Your correspondent came across well-known deer advocate Bridget Irons sitting on a bench along Forbidden Drive in the Wissahickon getting ready to take off on her constitutional. Irons has been fighting against the deer cull in the Wissahickon woods for many years now. She related that she had written to Philadelphia City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart back in April asking that the financial costs of the deer cull be disclosed. She was encouraged when she soon heard back from First Deputy Kellan White who was to look into the matter but now, four months later, she still hasn't heard back. (According to the Controller's Office on August 15, 2019, White was still gathering the information) Aside from the contentious issue of whether the damage to the forest caused by the deer browsing on the under-story vegetation justifies bringing in sharpshooters each winter, Irons believes that the public has a right to know how much money city government is spending on the deer cull program. Your correspondent suggested that she may be able to retain a sympathetic pro bono lawyer to help deliver the information the public likely has a right to know. For this photo, Irons obliged your correspondent by striking the signature arms-up-in-the-air pose of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. ADDENDUM: From the Chestnut Hill online edition of May 18, 2018, "After 20 years, once-controversial deer cull is now routine": " These yearly efforts usually cost the USDA and the Parks and Recreation about $40,000 a year, an increased rate since the program’s start in 1999, [Parks spokesperson Barry] Bessler said."
Joann Hyle uses a propane-powered weed torch to burn the weeds sprouting up between the bricks in the sidewalk outside her house. It doesn’t keep the weeds from growing back but she thinks it’s a better alternative to killing weeds with chemicals. Your correspondent didn’t press her about getting down on her knees and weeding by hand. (Germantown Avenue)
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.
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.
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.