This is the Lehigh Valley Food Forest

While I studied at Muhlenberg College, in pursuit of a degree in Environmental Science, I designed and implemented a series of ecological restoration experiments at Cedar Creek Parkway in Allentown. The purpose of my investigations was to discover the manner in which invasive species populate an urban area, which has been ecologically conserved, through the process of secondary succession. I have been able to garner some important insights from these experiments and they are directly informing this project that you have joined with me to complete.
Setting up those experiments at Cedar Creek, I spent hour after hour pouring myself into the native species that typically populate this area. Consulting with Professors, professional scientists, and informed naturalists, I gradually assembled a list of plant species that would serve the purpose of my experimentation. I worked with nurseries focused on them to acquire donated plant material. Then, I gathered students of Chemistry, Biology, and Environmental Science from the College and we got those plants into the ground.
The model I am working with as the conceptualization of the Food Forest continues is not very different from the one you just finished reading. The end game of this initiative is very different than that of those scientific experiments. But, let’s get to the end game a little later. We have to talk about the beginning first! And, since not all of you made the first meeting and to clear up some confusion – I figured I had better make this a little less esoteric!
This is neither a community garden project nor an urban farm. It is not about urban foraging. This project is also very different from the Food Forest projects that have been receiving attention out in Seattle and down in Asheville. This is an ecological restoration project that is focused on native plants with a plus. In many cases (blueberry, raspberry, wild cherry, paw paw, serviceberry, mint(s), elder flower, meadowsweet, etc…) these plants will be edible for human beings and serve a variety of purposes. Thing is, these plants are all here already and have been part of the community and culture of the Lehigh Valley for many years long gone to memory. We have been looking at lawns too long!


Now we understand the plants and the purpose. We will be designing this project to mimic the succession process that results in a healthy Silver Maple floodplain forest. So, while the vast majority of plants used will be ones that we can use too, they will be joined by native plants that while not necessarily edible for human beings – are vital to the health of a native ecosystem. Remember – all forests are food forests. Every bird, bug, bat, and microorganism out there needs to eat too.
So, what will this look like? Unfortunately, this sort of endeavor has no precedent that I can find to provide you with pictures of. We are going to show people how a forest can be functional in a modern urban society in a way that has yet to be demonstrated. This is the part that will be conceptual for some time. What we do – the green space of world we create – will become the image that defines projects like these going forward.
In addition to the forest we will be building, some great ideas came out of the meeting that I want to share with you here. This space can also be a place for art, music, theater, and even dancing. Amphitheaters that exist at the South Bethlehem Greenway and at Union Terrace in Allentown show this potential fulfilled. And, this is very important, I am primarily a scientist. I admit freely to a heavy love/obsession with J.R.R. Tolkien. I tell you this because these are the two main things informing my thought process on this matter. Help me think of things that I haven’t yet dreamed but you have! We will add things to this project as we go but it is a community effort.
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There will also be a massive focus on public education with this project. We want to construct a trail that winds throughout the forest with signs explaining the things you see as they are happening. This will be ecological restoration as an experience. And, there can be trellises on this path with low hanging vines and maybe even some lights. Picture it. It is going to be so beautiful. Picture these things, dream big, and help me make this something that will be remembered.
As details are hashed out and plans drawn, we will share them with you through this blog and through our Facebook page. (And our Twitter once I ever figure that out…) For now, a second meeting has been announced and you can get the details on that from the Facebook page that this text links to. We are nearing 200 likes on Facebook and I really hope we can break that number soon. Help me share the page!

Lastly, please comment. Share your ideas. Add links to the Forest Page on Facebook. I want this project to exist in social media as a hub of ecological thought and idea sharing. Posts pictures of hikes and journeys you have taken in the wild. Share recipes and food you have made with the right ingredients. If you want to write an entire blog post – let me know!

Share the page. Share your ideas. And tell me what you are thinking!

The Lehigh Valley Food Forest on Facebook


Press, A Fan Drive, and Our Second Meeting!

I want to begin this new post by extending another word of thanks to The Express Times. Our initiative was honored with the publication’s “Trophy of the Week” award over this past weekend.

I will shortly be returning to posts that examine our local ecosystems, the issues they face, and the manner in which our restorative Food Forest will address and ameliorate those issues in the coming days. (Probably after the holiday!) Today though, I have an announcement!

On August 7th, the Food Forest will be holding its second meeting. With the foundation established at our first meeting and momentum continuing to build; it is time for an official meeting of organization. The agenda is to ratify by-laws, establish a board, elect a chair, solidify committees and membership, and begin the planning effort for our kickoff event. That event will hopefully take place in September. This meeting is your chance to get involved directly and in an official capacity. If you have any questions in advance of the meeting send them to .  Here is the link to the Event Page.

Remember! You don’t have to be a board member or committee member to be an active volunteer for this initiative. There will be many ways to be involved! For instance, keep spreading the word about the Forest! Share the Facebook Page! Let’s get to 200 fans by next week. We are at 174!

Tell people about who we are, what we do, and what our goals are.

Primary Goal: Ecological Restoration
1. Sustainability Awareness
2. Community Development
3. Citizen Science
4. Public Education

Primary Goal: 5-10 Acre Pilot Project
1. Native Plant Restoration
2. Abundance of “Food”
3. Biodiversity
4. Active Conservation

One overall rule: Only and all native species

First Meeting – Check. Media Coverage – Check.

We had a great first meeting last night. I want to personally thank the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation for letting us have our meeting in their office. I also want to thank everyone who came out and helped craft a purposeful discussion that will serve as the fundamental guide for our first steps in the effort.

There were ideas presented last night that I had never considered before and that I believe will now be major parts of the project. You’ll hear about those soon enough! (Spoilers!) But for now – our first step is underway. We are going to find ourselves a spot to call home. I will be keeping you updated!

In the meantime, check out the excellent article on Lehigh Valley Live about the meeting last night. It’s a perfect summary!

Group Wants to Bring Lehigh Valley Food Forest to Allentown, Bethlehem, or Easton

New Social Media and a Press Release!

This is now the official blog of The Lehigh Valley Food Forest. We are now on Twitter at: We also have our very own email account at: Our Facebook page remains the same! (

Also, a press release was sent out to local media outlets and the text follows:

Lehigh Valley Food Forest to Unveil Plan This Wednesday

Allentown PA- On Wednesday June 26th from 7-9pm the first meeting of The Lehigh Valley Food Forest will take place at the Office of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation.

The Lehigh Valley Food Forest aims to create a restorative ecologic plot focused on edible plants within the Lehigh Valley.  Food Forests aim to refashion park lands around the ideals of ecological preservation, education, community involvement, social and environmental justice, and citizen science.

The project will procure a city park or area of land and begin planting edible native species within it. These edible plants will grow and be used by the community. A large part of the Lehigh Valley Food Forest is its emphasis on native species as opposed to invasive.

Andrew Kleiner, a graduate of the Environmental Science program at Muhlenberg College, saw what was happening in Seattle and other cities across the nation and decided to bring that idea to the Lehigh Valley. “There are few urban areas in the United States with the kinds of green space we have here in the Valley. It is a logical next step to restore the ecosystems in these green spaces where possible for the purposes of education, science, and community spirit – such development will likely also serve to benefit the local economy as a Food Forest becomes a destination for people to visit. ”

With a detailed history in ecological preservation and restoration, Kleiner has seen these types of initiatives being raised in the past. While hopeful, he does have one reservation. “This initiative needs people working together to make it happen. The beating heart of this effort will be the commitment of individuals working together to make something truly awesome and unique happen here in the Lehigh Valley.”

While the Lehigh Valley Food Forest is in its infancy, this meeting marks the first step of getting this process going. They plan on securing non-profit status and building a core group of volunteers to bring this plan together. They have their eye set on the spring of 2014 for the Food Forest to begin taking shape.

The Lehigh Valley Food Forest

This initiative began taking shape in early 2013. Brought on by the inspiration of Seattle’s Beacon Hill Food Forest and other Food Forest movements across the United States, the LV Food Forest aims to raise ecological awareness through community education culminating in the implementation of a Food Forest within Allentown.
For more information contact The Lehigh Valley Food Forest at  or on Facebook at:

Meeting Location, Forest Details, Share Ideas!

