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SprinklerWith all the rain we have been experiencing, our lawns certainly don’t need any additional help from us. Yet how often do we see sprinklers running during or directly after a major rainstorm?

The lonely sprinkler controller, the box that houses all the wires and where you go to set up the time each zone delivers water, is probably one of the most overlooked and neglected of all the home systems. Probably for good reason, as most sprinkler controllers are considered “dumb” controllers – they so antiquated that programming and making changes to them is akin to working a VCR from the 80s. Most people set-it up one time, either when it was first installed or at the beginning of the season, to a certain schedule such as every other day or for certain days of the week and that’s it. As the famous infomercial guy Ron Popeil would say, “set-it-and-forget-it”.

If you have a rain sensor, a small device that mounts to your gutter and senses how much rain has fallen and then shuts off your sprinklers, then you are doing better than most. However while rain sensors are more effective than nothing and for a long time were the only option on the market, they are not without their own issues. First they don’t shut the system down until a certain amount of rain has fallen such as 1/4” or ½” so you are still wasting water during a storm. Second they tend to have a short lifespan and go bad over time. If you don’t have a rain sensor, you can add one which requires running a wire from the controller to the outside and up to a gutter for mounting, not exactly easy in most cases. Alternatively, wireless sensors are available, but these are expensive, require changing a battery every so often and still require wiring from the receiver to the controller.

If you have been thinking about conserving water or cutting down on your water bill and this all sounds hopeless, there is good news. There are new “smart” controllers that help make managing you sprinkler systems much easier. The real benefit and the power of these new smart controllers is that they connect to the internet via WiFi so they are able to receive weather forecasts in your local area. They know hours or even days before it’s going to rain and will readjust your watering schedule accordingly. That means these smart controllers eliminate the need to have a rain sensor (although you can still use one if you have it already). I have been testing such a system for 2 seasons now and wanted to share my experience.

I chose the Rachio 2 which has been one of the best sellers on Amazon in this category. There are other brands out there but many of the mainstream sprinkler equipment companies such as Rainbird and Hunter are still playing catch-up in this space. Most function similarly but in my opinion the Rachio has one of the best and easiest interfaces. I bought the 16-zone version for around $200 (it also comes in an 8 zone). Rachio recently released a newer version 3, which has some nice additional features and I would purchase this one if installing one today.

I installed the Rachio controller myself and while I would consider myself handy and comfortable with electronics I think most people could tackle this project. All wires are low voltage and the power is disconnected during install so there is no chance of getting a shock. Labeling the wires before disconnecting from the old controller is the most important part. Rachio has great videos on their website as does YouTube to explain the process. If you are not up to the task, an electrician, handyman or sprinkler company can do it for you. A great time to think about swapping out your controller is right about now when they come for winterization turn off or spring turn on.

Once the new controller is in place all the magic happens through the app on your phone and the cloud. The controller has virtually no buttons, only a series of blue indicator lights showing connection status. After you’ve launched the app and made a connection between your home WiFi and the controller, your next step is to set up your zones and a schedule. When setting up each zone, the app asks for data such as the sun exposure, soil type, amount of slope and the type of grass or shrubs. (Don’t worry its easy and the answers are multiple choice.) After you fill in these details you select the type of schedule you are looking for such as fixed, for specific days or flexible which will adjust accordingly based soil moisture from both past weather data and the information you entered for each zone. The algorithm in the flexible schedule helps to build the most efficient water saving routine possible.

The app lets you monitor how much water you are saving and stores all your zone and schedule information in the cloud so there’s never a need to reset anything after a power outage. Also, I have it set up with alerts to tell me when a watering “skip” has occurred and it even tells me when it automatically performs a “seasonal adjust” for times when it’s either very dry or very wet.

Overall, having a smart sprinkler controller has been one of the most useful and effective home devices I’ve ever installed. Since installing the controller I’ve reduced my water usage by 36% from my original schedule. My lawn also looks great. Overwatering your grass not only wastes water but is bad for the grass. Another benefit of a smart controller!!

While you still may not be excited about updating your sprinkler system, maybe you can get excited about the possibility of saving water, saving money, doing something good for the earth or at the least not being the person who’s sprinklers are constantly running during the latest downpour.

I am happy to speak with and help anyone who is interested in this topic.

David Fenigstein

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ScarsdaleConcours2Around 130 cars filled the streets of Scarsdale Village on Sunday, October 7th for the 15th annual Scarsdale Concours D’Elegance. 103 cars were pre-registered for the show, and others drove to the show and entered their cars upon arrival.

