Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Film for your brain and 5 Go Greener points: "Carbon Nation" at St. Andrew's, Tues., Dec. 7

The next event in Ayer's Go Greener Challenge promises a thoughtful movie night: a free pre-release screening of the documentary Carbon Nation. The movie airs Tuesday, December 7 at 7 p.m. at St. Andrew's Church.

The film introduces citizens who are working toward energy independence for their own communities and illustrates how solutions to climate change also address other social, economic and national security issues. Go Greener campaign coordinator Faith Salter notes that viewers may be treated to a Skype question-and-answer session with the director following the film, schedules permitting.

Participants in the Go Greener Challenge, take note: Attending this event is worth five points toward the drawings for prizes, including the Grand Prize: a two-night stay for two at the Appalachian Mountain Club's Crawford Notch visitor center in New Hampshire. There will also be door prizes donated by Ayer Public Works, St. Andrew's Church, The Wholesome Cafe, and the Appalachian Mountain Club.

Read more about Carbon Nation by visiting http://www.carbonnationmovie.com/about.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Big "greener" doings afoot on 10/10/10!

This October 10 -- or 10/10/10, a date whose unique stamp is sparking many environmentally-conscious efforts -- St. Andrew's Church will be the launchpad for the Ayer Go Greener Challenge. This project offers residents of Ayer and other local towns a chance at prizes for making some not-too-difficult, inexpensive changes in their energy consumption habits. The grand prize will be a two-night stay for two at the Appalachian Mountain Club's Highland Visitor Center in Crawford Notch, New Hampshire.

Those who sign up for the challenge will be able to collect points for each step they take in the greener direction, whether it's contacting MassSaves for a free home-energy audit or changing out traditional light bulbs for lower-wattage options, and more. Children can help their families collect more points, for example, by remembering to turn off the water when brushing teeth or turn off lights when leaving rooms. For every 10 points, participants earn another entry toward winning prizes.

To help locals learn more about the types of steps they can take, St. Andrews will host inspirational events over the next several months -- and yes, attending any of these is worth additional points in the challenge. Currently planned are a kids' showing of the Disney movie "Wall-E," which has resonating environmental themes; a presentation geared toward helping families do what they can toward stemming climate change, and a pre-release screening of the film "Carbon Nation."

"Many people want to live green, but 'going green' can be such an overwhelming prospect," says Ayer resident Faith Salter, who is organizing the challenge. "So this event is to help residents see that they can take it in smaller, manageable steps -- going 'greener' a little at a time. All these seemingly small changes by individuals and families add up across the community."

To sign up or learn more about The Ayer Go Greener Challenge, you can go to the kickoff event on Oct. 10 at St. Andrews Church from 2 to 5 p.m., or register to begin collecting points by going to the church website. You can also join the Go Greener Group on GoGreener@yahoogroups.com. The contest wraps up on January 1, 2011.

Ayer's Go Greener Challenge is registered with grassroots climate change action group 350.org, one of thousands of projects that will be part of the group's October "Global Work Party." To read more about this overarching effort, visit www.350.org.

Important info on town stormwater planning this Monday -- yes, tomorrow!

Dan Nason, superintendent of Ayer's Department of Public Works, will introduce plans for a stormwater enterprise fund to help cover the cost of Ayer's efforts to meet state and Federal stormwater management regulations during a public outreach and education session on Monday, Oct. 4., at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.

Find new homes for your used winter sporting goods

As part of the Ayer Recycling Committee's Recycle Your Reusables Day on Oct. 23, People of Ayer Concerned about the Environment (PACE) will be holding a sale of gently-used winter sporting goods, from coats and boots to skates and hockey gear to skiing and riding equipment and snowshoes -- and more. If you have items in good condition that are taking up valuable space in your home, stop by one of several collection bins, conveniently located around town, to make donations for the sale:
  • Ayer Post Office
  • Ayer Public Library children's room entrance
  • Ayer High School gym entrance
  • Ayer-Shirley Middle School
  • Parker School

The sale, which benefits PACE and the Ayer Public Schools, will take place during the Recycle Your Reusables event on Oct. 23 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Ayer High School.

Green goings on
Ayer Greenway Committee fall foliage walk
-- Saturday, Oct. 9, 9-11 a.m.
For an easy walk and nice views of Long Pond, meet at the end of Wright road, near the cut for a new subdivision. The rain date will be Oct. 10.

The Human Powered Vehicle Festival -- Saturday, Oct. 16, on the Nashua River Rail Trail, all day

Bring the family out for a bike ride to see fun and creative travel solutions, with events and booths on the trail in Ayer and Groton.

Monday, September 6, 2010

State award will help pave way for Ayer to become a "Green Community"

Late last week, Ayer became one of 45 communities that will receive technical assistance to boost its bid to become a "Green Community." A planning grant from the Department of Energy Resources covers the hiring of a planning professional to help the town meet state requirements to earn the "Green Community" designation, which recognizes Massachusetts towns' dedication to cutting their energy use.

Under the Patrick administration's Green Communities Act of 2008, towns who meet a set of five criteria that demonstrate their commitment to reducing energy consumption and pursuing alternative energy solutions become eligible for state grants to help them take their efforts even further.

Earlier this year, members of the Board of Selectmen planned to hire a consulting firm to help advise the town on ways to reduce energy usage in order to become a Green Community, but hit a stumbling block when the Town Meeting article that would have financed it was tabled for future discussion. With the help of the planning professional Ayer will now have on hand, thanks to the award, the town should be able to make a fresh start toward earning the "Green Community" title.

The BOS unanimously agreed to apply for the grant toward the end of August. Under the terms of the grant, Ayer must now commit to meet the five criteria within a year. The town is now planning to form a Green Communities committee to get the push going in earnest.

To read more about the Green Communities initiative and the criteria involved, click

Recycle Your Reusables event set for Oct. 23

If you find you've been accumulating a few piles of household odds and ends and are wondering what to do with them, hold the phone...at least a little longer. Recycle Your Reusables, brought to you by the Ayer Recycling Committee and its cosponsors, has reuse solutions for a whole host of items, including, but not limited to:

  • Athletic sneakers
  • Personal documents
  • #6 Styrofoam (even food trays!)
  • Canned goods
  • Coats and blankets
  • Good-condition used furniture and home goods
  • Gently-used sporting goods
The event will take place in the Ayer Public Schools parking lot from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. To get more specifics, contact the Ayer Recycling Committee at ayerrecycles@gmail.com or 978-­496-5839. You can also visit the Recycle Your Reusables Ayer blog.

