Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Pass the Grey Poupon

Driving home from breakfast on April 29, I saw a Rolls Royce turn from Route 926 onto northbound Route 841. I noted it with mild interest: it's not every day you see a Rolls on the road.
But then, no more than five minutes later, I got an excited call from a frequent Tilda contributor: she wanted to let me know that she had just seen SEVEN of the magnificent vehicles in a row on Newark Road between Routes 82 and 842!
I did a quick online search and found the explanation: the Rolls Royce Owners' Club was having its a week-long outing through our area. They had quite an itinerary: on April 28 they went to Longwood Gardens and the Brandywine River Museum, with dinner at the Greenville Country Club.
On April 29, when we spotted them (and other people reported seeing them along Routes 82 and 926), they were on a 60-mile driving tour of the Brandywine Valley, with lunch at Buckley's Tavern. According to their brochure:
"Join us as we tour the Brandywine Valley that winds through the scenic Chateau Country of Southern Chester and Delaware Counties, PA and Northern Delaware. The narrow twisting roads that tradce the Brandywine River force slow progress through lanes of Tulip Trees and Oaks. Wildflowers, not billboards, line the roadsides."
On April 30 they toured Nemours and Hagley Museum, with lunch at the Dupont Country Club. On May 1 they drove through New Castle, Del., and through southern Delaware (a 130-mile trek), with lunch at Sambo's Crab Shack. May 2 was a tour of Winterthur. May 3 was Auburn Heights, with dinner at the Greenville CC. And the outing wrapped up on May 4 at the Winterthur Point-to-Point.
I was amused to see that when they registered for the event, participants had to promise that they would drive only a Rolls or a Bentley. As far as I could see there was no Official Mustard Sponsor.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Used books

For years I've seen the sign along Route 41 for the Avon Grove Lions Club book sale, and finally on Sunday I stopped by. I'm glad I did. Tucked away in the C.P. Yeatman & Sons/Mother Earth Organic Mushrooms Farm is a big barn full of used books at very low prices. Think of the annual Unionville used-book sale in a barn. I especially liked the sign that hung over the Literature section: "The Books You Had to Read in High School."
Proceeds support the Lions service projects. The club's president, Jane Frank, was there on Sunday and told me that in addition to the bluebird house program, a lesser-known program that the club runs involves loaning out hospital equipment like beds and wheelchairs to people who need it.
The book sale is open from April through October, Fridays from 4 to 7 p.m., Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Directions to the sale, at 600 North Baker Station Rd., are very well marked after you leave Route 41.

A colorful Sunday

On Sunday afternoon, after the Wounded Warrior tractor parade (a sea of green John Deere tractors, plus other big farm equipment and lots of motorcycles and American flags), three of us took our first walk of the spring through Kennett's wonderful Anson B. Nixon Park. I've never seen so many trout lilies in bloom; there's an especially large patch of them near the north side of the lake. Look for their mottled green leaves (hence the name) low to the ground and the nodding light-yellow flower. We also saw a snapping turtle swimming across the middle of the lake--to be more precise, what we saw was just its head and its wake, like a grainy B&W photo of the Loch Ness Monster.
Speaking of being in touch with nature, I ran into an old friend at a party on Saturday who teaches a mass communication course to high-school boys. To impress upon them how much influence the media has, he creates an alphabet of letters taken from the logos of well-known consumer products (Apple, Doritos, McDonald's), and they're able to identify each product readily.
Then he shows them photos of a dozen trees they see every day around the school's campus. Rarely is a student able to identify a single one.

Sunday, April 27, 2014


Local photographers Jim Graham, Beth Harpham, Barbara Proud and Peter B. Kaplan will be part of a show called "Transitions," which is opening at the Delaware Art Museum in Wilmington on Saturday, May 3, with a reception from noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday, May 4. The show runs through Aug. 10.
Jim and Beth, among their other work, take photos of the Cheshire Hunt and all the local equestrian events; Barbara has traveled around America making a series of portraits of long-term same-sex couples; and I know you saw Peter Kaplan's photos of the Mushroom Drop in the center of Kennett Square on New Year's Eve (he mounted his camera atop the crane that lowered the 'shroom).

