Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Where have all the flowers gone?

Somebody asked me today where the sunflower fields are this summer. Good question. I've seen a few tucked away on back roads, but you have to know where to look. It's quite a contrast from a few summers ago, when seas of yellow were all over the place, inspired by Longwood Gardens' magnificent, much-photographed display along Schoolhouse Road.
(Update: I just spotted another sunflower field along Paoli Pike, east of West Chester, near where Albrecht's nursery used to be.)

Summer camp

This past weekend two dozen Revolutionary War re-enactors (from the British side, booo!) camped out at Primitive Hall in West Marlborough. I stopped by to visit them on Saturday afternoon and again on Sunday morning. They seemed to be having a great time, living outdoors like soldiers and marching around and drilling with their muskets.
Clouds were rolling in on Saturday afternoon, and the Captain speculated that some rain might be on its way. Without thinking I pulled out my phone to check the Weather Channel, then realized how out of place that was. "Wait. Are you allowed to look at this?" I asked him. He laughed and said yes, although during more rigorous outings than this weekend's event (they call it "immersion") they avoid everything not "of the period."
The forecasted rain held off until the middle of the night, and during the deluge the hardy soldiers simply moved their straw bedrolls to the porch and went back to sleep.
When I showed up on Sunday morning (reveille was at 6:30 a.m.) they had a cooking fire going with three metal pots hanging on top of it: one of boiling water for tea, one for their breakfast porridge (to which they added fresh peaches) and one for the ham and cabbage that would serve as their lunch. They ate from wooden or metal bowls with wooden spoons.
I asked about their morning routine and one of the re-enactors told me that soldiers usually shaved every three days or so. One of the men in their unit acted as a barber and would shave them with a traditional straight razor -- not a pleasant experience, he said, even if the razor was freshly stropped.
One anachronistic note: a rake was lying tines-side-up and one of the officers "suggested" that it be stowed away safely. One soldiers agreed that was a good idea lest one of them get bopped by it repeatedly a la Sideshow Bob from "The Simpsons"!
The re-enactors, who came from as far away as New England and Chicago, told me they especially enjoyed spending time at a house that would have existed during the Revolution (the Hall was built in 1738).
You may notice in the photos that the men's uniforms are not exactly uniform. That's because they came from four different units. There was even a loyalist present!


Nourish, the café at the new Market at Liberty Place in Kennett, started rolling out its menu on July 29, so I stopped by on Tuesday to see what was on offer. A gym friend of mine, Amy, is working there, and she described the freshly baked muffins and quiche, both of which sounded delicious, but as soon as I saw the breakfast burrito my decision was made. It was delicious: local eggs, local Cheddar, fresh salsa and basil. Amy also made me a glass of orange juice, using a machine that slices the fruit in half and then squeezes it, right before your eyes. There's also a juice guy there who was  busy making a yummy-looking drink with apples and wheatgrass for a woman who looked like she'd come straight from yoga class.
And I saw my real-estate pal Margot, buying some goodies for the broker's open house she was hosting that afternoon.
I'd brought some hard-copy work to do, so after I ate I retreated to a back table in the enclosed patio. I wired myself in and did proofreading for about an hour, then chatted with a few friends I saw before leaving. The Market is becoming a very popular spot!

"A traveling ministry"

Hooray for Bruce Jameson, the letter-writer in last week's Kennett Paper who suggested that those panhandlers at the shopping centers on Route 1 might not be legit. I've written a few items about them over the years and I had hoped that East Marlborough's new antisoliciting law might put an end to their fairly aggressive tactics.
Mr. Jameson told one of the solicitors that he'd check them out online before sending a check; the fellow replied that because they are a "traveling ministry" there's no way to mail them a donation. Hmmm. Makes you wonder.

Stop means stop

I don't know why bad driving still outrages me, but it does. At lunchtime today I was on 842 at Newark Road when the driver of the oncoming vehicle, a Ford Escape, ran the four-way stop and turned southbound onto Newark Road. I was eager to see what she would do at the four-way stop at London Grove Meeting but had a hard time keeping up with her.
She did slow down, enough for me to smell the cigarette smoke coming from her vehicle, but then rolled right through the stop sign there, too (it's too bad the State Police weren't there today). She turned onto Spencer Road so I didn't get a chance to see if she'd obey the 25 mph limit approaching Toughkenamon. My guess is, she wouldn't.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Spanning the globe

My proofreading project this week is a book on Ancient Greece. I was sitting there on the sofa reading about the Peloponnesian War when the lively New Orleans song "Iko Iko" started running through my head. I soon realized why: the author often referred to "oikos" (Greek for household) and it must've been having a subconscious impact.
Here's something else I learned other than that the Thirty Years Peace between Athens and Sparta didn't last nearly that long. I was reviewing the reference list for one chapter and saw the entry "Oxford Readings in Aristophanes" by Erich Segal. This couldn't possibly be the same Erich Segal who wrote "Love Story," the tearjerker 1970 book, could it? Yes! It turns out that Professor Segal was also a respected classics scholar who received his bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees from Harvard and went on to teach at Yale (which is where he was teaching when the book and movie of "Love Story" came out), Princeton, Oxford and the University of London. (He also wrote the screenplay for the Beatles' "Yellow Submarine.")

