Monday, May 30, 2016

VICTORY ISLAND: A tree in peril

I notice that a tree has just been planted in "Victory Island," the new brick and concrete divider in the middle of West Cypress Street in front of Victory Brewing. I don't give that poor tree much of a life expectancy. Despite the white road markings, I have a feeling that an inattentive driver is going to plow into it sooner rather than later. The traffic light for Mill Road motorists who are turning onto Cypress is so short that I've seen them zip through that intersection, sometimes making an ill-judged wide turn, just so they don't have to sit through another interminable cycle of the traffic light. I hope I'm wrong.

MEMORIAL DAY: We miss a parade

What a shame that the Kennett Square Memorial Day parade had to be cancelled. I imagine the organizers who had to call it off based on the weather prediction will feel some kinship this winter with school superintendents facing the same decision.
The Memorial Day parade has become such a fixture in our community that it's assumed that not only will you attend, but you have a "spot" where you watch each year (the corner of  East Linden and North Union Streets for us).
We did make it to the Memorial Day ceremony following the West Grove parade on May 28. It was quite moving: Gold Star mother Jill Hardy spoke with pride, love and grief about her son, Marine Corporal Brandon Hardy, who was killed when his vehicle hit an IED in Al Anbar, Iraq, on April 28, 2006. She said that every day is Memorial Day for her and all the parents of solders killed in action.
During her speech, the little boy behind me started to fuss. To distract him, his mother gave him a little green plastic "Army man."

CROPS: Some fast-growing corn

Two farmers were sitting at one of the picnic tables outside Landhope Sunday evening having coffee and a cigarette and discussing, of course, the weather. One of them seemed to be enormously proud of his corn. He said it was growing so rapidly that you could take a photograph of it in the evening, and then again the next morning, and you could actually see how much taller it was.
I would pretty much agree with him vis-à-vis the exuberance of the weeds in my garden.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

BOOKS: The Little Free Library has moved

A few weeks ago a reader expressed her distress that the Little Free Library that English professor Shanyn Fiske started on her front porch in downtown Unionville was no longer in existence. I told her that Shanyn moved into Kennett Square at the end of April, and I wasn't sure what was going to happen with the library.
Shanyn wrote to me and said the library has moved with her and is now open for "business" on her porch at 420 Center Street in Kennett! Just drop off any books you're finished with and take whatever you want.
She also asked me to spread the word that her dream of starting a literary discussion group is becoming a reality, and the first meeting is at her house on Wednesday, June 8. If you email me I'll put you in touch with her for more details.

SALE: A profitable garage sale

The volunteers who ran the London Grove Schoolhouse garage sale that I wrote about in last week's column told me that they made over $1,000 in sales and donations. That's a lot of knickknacks, kitchen gadgets, lawn ornaments and pottery! The funds will go toward replacing the wooden floor of the 19th-century schoolhouse. And apparently they had so much unsold stuff left over that they are thinking about having another sale this summer.

CRUISE: A trip to central Europe

A Unionville friend just returned from one of those Viking River Cruises you've heard about-- she and her husband are celebrating a notable anniversary-- and said they had a wonderful week, full of European history, architecture, culture, languages and art. They visited numerous historic sites in Hungary, Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Germany and said they were extremely well taken care of on board the ship, with fantastic food (wine and beer were included in the fee) and an accommodating staff. She said she loved being able to relax on the deck and just watch the spectacular scenery unfolding before her.
I asked about her fellow passengers on the small ship and she said that they were age fifties and up, from all over the United States, and very well traveled and educated -- not a surprise given that Viking advertises on public broadcasting.

TREES: Paulownia in bloom

One of my favorite signs of spring is the light-purple flowers of the Paulownia trees. These trees are common in our area but are particularly noticeable as you're driving along the Route 1 bypass heading south toward Oxford. Longwood Gardens has a line of Pauwlownias along the path on the way to the Conservatory, near the topiary garden.
The fast-growing tree was named in honor of Anna Paulowna, who was the daughter of Paul I, the czar of Russia, and the queen consort of the Netherlands in the nineteenth century (hence the common name of the princess tree). The wood is used in China, Korea, and Japan to make the soundboards of stringed musical instruments. In Japan, per Wikipedia, "It was once customary to plant a Paulownia tree when a baby girl was born, and then to make it into a dresser as a wedding present when she married."
Also: aren't the rhododendrons spectacular this spring? I'm marveling at their color and size.

