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

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Dine & Whine

We went out to dinner the other night. We try to eat out as often as possible. Sometimes we are just too beat from a long week in the mines, other times it is just not in the budget, but those times we do go out we try to eat somewhere in Sturbridge.

We ate locally the other night, and I was disappointed.

Now, I am not a restaurant critic. Not by a long shot. All I do is compare. I compare this visit with our other visits, and if something is off I feel I can make a judgment.

I ordered Veal Parmigiana with gnocchi. I ordered this meal because the last time we ate there it was superb. This is one restaurant that we have always loved going to, not something we were trying on the fly.

When the order came I looked at a small piece of veal, about 1/4 of the size I had the last time, and 14 gnocchi.


Mary had the Veal Parmigiana with linguine, and the amount of linguine she was served was more than two people could eat at one sitting.

Go figure.

I know. Times are tough. Restaurants are cutting back, and that's OK, but if they are cutting back in the amount served, then cut back in the price, or does that run counter to what they want to accomplish?

I know, foolish question.

$75.00 plus tip for two Veal Parm meals, and two glasses of wine. Two meals that I would not have spent $5.00 each for. How do you say "screwed" in Italian?

Did I complain to the kitchen? No, I know better. I'll just whine here.

Now that that is off my chest, I can move on.

Fine Italian food has always been a rarity in these parts. Still is.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Free Mothers Day Admission At OSV For Moms

Free Mother’s Day Admission for Moms at Old Sturbridge Village May 10, 2009
Kid-friendly crafts; Mothers Day Brunch

(STURBRIDGE, MA) - April 24, 2009: Moms get in free on Mother’s Day at Old Sturbridge Village on Sunday May 10, and family events are planned throughout the entire Mother’s Day weekend. Children can make Mother’s Day cards, write a message for mom with a quill pen, and enjoy Punch and Judy puppet shows. A special Mother’s Day Brunch will be served in the Oliver Wight Tavern (reservations required). Historical interpreters will present “Mothers in Fact and Fiction,” “Fashion Hints from a Fashionable Lady,” and OSV horticulturists will present “The Family Nurse’s Tour of the Herb Garden.”

Friday, April 24, 2009

Get Ready For The 'Skeeters

I'm ready for them this year.


I know, a bit early to be mentioning them, but I figure if I did it now, others may be inspired.

We live on a small piece of land bordered by an "intermittent stream". Sometimes, especially after a rain, it flows like the Colorado, other times, it is just wet, with little movement. It is those "other" times that causes the problems. Mosquito's like still, quiet water to breed in, and come summer, this area becomes a hot bed of breeding.

No, I don't want to get into telling you all about my mosquito war stories like they are the size of Blue Jays, or have been known to fly off with squirrels in their grasp. That is true, but my purpose today is to get you thinking about fighting back.

Heck, a bite is nothing more than an annoyance, but it is what comes with the bite that is the issue: diseases like West Nile Virus, and Eastern Equine Encephalitis.

This is, quite literally, a matter of life, severe illness, and sometimes, death.

I have seen what EEE (Eastern Equine Encephalitis) can do first hand. It is nothing that you would ever want to have. So, last week I emailed the Central Massachusetts Mosquito Control Project out in Worcester, and told them about my concerns. They sent out someone to assess the area today, and left me a card stating the area is not breeding at this time.

They will be back, and when they return they will spray the bejeepers out of the area. Having experienced mosquito spraying in the past, I don't think I will have too much of a mosquito problem this year.

Now, I don't want everyone to get all eco-crazy on me for wanting to spray the woodland stream behind my house. The chemicals that are used today dissipate very quickly, and other than closing the windows to the house, and covering any fish ponds one may have, it will only harm the intended subject: the mosquito's.

Years ago, I felt differently. The spray raised havoc with those with respiratory issues, and killed way more than mosquito's. It will still do a number on you if you sit in the spray, and inhale for awhile, but having a picnic in the middle lane of the Pike isn't healthy either. Our chances of contracting West Nile, or EEE will be dramatically reduced if one chooses to spray around their home.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

And The Town Even Comes With Friends

Friends. They seem to come in bundles. School friends, neighborhood friends, work friends, each group with their own culture, and dynamics. As a kid I had a slew of friends. Most of them in my neighborhood, but as I moved on in school, I found many in the classroom sitting around me. I am fortunate in that many of those little people sitting beside me in second grade are still out there, and I still consider them friends. Back then, a common interest at recess, or at the lunch table, usually sealed the friendship; as an adult, it usually takes more.

