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Archive for the tag “Pennsylvania”

30×30: Lesson 25: The world is big, and life is long

From the airplane, 2014

Leaving Pennsylvania, 2014

Every time I climb into a plane to leave Europe, I’m filled not with regret but with longing. I was abroad last summer for seven weeks, but I did not manage to see my friend Abdel in Metz nor my former roommate Tobias who just had a baby. I had tried to go to Morocco to see my friend Jen but didn’t make it — too expensive, not enough time. I’ve never seen Rome, never been to Spain, never made it to Berlin. I just backed out on an opportunity to hike Mt. Kilimanjaro (again, finances, time) despite my extremely strong belief in the importance of spending time in a place that’s neither Western nor developed.

When I first began to travel, I was told, “Life is short. Go now, or else you never will.” On some level, this is true. Traveling is aided by the certain freedom that comes from not having a mortgage or a typical job, by the open mentality that is most often cultivated when the soil of your day is never packed and firm. One never knows, either, at what point his access to travel will close, or if/when his body will fail.

But as I kissed my teary-eyed host mom goodbye in Nantes, when I think about the book that I want to write, when I imagine owning a piano in a house in which I live for more than two weeks at a time, I have to believe that life is also long. This is not an excuse to endlessly defer dreams but simply to admit that no one can have it all — at least, not at the same time.

Believing that life is long requires a different type of openness than does taking the plunge. A belief that life is long is a subdued pressing-back against time, a stubborn belief that many things remain possible if you don’t stand in your own way, a gracious placement of faith beyond yourself.

Believing that life is long is a patient bravery that discerns between which choices are not in your power — as well as which choices are.

Find an introduction on this series here.  Dig into other life lessons here.

Pride, belonging, and gratitude: All about…. Dairy Farming {a cultural project}

“All about…” is a series of culturally-driven posts by guest writers who have lived, worked, or studied in a culture different than that of central Pennsylvania. These essays are not comprehensive cultural guides; rather, their purpose is to expose misunderstandings, clarify stereotypes, and highlight the similarities between familiar and unfamiliar cultures.

This week’s post is written by Emily Fogelsanger, a writing major at Messiah College and a native of Shippensburg, PA. She grew up tending tomatoes, milking cows, and riding four-wheelers through sunlit fields, and she considers herself to be a better person because of it. Her favorite activities are climbing trees, eating ice cream, and hanging out with her sisters.


The small, rural town of Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, is not exactly a foreign location for many readers of this blog. But dairy farming — a lifestyle that acts as the backbone of Shippensburg, as well as the world — is not always thought of as what it is. It is a means of feeding nations and supporting families for generations.  However, to many people, a dairy farm is viewed as home to large, smelly animals and unruly kids just as degraded.  And let’s not forget the assumption that anyone who is raised on a farm is a “hick.”  Being raised on a family dairy farm myself, I’ve grown up hearing these misconceptions along with a few others, and I hope that this article clears some of them up.

The heifer (female) calves in the barn in the process of drinking their milk from their buckets (2013)

The heifer (female) calves in the barn in the process of drinking their milk from their buckets (2013)

1.  Anyone raised on a farm is a hick.

This is perhaps the largest and most common stereotype that I have noticed.  According to the Encarta Dictionary, a hick is someone who is lacking in education and sophistication. Perhaps this stereotype comes from the fact that many people raised on a farm have a different dialect or wear torn jeans and faded shirts.  I personally grew up saying ain’t instead of isn’t, crick instead of creek, aten instead of eaten, and minnie instead of minnow.  My high school classmates were always teasing me about the way that I talked, and it wasn’t until eleventh grade that I actually stopped being embarrassed about my dialect.  Even though I have now forced myself to speak “correctly,” occasionally a word or two slips past my radar and makes its way into a conversation.  But, understandably, when your family and community speak a certain way, it’s only natural that you do, too.

