Sunday, July 27, 2014

Who will buy?

A Unionville friend and frequent Tilda contributor writes: "Could you ask your loyal readers to recommend a source who buys crystal, china and silver?" She said the inherited items are unneeded in her own household but just too nice to give away, including two boxes of Limoges. If you email me at, I'll pass the word along.

Best of

A reader and avid Kennett booster sent me a list of Kennett (or nearby) businesses, stores, restaurants and professionals that have been nominated as part of the online "Philly 17 Hot List" contest run by a Philadelphia television station. Many of my favorites are on the list. If yours isn't, maybe you could encourage owner to self-nominate: It's good free advertising, and as my reader says, "I know several people who check out the list when they want to try something new."  Online voting ends on Sunday, September 7.

Music at Hans Herr

In addition to the Anson B. Nixon concerts on Wednesday nights, my live-music-loving companion and I have been heading out to the historic Hans Herr House in Willow Street, Lancaster County, every other Saturday for their series of summer concerts. It has been interesting to watch the progress of nature throughout the season. During the first concert, it was chilly and windy and I remember being very glad I wore jeans.
At this past Saturday's show, the performers were talking about the "blazing sun" shining directly in their eyes (it's a west-facing stage), and apologized for wearing sunglasses and not being able to make eye contact with the crowd. One of them used his water bottle as an impromptu prop in a Scottish drinking song.
The concerts are held in the historic site's apple orchard, and the maturing fruit is pulling down the branches. A seat with a great view on one Saturday may be an "obstructed view" one at the next concert.
The tobacco in the Lancaster County fields is getting bigger, and the stands along Strasburg Road now offer freshly picked tomatoes, beets and flowers for sale.
The final concert of the summer is on Saturday, Aug. 9, starting at 6 p.m. For only $5 admission, it's a great deal.

Not the comfy chair!

I read with interest Kennett Square borough council's intentions to fine borough residents who use any "indoor" furniture on their porches, decks or yards; council believes that it is unsightly and could be a public safety hazard in terms of harboring lice, insects and other vermin.
I took a quick drive through the downtown area on Sunday afternoon peering at people's front porches and saw a few clear violators (big sofas); many pieces of furniture I assume would be in compliance (wicker sets, wooden benches, wooden rocking chairs, and plastic chairs); and some questionable cases: Are folding metal chairs acceptable? Card tables? What about those plastic chairs with metal legs found in spartan waiting rooms?
And I couldn't help but notice that the Wall Street Journal ran two somewhat applicable stories on the first page of its real-estate section on July 25. One, written by Amy Gamerman, was about the resurgence of porches and how they can strengthen neighborhood camaraderie: "The porch is making a comeback as an outdoor room for dining, lounging and connecting with neighbors." The accompanying photos showed all sorts of furniture, including wicker and wooden rocking chairs, sofas with wooden frames, Adirondack chairs, carpets, dining room tables and lounge chairs.
The other article, written by Alyssa Abkowitz, was about municipal rules in some Asian cities that restrict what kind and size of pets you can own, whether you can have a BBQ, and when you can play music. In one anecdote, a woman said an inspector came into her house searching for any standing water (a potential breeding ground for mosquitoes) and told her to pitch a vase of anniversary flowers.


How sad to hear there was another accident -- this one a fatal -- on Route 1 in front of the Shoppes at Longwood Village. I've written before how perilous that stretch of road is. I don't know the specifics of what caused that crash, but I refuse to make a right turn on red out of the shopping center, no matter how many honking people back up behind me.
I did learn something new about that stretch of road, however. In an earlier post I had griped about motorists heading toward Kennett or the Route 1 bypass who get into the "right-turn lane" all the way back by the Wawa and treat it as a passing lane.
A reader pointed out, in a well-reasoned and well-written critique, that in fact it's not really a right-turn lane at all: "that lane is not marked -- on the road surface, or on overhead signs, or with curbside signs -- to restrict its use in any way as a third lane of through traffic. Please do drive that stretch of highway again. Try to find anything restricting that lane to right turn only before you get to the Walmart intersection at Schoolhouse Lane. And then convince me that there is something illegal, immoral, or fattening about using that lane as the highway engineers pretty clearly intended it -- to help speed traffic along that highly congested area between Wawa and the Walmart intersection by adding an extra lane for through traffic between those two points."
I did as she suggested and checked it out this morning. I stand corrected! In fact, the lane is actually marked for both right turns AND through traffic until you pass Onix Lane, where it becomes a right-turn-only lane to get into the Walmart. And a friend who was on the regional planning commission when the Route 1 expansion was on the drawing board confirmed that the planners fully intended that lane to be a through-lane.