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Well spotted

On a hot morning a few weeks ago, I spent an hour walking along my road with Kelley Nunn, who knows more about birds than anyone I've ever met. She has an amazing eye and could spot a hawk or a kestrel long before I could, just by noting a slight shadow on a cloud. She could identify each call in a jumble of songs ("like picking out the oboe in a symphony," she said) and shared mnemonics for many of the calls (for the Red-Eyed Vireo, it would be "Where am I? Here I am. In the tree!"; the Phoebe says its own name).
I've lived on my road for a good many years and until she showed me, I didn't realize that there are actually two ponds along one stretch, one of which you can see only from the very top of a steep bank.
She kept track of what we saw and heard and sent in the completed checklist to eBird: 45 species in one hour! She wasn't surprised; actually she said my road is something of a mecca for birdwatchers.
Kelley leads bird walks at the Bucktoe Creek Preserve on Sunday and Monday mornings (free and open to the public). She is amazing, and I hope to take another walk with her soon.

Garden pix

I'm hoping your gardens are

doing as well as mine this year. Only a few of the phlox have mildew, which is amazing considering the amount of rain we've had. And yes, I know how corny the yellow swallowtail-on-pink Echinacea photo is, but it was fun taking it anyway.
The pumpkins, which as you'll recall I had to replant back in May for lack of germination, are relentlessly taking over the garden. And the sunflowers, even though they started blooming a month ago (very early!), are still doing so, and beautifully.
(Yes, I do take my phone/camera with me everywhere, even while working in the garden. Except, of course, the other night when my brother's bicycle had a flat about a mile away from here and he needed a rescue. D'OH!)

Township meeting

There's a West Marlborough Township meeting on Tuesday, August 6, starting at 7 p.m. I'm not sure what's on the agenda for August, if anything, given that so many residents are either in Saratoga or on Mount Desert Island this time of year. However, as my regular readers know it's rare that I don't find something interesting to report on from a meeting. Well ... "interesting" to us locals, that is, even if it's only a washed-out gravel road or somebody building a new turn-out shed.

Form and movement

Over the winter a friend of mine had her right knee replaced at Christiana Hospital and spent quite a lot of time doing rehab at the physical therapy place in Willowdale. We had breakfast the other day and it was great to see a much-slimmed-down version of her walking into Perkins without pain (she still has a little limp, but that's due to plantar fasciitis). She said that three months after the operation she went to the Grand Canyon on a family trip and was utterly thrilled to be able to walk 3.8 miles (she measured!) along the Canyon rim.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Open and shut

Last week I wrote about the annual shutdown weeks at our local YMCAs. Now these additional closures have been announced at the Kennett Y to enable the workers to finish the expansion:
August 12th-August 25th – CLOSED AREAS: Main Gym, Cycle Room, Indoor Track, Main Pool, Sauna/Steam Room , Holistic Health Studio.
August 12th-August 18th – OPEN AREAS: Cardio and Weight Room, Wellness Studio, Warm Water Pool, Family Activity Center, Childwatch/Kids Zone, Locker Rooms
August 19th-August 25th – Entire Facility is closed.

By the way, I visited the newly completed "Wellness Studio" at the Kennett Y for the first time the other day and it is gorgeous: spacious but not cavernous, nice light, clean floor, good mirrors. I took a great class with Marta, too!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Our national bird

Bayo Nichols of the Unionville Saddle Shop was kind enough to share this adventure with me:
"Was on Mill Road going into Kennett late this afternoon [July 24], near the old Gaebel farm, when I rounded the bend to see flares on the side of the road. A few cars were pulled over on either side, a State Trooper was there, as well as a security guy from New Bolton, & what do you think was going on? A young Bald Eagle was standing in the middle of the road! Don't know if he was injured or just having teenage bird angst. Wish I had my camera."
Adds a West Marlborough friend and neighbor who read this story:
"There has been a nest of Bald Eagles residing along the Red Clay Creek between 926 and Baltimore Pike for almost two decades. When we lived near there, we would regularly see one, and others spoke of it too. Don't know where the nest is, but the family has been "in residence" for many years."

Walkin' after midnight

What a summer we've been having weather-wise. Just a few nights after that amazing heat-lightning display there was an absolute gully-washer (literally, in terms of our beleaguered gravel roads!). The intense rain and the thunder woke me around midnight. I immediately checked the weather map on my phone and saw the storm wasn't going to lighten up anytime soon, so I got dressed and went outside to explore. The lightning allowed me to see that the tiny creek in front of the house had become a torrent, flowing over the road. I turned back when the water started getting in my Bean boots.
When I went back inside and dried off I checked Facebook and found that several locals, including the Sharp-Eyed Friend, had been rudely awakened by the 12:27 a.m. Flash Flood siren on their phones and had taken to Facebook to express their displeasure. How they managed to sleep through the downpour in the first place is anybody's guess.
When I got up later that morning, the creek was burbling along in its channel as usual and the driveway and road were already drying up. The only sign of the flash flood was that the grass and weeds along the creek were flattened.
And people are still talking about that heat-lightning storm we had back on July 20. One kind reader took the time to write to me and said she was in her backyard during the storm watching both the Longwood Gardens fireworks and the heat lightning: "It was an amazing display of man vs. nature. As always, nature won!"


