Sunday, June 25, 2017

WEST GROVE: A plan to reduce composting odors?

My West Grove correspondent reports receiving an intriguing postcard in the mail with the headline "Come hear about our plan to reduce odor . . . Needham's Mushroom Farms invites you to a community Open house to learn about a construction project that will reduce odor at Hy-Tech Mushroom Composting." He said he will be attending the meeting, which is set for 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, June 29, at the London Grove Township Building, 372 Rosehill Road.

GIANT: Caring for our companions

This week's gold star for outstanding customer service goes to Vince at the New Garden Giant supermarket. It was 9:30 p.m. on a Saturday night, and we stopped in on our way home to buy one of those boxes of salad for Gilbert the Guinea Pig; he'd eaten the last of it that morning.
As we were checking out, my companion suddenly recalled that we'd forgotten to buy cat food (the Purina Fancy Feast variety "with broth") for Clarence the Cat.
"Oh, no!" I said, at a loss for what to do.
Vince, who was manning the U-scan control station, heard what was going on and suggested that I simply leave my items there and go back and buy the cat food. It would not be a problem, he said; in fact, people did it all the time. And, he pointed out, business was slow and it wasn't like there were impatient customers waiting who would be fuming at the delay.
I did so. Thank you, Vince, from both Clarence and me.

CONCERTS: Free summer series starts

June 21 was the first concert in the Wednesday-night summer series at Anson B. Nixon Park. We all had doubts about whether it would be rained out, but the storm ended, and I even spotted a rainbow over Willowdale. The sun came out right on cue for guitarist Eric Ambel to start his show, and it turned out to be a lovely evening. We caught up with lots of friends, had fun watching the dogs and little kids, ate delicious food from the Nomadic Pies food truck, and strolled around the lake at intermission eating popsicles from La Michoacana.

RIP: Curtain call for the Dame

I was sad to hear that Kirk Fetters died on June 21. A longtime English teacher at Kennett High School, Kirk delighted audiences for years with his fabulous performances of "the Dame" in the annual pantomime staged by the Kennett Amateur Theatrical Society. Nothing was too outlandish or gaudy for the Dame: Kirk would come on stage sporting a series of ever-larger wigs, earrings, and hoop skirts. Offstage he was friendly, smart and a terrific conversationalist, as well as a tireless promoter for KATS.
Condolences to his friends and family. He was one of a kind and will be remembered with great fondness.

KENNETT: Before the battle

On Thursday evening we had a fun time serving as guides for the history tour through Kennett Square. This tour was based on Kevin Sheridan's book "The Timepiece Chronicles: The Battle of Brandywine Creek," and as visitors walked around the block they met costumed actors portraying characters from the American Revolution. Some of them were General Cornwallis; a bar manager furious that the British soldiers were vandalizing his establishment; the Hessian General Knyphausen; a Loyalist;  a Quaker woman worried about the coming violence; an entrepreneurial "camp follower"; and sentry Captain Patrick Ferguson. 
The tours officially started at 5:30 p.m., but by shortly after 5 p.m. visitors were already lining up in the Genesis walkway. I think the tour attracted upwards of 150 people.
We guides got to read from our script, but the actors had to memorize their lines -- and the youthful actors did a particularly great job. Lynn Sinclair, owner of the Sunrise Café on State Street, not only organized the tour but also made all the wonderful costumes.

FRAMED: A good frame shop

First Bert Proscino closed her framing shop on State Street. Then Lorraine at the Frame Cellar in Willowdale retired.
Where do we get our artwork framed?
I just had a great experience with my friend Mindy Dole, who runs her shop, Framing by Mindy, out of her home on 526 Newark Road in Landenberg. She did a nice job helping me chose a frame and mat for a family photograph, and I was especially delighted with the creative way she framed an old hand-drawn birthday card from The Young Relative (I wondered whether the red frame and blue mat we chose would be over the top, but it was a perfect fit).
The projects were finished days earlier than the time she projected, and I thought her prices were commensurate with the neat, professional quality of her work.

UNIONVILLE: A joyful noise

Church bells across the country, including those at Unionville Presbyterian Church on Wollaston Road, will be ringing at 2 p.m., Tuesday, July 4, to celebrate the birth of American independence.
The patriotic ceremony at Unionville Presbyterian will start at 1:30 p.m., and an ice cream social on the church lawn will follow the pealing of the bells. The Rev. Annalie Korengel said that people of all ages and faiths are welcome to attend.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

MOVING: A rite of passage

A young friend who is moving into a new apartment July 1 has, for the first time, actually hired someone to help him move rather than recruiting his friends and family members to heft furniture and boxes. He made the decision after one of his volunteers suffered mightily while hauling boxes to the Goodwill store on a hot day and decided that, friendship or no friendship, moving was no longer for him.

UNIONVILLE: Rescue dogs on parade

About 30 rescue dogs took to the ring at Plantation Field at noon Wednesday, June 21, for the third annual Rescue Dog parade.
Winners were: smallest dog: BJ, a Dachshund puppy up for adoption at All Mutts Matter; largest dog, Ed Weisbrod's Boomer, a "Lab mutt" showed by his wife, Betsy DeMarino; and dog rescued from farthest away, Mary Ellen DeRuschi's English bull terrier, Cordelia (adopted from Arizona).
PetValu of Kennett Square provided the prizes, and two rescue agencies were on hand: All Mutts Matter and Greenmore Farm.
Making a special guest appearance (though not a rescue dog!) was Betsy Harris's Border Terrier Poppet, who won Best of Breed honors at the 141st Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York.
The parade was being held in conjunction with the "Jump for Rescues" horse schooling show, proceeds from which went to benefit local dog rescue groups.

Mary Ellen DeRuschi's English bull terrier, Cordelia, won the prize (which she is already putting to good use) for the dog that was adopted from farthest away. 

Boomer, owned by Ed Weisbrod and showed by his wife, Betsy DeMarino, won the prize for largest dog.

Puppy BJ won the prize for smallest dog and is available for adoption.

Betsy Harris's  Border Terrier Poppet was a spectator rather than a competitor.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

UNIONVILLE: The Quilt has a home!

The Unionville Tricentennial Community Quilt finally has a home!
The quilt was created in 1982 to mark Chester County's 300th birthday, but since then it has been largely out of sight.
On Monday, June 19, 35 years to the day after it was unveiled to the public, the quilt received an official welcome at its new home: the lobby of the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District Office.
Three of the original quilters -- Bette McConnell, Jill Benjamin and Ella Sestrich (the former owner of Sestrich's General Store) -- were on hand, and Jill gave a presentation about the quilt's history.
In early 1982 Nancy Fenstermacher (one of the Bakers at Red Lion) came up with the idea of creating a quilt to honor the village, which had been recently placed on the National Register of Historic Places, largely thanks to the efforts of John and Pat Montague.
About two dozen women, working from sketches by Ron Fenstermacher and Barbara Churchville, sewed the blocks of the "album quilt." Everyone worked from a common pool of fabric to prevent the colors from clashing. Jill said the women ranged in age from 17 to 81 and had "all skill levels" when it came to sewing.
The subjects included the Farm Show (now the Unionville Community Fair), the Unionville Academy, the Grange Hall (which has been incorporated into the current Grace Fellowship Church building), a fox-hunting scene, Indian Hannah, the Unionville High School (now the elementary school), and various other historic scenes around town. 
Nancy Fenstermacher herself sewed the central block, depicting a map of the town. (A key hanging next to the quilt gives details about each block.)
After the individual blocks were created and sewn together, the women spent April and May 1982 doing the quilting stitching, using an oyster shell motif as a nod to the three oyster bars that once flourished in Unionville (Jill said oyster shells were used to pave Wollaston Road, and she still find them in her garden).
Jill ended her presentation by thanking school district superintendent Dr. John Sanville for providing the quilt with a permanent home where people can see it and it can be protected. Dr. Sanville said he loves having the quilt hanging in the office and receives frequent compliments about it from visitors. 
"I've learned so much about our local history" from the quilt, he said.
The quilt square depicting the Grange Hall and the Unionville Cemetery. Note the intricate oyster shell quilting. 

