Teacup Garden

Teacup Garden

October is speeding by but I’m going to fast forward to January 1, 2018. Do yourself a favor and make a New Year’s resolution to visit Chanticleer Garden in Wayne, PA.

Earlier this month Marina was in the States for a wedding and we made a trip to Chanticleer Garden with Aunt France. My first visit was years ago, when the garden was in its infancy but still impressive. (Chanticleer opened to the public in 1993.) What I remember most was the the mantle, the roosters, and plans for an honest-to-goodness British folly—a ruin garden.


Mantle Garden

Like the rest of us, Chanticleer has aged. When good gardens age, the moss, patina, and texture of the landscape just make them richer. Seven horticulturists, each responsible for a section of the 35 acres, keep plantings from getting frumpy. Twenty full-time staffers prune, paint, polish, and weed. During the winter months, they build furniture, gates, bridges, even drinking fountains.



From the beginning, Chanticleer billed itself as a Pleasure Garden. You won’t find each plant labeled—although there are plant lists for garden areas online or in one of the creative containers sited throughout the gardens—but that doesn’t mean Chanticleer is lacking in ideas to bring home.

Imagine more than 5,000 plants in pots and planters, on outdoor fireplace mantle or sweeping meadow, in crevices and cracks, or billowing in serpentine swales. Art and craft intersect with nature in dreamlike abundance. Words can’t describe, so enjoy the photos. Laurie Lynch

Water Bouquet

Water Bouquet

Back Story: Chanticleer is the former country retreat of Adolph and Christine Rosengarten, whose Philadelphia pharmaceutical company became part of Merck. The Rosengartens named their country place after “Chanticlere” from William Makepeace Thackeray’s 1855 novel The Newcomes. The fictional Chanticlere was “mortgaged to the very castle windows” according to the garden brochure, but was “still the show of the county”. The Rosengartens drew a parallel from the name Chanticlere to the rooster known throughout European fairy tales, Chanticleer. Stone roosters crow from pedestals and columns throughout the grounds.


Chanticleer roosting poolside

Details, Details: Chanticleer Garden is open April through October, Wednesdays through Sundays. The entrance fee is $10 (no senior rate) but there is no fee for children under 12. Visiting Chanticleer is truly a pleasure—you can picnic, ramble, or just relax. Until spring arrives, check out the website: chanticleergarden.org


Acorn Art

My favorite spot

Written on Slate: “Great oaks from little acorns grow.”—A 14th century proverb

Shy but relaxed

France, camera shy but relaxed



Pasta Gown

The She Thinker

Sometimes, when I’m reading random books, they speak to me with the same message. I know it is time to stop and take notice. That happened this summer.

I bought Travels by Michael Crichton at the AAUW book sale in the spring because I love to travel—whether by jetliner or page-turner.

Crichton’s “travels” are not the basic tourist-mode adventures. In the book he goes to exotic spots like Baltistan, Bangkok and Bonaire, shoots a movie in Ireland, climbs Kilimanjaro, and swims with sharks in Tahiti. He also leads readers through his med school residencies at several hospitals and his inner-mind travels, such as attending a spoon-bending party and an aura-seeking retreat. It was entertaining. Then I hit a section of the book where Crichton began a rant on “They”. My bedside reading got very uncomfortable.

At a dinner party Crichton listens as people complained. “They don’t protect the environment.” “They don’t run the government responsibly.” “They never report the news accurately.”

Never one to be shy, Crichton speaks up, saying that when people complain, “they are the problem,” those people are in fact abdicating responsibility.

“Once you say some mysterious they are in charge, then you’re able to sit back comfortably and complain about how they are doing it. But maybe they need help. Maybe they need your ideas and your support and your letters and your active participation. Because you’re not powerless, you are a participant in this world. It’s your world too.”

This was 1983—34 years ago.


Many Christmas Eves ago, I was at a small chapel in Connecticut for Mass. I didn’t know it then, but the priest always gives the same Christmas Eve sermon—actually a recitation—of “The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver”. I am sure I had heard of Edna St. Vincent Millay before but on this December night, I felt her—and the poetry of the pain and love of motherhood rocked my core. I dare you to read it without tears streaming down your face.