I am very happy to announce that the first meeting of the LV Food Forest is now going to be located at the offices of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation. I had intended this post to be about ecosystem disturbance and processes of succession – but there are certainly more than a few days in a given life where things don’t turn out as you expect them to. Today, we have a place to meet!

And with a concrete meeting location set, I want to offer some of the goals that we are striving for:

Primary Goal: Ecological Restoration
1. Sustainability Awareness
2. Community Development
3. Citizen Science
4. Public Education

Primary Goal: 5-10 Acre Pilot Project
1. Native Plant Restoration
2. Abundance of “Food”
3. Biodiversity
4. Active Conservation
One overall rule: Only and all native species.

During our meeting on Wednesday night, I will detail how I believe we can achieve those goals. I do not want to go into details on the blog – that’s why we are meeting! I will say, that our first steps will involve formal organization (operating board/committees) of volunteers to begin the campaigns to see our group receive formal incorporation and Non Profit Status, establish a fundraising and investor relations committee, establish a public relations committee, etc.. And – we will craft our first steps strategy.

It’s about getting the ball rolling. The strategy designed and subsequently employed after Wednesday night will be created to achieve those two primary goals – with a shovel in the ground and a plant in our hands come next Spring.

We are walking to Spring 2014 folks. Wednesday night is step one. We know the goals. Now, we need to organize, unify, and use our community to begin making the difference. These first steps will serve as the foundation to what I hope ends up being a long term and multi-faceted organization. See you Wednesday.

Oh – and bring the following:
1. An Open Mind
2. Open Ears
3. Ideas about ecological restoration
4. Maybe a dream of nature stuffed in your backpocket

Lastly- should we have an official pot luck for the meeting? Maybe everyone bring a dessert? What can we do to make the meeting unique/fun? (Trust me, my powerpoint ain’t going to do it) Send me some ideas!

Riparian Ecosystems at the Lehigh Parkway

“Palustrine – of or pertaining to a marsh.

The next stop on our journey through Lehigh Valley ecosystems happens to be my favorite one: our major palustrine or riparian ecosystem – The Silver Maple Floodplain forest. This guy is completely different from the Oak/Hickory forest we talked about last week and I think it is different in some pretty exciting ways.  Rather than go on and on like I did last week, for this post I decided I was going to go out to such an ecosystem and show you what one looks like, right now, in an Allentown city park. (Like old times, for long time readers!) Let me quick define this system before we get to the journey.

The first major difference between our Terrestrial and Palustrine (Riparian/fluvial [river]) ecosystems is the major canopy trees. The only major defining canopy tree in the floodplain ecosystem is the Silver Maple, less frequent canopy players include: a couple of the Elms (Slippery and [more rarely] American), River Birch (that’s the guy with the bark that looks like it is peeling everywhere), Sycamore, and a couple other species that pop up now and again. The understory is there the real story (har har) begins. Here there are all kinds of things going on that you aren’t likely to find in a strictly Terrestrial Oak/Hickory ecosystem.

Check out this list from the Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program: Shrubs include silky dogwood (Cornus amomum), gray dogwood (Cornus racemosa), poison-ivy (Toxicodendron radicans), spicebush (Lindera benzoin), elderberry (Sambucus canadensis), and arrow-wood (Viburnum recognitum). Herbs include ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris), jewelweed (Impatiens capensis), pale jewelweed (Impatiens pallida), Turk’s-cap lily (Lilium superbum), clearweed (Pilea pumila), rice cutgrass (Leersia oryzoides), sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis), Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum), green-dragon (Arisaema dracontium), stout woodreed (Cinna arundinacea), false nettle (Boehmeria cylindrica), common blue violet (Viola sororia), and jumpseed (Persicaria virginianum). Commonly occurring invasive plant species are multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora), Morrow’s honeysuckle (Lonicera morrowii), common privet (Ligustrum vulgare), Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii), Japanese stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum), Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica), and garlic-mustard (Alliaria petiolata).

I headed down to the Lehigh Parkway on Sunday afternoon to get into such an ecosystem. I chose to visit the island near to the bridge where Earl once lived, close to Martin Luther King Boulevard. The island is a man-made creation as is the branched Little Lehigh Creek that exists in that location. I was hoping to find a less disturbed ecosystem than the ones found in parks around here that are highly used and highly manicured. (I promise a full disturbance post later this week.)
So, I jumped into the Little Lehigh. I honestly did. I promptly and swiftly squished knee deep into muck and leaf debris. Then, I laughed. Mostly because I imagined watching a portly, bearded man jump into a creek and immediately get swallowed into mud. After pulling myself out of the mud, I saw a foreboding stand of Japanese Knotweed (major invasive species) on the bank of the island. (Picture below)
Things did not get better on the island regarding native species but not all the things I saw were bad. First of all, there is not another place in any Allentown city park like this. I had never climbed onto this island in all the years I talked about parks on this very page. I was missing out. I am going to post a couple pictures below (and yes, there are tons of invasive species in there) because I totally felt like I had just been welcomed to Jurassic Park.
Invasive species are an ecological nightmare scenario. It’s a perfect storm of circumstance that allows these things to dominate the way they do and many ecologists, municipalities, and other organizations are still figuring out ways to fight them. This island was almost dominated entirely by the invasive vine – Japanese Hops. There were many other invaders present but, there will be more on those later this week.  Check out the monoculture happening:
Some native stalwarts were holding out like this stand of Cinnamon Ferns:
(Author’s Note: Ferns are amazing and I love them.)



So yes, in what was once an area that would have been defined by the ecosystem I was talking about way at the beginning of this post, I found a dystopia of invasive species. That’s another reason we have started the LV Food Forest. It isn’t all blueberries my friends! We will be establishing a serious presence of native species (including plants that aren’t edible to us but will be used to anchor an ecosystem beginning repairs and attracting the needed organisms to help that along). [ This very issue was covered in a recent NY Times Op-Ed that I really recommend you check out: Greedy Gardeners ]

So much more to come my friends – I hope you have been enjoying this toe deep forays into our local ecosystems. There truly is a million things left to say, so please keep reading. All of these considerations are vital to our thinking as we approach the foundational phase of our organization.

Please share the LV Food Forest Page with your friends!

Join us at the first meeting on June 26th! (This links to the event page)

Introducing the Oak/Hickory Forest

Before I get to the meat and potatoes of this post, I want to thank the readers who posted yesterday’s secret message on Facebook. It was awesome to see.

I began this discussion of ecosystems by first defining what an ecosystem is and then talking briefly about the major terrestrial forest ecosystems that we have here in the Lehigh Valley. If it hasn’t yet occurred to you, the idea of examining the forest ecosystems of the Lehigh Valley is a pretty strange one. It’s strange because there aren’t really any large swaths of undisturbed forest stands left around here. That said, I like to dream of things that once were and say – why not, again?

I am going to keep this simple – simpler than I even did yesterday. Years ago, the major terrestrial forest ecosystem here was Oak/Chestnut. These plant communities were indicative of the overarching Appalachian Broadleaf Forest, and were a transition zone between the hardier ecosystems of the Northern Appalachians and their temperate Southern cousins. These days, what is left of forest around here is Oak/Hickory. The absent Chestnut is due to a disturbance event and subsequent blight that I will be discussing in a later post. (Don’t forget about it!)

The Oak/Hickory forest we’ve got going on has a canopy made up of some of these guys: chestnut oak, scarlet  oak and black oak mixed with pignut hickory, black gum, sugar maple red maple, northern red oak, white oak ,tulip polar, white pine, sweet birch, red maple, and shagbark hickories. This post remains a bit of an overview – in coming days and months, I will talk in greater detail about those trees. For now, those guys would be pretty major players in forest stands around here – if such stands existed.

Today, I am going to stick to trees. There are lots and lots of understory plant species to consider too. There are also the animals that live in these forests, and the insects, and the microorganisms, and us. The bottom line is that there is really a lot going on in this ecosystem – and I have just listed the trees. I haven’t even described them.