And of course the clothes we wear on the farm are faded or old; that is logical. Most farm work involves dirt, sweat, and cow manure, meaning that whatever you’re wearing is most likely going to end up with a couple stains or small tears.  When milking, I myself wear a T-shirt and a pair of jeans that have definitely seen better days.  But my milking clothes aren’t the only styles in my closet; like every other farmer’s child, I actually do have a sense of fashion.

And the bit about farmers’ lacking in education? The business side of a farm takes a highly skilled person to make important decisions.  Choices involving when to harvest the corn, whether or not an injured animal should be sold or should be subjected to expensive medication, and which type of feed is best for the cows all require a good deal of patience and often a large amount of research.  Working on a farm requires a TON of knowledge, and a lot of this knowledge is acquired hands-on, meaning that there is only so much that you can learn about a farm from books.

My favorite cow, number 181. 2011.

My favorite cow, number 181 (2011)

2.  Dairy farmers are cruel to their animals.

I’m not sure how this myth came about; perhaps it is a line that vegetarians use to try to keep people from eating animal products. But cows provide a farmer with his living. If a farmer didn’t take proper care of his cows, they would not give good-quality milk in return.  Dairy cows require plenty of fresh feed, water, and a supplement of grass for their diet.  In addition, their hooves need to be trimmed regularly so that they are comfortable and able to produce rich milk.  If a cow is not getting the amount of food or care that she needs, both the quantity and the quality of her milk decreases.

Dairy farmers need to be constantly alert for signs of mastitis, an inflammation in a cow’s udder that results from a bacterial infection; and pinkish sore spots located above a cow’s hoof knows as “strawberries” that can cause a cow to limp.  The life of the entire farm depends on the cows, and a true dairy farmer cares deeply about his animals.

A cow greets a newborn heifer calf that I had just delivered

A cow greets a newborn heifer calf that I had just delivered

3.  Raw milk is hazardous to your health.

I, along with my cousins, grew up drinking raw milk, and none of us suffer from mysterious illnesses.  Raw milk is the milk that comes straight from the cow, free from any added ingredients and still containing milk’s natural nutrients.  Pasteurized milk, the milk that is sold in stores, is milk that is processed by removing natural vitamins and adding artificial nutrients.

After talking to one of my friends who is afraid of drinking raw milk, I think that the biggest reason for this fallacy is that since cows are considered (by some!) to be dirty, unprocessed milk must be equally as dirty. However, the cow’s udder and milking equipment are both completely sanitized before milking begins.  Raw milk is so healthful that many people who are lactose intolerant are able to consume it, and it also is known to help cure diabetes and certain heart conditions.  Pasteurized milk may be what is sold in grocery stores, but in my family raw milk will always be a staple.

4.  Anyone who growing up on a farm has no social life.

Operating a farm requires work from morning to night, and some days we don’t get the opportunity to leave.  For us, milking begins at 5:00, twice daily, and it is usually finished around 9:00.  Additionally, if a cow goes into labor and needs assistance, or if another animal is injured and needs special attention, all less important plans are usually put on hold.  When a field needs to be planted or harvested before bad weather comes, the day can sometimes stretch as late as 11 P.M.

However, most farms nowadays have employees who can take some of the workload. This leaves time to take small vacations or to just take the evening off.  Farmers may have a lot to do, but with everyone working efficiently, there are plenty of opportunities that free up our lives.  Besides, working together every day allows strong friendships and trust to form, so during the days when no free time is available, a farmer’s relationship with his family and his workers provides the best kind of social life.

The large combine prepared to harvest a field of wheat

The large combine prepared to harvest a field of wheat

5.  There is no future in dairy farming.

This is a debatable topic, but I personally believe that there will always be a generation willing to be dairy farmers.  Some children raised on farms are interested in pursuing other lives, simply because dairy farming is extremely difficult and the monetary payback is often very slight.  Additionally, much of your livelihood depends on factors that are out of your control, such as the weather, crop and milk prices, and the health of the cows.

