching for flowers. Even though I have studied the plant ecology of this area for over a decade, each time I am in the woods I learn something new. Today was no exception. When I had this new experience, I was almost as excited as my children were when they visited Santa Claus this past weekend. I will tell you more about it, later.

I also would like to take a moment to thank my mother, Nancy, for her help editing this blog. She helps me organize my runaway thoughts and puts it back on the right path.  Thank you, Mom.

It is deer hunting season so it is important to always check and make sure that the preserve you wish to visit is open to the public! Even if the preserve is open for visitors, for your own safety, it is important to wear high visibility colors during deer hunting season.  I always keep my Sourland Conservancy High Visibility baseball cap and beanie, along with an orange vest, in my car so that if I decide to go for a hike, I am prepared!


I really love this foliose Lichen, which was growing all over the Skyview Preserve. It reminds me of the kale I left in the back of the refrigerator.


“If it’s hairy, it’s scary!” Once those “leaves of three” fall off, it is a little more difficult to identify Poison Ivy, Toxicodendron radicans. If you come across a vine with many aerial roots causing it to appear quite hairy, you can be pretty sure that it is Poison Ivy and not Virginia Creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia. Virginia Creeper tendrils tend to be thicker than Poison Ivy’s and don’t look quite as “hairy”. To be on the safe side, it may be prudent to avoid touching a vine you can’t identify!


It looks like someone was pecking away in a forage for insects.  I don’t know a lot about birds, but I have sometimes wondered if each particular species of wood pecker leaves its own distinctive peck marks? A good question for the National Audubon Society or your nearest ornithology lover.


This tree was covered in mushrooms, a tell-tale sign that it is not much longer (or is no longer) for this world.


A forest of sphagnum moss.


Sporophytes as far as the eye can see!


A vernal pool! A vernal pool is a body of water which dries out each year (or almost every year) and does not have a resident fish population. It is commonly thought that vernal pools appear in the spring, but the profuse rain this fall has caused the pools to fill. I can imagine all the salamander and frog eggs which will be contained within this pool come spring.

Last year, I really wanted to experience the Sourland Conservancy and Mercer County Parks Commission’s “Remember the Rain” event. I completed the training to be an Amphibian Crossing Guard. Unfortunately, my time “on watch” and the rains were not in sync, so I was unable to chaperone the salamanders and frogs on their migration. I am anticipating the crossing this coming spring and hopefully the rain drops and my “crossing guard” schedule will be in alignment in 2019! Read more about the “Remember the Rain” project here.


It was an absolutely beautiful morning and not quite as cold as the previous few days. I did not hear many birds or see any mammals besides a few white-tailed deer. I had a pleasant walk in both the woods and in an open field, and I was not too muddy either, considering all of the rain that has been falling lately.


Ok, so I saved the best for last. While I was walking along the path I happened to look down at a Shagbark Hickory Nut, Carya ovata, and observed what seemed to be teeny, tiny, jumping grains of sand. Can you see them? There are 8 of them in this picture!

IMG_9272 2

I believe these are Springtails/Collembola, belonging to the order of Symphypleona, but I’m not completely sure. Collembola are very small, sometimes microscopic, insect-like organisms which live in and on the soil. They have an appendage on the underside of their body which can “spring” them away from danger – also known as my boot! These little critters are fascinating! Here is a really great link with tons of great photos and information on collembola. Also, if you have a desire to relax, please watch this video of collembola hanging out by the water’s edge.


Hopewell Borough Park – A cold morning walk.


It has been a long time since my last Walk in the Woods and I have been craving a reconnection with the natural world for weeks now. There have been deadlines, meetings and many errands as well as preparing 70+ children for their annual holiday concert at the daycare where I work part time as a music teacher. My own children have been sick- ‘Tis the Season to be Sneezin’- and the myriad of responsibilities that go along with being a human being at the prelude to Winter has had me feeling overwhelmed and depleted.

Just like cooking, some of the responsibilities and joys in my life had to simmer and so my walks in the woods were moved to the back burner as I tried to stir all the pots that were heating on my stove.  My time in the woods replenishes my spirit. The quiet, the smell, the colors and textures, the presence and absence of life in the outdoors is what coaxes me back to my true nature.

As I remember the birth of my youngest, I recall how weak and unwell I felt afterwards.  I could not sit up, yet I still kept struggling to get out of my hospital bed in order to see my little one. The nurse who was taking care of me insisted that I remain lying down.  She said “First, put on your own oxygen mask. You can’t be of help to anyone else unless you have taken care of yourself first.”

Her Words of Wisdom remain true. How often do we compromise our own mental and physical health in order to keep all the pots cooking and the house from burning down? Today’s walk was the comforting and delicious chicken soup which my mind and body so desperately needed. I spent most of my time looking for frost covered leaves so that I could blow on them and watch the ice melt, a nice antidote to all the heat that I had been feeling. It was relaxing and peaceful and exactly what I needed in order to dampen down all the fires which were burning in my life.

For this holiday season I am asking all of you to put on your oxygen mask first and do something which rejuvenates and restores you. Make it a priority to do something for the pleasure of it, not because it is something you have to do.


Creeping Charlie (ground ivy), Glechoma hederacea, an invasive that is the bane of my flower garden’s existence. No matter how often I pull it out, this recalcitrant vine keeps on creeping back into my flower beds.


One of my favorite things about a Walk in winter is observing the frost covered earth. This morning, the ground sparkled as if a little fairy had sprinkled glitter all over. My oldest has been talking a lot about pixie dust and flying and I wish that he had been with me this morning so that I could show him the shimmering ground. I could imagine him rolling in the sparkles and then running fast while leaping into the air in an attempt to fly. I remember that I was determined to take flight when I was a child. My brother and I made a hang glider-like contraption with some dowels and a sheet and I ran as fast as I could and jumped off our porch….. and crashed to the ground. I climbed the trees in our yard reaching more than 20 feet up by the time I was four years old (the same age as my oldest) and I can’t imagine the anxiety I caused my parents. My oldest is also a fearless climber and I am sure that the day will come when he tries to build his own wings in order to soar. But for now, pixie dust and his own imagination will take him skywards.


Japanese honeysuckle, Lonicera japonica, berries. As the migrating birds pass through there are fewer and fewer berries left behind. These berries were quite shriveled but I am sure they also will be eaten soon.


I haven’t seen many mushrooms as of late, but these ones looks so neat covered in frost!


Japanese honeysuckle, Lonicera japonica, and Garlic mustard, Alliaria petiolata. These two invasive plant species are some of the last to go dormant in the winter and some of the first to awaken in the spring.


I love how this frozen puddle looks like a topographic map! I am curious about what may have caused it to freeze in this manner. I inspected the puddle carefully and it didn’t appear to be shattered in the center. My husband is a GIS (geographic information systems) developer and I know that he would get a kick out of this ice ‘map’.


Virginia Strawberry, Fragaria virginiana, a native edible hiding beneath the dormant Goldenrod is receiving its last bit of photosynthesis before descending into winter’s sleep.  I love this little bit of foreshadowing of what is to emerge in the spring.  It is something very yummy to look forward to!