Monday, May 10, 2021

Healthy Lawns and Yards for Healthy Communities

This is the time of year of beautiful warm weather, sunshine, opportunities to spend time outdoors … and little yellow signs. These little yellow signs announce the latest pesticide spraying, with a circle around images of adults, kids and pets, and a diagonal line through it indicating “off-limits.” They are cropping up on people’s lawns all around town, along with the beautiful blooming daffodils and crocuses. So what’s the big deal?

A uniform lush green lawn is a point of pride for many people, however these come with many costs, costs that really add up. Annually, lawns consume a lot of resources—nearly 3 trillion gallons of water, 200 million gallons of gas for mowing, and 70 million pounds of pesticides in the U.S. Many people don’t realize that lawns maintained with synthetic fertilizers and pesticides pose a serious health threat to people, pets and the environment. Lawns also decrease natural habitat vital to wildlife, and pesticides kill many of the insects that form the base of the food chain and include our essential pollinators. And the air pollution from gas powered lawnmowers also contributes to climate change.

Why Chem-Free?
Lawn care chemicals—applied by homeowners or lawn care companies—contain potent toxins that kill organisms considered pests, such as dandelions and beetle grubs. Scientific evidence shows that these chemicals also affect people, especially children, and pets. Exposure to certain lawn care pesticides has been associated with increased risks of a variety of serious health problems, including asthma, several types of child and adult cancers, as well as cancers in dogs.

The effects of harmful lawn care chemicals reach far beyond your family and yard. Lawn care chemicals make their way through the surrounding environment in rain runoff. This polluted runoff can flow into streams and seep into groundwater, degrading water quality and promoting growth of harmful, sometimes invasive, aquatic plants. Lawn care chemicals also move through the food chain, becoming more concentrated and harming wildlife. What’s more, using herbicides and pesticides to tackle weeds and insects can actually be counter-productive to your lawn’s health, because these poisons also kill beneficial organisms in the soil that help produce the nutrients plants need to grow. This weakens the grass, fosters thatch and encourages disease.

How to Have a Healthy Lawn and Yard
Fortunately, you can have an attractive and healthy lawn without using harmful synthetic chemicals. You can make simple changes to your lawn care routine, like mowing higher (3”), leaving your grass clippings on the lawn, using organic fertilizers, aerating to reduce soil compaction, and de-thatching, to make your lawn healthier and more vigorous naturally.

You can improve the health of you soil. Common weeds considered by many as pests are a sign that the soil is deficient in nutrients or unbalanced in some way, or very compacted or poorly drained. Instead of treating the symptoms using pesticides, it’s important to discover and treat the reason the pests are present, the underlying soil conditions. Soil testing is the first step to learning more about your soil’s health. You can have your soil tested for free by the CT Agricultural Experiment Station, and receive a report including recommended soil amendments to improve your lawn most effectively.

Take the pledge to go chem-free! Use safe alternatives to get rid of common pests if needed. You can pull out dandelions at their weakest—when blooming; eliminate crabgrass by mowing high and using organic fertilizers; treat weeds in driveways or sidewalk cracks with white vinegar; and control grubs with alternatives like beneficial nematodes or Neem.

You can also reduce the size of your lawn by growing a variety of other plants to promote a healthy, diverse ecosystem in your yard. Grass requires a lot of sun, water and good soil—it is one of the highest maintenance plants we can grow. Instead, plant groupings of native trees, shrubs, grasses and flowers that are compatible with our climate and environmental conditions; use ground covers that require less maintenance than grass like the native Pennsylvania sedge; choose plants that support our local pollinators, including butterflies and bees; or grow edibles or plant a vegetable garden! You may find that you are saving yourself a lot of money and a fair amount of work as well.

A lush low-maintenance lawn planted with fine fescue
by local gardening expert Tom Christopher
(photo: Suzanne O'Connell)

Low maintenance grasses are another option, according to local gardening expert Tom Christopher. These include the fine fescues, planted as a blend of several different types, which can thrive with little to no watering, only need mowing once a month or less, and do well in full sun or partial shade. Check out his Growing Greener podcasts, some of which address sustainable and organic lawns.

What More Can You Do?
Are you concerned about others who use lawn care chemicals in your neighborhood or community? You can register with the state to get advance warning of nearby commercial pesticide spraying at the pesticide pre-notification registry. You can also talk to neighbors and friends about the harmful effects of using pesticides—both on private property and in public areas like playing fields.

