Blog :: 04-2015

Welcome to our blog! Here you will find posts about can't miss properties, local events, and more! Here at Maple and Main Realty we pride ourselves on our knowledge of the Northampton area. Feel free to leave a comment, we would love to hear from you! If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact us

New Home for the Hitchcock Center for the Environment!

Great news for Northampton and Amherst area residents!  The Hitchcock Center for the Environment will be breaking ground on the construction of their new, uber-energy efficient building on the campus of Hampshire College on May 1st.  The new building will have all the green construction bells and whistles you would expect: roof-mounted solar panels, rain collection barrels, composting toilets and a naturally ventilated structure.  The construction of the building will follow the strict mandates of the Living Building Challenge, defined as "a building certification program, advocacy tool and philosophy that defines the most advanced measure of sustainability in the built environment possible today and acts to rapidly diminish the gap between the current limits and the end-game positive solutions we seek.

The Hitchcock Center strives to connect people with nature and the environment with it's educational programs.  It seems that housing the organization in a new home which also ties people back to nature makes good sense.  It will be exciting to see the building in it's completion this fall.  Read on for the full article published in the Daily Hampshire Gazette on April 22nd, 2015

 

The Red Barn at Hampshire College, near where the new Hitchcock Center will be built

 

Construction of new Hitchcock Center for Environment building will begin with groundbreaking May 1

The 9,000-square-foot building is expected to be New England’s first public environmental education facility to meet various standards under the Living Building Challenge, which mandates energy and water self-sufficiency and use of green materials, and will be large enough to accommodate the 11,500 children and adults participating in its environmental programs by 2020.

The building will go up in a hay field between the Red Barn and the Hampshire College Farm Center. The Hitchcock Center and college agreed to a 95-year ground lease April 17 on the land. The building should be complete and ready for programs in the fall of 2016.

Julie Johnson, executive director of the Hitchcock Center, said it is committed to the philosophy of the Living Building Challenge as part of its educational mission.

“The process will transform how we think about design and construction as an opportunity to benefit both the environment and community life,” Johnson said.

The building will include natural ventilation, roof-mounted solar panels, rainwater collection barrels and compostable toilets.

Speakers at the ceremony, scheduled to start at 4:30 p.m., are expected to include state Senate President Stanley Rosenberg and Rep. Ellen Story, both of Amherst; Dan Burgess, acting commissioner of the state Department of Energy Resources; and Hampshire College President Jonathan Lash.

Founded in 1962, the Hitchcock Center fosters awareness and understanding of the environment through its programs, many aimed at children. At the new site, existing programs will be strengthened and new ones added using both the building and the surrounding landscapes, where the center will have access to miles of trails and a variety of ecological habitats.

The new location is 2.5 miles south of the renovated carriage house at the Larch Hill Conservation Area on South Pleasant Street. This town-owned building is too small for the growing number of participants and there is little opportunity to expand on that site due to wetlands and other issues.

What the future holds for the current building, which Hitchcock has used for more than 40 years, is unknown. Johnson said the center has a lease with the town through 2020 and is discussing with town officials how Hitchcock might use the building for the remaining five years of its lease.

Assistant Town Manager David Ziomek said the conservation restriction on the 25-acre Larch Hill property explicitly states that as long as the building remains on site, it is to be used for environmental education and similar outreach purposes.

He anticipates the building will remain useful, perhaps as a satellite teaching facility for Hitchcock.

“We’ll continue to have those conversations with Hitchcock to see where that goes,” Ziomek said.

The land, which is bordered on two sides by preserved farmland, will remain protected and the trails that extend through it will remain open, as they are today, to the public from dawn to dusk, 365 days a year, Ziomek said.

The groundbreaking for the new Hitchcock Center site will also start the public phase of the capital campaign, which has already raised $4.5 million through support from the Kendeda Fund, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund, and local individuals, foundations and businesses.

Parking for the groundbreaking will be at the Red Barn.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.

 

Spring Clean Up!

The snow has finally melted in our yard!  I am amazed that the piles of leaves which I didn't manage to clear out in the fall have been perfectly preserved underneath the snow.  In my fantasies, they had broken down and disappered during the long, cold winter.  Alas, I still have some spring (formerly fall) clean up to accomplish.  I thought I had left behind the motto of my 20's - "why do today what you can put off until tomorrow".  but apparently, old habits die hard.  

Every year, as spring unfolds, I have big ideas about all the yard work and landscaping I want to accomplish.  I recently came across this wonderful landscaping/gardening blog away to garden.  This particular piece gives great advice about tackling spring clean up, and prepping your yard for the spring planting season.  There are a step-by-step instructions about which tasks to tackle first, so as not to get overwhelmed.  Living in the Northampton area, we have a lot of spring and fall clean up to attend do, due to the many varieties of deciduous trees specific to the area.  So unless you plan to hire one of the many landscaping outfits in the Pioneer Valley to do your clean up and landscaping/gardening for you - check out this helpful blog post.