Today at the Produce Place, in addition to a berry smoothie and two boxes of blueberries, I bought a bag of their delicious tomato-basil pasta made by Little Barn Noodles of Honey Brook. It's excellent with a little butter and fresh-picked basil. I was going to add some parsley, too, but I discovered that SOMEBODY has stripped my parsley plants of every single leaf. I'm looking at you, squirrels!
(Someone purporting to be the squirrels [I suspect it was one of my waggish chums] commented on this post, placing the blame on green caterpillars. But they would say that, wouldn't they!)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

RIP, Mrs. McKay

I saw my old friend and retired Unionville teacher Karen Halstead this afternoon in Kennett and she shared the sad news that beloved fellow teacher Mary McKay died on July 24. Mrs. McKay was a longtime volunteer with the Longwood Fire Company and the Unionville Community Fair, where she and her husband Ray ran the youth photography competition for many years. In Mary's honor, the flag was lowered to half-staff at the Pocopson post office, where she was a regular.
It seems like we have been losing so many treasured members of our community recently, doesn't it?
By the way, Karen told me has moved to Kendal and said she absolutely loves it there. She also said many of her new neighbors are avid readers of this column. Thank you all very much! I'm honored.

Red states

The American Red Cross came out to the KOA Campground in Embreeville this afternoon for a blood drive, and I was one of those who donated (nothing new; I've been opening my veins for 30 years). The previous time my blood flow was a little sluggish, so I'd been advised to drink a lot of water beforehand. I asked my friends to offer frequent reminders during the day, and Susan F. complied with gusto, both online and in person (yes, that was she yelling "Drink your water!" when she spotted me on Center Street in Kennett).

For two days I avoided coffee (it's dehydrating) and downed many glasses of water, and it worked: almost before I knew it I'd given my full pint, and after eating some pretzels and drinking yet another bottle of water I was outta there.
The poor person who gets my blood! He or she may well experience an unexpected boost in curiosity, a tendency to use British slang and a new love for pancakes (without syrup, thank you).
Seriously, though: think about signing up next time. Attendance at the blood drive was not great, and unless you've seen it, you wouldn't believe the amazing improvement that a unit of blood makes for an anemic cancer patient.
The photo shows the sticker they give you after you donate; I always wear mine proudly the rest of the day.

These eyes

I went to Sardella Eye Associates in Willowdale to get my eyes checked the other day and Dr. Renny discovered that I've become "less near-sighted" than I was before. Optician John said it could be tricky getting my new prescription lenses put into my existing Maui Jim sunglasses.
"I'll have to send these back to Maui," he explained. "Well, not Maui. Actually Peoria, Illinois."

What's the 4011?

Yesterday at the self-service checkout at Giant in Kennett I was delighted to see a Unionville pal who I encounter more on Facebook than in person. We had an excellent gossip -- but we were so engrossed in our conversation that we seriously messed up our checking out. I punched in the wrong code for bananas, which I normally know by heart, and like an idiot I put my fruit at the bottom of one grocery bag, underneath the soup cans and ice cream. As I was leaving, the clerk had to point out that I'd left my receipt sticking out of the slot.
My friend and I laughed at how distracted we were, and she suggested to the clerk that he really should have told us sternly to keep our minds on our groceries and not on Unionville news.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

What a show!

Saturday night I was winding down from a busy day when I noticed multiple flashes of light in the sky to the south. It was as if the clouds were pulsing with light, like a disembodied brain in a cheesy mad-scientist movie. At first I thought it was a distant -- if huge -- fireworks display, but when I saw horizontal lightning bolts streaking from one side of the cloud to another I knew something more was going on.
On Sunday morning I asked retired Unionville High School science teacher Helen Martin to explain what we saw, and she was kind enough to get back to me immediately:
"Many in our area were able to see a spectacular light show on Saturday, July 20.  Perhaps the best explanation of the heat lightning was an article about it in the Farmer’s Almanac on August 3, 2009.

According to Jaime McLeod, “At this time of year on warm, humid nights, the phenomenon known as “heat lightning” is very common. The sky will seem to flicker with light; and even on a seemingly clear night with stars, you may see flashes. No sound accompanies the flash, although if you are listening to an AM radio, you’ll hear crackles of static at the same time you see the flash.

What you’re likely seeing is the light from a distant thunderstorm that is located at too great of a distance for the thunder sound to be heard. The sound of thunder rarely travels more than 10 miles. Other cases can be explained by the refraction (or bending) of sound waves by bodies of air with different densities. An observer may see nearby lightning, but the sound from the discharge is refracted over their head by a change in the temperature, and therefore the density, of the air around him. As a result, the lightning discharge seems to be silent.
The term “heat lightning” probably comes from the fact that the effect is most often seen on warm, humid nights during July and August. So an association has been made with sultry temperatures. But when the sky is hazy, as is quite typical on warm, summer nights, the light from intense thunderstorms as far away as 100 miles can be reflected off a layer of haze and up into the night sky.
And that’s why you tend to see heat lightning as just a diffuse flash or flicker.”

