June 2010 Archives

DSC_0628.jpgSo sorry I have been behind on poultry updates -- two weeks have gone by since the last one! The girls' fanclub has encouraged us to provide some new photos and a report on their doings. (click on any image for a larger version in a pop-up window... sorry, no autographs...)

They are now part-way into their 8th week -- almost half way to POL (point of lay = approximately 20 weeks). They continue to grow rapidly and are simply thriving.  They are more calm now, extremely sweet, and all feathered out -- just beautiful birds.  They still don't like to be touched -- much less picked up! -- except for one of the barred rocks who seems to want (or allow) me to scratch her breast and chin.  Does she like it? I don't know. At least she comes near and doesn't run away when I do -- though she pecks me each time.  Given that the barred rocks peck at EVERYTHING (and much moreso than our other two varieties), I don't take the pecking as a sign of anything in particular.

The other barred rock, which I reported some weeks ago as being the "runt," has caught up with the others quite well.  The runt is now clearly one of the gold-laced wyandottes (at rightmost in the bottom photo here).  Her eating instincts are several notches below the others'. If she drops food from her beak because she has something that's too large to eat in one bite (which they all do), instead of picking it up like the others will, she'll run over to where she got it for more.  Or if there's plenty in the dish, instead of getting some eats for herself, she'll wait to steal some from another bird, which doesn't always work and she ends up with nothing.  No wonder she's so much smaller! We think she's the least sharp knife in the drawer among the six.

DSC_0607.jpgThey are such big girls now they sleep on their roosting bar!  That's like going from a crib to a "big girl's bed" for a toddler. They don't yet sleep with their heads under their wing -- that should come later -- but I'm surprised they've been roosting at night for a week now.  The first few days were a little shaky, though. They all wanted to roost IN THE SAME SPOT (as measured in microns).  So if one was on the roost, the next one would hop/fly up and knock the first one off.  Should two or three be up there all cuddled together as close as possible, the next one would knock off two plus herself trying to jump into the middle of the party.  Now they all manage to get up there, though there's quite a bit of pushing and shoving.  Despite the heat, they sleep so close together that if one fell off the roost in the night, she'd probably take the rest of them with her.
 
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Every time we move the chicken tractor to a new location to give them fresh pasture, we also move a wooden bench so that the many human gawkers (including us) can sit and watch them go about their day. Actually, we're up to two benches now there are so many watchers. All the humans agree that it's very relaxing to gaze at the chickens pecking and scratching and drowsing... time seems to stand still and it's hard for anyone to tear themselves away. Drop by sometime, and you'll find any number of glazed-over humans mesmerized by the chickens just being chickens. We call this "watching Chicken TV" -- not having a television, this is the closest we get to on a regular basis to utterly mindless entertainment.

DSC_0612.jpgKeep in mind that as huge as these girls seem now, they will eventually be 6.5-7.5 pounds each -- perhaps six-fold their weight now (a guess, since they hate being picked up so much I  haven't weighed them).

©2010 Rich Stevenson, Local Color Images

Walden St. Post Office -- Looking Great!

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waldenpo.jpgHave you noticed how sweet the new landscaping in front of the Walden St. US Post Office looks?  We noticed a sign today crediting the project to joint sponsorship between Gorgeous Gardens and Barrett & Co (the latter being their across the street neighbor).

What a sad eyesore that "landscaping" had been until recently. That end of Walden Street otherwise opens into lovely trees, lawns and window boxes. It was such a sadness that the post office had been so out of step (the poorly cared for privet hedge was bad enough, but the maple seedling grown up into a small tree that kept getting cut back but was never removed was painful to see). 

What a wonderful improvement that graces the streetscape well. Excellent work!

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Photos: ©2010 Deborah Bier

Concord's Bottled Water Ban in the NY Times

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20170938.thb.jpgThis article focuses in today's New York Times not just on the passage of the ban on bottled water at this Spring's Annual Town Meeting, but primarily on Concordian Jean Hill as the moving force behind it: Where Thoreau Lived, Crusade Over Bottles.

Also see the companion piece from yesterday in the Times' Video Timescast: http://video.nytimes.com/video/playlist/timescast/1247467375115/index.html?hp (starting at 4 minutes, 15 sec).

(Notice to reporters and others who have been writing to us for Jean Hill's contact info: sorry, we don't have an email address for her. It would also not be our policy to give out a resident's email address even if we did have one.)

Cory Atkins Runs for Re-Election

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c_a1.jpgCory has ably been our State Representative for several terms now. This November she will have an opponent on the ballot.  Though she has thoughtfully held off campaigning over the past couple of years due to the economy, her campaign will be holding a fund-raiser this Sunday (June 27) from 4-6 PM at Dick and Dorris Goodwin's home.

Doris will introduce her, and you can learn about Cory's work and accomplishments on behalf of our district. To RSVP and/or make a contribution ($100-500), contact 978 369-5299 or email coryatkins2010@gmail.com.




