Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Dedham home featured on National Solar Tour!

Public Invited to Visit 100% Solar Powered Home in Dedham

As part of the American Solar Energy Society’s Annual Solar Buildings Tour and with the support of regional affiliate the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association, Steve MacAusland will open his home to the public on Saturday, October 3.

The Address is: 121 Sandy Valley Road, Dedham, MA 02026

MacAusland has opened his doors to participants of the tour several times in the past. Recently, however, he has made good on his pledge to generate 100% of his electricity from the sun. To do so, he worked with Alteris Renewables to install photovoltaic panels on poles mounted behind his house.

“I intend never to pay another electricity bill,” says MacAusland. “The meter is running backward permanently.”

MacAusland has been working to reduce his heating bill as well. He has solar thermal tubes on his roof for domestic hot water, and he installed a fireplace insert last winter. Add to that two, sometimes as many as four hybrid vehicles in the driveway, and you begin to get the picture.

“My daughters and I want to be climate/carbon neutral. Nothing could be more important,” says MacAusland. “and to top it all off, this is an investment. We are saving money too.”

Contact: Steve MacAusland (781) 326-2368

Steve's century year old farmhouse in Dedham MA is carbon neutral

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Good news!! Dedham Receives $500,000 Grant for Installation of Solar Panels on Town Hall and Dept. of Public Works!

Thanks to Ginny et al. for making this happen!!! Dedham will look awesome with solar panels on these important buildings!


August 20, 2009 (617) 428-2007



Congressman Stephen F. Lynch announced that the U.S. House of Representatives has approved $500,000 in federal funding for solar photovoltaic (PV) technology for Dedham Town Hall and the Department of Public Works Building. The funding was included in the Energy and Water Appropriations Act for FY2010, the first step for securing federal funding for local projects.

The Municipal Solar Project is part of the Sustainable Dedham initiative and will cut Dedham’s operating costs while conserving energy. Solar PV technology at Town Hall could save the town $8,919 in the first year while offsetting 1,137 tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of planting 5,064 trees. Solar technology for the Department of Public Works Building could save the town $18,650 in the first year while offsetting 2,335 tons of carbon, the equivalent of planting 10,401 trees.

“Solar technology in Dedham will cut costs, create jobs and benefit our environment,” said Congressman Stephen F. Lynch. “This funding would give a real boost to Dedham’s renewable energy efforts.”

Earlier this year, at the request of the Town of Dedham, Congressman Lynch approached Democrat and Republican leaders on the House Appropriations Committee to formally request federal funding for the municipal solar project.

Dedham Town Administrator William Keegan said that the federal funding sought by Congressman Lynch is “an extraordinary step forward for Dedham. Dedham has already been recognized by the Commonwealth as a leader in renewable energy initiatives and this new funding could provide the Town some national recognition for its efforts.”

“I want to commend Congressman Lynch and the Sustainability Advisory Committee on their mutual commitment and effort for a greener community” stated Representative Paul McMurtry. “I am proud to represent a community that has taken a local, proactive approach to global environmental concerns”. McMurtry continued, “Receiving this funding would enable the committee to successfully achieve their goals.”

“We are excited that the work of Ginny LeClair together with Congressman Stephen Lynch and his staff will bring us much closer to getting the needed funds to create solar energy for Dedham and hopefully be a showcase for other multiplicities and businesses. As always, Congressman Lynch continues to help communities in his District receive grants,” said Jim MacDonald, Dedham Selectmen. “We will work with the Congressman and his staff as the funding bill moves along in the process.”

"By partnering with the federal government, small communities like Dedham can take the lead locally in linking clean energy with sustainable economic development and significantly be a model for small businesses who are also actively seeking to reduce energy costs,” Economic Development Director Karen O'Connell noted. “We're helping to send the message that environmentally friendly is also business friendly." She continued, “energy efficient improvements help both your bottom line and the environment with a range of options being available and economically viable.”

