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Gorgeous Wyncote rain garden becomes a teachable moment

Mary E. Myers, a landscape architect and associate professor at Temple University, created a lush rain garden in suburban Philadelphia. Folks in the neighborhood have taken notice. 

"I wanted to increase biodiversity, but I wanted it to be aesthetically appealing, so that people would accept it and want to do it," said Ms. Myers, 62, standing by the sweep of blue mistflowers rolling down to the sidewalk. "People walk by and say, 'What’s that? It’s beautiful.'"

She often gives them some seeds or self-seeded native plants. And when someone from down the street longs for those blue mistflowers, she says, "Don’t worry, the wind will bring them to you."

With the shapes, colors and textures of more than 50 native species here — the elegant branching of the young black gum tree, the dogwood and shadbush turning deep red, the handsome seed heads of hibiscus, the fig-like fruits of the bottlebrush buckeye — this dynamic landscape is nothing like the scruffy patches of weeds too often referred to as rain gardens.

As Ms. Myers said, "It looks intentional and maintained..."

She counted 23 species when they moved in, 16 of them nonnative. Now the count is up to 127, most of them native.


Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.

Chester County's Longwood Gardens gears up for $90 million upgrade

Chester County's Longwood Gardens -- home to one of America's top restrooms -- will benefit from a $90 million renovation.

The Main Fountain Garden at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania will undergo a $90 million upgrade, it was announced on Thursday. The garden, which has been in continuous use since Pierre S. du Pont – Longwood’s founder — turned on the fountains in 1931, will be improved by Beyer Blinder BelleFluidity, and West 8.

The project includes replacing the infrastructure, adding technology for new water choreography and creating new spaces in the five-acre garden. The south wall of the garden’s wall-mounted fountains, which has been closed to the public for the last 20 years, will reopen as part of the renovation.

Groundbreaking is to begin in October and the fountain garden is to reopen in the spring of 2017.


Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.

Study to look at impact of wind farms in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania General Assembly's nonpartisan research organization will author a report on the impact of wind farms on the state. Can this renewable energy source work for PA?

Legislators instructed the commission to cover certain basic details, including who owns wind turbines in Pennsylvania, how many there are, which agencies oversee them and how they are regulated.

The report also must include touchier subjects, like comparisons between wind and other energy sources — such as coal, oil, gas and nuclear — in terms of government subsidies and environmental impacts on wildlife and the landscape. It must address wind turbines’ effect on the electric grid and wind energy’s progress in relation to the state’s mandated minimum share of alternative energy in electricity sales.


Original source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
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Should we let the Susquehanna River run wild?

A story in the New York Times questions the damming of the mighty Susquehanna River.

The Susquehanna’s 27,000-square-mile watershed was once home to remarkable runs of migratory fishes — and none more so than the American shad, a type of herring. In 1827, one net hauled in was said to have contained an astounding 15 million shad and river herring. A commercial fishing operation on the river stationed a sentry on a hillside to watch for the moving bulge in the waters that signaled another huge school approaching. Shad were such a mainstay of regional diets that traveling fishmongers would blow horns and shout “shad-o” to announce the availability of this delicacy.

Despite efforts to create “ladders” and “elevators” for fish to travel past them, the dams have devastated shad migrations. The official goal remains the passage of two million shad beyond the fourth dam so they can reach suitable spawning grounds — a modest target, given the original run sizes. In 2014, exactly eight shad made it past the fourth dam. That’s an improvement over 2011, when none did...

With all this in mind, policy makers need to take the only responsible step and remove the dams. True, they produce valuable electricity that would be tough to replace. But there are alternatives. By our calculations, a solar park built on the drained floor of the empty Conowingo Reservoir could allow the river to run beside it and replace the 575 megawatts the dam generates. And low-head hydropower arrays — devices that pull energy from the river without impeding it — could add even more.


Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.

Tesla gets the green light for five stores in PA

Tesla, the high-end manufacturer of electric cars, has gotten the go-ahead to open give stores in the Commonwealth.

If you Keystone Staters are looking for a more elegant, environmentally friendly way to transport cheesesteaks and Wawa hoagies, your time has nearly come. Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett signed a bill yesterday allowing Tesla to open up five "dealerships," which means you'll soon be able to buy yourself a Model S without jumping through all those traditional (and awful) hoops. Once you've visited a location to see Elon Musk's work in action, you order one online and wait. Simple as that. As the Associated Press points out, the law opens the door for any other electric car company to do the same, assuming it doesn't try to sell (or have a vested interest in selling) cars from other manufacturers. ?

Original source: Engadget
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Pushing BRT in bustling urban centers, including Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh's Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system has been a huge success -- but there is still a battle over its integration into Downtown.

