Sunday, August 31, 2014

CHESTER COUNTY: My nomination for a county slogan

I don't know if Chester County is in need of a slogan, but may I suggest the following, which I saw on a car at the Kennett YMCA this morning?

Not only is "Choose Civility" an excellent sentiment, but it also has two C's, just like Chester County! How fitting. (Tilda really needs to set herself up as a consultant, don't you think?)
I think Howard County would share. The website describes the "Choose Civility" project as "an ongoing community-wide initiative to position Southern Maryland as a model of civility. The Choose Civility project intends to enhance respect, empathy, consideration, and tolerance in our community. We invite all within our community, as well as other communities around the region, to participate."

ST. MICHAEL: Rev. Bodine joins the church as part-time pastor

St. Michael Lutheran Church in Unionville is welcoming back former congregation member Dan Bodine, who will fill in part-time after "Pastor Brad" (associate pastor Bradley Burke) leaves the church in September to work for Lutheran Charities. The Rev. Bodine, who lives in the Kennett area with his wife, Pat, retired in May from the Community of Love church in Oxford. "Pastor Rick" (senior pastor Frederick J. DeRasmo Jr.) writes in the church bulletin that "Pastor Dan will lead Confirmation; work closely with Confirmation Guides; assist with visitation as needed; preach occasionally; work with the Social Ministry committee and will be included in our Caring Shepherds ministry."
St. Mike's is kind enough to have me on its mailing list. If your church has a monthly bulletin too, you are welcome to send it to me at P.O. Box 293, Unionville PA 19375 or email it to

Saturday, August 30, 2014

CHESHIRE KENNELS: Cupcakes, donuts and coffee with the foxhunters

On Saturday morning I stopped in for an excellent cup of coffee at the Masters' Breakfast (the "Masters" being Sanna Neilson, Mike Ledyard and Anne Moran), held on the Kennel Lawn, after the Cheshire foxhunters returned from their final morning of hound exercise. The 8:30 breakfast was essentially mid-day for the foxhunters, an eager and dedicated bunch who rise well before dawn to get themselves and their horses ready for the morning's sport.
It was great to chat with friends and neighbors, not only the foxhunters but also their family members and various well-wishers. One fellow said he drops off his daughter and then just sits in his truck enjoying the early morning peace and quiet.
I had an interesting conversation about the Newlin horse-farm controversy (see elsewhere in this column for more details on that) and how other townships regulate equestrian operations (or don't).
Another neighbor was telling me about a homeopathic poison ivy remedy he swears by -- he says it even prevents the itchy rash. (Too late for me, alas: I have the worst case I've had all summer.)
In other local equestrian news, I just got my invitation to the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup, which this year will be Sunday, November 2, right here in West Marlborough.

LONGWOOD GARDENS: Young singer Jackie Evancho was filming a special

"Unionville in the News" reader Jaymie shows every sign of having been a newspaper reporter in a prior life. She writes:
"I jumped up and ran to my computer when I read your bit about a "documentary" being filmed at Longwood Aug. 18. I was walking there that day, and also encountered the crew and equipment. Singer Jackie Evancho was there and they were filming a PBS Special. I saw her and her crew walking around the Italian Water Garden preparing to film. They were playing her music through the speakers. She is adorable in person, and what a lovely place for her to film!"
I Googled her and learned that Miss Evancho is a 14-year-old singer from the Pittsburgh area who has a pretty astonishing voice, whether singing "Nessun dorma," "O mio bambino caro" or "Music of the Night." Her new CD, "Awakenings," comes out Sept. 23.
Thank you and an honorary Tilda press pass to Jaymie!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

NEWLIN TOWNSHIP: Sept. 8 hearing for horse boarding proposals

If you are a Newlin horse-farm owner, you probably don't need to be reminded of this upcoming hearing, but I know that concerned folks in other townships are also keeping an eye on this controversy.
Newlin is considering enacting rules regulating equestrian operations, and the township supervisors will be holding a hearing on the proposed ordinance at 8 p.m. Monday, September 8, at the Lenfest Center on Cannery Road.
Horse farm owners have told the supervisors that the proposed rules would place undue hardships on them, would jeopardize their livelihoods, and would endanger Newlin's rural character. In particular, they object to the requirements that the township wants to impose on boarding facilities, such as having at least three acres for the first horse and two acres for each additional one, as well as restrictions about where pastures can be located in terms of flood plains and steep slopes and where manure can be stored. Farms that meet the regulations will be permitted to continue operating; those that don't will have to apply for a special exception from the township's Zoning Hearing Board. The township charges $1,500 to hold such a hearing.
The proposed ordinance is posted on the township's website.

KENNETT SQUARE: Raising money for the 2014 Mushroom Drop

Many downtown Kennett stores are selling 50/50 raffle tickets to raise money for the second annual New Year's Eve Mushroom Drop. The first one was a giant success and lots of fun: watching the giant lighted mushroom descend from a crane was the absolutely go-to way to ring in 2014. By selling the raffle tickets the organizers are hoping to defray the event's costs while keeping admission free (the only admission charge is a nonperishable food item). Raffle tickets are only a dollar each; they're available at The Mushroom Cap on West State Street and other downtown shops.

THE INTERNET: Heads up! Your Facebook page can be hacked

I've struck up a friendship with a delightful woman at the Y -- she is amusing but takes her workout seriously -- and so I found her on Facebook a few weeks ago and sent a "friend" request. It was quickly accepted. But then I got an online message purporting to be from her, claiming she was critically ill in the hospital in London and needed me to send her money because her family had abandoned her.
Well, I knew that was rubbish: she'd been at the gym the evening before and had put me to shame with the quality and quantity of her pushups.
I emailed her to alert her to this, and that's how she discovered that her Facebook page had been hacked. She had to jump through many hoops to get it back in her own name, and she said she's been getting some scam phone calls that she thinks are related to the incident. For instance, her phone company called her supposedly to conduct a customer service survey -- and then the final question was, "What's your Social Security Number?"

