Monday, November 30, 2009


We are putting on a big holiday festival at the Camden Children's Garden where I work and these guys have been leaning against the fence for a while now, waiting to be set up and decorated. Every time I walk by them I stop, glance around to make sure no one's watching, then lean my whole body into them (nose first) and inhale. I just can't seem to get enough.

I used to do that growing up with the wreath my mom put on the front door at home. That was even better because it was squished between the wooden door where it was hung and the glass door, so the smell was caught between them and when I opened the glass door I released the intensified smell. I would just stand there pressing my face to the prickles for a few moments before I opened the wooden door and went inside.

I wish someone would invent the Smellernet so I could pass on the joy to you.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Oh There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays . . .

. . . baking a mince meat pie with Mom (crust recipe to come) . . .

. . . enjoying a sunlit room . . .

. . . knitting and watching the Parade and the Dog Show . . .

. . . having our own little dog show . . .

. . . receiving two dozen perfect brown eggs from Aunt E's chickens . . .

. . . and eating that meal that you know so well, with people you love (and looking forward to the leftovers). I hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Buzzzz

This weekend we hosted another "Sunday Series" event at The Woodlands Community Garden - a beekeeping talk! There is a local beekeeper who is interested in keeping a few hives at our community garden and we decided to host a talk to convince the landscape committee and the board of the cemetery that this is a good idea. One of our gardeners also keeps bees at Bartram's Garden, so the two of them gave an incredibly informative and fun talk.

The weather was gorgeous again, though a little chilly, and everyone bundled up and enjoyed themselves. I even baked and decorated these little bee cookies for the occasion! I used the Vegan Balsamic Fudge Drops recipe from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen and they are incredible, my go-to cookie recipe. I make them all the time, often substituting regular yogurt for the soy yogurt and wheat flour for white. It's also fun to have people guess the "mystery ingredient" (balsamic vinegar, duh).

After the success of this event and the pumpkin carving event my brain is full of ideas for others. Crafting, story-telling, concerts, workshops!! The possibilities are endless, I'm so excited!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Planty Porch

A few months ago I was asked to judge a container garden contest for the Powelton Village neighborhood in West Philly. The neighborhood had used funds to buy decorative pots for all interested applicants in an effort to beautify the neighborhood. Each household with a pot then planted the pot (or pots) all summer and in August they were all judged (by me!) with a cash reward given to the top three contestants. Below you will find the winner:

Apparently this person wins every year, which doesn't surprise me because the pots were all lovingly tended and nicely placed. They even put some sticks and statues and other props in to add to the aesthetic appeal and make the design cohesive.

I haven't lived in any one place for long enough to establish a porch garden, but there are examples of them all over the city. I'm going to try to take more pictures (next spring, I guess) so you can see what the creative plant people in Philadelphia can do with the concrete space around their house. It's incredible, I tell you.

I would love to sit on that porch with a cup of tea and a book. Lovely.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sunset ride

Darn you, daylight savings time!

At least there's one good thing about commuting at sunset.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Phila Street Art: 45th and Baltimore

Another wheatpaste, this time on a dumpster outside the new Milk and Honey Market in West Philly.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Meeting of the Minds

***The following post is word-heavy and I apologize, but I just had a really exciting meeting and I wanted to share with you some West Phila community garden developments.***

On Wednesday I participated in a discussion between the community garden leaders in West Philadelphia and staff at the University City District (UCD), a nonprofit that aims to "maintain a clean and safe environment and to promote, plan, and advocate for University City's diverse, urban community." (University City is the name some people use to refer to the 2.4 square mile area of West Philadelphia that includes UPenn and my neighborhood.) In general, UCD provides security presence, cleans streets, advocates for local businesses on main business corridors, and is now interested in "sustainability" in University City. It was this last goal that led to the discussion last night.

There were six community garden leaders there, including myself. We discussed ways in which UCD could aid the local community gardens and we came up with a huge list of things! They are interested in becoming a clearinghouse for all community garden information in this area, including up-to-date info on garden locations and contacts which is much needed. They are also able to provide gardeners with dry leaves from their street cleaning that we can use to mix into our compost (gardens produce so much wet green stuff that it's hard to find enough dry brown to mix in so the compost can develop properly). By providing gardens with dried leaves, we will be closing at least one tiny carbon circle in our neighborhood, and saving UCD disposal money so everyone's happy!

Other ideas included providing trash pickup on workdays, woodchips for pathways, access to fire hydrants and rain barrels, assistance with land preservation, and creating an online calendar for workdays and workshops. It seems like this relationship is going to be good for everyone!

In addition to the outcome of the meeting, it was useful to have all of the community garden leaders in the same room talking to one another. That hardly ever happens and I think this is the beginning of a bit more organization amongst us. We can all help one another with information and resources, and it was nice to be able to talk about some of the challenges we're facing as well. I like where this is going.


In other Philadelphia community garden news, there was a report published this month that
summarizes research on the state of community (and "squatter") gardens in Philadelphia. It's called the Harvest Report and it measures the amount of food grown in community gardens and to traces its distribution, with the broader goal of understanding the roles and impacts of community gardens in building food security for households and communities. It was written by a team of people at UPenn in the City Planning and Urban Studies departments. It's quite long, but it contains a history of community gardening in Philadelphia that's worth a read.

