Friday, November 30, 2012

New knee

Best of luck to my dear friend and breakfast companion Karen, who will be getting a new knee on Dec. 10 at Christiana Hospital. She's been telling me about Christiana's excellent preop program for joint-replacement patients, where they've taught her all about the surgical procedure, the unit where she'll be staying, and what she can expect postoperatively. They even gave her husband a "Coach" pin to wear! I certainly hope she gets back on her feet shortly, and for entirely selfish reasons: I need my regular dose of Perkins pancakes.

Seen along the road

Thank you to "Unionville in the News" readers Mike and Becky Majeski for sending along this photo of a tree trunk they spotted along Lamborntown Road, south of Route 926, while following the Cheshire Hunt on Saturday, Nov. 24. They think it resembles the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, and I have to agree with them.
(Small world: I was driving west on Route 842 Saturday around lunchtime just as the Cheshire Hunt was crossing the road. I pulled over and got out of my car to say hi and watch -- and who was there directing traffic but Mike Majeski. He introduced me to his pals: "This is Tilda!") 
And below it is an excellent image of two longhorns grazing in a Doe Run pasture, photographed by Springdell resident Bernie Langer. Thanks, Bernie!

It's a puzzle

What a great idea! The Tender Touch gift store in Ercildoun is selling jigsaw puzzles depicting the (former) Blow Horn sign at Routes 82 and 841. You'll recall that in autumn 2011, the sign, painted onto the stone wall of the old mill at the corner, was either painted over or wore off, depending on who you talk to, causing great consternation among many locals and prompting the light-hearted "Occupy Blow Horn" rally. The Mosses, who live across Route 82 from the old mill, subsequently posted their own Blow Horn sign.

Lotto cash

Like lots of other people, I fell prey to the lottery fever that gripped the country on Wednesday. I bought three tickets ($2 each; I had to ask) at Wegman's in Downingtown and was happy to see that the "Powerball" number on one of them was in fact 6, which I have considered my lucky number ever since I was enchanted as a youth by Patrick McGoohan, who starred as #6 in the old TV series "The Prisoner."

Well, sure enough, that was the only number that matched those drawn that evening! You get $4 for matching the Powerball number, which means I suffered a net loss of $2. And to think that they let me serve as the treasurer of a local nonprofit group!
I heard that the odds of being killed by a soda machine toppling over on you were less than the odds of winning the jackpot. It was fun, though, speculating what we'd do with the untold riches. I consoled myself the next morning by noting that even if I had won the full jackpot, I still wouldn't be the wealthiest person in West Marlborough. By far.
By the way, Wegman's has a great buffet. A pal was up in Exton for an appointment with her orthopaedic surgeon (why, yes, it was an equestrian injury!) and we met at Wegman's for lunch. We absolutely loved the Asian buffet. We each piled too much on our plates, thinking we'd take the rest home for dinner. That didn't happen.

Berry strange

A West Marlborough resident reports a peculiar incident that occurred at her home on Monday, Nov. 26. Her dooorbell rang at 7:45 a.m. and "a total stranger wanted me to allow him to cut down my winterberry bushes so that he could make wreaths. I am thankful that he asked but I am still thinking about his nerve wanting to come into my front yard to cut down my bushes. I had them planted there for several reasons including the birds' enjoyment and for my enjoyment. However, I am glad that he asked and I thanked him for asking as I politely told him, "No," from the upstairs window."
I asked her if it would be okay for me to mention this in my column and she replied, "Sure - if it alerts folks. I think probably the man was OK but it was so early and the bush he pointed to was in my front yard. He rang the bell at 7:45 AM. I would never go to a stranger's house before 9 AM."

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Another Springdell dispute

Dan Waltson can continue to use the barn on his Springdell property to store trucks and mowers for his lawn-care business and he can tear down a 40-year-old mobile home on the property, the West Marlborough Township Zoning Hearing Board decided after a three-hour hearing on Monday night.
Mr. Waltson had to appear before the board because the mixed business/residential use of his property would not be permitted under current zoning, but because it was used for business purposes before the zoning code was enacted, it is considered a "nonconforming use," and he needs permission to make any changes.
After granting the permission, the zoning board praised Mr. Waltson for making the renovations to his barn, although they noted that he really should have gotten a building permit first, and thanked him for improving his property so nicely, converting "a green ugly metal building to a building that is truly good looking" and an asset to the village, as board member Baz Powell put it.
Zoning board chairman Clayton Bright said Mr. Waltson's renovations did enlarge the barn's footprint slightly, but removing the trailer would represent "an equal exchange." 
Next-door neighbor Gus Brown, however, was on hand to object to Mr. Waltson's plans. He questioned him repeatedly about various improvements he had made to the property, entering into evidence aerial maps, photographs and even a real-estate listing sheet (Mr. Brown is a real-estate agent, and you may recognize the name as one of those Springdell residents who also objected to the Whip Tavern's operations).
I asked Mr. Brown after the hearing why he was opposing the project. He told me that he didn't object to the business use of the property at all, but there was stormwater runoff from Mr. Waltson's property onto his land, he had had issues with some of his previous tenants in the trailer, he was concerned that there might be two residences on the property and he didn't like the fact that he had made the improvements without a permit.

