Sunday, September 25, 2016

UNIONVILLE: Horses, hounds and hospitality

What a beautiful fall day it was for the annual Cheshire Hunt Conservancy open house on Sunday. New huntsman Barry Magner and first whip Mary Taylor Miller took us on a tour of the kennels. We especially enjoyed seeing the puppies and were impressed by how the hounds quieted down as  soon as Barry approached them (although Edna required a bit of extra encouragement!). Barn manager Kelley Merette and one of the Hunt Masters, Sanna Neilson, showed us around the spotless stables, where the staff horses live. Both of them expertly fielded questions from the guests.
After the tours we enjoyed a terrific meal of pork and lamb, macaroni and cheese, and coleslaw (we found the other Hunt Master, Anne Moran, busy dishing out the roasted pork). For dessert, the folks in the pink Punk'd Pineapple mobile ice-cream truck dished up flavors like coffee fudge almond and fudge brownie.
We saw lots of friends and neighbors and were amused by the name tags: guests were classified based what day the hunt visits their territory. We were "Saturday Country" and "Friend of Saturday Country."
As we walked to our car at the end of the event, we saw a circle of youngsters playing a game of catch in the field in front of the Kennels. The sun was sinking, and they were all glowing in the backlight: a lovely, happy end-of-summer sight.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

WATER GARDEN: A deep topic

On Friday evening Gardener Tim gave a wonderful lecture in the water lily garden at Longwood. Literally "in": he wore waders and gave his talk while standing in the central 30-inch-deep pool, using one of those huge lily pads as his lectern.
He said one commonly asked question is why the water is so dark. The answer: the gardeners use a black dye, for three reasons: to deter algae from growing, to provide a better backdrop for photographs and to highlight the flowers, and to hide the mechanicals in the concrete-bottomed pond, like lights, cables, pots and cinder blocks.

Gardener Tim shows how water runs right off a lotus leaf.
         He demonstrated how water runs off the lotus leaf and said scientists and engineers have been trying to duplicate its moisture-repellant properties in, say, the lining of ketchup bottles.

He showed us how to make paper from the stem of the papyrus leaf and taught us a mnemonic for recognizing sedges: "Sedges have edges" (they're triangular).

He spent a lot of time talking about the Longwood Hybrid Water Platter. These famed "platters" can hold 100 pounds, but only if the weight is carefully distributed. Jump on one, and you'll go right through. The platters are studded with thorns to help them compete for limited space: if any other plant that gets in the way, "they just shred 'em up," he said.
The platters expand by six to eight inches a day, but it's not by actually by producing new cells; rather, they unroll and stretch.
Tim was a good speaker and enthralled the audience, which grew as the evening wore on and visitors arrived to see Nightscapes.
As I was walking out of the Conservatory, I saw a man poring over the Gardens map. "Hope we don't get lost," he said to his friends, sounding worried. It was a good reminder of how lucky we locals are to have Longwood so close: I've been going there as long as I can remember and I don't think I would be lost in any part of it.
Gardener Tim shows us what a fresh water chestnut looks like.

HILLENDALE: Our litigious society

I'm joining the chorus of community outrage in the wake of a parent's civil suit accusing Hillendale Elementary School principal Steve Dissinger of, essentially, rigging a PTO election.
Where do I even start?
First of all, I have a hard time believing that "Mr. D" would take part in any hanky-panky like this. The Young Relative attended Hillendale for six years. Every time we saw Mr. D at holiday concerts, the Halloween parade, back-to-school night, the Wax Museum, the Veterans' Day ceremony, the Milking Contest, and innumerable other school and district events, my entire family was impressed with his enthusiasm, energy, competence, and kindness, and his affection for and rapport with every single kid. "We didn't have principals like that in my day!" my father would say in amazement. The personal stress this must be causing him is discouraging to think about.
Second, I'm baffled as to why the mother of Hillendale pupils would file a lawsuit over a petty issue like a PTO election. She is an attorney, and members of the Bar usually have a pretty shrewd understanding of human nature. She must have known the fallout this would create for herself and, more importantly, for her children. As one parent said to me, "No parent will want to have them over if their mom is a sue-happy attorney."
Third, the lawsuit is going to have a chilling effect on the number of people willing to volunteer (already a dwindling number in every organization). Who is going to risk getting sued over some trivial disagreement?
Fourth, the PTO now has a line item for legal expenses in its budget. Hard-earned money that should be going toward kids' programs, not to mention taxpayers' dollars, is going instead to pay for lawyers to defend against the suit.
The one bright spot here is the fact that dozens of parents and community members have come out to show their appreciation for Mr. D and Hillendale; as one parent said to me, "she is actually pulling people together in their support of HES!"
We try to teach our kids that sometimes you have to stand up for what's right, even if it's unpopular and you get grief for it. This, however, is not one of those causes. Let's hope the woman sees sense and drops her lawsuit.

