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Case Study > Steward to the Earth


Steward to the Earth

Cabell Kladky

Earthsteward (Click here for video)


Photos of Cabell Kladky standing next to her compost pile.  A close-up of the compost pile.  Both photographed for the Project Green Lancaster website at Millersville University of PA>

Lancaster resident Ms. Cabell Kladky insists she does not see herself as a "green citizen." Instead, she refers to herself as a "steward to the earth" when describing her personal green efforts, as well as her efforts as president of the Chestnut Grove Foundation.

American Chestnut Trees once covered much of eastern North America. They thrived until last century, when an airborne bark fungus spread 50 miles per year and in a few decades, killed nearly three billion. American Chestnut Trees are now recovering from this blight and serve as an inspiration to the Chestnut Grove Foundation.They are a constant reminder of the fragility of our local environment and the necessity of preserving and protecting it. The CGF is dedicated to this preservation and protection of our local environment and the promotion of nonpartisan participation in local government. The CGF supports environmental programs in Penn Manor and surrounding areas, and sponsors public awareness activities.

Steward to the Earth

* Although she takes part in many sustainable practices in her personal life, as well as in her organizational efforts, Lancaster resident Cabell Kladky insists that she does not see herself as an exceptionally “green” individual. She instead refers to herself as a “steward to the earth.”

* Kladky remembers committing herself to conservation a long time ago. She claims that her roots in green living date back to her early years and were very much influenced by her parents. She says, “It’s not really a new thing. Reduce, recycle, and reuse really goes back to the way most people were raised in past generations.” She says that possibly, it has become less voluntary as the years have goneby, but has stayed very ingrained in people’s characters.

* Kladky has lived in Lancaster for thirty years and in that time, she and her husband have made an effort to recycle everything they can. More importantly, they pay close attention to reducing their consumption of consumer goods. They reuse items until they are completely used-up and purchase used items whenever possible. Kladky lives by the mantra, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

Restoration of the Land and Other Green Efforts

* In addition to green efforts around the household, she has taken to restoring the land surrounding her home by planting trees that are native to the area and purging the land of plants that are invasive (kill other plants). She has restored the land around her home with plants such as white pines and paw-paw trees.

* While walking over the land she has restored, Kladky explained, “I try to match the plant with the soil. Like, this plant, likes it wet. If you planted anything else there, it would’t do well. This is a sweet bay magnolia. I planted him a year and a half ago and he’s just where he wants to be. It’s kind of sporadic when it blooms, but that may change because it’s young.”

* Kladky then moved to a plant that resembled a small sapling. She proudly said, “And this is eventually going to be a tree; it grows in very acidic soil. I just did this about a year and a half ago for my daughter’s graduation party. This is a white pine…and you can tell how acid this soil is because of all of the moss…”

* Growing along the side of a nearby hill were small patches of green, surrounded by freshly laid mounds of dirt. Here were planted three holly bushes. “And this guy will eventually be a small holly. Now this is a type that’s going to grow wide. It gets about 8-feet wide but it never gets much taller than me,” said Kladky.

* In addition to restoring the land with native trees, shrubs, and other plants, she also makes an effort to buy local and makes much of her food from scratch.

Cabell’s Organic Garden

* Above all of these things, Kladky maintains a large organic garden.

* As she approached the perimeter of her garden, she explained, “Mostly I put my perennials in the middle and the annuals are on the outside which is a traditional Pennsylvania German thing to do. I have four beds and obviously the things that are in here are not native. We eat out of this garden from the spring into December... sometimes into even January.”

* Kladky explained the many different ways that plants in her garden can be harvested and eaten.

The Vegetables

* Many of the things in the garden are root vegetables. To an amateur, most simply look like small bunches of leaves. Kladky said, “I’m going to harvest these for my husband later, they’re white radishes, and this is kale...It grows at anytime, but the very best kale comes up in the spring. I have all of the best greens really early in the spring.”

* While spring may be the best time of year for harvesting, Kladky notes that the cold autumn air can certainly be damaging to crops. She said, “A lot of this stuff I’m going to harvest the minute you leave because I think we’re going to have a frost tonight.”

* She then moved on to yet another leafy green. “This is endive, and these are seeds that I saved. These are cress lettuces, and this is arugula. This is broccoli rabe and I save the seeds. You can never quite tell but there’s an excellent chance they will be up in the spring.”

* “Spinach; that will keep going all winter. On and off, and when it really freezes. I am terrible with spinach. This is probably the nicest I have had in years. My neighbor grows spinach like you would not believe,” said Kladky.