Together, by changing our behavior and helping spread the word, we can make our yards, streams, and local environment better.

Middletown’s Project Green Lawn Campaign

Environmental advocates got together with City staff and commissions in 2006 to start Project Green Lawn, an initiative to encourage residents and businesses to maintain healthy lawns free of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. This public awareness campaign was a collaboration between the Public Works Department, Resource Recycling Advisory Commission and Commission on Conservation and Agriculture, with support and assistance from the Connecticut River Coastal Conservation District and the Jonah Center, and grants from The Rockfall Foundation, Middletown, CT, and New England Grassroots Environment Fund. The centerpiece of the campaign is an educational brochure, which can be downloaded from the City website. Some of the information in the brochure is summarized in this article. If you are interested in obtaining copies of the brochure to distribute in the community to help inform others, please contact Kim O’Rourke, City of Middletown Recycling Coordinator,

Here are a few good resources for organic lawn care, diversifying habitat in your yard, and reducing the size of your lawn: 

The Organic Lawn Care Manual, by Paul Tukey
Grassroots Environmental Education
Beyond Pesticides Lawns and Landscapes (numerous fact sheets available)
NOFA Organic Landcare Program (homeowner resources)
USDA “Backyard Conservation” booklet and tip sheets
National Wildlife Federation Backyard Wildlife Habitat program

Jane Brawerman is a member of the Middletown Commission on Conservation and Agriculture and Executive Director of the Connecticut River Coastal Conservation District, based in Middletown. A version of this article was first published in 2007 in the Connecticut River Coastal Conservation District newsletter.


ZOOM Genealogy Club Meeting – May 15, 2021 @ 11:30 AM (EDT)

Topic:  The Real Life of Vital Records

Presenter:  Diane MacLean Boumenot

Understanding when, where and why vital records were created, and the changes in those practices over the years, can help us find them today.  What additional abstracts have been created for the southern New England states?  What forms of these records are available online?  What kind of records might take the place of a vital record?  Improve your family history research today by maximizing your ability to locate the records that tie generations together.

Please register by 4:00 pm Friday, May 14.

GML Premium Godfrey Scholar members can register for free at the following email:

If you are not a GML Premium Godfrey Scholar member and want to view the presentation, you can pay $10 via PayPal at the following web address:   Then register at the email above.

Westfield Fire District Elections and Budget Vote Tuesday

Residents of the Westfield Fire District will vote on commissioners and a budget on Tuesday, May 11th. Voting is from noon to 8PM, at the Westfield Fire Department, 653 East Street.

The following people are on the ballot for Commissioner- 

  • E. Gregory Amy
  • Nicole Carlone
  • Matthew Lockwood
  • F. John Passacantando
  • David J. Peterson
  • Christian Plummer
  • Brian White

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Oddfellows Playhouse presents Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992


Oddfellows Playhouse is bringing in-person theater back to central Connecticut! Get tickets here.

The Teen Repertory Company will be performing Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992, by Anna Deavere Smith

Twilight is a powerful piece of documentary theater exploring the riots following the acquittal of the police officers charged in the beating of Rodney King. Originally performed as a one-woman show by author Deavere-Smith, the play features over 20 characters representing many perspectives on the incident - including Rodney King’s aunt, Korean grocery store owners, LA Police Chief Daryl Gates, gang members, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, truck driver Reginald Denny, the leader of the Black Panther Party, and others. The play remains relevant today -- the two weekend run will coincide with the one year anniversary of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Oddfellows Executive Artistic Director Dic Wheeler, who is directing the production, says “This has been an amazing piece to work on right now, especially with our very diverse cast and production team. Watching the trial of Derek Chauvin unfold while immersing ourselves in the story of Rodney King has been powerful and painful for everyone; we’re all in the journey, and we’re aiming to bring ourselves and the audience to a place of Hope and Justice at this moment in history”.

Choreography for the production is by Felicia Goodwine; Vocal Director/Assistant Director is Diamond Wynn; Costume Designer is Vijor McCray; Properties Designer Pamela Lang; Sound Designer Rowan Trowbridge-Wheeler; Stage Manager Jen Rankin; and Sound Engineering by Thunder and Lighting.