CHESHIRE: A challenging contest

The other night at dinner, my brother and I were reminiscing about the competition that the Cheshire Hunt ran several winters ago where each week they would post a photo of a jump somewhere in their foxhunting territory and you had to figure out where it was located. Some were very easy and you recognized it as soon as you saw it. Others, not so much. 
One week there was a particularly vexing photo with no obvious clues. A friend and I had spent an entire afternoon trying unsuccessfully to find it, driving all over Cheshire country around peering at fence lines and even hiking through the icy Laurels. Another friend who says she knows every inch of the hunting territory didn't recognize it.
Fortunately I shared the photo with my brother, who is an experienced pilot, accustomed to navigating from the air.
"We've gotta be able to find this," he said with determination.
With the help of Google Earth, he pored over the terrain maps and used the configuration of the treeline, fields, and road in the photo to pinpoint the exact location of the jump (it was off a remote road in Highland Township). Even though it was well after dark, I immediately drove out to and verified it.
Next time I see the woman responsible for the contest, I'm going to ask her if she'd consider doing it again. It was a great challenge! 

TURTLE: Helping a fellow critter

A huge thank you to the guy from Meadow Springs Farm who "escorted" a snapping turtle across the road the evening of Tuesday, May 24. I was driving on Route 926, my way to the Kennett Y, when I saw the snapper in the middle of the road, near the main entrance to New Bolton Center. I stopped my car and got out but, other than staying away from the creature's business end, I was at a loss as to what to do.
Fortunately a Meadow Springs truck also stopped right behind me. The driver got out, calmly picked up the foot-and-a-half-long turtle by the tail, carried him well off the road, and set him down by the white fence.
"Here you go, buddy," he said.

CONCERTS: The summer park line-up

Once again, Anson B. Nixon Park will be hosting free Wednesday night concerts this summer. These concerts are a wonderful community event (we attend every one) and always attract a large and friendly audience, with plenty of families, kids, and dogs. You can bring your own dinner or buy it there. The music starts at 7 p.m. and ends at 9 p.m.
Here's this summer's line-up:
June 22: Ken and Brad Kolodner: progressive Appalachian music
June 29: Michael "Kid" Davis and The Bullets: rockabilly, early rock and roll, R&B
July 6: Crossroads, a "collaboration of singers/musicians who have come together primarily because of The Flash": Dennis Melton and his son Michael Melton, Billy Burger, Tommy Geddes and Bob Beach.
July 13: Jane Lee Hooker: an all-female R&B band from New York City.
July 20: Mercury Radio Theater: a nine-piece band performing Gypsy punk, klezmer and Balkan music.
July 27: Angelee, a folk/pop performer who is also a Philadelphia veterinarian.
August 3: West Philadelphia Orchestra: Balkan brass, European folk music, and jazz
August 10: Shytown: A Wilmington-based pop rock band comprising Jimmy McFadden, Kevin Walsh, Tony Cappella, Ritchie Rubini and Jack Taylor.

SCOUTS: Interested in becoming a Girl Scout?

The Girl Scouts are hosting an information session for parents and girls on Wednesday, June 8, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Unionville Elementary School cafeteria. The June 8 program is for girls who will be in kindergarten, pre-first grade, or first grade in the Unionville-Chadds Ford and Kennett school districts. While the girls try out some Scout activities, the parents will learn about Scouting programs. RSVP to Elise Anderson at For general information about Scouting programs, visit the Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania at or email Ghisele Curcio at

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

GARDENS: A spring ritual

This morning a few of us were waiting for a meeting to start and chatting about how our gardens were faring during this very strange spring. I mentioned that the previous afternoon I had spent maybe 20 minutes (until my back started protesting) "tying down" daffodil leaves to make room for the annuals.
Talk about a universal topic! People chimed in about their own methods for taming the unruly daffodil foliage, either looping them with rubber bands, braiding them or twisting them. Others -- those with more real estate to play with -- simply weed-whack around them let them die back of their own volition.
Honestly, the interesting discussion could have gone on for ages, if we hadn't been called to order by our taskmaster/chairwoman.