* “This is lettuce that’s going to seed, and I’m just letting it go. Lettuce is really hard to saved the seed, especially as wet as it’s been this year…that’s lettuce seed,” she opened her hand and revealed several tiny seeds. “And it’s just the dickens. You have all these little fuzzy things and it’s very difficult to get the seed. Unlike the cress and the arugala that I just dry the top and put it in a paper bag. They are very easy, but this is tough.”

* Kladky grows several different types of lettuce in her garden, as well as many other vegetables whose leaves can be added to salad.

* “And this is garden cress, and you can smell it. It’s really, very spicy, you put that in a salad and wow…” Kladky smiled. Another spicy leaf she grows is called mustard green. “My husband says it’s like lettuce with horseradish in its leaves.”

* As she walked over to the patch of fennel, she said, “It’s one of those modern things that people have come to like. My family doesn’t but I do. Again, one of those greens you can put in a salad or roast.”

* A few beds over, she pointed and exclaimed, “And these are beets! Tiny, baby beets. I was hoping to have actual baby beets…and they will stay through the frost. They’re not going to do much. Ill probably harvest the leaves. You can eat them in salad, or you can cook them. A lot of the things you can eat the tiny leaves in a salad and the larger leaves you can cook. It’s really an acquired taste but my family is really coming to love it.”

* However, not everything Kladky grows is a leafy green, or what some would call “rabbit food.” Her garden is very well organized and separated by the types of plants growing in each particular bed. “These are all raised beds where I do the diddly stuff, lettuces and herbs and things. These are radishes that got overgrown, and we are going to cook them!” she said.

* She then moved on to tall tube-like plants and explained, “These are leeks and they will last all winter long. It’s actually my first time growing leeks. I tried the idea of putting paper towel rolls around them…So I’ve been doing this for forty years and I’m still experimenting.”

* She then moved to a very awkward looking, bulbous root vegetable, resembling an overgrown white carrot. She said, “This is a parsnip. A parsnip is a funny thing, like a carrot. I tried to collect the seed but last year they grew in here and he seeded himself. People eat them at thanksgiving.”

* She then walked over to a plant that at first was unrecognizable, but easily identified upon closer look. “These are broccolis and these guys have been going since spring, we had the big broccoli then and I have been harvesting since. My birthday is December 15th and usually I have them for my birthday… but again, it depends on the weather”

* The next patch was also very easy to identify. The heads were unmistakable. “This is cabbage, it’s not quite as hardy,” She then walked over a few feet and said proudly, “But my brussel sprouts will go into January. In fact, I haven’t harvested them any of them because they taste better when you have a really hard freeze. They grow up the sides…Thanksgiving is the best time to have them. I think a lot of times I think people eat them overcooked, but I roast these with garlic and just a little bit of vinegar.”

* Most of the herbs and vegetables that Kladky grows in her organic garden have been there for years. “This one seeds itself, it’s ragged jack. The things that I do well with, I just save seeds and keep going. And I try to do something different and new every year, just for fun.”

* “These are my lima beans!” Kladky exclaimed. “When you leave, I am going to rip these down.” The lima beans, which grew in pods, were on several high stalks. While many of the plants seed themselves and are easy to grow, some are a challenge. “You can’t plant them until it’s warm, so…June. If you talk to local people about lima beans they will just howl. For most of us it’s very hard to get good lima beans. So I’m just going to pull them down, pull the pods off and we will have a bean shelling party tonight,” she smiled.

* Kladky also acknowledges that even though many plants are successful, it is not uncommon to have duds. “Some of them, just aren’t going to make it…we had very warm weather,” she said sadly. “These were my tomatoes, and this was a terrible year for tomatoes. There came a point where I just got rid of them…”

* Another vegetable that gave Kladky difficulty was a cayenne pepper. “This is the wettest part of the garden because it’s on a slope and you can see that they just hated it,” she said. “You never know when you plant them if it’s going to be a dry year or a wet year.” The other peppers in her garden, however, seemed to do very well.

* “This is my new thing, it’s a Portuguese pepper. Here’s a red one. I will also harvest these this afternoon. They’re a little spicy, but not nearly as spicy as the cayenne.” She explained that a great way to enjoy them is, “When you slice them onto pizza after they’re red.”

* Indeed, most peppers in her garden seem to be thriving. “And these are Hungarian wax, they’re claim to fame is that they just keep coming. There’s nothing great about them, but they taste good,” Kladky said. “And these are huge, next year I am going to grow less large peppers.” Proud of her peppers, Kladky said, “There’s sort of a myth that organic produce doesn’t look good, and it’s true, but look at this one…that’s as nice as you would buy in the store.”

