Posts Tagged ‘rhode island’

Photo: World Farmers.

Immigrants to the US, if they were farmers in their home countries or just want to grow food they can’t find here, may end up working in agriculture. And as this University of Rhode Island professor’s research shows, many are joining the new wave of urban growers.

Frank Carini reports at ecoRI News on John Taylor, associate professor of agroecology at URI, who recently received a $973,479 award from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture for his research.

I had to look up that new-to-me field of study. The Soil Association says that “agroecology is sustainable farming that works with nature. Ecology is the study of relationships between plants, animals, people, and their environment – and the balance between these relationships. Agroecology is the application of ecological concepts and principals in farming. [It] promotes farming practices that mitigate climate change … work with wildlife … put farmers and communities in the driving seat.” Read all about it here.

Carini writes, “The $973,479 award from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture was one of 12 to receive funding through the institute’s Urban, Indoor, and Other Emerging Agricultural Production Research, Education and Extension Initiative. The agency’s $9.4 million in grants are part of a broad U.S. Department of Agriculture investment in urban agriculture, funding research that addresses key problems in urban, indoor, and emerging agricultural systems.

“The project will bring together Taylor’s research with immigrant gardeners and farmers in Rhode Island, Julie Keller’s agriculture-focused work with diverse communities, Melva Treviño Peña’s work with immigrant fishers, and Patrick Baur’s work on food safety and urban agriculture. …

“Although always a part of city life, urban agriculture has recently attracted increased attention in the United States, as a strategy for stimulating economic development, increasing food security and access, and combating obesity and diabetes.

“Food justice is about addressing access to healthy and affordable food for low-wealth and marginalized communities. It seeks to ensure the benefits and risks of where, what, and how food is grown, accessed, distributed, and transported are shared equally.

“Many neighborhoods in metropolitan areas, including in Rhode Island’s urban core, have little to no access to fresh food or full-service grocery stores — a situation often referred to as living in a ‘food desert.’ Other marginalized communities are surrounded by ‘food swamps,’ areas in which a large amount of processed foods, such as fast food and convenience-store fare, is available with limited healthy options.

“One solution to this environmental justice problem is to encourage the growing of local food. Developing effective policies and programs demands as a first step the accurate mapping of existing urban agriculture sites, according to Taylor. He hopes to provide that template.

“Taylor and colleagues at URI, the University of Maryland, and the University of the District of Columbia will soon begin mapping the alternative food provisioning networks of immigrant communities and communities of color in three East Coast cities — Providence, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. — to better understand these networks.

“He hopes this transdisciplinary research will reap new information about alternative food provisioning networks in the Northeast, evaluating their impact on food system outcomes, and identifying opportunities for policy support. …

“At URI, Taylor’s ‘home garden’ is a quarter-acre plot at the Gardiner Crops Research Center [at] the bottom of the Kingston Campus. His plot, visible from Plains Road, represents in microcosm the immigrant foodways he will be studying for his research during the next few years.

“At URI’s Agrobiodiversity Learning Garden and Food Forest, he grows crops that are integral to the food traditions of Rhode Island’s diverse communities: South American sweet potatoes, Mexican tomatillos, Haitian tomatoes, Mediterranean herbs, Asian bok choy, and produce from an African diaspora garden. Taylor tends the garden with students in URI’s Plant Sciences and Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems programs and URI master gardeners, demonstrating how sustainable farming reinforces community-building.

“With the learning garden, he follows a lead set by generations of immigrants who moved to Providence and cities like it, bringing their growing practices, and sometimes seeds, with them. …

“A descendant of five generations of Pennsylvania farmers, he grew up on a 100-acre integrated crop-livestock farm near Pittsburgh. Taylor began gardening at the age of 6 and started a market garden while in high school. He left the farm to attend the University of Chicago … then managed federal education studies for 10 years before returning to school to study horticulture and practice landscape architecture.”

More at ecoRI News, here.

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Photo: What Cheer Flower Farm.

Today’s story shows, among other things, that if you pick a really good name, you’re halfway to your goal. Who wouldn’t be drawn to a charity with a name like What Cheer Flower Farm?

And wait till you hear what it does! Frank Carini’s ecoRI News story was originally reported in 2018.

“The place was a complete mess, but a trio of determined women was going to buy it anyway, as soon as the seller removed about 50 tattered mattresses from the dilapidated building.

“The 2.7-acre property was covered with wind-blown trash. More than a year later, the three women are still picking up broken glass. … They ripped up poison ivy by gloved hand, and brought in a tractor to help tear down the overgrowth. The empty factory with a brick facade, largely vacant since the 1990s, has no running water or electricity, is covered in graffiti, has been the victim of arson, and has been gutted of all scrap metal.

“ ‘The property was neglected for years,’ said Shelby Doggett, who, at 25, is the youngest of the three buyers.

“The women, Doggett, her mother, Marian Purviance, and Anne Holland, bought the derelict property for $525,000, so they could give away flowers.

What Cheer Flower Farm was incorporated [in October 2017] and it acquired the former site of the Colonial Knife Co., forgotten industrial land in the heart of the city’s Olneyville neighborhood, not far from Route 6, this spring.

“After the sale became final, the first two essential items the women had delivered were a port-a-potty and a truckload of compost.

“This new urban farm, at 46 Atwood St., only began its growing season two months ago. The seeds were planted late in the season because there was plenty of other work to do first. For one, the property was covered in pavement.

“Some 4,000 square feet of parking lot was torn up and transformed into an organic raised-bed ‘field’ of flowers, both perennial and annual. Purviance, the farm’s horticultural director, has years of garden cultivation and management experience.

“ ‘I worked in the fine-gardening business for a long time, and I worked for very high-end clients. A lot of them really didn’t even appreciate what it was to have a garden and how much a flower really means,’ said Purviance, 57, a 30-year resident of Providence.