Township in action

Here is my regular reminder about the monthly West Marlborough Township supervisors meeting: it will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 5, at the township hall in Doe Run. The planning commission meets at 7 p.m., with the supervisors' meeting to follow. It's always entertaining and instructive.

Friday, July 25, 2014

More Quaker history

Two more dates to put on your calendar:
1. Primitive Hall, the Pennock ancestral home, will be open from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 10, as part of the 300th anniversary celebration of London Grove Friends Meeting. The Hall is on Route 841 between Routes 926 and 842 in West Marlborough Township. Joseph Pennock built the house in 1738 and he and his family worshipped at London Grove.
2. Homeville Meeting, 4904 Homeville Rd., in Cochranville, will celebrate its 175th anniversary on Sunday, Aug. 24. Janet Witman of Cochranville will provide her lovely harp music starting at 1 p.m.; Meeting for Worship is at 2 p.m.; and Chris Densmore, curator of Swarthmore College's Friends Historical Library, will speak at 2:30 p.m.

Compact cars

I know some of you are thinking that an intervention might be in order here for Tilda, who seems to be spending an inordinate amount of time far, far away from Unionville (metaphorically speaking) at the Cecil County Fair in Fair Hill, Maryland. Last week I wrote about eating a fried Oreo; this week I'm writing about the Fair's Demolition Derby, which we attended the evening of July 23.
After dining on scrumptious "loaded" baked potatoes (cheese and butter), we settled into our seats in the metal bleachers.
"So, what is the point of this?" I asked my more learned companion. Before he could explain, the young woman in front of me turned around and said simply, "It's like bumper cars."
That was a perfect description. Junker cars bash into each other within a muddy enclosure, and the last one still running is the winner. Bumpers and tires fall off. Metal crumples. Steam pours out of crushed radiators (flames too, sometimes, causing a stoppage in the action so firefighters can extinguish the blaze). Clods of mud fly up from spinning tires. It's like a Brueghel version of the Avondale Wawa parking lot at rush hour.
Do I need to add that it was great fun? And I actually picked the winner of the second heat, just because the car looked especially agile when it first came onto the course.
After each heat, guys in skid loaders come out to efficiently clear the course of the automotive corpses. They're really talented, delicately coaxing or prodding the still-rolling vehicles off the course and just picking up and carting off the really bad ones.
The people-watching kept us entertained, too. I was enchanted by a tough-looking biker guy in leathers and a bandana who was sitting with a toddler wearing a polo shirt and madras shorts (I assume his grandson). They were totally wrapped up in each other, laughing and cuddling. The boy was fiddling with the fat silver chain attached to his grand-dad's wallet, and I thought, "That kid is probably the only person on earth who's allowed to do that."

Route 41

Those of us who often use Route 41 receive frequent reminders that it's summertime -- say, every Friday afternoon and Sunday evening, when beach traffic strains the highway's capacity and makes it even tougher than usual to pull out at the Chatham blinking light. It's easy to spot the vacationers: they're the ones with folding chairs, bikes, suitcases and sometimes boats attached to their vehicles.
A few weeks ago we were discussing where to have Sunday supper and we briefly considered one of our favorite family restaurant, located smack on Route 41 in Avondale -- until we realized it was late Sunday afternoon. Probably not good timing.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Sin City Band

The amazing run of good weather that the Anson B. Nixon outdoor concert series enjoyed finally ended on July 23, when the Sin City Band had to end their set after about a half-hour, with the wind whipping up and lightning flashing off to the west. It was a good call on the part of the tech guys: no sooner did my friends and I pack up our chairs and get to our vehicles than the rain came pouring down. The band did its popular "Chester County song" first and, in an unsuccessful attempt to ward off the impending storm, "Yellow Sun" and "You Are My Sunshine."
The brown-bag suppers provided by the Country Butcher were excellent: chicken salad on a roll, potato salad, pasta salad with roasted vegetables and a cookie. For only eight dollars! Fortunately we ate ours before the storm.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

No slackers

Normally attendance at exercise classes plummets during the summer, but not so in one class I take at the Jennersville Y. There were so many people in class on July 22 that the instructor had to relinquish her usual "spot" to a latecomer, and we had to carefully synchronize our moves with those of the person next to us to avoid contact. One participant said she'd bring along a hay bale or a mounting block to the next class for the instructor to stand on so she could see everyone.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Cecil County Fair

