Last August, I spent a week at Sunset Lake in Benson, Vermont with my wife, daughter and friends. I spend 90% of my time in the city so this was a very welcomed change of pace. I hadn’t been to Vermont in many many years and forgot just how rural is it. I encounter more strangers in the first five minutes of my day in Philly than I did the entire week we were there.
earlier today i took my students the self dubbed “village photo crew” on a photo walk to the open kitchen sculpture garden in kensington. when we arrived at the intersection of lehigh avenue and american street i noticed a woman wearing a brightly colored overgarment. she clashed with her surroundings and caught my eye not because of what she was wearing but because she was clipping plants from the landscaping outside of a rite aid. i’m a strong proponent of guerrilla gardening and the re-allocation/ propagation of city plants but rarely do i see others participating in this exercise. i walked over and asked if i could take a few pictures of her. she gracefully took my hand and introduced herself as tatiana from armenia. when i asked why she was taking the cuttings she peacefully said she was going to place them on her altar to allah. she then said she would be happy to pose as she’s often asked which she attributed to her “historic look”
As the wife of a photographer, Natasha often falls victim to my camera. After being together for ten years, I’ve shoved my lens in her face upwards of ten billion times. It’s gotten to the point where I know not to point it in her direction anymore. That being said I wasn’t going to let the opportunity to shoot maternity photos of her while visiting her parents out in magical Cape Cod pass me by. It took some convincing but she eventually acquiesced and here are the results.
Meet Derek (Bagel) Bakal and his puppets. They’re an odd yet wildly entertaining and very photogenic bunch. If you’d like to learn to make puppets you should reach out to Derek. He’s a brilliantly creative teacher/ mad man.
Volunteer and grant writer brings many skills to East Kensington’s Emerald Street Urban Farm
When Bryan Thompsonowak, 37, was young, his father, a bricklayer and “all-around handyman-type of a guy,” taught him to not be afraid of trying new things. He applied that lesson when he tackled the construction of a three-bin compost system and a rainwater catchment system at Emerald Street Urban Farm in East Kensington.
The farm’s managers Nic and Elisa Esposito needed to expand their volunteer base because they were expecting their first child. That’s when Thompsonowak stepped up, volunteering on Mondays from May to October.
“It’s nice to have a project close to home, and it’s not just the work; it’s the people that you’re there volunteering with,” says Thompsonowak, whose last name is a result of combining his and his wife Sharon Nowak’s last name.
Founded in 2009 by Elisa Esposito and the former farm director of Marathon Farms, Patrick Dunn, ESUF reclaimed and transformed five vacant lots in East Kensington. The farm, which sits a few doors down from his home, offers produce through a weekly donation-based farmstand and several pick-your-own community garden plots. The core group of about a dozen volunteers also runs an outreach and education program.
The East Kensington Neighbors Association has worked closely with ESUF and various other organizations, such as the Kensington Community Food Co-Op and Hackett Elementary School, to improve the East Kensington neighborhood. President Clare Dych helps lead the various sectors of EKNA in addressing the concerns and actions of the community by hosting monthly meetings to discuss zoning and planning within the neighborhood, and by promoting the Clean Up and Green Space Committees that work to protect and maintain the local parks.
This past spring, the farm received a $1,000 grant from the association to support the farm and their youth programming. “ESUF has given so much to the East Kensington neighborhood, all on a shoestring budget, and we felt it was time to give back,” Dych says in an email.
Thompsonowak also wrote an application on behalf of ESUF for a grant provided by the Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust given to nonprofits that further the field of ornamental horticulture through education and research. Esposito was blown away: “This went beyond the commitment of coming out every Monday. If we get the grant, it will be a huge game-changer for us.”
This winter, Thompsonowak, who’s also a graduate student of the Longwood Graduate Program in Public Horticulture, will continue the program through the University of Delaware with hopes of advancing his career within public gardens. But he won’t be too far from the farm.
“Volunteering at the farm has made me more invested in the neighborhood,” Thompsonowak says. “Being a part of something that is 100 percent good for the neighborhood is great.”
The outer cape (wellfleet, truro and provincetown) has a certain romantic majesty that for me never seems to fade. This may have something to do with the occasional day dream I have of working as a lowly deck hand aboard an 18th century whaling ship. I’ve made the trek out to Truro countless times over the better part of the the past decade to visit Tasha’s (my wife’s) family and each time I come away feeling humbled for having the privilege of experiencing such a monumentally magical land (and sea) scape. so here’s a rather long gallery featuring eighty photos from my latest trip which took place this past late August/ early September.
Last month while visiting the in-laws, my wildly creative artist mother in law Deb Mell and I collaborated on some photos of her two grandchildren (and my niece and nephew) Zara (4) and Beckett (4 months). Earlier in the summer we had all visited D.C. and popped into a handful of museums including the Hirshhorn. At some point Deb and I found ourselves strolling silently through a photo gallery more or less unimpressed until our gazes became simultaneously fixed upon a single image of a harshly lit lone figure standing in the woods. It was delightfully creepy and I was not surprised when she asked if when I visited next we’d subject Zara and Beckett to a similar sitting. So here it is. Two creepy kids in the woods.
Natasha and I went wandering through the Forbidden Trail along the Wissahickon Creek the other day. We climbed steep slippery slopes (stairs provided to aid hikers), encountered threatening wildlife (some dog playing in the water) and forded the deep rushing whitewater river (wading up to our ankles to cross back to the side of the creek our car was on) All in all a lovely wander.
I have an amazing backyard with an amazing garden which I love. I spend lots of time back there planting, pruning and perfecting. So when I noticed a horde of caterpillars decimating my dill and fennel plants I had to take action. A friend who was over pointed out that these fat little green goobers were black swallowtail butterflies. So I decided to keep them. I put together a fern leaf dill filled terrarium and transported them with the intention of building a bigger enclosure for them after I returned from being away over the weekend. However, when I got back they had already sealed themselves into their Chrysalis. I decided to leave them as is and waited for the transformation to finish. When I walked out to check on them this morning two fully formed beautiful black swallowtails had emerged and were waiting for release. Needless to say I was thrilled my little science experiment came to fruition.
Chrysalis Shell after the first butterfly emerged
Three of the Chrysalis’s fell to the bottom so I used some chopsticks to prop them back up
This poor lady’s ( i think it’s a female) wings didn’t develop properly. I did some research and there’s no way she’d survive outside. Luckily I have a variety of terrariums perfect for butterflies throughout my apartment. I added some banana and sugar water for food and branches for her to perch.