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Archives for August 1, 2013

‘Dreadful weather’ still delivers brilliant Blooms

BLOOMING beautiful efforts ensured the standard remained high in this year’s Ware in Bloom competition.

While entries were down slightly on last year the standard remained just as impressive.

Organiser Jan Wing said: “It was difficult for all gardeners trying to second guess what the weather was going to do, meaning a garden’s usual timetable was all over the place.

“Somethings were early, somethings were late – it was a difficult time for gardeners.

“The weather was so dreadful people were grabbing whatever time possible to do what work was needed to be done.”

Jan felt this may have had an effect on the number of entries, but those who did enter kept standards high.

“I have to say the quality of the gardens was excellent and those who won were worthy winners, not just winners by default,” she said.

Jan pointed to the Travis Perkins beach hut on Watton Road as an example, which has also gone on to form part of Ware’s entry into Anglia in Bloom.

Judges visited the town on Tuesday July 16, with the winners announced on Tuesday September 10.

“Our entry is certainly a lot better this year, there’s been a lot more togetherness,” said Jan.


Best back garden: 1st Josie Fish, Linwood Road, 2nd E Welland, Clifton Way, 3rd A Stewart, Musley Hill

Best front garden: Josie Maynard, Cundalls Road

Commercial category: 1st Travis Perkins beach hut, Watton Road, 2nd Bailey Gomm Ltd, High Street

Schools under 11: 1st Tower Primary School, 2nd Sacred Heart and Middleton, commended: Priorswood

Schools 11 to 18: 1st Chauncy community day, 2nd Pinewood School

Public house: 1st Punch House, High Street, 2nd John Gilpin, London Road, 3rd The Worpell, Watton Road

Wheelbarrows: under fives,1st Little Angels, 2nd Leaside pre-school; most novel theme, Amwell Scouts; most colourful, Christ Church School; most fun, Middleton School; best edible, St Catherine’s; highly commended, St Mary’s School, Sacred Heart School, 9th Ware Brownies

Twitter @MercuryCiaran

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Gardening and arthritis: Tips for easier gardening

Posted: Thursday, August 1, 2013 2:00 pm

Gardening and arthritis: Tips for easier gardening

Guest Column


If you’ve always loved the pleasures of tending your own garden – fragrant flowers or the taste of a really fresh tomato – you don’t have to give them up just because arthritis has come into the picture. In fact, gardening is a great activity for maintaining joint flexibility, bone density, range of motion and quality of life. Researchers at the University of Arkansas found that gardening ranks as high as weight training for strengthening bones. A few simple modifications can help you keep your garden growing with ease.

Getting Started

• As with any activity, be sure to consult your doctor or physical therapist for any precautions you should take.

• Plan to garden during the times of day when you feel best; for example, wait until afternoon if you have morning stiffness;

• Before you begin work in your garden each time, warm up your joints and muscles with a brief walk or some stretching first. This will get your body ready for the activity and will help prevent injuries.

Arranging Your Garden

With creativity and advance planning, you can create a garden that suits your needs. Assess your abilities and arrange your garden in a way that makes your tasks easier and conserves your energy. For example, make sure your garden has a nearby water source so you don’t have to carry watering cans or hoses far. Keep a storage area or tool shed close to your garden so you don’t waste energy hauling your tools back and forth.

Moving the Right Way

As you garden, be careful not to put undue stress on your joints. Use tools such as hoes or rakes that have long handles so you avoid bending or stooping. Wrap the handles with foam padding or electrical tape so they will be easier to grip. If you have to work close to the ground, place only one knee on the ground and keep your back straight, or use a stool.

Choosing the Right Products

The equipment you use and the plants you work with can make a big difference in how enjoyable your gardening time is. Keep the following tips in mind when you’re in the gardening supply store.

• Low Maintenance Plants

  • Choose young plants so you can avoid dealing with tiny seeds.
  • Plant shrubs or perennials that bloom every year so you don’t have to replant each season.
  • Ask about plants that require little care, such as ones that don’t need regular pruning.