‘I get so much more satisfaction out of working on this project than I did working for people who take that for granted.’

“The nonprofit flower farm with two full-time farmers — Purviance and Doggett, who as the program director also handles the administrative side of things; Holland is the communications manger — and with support from volunteers, grows organic flowers on a brownfield site.

“They give their product away to ‘people who deserve flowers but don’t have access,’ Purviance said.

“To supply those people who deserve flowers, What Cheer Flower Farm has partnered with Amos House, the Ronald McDonald House of Providence, and Meals on Wheels of Rhode Island. The women deliver bouquets and buckets of cut flowers to these institutions and other partners.

“About 90 percent of the flowers currently being grown at the farm were started from seed by Purviance in her kitchen and in a friend’s basement. The rest of the plants were donated by Green Animals Topiary Garden in Portsmouth. …

“Besides brightening people’s lives with free flowers — 1,000 have so far been donated — the nonprofit’s mission also includes reversing urban blight, creating a job training center for Rhode Island residents to help them enter the state’s $2.5 billion ‘green’ economy, and making Providence famous for urban flower farming.

“Chicken manure from Scratch Farm and horse manure from a gentleman farmer in Rehoboth, Mass., have been used to build soil. … The farm rents a meter from Providence Water, which allows it to use a fire hydrant for watering. The water is stored in donated tanks of various sizes.

“Where the dilapidated building now stands, the co-founders envision a barn, classroom space, an office, and space for lease. …

“What Cheer Flower Farm has applied for a brownfield remediation grant with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. An ongoing inventory assessment didn’t find elevated levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). The owners have worked with the National Resources Conservation Service and David Foss of Wilcox & Barton Inc., a Vermont-based environmental consulting firm.

“The property is in better toxic shape than the new owners predicted, but there’s still much work to be done. Much of that work will revolve around fundraising. As a 501(c)(3), the organization will rely on grants, donations, volunteers, and kindness. They also plan to host fee-based workshops for hobby gardeners and amateurs.”

From the farm’s website: “Our staff are busy working on growing, rescuing and giving away flowers. You can visit as a volunteer, or as an artist who wants to work outside en plain air or as a group seeking a tour. …

“What Cheer Flower Farm is a nonprofit dedicated to bringing solace, joy and healing to the people of Rhode Island via flowers as well as supporting our local floral economy via job training.

“We grow, rescue and give away 100,000 flowers per year and are on track to expand to giving away 300,000 flowers per year in the next five years. We never sell flowers – all are given away freely via our network of local nonprofits and organizations serving Rhode Islanders including hospitals, senior services, recovery centers, shelters, hospices and food pantries. …

  ” 2022 Achievements

  • “92,000 flowers grown, rescued and given away
  • “$50,000 grant won from United Way/Social Enterprise Greenhouse
  • “Relaunched Flower Festival named ‘The Best Thing to Do in RI’ by The Boston Globe.”

More at ecoRI News, here. No firewall.

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Photo: Lauren Daley.
On March 18, 2023, in a small town in the smallest state, Hundreds of people lined Main Street for ‘The World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade,’ ” the Boston Globe says. “The parade route was just 89 feet long.

Here’s something fun and silly. You should file it under sustainable living or slow fashion — that is, the simple life.

Here is Lauren Daley with her cute report for the Boston Globe.

“It just may be the world’s shortest St. Patricks’ Day parade — but it was long on energy. On Saturday, hundreds of Rhode Islanders, many dressed in green, gathered to watch an 89-foot-long parade that was billed as ‘The World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade.’ …

“Marjory O’Toole, executive director at Little Compton Historical Society, walked the route with a measuring tape — from the green ribbon starting line at one side of the Kinnane Brothers’ film studio at 26 Main St. (also known as the Old Stonebridge Dishes) to the parade’s end at other end of their property, 89 feet away. Participants left one side lot, marched in front of the building, and then exited into another lot on the other side of the building.

“Rhode Island Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos was on hand to present a proclamation to parade marshals Jim and Paula Downing, of Little Compton.

“ ‘We’re going to make it official! On behalf of the state of Rhode Island, we want to congratulate and formally recognize… the Little Compton 2023 World Shortest St. Patrick’s Day parade,’ she said. …

“A post-parade fundraiser — a corned beef and cabbage dinner at the Buttery Nook, the function room at the Kinnane Brothers’ studio — raised about $10,000 for the Little Compton Food Bank, [co-organizer Charles] Kinnane estimated on Sunday.

“They also raised spirits. The energy, and sense of community, was palpable. In a place where most community events are held on the other side of town, at Town Commons, an outdoor celebration on Main Street in the village district felt new and exciting.

“An estimated 600 to 700 people watched 30 groups — including dancers from the Clann Lir Academy of Irish dance, Portland and District Pipers, the Little Compton Band, bicyclists, motorcyclists, miniature ponies from Adamsville Stables, and others — marched or rode the short route.

“The Little Compton Band idled their turquoise truck for a mini-concert. Local surf legend Sid Abbruzzi was there, as well as Boston-based actor, James L. Leite. …

“On the sidelines, dogs dressed for the occasion, families waved, and kids shouted and collected stickers and candy. One little girl was so taken by the older girls performing Irish step dancing, she stood in the middle of the parade route to watch. A little boy wore his hooded sweatshirt backwards and used his hoodie to collect treats.

“The parade and after-party were hosted in part by the Kinnane Brothers, a group of eight filmmaking brothers known for their works with actor Kevin James and the Netflix hit ‘Home Team.’

