May 2009 Archives

Greenhouse Pain Report

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Ok, now for the painful part of the story: what went wrong when we took off the greenhouse plastic (photo, right; both photos in this post can be seen in a larger view if clicked on), and what we learned as a result. And thank goodness for all that new knowledge -- otherwise, it would be all pain and no gain!

We planned to take off the plastic on a day when it seemed we would finally be clear of the threat of frost.  Unfortunately, that day ended up being around 90 degrees and cloudless -- the first of two such consecutive days. 

I kept having hesitations the night before thinking it's just going to be too hot.  But the plants had already experienced such heat in the greenhouse -- there were times before we put up a tarp on the top of the greenhouse to provide shade that we were battling 110+ degrees.

I was very concerned with the strength of the expected sunlight, but also kept remembering what I had read in greenhouse books that the light inside a greenhouse is actually more intense than outside because the amount that is reflected indoors bounces around inside the plastic instead of passing through.  Not entirely convinced, the matter was taken out of my hands when I heard my husband pulling back the plastic in that morning when I was still in bed! The matter was out of my hands... the die was cast... the deed was done.

I don't know what the greenhouse books were talking about with the light being more intense inside the greenhouse -- clearly, the plants were now experiencing bright direct -- not bright diffuse -- sunlight once the plastic was removed, and they were rather shocked by it.  I should have listened to all that hesitation I was feeling: by 11 am they were clearly unhappy.  I watered everything, which is not a minor undertaking because we are using rainwater we collected off our home's roof into two 275 gallon containers and this usually means hand-watering.

Noon: unhappy, still wilting plants. At 2 PM, I watered the most unhappy ones again.  By 3 PM they were so wilted I thought they would die. I crawled inside to worry and mourn these plants I had raised from mere pups. At 3:30 PM I gave myself a forehead dope-slap and cried, "GIVE THEM SHADE!!!" I called my husband to come home from his worksite, and by 4 PM we had re-deployed the tarp over the bare bones of the greenhouse structure. Phew -- relief at last!  It stayed up there until the temperatures came down and we had a partly overcast day. 

This whole transition from plastic to outdoors of course is important -- and sadly, we get to practice and learn from it only once a year (I don't anticipate the transition back under plastic will be traumatic).  Yes, it would be nice to do it on a day that's 70 degrees and overcast, with two more similar days following.  But we all know that New England weather cannot be commanded, much less understood.  In hindsight, we should have waited until the plants weren't having to deal with both high temperatures AND direct sunlight on their first day out.

But -- as they say: live and learn.  And most of the plants did survive, surprisingly.  How much they were set back is unknown, but surely they were.  Certainly, the tender texture of many of the eating greens was highly compromised. What other loses in quality, quantity and timing of future produce we will sustain as a result are  yet to be seen.

We used up a LOT of saved rain water getting the plants through all this stress -- water that could have been otherwise stretched further. Another thing that came into sharp focus as we ran out of stored rain water just a few days after we planted out all the starts is that we need to expand our water saving system.  We increased our bed space about four-fold over last year, yet we increased our water saving system less than 20%.  Even a math-phobe like me can see that that will never work!

Taking steps as we are to nurture the soil fungi and bacteria, we just don't like the idea of putting chlorinated water on the gardens -- seems awfully counter-productive to both support and threaten the little buggies!  You can see the temporary solution we are using in the photo of the just planted-out garden above.The 30-gallon gray barrel is filled with municipal water and the chlorine is allowed to off-gas before we use the water.  

Photos: ©2009 Rich Stevenson, Local Color Images 
This post is a continuation of yesterday's about removing the plastic covering on our unheated greenhouse (see it here). Here is where we begin to congratulate ourselves -- and alternately groan and gnash our teeth. Let's start with the triumphs and tomorrow we'll work our way to the tribulations. 

On the plus side, the plants in the greenhouse grew and thrived and produced like crazy in the months before the plastic was removed. The moment it was slid back and we could for the first time see the residents of the greenhouse against the mid-spring scenery, was utterly mind-blowing. Suddenly, the blank canvas of the whitish plastic was gone -- standing inside the greenhouse it seemed like the plants were exploding out of the place with a size and vigor I had not gleaned before that moment. The next-door neighbor with whom we garden was standing outside and getting her first look inside from that position. She had the exact same experience: that the plants were simply humongous, that the entire place was utterly crowded and was vividly bursting with greenery.  Quite a powerful shift of perspective from both vantage points!

