Saturday, February 28, 2015

Frozen Paths and Rivers

Covered Bridge, Tyler State Park

28 February 2015

The air was at 20 degrees, 12 degrees with the wind chill.

Tom, Ron, Chris, and I didn't care.  None of us could take another weekend indoors.  We met at the Yardley Park and Ride, and we followed Tom in our cars to Tyler State Park.

After a few minutes on the paved trail, I said to Tom, "I know you guys just bust on me when we're out here, but I missed it."

"I saw your post from last week, where you said you didn't want to make me put up with you all by myself," he said. "I don't hate you. You're like spice. A little is good." We rounded a corner.  "A lot, not so good."

"God, I missed this!"

Ahead of us, a fox crossed the path.

The Neshaminy Creek was mostly frozen:

Tom led us down a long hill.  At the bottom the path was covered in snow and ice.  Beyond the ice was a covered bridge.  Chris rode over it, of course, without the slightest wobble.  The rest of us wussed out and walked.

I busted on Tom for promising us clear trails.  "Is this another one of our adventures?" I asked him. Trudging through the snow was worth it, though. On our way back from the bridge, Ron spotted a bear's paw print.

It wouldn't be a mountain bike ride without Chris having to mess with his components:

To get back to the main path, we had to climb a long hill.  It was work, made worse by having to take in such cold air.  We'd just about caught our breaths when we faced another climb.  The guys griped about being out of shape.

More Neshaminy Creek through the trees:

The spillway:

We'd done a 9-mile loop. Now Tom had another, shorter loop in mind.  One more long ascent was rewarded with an old bluebird box and farmhouses:

A feeder stream covered in snow:

Field, trees, and sky:

Back at the spillway:

We got close to the creek again:

Bear prints across the ice?  They were too round to be boots, too big to be deer. I couldn't get close enough to find out.

We hung out in the parking lot, making plans for Bike Virginia.  Tom, Ron, and I are going for the three-day weekend half of the ride at the end of June.  Y'all are welcome to join us.

Then we talked about Tom's mission for the year: to climb the highest point in each of New Jersey's counties.  By the time he was finished describing the northern ones, I was a little nervous.  With a worried expression, I looked over at Ron, who looked at me and said, "Now I'm scared."

Aaaaah, we'll be ready.  Provided this snow melts by June.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Harihokake, Lockatong, Wickecheoke, Alexauken, Nishisakawick, and Little Nishisakawick

25 February 2015

Ms. Kimberly Bose
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
Office of the Secretary
888 1st Street, NE
Washington, DC 20428

Re: Docket No. PF15-1-000: PennEast Pipeline Project, EIS Scoping

Ms. Bose:

The New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club hereby states its opposition to the PennEast Pipeline project, in any configuration.  The Environmental Impact Statement, encompassing proper, wide scope and depth, would demonstrate an overwhelming amount of environmental degradation, loss of preserved open space, and destruction of a rural sense of place, all without demonstrable need, in the name of profiteering from a rush to extract natural gas from the Marcellus Shale.

A thorough Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is imperative; its scope must be broader than the footprint of the pipeline.

The purpose and need for the PennEast pipeline must be proven beyond the desire for profit.  In its Resource Report submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), PennEast cites the need for inexpensive natural gas as the reason to build a 114-mile pipeline through one of the most rural stretches of the Delaware River watershed. The report also suggests, as if profit were an inalienable right, that the no-build alternative would be detrimental to the owners of the pipeline company.  There is no proof, within the report or elsewhere, that the natural gas shipped through the PennEast pipeline would even serve those whose land the pipe has severed.  It is possible, however, that the transported gas will be compressed and sold offshore, where it would fetch a higher price.  Were this to be the case, the project purpose and need, beyond profit, would be nothing.

When considering the extent of the project area, the EIS must include not only the footprint of the pipeline right of way, but also, at minimum, the farthest boundaries of all contiguous and adjacent properties and water bodies, historic sites, and economic centers. Environmental degradation, fragmentation, siltation, contamination, and historic devaluation would occur far beyond the limits of the pipeline right of way.

Cumulative impacts must also be considered, not only for the length of the pipeline, but also within the context of the Marcellus and Utica shale fracking boom. Multiple pipelines have been proposed and constructed to transport shale gas throughout New Jersey. The PennEast project must be considered within the expanding network of natural gas pipelines.  The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), under which the EIS must be written, dictates that cumulative impacts include not only past, but also present and future impacts.  Cumulative impact analysis should include effects on water quality, wildlife, forest fragmentation, invasive species, preserved open space, preserved farmland, property values, recreation, employment, and the rural aspect of the pipeline’s path. The effects from blasting through diabase rock, disturbing arsenic-rich Triassic shale, ancillary construction, pumping stations, and maintenance must also be considered.

