About carla

Writer, blogger, photographer, breast cancer survivor. I write about whatever strikes my fancy as I meander through life.

along charlestown road

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Charlestown Road is one of those crazy, twisty, meandering, yet beautiful Chester County Roads. It used to be such a country road.  It still is even if it is a traffic nightmare cut through road at times now too.

I see it as another beautiful series of vistas potentially at risk.

Why at risk?   Simple, start with the intersection of Phoenixville Pike and Charlestown Road. It’s called “Pickering Crossing“. Another cram plan community of “carriage homes” or the current trendy word for townhouses.

DSC_5291While I will admit the design of these houses actually shows taste and some actual design, it’s 76 more houses.  3 and 4 bedrooms, and NOT a retirement community. It’s just another Stepford Village. You can’t even have a real garden in most of these communities.

So, that being said, time for a segue: Hey Great Valley School District are you paying attention YET to all of the development, or when the time comes will you behave like Lower Merion School District and just try to take someone’s land somewhere to expand?

Sorry, not sorry but given the pace of development in the Great Valley School District will it end up someday like Downingtown, which when I was in high school was just “Downingtown”, there was no Downingtown East and Downingtown West.

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And it’s not just the school districts which suffer from over-development.  We all are affected.  It affects infrastructure, municipal services, storm water management, traffic. It means less open space, fewer farms.

People, our food around here is not grown on the roof of Whole Foods, even if you can take a Yoga class there.

Development is an agriculture killer. Now granted, this country doesn’t respect farms and farmers the way they used to, and farming is not a business for the faint of heart.  It’s hard.  But we should support our local agriculture, not let it get developed away.

One of the beautiful things about Charlestown Road is there still is some farming left. It’s lovely.

DSC_5305BUT…..Another thing that worries me before I share the farm love is located at 124 Charlestown Road. This is the mysterious property known as Swiss Pines.

Swiss Pines is a 19 acre arboretum and Japanese garden . It USED to be open several days a week between spring and fall. BUT not so much since around 2013 (I think.)

Swiss Pines was established by Arnold Bartschi (born 1903- died 1996), born in Switzerland and by the mid-1930s, owner of the J. Edwards Shoe Company. In 1957, he purchased the 200 acres of the former Llewellyn estate, and during the next 30 years he developed the Swiss Pines site.

Swiss Pines became a nonprofit foundation in 1960- The Bartschi Foundation. The last IRS form 990 I can find is from 2016 –Bartschi Foundation 990 2016 – I do not even know if at this point there is still a non-profit. Guidestar and Charity Navigator seem conflicted in reporting and there are a few old IRS form 990s and that is about it. The last time the Bartschi Foundation or Swiss Pines was in the news was 2016 over a land dispute law suit.  Swiss Pines was mentioned briefly in May at a recent Charlestown Township HARB Meeting :

There was also discussion about the Great Valley Nature Center. Negotiations are underway to resolve issues in connection of the deed of the Bartschi Foundation that require this facility be used for educational and nature purposes. The condition of Swiss Pines was brought up. Since it is part of the Historical District, it is regulated by those ordinances but there was concern about the deterioration of the property. A suggestion was made that HARB could apply for a Keystone grant and obtain matching funds from the township to be used in maintenance of the Revolutionary Cemetery.

Once upon a time (check out this slide show from 2010 on Flickr) Swiss Pines had a Japanese tea house and garden, a stone garden, statuary, stone lanterns, and bridges set among amazing natural gardens. Plant collections include the Glendale Azalea Garden (150 varieties); the herb garden (100 species), the ground cover garden (28 varieties), and the pinetum (over 200 types of conifers).

Public interest has always been high for this property as a natural destination.  The Philadelphia Inquirer has written several times about the property, most recently in blog blip in 2010:

Living — Kiss the Earth
Swiss Pines
Updated: OCTOBER 20, 2010 — 10:32 AM EDT by Virginia A. Smith

Swiss Pines is a strange name for a place that calls itself a Japanese garden, but here you go – 19 planted acres (out of 200) along Charlestown Road in Malvern, just down the street from the Great Valley corporate wonderland.