Green goings on

Ayer Recycling Committee quarterly meeting
-- Wednesday, Sept. 8, Ayer Town Hall, Conference Room A, 7 p.m.

This session will focus on preparations for the Recycle Your Reusables event (see above), to be held Oct. 23. All are welcome.

Fourth Annual River Day with Congresswoman Niki Tsongas --
Sunday, Sept. 12, noon to 5 p.m.

Celebrate the role of local waterways in connecting and contributing to the Fifth Congressional District with stops along the rivers in the Fifth District.
Stops included are:
  • Riverwalk Park, Osgood Street, Methuen, noon -- Meet with city officials and Groundwork Lawrence volunteers to discuss efforts to expand and clean up the Spicket River Greenway.
  • Muldoon Park, Lowell, 1 p.m. -- Paddle on the Concord River and visit the newly-completed Concord River Greenway with volunteers from the Spindle City Corps, the Massachusetts Audubon Society and Girls Inc., to discuss their efforts to rehabilitate this greenway.
  • Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge Visitors Center, Hudson Road, Sudbury, 3 p.m. -- Tour this newly-completed, green building and meet with students from the area to talk about their involvement with the Refuge.

RSVP to Jane Adams in Representative Tsongas' Acton office by e-mail or at 978-263-1951.

DEA National Prescription Drug Takeback Day -- Saturday, Sept. 25, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Get those leftover prescription meds out of your house...safely! You can drop off your expired, unused and unwanted prescription medications at the Littleton and Townsend Police Departments. This event is being held by the Drug Enforcement Agency (supported by the Mass. Department of Public Health).

Law enforcement staff will handle the dropoffs and ensure that the collected medications are safely stored and destroyed in accordance with DEA’s requirements. This collection gets these drugs out of medicine cabinets and closets, protecting people who shouldn’t take them, and prevents them from being flushed down drains and into sewers and septic systems, where many pharmaceutical compounds survive municipal water treatment.

Ayer Greenway Committee Family Rock Scramble -- Saturday, Sept. 18, 9 a.m. to noon

Kids aged six to 12 should have their responsible adults meet at the trailhead on Groton-Harvard Road at 9 for a short hike to Porcupine Hill, followed by an easy-but-steep climb to an area with caves and chimneys to explore for about an hour. Play clothes and sturdy shoes are recommended. Call 978-821-2916 or e-mail event leader Steve Smith with any questions and to sign up for this event

Ayer Greenway Committee monthly meeting -- Saturday, Sept. 25, location TBA

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Local couple's season of learning pays off in Gourd & Plenty harvest

Many of us have probably daydreamed at one time or another, "Wouldn't it be great to have a farm of my own? Grow the produce I want to eat. Enjoy the great outdoors and fruits of my own labor?" But where to begin? And how to make sure that dream can be carried out practically?

Ayer residents Beth Suedmeyer and Takashi Tada have made their desire to farm a reality, thanks to the
New Entry Sustainable Farming Project (NESFP), a program sponsored by Tufts University's Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and Community Teamwork Inc. of Lowell.

The husband-and-wife team work a quarter-acre that they've named Gourd & Plenty Farm at one of NESFP's plots of land in Dracut. Their produce -- several varieties of heirloom tomatoes, a rainbow of peppers, eggplants, French heirloom scalloped squash, and fresh basil, among many others -- is now for sale at Ayer's Farmer's Market on Saturdays in Depot Square.

A natural progression toward farming

Beth's interest in farming began early on. She was raised on a farm in southern Illinois where her family raised livestock, corn, wheat and soybeans, all on a part-time basis.

When Beth and Takashi came to Massachusetts for graduate school about 10 years ago, says Beth, "that's when we were exposed to local sustainable agriculture," which furthered her interest. "I always found pleasure in small-scale vegetable and flower gardening. That and the fact that we were both people with a strong sense of environmental stewardship, interested in preserving open space and growing good healthy food, made farming on a somewhat larger scale seem ideal."

As a next step, the couple became caretakers of a town-owned hay farm in Shirley, where they coordinated volunteers and sold the crop. Ready to move forward, the couple enrolled in some educational courses, eventually contacting the state Department of Agricultural Resources, where they learned about New Entry.

The New Entry mission

New Entry supports local agriculture by helping would-be small-scale farmers from diverse backgrounds get a start in Massachusetts. This program gives participants both classroom and field training in key aspects of starting and running a sustainable farm, from business planning to soil preparation to methods of organic gardening and advice on crops.

Participants get their hands into the soil by working a plot (most are in the Lowell and Dracut
area) leased to them by NESFP. Their yields are split between New Entry's World PEAS cooperative community-supported agriculture (CSA) project and local farmers' markets.

They can use this land for up to three years. After that, NESFP helps farmers find land of their own to purchase or lease.

Beth and Takashi began their field experience this past spring, hiring New Entry staff to help prepare their raised beds, then getting most of their crops planted around Memorial Day weekend.

The couple has spent the spring and summer heading to their Dracut field two to three nights a week and putting in 10-hour days on Saturdays and Sundays, feeding, weeding and -- now -- harvesting the crops. That's in addition to their respective day jobs: Beth's in Boston in the environmental section of the Department of Transportation; Takashi's working for an environmental and wildlife consulting firm in Boxboro.

Harvesting the experience

Beth and Takashi began selling their organically-grown wares (which, besides those mentioned earlier, include squash blossoms, kale, chard, ground cherries and others) at the Ayer Farmer's Market in August. They expect to continue through the fall, when they'll begin harvesting gourds and pumpkins, as well, and may bring some of the fall produce to an additional farmer's market or two. They also made an appearance at the Bolton Fair.

Asked what the program has added to her gardening knowledge, Beth says, "The biggest improvement to how we're growing is through the New Entry staff's guidance on pest control and disease management. I've really enjoyed learning to use non-chemical methods, such as mesh-type barriers and also a food-grade clay spray that protects the plants. We did have our fair share of insect damage, but we haven't lost much due to pests...knock on wood!"

Another eye-opening lesson from the program: "We definitely get a sense of not being able to charge a price [for produce] equivalent to our input. It costs a lot to produce food."