West Concord Synchronized Baking Team

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stuHands.jpgRecently, we were early meeting friend at Nashoba Brook Bakery. We happened to stand inside where we could watch the bakers through the window that overlooks the brook-side of the building as viewed from the kitchen.

We were watching the oven nearest the window being loaded. It can simultaneously handle 163 full-sized loaves we were told; the loading operation was what we saw, and it was a performance worthy of a ticket-buying audience.

Two young men were taking ready-to-bake loaves and putting them in the oven. Now, that sounds awfully pedestrian -- and this was anything but!  The loaves had finished rising in their individual, lined baskets and had to be carefully turned over onto the baking peel (more on that peel in a moment) without undue harm to their loft.  There were something on the order of 50 loaves turned out one-by-one for each insertion of the peel.  The whole shebang was then lightly dusted with flour, and each top was slashed with a blade along its length.  The entire peel was raised/lowered to be aligned with the proper baking chamber (there looked to be at least four total), and the loaves were inserted into the oven. The peel pulled out and the door shut for baking.

As interesting as the above paragraph is, it's still not nearly evocative of what we saw.  Every movement was spare, efficient, full-bodied, rhythmic -- and performed at high speed.  Not rushed, but as fast as the bakers could go and be in control of the process. There were two of them working on each batch together, and they worked smoothly toward the same goals together -- sometimes one doing more of one task, sometimes the other -- but getting the job done as a well-oiled team. 

26668826.thb.jpgThere were moments where they had to work together in a fully synchronized manner, particularly when the peel was withdrawn from the oven.  And don't think "flat, wooden paddle" when you read "peel" -- instead, visualize a flexible but stiff surface about four-feet in diameter and maybe 10-feet long.  It's rolled out with a snap onto the prep surface, the loaves loaded onto it and readied.  The ready-to-bake load is positions in front of the open oven door and the pair of workers slide it in. With another snap -- this time with more speed and muscle -- they both pull on the outer edge of the peel and out it comes. 

From the distance we were watching, more detail was not possible to discern. But their skill and teamwork shone forth clearly. We never saw those finished loaves emerge from the oven -- much less taste them --  but nonetheless, the view was quite exciting.

Nashoba Brook Bakery bakes their awesome bread 14 hours a day, 7 days a week. Come watch the performance any time the cafe is open, which is Monday to Friday 7:00 am to 5:30 pm, Saturday  7:00 am to 5 pm, and Sunday 8:00 am to 5 pm. 152 Commonwealth Ave, West Concord.

She Sells Sea Shells by the Sudbury Shore

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Clam_Bier.jpgThe Concord Free Public Library's major exhibit of the year is coming soon. "All the Earth is Seashore": The Freshwater Shells of Concord, Massachusetts - An Exploration in Image, Text, and Specimen runs from July 6th to September 30th, 2010 in the Library's Art Gallery. Drawing on the work of Henry David Thoreau, the exhibit features many gifts to the Library's William Munroe Special Collections by Concord artist Kristina Joyce. The exhibit will be accompanied by a lecture series and is free and open to the public during library hours.

Thursday, July 15, 2010, 7:00-8:00 p.m.:  "Overview of the Freshwater Mussel Fauna of New England," Jay Cordeiro, Research Zoologist, NatureServe.  A presentation (including photographs) on the ecology of our New England river shells.  (Periodical Room)

Thursday, July 29, 2010, 7:00-8:00 p.m.:  "150 Years of Malacology at the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University," Adam Baldinger, Curator of Mollusca, Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology.  A program about the shell specimens and treasures in the Harvard MCZ collection.  (Periodical Room)

Friday, September 10, 2010, 6:30-7:30 p.m.:  "The Concord Shell Heap Unpacked: The History and Archaeology of a Unique Midden," Shirley Blancke, Associate Curator of Archaeology and Native American Studies, Concord Museum.  A lecture about the ancient shell heap/midden created by Native Americans near the present location of Emerson Hospital and Route 2.  (Rotunda)

Children's program:

Wednesday, August 4, 2010, 7:00-8:00 p.m.:
"Seashells and More," Kristina Joyce, Concord artist and teacher.  A show-and-tell about drawing shells. Participants will have the opportunity to draw a few basic shell shapes in a diary for keeping track of their discoveries. The library will provide materials. A program for participants age 8 to adult.  (Children's Room)

The Concord Free Public Library is at 129 Main Street, Concord, Massachusetts. Call Special Collections at (978) 318-3342;  Children's Room at (978) 318-3358.

Photo: Underwater photograph by Kristina Joyce of Walden Pond mollusk (Anodonta cataracta/Pyganodon cataracta), 1986



Birth House of Thoreau Opens 1st Time to the Public

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historyc.jpgThoreau Farm, the birth house of Henry David Thoreau, will open to the public on Saturday, June 26 and June 27 for the first time in its history after an extensive restoration and rehabilitation project.