So, when I saw Savage Beauty, The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay by Nancy Milford on the biography table at the AAUW sale, I stuffed it in my bag.

I started reading it in August. As I was well past the midpoint of the book, the world is in turmoil. There are isolationists. There are America Firsters. It is March 1939 and Hitler storms into Czechoslovakia. America is neutral, and most want to keep it that way. By the end of the summer, he takes Poland. May 1940, Rotterdam is destroyed and Holland is over run by Nazis. June 14, Paris falls. That morning The New York Times published a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay. The original title was “Lines Written in Passion and Deep Concern for England, France and My Own Country”; by fall, it was renamed: “There Are No Islands”.

“Dear Isolationist, you are

So very, very insular! …

“…Let French and British fighters, deep

In battle, needing guns and sleep,

For lack of aid be overthrown,

And we be left to fight alone.”


A friend I met at the Women’s March in January (it seems like decades ago) sent me a photo of a poster from a recent protest:

“I want my friends to understand that ‘staying out of politics’ or being ‘sick of politics’ is privilege in action. Your privilege allows you to live a non-political existence. Your wealth, your race, your abilities or your gender allows you to live a life in which you likely will not be a target of bigotry, attacks, deportation, or genocide. You don’t want to get political you don’t want to fight, because your life and safety are not at stake.” –Kristen Tea

So, as you can see, there is a lot to think about. And, I am thinking. I hope you are too. Laurie Lynch

About the Dress: One of my sisters, Lisa, is in Florence, Italy, for a yearlong artist residency program at Santa Reparata International School of Art. Lisa is a metal sculptor. I love this photo she took of a “Pasta Sculpture” in a kitchen store window in Florence. Just shows you that when politics get you down…there is always art!



Back on Track: My fig trees look good but this year I think I got one fig off of one plant—none on the other. I move them from the deck in spring and summer to the atrium in fall and winter, and that’s not the recipe for fruiting success, apparently. Meanwhile, Richard went to the fruit market in his Brussels neighborhood and bought 18 figs for 4 euro (equal to $4.75 U.S.). Check out the size of this gorgeous fig! There are more than 600 varieties of figs in the world and they come in yellow, green, pink, brown, blue, and black. But, thanks to the EUs tough food labeling standards, I know this is a Bursa fig, cultivated in Bursa, Turkey. Oh, for a bite…

Written on Slate: My candle burns at both ends: It will not last the night; But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—It gives a lovely light! Edna St. Vincent Millay



Lee Ann’s Peanut Squash

There has always been a competitive spirit in our family of five sisters. My recent post on Poona Kheera cucumbers resurrected some of that rivalry…from the garden soil.

Lee Ann, the middle sister, sent an email photograph of her never-to-be-forgotten plant in their Connecticut vegetable garden—Delicata squash. Then, when she visited over Labor Day weekend, she brought a Delicata for us to try. It was a football weekend, our house was full of out-of-town guests, and the Delicata, a little smaller than a football with pale yellow skin and green stripes, got lost in the kitchen.

Then I got a newsletter from Plowshare Produce, our winter share farmers, which included a recipe for Baked Delicata Squash with Cream & Parmigiano (from Domenica Marchetti’s book The Glorious Vegetables of Italy). A light bulb turned on, and the other night after work, I found the squash, tried the recipe, and my mom and I sat down to a simple dinner.

Delicata squash, botanically known as Curcurbita pepo, was most likely grown by the American Indians and introduced to Europeans when they arrived in the “New World”. In 1865, a Scotsman named Peter Henderson wrote Gardening For Profit, the first book written on market gardening in the U.S. Four years after Henderson’s death, The Peter Henderson Co. of New York City is credited with launching Delicata squash seed to the trade—the year, 1894. The squash was popular into the 1920s, and then it all but disappeared for about 75 years, perhaps because it was prone to disease and its “delicate” rind didn’t transport or store as well as other winter squashes. In the 1990s, Cornell University developed a disease-resistant bush variety and the Delicata returned to market gardens and home kitchens.

