the death of traditions in chester county

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One of the things I have always loved about Chester County are the traditions. Things like the horse shows and horses, the farms, the carriaging, the crafters and artists, barn sales, flea markets and church sales, ballooning, and the independent spirits.

But today I mourn the loss of those things. They haven’t all disappeared over night, but if we as residents don’t start standing up in our communities and telling municipal governments to pay attention to us and not just the developers, we will lose what helps make Chester County so special.

I am going to re-visit the case of Upper Uwchlan and the Smithfield Barn. I will note in case Upper Uwchlan’s manager is feeling vindictive after this post that I have NOT spoken to the Smith family about this situation in a while, it is merely that people are TALKING.

I have been told that the manager (who came from Coatesville and why do I point that out? Well Coatesville always ends up in the news for not so nice things, don’t they?), met with the Smith family finally after the media picked up on the story at the start of the new year? I had heard that and was hopeful, and well what did I hear recently? That the manager had not seemed to follow through on what they had discussed? What do kids still call someone like that? A welcher? Do I have that right? Or is this just a rumor and he really likes the Smithfiled Barn and acknowledges how much his township folks go there and to places like that Carmine’s , right? Maybe they will have a new rule against pizza and wings down the road too?

So what does this manager named Cary Vargos, get out of this? Is he doing this doing this for the developer coming back to his township which shall remain nameless? The developer who will share borders with the Smithfield Barn Farm? How are those bog turtles and percing stuff going?

Of course then there are the rumors bandying about concerning municipalities that want to tell people how, when, and what time they can hold the humble garage sale and isn’t that just crazy here in the land of the free?

So I have to ask who would be hurt by allowing Smithfield Barn to have a set number of barn sales a year? Is it possible that this township manager doesn’t know barn sales are rural America’s garage sale and a deep rooted tradition? Is Upper Uwchlan going to morph into one of those individual freedoms stomping municipalities that next puts a million rules on garage sales? Auctions?

I mean obviously Upper Uwchlan government has some sort of identity crisis because they allowed the crossroads village of Eagle to grow up to be Barbie’s Lego dream village didn’t they? This is their jurisdiction right? I mean it is good to know CVS can do other architecture, but still.

When you go through there you are also reminded of the development when you look at Upper Uwchlan’s shiny newish township building. It is not as grandiose as some I have seen, but it is a testament to the present and all that developments have built isn’t it?

I hate to pick on this township manager, but I just don’t get why he wants to be the squasher of local traditions do you?

The reality is Smithfield Barn is beloved by locals and those farther afield. Barn sales are a real part of country history and tradition. That makes them a positive ambassador for their municipality. Townships can’t buy the good publicity and PR generated by happy people and goodwill towards neighbors, can they?

But the country isn’t so country any longer is it? The country has been taken over by developers who don’t plant crops in the beautiful farm fields of Chester County, just plastic mushroom houses that give off the smell of hot plastic in the summer.

Take for example another sad thing: has anyone been by what was that huge empty former working farm on White Horse Road in Charlestown Township I guess it is?

I was a passenger in a car going past that last Saturday and it made me want to cry. It is slated to be a new development and it looked like a battlefield. Demolition equipment on site and they had just basically raped the landscape and all you saw were felled trees lined up like dead soldiers from a Civil War battlefield reenactment. It was shocking and sad.

The pace of development in Chester County is somewhat terrifying at times. Nothing ever seems to be a restrained size or scope. These projects are huge and homes squished so city close together that you know residents will live crammed in like lemmings. And the crime of it is, these people don’t seem to know any better.

Then there are the things that amuse me. Like for example when people in developments in Upper Uwchlan refer to themselves as living “on the Main Line” or being from the Main Line. Uhhh no, I actually grew up on the Main Line and these people are actually living in Downingtown. And it is o.k. to say you live in Downingtown. These are like the people who say they live in Chester Springs because that is how the developer marketed certain developments, only are they Chester Springs? Not so much.

Developments change the landscape and the attitudes. Do any of these people really know the satisfaction and joy of planting their own gardens? Or do they in fact live in Stepford where all geraniums must match and grass must be “just so”? Do these people know the joy of standing outside and watching the hawks circle and cry out to one and other? And they all say they love horses, but then they don’t want to live near barns, stables, and local horse show grounds do they? And don’t get me started on traditions like skeet shooting, trap shooting, and sporting clays shooting. And hunting and fox hunting is best kept to those countrified wallpapers, right?

I love what makes Chester County just what she is. I am sad that traditions seem as if they are disappearing one by one.

I really hope people wake up before it is too late. Once the woods and fields and farms are gone, they aren’t coming back. Same with barn sales, country auctions, and honor stands at the edge of your local farm.

As good weather seems to finally be here, I encourage all of you to let people know about fun things happening in Chester County. Traditional things.

One thing I will not be encouraging people to be part of or attend is Upper Uwchlan’s “block party” on June 14th. Why support their efforts when all they do is kowtow to developers and sanitize communities against country traditions like barn picking and barn sales? Sounds mean to some, but I think they are being mean spirited to tradition.

But please if you have something fun you want to tell people about, let this blog know. Things I love are farm events, art shows, flea markets, First Fridays, barn sales, even swap meets and garage sales. Other things like strawberry and similar festivals, farmers markets, small businesses celebrating something.

Enjoy the day. It is simply beautiful out. Find your magic in everyday life.

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collecting

DSC_0651It’s so funny. I have never intentionally set out to collect anything, I have just found things I like I want in my home.  Yes for me, collecting is pretty much that simple.