“This was the second year the town held the parade, which ‘started as a joke’ said Paddy Manning of Tiverton, a cousin of the Kinnanes. … The pandemic forced a delay, during which they learned about a 98-foot-long parade in Hot Springs, Arkansas, which called itself the world’s shortest St. Patrick’s Day parade. It gave them a benchmark — and a title — to shoot for.

“Last year’s inaugural parade was smaller, Kinnane said. They never expected the crowd to double in size from last year. The amount raised for the Little Compton Food Bank also just about doubled, said Kinnane.

“They may have some competition next year, though not in Rhode Island: Bemidji, Minnesota, held their own ‘World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade’ this year. According to the Bemidji Pioneer, there were dozens of onlookers for the event, which ran a length of ’78 paces.’ “

Uh-oh, watch out for Minnesotans! They are competitive and have a lot of experience with weird parades and races. I once attended the outhouse race in Isanti, Minn.

More at the Globe, here.

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Photo: Rachel Rosenkrantz.
Rachel Rosenkrantz, a luthier, uses all-natural materials. For example, to build a bracing structure for the instrument above, she followed a bee blueprint, placed the structure in a hive, and waited for a year.

Now here’s a commitment to using natural materials that I bet you never heard of.

The nonprofit ecoRI News is great at finding stories like this one by Emily Olson on a Rhode Island luthier who makes guitars using mushrooms and honeycomb.

“During the pandemic lockdown,” Olson reports, “local guitar-maker Rachel Rosenkrantz collected shells from her daily two-egg breakfast. They seemed an appropriate — and certainly plentiful — biomaterial to integrate into a USB-chargeable electric guitar she was working on.

“ ‘Calcium is an integral part of violin varnish because it contributes to the sound quality,’ she explains. With this in mind, and inspired by the work of Gaston Suisse, a French art deco artist who worked with eggshell inlay, she used a laser cutter and manicure file to shape her collected shells into tiny triangles. The eggshell guitar was the last in a series of biomaterial-based instruments she completed during the pandemic. …

“Rosenkrantz had a thriving and well-established career as a commercial furniture and lighting designer when, 10 years ago, she had an epiphany.

“ ‘I can always make money,’ she says. ‘But I can’t make time. … I had been daydreaming about being a luthier for too long to not do it.’ …

“Rosenkrantz grew up just outside Paris in Montfermeil, an industrial town she describes as ‘the Fall River of France.’ She is the daughter of a family of tailors; her grandfather lived in an apartment above his small tailoring shop. …

“Rosenkrantz studied at l’ESAG in Paris, and in her college days, crossed the ocean a couple of times, first as an exchange student at the Rhode Island School of Design — ‘I loved the name Providence,’ she recalls. … She now lives just outside Pawtuxet Village in Cranston … above her guitar-making studio, Atelier Rosenkrantz. ‘I guess I’ve come full circle,’ she says, referencing her grandfather’s shop. … ‘This is my happy place.’ …

“Rosenkrantz is well aware of the negative impact guitar-making has on the environment. Though little seems more environmentally conscious than someone sitting outside plucking a guitar, guitars are made from wood. And it isn’t always harvested in a sustainable way. …

“Rosenkrantz relies on timber updates from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, a Switzerland-based organization that, through international agreement, offers a framework to ensure that when plants and animals cross borders, a species’ survival isn’t threatened.

“ ‘Brazilian rosewood is a big no-no because their rainforests were depleted,’ she says. But it isn’t just the type of wood used that she considers; she also considers how a country manages its resources. ‘India, for example, manages their rosewood really well,’ she adds. …

“Replenishment also is important. ‘Every guitar-maker, every woodworker — if we consume wood, we should grow wood,’ she says. The alternative, of course, is to not use wood at all. …

“One afternoon Rosenkrantz was at RISD, where she teaches spatial design, and decided to spend some time in the Nature Lab.

“ ‘RISD has a whole library of natural specimens, including biomaterials,’ she says. … ‘I know that Styrofoam conducts sound because it’s full of air, so I tested RISD’s [imitation Styrofoam] mushroom sample with my sound diffuser and realized that I could make a solid body sound like a hollow body.’

“The thing that excites her most about using farm waste inoculated with mushrooms in her craft is that she can grow her own design — a plastic mold is at her feet, leaning against the bench. ‘It takes about a week to grow a guitar body — four days to grow, then four days to let a crust develop,’ she says. …

“She slides a banjo from a shelf behind her and explains the body is made from kombucha leather. Kombucha home brewers are familiar with a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY), a cellulose mat that forms from the basis of kombucha — sweet tea — and houses the cultures that turn sweet tea into more kombucha. To get a SCOBY large enough make adequate leather for a banjo, Rosenkrantz brewed kombucha in a fish tank. ‘It took 11 tries before I made enough leather for one instrument,’ she says. …

“Rosenkrantz began dabbling in beekeeping, and as she researched hive options, quickly discovered the top bar beehive … a horizontal box with bars on top that support honeycomb, and it allows bees to build the way they would in nature. … ‘The bars in a top bar hive reminded me a lot of the bracing that goes in the front of a guitar that provides rigidity and guides sound,’ she says. … ‘I wondered if I provided the bees with bracing, if I could trick them into building a guitar.’

“But bees are not so easily tricked. ‘Bees have their own egress and architectural code,’ Rosenkrantz says, and she had to learn those codes to encourage the bees to collaborate on a design.

“So, after a great deal of research, she built a bracing structure according to the bees’ blueprint, placed it in a hive, and waited for a year. The result was something she never could have anticipated. The bees not only accepted her design and built their comb along her bracing structure, but they maintained the wood.”

More at ecoRI News, here. Amazing pictures. No firewall.

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Photo: Pandbambooguy.
Female box turtle digging a hole with her back legs to lay eggs. Eastern box turtles are a popular species in the illegal world of wildlife poaching. 

