November 2010 Archives

markrobbins.jpgThe Concord Free Public Library presents physician/crime novelist Mark Robbins (at right) speaking about his new crime thriller, The Coffin Blind, Thursday, December 9, 2010, 7: 30 pm - part of the Library's ongoing Thursday Author Series.  

Concord resident Robbins, has always longed to be a writer.  But before pursuing this passion, he became a doctor.  He is a MRI radiologist, a former emergency physician and a general surgery resident.  His crime writing draws heavily on this medical training as well as his passion for the outdoors, fishing and hunting.  

In The Coffin Blind, Robbins' first novel, readers are introduced to US Marshall Brant Sherman as the philosopher-outdoorsman in pursuit of an eco-terrorist threatening quiet Concord.  The action is lively and fast-paced.  Reviewers commend the engaging humor, outdoor action and compelling character of Sherman.          

The Friends of the Concord Free Public Library sponsor the Thursday Authors Series from September through June annually.  Programs are free and open to all.  Following each presentation, books are available for purchase and guests are welcome to continue conversations with the author.  For more information, please call the Library at 978 318 3300 or visit

Upcoming programs (all in the Main Library - 129 Main Street, Concord, MA ) include:

  • Thursday, January 20, 2011 - 7:30 pm:   Catherine Mann, Accelerating The Globalization of America:  The Role for Information Technology
  • Thursday, February 17, 2011 - 7:30 pm:  Anna Badkhen, Peace Meals
  • Thursday, March 17, 2011 - 7:30 pm:  Tracy Winn, Mrs. Somebody's Somebody

Continued Experiments with Corn

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cornbloodybutcher2.jpgContinuing our local sustainability experiments and discussions, it is of note that corn is one grain we can easily grow in Concord, but how to grind it?  I went on a hunt to find a grain grinder to make meal out of the corn we grew at Thoreau Farm "Who will help me grind my grain?" asked the Little Red Hen... and so did I.  After extensive local inquiry, I did get a positive response from two sources (thanks Hilary and Larry!), and chose the hand-cranked, antique grinder for the historic connection -- and because I wanted the upper body workout.

But what of the longer-run? An electric grinder doesn't seem all that sustainable, and they run to the hundreds of dollars.  A hand cranked one of modern manufacture can be a problem in that grain grinders really do have to be extremely sturdy -- and, as they say: "they don't make them like they used to." Therefore, I have an antique hand-crank Corona grinder on its way purchased via Ebay.  It's one made in Mexico in the first half of the 20th century, chosen with the thought that grinding corn was very much a daily activity in Mexico during that period and it would be a really well made unit. And besides: recycled is more sustainable than new. We shall see.

Bloody Butcher dent corn (photo, top right) was the first we ground because it is the softest of the three varieties we grew (flint corns being much harder).  It yields purple meal!  And another BIG surprise:  my never-fail, all-corn, no-wheat cornbread recipe that calls for 1 cup cornmeal and 1 cup sour or butter milk was completely the wrong thickness before I put it into the oven. I had to add 50% more cornmeal to make it seem right.  It's baking right now.  We'll see how it comes out (I did add 50% more baking soda, too).

bbcornbreadsm.jpgWhy on earth would my "perfect" recipe be wrong before it even baked?  Thinking about it, this cornmeal is utterly different from modern, commercial cornmeal.  Our typical grocery store cornmeal is not whole grain, and I highly suspect it's had its oils pressed out of it or else its shelf life would be far more brief. The variety I used was far different, too, being an heirloom that is certainly not grown for your typical Quaker Oats box of cornmeal. How that all adds up is as unknown as what will emerge from my oven shortly.

Well, I just checked the pan after the recipe's usual baking time -- it's surprisingly done, though determining just how browned it is proved a struggle given its color. It's cooling now.  Oh, the suspense as together we wait!  I can hear one of our barred rocks cackling long and loud that she just laid an egg; between her and grinding the corn, I am transported to another time when all of this was a daily occurrence in Concord. (Passing five minutes now, she's still at it with no sign of even slowing down. Bettcha she hasn't laid yet -- she likes to do this 2-3 times for every one she drops.)