Opening Weekend Free Events
 
Nature in Action, Story & Song
Saturday, June 26 at 1:00 pm
Discover the wild and crazy side of natural science with Jackson Gillman, the Stand-Up Chameleon. "Nature in Action, Story & Song" is a rollicking adventure into the lives of wild things of all different stripes, scales, wings and fur. There will be plenty of opportunity for the whole family to stomp, swim, fly, and sing along!

henrys_night.jpgHenry Works
Sunday, June 27 at 1:00 pm
Children's author/illustrator D. B. Johnson brings his drawing pad and picture books to Thoreau Farm for a reading of "Henry's Night." Mr. Johnson will demonstrate how to draw Henry, the adventuresome bear who embarks on a moonlit walk in search of a whippoorwill. The program, for ages 4-9, will conclude with a book signing of all five books in the Henry series including "Henry Hikes to Fitchburg," "Henry Builds a Cabin," "Henry Climbs a Mountain," and "Henry Works."

Songs from Walden Pond
Sunday, June 27 at 3 pm
Concert with folklorist Dillon Bustin and Evan Harlan on the accordion. "Songs from Walden Pond" features the prose and poetry of Henry David Thoreau set to music. Dancer DeAnna Pellecchia will perform to an instrumental piece called "The First Snow."

After the weekend of June 26 and 27, visit Thoreau Farm on Saturdays and Sundays from through October 31. There will be a guided tour at 11:00 am ($4 per person). Self-guided tours are free from Noon - 4:00 pm. Guided and group tours are available at other times by appointment ($4 per person).

The site is handicapped accessible with free parking. Thoreau Farm is located at 341 Virginia Road in Concord. Reservations are recommended but are not required. Email or phone 978 369-3091. (map and directions)


S*x at Thoreau Farm

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boysquash.jpgThird-party assisted s*xual reproduction, to be exact. 

(Sorry about the *: I just don't want a million spam links to this post because someone's search robot thinks this is about human s*x).

I noticed last night when I was watering at Thoreau Farm that the first blossoms on the Boston Marrow Squash plants were about to open.  And that these were one female and one male blossom. I decided to pop by the farm this morning to hand pollinate the female flower.

You rarely see female and male blossoms open the first day of bloom. More typically, lots of male flowers are formed first to attract the bees. After a week or more once the bee population knows to come to the plants for pollen, the plant will form female blossoms which the bees now pollinate. Given how large the Boston Marrow squash fruit get -- and how unpredictable our weather is -- I thought the longer season I gave the fruit to grow and fully ripen, the better.  

Wait -- you didn't know that the cucurbit family (squash, pumpkins, cucumber and melons) have flowers with gender? Oh, well that must make this seem confusing.  I offer an anatomy lesson, plus before, during and after shorts of the reproductive act itself. (Adults -- watch your children's eyes!!)

girlmarrow.jpgFemale flowers (photo at right) have an ovary behind the flower between the petals and the stem. The ovary looks like a teeny weeny fruit: a cuke, squash, zucchini -- whatever type of plant it is.  In fact, you'll sometimes see at farmstands or fancy restaurants the ovary harvested with the blossom still intact and partly open, particularly with zucchini.  You can be sure that is amazingly fresh because unfertilized ovaries do not keep even under refrigeration.  Male blossoms (top right) have a straight stem without an ovary.

The pollen from the male flower needs to make it over deep into the female blossom -- which is where the bees come in.  I saw none in evidence when I did my hand pollination, which makes me glad I decided to do this because pollen would have been unlikely to have gotten over to the female flower, and we would have missed this opportunity for early fruit-set.  The ovary would in that case have died and withered away.

To hand pollinate, I removed most of the male's blossom, leaving the stem as a handle to direct the remaining pistils. I rubbed the pistils against the stamen deep inside the female flower, thinking bee-like thoughts the entire time (photo immediately below). And that's it!  You can see in the photo second below the flower I removed from the male, plus the, uh, now-spent couple resting.

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I suspected these plants were the type to take over the planet, and if you compare the below photo taken today and the one below it taken a mere four days earlier, you will see the photographic evidence that my suspicions are thus far born out. Lock your doors, bar your windows! Never mind kudzu: there's enormous, pre-historic squash plants and they grow a half-foot foot a day!

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haybale6:13:10.jpgPhotos: ©2010 Deborah Bier

Hay Bale Garden Bed

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DSC_0450.jpgI've been making an organic kitchen garden at Thoreau Farm (the birth house of Henry David Thoreau) in preparation for their public opening June 26/27 (more on that soon). Later I will post photos of the garden and the story about its creation.  But today I want to share the surprising success in building a hay bale garden as part of the installation there.