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

UNIONVILLE: Boxes and bags are on sale at the post office

Postmaster Bill at the Unionville Post Office wants customers to know that he has Christmas-themed mailing envelopes, boxes and other packaging materials on sale at 50 to 80 percent off, and Christmas cards are 50 percent off.
"Those boxes are a really good deal," he said, pointing to a sturdy red-and-green one that he said was made of thicker cardboard than usual. The sale will go on until the merchandise is gone. I plan to pick up some of the rectangular boxes for Christmas cookie shipping.
The irrepressible (people have tried) Karen Halstead, who was in the post office at the time, picked up a red-and-white cube-shaped box and held it next to her head, grinning like she was the "Let's Make a Deal" model. What a time to leave my camera at home! Karen reports that her table in the Kendal dining room is always the loudest and the last to leave. No one who knows her will be surprised to hear that.

THE INTERNET: Instructions that were actually helpful

I almost can't believe I'm writing this, given that most online instructions for setting up electronic devices are incomprehensible ... but Verizon did a great job of walking me through the upgrade to my Wifi router.
My heart sank when I received their email about upgrading my wireless router to WPA2 (apparently that offers better security), but I went to their link and there was a list of clear, jargon-free, acronym-free, step-by-step instructions, complete with illustrations. I know; how incredible is that!
They didn't use terms like "system tray" or "protocol" (although I did see "ASCII" and "hex"; huh?); they just told me what to type in and what to click.
And best of all, the instructions worked! I now have a super-secure Wifi system with a new password, so don't even think about trying to poach.
Well done, Verizon. Now, about all that junk mail you keep sending me...

HOMEVILLE: Happy 175th Birthday to Homeville Meeting

The 175th birthday party for Homeville Friends Meetinghouse on Sunday afternoon, Aug. 24, was a memorable and well-attended event.
The meetinghouse and its adjoining burial grounds sit along Route 896 in Upper Oxford Township, near the Lancaster County line, and the rural view looking west is stunning.
Before the worship service, guests mingled outside (I saw many from London Grove Friends Meeting), listened to Cochranville musician Janet Witman playing the harp, and browsed through the research about the meeting's history. We wandered through the peaceful burial ground, which has are both traditional, simple grave markers and modern ones featuring pictures of the dead person, and recognized a lot of familiar Chester County surnames on the gravestones.
Charlie Brosius of West Marlborough, whose family has deep connections to the meeting, helped organize the event (Donna McCool was the committee chairman) and served as emcee. He welcomed the guests, outlined the afternoon's agenda and introduced local State Rep. John Lawrence, who brought along a fancy certificate from the General Assembly honoring the meeting's anniversary.
For the worship service, the small meetinghouse couldn't accommodate everyone on its wooden benches, so some people sat outside under the shaded canopy. During the service several people were moved to speak about ancestors who had been members of the meeting. Some said the clip-clop of horses' hooves on the road outside (there were a lot of Amish carriages passing by) made the past feel not so distant. One woman who lives near the meetinghouse said she had always considered it a cold and lonely place because it's no longer active -- but she wouldn't anymore.
After the service, we listened to an entertaining talk by Chris Densmore, curator of the Friends Historical Library at Swarthmore College. He gave a brief history of the meeting and Quaker life in the nineteenth century and noted that Homeville members were active in abolitionist groups, including the Clarkson Society, and promoted the use of "free produce," meaning cotton cloth and other consumer goods that were made with no links to slave labor. The Homeville Quakers were also part of the fledgling women's suffrage movement.
A nice spread of cookies, brownies, lemonade and iced tea greeted us after the talk (Mr. Densmore made a joke about having the dangerous time slot of "just before the refreshments").

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Patton Middle School: Another school year gets under way

At a family dinner the other night, the week before school started, the Young Relative was critically reviewing his middle-school class schedule on his phone. Things looked good, he said: in particular, his classes were clustered together so he wouldn't have too far to walk between rooms. This, apparently, is a priority.
As usual, the Unionville-Chadds Ford district (to my mind, the equivalent of a private school anywhere else) is offering up an admirable curriculum: he's taking an advanced math class that his father and I didn't take until high school. And I can't imagine what they'll be able to teach him in his "Digital Communication" class that he doesn't already know. I proposed that for a hands-on project he could teach his elders how to use their cell phones. To that suggestion I got the classic Young Relative eye-roll that he perfected at the age of 5.
And back in our day, did we have these long lists of brand-specific school supplies that parents have to spend hours tracking down? I don't think so, but it's possible my mother just went out and bought them with no fuss. What we did get was a new pair of school shoes, a new pair of gym shoes, a lunchbox (always a tough decision: "Mod Squad" or "The Monkees"? What would the cool kids be carrying?), some spiral notebooks, and rolls of Contact paper we'd use to make covers for our school books (you didn't strip off the backing). It would last the whole year and it came in cool designs -- this was the Seventies, after all!
Parenthetically: for our pre-back-to-school dinner we had crab cakes from Pappas Seafood in Baltimore. They are without question the best I've ever had. You can pick them up at the restaurant or order them online ( and have them shipped.

