Category Archives: Environment

Christy Colasurdo Celebrates Connecticut’s Farm Tables

Christy Colasurdo  says her son Charlie was “somehow born to be a farmer and environmentalist.” To ensure that other kids would have a place to learn where their food comes from, how to care for animals, what it means to recycle and compost, and just spend time in nature — Christy got involved with Wakeman Town Farm.

While Charlie apprenticed at local farms, Christy — a former New York magazine editor — began writing about the farm-to-table movement. That led to her launch of Graze (now called The Simple Scallion), a service that delivers milk, eggs and the like from small farms to people’s front doors.

Christy Colasurdo

Christy Colasurdo

Christy admires and respects the endless hours of hard work farmers put in: working the land; handling weather, pests and disease; marketing their products; packing and unpacking wares at farmers’ markets, and (these are not farmers of yore) navigating social media to educate people about good seasonal food.

While getting Graze off the ground, Christy met Tracey Medeiros. She’d just published a book about Vermont’s farm-to-table scene.

Christy described Fairfield County, where fantastic chefs are partnering with local farmers, fishermen, oystermen and honey connoisseurs.

A new book was born. Christy identified restaurants, chefs and farmers, then wrote the profiles. Tracey and a tester tried hundreds of the chefs’ best recipes.

A year and a half later, The Connecticut Farm Table Cookbook is a beautiful homage/culinary travelogue. From Greenwich to Groton, Norwalk to Litchfield, Christy and Tracey tell great stories, using intriguing stories and stunning photos.

And, of course, mouth-watering recipes.

Preparing a recipe at the Westport Farmers' Market. (Photo/Oliver Parini)

Preparing a recipe at the Westport Farmers’ Market. (Photo/Oliver Parini)

Among the local places and recipes:

  • The Whelk and Le Farm (deviled eggs with cornmeal, fried oysters and pickled red onion)
  • Blue Lemon (fresh peach tart)
  • Gilbertie’s Herb Gardens (Brussels sprouts and petite edibles)
  • Saugatuck Craft Butchery (slow-roasted porchetta with cilantro and smoked paprika; dry-aged steak tartare crostini with pickled garden turnips)
  • SoNo Baking Company and Cafe (strawberry frangipane tartlets; caramel-apple tart)
  • Tarry Lodge (rosa bianca eggplant caponata)
  • Terrain (salt-roasted beets with blood oranges, pistachios and goat cheese salad)
  • Westport Farmers’ Market (various vendors)
  • Wakeman Town Farm (chipotle veggie chili)

Christy Colasurdo book“The chef/farmer relationship often goes unheralded,” Christy says. “Yet it’s exponentially more difficult for a chef to source from small local and organic farms and fishermen than from a large commercial supplier.

“It’s a lot easier to let the Sysco truck pull to the back door,” she adds. “Instead, they get out to the farmers’ market. They take ‘field trips’ to local organic farms. They forge old-fashioned relationships with their suppliers that often include bailing out a farmer with too much zucchini or kale, or asking the farmer to plant special crops like Peruvian purple potatoes or Asian specialty greens, just for their restaurants.”

The Connecticut Farm Table Cookbook is available at Terrain and Barnes & Noble. This Thursday, July 9 (10 a.m.) there’s a talk at the Westport Library. At 10:45, Christy and Tracey will stroll over to the Farmers’ Market. Local farmers and vendors featured in the book will be introduced, and Tracey will give a recipe demo using fresh market produce.

Get set for a delightful, delicious day.

Market Thursday

In its 10th year, the Westport Farmers Market is stronger than ever.

Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Imperial Avenue commuter parking lot is filled with smart (and hungry) shoppers.

Pushing strollers or wielding walkers, shoppers make their way from booth to booth. Butchers, bakers, pizza makers — and everyone in between — offers fresh food. (The definition of “farmers” is loose, but the qualifications are strict.)

