Saturday, April 28, 2007

Weekend in Paradise.

4-28-07 PARADISE, PA: I am here in SE PA near Lancaster and the Susquehanna River for a geology field trip. We are seeing metamorhposed sedimentary rock formations that have been tortured, cooked, faulted, crushed, folded, split, deformed and abused. The region is very hilly, rural changing to suburban, farms intersperced with housing developments. One thing a bit odd about the region is that the automobile has achieved only partial acceptance.

April is finishing up after delivering almost 12 inches of rain, half of that total on the 15th.

New blooms: redbud, virginia blue bell.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007


4-25-07 SHORT HILLS: Yesterday I did more rhododendron pruning, planted a small hydrangea, turned on and checked the sprinklers and made another dump run with a car load of cuttings. The sprinklers will need a repair visit as will the perimeter fence. The rhodos look terrible, maybe it was the warm winter followed by the cold spring. I fertilized them all again.

Today we went to the Met Museum for the Greek and Roman exhibit. The new space, in itself, is dramatic and beautifully done and the objects are presented to maximum effect. The whole exhibit covers about 1000 years. It is interesting how little change occurs from the earliest to the latest. Some tools and weapons are displayed, and they are not unlike the colonial metalware we have in Vermont. It just emphasises how much technology and art have evolved in the last 100 years compared to the previous 3000.

New blooms: dogwood, barberry, violet, dandelion.

Here are some more daffodils.

Monday, April 23, 2007

More Spring.

4-23-07 SHORT HILLS: Our thermometer said 88° today, I bet it is a record. I did more of the rhododendron pruning that I started yesterday. They all look kind of punk. I hope they rebound this season, I did fertilize heavily.

New Blooms: apple, keria, grape hyacinth.



Sunday, April 22, 2007


4-22-07 SHORT HILLS: Well, another spring day. The cold weather forced delay followed by the warm weather has allowed everything to explode.

New blooms: trout lily, marsh marigold, clatonia, blood root.

vinca minor and blood root

saucer magnolia


trout lily

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Cruelest Month.

4-21-07 SHORT HILLS: I guess I blabbed so much last time that I had nothing left to say. Sorry it has been over a week, dear reader.

Until the last three days, this has been the most dismal April I can remember. It was cold, wet—incredibly wet, windy, nasty and even cruel. Nature seemed to be on hold from the weather, but one could see that the buds were slightly bigger every few days and that the plants were trying. In the last 10 days the average temperature has gone from 40° to 60°.

We have in bloom, finally: packysandra, vinca minor, anemone, siberian squill, daffodils, forsythia, andromeda, spice bush, quince and saucer magnolia.

Doesn’t anybody think it is, at least, bizarre that a psychotic killer can buy guns and lethal ammunition without any difficulties or questions? Bullets and guns for all of us, many guns and cases of bullets in every home in the land must be the goal of the munitions industry and their lobby, the NRA, and all those dupes quoting the Constitution. You want the Constitution? The only guns allowed for citizen to bear should be restricted to what was available to the Framers—flintlocks!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Rifting and Rambling

4-10-07 SHORT HILLS: It is still cold today and breezy, but sunny. I need gloves to be outside for more than a few minutes. The jet stream is sagging far to the south across the eastern U.S. dragging cold, arctic air with it and draping us in it. Lots of daffodils are open around town, but none of ours have, as yet, dared to brave the cold.

Judy and I have received dozen of emails and calls about Fanny’s death. We thank all of you for the kind words and thoughts.

A bit of explanation about that last post. Those folded beds were deposited in the early Paleozoic Era, 450 million years ago; they were folded in the late Paleozoic, 300 million years ago; the rifting that split the continents began in the Mesozoic Era, 200 million years ago, and continues as the Atlantic gets a couple inches wider every year.

Speaking of rifting, our house is on the western side of a fairly steep, short hill, actually a ridge, which runs in a north-south direction for several miles. This ridge is one of several similar and parallel ridges in northern New Jersey. They are all made of basalt, the rock that lava becomes when it cools. All these ridges are volcanic. The lava poured up through weak gaps that opened up when the earth’s crust thinned and cracked right here as the continents pulled apart in the early Mesozoic Era.