Unsurprisingly, Erik couldn’t believe that global criminal gangs selling endangered species had ties to turtle thieves in little old Rhode Island. I know. It sounds pretty implausible — and grandmothers do tend to sensationalize news stories to entertain the kids.

But it’s all true. Just ask the state herpetologist. (Who knew Rhode Island had an official herpetologist?)

As Frank Carini reported at ecoRI News this month, “Rhode Island’s reptiles and amphibians face pressure from numerous threats, and for many species, removal of even a single adult from the wild can lead to local extinction, according to the state’s herpetologist.

“Since the local and/or regional future for many of these species — eastern spadefoot toad, northern leopard frog, northern diamondback terrapin, to name just a few — is in doubt, removing them from nature to keep as a pet or to sell is against the law. It’s illegal to sell, purchase, or own/possess native species in any context, even if acquired through a pet store or online, according to Rhode Island law.

“Turtles are especially vulnerable, according to Scott Buchanan, who became the state’s first full-time herpetologist in 2018, because some species must reproduce for their entire lives to ensure just one hatchling survives to adulthood. The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) staffer said it takes years, sometimes a decade or more, for turtles to reach reproductive age, if they make it at all.

“Buchanan recently told ecoRI News that ‘broadly, across taxa’ the illegal taking, or poaching, of wildlife is a ‘huge issue. … Globally, it’s considered one of the driving forces of population declines and even extinctions,’ he said.

“Wildlife trade experts and conservation biologists such as Buchanan point to poaching — driven by demand in Asia, Europe, and the Unified States — as a contributing factor in the global decline of some freshwater turtles and tortoises. …

‘Before you take a photo of a turtle in the wild, turn off the geolocation on your phone. If you post a turtle photo on social media, don’t include information about where you found it.’ 

“Of the 360 known turtle and tortoise species, 52% are threatened, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species.

“A group of global turtle and tortoise experts published a 2020 paper that noted ‘more than half of the 360 living species [187] and 482 total taxa (species and subspecies combined) are threatened with extinction. This places chelonians [turtles, terrapins, and tortoises] among the groups with the highest extinction risk of any sizeable vertebrate group.’

“Turtle populations are ‘declining rapidly’ because of habitat loss, consumption by humans for food and traditional medicines, and collection for the international pet trade, according to the paper’s authors. Many could go extinct this century.

“Buchanan’s involvement in dealing with the impact of poachers is primarily around North American turtles. He noted turtle diversity is high globally and in the eastern United States — in the Southeast more than the Northeast, however.

“But state and federal law enforcement officials and wildlife biologists consider the illegal collection of turtles to be a conservation crisis occurring at an international scale, according to Buchanan, who is the co-chair of the Collaborative to Combat the Illegal Trade in Turtles (CCITT), formed in 2018 within Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation. …

“In Rhode Island, Buchanan said, there are four turtle species of concern: the eastern box turtle; the spotted turtle; the wood turtle; and the northern diamondback terrapin.

Eastern box (species of greatest conservation need): This turtle spends most of its time on land rather than in the water. They favor open woodlands, but can be found in floodplains, near vernal pools, ponds, streams, marshy meadows, and pastures. They reach sexual maturity by about 10 years of age. Females nest in June and lay an average of five eggs in open areas with sandy or loamy soil. Eggs hatch in late summer.

Spotted (species of greatest conservation need): These turtles are sensitive to disturbance. They are usually found in shallow, well-vegetated wetland habitats, such as vernal pools, marshes, swamps, bogs, and fens. …

Wood (species of greatest conservation need): For part of the year they live in streams, slow rivers, shoreline habitats, and vernal pools, but in the summer they roam widely across terrestrial landscapes. …

Northern diamondback (state endangered): Their population has suffered greatly due to poaching and habitat loss. They are found in estuaries, coves, barrier beaches, tidal flats, and coastal marshes. They spend the day feeding and basking in the sun and bury themselves in the mud at night. They reach sexual maturity at about 6. Females lay a clutch consisting of 4-18 eggs. Some females will lay more than one clutch in a season and hatching usually occurs in late August. The young spend the earlier years of life under tidal wrack (seaweed) and are rarely observed. …

“Other turtle species that can be found in Rhode Island include eastern painted, common snapping turtle, and eastern musk. …

“ ‘We have a lot of turtles for a small state,’ Buchanan said. …

“In late September environmental police officers from DEM’s Division of Law Enforcement found 16 eastern musk turtle hatchlings, a species native to Rhode Island and the eastern United States, in the home of a West Warwick man suspected of illegally advertising them for sale on Craigslist and Facebook.

“The case resulted from a week-long investigation, during which the suspect offered two hatchlings to undercover environmental police officers for purchase, according to DEM. The suspect was charged with 16 counts of possession of a protected reptile or amphibian without a permit. The turtles were taken to the Roger Williams Park Zoo, which has a room and equipment dedicated to the care of turtles seized from the illegal turtle trade. The turtles will be released back into the wild after clearing health screenings and disease testing, according to DEM. …

“To help protect Rhode Island’s native species, you can submit observations of amphibians and reptiles to DEM scientists online.”

More at ecoRI News, here. No firewall.

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Photo: Matthew Healey/Boston Globe.
Jeremy Garcia, 22, of Providence takes a break from working on a mural at “The Avenue Concept” in Providence, Rhode Island.

Kids love contributing to community murals. I know because Suzanne and John helped paint one in our town years ago. But that mural — about local history — was bland compared with the passionate work of self-expression and healing by urban youth in Providence.

Alexa Gagosz writes at the Boston Globe, “After setting down her paint brush, Deborah Ndayisaba gazed up at the purple-colored protestors who spread across a section of a new large-scale mural on the exterior of The Avenue Concept’s headquarters.