It was built by the late Arnold Bartschi, who was of Swiss ancestry and owned five factories in Pennsylvania that made children’s orthopaedic shoes. When he bought the former Llewellyn estate in 1957, it came with an English-style garden, four Asian pieces that caught his fancy – one sculpted Chinese lion, 2 Korean dogs and a bench – and 40 Swiss stone pines.

So, according to Carl Shindle, who’s taken care of the garden since 1962, Bartschi named the property Swiss Pines, studied up on Japanese design (and at one time hired a Japanese designer), and created this unusual garden. 

Sadly, Carl Shindle died in June, 2016 I am told. Henriette Bumeder, the manager, still lives there.  I worry for her and the property also because of periodic reports of vandalism to the property over the years (reference this article from 2007, for example.)

Vandalism plagues Swiss Pines trustee
By Brian McCarthy
POSTED: 10/24/07, 12:01 AM EDT | UPDATED: ON 10/24/2007

Manager and trustee of Swiss Pines, Bumeder has owned her 190-acre property at 20 Tree Lane since 1985. She opens the Swiss Pines Japanese Garden to visitors on the weekend, and operates her property (with caretaker Carl Schindle, who has worked on the land for 42 years), as a wildlife preserve for the copious amounts of deer, geese and other animals inhabiting the area……a chain of vandalism, each incident more serious than the last, beginning in January 2006, when two dead Christmas trees were dumped on Bumeder’s driveway. In March of that year, her street sign was ripped off of its pole and soon afterwards her mailboxes were knocked over twice.

In August 2006, Bumeder was driving when she noticed she was being followed….

Swiss Pines is deteriorating.  There is a blog post about it on a blog called Scooter Kitten from 2010.

I found screen shots of two other Philadelphia Inquirer articles from 1966 and 1973, respectively (there is an article from 1985 that I also found screen shots for and actually tried to buy the article off of the Inquirer archives, but the archive site sucks and I hope I do not get charged for content never received):

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Related to Swiss Pines and also future unknown is the Great Valley Nature Center. Arnold Bartschi (as in founded Swiss Pines) gave the land and start-up funds to establish the nature center. That was in the 1970s.

The Great Valley Nature Center fell on hard times.  It is currently closed. They still have a phone, but their birds of prey have been relocated and no fun camps for kids this year.  Here is the update from January 2018 off a new website (old one is no more) and their blog:

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If you can help the Great Valley Nature Center, you can contact them through the newer website.  I think they need an angel with very, very deep pockets. I do not know what happens when a conservancy goes belly up, and that is my impression of what happened (right or wrong, and if that is wrong, by all means correct me.)

I found this old video on Patch from 2012 so you all can see why the Great Valley Nature Center is so special:

Now the farm I love to watch along Charlestown Road is Charlestown Farm.  Located at 2565 Charlestown Road. You see them at the wonderful Phoenixville Farmers’ Markets and they have a CSA. This farm is owned by the same family that owns neighboring Broadwater Farm .

When I see working farms and open space, it makes me so happy.  It’s what makes Chester County so magical.  We need MORE of that.

Anyway, enjoy some of the photos I took of Charlestown Road recently:

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mob mentality

“Herd mentality and mob mentality, also lesser known as gang mentality, describes how people can be influenced by their peers to adopt certain behaviors on a largely emotional, rather than rational, basis.”

Mob mentality is actually a real thing. And I think social media takes it to new and even more unpleasant levels.

