I have written about family friend and Philadelphia artist Margery Niblock a few times before. Her art is just something I have loved since I was a child. She was kind of my first artist.
She was a part of my childhood and I remember her home studio and her prints wafting in the breeze pinned to a clothesline with old fashioned wooden clothes pins at the Head House Craft Fair.
Margery also was one of my teachers back in the day. As a child she taught me to do woodblock and linoleum prints. I actually wasn’t that bad at it. It was a very fun process.
So recently, a very nice friend gave me some prints that he and his wife had collected while they lived not too far from where we lived when I was little. Prints I had literally not seen since I was a child! And three were owls! (I love owls!)
Receiving these prints was so exciting! They had literally never seen the light of day since they were purchased.
I took them over to Framers Market Gallery in Malvern to be framed. (Jayne and Dave the owners do all of my framing and re-framing at this point.) Jayne and I spent a good part of an afternoon about a month ago choosing the framing and mats. The store is so much fun because they have so many beautiful choices.
So here we are! The finished product!
Art makes me happy. And it doesn’t have to be outrageously expensive to have value to you. Buy what you like and hang what you like. Check thrift shops and flea markets and fairs and local art shows. Find your artist and enjoy them.
🎈UPDATE 🎈 the neighbors on Castlebar against Wildflower Farm in Willistown apparently had their zoning appeal tossed by zoning last evening. I am told the phrase used was “lack of jurisdiction” to hear their appeal.
Wildflower Farm will be back in front of zoning in a few weeks.
I will also note that not all neighbors on and adjacent to that street are against the farm. I think that is an important distinction not always noted. Also important to note is that not all of the “neighbors“ who have been involved with these zoning challenges of Wildflower Farm actually physically live on Castlebar Lane. That is a matter of public record, isn’t it?
And I am stating for the record that I am not the spokesperson of the Heenan family or their attorneys which is the latest rumor being spread. I am a friend of the Heenans, have a brain in my head, a legal right to express how I feel about this issue, and am an occasional customer of their farm. I am also a gardener, so I appreciate their efforts to rejuvenate their farm which frankly needed cleaning up, and their interest in flowers and trees and native plants and bee-keeping.
This Wildflower Farm property is zoned agricultural, BUT truthfully they could have IGNORED all that and built a giant McMansion when they purchased it. But instead they opted to restore the house and the barn and bring a viable adaptive reuse to existing farmland.
The Heenans should have been welcomed into their neighborhood, yet they have been treated most poorly by some. For the record I happen to live on a cul-de-sac, and if this farm was on my street I would be unbelievably happy.
I think Willistown folk and other related people interested in this topic that it is really great that you are interested in supporting Wildflower Farm through this process and please continue.
🌸🐝Flowers bring happiness. We know, it’s why we garden.🌸🐝
I am using some of my photos of the farm taken last week, and I am also sharing a photo of the Radnor Hunt which does go through their property sometimes. Not all property owners allow the hunt to pass through any longer.
This is a strange tale of really surprisingly unpleasant and in my opinion oddly not neighborly folks. That being said, since they seem to be the litigious types, nothing here is not either a photo taken on a public road, photos of the farm I am writing about OR public information. Oh and that lovely thing called the First Amendment.
This is the strangest case of bad NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard).
This is a case of life is short, can’t we (literally) just enjoy the flowers and get along?
So how did I become aware of this? Recently someone said to me, have you seen the local zoning notices lately? And I said nooo….because your eyes can cross and glaze over if you read too many (just kidding but it’s dry stuff.)
Well then blow me over, one was about a local small farm…and most shocking, located in Willistown Township, supposedly the land of happy open space and farm loving people. So dear readers, I think I stumbled upon a case of those who shall we say perhaps move out here for the bucolic vistas and “country”, but oh hell no, put that farm someplace else?
Yes, I have been having some OMG moments over this. You see, I live in a nice neighborhood with nice neighbors. My friends live in nice neighborhoods with nice neighbors, but Willistown? One of the prettiest place in Chester County and it seems to be plagued by these bizarre occurrences of late? There was that whole thing of ruffled feathers over chickens, and then there was the political candidate who couldn’t seem to behave at a public meeting where she wishes to become queen and reign, and now this? These nice people not only sell their flowers, they believe in farming organically, and educating people. It’s an entire desirable package and a pretty little farm.