This year I have purged a lot of stuff that no longer interests me.  For example when I was barely out of my teens I had a fascination with certain kinds of old glasses – sherry and cordial sized.  But realistically, I am not the generation who sips sherry by the fire, so I jettisoned them.  They were pretty, I loved them once upon a time, but now I want things I can also use.

To an extent I like  a LITTLE BIT of what would be classified as “country things”.  I am not however the gal with Holly Hobby Country wallpaper borders complete with hex signs and sun bonnets.  Nor will you find little gingham anything around my home.

The things I like are to an extent things of my childhood that I grew up around or admired in the homes of others.  I love gorgeous period antiques but for me to live with furniture pieces, I need things I can use, and use every day if I so choose.  So I love things like furniture with simple and elegant lines – I love wood.  Not deep heavy burdensome Victorian  finishes but beautiful woods with simple, clean lines, and their more natural hues and stains.

I abhor the current trends with regard to painting furniture because I feel good antique and vintage pieces are being ruined and sent to chalkboard and pastel paint furniture purgatory.  I am also sick of people calling themselves vintage and antiques dealers because they cover rickety furniture that is not necessarily worth saving with pastel paints and chalkboard paint.

Some people I know who are real dealers do a little of this with style, but not every piece in their inventory looks like it vomited pastel paint or *must* have a chalkboard.  I am a grown up I don’t personally want to live with little girl doll house furniture or people to mistake my furniture for particle board garbage from WalMart and Ikea. Sorry to sound snobby but,   I like the real wood.  Let that oak, cherry, poplar, walnut, whatever shine through.  Love the natural beauty.  Besides, wood pieces with normal wood finishes shining through will transition with you through whatever personal style evolution.  Chalkboard paint and too much pastel paint is as bad as houses that are so beige nothing stands out. And when you are tired of that stuff, you will find yourself leaving half of it on the curb for trash day.

I like a mix of old and new, and I have learned to trust my eye.  And I look at stuff – antiques stores, thrift shops, consignment stores, picking barns, garage sales – even if I am not buying  I look.  I look at how professional stylists are putting together rooms in magazine layouts.  You never know where a good idea might come from. But at the end of the day, what I do reflects my personal style and what makes a house a home to me.

I want every room to be able to be used.  Now granted I prefer to keep the teenagers out of my living room, but that is self-preservation as much as anything else LOL!

Since moving out to Chester County I have become fascinated once again with some primitives.  Candlesticks in particular. (Yes I know some of you are wondering if I have fallen out of love with plain milk glass nesting chickens, and the answer is no of course not.  But everything in moderation and my better half already thinks I have chicken issues….)

So anyway, for years I have had a black tin painted Toleware chamber candlestick that I picked up many years ago for $5 or $10 at the white elephant tables at Historic Harriton House on their annual September fair day, and between there and at St. David’s Fair and thrift shops for equally low sums over the years a few other chamber candle sticks.  They are just a little touch I like.  They look friendly and homey to me.

Recently out at Smithfield Barn I have come across a few primitive cast iron candlesticks.  They are very Pennsylvania and New England.  I thought they were fun so I bought them.  All were $10 or less each, incidentally.  I just liked their look.

So now I have researched them, and one is a primitive chamber stick (it has a finger or thumb hold and looks like it is in a little bowl), one is a “courting” candlestick (it looks like it is a spring in shape with a little wooden knob that can move the candle up as it burns), and one is a “hog scraper” “wedding band” candlestick ( it has a little screw to push up the candle like a lot of the cast iron ones do and it has a little metal band, maybe of brass that looks like a “wedding band”.)

Now I know mine aren’t fine antiques, they were used in a house in the country somewhere but I like them.  If these were the fine antique versions of themselves, they would be hundreds of dollars each. Mine will be used and enjoyed.  As a matter of fact you will still see cast iron candlesticks even in modern decor – Pottery Barn, Anthropologie, and other places.  And they are found a lot in European countries as well. But for my taste, nothing beats the American primitive form of cast iron and tin candlesticks.  Some are painted, some are not.

Cast Iron Vintage Shave Ice Tool

Cast Iron Vintage Shave Ice Tool – found for $2. Just a random display piece but is in full working order that I actually could use it!

If candlesticks like this interest you, check your more country antiques and vintage shops  and picking barns- I saw a few at Frazer Antiques last week, but they were a tad tasty in price for me – I admit it I am a bargain hunter.  You will also find country primitives like this throughout New England in places like Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont.  I think some of the most fine antique and vintage shopping you can do is in Maine and Vermont in particular.

Anyway, what bargains and cool vintage things have you found recently that you love?

morning ride

Snapped this in West Vincent.  So perfectly peaceful and beautiful to watch riders go by in their full (and correct) attire.  Except if development keeps on being the gift that keeps on giving, how long do you think we will have the privilege of seeing such things?

They used to ride like this in Gladwyne.  They used to ride like this in a lot of places. And not too long ago.  There is not room for cookie cutter development and horses and farms.  Choices must be made.  What is your choice where you live in Chester County?

 

contrasts

We were over hill and dale and back again yesterday. A friend received an honorary doctorate in Philadelphia, and then other friends had a BBQ in Chester County….And in between we were stuck on the Schuylkill Expressway behind a gaper delay of people looking at quite a swath of road lined with the little corpses of Stroehmann Bread – I am assuming somewhere Mr. Stroehmann had an accident because the road was literally lined on both sides and strewn with sliced bread and rolls!

Couldn’t help but notice the contrast of the city and country of my day.