29 October 2014

( walking into webs )

portraits of nature
( walking into webs )
by “porcupine pat” mckinney

you’ve felt them outside while walking on a lawn or traipsing a trail in the woods—those thin strands of spider webbing that tickle your nose or stick to your shirt are commonplace at this time of year. fall is the season for spiders to think fanciful thoughts in family-ways, and because of that, their presence is more pronounced.

warm days and cool nights bring rise to morning dew that accentuates webs, whether on the ground or dangling between two logical spots. you swear that spiders must have some semblance of intelligence, given the engineering feat they construct, weaved not only in the name of utility but art, too.

( notice the dark hole weaved into this web to the right 
of this fence post; inside it is the resting spider who made it )

gossamer is the name for the flying airborne strands of extremely fine silk, aka webbing. spiders spin strands to launch themselves to move from one place to another. this is the art of “ballooning.” male spiders are on the prowl in search of a perfect match of female.

although most rides will end a few yards later, it seems to be a common way for spiders to invade islands. many sailors have reported that spiders have been caught in their ship's sails, even when far from land !

the silk spun from spiders is a protein which functions as a trap or net to catch their prey.  their silk is also used as nests or cocoons to protect their little ones and also to keep themselves suspended. spiders are also the only critters which use silk in their daily lives.

spider webs have existed for at least 100 million years, as witnessed in a rare find of early cretaceous amber from england.  insects can get trapped in spider webs, providing nutrition to the spider; however, not all spiders build webs to catch prey, and some do not build webs at all, like the wolf spider which prowls the ground in search of food.

"spider web" is typically used to refer to a web that is apparently still in use (i.e. clean), whereas "cobweb" refers to abandoned (i.e. dusty) webs. those spider “webby” nooks and crannies now hold greater meaning.

some silk strands are stronger than steel strands of the same thickness. the silk of the nephila spider is the strongest natural fiber known and is used to make tote bags and fish nets. in a certain species, spiders can use their web to capture an air bubble; with this bubble, the spider can survive and hunt under water where other spiders and insects would drown.

every web begins with a single thread, which forms the basis of the rest of the structure. to establish this bridge, the spider climbs to a suitable starting point (up a tree branch, for example) and releases a length of thread into the wind. with any luck, the free end of the thread will catch onto another branch. if the spider feels that the thread has caught onto something, it cinches up the silk and attaches the thread to the starting point.

pioneer housewives might swat you if you smashed a spider in their cabins. they served as nature’s bug zappers back then ! spiders do their part by controlling the massive population growth of insects, especially insect pests. keep this in mind as you enjoy the prominent autumn display of webs and webbing all around you. 

( the flows and currents of life )

by jennifer hetrick

betsy groller of amity township understands the connection of water and what it is to be human, far beyond making sure we drink enough each day.

as someone who practices reiki largely on animals and often remotely, with pet companions noticing the effects in the moment (a dog suddenly stretching out relaxingly after being curled up a ball on the floor—later learning these scenes matched the exact minutes of when she fit in a session), groller’s curiosities and comprehension have often fallen directly in line with how water takes its routes in natural places like oceans, rivers, and creeks.

and grasping what it means to truly fall effortlessly into the flows and currents of life, much as water does on the earth, has been a great asset to groller and those who connect with her heart.

for those who aren’t familiar with reiki, groller describes it as “a practice that originated in japan, which helps to bring about healing within your body physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  through gentle placements of hands, the reiki goes to the receiver or client and can bring deep relaxation, which can help the body to elicit a healing response.”

( the schuylkill river’s view from main street in union township, berks county )

“it was through my own personal experiences,” groller says about how she began to stumble across conversations of the flows and currents in life, years ago. “i started really thinking about what i was going through at that time and how, if i let go of it instead of struggling, i would go in the direction spirit wanted me to.”

she reflects that a lot of what made her suddenly shift perspectives is strains at the time in her 9 to 5 work.