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Born to the saddle

Loyal reader and friend Ben passed along an unfortunately worded sentence from the British newspaper the "Daily Mail": "Zara Philips is riding in public again for the first time since she gave birth to her baby on Mr. Murt."
Zara, an Olympic equestrian and Queen Elizabeth II's grand-daughter, gave birth to her first child, Mia, in January (not actually on horseback, one presumes). The article referred to the fact that she was competing on Mr. Murt and other horses in the Symm International Horse Trials in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, over Easter weekend. She was quoted as saying, "I am much more comfortable now. When I first got back on it was nice to get back in the saddle but you're not very stable as your muscles aren't working well."

Friday, April 25, 2014

Have You Seen the World?

How poignant that the last show for many graduating Unionville High School actors was "The Fantasticks," which is all about growing up, shedding the illusions of youth and seeing people and the world for what they are, warts and all. We'll miss the talented young men and women whom we've seen act, sing and dance in so many entertaining shows during their high school careers -- and we're looking forward to seeing the younger actors as they mature in the coming years. There's some terrific talent on the way up.

Pins and needles

This morning I spent a happy hour knitting and chatting with the Needle Arts group from the Traditions at Longwood development, who kindly invited me to stop by their meeting at the Foxy Loxy coffee shop in downtown Unionville. About a dozen ladies were there working on their various knitting and crocheting projects -- I brought along a pair of socks I'm working on -- and we had a great time talking about our hobbies, our families and the local community.
The Needle Arts group is a wonderfully talented bunch. From one woman I learned a new and easy stitch that creates an interesting two-toned, almost boucle texture that we agreed would make a perfect Chanel-style jacket. From another I got a tip about a kind of circular needle that was new to me. One woman told the group about Operation Warm, the local charity that provides winter clothing for underprivileged children, and urged her fellow needlewomen to think about contributing homemade hats, scarves and gloves.
Thanks so much, Lee, for your invitation!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Township meeting

The May meeting of the West Marlborough Township supervisors and planning commission is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 6. The meetings have been rather quiet and routine recently, which is of course the way I like it as a resident of our rural township, if not as someone who has a news column to fill each week. The meeting, which attracts pretty much the same diehards each month, is held in the township hall/garage off Route 82 at Wilson Road.
(The township hall is also where township residents will vote in the primary election on Tuesday, May 20.)


Regular readers will recall that a few months ago there was some discussion in this column about the origin of the name "Unionville." John M., a very kind history-minded Unionville resident, struck up a conversation with me at Hood's one day at lunchtime and subsequently mailed me a 1947 monograph called "Old Jacksonville, Now Unionville: An Historical Sketch of a Small Country Town," by Joanna R. Bucknell. I have been so busy with work and garden clean-up the past few weeks that I haven't had time to read it, but I promise I'll give you a full report when I get a chance. It looks fascinating.

Hungry hungry marketers

For tax and accounting reasons, I started a company earlier this year and duly filed the required paperwork with Pennsylvania's Department of State. Within a few weeks my company started getting ads in the mail: first from a check-printing company, then from a security company, and then -- of course -- from Verizon. The solicitations went straight into the recycling bin, but I had to admire the alacrity of their prospecting.

Plant Sale

The London Grove Friends Meeting Plant Sale is from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 10. Along with the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup, the Unionville Community Fair, and the Cheshire Races, the plant sale is one of the highlights of my year. I mark the date on my calendar, my phone and my office whiteboard so I don't schedule anything else for the day.
That's because it's not just a plant sale; it's a community event where friends and neighbors from so many different circles get to catch up after the winter. I attend for the social aspect even when I don't need to buy any plants at all ("need" being a very loose term; I always end up buying at least a funky new kind of basil).
There's a soothing, reassuring sense of sameness to the sale: you know who's going to be behind the perennial table and the hanging basket stand (hi, Pat! hi, Margaret!); you know exactly where to find those beautiful bright-red geraniums and those Brandywine tomato seedlings. The young people who were kindergartners seemingly just yesterday are now taller than their parents and sporting hip haircuts -- but are just as nice as ever as they help out in the Plant Parking area.
Seriously hard-core gardeners will arrive at the very beginning of the day; I'm a bit more relaxed, and usually the first wave is leaving, arms full, as I arrive.

