in the garden

DSC_0035Where would I rather be even on a hot and humid day? My garden.   l love my garden and I love the open space which exists around me.  I love that I don’t live in some Pulte Homes or Toll Brothers development where I would open a window and be able to spit into my neighbor’s kitchen.

Gardening is indeed communing with nature and I swear that connection with Mother Earth  puts you closer to God.  I revel in each new plant discovery and love finding things that sprouted up from a seed that a breeze or bird dropped along the way – like the Japanese Lantern plants I just found in the middle of some day lilies a few days ago. I also recently discovered some baby hostas that sprang up where I didn’t ever plant any and then there was the toad lily that appeared in the spring where one was never planted.  I even discovered a couple of Trillium plants which are among the most beautiful of spring flowers.

I love going to my favorite local nurseries and choosing my plants myself.  I love working with my mail order growers on other plants.  I love digging in the dirt and planting up a DSC_0054storm and tending everything and watching it grow. I get through the winter pouring through gardening catalogs and gardening books.

I realized recently that I have been re-creating for the past couple of years the gardens of my childhood and aspects of the gardens of others I have always loved.  Ironically the woman who would have been my mother in law if she was still alive was an incredible gardener, a true master gardener.  When I go through gardening books that belonged to her I love reading the little notes she left in the margins. And yes, I do have a lot of vintage gardening books, I love them just like my cookbooks.

I am not Martha Stewart, or Gertrude Jekyll or C.Z. Guest or Rosemary Verey, I am just me, an average backyard gardener.  But I have to tell you it is so glorious to garden that I feel sorry for people who can only manage to dial a phone and hire someone to garden for them (getting “shrubbed” is not gardening!).  These people are missing out on so much.  So are the people who think gardening is like HGTV and DIY shows along the lines of Yardcore, Going Yard, I Hate My Yard and so on. It’s not. DSC_0032

Trust me, there is life beyond the hardscape with giant fire pit. You want a “bodacious backyard”? Oh my gosh then create one! Yourself. You can do it!

Getting lost in the garden tending to plants and watching to see what kind of birds you have and butterflies is one of the greatest simple pleasures of life.

Go ahead, dig in the dirt. Get your hands dirty. It is s worth it season after season.




the emperor may have no clothes on when it comes to t.o.d. in malvern


UPDATE: I was just cruising through Malvern Patch to see if there was any resident feedback from Malvern’s TOD meeting (since the media can’t seem to cover life altering development) and my eyes about popped when I read this:

Sidne Baglini      July 24, 2013 at 09:34 pm   

The meeting was last night at Borough Hall.  The subject was the Transportation Oriented Development…Read More Plan presentation which is encouraging the Borough to change the zoning on the north side of the railroad tracks on Warren Ave.  so that 600 residential units can be constructed so that SEPTA can increase it’s ridership and surrounding communities can avoid suburban sprawl.  The plans presented showed several 12 story buildings; a plan with multiple 7 story buildings and a plan with even more multiple 4 or 5 story buildings.  Another meeting will be announced for late summer or early autumn as they are required to hold 3 public meetings and last night’s was the 2nd.  I don’t know if the 3 plans were left at the Borough Hall or if they are being held by the Delaware Valley Planning Commission.  In a nutshell, if you think East King Street Flats is your vision of what Malvern should be like, then this proposal is EKSF on steroids.


I used to say that TOD stood for Total Of Dumbasses.  It really means Transit Oriented Development, and whoa Nellie I had no idea it was being planned for Malvern Borough.

It is like Groundhog Day for me because I lived through a lot of these Emperor’s New Clothes scenarios when I lived on the Main Line.  It tore apart Lower Merion Township where I used to live and to this day divisiveness truly still exists. And Transit Oriented Development is still a myth of more fiction than fact.

And oh my gosh golly here comes a meeting that may have been held TODAY in Malvern Borough that I only saw on Malvern Patch just now and it wasn’t posted until July 22 at almost 11 pm.  This is a meeting important enough that it should have had widely publicized notices for weeks and not been held in the dead of a hot, hot summer when a lot of people are away.  But the jaded person in me says that naturally that is when local governments sneak things through: around major holidays or in the dead of summer.

Future of Train Station up for Discussion

This is your second chance to see what could be coming for the Malvern train station.

 A meeting this Tuesday could shape how a major section of Malvern could look in the future.

The Malvern Transit-Oriented Development Plan (TOD) is holding a public meeting to discuss the future of the half-mile section of borough near the SEPTA train station on Tuesday, from 4 to 7 p.m….For more information on the meeting, contact borough manager Sandra Kelley at 610-644-2602 or check out the group’s flyer onthe borough website.


malvern flyer july 2013

A meeting this important and they seem incapable of properly publicizing? it is a shame that Malvern Borough wants to turn themselves into Upper Darby or something isn’t it?  I have to ask is this “plan” actually a done deal and are these motions are just for show?

