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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Workshop Shows How to Start Your Own Vegetable and Herb Garden

Workshop Shows How to Start Your Own Vegetable and Herb Garden
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Fairfield Citizen News)

Fairfield, CT – The theory is that the easiest way to eat locally and organically is to grow your own food. During a class held Friday morning May 20, Heather Carey showed a local group of women how to do just that.

A culinary nutritionist, chef and founder of a business called Green Palette, Carey conducted a two-hour session in her lower Greenfield Hill home titled “Kitchen Garden Workshop”. It covered the essentials of initiating a vegetable and herb garden including location, growing methods, soil, what to plant, supplies and maintenance.

Carey got her professional start at The Natural Gourmet, a cooking school focused on natural and whole foods in Manhattan, from which she graduated in 1994. She then worked in the city as a private chef cooking for people with health problems and special dietary needs. In 1998, she moved to Fairfield, went back to school for a Master’s in Clinical Nutrition at New York University, started a family and began teaching cooking classes through the Welcome Club and at people’s homes. Ultimately, she formed the home-based Green Palette business in 2009. “I wanted to be the chef who knew a lot about nutrition,” she said.

While her usual activity is healthy cooking instruction, Cary said growing your own food is another piece in the puzzle towards healthy eating. “I’m very passionate about gardening and have been doing it for many years,” she said. “I’ve made a lot of mistakes but learned from them. It’s easy to grow your own food and saves you money if you keep up with a program. It doesn’t have to be a big operation – it can be in pots.”

That idea was attractive to participant Jen Jagielo, who recently moved to the area from Michigan and was referred to Carey. “I live in a building with a large terrace and want to start a garden with potted vegetables and herbs,” she said.

Freshness was the appeal to participant Alcira Henao. “I like to cook and want to pick foods from my own backyard,” she said.

To start, Carey suggested keeping a gardening journal. “You want to note what worked and what didn’t,” she said. “Then you want to pick a location – an area that gets at least eight hours of sun a day. Ideally, you want it to be close to the kitchen so you’re not trekking out a mile. You want to protect your garden from animals, too.”

“I have a woodchuck that’s a real problem,” joked participant Mary Ellen Connelly. “It eats everything.”

Carey said there are a few approaches to growing: pots, in-ground and raised beds. “If you have a wet property, raised beds are the way to go,” she said. “You can find them online, and you just put them together. This gives you the total advantage of putting in the best soil, with no weeds or rocks. Other advantages are that it’s a defined space no one will walk through, easier to water and a space maximizer. A good basic bed is 3’ x 6’.”

With regard to container gardening, Carey said it’s a great alternative to raised beds, though the drawback is that you must be more mindful of watering. “Plastic pots are the way to go versus terracotta, which is prone to breaking,” she said. “You can really plant anything in them.”

Soil is another key element. “It should be a mix of potting soil and compost,” said Carey. “I take all my kitchen scraps to compost. You can compost in a tumbler or just have a defined out-of-the-way space. It takes awhile to change to soil but it’s good rich earth. If you don’t want to compost, you can buy it in bags at Home Depot.”

Choosing what to plant is important and comes down to personal preferences. Good warm-weather choices are tomatoes, peppers, squash, corn and cucumbers. Versatile herb choices include thyme, oregano, lavender, basil, parsley, sage, chives and rosemary.

“Starting with seedlings is going to be more convenient than starting with seeds,” said Carey. “You can catalog order seedlings or get them from a local nursery. The last frost date for this area was May 15, so the soil is warm enough. You kind of have permission to plant.”

Mapping out your garden is suggested before putting plants in. “You want to give your plants space to grow so they don’t compete with each other,” Carey said. Once planted, regular watering, weeding and harvesting is necessary to see the garden through to harvest.

“The greatest enjoyment is reaping the fruits of your labor,” said Carey. “I had some 200 cucumbers last year. We had cucumbers with everything!”

For information about Green Palette classes and programs, contact Heather Carey:

Belle Gets Some Greens through Garden Project

Belle Gets Some Greens 
through Garden Project:
Families “dig” program at 
Pequot Library
By Mike Lauterborn
(Posted to 5/21)
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – A certain furry resident at Southport’s Pequot Library loves her greens. Now her exclusive food source is a garden plot on the facility’s grounds, which was begun last year by library staff and community residents.

