Wednesday, March 30, 2016

RECALLS: A different car completely!

A recent incident made me realize how accustomed we've become to have Big Brother looking over our shoulder.
Since 2012 I've been receiving occasional form letters from my auto manufacturer about various recalls. None of it sounded too serious, so I just stuffed all of it into the glove compartment.
Then they started upping their game, leaving messages saying that according to their records I hadn't had the work done yet and was jeopardizing the safety of my loved ones. I programmed my phone to block them.
Then came the most recent letter: a problem with the airbag inflating mechanism that could send shrapnel flying at you at high speed (you've probably read about this in the papers; it's a very widespread problem). Sick of the calls and letters, I gave in and called my dealership to get it fixed.
Well, it turns out they won't have the parts until June. I said fine, I'll wait.
Then I asked the woman in the service department about all the other recalls they've been pestering me about for years. She was baffled, saying no other recalls had ever been issued on my vehicle.
I opened the glove box and started looking at the stack of papers -- and it turns out they were all for the 2002 vehicle I had owned before this one!
I just assumed that some cog in "the system" would have updated the ownership information when I sold the car back in 2011.

CHORALE: Songs from the Camps

Ruth Russell of the Brandywine Valley Chorale wrote to tell me that the group will be performing its spring concert at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 30, at the Unionville High School auditorium.
This year's theme is a somber one: the Chorale will be singing Holocaust Cantata"a brave and beautifully written musical work — an emotional journey through one of the bleakest eras in human history. Donald McCullough’s haunting choral tribute gives a human voice to the victims of the Holocaust through a cycle of songs and spoken prose written by prisoners in the camps."
The program will be introduced by Joseph B. Hirt, a Holocaust survivor and a former staff member at Unionville High School who retired in 1993; he was a teacher and district school psychologist.
Ruth adds, "I graduated from UHS in '76. Mr. Hirt was there at that time, but I had NO idea of his past. I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of his co-workers were unaware of his history. From a few articles I have read, he really did not share his life's story until just relatively recently."
After the concert, refreshments will be served and people will have the opportunity to talk with Mr. Hirt.
"My wish is that the auditorium will be filled with faces that are familiar to Mr. Hirt, showing support for him," Ruth writes.
Tickets ($15 for adults, $10 for students) are available on the Chorale's website ( or at the door.










Sunday, March 27, 2016

RACES: Point-to-point races this Sunday

I missed the Cheshire Races (only because we were in Philadelphia, as you'll read below), but we'll definitely be at the Brandywine Hills Point-to-Point Races this coming Sunday, April 3. As always, it's held at the Brandywine Red Clay Alliance's Myrick Conservation Center (the BVA) on Unionville-Wawaset Road (Route 842).
Gates open at 11 a.m. The kids' pony races (always very cute to watch) are at 12:30, 12:45, 1 and 1:15, followed by the parade of Radnor Hunt's foxhounds. The ladies' race is at 1:45, heavyweight race at 2:15, novice race at 2:45, open race at 3:15 and owner-ride foxhunter's race at 3:45 p.m.
Proceeds benefit the Alliance's environmental education and watershed conservation programs.
I hear from friends who attended that the Cheshire Races were wonderful, with pleasant weather, exciting races, and a good turnout of locals.
Alternatively, if you're looking for an indoor activity next Sunday, Rollin Wilber will be presenting a piano concert at 2 p.m. at Kennett Friends Meeting. He will be playing a mix of Schubert, Debussy, Brahms and Chopin. Admission is free, as it is for all of the Hadley Fund programs.