EAST MARLBOROUGH: Proposed stoplight on Rt. 82 at the bypass

A Chadds Ford reader wrote to ask whether I knew what was going on with the proposed stoplight at the intersection of the southbound Rt. 1 bypass exit ramp and Rt. 82, which he characterized (correctly) as "a traffic control move that's long overdue." (There is already a traffic light at the northbound exit ramp onto Rt. 82.)
To answer his question, I went right to the source: East Marlborough Chief Robert "Clarkie" Clarke. He immediately checked with the township staff for me and learned that the results of a traffic study are expected shortly, and then the township will start the process of getting PennDOT approval for the traffic light.

CLEANING: A wonderful new vacuum

At Lowe's in Avondale the other day I saw a display for a cordless vacuum cleaner (the Bissell Bolt Pet 2-in-1 Lightweight Cordless Vacuum) and I simply had to have it. (My Lowe's shopping buddy was all the way to the plumbing department before he noticed that I was standing there staring.) 
For under $100, it's a wonderful product that has improved my life. I've always disliked vacuuming, but this gadget almost makes it fun. It's so light that you can just pick it up and take it to wherever you need it without worrying about unwinding the cord, plugging it into an outlet awkwardly located behind some furniture, and then worrying that the cord will knock something over.
It's small and maneuverable enough that it fits into corners and under furniture. You don't have to buy replacement bags because it has a clear cup that you empty and a filter you can wash. There's a built-in mini-vac you can detach for doing steps and windowsills (I just used it to clean crumbs off my desk).
Best of all, it's marvelously efficient: it picks up your detritus with only one pass rather than going back and forth repeatedly.
The only possible downside is that the charge is good for maybe 20 minutes of vacuuming, but frankly that's about my limit when it comes to housecleaning, anyway.
I was happy to clear out my utility closet and give away to charity my two old, noisy, cumbersome vacuums and all their accompanying bags and attachments.

UNIONVILLE: Looking for lunch

"You have to write about this!" urged a friend of mine, thoughtfully suggesting that I entitle the item "Sunk."
He was talking about the dire situation that neither one of his favorite places to eat in Unionville -- Hood's or Foxy Loxy -- is open on Mondays.
I too have bemoaned that fact, especially when Monday is the only day that I can get together with someone for lunch. It would be great if the two establishments could stagger their days off, although I'm sure given the many pressures of running a restaurant, they have perfectly good reasons.

OXFORD: Hearne Hardwood open house

Woodworkers might be interested in stopping by the annual open house at Hearne Hardwoods, Oxford, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 30, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1. It's free and rain-or-shine.
Brian Hearne will give a tour of the facility at 11 a.m. Friday and 12:30 p.m. Saturday. Rick Hearne will present a slide show on "cutting koa" at 12:30 p.m. Friday and 3 p.m. Saturday. 
At 2 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday you can watch the 67-inch sawmill in operation.
Throughout the two days there will be musicians, tool manufacturers, and representatives from the Wharton Esherick Museum, Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Habitat for Humanity and various woodworking groups ("our all-star wood roster," according to the website).
Hearne Hardwoods is located at 200 Whiteside Drive; if you take the Route 10 exit from the Route 1 bypass and go north on Route 10, Whiteside Drive will be on your right.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