Early Saturday afternoon, a handful of locals joined staff at the Pequot Avenue property to beef up Belle’s Garden, by adding a square foot garden and expanding and fencing in the existing garden.

“We created a main plot for the first time last year as a feeding source for our rabbit Belle,” said Susan Ei, Children’s Librarian. “She needs three different fresh greens per day. All last summer, I was able to pick a medley of greens to feed her. It completely met her needs.”

This year, a main goal was to both incorporate and demonstrate the advantages of a square foot garden and add that element. “We have both seeds and seedlings to plant,” said Ei. “Belle likes basil, parsley, cilantro and other herbs.”

Besides Ei, leading the effort was Amie Hall, an SFG Certified Teacher and Health and Cooking Coach. She worked specifically on the square foot garden, a square-shaped grid built from wood 2’x4’s in which soil and then plants are placed. The structure was donated by Boy Scouts Troop 88 from Fairfield Grace Methodist Church.

“We can tie these gardens into educational programs that target all different ages,” said Hall. “For instance, a children’s oriented book like ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ can play really well with the garden theme.”

Southporter Rochelle Almeida, with her niece Anaya, 3, and Arav, 7, was glad to come help with preparing the soil and planting. “The children adore Belle and helped plant her garden last year,” she said. “This is an opportunity to help her out some more and make sure she has enough fresh food for the summer. Last year, we planted lettuce; this year we’re planting basil. We’re having a little picnic at the same time, with our favorite food, hot dogs.”

Fairfielder Anne Moran brought along her son Kyle, 5, to help. “We wanted to learn how to plant a garden at home and brought one of our plants along, a bean plant, for Belle,” she said. “We’ve done flowers at home, but never food. The more my son is exposed to gardening, the more he may enjoy herbs and vegetables.”

Carnival Draws Rain Shut-ins for Fun, Food and Rides

Carnival Draws Rain Shut-ins for Fun, Food and Rides:
Jennings Beach hosts 20th annual Holy Family Parish event
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Fairfield Citizen News)

Fairfield, CT – Pop tunes blaring from a deejay booth, the smell of jumbo corn dogs lingering in the air and the rat-a-tat of the shooting gallery. It could only mean one thing: the Jennings Beach Carnival was back in town.

Sponsored by the Holy Family Parish for the 20th consecutive year, the Carnival opened in the large parking lot at Jennings Beach, 880 South Benson Road, Thursday night May 19 and was scheduled to continue through Sunday May 22. A wristband for unlimited rides could be purchased for $20.

“To my knowledge, the event has always been held the weekend before Memorial Day at Jennings,” said Suzie Whelan, the Carnival’s chairperson and a Holy Family parishioner. “The first one I remember was in 1999, when my son was in kindergarten at Holy Family. We’ve had several different carnival companies help us over the years. The current company is Commerford and Sons and the unique aspects they bring are the petting zoo, with sheep, goats and llamas, and pony rides. Other popular attractions are the Gravitron, the Fun Slide, Ferris Wheel and the Scrambler.”

Whelan added, “There’s really something for everyone, including a deejay on Friday and Saturday, which the older kids really like. A percentage of revenue on tickets and sales from coffee and pastries go to help fund church activities.”

Relaxing near the merry-go-round, Holy Family’s Father Guido Montanaro said, “Holy Family School closed in June 2010, and yet the event continued. This is energizing for all the volunteers. We prayed hard that it wouldn’t rain – I think we got our wish. We’re looking forward to a great weekend, with big crowds.”

Carnival operator Tim Commerford spoke highly of the company’s collaboration with Holy Family. “This is our third year doing this with them,” he said. “They’re good people and the town’s been great about permits. We have 16 rides in all, including the Haunted House, which is new this year.”

Fairfielder Jacqueline Levin, visiting with three-year-old son Brayden, said, “My son and I came down to Sandcastle Playground not realizing the Carnival was on. It was a nice surprise, and great break from all the rain. Brayden’s having fun on the moonbounce and mechanical cars.”

Shuttling his seven-year-old daughter from ride to ride, Fairfielder Mark Holzner said, “Livia talked about this for two weeks. We just had to come. She loves the Scrambler and the Fun House. We come here every year.”