Home & Garden Day

Saturday, June 7, is the Bayard Taylor Library's annual Home & Garden Day. I was treated to a sneak preview of many of the sites on the tour (oh, yes, believe me, there were strings attached to my visits), and you are in for a treat this spring. Take it from someone who has been going on the tour for probably 15 years. The Special Events Committee members always line up a variety of houses to suit different tastes, but this year's selection is really amazing. Several of the houses and gardens are just a stone's throw off Route 52 in southern Chester County/northern Delaware corridor, and you'll be amazed at the places that you've driven by en route to Wilmington without giving them a second thought. My favorite had to be the grand-scale 1920s manor house with soaring ceilings, a tower, intricate carvings and ironwork, and a winding double staircase leading out the front yard.
Ticket information for the tour is available on the library's website, bayardtaylor.org.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Fair Hill

I'm just back from the Fair Hill Point-to-Point Races in Cecil County, Maryland. It was a beautiful sunny, warm Easter Sunday, the races were exciting (and thankfully there were no untoward incidents), and we had a great time cheering for jockeys we knew and greeting friends, neighbors and their canine companions (including Panda the Puli, a beautiful Irish Setter, a Great Dane who was almost as big as some of the ponies, Janie the Corgi and a sweet Jack Russell/Scottie cross).
Fair Hill has a very convenient layout for spectators. You can watch the horses in the paddock and then walk to the stands, which are only a stone's throw away. From there you get a great view of most of the race course and the finish line. Then you can return to the paddock and watch the awards ceremony.
We got there early to watch the adorable pony races, and during breaks between the races (which started very punctually, hooray for the organizers!) we listened to the terrific bluegrass band.
And who knew that the Easter bunny was an equestrian?

The London Grove Oak

The awe-inspiring London Grove oak at London Grove Friends Meeting here in West Marlborough will be the subject of a lecture at 11 a.m. Sunday, April 27, at the meeting house. The speaker is certified arborist Scott Wade, who works for Longwood Gardens and coordinates the Champion Tree Program of the Pennsylvania Forestry Association (the majestic London Grove oak is one of the Champion Trees). A brown-bag lunch will follow the talk.

Yard work

It was an excellent Saturday of yard work for me -- as I'm sure it was for many of you.
My continuing battle against the multiflora rose and the grapevines in a friend's London Grove yard continued, with the useful addition of a chainsaw to the armory. My leather gauntlets desperately need a spa day with some saddle soap.
I also toured a friend's father's garden in Pocopson, and he showed me the sad damage that the deer did to his rhododendrons over the winter (though green leaves are sprouting from the munched-on branches). In my own West Marlborough garden, the deer devoured the English ivy under my deck, and it shows no signs of growing back.
And at an East Marlborough garden I've been looking after, we played pick-up sticks all over the yard and hauled away some downed white pine branches.

Friday, April 18, 2014

But who's counting?

I love peanut butter, but alas its high fat and calorie content has kept it off my regular pantry inventory. However, after eating a delicious on-the-go PB&J sandwich the other day, I bought a jar full of the chunky goodness. I saw that the serving size, two tablespoons, contained an appalling 200 calories and 16 grams of fat, so I resolved to use only one tablespoon in my sandwich.
I mentioned this to a huge peanut-butter fan.
"One tablespoon!" he scoffed. "That's how much you lick off the knife!"
He laughed when he spied my 18-oz jar of the brown stuff, stating that he wasn't aware that peanut butter came in a sample size. Or perhaps it was a travel size, sufficient for a trip to, say, Philadelphia.

Big string thing

Please don't roll your eyes too violently (yes, I'm talking to you, Cranky Friend) if this household tip is painfully obvious, but it wasn't to me. Birdseed bags, feed bags, potato bags, anything that's sealed shut with a row of sewn string stitches, you can open simply by pulling out the string, in one easy motion. No need to reach for the scissors or a Swiss Army knife or whatever's handy. It makes opening bags really quite fun.