Monday, May 23, 2016

DINNER: Thai food in West Chester

We had a terrific dinner on Saturday night at the Baan Thai restaurant in West Chester. The food is delicious (we had spring rolls as appetizers and cashew chicken and seafood pad thai for entrees), and the presentation is fabulous, with lovely garnishes like purple orchids and carrot flowers (how do they make them?) on the plates and even napkins rolled into rosettes. We have timid palates, so we avoided the asterisked items on the menu and the spice level was fine. It's an attractive restaurant, with black-and-gold brocade tablecloths, comfortable high-backed booths and an amusing mural showing kids playing with elephants. Our waitress was charming.
Baan Thai is at 704 West Nields Street, in a small shopping center just off South Bradford Avenue, on the western border of West Chester borough (many years ago there was a dairy on the site). It's a BYO. We didn't have a reservation but were seated immediately.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

LAURELS: A picnic breakfast

This morning was the annual Buck & Doe Trust breakfast in the Laurels, where we feasted on pancakes, strawberries, apple-cider donuts, and sausages at the Mary Ann Pyle covered bridge. As we arrived at the Fairview Road entrance, some Brandywine Conservancy folks gave us the option of parking there and taking a shuttle down to the site, or braving the muddy pathway. We put the Jeep in four wheel drive and had no problem.
We saw lots of friends and neighbors (along with kids and dogs) and, as always, enjoyed walking through the spectacular scenery of the Laurels.
The speakers (Amy McKenna, Morris Stroud, and Virginia Logan) paid fond tribute to George "Frolic" Weymouth and invited us to help celebrate the Trust's 30th birthday with cake.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

TAX MAN: Cross the border

Today I received an alarming-looking official letter from Harrisburg saying that I might be on the hook for something called a "use tax." I read the letter carefully, checked the Department of Revenue's website and concluded that I do not, in fact, owe the state any tax.
In the FAQs was an example I suspect was NOT written at random:
"Let's say for example you are an executor/fiduciary for an estate, and as the fiduciary, you are responsible for maintaining the properties of the estate. One of the properties maintained by the estate is an apartment building in Chester County that needs new refrigerators in several units. You purchase and pick up the refrigerators from an appliance store in Delaware, then install them in the Chester County apartments. As the fiduciary of the estate, you are responsible for reporting and paying, on behalf of the estate, use tax on the purchase price of the refrigerators."
Imagine, someone making a major purchase in, say, oh, Delaware and using it in neighboring Chester County. I'm shocked, shocked!

POCOPSON: Visit to an old schoolhouse

On Saturday I enjoyed visiting the Locust Grove Schoolhouse in Pocopson Township, which was open for a fundraising rummage sale. The inside of the schoolhouse (located at Locust Grove and Corrine Roads) had gotten a fresh coat of white paint only a few days earlier, and the next project is to replace the wooden floor.
Pieces from the original chalkboard hang as they did in the front of the room, and the original windows let in a lot of light. Above the blackboard you can see the hole for the pot-bellied stove's vent pipe.
The schoolhouse operated from 1869 to 1932; an extension to house a boy's cloakroom and a girl's cloakroom was added in the 1890s. After the schools were consolidated, the building served as a funeral home and a residence.
The Pocopson Township Historical Committee has a fascinating website about the history of the school and the restoration project ( They've even developed lesson plans so that today's schoolchildren can learn what it was like going to school 150 years ago.

MUDDER: An extreme obstacle course

Plantation Field was quite a scene this weekend as it played host to "Tough Mudder," a grueling and aptly named obstacle course that drew hundreds of hardy athletes.
I drove by twice on Saturday and saw packs of filthy-dirty competitors tackling several of the obstacles, included clambering over mounds of piled-up round hay bales, scaling a sheer vertical climbing wall, plunging into icy water, and climbing up what looked like a steep water slide. Between obstacles they jogged with their team-mates along the mowed paths. In one part of the course right along Route 82 they were instructed to "carry a fellow mudder," which many did, switching places halfway through. A lot of the men were bare-chested despite the 58-degree temperature.
"When was the last time you earned your beer?" asked one sign posted along the course.
Strangely, the athletes seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely; even more strangely, I have to admit that some of the obstacles looked like a lot of fun, were it warmer, sunny and not drizzling.
School buses were shuttling the athletes back and forth from the main parking area at the Willowdale crossroads, and police officers were stationed at Green Valley Road and Apple Grove Road for traffic control. Tapeworm Road was closed because to get to the western part of the course, the competitors had to cross it.

DOWNTOWN: Not as fast as you'd think

East Marlborough Police Chief Robert Clarke told me, much to my surprise, that motorists aren't actually going as fast as you'd think along Route 82 through Unionville. I saw him Saturday at the Tough Mudder competition at Plantation Field (I hasten to add that he was there in an official capacity, not as a participant) and he said that based on his data, the average speed through town is 43 m.p.h. (the limit is 30 m.p.h.). He does concede, though, that there are some much faster outliers.