Space is the biggest battle, says Weinstock, but the problem is largely illusory. In technical terms, any street 40-feet wide can handle BRT. Drivers and businesses often fear the loss of traffic lanes or parking and delivery areas, but traffic patterns and customers tend to find a way of rerouting themselves — as they did when New York repurposed hundreds of miles of city streets during the Bloomberg administration (albeit for bikes and pedestrians).

More often, says Weinstock, the challenge is political will masquerading as street space. "People like to say there's no space," she says. "It's more that there's not the political will to take the space that exists."

Take the case of the East Busway — a dedicated BRT highway in metro Pittsburgh. The busway has done loads of good for the city: it's stimulated hundreds of millions of dollars in development and contributed to the 38 percent of city commuters who reach downtown by bus. ITDP recently gave it a bronze BRT rating.

But the East Busway loses a lot of its impact when it enters mixed traffic downtown. Bus traffic is so bad within the city center, with riders crowding sidewalks, that businesses have urged local officials to eliminate buses from entering the downtown area at all. Weinstock say the problem could be avoided by running true BRT downtown, because the buses would be organized in an attractive and efficient way.


Original source: The Atlantic's CityLab
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Robotic milking machines impact the dairy industry in PA

New robotic technology for milking cows has come to the United States, including Pennsylvania.

Desperate for reliable labor and buoyed by soaring prices, dairy operations...are charging into a brave new world of udder care: robotic milkers, which feed and milk cow after cow without the help of a single farmhand.

Scores of the machines have popped up across New York’s dairy belt and in other states in recent years, changing age-old patterns of daily farm life and reinvigorating the allure of agriculture for a younger, tech-savvy — and manure-averse — generation...


The machines are not inexpensive, costing up to $250,000 (not including barn improvements) for a unit that includes a mechanical arm, teat-cleaning equipment, computerized displays, a milking apparatus and sensors to detect the position of the teats. Pioneered in Europe in the 1990s, they have only recently taken hold in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and New York.

Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.
 

Endangered Atlantic Sturgeon shows up north of Easton

A huge, rare fish showed up on the banks of the Delaware River north of Easton.

A commission biologist confirmed Monday afternoon that the landowner found an Atlantic sturgeon, an endangered species that can grow up to 15 feet long and weigh more than 100 pounds. It’s by far the largest fish navigating the Delaware River and perhaps the most elusive.

This particular sturgeon was a male measuring about 6 feet 3 inches, according to Forks Township resident Marty Crozier, who discovered the carcass while doing maintenance on his dock Saturday. Crozier said he called the commission and led a field biologist to it Monday.

“I’ve been on this river for 50 years and it’s the first time I’ve ever seen something of that nature,” said the semi-retired Crozier, 60. “It was an experience. Let me put it that way.”

Greg Murphy, a fisheries biologist with the commission, said the commission should have more information on the sturgeon later this week. In addition to taking various measurements, the field biologist was expected to check to see if the fish was tagged as part of a research program aimed at tracking Atlantic sturgeon. If that’s the case, a wealth of information could be gleaned, he said.


Original source: Lehigh Valley Live
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Live-streaming Pittsburgh's bald eagles

The Pennsylvania Game Commission is now live streaming an eagles nest in Pittsburgh. 

Only 30 years ago, Pennsylvania had a mere three bald eagle nests left in the entire state. Today, Pennsylvania boasts more than 250 nests including this one near Pittsburgh. Click here to view a 20-minute documentary about bald eagle restoration in Pennsylvania and learn bald eagle fast facts, identification tips, nest viewing etiquette and more.

This camera provides a way for us to view the nest without stressing the birds. Federal mandates prohibit anyone from approaching within 660 feet of any bald eagle nest from January 15 until young eagles fledge. It is important to note that nature includes all creatures not just the eagles and eggs showcased through this camera. The Game Commission's mission is to manage Pennsylvania's wild birds, mammals and their habitats for current and future generations. Although we hope to watch three young eagles fledge from this nest, we advocate for all native wildlife and therefore will not take measures to prevent another animal (such as the raccoon that made an attempt at the eggs) from conducting its natural behavior. Despite predation and other nest failures, the bald eagle population is increasing at a rate of 10 to 15 percent each year.


Check out the livestream here.
Via ABC 27

PA's Trickling Springs Creamery provides vital ingredient in NYC's top Irish coffee

The Irish owners of New York's The Dead Rabbit searched far and wide for the perfect cream to top an Irish Coffee. They found what they were looking for in Pennsylvania.

"I think the cream we were using in Ireland had more oil content," said Jack McGarry, who, with his business partner Sean Muldoon, worked at the Merchant Hotel bar in Belfast before moving to New York and opening the Dead Rabbit last year. "But when we came here it wasn’t the same. We knew it for the first year we were open. It’s a problem we had from Day 1."