Another Fairfielder, Milly Ruiz, a recent transplant from New York City, said, “We decided to come down with our daughter. We don’t get this kind of opportunity in the city. It’s really great to be able to hang out like this on a Friday evening instead of humping the train. We’ve been home since Sunday because of all the rain, so it’s nice to just get out, period.”

Sea Memorial Ceremony Highlights Port 5 Goodwill

Sea Memorial Ceremony 
Highlights Port 5 Goodwill:
Naval Veterans Association a storied community anchor
By Mike Lauterborn
(Appeared on the front page of Fairfield Sun 5/19)
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – On Saturday morning, May 28, the local chapter of the National Association of Naval Veterans (NANV) will conduct a Sea Memorial Ceremony at South Benson Marina honoring those in all branches of the military who have lost their lives at sea in the service of their country. The ceremony will also acknowledge the service of all veterans present and those currently serving. The event is but one of the many community outreach activities the chapter organizes and part of a rich history of dedication abroad and at home.

The Fairfield-Sun sat with Richard Iannucci, the Commander of the NANV’s local chapter, known as Port 5, at its headquarters at 69 Brewster Street, Bridgeport, to learn more about the association’s history, its good work and highlights of his naval career. David Russell, Fairfield’s former fire chief, Port 5’s chaplain and a key organizer of the Sea Memorial Ceremony, sat in to contribute.

A tradition of service

“The NANV is the oldest continuously serving veteran’s organization in the country, chartered in 1896,” said Iannucci, 65, a Stratford resident who retired as Master Chief of the Reserve Seabees. “It was founded by Civil War naval militia veterans. At the peak of membership, there were 22 ‘ports’ nationwide. A port is the equivalent of a Veterans of Foreign Wars’ post. Port 5 is the sole surviving port, with 500 current members, including regular members and women and men’s auxiliaries. Membership is open to all military, any branch of service, including Merchant Marines.”

Port 5 formed in 1896 in Essex, CT, relocated to Olive Street in Bridgeport in 1933 and then moved again to its current home in 1949. Port 5 supports not only veterans groups but a wide variety of other non-profits as well. “Tonight we’re going to Rocky Hill with our ladies’ auxiliary to take fishing gear to veterans at the V.A. hospital there after the staff expressed interest in taking them out fishing as part of their rehabilitation,” said Iannucci. “Last year, we took a group of about 45 blind veterans from West Haven and brought them to Port 5 for a complete lunch, entertainment and gifts.”

Over the past year, Port 5 also donated thousands of dollars to the Veteran’s Food Bank in Bridgeport, conducted a fundraiser for UConn’s Kappa Kappa Psi music fraternity and helped renovate Bridgeport’s Park City Cemetery.

On May 21, Armed Forces Day, the group will decorate the graves of military members buried at the Park City Cemetery. June 10, Port 5 will celebrate the birthday of the Army, with a ceremony and dinner. On September 17, they will host a chili cook-off for the Connecticut Burns Camp Foundation, which helps children with burns rehabilitate. At present, the ladies’ auxiliary is putting together care packages to send to two Port 5 members that are serving in Afghanistan.

Port 5 also makes its facility available as a meeting place for non-profits, which have included the Bridgeport Police Union, Marine Corps League Detachment, Sikorsky Salt Water Fishermen, Police Square Club and antique car clubs.

Leadership born in action

Iannucci’s drive and leadership skills were forged in war and honed during the balance of his 32-year term of naval service, which was spent with the Seabees, a branch of the Navy that builds bridges, roads, airfields and medical facilities.

“I entered the service in April 1968, in the early stages of the Vietnam War,” said Iannucci. “I went to boot camp in Gulfport, Mississippi, then reported to Mobile Construction Battalion 7 in Davisville, RI, the original home of the Seabees. From there, I was deployed to Dong Ha, Vietnam, for nine months, returned to Davisville for six months, then redeployed to Chu Lai, Vietnam, to go on detachments to Landing Zone Baldy, which was a forward landing zone in support of the 7th Marines.”