“A senior at La Salle Academy in Providence, Ndayisaba, 17, said she had her own ‘advocacy awakening’ when the Black Lives Matter movement took off in 2020. She joined the diversity club at school, became involved in PVD World Music, which looks to celebrate and enrich traditional African music and arts, and researched how many of the racial injustices of the Civil Rights era are now still relevant today.

“The protestors, for her, are symbolic. ‘It’s unfair how racial discrimination can touch everything. And activism isn’t just marching on the streets,’ said Ndayisaba, who is applying to colleges to eventually go into the medical field where she hopes to help women of color.

“It’s those kind of personal elements that scatter this newly finished collage mural by local youth who are involved with the Nonviolence InstituteRhode Island Latino ArtsHaus of Codec, and PVD World Music — all Providence-based organizations. The effort was led by The Avenue Concept, a public arts organization, and international community-based public art organization Artolution. …

“The Avenue Concept, which is the state’s leading public art program, was founded in Providence in 2012. Since then, artists from around the world have been commissioned to paint mammoth-sized murals across downtown that are part of the city’s skyline today. …

“A few of the Concept’s most notable works address longstanding community issues, such as ‘Still Here‘ by muralist Gaia, which depicts Lynsea Montanari, a member of the Narragansett tribe and an educator at the Tomaquag Museum, as they hold a picture of Princess Red Wing, a Narragansett elder who founded the museum. In September, Boston-based artists Josie Morway painted a new mural in Warren that addresses sea level rise.

“This new project, which was completed after 10 painting days on Sept. 30, is a pilot for a larger community participation program that was identified in The Avenue Concept’s latest strategic plan. The goal of the program, Thorne explained, was to address representation, neighborhood voice, unique cultural perspectives, and community needs in their upcoming projects.

“ ‘Over the last year, we’ve really tried to listen and better understand the stories that are intersecting in our own neighborhood,’ [Yarrow Thorne, executive director and founder of The Avenue Concept] said. ‘We are looking to do more than just the giant pieces of beautiful art in downtown, but to serve the community that surrounds us.’

“Thorne said the Concept, which is based in the Upper South neighborhood of Providence, selected the four local organizations because of how their work makes an impact across a diverse set of communities. Each organization brought four to five members of their youth communities to learn, connect, co-create themes, and eventually execute the mural with the help of Artolution’s co-founder Dr. Max Frieder.

“Frieder, a Rhode Island School of Design graduate and former classmate of Thorne’s, brings public art projects around the world — including in refugee camps. Frieder said he trains refugee-artists on how they can work with kids who have been through trauma and teach them to express what’s most important to them through art.

“ ‘With this project, we brought four very different community groups together and it has been remarkable to see them come together and reflect on their similarities,’ said Frieder, who has participated in public art installations on all seven continents. …

“Each participant painted a scene in a ‘memory ball,’ which looked like a golden orb with a scene of their choice inside. Some painted themselves playing basketball, another read ‘stop drug abuse,’ and one painted themselves playing a trumpet.

“One memory ball said, ‘You only get one life. It’s your duty to live it as fully as possible.’ It’s a quote inspired by Jojo Moyes, an English journalist and novelist.

“Each participant talked about the issues they and their families face in South Providence today: their communities getting priced out as the cost of living increases. Others have faced racism and homophobia in school. Some say their family’s generational trauma has prevented their own parents from healing.

“For example, Jeremy Garcia, 22, a self-described ‘proud, Black-Latino,’ described the stereotypes of South Providence being considered an ‘urban hood’ where residents are predominantly people of color. Garcia said many of their neighbors have watched cases of police brutality, such as the killing of George Floyd, and are afraid to call the police.

“ ‘These are the people who are supposed to save us and who we should be able to turn to when we are in danger,’ Garcia said. ‘If you can’t turn to the police, where do you turn?’

“Expressing themselves ‘and letting go of their past is the only way we can can heal and move forward,’ said Cedric Huntley, the executive director of the Nonviolence Institute. ‘We need more of this — in Providence and around the world. We all focus so much on the negative, which certainly impacts all of us, but there’s more to it in these young people’s lives.’ ”

More at the Globe, here. Nice photos. For a no-firewall article on the mural “Still Here,” check the Brown University newspaper.

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Photo: Suzanne and John’s Mom.
My teabag tag: “The difference between a flower and a weed is a judgment.” In fall, it hits us that wild asters are flowers. Bees go bananas for them. The bees knew all along.

Happy October. Time to gather recent photos to share. I use only my phone for photography, I’m sorry to say, so if you want to see what a real camera can do with nature scenes in my region, check out bloggers like jmankowsky and her site From My Window, here.

The first two pictures below are by Sandra M. Kelly and were taken at the Painted Rock in New Shoreham, Rhode Island.

In the Massachusetts town where I live, there are lots of painted doors, an Umbrella Arts initiative. The one pictured, over by the parking lot for two childhood homes of Louisa May Alcott (the Wayside and the Orchard House), features four kinds of poems for the four seasons.

The next two photos were taken at the Umbrella’s annual woodland art show. The theme this year had to do with getting out of balance with nature. The problem is, most of the artists thought they had to use a lot of plastic to express themselves on the topic. John and the kids and I really didn’t like all the plastic. The real-life frogs in the wetlands were fun though.

The mural off Thoreau Street has been wearing well. I wrote about its development in 2012, here.

I loved the sign at my older granddaughter’s soccer game. Also loved hearing blogger Will McMillan, Carole Bundy, and Molly Ruggles (not shown) singing at Porchfest.

In the second-to-last picture, Boston’s Post Office Square is a lovely urban oasis. And I close with shots of the boat house and the nearly dry Sudbury River in September.

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Photo: Suzanne.
The Painted Rock gets the best art in the off-season. This was in early June.