DONATIONS: For the birds

My friend Charles Shattuck, owner of the Wild Birds Unlimited store in Hockessin, wrote to me about the generosity of his customers:
"Just when you think the world is gone to that hot place below ground, people demonstrate that kindness still exists. Our donation drive for local wildlife rehabilitator Hillary Taylor and Tri-State Bird Rescue yield phenomena results. I filled my van with materials they need to help baby birds and baby critters.  
"A customer came in on Saturday with a large donation basket from the children at Mary D. Lang Kindergarten Center in Kennett Square. The teacher, Mrs. Ramagnano, asked the kids to collect basic items like paper towels and rubber gloves. She believes one boy might have borrowed the toilet paper from his home bathroom as it was unwrapped. If true, I can only imagine the parents questioning the future president of our country about where the toilet paper went. Hopefully his response would be 'Mother, I cannot tell a lie. I gave it to help the baby birds.' " 


LIBRARY: It's officially "the Kennett Library"

So there you have it. The library board met on May 17 and officially renamed the library the Kennett Library, removing Bayard Taylor's name while recognizing his importance to the public and promising to bring his legacy back to its rightful place.
As I've said many times before, I don't like the name change and I don't think it was necessary. I wasn't convinced by the arguments from the library's $225-an-hour consultant, Carl Francis, about the importance of "branding," and I'm not sure this is an effective way to move beyond the prior library board's glaring, controversial missteps (they, too, wanted to change the name, without any due diligence).
But, and this is a big "but," what's different now is that this current board comprises driven, dedicated, good people with deep ties to the community who are absolutely convinced that they can get a new library built for the Kennett area where so many have failed. I give them a huge amount of credit for that, and I suppose I reluctantly have to accede to their belief that changing the name is the right thing to do.
The board claims that an overwhelming majority of the people who attended the consultant's presentation think they're on the right track. They certainly made some enthusiastic converts among the public, including Lynn Sinclair, who last year started a petition against dropping "Bayard Taylor" from the name but is now sold on the idea. Mostly what I'm hearing, though, is that the people who didn't like the proposed new name still don't like it, and the ones who don't care still don't care.
And realistically, I think people will keep calling the library what they've always called it, either the Bayard Taylor library or the Kennett library.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

WILLOWDALE: And it's off to the races again

There weren't many sundresses in evidence at the Willowdale Steeplechase on Sunday. This year "Steeplechase Style" seemed to consist of a whimsical spring hat paired with a heavy plaid blanket. I donned jeans and boots and a Scottish hat better suited to the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup, and when the brisk wind died down and the sun came out it was actually very pleasant.
We saw lots of friends, caught up on township news and medical news (huge congrats to a certain Unionville fellow who is new ex-smoker!), inspected the new BMW sports car on display, said hi to a lot of dogs, and cooed over a couple of well-wrapped-up newborns. Thank you to all the people who fed me from their tailgate parties: the filet of beef, the chicken, the orzo salad, the home-grown asparagus, and the mini-crabcakes were delicious!
At one point in the afternoon I was walking over to visit some friends on "Member's Hill" and a woman asked me if I was betting on the races.
"No," I said, a little baffled. "Why?"
She said she'd noticed I was studying the program intently. I explained to her that the program lists where everybody's parking space is, so you can stop by and say hello. She was astonished, as if a whole new world of socializing had opened up to her.
Also amazed were some kids standing in line for the Port-a-Potties with their father. They asked the quite reasonable question of how they should flush.
"You don't," said the father matter-of-factly, offering a technical explanation of how portable toilets operate.
The "stick pony" races for kids were a big hit. We spotted one adorable boy giving his stick horse a drink from the little creek that crosses the grounds. Other kids were tossing footballs and bean bags around, practicing lacrosse or just running around with seemingly boundless energy.
Although eating, drinking and socializing are the key components of the day for many spectators, the horse races are always exciting to watch. There were a couple of notable mishaps this year, though. Near the end of the first race a loose horse jumped the fence separating the course from the spectators and ran wildly into the crowd. Fortunately, and almost unbelievably, no one was hurt and no vehicles were damaged.
And the fifth race ended with a nasty crash involving two horses. One jockey was pinned for a moment under his horse until a few people managed to roll the horse over. Kudos to photographer Jim Graham, who was shooting at the final jump, for running over and assisting. The horse ambulance people immediately put up a privacy screen, which made us think the worst, but after a few minutes the racecourse announcer shared the welcome news that both horses were up.