The Staples boys soccer team was there today too. They volunteered to help carry bags to cars. Any tips went to the Farmers’ Market Gillespie Center project — which is run with Staples’ culinary classes, through Chef Cecily Gans.

It all comes around. And it all tastes very, very good.

Fresh produce is one of the Westport Farmer's Market's most popular attractions.

Fresh produce is one of the Westport Farmer’s Market’s most popular attractions.

Staples soccer players (from left) Sebastian Wick, Kenji Goto, Noah Schwaeber, Graham Gudis and Timmy Liles get ready to volunteer at the Westport Farmers' Market. Matteo Broccolo and Daniel Brill were also there, working elsewhere.

Staples soccer players (from left) Sebastian Wick, Kenji Goto, Noah Schwaeber, Graham Gudis and Timmy Liles volunteer at the Westport Farmers’ Market. Matteo Broccolo and Daniel Brill were also there.

Simply Delicious offers turkey meatballs, blueberry beet gazpacho, kale and corn empanadas, and much more.

Simply Delicious offers turkey meatballs, blueberry beet gazpacho, kale and corn empanadas, and much more.

The Nutty Bunny sign says it all.

The Nutty Bunny sign says it all.

Thirsty? Choose between champagne tea...

Thirsty? Choose between champagne tea…

...and "coffee for humanity."

…and “coffee for humanity.”

It doesn't get more natural than honey -- direct from the bees, with no middleman.

It doesn’t get more natural than honey — direct from the bees, with no middleman.

 

Noorism

Noor Zakka’s grandparents have been in Westport for 40 years. This town has long been a weekend getaway for her.

Three years ago she, her husband and their 2 young boys moved here full time.

The reasons — the greenery and schools — are common. But what Noor has done since arriving here is not.

An FIT graduate in fashion design, she worked in the industry in New York. But, Noor says, she sometimes felt as if she was not accomplishing anything good.

She wanted to create something beautiful — but also give back to the world.

The result is Noorism, a sustainable fashion company.

Noor Zakka sports one of Noorism's summer hats.

Noor Zakka sports one of Noorism’s summer hats.

“We feel that clothes can be well-made, look amazing, be eco-friendly, and leave as little impact on the earth as possible,” Noor says.

Noorism designs, creates and manufactures small collections locally.

Noor wants her products to last. She wants buyers to know exactly where, how and by whom her goods are made.

Her fabrics are sourced from orders that other companies did not use, or are upcycled from used garments. Recycled fabrics and materials are key.

For every item sold, Noorism gives $5 to Charity:Water, a non-profit that provides clean, safe drinking water to developing nations. “The fashion industry consumes a lot of water, and wastes a lot,” she explains.

Her 1st collection is upcycled denim summer hats.

Noorims's summer hat line.

Noorims’s summer hat line.

They’re not cheap: $145. But, Noor says, it takes a couple of hours to turn an old pair of jeans into a sun hat.

“It is kind of a luxury product,” she admits. “But it’s special. Plus, it’s made in America.”

National Geographic Focuses On Westport

Tuesday’s post-storm clouds sent a lot of Westporters scurrying for their cameras.

Most photos ended up on Facebook or Twitter.

Stephen Wilkes’ found its way to National Geographic — and then to the magazine’s very popular Instagram feed.

National Geographic photo of Compo Beach by Stephen Wilkes

(Photo/Stephen Wilkes)

Alert “06880” reader Danielle Dobin spotted it, and sent it to “06880.”

“Natgeo” included Wilkes’ comment: “I was fortunate to see this remarkable sunset from Compo beach, after days of summer storms.” It included the hashtags iPhoneonly, CompoBeach, Connecticut, surreal, clouds, color — and skyporn.

In just 2 hours it’s garnered 167,000 likes, and over 1,150 comments. Most are along the lines of “awesome.” One person called it “weird.” Another said, “where we got married!!”

A woman wrote, “I want to go there.”

