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

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Update On A Close Shave

It arrived.  My order from Harry' arrived yesterday afternoon.  I opened the box, and surveyed my new shaver, and blades.  I took it all in.  The understated packaging, the color of the razor holder with its wooden finial at the end, and how it did not look like a Gillette anything.  Then, I proceeded to shave.

I won't tell you that these blades that I wrote about a few days ago gave me the smoothest shave without any pulling, or tugging that I have ever had.  I won't tell you that.

Two boxes of four razors for $15, and a holder, $15.00.  Good bye, Gillette.
I won't tell you that during my entire shave I never once felt the razor touch my skin.  My face was becoming devoid of whiskers with each pass of the razor, and the only way I knew I was shaving was because I watching myself in the mirror.

No, I won't tell you any of that.  If I told you that you would suspect I was on Harry's payroll, and that no way was it the best shave I have ever had.

No, I won't tell you any of that, but I'm not on the payroll, and it was.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A Local Conspiracy Of The Very Good Kind

On Friday evening Mary kept it local, and it was the very best it could ever be.

You have to be very good in order to catch me off guard.  I can smell out a surprise coming from a mile away. I am a keen observer, I even get paid for that skill.

Yep, as the old adage says, you have to get up pretty early in the morning to put one over on me. Yeah, pretty darn early, but Mary apparently didn't go to bed the night before, and she easily put one over on me.

Sometimes we are just not meant to know what others are up to especially when it has to do with  surprise parties.

About a week ago Mary asked me out on a date.  It's restaurant week in town, and she wanted to experience Avellino's again.  We've eaten there in the past, and I asked her if she wanted to try the new menu at the Cedar Street Grill instead.  No, it had to be Avelinno's, they had just remodeled their dining room, and bumped it our onto the old portico, and surrounded it with beautiful glass windows.

No, it just had to be Avellino's, she said.  She was adamant, and I was clueless.

Friday came without any fanfare.  Mary was off that day, and so was I.  Work sent me a text, and asked if I could come in and work extra, but I had a date, and they understood.  Dates take priority.

Mary and Jenny got dressed, and I was cautioned about not wearing jeans.  We were going to Avellino's, not the Duck.  We had to look as though we belonged.  Those two would have no problem.  They looked beyond great.  Me, on the other hand, well, I try.

We parked on the new parking lot across from the Cumberland Farms, and walked down the stairs to the restaurant.  Usually we will meander upstairs to the Duck in our jeans, but this time we stood at the podium. Mary had made reservations.  I like it when she takes charge.

A young lady escorted us into the newly redone front room, and I walked in.  There in the room were a bunch of smiling family, all shouting Happy Birthday!!


She had put one over on me.  I had no clue.  My wife had been working on the surprise since January, and she had never let on, or slipped up.  She had the help of a young woman, Dakota,  at Avellino's, .  Together they conspired in secret.  They were CIA worthy, and I was speechless.  Some would consider that a good thing.

I moved about the room greeting everyone, and looking around me taking it all in.  The people, and the room were perfect.

The newly redone room has been remodeled perfectly.  From the opening of the front wall, the new molding which blended seamlessly with the old,  to the extending  the room some six feet, or so, towards the street, and surrounding it with tall wrap around windows.

Mary and I had last enjoyed a meal at Avellino's a few months back with Mary's sister, Joanne, and her husband, Paul.  We sat at the chefs table, and had a fantastic meal prepared for us.  The food was exceptional.  As Mary said that night, "My taste buds are going crazy!", and so were mine, and  they were about to do the same again.

On Friday night, Chef Rico, prepared a meal that blew everyone in the room away.

We began with Garlic Shrimp, Citrus Pear Salad, and Pepperoni  and Sausage Bread,  followed by Tortellini, Prosciutto and Peas.  Those two courses alone left me awestruck.

The third course consisted of Herb Crusted Beef fillets, Glazed Ocean Cod, and a Vegetable Medley.

