I convinced Bhavna to come with me to the Hunterdon Land Trust Farmers’ Market. Earlier in the week, I ordered a rustic loaf of bread and a 7 year aged reserve cheddar from Bobolink Dairy and Bakehouse in Milford. I ordered online, but pick up is at the farmers' market.
Hunterdon Land Trust Farmers’ Market is hosted at the Case-Dvoor Farmstead in Flemington, about a 45-minute drive from home. We didn't know what to expect, but we pleasantly surprised. Beside Bobolink, we bought a few containers of spicy pickles from picklelicious for Kiran. She loves their pickles. I bought some native wildflower plants for my garden and roasted coffee beans.
Now for the strange bit. We stopped at one booth where a woman and her family were selling a sort of Balkan calzone and a sweet pastry which she thought I "needed". When I explained that I don't eat too many sweet things due to Type 1 diabetes, her husband, who was seated on the grass nearby perked up. He got up and insisted on praying for me to be healed. I was polite, but then it got weird when he tried to lay his hands on me. I did my best not insult the man when I insisted that I had to leave. But he persisted in explaining that disease was all in my mind and that he could cure me with prayer. Did I mention he was not wearing a mask and insisted COVID-19 was a hoax? Yup. Weird.
After the market, Bhavna wanted to go for a hike. We quickly ate our "Balkan" lunch, changed, and drove over to the St. Michael’s Farm Preserve. The last time we hiked this trail it was winter, the air was cold, and the ground was frozen. We had a blast then, but this time, we were miserable. The preserve is mostly open fields. The air was humid with temperatures just above 30ºC. We were wilting. Bhavna wanted to turn around, but we persisted and found a fork in the trail that took us into the forest. That was more fun, but the trail wasn't as beautiful as the Rocky Brook and Mount Rose trails.
I was in the kitchen when I looked out the window and saw this foal strolling across the lawn. I grabbed the Canon 70-200mm, gingerly slid open the sliding door and was able to snap some photos.
It seems that for all participants, including myself, serenity is found in the outdoors. For the theonlyD800inthehameau is just a look over the wall of his backyard. For Amy, a walk is all she needs to find serenity. I could easily find serenity in the spaces they photographed.
Today, Bhavna, Kiran and I went for a walk around the Aunt Molly section of the St. Michael's Farm Preserve Trail in Hopewell Township which is a 15-minute drive from home. The ground was not as wet and muddy as we had expected. Bhavna marvelled at how much the vegetation had grown, changing the look and the experience of the woods. We saw many new wildflowers I had not seen before.
To fend off seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and get some fresh air, Bhavna and I decided that in 2019 we would find our way outside despite both hating the cold. We joined the REI co-op, bought some base layers and new jackets, hiking boots, etc. After three months of staying indoors drinking craft ales, I start to look and feel "round", especially in my mid-section.
One of the perks of joining the REI Co-op is that we get access to hammocking, hiking, biking courses etc. This past weekend Bhavana and I signed up for a beginner's hike, the Hike and Hops at St. Michael's Farm Preserve. The Lawrenceville REI Co-op organised this hike. When we awoke that morning, Bhavna and I were sure REI would cancel the walk. It had rained the night before, and the warmer air temp was melting the snow. We expected the trail would be too wet to hike. It was too wet but not so much to cancel the hike. We layered up and drove to the trailhead on Princeton Avenue to find a group of about eight people waiting in the parking lot.
Now over 400 acres, the St. Michael's property, which was preserved in 2010 and expanded in 2017, is an expanse of farm fields and forests on the edge of Hopewell Borough. From many parts of this preserve, the visitor has long views, lending the preserve a wonderful expansiveness which promotes a sense of well-being in anyone who walks its many farm roads and paths. From 1896 until 1973 this was the home of St. Michael’s Orphanage and Industrial School which was operated by the Catholic Diocese of Trenton. After the orphanage was closed, the building where the children lived and went to school was torn down and most of the land was leased to a local farmer. Before the diocese divested themselves of the property through development they offered one last chance for preservation if D&R Greenway could raise the funds to purchase the property. Over $11 million was raised, and in 2010 D&R Greenway succeeded in purchasing the land through a public/private partnership. It is now preserved as open space forever. The largest amount of the $11M purchase price for this property came from the State farmland preservation program. Six miles of farm roads provide walking trails throughout the preserve.
We met the trail guide Dan and his friend John. John lives in the area and is an educator in a local public school. Before proceeding along a soggy and muddy open field, Dan and John took turns giving an overview of the trail and history of St. Michael's Farm. We struggled to make our way back to more solid ground. Since I stopped for Bhavna to catch-up and take photos, we fell behind the rest of the group.
The trail was soggy; perhaps boggy is a better word. Our guide, Dan, had to choose alternative paths across some of the streams. On the trail, we ducked under fallen trees and scrambled over others. We forded streams with water just barely under the ankle of the shoe. Water entered Bhavna's shoes.
I'm working from home today. We both injured one out feet this weekend while on this beginner's hike. I think the issue is that we are both barefoot inside our house. We only wear shoes for work or to go hiking. For both of us, wearing shoes is an exercise in damage control. When I wear shoes outside on walks and hike along rugged terrain, my toes curl inside the shoe, trying to get a grip. This action stresses my toes. Is this the reason Westerners have such ugly feet? The feet are damaged from years of doing the opposite of what nature intended?
What made the trek worthwhile was the group's camaraderie during the hike and the post-hike Troon craft ale we drank together at the Brick Farm Tavern.