The comments came from around the globe. One person said “Lijkt beetje op jouw lucht,” which Google Translate changed from Dutch to “Seems little air on you.”

That’s not as weird as this comment — 刚刚在他家买了一只沛纳海 很牛逼 大家要买表找他,最靠谱的卖家 朋友圈都有标价 — which Google Translate believes says “He just bought a house very fast hardware you buy a Panerai watch to find him, the most likely price the seller has a circle of friends.”

On the other hand, “06880” readers don’t need a translator to look at Stephen Wilkes’ image and say, “that’s our Compo!”

[UPDATE] Bear-ly Noticed

Alert — and concerned — “06880” reader Kate Greenberg saw a bear (black or dark brown, she thinks) behind her house yesterday, around 3 p.m.

She lives off the Merritt Parkway (eastbound). The bear was walking in the woods, between her house and the Merritt. She called the police.

She wonders: Has anyone else reported a bear in the area?

It’s been a tough year for Kate. Coyotes killed her dog in the yard last November, just after dusk.

This is not the Westport bear. But it's close.

This bear is from Alaska. Kate Greenberg didn’t get a shot of the Westport bear.

In mid-afternoon, the Westport Police sent this notice:

Westport Police received two separate reports from residents whose properties border the Merritt Parkway of two separate sightings of black bears. In both instances the bear was observed moving through the properties and did not act in an aggressive manner. The following information regarding the handling of bears near your home was obtained from the CT DEEP website. All sightings should be reported to the Police Department and CT DEEP at the numbers below:

If you see a bear:

  • Enjoy it from a distance.
  • Advertise your presence by shouting and waving your arms or walk slowly away.
  • Never attempt to feed or attract bears.
  • Report bear sightings to the Wildlife Division, at (860) 675-8130.

Experience has shown that a single wandering bear can be responsible for numerous sightings reported to the Wildlife Division. Experience has also shown that, given an avenue for escape, bears will usually wander back into more secluded areas.

People should not feed bears, either intentionally or unintentionally. Bears that associate food with people become problem bears that will not be tolerated by all property owners. Connecticut has the habitat to support more bears; however, the future of Connecticut’s bear population depends on the actions and attitudes of the human population.

The probability of a bear attacking a human is exceptionally low. Therefore, the mere presence of a bear does not necessitate its removal. However, the department may attempt to remove bears from urban locations when there is little likelihood that they will leave on their own and when they are in positions where darting is feasible.

The department attempts to monitor bear activity in developed areas in coordination with local public safety officials. Coordination and cooperation with officials on the scene and local police officials is a key, critical ingredient in educating the public and assuring a safe, desirable outcome in such a situation.

And The Newest Osprey Nest Is …

… atop the cell tower near Merritt Parkway Exit 41.

Osprey in cell tower at Exit 41 - Jo Ann Davidson

This pair — you can see an adult in the photo above, on top of the middle antenna — has an eye for real estate.

They’re close to the Y and the Red Barn. Not far from downtown.

Plus they’ve found a great way to beat the Merritt and Wilton Road traffic.

(Hat tip and photo: Jo Ann Davidson)

Gardens Of Westport Delights

For 23 years, the Westport Historical Society has hosted a Hidden Garden Tour.

It’s not only the gardens that are hidden. Afterward each one, without fail, folks say, “Damn! I missed it!”

So here’s a head’s-up on this year’s event. Set for this Sunday, June 14 (11 a.m.-4 p.m.), it includes 7 beautifully landscaped gardens — 6 in Westport, plus 1 in Southport that’s the only cut flower farm in Fairfield County.

One of the spectacular gardens on Sunday's tour.

One of the spectacular gardens on Sunday’s tour.

They include cutting, woodland, rose and shade gardens. There’s also a very intriguing “micro-garden” — small, but every square inch is meticulously filled with plants, sculptures and stonework.