Looking for "Brandywine Boy"?

Last week I wrote about "Brandywine Boy," the charming memoir by retired veterinarian Adrian Morrison about growing up in Chadds Ford in the 1940s and 50s. Susan Minarchi, president of the Christian C. Sanderson Museum in Chadds Ford, wrote to me and said the book is available not only on but also at the Museum's gift shop.
"It's a wonderful book and one of our volunteers was frequently a "partner in crime" with Dr. Morrison," she said. The Museum is open March through November, Thursday through Sunday, 12pm to 4pm, or by appointment. It's at 1755 Creek Road (old Route 100), Chadds Ford, just north of Route 1. Website is

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Are you ready...

Even though it's only July, I've started getting ads for "back to school" and "back to college" supplies. The Young Relative says he isn't even thinking of the coming school year, but what he IS ready for is some football: Fantasy Football, that is. He has already drafted his team and, over dinner on Friday, carefully explained to me why he selected each player.
People who haven't played it might not realize that Fantasy Football is actually very educational, requiring team owners to apply their skills in statistics, math, current events (you need to know if somebody on your roster will not be suiting up due to, oh, say, an arrest), psychology (Could Coach X be exaggerating Player Y's injury?) and critical thinking (Should I start Tight End Z this week against Defense X?). Owners also have to be conscientious about deadlines and must keep track of the fluctuating NFL schedule (Thursday night games, anyone?).
Personally, I'd add bonus points for witty trash talk directed at your league opponents, but that's just me.

It's hot!

The past week's heat wave was so unpleasant and persistent that even people who say they loathe air conditioning actually broke down and turned it on. I have no compunction about running mine when it gets above 82 or so inside the house. The only bearable time to go out for a run was before 7 a.m., and while I was out there trotting along I got some baffled looks from painters, farmworkers, lawn guys, pool guys and others on their way to work who would be spending the entire sweltering day outside, involuntarily.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Market at Liberty Place

Today I finally got a chance to stop by the Market at Liberty Place, the new hot-spot at State and Center Streets in Kennett Square. It was lunchtime and the place seemed to be doing a roaring business, particularly Rick's Steaks. I went to State Street Pizza and had an excellent slice of white pizza with spinach ($3.95; plain is $1.95) and a glass of delicious fresh orange juice from Nourish (which is rolling out its full café menu July 29). Other shops in the market are Yo'R So Sweet (a crepe and smoothie place), George & Sons Seafood, and Paradocx Vineyards, with room for other shops in the future.
You can eat your food on the enclosed patio on the east side of the building or at a few common tables in the main market, though the seats by Rick's are reserved for their patrons only. I spotted a friend there with her family enjoying the crepes; she said it was the third time in a week she'd been to the Market!
There is parking for the market on the street (metered) and in the lot to the east of the building, but keep an eye on the signs; Liberty Place customers are allotted only some of the spots. Knowing how vigilant Kennett parking officers are, I was a bit worried by a sign that said "Parking by Permit Only" and "All Other Times Parking for The Market at Liberty Place Only." But any new business has to work out little quirks like this.
I chatted with some friends I saw carrying a pizza back to their office and they said they were delighted to have a new option for lunch. And later in the day I was back in town for dinner at the Half-Moon and spotted some Unionville friends coming out of the Market. They were thrilled: "Just what Kennett needs," declared one (my friends are always so darn quotable).
Best of luck to the Bosleys and the vendors!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Mrs. Thompson

RIP Mabel Latta Thompson, a Kennett native, a courageous community leader, a champion for African American civil rights and a maker of history.

New Castle Airport

Frontier Airlines began offering passenger service out of New Castle County Airport on July 1. Frontier is offering nonstop flights to Chicago, Houston, Denver, Orlando and Fort Myers from the airport, which is located on U.S. Route 13 just across the Christina River from Wilmington.

"When the clouds in autumn crack"

A friend of mine buys stuff at garage sales and sells it online, so when I was decluttering recently I consigned to her a few boxes of books and bric-a-brac. Among the books was my college Shakespeare anthology, which I hadn't opened in years (everything's online now). My friend was about to ship it to the buyer when she found tucked inside a typed three-page essay, "Weather Imagery in The Taming of the Shrew," dated September 1977. I got a B and the completely justified comment from Professor Bowden, "To sum up, this is quite good as far as it goes, but it could go further" [sic].

Blue Rocks

A friend reports having a wonderful time at the Wilmington Blue Rocks game this past weekend. The other team made the first run of the game in the top of the 11th inning. Then, with two outs and a full count, a Blue Rocks player hit a home run with one man on base!
She says they had amazing seats along the first base line. In addition to the baseball game, the entertainment included a "cowboy monkey rodeo" and a grand post-game fireworks display. "Very family-friendly" was her summary of the evening.