Kennett YMCA: "And we gonna let it burn, burn, burn"

This has been a humbling week, fitness-wise. You think you're in good shape until you switch up your routine a little!
Normally I split my workouts between the Kennett and the Jennersville YMCAs. This past week the latter was closed, so I tried out some different classes at the former. What a challenge! There are some extraordinarily limber teachers at Kennett, that's all I can say.
So I did three tough classes, and when Friday rolled, I was ready to take the day off from the gym. But then a friend emailed and said she'd be at a Friday-evening class, and I really should attend too. I didn't want to let her down, so even though I was feeling pretty beat up, I said yes.
So I walked in to class -- and she wasn't there. Class started -- and she wasn't there. The warm-up finished -- and she wasn't there. In my head I was composing an arch email for the ages to send her when finally she came in, breathless: she'd been delayed by a crash on Kennett Pike at the Tower Hill School.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Hood's BBQ: Get your Ribwich now

Well, all of us Hood's regulars knew this day would come, but that doesn't mean we happy about it: Hood's BBQ in Unionville is closing down for the winter for renovations. Their last day will be Friday August 29 (closing at 3 p.m.), and they hope to reopen their revamped and expanded restaurant in the spring.
Take heart, though: their mobile trailer will still be in operation at various equestrian and community events. They'll be posting the trailer's schedule on social media.

A Field Near You: The geese are learning to fly

My ring tone is dissonant enough to grab my attention, but I didn't realize how similar it is to the squawking call of Canada geese until some of them flew over the other day and I stared stupidly at the phone, which didn't seem to be responding. A goose-hunting friend from Cochranville who is very familiar with their habits told me that at this point in the summer the goose parents are training the young ones to fly, looking for the first-cut corn.

Longwood Gardens: Lights! Camera! Fountains!

On Aug. 18 I got an email from a reader who wondered what was going on at Longwood Gardens: "As I was walking at Longwood this morning, I was redirected around the Italian Gardens. I saw what looked a lot like a film production - light poles, trailers, lots and lots of cable. One of the security guards told me, 'If you want to be in pictures, here's your chance.' There's also a big white tent set up in the Open Air Theatre." What, she wondered, was going on?
I asked around and found that several locals were wondering exactly the same thing. A Kennett restaurant owner noticed what she called a "cloud" on the set of the shoot: "Big, white inflated thing, tethered to hover and diffuse light for the photo shoots below. New to me! Would make an awesome patio cover!"
Another reader said a security guy told her they were shooting a documentary. Pretty cool!
By the way, the Longwood fireworks on Aug. 16 were spectacular. Our guests from the Midwest said they'd never seen some of the types of fireworks that were set off, especially the ones that looked like a crested celosia.

West Marlborough Township: Mill at Stone Barn quickly reduced to rubble

As expected, The Mill at the Stone Barn is being torn down. Heavy snow back in February caused the banquet hall's roof to collapse, and it had been sitting unused since then, surrounded by an orange safety fence. The owners obtained a demolition permit in July, and when I drove past on Aug. 19 I spotted an excavator surrounded by the rubble of part of the building, with the tall stone chimney in the background. Let's hope they can rebuild it: I for one missed seeing the wedding parties gather by the pond this summer.

The afternoon of Aug. 21, however, the excavator experienced a spot of bother while continuing its task: it slipped over to its right side at a sharp angle while its bucket was ripping down the roof, and couldn't regain its footing in the unstable rubble. Fortunately the operator wasn't hurt.

A huge crane was brought in, and the rescuers attached metal cables to the excavator and started to coax it upright. The operator got back into the cab, started it up again, and, with the help of the crane, gradually managed to back out and regain equilibrium. (It was like watching somebody slowly being extricated from a muddy parking spot, with lots of starts and stops.) The bucket made loud cracking and ripping noises as it detached itself from the rafters and the roof.
As soon as he was upright again, the operator swiveled the cab around and got out to check his machine for damage. The rescuers unhooked their cables and started to retract them. All in a day's work! Within an hour the crane was gone.

West Marlborough Township: A peek inside Doe Run Farm

The interiors of several buildings at Dick & Meg Hayne's sprawling Doe Run Farm in Springdell -- formerly Sir John Thouron's country estate and convicted embezzler Tony Young's property -- were revealed to the public, online at least. The stunning photos of the extensively renovated compound show restored stone walls, lots of glass, old wood beams, and beautifully detailed metal and stone work.
The photos (no credits are given, alas) appear on several websites; do a search for the architect, Nuno R. P. Cruz, and they'll pop up.
Here is the description of the project that the architect gives:
"Positioned on 640 acres of agricultural land in rural Pennsylvania, this personal estate contains buildings dating back to the early 1800s. Encompassing 14 buildings, the estate consists of a primary residence with an orangerie, an adjacent yoga studio, 3 guesthouses, a dining hall with a industrial kitchen, barns (such as a milking parlor, cheese processing facility, and cheese caves) and numerous agricultural buildings, greenhouses, gardens, and orchards. As a sustainable and aesthetic measure, the designers reused salvaged materials all through, which includes potting shed timbers and brick and greenhouse casework and doors.”
Cost was not mentioned, but one surmises that it took lots of Terrain, Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie merchandise sales to bankroll the world-class renovations (Mr. Hayne is the founder of the retail empire).

New Garden Township: Repaving improves motorists' lives

What a major improvement in the Toughkenamon intersection (Newark Road and Baltimore Pike)! As part of a night-time paving job, the formerly viscera-jolting humps on Newark Road have been smoothed out, making the busy crossroads much more pleasant to navigate.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Entomology: Where are the stink bugs?

A friend emailed me tonight and -- tempting fate -- asked where the stink bugs are. I told her not to jinx us. I haven't seen a live one for months. Let's hope we don't have a repeat of September 2012, when I came home one afternoon to find dozens of the nasty critters on a single wall.

