Tuesday, May 31, 2011


My first inkling that May 31 would not be an ordinary day came at breakfast when I got a text from a friend: "Bad fire at Boyd Martin's barn last night. Many horses at NB ICU." At first the TV news reported that all the horses had been rescued from the barn at Phillip and Evie Dutton's True Prospect Farm on Hood Road in West Marlborough, but then word started to trickle out online and via the "Unionville telegraph" about just how bad the fire was: six competition horses were killed, four were being treated at New Bolton and one was unhurt (but developed problems later that day and also went to New Bolton).
Three heroic employees who lived at the barn raced out to rescue the horses but lost all their belongings in the blaze. Not only did they lose their beloved equine companions, but they were left without clothes or even a toothbrush.
Usually there's plenty of cheerful small talk at the Unionville post office, especially after a holiday weekend. On Tuesday there wasn't any. A barn fire is every horse owner's nightmare, and a lot of hearts were broken early that morning.
The community has been wonderfully generous. The Whip held an impromptu fund-raiser on Wednesday evening and raised more than $5,000. Updates and videos are being posted daily about how the horses are recovering -- two have already been discharged from the hospital -- and how the victims are settling into their new homes and getting back to work.
To learn more about what's going on, or to make a donation to one of the many funds that have been set up, visit the "True Prospect Fire Recovery Fund" page on Facebook or go to the "Eventing Nation" website(which has been doing a great job covering the story).

Monday, May 30, 2011

I Love a Parade!

I'm sure the Kennett Memorial Day Parade will be well covered elsewhere in these pages, so I will add only one remark: It was truly fantastic, and my friends and I had a great time watching, cheering, clapping and waving our flags. Thank you to everyone involved!

Sunday, May 29, 2011


In the May/June issue of "Antiques" magazine, there's a photo of Primitive Hall, the 18th-century Pennock home here in West Marlborough. It's part of an article about "Paint, Pattern, and People: Furniture of Southeastern Pennsylvania, 1725-1850," the new exhibition at Wintherthur Museum. One of the pieces featured in the show is an armchair from Primitive Hall.
The show's curators are Wendy A. Cooper (a Primitive Hall board member), who is the Lois F. and Henry S. McNeil Senior Curator of Furniture at Wintherthur, and Lisa Minardi, Assistant Curator of Furniture for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Furniture Project. The Wintherthur show runs through Jan. 8, 2012.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Natural notes

I'm not sure I remember a wetter, colder spring, or a later planting date for the vegetable garden. But apparently the weather was just right for iris: I've never seen them as beautiful as they were this spring. Not just the traditional purple ones (Japanese and German) but yellow-and-maroon, a blue so dark it was almost black (out on Upland Road), and neon orange (in the middle of Unionville). Just spectacular.
Speaking of gardening, I had no idea there were so many hosta varieties! On a recent trip to a garden center a friend and I were astonished to see table after table of them. We ended up buying 10 pots of a variety called "Patriot" for the shaded steep slopes next to her driveway. How did she choose? She liked the color, the name and the price ($7.99 each, among the least expensive).
Black tadpoles are swimming around in the creek by the vegetable garden. What a delightfully named little creature! According to Wikipedia, "tadpole" is from the Middle English words for toad (tadde) and head (pol). And the synonym "polliwog" is from the Middle English words for head (pol, again) and to wiggle (wiglen).

Dental skill

The other day I called to schedule my twice-yearly dental cleaning and was horrified to learn that Carol, the hygienist who has cleaned my teeth since the late 1980s, retired at the end of 2010. I was speechless for a moment. Having somebody other than Carol scrape and floss and tell me she wishes everybody's teeth were as boring as mine? Unthinkable!
It's funny how attached you can become to someone even without exchanging many words, at least not many intelligible ones. But time marches on. The receptionist assured me I would "love" the woman who took over Carol's hours, so I scheduled an appointment. I'll let you know.

Mowed down

Hooray! Thanks to whoever mowed the tall weeds at the corner of Route 926 and Hood Road. As I mentioned in last week's column, they blocked the view of motorists trying to cross 926. Thank you!
I don't have an update on the new traffic lights in downtown West Grove, though. They are still all wrapped up in canvas bags, like Christmas presents that were put out too early.