SUET: Are raccoons the culprits?

In recent weeks I've lost three suet holders. Not just the suet cakes, mind you, but the entire feeder. I bought yet another feeder but this time securely affixed to the tree with some serious hardware. I'm resolving to purchase and install a critter-cam so I can see exactly what the hungry nocturnal creatures are doing in my backyard. I suspect raccoons. Even though the suet is supposed to be for the birds, I can't help admiring the persistence and ingenuity of the feeder-thieves.

FOOD: Creature comforts, carbs and calories

On Saturday afternoon we attended an ice-cream social (has any better form of get-together ever been devised?). We left on the early side, but not before taking full advantage of the jimmies, chocolate sauce, marshmallows and M&Ms. I explained to our friends that if we stayed, we'd just keep devouring more ice-cream sundaes, and it had already not been the most nutritionally sound day, as we'd attended a church pancake breakfast.
"A pancake breakfast and then ice cream?!" exclaimed one guy. "Oh! What a perfect day!"
I really couldn't argue.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

BRIDGE: Sweet Creek bridge is closed

I simply had to investigate when I read a PennDOT press release saying that the Green Valley Road bridge over "the west branch of the Brandywine Creek" had been shut down due to structural damage.
Mostly because to my knowledge, Green Valley Road doesn't actually cross the Brandywine.
Well, it doesn't. We drove up there on Saturday afternoon and found that the bridge in question crosses a tiny tributary called Sweet Creek. The bridge is so small that it couldn't accommodate any kind of an antisocial troll underneath; in fact, a Newlin Township groundhog would be a tight fit.
PennDOT has installed "Road Closed" signs at the bridge, but they were pushed out of the way when we drove through. The official detour takes you along Powell Road and Brandywine Creek Road.
PennDOT says the steel beams under the bridge have deteriorated, and it will remain closed until they can decide what to do with it.

Friday, May 13, 2016

BAPTISTS: Chapel Road church dissolved

At the May West Marlborough Township meeting, I learned that the Chapel Road Baptist Church has been recently dissolved, due to dwindling attendance, and sold. A few "old-timers" filled me in on an earlier chapter in the church building's history.
Around 1980, when it was known as the "Doe Run Chapel" and owned by the King Ranch, a small group began to hold Sunday services there. A rift occurred shortly thereafter, though, when the worshippers wanted to install indoor bathrooms but the owners wanted to maintain the building's historical authenticity (it dates from 1843).
In January 1982 the worshippers ended up moving to an old elementary school building (with indoor plumbing) in Marshallton.

Doe Run Chapel

ART: Local artists open their studios

This year's Chester County Studio Tours, where local artists host open houses, will be from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, May 21, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, May 22. We visited several of the studios on last year's tour and enjoyed it very much.
The website gives you a complete listing and maps so you can pick out the artists you want to visit. In the center of Unionville, Doug Mooberry, Pat Mooberry and J. Clayton Bright will be displaying their woodwork, pottery and sculpture (respectively) at Kinloch Woodworking. Also on the tour in our area:
1. Ree Gallagher and Lore Evans on Pond View in Chadds Ford (just off Kennett Pike)
2. Stan Smokler, 270 Marshall Bridge Road, Kennett Square
3. Annie Strack, 105 Kabob Lane, Kennett Square
4. In downtown Kennett: Robert Jackson, 208 E. State St.; Peter Willard, 105 S. Broad St.; Mala Galleria, 206 E. State St.
5. Karen D'Alliard, 101 E. Street Rd. in Willowdale (above the Landhope)
6. Thomas Von Koch, 1255 Newark Rd., Toughkenamon
7. John Baker, 119 W. Evergreen St., West Grove
8. Mitch Lyons, 209 Newark Rd., New London
9. Street Road Gallery, 725 Street Road, Cochranville

BIRTHDAY: Kennett Symphony hits a milestone

Edythe Joines asked me to spread the word that the Kennett Symphony is celebrating its 75th birthday with a gala at the Stone Barn on Route 842 on Saturday, June 11: cocktails and hors d'oeuvres at 6:30, buffet dinner at 7:30, dancing to follow with music by the Gin Canaries. Tickets are $100 and the suggested dress is "casual chic." You can buy tickets online (go to the "Buy Tickets" link on the Symphony's website) or by calling the Symphony office (610-444-6363).

