It’s the age-old question—which came first, the chicken or the egg? In this case, I asked Koen which came first, the jar of mango chutney he bought at Tait Farm or the idea to make Bobotie for dinner.

Most definitely the chutney, he said. It brought back memories and tastes of South Africa.

The mystery dish was new to me. Marina and Koen said the name once or twice, but until I see a word written down, it often doesn’t register. That afternoon, I helped Koen assemble what he needed to do the cooking.Nestlings Flew

We had many of the ingredients in the kitchen: turmeric, garlic, golden raisins, almonds, onions, eggs, milk.

We put a shopping list together for the missing ones: dried apricots, Granny Smith apple, lemon, white bread, and bay leaves. (Marina and I reminisced about Aunt Leslie bringing us bags of bay leaves she harvested from the shrub at her Virginia Beach home.)

We stopped by the Boalsburg farmers market for a pound of locally raised ground beef and a pound of chopped veal.

After the ingredients were secured, I sat down on the deck with a gin and tonic, and relaxed on my staycation. Koen was in the kitchen, preparing dinner. My mom and Marina took care of the table setting and later, the dishes. I could get used to this!

I’ve only been to Africa through books—“The Poisonwood Bible” (novel about the Belgian Congo), “The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency” (a who-done-it series that takes place in Botswana) and “Land of a Thousand Hills” (memoir of Rwanda). Koen has traveled to South Africa, Namibia, and Botswana. He didn’t actually eat Bobotie until he returned to Belgium but he likes the casserole and added it to his cooking repertoire.

Bobotie is the national dish of South Africa. The melding of meats, fruits, and spices from Eastern and Western cuisine came about when the Dutch West Indies Company set up an outpost at the Cape of Good Hope for its trade. Boats loaded with spices from Indonesia stopped in South Africa on their way to Holland. The Dutch and Malaysian settlers living in Cape Town mixed local goods with imported spices, thus creating Bobotie. According to several sources, the casserole can be pronounced bo-bo-tee, bo-boo-tie, or ba-boor-tee, and is served with yellow rice (white rice with turmeric) and blatjang (pronounced blud-young), an apricot and chili pepper chutney.

Tait Farm in nearby Boalsburg “celebrates local gifts from the land” and has a variety of chutneys, from Koen’s choice, mango, to apple, cranberry, rhubarb, ginger-peach, and tomato. Although Koen and I live on different continents, we share an attitude and appreciation for food and travel. There’s a saying in South Africa, “local is lekker”. In Dutch, the word lekker means delicious. No matter where you live, local foods paired with international recipes provide a delicious menu for cultural exchange. Laurie Lynch


While Koen was visiting he used a recipe found on Epicurious, added a few random spices from my mom’s spice rack, such as cumin, and whatever else caught his fancy. This is a dish you can tailor to your taste as well as the supplies in your pantry.


2 lbs. minced lamb or beef, sautéed lightly until the pink is gone

Butter, vegetable oil

2 onions, chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 T curry powder

1 tsp. turmeric

2 slices of bread, crumbled

¼ c. milk

Grated rind and juice of half lemon

1 egg

Salt & Pepper

3 oz. dried apricots, chopped

1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored & chopped

¼ c. golden raisins

1 ½ oz. slivered almonds, roasted in dry frying pan

6 lemon, orange, or bay leaves

Custard Topping

1 c. milk

2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a large casserole. Heat butter and oil in saucepan and fry onions and garlic until translucent. Stir in curry, turmeric, and other spices, cooking quickly until fragrant. Remove from heat.

Combine the onion and spice mixture with meat in a large bowl. Add bread, milk, lemon rind and juice, egg, salt, pepper, apricots, apple, raisins and almonds, and mix well. Pile into casserole and smooth top. Roll up the leaves and bury them at regular intervals. Seal with foil and bake 1 ¼ hours.

Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees. Remove foil, mix custard topping and pour over casserole. Bake, uncovered, for 15 minutes until cooked and lightly browned. Serve with yellow rice and chutney.

Botanical Treasure Hunt: Several years ago, when I was visiting Belgium in early summer, I noticed gin and tonics (my summer drink) were getting fancy. Cucumber slices or sprigs of rosemary look the place of lime wedges. Not only did you select a brand of gin at the bar, you selected a type of tonic. I thought tonic was tonic. In Belgium, I was introduced to Fever-Tree tonic.