Bakers at Red Lion

I know I'm not the only one who is delighted that the Bakers at Red Lion (aka the Bread Ladies) are back in business! Barbara and Nancy had to shut down their kitchen for several weeks to repair the damage due to an oven fire, depriving the community of their wonderful bread, rolls and brownies -- and their cheerful greetings. They're normally open for business on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays: look for the French flag flying at Doe Run Road and Route 926.


Not the real thing

A knowledgeable reader named Nora commented on my post last week about what I mistakenly thought were marsh marigolds along the banks of the Brandywine. She writes:
"This showy little yellow flower is an invasive exotic - common name Lesser Celandine, Botanic name Ranunculis ficaria. The real Marsh Marigold, Caltha palustris, is a wonderful native plant with much bigger leaves and flowers. The lesser celandine has invaded our area in the last 20 years and is outcompeting treasured natives along the Brandywine such as the Virginia Bluebells, Mertensia virginica. It is extremely difficult to get rid off and goes dormant by summer. Its main means of movement is with flooding, though I often see it in areas where no flooding takes place.
"If it appears on my property, I dig it out immediately, removing a large soil ball because there are nodules on the roots and I don't want to leave any of them behind to start new plants.
"I know the plant is attractive, but if one looks at the big picture and tries to understand the complex set of relationships that exist for a healthy ecosystem, then one recognizes how damaging these invasive exotics are to the environment."
I was dismayed to learn this, but it would explain why some early flowers I saw in the White Clay Creek Preserve back in March really didn't match the marsh marigold picture in my wildflower identification book. I was introduced to the original marsh marigold by my junior-high science teacher, Miss Gold, during the wonderful trips to nearby streams she'd take us on.

New store

There's a new health-food store coming to downtown Avondale! A big yellow sign has been installed on Route 41, just north of the intersection with State Street. The store is going to be housed in the former bank, next to the Avondale post office. I did some spying on Saturday and saw a building permit dating from January and some signs of construction work inside. By the way, it's a neat old stone building, with slate roof tiles and a Bonnie-and-Clyde vintage security alarm.

Five-O at London Grove

I was happy to see a state trooper on Route 926 west of Newark Road at lunchtime on Thursday, April 17. He had a white Volvo pulled over. From my experience and that of neighbors, motorists fly through that area. Every time I see her, a friend who lives on Newark Road shares new anecdotes about reckless driving past her house -- including one driver who passed a vehicle while going up a hill. It's a miracle no-one was coming the other way, because there would've been a head-on collision.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Kyoto closes

I was dismayed to see that one of my favorite sushi restaurants, Kyoto, is closing its Kennett branch as of Sunday, April 20. The sign on the door says a lease dispute is the reason. Kyoto's Pike Creek branch, on Linden Hill Road, will remain open.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

For the Monarchs

The Kennett Square Beautification Committee wrote to me looking for some ink about its annual plant sale, which will be held Saturday, April 26, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., in the Genesis walkway on State Street. Proceeds from the sale go planting toward the group's lovely barrel planters that you see around downtown Kennett.
Another goal of this year's sale is to draw attention to the plight of Monarch butterflies, which are facing a population decline because of the decrease in habitats on their annual migration route between Mexico and the United States. Gardeners can help the butterflies by planting Asclepias (milkweed), which they like to eat as they migrate. The committee will be selling the perennial milkweed variety, which comes in several colors and reseeds itself.
"Could you please help our cause with some publicity in your column?  We would be most appreciative (and so would the butterflies!)"

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Grace under pressure

The brief electrical outage at the Kennett Giant on April 14 provided a little something out of the ordinary for those of us who spend so much time in the U-Scan line that we know by heart the four-digit PLU codes of all our fruits and vegetables. I was just about to finish scanning my order when the lights went out throughout the store, leaving darkness and beeping noises from all the computers.
One of the management types sprang into action, warning the clerks not to hit any keys on their terminals. After the system powered back on after a few minutes, he started multitasking calmly, answering clerks' questions, keying data in manually and apologizing profusely to customers. One woman had tried to pay with her debit card four times before the payment went through, and he reassured her that she wouldn't be overcharged.
I'm not sure what the power outage was all about: it was a perfectly nice, if windy, day.

