Category Archives: Environment

Feral Cats: The Sequel

The infestation of feral cats in the Compo Beach neighborhood may be over.

According to Foti Koskinas — Westport Police Department deputy chief who, as one of his duties, oversees animal control — told “06880” today that he and several others are helping the homeowner who, to the dismay of neighbors, has provided food and shelter for up to 30 feral cats.

The owner is “working hard to do the right thing,” Koskinas reports.

Four cats have already been removed, and will be spayed. Then they’ll be relocated, away from the neighborhood.

When feral cats multiply, it's no day at the beach.

When feral cats multiply, it’s no day at the beach.

The owner is also collaborating with PAWS. That organization will trap 5 more cats, spay them, and relocate them to farms and barns.

The woman has agreed to feed only her personal cats — not strays — and to do so inside her home, not outside. She will also give up 1 rescue cat for adoption.

“We’re committing to helping her in any way we can,” Koskinas says. “The neighbors are helping too.”

Several neighbors contacted “06880” to offer praise for Koskinas, PAWS and the homeowner.

Sounds like a problem that — in more than one way — is almost “fixed.”

Middle School Students Raise The Roof

The other day, Wakeman Town Farm received a welcome donation to its “Raise The Roof” campaign.

But the money to help replace a leaky roof did not come from a big local business or hedge fund manager. The donors were 2 Westport 8th graders.

Hannah Schmidt and Nina Barandiaran raised $145 through a bake sale. In keeping with the WTF theme, it featured vegetable-themed goods (think carrot cake). Hannah and Nina came up with all the ideas on their own.

Hannah (left) and Nina with one of their intriguing, farm-related creations. (Photo/Carrie Aitkenhead)

Hannah Schmidt (left) and Nina Barandiaran with one of their intriguing, farm-related creations. (Photo/Carrie Aitkenhead)

The money is much needed. Carrie Aitkenhead — who with her husband and fellow farm steward Mike Aitkenhead has worked with Hannah for 3 years — says that rain leaks into her bedroom during heavy rain. Towels and a canning pot temporarily solve the problem.

“When we heard that the girls took it upon themselves to raise money for the farm, the whole WTF board was humbled and floored,” Carrie says. “These 2 girls are wonderful.”

Of course, WTF hopes that many more Westporters — hedge fund managers as well as middle school students — will pitch in too. A Harvest Fest — the 3rd annual farm-to-table event — is set for Saturday, September 13 at WTF on Cross Highway.

WTF logoIt features great food, including local meats, artisanal cheeses and seasonal produce, contributed by local farmers and prepared by local rock-star chefs. Many local restaurants and caterers are contributing, including Saugatuck Craft Butchery, Tierra, Le Farm, Da Pietro’s and Saugatuck Sweets.

There’s also wine, beer, Prosecco and signature cocktails, plus a live band and auction. Items for bid include a private 4-course dinner party prepared by chef Jon Vaast at Sugar & Olives, and luxury BMW racing bikes.

In addition to the new roof, funds support youth programs, including summer camps and  homesteading workshops.

You know — the kind of stuff Westport youngsters love. And help support, in their own special, bake sale way.

(For more information or to purchase tickets, click here.) 

 

 

CVS Pulls The Plug

Earlier this year, CVS announced it would stop selling cigarettes by October.

They beat their self-imposed deadline by a month. As of today, you can’t buy cigarettes at any of their 7,700 stores nationwide. Including ours.

The nation’s largest drugstore chain has stopped selling them (and other tobacco products), in part because its 26,000 pharmacists and nurse practitioners are tired of treating problems like high cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart disease — all linked to smoking.

CVS will lose about $2 billion in sales — less than 1% of its $123 billion total last year.

Years ago, cigarette sales no doubt accounted for much more. I remember those days well.

Cigarettes 1There were cigarette machines in nearly every store. Westport Pizzeria had one, as a longtime customer noted on Facebook. (When she was underage and tried to buy a pack, owner Mel Mioli warned her of the dangers of smoking.)

Across the street, a popular store selling food and featuring pinball games was called “Bill’s Smoke Shop.”