I had a three-fold challenge to meet.  First, we needed space for some very large heirloom squash and pumpkin plants. You know, the kind that will eat up a whole garden and then look around for more space to devour... and I had less than 500 square feet total and dozens of other plants to put in.

Second, we had a lot of spoiled hay from the house's long restoration phrase, bales that the Town required to be placed along the edges of the wetlands. Not being one to let organic material go to waste, I used what I could in the construction of the garden beds and paths but had a lot left over. It could have been composted, and I had always wanted to try hay bale gardening.

Third, because I've worked for decades professionally with people with chronic and degenerative diseases, and especially now as the director of a local home care agency, I'm really interested in making gardening more physically accessible. So the stars aligned and I started the hay bale bed in mid-May.

The classic approach is to use new straw or hay (ours was over a year old), and add ammonium nitrate and water, letting them all cook together for about a week before planting (it gets too hot during this initial composting phase to put in plants for that period of time). Given that this is an organic farm -- and has been since the early 18th century -- ammonium nitrate was not an option. But we had a nice pile of rotted donkey manure, and I layered some into the top few inches with the broken bales of hay, which I had tried to reconstruct as well as I could.  I watered well and a few days later I took its temperature and found it was equal to air temperature. I dressed the top in a little finished compost and put in the seedlings.

I planted the same varieties (Boston Marrow Squash, at left in the above photo, and Small Sugar Pumpkin, at right in the same photo) seeded at the same time in three close-by locations: at home, the East Quarter Farm community gardens at Ripley School, and at Thoreau Farm -- the last in the hay bale bed.  The ones at Thoreau Farm are completely out-performing those in the other two locations.  The hay bale plants are more than double in size, and are just covered in flower buds (mostly male but, yes!, some females, too). Blossoms are a sure sign that it's not just the manure that's powering these plants, because if it were there would be huge vegetative growth, but no sign of flowers. 

Additionally, I've seen no sign of insect infestation and have had no trouble with dryness, even though one of the things stressed by hay bale gardeners is that it can be a real struggle to keep such a bed watered well enough. Of course, what little weeding I've had to do has been very, very easy.

The top surface of the bed has sunk down about 4-6" over the first month.  This may be because the hay was not anywhere near fresh and is in a later stage of composting that it would normally be by mid-June if we started with a new bale. Therefore, we won't get anywhere near the two-year lifespan most hay bale beds get, but I'm more than pleased with the results thus far.

More on hay bale gardening: http://www.carolinacountry.com/cgardens/thismonth/march06guide/straw.html 

Photos of other hay bale gardens: here

Photo: ©2010 Rich Stevenson, Local Color Images
36608554.thb.jpgLast week on this blog, I congratulated everyone for wisely avoiding a situation of conflict of interest, or the appearance of conflict of interest in appointments to the West Concord Task Force (WCTF). 

Well, forget about it!

An interesting thing happened at last night's Board of Selectmen's meeting: they changed the charge of the West Concord Task Force to include in the committee make-up a West Concord commercial property owner.

Given that the appearance of conflict of interest is explicitly forbidden in the actions of a committee member, we have to ponder how this change will manage to add much to the task force. 

I certainly do hope they find someone who's conflict of interest is so minuscule as to allow them to become a functioning task force member. Of course, they will have to properly recuse themselves from even discussing topics that appear to be a conflict of interest.  I do have to wonder just how that might unfold yet stay within State Conflict of Interest laws.

We shall see.  But for now, I withdraw my congratulations until we see if these waters are usefully navigable.

Tuesday evening, at 7 PM, will be a screening of the film Tapped at Concord-Carlisle High School. This showing has been arranged by local activist, Jean Hill, who was the presenter of the "Bottle Ban" article passed at Concord's recent Town Meeting. A short trailer for Tapped is below. 

The film is 75 minutes long; Ms. Hill has stated that as-yet-unspecified "government officials" and "ecological group members" will be present to answer questions. This is a first class documentary that examines the role of the bottled water industry and its effect on our health, climate change, and pollution.

Despite the rain, the Friends of the Concord Free Public Library sold $18,650 of quality used books on the Library lawn Saturday!! A huge, grateful thank you from the Friends of the Library to all who helped make this event such a success.

wcmaplbr.pngFrom FaceBook friends: four old maps of Concord as part of the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center of the Boston Public Library... some I hadn't seen before.  

Go to http://maps.bpl.org/search_advanced/?mtid=373 to see all four in thumbnail. Click on any to see a larger version.  Use the slidebar just below the marked + and - to see a much more zoomed-in view.

I just love the 1983 George Norris West Concord bird's-eye view here: http://maps.bpl.org/details_10301/?mtid=373. Zoom all the way in along the "Mill Pond" (Warner's Pond) and you'll see the artist's brushstrokes in the trees.  The details are just delightful on this map. (excerpt here at top).