To other aspiring farmers, Beth says, "I would definitely encourage anyone thinking about this to contact New Entry or the Department of Agricultural Resources. Exploring the opportunities they offer helps put farming as a career in perspective. It's not for everyone. It requires significant commitment, time, passion and work. You don't want to go into it naively, but programs are available that can help you figure out if it's a good fit."

Of her mentors at New Entry, she says, "They make it all very accessible: the logistics and land and equipment and supplies they make available, and their technical assistance." "

Down the road, Beth says, "We would ultimately like to have our own land and make an investment in good healthy soil, and maybe to offer an educational program to help the next generation understand sustainable farming techniques."

Weeds, not too surprisingly, have been one of her least favorite parts of the experience -- especially since the field was formerly used for hay and is still inclined to sprout now-unwanted grass.

Getting to enjoy nature during their time in the field has been the most satisfying part of the experience, Beth notes. Besides the growth of their vegetables, she and Takashi were happy to have a chance to observe a spotted sandpiper's nest in their field that yielded several fledglings. "It's wonderful to have a piece of land that you're intimately familiar with, and to eat food that you've grown."

You can e-mail Beth and Takashi about their produce and their experience at Gourd&Plenty@gmail.com.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

July update: Gang together for greener lawns, don't toss those caps, and more!

Strength in numbers for greener lawn care
About a year and a half ago, one of my neighbors (three cheers, Richard Murphy!) was musing that with the number of people in our neighborhood who've begun to use lawn services, maybe some of us could band together to see if an organic lawn service company would give us a group rate.

It made perfect sense, especially in the current economy: getting a bunch of customers in a concentrated area would save a lawn company on both gas and advertising, and cut down on time employees spend on the road instead of doing lawns, as well. And perhaps such a discount would get a few people who might not otherwise consider going organic over the perceived-costs hurdle.

This discussion took place in November, so the time wasn't quite ripe for further research just then. But his idea stuck with me, and finally, I got around to finding out a little more.

At the recent unveiling, as it were, of Sandy Pond's green areas-as-demonstration project for organic lawn management (you can read about that
here), I got to speak with the consultant who is helping Ayer's Parks and Rec Department in its efforts to go greener. John Coppinger, of the Coppinger Company, Inc., in North Chelmsford, is accredited by the Northeast Organic Farming Association as an organic lawn care provider.

The Coppinger Company has an organic lawn care division, The Green Guy. The following are among the services listed on The Green Guy's
  • Corn gluten hydrosylate pre-emergent crabgrass control
  • Organic compost based microbe brews (teas with beneficial microbes, humates, kelp, trace minerals)
  • Organic grub control (crabshell extract)
  • Slice-seeding
  • Lawn aeration
  • Organic compost top-dressing
  • Core sampling/soil compaction test
  • pH testing and soil amendments
So, now that I was face-to-face with an organic lawn care provider, I had to ask...would he consider offering a discounted rate for a group of neighbors interested in his services?

Turns out he would, for as few as four houses in reasonably close proximity to each other -- and they don't have to be adjacent properties, he said. I believe he said the discount would be on the order of 10 percent, though I'm going on memory for that detail, so if you decide to contact him, you'll want to confirm the percentage. Anyway, as you see, it always pays to ask!

The Coppinger Co. is one option for organic lawn care, but if you're reading this and you've got a handful of neighbors interested in using a little neighborly purchasing power, I'd suggest asking the organic lawn service of your choice about a multi-customer discount.

Put a lid on it!

If you've been removing caps from your plastic bottles as you're recycling, it appears you can now stop. Ann Dorfman, vice president of
MassRecycle and a long time recycling professional and consultant, recently posed the "caps OK or not?" question to two of the big local-area recycling firms and found that they not only allow lids, but even welcome them.

An EL Harvey representative told Dorfman that it's fine to leave caps on plastic bottles, and that they get recycled as long as they stay on their bottles. The Harvey rep also pointed out that the ones that come off often get "lost" in the process of sorting and baling, in which case they end up as trash. Harvey does not have a separate process to collect caps, per se, the rep noted.

Casella's representative replied, "We do accept them, and as long as all the liquid is out of the bottles, we would prefer them to be on the bottles to be able to capture more of a percentage to go back to the plastic mill recyclers" who turn recycled plastics into new products.

weighed in on the topic, as well. "With all the light-weighting of bottles in recent years, the caps can make up as much as 25 percent of the weight of the container, so throwing them away is throwing away a lot of valuable materials."

She added, "Leaving the lid on when you return your deposit bottle using a reverse vending machine is perfectly OK and guarantees the lid won’t get lost in the process." She suggested flattening the capped bottles before recycling them to help ensure that lids stay on through the baling process and make it safely to the remanufacturer.

Thanks to the Ayer Recycling Committee's Laurie Sabol for passing this one on to me.

NRWA wants your observations and photos

Your observations of life along the Nashua River can help NRWA assess what's happening on and around the water. NRWA is especially interested in reports of trash, erosion, and invasive species, which help them keep track of conditions and look for chances to make a difference. NRWA also welcomes news of bald eagle, river otter and other wildlife sightings.

If you have an observation to share or question to ask, please e-mail Kathryn Nelson, NRWA Water Monitoring Coordinator, at KathrynN@nashuariverwatershed.org and include the date and location, and if possible, a digital photo.

NRWA is also putting out a call for photos of the watershed. The organization is always on the hunt for fresh images of rivers and streams, landscapes, and local flora and fauna, as well as historical shots of NRWA, to use on its website, in newsletters, press releases and other communications materials.

For digital photographers, NRWA requests high-resolution images (for easier printing). The group is also happy to scan hard copy photographs if that’s what you have. If you have a watershed photo you’d like to share, please contact Wynne Treanor-Kvenvold, NRWA Communications Manager, at 978-448-0299, or e-mail her at WynneT@nashuariverwatershed.org. You can e-mail photos to her, pop a disk of images in the mail, or stop by the River Resource Center in Groton with hard copies or your thumb drive.

If you’re e-mailing or mailing images, please identify where you took the picture, an approximate date, and your name (so they can credit you).

Green goings on

Greenway Committee Bike Ride on the Nashua River Rail Trail -- Saturday, July 17, 9 a.m.

Riders will head out from the Ayer parking lot, and, depending on experience and interest, will either go to Groton or on to Pepperell and back, through conservation lands in these towns and along the Nashua River for the last third. BYO bike and other gear (helmets are strongly encouraged).

