Friday, May 31, 2013

The Squire

I usually see a neighbor of mine only when he is immaculately groomed and wearing an impeccably tailored business suit, often with a pocket square. So what a delightful novelty it was to spot him out in the field wearing a straw hat and jeans and tinkering with some farm equipment. Of course, he was still talking on his cell phone; being off-duty has its limits, after all.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

In the rough

This evening I was watching the Young Relative play baseball at the URA fields when a player tipped a foul ball over the backstop. It landed in a marshy area thickly populated with jungle-sized weeds. Two adventurous boys scampered out of the dugout and plunged into the vegetation, immediately disappearing from view. Less than a minute later they re-appeared, one of them triumphantly carrying the ball.
"Look at that!" I marveled. "They found the ball!"
"Well," my always-precise brother commented, "They found A ball."
And there are certainly some sluggers playing at the KAU fields off Route 82! On Sunday, while walking along the trail that borders the outfield, a friend and I found four baseballs sitting outside the fence that had not been there a few days earlier.

New Master

West Marlborough resident Anne Moran is the new Master of Foxhounds for Mr. Stewart's Cheshire Foxhounds; she joins Masters Michael Ledyard and Sanna Hendricks. "The Board of the Cheshire Hunt Conservancy is excited by Anne's willingness to serve and look forward to her commitment to the Hunt," said CHC president Bill Wylie in an email on May 30. 


My mother was distressed to learn that some landscaping work at their home would be done while they were away for a few days.
I was puzzled by this, and suggested that it might be nice to come home and have the work all done.
"But, Tilda," she said, "You know me. I want to be there and watch and ASK QUESTIONS!"
We were on the phone, but I am fairly certain my long-suffering father slowly shook his head at this point.


Exuberantly proud grandfather Robert Garrett of Unionville just e-mailed me ( to say that one of his grandchildren is on the Dean's List at Lyndon State Community College in Vermont, another is on the Freshman's Honor's List at Virginia Tech and a third just graduated from West Point! Bob (who is a member of the "Grateful Alive"  Seniors' Band) also suggested that "maybe some other proud grandparents in our area would like to boast about their "Dean's List" grandchildren in your column."

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Asking for trouble

Anyone in Unionville's horse world could have predicted that this photo shoot would have been challenging.
According to a recent "Wall Street Journal" review of a British exhibition by fashion photographer Tim Walker:
"In a 2009 image taken on the rolling hills of Northumberland, near Scotland, three huntsmen in scarlet coats guide their horses over a dilapidated fence, above which a giant UFO hovers. A pack of nine hounds bound along beside the riders. It took hours to get the right shot, says Mr. Walker, because the horses -- accustomed to chasing foxes, not aliens -- had to learn to tolerate the shiny silver object suspended on poles hidden in the picture. Even with all the practice, one horse hid behind the UFO in the shot, while another spooked at the fence."

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day

When I was a cub reporter, covering the lackluster local parades was anything but a plum assignment and inevitably fell to the most junior staff member, ideally an intern.
Obviously, I didn't work in Kennett Square. This year's Memorial Day parade was incredibly entertaining and, I believe, the best parade I've ever seen. Veterans, dignitaries, Mummers, tractors, antique cars, marching bands, fire trucks, military equipment, church groups, politicians, sports cars, the Batmobile, Little Leaguers, Scouts, martial artists, cyclists of all varieties (uni, motor, and penny-farthing), gymnasts, military re-enactors, bagpipers, schoolkids, folk dancers, a Chinese dragon, musicians, service clubs, Hood's BBQ ... it went on for two full hours, followed by a 21-gun salute at Union Hill Cemetery honoring those who gave their lives for their country. The weather was perfect and the crowd was large; I'm told that spectators were three or four deep in some spots on the sidewalk, and one woman near us said she had come all the way from Rising Sun, Maryland.
The friends I went with are avid parade-goers, to put it mildly, and throughout the morning people were complimenting them on their over-the-top patriotic headgear. We had a complete blast cheering and hooting and waving our flags.
Huge congratulations to the parade organizers for pulling off a classic small-town parade! Fantastic job.

Sunday, May 26, 2013


These newly hatched tadpoles will soon be sprouting legs on their way to becoming froglets. I spotted these little fellows sunning themselves in the shallow water of a tributary to the Doe Run.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Library tour

My friends on the Bayard Taylor Library's Special Events Committee have asked me to put one final plug in for their annual Home & Garden Day on Saturday, June 1, which as always benefits the library's children's programs. More information is available on the library's website -- if there are any tickets left, that is!
Heads up to local residents: This year the homes and gardens are in and around the Unionville area. Even though the tour route is always well marked, there may be some motorists driving around on Saturday who are lost or aren't used to driving on our one-lane roads. Please be patient.

