this is why artists are drawn to our area

Yesterday with the storms was also a marvelous day for photographers. Here are some that I took.

This is why we need more open space preservation and fewer fields of ticky tacky plastic mushroom houses.

airing dirty laundry?

I am now a good bit into Janny Scott’s The Beneficiary and I can’t decide if I like it. Maybe I am just but one of the rubber neckers or gawkers alluded to in the book who attended the funeral? (No, I didn’t attend the funeral.)

Right or wrong, page six of the book left a bad taste in my mouth that continues to linger the further I get into the book.

Page six is where one finds the snarky criticism of her late father’s caterer. Who also happens to be my favorite caterer and the caterer many families including my own have used for years. It was just unexpected and somewhat unnecessary in its meanness.

Her late father had undoubtedly given instructions for his funeral down to the catering. It was his last big party, after all. And his money paid for it…but I guess it meant less for the heirs, right?

I think the author loved her father, but she certainly didn’t seem like him a lot of the time. This book if you distill it down is less about the familial history (which is truly fascinating) and more of a huge middle finger directed at her late father, and what is left of Philadelphia society.

Personally, I would take the old guard even at their dragon-y best over the ludicrous Oscar Wilde and Richard Brinsley Sheridan worthy characters who literally mug for the cameras today.

Now in fairness to the author obviously she didn’t choose to be born into quite literally The Philadelphia Story.

If you grew up on the Main Line, you grew up in awe of Ardrossan. It was a beautiful property. Now it’s getting carved up into McMansions and I have my doubts the great house will survive in perpetuity, sadly.

I was lucky enough to be on the property at different times growing up. Those times I was there was for non-profit events like parties for organizations like The Philadelphia Orchestra.

The great house, or mansion, was glorious and sort of like going to a dinner party hosted by Dickens’ Miss Havisham. You would have to watch your heels didn’t catch in a frayed side of an oriental rug. But it was a marvelous house. I especially liked the beautiful terraces I remember out back which lent itself to the garden party type benefit I went to one time with my parents.

There are some videos on YouTube about the estate:

Video 1

Video 2

Video 3

Video 4

Now of course, developers are laying claim to Ardrossan. Which, needless to say, is a giant bleck to me.

Anyway, my people aren’t the author’s people so I can’t say I share her experiences. This book sometimes reads like therapy and revenge rolled into one. But seriously? How hard a life has the author had had? Her family money made her very existence possible, didn’t it? It opened all the doors she is now kind of thumbing her nose at it, and that is kind of sad.

I appreciate the delving into her fascinating family history and I hope by the end of the book the phrase that keeps running through my head dissipates.

That phrase is poor little rich girl, sadly.

But hey it is sure ripping open the dusty volumes of dirty family laundry, right?

when good conquors 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!

62198978_1755430367893008_605253495796269056_o

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

you haven’t lived until you have been told you bought too many plants at a plant sale…

Seriously, it’s sad but true. You have not lived until you have been chastised for buying too many plants at a plant sale given by a plant society that you are a member of. That happened to me this spring.

I like to try to support national horticultural nonprofits as well as local plant societies either by membership or by buying at their plant sales. This spring I have found some fabulous plants at the herb society plant sale, my friend’s plant sale, the azalea and rhododendron society plant sale, Jenkins Arboretum and more.

But for the groups I belong to, there is one group I have struggled with since I joined. I’ve tried so hard. I’ve offered my garden for one of their tours, I offered last year to volunteer on their tour at a garden that was close to me, and so on. When I go to events I try to buy what they are selling in order to support the group. Yet it is not a group that plays well with others.

This one group that is very insular for lack of a better description. And that starts the top with the board. It’s like you’re suspect for being friendly, and I just don’t know where to go with that in my head so I avoided a couple of events until the recent one I attended.

