June 2009 Archives

Coyote Spotted During the Day

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eastern_coyote.jpgAre our local coyote losing their fear of humans? Neighbors are sighting lone coyote during the day in our editor's Concord neighborhood. Two reports were of one walking down the street, and another sticking his/her head in the window of a vehicle parked on the street full of teens eating takeout hamburgers! These have been reported to be healthy looking animals.

It might be a good idea to let children know that any "doggies" roaming the neighborhood may not be dogs at all (though canine).

by Debbie Bier, Concord Indies Steering Committee Member. This was also published as an op-ed piece in The Concord Journal (June 25, 2009)

ecirwb.jpgAt the first anniversary of the Concord Independent Business Alliance ("The Concord Indies") on June 19, the repeated impression I have of the past year is one of delighted surprise.

The first surprise is that in years past, attempts have been made by some local independent merchants to create a coalition with their colleagues -- attempts that never really got off the ground.  Yet, starting from the moment of its inception, the Concord Indies was an energetic, growing, make-things-happen group.

What's different now? "It's because people like you [a non-merchant] are involved."  Together, we've learned that it's the entire local economy -- not just retailers -- that we need to preserve and strengthen.  This includes consultants, manufacturers, service providers, restaurants and B&Bs, cultural institutions, healthcare practitioners and farmers... and residents and visitors, too. Because when Indies thrive, so does the entire community.  Research shows that local businesses deliver significantly greater economic return to a community than national chains. Every $100 spent at a locally owned business creates an average of $68 of new local economic activity, versus only $43 when the same $100 is spent at a national chain.

storefrontb.jpgThe second surprise has been a long series of kind and creative acts. For example, the Concord Flower Shop owner offered Churchill Flowers workspace in her shop to fill orders after the recent fire at Churchill Flowers.  Concord Flower Shop is also offering customers joint specials with Maximum Image by Sue.  Renjeau Galleries needed a new location, and the Concord Lamp Shop brought them in and is beautifully integrating both of their inventories. Indies who had never known each other before enjoy our wider network from which they draw nearly instantaneous, workable solutions to meet their needs.

The third surprise was unsolicited affirmation from local organizations.  The Concord Journal, wrote an editorial praising local independent businesses as an intrinsic part of Concord's community.  ConcordCAN (Climate Action Network) declared support for the Concord Indies and cited local independent businesses as vital to reducing our carbon footprint. The West Concord Task Force also gave recognition to the Concord Indies' direct efforts to preserve local character and vibrancy.

The last surprise came from residents and others who love to do business here. During the winter holidays, the Indies talked about the importance of preserving local, independent businesses. Quite a few Indies were worried about being able to stay in business come January. Yet nearly all of those businesses weathered the economic downturn -- in part because the Concord Indies kept their plight front-and-center throughout that period.  As a result, shoppers repeatedly inquired if merchants were okay, and expressed how much they valued our businesses, pledging to do more or all of their holiday shopping with local Indies. The data support these observations: cities with active "Buy Local" campaigns reported much larger increases in holiday sales (2%) on average than where there were no such campaigns (less than 0.5%).

Residents and other community members have a chance to directly support the goals of the Concord Indies by becoming members. Visit our table at Picnic in the Park to find out how you can become a Concord Indies member and to participate in the "10% Shift." Sample our strawberry shortcake (made with fabulous local berries!), and other goodies. (More about Picnic in the Park below)

Clearly, many forces have come together at the right time to make our first year such a success. The Concord Indies are truly blessed to have been "...born into the most estimable place in all the world, and in the very nick of time, too."

For more information or to join the Indies, go to www.ConcordIndies.org.

014A471C-000F8513.jpgPhoto courtesy of Concord Flower Shop

Dark Romantics: Hawthorne and Poe Lecture

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25047699.thb.jpgRob Velella, independent scholar and guest blogger here (see his Margaret Fuller Post here) will present "Dark Romantics: Hawthorne and Poe." This lecture will take place on July 2nd at 6:30 p.m. on the side lawn of The Wayside, Lexington St. Parking is available.

Velella will be speaking about how Hawthorne and Poe stood apart from the general Romantic movement and how their work emphasized the evil side of human nature. He will also talk about their personal interactions, how they viewed each others' writing, and so on. The talk is sponsored by Minuteman National Park and celebrates the bicentennial year of Edgar Poe and the upcoming birthday (July 4) of Nathaniel Hawthorne.

By Dale Cronin, Assistant Superintendent, Concord Municipal Light Plant, 978-318-3102

23200539.thb.jpgTen percent of your electric bill is directly related to the amount of electricity Concord uses for just one hour in the entire year. That one hour occurs every summer during a hot weekday afternoon.

If we could reduce our electric use during that one hour, the entire Town would benefit with lower electric rates and a cleaner environment as the least efficient electric generating plants operate during peaks.

Would you like to help? If so, we will email you during the summer when we think the peak hour might be near due to weather conditions, and you could defer the use of electricity during that 3 hour period to help reduce the Town's peak.

How could you reduce your electricity use? You could defer the use of appliances until later in the day, shut off pool pumps for a few hours, raise the setting on the air conditioning thermostat or anything else that would reduce consumption.

Anyone wishing to join should use the email address Cmlp-cap+subscribe@googlegroups.com. Simply send the email as the Subject and Body can be blank. Google Groups will automatically send an email requesting a verification of the request. This has been set up as a one way email system so members can only receive emails from this site.

Thanks for participating and if you have any email friends that may be interested in joining please send the above email address along to them. It wasn't clear as to how much detail needed to be included so if there are any questions please let me know. Thanks for helping Concord Light help you.