I read the other day a most interesting piece from 2015:

What is mob mentality? Also known as herd mentality, it “describes how people are influenced by their peers to adopt certain behaviors, follow trends, and/or purchase items… Social psychologists study the related topics of group intelligence, crowd wisdom, and decentralized decision making” …..What are some of the best ways to combat mob mentality? Forbes.com has come out with a well-written article on how one should combat mob mentality. They suggest the following: 1. Stop being on autopilot. 2. Make a conscious effort to form your own opinion. 3. Take time to make decisions. 4. Be aware in which way stress affects your decisions making. 5. Be willing to stand out. All of these steps require the individual to forsake being lazy with ones own character. It requires self-evaluation and time to make decisions in ones own life. It requires self-fortitude in ones own opinions, and accepting the fact that, while some birds may chirp louder than the others, that doesn’t mean that they are good leaders.

It really makes you think about social media doesn’t it? Think about it, it’s not merely political operatives from wherever influencing U.S. elections, it influences how we think it is o.k. to behave.

(And yes, please DO read the Forbes.com article!)

We all look at Facebook from time to time and marvel at what people will post on their own pages, and in community groups. A woman posting a screen shot of a car title was a recent shake your head moment. We live in an age of identity theft, so why would you post things that would give hackers an edge?

Facebook community groups are one of the best places to see what mob mentality can do. Especially in the “closed” groups. People think they can say what they want, behave how they want. In this virtual setting of life they often say things and behave in ways you would never see in person, in real human time. (Mind you, I have sadly encountered a few exceptions.)

In these groups, in theory, you should be able to form an individual thought or perspective. But most of the time you can’t. Vox populi aren’t really comfortable. Safe topics are like what’s on sale at Target, sadly. Or crowdsourcing what you are going to wear somewhere or where the best mani-pedi is.

It is utterly astounding to me the long list of often quite ordinary and mundane things you can’t discuss. And like Alice down the rabbit hole I discovered that this week and it was “off with her head” for me.

I posted about the cause and effect of too much development. I prefaced my comments with the fact that I was not targeting any new development in particular, these were generalist comments.

Too much development affects school districts. School districts and municipalities are autonomous from each other, yet they are interconnected because development that municipalities approve has a direct impact on school districts.

In Lower Merion Township recently, residents of that township and supporters of open space, land conservation, Stoneleigh a Natural Lands property as well as the non-profit Natural Lands attended a school board meeting. Why? Because Lower Merion School District seems to think that protected, conserved, and preserved land should be theirs like a plumb for the picking via eminent domain.

This school district has never opened its mouth to at home township expressing any kind of even concern over development and how it affects their school district. But now they think the former Haas property Stoneleigh should be theirs for the taking so instead of finding solutions on property they already own to address enrollment, they think it’s ok to just steal land and build more.

The outcome of this scenario will have a ripple effect in a lot of places. It will make people think twice before they donate land to land conservancies and I think that’s criminal.

So what is going on in Lower Merion should be a cautionary tale to those of us in Chester County because we are dealing with so much development from municipality to municipality and school district to school district…. especially those of us who are in either Great Valley or Tredyffrin Easttown or Downingtown as far as a school districts go.

I am not being mean, I am not singling out individual development dwellers, it is the cause and effect of development. It is my opinion, and it happens to be the truth.

Long after developers have built their projects, made their money, and walked away there are things to be considered, that are not necessarily positive. Municipalities care about the short time high of ratables filling their coffers. In my opinion the majority of development today in reality has very little to do with the surrounding community, and existing community members. Especially in process.

The planning process in my opinion is tragically flawed. We go to meetings and we look at plans for new development. They are never in real time they are always shown on these big boards with lots of green space around them, like they are placed in the middle of fields. Only for the most part it’s infill development these days and there is nothing in true context of what’s surrounding it. And that includes proximity and style. And when they’re building big tall buildings, human scale is thrown out the window.

Seemingly gone are the days of thoughtful planned developments. Those are the developments that have nice lots including trees. These developments meld with their surroundings and not every square inch of the building envelopes are crammed with structures. Planned developments take into consideration the affects a development will have on the infrastructure, first responders, township services where they are being built, and most importantly won’t overwhelm school districts.

