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Archives for June 1, 2014

Slideshow: Early summer garden update

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April Nordbee: Small Town Duchamp


April Nordbee, a 29 year old mother of two who lives in Swedborg Falls, Wisconsin, has found her life completely changed over the past two years, all as the result of a lucky keystroke error she made during a Google search that caused her to discover the life and work of artist Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968). Nordbee’s subsequent transformation from an LVN into a nationally recognized conceptual artist has both shocked and electrified the rust belt town of 35,000 where she grew up. “April certainly has shaken us up,” says Roger Ballens, the town’s mayor, “but she has also put us on the map and given the local economy a real shot in the arm.”

“I was doing a search for duck stamp,” Nordbee explains, “and I had just typed the ‘c’ in duck on my computer when my four year old Kevin slammed his T-Rex onto the keyboard to get my attention and BOOM up comes Marcel Duchamp on Wikipedia. After putting Kevin on his Elmo chair for a time out, I started to read about Duchamp — Why not? I thought — and when I saw the picture of his bottle rack I literally got goose bumps. It was like Duchamp was speaking to me personally, telling me ‘Anything can be art and anyone can be an artist.'”

It was the first time Nordbee had ever heard of Duchamp — a revolutionary modern artist who is considered the grandfather of Conceptualism — but her interest in art wasn’t anything new. Always good at drawing, a colored pencil sketch she made of a unicorn in 8th grade had earned her a second prize ribbon at a local fair, and Nordbee says that she would have either attended beauty school or art school had she not become pregnant with Cody, her oldest boy, who arrived just after high school graduation.

The years that followed graduation weren’t easy ones: April and her sweetheart-turned-husband Ed had to move in with his parents while Ed learned welding at a local trade school. After baby Kevin arrived a few years later April was able to get her nursing degree by attending night classes, and the couple had been able to move to their own apartment just before Ed was laid off. “Things had just started looking up for us when Ed lost his job,” Nordbee recalls, “and we didn’t want to fall back on our parents again. If I hadn’t discovered Marcel I don’t know what we would have done.”

“On the day that I accidentally googled Duchamp Ed was out earning some cash doing landscaping work. My head was just literally swimming thinking about Duchamp and I wanted to find a way that Ed could share in my excitement when he came home. I called my mother, who came and took the boys to her place for a sleepover, and then I got busy quickly. I put some chicken in the crockpot, turned Kevin’s tricycle upside down in front of the fireplace and lit the fire.

When Ed came home he found me buck naked sitting at a chessboard with the wheel of Kevin’s tricycle spinning gently behind me. I handed him a joint and said to him: ‘I need to tell you all about the work of Marcel Duchamp.’ I had been thinking about how to explain Duchamp to him, but he got it right away. He knows that all the manufacturing is going to China and when I told him being an artist means just signing things and becoming famous he was right on board with it. After I made a pledge to him — ‘neither of us will ever have a real job again’– we made love on the floor next to the chessboard. It was the most beautiful night of our lives.”

The next day Nordbee quit her job at a local manor care facility and had an image of Duchamp tattooed on her left arm. The bold tattoo, which showed Duchamp behind his famous “Bicycle Wheel” was her way of letting her family and friends know that she was a new person now: an artist who was re-making her life to reflect the art and ideas of a dead Frenchman they had never heard of.

Two weeks later Nordbee entered her first readymade — simply titled ‘Blender’ — in the annual juried show of the Swedborg Falls Art League. Although her piece was rejected by the exhibition committee Nordbee signed the work ‘A. Nordbee’ with a black sharpie and made free margaritas in it outside the local Kiwanis Hall during the opening night of the art league show, drawing quite a crowd. She also handed out over 200 postcards — purchased earlier in the day at a local Christian bookstore — each featuring a printed image of Jesus. Nordbee had altered each card by adding a touch of lipstick to Christ’s lips with a red pastel and penciling the words ‘He’s got a hot ass’ on the card’s lower edge. When a brief story about Nordbee and the altered Jesus cards appeared in the Milwaukee Patch the next day, the blog went viral and comments had to be disabled.

