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, December 31, 2013

Enjoy a First Day Hike with The Friends of Sturbridge Trails!

Enjoy a First Day Hike with The Friends of Sturbridge Trails! 
January 1st, 2014, 1 PM 
Heins Farm/Leadmine Mt Conservation Lands Parking Lot 197 Leadmine Rd. 

Join FrOST Members Denise Lachapelle and Rich Paradise on a guided hike, exploring the Blue trail and unique Rock Piles on the Leadmine Mt property, Hike is about 1.5 miles long, will last about 2.5 hours, Children welcome, no pets please, dress for the weather & snow on trails, (bring snow shoes if you have them) bad weather will cancel, Bring your favorite winter tracking or tree ID book 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Festival Cancelled Due to Pending Storm

The Sturbridge Fest that had been planned for this weekend on the Town Common has been cancelled, due to the pending snowstorm.

When The Signs Don't Make Sense, It's Time To Ask Questions

At the public memorial service for the late Nelson Mandela, a man, that was thought to be a sign language interpreter for the deaf, stood on stage beside the President of the United States, and other world leaders.  The man gesticulated to the world what was thought to be a translation for the deaf in attendance, and at home watching on TV of  each leaders words.

There was a problem, though.

The "sign language" the man  performed on that stage, only feet from our President, and other world leaders, was a fake.  He was an impostor.  Not a sign language bone in any of those acrobatic fingers, yet he was not removed.  He was allowed to stand there for the entire memorial service, and continue to pretend to know what he was doing.  No one stood up, and removed him.

He fooled everyone that should have known better.  Those that were watching knew he was a fraud.

The man blames schizophrenia for placing him in the  position of an interpreter for the deaf, and fear for keeping him on stage, and maintaining the charade.

Schizophrenia is a disease, and the man admitted to taking medication for it.  He may have missed a dose, or two, but if what the man said is true, then he has an out.  Horrible way to display an illness, but one can now almost understand why it occurred.  This does not let those off the hook  that should have had  this man, and his credentials vetted.

Some folks that have not been diagnosed with a mental illness can also take on a whole different persona when placed in the public eye.  They can become the  life of the party, or just the opposite.  All it takes is the right response of an audience, and that will lead to what, and how things are said.  Things can go either way, and take on a life of their own.  It can go well, or horribly wrong, and like the man in South Africa, fear may prevent them from stepping down from their stage no matter how it goes.

Amazing how it went on for so long, and nobody ushered him off the stage even though they knew he was not what he was purported to be.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

I Have A Delivery For You

Our heating oil use decreased again this year!


2007 was our first full year in this old house, and of keeping annual records.  We spent $3484.32 on heating oil, that year,  for a total of 1273.7 gallons. Those gallons were delivered over ten visits from Pioneer Oil.  The average cost of oil that year was only $2.48.

On December 14, 2007, we replaced 19 old windows in this old home with new insulated windows. One year later , in December 2008, our gallons of oil used was 1009.3 and we managed to save 264 gallons, and our deliveries went down to eight.


In the meantime, I made sure to continue be proactive in saving energy, and reducing our costs.  I  looked for, and plugged holes, place reflective foam panels behind each cast iron radiator inside the radiator cover, replaced all the ancient vents on the radiators, and have assessed them yearly for replacement. I installed a set back thermostat, and tweaked the settings as needed along with maintaining a set heating schedule.

In December 2009 our gallons of oil used that year had decreased even more to 875.1 gallons.  Our deliveries had dropped to 6.

In December 2010 I was surprised to see that our oil use had increased by 100 gallons to 972.3, although our deliveries had stayed the same at 6.  I had not changed anything in my plan, and we were both still diligent in saving oil, yet keeping warm, and comfortable.

I did not understand the bump up in usage, but was more vigilant the following year, and managed to eak out a savings for the year of 29 gallons by December 2011, yet our deliveries went up to 7.  Strange.  Still, our oil use wasn't where it had been.

