Monday, March 14, 2011

Back on the Celery Farm

Last week's rain storms left a couple of potential exploration sites off limits due to the flooding in Passaic and Morris counties this weekend. It was more than disappointing that we couldn't find a way to get to the Passaic Great Falls in Paterson; given the swollen rivers, the sight rivaled that of Niagara, according to reports on the web. Oh, well... perhaps I can make a solo return later this week.

Reversing direction, we hit Route 3 and then 17 and landed once again in Bergen county. This time around, Ivan wanted to show me the Celery Farm in Allendale. True to its name, it was once a commercial agricultural site, and it's been preserved as open space as the surrounding area filled with McMansions and suburbia.

The preserve's dedicated lot was already filled with cars, so we found an alternate entrance on a cul-de-sac bordering the property and then took the trail in. Walking along the path, we ran into a fair amount of ground still mushy from the rains, but nothing that prevented us from moving forward. We walked through a wooded area that then came to a marshy area highlighted by phragmites brushing against each other in the breeze.

It's probably not a surprise to any regular reader of Hidden New Jersey, but I have been waiting what seems like forever to hear happy bird songs on one of these hikes, and this time I was not disappointed. Unlike the winter walks where we heard nothing but silence, our jaunt this time was occasionally punctuated by tweeting and calls. Ivan pointed out a song sparrow singing his little heart out, reminding us that spring is just a few days away (and, dare I say it, putting his bird-eHarmony profile out there for any potential mates who might be nearby.*).

The centerpiece of the Celery Farm is a large pond with several viewing platforms at different points around it. While we were there, we saw a pretty decent array of waterfowl, including wood ducks and mergansers along with the ubiquitous mallards and Canada geese.

And we even saw a snake! Not that finding a snake in New Jersey is all that hard (all kidding aside), but in all of my ramblings through the woods, dating back even to childhood, I don't think I ever spotted one on my own. This time, I heard some slight movement in the rotting leaves by the trail, and there it was -- a garter snake gracefully slithering its way along. Just goes to show what you can find when you're attuned.

The volunteers who tend to the Celery Farm have done a really nice job of stewarding an environment that's welcoming to both animals and people alike. Tucked in along the path are a few comfortable benches to sit down and contemplate life, and there's also a designated butterfly garden which must be really nice during the growing months. And reflecting the property's previous use, a small, ancient-looking metal tractor sits idle, oxidized and apparently rusted to the ground (check out a nice photo here). Rather than looking as if it was carelessly abandoned there, it adds character to the surroundings; it reminded me that regardless of what we do with land now, nature is always at the ready to reclaim it.

* Get it? Bird mating songs? Pairing up? Harmony??? Sorry -- I had to do it.

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