Slime Mold Update

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slimedistance.jpgJust when you thought it was safe to read this blog -- it's slime mold time again! After writing about slime mold appearing in the (then enclosed) solar greenhouse on April 22nd, spot on two months later, we're seeing it outdoors now.

slimeclose.jpgMy husband lay some bricks and flagstones around the apron of our front stair landing. This required him to excavate about 3" of depth in the "lawn" (which was very compacted and mostly broadleaf plantain and other tough-as-nails plants). The loam was much richer than either of us had expected; he put it in the compost heap. 

He used this loam to build a ramp for the wheelbarrow to get to the top of the compost pile, as you can see in the photo above; the center portion is compressed from the barrow's wheel. And yesterday on either side of the compressed section appeared that beautiful golden stuff that is the first visible, fruiting stage of the slime mold. The right side quickly turned into the puffy form, the one that looks like expanding spray insulation (at least to me it does -- click on the image above right for a larger view). The left side remained golden, though a bit less so, all through today. 

It fascinates me that the slime mold was in the soil all these years, just waiting for the right level of something -- light? -- to arrive, and BAM! It fruits immediately. Son of a gun...

CCHS Flu Update

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22999795.thb.jpgFrom a broadcast email to parents of Concord Carlisle High School students from principal Peter Badalament.

Dear Parents,

This is to inform you as of Wednesday morning, there are 5 confirmed cases of influenza (4 from last week and 1 from this week) in students at CCHS. These students will remain home for 7 days or until they are symptom-free for 24 hours, whichever is longer. Several of these students are already healthy and have already returned to school following these guidelines.

I want to dispel any rumors that there are large numbers of students out of school. As of today, there has been virtually no change in our absences due to illness rate. I get the feeling that there is some wishful thinking among students that exams could get canceled due to the flu -- no such luck.

We continue to monitor the illness/absence situation and again reinforce the  recommendations of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health that if your child is sick with a fever of 100 degrees or more and a cough or sore throat they need to stay home to prevent the spread to other students and adults in the school. Other symptoms of the flu are headache, body aches, chills, vomiting or diarrhea. It is also important to avoid activities outside of school to minimize spreading the illness.

Most recent flu cases in Massachusetts have been mild but there are certain groups that are more susceptible to severe illness such as those with chronic health problems, children under 2 years, the elderly, and those with a compromised immune system.

Please remember the following steps to keep healthy and please reinforce them with your children:
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (at least 52%)
  • Cover your cough by sneezing into your elbow, or use a tissue
  • and discard it afterwards
  • If you or your child is sick, stay home from work or school and if the symptoms are flu-like, remain home for 7 days after onset of symptoms even if you are feeling better or 24 hours after your symptoms go away - whichever is longer.
  • Stay informed about the latest developments on the flu
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) can be used for fever control but in order to be well enough to return, the temperature must be normal for 24 hours without needing these medicines.

For more information on flu prevention please visit the following
website: http://www.concordma.gov/Pages/ConcordMA_HealthNews/0149756F-000F8513
blossomfarmerwithbouquet.jpgSeeing our plants blooming, our Swedish neighbor told me that where she came from, when the potatoes bloomed it was the perfect time to rob the first baby tubers from the plants. Eaten with the skin on and served with dill, sour cream, and herring on the side, they were so amazing, that people would kill to have some.

I assumed this was a figure of speech, but you never know -- the most unexpected things can make certain people homicidal.

"So, if I dig around and find no new potatoes, we'll know that you crept over in the middle of the night and took them, right?" I asked.

"I can see the entry in the police log now," she offered. "'Resident called to report their baby new potatoes had been stolen from her plants during the night. Soiled footprints lead to a neighbor's home. An officer was dispatched to investigate,.'"

To avoid such a possibility, I "rooted" around under a few plants and came up with a few, dear little potatoes. Oblong, they were 1.5" long at most. I'd have to have done some further digging around to find the label that would have told us what the variety was, which I haven't managed to get to yet. Though looking at the flower, skin, and flesh colors, plus the large size of the plants, my first guess is Rio Grande Russet.

I boiled them for 8 minutes, dressed them with olive oil, salt, pepper and dill. We skipped the herring this time as our herring seeds got into the ground late, and aren't bearing fruit yet.

My husband and I ate some, and they were very, very, very, very, VERY good.  Nothing that would drive either one of us to violence, but we have another 10 or so potato varieties to try out in the next couple of weeks -- could be one or more of those might incite murder under the right circumstances.

Illustration: From the Potato Museum website. Interestingly, the caption says, "Swedish illustration of a farmer embracing a bouquet of potato blossoms. Artist unknown, 1970's". No further comment is needed, is there? 

Garden/Greenhouse Update

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jungleside.jpgThe rain this week was so welcome -- and much needed. Lots of harvesting continued this week, this time from both inside the (now open) greenhouse and the outdoor gardens:

  • first ripe tomato! (a cherry)
  • 2 varieties of strawberries, 1 growing in hanging pots
  • both snap and podded peas
  • arugula
  • both baby and full sized bok choy
  • red mustard
  • broccoli raab
  • red Russian kale
  • Dataglio chard
  • garlic scapes
  • purple topped turnips (both greens and bulbs)
  • salad burnet
  • lettuces
  • collards
  • mint, mint and more mint!

The first outdoor sowing of arugula and the third indoor sowing are at the same stage now.  Think of it: our unheated greenhouse yielded us months of some vegetables that are only now coming into harvestable size outdoors.