Not much of a downside

On the bulletin board at a local coffee shop I spotted a cute poster for Canine Partners for Life, the Cochranville organization that trains service dogs to help humans with various disabilities (http://www.k94life.org/). They are looking for volunteers to help acclimate the dogs to real-world situations, and they give a detailed list of the pluses and minuses of having a service puppy in training.
Two of the latter: "Going to the market takes longer since everyone stops you to ask about your puppy" and "You start to recall dog names better than people names."

Smart attire and smart phones

A cranky subscriber to "Foxhunting Life" writes:
"I'd like to see someone address the irritating practice of riders using Blackberries, I-phones, etc. during a hunt. The first time I saw it was in Aiken last year, when several young members immediately pulled out their devices after the ride--effectively excluding themselves from the post hunt joie de vivre and conversation. I was sad to see this."
My response: (a) It's not just young people and (b) You're fighting a losing battle, lady.
Another way of looking at it might be this: Isn't it great that young people are still participating in the sport, electronic devices or not!
While watching the Preakness she probably didn't like "Kegasus," either, "the half-man, half-horse mascot created to draw fans to Pimlico's boozy infield," according to Jason Gay, sports columnist for The Wall Street Journal. "Kegasus, a centaur who resembled a cross between Mr. Ed and a roadie for a Blue Öyster Cult tribute band, touted bottomless beer cups and bikini contests and outraged some in the horse-racing community who would have preferred the services of Vinotaur, the tea-sandwich and wine-spritzer-serving minotaur."

Buck & Doe breakfast

The Buck & Doe Trust's annual breakfast in one of the covered bridges at the Laurels Preserve was a delightful party, as always. I saw lots of neighbors, many poring over the large maps showing all the conserved land in the Unionville area. Buck & Doe board member Richard Buchanan was enthusiastically trying to find a new home for a stray dog that his wife, Cindy, had picked up from along the road.
Board president Amy McKenna and treasurer John Goodall gave nice speeches about the Trust's conservation work. Former president Terry Corkran was there as well, and V-P Joe Huston was on his way out as I arrived.
And the food was very good. I consider myself a pancake conoisseur, and these were wonderful. The sausage, from the Country Butcher in Kennett, brought rave reviews and was expertly grilled by board member Gus Brown (despite his knee injury).
Thanks to the Trust for a great party in a beautiful location!


A verbatim Facebook posting by a local TV newscaster:
"Sorry, "Dancing with the Stars" viewers, that our tornado warning covered up the voting phone numbers. We got a lot of calls complaining. But, we take tornado warnings VERY seriously and have to get the information for the sake of saving lives."

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Blue on blue

The May issue of the "Cartmel Courier" newsletter chronicles activity at the retirement community's nine bluebird boxes. Two have full nests with chicks, one has a nest with eggs, one has a full bluebird nest but no eggs, and one is empty but previously had a nest and four bluebird eggs. The rest of the boxes have only partial nests.

Maybe those old songs...

In the past few days I've heard "Dark Side of the Moon" and "Blitzkrieg Bop" at the supermarket, "John Barleycorn" at Starbucks and "Smoke on the Water" and "Who'll Stop the Rain" at an elementary-school spring concert (BTW you totally rock, Music Director Leo Zumpetta!). Could it be? Is good music actually making a comeback?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Springdell update

An update in the long-running case of the Springdell residents vs. The Whip: the final hearing before the West Marlborough Zoning Hearing Board was held on May 10, and the board will render its decision on July 6. The residents brought the complaint because they claim that the popular tavern and its patrons reduce the quality of life in the village. They also claim that West Marlborough Township officials were lax in enforcing township ordinances regulating the tavern.
UPDATE: I am reminded that only SOME of the Springdell residents find the Whip to be a nuisance. Others don't care.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Memorial Day

Some good citizen has put up American flags to mark the dozen-or-so veterans' graves in the old African-American cemetery (West Marlborough AME Church) on Upland Road west of Ryan Road. These brave men fought in the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) in the Civil War.
By the way, somebody along Upland Road has a peacock in residence. I could hear him shrieking while I was visiting the graveyard.