When I was in 8th grade, some Long Lots Junior High friends and I were “hired” to help construct the carnival that set up every May in the vacant lot that is now the Barnes & Noble shopping center. Our pay? Cigarettes.

(The wisdom of using 14-year-olds to build Ferris wheels and tilt-a-whirls is the subject of another story.)

cigarettes 2And for well over a decade at Staples, there was a designated “smoking area.” The blacktop just outside the cafeteria — next to a basketball hoop, and where principal George Cohan once grilled hamburgers — was called (by some) “Cancer Plaza.” Many other students called it “home.”

Things are different now. According to a 2011 survey, 11% of Staples juniors — and just 3% of sophomores — said they smoked cigarettes. That was a 10-fold drop from a similar survey 11 years earlier.

I spend a lot of time around Staples students. I can’t remember the last time I heard anyone mention cigarettes. I’m not at their parties, true — but smoking among Westport teenagers seems to be dying a slow death.

Now CVS is doing its part to hasten its demise.

If your browser does not take you directly to YouTube, click here.

Patrick Overton Preserves A Preserve

Last spring, alert “06880” reader Katherine Ross was walking along Imperial Avenue, near Harborview Road. She noticed what she called “a forgotten park on the river.” Small trails, a few benches were hidden and a plaque identifying “William P. Teuscher Wetlands Preserve” were hidden, she says, by overgrown weeds and poison ivy.

This summer, Katherine noted substantial changes. Trails had been cleared. Wood chips were down. New plants had taken root.

The William P. Teuscher Wetlands Preserve -- before and after.

The William P. Teuscher Wetlands Preserve — before and after.

Katherine was impressed. But she did not know who was responsible.

Recently, she learned the answer. Staples student Patrick Overton took on the task, for his Troop 39 Eagle Scout project. He had help from his brother James.

A newly cleared path in the Philip Teuscher Wetlands Preserve. It just into the Saugatuck River off Imperial Avenue, near Harbor View Road. (Photo/Katherine Ross)

A newly cleared path in the William P. Teuscher Wetlands Preserve. It juts into the Saugatuck River off Imperial Avenue, near Harborview Road. (Photo/Katherine Ross)

What a great idea. And how nice to do something so important, so well — and so quietly.

Patrick Overton, with the Teuscher plaque.

Patrick Overton, with the Teuscher plaque.

PS: Here’s a closeup of the plaque. Very interesting and educational (except for the misspelled “whose.”)

Teuscher preserve

This Summer Did Not Bite

Alert “06880” reader Dick Lowenstein wonders:

Where have all the insects gone? Am I alone in thinking that there are few bugs flying around?

This year and last, the stinging insects seem to have disappeared — fewer hornets, wasps, yellow jackets  and bees. Also fewer mosquitoes (maybe because of less rain).

Dick says a friend noticed fewer butterflies too.

Did you notice the lack of bugs and stinging insects? Or was this summer’s weather just so fantastic, we didn’t care?

Click “Comments” below to share your entomological thoughts.

Bugs

Sand And Silt In The Saugatuck River: The Sequel

A recent “06880” post on the Saugatuck River sand and silt buildup drew many comments. Longtime Westporter Dick Fincher reached deep in his memory bank, and added these thoughts:

The river channel, from the bay to the Post Road bridge, was last dredged by the Corps of Engineers in 1969. That is a firm date, because we had just moved here. We were living in a rented house at 165 Riverside Avenue, right on the river.

In theory the Corps is supposed to keep the channel dredged on a regular basis. But in fact it has not, since the river is not considered an essential waterway for commerce and/or extensive pleasure boat traffic.

I believe the Saugatuck dredging had 2 forks, about 300 yards south of the Post Road bridge. One went straight up the channel. The other bore over to the quay more or less in front of the library, then alongside it to the bridge.

This no doubt was because in the old, old days the commercial channel actually went right up to the backs of the buildings on the east side of Parker Harding, before it became a parking lot.

Until the mid-1950s, the Saugatuck River lapped up against the back of Main Street stores. Construction of the Parker Harding parking lot changed the river's currents substantially.