The first zucchini are forming -- isn't it nice that in Spring we are happy to see zucchini coming along? I wonder how long looking forward to squash will last?

Tomatoes Gone Wild
Can we talk about tomatoes -- specifically, the fear I've developed about the ones planted in the greenhouse? They have become many-tentacled monsters.  The Cherokee Purples and Big Cherry Tomato plants are 6' tall. The Romas, though the seed packet says they are indeterminate, are far more compact. I've staked and tied them up several times. I knew they needed another round last weekend, but I couldn't do it myself and couldn't get anyone to help me, busy as we all were.

And now another week has passed.  The vines are obscuring the paths. Together, they form a dense forest from which I fear I will not return if I dare to enter into the heart of the bed.  Like a fly falling into a pitcher plant, I'm sure I will be be consumed by them, instead of the other way around. 

If after a few more days you don't see any more posts on this blog, you will be able to surmise my fate.

jungleall.jpgWhy Is It So Crowded in the Garden?
When we planted early, cold-tolerant and cool-loving plants, I anticipated that they would have finished their production already and been replaced by either younger plants of the same variety or warmer weather crops.

However, that's just not how things have unfolded.  Instead, we've had two and three successive sowings of "spring" crops growing and producing at the same time! I don't like to pull out plants that continue to be productive. For example: I kept the first generation of bok choy going long after the second was producing, pulling the first out only as the third sowing was almost ready to have its first light harvest.  And I'm only just about to pull out, blanch and freeze the first of now three sowings of collards, this earliest dating to October, 2008. So to reduce congestion, I either need to pull out older plants sooner, or let more time pass between sowings, or both.

I also need to anticipate that the cool-loving plants will more substantially overlap the warm weather plants than I had originally thought.  How much overlap? I don't know... it probably will have to do with the amount of sunshine, rain and warmth -- in other words, upon the utterly fickle New England weather.

Photos: ©2009 Don Stevenson


Speaking of New England Weather...

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... which we often are... some of our favorite quotes about this subject come from Mark Twain, extracted from his weather speech given December 22, 1876. And Clements knew of which he spoke: though he's more typically associated with the South, he actually lived in Hartford, Connecticut starting in 1871.

The occasion for his address was the 71st annual dinner of the New England Society, held -- inexplicably -- in New York City. Below is this hilarious speech in full, as published in Mark Twain's Speeches (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1910).

I reverently believe that the Maker who made us all makes everything in New England but the weather. I don't know who makes that, but I think it must be raw apprentices in the weather-clerk's factory who experiment and learn how, in New England, for board and clothes, and then are promoted to make weather for countries that require a good article, and will take their custom elsewhere if they don't get it.

There is a sumptuous variety about the New England weather that compels the stranger's admiration -- and regret. The weather is always doing something there; always attending strictly to business; always getting up new designs and trying them on the people to see how they will go. But it gets through more business in spring than in any other season.


In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of four-and-twenty hours. It was I that made the fame and fortune of that man that had that marvelous collection of weather on exhibition at the Centennial, that so astounded the foreigners. He was going to travel all over the world and get specimens from all the climes. I said, "Don't you do it; you come to New England on a favorable spring day." I told him what we could do in the way of style, variety, and quantity. Well, he came and he made his collection in four days. As to variety, why, he confessed that he got hundreds of kinds of weather that he had never heard of before. And as to quantity -- well, after he had picked out and discarded all that was blemished in any way, he not only had weather enough, but weather to spare; weather to hire out; weather to sell; to deposit; weather to invest; weather to give to the poor.

The people of New England are by nature patient and forbearing, but there are some things which they will not stand. Every year they kill a lot of poets for writing about "Beautiful Spring." These are generally casual visitors, who bring their notions of spring from somewhere else, and cannot, of course, know how the natives feel about spring. And so the first thing they know the opportunity to inquire how they feel has permanently gone by.


Old Probabilities has a mighty reputation for accurate prophecy, and thoroughly well deserves it. You take up the paper and observe how crisply and confidently he checks off what today's weather is going to be on the Pacific, down South, in the Middle States, in the Wisconsin region. See him sail along in the joy and pride of his power till he gets to New England, and then see his tail drop. He doesn't know what the weather is going to be in New England. Well, he mulls over it, and by-and-by he gets out something about like this: Probably northeast to southwest winds, varying to the southward and westward and eastward and points between, high and low barometer swapping around from place to place; probable areas of rain, snow, hail, and drought, succeeded or preceded by earthquakes, with thunder and lightning. Then he jots down his postscript from his wandering mind, to cover accidents. "But it is possible that the programme may be wholly changed in the mean time."

Yes, one of the brightest gems in the New England weather is the dazzling uncertainty of it. There is only one thing certain about it: you are certain there is going to be plenty of it -- a perfect grand review; but you never can tell which end of the procession is going to move first. You fix up for the drought; you leave your umbrella in the house and sally out, and two to one you get drowned. You make up your mind that the earthquake is due; you stand from under, and take hold of something to steady yourself, and the first thing you know you get struck by lightning. These are great disappointments; but they can't be helped. The lightning there is peculiar; it is so convincing, that when it strikes a thing it doesn't leave enough of that thing behind for you to tell whether-- Well, you'd think it was something valuable, and a Congressman had been there.

And the thunder. When the thunder begins to merely tune up and scrape and saw, and key up the instruments for the performance, strangers say, "Why, what awful thunder you have here!" But when the baton is raised and the real concert begins, you'll find that stranger down in the cellar with his head in the ash-barrel.