Preview Party

Weathervanes and seafood: that pretty much sums up my Friday evening at the Brandywine River Museum's Antiques Show preview party!
"Weathervanes" was the theme of this year's show, and there were marvelous examples both on display and for sale. My favorite by far was a 1910 weathervane showing a squirrel munching on an acorn. Completely charming. $55,000. At the same booth I saw a couple buying a horse weathervane, and there was also an adorable fox weathervane with a lovely patina.
And as far as the seafood part of the evening goes: the lavish food included excellent shrimp, paper-thin smoked salmon, and a very popular sushi bar set up on the third floor, complete with chefs, servers, soy sauce and chopsticks. There was also carved-on-the-spot roast beef and turkey; a table of mini-quiches, Swedish meatballs, spinach-filled pastry triangles, and fruits and vegetables in the courtyard; and an array of wonderful tidbits brought around by volunteers. There were bars on each floor, too, and the most beautiful flower arrangements.
To me, the most intriguing booth this year was the one occupied by Charles Edwin Puckett of Akron, Ohio (, who specializes in illuminated manuscripts and antiquities. There were sturdy medieval metal buckles that would have been right at home in the "Game of Thrones" wardrobe room, as well as crosses and reliquaries and beautifully illustrated pages from prayer books. Even older were the rings, glass jars and miniature figures from ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt. Can you imagine using a shellfish spoon from 2,000 years ago?
Among the guests, I had the huge pleasure of meeting Lee, a long-time reader of this column who takes a great interest in my comings and goings. "You really know what's going on," she declared -- music to my ears! I also had fun talking local politics with East Bradford Township supervisor John Snook.
It was amusing to see the varied outfits worn by the visitors on the chilly, misty evening, a far cry from the usual warm late-May weather. I had planned to wear a little summer dress, but my plans changed drastically when the thermometer didn't rise much above 50 degrees. Bolder women, however, defied the weather and showed up in sleeveless dresses and sandals.

Energy Independence Day

On May 19 the Cranky Friend and I headed to Modena, a tiny town just south of Coatesville, for the Fifth Annual Energy Independence Day. It was sponsored by several "green-minded" small businesses, like Waste Oil Recyclers and Organic Mechanics Potting Soil, that have brought new life to a crumbling old industrial park along the Brandywine.
Victory Brewing was there with beer samples, Robin Mastrippolito, Confectioner, sold her amazing cupcakes (I had a chocolate and mint concoction called a Grasshopper), and there were displays from all kinds of sustainability-minded community groups and businesses. I especially liked the handmade hardwood cutting boards from Philadelphia Custom Block & Board ( (despite the name, they're located in Modena).
The live music was fantastic: it was the first time I'd heard my pal Dave Dickens sing, and he was awesome! I enjoyed seeing the extremely neat and already thriving gardens and raised beds around the buildings; there was even a pocket flower garden (literally) hanging from a rusty chain-link fence. Among the guests were local friends John Hodges and Jill Benjamin, Moira O'Neal, Sally and Hugh Lofting with their son, Claire Murray (organizing a kids' seed-planting project), and Rob Mastrippolito and Biff McNeil, both of Waste Oil Recyclers.
The Cranky Friend was captivated by Deborah Kates' demonstration of the jam-making process, from boiling up the strawberries (the aroma was unbelievable) to filling and sealing the little glass jars. He even got to take a jar home, still warm from the canner.
Thanks to my "Mogreena" friends for a delightful afternoon!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Bridge hearing

Thursday, June 20, at 7 p.m. is the rescheduled date for the hearing about Dick Hayne's proposed bridge at his Doe Run Farm in West Marlborough. An April 24 zoning hearing was cancelled at Mr. Hayne's request. The proposed steel box beam bridge, off Route 841 near the S-curve east of Thouron Road, would be about 56 feet long and 12 feet wide, with oak planking. It will be able to carry not only cattle but also farm equipment.
Speaking of Doe Run Farm, check out the June 30 issue of "Wine Spectator"; there's a story about the award-winning cheese the farm produces! (Thanks to Bill Clement for that tip.)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Winner's circle

Last night I stopped in at the Whip Tavern in Springdell, and as they do every Wednesday evening during the steeplechase season, they were showing footage of the previous weekend's races. Jody Petty, who had ridden two horses to victory at Radnor, was there, and it was such fun to watch the footage with him.
One race had a particularly nice finish, and we all congratulated him. He would have none of it, deflecting all the credit to his horse, Mr. Skip, instead.
"Wasn't me," he said. "It was all him."
When the post-race interview came on, he said he could barely stand to watch it, and we all agreed how disconcerting it is to hear your voice on a recording.


In the May 21 primary election, incumbent West Marlborough Township supervisor Bill Wylie held off a challenge from retired Unionville Elementary teacher Don Silknitter, 49 votes to 38 (56% to 43%). Voter turnout in West Marlborough was 18% (lame, but still better than the county-wide 10%): 87 West Marlborough Republicans came out to vote (31% of the total number of township Republicans) and 22 Democrats (10% of the total number of township Democrats). One explanation for the discrepancy might be that the supervisors' race was only on the Republican ticket.
Inspired by all of my pals who ran the Kennett Run last weekend, I decided to take a mid-day break from my editing work to jog down to the polling place. I planned to walk back. Unfortunately, I kept seeing people on the way back -- boys fishing, people riding, motorists I knew -- and I just couldn't let them see me walking while wearing my running clothes. So I ended up jogging (actually trotting) most of the way back. All uphill. Ouch.

