The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, October 8, 2010


Working to preserve Foss Farm’s legacy

After reading Helen Lyons’ article “Happy Trails – Foss Farm” in last week’s Mosquito (October 1, 2010), I started to think about all the activities people have been enjoying on this 57-acre conservation land that was purchased by the town in 1971. The list of recreational activities that could take place on this piece of land, presented to and approved by Town Meeting, included horseback riding, pony events, dog training and dog sledding, all of which had taken place on the property for many years, thanks to the generosity of the owner, William Foss.

Now fast forward to an article that appeared in the Mosquito on Friday, March 7, 2008, written by the late Ellen Miller, with the headline “When Sled Dogs Ruled the Town.” Another headline, on the centerfold, reads, “Sled dog teams have practiced at Foss Farm for decades.” She writes about how all second graders in the Carlisle School study Alaska in March, at the time of the Iditarod, the dog-sled race from Anchorage to Nome. She explains that the school directory is called “The Husky Handbook” and the sports teams are the Huskies.

This brings me to the concerns that many Carlisle residents have recently expressed over the possibility that dog sledding could be curtailed due to a complaint from a new resident on Bedford Road regarding the noise from the dogs at Foss Farm. For gardeners at Foss Farm, the harvesting season is winding down. While dog sled owners are planning ahead for another season, which usually begins in late October, those involved in finding a solution to reducing the noise – ConsCom, the Selectmen, the Carlisle Police and the Dog Officer, as well as the sled dog community – are coming up with ideas to alleviate the problem.

Here in a memorandum sent to the Selectmen on February 25, 2010 are some of the ways that ConsCom, which manages the land with the support of the Land Stewardship Committee, hopes to solve the problem: Sled dog activity is permitted only during daylight hours, not before 9 a.m. or later than 7 p.m.

When there is no snow on the ground and the road to the Foss Farm garden is passable, sled-dog groups will be asked to drive down to the community garden area, instead of using the Foss Farm parking lot, to unload, hitch up and load their dogs.

When the road to the community garden area is not passable due to snow or is too muddy, sled dog groups may then use the Foss Farm parking lot. It would be too costly for the town to keep that road and the garden area plowed.

When there is snow on the ground, The town of Carlisle will plow Foss Farm parking lot in a manner that has the snow piled up on the Bedford Road side of the lot, to act as a sound barrier.

Let me briefly share some of my thoughts on this situation. The Town’s General Bylaw states that any dog may be deemed a public nuisance for continuous barking for more than 15 minutes in a residential area. But Foss Farm is not a residential area – it is conservation land. And although nobody likes continuous nighttime barking, 15 minutes of daytime barking on conservation land, before the sled dogs head off on the trails, does not strike me as worth banning.

Our town government has been trying to make appropriate and caring responses to complaints by a new neighbor.


When we moved into the house 16 years ago it had the spare, open lines of a Zen monastery. Each of the girls had a room of her own. The fourth bedroom allowed a separate place for both guests and a home office. Unusual for a Deck House, the building included a semi-finished basement-like shop, with loads of storage cabinets. The dining room above the shop was big enough for dancing.

An early sign that this was a temporary condition came with the first trip to the transfer station. The girls discovered the swap shed. What wonderful treasures! People didn’t care for these anymore?

Then, almost as if they had been waiting for the opportunity, my wife’s parents and mine began (subtly at first) to send things our way. “Dear, you were always the piano player in the family, I’ve shipped the old spinet to you.” “Honey you used to enjoy the Time-Life Cuisine of the World Series, we think you should have it.” “I couldn’t find a drinking water glass the last time I visited, here, take this case of glasses.”

Some of this (ok, a lot of this) we did to ourselves. There were the Shaker chair kits that seemed so attractive at the old mill in Arlington, we just had to make some. Then there were the really comfortable reading chairs that Gleason Library was selling – had to take a couple off their hands. And we have always had a serious book and music habit. Ah, those innocent dates back in the early ’80s, visiting Wordsworth in Harvard Square after the movies. But then we moved on to the Concord Book Shop and Amazon. Now I sometimes wonder whether Jefferson’s motivation in replacing the burned Library of Congress with his own wasn’t a desire to prevent Monticello from collapsing under the weight of all that literature.

Moore’s Law contributed to the situation. Our first computer came home so long ago it didn’t require a cooling fan and possessed a hard drive so small it would be the scorn of the smallest iPod shuffle. Every time we replaced a computer, the old one lingered on a bit in a corner of the utility room or the shop. The printers acquired with the computers proved even harder to remove. I think they have little legs and, like dogs, find their way back home.

The problem gathered speed: the home exercise equipment that would keep one family member or another svelte; the kayaks and bikes; the clothes from our leaner or fatter periods. No sooner had we tossed our grad school textbooks than the kids were bringing home boxes from college – here Mom and Dad, can you just keep this for me awhile? And when your parents die: well, après nous le deluge. We were finally, pathetically, forced on the last passing to take a storage unit to sort through the accreted possessions of two prior generations.

Anybody interested in a 1930’s Philco living room radio?



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