Our Food Forest will not be an attempt at the restoration of the Oak/Chestnut forest that was found here in days long gone by. There will be similarities of course, but it is likely that here at the bottom of our Valley – our Food Forest will be a much more Palustrine plant community. That said, there is an overarching narrative hidden in this post that I would like to use briefly to close this post out.

Anthropogenic disturbance. Human disturbance. This is why the forest stands are absent. What remains of forest may have some Oak/Hickory(Chestnut) characteristics, but is likely also rife with invasive plant species. Invasive species are nonnative plants or animals that easily dominate native ecosystems and in doing so, systematically destroy them.  Between suburban sprawl, pollution, overuse, and disregard – our ecosystems are the victims of permanent disturbance events. These events are opening gateways for invasive species. It’s bad and over time, it gets worse.

So, what do we do? How do we fight the invasion? There is no easy answer. There are answers that are full of effort, purpose, work, and determination. There are answers like the Lehigh Valley Food Forest. This is how we start. I will write more about disturbance, succession, and restoration once I cover the other ecosystems in our area. I will also detail how our Food Forest can help ameliorate the processes of invasion.

Honestly, I have so much to cover right now that it is slightly overwhelming. Haha. This is entirely a good thing. I will be writing a lot, I promise. Just keep reading and leave me some comments now and again. I enjoy them!

Like the LV Food Forest on Facebook – invite your friends!

The First Meeting of the LV Food Forest is June 26th! This links to the event page for info and sharing!

Introducing our Ecosystems

For better or worse, I am a “big picture” kind of thinker. What this means is that rather than focus on the minutiae of a given subject or problem, I like to see the whole thing at once from above. I happen to believe that this manner of thought is the best way to go when beginning a discussion of ecosystems. See, it would probably be difficult for me to relate lichens to the concept of an overall series of interactions between living and non-living things that constitute a given system. That just got messy doing it that way. Hang on! I promise I’ll make more sense of this in just a second.
So, an ecosystem is in fact the grouping of animals, plants, microorganisms, and their surrounding area in an operating system.  Energy and other inputs introduced into this operating system is regulated by these major players through a complex and dynamic series of interactions that when left undisturbed make it so that whatever is introduced is instantly met by a discharge from the system that creates a sort of equilibrium.
Ok, so there is that. A little confusing perhaps but it’s mostly a bunch of stuff doing stuff that keeps other stuff from happening in a given area of stuff. Let’s think about what stuff is around us here in the Lehigh Valley. What is our ecosystem? Let’s go big picture again.
The view from Bake Oven Knob on the northern border of the Lehigh Valley affords a visitor the highest panorama in the area. From there, you can see the entirety of the ecosystems that make up our environment. What are we looking at? Before I let this get out of hand complicated with a bunch of subdivision of plant communities and smaller ecosystems – let’s stay big picture. Let’s say that the majority ecosystem in the Lehigh Valley can be called a mix of three major East Coast ecosystems. Those three ecosystems are: Central Appalachian Broadleaf Forest, Hudson Valley Eastern Broadleaf forest, and Lower New England Eastern Broadleaf Forest.
These three defining forest ecosystems are the overarching character players around here. Each one of them is subdivided into characteristic plant communities that are usually based on elevation. I will not begin to get into that today. I will be getting into each one of them in subsequent blog posts this week and next week – so stay tuned. Those guys are not the only ecosystems we need to talk about. Yep, there’s more. We will also need to examine Palustrine ecosystems. (That’s your word of the day) These ecosystems are the ones associated with freshwater and often include wetlands and riparian communities. You are going to also see the word fluvial thrown around during that discussion. More on that later…

If you have made it all the way to this point, I have to ask of you a favor: whatever linked you here – email, Facebook, twitter, carrier pigeon – go and post the following: “Ecosystems are awesome and so am I.” This is a bit of a sociological experiment but it also makes you cooler because ecosystems are cool and well, it lets me know who my toughest readers are. Anyway, back to it.
You’ve got to be a bit curious about why I am on about this. Well, for one, I am responding to a Facebook comment that requested I begin the discussion. Two, one of the purposes of our Food Forest is to restore our ecosystem! That’s right – not only will we be creating an amazing public space, we will be helping the environment in a direct and purposeful way. One of the big ecosystem issues that will be investigated in the coming days is disturbance events and ecological succession. Sounds pretty interesting right? And, that’s the cliffhanger. That’s the Kleiner version of “Who shot JR” or something more relevant like “How in the hell is Breaking Bad going to end!?!” or “Who is the 12th Doctor!?!”. None of those questions will be answered on here. Many questions and curiosities about ecosystems sure will though. Stay Tuned.

Like the LV Food Forest on Facebook – invite your friends!

The First Meeting of the LV Food Forest is June 26th! This links to the event page for info and sharing!

The Key To Our Success

Yesterday, I dropped a detail heavy post about the first meeting of the Food Forest. Today, I am going to discuss the absolute most important thing we need to pull this thing off. (Besides money! Ha) Can anyone guess where this is going? There really isn’t a lot of intrigue here. The most important thing – the key to our success? Tastycakes – The peanut butter tandycakes. That’s the secret.
It’s actually participation- your participation. The videos I have seen and the stories I have read about similar initiatives in Seattle Washington and Asheville North Carolina had that common thread. People, excited and energized about the project, working together made these things happen. That’s what we need here in the Lehigh Valley. At this very moment there is an amazing example in the work being performed by the Bethlehem Food Co-Op. Those folks are rocking it out in the same exact way we will need to, to see this to fruition.
Remember something here – we are building a dream. I am not kidding. There is nothing like this around here. Have you pictured it? I picture it all the time. I think about the bare earth first days with muddy knees and tired arms and dirt stained smiling faces. I imagine the day to come – a few years down the line – in the rows of Highbush Blueberry and the shade of Wild Black Cherry. What do you see? What realm of faerie can you conjure into being in the idle daydreams of occasional consideration.

To get there – to the pie in the sky – we hold our first meeting. (June 26th at 7PM) We take the first step of the long and awesome journey. If you can’t make that meeting but really want to be a part of the effort? Spread the word. Read the blog. Start conversations with comments on the Facebook Group page. Share updates, blog links, and the page itself as your Facebook status. Keep moving forward!
That’s how we do it, that’s the secret. We make an effort. We take a chance. We go for that long dance. We rally cry to the summer sky to make a difference – an impact – a community. And hopefully, also get some peanut butter tandycakes. They are so good.

Facebook Page: LV Food Forest

Care for a dance?

So, I am a rubbish dancer. Really-it’s bad. I do not particularly care that I am a bad dancer as it is unlikely that I will ever be required to be a good dancer for any real purpose. That said, if I were in a life and death situation wherein I needed to dance, I would need a good lead. Now you may be asking the following question: “Why in Hell’s third floor is Kleiner going on about dancing?” [If anyone is reading this anyway and I really wonder about that sometimes… also, why was Freaks and Geeks only one season? Seriously!]

The purpose of the opening paragraph is very simple. I am asking you to dance with me. Thing is, I haven’t really explained the dance yet or even the song that we will be dancing to. I was hoping to save all that for the first meeting (on June 26th at 7PM). After a facebook comment from my friend Scott, I realized that I should probably explain a few things. I’ve already covered the- it won’t be easy part. Because it won’t be. But it will be fun. And we will make friends and community and the most important things. Here is a training montage for inspiration following the tough talk and before the rest of the post:

Like Rocky scaling the Russian Mountains – that’s how we will be thinking about our first meeting. The purpose of which is to meet each other. We will be founders. We will be what I hope becomes the core nucleus of a long term group of committed individuals with the goal in mind to create the Lehigh Valley’s first public use food forest. And that food forest will be a vast assemblage of native plants that are almost all edible in some way or the other but also serve the purpose of restoring the ecosystem they are placed in – just by their presence. (I will be expanding on this greatly on June 26th at 7PM).

The big picture things are the easiest to consider first and we can consider many of them guiding principles. Urban farming. Public use. Social Justice. Environmental Justice. Ecological Restoration. (and, so on) The smaller picture things – like first steps, subcommittees for educational outreach, legal matters, money, yada yada – well again, that is the purpose of our meeting. These things are much easier to hash out in person – and believe me, I will have a list ready and project management software set up so we can begin moving on these guiding points right away come June 26th at 7PM.

