My continuation of Sharon Astyk’s now-completed “Independence Days” project (June-Aug 2022), which offered a framework for recognising how we’re building resiliency, community, and accountability that will make our lives better now and in the future. Many of Sharon’s categories are (or could be) related to gardening, so it seems to fit here on this blog. Equally, none of them has to do with gardening. They’re all multifaceted.

  • Plant something: plant, start something

We left New England on Tuesday for the first time since the pandemic began, on a 6-day driving trip for our friends’ daughter’s wedding in Maryland on Sat. and to meet up with my sister (after 4 years apart) and visit three botanical gardens in the Brandywine Valley. I’ll do separate posts at some point about all that. It was wonderful to spend time with my sister, to spend time with our good friends (several college friends) and families, to see beloved gardens (even if the air quality, because of the wildfires in Canada, was atrocious much of the time), to visit with people and places we’ve missed these last several years.

Some favourites from Longwood:

Some favourites from Winterthur:

Some favourites from Mt Cuba Center:

Some favourites from Gettysburg:

Because we were away, I didn’t pick up my 20 native perennials and shrubs that are ready for planting now. I’ll go retrieve them this week and hopefully get them in the ground soon, along with some veggie starts a friend was caretaking while we were gone. We had clear (clearish, due to smoke haze some days), lovely, non-rainy days in the mid-Atlantic while we got over a half-inch of rain here last week, which suited me well. (More rain is forecast here for Tuesday.)

  • Harvest something: harvest, forage or glean

Well, I guess we gleaned some tiny shampoos and lotions from the motels we stayed at this week. And I got a wine opener for $1 and my husband got five spade bits for drilling for $3 plus two car cell phone adapters and a USB-C cable (about $3 total) at the state surplus store on Monday, which we visited when we went to get the rental car.

  • Preserve something: food or local community resource

Preserved local resources: Nothing local preserved in our home area, but we did eat outside at some local restaurants in PA, including Two Stones Pub, Victory Brewing, and The Naked Olive in Kennett Square, plus at Longwood Gardens and at the Gettysburg National Military Park Visitors Center.

Preserved sanity: Seeing my sister and my good friends for the first time in years was very relaxing, energising, comforting, and satisfying. Walking at Longwood, Winterthur, and Mt. Cuba was also really rewarding.

  • Waste Not: reduce waste, reuse, salvage, repair, give away to an actual person

As usual on trips, I feel like we increased waste, using too many paper coffee cups, plastic cups, paper napkins, plastic bowls, bottled drinks, etc. We tried to re-use these things but it wasn’t always possible or anything but very inconvenient.

I gave a friend some wildflower seeds on Monday evening.

  • Want Not: food and emergency supplies, increase economic security, reorganize to use/waste less

Nothing this week. Though we found when we spontaneously visited Winterthur Museum & Garden — which had not been in our plans, but due to the shutdown of the other Brandywine Valley gardens because of hazardous air quality from the Canada wildfires, we ended up there on Thursday — that they participate in reciprocal gardens programs, including the American Horticultural Society of which I’m a member, so we got in free there! Also, at Mt. Cuba Center in Hockessin, DE, because we’re members, we got a free water and protein snack each when we visited on Friday. And we had a free comp ticket for my sister for Longwood Gardens on Wed., one of four we had because we’re members there.

Our Enterprise rental car was also slightly discounted because I’m an Enterprise member (a freebie). And our Fairfield Inn & Suites stay was discounted a little due to being AAA members. On Saturday morning, before the wedding, we visited Gettysburg for 3 hours, which is also free if you just walk (or drive) aimlessly around the battlefields, which was what we wanted to do.

