Thursday, October 31, 2013

Good-bye to the garden

I just said good-bye to the vegetable garden of 2013, taking advantage of this warm, breezy afternoon to pull up the dead plants and spread straw. The sunflowers were long gone and the zinnias, celosia, salvia, gomphrena and pumpkins got hit by the frost a week or so ago. The snapdragons are hanging in there and I actually might get a few more bouquets. Not bad for the end of October!
My next chore is to dig up and divide the Peruvian daffodils; they have lovely and fragrant flowers, but the bulbs seem to multiply each season like Bartholomew Cubbins' hats.
There are already amaryllis bulb kits being sold in the grocery stores. Despite their low price, I always have great luck with them.

Hood's expansion

If you're a major municipal meeting junkie and didn't get your fill of East Marlborough Zoning Hearing Board meetings during the Whitewing Farm controversy, fear not: there's another one coming up. On Wednesday, Nov. 13, at 7 p.m., the zoning board will meet to review a request from Hood's BBQ to expand its restaurant on Route 82 in Unionville. Hood's is seeking three special exceptions and 11 variances from the township's zoning regulations to accommodate its expansion plans. The hearing will be at the East Marlborough township building, also on Route 82.

A life well lived

The Unionville area has lost another longtime resident: early Oct. 27 Barbara Ann Miller Wilson of Doe Run died at age 81.
A native of Marlborough Village, she graduated in 1949 from Unionville Consolidated School, where she was a cheerleader and 1948 Harvest Queen. She received her degree in elementary education from Maryville College in Tennessee and taught at New Garden Elementary School in the Kennett school district for 35 years. She was the wife of the late Sam Wilson, manager of the King Ranch in West Marlborough, and as her obituary said, "their 49 years together on the ranch were filled with adventures day and night."
I knew my neighbor Mrs. Wilson only later in her life but was always struck by what a gracious and lovely woman she was. At the service at Westminster Presbyterian Church, in addition to beautiful flowers from neighbors and friends, there were lots of photos on display of her with her family, here and on vacation, in her wedding gown or in a swimsuit, and she had a wonderful smile in all of them. Sympathy to her son Samuel S. Wilson, Jr., daughter, Mary Jean, son-in-law Mark Stenz, and granddaughter, Taylor.
Hood's restaurant in Unionville, where Mrs. Wilson was a regular customer and family friend, was closed on Thursday so the staff could attend her funeral. In the past few weeks, when she was ill, I'd often see Sam lunching there on his own. So many people would come up to him and ask, "How's your Mom?" that his lunch break was probably double its normal duration.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Traffic accidents are a staple of local newspapers, to the point that they catch our attention only if we are very familiar with the location, or if we were caught in the ensuing traffic jam, or if we know the people involved. The latter situation happened to me this past weekend.
I saw a photo of a demolished Toyota Corolla on the open-grate bridge on Route 322 south of Downingtown but didn't think much about it -- until I found out that a young Unionville friend of mine and her boyfriend were the victims. They are OK, thank God -- and thanks to the seat belts and air bags.
My friend said she blacked out for a few seconds after the impact and when she came to, her boyfriend was already calling 911. When the EMTs arrived they took one look at the extent of damage to the car and called in a chopper. They had to saw apart the car and cut off her clothing to get her out (they kept her covered her with a blanket).
"Flying naked in a helicopter; cross that off my to-do list!" she joked. She said she couldn't see anything except the roof of the chopper en route to Paoli Memorial because of the neck brace she was wearing.
She was hurt worse than her boyfriend was (cracked rib, scratched spleen), though naturally they both are very sore. She spent a few days in the hospital, keeping her friends updated via Facebook -- including saying how upset she was that they didn't make it to the Renaissance Faire, which is where they were headed.
I went to see her the day after she was released. Despite her high spirits, she was moving a little gingerly and her hug was a tad cautious. She said she plans to send a letter not only to the EMT who took special care of her, but also to Toyota for their life-saving safety engineering.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Blow Horn update

On Monday morning I drove past the old grist mill at Blow Horn -- you'll recall that on Oct. 21 it was hit by an oversized tractor-trailer -- and saw an insurance adjuster assessing the damage. He had his measuring tape out and was taking photographs. The less stable stones have been removed from the damaged area of the building, and you can see just how thick the wall is. There's still some rubble by the side of the road, guarded by PoMarLin's traffic cones. The stop sign regulating traffic on northbound Route 82 is standing once again, but it's pretty crumpled.

Slow down

The new 30-mph speed limit is in effect on Route 82 all the way through Unionville, and although I haven't seen them, I've gotten reports that the local police have been spotted monitoring motorists as they drive through town.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Litter patrol

Early Sunday morning I joined a bunch of neighbors at Doe Run Village and, after having some coffee and donuts, we donned orange safety vests and work gloves and set out to remove litter from along Route 82. I've done this several times before and it's always fun (as I kept telling myself when the alarm rang at 7:05). Once we got moving and the sun rose a little higher, it turned out to be a beautiful morning for an autumn walk.
The litter wasn't very interesting: I'd say an unopened and discarded "Final Notice" for an E-Z Pass violation took the blue ribbon this time. Coors Light seems to be the beverage of choice among litterers, although we did find a four-pack of Sutter Home Chardonnay and some pony bottles of Corona. My partner and I had an especially easy job because one landowner keeps her side of the road utterly pristine.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