* She also grows okra and said, “My family doesn’t eat it unless they don’t know they’re eating it.”

The Herbs

* Many of the plants that Kladky grows in her garden are vegetables, but she also has a section of the garden that is dedicated to herbs. * As she approached a small, delicate purple flower, she said, “This is a saffron crocus; most people don’t grow this because it comes out in tiny little threads. It takes patience.”

* “This is homegrown horseradish, the horseradish is the root. So I wait until a really hard frost, harvest it, put it in a blender and try to find an unsuspecting person to take a whiff,” Kladky smiled.

* She explained how she brings south-of-the-border cooking to Lancaster with her herbs. “And this is cilantro. This is something people either love or hate, we’re going to have burritos tonight.”

* Kladky’s herb garden is certainly extensive. She grows them in more than one bed and has a variety to suit everyone’s tastes.

* As she treaded along the perimeter of the garden she said, “And I have herbs out here. I have herbs, chives, tarragon, and rosemary. There’s mint there, there’s more mint there.

* This is parsley that I was letting seed itself, but I have trouble with parsley...”

* Kladky does an amazing job of keeping up with her harvesting. However, even she acknowledged that harvesting everything on time can get difficult. She held the leaves of a small green plant and said, “These are garlic that I haven’t harvested. The bulb is down here and they came through in one of those tremendously wet parts of the summer and I just didn’t get to them.”

Caring for the Organic Garden

* To fertilize her organic garden, Kladky uses a combination of her own compost, store-bought organic fertilizer, as well chicken manure and the occasional cover crop.

* Kladky said, “I use my compost, occasionally I buy an organic fertilizer. I also cover crop but I don’t; have one right now. I’ll plant clover, but I don’t have one this year. It was too wet and I just didn’t get it done.”

* She pointed to three wooden bins filled with decomposing waste and said, “This is the compost, and it’s a three-binner. I made this with help from my father in 1979 and I’m ready for a new one. It is just falling apart…”

* While the compost bins themselves may be falling apart, the garden is thriving. This may also be attributed to the chicken manure Kladky uses. “You’ll see my neighbor’s great big barns over there when you drive out. I use her chicken manure.”

Cabell’s Sustainable Lifestyle

* Kladky eats everything she grows, and said the things she does not grow, her neighbors do. She is indeed living a sustainable lifestyle.

* When asked if adopting a green lifestyle has ever proven to be difficult, Kladky said, “I think the rub is where comfort and convenience com up against doing what it is best; stewardship of our earth…and I’m not more of a saint that anyone else.”

* In the future, Kladky would like to expand her sustainable efforts. “We are seriously looking into starting to raise small livestock. We would like to continue to remove invasive plants and manage our property in a way that benefits, rather than being detrimental, to our local environment. Whenever we can, we use energy efficiently.”

* Behind the Kladky’s home are piles of wood. These logs are used in their incredibly efficient wood-burning furnace. Yet another way they are helping to conserve.

The Chestnut Grove Foundation

* In addition to her personal green efforts, Kladky is also the president of the Chestnut Grove Foundation.

* American Chestnut Trees once covered much of eastern North America. They thrived until last century, when an airborne bark fungus spread 50 miles per year and, in a few decades, killed nearly three billion. American Chestnut Trees are now recovering from this blight and serve as an inspiration to the Chestnut Grove Foundation. They are a constant reminder of the fragility of our local environment and the necessity of preserving and protecting it. The Chestnut Grove Foundation is dedicated to this preservation and protection of our local environment and the promotion of nonpartisan participation in local government. The Chestnut Grove Foundation supports environmental programs in Penn Manor and surrounding areas, and sponsors public awareness activities.

* The Chestnut Grove Foundation is a small, volunteer-based organization, founded in 2003, whose mission is to preserve and protect the local environment. Its work is focused on Penn Manor School District and surrounding areas. Chestnut Grove Foundation has supported a wide variety of environmental, heritage and educational programs. Some of these programs include Susquehanna River Heritage Days and the organization’s current contest, Seeds of Sustainability. This contest recognizes, honors, and promotes stewardship and the conservation of natural resources among property owners throughout Penn Manor.

* The impetus for the foundation came from a desire by a grassroots community organization to being some long-term good to our community. This came out of a very unfortunate dispute over landfill expansion. Klady said, “It really scared people out of this neighborhood.” The group that fought the expansion was made up entirely of volunteers from the community. They fought tirelessly and dedicated long hours. What came out of the ordeal was a settlement to develop an organization that could sustain itself for generations to come

* She said, “When we were negotiating the settlement, we had several goals.