“when facing obstacles in my day job, which is how all of this really came about, i realized that i had to let go and trust, and my stress was reduced, and the tension at work dissipated,” she says. “i also believe that if part of my path at that time was to make a more physical change, that could have happened as well.” 

as water lets go, so did groller.

“changes by 'letting go' can sometimes be big or subtle, but it is still a result of letting go and going with the flow of our life, our path.”
“so much our body is water, and that is why we are so affected by the moon and things which affect water,” she says. “but generally, we love water; we associate it with fun and freedom and movement.”

groller also points out that we need water in order for us to survive.

groller gives an illustration of how she views the currents and flows of water as a parallel to how we could live, away from the resistance that often holds us back and keeps us from being happy, whether we realize our role in this or not.

“i try to think of it literally when we are struggling, it is like holding on tightly to a branch in a strong current of a river—it is trying to pull you in the direction you should go (our spiritual path), but yet we continue to hold on out of fear, the unknown, thinking if we can just make it up river (to the answer we feel we need), everything will be alright, when all we need to do is let go and float along with the current which eventually becomes a calm gentle current,” she reflects.

( besides waters moving along in oceans, rivers, and creeks, some visuals betsy groller
 says she thinks of in the practice of following the flows and currents in life, instead 
of resisting them, are a soaring hawk or eagle and a leaf blowing in the breeze 
in autumn and falling wherever it may land. )

“water is constantly moving, but when water doesn't move, it becomes static, toxic, and i think that is very symbolic for us when we don't continue to move, to grow to change,” she says.

some authors whose works groller noted reading in the time when she became curious about embracing versus resisting the currents and flows in life are wayne dyer, louise hay, esther hicks, sonia choquette, amy rowland, thich nhat hanh, and deepak chopra.

some examples groller gave of when we resist instead of embracing and allowing situations to move into better places for us are arguing with a child or feeling stressed about struggling financially and trying to fix the circumstances but seeing no improvements. our resistance is often behind more than we realize and can often keep good from filtering into our days.

to find out more, visit at www.4pawreiki.com.

01 July 2014

( summer sunsets stimulate the senses )

portraits of nature
( summer sunsets stimulate the senses )
by “porcupine pat” mckinney

mauve, bisque, vermilion, and puce are names of colors that don’t easily come to mind when speaking of summer scenery. all of the above can be found in a virtual artist’s palette featuring striking summer sunset scenery, though for a fleeting moment.

you’ve seen a sunset change in three blinks of an eye, especially on these longer days that are becoming shorter as we are now well into the south side of the solstice (google “sunset today in philadelphia” to see the exact minute of the sunset and how the time gets earlier and earlier, as summer weeks pass us by). breathtaking views tantalize the eye with resplendent colors, and prominently in this niche of the commonwealth, with its gently rolling landscape and huggable horizon-lines of treetops.
“red skies at night, sailor’s delight; red skies in the morning, sailors take warning” is an age-old adage that speaks the truth to the student of nature and its inner workings.  a red sunrise can possibly speak of an impending weather change in a negative direction, meaning to expect showers, high winds, and blustery conditions.

those sailors should heed this natural warning for choppy waters, as a thunderstorm is not safe for life or limb ! no sailor should find an express route to davy jones’ locker too soon !

but, it is those red skies at night that add to the thrill of teasing that “inner artist” within us all. connoisseurs of sunsets typically love fireworks with that blaze of colors, and of course, flame-spent fall foliage. 
why do sunsets happen ? this is a good question which has answers in how light and skies work together.

sunlight that we see shining is actually a compilation of all colors of the rainbow. daytime finds sunlight shining through the atmosphere with some of the blue light being scattered by the molecules in the air. this is called “rayleigh scattering,” and this is the blue that you see scattered across the sky during daytime. it leaves sunlight looking yellowish as opposed to being a whitish hue.