So they are talking about Wildflower Farm. As in they grow Wildflowers organically. As in they are this super nice, charming, lovely young couple with two adorable little kids, a golden retriever, etc.?
Yes, completely WTF.
These neighbors in my humble opinion (which I am allowed to have), seem literally hell bent for leather in driving them out of town. And why? And when you read that zoning notice you want to rub your eyes because of a couple of the names that pop right out.
So explain to me how these champions of community involvement and dare I say it,conservation have problems with an organic FLOWER FARM???
When did everyone get so mean in beautiful Willistown????
But it doesn’t stop with the legalities of a zoning challenge, does it? Nope, nope, nope. How about trespassing? Poison pen letters? Blocking the farm’s driveway so people can’t enter? Flying drones over their property?
OK class can you all say “WTF” now?
I have seen videos of trespassing. But that is not my tale to tell. But I guarantee you Willistown Township has seen and probably has those videos. Along with the mysterious drone video output, correct?
And speaking of Willistown Township, I feel sorry for the township. I am sure they don’t want this and when did it become the purview of municipalities to have to babysit neighbors with wild hairs up their rears?
This is not quite the haves vs. the have nots, but the haves are a wee bit unbelievable with their let them eat cake, no farms in our back yard NIMBY scenario, correct?
This is all so very, very ugly. Is this what we as a society have become? Instead of TALKING with our neighbors, people just harass, harangue, and sue our neighbors? And then sometimes people wonder why other people just sell out to developers and walk away?
I just don’t understand how this is happening in Willistown Township. This is one of the most farmer friendly, farm friendly places. Yet these people seem to be (as I said before) hell bent for leather on destroying the lives of the owners of Wildflower Farm?
WHY????? These are NICE people. Thoughtful people. Small farm, organic farmers. You know the future we WANT for Chester County? Farms are disappearing by the day, this is the stuff that makes quality people NOT wish to move into communities, buy farms, preserve land.
These neighbors won’t like my opinions, but they put this out there in the public viewshed like bad Karma waiting to explode, and you know me and my love and respect for farm owners, farmers, and what Chester County used to be about. And I wish they would reconsider their path. This ugliness taints communities. It is so unnecessary. And Willistown? Don’t they need to stand up for small farmers AND large landholders, right?
No drama intended, I fear for this young family at Wildflower Farm.
(4) If you are a resident of Willistown or a fellow local farmer or a customer or just a lover of organic Wildflowers, show up for the Heenan family at the upcoming zoning meeting: Willistown Township Zoning Hearing Board will meet on Wednesday, October 13, 2021, at 7:00 p.m., at Sugartown Elementary School, 611 Sugartown Road, Malvern, Willistown Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania.
That’s it, this is all I have got. I just think this whole scenario is wrong. I am shocked and saddened that these adults have gone all Lord of The Flies, Rambo, whatever on a young family farming the right way and adding positively to the community.
Please pay it forward and politely and calmly support this family, this farm, their business.
Catherine Renzi from Yellow Springs Farm came over last week to drop off plants. My current garden is one of many over the course of 20 years that I have incorporated plants from Yellow Springs Farm into.
During this visit, Catherine entrusted me with the news she and her husband Al are now allowing me to tell all of you: Yellow Springs Farm is for sale. And before we go any further, know one thing: this is a conserved farm. This land will remain protected in perpetuity from subdivision or development because Catherine and Al Renzi donated a conservation easement in 2001.
While many land parcels in Chester County are NOT safe from wanton development, Yellow Springs Farm is.
I have know Catherine for many, many years. Before there was Yellow Springs Farm, she was a well respected financial advisor and for a few years I was a sales assistant in her office. As a matter of fact, I remember when she said she was taking her life in another direction and she and Al were buying a farm. To many of the stock jockeys, that sounded crazy. To me, it sounded wonderful.
Although Catherine started out essentially a boss, she has become my friend over the course of many, many years we have known each other. I have been buying goods from her farm as long as they have been selling them.
Yellow Springs Farm is a magical place and so beautiful. It has been a happy place for me in Chester County over the years. I always knew spring was truly here when there was an open farm day, and I could see the new kids. Kids, aka baby goats, are among the most joyful animals to be around. Goats can be a little stinky, but they are funny creatures guaranteed to put a smile on your face. The Yellow Springs goats are now gone from the farm. They went to live at another dairy.
Change can be hard, and Catherine and Al didn’t make this decision lightly. BUT people are entitled to new and different chapters, and if I am honest, when I saw Catherine had picked up her paint brushes again and started creating beautiful paintings, I knew change was coming.