But in each family there is often at least one child who imagines no other way of making a living.  My one younger sister is one of these people who lives to farm, and I fully support her dreams.  In our nation, there will always be a demand for dairy and beef products; therefore, there will always be farms to supply them. Farming is not always easy, but in my opinion, there is no better way to grow up.

My sister Amy and her heifer calf, Spearmint (2013)

My sister Amy and her heifer calf, Spearmint (2013)


Dairy farming isn’t a job; it’s a way of life.  I’ve seen my father and uncle stressed and exhausted day after day, but they always seemed contented.  I grew up running around half the year in my bare feet, and even now, at the age of eighteen, I still do.  I will always have a craving for ice cream, and I will never be able to fully function in the morning without a glass of milk.  Growing up on a farm has accustomed me to things that always stay the same; yet, at the same time, it has helped introduce me to being open to change. In dairy farming, the sense of pride, belonging, and gratitude will always remain.

The lives of eight million: All about… New York City {a cultural project}

“All about…” is a series of culturally-driven posts by guest writers who have lived, worked, or studied in a culture different than that of central Pennsylvania. These essays are not comprehensive cultural guides; rather, their purpose is to expose misunderstandings, clarify stereotypes, and highlight the similarities between familiar and unfamiliar cultures.

This week’s post is written by Brian Richards, museum curator for New York Yankees. Brian has coordinated 10 exhibits from scratch since the museum’s opening in 2009, including last June’s exhibit on Mickey Mantle. He currently lives in the Bronx and enjoys strolling down Fifth Avenue on Saturday evenings.


This post may raise a few eyebrows when compared to the others in this series that focus on global places, since New York City obviously isn’t a foreign country. However, it was a completely foreign environment to me when I moved here four years ago. I grew up in the tiny borough of Hughesville, Pennsylvania (population: 2,000), with a cornfield behind our home. In my teenage years, I dreamed of teaching history at Hughesville High School, marrying a local girl, and raising a family in that same little town. Even when I went to college at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, and on to graduate school in Cooperstown, New York (both also communities of 2,000 people), I never thought I’d one day move to America’s largest, fastest-moving, most exciting metropolis.

When I was hired by the New York Yankees in September 2008 to assemble and run a museum in the new Yankee Stadium, I was filled simultaneously with exhilaration and terror. How would I ever live in New York City? Simply tolerating the “Big Apple” would have been enough for me, let alone loving the place. I settled into the Riverdale neighborhood in the Bronx and have grown by leaps and bounds, both personally and professionally… and in my understanding and love for my new home.

Here are five important things that I’ve learned about New York City:

1.) There are many New Yorks within New York City. Think of New York City… what images immediately come to mind? Most of us will imagine Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, Central Park, etc. As for me, I always thought of bustling Times Square where “The Great White Way” and Seventh Avenue grandly intersect. It’s easy to think that “this is New York City,” but that’s only partially true. New York City is also quiet streets of townhouses in Chelsea. It’s tree-lined streets on the Upper West Side where ancient brick paving pokes through well-worn asphalt. It’s Hudson Street in the West Village, with little shops and restaurants that offer a refreshingly laid-back atmosphere. And that’s just Manhattan! I regret to say that I haven’t explored Brooklyn or Queens very much… and have never set foot on Staten Island… but those boroughs no doubt offer even more “New Yorks” within New York. I no longer picture Times Square when I think of this metropolis; in fact, I intentionally avoid the area for that very reason. It’s beautiful to learn about and savor the unique aspects of these communities-within-a-city.