( a sky-view from douglass drive in douglass township, berks county

during sunrise or sunset, that sunshine is blazing through a much thicker section of atmosphere because it has to pass across the width of the earth as well as through the vertical thickness of air to get to your eyeballs.  (note: wildlife biologists call sunrise and sunset “crepuscular time,” and it is the time when most wildlife is active. you have both the day shift and then the night shift of critters active at this time.)

because of this, more and more of the blue light is scattered, so that there are only the red, yellow, and orange wavelengths left to reach your eyes because these hues move less quickly and stay more visible. different types of cloud formations and varying density and composition of the air dictate the specific colors, shapes, and patterns that you enjoy. sunsets are like mulberry leaves—no two are alike.  

this is the “science” behind the ingredients that comprise our sunsets. the general spectator of sunsets is simply thrilled with the pageantry unfolding before their own eyes. summer sunsets “rock,” as some sky-spectators have stated !

there are plenty of places to prop up a lawn chair or a spread out a blanket to enjoy the show. why not make it an evening “after-work” picnic ? 
there is no better way to end the day than to take advantage of the summery conditions and a freebie show in the sky.

experience a sunset along a water habitat such as green lane. the water’s mirror-like surface reflects, in fact, echoes the skies above the horizon. even along the schuylkill river trail which parallels the river are some spots to check out the sunset scenery.  

higher ground is also a good idea, although be sure to leave before it gets too dark. one favorite spot are the lookout rocks at monocacy hill. what a treat !

summer is ripe for minutes spent outside, or even hours, if your schedule permits. make it your time to enjoy all that nature offers, especially the sunsets and sunrises, too.

an ode to those little orbs of rainbow parts.

bubbles are everything that is fun in the world. 
go make some happen. seriously, though.

( art class -- through the eyes of a teacher )

by jennifer hetrick

in 2012, ronald butt retired after teaching art in the boyertown area school district for 33 years. while he spent time teaching at several elementary schools throughout the district, new hanover elementary school along route 73 and hoffmansville road is where he spent the majority of his time bringing a love of art to students.

in earliest memories tied to art, he says he recalls drawing a picture of his whole family, as a child, and that a black crayon played a major role in the piece.

an art teacher named alice gerhart, who butt had one quarter for basket-weaving at boyertown area senior high, is a lot of how he finally decided to pursue art and also teaching. her enthusiasm and art appreciation easily transferred to him, and while he originally thought he’d pursue a degree in business, gerhart’s influence led him to make the best choice he could have made.

“there weren’t many jobs out there in 1979,” he says, noting that he felt grateful to land a career teaching art in the boyertown area after graduating from kutztown university

“i respect individuality and everyone’s unique qualities,” he says, pointing out that he has always admired those who push forward with creativity in a world where that very part of life is often unconsciously discouraged, unfortunately. his appreciation of the great and wide-stretching value of creativity is a lot of what made him such a successful art teacher and an inspiration to so many children throughout the years.

pablo picasso and vincent van gogh are two artists whose work butt says he enjoyed teaching to students because they loved working in those styles and doing their own interpretations on paper. keith haring is another artist he gladly taught students about in the classroom, noting that haring grew up in kutztown but had become famous on a national level.

henri matisse is yet another artist he named as one of his favorites.

in his final year of teaching, pennsylvania dutch folk art became a part of the curriculum, given its strong ties to local history and culture. butt says he found this part of his teaching especially rewarding, even more so as pennsylvania dutch culture in general is seeing less attention nowadays as the larger pop culture takes hold more and more, decade after decade.

“i feel blessed to have taught in an elementary school setting,” he reflects. “i loved watching students play with clay and paint. there aren’t any problems with motivation. they just dive into it, and they’re so enthusiastic.”

self-portraits are something butt says always fascinated him as he encouraged children to explore how they view themselves. making them think about themselves in such a different way carried a value all its own.

( a snowlady by the ever-lovely sammi mason 
from art class with ronald butt in her childhood days

photo courtesy of abby mason )

and seeing the younger ones wearing grown-up shirts where the sleeves were always much too big, all to keep their regular clothes clean during art class, stood as just another perk in working with such ecstatic kids.