The amazing birthday cake came from Junes Bake Shop in New Braintree.  The cake was like a 3-D artists canvas depicting an Adirondack chair sitting on the sand at the beach.  The baker took my favorite place, and turned it into a cake.  Large edible shells, and starfish surrounded the cake.  It was almost a shame to cut into it, but after tasting it, I knew it was the very best thing to do.

The evening was the best.  A surprise party in my honor pulled off without a hitch still amazes me. Being in the company of those that I love, and sharing an incredible meal is something I wish everyone could do at least once.

Mary went above, and beyond.

Avellino's accommodated Mary as she planned, rescheduled, and changed rooms at the restaurant. Dakota helped her every bit of the way.  Chef Rico's menu, and meal was beyond words, it was that good.  The cake was something I had never seen before.  It was perfect.

One more thing that sent this evening over the top:  it was all done locally.  The beef came from Brimfield, the cake from New Braintree, and  to the venue itself in Fiskdale; the entire evening was a local event.  No commuting to the city for a world class meal.  No, we traveled a rural mile from house to table.

Thank you Dakota, and Dan, our server.  Thank you to our busboy,  whose name I never did get, and I feel horrible for not asking him. He was very attentive the entire night.  Thank you to Chef Rico, and to all at Avellino's for a marvelous night.

There truly is no place like home, and after last Friday night I have one more amazing reason to to add to the bucket of reasons I already have that say I am glad that our home is in Sturbridge.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Bye bye King Gillette, Hello Harry

It's not that I am cheap.  I'm really not, but I do like to beat whatever the system is in front of me at the time.  In this particular case, it's saving a few bucks on a necessary evil: shaving.  I will try to use the same razor blade for an entire month.  Around the third week, I've been nicked so many times, I leave the house with enough toilet paper bandages on my face that I could be an ad for Charmin.

But I persist.  For a great shave, at $3 plus a piece for blades, Gillette owns my face.  My goal is to get the same great shave for a whole lot less.

I know, there are less expensive blades, but if I buy the ones for the amount I would like to pay they are nothing more than miniature wood planes.  In order to remove the whiskers, they have to remove a lot of skin as well.

This is not a good thing.  I take an aspirin everyday, and as the little TP swatches will atest, I bleed like a geyser.

$3.00, plus change, is the price blades have crept up to.  We have obediently paid it because we were seduced by two blades on one disposable head , then three, four, five, and a trimmer blade.  Some of them vibrate.  Gillette, and the other big names in the shaving game,  are always coming up with some new thing to get me to turn loose of the Jacksons in my wallet in order to continue on with my lifelong quest for the perfect shave.  I'm waiting for Schick to develop a shaving drone that will hover near the ceiling until it senses a need, and then swoop down and remove any sign of facial hair.  My aunts upper lip would live in constant fear.

The other day I stumbled on an online ad for Harry's shaving equipment.  I clicked on the link for,  and was brought to a nice clean web site.  No extraneous nonsense, just a message, and some products.  A sort of clean shaven look.  I was impressed.

I checked out the products they offered.  Shaving kits, razor holders, blades, and shaving creme in a tube.  I read the story of the company, and then searched out reviews of the new company, and its products.

The reviews were very good.  The founders of the company have a great plan.  Again, I was impressed, but what impressed me the most was the quality of the workmanship, and materials offered in their products, AND Harry's offers razor blades for HALF the price that Gillette sells theirs for!


Imagine, $1.80 a blade.  And, they say their razors will last as long as the big boys razors do.   Well, that did it for me.  I ordered up a razor holder for $15.00, and a pack of eight razors for $15.00, and choose the least expensive shipping: FREE.

The remains of my Gillette Fusion.
The next afternoon, as I was shaving, I was thinking of that brand new razor arriving UPS in a few days, and all the money I would be saving in the coming year.  Suddenly my Gillette Fusion razor broke. 

