Autumn in the North Cemetery.

Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?

These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.

Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...

...seems to be working so far

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Cedar Lake Boat Ramp

The poll that has been running in the margin over the past week asked if a new boat ramp should be built on Cedar Lake. The lake, a public water body, has only two options for putting a boat in the water. The first is the town boat ramp located on the south end of the lake west of the dam. Access to the ramp is difficult, and once there, requires a great deal of precision driving to back a trailer into the water. There is not an actual ramp, but rather a rocky slope into the water. Only one or two vehicles can park at the site, and that takes up all the space for others to place a boat in or take one out. It's not a good situation.

The other option is the "ramp" beside the Oxhead Tavern. Owned by the Host Hotel, the ramp is open to those that live on the lake. The gate is locked, and one must have it opened in order to use it. It is a far safer, and easier place to put a boat in the water. The problem is, it is a private ramp, and it is only for residents of the lake.

Since the lake is a public body of water, should there be a safe, and functional boat ramp for people to use? 50% of respondents to the poll answered no. Keep it as it is in order to lessen the number of boats on the water. 50% of the others voted for building a new ramp, and having a sticker system for vehicles in order to use the ramp. A fee would be charged, presumably less for town residents, more for others. The money would help to pay for the ramp, and its maintenance. The results of this poll was a rare 50/50 split.

The Commonwealth has a boat ramp program. In fact, one of their ramps is right here in town on the south end of Big Alum Pond. The town maintains the ramp.

Either the municipality, or the Commonwealth can put in a public boat ramp. Each has their benefits. For more information about the state program, go to the Massachusetts Office of Fishing and Boating.

In the end, a decent, safe, and public ramp for boaters would be ideal. Keeping the number of boats on the lake down, and obtaining funding for the project would be something to consider when deciding whether to go with a local fix, or having the state pay for it. If the town decided to use the Commonwealth to build a new ramp, a fee could be charged for boaters, but since the lake is public, and the state is involved, the rate would have to be the same for residents of Sturbridge, and those coming from elsewhere. If the town decided to rebuild the ramp, then they could charge what they wanted to. More for out-of-towners, less for residents.

Either way, it is something that should be looked into. It is only a matter of time before a boater is hurt, or damages their equipment at the ramp. Since the ramp is in poor condition, and the town is aware of it, they could very easily be sued successfully.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

"Our Old Hotel"

On the evening of November 26, 1900, 108 years ago, Charles V. Corey gave a talk before the Quinabaug Historical Society. Corey's particular subject that evening was, "Old Houses in Sturbridge". His speech was later published in the Quinabaug Historical Society Leaflets Volume 1, No. 5.

During his talk he discussed many of the old homes in town, many have since been lost to fire, moved elsewhere, or have just collapsed under the weight of their age. A few of the homes he describes stand out, and are very familiar. One such place, although not really a permanent home, but more of a temporary one, was as he referred to it as "Our Old Hotel". This hotel, known by several names in the years since it was built, was known mostly as The Elms, and currently is known as The Publick House.

The words below are from Mr. Corey's talk that night.

"We now come to the plain two-story style of houses, without any pretensions to architecture, some long and narrow and some nearly square. One of the most important of this kind is our oldest hotel, and if I will be allowed to use a few words which my muse let loose on another occasion produced, I would say

Our old hotel! for full one hundred years and more,
You have nestled there beneath those trees
An ancient landmark for all the country round.
In thy youth was heard the rattling wheels of many a coach,
And the merry sound of the drivers horn
Echoing o'er hills, gave warning of their approach.
Those were busy days;
Then came the iron horse
But not our way,
And like Othello, you thought,
Your occupation gone,
But you still lived on.
There the gallant Lafayette,
The nations guest and friend,
Did rest awhile
And thereby an interesting bit
Of history did lend
To that old place.
There have youth and beauty met
And chased the glowing hours
With flying feet
And there, alas! that I have to say
Have been scenes of ribald jest
And drunken revelry.
There, perchance, has some bright youth,
Some mothers darling boy
First yielded to the tempters hand,
And taken his first glass, an act, alas!
How full of sorrow, and not of joy,
As the years rolled past,
But that was not thy fault,
Thy mission was and is
Like gentle rain from heaven,
To minister to both the just and unjust.

For several years after the stages were taken away, the hotel had a precarious existence. Finally it was found that no one could afford to keep it as a hotel alone, so by the efforts of Elisha Southwick and B. D. Hyde Esq., a stock company was formed and the hotel was bought for two thousand dollars. A piazza was put on the front, some other repairs were made, and J.B. Griswold. who was engaged in the marble business, was installed as the first landlord under the new management. He kept a good hotel for several years. This was about fifty years ago. Among the former landlords I have often heard mentioned are David K. Porter and Cromwell Bullard, and among the later ones, since my remembrance, were Chester Carder and Freeland Wallis. Mr. and Mrs. Wallis kept a good hotel for nearly twenty years. Mr. Wallis had the post-office there most of the time, and also did a butchering businesss, and was not dependent on hotel custom entirely for a living. Since then, the landlords have been some good, some bad, some indifferent. The present owner has improved the place very much and it bids fair to last another hundred years."