Suspense over! It is DELICIOUS!!!!!!!  There is a wonderful creaminess not present in commercial cornmeal (even high-priced whole grain stuff from the health food store). And the corn taste? Huge and depthful... complex. There's even floral tones to the corn which I certainly didn't expect.  

Damnit. Just like I can't eat anything other than homegrown popcorn now because our own is so amazingly more delicious, I suspect there'll be no going back with store-bought cornmeal now.

Next up: nixtamalizing some of our corn. We can't even pronounce nixtamalize, much unsure we can find pickling lime locally.  I struck out at both the 5&10 and Vanderhoofs.  Rocky's ACE seems to be able to get it -- if so, we're golden... even if the corn is not!

Thoreauvian Thanksgiving

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"I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual. It is surprising how contented one can be with nothing definite -- only a sense of existence. My breath is sweet to me. O how I laugh when I think of my vague indefinite riches. No run on my bank can drain it, for my wealth is not possession but enjoyment."
-- Henry David Thoreau, 1854

Indies: Thankful for Shared Community Vision

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By the Concord Indies (Concord Independent Business Alliance)

• "We want to know other local Indies"
• "We want the public to know the benefits that Indie businesses bring to Concord"
• "We are looking for more promotion, store traffic"
• "We want to support a great group and the important work you're doing"
• "We believe in what the Indies are doing to preserve Concord"
• "We want to be part of your support network"

16221600.thb.jpgThis is the feedback we hear as The Concord Indies receive new and renewing applications in our current annual membership drive.  And we love it!

We love that local Indies have a better understanding of their unique value, and the special place we collectively hold in Concord's health and well-being.  We love that Indies are coming to understand what our organization is about, and how it differs from other business groups in this town.

What we hear from residents and visitors is that they, too, love and value local Indies more.  Some are already long-time Indie patrons while others realized only of late how much our Indies help make Concord the unique community it is - and they've shown how they're willing to "put their money where their house is." We have spent more than two years talking about how important and unique our Indie economy is, and how much a part of the fabric of life in Concord we are. Our message has been warmly embraced.

What's happening is that The Concord Indies and the wider community are coming to hold a shared vision together. Does it get any sweeter than that?

63316975.thb.jpgIn this time of giving thanks for our blessings, surely the Concord Indies and all our members are grateful that we have new ways to work together to support one another and our community. New relationships have been forged, old ones renewed.  Community bonds have been strengthened. Business opportunities have been collectively brainstormed. In the process, more than three times the dollars spent in our Indie businesses have stayed in Concord, versus those spent with non-Indie businesses. And the circle of giving and receiving keeps unfolding.

This year, "Shop Concord Indies First" runs from November 20 (part of the national "America Unchained" day), and goes through December 24.  We encourage everyone: before you hit the malls or cruise the web, please shop our local Indies first.  You'll get so many great benefits: personal service, unique items and services, vibrant village centers, a sense of community, and a stronger local economy.

Library Holiday Book Sale Dec 3, 4, 5

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20484636.thb.jpgThis year, the library's Holiday Book Sale will be bigger and better than ever. The Friends of the Concord Free Public Library are expanding this popular sale. There will be more children's books and a special children's browsing area.
In addition, like-new hardcover fiction, cook books, travel, garden, holiday novelties, poetry, mystery, sci-fi, DVDs, and CDs will be for sale.
These books are the cream of the donated crop! Mint condition, suitable for giving.
The sale is Friday and Saturday, December 3-4, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sunday, December 5, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Concord Free Public Library, 129 Main Street,

Why 21st Century Children Need Nature

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From the Concord Children's Center

sobel.jpgWe would like to invite the community to join us on Thursday December 9th at 7PM. at our West Concord School, 1300 Main Street, Concord.  Author and educator, David Sobel will discuss why the movement to create nature-based playgrounds for young children is so important to children growing up in today's technology infused world, and why it is critical for us as parents, educators and communities, to assure that children have places to play and learn that encourage the connection to nature.  Environmentalists along with Mr. Sobel caution that without childhood experiences in nature, we will fail to raise a new generation of caretakers for the Earth. 

David Sobel is the author of several books including: Children's Special Places, Beyond Ecophobia, and Children and Nature: Design Principles for Educators.  Director of the Center For Place Based Education at Antioch University, David Sobel lectures nationally on parenting and educating that connects children with the natural world. 