Times change, we change, circumstances of life bump us about, but old friends are still there. They may not be as available as they once were, but the connections to our mutual past is still alive. Sometimes, old friends drift away when life gets in the way. Just happens. One would think that friendship is for life, but those ties we made as seven year olds sometimes aren't strong enough to hold on when we turn 45.

As I got older, I adopted other friends from places I was employed, or places I lived. Not everyone one meets becomes a friend, you have to share some things to get to that point.

I am one of the fortunate ones. When I came to town, I was immediately introduced to some folks in my old neighborhood that showed me just how friends can be made, and kept, when one is older. This process restored a faith in people in me, and to this day I am a changed man because of it. One of those that I met here in town has lived here all his life. He's retired, on paper at least, but doesn't act like it. He is always there for those folks in the neighborhood that need something done around the house, or yard, or need something moved from one house to another. He never asks for anything in exchange, just says, "OK. I'll be over in a minute", or "We'll take care of it first thing in the morning". Never passes judgment. Never asks why.

People like this are rare to find, and once you find them, they are precious to keep.

Sturbridge has given me many friends like this. Now, I'm not sure whether it's the basic personality of those that live here in town, or something that is deeper, more genetic in nature, but I have a feeling it is a bit of both. Seems that here in Central Mass people act, and behave in a way that was just the way to be 60 years ago. Not sure why that is. Maybe it's because out this way we aren't subject to all the migration of behaviors that accompany large numbers of people when they move to a place. Here, it seems that when folks do move in, they assimilate quickly into the culture of the town, and the overwhelming theme of taking care of each other. The behaviors one came in with, are soon changed to a gentler, kinder way of being.

That is something that I will always be thankful for. Regardless of why I came to town, or what I experienced once here, these friends were always there. Quietly there. There actions set the example, and after a short while I began to shed all the layers of insulation I had acquired over the years as a result of dealing with people of a strikingly different manner. Most importantly, one of these friends introduced me to Mary.

In Sturbridge, and this may seem a bit far fetched, but is true, more people now know my name, and I consider to be friends, than in the 25 years I lived elsewhere.


One could attribute it to something in the water, but I know it is the example set by everyone here in town, like my retired friend, is the real reason. This friend has become a mentor to me. I have seen how he gives, and it seems familiar. At one time, I had those same traits, but again, things happen, and I started to dress in layers. Insulation.

Of course, there are those that one may not like to have as a friend, but that is true everywhere. What makes Sturbridge unusual is most everyone I have met is sincere, and worth getting to know, and the more I know them, the more I would be there for them if needed. I thank my mentor for helping me find that in me again.

When one reviews what our friends have done for us, we naturally think about how we could ever pay them back for being there, helping out, or just giving of themselves. That is natural, but friends don't want to be paid back. I certainly don't ever expect it. I'm just a friend, for the sake of being a friend.

The bottom line is, here in Sturbridge, people do actually care about other people. They may hold opposing views, but each view is the acting out of how they perceive caring to be in their hearts. Whether its fighting a landfill, raising money for the elderly, saving a tree, or clearing a trail, people here care.

One more thing about friendship, besides caring, a true friend will think nothing of telling you exactly what you don't want to hear, give you a slap upside the head, and call you a "twit" when necessary.

And, I have been on the receiving end of that far too many times to count.

Guess that makes me sort of an expert by default. I'll continue to use those skills on these pages.

Now, log off, and get back to work, or the boss will have your ass, you twit.

Just lookin' out for my friends.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Time To Twitter?

Little snippets of information seem to serve most of us very well. I am not sure what this says about us as a culture, but little sound bites, tag lines, Twitter and Facebook updates seem to be all we need to satisfy our craving for current events.

I want to believe it is because as continually evolving human animals we are able to take one or two lines of information , and derive from them the inference, tone, and additional information that is just left unsaid.

We is smart, we is.

I don't want to believe it is because we are all so busy to read more than a few lines, or that our attention spans has been altered by advances such as instant pudding, microwaves, e-mail, Tivo, and not having to rewind a DVD.

Since there seems to be half the planet using one of those internet social networking sites like Twitter, there has to be something good about it to attract, and maintain, all it's members beyond pure curiosity in seeing what Bob is doing at two o'clock in the morning.

I am not sure what that "good" is yet, but maybe it's the satisfaction of just knowing. Knowing anything. So, in light of this cultural phenomena, and the number of people that actually use these sites, I think that the Town of Sturbridge should join Twitter.

