Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Wissahickon Restoration Volunteers

I'm not sure if I will make this Saturday but it would make a good complement to last week's weed pulling. If you need volunteer opportunities, check out the Greater Philadelphia Cares web site. View environmental projects directly.

Wissahickon Restoration Volunteers needs 5 to 10 volunteers on Saturday October 4, 2008. The work sessions are around Roxborough and Mount Airy and usually occur twice per month. Projects are removing invasive plants, planting trees and shrubs, rescuing trees from vines, and performing trail maintenance in Wissahickon Park. All work is outdoors and helps preserve a woodland park. All tools, gloves, and materials are provided. The project leader is
Ron Ayres. His telephone number is 215-653-0421 or 215-483-4348. Send email inquiries to wrv.info {at} rhd.org. See the Wissahickon Restoration Volunteers web site for additional information.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

No Snakes Today

This weekend Mr. Philly Organic and I weeded a soil area between the street and the retaining wall at the edge of our property. We don't think of the area as anything special, just a collection spot for dog waste, stoners, weeds, and some illegal dumping. A couple times a year we clean. We'd like to plant something hardy and low maintenance but some of our neighbors randomly chip in and use weed whackers there. Technically, it is our property and our responsibility.

Yesterday had amazing rewards. Although I grew up in a rural area, I saw the largest caterpillars of my life practically in my own back yard. They were black and nearly an inch in diameter when curled up. We found two of these mighty caterpillars.

The best reward? Three beautiful red snakes. Sadly I did not photograph them. I say "sadly" because allegedly there are no red snakes in Pennsylvania. They were tiny and we found them all apart. None of them seemed afraid of us and they did not act aggressively. Mainly they stayed still and watched us until we moved beyond them. I'm sure two of them were immature because they were so small. They had round, nonvenomous pupils and fast- flicking black tongues. Two had lines down their backs but one seemed to have triangles and, possibly, the lines also. They were tiny as snakes go, a few inches long and very thin. One stayed in its niche in the wall and did not come out but watched me intently. It seemed quite a bit longer than the other two, still less than twelve inches. When they tried to hide, they moved rapidly in the curve method.

I posted to Pawild.net. Another user suggested they were baby Northern red belly snakes. He consulted two books. One said Northern red belly snakes aren't in Philadelphia but another said they are. I hope to photograph them and I looked for them again today. It's rainy and cloudy without any visible snakes. Now I have a new project: find and document my beautiful snakes. I hope that they will stick around or at least move to the half of the wall that belongs to the house behind ours and is still protected by weeds.

I'd planned to take pictures of the weeding project and to ask readers for advice about what to plant in this narrow strip. I never considered it a habitat or ecology before. It's so narrow, not more than four feet at the widest point and it borders a street. Now I'm glad that I didn't photograph it because I don't want people to bother the snakes. The pressure to plant something there is greater because I want to provide protection and habitat for the snakes and need to discourage people using the spot for unsavory activities. Building a greener life doesn't only mean buying organic produce or composting your leaves and coffee grounds. It also means protecting the micro natural zones in cities and realizing that even that narrow island can host wildlife.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Moving to a Greener Life

"Going green." It's today's action item as the University of Delaware removes plastic trays from its cafeteria and Septa declares itself green. I've always tried to live in an ecologically aware way, from buying apple shampoo in the early 90s to never owning a car. Sometimes these decisions saved me money but often I chose to spend extra money on a less toxic product. If cost was truly prohibitive or an alternative didn't exist, I opted for old fashioned, home remedies.

Living an ecological life is easier now because demand and the industry have grown but not necessarily become cheaper. As an individual who sought to live a cutting-edge lifestyle (not bleeding edge, however), I've decided to make my life greener and to share the process with others. I've never been wealthy so I'll continue to focus on products and techniques that are affordable (without defining affordable as requiring a six-figure salary), practical, and easy. This is not an organic gardening blog but rather a blog about the small, simple, affordable steps anyone can take to reduce environmental impact. I hope you'll find the information useful and that you'll be inspired to integrate some of my ideas into your life too.

My aim is not to encourage consumption. I want to find practical actions that are simple and economical. It's my special goal to target ways to green an urban life, where we have high density population and close proximity. As a beginning marker, I'll share a little about myself. I live in Philadelphia, in the Wissahickon section with my longterm partner. Until a couple years ago, I was an apartment dweller in various Philly neighborhoods. Our house is an older house and we have very bad soil. There is a lot to do to our house and to our soil to conserve resources and energy and to build a more sustainable life. There's a lot to do just to grow a garden! As we try to green, I will share our attempts, including mistakes and successes and we'll try to make it applicable to as many people as possible. If I write about something that is specific to Philadelphia or uniquely found here, perhaps it will encourage others to offer the same endeavor in their own locations or to identify other alternatives. So come along for the journey!