A bright future

Last night was the Young Relative's open house at Hillendale Elementary, and I was blown away by the talent and creativity of the students. Their science projects were ingenious: as a baker I especially liked one experiment where two girls tested whether adding food coloring to vanilla cupcakes affected taste-testers' ratings. (It did. They ran the statistics and showed sample forms from the taste-testers.)
In another project the Young Relative and his colleagues had to try to solve a CSI-like murder involving a poisoned soda, given a set of clues. They used pH, DNA, chromatography, fiber analysis and other techniques to narrow the list of suspects. There was no one "right" answer; each student just had to present the most convincing case he or she could. One student prepared a final report that was so professional-looking I thought it was perhaps a corporate newsletter.
Outside of one classroom was a bulletin-board display of Idioms. The kids drew the literal meaning of phrases like "in one ear and out the other," "head full of rocks" and "his bark is worse than his bite" -- hilarious cartoons! -- and then stated the figurative meaning.
Do I need to say that the Tally-ho family will miss Hillendale Elementary next year?

London Grove Lake Club

Lake swimming is one of my favorite things, and I just found out that the old Avon Swim Club in London Grove Township is thinking of reopening! They didn't get enough members to open this summer, but there's an open house for potential members on Sunday, June 9, from 4 to 6 p.m. at the water-filled former quarry, which is located just off Route 41 near the Baltimore Pike intersection. London Grove Township owns the site, and you can find a lot more information about the plans for the quarry on the township website and the "London Grove Lake Club" Facebook page. 


I am beyond relieved and happy to put to rest the rumor that Hood's is closing. At lunch yesterday I asked Larry if there was any truth to the rumor and he said absolutely not; in fact, they have plans for improving the restaurant still further (if that's possible). Hood's pretty much serves as Unionville Central for our community; you will definitely see people you know there.
By the way, I tried their taco salad yesterday and it was delicious. And don't forget, they sell milk from Baily's Dairy!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Spring Fling

Buck & Doe Trust's annual outdoor breakfast in the Laurels is an event I try not to miss. To start with, it's the one time of year you're allowed to drive your vehicle down that narrow trail to the covered bridge. Number two is the amazing food: pancakes cooked on the spot by Jerry Brown (this year with honey-cinnamon and orange-flavored butters!), donuts, strawberries, sausage and coffee. Number three: it honors the generous local people who help to protect our beautiful countryside by easing their land.
Sunday morning we ate inside the covered bridge because it was a little misty out. Part of the bridge's wood decking is raised by a few inches, and it certainly gave my short frame a boost when I was talking to tall people who usually loom over me.
And what entertaining conversations with old friends and new! How to control multiflora rose and mile-a-minute vine; the idiosyncrasies of local tennis courts; Macs vs. PCs; and of course the local news du jour. (In one case I noticed that the person being discussed was, in fact, present and standing just feet away. Ah, the island of Unionville!)
Inside the covered bridge were displayed two maps, one showing the amount of conserved land before 1984 and the one next to it showing the amount at present. One member of my party didn't realize that he was supposed to compare the two maps; he peered at the earlier one and said, "Wow, I thought there was a lot more than that." Without a word I pointed to the "Pre-1984" sign. "Ah. That would explain it," he said.
Thank you to the Buck & Doe Trust for the invite!

Twin sons

West Marlborough residents Don and Joan Silknitter are grandparents times two! Their daughter, Donna Silknitter-Rauchut, and her husband,Thomas Rauchut of East Fallowfield Township welcomed twin sons, Christopher Thomas and William John, on April 15. Congratulations! I have seen photos of the little guys and they are adorable.

Holding on

Our local Y instructors make a point of knowing their students' strengths. The other day we were doing an isometric inner-thigh exercise that started burning almost immediately, even though I have pretty strong legs.
"Try to hold it for a couple of breaths," our instructor advised. "Except for my horse people. You guys can hold it for five minutes."

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Over the dam

Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, my 1950 postcard of the Conowingo Dam is going to be part of a talk at the Smithsonian Institution!
"Explain yourself, Tilda!" you demand.
The father of my late (and much-missed by all of us) "significant other" John was a DuPont engineer who in the 1920s helped to construct the hydroelectric dam, which spans the Susquehanna River in Maryland. He and his wife paid a visit to the dam on Feb. 12, 1950, and purchased a postcard as a souvenir.
Flash-forward to 2005: After their deaths and John's death, I inherited all the family scrapbooks, a treasure-trove of snapshots, memorabilia, and details of Eastern Shore farm life in the mid-20th century. In March 2012, when I was writing a blog entry about the bald eagles at the dam, I remembered the postcard, scanned it and used it to illustrate the item.
So on Friday evening, more than 63 years after that visit, I received this e-mail from J. Patrick Megonigal, Senior Scientist & Deputy Director at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, Maryland:
"Tilda, I am writing for permission to use an image you posted on your blog: a post card of the Conowingo Dam. I will be talking about the dam in a speech to the Smithsonian Institution on Monday (20 May) and would like to use it to illustrate the dam. The speech is called the “Coastal Anthropocene” and it involves sediments running into the Chesapeake Bay. I believe my speech will be posted online for posterity."
Is that cool or what?! Of course, I immediately gave him permission to do so.