Longwood Gardens: Keeping the neighbors informed

Some people who live near Longwood Gardens have received in the mail two free admission passes and a letter from the Gardens' executive director, Paul B. Redman, about the upcoming reconstruction of the Main Fountain Gardens. The project will begin this October and is expected to be completed in the spring of 2017.
"Our goal is to minimize impact on you," Redman's letter reads, "and we believe we have taken the right steps for the duration of the project. Thanks to our partners in the townships that Longwood's property encompasses, and, in particular, with East Marlborough Township, we've been working on routes and appropriate signage to ensure all work vehicles are directed through our project site entrance on Conservatory Road near Longwood Road. In addition, we are mindfully coordinating the work hours for the project to ensure we are not disturbing you and the surrounding community."

Saturday, August 16, 2014

On the racetrack: Local trainer and owner make really, really good

Talk about local connections! Hardest Core, trained by Eddie Graham of Unionville and owned by Andrew Bentley, son of Greg and Caroline Bentley, won the Arlington Million Turf race on Saturday in Arlington Parks, Illinois, with Eriluis Vaz in the irons. The win, with a purse of $1 million, means the Kentucky-bred four-year-old will head to the prestigious Breeders' Cup Turf on Nov. 1.
According to the report in "The Blood-Horse," "Hardest Core upset Arlington's biggest day at odds of 11-1 to secure his first graded stakes score, let alone grade I victory. Closing outside from third off the turn with tremendous strides, he gobbled up ground to run down dueling rivals Magician, winner of the 2013 Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT), and Side Glance, a grade I winner in Australia."
And hats off to two indispensable parts of the Hardest Core team as well: Jody Petty, his exercise rider, and Brianne Slater, his groom. Both are Unionville residents.
The press has shown special interest in Hardest Core, not only for his dramatic, against-the-odds win but also for the family story of the Bentleys (Andrew Bentley has Down syndrome) and the horse's proven toughness: he almost died after he was gelded.

East Marlborough: Put this on your calendar

This year's Unionville Community Fair will be held on Oct. 3, 4 and 5. It's the 90th birthday of the Fair, which celebrates the Unionville area's rural and agricultural traditions and began life more humbly as "The Corn Show." The Fair is held in Willowdale, north of the Landhope Farms store.

The "Denim & Diamonds" benefit party will be held on the evening of Oct. 2. The community parade will be at 11 a.m. Oct. 4. The cow milking competition will be at 5 p.m. Oct. 4. And one of the Fair's newer highlights, the Willowdale Pro Rodeo, will start at 6 p.m. Oct. 4.

Check out the Fair's website and start planning your crafts, artwork, photographs, baked goods, vegetables and other entries! Last weekend I spoke to a woman who competes in the apple pie contest every year; she is already planning this year's very special entry.

Hockessin: Indian Independence Day Parade

The Hindu Temple of Delaware held its annual Indian Independence Day Parade on Saturday morning. Men, women and children, most wearing traditional Indian clothes, assembled at Hockessin Memorial Hall, crossed Route 41 (which the police shut down for about 10 minutes) and then marched east on Yorklyn Road to the temple.
Marchers carrying Indian and American flags led off the parade, followed by three horses from New Castle County's mounted unit, a temple float full of kids, county police cars and Hockessin Fire Company vehicles.
India gained independence from the British Empire on August 15, 1947.


Chester County: Glorious weather cheers even the grumblers

The Cranky Friend has a particular aversion to those dreadful, enervating heat waves that just drag on and on. He also has an aversion to increasing his electric bill by running the A/C, which puts him in something of a bind. Fortunately the issue hasn't arisen this entire summer because of the delightfully cool weather we've had here in Chester County, and he commented last night that since it's already mid-August the odds are steadily decreasing that he'll have to deal with a heat wave. He sounded almost . . . cheerful.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Patton Middle School: Memorial service for Mr. Patton

A memorial service for Charles F. Patton will be held on Saturday, August 23, at (appropriately enough) the Charles F. Patton Middle School in Unionville. Visitation will be from 10 a.m. to noon, followed by the memorial service from noon to 1 p.m. Refreshments will follow. Mr. Patton, a longtime teacher and administrator in the Unionville-Chadds Ford district, died July 19 at age 85.
A memorial scholarship in his name has been set up to assist a student who intends to go into education as a career. Contributions can be sent to UHS Activities, Attn: Charles F. Patton Memorial Scholarship, c/o Unionville High School, 750 Unionville Road, Kennett Square, PA 19348.

Anson B. Nixon Park: Real Diamond was a gem

The final concert in the Wednesday night summer series at Anson Nixon Park was by a Neil Diamond tribute band called Real Diamond, and it drew the largest crowd of the summer. Curtis DiDomizio, who founded the band, sounds so much like Neil Diamond that when we walked in we thought recordings were being played on the PA system; nope, it was the band doing its sound check.
The group played all of Diamond's hits, old and new: I was singing "Shiloh" for days afterward. From the first song on, groups of little kids danced in front of the stage, and "Neil" -- dressed in a spangly black shirt and black pants -- seemed to enjoy coming down of the stage and interacting with them. His introduction to the ballad "September Morn" was funny and timely: he asked the kids if they were looking forward to going back to school.
After darkness fell, lots of grown-up dancers took the dance floor, perhaps more self-conscious than the uninhibited kids.
My regular readers know how much I've enjoyed these concerts in the park -- we didn't miss a single one, and despite threatening skies on a few July nights, only one show was cut short due to rain. A huge thank you to the organizers and sponsors! It was really an extraordinary lineup of talent in a beautiful setting.