A fox-hunting scene, created by Jill Benjamin.
The entire quilt.

Bette McConnell, Jill Benjamin, Ella Sestrich and Superintendent Dr. John Sanville at the June 19 presentation.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

BICYCLISTS: Sharing the road

A "Unionville in the News" reader shared with me that when she is driving on our winding back roads, she blinks her car's headlights to alert oncoming motorists "to slow down if I have just passed bikers or if there are bikers in their lane on down the road." I thought I would pass this advice along, as my brother could well be one of those bicyclists and I am always concerned about his safety.

WEST MARLBOROUGH: Mulch for the taking

Thank you to the good folks at Marlboro Mushrooms here in West Marlborough for making their wonderful spent compost available free to the public. I had my annual Mulch Day on June 12, and yes, it was a hot, sweaty morning's work, but having the garden thickly covered with mulch equates to both moisture retention and minimal weeding for the rest of the gardening season.
You can pick up as much mulch as you can haul, 24/7, from Marlboro's compost depot on the south side of Route 842, just east of the Route 841 intersection. Bring your shovel.

LONDONDERRY: The 926/41 intersection

On June 12 I attended a meeting at the Londonderry Township building to check out the four options being proposed for the crossroads of Routes 41 and 926. Let me try to describe them by explaining how a motorist who is westbound on 926 and wants to cross 41 would be affected.
Alternative 1: 926 would no longer cross 41 head-to-head; the junctions would be staggered. The motorist would have to travel on the re-routed 926 (which would enter 41 just south of where it does now), turn right onto 41, then turn left on the re-routed other side of 926. Price tag: $1 million.
Alternative 3 (an earlier Alternative 2 was taken off the table): Instead of crossing 41 directly, the motorist would enter a four-armed roundabout connecting the four parts of the roads in question. 926 west of 41 would be slightly rerouted, as would 41 just south of the roundabout. Price tag: $4.1 million.
Alternative 4: Instead of crossing 41 directly, the motorist would turn right onto 41 and would enter a three-armed roundabout connecting directly with a slightly rerouted 926. Price tag: $3.5 million.
Alternative 5: The motorist would travel on a rerouted 926 to enter 41 just south of (toward Chatham) the current intersection. He or she would travel north (toward Cochranville) to enter a three-armed roundabout before turning left on a slightly rerouted 926. Price tag: $4.0 million.
Bear in mind that the dollar figures are for construction only, not the costs of obtaining right-of-ways or handling utilities.
Detailed maps of all of the options are available online at the website When you're looking at the online maps, bear in mind that Cochranville is to the left, Chatham to the right.
At the meeting I heard residents, including truckers, people hauling horse trailers, and people who live near the crossroads, telling the PennDOT engineers in no uncertain terms what they liked and didn't like about the alternatives. The agency is seeking additional comments; you can send your feedback via the website or to Rob Nuss, Erdman Anthony, 100 Sterling Parkway, Suite 212, Mechanicsburg, PA 17050.
According to PennDOT, "over the next several months, PennDOT will review the engineering considerations, environmental impacts and public and agency comments on the alternatives to determine which alternative provides the best balance in meeting the project needs and minimizing environmental impacts."

BASE BALL: The Mohicans will play July 9

I very frequently drive past the red, white, and blue Mohicans Base Ball Club banner attached to a fence at the northwest corner of Route 842 and Newark Road, and I finally remembered to check the schedule for the team, which plays using traditional nineteenth-century rules and equipment and wearing old-fashioned uniforms (without baseball gloves). The Mohicans will be hosting the Diamond State Base Ball Club and the Eclipse Base Ball Club of Elkton at Walker Field (which is where the banner is) on Sunday, July 9. The games usually get started around 1 p.m. Spectators and their dogs, children and refreshments are welcome.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

AVONDALE: Route 41 in the summer

The craziness that is Route 41 on summer weekends is in full swing, with southbound vacationers heading to the shore, bikes and beach chairs strapped precariously to their vehicles, just as others are returning home from their week's rental or heading north to visit Amish country.
The additional traffic is not news to anyone trying to negotiate the already challenging Chatham intersection.
At mid-day Saturday, coincidentally, we were at a key hub on this heavily traveled migration route: the Avondale Wawa. It was jammed.
One man, who was apparently taking his family on a road trip, eyed the long line at the deli counter and suggested, "Why don't we just grab a box of donuts and keep going?"
His wife vetoed the idea and they waited in line for presumably healthier fare.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

UNIONVILLE: The Cheshire Puppy Show

The female hound "Telltale" was named the champion at the puppy show at the Cheshire Foxhounds Kennels on June 11, a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon. After Anne Moran, one of the Hunt Masters, welcomed the guests and introduced the Hunt staff, the show -- the first in many years at Cheshire -- got started.
Huntsman Barry Magner, dressed in the puppy handler's traditional white lab coat and black bowler hat, would name the hounds he wanted to be brought out, and whipper-in Mary Taylor Miller would carefully open the metal kennel gate just wide enough so they could come out. 
Barry (whom all the hounds quite obviously adored) would then put them through their paces as the judges, Bruce Davidson and Joe Cassidy, watched closely. (Cheshire is hunting with both male and female hounds this year after many seasons of using females only.)
The judges then asked for several hounds to be brought back for further scrutiny (the woman next to me told me she was a fan of Malcolm's, and her hopes rose when the judges looked at him again). But finally, after much discussion, they chose Wilbur as the best male hound (with Matchbox and Tenor in second and third place). 
Joe explained to the crowd that they based their decision on such qualities as the way the animal stood, the line of his back and the appearance of his feet: "Wilbur," he said, "has the most substance." 
Barry then showed five female hounds, and Telltale was the judge's immediate favorite. "She has such presence!" exclaimed Joe. 

From left, Bruce Davidson, Joe Cassidy, and Barry Magner (with three of the male hounds) at the Cheshire puppy show.

The female hound Telltale poses for the cameras after winning the puppy show.

NEW GARDEN: A crab feast

The Hilltop Crab House on Route 41 is the place to go if you're looking for a terrific and hearty seafood meal. Almost every table was filled when we were there for dinner on June 14, and many of the guests were there to devour blue crabs. Crab picking is, of course, a messy business: the waitresses put down brown paper on your table and bring out wooden mallets so you can extract every bit of crab from the shell. Instead of napkins they just give you a roll of paper towels.
The two of us shared the "seafood sampler" (Alaskan snow crab legs, shrimp, and a crab cake) and crab mac-and-cheese. Delicious! They also have crabs to go by the dozen, half-bushel or bushel.
The Hilltop is now a family place and, although there's a bar, it has completely shed that "biker bar" vibe of many years ago. I remember there used to be a sign posted prominently at the door that forbade guests from wearing gang colors.

MEMOIR: South Philly in the old days

Kennett Square resident Josephine B. Pasquarello has written a memoir about growing up in South Philadelphia in the 1950s and 1960s and was generous enough to send me a copy. The book, "Love & Loyalty," focuses on the extraordinary efforts of her mother, Romania, an immigrant from Italy who raised a dozen children on her own after her husband's death. She includes many pages of family photographs. I look forward to reading it!

