Archive for May, 2010

Shrinks of All Stripes Attend APA

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

By Michael Kaufman

NEW ORLEANS–By the time I’m finished covering the American Psychiatric Association (APA) annual meeting I think I’m going to need to see a psychiatrist.  I should do it while I’m still here since there are thousands to choose from, running the gamut from members of the Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists (AGLP) to the psychiatry branch of the Christian Medical Association (CMA).

In a delicious bit of irony those two groups were assigned adjacent tables in the exhibit hall, where they are surrounded by far more elaborate booths promoting the wares of pharmaceutical companies large and small. An uneasy truce prevails between the Christians and gays. “We’re here for them,” says Dr. Rosa Lewis of the CMA about the homosexuals next door. “The love of God is for everyone.” Behind her is a CMA banner bearing their slogan, “Changing Hearts in Healthcare.”

“They’re all very polite,” says Dr. Jack Drescher of his Christian neighbors. He agreed that politeness is preferable to the “Torquemada approach.” Drescher says the specialty of psychiatry has come a long way since homosexuality was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual’s list of officially recognized mental illnesses in 1973. “Opening Minds” is the motto of the AGLP.

Both groups offer books for sale. The CMA seeks to open hearts with titles like Jesus MD: A Doctor Examines the Great Physician and Could it Be This Simple? A Biblical Model for Healing the Mind. The AGLP hopes to open minds with the likes of Psychoanalytic Therapy and the Gay Man and Uncoupling Convention: Psychoanalytic Approaches to Same Sex Couples and Families. Both groups invited me to attend some of their APA convention activities. 

I decided to pass up the CMA breakfast meeting on “The Christian Legacy in Psychiatry.” It cost $20 and the people I’m covering the APA meeting for aren’t paying my expenses. Besides, I wanted to have breakfast at Mother’s. I also passed up an invitation to a three-hour seminar on “The Role of the Psychiatrist within the Church.” I’d have felt like an interloper. But I accepted the invitation to attend the AGLP reception at the Renaissance Arts Hotel in the warehouse district, where I was told there would be free hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar.

Also looking a bit like a fish out of water amongst the glitzy exhibits is the table promoting the National Death Index (NDI), a project of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While other exhibitors offer free gelato, lattes, Dippin’ Dots ice cream, and beignets to attract visitors, all the NDI offers is information and a plea to healthcare providers to report the deaths of any patients they have been treating and the medications the patients were taking. This will help the CDC identify risks that may be associated with certain medications. The table hasn’t attracted much traffic.

Upon my arrival at the convention hall I was greeted by a noisy group of more than 100 demonstrators chanting, “Don’t drug our kids, don’t harm our kids, leave our kids alone!” They carried placards with photos of some of the leading researchers and clinicians who treat patients with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Beneath the photos was the amount of money these doctors have received from pharmaceutical companies in the form of grant support, speaker fees, advisory board participation, etc.

Dr. Joseph Biederman of Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital topped the list at $4 million. A few years ago I had the opportunity to work on educational projects with Biederman as well as the others who were singled out on the placards. I happen to agree with the general point made by the demonstrators regarding the questionable ethics and undue influence of the pharmaceutical industry. However, I could not help but be impressed by the dedication of Biederman and his colleagues to help children and adolescents with severe mental illnesses. We are not talking about your garden variety ADHD here. These patients and their families live tormented lives.

The demonstrators also carried placards bearing photos of young people who committed suicide while being treated for depression. Under each photo was the name, year of birth and year of death. At first my heart went out to the people who carried the photos, who I assumed were family members. But I noticed something odd when I tried to interview the participants. No one would speak to me. With friendly smiles they referred me to one of the marshals of the sponsoring organization, the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR). When I tried talking to the marshal, he smiled knowingly and took me to meet a “spokesperson.” She politely told me she would be happy to speak with me…later, at the opening of the group’s “History of Psychiatry Traveling Exhibit” at the Riverwalk Marketplace. When I got to the press room I learned from friends that the CCHR is the creation of the Scientology cult. Calling this anti-science group Scientology is like calling an ugly housing project built in a formerly green space “Liberty Green.”

