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Spreading Compost, Spreading The Word

Alert “06880” reader — and ardent environmentalist — Alice Ely writes:

When Paul Newman helped start the first Westport Farmer’s Market, he began a ripple effect of good which I hope to continue to spread.

That was when we first began buying, cooking and eating local. Suddenly we found ourselves with way more produce trimmings than we had before. So we started composting.

We had so much of the rich black stuff, we put in a veggie garden of our own. Thanks to the composting, our weekly trash pickup shrank by a third, and we saw a dramatic difference in the way our plants grew.

Compost at Wakeman Town Farm

Soon I was not just spreading compost, but spreading the word. I even took the University of Connecticut Master Composter’s course so I could learn more. I also began volunteering at Wakeman Town Farm, where Westporters can see compost in action on a bigger scale.

Paul Newman was famously modest, but I think he would appreciate that we named our home compost pile after him. He was the one who said, “You have to be like the farmer. You have to put back in what you take out.”

In compost and in life, I agree.

Composting takes no more time than taking out the trash. Want to know more? This Monday (October 8, 7 to 8 p.m.), Wakeman Town Farm presents “How to Compost.” Alice Ely herself will explain the basics, and answer questions. It’s free, but you should register here:

On Monday night, Alice Ely, UConn Master Composter, will be at Wakeman Town Farm between 7 & 8 pm, to explain the basics and answer questions for would-be composters. It’s free, but click here to register.

Attendees will receive “Brown Gold” to take home. It will rev up a home compost pile in no time. (Don’t worry: Working compost piles don’t smell!)



Westport Faces Epilepsy

In 6th grade, Emma Borys experienced staring spells. Other times, her eyelids fluttered.

The symptoms confused her and her parents: Aimee, director of the Earthplace preschool, and Steve, a social studies teacher in Westchester and Westport youth sports coach.

They also confused her Coleytown Middle School teachers. From time to time, they thought, she just wasn’t paying attention.

Eventually, Emma was diagnosed with epilepsy.

When her younger brother Peter was in 6th grade, he got the same diagnosis. For that to occur, both parents had to carry recessive genes.

Emma and Peter Borys (Photo/Stephen O’Hara, SMO Photo)

Emma’s epilepsy was more pronounced than Peter’s. She began having seizures. It was hard to find the right medication, and proper dose. The side effects were strong.

She was active in Staples Players, doing hair and makeup as well as acting. But last spring she had to take the final quarter of junior year off.

This summer she felt better. She worked as a counselor at the Earthplace summer program, attended vocal camp and was a Harbor Watch intern. She’s now back at Staples full-time, and is a crew head for the upcoming Players production of “Legally Blonde.”

Emma is also active in the Epilepsy Foundation of Connecticut. In fact, she’s a “Face of Epilepsy” for the state.

The organization has helped immensely. In addition to funding research, they provide free training for Emma’s teachers.

“A lot of educators don’t know how epilepsy impacts kids,” her mother says. “It’s hard for parents to do this on their own. And each kid has different symptoms and reactions to medications. They come in and describe each child’s case individually.”

This Sunday (October 7), Emma and Peter — now an 8th grade football and basketball player — will give back to the group that has given them so much. They’ll form a team for the Great Purple Pumpkin 5K for Epilepsy trail run in Farmington.

Through Earthplace, Staples Players and sports, many Westporters know the Borys family. Emma and Peter have joined the 5K as a team. Their parents support them strongly.

Now everyone else can too. Click here to contribute to their fundraising effort.

(Hat tip: Jaime Bairaktaris)


Remembering Bill Seiden

William “Bill” Seiden — 1st selectman of Westport from 1981-85 — died August 8 in Bend, Oregon. He was 91. He had been in hospice care, and utilized the state’s Death With Dignity act.

When 2-term Democrat Jacqueline Heneage did not seek reelection, Seiden — a Republican businessman — ran on a ticket with Barbara Butler. They prevailed over Martha Hauhuth and Ralph Sheffer.

According to Woody Klein’s history of Westport, Seiden ran on a platform to “preserve the past, and protect open space.”

Bill Seiden (Photo by Doug Healey, courtesy of Woody Klein)

His most notable accomplishment was the appointment of a Homeless People’s Committee. Overseen by Butler — who later became the town’s human services director — and including Reverend Ted Hoskins and James Bacharach, the group opened the town’s first soup kitchen.

Westporter Phil Donahue featured it on his TV show, as an example of “an affluent town with a social conscience.”

Seiden’s administration was marked by a bitter feud with Arnie Kaye. The entrepreneur wanted to open a video game parlor — “Arnie’s Place” — on the Post Road (where Balducci’s is now). Seiden opposed the idea.

At one point, Kaye chained himself to Town Hall. He later organized a recall petition against Seiden, but failed to get the required 1,600 signatures.