And, it has.

For over 250 years the Publick House has stood vigilant over the Sturbridge Town Common. It has witnessed militia training on the common during the Revolution, freight being shipped from Pennsylvania during the War of 1812 in order to avoid the British blockades along our coast, scrap metal collection drives during World War I, and was taken over by the Army State Guard during World War II, and used to train soldiers, and citizens in guerrilla tactics in case the enemy came to our shores.

Today, it stands proudly as an old relative overseeing their grandchildren at play. It continues to open its doors for revelry, and that "first glass", weddings, and meals. The rooms are still available for travelers. There is a bakery and an tree covered patio to enjoy a scone and tea on a Sundays morning, and a fireplaced pub to wind down after a long day.

The Publick House is a Sturbridge Treasure, and has been thought of as such by many for over 250 years.

Monday, March 24, 2008

A Fine Way to Spend a Sunday with Family

Yesterday we did something neither of us had ever done before, we went out to eat on a Holiday. No home cooking, last minute shopping, waking a dawn to throw a bird or a ham in the oven, just reservations.

At first I was bit skeptical. I like having a Holiday meal at the house. For too many years I went to someone else's house for dinner. It was like sitting at the children's table. Now, things are different, and we have had some wonderful meals here in our home.

Yesterday we went to the Oliver Wight Tavern ,at Old Sturbridge Village, for Easter Brunch at Mary's suggestion. It was very, very nice. The food was excellent, and plentiful, and the service, considering the hundreds of people there, was superb.

After seeing the numbers of people there at the Tavern yesterday, I can only say that OSV is far from passing away, it is coming back stronger, and better than ever.

Travel Tip: Brunch is offered at the the Oliver Wight Tavern every Sunday. Take the family, and then take a walk around the Village. The lambs are arriving now.

Rules of Engagment

When a couple decides to marry there are many things to consider. For those that are at the plate for the second time, one would think there would be less to think about as far as the actual wedding itself goes.

One would think that. A man would think that. A silly man would think that.

For a couple that had both been down this road before they are very careful to be sure that this time they are making the best decision emotionally. That's a given. They are not into re-runs. And, since they have both been in this place before, maybe something simpler would be a good thing. After all, it's not so much the ceremony, but the life to come after. Right?

A simple day, maybe a wedding in a meadow, a few friends and family, and fire up the hibachi afterwards would be good. As the couple describe the day to each other, they may nod in agreement, and smile to one another. "Yes. A small affair.", "I agree. Nothing large".

Then things happen.

"Music would be nice.", one says. And, it would be nice. Maybe something acoustical in the meadow. "Music with the meal would be be better." Meal? Cold cuts on the tailgate isn't a meal? And, a portable CD player isn't good enough?

Silly man. Stupid, silly man.

"What if it rains?" one asks. Well, there are shelters at the park. We could rent one for the day.

Then there is a lull in the planning as the couple mulls over the needs of the other, and the options.

"Let's look around a bit. Maybe find a nice place outside where we can also have a real meal inside a building. Maybe some nice music.".

Then the real planning begins. Although both have been here before, they soon find out that it is not the day itself they want to change, or avoid, it is what comes afterwards. And, having a simple, basic, crackers and cheese affair amongst the daffodils won't change that.

So, after examining their options this couple thinks about where would be a nice place to marry. A memorable place. A different place. A place that means a great deal to them both.

"Let's check out Old Sturbridge Village".

"Old Sturbridge Village? Hmm. OK".

Within seconds images of a ceremony in the Old Meeting House are flashing inside both of their heads. Then they start to visualize the reception at the Tavern. A reception with chairs. Now, both of these places require formal outfits. So, out the window goes the jeans, and sandals.

The man will need a tux. The bride will need a very nice dress, and of course there are flowers to consider, and the meals to be chosen, and the invitations to be decided upon, and then, there's the music. Can't get away from the music.

"Simple music."
"I agree. Simple."
"Maybe some strings during dinner."
"Yes, a cellist?"
"Or, a harp."
"A harp?"
"Yes, soft music."
"Maybe 'Ina gadda Da vida'?"
"Most likely not."

Then there's the famous "Planning Pause". Two or three minutes of quiet. Just thinking, and finally, "What do we do for the rest of time we have the room?"

"Talk? Wedding charades?"
"We will need something for guests to do for the rest of the evening. Music and dancing are a natural."

So, the couple has evolved from a wedding amongst the hay in some meadow wearing comfortable clothes, Uncle Larry playing the spoons, with his sister on the zither, sausage on the hibachi, drinks in a washtub to a tux, a dress, real invitations instead of emails, a choice of entrees at a table indoors, a ceremony inside an historic old church, a horse and carriage, a harpist, and a DJ.

And the flowers. And favors.
And thank you cards.

The Theory of Wedding Evolution.

Then, it's the mans turn to answer some questions.