No big medical specialty meeting would be complete without the appearance of a celebrity motivational speaker. The APA had two: Carrie Fisher and Terry Bradshaw. Fisher spoke Monday night at the annual Convocation. “Having waited my entire life to get an award for something, anything (okay fine, not acting, but what about a tiny award for writing? Nope), I now get awards all the time for being mentally ill,” she quipped. “I’m apparently very good at it and am honored for it regularly.”

She looked and sounded terrible as she cracked wise about seeing “shrinks” almost continuously since she was a teenager, the troubled daughter of celebrity parents Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. She spoke of her battles with drug and alcohol addiction and depression, and of the help she has received from talk therapy, drug therapy, and electroconvulsive therapy, which she said, gets a bad rap. Some shrinks were not impressed and walked out on her narcissistic monologue. Others laughed and applauded.

Bradshaw, former football great and current broadcaster, was featured in the APA’s ninth annual Conversations event, funded by Astra-Zeneca. He told of how he developed clinical depression after being labeled a dunce because of his slow drawl and the accusation that he was too dumb to read defenses when he started out as a quarterback in the National Football League. Following his successful treatment, he began to talk publicly about his experience to help fight the stigma attached to mental illness and to encourage others who are suffering to get help. 

A loop of Bradshaw talking about his experience ran repeatedly in the exhibit area. After hearing the same message all afternoon, a sales rep at a nearby exhibitor’s booth said, “Hey, I love Terry Bradshaw. I’m from Alabama and I’m a big football fan. But come on, Terry, get over it already. It’s been years!”

The AGLP members greeted me warmly at their reception, which featured music by a trio of elderly jazz musicians and an aging female vocalist. But food was scarce and the drinks at the cash bar were a little pricey so I headed to another event to which I’d been invited by a representative of a company called Practice Fusion, which offers “free, web-based electronic health records.” This one was at Mulate’s restaurant and bar near the convention center, which features traditional New Orleans food, and there was a nice little buffet and free drinks.

Practice Fusion promises fast set-up and no downtime…and you can switch your practice over in an afternoon. So if you are a medical practitioner and you aren’t pleased with your current record-keeping system, you might want to give them a call.

Maybe George Weiss, the old baseball general manager, was right after all when he snorted, “Sportswriters! You can buy them with a steak.” I’ll have to ask my shrink about that.

Michael can be reached at

Christmas in May

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

By Jeffrey Page

mis-speak, verb, to speak or say incorrectly

lie, verb, 1 to make a statement that one knows is false especially with intent to deceive 2 to give a false impression

“On a few occasions I have misspoken about my [military] service, and I regret that and I take full responsibility. But I will not allow anyone to take a few misplaced words and impugn my record of service to our country,” said Richard Blumenthal.

Actually, what’s being impugned is his service to the facts.

Blumenthal, the Connecticut attorney general seeking the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate, called a news conference last week to inform the voters that he’s not a liar. This may prove difficult because if you seek to be taken seriously, you can misspeak on an issue once. More than that is unacceptable. The people are not idiots.

Perhaps not since Bill Clinton – “It all depends on what your definition of ‘is’ is,” he told a grand jury in responding to a question about sex – have we seen such an amusing example of blundering obfuscation as Blumenthal’s wormy explanation of how he came to say he was a member of the Marine Corps serving in Vietnam when he was no such thing. In fact, he was in the Marine Corps Reserves and never was deployed to Vietnam.

Blumenthal acknowledges that he claimed service in Vietnam “on a few occasions.” He might consider this a case of misspeaking, which raises the question: How do you make such a mistake about your personal history? And if you do err, how do you do it more than once?

In Norwalk in 2008, Blumenthal said, “We have learned something important since the days I served in Vietnam.”

The New York Times found a 2007 story in the Milford (Conn.) Mirror about a Memorial Day observance. The Mirror quoted Blumenthal saying: “In Vietnam, we had to endure taunts and insults, and no one said, ‘Welcome home.’ I say welcome home.”