EAST MARLBOROUGH: A celebrity chef

I've heard some grumbling about the new Italian restaurant that wants to move into the former Bite of Italy restaurant in the Shoppes at Longwood Village -- the thought is that there are already plenty of Italian places around -- but what hasn't gotten any press is the fact that the owner and executive chef would be none other than husband-and-wife Bryan and Andrea Sikora, who run two Mexican restaurants in Wilmington (Cocina Lolo, 405 N. King St., and La Fia Bakery + Market + Bistro, 421 North Market St.). If the name "Bryan Sikora" sounds familiar, it's because he used to be married to Aimee Olexy; together they started Talula's Table, which has drawn national culinary attention to Kennett Square.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

THE BIBLE: "Be not affrighted"

Art Holveck shared the following information about what sounds to be a memorable program coming up on Oct. 1 at the Episcopal Church of the Advent in Kennett Square:
"Patrick McWilliams from Breckenridge, CO will be reciting the biblical Book of Mark from memory, much the same way as the original Christians heard and learned their scripture when they were unable to read. Patrick is a member of the International Network of Biblical Story Tellers and has given this presentation so far in more than 120 different locations around the USA. The language is the King James Version of the bible and hearing this is similar to a Shakespeare recital and one becomes uplifted by the beauty, majesty and relevance of the experience."
The program will take place at the church, 410 N. Union St., Kennett Square, at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 1, and is preceded by a continental breakfast starting at 9 a.m. Admission is free.
I watched a YouTube video of Mr. McWilliams reciting from the Book of Mark and found him to be a riveting performer.                       


Sunday, September 18, 2016

ADVENTURE: Susquehannock State Park

We took a little road trip this past weekend into non-Wawa territory, heading west to Susquehannock State Park on Lancaster County's western border. There are some awe-inspiring views across the Susquehanna River, and thanks to the sheer cliffs you're at eye level with the circling vultures and bald eagles. We hiked along some challenging and fun trails and (eventually) found what, according to the park map, is the largest American Beech in the state. One branch that had come down recently could have been a substantial tree all by itself.
The park seemed to be well used. A Boy Scout troop was camping there for the weekend, and they were setting up a volleyball net as we passed by. A couple of the pavilions were being used for picnics.
We then drove about 20 minutes north to the Pinnacle Overlook part of the park, which again offered spectacular river views. An affable park employee was painting a post-and-rail fence there and told us how much he loves his job because he gets to work outside in such a beautiful spot: "I get paid for this!" he exclaimed.
Susquehannock is a pleasant drive past a lot of beautiful Amish farms. The trip takes about an hour from Unionville, especially if your driver isn't prone to say things like, "I wonder where that road goes?" We stopped for a mid-afternoon lunch at the Quarryville Family Restaurant, where the waitress called us "kids" and other customers were eager to tell us about their town.

Friday, September 16, 2016

VETS: Applause for "Fear Free" program

My loyal longtime reader Penny endorsed the item I wrote in last week's column about the new "Fear Free" program at Dr. John Moss's Brandywine Valley Veterinary Hospital on Strasburg Road. She writes:
"We have taken our dog very recently to him and she has had two surgeries . . . We could not agree more with the facts as they are  excellent and do exactly what you said."
As part of the Fear Free program, everyone at the practice is trained to make visits as stress-free as possible for both the animal and the human.

NEW BOLTON: "Life at Vet U" premieres

"Life at Vet U," the Animal Planet series that chronicles the adventures of fourth-year Penn Vet students, premieres on Saturday, Oct. 1, at 10 p.m. The trailer on the vet school's website shows the dedicated students in the OR, the barn, and the examining room and getting up close and personal with dogs, cats, horses, a parrot and a skeleton. I think I recognized one of the surgeons, and I definitely recognized New Bolton Center.
The website blurb says, "Over the past academic year, Animal Planet shadowed six Penn Vet students with diverse backgrounds and goals as they completed the demanding fourth and final year of their degree program, treating animal patients of all sizes, and learning from pioneers of veterinary medicine."