In 1985, Hauhuth again ran against Seiden. This time she and running mate Wally Meyer prevailed, 5,171 votes to 3,393. Seiden would have served as third selectman. But — citing personal commitments and business responsibilities — he declined. Hauhuth appointed Jo Fuchs — who had run with Seiden — to the post.

An obituary has not been published. However, an insight into Seiden’s post-Westport life comes from his friend Carrie Elmore. This summer, she sent a note to “all who are lucky enough to call Bill Seiden a friend”:

As you may know, Bill is nearing the end of a wonderful adventure called life, which he has certainly lived to its fullest. Even now, at 91, he has a desk full of work, engagements on the calendar, phone calls to make and emails to send. From what I can tell, Bill has never been one to slow down.

And slowing down, he is not. Bill is truly excited to begin his next adventure with the guidance of God and the assistance of the Death with Dignity program. However, before he goes, he’s hoping for one last party, one last celebration, with those who meant the most…you!

My family and I have had the honor of getting a glimpse into an amazing life well lived. The lessons he has taught us without even realizing it, will not be forgotten (or laughingly, maybe that was all part of his plan).

And speaking of plans, he is still making them. Bill would love nothing more than to share some time on the afternoon of August 5 with you, at his home. While there is no road map or “right” way to do this, Bill’s only wish is that this will be a party, celebrating the relationships he’s made in this great life. Tears are allowed but what  Bill is really hoping to share is laughter, memories, food and drink, and lots of handshakes and hugs. He’s calling it “”A memorial in which he can  participate.”

Bill requests that you bring questions for the departed. He will try his best to get the answers. But choose the names carefully. He already has ones for Cousin Houdini, Uncle Moe, Larry and Curly.

(Hat tip: Robert Hauck)

Pic Of The Day #490

20 Morningside Drive South — on Walter and Naiad Einsel’s former property — is a candidate for demolition. (Photo/Anna DeVito)

Come On Down! The Water’s Fine!

Sure, today started out iffy.

But by early afternoon, the sun came out. Clouds skittered away. With the temperature in the mid-80s, it was perfect beach weather.

You wouldn’t know it at Compo though. From one jetty to the other, the sand was empty.

On South Beach, picnic tables and grills that last year were as hard to snag as Harvard admissions, begged for action.

Even Hillspoint Road — usually chock-a-block with non-sticker folks who park (way past the limit), then walk to Compo or (even closer) Old Mill Beach — looked as lonesome as North Dakota.

Is anybody here? Anyone?

Or is Westport traveling through another dimension, not only of sight and sound but of mind …

Everyone’s Asking About That Construction By Bertucci’s…

Westporters are wondering what’s happening next to Westport Wash & Wax, where Long Lots Road feeds into Post Road East.

As reported last December on “06880,” it’s the new town trend: retail, offices and residential.

White Plains-based DMC LLC is constructing 2 mixed-use buildings — 3 stories, 10,000 square feet each. Retail and offices will occupy the first floor; 16 residences will be above.

Plus 4 more townhouses at the rear of the property, each with 3 2-bedroom units.

The site of the new retail/office/residential complex at the foot of Long Lots Road. The green building has been torn down.

Six of the 28 (total) apartments are “affordable,” according to state 8-30g regulations.

Included in the development: 93 parking spaces.

Right now, work is going on behind a construction fence. All that’s visible from the road is a single chimney.

Meanwhile, a few yards away at the former Bertucci’s, work progresses s-l-o-w-l-y on Ignazio Pizza. That’s the 2nd location for the thin-crust pizzeria. The 1st is underneath the Brooklyn Bridge.

It’s a toss-up which place — the as-yet-unnamed retail/office/residential complex, or Ignazio Pizza — will open first.

Paul Newman Lives — At The Farmers’ Market

Westporters of a certain age remember Paul Newman as one of the most famous movie idols of the 20th century — and our neighbor.

The man. The legend. The US postage stamp.

Younger Westporters — and their counterparts all around the country — know him as a salad dressing, popcorn and lemonade guy.

Lost in all that is the fact in 2006 that Paul Newman — who, don’t forget, was also a race car driver, and the founder of the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp — teamed up with Michel Nischan to start The Dressing Room.

That superbly named restaurant next to the Westport Country Playhouse was Fairfield County’s first farm-to-table restaurant. And — thanks to the star power of its 2 owners — it helped kick-start a whole new way for local residents to look at food.

Here’s something else many folks don’t know (or forgot): The Playhouse parking lot was the original site of the Westport Farmers’ Market. The location was convenient and open. Both Newman and Nischan helped plant the seed, and watched it grow.

This September marks the 10th anniversary of Paul Newman’s death. To honor this remarkable man — one who during his 50 years gave tons of time, energy and money back to the town — the Farmers’ Market has created a special project with Newman’s Own. (The charitable foundation is one more of his legacies.)