THEATRE: "Peter and the Starcatcher" in Philly

At concerts and plays, we make a point of exchanging seats at intermission so we get a different perspective for the second half.
On Easter Sunday afternoon at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia, we took that cozy habit to extremes: We moved from corner balcony seats to prime center-orchestra seats. Even though we were in Center City, we ran into some local friends at intermission, and they invited us to join them: they're longtime season-ticket holders and the people who normally sit with them weren't coming.
That was a long intro to get to my point: "Peter and the Starcatcher" is a hilarious and very cleverly staged play that's worth going to see, no matter where you're sitting. It's billed as a "prequel" to the Peter Pan story, and you learn how Peter got his name, why the crocodile "ticks," what "Neverland" means, and how Captain Hook lost his hand.
We missed the Kennett Amateur Theatrical Society's pantomime this year, but watching "Peter" we feel as if we made up for it: the show is full of silly wordplay ("How dare he call us ruffians! We've never even been to Ruffia!"), groan-inducing puns, cross-dressing, physical comedy (one character keeps jabbing himself with a pineapple), fabulous costumes (the mermaid outfits were stunning), and a spunky heroine. The actors (and the actress; there's only one) each played multiple roles, changing into pirates, deckhands, musicians and members of the distinctly anti-British Mollusk tribe as they raced around the elaborate, multi-level set. All the stage business was handled with such precision: we noticed that one actor who was "rowing" to safety atop a big wheeled trunk was pushed onstage by one actor, handed off to another and then moved into his final position by a third.
Special mention must go to the crocodile, "Mr. Grim." He was made from a giant old rolltop desk on wheels (the rolltop part served as his jaws), with flashlights for eyes.
The show runs through May 1. It runs for almost two and a half hours, so it's probably too long for young kids.
By the way: I hadn't been to that part of Philadelphia for a number of years, and wow, has it changed for the better. We got there early, parked in a lot, walked around, goggled at all the new medical buildings Jefferson has erected, watched a medevac helicopter land atop one of them, had lunch at a little Asian place (apparently a favorite for Jefferson personnel, judging from the number of people in scrubs) and enjoyed seeing people from lots of different cultures.

LIBRARY: This year's Home & Garden Day

On Saturday I received a "save the date" postcard for the Bayard Taylor Memorial Library's popular annual home and garden day (and you can imagine how delighted and surprised I was to see that they actually used the traditional library name on the cards!).
This year the tour is on Saturday, June 4, and tickets go on sale starting April 18 (at the library or through the website). As I have for the past several years, I'm doing the write-ups for the tour program, so I get a sneak preview of the houses. It's a super tour this year, centered around the Chadds Ford/Fairville area. You'll see some very creative additions and renovations, some wonderful collections of artwork and antiques -- and as always there's a nice mixture of grand houses and cozy ones.

CHALFANT: Safe at home

In response to my blog item last week about the forthcoming renovation of the Chalfant mansion in Kennett Square, a curious reader asked me why Mr. Chalfant felt the need to have a bank-sized safe installed in his house. I asked the same question when I toured the house, and the owner didn't know either. If anyone has an answer, let me know!
The massive safe at the Chalfant mansion.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

BAILY'S DAIRY: A spring open house

This past weekend was the spring open house at Baily's Dairy at Pocopson Meadow Farm, and it was full of little animals and little humans -- both very cute. Four-day-old ducklings cavorted in a little blue plastic pool, diving and splashing; we spotted the older generation of ducks swimming placidly in the creek. Two pygmy goats were hugely pregnant and, the sign said, ready to give birth any day. We saw lambs, calves and baby goats (along with some grown-up sheep, cows and goats). A bunch of yellow chicks cheeped as they bustled around their pen, warmed by a heat lamp. A group of bunnies were nestled together so tightly I couldn't tell how many there were.
It may be unnecessary to add that we treated ourselves to a bottle of Baily's unbelievably delicious chocolate milk while we were there.

