I've just started what, for me, is a dream job: covering the new Wellness beat at the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philly.com.

It's a role that combines my decades-long journalism career with my real – not newsroom – life, much of which I spend as a competitive open-water swimmer and organic vegetable gardener.

Philadelphia and New Jersey are prime locations for open-water swimming. There are races at inland lakes, rivers, and the Shore, just about every weekend from May to October. It is my favorite time of the year.

And it coincides almost exactly with gardening season. When I joined a local community garden about five years ago, I took my skills up a notch. I've embraced raised beds, composting, garden snakes, and growing Malabar spinach. I have battled bugs, moles and voles and been rewarded with baseball sized beets, baskets of delicious sun gold tomatoes and plenty of kale.

More about me:

• My wet suit is probably one of the more expensive items in my closet and I hate wearing it.

• My family still makes fun of the kale cookies I made for a holiday.

• The weeds in my flower beds are winning.

• I guard my workout times like a rabid honey badger so do not ask me to skip swimming for anything.

• I am happiest when I am traveling with my camera.

• In my spare time, I am co-writing a mystery novel.

• I have two cats, and consider them essential to my personal wellness. Do not judge.

In my new beat, I'll be writing about a lot more than swimming and vegetables, hitting such topics as food safety, fitness, dental health, nutrition and, no doubt, many other subjects that make up healthy living. As much as possible, I'll be taking an evidence-based approach to a field that is punctuated by too many fads and hunches.

Please send your tips and ideas to me at mschaefer@phillynews.com.