The EIS must also take into consideration the unique ecosystems through which it would cross, and the many protections these ecosystems have on them.  For example, the pipeline’s crossing near Riegelsville would be within the Lower Delaware National Scenic and Recreational River. Near its southern terminus, the pipeline would cut through the Sourland Mountain, which contains the last contiguous forested areas in central New Jersey and has been recognized as a unique and fragile ecosystem.  From its origin in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, to its destination in Mercer County, New Jersey, the pipeline would cross more than 88 waterways, 44 wetlands, 30 parks, and 33 conservation easements [see the Delaware Riverkeeper Network’s FERC submission, 20150218-5212(30172450)] .  In New Jersey, 6 streams carrying the Category 1 designation for their exceptional ecological significance, will be crossed, some more than once.  These streams are the Harihokake, Lockatong, Wickecheoke, Alexauken, Nishisakawick, and Little Nishisakawick Creeks, all of which feed into the Delaware River from rural ridges in Hunterdon County.  The EIS must also consider the possibility that the pipeline would violate Section 404 of the Clean Water Act because of the number of high quality streams, wetlands, and rivers it would cross.

The scope of the EIS must also include thorough analyses of steep slope degradation, runoff, siltation, soil compaction, above- and below-ground hydrological alterations, crop production, native and invasive vegetation, and native and invasive wildlife. Surveys of endangered and threatened species should occur when such species are the most visible; multiple surveys for multiple species should occur.

Changes in air quality must also be evaluated in depth.  As a greenhouse gas, methane is many times more potent than carbon dioxide. From potential methane leaks along the pipeline to construction-related air pollution, cumulative impacts on local, regional, and global air quality must be considered.

Several socioeconomic impacts must also be considered.  Employment opportunities would be, for the most part, transient.  Property values along the pipeline are likely to decrease.  Historic sites and recreational areas would be negatively impacted.  New Jersey’s taxpayers have contributed millions of dollars to preserve the forests, farms, and waterways that the PennEast pipeline would cross.  The effect is that of a taking for private gain.

A properly executed EIS must include not only the preferred route and the no-build option, but alternative routes as well.  All routes must be evaluated with the same criteria.  As proposed, the negative impacts of the PennEast pipeline route are overwhelming.  While PennEast has attempted to align much of Hunterdon County’s route with existing rights of way, the negative impacts have not been reduced.  Because of its intended origin and destination, alternative construction through the built environment carries with it large socioeconomic impacts without reducing many of the environmental ones.  In the end, the only reasonable option is the no-build alternative, which must be considered equally with all proposed routes. With due diligence and thorough analysis, the PennEast EIS should demonstrate that this 114-mile pipeline carries only profit for those who would never bear the negative impacts of the destruction of one of the last remaining stretches of rural New Jersey.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Another Snow Day

2014 snowfall number eleventy-billion

21 February 2015

Tom pretty much said it all today.

I slept in.  Jack woke up before I did and summoned me downstairs as soon as I managed to get vertical. We were looking at a rivulet moving across the kitchen floor from under the dishwasher. There was no cold water in the kitchen, but things were fine everywhere else.

We live in a split-level house. The ceiling in the laundry room resembles the old Windows screen saver that drew a network of pipes.  Everything is indoors, save for about six feet that run in the crawlspace up to the kitchen.  From the looks of it, this pipe saw its best days long, long ago.  When I touched a bit of brown ooze, my hand got wet.

So there's me on Monday, waiting for the plumbers.  

Jack let a trickle of hot water run for a while, and I started a load of laundry. We got our cold water back, eventually, and the river in the kitchen dried up.  

I had three tasks today:

First: Yet another 1.5 hour bout on the trainer to keep my endurance up.  This is easier than it sounds, as long as one has good music, plenty of sleep in the sleep bank, a good breakfast, and a bathtub or two of coffee.

Second: Complain to Jack and Jim that I never see any FreeWheelers away from our bikes anymore. One begins to spiral into I-have-no-real-friends territory after so many weekends cooped up inside. Hoping to capture the post-ride dinners of C+ days of yore, I have some ideas up my sleeve, thanks to Jim verbally slapping me across the face. Nothing changes unless I change it. Duh.

Third: Finalize the Sierra Club letter to FERC for Wednesday's PennEast scoping hearing (West Trenton Ballroom, 40 W. Upper Ferry Rd., 6:00 p.m.).  This took most of the day, which I didn't think would happen, and some help from my favorite policy wonk at PEER. The letter is finished and in for review by my fellow wonks and volunteers.  I'll post it here when it's ready.  I'm sure you're all dying to read it.