"So where would you like to go after the wedding?", she asks.
"Some place simple.", he replies.
"Yes. Simple, but nice."
"A nice simple place near the water."
"Do you own a cottage? Or are you talking hotel?", she asks.
"Hotel. Or a nice country inn."
"A nice, simple place near the water? Do we need passports?"

Another long pause.


It's funny how some things grow, and take on a life of their own with very little influence from others.

Or, so we think.

... to be continued.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The World Stirs Again

It's here. It may not feel like it today; it's only 24 f outside as I write this, but Spring is here.

Thank goodness.

It's not that I don't like Winter, it is a pretty season. A cold season. I hate being cold. I think I just feel cheated with Winter. Days are short, nights are long. I want to tuck my butt into bed at 6PM. The sun does a lot to keep me going. The longer the sun is shining, the more mischief I can get into. My energy level sky rockets with a bit of warm weather, and a cloudless sky.

I'm glad Spring is here again.

Besides the obvious ways of telling it is Spring like the longer days, turning the clocks ahead, and the increase in temperature, there are more subtle things that occur that signal the change in seasons. As the snow melts away, and ground softens the scents outdoors begin to change. You can smell the newly unfrozen dirt, and mud. It's a fresh smell. A comfort smell. It takes me back to when I was a kid playing in the mud after school and making my mother crazy. The soft, gooey edges of puddles became places to test the soles of your shoes for water resistance. Mine always failed.

Tree's and bushes begin to sprout buds. The distant treescape against a hill seems to have a faint green mist over it as the buds grow larger, and eventually burst open into leaves. When my daughter was younger we used to bet on which day in May the trees would be in full foliage. I still play that game in my head. This year I am betting on May 20th.

There are two definitive signs that Spring has overtaken the remnants of Winter. The first is the reimergence of the Spring Peeper tree frog (Pseudacris crucifer, synonym Hyla crucifer). These little guys begin their mating calls during the evenings in March. A soft, rhythmic, distant chirp that announces Spring to those too busy to notice the longer days, and through an open bedroom window can lull you to sleep like nothing else.

The second sure way to know that Spring is here is the arrival of "The Day". The Day is that one special day so different from the 90 or so before it. A warm, sunny day. No breeze, no clouds. A day that lures you to the back steps. A very quiet , soft day. If you listen hard enough you can actually hear the Forsythia budding.

It's all about renewal. Life coming to our corner of the world again. A resurrection.

What better season to define renewal than Spring, and what better day to celebrate resurrection than this day in Spring.

Happy Easter.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Somethings Are Just Too Hard to Swallow

edify verb 1) to build up, establish, or strengthen a person, institution, etc.; to uplift

Took me awhile, but I learned that edification does come naturally, and when it is faked it comes off as being trite. What is edification? Here's an example you might run in to out here in Central Mass.

"Ed, I got fungus."
"No, not me, my Crab Apple Tree. It's got a fungus. Anyone you know can fix it?"

Now, this is the edifying part:

"Talk to Merle Fleek down at the Agway. He's a right guy and really knows his fungi."

By sharing a good, true opinion of someone with another we establish a place of respect for that person. We build that person up in the others eyes to where we see them. Essentially, we give credit where credit is due, and share that positive opinion with another.

We do this all the time and don't even realize it.

"Yes sir, that Milo Hinks is the best large animal vet around, and he does alright with hamsters, too."

Another edifying statement.

The trouble with edification can be its source, and the manner in which it is done. It should come naturally, but at times it is forced. And, then there are the times it is plain faked. Why? To make the edifier look like a "right guy", to curry favor from the person they are edifying. It is called "brown nosing".

When a person refers to another as having courage, character, and integrity, and states they are honored to know them this would normally attract our attention. But when the person they are building up in this manner admits they have never met the person that is edifying them, then something is amiss.

How is it that a person can speak so highly of someone when they don't even know them? And, what about the words they use? Why "courage", or "character", and "integrity"? These are traits that one learns about another either first hand, or by what is written or reported about them by others. Why admit to "knowing" them when they have never met them?

I don't know. Really, I don't. Too deep for this page, but I hope you see my point.

But, if you take the statement in context with other things the person has said, it may help understand why.

Statements like this do little for the credibility of the person that is offering them. Their other statements should be more closely scrutinized. Essentially, take what they have to say with a grain of salt.

A more serious downside of this is the innocent person that they were edifying in the first place is now going to be associated with faker. Not a good thing. Unless their shoulders need artificial pats so badly that they'll take them from anyone.


So, what is my point? Simple. When listening to people, or reading what they have to say, give them the benefit of the doubt until something comes along to jog your intuition a bit. If something seems askew, then tread lightly, and put a question mark next to credibility.

We all want the best information, honest opinion, facts, and true testimonials in order to help us make good decisions. Always consider the source.

It would be a flat out shame to bring your sick hamster to taxidermist, instead of a vet, based on someones bad edification.

"edify." Webster's New Millennium™ Dictionary of English, Preview Edition (v 0.9.7). Lexico Publishing Group, LLC. 17 Mar. 2008.

