Monday, June 29, 2015

IN MEMORY: Remembering Jessica Leigh Pfeifer, a longtime Girl Scout

On Sunday, June 28, the Girl Scouts of the Brandywine Valley dedicated a bench at the Unionville Community Park in memory of Jessica Leigh Pfeifer, who died unexpectedly in 2012 at age 21. She was a Unionville High School graduate, where she was an avid rugby player, and went on to the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. She was a month away from graduating when she died. Jessica had been a Girl Scout since she was 5 and earned the Gold Award, the highest honor in Girl Scouting.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

GLEN MILLS: Ruby's Diner gave us shelter from the storm

In Ray Bradbury's 1950 short story "The Long Rain," a group of astronauts are exploring Venus, where it rains constantly. They are searching desperately for a Sun Dome, which Bradbury describes like this:
"A yellow house, round and bright as the sun. A house fifteen feet high by one hundred feet in diameter, in which was warmth and quiet and hot food and freedom from rain. And in the center of the Sun Dome, of course, was a sun. A small floating free globe of yellow fire, drifting in space at the top of the building where you could look at it from where you sat, smoking or reading a book or drinking your hot chocolate crowned with marshmallow dollops."
Ruby's Diner on Route 1 in Glen Mills was our Sun Dome on Saturday evening. You'll recall that it was pouring all day; in fact, there was a flood watch. We wanted to see "Jurassic World" at the Painter's Crossing AMC cinema, but apparently so did everyone else, as every showing was sold out. (A attorney friend speculates that the movie's popularity has something to do with the fact that lawyers get devoured by velociraptors.)
Because we had planned to dine inside the movie theater, we had to completely rethink our evening. And due to a comical failure of communication about parking lot logistics, I was soaking wet.
We drove around the Painter's Crossroads area and saw that the nearby chain restaurants were all packed -- Carrabba's, Texas Roadhouse, PF Chang's. Ruby's looked manageable in comparison. We parked, dashed through the rain, and were greeted by the gleaming white tables and counters.
It was so pleasant just sitting there in the Sun Dome drying off while watching the parking-lot trees whipping around in the wind and rain.
If you haven't been there, the place has a 1940s "classic diner" theme. The menu offers burgers, sandwiches and milkshakes. I had fun watching the employees, who seem to put on their period mannerisms along with their uniforms: one fellow was gracefully flipping his tray, another cocked his white peaked hat at a rakish angle, and a third was surveying the restaurant, with his fingertips planted on the counter, like he owned the place (think Doc in "West Side Story").
Our sandwiches were tasty -- I particularly liked the onion rings -- but we didn't save room for those amazing-looking milkshakes crowned with whipped cream dollops. Foolish!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

LIBRARY TOUR: People love to see inside other people's houses

Louise Colburn, who chaired the Bayard Taylor Library's Home & Garden Day tour on June 6, reported that the event raised over $25,000 for children's programs at the library! I congratulated her on the hugely successful event, which reflects an amazing amount of effort on the part of the Special Events Committee volunteers as well as the generosity of the homeowners, artists, restaurants, florists and raffle donors who participated.

DRINKS: My friend is a smoothie operator

A health-conscious gym friend shared a useful tip. She loves smoothies and makes them in bulk in assembly-line fashion, pureeing berries, chia seeds, protein powder, and other nutritious stuff in her blender and then pouring the results into a dozen reusable drinking bottles, which she keeps in the freezer. She has a week's worth of smoothies, only has to clean the blender once -- and has more time to work out!
I've been mixing an overripe banana (they ripen so quickly in the warm weather!), strong coffee and a little cocoa powder in the blender and then letting it sit in the freezer until it's the consistency of sorbet. Delicious!

