Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Nature Guide: Turtles

If you walk along the canal on warm, sunny summer days, you may come upon turtles basking in the sun. You can see them perched singly and in groups along the banks or on logs or rocks. Walk softly and be quiet though. If turtles sense you coming, all you may hear is their splash as they retreat into the water. Our Nature Guide Jon Latimer often gets a good look. He reports on three kinds of turtles that can be seen in our area.

"The turtle seen basking most often is the Eastern Painted Turtle. They live in marshes, lakes, ponds and slow-moving streams or rivers, especially ones with lots of plants, logs and rocks that they can climb out on. Painted turtles often bask in large groups but quickly dive into the water when they sense danger. Their olive-to-black carapace (a turtle's top shell) is smooth, oval and flat. It has yellow or red markings along its edge, which look like paint and gives these turtles their name. The plastron (the bottom shell) is yellow or cream color and usually has no pattern. The head and neck are dark green marked with wavy yellow or red lines or spots. Their legs and tail have red and yellow stripes. Males grow to a length of about 6 inches; females can reach 8 to 10 inches.

"The much larger Common Snapping Turtle lives in swampy areas or shallow ponds. Their carapace can be more than 18 inches long and can be black, brown, tan or olive. Even though its shell is large, a snapping turtle cannot completely withdraw its head, legs or tail into it. Instead they rely on their strong jaws for defense. Common snappers are known for their nasty dispositions and tend to live alone. They can be aggressive when defending themselves but prefer to swim away when they are approached too closely. They can sometimes be seen floating on the surface with only their carapace exposed or lying on a muddy bottom with only their head above water.

"You will find the Eastern Box Turtle on land. They spend their lives within an area less than 750 feet in diameter, usually in moist forest like the woods around Princeton Landing. Box turtles grow to a length of about 8 inches. Although their carapace can vary in pattern and coloration, its high domed shape is easy to recognize. Their plastron is hinged and can be closed almost completely. When frightened, they retract their head, tail and legs into their shell and clamp it shut. They wait in this position until the threat is gone."

This Week at Princeton Landing

You may have noticed work going on to repair curbs along the Loop Road. The work is being carried out by Marcal Construction, the same contractor who repaired the curbs and sidewalks in Parcel 1. Property manager Sal Pirrera obtained a very favorable price quote from the contractor and the Board voted to take advantage of the opportunity to get this work done.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Waiting On Shore

" . . . the dead are not far from us . . . they cling in some
strange way to what is most deep and still within us."

— W.B. Yeats

Waiting On Shore
Sculptor: Niall Bruton
Rosses Point, County Sligo, Ireland

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Parcel 1 Pool — 3:24 pm

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Princeton Landing Website Redesigned

Princeton Landing Director and webmaster Mari Molenaar reports that FVCSA's official website has gotten a complete makeover. The redesigned site is now up and running. Much of the content from the old website has been carried over, but there's new information too. For example, if you're interested in buying a home here, the official website now includes photos of all of the home models available in the community. And there's a new private section for residents. If you live in the community, you've probably already received a mailing with further information.

As a reminder, this blog is unofficial and isn't maintained by FVCSA. An earlier post gives more information about this blog.

Friday, June 26, 2009

This Week at Princeton Landing

At Tuesday night's meeting, the FVCSA Board of Directors voted to accept the recommendation of Brickman, our landscape contractor, to apply liquid chemical weed controls to kill weeds growing throughout the community.

Property manager Matt Lubas reports that Brickman is already spraying weeds in curbs and cracks. On Monday, July 6, they are planning to bring in a larger work crew and additional equipment to begin weed control on the berms and in the beds. Signs will be posted throughout the community 24 hours prior to the first day of application. The signs will remain up until the work is completed.

The white Brickman signs posted at the entrance to the community today are for a spot treatment to control nutsedge in the turf.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Thursdays With Art

The Association has a contract with JRG Termite & Pest Control. Every Thursday from April through October a technician is available on the property to provide exterior perimeter service against certain pests. Luckily for us, Princeton Landing's skilled technician is a careful and attentive man named Art. With all the recent rain he's been quite busy in the community, but he's always friendly and willing to take the time to get the job done right.