So – Summer 2013 Meeting Goals :
1. Say Hello. Make some friends.
2. Establish the end goal of the completion of our first project
3. Figure out 3 proposed locations
4. Determine a guiding philosophy (mission statement)
5. Begin establishing a web presence for publicity, outreach, education
6. Form a public meetings committee
7. Form a public education committee
8. Whatever else comes up at the meeting or I think of in the meantime
9. Crazy fun times

That’s the skeleton of the first meeting folks. As always – please send me comments, emails, facebook messages, carrier pigeons, couriers, or whatever with feedback.

In the meantime, please continue sharing our Facebook group and inviting your friends and interested folks.

Ready for a dance?

First Meeting Announcement! And Stuff!

It occurred to me this evening that while things are moving at a rapid pace over on facebook; the blog hasn’t been updated in a few days. My apologies! Truth be told – a few weeks ago I took a business trip to Atlanta Georgia and in the process, managed to find myself quite ill. Well, I took 10 days worth of antibiotics and while the infection and fever seemed to pass, the whole thing managed to linger long enough past the course of antibiotics that I became sick again. Allergies apparently. I’ve been distracted.
(View from the corner near my hotel in Atlanta)

Now, short post today! Things are moving on the food forest front. The first meeting was announced earlier this week. It will be held on Wednesday June 26th at 7PM. I haven’t yet decided on where to hold the meeting. (The location really depends on how many people come out!) But yes – June 26th! All of these words link to the facebook event page that you should join and then invite your facebook friends to join as well.

I want to incorporate a fun element into this – Pot luck? Hide and go seek? Tall tales? Please let me know what you think.

Lastly, the Seattle Food Forest made the front page of Reddit earlier today. Just Saying.

And as always, if you haven’t joined the LV Food Forest facebook page, you totally should. It’s awesome.

Potential First Meeting Date & Time. Thoughts? (Fire it Up)

(I was going to say “Shall we begin?” a la Benedict Cumberbatch in the new Star Trek movie, but that movie was pretty terrible)

It’s time to talk about our first meeting. I am thinking that we should schedule it for June 26th and moving forward, consider holding a monthly meeting on every last Wednesday of the month. This also gives everyone just over 3 weeks to try and clear their schedules and make it out. What do you think? Does it work for you? I’m posting this on Sunday June 2nd and unless I hear a mass outcry (which I am not thinking I will, given my recent blog statistics…), I will post an event page on Facebook tomorrow announcing the 26th at 7PM as our kickoff.

Now, I wanted to talk a bit about getting things like this project off the ground and going. This is not my first time stepping on this dance floor and it very likely will not be my last. Some of you have never done anything like this before. Some of you have been doing it for 10 or 20 or 30 years. I just want to mention – for all our sake – that the early goings of projects like these are tough. The first few park walks I held back in 2009 were attended solely by friends and family. It took over two years to really start getting people out and then I stopped. When I held a litter pick-up at Jordan Park (my first event since like January 2012) in early May of this year – no one showed up! It’s tough sometimes!

That said- I genuinely believe in this project. I believe in the transformative effort this work has the possibility of achieving for the people of the Lehigh Valley. First and foremost – I want this to be a fun endeavor for everyone involved. Once I announce the date of the first meeting and start seeing who is going to come out, I am also going to figure out where we will have it and what we will be doing besides strategizing! At this meeting I will also be laying out my long term plan for the LV Food Forest – from now until the first plant goes into the ground and where we will be heading when our first fruits are ripe.

For now, please continue helping me spread the word of our new effort. Like LV Food Forest on Facebook. Share it with friends and family! And, until tomorrow, let me know if you have any issues, ideas, or suggestions about my proposed meeting date and time!

(Also Matt Smith is leaving Doctor Who. Not cool.) 

Serviceberry (Juneberry)(Shadbush)(Strong and Manly)

As promised: Serviceberry time.

One of my favorite aspects of studying Botany is discovering the etymology of the common names of plants. There are plants named for all kinds of events, feelings, mythological symbolism, tales of faerie, and a whole host of other interesting things. Take our plant of the day – Serviceberry. Divide the name into its two constituent words: Service and berry. As it turns out, the service part of the name comes from old Appalachian mountain tradition. The blooming of Serviceberry signal the time of the year when snows melted and the roads became passable – allowing preachers to take to them and marry young couples in Spring. The service moniker also indicated that funerals held up by the frozen ground of winter were now able to be held as graves could once again be dug.

Serviceberry is also known as Juneberry and occasionally Shadbush. Juneberry is earned by the early ripening fruit and Shadbush by the coinciding of the plant’s return to life with the return of Shad to the rivers. (Ask someone from Easton.) Properly, the plant is of the Genus Amelanchier. According to the Audubon society in Lycoming County (and many other native plant resources/databases): “Three species of serviceberry trees occur naturally in the Commonwealth: Amelanchier arborea or Downy Serviceberry, Amelanchier canadensis or Shadbush Serviceberry, and Amelanchier laevis or Allegheny Serviceberry.”

This is a plant of many names. Well, many plants are. A name, of course, does not tell the complete story. (I mean – Andrew allegedly means “Strong and Manly” … Have you met me?) It’s that explosion of white flowers that herald fresh graves (or I guess the wedding thing if you so insist or Spring or whatever) that adds another chapter. The fiery color of autumn displayed on Serviceberry leaves does too.  As does its understory nature, its 6-40 foot height, easy hybridization, polyploidy (extra chromosomes), and how about these descriptors (from the Ohio public library):

Leaf Characteristics:
Broad, flat leaves, simple leaves, not lobed , fine -double teeth , all teeth same size , shorter stem , all side veins same length, leaves long, not narrow, veins curved, less than 5″ long stem 1/3 to 1/2 as long as leaf

Fruit Characteristics
Other fruit (not cone, winged, acorn, or in pod or capsule), without husk or capsules, loose-not packed tightly together, fruit with seeds, small seeds, 1/4″ or less in length , fruit round, less than 1 inch diameter, purplish, ripen in June or July

Serviceberry sure has a lot going for itself and I am barely scratching the surface. So, we are doing a “food forest” – Let’s talk about the edible aspects of Service/JuneberryShadbush. It’s pretty much the equivalent to a Blueberry as Boar is to Pig. Muffins, pies, jams, preserves, juices, etc.. And, it is delicious raw. Oh and it makes stellar wine and mead. Yeah, that’s right, mead. We doing this Thor style. Praise Odin. All this Norse business is likely to help my “Strong & Manly” cause. Incidentally, this kind of fruit consumption is also likely rather good for you. Just saying.

(Sidenote: We are going to have to start talking about berry & blossom wines and liquors soon… I’ve got a particularly well informed and awesome source on the matter and I will need to consult her ASAP)

The last thing  I want to mention about Serviceberry today is its ecological significance. I Rob Lowe literally get so excited about the stuff that I cannot type as quickly as I am thinking. I usually get frustrated and give up on the endeavor but not today! Strong and manly! So – this plant is a huge food source for a multitude of native insects (fuzzy caterpillars – awww), birds (like the awesome looking Cedar Waxwing [see below]), and small woodland mammals. It’s ecologically like one of the old dudes always sitting at the corner bar you pretend not to go to every other night but always do. It’s important. It helps define the character of a healthy native Pennsylvania ecosystem and in doing so helps maintain the needed equilibrium to keep positive feedback loops at bay.

So yes, Serviceberry rocks.

The thing about this Food Forest project is that this is one of countless plant species with similar cultural, historical, and ecological significance. These plants tell the story of human history as much as they speak volumes about the nature of the wilder world around us. That’s why I am doing this. These are the stories that I want to keep telling because I don’t think anyone should ever forget them. They’re too damn important.

PS: I’m also totally strong and manly.

Don’t forget to like The LV Food Forest on Facebook. Share and spread! 

Spock. Serviceberry. And Plants are awesome.

“Who the hell is going to want to read a blog post about plants?”