I can now say that I have eaten a fried Oreo. I actually never knew there was such a thing until Sunday, when we visited the Cecil County Fair in Fair Hill, Maryland, but once I saw that sign on the food trailer, I simply had to have one.
It looked and tasted like a donut with the soggy remains of an Oreo inside. It was a far cry from my usual salad-heavy food choices, but somehow anything in the healthy eating pyramid just wouldn't strike the right note at a country fair in rural Maryland. The accompanying lemonade was very good.
We had an utter blast at the fair. We walked through the livestock barns and marveled at the beautifully groomed cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, rabbits, guinea pigs, chickens, and ducks. We wandered through the floral, vegetable, hay and egg competitions (much like at the Unionville Community Fair), the gleaming farm equipment displays (very large and very expensive), and the midway. We watched two guys carving wooden sculptures with chainsaws.
The highlight (other than the animals and food, of course) was watching the Truck Pull, in which a giant weighted sled is hooked up to a specially fortified diesel pickup truck. The truck has to drag this thing down a dirt field, wheels spinning, engine straining and black smoke belching from the exhaust pipes. Some of the competitors were successful and made it all the way down to the far end of the stadium, but one poor guy dropped a drive shaft.
The fair runs through Saturday, July 26. There's a Demolition Derby at 8 p.m. Thursday, July 24, and Friday, July 25, and at 2 and 8 p.m. on Saturday. There are rumblings that we will be returning for one of them.
(By the way, a woman at the gym corrected me, saying that "Cecil" is pronounced with a short "e." I've never heard that before, but I've gotten confirmation that "Sessil" is indeed how some old-timers say it.)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Meetinghouse tour

A huge thank you to everyone involved in organizing this past weekend's tour of Quaker meetinghouses in the Western Quarter. For a history-minded person like me with an interest in Quakerism, it was fascinating.
On Saturday we visited "New" West Grove, Pennsgrove, and Homeville meetings and then crossed the Mason-Dixon Line to visit Colora meeting. On Sunday we went to London Britain meeting. Each meetinghouse had its own Friendly charm. At West Grove, upside-down glass telephone-pole insulators held candles and the beams in the cellar still had bark on them. I thought Pennsgrove had an especially calm, gathered air about it. The hosts at Homeville had on display old newspaper articles about the meeting; I loved reading about the heated disputes over the spelling of "Octoraro." London Britain had pillows on the benches.

We got a little lost getting to Colora, and driving through the two gateposts was like arriving at an enchanting cottage in a forest clearing. The surprisingly comfortable wooden benches were made from rafts on the Susquehanna, the hostess told us (I noticed that the worshippers who sat on facing benches got footrests, a surprising touch). The small Colora burial ground is on a steep slope leading down to a creek and is the final resting place for a daughter of Betsy Ross and a great many members of the Balderston family (we passed Balderston Orchards en route to the meetinghouse).

Mr. Patton

Charles F. Patton, a longtime teacher and administrator in whose honor Unionville's middle school is named, died on Saturday, and former students, colleagues and friends have been sharing fond memories of him and how he shaped their lives (and their bridge games). I saw the news on Saturday evening on Facebook while eating ice cream at Landhope and said to my companion, "Oh, Mr. Patton died!" The people at the next table, complete strangers, overheard and said, "Yeah, I heard that!" They didn't need to ask who Mr. Patton was, or which Mr. Patton; in Unionville, there was only one. My sympathy goes out to his family.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Nature notes

This has been the summer of the hostas, the house wrens and the hummingbirds.
Maybe I'm just more aware of the hostas because I've planted so many of them this year, but those spikes of purple flowers, rising high above green or green-and-white leaves, seem to be everywhere this summer, after our cold, wet spring. What a versatile, hardy and attractive plant.
And a house wren has made a nest of twigs in a bird box in a white pine in my back yard. It has raised at least two broods, which it feeds constantly, chirping its cheerful, trilling song. I just took the portable steps out back to see if I could get a photo of the chicks. The momma wren was not at all happy: she rammed my head, twice, and hard. I apologized, replaced the box and retreated.
My hummingbirds were late to arrive but have been regulars at the feeder, often draining the whole cup-and-a-half. It's fun to watch the colorful, frenetic, bold little creatures perch on the feeder and on nearby white-pine branches.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Shutdown weeks

The annual shutdown weeks at our local YMCAs will be Aug. 18 through 24 for the Jennersville and the Airport Road Ys, and Aug. 25 to 31 for the Kennett Y. Seems earlier than usual this year.