SUMMER STORM: Restoration drama after an intense storm

The big news this week was the storm that hit in the late afternoon of Tuesday, June 23. Although it blew through quickly, the rain and wind were intense. The storm destroyed many trees, knocking out power to large chunks of the area. Downtown Kennett, including the Y, was out of power all day Wednesday, and the Dukes of Destiny concert at Anson B. Nixon Park, the first in the summer series, had to be cancelled. Hood's BBQ was open thanks to a generator. The Unionville post office was running on partial power, thanks to a very long extension cord stretching across the parking lot from the Po-Mar-Line fire hall.
Utility workers were called in from all over the region, but some unfortunate souls in remote pockets didn't get their power restored until late Friday afternoon. Some roads in the Birmingham Township area, near Route 202, were still blocked by downed limbs on Saturday.
The storm was weirdly sporadic, though. I talked to some people who never lost power, but had next-door neighbors who were out for hours. Damage was also localized: a friend told me about one unfortunate couple who lost the tree that was the main reason they bought their property.

WEST MARLBOROUGH: Because all politics is local

Just a reminder that West Marlborough Township's monthly meeting will be held on Tuesday, July 7, at the township hall at 7 p.m. At 7:30 there will be a hearing to get the public's comments about the latest revisions to the township's zoning ordinance, produced by the township planning commission and supervisors. A copy of the revisions is available from the township office. Come out and see your township government in action. (And congratulations to newlywed township supervisor Jake Chalfin, and best wishes to his wife Kate!)

OUT OF CONTEXT: Gen. Washington picking up rations for the troops

With his gray ponytail, distinguished profile and military bearing, local resident Carl Closs brings General George Washington to life in his frequent appearances at school and community events. He looks utterly right and absolutely in character in his tricorn hat and colonial uniform.
So it was disconcerting to spot the Kennett Square man yesterday doing his grocery shopping at the Giant, wearing a loose summer shirt, and then loading his bags into his car. Not an aide-de-camp in sight to assist the General. You just can't get good help these days!

ERCILDOUN: A trip up Route 82 to Tender Touch Gifts

After lunch at Hood's the other day, a friend and I stopped by Brenda Hillard's Tender Touch gift shop in Ercildoun (next to the Triple Fresh Market). It's a delightful little shop, chock-full of artwork, gifts and antiques, most with country or equestrian themes, like a map of foxhunting venues in Aiken, S.C., and a replica of a folk-art sign from a long-ago Strasburg Road coffee shop. Upstairs are rooms devoted to riding clothes and boots and tack (some sold on consignment). And it's always nice to chat with Brenda, who is full of information about not only her wares but also her customers and local goings-on.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

KENNETT SQUARE: Third Thursday visitors enjoyed food, music and history

Downtown Kennett Square was one jumpin' joint on Thursday, June 18. Despite the iffy weather forecast, people were dining in the streets, artists were painting, musicians were performing, and parents and kids were dancing.
As if that wasn't enough activity, there was also a history tour going on, focusing on the activities of the town's 19th-century abolitionists. I was one of the tour guides: I took two groups of folks on a tour that started at the Underground Railroad mural on Willow Street and continued along East Linden Street to North Union Street. The tour script, prepared by town historian Lynn Sinclair, was excellent and contained all kinds of historical nuggets. For instance, I never knew there's a cannon (now almost hidden in the ivy) at Broad and Linden Streets, in front of the former borough hall. It's called "Old Ben Butler," in honor of Benjamin Franklin Butler, a Union general in the Civil War. The cannon was fired to celebrate Union victories.
On both of my tours I was fortunate to have knowledgeable folks who added interesting side notes. Tourgoer Tom Herman of West Marlborough shared with the group that General Butler was so despised by Southerners that they actually made chamber pots with his picture prominently displayed.
Throughout the evening I had happy memories of the late Mary Dugan of Marlboro Village, a local schoolteacher who was an authority on Underground Railroad activity in the area and did a great deal of research on the history of East Linden Street.
After the tours, one special tourist and I returned to State Street, where I had a terrific chicken burrito from A Taste of Puebla, which set up a tent in the Genesis Walkway. My dinner companion and I were sitting next to each other at a table on the sidewalk, and one humorous friend came up to us and said it looked as if we were available for consultation, a la Lucy offering psychiatric help for 5 cents in the Peanuts cartoon.
"Have a seat," we said.