And in Shelton last year, The Connecticut Post quoted him saying: “When we returned from Vietnam I remember the taunts, the verbal and even physical abuse we encountered.” By the way, could Blumenthal or anyone else who claims this trashing of returning Vietnam veterans by people in America please produce contemporaneous news accounts of the incidents? It would be nice to put that fable to rest once and for all.

It’s fair to say that if you tell people that Stamford is the capital of Connecticut, you misspeak. But if you tell them something about yourself that is 180 degrees from the truth, you do not misspeak.

You lie.

If I were Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, I would do the polite thing and send Blumenthal a note of deepest and sincerest appreciation for the generous early Christmas present he so graciously has given the GOP.

Jeffrey can be reached at

Sustainable Living-Community Gardens

Monday, May 24th, 2010

by Shawn Dell Joyce

The economic downturn has left many communities looking decimated with empty lots, vacant stores, and unemployed people with too much time and too little money. Some of these people have started a positive trend across the country by taking over vacant lots, empty rooftops, and unused parks to create community gardens.  These community gardens are a great way to get both children and adults involved in beautifying the neighborhood and benefitting the community with better nutrition and green spaces.

In the Wallkill Valley, we have a few community gardens that you can be part of. The Town of Montgomery Community Garden was started by Walden Resident Richard Phelps in an effort to help preserve Montgomery’s Benedict Park. The park is located on Rte 17K one mile west of the village. The garden is in the front field on the left in two acres of high ground. The community garden is divided into 56 single plots most 20 ft x 20ft and available to be gardened singly, double, triple or in quadruple combination for $25 per plot, plus two hours of community service.

The community garden has been a community effort with donated fence posts, donated well from Tompkins Well Drilling, and a communal compost pile. The garden is open to the public, so visitors to the park can drop in and see flowers in bloom and tomatoes swelling on the vines.

In the hamlet of Wallkill, Local businessman and lifelong resident, Stewart Crowell won a grant to develop his own land into a community garden. He enlisted support from the Wallkill Public Library, the Town of Shawangunk Council, the Wallkill High School Honor Society, the Wallkill Reformed Church Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry, the Wallkill Farm Market, as well as the local community enhancement committee, Woman’s Club and Girl and Boy Scouts. Plans are underway for this effort which will compliment Crowell’s Wallkill Community Farm Market which he began last summer. 

The Wallkill Library will lend a hand by creating an “ABC’s and Edibles” children’s reading garden, teaching children about plants and veggies and incorporating the planting of seeds and plants into story time programs.  Local high school students are joining the project to lend a hand in building beds and laying mulch and harvesting and distributing the produce. By encouraging young people to participate in the process, Wallkill is fostering an appreciation of farming, and working in harmony with nature. By making it a hamlet-wide effort, residents feel a sense of pride in making our community look its best.

Why not take part in one of these community gardens now, while it is still early enough in the growing season.  For more information on the Wallkill Community Garden, please call Mr. Crowell at 341-7381, for a plot in the Town of Montgomery Community Garden,contact Richard Phelps  (845)778-2736

Shawn Dell Joyce is the director of the Wallkill River School in Montgomery.

Gigli’s Photo of the Week 05/23/2010

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

Photography by Rich Gigli

The Frog Prince, is a fairy tale, best known through the Brothers Grimm's written version;  In the tale, a spoiled princess reluctantly befriends a frog (possibly meeting him after dropping a gold ball into his pond), who magically transforms into a handsome prince.

The Frog Prince, is a fairy tale, best known through the Brothers Grimm's written version; In the tale, a spoiled princess reluctantly befriends a frog (possibly meeting him after dropping a gold ball into his pond), who magically transforms into a handsome prince.

