Benson Memorial Library, Libraries

Plant a Garden

This week we installed a new native species pollinator garden on the alley side of my library. Expanding and enriching the space outside and around our building has always been on my to do list, but when you have quite a to do list in front of you sometimes you set things aside for later. This is one of those projects. I still have quite a to do list in front of me at the library, but this year just felt like the right time for this garden.

What’s a pollinator garden you ask? A pollinator garden is a garden that is planted predominately with flowers that provide nectar or pollen for a wide range of pollinating insects. What makes me the most happiest about this garden is that all of these plants are native to Pennsylvania and will attract butterflies, moths, bees, and hummingbirds native to the garden.

What did we plant in the space? Here’s a list:

  • Annabelle Hydrangea
  • Borage
  • Bee Balm
  • Tiger Lilies
  • Violets
  • Creeping Butte
  • Blazing Stars
  • Creeping Buttercups
  • Milkweeds
  • Day Lilies
  • Coneflowers
  • Spicebushes
  • Columbine

Many thanks to Carolyne Frycke and Haley Hoenke for their work in designing and planting our Pollinator Garden. Without them, this project would not have happened.

I think it is important for libraries to not only take care of what’s inside the library, but also to consider taking care of what’s outside of the library as well. My hope is that this garden, its purpose, the plants that live in it, and the various pollinators that visit it will educate our community about the importance of gardens and pollination. And you know what else? It’s gonna be so beautiful for everyone to enjoy.

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Family, Fidelia Hall, Life, Titusville, PA

Fidelia Hall (Spring 2018 Update)

It’s been a little more than a year since I last spoke in depth about Fidelia Hall on this site. Our “we’re really hoping it becomes a yearly tradition” Mother’s Day Plant Swap is right around the corner and with that comes the reminder for an update on all things related to Fidelia Hall.

Long story short: we’re still working on it. We’re a family of five who has one income and with that we’re still living a paycheck to paycheck kind of life. Our big outings these days are to the grocery store (Yay! We can eat!) and occassional visits to the movies (you have to spend a little to have some fun every once in awhile). We spend a lot of time in and around our home and with that we’ve become quite in tune and in love with our little 0.66 acres of land right in the middle of Titusville, PA. You may have read about me searcing for a new job recently. You’re probably wondering how someone so in tune and in love with their home was willing to give it up so easily. Here’s the deal: not everything in this world is so simple. I love my home. I love parts of this small town. I love our gardens. I love the fact that I get to renovate and live in a 145 year old church. I don’t like the fact that I make very little money. I don’t like the fact that I struggle financially to feed my family. I don’t like small town politics and gossip. Combine all those things together, and you get a confusing but very realistic picture of where I’ve been the past year…..At home, enjoying life, but trying so hard to get ahead and thinking about the possibilities out there. A perfect amount of happiness and confusion. A natural curiousity about what is and what could be. A very human thing.

The one thing that has changed is our living situation. 2017 was not kind to the actual house we live in: frozen pipes, leaking walls, mold in the ceiling and walls, and other not fun at all things you want in your house. With that in mind, we’ve developed a plan to move out of our home as quickly as possible and into the hall (aka the old church). While it sets us back from our original idea of Fidelia Hall being a community center for all people, it does something that is needed much more now than a community center: it gives myself, Haley, her mom, Finn, and Aero a happy and healthy place to live. Human beings should not have to live in a home that is falling down, has water leaking everyone, has frozen pipes, and mold in the ceiling. We need to take care of ourselves first before we do anything for the community. SO….we’re moving into a 145 year old church.

With that in mind, we’ve changed our mantra over the past year. Here’s what we’ve been telling people when it comes to Fidelia Hall:

Fidelia Hall is first and foremost the homestead of the Hoenke family. It is our hope that through our passion for family, community, creativity, sustainability, flowers, bees, art, fun, and food, that our contributions to the world will chip a tiny crack in the massive wall of negativity, fear, and greed that drives our culture.

We are not a business. We are not a non-profit. We are not a church. We are not a social club. We have explored every avenue and consulted every consultant and nothing fits. So we’ve decided to just be us.

Here’s a list of what we’ve done in the hall over the past year:

  • The downstairs of the Hall is heated. A big thank you to my father for his work on making this happen.
  • The upstairs of the Hall is heated. A big thank you to Haley’s father and his wife Audrey for making this happen.
  • Half of the downstairs of the hall has been wired for electricity. Thank you to Daniel Stockwell for the work he did for us.
  • My father and I ripped out some flooring and a wall that was damaged due to water. We put in a new floor and an entire new room. Part entrance, part closet, the space is a welcome addition to the dowstairs of the hall.
  • We ripped down the plaster and lathe ceiling in the kitchen. It was crumbling. Thank you to Daniel Stockwell for the work he did for us.

All of these projects were funding by monetary and sweat donations by members of our family. We thank them so much for their love, support, energy, and time.

Here’s a list of what we NEED to do in the hall:

  • Complete wiring the downstairs for electricity. We are so close to being done.
  • Restore water lines to the kitchen and add water and sewage lines to a new bathroom. Basically we have to run water lines to most of the building.
  • Set up an LLC so that we can do some business, run some events, etc as Fidelia Hall.