At the clinic

On Saturday afternoon I spent maybe 45 minutes in the waiting room of the Urgent Care clinic on East Baltimore Pike near Bayard Road while the doctor was tending to a sick friend. The place was hopping: a kid whose stitches weren't quite doing the job, a woman with a possibly broken foot (she showed it to me; I don't know why), a sick infant, and an entire family escorting an older woman with a leg problem.
I was worried about my friend, certainly, but that didn't stop me from being amused at the ceaseless conversation among two members of the latter family. These two guys were discussing sports -- in particular the Phillies and the Sixers -- and if you told me they had written doctoral dissertations on the subject and defended them, I would not have been surprised. Not only did they know every single athletes' current and past statistics from every year and with every club they'd ever belonged to, they knew their contract details, agents and off-court/field antics. They rehashed what they believed to be fatal decisions made during this season's draft, and that of several seasons before. Never, I believe, has the history of the Phillies' farm system been so thoroughly and articulately analyzed. These were some serious sports fans.

On the clock

At least it will be lighter in the mornings ... Daylight Savings Time ends at 2 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 3. Most of my belongings equipped with clocks automatically readjust themselves, but I still have my watch and my antique wind-up schoolhouse clock to re-set. The latter has been in the shop with a broken rod, and I've really missed its comforting ticking sound.
And speaking of Nov. 3, let's hope for great weather -- and more importantly, a safe day for the jockeys and horses -- for the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup. I wouldn't miss it.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Blood drive

There were no stink bugs in sight at the blood drive at Kennett Presbyterian on Oct. 23, so all went as planned (you'll recall that a blood drive at the ChesLen Preserve a month or so back was cancelled because the Red Cross folks thought the presence of stink bugs was unhygienic). The nurse who drew my blood told me that it took only 7.5 minutes to fill up my bag, and I kind of wish she hadn't mentioned it because I'll be trying to set a personal record from now on. All the Red Cross personnel were really kind, and even the guy hauling crates of equipment thanked me for coming out. I had fun chatting with some church members afterward while we were drinking water and eating pretzels; they had a lot of nice things to say about their church, the leadership and the congregation.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Land Trust

I know that some Unionville residents spend part of the year in Maine, and next summer I want you to introduce yourself to my pal Doug Sensenig, the new Executive Director of the Coastal Mountains Land Trust on Mt. Battie Street in Camden, Maine. Doug grew up here in Chester County (I went to school with him) and spent his summers at the magical family farm on Lake Megunticook in Lincolnville and at Camp Flying Moose Lodge in East Orland. He now lives in Camden with his wife and their teenage daughter; the three of them recently returned from a year-long, round-the-world adventure.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Patton Middle School update

The Young Relative announced over dinner tonight that has an upcoming book report to write about his choice of a Nobel Prize winner. His favorite subject being gym, he grumbled when he learned that there is, in fact, no Nobel Prize in Sports. I suggested that perhaps he could find a Nobel Laureate in Medicine whose research contributed to improved athletic performance.
"Oh, yeah," he said, his tone indicating that he was actually slightly impressed with the idea and was not rejecting it out of hand.
He's also busy acting in a class play based on "The Prince and the Pauper" (they are looking for a live piglet as a co-star), studying the causes of the American Revolution and learning about the parts of a cell. Something clicked in the back of my brain and I said, "Ah, yes, like the endoplasmic reticulum?"
Once again I got a not-unimpressed glance from him. Not even a single "stupid," the adjective du jour among the jaded middle-school set. A red-letter day indeed!

The way you look tonight

A faithful online reader pretty much nailed my sense of chic when he reminded me of the time some years back that I spent an entire day with a poppy seed from my breakfast bagel lodged between my two front teeth. Apparently no one had mentioned it to me until he did, in the evening.
Fast-forward 20-plus years to Tuesday, which was a hectic day involving multiple wardrobe changes. In addition to editing work here at my desk, I had a ladies' luncheon to attend, and in the afternoon I was planting tulip bulbs and taking some photos that involved traipsing through damp fields and climbing fences.
Then, rushing to get ready for my gym class in the late afternoon, I swapped my jeans for a tennis skirt, grabbed a bandanna from the drawer and headed out the door to the Jennersville Y. Obviously, I did so without glancing in the mirror: when I walked into my class I looked like one of those kids' flipbooks where you create a character wearing an absurdly mismatched outfit. From top to bottom: Blue topaz earrings from the luncheon. My omnipresent fleece pullover. Halloween-themed bandanna with dancing skeletons. Black tennis skirt. Bare legs. Multicolored hand-knitted socks. Duck boots. It could hardly have been worse.
"At several points in the day, I'll bet you looked great," commented one diplomatic gym friend -- when she could stop laughing. Talk about tact!
In another fashion note, the "Wall Street Journal" each Thursday runs a piece detailing the clothes worn by employees in a certain workplace. This week it was the American Ballet Theatre in Manhattan, and I was surprised to see that the assistant stage manager was quoted as saying he was wearing Ariat boots. Ariats are, of course, those sleek, smart-looking leather boots very popular in the equestrian world; I didn't realize they made thick-soled workboots, too.

