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Archives for July 19, 2014

Gardening Tips: White, fluffy substance on plants is fungal

Matthew Stevens

Matthew Stevens

Posted: Friday, July 18, 2014 11:34 am

Gardening Tips: White, fluffy substance on plants is fungal

By Matthew Stevens

The Daily Herald, Roanoke Rapids, NC


Over the past 10 days, I’ve had a number of calls about a white, fluffy substance growing on the leaves of various vegetable and ornamental plants. This is due to a common fungal disease known as powdery mildew, which affects a variety of plants. It is most commonly found on squash, crape myrtle, dogwood, rose and phlox.

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Friday, July 18, 2014 11:34 am.

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GARDENING TIPS: Hostas & Magnolia Trees Not Doing Well

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Summer stars: Alan Titchmarsh tips on growing penstemons

If I were to make a list of indispensable plants, penstemons would be pretty near the top of it. These elegant border perennials are much tougher than we used to think and I have seldom lost any due to the cold – partly thanks to giving the crowns a decent mulch of well-rotted compost or manure each autumn as a kind of lagging to see them through the winter. Come April, I chop back the old stems to allow the new shoots – and a new crop of flowers – to emerge.

Some varieties have narrow leaves and these prove the hardiest. Generally, the broader and fatter the leaves the more tender the plant.

The flowers are rather like those of the foxglove and are carried in tapering spires atop 2ft stems. They are produced right through the summer, from June until the frosts, and if you keep snipping off the stems as they fade, even more will emerge – they really do provide non-stop pleasure.

As to varieties, go for the wonderfully named ‘Sour Grapes’, an unusual confection of blue, purple and green, and ‘Andenken an Friedrich Hahn’ (sorry about that – it used to be called ‘Garnet’, which was much easier to say and remember) which is a rich shade of rosy red. There are tons of others – ‘Blackbird’, rich purple, some pure whites, and pale pinks like ‘Apple Blossom’. 

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Tips to help garden live longer, produce more

By Maureen Gilmer


There’s something primal in every one of us that responds to spring. Since the dawn of agriculture, humans feel the urge to plant flowers and food crops after a long, cold winter. But as the weeks pass into midsummer, rising heat and fair weather activities can diminish that early drive to get out into the garden. Just when the plants need you most you’ll be off to the beach or a dozen other summer activities.

Once the solstice passes at the end of June, the garden goes into production mode. This is the peak of a vegetable plant’s life cycle that beings with seed germination and ends with seed formation. If you succumb to garden fatigue and neglect them now, your harvest will suffer. But if you follow these simple tips, your garden will live longer, produce far more and remain trouble free into fall.

Mulch: Mulching is key to making midsummer life more comfortable for your plants. An organic mulch is not worked into the soil _ it lays on top to shade the soil and keep roots cooler, blocks sunlight so weeds don’t sprout, and most of all, mulch prevents moisture from evaporating from the soil surface. Straw is a common mulch for vegetable gardens because it’s cheap, plentiful and resists decomposition. Plan on a mulch layer at least two inches thick to get the full benefit.

Adjust water: With drought and water conservation now a national concern, it’s important to apply enough water to keep your plants happy without wasting a drop. For those on drip systems, which is the most ideal way to grow veggies at home, take care to adjust the flow rate as plants grow larger because they need proportionately more moisture. If you fail in this, your crops will be small and pithy, insects attack the dehydrated plants and diseases crop up. Many people who think their plants died from the heat don’t realize that it’s inadequate moisture that causes these declines at midsummer. If you’re off on summer road trips, install a simple battery-operated timer to the drip system to ensure it keeps delivering on schedule even when you’re away.

Pick often: Because our vegetables are annual plants, they’re in a hurry to make seed. This is what happens when you let the zucchini grow to the size of a football. Inside the seeds are large and mature, so the plant quits making new flowers because it thinks the life cycle is complete. This is why it’s important to pick vegetables often or daily to trick the plants into extending its growth period well beyond the first few fruits. Failure to pick promptly enough is another cause of seasonal midsummer decline.