BIRMINGHAM: A backyard party with all the trimmings

It was Party Central at a pre-Father's Day event we attended on Saturday in Birmingham Township. Two parties were going on across the street from each other, so the cul-de-sac was lined with parked vehicles.
Our hosts have a back yard that is marvelous for entertaining. The swimming pool has a fountain and a whirlpool, and the owners use a miraculous non-chlorine chemical to keep it clean. It was wonderful to be able to open my eyes under water without having them sting and turn bright red. And no lingering chlorine odor in hair, beach towels or swimsuits.
It was great fun to watch the kids splashing around, playing catch and floating on rafts, and we adults did our share of swimming as well. A brother and sister who grew up in the Unionville area were reminiscing about how they took Red Cross swimming lessons in various local ponds (like Smiths' on Glen Hall Road and Strubles' on Marlborough Road).
The owners have a super-duper Weber BBQ grill. The son of the household, home from college, was cooking hamburgers, hot dogs and marinated chicken simultaneously, along with a pot of sausages. Tiki torches, lights and stereo speakers are spaced throughout the yard. There's plenty of seating under giant umbrellas, and those who prefer air conditioning can head inside.
The landscaping was beautiful as well. I was especially impressed by the towering Smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria), which was in full bloom. The owner told me it's hardy and requires minimal care; he just whacks it back every few years.

AVONDALE: A tasty breakfast at the health food store

A pal and I breakfasted at the café at the new Avondale Natural Foods store on Friday and enjoyed egg-and-cheese sandwiches on their fresh-baked bread. The store is in a former bank, and it's fun to see the elaborately decorated metal door on what used to be the bank vault. It reminded me of the magical safety-deposit boxes at Gringotts, the goblin bank in the Harry Potter books.
While we were there chatting, a fellow stopped in at the café for the first time. He said he spends his days driving around the area for work and was looking for a healthier alternative to eating potato chips when he needs a snack.
Avondale Natural Foods is at 122 Pennsylvania Avenue (Route 41), right in the middle of Avondale borough.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

LA MANCHA: Saving critters one animal at a time

"Yappy Hour," the fundraiser and open house at La Mancha Animal Rescue, was great fun and drew a nice crowd on a warm Friday afternoon. The main attraction was the animals, of course: not only dogs and cats but horses, chickens, geese, ducks, turkeys and a pot-bellied pig (who is apparently a very tolerant fellow: he allowed one of the roosters to perch on his back). Volunteers were holding a meet-and-greet between the animals and potential "forever homes." There were all kinds of animal-related crafts and products on sale, as well as refreshments. I especially enjoyed meeting the farm's "signature" dogs, the large, white, very furry Great Pyrenees.
As I was driving in I saw a friend leaving: "I have to get out of here before I adopt something!" she said (understandably; she shares her farm with many critters already).

Thursday, June 18, 2015

ICE CREAM: La Michoacana scored a triple with these visitors

I was in downtown Kennett on Tuesday and saw a man and woman eating ice-cream cones and getting into a car with Massachusetts plates.
"You came all the way from New England for La Michoacana ice cream?!" I asked, jokingly.
The man said they were indeed tourists visiting the Kennett area for a few days and had been told that the Mexican ice-cream parlor was a must-visit. He was glad they did.
"THIS," he said, finishing up his cone, "is the real deal."
I asked him if they'd tried the popular "corn" flavor, and he said it was sold out on their earlier visit.
"Wait," I said. "So you went to La Michoacana TWICE today?"
He smiled.
"Three times."

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

OOPS: Possibly too much information from the Library board

Did no one but me notice that private emails among library board members were being displayed on the meeting room screen throughout the June 16 meeting? The board president, Susan Mackey-Kallis, had her Outlook inbox up on the screen for all to see.
In one email that was circulated in preparation for the board meeting, the board members were pondering whether a certain topic should be discussed in public or in private: "I'm inclined to do it all in the open. We aren't making any decision, just having a discussion and possibly a straw poll vote. We don't have enough board members to have a binding vote. So, open. But let's reserve the option when we see the lay of the land tomorrow night," the message read.
In another library-related email -- the context was unclear -- a board member wrote, "None. But he can [expletive] off. I'm not writing a white paper."

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

MULTIMILLION-DOLLAR QUESTION: How much money will the board be able to raise?

