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Archives for October 13, 2013

Four seek three seats on Orchard Dale Water Board

Orchard Dale Water Board candidates

Octavio “Toby” Chavez

Age: 74

Occupation: Retired postal manager

Public offices held: South Whittier School Board, 1985-89, 1997-2001

Whittier Union High School District, 1989-93,

Family: Married with three children

Education: Associated of science degree from L.A. Trade Tech

H.C. “Hal” Estabrook

Age: 85

Occupation: Retired purchasing director

Public offices held: Member of the Orchard Dale Water Board since 2002

Family: Married with two children

Education: Attended Ithaca College

Bob Noonan

Age: 82

Occupation: Retired insurance brokoer

Public offices held: Member of Orchard Dale Water Board, 1993-present

Family: Married with five children

Education: Attended University of San Francisco

Joseph Velasco III

Age: 43

Occupation: Employment representative with the state of California

Public offices held: Member of the Orchard Dale Water Board since February 2008

Family: Married with two children

Education: Attended University of Southern California

SOUTH WHITTIER This year’s Nov. 5 election for three seats on the Orchard Dale Water District Board of Directors has the feel of deja vu from four years ago.

Incumbents H.C. “Hal” Estabrook, 85, Bob Noonan, 82, and Joseph Velasco III, 43, were challenged then by two challengers — one of whom was Octavio “Toby” Chavez. 74.

And this year, those are the four candidates in 2013 for this district that has 4,200 customers and serves water to about 20,000 people.

The issues also aren’t much different.

The three incumbents say the district is doing a good job and Chavez, a former school board member, said he has the experience to contribute.

“It’s the incumbents who understand the issues,” said Velasco.

“We spend countless hours discussing how we can save the district and ultimately our customers’ money,” Velasco said. “As president, under my management team, we’ve saved the district $100,000 in spending and in staffing.”

Noonan cites his 19 years on the board.

“I was instrumental in the construction of a new office and the building of a new reservoir,” he said. “In the next four years, I want to be part of the redoing the master plan to remodel a 50-year-old water system.”

Estabrook said the district is in good shape financially.

“We’ve set aside in excess of $1  million for infrastructure,” he said.

The board also works well together, Estabrook said.

“We’ve got a combination of seniors and juniors on the board,” he said referring to the age. Two are under 50 and three are over 65.

Chavez said he brings his experience of involvement in the community, including eight years on school boards and his time with the Whittier Coordinating Council, where he’s now vice president.

“I have a little free time and I’m willing to contribute, serve and hopefully improve and help the district,” he said.

Chavez also said he has some new ideas.

“I think they should consider figuring a way to use recycled water,” he said. “It’s a little cheaper for landscaping.”

Estabrook said the district has looked into bringing reclaimed wastewater to Orchard Dale.

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Elizabeth Gilbert returns to fiction with ‘The Signature of All Things’

Gilbert sets her novel 200 years in the past and writes in lavish prose reminiscent of the Victorians. The book spans continents and decades, and as it follows Alma on her life’s journey, it’s filled with exquisite details regarding all kinds of plant life.

The narrative begins with Alma’s father, Henry Whittaker, a ruthless man who uses his knowledge of botany to become the richest man in Philadelphia. Alma is his miniature in female form, “ginger of hair, florid of skin, small of mouth, wide of brow, abundant of nose.” But most important, Alma is as clever as her father: She seeks knowledge at every turn and becomes a brilliant scientist.

The plants Gilbert dwells on represent characters, and in particular, mosses represent Alma. After realizing that no one has studied mosses extensively, since they are not “big or beautiful or showy” like orchids, Alma dedicates her life to these parasitic, rootless entities. Mosses are a “stupefying kingdom. … Here was rich, abundant valleys filled with tiny trees of braided mermaid hair and minuscule, tangled vines.”

Mosses become a symbol for Alma, representing overlooked and ugly things, yet hiding a brilliant mind underneath their plain shell.

Rather Dickensian in style and structure, Gilbert’s novel is also populated with oddities in human form. Among them are Alma’s adopted sister, Prudence, who lives in poverty in opposition to slavery, and Alma’s mother, Beatrix, a staid and practical Dutchwoman who practices Euclidean landscaping.

The novel hits its stride when Gilbert introduces Ambrose Pike, a talented lithographer who dreams of becoming an angel of God. He’s a beautiful but deeply sensitive and fragile man. Alma, at this point, is 48 years old; never married and never departed from her father’s Philadelphia estate.

When Ambrose and Alma come together, their relationship is not only a sharing of ideas and knowledge but a spiritual one. Gilbert drifts into the supernatural when Alma and Ambrose decide to marry after sharing their thoughts telepathically in a book-binding closet.