The solution to the tavern’s cream quandary presented itself in December at a Brooklyn dinner party where Mr. Muldoon met Patrick Watson, the proprietor of Stinky Bklyn, a cheese and charcuterie shop. Mr. Watson was primed for a cream conversation, as he had recently returned from a very dairy family vacation in Ireland.

"As I was having my Guinness, my two 14-year-old nephews are drinking a glass of milk," he recalled of the trip. "And they were freaking out, like we were freaking out about the Guinness. I figured, if a 14-year-old kid is freaking out, I’d better taste this milk. So the whole trip was about dairy."

Mr. Muldoon asked him if he could find a quality cream for the Irish coffee. So Mr. Watson sent his buyer, Katy McNulty, on a milk hunt. "We took eight or nine creams and whittled it down to five," he said.

Their favorite was from Trickling Springs Creamery in south central Pennsylvania. "It had a deeper color," Mr. Watson said. "It had this flavor and texture to it that was naturally sweet."

The bar owners agreed. "This cream is completely different," Mr. McGarry said. "It’s almost eggy."


Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.

Quail eggs from PA make it onto state dinner menu

The state dinner menu in honor of President François Hollande of France will feature quail eggs from Pennsylvania alongside other domestic delicacies.

In a nod to French cuisine, the menu will meld all-American food with French flair, set against a backdrop of purple irises and the music of the Bronx-raised, Grammy-winning artist Mary J. Blige.

The meal will include quail eggs from Pennsylvania and American Osetra caviar from the president’s adopted home state of Illinois, as well as 12 kinds of potatoes.

Michelle Obama’s fingerprints are especially evident in the salad course, featuring a “winter garden salad” of what the White House called petite mixed radishes, merlot lettuce and baby carrots inspired by the first lady’s kitchen garden.

The main course will be a dry-aged rib eye of beef, brought in from a family farm in Colorado and topped with blue cheese from Vermont.


Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete source here.

PA Farm Show descends on Harrisburg

Half a million people -- and 6,000 animals -- are coming together to celebrate local food at the Pennsylvania Farm Show. (The event runs through January 11.)

There are 13,000 competitive exhibits, from nuts to Christmas trees, from chickens to cows, along with 300 commercial exhibitors, including many selling food products and crafts, and tradesmen touting their wares.
 
With the theme "Pennsylvania Farms: Growing for You," the 2014 show highlights agriculture's $67 billion impact on the state's economy.

There may not be as many farmers as once plowed the fields and milked the cows of Pennsylvania, but the number of farms actually grew by 5,000 from 2002 to 2007, according to the state Department of Agriculture. There are now 62,200 farms, and agriculture remains Pennsylvania's number-one industry.


Original source: The Philadelphia Inquirer
Read the complete story here.


Eagles on top of NFC East, clean energy

BusinessWeek writes about the NFC East-leading Philadelphia Eagles and the team's innovative use of alternative energy and power distribution at its stadium, Lincoln Financial Field.
 
The stadium’s current power capacity pushes up to the limit for “customer-generators,” or small producers, in Pennsylvania. More solar panels would trigger different regulations, Smolenski said. In particular, the stadium could no longer participate in so-called net-metering, which allows small producers to sell power back into the grid. It would instead belong to a category of power producers that must participate in wholesale electricity markets, according to an NRG Energy spokesperson.
 
Original source: Business Week
Read the full story here.
 

How Philadelphia sustainability pioneer Judy Wicks mixes food, fun and social activism

Christian Science Monitor profiles pioneering, sustainability-focused entrepreneur and restaurauter Judy Wicks.
 
In the early days of the White Dog Cafe, located in the downstairs of Wicks’ Victorian brownstone, she couldn’t afford to build a commercial kitchen or hire a chef. She cooked the restaurant’s meals in her own kitchen while she watched her young son and daughter, and customers tromped upstairs to use the family’s bathroom. Eventually the restaurant filled three row houses, a companion retail store filled two more, and her businesses were grossing $5 million annually.
 
Original source: Christian Science Monitor
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Philly's Greensgrow model for CSA's financial success

GreenSource profiles the highly successful Philadelphia-based nonprofit CSA Greensgrow.
 
Mary Seton Corboy didn't expect much help when in 1998 she found an acre of toxic brownfield in Kensington, a dodgy neighborhood in Philadelphia, to start her business. Yet she was able to acquire a $47,000 loan, and Greensgrow Farm was launched. Before the farm even opened, Corboy secured a handful of chef friends at Philadelphia restaurants as clients to buy her hydroponically grown lettuce and tomatoes. First year, the farm grossed $5,000; the next year, $50,000. Today, Greensgrow—a nonprofit organization—brings in receipts totaling over $1 million annually. 
 
Original source: Greensource
Read the full story here.
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