At this event there will be the opportunity to view the Children's Center's concept plan for a handicapped accessible nature-based playground  to be built at Ripley.  The Children's Center hopes to gather feedback and input from the community before developing a final design. Concord Children's Center, a non-profit  early childhood care and education program has been a leader in the local early childhood community since 1975.  Over the past two years the Center has become particularly interested in the national concern over children's lack of access to nature.  With a $6,000 grant from the Northwest Suburban Health Alliance the Center spent a year meeting with local early childhood specialists and landscape architects to develop a plan for a nature based playground and to develop a series of activities that would promote a community wide discussion of how we can assure that all young children have access to the outdoors and become future stewards of the environment.

 For more information about this project, please contact the Children's center Executive Director, Pat Nelson at 978-369-3747 or

The lecture is free and open to the public.  To reserve a seat please call 978-369-3747 or email us at


"Shop Concord Indies First!" Starts November 20

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20685665.thb.jpgThe Concord Independent Business Alliance ("Concord Indies") is urging the citizens of Concord to "unchain" themselves through the Holiday Shopping season with the kick-off on Saturday Nov. 20th. Support your favorite Concord Indie business first before turning to the web or going to the mall. Almost all of your gift giving needs and decorating items can be found right here in Concord. Shop Concord Indies First! is a part of America Unchained!, a national campaign of the American Independent Business Alliance (AMIBA).

"The Concord Indies aims to reach every citizen to support our predominantly Indie-based local economy, and to demonstrate that their personal spending decisions affect the whole community, both now and for the future," said Marie Foley, Indies president and manager of Concord Hand Designs on Main Street in Concord Center.

"We think one of the best ways to preserve our local economy and the unique character of our villages is to frequent them, and frequent them in force," says Debbie Bier, Indies vice president and director of Caring Companion Connections, a Concord-based home care agency. "Studies show that for every $100 spent at a chain, $13 circulates back through the community. For every $100 spent at a local Indie business, $45 circulates back through the community. Our wonderful Indie businesses will remain only as long as we all help keep them viable.  Otherwise, we'll see Concord become 'chained' like other nearby towns, where fewer and fewer local businesses now operate."

"Studies from small towns in Maine to sizable cities like Austin, Texas found that local independent businesses create about three and a half times the local economic activity as chains do.  A study released in 2004 looked at the local economic impact of 10 independent businesses and 10 chains in the Andersonville neighborhood of Chicago, and found that the independents generate 70% more local economic impact per square foot than chain stores," said American Independent Business Alliance director Jennifer Rockne.  "Why?  Because independent businesses pay local employees, use the goods and services of other local independent businesses and give back to community institutions far more than chains." said Rockne.
20676275.thb.jpg"We also want to encourage folks while they're taking part in Shop Concord Indies First! to make a point of thanking local business owners for their contributions to the community, both in goods and services, but also to local charities and organizations," said Foley.  "Local businesses give a greater percentage of their business income back to the community than their chain-store competitors. We rely on our local businesses for so much more than just providing products and services."

"Concord stands to gain in every way by supporting our local Indie economy.  They provide us with essential goods and services, jobs, and continued opportunities for citizens to own their own business here.  They are critical parts of Concord's social, cultural and economic health," stated Bier.

For more information about the Concord Indies, Shop Concord Indies First! and the nationwide America Unchained! day, go to and

Concord Restaurant Featured on "Phantom Gourmet"

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West Concord's Club Car Cafe in the gorgeously restored West Concord train station was the target, and the results were good. Read about them in the Concord Patch:


John Shepard Keyes's Autobiography Now Online

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Leslie Perrin Wilson, Curator, William Munroe Special Collections, Concord Free Public Library

Keyes.jpgWe are pleased to announce the addition to the Concord Free Public Library website of a full and literal transcription of John Shepard Keyes's manuscript autobiography, which lives in the library's Special Collections. Keyes was a key player in the political life of Concord, Middlesex County, the state, and the nation, and his life was intertwined with Thoreau's and Emerson's. He is an intelligent, candid, sometimes arrogant, sometimes acerbic observer, and his story is rich with the social history of the period.

You can access the PDF file for the transcription from the opening page at:

Photo: J.S. Keyes, Concord Free Public Library, Special Collections. All rights reserved.