Munnings show

Some Unionville residents will no doubt be interested in visiting an exhibition by the famed equestrian artist Sir Alfred James Munnings at the National Sporting Museum and Library in Middleburg, Virginia. The show, comprising almost 70 oils and watercolors from private collections and the Munnings Museum in England, runs through Sept. 15.
According to "Wall Street Journal" reviewer Bruce Cole, the "most memorable painting of horse and rider is the 1922 portrait of his second wife, Violet McBride ... The painting shows a slightly smiling Violet standing, dressed in an elegant black riding habit, hand on hip, holding the reins of her grey mount."
I was amazed to learn that Munnings had such a successful and lucrative career while suffering from gout in his hands and with only one eye: had lost the right when he was hit by a thorny branch while rescuing a puppy at the age of 20.

Embreeville development

You've probably started seeing yard signs around Embreeville expressing concern about the proposed development at the former Embreeville Hospital: "Exton Comes to West Bradford," the signs read. (I saw six of the signs on the way home from lunch yesterday.) A developer is proposing to build some 1,000 dwelling units on the 245-acre site in Newlin and West Bradford, and some local residents fear the project will overwhelm winding country roads like Route 162 and lead to higher taxes. There is a lot more information on West Bradford Township's website, with regular updates posted about meetings and hearings.

Hump day

My mother says that at a recent party, she heard that camels are being raised on Amish farms in Lancaster County for their meat. She was quite intrigued by this and asked me to look into it. I checked around but couldn't find anything anywhere about domesticated camels.
A friend of mine said she knew nothing of camels on local farms, but did I know that the man who came up with the idea for the U.S. Camel Corps was, in fact, from Unionville? Apparently he thought camels would be an efficient way for the cavalry to travel out west.
What a great story!
But unfortunately, there was nothing about that online, either. Yes, there WAS a short-lived U.S. Camel Corps, but I couldn't find any connections with Unionville.

Changing stores

The former Hill's Seafood store on Baltimore Pike, east of Bayard Road, has reopened as a Verizon Wireless store. (I remember when it was a Boston Market, maybe 15 years ago.) And a little farther east, the former Bruster's ice-cream shop continues to sit empty for at least the second ice-cream season.


I agree with my colleague Lisa Lightner (she writes this paper's Outdoors column) about the hungry insects this summer. I have never been bitten so often; as I'm typing this I'm scratching several red welts on my arms and neck. The mosquitoes seem to go for my toes and ankles as soon as I swing myself up onto the hammock. It's so satisfying to swat them before they get a chance to bite! (If only international relations were so simple.)
The Cranky Friend raised an interesting science question. When a mosquito bites a human, the immediate itching sensation alerts the human to the insect's presence and allows the human to reach over and kill it. What evolutionary benefit, then, does the mosquito derive from whatever this itch-inducing chemical is? Without it, the mosquito could just fly away and live another day.


A friend of mine played a round of golf at one of the local courses the other day (she plays at them all) and said that with all the rain we've had recently, when balls land, they just plop down on the saturated ground and don't roll a bit. Couple that with the 90-degree temperatures and she did not have a particularly happy day on the links.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Shutdown week

As all of us Y old-timers know, the Y shuts down for a week each summer for cleaning and repairs. This year the Kennett Y will be closed Aug. 19 through 25. The Jennnersville and Airport Road Ys will be shut Aug. 26 through Sept. 1.
Also, the Jennersville Y is getting a new gym floor, so the gym (just the gym) will be shut Aug. 4 through Sept. 3.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Blood drive

I was just at the post office licking envelopes for a mailing when in walked Dianne Therry, who was coincidentally on the prowl looking for blood donors for the next American Red Cross blood drive, which is going to be from 2 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 24, at the KOA Campground in Embreeville. You can sign up online (sponsor code 0222215) or by calling the Red Cross at 1-800-Red-Cross or by calling Dianne at 610-347-1684.
I notice that according to the leaflet she gave me, blood donors will get a $2.50 coupon off Turkey Hill ice cream!


Michele Sullivan from the Kennett Underground Railroad Center just wrote to me and asked me to spread the word about the group's Underground Railroad tours. Our area was a hotbed for abolitionism in the mid-19th century, and the tours will take you past several of the original houses involved in the network that brought slaves north to freedom.
The 90-minute guided tours start at the Tourist Center just outside Longwood Garden at 2 p.m. on Sunday, July 28, and Sunday, Aug. 25. The fee is $20 for adults, $15 for children.
For reservations, leave a message at the Kennett Underground Railroad Center at 484-734-0079.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Dinner bell

Four casual-dining notes:
1. The shrimp and spinach salad at Giordano's is really tasty. I had dinner there Friday with a guy I've known for -- oh, let's just say more than 50 years. We both had the salad and then split one of their really tasty pizzas.
2. At Landhope, you now have to order your ice cream using the touch-screen computer. Thanks to the kind employee who helped out my mother and me!
3. Hood's has changed its hours so that they have time to get started on their restaurant renovations. They're now open from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
4. I had every intention of stopping by the Grand Opening at the Market at Liberty Place at State and Center Streets on Friday, but the place was jammed and it was pouring, so I ended up driving by. I hear that anyone who was anyone, le tout Kennett, was there! I hope to stop in this week.