Will you be one of the people contacted for the Bayard Taylor Library's study to determine whether the board can raise enough money to build a new library?
The board has hired MacIntyre Associates of Kennett Square to interview a "broad cross-section of the community," library development director Maureen Snook reported to the board at their June 16 meeting. MacIntyre, now owned by Bonny Anderson, will be contacting 80 people and hope to obtain 40 interviews (I know two couples who have already been interviewed). The results are expected in late July.
Where will the new library be? The board has said it intends to move to Baltimore Pike at Ways Lane in Kennett Township, but at the end of the June meeting the board went into executive session to discuss "potential offers of new locations for Library in Kennett Borough. If we have a new offer, we will discuss, leading to a future vote." (That's the way it was phrased on the agenda.)
After the much-discussed resignations of three board members in recent weeks, the board addressed the need to replenish its numbers. It now comprises Susan Mackey-Kallis, Geoff Birkett, Joan Weber, Karen Ammon, Henry Brown, Carolyn Mohr, Rosa Quintana, and Douglas Thompson. They filled one at-large seat by appointing Marguerite Garai (who was not in attendance) and said they have told Kennett and East Marlborough townships that they have the right to appoint board members.
In other business, after discussing the detailed financial reports that the Kennett Township supervisors requested from them, the board debated what kind of information they should send to the supporting municipalities on a regular basis.
"How much detail do we want to give them?" asked treasurer Joan Weber.
"I think people need to trust us," said vice president Geoff Birkett, noting that the board members are volunteers and don't have the time to field extensive questions about the library's finances.

A MEMORIAL: Mrs. Schiller's tree next to the library will be replaced

The tree in memory of longtime Bayard Taylor Memorial Library patron Nancy B. Schiller will be replaced, library director Donna Murray said at the library board's June meeting. Donna said the tree, which stood on the west side of the library, had to be cut down because it died. She said she wasn't sure when a new tree would be planted.
A plaque in front of the stump reads, "In loving memory of Nancy B. Schiller, whose passion was reading. Given by her children & grandchildren, 1998." Mrs. Schiller, who would visit the library several times a week, died unexpectedly in 1998.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

PURLS OF WISDOM: Gauging the interest in this age-old hobby

Saturday, it seems, was World Wide Knit in Public Day. I am an avid knitter, both in public (especially at township meetings) and at home, but the idea of having a lapful of wool on a hot June day was not an appealing one. Bringing attention to an excellent hobby is certainly a laudable idea, but I suggest they move the event to a cooler time of year.

CONVERTIBLE: Driving with the top down gives me a breezy attitude

This weekend was hot and sunny -- a great opportunity to drive with the top down.
But I've learned that those photos of glamorous Fifties starlets at the wheel of a gleaming convertible are not entirely realistic (gasp!). For one, the actresses always seem to be wearing a perfectly knotted Hermès headscarf and oversized sunglasses. OK, I've got the big sunglasses, but the similarity ends there. In the passenger seat, I'm usually clutching at my hat and my (non-Hermès) scarf to keep them from blowing away and/or whipping the poor driver in the face.
Today I was accessorizing with a bulky air filter, which was so lightweight that it was ready to take flight and sail out of the vehicle the minute we left the Sears Hardware parking lot. I had to hold it in my lap all the way home.
This evening, after dinner at La Pena Mexicana and grocery shopping at the Giant (and socializing with three friends we ran into), an alert about a pop-up thunderstorm popped up on my phone and, sure enough, the sky to the north looked distinctly threatening. So, in the parking lot of the Giant, we took a few minutes to pull the roof back into place and zip the windows in. Just as well: we drove through a brief storm on the way home. As the driver pointed out, there is a big difference between water-resistant and waterproof.

KENNETT SQUARE: A history tour called "Freedmen, Fugitives and Friends"

Downtown Kennett Square will be a hopping place the evening of Thursday, June 18. The borough's historical commission is sponsoring a tour called "Freedmen, Fugitives and Friends" as part of Chester County's annual Town Tours & Village Walks program.
Volunteer guides (including yours truly) will escort visitors through the downtown area "to see the houses and hear the stories of Kennett Square Quakers and African Americans who co-existed peacefully before and after the Civil War." The tours will run from 5:30 to 7 p.m. and will start at the parking lot at Willow and State Streets.

