Thursday, July 31, 2008

In the thick of it

Tulip poplars in July.Tulip poplars, in a deep grove off of Park Line Drive, Monday evening.

Tulip poplars in April.Back in April.

Tulip poplars in January.Back in January.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Lovin' the lavender

Bee on lavender flower, Blue Bell Hill traffic circle.Blue Bell Hill traffic circle, Monday evening.

Lavender is the popular flavor these days among bees in this neck of the woods. Of all the other flowers they had to choose from, they decided to crowd these blooms.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Burdock trinity

Burdock.Burdock, in the Wissahickon off of Park Line Drive, Monday evening.

(I better check my pants to make sure they didn't follow me home.)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Ambling toward Philadelphia

Wissahickon creek.Wissahickon creek, Montgomery County, north of Philadelphia.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Green Ribbon Trail

Green Ribbon Trail.Green Ribbon Trail, Ft. Washington, PA.

The Wissahickon Green Ribbon Trail is a nearly 20 mile long trail that starts in the City of Philadelphia at the confluence of the Wissahickon Creek and the Schuylkill River (at the Schuylkill River Trail in Manayunk) and ends in Upper Gwynedd Township in Montgomery County.
-- Montgomery County Trails

Happy trails to all of you. See you Monday.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


Wasp or hornet on pink flower.I don't know the wild flower, and I don't know the insect -- some sort of hornet or wasp, I suspect -- but here they are doing nature's work, on the perimeter of a field in Ft. Washington State Park, Sunday morning.

As I tap away here, around 8:00 on the evening of August 23, the sound of an approaching thunderstorm is rumbling up the alley between my house and the neighbor's. Given the frequency of the thunder, and the fact that it somehow seems deeper than usual, leads me to believe that it is going to be a real bugger of a storm. The tapping of rain has just begun...

By some almanacs today is the tipping point, statistically and meteorologically speaking, when the average high for the year hits its peak. It can only go down from here, and by late July to the first days of August, the average temperature will have dropped by a degree. Yes, I know that the hottest weather could still be in front of us, but for those of you who say that August is usually the hottest month, check the statistics. You are wrong.

I dislike the dead of summer to the same degree I dislike the dead of winter. Stagnation. Like a ship stuck in the doldrums. Yet if we are attentive, the signs that nature never really stalls are there. In just the last few days, cicada have added their clamor to the condensed heat of summer. While they sound like a kind of aural manifestation of the oppressive humidity, they are a sure sign of the seismic shift toward summer's end.

Not such a big storm after all. As I am finishing up, the storm is moving away. (Perhaps more are coming tonight.) If the weather folk are right, the heat wave that has been pressing down on Philadelphia for the better part of a week is about to be broken.

And here's the surest sign of all that autumn is on its way: L.L. Bean's Fall catalog has arrived in the mail.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Mather Mill

Mather Mill.Ft. Washington, or thereabouts, Sunday morning.

Mather Mill, detail.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Said I could take his picture...

Face of a praying mantis.Praying mantis, Ft. Washington State Park, Sunday morning.

Ft. Washington State Park, north of Philadelphia in Montgomery County, borders the Wissahickon Creek on both sides. I drove into the parking lot off of Bethlehem Pike Sunday morning to take some photos. This section of the park is essentially a large field of uncut grass, a wide swath cut around its perimeter serving as a trail. It is hot here now -- we're in the middle of a heat wave -- and the air was already heavy by mid morning.

Grass field at Ft. Washington State Park.The edges of the field were thick with vegetation, including wild raspberries, and Queen Anne's lace. I moved in to take a photo of the latter, and noticed a small face regarding me.

It's that regarding part that makes praying mantises so interesting. I believe they are unique among insects in that they have the ability to turn their heads, which they will do as you draw near. Very alien, and yet very human at the same time.

Praying mantis on Queen Anne's lace.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Wild raspberries

Wild raspberries.Wild raspberries, Ft. Washington State Park, Sunday morning.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The 35¢ egg

Egg.I spent $4.25 on a dozen eggs the other day. That works out to a little over 35¢ an egg. Yes, that's a lot to pay for eggs.