 

photo credit: awaytogarden.com

Ban the Plastic Bag!

On this cold and rainy/sleety spring day (I use the term "spring" loosely) I am contemplating an article in the Daily Hampshire Gazette this week about the potential ban of single use plastic bags in the city of Northampton, MA. Though our city is a progressive community, it is interesting how long it takes to effect a simple change that would have a positive effect on the environment if it were implemented.  Perhaps it would also help bolster the implementation of similar changes in other cities and states in our country (leading by example).  Many of us have already gotten into the habit of bringing our own bags into stores when we shop.  Businesses such as Serios in downtown Northampton (and River Valley Market) have stopped using plastic bags of their own volition - Serio's even has reusable bags on hand to borrow if need be.  The following article points out that entire countries (Italy and Bangladesh) and the state of California have already instituted such bans.   Below is a photo which illustrates what 18,000+ plastic bags looks like, put together by the students of Northampton schools.  At present, Northampton uses about 10 million plastic bags per year alone! Hopefully, Mayor David Narkewicz and the City Council will approve the ban and have it take effect imminently. 

Northampton officials hear pros, cons on plastic bag ban

  • GENA MANGIARATTI A ball of more than 18,000 plastic bags tied and rolled together by students in Northampton schools.

    GENA MANGIARATTI A ball of more than 18,000 plastic bags tied and rolled together by students in Northampton schools.

NORTHAMPTON — Though many residents are in favor of a proposed ban on single-use plastic bags in Northampton, some business owners have hesitations about its impact on retailers.

“Your ideas are very admirable, but I think you need to step back and look at the timing,” said Steve Elkins of Deerfield, who owns WEBS Yarn Store on Service Center Road.

He explained that many businesses might still be absorbing costs of other recent measures, such as the city stormwater fee and the state’s mandatory paid sick leave.

Elkins was among some 20 Valley residents who turned out to a public hearing Tuesday night on proposed changes to the city code that would ban the use of most plastic bags starting Jan. 1, 2016. The hearing was hosted by the City Council and the Committee on Economic & Community Development, Housing and Land Use in an effort to gather public opinion on the idea.

Elkins noted that his store would not be affected by a plastic bag ban, but he said he is concerned for those who would be. He suggested that the city hold off for another year before issuing the ban.

“You can’t keep lumping costs onto businesses and expect them to be here,” he said after the meeting.

The changes to the city code would ban supermarkets and other retail stores from using plastic bags that are 1.5 thousandth of an inch or thinner, making them suitable only for a single use. The proposed changes also state that these establishments should use only bags that are biodegradable, thick enough to be reused, or that can be composted.

Thin plastic bags used to contain dry cleaning, newspapers, produce, meat and bulk foods, as well as plastic coverings for many foods, are exempt from the ban.

If the ban is approved, Northampton would follow in the footsteps of Newburyport, Cambridge, Newton, Brookline, the state of California, and countries including Italy and Bangladesh that have already implemented bans on plastic bags.

Last summer, a proposal to ban plastic bags throughout Massachusetts stalled in the Legislature. But locally, businesses including Serio’s Market and River Valley Market have already stopped issuing plastic bags.

Councilor Jesse Adams, who is recommending the ban in Northampton, said he believes it would get businesses ahead of the curve should the statewide ban be implemented in the future.

Acme Surplus owner Mark Rosenzweig of Williamsburg said he is concerned that the ban could send shoppers to other communities to do their shopping.

“It’s a difficult retail environment,” he told the committee.

But several individuals expressed their support for the ban Tuesday.

Jessica Gifford of Grove Street said she does not believe people will leave the city for conveniences such as not being charged for forgetting their reusable bags.

“I’m really happy that this is hopefully happening,” Gifford said. “I believe if entire countries can do this, then we can do this.” 

According to a display outside of City Council Chambers, the city still uses about 10 million plastic bags a year — and the point was well illustrated with a giant ball of 18,079 bags collected, rolled and tied together by students in Northampton schools.

City Councilor Paul Spector, who is recommending the ban along with Adams, said the ball was so heavy that Council President Bill Dwight was unable to lift it.

Jessica Tanner, of West Street, expressed concern regarding the allowed thickness of the plastic bags. In other communities with plastic bag bans, she said bag manufacturers have found a way around it by producing bags that are thicker, but still only intended for one use.

“I urge the Northampton City Council to adopt a ban without loopholes,” she said.

The proposed ordinance allows businesses that can show economic hardship to defer compliance with the ban for up to three six-month-periods. Tanner suggested that this be reduced to one six-month-period.

Tanner also read a statement on behalf of Hollis Wheeler, of Denise Court, urging the city to allow no plastic bags thinner than five thousandths of an inch.

