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Archives for January 9, 2013

Changes are many

There was an abundance of excitement in Dawsonville and Dawson County in 2012.

From the community seeing stars when Hollywood greats Clint Eastwood and Justin Timberlake were in town to film scenes for “Trouble with the Curve,” to the local distillery receiving the green light to offer tastings of the first legal moonshine in Georgia, Dawson County was abuzz and poised to open new doors in 2013.

While many nearby communities continued to see the economy take its toll, Dawson County prospered in 2012 with the openings of several new ventures designed to make the community a brighter place to live, work and play.

The county’s new courthouse and government center, which opened last January, now serves as a center point for residents who can now take care of all the county government needs at one location.

The expansion of Lanier Technical College’s permanent campus provides higher learning opportunities and adult education facilities without having to leave the county.

However, there were setbacks last year that officials hope can be resolved in 2013.

The school board continues to look for ways to pinch pennies to make up for a more than $2.1 million shortfall at the state and federal level.

As 2013 begins, it serves to review recent history in an effort to persistently grow and progress. The following is a yearend wrap-up of newsworthy events compiled in no particular order by staff writers Michele Hester and David Renner.

Distillery cleared to offer tastings

Distillers got the final approval needed to begin offering samples of the first legal moonshine produced in Dawsonville in late November.

“I’m so excited,” said owner Cheryl Wood. “We’re all really excited.”

The distillery, which leases space inside the Dawsonville Municipal Complex and operates as Free Spirits Distillery LLC, is the first in the state to be cleared to offer samples after a tasting bill was passed by the General Assembly earlier in 2012.

The measure allows visitors to sample up to a half ounce of spirits per person, per day when touring a distillery.

Dawsonville Mayor James Grogan said he couldn’t be more proud of the distillery’s success.

“They are now the first distillery in the state to be able to offer tastings, and that’s a big deal for them and a big deal for Dawsonville,” he said.

The town has been featured in several national news programs since the distillery began producing its first batches of moonshine in October.

Grogan said he looks forward to the distillery’s continued achievement, as both a local business and a tourist attraction that complements the city’s unique moonshining heritage while also driving economic development.

“This is going to be a big plus for Dawsonville,” he said.

County approves sludge ordinance

Commissioners approved an ordinance that bans the application of Class B sewage sludge in October in response to a developer’s plan to place partially treated liquid waste in Dawson County.

According to his application with the state Environmental Protection Division, Ken Curren wants to amend the Hampton Creek Water Reclamation Facility sludge management plan.

If approved, sludge from the Forsyth County plant would be deposited on about 65 acres at Lumpkin Campground and Harry Sosebee roads in Dawson.

While the commission has adopted the ordinance to ban the waste, the county will continue to have an uphill battle on the enforcement level due to a state law that regulates sludge and trumps local policy.

However, Commission Chair Mike Berg, who called the ordinance a tool in the county’s toolbox, said approving the policy prepares Dawson for the future.

He hopes the state legislature will take up the cause during its 2013 session.

“This is just a policy and our policy can react to what happens tomorrow as well as it can react to what happens next year,” Berg said. “If our legislature decides next year that they would like to do something about their state law, then we will have … a policy in effect that would address that and address any future issues that may arise.”

More than 200 residents and business leaders attended the two public hearings the county was required to hold on the matter.

They voiced concerns over potential pathogens seeping into the water supply, diminishing property values and a drop in sales tax revenue.

Opponents of the application have also collected more than 3,000 signatures on petitions distributed by the Dawson County Homeowner’s and Civic Association.

According to EPD’s Web site, Class B biosolids are treated but still contain detectible levels of pathogens.

Lanier Tech moves into new facility

Community leaders gathered last summer to celebrate the new Lanier Technical College facility in downtown Dawsonville.

After 10 months of construction, the college completed the $5 million expansion project in August.

Located beside the Adult Learning Center, the building more than doubles the college’s educational space at its Dawson campus.

Board member Roger Slaton, who is also a member of the Dawson County Board of Education, said the expansion is “close and dear” to his heart.

“This was a dream of mine and many other peoples, so I am just on cloud nine,” he said. “I can’t wait to see the ribbon cut so we can move forward and go to work.”

Currently more than 150 students are enrolled at the campus.

Programs offered at the new Dawson campus included medical assistant, certified nursing assistant, business administration, welding and cosmetology.

Along with the automotive program, the electrical systems technology program is exclusive to the campus.

The Dawson campus, which welcomed its first students in October 2005, was previously housed in a building owned by the local school board.

Incumbents carry elections in 2012

Once the votes in last July’s general primary were counted, it was clear Dawson County citizens were content with their current local elected officials.

Each incumbent candidate carried their respective races, which means voters saw no change in leadership in January.
Of the county’s 12,929 registered voters, 40 percent, or 5,172, cast ballots in the primary.

Longtime Sheriff Billy Carlisle forged ahead and tallied a 63 percent lead over challengers Johnny Glass and Kevin Ellison.

“Now, I’m ready to get back to doing what we do best and that’s serving the citizens of this county proudly. I’m looking forward to the next four years,” Carlisle said after the votes were counted.