West Concord Task Force Zoning Forum, Nov. 16

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Zoning is critical to the future of our village

       • Preserve industrial uses?
       • Change parking requirements?
       • Improve traffic?
       • More residential?
      • Access open spaces?

Come tell the West Concord Task Force what you think!

 Tuesday, November 16, 2010, 7:30 pm
 Thoreau School Auditorium

• Preview West Concord Task Force zoning recommendations for spring Town Meeting
• Questions, answers, and comments
• This is the best time to give your feedback!

From Cory Atkins: A Thank you

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By Cory Atkins, our State Representative

coryatkins.jpgThank you to the voters for returning me to the House of Representatives.  I feel it is an honor and privilege to continue to serve as your State Representative.  Thank you to family, friends, and supporters who worked tirelessly holding signs, walking door-to-door, and talking directly to voters about the issues important to this community.

I have great respect for those that engage in the hands-on work of an electoral democracy.  In that spirit I would also like to thank my opponent KC Winslow.  Ms. Winslow ran a great campaign.  She brought new concepts and encouraged a new group of voters to get involved in public engagement.  KC and her supporters kept the race both lively and positive at all times.

I would also like to thank the Editors of the Concord Journal, the Beacon, and the Independent not only for their endorsements, but for instilling in me the discipline to write about complex issues in fifty words.

The local Democratic Town Committees as well as the State Committee did a superb job of talking face-to-face with voters and getting out the on election day.

I am a Democrat, but I'm also the representative for all the residents of the 14th Middlesex District.  Almost all of my legislation has passed with universal support.  I pledge to continue to work in a manner that considers everyone's ideas and concerns.

The challenges that face our towns in the next two years will be tremendous.  It will require a lot of creative thinking and cooperative effort for our communities to prevail.  The talent, compassion and commitment I observe in every one of my towns convinces me that we have the "stuff" to survive and thrive during these difficult times.

Alcott Biographer Harriet Reisen at the Library Nov. 18

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Harriet Reisen.jpgThe Concord Free Public Library presents biographer Harriet Reisen in a presentation about her recent book, Louisa May Alcott:  The Woman Behind Little Women at 7:30 pm, Thursday, November 18, 2010, part of the Library's ongoing Thursday Author Series.  In addition to the author talk, the Library will be celebrating the shared birthdate of Louisa and her father, Bronson, which is November 29.  Guests at the talk will be treated to birthday cake.  Jan Turnquist, executive director of the Alcott home, Orchard House, will provide an introduction.

Harriet Reisen acknowledges she had a life long attraction to Lousia May Alcott after reading Alcott's beloved story of the March family depicted in Little Women.  Reisen says she immediately identified with Jo March, Alcott's literary alter ego and the book's heroine.  For many years she says she dreamed of writing an accessible and short biography of Louisa May Alcott.  This desire to tell Alcott's story eventually led to the creation of a documentary on Alcott co-produced by Reisen and her friend, EmmyAward-winning producer, Nancy Porter.  The documentary premiered on the PBS American Masters series in December 2009.  

Subsequently, Reisen who researched and wrote the script for the docmentary, proceeded to write her book, Lousia May Alcott:  The Woman Behind Little Women, following the production of the documentary.   This biography was the first to be published on Alcott in over 30 years.  It received outstanding reviews and made a number of best books of the year lists including the Wall Street Journal's best 10 books of 2009.

Harriet Reisen has a very diverse background in writing and teaching.  A former fellow in screenwriting at the American Film Institute, she has written dramatic and historical documentary scripts for PBS and HBO.  She has contributed radio commentary for Morning Edition, Marketplace and Morning Stories - all features of National Public Radio and has been the lyricist for an Emmy-nominated song.  She has taught film history and criticism at Stanford University and screenwriting at Harvard Summer School.  Her biography of Alcott is her first book.