Feed: Some think it’s the weather that makes gardens slow down in the heat. Sometimes this decline is due to nutritional deficiencies, particularly in first year gardens that don’t have the benefit of long term soil building. The best way to give your plants a boost during the growing season is to add a liquid base organic fertilizer such as fish emulsion, which is mixed with water and applied to the individual plants. Plant food in solution puts what plants need right into the root zone with enough moisture to enhance immediate uptake.

In summer, keep one eye on the weather and the other on your plants. Water more often on hot windy days because this condition draws moisture right out of the leaves. Flood the root zone with water to make sure you don’t lose fruit to dehydration before it ripens.

The majority of failures occur in midsummer due to garden fatigue and neglect. Avoid it by planning on a few minutes of quality time each morning or evening observing your plants. What you see will not only guide you in making appropriate adjustments, you’ll discover those minutes pay off in more ways than you ever imagined.

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Tips to keep onions from bolting

Jimmy C. asks: What causes onions to bolt? I’ve grown onions for years and never had a problem before.

When planting onion sets in mild areas, only the smallest sets should be planted. Larger sets often grow too fast, bolting into flower as soon as the weather warms up and before the bulbs have had a chance to mature.

Onion sets planted in October aren’t so likely to bolt since their growth is slower during the winter months.

Remember the warm days and sporadic temperature changes? It most likely caused the early bolting.

Remove the blooms and hope that the early flowering hasn’t drained too much nourishment from the onion bulb.

Stephen H. asks: What can you tell me about gabions? A garden friend suggested I add a gabion as a garden element when I re-do the front yard and take out the turf.

A gabion is made of hog wire that is formed into a cage or multiple cages (sometimes called “baskets”) that can be used to create a retaining wall, base for a bench, a fence or a stand-alone, natural-appearing garden element. The ”big cage” interior is filled with fieldstone or other native stones that complement the surroundings. The top of the gabion can be of any height depending on its intended function and left open or capped off with more wire or even capped off with wood for a garden bench. Gabions are a creative application of rock/stone work that can be accomplished by most as long as there is some available muscle.

Ideas for using gabions in the garden can be found on the website There is a wonderful little garden on Franklin Avenue in Santa Rosa that uses gabions as garden elements, and it is most effective as part of a drought-tolerant garden design.

Anita asks: What is the scientific name for the strawberry begonia?

The scientific name is Saxifraga stolonifera. Another common name is “mother-of-thousands,” derived from the way it sends out runners with new plants attached. “Tricolor” is a good variety with smaller but very attractive green and white leaves with pink edges and purplish-rose undersides.

For those readers not familiar with this old-fashioned perennial shade plant, it forms a fine, dense ground cover that can be planted under trees, combined with ferns or positioned along a shady woodland path.

The Saxifraga stolonifera has wiry flower stalks topped with tiny and airy white blooms in the summer. It does die back in colder areas. Give it moderate water and fertilize sparingly in spring and late summer. Mulching around the plants should eliminate some of its moderate water requirements.

Brian writes: I have a low, wet area (during the rainy season) that is part of a drainage swale. We have lost several trees due to root rot because of the poor drainage. The area can accommodate a good-sized tree. Any suggestions?

Yes, the bald cypress, Taxodium distichum, is a deciduous conifer that has cinnamon colored bark and beautiful soft green sprays of needle-like leaves and does well in our area. It should be good choice for your problem swale.

This is a tough tree that can take many types of soil, some wet and dry conditions and is not prone to diseases and pests. Extreme alkaline soil can be a problem. Because it is deciduous, it takes on an interesting winter form.

Juilliard Park has a fine example of a bald cypress tree that is admired for its soft green needles in the summer and its dramatic winter form.

Dana Lozano and Gwen Kilchherr are garden consultants. Send your gardening questions to The Garden Doctors, at The Garden Doctors can answer questions only through their column, which appears twice a month in the newspaper and online at

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Landscaping: Feeling the music of a well-designed garden

In a well-designed garden, you can feel the music.

“It’s like a waltz,” says Ted Cleary, a landscape architect in Charlotte, North Carolina, who has been designing gardens for almost 20 years. Gardens, like music, are about movement and rest, he says. You should glide through a good garden as gracefully as a couple moves across a dance floor.