A few weeks ago, Koen, my mom, and I had a few errands to run while Marina did some computer work. We got our bottles of gin (Tangueray and Hendrick’s) and were looking for tonic. I’ve always gone with Schweppes, but since Koen and Marina were visiting, I thought I’d make it special. I asked a friend if she was familiar with Fever-Tree. She said I’d be able to find it at Wegmans. Wegmans is on the other side of town but I figured this was worth the trip.  When we got there, the Fever-Tree shelf was empty.  We tried Giant. Success—but very expensive. A few days later, while shopping at Weis, my go-to supermarket, I looked for Fever-Tree and found the best selection of all: Indian, Premium Indian, Mediterranean, and even Elderflower tonic water.

All of the driving and scouting out Fever-Tree got me thinking. “Fever-Tree. Quinine. Malaria. Fever.”

I was on a quest. The botanical name for fever tree is Cinchona officianalis, a native of the Andes Mountains of South America. It is the national tree of both Peru and Ecuador, and the evergreen belongs to the same family as coffee, Rubiaceae. “Peruvian bark” was used by the native Quechua to treat hypothermia and fever. By the 1630s, Jesuit missionaries followed suit and began using the powdered bark of Cinchona to treat malaria, introducing it to other Spanish colonies. The English and Dutch picked up on this medicinal herb and smuggled it into Asia and Africa. As the centuries zipped by, Charles Rolls and Tim Warrillow researched quinine sources in an attempt to come up with the best mixer for gin. In 2005, Rolls and Warrillow introduced Fever-Tree Indian Tonic Water to the world.

Not Written on Slate, But Should Be: “If ¾ of your gin and tonic is tonic, make sure you use the best.” – Tim Warrillow

Baa-Baa-BAAAD! The other morning I awoke to some loud baa-ing. I knew something was up. Gary and Freckles were trapped in my asparagus patch, tromping around, and pulled down the wire fence where my snow peas/sugar snaps were climbing. Gruff, black sheep of the bunch, was standing in the barn—either innocent or crafty enough to escape the scene of the crime.


You never know who is going to pop up in Centre County. Take, for example, the face I spotted at the single stoplight in Lemont…

Sean in Lemont Yew Bushes

Sean in the shrubs

Yes, that appears to be Sean Spicer in the yews.

For Memorial Day week, I took a staycation to be at home with Marina and her partner Koen, visiting from Ghent, Belgium.

We celebrated Memorial Day in Boalsburg (Birthplace of Memorial Day) with Marina’s State College cousins and several days later went to a great aunt’s memorial service with other cousins. We dined with friends at a new farm-to-table restaurant in Amish country (Revival Kitchen) and drove from store to store to store to farmers market to gather beer, handmade pasta, wine, charcoal, and cheese for our home-based meals. Marina and Koen are used to city living, where they have a weekly co-op farm share, and walk or bike to pick up other supplies. And, they don’t use all of those ridiculous plastic bags (I must get better at bringing my own tote.)

We talked together, drove together, cooked together, and laughed together. During their stay, with the asparagus patch producing non-stop, we had asparagus soup, roasted asparagus, raw asparagus, grilled asparagus, blanched asparagus, asparagus salad, and asparagus pasta. Koen definitely got his fill of green and purple Pennsylvania-grown asparagus. White asparagus, grown under black plastic and soil to block the sunlight, is the tradition in Belgium.

Memorial Day

Nick, Marina, Andre, Nonna, Leon & Koen

I introduced Koen to my friend John Deere as he helped with yard chores. Marina, Koen and I hiked through Shingletown Gap and made a quick trip to the Lehigh Valley where we celebrated with Marina’s godparents. Their son graduated from high school and is shipping off to the Naval Academy. We made a short stop at the old Fleur-de-Lys shop for a box of Marina’s Harry Potter books and high school mementos.