I arrived late at the event because I had another obligation. They knew I was coming late because I didn’t want them to think I was just being rude, and I told them. When I arrived the person at the sign in table who is also the group head kind of cut me dead. They didn’t look at me, didn’t say hello to me….nothing. That was really awkward and uncomfortable. And my name tag didn’t have a little plastic thing to put it in so I couldn’t even wear that. I had the urge to turn around and leave when I first got there and I should’ve listened to that inner voice.

When they announced that the plant sale was opening up, I told the person who told everyone that that I didn’t get a number so I didn’t know where in the order I was for buying plants. (You see, they give out numbers and every number that called gets to go in order. ) So that person said oh go ahead just buy plants so I picked out six little plants.

Now when I say little I mean little. These plants were the size of plants that you usually buy in a six pack of plant cells early on in the season. These plants were basically not much bigger than starter plugs. I don’t normally buy starter plugs. I prefer to buy plants that are a little more established so they stand a better chance of success. But I was trying to support the group it’s a nonprofit.

I paid for my plants, I took them home and planted them. Flash Forward to a conversation with someone in the group. I was chastised for buying too many plants. The person who was supposed to hand out the plant numbers at the meeting and plant sale told this person that I was there for some announcement where it was said people could only buy two plants. I wasn’t. I wouldn’t have bought six plants if I had been told only to purchase two.

I’m sitting here thinking to myself should I take them out and return them? They’ve barely grown so I probably could. The other thing is what I bought wasn’t particularly unusual or even rare. I had a hard time finding things to buy but I was trying to be supportive. My mouth is still kind of hanging open with this one. Nobody has ever accused me of buying too many plants except my husband and that’s been after some trips to Black Creek in East Earl when I fill up the porch!

I’m thinking I’m kind of done with this group. I have tried my best for a couple of years and it’s just not working. And that’s fine — not everybody on the face of the earth has to like you. But if they think I’m going to be chastised for buying too many plants when I didn’t know I was buying too many plants, pay my membership dues and go to events were people are kind of rude to me, sorry not sorry I have better things to do. And no, no garden tours in their future either.

But odd situations like this are not just limited to this group, sadly. A lot of groups have core membership that’s been entrenched for in some cases, decades. I know friends who have tried to volunteer for other kinds of groups who have run into other kinds of odd roadblocks, and it’s all because the old guard of whichever group doesn’t want to let anybody NEW in yet they are conflicted because they need to have new membership in order to survive.

But I just didn’t think this would happen with the group that is related to one of my favorite things — gardening.

Live and learn! Well I am off to plantaholics anonymous now! Cheers!

another apocalyptic spring

I remember when my husband and I were dating and I would make the trek from the Main Line to Chester County on weekends. Sometimes I would come out Route 3 and turn onto Route 352.

Once I hit 352 it would start to get green and lush as I made my way out. I traveled part of that same route today and it is a war zone.

This is what the pipelines give us. There is not anything positive or good about them. They rape the land, scar the landscape and ship out gas and “other hydrocarbons” to places like Scotland to make plastics.

We the residents of Chester County and all of the other counties get to assume all sorts of risk. But these pipeline companies are like an invading army and they just keep marching. It’s all about the money, honey, and we simply don’t matter.

I haven’t written a pipeline post a long time. But today seeing another apocalyptic spring thanks to Energy Transfer or Sunoco Logistic or Sunoco or whatever they may call themselves, the words have come tumbling out.

There is always some problem with the pipelines and residents hold their breath and pray their wells will survive, sinkholes won’t open up, and that nothing will blow up.

Pipeline company told to repair, restore all damaged streams, wetlands

By Paul J. Gough

Reporter, Pittsburgh Business Times

May 15, 2019, 7:35am EDT

A subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners is being ordered by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to restore or repair dozens of streams and wetlands that it said were either eliminated or altered by the construction of the Revolution Pipeline.