Imagine how the town could keep its residents updated on projects, meetings, issues, and crisis's. A simple one or two line entry at, and instantly the information is sent out to computers, cell phones, Blackberries around the town for all to read. Maybe even to one of the public cable channels as well.

Instant information gratification. No waiting for the next edition of the paper to post an announcement. Just type, and post it. No one can say they are out of the loop, or they "didn't know" about something. The possibilities are amazing if used in the right way.

The DPW could post something like, "Water main break on Rt. 131. Detour at Hall Rd. Expect fix by 3PM.", or the Police could post, "Wanted: Late model, white Chevy van. Last seen on Route 20." These are practical, informative, and helpful things that alert us. Doesn't take much to digest them, but will change our behavior. The Zoning Board of Appeals could even post meeting changes, or if a particular variance was granted. The Board of Health could announce a Blood Pressure Clinic at the Senior Center, the DPW could also post that there will be flushing of hydrants on Cedar Street and to be aware of rusty water. A great heads up if it's laundry day. The Recreation Department could announce a change of venue if a Concert on the Common is rained out.

The technology is out there, and making it suit a variety of purposes is something we do very well. Instant information is just not for those addicted to their Crackberries, but also serves as a public service. Something to think on.

Even the Board of Selectmen would find these services useful in announcing what they are up to. "Meeting running late. Ordering pizza. New guy Creamer is buying."

Information is information.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Thank You From Ted Goodwin

"To the residents of Sturbridge, thank you for re-electing me to the Board of Selectmen. Sturbridge is a wonderful community where we can enhance our everyday lives through volunteerism and participation. I will work hard to help us meet the challenges Sturbridge faces in the next three years. I anticipate a positive and respectful board where the exchange of ideas and productive debate can continue to move our town forward.

To all of you who worked so hard to help me be re-elected to the Board of Selectmen, I thank you for everything. So many people gave generously of their time and energy and many pledged their support and offered encouraging words. All of this resulted in a successful campaign.To those of you who supported other candidates, thank you for voting and being part of the process, and please know I will be a careful listener to all your concerns.

I want also to thank all the other candidates for their participation. Together we can continue to make Sturbridge a better place.

Ted Goodwin"

The Back Yard Think Tank

Every once in a while I get to thinking about the "heavier" things. Most of this thinking comes when I am in the midst of doing something else, like mowing, raking, weeding, or staring blankly at the wall. The last one happens far more often than I would like to admit.

The latest thought to bother me is the fact that 1 out of 166 births will result in the individual being diagnosed with autism. 1 in 166. That is a horrible statistic.

Autism, in all its forms, has been around forever, but why now do we have this disturbing statistic today Is it because we are trained more to recognize something that has always been prevalent, or is something in our environment causing it? Many will say that the mercury based preservative Thimerosol, used in stabilizing vaccines is the culprit. Others disagree, and say that the preservative has been used for a long time, and there was not a spike in the occurrence of autism before the recent increase in numbers.

Maybe we are just more aware, and are assigning the diagnosis to characteristics that were undiagnosable before.

Another popular diagnosis is Attention Deficit Disorder, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. This condition made a sharp increase in those diagnosed in the late 1980's, and throughout the 1990's, until another condition came into vogue, Bi-Polar Personality. Heck, I know I had ADHD, probably still do, but back in 1965 the behavior was not given a diagnosis, it was merely described. "Walter is disruptive in class.", that was a favorite. Class clowns in third grade were frowned upon. Still are, but aren't called "clowns" any longer, they are given another label. The behaviors are the same, only the names have been changed.

For the past 20 years or so, parents would make an appointment with their pediatrician after the school nurse, or some other official at the school recommended that their child be seen due to their behavior. Back in 1965, a note was sent home, read by the parents, and some form of punishment was invoked. In my case, it was more corporal punishment, with a side of grounding. So, the present day child is brought up before the pediatrician, some questions are asked, an exam performed, and maybe a referral made, but most often the next step is the prescription pad is taken out of the drawer, and some medication is ordered for the child to make them less likely to be "disruptive".

Problem solved, but new ones can evolve.

Now, don't get me wrong, there are certainly individuals that meet all the criteria to be diagnosed with a particular condition, but there are far more that do not meet the criteria, and are labeled, and medicated anyway. Poor practice, demanding parents, or just an "off" year for the child? Maybe a little bit of each.

The diagnosis of being "Bi-Polar" is now challenging the the number one position of ADD/ADHD. I have no idea why. Is the condition stressed more in undergrad programs? Are new clinicians that much aware of it, hence the increased labeling? Or, is there actually something to all this? Is there something that is actually affecting the way our synapse spark, and our neurons respond? Something like the interference one sees, and hears if using a hair dryer in a room with a TV, or a radio playing. The picture and sound is there, but just not as clear as it was without the interference.