On my way out of town, I saw my buddy Rich at the Kutztown Turkey Hill as I topped my gas tank for the ride home. Rich told me his 17-year-old daughter is graduating from high school and is raising four hens. He still has the photo of her when they rented Easter Peeps from our farm. I filled up my travel coffee mug with hazelnut coffee and lots of half and half. As I pulled out my wallet to pay for the coffee, Rich shooed me off and said, “Get outta here,” making me feel as if I belonged, once again. Laurie Lynch


M & Terese



Sweet Tooth: I got my first chocolate mint plant from our Lehigh-Northampton Master Gardener plant exchange (thanks, Steve K. of Coopersburg) a good dozen or more years ago. Last winter I made the mistake of putting it in the garage with a lemon verbena and forgot to water them. So, at the Centre Furnace Mansion plant sale last month, my sister and I each picked up a plant. Fran (of Fleur-de-Unicorn fame) was working the checkout line and promised to share a Chocolate Mint Biscotti recipe. Meanwhile, the mint in the garage somehow survived, which goes to show you can’t kill mint. Now I’ll have plenty of chocolate mint to try this recipe:

Chocolate Mint Biscotti

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup packed whole mint leaves, use chocolate mint leaves if available

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips (mini chips preferred)

  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. Grind sugar and mint leaves in a food processor for 30 seconds (pulse perhaps).  Transfer to a medium bowl and whisk in eggs and vanilla until well blended.  In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.  Fold this with chocolate chips into the egg mixture until incorporated.  Dough will be sticky.
  3. Divide dough in half.  Wet your hands with water and shake them off, but don’t dry them.  On parchment paper-lined baking sheet, press each half into a log that measures about 11 inches long by 2 inches wide.  Press down on each log until 1/2 inch high.  Leave about 2 inches between logs.
  4. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown.  Remove from oven and lower temperature to 325°.
  5. Cool pan on wire rack for a few minutes and transfer logs to a cutting board and cut crosswise with a serrated knife into about ¾-inch slices.  Put slices standing up on the parchment-lined baking sheet spaced slightly apart.  Bake 15 minutes more until crisp.  (Maybe be less time too.)  Transfer to racks to cool.

Happy eating and gardening.






Each May, on the weekend following Mother’s Day, Penn State Master Gardeners of Centre County hold a plant sale at Penn State’s Ag Progress Days site in Pennsylvania Furnace, 11 miles southwest of State College.

The financial goal of the sale is to raise money to pay for our part-time MG coordinator and to support our many programs throughout the year. These include demonstration gardens, Wings in the Park pollinator festival, Food Bank plant distribution, environmental classes at Muddy Paws Marsh, and weekly horticultural therapy classes at the county nursing home. For me, our outreach and educational impact at the plant sale, despite long hours and hard work, reap the biggest treasure.

You never know what horticultural question you will be asked. A young couple, dad with his newborn babe strapped to his chest, asked me for a tomato variety they could plant—with a catch. It turns out they are from the Lorraine region of France (which borders Belgium). They will be returning there for the month of August and want to grow (and eat) homegrown tomatoes in State College before they leave. My suggestion was “Fourth of July”, named for when it ripens, which bears 4-ounce fruit (larger than cherry tomatoes but not full-blown slicers). My MG friend Chris assures me it is reliably ripe on that date, and by Bastille Day (July 14), the couple should have plenty of garden ripe tomatoes. I’m growing “Fourth of July” this year for the first time (last year we only had a few plants and sold out early).

Two other Penn State international students were standing near my potted up elderberry seedlings. I bought a bundle of bare root starts from the county Conservation District, planted some and potted others to sell. For a good 10 minutes I expounded on the joys of growing the native Sambucus canadensis—making elder blossom cordial, elderberry jelly, elderberry wine, and elderberry pie, where the berries taste like crunchy blueberries. I figured the two must be working on their PhDs because when I told them the shrub wouldn’t fruit for another three years, they didn’t wince.

As they picked up a pot and headed to the tally station I glanced at the price of the elderberry seedlings—$2 each. What a deal, just to get me to shut up!

Besides the elderberries, I propagated several Polka Dot begonia youngsters from my mother plant (a gift from my sister) and felt like I was watching my children get on the school bus as the plants and their new caregivers headed to the checkout line. I also dug up black raspberries from my asparagus patch, potting them for sale, and divided the offspring of Solomon’s seal and leopard’s bane that my dad planted years ago and transplanted them into containers.