Where I posted this, erupted like a volcano of indignation. It started with people living in some of these new developments I am not particularly fond of rolling up and saying how I had insulted them and they had hurt feelings and they felt unwelcome in their community. I tried it first and explain to them it wasn’t about them, it’s not about them as individuals. It’s about the process and what our local municipalities are allowing to happen to where we call home.

I am not anti-progress. But the process is flawed and there is no moderation seemingly ever when it comes to development. It’s all about how much you can shove into every square inch and that’s not even attractive in other than a truly urban setting. I am completely unapologetic that I have this opinion. Chester county is been ransacked by development. And we have to stop and think about it sorry not sorry.

Realizing that mob mentality was revving up, I turned off the comments on my post and walked away from the group where it was posted. I thought maybe it would calm down. Instead, the following morning I am receiving messages, texts and even phone calls from people asking me if I saw what was being said.

I went back to look and was somewhat shocked. The comments are gone from essentially a difference of opinion for me to flat out maligning and tar and feathering. I was now wearing a virtual scarlet letter.

There were a couple of comments in particular, I felt crossed the line. But I did not respond to this man, if he is a real person. Instead I went to report the comments to the group admins. I was unable to do so because my membership had been frozen for lack of a better description. All I could do was watch the comments mount. Off with her head. This one man in particular was actually disparaging. He couldn’t just have an opinion, he had to verbally try to beat me into submission on some level. I found it to be akin to slut shaming. Because this is something he would never say to another man because another man would probably pop them in the face.

The action of slut-shaming can be considered to be a form of social punishment and is an aspect of sexism. THAT is why I chose the term. (You see, my use of the term in particular, started a whole other realm of comments.) Experts say slut- shaming which has occurred on Facebook occurs in controversial exchanges between users that have resulted in convictions to menace, harass and cause offense.

So while I am not literally being a slut shamed in a sexual sense, I am in a philosophical sense for my opinions. If you want to learn about this kind of behavior check out what Groupthink is, which was developed as a theory way before the onset of social media but is also germane to the conversation.

100 artists of the brandywine valley by catherine quillman

Recently my friend Catherine Quillman gifted me a copy of this glorious book she wrote, 100 Artists of the Brandywine Valley.

I love it! I think everyone should own it 😊 and you can read an excerpt HERE.

Catherine is very talented and just a wonderful human being!

You can read more about Catherine and what she has been up to on her website. (Catherine is always on the go, so her website is not updated often . She is also a regular contributor to West Chester FIG .

In addition to being a writer and author of many wonderful books (some of which I own!), Catherine is a working artist. You can often find her work at The Chester County Art Association . As a complete segue but related, the Chester County Art Association ofersterrific classes for children and adults and some classes are even free.

Catherine’s book 100 Artists of the Brandywine Valley joins my copy of Eugene D’Orio’s Chester County: A Traveler’s Album on my coffee table.

Chester County is home to so many talented artists and writers!

perception is like a bend in the road….

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Being a writer and a blogger is a funny thing.  I am not a compensated blogger (and to check out how they often plan about things to write read this post), I write because I like to write.  I also write  because it’s my catharsis and way to work through things. I share my opinions, my garden, things in my life, and I even share my photography and recipes.

“Blogging” is a very widely used phrase today and face it, it is is fairly common  that with everyone you meet they either blog on their own or follow blogs. It is rare that you meet someone who doesn’t follow something.

Some people incorrectly refer to social media pages as blogs.  They aren’t, although bloggers share their work most easily via social media.

Perception, as defined is first of all from the Latin “perceptio” and is the organization, identification, and interpretation of sensory information in order to represent and understand the presented information, or the environment.

Perception is like a bend in the road. Everyone sees the bend a little differently.

