February 2019 Sky-Watch


Looking due south on clear winter nights in February, sky-watchers can find 6 bright constellations and see 8 of the top 20 brightest stars, as seen from Earth. These include the brightest of all, SIRIUS, the “dog” star, in the constellation Canis Major. Also by 9:00 pm local time in mid-February, the first sign of approaching spring is heralded by the appearance of Leo the lion, rising above the eastern horizon.

Start half-way up to the zenith (top of the sky), looking south for the “hour glass” shape of Orion the hunter. Three equally bright stars in a neat line in the center of Orion mark the “belt” around the waist of this mighty hunter. Red giant star BETELGEUSE (upper left corner), and the blue giant star RIGEL (lower right corner), are two of the eight 1st magnitude stars of winter. Orion also boasts 5 bright 2nd magnitude stars, which include the three belt stars.

Moving one’s eyes through the belt stars, down and left, points us to SIRIUS, twinkling near the southern horizon. Using the belt stars of Orion again to point up and to the right brings us to red-orange ALDEBARAN, brightest star in Taurus the bull. The bull’s head is made of stars forming a distinct V-shape in this Zodiac constellation.

Above Sirius, and slightly to its left is Canis Minor, a constellation of only 3 stars, that represents the smaller or Orion’s two hunting dogs. Brightest of the 3 stars is PROCYON. Just above this is the Zodiac constellation GEMINI, the twins. The two stick men formed by Gemini’s stars are headed by two more of winter’s brightest stars, POLLUX and CASTOR.

Above Gemini and nearly at the zenith is Auriga, the goat herder constellation, which has a pentagon shape. The brightest star in Auriga is CAPELLA, a yellow star like our Sun, but much larger.

Leo the lion is also a part of the Zodiac and one of the brightest of the spring constellations, but in February Leo introduces itself as a sure sign that spring is coming by rising above the eastern horizon then. Leo reaches its peak in April and May. The bottom star at the front of Leo is yet another 1st magnitude star to be seen in February it is called REGULUS.

Mars, among the planets, remains easy to see in the evening southern sky, but it fades in magnitude from +0.9 to +1.2 through February. Is continues to move further away from us in its orbit. even telescopes will not bring in much surface detail now because of this distance.

Mercury will give us its best views of 2019 from February 15th to February 26th. On the 15th Mercury, at magnitude –1.1, may be seen left of where the Sun set 30 minutes afterwards. But it will only be 5 degrees above the western horizon then. However, Mercury rises higher each day until by the 26th it will be 18 degrees left of the Sun, which will translate to 11 degrees of altitude, 30 to 45 minutes after sunset.

The pre-dawn eastern sky features 3 planets this month. The first up (around 4:00 am) will be Jupiter (-2.0 magnitude). On the morning of the 27th, the waning crescent Moon will be just 2 degrees above Jupiter. Venus comes up some 30 minutes after Jupiter in the East, and be even brighter at –4.2. Venus will appear in almost the same spot in the sky as Saturn on the morning of the 18th. Venus then will be only one degree above the ringed planet Saturn, which will be at magnitude +0.6. Find a good clear view to the eastern pre-dawn horizon all month to watch all 3 of these planets in the one to two hours before sunup.

Full Moon for February is on February 19th.

Mt. Harmon Wins Chestertown Horsemen’s Cup


Steve and Holly Isaacson from the Friends of Mt. Harmon (left) are receiving the Kent County Cup from last year’s winner, Chestertown horseman and this region’s fox hunting master Ed Fry

Attracting large numbers of horseback riders to historic Mount Harmon Museum Farm on the Sassafras River has drawn national attention to this rural tourism destination site and earned its owners the Kent County Cup from the Chestertown Horsemen’s Club.

Steve and Holly Isaacson from the Friends of Mount Harmon have been recognized for adding horse activities to the estate’s many tourist options. “At a time when museum farms face dramatically declining visits by younger Americans, the Isaacson’s have provided U.S. historic preservationists with a new “best practice” option, says Dave Turner, founder of Chestertown Horsemen’s Club in Kent County, Maryland. “Horseback riding definitely enlivens such sites. “It’s tragic when museum proprietors fail to promote horseback riding at their sites,” says Turner, “or, worse when they ban horses from properties where horses were a key feature for hundreds of years.”