Pesto Perpetuo

Pesto Perpetuo

The sale starts at 9 a.m. but we volunteers aren’t allowed to shop until 11 a.m. I was happy to get a new-for-me basil plant: Ocimum x citriodorum ‘Pesto Perpetuo’. It smells heavenly of basil but has fancy variegated leaves. The columnar, tender perennial can grow 48 inches tall and I plan to move it into the atrium in the fall. The plant does not flower, so I’ll be able to continuously harvest the leaves for a perpetual pesto supply.

For part of the sale, I was the checkout control officer—directing families pulling wagons of peppers and petunias, couples lugging boxes of nasturtiums, Kniphofia, and Nepeta, and singles weighed down with pots of Echinacea and Rudbeckia to line up and wait for an “open” cashier. The cashiers totaled each bill and also asked a few key questions, such as: What plants would you like us to add next year?

“Luffas,” one woman answered. The cashier summoned me to her station.

The woman, it turns out, makes soap. She and her mother-in-law bought two luffa plants from us last year. The first didn’t make it, but the second vine was going strong until her father-in-law tripped over the vine, amputating the roots from the vine—sudden death syndrome. She was hoping to have better luck growing luffas this year.

Looks like Luffa Laurie might need to seed a few flats of luffa seeds in 2018. Laurie Lynch

Feeding the Help: Our volunteer kitchen is a great perk for workers. MGs bring their specialties: rhubarb tart, blueberry cobbler (still warm from the oven), asparagus and pea strata, roasted asparagus spears, spinach balls warmed in a crockpot. Here is a recipe for a healthy spring or summer soup.

Sharon’s Easy Spring Soup

1 cucumber

1 avocado

Juice of ½ lime

Salt & pepper to taste

Put ingredients in a blender, and presto, soup. This soup can be made ahead and chilled overnight. I’m thinking that later in the summer a few sprigs of fresh cilantro would give it a nice kick.

Winter Squash Microwave Alert: MG Fran, who I mentioned in my last entry, spent some time checking out my blog. Many moons ago I wrote that some people microwave winter squash to soften it, making it easier to cut.

“I have done that for years and recently failed to punch enough deep holes into the squash…blew the microwave door open and squash all over the kitchen…also blew the circuit and had a few quick flames. I learned my lesson and will be sure to put lots of holes in a squash if I am using the microwave.”

Garlic Leafminer Alert: Bev, another MG, emailed some photos of her garlic. It looks as though tiny flies called allium leafminers have visited it. The females puncture the leaves of alliums in this dot pattern (see photo), males and females feed on the exuded juices, and the females lay their eggs. The eggs hatch into larvae, pupate, and burrow through the plant—and can wipe out an entire crop.

Alium leafminer

Punctured Garlic Leaves

This garlic-shallot-onion pest is native to Poland and Germany where it was first detected in 1858. By 2004 it had spread through Europe and made it to the United Kingdom. The first confirmation of an allium leafminer infestation in the Western Hemisphere was in Lancaster County in December 2015. By 2016, allium leafminer was found in 18 counties in Pennsylvania. Now it looks as though it has moved into Central PA. Bev called the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and they are coming to her garden to confirm the expanded range of this devastating pest.


A few years ago, our Master Gardener group was looking for ideas on something to grow in our Ag Progress Days high tunnel. I suggested luffas.

Few people in our Zone 5 Central Pennsylvania habitat had grown luffas, so the group decided to give it a try. Within one growing season, our high tunnel turned into a luffa jungle.

We held a Master Gardener class on luffas to spread the word.  Last year, at both our winter Home Gardening School and our May Plant Sale we sold luffa seeds, luffa plants, and dried luffas for scrubbing pots, scrubbing potatoes and carrots, and yes, even scrubbing gardeners’ grubby hands.  We filled door prize baskets with luffa sponges and homemade soaps.  During 2016, The Arboretum at Penn State grew luffas on the garden’s trellis tunnel—a showstopper display.

My 2017 resolution was to give it a rest.  I was talked out and tired of being Luffa Laurie.

But elsewhere in a tiny corner of Centre County, an imaginary luffa seed sprouted and sparked.  Fran, a fellow MG, picked up the luffa torch.  For 10 years Fran has been leading weekly horticultural enrichment sessions at a nursing home in our county seat of Bellefonte.