Human beings all see things differently.  Put a bunch of people in a room and show them a photo.  They all see different things.  Leave them in the room, and human nature takes over, and some of those who are stronger willed than others will try to impress THEIR perception upon people, tell them that their individual perception is the only one that matters.  You can literally watch as something goes from individual perception to more of a mob mentality. It’s fascinating.  (It happens in social media groups on Facebook all of the time. )

People are often so uncomfortable with the perceptions of others, no matter how benign. Some of these types like others to think blogging is a four letter word.  Or that the blogger is a bad person merely because their opinions and experiences are different from theirs. Or because a blogger is expressing some of their perceptions, experiences, and opinions openly.

Recently, I wrote a post about essentially the end of one chapter of my journey as a stepparent with a child graduating high school. I wrote about my perceptions, my feelings, my experiences. Today I heard from a friend.  Passing along a message from parents who did not like what I wrote.

Seriously.

I wonder, did they also have a problem about an article on stepparenting I wrote in 2017 for a regional magazine?

I am sorry they did not like what I wrote.  It was about my experiences. It makes me understand once again, why so many stepparents do not like to talk about their experiences.  It is often like we are not supposed to have feelings and experiences.  We are just supposed to soldier on and never talk about it at all.

Being a stepparent is the hardest best job I have ever had. At times it is exhausting and frustrating. And then there are those moments, those magical moments, where it all comes together.

I became a stepparent in my 40s. Most of my friends had been at parenting since their 20s, maybe early 30s. I knew when my sweet man and I got together it was a package deal, father and son. (They even have the same shaped hands.)

But being a fair bit older than parents with similarly aged children, I have felt at times like I was walking a tightrope without a net. When I am unsure, it is sometimes really hard to know what to do. Everyone wants to help and give you parenting advice. You don’t want to offend, yet sometimes you want to scream “stop” because the role of a stepparent is so different.

A stepparent is not a traditional parent.  You can’t replace the parent who is absent, and shouldn’t.  No matter the state of the relationship the natural parent (in my case mother), a stepparent must respect that bond.  And be aware, even if the bond is fractured, it does exist.

Everyone expects a blended family to emerge overnight.  That is a myth.  As much as you want life to be like a Hallmark Channel television movie, it isn’t.

Creating a blended family takes a lot of time and hard work.

As a stepparent I do not have that literal biological bond.   So there have been plenty of days I wanted to scream into my pillow “I can’t do this!” and I have cried buckets by myself out of frustration.  But underneath it all, if you nurture it and let it grow, is an amazing relationship.

As a stepparent you respect the family traditions you inherit with the relationship, and you work to create new ones.  Your job is not to erase the past, and together you create new memories.

For everything a writer writes, there will be at least one person who dislikes what you are writing about, and honestly, usually more.  And if you are a blogger, well just add to the numbers. Why? Because a lot of people do not consider bloggers real writers.

I am a real person.  I am a real stepparent.  I share some of my experiences because it makes others in my shoes as a stepparent feel less alone.  Much the way I also blogged my way through breast cancer.

Perception is a funny thing, and I am discovering it is especially funny when it comes to parenting.  I can never decide if it is because we are all supposed to have perfect Facebook-ready families at all times, or if people are just that uncomfortable if you are different, or your opinion is different, or if their kids think the moon is made of cheese and you think that is silly.

When it comes to being a stepparent, the parents I have met for the first time who are the least judgmental are individuals who were not born in the US.  As in people who grew up  elsewhere who came to this country and became citizens.  I think they are more kind a lot of the time because so many people can be so incredibly ignorant to those who are non-native born. As human beings we can be incredibly judgmental.  Sometimes it is very hard not to be.

I find this all to be a conundrum of sorts.  Here we are (in theory) supposedly teaching our kids to be good humans, yet often as adults we often can’t accomplish that on our own.

Well that’s enough from my catbird seat as a stepparent.