Order on the court

My tennis partners and I pretty much stank up the joint on Saturday: I double-faulted three times and we all missed easy shots. You could tell how things were going by our increasingly implausible excuses for our poor performance. One opponent blamed her sunglasses; she took them off, and then the next game complained the sun was in her eyes. Another claimed the swirling wind was working against him. The wind can certainly be a valid excuse on some days, but yesterday it amounted to little more than a zephyr.
But I may have concocted the lamest excuse of all: I hit a serve into the net and promptly blamed it on a Holstein mooing at the Fishers' farm next door. Yeah, right.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Case closed

The Cypress Street hedge blocking the view of motorists pulling out from Race Street is no more! The homeowners cut it down promptly after borough officials discovered that it hindered drivers from seeing oncoming traffic. Thank you to Borough Council Member Dan Maffei for following up on my initial concern and for keeping me and my readers informed!

The Hours

The summer hours are in effect at the Unionville Post Office. The window is open from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 7 a.m. to noon Saturday. As always, access to post office boxes is 24/7/365.

Barn foundations

I've noticed that since Seth Hinshaw's talk about historic barns in Kennett Township, I've been paying much closer attention to all the barns I see while driving around. Mr. Hinshaw, an architectural historian, spoke to a standing-room-only crowd (I was one of those standing) at a May 16 lecture at the Kennett Township building sponsored by the Kennett Township Historical Commission.
His theme was that barn styles evolved over the years because of three factors: livestock, grain and agricultural implements.
In 1780, he said, the average farm had two horses, two cows and three sheep. By 1850, those numbers had risen to three horses, four dairy cattle, seven beef cattle and three sheep, and the animals were bigger due to the introduction of new breeds and the use of selective breeding. Grain production increased because farmers were growing higher-yield crops, rotating crops and using fertilizer. And with improvements in harvesting equipment, like the grain drill and Wiley plow, both invented locally, farmers could harvest more acres of grain.
Thus, farmers needed more barn space to accommodate not only larger animals but also larger harvests and expensive new equipment.
To illustrate his lecture, Mr. Hinshaw used slides of barns along Chandler Mill Road, McFarlan Road, Burnt Mill Road, Bayard Road, Kaolin Road, Sills Mill Road, Hillendale Road, Pennfield Drive, Bucktoe Road, South Union Street, Old Kennett Road and Longwood Gardens.
He said that while preparing his talk he pored through Futhey and Cope's definitive book on Chester County history but couldn't find any Kennett Township images: "Can you believe it?" he asked.
In the crowd I saw members of the township's historical commission and the planning commission, former township supervisor Tom Nale, my friend Bill Landmesser, Police Chief Albert McCarthy and his wife Cheryl, and Unionville residents Ruth Thompson and her son, Larry.
Before the program Sara Meadows, who chairs the Historical Commission, presented Jay Roland Minshall with a plaque honoring him for his years of service. Commission member Marion Guthrie's lovely paintings of Kennett Township scenes were also on display.
Thank you to the Historical Commission for an educational evening! The cookies were good, too.

Thursday, May 16, 2013


How often does this happen: my credit card company just sent me a $5 Starbucks gift card! (I had a choice of Dunkin Donuts and Panera Bread, too.) Wonder if Barclaycard's largesse had something to do with my recent computer purchase, which  wasn't an extraordinary amount but certainly marked an variance from my routine line items of Giant, Landhope, L.L. Bean, and various local dining spots.

Swan song

How can it be that I just attended The Young Relative's final elementary school concert? Where did the time go? As always the Hillendale musicians and their teachers put on a fantastic, most entertaining show. "Aunt Rhodie's Appetite" and "Wipe Out" were particularly cute numbers.
And -- OK, I'm getting choked up just writing this -- I will so miss seeing the principal, Steve Dissinger, in action. He is the very model of an elementary school principal. Watching him interact with the kids, displaying such warmth and respect, restores my faith in our educational system.
Onward to Patton Middle School! (I have it on good authority that the musical programs there are pretty cool as well.)


You'd think I'd be used to the toughness of equestrians by now, but it never ceases to amaze me. Over lunch at Hood's yesterday a pal was ticking off this past season's horse-related injuries: a concussion, a broken ankle, and torn ligaments.
"What about your broken toe?" I asked.
She looked up in genuine astonishment.
"Oh yeah!" she said. "I'd forgotten all about that."
And on his blog, one of our local superstars in the eventing world ran a couple of photos taken during his ankle surgery at Christiana Hospital. It was fascinating to see how neatly the surgeon repaired his torn tendons.
And you wonder why there are always advertisements for orthopaedic surgeons in the programs at equestrian events!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


Hey motorists, when you're driving through Unionville on Route 82, please do me a favor and slow down when you're passing the URA ball fields. They are VERY heavily used this time of year, but some drivers seem oblivious to that fact and just speed through.

A weighty discussion

At the gym class yesterday we were doing an upper-body exercise called "W's," so named because you start with dumbbells in front of your face, then bring them down to your shoulders, and then way up and out.
The sole Republican member of the class, said, in a nostalgic tone, "Aww, W, my favorite president!"
A less conservative classmate quickly responded: "You MUST mean Washington."