Judging from progress in outdoor gardens, we believe we have a 4-6 (or more) week jump on the season.  Inside the greenhouse -- even now that it's uncovered -- it's sometime in July and our first vine ripe tomatoes will be here soon.

The eating had been amazingly delicious -- and plentiful, too. Both of our families had been consuming lots of greenhouse produce every day, and we had to give a lot away before we felt we could get the level of output under control.  Mostly of it was 20 different types of greens, with a few herbs tossed in.  Gently steamed greens... sauteed in olive oil and garlic... served in soups... tossed with hot pasta... rolled in tortillas... folded into omelets... consumed in dozens of simple -- and simply divine -- salads... and still we had more than could be reasonably consumed. And yet most of them continue to grow and produce (though not as well or tenderly since the outdoor temperatures soared above 90 F, and promised rain kept not arriving until yesterday, and then at only a fraction of what was expected...).

Eating all those many varieties of greens developed around the world picked just moments before they were consumed -- they were a total revelation to everyone who ate them. Where has such deliciousness been hiding from us??!  Who knew such quality and variety existed?!  Consuming them once or more a day every day made a huge impression on those of us who did.  Our gardening partner ran the Boston Marathon, and felt that a large serving of greens before and after each training run made a huge difference for her.

For me, consuming all this vibrant greenery started to fill in some empty spots in my personal foundation that had grown all-too-thin since I had cancer in 1999, and was injured in an automobile accident in 1992. Adding these extra months to the utterly-fresh garden produce season was a huge boon for me.  I don't believe I have ever felt nourished quite like this in my entire life.

Just wait until we add all those reds, oranges, yellows, and purples to these greens from the rest of the garden over the next months -- wow!  And since we plan on having mature, ready-to-pick garden vegetables standing in the (then re-covered) greenhouse even in the shortest days in December, we will be eating fresh from our own little patch of earth 12 months a year. How many people experience that in the northern US? We can't wait to see what that's like.

Note: the photo at top is of the partly-skinned greenhouse taken from the unskinned end. The brand new retaining wall at right is one of the many projects we were doing at the same time as the greenhouse peeling, the spring planting out, etc. Isn't that wall nice the way it blends in and almost disappears? It's made from interlocking "engineered" stone blocks -- the orange cones are on top to keep everyone off the wall, as tempting as it is to walk on, because the epoxy that stuck the top stones onto the last course was still drying.

Photo: ©2009 Rich Stevenson, Local Color Images
"Darling, the weather is so beautiful -- no sign of frost until Fall. Shall we drive with the top down starting today?" And so began the next phase of our unheated greenhouse sojourn: sliding off the plastic covering from most of the greenhouse, opening it up to the elements. The photo at right shows what it looks like now (click on either of the two photos in this post to see a larger image).

So, why take it off at all, much less only part-way? Well, despite providing ventilation, on a sunny day it would get up over 110 degrees F inside at the peek -- and that was just in late April!  We added a large, opaque tarp for shade then and kept it there until the plastic came off to control the temperature, keeping it under 90 at the maximum. If we wanted the plants to get full sunshine, the plastic would have to come off.

We also were enjoying our out-of-the-weather seating/eating area in one end of the greenhouse and wanted to keep it covered.  Ditto my husband's workshop that he set up adjacent to the eating area which he uses to create the infrastructure we're developing to run this mini-farm experiment of ours.  Both areas are somewhat visible in the bottom right photo (excuse the workshop mess -- it's been a busy time...)

So, how has it gone? On some levels, absolutely splendidly -- better than we could have hoped for.  On other levels... with difficulty; mostly difficulties that could have been anticipated. More on the challenges and triumphs next.

Photos: ©2009 Don Stevenson

On Thursday, June 4, from 7 to 9 PM at CCHS Concord Carlisle Adult and Community Education and ConcordCAN  are offering a workshop entitled "Transition Town Initiatives: Planning for Local Sustainability." This workshop was originally scheduled for Thursday, May 28. The instructors are Chris Ryan and Garrett Whitney, both Concord residents.

Transition Initiatives are a special kind of community program for developing local sustainability that have taken the United Kingdom by storm and are now spreading rapidly in the United States. They are a grassroots process for getting a town to organize and adapt to the growing and urgent threats of climate change and peak oil.

As oil resources diminish and climate change advances, all towns and cities must use diminishing energy resources more efficiently and sparingly. The goal of a Transition Initiative is to get the whole community involved in doing that.  After intensive consciousness-raising about climate change and peak oil, it lays the foundations for change by working closely with other groups on a community plan known as the "Energy Descent Plan."