A Candle in the Wind

Thursday, May 20th, 2010
By Bob Gaydos
 Something has come unraveled in China. That model of the closed society, tightly controlled from the top down, is killing its children. Slaughtering them, actually, with knives, hammer and meat cleavers in elementary schools across the wide nation. Here is the casualty list for the last two months:
  • March 23: In Nanping City, Fujian Province, a man waited outside a school gate with a knife and killed eight students and injured five.
  •  April 12: Not far from the Xizhen Elementary School of Hepu County, Guangxi Province, an eight-year-old student and an elderly woman were found dead, and another five were injured, including two students, a toddler, and a middle-aged couple.
  • April 28: A man ran into an elementary school in Leizhou City of Guangdong Province with a knife and injured 18 students and a teacher. The resulting investigation showed that the 33-year-old suspect was a teacher at another public school in Leizhou City, on “sick leave” since February 2006.
  • April 29: A man broke into a kindergarten affiliated with Taixing Township of Taizhou City, Jiangsu Province, stabbing and killing 32 people.
  • April 30: A 45-year-old man of Shangzhuang Village of Weifang City, Shandong Province, forcibly entered Shanzhuang Elementary School on a motorcycle, carrying a hammer and gasoline. He wounded five preschoolers with the hammer and then killed himself via self-immolation using the gasoline.
  • May 12: A cleaver-wielding man broke into a kindergarten in China’s Shaanxi Province, killing nine, including seven children, and injuring 11 before returning home to commit suicide.

  In what appears to be a related attack, on Monday a young man in his 20s attacked six young women with a meat cleaver at a market in Foshan, in southern China, before jumping to his death off a three-story building. (Note: China bans handguns for civilians.)

 The first official response to the killings was the obvious one — beef up security at schools. With each attack came more guards, but China is a huge country with thousands of schools. The second official response was one that is hard-wired into the Chinese government — blame the media. The government banned reporting on the attacks, ostensibly to avoid copycat crimes, but also, as media critics within and without China noted, to spare the country embarrassment for the bizarre crimes.
But as the attacks continued and parents feared for their children‘s lives, even the government had to acknowledge publicly that something was seriously awry. Wen Jiabao, China’s premier, said, “Apart from tight safety measures, we need to pay attention to addressing the root causes of these problems. That includes dealing with social conflicts and dispute resolution at the grassroots level.”
This is not something China has done well under communism. Adding capitalism to the equation may have added wealth and international prestige and power, but it may also have increased feelings of alienation, isolation, fear  and despair among  those who do not share in the wealth. China has no independent justice system. It has virtually no mental health system. The disturbed, the angry, the violent have nowhere to go to release their demons, explain their resentments. Killing children, the most vulnerable, the most innocent, is the ultimate act of desperation. Do you hear me now?
 I don’t really know where to go with this. Part of me says this is simply another indictment (although a gruesome one) of the communist system, which purports to share the wealth with everyone, yet unfailingly rewards those in power far out of proportion and neglects the basic needs of those at the other end of the spectrum. In China, the gap between rich and poor — a contradiction of communism — has grown wider in recent decades with the introduction of Western businesses. Yet China’s government still seeks to retain control, not by serving its citizens, but by exerting its power over those who try to question it. Spend money on big things that make the country look good. Hello, Olympics! Ignore other stuff like individual rights, mental health facilities, environmental and safety precautions at work. Censor the media.
 Maybe the Internet will be the answer. Even China could not keep news of the attacks and comment on the possible causes from reaching an international audience. That inevitability coupled with the sheer horror of the assaults has stirred a discussion within China over the root causes. Perhaps that will produce a demand for change that can’t be put down by tanks and troops. Part of me really hopes so because the thought of those innocent children being slaughtered at school makes me inordinately sad for them, their parents and their country.
 Even sadder, Huang Hung, a columnist for China Daily, the leading English-language paper in China, and a prominent Chinese blogger, noted that when the first murderer was executed (Chinese justice may not be accessible and even-handed, but it is swift), the public reaction was generally one of relief. He is gone and forgotten. Put our shame out of sight. “Yet,” she wrote, “no one has lit a candle for all the dead children.” 
Maybe that’s what this column is. A candle for China’s children.
Bob can reached at    