In the garden

Last night I had a great time walking around the garden at my parents' new house, identifying plants and trees. The previous owner was a spectacular gardener, and because this is the first spring my folks have lived in the house, it has been an adventure watching what's blooming and what wildlife is visiting (lots of birds, fox, deer, and a truly massive groundhog). My mother and I were delighted to find lots of jack-in-the-pulpits, and she didn't realize that there was a sweet gum tree in the front yard.
Back here, I'm trying a thunbergia (Black-Eyed Susan Vine) as my climbing vine this year, and so far so good: I planted it last week and already I've had to tie its little tendrils up twice as it starts to encircle the lamp-post. Last year's moon-vine was wonderful, but it didn't flower until the very end of the summer. This one is supposed to blossom earlier.
No signs of pumpkin sprouts yet. I'll give them another week before I replant. The four types of sunflowers are coming up like gangbusters, though!

A walk in the park

Kennett is a really small town sometimes. On Saturday I went out for a walk in Anson Nixon Park with a friend of mine, and yes he happens to be good-looking and of the male variety, and afterward we stopped off at the Half Moon for some refreshments.
The very next morning I got an email from a mutual friend saying he had spotted the two of us, and was there something romantic going on (at this point he added about five question marks, indicating his avid curiosity). I assured him that no, there wasn't. Yeesh!
By the way, during our walk we noticed that Anson Nixon Park has its own "green light on the dock," just like in "The Great Gatsby." It's just a tiny green indicator light on some kind of equipment attached to a wooden platform, but from the other side of the lake, by the amphitheater, the light looks as big as a beacon.
My companion was the first to spot it, and he nudged me and pointed. "Gatsby," was all he needed to say.

End of the road

Yesterday, heading into Unionville for lunch, I saw our West Marlborough road crew working on Tapeworm Road at Route 82. I stopped to chat and found out they were improving the footing on the gravel road for a few yards so that motorists wouldn't spin out as they entered the paved road (we've all done that!). I saw similar improvements on other gravel roads, too.
In other local roadwork, I think PennDOT workers were the ones who cleaned up the shoulders of Route 842 between Newark Road and Route 82 on Tuesday.

Sunday, May 12, 2013


This was the first Mother's Day for a young friend of mine -- and it was a double celebration. Last May she and her husband had no children; now they have two, a boy and a girl. While they were in the process of adopting an orphaned girl from Africa, my friend discovered that she was expecting. The new family -- and they are so adorable together! -- spent Mother's Day going to church, taking a hike and getting ice cream.


The Willowdale Steeplechase committee obviously has some pull with the Higher Power: the weather on Sunday was perfect for an afternoon of racing and tailgating. The crowd was big, but it never "felt" crowded.
The races were very exciting, and what's neat about Willowdale is that you can see almost the whole race without hurrying from one side of the course to the other. The outriders, from River Hills Fox Hounds, saw quite a lot of action, as several horses unseated their jockeys and went running off, with the outriders in hot pursuit. (One member of my party, not a shabby rider himself, said he greatly admired their horsemanship: "I mean, you have to be able to take a jump AND grab the horse's reins at the same time!") One loose horse stayed in the race, riderless, until almost the finish line.
I saw lots and lots of friends and neighbors, many of whom were kind enough to feed me extraordinarily well: filet of beef sandwiches and amazing shrimp at one party; a Capriotti's "Bobby" sub at another (turkey with stuffing and cranberry sauce); vegetarian wraps and wonderful desserts at the third. A lot of the ladies wore festive hats, although the wind presented a bit of a challenge; one of my hostesses, a high-school teacher, kept her beautiful black hat in place with a long (and practical) hatpin as she poured out mint juleps to her guests.
Compliments to the Willowdale committee on another well-organized event!

I am so sorry!

Readers, I want to apologize and explain something that appeared in my column in last week's Kennett Paper.
I wrote about the overly revealing prom dresses that some girls were wearing this year and how standards have fallen since I was in high school. Unfortunately, the Kennett Paper editor chose to illustrate the item with a photo depicting four lovely and appropriately dressed young women who could serve as absolute models of good taste. The photo was NOT part of my blog and was put in without my knowledge after I submitted the column. In no way should readers assume that my item referred IN ANY WAY to these young women.
My heart sank the instant I saw the photo in the paper, but I know it was nothing compared to what the girls and their families and friends felt. I'm told they are honor students and involved in all kinds of volunteer activities. I am so very sorry that the paper ran this photo, and I am very cross with my editor for doing so.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Back in print

As an avid re-user and recycler, I cannot in good conscience throw out a piece of office paper that is printed on only one side. It eventually gets reloaded back into the printer. So the other day I was giving my quarterly financial report to a nonprofit group I belong to, and one of my fellow board members said she found the reverse side of the profit-and-loss statements far more interesting: it was a recipe for mushroom soup from the New York Times.
Another board member's financial statements were on the pages of a book on religion that I'd printed out to proofread on hard copy. "Apparently you didn't like the capitalization," she observed.

Tell me more!

I ran into a woman on Saturday morning who asked me why I wasn't at a certain community meeting. "I expected to see you there," she said. I explained that I wasn't really enthralled with the group in question -- but, I asked eagerly, what happened at the meeting? She started laughing and I realized that I simply cannot get away from my sense of curiosity. It's genetic.