I was perplexed.  Yes, we needed insulation, that was a given, but not having adequate insulation would not account for that peculiar bump in usage.

In December of 2012 we were back on track.  Only 709.6 gallons were used that year.  This was far lower than the 875 in 2009, and 234 gallons less than the previous year, and were down to 5 deliveries that year!   2012 was also the year we took our domestic hot water off of our oil fired boiler for heating and installed a whole house on demand electric hot water system.

Now, it's December, 2013, and here are the numbers.

Gallons used in 2013:  635 gallons, down 74 from 2012, at a savings of $235 from 2012.  Our oil deliveries for the past year remained at 5.

What else did we do that was new?  Well, the boiler was replaced in May of 2013 after the winter heating season, and in October we installed a Nest learning thermostat.  Both of these new improvements are helping, but I'll need to wait till the end of heating season in the spring to see just how much they have helped, but I can tell you now, it is going to be very good.

Yes, we did stop heating our hot water with our oil fired boiler, and went to a whole house on demand electric hot water system so our electric bill must be out of sight, right?

No, actually,  its rather good, and we will make it even better as I replace those finicky CFL curly-q light bulbs with LED bulbs as I have been, and through 2014.

Our electricity use was 7,382 kWh for the year of 2011.  The U.S.  Energy Information Administration says that the average electrical use per household is 11,280 kWh / year.  In 2012 our usage rose to 7,623 kwh despite changing all our light bulbs out to CFL's, but the increase of 241 kWh averaged out to .66 kWh per day.  The new hot water system would have accounted for that slight bump.

As of November of 2013, our kwh for the year, thus far, is 7,908 kWh which is an increase of 285 kWh.  Since 2013 was our first full year with the new hot water system an average increase of 1.44kwh / day  is totally acceptable.  That comes out to only $41.47 / year at the $0.08 /kwh that we currently pay to our electricity supplier through National Grid.

Three bucks a month is fine.  With our oil heat savings the slight bump in electrical is expected, and not nearly as much as when the hot water was being heated by oil.

For a 150 year old house with nary a lick of insulation, we are saving well below the government average annual oil use per household of 730 gallons.

So, what is this delivery I said I had for you today?

It's inspiration.

If we can save money, and energy, in this old house, you certainly can, too.

Look around you.  Unplug your phone chargers from the wall for one thing.  They use energy, and cost money,  just staying plugged in even if they aren't charging a thing.  Look further.  Spray foam holes and crevices, weather strip doors and windows, but the biggest thing you can do is to install a set back, programmable thermostat.  It doesn't have to be the Nest, but find a current, modern thermostat that requires minimal input from you, and is not as complicated as an old VCR to set up.  There are several out there.  Both Honeywell, and Smarthome make them, as well as Nest.

Once it is installed program it to set back when you are asleep.  No brainer there, and don't be afraid to tweak the temperature when you are home.  Keep it 63-68 f when the family is home, and 58 f at night when you are asleep.  If it gets a bit chilly then turn it up for a bit, and return it to the lower setting after the house has warmed up.  This one act alone will save you a boatload of money when compared to setting your thermostat to one temperature and leaving it there forever.

So there's your delivery.  A boatload of inspiration, from me to you, to save a lot of energy, and a lot of money.

Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Little End Of The Year Housekeeping

Lots has happened in Sturbridge in 2013, and the year is not quite done.  In the meantime, there is a whole lot of end of the year filing to do.

The whole Fire Department debacle episode should be filed under, "Should Have Been Handled Way Better".  Many good people were hurt by the insensitive actions of others.  Keeping the events readily  available for others to read, will hopefully prevent a repeat of the same in the future.  Flag this file.

The appointment of the Police Chief as temporary Fire Chief while a replacement was sought should be filed under "This Was Really Stupid".  Police Chiefs are Police Chiefs, not even close to being a Fire Chief.  Similarities?  Yes, they both are managers, but so is the manager of my 403b account, and the guy that manages Walmart at Hobbs Brook.  Both are managers, but one doesn't have a clue about the others job, nor should they.

