Saturday, August 31, 2013


I know, I've been talking about insects a lot recently, but they've just seemed noteworthy! I spotted the first bagworms of the season the other day, on the blue spruce in the walkway between the Bayard Taylor Library and the Kennett post office.
Bagworms represent "the larval stage of a moth native to Pennsylvania that is reported to feed on over 100 different plants. It is most common in the southern part of the state, where populations can build up rapidly and become serious pests. On pine trees, its cone-shaped bags are often mistaken for cones, which go unnoticed until the infestation is severe," according to an excellent online fact sheet put out by Penn State's Cooperative Extension/College of Agricultural Sciences. Control measures are listed, but whenever I've had to deal with them I just go out with a big garbage bag and a little ladder and pluck them off, one by one. Low-tech and mindless, but it works.

Ice cream in Kennett?

After working out on Friday I stopped by the Market at Liberty Place on State Street in Kennett for a slice of excellent pizza. While I was eating on the patio, a family of tourists at the next table asked me if I knew a good ice-cream shop in town.
"Do I ever!" I replied, telling them all about La Michoacana and giving them precise directions on how to get there.
"How long is the line?" asked the young boy, giving me a quizzical look.
"Well," I assured him, "there might be a few people ahead of you, but they're very efficient behind the counter and you won't have to wait long."
He explained that he judges the quality of a place by how long the line is. Not the worst metric, I suppose!
By the way, I think the Market at Liberty Place is quickly becoming a fixture in people's lives. I'm there often, and a friend overheard a woman saying on her cell phone, "OK, then I'll meet you at Liberty."

TAL tales

Thank you to my hostesses Frieda Springman, Rosemarie Prestileo and Sandy Otte for giving me a tour of the lovely Community Gardens at the Traditions at Longwood development on Route 926 east of Willowdale. The path leading to the garden area is thickly lined with herbs like stevia, sorrel, lemon thyme, purslane and rosemary. The 20 garden plots themselves (some people need only a half-plot) are impeccably maintained; I imagine it helps that there are strictly enforced rules in place about keeping your area neat and well weeded. Peppers, okra and tomatoes were flourishing (I liked the clever PVC tomato cages), and some forward-thinking gardeners already had their second crop of lettuce sprouting (note to self). The three ladies were proud to show off the newly installed tool shed and the special perimeter fencing that extends well underground to keep out voles and other hungry pests.

Ethics and love

On the tennis court this morning my opponent hit a shot that landed squarely on the baseline. I was running backwards and didn't get there in time.
"No, your point, that was long," he said.
"Absolutely not," I replied. "It hit the line."
Things escalated.
"I saw it! It was long!"
"No way! I was right there!"
Finally he conceded that I just might have had a better view of it and accepted that he had actually won the point.
The tennis pro on the next court, who had clearly been watching the U.S. Open, was amused.
"What you guys need," he advised, "is instant replay."

Thursday, August 29, 2013

On the beaten track

The "Brandywine Valley" was featured in the New York Times' travel section last week, and though it's very nice exposure for our area, frankly I thought they could've been a little more creative. Sure, the writer, Geraldine Fabrikant, hit the usual spots -- Longwood Gardens, the Brandywine River Museum, Winterthur, Hank's, Talula's Table -- and I'm glad she visited Tom Macaluso's bookstore, but I wish she'd eaten at one of the awesome Mexican restaurants in town, gotten a sub from Sam's or taken in one of the festivals, events or parades (the Plantation Field three-day event, the Mushroom Fest or the Unionville Community Fair would've been a wonderful spectacle).
Perhaps I speak too soon: maybe the NYT is planning a stand-alone piece on Kennett's Memorial Day parade next year.

Omar Bautista

At the Y the other day my pal Frank Wood pointed out an incredibly muscular guy in the corner of the weight room. It turns out that bodybuilding champ Omar Bautista works out at the Y!
Omar, a native of the Dominican Republic, lives in Kennett Square with his wife and three children. This year he has won first place in the Dominican national bodybuilding championship ("Mr. Republica Dominicana") and he was the overall winner in the Shawn Ray Classic tournament in Baltimore. Next he'll be heading to the North American Championship, which Frank says is "a huge competition against the best in the US, Canada and Mexico."
Frank said he met Omar about 5 years ago through a friend from the Y and Omar has been doing work for his property-preservation business ever since:
"Omar is a good friend. Off stage he is a very humble and quite man -- very polite and considerate, a family man with good character. He does not seek attention. On stage in competition he is totally different: I was shocked when I saw him on stage! A crowd-pleaser to say the least, with the confidence of a champion!" 
(Check out his competition photos online.)
Frank, who is no slouch in the muscle department himself, said he is in awe of Omar's drive and work ethic: "I have seen first hand the dedication it takes to reach his level -- his preparation, diet and training. Just unbelievable how hard he needs to work to win."

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Wolf's Hollow

I've mentioned before how much I like Wolf's Hollow County Park, and I urge you to visit. It's about a half-hour west of Unionville, near the Moccasin Run Golf Club, off Highland Road just west of Route 41.
I stopped by on a warm day last weekend and walked the 1.35-mile Upper Wolf's Hollow Trail (there is an excellent map online). It makes a loop, and I arbitrarily opted to start by heading west from the parking lot. That turned out to be the easy choice, because the trail makes a steep, lengthy drop-off down to the creek. Next time I'm going to reverse direction and take the uphill route!
There are lots of other well-marked trails through the park, with spectacular views. And if you enjoy spotting flora like I do there are unusual lichens, mushrooms and mosses all through the woods. Don't miss the clever butterfly garden in the parking lot.
If you're out that way, there's an excellent roadside market, Maple Arch Farm, on Route 10 at Friendship Church Road. I was there this morning and bought two heads of organic lettuce, a container of apple cider doughnuts and a small peach pie.