Special highlights at some gardens include ring toss, tea and granola tastings, Qi gong moving meditation demonstrations, and music.

But wait — there’s more! A free Garden Market on the WHS lawn (10 a.m.-4 p.m.) offers homegrown and homemade specialty items from local cottage businesses.

And there’s a post-tour Garden Party (5-7:30 p.m., Gilbertie’s Herb Gardens). The WHS has rounded up a spectacular list of items, including a 1-week safari; stays in the Berkshires, Cape Cod, Washington DC and Tribeca; original art by Westport artists Charles Reid, Miggs Burroughs, Leonard Everett Fisher and David Kalman; a private tour of Philip Johnson’s New Canaan Glass House, and a Cajun dinner.

Other local donors include Salon DeMatteo, Christie’s Service Station, Coffee An’, The Westport Country Playhouse, Kibberia, Spotted Horse, Rizzuto’s, Tarry Lodge and Farewell Travels.

Did I mention the Garden Party features a “hat competition” for best gentleman’s, best lady’s, best use of fresh flowers, most creative and crowd favorite?

A preview of the hat competition.

A preview of the hat competition.

Not up for driving from garden to garden? The WHS has mapped out a bike route.

There was a lot of stuff “hidden” in the Historical Society’s press release about Sunday’s event. To find out even more about the garden tour (and purchase tickets), click here. And for the garden party, click here.

Towering Over Greens Farms Road

Remember that 120-foot cell tower proposed for a private residence on Greens Farms Road?

It’s on hold — but drivers in the area have recently noticed a smaller tower, near — but not on — the property in question.

Emergency response tower - Greens Farms Road

Hold your texts and emails (if you can get a signal). This is not that cell tower.

It’s Westport’s Emergency Response System — and it’s been there since the mid-1980s. It was installed to warn residents of impending disasters (I’m just guessing, but say, a truck accident involving toxic chemicals on nearby I-95).

The proposed cell tower will be 75 to 100 feet taller than this structure.

So why are people just now noticing it?

A widening project on Greens Farms Road (including a new turning lane onto Hillspoint, visible in the photo above), and resulting deforestation of the area, has made the Emergency Response System more prominent.

As for the cell tower: neighbors, local officials and state legislators are still working to prevent its construction on private property, in a residential zone. The town continues to seek an alternative site on state DOT property.

 

A Heroic Rescue On I-95

This story will make your heart soar like — well, a red-tailed hawk.

The other day Westporter Laura Skutch was on I-95 south, in rush hour (aka “usual”) traffic.

On the shoulder stood a hawk. Usually, she says, that means they’re making a kill. But she saw nothing under its feet.

Curious, she pulled off at the next exit, and circled back around. He was still there. She guesses he had been struck by a vehicle.

The red-tailed hawk.

The red-tailed hawk.

Laura pulled up gently behind him. Trained as a wildlife rehabilitator at Earthplace, she knew that the bird — and drivers — were at risk if he flew into traffic.

“Stopping on I-95 is very intense,” Laura says. “I don’t recommend doing it without police assistance. But I felt the need to do something quickly.”

She approached the bird. He stood there, training one yellow eye on her.

Lacking the tools necessary to make a rescue, she tried to figure out how to use what she had: a fleece blanket and a dog carrier.

Slowly, she held the blanket out as a screen against traffic. Cars whizzed by, just a few feet away.

Slowly, Laura draped the blanket over the bird. He seemed to collapse. She scooped him up safely, in a kind of sack, and avoided his talons.

Laura Skutch

Laura Skutch

Laura thought the hawk was dying. She drove to Cornell Emergency Veterinary Specialists in Stamford. They could not take him, but contacted A Place Called Hope. It’s a wildlife rehabilitation sanctuary in Killingworth, dedicated mainly to raptors.

Laura spoke with Christine Secki there. She told Laura to keep the hawk in a quiet place overnight. He stayed in the car, in the dog carrier.

