just another day in paradise…..

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the evolving gardener

One of my gardening heroes (and friends), Gene Bush had sent me a note to check in and say hello. He said in part:

I was hoping that I could convince you to write the story of your surgery and how it affected your gardening.

Well I hadn’t thought about it, but it has most definitely affected my gardening. I will note it is not necessarily bad, however it makes the game different now.

My travails with my right knee started in the winter. At the bitter end of February and first couple of days in March, one day, something went pop. It was so loud a sound, literally a “pop”.

That pop was my meniscus. The day it happened I was in the house alone and the pop sent me to the floor, where I stayed for a while, in considerable pain not able to get up and afraid to move.

Eventually I pulled myself up by using the low, heavy bureau I crumpled in front of and hobbled to the bed. This was how I spent the next couple of months – hobbling in pain within my home . It was my right leg, so that also meant no driving….and no walking….and worst of all, no gardening.

I pretty much spent weeks and weeks with my leg elevated and supported in bed as I went through the process of our healthcare system. Getting a surgeon, let alone getting approved for a surgeon by health insurance companies is NOT a speedy process any longer.

As I the days stretched into weeks, I realized that I would not be doing my late winter/early spring clean-up in my garden myself. That meant I also wasn’t going to be putting down all of the mulch I put down every spring.

I am a hands on gardener. I am used to doing for myself. So now I had to find some qualified gardening help.

For a while I had toyed around with using someone I had used in the past, but decided against that person. They were not inexpensive and when I had used them last, quite a few actual plants were removed with weeds. And the plants weren’t, say little clumps of mint or something, one of the plants was my white currant bush and I have been looking for about three years for another one.

I received a referral from a friend for a local landscaper. He spread most of the mulch and God bless him, dug out a 40 year old patch of forsythia so I could have another flower bed. Forsythia is miserable to remove as I removed a lot last summer. Forsythia is why I invested in a spearheaded spade, truthfully.

I paid the landscaper for the work I had initially contracted with him about, and scheduled some more, including driveway edging. The problem is he never returned. He kept making and breaking appointments so eventually I gave up. I will note that I have since done my own driveway edging, I just had to do it standing with more movement of my arms and shoulders then my knees.

By this point we are into May and I had finally had my surgery. Yes, it took that long. Between dealing with insurance company nonsense and the busy schedules of competent surgeons and all the pre-procedure minutia, it was May before I had my surgery.

If you are a gardener you know that a surgery like knee surgery can put you tremendously behind the eight ball. I did my best to find other garden help, but to no avail.

The irony is, I would never hire anyone to do something I was not willing to do myself or generally speaking usually did do myself. But I had people show up, look at my garden which is the rather good shape truthfully, tell me what they might charge… and then they just disappeared.

I can’t tell you how frustrating this has been. So it has made me rethink how I garden. Here I am, offering to pay someone to assist me, and basically they don’t want to do the work.

I am also frustrated by those I interviewed who wanted to tell me how my garden should be. That wasn’t why I was trying to contract with them for garden help. I have my vision, I just need a little help now and again executing it. It’s hardly impossible, it just requires thought and effort. But the difference is, I have an actual garden and in today’s society a lot of people do not. They live in developments where associations within that development make the gardening decisions and often contract out for all of the residents. Everything is the samey- same from house to house.

I will admit I found recovering from breast cancer surgery and other surgeries I have had over the past few years easier than knee surgery. A lot of that had to do with the length of time I was basically forced to sit still and rest prior to my surgery. My muscles went kerplunk along with endurance.

When I first started physical therapy I never thought I was going to be able to do it. I was as weak as a kitten quite literally, except a kitten could move much faster than I could.

But I was lucky to get an amazing therapist through my surgeon. His background before physical therapy was in sports training so he has been and an enormous help, and I discovered his physical therapy practice has a lot of gardeners in it! (Yes I am still doing physical therapy. I actually only started driving by myself a couple of weeks ago, and I’m still not driving long distances. )

I am back in the garden but it’s different than it used to be. One thing that is different is I broke down and bought myself a good garden seat on wheels with a little rack on the back of it. That way I can sit and weed and not bend over or have to kneel. It takes longer, but it saves the strain on my knee. The seat pivots, and there is a little basket on the back for my hand tools. At the bottom of this post is a picture that is close to what mine looks like as I can find.

I bought my wheelie garden seat from a member of my gardening group actually. People don’t realize the good gardening tools do not have to be brand spanking new to be good. As a matter of fact (and it’s somewhat a topic for another post), I search out gently used gardening tools at times.

From pruners that can be sharpened and are built in a more sturdy fashion in the vintage variety, to having back ups for the things I occasionally kill like gardening spades large and small, I am not adverse to garage sale hunting of garden tools.