That same evening is the borough's monthly "Third Thursday" celebration, so State Street will be closed to traffic from Broad to Center Streets. The event will include outdoor dining, a beer garden, live music, a magician and kids' activities. There will be free parking in the parking garage after 5 p.m.

IN THE ORCHARD: A Lancaster County concert series at Hans Herr

Saturday night marked the start of the outdoor concert season for me. We headed west to the 1719 Hans Herr House south of Lancaster, which sponsors a wonderful, low-key "Music in the Orchard" series each summer. You bring your own picnic, set up your chairs amidst the apple trees (the robins were outraged; who are all these invaders?) and listen to good music as the sun goes down (the shows start at 6). Last night's concert included Sopa Sol (fiddle, guitar and hang drum) and Donna Nomick, playing the hammered dulcimer.
We also enjoyed watching the two little boys in front of us, who were there with their parents. They were climbing the trees, blowing bubbles, eating roasted peanuts and Pepperidge Farm goldfish and collecting fallen apples.
Java Junction is on hand to sell food, drinks and very, very tasty ice cream.
Admission is $8 for adults, free for kids. Here's the upcoming schedule:
June 27, Marty Shaughnessy & The Stars are Spies, with Matt Wheeler & Vintage Heart; July 11, Jake Lewis & The Clergy, with Canyon; Aug. 1, Easy Grass, with Emily Long; and Aug. 15, Silver City Radio, with Justin Angelo & The Experience.
Just a heads up that the Route 741 bridge over the Pequea Creek is being replaced, so plan an alternate route out to Willow Street -- possibly west on Route 372 through Atglen to north on Route 222.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

SUMMER NOTES: Signs of the changing season from indoors and out

Summer is suddenly upon us, with the thermometer topping 90 for the first time.
Inside the house, my fish-oil vitamins are sticking together, and the toothpaste has an entirely different and looser consistency from its winter one. The chewy ginger cookies that I bake sag and crumble unless I keep them in the fridge.
Outside, the chickadee babies have flown the coop, and a pair of wrens have taken over the bird house and are building the own nest (I peeped in after the chickadees left, and the only thing remaining was a two-inch-thick bed of soft moss). Ticks and poison ivy are here. Bats are swooping around at dusk (love them!). Fast-growing young groundhogs, rabbits and foxes are looking less like the babies they were only a few weeks ago.
A friend in "downtown" Unionville commented that she hasn't seen lightning bugs yet this summer, and I hadn't either until Sunday evening. And my hummingbirds were here briefly in May, but I've seen only one or two at the feeder since. I'm keeping fresh nectar in it anyway.
The giant thistles in the field behind my house are majestic and there are so many that they produce a pastel lavender haze in the midst of all the green. I'd love to try taking some artsy silhouette-type photos, but I'd have to trek through high weeds to get there (see the sentence about "ticks" above), and keeping the high-tension lines out of the photo would be next to impossible. (My first lesson in photography was to look around the subject and make sure there wasn't a telephone pole growing out of his head.)

WEST MARLBOROUGH: Report from a routine June township meeting

At the June meeting of the West Marlborough Township supervisors, township engineer Al Giannantonio reported that he issued two zoning permits in May: one for a shed extension at a farm on Doe Run School Road and one for an addition to a farmhouse on Route 82.
Roadmaster Hugh Lofting said the township road crew has been busy mowing road banks. They plan to tar and chip Bartram, Line, Chapel, Rokeby, and Doe Road Station Roads, as well as the paved part of Doe Run Church Road, and the hill on West Road near Route 82. Road crew member Hugh Lofting Jr. said he will be trying out a new, larger kind of gravel this year.
The supervisors scheduled a hearing at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 7, at the township hall/garage to get the public's comments about revisions to the township's zoning ordinance. A copy of the revisions is available from the township office.
In other business, Street Road resident Elizabeth Smoker told the supervisors that the deteriorated condition of the vacant house next door to her is "very problematic to me" due to the thick weeds and lack of maintenance. The house, at Sportsmen's Lane, was formerly the property of the Raimatos but has been empty for seven years after the mortgage company foreclosed on the subsequent owner.
When Mrs. Smoker brought similar concerns to the township last year, the supervisors asked township engineer Al Giannantonio to contact the mortgage company that owns the property. He volunteered to do so in hopes they will once again send out a maintenance crew.
Mrs. Smoker had her own, tongue-in-cheek suggestion for what the township should do: "Fine them a million dollars!"