“This is a progressive step towards securing the Town’s energy independence and reducing harmful emissions caused by the burning of fossil fuels. By installing renewables on municipal buildings the Town is not only reducing its’ operating costs, but showing its commitment to creating a green, sustainable community,” said Virginia Le Clair, Environmental Coordinator for Dedham.

Future Site of Solar Panels!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Lyme disease on the rise

I pulled the first deer tick off my new puppy yesterday (ok, I made my dad do it). Our puppy's 6 weeks old and she's only been living in Dedham for about 5 days, with the majority of the time spent indoors. I'm crossing my fingers she won't get Lyme Disease. If she doesn't, she'll be luckier than our family friend who's recovering from her second severe attack of Lyme Disease (possibly from a tick off our cat) in the past two years, and my uncle (in Sherborn) who's been under the weather for nearly 4 years due to the disease.

Bites from a deer tick carrying Lyme Disease typically have a "bull's eye" look to them. Photo from

A severe tick-o-phobe myself, I check myself thoroughly after any extended time outside. But I don't check my animals all the time. The vet says we shouldn't put a tick collar on my cat in case he chews it off (as he has previously) and my puppy gets hold of it. Tick collars are actually pretty toxic. Who knew?

Ticks are a fact of life in Dedham, and always have been, but rampant Lyme Disease is not. Recently, the warmest winters on record have allowed more ticks to survive and reproduce for a longer period than normal, leading to a surge in Lyme Disease throughout the region.

According to the Patriot Ledger, in MA "The number of cases has more than doubled since 2001". The usual list of "maybes" accompanies this stat -- maybe we are better at recognizing it, maybe cases are being reported more frequently, etc. -- but nobody can deny that warmer winters mean more ticks. For the squeamish like me, that's bad enough.

More info on the subject:
PatriotLedger: Lyme Disease on the Rise in Massachusetts May, 2009
WickedLocal: Tick Bites Leading to Dramatic Rise of Lyme Disease in Brookline March, 2009
Boston Globe: Mild Winter Raises Lyme Disease Risk, Doctors Say (2006)
Dedham Veterinary Associates: What you Need to Know about Lyme Disease

Saturday, July 25, 2009

What's eating my potatoes and tomatoes?

Yesterday my uncle showed me a mysterious ailment affecting his tomato plants -- the leaves would sort of shrivel up and the whole plant would die. He'd asked around, but no one could explain it. Today, we had some ladies come over who tend to our garden as part of a community exchange program, and they took out a torch and started burning our potato plants.

What do we have? It's called "late blight", and it kills tomato and potato plants. It's the same disease that was responsible for the Irish Potato Famine in 1840.

Why do we have late blight?
The ladies explained that we always have late blight, but it usually lies dormant. This summer, being unusually cold, wet, and darker than most, has been a perfect opportunity for late blight (being something like a fungus) to rear its ugly head. And it has; of the farmers she knows across Massachusetts, all have crops affected by late blight.

What didn't help, they explained, was that the big box retailers all purchased infected plants this year from one mega-distributor in Alabama (Bonnie Plants), so if you bought your tomato plants from a Lowes, Home Depot, etc. you probably bought an infected plant.

They also said late blight can obliterate a fully healthy crop - not just a backyard garden, but an actual farmer's crop - in 3 days.

Since we were growing mainly potatoes for our local farmers market, its likely our whole garden will be destroyed. What was the one extra, special crop we were growing for ourselves? Tomatoes.

From our friend who runs the community exchange we're part of-

What you should do as a gardener:
Visit the following websites to get an idea of what to look for. The first is the Cornell plant disease website. It has good background information and photographs.

The second is the UMASS Vegetable site. It also has basic information and photographs, but it is updated regularly to reflect what's going on in Massachusetts. It also explains how to dispose of your diseased plants.

More news on the subject:
Boston Globe - There's a Tomato Fungus Among Us
WickedLocal - Across the Pond and Beyond: A blight on our tomatoes
NYTimes - Outbreak of Fungus Threatens Tomato Crop