Malvern’s charm is in it’s history and size, much like the village portion of Berwyn and similarly scaled small towns and villages.  I could see making Malvern say sprucing up a little bit more like Narberth which has undeniable charm and popularity, but Narberth does things based on sound planning and well Malvern Borough seems to chase dollars like a hooker looking for money on top of the dresser.

Some will find my words hard and hyper critical and for that I am sorry, but lordy have they learned nothing? Look at Eli Kahn’s hulking monstrosity would you? The photo below was taken in March and while the Tyvec and black paper may be covered up now by plaster and whatnot but it still does not disguise the fact that this project looms over the street, looms over houses across the train tracks and lacks human scale and the ridiculously low amount once quoted in the paper as what would be gained in ratables leaves me scratching my head.

And again, I am sorry to sound this way it is just so simply Groundhog Day and if I could spare anyone what others have gone through with these Emperor’s New Clothes fools’ errands of unattainable zoning overlays and infill development hair-brained plans that don’t EVER seem to take into account the scale of current buildings, architecture, history, human scale, design elements, the actual will of the people or parking and traffic I would.

I don’t live in Malvern Borough so I have no standing, just opinion.  But I have to say I am not anti-progress but I am against poor planning.  An article from September 2012 in Main Line Media News by Henry Briggs on this topic says that as per tax records Malvern Borough residents pay nearly FOUR TIMES the taxes paid by businesses and industrial property owners.

Here is that column of Henry Briggs’ from September 2012:

Main Line Suburban Life > Opinion

HENRY BRIGGS: How much should Malvern grow?

Published: Monday, September 24, 2012

On Tuesday, Sept 25, from 4pm to 7pm, Malvern Borough will offer its citizens a voice in a decision that will permanently effect the future of the town.

Woody Van Sciver, Borough Council President and Jeff Riegner a planning consultant, will ask for comments on “transit oriented development” in Malvern; specifically, putting additional people and buildings into a half-mile perimeter of the Malvern SEPTA station.

As Malvern is only 1.3 square miles, this will have enormous and permanent impact on the people who live and work there.

With the development of East King Street, the town is currently in the first stage of a 10% expansion….What triggered the study? A breakfast in 2008 hosted by the Philadelphia Area Chamber of Commerce and attended by assorted civic leaders, including Woody Van Sciver, Malvern Borough Council President.

The main speaker, Barry Seymour, from the DVRPC, spoke about the need to beef up density around transit centers – the SEPTA and AMTRAK stations – along the Main Line. His pitch echoed that of the “Landscapes Plan” which Chester County put together years ago.

I am with Henry Briggs and ex-Borough President Pat McGuigan: keep Malvern a traditional village.  Maybe spruce it up a little and get some of those derelict property owners near the Flying Pig to clean up and get tenants, but don’t supersize Malvern around a train station that isn’t even handicap accessible.  Fix up the existing downtown, get grants to repair sidewalks.  Look to ways of improving parking for visitors and residents. Come up with a viable village plan that looks at Malvern Borough as a whole so progress flows and doesn’t cause pain. Go to Media and Narberth and check them out – although downtown Media is much larger than either Narberth or Malvern like Malvern and Narberth it is off the beaten path (i.e. not right on a major road like Route 30)

Like many municipalities, Malvern Borough might benefit in term limits for elected officials because wow hearing this stuff makes one question why people serve doesn’t it? Maybe this Woody Van Sciver needs to retire, right?

Also see Should Malvern Grow by Joseph DiStefano at The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Malvern Borough is 1.2 or 1.3 square miles and that will never change.  It is time for Malvrn Borough Towns Fathers to put away their huge insecurity issues and obvious inferiority complexes and accept Malvern for what it is: a VILLAGE.  Capitalize on THAT, don’t try to make Malvern what it is not.  And anyone who tells you that your community in exurbia (because out here we are past the traditional suburbs of the Main Line) will only thrive and prosper with tons of density and infill development should be run out of town on a rail and sent to live in the urban jungle they so greatly crave.  As a matter of fact, I hear there is a lot of room in Detroit these days.

Lecture over You all do what you want this is merely my opinion.

cubesmart application causes east whiteland zoning officer to doze off?

cube smart

The above photo is old.  Can’t find recent photos I snapped of CubeSmart’s giant box being built on the edge of Malvern overlooking Route 30.

It is a BIG, UGLY box.  I hate when areas are de-forested so Tyvec boxes can be built, don’t you?  And this is now your landmark when going to the General Warren Inne, which is a place I know and love.  I have seconded a wedding photographer there as well as having just been there as a dinner guest over the years. I also fully admit that I do not understand the lack of planning and general mish-mosh of conflicting zoning throughout Chester County.  You have residential often quite close to the most awful commercial zoning.  To me this is another one of those situations.

So CubeSmart, another fine project brought to you by Eli Kahn who to me seems to want to take over Chester County, has been a contentious project by comments I have seen on Malvern Patch every time it comes up. I think part of what is the problem is that this particular Malvern project, which is located in East Whiteland is not only due to what the project it (in essence a big box with more self-storage and then offices), but because it seems like East Whiteland doesn’t do much putting it out there as far as notification except to the letter of what they are supposed to do and do they have a public access channel for televised meetings or not?