Plant Sale

I look forward to the London Grove Meeting Plant Sale all year, as much -- I confess -- for the camaraderie as for the flora. I arrived a little before 8 a.m. (the serious early-birds were already leaving), got a cup of coffee and spent the first half-hour walking around chatting with neighbors and friends from all the circles of my life before actually getting down to business.
There's a comforting familiarity about the sale: You know where the Brandywine and London Grove tomatoes will be. You know where Plant Parking will be. You know Margaret Walton will be there selling hanging baskets.
I ended up buying a lovely blue columbine for the new shade garden, a valerian (wonderful fragrance!), some blue salvia for the cutting garden and a tomato plant. I also took home a renewed appreciation of the Plant Sale's perennial sense of community, friendliness and hospitality.
As one wise Quaker lady said to me: "Sometimes people are more important than plants."
(And a special thanks to those of you at the Plant Sale who said nice things about this little column. Very much appreciated.)

Friday, May 10, 2013

For the taking

I mention this each spring, but it's worth repeating. There's a you-shovel-it pile of spent mushroom compost at the southeast corner of Routes 841 and 842 here in West Marlborough, courtesy of Marlboro Mushrooms. It's absolutely free. You can just bring your pickup and start shoveling; people with smaller vehicles can just bring bins to fill. I've used it for years and it is excellent for your garden.


Jeff, the owner of Pack-N-Ship (in Jennersville and Kennett), certainly knows his customers. On display at his stores are not only shipping boxes and office supplies -- but also books on riding, horse care, dogs, and raising backyard poultry.

Garden fail

Last fall I ordered only half my usual number of tulip bulbs in an attempt to see whether the previous year's tulips would re-flower. I got a clear answer: they don't. The very few old ones that bloomed were miniature-sized and unsatisfactory. I will continue to treat tulips as annuals and will order my usual quota this autumn.


I had a great light dinner at Lily's Asian restaurant on State Street yesterday evening. The "Spring" sushi sampler was just delicious and only $11, including a salad. Even the Cranky Friend smiled and -- hard to believe! -- rubbed his belly in satisfaction.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Stuff the bus

A Kennett school-bus driver pal of mine sent along the following request:
"I was wondering if you could share something that my bus company (Krapfs) is doing for the apartment-house fire victims on Starr Road. There were 18 students from Kennett that had lost everything, and we are doing a 'stuff-the-bus' with everything anybody could offer them. It is from May 13 through the 24th at the Walnut Street bus parking lot. I was hoping you could help us so more people could donate."
Consider it done, D. A great idea!


The other day I was sitting on the back deck eating carrots and guacamole and reading the Kennett Paper and heard that familiar chittering noise: the first Ruby-Throated Hummingbird of the season had arrived! She perched on a pine branch for a few seconds and then came to the feeder and drank a fair amount of nectar. So glad I put up the feeder: my mother had phoned the night before to alert me that a hummer had just arrived at her house, just a few miles east. They are late in arriving this spring.
I saw the first male two days later (males have the red "gorget"), but just for a few seconds.
A West Marlborough neighbor reports that she just saw the first Baltimore Oriole of the season at her house! Eastern Meadowlarks and Bobolinks have also been spotted.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Springdell neighbors

At the May 7 West Marlborough township meeting, Springdell resident Lynn Powell once again complained about the parking situation at the popular Whip Tavern. Mrs. Powell, one of the original "Springdell 8" who brought legal action against the Whip, charged that the Whip is using Springdell resident Bernie Langer's driveway as a parking lot without seeking permission from the township.
Township engineer Al Giannantonio said he looked at the property in response to the letter and photograph she submitted last month and said that Whip employees are parking in Mr. Langer's driveway with his permission, but it's not being used as a formal parking lot.
(During a break in the meeting Mr. Langer, clearly upset with Mrs. Powell's actions, asked me if the township taxpayers are going to have to foot the bill for Mr. Giannantonio's time.)
Mrs. Powell also urged the supervisors to encourage the Whip to "live within their footprint" by posting "no parking" signs on the south side of Route 841, where Whip patrons park when there is no room in the parking lot. Supervisor Bill Wylie said because there was no safety issue involved, "we couldn't justify" putting signs there in addition to North Springdell Road.

Horse sense

At its May 7 meeting, the West Marlborough Planning Commission heard a request from Denise Richmond, who owns the property at 409 West Street Road, just east of Vince Dugan's training facility. She wants to tear down the house, combine three small lots and build a new house and a stable and paddock for one horse.
The planning commission told her that per the township ordinance, she would need to have at least two acres per horse. Because her site is only 1.64 acres, she would need to seek a variance from the township's zoning hearing board to proceed.
Her engineer said they would discuss the matter and would consider rethinking having a horse at the site.