The Friends of the Concord Free Public Library sponsor the Thursday Authors Series from September through June annually.  Programs are free and open to all.  Following each presentation, books are available for purchase and guests are welcome to continue conversations with the author.  For more information, please call the Library at 978 318 3300 or visit

Upcoming programs (all in the Main Library - 129 Main Street, Concord, MA ) include:

• Thursday, December 7 - 7:30 pm:  Mark Robbins, MD - The Coffin Blind
• Thursday, January 20, 2011 - 7:30 pm:   Catherine Mann, Accelerating The Globalization of America:  The Role for Information Technology
• Thursday, February 17, 2011 - 7:30 pm:  Anna Badkhen, Peace Meals

Celebrate the Willard School's New Solar Photovoltaic System!

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From Jan Aceti, Energy Conservation Coordinator, Concord Municipal Light Plant

A new solar photovoltaic (PV) system on the roof of the Town of Concord's Willard School began generating electricity for the school in September. The system has already generated enough electricity to operate a TV for over 35,000 hours. It has saved the Town almost $1,000 and reduced the greenhouse gases emitted in order to provide electricity to the school by more than 4 tons.
Join us for an Open House at the Willard School on November 16th from 2 - 4 pm to celebrate our new solar PV system!
• Touch a solar panel.
• Watch a video about how the PV system was installed on the Willard's roof.
• Learn to use a website that allows you to see how much electricity our new solar PV system generates during the Open House. And how to check on what the system is doing any time of the day - from your home or office!
• Have cider and donuts.

I'm Going to Vote Anyway

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"The fate of the country does not depend on how you vote at the polls -- the worst man is as strong as the best at that game; it does not depend on what kind of paper you drop into the ballot-box once a year, but on what kind of man you drop from your chamber into the street every morning. " Henry Thoreau, 1845, Slavery in Massachusetts

middle passages.jpgThe League of Women Voters of Concord-Carlisle (LWVCC) will discuss Middle Passages: African American Journeys to Africa, 1787 to 2005, by James Campbell, on Wednesday, November 17, 2010, at 10:00-11:30 a.m., in the Trustees Room of the Concord Free Public Library, 129 Main Street. According to Booklist, "This is a...highly accessible examination of the pull of Africa and the ties that continue to bind Africans in the diaspora." All readers are welcome. For more information, visit, email, or call 978-254-1598.
The League of Women Voters is a non-partisan, issues-oriented organization of women and men of all ages and backgrounds. The League of Women Voters is where hands-on work to safeguard democracy leads to civic improvement. Visit for information on voting and elections, programs and activities, membership and more.

Catching Up from a Busy Fall

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My goodness, I have been hither and yon, back and forth, up and down, and sometimes moving in circles so fast I have been all but a blur.  So busy with work, volunteering and gardening all Summer and Fall that my head is still spinning!

I have a mounting pile of photos on my desktop, the size of which indicates how long I've not been posting about garden-related activities that I wanted to share here.  So consider this photo montage the short story of a lot of these projects.

A magnificent harvest at the Thoreau Farm kitchen garden. The colors... I swoon!

So many tomatoes! One of several ways I processed them was into tomato jam made in the slow cooker. I flavored this sweet/tart concoction with either ginger, hot peppers or basil.
This is our crop circle! The drought was tough on everything, but when the rain resumed there were different types of stresses showing up on plants, like these cracks -- typical of a sudden influx of water after a dry period.

In addition to the 6 baby chicks we adopted this spring, we later took on 2000 additional pets: meal worms. These are the immature form of the darking beetle, and they are breeding stock to serve as a protein source for the chickens. They live in a plastic box under my side of the bed.
After requesting them in March, late August saw the arrival of 2 specimens of the Catskill strawberry, a now-rare variety that had previously been popular in Concord in the early half of the 20th century. Late August is hardly the time to plant out strawberry plants, so they are living indoors, which I hope not to kill them before spring. We know they had been grown on Virginia Road in the past; they will be planted at Thoreau Farm.

Just some of the donations East Quarter Farm gardeners have made to Open Table -- all organic. Here: a combination of fresh herbs and greens.

Harvesting Black Spanish Radishes this weekend. Their size was a total surprise to me, having never seen one before. The larger one is 6-7" in diameter, and probably will prove to be woody. This variety has been traced back to the 16th century, and likely of ancient origin. For winter storage.
A variety of greens harvested this weekend from our East Quarter farm plot: collards, 3 types of heading cabbage, dino kale, and kohlrabi.

Photos: ©2010 Deborah Bier, all rights reserved.

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This page is an archive of entries from November 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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