Tickets for this production are $15 for adults and $8 for students. “Big Heart” tickets for $25 are available for anyone wanting to support Oddfellows’ work with young people, the arts and social justice.

Dates: May 20th - 22nd & May 28th -29th

Time: 6 pm - 745 pm

Location: Salvation Army's Rear Parking lot, 515 Main St, Middletown, CT

Get your tickets today!

***The production contains mature material and strong language and is not recommended for small children.

Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 is made possible thanks to a generous grant from the Community Foundation of Middlesex County. Additional support is provided by the Middletown Commission on the Arts; Connecticut Office of the Arts/DECD; The Fund for Greater Hartford; American Savings Foundation; State of Connecticut Judicial Branch (Youth Violence Prevention); Middletown Youth Services Bureau; Maximilian E. & Marion O. Hoffman Foundation; Thomas J. Atkins Memorial Trust Fund; Middlesex United Way; CHEFA Cultural Relief Grant; New England Foundation for the Arts/New England Arts Resilience Fund; George & Grace Long Foundation; and many generous individual donors.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Rockfall Foundation Awards Scholarship to Joseph Bradley of Old Saybrook

The Rockfall Foundation has selected Joseph Bradley of Old Saybrook High School as recipient of the 2021 Virginia R. Rollefson Environmental Leadership Scholarship. 

Bradley’s leadership was demonstrated by his successful efforts to create and lead the Coastal Cleanup Coalition, a group of 20 regular volunteers who pick up trash around Old Saybrook with a mission of preserving Old Saybrook’s coastal wildlife and ecosystems. Bradley first started his project picking up trash alone a few days a week. 

Just a week before he intended to get a widespread initiative underway, COVID-19 restrictions were implemented and OSHS was quarantined. Bradley used this time wisely: working independently, he was able to figure out the best places in town to clean and began to understand the patterns of where trash would accumulate in town. Once restrictions lifted, Bradley used the resources available to him as President of the OSHS Ecology Club and as student liaison to the Conservation Commission of Old Saybrook to spread the word about his new initiative. Soon, he had over 20 students and adults participating in the effort. Now, Bradley has a dedicated group of volunteers that he can rely on when he organizes a cleanup. He is encouraged by their enthusiasm, and believes that his generation will be the one to pioneer environmental reform.

Bradley will attend Harvard University in the fall, and plans to pursue a dual concentration in physics & astrophysics with a secondary in environmental science.

The Rockfall Foundation supports environmental education, conservation and planning initiatives in the Lower Connecticut River Valley through public programs and grants. Founded in 1935, the Foundation is celebrating its 86th anniversary in 2021. As one of Connecticut’s oldest environmental organizations, it continues its mission set by founding philanthropist Colonel Clarence S. Wadsworth. The Rockfall Foundation also operates the historic deKoven House Community Center that offers meeting and event room rentals and office space for non-profit organizations. For additional information about the Virginia R. Rollefson Environmental Leadership Scholarship or The Rockfall Foundation, please visit

From Tight Hips to "Snake Hips" in 4 Minutes*

Worth a Try: Exercise
for Easing Hip & Leg Pain

If you are of a certain age and have spent much of your working life at a desk, chances are you'll eventually experience tight hips, with symptoms of tightness or pain, a change in your gait (the way you walk) or both. And frustration because you don't know know why this happened or how to fix it.

Resolution for hip & leg pain may be less complicated than you think. My recent discovery and practice of targeted exercise videos on youtube (Silver Sneakers & others) has resulted in an apparent complete recovery from what seemed on its way to debilitating pain in legs and hips. I also have an inclination to spread the good word of something that might help.** 

Try these
4-Min Stretch Routine for Hip Mobility  

Lower Body Workout for Active Exercisers**

About Tight Hips (from What does it mean to have tight hips? A feeling of tightness across the hips comes from tension around the hip flexors. The hip flexors are a group of muscles around the top of the thighs that connect the upper leg to the hip. These muscles allow you to bend at the waist and raise your leg. (Some of the main hip flexors are the Iliopsoas, rectus femoris, tensor fasciae latae, sartorius.)

Many people have tight hips, including both people who spend several hours a day sitting as well as regular gym-goers and professional athletes. Some people are more prone to tightness in that area of their body, too. Tight hips may put you at increased risk for injury due to the increased demands on tissues that aren’t moving properly. Before going to a physical therapist or doctor for treatment, try some of these exercises and see how you respond. Practice slowly and carefully at first, and see your doctor if you feel a need for reassurance.

