Saturday, June 30, 2012

Learning from experience

I've been asked to weigh in on the Whitewing Farm controversy in East Marlborough, and I'm reluctant to do so because I don't know the people involved or what's really going on behind the scenes. (In short: Neighbors claim that the wedding receptions at the Valley Road farm are noisy and draw traffic; the new owner said he bought the place thinking that such receptions were permitted.)
What I will say is that I fear this is going to become East Marlborough's version of the ongoing "Springdell 8" versus the Whip Tavern battle here in West Marlborough, which has brought nothing but rancor, bitterness, neighbors not speaking to neighbors, and sky-high township legal fees paid for by us taxpayers. The Whitewing Farm controversy seems to have exactly the same components, and I really hope it gets settled before the parties' positions become set in stone, emotion and ego take over, and it becomes far more about scoring points than resolving a noise and traffic dispute.
If it hasn't reached that point already.

Speaking from experience

You'd think that by now I'd be used to how tough horse people are, but I'm constantly amazed.
A friend of mine said that last week her horse had knocked her down and then vaulted over her. She said she immediately assessed her injuries, and although she was bleeding and badly bruised, she knew nothing was broken.
"When a bone is broken, you know it. You feel this sort of electric pulse. It's very distinctive," she said, as if she were a gourmet explaining the difference between imported and domestic prosciutto. She said that in an accident years ago she knew right away that her shoulder was fractured; "what I didn't know is that it was dislocated, too."

Can't change the weather

Friday night I went to the Taqueria Moroleon on Route 41 with two pals for a wonderful dinner. I had the beef burrito, which was just delicious.
"This place never disappoints," one friend said as we were leaving, and he's absolutely right.
So I was walking to my car and saw a couple having dinner on the deck. It was 9:30 p.m., but it was still miserably hot and humid.
"You're sitting outside?" I said incredulously.
They were a friendly, happy, relaxed couple, and they explained that they just like to live in harmony with whatever the weather brings, hot or cold.
"Now, if it was cold, you would wish it was hot, right?" the woman asked me. "Well, see, now it's hot."
"This is true!" I agreed, laughing, and the guy gave me a high-five.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Fast food in downtown Kennett?

"Multiple fast-food restaurants" are being proposed for Larry Bosley's office building at 148 West State Street in downtown Kennett.
The zoning board will meet to discuss the proposal at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 24, at Borough Hall. Bosley would need a special exception from the borough's zoning ordinance for the use.
"But, Tilda," you say. "This is Kennett, not West Marlborough! How did you find out about this?"
Well, I was walking past the building with a fellow former reporter after an evening at the Half-Moon and we saw a sign saying that the property was the site of a zoning hearing. Once a reporter, always a reporter: we picked up a copy of the official notice and realized this was some interesting and potentially controversial news.

Letting my freak flag fly

What do you associate Tilda with: Gala parties? Equestrian events? West Marlborough issues?
All true, certainly, but wait til you hear this: I went to the Brandywine Valley Association's Third Annual Dead Fest on Thursday evening. "Dead" as in, the local musicians played Grateful Dead songs and drew a gigantic crowd of 21st-century flower children.
The weather was gorgeous, the music sounded great -- when was the last time you heard "Mexicali Blues"? -- and the acoustics at the BVA's amphitheater are terrific.
But the real fun was the people-watching. Put simply, it was NOT the Unionville steeplechase crowd. Tie-dyed shirts were everywhere. A lot of the women wore flowing skirts and bare feet, the better to dance in front of the stage. I spotted one woman in white bell-bottoms with a Pucci-like paisley print; does she get them out of her closet just for the Dead Fest? A couple of sinuous women were performing some really quite remarkable feats with hula hoops. 
A young friend of mine who came to the Fest from Oxford -- it's a highlight of her summer -- said she deliberately dressed down rather than in her hippie finery because "it seems like some people just want to stand out," she explained apologetically.
But for the most part it was just a big family picnic. Kids were running all over the place, not deterred by the steep slope of the hillside, and they were very well-behaved and polite. I enjoyed the sight of a tiny infant being carried by his big, burly, bearded, long-haired Dad.
Bob Struble was there with his BVA display, greeting people and encouraging them to join the environmental organization. And at the gate volunteers were passing out green tote bags emblazoned with ads for a mortgage broker and an attorney.

One unfortunate note: I saw, and smelled, a lot of people smoking (cigarettes). How can you be "green" and concerned about the environment while polluting everyone's air and poisoning your body?