The head snapped right off.  It lay motionless on the vanity except for the now spastic vibration in the handle.  Then...nothing.  It was gone.

I am not sure if inanimate objects have the power of telepathy, and that this was either lesson being taught to me once it learned of my plans to replace it, or it simply became so distraught that it chose the easy way out.  What ever it was, the timing was eerie.

For the amount of money we men spend on the tools for shaving our faces, one would think that the tools would last forever. They apparently don't.  I think mine just lost its will to go on.

Later in the day I received an email from Harry's stating my new razor was on its way, and should be here soon.  The mourning period for the Gillette was gone!

In the meantime, this guy was going to be without a razor for the weekend, and was thinking, "How sweet",  when Mary tossed me a Lady Schick, and that smile that told me differently. 

(sigh).  So much for being a Neanderthal this weekend.  My wife won't let me.

For more on the expense of shaving, and how it is a rip off, click here.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Ban The Nip

I have always held a "No Interference" position when it comes to folks making decisions that I would not have made myself.  I feel bad, but their life, their decision.

Unless, of course, I was asked.  Then, I give my very best advice, referrals if necessary, and support.

The only other time I will speak up, whether I am asked too, or not, is when their bad decisions begin to affect me, and others.

Driving while impaired is one time I will speak up, or act up, depending on the situation.  I will take your keys if you are unable to drive.  I will hold those keys until a police officer comes, and then hand the entire package to them.  I've done it before, I will always do it, even if I don't know jack about you.  Your decision to drive could kill someone.  You've already decided that your life is not worth it, but the other person did not have a voice.  That's where we all come in.  We are the other persons voice by proxy.

So, when I see a scenario that is becoming increasingly more dangerous, and out of control, I will speak up, and I see one getting worse now.

A new nip found beside my front walk this afternoon.
All year long I pickup empty "nip" bottles from in front of my house.  Little empty bottles of vodka, Jack Daniels, brandy, Seagrams 7, Captain Morgan will litter my front lawn year round.  New bottles sprout over night as if planted the previous day.  I pick them up when I see them.

I have always thought it was a bit bizarre that they appeared on my lawn.  Why?  Well, the reason is that the package store down the street has a fishbowl of nips set up on the checkout counter as a point of sale feature.  Much like the candy offered in the check out line at Stop & Shop, the nips are offered for the convenience of those wanting to toss back a few before getting home for the day.

That is the only purpose of a nip bottle.  People don't buy nips to stockpile at home.  People buy nips to suck down, and toss.

They purchase one or more, go out to their car, and by the time they have headed north on Route 148 two tenths of a mile, the bottle is empty, and planted on my lawn.

Littering I expect.  I don't like it, but I live on a state road.  It's going to happen.  Drinking, and driving I expect as well, but making it convenient to do so, is something I don't want to see happen.

I would like to see nip bottles banned in town.

There I said it.  Boy, that's going to tick a few people off, but the neat thing is most won't say a word. It'd look bad.

They serve no purpose other than what I mentioned above.  People don't go to the liquor store, and stock on tiny bottles of liquor.  Unless, of course, they are the size of a smurf, and it's going to last the month.

If you want to be a grownup, and have a grownup cocktail, then buy a fifth of your favorite spirit, bring it home, and open it there.  The nip bottle may have served a function at one time, in a different era with a different mindset.  It is irrelevant today.

One of our living room chairs is about 15 feet from the road.  I never want to meet you while I am sitting in that chair. 

I am offering this up to those at the helm of our town.  I would like to see some conversation at the town hall about ridding the town of this useless, and potentially dangerous item.

I know.  I sound like some cranky old curmudgeon one step away from yelling, "You kids get off of my lawn!", but think about it.

The nip bottle serves what purpose? 

Placing a couple of dozen of them in a fishbowl at the register says what? 