WEST MARLBOROUGH: Outdoor Meeting for Worship

London Grove Friends Meeting, located at the intersection of Newark Road and Street Road (Route 926), will be holding Meeting for Worship outdoors next to the 335-year-old Penn Oak at 9:30 a.m. Sunday, June 25. Visitors are welcome to share in traditional Quaker worship, and refreshments will follow.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

LONGWOOD: "HMS Pinafore"

On Saturday evening three of us attended the Savoy Company's production of Gilbert and Sullivan's "HMS Pinafore" at the outdoor theater at Longwood Gardens. It was an enjoyable show, with familiar songs like "Little Buttercup" and He Is an Englishman," amusing wordplay, and a "switched-at-birth" plot that came to light in the last scene and miraculously solved everyone's romantic problems.
Longwood was multitasking on Saturday night, so toward the end of the first act the fountain display started, with booming noises and jets of colored water causing many in the audience to turn their attention westward.
Between the operetta and the fountain display, the main parking area was full and we had to park in the huge new overflow lot across Route 1. The shuttle bus service was speedy, comfortable and efficient, getting us to the Gardens and back to our car without delay.

KENNETT: Two history tours

History-minded residents are in for a treat: there will be two free walking tours of downtown Kennett Square.
On Saturday, June 17, the Kennett Underground Railroad Center is sponsoring a tour highlighting nineteenth-century abolitionists in Kennett Square. It runs from 2 to 4 p.m. and starts in the Genesis Walkway. (The same tour was held back in February and drew overflow crowds despite the below-freezing temperatures.)
On Thursday, June 22, folks can learn what it was like in Kennett the day before the Battle of the Brandywine in 1777. The tour script is based on Kevin Sheridan's book "Timpiece Chronicles: Battle of Brandywine Creek," with actors portraying various key figures like General Cornwallis, General Kynphausen and Captain Patrick Ferguson. The guided tours will start at 5:30 p.m. (the 6 p.m. tour will be in Spanish); assemble in the Genesis walkway. And you can meet Kevin Sheridan after the tour at the Sunrise Café.

WEST MARLBOROUGH: Good-bye to Al and Eddie

At their June 6 meeting, the West Marlborough township supervisors held a reception in honor of township engineer Al Giannantonio and building inspector Eddie Caudill. Both gentlemen are retiring after many years of service, and residents and township officials got to say good-bye to them while enjoying a tasty spread of cake, cookies, fruit, cupcakes and iced tea.

POCOPSON: A great hardware store

Since it closed its "downtown" Unionville location a few years back, I haven't visited Ace Hardware in Pocopson very often and I'd forgotten what a great store it is. My mother and I stopped in the other day to buy a pair of heavy-duty leather gardening gloves. They cost about $15, which means we had to make an additional purchase to qualify for the "spend $20 and get $7 off" coupon.
After we discovered that the store offers an excellent variety of cat toys and unusual cat food, we had no absolutely trouble meeting the $20 threshold. And Clarence gives a definite paws-up to the Healthy Gourmet "salmon entrée" and the Fussie Cat "tuna with chicken formula in aspic."

ROUTE 926: Phase 2 of the bridge construction

Starting Thursday, June 15, Creek Road (Route 100) will be closed from Meetinghouse Road to Route 52 until the new Route 926 bridge over the Brandywine is completed (although residents will be allowed access). Creek Road traffic will be detoured onto Route 52 and Route 1
I stopped by the construction site the other day and it looks like excellent progress is being made. The old bridge was demolished this past winter and a new one already spans the creek: the beams were installed in May. The approach ramps will be much higher in elevation so that the road will be less likely to flood -- which was one key objective of the whole $8.6 million project. The work is on schedule and the new bridge should open Sept. 1.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

WEST MARLBOROUGH: Code Appeals Board formed

Also at the West Marlborough meeting on June 6, the township supervisors created a Code Appeals Board to review any situations in which the zoning officer finds that a proposed construction plan does not comply with the Universal Construction Code (UCC), and the resident submitting the plan disagrees. The fee to appeal a finding will be $500 for residential cases and $750 for nonresidential ones.
Named to the board were Richard Buchanan, Skip Powell and Conrad Somers. Township supervisor Bill Wylie remarked the township was fortunate to have residents who were both familiar with construction matters and willing to serve in a volunteer capacity.
The next township meeting will be July 3, due to the Independence Day holiday.

LANDOWNERS: Finding missing people

Reader Daniel Schwendeman, who works with a nonprofit K9 search-and-rescue group called the ChesCo Search Team, wrote and said he wants to get in touch with "any private land owners or conservancy groups in the area in search of places for my team to train our members and our dogs. . . . Might you know anyone that owns any land or trail area that might be willing to allow us access to train one night a week/weekend every now and then?" He said the group can provide proof of insurance if needed.
Readers, can you help him out?
ChesCo Search Team is on Facebook and their website is

STAPLES: Impressive service

If you've ever worked with the public, you know how challenging it can be. Yet a young woman, Jennifer, at Staples seems to have a genius for keeping customers happy.
I went in the other day after lunch to have some family photos printed out from a disc. As she was loading them onto her computer, an older gentleman came up and asked for help making photocopies of a Pearl Harbor lecture he was giving. He didn't know how to use the self-service kiosk. A woman wanted to return the notary stamp she'd bought because she had ordered the wrong size. Meanwhile, the large-format printer was spitting out somebody's logos.
Jennifer was suddenly so busy that she left her Venti Starbucks drink sitting on the counter, untouched. But she dealt with the onslaught calmly and efficiently, without becoming the least bit flustered. She showed the gentleman how to use the copier, even joking a little with him about their odds of winning the Powerball lottery. She processed the complicated paperwork for the custom notary stamp replacement. She scooped up the freshly generated logos and put them on the counter.
And not only did she print out exactly what I wanted, and perfectly, but she spotted an error on my invoice that saved me about $30.

WEST MARLBOROUGH: Under the speed limit

I was driving home from breakfast on Sunday and found myself behind a slow-moving hay rake. When we both turned on to my road, the considerate driver (from one of our local farms) pulled over so I could pass.
I pulled up alongside him, rolled down my window, and told him that he didn't need to pull over, that I was in no hurry at all.
He chuckled and said many motorists are furious at what they consider to be the glacial pace of farm equipment.
"People don't understand where their food comes from," he observed.

Monday, June 5, 2017

KENNETT SQUARE: It's called "Kennett Squared"

A friend asked me to explain the meaning of the metal sculpture that has replaced the kiosk in the Genesis Walkway in downtown Kennett.
I asked Kennett Borough Council member Doug Doerfler when I saw him on Sunday afternoon, and he told me it's called "Kennett Squared" -- see the "K" and the superscript "2"? -- and was created by local metalworker and farrier Rob Sigafoos. It was dedicated the evening of June 2.

The base of the "Kennett Squared" sculpture.

See the "K" and the superscript "2"?