The map of the 1859 military encampment also seems to be West Concord, between Warner's Pond and the Assabet River. The markings of the roads leave me somewhat confused. Let us know more info about what this map depicts if you can.
I haven't had a chance to blog about this yet, but we have taken a plot at the East Quarter Farm community garden, Concord's newest of three community gardens on Town-owned land.  This one is off the parking lot at Ripley School. It's been a delightful experience and I'll be blogging about that more in the future.

In the meantime, what better introduction to EQF than these wonderful ariel photos taken by fellow gardener Chad Elliott. Chad took these using a radio-controlled plane.  I'm agog at how delightful they are considering how remotely taken they were. The beautiful quilt-square area are the community gardens -- whole and half-plots gardened by 41 individuals and families. 

The gorgeous chocolate-brown fields on two sides of the plots are freshly plowed by farmer Bill Kenney. We are waiting patiently to figure out what he's going to plant there -- it was sunflowers last year... who knows for this year? (click on any of the below images to see a larger version in a pop-up window)

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Photos: ©2010 Chad Elliott, All Rights Reserved

Chickens at 5 Weeks

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The chooks are getting to be big girls now!  About the size of pigeons already (they will be 6.5-7.5 pounds each when fully grown). They went to live in their chicken tractor Monday, and yesterday they had their first exposure to the enclosed pasture area of the tractor.

We had six successful escapes within the first hour -- plus a seventh when I put one back inside the fence and another ran out (I think one individual escaped four times!).

Each time, they HATED being outside the fence away from the flock. It was pitiful how hard they tried (and failed) to get back in themselves. And how horrified they were each time I TOUCHED them to put them back inside (my opening a way for them so they could scoot inside themselves was generally not taken advantage of... their action/consequences thinking being very, very thin). I don't expect that wanting-to-get-back-in to last, though. Might be fun to run off to the veggie beds or a neighbor's yard with a friend.

As they get larger, there will be fewer escape opportunities because they'll be too big to scoot under the netting we have set up for them.  And today we shored up security and there were no escapes.  Here they are enjoying themselves thoroughly. (click on any image to see a larger view in a pop-up window)

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1stdayoutplank2.jpgPhotos: ©2010 Rich Stevenson, Local Color Images

Free Minute Man Park Family Bike Ride

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hartwellvisitorscms.jpgOn Sunday, June 20, from 10am - 1pm, the Friends of Minute Man National Park and the New England Mountain Bike Association offer a free family bike ride.

Beginning at 10:00 am from the Lincoln Visitor's Center, enjoy a gentle bike ride with your kids along the scenic and rural dirt path that meanders through Lexington, Lincoln and Concord. The ride will be appropriate for any child who can ride on two-wheels without assistance for an hour.  Younger riders will ride for 3 miles with frequent stops at various historic sites, including the Hartwell Tavern where they will have snacks and water and hear a bit of history from Park staff. Older kids will stop at the Tavern and continue on to the end of the Battle Road at Meriam's Corner, riding a total of 8 miles.

A bicycle in good working order and a helmet is required for everyone.  Rain will cancel the event (call 800-576-3622 if the weather is questionable). For online registration go to: http://www.gbnemba.org/minuteman. Minute Man National Historic Park Visitor's Center, 250 North Great Rd. (2A), Lincoln.

Do You Know "Concord Patch"?

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patchss.pngPatch is a "hyper-local" news service that has just opened a Concord branch at http://concord.patch.com (note the lack of a www). Concord Patch creates custom content about our community. It went live on May 25th, and is updated constantly. Concord journalist Betsy Levinson is its editor. (Welcome back to reporting on Concord, Betsy! See and hear her welcome here: http://concord.patch.com/articles/welcome-to-concord-patch#c)

We think it's wonderful to again have two news outlets just about and for Concord.  For much of our history, there have been two newspapers, and this keeps them both on their toes and readers much better informed. It's possible that the economics and logistics of not publishing a paper edition will help Concord Patch thrive in a day when news organizations are really struggling for editorial dollars.

Though their "About Us" page doesn't say it, Patch is owned by AOL. So now Concord has two full-time news organizations, both of which are owned by large, non-local companies.  Both are, however, staffed on the ground by local or fairly-local people.  The Concord Journal is substantial content that is not specific to Concord -- content published simultaneously in all their parent company's many editions. We can't tell yet if there is any non-unique content to AOL's Patch.

Patch is supposed to be interactive and an online community; let's hope that doesn't translate to the Journal's (and others') practice of completely invalid -- and misleading -- online polls of which we utterly disapprove. (We believe news organizations should be reporting -- not distorting -- the news.)  There are riches of online interactivity that could do our community some good. We look forward to seeing how Patch interacts with our community, and the community with Patch.

Warm Enough for Ya?

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15736722.thb.jpgI'm hearing from Concord gardeners that July flowers are blooming now in early June.  We haven't had hard frost in the ground since before the March floods -- thank goodness, because if the ground had been frozen where would all that 15" of rain have gone (yes, it could have been much worse!)??  And in our own household, we haven't had the heat on since early March -- six weeks earlier than ever.  