Until the mid-1950s, the Saugatuck River lapped up against the back of Main Street stores. Construction of the Parker Harding parking lot changed the river’s currents substantially.

Despite not being dredged, for many years — probably into the early 1990s or thereabouts – the lower portion had a good channel (almost to the Bridge Street bridge) because Gault got regular barge deliveries to their dock. Barges with 8-foot draft scraped the channel clean every time they came in or went out.

I would venture that the shallowness your contributor saw in the upper river (unless he just happened to see it at extremely low tide) is exacerbated by the fact that the lower river is also silting. There are spots even in the lower channel that at low tide are barely passable in the middle of the channel, right by Stony Point.

I know the folks at Earthplace take regular readings on the river’s health. Perhaps they can shed some light on this.

Dick’s insights reminded me of a romanticized version of the Saugatuck River’s traffic. A number of years ago, when commercial brokers were trying to market the gruesome glass building on Gorham Island, they ran a big ad in the real estate section of the Sunday New York Times. It featured a drawing of the building — and right next to it, way upriver of the Post Road bridge, was an enormous schooner. As if.

(Photo/Scott Smith)

The Saugatuck River at low tide. (Photo/Scott Smith)

Sand And Silt In The Saugatuck River

Last week, alert — and environmentally conscious — “06880” reader Scott Smith stood at Parker Harding Plaza and looked at the Saugatuck River.

It was low tide. Very low tide.

(Photo/Scott Smith)

(Photo/Scott Smith)

He was amazed at how much gravel and fill has been deposited on the upstream side of the bridge, and how shallow this section of the tidal river has become. He knows the muck continues all the way further downstream.

Scott says:

I wonder what would happen if, instead of the 2-3 inches of rain we got a couple of days earlier, we received the 13 inches that fell on Long Island. I’m no marine engineer, but it seems we’re at risk of some serious wash-outs, starting with our Post Road bridge and no doubt possibly affecting our waterway through Saugatuck, out to the Sound. The river today is nothing like it was when barges and other vessels docked all the way to downtown.

I’ve heard that Norwalk is undertaking a dredging project for its river and harbor. Is this something to add to our already lengthy list of Westport capital improvement projects?

What do you think? Is the state of our river dire enough to spend money on it? What would we gain? Are there unintended consequences — positive or negative?

Click “Comments” below. And please use your full, real name.

Wakeman Town Farm Raises The Roof

Pancake breakfasts and harvest dinners. Summer workshops and apprenticeships for kids. Chicken-keeping and cheese-making classes for adults; Family fun days, barn dances and holiday tree lightings.

With all that — and much more — Wakeman Town Farm provides a space for Westporters of all ages to connect with the land, learn about our past, and create a sustainable future.

Now, the space that serves so many of us so well needs us to serve it.

Wakeman Town Farm: the front view... (Photo/Peter LaMastro/LincLine Photography)

Wakeman Town Farm: the front view… (Photo/Peter LaMastro – LincLine Photography)

The farmhouse needs a new roof. The near-century-old structure’s leaky roof won’t last another winter. It’s jeopardizing the health and safety of its stewards — Mike and Carrie Aitkenhead — and their 2 young children, as well as the summer campers.

A new roof will make the house more energy efficient. It will also allow Farm Board meetings, community-supported agriculture storage and classes to take place safely and dryly.

Adding cisterns to downspouts to collect rainwater will save both money and water. (A 60-gallon barrel can consistently irrigate a 100-square-foot garden.) The cost for those improvements is $25,000.

...and the rear. (Photo/Peter LaMastro - LincLine Photography)

…and the rear. (Photo/Peter LaMastro – LincLine Photography)

Wakeman Town Farm also hopes to turn existing space into a multi-purpose classroom/kitchen. Year-round cooking classes can teach kids to turn the vegetables they’ve grown into great meals. There will also be farm dinners, featuring local farm-to-table restaurants and food purveyors.