Maybe it's me.  Maybe I just am tired of some people risking the safety, and lives of others for no reason.

But, that's how we curmudgeons roll.  Now, get off of my lawn.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Witnessing A Well Taught Moment

I admire those that when something needs to be said, they can say it very effectively, but in a totally unexpected, and for that moment, a better way.  Sometimes it is the person that has the snappy comeback for some off kilter comment, a child that is called on to say grace for the first time, and nails it by rapping his blessing,  or grandpa offering a limerick toast at the wedding reception without mentioning Nantucket.

All unexpected, and can be very well done.

The other day, I saw an other example here in town.  We were driving east on Route 20, and came to a red light at the junction with Route 131.  We were in the right lane, and a motorcycle was in the left lane.  The light changed, and we all advanced to the next light some 150 feet away, and waited again.

We are used to waiting twice, some aren't, and have a feel they have a duty to make up for lost time.  The motorcycle felt that way, and when the light turned green, the rider leaned forward on his bike as he began clicking through the gears. We were neck and neck for about three to four seconds, then he was far ahead.  Far ahead until he came up to the Massachusetts State Police barracks on 20 just as a State Police cruise was pulling out onto the road.  They came up beside each other at precisely the same moment.

Now, what happened next was remarkable.

What words the motorcycle rider was uttering at that exact moment are lost to the wind, but I think I know what they may have been.  The motorcycle slowed.  The cruiser slowed to the speed limit, and the motorcycle slowed further until they had matched speeds at the posted speed limit like earth bound Blue Angels.

And, there they stayed.  Together, side by side, the cruiser setting the pace, and the motorcycle not daring to slice the wind any faster.  The action was subtle, but the act was not, and was received, and understood by the motorcyclist immediately.

They rode together under I-84, and further eastbound on Route 20.  Although we were a few car lengths behind them, we understood the message as well.  The trooper was teaching without ticketing, and his lesson was being very effective.  The motorcyclist was sitting more upright on his bike, not leaning in to the wind as he had been, a sign that he understood, and was complying.

At the XtraMart, the cruiser turned into the driveway, and the motorcyclist continued on.  He remained at the same speed he had paced with the trooper.  I know what words he mouthed when the cruiser turned off:  Thank you.

The State trooper had decided to be teacher a few minutes before, and taught a lesson about obeying the posted speed limit, but not by pulling the motorcyclist over, and writing out a citation.  He instead chose a better way.  He demonstrated that the speed limit was not only for the civilian motorists, but for him as well.  Demonstrations can be much more effective than bookwork.   And, when the lesson had been taught, and the teacher felt coinfident that it had been understood, he allowed the student to take the lesson home.

We followed the motorcycle further up Route 20, and into Hobbs Brook Plaza.  At no time did his speed reach beyond the posted speed.

Obviously, the lesson was taught well, and learned.  The next step may be the hardest, and that's retention.  I hope it is retained.  Not many homework assignments can actually save ones life.  This one can.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Time to Lend A Hand

Ninety percent of all trail work in town is done by volunteers and donations.  

Trail work day is the first "third Saturday of the month", April 19th.  We will be meeting at the River lands at 0900 - noon, with a focus on building a shed roof to store supplies,  and conducting a general cleanup of the river lands from past operations on this property.  Bring Gloves and a water bottle.  Trail Committee will be holding volunteer work days every third Saturday of the month from now through November. 

See you on the trail! 

--Tom Chamberland

A Brave New World At The Pumps

I like technology.  It is in every part of my life, and I like it lots.  If the electrical grid was ever to go down I'd be done for.

Don't rely on me to bring the human race to the next level unless it has a place to plug in.

To me, technology advancements are like a never ending Parade of Tomorrow.  I enjoy seeing how developers fit new advancements into vehicles to make them safer, and into our smart phones to make them more tools, than toys.  Yesterday, I was able to try out a new tool for the first time, and simultaneously use the new Cumberland Farms in Fiskdale on opening day.