The Case of the Two Clocks

My friend Wendy Cooper of Kennett Township is going to be speaking at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 10, on "The Nottingham Story: A Tale of Two Clocks." Wendy, who just recently retired as curator of furniture at the Winterthur Museum, and her colleague Mark Anderson, senior furniture conservator at Winterthur, will be giving the lecture to a meeting of the Oxford Area Historical Society, but all are welcome to attend. It's at the Oxford Presbyterian Church in downtown Oxford.

Release the hounds!

I was at a party in front of the Cheshire Kennels off Route 82 last weekend and the hounds, known as the "Cheshire Beauties," were NOT happy at being excluded. They were pressing up against the gates of their pens "in full cry," howling plaintively to be let out. And who can blame them for wanting to be part of the fun and eat and drink and play croquet?

Looking up

I was on Apple Grove Road the other day behind a slow-moving car that every so often would become a non-moving car. I wondered what was going on: were the occupants overcome by the road's rural beauty? (Understandable.) Then I saw the binocs pointing out the window and realized I was behind a pair of birders. They motioned me around them, and as I pulled level with them I told them they were very close to the very best birding road around.
"Follow me," I said. They did so eagerly -- it was a woman and her son -- and I left them at the north end of the road and told them to take their time.

New Bolton lectures

The First Tuesday Lecture Series at the New Bolton Center opens this fall with a Sept. 3 talk about "Weight Loss Worries" by Dr. Ashley Boyle. On Oct. 1 Dr. Emily Setlakwe will discuss "Treating Heaves." On Nov 5. Dr. Sue McDonnell, the head of the Equine Behavior Lab, will speak on "Ten Important Observations of Health-Related Natural Horse Behavior." And on Dec. 3 Dr. Thomas Schaer, Senior Research Investigator, Comparative Orthopaedic Research Laboratory, will discuss "Leaping from Bench to Stall, Cage or Bedside." 
The lecture series, according to NBC's website, "is an opportunity for Penn Vet's New Bolton Center to share new advances and cutting-edge information with the local horse community. The one-hour lectures will cover a wide range of veterinary subjects, each one of relevance to the horse owner and caregiver."
I've been to several of the lectures and they are always interesting. They are held in Alumni Hall at 6:30 p.m. RSVP to Barbara Belt at 610-925-6500 or

If it sounds too good to be true ...

Does this offer seem a little ... self-serving?
A leaflet enclosed in my credit-card bill suggests that to thank me for my loyalty, they'll let me skip paying this month's bill "without incurring a late fee." Wow! Such largesse!
Then you get to the fine print at the bottom: "Remember, in any month when you decide not to pay your balance in full by the due date, you will be assessed interest charges."
Thanks, but no thanks. That's an offer I have no problem refusing. It's not exactly deceptive, just on the sneaky side.

End of summer

Rants my friend John:
"I hate the 1st day of school. Summer's over, the kids have no reason to pay attention to me, I have to get up on time, it's already getting dark too early, Halloween candy is on display at the grocery store, I haven't finished a fraction of the things I wanted to do this summer, my tan has already fallen off in a flaky dust pile, I don't even want think about Christmas carols sung by Kelly Clarkson (already being hyped), the things that didn't sell at the spring neighborhood yard sale ARE STILL SITTING ON THE TABLE IN MY GARAGE! and they want me to participate in the Fall sale.
I think I am not going to move a damn thing in the garage until I need the snowblower, which will probably be in about two weeks because it is the 1st day of school and time now accelerates. I don't have firewood split, I think my truck needs tires, and the outdoor tables at work need a serious session with Rustoleum.  
Of course, I could start my summer reading now. It's too dark to mow. Two novels I bought in May are around here somewhere. I had better read them before the Christmas LL Bean catalog arrives!"

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Half full

On their way home from Hawk Mountain, the Cranky Friend reports that he and a pal stopped in at the Turkey Hill on Route 10 in Parkesburg with a hankering for Frozen Cokes. The abstemious CF selected the second-from-smallest size, but his pal poured himself a 32-ounce "Big Chiller."
Alas, despite the size differential, the CF's drink cost $1.79 while his friend's cost only 69 cents because it was "on special"!
The CF ruefully told the clerk that he supposed that made his drink all the more valuable.
"Yes," she agreed. "So you'll enjoy it more."


I just spotted this on the Kennett Amateur Theatrical Society's Facebook page. Auditions for the group's 2014 pantomime, "A Midsummer Night's Tail," will be held at the Kennett Y on Wednesday, September 11, 7 to 9 pm;  Saturday, September 14, 9 am to noon; and Sunday, September 15, 2 to 4 pm. Email to reserve your audition time.

Newlin dispute

East Marlborough has its Whitewing Farm controversy. West Marlborough has its Whip dispute. And now Newlin -- after settling the affair of the Stargazer stone -- has a new problem that is pitting neighbors against neighbors.
A horse farm on bucolic Hilltop View Road recently changed hands, and the neighbors claim the new owners are operating a commercial equestrian business instead of a private farm and are bringing additional traffic to their quiet one-lane road, only the southern part of which is paved.
They've asked the township supervisors to enforce the ordinance and restrict the commercial use of the farm unless the owners apply for permission from the township. The township supervisors, however, are saying that if they strictly enforce the ordinance, they'd have to shut down many such equestrian operations in the rural township; they also say that the use has not changed significantly enough from the prior one to warrant a township hearing.
As a result, the township is considering adopting a new ordinance regulating horse farms. Doubtless it will be a main topic of discussion at the monthly township meeting, at 8 p.m. Monday, Sept. 9, at the Lenfest Center in the Cheslen Preserve, off Cannery Road.
Tempers have started flaring, and there is already talk of lawsuits and accusations of conflicts of interest and back-room deals. I'm told that even West Marlborough officials attended a recent township meeting, realizing that this issue could certainly be relevant to our heavily equestrian township as well.