The races for tax commissioner, county commission chair and surveyor were close to the end, with the incumbent taking home the most votes in each contest.

Tax Commissioner Linda Townley received about 52 percent to newcomer Karin McKee’s 48 percent.

County Commission Chairman Mike Berg also edged challenger and former commissioner Mike Connor, with about 54 percent, to Connor’s about 46 percent.

“I want to thank the citizens of Dawson County for having faith in me, faith in the board of commissioners and faith in the system that we’ve been using since I’ve been chairman,” Berg said.

Incumbent county surveyor Donald “Rex” Jones held off challengers Ben Trail and Gregg Bagwell with about 53 percent of the tally.

In addition, acting Dawsonville Mayor James Grogan staked a resounding lead in his mayoral bid.

Grogan, who had served as acting mayor since April, received about 62 percent, to former councilman Calvin Byrd’s about 38 percent to fill the unexpired term of Joe Lane Cox, who died in March.

“I am really, really excited. I feel like our city is on the verge of something great and I am so happy to be a part of it,” Grogan said.

In the race for the District 9 state House of Representative seat, Kevin Tanner pulled away from Clint Smith by a wide margin, receiving about 71 percent, to Smith’s nearly 29 percent.

Tanner, who has served as Dawson County CEO since 2008, will replace longtime representative Amos Amerson.

During his time in office, Amerson, who retired after holding the office for 12 years, served on numerous committees and authored bills that focused on improving lives in the district and across the state.

He considers legislation that created tax exemptions for seniors in Dawson County and a multi-member Lumpkin County commission to be among his greatest accomplishments.

“It continues to be a joy representing you in the Georgia General Assembly,” he said.

Tanner will be sworn into office at the state capitol on Monday. His last day on the job as county manager is Friday. The county commission voted last month to promote chief financial officer Cindy Campbell to fill Tanner’s position.

In other ballot issues, Dawson County residents were solidly against a proposed regional sales tax for transportation.

Mayor dies, Grogan wins special election

The Dawsonville community mourned the death of a passionate public servant whose political career spanned nearly four decades and paved the way for much of the progress seen across the county last year.

Mayor Joe Lane Cox died in March at the age of 72.

News of his death traveled quickly through the tightknit community, where Cox had served as mayor since January 2004.

Prior to being elected mayor in 2003, Cox led Dawson County as sole commissioner from 1981 to 1992 and also served as the county’s probate judge for three years in the late 1970s.

Longtime friend and former planning commissioner Sandy Ward said no one loved Dawsonville and Dawson County the way Cox did.

“He was always so proud to be a resident here, so proud of the history and so proud to give back,” Ward said. “He was a true visionary. He paved the road for so much of the development we enjoy today in Dawson County.”

As sole commissioner, Cox focused on improving the quality of life in the county and preparing the area for the growth that soon followed.

His work and vision were recognized many times throughout his political career locally, regionally and statewide.

During his tenure as mayor, Cox secured grants to improve the city’s wastewater treatment capabilities, fund several road projects, purchase the defunct Thunder Road racing museum and put in sidewalks through the city.

A special election was held to fill Cox’s unexpired seat.

Former-Councilman James Grogan was elected after tallying about 62 percent, to fellow former Councilman Calvin Byrd’s 38 percent.

Grogan called Cox a man of strength and dedication to his city.

“He [wanted] a city of Dawsonville flag to be placed on top of his casket,” Grogan said. “I think that reflects the character of this man that his love for his city he wants to carry with him home.”

Young entrepreneur receives honor

A young entrepreneur from Dawson County has achieved the Future Farmers of America’s highest honor.

Bradley Weaver, 21, was awarded the American Star Award in Agribusiness on Oct. 27 during the organization’s 85th annual national convention in Indianapolis.

One of four finalists, the national contest celebrates farmers who have mastered skills in production, finance, management and research.

Weaver said the award is something he had worked toward for years.

“It’s been my dream since I was a freshman in high school, when I first saw the videos at the national convention, to win this award,” he said.

“It’s what I’ve been working for as my final goal for FFA. It means a lot to me. It’s the biggest honor that an FFA person can receive.”

Growing up on a family farm in northwestern Dawson, Weaver’s love for agriculture developed at an early age.

He started growing pumpkins at age 5, with plans to save money for college. That same year, he became the youngest member of the local chamber of commerce.

He started selling Christmas trees a few years later and during his freshman year of high school expanded the business to include daylilies and daffodils.

Now taking classes in business administration and biology at North Georgia College State University, Weaver also manages a small, successful landscaping company.

In all, he operates eight businesses that bear his name. Yet, he still looks for other opportunities.

“I plan on expanding out in the future. For the first time, I am planting 2 acres of blueberries this year,” he said.

As a finalist, Weaver was interviewed by a panel of judges, who ultimately named him the top candidate in his category.

As the winner, Weaver received a plaque and a $4,000 cash prize.

Will Wade, a longtime family friend and member of the Dawson County Board of Education, congratulated Weaver, saying: “He epitomizes the idea of the American dream.”

