life’s patina fall barn sale is this weekend!!

This evening was an absolutely perfect night for one of the first fall events of the season! We attended the Fall Preview Party for Life’s Patina.

Meg Veno outdid herself as always! This evening’s charitable recipient was Cuddle My Kids , a local non-profit which provides in home no cost cancer support for families in and around Chester County. As a cancer survivor I deeply appreciate these smaller charities which work so hard to help families and give them a bit of a break.

Life’s Patina is packed to the gills with so many cool things! And we also had a chance to chat with Jeff Devlin of Schoolhouse Woodworking.

The fall barn sale is this weekend September 20th through September 22nd! 10 AM to 5 PM Friday and Saturday and 10 AM to 4 PM on Sunday. 1750 North Valley Road, Malvern, PA.

It’s a fun sale and the barn is also full of decorating tableaux for lack of a better description. Meg has an amazing eye, and I am always inspired!

what fun it was listening to annie guilfoyle at terrain!

IMG_6604Terrain is doing these gardening-centric events.  Yesterday at Terrain Devon Yard was “What Makes Your Garden Great with Annie Guilfoyle”.

Annie Guilfoyle is an amazing British horticulturist. An award-winning designer and an RHS Chelsea Flower Show medal winner. For 18 years she was the director of Garden Design at KLC School of Design at Hampton Court Palace, Surrey, where she was instrumental in establishing their highly acclaimed garden design courses.

IMG_6602Those who know me well know that I am a total garden geek especially when it comes to my British horticulturalists.   Like did you know Monty Don was rumored to have been at Chanticleer recently? How I would have loved to have even just watched him work!

My list of UK citizens I would love to listen to lecture on all things gardening are Monty Don, Adam Frost, Alan Titchmarsh, Joe Swift, Carol Klein, Helen Dillon, and Annie Guilfoyle.  Yesterday I got to listen to and meet Annie!!  I knew who she was because of her garden course at Chanticleer, which is as follows (and on my to do list except WOW it is really EXPENSIVE):

Course Description:

Learn about designing gardens with highly acclaimed British designer, Annie Guilfoyle. This carefully crafted course will guide you through each stage of the design process, beginning with the fundamentals of surveying and site analysis. Followed by essential techniques of how to initiate the design, where to find inspiration, and how to develop a creative concept into a stunning garden.

Together with the Chanticleer staff, Annie will focus on ways of achieving imaginative ideas for hardscaping, along with how to perfect dazzling planting combinations and realize innovative designs for original furniture and sculpture.

This course is ideally suited to students of garden and landscape design and people working in the garden industry, or for those who simply want to redesign their own garden capturing the essence of Chanticleer under Annie’s guidance. The course includes practical studio sessions, lectures and demonstrations, garden walks, and critical analysis. Annie will be including up-to-date information and inspiration about what is happening on the UK garden scene.

Price:

$675.00 – Price includes garden admission, breakfast and lunch each day, and an opening reception.

To be honest, I know how to make my garden come to life and evolve, but the ability to be able to learn from an expert like Annie would be priceless.  And it would give me a more formal background to what has been instinctive and trial and error in my garden through a lifetime of just loving to garden.

IMG_6614.JPGTerrain had these Coffee + Conversation garden talks, and launched an additional series of garden “guidance” with each conversation led by a horticulturalist. Each Garden Guide conversation they do will feature an esteemed speaker in the horticultural world who will give tips, tricks, and valuable plant knowledge across a variety of garden topics. Each session will focus on a new area of exploration. And did I mention to be able to hear Annie was only $5??? (And they are having an awesome one in Glen Mills in August but I digress.)

So I was like a kid waiting for Christmas yesterday and Annie did not disappoint.  I do not know what it is about British horticultural experts but they are so NICE and welcoming.  And they share their knowledge without artifice. It is so refreshing.

Annie opened with what she was about: Worked at Hampton Court for years. Did a garden at Chelsea while a student. Did a BBC show small town gardens. Wears several hats and is also a garden writer. Teaches garden courses and loves teaching.  She judges garden shows all over the world as well.

Other things she said which resonated with me include: You can’t be a garden designer without being a gardener first.  In that vein, her students were sent to work in nurseries and gardens to learn.