GOODWILL STORE: The underrated pleasure of getting rid of stuff

I was switching over my summer/winter closets (and not a moment too soon) and realized there were clothes in there I hadn't worn in literally years. They were in fine shape, but they belonged to a lifestyle I no longer lead: in other words, they required hand washing or dry cleaning or special accessories, or would be ruined by a single grape-jelly spill.
I had been saving one Talbots blouse just in case I was called for jury duty -- but no one dresses up for jury duty anymore. And I'd been holding on to a certain sleeveless top because I'd paid a lot of money for it -- but getting into it nearly dislocated my shoulder, so I never wore it. They are both history, along with little-worn suede and leather skirts, khaki pants, cashmere sweaters, a long black velvet skirt, fancy scarves I'd long forgotten about, and a frumpy tweed skirt I'd worn only when dressing up as Aunt Petunia on Halloween.
I folded everything up, filling three large trash bags, and drove them over to the Goodwill store in Avondale. You drive up to the donations door and ring the bell, and grateful people come out and take your offerings.
I probably could have recouped some money had I taken them to a consignment store or one of those used clothing trade-in places, but I didn't think it would have been worth the time and effort.
I have what I need and haven't regretted a single discard. And I hope some Goodwill bargain-hunter had a field day.
Then I tackled the refrigerator -- but that's a story for another day.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

NEWLIN: Do they use the Kennett Paper to wrap it up for you?

A Newlin Township resident sent me this photo of a sign he spotted on Tuesday afternoon. That's what I call good service!

POTENT POTABLES: What? You're still drinking plain beer?!

"We have beer salt!" proclaimed the flashing sign outside the Penn Brew Station in Jennersville (the store with the palm tree outside).
Good to know -- but what exactly IS "beer salt"? I checked when I got back home and learned that according to its manufacturer, Twang, it is "a delicious, citrus-flavored salt inspired by the Latino tradition of adding citrus and salt to beer." It comes in lemon-lime, lime, hot lime and orange flavors. The website for the San Antonio-based family business even offers tips for appropriate pairings: "We prefer it on Domestic Lagers, Mexican Imports, or Belgian-style wheat beers."

Monday, June 8, 2015

EAST MARLBOROUGH: A civics lesson in how local government should work

I was pleased to learn that an overflow crowd showed up at the June East Marlborough Township meeting to protest the proposed sidewalk ordinance. Residents were concerned (to put it mildly) that the language of the new law would allow supervisors to require homeowners to install and maintain sidewalks, at their own expense.
The township supervisors handled the potentially divisive situation well. They really listened to the audience, made it plain that they understood the residents' concerns and assured the audience that forcing everyone to install sidewalks was absolutely not their intent -- while acknowledging that the perhaps overly broad wording could lead homeowners to reach that conclusion. They tabled the ordinance so it can be rewritten. I'm sure the citizens will be keeping an eye on the new wording.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

COLOURFUL WRITING: Full marks for proper spelling and full stops

This week I've been editing a 100-page master's thesis, which a friend is writing for a British university. It's been quite a change of pace: usually I have to "Americanize" British spelling, punctuation and usage, and now I'm having to convert her American prose into British (manoeuvering, centred, defence and such).
"How do you know how to do that?" asked the Young Relative.
I explained to him that when I went to school in England, my spelling and usage were corrected relentlessly.
"Oh," he said, his eyes closing in bliss, as if he had achieved nirvana at the dinner table. "I would LOVE to see that."