These Initiatives are typically inclusive, fun, and productive. They have proven highly successful at creating local citizen support and strong local partnerships between residents, local businesses, and municipal government.  You will learn in the workshop about how this is now developing in Concord.

Chris Ryan, a professional city planner, is developing a new firm focused on relocalization planning. Garret Whitney has been studying and teaching about Peak Oil and related issues for over 10 years.  A fee of $15 covers workshop costs, and financial assistance is available upon request. Call Community Education to enroll, weekdays at 318-1540 or sign up online at (course 730).

From Jimi Two Feathers, member of the West Concord Task Force.

Now that Article 38: West Concord Interim Planning Overlay District has passed at Town Meeting, and hiring a consultant to complete a Master Plan for West Concord Village is nearing completion, the WCTF would like to inform those who are interested of our next steps.

We will hold a public forum on design guidelines on Tuesday, June 16th at 7:00pm at the Thoreau Elementary School Auditorium. Design guidelines are being developed jointly by the West Concord Task Force, the Planning Board, and the Planning Department. We would like as much public feedback on the draft as possible before finalizing the document.

A draft and explanation of The Design Guidelines may be viewed at or at our page on the town website at

The next West Concord Task Force meeting will be held on Wednesday, May 27th at the Concord Municipal Light Plant located at 1175 Elm St. at 7.30 p.m.  (To access the building at this hour enter through the side entrance). 

We welcome your feedback at our public forum or if you prefer, send feedback to the town's Planning Department: or Marcia Rasmussen, Director of Planning, 141 Keyes Road, First Floor, Concord, MA 01742.

Update on the MBTA 25-Year Plan Meetings

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As a follow-up on our article last week about the 25-year plan for transportation by the MBTA, we received the following info from Mari Weinberg, a Concord resident who attended the meeting.

Joe Cosgrove of the MBTA is looking for our input via email NO LATER THAN THURSDAY, MAY 28. He can be reached at

To put this in some context, this plan could substantially effect the quality of life we enjoy in Concord -- either for the better or for the worse.  The rail system may come to serve our needs better, or may simply bring MUCH more traffic to Concord's roads without providing the types of services we as a community need. Better we make that input now than we read about what's been decided later!

The public meeting held last week is being re-broadcast on our Channel 9 at the times stated on this schedule:

The next (and last) of these public meetings will be held at the Boston Public Library on May 28th from 6PM-8PM.

Prison Land's Toxicity Should be Checked

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By Mari Weinberg, West Concord resident. Previously published in the Concord Journal on May 15, 2009 (find it on the Journal's website here).

I attended a community meeting on Tuesday evening, April 14, at Harvey Wheeler Community Center in West Concord, where a proposed plan for affordable housing on the state prison land in West Concord was discussed. After reading the Concord Journal's April 16 front page article on this meeting, I feel an extremely important issue -- the possible prison land toxicity problems at the proposed building site --was publicly discussed at the meeting but never made it into the article.

A panel facing the audience included Concord's Rep. Cory Atkins, Selectmen Howes and McIntyre, Walden Woods spokesperson Kathi Anderson, Mike Malouf of Concord Housing Development Corporation and three environmental consultants.

Residents in the audience, which included the residents who co-organized the meeting with CHDC as a "fact-finding" session, raised questions concerning the site's 120-year history as a sewage treatment facility and prison dump. Citing 120 years of remodeling and construction to the prison, memories of old radiators in the dump and other building materials, led the residents to question the panel whether the building site had been tested for asbestos. The answer was no. This led to follow-up questions as to whether the building site has been tested for any possible toxic contaminants.

Again, the answer was no.

Information from the panel ranged from 1. The proposed location for the housing is on the location of the prison's dump. 2. A variety of manufacturing operations were carried on at the prison at various times. 3. No chemical analyses have been preformed on the soil on which the housing units are to be located. 4. The consultants reported that low but amounts of concern "chromium" were found in the soil septic field area.

West Concord resident Ray Hanselman, an audience participant, asked the panel what was the chemical form of the chromium found: metallic (elemental), chromate (chromium III) or dichromate (chromium VI). The panel's consultant answered that he was unable to answer this, as he felt Mr. Hanselman was more knowledgeable with this topic than he was. In a follow-up phone conversation, Ray explained to me that these three forms of chromium are listed in order of increasing toxicity, and probably specifically in carcinogenicity. Chromium is the really bad guy. He went on to say that a picture presented at the meeting by the panel, showed two rusted drums on the proposed housing site. Ray explained that this is possibly an indication of inappropriate dumping of hazardous materials.