"Too much noise, Grace!"

It was a cold, rainy Sunday, and there was no possibility of taking a walk, so for the first time in literally years I went to the movies. A friend warned me to expect boorish behavior in the cinema, like oblivious youths jabbering away on their cell phones, and ear-splitting soundtracks.
I did experience a bit of sticker shock ($9.50 for a ticket, $7 for not-great popcorn), but my fellow patrons were perfectly civilized and polite, and I wasn't bothered at all by the volume level.
I mentioned to my friend how wrong she had been, and she gave me an incredulous look.
"Tilda," she pointed out, "you went to see Jane Eyre."

Turned out

The primary election was May 17. Here are the turnout percentages in our area:
  • East Marlborough (3 precincts): 10%, 26%, 27%
  • Highland Township: 14%
  • Kennett Square (3 precincts): 7%, 12%, 17%
  • Kennett Township (4 precincts): 10%, 12%, 12%, 37%
  • Londonderry: 10%
  • London Grove (2 precincts): 17%, 32%
  • Newlin: 18%
  • Pennsbury (4 precincts): 14%, 15%, 17%, 44% (the Kendal effect)
  • Pocopson: 16%
  • West Marlborough: 22%
Down in Franklin Township, where there was a controversial open-space tax referendum on the ballot (which meant that voters not registered as Republicans or Democrats could come to the polls), turnout was 44%. The referendum was voted down.
For more interesting numbers, go to Chester County's website (http://www.chesco.org/) and look for "Election Results."

Bad waiter

As regular readers know, I eat out quite a lot, so I have a very high regard for waiters and waitresses. With good grace, they put up with all kinds of indecisiveness and esoteric requests from their customers, and they are jolly people and very pleasant company.
But as with everything, there's an exception: I had a truly bad waiter the other day.
The first strike was when he called me "my dear." The second was when he kept putting his hand on my dinner companion's back. The third was when he commented, "no problem" and "good choice" to our menu selections.
Naturally, his meager tip reflected those deficiencies. It was the first time we'd ever seen him at this establishment, and I doubt he'll last long.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


Local real-estate agent Brett Jones is featured in "Urban Cowboy," a fashion spread in the June issue of "Delaware Today" magazine.
Writes the author, Carroll Ivy Laurence: "Well, pardner, if you’re the kind of guy who manages to blend needlepoint belts, madras shorts and hippie accessories—and still look like a movie star —you’ve got Brett Jones down."
The photo shows Brett standing in the English-style pub at his mother's Doe Run home.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Summer reading

I don't think I've ever met a guy who enjoys his job more than John Hendrix, the children's librarian at the Bayard Taylor library. When I stopped by the other day he was at his desk sorting large photographs of baby and adult animals that he's going to have kids match up during one of his programs. And he couldn't wait to tell me about all the activities he has planned for the 2011 summer reading program, the theme of which is "One World, Many Stories" (a natural for John, who is an avid traveler). Sign-ups start June 1, and the kick-off party is Saturday, June 18, at Kennett's Anson Nixon Park.

Better Vibes

"The Centre for Vibrant Living" has taken over what used to be former doctor Peter Fabulian's medical office at 115 Marshall Street. I stopped in the other day and chatted with one of the owners, Doreen Moore (her partners are Karen Duncan and Cornelia Elsaesser). The "nurturing sanctuary" offers New Age treatments like Reiki as well as nutritional coaching and other classes. There's more information on http://www.thecentreforvibrantliving/ -- and yes, it's "centre"; it seems the website name for "center" was already taken.


A friend who lives in a more developed area of our county gave me an astonished look when I told him that when we lose electric power, we don't have running water or a toilet because, yes, it takes electricity to run the well pump. He is on a public water system, and apparently I am his only friend with well water.
I did some quick online research and found that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, of the total U.S. population (304,059,724 persons), about 88% (269,911,707) have public water. In Pennsylvania, however, only about 54% do (5,805,181 of the state's 10,699,115 residents).