2.) New York City… it ain’t what it used to be. I think there’s a common conception among non-New Yorkers that NYC hasn’t changed since the 1970s and 1980s. By that I’m implying a New York City with crumbling infrastructure and subways that double as easels for graffiti artists, a New York of rampant homelessness and violent crime. Maybe that was just the perspective I came from, but I certainly believed it. When visiting a busy area of the city, my father warned me to always keep my wallet in one of my front pants pockets to avoid pickpockets. Before living here, New York City invoked in me a sense of wonder and an equally strong sense of fear. Thankfully, all my fears were unwarranted. NYC experienced a renaissance of sorts in the 1990s which continues to the present day. Streets and subways were cleaned up, new shelters were built for those needed housing, and crime rates plummeted. There’s a reason why New York is consistently rated as one of the safest cities in America; in Manhattan, there’s (almost literally) a police officer on every street corner. The days of municipal bailout requests, blackouts, and “Son of Sam” are long since over. I can walk down any street in Manhattan without fear of any sort of danger. And I always keep my wallet in my back pocket.

3.) Nuuu Yawkers — they’re not all pushy, arrogant boars. If you’re within “radio range” of New York City, tune-in to WFAN sports radio sometime. The not-so-graceful words of Mike Francesa may attack your ears. Francesa, a staple on New York sports talk radio shows, embodies the stereotype of New Yorkers that I formerly held. He gives his callers few opportunities to defend their opinions while arrogantly dismissing them in a condescending manner. This is what I expected all New Yorkers to be like — constantly blowing horns, pushing in lines, and griping in voices loud enough to permanently impair hearing. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find very few people here like that. It does, however, feel like every New Yorker is constantly in a rush, but everybody realizes that the people around them are rushing, too. New Yorkers recognize the presence of over eight million people around them and understand the need for tolerance and coexistence. That doesn’t mean that deliberately ignorant behavior will go unrecognized or without comment. But as long as you’re thinking and respecting those around you, a profanity-laden tongue-lashing in Brooklynese won’t be a concern. Unless, of course, you call in to Mike Francesa’s show.

4.) Owning… and driving… a car really isn’t necessary here. Okay, now this one seems like a no-brainer, right? Who doesn’t know that an empty parking spot is impossible to find in NYC? But consider this: if everybody really knows that “fact,” why are there still so many cars, and why is parking still so coveted? Life without a car was simply unimaginable when I grew up in Hughsville, and I still held that belief as I drove my 1993 Oldsmobile Eighty-Eight Royale to New York from Cooperstown in October 2008. The dream of keeping my beloved car quickly turned into a nightmare. Not only are parking spots in Riverdale difficult to find, every car has to be moved at least once per week for the street sweeper. I drove 90 minutes straight without a break one night — literally, a full hour-and-a-half — trying to find another spot. I quickly realized that the car was a luxury here, not a necessity.  It’s definitely convenient to come and go whenever you please rather than just missing a bus or subway train, but the city’s public transit system really does get you where you need to go. I never thought I could live without my car. Now, I can’t live with the car here. The parking, sky-high insurance rates, city gas prices, etc. are simply unneeded stress.

5.) Celebrities are not standing on every street corner. Another “obvious fact,” right? Not necessarily. It seems like everybody who is anybody in film, sports, music, etc., calls a chic Manhattan flat “home” for at least part of the year. Many people come to New York expecting to bump into Jennifer Aniston in the supermarket, wait for a subway with Jay-Z, or get a restaurant table next to Eli Manning. I have yet to experience any of this (although I have spoken to Rudy Guiliani, Whoopi Goldberg, Henry Kissinger, and Richard Gere while working at Yankee Stadium. OK, so I’m special.). Next time you venture into Manhattan, you’d might as well forget the autograph books. What you will find is something far more beautiful — the lives of common people unfolding before your eyes, by the thousands, at any given moment. Everybody has needs, wants, longings, joys, and sorrows, and New York shows all that drama unfolding and multiplied by eight million. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t mind bumping into Rachel McAdams at Starbucks sometime. But seeing and hearing so much genuine human drama excites me far more than seeing any famous face could ever do.