And now for confirming data that this has been a warm Spring indeed:  WBZ reports that this was the warmest Northeast Spring on record. Measuring against average temps in Boston, March's temps were 4.2 degrees warmer than average, April's was 5.8 degrees higher, and May was 5 degrees more.



garlicscapes.jpgUPDATE: This week's NY Times has an article on alliums and their "chemical weapons."

I planted about 200 cloves of different types of hard-necked garlic last fall. It takes up a surprisingly small area: just 4' by about 8'. In our area, garlic needs to be planted in fall and wintered over, growing during the next summer into heads.  And it's soooo easy to do! My goodness, just knock back the weeds when it's small and that's about it. 

This time of year, though, it's the scapes that are ready for harvest.  Scapes are the flower stem and bud of any plant in the onion family. Garlic scapes are harvested when they are still curly and tender. The type of garlic that winters over well in New England also puts up scapes, but not all types do...I love that we get two harvests from one planting of garlic! 

About 80% of my planting from the fall came back this spring, and from that I got about 3/4 of a pound of scapes in this morning's harvest (picture above), with a little more to come in a few days but not much. In our experiments on household self-sufficiency, growing seasonings and medicinal herbs like garlic are both important and one of the great pleasures!

Scapes taste greener than garlic cloves and are more delicate, yet garlic-y. My plans for this harvest are two-fold: some garlic scape pesto (maybe some will get into the freezer for later use), and tonight's fish from Cape Ann's Fresh Catch (variety still unknown as they haven't been unloaded from the boats yet... fresh enough for you?) will have sauteed garlic scapes and portobello mushrooms with rice along side. All of these varieties are "hot" -- meaning that in addition to pungent, when raw they have an added dimension of heat. That means the pesto (which I just made -- a 5 minute job) is very full-flavored... to say the least. 

Sharing the later summer harvest with our co-gardeners, our household will probably get the lion's share of the heads as we are much more prolific garlic eaters... and yes, I will be able to use all of it in a year!

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June 14, 2010: IMPORTANT UPDATE TO THIS INFORMATION HERE: http://www.concordma.com/blog/2010/06/so-much-for-earlier-congratulations.html

Since the nomination list for the West Concord Task Force (WCTF) was first made public in late May, the 12-year-old Concord email discussion list (which I own) has been buzzing about substantial issues of conflict of interest, and other difficulties connected to some of the nominees. This discussion has continued despite the withdrawal on Friday of three names.

The controversy centered around two issues: 1) whether a West Concord developer and village property owner (with a brother who also owns large parcels of West Concord village commercial property) should serve on the West Concord Task Force, continuing its work this year on a community-based Master Plan and Design Guidelines for West Concord Village Center, with a special focus on the very properties owned by these brothers, and 2) whether a parent/child duo should serve together on the WCTF.

List members came up with many, many different reasons why any individual with way-above-average conflicting self-interest should not serve on this or any committee. Members discussed:

  • Appearance of, versus actual, conflicts of interest
  • How both are forbidden for acting committee members under state law, including conflicts involving their family members and any business associations for which they are board members.
  • How conflicted appointments would destroy trust in the WCTF and the appointing Selectmen.
  • That any exceptions would be in violation of conflict of interest laws.
  • How in Concord closely-related family members don't serve together on the same board.
  • And much more.
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There were certainly dissenting opinions in this discussion, but none that could clear the bar of our shared reading of state law, common sense, and knowledge of Concord traditions.

But last week over the phone a friend pointed out to me what I now think is both the most elegant and practical reason of all. The list had touched around the edges and corners of it, but not to its heart.

State law does not prohibit a person with an unusually high (ie: much greater than the average resident) conflict of interest from serving on a committee; it does prohibit that person from "taking action" once appointed, which includes deliberations, decisions, recommendations, etc. This applies to both actual conflicts of interest, as well as where there is an appearance of such a conflict. So no voting, and no taking part in discussions around conflicted topics.  The WCTF's work this year includes traffic flow plans, design guidelines, Master Plan goals, and zoning bylaws. These each create a substantial conflict of interest to any West Concord village developer or commercial property owner. If you've ever been at a public meeting when someone recused themselves due to a conflict of interest, you've noticed that the person typically leaves the room during discussion: in both fact and practice, silenced.  

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Since following the law is not optional, everyone should agree that a silenced committee member runs contrary to the started reason for these nominations: adding an additional voice to the process. In fact, absolutely no one's goals are served to appoint a conflicted member rendered silent.

  • The WCTF wants to hear everyone's points of view.
  • Property owners and/or developers wanting their interests represented end up with nothing.
  • Anyone wanting public dialogue to include all voices and concerns is thwarted.
  • Would the Board of Selectmen, the WCTF's appointing authority, want to appoint (and gag) someone who might have otherwise made helpful additions to the dialogue?
  • Apparently- or actually-conflicted individuals would naturally not want to be silenced.