He went on to say, "During the prison dump site's long history, a wide variety of toxic materials may have been placed in the dump. For much of that history there was very little concern for the disposal of toxic material. Indeed many of the materials now known to be toxic were not even a concern a hundred years ago or even more recently. Love Canal, Woburn, and even Nuclear Metals are interesting examples of toxic sites that were not well recognized until after the fact."

He summed up his feelings by saying: "My mention of chromium was because they found some and it seemed unusual. It can be known carcinogen; and there might be a 'mother lode' elsewhere on the site. Mention of asbestos was just an example of a material that might be on the site with that history ... any dump which has been used by so many diverse activities for over 100 years should be considered to contain materials inappropriate for residential housing until proved otherwise.

The lack of any commitment to do so or any mention of the possible problem is my primary concern. They only took a quick look at the leach field, primarily to get percolation data. They didn't look at the dump which is where the housing is to be placed."

On Jan. 13, an "emergency" bill was filed at the State House for the transfer of the Prison Land Parcel by Concord's state Rep. Atkins and state Senator Fargo. Copies of the bill: House No. 2956, House Docket No. 1402 were made available for the audience at the meeting. A question from the audience was directed to Rep. Atkins as to the wording of this bill, which would authorize the commissioner of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance to convey this parcel to the town of Concord Housing Development Corporation for affordable housing and open space. The question was, what was the purpose of the word "emergency" in the wording of the bill's opening clause: "...therefore it is here declared to be an emergency law..." Rep. Atkins answered she didn't know the reason; and perhaps it is a technicality.

In summing up, it is the purpose of this commentary to state that before the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and all parties involved in the passage of this bill allowing this title transfer of state-owned land to take place, all parties involved have a responsibility to the citizens of the Commonwealth to research the toxicity issues thoroughly.

What's "Novel" About this Flu?

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We asked Concord's Health Director, Brent Reagor what was meant by "novel"  in reference to this as novel H1N1 influenza.  Here's what he said.

"The CDC, WHO and DPH are all referring to this H1N1 as a "novel" virus as to it's genetic lineage and the fact that it appeared outside of the usual N. Hemisphere flu season."

There -- curiosity satisfied!

Two Cases of Novel H1N1 Influenza Confirmed in Concord

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Submitted by Brent L. Reagor RS, Public Health Director, Concord's Public Health Department.

Late Tuesday evening, May 12, 2009, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health notified the Concord Health Department that testing of two unrelated Concord residents had confirmed they were both infected with novel H1N1 influenza, previously referred to as "swine flu". Upon developing symptoms, both residents followed the current Massachusetts Department of Public Health and US Centers for Disease Control recommendations and voluntarily isolated themselves at home to prevent transmission of the virus.

Both individuals have recovered fully and neither required hospitalization. It is important to remember that regular seasonal influenza sickens 14,000 people annually in Massachusetts, and approximately 800 Massachusetts residents die from complications related to normal seasonal influenza. At this time, the Health Department is confident that the public health is fully protected, and no additional activities beyond the current level of local response are necessary.

The Health Department, in concert with Town leadership, the Concord Fire Department, and Emerson Hospital have been continuously monitoring the developments surrounding novel H1N1 influenza since April 24th, when reports began surfacing of cases outside of Mexico. At this time the Health Department recommends that Concord residents:

1) Continue to monitor the situation and listen for updates from local officials. Information is available at the Town's website, or through the Massachusetts "2-1-1" information line.

2) Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.

3) Practice good "cough etiquette" by coughing or sneezing into a tissue, or into your elbow instead of into your hands. Throw away tissues after use.

4) Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

5) If you get sick, stay home from work or school, consult with your family physician, and limit contact with others to avoid infecting them. Symptoms of influenza include: fever, body aches, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, or vomiting or diarrhea.

6) If you or a family member develops flu-like symptoms, please contact your family physician. The individual with flu-like symptoms should remain home from work or school until they have been symptom-free for 24 hours.

7) Now is a good opportunity to take stock of your family's disaster preparedness. More information is available at the Town's website.

Concord's leadership team will continue to monitor this developing situation as part of our overall coordinated response. Up-to -date guidance and information will be posted on the Town website as necessary. Anyone with additional questions should contact the Concord Health Department at (978) 318-3275.