"Daily Life in NYC," Chuck Kuhn

“Daily Life in NYC,” by Chuck Kuhn


Yankee Stadium (Stock Photo)

Friday Photo: Tröegs Brewing Company, Hershey

Troegs Brewing Company, Hershey, November 2012

If you’re brainstorming for places to visit with out-of-town relatives, consider Tröegs Brewing Company in Hershey, Pennsylvania, recently named Mid-Sized Brewery of the Year by the Great American Beer Festival.

In the tasting room, sample Tröegs’ famed Mad Elf Christmas ale brewed with honey, cherries, and a spicy Belgian yeast to put yourself in the holiday spirit while noshing on goodies from the Central Pennsylvania-inspired Snack Bar menu, such as the bratwurst and red potato salad sandwich, $8, or the local artisan cheese plate with honey, jam, and toast, $11.

Go behind the scenes with a self-guided or guided brewery tour (free, or $5 for a 45-60 minutes plus a tasting and commemorative glass, reserve online); then browse the gift shop for T-shirts, local delicacies, glassware, cases, six-packs, and more.

Snowed in or out of town? Click here for a full list of Tröegs events organized by state or here to find which brews are being poured near you.

Tröegs Brewing Company
200 E. Hersheypark Drive
Hershey, PA 17033
(717) 534-1297

General Store Hours:
Sunday: 12-5pm
Monday-Saturday: 11am-8pm

Tasting Room Hours:
Sunday-Wednesday: 11am-9pm
Thursday-Saturday: 11am-10pm

Friday Photo: Grandma Grove’s award-winning chow-chow

Shippensburg Fair, July 2009

Shippensburg Fair, July 2009

Published Thursday, July 5, 2012.

“Hi, Grandma, it’s Sylvia. I was wondering — could I have your recipe for chow-chow?”

My cell phone crackled as my 91-year-old grandmother hesitated. “My what?”

“Your chow-chow,” I said. Her first-prize winning, pickled-vegetable blend that is always served at Christmas lunches — I wanted to know how to make it.

“My sauerkraut?” she asked.

“No,” I said patiently. Good hearing has never been my grandmother’s strong point. “Your chow-chow.”

Grandma audibly brightened. “Ohhh,” she said. “The sauerkraut.”

“No!” I nearly shouted. “The chow-chow! The one with the pickled carrots, and the cauliflower, the celery, and the red kidney beans — ”

“Ohhhhhhh.” Grandma let out a long sigh, like she was doing me a favor. “Sylvia, you’re talking about my chow-chow.”


I love pickled vegetables because they seal in summer freshness and tartness, but I have never understood the origin of chow-chow’s name. According to Wikipedia, chow-chow is a regionally-associated cold, pickled vegetable dish that is served in Nova Scotia, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, the South, and the Appalachian Mountains.  The article claims that Pennsylvania chow-chow is sweeter than other varieties, evidently drawing on our German-Amish tradition of the seven sweets and seven sours. But what is most fascinating to me is that one explanation for chow-chow’s name draws from its similarity to the word chou (pronounced “shoe”), the French word for cabbage, an ingredient found in many chow-chow varieties.

Okay, then — one mystery solved.

The mystery more difficult to solve is that of my grandmother.  Later, I called again to ask, “How many pints do you think this recipe makes?” and she answered with the non sequitur, “Double the kidney beans if you want,” but she is a mystery for another day.

My chow-chow, 2012

My chow-chow, 2012

Friday Photo: Markets Around the World

I am fascinated by stores: sparkling cheap jewelry made to look expensive only in bright lighting, polished plates in geometric shapes, the shelves of spices in the baking aisle, the spines of new books.  I adore entering a Sheetz and twirling amid the Twix bars to my right, and suddenly being distracted by the Chex Mix to my left then realizing that I could buy any flavor of Red Bull that I want.  I don’t even know if Red Bull has flavors, but it doesn’t matter!  It’s all within reach!  Look at the colors!!  Everything’s possible!!!