New tires

A shout-out to NTW, the car place on Concord Pike where I got four new tires installed in a total of 70 minutes. On their website, all you have to do is type in your car's VIN and the computers identifies its year, make and model. (It didn't identify the "trim level," which I had to find in my files. Really, who remembers what trim level your car has once you've used it as a bargaining chip in the showroom? Not me.) With that info the computer gives you a list of recommended tires, with varying prices and features.
I selected my tires (buy three and get the fourth free), booked an appointment online and showed up, prepared to spend the afternoon: I brought a stack of proofreading to do, three days' worth of newspapers to read, some needlework and a bottle of water. But they were so efficient that by the time hey were done I hadn't even gotten halfway through the chapter I was proofreading and hadn't even touched the newspapers, the needlework or the water!
The clerk said making the online appointment really speeds up the process, and it seems she is absolutely right.
(A reader said I should've gotten paid for writing this review, but in a sense I did: in my billable-hours world, time = money.)
Speaking of automotive matters, along with my registration renewal form this year I received some information about a "Mature Driver Improvement Course" that gives us 55-and-ups a break on our car-insurance premium. The course, either online or at a senior center, costs $21.95. I called my insurance agent, P.J. Mullin, and found that my premium would be reduced by a grand total of $26 a year. Hardly seems worth it.

Rule of thumb

I've often written about how Unionville equestrians don't let their (frequent) injuries get in the way of their sport. Now, it seems, I should add golfers to the list of hardy athletes. An avid sportswoman I know broke her right thumb in a fall at the golf course. She then completed her round, going for an X-ray to confirm the fracture only at the insistence of her husband. She was told to wear a splint, but she said it makes the thumb hurt even more. So she's simply been carrying on, taking a minimal dose of ibuprofen.
"By the back nine, I'm like, 'Ouch,' " she admits.

Thursday, July 17, 2014


After an early-evening outdoor concert at the Hans Herr House in the town of Willow Street, Lancaster County, we were milling around eating ice cream when I spotted these odd fruits on the grass under what looked like a walnut tree.

They were exactly the same yellow-green color as walnut fruits, but with an elongated shape and a sticky, fuzzy surface. We brought two of them home and immediately did an online search.
It turns out that they are from the butternut tree (Juglans cinerea), which is also known as white walnut. The tree is a native of the Northeast, but many of them have been killed by a fungus called the butternut canker. This tree seemed to be thriving.

"Third Thursday"

I just got home from July's "Third Thursday," which is downtown Kennett Square's newest special event. State Street is blocked off to traffic for the evening, and the restaurants move their tables and chairs outside diners can have their dinner right in the middle of the street -- a novel perspective indeed. I wandered uptown from the Y around 6:45 p.m. on a beautiful summer evening and saw lots of folks, among them Dave Dickens and his family having sushi; Debra Swayne and her sister; a hungry Robin Mastrippolito; the McNeil clan from West Grove (who are also regulars at the Wednesday evening concert series at Anson Nixon Park); Claire Murray and Mary Hutchins; and "Dev" Devereux. Word has clearly gotten out about this event.
Local band Mason Porter was playing at Union and State Streets, and there was more music at the other end of the fest, at Center and State Streets. The Y was running kids' games at Broad and State Streets, and Bayard Taylor Library employees were demonstrating the library's 3D printer outside on the sidewalk.  

Two thumbs up!

It's rare that a big-screen movie comes out that I want to see, so it wasn't until Sunday, July 13, that we got around to visiting the revamped AMC Painters Crossing movie theater at Routes 1 and 202. I was very impressed; it's really a whole new paradigm of cinemas. They've added food and beverage service right in the theater. Waiters and waitresses take your order at the beginning of the show and then bring your meal to you at your seat. There's enough ambient light in the theater that you can see what you're eating, and there are fold-out trays for your plate. The food menu reminded me of the one at Applebee's and, of course, you can still order the traditional popcorn. There's also a multipage drink menu, with "upgrades" for pricier liquors.
I got a surprise when our waitress greeted me by name -- she is my mail carrier!
Now if Hollywood would just make quieter and less violent movies . . . (Some friends told me they actually bring earplugs to wear during the 15 minutes of deafening ads and previews.)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Lanscaping business at Chester County Timber?

Joshua Cauffman wants to open a landscaping business on the site of Chester County Timber, 1460 Embreeville Rd., but he needs permission from East Marlborough's Zoning Hearing Board to do so. The board will hear the case at 7 p.m. Monday, July 28, at the township building.
For years the Singers operated a business for "lawn and garden equipment repair and sales" on the two-acre property, which is considered a nonconforming use under township regulations. The proposed new business would also be a nonconforming use because the property is in the residential section of the township.
Mr. Cauffman, the equitable owner of the property, is also asking permission "to change or replace a nonconforming sign."