“He is truly a great young man and the perfect example of an American Star in Agribusiness,” Wade said. “Bradley Weaver is the type of person I hope that today’s youth look to as inspiration and as the example to strive to emulate.

“We all can celebrate the success that Bradley has brought to Dawson County by more than just the sweat of his brow. He has earned this award by working each day toward an ever-growing goal that can only be achieved over years of effort, prayer and a little good fortune.”

In addition to Weaver’s award, four current members of Dawson County High School’s FFA chapter received the American FFA Degree for “demonstrating the highest level of commitment to FFA and for making significant accomplishments in their Supervised Agricultural Experiences.”

The four students are Kenneth Houseal, Eli Kesting, Nick Reynolds and Seth Stowers.

Students can participate in their local FFA chapter up until age 21, so Weaver won his award as a representative of the high school.

School board trims budget

The Dawson County Board of Education approved a system budget for fiscal year 2013 in May that totals $35 million and suffers more than $8.8 million in reductions.

Shrinking state and federal funds made it increasingly difficult in recent years for local school officials to balance the systems available resources with the total expenditures.

“It is a very dire situation,” said Jamie Ulrich, director of financial services. “The governor comes out and he says he didn’t cut education but we are being cut still through the austerity cuts and it is brushed under the table … hidden.”

While Ulrich reported that the austerity cuts may actually receive a slight decrease this fiscal year, the cuts still total an estimated $2.1 million.

Like the austerity cuts, the tax digest was also waiting to be finalized and is subject to change, but Ulrich reported it is an estimated 12 percent reduction on top of last year’s 10.5 percent reduction.

Yet, by far one of the biggest slams to the 2013 fiscal budget has been the increased healthcare insurance premiums enforced by the Department of Community Health, said officials.

To combat the fiscal challenges the school board made personnel cuts.

The budget showed reduced staffing by about $1.6 million this year, according to Superintendent Keith Porter.

“We have aggressively cut expenditures this year. We absorbed a lot of positions and I don’t know if we can do that again. We’ve got it down there to the point that it would be very hard,” he said.

County opens government center, retires jail debt

State and local dignitaries gathered with hundreds of residents in January for the dedication and grand opening of the new Dawson County Government Center.

The new 111,000-square-foot center brings all offices of county government under one roof and replaces the current courthouse, which was built in 1978.

That structure was razed in the spring to make room for a secure, judicial parking lot.

At $15.4 million, which came from 1-cent sales tax revenue, the cost to build the government center is one of the lowest per square foot in the state in more than a decade, according to county officials.

Georgia’s Speaker of the House David Ralston addressed the crowd.
Ralston, who represents a portion of northern Dawson, said he continues to be impressed with how local leadership has responded to the county’s growth.

The center was the top priority project in an extension of the 1-cent sales tax, which voters overwhelmingly approved in 2007.

In December, Dawson County officials marked the final payment on the local jail with the age-old tradition of burning the security deed.

The county paid off the jail loan Dec. 3, the same day it also made the final payment on the courthouse parking lot.

The $16 million Dawson County Law Enforcement Center opened Oct. 1, 2007, with capacity to house more than 200 inmates.

Construction of the facility was funded primarily from 1-cent sales tax revenue. An increase in building costs forced the county to borrow about $6 million to complete the project.

Commissioners voted in November to retire the remaining $4.3 million loan owed on the detention center, which was scheduled to be paid off by December 2020.

With that vote, the commission also agreed to allocate $678,000 to pay off the courthouse parking lot, a debt that otherwise may not have been realized until December 2021.

Changes at Chamber of Commerce

There is no better way to describe the Dawson County Chamber of Commerce in 2012 than the word “change.”

The change began in early summer when then-president Linda Williams and husband Marty Williams, who served as the group’s vice president of travel and tourism, announced their plans to retire July 2.

Linda Williams, who had battled with cancer for many years, died the next month at the age of 64.

The business community remembered her encouraging attitude and positive outlook on life.

“She was always so positive, despite everything she had been through,” said Doris Cook.

Hired in 1996 as the chamber’s information specialist, she was selected as president of the organization in 1999, when Dawson County was poised for tremendous growth.

Chamber members called her a mentor and the driving force behind the chamber’s growth.

Jennifer Baker, chairwoman for 2012, said she left a legacy.

“Linda absolutely put her heart and soul into the chamber. I don’t think there has been any aspect of what has happened in this community that she hasn’t somehow had her finger on or tried to support,” Baker said.

As chamber president, Williams managed various business initiatives, overlooked networking and business events and fostered an environment for economic prosperity.

Baker announced in July that Christie Haynes would take over Aug. 20 as the chamber’s chief.

“We were fortunate to have extremely talented people from all around the Southeast interested in this position, but Christie’s combination of experience and personality made her our top choice,” Baker said.

“With our small staff, we felt it was critical to hire someone with chamber experience. Christie has the background and, most importantly, the passion that we need to help take our chamber to the next level.”

Haynes said her goal is not to change the chamber, but instead to bring a new face and fresh perspective to the organization.

“We have lots of ideas on how to get more involved in the community that can help us grow business and rebrand the chamber in terms of tourism,” she said.

A 2010 University of Georgia graduate, Haynes has bachelor degrees in political science, history and international affairs.