More advanced stretches**
7 Stretches to loosen up tight hips

 *If you've found relief with these moves, stay tuned for a set of 6-minute
exercises next week. Some will likely be from Silver Sneakers (SS) selections. If
you have SS with your insurance plan, take a look & see if you can log in to get
started at

*Snake Hips Tucker
(1920s-30s dancer)

Earl 'snake Hips' Tucker (1905-1937)

Monday, April 26, 2021

Happy Arbor Day Middletown, April 30th! Arbor Day Celebration At Middlesex County Historical Society on Friday, 4-30-21 At 2 P.M.



Happy Arbor Day, Friday, April 30th!


What is Arbor Day and how did it start?


"Its purpose is to encourage people to plant trees, and many communities traditionally take the opportunity to organize tree-planting and litter-collecting events on or around the holiday," according to the Old Farmer's Almanac article "Arbor Day 2021: Learn Why We Celebrate Arbor Day-And Plant A Tree!


How did Arbor Day begin? It came about through Nebraska resident Julius Sterling Morton. After he was married, he moved to Nebraska with his wife where they bought 160 acres of treeless farmland and made it their home. There he planted thousands of trees such as an apple orchard, peach, plum, pear, and more noted the Old Farmer's Almanac's article. 


Morton was an American politician and journalist. As Editor of the Nebraska City News, he wrote articles about agriculture and he urged his readers to plant trees. Morton believed that trees had a purpose such as effective windbreaks, protects crops from erosion and overexposure to the sun, according to's article "Arbor Day."


Morton wrote "Other holidays repose upon the past; Arbor Day proposes for the future."


April 10, 1872 was when the first Arbor Day was celebrated in Nebraska. In 1885, Arbor Day became a legal holiday in Nebraska. Twenty years later Arbor Day was recognized in every state except Delaware which eventually celebrated Arbor Day. In 1970, President Richard Nixon recognized Arbor Day nationally & declared the last Friday in April will be Arbor Day. 


Birdsey Grant Northrop of Connecticut was also an advocate for trees and Arbor Day. His contributions were the involvement of school children in this event and he also turned Arbor Day into a ceremonial event "...that laid the foundation of this now well-established tradition," according to the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection website. Mr. Northrop was the Secretary for the Connecticut Board of Education.  He went to Europe to study schools. As a result of this trip, he wrote a report in 1879 "Forestry In Europe" which the Connecticut State Board of Agriculture took note of. Due to this report the Board of Agriculture "...requested an investigation and report on promoting forestry in Connecticut. As a result of this investigation, the State Legislature declared in 1886 that "The Governor shall annually, in the spring, designate by official proclamation an Arbor Day, to be observed in the schools and for economic tree planting," according to the CT DEEP website. 


The first Arbor Day in Connecticut was on April 29, 1887. Connecticut held Arbor Day festivities every year since then and occurred between the first week of April & the second week of May noted the CT DEEP website. But when President Nixon formally declared that Arbor Day Celebrations be held the last Friday in April Connecticut followed his lead according to the CT DEEP website.


The City of Middletown Urban Forestry Commission will be presenting a program on Arbor Day, on Friday, April 30th at the Middlesex County Historical Society at 151 Main Street in Middletown at 2 p.m. Mayor Benjamin Florsheim will issue an Arbor Day Proclamation. There will be a Tree Dedication ceremony for Middletown's Connecticut Legislative Delegation which includes Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz, State Senator Matthew Lesser, State Representative Brandon Chafee, State Representative Quentin Phipps, former State Representative Joseph Serra & Executive Director for the Jonah Center John Hall. Jane Harris, the Chairperson of the Urban Forestry Commission and Jesse Nasta, the Executive Director of the Middlesex County Historical Society will also speak. 


Middletown will be receiving a "Tree City USA" award for the 31st year from the National Arbor Day Foundation and it will be presented by Ms. Danica Doroski, the Urban Forestry Coordinator from the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. 


If you attend this event, please enter through the Spear Park gate to access the back-lawn area. Most importantly please wear a mask and follow the social distancing guidelines by remaining six feet apart. Please continue to do your part to help flatten the curve due to the COVID-19 pandemic and if you have not done so already please get vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus.