Thursday, June 28, 2012


I didn't make it to the closing sale at the Kennett Genuardi's, but a friend did. Her report: "Spent $128; saved $55. Not bad! And bought lots of nonperishables for food drives."
I'm eager to see what the new Giant will look like (it opens Sunday, July 8), though I find myself much more often in the neighborhood of the Kennett and Jennersville locations than I do this new one. I was in the Genuardi's only once or twice.
And by the way, did you know that the Superfresh offers 5% off your grocery bill (with some items excluded) on Tuesdays for shoppers age 55 and up? Not that I'm in this demographic quite yet, at least not in chronological terms.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Wedgewood blues

"Being robbed in your own driveway really stinks.....even if the car was unlocked.....especially when your 14-year-old son left his wallet in the glove box, with a lot of $$ in it," laments a reader.
It happened on June 24 on a cul-de-sac off Route 52 near Fairville, in Pennsbury Township. She said a neighbor's car was hit as well: the thief took change but left behind the owner's brand-new set of golf clubs. 
"Guess they were just after quick cash, and hit the jackpot here," she said ruefully.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Church for sale

There's a small church on Strasburg Road in East Fallowfield that always has a big sign by the road exhorting passersby to "REPENT." I drove by the other evening and noticed that the property is for sale. I did an Internet search and found that last fall its longtime pastor was arrested on some extremely unsavory charges; he pleaded guilty and is facing sentencing in county court. "He's looking at a mandatory five years in state prison," Daily Local News court reporter Michael Rellahan tells me.
The agent notes on the property listing: "Current use is a church. Can be converted to a residential property. Needs rehabbed if converted to residence. No kitchen at present." The photos show a main room with pews and a lectern, and an office space.
The price of the 1.4-acre property has been dropped to $104,900. There's no word on whether the sign is included.

Welcome, Summer

Social life in Unionville can be something of an island: when you're invited to a party at X's place, you pretty much know who's going to be there.
But not so much at a friend's annual Summer Solstice party, held this year on Saturday. (Yes, there's a big bonfire. No, we don't wear Druid robes.) It's always a refreshing mixture of folks.
I thought I recognized one guest as a West Chester pastry chef, but he turned out to be a law-enforcement officer. He told some great stories about raiding questionable nightspots -- surprise, surprise, the cops found a lot of illegal weapons in booths and on the floor, where the patrons had hastily dumped them.
And I spoke to a pleasant UHS alumna who went on to earn a degree in economics and accounting and started a full-time job in Center City as soon as she graduated. She said an older partner in the firm constantly grouses about the casual dress of the younger associates -- although, she said, they are careful to don their conservative suits when meeting with clients.
I'm just sorry that the party was the same night as my gym friend Kevin's stargazing program in Londonderry Township. Too much going on all on the same night!


I'm seeing banners all over the place for the Vacation Bible School offerings at our local churches, but I'm not sure any of them can top the one at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where a middle-school classmate of mine is stationed as garrison chaplain.
"Had three parachutists jump in as the finale for VBS!" he reports.
Speaking of middle-school classmates, I saw another of them on TV the other night in a commercial for Brandywine Hospital, where he is a orthopaedic surgeon. He looks much the same as I remember him but I hope he tells better jokes.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

They can hear music

According to Longwood Gardens' brochure for its summer concert series, Robert Randolph, who performed there on June 13, is the leader of Robert Randolph and the Family Band and "was trained at a pedal steel guitarist in the House of God Church. Randolph is known for his lively performances." 
Perhaps too lively. A neighbor of Longwood called police and complained about the noise. Two police officers arrived and asked the sound guy to turn down the volume.

Friday, June 22, 2012


This morning I had breakfast with a young friend who just returned from a semester studying in Australia. I was a "JYA" (junior year abroad) myself back in the day, so I was eager to hear about her adventures.

She had both good and bad to report. She met a lot of people, experienced a different culture and took some amazing trips, but she had some unfortunate run-ins with the Australian medical system, and the university's academic standards suffered in comparison to her college here in the States.
She missed Longwood Gardens and would watch videos on their website when she got homesick. As far as food goes: it was expensive, real drip coffee was unheard of, and only two varieties of cheese were available, both made by the TastyCheese Co.
Her first Facebook post when she landed at LAX was "America. Home of unlimited wifi, real coffee, and cheap food. Oh it's good to be back." Close on its heels was: "Wait... what? I just got a NORMAL coffee and baked good for under $7... how wonderful!"
One bright spot was the Australian chocolate cookie brand TimTams, which she adored. A few days before she was due to come back home,  the biscuits were on sale for half-price, so she bought 18 bags.
Ironically, that meant she had to pay $50 in overweight luggage charges.
(At a party last night I saw a friend who just that morning had arrived home from a business trip to Australia. I asked him about the coffee situation, and he agreed vigorously. He said their idea of coffee is the instant variety.)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Mexican food

Add the Guadalajara Express to your list of local places that have awesome Mexican food. I just ate two tacos with marinated beef (cesina) and they were delicious, and an unbelievably low $2.12 each. I have it on good authority that the lamb tacos are fantastic, too, but they didn't have any when I visited; gee, guess I'll just have to return!
Guadalajara, which is also a butcher shop (carniceria), is at 520 South Union Street in Kennett, between the Landhope Farms store and the car wash. They offer take-out or you can eat there, which I did. The Univision news was on the TV while I was eating and I got to hear about the Jerry Sandusky trial and that poor abused bus monitor -- in Spanish.