LIBRARY: The front-porch library is no more

"Faithful Reader Barbara" wrote to me in distress after discovering that Unionville's "Little Free Library" on Route 82 is no longer in existence. I told her that alas, Shanyn Fiske, the library's founder, moved into Kennett at the end of April. Barbara writes:
"I have been using the front porch library since your inclusion of the info in your 'news.'  I was just there 2 weeks ago to swap books and happened to drive by on Sunday, May 8. The front porch is completely cleared of cabinets and chairs. What has happened?  I have 10 books to return. Can you explore this? Is she gone or can I leave the books on the porch? It was so enjoyable to explore authors and books I normally would not have read.  Sorry to see it gone."
Perhaps Shanyn, who is an English professor, might start a library at her new house?

LONGWOOD: Speaking of the fountains project

If you're like me, you've been watching with interest the massive construction project that's going on at Longwood Gardens to revitalize the iconic fountains.
Colvin Randall, the P.S. DuPont Fellow at Longwood, is going to be giving a public lecture about the project at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 1, at the Episcopal Church of the Advent in Kennett. The Four Seasons Garden Club of Kennett Square is hosting the program, and there's no admission charge.


RIP: A longtime Longwood Fire Co. supporter

Longtime Longwood Fire Co. supporter Elsie Johnson died on April 28 at age 84, and a friend who attended her funeral in Wilmington on May 5 said the hearse was escorted by three fire trucks, along with many Kennett-area firefighters.
As her obituary said, "Elsie, along with her late husband, Joe, were instrumental at the Longwood Fire Company." Joe served as chief for decades and Elsie provided tireless support "to so many members, their families, events and most of all to the community which they served." The members of Station 25 posted a sign outside the firehouse expressing how much they will miss her.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

SPEEDING: Slow down through Unionville

Harry Wackerman, the jovial host at Hood's BBQ, came up to our table at lunch the other day and turned very serious for a moment. He asked me to beg motorists to slow down while driving on Route 82 through Unionville, especially now that baseball season has started and kids are crossing the road from the URA ball fields to get to the restaurant.
Harry estimated that some people speed through town at 60 mph (the speed limit is 30 mph), and he's already seen some near-misses this spring. He really doesn't want a front-row seat to a horrible tragedy.

PLANT SALE: Rain doesn't deter gardeners

It takes more than rain to keep people away from the annual London Grove Meeting plant sale.
Margaret Walton told me that she started out with 209 hanging baskets on display, neatly arranged on pipes hung from the porch roof. By mid-morning, there were just a few dozen left.
Margaret told us that the serious gardeners show up at 6:30 a.m., make their selections and then are standing in line waiting to check out at the official opening time of 7 a.m.
We were definitely not in that first wave, arriving at about 9 a.m. After making our first round of the perennials, annuals, vegetables, shrubs, herbs and geraniums, we went inside the meetinghouse and had coffee and breakfast sandwiches. At a neighboring table, Dale Hendricks kept us entertained with his awful jokes. A sample:
Dale: "What's a pirate's favorite letter?"
Tilda: "Arrrr!"
Dale: "That's what many people say, but they forget that a pirate's first love is always the 'C.'"
We noticed that the London Grove Kindergarten parents are getting very creative in their fundraising and had a baked goods table, raffle baskets and several mini-shops set up.
As always, the plants are only part of the attraction: the plant sale is also a big social event. We got to see lots of friends either working at the sale or buying plants. I felt sorry for Mark and Anna Myers, whose field, already soggy from the rain, was getting pretty torn up by all the cars driving across it. (Anna didn't seem too concerned, saying that the field would be fine.)
I'm told that later in the day, when the sun peeked out from behind the clouds, a cheer went up.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

THE WHIP: Will no-parking signs do any good?

"We get it," said West Marlborough Township supervisor Bill Wylie simply, responding to residents' continued complaints about parking problems at the Whip Tavern.
The small parking lots at the popular Springdell tavern fill up quickly and patrons park anywhere they can, including in neighbors' yards and along the roadside, despite no-parking signs. Residents have brought the inadequate parking issue to the supervisors' attention for years.
At their May meeting the supervisors said they are considering amending the township ordinance to extend the "no parking" zone to the south side of Route 841 between Springdell and Thouron Road. Patrons have always parked along the shoulder of that road, but now that the landowner has put up a low fence along the shoulder to deter parking, the parked cars stick out way into the road. Mr. Wylie said that if the township puts up signs there and patrons ignore them signs the way they do the ones on Springdell Road, the township might "have greater standing" in the ongoing situation.
At the May meeting the residents also noted that delivery trucks are blocking the road while unloading supplies at the Whip and are creating a traffic hazard.
A public hearing would have to be held on any amendment to the township ordinance before it could be enacted.