A new survey from the American Society of Landscape Architects reveals that this outdoor dance fits into a pattern. Homeowners want pretty gardens with places to entertain, grill, and relax. They’re interested in sensitive garden lighting and comfortable places to sit. They want “livable, open spaces that are both stylish and earth-friendly,” says Nancy Somerville of the society.

The society’s 2014 trend survey reflects the observations of landscape architects across the country who specialize in residential design. Landscape architects are trained to see the big picture, Cleary says, but the survey shows that garden designs are made up of separate parts, from the front walk to the back patio. In a successful garden plan, courtyards, flower gardens, pools, seating areas, grilling spots and storage buildings all fit neatly together.

“Your house is just a microcosm of a small town square, and our job is to figure out how it all relates,” Cleary says. Garden design projects also help you develop your aesthetic sense and reveal the potential of your property, says Mary Palmer Dargan, a landscape architect who lives and works in Atlanta, and in Cashiers, North Carolina.

One of the biggest trends this year is demand for first-rate outdoor lighting: 98 percent of landscape architects surveyed said lighting is a high priority among their clients. Good lighting makes any garden more attractive, Cleary says. “You would be amazed at how it will transform your landscape.”

Outdoor lighting should highlight important features and direct you and your guests through the evening landscape safely, but it should also be subdued and a little mysterious. A runway of fixtures set too close together spoils the mood. Smaller pools of light that slightly overlap are visually graceful and still make a garden easy to navigate, Cleary says. “You should very seldom see the source, but you should see the effect,” he says.

John Pletcher, owner of Natural Accents lighting design company in Liberty, Missouri, calls bright lights “glare bombs.”

“People are really starting to see that you don’t need a lot of light,” he says. “You can keep it very low, and it can still be gorgeous.”

The survey of trends also found that outdoor dining areas are high on the list of priorities for homeowners, with fire pits, fireplaces, grills and built-in seating close behind. In fact, they all go together, Cleary says.

A garden with great places to sit looks inviting even if you don’t always have time to linger, Cleary says. He prefers gardens with several seating areas — perhaps a few chairs just outside the back door, for example, and a bench deeper in the garden.

Lightweight furniture that can be moved around easily lets you experiment with different views and perspectives in your own garden. The wire mesh chairs in Paley Park in midtown Manhattan are a good example of how light furniture works well in any garden, Cleary says: The configuration of chairs and tables can change throughout the day and through the seasons.

Built-in seating serves other purposes as well, and it has become justly popular, Cleary says. Seating walls help define the spaces in a garden, reduce clutter and introduce strong horizontal lines in a design.

The built-in bench in a stone wall designed by landscape architect Meg Turner for clients in Richmond, Virginia, follows a graceful curve in a corner, and the view from there seems to embrace the garden. The bench faces back across to the house, which is made of the same handsome stone.

In another garden, Turner designed a seating wall that frames an outdoor fireplace. On cool evenings, the wall accommodates a cozy crowd.

“It’s almost a missed opportunity if you have a terrace with a wall and don’t have built-in seating,” Cleary says. People naturally gravitate to these spaces, he says, because they “want to be a part of things, to see what’s going on, but you want to feel protected.” Seating built against a wall fills that need.

Garden trends really don’t change all that dramatically over the years, Cleary says. Your investment is safe; this year’s garden design will still look great in years to come. As plants mature, well-cared-for landscaping can even increase in value: Research by the American Society of Landscape Architects shows that a professional landscape design can add up to 15 percent to the value of your home.

A well-designed garden is a comfortable and inviting space you will enjoy every day you live in your house. That’s a trend anyone can appreciate.

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Chinese-inspired Feng Shui garden can be place of tranquility

Landscape Feng Shui was developed centuries ago in China. The guiding principles were cultivated through careful observation of the world and can be used by gardeners to create a place of peace, harmony, and success.

The key is using the garden space to create a balance between yin and yang, and a beneficial flow of the intangible life force, chi (qi). A quick assessment of the yard or garden is all that is needed to begin.

Creating a balance between yin and yang is an easy place to start. Yin is the passive and negative energy which opposes yang, the active and positive energy. Yin energy corresponds to the moon and cooler colors like blues and greens. Private areas such as the backyard are also yin.

