ENVIRONMENT Feed

City workers grind down tree stump

Stump grinder
A severe storm earlier in the summer uprooted a large maple tree on our street and it fell on the roofs of our neighbors’ houses. Some weeks after the tree was cut down and removed, a city work crew and contractor Scott’s Tree Service arrived to grind down the stump. City worker Ed Jardell described how the stump is ground down in sweeping back and forth passes of the grinder’s large rotary blade. The machine takes off more or less two inches at a time depending on the species and hardness of the tree and whether there is any sponginess or rot. Watch video of workers grinding down tree stump and interview of worker describing process.

2018 Wissahickon Day Parade with oldtimer and author

Wissahickon day parade doctor tom
Dr. Tom Fitzpatrick of Flourtown, a retired biochemist with the US Department of Agriculture, rode in this year’s Wissahickon Day Parade, which took place this past Sunday. For 10 years he rode a horse and for another 25 years. drove a horse carriage in the parade.The event commemorates when several hundred horse-people and their horses converged on the Wissahickon path in 1927 to successfully protest plans to open the route up to vehicular traffic. Fitzpatrick’s roots go deep. His mother was born at the nearby stable atop Forbidden Drive (now Northwestern Stables) owned by his grandfather in the 1890s. He owns horses and he heads the Philadelphia Saddle Club whose riders are regular parade participants. Although he rode in a friend’s wagon at this year’s parade, should one of his stalls open up, he might purchase a good driving horse. At 94 he says, “I got 10, 15 more good years.” Watch video of Wissahickon Day Horse Parade celebrating Forbidden Drive becoming closed to vehicle traffic and interview with old-timer Dr Tom Fitzpatrick

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Horseback riding horse book author

Nancy Peter has ridden in the Wissahickon Day Parade on Forbidden Drive, a tradition dating back to 1927 when riders successfully protested a plan to allow cars on the path, but this was the first time she rode a horse of her own. Cheyenne is a spirited, 12 year old, 15 hand, quarter horse - paint mare who had been trained for Western reining competition. "She's the love of my life," Peter professes before quickly adding, "one of them." Peter has just published a memoir of her horseback riding "escapades" called "Twenty Horses". Cheyenne released a whinny when Peter obliged her to pose as they appear on the cover of the book. Watch video of horse memoir author ride her new mare and talk about the book of her horseback riding escapades.


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, 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 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 


Iconic photos of Wissahickon in new exhibit

Wissahickon photos curator
​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.

Honduran naturalist enthusiastic about nature center

Outdoor art, enthusiastic naturalist

​Admiring Leah Reynolds' painted fabric installation Scant Refuge at the Schuylkill Center, I crossed paths with Ed, a Center worker from Honduras. He was out with a companion and guide book identifying birds, he explained and then he enthusiastically launched into a promo for the natural lands there, the Schuylkill's programs and welcomed families to come partake and explore.
 

Leaf blowers noisy dirty and unhealthy

Leaf blowers noisy, dirty and unhealthy

​Watch video here.

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.

We appreciate that our neighbors want to keep their garden areas looking attractive. One a lawyer, the other a doctor, keep their windows closed with the heat or air conditioning usually running so are not personally disturbed by the noise, leaf and dust storms created by their landscaper. The lawyer, who complains about breathing problems and asthma is not going to start doing her own modest yard work any time soon. The doctor appears not to have the time or inclination to do her own likewise modest yard work.
 
Sadly, their indifference to our distress prompted me to call our City Councilwoman's office. I described the noise and pollution problem to an aide and asked, "Is there anything I can do?" She answered "Not as long as they are doing their job." I then asked "Is there a noise ordinance" and she answered, "No." I believe the aide is wrong on both counts.
 
I've begun a little campaign by posting signs to encourage our neighbors on the block to refrain from garden power equipment use on their small yards and, instead borrow our rakes and push mower!
 
To be continued...

No to leaf blowers

Leaf blower grime


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.


Skeletons and butterflies

Skeletons and butterflies

​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...

Watch video here

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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