SPRING: A happy afternoon in the garden

I was just out doing some garden cleanup, cutting down last year's dead fern bracts, and as always in early spring I found a few surprises. The nicest was that the Pachysandra terminalis flower has a lovely fragrance. All these years, and I had no idea that such a workhorse of a groundcover had such an exotic smell. Opines the Missouri Botanical Garden: "Flowers are not particularly showy, but on close inspection are quite attractive."
The daffs are in full bloom, although some, I'm sorry to see, suffered from the late freeze, with brown-tipped leaves and soggy stems. The perennial tulips (pale yellow with a hint of red) are doing better than they ever have. The grape hyacinths, the rest of the tulips and the violets will have their turn to shine next.
(A reader just emailed me that Longwood Gardens is predicting their tulips will bloom earlier than usual, with a peak display in mid-April.)
The hostas are starting to show their pointed, tightly furled leaves above the ground. The periwinkle is already flowering and attracting bees.
Looks like it's going to be a banner year for the monkshood, which is spreading like crazy and may even be pulling ahead of the lamium in the west-garden challenge.
I don't have any forsythia, but they are a blaze of yellow everywhere else.
I'm glad to see the tiny leaves of the valerian emerging. Talk about a paradox: the flowers smell intoxicating but the roots smell disgusting (I'm sure I'll be able to use that as a metaphor somewhere). I've heard the smell compared to sweat socks, but it's actually far gamier and longer-lasting than that. Some people buy valerian leaves to brew as a sleep aid, and I've noticed that the box has to be double-wrapped at the health-food store to contain the odor.

NEWARK: Yet another way to say it

Last week I wrote about how surprised a Verizon help-desk person in Newark, NJ, was to learn that there is a Newark, DE, with a different pronunciation. In response, a reader wrote that she was born near Newark, NJ, and now lives near Newark, DE, but "also lived for eight years near Newark, OH. They pronounce it Nerk. Rhymes with jerk."

Friday, March 25, 2016

SPEED: The face of safety

A friend reports that, while driving near West Grove, he encountered a traffic sign that not only flashed his speed but also frowned at him for (slightly) exceeding the limit.
I asked for details about this new wrinkle in policing.
"It was a smiley face but with an upside-down smile," he said. "It's not going to give anyone nightmares."
I was on that road on Sunday, driving under the speed limit, and spotted the sign. For a moment I was tempted to deliberately evoke the frownie-face, but my better judgment kicked in immediately.

Monday, March 21, 2016

WEST GROVE: Meeting for Worship to welcome spring

This morning I attended a special "Welcome Spring" meeting for worship at the New West Grove Friends Meetinghouse on State Road. The 1831 meetinghouse is "laid-down," which means it's open only for special occasions. There is no electricity or plumbing, and the only heat comes from a Victory #20 pot-bellied wood-burning stove.
What a lovely hour it was! There were maybe 15 people there, bringing life and spirit to the normally dormant building. Even though it was barely above freezing outside, daffodils were in bloom. Three other ladies and I sat close together under a blue fleece blanket, and we had the warmest spot in the room, right next to the stove.
Silent worship in the style of Quakers is not actually so silent; you just hear different sounds that you don't usually pay attention to, like the singing of birds, the cawing of crows, the gentle creaking of wooden benches, and your own breathing and heartbeat.
Rubbings from two of the gravestones in the burial ground. These two families founded Conard-Pyle Nurseries.

The 1831 New West Grove Meetinghouse.


Sunday, March 20, 2016

JIMMY'S BBQ: Smoky and slow-cooked

If you happen to be in central Chester County and have a tummy that's calling out for BBQ, you can't do better than to visit Jimmy's BBQ, which is in a strip mall in Frazer (309 Lancaster Ave., opposite the Clews & Strawbridge boat dealership).
I ordered the pulled chicken platter with mac and cheese and coleslaw. My fellow tummy-rumbler had the BBQ sampler with pork, chicken and beef brisket, along with mac and cheese and cornbread. Everything's home-made, including the rubs, and you get your choice of sauces. This is delicious hearty eating. They provide you with a roll of paper towels instead of napkins, and there's even a sink where you can wash your hands afterward.
The friendly owner, Jimmy, came over and greeted us while we ate. He is extremely proud of his business and told us he'd been there for seven years. It was clear the place has a loyal following, as Jimmy welcomed most of the customers by name as they entered ("My business plan is for people to come in once a week," he said).