Sunday, June 4, 2017

UNIONVILLE: Support for a beloved jockey

A wise neighbor of mine likes to say, "There are many measures of a man." I would argue that the stunning success of the GoFundMe fundraising drive for injured Unionville jockey Paddy Young speaks volumes about how loved and respected he is: in less than two weeks, people have donated more than $120,000 to help him and his family.
Fellow jockey Willie McCarthy started the drive on May 23, writing, "Paddy needs no introduction, but I can honestly say he's the most respected man inside and out of the jockeys' room, a champion on & off a horse!"
The first goal set was for $10,000. That was met in maybe a half-hour.
They raised it to $100,000, and that was surpassed within a week. When I last checked (June 4), 730 people had contributed, everywhere from $5 to $1,000.
That's because in addition to being a champion jockey and a legendary horseman, Paddy is a great human being. His hilarious Facebook videos of himself and his kids are classics. His barn is down the road from me, so I used to see him riding out most mornings, in all weather. He always would give me a cheerful wave and greet me in his Irish accent. I miss that so much, and I have rejoiced at the remarkable progress he seems to be making thanks to his own toughness, his family's support and love, and the skilled professionals at Paoli Memorial Hospital.

GARDENS: I can dig it!

After the cold spring we've had, I'm sure a lot of folks, like me, were very tardy getting their gardens planted. I finally headed out to the nursery to buy my annuals and had fun browsing through all their greenhouses, in addition to the large shaded area where they display a dizzying variety of hostas. (As a bonus, there are also sweet little cats wandering around the greenhouses.)
In addition to the usual signs about whether the plants like the sun or shade, when they flower, and whether they tolerate heat and drought, the owners of this place share useful bits of information. For instance, a sign hanging over the holy basil plants informs us that new-age celebrity Deepak Chopra starts his day with a cup of holy basil tea. Good to know.
I always have to laugh when I see lamium, pachysandra and lemon balm actually being sold at nurseries when I spend hours cutting it back or yanking it out. It should come with a warning sign!

UHS: The show must go on!

On Saturday evening we went to "Selections From Broadway" presented by the UHS May Play Society. 
A week before showtime the kids found out they didn't actually have the legal rights to perform "Sweeney Todd," as they had planned, so in the timeless theatrical tradition of "the show must go on," director David DeMarco and his team scrambled and completely revamped the production.
The first act comprised most of the "Sweeney Todd" songs. Troy Macie played the murderous Demon Barber with spirited malice; Dina Spyropoulos was his accomplice, the inventive pie-baker Mrs. Lovett; and Jeremy Do and Alex Koban-Hogue were young lovers Anthony and Johanna (Jeremy got a raucous cheer from his friends in the audience at their first kiss).
We were astonished at how professionally the kids handled the Stephen Sondheim songs, notoriously some of the most challenging in musical theater. We also loved the clever set (designed by stage manager Megan Belgam and moved by the quick, silent ninjas of the stage crew).
The mash-up of "Johanna"/"16 Going on 17" was hilarious, an instant classic.
Act 2 consisted of songs from "Phantom of the Opera," "Annie," "Sound of Music," and "Les Miserables." It was so wonderfully done that if you didn't know the back story, you'd never have known that it was pulled together in only a week, complete with costumes and choreography.
Jeremy Do, this time as Valjean, sang a moving, show-stopping "Bring Him Home" from Les Miz. After the show a parent told me that it was Jeremy's first time on stage. I almost couldn't believe it: his first show EVER, and he comes out on stage for a solo completely poised and absolutely nails it. Magic! 
It was my mother's first time ever at a UHS show. She had read my reviews over the years and thought I was just being kind with my generous praise. But after the first act, she said she was shocked at how talented the kids were and what fabulous voices they had.
"I feel like I'm at a Broadway show," she said. "I can't believe these are high-school kids!" She was still talking about the show at breakfast the next morning.  
I was pleased to note that there were a number of freshmen in the cast, so we can look forward to more of these wonderful shows for years to come.

UNIONVILLE: The library tour

I invited two companions to go with me on this year's Library Home and Garden Day tour around Unionville, but I also put them to work: after each stop, I asked them for their impressions (the companion with legible handwriting was assigned the role of scribe). It was surprising how different our reactions were. The house that one called "magnificent" was dubbed "too angular" by another. One preferred a simple woodland path with deer-eaten hostas to the perfectly in bloom, weed-free bed nearby. The senior-citizen member of our group greatly appreciated the places where there were sturdy railings to hold on to.  
Because we took our time and asked questions, our merry band made it to only half of the stops: two farms on Hilltop View Road and the two "sister houses" formerly owned by longtime Master of Foxhounds Mrs. Hannum and her sister Mrs. Walker (now owned by Nancy and Crosby Wood and Cuyler Walker).
We greatly enjoyed the family portraits and foxhunting photographs but felt sorry for the guides who had to try to explain all of the complicated Hannum/Smith/Harriman/Stewart/Davidson family connections.
We were delighted to chat with two of the homeowners, Mike Rotko and Nancy Wood. One member of our party is a dog lover (dogs reciprocate the feeling, too) and had a wonderful time getting to know the canines at several of the houses. At Rotkos', my scribe noted, "There were carrots in the horse barn. We could feed them!"
Also at Rotkos' we had the pleasure of meeting the new library director, Megan Walters, who went on the tour in the company of Tom Swett, president of the library's Board of Trustees.
This year's tour took visitors on some narrow, winding back roads like Green Valley and Hilltop View that normally see little traffic. We saw one car pulled over on Mill Road shortly after it became a gravel road; the driver was studying his map and looked quite concerned, as if he must have taken a wrong turn somewhere (he hadn't).
The members of the library's Special Events Committee and their helpers did a beautiful job, as always, getting visitors parked safely (a definite challenge in a few of the sites with long driveways) and in and out of the houses efficiently. They even took down all the directional signs shortly after the end of the tour (politicians, take note!).

Saturday, June 3, 2017

BIRDS: No good deed...

Earlier this spring I was admiring the beautiful goldfinches at my mother's birdfeeder. A kind and generous woman (as always), the next time I saw her she gave me a big bag of the kind of seeds that finches like.
I bought a feeder with tiny holes (the seed is very small) and hung it out in the backyard. Within minutes, chickadees found the new food source, and the glorious goldfinches were not far behind.
Unfortunately, my gain was my mother's loss: she hasn't seen a finch ever since I put out my feeder.

KENNETT: Kids at play

If you're like me, you spend a lot of time sitting at the stoplight at Union Street in busy downtown Kennett Square, waiting for the green arrow to appear so you can turn left onto Cypress Street. And once the arrow finally appears, our natural inclination is to hit the gas and make a very fast left turn.
Don't do it.
A lot of young kids who live in the apartment building at the southeast corner of that intersection play on the sidewalk and parking lot. On Tuesday afternoon one little boy went dashing across Cypress Street to chase a wayward ball, and of course he didn't stop to look before he crossed. Thank goodness all the drivers were paying attention, because a tragedy could so easily have happened.
Just bear it in mind. Being 30 seconds later to your coffee date or gym class doesn't really matter.

YMCA: A clear round

During a class the other evening, our Y instructor was telling us what specific exercises the next segment of the workout would involve.
"Pushups, kickbacks, bar work: that's the order of go," she told us.
"Are you a horse-show mom, by any chance?" I asked.
She was amazed and acknowledged that in fact she did spend many hours watching her equestrian kids compete at shows. She laughed when she realized how she had used that dead-giveaway phrase without even thinking about it

Monday, May 29, 2017

KENNETT: Honoring those who gave all

I am writing this on deadline, so I don't have much time to describe the Kennett Square Memorial Day parade on Monday. Suffice it to say that (1) it was wonderful and well-attended despite the drizzle, (2) a lot of kids seem to be involved in Scouts, Little League, and martial arts, and (3) the gigantic Army tank rolling north on Union Street was just amazing.

LONGWOOD: The fireworks are back!