Tina Ingmann, of Park Hill Road in Florence, also spoke in favor of the ban.

“At this juncture of humanity, you have to move beyond what’s convenient,” she said.

The proposed ban will need approval from City Council and Mayor David Narkewicz before taking effect.

Gena Mangiaratti can be reached at gmangiaratti@gazettenet.com.

Maple Sugar Season Snafu!

One of the perks of living in Northampton and the Pioneer Valley, is the celebration of winter's end and spring's beginning that is earmarked, in part, by maple sugar season. This provides us Western MA folk with a post ski-season excuse to spend a weekend day driving through the picturesque Hilltowns to have pancakes and homemade maple syrup at one of the many sugarhouses which pepper the area. The very long and cold winter (which seems to be clinging on for dear life) has thrown local maple syrup producers and fans alike, a curveball this maple sugar season. The cold temps throughout March have created a shift in the freeze and thaw cycle necessary for "normal" sap production, as you can read about in the following Daily Hampshire Gazette article. Here's hoping that there is enough syrup produced so that we can all enjoy some sugarhouse fun!

Maple sugaring season comes at long last to Valley, as producers hope for best after long-delayed start

By LARRY PARNASS

Gazette Editor

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

 

WILLIAMSBURG — Easy does it. Now that maple sap is flowing, sugarers hope spring continues to play hide-and-seek in the Valley to salvage a sluggish season.

 

With night freezes and daytime thaws finally here, sugarers are making syrup, starting in earnest to boil at a time of year when they have sometimes been wrapping up.

 

At the Lawton Family Sugarhouse in Williamsburg, Bill Turner had produced just 11 gallons by Sunday. This time last year, the small family operation, founded by Deb Turner’s great-great-great grandfather George Lawton, was halfway to the 133.5 gallons it produced from trees on an adjoining sugarbush of 40 to 50 acres.

 

“From what I hear, we haven’t missed much,” Turner said. “Everybody’s in the same boat.” 

 

Unlike past years, when March has brought thaws, 2015 remained cold through the month. “This year it was more like an old-fashioned year,” Bill Turner said.

 

The depth of snow in the Hilltowns may help preserve sugaring conditions, several maple producers said this week in interviews beside their evaporators. Deep snow still on the ground at high elevations helps moderate rising daytime temperatures and preserve the freeze-and-thaw cycle maple producers need for a robust sap flow.

 

“I hope it keeps running and that we can make some decent syrup before it goes to dark,” said Deb Turner, referring to the hues that result with sap gathered later in the season, when warm temperatures bring up bacteria levels and affect quality and taste.

 

Paul Zononi, who taps trees on a few hundred Hilltown acres, estimated Sunday inside his Williamsburg sugarhouse that he has produced just 40 percent of the syrup he expected to turn out. Zononi said he hoped to do better.

 

“We got to. We have to,” he said. “Nationally, nobody’s making syrup. Our production is barely keeping up with our sales.” 

 

Usually, his season wraps up April 1. This year, Zononi is playing catch-up. He is hauling 4,000 to 5,000 gallons of sap a day down Route 9 from land he owns or leases in Goshen and Cummington. 

 

Zononi first boiled March 13, earlier than many Hilltown sugarers, instead of starting the first week of March. His operation produced 1,000 gallons of syrup last year, the last 200 of them darker commercial grades because the 2014 season was also late.

 

At South Face Farm in Ashfield, visitors on Sunday passed a stone-cold evaporator on their way in to the restaurant now run by the Olanyk family. The farm, owned by Tom McCrumm, has been making syrup this year, but did not have enough sap to boil on Sunday because it remained at freezing or below in the sugarbush the day before.

 

“The weather forecast looks pretty good for this week,” said Todd Olanyk, as restaurant customers waiting for tables sipped coffee near displays on sugaring history. “Hopefully, we’ll make up for it.” 

 

His restaurant, like most in the Hilltowns, will remain open for two more weekends.

 

As a veteran producer, McCrumm smiles at the notion that anything can be predicted in an agricultural enterprise.

 

“There is no such thing as average,” he said. “People have to understand. It’s all dependent on the weather.” 

 

McCrumm estimated that his sugarhouse has produced one quarter to one third of the syrup it may make this year. 

 

By the calendar alone, the season should be nearly over. Last year, after the late start, conditions allowed for 17 days of boiling that enabled the farm to produce 825 gallons of syrup. “We had this continuous, long stretch of sap weather,” he said of 2014.

 

While good endings are possible, they are jeopardized by rapidly warming days. He is buying sap this year from Heath and Colrain, two Franklin County towns at high elevations where the snowpack may help extend the sap season.

 

“Most producers would rather start early than start late and have to see how far it goes,” McCrumm said. “We don’t know how far ahead of us this end will be.”