A few weeks ago I downloaded the Cumberland Farms smart phone app "SmartPay".  The app is very clever.  When I pulled  up to the gas pump, I pulled out my phone, touched the buy gas option, entered my PIN number.  The app displayed the Cumberland Farms location I was at, and asked me to confirm the location, and enter the pump number.  Once done, the pump clears, I chose the grade of gas, and pumped it into my car.

So neat.

But, wait, there's more.

Not only I was I  able to pump gas by using the privacy of my phone, I  also saved $.10 per gallon of gas from the posted price.  Cumberland's doesn't have to pay any credit or debit card fees to the banks since the app is tied directly to my checking account like a check would be.

I also earn rewards!  Yesterday I had a FREE coke posted on the app that was mine to claim until May 2.

The smart phone app can also be used inside the store for other purchases.

Yes, I could have saved a bit more at the gas station across from Shaw's.  I use them as well, and I use the Stop & Shop gas, as well.  The rewards I get from Stop & Shop don't last more than one time at the pump, and then I have to go earn some more, by buying more at their store.  They also expire after 30 days, too.  Sturbridge Gas has a consistently low price, as does Pilot out on old Route 15, but convenience is worth a good amount as well.  Cumberland Farms is only 0.8 miles away. The gas price may not get as low as Sturbridge Gas, but at times the convenience certainly makes up for it.

Gas was posted at $3.55 at Cumberland Farms yesterday, and I paid $3.45 with my discount.  I know, I could have saved a bit more by traveling down to Pilot, as I sometimes do, but Pilot is 6 miles away from our house, and they don't have a neat app to use at the pump.

Sometimes it all about the toy, and not so much the tool.

Lowest Regular Gas Prices in the Last 36 hours
400 MA-15 & I-84
1 hour ago
365 Main St near Charlton Rd
11 hours ago
C&R Tire
649 Main St & Laflamme Ln
15 hours ago
Stop & Shop
149 Charlton Rd near Gifford Rd
20 hours ago
400 Main St & Old Sturbridge Village Rd
15 hours ago
215 Charlton Rd & Hall Rd
14 hours ago

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Spring Along The Grand Trunk Trail

The same view as the above photo of the Grand Trunk Trail as it is seen today.  Thanks to Tom Chamberland for submitting the photo below.  He is one man that truly knows the past, present, and future of our trails in town.   Tom is a ranger with the US Army Corp of Engineers, and our local Tree Warden, and has been involved with all aspects of trail design, and building here in town.

So much work has been done along the Grand Trunk Trail over the past decade, or so.  From an abandoned railroad right-of-way to a recreational venue used by so many.  Mary and I have walked, and biked,  this trail, and other trails in town,  many times.  The enjoyment is free, natural, and comes with a smile back guaranty.  OK, the last part is just me being me, but if you walk the length of the trail, and don't smile at least once, then I owe you one.

Grand Trunk Trail at Westville Recreational Area in Sturbridge, MA

Photo by Tom Chamberland

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Election Thoughts

It takes sincerity, genuineness, character, and selflessness.  Age is not a component.  Knowledge is helpful, but willingness to learn is just as valuable.  And, it takes passion to be able to throw ones hat into the political ring, stay in the race, and come out the other side intact.

This happened yesterday here in town when Jacob Ryan won a seat on the Tantasqua School Committee at the the age of 18.  He graduated from Tantasqua in 2012.  Ryan would like to see a greater investment in the vocational side of Tantasqua, and a school resource officer for the district.  His age didn't stand in the way of his being being elected.  It was his  ability to successfully convince voters across party lines that he was serious about his platform.  It worked, he obtained 461 votes to the incumbents 397.

Jacob Ryan will also add a uniqueness to the school committee.  He is closer to those that use the school for its intended purpose than other members.  He has recent first hand experience on just how the school functions, and can see the needs from a perspective that only someone his age can see. From his own recent experience he is able to see just how the school committees actions affect those at the student level.   This is invaluable, and may, in fact, be a secret weapon of sorts.