For more information about the Arbor Day event in Middletown please call 860-638-3500 ext. 3506.  For more information about Arbor Day please see the following websites:


Again, Happy Arbor Day!

Enjoy the videos.





Friday, April 23, 2021

President Biden's First Speech Before Congress On Wednesday, April 28, 2021 At 9 P.M.




According to Article II Section 3 of the United States Constitution regarding the executive branch and the duties of the President it states, "He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient...." 


President Joe Biden accepted U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's invitation to speak before a joint session of Congress on April 28th. According to CBS News the President’s first joint meeting before Congress is "...not an official State of the Union….” The President's first speech before Congress is an opportunity for new presidents to lay out their goals of their new administration and the country according to CBS News.  President Biden’s first speech before Congress comes two days before the end of his first 100 days in office.  


President Joseph R. Biden’s speech will be broadcast on most of the four major commercial television networks, Public Broadcasting & C-SPAN along with the various cable news channels plus radio stations and YouTube. President Biden's speech will air at 9 p.m. according to &


South Carolina Senator Tim Scott will deliver the GOP's rebuttal to President Biden's State of the Union speech next Wednesday.


For more information about the State of the Union speech please see the following websites:


Enjoy the videos.




The Middlesex Community College Foundation invites you to participate in the GRAD DASH, a 5K/10K run/walk with a virtual* option. The event takes place on Saturday, May 15, along the beautiful tree-lined roads near the campus, located at 100 Training Hill Road in Middletown. In-person start times will stagger to maintain social distancing and will follow the the state's COVID-19 guidelines. Taking part in the Grad Dash helps the MxCC Foundation support students with scholarships and more.


Entry Fees

5K Run • $25

10K Run • $35

Student Rate • $20 (5K or 10K run/walk)

Walk/Virtual Run* • $25*
*For the virtual option, you can choose to run/walk the course anytime between May 14–17, but results will not be part of final scoring. Be included by posting #runyourwaymxcc on Instagram and Facebook.

Medals will be awarded to overall champions (M, F, and Nonbinary) and top finishers in each division. Winners to be announced online following the event.

Questions? Send an email or call 860-343-5886.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021




On Earth Day Eve, Tonight 4-21-21 at 8:30 p.m. eastern time there will be a live concert/virtual celebration streamed on the National Geographic website and YouTube channel. Here are the links.


Enjoy the video.




Monday, April 19, 2021



In Celebration of Earth Week 2021, you can make choices that are good for your health and the planet! Choosing a healthy and environmentally sustainable diet is the most powerful thing the average person can do to have a positive impact on the environment.

A few easy choices you can make are to eat foods that are: 1) in season and grown locally; 2) grown without the use of synthetic pesticides or fertilizers; and 3) ethically raised animal products that enable animals to graze freely on open pastures.

 Healthy PlanEat works with farms that use sustainable growing practices so you can support sustainable growing practices that replenish the soil, promote biodiversity, and fight climate change at every meal!

 Place your order by this Thursday, April 22nd (Earth Day) at 11 pm for pick up on Saturday, April 24th from 1 - 2 pm on the South Green.

 Items are in limited supply. Please pre-order early here:

 If you'd like to learn more about healthy and sustainable diets, explore the Planetary Health Diet developed by the EAT Lancet Commission.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Earth Day Talk and Discussion Thursday, Earth Day

The United States has rejoined the Paris Agreement.  The Keystone XL pipeline has been canceled.  Proposed legislation would spend billions on infrastructure to support the energy transition.  Here in Connecticut, Governor Lamont's executive orders and Middletown's Climate Emergency Declaration are indications of seriousness.  Finally things are turning around.  Not a minute too soon: 2020 was tied for the warmest year in history.

It is difficult to know where this is all headed, but it is not hard to see that even these laudable and fairly dramatic steps, even if undertaken throughout society, will not by themselves put us on a path that avoids the worst impacts climate has on offer.  Please join me at noon on Earth Day for a discussion of where we are, and what it is necessary to do now to mitigate these impacts.  (Hint: it's a lot....). The title is "Last Call", and you can access it via Zoom (live at 11:50 a.m.)

If everything works, there will be a recording.  If so, I will post it here for those who cannot participate in the live event.