Photo: Image of our state flower, the mayflower, courtesy of

Margaret Fuller: The Measure of Her Footprint

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By Rob Velella, Independent scholar and member of the Margaret Fuller Bicentennial Committee of New England

2010 marks the 200th birthday of Margaret Fuller, a woman whose life brought her from Cambridge through Concord to New York to Italy, all while laying the groundwork to change the status of women in the United States.

"On the 23rd of May, 1810, was born one foredoomed to sorrow and pain, and like others to have misfortunes." Those are the words of Sarah Margaret Fuller, written when she was ten years old. The year before, at age nine, she insisted she exclusively be called by her middle name, "Margaret." Her father, Timothy Fuller, was disappointed his first child was a girl, but trained his daughter as a boy nonetheless. By age three and a half, young Margaret could read and write - not only in English but also in Latin; she was translating Virgil by five years old.

In her early adulthood, Margaret became a teacher, inspired by Elizabeth Palmer Peabody. Her teaching brought her temporarily to Bronson Alcott's Temple School in Boston. A spin-off of her teaching career came in the form of "Conversations" - scholarly discussions for adult women to compensate for their lack of higher education. Besides the Peabody sisters, participants included Lidian Emerson. Ralph Waldo Emerson was also charmed by Margaret, noting that "she made me laugh more than I liked."

Emerson invited Margaret to helm the Transcendental journal The Dial in 1839. Through The Dial, she built a strong reputation amongst the circle of Transcendentalists - including George Ripley, who frequently wooed her to join the community at Brook Farm. Though a frequent visitor (often enough that a building was named in her honor), she never signed on. It was also in The Dial that Margaret published one of her most important works: "The Great Lawsuit: Man versus Men, Woman versus Women," later expanded into the book Woman in the Nineteenth Century (shown at right). Today, it is considered among the first major feminist writings in American history.

In "The Great Lawsuit," Margaret demanded a redefining of the role of women in the United States. Equality was important to her but could only be accomplished through greater education, access to wider career choices, and better roles in marriage. As she wrote to a friend, "I had put a good deal of my true self in it, as if, I suppose I went away now, the measure of my footprint would be left on earth." She certainly left a footprint; among her admirers were William Cullen Bryant, Edgar Allan Poe, and Henry David Thoreau. Another Concord resident, Nathaniel Hawthorne, however, was less impressed; he noted, "I think Margaret speaks of many things that should not be spoken of."

Nonetheless, Margaret continued doing radical things as a woman in the nineteenth century. In 1844, she moved to New York to work for Horace Greeley's New York Tribune, where she became the first full-time book critic in the United States (her first article was a review of Emerson). By 1846, she became that publication's first female editor. That year, she was also sent abroad to become the first female overseas correspondent. In Europe, she also reported on the revolution in Italy and it was there that she met the revolutionary Giovanni Ossoli. In September 1848, the couple had a son together, whom they named Angelino.

The lives of this couple and their young son ended tragically in 1850, when all three died at sea off the shores of Fire Island in New York. She was 40 years old. Emerson sent Thoreau to comb the beaches for her body; it was never found. Emerson and others helped establish a cenotaph in her honor in Mount Auburn Cemetery. Its inscription reads, in part:

By birth a child of New England
By adoption a citizen of Rome
By genius belonging to the world

Certainly, for a life cut short, Margaret left ample footprints. She was an inspiration for future feminist leaders like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Her writing and philosophies were admired by Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Walt Whitman. Even Concord resident Nathaniel Hawthorne paid homage to Margaret when he crafted the main character Hester Prynne in his masterpiece The Scarlet Letter, published in the last year of Margaret's life.

To prepare for her bicentennial, community members are throwing Margaret a party on her 199th birthday: Saturday, May 23, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the First Parish Church in Harvard Square (3 Church Street, Cambridge). Special guests included noted scholars and authors like Laurie James and Megan Marshall as well as a special appearance by "Margaret Fuller" herself. Light refreshments will be served. All are welcome; a $25 donation is recommended. For more information, visit

We Received a Lemonade Award!

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The Lemonade Award is for sites which show great attitude and/or gratitude, and the Concord Magazine Blog has just received it! We trust that it is because we have great amounts of both qualities...

We are grateful (ha! there's the theme!) to Rob Robillard of A Concord Carpenter Comments for giving us this award -- we are honored.

Here are the "rules" for this award that we found online.  You can be certain that we'll follow them -- but only if we feel like it and if they make sense!