What sort of things could be "interfering" neurologically with our children, and has been doing so with a greater frequency over the past couple of decades?

Wish the heck I knew, but looking back over the past twenty or so years there have been many, many changes to our environment, and I don't mean just the land around us. The prevalence of computers, and sitting 24 inches away from the CRT screen is something "new". Infants aren't using them, but their moms, and dads do. When I was a kid, we were told not sit closer than six feet in front of the TV because of the "radiation". The radiation, or Electronic Magnetic Field (EMF) could do us harm. That debate is ongoing, but why allow one to sit so close to a CRT today, when 40 years ago it was "verboten"? I know, shielding is better, the appliances don't throw off as much EMF, but every appliance is labeled by the FCC as to its ability to emit EMF, and interfere with other appliances. Could it also interfere with our biology?

We are also inundated with "beams". I know, rather sci-fi sounding, but true. From satellites beaming our GPS coordinates, to receiving our TV and radio signals, we are pelted the entire day with "beams". Wi-fi signals, radio, signals, and the ever present cell phone signals pass through us constantly. Do these electronic wave lengths raise havoc with our biology as they pass through?

Truth is, no one seems to know, and those that say they do know, and that we are safe, have little data to back their statements up, or hold a stake in Verizon. They could be way off base, just as I could be.

The packaging, and preserving of our foods, the plastic in our baby bottles, the chemicals used to grow a better apple, the chemicals in teeth whitening products all have a way of affecting the function of a basic cell. Could all these things we have grown used to having actually be adversely affecting us?

Of course they are, but just how, and to what extent is anyones guess.

These are things that are trumpeted constantly by environmentalists around the world, but when spoken in such generic, all encompassing forms, they do little to make us stop and think. If one statement was made, with facts behind it, such as, "Microwave ovens cause male pattern baldness.", then microwaves would dot our curbs on trash day across the country, and a greater impact would be made.

I guess we need specifics. Generalities confuse us, and we don't pay them any heed.

Well, these were the thoughts that hounded me yesterday as I was busy moving leaves from one part of my yard to another. I have more mindless chores to do today, and this thing about why kangaroos have pockets has always bugged me.

I've got some serious thinking to do today.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

"Marge, Get The Checkbook So I Can Shut Him Up."

Ever get the feeling that you are powerless to invoke change? Whether it be at work, home, or just here in town, sometimes we feel we are in control of our environment, and other times, no matter what we say or do, we can't do squat.

I do have a solution. It's a simple one, but effective. Currently, every city and town in the Commonwealth is under pressure to cut costs, re-consider spending, and put projects on hold. Sturbridge is in better shape than most, but we are also taking a conservative approach to insure that the recession does not hit us harder.

So, do we just hide in the shelters until the "all clear" is sounded?

No, of course not. We can make a positive change, that will having a lasting affect, and mean a great deal having been born in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Donate $10.00 to Tables on the Common.

I know, I hear it. "What for?", "The kids need lunch money.", "I have bills.", "Times are too tough."

Yes, I hear it, and I feel it, too, but I am not one to let something get the best of me, especially if the end result will be something good for the many here In town. Placing picnic tables on the common is something we can do without dipping into the Town coffers.

And, when they are sitting there on the grass, they will offer a place to go to, and relax, and channel the history around us. A mini-escape. A place where one can pull over and just tune out the rest of the world, stare at the traffic, and sip a coffee, read a paper, have lunch with the kids, or enjoy a concert.

$10.00 can buy some serenity not only for ourselves, but for everyone that uses the Common.

Please donate to Tables on the Common. I challenge all the readers of "Thinking Out Loud" to give what they can. Several of you have, and I thank you, now I'd like to see others step up as well.

You can either use the widget at the top of the page, which is very secure, , or send a donation to me personally at 60 Brookfield Road, Fiskdale 01518.

The deadline for raising funds is June 1st.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

No Recount

The following is a message from James Ehrhard.--ed.

"As you can appreciate, my losing by 14 votes has caused a number of supporters to ask that I request a recount in the Town Election that occurred on Monday. I appreciate all the support I received in the election and do not take their requests lightly. That said, I cannot in good faith request a recount because it is not in the best interest of the people of Sturbridge. In these challenging economic times, the money that would be required for a recount is far better spent in support of our schools and public safety departments. Additionally, with Jim Malloy leaving, the Board of Selectmen needs to quickly begin the process of finding a replacement. I will not allow a recount and the instability it would bring to the Board to cause a disruption of that process. The voters have spoken and I proudly support Tom and Ted as Selectmen.