Yang energy is associated with the sun and vibrant colors like reds, oranges and yellows. Areas that are more public like the front yard are considered to have yang energy.

The first step is to assess the garden or yard. A sunny area with lots of colorful plants will be yang dominate. A yin area will be shaded and have stagnant water, and cool colored plants. To create a balance in these areas consider moving plants around based on their color.

To bring in more yin to a sunny dry area, look for sun-loving plants in blues, greens and purples. These could be perennials, annuals, or even done as a container planting depending on the space. If there is a large amount of space, planting a dark green-leafed shrub or installing a water feature would also work.

In mostly yin areas, plant colorful shade-loving plants in yang colors. Decreasing the amount of shade is also an option by pruning trees and shrubs to let in more light, or removing a structure that casts a large shadow. Another solution is installing some garden lighting. Solar lights, as well as, solar powered decorative garden stakes are both economical options. If the budget is an issue, make sure to concentrate on the front of the garden or main entrance area first as this is where chi will enter.

Once chi has entered the yard or garden, it needs to meander through the garden to be beneficial. The balance between yin and yang will help this.

Another important aspect of this in Feng Shui landscaping is using curved lines. Having straight lines are called poison arrows. Poison arrows allow chi to pick up too much speed and become destructive. Examples of poison arrows are straight driveways and paths, telephone poles, flag poles, and angled rooflines. Low budget and quick fixes for this issue involving paths and driveways are using plants to soften the edges and disguise the straight lines. For other poison arrow objects, using plants like hedges and shrubs, or using water in between these objects and the garden will cure the problem.

Water is an important part of Feng Shui landscaping. Although water is gentle, it is also considered extremely powerful because of its ability to shape the world around it. It brings with it the benefits of motion and sound. Falling water is an excellent way to stimulate chi in a garden and the sound is considered relaxing. If the garden or yard have straight lines, consider a circular water feature with a pump to nurture chi.

The use of sound is another way to stimulate chi in the garden. Wind chimes, bells or bamboo flutes are all acceptable instruments to use. Make sure they produce a sharp melodious sound versus a clang. Wind chimes and flutes need to be placed in a sheltered part of the garden. They can also be used to cure poison arrows. They can be placed along a straight pathway or a corner. For long paths or driveways, multiple chimes may be needed.

Using solid objects is another technique used in Feng Shui landscaping. It is an excellent way to anchor energy. Decorative solid objects can include sculptures, statues and large rocks. These objects must be rounded and without jagged edges. They will bring yin energy to an overly yang area. It is important to keep their size in proportion with the garden or house so they do not overwhelm.

Getting started with Feng Shui landscaping and design is easy to do. It can be a source of new design ideas and can offer a fresh perspective on problem areas in the yard or garden. Using some of the budget-friendly quick fixes mentioned here can turn a garden or yard into a sanctuary of relaxing energy. Happy gardening.

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St. Paul seeks Cayuga Park makeover ideas –

“What do you think of the wobble spheres?”

That’s one of the latest posts on the Cayuga Park playground renovation Facebook page, and as good an enticement as any for residents to chime in on the future of the outdated play area.

The sparse North End playground is on the verge of a $330,000 makeover. The question is — would it look better with traditional chutes and ladders or a more modern obstacle course? How about an intricate net climber? Or a combination thereof?

This weekend, city Parks and Recreation staff will meet with neighborhood residents by the well-worn jungle gym off Cayuga and Granite streets to design a better play area. The current play area was built in 1988.

Participants will get to weigh in on the type of synthetic turf or surfacing, seating and landscaping, and whether they need more picnic space or more elbow-room for free play.

Kids are invited. Children will be given materials and design tools to select their favorite play options.

The “pop-up design camps” take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and from 4 to 7 p.m. Sunday at 198 Cayuga St. The first camp was held Thursday afternoon.

The plan is to replace the dated park equipment with material that meets standards set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

The makeover budget is $330,000, with construction expected to begin in the fall.

Additional information has been posted on Facebook at, and a survey is online at Residents also can sign up to be placed on the Cayuga Play Area email list.