We hope you don't need JRG's services, but if you do, you'll be in good hands with Art!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Loop Road — 1:22 pm

Photo by Karen Stray Nolting

This Week at Princeton Landing

At its meeting on June 23, the FVCSA Board of Directors selected Don Benners, Finance Chair in Parcel 10, to fill the vacancy created by Elliott Eisenberg's resignation. Our congratulations to Don on his appointment.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Nature Guide: Spring Wildflowers

The recent heavy rains have knocked blossoms off many plants. Even so, our Nature Guide Jon Latimer tells us that we can still find wildflowers in bloom throughout our area. He reports on a few that bloom early and that we can see now.

"The Aster Family (Asteraceae) is huge and includes plants such as sunflowers and dandelions. Many species look so much alike that it can be difficult to tell them apart. For example, Bushy Aster grows to 3 feet tall and has leafy branches and many small white or lavender flowers with yellow centers (1/2 to 3/4 inch across). Aromatic Aster is low growing and bushy with blue-lavender flowers with yellow centers (1 1/4 inches across). Other asters have white, yellow, pink or other colored flowers.

"On the other hand, Common Yarrow, Achillea millefolium, is easy to recognize. It has distinctive flat-topped flower heads (2 to 6 inches across) made up of tiny white flowers, and lacy green or gray leaves on 2- to 5-foot stems. Unfortunately, white yarrow looks very similar to another common plant in our area, Queen Anne's Lace.

"Queen Anne's Lace, Daucus carota, also has a flat-topped flower head (3 to 5 inches across) made up of tiny white flowers. But its leaves are fern-like and it only grows to 1 to 3 feet tall. However, the easiest way to tell these plants apart is to look for a single reddish-purple blossom in the center of the flower head. If it has one, it's Queen Anne's Lace.

"Incidentally, this flower was named after Queen Anne of Denmark (1574–1619), who was consort of James I of England. She was an accomplished lace maker and the red spot in the middle was said to be a drop of her blood from a needle prick. Queen Anne's Lace is also known as "Wild Carrot." It was introduced from Europe and is the ancestor of the carrots that we eat today.

"Another ancestor of a cultivated plant common in our area is the wild strawberry. It is a creeping plant, growing only about 6 inches tall. Its small flowers (3/4 inch wide) have 5 white petals and bloom from April to June. After blossoming the petals fall away, leaving a yellow cone. This cone gradually grows larger and becomes redder, eventually forming the strawberry."

Monday, June 22, 2009

Where Does Our Money Go?

Two weeks ago we posted an overview of the FVCSA 2009 Operating Budget. In this post we provide a breakdown of a budget category called "administrative expense." This is the second largest category in our expense budget — only "grounds & landscaping" is larger. FVCSA expects to spend $733,401 for this category. The chart above shows where this money goes. You can click on the arrows at the bottom of the image to see the breakdown in a table of percentages.

Slightly more than 60% of that amount goes to Signature Property Group to pay for our Smith House office staff and for offsite managerial and financial services. Fees paid to Signature are significantly less than the projected fees FVCSA would have been paying if we had not replaced the previous management company. The Board of Directors is currently discussing renewal of the Association's contract with Signature and hopes to avoid any significant increase for 2010. In the longer term, however, some increase in this cost may occur.

Insurance is the other big ticket item in the administrative expense category, taking slightly more than 27% of the category total. The Board recently terminated use of a paid insurance/risk management consulting firm and retained a new insurance broker who has substantial experience working with homeowner associations. Ending use of the insurance consultant brings immediate savings of $1500 per month, or about $18,000 per year. Most of our insurance expense is for premiums paid to our insurance carriers. Those can be difficult to control because they depend for the most part on market conditions and our own loss experience. However, the new brokerage relationship gives us the negotiating leverage of a broker who handles a large number of communities, and that may help us avoid significant premium increases for next year.

In the next post in this series, we'll look at the "grounds & landscaping" category. Look for that in the next few weeks.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Third Sunday of June

Photo by Susan Hume

My Father's Hat

Sunday mornings I would reach
high into his dark closet while standing
on a chair and tiptoeing reach
higher, touching, sometimes fumbling
the soft crowns and imagine
I was in a forest, wind hymning
through pines, where the musky scent
of rain clinging to damp earth was
his scent I loved, lingering on
bands, leather, and on the inner silk
crowns where I would smell his
hair and almost think I was being
held, or climbing a tree, touching
the yellow fruit, leaves whose scent
was that of a clove in the godsome
air, as now, thinking of his fabulous
sleep, I stand on this canyon floor
and watch light slowly close
on water I'm not sure is there.