Mr. Waltson agreed to the zoning board's conditions that he would not enlarge his business, would not permit any outdoor storage, would not store any chemicals or fuel on the site, and would not install any additional exterior lights. He said his operations have minimal impact on the village: his employees show up at 7 a.m. during the lawn-mowing season and do not return until dusk. No customers come to the property, and the business is closed entirely during the winter.
The board also asked him to address Mr. Brown's runoff issue with the township's engineer. Mr. Waltson will also be allowed to convert the second floor of his barn into an apartment, but it can be occupied only after he removes the trailer.
At the beginning of the zoning hearing, board member Joseph Huston said he wanted to disclose three things: that Mr. Waltson had cut his lawn; that Mr. Brown is a friend and neighbor; and that Mr. Waltson's attorney, Neil Land, represented the Whip (Mr. Huston, like Mr. Brown, was another Springdell resident who battled the Whip). Mr. Huston said he believed he could put aside those issues and decide the matter impartially.
However, Mr. Land asked Mr. Huston to recuse himself because of his friendship with Mr. Brown. Mr. Huston said he would just as soon go home and have dinner with his wife, and the zoning board chairman, Clayton Bright, agreed that perhaps that would be best.
The hearing was over at 10:15 p.m.; on the way out, one audience member commented that the hearing had probably been more entertaining than watching the Eagles game.

Monday, November 26, 2012


I'm writing this on Nov. 26, the first day of Deer Season. Surprisingly, I heard only one muffled gunshot this morning, in contrast to the usual sunrise barrage. I saw that the two ladies from the farm up the road had tacked up their horses with blaze-orange saddle pads, and just to be on the safe side I too will don an orange vest before I go out for my walk.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


A kind but germ-conscious friend who knows I used a stove-top popcorn popper, the old-fashioned metal kind that you crank, called the other day and offered to come over and scrub it out. It seems she had heard or read somewhere that bacteria can thrive in a popcorn popper and was concerned I might become ill.
A little taken aback, I thanked her but assured her that it would not be necessary.
I went online and found nothing whatsoever about any health hazards of using an unsterilized popcorn popper (and as any Internet surfer, knows there are PLENTY of scary websites written by hypochondriacs). In fact, I read that the oil has to reach above 400 degrees for it to make the kernels pop, which I'm sure is enough to kill any lurking bacteria, however hardy.
By the way, my Whirley Pop Jr. popcorn popper rocks. And it's American-made.


As I'm writing this on Sunday afternoon, it's overcast and 36 degrees and a few flakes of snow are spiraling around outside my office window -- the first of the season! Just this past week our township road crew posted the yellow "No Winter Maintenance" warning signs on the gravel roads I regularly travel. Here's hoping that we get more of the white stuff than we did last winter. As I recall, the only snow worth mentioning last season occurred before Halloween!
At Starbucks on Saturday -- you'll recall what a blustery day it was -- I got to chatting with a motorcyclist and asked him if his thickly insulated jacket and pants kept him warm while he was piloting his shiny BMW bike. Yes, he said, plenty warm, although when it drops much below 20 degrees, he hangs up the motorcycle keys. Sounds sensible to me!

Municipal business

I know you probably don't have an unscheduled 15 minutes in December, but in case you have Tuesday, Dec. 4, free, the West Marlborough Township planning commission and supervisors will be holding their monthly meetings. In addition to the regular business, the supervisors are going to hold a conditional use hearing about Russell B. Jones Jr.'s dumping of a large amount of mushroom compost on his Hood Road farm. The meetings start at 7 p.m. at the township hall in Doe Run.
I'll be there, knitting away, with a pen at the ready so that I can take notes when somebody says something quotable (which always happens).

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Artie Yeatman

I just got home from Meeting for Worship at London Grove Friends Meeting to celebrate the life of Artie Yeatman, who died on Nov. 11 at age 84. He was a kind, patient, gentle, loving man who lived a full, joyful and principled life. I don't think I've ever seen the meetinghouse so crowded: the pews were filled and people sat on folding chairs in the library and even upstairs in the balcony.
And for an hour and a half, people stood and spoke about Artie's kindness to them and the profound impact he had on so many lives, his love for gardening and the Earth, and his strong pacifist and Quaker beliefs.
Elinor Thomforde read a moving passage from "The Prophet":
"For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?
 Only when you drink form the river of silence shall you indeed sing. And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb. And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance."
What I'll remember is Artie's gentle smile and twinkling eyes and his unfailingly cheerful and positive outlook. Deepest sympathy to his family.

With gusto

I traveled to Phoenixville Friday night to see my friend Phil's band, Jimi's Not Home, perform at the Steel City Coffee House on Bridge Street. It was a terrific evening! The band sounded really good, and the reasonable volume allowed you to talk to your neighbor without screaming. It's a BYOB, so we walked across the street to the Franco Ristorante and bought a six-pack of Corona to go. (Talk about a welcoming town! We were just buying beer, but the restaurant employees held the door for us and gave us discount coupons for what they hoped would be our return visit.)
What I enjoyed most about watching the band was seeing my Phil, in a bright-red shirt, up there on stage, playing lead guitar, introducing songs and cracking corny jokes (his wife, sitting next to me, rolled her eyes). Here's a guy who has a very responsible, grown-up, serious job during the day. Yet there he was on stage, growling ZZ Top, Who and Rolling Stones lyrics. Gotta love it!
In the lot where we parked, across from the Phoenixville Foundry, we were rather surprised to see a towering, spotlit phoenix constructed from wooden planks. Apparently they torch the phoenix each year as part of the Phoenixville Firebird Festival, which this year is Saturday, Dec. 8. It looks very cool, and I'm told there are all manner of drummers, dancers and costumed revelers. Perhaps Kennett could make a similar bonfire part of the Mushroom Fest?
(By the way, sorry about all these Phoenixville evenings I've been writing about! I'll be closer to home, at the Kennett Flash, on Friday, Nov. 30, to see British New Wave rocker Wreckless Eric, a throwback to my college years. Can't wait!)