Frederick Melo can be reached at 651-228-2172. Follow him at

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This week’s odd news: Rare blue-colored red king crab caught in Alaska

A rare blue-colored red king crab was part of a fisherman’s catch earlier this month in Nome, Alaska.

KNOM reports Frank McFarland found the blue crab in his pot when fishing on July 4 near Nome. The blue crab is being kept alive at the Norton Sound Seafood Center until McFarland can have it mounted.

The rare crab has become a rock star of sorts, with people showing up at the center to have their photos taken with it.

Scott Kent, with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Nome, says he has no idea why the red king crab is blue, but suspects it’s just a mutation. Kent says a blue crab “turns up once in a blue moon.”

Corpse falls out of coroner’s truck onto highway

Wear and tear on a pickup truck used to transport bodies caused a hatchback to open and a corpse to fall on to a busy highway, an apologetic coroner in Pennsylvania said.

Bucks County Coroner Joseph Campbell identified the body as that of a young woman who died of an apparent drug overdose. His office has contacted her family.

“It was a horrible thing,” Campbell told the Bucks County Courier Times. “I can’t tell you how upset I was.”

Bystander Jerry Bradley saw the gurney July 11 in the busy four-lane road as he pulled out of a nearby shopping center in Lower Southampton Township and took a photograph that has been circulating online. He said he helped the transport driver get the gurney back into the vehicle.

The hatchback swung open after a series of mishaps inside the 12-year-old pickup, Campbell said. First, a locking mechanism securing the gurney failed. Then, the gurney struck the back of the vehicle, dislodging a hatchback handle that was held in place with worn screws. The hatchback door then opened, prompting a small ramp to unfold. The gurney then slid out into the street, he said.

The body was inside a body bag that was covered in a white sheet. The driver reported the situation and, with Bradley’s help, had the gurney back inside within a few minutes.

The vehicle, due to be replaced in the next few months, has been retired.

Human remains mistakenly brought to landfill

Two men hired to clean out a vacant Tampa Bay-area house thought they found a mannequin hanging in the garage. They cut it down and hauled it to the local dump, where landfill workers realized it was a human body.

Hernando County Sheriff’s officials on July 17 said the 33-year-old Spring Hill man apparently committed suicide several weeks ago and his body was in a “state of decomposition similar to mummification.”

Israel Lopez and Adam Hines told authorities they thought the former renters had left a “Halloween-like” hoax. Lopez hauled the debris to the landfill while Hines continued cleaning.

Landfill workers spotted the remains and called deputies.

Police: Arrested man orders 5 pizzas to station

Police in southern Kentucky say they got a surprise delivery after charging a man with shoplifting — five pizzas showed up at the station.

Officers say Michael Harp, 29, asked to make a call on his cellphone on July 15 while being booked in Corbin. A short time later, police say, a pizza delivery driver showed up to deliver to “Officer Wilson,” the name of the officer who arrested Harp.

Police say they linked the call to Harp by tracking his cellphone number. Harp told Lexington statioin WKYT-TV it’s all a misunderstanding and that “about 10 people” used his phone.

Harp now faces additional charges including theft of identity, theft by deception, and impersonating a police officer.

Man arrested after stabbing a watermelon

A 49-year-old man faces threatening charges after a woman told police he stabbed a watermelon in a passive-aggressive manner.

The Register Citizen of Torrington reports Carmine Cervellino of Thomaston, Conn., was arraigned July 14 on charges of threatening and disorderly conduct. He was released after posting a $500 bond.

Police say the woman had gone to police on July 4 to report finding drugs, including marijuana, in Cervellino’s tool box. He was not arrested.

They say she later returned home to find the watermelon on the counter with a butcher’s knife in it. She reported that Cervellino then entered the room and began carving the watermelon. She called the incident passive-aggressive and menacing.

Police: ‘Giant bear hug’ takes out 4 suspects in beating at once

A man halted a home invasion and beating by removing four women from the scene with one “giant bear hug,” police say.

The incident in South Peoria allegedly began about 6:45p.m. July 17 at a home where a public assistance money card that had no balance was sold for $80.

The Peoria Journal-Star reports July 18 that police reported a woman was injured by several suspects who entered the home and used an iron to hit her — causing a facial laceration.