Turning left

This is great news: left-turn traffic lights are being installed at Prospect Avenue and Evergreen Street in downtown West Grove, in front of the Assumption BVM Church! Only someone who has sat through a couple of traffic-light cycles waiting to turn left onto Prospect Avenue (Route 841) can appreciate this development.
When I drove by May 16 on my way home from the Jennersville YMCA, the lights were still ensconced in burlap bags, but I imagine they'll be up and running presently. The morning of May 19, two workers from Telco, a Reading traffic-light company, were staring up at the bagged lights and having what seemed to be an intense discussion about them.

High Tide and Green Grass

The northeast corner of Hood Road and Route 926 is a menace, winter and summer. In winter snowdrifts block the view of motorists trying to cross 926; in summer it's high weeds growing on the bank. I don't know if it's the township's responsibility (Londonderry) or the land owner's to keep the weeds cropped, but it really is dangerous: you have to inch out well into the road to see if traffic is coming.

Friday, May 13, 2011

It is SO tasty!

Here's a really easy, inexpensive and wholesome way to feel like a kid again.
1. Go to Baily's Dairy at Pocopson Meadow Farm, 1821 Lenape-Unionville Road. (It's also at the Triple Fresh market in Ercildoun.)
2. Buy a pint of their fresh chocolate milk.
3. Drink it in the car, savoring every creamy, chocolately mouthful.

Thursday, May 12, 2011


Tony Young may be locked up in prison for 210 months, but the tales about him continue to emerge. I heard a story that a guy who used to work for Tony was mowing his grass one day and spotted something shiny on the ground. He stopped and checked it out. It was a $30,000 shotgun that Tony had just left sitting there.
Also, I'm told that one prominent Unionville resident has been trying to interest Hollywood in doing a movie on our local con man.


When I was a kid we had a challenging wooden toy called Labyrinth that required you to steer a small steel ball around a tricky course by manipulating the board just so, avoiding all the little numbered holes. It took a lot of finesse to negotiate part of the path, like between the 6 and 7 holes. To be successful, you had to develop muscle memory for the right strategy.
I love driving along a certain back road because (a) it's beautiful and (b) it presents the same kind of challenge. There are smooth parts where you can approach the 35-mph speed limit. But then there are the rougher, fun parts, and after a while you learn where the bumps are and can avoid them: the stone wall where maroon hollyhocks flourish every summer, and near the abandoned old barn. And the persistent puddles in the road are dead giveaways that if you don't slow to a crawl, your shocks are going to take one heck of a beating before you get to the end of the maze.

Estate of the week

Maui Meadow Farm, 1799 Pocopson Road, is on the market for $4.5 million. The 65-acre farm in Pennsbury Township has 70 stalls in three separate barns, a heated equine swimming pool, and a 3/8-mile track. For human occupants there's a main house, which dates from 1736, a ranch house and a carriage house, and the property is in the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District. Tom O'Neill and Fran Day of ReMax Town & Country have the listing.
The farm was started in 1946 by retired general Charles B. Lyman and is now owned by his grandson, Charles B. Lyman III.
(Thanks to a Facebook friend of Tilda's for this tip!)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Share the road

Hordes of bicyclists are dusting off their bike helmets, donning their bike shorts and heading outside for some healthy exercise. Which is great -- but on our winding country roads, the combination of cars and bikes isn't always a happy one. For advice on co-existence, I turned to my brother, who used to be a competitive bike racer and is now a serious amateur who frequents Unionville roads.
What do bicyclists want motorists to know?
1. Think how you would act if you saw a person riding a horse along the side of the road. You'd slow down. Don't treat me worse than a horse.
2. Don't honk at me.
3. Don't pass me and then immediately turn right.
4. I don't care how close you come to me, just don't hit me. (Yes, he has been hit.)
So the next time you're tempted to zip past a bicyclist to save a minute or so (believe me, I know, I am too), think: "That could be Tilda's brother!"
By the way, I was asked what the "L" stands for on the bike signs around here (for instance, along the Brandywine on Routes 100 and 842). It stands for Route L, one of the nine bike routes that PennDOT has demarcated around the state.