Annie said gardens are a sanctuary from what is going on in this world. How true is that? It’s like I say everything is better after I have been in the garden digging in the dirt. Annie also believes the arts and horticulture have a strong connection.

IMG_6626When it comes to garden design, Annie is old school. She feels you can’t design gardens without looking at the proportions. People should draw out a garden plan or build a little model- don’t use computer software. So I guess my caveman like plot plans over the years are a step in the right direction after all!! (Yes I have notebooks here and there with little rudimentary sketches.)

IMG_6617So how do you make a great garden?  What are your influences? Architecture? Other gardens? Other gardeners?  Look at the links between architecture and landscape design and remember art, architecture, and gardens are inextricably linked.  Remember that landscapes should influence you.

Like many of us not so expert gardeners, Annie Guilfoyle believes a garden can change how people behave, and how they view the world.  Gardens are happy places. Relaxing places. Contemplative places. Natural classrooms.

One thing that Annie remarked on was Dumbarton Oaks in Washington DC. I have been there but literally not for decades. Harvard owns it apparently? I do not know that I realized that when I was more frequently in Washington DC many years ago but I was sad to learn last night that the gardens are in disrepair? They were so beautiful, how can that be? I mean come on it’s Harvard and they have the money, right?

Sigh. That’s the thing about gardens sometimes in the USA. They aren’t treasured enough.

I have a bucket list of garden things I want to do. Among them is hit the flower shows in England and tour great gardens and small gardens and wander through UK plant nurseries which apparently for the most part have show gardens so customers can see the plants in situ.

IMG_6646Annie explained she  doesn’t have a definitive style per se,  she designs for her clients’ sensibilities.  She also believes focal points are an important concept in garden design and they draw you in.

IMG_6632Annie also stressed it was important to celebrate all elements of the garden, even the functional bits like sheds. She apparently has a love affair going on with this enclosure for her trash cans!

Annie encouraged us to create a sense of journey in a garden. And if you aren’t designing your own garden by yourself make sure you take interest in it so the end result is your personal vision.

She gave us a list of things to follow:

  • Be original
  • Key design ingredients should include:
    Sanctuary
    Respite
    Simplicity
    Inviting
    Sustainability
    Structure
    Vertical and Horizontal gardening
    Focal Points
    Somewhere to sit
    Details.
  • Art in the garden is a wonderful thing.

Annie also suggested we do our garden homework- where will the plants go? Know the ideal environment for the plants you plant. And don’t forget the structure. Structure as in not just flowers, don’t forget  shrubs and trees and seasons. (You know how I have said the late garden writer and American horticulturalist Suzy Bales influenced my desire to have a garden for all seasons.

Her final advice? Don’t be afraid to be individual in your garden. And how true is that? You garden for yourself first.  Annie also reccomended a book on landscape design written by John Brookes called The Book of Garden Design. I picked up a copy of this inexpensively on Amazon.

I had the best time last night and my inner gardening geek was on overload.  And the space at Terrain was so lovely besides.  And the staff at Terrain are so welcoming. After the talk I got to meet Annie and some other gardeners and wander around Terrain outside.  They are so creative with their plantings especially containers that it is truly inspirational.

I look forward to more lectures in this series and I hope I get to listen to more talks by Annie Guilfoyle some day.  She is the kind of person you would want for a friend.

Thank you Terrain at Devon Yard for the opportunity you gave all of us!!

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happy 25th anniversary to the west chester growers market!!!

IMG_6363I missed all the political fanfare early this morning, but I did make it to the 25th anniversary of the West Chester Growers Market.

State Senator Andy Dinniman and Chester County Commissioners Michele Kichline and Terrence Farrell were there at the opening of today’s market to celebrate with everyone and present citations and proclamations.

But where oh where were the officials of West Chester Borough? Borough Council? I mean it is NO SECRET they have been discussing the lot on the corner of Chestnut and Church Streets again right?  And what developer and hotel owner want in on whatever is discussed, hmmm?  Oh the irony that they just discussed this again, what? This past week?

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And no one from the Borough could come to the West Chester Growers Market in an official capacity to celebrate their 25th anniversary? The County and State felt they should be there, so why not the Borough?