Any motorist will take satisfaction in this anecdote.
On Thursday morning a friend reported that a speeder in a Hyundai passed her on a double-yellow line. But alas for him, just a quarter of a mile down the road was a construction zone, and the impatient driver was forced to stop and wait by the traffic-control guy with the "Stop" paddle. My friend waited right behind him.
I think this calls for a Nelson Muntz-style "HAH-hah!"

Township meeting

Tuesday, July 3, is the next meeting of the West Marlborough Township supervisors.Come out and join us regulars in the audience; there's always something interesting going on! The planning commission meets at 7 p.m., followed by the supervisors, usually around 7:30. The township hall/garage is in the village of Doe Run at Route 82 and Wilson Road.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A bargain indeed

Someone has signed me up for a subscription to "Better Homes & Gardens." It crossed my mind that it may have been a sarcastic reader, tired of my homey tips about preserving berries and attracting hummingbirds. But then I learned that a neighbor has also started receiving the magazine gratis. I guess we live in a ZIP code that's desirable to marketers; who knew!
I like the recipes (hot dogs with mac and cheese, mmm!) and the coupons, and they had a pretty good story on creating a daylily border. And I was amused by the stretching exercises they recommend before working in the garden.


I stopped off to run an errand at the Bayard Taylor Library on Wednesday afternoon and was surprised to find that it was closed. A sign on the door explained why: neither the Internet service nor the circulation computers were functioning.
The next morning I e-mailed Donna Murray, the library director, to find out what happened, and she replied:
"There was a fire at Chesconet (our ISP) in Downingtown, which left all 18 libraries with no Internet capability. We were unable to offer Internet or to check books in or out for our patrons. After three hours of hand-writing the checkouts and waiting for connectivity to be re-established, the person-in-charge at the library yesterday made the call to close because we could not offer those two basic services."
Donna said the library was back online the next day and made a point of apologizing to all the library patrons who were inconvenienced by the closing. She also sent along this photo of the fire that caused all the problems.
We often read about how libraries are changing in the Information Age, and this really underscores that. A significant proportion of patrons come to the library these days to use the public computers (I did myself last week when I needed the newest version of PowerPoint) or to connect to the library's Wifi on their own laptops or smartphones.

How much?!

I was shopping at the health-food store today and was amused to see that they were selling organic local horseradish root for $6 a pound. The idea of selling horseradish root, much less for $6 A POUND, is an entertaining one, given the struggle I had eradicating it from the garden.
Years ago I accepted some horseradish roots from a Kennett Township friend's garden, although she warned me how tenacious it can be. She was, of course, right. It flourished and even won prizes at the Unionville Community Fair, but it soon tried to take over the garden. I still see stubborn shoots coming up every spring.

Grand Prix

Our own West Marlborough Township will be the site of two cycling events this coming week: a time trial on Tuesday, July 3, and a road race on Wednesday, July 4.
As the race organizers describe it: "Once home to the King Ranch, with its rolling hills and immense open space, West Marlborough Township truly deserves its reputation as the heart of Chester County horse country.  Known for its championed cause of rural preservation, West Marlborough is the perfect place to experience the countryside by car, foot, horseback, or bike!"
The 10.2-mile course for the time trial starts at Brooklawn (the Hannum family estate) on Newark Road, goes west on Upland Road (Route 842), north on Route 841 past the village of Springdell to Blow Horn, and then onto Route 82 and back to Newark Road. The trial starts at 5 p.m.
The 13.2-mile course for the road race (first race starts at 8 a.m.) has the same starting and ending point but goes further south. Cyclists will head south on Newark Road, west on Spencer Road and East London Grove Road to the village of Chatham, then north on Route 841 to Blow Horn, Route 82 and Newark Road.
There's also going to be a criterium in Kennett Square on Friday, July 6. The half-mile course (first race starts at 5 p.m.) begins at 101 East State Street and heads north on 82, west on Linden Street, south on Lincoln Street and back to State Street.
For much more information, maps, schedules and registration you can visit


The other day I was driving along lovely Wylie Road on the other side of the Brandywine and spotted a fancy sign for a private road called "Queen's Ranger's Lane." My first thought that this was somehow related to the British soccer team the Queens Park Rangers, but I soon learned I was entirely wrong.
The Queen's Rangers were a military unit that fought on the Loyalist side during the Revolutionary War. "They distinguished themselves at the Battle of the Brandywine, suffering many casualties while attacking entrenched American positions," Wikipedia says. During the battle, the unit was led by Major James Wemyss, but a few weeks later he was replaced by John Graves Simcoe. Apparently that was a good move, because Simcoe "turned the Queen's Rangers into one of the most successful British regiments in the war."
Other streets in the vicinity of the Brandywine Battlefield that are named after leaders of the Loyalist/British side are General Cornwallis Drive (there's also one in East Goshen Township) and General Howe Drive.
As for the Queens Park Rangers (no apostrophe), they were last year's Football League champions and this year are competing in England's top division, the Premier League.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Feel the heat