LATE SHIFT: Talk to the animals

The kibble situation was close to desperate on Saturday night, so we stopped in at a chain pet-food store. We were the only customers other than the two young women who worked there. They were having a dull evening and were so happy to see us that they almost fought over who would escort us to the correct aisles.
"If you have any questions, let us know," said one.
"Please," begged the other. "Please ask us questions. We love questions!"

CHALFANT: One of Kennett's treasures poised for renovation

One of the very cool things about this reporting gig is that I get to satisfy my curiosity and see what's behind locked doors --- legally!
On Thursday afternoon Jayne Bair, the new owner of the historic Chalfant Mansion in downtown Kennett, was kind enough to show me around the fire-damaged treasure, which she hopes will house her real-estate business (Century 21 Pierce & Bair).
"It's very exciting," said Jayne. She purchased the Queen Anne-style mansion earlier this year from her mother, who had owned it since the 1980s. Designed by Frank Furness and built in 1884 for William Chalfant, it has been vacant and boarded up since a fire in November 2014 displaced the tenants (it had been split up into four apartments).
Inside, it's dark and still smells of smoke. Some of the woodwork is charred. Soot covers the mirrors and lighting fixtures. There's graffiti on the walls. Lath and wiring is visible.
But when it's cleaned up and restored, this place will be magnificent again. The ornate fireplaces, with elaborate mantels, are stunning and the tile seems to be intact. There's a huge wall safe, and back and front staircases.
Crews have already demolished the kitchen that was at the west side of the house (it was a later addition) and have removed some of the blackened interior plaster, leaving bare brick walls. Tarps and Plexiglas protect the interior from the elements.
Jayne has hired Dennis Melton as the architect and MOBAC as the contractor. She said the project may be completed as soon as early 2017, but she realizes that a complicated renovation like this will probably take extra time.
The house was an important work by Furness, who also designed the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts on North Broad Street in Philadelphia, the old library at the University of Pennsylvania, and the Wilmington train station.

The date stone, and one of the iconic "top-heavy" chimneys, said to resemble smokestacks.

View from the third floor, looking down on North Union St. Jayne is considering using this room as her own office.

This fireplace is in the entry hall. Note the brilliant yellow tiles.

The west side of the house, with heavily damaged parts already removed.

This ornate safe has lots of cubbyholes. The "PT" stands for "Patented."

A glorious ground-floor fireplace. Note the soot-covered mirror, the radiator and the bare-brick walls.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

BOOKS: Tilda's other life

Longtime readers know that my "real job" is editing textbooks. I started out doing just medical books and journals, but with all the consolidation in the publishing business, I now edit absolutely everything. I just finished books on world religions, criminal law, ferreting out racism in social work agencies, and the impact of Muslim literature in colonial America. Now I'm doing a self-help manual for people with obsessive-compulsive disorders.
I get asked all the time, "Isn't it boring?"
In a way, yes, but in another way it's amazing the nuggets of information I learn. Just this past week I found two relevant items in the world religions book:
1. An interesting immigration strategy, from a chapter on Zoroastrianism: "On arrival, the king of the Gujarat sent out a cup of milk filled to the brim, to signify that the country was overflowing with residents and couldn’t accept any more. The king of the Zoroastrians, however, returned the cup of milk with a spoonful of sugar sprinkled over the top, to indicate that the Zoroastrians wouldn’t cause the country to overflow—they would merely sweeten the mixture. 
The Gujarati king admitted the seafaring refugees on three conditions: that they would promise not to eat beef; not to marry into the existing population; and not to convert any Hindus."
2. An explanation for this year's political craziness, quoting a book by Gerald Gardner on Wiccan practices: "Even wild and meaningless shrieking produces power. But this method inflames the mind and renders it difficult to control the power." 

COATESVILLE: Taking the show on the road

On March 13 we went to see the Truckley Howl, a traditional Irish music trio, perform a sold-out show at the Coatesville Cultural Society. The musicians (Nathan Gourley on fiddle, Mairead Hurley on concertina, and John Blake on guitar) had an easy rapport and shared some funny stories about life on their road. They're touring the East Coast and Midwest in a Honda Fit. They've developed a protocol for loading their equipment so that everything, uh, fits. And there's ample room for the musicians, too, "as long as we don't breathe," said John.
Mairead said that at a show they did a few days earlier at the East Somerville Elementary School in Boston, a student asked why Irish music sounded like pirate music. They decided it's because of the hornpipes.
The Truckley Howl: Mairead, Nathan and John. Photograph by Frank Dalton.