I have been asking myself this question for a couple of days. In the canals and alleyways of my brain this is a question never asked. Also in the canals and alleyways of my brain are enough asked questions that make me wonder if I have been inquiring about the wrong things these past 29 years. Well, anyway – I hope you want to read about plants because plants are freaking awesome. In case you didn’t know and outside of love – they are the closest thing you are likely to encounter that resembles magic in this sadly gnome and faerie free world of ours.

Magic you say? Not magic actually, but stick with that if it works for you. I’ll call it – magic contextualized through biochemistry and physiology. Granted, that might not seem so romantic but I promise it totally is. Go take a walk in a thicket of jewelweed aside a creek on a summer night just as the sun is setting and the birds and the bees (har har) haven’t yet gone to rest for the evening. That shit is magical. Yes, it is all explained scientifically, and well – it’s awesome.

(Focus Andrew!) Plants! Food Forest! Yes, that’s right! I have all these ideas banging around like bats in Bogart’s Bridge right now about this Food Forest initiative. And, I am super stoked on the whole thing. (I hope you are too.) As we begin to conceptualize the endeavor – I must confess that I am almost always a “big picture” kind of guy. Which is great for organizing something like the Food Forest – it is far less great when trying to remember where your keys, pants, or shoes are as you running out the door for work in the morning. In order to keep you and me and everyone we know from getting lost in the mire of sky-thought, I am going to do some posts about the micro-level. Well, not like the micro micro level – but smaller than say… repairing the biosphere in a two week work effort. To do that – I shall write about plants and science and soil and awesome. That’s right – I am going to write about awesome and if you read it you will become awesome and if you share you will become awesomer and you can see where this is going… to awesome.

Today, we are talking Serviceberry. Well, actually, this post is kind of long and I am wondering who made it this far… hmmm… Maybe we should talk about Serviceberry tomorrow. Yeah, let’s do that. In the meantime, like LV Food Forest on Facebook and invite your friends to like it too. Share this post, share the facebook group. Like everything about everything. Or do nothing. Hang out. See what happens. Make it a big picture kind of thing. You’re already good to go in my book if you are the kind of person who the hell wants to read about plants.

Because honestly, everyone should the hell want to read about plants.

(Slipping slightly into Spock from Star Trek IV The Voyage Home…
Live Long and Prosper. [Now I’ve done it])

The Lehigh Valley Food Forest

It’s turned out pretty much impossible to resurrect my blog in any sort of fashion that resembles what I used to do on a regular basis. While I am certainly not ruling out future posts in the style that I used to write, I need to lay the old paradigm to rest. Of all the things that came out of the blog since 2009, my absolute favorite will always be the folks who came out for walks, talks, and action days in Lehigh Valley park lands. And, that is what I am banking on to help me write this blog and maybe even change the area a little bit.

During the time I wrote the real meat and potatoes of this blog, I was also a student at Muhlenberg College. If there was any doubt, I studied and eventually graduated with a degree in Environmental Science last year. So, most of my study of science was focused on ecological restoration through the lenses of Biology and Chemistry. I had a large scale research plot devoted to succession and the study of invasions down at Cedar Creek Parkway. Simply put, this stuff is my jam.

Yes, I know and understand and get and love native plants and ecosystems at equilibrium. Both of those things are only really possible in these days of perpetual anthropogenic disturbance through active practices of restoration. As it turns out, some folks out west had a really great and novel way to achieve restoration and it is my intention to mirror that project right here in the Lehigh Valley.

You can read about that amazing project here:

Now, I am not going to beat you over the head with details in this very first post. I am hoping to pique your curiosity, get some word of mouth going, and ideally – get you to come out to the very first Lehigh Valley Food Forest meeting in late June. And, and! – like the Lehigh Valley Food Forest Facebook page. It is at this meeting that we can really hash out details, but I promise to write about it on here until then.

Instead of setting a date for the meeting at the onset – I want to know when you are available. Leave me a comment here or join the facebook page and in a week or two, I will post potential meeting times and the final date/time/location can be based on the will of the majority.

One of the stories I saw about this project in Seattle was titled – “Why not here?”

So, friends, Why not here? Let’s get the ball rolling. `


Cleaning Up The Lehigh Parkway

(Lots of Pics on the bottom but check out The Morning Call’s picture gallery and coverage of the event! – click here)

The second best reason for the existence of parks in urban areas has got to be for the purpose of building communities.  People fill the parks around them at various times during the year and when they do so, they see other people.  That may sound like a strange sort of thing to say but the world we live in today can be rather divisive and oftentimes leaves people as strangers when at one time they could consider each other neighbors.

Yesterday, in the Lehigh Parkway, a group of individuals joined together and formed one of those park spawn communities in order to help clean up damage from old storms.  I was able to organize the event so that students from Muhlenberg College’s EnACT (Environmental Action Student Group), councilpersons from the Allentown Environmental Advisory Council, members of the Lehigh Valley Road Runners, park walkers, park lovers, concerned citizens and active stewards all met between saw blades and made a difference.

A fallen tree was the major focus of this day of action and within an hour of beginning our work, the tree was entirely tended to.  Our group was able to accomplish quite a lot, pretty rapidly, in the course of that hour.  It was fantastic.

With strangers working together for a common purpose for no pay or recognition, a difference was made.  The purpose of this day was simple and not incredibly remarkable.  The thing that made the event remarkable were the people who worked together to complete the task at hand.  As you view the pictures below I sincerely hope you can see what I am talking about and I really hope that it encourages you to come for the next one.  What beats making friends from strangers?

Number 18 was pretty awesome Readers.  Thank you

An Ecological Walk through Cedar Creek Parkway.

If you were to consider the major priorities of the majority of first year college students this year, I would imagine that Ecology walks in a park wouldn’t make the list. Well, when Dr. Meier – the Bio prof for the first years offers course credit for attendance and a write-up, that list of priorities suddenly and wonderfully changes.
We had a great turn out Saturday evening at Cedar Creek Parkway. In addition to the throng of freshman Bio students, we had the presence of Muhlenberg professors Dr. Paul Meier and Dr. Rudski. Very special guests Steve Johnson and Jacy Good were in attendance as were a smattering of upper classmen, who were sacrificing precious work time to come out and support the cause.
Yes, the cause. We were out on a walk for the cause of biodiversity, ecosystem health and the beautiful ecology that can be possible with proper management and care. Speaking at the walk were Muhlenberg College researchers Ron Clark on amphibian ecology and Jenny Bleznak about her work with bees and how that work relates to the real world that we were all standing in that evening. I spoke about my research and about the five major causes of the loss of biodiversity in the modern world as defined by Naturalist E.O Wilson. (Those are, Habitat Destruction, Invasive Species, Pollution, Population, and (Over) Harvesting)
I cannot thank Ron and Jenny enough for the time and effort they put into the walk. They were both amazing. It really is a hell of a thing to consider the ways in which the research projects folks like Jenny, Ron and myself slave over for hour upon hour in our respective laboratories have real, immediate and genuine impact on the living ecosystem around us. It was my intention to illuminate that connection to walk-goers and I think Ron and Jenny nailed it straight out of the park.
The idea of community is foundational to the reasoning by which I keep formulating and hosting these events. Too often I think we forget that we are ourselves an animal member of the ecosystem that we live in. That ecosystem is usually paved over, mowed and trimmed to a near urban oblivion but where green is allowed to grow – the last vestiges persist. We, as scientists, persist as well. The research done by individuals all over the world in modern ecology, biology, chemistry and environmental science is helping paint a clearer picture of a world – a biosphere – in peril.

We took a Saturday to walk and learn. We hear the voices of folks who are out there trying to learn, to expand upon the vast library of scientific study and take their additions to a park to tell others what they have been doing. By even engaging in the smallest way – every person on the walk made a difference. They chose to learn. They chose to become better informed. They chose to walk the way of knowledge and to borrow Darwin, and Dr Meier – they hastened the process of developing their view of life.

Again, thank you Jenny. Thank you Ron. Thank you Meier. Thanks Michelle and Jackie and Shannon and Ben and Jacy and Steve and everyone else whose names aren’t listed.

I hope to see you next time.