Those are the age related reasons that will give Ryan a uniqueness.  The other reasons are his ability to take on a duty that most his age would not consider, and his ability to cross political lines, and convince others of his vision for change, and improvement. This is found under passion, and selflessness.

As I said, it worked.

The one year selectman's seat was won by Craig Moran over  Donald Fairbrother, 409 votes to 389. Moran's desire to run a town like a business hit a chord with many.  A town is a business, and should be run as one.  Moran is the owner of three businesses in town, and has the current business acumen needed.

Sturbridge has 6648 registered voters, and yesterday 817 of them came out to vote.  5831of those registered voters in Sturbridge did not vote.

Some were sick.  Some worked from before the polls opened, till after they closed.  Those are the only two valid reasons why a registered voter does show up at the polls on election day.

Daycare, transportation, a sick dog, waiting for the cable guy, not having time, too tired after work, not awake before work, are all excuses, not reasons, but you know that.

To vote is such a simple act.  A long time dream for too many, a dying wish for others, and a cherished action for those that have the opportunity, and take it.

Next election day, cherish the act of voting, and vote.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Most Important Reason To Have An Election

One thing I have never done as a writer is to recommend one political candidate over another at election time.  My opinion on an elected candidates actions after the election is different.  I feel that to be a successful candidate one must have integrity, good character, selflessness, and the ability to put others ahead of themselves for real reasons, not political gain.

Of course, there will always be morons that win elections that have no integrity, character, are self centered unable to think of anyone other than themselves.  We elect them because we are unaware of who they really are based on a few newspapers interviews, living room candidate meetings, and the candidates ability to BS their way through life.

BS is a skill that must be honed over a long period of time.  Some are OK at it, others are truly amazing at it.

Unfortunately, we've experienced the latter far more than the former.  The BS alarm sounded years ago, but was tuned out till the end, and by then, the damage had been done.

Today's town election offers up numerous candidates.  Many are incumbents.  I don't personally know many of the candidates.  I do know of some of the incumbents by their performance.  Others I only know through acquaintances, or from an informal word now, and again.

One thing I can say on this election day is that I believe that there is not a lot of BS this time around.  There is a good deal of character, youth, energy, and selflessness among the candidates.  There is a sincerity from the candidates to share their knowledge, and experience, from their private side, in order to make them very effective on the public side.

I wish each one of the candidates running for office today good luck, and I hope that the most qualified candidate wins.  Not only would it be a win for them, but having the best candidate elected will be a win for us, and that is the most important reason of all.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

I Stand Corrected

Yes, I did write in an earlier post that it is big, and yes, it is larger than other buildings in the neighborhood.  That hasn't changed.  What has changed is my perspective.

The light posts along the street, and the dormers on the roof
help to soften impact of the building on the neighborhood.
In my previous post I spoke of designing to fit the neighborhood, in both size and design.

I believe they have done that.

The design of the building does fit the neighborhood.  No longer are we subjected to an industrial looking, flat roofed, brick building from another era.  This design, similar to all the other new Cumberland Stores, is not industrial at all.  In fact, it is nice, almost charming.

Although it is big, as I noted in the past, what I failed to note was that other areas of design, and building, would be able to offset its appearance, and allow it to be able to blend into the surrounding environment.

It worked.

The choice of exterior lighting, the use of stone on the columns of the sign, and along the buildings apron, the landscaping with trees, shrubs, and grasses all have taken a large retail building, and softened it just enough so that it fits very well in the space it already had.

I didn't think any further out than what I saw being built back in December.  I didn't visualize the end result at all.

I really messed up on this one.

Not only is the land well landscaped, it is also noticeable that some thought went into everything from the outdoor lighting,  to the pump number, and placement.