Yard art

The big straw bunny that used to sit at Schoolhouse Road and Route 926 has been replaced by an interesting sculpture that looks like a spray of cut-apart bedframes, gilded ice-hockey sticks and long-handled branch cutters, linked by springs. They'd be right at home in the "Game of Thrones" armory.


A few weeks ago I wrote about the Young Relative's week with his Boy Scout troop at Camp Horseshoe, and how much he liked the camp food. The camp's Food Service Director saw the item and was kind enough to write, "I am glad your Young Relative enjoyed our "surprisingly good" food and hope he will be back next summer to enjoy it again."

Friday, August 23, 2013

Hunt Cup

The invitation for the 79th running of the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup just landed in my mailbox. I have a few friends involved with organizing this event, so I've been hearing about just how cool the invite is this year. They weren't kidding: among the other wonderful photos by Jim Graham, there's a striking panoramic view of the scenic West Marlborough course near London Grove Village.
Now, of course, the big question on everyone's mind is: What's the weather going to be like on Sunday, Nov. 3? Could it possibly be any colder than it was last year, when we sent one member of the party home to bring back extra socks for all? I had to laugh at the line on the invitation, "Dress is country casual." Last year, at least, dress consisted of however many layers you could wrap around yourself.
Website is


Word had been filtering back to me that I really needed to visit this one local restaurant spot ... so at noon today I stopped in at Archie's, on Newark Road here in West Marlborough Township, just south of the London Grove crossroads. I had a terrific egg-salad sandwich, with a bottle of milk from Baily's Dairy, and enjoyed a bracing discussion about local politics with the second-generation owner, Ron Harris, who has lived in West Marlborough for 64 years and seems to know everyone. His parents opened the store some 70 years ago, and he keeps the place low-key, with a simple unlighted sign, a few tables and absolutely no desire to expand.
Ron said his customers include not only local residents but also golfers from Loch Nairn and commuters on their way to work.
If you're after a tasty breakfast or lunch, a well-reasoned opinion on a local controversy or some interesting tidbits of local history, I suggest you stop in. "Deli/Fuel/Conversation," reads his business card.

On the vine

An interesting essay was recently floating around the Internet about how August has become "the new September," with summer vacations ending earlier and the school year starting earlier. Apparently my Burpee Jack O'Lantern pumpkins believe that, too, as a few of them are fully grown and bright orange -- and it's only the end of August. How will they possibly last until Halloween? Fortunately, though, I do have some that are just starting to grow.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

It'll cost you

The Unionville Community Fair board has reluctantly decided to impose a parking fee of $5.00 a day.
"Parking is a key component to the fair running safely and smoothly and we are now finding ourselves needing to pay for someone to oversee the function," one Fair board member told me in an email. "We are always in need of volunteers; gets harder and harder for such a large event."
The Fair dates this year are Oct. 4, 5, and 6, with the third annual Willowdale Pro Rodeo on Saturday, Oct. 5.
The Fair's website is     

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


I'm not sure what an abundance of spiders signifies for the upcoming winter, but I have never seen so many spider webs, both outside and inside. And they seem to materialize in no time: I have to clean the corners of the windows, and the windowsills, daily. There are webs where I've never seen them, even between items that are moved and used frequently: say, inside the kibble bag, and between the faucet and the dish drainer.
Outside I've seen oversized webs hanging down from telephone wires: how are they anchored?
And I spotted these pretty webs near Doe Run at sunup one recent misty day.

Save the date

A Tilda reader having breakfast at Fran Keller's on West State Street reports that Kathi Lafferty, chair of the upcoming Mushroom Festival (Sept. 7 and 8), brought over some Mushroom Fest placemats with the logo and schedule. He says, "All agreed: very sharp!" I saw them on the outside tables in front of La Verona, too.
I'm sure you will be able to read lots more about the wildly popular Fest elsewhere in the Paper.

Emerald ash borers

Perhaps you remember, in the summer of 2011, the purple kite-like contraptions that you'd see hanging from trees around here. They were traps for the emerald ash borer, a destructive insect that back then was moving east across Pennsylvania. The sticky traps, which were purple because the insect likes the color, were installed to enable wildlife officials to keep track of its spread.
Just this week I read an update in the "Wall Street Journal" on the ash borer. The creature has been found in 21 states since it was first detected near Detroit in 2002. It is believed to have entered the country from its native China by means of packing materials. It has infested tens of millions of ash trees.
Scientists have learned that red-bellied woodpeckers, white-breasted nuthatches and parasitic wasps can help slow the pests' devastation, although some predict that dead ash trees will be an all-too-common sight throughout the eastern United States over the next few decades.


It's the yearly flip-flop between the Kennett and Jennersville YMCAs: the Kennett Y was closed for a week of maintenance starting Aug. 18, and the Jennersville Y's shutdown week starts Aug. 25. Members can use the "other" Y while their home Y is closed.
I go to both Ys but more often to the Jennersville one; during Kennett's shutdown week I've been seeing lots of unfamiliar vehicles in the Jennersville parking lot, and several lost-looking people searching for the locker room and aerobics rooms. The new gym floor at Jennersville looks very nice -- and I'm impressed with how quickly it was installed.
I used to be ticked off that the Y would close for a week, but now I see it as a chance to try something new at the "other" Y.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Good neighbors

A newspaper colleague just shared the following heart-warming story:
"Early Sunday morning, a resident of Dean Drive heard a loud noise in front of his house. He went out front and saw his mailbox had just been smashed to pieces. The only clue was black marks on the box, and pieces of black plastic that had come from the fender of a car.
The car was nowhere to be found.
A few days later, as he was preparing to leave his house, he noticed a brand-new mailbox on his front yard, better than the one that got hit. Next to it, were numbers for the mailbox, the same ones needed for his house number.
"Seems like there really are some good people in the world," the man's wife said after telling the story Sunday at the Community Cuisine event that supports the Kennett Area Senior Center."

