Summer is like a shadow; turn and it’s gone.

The seeds of another summer spin into the air, twirling, catching in spider webs and wool sweaters, sailing high in the sky, vanishing like migrating birds.

The wind carries them; the air stills and they settle gently to the earth, waiting for winter to blanket them in snow.

Some fall color

I think I see the moon reflected there in the water?

I’m going to make an earnest attempt this weekend at getting myself organized for Cape May later in the week, but the weather is going to be beautiful, the trees are in perfect color now and there’s a bird walk on Sunday at Sandy Hook, plus a neat fair in South Jersey at Batsto that I’d like to see. I think maybe I need to prioritize and make a couple lists. Lynne? Help?

What all do you have planned?

You spend how much to look like that?

Disclaimer: This post is mostly about my hair. Try back tomorrow for something less vain.

While Susan’s doing her part to keep the local car dealership in business – (Congrats Susan!) – I spent a small fortune today in support of my local hair salon. The business owner, who also happens to be the nice lady that cuts and highlights my hair, insists that if all her customers were like me she’d have gone out of business a long time ago. Apparently, the *luxury* that I allow myself once every six months or so does nothing to keep her afloat.

She does a nice job with my hair and after two hours and about five pounds of foil I walk out of there looking very natural. Like the lady who does my nails, she prides herself on that; that I should look natural after spending all that money. I wonder what the point is if I look the same either way? Maybe I should get my money’s worth and dye my hair blue or something so that people will actually notice?

There was a sort of grunt and a “Short!” from the DH so I guess that’s worth the $$.


I don’t know what sort of magic she has in her fingertips or if instead it’s the expensive array of potions she smoothes over my curls, but I leave there with my hair looking something like Marlene Dietrich’s… all smooth and wavy in just the right places and shaped nicely. It never looks that way again, btw. Shouldn’t that be included in the price – shouldn’t my naturally glamorous look last for like a week or so, at least, before I revert to looking like I just rolled out of bed?


I’m guessing that most of us are pretty low-maintenance type girls. The funny thing is that sometimes I feel like I spend a fair bit of money in creating that illusion. Does that make the first bit of sense? I have my hair highlighted in the off-season to keep the same brightness the sun gives me for free in the summer months; I have my nails done but insist that they’re kept super short and painted in quiet colors; I wear makeup that looks like I’m not wearing any. Hello? Why not save myself the trouble?

Tomorrow is Blog Action Day and this year’s topic is Poverty. Any wonder why I’m contemplating the cost of my own vanity?

A cranberry bog through the seasons

Cranberries grow in the Pine Barrens regardless of whether they’re cultivated or not; those that grow along the borders of swamps are not as large as their cultivated cousins, but I’m sure they’re just as tasty. Cranberry farming is said to be among the most respectful of the environment; pesticide and fertilizer use is minimal and the harvest during the month of October is quite the agricultural spectacle, in my opinion.

During the summer months, a cranberry bog is a carpet of tangled vines. When the vines are in flower in early summer, pollination is assured by placing any number of perilous beehives among the bogs. There’s often nice numbers of dragonflies and butterflies, too, that feed on the wildflowers that grow along the dikes.

At some point in late summer, the bogs are flooded via the system of dams that interlaces the bogs. The water protects the tiny fruit and makes harvesting much less labor-intensive.

This man here is making some adjustment to the water level in the bog. The color of the berries just astounds me! Typical of fall, the vegetation along the dikes was covered in spider webs and there were millions of spiders everywhere… ballooning in the air, crawling over the farm equipment, climbing in my hair. Eeck! There’s not ever much in the way of birds here, save the Turkey Vultures and at least 30 Killdeer stalking the dikes.

This is one of the scary-looking machines used to harvest the cranberries; I think this may be some type of conveyor-belt thingy, actually. Specialized machines… things that look like tractors for water are driven through the bogs to beat the berries off the vines so that they float to the top. The berries are corralled to one corner of the bog and then collected and transported to the Ocean Spray processing plant that’s in a nearby town.

After harvesting, the bogs are drained so the vines can be pruned (or picked-over by hand for any that were missed by the beaters!) The bogs are flooded again in late December or early January to protect the vines from freezing and further irrigated, if necessary, to keep the water from freezing over. In spring the bogs are drained again and the honeybees brought back into service and the cycle starts anew.

If you’re interested in witnessing this spectacle, Piney Power has a schedule of harvest dates and directions to farms that are visitor-friendly. Two of my favorite places are Double Trouble State Park in Bayville and any of the farms along Rte. 530 near Whitesbog Village. There’s some great pics of the harvest at that link also. Enjoy!

Ruby of the pines

I think it always bears repeating that there’s more to NJ than chemical plants and turnpikes; lots of people couldn’t imagine the 1.1 million acre federally protected, mostly undeveloped preserve that lies between Philly and Atlantic City. If you can’t believe that there’s such a place in NJ, a place filled mostly with pitch pines and oaks, with only a few paved roads, then maybe a trip to the Pine Barrens is worth considering. Prepare to be amazed.

What an extraordinary sight: pinkish cranberries floating mid-harvest atop small lakes of blue water, surrounded by nothing but evergreens and oaks, under the bluest of blue autumn skies. Picture perfect, I think.

The cranberry has become one of NJ’s most important crops and the Pine Barrens are the perfect place for them to be grown commercially; the area has all the essentials for cranberries to flourish: acidic soil, sand, and plentiful unpolluted water.

I’ll ramble on some another day about how those rubies are harvested, but for now I’m just moved by how pretty some parts of NJ can be.


(There’s no turnpike here.)

That magical muck

The mudflats of the tidal marshes of Sandy Hook Bay or any of the brackish creeks closer to home exhale a sharp, salty smell at low tide. Some might call it rank or putrid, but to me it smells like home. I know very well the wealth of fidgety creatures that lay exposed at low tide in that slick, smelly mud.

Very few of us have the good fortune to live as adults in the same places we knew so intimately as children. Set me in some other landscape, one of rolling hills or towering evergreen woodlands, and I can imagine myself reeling and disoriented, wondering from which direction the scent of salt water will come.

The landscape of one’s childhood is all magic and heart. For me, that magic is more about the smell of seaweed than of hay. It comes from knowing where the masses of swallows will gather in late summer or when to find scoters and scaup playing at the edge of the sea or which stand of beach plum produces every year regardless of the vagaries of weather.

This deep intimacy with a place is learned slowly; little bits of wisdom accumulated by observing the rhythms of days and years until one’s fluent with the language of a place. Anywhere else I’d miss the clamor of laughing gulls and the fall bloom of the groundsel tree, the hiss of wind across the dunes and the greening of the cordgrass in late spring. I’d miss the presence of the sea and the smell of that magical muck as the tide shrinks.

What intimate details do you recall from the landscape you grew up in? Things that only a child could know… maybe it’s the sweet scent of honeysuckle, the glow of tamaracks in fall, a pale moon in the desert, or the taste of windfall apples… tell me what you remember and long for.