Longwood Gardens celebrated its newly reopened fountains display with a spectacular, sold-out fireworks and fountains show on Saturday night.
We had a great time watching the fireworks from our usual "cheap seats" (our car in the parking lot of the former Superfresh shopping center), and we especially liked the ultra-loud, ultra-bright ones, the squiggly, fizzy ones, and the multi-colored ones.
But our friends who managed to buy tickets and experienced the full show from inside the Gardens could not come up with enough superlatives to describe the vastly upgraded, amazingly creative fountains and sound system. "Best in the world" was one of the more restrained phrases they used. They didn't even mind the fact that they got soaking wet.

KENNETT: Slaves seeking freedom

The Kennett Underground Railroad Center asked me to mention that they are once again offering two-hour-long guided bus tours on June 18, July 16, Aug. 20, and Sept. 17 (all Sundays). The Underground Railroad, a network of people who helped slaves to escape from the South, was very active in our area from 1830 to 1860.
"View select Underground Railroad sites, historic homes and Quaker Meetinghouses while learning about local abolitionists, both African-American and white, and activity that went on in this area."
Advance reservations are required; requested donation is $20 for adults and $15 for youth. For more information: 484-544-5070 (phone); (email); (website).

Friday, May 26, 2017

UHS: May Play Society presents "Sweeney Todd"

Be careful before you accept any locally made meat pies: the murderous Demon Barber of Fleet Street and baker Mrs. Lovett are coming to the Unionville High School auditorium. The high school's May Play Society is presenting the Sondheim musical "Sweeney Todd" at 7 p.m. on Friday, June 2, and Saturday, June 3. Admission is free.
Mary Paxton-Boeni, the show's costume director, filled me in on the May Play Society's history. It was formed in 2008 when then-freshman Domingo Mancuello gathered a group of friends to put on "An Evening of Monty Python," a show directed, produced, funded, and performed entirely by students. Since 2008 UHS Spanish teacher Julie Hawkes (and Domingo’s mother) has served as the faculty sponsor for the group. Each year a senior assumes the role of director/producer, and this year it is David DeMarco.
(Domingo went on to study, direct, and perform at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and is now working with the Fulton Theatre in Lancaster.)

EAST MARLBOROUGH: Tough Mudder, tough ladies

So two of my friends who did the Tough Mudder competition on May 21 at Plantation Field not only survived the arduous race but fully intend to sign up for it again ASAP.
I saw them at the Kennett YMCA on Thursday evening, several days after the event, and although their bruises and scrapes were starting to fade, they were still on adrenaline highs as they described clambering up mud banks, diving into a pit filled with ice water and swinging from ropes.
One woman said the obstacles in the first part of the course involved mud, the second involved water, so by the end "you were actually pretty clean!" (Now there's a recommendation.)
Her teammate, who had her hair specially braided for the event in an awesome warrior style, said she broke a toe but in all the excitement didn't even realize it until days later.

SCAMS: Inexcusable rich!

Of all the get-rich-quick spam emails I've received -- and immediately blocked -- this is probably the funniest, just because it is so awkwardly written and so obviously bogus:
"As I can remember I always wanted to sprawl on the beach, sip on a cocktail and know that my bank account goes from strength to strength. But my dreams would remain just dreams if one guy didn't give me the recipe for my happiness.
Damn it! I become inexcusable rich! And I'll feel guilty if I didn't tell about how it works to someone else. Today fell's your chance."
As my father always used to say, "Right. From the movie `Fat Chance'!"

UNIONVILLE: A science fair winner, and crazy drivers

Lew Kinter of Unionville was kind enough to pass along two interesting bits of news.
The first is that UHS senior Sagar Maheshwari, age 18, received the Grand Award, Third Place (which carries a $1,000 prize) at this year's Intel International Science Fair in Los Angeles on May 19. Sagar's project, in the Computational Biology and Bioinformatics division, was entitled "SiteKey: A Novel Binding Site Predictor for Ordered Proteins Interacting with Intrinsically Disordered Proteins."
"Congratulations to Sagar and Unionville HS!" writes Lew, who is a member of the Board of Directors and a long-time science fair judge of Delaware Valley Science Fairs. 
Second, he issued a warning to motorists and bicyclists about the intersection in the middle of Unionville where Route 162 and Wollaston Road cross Route 82.
He writes, "The most unusual numbers of drivers that I’ve observed in my 66 years do not even slow down, let alone stop before crossing this intersection! ‘California Roll' is California Run, and many are obviously preoccupied with their hand-held devices. Be super careful at this intersection and do not assume that opposing drivers will stop!"
Excellent advice, and I am happy to share it. I know that Chief Robert "Clarkie" Clarke and the entire East Marlborough police force are well aware of this situation.

UNIONVILLE: Where's the bulletin board?

What happened to the bulletin board at the Unionville Post Office?
As long as I can remember this has been an important source of local information -- events, blood drives, cars and horses for sale, apartments for rent, lost dogs, municipal meetings, and so forth -- and many people in the community have told me they're quite unhappy that it was removed.
Perhaps the powers-that-be might reconsider their decision?  

AVONDALE: Informed consumers

The other night we stopped in at Perkins on Route 41 in Avondale for a quick dinner before doing some target shooting next door at TSS (so convenient!), and I was dismayed to find that Perkins has added calorie counts to the menu. All of my favorites clocked in at upwards of 800 calories. You want fries with that? That'll be 470 extra calories!
I ended up ordering a garden salad and a chicken-salad sandwich on half a roll, which I think totalled about 500 calories. 
My dinner companion, who works hard at his physical job and is thus not so constrained by numbers on a menu, ordered a thick, delicious-looking pork chop with broccoli and a baked potato. I stole his roll and ate it the next day.
I should add that although the food-lover in me is unhappy, the healthy side of me actually appreciates knowing the nutrition information. At least I can weigh whether that the chilly deliciousness of a small chocolate Frosty milkshake at Wendy's is really worth 340 calories, or a chewy, salty Wawa soft pretzel (paired with a large Diet Coke) is worth 320 calories. 
And speaking of new menus, La Pena Mexicana on West Cypress Street in Kennett Square has expanded its offerings as well. The Mexican restaurant remains a great bargain, with terrific food and a homey atmosphere. They were doing a great business, both takeout and in the restaurant, on Saturday night when we stopped in for dinner.

UNIONVILLE: Parade for rescue dogs

There's going to be a parade of rescue dogs in the ring at Plantation Field at noon Wednesday, June 21, with prizes awarded for the oldest dog, the youngest dog, and the dog from farthest away. The parade is being held in conjunction with the "Jump for Rescues" horse schooling show (proceeds benefit local dog rescue groups), but anyone is welcome to bring his or her rescue dog. I attended the parade last year as a spectator and enjoyed seeing the wide variety of canines.
Plantation Field is at 387 Green Valley Road in Unionville.
Thank you to Kathleen Crompton for telling me about this event!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

WEST MARLBOROUGH: The extended Plant Sale

London Grove Monthly Meeting had to extend its annual plant sale because sales and attendance took such a heavy hit due to the rain on May 13, the actual day of the sale. I stopped by the Meetinghouse on the afternoon of May 19, and the weather could not have been more different: it was hot and sunny. Several Friends, including Betsy Walker, Elinor Thomforde, Denis Newbold, Mark Myers and Leona Provinski, were striking the tents and carting away the last of the tables.
Betsy Walker asked me to mention that the proceeds from the sale benefit several local groups, such as Kennett Area Community Service, the Tick Tock Early Learning Center in Toughkenamon, the Kennett Area Senior Center, His Mission in Kennett Square, and La Communidad Hispana. I contributed my part by going home with some leftover herbs and a few pots of irises.