The right fit

This afternoon I was shoe-shopping with a Unionville pal at the DSW store between Exton and Downingtown. She said the only sandals she had were flip-flops and she wanted something sturdier, "but I don't want to fiddle with buckles and things."
"You tack up your horse every morning!" I pointed out. "What do you mean you don't want to `fiddle with buckles'?"
"Yeah. Maybe that's why," she answered.
She ended up buying three pairs, none with buckles.


Spell-checking programs are a great boon to me and other editors, but they're not putting us out of business yet. I came across this typo on Sunday: "Studies have shown this antioxidant speeds healing, increases energy, supports lover function and helps those with lactose intolerance." I'm 90% sure they mean "liver."
I shared this with a friend and she told me she'd recently seen a resume that in which the person mentioned the "Ethyl Walker School." Spell-check wouldn't catch that one, either.

Quaker tour

Don't forget about the tour of Quaker meetinghouses, 11 active ones and eight "laid-down," in the Western Quarter this coming weekend, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, July 19, and from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, July 20. There is full information, a map, and a brochure you can print out at the London Grove Friends Meeting website. I know that a lot of volunteers have been putting in a lot of time organizing this one.


A family member is matriculating at Stanford this autumn, so I glanced through the "back-to-dorm" circular from Bed Bath & Beyond instead of sending it straight into the recycling pile. I was surprised to see, on a page full of wireless gadgets, a portable record player that would have been great in my 1970s dorm room! "Plays 33-1/3, 45 and 78 RPM records," the ad copy reads. $69.99.
I know vinyl is popular among some discriminating audiophiles, but among today's college kids?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Be nice

Snarkiness, ad hominem insults, "spin" and just plain meanness for the sake of meanness are certainly nothing new, but in today's world of social media, sometimes they can get really depressing. When that happens, I try to take a step back and notice the good stuff.
Like a teenager who, yesterday at the Kennett Y, was in a hurry and accidentally bumped into me. She stopped. She looked me in the eye. She said, "Excuse me!" (And she didn't even add "Ma'am," bless her heart.)
And last week, I was driving around looking at storm damage and, on a nearby back road, was taking a photo of some hard-working utility guys cutting branches and fixing downed wires. A local mushroom farmer pulled up, unloaded two big boxes of beautiful, just-picked mushrooms from his truck and took them over to the workers as a thank-you present.
Even I tried to get in on the act. I saw a woman wearing one of those horizontally striped, knit maxi-dresses that seem so popular this summer. As tough as that look is to pull off (stripes? knit? I ask you!), she succeeded brilliantly. I went up to her and told her she looked fabulous. She was stunned (I hope in a good way).
There is hope yet.

Downton Abbey show

The July 9 edition of the Wall Street Journal had a review ("Upstairs Timelessness, Downstairs Precision") about the Downton Abbey exhibit at Winterthur. "What makes this exhibition special is the added dimension that Winterthur brings to it," writes Laura Jacobs. "While delineating early-20th-century life in the fictional Downtown Abbey, the curators tell of a parallel life, during the same years, at Winterthur."
I loved the exhibit, and at lunch at Philter few weeks ago I was telling a friend about it, perhaps a bit too loudly. The woman at the next table came over to us and apologized for interrupting but said she simply had to say how much she, too, enjoyed the show.


Two new blogs have come to my attention and might interest you.
The first is "Vegging at the Shore" ( by Marci Schwartz Lutsky (a family member of mine). Marci introduces her blog by saying: "I have spent the past three and half years taking care of twins. Full-time. All the time. They are the most amazing gifts we have ever been given, but as they get older, I’m finding myself ready to spend my limited free time on other things. Since I love food, cooking and talking endlessly about both, a blog seemed like the perfect idea."
The other is a fashion blog by a chic local woman named Lindsay who apparently really, REALLY likes Lilly Pulitzer clothes. It's called "Cheshire Hunt Fashion" (

Friday, July 11, 2014

London Grove Oak in National Geo!