“it’s a lot of work to accomplish something, and they learned that it was hard work that benefitted them,” butt says in noticing how elementary school students learned the lesson of starting from scratch and finally seeing a finished product as a piece of their own individuality on a piece of paper in art class.

this delighted frog enjoying time around cattails 
& a pond is art from the childhood of james mason 
of new hanover township, in art class with ronald butt

photo courtesy of abby mason )

“i learned to laugh more and that it’s okay to be off task sometimes and take a laugh-break,” he adds in what he took away from teaching children for more than three decades. children are often great at setting an example for others in this way, when we all get too serious as adults.

“art opens our minds and makes us more accepting of things around us,” he reflects. “art is the most important subject. kids need the opportunity to express themselves and the chance to think outside of the box. they need something different than math class sometimes, where you have to get the answer right every time.”

art is fortunately something different and more human, where right and wrong and what’s correct or not slip out of the picture, and instead, people are allowed to grow and understand more about themselves and the world—an unspoken necessity that’s important to all hearts. ronald butt is grateful for seeing this and spending 33 years of his life helping children to learn what joy art is and how it keeps us more alive. 

28 June 2014

emily neblock's feistily wonderful homemade mouthwash.

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 drops peppermint essential oil
  • 2 drops clove essential oil

(or other proportions of drops, or other kinds of essential oils, to taste)

be sure to make one batch at a time, as it may get funky if it sits out for a long time, neblock warns keenly. 

this mouthwash can be stored in the fridge, to last longer, or at room temperature for a few weeks.

smart usage instructions: don't swig straight from the bottle; instead, portion it out in a little glass. shot glasses take on a healthier role if used in this arena.

find out more about emily neblock's charming persuasions here

01 April 2014

( ryan marie rettew: an angel’s wings tucked into that voice )

by jennifer hetrick

anyone who has heard ryan marie rettew perform knows that music and healing mingle like two peas in a pod, if music and healing were brightly green garden veggies for in-need bellies. and they just might be, if imagination stretches enough for the better around sound, soul, and earth—in this case.

rettew resides in coatesville, chester county but will be moving to bowmansville, lancaster county in the next few months and grew up in on the edge of berks county in elverson in her childhood days.

she easily reminisces about those first music memories.

“my dad played guitar, so there were always guitars in the house, and he writes his own instrumental songs,” she says. “as a little girl, i remember sitting around having my dad play his guitar. and i took piano lessons when i was eight.”

her grandfather played guitar, too, but more in the electric persuasion. she described him as looking a bit like an old rocker, to boot.

her dad is an acoustic guitar kind of fellow, just like his daughter who lulls crowds with an easy and genuine magick at her shows.

when her school friends began signing up to learn to the play the clarinet, she wanted to tag along on that same wagon, but in the end, she decided to stick with piano.

one year, she received her first two cassette tapes as gifts: ace of base and no doubt. “as soon as i got them, i was always listening, playing the songs over and over,” she says. “i’d have the order of songs and the words memorized.”

she soon fell for the beatles, shortly after her first decade of having joined the world, this round. a track from “rubber soul,” released in 1965, swam through her in full swing of lyrics in her preteen days.

“my family went to the community pool one day, and i sang ‘norwegian wood’ from start to finish and knew all of the words. as we were getting out of the van in the pool parking lot, to go swimming, my dad said, ‘you have to be the only 11-year-old who knows all of the words to that song,’” rettew reflects.

she soon began attempting to teach herself how to play the guitar and then took lessons in shillington and began writing her own music and lyrics. writing poetry in high school and college had great ties into her lyricism, which carries an often uniquely simple yet deep, soul-tugging appeal to it, getting to the heart of those who hear her music, all for the better. many who hear her listen in awe and have agreed that there is something mystically healing about how her plucking of strings and voice whisk together to bring songs to the air.