Six things I've seen hovering this week:
1. Kestrels hover-hunting over a pond near Doe Run
2. Hummingbirds at the feeder on my back deck
3. A sailplane pilot lazily circling in the clouds in search of thermals
4. Dragonflies laying eggs on the surface of the lake at Anson Nixon Park, attracting great interest from the hungry bass below
5. A fellow experimenting with his GoPro camera mounted on a very cool radio-controlled drone with four rotors, also at Anxon Nixon Park
6. A pal of mine who is doing an excellent imitation of a helicopter mom with her new horse

Pot of gold

After one of the storms last week, the sun came out and a spectacular double rainbow appeared to the east. I picked up the camera and headed outside, ducked under a bunch of wet trees, took a couple of shots and uploaded the best one. Too bad about five neighbors had already beaten me to it, and with better photos!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Trail runs

For my trail-running readers: here are three upcoming competitions in our area.

1. Saturday, July 20: The Chasin' for Chalfin 15K trail run through the "fair hunting country" of the beautiful Runnymede estate outside of Springdell includes "hills, vistas, and creek crossings." There's also a 5K trail run for fun and a 3K on-road fun run/walk. Sponsored by Trail Creek Outfitters in the Glen Eagle Shopping Center. Onsite registration is from 7:30 to 8:15 a.m. on the day of the race. Race time is 8:30 a.m. 
2. Saturday, September 14: The Fair Hill 5K trail run will be at Fair Hill State Park off Appleton Rd. in Elkton, MD. Benefits the Wounded Warrior Project. Check-in and packet pick-up will begin at 7:45; race begins at 8:45 a.m. (The reason I included this one is that I'm seeing more and more vehicles with Maryland tags around here. Not sure why!)   
3. Saturday, Sept.  21: The Garage Youth Center 5k trail run will be at Goddard Park in West Grove. "The route will be a 1.55-mile loop that will weave through woods and prairies on dirt, gravel, grass, and paved trails." Registration opens at 7:30 a.m.; 9 a.m. is the 5K trail run and 9:30 a.m. is the 5K trail walk. 

Water gardens

The Brandywine Valley Water Garden Tour, scheduled for July 27 and 28, will feature what looks like a lovely variety of "waterscapes" at houses around the area. Tickets for the self-guided tour are $25, or $50 for a bus tour. For more information and tickets you can visit their website, There's no information on the website about where the sites are, but I've seen signs promoting the tour all the way from Longwood to Unionville to Coatesville! Proceeds help support the Chester County Food Bank.

Thursday, July 11, 2013


When we were kids my brother and I used to make plastic airplanes and cars and monsters from the kits that manufacturers like Revell would put out. We'd snap off the parts from the plastic frame in which they had been molded, identify the fuselage or tailpipes or claws, glue them together with plastic cement, paint them with Testor paint and finally affix the little decals. The finished product might or might not end up looking like the picture on the box.
What sparked this memory was the navy blue with which My at Polished Salon in Kennett did my toenails yesterday. I really think it's the exact color that we painted a World War II bomber.
Or possibly Day-Glo Godzilla's eyes.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Nothing new under the sun

I have a lot of inquisitive friends; some might even go so far as to call them "curious," in both senses of the word. At lunch today at Hood's one of them spotted a man with his head swathed in a large white bandage and asked without hesitation, "What did you do to your head?" The man replied, civilly enough, that he had just had a skin cancer removed from his forehead.
Well! Talk about a perfect ice-breaker in an outdoors-y community like ours! A general and animated discussion ensued, with everyone sharing their experiences with skin cancer and Mohs surgery.

Starting over

The owners of Two Stones Pub are hard at work converting the former Kings Island Chinese restaurant, 843 E. Baltimore Pike, into a gastropub. They've hit the ground running and have been posting photos on Facebook of their progress gutting the interior. You'll hardly recognize the place when it opens this autumn -- I peered inside yesterday and they seem to be making good progress on removing all the scarlet-and-gold Asian trim.

Rock the Lot

The Bayard Taylor Library is holding its first-ever "Rock the Lot" music festival from 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday, July 20, in the parking lot behind the library. Performers will be Boog, Ratburn, New Shields, Three for Five, and Lower the Standard. "Support the library's efforts to give young adults a place to be, and let's set a high standard for awesome teen events in Chester County!" writes Ivy, the enthusiastic organizer.

The inside scoop

A pal who lives within extremely easy walking distance of the forthcoming ice-cream parlor in the middle of Unionville approached me the other day, wanting to know when the shop was going to open. He is normally a calm fellow, but on this occasion he was speaking quickly and was more worked up than I've ever seen him about anything (including Republican politicians). If they don't speed things up, he pointed out anxiously, they'll miss the whole season! He seemed to think I have some pull with the powers-that-be and could speed things up, but alas I don't.