Today I’m rounding up a few photos from summer in New England (although, of course, the badger photo was not taken in New England but on that wedding trip).

There are four photos of some really artistic work on the Painted Rock. Next comes a typical island clothesline in the mellow light near sunset. That’s followed by a pile of rocks that someone (a child?) collected at the edge of the Tug Hole, a sign showing that some landowners are welcoming, and a sharp Queen Anne’s Lace shadow on a guard rail. Those photos were all taken in New Shoreham,, Rhode Island.

The next few are from Massachusetts: Purple Loosestrife near a stone wall, a food-themed mural, a painted door with 3-D touches, and a juvenile red-tailed hawk at Minuteman Park. There were three of the young hawks horsing around that morning. They threw me off the identification until I learned that red tails whistle and that the tail isn’t red in the first year.

Finally, the Wisconsin tough guy.

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In my last batch of photos, I showed a piece from an Art League of Rhode Island exhibit to which my friend Ann Ribbens had contributed. The show, “Below the Surface,” had a humanity-versus-water theme, and the quilt I shared in that post featured a warning about toxins in fish. Today I’m displaying Ann’s lovely “Undersea Tapestry” and two other pictures from “Below the Surface.”

Now I’m wondering if there’s something in the water that New England artists are drinking. The next group of photos is from a recent exhibit at a Massachusetts gallery, and the subject is “Undercurrents: Water and Human Impact.” If artists are to be believed (and they are), things are not looking good for water and it’s all our fault.

At “Undercurrents,” I especially liked Henry Horenstein’s photograph “Cownose ray” and Joan Hall’s “The New Normal,” which hints at manmade items that wash in with the tide.

Still on the subject of art, I want to mention that yesterday I checked out the new mural on the Boston Greenway, where I used to love walking when I worked downtown. There are many post-Covid changes in the area (I felt like Rip Van Winkle gazing around in wonder after a long nap), but the Greenway is still hiring artists to paint the wall of the giant Air-Intake building over the Big Dig. The latest painting, of a little boy with a boombox, has a wistful feeling about it.

The mural photos are followed by several local scenes, including a look at the bright cherries next to John’s front porch.

I end with a picture that Ann took last month while traveling in France. I couldn’t resist. It looks so utterly French to me.

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Looking for turtles.

I do my wandering in a small circumference, but I’m always finding something new. Today’s photos are from favorite haunts in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

As a kid, I spent a lot of time exploring the woods. Now the granddaughter above and her friend enjoy doing the same thing. They particularly like tromping through the less traveled paths — a great opportunity to practice poison ivy identification.

The next photo shows another Providence pond beloved of turtles. My granddaughter worries about them when they lay eggs on the small beach where people walk.

The next scene was taken from the North Bridge in Concord. The little boathouse belongs to the Old Manse. A fisherman is having a relaxing day on the river near there.

Lots of lupines in a yard devoted to native plants. Iris in my yard. Clematis on a phone pole.

Do you have a guess how far below the Clayhead Trail the beach in the next photo is? This is a true optical illusion as the distance is scores of feet down. Would love it if someone from New Shoreham could tell me just how many. 100?

The next shot is of our town in Massachusetts. The play Our Town was actually performed outdoors in the street here, directed my my friend Dorothy Schecter years ago.

A creative resident hangs a lantern with poetry free for the taking.

I hope you’ll get a kick out of the bumper sticker. Unfortunately, no one was singing when I walked past. Next is a photo of a local second hand shop, followed by one of the cute veggie tables at the new health-food store.

The quilted warning about eating the fish you catch was in Pawtucket at an Art League of Rhode Island show called “Under the Surface.” The Make Way for Ducklings wallpaper covered the windows of a Boston shop that was being renovated.

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Suzanne’s mother-in-law, known on this blog as Stuga40 (see selfie below), flew from Sweden in March to hang out with family in Providence for a few weeks. She brought along her artist’s eye.

My husband and I had many nice walks with her, outdoor lunches, indoor conversations, and playtimes with grandchildren. Because of Covid, it had been three years since we’d seen her.

I wanted to share a few of Stuga40’s photos with you because I liked them so much.

Above, you see a view under the I-195 bridge over the Providence River, where a new bike trail passes. It reminded me of artists like Charles Sheeler, whose work was among those we saw on a rainy-day visit to the RISD [Rhode Island School of Design] Museum.

She also took shots of random things that intrigued her: utility-box art, a large mural, and the plant life we have all around us but don’t always notice.

When Stuga40 gets back to Sweden, I know she will continue to apply her connoisseur’s eye to the photos she takes on her walks around Stockholm. I hope to have some more to show anon.

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My first photo today is from Pawtucket, Rhode Island, where a homeowner is expressing the solidarity that most of us feel for Ukrainians defending their homeland against a crazed invader.

Some other recent photos also make me think about solidarity — and how good things can happen when folks band together. Remember the WPA? Many of its works are still in use. New Congressional allocations will be doing some of the same kinds of infrastructure projects, thank goodness.

I loved the sign on the bank of the Seekonk River showing the power of “unionized” little fish in a dangerous world.

The photo of the pollinator sign highlights the banding together of neighborhoods in Massachusetts and elsewhere to protect honey bees and other pollinators, guardians of a healthy environment.

Looks like Providence’s official guardian on the river may actually be needed more on the road.

Meanwhile, encouraging signs of spring give us hope that winter won’t keep returning after random warm days. Still, winter can have attractions. Note the bluebirds that have been regular visitors to our feeder.

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Photo: Ramona Peters.
Called “All Four Points,” this piece refers to the points of the compass. Ceramacist Ramona Peters, a member of Massachusetts’s Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, has helped revive 1600s Wampanoag traditional forms in clay.

I was reading about indigenous ceramics in New England at the Tomaquag Museum’s blog when I got interested in the origins of that remarkable institution and its plans for a new home near the University of Rhode Island campus.

