Saturday, October 1, 2016

LIBRARY: What do you want to see?

Jeff Yetter, the vice president of the Kennett Library's board of trustees, asked me to mention that the library will be holding open meetings all day Tuesday, Oct. 13, to find out what people want in a new library. The meetings will be held at the Kennett Fire Co. on Dalmatian Street in Kennett Square.
The schedule is as follows, although people can stop by whenever it's convenient: 8:30 to 10 a.m., caregivers of children; 11 am to noon, seniors; 1 to 3 p.m., business and community; 3 to 4 p.m., persons with disabilities and special needs caregivers; and 4 to 5 p.m., young adults. 
At 7 p.m. the architects will convene to report what they heard.
Jeff writes:  "Please tell us what you would like to see in a new regional library center in Kennett Square. We are gathering insight and opinions to guide our architects in their planning. What's important to you? Easy access as a senior or parents with kids? Better research tools? More meeting rooms and study space? Community event space? Longer hours? Training? Games? Vending machines? Parking? Tell us what matters to you, big or small. During these sessions there will be architects, planners and our vision team to listen and ask questions. It’s casual, quick and important."

LITTER: Buck & Doe Trust's cleanup

At lunchtime on Sept. 27 I joined the Buck & Doe Trust's trash cleanup along Route 82. The group of maybe eight of us met at the Brandywine Conservancy's office in Doe Run at noon. After eating a slice of pizza from the new place at Route 82 and Strasburg Road, we set off in pairs, walking along Route 82 armed with gloves and trash bags. I even got to try out a pincer-like trash-picking-up gadget, which I loved.
In 90 minutes, walking from Doe Run up to Dupont Road and back, my litter-mate Pam and I filled two-and-a-half garbage bags. Our finds included lots of water, beer and soda bottles and cans; a baby's pacifier; three hubcaps (near the singing bridge), all from different vehicles; and a mostly-full bottle of Clamato juice (near Blow Horn corner).
We also saw the driver of a huge horse van dealing with the major challenge of trying to make a right turn onto Route 82 from Dupont Road. He had to get out of the truck and check out the intersection to ensure he could make the turn safely. Traffic backed up nearly to Doe Run.
All in all, the group collected 17 garbage bags of litter. The Buck & Doe Trust has these cleanups several times a year, and not only are they fun (you never know what you'll find!), but they let us show our appreciation for our beautiful countryside.

INTERNET: The speed of technology

Whenever I'm dealing with a tech support person, I have a mental picture of a much younger person, a member of the generation who grew up with the Internet and has an innate understanding of all things digital. Sometimes, though, I'm wrong.
The other day I was on the phone for 20 minutes with Anton, a hugely competent Verizon Fios guy who was straightening out my account: it seems my Internet speed had never been upgraded over the years and was now slower than even their entry-level version.
Anton seemed distressed by this and asked with wonder how I had put up with it for so long. I laughed and, flipping easily into old-codger mode, told him about the early days of the digital age, circa 1992, when I could brush my teeth in the time it took for my computer to connect to the Internet (via a noisy external modem), and how even a rainstorm would sever the connection. Compared to that, even my current speed was a marvel.
I told him about how prior to cell phones, if you wanted privacy you had to drag the telephone phone into your bedroom.
Very much to my surprise, he could relate -- he was one of "us" dinosaurs! In fact, he said he used to get in trouble for stretching the phone cord of his family's kitchen phone so far and so often that it hung down to the floor.  

Sunday, September 25, 2016

UNIONVILLE: Horses, hounds and hospitality

What a beautiful fall day it was for the annual Cheshire Hunt Conservancy open house on Sunday. New huntsman Barry Magner and first whip Mary Taylor Miller took us on a tour of the kennels. We especially enjoyed seeing the puppies and were impressed by how the hounds quieted down as  soon as Barry approached them (although Edna required a bit of extra encouragement!). Barn manager Kelley Merette and one of the Hunt Masters, Sanna Neilson, showed us around the spotless stables, where the staff horses live. Both of them expertly fielded questions from the guests.
After the tours we enjoyed a terrific meal of pork and lamb, macaroni and cheese, and coleslaw (we found the other Hunt Master, Anne Moran, busy dishing out the roasted pork). For dessert, the folks in the pink Punk'd Pineapple mobile ice-cream truck dished up flavors like coffee fudge almond and fudge brownie.
We saw lots of friends and neighbors and were amused by the name tags: guests were classified based what day the hunt visits their territory. We were "Saturday Country" and "Friend of Saturday Country."
As we walked to our car at the end of the event, we saw a circle of youngsters playing a game of catch in the field in front of the Kennels. The sun was sinking, and they were all glowing in the backlight: a lovely, happy end-of-summer sight.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