Our hike on South Mountain with Bill Sweeney

If you are reading this and you missed the hike, you missed one hell of a good time.
Bill Sweeney is one of the people who work tirelessly to keep the world around us as close to way the world around us should be as one can in these modern days. Every park, every preserved piece of open land, every growing tree in any city is likely there because of the influence of someone like Bill Sweeney.
Bill led our hike through the forest of South Mountain talking about the trees, the shrubs, the native forest flowers – the way that for a second this world could be, that is where Bill led us on Saturday. We talked about the way the forest is, the way it should be managed – rather, the way it should be tended to and cared for.
We spoke of consumption, use, energy and sustainability. We spoke of a world slipping from our fingertips to the dark shadow of overuse and waste. We spoke a conversation that everyone should be engaged in by the sides of a forest, the leaves of Solomon’ seal- the flowering Jack-in-the-Pulpit (and an excellent anecdote from Bill about the flower) – the peace of the ecosystem in process – again, the way the world should be. To see Bill look around the forest – and really see it was amazing.  With every glance the man was able to see the good there – he was able to see what is so very much worth fighting for.

Thank you so much Bill. I cannot wait to do it again!

After a Thunderstorm: In the Lehigh Parkway (Summer 2009)

When I first started writing the blog, I was freshly laid off from my job and filled with an incredible energy as I spent the entire summer of 2009 journeying to all the parks of the city of Allentown and sharing my travels with you.  There were on occasion some unique and incredible moments, and this remains by far – my absolute favorite. I love these pictures. I’ve cut some of  the original text, so , please, just look. Here, it is easy to understand what Thoreau meant when he said that in wilderness is the preservation of the world.  This is by no means what we would classically define a wilderness to be but perhaps, as the antithesis to the modern world, it is a wilderness and it surely must be preserved.  Take a look and share your thoughts!

I couldn’t figure out why right away. It wasn’t hot enough for the macadam to be letting out enough heat to cause it. I didn’t think the contrast between the surface temperature of the Little Lehigh and the air was great enough to cause it either. I was confused. Until I saw this:

That is a serious accumulation of hail. The melting of which is the cause of the mist. Had I arrived earlier I may have been greeted with a Parkway that looked more like there should have been lights in it than green trees.

There were examples of the erosive power of water everywhere.


Ecological Examination of Cedar Beach

On Sunday September 12th,  a crowd of Muhlenberg students, Allentown citizens, Environmentalists, preservationists, Eco-feminists, and the like gathered in Cedar Beach Parkway for an examination of ecology, of sustainability and of modern consciousness in hopes of better understanding the ecological future of one of Allentown’s most important resources.

We heard talk of floodplains and the various hazards of impermeable surface development, we heard talk of water quality and phosphates and nitrates.  We heard about sustainability, about management options about soil and about ecological consciousness.  We heard of problems and of solutions, some easy – some hard.  Bottom line, we heard and we listened to one another in an open discussion regarding our role as human beings in the protection of an ecosystem that exists in a functional urban park.  And, we had cookies.

Special thanks to:
Dr. Jason Kelsey, Dr. Richard Niesenbaum, Dr. David McGuire, Professor Karen Tuerk, Ilya and Alex.

To those who came out – I hope you had a great, interesting and engaging time. Thank you so much for checking this out.

Now, that was the last of two years worth of events spotlighting local ecological issues.  Starting in 2011 a series of ACTION DAYS will begin.  We know the issues.  We know what is at stake.  We know that the few feet of land we can restore, preserve and protect in our parks is in all likelihood the most we can accomplish in our fight for Nature.

(The first event may actually happen this year! We’ll see)

Yesterday: EAC Tour & Breaking News on the future of Trout Creek Parkway

As Amanda, Sean, Dan, Heather, Claudia, Doc McGuire, Karen, my parents, and I walked around Trout Creek Parkway yesterday examining incredibly serious established areas of invasive species growth; we were walking through ground zero of invasive species infestation here in the city of Allentown.

Japanese Knotweed, Multiflora Rose, Japanese Stiltgrass, Chinese Sumac, Purple Loosestrife and more… These invasive species are the dominant species of Trout Creek Parkway and the purpose of our EAC walk around the park was to identify them, see the effects on the ecosystem created by their presence and to have an open discussion about the future of invasive species management in the city of Allentown. It also transformed into an impromptu litter clean up.

What will ultimately be a long battle is just beginning all across our parks and our backyards. A united effort needs to begin immediately to face this growing threat. There are many strategies to explore and experiment with. There are many volunteer efforts to be coordinated. Bottom line, there is a lot of work to be done and lot of determination necessary from the city government and our citizens.

On a cloudy, halfway cool and mostly muggy afternoon with bags full of trash, a plastic shopping cart, a rusty children’s bike and a homeless man asleep on a bench, the folks who made up the EAC tour of Trout Creek Parkway took the first step towards a future of proper invasive species management. A huge thank you to my fellow EAC members David McGuire and Karen Tuerk for helping lead the way, a major thank you to Claudia for providing us an opportunity to experience her great amount of knowledge and another thank you to the folks who came out for a walk in the park.

Perhaps the most telling moment of yesterday afternoon came during a break on our walk back. Covered in mud, with heavy bags of collected trash we stopped on a bridge and saw a Kingfisher fly past. It is incredible to consider that despite the epic amounts of trash, the ecosystem dominated by invasive species and a park in desperate need of ecological restoration, there – flew a Kingfisher.

Imagine what could be if our parks were ecologically restored! Imagine the experiences people would have and the connections to nature that could be developed! It is more than a possible future. To that end, below the pictures, I have a look at the future of Trout Creek Parkway given to by Parks and Rec Director Greg Weitzel.

Remember the Kingfisher.

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“Trout Creek is classified by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) as a High-Quality Cold Water Fishery (HQ-CWF) that supports reproducing native brown trout (Salmo trutta). Trout Creek originates from a series of springs surrounded by the pristine woodlands of South Mountain , but unfortunately as it flows into the City of Allentown it becomes seriously degraded.

Trout Creek suffers from the non-point source pollution and habitat degradation typical of a neglected urban stream, and as a result is listed on DEP’s list of impaired waters (formerly the 303(d) list).
The mile and a half reach we propose to restore flows through Allentown’s Trout Creek Park and is highly channelized with long expanses of gabion basket walls and a series of small concrete dams.

Much of this reach completely lacks riparian vegetation and the streamside vegetative communities that do exist are composed solely of invasive plants, including Japanese knotweed (Polygonium cuspidatum), Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), and Multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora). As a result the creek lacks: the shade necessary for water temperature moderation, the leaf litter inputs necessary to support a healthy macroinvertebrate community, and the in-stream structural diversity to provide sufficient fish habitat.

We plan to improve water quality and in-stream habitat conditions, restore the riparian corridor, re-create floodplain and upland wildlife habitat, and educate the community about the importance of natural resource protection in urban areas.

Specifically we will:
* Remove the walls and dams channelizing a 1.5 mile reach of Trout Creek
* Re-grade stream banks to restore the Creek’s access to its floodplain
* Work with Pa. Fish & Boat Commission to install in-stream fish habitat structures
* Eradicate approximately 14 acres of Japanese knotweed and other invasive plants
* Convert approximately 10 acres of lawn into native warm season grass habitat
* Restore the riparian corridor by planting approximately 500 native trees & shrubs
* Install a variety of bird and bat boxes throughout the park
* Install Grow Zone markers to help protect the newly established riparian
* Develop and install educational signs throughout the park
* Educate the community about the importance of urban habitat restoration
through newspaper articles and public meetings
* Engage the community by organizing volunteer cleanups in Trout Creek Park
* Develop a riparian buffer and invasive plant management plan to guide the City of
Allentown’s maintenance activities at this and other parks]

Even though we have not received notice of award of grant funds yet, we’ve still been making a significant effort to rid the park of the Japanese knot weed,cutting as much as possible in preparation of the spraying which will begin in August. A former EAC member (Mike Adams) helped supply several contractor contacts last year and after field visits and quotes were received, we’ve hired a state licensed firm to spray the knotweed after we cut to a manageable height.  We’ve also had several groups doing stream bank clean-ups this year, as the park is frequently used as a dump site over the winter months.

Last but certainly not least, we recognize that this park is in need of major renovations. The park is on the list for a master plan in the next several years
(Jordan Park is the next large park for master planning).”