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Photo courtesy of County Commissioner Terrence Farrell’s Facebook Page.  He and Chester County Commissioner Michelle Kichline presenting a County citation to Paul “Bud” Hauser, an inspiration behind and one of the four original growers who founded the West Chester Growers Market 25 years ago. I think this is fabulous that they did this!!

Oh and my opinions are my own, by the way.  And sadly I think West Chester Borough needs to appreciate the organizations which bring people into the Borough weekly for 25 years, don’t you? The West Chester Growers Market brings people and farms and small food producers together. In a world filled with ugliness, this is something genuine and nice.

Today the market was bustling in spite of the crazy heat.  And the vendors were nice enough to have lots and lots of water on hand for customers. And ice cream!!  And balloons and face painting for kids!

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I love the West Chester Growers Market and it is pretty much the only one I patronize at this point since East Goshen seems to have given up on their farmers market which I think is a huge mistake since they have one of the most awesome locations.

The photos I took today were my own.  I am not compensated in any way for posting about the market. I post about the West Chester Growers Market because I love it and think it’s fabulous.

And if West Chester Borough Council gets their knickers in a twist because I do not feel in my opinion that they appreciate the market in all it’s fabulousness, tough noogies and am I wrong?

HAPPY 25TH ANNIVERSARY WEST CHESTER GROWERS MARKET!! 

WE LOVE YOU IN CHESTER COUNTY!!

 

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when good conquers evil eminent domain you get lavender fields

Long ago is what feels to be now another lifetime, I was part of the original Save Ardmore Coalition. We were ordinary people who banded together to save friends’ and neighbors’ businesses from eminent domain for private gain in Ardmore PA.

Along our journey the wonderful people at the Institute for Justice helped us and taught us and encouraged us. Through IJ we also met some amazing and inspirational people.  (and if your community is facing eminent domain check out the Castle Coalition part of the IJ website.)

Here straight from IJ (Institute for Justice’s website success stories):

Pennsylvania
Ardmore
Through the grassroots and political processes, a citizens group called the Save Ardmore Coalition (SAC) successfully defeated Lower Merion Township’s attempt to seize and bulldoze 10 thriving businesses in Ardmore’s charming historic district. When it comes to grassroots activism, the SAC did it all — rallies, protests, publicity campaigns and coordinated efforts to unseat local officials who supported eminent domain abuse. Its members testified before state and local bodies urging the reform of eminent domain laws, attended the Castle Coalition’s national and regional conferences, and worked with the media to bring attention to their battle. In March 2006, the Township took its condemnation threats off the table — no doubt in response to the public outcry generated by the SAC.

Valley Township
It cost Nancy and Dick Saha $300,000 of their retirement savings and six hard years, but they prevailed in their bout with the City of Coatesville. The couple bought their Pennsylvania farmhouse in 1971, making lifelong dreams of owning a small horse farm a reality. With their five children, the Sahas moved to Chester County and restored their charming 250-year-old residence. Truly a family farm, two of their daughters married and built their family homes on the land, giving Nancy and Dick the chance to see their five grandchildren grow up next door.

When Coatesville threatened to take their property by eminent domain to build a golf course—plans for which didn’t even include their farm in the first place—the Sahas remained fully committed to a grassroots battle. They submitted three petitions, protested at local meetings and took their fight to court. Ultimately, the city council backed off when the Sahas pushed to elect new representatives, agreeing to purchase five acres that the Sahas had offered to give the government for free at the beginning of the dispute.

It was a crazy time. What we all went through was hard. It was a brutal battle.  We went to Washington alongside the Sahas, Susett Kelo (think Little Pink House), people from Long Branch NJ, and many many more.  It was the time of the US Supreme Court case Kelo vs. New London.

Dick and Nancy Saha were inspirational.  They created a hand off my farm movement. (You can read about it here on the Institute for Justice website in more detail.) They had a great deal of local, regional, and national news attention.  We all did. It was kind of crazy.

It cost the Sahas hundreds of thousands of dollars and pure grit and hard work and they saved their farm.

I used to love seeing Dick and Nancy Saha.  They are the nicest people and they would make the drive from the Wagontown area to even visit us in Ardmore when we were hosting events.

But time and life move on and we all got on with our lives after eminent domain.  I moved to Chester County.  And since I moved to Chester County  I have thought about the Sahas once in a while.  I thought about reaching out, but then I thought well the battle was over so maybe it would seem weird.  But I always wondered what happened to the Saha family after.

