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Nature's a Family Affair

Janet French's love of nature extended far beyond the reaches of her own gardens, and has been passed down to her daughter Jenny.

My mother inspired me to love nature from as far back as I can remember, on a family farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Walking through the field where watercress flourished in the stream, I will never forget hearing the buzz and peal of bugs and peepers and smelling the pungent herbs. The big old fir trees behind the house with their droopy branches whistled in the breeze.

My mother would point out details like the damselfly varieties when our family went canoeing every weekend on the Delaware Canal or the Delaware River. She let me wade in and catch the teeming tadpoles in the little pond near my grandparents' home in Connecticut. Any time we were outside, she would either be naming the birds as they sang or naming the trees they were in.

Later in life, she championed the preservation of farms, historic buildings, and open space in Buckingham Township, Bucks County, PA as a multi-term supervisor and then as a member of their agricultural preservation committee. She always stressed cooperation in getting goals accomplished. Her legacy can be seen on a drive through the area despite busy development there in recent decades.

Now, I'm passing on what she taught me by leading gardening projects at the Philadelphia library branch where I work with the children after school. Many of the children have never had a garden, and know nothing of the value of bees, the taste of a tomato just off the vine, or the difference between a dandelion and a sunflower. I have also served on our local shade tree commission to encourage the maintenance, appreciation, and proliferation of trees.

And last, of course, I have my own home garden full of flowers, trees, and vegetables as I try to be the gardener my mother showed me how to be.

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