Peace Rally to Greet Prez at West Point

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

By Michael Kaufman

When President Obama visits West Point Saturday to address the graduating Cadets and their proud families, he will also be greeted by a large crowd of anti-war protesters disappointed with both his failure to bring our troops home from Iraq and escalation of the ongoing war in Afghanistan. The Orange County Democratic Alliance, led by Goshen attorney Michael Sussman, is co-sponsor of the pro-peace rally, which is expected to draw citizens–including veterans and members of military families–from neighboring counties and states. “Our voices must be louder if peace is to prevail,” said Sussman. “We will march and engage in peaceful protest against continued occupation of foreign lands while our priorities at home
remain largely unattended.” The rally will begin at 10 a.m. at Veterans Memorial Park in High Falls.

Some are sure to regard the demonstration as an annoying intrusion on a day set aside for celebrating the achievements of the graduates. But Sussman and his fellow peace acitivists, many of whom voted for Obama in the last presidential election, see the event as an opportunity to let the president know that he will be held accountable for the continuation of the failed policies of the Bush administration.

There was never a legitimate justification to invade Iraq and cause widespread devastation and death (unless you think oil is a good enough reason). Iraq had no connection to the September 11 attacks, no weapons of mass destruction aimed our way, no Al Quaeda terrorists. But Al Quaeda has adherents there now, surely in part because of actions carried out in our name like those seen in this link:

Remember when we were told how great it was going to be for women in Afghanistan after we helped the people there get rid of the Taliban? Thanks to us, women would be allowed to attend schools and pursue professions as equal members of society, free of the restraints imposed on them by the tenets of Muslim fundamentalism. Ironically, there was a brief period in recent history when this actually took occurred. But it was when Afghanistan had a pro-Soviet government so our leaders decided to help the Taliban attain power and rid Afghanistan of Russian influence. Why was Afghanistan important to us then and why is it important now, even when we know that Osama bin Laden isn’t hiding there anymore? Did I hear someone say “Oil?” Go to the head of the class. Funny, we never invaded Saudi Arabia to help the women gain equality there.

I wish President Obama would come to West Point and tell the graduates what President Eisenhower said in his farewell address to the American people on January 17, 1961. Noting the development of a “permanent armaments industry of vast proportions” in the years following World War II, Eisenwhower, a West Point graduate and honored general, warned of its implications. “This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience…we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence…by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

And I wish President Obama would tell them about Major General Smedley Butler of the U.S. Marine Corps, who was at the time of his death in 1940 the most decorated Marine in U.S. history. During his 34 years as a Marine, Butler took part in military actions in the Philippines, China, Central America and the Caribbean, and served in France during World War I. His book, War Is a Racket, described the workings of the military-industrial complex of his day:

“I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high-class thug for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”

And then I wish President Obama would quote Winston Churchill: “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” But he won’t….and that is why the Orange County Democratic Alliance members and others will be rallying for peace Saturday near the gates at West Point.

Michael can be reached at

A World of Magic

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

By Jeffrey Page

Tom Verner opened a paper bag and placed it over the little girl’s head for a moment. “Anything in there?” he asked.

“No.” She was about 5.

He handed her his magic wand and asked her to wave it over the bag while saying some magic words. Not abracadabra, but woo-woo-woo. He looked inside, slapped his hand to his cheek in astonishment, and withdrew a bright green silk. Some children in the audience gasped – the sound magicians love.

After the green, he found a red silk and the gasps grew louder. Then he stuck his hand in and pulled out a transparent plastic box with a fancy ribbon handle and some paper flowers inside. The kids understood that logic had just been defied. There was no way that box – and a second box that Verner would find in another minute – could possibly fit in the bag.

This was last week in Warwick as Verner was making his way from home in Vermont to Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, where he would do some of the same tricks and bring a little joy, a little astonishment, and maybe a little hope, to children living in orphanages, hospitals and refugee camps.

Verner has been taking his act overseas for the last nine years. He has performed in 25 countries, as well as in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama after Hurricane Katrina, undertaking the three basic tasks of magicians. He makes things appear (the silks), makes things disappear (a coin you could have sworn he had in his hand), and transforms things (a round red ball he stuffs into a child’s hand changes to a black cube).