Now as to the size of the weather in New England -- lengthways, I mean. It is utterly disproportioned to the size of that little country. Half the time, when it is packed as full as it can stick, you will see that New England weather sticking out beyond the edges and projecting around hundreds and hundreds of miles over the neighboring States. She can't hold a tenth part of her weather. You can see cracks all about where she has strained herself trying to do it.

I could speak volumes about the inhuman perversity of the New England weather, but I will give but a single specimen. I like to hear rain on a tin roof. So I covered part of my roof with tin, with an eye to that luxury. Well, sir, do you think it ever rains on that tin? No, sir, skips it every time.

Mind, in this speech I have been trying merely to do honor to the New England weather -- no language could do it justice. But, after all, there is at least one or two things about that weather (or, if you please, effects produced by it) which we residents would not like to part with. If we hadn't our bewitching autumn foliage, we should still have to credit the weather with one feature which compensates for all its bullying vagaries -- the ice-storm: when a leafless tree is clothed with ice from the bottom to the top -- ice that is as bright and clear as crystal; when every bough and twig is strung with ice-beads, frozen dew-drops, and the whole tree sparkles cold and white, like the Shah of Persia's diamond plume. Then the wind waves the branches and the sun comes out and turns all those myriads of beads and drops to prisms that glow and burn and flash with all manner of colored fires, which change and change again with inconceivable rapidity from blue to red, from red to green, and green to gold -- the tree becomes a spraying fountain, a very explosion of dazzling jewels; and it stands there the acme, the climax, the supremest possibility in art or nature, of bewildering, intoxicating, intolerable magnificence. One cannot make the words too strong.

First Ripe Tomato!

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Strawberries and tomatoes are ripening at the same time here.  A bit disorienting, but delightful!  Our first tomato was ripe July 15 last year.  Yesterday the ripe cherry tomato was noticed that was June 12.  Let's say it's a month (give or take) early using the non-heated greenhouse.

The first ripe ones had blossom end rot from being in pots too long, which allowed them to become thirsty too often (one of the causes of blossom end rot).  This is the first tomato without blossom end rot -- we won't count the others as they might have ripened prematurely due to the rot, as injured tomatoes often do. 

What's blossom end rot? Here a page with some good photos from Texas A&M: http://bexar-tx.tamu.edu/HomeHort/F1Column/2006%20Articles/MAY28.htm

Photos: ©2009 Don Stevenson
Working with your hands: in many traditions, this is an time-honored and revered way to make one's living.  The inventiveness, the pride, the usefulness, beauty and economy of an experienced worker performing his or her craft well.  Such work is often called "honest," honesty being a characteristic held in highest regard across cultures worldwide.

In other cultures -- such as the one our affluent community is a part of -- working with your hands is considered by many to be both menial and demeaning.  It is below us, we who prize academic and intellectual achievement so highly. The "white collar" remains white because it is not sullied by unseemly toil, with all the implied purity of cleanliness intact.

I've been pondering this for a long time, but it never came into such clear view until I read the article in a recent New York Times Magazine called "The Case for Working with Your Hands."
The author, Matthew B. Crawford, wrote the soon-to-be-released Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work. He has a PhD in political philosophy, yet he has found his life works best when he repairs vintage motorcycles for a living.  He says that working with his hands in this way challenges his intellect and problem-solving abilities in a manner that purely cubicle-bound work simply cannot.  Rather than shut off his mind, work with his hands actually enlivens and engages it more fully and vividly.

As a professional counselor with two advanced academic degrees -- and a jewelry maker, backyard farmer and former chef -- I very much can affirm the health and well-being inherent in his choice.  I know that working with my hands engages ALL of myself in a positive, energizing way that nothing else can, and I see the truth of this in my patients, friends and family, too. (Thus solves the oft-commented upon mystery of why I pursue so many different types of professional work at the same time!)

This isn't a new conundrum -- it's been a wobbly path we've been on for quite some time, including in Concord.  Did you know that in 1899, Concord's Town Meeting accepted a substantial bequest from the two Pritchard sisters that required creation of a school for the manual arts that also gave children a basic, academic education, too? Both school teachers, they were greatly concerned that the choice children had between getting a good education and working at a trade was robbing them of the former in favor of the latter.  Their funds purchased land near the corner of Sudbury Road and Stow Street beside a now-gone public high school.  The school building that arose on that spot (The Emerson School) strongly included manual arts in the curriculum.  In fact, the Emerson Umbrella was allowed by Town Meeting to become the master lease holder for the Emerson School some 25+ years ago because their proposal for a multi-discipline arts center was the only presented choice that was in harmony with the original Pritchard bequest.

Crawford makes the case well for our reconsidering the type of intellectual education and careers we want ourselves and our children to pursue. It's going to be up to us as adults to re-examine any fossilized attitudes we have about manual labor (even this term is considered lowly), and to exchange them for ones that serve our children, ourselves, and our society far better.  I suspect these ideas first arose from feudal times when privileged landowners were distinguished from lowly peasants by the cleanliness of their hands. They were reinforced by the 16th century Scientific Revolution, the 18th century Age of Enlightenment, and the ever-escalating 20th and 21st century expectations we have for academic excellence and achievement. In too many quarters there is far too little questioning about these 500-year-old beliefs about the relative merits of the mind over the body.

Everywhere, the economy is tumbling the isolated ivory towers of intellectual work and study. The movement toward holistic living has made us understand the body-mind-spirit to be a single unity, a whole.  Yet as a culture, we still believe that the life of the intellect is THE life to have... the one of highest value, in which manual workers become second class citizens. Proof of our part in this is the minuscule enrollment Concord has at Minuteman Technical High School, regardless of that school's high rate of college enrollment and future employment success. State curriculum pressures also have forced us to remove everything from home economics to woodworking and more from CCHS' offerings. Ok, but at what price?

