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Thursday, April 26, 2012

World Tapir Day - April 27 - Tomorrow

"World Tapir Day has been established, in the first instance, to raise awareness about the four species of tapir that inhabit Central and South America and South-East Asia. Each of the four species is in decline...."  from The World Tapir Day site.  

I became aware of this as I reviewed the links I recently added to our web site and came on the information at the Bergen County Zoological Park site.  They have a Baird's Tapir in residence.

Why should we care about tapirs?  "Saving tapirs helps to save the rainforest. Saving rainforests helps to save the planet and prevent climate change."

Tapirs are herbivores, solitary, shy.  Their closest relatives are horses and rhinos.  All but one species live in South America; one species is in Asia.  They have become endangered primarily, as I gather, through hunting for meat.  As the daughter of a hunter (of deer, rabbits, game birds), I know that intelligent hunters don't deplete their game; it isn't in their best interest.  Clearly, education is needed.  

Why should we care about tapirs?  Me?  I just like animals.

Recently added links on our site:  Bergen County Zoological Park,  Flat Rock Brook Nature CenterTenafly Nature CenterNew Jersey Children's MuseumEarthsongs - gorgeous things there New Jersey Rabbit Rescue - rabbits available for adoptionCarol J. Colvin - artist - lovely paintingsMoonStruck boutiques - "a girly store", Ayesha Studio - fine jewelry.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Of Wolves, Plastic and Responsibility

Saturday, I visited the Lakota Wolf Preserve in Columbia (Warren County), NJ.  

It’s a lovely drive into the country and it was perfect weather.  There are 4 compounds for the 4 distinct wolf packs.  They do a couple of programs a day; the talks are given outside the compounds and are full of information about the much and, in my opinion undeservedly, maligned wolves.  The wolves are beautiful.

After the wolves, we visited a smaller compound for the smaller residents of the Preserve:  the bobcats and foxes.  I wasn't able to get a photo of the foxes; they didn't stay still long enough.  And, I thought my camera was in the camera bag, it wasn't, so I took these pix with my cell camera; not very good.

Did you know that regardless of anything about an individual fox’s appearance, if it has a white-tipped tail, it’s a red fox?  I didn’t know that and many, many years ago I had a red fox living with me.  I love red foxes.  For me they would be the ideal companion.   They’re an interesting combination of dog and cat behavior: intelligent, gregarious, playful, humorous.  I miss my Zo, my red.

I highly recommend at least one visit to the Preserve.  I expect I’ll go there from time to time.  Think about sponsoring an animal there.

Sunday, I had planned a mini-cleanup at a local park.  Along the lines of the Two Hands Project, I started a meetup group to cleanup small areas of plastic and other refuse.  Yes, local authorities are responsible for such things but they can’t keep up with it and, in these days of economic shortages, we as citizens and residents and the people who frequent these places can certainly do something to help.  Wherever I live, wherever I am, I can be responsible not only for not contributing to the mess but by cleaning up more than my own whenever I’m able.

When you visit the Two Hands Project web site, you see that they are primarily focused on plastic waste because of its enormous impact on the environment and wildlife.  I’m just as interested in trash in general.  I’ve been walking more recently and I’m always amazed at how piggish we humans can be; and unnecessarily so.  I’m sick of seeing cigarette butts, empty plastic water bottles, candy wrappers, empty chip bags everywhere.  We don’t teach our children well enough to pick up after themselves and we seem to think the world is our waste basket.

So, the park had had a cleanup the previous week.  The park is large.  Between the park and the Delaware River is a railroad track and open land.  I called the mayor and talked to him about the park.  The cleanup was on the park side of the fence, there was quite a lot of trash remaining on the railroad side of the fence.  The railroad owns the land between the park fence and the tracks.  DEP (Dept. of Environmental Protection) owns and is responsible for the land between the tracks and the river.  I felt comfortable do a small cleanup along the railroad side of the fence.

Because I hadn’t followed up at all well after I formed the meetup group, I didn’t expect anyone else to show up; I expected to do the cleanup alone and I did.   I brought a large pail, a couple of small trash bags and gloves.   I didn’t get to the railroad side of the fence though because somebody had left sufficient trash near the skateboard area to fill everything I’d brought with me:  beer cans, soda and water bottles, plastic/foil wrappers and some piece sport equipment (it's mine now) were left all over. Those plastic 6-pack straps are a real danger to wildlife of all kinds

After picking it all up:

6 partially empty beer cans
7 partially empty plastic soda and water bottles
1 plastic 6-pack strap
1 plastic half gallon juice bottle
a handful of plastic/foil wrappers and bags
and that blue thing

beer all over my gloves – lovely – I left it there and took a quick look on the other side of the fence, past the tracks, down toward the river.  It’s clear that people are going there, building campfires and leaving more trash.  I’ll let the mayor know but the idea is to pick up what you can, with your 2 hands, in half an hour.  The photos are what I found.  All of it could have, and should have, been taken away with whoever left it.  I brought it home, sorted and disposed of it.

Take a look at the Two Hands Project site, think about forming a group to do the same, or join ours.  And, just take the time when you’re out running or biking or picnicking and spend half an hour and pick up whatever you can and dispose of it properly.  Thank you.

Have a wonderful day.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Native plants make sense for the garden

It’s always made sense to me to garden with as many native plants as possible.  Native plants are accustomed to the climate, soil and pests of the area.  They have already adapted and are strong in the area.