I took a few pictures, too, for no other reason than to post them here.

I meant to fill the bird feeders too, but I forgot.

I'm deliberately messy when I fill them so that the juncos and other ground feeders can get their fair share.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Hill Slugs Ad Hoc, Saturday, 21 February

20 February 2015


The ride is canceled. With temperatures at or below 20 degrees, a wind chill of 10 degrees, and a report of icy paths, the ride is off.

In his blog, Tom will call us weenies.

20 February 2015


The forecast has taken a turn for the worse. Check in here again this evening.

19 February 2015

Hey!  Mountain bikes or hybrids on a plowed, paved path, anyone?

Tom H has suggested Tyler State Park in Newtown, PA, just across the Delaware River from us.  There we can do multiple loops in 9-mile increments.  I know it's not much, and that it'll be cold, but it's better than training indoors, and we get to see each other.

Please don't make Tom have to put up with me all by himself.  Meet us at 10:00 a.m. at the Yardley Park and Ride and we'll drive to the park from there.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Finished Glass and a Bicycle Jones

 on my desk at work

17 February 2015

After work today, I drove back to the studio to pick up the rest of my glass.  I let Google Maps tell me which way to go and found myself on Carter, Crusher, 654, Stony Brook, and then Mine -- a cyclist's route if there were one -- then to Route 31, each intersection with a story (and Plain Jim singing). There was only a hint of light when I reached the blinking light at Sergeantsville.  There was traffic: three cars.  The last of the daylight got me to the top of Upper Creek.  This is the third time in four days that I've driven this route.  I need to get back on my bike.

A faint light leaked from the studio.  Don and Martha were working on glass.  He had everything laid out and ready for packing.  He suggested that I come back on the weekend to watch his sand-casting class (or even pay for a day).  I wondered what the weather would be like.  If I could be on the road instead of inside...

On Saturday, and again today, he suggested that I take a glassblowing class at Bucks County Community College.  "Then come back here for a private lesson," he said, "And we can work on techniques."

I smiled.  "When the roads clear up," I said, "I'm going to be back on my bike.  I'm mentally and physically addicted to cycling.  I'll be riding 100 miles on some days.  All of this will be far from my mind."

He said, "The classes are on weeknights."

I drove back down Upper Creek Road in complete darkness, feeling every incline and curve as if I were on my bike.  At 7:00 p.m. the Sergeantsville General Store was still open, ringed in Christmas lights. Alone in my car in the dark, my mind was with a group of Hill Slugs in mid-daylight on that long, open road, slightly descending towards Ringoes.  I reached Route 31 feeling as if I were slowly waking from a dream.


Here's everything except the vase that I put in my office.  That slumpy thing in the back is Chris' mistake piece that I insisted we keep.  My goofy flask is on the upper left; it's going into the lab with me tomorrow.  The two plates are in front.  I'm very happy with both of them.

I put in the two pieces from Boston:

Lest I get a swelled head about all of this, here's a bowl I bought from the instructor to repay him for giving us an almost private lesson when the class was designed for six people.

I don't know if I'll ever blow glass again.  I do want to, but I'm writing this in the dead of winter. We'll see...

Sunday, February 15, 2015

In Which We Decide We Like Our Mistakes

15 February 2015

Rosemont-Ringoes Road is covered in hard-packed snow.  I'm driving 20 mph.  "This is beautiful," I tell Chris.  She doesn't appear to have an opinion.  "This is how I spend my weekends.  This is my reset button."  My body is in the car but my mind is on a bike with a pack of Hill Slugs.

Upper Creek Road is more passable than I thought it would be, but when I try to position my car in front of the glass studio, the front wheels spin on the ice.  "We'll dig it out later," Don says.  "Now's time to blow glass."

His daughter and her boyfriend are visiting.  She takes pictures while he handles the glass.  While Don takes him through the basics, I head to the house to use the bathroom.  At the entrance I'm greeted by Don's wife, Margaret, and by the only cat allowed indoors, Maurice.  I give him the head grab and flank rub that he fully deserves.

Back in the studio, Don is demonstrating a rondelle.  It's new to the boyfriend and a refresher for me and Chris.  What started as a bubble at the end of the pipe has been cut open.  Now watch it go from a bowl to a disc.  The blowing part is finished; the glass has been transferred from the pipe to a punty (a temporary piece of glass meant only to hold the larger piece in place):

 warming in the glory hole

 opening the top

widening the piece with compressed air 

 even wider

The glass goes back into the glory hole, where it is spun faster and faster.  The opening spreads out and the glass goes flat.  Out of the furnace, it is spun some more.