A Great Comment: A Daily Readers View

I received this comment today regarding the posting I wrote regarding the EDC, and selectmen. I thought the comment deserved center stage.

"Yeah, it is awesome, and freakin' amazing. It's also about time that there is discussion taking place, and I agree, more discussion before June would be good. Thank you, for your post about the EDC and Selectmen touting ecotourism in Sturbridge.

There have been ecotourism studies already completed in central Mass, that is no secret. One has been touted by the Chamber of Commerce and Old Sturbridge Village. Selectmen have also mentioned one at their meetings, a study completed in north central Massachusetts in the Quabbin area. Hmmm...does anyone else think it's possible to do "ecotourism" on a regional basis with our Quabbin Reservoir neighbors to the north?

What kind of results do these studies recommend?
1) protect the economic base in Sturbridge - hospitality & retail, because we're becoming more dependent on it. 2)protect the fabric of the community. 3) extend visits to multiple activities and overnight stays by leveraging more events; consider camping and outdoor activity as the primary immediate opportunity; improve merchandising of the tourist product through better packaging. 4) align visitor expectations and experience by enhancing the look and feel, and also by providing enhancements to drive repeat visits. 5) expand group/business meeting segments, by reconnecting w/group business activity.

Specific actions suggested: 1) design standards for part or all of the community. 2) implementing zoning and land use regulations to protect open space and manage sprawl. 3) "view shed" protections 4) redesign the "gateway" - the list goes on and on.

As we know, there are naysayers in Sturbridge who think "Sturbridge is dying". Some of them are people who are new to Sturbridge, who perhaps have never owned a business, and who only see what has happened on the surface, not the real reasons why some businesses have left Sturbridge. It's so much easier to blame "the town" than be honest about why businesses fail.

There are those who just can't comprehend what the professionals are telling them: ecotourism CAN be, and SHOULD be, what Sturbridge does.

Sturbridge was built around Old Sturbridge Village; the businesses here survive on the tourist traffic generated by it, as well as the Brimfield Auctions, events on the Sturbridge Common, etc.

If a community has the foresight to plan for its long term fiscal well-being through the design and implementation of a well balanced land use base, it will, in the long run, develop a stable tax base that is equipped to weather the fiscal fluctuations. Until now it seems, Sturbridge has lacked that foresight. The current Selectboard has inherited this problem, passed forward to them from previous Selectboards. Most certainly, it will take EVERYONE to make it work, and that includes the naysayers.

Given Sturbridge's current situation, especially with regard to the cost of increasing sewer capacity plus building or renovating a new elementary school, can someone please explain how building another strip mall on Route 15 will help the tax base, or the senior citizens?

Wouldn't it be more desirable to direct development to areas where the existing infrastructure is capable of absorbing more growth, to locations where improvements could be made in a more cost efficient manner? Development could be coordinated with a long range capital improvement plan or budget, and capital outlays may be timed in conjunction with predicted needs in areas where growth is expected.

How about examining existing zoning regulations to see how they impact upon municipal operating and capital budgets? For example, development patterns that minimize the need for extensive roadways, water and sewer lines, and other improvements make sense from a fiscal perspective.

Yeah, 'sehtsumgoals. Begindaplan. Begindaplan.' "

Written by A Daily Reader

Leprechaun Web Cam

Happy St. Patricks Day. Click here to go to the Official Leprechaun Web Cam site.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Now That You Finally Caught the Ball, Run With It!!

Maybe it was the candles I lit, as I chanted the mantra, "eekotoahism, eekotoahism" that did the trick.

The towns Economic Development Committee is looking at ways to hold onto the folks passing by on the Pike and I-84. Selectmen are even talking about kayaking, hiking, biking, and cross country skiing. One even stated that tourism was "the core of what we do here".


There was even talk about how to market what we have here in the way of shops, restaurants, hotels, bed and breakfasts, and the like. There was discussion about how to expand and enhance what we have here. And, it was also thrown around that Old Sturbridge Village has long been a draw for people to the area and should be a pathway to other businesses in town.

Freakin' amazing.

When I read the article on page one of this weeks Tantasqua Town Common, "EDC eager to begin. Board seeks clear direction" I almost fell off my chair. I felt like shouting, "By George! I think they've got it!"

Finally, people are beginning to see things clearer, and are starting an action plan. They are talking about studying the business trends here in town in earnest, and maybe loosening up on the permitting process for new businesses. Town zoning, planning and signage regulations were mentioned with the realization that they may be too restrictive.

I like the direction this is going. The article went on to mention another EDC / Selectman's meeting in June. Too far away. Now that things are being discussed, and people seem to be on the same train, they should put it into high gear, set some realistic goals, and implement them by June instead of waiting.

Now, if you will excuse me, I am going to light another candle.

"Sehtsumgoals. Sehtsumgoals. Begindaplan. Begindaplan."

Hey, if it worked before...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

"Excuse Me, Must Have Been Something I Thought."

I am sure you have wondered what in the world would posses someone to ramble on about a smörgåsbord of subjects in public.

Whimsy? A thought process gone awry? Or, is it just thinking out loud?