You can often acquire native plants for free, along the side of the road.  Some wild native plants that are considered weeds by some people, if planted in a garden or yard and treated with the attention of cultivated plants become even more beautiful for the care.

queen anne's lace

Queen Anne's lace is everywhere.

Bee balm is a little harder to find but it does grow wild along roadbeds.

 Black-eye Susan is fairly easy to find.

Some Sedums are native to New Jersey.  If you’re lucky, birds will bring some to your property.  

This is Sedum acre.  I found it last summer in my large planter in front of the house.  I didn’t plant it.


The Native Plant Society of New Jersey has more information.

My current yard doesn’t contain much in the way of native plants.  I’ve left things as they were when I bought the house.  I have a large rhododendrum, not a native, and I actually prefer the native varieties that I’ve seen and I have a spot in the yard I’m hoping to plant native varieties at some point.

 I have many purple and blue and white violets that are native and the purple violet is the state flower.  They propagate easily and I’ve moved them around to get them out of the middle of the lawn into planting beds.  I was given 2 trumpet vine plants which I assume were hybridized but they are native to New Jersey as well. 

I have wild clematis growing along 2 fences, these were contributed by the neighborhood birds.  Again, some people don’t like them.  They look a little messy toward the end of the growing season and, if not cut back in late fall and winter, the dried stems are tacky.  But, I love the scent and they cover ugly fencing. 

I prefer a more natural lawn and garden than the large expanses of pristine grass bordered by manicured and edged planting beds. 

One of the very prolific native plants of New Jersey that I wish I didn’t have is another lovely plant donated by birds – poison ivy.  Be sure you know it and get rid of it.  

If you want to add native plants to your garden and don’t have time to run around and look for them, there are nurseries that have them, some specializing in native plants:

RareFind Nursery in Jackson 
D & R Greenway Land Trust in Princeton                 
Toadshade Wildflower Farm in Frenchtown            

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The best intentions

I haven't been writing this blog for long.  I'm working toward a regular schedule but some things have come up today to interrupt today's schedule so I hope to post tomorrow what I intended to post today.

In the meantime, AwareNJ is seeking an independent book/media store to discuss a potential partnership, of sorts.  I am the owner of AwareNJ and a professional librarian with over 35 years of public library administration and collection development experience.  I also have experience with one of the largest book/media distributors in the country.    

There are things I would like to do on the AwareNJ web site that requires some kind of partnership with a book/media store or stores.  The concept I want to discuss should be mutually beneficial and I am open to additional and/or alternative ideas.

Please contact me at

Thank you.

Come back tomorrow for a normal post.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Trash Everywhere!

Two Hands Project  is a collaborative approach to dealing with the problems caused by plastic pollution: take two hands and 30 minutes to clean up (y)our world anytime, anywhere.”

“Whether you’re doing this to improve the health of our oceans, reduce the risk to wildlife or to simply clean up unsightly trash in one of your favorite parks or beaches, what you can do with your own Two Hands is easy.”

The Two Hands Project is in Sydney, Australia.

AwareNew Jersey has started its own “Two Hands Project”-New Jersey meetup to attempt the same here.  We haven’t really got started yet but last week I decided to do a little cleanup at my house along the same lines.

I have a tall privet hedge along the front of my side yard.  It buffers a relatively boring streetscape and some traffic noise.  The hedge not only catches debris that blows along the street but, since I’ve lived here, has been used by some passersby as a receptacle for whatever trash they want to dispose of.  In addition, workmen, probably throughout the life of the house, have left a variety of small scrap from whatever project they worked on.

This is what I removed in the 30 minutes I spent on both sides of the hedge:


The trash consisted of bits and pieces and, in some cases, whole        candy wrappers and other food packaging, a beer bottle, one crushed aluminum soda can, a chunk of aggregate concrete, a few polystyrene pellets, a handful of cigarette butts, the housing from some kind of electronic component and a few tiny toy parts.  The packaging included cellophane, plastic, aluminum foil and waxed paper.  All together, it filled a plastic (recycleable) grocery bag.

The Two Hands Project focuses primarily on plastic debris which causes many problems in the environment. Their web site explains the problems and they post photos of what people are doing to clean it up.

The Plastic Ocean Project, also sited by The Two Hands Project, has even more information about the problem of plastics in the environment and the dangers to wildlife.

Are bioplastics a solution?  I don't know.  This article at Wikipedia is a possible starting point to educating ourselves.  Bioplastics are derived from renewable sources but are not, apparently, all biodegradable and the manufacturing process, in some cases, is as bad as conventional plastics.

This FAQ sheet, sited in the Wikipedia article on polystyrene, is eye-opening.  The Two Hands Project sent me this link to information on polystyrene from Australia.

Before even getting to the serious impacts of trash, I'm just really tired of seeing it everywhere.  I recently took a walk at a nearby park where, clearly, people have just chucked their trash over the high chain link fence:

So, you (and they) get to jog along the fence and see this.  And, this spot only had a few discarded water bottles; there are spots with much more trash.

On a related note - why carry trash with you?  Most of us have too much "stuff"; including me.  Much of the stuff we have, we don't need.  Years ago I read something about walking - maybe Castaneda - when walking, keep your eyes relaxed, your hands empty and relaxed....

When out in nature, even a "managed" park, why drag stuff with you?  A fanny pack with your keys and ID are all you need and allow you to walk free.

Today, I'll be calling to see what can be done to clean up the area; how to get on the other side of the fence to pick up all that plastic.