I grew up in Chatham Township on top of a similar ridge that parallels the western bank of the Passaic River. Where we now live, the ridge parallels the eastern bank of the Passaic. Judy grew up in South Orange on the eastern side of the ridge adjacent to the one on which we now live, together they are the Orange Mountains, that one is First Mt, and this one Second Mt. In the seventies, after we were married, we lived in West Orange again on the eastern side of First Mt.

The basalt, a fine-grained, extrusive igneous rock, is usually black and contains a lot of iron rich minerals. As the surface weathers it turns rust colored due to the oxidation of the iron and forms the reddish soil that underlies our yard. Volcanic soils, rich in minerals, are prized by farmers. This is why there are always villages clustered around volcanoes in what would seem to be a hazardous place to live.

In our yard the red soil should be capped by an organic layer of black loamy stuff made of decomposed leaves, twigs and other plant material like what you see on the forest floor. Trees grow in the topsoil and the roots reach down to the undersoil for the minerals. Most of our topsoil is gone. Our steep hillside has seen a proliferation of streets, houses, driveways, patios and other impervious surfaces that don’t absorb rainwater and that replaced the native deciduous forest which did. In the forest, the trees soak up a lot of rain leaving little runoff. Grasslands absorb less drainage than forests and asphalt none. The resulting heavy runoff has caused us to lose topsoil to erosion. Leaves and grass clippings, if left in place, would ultimately decompose and replace some of the lost organic layer. Leaving the fallen leaves ungathered and unremoved will be my experiment in land reclamation.

Here is a pic of the contact between reddish sandstones and a black basaltic eruption. The picture is from a beach in Nova Scotia, which experienced rifting of the same kind as New Jersey had at the same time and for the same reasons.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Thanks, Everyone

4-7-07 SHORT HILLS: Thanks to everyone for their calls, cards, presents and visits. Judy and I are grateful for the many expressions of sympathy.
The weather has been freezing, literally, with occasional snow flurries. All the plants are on hold, but the forsythia have managed to get open.

New Blooms: forsythia, spice bush.

Here is a pic from Rte. 23 in Newfoundland, NJ. These folds are in Paleozoic sandstones and mudstones that were created from sediments eroded from ancient mountains at a time when North America was in the tropics. This spot was then ocean bottom, near the beach. The sand and mud deposits were eventually compressed by the overlying volume of additional sediments to become horizontal beds of stone. Fish ruled the world, and little or nothing lived on land. A bit later these beds were folded and elevated when Africa and Europe collided with North America. The frogs were then in charge. Later still, the Atlantic Ocean opened up sending Europe and Africa away, but the folds remained. Erosion of overlying rock brought them to the surface, and road building cut them into sections letting us see the structure.

Looking east across Rt. 23.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


4-4-07 SHORT HILLS: It is a stormy, rainy, cold, windy, dark and gloomy day. Fanny died this morning. Yesterday we were awakened by her crying and found her stuck behind a chair unable to stand. She crawled outside using only her front legs. The day before, she was fine and did a hospice visit to Beth Israel in Newark. Our vet, Norman, confirmed the neurological deficit and sent us to the animal neurologists down the shore. After preliminary testing, while we drove around a seedy and grimy Asbury Park, she went for x-rays and ultrasounds and an MRI while we came home to the other dogs.

At about six pm the neurologist called to report a large plaque compressing her spinal cord from the thoracic to the lumbar regions. We agreed to a biopsy of the lesion in hope of finding something treatable. The report at ten pm was necrotic fat and blood, and she was treated with corticosteroids and antibiotics in the faint hope of improvement.

At ten am she was worse, and we took the other three dogs with us and went back to be with her for the euthanasia. She was awake and pain free, from morphine. We spent a few minutes with her beforehand and showed her to the other dogs afterward so they would understand why she wasn’t coming home.

Fanny was the alpha of our little pack. I called her St. Frances because she was such an accomplished therapy dog. She was a favorite of the Newark kids she visited with Judy and had been nominated as AKC Therapy Dog of the Year. She and Judy were recognized for their work after 9/11 at the Family Assistance Center and both received many awards.