EAC Hike on South Mountain

Yesterday afternoon I was joined by fellow EAC members, Dan Poresky and David McGuire for a hike on South Mountain.  We were joined by Lehigh County Conservation District watershed specialist Rebecca Kennedy and local botanist Claudia Steckel.  Our hike was meant to highlight the health of the forest on South Mountain and serve as an opportunity to have a public discourse on the issues facing the forest. I want to thank everyone who came out to join us yesterday.  We had a pretty big group and I couldn’t have been more pleased with the turnout.

We discussed the invasive species present on the mountain and the differences between native, non-native and invasive species.  Claudia and Rebecca talked about the threats of invasive and non native plants and offered strategies for dealing with them.  As we were walking yesterday we saw folks on motorized bicycles and ATVs on the mountain trails.  At the top of the mountain we encountered an individual who had made a fire in the old pavilion/lookout.  All of those activities, to my knowledge, are prohibited in South Mountain.  The city of Allentown needs to put up proper signage in the park indicating what the rules are.  As it is, there are almost no signs letting people know what can and can’t be done on the mountain.

Being able to spend an afternoon with some of the brightest environmental minds in the area was fantastic.  I always feel lucky to get to hear these folks and learn from them.  I want to thank all the hikers who came out yesterday and extend an invitation to all of our events, as more will continue to be announced! (The next one will be let out of the bag later this week!) It really is a great thing to spend a day amongst friends and family in the wild, learning and experiencing nature together.  Thank you again!

Cedar Beach Picnic

What a day!

Thank you Jaime K for making food, helping me promote and organize the whole shindig and taking the event to a level of epic awesomeness.

Thanks Joe T for playing some wonderful music.

Thanks to everyone who came out.  Yesterday was incredible and it was because all of you came.  We made new friends, had good conversation and shared a day together in celebration of community and enjoyment.  All of you completely and totally rule.

Thanks to the tornado for never coming but a big thumbs down to the rain and subsequent flooded pavilion.  Although, the large amount of stormwater proved to be an excellent example of run off in storm events leading to erosion and disturbance.

I could go on and on about yesterday for a long while but instead, I am going to let you sift through all the pictures and see for yourself how great it was.  I will be announcing a new event in a few days, so stay tuned.  Don’t miss out on the next one!

Again, Thank all of you for coming.  You fired me back up.  I’m pumped.

What wonderful memories we were able to create…

The EAC Tour of the Parkway

Driving home yesterday, after the tour had ended, truthfully – I felt pretty pumped.  I had just spent two and a half hours sharing whatever knowledge I could offer with some of the smartest, most informed, and genuinely wonderful people I know.  We walked, we talked, some spoke, some listened – everyone learned.  We learned about the Parkway, about the flora, the fauna, we learned about ecology, about community, and we learned about each other.
I eagerly joined the EAC once nominated and voted on in order to more forcefully exercise my dedication to the parks system and the environment here in Allentown.  My fellow EAC members and Sunday afternoon tour guides, Dave and Karen are two of the brightest folks I have had the pleasure of meeting.  I am lucky to be on a Council with minds like these, and I have much to learn from them.  Yesterday afternoon, Dave spoke of the purpose of lime kilns, of stream restoration, and many other topics of concern.

Karen showed us the life of bloodworm larva, squirming to ease their starvation of oxygen.
I want to thank Karen and Dave for joining me as tour guides and for providing an afternoon full of information for everyone who came out to walk.
Mike Gilbert, the watershed specialist for the city of Allentown and a parks department worker in the Lehigh Parkway since 1984 came along for the journey.

Mike provided the insight of an informed veteran and the knowledge of a man who had spent twenty years working hard to maintain a vital natural space.  A big thank you to Mike for coming out yesterday and for the hard work and dedication he has given to the city of Allentown.  Mike is a great guy.
Claudia, from the Rose Garden Neighborhood Association joined us as well.  Claudia has a knowledge of botany that I will forever be envious of and we were lucky to have her along.

In front of these people, I must confess feeling quite nervous opening my mouth.  I hope I was able to provide some good information and my beard wasn’t too distracting.
Now, I must thank my parents, Matt, Jerista, Katie, Mike Molovinsky, John and Harris for coming out yesterday and taking a walk with us.

In addition to conversation regarding “Grow Zones”

riparian buffers, invasive species,
and the length of riparian buffers (25ft should be considered a mandatory minimum),
we were able to see beautiful wildlife; both dead like this catbird and brown trout,
and alive like this heron and tree swallow.
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(I should stop here and thank Katie for helping me take pictures.  She did a great job, as you all can see)

The unofficial tour guide for the day was young Harris.
He also called me “Professor” and I happened to like the ring of it although I am not one at the moment.  I certainly hope he can see the future.  (Maybe it was just my beard, I mean, Doc is a professor after all and he has a pretty good one)

The sun had just broken through the clouds and the threat of rain that I had feared would ruin the walk was completely dissipated.  After spending many hours soaked or bloody or stung or half-frozen throughout the wild spaces of the Lehigh Valley, it was never more apparent to me as it was yesterday that experiencing nature together with others – sharing awe, wonder, curiosity, concern, etc – is vital to our human existence.

We are after all, mammals and as such, permanent members of the natural community despite Facebook and I-Phones.  There was no place I would have rather been yesterday afternoon and there are no people I would have rather spent my time with.  For those who missed it, I am sure that if you hadn’t you would feel the same way.  Do not worry though, there are more events like this to come.  You can make the next one.

Again, Thank you Karen, Dave, Claudia, Mike G, Mike M, Jerista, Matt, Katie, John, Harris and my parents.
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Late last evening I sent Katie a text message asking her to tell me what she thought about the afternoon in a sentence or two.  She sent me the following: “I thought it was really eye opening and this coming from the perspective of a suburbanite who lives next to a creek and sees herons everyday; but its true, the closer you look, the more there is to see.”  Katie is right.  We saw a lot yesterday and I am incredibly grateful for it.  Our tour of two hours barely touched the tip of the ecological iceberg in the Lehigh Parkway.  There are very serious issues – sediment build up, stream bank erosion, invasive species, loss of wildlife habitat, soil compaction, over-mowing, etc- that one afternoon will simply not highlight all of them.  This is a journey of learning and such an event as the one I am proud to say I held yesterday really helps continue that journey along.

We cannot solve the problems in one afternoon.  We can however begin the conversation that will see these problems addressed.  This really is just the beginning readers and there was no better place for it than the Lehigh Parkway.  The old stone of the WPA construction let all of us know exactly what can be done when a bunch of people put their heads, hearts and hands together and work to make a difference.  i hope to see you next time if you couldn’t make it yesterday.  If you did, I look forward to seeing you again.

The Litter Pick Up at Bucky Boyle

At 11:30, I stood in the parking lot at Bucky Boyle alone and marveled at how cold the wind was.  May 9th?, the sky, the air felt like October.  I assembled the brooms, dust pans, gloves, pickers, and bags, leaned against my car and waited.  Given that it was Mother’s Day, and the weather was not conducive to park clean ups, I thought that no one was coming.

The first arrival was Lauren, a teacher at Sheridan Elementary School.  Lauren is very involved in the community in her role as teacher and coach, and she told me that numerous announcements had been made and she expected at least a few people out.
Next, my parents and then C.R.  We stood in the cold, at noon, and I didn’t think anyone else was coming.  We began cleaning, Dan Poresky joined the fray followed by Dan and Sean.  As our small team worked, a large group of neighborhood kids joined us and subsequently dwarfed our numbers.
I want to thank everyone for coming out.  Lauren for helping get people out and coming out herself despite the holiday.  C.R was fundamentally involved in all aspects of this and made it possible.  I want to thank my parents for coming out, Dan and Sean as well.  I want to thank Michael Molovinsky for dropping in, and donating some hand wipes.
My greatest thanks and admiration is reserved for the kids who joined us yesterday.  These kids ranging in age from second grade to freshman year of high school were bright, funny, energetic and hard working.  These kids care about the park and came out on their own accord on a cold Sunday in May to help make the park a better place.
If ever I felt as if my blog had a purpose, yesterday the actions of these dedicated young folks is it.