( ryan marie rettew at the other farm brewing company in boyertown 
this past january - photograph courtesy of samantha stoltfzus

“i think that music has the ability to carry a message even in the wordless parts.  a rest, or a pause in a piece of music is just as powerful to me as the notes and the lyrics. i think part of the reason i'm drawn to music of past generations is because i'm fascinated by the timelessness of it. i know that people listening to these songs when they were first written were as moved as i am, listening to them now, and i like that music can connect my present to the past. it gives me a sense of belonging with the world that i don't normally experience.”

upcoming shows: chaplin’s cafĂ© in spring city on saturday, may 24 @ 8 p.m. | the fujiyama japanese steak house & sushi bar in pottstown on friday, june 13 @ 6.30 p.m. with fellow songstress & guitarist emily neblock of downingtown, chester county.

( an award-winning waterway in our own backyard )

portraits of nature
( an award-winning waterway in our own backyard )
by “porcupine pat” mckinney

it’s been a major transportation route and helped to fuel the early manufacturing operations that built the communities which we call home today. it provides opportunities for recreation and socialization, from pulling out that big bass, to cooling your fanny during a meandering inner tube adventure. and now, the schuylkill has received accolades as pennsylvania’s 2014 “river of the year.”

( the schuylkill river's hamburg section )
this is no small feat, and it took much work to achieve this prestigious designation. decades ago, in less environmentally-friendly times, this river served as a major dumping site because of the old adage “the solution to pollution is dilution.” everything from household garbage to open sewage and multi-colored chemicals emanating from riverside-based plants sent their own pollution contribution downstream to let someone else contend with it.
we fortunately live in more enlightened times that include a tip of the hat to the federal clean water act and much “sweat equity” invested by caring folks and organizations which exist to ensure that our waters are given well-deserved appreciation and gratitude. pennsylvania boasts of about 86,000 miles of waterways and ranks second in the nation (only alaska has more) for this bountiful natural resource.
“hidden stream” is the dutch translation of “schuylkill.” seafaring and wanderlust dutch (the holland-sprouted variety) visited the philly area in the 1600s and took note of the very wet and swampy forests at the river’s nexus with the delaware. this area of discovery is purported to have been around the former philly naval yards which is now a major business park near philadelphia international airport.
the river commences in an abandoned strip mine outside of tuscarora in the highlands of schuylkill county. it then winds its way to port carbon, pottsville, hamburg, reading, birdsboro, pottstown, valley forge, and then philly, all the while gaining width and depth as tributaries enhance its flow. these river towns owe their early existence to the power and might that flowing water brings to an area. mill wheels turned, boats floated, logs pushed, coal washed, pots filled – the list of benefits received in gratitude of this waterway is endless.
it is the most major of all tributaries to the delaware river and its bay, while each county within its over 2,000 square miles of watershed hosts smaller “tribs” which help to build its flow. the little schuylkill is one, while maidencreek is another.
you can also count on the tulpehocken, manatawny, french, and perkiomen creeks to be aware of their important role in feeding the schuylkill. there are numerous even smaller “tribs” and some un-named waters adding their sometimes slightly quiet-subtle, sometimes a bit faster-moving rushes of donations.
your opportunity to celebrate this river is more than ample. whether it is a gentle stroll or long bicycle ride along the schuylkill river trail, or a kayaking excursion and fishing experience, we are drawn to water perhaps because quite a large percentage of our bodies is made of it !
and appreciating the schuylkill river should be on everyone’s task list this year. we have a responsibility to the river and to ourselves to be certain that a heightened awareness of the river – through this award – creates actions continuing to improve its quality and the great gift of water that is so easy to love.


web wanderings

12 January 2014

( understanding the elegant language of flowers throughout the year )

portraits of nature
( understanding the elegant  language of flowers throughout the year )
by “porcupine pat” mckinney