We badly need to reconsider our attitudes about this for the health and happiness of our ourselves and our children, as so many of us cannot be our best in a sit-still-all-day environment. That includes our best physical health; just look at the growing Type 2 diabetes problem we have, which requires more physical activity as a vital component of its treatment plan.  Ever wonder why substance abuse and mental health issues abound in this country? Such unnaturally inactive work may lead a surprising number of us to drugs, depression, anxiety, suicidality, etc: right work for the individual builds health and well being on all levels... the wrong work destroys it.

What if we stopped forcing ourselves and each other to be "less whole" through our disapproval of working with one's hands for a living? People of all ages need to knit together and reclaim ALL of themselves, not be torn asunder.  While we grapple with this as a culture, I will, as Ghandi said, "be the change we want to see in the world." I will continue to practice a set of professions that knit together hands, head, heart and soul.

By Marcia Rasmussen, Concord Director of Planning & Land Management, as posted to the Concord Discussion List on June 12.

The following is my report to the West Concord Task Force, made at their meeting on June 8th, per the direction of the Town Manager and Board of Selectmen.

On Tuesday, June 2, I met with developer Ross Hamlin to discuss his interest in the West Concord Chrysler dealership property and the adjacent properties that make up the southern block of Commonwealth Ave./Laws Brook Road (from Bradford Street to Maple Street); he
indicated that he had or was working on getting these properties under agreement. I noted that Mr. Hamlin was the developer responsible for the "life-style" shopping center on Route 2A/119 in Acton several years ago (where Trader Joe's and Pier 1 Import are located) and in 2008 proposed development in Wayland of the Lee's Farmstand site.

Mr. Hamlin is interested in developing the entire block on Commonwealth Ave. with a mixed use that includes retail (local or regional, not a national chain and not a drug store), restaurant and residential (80 units?) with constructed parking for approx. 200 vehicles. He envisions
a structure that is within the current height limitation of 35 feet. He does not want to develop something like the Acton shopping center, but something more suited to West Concord. He has not hired any architect, planner or landscape architect to prepare a design. He did not go into detail about the development of the large lot across from this site, but spoke of the potential for improved circulation and parking and indicated that he had been talking to Nick Boynton about the Beharrell Street area.

I discussed with Mr. Hamlin the current West Concord master plan effort that is just getting started and the Interim Overlay Planning District that was adopted at Town Meeting; the limitations on wastewater capacity at this time and the work that is being done to identify solutions and options; and the rezoning that would need to occur to allow the level of
development that he is proposing. He was interested in the potential for 40R zoning (yes, this zoning would require 2/3 approval by Town Meeting) that could provide the Town with a one-time influx of funds ($100,000+).

34876602.jpgI suggested that he may be interested in participating in the design charrettes, workshops, brainstorming sessions and master plan discussions so he can hear the concerns, issues and potential solutions that are being considered for West Concord by the residents of the
community. He expressed an interest and willingness to participate in the master planning effort.

That is the extent of the conversation to date and the extent of any planning done to date. This is a great opportunity to discuss the potential re-use and redevelopment of a significant site in West Concord in the context of the entire village.

You Can Help Concord's Blandings Turtles

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(for an article we previously published about the first Blandings hatchlings found in Concord in decades, see http://www.concordma.com/magazine/julaug00/blandings.html)

Blandings turtles (Emys blandingii, pictured at right), a "threatened species" in Massachusetts, are declining in our state.  The local population at Great Meadows in Concord is the third largest one known in all of New England, but it has declined by more than 50% in the past 30 years. Blandings' nests are often inadvertantly destroyed, and adults -- especially nesting females -- have been killed by cars when crossing roads.  Without our help, these unique turtles, many of whom are over 60 years old, will soon be gone from Concord.

In 2003, biologists and conservationists, led by Concordian Dr. Bryan Windmiller, John Berkholtz of Zoo New England, and Stephanie Koch of USFWS Great Meadows, began studying the plight of the Great Meadows Blandings. Since then, they have been tracking them, learning about their needs, protecting nests, and raising some of the young at Zoo New England and the New England Aquarium to enhance their chances of living to be the adults of the future.

Here's how we Concordians can help:

1) Report any sightings (noting exact location and time) of the Blandings at Great Meadows to Bryan Windmiller (bwindmiller@gmail.com, 978 369-5507).

If the turtles have radio transmitters attached to them, record the number on the transmitter if there is one visible. Also please note if there are notches filed into the edge of the shell and, if you have a camera, take photos of any notches.

2) Allow these rare turtles to nest in your yard.  Many females choose yards as their nesting sites during the June nesting season. If possible, allow them to nest on your property and allow our turtle conservationists access to locate and protect the next. They would then check the nest every day in September to secure the babies of the next generation.

3) Help ALL types of turtles cross the road.  If it is safe for you, help all turtles across roads, always placing them on the side to which they were heading.

Here is identifying information for the Blandings.  The adults can be large (7-9"), with a high-domed, dark shell.  They have bright yellow, unstriped throat and chin, and no red markings.

No need to report sightings of Snapping or Painted Turtles (pictured immediately above and at right). The Snapper is very large, with a saw-toothed rear edge of their flat shell. They have "dragon-like" points on their tail.  The Painted is the most frequently seen turtle in Great Meadows, often found to be basking in the sun.  They are fairly small (4-6" for the adults). They have a flat, dark shell with red markings along its edge, and yellow and red stripes in their head and neck.