A witness in the home told police he emerged from his bedroom to see four women beating the victim.

The man told authorities he ejected the suspects from the living room — all at once — using a “giant bear hug maneuver.”

Belgian mayor’s noisy eviction plan backfires

A plan by a Belgian mayor to remove a group of Gypsies by playing loud music backfired when the camping cars stayed put and the children danced to the music.

The group, with some 30 vehicles, arrived in the town of Landen, east of Brussels, late July 13 and Mayor Gino Debroux said they overstayed their welcome. After the music has played for some time without apparently disturbing the Gypsies, both sides negotiated and Debroux said the Gypsies would stay until July 17.

Bruno Tobback, leader of Debroux’s Socialist party, tweeted it was “not a good idea of Landen to chase Gypsies with music.” The Minorities Forum said in a statement that “loud music won’t solve any problem. It will only move it elsewhere.”

Plane lands on N.Y. highway for second time

It’s a case of aviation deja phew.

A Long Island pilot who made an emergency landing last week in the median of a Long Island highway did the same thing July 18. In the nearly the same place.

Suffolk County police say a single-engine Challenger ultralight plane landed on the eastbound lanes of Sunrise Highway because of engine trouble at about 12:50p.m. The same plane, piloted by Frank Fierro, landed in almost the same place on July 10.

Police say Fierro was taking the plane out for a test flight for the first time Friday. Clearly, the test failed.

The plane was taken back to nearby Spadaro Airport in East Moriches. Fierro declined to speak reporters. He did not appear to have been injured.

Man accused of using company check to pay hooker

Police in a New Orleans suburb say a health-food store worker is accused of using a $200 company check to pay a prostitute after a back-room encounter.

Surveillance cameras showed it all. That’s what Slidell Police spokesman Detective Daniel Seuzeneau said in a statement. It all came to light when the store’s manager reviewed surveillance footage after finding that a company check was missing.

Seuzeneau said Charles West, 24, remained jailed July 17 after being booked Wednesday on charges of theft, forgery and soliciting prostitution.

Police say they plan to arrest the woman for prostitution once they identify her.

Chief Randy Smith said, “We can’t make this stuff up … I’m at a loss for words! This is unbelievable.”

Store accepts a 25-year-old gift certificate

A Massachusetts pop culture store has honored a 25-year-old gift certificate.

Sierra Wales, assistant manager at That’s Entertainment in Worcester, says a longtime customer recently brought in the $10 gift certificate bought in 1989.

She tells The Republican newspaper that the gift certificate had been sitting in a drawer for years. The customer had been meaning to bring it in for some time and finally remembered over the Fourth of July weekend.

She noted that the gift certificate was older than most employees and had actually been bought at the store’s old location.

The customer used it to buy a graphic novel.

The 34-year-old business sells comic books, graphic novels, toys, sports memorabilia, music and other pop culture items.

Wales says, “When we say it never expires, we really mean it.”

Colorado city celebrates Tube To Work Day

A few commuters in Boulder may be showing up to work dripping wet because they observed Tube To Work Day.

The lighthearted holiday hits seven years on July 15. It began as two men tubing to work along Boulder Creek in 2008.

Last year it saw almost 30 participants, some wearing wetsuits, and some wearing business suits.

The event typically takes place in June to line up with Boulder’s Bike to Work Day. But the Daily Camera reports that safety concerns because of the volume of water forced it to be pushed to July this year.

The city of Boulder is sponsoring a breakfast station off the creek. The public is invited to participate, but commuters must bring their own tubes.

Meat mess on upstate N.Y. road stinks up cars

Some car owners are raising a stink after driving a road littered with meat in upstate New York.

Dozens of chunks of meat were on the road in front of a mall July 10 in Queensbury, The Post-Star of Glens Falls said July 12 in reporting on the meat mystery in the town about 60 miles north of Albany.

Police believe meat fell off a truck that might have been heading from a farm or slaughterhouse to a rendering plant, but no one has come forward to claim it.

The state Department of Transportation cleaned the meat up, but driver James Teele and other motorists were still dealing with the aftermath July 11.

Teele said he immediately took his SUV to a car wash after driving through the mess en route home Thursday, “but it was too late.” He told the Post-Star: “My vehicle still smells like rotting meat” and flies are swarming around it.