As I'm writing this, the little Weather Channel icon on my phone is red instead of its normal blue; it seems a heat warning has been issued for the next few days, and temps are supposed to be in the upper 90s.
I'm not sure what I can do with this unpleasant information. When you get advance notice that a snowstorm is coming (if you even believe the hype anymore), you can stock up on food and entertainment -- but what, really, can you do to prepare for a heat wave? I suppose if you planned to resurface the driveway or take the kids to Dutch Wonderland you might want to rethink that.
Update: Day 1 (Wednesday) wasn't bad at all. It got up to 92 outside according to my Weather Channel wireless thermometer, but with the ceiling fan on it was comfortable inside for man and beast. I did splurge on an iced drink at the Starbucks in West Chester.
Day 2 (Thursday): Again, I didn't think it wasn't bad, although the peanut butter was rather soupy, and I certainly did enjoy taking a late-afternoon dip in a friend's pool. It got up to 92, hardly the 97 they were predicting, and I even sat out on the deck and read the paper.
And just for some perspective, there was a photo going around online during the heat wave showing a soldier in the desert. The caption: "I was going to complain about the heat today, but then I realized: It isn't 120 degrees. I'm not 5,700 miles from home. I'm not dressed in full uniform. I'm not carrying 70+ pounds of gear. And there is little chance of my driving over a bomb today. Thanks to all who serve."

Sunday, June 17, 2012


Well done, Sandy Yeatman!
The local real-estate agent not only showed herself to be a crack raffle-ticket salesperson at the Bayard Taylor Library's Home & Garden Day, but she was also quoted in a June 13 "Wall Street Journal" story about neighbors who share backyards. Sandy advised anyone who participates in such a communal arrangement to draw up a legal document detailing the specifics before putting his or her house on the market.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Red pencil

A longtime reader (and a former editor herself!) writes:
"I LOVE the Grammar Police part of your column, badge included. My son has a theory: grammar, like all things, is evolving, and very soon phrases that were previously considered bad grammar will be acceptable. Example: Me and my mom disagree about the evolution of sentence structure. “Me and ….” is one of my pet grammar peeves, and you hear it so often."
She's right. But there are occasional bright spots. The other day my gym teacher issued the following command: "Now extend the leg toward which you are twisting." Knowing my penchant for correct English, she looked directly at me, and I praised her lavishly (well, as lavishly as I could while doing crunches) for structuring her sentence so that it didn't end with a preposition.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Two of us

I was just out for an evening stroll along one of our beautiful back roads when I spotted a mountain biker pedaling up the hill toward me. He was as surprised as I was to see another human on the road, because usually we're all alone with the gurgling stream, the chirping birds and the squirrels, groundhogs, deer and mosquitoes. (And a little further on, the chickens and the cows.)
I congratulated him for making it up such a steep hill, and he agreed that it was a good one. He must have turned around and come back down, because maybe a half-mile further along he zoomed past me, waving.
Another treat during the walk was seeing five hot-air balloons floating over the trees to the east, I'm guessing from the balloon festival in Embreeville.

How to Lower Your Taxes

Yes, it sounds like one of those "shocking!" pop-up ads: "Why the School Board in [Your Town Here] Hates This Woman!"
A Unionville friend of mine decided that she was paying too darn much in property taxes. So she sat down and did some in-depth research about how exactly the taxes are calculated. She talked to an informative civil servant in Harrisburg, learning all about things like the "common level ratio" (currently 0.56; it's the relationship between your house's assessed value and its market value). She paid for an appraisal of her house and hopes her argument is bolstered by the fact that a neighbor's house, on a bigger lot than hers, sold recently at a bargain-basement price.
She will present her case at a tax assessment hearing in mid-July, and the decision will be made by October.

She said several of her neighbors have already succeeded in lowering their assessments, and others have submitted their intention to appeal.

The wireless

I've gotten pretty blase about the marvels of the Internet, but I was close to amazed when I just got this Facebook update from an adventurous pal: "Blowing 20 knots on the nose. I'm not ready to call the coast guard, but It looks to be a long bumpy ride to Vancouver."
Here's a guy who is tooling around on his boat in the Pacific Northwest. He uploads his status to Facebook near the remote island of Lasqueti, British Columbia, using his nifty satellite device. And it pops up on my smartphone in Unionville, on the other side of the continent, seconds later.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Sick report