I paid so much for these eggs because they came from hens that were "pastured," meaning that they spent their days in pastures rather than chicken coops. (And please note that "pastured" is not the same as "free-range." Free-range means that the chickens are "offered" the opportunity to go outside of the coop via a trapdoor during certain periods of the day should they choose to do so. Given the intellectual capacity of a chicken, this is the same as offering them free cable.)

I decided that paying so much extra for eggs was worth it after reading this passage from Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma,

... [The American laying hen] spends her brief span of days piled together with a half-dozen other hens in a wire cage the floor of which four pages of this book could carpet wall to wall. Every natural instinct of this hen is thwarted, leading to a range of "vices" that can include cannibalizing her cage mates and rubbing her breast against the wire mesh until it is completely bald and bleeding...Pain? Suffering? Madness? The operative suspension of disbelief depends on the acceptance of more neutral descriptors, such as "vices" and "stereotypes" and "stress." But whatever you want to call what goes on in those cages, the 10 percent or so of hens that can't endure it and simply die is built into the cost of production. And when the output of the survivors begins to ebb, the hens will be "force-molted" -- starved of food and water and light for several days in order to stimulate a final bout of egg laying before their life's work is done.

Okay, please understand, I am not here to lecture you on the morality of buying eggs. The surest way to damn any cause you believe in is to become an extremest and start brow beating. I am saying that, along with other changes to my eating habits this year, I have also made this one. It is a personal choice.

It's not just altruism, however. These eggs taste really good. And given the varied diet the hens responsible for them enjoyed, and the lack of hormones and antibiotics, they are better for me too.

I'll shut up now, except to wish you all a great weekend.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Daffodils in July

Daffodils, Historic RittenhouseTown, April evening.

Call it whimsy. Call it nostalgia. Call it not having a new photo ready for today.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Tough nut to crack

I don't know what this fallen nut is. Not shellbark, not walnut, I'm pretty sure. Probably not edible. But boy, what a fragrance! Very spicy, a mixture of lime and evergreen. That doesn't begin to do it justice.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Der himmel über Chestnut Hill College

With apologies to Wim Wenders, who I'm pretty sure doesn't read my blog anyway...

Chestnut Hill College, building and sky.
Chestnut Hill College, building and sky.
Chestnut Hill College, statue and sky.
Chestnut Hill College, dusk, Saturday.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Wild flowers; guardrail

Wild flowers, guardrail, Northwestern Avenue, Saturday, dusk.

Note to my blogging friends: I will be deep within the New Jersey wilderness (oxymoron intentional) the next few days. Please don't be offended if I don't post comments for a while.

Friday, July 11, 2008

She of the black eyes

Black-eyed Susan, off the front porch, Thursday evening.

Happy Anniversary, Abe, to you and Patty! I'll be thinking about you Saturday.

And to all, have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Not the inner chamber of the ear

Interior of a hornet nest.Rather a hornet or bees nest (abandoned, thankfully!), in the rafters above one of my neighbor's kitchen, discovered during renovations...

Hornet nest....the size of a 30 gallon trashcan.

Thank you, Linda Jaymes, for those great photographs!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Beers of the Wissahickon

Beers of the Wissahickon website.I hope you will excuse a bit of shameless self promotion, but I am finally launching my new blog, Beers of the Wissahickon, which will showcase the local beer culture.

As I say in the introduction (and by the way, I just love quoting myself):
Residents of Chestnut Hill, Mt. Airy, Roxborough, Germantown and Manayunk have easy access to many of the world’s greatest achievements in brewing.
One of the places affording that easy access to great beer is Manayunk's Old Eagle Tavern, and it is the subject of the first article.

As you might know if you read yesterday's post on this blog, I support buying local. It's not only good for the local economy, but for the environment as well. So if you're from this area, please support your local brewery, brewpub, or tavern. And if you're not, let me know when you're in town, and I'll buy you a beer.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Having drunk the high-fructose corn syrup free Kool-Aid…

Weavers Way Co-opWeavers Way Co-op, Sunday morning.