First the ceramics post.

“My name is Haley Johnson and I am a Mashpee Wampanoag Ceramicist. I have a BFA in Ceramics from Rhode Island College.[As] an Education Intern at the Tomaquag Museum, I am dedicated to teaching about the past and advocating for the future of Indigenous arts and artists. …

“The Northeast is unique in its ceramic practices as can be seen in the color and textures of the clay, the shapes of our vessels, and the patterns and designs on finished work. … The natural clays that come from the Northeast are rich in minerals and sediments that lend to its bright oranges and deep reds upon firing. These colors then become signifiers of where the clay, and by extension, the vessel is from. …

“Traditionally in the coastal Northeast, cone shaped bottoms and wide mouths indicate cooking vessels. These pieces were designed specifically to heat food like soups and stews evenly. Ramona Peters (Mashpee Wampanoag) is a contemporary potter who creates with a similar shape language. [But usually] she makes the bottom of her vessels flat so that they are more easily displayed.. …

“Pottery adornment is also popular amongst Native ceramicists. By dragging and pressing tools into wet clay, patterns similar to those seen on Southern New England woven splint basketry can be made. Peters does this in her work.”

For a legend explaining how Maushop, creator of Noepe, or Martha’s Vineyard, and his taste for whale meat created the colors of the local clay, click here.

Now for the plan to create a bigger Tomaquag Museum. Nancy Burns-Fusaro at the Westerly Sun writes, “Rhode Island’s first and only indigenous museum is preparing to soar grandly into the 21st century.

“The Tomaquag Museum, which began inside the small Ashaway home of anthropologist Eva Butler more than 60 years ago, will move to an expansive, 18-acre site off Ministerial Road in South Kingstown, on the very land where ancestors of the Niantic and Narragansett tribal nations lived and worked for millennia prior to the arrival of European settlers.

” ‘We are so excited and so thankful,’ Executive Director Lorén Spears said [as] she discussed plans for the new museum and research center, which is scheduled to open in 2023. The plans include four new buildings and plenty of room for exhibits, area hikes, property tours, visitor parking, gardens full of native plants, medicinals, berries and herbs, new classrooms, performance space, a fully functional kitchen, gift shop, restaurant, pavilions, sculpture gardens, a replica of an early Native village, and a long house. …

“For Spears, a Narragansett tribal member who has worked tirelessly to educate the public on Native history, culture, the environment and the arts for more than a quarter of a century, the project is a dream come true.

” ‘It’s an exciting time,’ said Spears, who has taught at Brown University, the University of Rhode Island and in the Newport Public Schools and continues to teach classes and workshops designed to promote thoughtful dialogue about indigenous history. …

“Spears said the museum staff and members of the board of directors have been searching for the right location for years  now, and this piece of land, steeped in history and owned by the University of Rhode Island, is more than ideal. …

“Spears said the new site is visible yet rural, centrally located and accessible by car, foot and bicycle, but ‘the cherry on the top’ was the existence of viable public transportation.  

‘It’s accessible by public transportation,’ said Spears. “[Buses] run by all day and all night. It’s accessible from the north, south, east and west.’

“The property, which lies just south of Route 138 and north of Route 1, is a few miles away from the Kingston train station and adjacent to the South Kingstown bike path. …

” ‘Tourists will be able to find us,’ Spears said with a small laugh, noting that the museum’s current location is not as accessible. …

” ‘It’s a game changer,’ said Elizabeth Francis, executive director of the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities. The new facility, she said, will allow the museum to more fully share its programming, collections and archives, will help usher in a new era and help introduce a new generation to all the museum’s ‘wonderful material.’ …

“The project, ‘is a testament to how current and present Rhode Island’s indigenous community is,’ Francis added. ‘They  are not locked away in a distant past … they are not static but are here and essential.’ …

“Constantly praising the museum’s staff, board members and collaborators, Spears also pays tribute to her ancestors, especially the women who founded the museum. 

“In 1958, she said, Mary E. Glasko, better known as Princess Red Wing, Narragansett/Pokanoket-Wampanoag, founded Tomaquag Museum, Rhode Island’s first and only Indigenous Museum, with the help of a friend and colleague, anthropologist Eva Butler. When Butler died in 1969, Tomaquag moved to the now-legendary Dovecrest Restaurant, owned by Ferris and Eleanor Spears Dove, the matriarch of the Narragansett Tribe who died in 2019 at the age of 100. After Dovecrest closed, Tomaquag moved to its current quarters in Exeter.

“But now, Spears said, it’s time to focus on the future.”

More on the new museum at the Boston Globe, here, the Providence Journal, here, and the Westerly Sun, here.

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Photo: Caitlin Faulds/ecoRI News.
Save The Bay’s Wenley Ferguson is leading a marsh migration project on Sapowet Marsh in Tiverton, R.I. The goal is to slowly drain pools of standing water, some more than 18 inches deep, to protect marsh grasses and stop erosion.

Today I learned a few things about marshes that I didn’t know. For example, they are supposed to be wet but not too wet. In Rhode Island, one important wetland was dying — until it was given a helping hand.

Caitlin Faulds has the story at ecoRI News. “The grasses are dying. Clusters of broken, denuded stems stand in shallow pools of brackish water, making a patchwork of the low-lying marshlands. The slow balding is invisible from the blacktop of Seapowet Avenue, hidden behind a thick curtain of phragmites. But standing boot-deep in the peat, surrounded by the sulfuric scent of decomposition, the bare ground is clear evidence of the steady saltwater creep happening in marshes across Rhode Island.

“Spartina alterniflora, or smooth cordgrass, is notoriously salt-tolerant and a common feature in saltwater marsh environments.