Hearing on Design Guidlines for West Concord Village

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There is an upcoming West Concord Task Force meeting next Tuesday, June 16 at 7 PM at the Thoreau School where the public will be able to give input on these design guidelines, currently in draft form. Do note that if there doesn't seem to be much objection, the Planning Board will approve and adopt them in July. If there does seem to be a fair number of issues the public brings to the table, then their adoption will be postponed. 

These draft guidelines will help shape the kind of businesses, buildings, traffic and population density we would like to see in West Concord into the future, which makes citizen involvement important. Click here to see the draft guidelines:
http://www.concordnet.org/pages/ConcordMA_BComm/West%20Concord%20Task%20Force (there are four related documents to download on that page).

We believe this is an opportunity for residents and business owners -- regardless of where they live -- to both be briefed, and to voice their concerns, helping to retain West Concord's unique character.

Those who wish to submit comment in writing can do so by email or snailmail: mrasmussen@concordma.gov or Director of Planning, 141 Keyes Road, Concord, MA 01742.

Upcoming Sale on Comm Ave of Multiple Properties

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There's a new potential West Concord development, as reported by a member of the Concord Discussion List who attended Monday's West Concord Task Force meeting:

"At the West Concord Task Force Committee Meeting this evening [6/8/09], Greg Howes came to announce that Ross Hamlin, developer of the Trader Joe's plaza in Acton, has gotten control of the entire block along Commonwealth Avenue from Bradford Street past Concord Chrysler, along with the lot across the street. He's proposing a mixed commercial/residential (3 stories) development with a restaurant, 80 apartments and parking for 200 cars. He claims that it would be a 40(r) development -- in which state funds are contributed to the town for encouraging development with proximity to transportation."

The properties in question are all on Commonwealth Ave between Bradford and Maple. It includes the Chrysler dealership, as well as the parking lot in front of Nashoba Bakery across the street from the dealership. 40(r) relates to "Smart Growth".

The properties have not been purchased yet, but are under agreement.  No applications for this development have been filed with the Town. 

Is Your Deck Safe?

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Editor's Note: Given that the window of wonderful late spring weather is upon us, that means that many of us will be heading out to our decks.  What has the passage of time -- including last winter -- done to that deck, though? Time to check, and here's what to look for, thanks to today's guest blogger...

By Rob Robillard, of A Concord Carpenter Comments, where a more extended version of this article was recently published here.

It's important to make sure your deck is built right and safe!

Most experts agree that the average life expectancy of a wood deck is 10 to 15 years but we all know many decks that are still standing and a lot older than that.

It is estimated that there are millions of decks in the U.S. that are beyond their useful life and may be unsafe. Deck collapses have increased in recent years. Since 1999, there have been more than 850 reported injuries and 20 deaths as a result of deck failures. [simpsonstrongtie]

If you're building a deck or have an existing deck, you should know how to evaluate its construction to make sure it's structurally sound and safe. Using the proper building techniques, materials, structural connectors and fasteners as well as regular maintenance are key to a safe and strong deck.

Here's a few tips for you to use to check and see if your deck or porch is up today's safety standards. This article covers the following aspects of deck safety:

Inadequate footing and post connection
Rotted posts
Weak post to deck connections
Wobbly deck
Inadequate ledger to house connections
Missing or wrong joist hanger nails
Missing or worn out ledger flashing
Loose railings

Click here to go to the author's website to continue with the rest of this article...

Photo: Monument Hall, Concord, MA photo by concord carpenter

Spurge Can Cause Rashes & Eye Damage

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Here's something we learned today after seeing local children with a rash from handling the spurge (Euphorbia -- photo above) growing wild in their yard, as it does in many places in Concord.  They had an intense red rash on their faces. They had thought the milky white sap from a plant in their yard would be fun to put in their brother's face as a "beauty cream."  The "beauticians" apparently touched their own faces during the "treatment" and also had rashes.

Upon checking with our old friend Google, it turns out ALL types of Euphorbia will cause rashes.  It's not just the sap alone, but the effects of sun exposure on the skin that has been exposed to the sap.

Of particular note is to NOT get the milky white sap/latex in the eyes as it can cause them serious injury. This can come about if the plant stem or root is broken and spurts latex, or if it gets on the hands and then the eyes are rubbed.  Since the reaction isn't instantaneous (often appearing hours later), people may not be aware of their exposure, and easily spread the sap to their eyes.

Some report this rash can blister, and also cause itching or hurting very intensely -- the kids did not report such, happily.

We do enjoy seeing this plant in bloom during the spring, but handling it we will be much more careful now!
Here are a few photos from our gardens taken this week.  Click on any to see an enlarged version in a new window.

The photos of bees (one caught in mid-wingbeat -- I love how its air pressure has curved the wings -- and another beside a newspaper shred, which is undoubtedly a spelling bee) are a bit of a conundrum that perhaps readers can help out with. I mulched a potato bed with shredded paper and found I had a bee situation on my hands. Zillions were buzzing around trying to get through the shreds into a nest (or nests) in the ground.  I had forgotten I had noticed bees of some sort entering and exiting a ground nest earlier in the week. I thought I saw only one egress, but it's possible I was mistaken.

I certainly don't want to hurt any pollinators -- they have trouble enough without me giving them grief.  So around 5 PM, we pulled back the mulch to allow them to go home for the night.

The bees flew around like mad for a while, all loaded with pollen, but as evening came on, they... disappeared. Went underground? I don't know. When I went out at 9 PM, I was able to put the shredded paper back in place without encountering any bees.