Verner said the response he gets from sick, injured and lonely children in the grim pockets of poverty and war overseas is identical to the reaction of healthy, happy, well-fed kids in America. To prove his point, Verner showed a short movie of some of his performances. In shows in Warwick and Macedonia, Verner tore up a sheet of thin white tissue paper and placed the pieces in his mouth. He chewed the paper, and a moment later, pulled out the tissue – intact, of course – followed by a silk about 45 feet long (that is not a typo) in green, red, blue, yellow.

In Warwick, Macedonia and El Salvador, the kids displayed that universal look of wonder – the dropped jaw, the raised eyebrows and the beckoning arms. Not just wonder, but of amazement, excitement and joy as well. Not to mention the expression that says: How does that happen? It doesn’t matter if they speak English, Macedonian or Spanish.

Verner first learned of the unifying language of magic in 2001. While on retreat in Poland bearing witness to the horrors of Auschwitz, Verner learned of refugee camps in the Balkans. He made his way to Serbia, Kosovo and Macedonia where he put on shows for the homeless and displaced.

“I spoke no Serbo-Croatian. They spoke no English,” Verner said, anticipating the question. “But magic is its own language. The kids watch; they get it.”

That 2001 visit led to Verner’s founding Magicians Without Borders. He has been dividing his time between magic overseas and his duties as a professor of psychology at Burlington College in Vermont ever since. His Burlington students engage in a great deal of independent study. In addition to entertaining, Verner uses much of his time on the road in El Salvador teaching magic to the next generations of conjurers, some of whom are already performing on their own.

The United Nations estimates that Verner and his wife, Janet Fredericks, who plays a mime named La Fleur in Verner’s magic shows, have entertained more than 400,000 people since 2001. Just last year, for example, they performed for 80,000 Bhutanese refugees living in camps on the Indian-Nepalese border, for the children of prostitutes in Bombay and Katmandu, and at an orphanage for mentally ill children.

The Warwick stop, at Stone Bridge Station on Wisner Road, was arranged by Sugar Loaf Music, and was a two-fold affair. Verner spent about an hour doing magic for young children and their moms and dads – earlier in the day he wowed the kids at the Middle School – and then addressed the parents. He described the squalor and hopelessness of the slums and refugee camps he has visited.

He said he always believed that the camps were places where displaced people spend a year or so until they can straighten out their lives. But he was shocked to find some families still in camps after 20 years. “People out of hope,” he said.

With his Warwick show for the kids over, Verner made a low-key pitch for donations over and above the $10 admission to keep his show on the road. Listening to his talk about overseas conditions he has encountered, the parents were inspired and a small valise near the exit quickly swelled with bills.

Verner’s and Fredericks’ act, performed on four continents, is more than sleight-of-hand. “Magic plants the seeds of hope, hope that the impossible might yet be possible,” he said. “Maybe I can help that process along.”

Care to be the magician’s assistant without getting sawed in half? Magicians Without Borders is based at 100 Geary Rd., Lincoln, Vt. 05443.

Jeffrey can be reached at

Sustainable Living: Showcase Lawns

Monday, May 17th, 2010

By Shawn Dell Joyce

Lawns are big business in our country with homeowners spending millions of dollars and many hours manicuring the lawn. But are these showcase thatched patches an environmental hazard?

      Water is in short supply, yet 30 percent of East Coast water usage and 60 percent of West Coast water usage goes to watering our lawns. We pour 10 times more chemicals on our lawns than farmers use in their fields, making lawns toxic for wildlife, soil microorganisms and earthworms, and polluting local water supplies. Up to a third of bagged household waste going to our landfills is lawn trimmings and leaves raked from our yards.

