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On Saturday, November 28, 2015, start your holiday season off right by scheduling installation of Christmas decorations by A Yard & A Half Landscaping Cooperative.

We can prepare your home or business for holiday festivities with indoor and outdoor arrangements of evergreens, berries, and branches; roping, wreathes, and kissing balls; holiday landscape lighting; poinsettias; and even Christmas tree delivery.

As a thank you for supporting small and locally-owned businesses, if you contact us on Small Business Saturday for your holiday decorating, we will include a free 20″ mixed evergreen wreath with your installation.

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Why Support Us on Small Business Saturday and Every Day?

A Yard & A Half Landscaping Cooperative is a 28-person, 100% worker-owned business. When you spend money with us, it stays in the Boston-area economy, as we pay workers from East Boston and Lynn, a floral shop in South Boston, a Sudbury nursery, a hardware store in Waltham. On average, coops source three times as many of their products locally than conventional corporations, and we’re no exception.

Profits stay local, too, supporting our pro bono work with local charities, creating more jobs, and making better lives for our families and neighborhoods. And because we live and work here just like you, we make sure that we’re making the best business decisions to benefit the local community, from avoiding synthetic fertilizers and pesticides to recycling all of our plant pots and organic waste.

If this sounds like an approach you want to support, contact us via our webform or call 781-788-8855.

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Codman Academy Charter School in Dorchester, MA occupies a storefront in one of Boston’s low-income neighborhoods, sandwiched between units of affordable apartment housing. Their “playground” was a packed dirt yard abutting a parking lot. The school, which uses trauma-informed design to help at-risk students feel more grounded and safe, looked to the Community Outreach Group for Landscape Design (COGDesign) to create a more appropriate play space. Designer David McCoy of Geographia Landscape Design developed a beautiful plan for a sensory and environmental playground, and A Yard & A Half Landscaping Cooperative was lucky enough to be able to install it. Thanks to COGdesign and Codman Academy for the chance to participate in this exciting project!

empty dirt lot with low metal fence

Play area before construction.

landscape plan

Master Plan by David McCoy

poster from 2nd grade class saying "thank you for building our park!"

“Thank You” poster from second-graders at Codman Academy

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On Tues Oct 27, 2015, the Brookline Board of Selectmen took a vote of no action on Warranty Article 10, which would place a year-round ban all gas-powered blowers. The article was amended to exempt Town crews, the country club and golf course, but still was not recommended by the board. (Update: on 11/18/15, the Town Meeting voted to refer the question to a moderator’s committee. More details and background here.)

As a company concerned with the environment and with the health of both workers and community members, we agree that blowers are overused by both groundskeepers and homeowners. However, we are also concerned about the unintended consequences of a 100% ban on blowers, which we believe would disproportionately impact small businesses, workers, senior citizens, and people with disabilities. Here are our responses to some major points of the blower ban proponents:

1. Contractors don’t care.” There will always be contractors who break the rules. It’s up to Brookline to figure out how to enforce them. But a complete ban would primarily hurt those small, locally-owned businesses who do follow the rules. We even go our of our way voluntarily to try to do the right thing:
– We signed on to Quiet Communities and asked to be listed by Newton Safe & Sound as contractors who will perform hand-raking
– We spent the extra money to invest in blowers that meet the 67 decibel regulations, including electric ones.
– We pay living wages and benefits to our workers to create a stable, well-trained workforce. Our workers are not disposable; they want the company to be perceived as a good neighbor and community member.
2. “Banning blowers protects workers.”
If the blower ban is passed, we will be out-competed by irresponsible companies who hire day laborers as a cheap, short term source of manual labor to do hand-raking. These workers will not get basic protections of employment law like minimum wages, overtime, or workers compensation in case of injury. This blower ban will primarily hurt the very workers who are making Brookline a nice place to live. Landscaping workers may work 60 hours a week for 6 weeks removing leaves. They will face an increase in repetitive strain injuries from use of rakes or handheld electric blowers. If they’re not covered as employees under workers comp, they will likely be sent packing if they’re injured.
3. “Just rake your own leaves, already! Or pay someone else to do it.” The exemption for Town crews will save Brookline taxpayers some money, but the ban will raise costs for those homeowners who can least afford it: senior citizens & those with disabilities might not be able to do their own hand-raking, and will be hard hit by increases in costs to have someone else do their leaf removal. Alternately, they may not clean up leaves. That’s great for the soil, but neighbors might not like the messy look, and leaves in storm drains will increase street flooding problems.
4. “But blowers are so noisy…” At 80-100 decibels, walk-behind lawn mowers are actually louder than the 67 decibel blowers required under Brookline’s existing regulations. And that’s not to mention chainsaws, wood chippers, or excavators. Blowers have been targeted because often several are running at a time. Rather than an outright ban, Brookline might consider regulations similar to Cambridge and Arlington, which limit the number of blowers that can be used at any one time, based on the size of the property.
5. “What about the effect of blowers on allergies, asthma, and blood pressure?” We aren’t epidemiologists, but Alan Balsam, Brookline’s health director, has said that the Advisory Council on Public Health “found no compelling health threat” from the use of blowers in accordance with Brookline’s current regulations. Even the American Lung Association has recently acknowledged that the primary concern for pollution from 2-stroke engines comes from machines manufactured before 2012 EPA guidelines went into effect.