NEW GARDEN: The car that couldn't be dented

The other day in the Giant parking lot in New Garden, I heard a crash nearby, looked over, and saw that two cars backing out of their spots simultaneously had just collided. The Prius had a dent in its back bumper that repaired itself before my eyes, returning to its normal configuration as if nothing had happened; it was like a scene from Stephen King's horror novel "Christine." The other vehicle had some scrapes on its bumper that didn't look as if they would self-repair.
I remembered one of my friend Paul's favorite maxims: "Parking lots are dangerous places, so you should drive as quickly as possible and get out of them."

NEWARK: A matter of pronunciation

A friend reports that she spent so much time on the phone the other day trying to resolve an email problem that she developed a certain joking rapport with the tech, named Hakim. He asked her to supply the answer to her "secret question," where she had met her husband.
"Newark," she replied (they both went to UD).
"Why are you saying it so funny?" asked the puzzled Hakim.
It turns out Hakim is from Newark, New Jersey, and didn't realize there were actually two cities by that name. Apparently it took him several attempts to pronounce it "the Delaware way"!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

FEEDBACK: An objection to my story

It seems a reader objected to my covering the Friends of the NRA banquet in Kennett Square on March 5 and wrote a letter to the editor about it. Alas, the writer did not give his or her name, expressing a fear of people with guns, so it couldn't be published.
I greatly appreciate the feedback and I'm happy that my column reaches a diverse group of readers. But just because I attend and cover an event doesn't mean I endorse it. If I only wrote about people and events of which I approved 100%, this would be a very short column indeed! (Then again, some would find that a good thing.)

Monday, March 14, 2016

CAKE: A talented baker!

Cakes & Candies by Maryellen created the spectacular cake I had Sunday afternoon at a teenage girl's birthday party. Not only was it gorgeous (it was frosted in ombre shades of pink) but it was delicious too. The cake part was moist (there were two layers, one chocolate and one vanilla), and the frosting was really good instead of that overly sweet icing you get so often.
Maryellen's bakery is at 1332 B West Chester Pike in West Goshen, near where Westtown Way intersects West Chester Pike.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

ODESSA: Heading north to freedom

I've been interested in the Underground Railroad ever since I wrote a report about Harriet Tubman in the fourth grade, so on March 11 I gave myself the day off from editing and drove down to Odessa, Del., to attend an open house at the Appoquinimink Friends Meeting House. In a hidden attic room of this tiny brick Quaker meeting house, slaves escaping from Maryland could hide until darkness fell and they could head farther north on their journey.
I climbed up the ladder to the attic and with a flashlight peered into the dark hiding space under the eaves, concealed by a panel. The freedom seekers had no heat and certainly no room to stand up. For the open house the Meeting put out some provisions, candles, a blanket and a chamber pot to give an idea of the conditions the slaves endured.
I thought about other chambers where people have hid from persecution over the years: "priest holes" in Great Britain in medieval days, and the Frank family's Secret Annexe in Amsterdam during WWII.
According to the Facebook page of Delaware Historic Preservation (where I got these photographs), "It is reputed that Harriet Tubman frequented this route as she led runaways from Dorchester County on Maryland's Eastern Shore, into Kent County, Delaware near Camden, north through Duck Creek, Blackbird, and to the vicinity of John Hunn's farm, the current site of Middletown High School."
The hostess, a member of Appoquinimink meeting, told us a little about the history of the meeting (which is still open for First Day worship) and about abolitionists in Delaware.
She asked where I was from and when I said I lived near London Grove Friends Meeting, she told me she had visited there two summers ago under somewhat dramatic circumstances. While she and her husband were driving through Chester County, a sudden cloudburst with ferocious wind hit. She was terrified and insisted that her husband pull off the road. They stopped at London Grove Meeting and sat on the bench on the porch until the storm abated. She said she left a note on the door thanking the Meeting for serving as a refuge.