Now that the election is over, praise the Higher Power, all the pundits and columnists are playing Monday-morning quarterback, pontificating solemnly about what lessons we should all learn from the outcome.
Here's what I learned: Don't get into arguments, online or otherwise, with people about politics. It's a waste of good work time and it changes no-one's mind. Civil discourse is the first casualty, and when accusations and epithets start flying, things get very nasty, very quickly.
I eventually just removed myself from the crossfire. This tended to annoy people, who accused me of being cowardly or perhaps not having statistics to back up my arguments. Nope: I just don't want to get into a debate with you, that's all.


Here's hoping you had a peaceful Thanksgiving. We had a small and relaxed gathering at my parents' wonderful new home: a Butterball turkey that my mother said was the cleanest she had ever cooked in her 59 years of making Thanksgiving dinner, stuffing (yes, inside the turkey, thank you very much), brown rice, green beans, salad and rolls.
For dessert I was asked to bring cookies. I had planned to make pecan snowballs and ginger snaps, but on Wednesday evening my mother just happened to say, "You know, Tilda, your father loves those chocolate cookies you make." Fortunately I had all the ingredients for my triple chocolate/cinammon/walnut cookies on hand, and I baked a batch on Thanksgiving morning.
(I'm glad to share recipes; just email me at
After our early dinner we watched the Washington/Dallas football game, which was about the best contest you can imagine for holiday viewing: exciting and actually suspenseful.
I know a lot of people who got up before dawn on "Black Friday" to do some serious shopping, but not me. Actually I can't think of much I'd less enjoy than fighting hyped-up crowds at a mall. I worked, cleaned up the yard a little bit, and played tennis (in late November!), much more my speed.
On Facebook, the line where you post your status normally says, "What's on your mind?" On Thanksgiving they changed it to, "What are you thankful for?" My response: "Health, family, home and friendships: old ones, new ones and renewed ones."

Friday, November 23, 2012

The vortex

The Bermuda Triangle that masquerades as my side yard has sucked in another victim, this time the little cage that houses suet cubes for the birds. It usually hangs on the big walnut tree, but when I went to put out the first suet of the season it was gone. I searched in circles outward from the tree, tramping down the thick lamium ground cover. Nothing. What creature could have taken it? And why?
I improvised a hanger for the suet, and the birds don't seem the least bit bothered. It'll do fine until my next trip to Lowe's.
Years ago, just a few feet away, this apparent vortex swallowed a hefty S-hook while we were putting up the hammock. It simply disappeared. We spent the rest of the afternoon looking for it until we admitted defeat or started snapping at each other in frustration, I forget which. A few years later it resurfaced during spring planting, and I was utterly dumbstruck.
While I'm on the subject, here's my suet recipe. In the microwave melt 1 cup of peanut butter (the least expensive you can find) and 1 cup of lard, and add to 2 cups of quick oats, 2 cups of cornmeal, a cup of flour and 1/3 cup sugar. Spoon the result into plastic suet dishes (reused from the commercially made suet cakes) and refrigerate until set.

Route 41 crash

What a shame to read about the double fatal crash on Route 41 last week! It really hit home for me, because goodness knows I've pulled out of the Taqueria Moroleon parking lot onto busy Route 41 after dark many, many times. And I'll wager lots of you have, too.
A Cochranville friend shared this scary anecdote:
"I almost got it while waiting to make a left turn, years ago. A semi was approaching and the driver was looking for something on his dash, another semi was coming towards me in the other lane. School bus and telephone pole to my right. He started to skid and I knew I would be hit. I pulled forward, straddled the yellow line, and they passed me simultaneously at 40 mph....Mad Max lives!"


This was a little odd. I was at the gym the day before Thanksgiving when I got a call from my dermatologist's office in West Chester, wanting to confirm an appointment for somebody named Eileen. Ummm ... there's no Eileen in my family, I told the clerk. When I mentioned, however, that I was in fact a patient at the practice, she immediately apologized, saying the new computer system has apparently started switching patients' phone numbers around.
Not good.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Hot stuff

I had a memorably tasty dinner last night (Nov. 20) at Lily, the Asian restaurant in downtown Kennett. First we ordered the seafood tom yum soup, undeterred by the fact that (1) it had a little spiciness icon next to it on the menu consisting of THREE peppers and (2) the waitress emphasized that it was spicy.
The clear Thai soup came in an asymmetrical white bowl, and it was amazing, full of shrimp, fish, mushrooms, and cilantro in an orange-colored broth. And oh, my, yes, was it ever spicy. Thank you to the thoughtful waitress kept my water glass filled!
We also shared delicious sushi (tuna and avocado rolls).
I was glad to see that the restaurant was doing an excellent business, with most of the tables full. In fact, we sat at the sushi bar, which was fun because we got to watch the sushi chefs at work.


