work

Posted by Ellen

Thanks to the work of this volunteer and many hundreds of others, Philadelphia got 850 new street trees on Saturday, bringing the overall regional total of trees planted to–according to the calculations of somebody or other, as of Saturday night–exactly 262,236.

The goal is a million new trees, in hopes of restoring the forest canopy area heareabouts to 30%, which would provide enough shade to significantly mitigate the urban heat-island effect and would improve air and water quality, reduce erosion and water pollution, and lessen the frequency and severity of flooding.

The tree roots at bottom right in this photo belong to a variety of maple tree that is particularly hardy in urban settings and has a growth habit suitable for its new home in the urban jungle on South 21st Street, in front of a dentist's office and across the street from a dry cleaner's.

Posted by Ellen

They're gutting yet another house in the neighborhood.

Posted by Ellen

Lily wraps one of her custom-created alliterative labels around a naked crayon at Crayola's play park in Easton, PA. Among her names for crayon colors: Lily Lemon, Lily Lollipop, Marvelous Mom, and Naughty Norman.

In the huge Crayola factory just outside of Easton, where all 64 colors are melted and molded and labeled and boxed and shipped out to the world, the wrapping of labels is of course done by machine. But until the wrapping machines came on line in the late 1930s, that part of the process was farmed out to families in the Easton area, who would work at their kitchen tables wrapping labels around each crayon individually for a piecework wage. Each family worked on a single color, and the delivery routes were organized by color: e.g., turn left at the Green house and go up the hill to the Blue place.

Modern crayons first showed up at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, where Crayola exhibited them as "dustless chalk," a healthful innovation for the classroom. The company that made them, Binney & Smith, was getting a little out of its comfort zone, since its main facility in Easton was a slate quarry, which provided slates for schoolrooms utilizing the non-dustless kind of chalk.

Today, Crayola's theme park and factory undergird the economy of Easton, which was once home as well to the headquarters of another corporation manufacturing the stuff American childhood used to be made of: Dixie Cups.

Posted by Ellen

By the sackful at Gavin's Cafe near Schuylkill River Park.

Posted by Ellen

The little Patriot tour boat chugs up the Schuylkill toward the Walnut and Chestnut Street bridges.

Visible in the lower righthand corner is construction work on a new boardwalk which will extend the Schuylkill Banks foot path and bike trail out over the river from Center City toward South Philly. "They" say the boardwalk should open in about a year.

Posted by Ellen

They've been getting a lot of snow this winter in Maine–a foot last weekend and a record 29.3 inches early in February from the storm they called Nemo, and more before and since and in between. This photo was taken after Nemo, in Portland's Old Port.

Some Mainers are probably happy about it.

Here in Philly, we got nothing.

Posted by Ellen

Yesterday, we caught the view from New York City's High Line rails-to-trails boardwalk, a park that winds along the western edge of lower Manhattan, thirty feet up in the sky.

Today's glimpse of a tracks-to-boardwalk project is in Philadelphia, alongside the Schuylkill River, where barge-mounted heavy equipment is currently driving pilings into the riverbed for a boardwalk that will soar out over the water to extend an existing twenty-plus-mile asphalt biking and walking path.

The asphalt path follows an abandoned railroad bed downriver from Valley Forge past Fairmount Park and the Philadelphia Art Museum and on into Center City. But at Locust Street, the trail ends abruptly, crowded off the riverbank by half a dozen railroad lines that are definitely not-yet-abandoned.

The plan is to extend the path southward by snaking it out over the river as a boardwalk with observation platforms and maybe some fishing decks. (Although the Schuylkill is a bit shy of what you'd call a pristine river, there are definitely fish swimming in it, and they are catchable, if not eatable.)

After about half a mile over water, the new boardwalk will pass under the South Street Bridge and then curve back onto dry land for the remainder of its route. It will terminate in southwest Philly at Bartram's Gardens, an eighteenth-century homestead where America's earliest botanists planted the New World's first collection of botanical curiosities.

Planned completion date for the boardwalk is . . . early 2013, or so it is written. Whenever.

Posted by Ellen

Almost half of all the cocoa beans that come to America–shipped from cocoa farms mostly in Ivory Coast and other West African places–sail up the Delaware River to the Port of Philadelphia and nearby ports. In Philly, the cocoa-bean facility is at Pier 84, where a warehouse about as long as three football fields is dedicated to cocoa handling and storage.

The beans show up here in burlap-type sacks, which have to be manhandled out of the hulls of cargo ships and onto the warehouse pallets. There are cranes and forklifts, of course, but it's still the kind of job for which an awful lot of the hardest work has to be done by hard workers.

Why is Philadelphia the port of entry for so many beans? Because Pennsylvanians make chocolate out of them, at factories all over the state, including a Godiva plant in Reading and a Hershey's operation in some town near Harrisburg with an amusement park. . . .

Posted by Ellen

There was evidently just a little too much weight in the back for this truck to navigate the winding mountain road through the Malakand district north of Islamabad in Pakistan. The men tugging on ropes could not right the vehicle, but they were able to keep it from completely flipping over while other men worked to lighten the load, which was wheat straw intended for use as animal feed.

Posted by Ellen

It does seem like we don't make anything in America any more, but that's not completely true. Right here under this roof in Easton, Pennsylvania, Americans make Crayola crayons and . . . Silly Putty. Not only that, but up the road a few miles they've got a factory outlet store and a Crayola Discovery Center, which is basically a crayon-themed theme park.

Still and all, this factory doesn't look quite right. You can't make a lot of crayons without heating up a lot of wax–shouldn't they have some serious smokestacks here?