I believe it's a little of each.

Ever drive down the road and see something, and wonder more about it? Or hear something on the radio and think about it a bit then find yourself thinking about something totally different. How did you get to that place? What sort of things are rattling around in your head? Well, I can't speak for what's in your head, but I can share how things work in mine.

First of all my head is filled with things. All sorts of things. Always has been, and I guess it will continue to fill. Observations, old photos, family, work, love, vacations, plans, unanswered questions, music, and on and on. I call up some of these things regularly. Often on the drive to work, or as I am lying down in bed, just before sleep. That's when I do my best thinking, and planning.

Occasionally, one of these random thoughts will ease itself to the surface, and linger on the surface like a errant soap bubble getting lost on the kitchen counter. Have to acknowledge that bubble, otherwise I'd be staring at it forever to see how long it would last before it burst. So I think. Daydreaming really.

Daydreaming is a wonderful way to improve ones place on this planet. Wondering why things are the way they are, or how to make something better. Planning on how to build a shed in the yard, or an itinerary for a well deserved vacation. The daydreaming, if done right, will take you to those places.

So, every once in a while a thought begins to stir deep inside, then slowly lifts and floats up and out. Most of the time I annoy Mary with them, but sometimes they land here. If they land here, don't take offense, it's just the process, and my constant curiosity.

I want to get those bubbles out. It's like a burp. I know, sometimes it may seem like I could actually recite the alphabet with these "burps", but once out, I feel better. And, as you make comments, I am sure you feel better, too.

Monday, March 10, 2008

A Sunday Morning Hike

After a posting I made a few weeks ago about the dams and Brook Trout in the Leadmine Mountain Land, I was invited by a member of PLAC, Dave Aho, to take a hike along the brook to see the dams first hand. Dave is a proponent for removing the dams.

I met Dave at the entrance of the parcel on Shattuck Road, and we walked in to the ponds. They are small, but beautiful. The mountain comes right down into the west bank of the ponds. The brook was flowing very fast due to the rain and snow melt over the last several days. I could have watched the water flow down stream for hours, but this was a learning adventure, and Dave has more knowledge of the outdoors than I ever hope to have, so it was time to learn.

As we walked along the brook, Dave explained just how removing the dams would not affect the trout. Yes, the ponds would disappear, but the brook would also be cleaned out and would flow unimpeded to the Quinebaug River. He felt the trout would not swim all the way down river and beyond the Westville Dam. He explained how they feed, and stressed their need for cold water. Cold water is something the brook offers since it is spring fed. The river temperature is higher than the brook.

After listening to Dave explain his rationale to me, he showed me several areas along the stream that have old wooden bridges. The bridges are in poor shape, and will have to be rebuilt to allow access to the other side. The dams look to be in fairly good shape. The concrete sluices were well designed, and after 60 or 70 years show no sign of failing anytime soon. One "dam" is actually a concrete bridge to the other side of the brook. Problem is the culvert beneath it is blocked with debris and the water no longer flows under it, but over it (see slide show above). It would be great to restore this bridge for access to the other side.

We walked along the an old camp road on the edge of the ponds till the road ended, then began to hike along the edge of the stream. Our destination was a waterfall about a mile away. The hike, my first since fall, was a good one. Dave, who is used to hiking most everyday was flying ahead of me most of the way. The brook winded its way from near the top of the mountain and down around its base. In some places it was 10, or more feet wide, and its current was very fast. The water is crystal clear. No industry, or farming has ever been done in this area. There are some areas along the way that show signs that man has disturbed the ground, and moved things around a bit long ago. What ever the reason was , it did not affect the brook.

After hiking for sometime, we walked across a wide open expanse of ground. It was a former gravel pit that the town has purchased some land in for another water well. Perfectly flat for acres, it seemed very much out of place here. We hiked to along the edge of the bowl surrounding the area, and onto the the base of a high hill. "This is it.", Dave said. There, coming down the side of this large hill was a waterfall. It was beautiful. It seemed to start a couple hundred yards further up the hill. The water was flowing very fast, all white except in the small areas pooling against the rocks. About 150 feet ahead of us was an ancient man made stone structure on the left side of the stream. It rose about 10 feet from the stream, and was about 4 feet wide. It looked just like a support that a water wheel may have sat on years ago to power a mill. We took photographs as we hiked along the edge, and found a few more man made stone structures built along the stream bank, then we looked for a place to cross over.

At the top of the hill we found something very interesting. Running perpendicular to the falls was a long stone wall. In, and against the stones beavers had placed thousands of sticks, logs and debris effectively turning this stone wall on the crest of the hill into a dam. Behind the dam was several acres of flooded land. The run off was what was flowing down the stream. It was hard to tell if the stones had been placed there long ago to hold back the water, and the beavers just refined the job, but one thing was certain, if any bit of that tired old wall let loose, it would let hundreds of thousands of gallons burst down that rock lined waterfall and on into Hammant Brook.

After we eased ourselves across the rickety dam to the other side we headed back. Dave would have loved to have kept hiking, but I had some things to do, none of which did get done.