  1. Topping expansion of the landfill,
  2. Ensuring open and honest deliberations in the government bodies whose decisions effect us,
  3. Protecting the health and environment of the people living near the landfill
  4. Doing something positive for the community that was so adversely effected by the Waste Authority’s secretive process.”

* As part of the settlement, the community asked for, and received, a commitment from the Authority to fund a 501(c)(3), tax exempt charitable organization, to work for nonpartisan promotion of citizen participation in local government, and preservation and protection of the local environment and its heritage. Kladky said, “I really don’t think they thought we would be able to form a foundation because of the amount of work it would take, because it’s a very difficult thing to do…but we did.”

* Chestnut Grove Foundation concentrates its service on the Penn Manor School District. Kladky said, “We felt that as a very small foundation we had to focus or be irrelevant. We chose to focus on the area that had been most directly affected by the Waste Authority’s actions.”

* “The Susquehanna River Valley is also very rich, in two senses. The soil itself is very rich and easy to grow things in. The history of the valley is also rich in Native American culture. It’s an important area,” said Kladky.

* She said, “In the areas that we have targeted in Penn Manor, the response has been enthusiastic. The schools used grant money to support a wildlife program and recycling program. Our teacher internship with the Riverkeeper was very successful. We have successfully collaborated with the Washington Boro Society for Susquehanna River Heritage Days to bring environmental programs to hundreds of local residents.

* In Penn Manor, many residents are already practicing environmentally sound lifestyles; gardening, composting, conserving and re-using recourses. This tends to be a conservative area where many people are concerned about being good stewards of creation and are very supportive of work to presence our area’s wildlife and natural resources.

* We are not necessarily promoting dramatic lifestyle changes, though we certainly encourage whatever citizens do that successfully helps our environment. For instance, our goal with our Seeds of Sustainability program is more to encourage and reinforce good practices already in place and to find ways to reward and publicize innovative replicable projects. We would like to help people find those things that we all can do that will, collectively, make a difference.

* We particularly work to help young people see where they can make an impact, whether through projects in the schools, enriching internships for science teachers, raising awareness about an environmental issue, or simply helping kids see how the animals in their back yard are part of the whole ecosystem. Since June of 2005, Chestnut Grove Foundation has sponsored roughly 32 events, awarded grants, and sponsored internships.

* Local people are very supportive of sustainable lifestyles, especially where we can conserve both natural resources and economic resources. They are becoming more aware of recycling, composting, taking care of streams, working to conserve energy.

* People are concerned about what things are going to cost in the future, particularly energy, and what they can do to live more efficiently and cost effectively. We are concerned about having resources for and preserving natural open spaces and wildlife habitat for future generations.

* Kladky also emphasizes the importance of young people becoming more and more involved in the green movement. “It is incredibly important to have young people involved in not only preserving the environment, but in all aspects of participatory democracy. It is heartening to see more young people getting involved in a variety of ways.”

* Since her involvement with Chestnut Grove Foundation, the thing that Kladky has seen that had impacted her the most was, “The grassroots movement that led to Chestnut Grove Foundation. That really had the most impact. It is interesting to see things that have been a way of life in Penn Manor – gardens, composting, living close to nature – re-embraced in a new and enthusiastic way. Citizen involvement, not specific to Chestnut Grove Foundation, led to things like cardboard recycling (never facilitated in previous years) and the rail trail. “The rail trail is going to be awesome,” said Kladky.

The Rail Trail

* The Manor Rail Trail will twist and turn through six miles of manor township. The first phase will begin at the base of Turkey Hill and continue south to South Harbor. The second phase will run across the Chestnut Bridge and end at Benner Hollow Road. The trail will then be picked up by Conestoga Township. The land will be bought from Norfolf Seven Railroad for $435,000. Lancaster county has provided $1 million from the Growing Greener fund, and Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has provided $250,000 for acquisition and $750,000 for development.

* The trail will be strictly for hikers, joggers, walkers, and cyclists. There will also be an equine trail. The trail itself will be made out of crushed stone, as opposed to traditional macadam.

* "We hope to have scenic posts along the trail to describe what people are looking at," said township supervisor, John May, who is spearheading the trail building efforts. "The view is amazing. You can see the river below and all the way across to York County."

* May says they hope to begin building next year.

The Future of the Chestnut Grove Foundation

* Although Chestnut Grove Foundation has made quite an impact, there is always room to do more. Goals the foundation looks to accomplish in the future include working to make seeds of sustainability well known. Chestnut Grove Foundation also hopes to encourage individual initiative, and support the rail trail. They hope to collaborate in any way possible with other local organizations and individuals to help bring about meaningful, lasting improvements in the environment of the community.






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