ROUTE 41: Road project

On Monday, June 12, PennDOT will be holding "an open house meeting" to discuss its plans for the Route 41/Route 926 intersection in Londonderry Township (one of several local intersections I avoid as much as possible). According to the email I received, "PennDOT representatives and its design engineering team will be present to receive your ideas and answer questions." The meeting will be from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at the Londonderry Township building, 103 Daleville Road, Cochranville.
PennDOT has come up with four alternatives for the intersection, which you can see at the meeting or on the website (

KENNETT: Summer concert schedule

The summer schedule has been announced for the free Wednesday-night concerts at the amphitheater at Anson B. Nixon Park:
June 21: Eric Ambel
June 28: Ben Arnold (folk-rock singer-songwriter)
July 5: Kategory 5 (1970s and 1980s music)
July 12: Bryan Tuk (big-band jazz)
July 19: Grady Hoss & the Sidewinders (alt-country/classic country)
July 26: The GTV's (garage rock)
August 2: Kofi Baker's Cream Experience
August 9: The West Chester Band (pops orchestra)
The music starts at 7 p.m. and runs until 9 p.m.; we usually get there earlier to get a good spot and to socialize before the show. Food is available from a different vendor each week, or you can bring your own picnic supper. People bring lawn chairs and blankets. Kids and dogs are welcome.

SPRING GULCH: Time for outdoor music

On Saturday we headed up to the Spring Gulch Folk Festival in Lancaster County and listened to a wide variety of music, from "Brazilian bluegrass" to zydeco, Appalachian Mountain harmonies, Southern rock, and social justice anthems.
One duo, Mark Mandeville and Raianne Richards, said they like to walk from town to town, with their instruments, just so they can explore small-town America.
The high-energy band Matuto -- they had members of the audience dancing and kicking in a conga line -- travels, too: around the world as cultural ambassadors for the U.S. State Department.
The old-time fiddle and banjo duo Sam Greaves and Tyler Hughes sang the moving "Ain't We Brothers" and "Just Like Jordan." 
My favorite act was the Snyder Family Band out of North Carolina. The father plays upright bass, his daughter plays fiddle, and his sons play banjo and guitar. They were terrific, and after their set the merchandise table was swamped with folks like me buying their CD.
The Spring Gulch Resort Campground where the fest is held is a lovely, sprawling, hilly place, so people parked their RVs at their assigned spot and then drove down to the field using golf carts. There was a definite 1960s contingent in evidence, like the circle of guys with gray ponytails and tie-dyed shirts playing hackysack while holding their drinks.
The family sitting in front of us spanned three generations and brought along Chloe, their low-key, 10-year-old dog.
Although many of the RVers went back to their campsites for dinner, the on-site food vendors included Rita's water ice, Auntie Anne's pretzels, funnel cakes, freshly grilled burgers, pulled pork sandwiches, and home-made whoopee-pies (I had a mocha one, so tasty!).
I was fascinated by the way they produced the corkscrew French fries: the woman impaled a whole raw potato onto a rod connected to a driver, which propelled it into a spiralizing blade. Seriously, the Dewalt tool company needs to use that in an ad.
We were really impressed by the campground personnel, who although they were busy remained cheerful, efficient, and laid-back. Spring Gulch has a New Holland address, but it took us only a half-hour to get there from Unionville. (The 10 p.m. trip home was a little longer; thank goodness for GPS.)

OVERHEARD: I want specifics!

So I was driving down State Street on Friday evening, and as usual traffic was slow because there were so many people visiting downtown Kennett. I was stopped in the middle of the block, in front of La Verona, where every table on the sidewalk was filled with diners.
One woman was reading an email out loud to her female companion ... and to everyone else within earshot, including me in my vehicle.
Some kind of unpleasantness had transpired between the woman and the author of the email; at one point the author said it was "my prerogative" to behave the way he or she had. The author wrapped up by explaining that although the email was much longer than intended, he/she still felt that he/she had done nothing wrong and was not going to apologize.
I was really sorry when the light changed and I had to drive off. I wanted more details, and I am sure a lively discussion ensued, considering the rapt interest that the woman's friend was displaying.

SPORTS: Another PR for the YR

The Young Relative wrapped up his season with a career-best performance at the District 1 track and field meet at Coatesville Area High School on Saturday morning. Thankfully, the weather had cooled off considerably from the previous few days, and the only thing that was blistering was the pace of the athletes.
All season long my family and I had a wonderful time watching the UHS boys and girls compete; witnessing their dedication, effort, camaraderie and sportsmanship never got old.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

DUPLICATES: Identity politics

The other day I was picking up a package and the friendly clerk asked for my name. There's another local woman with the same name as mine, who shops at many of the same stores I do, so to be safe he also asked for my address and birth date.
The computer was slow, and while we were waiting he told me that name confusion had led to some major hassles for him when he was applying for a mortgage. Apparently a man with the same name had a seriously spotty credit record, including defaulting on a liquor license. After many phone calls he convinced the bank that he was not in fact miscreant, and he was eventually able to buy his house.

COUNTRY LIFE: Suddenly it's summer

As I'm writing this, the temperature in my office is 87.4 degrees. The sudden heat doesn't bother me, but poor Clarence has abandoned his cozy fleece perch and is sprawled in the corner of the room, with a fan blowing on him.
The transition to summer-like warmth has certainly been an abrupt one, and with it my life has suddenly become outdoor-focused. Within a half-hour after I put out fresh nectar in the back yard, not only one but two male hummingbirds showed up. The wren babies have hatched in the birdhouse -- a faint cheeping noise is audible -- and the parents are working hard to keep them fed. The pansies in my window boxes and planters, which were thriving just days ago, look distinctly wilted. 
That faint yellow pollen dust that is coating every surface spells trouble for allergy sufferers.
The other day I was chatting to a front-desk clerk and she mentioned how miserable this time of year is for her. I asked her if spending the day in an air-conditioned office helps at all.
"Not really," she said, with deep resignation. "It gets in somehow."

Sunday, May 14, 2017

MISPLACED: Where are they?

As I was leaving the restaurant after Mother's Day breakfast, I couldn't find my sunglasses and returned to the table to see if I'd left them there.
They weren't. I re-checked my bag, and sure enough there they were.
The waiter was amused. "Did you ever think you'd lost them and then you realize they're sitting on your head?" he asked.
No, I replied. I certainly have never done such a thing. Nope. Never. Not me.

EAST MARLBOROUGH: Willowdale Steeplechase

In contrast to the pouring rain on Saturday, Sunday was a warm and sunny day for the 25th running of the Willowdale Steeplechase.
A highlight this year was the Miss Nancy Nicholas Memorial Side Saddle Race ("2 miles over timber"), in which the jockeys wear old-fashioned jackets and ankle-length skirts (and, fortunately, modern protective vests and helmets) and ride and jump with both of their legs on one side of the horse, rather than astride. We were in awe of the skill, balance and strength of these amazing equestrians. The winner was Julie Nafe on Mccradys, owned and trained by Lauren Schock.
We've been to Willowdale many times, but by happenstance this year we found that the best vantage point for watching the races is really on top of the hill. True, you don't get the close-up view of the horses galloping by, but you do get to see a lot more of the race course.
Socializing is, of course, a big part of the steeplechase experience, and I thank the folks who fed us (and very well). The tailgate displays were lovely, with scrumptious-looking food and beautifully arranged flowers. One nostalgic party of tailgaters came dressed as 1960s hippies, complete with headbands, love beads and leather vests, and brought along a bubble machine.
The energetic little kids, many carrying stick ponies, are always fun to watch, as are the canines. One Lab was having a great time splashing around in the creek near the fence line, and we spotted a huge mastiff, a Bernese Mountain Dog, a Vizsla, several dachshunds, and a very handsome Rhodesian ridgeback. We weren't sure what breed the latter was until we saw the distinctive line of whorled, against-the-grain fur on his back.