23rd Annual Monoosnoc Brook Cleanup, Leominster -- Saturday, August 7
The Nashua River Watershed Association is looking for volunteers for its annual Monoosnoc Brook clean-up. In the past 20 years, volunteers have removed tons of litter from the brook to help keep Leominster clean, protect drinking water, and preserve wildlife habitat. More details will soon be available on NRWA's website, or you may contact Pete Lanza at 978-534-5331, or NRWA at 978-448-0299.

Monday, June 21, 2010

It's practically here! Recycling the easy way!

Starting the first weekend in July, your trek to the Ayer Transfer Station -- and your recycling system at home -- are going to get streamlined. You'll be able to toss virtually all your recyclables, from aluminum to plastic to glass to paper and cardboard, into one recycling container at your home, and then dump them into one -- just one! -- big recycling container at the transfer station.

Then they'll all be hauled away by the Ayer Department of Public Works' new recycling contractor, Casella
Waste Systems, to be thoroughly sorted into their respective types and sent to Casella's customers, who incorporate recycled materials into their products. To learn more about just how Casella's process -- known as zero-sort recycling -- works, check out this video of their operation.

The new transfer station setup will feature one big hopper/compactor located roughly where all the multiple bins for individual types of recycling were previously. You'll pull up alongside the hopper, take your personal container of recyclables and empty it into the hopper, move on to the solid-waste area to offload your trash, and that will be that!

"Couldn't be any easier"

John Gamelin, transfer station foreman, says the new process "will cut down on the time it takes residents to do their recycling at the transfer station and make visits here much safer by simplifying the flow of traffic. It couldn't be any easier."

Gamelin notes that the change to the central hopper and the smoother traffic flow are also allowing him to redistribute space at the transfer station to meet other needs. He plans on a few additional parking spaces for the reuse shed and will move the electronics trailer and reserve a few spaces there, as well.

Other changes afoot, according to Gamelin:

  • The transfer station will no longer provide bins for separating returnable cans from non-returnables. All cans will now go into the zero-sort hopper for recycling.
  • The transfer station is now accepting plastic toys such as Big Wheels and plastic play structures for recycling. These items will NOT go into the zero-sort system, but will be handled separately by Casella.
For the first few weeks the new system is in effect, volunteers from MassToss (a.k.a. the North Central Regional Solid Waste Cooperative) and the Ayer Recycling Committee plan to be at the transfer station to help with the transition.

Ayer is gaining something more than just convenience from this change. "By making recycling easier for residents," said DPW Superintendent Dan Nason (back in March, when the news of the upcoming change first broke), "we are hoping to increase Ayer's recycling numbers, which will save us money and decrease our tonnage of municipal solid waste, which will also yield savings for the town."
Not a bad thing for the planet, either!

Wednesday recyclers, please note: The transfer station will be closed on Wednesday, June 30, to prepare for the changeover, but will reopen with the new system in place Saturday, July 3.

New pay-as-you-throw bags available all around town

In related news, bags -- instead of bag ties -- for trash are now available at five locations throughout the town: The DPW office, Aubuchon Hardware, Hannaford, Moore's and Kelly's Hallmark.

"Having multiple locations open weekdays and weekends will make purchasing these bags much more convenient for residents who work late or long hours," says the DPW's Nason.

The new trash bags cost $1 per 15-gallon bag and $1.50 per 30-gallon bag, in unlimited quantities.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

"Grass roots action" taking on new meaning at Sandy Pond

The grassy areas at Sandy Pond Beach for stretching out beach towels and having picnics are green in more ways than one: their root system is in the process of becoming healthier and stronger, thanks to new techniques the Ayer Parks Department has begun using to care for them. And when you walk barefoot on the grass or swim in the pond, you're not getting a load of toxic lawn chemicals you weren't bargaining for.

These changes are putting Sandy Pond in the spotlight as an organic lawn demonstration project for the Northeast Organic Farming Association/Massachusetts Chapter (NOFA/Mass). The project aims to let homeowners from here and surrounding areas see firsthand how organic methods and products work at a place they know and use.
The ultimate hope is that those who visit the beach throughout the project (Ayer has committed to maintain the space organically through at least June 2013) will decide to apply what they learn to their own lawns.

NOFA/Mass celebrated the kickoff of the demonstration project this past Saturday at Sandy Pond Beach, where residents were out enjoying both the lawns and the water on a hot weekend day. Among those on hand for the event were Kathy Litchfield, NOFA/Mass Organic Land Care Coordinator, who is in charge of the demonstration project; Liz Harriman of the Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI) of UMass Lowell, which granted the funds for this project (as well as a similar project underway in the town of Stoneham); Jeff Thomas, Ayer Parks Supervisor, and Laurie Nehring, president of People of Ayer Concerned about the Environment (PACE).

The Parks Department has been partnering for much of the past year with NOFA/Mass' Land Care Program to go organic on Sandy Pond's lawn. TURI's recent grant is allowing the town to consult with John Coppinger of the Coppinger Company Inc., a North Chelmsford-based NOFA Accredited Organic Lawn Care Professional, as part of the demonstration project. Coppinger also attended the kickoff event, taking questions from a few interested locals who wondered about some of the techniques involved.

The Parks Department's Thomas has been taking courses through NOFA/Mass for the past few years, partly in response to the concerns of some of the town's environmentally-oriented groups, which have been anxious to reduce the use of commercial fertilizers and other toxic lawn care products near town waterways.
"The NOFA courses taught me to view grass as a plant, not a product," he said. "If you want a product, you might as well put down a carpet."

He added, "We've been using these techniques for the past couple of years, trying to limit ourselves to no more than a single application of fertilizer each year, as well as stopping the use of insecticides. At the same time, we're using methods like soil aeration and proper irrigation to help the lawn develop a proper root system."

Liz Harriman, who represented TURI at the kickoff event, reminded the crowd that it's not just the products that end up on the lawns here that are of concern, but the upstream places where lawn chemicals are manufactured as well -- places that often suffer dramatically; for instance, manufacturing towns with increased cancer rates. "When you make a difference here, you make a difference there," she said.
She applauded those involved in the project, noting, "You're showing the town residents that if you can go organic with lawn care here at Sandy Pond, they can do it at home."

PACE's Nehring said, "I'm so pleased the town is doing this." PACE, the Ayer Conservation Commission and the Ayer Greenway Committee are among the town groups that have been urging the town to green its lawn care methods.

NOFA/Mass' Litchfield said, "We are very happy to be an educational resource to homeowners in the town of Ayer and beyond."