1940: A vintage movie

On Sunday evening we had a great time re-watching the 1940 Kennett Square DVD. I wrote about this hour-long movie a few years back, but apparently many folks aren't aware of it. Before World War II an enterprising company went around the country shooting footage of small towns, and businesses paid for the privilege of being part of their town's own movie. (Based on the amount of sometimes-gory airtime he got, Kennett's sausage manufacturer must have made a large contribution indeed.)
The original film footage was transferred onto a DVD, which was distributed by the Southeastern Chester County Historical Society. You can borrow the DVD from the Kennett Library or watch the video on YouTube. (Hint: If YouTube tells you the video is "unavailable," try using another device.)
It's really entertaining to watch the people, places, cars, clothes and dogs of the era, although the constant flickering of the film does get a bit irritating after a while. The film starts with a drive down Miller's Hill (very recognizable) and goes on to show people coming out of schools, churches, and shops; high-school kids playing basketball; the spawn-making process at J. B. Swayne; workers at various gas stations, car dealerships, and offices; borough council, the police chief and the Kennett Fire Co.; Kennett's waterworks; the Anvil Inn; and Longwood Gardens (in a more staid incarnation; I wonder what the visitors would have made of today's "Nightscapes"?). Two of the funnier segments depict some clubwomen wearing their Order of Pocahontas costumes and some Rotary Club members being silly on a golf outing.
At the end there's a very helpful list of the places and people included in the movie.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

WOUNDS: Stitches with a smile

I have almost -- I say, almost -- gotten used to my horseback riding friends shrugging off the most hideous injuries and just taping up their afflicted limb with vet wrap. I may need to add fitness instructors to this strong-stomached group.
A friend was cleaning up after dinner when a glass bowl slipped out her hands, broke on the granite countertop and then hit her right knee, slicing a deep and long -- but painless -- gash. She mopped everything up and went to coach her swim team's practice BEFORE driving to the urgent care clinic in Kennett, where they put in nine stitches. And the next day, there she was teaching an aerobics class at the Y!
"You know me: I hate to miss class," she said cheerfully.

HILLENDALE: Whimsical chairs

An observant reader shared this charming sighting along Hillendale Road, near Hillendale Elementary School:
"I'm not sure how long it has been going on (but at least all summer!), or whose house it is. It is a house on the other side of the road from the school, a bit closer to Rte. 52. They have four wooden chairs painted different colors in the front yard. They are constantly "staging" them into different witty arrangements. It's a delight...the chairs are personified! Once they appeared to be "gardening" in the beds. Once they were climbing trees. My favorite was they were all lined up in a row, each with their own life preserver (the personal flotation, around-the-neck kind). So creative!"

KENNETT: Quaker Fair is no more

Well, here is some wretched news: the Quaker Fair has been "laid down," in Friends vernacular. The members of Kennett Friends Meeting decided that the event -- held every November since the 1950s -- has simply become unsustainable and there just aren't enough volunteers to run it anymore.
I will certainly miss the mushroom soup, but even more I'll miss visiting with the amazing Jean Tennant and all my other friends in this Meeting.

UNIONVILLE FAIR: Looking for parkers

Berta Rains has moved from the Kennett area to Florida but, bless her heart, still manages to stay involved with the Unionville Community Fair. She asked me to mention that the Fair needs volunteer parking attendants, not only for the Fair itself (Thursday, Sept. 29 through Sunday, Oct. 2) but also for the Willowdale Pro Rodeo, which this year will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8 at the Brandywine Polo Field on Polo Road in Toughkenamon. You can send an email to or sign up online via

UNIONVILLE: Blessing of the Animals

The annual Community Pet Blessing and Ice Cream Social will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday, September 25, at Unionville Presbyterian Church on Wollaston Road. The church members will also be collecting donations for La Mancha Animal Rescue in Ercildoun.
This is always a heart-warming event, in which the Rev. Annalie Korengel dons her special stole with animal silhouettes and says a brief prayer over each critter. Although the pets are mostly dogs and cats, I've brought various guinea pigs to be blessed over the years (Gilbert's 2014 certificate of blessing hangs over his pen), and there was a rabbit one year.

SKY TOUR: They saw the Milky Way

Pete Kennedy sent me this account of the Chester County Astronomical Society's Sept. 10 Sky Tour at the Tino Leto Athletic Fields at Anson B. Nixon Park:
"Well, the clouds held out until 9:30. We had about 30-40 people there, 7 scopes. The clouds were as big a treat as the night sky. Saturn with rings, orange/red Mars, 2 true twin stars (one set was yellow and green), a quarter waxing moon (which bleached out a lot of the stars), constellations, nebulas, a red giant large enough to hold most of our solar system, a satellite which got brighter as we watched it for 30 seconds... And the best of all was a small glimpse of the Milky Way."

