Nature Preschool Open House

Tues., March 10. 6 to 7:30 p.m.

Intro to Cold Process Soap Making

Wed., March 11. 7 to 9:30 p.m.

Land Ethics Symposium

Thurs., March 12. 8 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.

 

  

  



 

 

Entries in Dispatch (39)

Saturday
Sep132014

One Step At a Time

What a sustainability leader learned walking
from Boston to San Diego

Considering a green career? You might research the field by hiking it. In 1978, I crossed the U.S. entirely on foot through forests and desert, along a maze of quiet dirt and gravel roads, by day and at night, in rain, hail and blasting sunshine. Measuring America with my body, I found it grander than any book, movie, statistic or voyage by car, train, plane or bicycle could reveal.

Illustration by James BoyleIntending to reinvent myself as an urban ecologist, I began walking from my home in Boston toward the Pacific Ocean via San Diego. After 199 days and 3,500 miles, I covered a distance greater than the diameter of the moon, or halfway to the center of the earth.

Where did it get me? To new places, exposed to people, animals and storms. To novel encounters daily. Through forests, fields, deserts, mountains and rivers. Having started with $20 and a slim backpack, I worked odd jobs to buy supplies: picked apples in a migrant camp, taught half a day of school, hauled lumber, mopped floors, joined a carnival and built a donkey shed. 

I discovered that the whole world is a bed, finding shelter in apple orchards, barns, pastures, sheds, log cabins, wagons, abandoned homes, haystacks, churches, greenhouses, trailers, picnic tables, porches, gazebos, parks, stables, grandstands, sand dunes and yards. And I rediscovered that people are generous. I appeared from the woods at their doors, shared meals, attended parties, reunions and ice cream socials, and learned much of enduring worth.

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Sunday
Aug102014

Watered Down

A closed-loop system springs a leak

In 2010, my husband Ben and I had been bit by the small-farm bug. I had just swapped a career in managing concert venues and nightclubs to start working with farm and food businesses. He was a paramedic who had lived on a Kibbutz in Israel for four years milking cows, picking avocadoes and doing field work.

Illustration by Sarah FeroneWe had just moved into our first apartment in Philadelphia, but were sure that within five years we’d buy a farm and build something of our own. We grew sprouts, wheatgrass and greens under a small shop light. We hung upside-down tomato planters, with boxes of basil and cilantro underneath to catch the drainage. Our humble harvests had us wide-eyed, knowing that we were planting the seeds of our future. 

One day I came home from work, and Ben had surprised me by building our koi fish tank into an aquaponic herb planter. I was mesmerized watching the fish swimming through tunnels of dangling basil roots. Aquaponics is a soil-free cultivation that takes hydroponics to another level by creating an ecosystem that uses the fish waste for plant food. In hydroponics, the grower mixes nutrients into the water reservoir to feed the plants.

Wanting to experiment with both techniques, we traded in our dining room table for a 16-square-foot hydroponic system to grow greens. When our koi started to get too big for their tank, something clicked. Why not retrofit this hydro system to be fed by the fish and solve two problems at once? We were soon swept off our feet by aquaponics, watching every Murray Hallam video we could find on YouTube, and phrases like “closed-loop sustainable system” started peppering our dinner conversations. But soon our apartment was bursting at the seams with equipment, and tying to balance the flow of water for 10 hours a day wasn’t working. We kept springing leaks, which the bank below us did not appreciate. 

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Tuesday
Jul222014

The Family Stone

Illustration by James Heimer

A two-century-old stone mill
gets a second life generations later

My grandfather, Henry Fischer, was a master miller in Bavaria when he decided at age 20 to immigrate to the U.S. A classic American immigrant story of hard work and new beginnings, he eventually owned his own moving and storage company in Doylestown, but his passion for water mills remained. In 1947, he bought the run-down Castle Valley Mill property, spent a year restoring the house, and moved his family in. While he never got the mill running again, he continued to make repairs as time and money allowed, and collected mill stones and machinery— including an 1830 rolling screen, 1910 seed cleaner, 1888 disc aspirator and a 1880 Nordyke-Marmon stone mill—from all over Bucks County as mills were torn down or turned into restaurants and gift shops. My father, Robert Fischer, lived at Castle Valley from age 12 until he left for a career in the Air Force and aviation. Though it was his cherished childhood home, milling was not in his future. 

 

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Tuesday
Jul012014

Rebels With a Cause

Illustration by Chris Hall

Entrepreneurial middle schoolers evolve
into focused jerky makers

1998. Downingtown Middle School Cafeteria. Fifth period lunch. I had just finished my brown-bagged salami, mustard and Cooler Ranch Doritos sandwich, and scrounged through my backpack for the $5 bill my mom gave me each morning for drinks and snacks. I got the same thing everyday: strawberry kiwi lemonade ($1.49), a giant chocolate chip cookie ($1), and a Taco Bell soft taco ($1.50). Yes, our cafeteria actually served Taco Bell, an inconceivable travesty by current childhood nutrition standards, and heaven on earth to a 12-year-old. It was that golden era of flavor, when adulterated concerns like “health” and “natural ingredients” never got in the way of unalloyed indulgence.

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Friday
May092014

Earning Her Chops

illustration by Alexander Ciambriello

I have no interest in slaughtering animals. I have borne witness and it’s intense, hot, primal and best left to the people who are skilled at doing it quickly and humanely. But as a meat-eater, I wanted to “get to know” a whole animal in a visceral way, not just frozen packages of muscle and bone. One Sunday last winter, armed with sharp knives, determination and the book Whole Beast Butchery, my friend Ann Karlen, the founding director of Fair Food, and I took on the challenge of “breaking down” a pasture-raised hogget, or adolescent sheep. Three hours later, that beast was arrayed before us, a buffet of roasts, chops and stewing meat. 

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