Delicata squash, which ripens from pale green to yellow in the garden and sports snazzy dark green stripes, is available from August through October. It keeps in cool, dry storage for up to three months (a little less than some winter squash due to its thinner skin). This thin rind, however, allows you to roast the squash without peeling and to consume every morsel, a huge plus in my book of living.

Baked Delicata Squash with Cream & Parmigiano

2 Delicata squashes, halved lengthwise, seeded, each half cut in half crosswise to yield a total of four pieces per squash

¼ cup heavy cream

Fine sea salt

Freshly ground pepper

Freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange pieces of squash, cut side up, on a rimmed baking sheet or in a large baking dish. Drizzle heavy cream on the squash pieces or use a pastry brush to spread it around. Season with a little salt and a few grindings of pepper. Sprinkle a little nutmeg over each piece (I grate the nutmeg directly over the pieces), and then sprinkle on the Parmigiano. Bake the squash for 30 to 40 minutes. Baste squash once or twice during baking. The squash is done when the cream is thickened and lightly browned, and the flesh is tender and easily pierced with the tip of a knife. Serve immediately. (Serves 4)

Lemont Mailbox

Lemont Mailbox

As we were eating dinner, I thought Delicata squash also would be a good chunky addition to Richard’s Coconut Milk-Curry Stew, or perhaps, cut in scalloped rings, coated with olive oil and dusted with turmeric (our newest favorite spice), salt, and roasted until tender.

I’ve read that Delicata squash goes by several other names: sweet potato squash, Bohemian squash, and peanut squash. That last nickname made me chuckle. You see, Lee Ann was a “preemie”. I fondly remember my dad telling everyone she was so tiny when she came home from the hospital he could hold her in the palm of his hand. He called her “Peanut.” Laurie Lynch

Twofer Vegetable: Delicata squash also has tender, delicate seeds. Scoop them out, wash well and pat dry. Place on a cookie sheet in a single layer and dry completely so they will crisp up when baked. Toss the dried seeds of one Delicata with a teaspoon of olive oil and return to cookie sheet. Season with sea salt and bake at 325 degrees for about 20 minutes until they turn golden brown–a nice snack or salad topping.

Written on Slate: Let my words, like vegetables, be tender and sweet, for tomorrow I may have to eat them. Author Unknown



Dumpster Trellis

Someone recently said I grow Poona Kheera cucumbers just because I love saying the name, “Poona Kheera.”

I beg to disagree. I love eating a Poona Kheera as much as I love saying “Poona Kheera.”

I’ve been growing the cucumbers since I discovered them in a Baker Creek Heirloom Seed catalog, in the mid-2000s. I sold them at Fleur-de-Lys, and at the Lemont Farmers Market, but other than that, I’ve never seen them for sale in a supermarket or farm stand. If I want to eat them, I’ve got to grow them.

And I do want to eat them. They are sweet, never bitter; always crunchy and juicy. A Poona Kheera cucumber starts out palest green, then turns yellow, golden, and, finally, as brown as a russet potato—and can be picked and eaten at any stage. And boy, are the vines productive. When I was running our family farm stand, I needed outstanding vegetables with great taste and good shelf-life to fill the display table—and Poona Kheera never disappointed. Back in 2010, I had so many Poona Kheeras that I started pickling them!

Golden Fruit

Poona Cheer

This spring I was in trouble when I noticed my “hills” of Poona Kheera didn’t germinate. I knew the reason—old seed. So I gently chided myself and paid the price of hefty postage for a single packet of seeds. When the seeds arrived, I overplanted them in small pots, watched them grow, and replanted them in the garden, pampering them with crib rails lifted from a dumpster and repurposed as trellises. Voila, a Poona Kheera jungle.