HADLEY FUND: Equinox and Mariachi

The Hadley Fund administrators have released the schedule for its 54th season, and two of the programs will be held this coming weekend.
At 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24, there will be an outdoor event at the Stateline Woods Preserve, 814 Merrybell Lane, Kennett Township, to mark the autumnal equinox. I quote from their press release: "Christine Campbell, ceremonialist and musician of Wolfsongs, will lead a program of melodic songs, chants and music combined with movement and dance to balance earth energy and honor the four directions – celebrating the harvest and changing seasons; separating the wheat from the chaff.  What will you keep, and what will you leave behind?"
And at 10 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 25, El Mariachi Flores, which performed for Pope Francis in Philadelphia, will play as part of La Comunidad Hispana's "Let's Choose Health" program at Anson B. Nixon Park, Kennett Square.
As always, all programs are free.

Friday, September 9, 2016

TRADITION: A family reunion in 1929

For me, one of the highlights of a recent family reunion was a newspaper account that somebody brought about a previous reunion, all the way back in 1929. The "Daily Local News" story ran for more than a column and detailed family deaths and births, the new officers, the songs and poems that were performed, and one woman's account of her trip to Europe (she liked Switzerland best). There was also a spirited discussion about why some attendees had chosen to remain single: one woman explained that "she found she could make a better living for herself than any man could make for her." Because of the heavy rain, the usual baseball game was replaced by quoits in the wagon shed.
On the same page of the newspaper there was a story about a "booze raid" at a Pomeroy home ("25.5 cases of beer, alleged to be high-powered home brew, three bottles of whisky, a bottle of gin and a dime slot machine in good working order" were seized).
And this "looking back" item discussed the Chester County weather on Aug. 4, 1879: "This weather is severely hot and debilitating in its character. For over a week the mercury has daily risen into the nineties and each day the heat becomes more intense. Yesterday was a sweltering Sabbath, and to-day the thermometers show only a change for the worse. Where this is to end we know not, but have faith in Christmas helping us out by way of the North Pole."

WEST MARLBOROUGH: Dividing Doe Run Village

The September meeting of the West Marlborough supervisors focused mostly on the future of Doe Run Village at Route 82 and Wilson Road. Nancy Truitt, who lives on and owns the 15-acre property with her mother, Ruth, submitted a plan to the township in which the village would be split into individual parcels, one for each house and one larger building lot. A homeowners' association of some sort would be responsible for maintaining the common water and sewer systems.
Nancy Truitt said she believes that dividing up the village would be the best way to keep it well maintained, which she said is her family's overriding goal.
The township is considering zoning the village as a "historic district" so the owner won't need to seek zoning relief for everything that doesn't meet the current zoning code, like lot size and setbacks.
The village, which was entered onto the National Register of Historic Places in 1985, is of particular importance to the West Marlborough supervisors because the township rents its office, meeting and garage space there from the Truitts. (According to Thomas E. Martin Jr.'s invaluable 1985 monograph "Brief History of West Marlborough Township," the supervisors formerly met in home of the supervisor who served as the township secretary.)

WEST MARLBOROUGH: A Labor Day tradition continues

Baz Powell gave me a wonderfully vivid account of the 50th annual Labor Day get-together at her West Marlborough farm. She said the tradition started 51 years ago when some of her Hood College classmates got together (the event was canceled once due to a hurricane).
Over the years, her friends have married and had children and grandchildren, and everyone has such a great time that they just keep coming back. This year there were 37 people, stretching over four generations and ranging from a seven-week-old baby to two 93-year-olds (not to mention six dogs).
Some guests camped overnight in tents or an RV, and Baz said backgammon and "cross-country boccie" were this year's popular games.

DONATION: All on the west side of town

One of my readers is baffled by the placement of those charity donation boxes. She writes:
"Today I gathered some clothing for charity and had no luck on the East side of Kennett in finding a container to place them. I continued to the west side of Kennett where I found a plethora of containers of various charities. Wondering why just one side of town has containers???"
That's a question I can't answer, but this may be useful information for other people who are doing fall cleaning or downsizing their establishments! 