NOMADIC PIES: Serving up pie love

You've probably seen the white-and-blue Nomadic Pies food truck parked at the Kennett Farmer's Market on Fridays, but the owner, Molly Johnston, has also put down roots in her shop at 132 West State Street in downtown Kennett.
She offers fresh, home-made sweet pies, savory pot pies, and quiches, and you can eat your pie at a table there or take it home "for later." We recently took home two of her five-inch meat pies (a chicken pot pie and a Thai curry pie) and reheated them for dinner. They were chock-full of meat and vegetables, and the crust was delicious.
The shop is closed Monday and Tuesday but open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday.

SKY TOUR: Things are looking up

As I write this, it's been rainy and overcast for days with no signs of letting up, but the Chester County Astronomical Society will nonetheless be hosting its annual Sky Tour at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, May 14, at the Anson Nixon Park's Tino Leto Athletic Fields on North Walnut Street. Kids and grownups are welcome. "Several telescopes will be set up for viewing and celestial wonders will be pointed out using a green laser light," reads the press release. Sky tourists are asked to bring a small flashlight to minimize light pollution.

FREEDOM: Underground Railroad bus tour

I saw Susanna Davison selling geraniums at the London Grove Meeting Plant Sale this morning and she asked me to mention that the Kennett Underground Railroad Center's first guided bus tour of the season will take place from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 15 (she is one of the tour guides).  Tourgoers will get to learn about the homes of several abolitionists; will visit a fascinating neighborhood in Kennett Square that was integrated in the nineteenth century; will tour an 1801 Quaker Meetinghouse; and will visit the new Kennett Underground Railroad Center, located in the original home of abolitionists Eusebius and Sarah Barnard.
For more information about the bus tour, see the Center's website at The tour will also be held on June 26, July 17, August 21, and September 18.
The Center is also participating in a May 21 symposium at Lincoln University about African-American communities in Chester County and surrounding areas in the 19th century, such as "the African American communities of Hinsonville (now Lincoln University), the Christiana area, Timbuckto, and others." The conference will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the University's Mary Dod Brown Memorial Chapel.


BYRSA: Moved to Delaware County

The evening of May 6, Byrsa Bistro posted a Facebook announcement that took me by surprise: they have closed their Mediterranean restaurant in downtown Kennett Square and moved to 128 Glen Mills Road in Glen Mills. "I want to thank everyone who has enjoyed the dining experience at Byrsa Bistro," said the owner. I'm not sure what will be taking over the 102 East State Street space. 

Friday, May 6, 2016

OVERHEARD: Inquiring minds...

This evening at the grocery store I overheard one employee say to another: "You're literally gonna cost our company ten grand!"
"No, I won't," the other worker replied dismissively.
Had I not been in a rush to get home, I would have loitered, rearranging my shopping bags or checking my phone or something, to hear more of that exchange. What on earth could they have been discussing?

Thursday, May 5, 2016

LOCUST GROVE: Garage sale in the schoolhouse

Randy Mims wrote to tell me that the Pocopson Township Historic Committee is holding a garage sale from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 21, at the Locust Grove Schoolhouse to raise funds to restore the c. 1870 one-room schoolhouse.
Randy says that since the township bought the schoolhouse in 2003 with state grant money, "much progress has been made - a new heating and cooling system, ceiling constructed, walls repaired and replastered, and a chalk board installed. The next project is replacing the floor, which will cost approximately $10,000. Once finished, the first phase of the project will be completed and the schoolhouse can be used by area elementary classes to learn about the rich history of our unique area through experiencing a day in the life of a student in the late 1800s."
The garage sale will be held at the schoolhouse at Corinne and Locust Grove Roads (525 Locust Grove Road). On sale will be furniture, housewares, vinyl records, tools, sporting goods, toys, books, and collectibles. 
I will be stopping by for sure!

The Locust Grove Schoolhouse.



