Philly Maker Week

Wed., Sept. 17 through Sun., Sept. 21. 

Food For Thought: Eating in Season

Thurs., Sept. 18, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m

Bike Ride on the Schuylkill River Trail

Sat., Sept. 20 through Sun., Sept. 21







Butterflies Count

This Silver-Spotted Skipper was one of many butterfly species that were documented during a July count around Bryn Mawr. | Photo by Jen Britton

Volunteer efforts across the region keep track
of our fine fluttering friends

The flashy colors of butterflies are matched only by their names: red admirals, great spangled fritillaries, tiger swallowtails, painted ladies and summer azures. On July 10, 13 volunteers at the North American Butterfly Association (NABA)’s annual Fourth of July butterfly count spotted all these species in all their regalia. The volunteers, who identified 18 other species too, visited six sites in a 15-mile radius around Bryn Mawr, Pa., to document all the butterflies they could find. More than 400 teams (including one at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge) participated in NABA’s three seasonal counts to provide snapshots of butterfly populations.

Volunteers included butterfly enthusiasts and parents looking to connect their kids to nature. Butterfly volunteer Jan Clark-Levenson says that walking through fields and forests to see what flutters by is “a child-friendly sort of thing.” Claire Morgan, community garden and volunteer coordinator for the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education—one of the stops for the Bryn Mawr team—says the butterfly census is an opportunity to engage non-scientists in important research. It is also a chance to promote butterfly-friendly practices. But if Philadelphians want to help, “the biggest thing they can do is plant native plants,” Morgan says. Natives not only offer flowers to adult butterflies but serve as hosts for their caterpillars.

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Falling for Flatbreads

Flatbreads are great for an easy dinner on—or off—the grill. | Photo by Emily Teel

Fire up the grill as autumn begins to chill

Although I enjoy soups, stews, root vegetables and roasts as much as the next locavore, I try to postpone that kind of cold-weather cooking for as long as possible. These flatbreads are my compromise: a nod toward autumnal flavors cooked on a grill for one last warm weather hurrah.

The flatbread recipe yields six portions, enough for two each of the following flavors, one of which is vegan. Paired with a salad and something sweet, the full recipe will easily feed six. If the evening gets a little too chilly, throw your flatbreads back onto a warm grill to crisp up just before serving.

Flatbread dough

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Sweet Cheeks

Rebourne’s upcycled and reusable diapers keep
babies’ bums dry and reduce waste

A few times each year, Marni Duffy spends the day digging through bins of old thrift store sweaters at a warehouse outside of New York City. She looks for just the right type of soft, untreated merino wool to haul back to Philadelphia. There, in the tiny basement workshop of her Fishtown rowhome, she’ll give new life to the sweaters by turning them into hand-sewn cloth diaper covers for Rebourne Clothing. 

Rebourne Clothing's Woolie Wrap will keep baby happy and dry while keeping diapers out of the landfill. | Photo by Megan GrayWool is a great material to use, the mother of three says, because it can absorb up to one-third of its weight in moisture without feeling wet, is naturally antimicrobial and it neutralizes odors. “Some wool is scratchy, but I only use organic fibers that are really nice, and breathable against the skin,” she says.

Changing diapers is often a messy, tedious job that, due to the prevalent usage of disposable diapers, also wreaks havoc on the planet. Disposable diapers account for up to 30 percent of non-biodegradable waste in landfills and can take up to 450 years to break down, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Because of this, there is a growing community of parents and caretakers who are choosing reusable options.

Duffy, 31, is one such parent, who turned her passion for sustainability into a business. In 2009, she launched Rebourne Clothing. She makes and sells wool diaper covers she calls “Woolie Wraps,” wool pants and shorts that double as diaper covers; organic cloth diaper inserts; and other accessories for mama and baby made from new and upcycled materials. Duffy credits her sewing skills and do-it-yourself ethos to her late mother Laura, a seamstress who, “made things meant to last.”

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Engaging Personality

Bartram's Garden volunteer Mary Armstrong says the historic site has "something for everybody." | Photo by Dan Murphy

Mary Armstrong expands Bartram's Garden network

Longtime Bartram’s Garden volunteer Mary Armstrong says she especially loves engaging visitors from the Southwest Philadelphia neighborhoods that surround the garden. “I like the fact that you can get people who just stumble in with their bikes, start talking to them, engaging them,” she says. “It’s a place of refuge. It’s important to keep it here—not just as a piece of history, but as a place for people to go.”

Since volunteering in 2009 at Bartram’s as a community ambassador, Armstrong has inspired many to become members of the 45-acre urban oasis and former home to one of America’s first botanists, John Bartram.

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High Class

Educators receive discounts at Oxford Mills' mixed-use apartments in South Kensington

Oxford Mills, a residential and commercial development, is a renovated former dye works factory. | Images courtesy D3 Real EstateLafeesah Waalee’s fell in love with the exposed brick of Oxford Mills apartments in South Kensington, but what sealed the deal for her was the opportunity to live among a community of educators—and at a discounted rate. 

Oxford Mills, a residential and commercial development billed as “an urban oasis” for teachers and nonprofits, offers living and working space to educators and “progressive, culturally-minded Philadelphians.”

Waalee, 22, says the idea of living in a community of educators was a selling point. “I’m very excited about it because of all the resources that are right here,” she says. A graduate of John Bartram High School who earned a degree from Lincoln University earlier this year, Waalee just embarked on a two-year commitment with Teach for America (TFA) as a math specialist at the Southwest Leadership Academy Charter School. She already knows at least four other TFA teachers living at Oxford Mills. 

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