Newlin Township: Fundraiser to benefit local fire companies

The Newlin Fire & EMS Committee is holding its second annual fundraiser for the volunteer fire companies that cover the township (Po-Mar-Lin, West Bradford, and Modena) on Saturday, Sept. 13, from 5 p.m. to dusk at the Natural Lands Trust’s ChesLen Preserve, 1199 Cannery Rd. (a great venue!). Catering is by Hood’s BBQ and Megan Bittle will be the DJ.
Tickets cost $25 and are available from any committee member, and they'll be on sale at the Unionville Post Office Fridays afternoons and Saturdays 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Or you can send a check to Newlin Fire & EMS, PO Box 447, Unionville, PA 19375 and pick up your tickets at the party. 
Rain date is Sunday, Sept. 14.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Undisclosed location: Betrayed by the ring tone

Leave it to the tech-savvy younger generation to update "Hide & Seek." A friend reports that while babysitting three youngsters, she found an excellent hiding place and the kids couldn't find her. So what did they do? They called her cell phone! Fortunately she was able to silence the ringer before it betrayed her.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Dear Departed: RIP to my friend Stefi Jackson

My friend Stefanie Jackson died on Aug. 8 in California. Her death wasn't unexpected -- in fact, she had far outlived her original prognosis -- but it comes as a shock anyway, as these things tend to do.
I met Stefi 20 years ago, when we were both volunteers on the Bayard Taylor Library's Special Events Committee and, later, the Board of Trustees. We became fast friends while doing everything from picking up cheese trays and matching china with floral arrangements, to gathering referendum signatures and talking up the library at township meetings.
Stefi and I were the sort of friends who could be furious with each other one moment -- I remember a particularly ridiculous spat about the wording of the library's mission statement -- and then forget about it. She was amusing, incisive, and wry, had a vivid way of telling stories, and didn't like to waste time. She was a wonderful mix of earthy (I can still hear her throaty laugh) and stylish and tasteful (early in her career she was an emcee at fashion shows, and she would give me scarf-tying tips).
She was a regular at the Kennett YMCA and liked the breakfast sandwiches at Dunkin' Donuts, the sushi at Kyoto and the green smoothies at the Produce Place. One memorable day we went to the auction of embezzler Tony Young's personal property, and although she was quickly outbid on a set of brass bookends, she salvaged the day by picking up box after box of Ralph Lauren glassware for a song.
For years, four of us who were library "veterans" -- Stefi, Doug, Joe and I -- got together to celebrate Chinese New Year at the old King's Island restaurant. We'd stay there all afternoon, gossiping, reminiscing and laughing and going back to the buffet for seconds and thirds. After a while John the waiter didn't even have to ask anymore: he'd just refill our water glasses and bring us more tea.
A decade ago Stefi was absolutely wonderful to me during my late boyfriend's fatal illness, and I tried to repay her by lending a hand when she was ill herself, of exactly the same disease.
She moved to California in 2012 after she became ill, and we are all certain that being with her children and grandchildren out there lengthened her life considerably. There's going to be a memorial service this autumn, and I will keep you posted on the date.
Rest in peace, Stefi, my dear friend. It's hard to believe you won't be pestering me to buy an ad in the Home & Garden Day program next year.

Newlin Township: Controversy over proposed rules for boarding horses

The question of whether and how Newlin Township should regulate equestrian operations continues to divide the township.
At a standing-room-only meeting on Monday, Aug. 11, speaker after speaker stood up and criticized the supervisors for jeopardizing their livelihoods without understanding the horse business and, in the longer term, endangering the sought-after rural character and lifestyle of Newlin by placing undue hardships on horse farm owners.
One Hilltop View Road resident drew sustained applause when he summarized the proposed rules as "unnecessary, unworkable, unenforceable and unfair."
Several residents called the proposed ordinance "a solution in search of a problem," noting that horse farms have operated in the township without a problem for many decades. Real-estate agent Holly Gross predicted the ordinance would hurt property values. One women who used to own a large farm in Elk Township said she was so frustrated by onerous township regulations there that she sold up and moved; she called Newlin's proposed rules "the camel's nose under the tent." Another woman said West Bradford Township's regulations have severely restricted her farm's operations.
The proposed ordinance would allow the boarding of horses as long as the farm in question meets certain requirements. If the farm fell short, however, the owners would have to apply for a special exception from the township's Zoning Hearing Board.
The township charges $1,500 to hold such a hearing. A gasp of astonishment from the audience greeted Supervisor Janie Baird's mention of this figure; "Hello!" exclaimed the Powell Road resident sitting next to me.
The residents' anger seems to focus on the requirements that the township wants to impose on boarding facilities, such as having at least three acres for the first horse and two acres for each additional one, as well as restrictions about where pastures can be located in terms of flood plains and steep slopes and where manure can be stored. The residents said the acreage requirements were arbitrary and unfair.
In response to the onslaught of criticism, the supervisors stressed that it was not their choice to deal with this situation but it was thrust upon them in the spring of 2013 when some Hilltop View Road residents complained that a new farm owner substantially increased the horse trailer traffic on their road. The supervisors said the regulations on the books had never been enforced, and they couldn't enforce the rules on one boarding operation and not on all.
Supervisor Rob Pearson said the situation has been "an agonizing process, very difficult . . .  I've never seen something so contentious. It's been very divisive, very unpleasant," but "this was put in our lap and we could not ignore the situation."
Mrs. Baird said that to craft the rules, the supervisors sought input from residents, the township planning commission, lawyers and consultants and defended the result as "the best we can do."
The proposed ordinance is posted on the township's website. A hearing will be held on it at 8 p.m. Monday, September 8, at the Lenfest Center on Cannery Road.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Fiddlin' about

