Thursday, January 31, 2013

Delaware Beeches in Winter

      No, this post is not going to be about sand and surf in the winter.  It is about the American beech tree, Fagus grandifolia, and marcescence.  Whoa, that is a new word to me.  Here’s a summary of the phenomenon by Nancy Rose, an Extension expert from University of Minnesota: “Deciduous trees that hold onto their leaves through the winter are described as marcescent (mahr-CESS-ent). Some tree species are more likely to show marcescense than others. In autumn, the leaves of most deciduous trees develop an abscission layer where the petiole (leaf stalk) meets the branch. This allows the leaves to fall off without leaving an open wound on the stem. Dry leaves stay on marcescent trees because the leaves didn’t develop the normal abscission layer in autumn."
    “Marcescence is often a juvenile trait and may disappear as the tree matures. It also may not affect the entire tree; sometimes leaves persist only on scattered branches. Marcescence is typically based on a tree’s genetics, but sometimes weather plays a part. In years with early freezes tree leaves may be killed before developing an abscission layer, resulting in persistent brown leaves on many trees that aren’t usually marcescent.”
     All of the science aside, my walk in the woods this morning was beautiful.  The early morning sun shining on the leaves that had fallen from the most of the trees, including the mature beech trees.  The creek was abnormally high and active from last night's storm.

      The young trees have retained their leaves, while the mature trees have dropped their leaves.  Lots of pretty coppery leaves on the ground, but plenty of sunlight getting in to enjoy the leaves hanging in the understory.  The snow has melted, and this is a rare time when the walk is actually prettier without a snow cover, allowing me to see all of the coppery beech leaves.

The lovely gray bark of the beech trees

Mature trees are mostly bare
      It was a beautiful walk this morning with the beech trees in Bringhurst Woods near Rockwood Museum on the greenway in northern New Castle County.  I may have even had a day dream about walks on the beaches in another six months, but that is for another season, and another day.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Garlic Update

Garlic cloves planted December 14th, 2012
      These smallest of my garlic cloves were broadcast in an empty cold frame on December 14th, about five weeks ago.  They were just on the surface, then covered with an inch or two of well aged leaf mold.  An inch of good garden dirt would have been a good alternative.  The following shot shows their progress to this morning:

Sprouted garlic, January 18th, 2012
      The much larger cloves that were planted directly in the garden, are just now beginning to sprout, and do not have the darker green color of the cold frame garlic sprouts:

Some yellowish sprouts just breaking the soil
      The cold frame seems to be really helping to get the undersized cloves started.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Marcus Hook Rear Range Light

      My walk today was in and around the town of Bellefonte, De.  It is very near to Bellevue State Park, so often, I will park by my community plot, then walk over to Bellefonte.  Today I walked by the Marcus Hook Rear Range Lighthouse, which is right in the town, and probably a half mile from the Delaware River. 

Lighthouse in Bellefonte,  January 10, 2013
      The light keepers house and lighthouse are on a street much like any other in the town, except that is officially named "Lighthouse Road".  The house is fixed up now, as someone apparently lives there.  The light is the highest light on the Atlantic coast!  The tower, unmanned and automated, is still an active aid to navigation, but is not open to the public.

      Gone are the boarded up windows shown in a picture from the online reference below probably taken sometime around 2005.  The reference should be updated, as it is a much more attractive property now.