Kinloch show

Kinloch Woodworking's annual autumn show is from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Nov 1, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 2. 
Reports Kinloch's owner, Doug Mooberry: "The show will feature an extremely rare carousel dog hand-carved in the 1920’s, a vanity made to look like the bow of a Chris Craft motorboat, and a blanket chest painted by a master and his apprentice who had a lot to learn. And in case a judge happens to stop by, we have made a gavel from the wood from the USS CONSTITUTION circa 1797.  Of course, a bunch of other stuff we are working late to finish up in time.
"Pat Mooberry will also be showing her pottery. Her work includes ice cream bowls for Foxy Loxy, which is getting closer every day to opening [that's the new ice-cream place in Unionville, next door to Kinloch], funerary urns for her well-loved relatives who of late have been getting a little long in the tooth, and the odd cake pedestal and jelly bean bowl. Plus a bunch of cool stuff that Pat is unloading from the kiln this week."
This is always a great chance to marvel at the amazing work by Doug and his team, and I don't think Doug and Pat will mind if I add that it's a really nice social occasion, too.
Kinloch is on Route 82 in the middle of Unionville.

Election Day

The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 5, and more campaign signs seem to be springing up daily for would-be supervisors, judges and school board members. One local candidate actually owns a sign-making business, which seems a decided advantage for any candidate.
West Marlborough Township's monthly meeting, normally held the first Tuesday of each month, will be moved to 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 4, because the township building will be given over to voters and election officials on Nov. 5.

Centreville Cafe

I was doing some volunteer business in northern Delaware on Monday, and lunchtime was approaching. Two of the ladies suggested getting sandwiches at the Centreville Cafe on Kennett Pike, which turned out to be a great idea: I had a delicious turkey-and-cheese sandwich on toasted wheatberry bread. Unfortunately, my friends had to rush off to a 1 p.m. committee meeting, so we couldn't chat for long. I used to belong to their committee, and tried to convince them that there was no way the meeting would start on time -- but apparently things have tightened up since my day. I am holding them to their promise to meet again and have a proper catch-up.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A sad sight

I think Blow Horn corner at Routes 82 and 841 must be jinxed. Only a few weeks after the beloved "Blow Horn" sign was repainted, the old stone mill was badly damaged by an oversized rig at 3:45 p.m. Monday. The driver, who pulled over just north of the scene, told me he heard a loud noise but didn't realize he had hit the building until he walked back and saw one of his truck's orange warning flags stuck to the stone. The crash left a pile of large rocks and rubble and a crumpled stop sign along the shoulder of Route 82.
I'm told that the rig, which was hauling a giant hydraulic press for making construction beams, is the same one that had been pulled over by the state police just outside of Unionville late that morning. As the driver told me, "Nothin' but trouble, this load!"

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Under construction

There was some excitement in the middle of Unionville the morning of Oct. 14: the back third of the historic building at Wollaston Road and Route 82 was being torn down! The owners, the Fenzas, are converting the building into an apartment house, and from what I saw (of course I went over and watched) it's going to be a first-class renovation and certainly a big improvement over what was there.
The neighbors I spoke to are delighted to have another Fenza project in town. Said one: "The Fenzas had a neighborhood open house when they finished renovating the building that historically was the Unionville Hotel (the one that sat there in limbo for a few years) and it was wonderful. They also renovated the red barn directly across 82 from that building-- they did that years ago. Top-shelf work all. It's good for the neighborhood!"
"It will be extraordinary," commented another village resident. "Those people have great taste."

A great cause!

Here's a party I am really looking forward to; perhaps you've seen the signs up for it around town already. To honor our local volunteer firefighters from PoMarLin, West Bradford, Modena, and Longwood Fire Companies, the Newlin Fire & EMS Support Committee is throwing a thank-you party and fundraiser from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16, at St. Michael Lutheran Church in Unionville.
On the schedule: food, drink, music by local rock band Jimi's Not Home, Del Bittle as DJ (this year's Unionville Community Fair was dedicated to Del), a silent auction, and a raffle drawing for two special items by two of Unionville's finest artists: a bronze dinner bell depicting a polo pony by sculptor A. J. "Buddy" Obara and a one-of-a-kind coffee table made by woodworker Doug Mooberry.
Tickets are $20 ($10 for kids under 10). Contact information: (610) 486-1141; email; NewlinFEMS on Facebook; or online

Friday, October 18, 2013

No scanners?

After this year's Unionville High School used-book sale I wrote about the problem of the for-profit book resellers who clog up the aisles with their wheeled carts and assistants and generally aren't very considerate of other customers (obviously, not all of them fall into this category). I saw an ad for the Quarryville Library's annual book sale (Oct. 23 through 26) and it looks like they've had a similar problem. Their solution: they don't permit scanners at the preview sale on Oct. 23 or until noon on Oct. 24. Interesting idea.


I know I'm risking outraged cries of "You went to the bagel shop and didn't bring any back to my home/office/barn/garage/studio?!" but I simply have to put in a plug for Palm-A-Bagel in the Marlborough Square Shopping Center on Baltimore Pike between Kennett and Longwood (the same shopping center where Floga Bistro is). I stopped in early Friday morning, and my toasted poppy-seed bagel with cream cheese was just delicious. They make them fresh from scratch every day, and it was absolutely the best bagel I've had in a very long time. I will definitely be back!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Love and sunflowers

My friend Doug sent a belated comment on the sunflower fields on Route 1 at Longwood Gardens, but it's so poetic that I'm going to share it anyway:
"The beauty of the flowers was obviously apparent, but so was the love and kindness of the people stopping to view them! I saw elderly couples holding hands and many others, all helping one another navigate the uneven ground. There were moms and dads holding their children close as they walked among the blooms, young adults jumping up between the flowers catching the evening light while a friend captured an action photo.
And there were those just standing close, shoulder to shoulder or face to face, admiring the beauty of the sunflowers or each other.
It was a pleasure driving by the field each evening."