A new policy for scheduling Town Meetings should be kept readily available on the desktop.   Another vote for Saturday meetings should be top of the list in 2014.  In this way, the maximum number of voters could attend, and vote at the meetings.

Society, and our culture, has changed much since the 1950's, and weekday town meetings in the evening no longer work.  To purposefully continue to schedule meetings at a time when the lowest number of voters can attend is self serving to those with special interests.  In other words, the meetings by virtue of their long history of few voters in attendance, and leaving during them, are an excellent venue to manipulate in order to garner a favorable vote for items not favored by the majority.  Manipulation is rigging.  Change the time, and day of the town meetings to Saturday during the day, and watch the numbers of voters in attendance increase.  Then watch just how the voting goes.  Yes, a vote for a schedule change has been defeated in the past, but at what venue?  The midweek, evening town hall meeting.


This is entirely up to those that want change.  To remove the residents from under the thumb of those that have self serving agendas, then we must first put an article on the 2014 Town Meeting Warrant, and then we must step out of our snuggies, and march our asses to the meeting for a vote.  Otherwise, accept the inevitable.

There are many items to file away as 2013 closes out, it is just more end of the year housekeeping.  One item  will remain open is violations in the open meeting law at the Board of Selectmen meetings, and the violation of the privacy insured to present, and past, town employees by the now resigned Chairman of that board.

The town is going to be reliving those events for a while, and it is  it going to cost the town.

One of the last items to be reviewed before finishing out the year is to consider just where we have been as a town during the resigned Chairman's of the Boards tenure.  Was our town government friendly, efficient, and for the people, or was it as most have said during this time, a Bullydom?

The answer is obvious.

When a bully takes over the playground a couple of things happen: people get bullied, and beat up, and others save their hides by standing with the bully.  As long as the bully is there, they will be left alone.  Their allegiance is seen as self serving, and it is remembered by those that have felt the bullies wrath.

When those that have been bludgeoned repeatedly, or have witnessed the bullies actions way too often, finally organize to a point that the bullies days are numbered, then it obvious what the attacker will do next.


Run away.  And, that the bully did.  He grabbed his coat, and hat, and headed for the door in one hell of hurry all the while the words for his reason for leaving were still floating in the room.  His reason was to get closer to his god, and that there were too many people "suffering" in this town as a result of the actions that the town has taken.


No one can ever question a persons relationship with their god, but what one can do is compare the actions  a person takes to the actions that their god would have approved of, or set as an example to follow.  If the two don't match, then it is be safe to conclude that it must have been an epiphany that  occurred only moments before there was that the run for the door.

We can not judge, and I certainly won't.

This was just one more of those "mysterious ways".  It is also better to resign than have it go on record as being removed.

Note to ourselves for 2014:  Learn.  Learn from all the items being filed away at the end of this year.  Do everything that can be done to avoid them from being repeated.

Below are a few things for all of us to think about in the weeks ahead, and into the new year.

Some Guidelines for 2014

  • Give ample audience to the people in order to hear their voices.  Allow them to speak, and do not interupt.  Offer patience to those that are unsure, or unknowing in procedure.
  • Give an appropriate venue to the people to have those voices heard, and acted on.
  • Treat everyone as one wants to be treated themselves.
  • Do not spend the money of the majority of the people based on the approval of a minority.  Do everthing one can do to hear all the voices.
  • Keep sacred the trust between the people, and those that serve them.
  • Consider electing Town Meeting members to attend, and act as representives of the towns residents if a change in meeting day and time is not accomplished.
  • Place safety, and the well being, of the residents, and visitors, over appearence in all projects.
  • Consider every factor when creating a new project, not only the ones that will be resolved, but those that will be created as well.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What Do The People Really think?