Now while their location might be changing, Catherine will still be offering landscape design and consulting services (and hopefully plants!) from a new, TBD location.
With Catherine and Al’s permission, I am sharing their note to their Cheese CSA members:
📌📝Yellow Springs Farm Native Plants Nursery and Artisanal Goat Dairy will close this Fall. After 20 years of goats, gardens and countless community connections, Al and Catherine Renzi are ready to begin a new life chapter.
We are extremely grateful for the knowledge, friendships and warm memories you, our valued CSA members, have shared over the years. We could not have pursued our mission of connecting sustainable landscapes with local foodscapes without our customers, colleagues, chefs and so many Farm supporters, near and far.
The Farm real estate is for sale, but it remains protected in perpetuity from subdivision or development because of the conservation easement we donated in 2001. We imagine new owners will live their dreams here, and continue to care for this beautiful place. The goats were the soul of the Farm. They are safe, and have moved to another dairy. We receive their milk to continue making cheese until later this Fall– likely November. The dairy and cheesemaking equipment is available for purchase. Nursery plants not sold this season will come with us to our new location TBD. Change is hard to process, but we are focused on being glad that YSF happened (2001-2021), not sad that it is coming to an end. When we started this adventure in 2001, and now again in 2021, we made choices to take chances, and look forward to change ahead with refreshed aspirations. Every ending is a new beginning
We will connect with community venues and other means to pursue our interests in nature, conservation, and local food. Catherine’s creative muse, and Al’s analytical penchant for science are alive and well. We will share specifics as we know more details in coming weeks and months.
Thank you for sharing this fulfilling, challenging life chapter with us. Your support and enthusiasm for our Farm has been priceless. A piece of this place lives forever in our hearts, and we hope you too have fond memories of Yellow Springs Farm.
With warm regards and heartfelt thanks,
Al and Catherine Renzi📌📝
So there is the news. If you are a realtor or a potential owner who is a farm lover with a conservation soul, follow this LINK and this LINK to the listing and schedule a showing. The farmhouse is sensitively and beautifully updated, and some lucky family could move in “as is.”
Yellow Springs Farm sits on a glorious conserved 8 acre parcel. The farmhouse as mentioned is restored and dates to 1850. A spring house, a bank barn, run in sheds and more await the right owner. The barn has a fabulous 1 bedroom apartment, suitable as a rental or space for visiting friends/family. If you think it’s you, contact:
Linda Burgwin Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc. Office Ph: (610) 225-7400 Cell: (484)- 716-0163
And no, I am not getting into the real estate listing promotion business. This is a special place and the Renzis are special people. Please if you are interested in the farm, schedule a visit through a realtor properly. Please do not just drive up the driveway for a look see.
Catherine and Al, you know I wish you nothing but the best and look forward to your next chapter. Cheers to you both!
To those interested in preserving the character of Chester County, be like the Renzis and consider conservation. Conservation and preservation go hand in hand.
I love sushi. Especially really good, top of the line sushi and sashimi. Fish so tender, it practically melts in your mouth.
My friends in Berwyn have been telling me about Otoro at 668 Lancaster Avenue, Berwyn (down from 30 Main.) They are BYOB if you are going for dinner.
Amazing doesn’t even begin to cover it. Sublime might come close. Everything is super fresh and beautifully presented. The staff is super nice and just the right amount of attentive and helpful. The prices are fair.
I went there for lunch today with a friend after going to the Life’s Patina preview.
These are among the things that I missed during COVID19 and I was so happy to be there on such a pretty day! We had company in from out of town and we wanted to show her the market.
The West Chester Growers Market is the original producer only market in Chester County. Outside Saturdays 9AM – 1PM . May through December with some other limited hours in the off season. Always on the corner of North Church and West Chestnut Streets in downtown West Chester, PA.
File under random things I write about. Pickles. You have got to love good deli pickles.
I used to love a couple of the really awesome Jewish deli places that used to exist in Philadelphia because they would have a pickle bar. Hymie’s in Merion had one until Covid — I don’t know if it’s back or not.
Famous 4th Street Delicatessen on South 4th Street in Society Hill also still comes to mind for not only their deli, but amazing pickled things. There was also this place that I remembered in Center city off of Chestnut or Samson Street I think somewhere around 16th. And there is also Schlesinger’s, which my mother loves.