So I'm sitting in a comfy leather chair at Foxy Loxy on Friday afternoon, totally in the zone, proofreading a hard-copy world cultures book while listening to mind-focusing yoga music. I'm making great progress.
Then the email signal on my smartphone bings, and it's a loyal "Unionville in the News" reader informing me that AT THAT VERY MOMENT two "National Geographic" photographers are at London Grove Friends Meeting making photos of the Penn Oak.
In a matter of seconds I'd removed my earbuds and shuffled together my stack of papers and was on my way to the meetinghouse. There I met the very nice husband-and-wife team of Diane Cook and Len Jenshel, who are doing a story for the magazine on "wise trees." The assignment has taken the New York-based couple to India, Mexico and Ground Zero in Manhattan, where they shot the "survivor" Callery pear tree that lived through the 9/11 disaster.

They wanted to include London Grove's Penn Oak not only for its majesty but also because it was a witness to William Penn's requirement that Pennsylvania settlers preserve one acre of trees for every five acres cleared. They said they planned to photograph the tree at dusk Friday and dawn Saturday -- they scheduled the shoot to coincide with the full moon. (For my photographer friends: They were using Nikon D800 bodies, which "are good for working at night," said Diane. A few years ago they shot the night-blooming plants at Longwood Gardens.)
Diane said the publication date for the story keeps changing, but they think it's scheduled for the August 2015 issue.


My longtime friend Linda was nice enough to send me this sweet photo of a swan family crossing Route 926 at the Traditions development. Traditions resident Suze told me that she and her neighbors see the family often: "They live in the pond in our community and their names are Frick and Frack. We feed and care for them, but they like to visit other ponds, too. We lost an adult a few years ago just like this....crossing the road."

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Car talk

Twice in the space of four hours I saw a bumper sticker "i drive naked" -- once at Union and Cypress Streets in Kennett, the other time on a different car leaving Anson Nixon Park! What's going on? Will we soon have big-city journalists visiting and writing about a nascent trend starting in what they call "sleepy" Chester County?

I was also all set to grouse about the First World problem of sloppy parking in downtown Kennett -- as I drove through on July 9 one big black vehicle (with a trailer hitch, no less!) was jutting out well beyond the lines, reducing State Street to essentially one lane -- but when I drove through today, all the cars were as neatly lined up as a well-disciplined marching band. State Street actually looked like one of those idealized renderings that architects draw up of the parking lots at shopping centers or office buildings.

Municipal matters

Old-school reporters like me still scan the small-print "legal notices" in the classified ads on the remote chance that an interesting municipal ordinance is being proposed. Occasionally our compulsion is rewarded, like earlier today when I saw that the borough of Kennett Square is revising its "animals and fowl" regulations. They are redefining "fowl," "livestock" and "run at large" and adding a subsection "regulations for the keeping of fowl." I'm assuming this is in response to residents' concerns about neighbors raising chickens in some parts of the borough. Borough council will be holding a hearing on the matter at the Red Clay Room starting at 7 p.m. Monday, July 21.
In another municipal note, a fellow reporter who covered a local township meeting recently told me how surprised he was to see one of the township supervisors wearing a polo shirt and shorts instead of his customary business suit. "For anybody else, it would be like they walked into a meeting wearing a Speedo," he explained.

The Melton Brothers

Once again the Weather Channel icon on my phone glowed red and thunderstorms were predicted for the Wednesday evening concert at Anson Nixon Park in Kennett. And once again the storms didn't materialize. The Melton Brothers Band (along with a Melton son on keyboards for a few numbers) played a terrific set, including "I Call Your Name," "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" and a silly song about nuking chicken. Bob Beach on harmonica and vocals was terrific.
Perhaps waiting to see what the weather would do, people arrived late (which means they missed chiropractor Chad Laurence's spirited introduction of the band). And instead of arriving in groups, I noticed that people arrived one by one, the first member of the part setting up camp and then waving vigorously to signal to the others as they showed up.
This was my first time parking in the new lot at the park, near the tennis courts, where a crumbling maintenance shed used to stand. It's good solid gravel footing, although I did hear a sandal-wearing woman say she wished she had worn sneakers.


I had an all-too-close encounter the other day on a stream bank with "mile-a-minute weed" (Persicaria perfoliata). This invasive, noxious vined has barbs that enable it to climb and overwhelm trees, shrubs and basically everything in the vicinity. Said barbs ripped up the back of my right hand (another nickname for the vine is "tear-thumb," how true) and for a few days after the incident the clawed-looking area felt rough and just weird, like after you touch a stinging nettle.
The vine, which can grow up to six inches a day, is a native of the Far East but got a foothold here in American somewhere around 1940 when a curious nursery owner in Stewartstown, York County, let it grow. "It is speculated that the seed was spread with Rhododendron stock," Wikipedia tells us.
Speaking of noxious vines, my season-long efforts to inhibit the growth of wild grapevines have had, uh, limited success. I thought that perhaps promptly amputating the tendrils at their home nodule with my Fiskars would discourage them. Not so; perversely, it seems to spur them on to further offensive efforts ("we'll show her!"). Instead of attacking them individually, I've been reduced to just hacking them back en masse at the perimeter of the garden.