The weather forecast played an important role in this year’s show. The overcast skies and slight drizzle the morning of the show led many who pre-registered their cars to leave their special vehicles at home to avoid water damage. Consequently, some of the pre-registered cars were not present at the show. Many car owners wait until the day of the show to register their vehicle to ensure nice weather. Although clouds filled the sky on the morning of October 7, the weather cleared up for the afternoon and those who did attend the show were able to enjoy a sunny day.

The Scarsdale Concours D’Elegance is a charity event and all proceeds are donated to local organizations. Donations this year were record-breaking; significant funds were raised for the Scarsdale Volunteer Ambulance Corps, Scarsdale PBA, and Scarsdale Edgemont Family Counseling Services.

The vintage and exotic cars present at the show often have special meaning to their owners. Many vintage cars have extraordinary stories behind them, especially those that still belong to their original owners. Stuart Royal, a member of the Scarsdale community and owner of Royal Green Appliances in White Plains, enters his vintage car into the show each year. He is the original owner of a 1973 Volvo 1800 ES. This year, Royal was awarded the Preservation Award by the judges, which means that he has done an exemplary job keeping his car in great condition.

ScarsdaleConcours3Royal originally bought the car in 1973 due to rising gasoline prices that made driving his previous car too costly. The Volvo, which Royal describes as a “muscle car,” was much more fuel efficient. Royal immediately fell in love with the car, and still drives it 4-5 times a year.

ScarsdaleConcours100718 169Stuart Royal Receives the Preservation AwardIn his 45 years as owner of this car, Royal has many memories that involve driving this special vehicle. The car holds a special familial importance since Royal met his wife while driving this car. He also recalls driving the car all the way to Milwaukee, Wisconsin for a car event. The car has maintained its functionality throughout the 45 years; Royal is proud that his vehicle has never broken down. “It is an amazing car,” he says.

Memorable stories like Royal’s are not uncommon at the Scarsdale Concours D’Elegance. The unique cars that are displayed each have a story behind them, which adds to their significance.

The show’s spectators were impressed by the array of vehicles on display. While many visitors had attended previous shows, both newcomers and returnees enjoyed the day. The show’s board members are proud that their hard work paid off and look forward to continuing this tradition for years to come.

Photo Credit: Andi Schreiber

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Leaf Mulch Mowing BeforeLawn Before Leaf Mulch MowingMowing your leaves - also known as mulch mowing - into tiny pieces on your lawn, is healthier for your lawn and soil than piling or bagging them to be removed. As the shredded leaves decompose, their nutrients enhance the soil and provide free organic mulch for your garden beds. The pollutants from leaf blowers and trucks are avoided. Homeowners around Scarsdale have been mulch mowing leaves for many years with great results.

Mulch mowing can be done with any standard lawn mower or commercial lawn mower with a mulching blade. Simply mow over the fallen leaves. All landscapers have the equipment to mulch mow, and it is just as easy (or easier) to mulch mow than it is to blow the leaves to the curb. If you find that you have excess leaves, place the mulched leaves in your garden beds. They look great, are a healthy addition to your yard and will save you the cost of buying wood mulch. Remember, to avoid damaging trees and plants, never place mulch directly against a tree trunk or shrub and never pile mulch more than 2”-3” high in a garden bed.

The following sections provide additional details on what mulch mowing is and how to do it.

What is leaf mulch mowing?
Leaf mulch mowing is the process of using a lawn mower to shred leaves into small pieces that are left on the lawn or spread on Leaf Mulch Mowing AfterLawn After Leaf Mulch Mowinggarden beds and around shrubs. The shredded leaves quickly settle between grass blades and decompose to provide natural nutrients to the soil. Leaf-mulched lawns often need less fertilizer and water. Excess mulch can be blown into garden beds to help prevent weed growth, to conserve moisture and sprinkler usage, and to provide a protective layer in winter.

Why is mulch mowing more beneficial than piling leaves at the curb for the Village to pick up?
Mulching leaves adds organic material to your lawn and plant beds which improves the soil. Mulch mowing also reduces the number of truck trips necessary to pick up and haul leaves away, reduces the use of leaf blowers and gets large piles of leaves off our streets.

How do I mulch mow my leaves? Is special equipment needed?
Leaf mulch mowing can be done with a standard homeowner or commercial lawn mower. To help shred the leaves into smaller pieces, it’s recommended that a mulching blade be used. This type of blade, which has grooves to shred the leaves, is inexpensive and available for any type of mower.

