As your correspondent was taking a break from some landscaping work at the Weavers Way Farm located at W.B. Saul Agricultural high school, Gail Koskela, a large animal science teacher at the school,l asked if I wanted to see a newborn baby ewe that had seen first light just 10 minutes ago! This was the fifth lamb born this season and Koskela said they were looking for pie-themed names for the baby since the first two lambs were born on March 14th (3/14 as in 3.14, an approximation of the constant Pi) Accordingly those two were named "Pi" and "R squared." The next two lambs were christened she "Chocolate Mousse" and "Lemon Meringue." Koskela says she may have assisted the ewe sooner than she needed to but this first time mother had been pushing for a little while and Koskela didn’t want her to be become exhausted. So as the baby's legs and head began to emerge, she held on with a little tension so the mom could push it out completely. Very shortly after birth, the baby got up on its legs. The mother started licking her clean and the two were baa-baa-ing back-and-forth as seen in the video. The breed of sheep raised at the farm is selected for their confirmation and meat traits not for their wool which, in this breed, grows very slowly. Classes in the fall typically are in charge of breeding season and the spring classes learn about lambing hands-on. But because of the COVID-19 quarantine, only a few Saul students have been physically able to work with the animals. Koskela gave a little plug for the school's 24-7 "Ewe Tube" channel where everyone can follow the sheep in action, such as it is, in the spacious new blue barn. See newborn lamb and mom and video interview here.
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.
The Reverend Paul Adler, installed just last summer as rector at the Episcopal Church of Saint Alban in Roxborough, Philadelphia prays for people who come across him seated and collared in the nearby Starbucks coffee shop. An occasional customer is drawn to his table by the license plate size "FREE PRAYER" sign atop it. When he's not engaged in an impromptu prayer session, he will address email correspondence or work on sermons. A medical student seeks God's help with medical exams about to begin. A young woman who has a newborn child and also a very ill, hospitalized mother-in-law seeks prayer for her family. Adler believes that prayer is a way of spending time with God and spending time with God is worthwhile, even if prayer doesn't always work in the ways supplicants are expecting. Watch video here.
Driving my daughter from Chestnut Hill to her job in Roxborough Saturday morning, we passed a man making his way on foot down the steep and treacherously narrow, icy shoulder of Bells Mill Road. When I again passed him on my return trip twenty minutes later, now on his ascent from Forbidden Drive, I had to offer him a lift. Robert Mongeluzzi’s car tire had been flattened by a pothole the day before and, after spending the night in Chestnut Hill, he was hoping to somehow connect with a bus and make it to his home in Merion Station. He offered to top off my gas tank as thanks but I settled for the story of his work as a trial attorney representing victims and families of the Market Street Salvation Army building collapse and other, similarly notorious and catastrophic incidents.
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.
During a break from cultivating and weeding a raised bed of peas at the Weavers Way Henry Got Crops farm in Roxborough where he volunteers, your correspondent captured a slice of life on the farm.
The farm grows crops mainly for the 120 members of the CSA (“Community Supported Agriculture” organization) but also regularly sells product through the Weavers Way stores in Mount Airy and Chestnut Hill, at an onsite farm stand and downtown at Head House Square.
When I arrived, CSA Manager Nina Berryman was busily sketching out the day’s plan on a chalkboard in the farm shed. I followed Berryman around as she lamented some stunted carrots with experienced worker Minna Latortue, who had just graduated nursing school, examined the cold season greens in the hoop houses, made plans with Laura Mass Forsberg to plant potatoes later in the day then getting her started on a weeding task and finally doing what she calls the hardest part of the job, doing deskwork at a laptop computer communicating with CSA members and such.
I caught up with farm educator Tara Campbell as she waited for the first of four school groups to arrive and watched as she and educator Clare Hyre prepped students from Saul Agricultural High School (where the farm is located) and got them out working down the field.
And ebullient compost guy Scott Blunk showed off the composting operation as he directed a frontend loader to dump just-arrived vegetable waste into the ten thousand pound capacity grinder and activated it massive rotating tines. See small video of Blunk here
Your correspondent shot some footage of cows grazing peacefully but did not include it in the accompanying video because the dairy operation belongs to the Saul School and not Henry Got Crops. Your correspondent also looks forward to comparing notes and photos with Lanie Blackmer who later arrived to do a story for WHYY/Newsworks.
Watch video interview here. Joseph Mbura, a chemistry and math teacher at the W.B. Saul High School for Agricultural Sciences in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia has loved gardening since his boyhood days in the Kenyan countryside where crops were grown both for food and a source of income. He started a small organic garden on a section of the school’s spacious grounds to show his students that they, too, can grow their own food. He raises a traditional black bean plant for its succulent leaves which then gets steamed and mixed with onions, tomatoes and spices in a beef or chicken stew. In another plot he has just cleared he will grow “chinsaga,” another green. By Mbura’s side is his daughter Daisy who has her own garden at home and cradled in his arm, his younger daughter, Lily, who he hopes will follow the growing tradition.
Greg Roussos is a new barber doing old style barbering at the Wissahickon Barber Shop in Roxborough. Old style is spending more time with the customer, doing scissor over combing and straight razor shaving, he says. Roussos feels that guys these days are often forced to go to “girlie” shops and that they really prefer the old time experience where they can hang out, get a cut, talk sports. But he does women’s hair too. The friend who was helping Roussos put flyers on car windshields on Northwestern Avenue near the horse stables says Roussos always does her hair. “He’s the best.” Watch video interview here.
So I’ll have her hitting uppercuts over here. I’ll have her do a little bit on here. This is for slipping. Hand and eye coordination. Slip, slip, roll, counterpunch, OK? I’ll have her on the speed bag. [Hits the speed bag] I’ll have her hit the heavy bag. That was the uppercut bag. That’s where uppercuts and hooks go. Of course you start off with your jab. A jab is your range finder. On here is your straight punches. You can jab right handed, left hook and you don’t really throw uppercuts here but you can throw body shots. Sit on your punches as you go. And the focus mitts. She’ll have a pair of gloves on and I’ll be here. After I’ve already worked with her and showed her how to punch correctly. How to shift her weight. She has proper balance and weight distribution. And then I would just hold the punch mitts and she would punch I’d counter with some wild hooks and she’ll just roll, come back and counterpunch me.
Joey DeMalavez, Owner/Trainer, Manayunk, Philadelphia.