But if you don’t live near any of these places it’s hard to find good deli and good pickles. Which is why I’m writing this post. I’ve been thinking about it since I discovered the Fishtown Pickle Project, and decided it was time to give them a shout out.
These pickles are amazing. They are better than even the revered New York deli pickle. They are fresh and crisp and flavorful.
Anyway I am just a happy customer, they certainly don’t even know me, I just keep buying their pickles. They bring that old school deli pickle to your home refrigerator. And you can order their products on their website and I think after you buy so many jars you get free delivery.
Life is too short for bad pickles so try Fishtown Pickle Project.
Well I hope my happy hater from the other day isn’t too distressed by Bolognese sauce. Hope she doesn’t find a red sauce too angry….but I digress. (I do that sometimes )
A true Bolognese sauce does take time to create. But it is one of the most delicious sauces you can put over pasta… ever. I shared Bolognese sauce before, but I am sharing this again because I change my recipe slightly sometimes.
I started my sauce first thing this morning. And that’s something that creates a memory smell for me for lack of a better description. When my father’s mother (Grandmom) used to babysit us when we were younger, and even when we were in high school she used to make her sauce first thing in the morning. (And no, this sauce is not her recipe it’s my recipe I never recall her making a true Bolognese.)
First you would smell the smell of a fresh pot of coffee (she would make it in one of those stovetop blue cornflower Corningware coffee pots). Then wafting up behind the fresh perked coffee aroma, was the smell of sautéing garlic and onion in her big sauce pot. She gave my mother that saucepot eventually, and I think my mother still uses it. It was hammered aluminum so it wasn’t like Farberware. To me those are the smells of home.
We are trying to empty out a chest freezer in the basement and I came across three 1 pound packages of ground meat. I usually use about three pounds of ground meat when I make a Bolognese.
Here are the ingredients:
THREE 1 pound packages of pork, veal, lamb, or beef. I’ll use whatever I happen to have handy.
TWO Onions. Chopped. 1 big sweet onion, 1 red onion.
SIX cloves garlic, minced. We like to keep the vampires away in my house.
DASH nutmeg or cinnamon- My late father always did it , so I do it.
Kosher salt to taste, ground pepper after you add the tomatoes.
TWO Bay leaves.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
ONE cup whole milk
ONE cup red wine or 2/3 cup red wine vinegar.
TWO cans crushed tomatoes – 28 ounce.
ONE 6 ounce can tomato paste
BIG bunch fresh basil and oregano from garden.
GOOD pasta and grated cheese.
I will start with I chopped up two onions and threw into my pan (I use one of my larger vintage Dansk touch ovens) with extra-virgin olive oil and some kosher salt.
After the onions started to get that translucent look, I added the three one pound packages of ground meat. Today I am cooking with ground pork and ground lamb which is one of my favorite combinations for a truly flavorful sauce. I added a little more salt and a couple of dashes of nutmeg.
After allowing that to cook for about 20 minutes I added 2/3 of a cup of red wine vinegar. I let that cook off and cook down for another 25 minutes approximately, and then I added one cup of whole milk. I then allowed the milk solids and everything to cook off slightly which was almost half an hour.
As I am doing the meat and the onion I do stir occasionally so nothing has the chance to stick to the bottom.
Next I add my tomato paste and stir it into the meat mixture.
Then I add the cans of crushed tomatoes one at a time. I stir thoroughly after each time. Now I add some fresh ground pepper and a big bunch of just roughly torn up basil and oregano from my garden.
My kitchen smells amazing. I don’t care if it’s July a good Bolognese sauce is perfect all year round. And I like making it in the summer because I can use all my fresh herbs.
Now the pot is on simmer and I will just let it go on simmer for a good couple of hours. Then I will turn it off. It will take a few hours for the sauce to completely cool down. At that point I will skim off any fat that rises to the top from the meat.
Then around dinner time I will slowly bring this sauce up to temperature again and serve with a good pasta, grated cheese, and a big green salad.
Good pasta does make a difference even with dry pasta. Today I am going Delco. Springfield Pasta and Mangia Famiglia grated cheese. (Mangia Famiglia is also one of my favorite sources for Italian sausage.)
A true Bolognese sauce is some thing that is truly amazing. and even in the summer it’s a great family meal option. And don’t be afraid to load up the fresh herbs. I forgot to mention I will finish this with some fresh flat leaf Italian parsley on top.