Monday, August 31, 2015

COATESVILLE: Accordion and fiddle at an Irish music concert

Traditional Irish musicians Paddy O'Brien and Nathan Gourley.

We were lucky enough to see accordion player Paddy O'Brien and his protégé, fiddler Nathan Gourley, perform at the Coatesville Cultural Society on Sunday evening as part of the Coatesville Traditional Irish Music Series. The contrast between the two -- generation-wise and culturally -- is striking, but when it comes to the music the older gentleman from County Offaly, Ireland, and the younger one from Madison, Wisconsin, are completely in sync.
The concert was full of lively reels, jigs, hornpipes and even polkas (Paddy quipped that you have to be in good health to either dance or play Irish-style polkas). Paddy and Nathan preceded each selection they played with stories about the piece's history, where it came from, and who had popularized it. One hornpipe was called "The Drunken Sailor" -- or, as Paddy said he liked to call it, "The Inebriated Mariner."
One of the many pleasures of hearing live music is that unexpected things happen. Paddy was playing an emotional, dramatic solo piece about a soldier dying on the battlefield when the building's air conditioning kicked in with a rumble just as the music was swelling to a crescendo. Perfectly timed.
Thanks to Frank Dalton and Emily Fine of Embreeville who keep this music series going. About 30 people came out to hear Paddy and Nathan on Sunday night -- a very enthusiastic audience.

HOMEVILLE: An old Quaker meetinghouse opens its doors

On Sunday we attended silent worship at the 176-year-old Homeville Friends Meetinghouse, one of the now-inactive Quaker meetinghouses that opens its doors once a summer. The meetinghouse and its adjoining burial grounds sit along Route 896 in Upper Oxford Township, near the Lancaster County line, and the rural view looking west is stunning. In addition to motorcycles and trucks, we heard several Amish buggies passing by.
Homeville meeting is a simple, well-maintained building, with a pot-belly stove and wooden benches without cushions. It was a warm day, but the breeze through the open windows kept everyone comfortable. For me it's always a pleasure visiting these old meetinghouses and thinking about the generations who have sat on those same benches before me.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

PLANTATION FIELD: Pre-party for a big equestrian event

Wednesday evening was the annual BBQ pre-party for the big Plantation Field International Horse Trials coming up in September. This is always a marvelous picnic, for three reasons: the setting, the people and the food. From the top of Plantation Field, you can look completely around 360 degrees and see nothing but our beautiful countryside. You also get to see plenty of friends and neighbors, including lots of kids running around enjoying themselves. One woman at our table, a first-time visitor, didn't hesitate to introduce herself to everyone, and soon she and the woman next to her were deep in conversation about tack, or the price of orchard grass, or something equine-related.
Oh, and the food! Victory Brewing did the catering and served up BBQ pork, coleslaw, chicken, burgers and hotdogs, and salad, along with their popular beer and root beer on tap. And there were two tables full of desserts brought by the party-goers, including cookies, brownies, candy, and an amazing Hershey's chocolate cake. (A friend of mine enjoyed a good-sized slice and then walked home to work off the calories!)
Thanks to Katie Walker for throwing such a nice party, as always. And maybe I missed them, but there were NO speeches -- in my book, always a plus for an event.
The Three-Day Event at Plantation Field is September 18 through 20. It's a three-star event, which means it is a top-echelon competition that attracts major world-class riders. Dressage is Friday, show jumping is Saturday and cross-country is Sunday.
Plantation Field is along Route 82 west of Unionville in East and West Marlborough Townships; entry to the event is off Green Valley Road.

BACK TO SCHOOL: Another year starts at Patton Middle School

On Saturday night we had a family dinner at Giordano's in Kennett Square to wish the Young Relative well as he starts the 2015-16 year at Patton Middle School. It's a profound pleasure watching him grow into a kind, amusing, polite, and smart young man (and so handsome to boot). Even if he does run over his two-gigabyte data allowance each and every month.
Tilda: "TWO gigs? I only have one, and I never run over!"
YR: "Yes, but I have a social life."
Sitting next to him last night at dinner, I remembered an assignment he had years ago as a pupil at Hillendale Elementary. The kids had to complete a list of fill-in-the-blank sentences, one of which was "I like to eat..." The Young Relative's classmates all said things like "pizza" and "tacos." His response? "At the Half Moon."

WEST MARLBOROUGH: A cabin emerges from under the vines

On Saturday morning, driving along one of my favorite back roads, I was delighted to notice that somebody is cleaning up and shoring up the old stone Boy Scout cabin. It has been in serious disrepair as long as I can remember, covered with vines and graffiti. Whoever is doing the work has made major progress in a short time.
A friend of mine recalls hiking from Unionville to the cabin for camping trips when he was a member of Troop 22 some 50 years ago. He was surprised to find that the cabin, which they called Primitive Hall, is actually much smaller than he remembers it.

Friday, August 28, 2015

STRODE'S MILL: Preserving the old pork-processing barn

If there's a Chester County historical preservation project going on, you can bet that my friend Linda Kaat is somehow involved. Her latest project is the restoration of Strode's Mill (the one with the scrapple sign) at the corner of Route 52 and Birmingham Road. She asked me to put in a plug for the fundraiser that the Friends of Strode's Mill is having on Saturday, September 12, from 5 to 8 p.m. The event will be held at Chesterdale Farm, 1046 Lenape Road, West Chester. The goal is to raise $20,000 "to cover the next phase of demolition and repair" of the old mill, and although there isn't a ticket to buy, there will be donation jars at the event.
The party will include Revolutionary War reenactors from the First Delaware Regiment, colonial music and dance, food and drink, and a silent auction (another chance to contribute to the cause!). 
Take a look at the Friends of Strode's Mill website, which gives lots of history about the property and possibilities for the future.

According to the site: "For 250 years, a single Quaker family built thriving businesses at this corner. The circa 1722 mill, across the street, ground corn, pressed cider, and turned trees into usable lumber. As the family prospered they added this pork-processing barn. Pork may not sound romantic, but Strode's became nationally known for its quality sausage and scrapple, produced with hogs grown on the surrounding farm. The date stone says 1875, but the foundation suggests an earlier barn stood here long before. We look forward to uncovering the full history as we preserve the site.
"The Strode's historic district includes a remarkably well-preserved collection of buildings. Unlike other important intersections in the area, it has retained its intimate character, with most of the original buildings still surrounding a rural crossroads. Restoring the barn will further stabilize the historic district and preserve this example of prosperous early industry for future generations."

NEWLIN: Annual party to support volunteers

Saturday, October 10, is the third annual "Thank our Volunteer Firefighters and EMS" party, hosted by the Newlin Township Fire and EMS Support Committee. This year the event will be held at the Natural Lands Trust’s Lenfest Center on Cannery Road. Proceeds benefit the volunteers who serve Newlin Township: the Po-Mar-Lin, West Bradford, and Modena Fire Companies. Tickets are $25 for adults, $12 for kids 12 and under. For tickets email or call 610-486-1141.
From 3 to 4 p.m. there will be guided walking tours of the Cheslen Preserve. At 4 the party will start. The BBQ dinner will be by Hood's. There will also be music, kids' activities, a raffle/auction, local beer and wine, and a display of fire company equipment.