For more about this project and ways to go organic on your home lawn, visit www.nofamass.org or www.organiclandcare.net.

Top, Sandy Pond Beach getting a workout last Saturday.
Middle, 11-year-old Ayer resident Colin plants flower seeds with a NOFA volunteer at last Saturday's demonstration project kickoff event.
Bottom: A view of the lawns, green and ready for summer.

Green Goings On
Tooker land trail build, Saturday, June 19, 9 a.m.-noon
Meet at Oak Ridge Drive (watch for a volunteer to guide you to the right spot) to help the Ayer Greenway Committee build a trail access through the newly acquired Tooker land into the existing Pine Meadow Conservation lands. Long pants and appropriate shoes are the dress code; rakes, nippers and gloves the toolkit. Would-be trailblazers should also bring water. For more information, contact Patrick Hughes at

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

See organic lawn care in action at Sandy Pond, starting this Saturday

Ever wished you could see how well organic lawn care products and techniques work on someone else's lawn before trying them on your own? Your chance has come. NOFA/Mass (the Massachusetts chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association), the Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI) of U. Mass Lowell and Ayer Parks and Recreation are teaming up to show locals how it's done on the lawn by our own Sandy Pond.

The project gets under way at the pond
this Saturday, June 5, from 1-3 p.m., with an event featuring speakers from several of the involved groups, children's activities and light refreshments. And of course, there will be info on how homeowners can green their lawns, as well.

Saturday's event is just the beginning: Ayer Parks and Rec, working in concert with an organic land care provider, will be maintaining the patch of land at Sandy Pond organically through at least June 2013. That means residents will have a great chance to see longer-term results from the new lawn care approach.

For more information on the kickoff event, contact NOFA/Mass' Kathy Litchfield, coordinator, at 413-773-3830 or

Green goings on

Marion Stoddart documentary screening premiere, Saturday, June 12, 6:15 to 11 p.m.

This film is the story of Marion Stoddart, a grassroots organizer who led the 1960s push to clean up the Nashua River. The evening will begin at 6:15 p.m. with a light hors d’oeuvres reception and a chance to meet Marion Stoddart. The film will be shown at 7 p.m. at Lawrence Academy's Richardson-Mees Performing Arts Center, Rte. 40, in Groton, followed by a party across the street at the Old Groton Inn’s Carriage House (128 Main St.) at 8 p.m.

The pre-premiere mingle and film screening are free, but tickets must be reserved. Tickets to the party are $25. To reserve and purchase tickets go to
www.workof1000.org/screenings, call 617-834-7315 or e-mail Marea Santos at Work of 1000.

NRWA Father's Day paddle on the Squannacook, Sunday June 20, 1-4 p.m.

The Nashua River Watershed Association is leading a paddle on the Squannacook River on Father’s Day with guide Stacey Chilcoat, NRWA River Classroom Director. The roundtrip flat water paddle, departing from West Groton, offers takers a look at a section of the Squannacook River known for its rich wildlife habitat and natural beauty. NRWA will provide field guides and other identification materials.

The trip is open to the public and free of charge, though donations to support NRWA programs are welcomed. Trips run as planned in a variety of weather conditions, including mist and light rain. You may bring your own boat or rent from Nashoba Paddler.

Space on the trip is limited and pre-registration is required, whether or not you bring your own boat. Registration is due by June 17th. To pre-register, or for more information, call NRWA at 978-448-0299, or e-mail Elizabeth Harris.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Another between-blogs update...

Green goings-on

Ayer Greenway Committee Birding Walk -- Saturday, May 15, 9 a.m.

Meet at the Groton-Harvard Road trail head for a short walk to the Habitat Trail lookout to watch for Great Blue Herons and a resident osprey pair, as well as other birds in the woods and on the pond. Would-be birders are advised to dress for tick season and bring water and binoculars (if possible). Takashi Tada and Beth Suedmeyer will be leading the way. For more information, call 618-214-8593.

Family Owl Prowl -- Saturday, May 29, 7 - 9 p.m.

North County Land Trust, MassAudubon and the Nashua River Watershed Association are teaming up this year to offer several upcoming programs at the Crocker Conservation Area near downtown Fitchburg, including this chance to spend an evening in the woods listening for -- and calling -- Barred Owls (and, with a little luck, Screech Owls and Great Horned Owls). This naturalist-led event is a popular one and limited to 50 participants, so pre-registration is required. For more info, call 978-466-3900 or e-mail info@northcountylandtrust.org. A donation of $4 per adult (ages 16 and up) or $2 per child is suggested to help the organizations cover costs.

Ayer Recycling Committee meeting -- Wednesday, June 2, 7 p.m.
All interested individuals are encouraged to meet at Town Hall Conference Room A. The evening's agenda includes updating information on the Ayer website and planning for fall zero-waste day. For more information, e-mail Laurie Sabol.

Morning woodland stroll -- Thursday, June 10, 9:30 - 11:30 a.m.

Brought to you by the aforementioned partnership between North County Land Trust, MassAudubon and the Nashua River Watershed Association, this trail walk will follow a trail along Hemlock Hill. Walkers should, according to the event's sponsors, "bring your coffee, and leave your cell phone behind." Registration, donation and contact information are the same as for the Owl Prowl above.

Together on the Land: Options for ecological living in community -- Saturday, June 12, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

This event will lead participants on a tour of Franklin County homes and farms that have tested different models for community living, such as community land trusts, coops, cohousing, and more. The tour, jointly sponsored by Cooperative Development Institute, Coop Power, Equity Trust, Franklin Land Trust, Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust and Valley Community Land Trust,
aims to connect attendees with others working toward sustainable community living, point up real-world examples and explain the basics of how they work. To pre-register, visit Valley Community Land Trust's page for the tour. Ticket prices range from $20 to $40.

Nashua River Watershed Association and MassAudubon summer camp programs signups -- Going on now!