Saturday, July 5, 2014


A family member related this pair of anecdotes.
On Thursday, while gassing up at Wawa, he was approached by a man with a hard-luck story who said he just needed $10 for gas to get home. The family member gave him the money -- and spent the rest of the day and night kicking himself for being conned.
The next day, he was out on his bike and a stick on the road, downed by the storm, jumped up and attacked his bike's derailleur, putting it out of commission and stranding him six miles from home. A passing motorist stopped to help, just happened to have a vehicle big enough to accommodate the bike, and gave him a ride all the way home.
A family discussion resulted: Were the two incidents related?


I am sure some of you will remember Jane Brown Grimes, a delightful woman who used to live in Chadds Ford and was a regular at the Kennett Y. Now based in Manhattan, Jane is being inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I., on July 12. She used to serve as the group's president and has spent a great deal of her life devoted to the sport. I still always look for her in "the good seats" when watching the U.S. Open or Wimbledon tournaments on TV. 
Others being inducted into the Hall of Fame this year are Lindsay Davenport, Nick Bollettiere, John Barrett, and Chantal Vandierendonck.
Jane was also in the news back in 2011 when her son, Ames Brown, was a contestant on the TV show "The Bachelorette." Jane appeared in an episode in which Ames took Ashley, the bachelorette, to his family's Chadds Ford home to meet his relatives. 

Free fireworks

At 9 p.m. July 4, the Shoppes at Longwood Village parking lot looked like it does on an especially hectic pre-Christmas shopping day. Well, except that people were relaxing in folding chairs or tossing footballs and hackysacks while waiting for Longwood's fireworks display to start.
Word has gotten out that you get a great -- and free -- view of the fireworks from the parking lot. I saw cars parked along Schoolhouse Road for the same reason. (I hasten to add that Longwood's tickets were sold out, so it's not like we were taking business away from them.)
I wasn't watching the clock -- we were doing a lot of family teasing and joking around -- but I imagine it was about 9:15 when the first firework was set off. The pace was slow at first, but then a whole cluster of them flashed and banged. "My, that escalated quickly," observed the Young Relative. There were a few especially loud ones (my favorites), some unusual oval ones, the sky-filling chrysanthemum ones, and the squiggly, fizzy kind.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Big storm

Much to my disappointment, I missed the big storm that blew through at suppertime on July 3. I was working out in the windowless upstairs aerobics room at the Kennett Y, and the first indication we had that something was going on was when the lights went out just as class was over (the generator kicked in almost immediately). The traffic lights and the shops in town were dark and I saw several trees down on my trip home. Power wasn't restored for many people until mid-day Friday.
A friend later told me that he was at the Kennett Giant in New Garden and saw the storm approaching; he said it formed a dramatic black "wall cloud" stretching from horizon to horizon.


After all the fun I had this weekend, even if I didn't get invited to another party the rest of the summer, I still wouldn't have (valid) reason to complain.
I spent part of my Fourth of July at an excellent picnic near West Grove with lots of food, friendly company, a pretty garden and a very welcoming host and hostess. I'd been hearing about this picnic for months and knew it was a much-loved tradition, so in my reporterly fashion I asked the host how many years it had been going on.
To my surprise this sparked a lively discussion. Everyone agreed that there had been a pig roast to celebrate the 25th anniversary, but how many years had elapsed since then was a matter of dispute. The best answer I could get was 26 or 27 -- still a venerable age.
On Saturday afternoon I went to an event that's both old and new: the Cheshire Country Fair and Picnic on the Kennel Lawn. The organizers are seeking to revive an early-20th-century tradition started by the hunt's founder, Plunkett Stewart, of hosting a party for landowners and neighbors. Hood's BBQ supplied pulled pork sandwiches, broccoli salad, and cornbread, and for dessert there was a whole buffet of fantastic baked goods AND excellent ice cream. It was fun to watch the kids' games, the local celebrity dunking tank, the hard-fought tug-of-war between the landowners and the subscribers (there were both ladies' and men's competitions) and especially the parade of "Cheshire beauties," the hunt's foxhounds, supervised by huntsman Ivan Dowling and whippers-in Stephanie Boyer and Bennett Barclay. My parents, who had never before been to the kennels or seen the hounds, were enthralled.
The third party of the weekend -- a sizeable gathering, with live music, volleyball, a bonfire, several grills and lots of kids running around  -- took place on a rambling property along the Brandywine ("Avoid the ditches," counseled the guy manning the gate). This, too, is an event that has been going on for many years, and the hosts have got it down to a science. As part of the fun, they supply inner tubes and transport you upstream in the bed of a pickup. You walk across a field, slide down a steep bank and then -- ahh -- float downstream. The water was clean, clear and warm, and the water level was generally fine: a couple of times we bumped our rear ends on the rocky bottom and needed to walk for a bit. It was pure bliss, gliding gently under the sycamores, bumping through the rapids and watching the birds swooping down to snatch insects on the creek's surface.
The hosts and hostesses at all three parties have my deep gratitude.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Sight distance