Exactly who gains from appointing and then silencing a new WCTF member? Only those who don't want a full airing of that person's views. And no one has admitted to fitting that description. 

All other viewpoints should find the withdrawal of these nominees to be positive -- though both father and daughter need not have withdrawn to solve the relatives-don't-serve-together situation. Clearly, eliminating the conflict problem is as much in the nominees' own best interest, as it is in the community's. Bravo to everyone for reaching such a win-win outcome.

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Legitimate avenues do exist for West Concord developers and property owners to engage in shaping the future of that village, including WCTF public meetings.  Next: the Task Force is holding a retreat on Saturday, June 19, from 9 am -1 pm at Harvey Wheeler to focus on the West Concord Industrial District.  Developers and property owners have been invited to actively participate, and the public is welcomed to observe these discussions. This type of participation by those with substantial conflicts of interest is not only their sole legitimate option, it's one that promises to reap valuable information for future planning. 

With 730 members and over 40,000 messages sent over 12 years, find out more about the Concord Discussion List and link to the message archives here: www.ConcordMA.com/list.html.

State Conflict of Interest Laws from the Concord Committee Handbook (sections starting on p. 20 and p. 69): http://www.concordma.gov/Pages/ConcordMA_Bylaws/Committee%20Handbook.pdf

Coming This Weekend: Riverfest '10

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riverfest10.pngThe annual Riverfest of the Sudbury, Assabet and Concord Rivers is June 12 and 13. It's a many-miles-long celebration of these federally-designated Wild and Scenic Rivers taking place across many towns, including Concord.

Some events require a reservation, so do check the schedule. Here are those taking place in Concord as reproduced from their website at http://www.sudbury-assabet-concord.org/riverFest/:

Discover the 'Secret' Great Blue Rookery.

Join Peter Alden, well known naturalist and author, for an exploration of a newly established rookery. Look for Great Blue Herons, Green Herons and other water birds and wildlife. Meet at Verrill Farm for a cup of coffee and then walk or car pool to this undiscovered and unadvertised spot. Be ready for some walking and bring binoculars. Sunday, 8:30am


A Sense of Place: Exploring the Spring Landscape at Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge.

Join naturalist Cherrie Corey to explore the landscape along the Concord River floodplain and the refuge trails. Meet in the parking lot, Great Meadows NWR in Concord (Monsen Rd, off Rte. 62, driveway on left where road curves right). Questions? email cherrie.corey@verizon.net or call 978-760-1933. Sunday, 9-11am

Musketaquid: The People of the Marsh Grass River.

The people living here before the Europeans came called the Concord River 'Musketaquid.' In the Algonquian language this means 'marsh grass river.' Join Park Ranger Joan Laxson to learn about the original inhabitants of the place we now call Concord. At benches by the North Bridge, Concord. Sunday, 12:30pm

Concord Band: A Solstice Celebration.

An entertaining array of summer-themed music will be performed on the beautiful grounds of the Old Manse, Adjacent to Minute Man National Historical Park and the Old North Bridge. Bring a picnic and a chair and spend the afternoon celebrating summer with us. (Rain date, June 20th at the Performing Arts Center, 51 Walden St. Concord) at the Old Manse. Sunday, 2pm

Exploring Concord: A Film about Concord's Rich History and Landscape.

The Concord Museum joins in the Riverfest celebration! Stop by the Concord Museum to enjoy a free screening of a 15-minute award-winning film, "Exploring Concord", and a complimentary copy of the accompanying self-guided tour brochure. This outstanding and evocative film looks at five specific natural and cultural landscapes in the town, uncovering their many layers of historical significance. Saturday & Sunday, 9am-5pm

Some Were Making a Stand.

Join a ranger from Minute Man National Historical Park at benches by the North Bridge along the banks of the Concord River. Learn about the opening battle of the American Revolution on April 19, 1775 and the legacy of this event in American history. Saturday & Sunday, 11:30am, 2:30, 3:30 & 4:30pm

History, Music, Art and Gardening at the Old Manse.

Join the Trustees of Reservations for a festive weekend. The Old Manse is located at 269 Monument Street, next to the Old North Bridge. Call 978-369-3909 for details and times. Look below for additional events scheduled for Saturday or Sunday. Saturday & Sunday, 10am-6pm

Interpreted Landscape Tours. Discuss connections to literature, nature, the river, and urbanization.
Attic Tours: Climb the stairs for new tours of the Manse attic.
Lecture and discussion: The rivers' role in the writers' lives and work. The Old Manse Bookstore book sale will be ongoing.
Landscape and Wildlife Painting Exhibit. Artist Tom Wilson will be displaying his works.
Tours of the Old Manse Gardens. Manse gardener, Gaining Grounds' Alec Ellsworth, will give tours of the Old Manse Garden, a recreation of the garden first planted in 1842 by Henry David Thoreau for Nathaniel and Sophia Hawthorne. Gaining Ground grows organic produce for hunger relief with the help of community volunteers of all ages and abilities. 10am-12pm

Riverfest is put on by the River Stewardship Council, established to coordinate conservation of this 29-mile river segment.