After taking the hike, and listening to Dave tell me about the brook, the trout, and the dams, I have to admit I learned a great deal. Maybe the opening up of the stream won't harm the trout. But one thing I still believe, the dams should stay, otherwise, the ponds would be no more, and those ponds are beautiful.

The land will be used by people hiking the miles of trails. From beginner to expert, the land has trails for every level, but a large number of people will just want to go to quiet place with the kids, sit at a picnic table, and stare out at the water. Not everyone is going to use the area for hiking. Walks along the old roads will be just as popular as hiking up into the forest.

So, from a personal, aesthetic viewpoint, I'd like to see the dams remain intact. A few bridges constructed, and the debris cleared out from the culverts and stream bed would be a great start. And, if they do decide that removing the dams is the only way to go, I hope the area will retain the charm and beauty it now has.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Feel the Words

We are at a crossroads. Not only here in Sturbridge, but worldwide as well. About 18 years ago, when the World Wide Web came into it's own, people found the internet, and helped to form its current state. The information highway was becoming a reality, but what to do while we waited for it to fully evolve? Well, we learned to send email to one another. Spur of the moment words sent at a moments notice to friends, loved ones, corporations, lovers, and anyone else that you wanted to connect with. It was great. But, as we became more adapt, more reliant on the email we also got ourselves into hot water as well. We didn't learn to put that strongly worded critical email in our draft box for a day before sending it. We sent it as soon as we put in the last period as if we were pulling a trigger. That caused a lot of hardship, heartache, and scrutiny for many. We also had this feeling that our emails were private. We were naive.

We felt that as soon as it left our desktop it would arrive on another desktop free from prying eyes. We sure were surprised when we found out differently. The teenager whose parents searched their "Sent" mailbox and found strange writings to equally strange people they did not know led to parental controls, and limiting access to the Web for their kids. Doesn't really work that well. Kids are kids and they find the work-arounds.

Adults started to spend lots of time in online forums. Forums for everything, from Ford trucks, to mail order brides. Corporations soon began to show a presence on the Web. Pornography had always been there in some form, but was becoming more obtainable. Online gambling became prevalent.

The Web's evolution taught us some valuable lessons. Anything you put in writing on your computer can, and will come back to haunt you. It is forever. That email to your mistress? Fat chance it's deleted, it's still on your hard drive, and if the little lady suspects your cheating butt, she will find it. Send a nasty letter to the editor in the heat of the moment, and it will come back to bite your butt. Computers and the web have served a great service, but they have decreased our ability to think things through.

I think the biggest change since 1995 has been how we have learned to express ourselves. Fantastically designed web sites, lots of pictures, uploading our own videos, instant letters to the editor have all helped us become spontaneous in our expression. More so than ever before. Spontaneous expression is nice at times. "Ooooh, the flowers are lovely!" That's a spontaneous expression, and a nice one. Online it takes a different turn. "Mayor Smumkin is a liar, and wears a bad hair piece." That would be a spontaneous letter to the editor, and not a good one. If we had written that on paper, and waited to mail it the next day with a stamp, we may have decided for a rewrite.

After several years of people hanging out in forums expressing their feeling about things, the web log came into existence. The Blog started out as more or less a journal for people writing about themselves. Soon, it became a place for opinion, news, scandal, and opinion. Bloggers became accepted journalists at the presidential conventions, news agencies would stop by Drudge for the latest gossip, and information leaks. Blogging was gaining respect.

Most folks that blog do so for all the right reasons. There are wonderful blogs dedicated to photography, politics, self help, politics, babies, and on and on. Then, there are the other ones. The topic may be fine, but the head behind the keyboard may be a bit out of kilter. I know, that is a subjective feeling, but my feeling that Jeffery Dalmer was not a vegetarian is not solely a subjective feeling. His actions spoke for him, as do some places online.

So, I would like to give some unwanted advice. I can do that, it's my blog. Read it, and if you feel that it's useless to you, ignore it, but if you feel that I may have something, then think about it.

First of all, read. Read everything you can, as often as you can on anything that interests you. Cereal boxes are good. Newspapers are better. Books have a great rep, too. But keep in mind that if it's in print, doesn't make it so, or right, or the law. Look at the author, and ask yourself, "What is is motive?" Then after you experience a few chapters, columns, or blog postings by the same person, ask yourself if the person is being objective, or subjective. Is what you are reading an objective report of an event, a person, or an issue without any emotional ties from the author? If so, you can be fairly sure the information is not biased. The information may still not be correct, and this why if a subject attracts you, read as much as you can about it.

Just be aware that there are Blogs that share information, spin information, and give disinformation. You have to decide which one you want to rely on.

Be wary of writings that make a lot of statements like, "Phebis Glip is a liar". Obviously, subjective here. Why would the author write this? Why would he risk libel? Another example is, "The Business Society are in cahoots with the councilmen." Again, an opinion, and subjective. Any evidence? And I mean evidence that is straight forward, unmistakably clear in its meaning, not what the author interprets it to mean.