“When Pastor Raines called the next day he was very angry about the Christ card,” Nordbee reflects. “I stayed calm and told him that I still loved Jesus, but that Duchamp had shown me that you aren’t going to get any attention for your work if you don’t take a shot at some famous person or symbol or at least sex them up a bit. Besides, I know for a fact that his church was totally packed when he did a sermon about my piece the following Sunday: he actually e-mailed me to say thank you.”

As a result of the Patch story, Nordbee also began to hear from a lot of out-of-towners, including a curator from the Milwaukee Art Museum and another from the Dia Art Foundation in New York. “I didn’t know what a curator was at first, but I got that sorted out pretty quickly” Nordbee states. “They were very, very interested in me and the curator from the Dia told me that I was as a woman artist re-doing a man’s art career I was a really big deal and that I could get grants.”

A month later she was in the news again with a large-scale event called ‘In Advance of Corporate Downsizing’ that took place at an abandoned air conditioner plant. “Duchamp understood that artists and viewers are both participants in whatever the art is,” Nordbee comments, “So I knew I had to go all out to show everyone a good time. My sister and I made an installation by hanging all the old broken equipment and tools we could find from the ceiling with wires, and then I signed all the urinals in the men’s room. Ed had the genius idea to attach one of them to a beer keg so that if you flushed you could fill up a beer stein: you should have seen the line for that!”


“In Advance” opened at 5AM on November 23, 2012 — Black Friday — and was billed as a “performance, concert and alternative to shopping at WalMart.” A long queue of visitors, mostly young people and a lot of out-of-towners, snaked past the enlarged photos of Duchamp that had been bolted to the plant’s fence, paying ten bucks each to gawk at the hanging tools. As the day wore on there was an ear-splitting concert by a local garage band who had christened themselves “Woman Ray,” and a also a growing potluck of casseroles, brownies and tossed salads brought by well-wishers and served on paper plates. April and Ed Nordbee spent most of the day sitting behind a folding table playing chess on the plant’s loading dock, selling Duchamp t-shirts, and taking it all in. “People were bringing me their blenders to sign — I charged them five dollars for that — and I also signed a few coffee grinders and some Tupperware.”

By the New Year Nordbee had received enough attention and national press that her new public image had been secured: April Nordbee is now a brand, and also the subject of at least a dozen PhD theses in progress. “Apparently, I am the first female outsider/conceptualist to come out of this region, ” Nordbee states with pride. “My timing was perfect.” After her February, 2013 appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres show Nordbee signed a contract with a major gallery: her first show of readymades and signed found objects will open in New York this July. She also has licensing deals with Martha Stewart for a line of signature blenders and stainless steel backyard grills.

Although April Nordbee is now being heralded as a role model and an American success story, not everyone in Swedborg Falls is pleased. Crystal Anne Nordbee, the artist’s opinionated 78-year-old paternal grandmother spoke her mind to reporter for USA Today:

“April doesn’t call me anymore and I don’t call her. Ever since she discovered that lazy-ass artist Duchamp April has become very greedy and self-involved. My late husband and I worked hard for everything we had — we built this house with our own hands — and I have no interest in so-called art by people who take no pride in what they put their name on. This country doesn’t need greedy artists and overpaid CEOs who sell us over-priced worthless crap made by underpaid people in factories overseas. America needs doers and makers right now, not takers.”

Author’s Note: This piece is fiction intended as a commentary and social satire. April Nordbee, Swedborg Falls and its citizens are not real. Marcel Duchamp, on the other hand, was a very real and tremendously influential cultural figure.

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City signs off on flood study

Posted: Sunday, June 1, 2014 6:45 am

City signs off on flood study

Brian Carlton

The Daily Progress

In order to deal with flooding in Waynesboro’s downtown area, the city has agreed to study different options. During the city council’s Tuesday, May 27 meeting, the board unanimously approved a request to move forward with a flood study, as part of the ongoing work with brownfield sites.

“Essentially, the Brownfield grant consultants have proposed several ideas that could help address downtown flooding,” explained assistant city manager Jim Shaw. “However those proposals are conceptual in nature and engineering work would be required to understand if they’re feasible.”

A brownfield, according to the EPA, is a former industrial or commercial site that hasn’t been redeveloped because of environmental contamination, perceived or real. Last year, Waynesboro received a $400,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to work on such areas that exist around the downtown. Members of the firm Stromberg, Garrigan and Associates presented the city with several recommendations in May on how to move forward. One key question though was how to fix the city’s flooding problem in the area, which could be an issue in attracting new businesses to rebuild and renovate brownfield sites.