I don't know exactly what happened in the morning, but we do see bees coming and going, the paper shreds presenting an obstacle, but perhaps not an insurmountable one. 

I do believe these are some kind of bees -- they are smaller than wasps/yellow jackets which are the other ground-dwelling choice. They were totally unaggressive with us, even though it still gave me the heebie-jeebies to get close to so many of them flying about. It's quite likely they  are miner bees, which would mean there is a hole for each bee as they are "solitary," each having their own nest, and I just didn't notice the multiple holes. We would love an ID from anyone reading this -- email us at blog@concordMA.com.


Photos: ©2009 Rich Stevenson, Local Color Images
As part of our experiments in growing food to see how self-sufficient we can become, we are growing a lot of crops that are not typical for the "normal" New England home garden. Some have been wildly successful, others only marginally so.  One (okra), was a totally and repeatedly dismal failure.  Just the vast variety of things we've tried has been a plus, as eating widely is really the most healthful and interesting thing to do.

Sweet potatoes are definitely on our list to try.  They are grown from slips (pieces of their vine), not chunks or whole potatoes like "Irish" potatoes (which are really South American in origin... go figure!). These have proved impossible to find locally, so it was going to be phone or internet order, or grow our own slips, which we were not prepared to do, given that we wanted varieties that did well in northern gardens, and the grocery store provides generally unknown varieties. We also didn't want to grow what we could get in the grocery store, preferring to explore a broader set of options.  Since I generally regard what is sold in the grocery store to be selected for ease of the grower's and grocer's handling -- not for maximum deliciousness or nutritional quality -- we had to get our hands on some from other sources.

After 3 million phone calls, this week I finally received the sweet potato slips I ordered in January, which was the first (but not last) time I asked for them to arrive in early -- originally April 1 to be planted in the greenhouse to give them a longer season in the ground. On the plus side, these slips had some roots on them, which should start the plants on their growth more quickly. On the additionally negative side, they shorted me 25% on the quantity of one of the two varieties I choose! 

It turns out that planting the sweet 'taters in the greenhouse was not to be for a variety of reasons in addition to their late arrival.Though I had held open a bed just for them, it is in the area of the greenhouse where the plastic cover is sill intact so as to keep Rich's household carpentry projects and tools dry. It not only has the 2 original layers of plastic over it, but 2 additional layers from the now-open end that we flipped on top. This is enough plastic that during much of the day there is a sharp-lined shadow falling on this not-to-be-sweet potato bed. Which I am quite surprised to see.

This is great for the bed beside it since it's all planted in greens and it seems to be extending their season of tenderness and sweetness. But sweet 'taters need to think they're in the south, so that much reduced light is just not going to cut it. But we now know where we can plant cooler-temperature plants to perform their best, so this, too, was a positive experience. 

The planting instructions included with the slips interesting tips for northern gardeners that I wanted to pass along here. They recommend forming 12" raised rows into which to plant the slips. Then cover the bed with black plastic to keep the soil extra warm (we used black, recycled paper that comes in a roll and is sold specifically for gardens). They also suggested planting at different distances to see what worked best, suggesting 12, 15, and 18". The claim is that with the advent of these planting methods plus varieties more suited for northern climes, the yields are nearly double, which is almost equal those in the deep south.

We'll see.

First Birthday for "Concord Indies"

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 The "Concord Indies" (Concord Independent Business Alliance) are celebrating their first birthday later this month.  Part of the celebration will see the launch of "The 10% Shift," which is also taking place in communities such Boston, Arlington, Somerville, and across New England.

"It was amazing to see how quickly this organization came together. We've already had a community-wide effect," said Kati Winchell, who provided a pivotal spark by organizing a workshop for independent businesses last June sponsored by Save Our Heritage. This workshop followed the activity the prior year surrounding the attempt by CitiBank to move into two retail spaces on Walden Street. "Just one week after the workshop, 40 businesses launched the Concord Indies, with over 60 businesses involved by December. The energy gathered behind this effort is an indication that this is exactly the right timing."

The Concord Indies are part of a growing nationwide movement, with similar alliances operating around the country including several in metro-Boston. An independent business alliance is a coalition of locally-owned independent businesses, citizens and community organizations united to support hometown businesses. Such alliances are a proven tool to help maintain unique town character, ensuring continued opportunities for entrepreneurs, building local economic strength, and preventing the displacement of locally-owned Indie businesses by chains.  Business types include retail, service, manufacturing, agriculture and more.

"The 10% Shift" Begins
"As a result of the Concord Indies' public education efforts, all through the holidays people came into the store every day to tell us how much they valued and supported us, which was wonderful to hear," said Marie Foley of Concord Hand Designs on Main Street. "Many told us they were going to do more of their business in local Indie establishments as a result."

The "10% Shift" is focused on exactly this type of transition to local independent businesses of all types.  The 10% Shift invites people to shift 10% of their current spending to local, independent businesses, and away from chains, malls, and distant businesses on the internet.  It launches in Concord on June 25 as part of the Indies' birthday celebration, and on July 1 in other cities and towns.

Regional shift organizers estimate that if the five million households in New England shifted 10% of their existing purchases from non-local businesses to locally owned independent businesses, thousands of new jobs would be created, and millions of dollars of new economic activity would occur in New England. All this can happen without the use of one taxpayer dollar.

Did You Know?

Local firms generate 70% greater local economic impact than chains per square foot, or 58% by revenue.