The marriage turns sour after only a month, and Alma sends Ambrose to Tahiti to manage a vanilla plantation. Ambrose leaves without protest, obedient man that he is. Some years later, Alma learns that he has died from an infection in the hot climate.

The novel shifts into more recognizable Gilbert territory after Ambrose’s untimely death — personal enlightenment while traversing an exotic locale.

Like Gilbert in her memoir, Alma journeys to Tahiti to unravel the mystery of her husband. Gilbert chronicles this journey with a close eye, from the leaking, ramshackle cottage in which Alma lives to the crabs scuttling on the sandy beaches to the native Tahitians who steal and return Alma’s belongings at random. Alma searches in the Tahitian jungle for months until finding the man who supplies the answers about her husband she so desperately seeks.

“The Signature of All Things,” though sprawling, follows a direct course most of the way. It falls off the tracks when Alma discovers what her husband had been up to in Tahiti and tries to heighten her own experience in what turns out to be an odd and jarring attempt at spiritual and sexual awakening.

The novel returns to its course thereafter, leisurely following Alma into her 60s, 70s and 80s, as she writes a thesis based on — yes, you guessed it — the signature of all things. Connections abound in every living thing, Alma discovers; she forms a scientific theory of adaptation and evolution rivaling Darwin’s. But Alma never publishes her findings — an avoidance by Gilbert to dilute actual history within the context of fiction.

By the end of this 500-page, good though not brilliant epic, the novel seems to be searching for its own signature, its own take-away lesson about life. Gilbert refuses to let the novel and Alma’s journey speak for themselves so she tidily oversimplifies the connection between those fascinating mosses and Alma’s own life.

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Buffer project at Oswegatchie Hills adds to nature’s ambiance

Looking to escape the daily rat race and step back into pristine woodlands for a few minutes or hours? Within only a few turns down the road from I-95 traffic, strip malls and suburbia, the Oswegatchie Hills Nature Preserve on the East Lyme bank of the Niantic River beckons the world-weary nature lover.

The preserve, which opened in 2007, was created by the private/public partnership of the Town of East Lyme and the Friends of the Oswegatchie Hills Nature Preserve (FOHNP). The all-volunteer nonprofit group provides stewardship of the existing preserve and seeks to acquire more of the adjoining hills to protect the fragile ecosystem of the forest terrain and Niantic estuary.

One of the largest swaths of open space along Connecticut’s highly developed shoreline, the 470-acre preserve of undeveloped hillside terrain has more than three miles of walking and hiking trails. These pass through an abandoned pink granite quarry, lead to rocky ledges and overlooks of the river, views of Smith Cove and moments of solitude with native plants and wildlife. There’s also Clark Pond, a tree-lined pool at the preserve’s southern end and the main entrance, next to Veterans Memorial Field, off of Route 161.

As with any real estate, curb appeal matters. Two years ago, the preserve’s management council decided the main entrance needed some sprucing up.

“This is our gateway, this is the main entrance to the preserve, so we want this space to be inviting,” said Greg Decker, FOHNP vice president and chair of the stewardship committee. “It should look good and say to the public that this place is well kept and managed properly. It says ‘Welcome.'”

What started out as a “little project” – a few native plants and wildflowers around the entrance kiosk – turned into a much larger undertaking, one designed to solve a pesky soil erosion problem exacerbated by vehicle traffic and parking at the heavily-used town ball field.

“There was nothing there to hold the soil in place, so the runoff was eroding the top of the hillside and running into Clark Pond,” Decker said. “Anywhere you get disturbed soil from construction or usage, that makes it ripe for invasive plants to move in.”

Judy Rondeau, natural resources specialist and Niantic River Watershed coordinator for the Eastern Connecticut Conservation District, recognized the opportunity to create a conservation project, one that would help clean up runoff into the Long Island Sound and make the pond bank more appealing and useful to humans and wildlife.

The pond shoreline technically is a riparian buffer zone; these buffers are the first line of defense against the impact of land usage associated with residential, agricultural and industrial areas. Too often, native vegetation along rivers, streams and bodies of water get torn out or destroyed. Lost with the plants is a natural filtration system to keep pollutants and silt out of the water.

“Above us is a pristine, 169-acre runoff area that goes into the Niantic River,” Decker said. “It’s unique in this area to have such an undeveloped watershed like this, so it’s important that we protect it.”

It wasn’t only recent human activity that disrupted the western slope of Clark Pond, which was created years ago by the enterprising Clark family who owned the land. They dammed the stream so they could harvest the ice and sell it to ships in the Niantic fishing fleet. Circa-1905 photos from East Lyme Town Historian Liz Kuchta show horse-drawn sleds pulling the ice blocks down to the docks.