Poona Kheera cucumbers come from the state of Maharashtra in western India, from a city formerly known as Poona, but now called Pune on all the maps. In fact, it is thought that cucumbers as a family originated in India, and from there were introduced to China, Europe, and the Americas. Pune is appropriately recognized as the “Garden City” and Mahatma Gandhi’s ashes are preserved there in the garden of Aga Kahn Palace. From afar in Central Pennsylvania, I will always know India as the land of the Poona Kheera. Laurie Lynch

Karat, Carat or Carrot? As a collector of odd vegetable stories, I loved the news last week of the Canadian woman who found her long lost engagement ring wrapped around a carrot harvested from her garden. If you missed the story, go to the following link:


Eclipse Watchers

Partial Eclipse watchers, Richard and Marie

Hot Pepper? My mother and I were invited to a neighbor’s 70th birthday party over the weekend. There was quite a spread but my eyes were drawn to an arrangement of what looked like purple peppers in a grape-like cluster. I picked one up and timidly tasted the tip—just in case it was really hot. Instead, it was really cool and not a pepper at all. It is called a “teardrop grape,” and when our neighbor saw the grapes at Wegmans she had to purchase some for the party. (Warning: They are triple the price of oval grapes, but, ah, novelty.)


“Do you have an extra pen?” my buddy Mike asked at a recent Master Gardener meeting.

“Do I have an extra pen?” I mumbled to myself. “I must have a dozen in the bottom of my purse.”

I quickly scooped up a handful and gave him one. I remember wondering why on earth he didn’t have a pen. Does he live on the moon? In all fairness, I decided, the answer has nothing to do with pens, and plenty to do with the fact that Mike doesn’t carry a purse.

Days later, I was neck-deep in papers, books, and clothes, de- cluttering my bedroom. Three and a half garbage bags of clothing went to Goodwill. At least four Trader Joe’s grocery bags packed with paper, magazines, and old seed catalogs went to recycling. A cardboard box stacked with books went to the AAUW Book Sale collection box—fitting, since most of the books came from the AAUW Book Sale in the first place and still have price stickers on them. In the dark recesses of my bedroom I even found two paper bags of year-old deadheaded poppies and calendulas I was drying for seed…

We have to take pleasure in the little things in life. I can now walk around my bed without stumbling on a pile of books or recipes, see the top of my dressers, and store my shoes and sweatshirts in the closet.Pen Collection

What amazed me, though, was the collection of pens I have amassed. My tin cup overfloweth, my red bucket spilleth over, and there are still more pens. I found an old Godiva chocolates box, labeled it “Pens,” and stashed it in the basement. It was a productive weekend’s work.

Monday started with an email from a friend in Kutztown:  “I sent you a package wrapped in brown paper. I am a hoarder with certain things and as I go through a “de-hoarding” cycle, you could help me by being the repository of the objects of my hoarding. Feel free to just dump it in the garbage. I also have sticky fingers when it comes to these, although I suspect no one would call me a thief.”

Is there something in the Pennsylvania air that is causing us women of a certain age to shed our belongings in mid-summer?

The box arrived at the post office. When I opened it, I marveled at our parallel lives.

My return email: “…I took the cooler, rainy weekend to de-clutter my bedroom and found a kazillion pens. Gay pride week, I pick up a pen. At the dry cleaners, I pick up a pen. At the bank, I pick up two, just in case…Hoarders United.”

How did ballpoint pens become such a fixture in our society? Gone are the tobacco ads on the sides of barns—now we advertise on the backs of ballpoints.

Hungarian newspaper editor and inventor Laszlo Biro and his brother Gyorgy, a chemist, devised the modern ballpoint pen. The brothers filed for patents on their ballpoint pens in 1938, but, as Jews, were forced to flee Hungary during the Second World War. Six years later, they set up the Biro Pen factory in their adopted homeland of Argentina.

The whole point of the ballpoint pen is a tiny ball bearing at the tip that rotates when it is dragged across a sheet of paper, leaving a path of ink drawn from the pen’s reservoir. It’s a lot easer and more reliable than a fountain pen.

History is often filled with irony, and so it is with the ballpoint. During World War II, the British Royal Air Force was looking for a pen for its navigators that worked at high altitudes (fountain pens tended to leak). They found just what they needed in Argentina. The RAF bought 30,000 Biros.

About the same time, U.S. manufacturers jumped on the ballpoint pen phenomenon. Milton Reynolds brought some Biros from Argentina and his International Pen Co. began manufacturing its own version of the ballpoint pen.   Introduced at Gimbels department store In New York City Oct. 29, 1945, it became the first modern ballpoint pen sold in the U.S.  The Reynolds ballpoint was advertised in newspapers as a “fantastic, atomic era, miraculous pen.” Gimbels reportedly sold 30,000 that first week, with each pen priced at $12.50.