Both of these organizations have more summer offerings than you can shake a stick at -- just the ticket for fueling young naturalists' curiosity. To learn more about NRWA's summer programs, visit its website and e-mail Lauren Parente, Eco-Adventures Coordinator, or call her at (978) 448-0299. To peruse MassAudubon's summer offerings, visit the organization's camps Web page and click on the name of a sanctuary near you...two of the closest are Drumlin Farm in Lincoln and Wachusett Meadow in Princeton.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Urgent: Key Green Communities piece up for vote this Monday

In Article 26 of Monday's Town Meeting warrant, the Board of Selectmen is seeking approval to formally contract with Johnson Controls to help Ayer reduce its energy usage. This perfomance contract is a key step toward Ayer being designated a Green Community, which will give the town a chance at state grants to promote greater strides in energy efficiency. A yes vote from the town sets the ball rolling. Town Meeting will be at 7 p.m., this Monday, in the Ayer High School Auditorium.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Between-blogs events

Green goings-on

Groton Local school gardens program -- Thursday, April 29, 7 to 8 p.m.

The Groton Local Farm-to-School group will be holding its Breaking New Ground program this Thursday at the Groton School. Panelists will be Jed Coughlin, food service director at Groton School; Amy Gifford, expert on school gardens projects and curriculum; Jane Hirschi, educational director of City Sprouts, the Cambridge-based school garden project; Ann Cody from the state Farm-to-School Program, and students from Project Sprout, the Great Barrington high school community garden project recognized to be the first student-initiated, student-run community garden in the country. For more information, visit http://www.grotonlocal.org/node/113#s2.

Afternoon hike in Fitchburg, Saturday, May 8, 1:30 to 3 p.m.

North County Land Trust, the Nashua River Watershed Association and the Mass Audubon Society are jointly sponsoring an afternoon exploration of Fitchburg’s northern watershed areas. These include over 2,400 acres of protected open space, located just a half mile from downtown Fitchburg. The hike will set off from the Crocker Conservation Area kiosk at the top of Flat Rock Road in Fitchburg. Reservations are required: call 978-466-3900 or e-mail North County Land Trust.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

More April news

Ayer looking for title of "Green Community"
What's in a name? Well, if Ayer achieves its goal of being designated a "Green Community," what's in that name is a shot at state funding to help pay for a range of potential projects that would increase our town's energy efficiency and cut its greenhouse gas emissions. But first, Ayer has to earn the name by demonstrating its green commitment.

The push to earn the Green Community designation comes out of the Green Communities Act Governor Deval Patrick passed in 2008 in a bid to put Massachusetts in the forefront of national energy reform efforts. Towns who meet the criteria set forth in the Act and earn the right to call themselves Green Communities become eligible for state funding for programs that can help propel them to even greater energy efficiency.

Five criteria

There are five criteria Ayer and other towns pursuing the title of "Green Community" must meet:

  • Ensuring zoning laws are written to permit key kinds of alternative energy projects around town.
  • Expediting approvals that will allow work on such projects to progress.
  • Determining Ayer's energy use baseline and coming up with a plan to reduce usage within five years.
  • Shifting as much as possible of the town's fleet of vehicles to energy-efficient models.
  • Guaranteeing that new residential and commercial construction be more energy-efficient through code changes and additional inspections.
As a first step in Ayer's progress toward becoming a Green Community, the town's Energy Committee hired energy-efficiency consulting firm Johnson Controls for an energy performance contract.

Under this contract, Johnson Controls recently completed an energy use audit of town buildings (including Town Hall, the police station, fire station, schools and library). Next, the firm will suggest and help implement ways of streamlining these facilities' energy use.

"This is really the heart of the program," says Selectman Carolyn McCreary, one of the Green Communities effort's champions.

Solar project in the works
The town is paying for Johnson Controls' work through a combination of Federal stimulus funds and grant money. As things progress, the contractor will also receive part of its payment from the energy savings that come out of its recommendations. One project related to these recommendations will be a ground-mounted solar array on town-owned land near the Department of Public Works office. Once installed, the new solar setup will generate energy for Ayer's municipal buildings.

Ayer also has access to funds to pursue energy use cuts from the Regional Energy Greenhouse Gas Initiative (REGGI) -- in essence, collected carbon tax.

On the agenda at BOS meetings

Johnson Controls was due to present its snapshot of the town's energy consumption at a meeting with the Energy Committee on March 30; however, that meeting had to be rescheduled due to emergency meetings about the town's water situation. It is now due to present its plan for reducing the town's energy consumption at the Board of Selectmen meeting on Tuesday, April 13 at 7:30 p.m. Kelly Brown, regional Green Communities coordinator, will attend the following week's BOS meeting (4/20).

If Ayer is able to meet all the criteria in time -- some criteria have been met, while the town is reviewing others -- the first chance to receive the Green Communities designation will be this May.

Residents' support key to moving forward

"Becoming a Green Community is a great opportunity for Ayer," says Selectman McCreary. "The energy reductions we'll be pursuing will mean cost savings for the town. And if we succeed, we will be allowed to apply for grants to take our alternative energy and energy reduction efforts even further. Also, it means Ayer is being a good environmental citizen.

"We hope residents will let us know they support our Green Communities work by attending Board of Selectmen meetings," she says. "The more citizens get excited about this and show their support, the sooner we're likely to make our goal."

Green goings on

Free trail walk and vernal pools exploration April 17, 9 a.m. to noon

Outdoorsfolk of all ages are invited to meet at the trailhead of Pine Meadow Pond Conservation Area on Groton Harvard Road in Ayer for a chance to get acquainted (or better acquainted) with the Pine Meadow Pond and Science Trails, courtesy of the Ayer Greenway Committee.

The trails offer nice water views and interesting geological formations. Stops at vernal pools may turn up salamanders, wood frogs, egg masses and other creatures. Hikers are advised to bring water, dress appropriately for the weather and wear sturdy walking shoes. For more info, call

Nashua River Watershed Association vacation offerings

Whether you're thinking of the imminently approaching April vacation or the only slightly less-imminently approaching days of summer, it's time to book spots for the kids in the Nashua River Watershed Association's kids' activities.

From one-day programs that give area school kids a great taste of what spring has to offer in and around our local woods and waterways to a spring peepers program for tadpoles of the human variety to summer Eco-Adventures and more, NRWA has everything your budding naturalists could want. For a more detailed rundown of their offerings, visit the NRWA
website and contact Lauren Parente, Eco-Adventures Coordinator, at (978) 448-0299, or send her an e-mail.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A correction

Near the end of the story "Amping up the energy at Page-Hilltop," is a line reading "The Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust Fund comes from an electric- bill surcharge we all pay toward promoting renewable energy." Actually, that surcharge is optional. Customers can check a box on their bill and pay a few dollars per bill to support alternative energy sources -- or not.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Coming to Ayer this summer: Recycling made simple!