      Traditional gas-powered lawn mowers are responsible for 5 percent of the nation’s air pollution according to the Environmental Protection Agency. One gas mower running for an hour emits the same amount of pollutants as eight new cars driving 55 mph for the same amount of time, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. Even the innocuous Weedeater emits 21 times more emissions than the typical family car, while the leaf blower can emit up to 34 times more according to

       All this adds up to about 800 million gallons of gas burned each year in the quest for the perfect patch. But, about 17 million gallons of that fuel doesn’t quite make it to the mower tank and winds up spilled on the ground. That’s more than the Exxon Valdez spilled in 1989, and chances are that most homeowners do not clean it up. If that spilled fuel is left to evaporate into the air, it forms smog-forming ozone when cooked by heat and sunlight, and seeps into our water supply.

     If your mower happens to be a two-cycle engine, it releases 25 to 30 percent of its oil and gas unburned into the air, along with particulate matter, carbon dioxide, and other ingredients of smog. This unhealthy soup we breathe contributes to cancer, and damages our hearts, lungs, and immune systems.

      Want to lessen the environmental impact of your lawn?

      The “greenest” thing you can do is convert your lawn to a vegetable garden and replace the turf with lovely raised beds of edible greens.

      If that is too crunchy for your taste, how about trading in those gas guzzlers for the old-fashioned human-powered kind? Reel mowers are easier to use, quiet, non-polluting and you don’t have to worry about spilling the gas. With the money you save on gas alone, you could buy a good pair of clippers for the bushes and a scythe for   weed whacking.

      If you want to take the work out of lawn care, consider investing in electric mowers and weed whackers. Electric mowers range in price from $150 to $450, and the average cost in electricity to power the mower for one year is about five bucks, with no spilled gas and less emissions. Propane powered lawn equipment is a good choice when your lawn is the size of a golf course.

      Use less water by catching rainwater in a barrel and attaching a spigot to the bottom of it. You can set up a drip irrigation system that delivers this rainwater to your lawn. Water your lawn early in the morning when less water will evaporate in the hot sun. Run a fountain pump from your bathtub out the window, and reuse your bathwater to water your lawn.

      Leave grass clippings on the lawn instead of using chemical fertilizers. This keeps yard waste from landfills, and cycles the nutrients from your lawn back into the soil. It also provides a little mulch so that your lawn needs less watering.

    Use your brain instead of herbicides. If your lawn has dandelions, then your soil has a high pH level. Lower it with sulfur, or spot treat individual dandelions or poison ivy with a shot of vinegar.

      Set up a compost pile, or buy a composter for leaves and lawn clippings. Some mnicipalities won’t allow yard waste in municipal landfills. Why waste a good thing? Compost it instead.

      Use natural fertilizers instead of chemicals. Corn gluten will add nitrogen to your soil as well as kill weed seedlings. Use your composted yard waste and vegetable trimmings to build healthy soil on your lawn.

Carrie’s Painting of the Week

Monday, May 17th, 2010


By Carrie Jacobson

This spring seems like a spring from my childhood. A real spring.

For decades now, it seems, spring has come in like a blast furnace. A few warmish days and then – WHAM! – a patch of August-like heat – and then, summer.

This spring, we’ve had the nice, cool nights, the long, warm afternoons, the very best of spring. And the land has responded, spilling over with blossoms and flowers and greenery.

It is all that I can do to look from the edges of my eyes at the news stories of the oil spume in the Gulf of Mexico. If I look too hard, or too directly, I see the end of the world in that disaster.

So I wrench my eyes away, and tear my heart back to the here and the now and the joys of what we have, while we still have it.

If you’re interested in this painting, email me at If you like my work, check out my blog, The Accidental Artist, (link is on the Zest home page) or my website,

Gigli’s Photo of the Week

Monday, May 17th, 2010

Photography by Rich Gigli

DOWNSVILLE COVERED BRIDGE  - built in 1854 by Robert Murray. It is 174' long & it was added to the National Register on April 29, 1999. It is New York state's Longest Operating Covered Bridge. It is located in Downsville, NY, on Bridge Street.

DOWNSVILLE COVERED BRIDGE - Built in 1854 by Robert Murray. It is 174' long & it was added to the National Register on April 29, 1999. It is New York state's Longest Operating Covered Bridge. It is located in Downsville, NY, on Bridge Street.