In particular, the 269-year old estate hosts a wintertime “paperchase” event. More than 150 equestrians ride trails and jump obstacles along a path laid out by Mount Harmon organizers. In addition, Friends of Mt. Harmon offers special Equestrian Memberships to the public, which allow people to ride at the estate between May and October. “Such rides add to the spectacle for regular tourists,” says the group’s President Steve Isaacson. The Friends host regional and national military re-enactments that feature dragoons (Calvary units). “This year’s Paperchase raised $4,500 for the group,” says Isaacson, who is also a local farmer. “The Paperchase is my wife Holly’s brainchild.”

Friends of Mount Harmon, Inc., is 21 years old and is credited with restoring and maintaining the colonial Georgian home, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. The group has approximately 900 members, a number of whom participate in the unique Equestrian Membership option. The group depends on fundraising to keep the site available to the public. Like a growing number of other museum farm, Mt. Harmon provides river kayaking, nature trails for birders, and opportunities to help with locating Native American camps, slave cemetery sites, and slave dwelling footprints. Currently, Mt. Harmon has located one such locale and is in process of rebuilding the slave house. The effort is to show visitors a hands-on replication of an 18th century tobacco farm in the mid-Atlantic region. The Tockwogh Tribe inhabited the area when Captain John Smith visited in 1609.

Future equestrian projects for Chestertown Horsemen include assisting with the development of a full-scale equestrian park in the vicinity, a Heritage Horse Day Celebration in cooperation with the Historical Society of Kent County, and the establishment of a riding trail alongside Kent County’s railroad tracks. A course on Chestertown’s recreational horse activities was offered in this season’s WC-All curriculum. The group’s Kent County Cup is maintained in the council chambers at Chestertown Town Hall. Previous winners were Mr. Harry Sears and Master of the Foxhounds Ed Fry.

For information about joining Chestertown Horsemen contact Turner at dathistory@gmail.com.

The Road of Photographer Constance Stuart Larrabee: A Conversation with Author Peter Elliott


For those who remember Constance Stuart Larrabee, particularly those living on the Mid-Shore, it will always be gratifying to know that at the very end of her life Constance knew there was a high degree of attention paid to her photography.

While the native South African had been living on the Mid-Shore for more than forty years, she was intentionally reserved on talking about her work as a documentary photographer in the years before marrying a former military attache, Colonel Sterling Loop Larrabee, in 1949. If locals knew anything about Larrabee, it was for her reputation as a successful breeder of Norwich Terriers, not as South Africa’s first female World War Two correspondent. She clearly preferred it that way for reasons still not entirely known.

It was only when she was seventy that a close friend, Ed Maxcy, convinced her to share her portfolio of images from her visits to rural South African villages, the war, the streets of Johannesburg and, later, Tangier Island on the Chesapeake Bay. She began working with such distinguished institutions such as the Corcoran Gallery, Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, Yale’s Center for British Art, Washington’s National Museum of Women in the Arts, as well as our own Washington College and Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, through much of the eighties and early nineties on several well received exhibitions. All of which gave Larrabee the certain knowledge that her lifetime contribution to photography had been well-noted before she died in 2000.

But for those who have never heard her name, or seen her stunning images, there is good news to be had. Almost twenty years after her passing, fellow South African and author Peter Elliott has just completed a new biography of Larrabee after two years of extensive research.

Elliott, retiring to the South of France after a distinguished career as a London-based corporate attorney, began his new vocation as a writer on history and art, and had stumbled on Larrabee’s war photography while researching South Africa’s role in World War II.

Awed by their composition and warmth, Peter has meticulously tracked down every one of Constance’s documentary projects as well as applied a critical appraisal of her work, including a few myths she created along the way on her technique, in the newly released Constances: One Road to Take: The Life and Photography of Constance Stuart Larrabee published by Cantaloup Press.

Through the wonders of technology, the Spy interviewed Peter via Skype from his home in Languedoc, France to talk about Constance, her photography, and the lasting legacy of her work.

This video is approximately twenty-eight minutes in length. Constance: One Road to Take: The Life and Photography of Constance Stuart Larrabee can be purchased at the Book Plate in Chestertown or on Amazon here.