Ehrhard for Selectman
254A Holland Road
Sturbridge, MA 01518
tel: 508.344.1977"

Congratulations to Our New Selectmen

Something old, something new, and something unexpected.

The power of campaigning, and the power of casting a vote were in evidence this week in Sturbridge. Both Tom Creamer, and Ted Goodwin landed selectman's seats. An incumbent, and the new kid on the block.

The lesson here is to never rule anything, or anyone out. If one has the passion, and the ability to expend a little more sweat than the next guy, they can certainly overcome the obstacles in their way.

The really neat thing about the outcome of this election is both winners are at opposite ends of the spectrum. With the input from each of them, we will hopefully have a Board of Selectmen that will be self adjusting. They will be a throttle, so to speak, on the extremes of each camp.

This is a good thing for Sturbridge. It may not always be pretty, but I am sure that we are headed in good direction.

Congratulations, Tom, and congratulations, Ted. Now show us what you can do, together.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Livin' On the Edge

We are on the cusp. Like that little kid sitting on the edge of the moon with his fishing pole in the Dream Works movie logo, we are on the edge of change.

Obviously, the upcoming elections will bring change to our town, but now, with the Town Administrator leaving for a new position, we are in a place we haven't been in many years.

This could be a very good thing, or it could go terribly awry.

Jim Malloy said in a recent newspaper story that he cannot advance in his field without packing it in and moving on. Just one of those things. If you want to grow, you sometimes need to make big decisions and leap out of your comfort zone. He is, and I wish him the very best of luck in his new position.

In the meantime, the devil you know is often better than the devil you don't know. The search committee, when formed, will have an arduous job ahead of themselves. First, they need to formulate a "wish list" of a candidates qualifications, and then develop another one as to the candidates attitude, the ability to see things as they do, and also be able to offer something they can't, or are just unable to.

Call it a "Candidates Soup". All sorts of "wishes" will be thrown into the mix, stirred with interviews, simmered with second and third interviews, and in the end, hopefully, the "soup" will be palatable to not only those on the committee, but for the rest of us here in town.

It is job that will require a great deal of time and energy, loss of sleep, headaches, and heartburn. Just comes with the territory, and that's just the job of searching for a replacement for the Town Administrator, the actual job itself is more of the same.

But, there are those out there that live for this, and are quite good at what they do. Some may apply, others won't. There will be great applicants, and of course, there will be the not so great. Sorting through them will take many months. Meanwhile, we will have a substitute, and like when we had a substitute teacher in school, it may be a time when all hell will break loose.

I hope not. I hope everyone behaves, but that is wishful thinking.

Where Sturbridge is in the very near future, and for a long time to come, will be decided on this year. We can choose to be where we want to be, or find ourselves in place far distant from where we aimed. It would be so much easier if the candidates came with a a built in GPS. Just set your destination, and let them go for it.

Unfortunately, they will come with only themselves, and if we like them, and trust in them to take us to our future it will be a good thing. Occasionally, they will need a slap upside the head to stay on track, but if we pay attention to them, that won't happen as often as one thinks.

I am hoping for the very best for Sturbridge, but I am going to keep my hands out of my pockets for awhile just in case someone needs a slap to stay on track. And, having been the recipient of many a whack upside my head, I know just how effective they can be. Can't remember my name most of the time because of them, but I am a better person for the same reason.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Get That Warm, Fuzzy Feeling For Ten Bucks

$10.00. Not much money. Nowadays every dollar must be accounted for, though, so what was just $10.00 in 2007 is even more dear today.

One thing $10.00 can buy today, that will not only be free from buyers remorse, but also comes with a good feeling, is a donation to Tables On The Common.

It only takes a few minutes to make a donation with the widget at the top of the page. If you're shy, and would like to donate anonymously, then send your donations in care of me at 60 Brookfield Road in Fiskdale 01518.

We have a unique opportunity here to do something that won't cost a lot, but be worth so much to those that use the Town Common.

Donations of any size are welcome, even large corporate, and business donations. I like those, too.

Imagine taking a walk with the family on a Saturday morning, stopping by the bakery at the Publick House, and then sitting at a table on the Common enjoying a cup of coffee and a muffin, or taking a lunch break away from the office, and relaxing with the paper in the shade of one of those 200 year old maples.

Simple pleasures that can be had for just $10.00. If 160 people donate ten dollars, we can meet our goal. We don't want to settle for just one table. That's a tease. Nothing worse than a Picnic Tease.