Earlier this afternoon I was working on a proofreading project at the Bayard Taylor Library in Kennett when we got socked by one of those quick, hard-hitting thunderstorms. Even though I was listening to music and concentrating on my work, I couldn't help but notice the sudden darkening of the sky and the way the tree branches were whipping around out back. Then the storm hit and library patrons started coming in with soaking-wet shirts and umbrellas. Others decided they'd wait for the storm to break and settled in with the newspaper.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Brandywine Boy

I just finished reading "Brandywine Boy," Dr. Adrian Morrison's enchanting memoir about growing up on a dairy farm in Chadds Ford in the 1940s and 1950s. Among a large variety of boyhood anecdotes packed into this short book, he recounts stories of farm chores (he hated weeding), taking care of the animals, going to the then-segregated Chadds Ford School (with Mr. Haldeman as principal), sneaking onto the merry-go-round at Lenape Park, listening to "The Lone Ranger" and "Captain Midnight" on the radio, jumping into hay piles, building a log cabin in the woods with his pals, skinny-dipping in the creek (though his mother was worried about his contracting polio), playing in a dance band, spending summers working at the Haskells' Hill Girt Farm and riding his beloved horse Rocky.
Given the compassion and affinity he displayed for animals at an early age, it's no surprise he went on to become an eminent veterinarian at the University of Pennsylvania.
"Thanks to Rocky I became a veterinarian. One winter morning I saw him limping a bit as he came across the pasture in back of our barn. I think he must have tangled with those Western horses and slipped. In any event, I told my mother that I wasn't going to school that day so I could nurse Rocky."
The author often reflects on the vast differences between then and now, some good and some not-so-good. He recalls that to build the log cabin, he and his friends cut down catalpa trees. "I was detailed to ask my father if we could cut them down. He said we could as long as we stuck to catalpas. In these days of injury lawsuits, can you imagine that he didn't blink an eye when I asked?"
Dr. Morrison, a grandfather of eight who now lives at Kendal, writes in a vivid, conversational and easy-to-read style, and I'll bet he is a great storyteller in person. This delightful book is available on I will treasure the copy that he sent me.

This bird has flown

A few weeks ago I was watering my hanging geranium basket and thought, what on earth are all these pine needles doing here? Then I realized it was a nest, with four little brown eggs inside.
I kept my distance from the nest but realized the babies had hatched when the parents -- Carolina wrens -- started bringing in frequent food deliveries, first perching cautiously on the deck railing, then on the roof, then on the basket hanger, and finally jumping down into the thick of the plant.
I peeked and saw the tiny babies, probably just hours after they were born. They grew at an astonishing rate and just a few days later were peeping loudly for food. One morning I noticed the parents weren't making their food deliveries anymore, so I checked the nest -- and it was empty. It was high time they departed, anyway, because the little guys were quickly outgrowing the nest.

Sunday, July 7, 2013


Remember Simon Pearce, the glass-blowing place and restaurant on the Brandywine that closed in early 2011? Perhaps you'll also recall that Simon Pearce's son, former pro snowboarder Kevin, suffered a serious head injury while training for the Vancouver Olympics in 2009. Film-maker Lucy Walker has made a documentary about his injury and the slow process of recovering from a traumatic brain injury; "The Crash Reel" airs on HBO at 9 p.m. Monday, July 15. "If you can watch it without tearing up, you're a harder man than I," writes reviewer Marc Peruzzi in the July issue of Outside magazine.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

One day off

Someone clever needs to come up with a term for the cognitive dissonance we feel when a holiday occurs on a weekday. The Fourth of July fell on a Thursday this year, but it felt like a Saturday, so much so that I thought about driving to the Bakers at Red Lion for some bread (they were shut due to the heat, but that's beside the point). And the day after the Fourth was actually Friday but felt like some odd Saturday/Sunday hybrid. Was the post office open? the library? Was there going to be a crossword paper in the puzzle? Was I going to have my gym class? I missed "First Friday" in Kennett completely because it didn't seem like a Friday.
Monday is going to be very confusing.
(One clever person has already chimed in, suggesting that "Holidaze" is the term I'm looking for.)

Friday, July 5, 2013

Sticking together

I really like the Saloio rolls that the Giant bakery makes. In fact, I've been known to eat one on the way home from the store as I'm driving.
The other day I was buying some, all warm and chewy, and a fellow customer simply could not get her little plastic roll bag to open -- you know, the clingy bags they supply at the bakery counter to put your baked goods in. She tried one side. She tried the other. She tried rubbing the sides of the plastic together. Absolutely nothing was working for her.
This happens to me often, so I offered to help her. Amazingly, I got it open on the first try. She was so grateful, I think she thanked me five times.

It's got legs

A Kennett friend reports that he has a spider living in the earpiece of his phone.
"Too bizarre," he wrote. "I had a call and I felt this weird tickling, like a tiny electrical current, and I looked and saw legs waving."
He inserted a piece of cardboard in the relevant hole of the receiver, which seems to be a good stop-gap measure.
"It's always something," he says, with commendable equanimity. "It's just hardly ever this particular something."