Monday, April 14, 2014


Who knows if my little item a few weeks ago had anything to do with it (if I remember my logical fallacies, that would be a classic "post hoc ergo propter hoc" one), but it was gratifying to see a worker finally removing the "Seasons Greetings" banners from the parking lot at the New Garden Giant on April 14, when it was sunny and 72 degrees.

Heads up

A concerned reader shared this alarming story with me on Sunday:
"My daughter and I had a scary incident this a.m. while hacking in Cheslen. We were up on a grassy bank and a bicyclist came silently down the dirt road beside us from behind us causing a violent spook (rear and bolt) from our horse and pony. The bicyclist had been able to see us from quite a long distance but apparently not being a horse person didn't realize the horse's instinct was to flee from attack from something silently and quickly coming up from behind. We stayed on, he stopped and apologized. Can we educate our cycling friends?"
Consider it done. Horses often "spook" at things we humans wouldn't consider threatening. A popular cartoon among horse lovers shows a terrified horse watching what would pass for the ultimate in a horse horror movie, entitled "The Flapping Plastic Bag."

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Fabulous Fungi

Fredda Pennock of the Kennett Township Historical Commission was kind enough to alert me to their annual lecture, which will doubtless be of interest to many in our community.  It's called "Fabulous Fungi," and it's about mushroom farming in Kennett Township, past and present. Tina Ellor, technical director of Phillips Mushroom Farms, will be doing a PowerPoint presentation about the history of mushroom farming, and Chris Alonzo, third-generation farmer and president of Pietro Industries, will discuss current farming practices.
The program starts at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 15, at the Kennett Township Building, 801 Burrows Run Rd. You might want to get there a little early: Last year's fascinating program on old barns was standing room only.

Final Four

While upgrading my cellphone the other day, I was asked, twice, for the last four digits of my social security number. Both times I had to recite the whole number to myself before I could tell the sales guy what those four digits were. I supposed I think of my SSN as a whole chunk rather than something "fungible," as the attorneys among us say.
I laughed at myself and asked the sales guy if everyone does the same thing. He nodded. His colleague, who overheard, turned to me and agreed enthusiastically: "Everybody does that," he confirmed. "Everybody!"
(By the way, the newer Android is an excellent phone and it's almost scary how quickly it has customized its texting dictionary to my preferences: When I typed in "poi" it offered me a choice between "poison ivy" and "point-to-point.")

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Tax Day

Pity the poor CPAs who had to spend this glorious pre-April 15 weekend on deadline in the office, finishing up and compiling clients' tax returns! I went to pick up my Tolstoy-thick envelope of tax paperwork on Saturday afternoon and my accountant said she had been casting longing glances out the front door all day.
The only thing making taxes tolerable this year is sticking Harry Potter postage stamps, the evil and/or nasty ones like Bellatrix Lestrange, Professor Snape, Draco Malfoy and The V-Man himself, on the payment envelopes. HAH! Take that, Department of Revenue!


Tally ho!

Next time you're on the brick walkway next to the Genesis headquarters on State Street in downtown Kennett, take a moment and gaze down into the deep sunken garden that brings light to the Genesis employees who work on the bottom floor. You'll see life-size statues of a hound chasing a fox; no riders in sight. We noticed the creatures for the first time on Saturday, while we were on our way to Fran Keller's Eatery to celebrate National Grilled Cheese Day-- an excellent holiday.

Spring things

A few wonderful spring firsts this week: eating a dish of coffee ice cream at La Michoacana; cutting daffs from the garden instead of buying them at the store; no need to strip off jacket, leggings, hat, scarf, boots, etc. and cram them in the locker before going to gym class; hanging laundry outside on the line and hearing it flap in the breeze because the windows are open; the mouth-watering smell of BBQ smoke outside Hood's; purple hyacinths blooming in the dividing island at Unionville High School; the marsh marigolds covering the banks along the Brandywine (especially wonderful on Route 842 going toward West Chester); sitting outside with a glass of iced coffee in front of Philter and watching the passersby; and just across the street at the Half Moon, my first seasonally appropriate Hendrick's and tonic.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Off course

It looked like the driver of a horse trailer had a spot of bother at about 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 9: he or she turned off northbound Route 41 onto Hood Road a little too sharply and got the rig stuck in the muddy ditch alongside the road. When I drove by, the police were on the scene and a wrecker was standing by ready to pull the leaning rig back to safety. I was on my way to a class at the Y and was already running late; otherwise I would have stopped and gotten all the details for you.
Once a reporter, always a reporter!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

That's him!