  • Eating The Food: shop the pantry, new recipes, creative use of leftovers, help feed others

On our trip, we ate outside for all our dinners and all but one lunch, which we ate in a very spacious almost empty cafeteria at Winterthur on Thursday; I had a great Indian paneer-spinach panini there!

nearly empty cafeteria, Winterthur – 8 July
excellent Indian paneer-spinach panini! , Winterthur – 8 July

We brought leftovers from dinner at The Naked Olive on Thursday night in a cooler for lunch (plus a yogurt from the motel breakfast, our free snacks of peanuts and water, and an N.A. beer from home) outside at Mt. Cuba on Friday. We had leftovers from Saturday’s lunch at Gettysburg National Military Park Visitors Center for lunch (in the car) and dinner on Sunday.

leftovers for lunch at Mt Cuba – 9 June

We enjoyed the food at the wedding, wood-fired oven pizzas, green salad, fruit, and wine/beer at Friday’s Welcome Dinner, as well as Saturday’s wedding reception, an open bar and a dinner buffet that included food for vegetarians.

We also appreciated the included breakfasts at the Fairfield Inn (3 mornings) and the Sleep Inn (2 mornings), though I augmented the latter’s with my own Cream of Wheat packets (and their microwaved milk) and some strawberries and blueberries from the local grocery.

Sleep Inn breakfast room at 7:45 a.m. – 11 June
  • Caregiving/Mutual Aid: contribute to community support systems, volunteer, mutual aid, advocate

Brought in mail and watered plants on Monday for a friend who had knee surgery a couple of weeks ago. We handed off the key on Monday night to another friend and will resume that responsibility tomorrow for a week more (or so).

A friend took in my veggie starts to care for while we were away. Another friend checked on my hanging baskets while we were gone.

  • Skill up: particularly if they help us get along, grow, make our new reality better

My husband got 20+ hours practice this week driving an automatic transmission rental car with back-up camera and all kinds of beeps when you even think about passing another car, quite a newfangled oddity for us (I got 3 hours practice on same). Now we have to remember how to drive our 1967, 1998, and 2010 manual shift cars without cameras.

I spent hours trying to ID plants I don’t usually see here in New England, and we both tried to ID birds we don’t encounter much in our northern clime.

We dressed up in “cocktail” attire for the first time in years and I managed not to lose the fancy purse I thrifted the week before.

wedding attire at the farm where the wedding was held – 10 June

We learned how to succesfully program or set various A/C systems in motels and how to operate various showers without scalding or freezing. We developed a second sense for where the restrooms were in a multitude of welcome centers, rest stops, and gas stations.

Speaking of welcome centers, the one for the Southern Tier of NY, in Kirkwood, was very nice!

  • Tend & Maintain: cleaning stuff, replacing supplies, car or bike maintenance, stuff to prevent failure/breaking/hassle down the line

Meanwhile, back at home, we’re having an ant infestation and are trying to tamp it down using multiple lines of defense: ant traps, silica powder, chili powder, instant paper-towel death, etc. I don’t like killing things, including ants, but there are too many to relocate and they are getting into everything on the counters, near the kitchen sink, etc. Even without the compost collecting for a week, they are unabated, so we’re doubling down now.

Husband mowed the lawn (2nd time this season) the evening before we went away so the neighbours wouldn’t be aghast. I watered the houseplants, container plants, new plantings, and vegetable garden the night before.

  • Winter is coming: making our relationships, family life, home, community, immediate surroundings, jobs better for a long and hard upcoming year or few years

This week was all about reconnecting with my closest friends/family, spending about 24 hours with my sister and all together (over two evenings) about 8 hours with my close college friends and families. Honestly, I talk with many of these folks every week or two by phone or Zoom, so it wasn’t all that different for me to see them in person, but it added a nice dimension, and it was great to talk at some length to my friends’ parents, siblings, and kids, to see their grandkids in the flesh, and to watch everyone interacting with each other. I was also honoured and pleased to witness the marriage of Natalie & Marissa.

Spending time in gardens, especially in wild/native gardens, in wetlands and around water features, in massively creative and colourful gardens, is something that feeds my soul, and I will re-live those moments for a long time to come.

glassware at Winterthur – 8 June

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