On the cover

Perhaps you saw the recent paparazzi photos of equestrian/actress/mother-to-be Selma Blair outside a Burbank, California, tack shop, wearing a pretty blue dress and bright-green sandals. I don't follow celebrity news, but I mention this only because she was carrying the May issue of "Practical Horseman," which features a cover shot by local equine photographer and Coatesville resident Amy Dragoo. Pretty cool!
In case Ms. Blair and her partner haven't decided on a name yet, the May 6 "Wall Street Journal" reports that "Elvis left the list of the 1,000 most popular U.S. baby names for the first time since 1954." Go ahead, buck the trend!

Simon Pearce

Simon Pearce glassware is still available locally, even though the Lenape glass-blowing shop and restaurant has closed. You can buy it at Terrain at Styer's on Baltimore Pike in Glen Mills (part of the Urban Outfitters family of stores).
(Thanks to Karen D'Agusto for this tip!)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


I have the good fortune to sit on the board of a foundation that, officially, meets quarterly, allowing board members to tell potential new members with a straight face that "we only meet four times a year!"
I mentioned to a young member of my family that we had had an interesting quarterly meeting on May 6, and I could see the wheels turning in his mind. Sure enough, he was mentally plotting out the correct schedule for quarterly meetings -- the first in January, the second in April -- and yet we had not met until May! How could we have been so lax?
I tried to explain about the difficulty of getting busy people together, the time it takes to get financial reports prepared, how we were only a few weeks off schedule. He wasn't buying it for a minute. I see the makings of a formidable Internal Revenue Service employee.


"Buffalo Short Rib Sandwich, caramelized onion jam, gruyere, horseradish cream, red onion focaccia."
Is this a new addition to the Half-Moon's dinner menu, or have I been overlooking it all this time? It was so tasty!
And I'm told I was one of the first to try The Whip's yummy new lunch sandwich, chicken breast with avocado slices and sprouts on a Kaiser roll.
What great restaurants we have around here.

Street fightin' teens

As street fights go, it was pretty tame.
I was walking back to my car on East State Street in Kennett at dusk the other evening and found myself in the middle of a shouting match between two pairs of teenagers: one a boy and girl, the other two boys. They were half-a-block apart and standing there on the sidewalk shrieking at each other. It was impossible to tell what their dispute stemmed from, as the debate had long since degenerated into curses and creative, if unlikely, suggestions for what the other party could do.
Another noncombatant pedestrian and I exchanged glances. "Caught in the crossfire," he muttered to me.
Fortunately both groups seemed to be tiring of the argument and headed home in opposite directions.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Crossing the road

A faithful reader asked me to mention the two wonderful crossing guards at Unionville High School, Dave Edwards and Barb Cruthers. She writes:
"These two individuals are the unsung heroes Monday through Friday during the school year. Not only do they ensure that our students walking to and from school can safely cross busy Route 82, they also have improved the flow of traffic, especially during the morning rush.
Regardless of the weather conditions, Barb and Dave are there standing outside the warmth and safely of their cars, keeping constant vigil until all students have arrived to school.
I have never seen traffic run so smoothly and I know it is a result of their team effort. They are the unsung heroes of the morning and after school rush."
I wholeheartedly second that. Thank you, Dave and Barb!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

To the max

I got an eyewitness account of swindler Tony Young's sentencing on May 5.
My source said it was "wonderful" to see the ersatz financier enter the federal courtroom in handcuffs and dressed not in a dapper business suit but rather a green prison jumpsuit with an orange T-shirt underneath. His wife, Neely, mouthed "I love you" to him as he was brought in.
My source said Judge Juan Sanchez lectured Tony about the successful career he could have had if he had done the right thing and then passed sentence: 210 months, the maximum possible.
Tony's attorney asked Judge Sanchez if he could turn himself in when the site of his incarceration was determined.
No, said the judge.
The attorney then asked if Tony could serve his sentence in a Florida facility so he could be close to his wife and son and daughter.
The judge was noncommittal.
To allow Tony some privacy to say goodbye to his family, the judge then cleared the courtroom.
"I never go into Philadelphia," said my source, "but I'm so glad I went. Just to see him there ... Now maybe the community can start to heal."