I bought my vehicle last December, and I've been thinking that I'd better get around to booking an appointment to get it inspected again. I assumed that because I bought it in December, the inspection would be valid through the end of this December.
WRONG. I checked the window sticker on Nov. 19 and was astonished to find that it had expired at the end of October!
Lest our township police officer, Lt. Bob Clarke, pull me over (he already calls me "Speedy" for some unjustified reason), I immediately drove over to the Springdell Garage and got it inspected on the spot.
Back in compliance!
By the way, the other day I got beeped at by the impatient motorist behind me because I refused to make a left turn from eastbound Baltimore Pike onto northbound Route 796 (in front of the crumbling Red Rose Inn) even though there was no oncoming traffic. Sorry, guy: the light for the turning lane was red; it's not one of those "yield on green" intersections. I am NOT turning illegally just to save you a few seconds.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Wolf's Hollow

Wolf's Hollow County Park could have been designed just for me: it's got amazing views, great hiking trails, lots of club moss and mountain laurel, and fascinating ruins of old stone structures -- all this only a few minutes north of Cochranville!
I had a great time on Saturday afternoon exploring the park's 569 acres. I printed out a helpful map of the seven miles of trails from the county's website and brought it along. A lot of the trails are level and easy, but be warned that there are some steep hills, especially along the Waterfalls Trail. (The waterfall was perhaps not at its best, but the little feeder pool just above it was very neat and unexpected.)
There are some stone ruins right along the Octoraro Creek and it's interesting to speculate about the hardy people who lived there. Right across the creek from the ruins is a very steep hill leading up to the Atglen Sportsmen's Club, whose members were discharging some serious ammo that afternoon.
Further along there are some amazing views from the Octoraro Ridge Trail, where I saw vultures circling at about eye level. I didn't realize there was such dramatic topography in our county; it reminded me more of South Mountain in central Pennsylvania.
You won't need any special shoes. I walked probably five miles wearing my usual sneakers and gym socks and was fine.
The parking lot was almost empty when I arrived but it was full when I returned. Out on the trails I saw only two other people, but near the ruins of Schoff Dam close to the parking lot there were dog-walkers, families and groups of young people enjoying the warm sunny day.

The park is off Schoff Road in West Fallowfield Township.

Chinese food

After I mentioned that I had dinner on Saturday at the King's Island Chinese restaurant, I was asked about the quality of the food since the restaurant reopened in the summer of 2011 following a kitchen fire the previous year.
I think it's very good indeed. I had chicken with black beans, ginger and scallions and my avid but picky eater friend had the kung pao chicken (which he rated as a 4 on the hotness scale; I would have put it higher). Good stuff, and very friendly service! We took leftovers home, too.

Saturday, November 17, 2012


May I take this Thanksgiving opportunity to thank you for reading "Unionville in the News"? It's so gratifying when people tell me they look forward to reading about my little adventures and anecdotes each week.
When The Kennett Paper started running my column, the editor, Fran Maye, predicted from day one that it would be a giant hit. I disagreed strongly with him, doubting whether anyone would be interested in hearing about the hyper-local day-to-day goings-on in my corner of the world.
Well, it seems he was right.
And a very special thanks to my friends, family and neighbors who appear regularly in "Tilda items." You know I couldn't do it without you!


My gym friend Kevin is an avid astronomer, and when I saw him on Friday, Nov. 16, he urged me to check out the Leonid meteor showers the next morning. They'll be at their peak, he told me, at 4:30 a.m.
So I set the alarm, and sure enough before sunrise I got out of bed, wrapped my fleece bathrobe tightly around me, put on my glasses and shuffled outside in my slippers. (The dog let out a few barks in surprise but then retreated into her doghouse.)
What a breathtaking sight! There were zillions of stars shining against the inky sky: Orion was unmistakeable, high up in the western sky, and the Big Dipper was low in the northeast. I stood outside for 20 minutes and saw only one meteor, a quick flash almost overhead, but the sight of the stars and Jupiter, Venus and Saturn was well worth leaving my warm bed.
If you're curious about the constellations, I highly recommend "The Stars: A New Way to See Them" by H.A. Rey (yes, the Curious George guy). My copy is seriously dog-eared from frequent use.
And by the way: What is up with the phrase "a meteoric rise"? Meteors don't rise; they fall.

Friday, November 16, 2012


I'm in the middle of my Christmas present knitting, and on this year's list are two identical scarves for family members. It's an intricate lace pattern, done with a very fine yarn and small needles, and it's especially maddening ("intermediate" difficulty, my foot!) because the pattern doesn't give you any "clues" as to where you are in a row, or whether you're even on the right side or the wrong side. Experienced knitters will know what I mean: with some projects your fingers can go on auto-pilot because you develop muscle memory, and you "know" that two stitches before the heart, you'll do a knit-two-together stitch.
So I'm sitting at a township meeting, knitting away, doing my yarn-overs to create the lace pattern, when a smart-alec meeting regular peers over my shoulder.
"That's not going to be very warm," he points out, teasing me. "It's full of holes!"
I gave him my best mock glare.

Land of confusion

On Monday, Nov. 26, at 7 p.m., West Marlborough's Zoning Hearing Board is going to review Daniel K. Waltson's request to use his half-acre Springdell property for storage for his landscaping business and to remove the existing mobile home. The property, in the 1300 block of North Chatham Road (Route 841), is zoned for Village Residential use.
It turns out that it's a very complicated situation, because it seems the buildings that are currently on the property -- the storage building and mobile home -- were there before the township adopted its first zoning ordinance, which makes it a non-conforming use. It doesn't meet the current regulations in terms of property size, setbacks or use, and the fact that there are both a storage building and an occupied mobile home on site means there are two "primary uses."

Also, Mr. Waltson did some renovations to the storage building -- he removed the deck and walkway and replaced them with an enclosed addition, without actually enlarging the building -- and he's seeking the zoning board's approval for that work after the fact.
I'll be at the meeting, and I'll do my best to write a clear account of what goes on. No promises, though!

