Thoughts in Transit

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Seeds of Promise

As snowflakes fall on our towns and days and nights alike are cold and dreary, perfect pick-me-ups get delivered to our mailboxes. Of course there are the holiday greetings, the cards and notes that offer good wishes for the season and the new year and, sometimes, updates on the “news” from distant family and friends. But frequently wrapped around a bundle of cards, and bills, are plant and seed catalogues, which offer other new promises for the upcoming year.
In our family, my husband is the gardener, although I’m a dab hand at pruning (hmnn, editor=pruner) and at arranging cut flowers and greens.
Last year, he was inspired to grow potatoes, under mounds of straw, and watched that patch of his garden more than his usual vegetable plantings. Something was definitely happening under all that straw, and as it turned out he wasn’t the only one watching the sprouted eye sections take root and form new growth. We never saw what reaped the rewards of his attention, but something(s) enjoyed his efforts.
This year, who knows what will catch his interest, but the catalogues are moving around the house, from kitchen to dining room to study, wherever he is reading at the moment.
An announcement to go into the paper from the Brookfield Lions brought the subject to mind. The Lions Club is currently accepting renewal and new applications for its Community Garden, a major project it sponsors that is located at the Gurski Farm on Route 133. The success of this venture markedly increases from year to year, with the available plots being snatched up and a waiting list swelling. As a result, there will be 70 individual garden plots for the 2011 season, which will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information, and an application, visit online at or call Dave Keefe at 203-775-3876 or Dick Cronin at 203-512-1881.
Mr. Cronin has been providing the updates each year, and he also shares how the garden came to be. The community project was the brainchild of Mr. Keefe, who recognized its broad potential, particularly since gardening attracts people from many different backgrounds and ages.
The stamp of approval came from all the necessary municipal boards and commissions, and then the club members got digging. Not only did they cultivate the land that would be planted (initially, 35 plots—some of the them suitable for “organic” gardening), construct a tool shed and establish a water source, but they also developed the administrative procedures that would be necessary for efficient management and sought donations from area businesses and experienced help, particularly an on-site monitor.
The Gurski Farm is a prime location. The town-owned property was once home to a dairy farm and was also used for growing crows as well as tobacco (way back when).
For those who have been making their own seasonal imprint on the land, it’s a reward for patience, perspiration and hope. For those who want a plot of their own to work, it has the potential to inspire.
Another Brookfield project is nudging me to take action. On my New Year’s resolution list is to follow Master Gardener Lorraine Ballato’s advice on how to get great results easily from container gardening. The Brookfield resident’s book “Successful Self-Watering Containers: Converting Your Favorite Container to a Self-Waterer” (available on, or just ask her where else) is the fruit of her ambition one dreary winter season past.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Following the Flakes