On this Black Friday, it would seem appropriate to comment that I’m an ideal shopper, except for the fact that I only love looking at stores, not buying the products within them.  In my opinion, a group of people can be best understood through the act of buying and selling, because this action discloses a culture’s needs and priorities, perceived or otherwise.  In Chile, stores selling similar products are located in the same area of the city — a mall of hair salons, an alley of hot dog vendors, a street of antiques — to increase efficiency.  In France, bakeries open early because fresh bread is bought almost daily. In Italy, I’ve heard that it’s bad luck for a street vendor to lose his first sale of the day, so he’s often willing to negotiate for a lower price.  In Trinidad, boiled corn, still in the husk, is available on the side of the highways — you just veer off on the shoulder and roll down your window.  When buying and selling, convenience, need, creativity, and want all come into play.

On Black Friday in 2007, I was stuck on a crowded train between Luxembourg City and Brussels with a woman who was on the phone directing a jewelry purchase in New York.  Today, however, in honor of my friend Kara who posted a similar set of photos on her blog, I post a few photos of markets around the world, where what’s on sale reflects somehow we somehow all live through our consumerism — for better or for worse.

buying breadfruit in Trinidad

shopping district in Lille, France

cheese market in the Netherlands

calves for sale at the Greencastle Livestock Market in Greencastle, Pennsylvania

buying morning newspapers in Santiago, Chile

Friday Photo: Political Climate

Political Climate: A record-breaking snowstorm hit the northeast on Saturday, October 29, 2011, 11 days before Election Day--a day which, in contrast, is predicted to enjoy sunny skies and a high of 64 degrees.



Local band Colebrook Road aims to ‘draw people’

Colebrook Road (left to right): Joe McAnuty of Harrisburg, fiddle and vocals; Marcus Weaver of Elizabethtown, banjo and vocals; Wade Yankey of Harrisburg, mandolin; Jesse Eisebise of Lower Swatara Twp., guitar; and Mike Vitale of Millersville, bass and vocals.

The name Colebrook Road is both a bluegrass band — and a place. As a band, it’s a five-member musical powerhouse based in Harrisburg who has written Pennsylvania-inspired songs like “Dry Ground Blues” and “Delta Skunk” and has performed in various venues, including many across the mid-state. As a street, Colebrook Road runs across Central Pennsylvania through Dauphin, Lebanon, and Lancaster counties, and represents many members’ childhood, connection to the land, and life philosophy. I spoke to the band Colebrook Road in October about their connection to community in an article recently published in The Patriot-News.

Friday Photo: Pennsylvania crab shack

Fairfield, Pennsylvania, August 2011

So, I know I grew up eating liver ‘n onions, Central-PA proud, but I’ve still never seen crabs served on a cafeteria tray before Dave & Jane’s Crabhouse in Fairfield, PA.  For $36.95 a person, enjoy all-you-can-eat crabs, Alaskan crab clusters, and steamed shrimp along with salad, soup, hush puppies, and broasted chicken if you think you have room, which I did not.

If the sound of your mallet-whacking, crab-cracking, seafood-slurping neighbors aren’t enough to break the atmosphere, you also won’t be bothered by this restaurant’s fluorescent lights, Styrofoam tableware, and tables covered with brown paper that can be easily removed, along with your mess, once you leave.  As you wander out, delusionally full with seafood, you will undoubtedly be surprised to see green rolling hills around the parking lot and not crashing waves about some dark ship’s hull.


Friday Photo: $26 Hamburger

Village Whiskey, Philadelphia, September 2011

So this isn’t the $26 burger (served with maple bourbon glazed cipollini, rouge bleu cheese, applewood bacon, and foie gras), but I did eat this light, airy, beefy burger, available with an egg on top, from the same restaurant–the Village Whiskey in Philadelphia.  Also try the pickled herbed cherry tomatoes served on black olive tapenade, whipped ricotta, and toasted sourdough.

Drool on.

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