• Helpful Tools

  • Wear a carpenter’s apron with several pockets for carrying frequently used tools.
  • Consider purchasing a hose caddy to store your garden hose. You can wheel the caddy to your work area and unroll the hose as you need it.
  • Use a hand truck or dolly to move heavy bags of soil, mulch or fertilizer. You can transport heavy items without having to lift them onto a cart or wagon.
  • Use a child’s size old wagon to carry gardening tools, bulbs or plants around while you work. If you don’t have one in the attic, these wagons can be purchased at toy and hardware stores.
  • Use seed tape. Seed tape, which can be laid in the ground or in long planters, may be easier than planting seeds by hand.

If you like flower gardening, but can’t sit on the ground or stoop to low flower beds, trying planting flowers in window-box containers or clay pots that sit on tables outside your house. This way you can avoid bending over all together and can enjoy your garden outside as well as from your favorite chair inside!

If you would like more information about “Gardening and Arthritis” call the Senior LinkAge Line at 1-800-333-2433.

© 2013 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

More about Garden

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  • ARTICLE: Nicollet County master gardeners up and running, planning tours
  • ARTICLE: Steele County employees, students dig in their gardens

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  • ARTICLE: Le Sueur County Fair will feature new Native American exhibit

More about Arthritis

  • ARTICLE: Arthritis Aches and Pains
  • ARTICLE: Coping with arthritis
  • ARTICLE: River’s Edge Hospital Clinic in St. Peter offers arthritis exercise program


Thursday, August 1, 2013 2:00 pm.

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Starting Your First Garden? Follow 6 No-Fail Tips to Create Your Own Oasis


Some people love to garden. Others wish a garden would just spring up and give them a beautiful place to unwind. Either way, a beautiful garden can be grown without back breaking labor that takes away from your relaxing time.


Test the soil

Soil types can differ from one yard to the next, and even in different areas of the garden. A small soil sample taken from various spots will give the gardener a clear idea of what types of adjustments must be made. Call your local agricultural extension office to find out the soil testing procedures in your area.


Choose the right plants

Beautiful exotic plants may be the perfect compliment to your garden oasis, but the chances of being able to grow them in your location may prove to be more work than you are ready to handle. Even if you are willing to devote the labor, the success rate depends on the environmental conditions that the plant must struggle through to survive.

In order to be able to relax and enjoy your garden, choose plants with care. If the garden lies in the full sun, shade-loving flowers probably won’t survive. The reverse is also true. Native plants have the best chance of thriving in your garden with little extra attention from you.


Plants need to be fed

Plants need nutrition in order to thrive. Depending on the type of soil in the garden, nutrients may wash away without ever getting to the root system. Introduce organic matter into the soil to make it friendlier to the plants need for food.


How much water?

Too much water can be as harmful to your plants as too little. This is one of the reasons that knowing your soil type and adding organic matter to aid in water drainage is so important. Adding mulch to the beds will also help retain moisture and keep the soil cool

If you’ve chosen native plants for your garden oasis, it’s possible that you won’t have to give your plants additional moisture unless the area is subject to a dry spell or extreme heat. Droopy plants are a sign that the flowers need a drink.


War with weeds

Weeds and grass will make your garden oasis look more like a tangled mess. Garden edging can help keep grass from encroaching into your beds and vying for nutrients. A layer of mulch will help keep the weeds at a minimum.


Keep it simple

Unless you’re prepared to hire additional help for your oasis, keep it simple. Before you plant, know how much time and labor you are able to put into your garden and still have time to enjoy the beauty of your well-maintained oasis.

Rose McKellen is a freelance writer from Austin, TX. She knows how tricky it is to keep a garden going, especially in areas where the climate is hot and dry, like her hometown. She recommends talking to a San Antonio sprinkler installation contractor to find out how to keep your garden moist and thriving. Photo source


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Outdoors: More tips for keeping animals away from your garden and lawn

Posted: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 8:00 pm

Updated: 8:14 pm, Wed Jul 31, 2013.

Outdoors: More tips for keeping animals away from your garden and lawn

Apparently I am not alone in my never-ending battle against deer and other lawn and garden intruders.

Last week’s column was about a primitive fence I built around my small garden spot and how it seemed to be working as far as keeping the deer at bay. I also mentioned a product that smells like Irish Spring soap that keeps deer away from selected plants.