Please take a moment to give.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Getting Financially Creative With Home Projects

I almost done with one project I started around This Old House last summer, now I am looking for another. I do some of my best thinking when working with my hands on something for us. Painting walls is something that most people hate. I like it. I don't know why, but maybe it's the immediate satisfaction of seeing the before and after evolve in front of my eyes.

This year I have narrowed down the choices to building a walkway from the driveway to the back door, and maybe a patio off the walkway, or building a shed. Most importantly, it has to be done in the most cost effective way considering the state of economy. My economy.

I need to get creative.

Every home needs a shed. The garage can only take so much of the storage load, if you are lucky enough to have one. If you don't have a garage, then a shed is a must have.

You can buy a great shed for a couple thousand bucks. Reeds Ferry is a great place to buy pre-built sheds, and have them delivered right to the spot you've chosen in the yard, but if you would rather build it from scratch, then expect to spend the summer doing it if you want it done right, and built to last. You will save a bundle of money. Saving money is what it is all about this summer. I want to take a nice vacation with Mary, too, so a little pre-planning will go a long ways.

This whole idea of building a shed got me to thinking about the history of sheds. Back when Sturbridge was first settled folks built very small houses, and barns for their animals. Eventually those barns got bigger as people began to own more animals, and store more things like hay, and tools. House size didn't catch up to barn size for quite awhile. Then, sometime later, there was the start of out buildings. Not exactly a barn, but just another place to store things, and to give more barn space over to the animals. Once barn size began to stabilize, house size began to increase. The farm was getting bigger, and the family grew to meet the needs of running it.

In the beginning of the 20th century another building was being built on the land, the garage. At first all it was space taken up inside of the family barn, or an under used out building, but eventually buildings were built just for the purpose of housing the new family automobile.

The detached garage was usually a single bay affair, occasionally a double bay, and was set behind the house with a driveway running to it from the street. The driveways were usually dirt, or just two strips of poured concrete for the cars wheels to roll on.

It was during this time that most houses no longer had a barn, just a garage, and, of course, a place was needed to store all that stuff needed in the yard like rakes, shovels and the lawnmower. In the 1950's when the attached garage became all the rage, the also took on the dual role of car, and stuff storage. It was around the late 1950's that out buildings began to be needed again.

First they were built by hand, then Sears sold the classic aluminum sheds with the sliding doors that were guaranteed to work for only one season. Those aluminum sheds dotted the American landscape for a couple of decades, and still do. As time moved on one could buy pre-built wooden sheds at the home & garden center, or build an out building.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the years may have changed, but as homeowners in Sturbridge we really haven't. Everything moves in a circle. If I do decide to go with the "Build-A-Shed" project this year it will be like stepping back in time, sort of a heritage project.

I'll draw up some plans, pull a permit, and if I do this right, I may qualify for a grant.

Now, if I can somehow show the new walkway to be a partial restoration of the old Bay Path I could be sittin' pretty.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

First Up: Ted Goodwin

Ed. Note: I have offered to post submissions from any of the candidates for selectman in order for them to get their message out. The offer is open to all candidates. The submissions will be posted as received, without editing. Hopefully, this will be just one more way for the voter to learn about a candidates, and make a good decision on election day. Comments for this posting can be made at : .

"One of the most frequent areas that people ask me about is our local economy. In that spirit, I’d like to share my thoughts on important economic development issues facing our town.

· I have supported and will continue to support hiring an Economic Development Coordinator. While there is not presently enough money in the budget in these difficult times, I will continue to work towards creating this valuable position. I believe that, over time, this position will more than pay for itself as new and professionally generated ideas come to fruition.

· During my first term on the Board, I encouraged consideration and voted in favor of a single tax rate. While the national economy is throwing punches at our local businesses, this change in the tax rate will bring them much-needed relief.

· Last year, I worked to build a coalition in order to gain support for the adoption of the valuable state-funded program, 43D. This program offers communities a tool for targeted economic development and enhances opportunities for growth and expansion. 43D encourages landowners to market their valuable industrial land in a way that ultimately will bring more good jobs and additional tax revenue to Sturbridge.

· I would like to see the town create its own local priority development sites. We can create the same guarantee as the state has established for 43D sites for our own empty spaces like Basketville and Roms. This new approach can be a way to target, market and facilitate the refilling of our most significant empty storefronts.

