Saturday, November 30, 2013

Zoo Faces: Cape May County Zoo

I love this zoo. I remember when it was mostly farm animals and gumball machines filled with feed for a nickel.

A couple of roaring big cats were added, and a house full of reptiles, and lots of big birds, and then the African Savanna with Giraffes, Zebras, Bongos, Scimitar-Horned Oryxes, and Ankole Watusis.

These are Ankhole Watusis having dinner.
In the warmer weather the zoo is filled with colorful flowers and flowering bushes. but today, the last day of November, we're more likely to see berries and ornamental grasses.

In the cooler weather today, I found faces...

The over-the-shoulder peacock look

The I'm-pretending-to-eat-this-really-short-grass-for-your-picture look

"Whaddya want? My parents are trying to eat here."

And the Great Blue Heron asks, "Got any fish for me?"

These three snow leopards had their faces on something outside their fence...

And elsewhere in the zoo, these ducks were having a pond party. We weren't invited, so we shot some photos and politely left.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Autumn Baywalk

Gladys the Sheltie wanted me to show you what we saw on our walk this afternoon at the Delaware Bay. It was low tide, so the beach looked like this:

and we saw lots  of things washed-up on the sand.
A claw
And, of course, shells
There was a recently-deceased or napping horseshoe (I'm told not to call them crabs because they are more like spiders, actually),
and a gull looking for lunch hiding just under the sand.
Since it was super-low tide, I got some close-up shots of this jetty which is usually under the water. Who knew so many critters lived under there?!
The Cape May-Lewes Ferry made an appearance after the HOOOOOONNNNNK HONK HONK HONK warning signal.
The ferry is leaving the canal.
 Gladys had had enough by now, we headed home to rest while our crepe myrtle tree is doing this because it is autumn!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Sneaking up on the Cape May Light

I never get tired of shooting the Cape May Light. Even when I'm supposed to be enjoying the Cape May Point State Park Nature Trails, I find myself sneaking photos of the light through the cat tails and mallow blossoms. I'm supposed to be searching the skies and branches for unusual birds to photograph so that I can later compare my photos with the pictures in my bird books. But then an unexpected view of my favorite beacon. So here are some samples from a hot and hazy August day on the Yellow Nature Trail; it seems like months ago, but it was merely a few weeks.

These are the mallows I mentioned above
I see you, lighthouse!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

All Aboard for Bartram's Garden in Philadelphia

Ever been to Bartram's Garden? Neither had I until I boarded the USS Patriot last weekend, but let me back up to explain what a boat has to do with a colonial-era garden.

You probably have an expectation of what the city of Philadelphia looks like:

Philadelphia from Walnut Street at the Schuylkill River

But if I move my camera just a bit, look what the banks of the Schuylkill River look like.
Schuylkill Banks "beach" and trail
In warm weather folks are sunning themselves as if this were a beach, and other folks are jogging and biking along that trail. (We learned later that the trail will be lengthened by the Schuylkill Banks organization with a boardwalk jutting out over the river!) But anyway, right near that Schuylkill scene is the Walnut Street Dock, and this is where we went aboard the Patriot.

Walnut Street Dock
 We went under a variety of bridges (and I like bridges!),

Those aren't green eyes on the blue bridge--that is the Schuylkill Banks logo.

And after 25 minutes or so arrived at a dock by a meadow. A trail through the meadow took us to Bartram's Garden. John Bartram, botanist, bought this land in 1728 from Swedish settlers and established a thinking man's garden. He actually sold his seeds and plants. Bartram was a Quaker intellectual who ran with a pack of the country's leaders who also visited his home and garden here: George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson. John Bartram and his son William who took over the garden, traveled around the country gathering unusual plants to grow on their property on the Schuylkill River. They found the Franklinia alatamaha growing in Georgia and named it after their friend Benjamin Franklin. This tree is now extinct in the wild, and only survives as a cultivated tree. It is generally used as an ornamental tree, and here is what it looks like.

Franklinia alatamaha
After wandering around the garden for a bit, we were treated to a tour of Bartram's house.
Heading over to Bartram's House

 It is your typical restored colonial home, but one of the features making it unique is its stone carving. The Bartrams liked carved stone, and it was all over the place.