WEST MARLBOROUGH: Charlie Zahm concert

Local balladeer Charlie Zahm and fiddler Tad Marks will be performing from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday, May 21, at London Grove Friends Meeting. Charlie and Tad have a vast repertoire of songs, from traditional Celtic to hits of the 1960s, but on Sunday they will be singing "lots of traditional songs from across the world." The concert will be held indoors in case of rain or outdoors if it's sunny. A $10 donation is suggested.


RIP: Thank you, Chief

My deepest condolences to the family of Ed Zunino, the former Kennett Square police chief who died Friday, May 12. I got to know Eddie (and his wife, Lois) years ago when I was working as a police reporter, and he was always pleasant, humble, smart and fair. He was always available to answer my questions, and if he couldn't he'd explain why. He was a well-respected gentleman and a great, hard-working cop.


Quakers have a reputation for being hardy folks, and that quality was certainly on display Saturday morning at the London Grove Friends Meeting's annual Plant Sale. I've been attending the plant sale for more than 25 years and can never recall such steady, heavy rain. Even though they were cold, muddy and soaking wet despite their foul-weather gear, the Friends remained cheerful and welcoming.
We arrived at about 8:30 a.m. and Mark and Anna Myers' field was already so muddy and rutted that cars were getting stuck. We went inside the meeting house, bought breakfast sandwiches and coffee, and then made an abbreviated tour of the sale, saying hello to Betsy Walker, Jill Benjamin, Margaret Walton, Tammy Brosius, Pat and Doug Mooberry, Grace Pfeifer, Dale Hendricks, and Kelli Trice.
Attendance and sales were so dampened by the weather that the sale was extended for a few more days.

TRACK: The Post-Season

It's on to the District track meet this Saturday, May 20, for the Young Relative! Thankfully the competition will be held close by, at the Coatesville High School stadium. We attended the League meet on May 10, also at Coatesville, and as always had a great time cheering for the YR and his team-mates. 
Sitting near us in the stands was a serious-looking man with binoculars, a stopwatch, several electronic devices, a clipboard and a bunch of binders. Who else could it be, we speculated hopefully, but a college scout!

KENNETT SQUARE: Invasive plants

The Four Seasons Garden Club of Kennett Square has asked me to mention that Kelly Sitch, a botanist from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, will be giving a talk about invasive plants in our area and their impact on the environment at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 7, at the Episcopal Church of the Advent in Kennett Square. The public is welcome.

WEST MARLBOROUGH: Living history

I have the honor of being a Board member at Primitive Hall, the wonderful 18th-century Pennock homestead in West Marlborough, and on Saturday afternoon I was giving a tour to a group of ladies from the Chester County branch of the Daughters of the American Revolution. With great enthusiasm I told them that over Memorial Day weekend a group of Revolutionary War re-enactors would be camping out at the Hall. Then I realized that these particular re-enactors are, in fact, British troops ... D'oh!

Loyalists and rebels alike are welcome to stop by and visit with the re-enactors, who portray the members of His Majesty's 40th Regiment, Light Infantry Company. Activities will include building brush huts, roll calls, marching, weapons and tactical drill, cooking, sewing, washing and hygiene, and they will be dressed in uniforms or period clothing throughout the weekend. They've told us that they love having modern visitors.
The Hall (830 N. Chatham Rd.) will be open to the public from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Saturday, May 27, free of charge. And that evening, adults can join the Company's officers inside the Hall for "Pub Night": "taste ciders, grog, and British ales and try your hand at card games played by British officers during the War for Independence." Pub Night admission is $25.

KITCHEN: There is such a thing as too efficient

I made brownies on Saturday and, opening the utility drawer to get a spatula, I noticed that one I had never used before had made its way to the top of the pile of implements. It's a newfangled one, with a flexible silicone scraper, and it was so well designed and efficient that it removed absolutely every trace of delicious gooey chocolate batter from the bowl.
Who sees the downside here?

MOTHER'S DAY: A good answer

A gym friend reports that, in preparation for Mother's Day, the members of her four-year-old son's preschool class were asked what their mothers' "superpowers" were. Her son's answer? "She goes to class at the Y." The mom's heart was instantly melted.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

PARTIES: The season for outdoor live music

I perceive that the outdoor party season is upon us. Around 9:30 p.m. Saturday night I heard the familiar rhythmic thumping that told me that somebody, not too far away, was hosting a shindig with live music, and possibly something to do with the fact that it was Derby Day. I doubt the revelers were put off by the chilly weather.
Earlier in the evening we were in West Chester and stopped in for dinner at Mabel's BBQ on East Market Street. They told us they were swamped with takeout orders for Derby Day parties. Mabel said she had been cooking since 6:30 that morning!

BIRDS: Where are the hummers?

Do you have hummingbirds yet? A few weeks ago my mother reported seeing a male hummingbird in her garden, so I immediately put out my feeder. Neither one of us has had a single visitor since, though. However, we're still changing our nectar regularly. The wonderful little creatures will be here soon enough.

GARDEN: Hairy Bittercress

Hairy Bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta) is the name of that grass-like weed that has been flourishing in garden beds and lawns this spring. It's new to me, though a gardening friend in Landenberg reports that he has been dealing with it for at least five years.
Probably its most notable feature is its multiple skinny, inch-long seed pods along each stalk. Just try uprooting it and it will forcefully shoot out hundreds of seeds -- hence its nickname, shotweed.
According to the Gardening Know How website, "The leaves are alternate and slightly scalloped with the largest at the base of the plant. Tiny white flowers develop at the ends of the stems and then turn into long seedpods. These pods split open explosively when ripe and fling seeds out into the environment. The weed prefers cool, moist soil and is most prolific after early spring rains. The weeds spread quickly but their appearance reduces as temperatures increase. The plant has a long, deep taproot, which makes pulling them out manually ineffective."

Saturday, May 6, 2017

WEST MARLBOROUGH: Traffic study to be updated

Once again, traffic was the major topic of discussion at the monthly meeting of the West Marlborough Township Board of Supervisors.  The supervisors agreed to hire traffic engineer Al Federico of Kimley Horn to update the traffic study he conducted in 2011. The cost of the update will be $3,350, and gathering new traffic numbers would cost $350 per location.
The updated study will focus on Route 842 between Route 841 and the township line; Newark Road between Route 926 and Route  842; Springdell Road between Route 841 and the township line; and Route 841 between Route 926 and Route 82.
The supervisors made the decision in the face of steadily increasing traffic volumes and speeds through the township, and possible improvements at the intersection of Baltimore Pike and Newark Road in neighboring New Garden Township.
Bill Wylie, who chairs the Board of Supervisors, said the supervisors will use the data to review possible steps the township could take to control traffic, such as installing four-way stop signs, lowering speed limits, and assuming maintenance responsibilities for roads that are currently owned by the state.