Baker said Haynes is an ideal fit for the chamber and community.

“Christie genuinely believes in giving back and being an active part of her community, and we couldn’t be happier to have her as part of our team,” she said.

Haynes previously worked as a field representative for the Georgia 2nd Congressional District and on several successful political campaigns.

Hayne’s appointment was not the only change for the chamber.

She and Membership Director Kara Hewatt are among the new employees to take the place of the former members during the chamber’s restructuring last year.

These staffing changes also come on top of remodeling the entrance and information room for the office.

Movie filmed in Dawsonville

Dawsonville was seeing stars last March when a film crew was in town to shoot scenes for the movie “Trouble with the Curve.”

The Warner Brothers’ production starred Clint Eastwood as an aging baseball scout who travels to Atlanta with his daughter to see a hot prospect.

The movie also featured Amy Adams and Justin Timberlake, who were both on set for the filming and stayed at a local bed and breakfast.

Dozens of onlookers camped out across from the Amicalola Lodge, where the scenes were shot hoping to get a glimpse of Hollywood royalty.

“It’s Clint Eastwood – it’s a big deal for the town. It’s a buzz for the people,” said Sean Sears, who drove from Dahlonega to see the star.

Georgia has been one of the country’s leading locations for Hollywood film production for a couple of years, thanks to the tax breaks and incentives the state offers.

Passed in 2008, the Georgia Entertainment Industry Act gives production companies a 20 percent tax credit if the company spends a minimum of $500,000 on production and post-production in the state.

While it remains unclear how much Warner Brothers spent to film the scenes in Dawsonville, officials said the movie has lit a spark in the local economy.

Dozens of off-duty sheriff’s officers were hired to direct traffic near the set and work security throughout the week. Film crews also were spotted buying construction supplies at a local home improvement center.

Pool Room reopens with public support

The year 2012 saw a rocky road for Dawsonville’s historic Pool Room.

The restaurant was seized by the Georgia Department of Revenue in May for failure to pay taxes.

September marked the re-opening of the restaurant after the family was given clearance by the government.

They chose, however, to hold off the celebration until some much needed improvements and upgrades could be made to the diner.

“We put ceramic tile behind the bar, we refaced the bar and put diamond plate on the step to the stools. We repainted, freshened everything up and waxed the floors,” said Gordon [G.P.] Pirkle Jr., who runs the eatery for his dad Gordon Pirkle Sr.

While there are some aesthetic changes, Pool Room fans were assured the downtown eatery’s menu would remain the same, including the daily lunch special that is announced on the marquee each morning.

“We have some past employees that were here five and 10 years ago that came back, and we got a lot of new ones, too,” Gordon Pirkle Jr. said.

Gordon Pirkle Jr. wanted to thank the community for the kind words of encouragement and support the family received since the restaurant closed.

“Everybody’s glad we’re opened and we’re glad we’re open,” he said. “I told daddy he needs to be out here for lunch and for supper to see everybody that comes in. I think the people need to see me or Daddy one here at all times to let people know it’s still the family running it.”

Notables lost in 2012

The county lost a number of notable community leaders in 2012.

Dawsonville Mayor Joe Lane Cox, 72, passed away in March.

Prior to being elected mayor, Cox led Dawson County as sole commissioner from 1981 to 1992 and also served as the county’s probate judge for three years in the late 1970s.

Edgar George David Jr., 84, a vocal and engaged civic leader, passed away in September.

David served as chairman of the Dawson County Municipal Planning Commission, where he co-authored the first zoning rules and regulations for the county. He was also a charter member of the Dawson County Chamber of Commerce and a longtime member of the Dawsonville Lions Club as well as being instrumental in creating the Dawson County Republican Party.

The man credited with founding what has become Dawsonville’s Mountain Moonshine Festival, Fred Goswick, 75, died in February.

Goswick’s knowledge of the local moonshine trade developed early in life, as he hauled the illegal liquor from Dawson County to Atlanta. He was also involved in Thunder Road and the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame, where he served on the board of directors.

The Dawsonville community mourned the death of a local historian, retired school teacher and beloved family man in June with the death of Charles Finley, 64.

Known as an expert on Dawson County, Finley was heavily involved in various organizations. He was a member of the Dawson County Historical and Genealogical Society, the Retired Teachers Association and the Gideons International. He penned several books about local schools and at the time of his death was compiling an authoritative history of the county.

A renowned Dawson County educator and former dean at Gainesville State College, Herbert W. Robinson, 95, died in July.

Robinson served as principal of Dawson County High School from 1947 until 1965. The Dawson County School System honored his contributions by naming the an elementary school in his honor.

The man many credit with setting the stage for commercial development along the Ga. 400 corridor in Dawson County, Don Stephens, 74, died in August.

A native and lifelong county resident, Stephens co-founded Byrd-Stephens Building Supply and is credited with paving the way for the county’s first franchise grocery store. He also developed several other commercial and residential properties in the area.

The supervising prosecutor of the Dawson County office of the Northeastern Judicial Circuit’s District Attorney’s office, John G. Wilbanks Jr., 57, died in December.