The study allows city staff to run what Shaw referred to as a series of “what if” scenarios, to see if the suggestions offered by the landscaping and design firm would be feasible and cost-effective for the city to move forward with. Part of that will involve using a flood model of the South River, created by the DuPont Company. The total cost of the study is $56,610, but the EPA grant will cover $20,000 of that, leaving the city to pay the last $36,610. 


Sunday, June 1, 2014 6:45 am.

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Rain gardens like one by parking deck, Town Green provide guard for environment – Rome News

What might look like an ordinary combination of plant beds and rocks is actually a tool in the fight for water conservation and environmental awareness.

The rain garden at the Town Green is right next to the Third Avenue Parking Deck and is mostly contained within a section surrounded by a brick wall.

Eric Lindberg, the city’s environmental expert, said rain gardens help restore groundwater supply and save the ecosystems of rivers and streams that could be disrupted due to large amounts of stormwater runoff.

“If you pave over everything, there is a lot less wet dirt to recharge those streams when we have dry times,” Lindberg said. “So, the more water we put into the ground, the better we can maintain the flow of those at a more consistent level.”

Lindberg said the problem increases exponentially in urban areas. Atlanta is seeing its fair share as some of the city’s small streams have been reduced to small trickles or don’t flow at all until large amounts of rainfall, causing erosion damage.

Large-scale demonstration

Visitors to the Town Green (map) can see the spouts where stormwater comes out after it is channeled off of the four-level parking deck.

The water then goes into the plant bed where it is soaked into the soil and filtered gradually through layers of soil and gravel.

At the very bottom of the rain garden area is a perforated drain to direct any large amount of rainwater out of the area.

“In the beginning, the stormwater that runs off of the parking deck was just going to run out through a pipe and into the river,” said Brad Jones, the landscape architect and project manager on the Town Green project. “We thought, ‘Let’s funnel it to the side and allow it to be absorbed into the soil.’”

The trees in the rain garden are bald cypress, one of the plants that are well suited to both extreme flood conditions and extreme droughts.

The methodology behind rain gardens has become a big part of stormwater management plans in many urban areas, according to Jones.

“A lot of municipalities, while they don’t do this level of aesthetics, they require more and more of what is called first flush treatment,” Jones said.

First flush refers to the initial surface runoff after a rainstorm, which usually consists of a higher concentration of pollutants.

Bringing it on home

Rain gardens are not just something for city governments to install. Smaller versions can be created in residential areas.

Thanks to the upswing in conservation efforts and the resources found on the Internet, there is a lot more information about rain gardens now than there was 10 years ago, Lindberg said.

“It’s not a hard thing to do and it’s not intrusive,” Lindberg said. “If you are doing landscaping anyway, it’s an easy thing to do.”

Lindberg sad the philosophy for home rain gardens is the same as the relatively large one at the Town Green.

“What you are doing is holding water for just a little bit of time and letting it seep into the ground naturally,” he said.

Lindberg said people can check out other local examples of rain gardens by visiting the Rome-Floyd E.C.O. River Education Center at Ridge Ferry Park (map).

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Successfully planting vegetables for a colourful and blossoming garden


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Garden wedding and Tuscan garden on Mountainside Garden Tour – The Star

A spectacular specimen planting in a Tuscan urn is among many on display at the Rolling Rock Road garden which one of six gardens taking part in the Mountainside Restoration Committee’s Tour of Mountainside’s Gardens to be held on Saturday, June 7. 

Two of the six Mountainside Gardens on view during the June 7 tour of Mountainside Gardens are specially themed and staged for a Garden Wedding and a Tuscan Garden.

The Appletree Lane garden is in the backyard of a beautiful brand new home. It is newly landscaped by Harol Landscaping and the lush expansive lawn area will be staged and ready for a Garden Wedding. Featuring seating in front of a wedding arch and tables designed by Christoffers Florist, Millburn Florist and The Mountainside Restoration Committee, this yard is spectacular. Linda Condrillo will be on hand to show and sell her fantastic photo cards and prints – many of which are photos taken in the gardens.