John Carder, my former UPS driver, endorsed the Irish Spring method. He says that plain old Irish Spring soap works just fine for him. Carder lives in an area infested with deer and uses shavings from the fresh smelling soap dropped in and among his plants. He also recommends putting a bar of soap in something like panty hose and tied to a nearby support.

“We have lots of deer in our area and this definitely works,” he said.

Jill Smith of Fluvanna County also has a few suggestions about deer control. Jill recommends a device made by ConTec called ScareCrow. It’s a motion-activated product that detects movement up to 40 feet and then shoots a stream of water up to 20 feet with a “phtt-phtt-phtt” noise.

Smith said she even had a bear prowling around and that the intruding bruin simply ignored fences and smelly repellents. But when he ran into the ScareCrow, he packed up and moved to new scavenging grounds.

The Fluvanna gardener does not stop there. She also uses a contraption from HavaHart called Electronic Deer Repellent to protect single bushes. It works on battery power, not electricity. It is acorn-scented to attract attention, but when the curious deer or intruder touches the four arched wires across the device, it receives a good shock on the nose.

“Nobody eats my azaleas,” Smith proclaims.

Celia Thompson has what she calls an urban driveway garden and erected a fence like I described in my column. It has kept the deer out, she says, but the squirrels are driving her crazy.

I think I have an answer for her squirrel problem. Squirrels have a keen sense of smell and don’t like red pepper. Companies put pepper in suet and in some birdseed to keep the nosy rodents away. I have been using red pepper on or near things I want to protect from squirrels. Squirrels, for example, will dig up new plantings in pots or in the garden, hoping for one seed or nut in the buried treasure. If you put a healthy helping of red pepper in a pot or on a hill of plantings, squirrels leave it alone. Dollar General sells crushed red pepper at a buck a pop and it works famously.

I am also thinking that the squirting device recommended by Jill Smith would supplement the pepper.

So, squirrels, deer and bears – be on the lookout when you fool with us human beings. We have ways!

Smallmouth fishing? 

I am almost afraid to write this because I may jinx everything, but the James, Shenandoah and New rivers should all be highly fishable this weekend and most of the guides I talk to think the fishing could be phenomenal. It’s been a while since they’ve even seen a lure, they say.

Enough said. Let’s go bass fishing.

Contact Brewer at

© 2013 The Daily Progress. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Wednesday, July 31, 2013 8:00 pm.

Updated: 8:14 pm.

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August yard and garden tips

Things to do in August

• Fruits

Spray fruit trees – continue spraying your fruit trees with a fungicide (Captan, etc.) every seven to 10 days to provide the beautiful fruit you look forward to. Do not use any insecticides on the trees until less than 10% of the blooms remain – you certainly do not want to hurt your bee pollinators. The fungicide will have no effect on them. After the blooms have fallen you may begin to also spray malathion insecticide.

• Lawns

Lawn Fertilizer – you should apply a complete fertilizer to warm season lawns this month.

Fire ants— if you have not yet broadcast fire ant baits, apply your first treatment any time this month. Be sure to apply fresh bait, and do it at the correct time of day ( fire ants only forage actively when the ground temperature is between 70 and 95 degrees F). See the Fire Ant Management in the Home Lawn and the State Fire Ant website for more information.

Aeration—fall is a great time to aerate cool season lawns such as fescue. Warm-season lawns (centipede, zoysia, Bermuda, St. Augustine) should be aerated in the spring and summer. See Aerating Lawns for more information.

Irrigation— your irrigation cycle is still going strong. See the Home and Garden Center’s irrigation publications for more information. One inch per week is the appropriate amount for most lawns and vegetables (except sweet corn and yellow squash, which may require up to two inches depending on growth stage). Include rainfall in this amount, and see How Much Water to determine how much water you are actually applying. And make sure you adjust your water applications with plant growth stage and time of year. One size definitely does not fit all for the entire year.

• Trees and Shrubs

Pruning—now is another good time to prune most trees and shrubs. July and August are the months to prune azalea, dogwood, forsythia, redbud, and rhododendron. They should be pruned after they bloom, but before bloom set in the fall. Oakleaf hydrangea and late-flowering azalea cultivars might also be considered now. Avoid any pruning in the spring and fall if at all possible. See Pruning Trees and Pruning Shrubs for more information.