She asked for a few props, a few photos, and voila, she put together a Luffa PowerPoint and looked at the luffa from an entirely different perspective, creating an art project for Centre Crest Nursing Facility’s recreational horticulture program.Luffa Art

The MG crew at Centre Crest compared luffas to cucumbers and gourds. They explained how luffas are grown and harvested, and the various uses of the plant. Then, they got down to the business of “fun stuff”—they helped residents create abstract design notecards using luffas and poster paint.

One of the volunteers entertained as the group worked on their cards. She put a dried and skinned yard-long luffa atop her head and trotted around the room—the Centre Crest unicorn. Laurie Lynch

Cuban Connection: Fran sent photos of Luffa Day to a Humphrey Fellowship student who used to help with the programs at Centre Crest. She is in her mid-50s and from Cuba. The luffa photos brought back memories. “We have that in Cuba and many years ago it was used to clean the pots from the kitchen,” she wrote to Fran. In the countryside, people used it when coming back from dirty labors to wash themselves, the woman continued, but due to modern times and climate changes it is not as popular as it was.

Shameless Plug: Our 2017 MG Plant Sale is Saturday, May 20, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Ag Progress Days site, Rock Springs. Free admission and lots of beautiful plants for sale!

Written on Slate: “Our treasure lies in the beehive of our knowledge. We are perpetually on the way, thither, being by nature winged insects and honey gatherers of the mind.” –Friedrich Nietzsche


As a teenager in the 1960s and 1970s, I learned one lesson about hair—it doesn’t matter. I promised myself that when I was a parent, I wouldn’t fight over the length of hair, sideburns, etc.

My son recently reached the quarter-century mark and I don’t think I ever gave him unsolicited advice about his hair. He grew a beard and I teasingly called him “my Amish son”.

Once or twice he asked if I thought he should trim it. I told him I prefer the stubble look, rather than a full-blown beard. I’ve always loved what used to be called the “5 o’clock shadow”. But I’m just his mom. He kept the thick but well-groomed beard. He joked that he might grow the chin hair down to his knees.

wisteria whiskers

Mom & Wisteria “Whiskers”

Richard lives in what The New York Times refers to as the “Islamic State of Molenbeek” where he fits in with the other bearded men, mostly Muslim, in his Brussels neighborhood.

But in the last few months, the beard seemed to draw unwanted attention.

The first time was in February. Richard had just left an employment meeting and was coming out of the metro with his backpack. It was a cold, rainy winter day in Belgium. Two Belgian police officers stopped him, asking for his ID. He handed them his residency card. The officer called on his walkie-talkie for a records check. All clear. They let him go on his way.

It was a cool, gray April day in Belgium. Richard was riding the metro while talking on his phone. He was wearing gloves with the fingertips cut off, so that he can keep his hands warm while not having to take the gloves off to use his phone. He was carrying a black duffle bag. He was wearing a hooded sweatshirt, but he’s not sure if the hood was up or not. Two police officers exited the metro at the busiest station, De Brouckère, then pointed and motioned for someone to get off. Richard turned around to look. They were motioning to him. So Richard got off, two stops before he intended. He told the person on the other end of phone he’d call back.

Again, the officers asked him for his ID. They asked why he was wearing gloves. “Dry skin.” (The guys in the Brussels airport bombing wore single left-hand gloves to hide their detonators, my son tells me.) Again, the officer radioed to check his ID. “Oh, you are from the U.S. Which is better, the U.S. or Belgium?” Richard diplomatically said, “It depends on what you’re looking for.” The officers asked him to open his duffle bag. Unluckily for them he was on his way home from the gym. His duffle bag was stuffed with a sweaty T-shirt, socks, and gym shorts.

Richard understands. He is more than happy to cooperate. But still, being stopped at a crowded metro stop in front of of everyone is embarrassing. A fellow from the gym saw him being questioned by the officers. Humiliating.

My son found a new barber in Brussels. His chin hair and all of the rest is close-cropped stubble, a trimmer, less targeted, profile.

I had a panic nightmare after he told me the story. Imagine if I were a mother whose son had black skin or whose name was Rafiq, or with a passport from the “evil” seven—nightmares every night. Laurie Lynch

Written on Slate: “There was an old man with a beard, who said, “It is just as I feared! — Two owls and a hen, four larks and a wren, have all built their nests in my beard.” —Edward Lear

Stinking Rose Pixie Dust: I was shopping the other day at a favorite market and noticed a cute, squat jar with a tempting label that said Garlic Dust. Ingredients: Dehydrated garlic. All I could think of was my recycled mayo jar of homemade garlic powder that could use a makeover—some of Tinkerbelle’s magic.