Blitz, Blitz, the Bio-Blitz!

Birdwatcher extraordinaire Kelley Nunn reports that she is coordinating the Delaware Nature Society's "5th Annual Bio-Blitz" at the Middle Run Natural Area on Sunday, August 25.
"The Bio-Blitz is a unique and exciting event in which local experts and members of the public come together in order to identify as many species of birds, moths, butterflies, dragonflies, and damselflies as they can. It is the only event of its kind in which the public can participate in a biodiversity inventory while interacting with experts in the field. Last year, we tallied 115 species-- an impressive feat! Migration in the natural world is already in full swing, and I am sure there will be plenty of warblers and migrant insects to be seen!"
The event is free and open to all; just RSVP to Kelley:

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Country life

1) Only in Unionville: when a breakfast meeting is interrupted by somebody coming in and saying, "Hey, did you know the swans are in the swimming pool?"
2) Country life: I am so spoiled by a friend who gives me fresh eggs from her happy hens. Often they are so big that she can't close the lid of the carton. This is great when you're making omelets, but not so great when baking. Without thinking I used one of the huge eggs in a cookie recipe this afternoon and the dough came out completely wrong, much too sticky. I had to start over and was careful to use a standard-size egg.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Fine Food & Lodging

While cleaning out some stuff, a friend of mine found an old pamphlet about the Red Rose Inn, which now stands boarded up and deteriorating at Route 796 and Baltimore Pike in Jennersville. The area code is still listed as "215" (the 610 area code was established in 1994), the mailing address is given as just "West Grove, PA," and it lists as a nearby tourist attraction the "Hillendale Museum," which has been Hillendale Elementary School since 1989. The manager is listed as "the Covatta family."
"For 89 years, the original part of the present Inn was the sole servant of its clientele. Then, in 1829, a large addition was added. The present Inn remains much the same as it was then. The cellar in the historic 1740 section of the building has been restored, and in 1968 the William Penn Room was added as the original carriage house was renovated into the Carriage Lounge. The hand hewn beams overhead give silent testimony to the more ancient architecture of the Chester County barn from which they were salvaged. The stone built fireplace still warms the heart."
Hours were 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, but it stayed open an hour later on Fridays and Saturdays. Sunday brunch was from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Sunday dinner was 4 to 8 p.m.
The pamphlet lists as famous guests "Helen Keller, Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxemberg [sic], various Senators and Congressman and numerous originators of the new roses from England, France, Spain, German and other countries." (The author notes the close connection between the inn and Conard-Pyle, "prestigious growers of Star Roses.")

Price of admission

Heads up to users of the beautiful Anson Nixon Park in Kennett: because of the Brandywine Folk Festival this coming weekend (Aug. 23-25), which requires paid tickets, entry into the park will be limited for us walkers, joggers, picnickers, anglers, tennis players and disc golfers. There's a sign up near the park entrance stating "Public Access to Park Limited," but no details are given about how entry will be regulated for the weekend (nor are there details on the park's website or the Folk Fest's).

Question War

On Friday I parked in the parking garage in Kennett (I bought a small cantaloupe and a box of blackberries from the farmers' market) and couldn't help noticing that half-a-dozen cars on the ground parking level had Quaker bumper stickers. I found out why when I left: I'd forgotten about the hardy "Honk for Peace" anti-war folks who hold a vigil at State and Union Streets every Friday afternoon.
A few other things I observed during my stroll along State Street: the former barbershop at 111 West State Street is undergoing extensive renovations and the owners hope to open in October as a new cafe called Philter Coffee, offering "local artisan coffee, breakfast, lunch and baked goods." Also, Byrsa Bistro, 102 East State Street, is going to be closed from Monday, Aug. 26, through Monday, Sept. 2. They'll reopen for dinner Sept. 3.

His lordship

I love it when I discover that my friends have completely unexpected skills and  interests.
You may know that when I am not pestering friends and family for Tilda items, I edit academic books. Well, the other day I received a surprising request from a publisher:
"I am looking for copyeditors who have experience copyediting romance novels. Most of these books are set in the past in England or Scotland. An understanding of English nobility titles, their hierarchy, and the inheritance of those titles and associated property is important. The editorial style is the Chicago Manual of Style."
Amused -- and totally unqualified except for what I know from "Downton Abbey" and Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries -- I posted the email on my Facebook page.
What a response from my friends!
Two lawyer pals enthusiastically offered their services, adding, "Maybe those courses in law school about livery of seisin and degrees of consanguinity will finally come in handy!" and  "I love romance novels. Might have a slight problem as I've never heard of the Chicago Manual of Style, but I've got the inheritance and property rights covered."
A friend with a newly minted B.A. in history and English said he'd be sending in his resume.
Another pal, whose work attire runs more to steel-toed boots than to tight bodices, added, "I have to admit [romance novels] were my guilty pleasure after always slogging through engineering text books!"
You just never know...

Friday, August 16, 2013

Corgi Capers

Those of you who like those little weasels known as Corgis might enjoy reading "Corgi Capers: The Sorceress of Stoney Brook," Val Muller's second book about Zeph and Sapphie and their Humans, Adam and Courtney Hollinger. Val, who lives in Loudoun County, Virginia, has two Corgis of her own, Leia and Yoda, so she knows their habits, both cute and mischievous.
Though it's technically a children's chapter book, I looked forward to reading it every night. The characters (human and canine) are memorable, the plot moves along and I especially liked the author's portrayal of family life and sibling disagreements. The characters are distinctive enough that I didn't have to keep paging back to figure out which one was which, as I do in many books for grown-ups (for a former English major, I'm not real bright).
You can order the book through Val's website, Amazon or DWB Publishing.