He said he believes the offending material was chicken fat.

Local car washes were busy with motorists trying to obliterate the meat smell. As many as 35 drivers flocked to Hoffman Car Wash, which started asking them to hose off their cars in a self-service area before going through the automatic wash, manager Matt Phillips said.

Still, the stench was tough to take.

“My guys had to step out for a while, it was so bad,” Phillips said.

Drivers were still coming in July 11, trying to rout the odor.

“After a while, it will decay,” Phillips said. “But until then, when you turn the air (conditioning) on or air comes through the vents, watch out.”

Pilot mistake means prize pingpong balls rain on highway

A pilot who dropped 3,000 pingpong balls that were redeemable for prizes missed a crowd assembled for the stunt and instead hit a nearby interstate.

Organizers immediately called off the contest. Aaron Moon and helpers on July 12 told revelers at Blackfoot Pride Days not to risk retrieving the pingpong balls amid high-speed traffic because organizes still planned to pass out the prizes.

Most of the pingpong balls could have been exchanged for candy, but some were worth gift certificates up to $100.

Moon says a new pilot attempted the drop this year, but apparently didn’t understand that pingpong balls lose speed quickly and drop straight down.

Blackfoot Police Chief Kurt Asmus tells the Idaho State Journal that no charges are planned, but police plan to work with organizers next year.

Mosquito trap causes bomb scare at power plant

A suspicious device at a southwest Wyoming power plant turned out not to be a bomb, but it might have hurt a mosquito or two.

Security guards spotted the object at the Jim Bridger Power Plant around midnight July 16. The device had wires connected to a small battery.

A bomb squad was called out to the coal-fired power plant. Sweetwater County sheriff’s officials say bomb experts looked over the device and even X-rayed it.

It was a mosquito trap.

Weed and pest officers routinely put out the traps to check for mosquitoes that carry the West Nile virus.

Giant African snails seized at L.A. airport

Inspectors at Los Angeles International Airport seized an unusually slimy package — 67 live giant African snails that are a popular delicacy across West Africa.

The snails — which are prohibited in the U.S. — arrived from Nigeria and were being sent to a person in San Dimas, said Lee Harty, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Customs and Border protection.

The snails were confiscated July 1 and a sample was sent the next day to a federal mollusk specialist in Washington, D.C., who identified them as a prohibited species, Harty said.

The mollusks are among the largest land snails in the world and can grow to be up to 8 inches long. They are native to Africa and can live for up to 10 years.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture incinerated the snails after they were inspected, Harty said. The animals are prohibited in the U.S. because they can carry parasites that are harmful to humans, including one that can lead to meningitis.

The snails are also agricultural pests, said Maveeda Mirza, the customs program manager for agriculture.

“These snails are seriously harmful to local plants because they will eat any kind of crop they can get to,” Mirza said.

The person the snails were destined for is not expected to face any penalties, Mirza said. She said authorities are investigating why a single person would want so many snails.

“We’re investigating what happened, but it doesn’t seem like there was smuggling involved. When someone doesn’t know a commodity is prohibited under USDA regulations there is usually no punishment,” she said.

Although the agency has found one or two snails that may have accidentally gotten into a traveler’s luggage in Los Angeles, this is the first time that they have confiscated the snails in such a large quantity, Mirza said.

2 arrested in theft of cheese vans

Two men were arrested July 15 on suspicion of stealing three Volkswagen minibuses that were customized to look like bright orange Tillamook cheese loafs.

Brian Lancaster, 32, and Ryan Monaco, 38, both of Sacramento, were pulled over in Rocklin, Calif., and they were taken into custody by members of an auto theft task force, Manteca Police Chief Nick Obligacion said.

The minibuses, worth $100,000 each, were stolen July 12 from a hotel parking lot in Manteca, where they had stopped on a tour promoting the Tillamook County (Ore.) Creamery Association’s dairy products.

A tip led investigators to the vehicles the day before in a storage locker about 50 miles away from Manteca. Obligacion said one of the suspects had rented the storage locker.