So a zoning notice went up on the CubeSmart property like late last week regarding their application in East Whiteland. The notice said:

Appeal No. 13-15 Application of Old Lancaster Venture, LP, c/o CubeSmart for a special exception pursuant to Section 200-89 of the Township Zoning Ordinance, which authorizes exceptions to the otherwise applicable signage regulations under special circumstances, in order to permit the Applicant to install two wall signs and three free-standing signs having a total collective square footage of 223.5 square feet on its property located at 5 Old Lancaster Road (UPI 42-4-338) in an R-3 Residential Zoning District, in conjunction with the construction of an 86,400 square foot office building.

That got posted on one of those neighborhood bulletin board things on Malvern Patch (and not as a regular media coverage, either – some of the media coverage seems in flux to be polite since Pete Kennedy left the editorial spot there – he was very on top of things and diligent.)

Immediately the comments started.  Residents with immediate standing to this project seem VERY upset.  With good reason – the hearing on GIANT, yes GIANT billboard-y signage was scheduled in the middle of a July heat wave – you know when people are either dying from the heat or on summer vacation? Apparently East Whiteland doesn’t have a billboard policy? Or good signage policy? I don’t know so someone else will have to fill in that question via a comment. I would have thought they would because I noticed at the bottom of the notice posted on Pennsylvania Public Notices that Fronefield Crawford, Jr was listed as the Zoning Hearing Board Solicitor and well he made a stink at Radnor Township a few years ago in 2009 about their billboard and signage policies, but maybe that was because his church might have been affected – Wayne Presbyterian.  (Interestingly his name also surfaced in a literal “turf war” in Radnor too.)

Now no joke, off premises signs and billboards are big problem I think throughout Chester County and Chester County has a ton of the ugliest billboards from municipality to municipality.  I don’t like billboards and billboard-like signs.

Anyway, from what it sounds like a bunch of folks from the “General Warren Village” neighborhoods in Malvern/Frazer showed up at this meeting.

cube3I hear there were fireworks.  A resident named Jim rolled up on Malvern Patch today and left a stunning comment:

Jim McVeigh                July 23, 2013 at 10:36 am
         Well, sparks flew at the Zoning Ordinace meeting last night. During the first presentation myself and other residents witnessed Jeffery Freeman , a member of the Board, first dozing off and on, then shortly he was out fast asleep. I interrupted the presentation to bring it to the other members of the boards attention. I was responded to by Mr. freeman with the comment B**lS**T. I guess he does not like being interrupted during his nap time. For bringing this to the boards’ attention I was chastised for speaking out of order, even though I asked the audience if they had witnessed Freeman napping and 7- 8 residents raised thier hand. Of course nothing was said publicly to Freeman. If you are not aware of exactly the members of the boards duties include, I have included information from thier website. **************** Zoning Hearing Board **************  The Zoning Hearing Board is a five-member appeals board appointed by the Board of Supervisors for staggered, five-year terms. The Zoning Hearing Board hears applications for: special exceptions;  nonconforming uses;  variance requests.  It also hears appeals of decisions made by the zoning officer. The Board gathers facts by taking testimony and by reviewing evidence from affected parties at public hearings. It is charged with the legal responsibility of approving or denying applications and appeals.  In rendering a decision, the Board considers all testimony, presented under oath at public hearings, and evaluates an application’s impact on the community. When necessary, the Board can require special stipulations in allowing special exceptions and variances. The Board interprets, but does not set, the zoning ordinance. The zoning ordinance and any revisions are prepared by the Planning Commission and adopted by the Board of Supervisors following a public hearing. The zoning ordinance was last adopted in February 2007. ************************************************


Wow. I have attended a lot of zoning hearing board meetings in various municipalities in my day, but I have *NEVER* heard of a Zoning Hearing Board Member dozing off have you?  Does East Whiteland have any comment? Any media following up on this?

I am asking for input here because my curiosity on this development leads me to the following question: can a fair and equitable zoning decision be reached when member of the board are seen dozing off in the middle of the hearing?  And the public, the residents with standing who had the courage to speak up and point this out were chastised for being out of order? REALLY?  What if this were a capital murder trial and the judge dozed off? I realize that using a murder trial is an extreme parallel of sorts but aren’t Zoning hearings mini legal proceedings?  Did a court stenographer catch all this?

Seems to me residents may deserve a little TLC here.

Again, thoughts on zoning naptime at the oasis?

(Update I am told East Whiteland doesn’t televise meetings – there seem to be a lot of Chester County municipalities that do *not* televise or videotape their meetings which I find *odd* since I know they all have access to public access TV if they want it, right?)

red fox



I am beginning to feel like Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.  Here’s Redd Fox the red fox.  He and the deer seem to like birdseed of all things.  The deer just stick their heads in the feeder – some are tall enough.  Redd Fox here seems to scrounge around on the ground.  This is one of the young foxes.