The next morning, his yellow eye peered back at Laura. She drove him to the sanctuary, an hour away.

She was amazed at the sanctuary. “It’s gorgeous,” she says. “Christine and Todd Secki are incredibly dedicated.”

They took the bird in, providing the time and attention he needed to make a full recovery.

Laura checked in every day, for a week. “Christine couldn’t have been nicer,” she says. “I felt a kindred spirit.”

When the hawk was ready to be freed, the Seckis invited her up to do the actual release.

Laura Skutch, releasing

Laura Skutch, releasing “her” hawk.

Laura found these tips on what to do if you strike wildlife while driving:

Should you injure an animal, first call wildlife rescue. Unless you can safely do so, do not move the animal. A frightened animal won’t hesitate to bite or scratch, not realizing you are trying to help. It is best to alert people who are trained to handle animals. Put on your vehicle flashers for oncoming traffic.

For rescuing small animals, heavy gloves and an old towel come in handy. Transport the animal to a shelter, veterinarian, or wildlife rehabilitator.

Let them know the exact location of the accident for when they return the animal to the wild. Rescuers might also want to be sure there are no orphaned animals nearby.

Finally, let authorities know that the injured or dead animal is a traffic hazard. They will respond faster in order to clear the road quickly and help prevent more accidents.

If you are concerned about damage to your vehicle, check with your insurance company to be sure you are covered in the event of a car accident with wildlife.

(Hat tip: David Dreyfuss)

This Open Space Is Deadly

Every spring, Westporters marvel at the “Daffodil Mile” that marks the long entrance to Willowbrook Cemetery on Main Street.

And the Saugatuck Congregational Church had made a strong commitment to the upkeep of its historic — though no-longer-accepting-bodies — cemetery on Evergreen Avenue.

But what about Westport’s smaller, lesser-known graveyards? Who is in charge of mowing the grass, raking the leaves, straightening the headstones? 

Alert “06880” reader Scott Smith would like to know. He writes:

As I’ve been driving along Wilton Road to the Y, I’ve noticed an old cemetery behind a stone wall. It’s near #280. Recently I parked on Twin Falls Lane, and ducked across the road to explore.

A hidden cemetery off Wilton Road. (Photo/Scott Smith)

A hidden cemetery off Wilton Road. (Photo/Scott Smith)

It’s pretty cool, in the way that old cemeteries are. Many headstones are in disarray, and it seems that the most recent ones are from the early 1900s. Hard to say when the older graves first came to be. The family name Fillow appears on a few markers, though many etchings are worn away beyond recognition.

But as “06880”is filled with discussions about open space and other property issues, I wonder who owns and maintains the many small cemeteries around town. Are they private? Are they treated as open space? Is there an inventory of all these plots? And what’s the policy about walking among these memorials?

On a related note, I discovered a scenic (and pollen-covered) pond just beyond the cemetery, which is located on a bluff above the water. It’s a couple of acres in size. I never knew the pond was there, though I suspected it from the hole in the tree canopy you can just glimpse from the road.

The pond near the Partrick Wetlands. (Photo/Scott Smith)

The pond near the Partrick Wetlands. (Photo/Scott Smith)

How are these ponds treated on our property rolls? Are they all privately owned? Counted as open space as well? Are they taxed differently than land? And is there a census of the freshwater ponds within our borders?

The pond below the cemetery has a small dock at the far end. Judging from a Google map, this pond is close to the Partrick Wetlands, but separate fromt it.

Scott hopes that “06880” readers can answer his questions. Fire away!

I’ll add this: Westport is filled with tiny, forgotten cemeteries — from the Battle of Compo Hill-era plots on opposite side of Gray’s Creek (Compo Beach Road and Longshore) to the hidden-in-plain-view one on Post Road West, near the Norwalk line.

If you’ve got a story about any of our small old cemeteries, click “Comments.” This should be a lively (ho ho) discussion.