“Don't knock the weather. If it didn't change once in a while, nine out of ten people couldn't start a conversation.”
The late, great Will Rogers, the popularly beloved cowboy humorist-philosopher several generations back, remains eminently quotable today, but he didn’t make this pithy observation. The one who nailed this social ice-breaker (pardon the pun) was the man Rogers reportedly called “America’s greatest humorist,” Frank McKinney (“Kin”) Hubbard, a cartoonist, journalist and, yes, humorist.
How right was Kin? Think back to how your day started today and judge for yourself!
Coming into work this morning, I bypassed the Morris-Washington route for a Woodbury-Roxbury-Bridgewater run after Channel 3 reported 4 inches of snow in Washington. Who knew in my hometown (Watertown), but those in the Region 12 school district towns did as school openings were delayed.
Online this week is Max Wittstein’s story on just that topic: School districts’ ongoing dilemma of when to call in a closing or delay (see "Weather -- Whether ..." in the "Community" section).
The Public Works (or Highway) Department in area towns has a big challenge, too: When and where to get the trucks rolling.
Mike Zarba, New Milford’s PW director, took a few minutes from his busy morning to share what “typically” and not so typically takes place in the largest town in the state in terms of land area (approximately 62 square miles).
Here’s what I learned.
Yes, “We had all crews out early this morning,” Mr. Zarba said.
Yes, Washington may have had 4 inches of snowfall, but the “heights” on the eastern side of New Milford did too—“some 3 to 4 inches,” he said, which is both typical and not.
“Typically, there’s more precipitation there—Ridge Road area, Dorwin Hill, Second Hill, even Hickok Cross roads—because it’s higher,” the PW director said.
Not so typically, he added, “”We don’t get a lot of residual lake storm effect, coming from the north and heading almost southeast,” referring to the weather pattern that came in early today in from the Great Lakes—the band slicing across states shown on TV.
“Typically, the storms come from the west or southwest,” Mr. Zarba said.
Where the “weather” is generally expected to hit, when heavy conditions are forecast, are other high points—Long Mountain and Merryall areas, Geiger Road and “off [Route] 37,” up where he lives.
Today’s early morning snowfall was, for most people in the area, the first of the coldest season, but I spied big flakes hitting my windshield driving home from New Milford late last Wednesday night. Where? Up Route 317 from the crest of the hill above Maple Bank Farm toward the Roxbury-Woodbury town line, by the airplane hangar.
“Yep, it’s always there,” when the weather hits, confirmed Roxbury First Selectman Barbara Henry. “But we had it all over today, and our crews were out early, at 4, putting magic salt on the roads.”
“This is just the beginning,” said the Mallory Road resident, who shared that she usually “sees a lot” in her neck of the woods.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Averting Tragedy

The death of a “hero” dog named Target last month drew a lot of public attention, ranging from head-shaking to anger.
Target, who was one of several dogs who foiled a suicide bomber’s attack on an American military barracks in Afghanistan, was enjoying a peaceful life in Arizona with the family of an Army medic who had adopted her. But she escaped from the family’s yard on a Friday and was dead by Monday morning, reportedly euthanized by mistake by an employee at the animal shelter where she had been taken. The employee picked the wrong dog to be put to sleep—it was a mistake, a spokesperson for the facility reportedly said. Although Target was not wearing a license, her owner reportedly saw her photo online Friday and paid the recovery fee electronically, thinking that the facility was closed for the weekend.
Given the widespread outrage following the national media coverage of the incident, this seems like an opportune time to remind dog owners to make sure their pets wear a license tag and, even better, a microchip to aid in their being reunited following an unwanted separation.
Here’s what happens when stray dogs are found in our area and taken to the local pound in New Milford.
If an animal is wearing a license, the dog owner will be contacted, according to Brett Brissett, an assistant to the animal control officer. If not, an advertisement will appear for a day in the area daily newspaper (The News-Times) with a description of the animal and where it was found. If no one comes to claim it after seven days, it will likely go to the Animal Welfare Society, a no-kill organization that serves the towns of Bridgewater, Brookfield, New Milford, Roxbury and Washington.
Only under some particular circumstances, such as “quarantine” or a “dire emergency,” for example, are cats are taken in at the pound, she said.
An animal is “generally not” put down after being taken to the pound, unless it is “very aggressive” and “cannot be trained out of it,” she said.
The local pound does not do adoptions, but Animal Welfare remains committed to aid the homeless dogs and cats—through adoptions, foster care and even a continuing home under its own roof for those that cannot be placed.
In its November newsletter, Animal Welfare noted that for the first time in its history it had more than 100 cats, after 52 were found overrunning a home in the area. And 14 Shar Pei dogs came in from another residence. Swelling numbers indeed.
The staff and volunteers at Animal Welfare do everything they can to address both the ordinary and extraordinary challenges that present themselves. They can’t do it, however, without the help of the communities the organization serves.
“It costs us more than $25,000 a month to run this shelter,” said Tracy Miltner, the organization’s president, in the newsletter. That care includes veterinary attention as well as the ordinary supplies needed for anyone’s pet.
There are many ways to help: from donations of money and supplies to a workplace matching donation program to a trust established through estate planning. Volunteers are always welcome, too. In addition, the annual membership fee is modest, just $20.
To find out more about Animal Welfare Society, visit online at or call 860-354-1350.
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Location: New Milford, Connecticut, United States

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