The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, April 27, 2001



About those letters...

There has been a flurry, no, practically a blizzard of letters to the editor lately, arguing the merits of large new houses and the families that move into them. So many strong feelings have been evinced in the written to-and-fro that it should stand as a wake-up call to Carlisle—some of our fellow citizens are feeling slighted and unwelcomed by the town we all call home. If one letter and one Forum article can touch off such a firestorm of response, then there is a real problem that we have to face as a town. So let us start by recognizing that if anyone is concerned with the amount of new building going up in town, then his or her issue is with the developer and the pertinent town boards, not with the families who eventually buy the houses. If that stand of woods is dear to your heart, then the time for action and fiery feelings should come in the development’s planning stages, not as the moving vans are pulling up. Because, in truth, we all live in homes that, at one time, took the place of wooded lots or open fields.

With that said, I would like to suggest that, unfortunately, many of the letter writers missed the point. The issue raised initially by Susan Granger had little, if anything, to do with houses going up in new developments or on vacant lots throughout town. The issue had to do with a perfectly sound house being razed to make way for a new, and in this case one assumes, larger house which will then be put on the market. This was not a house whose new owners wished to enlarge it; it had no new owners yet. This was not a house that was riddled with termites and therefore unsalvageable. This was a small home that would have commanded a fair price (and then some, perhaps, considering Carlisle’s hot real estate market), being torn down before its time. The conservationist in me cries foul at the waste of materials; the sentimentalist in me, who likes the idea of someday passing along the home where I raised my children to another young family, worries at this cavalier attitude towards someone’s former home. With larger houses available all throughout town (witness the real estate ads in this very paper), is there any reason other than greed for this home’s demise?

Last Christmas, my husband bought me a small watercolor of a charming white house, surrounded by autumnal trees. The title is “No Longer There,” and at the time I thought it was a painting of someone’s summer place, empty now that fall had arrived. Lately, though, I have come to suspect that the title might actually mean that the house is “no longer there.” With this notion, the painting has taken on a particular poignancy, reminding me that this trend has roots in other communities as well as ours. To me, this is not progress; it is just a shame.

Technology finally delivers

My anticipation of spring is always dampened by the thought of a growing lawn. Don’t get me wrong, I love a nice lawn as much as anybody. But I dread having to cut it. I grew up in New Jersey on a quarter acre of land, most of which was lawn. One of my jobs as a kid was to cut the lawn.

Cutting the lawn still conjures up unpleasant thoughts of hot muggy weather, leaded gasoline exhaust, and pollen and dust sucked off the ground and blown around with unburned hydrocarbons, nitrous oxides and carbon monoxide emanating from the old mower’s meager muffler.

So, when I purchased a home here in Carlisle a decade ago, I tilled a huge garden — to consume as much lawn as possible. I quickly learned that cultivating a large garden requires an enormous amount of work. So the following season I hired a lawn service. This worked well for several years, until the economy heated up to the point where landscape contractors could not hire enough help and their service deteriorated. As a result, I decided to go for the au-naturel look last year. I thought a tall lawn would be healthy lawn. I was wrong. When my mother visited last August, I broke down and bought the only device that could tame my now savage meadow. I put on my charcoal filter mask on one of the hottest and muggiest days of the year, and was immediately transported back to the sixties and New Jersey.

A few months ago, on a particularly gray winter day, I came across an old picture of my house with its beautifully cut lawn. At that moment, I decided to reestablish a manicured, suburban lawn. But I couldn’t bear the thought of cutting it myself. Yes, battery powered electric lawn mowers eliminate the swirl of exhaust fumes from the equation, but I really didn’t want to spend my precious free summer time behind a lawn mower when I could be swimming at Walden Pond.

So I turned to Google, my favorite Internet search engine, and entered the phrase “solar mower” because I vaguely recollected an autonomous lawn-cutting device powered by the sun. That led me to a Husqvarna Web site, Unfortunately, the “SolarMower” is only available in Europe — but a few more mouse clicks led me to Husqvarna’s “AutoMower,” an electric version of it. I was so excited I picked one up the following weekend.

It’s been running in the yard for a week now. It cuts five hours every day, one hour for each 1000 square feet of lawn. You staple down a wire around the periphery of the lawn and attach the ends to a charging station. AutoMower drives around the yard in straight lines (at about one mile per hour) until it senses the wire. It then turns and sets off in another direction. It cuts with an eight-inch disk that has three utility-knife-sized blades. The blades swing out of the spinning disc under centrifugal force, but flip back into the disc if they encounter solid objects. AutoMower shuts down immediately if it’s picked up, if the charging station stops feeding a signal, or if it somehow gets outside the periphery wire. When the battery gets low it follows a “search wire” back to the charging station, where it docks all by itself to charge its battery.

Now my lawn looks like it was just cut every day. No exhaust, no noise, no work. I knew the human race had been developing technology for a reason. I think I found that reason.