To learn more about what local landscapers are doing to be responsible blower users, go to BrooklineLeaves.org

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COGdesign logoA Yard & A Half has been a long-time supporter of the Community Outreach Group for Landscape Design. After 16 years of connecting designers to under-resourced communities throughout Eastern, MA, COGdesign’s co-founder and Executive Director, Lucia Droby, is moving on. No one can fill Lucia’s shoes, but we hope that you will  help us to reach the best candidates for the position of Executive Director.

If you have experience managing communuity-based organizations, we would love to hear from you. Otherwise, we hope you’ll share the job description below with your own networks.

Executive Director – Community Outreach Group for Landscape Design (COGdesign)

Founded in 1997, COGdesign is a non-profit service organization offering quality landscape design for community-based groups; meaningful professional experience for student and practicing landscape designers; volunteer opportunities for those interested in strengthening communities by creating and improving neighborhood green spaces.

Position: Executive Director (ED), reporting to the Board of Directors, will have overall operational responsibility for the COGdesign’s programs, staff, volunteers and execution of its mission.

Leadership, Program and Management
•    Collaborate with Board to maintain continuity of mission and to develop, evaluate and execute strategic plan.
•    Work with Board President to plan Board meetings.
•    With Board input, initiate and coordinate landscape design projects, including matching designers with sites and facilitating communication and deliverables between designer and client.
•    Oversee COGdesign’s participation in installation and maintenance of projects with the Planting Brigade and green-industry partners.
•    With Board committee, manage and evaluate program performance including completed Projects and Planting Brigade volunteer activities.
•    Oversee work of staff and volunteers.

Outreach and Communication
•    Provide regular updates and recommendations to the Board of Directors.
•    With appointed committees, plan, publicize and execute special events including Project Showcase and other events based on strategic plan priorities.
•    Oversee and evaluate communications and strategies for email, social media, blog, marketing, PR and print including periodic newsletter to COGdesign supporters.
•    With Webmaster, provide oversight and content for COGdesign website at http://www.cogdesign.org.
•    Collaborate with Development Committee to identify and pursue strategic alliances with volunteers, partner agencies, municipalities, grant makers, donors and prospective project sites.

Financial and Fundraising
•    With Finance Committee and Treasurer, develop and monitor annual budget, oversee all federal and state tax filings and reporting.
•    Provide financial oversight and reporting to Board with Finance Committee.
•    With Development Committee, initiate and execute strategies to grow earned and contributed revenue (fund-raising).
•    With Development Committee, sustain, implement and grow outreach to business and individual donors.

Qualifications
The Executive Director is committed to COGdesign’s mission. All candidates should have proven leadership and management experience. In addition, other qualifications include:
•    Strong written and verbal communication skills with excellent interpersonal skills.
•    Organizational management with the ability to coach staff and volunteers, manage and develop teams to achieve strategic objectives and manage a budget.
•    Action-oriented, self-directed, entrepreneurial, and adaptable.
•    Ability to work effectively independently from a small office and in collaboration with people from diverse economic backgrounds.
•    Track-record of broadening a donor base, and initiating, developing, and sustaining deep relationships with a broad and diverse constituencies.
•    Marketing, public relations, grant-writing and fundraising abilities.
•    Demonstrated interest or experience in landscape design and implementation, and an understanding of the benefits these bring.

Please contact, before March 31st, 2014:
•    Diane Aronson: aronsons (at) comcast.net
•    Carolyn Edsell-Vetter: carolyn (at) ayardandahalf.com

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Small Business Saturday

When you shop locally, 50% more of your money remains in the local economy, creating jobs and increasing wages for your neighbors. Skip the big box stores and national chains on Cyber Monday, and instead go local today for Small Business Saturday.

Here are links to Boston-area cities with LocalFirst initiatives:

 

Ironically, a large credit card processor has partnered with the Small Business Administration to promote “Shop Small,” even though processing fees an be a real challenge for small businesses trying to keep prices competitive while paying a living wage and providing good benefits to workers. Rather than going for the “Get 10% off when you use your AmEx card” deals, pay cash and participate in the local and independent “Shift Your Shopping for Good” initiative: shop participating local businesses and designate the charity of your choice to receive a percentage of your purchase!