We still have some stuff to do, but as you can read we are nearing an almost finish line. At the moment, we have some money set aside to get ahead on these projects. If you would like to make a donation that will go towards helping us, you can do so here: paypal.me/justinwilliamhoenke. I don’t expect anything, but if you feel like helping I can promise you that your help will go a long way in helping us get ahead to make the Fidelia Hall space something that we can not only live in but also use to give back to our community.

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For now, we continue being the Hoenke family and doing what we can with what we’ve got. As you can see in the image above, we’re doing our second annual plant swap at Fidelia Hall this upcoming Sunday. We love this event because it not only brings in a lot of people but it also is a good chance to create community, share gardening resources and plants, and all in all it just creates good vibes in the world. If our home falling apart due to busted pipes and the slower than anticipated renovation of Fidelia Hall has been tough over the last 3 years, THE GARDENS OF FIDELIA HALL have provided us with a much needed outlet. Last year I personally became very obsessed with sitting in our gardens watching all of the bees in the borage. The bees gracefully flew around from flower to flower, sniffing and collecting pollen. You can tell they were very appreciative of these plants. It helped me realize just how much of a difference a person can make by doing something simple like planting some borage. Gosh these bees loved it, and in turn I fell in love with Haley’s idea of building magical and inspiring gardens. Heck! I even wrote this song about it:

Curious about our gardens? You can see their growth and evolution here.

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Thank you for your kindness, your love, and your support through the years.

Family, Fidelia Hall, Life, Titusville, PA

Let It Grow

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The idea of home being the most important thing has always been a big focus of my life. My life has always been focused around my family and where we live. A lot of who I am came from my upbringing in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, PA and a lot of who I am now as an adult comes from the home that I’ve built together with Haley over the past 12 years.

For the last two years we’ve made Fidelia Hall in Titusville, PA our home. At almost an acre with a house and an old church on the property, we’ve got a lot of space to grow and learn about the world around us right in the middle of our little town of 5,500 residents. One of the things we’ve been learning about are gardens and what most people call weeds. We want to understand why these things grow around us and how we can make a garden that incorporates things that we love to look at AND things that are helpful to the environment. We’re getting there. In our two years at Fidelia Hall we’ve planted things that we love (sunflowers, black-eyed susan, mint, chamomile, borage, and much more) and let a lot of what comes naturally grow without interruption. Things such as purslane and dandelions may not be desired by most people in the world, but they’re welcome in our gardens at home.

Our days in the spring and summer are spent preparing and maintaining the gardens as well as sitting back and enjoying them. Sitting in a hammock or chair and doing nothing but looking at how the bees are enjoying the borage become one of my favorite activities. When your home all around you thrives and grows your life becomes just a little bit more magical.

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This morning as we watered the gardens our children Finn and Aero ran around and begged us to spray them with the hose (which we did). The birds all around us chirped, our dog Sonic ran around like a crazy person, and the bees enjoyed the borage. As we watered the gardens, Haley and I talked about what was growing and made plans for years to come. I collected some of those “weeds” to feed to our chickens and rabbits. Those “weeds” were their food for the day, and boy oh boy did they ever enjoy it.

When we have a connection to the world around us, our lives can be significantly better. Everyone deserves a home where they can explore the amazing world we live in. When it comes to life, I say let it grow: let the “weeds” and other plants around you grow and from their growth you will have your own personal growth.

Family, Fidelia Hall, Life, Titusville, PA

Fidelia Hall Spring 2016

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Life at the Hoenke home aka Fidelia Hall is very good. Spring is very much in the air, the birds are out and chirping, the plants are growing, and everything just feels pretty darn great.

Most of what Fidelia Hall is now and what it is becoming is due to my excellent partner Haley. Since the weather became favorable this spring, Haley has spent every day outside on the property working on a number of things: planting herbs, teas, and vegetables, moving plants around, putting up fences, planting trees in our fruit orchard, getting our rabbit and chicken area ready, and much more. The idea is to create a property that is magical to us, our friends and family, and our guests. Plants, gardens, and animals help add to a vibe that makes people feel welcome. When people feel welcome, they tend to come back. That’s the goal.

Here’s a list of some of the things that are happening around Fidelia Hall these days:

  • Preparing straw bales gardens that’ll provide our family with vegetables throughout the year.
  • Setting up a bird feeder area so we can watch birds from the kitchen in the morning.
  • Digging up and landscaping a tea garden that will provide us with tea leaves so that we can make our own teas.
  • Managing our animal area, which is home to our three chickens and two rabbits.
  • Putting up a fence around the eastern side of the property and then eventually finishing the fence so that it helps better define our home/work areas.
  • Maintaining our fruit orchard, which is home to apple and cherry trees as well as blueberry bushes and more.
  • Stripping away old, flaky paint from the tin ceilings we recently discovered in the Fidelia Hall building and repainting it.
  • Refinishing the old wooden floor in the Gallery in our basement.
  • Tearing down and rebuilding the roof above the handicap ramp entrance in the back of the building (it suffered some bad water damage before we owned the building).
  • Restoring heat the The Great Hall (aka the chapel) section of the Fidelia Hall building.
  • Loaning out The Great Hall to a local band so that they can practice for their Summer 2016 performances.
  • Getting Fidelia Hall ready for the June 11 2016 Rummage Sale. All proceeds from this event will go towards funding one of the projects listed above!

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Thank you all for your love and ongoing support. We really appreciate it as we continue to embark upon this slightly crazy and terrifying journey that is totally worth it and fun.