— Mark Irwin

Friday, June 19, 2009

Parcel 1 Pool Opens

The Parcel 1 pool will open for the season tomorrow, Saturday. The hours for this pool are from 1 pm until 7 pm daily. The Parcel 1 pool is located at the northeast corner of Parcel 1, next to the Tot Lot. Both the Parcel 1 pool and the pool at The Smith House are open to all residents. The hours for the pool at The Smith House are from 10 am until 8 pm daily. Recreation badges are required at the pools.

Summer arrives this Sunday at 1:45 am -- we hope it brings some great pool weather!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Attention Parents

Labyrinth Books in Princeton will be hosting Saturday Story Time for children this Saturday, June 20, at 11:30 am. This week's selections will include The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf and You? by Vladimir Radunsky. Readers of all ages are welcome, but especially those 5 and under.

The Story of Ferdinand, written by Munro Leaf and illustrated by Robert Lawson, is one of the best-loved children's books of all time. It tells the story of a little bull in Spain, who would rather sit under his favorite cork tree in the pasture and smell flowers than fight in bullfights. You? by Vladimir Radunsky is the story of a little girl in a polka dot dress with brown spots and a little white mutt with brown spots each looking for someone to love.

Labyrinth Books, an independent bookstore, is located at 122 Nassau Street. It has an extensive children's section run by Bobbie Fishman, who is extremely knowledgeable and always ready to help with new titles and classics. Whether or not you can make it to Saturday Story Time, check out this great place for children's books the next time you're in town.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Parcel 11 — 12:04 pm

Photo by Karen Stray Nolting

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

'Yes' It's Bloomsday

Today, June 16, is Bloomsday, an annual celebration all over the world to honor the life of the Irish writer James Joyce and to relive the events in his novel Ulysses. The name Bloomsday comes from the protagonist of Ulysses, Leopold Bloom. His odyssey took place on the same day in Dublin, Ireland, in 1904. This was also the date that Joyce took out his future wife, Nora Barnacle, for the first time.

Dramatic readings of Ulysses are a hallmark of Bloomsday commemorations everywhere. Every year on June 16 The Rosenbach Museum & Library in Philadelphia, which houses James Joyce's manuscript for Ulysses, celebrates Bloomsday with a series of readings from the novel outside its building on Delancey Place.

James Augustine Aloysius Joyce was born in Rathgar, Dublin, Ireland, on February 2, 1882, and he died in Zurich, Switzerland, on January 13, 1941. In 1999 the Modern Library ranked Ulysses first on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Pool Opens Daily

Beginning today the pool at The Smith House will be open on weekdays. It has been open on weekends since the Memorial Day weekend. Pool hours are from 10 am until 8 pm daily.

Recreation badges are required at the pool. Badges can be picked up at The Smith House during office hours or when a monitor is on duty. A 2009 FVCSA census form must be submitted to the office prior to picking up badges.

Before the recent rainy weather, many of our residents were spending time on the weekends at the pool — one of Princeton Landing's most beautiful amenities. We hope everyone will continue to enjoy the pool all summer.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Soggy Sunday

In today's New York Times Cara Buckley presents an entertaining piece by our favorite cartoonist, the hilarious and perspicacious Roz Chast. In it Roz talks about boredom, procrastination -- and her three pet birds, one of whom is a yellow and green parakeet named Petey. This reminded me of my Grandpop, who lived until just shy of his 103rd birthday, and his beloved parakeets -- one of whom was also yellow and green and called Petey. Click here for Roz's amusing article. And, on a more serious note, enjoy the poem, The Parakeets, by the celebrated Mexican poet, Alberto Blanco.

The Parakeets

They talk all day
and when it starts to get dark
they lower their voices
to converse with their own shadows
and with the silence.

They are like everybody
—the parakeets—
all day chatter,
and at night bad dreams.

With their gold rings
on their clever faces,
brilliant feathers
and the heart restless
with speech . . .