Back in the day, the pond also served as a public ice skating rink, Decker said. Early on in the project, volunteers unearthed a couple of old guard rails mired along the shoreline.

Rondeau suggested getting rid of the invasive plants and thorny brambles on the slope and replacing them with native plants that would feed and support terrestrial and aquatic wildlife and plants. The space would be a lot more pleasant for hikers, too. Decker, a CT-DEEP Master Wildlife Conservationist who runs the research boats for the environmental labs at Millstone Power Station, wondered where he’d find a landscaper who would know what to do and what to plant.

“So, I sat down next to some guy at the Save the River-Save the Hills annual pasta and song fundraiser at Flanders Fish Market a couple of years ago, and he turned out to be a landscape architect who specializes in native plants and fixing soil erosion along the shoreline,” Decker said. “Talk about fate.”

Drew Kenny, who lives in East Lyme and earned his degree in landscape architecture at UConn, volunteered his services to create the landscape plan and help with the planting. He designed a meandering path through a wildflower meadow and plantings of bird-friendly native shrubs for the 250-by-100-foot sloping shoreline.

Kenny’s design incorporates almost 300 native shrubs. Some were planted last year. Last Saturday, about 15 volunteers put in the last 87 plants, silky dogwoods and shadblow serviceberry. A landscape plan at the kiosk indicates what has been planted and how the plantings tie in with existing oak and sumac.

“The whole waterside edge is planted with native species. There’s also bayberry, clethera and grey dogwood,” he said. “We used Eastern red cedar as anchor plants to guide people through the area; the bayberry highlight the entrance and access to the bank-side.”

Some 30 pounds of wildflower seeds, sown last spring, have become a wildflower meadow; many of these species develop deep roots that will help secure the soil. Paths will be mowed through the meadow and around the shrubs.

Kenny, who has taught landscape design and architecture classes at UConn, opened his own landscape design and installation firm, Outdoor Lifestyles, in East Lyme earlier this year and has been installing landscapes from New Haven to Stonington. He says he’s been involved in so many erosion control and repair projects along the shoreline over the years that it has turned into a niche.

“This project is my interest in being connected with the community,” said Kenny. “Native plants are the way to go, whether you’d doing it along a wetland or in your back yard. A lot of people are torn between thinking they have to have gardens and perennial beds verses having a nice simple outdoor living space. You’re going to be better off with the native plants for easy maintenance.”

Before any of the new planting could be done, the invasive and thorny plants had to be removed; plants like Asiatic bittersweet, multifora rose, Japanese barberry, poison ivy and catbrier or smilax, also notoriously deep-rooted and thorny. Because of the wetlands and proximity to water, the East Lyme Inland Wetlands Agency required that these be removed mechanically or by hand. No chemical herbicides were allowed. Topsoil had to be replaced or added once the weeds came out. A silt fence held in the soil while grass and wildflowers got established.

Then there was the arduous task of digging and prepping almost 300 holes for the shrubs and trees, no small feat considering the established tree roots and other shoreline vegetation.

The work has been done by volunteers, including FOHNP members, the newly reconstituted East Lyme and Niantic Land Trust and East Lyme Girl Scouts Troop 63800. The Town of East Lyme has organized teams of J.B. Correctional Institution inmates to help, too. The town’s highway and parks and recreation departments have donated time and equipment to remove invasive plants, dig holes for planting the native shrubs and bring in and position 20 boulders to help define the walk path through the wildflowers.

“We couldn’t have planted these without East Lyme’s new post-hole digger,” said Decker, who is also chief waterer of the transplanted shrubs, a critical step for plant survival.

“Greg has been the driving force for this project since day one,” said Richard Gallagher, fellow board member of FOHNP, who helped prep many of the holes for the young plants. “He puts so much time and effort into this preserve.”

Grants and donations funded the plant purchases. FOHNP received a $1,000 grant from the New England Grassroots Environmental Fund, the Town of East Lyme was awarded the Les Mehrhoff plant biodiversity preservation grant from the Connecticut Wetland Scientists, also $1,000, and the Dominion Nuclear Connecticut Foundation donated $2,500.

Although the majority of the heaving lifting, digging and planting is over, Decker says volunteers will be sprucing up the entrance area with a few more plants.

“We also want to put up some educational signs, telling people what was done and why,” said Decker.

The nature preserve is open to the public and welcomes school groups and educational tours. See for trail maps and more information. For more landscaping ideas, see Drew Kenny’s Outdoor Lifestyles page on Facebook.