Saturday, Aug. 9, was the 86th annual Old Fiddlers' Picnic at Hibernia Park. I'd heard about this much-loved tradition for years, of course, but this was the first time I spent the day there. Groups of musicians, of all ages and musical levels, just gathered in circles in the woods and jammed with each other. Bands signed up early for their 20-minute sets on the main stage; in between there was entertaining banter from the two MCs about local bluegrass events.
One of them wanted to alert the audience to a pair of found eyeglasses.
"Can you see me?" he asked the crowd. "If you can, I'm not talking to you."
We made a game out of looking at the instrument cases that the musicians were carrying and trying to guess what was inside: dulcimer? banjo? There was no mistaking the upright basses, though.
We spent close to an hour at the Beginners' Jam in one of the pavilions, where a patient fiddler led versions of classics like "Puff the Magic Dragon" and "This Land is Your Land." One young girl, there with her parents, was reluctant to play at first, but it was nice to see her become comfortable enough to join in. They even let me sing along -- I'm an enthusiastic but not tuneful singer.
There was a display of antique cars (I don't relish calling cars from my youth "antique"), and the row of shiny new motorcycles drew a great deal of attention.
We ran into a couple of Unionville residents among the musicians and spectators, and the Broughtons' Swarmbustin' Honey, from here in West Marlborough, was one of the vendors.
The weather couldn't have been better, although the sun got hot for those of us who weren't smart enough to set up our chairs early in the shade. Somebody should make a science fair project out of a smart-chair that predicts for you where the shade is going to be at a certain time of the afternoon.
I hadn't been to Hibernia Park for years and I want to go back. We went in through the wrong entrance (the Lion's Head gates) and ended up driving through the park, exiting and then going back in, this time using the correct gate.

Shutdown week

A few weeks ago I wrote that the Kennett Y's annual shutdown week is the last week in August. It is, but it's a little different this year: Instead of the facility being shut down completely for the week, some classes will still be held. I'm sure the Y will post its schedule online and in the lobby shortly. Thanks to the reader who alerted me to this change from the usual shutdown week!
At the Jennersville Y, group exercise classes will be cancelled Sunday, Aug. 17, through Sunday, Aug. 24. Classes will resume Monday, Aug 25.

Thursday, August 7, 2014


My observant reader Beth sent me this email:
"Have you noticed that for whatever reason this year's barrel plantings in downtown have been really gorgeous? They are always beautiful but it seems they've added dimension with more height and trellises. The Garden Club really makes this small town look well cared for. Just wanted to say that their work does not go unnoticed!"
She is absolutely right. They are spectacular this summer!


Ride on the funk

Red Alert certainly put on a high-energy show at Anson B. Nixon Park on Aug. 6: The "dance gravel" in front of the stage was full of boogeying folks young and old, myself included. The band played a great mix of Motown classics, disco hits (you're talking my language there!) and newer songs like "Call Me Maybe," "Blurred Lines" and the megahit-of-summer-2014 "Happy." They even threw in a Latin number, highlighted by the impromptu performance of an audience member (and Kennett Y member) named Audrey who came on stage and wowed everyone with her salsa dancing.
On Saturday night on the way home from another concert, we heard on Jonny Meister's WXPN blues show a very funny song called "Dump That Chump" by Little Charlie and the Nighcats. The call-and-response chorus was the title, and my companion said, "Red Alert should do that song!" We'd like to suggest they incorporate it in their repertoire (though perhaps not when they do wedding receptions).
I'll be really sorry when this concert series ends; what a variety of terrific acts we've seen this summer at the park.

Keeping the dust down

From a restaurant's deep-fryer to the gravel roads of West Marlborough: the township is experimenting this summer with using recycled cooking oil to keep down dust on its unpaved roads.
At the township supervisors' monthly meeting on Aug. 5, supervisor Hugh Lofting reported that the road crew obtained a drum of recycled oil from Waste Oil Recyclers in Modena and spread it using watering cans on a stretch of unpaved Ryan Road as a test. He said so far they've been "very pleased" with its effectiveness, and apparently the recycled cooking oil is less expensive than the soybean oil the township had been using.
"It sounds like a win-win for us," commented supervisor Bill Wylie.
I drove over the test patches just after the oil was applied and stuck my head out the car window like an excited dog to see if I could get a whiff of French fries or fried chicken. Not a bit.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Mystery solved!

Last week I wrote about a tour bus that stopped on my back road, blocking it for a few minutes. Another resident said she spotted it earlier on Newark Road, too, and was baffled. What on earth was it doing here, we wondered.
I found out it was carrying a group of young people interested in cattle breeding, and they -- and a few other busloads full -- were on their way to an event hosted by a prestigious West Marlborough Angus farm.

Township business

It was a pretty routine half-hour summer meeting of the West Marlborough Township Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Aug. 5.
Zoning officer Al Giannantonio told the board that one zoning permit was approved in July, for a Richard Wilson Drive resident building a deck. And a demolition permit was granted for the Stone Barn banquet facility to tear down its mill. The building's roof collapsed in February under the weight of the heavy snow. (I saw someone removing the weather vane from the mill's cupola a few weeks back, so I'm guessing demolition is imminent).
Anna Myers of the township planning commission reported that the planners will be looking for a new person to run their meetings after their chairperson, Jeb Hannum, resigned (he and his family have moved out of state).
Officer Robert Clarke reported that he wrote 11 citations in July, all for speeding.
The board set a work session for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 7, to review the township's list of required permits and inspections. At their July meeting the supervisors said they'd be looking at the list so they could eliminate those that represented an unnecessary burden on property owners.