It’s all about perception.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

 

adventures of a meandering gardener

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Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I saw that on a bench yesterday at Jenkins Arboretum.

I also fell in love with an oak tree named Quercus montana, the chestnut oak. I am going to add it to my woods. Jenkins had no seedlings available, so I will source elsewhere.

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 Quercus montana, the chestnut oak. 

As a gardener, I like to learn. Part of the learning is opening your eyes and heart to the experience of local arboretums. Jenkins Arboretum is my personal favorite. I belong to it and it is so easy to join – and the fees are quite modest!

I joined Jenkins because of my current garden. This is a spectacular natural property.  The history is as equally lovely.  It was created as a love story, and because of that love, became a public garden:

The home and twenty acres on which the Arboretum was first planned were formerly the property of H. Lawrence and Elisabeth Phillippe Jenkins, given to them in 1928 as a wedding gift by Mrs. Jenkins’ father, B. Pemberton Phillippe.

The groundwork for Jenkins Arboretum & Gardens was laid in 1965 when H. Lawrence Jenkins established the Elisabeth Phillippe Jenkins Foundation forever preserving his property as a living memorial to his wife, an avid gardener and wildlife enthusiast…In 1972, Mrs. Louisa P. Browning, owner of the adjoining property, donated her 26 acres, expanding the size of the Arboretum to 46 acres. The Browning property, including a house designed by the renowned Main Line architect R. Brognard Okie, is currently in a private area of the Arboretum. The private areas will continue to be developed and may one day be open for public visitation.

(Another perk of membership is a lovely book about the history of Jenkins!)

But the plant addict in me loves something else at Jenkins: their garden shop!  Open daily 9 am to 4 pm it is a comprehensive selection of native beauties, many from their own gardens.  Sun and shade loving plants. I have purchased several of the Jenkins plants every year for the past few years.  I have planted some of their azaleas (some deciduous), discovered really fun perennials like Chelone or turtlehead.

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Garden Shop selections at Jenkins Arboretum

Jenkins is open to the public 8 A.M. to sunset. Plants are available for sale in season, and they have a marvelously curated gardening book shop inside the John J Willaman Education Center. Yesterday I treated myself to two books:

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I chose The Wild Garden Expanded Edition by William Robinson and Rick Darke because so much of my gardens bleed to the woods.  This book, remarkably, was first out in 1870. This new edition, contains the original text and modern chapters courtesy of Rick Darke. It was through this book shop I also discovered  David Culp’s The Layered Garden a few  years ago. They also sell Jenny Rose Carey’s Glorious Shade which I previously wrote about and think everyone should have who has any shade gardens or wants to learn.

Now, I bought the Great Gardens of the Philadelphia Region Adam Levine, Rob Cardillo on a whim, and am glad I did. It is a great guide to go garden exploring with!

Plants I bought yesterday at Jenkins were several cultivars of Mountain Mint – great in dappled to shady areas, natives…and deer do not like things in the mint family so it helps protect my gardens. I also bought a couple different kinds of sedges – Ssersucker and Silver Sedge. They are also fun natives that add interest and have a lovely mounding habit.

(Did I mention that as a member you get a 10% discount on already reasonably priced plants??)

Jenkins Arboretum is a happy place for me.  A lot of people use their trails for exercise too.  But it is a marvelous property to meander and I see something new every time I am there.  They have been quite inspirational to me with planting my current garden, too.  Every time I go, I find ideas and inspiration. My one wish for them is I wish they sold more tree seedlings. They have the most amazing trees!

If you have small children there are also things to do all summer long – check their calendars and Facebook events for events and story times! (Pre-registration is required for a lot of things.)

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While I was garden meandering I did also visit the Barn at Valley Forge Flowers.  They are selling among other things, my favorite garden spade – the spear headed spade – in several sizes!  They are totally worth having.  They cut through a lot and make dividing and digging in difficult areas a breeze!

Happy Gardening!