Wilbanks was regarded by his former employer as “a dedicated public servant with a decades-long history of effective prosecution and the administration of justice.”

Longtime Chamber of Commerce president Linda Williams, 64, passed away in August.

As chamber president, Williams managed various business initiatives, overlooked networking and business events and fostered an environment for economic prosperity.

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Tim Born, Millbury Troop 110 Earns Eagle Scout Honor

MILLBURY, Mass. — Millbury Boy Scout Tim Born is Troop 110ʼs newest Eagle Scout.

Born recently passed his Eagle Scout Board of Review and was honored along with 84 other new Eagle Scouts during the Jan. 4 Eagle Scout recognition dinner, attended by more than 400 other Eagle Scouts from the area.

A junior at Millbury High School, Born has been involved in Scouting for nearly 10 years since he began in 2003. He is a member of St. Brigidʼs Youth Council, a member of The Friends of the Asa Waters Mansion and involved in several school clubs and activities. He also enjoys working part-time at Rayʼs True Value Hardware.

The rank of Eagle Scout requires the Scout to complete a community service project; Born’s project was an easy choice for him. Since his first volunteer event at the Asa Waters Mansion at the age of 9, he knew this was a special historical building with a dedicated group of volunteers. Born offered to do his project at the mansion and worked with the task force and landscaping committee on ideas. They agreed on creating a welcoming entrance garden on the School Street side of the property and repairing the stone wall.

Preparation for the project began in March 2012. Several months of planning included meetings, communications, approvals, permits, and organizing help and resources. Born solicited donations of labor, materials and financial support from Rayʼs True Value, Ramshorn Landscaping, Rogerʼs Farm Supply, Farmerʼs Daughter and Echo Brook Nurseries, along with family, friends and his Scout troop.

He then organized about 15 volunteers to begin the physical work in late June. Phase 1 was to remove more than 400 square feet of sod, roots and overgrown bushes, as well as repair the historic stone wall along the side of the mansion that faces the Millbury Post Office. Work continued with soil amendments, removing rocks and roots and planting roses, hydrangeas, and an Eastern Redbud tree.

Finally, existing bulbs, perennials and azalea bushes were transplanted and 2 yards of mulch were spread. Careful watering, weeding and fertilizing continued into the fall. After more than 150 service hours, the “team” is looking forward to seeing the new blooms in the spring.

Born is the son of Pauline Tranter of Millbury and Jeff Born of Northbridge.

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A bucketful of ideas for a better mindscape

When I was growing up, most deaths in my village were home-based passing of the elderly and messages were word-of-mouth and carried by foot. It’s there I learned the expression to “kick de bucket.”

Then, one day as I was walking into the yard with my precocious eyes on somebody’s business, I tripped over a bucket left out in the middle. 


My sisters, who had done the laundry earlier that day, had hung clothes on the line which ran across the front yard, blocking one’s view of the path ahead and accounting further for my collision with the washing implement.


It was a most terrifying experience for a child and that night I did everything to stay awake, so afraid was I that, having kicked the bucket, I could “wake up dead” the next morning.


I still find that episode amusing, but cannot remember ever sharing it. 


Still, even with that experience under my belt, I did not get the intent of the movie Bucket List until I bought the movie on DVD and viewed it. There are some who will be mortified by the idea of mapping out a course of activities before death. 


Those are the ones who may never make a will, plan their funeral service, nor purchase their plot and paraphernalia for the obvious end. 


Then along came the idea of the mental bucket list, which was not wasted on me, but quickly applied to my planning a superior 2013. 


What follows, mind you, are wishes and not resolutions, interest not promise, and do not represent any commitment to anyone, not even me.


Giving a thrilling “225 things to do” bucket list, says: “The essence of any good bucket list consists of overcoming fears, achieving goals, realising dreams and even simple pleasures…what matters is that you experience all the good and phenomenal things Earth offers.”


So, here are the top 12 items that should do my mental health some good this year.

1. Fall in love—I’m uncertain how I’ll achieve this because the connotation of falling is accidental. This could well be an adventure, which infuses the mind, and perk up my endorphins, both much-needed rudiments for my good mental health.
2. Stay in love…
3. Do a complete physical examination and take the uncertainty off my mind. It’s my belief that if you know your health you can maintain and improve it.
4. Achieve my ideal weight. Since I do not like exercise beyond my treadmill, I’ll combine this with my desire to run a marathon and begin an active search for a coach.
5. Run for office—I figure that while I am on the sprint, I could consider this course of preparing or running for some standing or other.
6. Factor in more time for family and friends. This is a real challenge because I enjoy being alone and I’m no longer relaxed in large groups, especially if there’s clamouring.
7. Travel to another continent. So far, of the seven I’ve only done North America and Europe but there’s so much to explore and I am thinking South America—Machu Picchu, Peru, to be exact.
8. Go camping in the woods. Hiking and camping, to be done with professionals, of course, or maybe I’ll just lump it with 7 above.
9. Achieve financial abundance with my passion. I have this dream of delivering plants all over TT in my G-mobile (green mobile) and ultimately offering specialised G-spot landscaping consultancy using feng shui rules as part of the personal landscape design, much later.
10. Learn a new language. Or improve on my Hindi.
11. Publish a book. That’s from among the few I’ve almost completed—and then stage a one-man production to promote it.
12. Begin the iMPAC programme—iMPAC stands for introducing the Moruga Performing Arts Company—starting with the choral group of 50 voices in 2013. 