Plantation Field picnic

Last night's picnic supper at Plantation Field off Route 82 was terrific: the beautiful hilltop setting, the delicious food (especially liked the pulled pork), the Victory Brewing beer, the amazing assortment of desserts (this is why I work out so hard at the gym) and most of all the friends and neighbors I got to catch up with -- including one extremely patient baby girl with her always-laid-back Mommy.
The annual picnic was for supporters, sponsors, friends and volunteers for the prestigious Plantation Field International Horse Trials, coming up on Sept. 20 to 22. So many people from the local community were there that I didn't get a chance to chat with even half of those I wanted to.
In the only formal part of the evening, Denis Glaccum gave a brief speech about what it takes to pull off a huge event like the upcoming three-day event.
As I drove home the sun was setting, a dramatic deep blue and orange over the spectacular Unionville countryside.

Thursday, August 15, 2013


A reminder that not only Back-to-School but also Bulb-Planting Season is almost upon us! Yesterday I used up two of my Christmas gift cards ordering dozens of tulip bulbs from White Flower Farm in Connecticut: Stretch Tulip Mix and Black Parrot Tulips. To make sure I get what I want, I like to order early, even though you really don't have to plant bulbs until well into autumn.
Several friends have bewailed the fact that in their gardens tulip bulbs become nothing more than "deer salad." I'm very fortunate not to have that problem, even though I've seen deer bed down just feet away from the tulip garden.
I've been meaning to say this for a while about these little garden/animal/nature/weather items that I write: Nobody could write a nature column like the late Teddy Browning of Pocopson Township, whose "Notes from Turtle Creek" ran in this newspaper in the late 1980s. His enthusiasm, knowledge and deep understanding of the natural world were inspiring.

Another deluge

Yes, I know, I've complain all winter about meteorologists who oversell storms, but this time they underplayed it. Instead of the "scattered thunderstorms" that predicted, on Tuesday morning (Aug. 13) we got yet another in a series of heavy summer rainstorms that caused raging streams, flooded roads and snarled traffic. (And school would've been cancelled if the school year were in session.)
On Tuesday morning Route 82 was closed between Doe Run Village and Blow Horn when the Doe Run overflowed its banks, and Route 841 was flooded out in Springdell. That afternoon the Brandywine Creek was over its banks at Pocopson and at Route 1. Traffic was so backed up that it took a friend more than three hours to get to her Unionville home from Painter's Crossroads! She eventually made it home by backtracking to West Chester and taking Route 162 west.
You were probably as startled as I was by those loud Flash Flood alert tones that sounded on your phone (a friend was telling me her phone lights up, too). I realized for the first time that the alert is sent to all the phones in the area based on your GPS location, not your phone number. My sister was in town visiting from the Midwest, and even her phone sounded.

Hard cider

In addition to their wines, the Paradocx Vineyards shop in Kennett's new Market at Liberty Place is serving one of my all-time favorite beverages: hard cider! The Cranky Friend and I stopped in on Sunday afternoon just to see what was going on at the Market, and the Paradocx guy offered us samples of the "dry" and "sweet" varieties of Jack's Hard Cider. I ordered a glass of the sweet and the C.F. had the dry. Just delicious!
(Jack's is a craft cider made at the Hauser Estate Winery west of Gettysburg using Adams County, Pa., apples.) 
While we were there a few other customers sat down and had a drink, and other people were strolling around the Market just to see what all the buzz was about.
And -- hooray! -- management fixed those confusing signs in the parking lot; it's much easier to know where you can and cannot park now.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Sunflowers, cont'd.

Charles Shattuck, the owner of Wild Birds Unlimited in Hockessin, responded to my item about the apparent dearth of sunflower fields this summer:
"Jamie Hicks only planted this year's crop of Sunflowers in mid July. Last year he split the season by planting some in early spring and then a second batch in July. The fields move around each year to allow for crop rotation in the fields. Plus it's a great guessing game for local people....
"The one place that I get him to plant sunflowers each year is the Myrick Conservation Center on 842. This is open to the public and a great place to walk. The positioning of fields at Myrick is a way to create awareness and perhaps members for the nature organizations that call it home, the Brandywine Valley and Red Clay Valley Associations. I checked the fields last Saturday and the first seed leaves had just emerged from the ground. Flowering is a long way off, late September."
Charles keeps a close eye on the sunflowers because much of the seed grown locally is sold as bird food at his store. "The Farm to Feeder locally grown sunflower seed for your birds has been a big hit with my customers since its inception three years ago. I'm actually doing a talk on the partnership and program on September 3 at the College of Lifelong Learning in Wilmington. I glad to be a part of this regional attraction."

Albert Finney

Hallowed British actor Albert Finney -- most recently seen as the caretaker of the Bond family home in "Skyfall" -- lives in Emsworth, on the south coast of England. My pal George lives on nearby Hayling Island but often goes into Emsworth to have a coffee and a pastry at the Greenhouse Café. Yesterday I got a text from George saying that he noticed Mr. Finney, age 77, was having a spot of bother getting around with his walking stick, so he offered assistance. "Graciously refused!"