WEST MARLBOROUGH: Those dusty days of summer

Even though the "No Winter Maintenance" signs haven't been taken down yet, the West Marlborough road crew is already preparing for summer dust-oil season. (Oil keeps the dust on the gravel roads from billowing up.) At their May meeting, the supervisors discussed what kind of oil they will be using this season and the schedule for preparing and treating the roads.
"If we're going to have dirt roads, we have to maintain them," said supervisor Bill Wylie.
Also, roadmaster and supervisor Hugh Lofting Sr. reported that the long-anticipated Rokeby Road project should finally get underway this autumn. The edge of the road has been gradually eroding and falling down a steep bank toward the Buck Run. The reconstruction project will stabilize it.

JEANS: Out of touch

You may have heard that the department store Nordstrom recently started selling $425 jeans that are covered with fake mud -- as they describe it, "a crackled, caked-on muddy coating."
How tone-deaf can you get! Deep scorn was the reaction from several local friends who regularly get their Tractor Supply jeans covered with not only actual mud but also manure, grease and other actual products of manual labor.
And frankly, I think Unionville mud should command a premium.



People keep asking me what's being built on Onix Drive near the Kennett Walmart, the Applebee's, the Bank of America and the Hilton Garden Inn. No, it's not another bank or drugstore. It's going to be a car wash.

A car wash is being built next to the Hilton Garden Inn east of Kennett Square.

SCHEDULE: So much to do!

I have a whole slew of upcoming events to tell you about, so I'll just list them in order:
-- 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, May 11: Walt Chiquoine will talk about the route that the British Army took to the get to the Battle of the Brandywine in September 1777. Presented by the Kennett Township Historical Commission, the lecture will be held at the township building, 801 Burrows Run Road. Free, with refreshments.
-- 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 13, 2017: the annual Plant Sale at London Grove Friends Meeting House at the intersection of Route 926 and Newark Road. For me, this wonderful event is as much a community get-together as a plant sale. Get there as early as possible for the best selection of plants; the socializing is up to you. There's also a bake sale and coffee.
-- 9 a.m. Saturday, May 27: West Grove Memorial Day Parade. Starts in the Avon-Grove High School parking lot, travels north on Prospect Avenue, and ends at the memorial plaza at East Evergreen Street and Exchange Place.
-- 10 a.m. Monday, May 29: Kennett Square Memorial Day Parade. Starting at 10 a.m. at the Kennett High School, the parade travels north on Union Street, turns right onto Cypress Street, left onto Broad Street, left onto State Street, on right onto North Union Street. A memorial service follows at the Union Hill Cemetery on North Union Street.
-- 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. Saturday, June 3: Open house at Marlborough Friends Meeting, 361 Marlborough Road, Kennett Square. The schedule is: 2:30 p.m. introduction to Quakerism; 3 p.m., panel of Friends discussing their experiences; 4 p.m., lecture by author Doug Gwyn on "The Quaker View of Christian Revelation; 5 p.m., brief Meeting for Worship; 5:30 p.m., dinner provided by the Meeting; 7 p.m. Meeting for Worship.
-- 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 3: Bayard Taylor Home & Garden Tour. This year's tour focuses on the Unionville area. Tickets ($40) are available at the Kennett Library, 216 East State Street, Kennett Square.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

EAST MARLBOROUGH: Activity at the Superfresh

We did a double-take on Sunday evening when we saw that the parking lot in front of the former Superfresh store on Baltimore Pike was full of cars. Since the supermarket shut down, that entire side of the parking lot is usually empty.
So naturally we drove over to see what was going on, and it turns out that it was a car meet sponsored by Nex Gen Motors, a group of local automotive enthusiasts who get together every other Sunday. Dozens of gleaming, souped-up cars were on display, some with their hoods raised so that admirers could inspect the engines. Mostly men, with a few women and kids, were socializing and looking at the cars.
Other car enthusiasts, however, were more interested in function than form: many drivers were showing off their cars' acceleration, peeling out of the parking lot with high-revving engines and squealing tires.
When I got home I checked out the club's Facebook page, and they describe themselves as "a car club that promotes RideRespect, in which our philosophy is based on the idea of respecting your vehicle as well as the ones around you."

DEMOCRACY: Yes, another election

Tuesday, May 16, is the primary election, and I just received my first ad in the mail.
Judging from the number of campaign signs along the roads, most of the attention locally seems to be focused on the race for Kennett Square district judge (officially, District 15-3-04). All five candidates (David Cox, Lorraine Ramunno, Al Iacocca, Jane Donze and Sean Rafferty) are registered as both Democrat and Republican.
A celebrity of sorts is running for a seat on the Kennett school board: borough resident Mark Bowden, a former Philadelphia Inquirer reporter and the author of "Black Hawk Down," "Killing Pablo," "Guests of the Ayatollah" and (most recently) "The Finish: The Killing of Osama Bin Laden." I met Mark in my reporter days and found him to be friendly, smart, humble and fair. He is cross-filed and is the only candidate running for the school board seat in Kennett Region A.
In the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District, Jeff Hellrung and Elise Anderson are running for two seats in Region A and Thomas Day and Steven Simonson are running for two seats in Region B. All four are cross-filed.
In East Marlborough Township, there are two seats on the Board of Supervisors open. On the primary ballot are Democrats Aasif Chanandin, Robert B. McKinstry Jr., and Julia McGovern Lacy and Republicans Eddie Caudill and Tom Simpers.  
Ricki Stumpo is running for re-election for a six-year term as a Pocopson Township supervisor; same for Rob Pearson in Newlin Township, Wendell Fenton in Pennsbury Township, Curtis Mason in Penn Township, Jake Chalfin in West Marlborough Township, and Scudder Stevens in Kennett Township.
There are four seats open on Kennett Square Borough Council. On the primary ballot are Democrats Peter Waterkotte, Brenda Mercomes, Ethan Cramer and Latoya Myers; on the Republican side are Gregory Deveney, Matthew McGill and Dan Maffei. Matt Fetick is running for another four-year term as Kennett Square Mayor.
On the Chester County website there is a link to a complete list of the candidates, from state Supreme Court Justice all the way to local inspector of elections.

CLARENCE: What is this noise?

In the wee hours of Saturday morning I was awakened by flashes of lightning in the western sky. I checked the weather app on my phone, and sure enough, a line of storms was on its way east from Lancaster.
This was the first thunderstorm during which Clarence, our amazing wonderful rescue cat, has been living here, and I think we've established that he does not like them. As the rumbles of thunder started, he moved from the foot of the bed steadily closer to me, and during the height of the storm he pretty much resembled a 12-pound necktie around my neck.

HORSEBACK: A busy week

This past week was certainly a busy one for Unionville equestrians.
Many local eventers headed south to the world-renowned Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event in Lexington, either to compete or to spectate. One friend of mine went to support her Cochranville trainer (who ended up doing extremely well), and said she planned to drive down with her barn-mates on Friday afternoon after work.
"We'll get there about midnight," she said nonchalantly (it turned out to be more like 2 a.m.).
And other Unionville folks went to the notoriously challenging Maryland Hunt Cup, where this year only two horses crossed the finish line. The Hunt Cup was featured in an April 23 segment of the TV news show "60 Minutes" about the exhilaration -- and the danger -- of timber racing. Charlie Rose interviewed Hunt Cup veteran Louis "Paddy" Nielson and his daughters Sanna and Kathy; trainers Joe and Blythe Davies; and jockey Mark Beecher (who listed and pointed to the many fractures he has suffered).
The segment included a lot of action shots taken at last November's Pennsylvania Hunt Cup (including some great drone shots), and of course I tried to find myself and my friends. Every time I paused the video to rewatch it, though, an ad for an oral rheumatoid arthritis drug came on. After about the fourth time of seeing a now-pain-free woman happily walking through the zoo, I gave up. Thank you, Pfizer.