LIBRARY TOUR: A day of animals, antiques, and artwork

I've been going on the Bayard Taylor Library's Home & Garden Day tour since the mid-1990s, but I can safely say that this is the first year that I've gotten to feed koi, cuddle a baby goat and coo over fuzzy three-day-old goslings.
This year's tour, which stretched from the Maryland line, through the New London area, all the way up to Avondale, was blessed with perfect weather and included a marvelous variety of stops. Some random highlights were the waterfall in the stunning garden behind the McIlvains' home; the 16th-century chairs and original Audubon print at the William Miller House; the gorgeous view out over the countryside at the Kings' farm; the koi, catfish and bass in the pond at the Jenkses' home (which is for sale; Jackie Roberts of Berkshire Hathaway Country Properties is the listing agent); and all the adorable critters at the Petersons' farm. (We didn't get to all the stops on the tour.)
The mushroom crepes by Portobello restaurant in Kennett, made on the spot at the McIlvains' kitchen, were delicious, and the coffee (donated by Starbucks) and cold drinks (donated by Waywood Beverages) were extremely welcome. The pasta samples from La Verona were gone by the time we got to the Petersons', but we heard good things about them.
I hope the tour raised lots of money for the library's children's programs! The super-organized and hard-working members of the Special Events Committee and their helpers (the parkers were especially helpful and entertaining this year) made this a really memorable and fun day.
(By the way: I love the new idea of picking up a wristband at the first house that you visit. So much easier than having to root around and pull out your ticket at each front door.)

COVERED BRIDGES: Relief is finally coming for Frog Hollow Road residents

In last week's Kennett Paper you may have read a story about the three county covered bridges that are going to be repaired: Speakman Covered Bridge #1, which spans the Doe Run between West Marlborough and East Fallowfield townships; Rapps Dam in East Pikeland; and Knox in Valley Forge National Historic Park. West Marlborough resident Mark Myers has been the township's representative to the meetings involving the Speakman bridge repair, and he gave the township supervisors an update at their June meeting.
Mark said the contractor that has been hired, Eastern Highway Specialists of Wilmington, has experience working on covered bridges, including the Ashland bridge in Hockessin. The Speakman bridge will be the largest project of the three, and completion is set for September 2016.
" I think we're going to end up with a very satisfactory result," Mark said. He recommended that West Marlborough and East Fallowfield work together to come up with a way to protect the bridge, which has been closed to traffic since it was seriously damaged by an oversized truck seven years ago.

LA MANCHA: Come and meet critters up for adoption at "Yappy Hour"!

LaMancha Animal Rescue is hosting an open house and "Yappy Hour" from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday, June 19, with "dog and cat meet-and-greets," crafts, refreshments and games. Adam Westgate of PawPrint Story Books will be reading from "Cody The Shepherd’s Strasburg Rail Road Ride" at 5 p.m. in the horse ring.  For more information about the event or the shelter, e-mail Courtenay Acton at Guests are asked to leave their own dogs at home, because the shelter's adoptable dogs will be out and about, as well as the shelter's signature Great Pyrenees.
The shelter is at 855 Doe Run Road (Route 82), south of Strasburg Road.

JUST NOT DONE: Limiting access to a camp's farewell ceremony

My friend Chris Barber, editor of the Avon Grove Sun, was just turned away from this afternoon's "Farewell to Camp Tweedale" closing ceremony by officials from the local Girl Scout Council, the same ones who made the unpopular decision to close down the camp and sell the property.
"No press," they told her.
Now, see, banning the press from an event is something you really don't want to do if you're smart. You may not want reporters or photographers there, for whatever reason (and possibly a justified reason), but kicking them out makes it look like you have something to hide.
And you know they're write the story anyway -- as Chris did, being a resourceful woman (she is a former Girl Scout, after all). Nothing gets the fourth estate more jazzed up than suspecting that there's a juicy story out there that somebody is trying to prevent them from writing.
When I was a full-time reporter in another part of Pennsylvania, I used to cover a particularly quarrelsome borough council that met in a one-room building (they used to meet in the fire hall but managed to tick off the chief). They once kicked me out of the room so they could hold a dubious executive session, forgetting that the windows were open and I was standing outside and could hear everything anyway. Naturally, I reported on their discussion, complete with quotations.
At the next meeting they went into executive session again and went around the table furiously accusing each other of leaking the conversation to "that girl reporter." Even the mayor, a gentle, kindly minister, took his share of the vitriol.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