Plan ahead—if you plan to plant some trees or shrubs this year, begin thinking about which plants you would like now, and find retailers that carry those varieties. You have plenty of time, but you certainly do not want to miss your favorite at the last minute.

Pecan Weevi ls— pecan weevils are those little critters that make holes in your pecans. Start treating for pecan weevils the first week of August, and continue treating once per week for six weeks. Place five ounces of liquid carbaryl (Sevin, etc.) in 10 gallons or more of water and spray the entire area under the tree, from trunk out to dripline. Repeat this for each tree. You will need to do this two years in a row to get rid of the pesky critters (they have a two-year lifecycle). See Pecan Weevil for more information.

• Vegetables

Garden clean-up— half the tomato disease battle in a vegetable garden is sanitation. As tomatoes end their production, remove them from the garden and take them to a landfill. Many diseases will over-winter on old infected leaves and stems. (A good practice for any plants you have had disease problems with this year).

Make a note— sketch out where you planted various vegetables in your garden. This will come in handy next spring when you plant, so you can rotate your crops to help prevent disease.

Vegetables—Some planting times for more common vegetables: Collards—July 1–August 30 Snap beans—August 1–15 Half-runners—August 1–15 Lettuce—Augus 15–25

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My Design – Houghton Lodge Herb Garden

02 August 2013

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Casey Key Home Boasts Grand Landscape Design

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Casey Key landscape

Boaters speeding down the Intracoastal Waterway off Casey Key may do a double take when they spot the three open-air Chinese pavilions with intricate red latticework and bold blue tile roofs—the tallest rising 27 feet above a meandering 48,000-gallon koi pond.

The pavilions and koi pond are the centerpiece of a remarkable new private garden—four gardens, actually: an Asian pagoda garden, an edible garden, a rose garden and a butterfly garden surrounding a formal glass conservatory—built for a philanthropic couple on an acre and a quarter across the road from their Gulf-front home, where, before 18 inches of fill dirt and 300 different plant species were installed, once stood a few rose bushes, some scraggly trees, a fountain and a patch of grass.

For landscape architect Michael Gilkey and contractor Joe Jannopoulo, it was the assignment of their young careers: a spectacular large bayfront property, an unlimited budget, a years-long timeline, and two eager clients with a sophisticated point of view.

“The homeowners asked me if I’d done anything like this before,” says Jannopoulo. “I said I don’t know anybody who has.”

The nearly three-year process was deeply collaborative and very much “an evolution,” says Gilkey. The designers were told from the start that the garden would need to be both intimate enough to be enjoyed by a family of four and comfortable enough to accommodate 100 guests or more at a fund-raising party. But partway into the design process, the homeowner announced that he’d also like to be able to land a helicopter on the property. Gilkey amended the plans to include a grassy landing area bordered by cheery yellow groundcover between the formal garden and the bay.

Casey Key landscape

The pagoda garden was built first. Gilkey and Jannopoulo did months of research on Asian gardens. “We looked at thousands and thousands of pictures,” Gilkey says, “and a University of Florida graduate student from China walked the site with us.” But in the end they strove for emotional responses over faithful reproductions.

Moon gates with undulating blue-tile roofs that usher guests into and out of the pagoda garden, for example, evoke “a romantic feeling of the journey we’ve gone through with the owners,” says the landscape architect, rather than hewing to one particular period or style. Above the moon gates’ traditional circular openings are Chinese letters that spell out, “Mother’s Garden.”

Jannopoulo constructed the striking red two-story Chinese pavilions, open to the light and air, out of hurricane-proof concrete clad in furniture-quality African mahogany. Ornate roof tiles, blue to signify the sky, were made by hand in China, with symbolic statuary—a phoenix, a dragon with curved horns—placed at the curves of each roof to ward off evil spirits.

The traditional elements of plants, water and rocks are at the pagoda garden’s core. Seven towering, 20-foot-tall tabebuia trees were placed strategically throughout; when their delicate purple trumpet blossoms appear in early spring they will fill the sky around the Asian garden with color. At the southern terminus, they planted a sausage tree that, in 20 years, will stand 50 feet tall. Statuary from the homeowners’ travels peeks out from a forest of eight varieties of bamboo, among them golden Hawaiian, delicate weeping Mexican, Timor black and stately oldhamii, also known as giant timber bamboo. Tucked among them are a private meditation space, a yoga platform and a raking sand Zen garden.