“(i’ve got some) red roses for a blue lady,” is an old 1940s tune sung by many performers, including andy williams. the lyrics speak to the listener through the color red—and also the rose itself—and is symbolic of a language that flowers and plants can convey for both sender and receiver. blue shades play a role, too.

focusing on flowers, these beauties convey thoughtful messages, intriguing mystery, and showcase creativity all from a “language of flowers” that harkens back to victorian times. sometimes the message is easily understood, but it can also take days for the recipient to comprehend its meaning.

the 2011 book the secret language of flowers by samantha gray gives attention to this subject in great detail and is a fiction that keeps this language alive in a world where few today might realize the meaning behind giving different flowers to others.

professional florists, such as petal pushers of pottstown, can lend a hand by creating a themed bouquet that can help you to address whatever message you want to relate to a friend, family member, or romantic interest. it is important to note that a lot of meaningful flowers and plants can also be grown in your backyard or even found in a vacant lot ! also, keeping flowers in growing form versus cut has some deeper meaning to consider.

 ( this moss (maternal love) photo is by ''porcupine pat'' mckinney, taken 
at an old canal lock in port clinton, schuylkill county )

( tiger lily - wealth; pride )
start the new year off right by sending plants to those your care about very much. places like ott’s exotic plants in schwenksville has a beautiful selection of indoor plants, and when it warms up outside, glick’s greenhouse in oley offers plenty of herbs, perennials, and annuals for sharing in gardens and flower pots. care can be shown well through the kind gift-giving of plants.

here is another example: a relative is applying for a job but needs encouragement for the job interview. let flowers and plants help ! that relative could then receive a bouquet that includes chamomile (energy in adversity), hollyhock (ambition), and basil (good wishes).

here are some flowers and plants with their interpretations from the language of flowers:  excerpted from kate greenaway’s the language of flowers (1885), with flower photo content from thelanguageofflowers.com

•    alyssum  – worth beyond beauty
•    amaryllis – pride, timidity, splendid beauty
•    carnation – woman’s love
•    chickweed – rendezvous
•    chrysanthemum (white only) – truth
•    coreopsis – always cheerful
•    daffodil – regard
•    fern – fascination
•    hibiscus – delicate beauty
•    honeysuckle – generous and devoted
•    hyacinth – sport, play
•    ivy – fidelity, marriage
•    lilac (purple) – first emotions of love
•    moss – maternal love
•    periwinkle (blue) – early friendship
•    primrose – early youth
•    rhubarb – advice
•    sage (garden) – esteem
•    shamrock – lightheartedness
•    tulip (red) – declaration of love
•    tulip (yellow) – hopeless love
•    violet (blue) – faithfulness

this list runs the gamut for opportunities for you to speak the language of flowers. the smile and joy that you know will be received makes it all worth the while, so enjoy communicating in this way !

( the philippines fundraiser and naneth castner’s stories of her homeland )

by jennifer hetrick

(this article is directly from the blog for weaver’s orchard—please visit the farm market’s website to find out more.)
originally from the philippines, naneth castner works in the bakery at weaver's orchard in robeson township, berks county. since the deadliest typhoon in recorded history for the country devastated its people in early november this autumn, weaver's orchard is fundraising to help those who have lost so much.

and castner's stories are a strong inspiration for how important it is to give and support others in hard times, to allow hearts to link in a humane way.

this fundraising campaign is benefitting samaritan's purse to filter monetary assistance back to the philippines. shopping in weaver's market in the second half of december supported the fundraiser in that 5 percent of all retail sales were contributed to this cause.

a way to donate directly is through samaritaran's purse and the weaver's orchard fundraising page you can find through the weaver’s orchard website, clicking the yellow box that says “donate.”

in an article released by bloomberg news in december, a figure of $8.2 billion was named for the latest projection of reconstruction costs for the philippines since typhoon haiyan (yolanda) swept through the country.

castner lived in the province of eastern samar in the philippines until the age of 22. in 2004, she moved to the united states. some things she misses most about where she grew up are the beach, coconuts, warm weather and swimming in the local river in the summertime.

while she enjoys spending her days contributing with her baking team in preparing pies, loaves of bread, muffins, cookies, brownies and other sweet treats, one detail she misses about her homeland is the caring and close relationships of her culture with neighbors, all revolving around food.