The key to great customer service

Stephanie Anderson of Kennett Square shared this sweet story about how Officer Johnathan Ortiz of the Kennett Square Police Department saved the day for her on Monday, Oct. 14:
"I am the mom of 2 girls, ages 5 and 2.5. My oldest daughter was off from school, but my youngest still had preschool in West Chester. Not only was it Monday, but we had also scheduled to have our carpets cleaned that day. So, in the midst of kid chaos and carpet cleaning, it occurs to me that I cannot find my keys. I check the usual places, and decide to glance in the car. Where I find my purse sitting in the front seat. The purse that contains my keys.
[Insert FACEPALM here.]
I frantically call my husband, who is a teacher in West Chester. He is unable to help, as he could not get leave from school. I then call a locksmith, who said they could send someone within 30 minutes. Although I was not happy to pay that kind of money, I needed to get my daughter to school. Shortly after, the locksmith calls back to say they cannot send someone for several hours.
I am getting more desperate, and under the advisement of my husband, I attempt to stick a wire hanger in the car myself. You can imagine this had a 0% success rate.
I decided to text my brother-in-law, who is a police officer outside of the city. He was sympathetic, and said he would normally come help but his kit was in his bag at work. I asked if he thought it would be bad to call the Kennett Borough PD. He said it was worth a try (because not every police department is willing to conduct these services).
I call the dispatcher and (sheepishly and apologetically) explain my predicament. She said she would contact an officer, and someone would call me back to let me know if they could help. I never got a call, as moments later a police cruiser pulled up to the front of my house.
An officer steps out of the car to assess the situation. He is all smiles and did not once openly poke fun at my idiocy. I signed a waiver and Officer Ortiz got to work. While chatting congenially, he adeptly used his kit to quickly unlock my car. I rescued my keys and thanked him profusely.
Officer Ortiz truly saved my day!"

A great party

Whoever throws the next big party in Unionville has a tough act to follow: the Buck & Doe Trust's Oct. 12 event was fantastic in every way. The food, much of it locally sourced, was great and plentiful; I had a delicious buffalo burger from Rubins' Buffalo Run Ranch on Chapel Road in West Marlborough. The dessert table was laden with all kinds of goodies. The pumpkin-filled swirls came in for special praise, although my eyes lit up when I spotted the dishes full of candy pumpkins.
The atmosphere was relaxed and casual, with a delightful sense of camaraderie, and I got to catch up with plenty of friends and neighbors.
Tables! So often there are not enough tables at parties. Not here: you could sit down and actually eat your meal without balancing a plate and a drink.
Toward the end of the evening the host put on some tunes and there was dancing, which my friends and I joined in with some enthusiasm.
The venue was magnificent: no speeches were necessary about the value of land preservation when you could look out and see the beautiful rolling  hills of the unspoiled Chester County landscape.
Best of all, I think, the party was held in October, not December. The Buck & Doe board decided that things are just too nuts for everyone in December, so they morphed the traditional Christmas fest into a more casual autumn party instead. The acclaim for that wise decision was universal.
Four days after the party I went out to dinner with some friends and we were still talking about how much fun we had. Thank you to everyone at the Buck & Doe Trust for a wonderful evening -- and for all the work you do year round.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Livin' large

On Sunday a Unionville friend and her husband headed to the big city -- well, King of Prussia -- to see "Gravity" at the IMAX theater. They stopped at the Cheesecake Factory for dinner and sat at the bar while waiting for a table.
My friend was dazzled by the lengthy menu of exotic drinks (she settled on a pomegranate mojito) and made a remark to that effect to the smartly dressed, impeccably groomed older woman sitting next to her.
Realizing that perhaps she sounded like a bit of a yokel, my friend explained, "I don't really get out very much."
"What, do you live on a farm?" the lady asked in a teasing tone.
"Why, yes, actually I do!" replied my friend.
That's doubtless not a response the elegant woman often hears on the Main Line.

Frank talk about stink bugs

An eminent Unionville veterinarian (but really, is there any other kind?) came up to me at a party over the weekend and urged me to write an item about stink bugs, which he said had invaded his house. I told him that fortunately for me, they are not bad at all at my place. Sure, I get maybe a dozen a day, and yes, they seem to like getting inside my pillowcases, but that's nothing compared to the infestation we had two years ago about this time.

Early bird

Do you wonder why the garage-sale ads often specify "no early birds"?
Some East Marlborough friends of mine held a sale on Saturday starting at 8 a.m. Sure enough, somebody showed up at 7:30. He told my friends that yes, he realized 8 was the official opening time, but "at least I waited until the sun came up!"

The more things change...