On Rolling Rock Road, a garden which is owned by a florist becomes a tranquil Tuscan oasis. With a variety of Tuscan-inspired clay pots and urns planted with unique specimens, this poolside garden is reminiscent of the Italian countryside. Visitors to this lush and gracious garden will be calmed and inspired by its serene tranquility.

The six gardens on the Mountainside tour are located on Rolling Rock Road, Wood Valley Road, Stony Brook Lane, Appletree Lane, Meetinghouse Lane and Robin Hood Road. Each garden is uniquely themed and inspires guests with ideas for their own gardens. They can be visited in any order.

Visitors are also encouraged to enjoy lunch at Mountainside’s Publick House restaurant whose management is generously donating the proceeds of lunch ticket sales back to the Mountainside Restoration Committee. The tour runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Advance tickets for Mountainside’s Garden Tour are $45 for tour and lunch or $30 for tour only and can be purchased online at or at Christoffers Flower and Gift Shop located at 860 Mountain Ave. in Mountainside. Limited tickets will also be sold on the day of the tour at each Garden Tour location for $35 for tour and $15 for lunch.

All proceeds from the tour and lunch will be used by the Mountainside Restoration Committee for restoration and maintenance of the historic Hetfield and Levi Cory houses.

The Mountainside Restoration Committee (aka, Mountainside Historical Committee) is a 501(c)(3) registered not-for-profit committee of volunteers governed by the Borough of Mountainside.

For further information, call 908-789-9420; or, go to:

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Tips for getting high yields from a small or thirsty garden

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How can you get the most yield from a garden where space is limited, and water is too?

Plant smart, and pay attention to the soil.

“Your garden is only as good as your soil,” says David Salman, chief horticulturist at High Country Gardens, a Santa Fe, N.M., catalog that specializes in native and low-water plants.

Find out what nutrients your soil has — and what it’s missing — with a soil test, available through local cooperative extension offices at a nominal fee (home soil-test kits are less reliable, according to the Colorado State University Extension).

Encourage plant health by fertilizing with natural, organic fertilizers, which include fish emulsion and liquid seaweed, says Salman. Limit the use of chemical fertilizers because they don’t help build the soil.

“You will have more nutritionally complete vegetables if you have healthy soil,” he promises.

One trick Salmon recommends, especially for gardeners living in new housing developments, is adding a soil inoculant called mycorrhiza, a beneficial fungi. It’s found naturally in healthy soil, but often needs to be added to a new garden.

“New gardens in new subdivisions, their soil is scraped off as part of construction,” says Salman. “You need to put beneficial fungi back in.”

Peas, beans and soybeans could benefit from legume inoculants, which are species-specific (a soybean inoculant cannot be used to aid peas’ growth). Read product labels carefully or ask your gardening center for assistance.

“Your beans will do OK (without it), but if you really want to crank out the beans, you can do that with the inoculant,” says Salman. “It’s kind of a ‘grandma’s secret’ to growing great beans.”

Plants that can offer high yields with low watering include leafy vegetables such as kale, lettuce and spinach; beans, snow peas and sugar snap peas; and some varieties of cucumbers, he says. Plant vining beans and peas if you have space or can grow them up a fence or trellis; plant bush beans and peas in large pots if space is limited.

Plant radishes early in the season or in part shade, and mulch them and other plants to retain moisture and combat weeds.

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Ickenham firm’s garden design wins Chelsea gold medal

Ickenham firm’s garden design wins Chelsea gold medal

By Bethany Whymark

Red light; Chelsea pensioners give their approval to Jo Thompson and her garden

A GARDEN designed for an Ickenham-based developer has won a coveted gold medal at the Chelsea Flower Show.

London Square, of Swakeleys Road, commissioned designer Jo Thompson to create the artistic corner garden.

She won the top accolade in the Fresh Garden category for her innovative design, which included a mix of traditional and contemporary elements.

London Square sales and marketing director Rebecca Littler said: “Jo has captured the sense of tranquility and community embodied in this much-admired architectural design.”

The garden included white standard roses – a rare sight at Chelsea –as part of a green and white colour scheme.

Also incorporated were a marbled sculpture by Frederic Chevarin and an artistic steel bench.

London Square was founded in 2010 and its ethos is based around one of London’s most common architectural features: the square.

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