My gosh, the ailments that local people have been suffering! In the past few weeks I've heard frightful stories of diverticulitis, kidney stones, and chest infections that have landed otherwise hardy men and women in the hospital for days on end. (The diverticulitis sufferer, for instance, also has two broken ribs just as background noise.) Another friend had her knee arthritis upgraded to "severe." And I've heard reports of kids coming down with virulent tummy bugs in the final days of the school year.
I certainly hope that health is restored soon at my sick friends' homes.
And as far as the kidney stones go: I've always been told that one way to prevent them is to drink lots and lots of water, especially in the summertime, when it's easy to get dehydrated without realizing it.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


I think I've mentioned before that when I have a paper-and-pencil editing project to do, I head to the Jennersville Starbucks (I'd know too many people at the Kennett one), claim a table, spread out, plug in my earphones and camp out for a few hours.
The other afternoon I did just that, and a few minutes after I arrived I realized I'd crashed the weekly toddler story-time. A woman from the Avon Grove Library was there to read to the kids, and then they did a craft.
Afterward the library lady came up to me and apologized for the disruption. I told her it didn't bother me a bit -- I was listening to music anyway, and I love seeing kids getting excited about books. Best of all, she gave me a piece of Starbucks cinnamon pastry and a mini-cup of coffee! I'm still enough of a college kid to love getting free food.

Get Smart

Have you seen those tiny Smart cars?
There's certainly a lot to recommend them -- fuel efficiency, ease of parking -- and my friend George owns one and is urging me to consider getting one, too.
The thing is, George lives in England, in an apartment with no garden, and goes to the grocery store a few times a week. I can't imagine relying on one as your sole vehicle if you buy more than two bags of groceries at a time (I don't think you'll see many Smart cars in the BJ's parking lot) or if you make any purchases at the garden center or the feed store. Or if you need to carry more than one passenger at a time, for that matter.
I'm not sure how well they would fare out here in the country. "It would be run over by farm equipment," commented one observer. And I was behind one on Route 82 the other day and it was doing 10 miles under the speed limit.


Have you noticed the lovely planters in downtown Kennett? They were designed by JoAnn Donlick, who was in charge of the project, and planted by the members of the Spade and Trowel, Four Seasons and Seedlings garden clubs.
Speaking of downtown Kennett, it was positively hopping on Tuesday night despite the dreary weather (though I am most certainly not complaining, as the rain settled my plants in nicely). Two friends and I had an early dinner at Lily's Asian Cuisine -- wonderful seaweed salad and sushi! -- and by the time we left there was a line waiting to get in. When I pulled out of my State Street parking spot another driver snagged it immediately.

Black oak down

A few minutes ago I got an email notifying me that there was "a huge tree" down on Route 842 near Byrd Road. Well! Of course I had to drop my work right then and there -- sorry, clients -- and head out to investigate.
Turns out that in Tuesday night's heavy rain a branch of a black oak came crashing down east of Byrd Road, and 842 was shut between Newark Road and Unionville. The tree guys from Asplundh were there sawing it up on Wednesday morning. The branch itself was big enough that it would have made a respectable tree.
The tree guys cautioned me to stay off the grass because the tree had taken down some electric wires, so I couldn't get close enough to take a decent photo for you. Sorry: I may drive around a "Road Closed" sign now and then, but I do avoid live wires.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

$50 for every $10,000 you earn

I've put off writing about this because it is such an depressing and aggravating prospect: the West Marlborough Township supervisors are seriously considering instituting a half-percent earned income tax.
As I've reported before, the township is in dire fiscal shape because of a series of unexpected zoning hearings, for which it has had to fork out upwards of $70,000 in legal and engineering fees (most of the challenges were brought by the small group of Springdell residents -- "the Springdell 8" -- who contend that the Whip Tavern mars their quality of life).
Worsening the situation is a "huge dropoff" in income from the real-estate transfer tax, Supervisor Bill Wylie explained at the June 5 meeting.
Although previously the supervisors had considered instituting the tax so that the township could take back control of some roads now owned by the state, the fiscal situation has worsened to the point that supervisors have had to borrow from other accounts, like the equipment fund, just to keep township checks from bouncing. The new tax would be expected to raise $110,000 to $120,000 a year.
At the township meeting, Gus Brown (one of the "Springdell 8") asked why the township needed the additional money. Where would the revenues be going?
 "It's a question of paying the bills," responded Mr. Wylie. "If expenses drop, we can tailor the amount of the tax."
Who would pay the tax? People who live and work in West Marlborough (your blogger included) or who live in West Marlborough and work in a community that doesn't have an earned income tax. Many residents already pay the tax at their workplace, and if the tax were enacted, those residents wouldn't see a tax increase; rather, the money they already pay would come back to West Marlborough Township rather than staying in the municipality where they work.
Mr. Wylie said instituting the tax is "a complicated process," and the supervisors agreed to more forward with the procedure. Under state law a public hearing would have to be held before any action is taken.
Rest assured, I will keep you posted.