Perhaps, while watching "American Idol," or the Kimmel or Letterman shows, you saw an Intel tablet ad featuring a ruggedly handsome wildlife photographer and some elephants, and thought, I wonder if that's Tilda's award-winning photographer friend? Yes, it is!
If you missed the ad on TV, you can watch it on YouTube; just search for "Intel" and "Paul Souders." It's pretty cool to actually know a talented guy who has become a celebrity for a good reason and deserves every bit of his success.
For my online readers, here's the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJbIF8LG9yQ

A Tangled Web

I've spent several recent afternoons this past week in London Grove Township, cleaning up a friend's long-neglected garden. This has involved pulling down grapevines that had climbed three stories high into the trees, uprooting dead shrubs, carefully clearing out pricker bushes (with my trusty old Smith & Hawken leather rose gauntlets), and gleefully destroying thick, hairy poison ivy vines that had actually worked their way inside the house's siding.
Yes, OK: I have some scratched legs and I've managed to contract a little bit of itchy poison ivy rash. But it's a small price to pay for the intellectual satisfaction of restoring order to an old garden. I've found swaths of long-forgotten daffodils and periwinkle hidden under the dead vines. And it is serious fun doing battle with grapevines so thick and enmeshed in the trees that I could use them for TRX suspension training.
I've loved every minute, as I knew I would. In fact, I volunteered for the task as soon as I saw the overgrown garden. The garden's owner is baffled by this. He wasn't aware that a few summers ago, on what turned out to be the hottest day of the year, I drove all the way out to Carlisle just to work on a friend's mother's garden (I got to uncover an old brick sidewalk!).
Come to think of it, that garden owner was pretty baffled too.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Parking hours

Should you find yourself in downtown Oxford, you should know that starting on April 1, Oxford Borough Council extended the parking meter hours from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday (except for holidays). They've also raised the cost of parking tickets from $10 to $15.
In Kennett Square, you need to feed the meters from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, again except for holidays. Parking in Kennett's parking garage is free on the weekends.
West Chester's meters are in effect Monday through Wednesday 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., Thursday and Friday 8 a.m. to midnight, and Saturday 5 p.m. to midnight.


A group called the "Friends of South Region Parks" is being formed to support Nottingham and Wolf's Hollow county parks. There's a startup meeting in Nottingham's Pavilion 5 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 20, with dessert and beverages served. For more information call Nottingham County Park, 610-932-2589.
(A hiking pal who receives the county's parks newsletter spotted this item; thanks!)

Monday, April 7, 2014

Brandywine Hills

Last week I wrote about how cold and muddy it was at the Cheshire point-to-point races. This weekend it was just the opposite at the Brandywine Hills races at the Brandywine Valley Association on Route 842 in Pocopson Township: it was sunny, warm and just plain beautiful.
Starting off the day were two pony races and a lead-line race, in which a little girl or boy was in the saddle while Mom or Dad trotted along, leading the pony. It's superfluous to say they were extremely cute; we saw one little boy still wearing his helmet the rest of the day.
Then the day's grown-up races started in earnest. We wandered all over the place socializing and taking advantage of Radnor Hunt's refreshments, but we managed to be at the right place to see a couple of really exciting moments.
In one race a jockey almost came off at the last fence but kept clinging on for a number of strides before he finally tumbled off. Photographer Jim Graham was on the spot and shot a very scary sequence of the jockey underneath the horse's hooves; it's hard to believe he got up and seemed OK (I'm told the horse was fine too).
The second exciting moment we saw was the next-to-last race, where we were at the finish line and saw Almarmooq win by three-tenths of a second -- literally a nose.
After that race the course ambulance apparently thought the day was over and headed out the driveway. The course announcer called out, "Stop the ambulance!" and one of the outriders -- literally an ambulance chaser -- galloped after it and caught it before it departed.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Run For Our Sons

Why was Route 82 closed from the roundabout to Willowdale this past Saturday morning? For the annual 5K Run For Our Sons, a fundraiser for research into Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. It was a sunny, warm, breezy morning and a big crowd turned out, including large T-shirted contingents (both students and teachers) from the elementary schools, Patton Middle School and Unionville High School, as well as a substantial group of Kennett Demons. Even the Hillendale Elementary mascot, the Husky, was there to cheer on the runners.