EAST MARLBOROUGH: Planting the roundabout

The other day I received an email from a reader, Janet, who is volunteering for the task of planting and, just as importantly, maintaining the Unionville roundabout.
She writes: "A beautiful village like Unionville deserves a much better "gateway" than the empty, weedy traffic circle we have now. After talking to my gardening friends, there is a lot of enthusiasm for planting and maintaining this. Who is responsible for this? Who can we contact? I would love to create a beautiful entry to Unionville!"
I suggested she talk to the East Marlborough supervisors or the township manager. More power to her!

HOCKEY: He shoots, he scores!

Remember those tabletop hockey games? My brother and I, who grew up during the 1970s "Broad Street Bullies" era, used ours so much that the metal players dug little trenches in the cardboard "rink" and the plastic covers on the controlling handles got worn down. I think one player became irreparably bent over. 
Well, according to a "flyer" on the Unionville post office bulletin board, the Carr Family is starting a tabletop hockey league. Email them at

FEAR-FREE: Reducing the stress of vet visits

Brandywine Valley Veterinary Hospital, 2580 Strasburg Road in East Fallowfield, has just become a "certified Fear-Free practice," the office manager, Anne Moss, tells me. 
The goal of the program is "to reduce or remove anxiety triggers in pets and their owners" and includes "gentle pet control techniques and the creation of calming environments, both of which lead to a more rewarding and safer veterinary experience for all – pets, their owners and the animal healthcare team."
Cats have their own reception area and exam room, with calming pheromones. The cats are enticed out of their carrier with treats and can hide in fabric tunnels while acclimating to the environment. They can even be examined in the vet’s lap instead of on the exam table if that's more comfortable for them.
Dog owners are asked to arrive at the office ten minutes early so their pet can adjust to the surroundings. The dogs receive positive reinforcement in both voice and body language and treats.

Monday, September 5, 2016

NYT: Doin' the meta

(Blog readers, this is an entry just for my fellow solvers of the WSJ Friday Crossword Contest. It has nothing to do with Unionville.)
Dear Fellow Muggles,
I thought it might amuse you to see some of my "rabbit holes."
1. I took synonyms of the phrase "that's why" like "reason" and "explanation" and tried crossing out the letters from the key answers and seeing what remained.
2. I tried looking for synonyms of "that's why" in the key answers -- found "reason" in waynesworld, "intent" in tenniscourt and "aim" in macadamia nut.
3. After I noticed the scrambled "Seattle" in thenleast, I really thought I was on to something: Maybe all the cities had the same newspaper name, and a key one would be missing! (As it happens, it's the Seattle Times.) I found "Tucson" in tenniscourt, "Acadia" in macadamia and "Newsday" in waynesworld.
4. The Y! Must somehow use the Y! Thought of "net" from tenniscourt, added "y" and got "nyet." Pravda! Needless to say that went nowhere.
5. I finally got it on Day 2 when I started thinking about the meaning of the key answers rather than their letters. Not being a baseball fan, I had Googled the teams of the NL East when filling in the grid, so I had "NAT" in the back of my head. I think "NET" was the next, and then -- long shot -- nit as in nit-picking. When I noticed the vowels were in alpha order, I had my epiphany.
Awesome puzzle, Matt. Thank you!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

WAWA: It was free coffee day

The Nottingham Wawa has reopened after being closed for a month for renovations. To celebrate, the store offered free coffee on its first day of reopening. A particularly ethics-minded friend of mine who's a regular at the store worried whether it would be okay for her to go back for seconds on coffee. I told her if she spends anywhere close to as much as I do at Wawa, between sodas, subs and soft pretzels, she should be in the clear!

WEST BRADFORD: Celebrating Trimbleville

My friend Linda Kaat asked me to mention that the Friends of Martin's Tavern (of which she is president and founder) will be unveiling a "Trimbleville Historic District" marker at 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11, at 311 Broad Run Road in West Bradford Township. 
Trimbleville takes its name from Irish immigrant James Trimble. During the Revolutionary War, on Sept. 11, 1777, the British troops crossed the west branch of the Brandywine at Trimble's Ford, then turned east at Trimbleville en route to their victory at the Battle of the Brandywine.