Paul Newman often shopped at the Westport Farmer’s Market. He was a particular fan of the locally produced honey.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at this Thursday’s Farmers’ Market — and also on Thursday, August 16 — everyone is invited to share their memories of Paul Newman.

Newman’s Own will bring a life-sized cutout of their founder to the Market (now bigger than ever, at the Imperial Avenue parking lot). Video equipment will be on hand to record stories and tributes.

Clips may be shared by Newman’s Own Foundation, in a video and on social media.

Can’t make it to the market? Submissions can be emailed:

There must be a million Paul Newman stories in Westport. Let’s start those cameras rolling.

Traffic Tales: Back In The Day

The ongoing intense, important and interesting discussion about the future of the William F. Cribari Bridge — including effects on spillover traffic from I-95, particularly with tractor-trailers and other large vehicles — got me thinking.

The highway — then called the Connecticut Turnpike — sliced through Saugatuck in the 1950s, devastating that tight-knit, largely Italian neighborhood. Homes and businesses were demolished. Families were uprooted. Entire roads disappeared.

But for the rest of Westport, “the thruway” was a godsend. Post Road traffic had become almost unbearable. Trucks rumbled through day and night. Route 1 was the main — and really the only — direct route between New York and Boston.

Post Road, near the Riverside Avenue/Wilton Road intersection, a few years before I-95 was built. Fairfield Furniture is now National Hall.

I know this only because I have heard stories from people who lived here then. When my parents moved to Westport, the Turnpike was open. It was fresh, modern and new — a symbol of postwar modernity, heralding a very promising future.

What I do not know — and what many “06880” readers would like to hear — is what the Post Road was really like, in the years before I-95.

How bad was it? Did it affect parking, businesses, homes? How did people cope?

If you lived in Westport in the pre-thruway days, let us know. Click “Comments” below. Tell us what you remember. If you’ve got photos, send them along.

And if you’ve got any advice for the town and state, as we grapple once again with the future of Saugatuck, we’d love to hear it.

Calling All Young Shoots

The Westport Farmers’ Market celebrates creativity.

Every Thursday, the Imperial Avenue parking lot teems with vendors offering creative ways to prepare fresh food (and not just produce — there’s meat, baked goods and more). Musicians perform. It’s fun, funky and alive.

There’s a lot to do, and see. It’s a photographer’s paradise too.

Which is why I’m happy to promote one of the the Farmers’ Market’s more creative opportunities.

An annual contest highlights images taken all summer long. And it’s got an especially creative name: The Young Shoots Digital Photography Competition.

Get it?

“Towhead Tomatoes” — 2016 Fan Favorite winner, and 2nd place in 15-18 age group. (Photo/Margaret Kraus)

There are 3 age groups: 8-10 years old, 11-14 and 15-18. All photos must be taken somewhere on the Farmers’ Market premises. Submissions are due by August 25.

This is no rinky-dink affair. Jurors include Lillie Fortino, Westport Arts Center director of education; Stephanie Webster, editor-in-chief of CTBites; Eileen Sawyer, a photographer and member of the WFM board of directors, and Liz Rueven, founding editor

First-place winners in each category receive a $100 cash prize, and the chance to lead a food photo shoot with Bill Taibe (chef/owner of The Whelk, Ka Wa Ni and Jesup Hall). Second-place winners get $50.

Winners will also have their work shown in a gallery-like setting at Sugar & Olives (a favorite Farmers’ Market vendor).

Anastasia Davis won 1st place in 2016 in the 11-14 age group for this shot.

The public can also vote online for their favorite images. “Fan favorites” get a 1-year membership to the Westport Arts Center, and a Farmers’ Market t-shirt.

Click here for photo guidelines and submission info. Click here to see past submissions.

Then fire away!

“Starstem” by Calista Finkelstein placed 1st in 2016 in the 8-10 category.

Lending A Hand To Knock Down Playgrounds

Both Kings Highway and Saugatuck Elementary Schools lost their playgrounds last weekend.

It’s all good.

In preparation for new playgrounds — designed for social interaction and cooperative play, with interactive climbing blocks, slides, spinning elements, quiet areas and more — the schools partnered with Kids Around the World. The organization helps children and families affected by war, poverty, illness and natural disasters.

The old playgrounds will be donated to third world countries, where such things are luxuries.

On Saturday, kids and parents worked together to dismantle the playgrounds. The next days, pros did the heavy lifting.

It’s hard work getting rid of a playground.

At Kings Highway, Robbie Guimond — father of 2 students — brought plenty of equipment, and paid a crew himself, to do the excavation work.

Robbie’s other daughter is at Earthplace. He’s helping with the excavation of a new playground there too.

Robbie Guimond takes a brief break yesterday.

It takes a village — and a guy with excavating equipment — to get rid of a playground.

Soon, the village will enjoy brand new playgrounds.