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Many years together

The senior Tally-hos recently marked a truly momentous anniversary, and six of us gathered to celebrate at a glorious family dinner at The Greathouse at Loch Nairn. My brother and I had excellent salads; everyone else ordered the filet of beef. We split desserts, and all had ample Champagne (except the Young Relative, who had ginger ale in a Champagne flute). The service was fabulous, as always: our waitress even took photographs, and no-one seemed to mind that we stayed for nearly three hours, reminiscing and catching up with each other.
Of course, my father tried to pick up the tab, but my sister and I nipped that absurd idea in the bud.
My parents were trying to recall what they had eaten for dinner on their wedding day, but couldn't. What they did remember was that a hurricane had knocked out power to the Jersey Shore, where they were honeymooning, so not much was open.
"We didn't really care," recalled my mother.
If you should see the Tally-hos out and about, do wish them a happy anniversary!

Monday, August 12, 2013


Quite an entourage of locals traveled north to Saratoga Springs, N.Y., to see superstar steeplechaser McDynamo inducted into the National Museum of Racing's Hall of Fame in an emotional ceremony on Aug. 9.
"There were LOTS of tears!" reports one witness, who phoned to make sure I mentioned the occasion. "It was just awesome."
Owner Michael Moran and his wife Anne, of Unionville's Applestone Farm, where McDynamo is spending his retirement; trainer Sanna Hendriks; jockey Jody Petty; and numerous friends and family of the Morans were at "the Spa" for the celebration.
The "Philadelphia Inquirer" summarized the legendary horse's career thusly: "McDynamo won 17 of 34 starts and retired as the leading career earner among steeplechase horses with $1,310,104. He earned the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Steeplechase Horse in 2003, 2005, and 2006."

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Don't text and drive

Do me a favor: take a half-hour and watch Werner Herzog's stunning documentary about the perils of texting while driving. And make sure any young people in your life watch it, too. (It's online and free.)
Believe me, I know how tempting it is to check your phone when that text chime sounds, whether it's a simple "10 min late" from your lunch partner or an update from a pal who's stuck at a hotel above the Arctic Circle with boat trouble. But that split second of distraction can be lethal, as this chilling video hammers home.
Thanks for my brother-in-law for sharing "From One Second to the Next" with me. He posted it on Facebook yesterday evening; I started watching and didn't move until the closing credits.

Saturday, August 10, 2013


If you've got something odd to recycle beyond the standard newspaper and plastic bottles, there's a self-service recycling box in front of Lowe's in Avondale. The 6.6-lb backup battery for my Verizon FIOS system died recently, so I checked the Lowe's website and was glad to see that it's one of the many types of batteries that the store accepts.

In storage

In the there's-gotta-be-a-better-way department: A gym friend reports that at the university her son attends, the students are required to vacate all college housing by a certain date, and they can't get into their new college housing until a week later. The problem is, what are they supposed to do with all their "stuff" for that week? Her son and his friends' solution was to rent one of those portable storage units; I suspect that company is doing a booming business.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

What a spectacle

Hint: If you have an important sporting event coming up, do not get your eyeglasses prescription changed the day before. You should've seen me on the tennis court Sunday morning. My depth perception was completely out of whack. The ground seemed much closer; I felt like I was about three feet tall. Even if I could discern correctly whether the ball had made it over the net, I couldn't track it as it approached me. Most of the time I was flailing at thin air.
After I dropped the first two games, I figured out that if I moved my eyes a little differently than with the old glasses, the ball would stay in focus. That made things a whole lot better. Of course, then I had to come up with another excuse for whacking the ball wide or long or into the net!

But not for me

A few days ago I read a piece in the "Wall Street Journal" about how my insurance company is offering a way for customers to reduce their premiums. They install a computer in your car that monitors your driving habits -- your speed, braking, acceleration, things like that -- and if you stay within safe parameters, you get a break on your premium.
I liked the sound of that and called my insurance agent the next day. The first question they asked was: Do you drive more than 7,500 miles a year? Well, yeah, of course I do: all those trips to Starbucks and the Y add up. Oh, then sorry, they said, you don't qualify. It turns out the program is designed for senior citizens who barely drive at all.

Sightly and unsightly

A regular "Unionville in the News" reader wrote to me praising the Garden Media Group for disciplining the hedge at its West State Street office. He said that before it was pruned back, the overgrown hedge obstructed the view of motorists pulling out from Washington Street: "It didn't matter if you were in a Prius or an SUV, you couldn't see. And, of course, as soon as you pulled out that far, someone coming west on State Street wanted to turn left into Washington (which they do frequently, mostly to reach the Wawa) and you had to back up, if you could, or the oncoming car had to swing wide around you. A tough, dangerous situation."
On the other side of the Goofus/Gallant ledger, though, he said he picked up 13 bottles and cans that litterers had dropped along Onix Drive, near the Sears Hardware, Applebee's and Wal-Mart. "It's just a shame that folks throw anything out of their cars, but especially recyclables.  I just don't understand not recycling anything that can be recycled.  And I still enjoy seeing Mrs. Hannum's signs along Doe Run Road: "The views are free. Keep them litter-free."

Summer fun

It was hard distracting the Young Relative from "Shark Week," but I did so long enough to learn about his week at Camp Horseshoe on the Maryland line with his Boy Scout troop and about his trip to Dorney Park. The former included swimming, target shooting, campfires, skits, flag ceremonies, "surprisingly good" food, an exciting middle-of-the-night storm and a hike to the Mason-Dixon line. And at Dorney Park he rode several roller coasters (he remembered precisely the vertical drop, acceleration and top speed of each). Not coincidentally, he also had a sore neck. We joked that the park should give chiropractors naming rights for these high-speed rides ("The Hydra! Brought to you by City Chiropractic!").


A few weeks ago I blamed my feisty backyard squirrels for stripping the leaves off the parsley plants on my deck. A Unionville reader wrote to exculpate the rodents:
"If you haven't heard yet, several years ago I shared my Parsley Plants with some little green worms. In the fall, I put one plant in my sunny bay window. In Feb., one of those little green worms decided it was time to come out from under the pot rim and reappear as a gorgeous black swallowtail butterfly!!!"