Also, be aware of style. Sounds a bit pretentious, but the style of writing and the format it is presented mean a lot to the overall message. Does the author use a lot of BOLD emphasis in his writing? Is the writer unable to say it in words, and needs to use another vehicle to make their point? Does the writer use quotation marks to mark words or phrases that are not quotes? If so, why? Is there a point? Is their venue, book, column, or blog a mishmash of thoughts? Are they addressing the war in the Congo in their posting, but have a slide show of grandma's new kitten in the corner? Just a matter of style, but can say volumes about just where their head is at, and how seriously you can take them.

Finally, when reading, look for the unwritten word. The words that are there, but not written. They are words that skew the text. In other words, the attitude, and tone of the writer. Mine is simple. I'm serious about what I write a lot of the time, but a totally not most of the time.

The "totally not" part you can be sure of. I'm easy to read in more ways than one.

Is the writer accusatory, obsessive on one topic long since solved, or dead? Does the tone of the writing have an undercurrent of , "it's all about me"? That's fine, but obviously a less reliable source of good information.

Bottom line, just be aware. Just because it's written, doesn't mean it is so. Cripes, the stuff I've written here could be totally off base. Is the blog a true blog, or something else like a newsletter for the party?

Free speech is free speech. Freedom of the press is exactly that as well. Everyone is entitled to vent like I am doing today.

Anyway, there you have it. Words that are unseen, but felt while reading. Who'd thunk it? Maybe that's why we become frightened when reading Stephen King,...

... and others.

Sugar Camp at OSV

Reprinted From The Republican

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

STURBRIDGE - Historians at Old Sturbridge Village will demonstrate early New England maple sugar-making at the village's own working "sugar camp" from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. each weekend, , from this weekend through March 23. Visitors can experience the entire sugar-making process, from tapping the trees to "sugaring off."
In addition, OSV's Oliver Wight Tavern will offer a free Maple Days pancake breakfast with the price of admission from 8 to 10:30 a.m. on March 8, 15 and 22. The normal price of the breakfast is $10 for adults, $6 for children under 10. OSV members will receive a 10 percent discount to the breakfast. Reservations are recommended by calling (800) 733-1830.
New England farm families in the 1830s usually tapped around 100 trees and made 400 pounds of sugar each season.
"Everybody helped with the sugar making - women, children, friends, neighbors - and the favorite children's taste treat of "maple snow" was actually the result of testing the syrup's consistency before granulating it for storage," said OSV Coordinator of Agriculture Adam Halterman, of West Brookfield.
Homemade maple sugar was a cheaper alternative to expensive cane sugar, which was imported from the West Indies. Boiling the maple sap required a high heat and lots of wood, but in the 1830s, after years of clearing forests for farm fields, wood was scarce and the cost was high.
Because of this, early New Englanders used waste wood to stoke sugar camp fires.
"Broken boards, old fence posts, chunks of pine, shingles, you name it - all kinds of scrap wood were burned for sugar making," Halterman said, adding that cheaper wooden troughs were also used to collect the sap, rather than more expensive buckets. At OSV, the sap is boiled in large iron kettles suspended over an open fire.
Both sugar maples and red maples are tapped to make sugar.
"Although sugar maple sap has more sugar, about 2 to 3 percent, red maples grow more abundantly in our area, so we tap both kinds of maple trees," Halterman said.
Helping Halterman run the Old Sturbridge Village sugar camp are historic interpreters Rhys Simmons, of Leicester, and Kevin Fountain, of Warren.
"Most people equate the smell of spring with flowers, but for us it's the smell of wood smoke and maple syrup. That's the surest sign that spring is coming," said Halterman.
Old Sturbridge Village celebrates New England life in the 1830s and is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $20; seniors, $18; children 3 to 17, $6; children under 3, free. For details, to online to or call (800) 733-1830. "

©2008 The Republican
© 2008 All Rights Reserved.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Curators of New England

There is an old church in Bondville, Vermont that is free for the taking. Seems the owners no longer have a use for the church that was built in the early 19th century, and are willing to part with it for free if the taker will pay for the cost of moving it. An article in the Rutland Herald states that the owners have offered the old structure to Old Sturbridge Village. I am sure that this kind of offer is made a few times each year to OSV. OSV could not be reached by the reporter of the story for their input.

Why is this noteworthy? Simple, it is because Old Sturbridge Village is looked at as the "Curator of New England". The example the village has shown over the past 60 years through its restoration of old New England buildings, historical research, and education is at a level that other institutions compare themselves to. The great thing is we have this excellent institution right here in town.

OSV has done a remarkable job turning around a drop in attendance over the past several years. January visitor numbers were the best in 10 years. More emphasis has been placed on bringing the village alive with costumed interpreters instead of being the shadow box it was becoming. They are heading in the right direction.