TRACK: A cool running

In the past few weeks I've been spending a fair amount of time driving to the Young Relative's "away" track meets at middle schools all the way from Oxford to Downingtown.
The meets start just as school is letting out in the afternoon, so it's a hectic time to be navigating an unfamiliar school campus: there's a long line of buses loading up kids, teachers are heading home, all the nearby streets have flashing speed limit signs, and crossing guards are periodically stopping traffic to let kids cross. Some of these mega-campuses house multiple schools and acres of athletic fields, so you have to drive around and around the often-one-way internal roads looking for the correct field. Sometimes there are signs.
So what a pleasant surprise it was to pull into Peirce Middle School in Exton on Tuesday (it's part of the West Chester Area School District) and find three pleasant gentlemen greeting visitors!
"Baseball or track?" one asked, and when I said "track" they pointed me in the right direction for both parking and the field.
I was amazed.
Early in the season we spectators enjoyed a couple of warm afternoons, but the past few weeks have been wretchedly cold and damp (yes, I know, apparently runners like chilly weather. So what?). One well-prepared mother told me she keeps in her car jackets of three weights, rain boots, gloves and a fleece wrap.

AFTER PROM: Come help or visit

My friend Kelli Siehl is putting out the call for volunteers to help with setup and decorating for the annual Unionville High School After Prom. She says helpers are needed on Friday, May 13, from 6 to 10 p.m., or Saturday, May 14, from 8 a.m. to noon. The walk-through for the public will be on Saturday, May 14, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., and the After Prom itself takes place from 11 p.m. until 5 a.m. Sunday. At which point I suspect there will be some bleary parents and still-energetic kids heading home.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

ART SHOW: Emerging artists on display

On Saturday afternoon we stopped by the Kennett Beautification Plant Sale in the Genesis Walkway and then wandered over to "Art in the Square" on a closed-off block of Broad Street. Kathleen Caccamo asked us whether we'd seen the children's art show and pointed us in the right direction (it was inside the American Legion hall). We're glad she did, because it was wonderful.
Unionville High School students taking a 3-D design class created an oversized grapefruit half (Lauren Hughes was the artist) and a donut with pink icing and jimmies (Madison Adams) big enough to have satisfied Homer Simpson for an entire work shift.
"Grapefruit" by Lauren Hughes.

"Donut" by Madison Adams.

Unionville Elementary School pupils created wonderfully cheerful self-portrait sculptures; Kennett Middle School kids did the same with ceramics.

Art by Unionville Elementary pupils.

Ceramic self-portraits by Kennett Middle School students.
And in one piece that I loved, UHS artist Elle White painted a dapper, sleek rodent sporting a snazzy hat and jacket. 
Dapper rodent by Elle White.

RADNOR HUNT: Planned Parenthood banquet

On Friday night I headed back to Willistown Township, where I grew up, to attend the Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania spring event at Radnor Hunt.
First was the cocktail hour, where everyone scanned the crowd for friends, chatted, ate chicken on skewers and vegetable dumplings and perused the dozens of silent auction items set out on tables. The silent auction was conducted online: you sent your bid via text message and were alerted when you were outbid. I heard some people grumbling that this was less personal than the old-fashioned clipboard method and led to people staring at their phone screens all night instead of mingling. I liked the system, though. And I found out that the man sitting next to me at dinner was the one who kept outbidding me on the Kinloch Woodworking mirror! (We were both outbid on it by an unknown third party; I was also outbid for a set of antique brass candlesticks and a family photo session.)
Then everyone lined up at the buffet table for dinner. I had salad, tomatoes and mozzarella, tortellini with a creamy pesto sauce, salmon, roasted vegetables, and bruschetta. For dessert there was a giant 100th-birthday cake with the Planned Parenthood logo on the top in blue.
After dinner Dayle Steinberg, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southeastern PA, gave a rousing speech and Josh Katz of the Katz Foundation conducted the live auction of more high-ticket items. He was hilarious and quick-witted, bantering with the audience about, say, the true worth of some tickets to Philadelphia sporting events.
My host for the evening was Bob Burleigh, who was there with his wife Carol, his daughter Barb, her partner Amy, and their daughters. Bob described what it's like escorting patients past the confrontational protestors at the Planned Parenthood clinic in West Chester. He had high praise for a group of Unionville High School students who show up regularly to support the patients and marveled at the students' poise and calm demeanour in the tense, emotional atmosphere.
Our area was well represented at the event. I was happy to see my friends Art and Suzanne Schless and Eva Verplanck, all three longtime Planned Parenthood supporters. Sculptor Clayton Bright donated a tour of his West Marlborough home and studio as a silent auction item and it sold for $400 (he told me the real attraction was the lunch that his wife, Starr, was going to prepare for the guests!). Among the politicians present were retiring state representative Chris Ross, state senator Andy Dinniman, and West Chester mayor Carolyn Comitta (who is running for a seat in the General Assembly in Harrisburg to represent the 156th district).