Delaware and Raritan Canal.
"There shall be eternal summer in the grateful heart." ~Celia LaightonThaxter (1835-1894)
Delaware and Raritan Canal.
Open air beckoned with the call of superb sunny weather, greeted warmly after a rainy Spring. Endless outdoor activities filled my calendar - morning walks, gardening, harvesting organic produce in the farm fields, observing wildlife and a diversity of jaunts. The summer would not be complete without a trip to the Jersey Shore. Bracing for Fall, its invariably gratifying to pause and reflect on lingering memories before the next chapter.
Begonias, Catmint, Echinecea, Day Lilies and Morning Glory.
Ablaze with color, the garden transformed into quite a flashy display: bright yellow Begonias illuminated the deck, while sprays of lavender Catmint, Echinacea and Day Lilies competed with their brilliance in the garden, and jolly-faced Morning Glories made a statement surrounding the garage door.
Katydid, Swift Long-winged Skimmer and Lenard's Skipper Butterfly.
Elusive annual guests, particularly the Katydid, dragonflies and social butterflies, skirted around me while I toiled in the garden. Erratic and always in flight, capturing a still photo of them presents a challenge.
The Monarch Butterfly remains my biggest disappointment. A single Monarch Butterfly dropped in for an entire week and laid her eggs on the milkweed in my garden. Faithfully I checked the eggs daily hoping for nature's miracle, yet not one egg was fertilized. Sadly, the pesticide spraying in my area does not discriminate; it kills good bugs as well as the intended victims. Just to think about it is heart breaking, especially since scientists report the numbers of Monarch Butterflies have diminished. Just a few years ago I reared over a hundred caterpillars in my house. The metamorphosis of a butterfly is utterly captivating. Happiness is releasing the newly hatched Monarch Butterflies to begin their journey to Mexico. The real joy, though, comes when they flitter back around before taking flight to whisper in the wind, 'thank you for giving me life'.
Eastern Chipmunk, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Black-winged Blackbird and Blue Jay.
A number of bird species comfortably established their territory in my backyard, counting hummingbirds, Red-winged Blackbirds and Blue Jays among them. The juveniles entertained with their awkward attempts to master the bird feeder. Chipmunks regularly hung out at the bird feeder hoping for hand-outs. Their offspring playfully tumbled on the ground and jumped in the air, unsuspecting that they had an audience.
Pewter and Willow
Even the cats enjoyed a change of scenery outside on the deck. My eyes, though, never lost sight of them, for fear that Pewter or Willow might suddenly sprint after a dashing squirrel or snatch a low flying bird.
On my early-morning walk wildlife sightings seldom disappointed, spotting turtles and herons blending in with the environs. Blue-black Swallows performed a non-stop Ariel dance over the water, contrasted to the pure white regal swans appearing to float effortless on the water.
Delaware and Raritan Canal.
There is no shortage of walking trails in my immediate area. The Delaware and Raritan Canal, a 70-mile long linear park, bustles with precious wildlife and wild flowers. My walks along the towpaths vary, getting on and off at different locations. A two-mile walk along Carnegie Lake leads me past the historic canal lock #8, the locktender's house and station, and a mill site.
My three great nieces, Ashley, Kaitlyn and Emily (9, 7 and 5 years old), arrived for a sojourn, enthusiastic and full of anticipation. Unquestioning and unsuspecting, they were clueless about the plans for the week.
The GPS guided us on a short drive to the Peach Festival at Terhune Orchids in Princeton the first day. The girls participated in a play-acting class (which they volunteered for) demonstrating the art of picking peaches before going into the orchid to put their new knowledge into practice. Feeding the animals at the farm's petting zoo after, trumped the almost forgotten adventure of selecting ripe peaches. They probably would have stayed until they emptied all the feed machines, or I ran out of money, whichever came first. However, It didn't take much cajoling to convince them that exiting the farm for lunch sounded, more or less, reasonable. The community pool in the evening, where they met new friends, made their day.
Liberty Science Center.
The Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, a non-profit organization dedicated to science education, proved to be a tremendous hit with the girls on Day 2. After the girls fed Clifford a bone, they vanished in a flash to kick off their adventurous trek into unknown terrain, eager to learn. The latest technology dazzled them, testing their skills at every exhibit, never skipping a beat in exploring all the happenings. In fact, Kaitlyn became quite serious attempting to learn how to speak Mandarin Chinese. After visiting the 911 Memorial followed by a picnic lunch near the Hudson River, the girls stepped up their pace, anxious to get to the pool again in the evening to see their newfound friends.
Statue of Liberty.
In absolute awe, the girls could hardly contain themselves riding the ferry to the Statue of Liberty on Day 3. As the 'Lady' continued in view from the minute we left Liberty State Park in Jersey City, anticipation built up as we got closer, to the point where they unanimously opted not to get off the ferry at Ellis Island. Actually being inside the famous statue duly impressed the girls, despite the fact that their tickets only permitted them to ascend as far as the pedestal. Pumped up, they insisted on individual picture-taking with Miss Liberty for 'show and tell' at school. On the ride home they announced the pool sounded like the best ever suggestion for the next stop.
While delighted to spend time at the tot lot the morning of Day 4, plan B appealed to the girls much more, even with a time restriction. Nevertheless, these water bugs reluctantly left the pool in time for our scheduled dinner date. I saluted that the plan came together.
Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed
An annual Butterfly Festival at Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed in Pennington on the last day rounded off their week of memorable experiences. The Association, a non-profit environmental group, presented numerous educational exhibits, with live butterfly specimens, as well as other critters, arranged to keep the energy flowing. Exhibits to protect the environment, as well as water conservation, intrigued the girls as they listened attentively to the presentations.
I mustered the week undaunted, with unfailing stamina, keeping up with the boundless energy youngsters possess.
Immersed in the beauty of Longwood Gardens, in Kennett Square, PA, awakens the senses with every visit, so celebrating my birthday there with Kristen and the girls iced the cake, so to speak. The water lilies took center stage showcasing various species in a variety of colors, their natural setting accentuated.
While my niece celebrated her birthday with her sister in California for two weeks, I entertained the girls on their turf, a challenge to say the least. Plenty of drama and excitement filled the days - watching the local township parade, transporting Ashley to gymnastics, homework, just to mention a few. I survived!
Honey Brook Organic Farm.
Withdrawal set in when the season ended at Honey Brook Organic Farm in Pennington. Organic produce tends to be savory and substantially fresher than supermarkets, and science has proven that it contains far more nutrients. A freezer full of vegetables, from the abundant yield of produce at the farm and prepped for favorite recipes, enhances the benefits I enjoy as a farm member.
Delaware and Raritan Canal and Princeton Walk.
"Gone are the birds that were our summer guests." ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)