Raw Vegetarian Food with Atiya Olater

Tues., June 30, 6 to 8 p.m. 

Nightscape: A Light & Sound Experience

Wed., July 1, 9 p.m. 

Venice Island Live: Outdoors

Thurs., July 2, 6-10 p.m. 

 

  



 

 

Entries in Dispatch (41)

Friday
Nov212014

Dust to Dust

A local project commemorates the loss
of a beloved home in Mantua

Illustration by Kathleen White

If you’re like me and you live in Philadelphia, chances are you did not build your own home. So, what you call “your” kitchen or “your” bedroom was actually someone else’s kitchen and bedroom before you moved in. Imagine flipping through a complete stranger’s photo album filled with cherished pictures of Thanksgiving dinners and shoveling out the car in front of the house, but the house they’re in front of is now yours. And the Thanksgiving dinner was going on in what is now “your” dining room. 

I think about this a lot: the recycling of our homes and the gradual accumulation of personal histories they have silently sheltered over generations. This simple premise is the basis of a project I’ve been involved in called Funeral for a Home

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Saturday
Oct182014

A Man for All Seasons

Illustration by Laura Weiszer

A cyclist's commitment to all-weather commuting

Last October I got serious about biking. I know it was October because that’s when I ordered a pair of waterproof pants from Amazon. I had already been biking mostly everywhere for just over half a decade, but I had made a conscious decision to only bike, regardless of the weather. So I already had slightly leaky rain boots and a rain jacket, and the only missing component to biking through a downpour was rain pants. Before buying those pants, it was far too easy for a rainy day to force me onto the trolley, but since then I really had no excuse but to bike to work.

My partner Nikki and I shared a car, using it maybe once a week, but when we moved to West Philadelphia, I wanted to prove to myself that I could eliminate even those occasional weekly trips. With the exception of occasional family visits to western Pennsylvania, I wanted to be car-free.

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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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