Rules for the award:
1. Put the logo on your blog or post.
2. Nominate at least 10 blogs, which show great Attitude and/or Gratitude!
3. Be sure to link to your nominees within your post.
4. Let them know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog.
5. Nominate your favorites and link to this post.

We don't know 10 blogs we'd give this award to... heck, we don't even FOLLOW 10 blogs, but we'll do what we can. Therefore, we pass along this award to the following:

Skippy's Vegetable Garden - because that dog sure can garden and makes no "bones" about it. He is just a water-logged stick's throw over in Belmont. His human has a marvelous eye as a photographer -- full of gratitude.
Rock Piles - Concordian Peter Waksman, who has written for the Concord Magazine, is such an out-of-the-box thinker -- you will not look at our woods and fields the same again once you follow his adventures.
Skywriter - because she's so darned sassy... but in an ever-grateful way!
Hot Flashbacks, Cool Insights - our sister (and mentor) in punning.

May we all discover new ways to recognize the lemonade -- sometimes already within the lemons life sends us, just waiting to be revealed...

The MBTA Wants Our Input

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The MBTA is holding a series of meetings we've only just found out about.  The most local one will be in Waltham tomorrow night, May 13.  Others around eastern Mass are listed here:

This meeting will cover their future draft plans, which they describe as a plan defining the 25-year vision of public transportation in eastern Mass.  Details where to meet and who to contact are here:

Of course, this impacts our community because the train runs through Concord, with depots at both West Concord and Concord. The tracks also cross our public roads in a variety of places.  Also, effects on commuter traffic are of great concern to us. We would welcome a report from anyone who attends.

Updated Info on the Fire on Main St

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The below update is from Stephanie Stillman, Executive Director of the Concord Chamber of Commerce. For additional info, go to the Concord Journal's story about the fire.

As many of you may already know, another long-loved Concord business has suffered a loss due to a fire.  Fritz and Gigi: The Children's Shop, formerly Kussin's, was the site of an overnight fire which caused damage to the structure along with much smoke and water damage to the building and the store inventory.
As Louisa, Karen, Fritz and their families sort out the damage, we hope that we can provide support to them.
A fund has been set up at Cambridge Trust Company to help with efforts for the store to reopen as soon as possible.  Donations may be sent to:
Fritz and Gigi Special Account
Attn:  Carol Bartalussi
Cambridge Trust Company
75 Main Street
Concord, MA 01742
Another way to support the family would be to cast your vote for the Orchard House in their current efforts to receive the 2009 Partners in Preservation Award, honoring commitment to restoring places that matter.  The Kussin family are direct descendants of Louisa May Alcott and the Orchard House is another building they all dearly love.  They would be touched by your votes for the Orchard House.  You may vote at
Thank you for your support of Concord business!

Fire at Fritz & Gigi's and Churchill Flowers

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A note sent to us this morning by Maria Powers, Orchard House... you  might recall that the Kussins are related to the Alcott family.

Everyone is fine, thank goodness, and the buildings are likely still structurally sound, but the merchandise needs to be discarded and the interiors completely re-done.

The Kussins have every intention of re-building, but of course, that will take time and the store will need to be closed for the next several months (earliest opening is estimated to be July/August).  At the moment, they are not able to do anything at all until the fire investigation is completely over.  Initial (and fairly certain) reports are that the fire was caused by an electrical problem with a computer above the Flower Shop.

Although this fire is not as utterly devastating as the Verrill Farm one, we hope the the Concord community -- business partners as well as friends and neighbors and anyone who has every shopped at these fine stores -- can come together in just the same way to support and assist these folks in their time of need.

If there is any organized way in which we can get help to them, I know they would be most appreciative.  If Orchard House can be of any help, we're all over that, as we not only support the Concord businesses, but also dearly care for all the members of the Kussin family.

I know the Kussins would probably not like to be bombarded with calls and visits, but to have something more organized would be of great help. Thank you.

As stated previously on this blog, you can vote daily to help see that Orchard House gets a piece of the Partners in Preservation funding: the link's at

You know: even after living in Concord for over 25 years, I never "got" why funding Orchard House for its rehabilitation was so urgent until I was in my 2nd year (was it last year?) on Concord's Community Preservation Committee (CPC).

Another CPC member and I were assigned to look deeper into their application (applicant has a pair of members assigned). During this examination, I had an unexpected epiphany. It made so much sense, and I was so surprised I hadn't realized it before, that I still laugh every time I think of it.

