Sunday, October 16, 2016

POW-WOW: Native American Harvest Fest

On Saturday we took advantage of the beautiful autumn weather and went to the Native American Harvest Festival in Hibernia Park. As newcomers we didn't know what to expect, and it turned out to be pretty amazing and moving. There were a lot of people dressed in Native American clothing, what they called their "regalia," but those of us outsiders wearing humdrum jeans and fleece were more than welcome to enter the dance circle and join in (yes, we did so).
During the inter-tribal dances, done to the accompaniment of drumming and chanting, the dancers moved in a slow circle around a smoldering log. At one point, one of the dancers felt moved to approach the drummers and "honor the drum," and we were asked to put away our cameras during this sacred moment.
The performance by Cenzontle Cuicatl, an Aztec dance troupe from Philadelphia, was nothing short of electrifying. They were amazingly vigorous and athletic dancers, and the muscular drummers who kept the beat had wonderful strength and stamina. Just when I thought they'd gotten as intense as they could (one even broke a drumstick), they took it up another notch.
We also watched a skilled hoop dancer, Matt White Eagle, who linked a few dozen hoops (smaller than hula-hoop size) to create globes and flapping wings, not missing a beat of his dance in the process. I would have been tripping all over myself.
It was incongruous to see a man wearing a full animal headdress lighting up a cigarette, another in Mohawk face paint using a baby-blue cellphone, and an intimidating man with an elaborate silver nose ring wearing orange sunglasses.
I wasn't aware that there was so much overlap between the Native American participants and the veterans' movement. There was even an official "Head Veteran," John Ironhorse. Several of the men wore costumes that combined Native American elements with their U.S. military badges and honors and POW/MIA emblems. There was a prominent booth raising money for Iron Warriors, a nonprofit that provides veterans with special service dogs to help them cope with post-traumatic stress disorder. And pow-wow proceeds were going to support David's Drive 831, a local nonprofit that helps homeless and hospitalized veterans.
Outside of the dance circle were vendors selling Native American jewelry, clothing and other paraphernalia. One food vendor had an apparent electrical problem with her truck: a pow-wow participant wearing suede moccasins, and standing on wet ground, informed her that he suffered a painful shock when he touched the truck's metal serving hatch. She immediately shut down operations.

MUSHROOMS: A maitake moment

Some weeks, especially if I've been editing until my eyes are bleary and haven't gotten out, I get a little concerned that I won't come up with enough items to fill this column (much less interesting ones).
Then something like this happens.
I was driving on a wooded back road on Friday when I saw a white pickup stopped on the side of the road and a man walking out of the woods carrying what looked like a brain.
You do not know me very well if you have to ask whether I stopped and asked him what was going on.
It turns out he is a mushroom forager named Jason, and what he was carrying was a maitake mushroom he had just harvested from the base of an oak tree. The friendly forager -- he was wearing a "Morel Whisperer" sweatshirt -- was happy to discuss his find and explained that the Latin name of the maitake, Grifola frondosa, comes from the fact that the large fungus does actually appear to be divided into fronds.
Jason displayed an impressive knowledge of mycology. He knows how long it will take for certain mushrooms to appear after a rainstorm, and he knows the frequency with which various species grow in our area. When I asked him how he spotted the maitake (aka hen of the woods), he said that he estimates they grow on one of every three oaks, so when he saw two maitake-less oaks, odds were good he'd find one on the third.
Jason kindly gave me a large portion of the maitake, saying he had 30 or 40 pounds back at the office, and the first thing I did was to smell it. The fragrance was mild, earthy and pleasant and could have been the distilled essence of a moist woods.

A wild maitake mushroom found by Forager Jason.


Saturday, October 15, 2016

ENERGY: Competing on efficiency

PECO has started sending me monthly letters and emails comparing my electricity usage with that of other local customers. They've rated my energy efficiency as "good" (indicated by one smiley face) but not "great" (two smiley faces).
What I want to know is, who are these "efficient neighbors" who are such paragons of sustainability? Do they bake as much as I do? Do they work at home? Do they need to launder many changes of gym clothes? Do they have animals who need to stay warm? I'm not sure it's a fair or useful comparison.
I'm perfectly happy with my energy footprint and have a clear conscience about it. If I were PECO, I'd dump this irritating program -- but who knows, maybe they got a grant for it, or it's the brainchild of some important person and Must Therefore Continue.
PECO just received a call from this customer to discontinue receiving these "smart usage profiles." The number is 888-212-8090.
One of my blog readers offered this comment: "We get this meaningless comparison, too. After a few months, I noticed that their records showed we have a house with 0 square feet. So, not surprisingly, our consumption is 37% above that of our neighbors. Gotta admit, though, I corrected our profile and we're still above usage for comparable houses.  We, too, spend most of our days at home since we're retired. And in my "elderly" years, I refuse to be cold, so we set our thermostat to be comfortable, not environmentally sacrificial."

HUNT CUP: An annual tradition

Signs are already up for the 86th running of the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup races on Sunday, Nov. 6. (Imagine: A November event where the only mud being slung comes from the horses' hooves as they thunder by on the racecourse. What a novelty!)
I've already purchased my parking pass and lined up an excellent group of friends to eat, drink, socialize, identify dog breeds and (oh, yeah) watch the races.
The eternal question is "What will the weather be?" If it's windy and cold, you suddenly discover the urgent need to catch up with tailgating friends who have had the foresight to bring along portable heaters.
If it's sunny and warm, you can just stand there and feel like there's no better place in the entire world to be than on that beautiful West Marlborough hilltop. (The course is to the west of Newark Road, between Routes 926 and 842.)
Tickets are available online.

ROMANSVILLE: Roundabout construction

Here is the latest on the road closures for the Strasburg Road roundabout construction in Romansville. The information is from the West Bradford Township website: 
  • October 17, Strasburg Road will be CLOSED for ONE week while work takes place at the WEST END (heading west past Romansville Road).
  • Next, Strasburg Road will be CLOSED for ONE week while work takes place at the EAST END (near Bella Rosa).
  • After these two improvements are complete, all interior paving on the roundabout will be done. 
  • Next, Romansville and Shadyside Roads will be closed for 4 weeks to complete all the tie-ins and extend the sewer mains on Romansville Road. 
I was driving by on Oct. 14 and saw that they are making good progress on building the actual roundabout itself, which will be just south of the current Strasburg Road. Now it's just a matter of making the connections with the existing roads.

HISTORY: "Scandals, Scoundrels and Spirits"

I'll be a tour guide this Friday, Oct. 21, for the "Scandals, Scoundrels and Spirits" Haunted History walking tour of downtown Kennett Square, sponsored by Historic Kennett. The starting point is the walkway next to the Genesis Building on State Street, and the 13-stop tours will leave roughly every half-hour between 6 and 8 p.m. Come learn a little about Kennett history!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

AVONDALE: The high life

On Friday a bunch of us went out for a late dinner. We were a merry crew and lingered over our meals, chatting about one friend's upcoming move to Chicago and another's tap-dancing lessons. By the time we'd finished eating and conversation was slowing down, the waiters were restocking their tables and dimming the lights in the farther sections of the restaurant.
Whoa, I thought: Just like old times, closing down the place!
Then I realized we were at Perkins. And it was 10 p.m.