This window has carved stone all around it...

...and a Bartram quote above it.

Fred making the wheels go 'round
Speaking of carved stone, the property includes an orchard and used to have a working cider mill. We saw this big bumpy rock by the river with people chillaxing on it and wondered why it was labelled the cider press until I remembered a model in the orientation area (called the Green Room).

There is a circle carved into the bumpy rock which used to have wheels running around it powered by horses. Ah ha! So this is where they made the cider, a two-step process of squashing the apples and then extracting the juice.

You can kind of see the circle behind the man where the cider press wheels went.

After our tour of the Bartram house and garden, we walked through the meadow and back to the USS Patriot and cruised back to Walnut Street for a relaxing lounge at Schuylkill Banks "beach" followed by a Thai dinner. I came back from the beach a day early for this excursion, and it was definitely worth it!

The path through the meadow to the boat that would take us back to those buildings

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Union Bethel Civil War Cemetery in Lower Township, NJ

I was just saying (wasn't I, Fred?) that I would like to find an old cemetery to photograph. I was imagining weather-worn gravestones with delightfully old-fashioned names, and cryptic hints to the stories of the people buried long ago. Then I found this handy-dandy new brochure
which features a large map of all sorts of historic locations in Cape May County including an African American Civil War Cemetery right here in Lower Township. I've lived here off and on for half a century,  and I never knew this cemetery existed. Many of its residents were buried a hundred years before I was a glimmer in my mama's eye. Imagine that.

I quick search on Google yielded this article about efforts to clean up the cemetery by members of the US Coast Guard ("Coasties"!) stationed in Cape May and some local Boy Scouts. I was intrigued about this mysterious place and set off with my camera this morning to check it out.

There were Vances (that's an old Cape May name) and lots of Trustys (I never heard that name around here), ministers from the Union Bethel Church and their wives, young people and old people, broken stones and replacement stones for some of the veterans. I brought little flags to leave by the stones I photographed, but the veterans already had much nicer ones.

Rev. Simon Taylor (1801-1882)

Priscilla was the beloved wife of Rev. Taylor and she died in 1875. Dig that cool font!

Rev. Edward C. Turner (1818-1905)

Here's Keziah Turner, Rev. Turner's wife (1825-1896)
Isaac H. Turner (1833-1932) was probably related to the Reverend above, but how? (Mr. Turner was presented with a modern replacement marker.)

I happened upon some beguiling old-fashioned names:
Araminta Green (1861-1897)
Job Humphries (1882-1955)
All we know about Sina Boze is that she was someone's daughter and she died in 1878. (And the spiders like her stone.)
With colorful names like those, don't you wish you knew the stories of these people? Here's a story I knew nothing about and I wish I knew more than what shows on the monument. The Delaware Bay Beach is my favorite place on earth, you know.

Here's something I haven't seen before. I thought they were baby headstones, but no, they seem to be foot-stones. They were placed about a person's length from the back, or blank side of the bigger headstones, and some had the initials of the deceased. Some were blank.
I'm no expert on cemeteries, but I've never seen foot-stones before.
This is not a big cemetery. I took about an hour to snap photos of just about every grave marker. I picked a muggy and buggy day to visit, and wished I had my bug spray. I did some preparation before visiting, and all the photographic advice I found was focused on what time of day the sunlight would be hitting the engraved sides of the stones. I'm pretty sure these were west-facing stones (correct me if I'm wrong), but this would mean that I should visit in late afternoon. Well, I didn't, and it didn't matter because the sunlight was diffused by trees. When was the last time you saw a cemetery with so many trees?
Wide-angle view.
I saved the best for last: Ms. Rhuma Squirel (one R). Is that the most adorable name ever? The Rhuma part is unique, but Squirel (one R) is the coolest. All we have is her age and death date, no clues to her life at all. There were no other Squirels in the cemetery, at least no markers for any Squirels. What could her story be? I'm intrigued. I might even bring her some flowers next week...
Rhuma Squirel ( 1789-1871)