Orchard House isn't just ANY very old house, which would qualify it as needing rehab funds on a periodic basis. Nooooo. And it's not just ANY very old house that gets many zillions more visitors yearly than we would ever expect a normal residence to receive. Nooooooo. There's an entirely Alcott reason for the special problems it has, and its name is BRONSON.

Orchard House was an experiment for Bronson Alcott, who was equal parts utterly brilliant and such a fool you just want to shake some sense into him. It's Bronson's very special treatment of this structure -- treatment that is 100% in keeping with his character and the way his mind and life operated -- that has caused extra special urgency for rehabilitation of the structure.

Bronson wasn't all too keen on the specifics of the physical world. Earning a living so his family would not be destitute -- this didn't seem to worry him much. Nor does it seem that the laws of gravity was of special consideration to him -- they simply were not substantial limitations in his mind.

Therefore, Bronson saw fit to enlarge the rooms in the downstairs of Orchard House by removing inner load-bearing walls and supporting beams without compensating for their absence. He was told he was crazy by carpenters. That his house would not withstand this treatment. He would hear none of it.

Ah ha! I realized: so THIS is why Lousia called the place "Apple Slump" -- even in her lifetime the house was sagging when the inevitable happened. Gravity had its way and the place may have collapsed had not emergency measures been taken periodically since it came into preservationists' hands.

To wit: if you go into the dining room, you will notice between the table and the stairs the casing around a beam is open -- you will see a steel beam inside. This is because Bronson -- in an especially expansive Transcendentalist swell -- had perpendicular, crossing supporting members removed. Hello, Mr. A -- what were you thinking??!

If you look in Marmee's bedroom at the ceiling from the inside, you will see how amazingly the line that should have met the wall straight wiggles instead -- it's hard to believe it has held up. That side of the front of the house was not stabilized until that CPA funding was awarded -- the other side (Louisa's room) was stabilized a couple of decades ago. Note the totally un-square shape of the front window trim from the outside next time you pass by. It's laughable... unless it makes you weep!

And my favorite: have you ever looked inside the little door that is on the casing of the beam above Louisa's writing desk? Ask staff to open it for you next time you visit -- THERE IS NO BEAM INSIDE! The windows and casing alone were holding up that part of the house for decades.

And I've not even mentioned the rot caused by there being absolutely NO foundation under the back part of the house -- another Bronson "fancy"  -- that was attended to in the first phase of the house's rehab back a few years. Nor have I mentioned what a vastly sagging structure does to original wall treatments... oh, the pain of it!

Heaven forfend that Bronson do all this to some house built since WWII! And never mind our current building code -- I doubt it would have seemed like something he'd have worried about. What a marvel of workmanship and over-engineering that house was to have withstood its "Bronson-ization" this long!

Staff at Orchard House has done a splendid job of hiding just how fragile parts of the underlying structure have been. Perhaps TOO GOOD a job, because it meant that folks like me didn't understand for far too long what the urgency has been about.

The house is in great hands now, and its needs are going to be met -- but they need your help. Voting continues through the 17th of May. Use the buttons at the top of to link to the voting page.

Hear Ye!  Hear Ye!
     Of the Most Significance!
      A meeting of the Massachusetts Council of Minute Men & Militia, Inc. will be called to order on the 17th Day of the Month of May in the year 2009.
      Said meeting of all ye good men and women shall commence at 1900 hours
(7:00 p.m.).
     The Meeting place shall be the Joshua Harnden Tavern in the Town of Wilmington,
County of Middlesex and shall continue from thence until all such business of great
import shall be concluded.
    All members delegates of the Honorable Units, Minutemen, and Militia of the
Commonwealth of Massachusetts are requested to attend.

With Permission:
Colonel Joseph J Balliro Jr., J.D., J.A.
Massachusetts Council of Minute Men & Militia, Inc.

Fish Post Email Address Missing

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Sorry, we thought we linked Mary White's name in the byline to her email address, but find we did not. So here it is: (sorry Mary for any spam that comes to you out of this!).

A Concord Community Supported Fishery Drop-off?

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By Mary White, member of ConcordCAN (Concord Climate Action Network)

ConcordCAN has contacted the New England Marine Alliance which is organizing a Community Supported Fishery called the Cape Ann Fresh Catch.  It will work similarly to a CSA.  If we can get 30 to 50 people in the area interested we could apply to be a local drop-off site. 