Do landscapers mulch mow leaves?
Yes. If you use a landscaper, ask them to mulch mow your leaves instead of blowing the leaves into a pile at the curb. Many, but not all, landscapers have experience mulch mowing leaves. If your landscaper is new to mulch mowing, the following are key points for them to know:

Equipment: They should use a mulching blade at a minimum, but a mulching kit will provide even better results. Mulching kits, which include additional attachments beyond just a mulching blade, are available at any mower distributor and can be fitted to commercial mowers.

Mulching Technique: Mowing the leaves in a circular pattern, rather than back and forth in lines, will result in smaller pieces of leaves which decompose more quickly and will avoid “striping lines.”

Time: It should take your landscaper no additional time to mulch mow leaves rather than blowing them to the curb. In many cases it actually saves time.

Leaf Mulch Mowing CloseupCan I mulch mow my own lawn?
Yes. If you mow your own lawn, use a mulching blade which you can install yourself or bring to any local mower shop (there is one in downtown Scarsdale) to install. Make sure to have the blade sharpened as needed. Try to mulch leaves once a week so the piles don’t build up too high for your mower, especially during the heavy drop of leaves. For larger amounts of leaves, you may want to raise the height of the mower deck.

Will mulch mowing cost more?
Mulch mowing leaves should not cost more than having leaves blown to the curb or bagged. There are many landscapers in Scarsdale who have been mulch mowing properties for years at no additional cost. If your landscaper claims it will be more time consuming, ask them to try it for a few weeks. They should see it takes no additional time.

Can all types of leaves be mulch mowed?
Yes! All types of leaves can be mulch mowed.

Pine needles, which are acidic, may change the ph balance of your lawn if mulch mowed in large quantities. Consider using pine needles as a mulch around the base of pine trees.

Will the shredded leaves harm my lawn or make it look messy?
The shredded leaves will not harm your lawn. In fact, the shredded leaves are beneficial to your lawn. Decomposing leaves cover the soil between the individual blades of grass where weeds can germinate. Once the small bits of leaves settle in, microbes and worms start breaking them down. It is important that the leaves are shredded because whole leaves left on a lawn can smother the grass. The shredded leaves quickly settle into the lawn and your lawn should not look messy.

What if I have too many leaves?
Shredding piles of leaves reduces the volume of leaves significantly! What looks like a huge leaf pile will shred into tiny pieces and quickly settle into your lawn. Excess shredded leaves can also be used as mulch in your garden beds.

If you are concerned about the quantity of leaves, try mulch mowing for a few weeks when leaves first begin to fall and there is less leaf volume. Even if you need to put some leaves to the curb during the heavy leaf drop, any reduction in leaves put to the curb is a benefit.

Leaf mulch mowing benefits our local landscape, reduces the number of truck trips in our community and gets large piles of leaves off the streets.

Leaf Mulch Mowing Resources
Mulch mowing tutorial: Link

Education panel with landscapers and representatives from Cornell Cooperative Extension: Link

Overview of Mulch Mowing Benefits with Chip Osborne (Organic Landscaping Consultant used by the Village on Parks and Fields): Link

Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em Mulch Mowing Initiative: Link 

This article is the second in a series of sustainability articles published by the Scarsdale CAC. To read previous articles, please visit the CAC website at CAC Page.

To contact members of the CAC with any questions, email ScarsdaleCAC@gmail.com or send a message with the online form.

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edgewood1Edgewood Elementary School kicked off the commemoration of their Centennial year with a ceremony on Monday, September 24th to celebrate their new library. The ceremony began with the pledge of allegiance, followed by the singing of the national anthem by the 5th grade chorus. The student band accompanied the singing of the Edgewood School Song.

Speakers at the ceremony included the Principal Dr. Houseknecht, Scarsdale Mayor Dan Hochvert, school alum and Village Trustee Carl Finger, former teacher Dorothy Bench and a fifth grade student.

The annual school picnic followed the ceremony in the back of the school. It was a fun evening for all attendees!
(Photos courtesy of the Edgewood PTA)

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JessicaandMarkJessica Kaplan and Mark Fowler of Bronx River BooksLike many of you, we were so excited to find that Scarsdale’s new independent bookstore is open on Spencer Place and pleased to meet Jessica Kaplan and Mark Fowler, a White Plains couple who has opened their first bookstore, Bronx River Books.

What is their story and how did they end up in Scarsdale Village? They graciously agreed to an interview and here is what Jessica shared:

Tell us something about your background, your professional history and familiarity with our area?

My husband, Mark Fowler, has been a lawyer for the past 33 years and has represented publishing companies, newspapers, and magazines, as well as individual authors. Prior to becoming a lawyer, he was a freelance writer and also co-authored several books of purported humor.