Holidays Bring Hope and Help to the New Year


Rev. Jim Van de Wal of Chester Valley Ministers Association watches as a Salvation Army brass band plays in the sanctuary of First United Methodist Church during the Community Sing-Along, Dec. 16.  –  Photo by Jane Jewell

The holidays–from Thanksgiving through New Year– bring joy, fun, parties, giving and getting, family reunions, lots of music — and help for the needy.

One such holiday tradition in Chestertown is the Feast of Love, held Christmas day at First United Methodist Church on High Street.  A full Christmas dinner, featuring turkey and a wealth of tasty side dishes and desserts, the Feast originated in 1984. Discontinued after about 10 years, it was revived in 2007 by then-pastor Rick Vance and has carried on ever since under the guidance of Yvonne Arrowood. Christmas music, including the singing of “Happy Birthday” to Jesus, is a part of the tradition. The meal is open to all, without reservations or payment — donations are accepted to help defray the costs, though many of the dishes are donated. Volunteers do the cooking, serving, and clean-up.

Volunteers on the serving line at the Feast of Love Christmas Dinner at First United Methodist Church on Dec. 25, 2018 – a twenty-plus year tradition.    –   Photo by Bill Arrowood.

Entertainment at the Feast of Love Christmas dinner.  (Sam Scalzo, center on alto sax with Yvonne Arrowood on his right)  –   Photo by Bill Arrowood.

This year’s feast drew a full house — around 200 attendees. They included college students, seniors, singles and family groups — in short, anyone who has no local family to join for the holiday meal, or who would like to spend part of the holiday with a larger “family.” It’s not unusual for families to bring out-of-town relatives to the feast.  The church also sponsors a free community dinner every Monday at 5:30 pm except holidays.

Stephanie King was the pianist for the Community Sing-A-Long. –  Photo by Jane Jewell

This was the second year that the Chester River Valley Ministers’ Association (CMVA) organized a community caroling event. The CVMA is a group of local ministers and lay people organized to support a variety of programs for the needy in Kent and Northern Queen Anne’s Counties. Last year well over 100 people came together in Fountain Park.  This year, on account of rainy weather, the event was moved indoors to First United Methodist Church.  But despite the drizzle, about 50 people came out to raise their voices in joy for the season.  Stephanie King accompanied on piano, and a brass quintet from the Salvation Army played several carols. In addition to the Christmas carols and songs, the program included three Hanukkah songs, led by Cantor Gary Schiff, and two texts for Kwanzaa read by Reverand Bobby Brown.

In addition to bringing people together to sing, the event also helped to raise money for the CVMA’s Good Neighbor Fund. The Good Neighbor Fund makes one-time grants to residents in need of emergency funding to cover an unexpected expense such as emergency housing, medical bills, utility bills, or working with landlords to avoid evictions. The fund is partially funded by a grant from United Way of Kent County.

Audience at the First United Methodist Church for the Community Sing-A-Long. –  Photo by Jane Jewell

Sponsors of the Community Sing-Along were the Chestertown Spy, the Peoples Bank, the Kent County Arts Council, Tidewater Trader, Kent County News, WCTR Radio, Kent Printing, the Town of Chestertown and JBK Hardware.

The Good Neighbor Fund is also a community partner of the Samaritan Group, which operates a winter homeless shelter, open January to March in three local churches. The shelter opened Jan. 2 at the Church of the Nazarene in Kingstown, with 15 beds available. It will move to First United Methodist Church at the beginning of February, and on to the Presbyterian Church of Chestertown for March. The shelter is open every day from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m., at which time guests must vacate the shelter unless the weather makes that inadvisable. James Diggs, the pastor of the Nazarene Church, is the shelter coordinator.

Cantor Gary Schiff spoke about Hanukkah and sang several traditional songs. –  Photo by Jane Jewell

Shelter guests are referred by local churches, the Salvation Army, the Good Neighbor Fund, or the Kent County Department of Social Services, which screens all the guests. Guests must remain alcohol- and drug-free during their stay. Community volunteers remain at the shelter overnight to make sure everyone’s needs are met. They also prepare meals – a hot dinner, a breakfast, and a bag lunch – for guests. The Samaritan Group also tries to help guests who need to attend school or get to work while staying at the shelter. This year, the shelter has all new cots, mattresses, pillowcases and sheets, thanks to generous support from donors.  Donations are still needed to get through the winter season.