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Air Show Aug. 24 and 25

Readers who live near the New Garden Airport will want to be looking up on August 24 and 25: it's the annual air show. I always enjoy seeing the vintage bombers flying in low the morning of the show; they make a low, steady rumble as they head south to the airfield. And sometimes I can see the aerobatics pilots doing their performances if they're up high enough. And who can forget seeing the Stealth bomber zipping around last year? So cool! (Umm .... yeah. Can you tell that both my brother and my father are pilots, and my grandmother was with the Civil Air Patrol in WWII?)
For more information on the air show visit

The back yard

I was picking up sticks around the yard the other day and found this cool-looking fungus under the evergreens. It's called Rounded Earthstar, and it's a member of the Puffball family. Wikipedia says, "It is considered inedible by mushroomers, because of its bitter taste. It is a common mushroom, but collections are at their peak during late summer."

The hummingbirds were late in coming this summer, but they are most entertaining. I haven't seen many of the males -- the ones with the ruby throats -- but the females are at my feeder almost continuously. When two show up together, they chitter at each other and chase each other.
I'm starting to see yellow leaves drop off the big walnut tree. Soon the walnuts will come crashing down onto the roof in the middle of the night, and I already saw a squirrel chewing away the tough green coating. Better him than me: the walnut produces a brown stain so indelible that a friend of mine uses it as hair dye.

No excuses

Fitness instructors are tough cookies.
My Pilates teacher taught class the other evening with a bad sinus infection. She told us she planned to head to the clinic in Kennett right after class to get an antibiotic prescription.
Another student and I suggested that if she wanted to cut class short, we'd understand -- even if she needed to eliminate a couple of moves, say various glorified pushups and one pose that involves holding a V-seat position while lifting weighted balls toward your pointed feet.
She may have been ill, but she certainly didn't fall for that one.

Cracked me up

A friend told me that her husband came off his horse while going over a jump during a lesson, landed hard and was in significant pain with what they feared were broken ribs.
I sympathized, per usual, and asked if I could bring them a pizza or subs for dinner.
No, thanks, she said. I could tell she was trying really hard not to laugh when she explained that they had to finish the previous night's leftovers ... BBQ ribs.
As it turns out, the ribs (the human kind) were not broken, just seriously bruised, and he's back in the saddle. So I had lunch today with the wife and the Cranky Friend, and the latter came up with an idea that is a sure-fire winner: there should be a shop in Unionville that stocks all manner of splints, braces, walkers, canes, cold and heat pads, and rehab equipment. Just on the off chance that anybody around here should suffer any equine-related injuries.


If you're seeing a lot of horse trailers out in the early, early morning, here's why: the foxhunters are getting ready for their season.
Some hunts are doing "hound walking" and others have already started "cubbing." The idea is to get the young hounds used to the idea of chasing foxes, for the young foxes to get used to leading the hounds on a merry chase and for the horses and riders to get back into the swing of things, supposedly at a slower pace (that doesn't always happen, from what I hear). The dress code is less formal than during the "real" season.
These dress rehearsals start much earlier in the day, too. The Cheshire hunt is still hound walking, which starts at 7 a.m.
But two of my dearest pals, who hunt with Andrews Bridge, get up at 3:30 in the morning to get their horses and themselves groomed and ready for a 6 a.m. start.
"You're home by 8:30, and you've already been up for five hours!" one said.

West Marlborough business

From beginning to end, the West Marlborough Township meetings on Aug. 6 lasted just 52 minutes -- and that included ample social time.
First the Planning Commission met and chose Jeb Hannum as its new chairman (former chair Josh Taylor became a township supervisor) and welcomed new member Gus Brown, who was named to the commission by the township supervisors in July. After their brief meeting there was general conversation among the audience members -- we always have plenty to discuss with our neighbors -- before Supervisor Bill Wylie called the supervisors' meeting to order.
The only bit of controversy at the meeting occurred when Springdell resident Bernie Langer stood and read aloud a letter he wrote to the board suggesting that they be more open when choosing new Planning Commission and Zoning Hearing Board members. He said vacancies on the boards should be publicized, candidates' names announced and public input invited on the candidates. He also said living in the township for at least five years and being a regular voter and municipal meeting attender should be prerequisites for serving on one of the boards.
In their letter of response, the supervisors told him they felt that following such a public procedure would be "hurtful and divisive" because it would necessarily create winners and losers. They also thanked him for being such an involved citizen and expressing his views.
In other business, Tom Brosius of Marlboro Mushrooms praised the township road crew for keeping the roadbanks so neatly maintained: he said they waited for him to mow his fields and even tidied a spot he missed. Supervisor and Roadmaster Hugh Lofting seconded the compliments for the crew, adding that they've had quite a job keeping stone on the gravel roads with the heavy and frequent rainstorms this past month.
At the supervisors' meeting, Planning Commission member Anna Myers filled in as minute-taker for township secretary-treasurer Shirley Walton, who had to make a family airport pickup. Anna is certainly no stranger to taking minutes: she does the same thing for the Planning Commission.


How did I not know that the Landhope convenience store in Willowdale is now open 24/7? I know I lead a quiet life, but others who claim to live under rocks say they've been well aware of the fact for months. Thank you, Sharp-Eyed Friend, for pointing this out, and rest assured you were certainly NOT the last to hear.
In my defense, I checked yesterday evening and found no signs at the store as to its hours. And the last time I drove past in the wee hours, I was coming home from some gala and was more concerned about keeping my giant evening cloak away from the brake and accelerator.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Darn you, autocorrect!