Casey Key landscape

One hundred-ninety tons of rock—nine semi-trucks full—were shipped from Tennessee and Missouri to recreate the natural feel of an Asian garden; Jannopoulo says it took six months to place the rocks just so in and around the koi pond. Cascading over the rocks on the bayside is fragrant Arabian lilac.

The Asian garden’s plants, like the rest of the nearly 300 species throughout the property, were chosen and sited for a natural flow. “We wanted it all to look natural, soft, not purposeful—like nature did it,” says Gilkey. “We chose plants that will flower in different seasons, so there’s a different star of our show every few months.” With all the gardens now complete, the couple has hired a full-time garden manager to maintain the plants and their vision.

Casey Key landscape design

One hundred of those 300 species are edibles, and many of them adjoin the Asian garden: Barbados cherry and tamarind trees, jaboticabas, starfruit, dwarf pomegranate, mangos, loquats, papayas, lychees, figs, Chinese persimmons, Persian limes, a banana garden and on and on.

Now the designers and the homeowners are enjoying the fruits of their labors. “I walked the site with the homeowner a few weeks ago, and we were picking blueberries and mulberries and cherries off the trees and eating them,” says Jannopoulo. “It was the first time in all these years we walked and laughed and enjoyed the garden. I knew our work was done. Now it’s the plants’ turn.”

Photos by Max Kelly. 

For more Sarasota home tours, read Bob Plunket’s Real Estate Junkie blog.

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McDonald’s faces design standards in Garden City

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The McDonald’s restaurant on Middlebelt south of Ford would like to expand to a new, adjacent site.

Company officials have acquired the adjacent former gas station location at the southwest corner of Ford and Middlebelt for this purpose, but the new location will need to adhere to specific standards.

Amy Neary, principal planner of McKenna Associates, the city’s planning consultants, said that its location in the Central Business District requires the considerations.

“The CBD is an established zoning district in the city that was created as a result of downtown planning initiatives that started almost 30 years ago,” Neary said. “These are not new zoning ordinance standards which McDonald’s is required to comply with. These standards have been in place since about 1996.”

Neary said there are some key design standards. The building setback must be no more than 12 feet but may be increased up to 20 feet for a drive-thru from the front lot lines at Middlebelt and Ford, depending on site layout.

Design standards

Buildings situated on a corner shall possess a level of architectural design that incorporates accents and details that accentuate its prominent location.

“This can be accomplished through increased building height, building peak, tower or similar accent, with the highest point at the corner,” Neary said.

Alternatively, a pedestrian plaza may be provided at the corner.

Off street parking must be located in the rear portion of the site and behind the building. Access to parking lots must be provided off alleys, when available, in order to minimize curb-cuts across pedestrian sidewalks.

Off-street parking lots with frontage on Ford or Middlebelt are prohibited, unless screened with a decorative wall, fence or hedge.

The city held a rare joint meeting, billed as a workshop, on Monday with the Garden City Council, Planning Commission and the DDA.

At the meeting, McKenna Associate representatives produced a two-story design which it thinks is ideal for the site.

“The two-story McDonald’s building design was taken from a store in Texas,” Neary said. “There are two-story McDonald’s in Michigan, however, we wanted to use a McDonald’s with their new corporate architecture and that is why we chose the Texas store to use as an example.”

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When water becomes scarce, conservatives become environmentalists.

The drought, which has eased somewhat but lingers in much of Kansas, is both a mirror of our global predicament and a warning about our collective future.

If any problem is potent enough to overcome conservatives’ animus against government, it might be water scarcity. To paraphrase Samuel Johnson, fear of death focuses the mind wonderfully.

Red states across the Midwest, Southwest and Great Plains glimpsed the demise of their way of life during last year’s drought, the worst in half a century. By August 2012, 43 percent of U.S. farms—encompassing nearly 60 percent of all U.S. cropland—were under “severe” drought conditions or worse according to USDA statistics. By September, more than 2,000 counties had been declared disaster areas.

