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, www.thefreeseas.org 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.
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)
In celebration of its 50th anniversary the Chestnut Hill Conservancy ( formerly the Chestnut Hill Historical Society) has joined its longtime partner, the Friends of the Wissahickon (FOW) to mount an exhibition of iconic historical photos of the Friends housed in the Conservancy archives. Co-curators Alex Bartlett and Giulia Morrone (shown above) were on hand at the opening of the exhibit on Wednesday September 13 and discussed how they whittled down their selection to the fourteen large reproductions that the FOW hallway exhibition space could accommodate. Among the noteworthy photographs are one of African-Americans fishing in the creek across from Wissahickon Hall, formerly an inn but more recently home to a police department district. The bicentennial photo of many revelers parading down Forbidden Drive on Wissahickon Day, some in a covered wagon, stands out because photos of one or two upscale riders were more common. A favorite is one of people skating on the frozen creek. These and the other photos reveal what Bartlett says are some of the hidden histories of the Wissahickon.
Our immediate neighbors' leaf blower landscape man is our bane. I know when he and his crew has visited: our front side and back walk areas are much covered in grit and leaves. We live in very modest size twin houses on an urban street graced with large sycamore maple trees. We have very little land area and about 15 feet between non-adjoined houses. The landscaper makes heavy use of a gas powered leaf blower
At times we are unfortunate enough to be at home when he comes. The blower creates a roar from which he is protected by large ear muffs- but not us. On his last visit, I left the house and he was blasting away plant and soil specks more than an hour later when I returned. In addition to being gratingly loud, the blower stirs up a large amount of particulate dust which may contain mold, bird feces and what not, a definite health hazard, which is why some communities have banned them. See New York Times article. I wrote about the issue for WHYY Newsworks back in 2010; click here.
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.
When a thunderstorm kept the J S Jenks kindergartners from visiting the Chestnut Hill Library for a program, the library came to them. Author Cynthia Kreilick read aloud in Spanish and English with the children from her book "Lucha y Lola," illustrated by her daughter Alyssa. The story, about travel and change, is inspired by the Calveras (skeleton depictions) associated with the Day of the Dead that Kreilick encountered on a family trip to Mexico. It concludes with the protagonists starting a butterfly kite-making business to draw attention to the plight of the endangered monarch butterfly population. The Kreilicks were featured in the Chestnut Hill Local in 2012 www.chestnuthilllocal.com/2012/11/26/mother-writes-daught...
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.
Lynn Landes, founder of the Wild Foodies of Philadelphia joins with Chef Jeff Miller of the eponymous catering company to forage for wild plants in the fields of the Weavers Way Coop farm at Awbury Arboretum. The plants, which Lynn doesn't like to call weeds although they are generally considered so, were to appear in the salad of a dinner that very evening to benefit the arboretum. Miller sampled some succulent-like purslane which he describes being crunchy and also some carpet weed which your correspond concurs has a strong, mushroomy flavor. These, wood sorrel other "weeds" were all competing for purchase in the fertile soil where the farmers had planted onions for harvest months later. Landes takes the zealot's stance that only wild plants and animals, free for the taking are a sustainable source of food because agriculture of any kind requires ongoing maintenance. Watch video here.
Under the watchful eyes of a score of officers from the Philadelphia Police foot and marine patrols, the PA Fish and Game Commission and the US Coast Guard, serious but festive protesters stage a family picnic and paddle on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia to mark the third anniversary of the Lac Megantic Ontario oil train derailment that killed 47 people. Coryn Wolk of the Clean Air Council points to data showing the outdated tank cars are subject to puncture even at the low speeds they move through Philadelphia, putting 700,000 residents in the potential blast/evacuation zone at risk. Clean energy groups participating in the action are urging people to contact their elected officials to stop such oil trains from passing through Philadelphia and shift toward of wind, geothermal and solar energy. Watch video here.