The Big Chicken Move

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Today we packed up the chickens in the covered wagon and brought them to live in their outdoor mobile coop (AKA: "chicken tractor.").  Of course they're terribly unhappy about so much C-H-A-N-G-E. (Chickens are now my new standard for complete intolerance of risk.) By tomorrow, they'll love it -- if I can judge by all previous changes I've seen them weather.

This tractor (called an "ark" by those across the pond) is my husband, Rich's, design.  He used lightweight materials, all of which were readily available except for the skirt made of "sports netting" that we ordered online. Weight is critical because these units can be so heavy that most people can't move them alone. This one needs a lower handle on the non-wheeled end for someone of my (not very great) height to be able to move.  Otherwise, it moves quite smoothly... for a 12' long vehicle! And what a vehicle it is: I bet this baby goes 0 to 60-feet in 30 seconds -- but only if it's on a downhill slope.

The chickens will stay in the coop area for a few days until they become more at home there. In the meantime, we'll be watching for any signs of predator intrusion attempts. If all is well, then we'll let them explore the pasture area... another absolutely horrifying change they'll come to adore soon enough.  (click on any of the images below for a larger view in a pop-up window)

unitend.jpg The chicken tractor, in all its strange, unique glory

newtocoop.jpg Red warming light on for cool night time temps -- they're still babies!

keepingwarm.jpg Recovering from the stress of all that CHANGE while working on their tans while under their red heat lamp.

eatingtoms.jpgThey force themselves to eat some canned tomatoes... a break from their suffering


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Nestboxes accessible from outside the coop;
future inspiration for the youngsters

Photos: ©2010 Rich Stevenson, Local Color Images, all rights reserved.

Chickens, 4-Weeks Old

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This is what preteen (4-wk old) chickens look like at night as they rumble over who gets what spot to sleep in. 4'x3' of brooder space, and the six of them can't find a place where each of them wants to sleep without fighting about it! Cranky babies in need of sleep - you can see it in their eyes.

Below that is last week's photo -- they've grown like beans in such a short time! Tomorrow they may go out to live their mobile coop... we'll see. They'll still need a brooder light as it's still chilly overnight.

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Tornado Watch Thru 8 PM

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By Mark Cotreau, Concord Emergency Management Director, Concord Fire Chief

19892166.thb.jpgThe National Weather Service has issued a Tornado Watch for our area until  8 pm.  Developing showers and thunderstorms to our west may become severe as they move through this afternoon.

Keep in mind some storms will contain damaging wind gusts over 50 mph, frequent lightning, heavy rain, and small to medium sized hail.  An isolated tornado is possible.

The threat will begin to subside by this evening.
 
730255.thb.jpgDue to predicted thunderstorms, the annual Concord Library Book Sale is postponed until Saturday June 12, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Friends of the Concord Free Public Library hope to see you at the sale next week, June 12, when there will be 20,000 books for browsing. Rain date is June 19. For updates, go to www.concordlibraryfriends.org.

Shiitake! (Kinda...)

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Remember we have been growing shiitake mushrooms? http://www.concordma.com/blog/2009/04/shitake-mushroom-update.html

These have been kind of chugging along: successfully inoculated logs not producing a whole lot. Oh, a few emerge often a day or so after it rains. But large flushes? Nope -- even after we soaked these amazingly heavy logs to get them to fruit last summer. We have often come to ignore the log pile.

Today a visiting friend pointed out what we had not noticed: our largest mushroom flush yet (photo, below)! And they're a few days past optimal picking.  But mushrooms dry well -- as these have already! -- and they'll be enjoyed at a later time.

Still, we would like to (and should) get much more substantial flushes of fresh mushrooms than this. Seems we really do have to get our processes of nurturing and tending to these 'shoomies into better order...

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Christmas in June

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By Meg Gaudet, Concord Park Social Program Director

Please join Concord Park as we help those in need.  Concord is a very generous community, especially during the traditional holiday season, yet the hardship of the less fortunate can be significant in the summer months  Please join us as we organize a new initiative, Christmas in June.

We need your help as we collect dry and canned goods and assorted personal toiletries for various charities in Massachusetts such as Volunteers of Americas' "Stand Down," a program to help homeless veterans "combat" life on the streets.

We will be collecting contributions until June 22, 2010. So please before you pack for vacation or when you grocery shop think of this, come by and drop off your donations. Concord Park Assisted Living is located in the heart of West Concord at 68 Commonwealth Avenue near the train station. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me at (978) 369-4728

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