New supervisor

Josh Taylor is the new West Marlborough Township supervisor, replacing Michael Ledyard, who stepped down from his position in April.
Mr. Taylor was the chairman of the township's planning commission, and its members aren't happy to lose him.
"You can't have him," chorused members Nancy Swayne and Anna Myers as Supervisor Bill Wylie announced Josh's promotion at the beginning of the township meeting May 7.
Mr. Wylie was unmoved: "You'll have to come up with another chairman," he told them.
Mr. Taylor is wearing a sling on his right arm after shoulder surgery, and as he took his seat at the supervisors' table, one audience member called out, jokingly, "Looks like they really had to twist your arm."
Both Mr. Wylie and Supervisor Hugh Lofting praised their former colleague Mr. Ledyard and thanked him for his service. Mr. Wylie called him "sensible, optimistic, well-spoken and even-tempered," and Mr. Lofting recalled how he could always "keep things simple and straightforward." Mr. Lofting said he appreciated Mr. Ledyard's ability to cut through legalese (he is an attorney with Morris James in Wilmington) and pointed out that being a supervisor can be a demanding job: "Somebody's always irritated," he said. "Mostly at you."
The supervisors took a brief break from the meeting to honor Mr. Ledyard with a reception featuring an Italian rum cake from Termini Bros. bakery in Philadelphia.
The photo shows Josh (left) and Mr. Wylie.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

To the center

Last weekend I joined maybe 30 others, from kids to senior citizens, at the Delaware Art Museum's outdoor labyrinth to mark World Labyrinth Day, a worldwide celebration in which people around the globe walk the labyrinth at 1 p.m. Here, Labyrinth-Master Carol Maurer welcomed everyone and the members of the Cathedral Choir of Wilmington filed in, lining up at the far end of the former reservoir. As they started singing (great acoustics!), the guests entered the labyrinth as they felt moved to do so. The beautiful music, the warm sun, the crunch of gravel underfoot and the sense of camaraderie all made for an inspiring event.
You can find out more about labyrinths on Carol's blog,, or There's also a video of the event on the Art Museum's website.

I thought so!

A few weeks ago I mentioned that there's a hedge that makes it really tricky to see oncoming traffic when you're pulling out from Race Street onto Cypress Street in Kennett. Kennett Borough Council member Dan Maffei just sent me an update:
"The Chief measured the distance to the hedge in question and it is definitely a violation of the minimum clear sight line as defined by highways association. He has approached the owners and will give them 30 days to comply."
Thank you so much for following up, Dan!
In other Kennett news: it's a nice touch to have the borough's Parking Enforcement Officer doing double duty as crossing guard at the First Friday Art Stroll. Light stick in hand, he was shepherding visitors across the intersection of Union and State Streets when I was there.

Sunday, May 5, 2013


I loved seeing the prom photos in last week's Kennett Paper, but I'm not the only one who noticed that some of the young women seemed to be falling out of their dresses. I know, I know, every generation says this about the fashion choices of the younger one. In my day, we all rolled our eyes at the totally square school rule dictating that mini-skirts couldn't be any shorter than our fingertips.
In the case of these skimpy prom dresses, though, school regulations wouldn't have even applied: my mother would NEVER have let me out of the door showing as much skin as these girls do. My mother is far from a prude; she's just sensible.
And today the ramifications are even more far-reaching: with the Internet, these revealing photos are going to be around forever for future business clients, patients, employers and employees to see -- not to mention random voyeurs and creepos. Not a pretty thought.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

All Over Manhattan

A Unionville friend -- the one with the new knee -- got a call out of the blue from a friend and former boss, offering her a discount week at a timeshare in midtown Manhattan. My friend, an avid traveler just back from the Grand Canyon, jumped at the chance and headed north with her daughter.
They had a splendid time and perfect weather: they walked in Central Park (did I know, she asked, that there is a Literary Walk there?), visited and were deeply moved by the 9/11 Memorial, studied Egyptology at the Met, took a double-decker bus tour around town, and saw "Spiderman" and "Wicked" on Broadway. She loved the High Line, the linear park on what used to be an elevated railway.
She enjoyed the fact that cabs now take credit cards and admired the "sophisticated suits" on the businessmen; the women "all were wearing very high heels," she said, holding her fingers a few inches apart to indicate the heel height.
What she didn't like was the lines and the crowds: "it was just a little claustrophobic." As soon as they saw the long lines for discount theater tickets, they decided just to ask their concierge to get the tickets for them. Walking on the jammed sidewalks "was like running a gauntlet," especially since she still has to be cautious on curbs and steps with the new knee.
She said that although they had a great week, "we agreed we are glad we live in the country."

First editions

My book-collector pals probably won't be pleased that I'm publicizing this: but there's going to be a really interesting auction at 816 Newhall Road, East Marlborough, on Thursday, May 23 (preview is 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 11). On the auction block will be some Bayard Taylor first editions, an 1883 Chester County atlas and "a large collection of vintage books from personal library," according to the auction notice. The brick ranch house and lot are being sold at noon; the sale of contents starts at 10 a.m. The auctioneer is Morphy Auctions,

Fish tacos

I ran into my dear friend (and loyal reader) Doug at La Pena Mexicana on Saturday night, and he didn't even have to tell the waitress what he wanted: she knew he'd order the fish tacos "with everything." I decided to try it myself -- and I now have a new favorite. Tilapia, onions, cilantro, tomatoes, lettuce and avocado on corn tortillas, with rice and green salsa -- for seven dollars? Seriously, what's not to like?
La Pena is at 609 West Cypress Street in Kennett Square.