After the War, the Biro brothers sold their patent to Baron Marcel Bich, a Frenchman. He dropped the “h” in his name to create the cheap, mass-produced BIC. His company, founded in 1950, shipped BIC ballpoints to the American market in 1959, where they sold for 19 cents a pen. In 1965, the French government approved of the use of BICs in schools, and other countries followed suit. These days, in Belgium, my French-speaking, 3-year-old granddaughter Laís doesn’t ask for un stylo (a pen). No, she asks for un BIC (pronounced “beak”). Laurie Lynch

Penning An Autobiography: As I look at the assortment of pens and read their advertisements, I realize how much they reflect the ups and downs of life in the 21st century: Santander, Fit For Play, First Commonwealth, Roan’s Body Shop, Dan’s Camera, Associated Realty, Fosamax, Hartman, Hartman, Howe & Allerton, Centre LGBTQA Support Network, Financial Abundance, Student Bookstore, Animal Kingdom, Penn State Ag Sciences, Harraseeket Inn, H & R Block, Kellogg School of Management, VBSFCU, Rose Franklin’s Perennials, Ready, Set…Schlow!, Firestone Master Contractor, Nittany Bank, Centre Oral & Facial Surgery, Intercontinental Mark Hopkins San Francisco, Balfurd Dry Cleaner, Charles Krug, The Village at Ohesson, Hilton, This Way LLC., Homecoming 2000, Pathblazer, The Teaching Professor Conference, APSCUF, Council on Chemical Abuse, Fleetwood Bank, Computer Wizards, Kutztown University, PNC Bank, Toftrees, Renaissance Hotels, Holiday Inn, Mama’s Delight Pizzeria, Connections, Embassy Suites, Country Inns & Suites, East Penn Diner, Adams & Associates.

What to Do? Neither of us have time for a Support Group for the Pen Obsessed, so we started thinking about how to share our wealth, spread our abundance. A library? Senior Center? Perhaps. Then I read about a fellow named Ryan who traveled to Rwanda on a public health mission several years ago. While there, he realized ballpoint pens are the tools for educational success in the remote villages of Sub-Saharan Africa. He started an organization called Pens to People. The goal? Changing lives one pen at a time. I emailed Ryan. If I get a response, I’ll let you all know. If you have any other recycling ideas, please email me.

Written on Slate: Here and yonder, high and low, golden rod and sunflowers glow. –Robert Kelley Weeks


I’ve been thinking about butts lately. It comes from running the Katahdin gauntlet.

On the morning of my last garlic harvest, I filled the wheelbarrow with Spanish Roja, opened the gate, and sprinted through the pasture to the barn where I cure bunches of hardneck. Whoosh, the Three Musketeers swarmed the wheelbarrow from all sides, pulling out stalks of garlic to munch. I grabbed a handful and started swinging them around like a gaucho’s bola yelling, “Get away. Get away!”

The next time I filled the wheelbarrow with Music and faced a different challenge. The rams put their heads down and started butting my butt. Then they rammed the wheelbarrow with head-butts.

I dropped the handles of the wheelbarrow and ran. I found a long branch on the ground, picked it up, and began swinging it behind me, like a 4-foot-long tail. Then, with one arm balancing and pushing the wheelbarrow, the other swishing my makeshift tail, I wobbled with my Music garlic toward the barn. I gathered all of the stalks in my arms, quickly opened the barn door, and squeezed into the barn without any of the damn rams following me.

Red Cabbage with Dew Jewels

Cabbage with dew jewels

When I returned, Gruff used his sneaky little sheep snout to pull off the advertising sticker from the wheelbarrow.

“Gotcha,” he seemed to say.

The last batch was Quiet Creek garlic. This was grown in a raised bed (I ran out of room in my garlic patch) so I caught the Three Stooges off guard. Branch in hand, I was ready for them. They were off grazing. This last trip was a breeze. After delivering my load, I headed back, relieved that the harvest was done. I was ready for a tall glass of elder blossom ice water.