The "Blow Horn" sign is back. And now there's a new Springdell tree!
On Wednesday morning I got a text that there was some activity going on atop the hill on the north side of Route 841 near Springdell, where that beloved lone hickory stood until it was blown down back in June. I headed over immediately, just in time to see a large sugar maple being slowly raised to an upright position and settled into its new home on the crest of the hill.
The 15-year-old sugar maple, from Tuel & Tingle's nursery in Unionville, was chosen to replace the hickory because it seems hickories don't transplant well. I'm told that the landowner, Dick Hayne of Doe Run Farm, requested the biggest one the nursery had. It was transported to its new home by Gene and Dan Glomb of Glomb Services Inc., using one of those special trucks with giant claws for moving really big trees.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Country roads

In last week's column I wrote about how the West Marlborough Township supervisors are trying to discourage motorists from making the 90-degree turn from southbound Newark Road onto Route 926 at London Grove village. Instead, they want drivers to take the little cut-off (on the east side of the old blacksmith's shop) and stop at the stop sign.
I heard from one reader who hopes the supervisors rethink their position. Here's her argument:
"I’m one of the people who turn left directly onto Rt. 926, but not because I’m impatient or in a hurry ... After too many falls from horses, it’s really hard for me to turn my head to look over my right shoulder to see if someone is coming from that direction. Also, the sightline to the left is often obscured by cars parked in front of the London Grove Apartments, and with traffic approaching the stop sign way too quickly for my liking, I’ve barely escaped being hit from the left many, many times."
"I’ve been told by people who have lived near the village longer than me that the reason not to make the 90-degree turn is that one used to be in danger of being rear-ended by fast-moving trucks, but since the stop signs were erected on Newark Rd. (yay!), that danger has pretty much passed."

In other "country roads" news, I was lucky enough to attend a (fabulous!) party this past weekend on Frog Hollow Road and had to take a lengthy detour to get there (up Route 82, a right at Ercildoun, a right onto Strasburg Road, then a right on Frog Hollow) because the covered bridge over the Buck Run is still closed at the East Fallowfield/West Marlborough border. It was a nuisance just doing it once; what a daily hassle and waste of gasoline, time and money it must be for those residents!

Lots of rain

The heavy rain last week (I've heard we got five inches) filled up the normally inconsequential little retention pond at Newark and Line Roads, and on Saturday afternoon I was delighted to see a half-dozen mallard ducks, males and females, paddling around. I've always been especially fond of mallards. At Anson Nixon Park in Kennett, the heavy rain pushed some of the algae to one end of the lake, and dozens of Canada geese were enjoying the clear area. The creeks that run through the park were back to their normal depth but were still far more turbid than usual. And on Saturday evening I drove by Rokeby Mill on Route 82 and water was still pouring over the whole width of the spillway.
"Road May Flood" reads the new yellow sign along Walnut Road south of Route 926 in East Marlborough, and it did: the intersection of Walnut and Longwood was completely underwater on Friday, and Po-Mar-Lin was called out for a water rescue. By Saturday, though, there were just some minor puddles along the roadside, and across the way golfers were putting undeterred.


I urge you not to let October go by without stopping in at Barnard's Orchards on Route 842, east of Unionville. They have tons of pumpkins of all sizes, from Jack Be Littles to behemoths, as well as Indian corn, gourds and their terrific cider and apples. My companion-in-errands was delighted to find his very favorite apples in stock: Staymans. And their fresh cider puts supermarket cider to shame. Barnard's also has wonderful produce (a friend particularly adores their spinach) at the best prices around, as well as fresh flowers, cheese, and variety of relishes and other goodies. They always have samples at the counter too: I finished a delicious little Bartlett pear by the time I got back onto 842.


Ellen Endslow, Director of Collections and Curator at the Chester County Historical Society, will be presenting a slide lecture about Chester County quilts at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 23, at the monthly meeting of the Southeastern Chester County Historical Society at the Friends Home on State Street in Kennett. I've heard Ellen speak before and she does a great job.

Litter pickup

If you see a bunch of people picking up litter along Route 82 in West Marlborough the morning of Sunday, Oct. 27, they're not convicts doing their community service; they're volunteers from the Buck & Doe Trust doing their part to keep our  countryside beautiful. You are welcome to join them; assemble at 8 a.m. at Doe Run Village. The cleanup takes no more than 90 minutes, it's a pleasant walk and it's always interesting to see what bizarre stuff people have deposited along the roadside.
You also get to experience just how fast people drive along Route 82. I frequently cross the road in front of Hood's, and I'll be curious to see if the forthcoming 30-mph limit through Unionville village (reduced from 35) slows them down at all.

Friday, October 11, 2013


There's another abandoned old sofa sitting along Route 82 in downtown Unionville. This one is right across from the ballfield parking lot, a few houses west of Hood's. I can't imagine it's in very good shape, given the four inches of rain that have fallen in the past few days.

So sue me

It will come as no surprise to my readers that we reporters develop distinct opinions about the people we encounter at municipal meetings month after month. A reporter colleague was telling me the other day about a gadfly he deals with regularly on his "beat," and I was immediately reminded of Mr. Frankland from Arthur Conan Doyle's classic Sherlock Holmes tale "The Hound of the Baskervilles." Apparently litigiousness is nothing new:
"His passion is for the British law, and he has spent a large fortune in litigation. He fights for the mere pleasure of fighting, and is equally ready to take up either side of a question, so that it is no wonder that he has found it a costly amusement Sometimes he will shut up a right of way and defy the parish to make him open it. At others he will with his own hands tear down some other man's gate and declare that a path has existed there from time immemorial, defying the owner to prosecute him for trespass ... He applies his knowledge sometimes in favour of the villagers of Fernworthy and sometimes against them, so that he is periodically either carried in triumph down the village street or else burned in effigy, according to his latest exploit."