In what I can only interpret as one of the weirdest pickup lines ever, the middle-aged fellow next to me caught a glimpse of the photo that serves as the "home screen" of my phone. It depicts one of the beautiful unpaved roads here in West Marlborough.
"So," he asked, "are you a bowhunter?"


At a family dinner at the Half-Moon, the Tally-ho patriarch announced, perhaps unwisely, that his doctor had ordered him to lose 15 pounds in the next three months. How, he asked, was he ever going to do this?
My brother the engineer sensibly suggested a combination of decreased intake and increased exercise; he calculated the required caloric balance. I suggested frequent walks at Longwood Gardens. The Young Relative suggested that I include a box in each week's "Unionville in the News" entitled "Diet Progress." (I rejected this idea after my father started muttering something that sounded a lot like "you wanna be disowned?")
So, readers, help me out here. If you see my father at a restaurant, go up to his table and inspect his plate. Do not be afraid to denounce him publicly if you see him eating dessert. Waitresses, monitor his orders ("It's for your own good, Mr. Tally-ho"). Praise him if you see him walking at Longwood and ask intrusive questions about the regularity of his exercise.
Trust me, he'll appreciate it.
(The doctor also suggested that he might think about hiring someone to do tasks like cutting down trees instead of doing it himself. But as my father would say, "From the movie `Fat Chance.'")

Friday, May 3, 2013


Tired of making small talk about the weather and the Phillies? Don't want to risk bringing up gun control, gay marriage or the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors? In the past week I've found two new, safe and fairly universal topics of discussion: curtains and drainage problems.
I've been putting up new curtains (three visits to Lowe's so far) and, when telling family and friends about my choices, I was surprised to find that almost everyone has a window-treatment story to share. After all, you have to make lots of decisions about colors, fabrics, styles, hardware -- they fill up two whole aisles at Lowe's! You should have seen my friend Karen's eyes light up when I mentioned my new cordless honeycomb blinds.
Same things with drainage problems: who doesn't like to talk about their plumber and the vagaries of their plumbing setup? You have to have the lingo for it, though, or else your conversation will consist of vague references to "that thingie that comes out of the garbage disposal" or "those round PVC jobbies."

Growin' up

In a few weeks a young woman I know is going to be processing down the steps of Old West and graduating from my alma mater. It seems like just yesterday that she was at Tower Hill, thinking about where she would like to go to college and -- being a loyal alum -- I suggested my old school as a possibility. And in every sports story about the UHS baseball team, it seems there's a photo of a certain young man, scoring the winning run or making a crucial out. How time flies: his mother was in my exercise class up until the week he was born.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Where are they?

Has anyone seen hummingbirds darting around? I haven't, and I've had my feeder up since April 27. There are plenty of red-winged blackbirds, chickadees, catbirds and carpenter bees, but no hummingbirds quite yet.
A young ornithologist friend has offered to take me on a bird walk along my road, which -- who knew? -- turns out to be something of a birdwatcher's paradise. Can't wait!

Another chapter ends

On my way home from dinner last night (May 1) I noticed a "for sale" sign on a vacant lot at Baltimore Pike and Waywood Lane, just east of town. If you lived around here back in 2000, you will doubtless recall that this parcel was the cause of a firestorm of controversy. The board of the Bayard Taylor Memorial Library purchased the lot for $500,000 with the hopes of building a new library there. However, the opposition to this idea was swift and fierce: many people didn't want the library to leave the center of town.
It was a huge and bitter battle. Invective-filled letters to the editor filled this paper (in fact, I wouldn't be surprised if even this diplomatic recap sparks at least one). A "Friends of the Library" group sprung up to oppose the move. Sadly, some long friendships broke up over the vitriolic dispute.
I found myself in the middle of the whole to-do and, with hindsight, I can say that I learned a great many things -- most of them useful but few of them pretty -- about politics, human nature (including my own), and being on the "other side" of journalism.
Obviously, since the Library is still located "in town,"the fundraising campaign for the proposed Waywood library never succeeded. I'm told the Board voted unanimously to sell the property; the asking price is $995,000. One can only hope they see a nice profit for all the time and energy that was expended.

Obstructed view

Great constituent service from Kennett Borough Council member Dan Maffei -- and I'm not even a constituent of his! A few weeks ago I mentioned the sight-line problem at Race and Cypress Streets, near the Kennett Y. Dan got back to me immediately and said that Borough Police Chief Ed Zunino is looking into the problem at that intersection and a few others.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


Some of the nicest folks I've met recently are those who work in the tiny borough of Modena, just south of Coatesville. Several "green-minded" small businesses have set up shop there, like Waste Oil Recyclers and Organic Mechanics Potting Soil, and they'll be sponsoring the Fifth Annual Energy Independence Day at 6 Union St. from 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday, May 19. There's going to be live music, local beer tasting, kids' activities and a great, welcoming ambiance (I speak from experience).

Why risk it?

Overheard at Starbucks early this morning:
A woman put in her order and the cheerful clerk offered her a free sample of some goodie.
"No, thanks," replied the customer ruefully. "I might end up liking it."
And overheard in the Lowe's parking lot:
One woman to another: "So I told him, you can either pitch in more, or you can rub my feet every night!"
I didn't hear the response to that ultimatum and I'm not sure I wanted to.