The Appoquinimink Friends Meeting House, built in 1785.

This is the opening to the attic space where the Freedom Seekers hid.

CHESHIRE: Side-saddle race at this year's event

The 71st running of the "Cheshire Races" will be held on Easter Sunday, March 27, at Plantation Field in Unionville. This year's races will have something new on the card: the Mrs. Miles B. Valentine Memorial Ladies Side Saddle Race. Among the participants, in addition to our local side-saddle enthusiasts, will be international competitor Susan Oakes. According to the press release, "A display of tradition, elegance and bravery, this year’s race is run in honor of Mrs. Miles B. Valentine, who graced many hunt fields with her style, grace and unmatched horsemanship."
Gates open at 10 a.m. After the pony races and the Junior Field Master Chase, the side-saddle race is schedule to start at 12:30 p.m., followed by the Heavyweight Race at 1 p.m., the novice race at 1:30, the open timber race (the Cheshire Bowl) at 2 p.m., the ladies' race at 2:30, the foxhunter's timber race at 3 and the flat race at 3:30.
Proceeds benefit the Cheshire Hunt Conservancy.

HISTORY: Cathy Q talks about Kennett agriculture

I was delighted to see that my friend Catherine Quillman, a writer, artist and historian who lives in West Chester, will be giving a talk entitled "Agricultural Roots: How We Grew What We Grew," at the Kennett Township Historical Commission's annual public program on Thursday, May 19. She'll be discussing 19th-century agriculture in Kennett Township. The program starts at 7 p.m. with light refreshments and fellowship at the township building on Burrows Run Road.
Thank you to Fredda Pennock, treasurer of the commission, for alerting me to this event. I've been to several of these talks and they are quite interesting.

LONGWOOD: Vote for "best botanical garden"

A friend at Longwood Gardens tells me that it has been nominated as "best botanical garden" in a USA Today/10 Best poll. You can cast your vote every day, up until noon on Monday, March 28. The link is
Longwood was #1 on the leaderboard when I checked.
Here are the other nominees: the Atlanta Botanical Garden; Bloedel Reserve in Bainbridge Island, Washington; Brooklyn Botanic Garden; Chanticleer in Wayne, PA; Cheekwood in Nashville; the Chicago Botanic Garden; Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay; Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden; Denver Botanic Gardens; Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix; Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables; the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids; the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond; Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis; Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Mass; National Tropical Botanical Garden in Kauai, Hawaii; New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx; UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley, Calif.; and the United States Botanic Garden in Washington, DC.

GPS: Turn left, then turn left

My poor GPS doesn't have an easy task sometimes. I often like to take the long way to wherever I'm going, which is anathema to the device's programming.
The other day I was headed from the Loew's store in Avondale to the Kennett Y. I wanted to take Baltimore Pike so that I could see what was going on in Kennett. The GPS, however, really wanted me to take the much more efficient Route 1 bypass. With each street I passed in Avondale, it kept telling me to turn around. Finally it gave up where Baltimore Pike and Route 41 split.
"Continue on the road," it said, turning generic in defeat.

POCOPSON: Opening for the season

While having dinner at Floga Bistro on March 9, we were glad to saw Barbie Vannote and Hall Snyder. Barbie told us that her shop, Garden Thyme, will be opening for the season on Tuesday, March 15. "Please stop by!" she encouraged us. The garden shop is on Route 52 on the way to Lenape.

Friday, March 11, 2016

WEDDING: Sometimes you just can't email

A friend is getting married this spring and has the dresses, flowers, venue, menu, cake, entertainment and honeymoon all sorted out. The hard part, she said, has been tracking down people's mailing addresses so she can send out the invitations. "We don't write letters anymore," she said.
She's right. And I don't talk on the phone much anymore, either. I was making an appointment the other day and was asked to give my phone number. I started giving my 610 number, the old landline number I haven't had for probably ten years.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

METABOLISM: To be a teenager again!

