Boat built in six hours, from free seas to art gallery

Mare liberum free seas punt boat mural
Chloe Wang fell in love with the lower Schuylkill River after she put in the river down by Bartram’s Gardens. The boat was an English style flat-bottomed canal "punt" that she and other Haverford College students had just built earlier in the day during a breakneck 6-hour workshop led by the Brooklyn based activist artist boat-building collaborative, Mare Liberum, That was 2015. Now she works for Bartram’s Gardens in its community boathouse program. The initiative allows people to take out kayaks and rowboats on the river for free on Saturdays from April to October. Just this year the “punt” was pulled from storage and dusted off. Wang was invited by Mare Liberum to help paint a mural on the bottom depicting the river’s tides and the non-humans that inhabit the river environment for a new exhibit on the Hudson and Schuylkill rivers at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education. Painted on one side is a black silhouette of downtown Philadelphia, on the other the silhouette of the South Philadelphia oil refineries: both border the river. Your correspondent engaged Wang in the art gallery some minutes before the Center’s annual Richard James lecture, honoring its founder, which this year featured experts discussing “Water: Peril and Promise.” Watch video interview of college student who built then navigated canal boat,then painted mural on bottom for nature center gallery exhibit on rivers.

Paper-mache penguins not real, science is

Ceramic found object art penguins science real
Found object/ceramic artist Lisa Schumaier constructs whimsical and politically pointed raku and paper-mâché sculptures. In one, small paper cutouts with the faces of friends and family members pump signs up and down in front of a large paper-mâché Republican Party elephant. Originally, the figures were protesting the first Iraq war, then the second Iraq war and now they are about to find new purpose when Lisa adds pink pussy hats to some. She does projects with students and, in a subtle nod to the science is real movement, they’ve fashioned rolling soda can penguins 🐧, bobbing wire hanger penguins and affixed penguins to the base of one of the large scene installations Lisa has prominently on display in the hallway outside her studio with in Alexandria’s Torpedo Factory Artist Center. Watch video tour of artist's funny political protest art and interview.

Costumed horses, riders parade for Halloween at Northwestern Stables

Horse rider Halloween costume contest parade
"Welcome to the Northwestern stables Haunted Horses Event 2017. Today we're inside because it's raining but it's still a lot of fun. As you can see we have pumpkin decorating here, we have cupcake decorating and then the feature of our event is always the horse and rider costume contest which I believe is starting soon! Northwestern Stables is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit. We do a lot of equine-focused programs for children and adults. We have a riding program. We have summer camp. We have two 4-H programs for young kids and big kids and invite people to come and tour the barns and learn to be friends with and not be afraid of our large equine friends." Kristen Kavanagh, Stables Board VP and leader, pumpkin decorating

Costumed horses, riders parade for Halloween

Why her fainting goats fall over

Breeding fainting goats
Carrie Eastman raises fainting goats for sale at a farm near Gettysburg, PA. Staying over at her bed-not-breakfast we had the chance to become a little acquainted with her herds. Just as we entered the field, some goats scampered across a narrow land bridge over a small creek and the last in line froze in place then fell flat over on her left side. After a few seconds she righted herself, "slightly wet, slightly annoyed." Fainting goats, she explains have a genetic condition called myotonia congenita. "Basically, the enzyme that tells your muscles to relax after they've contracted is low. Most of the time it's not an issue but if they get that adrenaline hit from being excited - feeding time, breeding, something scares them, the muscles contract and then they're not able to release right away and the goat stiffens." In terms of natural selection the characteristic is not desirable. For the fainting goat breed, the key is to breed for a moderate amount of the condition. For the goats, it's like doing isometric exercises. For humans, those exercises result in a high meat to bone ratio. Eastman speaks lovingly of her goats by name, tells how several are related to each other - and has not eaten any of the goats she's raised. Watch video of fainting goat being picked up by farmer who breeds them.

Naturalists raise, launch Monarch butterflies

Naturalists raise monarch butterflies
Naturalists at the Wissahickon Environmental Center Treehouse are raising and launching monarch butterflies. In the Andorra meadow a short distance above the Trreehouse, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation staffers Christina Moresi and Maris Harmon harvest milk weed leaves on which monarch butterflies have laid their small white eggs. They bring the leaves down to the Treehouse where the eggs hatch into caterpillars. They demand an abundant supply of milkweed leaves to munch on and grow. Moresi has filmed the whole metamorphosis. The grown caterpillars will climb to the top of a screen mesh and spin into milky green colored pupae. As the pupae mature, their casings become translucent and the butterflies' distinctive orange markings become visible. Finally the encapsulated butterflies emerge out of the bottom and pump blood to stretch out their new wings.
The naturalists place a small round tag on each newborn's wing and register it in an online database so if it is found in Mexico or en route, it can be identified. Moresi (right in photo) explains that the butterflies which lay their eggs in the Andorra are the fourth generation of butterflies migrating from hibernation in Mexico. Before they are released, the young monarchs are fed a rich diet of nectar and become flight worthy in a tall netted enclosure. The Center announces when they are about to release a group of monarchs. They are bound for Mexico, an extraordinary 2000 mile journey.
(Interviewer's Note: Conservationists have been actively engaged in combating a severe long term decline in the population of the monarch butterfly, a beautiful and important pollinator, that has been attributed to habitat loss from logging and pesticide use)