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Fall Festival to benefit future teaching gardens site

October 13, 2013

Fall Festival to benefit future teaching gardens site

Mark Friedel

Staff Writer
The Claremore Daily Progress

Sun Oct 13, 2013, 07:15 AM CDT


The fall festival is free to the public and will include local eats, area vendors, a pumpkin patch, face painting, square dancers, pet costume contest, raffles, door prizes, wiener dog races, balloon animals and a dunk tank featuring Sheriff Scott Walton and Rogers County Commissioner Dan DeLozier. MGARC members will be on hand to present canning and food, tree planting, and Do it Yourself Irrigation demonstrations.

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Hospice gardens need volunteers

Wise, however, can’t work in the gardens like she used to, and she’s concerned about the grounds she has cherished for so many years. One of the gardens was created in honor of her daughter, Amy.

The gardens are at risk, she said, as Four Seasons hospice doesn’t have funds for a landscaper. Donations and volunteers are necessary to keep the gardens as beautiful as Wise built them up to be.

There is “tons of mulching” to be done, she said. There’s also trimming and weeding. Monetary gifts are “desperately needed,” she added.

“There has to be a leader,” Wise said.

The gardens are dependent on donations and volunteer hours to keep them vibrant, and Wise has been the cog in that machine. Before she started working at the gardens, they weren’t nearly as colorful, Four Seasons CEO Chris Comeaux said.

“There were just grass and dirt in a lot of cases,” he said.

The scenery has been transformed in the last 11 years, and the gardens play a large role in what Four Seasons is trying to accomplish at the Elizabeth House, Comeaux said. The hospice is trying to create an atmosphere to comfort families and clients during one of the toughest moments in their lives.

Wise could be seen daily working in the gardens with her white lab coat on. Clients and their family members would watch from the windows as she breathed life into the gardens. Often people would come out and give her donations. Those donations would sometimes be $50 or even $100.

“They would walk out and watch me work,” Wise said.

Clients weren’t the only ones looking out for her. Comeaux and other hospice employees loved having Wise there on a daily basis. Wise, with her garden tools and a smile, was a welcome sight, Comeaux said.

“It’s kind of like one of those moments when you know everything in life is okay,” he said about driving up and seeing her in the gardens.

Wise’s father took her to a flower show when she was 17. She spent days with her grandmother, who instilled in her a love of landscaping.

“I’d make a beeline to her shed and get an old mower out,” Wise said.

She spent decades learning the craft of vibrant landscaping. In 2010, her home at Lake Pointe Landing earned the Residential Landscaping Award from the city of Hendersonville.

“She has a gift,” Comeaux said. “When Ardy gardens, it’s her passion. It’s who she is.”

To donate or volunteer at Four Seasons Hospice and the Elizabeth House, visit or call 828-692-6178.

Reach Millwood at 828-694-7881 or at

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Maine’s Capitol Park to have ‘edible landscaping’

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AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Fruit, vegetables and herbs will soon be planted at Capitol Park near Maine’s State House, under a new state law.

The law that went into effect last week directs the state to plant edible landscaping in the Augusta park.

Democratic Rep. Craig Hickman of Winthrop was the bill’s sponsor.

Hickman says in a statement that the landscaping will be paid for through private and public funds and will be added as the money becomes available.

The Paris Farmer’s Union is donating seeds and Hickman’s farm fields in Winthrop will provide edible perennials.

Hickman hopes the edible landscaping will raise awareness for the local food movement, encourage others to plant their own food gardens and educate children that visit the State House.

Landscaping is expected to begin next spring.


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Monty Don gardening tips: Lovely to look at, easy to grow, chard is hard to fault

Monty Don

16:30 EST, 11 October 2013


16:30 EST, 11 October 2013



F or decades I have been growing chard with very little trouble and have always relished it, both in the garden as a resplendently energetic plant in all its various hues and on the plate in a surprisingly varied number of recipes.

The British have not taken to chard with the same enthusiasm as the French for some reason, but it is delicious and nutritious, can be cooked in lots of different ways, is easy to grow and is a leafy green vegetable that can be harvested throughout the year. It really is hard to fault it.

Admittedly, last year I did have some trouble with my chard, finding it was very quick to bolt before it had developed a decent leaf or root system. But I put that down to the low light levels, and this year it has grown easily and well. 

Lovely to look at, easy to grow, delicious hot or cold and good for you too - chard is hard to fault, says Monty Don

Lovely to look at, easy to grow, delicious hot or cold and good for you too – chard is hard to fault, says Monty Don

The seeds can be sown at any time between March and July – my favoured method is to use plugs and then either plant them directly into the soil or pot them on into 8cm (3in) pots before planting out approximately 22cm-30cm (9in-12in) apart.


