Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Get a Taste of History this Winter

Though the temperatures are dropping, that doesn't mean you can't add some history to your schedule. Two of your Monmouth County Park System's historic sites are open throughout the year. Experiencing history, especially local history, offers a valuable look view of where we came from and how life and the community has evolved over time.

Historic Longstreet Farm

Step back in time with the sights and sounds (and smells!) of rural Monmouth County in the late 19th century. Nestled within Holmdel Park on Longstreet Road in Holmdel, Historic Longstreet Farm is staffed with historic interpreters who spend their days working the farm as it was done in the 1890s. Daily and seasonal chores demonstrate the various agricultural and domestic activities that were necessary to any working farm of this time period. From milking the cows to feeding the livestock, planting the vegetables to cleaning the animal stalls, our farm staff does it all, giving visitors the feeling of being sent back in time if only for a short while.

The site is maintained as a living historical farm with the purpose of interpreting the agricultural activities in Monmouth County's rural past. This interpretation includes the breeds of animals and crops raised at this site in the 1890's. For your safety, as well as the safety of the animals, we ask that you do not touch or feed the animals. As a general precaution when leaving this site, you are encouraged to wash your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer. For further information about the Farm's livestock, click here.

Open daily, year round from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., visitors may enter at their leisure free of charge. (Please note that pets are not allowed within the farm.) On any given day you're sure to see the staff working the farm, but other activities and demonstrations are also available as well. The Farmhouse is open for tours on weekends and holidays, March through December, from 12-3:30 p.m. or by reservation (for reservation information, call 732-946-3758).

Parent/Child Morning Chores is offered from 8-9 a.m. on the first Saturday of each month (excluding October). Open to ages 4 and up, participants assist the staff with milking a cow, collecting eggs from the chickens, and feeding the livestock. This program meets at the Visitor Center and costs $15 per parent/child pair, $5 each additional participant (cash or check only please). Participants should dress for the weather and wear closed-toe shoes.

Free December drop-ins at Longstreet Farm include the following:

  • Blacksmith Demonstration - During your visit to the farm, head to the Blacksmith's workshop to see this skill in action from 1-3 p.m. on Sunday, December 9.
  • Christmas Candymaking Demonstration - On Saturday, December 8 from 1-3 p.m. Brandy McCann will demonstrate the art of candy making, creating tasty chocolate delicacies and other sweet treats from the 1890s Fannie Farmer's cookbook.
  • The Sounds of Christmas from 1-3 p.m. on Sunday, December 9. Celebrate the holidays with a visit to the beautiful Longstreet farmhouse where you can enjoy the wistful music of Larry Moser and Mary Nagin as they play Christmas carols on the hammered dulcimer and fiddle.
  • Christmas Sing-Along from 1-3 p.m. on Saturday, December 15. Rick Garland will be playing the piano in the Longstreet farmhouse for an old-fashioned sing-along.
  • Visit with Santa on Saturday & Sunday, December 22 & 23 from 12-3 p.m. Enjoy an old-fashioned Victorian Christmas where children can visit with Santa and then take a walk to the farmhouse to have a cup of hot cider. Be sure to bring your camera to capture this memorable visit!
For more upcoming winter activities at Historic Longstreet Farm, visit our website

Historic Walnford

Tucked away in westernmost Monmouth County and within the heart of Crosswicks Creek Park, Historic Walnford is filled with fascinating history throughout the year. Once home to the Waln family, the site offers a look into both the family and the evolution of Walnford over two centuries - from an 18th century industrial village and family farm to an elegant country estate. Visit the large, elegant home built in 1774 and farm buildings set in a picturesque landscape. The site is open from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. daily, and the historic buildings are open to the public from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. daily.

Free December drop-ins at Historic Walnford include the following:
  • Sleigh Selfies from 1-4 p.m. on Saturday & Sunday, December 1 & 2. We'll have our decorative red sleigh and a selection of historical hats and bonnets ready for your selfies. Create a charming Currier & Ives style image to share for the holidays! (Please, no professional photographers.)
  • Samplers: Historical Documents Written with Needle and Thread from 1-4 p.m. on Sunday, December 9. View local 18th and 19th century samplers from a private collection. This special show and tell afternoon will include what has been learned about the young women who created the samplers and share the progress of the carefully executed stitches recreating an 18th century Waln family sampler.
For more upcoming winter drop-in activities at Historic Walnford, visit our website

Questions? Call our Park System information staff at 732-842-4000, ext. 4312, or email us at

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Hey...Who is That?

I am always hoping to see a rare or unusual bird, and migration season is a good time to be on the lookout. An experienced birder once told me that a good place to spot an uncommon bird is within a flock of migrating, common birds. So, every spring and fall I get out my binoculars and scan flocks of Canada Geese, Brant, Starlings, Cowbirds and more. This past week I got lucky! A flock of sleeping Rudy Ducks caught my eye and, as I scanned through them, someone looked different - a little bigger than the rest.

I pulled out the binoculars and sure enough, there was a stranger with the flock! I took a few photos to use once I got home and could pull out my bird book. Bingo! A Eurasian Widgeon. A new bird for my life list and an uncommon visitor to Monmouth County.

Eurasian Widgeons are native to Europe and Asia, migrating seasonally between the two. While there are rare sightings of these beautiful birds in North America each year, they are not considered native to the New World and there have been no record of them breeding here. There have been some reported cases of them interbreeding with American Widgeons. The Eurasian Widgeons seen here are likely from eastern Siberia or Iceland. There are only three species of widgeon in the world, the Eurasian Wigeon (Mareca penelope), the American Wigeon (M. americana) and the ChiloĆ© Widgeon (M. sibilatrix). The males of all three are very colorful while only the females of the ChiloĆ© Widgeon are also. They are dabbling ducks, eating from the bottom of shallow water by tipping their heads down rather than diving. Therefore, a good place to look for widgeons is along the edges of shallow water.

The next time you are able to observe a flock of migrating birds, scan the flock. Look for an individual that is slightly larger or smaller, has different color feet, or just looks different than the others. You might get lucky and spot a new bird for your life list!

Story and Photos by Park System Naturalist Ruth Carll
For more nature happenings in the parks, be sure to check out the Nature Now page on our website.