Thursday, July 4, 2013


On our walk around Anson Nixon Park today, the Cranky Friend and I were bickering as is our wont when suddenly, on the edge of the woods near Walnut Road, I spotted a large snake beside the path. This was not one of those cute little garter snakes that I've been known to pick up and coo over. No. This guy had a thick body, bold markings and a mean-looking cocked head.
In an embarrassing show of cowardice I immediately clutched the CF's arm, hard, and cowered behind him. In contrast, he calmly assessed the creature's markings, estimated its length (about two feet) using his forearm as a guide, and snapped a few photos. The snake stayed still except when the CF got too close, at which point he moved his head in warning.
Our first guess, based on the colors and head shape, was that it was a poisonous copperhead, which considerably amped up the excitement level of our walk. As soon as we reached the Internet we Googled images of copperheads and held up the digital images for comparison.
Well, the markings were similar, but no matter how hard we tried -- and we really tried -- we just couldn't get them to match. Our guy's head was just not distinct enough from its body.
The PA Herp Identification website suggested checking out the Eastern Milk Snake and the Northern Water Snake. The latter, to our extreme disappointment, turned out to be an excellent match for our guy.
A harmless Northern Water Snake when you thought you'd had an encounter with a venomous reptile. Talk about a comedown.
The next morning I went out for a bird walk with an extremely nature-savvy young woman and started to tell her about the snake sighting.
"Let me guess," she said. "It was a Northern Water Snake."
Kindly, she added that they really do resemble copperheads.
(By the way, the Herp site has a popup ad for a site where you can check your arrest record. Do they think people accidentally typed in "herp" when they meant "perp"?)


A friend from the Y who read my piece about my frequent tick-sightings a few weeks ago alerted me to an upcoming speaker who is going to be addressing the Lyme Disease Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania. Edward Breitschwerdt, DVM, will be discussing Bartonella. A professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine at NC State University and an infectious diseases expert, according to the university website "He also finds himself on the front lines of a quiet but growing epidemic. Bartonella is a bacteria most commonly associated with cat scratch disease, which until recently was thought to be a short-lived (or self-limiting, in medical lingo) infection. Bartonella isn’t new – doctors have known about cat scratch disease for almost a century – but it’s only in the past couple of decades that researchers like Dr. Breitschwerdt have started to discover exactly how pervasive Bartonella infection is in animals and people."
The meeting is at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 17, at the Kennett Friends Meetinghouse, 250 N. Union St., and is free and open to the public.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

SunnyGirl Farm

For several weeks, I've seen the sign for the Wollaston Road farmers' market, but always too late. This week a friend texted me that she'd just purchased some arugula and Swiss chard and I needed to head over there. I did. The market is at SunnyGirl Farm, 750 Wollaston Road., and it's open from 2 to 7 p.m. Wednesday. I bought some wonderful beets (complete with the greens) and corn and an arugula-pesto spread. They also had turnips, salad greens (I have plenty of those from my garden), broccoli and olive oils. Worth a visit!

Memorial service

The memorial service for Michael Langer, son of Springdell residents Bernie and Claudette Langer, will be at 11 a.m. Saturday, July 27, at St. Michael Lutheran Church in Unionville. Michael died on June 20 at age 54 of complications from a stroke.

Life in West Marlborough

West Marlborough Township has a new fireworks ordinance, despite objections from a few township residents concerned that they would have to go through red tape and pay fees to host even a small celebration.
At the July 2 meeting, Denis Glaccum and Skip Powell raised questions about how the ordinance would define "public displays." But Supervisor Bill Wylie said the ordinance was deliberately written in general language just to give the township some oversight in terms of, say, notifying neighbors so they could move their horses indoors before the fireworks start.
"It's intended to create a process where it can be done safely," he explained, "without being too onerous or overreaching."
The entire fireworks issue was launched this spring when a West Chester man approached the township and asked if he could hire a fireworks company to set off a display at his daughter's wedding reception at the Stone Barn in September.
In other business at the monthly meeting, the supervisors appointed Springdell resident Gus Brown to fill a vacancy on the planning commission that occurred when Josh Taylor was "promoted" to the board of supervisors.
Township zoning officer Al Giannantonio reported that he issued a zoning permit for a new run-in shed at the Jacksons' farm on Street Road and had just received an application for a new post-and-beam barn that the Mosses want to build at their home at Blow Horn.
Building inspector Eddie Caudill reported that he granted a building permit to the Leonards, who are renovating their guest house on Wilson Road.
Supervisor Hugh Lofting reported that the township road crew has been busy mowing and doing general maintenance. He said that earlier in the month they had received a few requests for dust control on gravel roads, but "not so much recently," given the frequent storms.
Julia Altman, who runs the Greenmore Farm Animal Rescue on Route 842 (between Ryan and Thouron Roads), asked the township to reduce or waive the $604 permit fee it was charging her to install kennels. She said that amount of money would allow her to neuter several animals. The board did not make a decision on her request.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The right path

A pal of mine invited me over this afternoon to take a walk through her wonderful flower garden. She has a splendid green thumb and her hydrangeas, phlox, echinacea, yarrows, roses (the ones the deer spared, that is) and Shasta daisies are growing like gangbusters. In addition to her main garden she has various other borders around the property, including one with Crocosmia, a marvelous plant I'd never seen before. It's a native of South Africa and has a stalk like a gladiolus but a spray of stunning small bright-red flowers. She also let me eat some blueberries from her five bushes.
One thing I love about gardening friends is that they like to share. On a previous visit I left with a muddy cardboard box full of hostas she was ripping out to make a new garden bed (they're thriving here!). And every time I see the ajuga at the edge of her yard I think of the late Teddy Marvin, who lived at Dunleigh Castle opposite the entrance to New Bolton Center; his ajuga is still spreading under my walnut tree.