Greenhouse fire

While driving south on Route 52 yesterday I went past Stephen's Gardening Creations, which was the site of a devastating fire on the night of Election Day. I was pleased to see that according to their sign, they're still managing to service customers' garden ponds.
The fire and the very loud tank explosions that accompanied it caused much Facebook chatter that night. I was having a late dinner at Longwood Family Restaurant when we saw all kinds of emergency equipment racing east toward the scene. I immediately checked Facebook and the news was already out there.
The fire reminded me of another local conflagration 100 years ago. On Jan. 27, 1912, at 8:30 p.m., an acetylene gas generator blew up at a stone house at 1225 East Baltimore Pike, Toughkenamon, owned by the Richards family. Thompson Richards died on the scene; his wife, Anna Scarlett Richards, and his daughter, Anna T. Richards, were seriously hurt and were taken to a Philadelphia hospital by train from Toughkenamon. The family dog was unharmed.
The next day some 3,000 curious sight-seekers flocked see the ruined house, arriving via automobiles, carriages and trolleys.
You can still see the stone wall that was in front of the house. Joe Lordi and Dolores Rowe have a full account of the 1912 explosion, with photos, in their book, "Greetings From Kennett Square."

Happy Diwali!

When I'm wearing my copy-editor hat, the job that pays the bills, I spend a lot of time working with people in Chennai, India, who handle the textbook production process. They're terrific, hard-working folks and great colleagues. Tuesday, Nov. 13, was Diwali, the Festival of Lights, one of the biggest celebrations of the year, involving fireworks, new clothes and lots of sweets. I sent emails to all of my editors there, extending my best wishes for a happy day.
Well, the response I got was amazing: they were incredibly grateful that I even knew about Diwali, much less would take the time to send them greetings. It seems that sometimes we Americans are a bit less global-minded than we could be.
Closer to home: Christmas stamps are available at the post office. This year the designs are Joseph and Mary silhouetted against the Star of Bethlehem; Santa and his sleigh; and fancy cartoon ornaments. I went with the latter.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Orphan sign

Attention, Chester County Day people: there's still a directional sign left over from your October tour on the north side of Route 926, between the London Grove intersection and Newark Road. It's nailed kind of high up on a utility pole; that's probably why no one has retrieved it yet.

Scaling back

Congratulations to my gym friend Georgia for reaching her weight-loss goal of 30 pounds! She said it was a matter of following the Weight Watchers "points" plan, rethinking portion sizes and food choices, and coming to the gym faithfully and working out hard. She is celebrating by going on a cruise with her husband and said she intends to skip the all-you-can-eat buffet.

In the neighborhood

Roses to the nice people at Kennett Florist for sending my parents a lovely arrangement to welcome them to their new home! What a nice gesture! The senior Tally-hos report that they have gotten an extremely warm reception from the community: they've already attended a neighborhood get-together, and they've been recognized as "You're Tilda's parents!" not only by Kennett Florist but also at their new polling place, the township building, their breakfast spot, their bakery and numerous other shops and restaurants. They are learning that anonymity doesn't last long in Unionville.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

First Tuesday

On the first Tuesday of each month, I cover the West Marlborough Township supervisors meeting.
Alas, also on the first Tuesday of each month, Penn Vet's New Bolton Center offers a veterinary lecture that's open to the public.
But because the township's November meeting was held a day earlier than usual due to the election, I got to attend the lecture, and I enjoyed it very much. It was all about headshaking syndrome, an unfortunate ailment that afflicts horses. The vet, Dr. Joy Tomlinson, did a great job explaining the pathology, the various treatments and the ongoing research.
I hope I'll be able to make it to another lecture at some point; the next one (Dec. 4) is "The Critically Ill Foal," given by Dr. Jonathan Palmer. Two friends of mine attend the talks regularly, considering them to be a valuable part of their continuing education for running a small farm.


Our local gyms have certainly had problems recently! This morning (Nov. 14) I went to the Kennett Y for a core class, only to find when I got there that it was closed until noon because of an early-morning gas line problem. And the previous week, a water main break at the Jennersville Y shut down its operations for a day.
Our local Ys are also adding some new classes. I've been taking "HIIT," which stands for "High-Intensity Interval Training." It's a half-hour of fat-burning, heart-pounding pain, and it certainly takes your mind off the problems of the day: all you can think about is getting through the set. I recommend doing it on an empty stomach. Word is that the Y is going to start charging a fee for these extra classes, however ($25 for 10 classes), and this idea is going over with members about as well as you'd expect. (The Y's explanation for the extra fee is that enrollment in these classes is going to be restricted so that each athlete will get personal attention.)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Garden cleanup

What a glorious Sunday it was! It was sunny and fully 25 degrees warmer than the previous Sunday (about which you will read more later in this column.) I was outside playing tennis and then doing garden work, planting tulip bulbs, cutting down dead stalks, pulling up withered annuals and ripping out the lamium that if left unchecked would completely obliterate the garden. (If you're looking for something that grows -- nay, thrives -- near a black walnut, may I suggest lamium, a hardy and attractive groundcover.)
A Facebook friend commented that she was way behind schedule in doing her autumn yard work, but she had a very good excuse: she was hosting family members who were forced to leave their Long Beach Island home during and after Sandy's ravages. They were able to return home this past weekend.