But back to post surgical gardening. I have learned I have to accept that at least for the near term, there are things I can’t do unless of course I want to end up with an entire knee replacement next time. It’s hard for me to ask for help, but like it or not I know I have to at times now.

Post surgical gardening also means I can’t just do giant guerrilla sessions of gardening any longer. I have to pace myself. I tend now to go out in spurts of an hour to 90 minutes tops. I have to ice my knee every time I have gardened. I also have discovered I can’t garden multiple days in a row, or at least not yet.

Thanks to my physical therapist and tips he has given me I am also learning better posture for gardening for lack of a better description.

Having to adjust my mindset also means my garden has some adjustment. It is not as perfectly weeded as it once was. And I have to be more accepting of that, which I am the first one to admit is incredibly hard. Some people who have come to look at my garden this summer I think are surprised by that in particular, because I’m a little obsessive about my gardening beds. But I have to pace myself or I will literally become a cripple. And if I become a cripple I won’t enjoy my garden or anyone else’s garden.

I have learned this summer that knee injuries in particular are a very common complaint for rabid gardeners. When I had to let the hosta society know I would not be coming to their summer function because my knee wasn’t up to it yet post surgery, one of the event organizers laughed and said there was a lot of that going around this summer with gardeners that they know.

Is it frustrating to have to reset the pace of my gardening? Yes it is and incredibly so. The garden I have now established is a layered garden, so the work is pretty much on going in it.

But now post knee surgery, I have to slow the pace. It has also made me start to seek out some plants that may have lower maintenance – it’s a garden I will let you know ha ha ha when I’ve discovered that for sure.

However, all that being said, my garden is my truly happy place and I wouldn’t trade it for anything! I still love it and love to take care of it… only now I have to be a grown-up and do it at a slower pace.

Thanks for stopping by!

history look back: cramond

Enjoy these photos of what we today know as a Goddard School at 95 Crestline Road in Wayne (Strafford). This was Cramond.  My friend Michael Morrison at The Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society gave me special permission to share. I had asked if they had any photos of when this was an active estate.

Cramond is a historic home located in Tredyffrin Township, Chester County. It was a project of the architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White in the “Classical Revival” style. 

It was built in 1886, and is a  2 1⁄2-story, six-bay half-timbered dwelling sided in clapboard. It has a hipped roof with a pair of hipped dormers and two large brick chimneys.  It has been used as a daycare/educational facility for years at this point.

Click here to check out the application submitted in the 1980s by the Chester County Historical Society in order for the house to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The Cramond- Newhall house is also on the 2003 historic resource survey of Tredyffrin Township. However should it be said that even when municipalities perform historic resource surveys it does not mean there are historic preservation ordinances in effect? 

Cramond was built for Pennsylvania Railroad magnate Daniel Newhall. A segue to Mr. Newhall would be one of his daughters.  Marian Newhall Horowitz O’Brien

That is the fun thing about history. You start on one path, and sometimes it ends up taking you some place unexpected!

Ms. Magazine Blog 100 Years Ago, The South Elected Its First Woman Mayor

July 17, 2017 by Erika Waters

In 1916, 33-year-old widow Marian Newhall Horwitz made the difficult decision to leave her affluent Philadelphia life behind and move to frontier Florida. Her husband had planned an agricultural venture there and although he had died suddenly, she intended to continue in his place.


She soon found herself and her young son on a 2000-acre farm in the northern Everglades, near Lake Okeechobee, far from Florida’s burgeoning coastal cities with fashionable tourist hotels and six-story “skyscrapers.” She grew corn, beans, cabbages and especially potatoes, which particularly thrived in the muck there. Only recently had farming started in the region, for this was primarily the land of cattle ranches and Florida cowboys. Barbed wire fences stretched for miles along unpaved, dusty roads, and cattle drives ran right through Okeechobee, the largest city.

Also see:
The Memorials of Acadia National Park J. J. O’Brien and His Jesuit Settlement Memorial


In 1952 a summer resident of Seal Harbor, ME named John Joseph O’Brien (1882-1971) mounted a bronze plaque on a granite cliff in his “Sea Bench” estate garden and invited garden tours to visit and enjoy it. The memorial commemorated the first settlement of Europeans on Mount Desert Island, ME and the introduction of Christianity to the island in 1613….O’Brien, a Philadelphian and a University of Pennsylvania Law School graduate (1908), was a journalist, industrialist, entrepreneur and politician from Grosse Pointe Farms, MI. Upon graduation he entered newspaper work, but he resigned as city editor of the Philadelphia Ledger in 1914 to go to Florida and develop agricultural land. In 1917 in Hillsborough County (Tampa), FL he married Philadelphian Marian Newhall Horwitz (1882-1932), the widow of Philadelphia attorney George Horwitz, and daughter of Daniel Newhall, vice president of the Pennsylvania Railroad. He and Marian lived in Moore Haven on the southwest side of Lake Okeechobee. There they formed the Southern Sugar Corp., later reorganized as the U.S. Sugar Corp., the country’s largest producer of cane sugar, and established the town of Clewiston, “America’s Sweetest Town.”