Although, Hector and Xavier gave me a little schooling as they were Yankees fans and I reminded them that the Phillies happened to be the greatest team in baseball.  To which they asked, “What happened last fall, Andrew?”  Owned.
As it stands though, my beard remains.  Had those amazing kids not shown up, my turnout would have been abysmal.  I hope that in the future, for upcoming events (EAC tour of the Parkway May 23rd, Lunch, party, music, education at Cedar Beach with Jaime K on June 6th and more to come… ), seeing as they are not on holidays, that I will see more of my readers and friends show up and participate.
Yesterday, a group of kids spent a day off from school working to make their neighborhood park a better place.  They will tell their friends and their parents, and they will remember what they did there each time they visit from now on.
I will remember those kids as well each time I visit Bucky Boyle.  They are making a difference.  They are building up a community around themselves that over time will be one worth envy.  They also have a great and dedicated teacher in Lauren who deserves much acclaim for her efforts.  (and yes, you too C…)

Thank you again: Katalina, Heaven, Amanda, Delilah, Thanya, Mary, Xavier, Louis, Hector, Karla, and Xiomara.   Dan P, Sean, Danny, Mom and Dad.

One final note, If you are reading this, young man, I have no doubt whatsoever if you keep working like you did yesterday, the University of Texas will be glad to have you as a new star wide out.  Good Luck friend.


Yesterday’s Volunteer Clean up at The Old Fairgrounds

Yesterday afternoon, in Cooperation with Friends of the Allentown Parks, Dr. Phil Stein of Temple Beth El collaborated with Jeff Pooley of the Old Fairgrounds Neighborhood Association , the Allentown Rescue Mission, and Dubbs UCC Church to do the first part of a multi-day volunteer clean up effort at the Old Fairgrounds Playground.

It was a deceptively mild November day, meaning that, as soon as you began raking and weeding it became quite hot and you sweat as if it were still summer. I was very glad to be able to participate in this wonderful volunteer activity. It is without a doubt, something that needs to happen more often in Allentown.

As we were working, a steady stream of young folks from the neighborhood joined in with excitement and spent their Sunday afternoon off from school shoveling mulch and working hard to help beautify a wonderful asset to downtown Allentown.

When we began our work, the mulch beds had been infiltrated by weeds and were in need of re-mulching. After amassing piles of waste and bagging them, the mulch beds were covered anew.

I want to personally thank this fellow named Bryan:

He worked with me for a long while and despite being disappointed by the non-availability of a shovel, put his back into it and really helped out. Great kid.

At a time when another downtown Allentown playground has suffered extreme vandalism, our effort on Sunday afternoon seemed that much more needed. As someone who enjoys the parks on a nearly daily basis, giving back to them whenever the chance is presented is something I believe to be the right thing to do. I am proud to do it. To be able to see a local community unite for an afternoon to help make a communal resource better was an amazing thing to be a part of.

Thanks again to everyone who organized this event and thanks to everyone who came out to work in support of it. I’m looking forward to the next time.

See Also:

Planting the Riparian Buffer at Cedar Beach

Our second Walk in the Park

This past Saturday, our second get together took place at Trexler Park.

Noon was apparently too early for my brother:

We began our walk at the main entrance and headed up towards the statue of General Trexler. That hill was tough on me with the heat so I have to tip my hat to Jos and Jim for pushing strollers up it. My mom gets a tip of the hat as well for making it up there with a severe ankle injury.

It’s funny that excluding me and my immediate family, the folks that came out for the walk were not from Allentown; Jos and Dani grew up in Coopersburg, Jim and Susie grew up outside of Bethlehem and Eric grew up in Macungie. I was glad to share as much of the historical knowledge about Trexler Park and General Trexler that I know, with them.

We ended our walk at the lagoon. We were able to see a beautiful heron on the rocks at the back end of the water.

I want to thank everyone for coming out on Saturday. It was a great time. I hope more people can join us for our next event. I will announce plans for our next get together which I am thinking will be a picnic at Cedar Beach in a few days. Hopefully it won’t be so darn hot!

See Also:
Our first Walk in the Park

Tonight: Second Public Meeting

I hope that you can make it out to Muhlenberg College this evening for the second meeting of our Food Forest. We will meet from 7-9 in room 340s of the New Science Building. (If you are walking north from Chew Street, New Science is the newest academic building to the left of Parents Plaza and the Trexler Arch) Here is the agenda:

Lehigh Valley Food Forest
Public Meeting #2 – 8/7/13
7:00-9:00 PM

·         Introduction & Recap of Activities to Date


·         Election of Board Officers*

o   Role of the Board

o   Roles of Positions

o   President: Andrew Kleiner

o   Vice-President: Ryan Kirschman

o   Secretary:

o   Treasurer:

§  Chairs:

·         Planning: Liz Schwartz

·         Events:

·         Fundraising:

·         Marketing: Bryan Kleiner

·         Design: Michael Schweizer

·         Community Outreach:

·         Public Education:

o   First Board Meeting:  August 21st/August 28th


·         Allentown City Park Location & Report from Meeting with Allentown Parks Director

o   Three Challenges

§  Volunteer Maintenance Commitment

§  Invasive Species Control

§  Deer Control


·         Public Brainstorm

o   First Events

o   Winter Activities (Fundraising/Promotion)

o   Finding Legal & Accounting help

o   Finding Planning help

o   Mission Statement

o   Public Education


·         Jacobsburg Field Trip

·         Question and Answer

·         Adjournment

·         Post Meeting Wrap-Up: Liberty Street Tavern

The Summer so Far…


September 1st marks the date that meteorologists consider the first day of autumn. This means, of course, that speaking climatologically – Autumn is a mere 49 days away. Still it is July and our average temperatures are at their peak for a given year. This time around we have managed to find ourselves in a weather pattern that will capitalize on those maximum seasonal averages and deliver a steamy heat wave that will last until the upcoming weekend. There isn’t much of a point to this introduction save – 1. I like to talk about the weather and 2. Meteorologically speaking, we are about half way through Summer 2013. This project began (well, was publically announced) around June 1st. (The meteorological first day of summer) So, halfway down – where is the Lehigh Valley Food Forest at? Let’s review:

1. LV Food Forest & Social Media

Our Facebook page is sitting at 194 likes as of 4:30 PM on July 15th. I think this is a fantastic accomplishment and I hope to see those numbers continue to rise in coming days & weeks as we have our next meeting (August 7th), [crosses fingers] a kick off meeting, a location announced, and whatever other news develops as our efforts become more focused and intensified. As always, I ask that you share the page on your Facebook accounts and feel free to let people know who we are and what we are going to be doing. You can link to the post on here called “This is the Lehigh Valley Food Forest” if you want to share loads of information.

2. The First Meeting

Way back when, on June 26th, we gathered in the conference room of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation and laid the foundation for this initiative. I thought we had a great turn out and am hoping to see everyone and more on August 7th.

3. LV Food Forest & Print Media

Major thinks are owed to The Express Times for sending a reporter to our meeting. She published a great article and helped grow awareness of the effort. The Express Times also named gave us a Trophy of the Week for our idea, and that’s pretty awesome!

4. Behind the Scenes

Sadly, I cannot share some things publically yet. That said, I have been wheeling and dealing since the first meeting and in a few weeks I hope to have a pretty solid handle on legal matters concerning our incorporation (and next steps to 501(c)(3)) and possible secured locations.

5. Communication

This one is on me. I was not clear enough at the outset regarding what this project is actually about. I hope the “this is the Food Forest” post cleared up any confusion. I want everyone to be saying and sharing the same mission and I hope to create and vote on a permanent mission statement on August 7th. These meetings will be full of doing cool things for those that want to be involved, I promise!

6. On Deck

I believe that we have had a pretty productive couple of months. There is so much work ahead but it is not work that is daunting nor insurmountable. We can do this. The goal to break ground on this project is Spring 2014. That gives us two full meteorological seasons and the rest of this hot summer to go. Please let me know if you have any questions and if you have emailed me – I will be getting back to you soon! Forgive slow responses, this is starting to cook! Hard to keep up!

The Lehigh Valley Food Forest on Facebook

Second Meeting Event Page