Eye strain

At the Kennett Giant this afternoon a loyal "Unionville in the News" reader spotted me buying a soft pretzel (no mustard, please) in the lobby and asked if this was going to be part of my next column. I confessed to her that I've been so busy with work that going to the supermarket just might be a highlight of the week.
I'm a freelance book editor, and the past few weeks I have bitten off way more than I can chew (workwise, not the soft pretzel). Right now I'm working on a textbook on Integrative Dermatology and a treatise on Victorian literature, with a book on "Young Catholic America" to arrive any day.
I recently finished a book on the changing nature of protests in America (fascinating), a teacher's manual for a Communications course, and a history of the Muslim Brotherhood (talk about "ripped from the headlines").
But the project that has taken the lion's share of my time is proofreading a first edition of a 700-page ethics reader, an old-fashioned paper-and-pencil project that is heavy going to put it mildly. The typesetters consistently typed "modem" instead of "modern" and "die" instead of "the." Other mistakes I've found include "the cult of nacho" instead of "the cult of macho" and "lolled" instead of "killed." Yeah, there's a difference.
My deadline for this project is so tight that I couldn't even go out this morning and check out the flooding in Springdell. Ouch!

And how!

It's funny how fragments of my expensive classical education come in handy. Like at the Kennett Y on Thursday, when our instructor brought along a new "toy" -- a resistance band in two tensions, readily stretchable and barely stretchable. I chose the tough one, of course, and urged the woman who came in after me to do the same.
She looked at me skeptically.
"Hubris," she said in a warning tone.
Not quite a word one expects to hear at the gym  ... but, as it turned out, quite prescient of her. The blue band was challenging indeed, though hardly on the level of Greek tragedy.

Sportsmanship, good and bad

A friend of mine takes photos of athletes for a national sports magazine, so you can imagine the egos and entourages he has to deal with. But the other day he was shooting an acclaimed college basketball player and, much to my friend's surprise, the fellow turned out to be modest and gracious, even though he was nursing a bad head cold. My friend found it especially endearing that this soon-to-be-gazillionaire even brought along his own tissue box!
In sharp contrast, on Saturday night a friend and I could have served as poster children for poor sportsmanship when we found out that we both entered, but did not win, the same vegetable competition at the Unionville Community Fair last week. We heaped scorn on the puny, blotchy, misshapen specimen that inexplicably took first prize. (But naturally, the entries for which we did win ribbons fully deserved them; clearly those judges possessed the wisdom of Solomon.)

Second best

I have always loved my dentist's chair -- until this afternoon.
At my appointment today in West Chester the dental hygienist let slip the fact that another dentist in the practice has installed a heated, massaging chair in her office. How wonderful would that be?! Now all of a sudden I feel cheated.
I mentioned this to the Cranky Friend and he said it reminded him of the heated, massaging, womb-like business-class seat he once enjoyed on an Air Japan flight from Tokyo to Manila. (He also recalled fondly the beverage menu, which was chockfull of old brandy and single-malt Scotch. Attention, dental practice consultants.)

Thursday, October 10, 2013


Perhaps the one good thing that has come out of the federal government shutdown is that I got to have breakfast at Perkins on Thursday morning with a young friend who is at home instead of at her internship with a federal agency. The most direct impact the shutdown has had on me is that PubMed, the National Institute of Health's database, isn't being updated, and as a textbook editor I spend quite a lot of time on the website verifying article titles. Somebody at PubMed is going to have a LOT of uploading to do when the budget is finally passed.

Let me explain

Blow Horn: you either totally get what all the fuss is about -- or you don't.
For me and the "Occupy Blow Horn" crowd, the reappearance of the sign on Oct. 6 means that tradition has triumphed in a world that, sadly, tends not to honor the customs of yesteryear. The sign was a comforting, loyal friend, much like That Tree (whose demise also triggered an outpouring of emotion from far and wide). One man who lives up the road from the sign used the word "romance" to describe our relationship with it, and he may be right.
Blow Horn also makes a great signpost: "Turn left at Blow Horn" is an easy shorthand if you're giving directions to The Whip. One friend confessed that for years he didn't know the exact name of Route 841 -- and with Blow Horn there, he didn't need to.
But a lot of people just don't understand -- alas, some of my own family members among them.
"Why," they ask me, baffled, "would you actually want someone blowing their horn in front of your house?"

Monday, October 7, 2013

Compost removed

On Sunday, Oct. 6, Russell Jones finished removing all the spent mushroom compost from his Hood Road farm, well ahead of the township-imposed Nov. 1 deadline.
"Today the research project by Stroud Water Research on the property will begin," he wrote in a Monday morning e-mail. "I will keep you posted regarding this study which I hope will provide us all with valuable insight about passive composting's environmental impact."
Last autumn Mr. Jones had 900 loads of spent compost trucked in from local mushroom farms to his West Marlborough property, located between Hood Road and Street Road near Mosquito Lane. It was supposed to decompose there for some months and then be removed to be bagged up and sold as potting soil. However, neighbors complained about the noise and truck traffic and told the township they were worried about environmental damage. The Brandywine Conservancy, which holds an easement on Mr. Jones' property, also objected to the use. Earlier this year the West Marlborough supervisors set the Nov. 1 deadline for removal.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Wednesday events

Two really interesting events are coming up on Wednesday, Oct. 16.
Author Laura Resau will be speaking at Unionville High School at 7 p.m. Ms. Resau's "The Queen of Water," based on the life of an Ecuadorian child slave, was the focus of the UHS English department's school-wide "One Book One Unionville" reading program. She will be meeting with students during the school day, and the entire community is invited to attend the evening session.
Dr. Houping Liu, a forest entomologist with the state Bureau of Forestry, will be at the Brandywine River Museum to give a lecture on the emerald ash borer, the destructive insect that I've written about several times in this column. It has been spotted as close as Montgomery County. Refreshments are at 6:30 and the lecture starts at 7. Register at 610-388-8386 or