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Update: Nice coverage of this installation and more about the Cedar Hill camp from the Waltham Daily Tribune.

This week, the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts receives a very special gift for its 100th anniversary:  the revitalization of a portion of the former maze at Camp Cedar Hill in Waltham.  A Yard & A Half Landscaping, a woman-owned business based in Waltham, is providing the design and installation services for the project at no charge.

The beloved 75-acre site has provided generations of girls around Boston with the opportunity to enjoy traditional camp activities, from swimming and hiking to marshmallow roasting.

Early 20th century postcard of Cedar Hill arborvitae maze and watchtower

Early 20th century postcard of Cedar Hill arborvitae maze and watchtower

Formerly a private estate, Cedar Hill once featured a replica of the maze at Hampton Court Palace in London, complete with 1,000 six-foot tall arborvitae shrubs.  All that remained when the design process began this year were four granite benches and a dry fishpond.

At the site of the former maze, the project will feature a path of commemorative bricks bearing messages from the Girl Scouts’ many friends.

color rendering of Girl Scout commemorative maze

Color rendering of Girl Scout commemorative maze

“The brick maze at Camp Cedar Hill is an important part of our council’s history, and revitalizing a portion of it during our centennial year is a fitting tribute to all of the girls who learned to be leaders at this camp,” said Ruth N. Bramson, Chief Executive Officer of Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts. “We are grateful to the alumnae, board members and supporters who invested in our Pathway to Leadership project and to Eileen Michaels and her hard-working team at A Yard & A Half Landscaping, who serve as valuable role models for our campers and their families.”

Donations to the Pathway to Leadership project benefit the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts’ Campership fund, which provides camp experiences to girls with financial need.  A contribution of $300 funds one week of camp for one girl.  Through the campership program, 450 girls received assistance.

About A Yard & A Half

Founded by Eileen Michaels in 1988, A Yard & A Half Landscaping provides complete design and installation services, including certified organic planting and maintenance.  Recognized by Inc. Magazine for its “smart management and enlightened leadership,” A Yard & A Half was selected as a “top small company workplace” in 2010.  It is a multi-year Angie’s list Super Service Award winner.

About Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts
Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts serves more than 41,000 girls ages 5-17 and engages 18,000 adult volunteers in 178 communities across eastern Massachusetts with the mission to build girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place. The Girl Scouts organization has a rich history and has been the nation’s leading expert on girls for 100 years.

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Job Posting from City Sprouts:
CitySprouts is a nonprofit school garden organization that partners with public schools to integrate academic and environmental education in the schools and neighborhood. CitySprouts provides every Cambridge Public School, elementary through 8th grade, with on-site gardens that function as outdoor classrooms; on-going maintenance and development of these outdoor classroom gardens; support to teachers in integrating their classroom curricula outside to the school garden; and a summer internship program for youth ages 11-14.
The Garden Coordinator is a seasonal position, spring through fall. The Garden Coordinator maintains the physical space, supports teachers’ use of the garden for teaching during the school year, and leads one section of the 8-week summer youth internship program.
Qualifications
• Experience teaching children in a public school setting, preferably outdoor education
• Experience working with middle school-aged youth
• Experience managing a food-growing garden
• Working knowledge of organic gardening practices
• Strong communication and organizational skills
• Ability to do physical work outside
• Access to a car or truck for occasional use
Job Responsibilities
Maintain schools’ outdoor classroom gardens as an educational resource for teachers and the school community
– maintain an attractive & functional garden space with a variety of edible crops, flowers, native species, and specialty plants throughout the growing season, using best practices in organic gardening
Encourage & support teachers’ use of the CitySprouts garden for instruction
– serve as the garden “expert” to the school community
– coordinate use of the growing space for teachers, school staff and community partners, ensuring that children at all grade levels have access to garden experience
– provide technical support to teachers as they develop garden-based extensions to classroom lessons and units
– document teachers’ garden use at each school
Lead teams of middle school youth in CitySprouts summer program
– teach gardening skills and food production skills, harvesting and cooking skills, and civic engagement & leadership skills to school-based teams of youth in 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th grades.
The Garden Coordinator is assigned to three school gardens (serving 3 elementary and one middle school community), allocating approximately 8 hours/week to each school with additional time each week for team projects.
Seasonal: April 1 – Nov. 30, 30 hours/week Reports to: Cambridge Program Director Base $17 per hour
To apply, please send resume and cover letter to Kim Goldstein by Friday, July 13th: kgoldstein@citysprouts.org

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