Doing the primary-school choir is so rewarding I feel impelled to the bigger challenge.


These are presented in no particular order save for the method my heart used in offering them up at the time of writing.


Further inspiration for this planning was inspired by Guardian columnist Gabrielle Hosein, who wrote: “Each of us has to practise ‘fasting of the heart,’ meaning learning to live with less and be happy.”  


I moved to Moruga and have been employing fasting of the heart for over two years. 


But this is a peculiar place, and to exhibit a degree of independence of thought in your way of life, coupled with a modicum of refinement, is to be set aside as a special product/project for bad-mouthing. 


So for good measure, I’ll offer number 13 for mental-health balance as: avoid and ignore small talk. I will not be ill-alert and be caught unawares hearing and even entertaining the unsavoury. 


I chose this life of less. So, no more!

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Northern HS landscape display takes Farm Show honors

Words like “beautiful” and “favorite” were echoed by dozens of visitors walking by one landscaping display in particular at the Pennsylvania Farm Show on Tuesday.

The “Edible Landscaping” display created by students in the Horticulture Two class at Northern High School won the Best Overall Design award at the Farm Show.

The award qualifies the display for the Big E Competition in Springfield, Mass., in September. Organizers of the Big E Competition will select six displays from across the country to be entered in the contest.

Students also won first place in the plant material and non-living plant material categories for their display. The one category they did not place in was for blueprint design, which they won last year.

The landscape design contest included displays from 11 school districts in the state.

Northern High School teacher Carol Richwine had her students begin gathering plants from the school’s greenhouse and gardens in October to represent the school’s “Farm-to-School” effort. Students continued to work on the display over their holiday break, said Richwine. Their commitment to volunteering outside of class time is what brought them such success, and otherwise they would have been missing too many hours at school, she said.

It took two days to set everything up, and they finished by 3 p.m. on Friday, in time for the 4 p.m. deadline before the displays would be judged, said Richwine. They are judged by Black Landscaping, based in Cumberland County.

Swiss chard, curly kale, blueberries, huckleberries, and strawberries from the high school’s courtyard filled the display along with carrots, spinach, basil, and blooming spring shrubs transplanted from the school greenhouse.

Every student first had to come up with a design for the space, said Richwine. As a class they looked at the common factors in each design and brainstormed ways to put them together, she said.

“It’s best when everyone is a part of it,” Richwine said.

Two drafting students took the horticulture students’ hand-drawn design and created an autocad framed landscape print.

Brandon Seamans, a senior wood shop student, did the bulk of the work to create the wooden arbor at the center of the display.

“It’s real life experience,” said Richwine. “We will do most of the teaching afterward.”

The display will remain at the farm show until Richwine and her students tear it down on Saturday night.

This is Northern High School’s second year entering the contest, said Richwine. Schools must submit a plant list and final plan by Dec. 1 to enter, and must stick to that plan for their display.

– Reach Chelsea Shank at

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Amiens project will boost tourism in King’s Lynn and West Norfolk

Volunteers and co-ordinators from the Amiens project (from left) Sharon Andrews, Rachel Graham, Savannah Andrews, Liz Falconbridge, Sheena Carmen, Trevor Kisby, Kieran Beeston, Gill Taylor and Michael Avery. Picture: Ian Burt

By Chris Bishop
Wednesday, January 9, 2013
9:06 AM

A group from all walks of life hope a £400,000 EU cultural exchange will help them forge a career in the arts.

The partnership between West Norfolk council and the French city of Amiens is designed to boost tourism between the two regions.

The seven taking part will spend the next six months working on artwork and landscaping schemes, along with a show garden at Sandringham Flower Show.

They will also travel to France to view art installations and gardens built by their French counterparts –along with learning their language.

The scheme is being co-ordinated by King’s Lynn Arts Centre, where a neglected garden will be used as a test bed for everything from horticulture to learning wood carving.

“Some of this is about enhancing their own lives; it will also be about learning skills they might be able to use to get a job,” said Liz Falconbridge, the centre’s director.

She added there were still five vacant places on the scheme as those already enrolled met for the first time yesterday.

“I hope to learn some new skills, meet some people and do a bit of travelling,” said Gill Taylor, 54, from Lynn.

Fellow volunteer Trevor Kisby, 39, also from Lynn, said: “The more I find out about it, the more exciting I find it.”

Michael Avery, 55, said: “This is something creative, where you can use your imagination – that suits me and if you can find a job at the end of it, that’s fantastic.”

Also taking part are mother and daughter Sharon and Savannah Andrews, Kieran Beeston and Rachel Graham.

The partnership will culminate in July, with a performance by the acclaimed Amiens Circus in Lynn and the premier of a specially created piece of music by a French composer.

Anyone interested in volunteering should call Ms Falconbridge on 01553 765565.