They are like everybody,
—the parakeets—
the ones that talk best
have separate cages.
-- Alberto Blanco
(Translated by W.S. Merwin)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Local Merchant Needs Your Support

In case you missed this story, West Windsor & Plainsboro News is reporting today that the independently owned Ace Hardware in Plainsboro may be leaving Plainsboro Plaza in the near future. Owner George Pluhar says he is saddened by the possibility that he may have to leave this location. So are the loyal customers, who are trying to save the store. We know that George has sold many gas grills in Princeton Landing over the past few years and many residents are fans of the store. George and his employees are always friendly and willing to go above and beyond to help their customers. It would be a real loss to the area to lose Ace Hardware. Click here to read the entire story.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Nature Guide: Spring Butterflies

In this second installment of our series on butterflies, our Nature Guide Jon Latimer describes butterflies you may see around the property now.

"The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (from 4 to 5.5 in.) is one of the easiest butterflies to recognize in our area. Males are yellow with black markings that resemble tiger stripes. Some females are similarly colored, but others are dark brown or gray with black markings, yellow spots on the trailing edges of their wings, and blue spots on their tail. Adult swallowtails feed mainly on nectar from cherry, magnolia or tulip trees. They are most active during the middle of the day and frequently rest with their wings fully spread.

"The Painted Lady (2 in.) is orange and black with bright white spots on the upper corner of each wing. Painted Ladies are found throughout most of the world, but are rarely seen in large numbers. Adults feed on flower nectar of many plants.

"The Clouded Sulphur (2 in.) is bright, clear lemon yellow with solid black edging. The very similar Orange Sulphur (2 in.) has an orange overlay on the top side of its yellow wings. Both can be seen in open areas, especially on lawns, in meadows or along the edges of roads. They feed on nectar from many kinds of flowers, including dandelions, milkweeds, goldenrods and asters.

"The smaller Pearl Crescent (1.5 in.) is mottled orange and brown. It is often seen flying low to the ground in open areas and sometimes gathers in groups near puddles. Adults feed on nectar from a great variety of flowers."

Stay tuned for Jon's report on the butterflies of summer.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Where Does Our Money Go?

This summer the Association will begin working on its 2010 budget. To get ready for the discussion about next year's spending, we will review the 2009 budget in a series of posts. All of the information we will post has been published previously, either in recent editions of the newsletter or in the 2009 budget mailing all residents received in December, 2008. We'll be providing a summary that tries to make it easier to understand how the Association spends our money.

Nearly all of the Association's revenues come from monthly fees paid by homeowners. For 2009, total revenues were expected to be about $3 million. FVCSA planned to spend about 75% of its revenues on operating expenses. The remainder would go to reserves. Initially, our posts will focus on the operating budget. We'll talk about reserves after we've reviewed major expenses.

We'll start with the simple pie chart above. You can click on it to see a larger version. FVCSA's 2009 Operating Expense Budget called for total operating expenses of $2,240,289. Expenses fall into the five categories shown. The two largest categories are Grounds & Landscaping ($1,058,124) and Administrative ($733,401). We'll explain them in our later posts.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Spring Pruning

Property manager Matt Lubas reports that Brickman will begin to prune shrubs throughout the community on Monday, June 8. They will start in Parcel 12 and continue along the outer loop to 11, 9, 8, 7, 6, 3 and 1. Once the outer loop is complete, they will start on the inner loop at Parcels 2, 4, 5 and 10. Pruning will continue until finished, which will take at least 2 weeks.

Management and Brickman thank you for your patience and cooperation.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

This Week at Princeton Landing

Management reports that New Age Contracting started gutter cleaning throughout the community on Monday. As of today Parcels 1, 3, 6, 7 and 12B are completed. Weather permitting, all parcels should be done by early next week. The FVCSA Board approved this work on May 26 at a cost not to exceed $12,840.

The Parcel 4 painting project will be finished in the next couple of weeks. Management delivered flyers to all Parcel 4 homeowners telling them to contact the office if they have any questions or concerns.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


The Shapes of Leaves

Ginkgo, cottonwood, pin oak, sweet gum, tulip tree:
our emotions resemble leaves and alive
to their shapes we are nourished.

Have you felt the expanse and contours of grief
along the edges of a big Norway maple?
Have you winced at the orange flare

searing the curves of a curling dogwood?
I have seen from the air logged islands,
each with a network of branching gravel roads,

and felt a moment of pure anger, aspen gold.
I have seen sandhill cranes moving in an open field,
a single white whooping crane in the flock.

And I have traveled along the contours
of leaves that have no name. Here
where the air is wet and the light is cool,

I feel what others are thinking and do not speak,
I know pleasure in the veins of a sugar maple,
I am living at the edge of a new leaf.

Arthur Sze

Monday, June 1, 2009