Marian was elected mayor of Moore Haven, a.k.a. “Little Chicago” from its location on Lake Okeechobee, and became the first woman mayor in the South. She also was president of the Moore Haven bank. By 1924 he and Marian had sold their land holdings and left the area. In 1925, while a Palm Beach resident, O’Brien purchased “Guy’s Cliff,” a 6-acre waterfront estate in Bar Harbor that today is the site of the College of the Atlantic’s Kaelber Hall. Marian died in their Grosse Pointe Farms home and is buried with her son and sister in St. David’s Episcopal Church cemetery, Wayne, PA…..

Also visit:

Brickhouse319 Cramond: Where John Grew Up- A McKim, Mead & White Design in Strafford, PA DECEMBER 21, 2015 ~ SUE

This is the house where John grew up. It’s located about 2 miles from Brick House 319. It was designed by the prominent architect Charles Follen McKim of the influential architectural firm McKim, Mead & White in NYC.


The three architects defined the look of the gilded age in the late 19th century and at the turn of the 20th century; they designed some of the country’s greatest buildings, most were concentrated in New York and New England. They were the most famous and successful American architectural firm of its time. Until 1887, the firm excelled in designing large homes built of shingles in Newport, Rhode Island, Long Island and the Jersey Shore….John’s father who was an attorney, bought the house in 1954 and sold it in 1983. John grew up in the house until the age of 23; he had fun living in such a great, big house.

chester county instacart anyone?

Ahh yes…free delivery on the first order – that gets me to try something at least once every time!

It’s stinking hot out, and as much as I love Wegmans, every location has insane parking lots.  We have house guests coming, so I thought I would splurge.

Their app and online website for Instacart are easy to use.  I went through my order, and when I got to the payment section I learned about something I did NOT know entering into this – they tack on a service fee for someone to do the shopping (which to my knowledge Giant PeaPod and Fresh Direct do not have this separate fee – just tax and delivery.)  That service fee for me was about $18.00. (Yes, ouch)

BUT then it gets confusing.  Although they have this little disclaimer talking about this pays for the people who take care of your order, it does NOT filter down to a tip for your delivery person.

Also, there is a slight price mark-up on every item.  My friend would call this “Missy Mark-Up”. See:

I will admit that this makes me categorize Instacart whether you use it for ACME or Wegmans as being more in the class of Fresh Direct.  I am still thinking the best dollar value in home delivered groceries is Giant Peapod.

Now I will admit it is super nice to know when I want some extra special items for my kitchen, that Instacart is a viable alternative to Fresh Direct.  Fresh Direct used to be awesome, now sometimes it is a bit hit or miss, and for the money you spend it should NOT be.  I hope when and if we get a Whole Foods in Exton that perhaps Instacart will add on a Whole Foods too in more areas.

Instacart is zip code driven.  Depending on where you are depends on where you can order from.  Some areas apparently can get Weavers Way Food Co-op  deliveries.

Pro-tip: you can fine Instacart coupons on sites like Retailmenot and Groupon and so on to bring your costs down a little more – I found a $10 coupon on Retailmenot today.

The food was for the most part bagged in item appropriate grocery bags.  I will note that I ordered a couple of Brie family soft rind cheeses to serve my guests when they are here and the cheeses were not packed so well.  Basically, the cheese was cut and wrapped in simple plastic wrap.  I could smell the cheese as soon as I bought the bags inside from the delivery person – and as soon as I smelled my stinky cheese I felt bad for the delivery woman because I bet her car stank to high heaven from the cheese.

With Instacart you can get a better range of deliveries when compared to Fresh Direct and Giant PeaPod.  With Instacart you can get a delivery within a couple of hours if the time slot is available.  However, as opposed to Giant PeaPod and Fresh Direct which uses refrigerated trucks or at least insulated trucks, Instacart does not.  Your delivery person uses their own vehicle.

Instacart however stays in touch with you as your order is being shopped.  So if something is not available and you indicated a substitution was O.K. they will actually text you your options.  Giant PeaPod and Fresh Direct DO NOT do that – with these two services you do not know you are NOT getting something until the order arrives.

Bottom line: Instacart was a great experience, albeit expensive like Fresh Direct.  Will I use them again? Yes. But how often depends on their pricing structure.  Right now they are in the category of occasional splurge.

 

DISCLAIMER: I was not paid or compensated in any way by Instacart, Giant PeaPod, or Fresh Direct. These are my own opinions as a customer/consumer.

 

slapp

19 July, 2017

Hello Dear Readers,

I am  writing today to let you know that I am at present a victim of what is known as a SLAPP suit (Strategic  Litigation Against Public Participation.)