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Garden Club Members Collaborate on Rain Water Project

Members of the Wicker Park Garden Club and landscaping enthusiasts from around the city gathered Monday at Wicker Park to learn how they can keep rain water in their soil and out of their storm drains.

Landscape architect Gary Lehman of G Studio Design gave a lecture on green landscaping and his work with the Milwaukee Avenue Green Development Corridor project in the park’s fieldhouse.

The Green Development Corridor project is a joint effort between the Metropolitan Planning Council and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to reduce flooding and improve water conservation in the Logan Square neighborhood.

The program involves $200,000 in grant money that the IEPA will use to reimburse homeowners for up to 75 percent of the costs involved in eligible property and landscape improvements. Designers like Lehman work with residents to fill out the applications, which are then reviewed by the MPC and the IEPA.

The program started as a way to address flooding problems along the Milwaukee Avenue corridor in Logan Square, specifically between California and Central Park avenues. The main idea is to reduce the amount of rain water running into the storm drains by implementing landscaping and architectural methods that redirect it away from the drains and back into the ground and water table.

“They went like two blocks back, or something like that, from Milwaukee Avenue and figured those are the residents that could have the greatest impact on any flooding that would go on Milwaukee Avenue,” Lehman said.

Lehman’s lecture included several examples of projects he’s currently working on through the grant program. He focused on showing the audience how he combines aesthetics and the needs of his clients with the IEPA’s guidelines and specifications about the changes required in order to qualify for a grant.

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While homeowners outside of the Milwaukee Corridor project’s boundaries aren’t eligible for IEPA grant money, the lecture was meant to educate interested members of the Wicker Park Garden Club about how they can improve their own water retention.

Some of the ways he suggested people could manage the flow of storm water on their property and keep it out of the drainage system included rooftop gardens, porous paving materials such as gravel and rain barrels to capture water to use for watering plants.

Lehman said the IEPA also recommends the use of native plants in a landscape in order to increase water conservation. However, Lehman said he thinks the guidelines should be broadened to allow for more of what he calls “high-performance plants” that help keep water in the ground and don’t require too much watering or maintenance.

“The EPA specifically said ‘native plants,’ which has specificity for a lot of lists out there,” he said. “And as soon as they say that, it narrows down my ability to create a design when it could be a little bit broader.”

Lehman’s lecture was part of the Wicker Park Garden Club’s ongoing Landscape Design series, which includes a series of lectures as well as a seven-week Saturday workshop series, according to garden club coordinator Doug Wood.

The lecture series is meant to give landscape and gardening enthusiasts from around the city ideas that they could implement in their own work, and the workshops are intended to teach them the practical skills to put those ideas to work at home. Lehman will also be involved in instructing the Jan. 12 workshop.

Despite the fact that the grant funds are only available to residents in a very specific part of the city, Wood said he wanted to bring Lehman in to give a lecture about it to get people thinking about the same kind of green initiatives in their own neighborhoods. He said he hopes that enough attention or public interest can be generated to get another grant program started in Wicker Park or other areas of the city.

“What you do is you get somebody excited,” Wood said. “And then they talk to the alderman and they talk to the SSA and they talk to historic groups, and you write a proposal for these groups to make your area that way. That’s the goal.”

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The Decorative Vegetable Garden

Mountain Brook

The Decorative Vegetable Garden

Jan. 12, 10-11 a.m.

Emmet O’Neal Library

June Mays will present a program on “The Decorative Vegetable Garden” at the Emmet O’Neal Library Jan. 12. Mays is a garden designer with diplomas in garden design and plantsmanship form the English Gardening School in London. Mays will talk about using vegetables as key features in ornamental gardens and about adapting French ideas to the American vegetable garden. The program is free. For more information, contact Katie at 445-1118 or


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Time to change your garden’s blueprint


ROSA VUVUZELA: Attend a midsummer rose pruning demonstration in Stellenbosch.

Cape Town – January is the time to sit back and gaze at your garden. Look carefully at the way you have designed your beds and planted up the borders, and consider what you might do differently this year.

Each year, landscape design shows reveal design trends for the upcoming year. Many gardeners look to the Chelsea Garden Show to glean the latest garden design trends, and this year’s 100th show (May 21-25) is set to be a major event on the international gardening calendar.

Kirstenbosch will also celebrate a centenary this year with the launch of Professor Brian J Huntley’s magnificent book, Kirstenbosch: The most beautiful garden in Africa (1913-2013 Centenary Edition), one of several high-profile events celebrating the milestone this month.

South Africa’s top exhibition designers, David Davidson and Ray Hudson, will be at Chelsea in May to design their 20th Kirstenbosch-South Africa exhibit.

For ultimate design inspiration for your garden, consider the 19th annual seven-day tour (May 18-26) to support the Kirstenbosch-South Africa exhibit, and which includes visits to Prince Charles’s estate, Highgrove, Lord Heseltine’s Thenford House garden, and Waltham Place, the Oppenheimer’s country estate. Contact Gill Durrant on 083 261 3961 or

Local action

EASTERN DELIGHT: Visit the 100th Chelsea Flower Show in May to see how the Japanese meticulously create a water feature.