“i miss the culture where i can just go to our neighbors’ yards and pick some vegetables,” castner says. she describes it as an amiable give and take situation. “we can borrow things without hesitation. i can borrow small things like a needle, you know, small stuff, or if we run out of rice, or if i need a clove of garlic, i could just run to our neighbor.”

castner notes that neighbors offer leftovers willingly and help out in any way they can in supporting each other.

“if we sometimes prepare more food than what we need for a meal, we share it with neighbors as well,” she says. “that's the most difficult thing for me to adjust to living here in america—you may have a very nice neighbor, but it's still kind of a distant relationship. if you run out of things, you need to go to the grocery store.”

castner's immediate family lives several hours away from one of the worst-hit areas, tacloban city, but even so, the damage and destruction still made an indelible impact in the area where she grew up. and emergency aid is not necessarily reaching towns on the outskirts of ground zero-designated areas hit in the worst concentration by the typhoon.

( this photo is courtesy of naneth castner )

she has three sets of relatives who resided in tacloban city and survived but lost a lot from the typhoon. since she studied school in the city for several years, she has a good number of friends there as well. seeing pictures they posted online of their homes and neighborhoods showed her how bad it truly had become, as many of them had lost their homes.

her father farms bananas, coconuts, pineapples and some tropical vegetables, but the primary source of income in her home region is copra, which she describes as the dried meet or kernel of coconut—an integral commodity in her country.

castner's father's crops were wiped out by the typhoon. she explains that copra takes 10 years of growing before it can be harvested.

"farmers who grew copra are so devastated, so now they don't know where get money to feed their families," she says.

“the day before the typhoon, my father had turned 70, so because of this, my family and relatives gathered to celebrate the event,” she adds.

even her sister who lives several hours away in victoria, northern samar ventured to see everyone but fortunately made it home in time before the weather turned for the worse.

castner says she reaches out to her sister most often to keep in touch because phone and internet signals near her father’s home are not very good.

after hearing about the typhoon on the news, it took castner several days to be able to get word back from her relatives in the philippines about whether or not they were okay and what had happened to them.

"every time i turned on the news, it was all about the typhoon in the philippines," castner says. "I couldn't sleep for a few nights; sometimes i just cried at work, but my co-workers are so nice, though. they lift up my spirits all the time."

she eventually discovered that her father had remained safe during the typhoon and that while he lost his crops, he roof was left partially intact.

her father had sent her oldest brother, who resides in manila, to drive to see if her sister and brother-in-law in victoria were okay. what normally took a five-hour drive took him more than eight hours on the road.

so much debris littered the road, and her brother barely recognized where he was in trying to reach their sister who fortunately had been alright and only sustained minimal damage at her home.

"my sister gathered food and medicine to send back to my dad's place. i was worried about my brother going home because i heard some rumors that there were groups of looters who take all your food and whatever you have. they said it was a group of a gangs and some were NPAs—a rebel group.”

her brother fortunately made it back safely, without trouble.

“i hope that after people read my stories, it will urge them to give donations to the victims,” castner says.

“i feel so blessed. i am very thankful that they are doing this for my country,” castner reflects on weaver’s orchard doing this fundraiser after hearing about her loved ones back home through her own talks with them.

castner says her own immediate family is not who needs help the most, but her other relatives who lost their homes and incomes, and so many like them, are in the most devastating times of their lives.

“there are more people who will need it the most,” castner says about help and in hoping those who visit weaver’s orchard and know the market well will donate in any way they can.

weaver’s orchard is located at 40 fruit lane, morgantown, pa 19543.

visit www.weaversorchard.com or call 610.856.7300.