We're working with color today.  I decide I don't want to go first.  I want to see what's on offer.  Chris chooses a green and blue frit to roll her glass in.  Don pulls on the glass with a hooked pick and makes swirls.  When it's my turn, I tell him that I want to make the swirls.

He's doubtful that I can do it.  "I don't care if I mess up," I assure him.

"I'll do the first one," he says.

He lets me do the rest.  Sometimes I dig too deep.  Sometimes the glass has cooled too much.  I dig and pull and dig and pull. I'm having fun.  Finally, Don says, "I think we're done," and asks if I want the colors (blues and purples) to under go a little reduction (there are metals in it).  I have no idea what it's going to look like, but I go along with it.

He cranks up the heat in the furnace until flames shoot out and guides my vase (or whatever it is -- we really haven't discussed it) in.

It's a bouncing, baby, lumpy Erlenmeyer flask!  You can take the girl out of the lab...

Juniper appears from somewhere and decides that the water we soak our shaping tools in will do just fine.

This is one happy-footed love sponge.

Chris goes next, choosing blue-green frit.  It's going to be a bowl, and it's coming along quite well. Then, as she's spinning it in the glory hole, she hits the side of the furnace.  The glass slumps.  It's ruined.

"Don't throw it away," I beg.  "I'll keep it."  It's a collapsed mess of molten color, and I want it.

"Really?" Don asks, confused."

"Yep."  So he knocks it off the punty and puts it in the annealing oven with the rest of the day's work.

It's my turn again (it's back down to just me and Chris). I'd doodled my idea on a scrap of newspaper:  a rounded bowl with a single swirl of color.  We decide on a wine red, and that it should be a plate so that the entire swirl is visible.  And we're going to put a lip wrap on it:  we're going to wrap the outside edge in color.

I have no idea how we're going to do this until we're right up on it.

In a highly coordinated set of motions, I carry a punty with a little molten cone of color over to the bench and he grabs the end of it while spinning the clear glass.  The effect is a swirl of red on clear, like a bullet-shaped barber pole.

After that it's more blowing and shaping and opening the end, and then I'm standing at the glory hole, spinning the glass faster and faster as Don opens the door wider and wider and the edges start to melt and spin outward and I'm spinning faster and faster and the glass goes flat and the swirl is there faster and faster "This is so cool!" and

"Your'e done!" Don says, and takes it from me, spinning it out of the furnace until it cools enough to separate it from the punty.

Chris and I are left in the studio for lunch.  After I've eaten and given Juniper the love she so richly deserves, I pull out my pieces from yesterday so that I can get a few pictures.

This is the first piece I made.  It could be a vase or a candy bowl or a pen holder.

This started out as a bowl for the cats, but as we were making it, Don said it was coming out too well so I should keep it for myself.  That's fine, but I don't much care for the taste of cat food.

I'd wanted to play with pulling glass yesterday, so Don made a demo piece. He let me yank on the top so that I could get a sense of what the glass would do.  The result was something between a Coke bottle and a nightmare.

My last piece was practice for opening the top.  It's an amphora that, after a modest amount of leveling, just about stands on its own.  I see blu-tack in its future.

There was time for some random photography and a walk to the end of the driveway.

Damn.  This looked like the hill that it truly is when I took the pictures.






A web of spilled glass from the crucible:

Chris is creative and clever.  She'd looked around the studio for things to play with and had found a patterned mold meant for glass discs.  The pattern gets lost but a circle of air bubbles stays within her piece.

For her next piece she lays out a neat row of tiny stringer fragments and a pile of glass shards. The plate goes off-center at the last step, but we all like the oblong shape.

I don't like the shard effect (I've rarely liked the splotchy glass look), but playing off of Chris' idea, I go for stringers in random directions.

I goof at one point; Don hadsto correct it, and the result is that the glass is swirly.  Don't make me no never mind.

Here, he puts the punty on.  He'll break the pipe off next, leaving a hole for me to open, which I'm starting to really get into, even though I'm still having trouble keeping my piece centered.

I open the hole and carry the piece to the furnace.  It's bigger than the last one, and more difficult to keep centered.  I've got things under control.  I spin faster as Don opens the door wider to accommodate the expansion.

"I'm losing the center."

He steps in to help correct me and backs off again.  I try to spin faster but I can't keep up as the glass begins to slump.

Don takes over and pulls it out before it can hit the sides.  "I'm going to spin it like crazy," he says, but the best he can do is make a galaxy.

We all like it this way.

Our work is annealing overnight.  If I can get out to the studio tomorrow, I'll pick mine up.