Todays guest columnist is Marilyn Desy.--ed

 A couple of us have been observing, and asking a few questions at the working meetings of the Commercial Tourist District Working Group, as well as their, better attended, Commercial Tourist Community Public Meetings. The public meetings are held upstairs at the Town Hall’s Veteran’s Hall. The last public meeting filled that smallish hall, and more questions were asked before the entire room than were asked in the previously, more controlled, public meetings held by the Commercial Tourist District group and the hired consultants.
I've been told by a couple of board and committee members, who are interested and involved with this plan for the alteration of Route 20, that the people of Sturbridge are in favor this plan. I’ve asked how that can assumed, when only a small number of people actually know about it. The reply was that the people who don't get to these meetings, the dates of which are posted in the newspaper and at the post offices, are agreeing to the plans by not attending the meetings to voice opposition. Many people are disillusioned and say that no matter what they do or say, those in power will do whatever they want to do.

I know that by not going to meetings in numbers large enough for the opposition to really be heard, these people will be over-ruled and forgotten. People choose not to attend meetings, or cannot attend meetings for many reasons, not the least of which is because of feeling intimidated.
We seem to have a special society of many board and committee members and their family and friends who, more often than not act as a block, to get whatever they want.

I have a question for those now in control of this town. My question is this: Isn't it morally wrong for these, mostly appointed people, even to “propose” huge needless projects that will cost many people money they just cannot afford?
I cannot put all of the blame on people who don't go to meetings. These people pay their taxes and depend on the people in power to be responsible and reasonable, because it is assumed they asked to be appointed to these positions for the good of the town. Therein lies another question: Most boards and committees are appointed. Why are so many boards and committees appointed rather than elected? To get appointed one must apply, then be selected by the Town Administrator, and then be approved by the Board of Selectmen. Is this the way it should be done? Doesn't this give those in power free reign to accept only people who think like themselves? Perhaps, if those who are appointees, actually ran for office, the people who vote at election time would make some changes.
                                                                                           ~submitted by  Marilyn Desy

Monday, December 9, 2013

Great Questions

I received the following email this morning.  Good questions.--ed.

Hi Wally,

In a comment on your last post, Ron Cerney wrote, asking about the plans for the jug handle and new left turn for Stallion Hill/OSV.  

Why are they doing this, one might ask. The loudest reason I've heard voiced on that matter is that people can't find Old Sturbridge Village. People found the Village easily for many decades, but they can't find it now? Years ago the sign for the Village was white with black lettering. You couldn't miss it. It seems to me that an easy to read sign with an arrow (not blending it with its surroundings) posted near the jug handle would be of great assistance. Then another, tasteful, also easy to read, white sign with black lettering at the Village entrance would lead the drivers right in. Right? So why all the roadwork? 
Attached here is part of what I was given as an observer at the last working meeting before the public meeting - showing the jug handle and left turn lane.

As always, thanks for helping to keep people informed.



Monday, December 2, 2013

Time To Express Your Concerns, And Ask Questions

The article below was submitted by Sturbridge resident Barbara Search.--ed.

The Sturbridge Commercial Tourist District Committee will hold their third and final public presentation on changes to Rt. 20 on Wednesday, December 4 at 6:30 p.m. at the Town Hall.
This committee hired Pare Corp. of Lincoln, RI to plan changes on Rt. 20 in the Fiskdale section of town.  One hundred twenty thousand dollars ($35,000 from the Sturbridge Tourist Association, $25,000 from the Betterment Fund, $60,000 directly from the taxpayers) was approved at the last Annual Town Meeting to hire Pare.
Changes in the “plan” include a roundabout at the intersection of Rtes. 20 and 131, creation of a left turn heading west at Rt. 20 and Stallion Hill Rd., “tightening” the right turn onto Stallion Hill Rd. when traveling east, expanding the sidewalks by 3 feet resulting in a narrower Rt. 20, increased landscaping, and additional other changes.

Concerns that received little attention are safety at current pedestrian crosswalks and increased parking. In the plans additional landscaping often trumped issues concerning traffic flow and safety.

I encourage everyone who has concerns and questions regarding the proposed changes to attend this meeting.  Residents should know why these changes are being proposed, what benefits will be derived from them, and at what cost. 

Submitted by Barbara Search