Something was wrong. I was armed and ready, but there wasn’t a sheep in sight. The Three (male) Furies butted under the quickly latched gate and were burrowing through my asparagus patch in search of delicate morsels.

Time for reinforcements.

I secured the outer gate—I did not want to spend the rest of the day chasing sheep down the golf course. I rounded up Richard and posted him at the open pasture gate while I tripped through the tangle of asparagus fronds hollering at one, then two, then three menaces, chasing them out of the asparagus and into the pasture. What a pain in the butt!

That night, instead of counting sheep … I was counting lamb chops. Laurie Lynch

Written on Ancient Slate: “Such is the destiny of great men that their superior genius always exposes them to be the butt of the envenomed darts of calumny and envy.” Voltaire


When I moved back to State College a half-dozen years ago I was lucky enough to meet Rhonda, a talented hairstylist who cuts my curls and trims my mother’s bobby pin waves.

Our conversations often are drawn to nature. One morning we might talk about a squirrel dangling upside down at her birdfeeder outside the window, or the bear that is haunting her neighborhood, or her gorgeous container gardens.

RL Buds

Rain Lily Buds

This spring after my haircut she surprised me with a handful of rain lily bulbs. Rhonda’s grandmother died four years ago. Since then, the family has been sharing Nana Ida’s rain lilies.

In memory of Nana they hand out bookmarks with a poem on one side and planting instructions on the other. A tulle drawstring bag containing the bulbs is attached to each bookmark so that recipients can grow the beautiful flowers Nana loved.

Rain lilies or fairy lilies are traditional pass-along plants that are said to bloom each time it rains. With 70 species in the genus Zephyranthes, they have grass-like leaves and flowers that come in colors of pink, white, and yellow. They are native to southern U.S., Central and South America. In Florida, they are often used as landscape plants but in northern states you need to grow them in containers and protect them during the winter months. You can buy Zephyranthes from most bulb companies, or find a friend who has some to share. Here are Nana Ida’s instructions:

  • Plant bulbs 1” deep in a pot using fresh, soft potting soil.
  • Place planter in a cool, dark place and do not water at this time.
  • On Mother’s Day return the pot to the sunny outdoors.
  • Water the rain lilies every day but do not saturate.
  • Lilies thrive best with fresh rain and bloom throughout the summer.
  • Before the first frost in autumn, return the rain lilies to a cool, dark place for the winter.
  • With each passing year, the bulbs will multiply.

And now, the flipside of the bookmark. The lesson that Ida shared with all who knew her:

RL Open

Blooming Rain Lilies

Live For Today

I’ll never see this day again,

The seconds or the hours,

Now’s the time to take the time

To stop and smell the flowers.

Today’s the day to give that smile

And happiness away

That you were saving for a friend

Some rainy gloomy day.

This day is golden,


God made this day for you.

The deed you do for someone else

May just come back to you.

So touch a heart, hold a hand,

Call that lonely friend,

Don’t postpone the love you have,

This day won’t come again.

Ah, it’s a beautiful garden out there, enjoy! Laurie Lynch

‘Tis the Season for Harvesting Garlic: And a time to confess. For more than two decades I’ve been extolling the sturdy virtues of growing garlic. Deer proof. Rabbit proof. Squirrel proof. Groundhog proof. Chicken proof. Llama proof. It turns out there is an exception.

The other day I spent a quiet early morning digging garlic with my garden fork, pulling out the long stalks with garlic bulbs intact, stacking them in my wheelbarrow, ready to be tied into bunches to cure. As I continued down the rows, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye moving in the wheelbarrow. Gary the Katahdin sheep was munching the leafy end of a garlic stalk poking through the fence. He nibbled and pulled, nibbled and pulled, consuming the stalk until the garlic bulb got stuck in the wire grid and could be pulled no further. That rascal!

Russian Intrigue: It seems the best hardneck garlic varieties growing in my Central PA garden this summer are those with Russian roots: Georgia Fire, Metechi, and Zemo. Stay tuned to find out whether this has anything to do with Russian meddling in our elections or just that they are a tougher, hardier breed. At least I haven’t found any indication of infiltration from the allium leaf miner.

Written on Slate: “Leave room in your garden for the fairies to dance.”