If all goes according to the Ayer Department of Public Works' plans, your days of separating recyclables into multiple bins at home before hauling them to the transfer station and distributing them into multiple bins there should be numbered. The DPW is planning to convert the town's recycling program to a zero-sort system beginning July 1.

That means you'll be able to collect all the common types of recycled goods you do now (paper, newsprint, plastics and glass, for instance) without presorting them at home. And when you arrive at the transfer station, there will be one point of collection for all recyclables and one for trash...and that will be it! (Bulk items will still be handled separately.)

Dan Nason, DPW superintendent, says, "Moving to a zero-sort system will streamline the recycling process for residents, and reducing the number of dropoff points will make trips to the transfer station safer from a traffic standpoint, as well.

"By making recycling easier for residents," he adds, "we are hoping to increase Ayer's recycling numbers, which will save us money, and decrease our tonnage of municipal solid waste (trash), which will also yield savings for the town."

The DPW is currently reviewing quotes from several vendors, but ultimately hopes to go with a single contractor for both recycled goods and MSW. Right now, Ayer's recycled goods are parceled out among several vendors, with trash going to a different company. The DPW's contract with its current MSW firm expires in June, which is part of the impetus behind the current planning effort.

"Uniting these processes under one vendor should ultimately reduce some of the administrative costs we are seeing now," says Nason.

For skeptics who might worry that zero-sort recycling on the residential end means items are not actually being recycled at all or not effectively, Nason offers reassurance. "The vendors' processes are very automated, but they are for-profit companies (selling to companies who use the recycled goods in their own products), so they make sure their sorting is thorough so that the end result can be sold for maximum value."

Stay tuned for updates as the July 1 changeover date approaches!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

March/April 2010

Pick up, then party! On Saturday, April 10, you can show some Ayer pride and a little pre-Earth Day spirit by taking part in "A Cleaner Ayer," the third annual town cleanup day. Just stop down at Depot Square any time between 9 and 11:30 a.m. to register the area you'll be tackling and to get your gloves and bags. The pickup will wrap up at noon, but volunteers are also needed to help sort recyclables at the transfer station from 1 to 2 p.m.

Students take note: Participation in A Cleaner Ayer counts toward community service hours you need for graduation. Make sure to grab participation sheets when you stop at Depot Square for your bags and gloves.

Afterward, bring your favorite goodies and bask in the post-cleanup glow at an all-ages dance party and dessert potluck at Town Hall from 7 to 10 p.m., open to everyone, whether you took part in the a.m. cleanup efforts or not. Learn some new steps along with Donna Shea and Michael Quigley and the staff of DL Dance Enterprises or visit the kids' craft area. A perfect end to a perfect spring day.

For more info or to volunteer to help with sorting recyclables or setup/breakdown for the party, contact Laurie Sabol at 987-772-7858 or ayerrecycles@gmail.com.

Amping up the energy at Page-Hilltop -- Renewable energy, that is. Thanks to grant money from the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust Fund, kids at Page-Hilltop Elementary have been learning all about alternative power sources.

Laurie Nehring, president of People of Ayer Concerned about the Environment (PACE) and a former high-school science teacher, working closely with fifth grade teacher Ginny Egan and Principal Fred Deppe, has been leading an afterschool enrichment program for fourth and fifth graders. Says Laurie, "Each week, we do a small experiment about renewable energy, and then we go for a hike along a trail near the school. We look for signs of wildlife, signs of spring, and just enjoy being outside."

She adds, "The students are interested and smart and fun!" Their first week, they won Laurie's admiration by insisting on picking up a quantity of trash they came across during their hike. "These kids give me hope," she says.

Just getting underway is a renewable energy unit for all of Page-Hilltop's 5th graders. According to Laurie, the unit will start with a "Global Footprint" analysis, where students will analyze their energy use to see graphically how many earths their lifestyles require.

"We will then delve into four of the more common
renewable energy sources - solar, wind, geothermal and biomass," she says. "The major hands-on project will involve students working in design teams to develop plans for an energy-efficient, green building that could be used for the new Ayer-Shirley science wing."

The Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust Fund comes from an electric- bill surcharge we all pay toward promoting renewable energy. The funds are filtered back to communities to use for renewable energy projects or to educate community members on the benefits of greener energy sources. Both Page-Hilltop's current renewable energy programs -- along with materials and science kits which the school was able to purchase -- came from this fund, with the approval of the Ayer Board of Selectmen, who distribute the portion that comes back to our town.

Green goings on

People of Ayer Concerned about the Environment (PACE) meeting
-- Tuesday, March 23, Nashoba Park Assisted Living, 7 p.m.
Conservation Commission meetings -- Thursday, March 27, and Thursday, April 8,
Town Hall, 7 to 9 p.m.
Greenway Committee meeting
-- Saturday, March 27, Ayer Library, 10:30 a.m. to noon.
A Cleaner Ayer townwide cleanup -- April 10, kicking off from Depot Square, 9 a.m. to noon.
Worcester VegFest 2010 -- A festival celebrating the vegetarian lifestyle, with a variety of speakers and resources. Saturday, April 17, at the Student Center at Worcester State College, 486 Chandler Street, Worcester, noon to 5 p.m. For more info, visit http://vegworcester.com/festival/.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Grab your bags: Time for Consign My Closet's children's resale event, March 20-21 in Boxboro

Thanks to my neighbor Heidi Ottowitz for the tipoff on this one!

Baby on board? Baby on the way? Babies no longer babies? No babies at all, but love to shower goodies on the nieces, nephews, grandkids, etc.? Then circle March 20 and 21 on your calendar for
Consign My Closet's spring/summer children's consignment event at the Boxborough Holiday Inn.

Consign My Closet, which espouses "Greener living, one closet at a time," puts together resale events twice a year. For shoppers, it's a jackpot for brand-name maternity, infant and children's clothes (up through middle-school age); baby gear, sports equipment, toys and more.

For those seeking to pare down the kids' paraphernalia, it's a chance to give those items a new home and earn a few dollars. Consignors simply follow Consign My Closet's easy online process (which includes setting their own prices), drop off the goods and wait for their checks to come in.

In addition, volunteers who help Consign My Closet set up for and run the sale can earn a higher percentage of their consignment sales and, if they put in four hours or more before the sale, can shop the pre-sale event the night before the sale.

Good stuff, good deals and good for the planet...nice! Be sure to let me know if you go...I'd love a review of the event itself!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Couple of new events coming right up

Evening, all. These two events popped up on my radar in the last couple of days, so I'm passing the info on.