Friends would tell you that I don’t have casual interests. Whether it’s home brewing, bike riding, or running, I have to go at it full tilt or not at all. Friends, by the way, are not complimenting me. They find my passion fueled rants and raves on whatever the latest obsession happens to be somewhat trying. Which brings me to my latest obsession…


Well, not food per se. Rather, the getting of food that is healthy, that tastes good, that supports the local economy and especially farmers, that promotes bio-diversity, that doesn’t harm the environment through the use of petroleum derived fertilizers and pesticides, that doesn’t further harm the environment by being shipped half way around the world to cater to the desires of a spoiled consumer base that doesn’t see why it shouldn’t have raspberries in February, that doesn’t make kids fat, and that doesn’t treat animals inhumanely. And so I joined the local co-op.

Expect me to be writing a lot about this in the near future. After all, I consider you all to be my friends. Why shouldn’t you suffer too?

Monday, July 7, 2008

Endangered species?

We need these guys. Seriously, we really do.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Celebrating the Fourth

American flag, front porch, Blue Bell Hill

It seems to me that Americans, in principle a free people, have the right to celebrate or not celebrate the Fourth of July, and if they choose to do so, to celebrate in their own way and for their own reasons.

In a recent editorial in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Chris Satullo argues that America does not “deserve to celebrate its birthday” this year, citing violations of human rights, including torture and imprisonment without charges, which he correctly sees as a sad deviation from the principles set forth in the Declaration of Independence, namely “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

But surely if we are to decide each year whether or not to celebrate the writing of these words based on how well we and our government have followed the principles they invoke, we would never have been able to hold a Fourth of July. For nearly a century after the Declaration of Independence was signed, people kept slaves. Women were denied many of the rights that men routinely held, and were not allowed to vote until 1920. And what of the horrendous treatment of Native Americans? And the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II? The list goes on.

Our government, like all governments, is not perfect. And I would agree that at present we are way off course. Yet I also believe that the values set forth in the Declaration of Independence are still there to correct that course. As values -- as ideals -- they will always remain a force that drives us forward; but as values and ideals, they can never be fully attained.

Abraham Lincoln, perhaps this country’s greatest defender of the Declaration of Independence, understood its tremendous importance in steering the destiny of the nation. That is why he invoked it in the Gettysburg Address as he struggled to help the American people make sense of the horrific loss of life during the Civil War. Adherence to the principle that “all men are created equal” brought us to that war, and the guiding principle of “government of the people, by the people, for the people” helped to bring us back together afterward.

In his article, Satullo chides not just the government for violations of human rights, but you and me as well. That is fair. In a democracy we are all responsible for our country’s actions. But I am not sure that we are as indifferent to the problems and issues as he suggests. The greatest weapon in our arsenal against bad government is our right to vote. Seems we’ve been doing a lot of that lately. I, for one, take much pride in the active involvement of the students at the University where I work during the Pennsylvania primary. I also take much pride in the fact that we have an African American candidate for president this year, and that his main opponent during the primary season was a woman.

So I am going to celebrate the Fourth of July this year. I am going hang the American flag on my front porch. I am going to think about the values set forth in the Declaration of Independence, and of all of those who struggled and died to advance those values. I think it is proper and fitting to do so.

And now I’ll shut up, except to say to those of you who intend to celebrate the Fourth, happy holiday, and to everyone, have a great weekend.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Punched-hole cathedral

Interior, Fingerspan, Wissahickon Valley.

Walking through Fingerspan.
View through the punched-hole mesh of Fingerspan.
Closer view through the punched-hole mesh of Fingerspan.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The shape of a finger

FingerspanFingerspan is secluded deep among the trees along the steep banks of the Wissahickon Gorge, just a short walk south from Livezey House, so that you tend to stumble upon it with surprise rather than seek it out as a destination. If you are in a hurry, you might think "What an odd little bridge," and keep on going. If you are in a more contemplative mood, you will stop in the middle of the span and admire the unique view of the Wissahickon through the punched-hole mesh. Then you might turn around and see the "knuckles" and the "nail" and realize that this is more than just a bridge.
When I think of a bridge, I think of a reaching, a touching, a connection. So I decided to use a finger, the shape of a finger, for the bridge.
-- Jody Pinto
A mini-documentary on artist Jody Pinto's inspiration, as well as footage of the installation of Fingerspan, can be found here:

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Fingerspan Bridge, Wissahickon park.Fingerspan, on the east side of the Wissahickon Valley, a short walk south of Glen Fern.