Lamb Laughs: Well, the three lambs have a new nickname—The Three Stooges. I fed them a scoop of grain in our vintage cast iron bathtub trough. Immediately Gary hopped in the tub, lying on the grain. Gruff stuck his snout right under Gary to get his share. Poor Freckles stood timidly watching.


“Don’t move.”

I stopped in my tracks, thinking we were playing the game Statues.

“No, I mean, don’t move from here,” Levi said, clarifying by sweeping his hand around the barn.

The little boy is in love.

Not with me but with our barn and pasture and three lambs.

Early this month Levi, siblings Seth and Rachel, and their father Morgan began clearing an overgrowth of brambles and honeysuckle from our pasture, securing the split-rail fence with a hefty wire fence backup, and prepping the small barn that has been vacant since about 2012 when our last llama went to llama heaven.

3 Musketeers!

The Three Musketeers

This wasn’t my idea.

When our neighbor Morgan first suggested it, I put my foot down. “No animals.”

I’ve spent too many winters tromping through the snow to feed and water livestock, I told him.

Morgan kept working on me.

“No. My mother is in her 80s. The house belongs to her, not me. When she goes, I go.”

“But who knows how long she’ll live? Could you at least pass it by your sisters?”

If Morgan is anything he is persistent.


I asked. No objections.

Still, my answer to Morgan was “No.”

“You see,” I told him, “where I used to live I raised chickens and had a problem in the neighborhood.”

Morgan grew up working on a dairy farm. He wants to instill responsibility in his four children. (The youngest, Hannah, is still a babe in wife Betsy’s arms.) Morgan assured me he would navigate the problems. He would start with lambs that would be butchered in the fall. No winter watering or feeding.

We are a neighborhood in transition. Since I moved back, one neighbor died, two left for nursing homes, and a crop of young families moved in. Morgan said the lambs would be great for his youngsters and also help build community. Morgan started doing so soon after he bought a house near ours, coordinating college students to provide a Day of Caring where they fixed screen doors, cut up fallen limbs, and replaced fence posts for the elderly residents.

“Well, OK.”

On the eve of Easter, three young Katahdin ram lambs arrived. They were born in December. Most of heir barn-mates ended up on Easter dinner tables in Centre County. Morgan said they wouldn’t name the three since they would be butchered in November.

Winken Blinken & Nod

Wynken, Blynkin & Nod

I call them the Three Musketeers or, when they’re sleeping, Wynken, Blynken and Nod. That first night they huddled in the corner of our former pony/llama barn, not exactly sure what to make of everything.

The Katahdin breed originated in Maine and is named after the highest mountain in the state. They were bred as hair (rather than wool) sheep. They don’t have to be sheared and are raised for meat. Muslims prefer “intact” ram lambs without docked tails, and that is what these are. By the way, I looked it up and the meat of sheep is called “lamb” until the animal turns 2 years old, then it is called “mutton.” Mutton is less tender, stronger tasting, and darker in color than lamb.

Within days the kids named each of the lambs. The larger, black lamb is called Gruff. The white one with brown spots on his face is Freckles. The tan lamb is Gary. It makes it easier to talk about them to their friends who walk down to get an up close and personal look at the newest neighbors.


Mayapples in April

I must admit, when I’m weeding my asparagus patch, down on my hands and knees and eye-to-eye with the Three Musketeers, there is something peaceful about the silent companionship on the other side of the fence. It hasn’t been two weeks. Perhaps, like Levi, I’ve fallen in love. Laurie Lynch


Written on Slate: “Patience is not the ability to wait, but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting.” Joyce Meyer


As I’ve written before, my mother loves music. I am always scoping out bulletin boards, coffee shop notices, and community calendars for entertaining events that are free, or nearly free. This winter a poster saying “Rise Up Singing” caught my attention.