For comparison, here are the real-estate and the earned income tax rates in neighboring townships:

                                       Real Estate (mills)            Earned Income Tax (%)
East Fallowfield                      0                                    0.50
Highland                               2.3                                   1.00
Londonderry                         0                                     0.75
London Grove                     1.24                                 0.75
New Garden                        0.75                                 0.625
Kennett Twp.                       0.40                                 0.75
East Marlborough                1.43                                  0.0
Newlin                                 0.75                                 0.50
West Marlborough               1.70                                  0.0

I got the horse right here

There was much celebration around these parts on Saturday after local favorite Union Rags won the Belmont Stakes. "Ragsy" beat Paynter, who had led the entire race, by "a short neck" at the wire in a thrilling finish.
 I missed seeing the race on TV -- I was playing tennis -- but my pals who watched it on the big screen said it was hugely exciting.
"We were jumping up and down like schoolkids!" they reported.
They said they spotted Phyllis Wyeth of Chadds Ford Stables (the owner), Jamie Wyeth, Unionville's own Michael Matz (the horse's trainer) and his wife D.D., and Russell Jones.
Union Rags, has his own Facebook page. On Saturday he "wrote": "I hope to provide all of you with thrills, chills, and winning ways, this Saturday afternoon at Belmont Park! I will look forward to seeing you then!"
That he certainly did.

Saturday, June 9, 2012


A kind friend sent along a tip for preventing berries from getting moldy. 
"When you get your berries home, prepare a mixture of one part vinegar (white or apple cider probably work best) and ten parts water.  Dump the berries into the mixture and swirl around. Drain, rinse if you want (though the mixture is so diluted you can't taste the vinegar,) and pop in the fridge.  The vinegar kills any mold spores and other bacteria that might be on the surface of the fruit, and voila!  Raspberries will last a week or more, and strawberries go almost two weeks without getting moldy and soft."
Berries going moldy is not a problem in this house, but just because they get eaten so quickly. And the sweet cherries are fantastic so far this year!

Lens of Unionville

A few weeks ago a friend of mine's rambunctious horse managed to knock her eyeglasses askew, and yesterday she went up to Exton to get them fixed.
"How did this happen?" asked the repair guy, inspecting the crooked spectacles.
"My horse knocked them off," she explained matter-of-factly.
But because it was Exton and not Unionville, the repair guy found this to be a highly unusual response.
"He looked at me like I was one of the Flying Wallendas!" said my friend.
Yes, it's a different world only a few miles outside of U-ville. I was in Lionville the other evening, eating ice cream at Milky Way Farms, and people were staring and pointing at the herd of Holsteins on the farm like it was odd to actually see cattle up close and personal. (By the way: the mint chocolate chip ice cream is really good there. And my fellow dessert-eater, who introduced me to this place, had a root beer float with chocolate ice cream and loved every bit of it.)

Birds and Bees

I had a fine morning on Saturday, sitting out in the bright, hot sunshine in the middle of a pasture. No, I haven't embraced the contemplative life: I was volunteering as a fence judge for the cross-country portion of this weekend's horse trials at Plantation Field, off Route 82.
As well as the contestants and their beautiful horses, the birds were out in force, singing away merrily: a few red-winged blackbirds were in an unmown area near my folding chair, and a kingbird perched on the number pole of my jump. Tiny bee-like insects hovered around me and landed on my clipboard, water bottle and walkie-talkie.
One sad note, though: the longtime communications manager/announcer for the competition, Richard Thompson, died this past week, and he was missed. He was the one who was always in charge of the walkie-talkies, and had he been there on Saturday, there would have been absolutely no confusion about which channel we were supposed to be using, 1 or 2.
(I also want to mention the passing of Paul Rowland, a horse trainer, paramedic and family man. Paul died June 8 of mesothelioma, which he had been battling tenaciously since 2010. He was well known and beloved in the local horse community and was able to attend the Willowdale races back on May 13. The members of the Montgomery County Second Alarmer’s Rescue Squad, where he worked, are wearing black bands over their badges in his memory.)

Friday, June 8, 2012

All the news

There was a rare bright spot on the journalism front last week: investor Warren Buffett, owner of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., purchased a few dozen daily newspapers, saying he is bullish on local journalism.
"I believe newspapers that intensively cover their communities will have a good future. It's your job to make your paper indispensable to anyone who cares about what is going on in your city or town," he wrote in a letter to the newspapers' staffers. "No one has ever stopped reading halfway through a story that was about them or their neighbors."
I agree wholeheartedly (this should come as no surprise to anyone). I have worked at small papers and large papers, and I've come to believe strongly in the value and potential of community journalism, where reporters know who and what they are writing about.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Just stop

A neighbor told me that the other day she saw a driver running the stop sign on northbound Newark Road at Route 842 in West Marlborough -- and not just rolling through, but not even braking one bit. Another woman who lives in London Grove village said motorists regularly ignore the stop signs there, too.
A reminder of what can happen when you blow through a stop sign: a few weeks ago, two Lancaster County brothers ran the stop sign on Street Road at Route 472 in Lower Oxford. Their car was hit by a milk truck and they were killed instantly. I passed the site the other day, and there's a memorial, with flowers and a portrait of both of the young men.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Where did you park?