Overheard at the Fitness Center of the Kennett Y:
Youth 1: "We don't need to do abs here. We can do abs at your house."
Youth 2: "Dude. The only thing I can get you to do at my house is eat."
Youth 1: "Hey, are we getting cheesesteaks or what?"

WEST MARLBOROUGH: The Route 1 corridor

The West Marlborough supervisors invited representatives of the  Chester County Economic Development Council to their March meeting and told them they're concerned that the council's plan to encourage development along the Route 1 corridor will increase traffic and jeopardize valuable farmland.
Bill Wylie, who heads the West Marlborough board, said the township is already seeing the effects of local development in the form of increased commuter traffic. He said many West Marlborough residents have eased their property expressly to protect the area's rural character.
Supervisor Jake Chalfin said bluntly that the Development Council's plans would "drive sprawl." He spoke about how the formerly rural northern part of Chester County, where he used to live, is no longer recognizable because of development.
Gary Smith, president and CEO of the Development Council, said he understood the value of agriculture and referred repeatedly to the fact that he grew up on a dairy farm in West Bradford. Bob Grabus, Development Advisor Consultant for the Development Council, spoke passionately about the importance of creating good jobs. He said he is sensitive to concerns about sprawl and said the Council is proposing development only on sites that are zoned for it immediately along Route 1, between the bypass and the East Penn Railroad tracks.
Supervisors from Upper Oxford and East Marlborough Townships were also at the meeting to hear Smith and Grabus's presentation. Charlie Fleischmann, an Upper Oxford supervisor, urged the West Marlborough supervisors to share their concerns with county-level officials.

KENNETT: Friends of the NRA banquet

We had a great time at Saturday night's sold-out Chester County Friends of the NRA banquet at the Red Clay Room in Kennett.
I know nothing about guns. The only shooting I've ever done is with my brother's BB gun, plinking tin cans lined up on a fence. But I have some friends who are avid hunters, target shooters and collectors, and they were certainly in their element, discussing everything gun-related, from Henrys and reticles to the challenges of being a left-handed shooter.
Through these nationwide banquets, the Friends of the NRA raises money for gun safety and shooting programs, and they are extremely skilled at separating people from their money. There are silent auctions, live auctions, and lots of gun raffles (most were $20 a chance), with winners drawn throughout the evening.  (Of course, all the necessary background checks are done before the winner gets to take possession.)
One friend, a big Clint Eastwood fan, was the successful bidder on some "Dirty Harry" memorabilia. Another member of our party had a winning ticket and got his pick of a weapon from the "Wall of Guns" display. When they called out his ticket number, we all shrieked in excitement.
"Wow. I think they're happy," commented the master of ceremonies.
We were outshouted only by the men from Table 16 when they won the "table lottery," which mean they each won a gun.
Oh, there was a hearty dinner, too: salad, roasted potatoes, green beans and carrots, pasta, chicken marsala, meatballs and roast beef. They brought plates of goodies around for dessert. Our table host, from West Grove, was celebrating his birthday, so another guest brought gluten-free chocolate cupcakes that she made with beet and butternut squash puree.
One thing you learn from attending this banquet: don't stereotype gun enthusiasts.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

SNOW: Maybe the last storm of the season

The few inches of snow we had on March 3 into March 4 was what's known as an "onion snow." According to Susan Higgins of the "Farmers' Almanac," the term is of Pennsylvania Dutch origin and "refers to a snowfall that occurs after the spring onions have been planted, and comes right as they are sprouting. Others say that this late spring snow is an indicator for when it’s a good time to start planting onions. Either way, the snowfall is defined as light and melts quickly, and is usually the final snowfall" of the winter.
The term "sapling bender" is another Pennsylvania Dutch term referring to a late-season snow, she notes.