Fauna of Unionville

Before this spring, I don't think I'd seen a dog tick for a few summers. You know, the big old-fashioned kind that used to alarm us, or rather our mothers, when we were kids, before the much more menacing deer tick came along. Rocky Mountain spotted fever vs. Lyme disease, who's gonna win that one?
So imagine my surprise when I saw two of them, fortunately unembedded, just this past week!
I shared this interesting news with a hip urban sophisticate friend who lives in, uh, downtown West Chester.
"Too much information," he said dismissively. He doesn't have stink bugs invading his home, either.

Fungus of Unionville

Thanks to a tip from a certain sharp-eyed mushroom expert who lives in my neighborhood, I got to see these morels growing in the needles under some white pines. Amazing!

Hi, Bill!

I saw my dear old pal Bill Landmesser having breakfast with a friend at Perkins this morning. A retired engineer, Bill is now a very active community volunteer and serves on many boards and groups, as well as being a much-sought-after parker for the annual Bayard Taylor Library House & Garden Day (which is coming up Saturday, June 4 -- get your tickets before they sell out!).


Some springs are pink, with cherry trees, azaleas and redbud, and some are purple, with a carpet of violets across a pasture. This one has definitely been yellow. Near Doe Run there's a hillside covered with mustard, just glowing with yellow. The other day I pulled over and gaped in wonder, forgetting about pressing deadlines for a few minutes.
Hummingbirds have been at my feeder for a couple of weeks, the red-winged blackbirds are swooping over the pasture, and behind the light on my deck there's a beautifully constructed robin's nest, with three eggs in it. I'm checking on it daily.

The old days

I was idling going through the archives of a volunteer group I belong to and spotted a Chester County Day newspaper from autumn 1968. It was like going back in a time machine! Phone numbers had letters as prefixes. There were ads for the Farmer in the Dell restaurant, Betty's Ice Cream, Jimmy John's, the Black Angus, and the Yellow Bow, a charming little craft shop that used to be right across Strasburg Road from the Four Dogs in Marshallton. There was even an ad for the (soon-to-be-closed) Brush and Palette back when it was on North Broad Street in Kennett.

Route 162 traffic

A Newlin resident writes:
"Maybe you could blog in your column about my next pet peeve: the new stop signs on 162 at Powell and Brandywine Creek. It's a very dangerous curve and all of us who live around here were thrilled when the stop signs were installed. However, at least 50 percent of the time I see people blowing through the curve without even slowing down, let alone stopping. The law applies to everyone, even knuckleheads. Especially knuckleheads!"

Mixed blessing

Controversial Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick lost out to Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis as the athlete on the cover of this year's "Madden NFL" videogame, produced by Electronic Arts. Mr. Vick may not be too upset, though: being featured on the cover is widely believed to jinx one's season.
"The so-called Madden Curse is the stuff of legend, where players who make the cover of EA's football game find themselves injured or face career slumps," says the videogame website gameinformer.

Buck & Doe

Congratulations to Amy McKenna, new president of the Buck & Doe Trust, a conservation group based in Unionville. Amy, a real-estate agent with Country Properties, takes over the position from Terry Corkran. Other officers are Joe Huston, vice president; Nina Seder-Burnaford, secretary; and John Goodall, treasurer. Board members are Billie Bailkin, Liz Bailey, Gus Brown, Richard Buchanan, Terry Corkran, Jeb Hannum, Anthony Jenks, Brendan Miney, Joe Nolan, Jamie O'Rourke, Maria Pfeffer, Kate Poole, Soctt Richard, Bill Rubin, Janet Sidewater, Ann Givens Sinclair, Susannah Small and Pam Smyth.

Thouron Road

I was getting concerned.
8:15 p.m. had rolled around, the West Marlborough supervisors were zipping through the agenda of their monthly meeting -- but nothing had happened that was remotely Tilda-worthy.
With a worried face I turned to my neighbor and pointed to the blank page in my notebook.
Then, as has happened so many times before, Richard Hayne came to the rescue.
Township roadmaster Hugh Lofting said that because of the extensive construction that Mr. Hayne has done on Doe Run Farm, Thouron Road has been "pretty much destroyed from Route 841 to the Thouron driveway and beyond."
Mr. Hayne has agreed to repair the road at his own expense, and Mr. Lofting assured the residents that "we'll be watching over that."