“ ‘They can grow along the edge of the cove and get flooded twice a day, but they can’t grow in standing water,’ said Wenley Ferguson, shovel in hand. All around, the sunlight glints off pools of standing water, unable to drain and slowly growing with each high tide.

“The average sea level in Rhode Island has increased by about a foot since 1929. Storm surges and king tides have pushed further and further inland. Normally, the marsh would respond to the rising high-water line by matching the migration inland. But with the sea on one side and a dense web of roads, development, cultivated fields, and invasive species on the other — and accelerated sea-level rise on its way — Sapowet Marsh has nowhere to move. …

“Ferguson has been working with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) at the Sapowet Marsh Wildlife Management Area, a 260-acre state property, for more than five years now. … Under Ferguson’s watch, Sapowet has become home to the largest marsh migration facilitation project in the state — a small counter to the forces at play. …

“The cordgrass roots are taut, but they cut easy. Just one stomp and the shovel sinks through the muck, water pooling up and over the toes of Ferguson’s black rubber boots. …

“Earlier in the week, Ferguson — along with a handful of DEM employees and volunteers — used shovels and a small excavator to dig a weaving network of runnels through the marsh. These shallow creeks will give the pooling water a route out to Narragansett Bay, allowing the area to slowly drain.

If the root zone of the marsh plants is able to dry even slightly, they will grow ‘healthy and happy,’ Ferguson said. Healthy plants build up a stronger root base, and a stronger root base makes a coastline more resilient to erosion and sea-level rise.

“But ‘we don’t want to drain it too fast,’ she said. It has been three days since they dug the first runnels and the water level has dropped only slightly, exposing a few inches of bare mud — exactly as planned. The standing water is thick with unconsolidated sediments and topped by a bacterial mat. If the water rushes out all at once, this sediment will pour into the bay. It’s better to dig in phases and let it settle out in the marsh, maintaining as much high ground as possible. …

“Ferguson fought to keep the peat in the marsh. … ‘These areas will just be a little higher, and they might recolonize,’ Ferguson said. ‘And when I say might — they do recolonize.’

“Within one season, the islands will host new sprouts of cordgrass, or they’ll prove high and dry enough to support clusters of high marsh grasses. The clusters of high grass will make ideal nesting habitat for the saltmarsh sparrow.”

Read about other benefits at ecoRI, here.

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Photo: David L. Ryan/Globe Staff.
Aminullah Faqiry, newly arrived with his family in Rhode Island, was an interpreter for the US military, in Afghanistan. He talks with Edward Fitzpatrick about his life there and his sorrow about the failure of 20 years of fighting the Taliban.

Because I’ve volunteered with refugees for several years, I know firsthand that these people do not leave jobs, friends, and family in their home country because they prefer to live in the United States or any other country. They leave because the situation at home is untenable. And it breaks their hearts.

Consider the sadness of the former military interpreter who recently arrived with his immediate family in Rhode Island, forced to abandon other family members who are now in grave danger. Ed Fitzpatrick, a reporter for the Boston Globe, talked to him.

He writes that Aminullah “Faqiry said he was overcome with emotion as he prepared to board the plane to leave Afghanistan, and people began looking at him, wondering why he wasn’t happy to be escaping an incredibly precarious situation. But he knew the source of his tears.

“ ‘I am a very patriotic person,’ Faqiry explained. ‘I cried for my people, for my country, for the system being destroyed, for so many sacrifices that we had made.’

“He said he cried for the family members he was leaving behind — for his mother and father, who are struggling with health problems, and for the widow and the children of his brother, who was killed by the Taliban. …

“He said he was crying because the Afghan people had been ‘liberated’ before the Taliban arrived.

“ ‘Women were able to go to school, and a girl was able to walk on the streets free without tension and without fear,’ he said. ‘Afghanistan was growing up. We were on the move to compete in the world.’ …

“But now, he said, it was clear ‘We were going to go back — my country was going to be thrown back like 50 years. … We are leaving everything behind to the Taliban, who we fought for 20 years and who are a terrorist organization. … We were not able to hold on — we had fallen. … I wanted my country and my people to have been peaceful. It just didn’t happen,’ Faqiry said. ‘I was crying because we lost everything.’ ”

But as you know, people do what they have to do. Most refugees regroup, find or create work to support their families, and give back to their host countries. Today, in Virginia, former refugees are offering a warm welcome to Afghans.

Story Hinckley reports at the Christian Science Monitor, “For many Americans, it’s difficult to imagine what the tens of thousands of newly arrived Afghan refugees are going through. 

“But Arshad Mehmood doesn’t have to imagine. He knows. Only seven years ago, Mr. Mehmood was in their shoes, fleeing Pakistan. He describes being kidnapped and tortured by the Taliban for being a local politician. 

“Now, as the regional coordinator for a national nonprofit, Mr. Mehmood as well as his team in northern Virginia, many of whom are refugees themselves, is helping these new arrivals with everything from finding apartments to translating school enrollment forms from English to Pashto. They have assisted more than 80 Afghan families over the past three months and expect to help almost 200 by the end of the year.

“And while this practical aid is important, says Mr. Mehmood, it’s not what newly evacuated Afghan allies need most right now. That would be encouragement and empathy. And here in Virginia, Afghans are finding this support in local communities – especially from the refugees who came before them.

“ ‘English was my third language, but I did it. We live a good life here,’ says Mr. Mehmood. His wife, who is a manager at T.J. Maxx, feels welcomed to wear her hijab on the job. His daughter will start her first year of college this fall, and his son is a defensive star on his American football team.’ ”

Read on. There is light in darkness. Perhaps after reading these stories, you will find a way to help a refugee family. And if like blogger Milford Street you already do help refugees, please share a word about your experience.

More at the Monitor, here, and at the Globe, here.

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