I taught middle school English for most of my career at Rye Country Day School in Rye, New York. During the past three years of my retirement, I subbed for a semester as a sixth grade English teacher at Greenwich Academy, as a fourth grade teacher at the French American School of New York in Larchmont, and as a fourth grade teacher at Rye Country Day.

We have lived in White Plains for 37 years where we raised our three sons all of whom attended the White Plains public schools from kindergarten through 12th grade.bookshelf

How did you get the idea to open a bookstore?

Bookstores like Three Lives in Greenwich Village, the venerable Grolier Poetry Bookshop in Boston, the old (alas, now departed) Gotham Book Mart in Midtown, and great little suburban bookish destinations like Books on the Common in Ridgefield Connecticut are among our favorite places in the world. Mark and I have always been omnivorous readers, and Mark is on the board of the Center for Fiction, which is in the process of relocating to a great new space in Brooklyn. At one point in recent history, we were in two book clubs (on of which has been meeting regularly for 26 years) in addition to taking literature classes at the Center for Fiction. We always visit bookstores wherever we happen to travel, and we hope and intend for Bronx River Books to continue to connect us to the Westchester community as we segue from our careers in teaching and the law.

How did you learn how to open and run a store?

Well, it remains to be seen if we have. We are greenhorns in the retail business and have been literally getting on the job training since Thursday, September 13 when we first opened. We have had no prior experience in selling but did take an online course that (we hope) teaches new bookstore owners some of the ins and outs of the book business. Also, as part of our research and preparation for opening Bronx River Books, we visited 62 independent bookstores to observe, gather ideas, and learn from other booksellers who have been incredibly generous in sharing their ideas and insights with us. We also received valuable information and support from the American Booksellers Association, which is headquartered in White Plains.

BooktableWhere did you look for a site and how did you decide on Scarsdale?

We had a hard-working commercial real estate agent who showed us more than a dozen sites in White Plains, Hartsdale, and Scarsdale. We wanted to be in close driving distance of our home in White Plains, and Bronx River Books is just 2.8 miles from where we live. Reading, Writing and Wrapping in Scarsdale had been our local independent bookstore until it closed several years ago, and we fondly recall our youngest son Matthew buying his first Harry Potter book there. There are fine independent bookstores in Bronxville, Larchmont, Rye, Pleasantville, and Chappaqua, but we felt a certain absence in central Westchester since Reading, Writing, and Wrapping closed its doors. And, of course, there are many thousands of smart, highly engaged readers in Scarsdale, White Plains, Edgemont/Greenburgh, Eastchester, and other nearby towns.

Why do you think the community will support the bookstore?

Since we opened (and even while we were still unpacking books to set up) many readers from Scarsdale and the neighboring communities stopped by to say they were happy to have an independent bookstore back in town. They've made us feel very welcome

How did you design and build out the store?

We bought our bookshelves from a company in Tennessee that specializes in shelves for bookstores and libraries, had a local Scarsdale architect design our floor plan, and a local contractor from White booksforkidsPlains execute the design.

How did you stock the store? How did you figure out how to strike the right balance of fiction, history, cookbooks, self help, children’s books and more?

Mark and I read literally hundreds of reviews, countless lists of award winners, and begged for suggestions from all of our reader friends and family members. Mark and I collaborated on the fiction selections. He was largely responsible for the history and biography sections. And I chose all of the younger readers books.

Who supplies the books?

We've ordered books from seven of the major publishers, a few university presses, and from two large wholesalers.

What kind of reception have you received so far?

Everyone has been terrific. We are very grateful.

Do you plan to host author visits, children’s events or other in-store events?

Yes, we do eventually plan to host author visits and story time sessions.

What are your hours?

Initially, we are planning to be open from 10:00 to 6:00 every day except Thursday, when we will be open from 10:00 to 8:00. Since we are the entire staff at the moment, we will probably give ourselves a designated day off one day a week -- but not right away, and we haven't decided which.

Will you accept special orders or bulk order for bookclubs?


How can readers reach you?

bookstoredogThey can come to our store during business hours, call us at 914-420-6396, email us at info@bronxriverbooks.com, or order from our website at www.bronxriverbooks.com. We are also on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We are glad to receive book requests by phone or email, and, if we don't already have a book on our shelves, we can usually get a copy in about two days or sometimes (to our amazement) sooner.

And what about your dog?FlushBiography

Virginia Woolf is our English Springer Spaniel, but she was named long before we conceived of the idea of opening a bookstore. She is, of course, named after the British novelist who owned a series of spaniels and who also wrote an imaginative biography entitled Flush from the point of view of the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s spaniel. (Mark will send you a copy of the cover in a separate email.)

Virginia is in the store periodically when she has nothing better to do.

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