Students of all ages (including those at after-school and summer programs) can attend old-school homesteading classes to learn skills like making cheese, plus preserves, jams, pickles and sauces using the bounty from Wakeman’s organic gardens.

With a large community table, the classroom can convert into a lecture hall, movie venue and community-meeting spot. Those improvements will run $70,000.

Fun with plants and chickens, at Wakeman Town Farm. (Photo/Peter LaMastro - LincLine Photography)

Fun with plants and chickens, at Wakeman Town Farm. (Photo/Peter LaMastro – LincLine Photography)

Wakeman Town Farm has created an easy-to-use online fundraising site. Clicking it — and donating any amount — is one way to “Raise the Roof.”

Another way is to purchase the ever-popular (ask your kids why) “WTF” t-shirt. Just email the color (gray, Nantucket red or green) and size (men’s or women’s S, M, L or XL) and quantity to: wakemantownfarm@gmail.com.

There’s also a PG-version, in white, for kids’ S, M or L sizes.

Wakeman Town Farm is a fantastic town resource. We’ve always shown it lots of love.

Now let’s pony up some bucks.

 

How Julie Beitman’s Garden Grows

Oldtimers knew the plot of land on the west side of North Avenue, just up from Long Lots, as Rippe’s Farm.

Those who have been here a while remember when a guy named Buster sold fruits and vegetables there, from a roadside stand.

To newcomers it’s a cul-de-sac with homes that — in a nod to its agricultural past — were designed to look in part like silos. Greystone Farm Lane is a nonsensical name created from thin air. It might as well be called Buckingham Palace Drive, or Stonehenge Way.

But it’s a nice, neighborly area. And at least one resident pays homage to the area’s previous life.

The Beitmans' house, and part of the old barn (right).

The Beitmans’ house, and part of the old barn (right).

For the past 12 years, Julie Beitman has lived in the 1st house on the left. An original Rippe barn still sits on her property (it’s transformed into a “man cave,” where her sons play music). She and her husband have unearthed foundations from other farm buildings too.

The nutrient-rich soil is gone — the builder skimmed it off, and sold it for profit — but Julie has coaxed amazing trees and plants out of what is now hard clay.

Julie Beitman, with just some of her plants.

Julie Beitman, with just some of her plants.

She planted 16 fruit trees.

She grows lettuce, tomatoes, 5 varieties of hot peppers, peas, eggplant, grapes, cucumbers, apples, cherries, 3 varieties of plums, and herbs. She and her son Andrew — a rising Staples senior – have cross-bred Bartlett and Bosc pears.

When her string beans grew 40 feet tall, she called in neighborhood kids to pick them.

I didn’t know you could grow cotton in Connecticut, but Julie does. (The seeds came from Israel.)

In the winter, Julie makes maple syrup. This summer, she’ll jar peaches.

Pears ripen in Julie's back yard.

Pears ripen in Julie’s back yard.

She’s a completely self-taught gardener. But she has learned well. Everywhere in her yard, something grows.

“It’s my therapy,” Julie — who also owns a jewelry business, and plans parties on the side — says. “It’s a labor of love.”

But beyond planting, pruning, picking and placing peppers on the ground to keep animals away, she does not do much. “It takes care of itself,” she notes.

She’s being too modest. 1 Greystone Farm Lane is a wonderful bounty.

Mr. Rippe would be very, very proud.

Buster too.

It's a very green summer at 1 Greystone Farm Lane.

It’s a very green summer at 1 Greystone Farm Lane.

 

 

CL&P Saves The Ospreys

For months, an osprey nest high above a Fresh Market utility pole has fascinated Westporters.

This morning though, the raptors caused a power outage at the shopping center.

CL&P workers rushed to the scene. Merchants and shoppers gathered to watch, as crew members in 2 large buckets examined the scene.

Osprey nest

Everyone expected the nest to be removed.

Instead, the CL&P guys carefully rerouted the electrical feed a few yards away. The nest was undisturbed.

The utility company has taken a ton of hard knocks in the past few years, over their slow response to natural disasters.

This could have been a disaster of another kind. CL&P’s quick — and very wise — response should have them flying high.