 

Earlier this year, I was hit with a Cease and Desist in the form of something known in legal circles as a Writ of Summons.  It was issued on behalf of developer Brian O’Neill and Constitution Drive Partners over the Bishop Tube Site in Malvern/Frazer in East Whiteland Township.  It was sent to me by the West Chester and Chester County law firm of Lamb McErlane.

 

This whole thing also involves Maya van Rossum, who is The Delaware Riverkeeper , her non-profit The Delaware Riverkeeper Network, and people thus far referrred to as “John Does 1 -10”

 

Yes I know Maya.  I used to live not too far away from her before I moved to Chester County.  She lives in Radnor Township and I once lived in Lower Merion Township. As I have previously stated, Maya van Rossum is one of the most ethical, dedicated, and smart women I have ever met.  I am honored to know her.

 

I actually had not seen Maya van Rossum in a few years in person before I turned around at that February 27, 2017 East Whiteland Zoning Hearing Board Meeting because I heard a familiar voice – hers.  Others (unknown as to precisely who) had contacted her about this site.  And I also think the folks from Trout Unlimited were there, and have also been at meetings (I never even knew what that non-profit was until all of this.)

 

Within a couple of days of that February 27 meeting, I injured my knee seriously enough to require surgery.  My injury was to my right knee which meant I did not drive  or even truly walk again until quite recently and even now the distances are brief.  As I sat on the sidelines (which included NOT attending public or other meetings), many more public meetings happened. The whole debate of the Bishop Tube site in East Whiteland raged on (and continues to do so seemingly.)  The DEP has been weighing in, along with State Representative Duane Milne, State Senator Andy Dinniman, even East Whiteland Township Supervisors.

 

The residents of General Warren Village also banded together and began to advocate for themselves as they live adjacent to this site.  People from neighboring areas seemed to have joined them based on replays of public meetings I have watched over the past few months.  And the Delaware Riverkeeper has persisted. (See this section on their website.)

 

This is democracy in action.  When people take an interest in where they live, it is a powerful force. It is not easy for the residents involved, and it does take great courage,  I applaud them.

 

As I have sat on the sidelines watching, this whole SLAPP thing has persisted.  At its most basic, things like this are an affront to our inalienable rights to protest and speak.  Our very rights are at risk, including that thing called the First Amendment:

 

First Amendment (As reprinted by the ACLU)

 

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

 

I am not the only one experiencing this (even on this topic) but when you are faced with this it feels so very and truly personal.  Because in a way, it is.  It is a challenge to those aforementioned freedoms we as Americans (regardless of political and religious persuasion) hold dear and even at times…take for granted.

 

It is because of situations like this I believe municipalities need to do better by us as residents.  It is because of this that those we elect to the most basic of municipal levels, including the State House, State Senate, U.S. House and U.S. Senate need to do better by us.

 

As a perennial student of history, I have faith that the truth will indeed out.  And I do indeed have representation.  Mr. Samuel Stretton.  A gentleman whose career I have followed off and on for many years and now have the privilege of knowing.  Any questions may be directed to him.

 

I just thought it fair to let you my readers, neighbors, friends, and family know what was going on.

 

Thanks for stopping by

summer recipe back to basics: purple coleslaw


I have been remiss. I haven’t blogged any recipes lately. This evening for dinner we were grilling marinated chicken thighs and my neighbor had given me a beautiful head of purple cabbage so I decided to make coleslaw.

Here is the recipe:

Purple Cabbage Coleslaw

Ingredients

4 cups grated purple cabbage 

1 cup grated carrots

1/2 grated large vidalia onion 

6 heaping tablespoons mayonnaise

2 tablespoon prepared Dijon mustard

5 tablespoons organic cane sugar (Turbinado)

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar 

2 tablespoons fresh minced dill

Freshly ground salt pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Directions

I read somewhere once that purple cabbage is really good for you. A super food full of antibiotics, vitamins, fiber, and other good stuff. I think it also makes a tastier coleslaw. I also add vidalia onion to my coleslaw and fresh dill to the dressing, which I think keeps it fresh and different.

First finely grate cabbage, carrots, and onion. My “Pro Tip” here is I put these vegetables into a fine mesh strainer after grating and set them over a bowl and press gently for some of the extra liquid to drain out.

Mix the cider vinegar, sugar, cumin together. Unless you want a grainy dressing, make sure the sugar is fully dissolved before proceeding and adding the mayonnaise, dijon mustard, olive oil, and fresh dill. Whisk the dressing together briskly and refrigerate for a few minutes.

Next put your veggies in a clean bowl and pour the dressing on top of it. Mix well and then use a little spoon to taste and adjust for salt and pepper as needed. I like fresh ground pepper in coleslaw.

Refrigerate at least an hour before serving.

Enjoy!