East Linden Street

I was invited to a very nice ceremony on Tuesday, Aug. 5, to honor the East Linden Street community in Kennett Square as part of "National Night Out," which highlights partnerships between residents and their local police officers.
As I walked from the parking garage to the outdoor ceremony, I was enormously impressed by how far East Linden Street has come. It's now a charming and meticulously kept neighborhood. Many of the houses have historical plaques on them and well-tended gardens.
Speaker after speaker -- members of Borough Council, Kennett school superintendent Barry Tomasetti, and Chief Ed Zunino and the borough's police officers -- stood up and praised the residents for taking responsibility and working together to upgrade their once-troubled neighborhood.
In the printed program Chief Zunino noted that in 2009 the police department issued 53 citations for disorderly conduct in the neighborhood; in 2013, there were only 3.
And in turn the residents thanked the police department for its support and dedication, singling out Officer Jen Albertson for her work with the local kids (she got a plaque and a bouquet of flowers).
After the speeches, the neighbors and kids enjoyed pizza and other goodies.

New license

An employee named Nathan made my trip to the Pennsylvania driver's license center in Oxford a pleasure. Thanks to his efficiency, I was in and out of there with a new license in literally five minutes -- as opposed to a friend of mine who had to cool her heels for the better part of the afternoon at the license renewal center in Frazer just the day before. (No, I didn't gloat -- too much.)
The Oxford license center is right off the Route 10 exit from the Route 1 bypass.
While I was there, a man came in to order a replacement license. He confessed that he had run over his license while mowing the lawn that morning.

Monday, August 4, 2014


I didn't know this: If you put a book on reserve at one of our county libraries, you yourself have to go pick it up. The library employees aren't allowed to release the book to anybody else unless you give them permission to do so by filling out a form specifying the people who are authorized to pick up your materials for you (I filled it out online). The library system says the policy is in place to protect patrons' privacy, which makes sense.
The book I wanted? No secret: It's Vera Brittain's WWI memoir, "Testament of Youth." A British film based on the book is coming out later this year and stars Swedish actress Alicia Vikande (she played Kitty in the 2012 movie version of "Anna Karenina") and British actor Kit Harington (who plays Jon Snow in "Game of Thrones").

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Curious minds

Friends from outside the area have noticed the abnormally intense interest that many of us (me chief among them) have in every detail of what's going on in our neighborhood. (My sister theorizes that this is why our local house tours always sell out.) One out-of-the-ordinary incident here on Friday afternoon serves as an example.
I was working at my desk, editing a series of essays on Mongolian Buddhism, when the dog starts barking her "well, this is odd" bark. I look outside, and much to my surprise there's a full-sized tour bus stopped and blocking my narrow road. And there's a Jeep driver who can't get by him. The bus driver tries maneuvering, but it appears he doesn't want to risk either the Scylla of a marsh or the Charybdis of a gravel driveway.
I went outside and chatted with the Jeep driver, who was, understandably, getting frustrated. "I have places to go!" he said. We wondered how the bus driver had ended up here: a GPS error?
After a few minutes of this standoff, the Jeep driver decided to turn around and take another road, and did so. Just then a man in a black car pulled up and signaled to the bus driver to follow him. As the bus drove by I could see that it was full of young women, many of whom waved.
I can comfortably state that I've never seen a tour bus on my road before. Huge livestock trailers, giant agricultural equipment, flatbeds carrying full-sized trees, for sure. But a tour bus? Where on earth were they headed?


There was an interesting opinion piece in the July 19/20 issue of the Wall Street Journal that might resonate with Unionville's equestrians. The authors, Michael Blastland and David Spiegelhalter, talked about the nature of risk: "Risk isn't a settled fact of nature. In the UK recently, a government adviser lost his job for saying that ecstasy [the illegal drug] was safer than horseback riding, which he called 'equasy.' "
The authors ran the statistics and concluded that the risk is actually about the same: between one-half and two MicroMorts per ride or tablet. (A MicroMort signifies a one-in-a-million chance of death.)
I found the article interesting enough to make me put the authors' book, "The Norm Chronicles: Stories and Numbers About Danger and Death," on my to-read list. If you liked the "Freakanomics" books, this should be right up your alley.

Parkesburg Community Day

Like so many artists before him, David Peyre-Ferry is toiling away at his day job (in his case, at the Jennersville Giant) while honing his craft every chance he gets.
His craft? Sword swallowing.
We caught up with David as he was performing at Parkesburg Community Day on Saturday, August 2. First he ran a blade across his tongue, warning spectators that if they got queasy at that point, they might not want to watch the rest. Then he tilted his head back and, sure enough, slowly lowered the sword almost to the hilt. After removing it quickly, he did the same with a sword with a wavy blade, telling the audience that they might be able to see the blade pressing out on his neck.
There were a few other swords in his portable wooden rack, and a hefty Craftsman screwdriver, but because he was performing all day long he did an abbreviated act.

Afterward David told us about some of the less-obvious perils of sword swallowing. He recently bought a pre-owned sword that had been used for stage combat, and even though he smoothed the metal as best he could, it still had a few rough spots. And in his profession, any imperfection whatsoever equals a major case of "sword throat." (He's going to have the offending blade glass-beaded.)
Parkesburg Community Day was a delight. The activities were held in three separate venues -- Minch Park, First Avenue and Main Street -- so we strolled through a fair amount of downtown Parkesburg, enjoying its architecture, people and dogs.
We had a fabulous dinner at Bread's BBQ and Soul Food at 321 Main Street: BBQ chicken, collard greens, baked beans and cornbread. We saw five Parkesburg cops there eating, which you just KNOW speaks to the quality of the food. The friendly husband-and-wife owners told us they'd had an extraordinarily busy day thanks to the festival and had already run out of string beans. We assured them we'd be back.
We also want to try the One Love Jamaican Restaurant, 402 West First Avenue. They had a booth across from their restaurant and the aromas coming from the food were amazing.
Walking down West Street to the car, we heard some terrific live music coming from Minch Park and went to investigate. It turned out that Syde 2, featuring Leon Spencer, was performing (Leon heads Kennett Square's borough council and was the borough's mayor for many years). We stayed for their whole set; what a pleasant surprise!
Well done, Parkesburg organizers! It was a splendid festival. My only suggestion would be that a map would've been really helpful, indicating the different locations and what was going on at each. As non-Parkesburg residents we were wandering around vaguely, wondering how to get to the Main Street venue, and were ready to give up when a helpful native showed us the way.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Family traditions; or, thank goodness for name tags