So this morning an article from Main Line Today popped up in a social media feed. About two sisters named Joanne Voelcker and wait for it….Amy Saha! Dick and Nancy Saha’s daughters and their lavender farm! (Lavender farm? Wait what?? How awesome!!)

Two Sisters Transformed Their Family’s Chester County Farm Into a 42-Acre Lavender Oasis
Amy Saha and Joanne Voelcker, the owners of Wagontown’s Mt Airy Lavender, have dedicated themselves to growing and harvesting seven different varieties of the plant.
BY LISA DUKART

In the heart of Chester County, there’s a little piece of Provençe, France, thanks to sisters Amy Saha and Joanne Voelcker. On their 42-acre Wagontown farm, some 1,200 lavender plants flourish. In the warm months, those fields are abuzz with bees and butterflies. They flit from plant to plant, drunk on the heady scent the flowers release as they sway in the breeze.

Creating and maintaining such an idyll has been no small feat. Saha and Voelcker’s Mt Airy Lavender has required years of dedication and hard work. Their parents bought the farm in 1971, moving their family from Media to the homestead just outside Coatesville. With love and care, its rundown 48 acres began to thrive.

Years later, in 1991, the city of Coatesville tried to build on the property, claiming eminent domain. After a six-year legal battle, the family won, losing just six acres in the process. As their parents aged, preserving the land they fought so hard to protect became more and more important to the sisters. They couldn’t bear to see it sold.

Over the years, Saha and Voelcker built their own homes on the farm to be near their parents. The houses sit on either side of a long, shaded driveway that wends by pastures where horses can be seen cropping the grass. One lavender field is right behind Voelcker’s home. She began planting it in 2012, a year after she and her husband returned from a five-year stay in Brussels. “I worked and lived over there,” says Voelcker, the former head of client insight and marketing technology at Vanguard. “I got a chance to visit the South of France, and I just fell in love with the lavender.”

Please take the time to read the entire article. It’s so wonderful. I am so happy for the Sahas and this new success I am am all choked up with emotion.  It is so awesome to hear about nice things happening to nice people in a world that some days is truly nuts.

I can’t wait to visit the farm on open farm days.  Via their Facebook page for Mt. Airy Lavender I found their website.

They have great products they make that you can order online and they hose all sorts of events .

Events that interest me are the upcoming open farm days and I hope my husband will want to check it out:

Visit us when the lavender is expected to be in bloom – Mt Airy Lavender Open Houses – Sat. June 22, Sun. June 23, Sat. June 29, Sun. June 30
Come visit Mt Airy Lavender these weekends when we expect the lavender to be in bloom. Shop our products, bring your cameras and a picnic lunch. Fresh cut lavender and a variety of lavender products will be available for purchase. We aren’t normally open to the public, so this is a great opportunity to enjoy the farm. Please note – we lost quite a bit of lavender due to all the rain and lack of sun. We are in the process of replanting. The farm is still quite beautiful so we hope to see you at our Open Houses.

We will be open 11 am to 4pm on:

Saturday, June 22 & Sunday, June 23

Saturday, June 29 & Sunday, June 30

Note: Bees love lavender, please be aware that bees will be attending the Open House as well. If you are allergic to them, please take special precautions!

Click here for directions to their slice of heaven.

What else makes me happy? Not just that this is still a farm and was saved, but how farmers in Chester County get creative to exist in today’s world.  See? We don’t need fields of plastic mushroom houses, we can have things like fields of lavender instead!

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Another view of the Saha Farm today courtesy of Mt. Airy Lavender 

chester county christmas memories of a more recent vintage: west chester and everyone loves a parade!

This 2014 photo comes from my high school friend Lee Ann Embrey. She is also one of the best photographers in Chester County.

The photo came with an attached message:

This is one of my favorite photos  (in the recent past) of the West Chester Christmas parade.  Feel free to use on your blog / great idea!  It is one of my favorite Chester County traditions to attend around the holidays.  

thanksgiving 2018

Thanksgiving. The ultimate all-American holiday. I will note however, “Thanksgivings” are also throughout history a common thing in many cultures after bringing in the harvest.