Could we finally see a resolution to the Whip's parking problems?
The Springdell tavern has become hugely popular, but because of its small parking lot, latecomers are forced to choose between double-parking (you can leave your car keys with the staff), risking a ticket by parking along the roadside or on the grass across the street -- or turning around and going back home.
The West Marlborough supervisors are considering a zoning amendment that would allow parking to be located on a separate lot from the principal use in the township's Village-Residential zones (Springdell and London Grove village). The logic, according to the proposed amendment, is that many of the lots in the zone "do not meet the minimum lot area requirement thereby resulting in principal uses on lots that do not have adequate space for the use." (That would certainly seem to be the case here.)
The parking lot has to be within 150 feet of the main property, 500 feet if there's "a continuous off-street path, sidewalk or accessway that directly connects with the principal use."
Allowing parking on a separate lot "will allow for these principal uses and any nonconforming uses to exist and operate in a manner that reduces traffic congestion and safety concerns related to the parking of vehicles along the street."
The ordinance includes regulations on the off-site uses in terms of size, lighting and signage.
The proposed amendment will be reviewed by both the township planning commission and the Chester County planning commission, and a public hearing will be held Monday, July 30.

Stressed out

Usually the customers at my favorite garden center are friendly and happy, but that certainly wasn't the case on Tuesday.
One woman was there with two men -- one was her husband, and the other worked for them, I'm guessing as a farm manager. They had a giant "dualie" extended-cab pickup, the kind with a little step when you lower the tailgate, and the bed was packed full of plants, including about a dozen giant papyrus plants. The woman wanted to go back and get more, over her husband's objections ("We've already been here an hour!"), and it took some doing for the men to convince her that there was no way anything else could fit in the truck. She finally conceded, but with poor grace.
And two women in a Volvo with Delaware tags were quarreling peevishly about how to arrange their purchases in the trunk.
"It's dirty," objected one, looking at a pot with disdain.
The outcome wasn't a happy one: I saw them leaving the parking lot with a squished plant stalk sticking out of the trunk lid.


In his monthly roadmaster's report at the June 5 township meeting, Supervisor Hugh Lofting said the road crew was busy mowing the township's roadsides. (I see them at work, often.)
"We've gotten several compliments about their work," he said. "Everything seems to be running -- for a change."

Crime report

Even state troopers can be crime victims.
Trooper Dwayne Winchester of the Avondale barracks stopped by the West Marlborough Township supervisors' meeting on June 5 to report on state police activity in the township so far in 2012. In response to a question about burglaries, he mentioned that his own house, on Route 82 in East Marlborough, was broken into last August.
The officer said he came home from his work shift to find a woman running out the back door of his house and arrested her on the spot. Her boyfriend had been sitting in his car in a neighbor's driveway acting as lookout and phoned her when the officer arrived home, prompting her to try to flee.
He said he was relieved to find that his house had been targeted randomly; the burglar was a heroin addict looking for valuables to steal and sell, not someone he had previously arrested who was out for revenge. In fact, he said, he imagined the burglar was not at all happy to see his police uniforms hanging up in the house.
He said the presence of his dog did not deter the burglar.
The trooper said the state police were called out to 92 incidents in the township so far this year, including 3 house burglaries, 18 crashes (4 of them DUI-related), 9 criminal investigations and 4 DUIs.
"Pretty quiet," he summarized.
He advised residents to call the police if they are planning to leave for an extended period so the police can keep an eye on the house. Also, he advised residents to report anything suspicious and "look out for each other."

Monday, June 4, 2012

Out in the open

Usually when I'm talking to people who want to appear in this column, they are on their best behavior, careful not to put a foot wrong.
Not so much a plainspoken man I met this weekend.
When I introduced myself he peered at me and asked suspiciously, "You're not a [Republocrat], are you?"
I replied that I most certainly was NOT a [Republocrat], and he expressed his relief.
His daughter, who was standing next to him, was mortified, but I was vastly amused.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Check, please!

Just came home from a very nice family dinner at the Iron Hill Brewery in downtown West Chester. We went out to celebrate the wonderful performance of two of the Tally-ho men -- my brother and the Young Relative -- in the Hillendale Husky Hustle 5K run on Saturday.
The weird thing is, my brother, who was supposedly an honoree, grabbed the dinner check from our father, the traditional bill-payer, and would not hear of anyone else chipping in.
"You realize what this means," I warned him. "There will be items about you in this column ALL SUMMER LONG, exhorting you to win more races so that you buy me more dinners."