Being a reporter is good training for many things in life, including enjoying a family reunion even when the family that's reunion-ing is not yours. I have no problem introducing myself to strangers. I can show -- and actually feel -- enthusiastic interest in just about any topic, including old family photographs and marriage certificates. I have vast experience sitting through business meetings in which "Roberts Rules of Order" are cited repeatedly.
And it's even easier when there's a picnic table nearby groaning with macaroni and cheese, devilled eggs, pasta salad, fresh fruit and whoopie pies made with mini chocolate chip cookies.
On Saturday I attended the 132nd annual reunion of a local family, and it marked the president's 36th and final year of service. After some debate (this is where parliamentary procedure came into play), a replacement was elected, and the outgoing president turned over his gavel -- but only his standard-issue one, mind you, not his special one made by an ancestor from a dead pine tree at the Brandywine Battlefield. There was a discussion about putting the reunion on Facebook to encourage the younger generation to attend.
I especially enjoyed deciphering the early-20th-century diploma of one family member from West Chester State Normal School, as West Chester University was known back in the day. She was considered qualified to teach a host of subjects, everything from American Literature to Zoology.

A dirty business

On Saturday, August 16, there's going to be a competition at Unionville's Plantation Field involving just people, not people on horses. In "Mudderella," the competitors take on a challenging and, yes, very muddy five-mile cross-country obstacle course (think military basic training videos). This description of one obstacle says it better than I can: "Trampoline onto a cargo net, climb up a wall and shoot down a slippery slide into a muddy pool; it’s three obstacles in one that tests agility, strength and fearlessness."
It's not to everyone's taste, certainly, but I know a few hard-core athletes who formed a team and signed up enthusiastically as soon as they heard the national series was coming to our area. They are counting down the days.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Who will buy, follow-up

I got three responses to my friend's search for someone to buy her unwanted crystal and china.
The first suggested the Encore consignment shop at Routes 1 and 52, where she volunteers. Proceeds from Encore sales benefit the Chester County Hospital. She wrote, "If you check the Encore web site at if will give you all the important information. . . . The BEST part is that the money is staying in the community and helping the hospital. Stop in to see the shop when we reopen after Labor Day. You will be impressed by the huge check on the wall that shows the amount  given the hospital this past year by the Encore Shop of the Kennett Auxiliary. Over the years we have raised over $1,000,000!"
Another reader suggested checking the website
And a third, a quick-off-the-mark staffer for a local land preservation nonprofit, suggested that my friend could always donate the goodies to her group's upcoming silent auction.


What do you think of the new blue paper-recycling bins at the Unionville post office? They are the size of an office trash can, with a slot for paper in the locked top. Postmaster Bill explained to me that he replaced the former open bins because people were dumping coffee cups and other trash in them. The new, smaller bins are sturdier and easier for him to haul out to the Dumpster in the parking lot, and he said they are in standard use in post offices that offer recycling.
The circulars and catalogs I was tossing this afternoon didn't fit through the narrow slot, so I had to fold them up and try to cram them into the full can (somebody else's supermarket circulars were already bulging out from the top). I had to think I may just start carrying my junk mail out to the Dumpster myself (proceeds from the paper collected there go toward Unionville Elementary School).

Rolling Thunder

The Rolling Thunder Blues Revue played a wonderful show at Anson Nixon Park on July 30. I know two of the band members, Rob Mastrippolito and Biff McNeil, and it was a thrill to see these "regular working guys" up there on stage in front of the crowd, playing guitar and sax and singing up a storm. So talented! (I should mention the rest of the band, too: Paul Wilkinson on guitar and Tim Celfo on bass, joined for the evening by Glenn Ferricone on drums.)
We've been to every show in this summer's series of Wednesday concerts and we've come to know the regulars: the friendly guy who walks his two border collies; the group of cute little kids running around and dancing; the people who don't clap, ever; the husband and wife who sit front and center at every show; and the lively downtown Kennett contingent.
As I was leaving I struck up a conversation with the people in the car next to mine as they were loading their kids into the back seat. They said it was their first concert at the park, and they were delighted at how relaxed and family-friendly it was. They asked me what the next show was and said they were definitely coming back.
Despite the band's name, the weather was beautiful. I was telling my companion I remembered sitting at last summer's concerts sweltering in the heat and humidity.


Thanks to my kind neighbors, we went to see the Brandywiners' performance of the musical "Annie" at Longwood Gardens on July 31. I rarely give standing ovations, but this show was worth it: funny and well done, with terrific acting, singing and dancing and, of course, a well-trained dog. The scene where President Franklin Roosevelt orders his gloomy Cabinet to sing Annie's optimistic "Tomorrow" song had me doubled over with laughter. To top it off, Longwood's Open-Air Theatre is a great venue, with a pleasant and efficient staff of ushers and helpers, and we were fortunate enough to have a perfect evening for an outdoor event. Every seat was taken, and I was happy to see a lot of kids at the show, including an adorable little girl next to us in a party dress and a big bow in her hair.