BRANDYWINE: A day on the river

We spent Saturday afternoon tubing on the Brandywine, floating, paddling and wading from Embreeville to Northbrook. Our choice of day was perhaps not the best -- the water level was very low and the creek was so slow that what is normally a two-hour trip took almost four hours. Even so, it was a glorious day to be outside in the sun.
We used the services of Northbrook Canoe Co. this time instead of relying on a friend's ramshackle pickup truck to take us to the launching spot. The Northbrook people were marvelous. Even though it was a very busy day for them  -- there were dozens of customers waiting to set out in tubes, canoes and kayaks -- the employees handled everything safely, efficiently and with good humor. Even the guys loading tubes into the truck were pros and seemed to take pride in how precisely and quickly they tossed, caught and stacked the tubes.

EAST MARLBOROUGH: Help "the bunny people" get back on their feet

You probably heard about, or saw, the serious house and garage fire at Route 926 and Schoolhouse Lane the afternoon of Sept. 2. It's the house that used to have the amusing large rabbit statue out by the road.
The residents, Officer Robert Detweiler of the West Whiteland Township Police Department and his family, are looking for temporary housing, and West Whiteland is collecting money and gift cards to help the family rebuild. The address is Joseph M. Catov Jr., Chief of Police, West Whiteland Police Department, 101 Commerce Drive, Exton PA 19341. (I'm making my check out to Robert Detweiler and mailing it to the chief.)

Saturday, September 3, 2016

SMELL: The first cranial nerve

The other day in the Y locker room I told the woman next to me how nice she smelled. Well, it turns out that her olfactory nerve doesn't work very well (she can't taste very well, either), and she often worries that she smells bad. She couldn't stop thanking me for reassuring her.
What are the odds!
I told her how a scent can instantly take me back to a specific time and place, and she said yes, smell and memory are closely linked. Indeed, the first thing the doctors tested her for was memory loss or incipient Alzheimer's (negative).

WEST MARLBOROUGH: Not in my back yard

Tilda hosted a few urbanites this week who were definitely out of their element here in West Marlborough. One of them criticized what she assumed was an unmown lawn -- a serious lapse, in her eyes.
I replied that it was in fact a hay field, and the hay, after being cut, would be used to feed horses. Hmmph! She still thought it would look far better mown.
I couldn't wait to tell a friend about this, and we had a good laugh.
"Evidently not a country gal," she said.

IN PERSON: The woman behind the name

Local balladeer Charlie Zahm and fiddler Tad Marks played a lovely outdoor concert in the walnut grove at Primitive Hall in West Marlborough on Aug. 28, and I was there as a board member and tour guide.
During intermission I was walking over to talk to friends and eat their food when I overheard some people wondering if Tilda was there (I had given the concert a blurb in my column).
"I wonder who she is?" one woman said.
I stopped and said, "Umm . . . that would be me."
The three of them, two ladies and a gentleman, were so kind and said the nicest things about my column. Apparently it is the first thing they read in the paper, and they even discuss it afterwards!
They asked me how I manage to fit so much into my schedule (a question I'm asking myself after my four-state extravaganza of the past few days). One woman even said she hopes the Young Relative has a successful cross-country season: "He is doing so well," she commented.

DETOURS: No date set for roundabout work

There is a great deal of interest in the roundabout involving Stargazer, Strasburg, Romansville and Shadyside Roads that's proposed as part of the "Stargazer Village" development, as the detours during construction will affect a great many people.
Construction on the roundabout was supposed to start Aug. 15, but the state Department of Transportation realized that its detours weren't going to work due to the weight restrictions on some of the roads.
Here is the latest from West Bradford Township's website:
  1. Developer continues to work with PennDOT to revise the detour plans to minimize impact on the community and traveling public.
  2. At this point, PennDOT has not approved a revised detour route, so a date for closure has not yet been established.
  3. Sewer main extension on Romansville Road will be coordinated with the road closures for the roundabout.  Residents who are to receive laterals will be sent letters via USPS mail once a date certain for construction is set.  At that point, placement of the green flags for lateral location will be required.
**PennDOT requires that construction closures on State roadways are posted a minimum of TWO weeks in advance of the closure.  Be alert for signage announcing proposed closure dates in the near future.
Please keep in mind that all of this is subject to changes and/or updates as PennDOT works through the detour planning.  As we receive updates, we will share them."