By all means look, listen and glean ideas from top design shows, but don’t miss out on what you can do in your garden this weekend. Cool days, big heat, fierce wind and occasional rain has had a significant impact on gardens this summer.

January is the time to check your lawn, plant a spectacular hibiscus and stock up on the latest erica and protea hybrids. Follow these tips:

l Lawns: Lawns take strain in the midsummer heat and need to be cut on a high mower setting at least twice a month in January. Allow leaf blades of both kikuyu and buffalo lawns to be at least 8cm long during the heat of summer. Avoid shaving your lawn down to the roots as it will burn, and you will have dead patches appearing next month. Give your lawn a fertiliser boost by sprinkling a half handful (30g) of lawn fertiliser granules or organic pellets per square metre. Water thoroughly after application.

l Mulch: Make sure the roots of your hydrangeas, azaleas, camellias and gardenias are covered with a 5cm thick layer of pine needles or acid mulch. Visit your local park and sweep up the pine needles, or purchase large bags of peanut shells, apricot pips or bark nugget mulches from a garden centre.

A 5cm layer of mulch (compost, bark or dry leaves) on garden beds protects roots against the heat, and retains moisture in flower beds. If any soil in your garden is exposed to the sun, you have a problem. It’s time to cover up.

l Roses: January is a good time to give your roses a summer trim. Attend a summer rose pruning demonstration and learn how to trim back your roses to stimulate fresh new growth that prolongs the flowering period into autumn.

If you need to move a rose and you can’t wait for June, transplant it this month. Prune back rose bushes by half before moving.

Feed roses by sprinkling 60g of rose fertiliser granules around the roots of rose bushes. Foliar feed two weeks later with Seagro, Multifeed, Nitrosol or any good liquid fertiliser.

l Hibiscus time: These shrubs are in full flower at garden centres. Choose a spot that receives at least eight hours of full sun a day and is sheltered from wind. Hibiscus flourish in a paved, hot spot beside a swimming pool, and in large well-drained containers not less than 70cm high or 50cm wide.

Shrubs and standard varieties should be planted at least 1m away from walls. Plant in a hole that is two or three times the volume of the plant bag (75cm x 75cm). Mix in compost and two cups of hoof and hornmeal to the soil. Avoid adding chemical fertilisers at this stage as they can burn the roots.

Hibiscus shrubs hate wet feet and will suffer from root rot in poorly-drained clay soils or in over-irrigated gardens.

For the best flowering results, sprinkle a handful of general fertiliser around the base of your hibiscus once a month in summer.

l Proteas and ericas: Plant proteas, pincushions and ericas to attract birds, insects and chameleons.

Choose a sunny open position on sloping ground, or in a rockery. If your garden has poor drainage, you could grow them in raised beds.

l Perennials: Remove any dead flowers or untidy leaves from summer-flowering perennials such as agapanthus, alstroemeria, daisy bushes and cannas. Avoid letting hanging baskets dry out by watering every second day. Baskets of flowering fuchsias that get a few hours of morning sun can quickly dry out, and need to be checked regularly.

l Bulbs: Although liliums have finished flowering, continue to feed them so that the bulbs can build up food to produce healthy flowers next season.

A tablespoon of general granular fertiliser (3:1:5) dissolved in five litres of water applied to the root area will do the job.

l Annuals: Deadhead colourful annuals – such as petunias, marigolds, salvia and dianthus – to prolong their flowering period into autumn.

Established seedlings in colour bags can be found at local garden centres, and if planted up in containers will revitalise your patio or entrance.

Easy-to-grow heat-resistant varieties include petunias, bedding dahlias, marigold, portulaca, vinca and zinnia.

l Keep a garden journal. It takes the guesswork out of when to sow seed and plant shrubs, what flowers when, and for how long. Botanical illustrator Daphne Mackie has produced a beautiful Kirstenbosch Journal, published by Random Struik. Decorated with glorious African wild flowers, the 100-page journal is designed exactly for this purpose.

l What could be more practical than pots of colourful nasturtiums and culinary herbs grouped near the kitchen door? Pots are also useful for growing succulents that require excellent drainage, or for confining vigorous growers such as bamboos and mint.

l Plants growing very close to the sea are often damaged by salt deposits rather than by the wind. So if you live on the seafront, get into the habit of hosing down the foliage of your plants regularly, particularly after a few days of strong wind. Getting rid of this salty deposit will work wonders.

l Introducing water in some form can enhance the mood of a garden. The sound of water spilling from a freestanding or wall fountain is not only soothing, it also helps to mask noise from passing traffic and neighbours.

l Plants of differing structure and texture are essential in a garden for creating year-round interest. Don’t think because the garden is small that it automatically follows that plants must also be small. By introducing bold foliage and strong vertical forms into a garden you will create a better balance .

l With so much vibrant colour at this time of year, it makes a pleasant change to include white flowers such as agapanthus, gaura, hydrangea, marguerite daisy, Shasta daisy, galtonia and summer-flowering watsonia. l Avoid damage from wind by thinning out some branches on top-heavy trees. This allows wind to pass through more easily. – Weekend Argus

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