Pilgrims and Puritans who emigrated from England in the 1620s and 1630s carried the tradition of Days of Fasting and Days of Thanksgiving with them to the colonies of New England. Several Thanksgivings were held in early New England history that have been identified as being the first feasts including Pilgrim holidays in Plymouth in 1621 and 1623, and a Puritan holiday in Boston in 1631.

However, there was a regional battle forever as to where the first Thanksgiving was held. Was it New England or in Virginia? You see, in 1619 the arrival of English settlers at Berkeley Hundred in Charles City County, Virginia, concluded with a religious celebration as dictated by the group’s charter. A Thanksgiving.

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” ~ Thornton Wilder

Thanksgiving and as to what it meant carried on into the Revolutionary War Era. A lot of it involved proclamations and political wrangling which is well, an American tradition, correct? As President of the United States, George Washington proclaimed the first nationwide thanksgiving celebration in America marking November 26, 1789, “as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer.”

Thanksgiving was observed on various dates throughout our history. Truthfully if you research it, the actual date Thanksgiving was observed varied from state to state. The final Thursday in November had become the customary date in most U.S. states by the beginning of the 19th century, and Halloween in 1939, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a presidential proclamation changing the holiday to the next to last Thursday in November, for business and commerce reasons.

Then along came President John F. Kennedy and his Proclamation 3560 on November 5, 1963, which said in part: “Over three centuries ago, our forefathers in Virginia and in Massachusetts, far from home in a lonely wilderness, set aside a time of thanksgiving. On the appointed day, they gave reverent thanks for their safety, for the health of their children, for the fertility of their fields, for the love which bound them together, and for the faith which united them with their God.” He wanted to bridge the gap between the North and South rivalries over who Thanksgivinged first.

There is one day that is ours. There is one day when all we Americans who are not self-made go back to the old home to eat saleratus biscuits and marvel how much nearer to the porch the old pump looks than it used to. Thanksgiving Day is the one day that is purely American. ~O. Henry

So now to our family and other Thanksgivings. By “our” I mean everyone out there. Are they ever the perfect holiday we envision from Currier and Ives prints? Or Norman Rockwell? Or the Hallmark Channel movies and reruns of The Waltons?

I know mine haven’t been but I still love the holiday. Some of my favorite Thanksgivings spent as a child were all of the ones we spent with family friends who moved from Pennsylvania to Bethesda, Maryland and then to Summit, New Jersey. The celebrations were large (lots of kids), loud (lots of kids and lots of adults laughing), and happy. The food was amazing and no one was expected to be perfect.

I think the best Thanksgivings are spent with those you choose to be with. Not those you feel obligated to be with.

Childhood Thanksgivings I found less fun growing up were the early childhood ones spent with my parents’ respective siblings. Suffice it to say, the adults really didn’t get along, really didn’t even know each other as adults, but felt free to judge each other. So the end result was stiff, and slightly uncomfortable Thanksgivings. The Waltons we weren’t.

As my sister and I grew into adulthood we also had Thanksgivings we spent with our cousin Suzy and her family. I loved those because Suzy made it fun. Then my sister married first so Thanksgivings were split between our family and her in-laws. I also had the Thanksgiving many years prior to when my sister married where my parents decided they were bringing Thanksgiving to my sister and a then boyfriend in New York City and I was adopted by a friend’s family for dinner. That was one of my favorite years and we did not even have turkey. We had a huge capon. If memory serves that was because my friend’s dad did not like turkey. And my friend’s growing up home was made for holidays. It was old and cheerful and warm.

Thanksgiving is an emotional holiday. People travel thousands of miles to be with people they only see once a year. And then discover once a year is way too often. ~Johnny Carson

For me there was an 8 plus year period of Thanksgivings I have mostly erased or have tried to erase from my memory. I call those the purgatory Thanksgiving years. The person I was in a relationship with had family outside Mechanicsburg and Allentown.

I loved the Mechanicsburg Thanksgivings because his sister in law and her mom were awesome. They loved holidays and celebrating holidays and it showed. Everything was festive and bright.

The Allentown Thanksgivings were somewhat awful as we were crammed into a skinny townhouse in a development on a public golf course with dark painted walls. The paint made already small rooms seem more close, and the sister who hosted had this trick every time like clockwork to let photos of his ex-wife fall out of a sideboard. Half of the Thanksgiving dishes and turkey were served in aluminum foil pans and the dinner plates were dirt brown Pfaltzgraff. These Thanksgivings were depressing and uncomfortable. The people were all basically unhappy and not particularly nice and you could feel it. You weren’t one of them and they got that feeling across.