· I have met one-on-one with the president of the Chamber of Commerce, the Chair of the Economic Development Committee, the President of OSV, Finance Committee members, business owners, and residents, all with the goal of working together in a collaborative effort to better our town. I have worked to explore ideas and gather knowledge from others to better understand our town’s most urgent needs and the paths to best approach them.

· There’s no question we’ve gone through the painful process of losing stores, just like nearly every Main Street in the country. Nationally, retail vacancies reached a 10-year high in the fourth quarter. Another 150,000 store closings are expected this year. The hard truth is that Main Streets across the country are suffering. While our own town budget is in better shape than nearly every other town in central Massachusetts – many are firing staff and cutting aid – we do have important challenges to face.

· To reverse this trend of business vacancies, if I am re-elected, during my next term on the Board I would like to work toward revitalizing our Commercial Tourist District. The Town is working with Central Mass Regional Planning to suggest improvements for this important area. We need to work hard to be in a position to strive for growth on Main Street, so that when the economy bounces back, we are ahead of the curve. This area must become more pedestrian friendly, and we need to consider tax incentive programs for businesses and landowners who work toward enhancing their curb appeal.

· I will strive for tax-positive growth. We need to encourage projects which bring in more tax dollars than their cost of services. Route 15 is an area where we can plan for growth that generates tax dollars, creates good jobs and adds value to the neighborhoods in the area. The current zoning of Route 15 allows for recreational facilities, medical offices, and light industry. In addition, the Route 15 area contains sandy soil suitable for on-site sewerage treatment that will save millions of dollars on an unnecessary sewer line.

· While some of my opponents may try to convince voters that they are the only candidates who support local businesses, I have to respectfully disagree. What sets me apart from some of the other candidates for Selectman is that while I strongly support local business and tax-positive growth, I always consider neighborhoods as important parts of my decision-making. My priority is balancing healthy growth with quality of life for residents and business owners alike.

Considering a wide variety of viewpoints carefully is how the best decisions can be made. I have worked hard during my first term on the Board and if re-elected, I will continue to listen to residents and business owners in my efforts to maintain a much needed balance in our community.
Ted Goodwin"

Friday, April 3, 2009

Teach Me

One thing I have aways been able to do is to admit when I know diddly about a subject. Sometimes I just admit it to myself, but most often I do admit it to others. All part of the continuous self improvement trip I've been on for some time.

The latest issue I know little about is this thing with The Sturbridge Area Tourist Association and the revenue they collect to benefit ten area towns. Seems that only Sturbridge contributes to the fund with tax revenue from Sturbridge hotels and motels.

Why only us? I am sure 23 years ago, when this was first established, there was a specific reason. Maybe it was because Sturbridge has more hotel rooms than Worcester, is a tourist destination, and they could obtain more revenue than the other towns. Eventually, the other area towns would share in the tourist growth by using the funds to market the area, and then they could begin to contribute.

Just a theory.

Anyway, after 23 years, the Town of Sturbridge Finance Committee wants to establish a local board to oversee the funds.

Why exactly?

After 23 years have the funds not been used effectively? Could they be used better? Is oversight something that is needed due to funds being used inappropriately? And, why now? Of all the times in the past 23 years, why now, at America's worst financial times since the Great Depression?

These are serious questions. I really do not know, but would very much like to learn more. In order for me to make a good decision at Town Meeting, it would be best to know the reasons behind the push for this local board of overseers.

So, I am asking those on both sides of the issue to share their pro's and con's about this upcoming article on the Town Warrant. Not only to educate me, but to educate others in town as well.

I really like to know about a subject before I offer an opinion, or judgment.

Feel free to email me at and I will post your information in a separate posting.

Until then, I'll work on making up my uneducated answers in case I don't get a response.


OK, this space is for everyone that has those last few tremors of Cabin Fever to shake out of their system.

I should make it a prerequisite to donate to the Tables on the Common Fund before leaving a comment. If everyone is soooo pro-Sturbridge, then give a couple of bucks, and enjoy a cup of coffee some Sunday morning on the Common with the family

So, for this particular post, just pick up where you left off, and slam each other. Attack each other with a difference of opinion, or personality.

Maybe, after a bit, everyone will tire out, get it all out their system, act like grownups, and eat their vegetables.

For once, give peas a chance.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

"The Prisoner Of Casella"

Passed on to me in an email this morning.

"To the Editor:

I am hoping that this letter will keep the village of Southbridge from making a terrible mistake. I live one half mile from the Ontario County Landfill in Stanley, NY, which is leased by Casella Waste. Our dump receives 3,000 tons of municipal waste per day. It has turned my life into a living nightmare. Where once I could enjoy the outdoors sitting in my gazebo or working in my 10 flower gardens on three acres of beautiful land in the Finger Lakes, I am now virtually a prisoner in my own home because of the horrific odor emanating from the dump. I have even written a sonnet about it. I hope you enjoy it.