SKY TOUR: Things are looking up

Pete Kennedy asked me to mention that the Chester County Astronomical Society is hosting a Sky Tour starting at 7 p.m. on Saturday, September 10, at the Tino Leto Athletic Fields on Walnut Street, Kennett Square. "Several telescopes will be set up for viewing, and celestial wonders will be pointed out using a green laser light."

LIBRARY: Donna Murray resigns

There were a couple of news items from the Bayard Taylor/Kennett Library this week.
First, Library Director Donna Murray resigned to take a job with the Ridley Township Public Library in Folsom, Delaware County. Her last day will be Sept. 16. I feel sorry for Donna, who had to do the best she could to keep the library going through all kinds of turmoil, including a toxic former library board that made all kinds of very public gaffes. The stress of the ensuing uproar would traumatize even the toughest of us. Donna has been library director since 2003, when Joe Lordi retired. The library board is forming a search committee.
Second, the library will be unveiling its new signage and logo on Sept. 15. While keeping the "Bayard Taylor Memorial Library" sign in place on the front of the library, "Kennett Library" signs will be added to the front and side doors. I've seen the new logo but was sworn to silence until it's officially revealed.

FEEDBACK: Hearing from my readers

As expected when I venture into the realm of religion, I got some criticism regarding the "Jesus Is My Prozak" item in last week's column. Letter-writers informed me that I was a bully and a bad Christian, questioned my understanding of both freedom of speech and metaphor, and suggested I had overreacted. Another letter-writer displayed an impressive knowledge of Bible quotes.

SUNFLOWERS: Yellow journalism in Maryland

The mother of all sunflower fields is at the intersection of Hess Road and Jarrettsville Pike in Monkton, Maryland. A photographer friend told me about it, and even though I was expecting something special, I gasped when I first saw it: it's an ocean of yellow stretching out to the horizon.
The field is about 55 miles southwest of Unionville, and you're on Route 1 for most of the trip (it's about a half-hour beyond the Conowingo Dam).
On the Friday afternoon when I drove down, a lot of people had pulled off on the side of the road to marvel at the sight and take photographs. The Royal Farms convenience store just across the street seemed to be doing a land-office business.
This stunning sunflower field is in Monkton, Maryland.

Friday, September 2, 2016

5K RACE: "Friends Not Foes"

UHS teacher and coach Mark Lacianca asked me to mention the "Friends Not Foes" 5K race that's being put on by the Kennett and Unionville High School cross-country teams on Sunday, Nov. 13. They're looking for sponsors, volunteers and participants.
Mr. Lacianca writes:
"The Kennett and Unionville runners have been practicing together the past couple of years at different times. This summer we took it to another level and met three days a week at 6:30 am for voluntary runs,  M + W at Unionville High School and Fridays at Kennett High School. We routinely had between 40 and 60 runners from both schools. The captains from both teams have worked hard and worked together to put the race together." 
The race starts at 9 a.m. at Anson B. Nixon Park in Kennett Square. Online registration is $25 and ends Nov. 11 (

WILLOWDALE: No longer vacant

Turner & Co., a women's clothing boutique, is going to be moving into the space formerly occupied by the venerable Willowdale Country Store at Routes 926 and 82. If the name rings a bell, you might have seen their booth at large equestrian events like the Devon Horse Show and Wellington. This will be their first time in a real "bricks-and-mortar" store. Some of the brands they carry are J Brand, Splendid, Ella Moss, Citizens of Humanity, Barbour, Autumn Cashmere, Joie and Blundstone.

LITTER: A good deed

On Thursday afternoon I spotted a West Marlborough neighbor risking life and limb to improve the appearance of our beautiful countryside: he was standing in the middle of Route 842 cleaning up a bag of trash scattered along the road in the area that old-timers call "Club Hill." He had put out a traffic cone to warn oncoming motorists.
This same gentleman routinely stops to pick up litter along the roadside, which is why there's often a stack of discarded beer bottles and cans and fast-food wrappers in the bed of his pickup.
He doesn't brag about it, and I know for a fact he'll be embarrassed when he reads this. But if there were more people like him, the world would be a better place.