Baked goods

At the Unionville Community Fair I did my usual shift as the "director" of one of the Saturday afternoon baking competitions, and people submitted 11 apple pie entries and 10 chocolate cakes, an excellent turnout. (Alas, there was only one entry in the youth brownie/cookie contest. I was on the verge of texting the Young Relative and telling him to whip something up.)
The judges started their tasting at 2 p.m., and many of the contestants stood nearby watching anxiously. The judges take their work very seriously, and the process is a lengthy one. I was sent out periodically to give updates to the entrants, like a nurse updating the waiting family of a surgical patient: "The judges have one more pie to taste," I'd intone, or "The judges did not have a bad word to say about any of the chocolate cakes."
The entries were so good this year that the deliberations seemed to take extra-long. At one point I was instructed to say, "The judges are close to deciding."
"We don't believe you anymore," said one contestant.

It's back!

I was on my way to my Sunday-morning tennis match -- and oh my gosh, what a wonderful sight greeted me on Route 82: the landowner's young son was neatly repainting the much-missed Blow Horn sign on the old stone mill at the intersection of Routes 82 and 841.
The historic but much-weathered "disappeared" in October 2011, prompting much grumbling and a light-hearted "Occupy Blow Horn" motorcade. Having the beloved sign back in its rightful spot has brought great joy to us West Marlborough residents -- the response after I posted the news on social media was amazing. Thank you to the landowner, and three for the mill!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Ice cream update

All summer long I've been asked: "When's the ice-cream place opening?" They're referring, of course, to the proposed ice-cream parlor in the brick building that's being renovated at Route 82 and Cemetery Lane in "downtown" Unionville. On Thursday I went straight to the top and asked the store's owner, Henry "Jerry" Brown of Newlin Township, about his plans. He told me it's not going to be just a summer-only ice-cream parlor, like his other shop in Vermont. Here he's planning to have food and coffee, and he's hoping to be open by Christmas.
His eyes twinkled when I mentioned that the now-under-construction Unionville Park, just across Route 82 from the shop, is not going to be bad for business.

Denim & Diamonds

"Denim & Diamonds," the opening-night party at the Unionville Community Fair, was lots of fun. As soon as I arrived I checked out how my entries fared (five ribbons, one of them blue) and texted my chicken-keeping pal to let her know how her eggs fared (three ribbons, one of them blue). Then I chatted with my Fair friends, browsed through the Silent Auction items and ate; the very good food was by Triple Fresh in Ercildoun.
Berta Rains, who until recently lived in Doe Run, won the Fair Volunteer of the Year award, an announcement that was greeted with a large and well-deserved round of applause. The award came as "a total shock" to her, and she said the Fair "is really all about community -- and that's my passion." The photo shows Berta with Barron "Boots" Hetherington from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

In the live auction, the biggest hit was the four dozen gourmet cupcakes made by Robin Mastrippolito of Embreeville. I bid on and won two dozen of them and then drove up the prize for the remainder by proclaiming how delicious they were!

(The other "big-ticket" items in the live auction were a tour of Baily's Dairy; a tour of New Bolton Center; an event at the Yellow House of Willowdale, with a gift certificate from Sovana Bistro; riding lessons at Laureleye Farm; a six-month membership to the Y; a painting of Abraham Lincoln by our Congressman, Joe Pitts; a gift certificate to the new Unionville ice-cream parlor; and Walt Disney World passes).
This is always a good party and I really wish more people would attend. I often hear that $100 is too steep for a party in a barn, but the money goes to great causes--and really, $100 is a bargain when you look at the ticket price for some other local fundraisers.


Friday night found the Cranky Friend and me at La Pena Mexicana in Kennett eating their amazing tacos (chicken for me, shrimp for him) and watching the news on the Spanish-language station Telemundo. The headlines were pretty much the same as on English-language TV: the government shutdown and the confrontation between motorists in New York, with a feature on "cervezas artisanales" (not hard to figure that one out).
Then an ad came on for a money-transfer service. It showed a Spanish-speaking person trying to send money only to be met with a blank look from the clerk, who spoke only English. We had to laugh at the mirror-in-a-mirror situation: there we were, knowing only the rudiments of Spanish but trying our best to decipher Telemundo, and seeing an ad about ... people who don't speak Spanish.
Then a "Judge Judy"-type program came on and we had a much tougher time trying to understand what was going on: the two participants and even the judge were speaking very quickly. Cranky thought he caught the phrase "dos mesas," which made him think they were arguing about furniture (two tables?).

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Give a pint. Save a stinkbug.

This afternoon I arrived at the American Red Cross blood drive at the ChesLen Preserve headquarters on Cannery Road -- only to find that it was cancelled. It seems the Red Cross personnel arrived and were not happy when they saw some stinkbugs in the room where the drive was going to be held. They considered it an unsanitary and inappropriate condition; I'm told the nurses even contacted their union rep.
I'm sure the Red Cross personnel were just following their rules and putting safety first, but I suspect they're not from around here. If they were, they'd know how plentiful stinkbugs are all over Chester County in the autumn, even in immaculately kept homes. If they consider some stinkbugs on the wall to be an infestation, all our homes would be condemned for sure.
The ChesLen people could not have been nicer and more apologetic to us donor wannabes about the situation, but it wasn't their fault, and no one grumbled. I was actually amused. I guess I'll have to donate my pint of A-positive somewhere else.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


That highway purgatory that is Route 1 between Route 202 and Longwood was considerably enlivened for me today. In the left lane in front of me was a fellow in a Volvo with his left arm out the window making sweeping, energetic gestures. I think he was conducting music. If he was doing wrist or wrist physical therapy exercises, he was doing them wrong.