WATER GARDEN: A deep topic

On Friday evening Gardener Tim gave a wonderful lecture in the water lily garden at Longwood. Literally "in": he wore waders and gave his talk while standing in the central 30-inch-deep pool, using one of those huge lily pads as his lectern.
He said one commonly asked question is why the water is so dark. The answer: the gardeners use a black dye, for three reasons: to deter algae from growing, to provide a better backdrop for photographs and to highlight the flowers, and to hide the mechanicals in the concrete-bottomed pond, like lights, cables, pots and cinder blocks.

Gardener Tim shows how water runs right off a lotus leaf.
         He demonstrated how water runs off the lotus leaf and said scientists and engineers have been trying to duplicate its moisture-repellant properties in, say, the lining of ketchup bottles.

He showed us how to make paper from the stem of the papyrus leaf and taught us a mnemonic for recognizing sedges: "Sedges have edges" (they're triangular).

He spent a lot of time talking about the Longwood Hybrid Water Platter. These famed "platters" can hold 100 pounds, but only if the weight is carefully distributed. Jump on one, and you'll go right through. The platters are studded with thorns to help them compete for limited space: if any other plant that gets in the way, "they just shred 'em up," he said.
The platters expand by six to eight inches a day, but it's not by actually by producing new cells; rather, they unroll and stretch.
Tim was a good speaker and enthralled the audience, which grew as the evening wore on and visitors arrived to see Nightscapes.
As I was walking out of the Conservatory, I saw a man poring over the Gardens map. "Hope we don't get lost," he said to his friends, sounding worried. It was a good reminder of how lucky we locals are to have Longwood so close: I've been going there as long as I can remember and I don't think I would be lost in any part of it.
Gardener Tim shows us what a fresh water chestnut looks like.

HILLENDALE: Our litigious society

I'm joining the chorus of community outrage in the wake of a parent's civil suit accusing Hillendale Elementary School principal Steve Dissinger of, essentially, rigging a PTO election.
Where do I even start?
First of all, I have a hard time believing that "Mr. D" would take part in any hanky-panky like this. The Young Relative attended Hillendale for six years. Every time we saw Mr. D at holiday concerts, the Halloween parade, back-to-school night, the Wax Museum, the Veterans' Day ceremony, the Milking Contest, and innumerable other school and district events, my entire family was impressed with his enthusiasm, energy, competence, and kindness, and his affection for and rapport with every single kid. "We didn't have principals like that in my day!" my father would say in amazement. The personal stress this must be causing him is discouraging to think about.
Second, I'm baffled as to why the mother of Hillendale pupils would file a lawsuit over a petty issue like a PTO election. She is an attorney, and members of the Bar usually have a pretty shrewd understanding of human nature. She must have known the fallout this would create for herself and, more importantly, for her children. As one parent said to me, "No parent will want to have them over if their mom is a sue-happy attorney."
Third, the lawsuit is going to have a chilling effect on the number of people willing to volunteer (already a dwindling number in every organization). Who is going to risk getting sued over some trivial disagreement?
Fourth, the PTO now has a line item for legal expenses in its budget. Hard-earned money that should be going toward kids' programs, not to mention taxpayers' dollars, is going instead to pay for lawyers to defend against the suit.
The one bright spot here is the fact that dozens of parents and community members have come out to show their appreciation for Mr. D and Hillendale; as one parent said to me, "she is actually pulling people together in their support of HES!"
We try to teach our kids that sometimes you have to stand up for what's right, even if it's unpopular and you get grief for it. This, however, is not one of those causes. Let's hope the woman sees sense and drops her lawsuit.

EAST MARLBOROUGH: Proposed stoplight on Rt. 82 at the bypass

A Chadds Ford reader wrote to ask whether I knew what was going on with the proposed stoplight at the intersection of the southbound Rt. 1 bypass exit ramp and Rt. 82, which he characterized (correctly) as "a traffic control move that's long overdue." (There is already a traffic light at the northbound exit ramp onto Rt. 82.)
To answer his question, I went right to the source: East Marlborough Chief Robert "Clarkie" Clarke. He immediately checked with the township staff for me and learned that the results of a traffic study are expected shortly, and then the township will start the process of getting PennDOT approval for the traffic light.