Watch monarchs metamorphosis and interview here 

​ 🐴 Colombian loved his 🐎 Paso Fino horse

​ 🐴 Colombian loved his 🐎 Paso Fino horse

​Driving down Henry Avenue from Norristown, Carlos from Colombia saw the horses of the Saul Agricultural School grouped together near the pasture fence. He stopped to admire them as had I. He also thought of inquiring if they might be available for rent. He showed me a photo and video of his Paso Fino, a breed of horse known for its natural lateral gait Sadly, the horse died two months ago at age 16. A longtime horse lover, he doesn't know why more people don't ride. Watch video here.


Wolfpig brand wearable art

WolfPig brand T-shirts and bandannas, the story

Video interview here

Wanna hear a cool story? a vendor at the Art for the Cash Poor fair in Northern Liberties asked me as I walked by. Sure! Two friends in a bar are talking about what kind of animals they would be were they to have animal form. One said a wolf because he's fierce; the other, a pig because he's big. Beer spilled on the bar counter and when they looked down at the suds they saw a wolf and a pig. "Wolfpig!" they exclaimed.

The brother of the guy who identifies as a wolf is an art teacher and he knew they wanted to go into some kind of business with the "WolfPig" theme. Along with another art teacher friend they settled on a t-shirt business because "wearable art" is an economical and effective way of making their art accessible to the public. At the fair they were selling exquisitely drawn t-shirts which they had made on a fine mesh screen using a process called discharge. The technique selectively removes the color from the black and grey t/shirts and bandannas they use. Themes draw on Aztec, Hindu and other mythologies and employ the wolf and pig motif, indicative of the yin and yang balance of nature and life. On some shirts the pig is more simply a commentary on the piggishness of the current administration.

"Based on the premise that everyone can be an art collector, AftCP is one of the longest running art festivals in the Kensington/Fishtown area. The best part: all works, by both emerging and established artists alike, are priced at $199 and under."

For more information see

Celebrating the earth, Temple Ambler Earthfest

Temple Ambler Earthfest FEMA horseshoe crab

Clockwise from top left. Teens from Wordsworth Academy, a special needs school assist children in making recycled bottle planters. An activist with Sea Shepherd talks about the group's efforts to save endangered porpoises and whales.  From the Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ, a horseshoe crab. FEMA is ready to assist in disasters, this representative from the flood mitigation unit assures. Evergreen Lane farm sets up aquaponics systems. Photo on web here.

Geese chasing dog

Geese chasing dog

​Each day, Lisa Backe, "Nuisance Wildlife Control Operator" of the Goose Squad, LLC travels 100 miles and opens the door to her car at 28 different sites to allow her dog to chase away unwanted Canada geese. Your correspondent ran into Lisa and her small, friendly, rescue dog, Rita, on their second trip that day to the Morris Arboretum in Northwest Philadelphia, zipping around in a small car to the geese hotspots. It's a matter of harnessing the dog's natural instincts to chase the birds, Backe says. Goose Squad owner Joe Rocco estimates that seventy percent of the geese in our area reside here year round. Grazing on plentiful open grassy, areas each bird can leave a pound and a half or more of droppings a day. "We get the flock out of here" is the company's motto. Alas for your correspondent on this particular afternoon, the flock had already gotten out of there so there are no action shots in the video. Watch video interview here.

Goose Squad

Periscope viewers aid baby sparrow rescue

Periscope viewers come to aid of baby sparrow

At our neighborhood train station my son and I  heard lots of frantic chirping then saw a baby bird on the concrete ground. It appeared to have fallen from the wooden eaves high above. I started a live Periscope stream and solicited suggestions from tuners-in :"put it back in nest", "give it worms", "call 911". Someone  encouraged me to take it I to the wildlife rehabilitation I had mentioned. And so I did after my son boarded the train. At the center, the receiving rehabilitator examined the bird, identified it as a plump baby sparrow, said that it was a little splayed but its wing were not broken, and that it would have lots of brothers and sisters for company because people had brought in about 20 some such babies in recent days. It will be cared for until it can  fly and be released back into nature.  Two days later I called back with the case number I had been given and learned from the woman who accepted the patient, that baby bird 2540 was doing just fine. Watch shorter video here. Watch longer video here.

Periscope viewers come to aid of baby sparrow