Everyone's schedules were forced to coincide, and the family went out to dinner at Floga Bistro to celebrate the birthdays -- one of them a momentous round number -- of the senior Tally-hos.
What a nice meal! I had the chicken/lemon/egg soup to start, and then angel-hair pasta with oil, pecorino and lots of garlic ("lots" being the way I like it). The Young Relative had the Zuppa de Pesce, with shrimp, mussels, calamari and other seafood, and other members of the party enjoyed the baked ziti and several chicken dishes. (All of us but my father took home neatly boxed leftovers.) The restaurant is a BYO, and my brother and sis-in-law were kind enough to bring a very special Navarro Riesling.
The Young Relative was bemoaning the fact that he had school the next day when his father had the day off from work, the very reverse of how things should be. I told him I would phone one of the school district powers-that-be on his behalf and complain.
"Yeah, right. Have you ever even talked to him?" the Y.R. asked doubtfully.
"I have!" I boasted.
"Was it more than, like, FIVE SENTENCES?" the Y.R. continued, with a distinct (and fully deserved) measure of sarcasm.
Well .... no, I confessed.
Since when are schoolchildren taught to be so suspicious and to pounce on the pretension of their elders, I'd like to know! It must be all this critical thinking they're learning in our schools!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Art show

I had a nice time at the 37th annual Art Gala at the Unionville High School today. An artist friend of mine whose works were on display invited me to stop by, and I was impressed at the quality and variety of the work of all the artists -- not only paintings but sculpture, photography, jewelry, ceramics, stained glass and furniture. A few of the local participants whose names you might know are Doug and Pat Mooberry, Neil Carlin, John Hannafin, Robert Jackson, Julie Dixon, Lele Galer and Kelly McConnell.
I especially liked Polly Davis Chalfant's tiny prints of creatures she creates by kneading erasers, Frank DePietro's waterlilies, Patsy Keller's fused glass, Sherry McVickar's barn paintings and Sarah Snyder-Dinsel's painted furniture (especially the charming little footstools decorated with frogs and goldfish).
My friend also said the Art Gala committee treated the artists extremely well, providing an excellent opening-night party. Proceeds benefit the high school's PTO.
I also browsed through the display of works by students; the art students at my high school were by far the hippest and most creative clique in the school, and it looks like nothing has changed.

More than a commodity

Yesterday I overheard a manager briefing her staff on the company's standardized plans for its Christmas products and campaigns. She showed them photos of merchandise that will have a "hard" and "soft" launch on certain dates and urged the employees to keep track of the company's daily promotions throughout December so customers wouldn't be better informed that they were.
I have to say, her pep talk left me cold, and even a little repelled. Yes, of course, all of the spending that goes on at Christmas keeps many merchants afloat and keeps the economy humming. Yes, stockholders demand profits. And yes, Americans like a certain amount of predictability and "branding": they expect each store in a chain to be pretty much alike. I know all that. But defining Christmas in terms of how to hawk gift cards and how often to change the canned soundtrack just seems phony (to quote Holden Caulfield).
This is why Thanksgiving is increasingly becoming my favorite holiday. It's one day. It's on a human scale. Everybody celebrates it. They haven't made it into a commodity with must-have geegaws and gimmicks and promotional tie-ins, except for maybe the free turkey offer at the grocery store. And as my regular readers know, I will be the last person to complain about that.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Pie day

A pal and I were running errands in the Thorndale area the other afternoon and my stomach started rumbling a bit. It's my friend's old stomping-grounds (she used to live in East Fallowfield Township), so she recommended the Double D Diner on East Lincoln Highway, where the road goes over the railroad tracks just east of Coatesville.
Great diner! We had coffee and delicious pie (pumpkin for her, cherry for me), ran into my mechanic buddy Fred, who was taking a break from his Modena garage to grab a late lunch, and chatted with some lovely retired ladies who were regulars.
Out of habit, my friend found herself reaching for her uneaten pie crust as if to toss it under the table; she shares her home with three dogs and they are always looking for handouts around mealtime.
She quickly realized what she was about to do and started laughing.
"You know," she said, "I really, really need to get out more."

A taxing question

Probably the most excitement at the West Marlborough Township supervisors' meeting on Monday, Nov. 5, was the fact that all the tables and chairs in the township hall had been rotated a quarter-turn from their usual position in preparation for the general election to be held there the next day.
However, there was some discussion about the township's newly enacted 0.5% earned income tax, which went into effect Oct. 1. Township secretary/treasurer Shirley Walton said all township residents should have received a letter from the Keystone Collections Group explaining their new tax obligations.
In the public comment section of the meeting, Springdell resident Gus Brown questioned whether the new tax had been properly enacted. He read aloud a passage from a state tax code document that he had brought along and said that based on his understanding of the law, the earned income tax can go into effect only on Jan. 1 and July 1, not on Oct. 1.
Supervisor Bill Wylie responded that the township's solicitor had advised the supervisors on the required procedure for enacting the tax, but the township would ask for his opinion on the issue raised by Mr. Brown.

Compost hearing

In response to neighbors' complaints about the mounds of spent mushroom compost being dumped on a field along Hood Road, there's going to be a conditional use hearing before the West Marlborough Township supervisors on Tuesday, Dec. 4.
Although the landowner, Russell B. Jones Jr., has a plan for the dumping that has been approved by the Chester County Conservation District, township regulations define mushroom compost dumping as a "conditional use." This means Mr. Jones must appear before the township supervisors, and they can impose additional conditions on the activity.
Neighbors have told the supervisors they are concerned about the truck traffic, the early-morning noise, and the possible environmental impact of the compost.
The compost is being dumped on a 90-acre property owned by Mr. Jones at the southeast corner of Hood Road and Mosquito Lane. 
Mr. Jones' attorney, Mary Ann Rossi of MacElree Harvey, West Chester, submitted the application for the hearing on Oct. 25, along with the $2,500 filing fee required by the township.
The hearing will be held at the township building just after the Planning Commission's 7 p.m. meeting.