Q. We have a large magnolia tree that obliterates our view of the garden. When should we prune it?
Ivor Nash, Ticehurst, East Sussex

A. If it is a deciduous magnolia, the best time is in midsummer, after flowering. But the evergreen M. grandiflora should be pruned only sparingly, if at all.

Q. After lifting my potato crop, I see some are already gnawed. I’ve had a few molehills, so could moles have done it?
Peter Wilkins, Bugbrooke, Northants

A. I very much doubt it was moles eating your potatoes, Peter – they much prefer earthworms. But voles are known to like a good spud.

Q. A hydrangea and bay have grown too large for our London garden, and I’d like to transfer them to our cottage garden in Norfolk. When would be the best time to do this, and should they be pruned back?
Patricia Sears, Chiswick, London

A. For the hydrangea the best time would be between now and March. For the bay, autumn or spring. Dig up as much root as possible and move in the largest pots you can. Depending on the root size, trim the bay back by as much as half. Leave pruning the hydrangea till spring, and remove a third of its growth.

However, the seeds can be sown directly into the soil as long as you thin them out ruthlessly so that each plant has the space to develop really generous roots.

Chard is very drought-resistant when established, although the hotter and drier the weather, the greater the ratio of stalk to green leaf. In general it is best to plant them into rich, well-drained soil and keep the water supply steady, as erratic watering will stress them and induce bolting. The idea is to grow the plants steadily so they go into winter with a strong root that will then keep producing new foliage right through to the following spring.

You can either harvest the leaves by taking a few in turn from each plant as you go or, as I prefer to do, cut the whole thing flush with the ground, which provokes a fresh crop of tender young leaves to come through.

It is a tough plant and will take drought in summer and as much cold as we are likely to get. Its powers of recovery are extraordinary. I reckon to take at least three good harvests from each plant, and even when it is reduced to a semi- rotted stump, it will still throw up more crinkled green flames of leaf to give a spring crop when there is little else growing.

Chard, as a member of the beet family, is related to spinach and beetroot, and the leaves do look like monstrously enlarged versions of both their cousins.

They are invariably cooked having been stripped from the stems and are like a slightly coarser, more robust spinach, going well with any meats, eggs or cheese. The stems are celery-like in texture with a delicate, subtle taste.

Swiss chard, which has pure white stems and great green leaves, is superior in taste to all other variations, but ruby chard is beautiful enough for any flower border. ‘Rainbow’ chard is, as the name suggests, multi-coloured, and ‘Bright Lights’ has brilliant yellow stems. ‘Vulcan’ is a new variety designed for eating raw in salad. All are very good to eat.

Swiss chard has nothing to do with Switzerland but it is the name it has gone by for the past 100 years or so. The ancient Greeks grew red chard, the Chinese record growing it in the 7th century, and what we now call Swiss chard is recorded growing in Britain as early as 1596. 

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Fall gardening tips: A new additive for poor soils

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GOOD TO GROW: October Gardening Tips

  Denise, Bill, and Norma talk about what gardening activities we can take part in during October.  It’s a great time to plant cool-season annuals like pansies, or planting trees shrubs.

Plus, hear about where the Master Gardeners will be appearing this month:  Oct 11-13 at the Home Garden Expo in Downtown El Paso…Oct 26 from 9am-1pm at the Downtown Artist Farmers Market on Anthony St…and Oct 26 from 1pm-3pm at the Municipal Rose Garden Open House at Memorial Park.

Aired Oct. 12, 2013.

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Robert Llewellyn’s photo tips

Posted: Sunday, October 13, 2013 12:00 am

Robert Llewellyn’s photo tips

“While a painting starts with white and adds all the stuff you like, a photograph starts with everything and you eliminate stuff to get to what you like,” Llewellyn said. He also shared these tips for the best macro images:

Try the “else-ness” exercise, experimenting with how else you can photograph an object using different angles, lighting, etc.

Use a controlled background with close-ups, such as a full white background for outdoor shots.

Envision the whole frame, not just the object being photographed.

Never shoot just one photo.

    Robert Llewellyn Photography seeks distinctive or odd-looking seed pods for potential inclusion in the upcoming book “Seeing Seed Pods.”

To provide a seed pod for consideration, email Robert@Robert

    Specimens in clear, sealed bags, preferably identified by common or botanical name, also will be accepted from Oct. 14 to 31 in the Lora M. Robins Library at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Seed pods will not be returned. For more information and the necessary form, visit


Sunday, October 13, 2013 12:00 am.

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