Tuesday, May 24, 2016

GARDENS: A spring ritual

This morning a few of us were waiting for a meeting to start and chatting about how our gardens were faring during this very strange spring. I mentioned that the previous afternoon I had spent maybe 20 minutes (until my back started protesting) "tying down" daffodil leaves to make room for the annuals.
Talk about a universal topic! People chimed in about their own methods for taming the unruly daffodil foliage, either looping them with rubber bands, braiding them or twisting them. Others -- those with more real estate to play with -- simply weed-whack around them let them die back of their own volition.
Honestly, the interesting discussion could have gone on for ages, if we hadn't been called to order by our taskmaster/chairwoman.

Monday, May 23, 2016

DINNER: Thai food in West Chester

We had a terrific dinner on Saturday night at the Baan Thai restaurant in West Chester. The food is delicious (we had spring rolls as appetizers and cashew chicken and seafood pad thai for entrees), and the presentation is fabulous, with lovely garnishes like purple orchids and carrot flowers (how do they make them?) on the plates and even napkins rolled into rosettes. We have timid palates, so we avoided the asterisked items on the menu and the spice level was fine. It's an attractive restaurant, with black-and-gold brocade tablecloths, comfortable high-backed booths and an amusing mural showing kids playing with elephants. Our waitress was charming.
Baan Thai is at 704 West Nields Street, in a small shopping center just off South Bradford Avenue, on the western border of West Chester borough (many years ago there was a dairy on the site). It's a BYO. We didn't have a reservation but were seated immediately.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

LAURELS: A picnic breakfast

This morning was the annual Buck & Doe Trust breakfast in the Laurels, where we feasted on pancakes, strawberries, apple-cider donuts, and sausages at the Mary Ann Pyle covered bridge. As we arrived at the Fairview Road entrance, some Brandywine Conservancy folks gave us the option of parking there and taking a shuttle down to the site, or braving the muddy pathway. We put the Jeep in four wheel drive and had no problem.
We saw lots of friends and neighbors (along with kids and dogs) and, as always, enjoyed walking through the spectacular scenery of the Laurels.
The speakers (Amy McKenna, Morris Stroud, and Virginia Logan) paid fond tribute to George "Frolic" Weymouth and invited us to help celebrate the Trust's 30th birthday with cake.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

TAX MAN: Cross the border

Today I received an alarming-looking official letter from Harrisburg saying that I might be on the hook for something called a "use tax." I read the letter carefully, checked the Department of Revenue's website and concluded that I do not, in fact, owe the state any tax.
In the FAQs was an example I suspect was NOT written at random:
"Let's say for example you are an executor/fiduciary for an estate, and as the fiduciary, you are responsible for maintaining the properties of the estate. One of the properties maintained by the estate is an apartment building in Chester County that needs new refrigerators in several units. You purchase and pick up the refrigerators from an appliance store in Delaware, then install them in the Chester County apartments. As the fiduciary of the estate, you are responsible for reporting and paying, on behalf of the estate, use tax on the purchase price of the refrigerators."
Imagine, someone making a major purchase in, say, oh, Delaware and using it in neighboring Chester County. I'm shocked, shocked!

POCOPSON: Visit to an old schoolhouse

On Saturday I enjoyed visiting the Locust Grove Schoolhouse in Pocopson Township, which was open for a fundraising rummage sale. The inside of the schoolhouse (located at Locust Grove and Corrine Roads) had gotten a fresh coat of white paint only a few days earlier, and the next project is to replace the wooden floor.
Pieces from the original chalkboard hang as they did in the front of the room, and the original windows let in a lot of light. Above the blackboard you can see the hole for the pot-bellied stove's vent pipe.
The schoolhouse operated from 1869 to 1932; an extension to house a boy's cloakroom and a girl's cloakroom was added in the 1890s. After the schools were consolidated, the building served as a funeral home and a residence.
The Pocopson Township Historical Committee has a fascinating website about the history of the school and the restoration project (www.locustgroveschoolhouse.org). They've even developed lesson plans so that today's schoolchildren can learn what it was like going to school 150 years ago.

MUDDER: An extreme obstacle course

Plantation Field was quite a scene this weekend as it played host to "Tough Mudder," a grueling and aptly named obstacle course that drew hundreds of hardy athletes.
I drove by twice on Saturday and saw packs of filthy-dirty competitors tackling several of the obstacles, included clambering over mounds of piled-up round hay bales, scaling a sheer vertical climbing wall, plunging into icy water, and climbing up what looked like a steep water slide. Between obstacles they jogged with their team-mates along the mowed paths. In one part of the course right along Route 82 they were instructed to "carry a fellow mudder," which many did, switching places halfway through. A lot of the men were bare-chested despite the 58-degree temperature.
"When was the last time you earned your beer?" asked one sign posted along the course.
Strangely, the athletes seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely; even more strangely, I have to admit that some of the obstacles looked like a lot of fun, were it warmer, sunny and not drizzling.
School buses were shuttling the athletes back and forth from the main parking area at the Willowdale crossroads, and police officers were stationed at Green Valley Road and Apple Grove Road for traffic control. Tapeworm Road was closed because to get to the western part of the course, the competitors had to cross it.

DOWNTOWN: Not as fast as you'd think

East Marlborough Police Chief Robert Clarke told me, much to my surprise, that motorists aren't actually going as fast as you'd think along Route 82 through Unionville. I saw him Saturday at the Tough Mudder competition at Plantation Field (I hasten to add that he was there in an official capacity, not as a participant) and he said that based on his data, the average speed through town is 43 m.p.h. (the limit is 30 m.p.h.). He does concede, though, that there are some much faster outliers.