DEP said ETC Northeast Pipeline LLC violated Pennsylvania’s Clean Streams Laws, Dam Safety and Encroachments Acts, the Oil & Gas Act of 2012 and regulations over erosion, sediment control, dam safety and waterway management. The order came out of its probe into Sept. 10, 2018, explosion in Center Township, Beaver County.

MAY 21, 2019 | 8:30 AM

Federal pipeline safety regulators issue warning on floods and subsidence

The PHMSA advisory bulletin says pipeline incidents caused by erosion have increased in the eastern U.S.

Susan Phillips

Citing a number of recent incidents, including one in Pennsylvania, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, or PHMSA, sent a warningto natural gas and hazardous liquids pipeline operators earlier this month detailing the dangers of flooding and heavy rain events.

The advisory points to “land movement, severe flooding, river scour, and river channel migration” as causes of the type of damage that can lead to leaks and explosions. It outlines current regulations, and details requirements for insuring safe pipeline construction and continued monitoring once a pipeline is in operation.

APRIL 29, 2019 | 4:33 PM

UPDATED: APRIL 30, 2019 | 11:48 AM

Sunoco buys two homes at Chester County site of Mariner East 2-related sinkhole

State and county documents show company paid $400,000 each for properties

Jon Hurdle

Sunoco Pipeline bought two homes on Lisa Drive, the Chester County development and pipeline construction site where residents have been tormented by sinkholes since late 2017, according to state and county documents obtained on Monday.

The documents said Sunoco agreed to buy the homes and land of John Mattia and his next-door neighbors, T.J. Allen and Carol Ann Allen, for $400,000 each in transactions dated April 18.

A Realty Transfer Tax Statement of Value filed with the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue records a “total consideration” of $400,000 for each of the properties.

The home sold by the Allens is estimated with a market value of about $300,000-$330,000, according to listings by Zillow and Realtor.com. The value of the former Mattia home is estimated at about $340,000, according to Redfin, a real estate brokerage….Two of the Lisa Drive residents, Russell and Mary March, and another nearby homeowner sued Sunoco in March 2018, claiming the company had negligently drilled through porous rock near their homes without recognizing that sinkholes would likely result, and ignoring the results of a geotechnical investigation there. The suit was settled but the terms were not disclosed.

The company’s activities at Lisa Drive have been shut down twice by regulators on the grounds that public safety is endangered by construction of two new pipelines – Mariner East 2 and 2X – plus the operation of an existing natural gas liquids pipeline – Mariner East 1 – on a geologically unstable site.

State Impact PA does a LOT of coverage of the pipeline horror show and you can CLICK HERE to read some of the coverage.

Look at what pipelines has already destroyed and you understand why we don’t want anymore pipeline companies coming to town. This is why we are so uneasy about Adelphia, for example, and can’t figure out why municipalities where Adelphia will be in Chester County don’t appear to be particularly proactive on behalf of their residents.

Yesterday my friend Ginny Kerslake did not prevail in her bid to be a candidate for Chester County Commissioner in the fall. The Democrat party chose to endorse others over her. That is our great loss.

Ginny is a true warrior in this pipeline hell. A courageous, educated and ethical voice. In the fall, the woman the Democrat party decided to back will ask for your vote and tell everyone she is as dedicated as Ginny. She is not. Political opportunism is not community caring. Fortunately Josh Maxwell prevailed and he will get one of my county commissioner votes.

I know I got off on a pipeline/political segue there for a minute, and I am sorry, but it was also on my mind because the pipelines in Pennsylvania have indeed become a political hot button topic. And I think any politician that wants our vote has to prove they support residents a.k.a. people over pipelines. You know, like State Senator Andy Dinniman.

I was so sad traveling part of the pipeline path today. I feel like I am 100 million years old because I can remember where a certain tree one stood or where I used to watch a man mow his lawn when I drove by.

Energy Transfer/Sunoco has bought pain and sorrow and a path of destruction. As Pennsylvanians we deserve better. Our homes are our proverbial castles and all these pipeline companies do is destroy.

People over pipelines. Pass it on.