On June 6, 1970, while at another forward position, Fire Support Base Ross, Iannucci found himself in the thick of fighting. “The hill was manned by 200 Marines and 50 Seabees and we were attacked by some 80 North Vietnamese Army sappers, which are high-profile demolition teams,” recalled Iannucci. “Their job was to get inside the wire and blow up and disrupt whatever they could so their main force could attack. I was asleep in my hut with 12 other members when the attack started. One of the sappers opened the door and threw in three grenades. Eight out of 13 in the squad were severely wounded.”

Unharmed, Iannucci got out the front door, was able to muster people and set up a perimeter across the street to protect fuel supplies and equipment. At the same time, he shuttled his comrades to safety. “Upon hearing cries for help from wounded shipmates, I left the security of our lines under small arms and mortar attack, rescued seven of the eight wounded in my squad and carried them to a MedEvac chopper,” Iannucci related.

The young Seabee didn’t stop there. “I moved to a forward bunker littered with dead Marines and the enemy, and used a handheld radio to direct fire support to stop the oncoming assault,” he said. “The support came from 155mm Howitzers on a sister hill and it stopped the attack on that section. For those actions, I was awarded the Silver Star, the third highest award a naval person can receive for valor in combat.”

Though released from active duty in 1970, Iannucci returned to Seabees service in 1978, working his way up the chain of command from Chief Petty Officer to Command Master Chief, ultimately retiring in 1994.

Salt of the earth

Russell, 84, a Port 5 member since 1948 and a Southport resident, had his own service tales to tell, though his post-war achievements far outshine his naval record. “I joined the U.S. Navy in Nov. 1944, on my 17th birthday,” he said. “As eager as I was to serve my country, I had discovered girls and was a little reluctant to go. Three schoolmates a year ahead of me had been killed in the Battle of the Bulge and my father’s strong urging put me into the Navy, which was the greatest thing that happened in my life.”

Russell’s path led from recruit training outside Syracuse, NY, to sub chaser’s school in Miami, FL, where he was a sailor training on a 136-foot control craft. “We operated on the Atlantic and were all set on Nov. 5, 1945 to be part of the invasion of Japan when Harry Truman dropped the atomic bomb, which is why I never made admiral,” he joked.

As a yeoman’s striker, Russell was released in July 1946. In 1953, he became a firefighter in Southport, rose to lieutenant in 1958, captain in 1962 and Chief of the Fairfield Fire Dept. in 1976, retiring ultimately in 1990.

As Port 5’s long-time chaplain, Russell has attended every member’s funeral, presides over monthly meetings, makes hospital visits to all sick members, volunteers weekly at St. Vincent’s Hospital and serves on the Fairfield Memorial Day Parade Committee. 

Both men cite their naval training and experiences as key preparation for the roles they assumed in civilian life.


Sea Memorial Ceremony a Look at American History

One of the most moving events of Memorial Day Weekend will be the Sea Memorial Ceremony, which gets under way Saturday, May 28, at 9:30 a.m. at Fairfield’s South Benson Marina. Sponsored by the Fairfield Memorial Day Parade Committee and coordinated by WWII Navy veteran David Russell, the ceremony honors past and present servicemen in all branches of the military.

The day begins with a flag raising ceremony held at the entrance to the marina, followed by the main sea memorial ceremony at 10 a.m. at the Gas Dock area. A boat flotilla, led by Captains Larry Coyle and Sandye Mann, will then place a memorial wreath on Long Island Sound. Members of Fairfield Ludlowe High School’s a cappella chorale group will participate, as will members of the Gaelic American Bagpipe group, which will escort veterans from the flag pole to the ceremony area. Boy Scouts from Troop #82 at First Church Congregational will serve as the color guard of the day, along with veterans from the various veterans’ organizations in town and the area. Captain Roger Crossland, USNR (Ret.) will serve as Officer of the Day while Master Chief Builder Richard Iannucci, USNR (Ret.) will act as Chief Petty Officer of the Day.

All persons that wish to honor servicemen are invited to attend as well as active duty members of all branches of the military, in service dress with indications of their veteran status. Light refreshments will be available at the Gas Dock area and, following the ceremony, Port 5 National Association of Naval Veterans will be hosting a reception and luncheon at their clubhouse at 69 Brewster Street, Bridgeport.