I was just texting a friend to meet me for lunch at La Pena Mexicana. She has not been there before, so I described it as "across from Wawa." The autocorrect dictionary was obviously not written by a local: it changed "Wawa" to "Wayward." It does the same thing with "Kennett," which becomes "Kenneth."

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Sing a song

Have you ever heard of the Kennett Choirboys? I hadn't until the group popped onto my Facebook page. It's a choir for boys in grades three through eight who love to sing. The group meets weekly at the Kennett Square Presbyterian Church.
Auditions are on Sept. 11, at the first rehearsal, or by appointment. The coming season will include "Once on this Silent Night" in December and "Of Mythical and Other Assorted Creatures" in May 2014. For more info: e-mail


I've been seeing a few more of those "Exton Comes to Embreeville" signs in people's yards around town, expressing concern about the large housing development proposed for the former Embreeville State Hospital. I even got an email from a teenager who is upset about the effects that the project could have on Route 162 and other local roads and the community -- it should be a useful civics and media lesson for him.

On stage

Singer/songwriter/harpist Gillian Grassie will be returning to her native Unionville for a show on Aug. 22 at Catherine's restaurant. In recent months she has been performing in Italy and Germany, but she'll be back in the States for the fall season, including several Philadelphia shows. Gillian's proud Mom is Babette Jenny of Laurel Forge Farm.

Friday, August 2, 2013

The lycoris is here

It's a few days later than it was last summer, but the lycoris is in bloom, and just like it does every year it took me completely by surprise. All of a sudden, these amazing stalks with reddish/mauve buds show up above the pachysandra bed! Its nickname is an apt one: Surprise Lily.
When I mentioned the lycoris in these pages last July, a loyal and now deceased reader from Marlboro Village shared the following anecdote, and I'm going to run it again in her memory because we all really miss her:
"Another nickname for Lycoris is, I believe, Naked Lady, because of the lack of foliage and probably the pink hue. Story about that: a friend once phoned someone with whom she'd been discussing these flowers and burst out as soon as the phone was picked up: `I've just found several more Naked Ladies in my garden!' A silence, then:  `Lady, I think you have the wrong number.' "

Goodness gracious

Owning an out-of-the-ordinary wristwatch is a lot like owning an out-of-the-ordinary car. When it needs a new battery, you can't just go to Batteries R Us and plunk in a new one. No: you have to go to a Special Craftsperson at a Special Shop.
So the other morning I called my watch guy, who is on the Main Line, to see if he was open.
When he answered, I said cheerfully, "Great! You're there!"
"I'm really not taking any new work," he said -- rather baldly, I thought.
"Oh!" said I, startled.
"What was it you needed?" he asked.
I explained, and grudgingly he agreed that he could just find time to put a new battery in.
Before he could change his mind, I got in the car and headed out through the teeming rain. It was an eventful trip. Route 842 between Unionville and West Chester was on the verge of flooding. Lancaster Avenue in downtown Wayne was completely shut down due to a restaurant fire AND a car crash. Emergency guys in yellow rain slickers directed traffic onto the little side streets.
Finally I reached the watch guy's shop and announced myself as the woman who had phoned earlier.
"Good," he said. "Now I can lock the door."
He sat down at his workbench and started taking the watch apart but accidentally dropped two of the tiny screws on the floor. Beyond vexed with himself -- and, I suspect, me -- he sent me away, telling me he'd have to keep the watch for a few days.
To my great surprise, by the time I'd reached Berwyn he called and said he'd managed to find the screws -- they'd rolled under the counter -- and my watch was ready.
I made a U-turn and plunged back into the Wayne detours for the third time! I picked up the watch and paid him his $20 (plus tax), and he looked up at me and said, "Bon après-midi, mademoiselle."
He may be temperamental, but I like this guy.

Josiah Harlan

A few weeks back, perhaps you'll recall, a friend told me, with some pride, that it was a Unionville native who came up with  the idea for the U.S. Camel Corps. I did some research online and came up with nothing.
But two readers were quick to confirm that Josiah Harlan, born in Newlin Township in 1799, was indeed the man. Both readers sent me a fascinating article about Harlan entitled "The Life and Times of an Adventurous Quaker" by Dr. Daniel Rolph, Historian and Head of Reference Services at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
Harlan spent many years in military service in Afghanistan and India, and when he returned to America he proposed using camels as pack animals:
"In 1855, Jefferson Davis (then Secretary of War for the United States, later the President of the Confederate States of American during the Civil War) allocated $30,000 to purchase camels for American forces to be used in the Southwest. Harlan advocated the camels be obtained from Afghanistan while the U.S. government opted for those from Africa. Regardless, the American Camel Corps was short-lived."
Dr. Rolph notes that Harlan was the exception to the belief that all Quakers are "predominantly pacifists, or non-aggressive in nature."
He also writes that Rudyard Kipling's short story "The Man Who Would Be King" "was based in part upon the life and experiences of Harlan while he resided in the border area of the Punjab in India and what is now Afghanistan."

Folk fest

Anson B. Nixon Park is hosting the Second Annual Brandywine Folk Festival Aug. 23 through 25. The lineup comprises more than 30 performers, vendors, beer-gardens, and games/activities for kids. "The Brandywine Folk Festival aims to unite the unique stylings of many different musicians while creating a family friendly atmosphere, giving back to our community, and providing aid for charity (SPARC Southeastern Pennsylvania Autism Resource Center)," according to the website. There's lots more information on their website and updates on their Facebook page. Day tickets are $25 in advance, $35 at the door; event tickets are $65 in advance, $75 at the door. Kids 12 and under are free.
Speaking of beer, the Kennett area is certainly going to be awash in ale! In recent weeks, Two Stones Pub, Kennett Brewing Company and now Victory Brewing have all announced they're going to be setting up shop in or near town.