Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Countryside Chronicles I

ather ‘round, My Lovelies, for this story is one that might best be told around campfires and gatherings and such…at least I’d like to think so.  I suppose, in many ways, this isn’t the first story about what happens to a wild-haired city girl, when she dares venture into the wily countryside, and yet, each encounter is its own fingerprint, unique and stand-alone.

You will find the fruits of my weekend as shown above, with these wonderful little trophies found along the journey. Truth is, they are but a small representation of that time,  lovely tokens of a far grander picture. I found the stoneware (and antique way to hold old kitchenware), and the two rolling pins (for future old-timey bread baking, and each a dollar, to boot!), at an old antique outdoor market near Lancaster. The soaps were a gift from Soap-making/herbalist/editor in chief/general mischief maker sisters. All in all, not a bad score for a weekend outing. Honest-to-goodness, though, that wasn’t the finest prize to be had….

So sit back, my Friends, and enjoy this story, and you will understand the Countryside Chronicles….

This tale is one that is typical in two ways: it involves the splendor of the country, and it involves some amazing women. Which is just the right mixture for abundance and--of course--mayhem. Do not put a group of high spirited females together and expect less than magic, I tell you...and you can take that statement to the bank.

I had been out into the countryside, a couple of weeks back, and spend a good deal of time, then, with artist friends Carolee Clark and Jen MacNeill-Traynor. I had also spend a few hours with friends Tina Sams and her sister Maryanne, who lived a bit further up, in Manheim, which was far more rural than Jen and Carolee’s small town environs.

It wasn’t until this trip around, actually spending a night amongst the sisters, that I would fully understand their surroundings and, to some degree, why these dames were so funny and vivacious.

Somewhere beyond long, rounded roadways, beautiful corn and cow fields, and old barns and spring-houses, is a Christmas tree farm. As outlandish---or at least unique--as this place seems in the midst of old-time conventional farming, it’s unpredictability mirrors the sisters who live in this magical place.

Tina Sams is the editor of The Essential Herbal, been an herbalist for more than two decades and, in many ways, paved the way for herbalists after her. Her magazine is superb, a full compendium of every way to use herbs, and other related herb topics. Her sister Maryanne and her husband Bob, own the Christmas tree farm, living on the opposite side of Tina, on a most spectacular piece of property. Behind the evergreen branches, you will find berries and herbs and fruit and nut trees tucked away. And beyond these, an enchanted little cottage holds a wholesale soap business of Maryanne’s, with Tina as an astute assistant.

These ladies are a hoot, to say the least. They’ve been around the block, painted the town red, and have the funny and insightful tales to tell. Within minutes of seeing them in action, I could tell that they both are a barrel of laughs, like just enough good clean fun, and are kindhearted people. They are also extremely clever business women, and willing to lend an ear, and plenty of advice in regards to helping others with theirs.

My trip to see them would also include a few other wonderful women--and I was country-bound, actually, for reasons that had nothing to do with visiting. See, you may remember I have this dancing fever. It was quite a part of my youth and I haven’t quite managed to shake it. So I drag my old(er) bones 'round and teach dance, and it would be no different in this case.

Sarah Preston is the radiant proprietress of the equally titled Radiance, an amazing shoppe that carries herbs, oils, holistic items and much more revelrie in an enchanted space. Sarah herself is the picture of kindness and beauty and was nothing but supportive when I mentioned to her that I taught dance. She wanted to host classes, and I would stop by that weekend to show her some of my fancy moves.  So off we went--Tina, Maryanne, and I--over the river and woods and into the heart of Lancaster City.

I hadn’t an inkling that Lancaster--the proverbial heart of Amish Country--had a CITY, but it reminded me of a trendy downtown…full of art galleries, cafes, outdoor parks, and other little charming nooks and crannies that make such places appealing. Not the hustle and bustle of mad metropolises such as New York, this place was quaint, if busy.  Old buildings stood as historic sentinels, and in the middle of this, on the third floor of an old brick colonial place, was Radiance.

The place swirled with color and light, and I met lovely Sarah and was ushered into the large dance space, festooned with Indian sari and batik fabrics.   I did two routines, and then suddenly, the sisters and I were off and running, out into Lancaster County and it's outskirts.....

Yes, it’s not quite a country tale, but when we were done, there was FAR more bedlam to come.  Farmer Market Mayhem, Countryside Romps,  Soap Making, and the horse and wagon tale that…wasn’t!

And THAT, my Lovelies, is Tomorrow’s Tale!


Donna OShaughnessy said...

WHAT ?!?! you are now messing with another womans soap? I am of you. One can never have enough homemade soap now can one ? :)

Theresa MacNaughton said...

Sounds like you're having an absolute amazing time. Wish I were there to experience it, too!