Sonnet to Casella

How do I hate thee? Let me count the ways.
I hate thee to the depth and breadth and height
Your dump can reach, when never out of sight,
For the vultures, crows and seagulls roosting,
For the smell of a million rotting cabbages, and
The sound of screeching machinery after midnight.
I hate thee for the indescribable odor of chemicals
And rotten eggs that bathe my senses day and
Night. I hate thee freely, as I strive to breathe.
I hate thee purely, as I swat the flies.
I hate thee with the passion that consumes my life
And with the breath, miles and tears of all my
Strife--and if God choose I shall but hate you
Better after death.

Katherine Bennett Roll"

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

"Marge, That Darn Mouse Is Back."

I am not quite sure when this photograph was taken. Probably in the mid 1960's to early 1970's. At one time "Cheese Houses" were everywhere there were tourists. The photograph is an old postcard, and although the card reads on the backside that it is the Cheese House in Sturbridge, it is hard to believe that the Sturbridge landscape once looked like this.

Quite nice, actually. Except for the mouse.

"The ...Cheese House ... was part of the Cheese House chain which had 18 cheese-shaped locations in New England. Apparently, there are only these two buildings left. The stores were built in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They were constructed of wood with a cut-out wedge for the entrance and windows. They are 9' tall and 40' in diameter. In the late 1970s, the chain disbanded due to financial problems." Source.

If you have any old postcards, or photos of Sturbridge, and would like to share them here. Let me know.

It's easier to know where we're going if we know where we've been.

"Snatch The Marble From My Hand, Grasshopper"

If you stick a bunch of little marbles into a bag you end up with a big bag of marbles.

Brilliant. I wasted my time reading this you are asking yourself. No, you didn't. Sometimes the most obvious can be broken down into the simplest of forms. Take for instance building a stone wall. One stone just doesn't cut it, but if you get a lot of them, pile them on top of each other in a line, and about so high, you get a wall. Depending on ones skill it can be a good looking, functional wall, or just ruble in line. Either way, it is still a wall, and no longer just a stone.

I don't mean to sound like the screen writer for "Karate Kid", but this is a basic premise of most everything we do. Now, take the above analogy a step further. If we each did something small, doesn't matter how small, for a common goal, then the sum of all those little steps would result in moving closer to that goal, and eventually obtaining it.

I know. A bit too heavy for your morning coffee, but bare with me.

This week I took one of those little steps. Actually, a baby step. I made a decision to undertake a simple project for the betterment of our town. I figure I can't just sit back, and let my fingers fly around the keyboard, and call it a day. I need to be proactive. I need to be an example of what one can do. This is a switch since most of my life I have been the poster child for just what not to do.

It is a very small step, but this is the way one learns, and eventually, I'll pick up speed. It won't take me away from other things in my life, it won't compromise my work, or home life. So, it was pretty much a no brainer to stand up, wobble a bit, and then take that step.

Now, how does this relate to you? Well, it may or may not, depending on where your head is at at the moment, but if your head is open, then it may serve as an example of what a little effort, a little time can do for a greater good. Sounds Woodstockian, or Earth Day-ish, I know, but it is a truth that has been around for a few Milena.

This is how it works: I see others giving of themselves to a cause, and they are happy, and nothing bad has happened to them as a result of their spending that extra energy. So, after a bit, I feel I can something , too. Someone else sees that I haven't exploded because of my actions, and they feel they can do a little something, too. And, so on, and so on.

Little marbles filling the bag.

Little things like volunteering at the library to read to the kids on a regular basis. Volunteering at the Senior Center, or in the class room, donating flowers for the flower pots that decorate our towns roads during the spring and summer, helping to clean up the Common after an event, assisting a neighbor paint their porch, dropping off a case of Huggies, or formula to the new mom down the road. These are all small steps, but together they move us toward a common goal: a happier existence, and a better place to call home.

OK, I'll step down from my pulpit. I don't have to preach to the choir. There are many here in town that give both their time and money to a variety of causes, I just want to acknowledge them, for they inspired me, and hopefully, I will inspire others.

Today, I am hoping that some of you out there will take that little step. I know we can do it. I know we can make our home town a better place without having to rely on board meetings, votes, and agendas to set the pace.

Face it, most politicians have lost their marbles, and we still have ours. It's time to start filling the bag.