During the remainder of the year, the Samaritan Group finds accommodations in local motels for those in need of emergency shelter. For information on the shelter, or to volunteer or donate, call 443-480-3564 or email samaritangroupkent@gmail.com.  Checks may be sent to Samaritan Group or Good Neighbor fund care of Chester Valley Ministers ‘Assocaiton at PO Box 227, Chestertown, MD 21620.   More information and the volunteer form can be found at the Samaritan’s website.

Feast of Love Christmas dinner. at First United Methodist Church, Dec 25, 2018  –   Photo by Bill Arrowood.


Rev. Bobby Brown read the main tenets of Kwanzaa.

Salvation Army solo-ist, Jason Collier.  –  Photo by Jane Jewell

Tradition, Speed and Grace: The Log Canoes of John C. North II


For many on the Mid-Shore, it’s not hard to remember the moment they first saw a Chesapeake Bay log canoe. These majestical floating museums of Bay history, with their simple design lines and overwhelming white blankets of sails, is a remarkable sight on a summer day.

Once hooked, most devotees can never seem to get enough of the images, history, racing, and cultural influence that come with this fleet of remaining log canoes on the Bay.  So it will be a great relief for them to know that Judge John North has just completed a masterful documentation of these unique qualities in the release of Tradition, Speed, and Grace: Chesapeake Bay Sailing Log Canoes, published by the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.

With the help of the CBMM historian Pete Lesher, photographer and artist Marc Castelli, and the encouragement of friends like Alexa and Tom Seip, Judge North has pulled together a classic summary of the log canoe’s role in Mid-Shore history and current life on the Chesapeake Bay.

The Spy jumped at the chance to talk to Judge North on this remarkable project. In his interview, which is also essential oral history, we focus on the four log canoes that are a special part of the North Family; Island Bird, Island Blossom, Jay Dee, and Persistence.

This video is approximately twenty-two minutes in length. The sale proceeds are to be donated to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.  The book is available for purchase at the CBMM store, the Trippe Gallery in Easton, or one can contact CBMM Guest Services Manager Sara McCafferty at smccafferty@cbmm.org to arrange a copy to be shipped.

Mid-Shore Profiles: Ron Liebman, Spiro Agnew, and Rachel Maddow’s “Bag Man”


Given the legal discussions now taking place over the Bay Bridge in Washington, it is easy for those of a certain age to have flashbacks to the early 1970s as the drama of Watergate began to unfold, and the future of another sitting president was in doubt. But for many in Maryland, it was the fall of Richard Nixon’s vice president, and  former governor, Spiro Agnew, that comes to mind as law experts once again ponder if a sitting president (or vice president) has prosecutorial immunity from felony charges while in office.

In the case of Agnew, local Baltimore prosecutors, under the leadership of Republican state attorney George Beall, had overwhelming evidence that the sitting vice president had taken bribes for almost a decade, including the acceptance of tens of thousands in cash while in his White House office. The question was not only whether they could indict him, but could they do so in time before Nixon was thrown out of office, hence opening the door for an Agnew presidency.

It just so happens that one of the local Baltimore prosecutors in the center of this remarkable storm is Talbot County’s, Ron Liebman. This fact surfaced recently when Ron and his two other colleagues were the stars of the highly acclaimed “BagMan” podcast by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that turns the Agnew case into a first-class legal thriller.

After retiring as a partner from Patton Boggs, he and his wife, artist Simma Liebman, moved to Easton to begin what has been a extraordinarily successful second career as a legal mystery writer himself, with his fifth book, Big Law: A Novel recently published by Penguin.

The Spy caught up with Ron at the Bullitt House this week to talk about this surreal moment in American history.

This video is approximately nine minutes in length. To hear Rachel Maddow’s “Bag Man” please go here



Washington College Donates $43K to United Way of Kent County


Washington College will donate $43,130 to United Way of Kent County this year, a sum made possible through payroll deductions and donations from 89 participating staff and faculty and a match from College President Kurt Landgraf.

“I want to thank all of the staff and faculty who have stepped up to donate even a small amount, and in the coming year I hope we can top 100 employees who are donating,” Landgraf said. “I know that it’s not always easy to choose how you’re going to give back to your community, but I can’t think of a better organization to support. United Way can lift up whole segments of our community’s population that need help the most, and that in turn helps us all.”