The drought, which has eased somewhat but lingers in much of Kansas, is both a mirror of our global predicament and a warning about our collective future. The earth’s population is expected to grow by as many as 3 billion people by 2050, which translates into a 70 percent increase in food demand, according to UN statistics. Agriculture is by far the greatest drain on global water supplies, consuming nearly three-fourths of freshwater “withdrawals.” So the rapidly growing population will require ever-greater freshwater resources.

Yet it isn’t clear where that water will come from. And the problem of water scarcity is compounded by global warming, which is expected to increase the frequency and severity of droughts.

Even conservatives who are skeptical of environmental initiatives can see the logic of a public policy that addresses the problem.

In his State of the State speech last year (delivered before the worst of the drought), ultra-conservative Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, said that it was “way past time we move from a development policy with our water to a conservation ethic,” since “we have no future without water.”

One short-sighted solution to the problem of water scarcity is for states—and nations—to wage legal and rhetorical battles for access to water sources of neighboring states.

Tennessee and Georgia are fighting over the Tennessee River. Politicians in Georgia claim that the border between the states was drawn incorrectly in the early 19th century and that a bend in the Tennessee River should lie within Georgia’s borders, giving it the right to divert water down to Atlanta.

Texas is engaged in water fights with both Oklahoma and New Mexico. The latter’s attorney general recently accused Texas of “trying to rustle New Mexico’s water and using a lawsuit to extort an agreement that would only benefit Texas while destroying water resources for hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans.”

But if water scarcity means that such conflicts are inevitable, there is another possibility: The gravity of the problem will foster collaborative efforts within and among communities. To that end, the UN has declared 2013 “the international year of water cooperation.” Several related events are scheduled, including “world water week” in September. Organized by the Stockholm International Water Institute, the event will convene “2,500 experts, practitioners, decision-makers and business innovators from around the globe to exchange ideas, foster new thinking and develop solutions.”

Many of the new solutions will come from experiments at the local level. Texas is home to one of the most innovative and effective civic experiments in the United States: the San Antonio Water System (SAWS). Under SAWS, formed in 1992, San Antonio has implemented innovative wastewater recycling techniques, and the city delivers recycled water to commercial and industrial customers, as well as parks and golf courses, through a 110-mile network of pipelines.

But the heart of SAWS is an array of programs that aggressively promote conservation. The city determined, for example, that about one-fourth of the water consumed in San Antonio goes to landscaping. Much of this consumption is by heavy users who over-water. In response, SAWS organized a series of workshops and events to educate people about the amount of water wasted by poor landscaping techniques, and it mounted a communications campaign that enlisted the help of local newspapers and radio talk shows. SAWS has also partnered with the San Antonio Botanical Garden to create an exhibit that models water-saving landscapes. Five such garden styles are contrasted with the traditional, water-intensive American landscape.

Key to the success of SAWS has been the city’s Community Conservation Committee, which “generates conservation program ideas and helps build support for those programs.” It includes members from local businesses, non-profits and neighborhood groups. The net result of SAWS is that San Antonio uses about the same amount of water now as it did in 1984, though its population has grown by two-thirds.

Even conservatives in the ruby-red Texas legislature are impressed. Though they’re in denial about climate change, they can’t ignore the fact that their state has been blistered by the recent drought. In April, the Texas House of Representatives approved a resolution honoring SAWS, which “has become a model for progressive and effective water conservation and is recognized throughout not only our state, but the entire nation,” according to Rep. Lyle Larson (R-San Antonio), who sponsored the resolution. “SAWS is consistently at the forefront of technology and community engagement in an effort to minimize water use,” he said, and it is “a testament to a water system taking responsibility for a precious resource that’s important to all Texans.”

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Slate Seeks a Design Blogger

Slate seeks a design nut with crystal clear copywriting skills, a strong visual sense, and a fountain of new ideas to help us launch an image heavy design blog. The ideal candidate should have omnivorous interests and fresh takes on a wide range of topics including but not limited to technology, landscaping, interiors, architecture, and history. You should be immersed enough in the design world to be up on all of the latest developments, able to highlight the most noteworthy for our readers while bringing a gimlet eye to the latest overhyped craze. The ability to work quickly and attend to details on tight deadlines is a must. Previous design writing experience is a strong plus.

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