Horses and fireworks aren't a good mix. And two women upset about the much-discussed fireworks at a Stone Barn wedding reception on Sept. 7 let the West Marlborough supervisors know about it, loud and clear, at the board's monthly meeting on Oct. 1.
One woman's farm is very close to the Stone Barn; the other's farm is all the way up on Scott Road north of Unionville. Both said the fireworks terrified their animals.
"It affected us big-time," said the Scott Road woman. "It was way excessive." She said one of her colts suffered a head cut after running into a fence.
Bill Wylie, who chairs the Board of Supervisors, apologized to the community and promised that the board would "be a lot smarter next time" someone asked for permission to have a display. He said that although the board did grant permission for the Sept. 7 event, the display was much more extensive than he had expected: "It was big and loud and 11:30 at night," he said. "We were all caught by surprise ... we underestimated what they were going to do."
Also on the agenda, the board agreed to set up an account where citizens can donate money to the many volunteer fire companies that helped to battle the huge hay fire Sept. 14 at the Hicks Brothers' Meadow Spring Farm on Newark Road: Avondale, Christiana, Cochranville, Goodwill, Hockessin, Kennett, Keystone Valley, Longwood, Modena, Po-Mar-Lin, Union, West Bradford, West Grove, and Westwood. The companies that provided standby coverage were Concordville, East Brandywine, Lionville, North East, Quarryville, Rising Sun, and Rocky Run.
All donations will be tax deductible and distributed to the fire companies by Dec. 15, 2013. Donations (checks only) can be sent to West Marlborough Township, P.O. Box 94, Unionville,. PA 19375; email with any questions.
The supervisors also talked about options for improving signage at the intersection of Route 926 and Newark Road in London Grove village, not only to alert westbound motorists that if they go straight on 926 they'll run smack into a hill (which a motorist recently did), but also to discourage impatient drivers heading south on Newark Road from turning left directly onto 926 instead of turning correctly and stopping at the stop sign. (Yes, people do this. For instance, a guy in a white Titan pickup with Maine tags this afternoon.)
Roadmaster and supervisor Hugh Lofting reported that township police officer Bob Clarke issued 12 citations in September (10 for speeding and two stop-sign violations) and five warnings. There were no zoning permits or building permits issued in the month.
November's monthly meeting will be Monday, Nov. 4, not Nov. 5, because of the election.

Everybody loves Matthew

A six-month-old named Matthew was the star attraction at the Tolsdorf oil-change place on Route 1 today at lunchtime. The little guy, who has a full head of dark hair, came in with his aunt about 30 seconds after I did and immediately charmed me with his big, alert eyes (great eye contact!) and ready smile. He seemed fascinated by everyone, especially the men working on cars.
Two customers came in after me, a middle-aged woman and a man, and they both did the same thing: they gave the guy behind the desk their car information and then made a beeline straight to talk to Matthew.
Way better than Wifi!

Doe Run Church Road

Two residents came to the Oct. 1 West Marlborough Supervisors meeting to complain about the condition of the gravel portion of Doe Run Church Road, saying it was dusty and rough, like driving on a washboard.
Road crew member Hugh Lofting II explained to them that it was probably the most heavily traveled gravel road in the township, and the level of traffic creates the washboard effect. He said he could apply a coat of oil on the road to keep the dust down, but that is expensive and would create a harder road.
Supervisor Josh Taylor told the residents that although "I understand your concern about rattling and the neighbors' cars getting hurt," driving more slowly on the road might minimize the problem.
Supervisor Bill Wylie said he would discuss the situation further with the road crew.
The next afternoon I set out to investigate and drove the third-of-a-mile stretch of road, which runs between Dupont Road and the paved and speed-humped portion in East Fallowfield Township. As much as I love gravel roads, I have to say that it was like driving over sheets of corrugated metal. The speed limit is 25, but any faster than 8 m.p.h. and my vehicle started vibrating violently.

Paved surfaces and so much more

At its Oct. 1 meeting, the West Marlborough Planning Commission spent an hour going through the new Act 167 stormwater management ordinance that all Pennsylvania townships must enact by January 2014. Many of the requirements in the document have been dictated by the state, but the planning commission is poring over the technical ordinance carefully, with the help of township engineer Al Giannantonio, and adapting the language that it is permitted to change so that it best meets the township's requirements. The planners scheduled a few more meetings this fall to complete their work. At the meeting were commission members Jake Chalfin, Gus Brown, Nancy Swayne, Anna Myers and Jeb Hannum.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


So here's where That Tree ended up: as the centerpiece of an autumn display at Dick Hayne's Terrain at Styers garden shop in Glen Mills, surrounded by pumpkins and mums. (You'll recall that "That Tree" is the beloved hickory that stood atop a Springdell hillside, all by itself, until it was blown over this spring. A few weeks ago I reported that I saw some of Mr. Hayne's workers digging out the root ball and hauling it away.)

 This is what the roots looked like just a few hours after the tree fell, before they were cleaned and groomed and styled:

Thanks so much to the Terrain customer/Tilda reader who sent me this tip! Much appreciated.