ENVIRONMENT Feed

New composting toilets at Andorra

New composting toilets popular

Elizabeth Fink has been using the new composting toilets near the Wissahickon Environmental Center (formerly Andorra Tree House) at the northwestern edge of Fairmount Park, Philadelphia. It never smells, she says and there's Purell for hand sanitizing. She thinks it's a big improvement over the old "Johnn(ies) on the Spot". She's careful that her cell phone is in a zipped pocket, however, lest it inadvertently fall into the pit! She and a companion had been taking a walk in the woods and recommended I check out the toads mating in the pond above the tree house. Watch video here.


Expectant parents take a "Waltz in the Woods"

The day before Easter Sunday, Nick Hasselback and his wife, Jenna, who was due to deliver their first child four days later, marveled at Patrick Dougherty's new stick sculpture installation at the Morris Arboretum. "A Waltz in the Woods" is  a handful of closely circled tall and leaning towers consisting of   willow branches and saplings woven together. And then left for nature to take its course as with Dougherty's previous work at the Morris. Nick and Jenna describe themselves as woodsy people and are hatching similar, likely more modest, ideas of their own. Watch video here


Hog Island Audubon Camp Journal 2014

Your correspondent volunteered for a week cleaning dishes and bathhouses at the Audubon Society Camp on Hog Island off of Bremen, Maine. He collected an old glass bottle encrusted with barnacles and these stories. See photo slideshow here.

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A large aquarium in the lab building of Hog Island affords a micro view of aquatic life in coastal Maine’s tidal pools. Off the pier, swaying mats of seaweed. Watch video here.

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“Puffin” Pete Salmansohn, Project Puffin outreach coordinator and director of Hog Island Educators week, describes how puffins were saved from near extermination from the Maine Coast on a boat trip out to Eastern Egg Rock Island where island sitters carefully monitor and study them. Along the way, seals sunning themselves on a small island, produce whoops and hollers among the day-trippers as they dive into the water toward the boat to investigate or perhaps be fed? Watch video here.

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On Hog Island, early morning guided birding, a photographer and his camera level with the osprey nest, an osprey parent guarding two fledglings and later the same day foraying out and back. Watch video montage here.

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“Seabird” Sue Schubel, Project Puffin Outreach Instructor and Hog Island Camp Coordinator, puts the finishing touches on a large batch of cream “puffins.” They will be served to oohs and ahs and camera flashes at the conclusion of the farewell lobster dinner for Educators week. The confectionary puffins, like their living counterparts, Schubel says, could be either male or female, as they look the same. Their breeding plumage, bright orange bills, mark them as mature adults. Watch video here.

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Susan Spitzer Williams, a career guidance specialist participating in Educators Week on Hog Island, seen here rushing to get her camera to the photogapher and back in place for a group shot. In the video, she pauses before swimming to share one of the many ways in which she is superior to her dear older brother, Nick Spitzer, host of the widely syndicated, public radio program, “American Routes.” For one, she met and played pool with Muddy Waters and he didn’t. Watch video here.

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A short, live action, instructional video for kitchen volunteers at the Hog Island camp on how to use the Hobart 4 sided, hood mounted, pass through, commercial dishwasher. Watch video here.

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She’s been skinning road kill, preparing pelts, skull specimens and mounts for museums for some time but this was Carolyn Zaino’s first beaver. Discovered by a couple Hog Island staffers, the road kill became the object of Zaino’s artistry and industry in between stints in the Hog Island kitchen. Zaino is nonplussed by the gore and gruesomeness of her vocation as befits the pathologist’s daughter for whom, as a child, the hearts, lungs and brains in her father’s lab were naturally things of wonder. Her work lets her give these animals “another life” and educate people about them. Watch short video here. Watch full-length video here.


Landscaper continues family tradition

Fifty years ago, when John Antonucci’s grandfather, Frank, immigrated from Italy and established his masonry business in North Wales, Pa outside Philadelphia, there was just a stop sign outside at the now busy intersection of Stump Road and Route 309. Frank’s son Salvatore expanded the business and now Sal’s Nursery and Landscaping has nineteen acres of nursery which is mainly a source of plant material for the company’s landscaping operation. Customers can also walk in and buy plants at retail. Sal’s specializes in upscale projects like in-ground pool, pool houses and patio installations. And, unlike the big-box stores, it offers rare varieties and very large specimens so that customers who have lost shrubs or trees say, during the recent rough winter, can match and fill in the gaps in their landscapes. On a crisp spring day, John spoke proudly about the family operation and pointed out several beautiful plants like the cluster of dark red-leafed and flowering ninebarks. (Physocarpus opulifolius)

Watch video and tour here


Eating energy bars made from crickets

Weavers Way Food Coop has introduced a new line of energy bars  - ones made with crickets.

On Tuesday, staff members at the Chestnut Hill store sampled Chapul’s Thai Cricket Bar.

Jon Roesser and Lara Cantu- Hertzler appeared pleased with the bar’s coconut-ty, gingery taste. Roesser noted that cricket flour was listed as the fourth ingredient and figured (correctly) that it served as the bar’s protein source.  Cantu-Herztler was a little queasy about eating insects but thought it was a good idea.

Rick Neth hadn’t seen the product before but reported that in his native Cambodia, insects are sometimes eaten in certain regions.  Farm raised crickets might be baked, used in stuffed, roasted peanuts, or fire-roasted.

On its website, the Chapul company is asking people to join the other 80% of the world’s population who, it says, regularly consume protein-rich insects as part of their diet, and effect a revolution against traditional land-and-water intensive, polluting agriculture.

At the conclusion of the accompanying video, staffer Joe Stanton is mulling over a mouthful.

Watch video interview here.


Dozens clean up Cresheim Creek new parkland

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(Above, volunteer Marilou Buffum)

Dozens of volunteers showed up on Saturday to help remove invasive plants and debris from newly acquired Philadelphia parkland in Mount Airy.

Efforts of the Wissahickon East Project spearheaded by Antje Mattheus who lives nearby at the 2 acre historical Cresheim Farm, along with the Friends of the Wissahickon, the Chestnut Hill Historical Society, and ultimately Philadelphia’s Department of Parks and Recreation headed by Michael DeBerardinis,  helped spare the overgrown six-acre woody tract abutting the Cresheim Creek from private residential development.

Work began in earnest on rehabilitating the site and creating a quarter mile loop trail under the direction of David Bower, Fairmount Park Volunteer Coordinator.

Watch video here.

(Below, Volunteer Rick Greenstein)

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Ploughing new ground at urban farm

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Scott Blunk employs a moldboard plow to break new ground at the Henry Got Crops Farm in Roxborough, Philadelphia. Blunk, who worked for the John Deere company at one time, explains that this plow is based on an early Deere design and was known as “self cleaning” because it cuts out slices of turf  and then dumps them  upside down off of the share  or blade. (See Wikipedia for an expanded technical explanation) The newly plowed area, part of the CSA farm’s expansion, will get planted this fall with a cover crop to add nitrogen and nutrients before eventually coming into production the year after next.  IS THERE A PLAN FOR WHAT’S GOING IN HERE? “No. I’d like to plant marijuana. Maybe that’ll be approved by the spring of 2015, whadda you think?” Watch video here.

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