Source: The Andersonville Study, Civic Economics, www.andersonvillestudy.com

Upcoming Events
New and renewing Indie members receive a discount on the membership fee through June 19. "This is an excellent time to join the Concord Indies," says Debbie Bier, owner of several Concord Indie businesses including her private holistic therapy practice, Greater Wellbeing, and SprialBeading.com.  "We invite not only independent businesses, but individuals, families, sponsors, and nonprofits to become members.  The health and direction of our local economy affects and concerns all of us."

The Concord Indies have a "No Indie Left Behind Policy," helping any Indie who wants to join in become a member. This includes quarterly payments when PayPal is used on their website, and other ways to make membership affordable for all Indies.

The Concord Indies have several upcoming dates to note:

  • June 1-19: Discounted membership rates for Indies that join or renew (see website for details)
  • June 24: Next meeting - Potluck celebration of Concord Indies' 1st birthday for current and prospective members; discussion of upcoming events
  • June 25: Launching of 10% Shift
  • July 4: Concord Indies at Picnic in the Park
  • July 1-14: "Celebrating Our Independents," a national movement to strengthen local economies and their independent businesses
A variety of educational and promotional efforts will help consumers better understand the value of Concord's local independent businesses and how to best ensure their future. Participating businesses will be highlighted. "Those who join us now will benefit from all of these activities," said Foley.

To learn more or to join as a member, see their website at www.ConcordIndies.org, or contact Marie Foley at 978-371-2118 or info@ConcordIndies.org.

Willard Family Carnival This Weekend

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By Connie Benn, Willard Carnival Co-Chair

Looking for something to do with the kids or grandkids this weekend? Then consider coming to the Willard Family Carnival!

When: June 7th, 12:00 - 4:00 pm

Where: Willard School
185 Powder Mill Road
Concord, MA

Featuring: Terrific Games, Fantastic Food, Prizes,
Raffle and Silent Auction

And new this year: Award winning children's entertainer
Johnny the K, who will be giving a free concert from
2:00 - 3:00.

The 2nd Annual West Concord Village Day

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By Joanne Loynd, Organizer, West Concord Village Day

Saturday, September 12th , 2009 9-3pm
West Concord Business Area and the West Concord Commuter Parking Lot
(Rain Date: Sunday, September 13, 2009)

This year the West Concord Village Day promises to be bigger and better!   Our goals include more store participation from the local West Concord businesses, Arts & Crafts from local crafters , introduction of Non-Profits , Flea Market tables , Antiques to sell and games and food sources for all.

Join us and share the spirit of West Concord . If you or anyone you know would enjoy the opportunity to sell your wares and spend a nice Autumn day with others doing the same, we need you and welcome you.   A n application for registration has been submitted to Yahoo.   Fill it out and email back.   Provide an email address and we will keep you informed and up to date on the activities.

Anyone who would like to participate in the planning, even on a limited basis, is also needed and welcomed! All monies raised from the sale of table space will be used to celebrate the 375th Town Birthday in 2010. 

Pass this information to your friends and share with your email lists to help get the word out!   Additional contacts will be made, postings will be published and flyers spotted in the various popular spots around town over the next few weeks.

To join, register or ask questions? Send email to me, Joanne Loynd or to Meg Gaudet.

Image: An old postcard of the West Concord Depot ("Union Station") back in its heyday in the 19th century.

Interesting Search Terms Used on ConcordMA.com in May

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We have been using a customized search function through Google so that visitors can search the entire ConcordMA.com website.  Sometimes the terms that are searched for make a whole lot of sense, and other times, they simply boggle the mind and make us wonder how on earth these folks ended up on this website in the first place!

Last month, the most popular request was for "Thoreau and The Flannery's (sic)" -- Michael Flannery being described in Frank Sanborn's Life of Henry David Thoreau as "The other was Michael Flannery, industrious Irishman from Kerry, who would honestly saw [cordwood] for me, and do any other work I needed; and whom I continued to employ for twenty years...." Flannery also at some time borrowed money from someone in the Thoreau family. Anyone doing research on this topic might understandably come to the ConcordMA.com website, though we haven't any information to offer on that particular subject. The only thing mysterious about this is that it was the most searched-for term on our site!

Other easy-to-understand terms are locations like Walden Pond and Lexington Road, Barrett, Hayward, parade, certain living citizens' names, and someone looking for a map of historic Concord.  Even "eye disease in the nineteenth century" makes sense, though why us doesn't. 

Others, we had to search for ourselves to try to understand, though we still don't know how the searchers ended up at ConcordMA.com.  This includes several requests for "concord blue gas pvt,, mumbai" -- which can be somewhat explained by going to http://www.the-bluetower.com/, a company in India, which describes itself thusly:

We are a waste management consultant specialized in implementing  turn-key waste to energy solutions. Concord Blue Energy Inc.  is the project management and manufacturing  firm for the  installation of the environmentally friendly and economically sustainable Blue Tower. The Blue Tower is a revolutionary waste to energy gasification system which handles the disposal of multi-feedstock such as municipal solid waste and sewage sludge.

We don't mind anyone searching for these things, but it does pique our curiosity which can only sometimes be satisfied.

The Main Street Market and Cafe is holding Girls' Night Out every Wednesday evening (more info here). Appetizers, dinner and cocktails start at 5 PM. Then Girls' Night Out gets start at 7. While you are enjoying appetizers, dinner and drinks with your "girl friends" (gentlemen aren't excluded!), there are a handful of "cafe-kiosks" available with a rotating showcase of local artists. Each week has a new assortment featured.

This week, our publisher and editor, Debbie Bier, will be there with the jewelry she creates (www.SpiralBeading.com) this week on June 3rd. Come out and say hello!

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