So, what now for the village. Well, I am not privy to their game plan, but I can imagine it is something like this:

  • Seek out the money. Apply for every grant they can for maintaining, improving the infrastructure of the existing Village.
  • Aggressively market the Village nationally, and locally as not only a living "time capsule" for visitors to experience, but as a leading educational center for schools and individuals. The key word here is aggressive. Taking a step outside the bounds that they have spent the last 60 years.
  • Increase membership. Schedule events like from "Redcoats to Rebels" throughout the year in order to attract those people that would normally overlook what the village had to offer.
  • Continue to market the Village as a fantastic place for a corporate events, functions, and weddings, and offer things that no other venue can, or would offer.
Eventually, with the money coming in on a regular basis, they can begin to add new projects to the Village. Maybe a mill beside the river, or who knows, maybe an old Vermont church resurrected high on a hill overlooking the Common.

With the right leadership, and imagination anything is possible, and I think they have both going for them right now.

For more information on the Bondville, Vermont church, click here.
Photograph: (c) 2008 The Rutland Herald.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Let's Read the Newspaper!

The following are a few items from the local newspapers that get lost in all the other ballyhoo in town.


About 6 years ago the town built a skate board park as part of the recreation area down off Cedar Street. The intention was to give skateboarders a place to go to use their boards, do their tricks and be safe from traffic. It worked, but what people didn't consider when designing the area is that those 13 year olds that used the park 6 years ago are now 19 and 20 years old, and have been loyal users. This is a place they have always known. A comfortable and fun place. Problem is, they grow up, and even though they still love to use their board, they are a bit old to be using such a small venue designed for smaller kids. They also have other wheels now, and of course, they bring them with them.

The residents in the immediate area are overwhelmed with traffic, noise, and general buffoonery. These things go hand in hand with older teens, nothing new here. The park may need a redesign regarding parking, but should return to the days when the park first opened with a lock, and key, and specific times for its use may help. That may require an "adult" to be on site to supervise, but it is less expensive than a redesign right now. Also, parking stickers for the area should be given out. No sticker, no parking. Band aid measures at first, may hold out until a more suitable plan is devised. I think the residents need a break, and the kids still need a place to go. The residents in the area seem to be very aware of just how difficult it will be to solve this, and are willing to be as flexible as it takes to make things happen. What a change of pace. I like their attitude.

Balance, got to find the balance without calling the police 3 or 4 times a day.


Here in town we are blessed to have several fine lakes. They are wonderful wet pockets of nature located throughout the area, each with a personality of its own. The current issue is weeds. The Quaboag Quacumquasit Lakes Association asked for, and received, $22000.00 last year for maintenance of its waters on South Pond, Cedar Lake, Walker Pond, and Big Alum Pond. This year they have asked for an additional $10,000.00 from the town. The Selectmen have agreed to support this request, and this is very good. We can not let the lakes fall into the hands of the Milfoil. It will be very expensive to recover from a a total infestation of the weed.

I do feel that the $60.00 per year members fee is a bit low, and should be increased significantly to raise some of the needed funds to maintain the lakes. All those that have property that actually touches the water should pay one fee, and it should be mandatory. Other folks that have property around the lakes, but not on the water, should pay as well. The Association would need to look at all the parameters, but an increase in the yearly fee is very much needed, after all, it's only $5.00 per month now.


This one is a tough one. It involves a lot of emotion, and some common sense, too.
There is a grant available from a program entitled, "Kids Don't Float" for $5000.00 to purchase new life jackets for the Town. It is an admirable cause. I do have some thoughts on this one, though.

If we are eligible for a grant, we should apply, that's pretty much a no-brainer, however, there is more involved with this decision though.

For starters, no child that can not swim should be without a parent, or another individual that can swim when using a pool, or lake for recreational purposes. Period. No dropping a child off at neighbors house to use the pool with their "swimmies", or "bubble", and the parent splitting to get their hair done. Kid can't swim, you are there.

If a child is enrolled in swimming lessons, then it is the parents job to inquire about the size of the class, how many instructors per class, and determine if the ratio of student to instructor is safe. If there is any doubt, don't enroll them, if the parent is nervous, then don't leave.

Kids don't use life preservers when in a swimming class, and if a parent takes them to the lake for recreation, and they can't swim, then it is the parents responsibility to place inflatable "swimmies" on their arms, or some other approved flotation device on them, even if the parent is sitting on the shore and is 5 feet from them.

I don't really understand the need for the town to supply life preservers at the Town Beach. I do understand the need for rescue rings, poles, ropes, oxygen tanks, and other rescue equipment.

Before the Town commits to a "safety" intervention such as applying for this grant, they must think about what exactly is the purpose of the life preservers in relation to what they offer at the beach, and they must also not take away the parents responsibility for their child and assume it themselves. Then if the town is serious about making water recreation safe for children, they must hire the appropriate number of staff, make sure swim class sizes are a safe size, and follow up on the the above ground, and in-ground pools in town that do not meet the town bylaws regarding fences. They then must demand that the privately owned pools in town meet the standards set forth in the bylaws. Can't do one thing, and ignore the rest.

This subject has been close to my heart since 1970. That year my five year old sister drowned in a neighbors above ground pool. That incident is in part the reason I do what I do today.

So, there you have it, just a few of the topics being bandied about in the newspapers this week.