SHREK: A big, bright, beautiful world

"Shrek the Musical" was adorable. I am consistently amazed at the high quality of the shows that Unionville High School puts on. As a former high-school theater person myself, I know full well how many hours went into putting on a show as elaborate as this one, with such a large cast, creative costumes (Lord Farquaad's floppy legs!), and tricky lighting and sound effects. The acting, singing and dancing were wonderful; special kudos to Ethan Pan, whose supremely confident, over-the-top campy performance as the donkey kept us amused throughout.
The swamp backdrops, Shrek's hut and Princess Fiona's tower were beautifully designed, and the on-stage campfire was a great touch. The extended stage allowed the actors to walk (or dance, or sashay) out in front of the orchestra.
I liked the message in the program from the director and conductor, G. Scott Litzenberg: "The social message in this show is very strong in so many ways: not judging people by your first impression of them, not assuming something about a person due to their looks, accepting who each other is, and accepting ourselves for who we are."

CHESHIRE: The new huntsman

Congratulations to Barry Magner, the new huntsman for Mr. Stewart's Cheshire Foxhounds. He will be filling the boots of Ivan Dowling.
Here is the press release that the Hunt released on March 4:
"The Cheshire Foxhounds are pleased to announce the hiring of Barry Magner as their Huntsman beginning with the 2016-2017 hunting season. Magner, a native of County Limerick, Ireland, has lived in the United States for 12 years. He was previously Huntsman for the Middleburg Hunt in Virginia, and the Howard County-Iron Bridge Hounds in Maryland. He has spent the 2015-2016 season whipping in for the Cheshire.
Barry also comes from a true fox hunting family in Ireland. His brother Mervyn whips in for the Beaver Meadow Hounds in Canada, and his brother Brendan is the whipper-in and Chairman of the Stonehall Harriers in Limerick. He also has two first cousins who are huntsmen in Ireland.
Magner takes the place of Ivan Dowling, who has been the Cheshire Huntsman for the past 12 seasons, and who is leaving his position to pursue other interests in the Unionville, PA area.
Sanna Neilson, Joint Master of the Cheshire, said, "We are delighted that Barry has agreed to be our Huntsman for next season. We were very sad that Ivan decided to move on, but we certainly understood, and we feel Barry will make a very good Huntsman for many seasons to come."
Anne Moran, the other Joint Master, said, "The fact that Barry has been able to spend a season whipping in for the Cheshire and working closely with Ivan all season means he not only has gotten a real feel for the Cheshire country, but we have seen him both with hounds and riding cross country, and we have every confidence that he will be an outstanding Huntsman. Sanna and I look forward to introducing Barry to our many landowners in the coming months."
He will officially take over as Huntsman at the end of the current season, which ends March 31, 2016."

Thursday, March 3, 2016

NEW GARDEN: It's only temporary

The Dunkin' Donuts shop on the west side of Kennett was closed on March 1, 2, and 3, but only for renovations. It reopened Friday, March 4, and it's amazing how much work was done during those three days: the interior looks brand-new. Check out the digital menu boards above the donut case!
While it was closed, one store regular wrote to me in near-panic wanting to know what was going on and how she was supposed to function without her morning bagel and iced tea. By the time I stopped in, they had put up a sign informing customers what was going on.


Wednesday, March 2, 2016

WEST MARLBOROUGH: Continuing parking problems at the Whip

At the March 1 meeting of the West Marlborough Township supervisors, three Springdell residents told the board that patrons at the Whip tavern are parking on their properties and littering.
Chester "Chick" Rogers said one bar patron parked on his property and even gave him a hard time when he told him to leave.
Ron Heath, who lives next to the tavern, said patrons moved the rocks he put up on his property to keep people from parking there. He said he has noticed that most of the patrons are not "locals."
Brian Gouge said, "I've never dealt with what I'm dealing with now ... It's really become a hassle."
Bill Wylie, the supervisors' chairman, told the residents that he sympathized with their plight and assured them that "we're working on it."
The parking problem at the Whip has been an ongoing source of conflict in the township. Mr. Wylie said issuing parking tickets doesn't seem to work, as customers consider it to be simply part of the evening's cost.