The following is copied from LightHouseFriends. com

      The first rear range light was also a temporary affair consisting of a locomotive headlight shown from atop a tall pole. The site for the rear light was on a hill between the towns of Edgemoor and Bellefonte, 1.8 miles southwest of the front light. As condemnation proceedings were necessary to obtain enough land for a proper tower and keeper's dwelling, the temporary light had to serve from 1915 until 1920. After the land owner was paid $2,050, construction of the lighthouse was begun by Rust Engineering Company of Pittsburgh.
      The tower, built of reinforced concrete, is square with buttressed corners. A metal stairway, with landings spaced 25 feet apart, leads up the tower to a spacious watchroom, which originally served as a chart and radio room. From there, a metal ladder provides access to the lantern room, which is surrounded by a four-foot-wide balcony offering a dramatic view of the Delaware River. The original light source was a fourth-order range lens that produced a fixed white light of 24,000 candlepower. The lens was removed in the 1980s and can now be seen at the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia. A DCB-24 shines a red light along the range today at a focal plane of 278 feet.
      The lighthouse's nomination form for the National Register of Historic Places describes the keeper's dwelling near the tower as a "two and one-half story brick dwelling, Colonial Revival in style, with the ridge of its gable roof parallel to the road. The walls are of textured (red) brick laid up in Flemish bond, with splayed brick lentils over the windows, which are fitted with six-over-one sash. A flat roof porch runs across the front of the house, sheltering the entry centered in the three-bay facade. Decorative effects include a full return of the cornice across the gable ends and quarter-circle attic lights on either side of the exterior chimney on the northeast end." A one-story brick structure that served as a combination garage and work area was built behind the dwelling.
      One of the keepers that served at Marcus Hook was Leslie Van Stavern Millar, who in the 1930s moved into the dwelling with his wife, six children, and his father, who also had served as a keeper. Millar's assignment at Marcus Hook was a bit unique. As an experienced technician, Millar was responsible for maintenance of all the aids to navigation from Philadelphia to the mouth of Delaware Bay. Leaving family members to look after the Marcus Hook Light, Millar would be absent for weeks at a time as he visited stations to repair generators, fog signals, and the mechanisms responsible for revolving some of the lights.
      Three of the Millar Children, Don, Len and Richard, served in World War II while their father was stationed at Marcus Hook. Another son, Robert, was thus frequently responsible for the Marcus Hook beacon when his father was visiting other lighthouses. Robert recalls "there was a ventilator in the lantern room and as luck would have it, it was located right over the light bulb area. Water would collect in the ventilator and 'bing,' off would come a drop - hit the bulb, and out would go the light. Then 'ringgggg' would go the alarm in the house at the top of the stairs." These outages, according to Robert, seemingly always happened late at night in the middle of a thunderstorm, forcing him to climb
       A floor model, battery operated radio at the Marcus Hook Lighthouse allowed the Millar family to keep in contact with their father during his travels. Keeper Millar also penned personal letters to his children informing them of the interesting and sometimes humorous life of a lighthouse keeper. One such letter, written to young Helena Millar from the Harbor of Refuge Lighthouse on September 21, 1948, contained the following: "The keepers brought a live chicken out here a week or so ago and the darn thing is so tame it follows us all around in the engine room. Don't mind that too much but we can't convince her that the toilet is up on the second floor. She got locked up in the engine room the other night by mistake and the assistant keeper had to clean up the mess the next day. Says the next time he goes ashore, he is going to bring out a load of diapers to put on her."
      Members of the Coast Guard continued to occupy the dwelling at Marcus Hook until sometime around 2004, when the house was vacated and boarded up. Declared surplus property, the dwelling and garage were listed on March 9, 2005 as being available under the provisions of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act (NHLPA). No applicant was recommend for transfer of ownership, so the General Services Administration was notified, but no online auction has been scheduled for the property.
      The unattended dwelling, decorated with bright red plywood over its windows, and the surrounding unkempt lawn are slowly becoming somewhat of a blight to the otherwise attractive neighborhood. Since the lighthouse is located in a residential area, it would not have been well suited to become a tourist destination like other lighthouses offered under the NHLPA. A $37,500 contract was awarded by the Coast Guard in 2008 to refurbish the porch of the dwelling. The official word is that there are some "environmental issues" with the property that need to be taken care of before it can be disposed of by the government.

 the darkened tower to replace the bulb.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Early January Salad Greens

Early Salad Greens, January 8, 2013
      Time to have some fresh salad greens!  It would actually be the second harvest this year if I had not given the first away.  I went over to the garden a week ago and found a gardener, Louis, from a few years back, parked in the lot on a cold dreary day.  Louis has had to take up long haul trucking, and therefore gave up his plot at the park.  He was back for the holidays, and it was good to see him.  We walked out to my plot, wiped the little bit of snow off of the cold frames, and picked a bunch of nice fresh salad greens.  I gave that first harvest of the season to Louis, as he had said there was no such thing as fresh on the road.
      A couple of days ago I was shopping at my regular fresh fruit and produce store, J and J Produce, on Philadelphia Pike.  They usually have some outlandishly cheap special, and that day it was two big heads of Cos lettuce in a bag for a dollar.  Duh, had to do that even if I had some of my own greens.  So the picking today was to supplement the Cos lettuce.  We are going to grill some salmon to put over a great big mound of fresh salad greens, carrot slices, and hard boiled eggs.
      The mizuna mustard was snitched from the frame shown above.  The red oak leaf lettuce that I got from Bob King was ready for a light picking:

Red Oak Leaf Lettuce

      What salad would be complete without a little arugula to add a kick?  A nice harvest was made from this cold frame, though I left the Four Seasons red cos lettuce as I had that color covered by the red oak leaf lettuce.

And some tatsoi leaves as a garnish