Art show

On Sunday afternoon I stopped by a charming art show at the Willowdale Art Academy, a children's art studio located above the Landhope Farms store at Routes 82 and 926 (but no, NOT in Tony Young's old office space). Karen D'Allaird said she opened the studio at the beginning of this past school year, and after a summer break (there's no air conditioning, and apparently the loft space gets very warm) lessons will start up again in September. She offers classes for children in first through eighth grades. You can see Karen's own work at, and the school has a website under its own name as well.

Born in the USA

Two friends of mine visited the National Constitution Center on Independence Mall in Philadelphia last Tuesday and had a wonderful time. They said the exhibits are so well done and engaging that they will appeal to children and grown-ups. They brought me back a folded-up copy of the Constitution, which came in handy that very day when some friends were quarreling online about the effectiveness of the Fifth Amendment (yes, I know a lot of lawyers, and a lot of argumentative people in general). I was glad to see that I still remember every word of the Preamble, which we had to learn by heart in the eighth grade.
My friends also enjoyed the Bruce Springsteen exhibit at the museum, which runs through Sept. 3: "From Asbury Park to the Promised Land: The Life and Music of Bruce Springsteen." My friend told the tour guide to keep an eye out for Bruce himself during Devon week, because he's always in town to watch his daughter Jessica compete at the horse show.

Into town

Thank you, Richard Carlin of Unionville! Mr. Carlin, who used to fox hunt with Cheshire, liked my item about a friend who felt provincial for telling guests she was "going into town" to run errands. He recalled that many years ago W. Plunkett Stewart (who founded Mr. Stewart's Cheshire Foxhounds in 1912) used to say exactly the same thing when discussing his plans for non-hunting days.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Goodbye, Sarah

Today a lovely, spirited young woman named Sarah Thomas died, and many, many people are going to miss her, myself included. She was an exercise rider for Jonathan Sheppard's Ashwell Stables, and not long ago she wrote to me, asking if I could encourage drivers on Street Road to have some consideration for the horses and riders and slow the heck down. I did, and our local policeman went out and issued some speeding tickets, and she sent me a message with about 10 exclamation points, saying how grateful she was.
Sarah suffered a fatal head injury when the horse she was riding spooked for some unknown reason and she came off (yes, she was wearing a helmet and flak jacket), her father, Victor, told me. She was rushed to Christiana Hospital by ambulance and stayed conscious long enough for her parents to talk to her, but then suffered a massive stroke. After that, there was no hope of recovery.
Sarah was so vital and enthusiastic that it's hard to believe she is gone. Her friends have posted photos on her Facebook page showing her riding along Lamborntown Road in the snow, playing polo, watching the World Series at the Whip, celebrating at weddings and parties.
My deepest sympathy and prayers to her family, and here's hoping her spirit is in Houyhnhnm Land with her beloved horses. Her father told me that thanks to Sarah's organ donations, as many as seventy people will live longer and better lives, which I think is a beautiful and fitting legacy.
The family is planning a gathering at their farm this summer to celebrate her life. 
(Thank you to Emily Rodger Barber for the photograph. "I love that photo," her father said.)

H&G Day!

Today was the annual Home and Garden Day to benefit the Bayard Taylor Memorial Library. I worked in the morning as a front-door greeter at a Pennsbury Township house, and I'm guessing you can imagine the fun I had welcoming tour-goers.
Because I had limited time in the afternoon I made it to only two other houses after my shift was over, but both were spectacular inside and out. I loved the lavender growing in little niches in the stone wall at one of them; the garden in the other one gave me the answer as to whether it's OK to have other plants growing in a bed of lamium (it is).
Huge congratulations to the tireless ladies on the Special Events Committee for lining up so many amazing houses -- and such a variety -- year after year, not to mention the restaurants and caterers, florists and artists and the army of hostesses and parkers needed at each spot.
And the weather! After the thunderstorm and heavy winds the evening before the tour, we were just so lucky to have sunny, cool weather on Saturday. I can remember one tour when the temperature was in the 90s, and another when we had a such a deluge of rain all day long that some cars got stuck in the pasture and had to be towed out with a tractor.
Among the guests, I was delighted to see the library director, Donna Murray; library board members Doug Singo, Bill Landmesser and Heather Ramsey; and library employees John Hendrix and Kit Ramsey.

Party time

The summer party season has started: somebody over the hill from me is having one heck of a rocking party this evening, with a live Mexican band. I can hear the amplified bass off in the distance and even slightly feel the vibrations. They started in the late afternoon and were still going strong when I turned in for the night.
(It reminds me of my college days, when the boys who lived in the room underneath us had their huge stereo speakers facing up. To this day I know by heart the bass line to Boston's "More than a Feeling.")
At first I thought the party was being held at the large farm just down the road from me, but no: a friend in Doe Run Village pinpointed it at a property off Route 82 beyond Blow Horn. My brother said he had spotted a big white tent and UHS-colored balloons there when he passed by earlier in the day, so I suspect it was a graduation party.
Another friend said there was an outdoor party going on up her way as well, off Stargazer Road. "Wouldn't be so bad if the band was any good," she reported.