Talkin' trash

I spent Saturday morning picking up trash along Route 82 from Doe Run east to Apple Grove Road. No, it wasn't some mandated community service: periodically the local conservation group the Buck & Doe Trust sponsors cleanup efforts along the part of the road it has adopted.
One of my litter-patrol buddies was "Mountain Goat" Pat Branum, who clambered up the treacherously steep roadside banks to retrieve bottles and stray pieces of trash. She is very thorough and was certainly not going to let brambles or vines get in her way. At one point I spotted a bottle in a creek and said, jokingly, "Pat, ya wanna get that?" She got wet up to the knees, but sure enough she did!
Amy McKenna, the president of Buck & Doe, thanked us all repeatedly for coming out on a chilly morning, but it was actually fun (the coffee, donuts and camaraderie helped) and it felt good to pitch in to keep our beautiful countryside litter-free.
Saturday's event was organized by board members Pam Smyth and Brendan Miney. In addition to Amy, Pat and me, other litter picker-uppers were Kim Dillon, Annie Jones, Janet Sidewater, Joe Huston, Brendan Miney, Pam Smyth and friend Lon. Amy tells me that the Buck & Doe Trust "is also organizing a similar clean up of the Laurels in conjunction with the Brandywine Conservancy later this month. The first event was rained out from Sandy."

Thursday, November 8, 2012


This afternoon my friend Susan and I visited the Coatesville VA Medical Center to see "The Wall That Heals," a traveling version of the black granite Vietnam Veterans Wall in Washington DC.
It was moving and sobering. The half-size replica contains the names of the nearly 60,000 Americans who died during the conflict, listed by "day of casualty" (a chilling phrase). Sixty thousand, each with a story, each leaving loved ones behind: it's beyond comprehension.
There's also an exhibit of photographs of the young soldiers, letters home, MIA/POW bracelets, helmets and boots and dogtags, and a map and summary of the Southeast Asian conflict that was a staple of the evening news when I was growing up.
One of the workers had a thick notebook containing all the names in alphabetical order, and he looked up my friend Larry's father and helped us to find his name. Maj. Charles Kesterson was killed by a land mine on May 4, 1966, at age 30.
There were probably a dozen people at the Wall, and another one of the workers told us there had been a steady flow of visitors during its stay in Coatesville.
That morning, before I emailed Susan and asked her to go with me, I thought, it's really windy; brrr, it's going to be cold out there. I had to laugh at myself: what a wimp! Compare that to the incredible discomfort, pain, anguish and danger that these brave men and women went through (and many still do to this day) to defend their country.
Still more locally: Did you know that there's a World War II monument at Unionville Elementary School? It reads "IN HONOR OF THE MEN AND WOMEN OF EAST MARLBORO, WEST MARLBORO, NEWLIN, AND POCOPSON TOWNSHIPS WHO SERVED IN WORLD WAR II TO PRESERVE THIS NATION AND PROTECT ITS HONOR - Erected by the citizens of these townships July 4, 1943."
(The "Marlboro" spelling is [sic], not my typo!)


Retired Unionville schoolteacher Don Silknitter and his wife, Joan, have started a West Marlborough Township group on Facebook as a way to share news with township residents. It has already become a big hit, full of information about election results and township meetings, as well as historical tidbits and photos.
Don't look for any political commentary, though: Don's strictly enforced rule for the group is NO POLITICS!
Don shared a wonderful postcard view of Doe Run circa 1907, showing Edwin Buffington and Thad Herr crossing Route 82, then a dirt road.
The group is up to nearly 100 members, and at the Nov. 5 township meeting, planning commission member Josh Taylor thanked Don for providing a very useful public service.
I don't want to neglect our worthy neighbor East Marlborough Township: in recent weeks they also started a public Facebook page that you can "like"!
(Sorry, but yes, you DO have to join Facebook to access both of these sites. Some people refuse to do so, and I can't say I completely disagree with them.)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


A month ago I mentioned that I'd gone in search of paperwhite bulbs and couldn't find any. Well, they are now in stock at RP Nurseries on Route 82 in Willowdale. I bought 20 bulbs this afternoon and have already planted two potfuls (and while I was at it I transferred a long-pot-bound aloe.) For $1 each, they will be a great mood-booster as the temperatures get colder and the days keep getting shorter: they produce a beautiful cluster of white flowers that has a spicy scent.

Hunt Cup 2012: Fried chicken

I was SO looking forward to the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup this year! The wonderful camaraderie, the excellent food and drink, the racing -- the whole atmosphere is just such a celebration. I deliberately left my phone at home because I just wanted to enjoy the day without distraction.
Each year is memorable, and this year what I'll remember is the fried chicken. Every tailgate party seemed to feature it. Ours was from Hood's, and they also included a whole tray of french fries and little tubs of unbelievably tasty mac and cheese (I ate two).
And, oh yes, I'll also remember the cold. We stood outside on the top of the hill for 6 hours in 40-degree temperatures, and that doesn't include the wind. Sun was predicted but was a total no-show. I wore fleece leggings under my jeans, two pairs of socks, fleece gloves, and multiple jackets, scarves and wooly shawls and ended up looking like a babushka. (And yes, I wore the equestrian-themed bracelets that my kind reader gave me!)
Actually I didn't get really, really cold until near the end of the day, and I was quite surprised to hear my friends complaining: after all, these are hardy people who go out foxhunting in sub-freezing temperatures and come home beaming with happiness. One fellow in my party even went home to retrieve a warmer coat -- and brought back steaming travel mugs of Irish coffee for us!
One very smart group of tailgaters on the finish line brought along a portable propane stove and had it nicely cranked up. Friends of the late Gil Sheck were out in force, as always, with Gil's black truck flying the American flag.
The racing was great fun and very exciting, and I was relieved that no one, horse or human, was seriously injured the entire day.
En route to the race course, the two Corgis in our party were bouncing off the walls in excitement. They got thoroughly spoiled all day long, and when we left, I think they fell asleep before we even pulled out onto Newark Road. I have a fair amount of stamina, but I fell into bed by 8 p.m. I'm not at all sure how anyone made it to the after-parties!
One note about the program (sold by some very energetic Upland students): the memorial pages and photos were beautiful.
Congrats to the whole Committee. It was a great day!