I was there to support the Young Relative (who turned in a more-than-respectable time, way to hustle!). Because Route 82 was closed, we spectators got to stand in the middle of the road to get a crossing guard's view as the runners left the middle school driveway, headed right on 82, went through the developments and then came back up 82. We saw a couple of runners who were just edged out by dogged competitors in the very last yard or so of the race.
There were some very young boys and girls running (good for them!), and I saw one very sweet couple holding hands as they approached the finish line, pushing their baby in front of them in a stroller. One dad was running with his daughter and had his smartphone out, taking photos of her as they finished.
As I went back to the car I heard a dad estimating with his son and friends how much money was raised, taking into the account crowd estimates, entry fees and expense. What an excellent real-life math problem! (As if the kids needed more problems after a week of PSSA tests.)

Friday, April 4, 2014

Humphry Marshall

The eminent botanist Humphry Marshall (1722-1801), who gave his name to the West Bradford village of Marshallton, is going to be honored with a blue-and-yellow historical marker by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. The state recently approved the application, which was submitted by the Marshallton Conservation Trust; it was the only one that was approved for Chester County. The PHMC website describes Marshall as "the Father of American Dendrology" and says that he "wrote the first and definitive book on American trees and shrubs in 1785." He also "cultivated many American species and he exported them to European gardens, including that of Louis XVI of France and King George of England." His home in Marshallton is a National Historic Landmark.

Antiques Show

My very generous neighbors gave me tickets for the Chester County Antiques Show Preview Party on April 4, and not just general admission passes either. These were the coveted early-admission tickets that give you first crack at the food -- er, rather, the antiques. Which were wonderful, as always: beautifully crafted furniture, blindingly polished silverware, delicate porcelain, charming equestrian artwork, rustic old signs and ads and -- this year in particular -- lovely paintings. I especially loved one of a bank barn with chickens.
One dealer took the time to give me the dramatic stories behind two pieces of 19th-century embroidery he had on display. One sampler was stitched by a Westtown School girl who later made a disastrous marriage to a religious fanatic. After she tried to get him committed to a mental institution, they divorced and he emigrated to Palestine. The other piece of embroidery was done by a woman to commemorate her four children, all of whom died as young adults. Shading the grave markers depicted in the sad piece were trees that she embellished using hundreds of tiny French knots.
I also liked a public service poster that warns against letting your dog run free, as it might kill livestock that could serve as food: "Whoever allows a dog to run free, day or night, is a SLACKER in this World Food Crisis."

And speaking of food: the preview party catering was by Jimmy Duffy, so it was a far cry from the average passed hors d'oeuvres. There were lamb chops, chicken and pesto on bruschetta, parmesan crisps, little cubes of watermelon, roast beef mini-sandwiches, French fries wrapped in prosciutto standing upright in little individual glasses with sauce, bacon and lettuce in hollowed-out grape tomatoes, little tidbits of honey and pear, and raw oysters (the latter by Doc Magrogan's in West Chester).
I saw a number of Unionville and Kennett friends who made the trek to the Phelps School in Malvern for the show, as well as some very old friends of my family who didn't have far at all to travel: they live just up the road from the school in Willistown.
There was one opening-night glitch: the generator that was supposed to provide lighting to the dealers' booths wasn't up to the job, so the booths on one side of the fieldhouse were dimly lit, which isn't good for sales: I saw a few patrons trying to examine paintings using penlights. A functional generator was brought in posthaste and the lighting was soon at full wattage.
And if reading this item has gotten you in the mood to see some antiques, the Brandywine River Museum's annual show will be May 24 through 26.

The Park

After the long winter, work once again seems to be proceeding on the new Unionville Park near the post office and fire hall. Men were installing shrubs and plantings the other day, and they've filled in that little ditch that crossed the driveway that you're technically supposed to use to exit the post office parking lot (although some of my best friends, otherwise upstanding citizens, blatantly disregard those arrows).