After those years, and sprinkled occasionally throughout my life there were other kinds of Thanksgivings. These were the holidays spent in restaurants or clubs like The Merion Cricket Club. Those were fun holidays too, but part of the “thing” of Thanksgiving to me is how your whole house smells while cooking Thanksgiving dinner, combined with the smell of a fire in the fireplace or wood stove.

I will note one Thanksgiving decades ago when my mother had invited SO many we couldn’t handle the crowd my parents made reservations at a restaurant in Radnor called the Greenhouse. Now you know I am dating myself to the late 1970s because that was when we did Thanksgiving there. When you did Thanksgiving at The Greenhouse you could order your own turkey for your group if your reservation group was large enough. And it was a really cool place literally in old greenhouses and a converted stable portion dating back to the 1760s which some historians still say once housed George Washington’s horse. Not George, just the horse. Today the location is known as 333 Belrose and is owned by a high school friend.

Now as the years have past and life and time have moved forward, Thanksgiving has changed again. It’s like an ever evolving holiday in our lives. I truthfully love cooking Thanksgiving. It’s also a time for me to play with my vintage linens and dishes and is the one time of year that vintage ceramic turkey sees the light of day as a centerpiece.

Thanksgiving Day comes, by statute, once a year; to the honest man it comes as frequently as the heart of gratitude will allow, which may mean every day, or once in seven days, at least. ~Edward Sandford Martin

Some Thanksgivings now are just our little family and sometimes expanded with other family and friends. This year it’s a smaller gathering so there will be lots of leftovers!

Right now the turkey gizzards, neck, and vegetables are burbling away on the stove as I make the broth I will use later. The cranberry sauce is made, and so are the sweet potatoes and butternut squash. The potato and squash purée will go into the oven to warm up after the turkey comes out to rest. There will be a pumpkin pecan pie but I am unhappy with the pie crust.

“When you love what you have, you have everything you need. ” ~ Unknown

I am grateful for my life and my family so I love the true celebration of Thanksgiving. A lot of our family and friends are farther flung this year celebrating all over, but celebrating the day wherever they are.

So I hope all of you out there have a terrific Thanksgiving. I will leave you with something to think about. I was thinking about the world we live in today, and specifically the tone of many politicians in this country and rhetoric that is nothing short of anti-immigrant. Think about those first Thanksgivings in this country when the Native Americans served feasts to what were then illegal immigrants from Europe.

“We can always find something to be thankful for, and there may be reasons why we ought to be thankful for even those dispensations which appear dark and frowning.” ~Albert C Barnes

going goshen

I went to the Goshen Country Fair for the first time ever earlier this evening.

So much fun! I had never been and always wanted to go.

A friend of mine is part of the donut team at the fair and texted us this afternoon and said we had to go.https://extension.psu.edu

I am so glad we did. The fair is pure summer old-fashioned fun! They even had a pie eating contest for kids!

Smaller than the Kimberton Fair, I enjoyed it so much. They had livestock, rides, games, a wonderful chicken dinner, bingo, and of course the once a year treats, warm homemade donuts! And Penn State Extension was there too!

One of the extra fun things for me was the opportunity for the behind the scenes tour of the donut making! I put it on Facebook live on the blog’s Facebook page too!

I also checked out some of foods people entered for judging. Pickled things, honey, jams, and more.

In this crazy world we live in, the simplicity of this terrific fundraiser for Goshen Fire Company was a delight.

As per their history, the Goshen Fire Company was started in 1950 in a small garage in the “Milltown” section of East Goshen with one fire truck and has grown to what it is today, two stations housing 15 pieces of fire apparatus including 3 engines, 2 ladders, 1 rescue, 4 EMS units, 1 traffic unit, 1 brush truck, 1 support unit and 2 chief response vehicles.

Station 54 is located at 1320 Park Ave West Chester PA 19380. Station 56 is located at 1299 Boot Road, West Chester PA 19380.

This was I believe the 69th edition of the fair. Tonight it wraps up the fair for this year.