The traffic pattern is now safer, more efficient, and able to handle more than four cars at a time at the pumps.  Now, more cars blocking the road idling perpendicular  on Hinman Street while waiting to fill up.  That used to frost me, as well as all the folks trying to get in and out of Hinman Street.

When an improvement comes to any neigborhood it shows that others think enough of the area to invest in it.  This encourages others to do the same.  Who knows what will come to the corner of Holland Road and Route 20 now.

I beleive that the designer, and builder have done a very good job not insulting the neighborhood with some retail monstrosity, and no, I am not on the Cumberland Farms payroll.  I just didn't think things all the way through when I wrote last time.

I wish all the other times I was wrong turned out as well as it did this time.

Related Posts:

Thinking Out Loud In Sturbridge: They Went An' Built A Skyscraper

Thinking Out Loud In Sturbridge: Clueless In Fiskdale

Thinking Out Loud In Sturbridge: I Don't Think I Have The Whole ...

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

What A Concept

I've had garage sales in the past.  I've had them for the same reason most of you have them: it's a shorter distance to move the stuff to the driveway than it is to the recycling center.

Recycling born from laziness.  What a concept.

When I've sold stuff from my driveway I am not surprised that someone was interested in it.  I was interested in it once, but now, it's either broke, bent, old, scuffed, chipped, or just plain ugly, yet it still attracts a crowd.  Making a few bucks is OK, but waiting the few years in between garage sales can lead to storage problems, and other problems like, " Why is the old wheelbarrow in our closet?", Mary asks.

"I don't know where else to put it till the next garage sale, dear."

At this point in the problem I receive verbal instructions on just how to solve the problem, and where to store the wheelbarrow.

It wouldn't fit.

It's not like we turn over the contents of our house every so many years, and put it out in the driveway.  Every so often we do replace something, and the older piece, that still has some life in it, and would enjoy living that life elsewhere, is placed in the driveway.  If you've been married more than once that concept may sound familiar to you.

Over the last few years I've licked the storage problem.  I don't have garage sales anymore.  Too much preparation.  When something needs to be recycled to others I simply stick the item in the driveway, and place a "FREE" sigh on either side of it.  Then I glance at my watch.

Usually in less than a half hour the item is gone.  Rarely have I seen the person picking it up, but the times I have spoken to the new owners has been interesting.  One gentleman pulled a "U-ey"  in front of my house to come back to pick up a butcher block table and chair set.  It was old, and needed some refinishing.  The chair legs needed stabilizing, too. He saw the set, and thought it would be great for his grandchildren to use on his enclosed porch.  He envisioned them out there coloring on rainy days, and having lunch.  The work the set required was the price one pays for a free table and chair set, and he saw the value.

An old wooden screen door was snapped up by a man who worked at a local campground.  He wanted it for the office, and its wooden construction would bring back that familiar wooden door slap noise when the springs closed it tight against the jam.  That sound is something that modern metal screen doors just don't have.  A timeless sound of summer.

Last week I put two upright vacuum cleaners on the driveway with the signs.   Mary had stumbled on a great deal for a new vac that was ten times more powerful than the old ones, and a lot lighter.  The suction on the new vacuum was very strong, and could pull the cats from under the couch with little effort.  The old vacuums still had some life left, so I taped some replacement bags to one of them, with an extra filter, wheeled them to the Land of Tired Appliances. I dropped two  "FREE" signs at their feet, and bid them farewell.  Forty minutes later I checked on them, and they were gone, full dust bag, and all.

So, what have we learned here today?  Well, for one thing, recycling is always a good.  Extending the life of an item beyond its life with you is not only Eco friendly, but it is also a good thing.  Our mothers were right, sharing is a good.

We also learned that the something we no longer want, or feel is no longer valuable, is valuable to someone else; giving is better than  a trip to the recycling center any day.