CAFETERIA FOOD: School administrators serve up a hearty breakfast

What a tasty -- and free -- breakfast we had on Saturday, courtesy of the administrators of the Kennett and Unionville-Chadds Ford school districts. We arrived for the annual community breakfast at the UHS cafeteria at about 8:30 and filled our plates with pancakes, sausages, scrapple, bacon and eggs (scrambled or over easy), pastries and fruit. Plus there were boxes of soft pretzels left over from the American Cancer Society's "Relay for Life," which was just wrapping up at the track.
Sitting at a cafeteria table brought back memories of school lunches -- but the food was much better than in my day.
In addition to the school administrators -- who proved to be excellent servers -- we saw several local journalists (free food, after all); Beverly Brookes, who told us some amusing stories about her methods of persuading reluctant jurors to serve during her days as jury commissioner; and Danielle Chamberlain, the president of the Unionville Community Fair.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

WEST MARLBOROUGH: Batteries stolen from the cellphone tower

The West Marlborough supervisors heard two police reports at their June 2 meeting.
Lieut. Richard D'Ambrosio, commander of the Pennsylvania State Police at Avondale, said in the past three months there had been 54 incidents in West Marlborough, a slight increase over the same period in 2014. Only two of the incidents were criminal in nature: one was a case of harassment and the other was the theft of backup batteries at the cellular phone tower off Route 926 at Vince Dugan's equestrian training facility. The trooper said such thefts are "very common" and the thieves "know what they're doing."
He said there were 11 crashes in the township, only three that were reportable, and five drunken-driving arrests, eight false alarms, five calls for debris on the road and five calls for animals on the road, and one warrant served.
"This is a very safe community," he said of West Marlborough. "You always, always have the lowest numbers."
Chief Robert Clarke, who patrols the township for 40 hours a month, reported that he handled 15 incidents in May, issuing 11 speeding tickets and four warnings.

WEST MARLBOROUGH: Zoning, paving, and mowing in a rural township

In other business at the June meeting of the West Marlborough Township supervisors, township engineer Al Giannantonio reported that he issued two zoning permits in May: one for a shed extension at a farm on Doe Run School Road and one for an addition to a farmhouse on Route 82.
Roadmaster Hugh Lofting said the township road crew has been busy mowing road banks. They plan to tar and chip Bartram, Line, Chapel, Rokeby, and Doe Road Station Roads, as well as the paved part of Doe Run Church Road, and the hill on West Road near Route 82. Road crew member Hugh Lofting Jr. said he will be trying out a new, larger kind of gravel this year.
The supervisors scheduled a hearing at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 7, at the township hall/garage to get the public's comments about revisions to the township's zoning ordinance. A copy of the revisions is available from the township office.

WEST MARLBOROUGH: Vacant house is once again a problem

Street Road resident Elizabeth Smoker told the West Marlborough Township supervisors that the deteriorated condition of the vacant house next door to her is "very problematic to me" due to the thick weeds and lack of maintenance. The house, at Sportsmen's Lane, was formerly the property of the Raimatos but has been empty for seven years after the mortgage company foreclosed on the subsequent owner.
When Mrs. Smoker brought similar concerns to the township last year, the supervisors asked township engineer Al Giannantonio to contact the mortgage company that owns the property. He volunteered to do so in hopes they will once again send out a maintenance crew.
Mrs. Smoker had her own, tongue-in-cheek suggestion for what the township should do: "Fine them a million dollars!"

Monday, June 1, 2015

BIRDS: Feed me! Feed me! is the baby birds' chorus

Every few minutes, it seems, one chickadee parent or the other is bringing a beakful of food to the nestlings inside the bird house out back. I'm not sure how many babies are inside -- I don't want to approach the house -- but they are both vocal and voracious. I was a little concerned that the strong wind during last night's series of thunderstorms might knock the house down, but no, it's still there this morning, with the nestlings still squawking.