Free screening: "Garbage Dreams"
-- MassRecycle presents a showing of the award-winning documentary "Garbage Dreams," hosted by the Nashua River Watershed Association at its River Resource Center (529 Main St., Groton) on Thursday, March 4, at 7 p.m. The presentation is free and open to the public.

The movie follows three teenagers living in the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt, in the world's largest garbage village. The boys earn their livings by collecting and recycling the trash of others, but a multinational corporation threatens their community. The movie will be followed by a panel discussion about recycling.

Please RSVP at www.massrecycle. org/dreams.

Shirley community gardening info session -- The planned community garden at Longley Acres is seeking gardeners for the 2010 growing season. If you're interested, Longley Acres' caretakers will be on hand with details this Thursday, Feb. 25, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Hazen Memorial Library (Keady Way, Shirley).

Contacts are Kim Hampson, e-mail: Longleyacres@ymail.com, or phone: 978-761-3406, or Shirley Conservation Commission, phone: 978-425-2600 ext. 245, or e-mail: conservation@shirley-ma.gov.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Second edition

Note: This is my first crack at making this newsletter into a blog...I think this will be good, and hope you'll bear with me while I figure out the ins and outs of the medium.

Time to get fresh: Gibbet Hill offering new CSA

Whatever the groundhog had to say this year, there
is light at the end of this winter's tunnel. So for those of us who like our vegetables poppin' fresh, it's time to start thinking about how we want to get our produce, whether that means digging in the dirt ourselves, signing up for a share of a community-supported agriculture (CSA) project, or daydreaming about trips to the area's farmers' markets.

In my case, I'd been waiting for a quiet minute to look at my seed catalog, which has been here for ages, but that minute just hasn't come. Then, out for a Valentine's dinner at The Gibbet Hill Grill in Groton, the first thing on the menu to catch my eye was a notice that Gibbet Hill Farm is throwing its hat into the CSA ring. (My neighbor and fresh produce hunter extraordinaire Julie tells me that several other area farms are embarking on first-time CSAs as well...hoping to hear from anyone who tries them out for future issues!)

Gibbet Hill Farm had such success with the produce it grew for the restaurant and its other businesses last year that it's inviting a handful of community members to share the wealth this growing season. Having eaten a number of Gibbet Hill's crisp, flavor-packed salads and dishes like roasted beets and ragouts, and tasted a range of herbs in everything from the restaurant's breads to its rigatoni and its soups, in the past couple of years, I jumped at the chance. Assuming my check arrived before Farmer Kate (who runs the farm) filled up the 50-person list, I just have to wait until early June for my first pickup.

The CSA experience is not without hitches I've been warned about: large quantities of odd items or simply the same produce week after week, and sometimes, just too much produce to eat before the next batch arrives. But, maybe because spring is coming, I'm feeling optimistic. It seems logical that if I like the veggies at Gibbet Hill Grill, I should like the produce Gibbet Hill Farm grows, at least mostly (I confess I'm already wondering who'd like my allotment of radishes). And I can't wait to see the recipes from the restaurants chefs that are supposed to be included in my weekly portion. They even promise to throw in a jar or two of chef-preserved GH pickles...and how can you not love that?

Gibbet Hill Farm's CSA at a glance:

  • Membership fee for 2010: $600 for 20 weeks of produce (average cost $30/week)
  • Sample crops -- Lettuce and other salad greens, cooking greens (i.e. Swiss chard and kale), peas, beans, carrots, squash, beets, cucumbers, heirloom tomatoes, sweet corn and winter vegetables, among others
  • Limited to 50 shares
  • Pickup Wednesdays or Sundays at Gibbet Hill's old Bull Barn
If you're interested in a share or would like to know more, contact Farmer Kate at farm@gibbethill.com.

If you've tried a local CSA or farmers' market and want to let neighbors know how it worked for you, send me a short e-mail writeup and I'll add it to the newsletter (respectful reviews only, please), next chance I have.

The final word (for now) on foam recycling in Ayer

Remember last month, when MassToss's Tessa David told us that most town transfer stations don't accept expanded polystyrene foam because it's hard to find markets for the recycled product? And remember that she said the best thing to do is check with your own town's transfer station? Surprise...turns out that our own (wonderful!) transfer station does indeed accept EPS foam, gladly.

At this time, the town transfer station will take clean, white EPS foam -- the kind used in packaging TVs, computers, furniture and the like. Until we know otherwise, packing peanuts, clamshell takeout containers and meat trays are still not a good idea. If I hear that they're OK, I'll let you know!

Cleanup day muscle needed

Well, not exactly muscle....The Recycling Committee is on the lookout for volunteers to help make its April 10 "A Cleaner Ayer" townwide cleanup an all-day, fun-packed event. Anyone wishing to lend time or talent to help with advance organization of the cleanup itself or the post-cleanup dance party and dessert potluck planned for that evening, please contact Laurie Sabol at 978-772-7858 or ayerrecycles@gmail.com.

Green goings on

Pine Meadow Conservation Land public input and hearings -- The Ayer Conservation Commission is holding a series of meetings to determine shared land use policy on the Pine Meadow Conservation Land. Preliminary discussion Thursday, February 25; public hearing Thursday, March 11, and Thursday, April 8. Final public hearing to vote on regulations Thursday, April 22. All meetings are at Ayer Town Hall at 7 p.m.

People of Ayer Concerned about the Environment (PACE) meeting -- Thursday, February 25, 4 Shelly Lane, Ayer, 7 p.m.

"Green Community" public meeting -- Ayer is working toward meeting the criteria to be designated a “Green Community,” following the recent passage of the Green Communities Act, which aims to help our cities and towns create greater energy efficiency and future generations of renewable, alternative energy sources. Get the latest on these efforts on March 9, when Kelly Brown, regional director for Green Communities, will be coming to Ayer Town Hall for a 7 p.m. public meeting.

Honeybee keeping classes -- Learn how to keep bees from experienced beekeepers Al Horton and Carl Flowers, members of the Middlesex County Beekeepers Association and frequent participants in the Williams Barn Farmers' Market in Groton. Classes will take place at the Groton #7 Grange Hall on Champney St. on Thursday evenings from 6:30 to 8 p.m. from February 25 through April 8. The $70 fee includes the textbook and 2010 membership to the Middlesex County Beekeepers Association.