Wells Fargo

I do 95% of my banking online or at the ATM, so I wasn't sure what to expect when I actually set foot in the brick-and-mortar New Garden branch of Wells Fargo bank the other day to do some account tweaking. What I got was outstanding service. While I was waiting, at least four employees came over to me in the space of 10 minutes, introduced themselves to me and shook my hand. The person helping me was gracious, professional, intelligent and efficient. I can only assume they treat everyone as well as they treated me: when I walked in they didn't know who I was, and believe me, I don't look especially prosperous.
Impressive customer service.


A neighbor gave me a mock-hard time the other day because, unlike my prediction, the hard winter has apparently NOT killed off all the stinkbugs. I suggested that perhaps the dozens of stinkbugs she was finding in her house had simply overwintered there, but she said no, some of them appear to be babies.
She will be pleased to know that I found a stinkbug floating in my coffee pot yesterday. After I'd already had a cup, naturally.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Bridge repair

The Speakman Covered Bridge straddling West Marlborough and East Fallowfield Townships is slated to be repaired and reopened in 2015, Mark Myers told the West Marlborough supervisors at their April 1 meeting. And it was no April Fool's joke.
It's welcome news for the Frog Hollow Road residents, who have had to drive out of their way since the historic bridge over the Buck Run was closed in 2010 after being heavily damaged by an oversized truck.
Mr. Myers was at the township meeting to report on a recent meeting between federal and state officials and residents to discuss the bridge project. (The township supervisors had asked him to attend as a township representative and report back.) He said both federal and state funding for the project has been secured.
The repaired bridge will still be one lane wide and will have the same entrance and exit. It will be designed to bear 45 tons and will be supported by five concealed steel girders.
He said that at the meeting residents expressed distrust of PennDOT and said they were worried that the bridge might lose its National Historic Register status if PennDOT's plan changed the bridge too extensively, as had happened with recent bridge projects in Mortonville and Landenberg. The state officials said there would be mechanisms in place for citizens to monitor the planning process.
"I'm optimistic that a good bridge will come out of this," Mr. Myers said -- as long as all the parties "do what they say they're going to do."

End of the season

At the West Marlborough Supervisors' April meeting, Supervisor and Roadmaster Hugh Lofting said he and the hard-working road crew were extremely relieved that no more snow is in the forecast and the challenging winter is over.
"The crew is very happy April has come," he said. "They did a spectacular job."
Also at the meeting, Supervisor Bill Wylie said AT&T wants to install a diesel generator and add an antenna to their communications tower in the 400 block of West Street Road, next to Vince Dugan's stables. They will need permission from the township's Zoning Hearing Board before doing so. No date has been set for that hearing because AT&T has not yet submitted a formal application to the township.


At the West Marlborough Planning Commission's April meeting, Jock Hannum, chairman of Chester County 2020, presented the board with an award for "excellence in planning education."
Then he promptly took it back.
As he was speaking to the planners, he held the plaque aloft, concealed in its black cloth bag, but explained that unfortunately it had some kind of cosmetic flaw in it, crooked lettering or something. He said he was going to get it fixed before actually handing it over to the planners for real.
(Unionville is a small world: Jock's son Jeb chairs the Planning Commission.)

In the middle

It's impossible to miss the giant "Concord Township" sign being built in the middle of Concord Pike, just where the northbound and southbound lanes split. The bottom half resembles an old-fashioned stone bridge, with two arches. In contrast, the top half boasts the township name and a massive, bright video screen showing a rotation of ads. When I passed it on April 2, men were still working on scaffolding on the sign's sides, but the video screen was up and running.
Speaking of the Concord Township area, the former Outback Steakhouse in the Glen Eagle Shopping Center has moved two miles away to the newish shopping center at Route 1 and 322. The old space is being renovated for a restaurant called "Not Your Average Joe's," according to the liquor license application posted on the front window. I checked out the website of this New England-based chain and they say they offer "creative casual cuisine."
And in the Painter's Crossing Shopping Center, the movie theaters are being renovated to accommodate food service and are expected to reopen this summer for your dining and movie-going pleasure.