Thank you to Suzi McCoy of the Garden Media Group for cutting back the hedge in front of her office at Washington and State Streets in Kennett. The hedge blocked the sight distance for motorists trying to pull out onto State Street; I mentioned a few weeks ago that it was becoming a problem.

Mark Unruh

The skies looked ominous at the beginning of the concert in the park by Mark Unruh and his band on July 2: lightning was flashing to the northwest and thunder was rumbling ("extra bass," quipped a band member). But almost magically, the thunderstorm bypassed the park and those who stuck it out enjoyed a fantastic concert of bluegrass, jazz, gospel, yodeling and even Django Reinhardt ("Minor Swing"!) songs performed by the four talented musicians on the fiddle, guitar, bass, banjo and mandolin.
An incidental highlight was a group of adorably energetic little boys running around and, at the end, dancing up a storm in front of the pavilion.
Mark Unruh is also going to be playing at the Kennett Flash on July 12 and at the Brandywine Valley Association's free summer music series at 7:30 p.m. July 24.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Survey says ...

I just did my civic duty, if not happily: under threat of a $100 fine, I filled out the online American Community Survey for the U.S. Census Bureau.
I answered their detailed questions about my house, occupation, education, Internet connection and other utilities (do I have a flush toilet?), health insurance, ancestry ("American," I answered), and any disabilities.
I balked, however, when it came to the questions about income. That's nobody's business but mine; I clicked on "next" each time it asked for a number. The computer program prompted me for an estimate, but after I skipped over the prompt once, it took "no" for an answer on future questions of a financial nature.
The Census Bureau estimated it would take 40 minutes to complete. It took me only 10, I imagine because I'm a quick reader and because I'm a single person (you're supposed to answer all those questions for each person who lives at your address).
The introductory letter from the Census Bureau said, "Community leaders use this information to decide where schools, highways, hospitals, and other services are needed. The survey also is used to develop programs to reduce traffic congestion, provide job training, and plan for the health care needs of the elderly."
On privacy and intrusive-government grounds, I had qualms about completing the survey, even though the website assures us that our information will be kept confidential. Over lunch I shared my concerns with a friend whose political viewpoint leans toward the libertarian.
She told me to fill it out.
"You surprise me," I said. "I thought you'd absolutely refuse."
"Oh, I totally would have," she agreed. "Until you told me about the fine."

Reducing red tape

Well, you certainly don't hear this one every day: a municipality is seeking to reduce its red tape.
At their July meeting the West Marlborough supervisors said they'd be looking at the township's list of required permits and inspections so they could eliminate those that represented an unnecessary burden on property owners.
The supervisors' chairman, Bill Wylie, said the board members will be evaluating the list based on whether the regulations were really needed; he used the phrase "common sense" several times. The board will then hold a public work session to discuss their findings. The township's zoning officer, Al Giannantonio, will review the changes in case any of the permits slated for the chopping block are actually required by county or state law.
Mr. Wylie said some of the rules aren't widely known, such as one requiring homeowners to get a permit to replace a hot-water heater. A few residents at the meeting argued that home repairs, as opposed to new construction, shouldn't need permits, because the work might be urgent.
In other business at the brief meeting, road crew member Hugh Lofting Jr. said he and his colleagues put oil and chips on Newark Road between Routes 842 and 82; Lamborntown Road; Richard Wilson Drive; and a short stretch of West Road at Route 842. They also sprayed 37,000 square feet of soybean oil on Doe Run Church Road to keep the dust down. And, he said, in an understatement, "we mowed a lot."
In the police report, Lieutenant Bob Clarke said he issued 12 speeding tickets and four warnings in June.
The monthly meeting attracted all three supervisors, two township employees, eight township residents, and Skip Powell's Jack Russell, Emma.