I like this system.  It serves a great purpose, and is very efficient.  Initially, Mary didn't like the system, but she has since found a way to make it work for her.  If I am annoying her, which hardly ever happens, she will simply point to me, the "FREE" sign in the garage, and then to the end of the driveway.

I do understand "sign" language.

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Monday, April 7, 2014

The Phoenix Of Brookfield Road

Dear Sturbridge Highway Department,

Thanks for the loan of the mailbox after one of your plows took out ours. It was appreciated very much.  I mentioned your kind act several times to others, and they found it hard to believe, as did I when I found it in front of our house.  You done good.

On Saturday I replaced your loaner with a new mailbox, and put yours up behind the garage.  You can pick it up at anytime.

One morning as I was pulling into the driveway after work I noticed that your loaner mailbox was gone!  Well, not totally gone, just out of view.  Seems the plow has little loyalty to one of its own, and once again took out a mailbox in front of number 60.  It wasn't damaged, and served us well for the rest of the winter.  Thanks again.

New loaner mailbox lying still beside the skeleton of the
previous mailbox, the apparent victim of yet another plow-by.

The loaner recovered, and served faithfully until Saturday.

The Phoenix

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Over Packing The Caution Duffel

I do realize we are treading on new ground, and I also know that caution is always something one wants to pack on a journey like this.


I think the town has over packed the caution duffel a bit.

There is a difference in being cautious for all the right reasons such as protecting oneself, and others, from harm, and protecting others from exposure that one believes to be a negative environment.  Humans have a tendency to protect one another from lots of things that are not harmful except in the mind of the beholder.

I am referring to marijuana dispensaries.  Recently, Sturbridge selected two sites for marijuana dispensaries in town.  One in the east end of town in the manufacturing zone on  Route 20, and the other in an other manufacturing zone on the west end of Route 20.  One of the reasons these areas were selected is that they would not impact residential areas, and that the town has deemed them to be "manufacturing" as opposed to agriculture.

First of all, marijuana dispensaries are not Methadone Clinics.  Marijuana dispensaries dispense medication, on a physicians order for the treatment of a wide variety of conditions.  The list is too numerous to list here, but can be viewed by hoppin' on the Google, or by clicking here.

People that go to a marijuana dispensary are those that have most likely tried other treatments for their condition, and they either did not work well, or at all.  Marijuana was just one more thing to try, and for many, it worked well enough to continue the treatment.  The evidence is clear, and as a result more states are allowing the dispensaries to set up shop within their borders for their residents.

The commonwealth will allow only two dispensaries for Worcester County, and both of them will be in Worcester, but we have to allocate an area inside Sturbridge for dispensaries in the event more are allowed in the future.

The town chose areas that were in manufacturing areas because they decided, on advise of counsel, to define the dispensaries as manufacturing areas, not agricultural despite the fact that the marijuana would be grown on site.

We don't manufacture corn, or blueberries.  Marijuana is grown as well.  Regardless, the areas were also selected because they are not  in residential, and commercial areas.  Besides the zoning requirements, I don't see what harm a medical dispensary, or pharmacy would have in a commercial area.  People that use the dispensaries are those that have a valid reason to do so.  They also use Rite Aid for similar reasons which are in commercial zones.  Everything from Penicillin, to Digoxin, to Oxycontin, caffeine, L-Dopa,  Vincristine, Nicotine, Atropine, and on and on are derived from plants, and are sold in pharmacies.

We are moving forward, cautiously moving forward.  This is a big deal for residents of Massachusetts, and Massachusetts is just trying to keep it's Marijuana ducks in a row, and although a valid statement, it does give one a visual worthy of a smile on this Sunday morning.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Cutting Edge Advancements In Food Packaging

Garelick Farms made life just that much easier for those of us with the Klutz Gene. Thank goodness for their willingness to take technology to its limits to help us avoid spilling, and all that crying that goes with it...

...and also makes it a lot easier to drink right from the bottle when no one is looking.