According to the report, there are "226 community or squatter gardens growing food [and] 154 ornamental gardens" in Philadelphia. They also estimate that community gardens in Philadelphia produced over two million pounds of vegetables and herbs in the summer of 2008!!!!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Scenes from Longwood Gardens

Here are some favorite shots from a recent trip to Longwood Gardens.

***Waterlily bloom outside the West Conservatory***

***Crazy spiky waterlily leaves outside the West Conservatory***

***Gourd display in the Idea Garden***

***The Cascade Garden in the West Conservatory***

***An arbor of Angel's Trumpet in the outdoor gardens***
My friend and I visited on a gorgeously crisp and sunny day, and we stopped at the Chadds Ford Winery on the way home for a tasting. If you live in the area, their Spiced Apple Wine heated with come cinnamon sticks is perfect for the upcoming chilly days!

Monday, November 9, 2009

The best $3 you can spend in Philly

The Fabric Workshop and Museum is one of my favorite places to take visiting friends in Philly. It's a workshop and gallery space with a small museum shop attached and it costs $3 to get in.

It's the best $3 you can spend in Philadelphia, in my opinion. The exhibits are consistently fascinating, engaging, sometimes beautiful, always eclectic, and leave you inspired. The artists often work within a rich cultural context, like the Alaskan native artist Tommy Joseph who is part of the current exhibit.

A few months ago I went with my friend Andra and one of the galleries was filled with a life-sized sperm whale made entirely out of hand-embroidered felt and inflated with a pump, by the artist Tristin Lowe. Amazing.

What makes it even better is that there are four galleries to explore and apparently they don't have security cameras because you have to be chaperoned by a museum staff member when you enter. So you basically get a personal tour guide the whole time you are in the museum and the people who have taken me around have been incredibly nice and knowledgeable. They are usually artists themselves and some of them have studio space in the workshop.

It's small and relatively unknown, but the price and quality of experience you get at FWM makes it one of the best deals in Philly.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Devil Moo

Just a little apres-Halloween hilarity.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve, New Hope PA

Every day you play with the light of the universe.
Subtle visitor, you arrive in the flower and the water.
You are more than this white head that I hold tightly
as a cluster of fruit, every day, between my hands.

You are like nobody since I love you.
Let me spread you out among yellow garlands.
Who writes your name in letters of smoke among the stars of the south?
Oh let me remember you as you were before you existed.

Suddenly the wind howls and bangs at my shut window.
The sky is a net crammed with shadowy fish.
Here all the winds let go sooner or later, all of them.
The rain takes off her clothes.

The birds go by, fleeing.
The wind. The wind.
I can contend only against the power of men.
The storm whirls dark leaves
and turns loose all the boats that were moored last night to the sky.

You are here. Oh, you do not run away.
You will answer me to the last cry.
Cling to me as though you were frightened.
Even so, at one time a strange shadow ran through your eyes.

Now, now too, little one, you bring me honeysuckle,
and even your breasts smell of it.
While the sad wind goes slaughtering butterflies
I love you, and my happiness bites the plum of your mouth.

How you must have suffered getting accustomed to me,
my savage, solitary soul, my name that sends them all running.
So many times we have seen the morning star burn, kissing our eyes,
and over our heads the gray light unwind in turning fans.

My words rained over you, stroking you.
A long time I have loved the sunned mother-of-pearl of your body.
I go so far as to think that you own the universe.
I will bring you happy flowers from the mountains, bluebells,
dark hazels, and rustic baskets of kisses.

I want
to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.

--Pablo Neruda

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Compost and Woodchips and Fencing, Oh My!

It's been about a month since I started working full time at the Camden Children's Garden. Basically my job is to work with community groups to start gardens and then act as a resource to them to help maintain those gardens. Sometimes this means building a garden and handing it off to a capable group of people, sending them loads of compost or mulch when they request it and visiting to see the progress every now and then. And sometimes it means building a garden and handing it off to someone who doesn't quite know what they are getting themselves into, then checking up on it at the end of the season and finding a jungle. And in both cases, learning is happening. I really enjoy what I am doing right now.


Here's one of our newest gardens in Camden, on the corner of 3rd and Beckett Streets on the waterfront. There's a cocoa bean storage facility across the street, and the smell of bitter chocolate is often in the air.

In the picture above you can see the pile of soil, rocks, and debris that was created when we scraped the top layer of soil off of the empty lot. We do this for every garden to level the surface and to cut down on the amount of weeds we will tackle later in the year.

Here you can see the fence we build around all of our gardens. We pound metal posts into the ground and attach wire fencing, leaving a door that's large enough for a dump truck to drive in and dump a load of compost or mulch.

We build raised beds with mushroom compost from PA, and cover the paths with woodchips. The woodchips come from all over the city and include lots of different trees, which create a rainbow effect when they are all piled together.

The pile also makes a great chair.

This garden is growing larger every day and we have big plans for it. I'll share more as the plans unfold!