Landgraf also specially thanked Adam Goodheart, the Director of the College’s Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, who on his own made a substantial one-time gift. Including that gift, staff and faculty raised $18,130, which Landgraf “matched” with a donation of $25,000.

Members of Washington College’s staff and faculty stand in Martha Washington Square to celebrate the United Way contribution this year.

“If United Way of Kent County can meet its $220,000 campaign goal, Washington College will have accounted for 20 percent of that total,” said Sarah Feyerherm, Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students, and a member of United Way of Kent County’s Board of Directors. “Combined with all of the ways members of the College community support the United Way in other capacities, this really illustrates the College’s commitment to the greater community.”

Landgraf energized the College’s giving to United Way last year, when he asked employees to consider signing up for a payroll deduction and pledged to match whatever they raised. The total donation in 2017 was $28,154, which included $14,154 from staff and faculty, and $14,000 from Landgraf.

United Way of Kent County raises and distributes funding to multiple organizations, with a focus on improving the health, education,and financial stability of Kent County residents. In addition to the College’s donations through the workplace campaign, the College has directly supported or provided resources for many United Way member organizations including Character Counts! Kent County, the Kent Center, St. Martin’s Ministries, the Community Food Pantry, Camp Fairlee/Easter Seals, Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s Counties, Girl Scouts of the Chesapeake Bay Council, Kent Forward, For All Seasons, Echo Hill Outdoor School, and the Mid-Shore Council on Family Violence.

About Washington College

Founded in 1782, Washington College is the tenth oldest college in the nation and the first chartered under the new Republic. It enrolls approximately 1,450 undergraduates from more than 35 states and a dozen nations. With an emphasis on hands-on, experiential learning in the arts and sciences, and more than 40 multidisciplinary areas of study, the College is home to nationally recognized academic centers in the environment, history, and writing. Learn more at washcoll.edu.

Remembering Judy Kohl


As reported by the Chestertown Spy a few days ago, local Kent County philanthropist and arts leader Judy Kohl passed away at the age of 79 on December 4th. Through the Hedgelawn Foundation, Judy, and her family, have given generously to the region’s nonprofit organizations and schools, leaving a extraordinary legacy in helping our treasured arts and cultural institutions.

In response to public interest, the Spy is sharing two video interviews with Judy Kohl as she talks about her life and steadfast commitment to education, music, and art in Kent County.

LTO on High, Stams, and the Return of Neyah White and Brandywine Hartman to Chestertown


While Chestertown foodies will need to demonstrate a bit more patience over the next few months, there are some promising signs that High Street will soon be the center of a dining revolution in the not too far future.

That’s because of the Mid-Shore return of Neyah White and his wife, Brandywine Hartman, who is heading up a massive effort to restore the building where Andy’s and the Lemon Leaf restaurant called home until a few years ago as well as the old Stam’s Drug Store down the street.

Neyah, a native of Kent County, very quickly became one of San Francisco’s best known and successful bartenders in the 2000s when he moved there after college. With a remarkable career launched at some of that city’s most popular bars, including the Clift Hotel, Bacar, Mecca, and Supper Club, and then opening up the legendary Nopalito and Nopa, Neyah swiftly became rose to the top of the mixed drinks hierarchy from almost the day he settled in the Bay Area. But his one consistent long-term plan from day one was to return to Chestertown and open up his own bar.

That plan worked well for his bride to be, Brandywine Hartman, who had created her own remarkable reputation as one of the Fog City’s most applauded pastry chefs. With her background working with two of the city’s two Michelin-rated restaurants, Brandywine found herself as one of the stars of the critically-acclaimed Bar Agricole in the SOMA part of town before the two plotted their exit from California to return to Neyah’s hometown in 2016.

Since that time, life has come with a new baby, a temporary pop-up bar where JR’s and Andy’s was located, and more permanent plans to take the reins of a entirely new bar once the High Street building has been renovated, and the re-establishment of Stam’s a few blocks down as the home of an ice cream parlor and pastry shop.

The Spy caught up with Neyah, Brandywine and their daughter Suzie, a few weeks ago to talk about their new quality of life and their long-term plans of putting Chestertown on the foodie map in the Mid-Atlantic region.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about LTO please go here.