The song remains unsung

There are a LOT of Al Stewart fans out there! In last week's column I wrote about attending his wonderful concert on Oct. 26 at Phoenixville's Colonial Theater, and I keep getting asked: Did he do "Road to Moscow"? No, alas, he didn't. The history songs he did were "Palace of Versailles," "Lord Grenville," "On the Border," and "Merlin." (I guess "Gina on the King's Row" and "Soho" also count as history songs these days.)
He also sang "Antarctica," preceding it with biographical information about Shackleton and several other explorers.
"You might think this is a song about them," he said. "It's not. It's about a very cold woman" who refused to date him.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Tony on the move

The infamous Ponzi schemer Tony Young, late of West Marlborough, Palm Beach and Maine, has been transferred from the Federal Correctional Institution at Jesup, Georgia, to the Federal Correctional Institution in Fort Worth, Texas, a low-security institution housing male offenders.
Visit the Federal Bureau of Prisons website, specifically the rules and regulations and commissary lists at Forth Worth, if you want to see how drastically Tony's life has changed from his free-spending (of other people's money) days here in Unionville.
His projected release date: July 26, 2026.

Friday, November 2, 2012

A week late

Each year a wonderful pal of mine who is a globe-trotting wildlife photographer makes a custom calendar for me featuring his astonishing photos. So on Nov. 1, I eagerly flipped over to the new month's photo, which shows a polar bear shaking off the water from his fur, the spray making a graceful arc around his head.
Then I looked at the month's holidays: Daylight Savings Time ends on Nov. 4. Veterans Day is Nov. 11. And Election Day is -- Nov. 13??
Now why on earth did he postpone Election Day by a week? An innocent error -- or could it have something to do with the fact that he and I have diametrically opposed political opinions?

New Costco

The new Costco store in the Brinton Lake shopping center on Route 1 in Concord Township is set to open on Saturday, Nov. 10. Thank you to a faithful Tilda reader and Facebook friend for this excellent tip!
(And if you're interested, Costco stores will also be opening in Leicester in the United Kingdom on Dec. 1 and in Gwangmyeong, Korea, on Dec. 15.)

New clothes

After being closed for two days during Sandy, the Kennett Square boutique Chantilly Blue sent out an email to its customers offering a 20% "Cabin Fever" discount on one item. I'd been meaning to get in there anyway and help the economy, and this was all the incentive I needed.
What a great store! Beautiful clothes and unbeatable service. The owner, Lisa, knows her merchandise and her customers and has a great eye for what will look fantastic on each woman. She nixed one pair of jeans, pointing out they weren't as flattering as they could be, and called one black top "boring" as soon as she saw it on me. In 45 minutes I walked out of there with a new pair of jeans, a cozy Pink Lotus top and a festive silk top that I predict will get much use during the upcoming holiday season. So simple! Such fun!
Yes, online shopping is wonderfully convenient for basics, but Lisa's professionalism and pride make a strong argument for actually going into a brick-and-mortar local store.

Deer vs. vehicle

One recent evening I spotted a deer carcass along Route 82 in Doe Run (appropriately enough) and a lively conversation ensued about how deer don't just run out in front of vehicles; they also hurl themselves into the sides of cars, even stopped ones!
One friend had an especially unpleasant drive to work before sunup on Wednesday:
"Appears that Sandy has freaked out a bunch of wild things. Had a raccoon run right in front of the car, then moments later (just after my eyes unwidened) his tag-team partner deer ran right into the side of my car. Never saw it before, during or after the collision. If it's alive I hope it learned its lesson and told all its friends. That's the SECOND deer around here that's been so stupid it ran into the SIDE of my car!
"A quick inspection showed no real damage to the car (had to unfold the mirror and readjust it), except that it's in dire need of a washing now that it's covered with deer-deposited mud. Will now blow my horn early and often while driving to work."

Heads up, marketers!

Never stereotype people. I was changing in the locker room at the Jennersville Y this morning and a group of senior citizens were discussing electronics as they dried off from their water aerobics class. They'd all already experimented with the brand-new Windows 8 software and the latest iPhone model and had definite, vigorously defended opinions about them. They were experts as to which manufacturers offered the best laptop warranties (Dell), and they tossed around terms like "gigabytes" and "cloud storage" like they were teenagers.
What's that saying about you can't teach old dogs new tricks? Not true.

Apple Grove

Best wishes to the brave souls who are renovating the crumbling, long-abandoned farmhouse and giant barn on Apple Grove Road, east of Tapeworm Road. I thought it was way beyond repair, but the owners have been clearing the brush and vines that have accumulated over the years -- there's even a large pumpkin perched on the farmhouse porch! I think we'll all be eager to watch the progress of this challenging project.
Township historian Don Silknitter says back in the late 1970s this was the home of Charlie Elvin, who at that time was the oldest living resident of West Marlborough.
Speaking of Apple Grove Road, this morning I saw an artist stopped along the roadside, painting the view. I slowed down and told her that in my opinion Apple Grove is one of the prettiest roads around. She agreed: "It's unbelievable!"


An energetic friend of mine who is well known in the community was asked to help out at her East Marlborough polling place, as an especially large turnout was expected. She agreed, but only reluctantly: it meant she had to appear strictly nonpartisan, which meant she couldn't wear her earrings, hat or shirt emblazoned with the name of her chosen candidate!