Jonathan Shaw hunts with hawks and falcons from horseback at his 467 acre farm in Queenstown on the eastern shore of Maryland. At the World Horse Expo 2019 at the Farm Complex in Harrisburg, he had two prey birds, his horse and two assistants. His avian hunter is Geronimo, a gyrfalcon, which will hunt ducks and pigeons. His Harris Hawk goes for rabbits, squirrels and, he adds tongue in cheek, “small children.” Historically, Shaw says, falconers would ride horses because they could catch up with the falcon which otherwise would eat the falconer's dinner! The tradition didn't die out until the invention of the gun, the first of which was named after a sparrow hawk, a "musket." Shaw goes on to tell about all the now common expressions that come from falconry like "hoodwink", "under my thumb" and "wrapped around her little finger." Shaw's ideal horse is a pasofino because of its even gait. It won't jostle the falcon up and down when it's sitting on the falconer's glove before release. Prior, he had hunted with American Paint horses but when he was trotting around the farm his "hawk would think I was shaking a cocktail." Watch video interview of falconer describing how he hunts ducks and rabbits with his hawks and falcons while riding horseback."
A New Jersey van packed with fresh Atlantic seafood did a brisk business its first time out at the Chestnut Hill Farmers Market last Saturday. They plan to come every other week, alternating with the market they do in Bryn Mawr. Justin Hetrick introduced eager new customers and your correspondent to the fresh fish operation. "We are called Local130 Seafood [A large patriotic painting on the side of the van shouts it out] We are out of Asbury Park, New Jersey. The "130" stands for the amount of New Jersey coast line. All the fish that you see here today, with the exception of halibut which comes from New England, is coming right off the coast daily. Sea scallops out of Point Pleasant. You know Barnegat Light, Long Beach Island? We are Asbury Park, only 20 minutes from Point Pleasant and we can go the day they come in off the boat and get everything fresh that day. There’s a fleet of commercial boats that run out of there. Arguably, I think it’s the third largest port in New Jersey next to Barnegat Light and Cape May. They go out in all kinds of weather to catch us the fish that we need. We are pretty lucky and blessed to have that. Nothing here is ever frozen. Nothing that we sell in the shop is frozen. We pack it fresh and we put it on ice so it keeps the temperature nice and cold without ever actually freezing it. So it’s still soft to the touch. Here are some of the information cards that I didn’t put out yet - we have skate wings, the black sea bass, sea scallops, weakfish, fluke, A lot of people know it as flounder but we like to call it fluke. The only thing I don’t have a card for today is cod.” Watch video interview of fishmonger at Chestnut Hill farmers market in Philadelphia of fish caught fresh from Atlantic Ocean here.
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
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.
Helping people through the difficult times when a family member or even a beloved pet dies gives funeral director satisfaction. So he explained to students at the J.S Jenks Academy of Math and Sciences on career day.
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.
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.
"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
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 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)
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.