However, the deadline for application is this Saturday, May 9th.  I have attached more detailed information about how it works and the benefits of such a program.  If you are interested in a share please let me know by this Thursday, May 7th.  Let me know what size share you would like. I will then let you know if we have enough people.  If so, then we will each email in the application in the Gloucester CSF Application selecting the Concord drop-off. Please feel free sharing this information and my email address with others who you think might be interested.

Quoting below from the Cape Ann Fresh Catch (CAFC), Community Supported Fishery Application (download it here):

Cape Ann Fresh Catch (CAFC), Community Supported Fishery program, or CSF, is a collaboration of shore-side residents and the local fishing community. CSF members give the fishing community financial support in advance of the season, and in turn the fishermen provide a weekly share of seafood during the harvesting season to shareholders.  A CSF reconnects people to the ocean that sustains them and builds a rewarding relationship between fishermen and shareholders.

There is an essential quality to seafood that you only get when it's harvested locally and delivered to you just hours out of the ocean.   Our small family-owned boats enable us to pay attention to the way fish is caught and to focus on strengthening our local food community, economy, and the sustainability of the ecosystem. The long-term health and abundance of the Gulf of Maine are important to all of us.

Cape Ann Fresh Catch (CAFC) will deliver a variety of the freshest haddock, cod, flounder, hake, dabs, grey sole, monkfish, Pollock, and redfish - and possibly other seafood such as clams, lobsters and scallops.  In traditional markets fishermen are forced to chase whatever species is fetching the highest price that week. By taking a mix off these species at the same price week-to-week (about $3/lb), fishermen are able to fish areas that are not stressed by the rest of the fleet, and give species and ecosystems time to recover and replenish.
This cooperative system also keeps fishermen safer because they don't have to fight the weather to go offshore for a certain species; if the weather is dangerous, they can stay close to shore and catch only what the CSF needs that week. At the same time, shareholders are guaranteed the freshest, highest quality fish caught.  The fish caught for the CSF will never be old or frozen, and it will always come from fishermen who believe in working with the ocean and the community.

For additional info, also download the Community Supported Fishery Basics document.

I had forgotten all about harvesting Japanese knotweed this spring (photo at right of the mature plant). Happily, my husband's parents remembered my interest  and brought me some today.  My father-in-law has been trying to eradicate a particular stand for about 10 years, and I like to think this bunch helped in that cause.

If I had remembered to look for it, last week -- or even the week before -- would have been a better time to gather it as all the stems above ground would have been edible.  Now I had to pick and choose to get the most tender tops.  The good news is that anything that was picked today will re-sprout and be young and tender.

Up close, the stems are speckled red just like rhubarb, to which it is often compared.  Lightly steamed, it has a very pleasant tartness, not the killer tartness that unsweetened rhubarb has.  Eating it was really quite delightful.  The color of it steamed is an undelightful olive drab, though.  I decided to dress it with some soy sauce and toasted sesame oil in honor of its Japanese heritage. I'll serve it room temperature with dinner tonight.

I've tried peeling and steaming some of the somewhat more thick stems to make a compote like you would with rhubarb. But it's not easy to peel a hollow tube -- which is what the stems are -- and have anything left at the end is a fairly frustrating thing, so I'll keep to the more tender specimens, given how plentiful they are. Next batch I will cook and sweeten like rhubarb, and use on top of ice cream, as knotweed can be used for either savory or sweet.

Altogether a good wild vegetable to eat and I would certainly have it again.  And given its invasive bounty, I like to think I'm contributing something positive to the local ecosystem.

More about eating Japanese knotweed:

All tied up over knotweed: Cambridge [MA] art gallery holds its own version of 'Iron Chef'

Pick your own knotweed shoots

Japanese Knotweed Recipes
Japanese Knotweed (some good photos)

Photo: Courtesy

Dogs in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery

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We're asked fairly regularly if it's ok to visit Sleepy Hollow Cemetery with a dog. 

Yes, it's ok to bring a dog to any of our public cemeteries, but according to the Town's Dog Bylaw:

Section 1.       No owner of a dog shall permit such dog to be outside the confines of the property of the owner unless the dog is held firmly on a leash or is under the control of its owner.  

Section 2.       No owner of a dog shall permit such dog:  ,,,,

i.    to be within the boundaries of Town cemetery property unless the dog is held firmly on a leash at all times.  Furthermore, it shall be the duty of each person who owns, possesses or controls a dog to remove and dispose of any feces left by his or her dog on any Town cemetery property."

So, sure: bring Fido, but keep him/her under your control on a leash and clean up afterward! Here is the full text of the Town's Dog Bylaw for your reading pleasure.

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