I guess some people would be afraid to go to an event without making plans with other people, but don’t forget, I grew up in this town and my mother has lived here for 60 years—we always end up knowing someone.Rise Up

At February’s Rise Up Singing event, held at the Friends Meeting, we saw women I rode with on the bus to the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., people that attend Acoustic Brew concerts, and, yep, some Master Gardeners—but we also met a few new folks.

The routine is the same for each group sing. We go around the room introducing ourselves. There is a big tote filled with Rise Up Singing songbooks for everyone but at the February meeting we realized we needed the Larger Print edition, which we bought online. After the introductions, anyone can suggest a song, giving the title, page number, and repeating his/her name again. The only rule is that we don’t sing a song twice.

Besides amateur voices and a few better ones, there are a few guitarists, a one or two fiddlers, a harmonica player, and an older gentleman with what I think is a zither or an Autoharp. (He is the one who told us about the Larger Print edition.)

Rise Up Singing, The Group Singing Songbook was conceived, developed and edited by Peter Blood and Annie Patterson.

Peter was camp counselor in Vermont in the 1970s but the camp songbook didn’t have songs the kids wanted to sing—those by the Beatles, Peter, Paul and Mary, Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, and Joni Mitchell. So, a group of campers decided to collect their own songs and group them into chapters such as Sea Songs, Freedom, Spirituals, etc. They included lyrics and chords, but no music.

Peter worked on the book with friends, and by 1979 the songbook Winds of the People was published informally, “underground,” since not all of the songs were fully licensed. It wasn’t available in stores, but 30,000 copies reached dedicated songsters.

In 1981 Peter and Annie became a couple and began leading group sings based on Winds of the People. They wanted to make the book “legal” so they sought the help of Pete Seeger and his wife Toshi who ran a non-profit organization called Sing Out!

One thing led to another and they formed a song selection team and spent weekends singing songs, selecting those that were easy to sing and play, fun to sing in a group, and filled with hope for a better world.

This all took place in the years before the Internet, so each song had to be transcribed from albums in WXPN’s (The University of Pennsylvania) folk music collection or copied from songbooks in the Library of Congress. It took Peter two years of contacting copyright holders, then the book had to be typeset, Annie illustrated and laid out the pages in their home in Glen Mills, and others helped in various ways. In August of 1988, Rise Up Singing was born as a Bethlehem, PA Sing Out! Publication. People loved being able to carry around so many words to songs in one book. Within the next 25 years, a million copies were sold.

At our March sing-along, we sang 32 songs during the two-hour session. I had a new packet of page marker Post-Its and marked each one. We started with Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land”, and moved onto several songs I had never heard. “The M.T.A. Song” from 1948 protested the proposed Boston subway fare increase from 10 cents to 15 cents. The lyrics say Charlie was trapped on the subway because he didn’t have an extra nickel to exit. Then there was a traditional wool spinning song called “Sarasponda.”

We sang another Woody Guthrie from 1961 that resonated with life in 2017 called “Deportees (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)” and then launched into “Oklahoma” by Oscar Hammerstein and Richard Rodgers circa 1943.

My mother’s favorite was probably “Moon River” written in1961 thanks to Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini. And mine? Well, I had several: “The Rose” by Amanda McBroom, “Circle Game” by Joni Mitchell, and “City of New Orleans” by Steve Goodman.

“Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round!” “Universal Soldier,” and “Peace in the Valley” were requested and sung with spirit and community. A woman sitting behind me said she wanted to sing “Funiculi Funicula”. She remembered singing it in grade school. (I did too, and was surprised to learn that it is an Italian song written to commemorate the opening of the funicular cable car to the top of Mount Vesuvius in 1880.)

History lessons abound with Rise Up Singing, and joining with friends and strangers to sing our hearts out has plenty of health benefits. Researchers report that group singing improves the immune system, reduces stress and helps with memory training. The social interaction and common experience of singing together is spiritually uplifting and just what the doctor ordered for patients as well as caregivers. Laurie Lynch

Eating for Health in 2017: The Dirty Dozen—Strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, peaches, celery, grapes, pears, cherries, tomatoes, bell peppers and potatoes. (Best to only eat organic.)

The Clean 15—Avocados, corn, pineapple, cabbage, peas, onions, asparagus, mangoes, papayas, kiwi, eggplant, honeydew, grapefruit, cantaloupe, cauliflower.

Written on Slate: “The only thing better than singing is more singing.” Ella Fitzgerald