Lancaster and Monaco were being held for investigation of auto theft, possession of stolen vehicles, conspiracy and arson. It wasn’t immediately known whether they have retained attorneys.

A truck and trailer that were part of the entourage were found torched and abandoned on July 12.

The minibuses were found in their original condition.

Man’s long-lost class ring turns up in Greece

More than 40 years after a New York man last saw his high school class ring, the love token his wife had until their wedding night popped up on a Greek island.

How it got to Naxos after it disappeared with his bride’s purse at their wedding reception is a mystery. But earlier this month, the ring arrived by mail on Staten Island.

“It doesn’t fit me anymore,” said Stan Ostapiak, a retired police officer. “But my wife will put it back on her key chain, so we can go steady again.”

Ostapiak, 69, graduated from a Manhattan high school in 1962. About a decade later, his wife’s clutch purse was stolen — with the ring inside — the night they were married.

Fast forward four decades: A young Greek man on the island of Naxos came across the ring in his late father’s belongings, with the name of the now defunct Seward Park High School in New York engraved inside.

After some research on the Internet, the finder got in touch with the head of the school’s alumni association, which contacted Ostapiak, a resident of the city’s borough of Staten Island.

The ring soon arrived by registered mail, polished and gleaming in a new box.

“I hope this ring brings you joy and happiness, and maybe some old memories,” the sender, Vasilis Polykretis, wrote on a postcard.

Police: Museum’s dinosaur stolen

Talk about exploring the past. Police say two thieves stole a baby dinosaur replica from a science museum and took props from a history exhibit at another facility.

A police statement says the 21-year-olds were charged with two counts of theft or destruction of property of public libraries and museums, a felony. Officials say they turned themselves in July 17.

Surveillance cameras captured the man and woman taking a small model of the duck-billed Edmonotosaurus from the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences on July 14. The model is valued at $10,000.

Police say they also took fake cabbage, lettuce, doilies and an antique medicine bottle from the North Carolina Museum of History on the same day. The items combined were worth less than $1,000.

Museum to show off 19th-century undergarments

An exhibit at a Flint-area museum is taking a peek under clothes worn in the 19th century.

Whaley Historic House Museum on July 12 showcases “Shh! Let’s Talk About Those Unmentionables,” an exhibit that tracks the evolution of undergarments.

The Flint Journal reports that visitors to the exhibit will learn about underwear that children put on their dolls, controversies over corsets and how different the process of getting dressed was for Americans during that time period.

The exhibit also will be open on July 26, Aug.2, and Aug 16 during museum tour hours. Appointments can also be made for weekday tours.

No, N.Y. isn’t forcing lawn mower registration

Rest easy, New Yorkers, the state is staying off your lawn and away from your mowers.

A hoax spreading online this week has some residents thinking they’ll be forced to register their mowers and haul them in for annual inspections just like a car.

It’s not true.

The Buffalo News reported July 11 that officials in upstate New York counties are trying to set the record straight with angry residents.

They say mow as you please.

There’s no registration requirement, as the hoax indicated, no $10 fee and no mandate that mowers must wear OSHA-approved safety glasses, hearing protection, and steel-toe shoes.

Chautauqua County Clerk Larry Barmore says he could see how oft-taxed New Yorkers could fall for the hoax and says he hopes it “didn’t give anyone any ideas.”

Vacation lottery ticket wins $1 million for man

A vacation off the coast of Rhode Island has turned a man into a millionaire.

The Rhode Island Lottery said July 15 that Flemington, N.J., resident Thomas Mistele bought a $20 ticket for a $1 million scratch game at a Block Island pharmacy and won that amount back. So he decided to buy another ticket.

Lottery officials say he started shaking with disbelief when he realized he had won $1 million.

Mistele immediately told a friend with whom he’s staying on Block Island, noted for its historic inns and outdoor activities. Then he called his mother and brother, who say he’s the lucky one in the family.

Mistele says he’s not sure how he’ll use the winnings. He says he plans to have some fun, buy a new car and save for retirement.

Authorities: Nebraska man spotted naked on I-80

A Nebraska man was walking around naked on Interstate 80 before damaging a passing vehicle.

The Nebraska State Patrol says Samson Wilcinot, 30, of Lincoln was arrested July 14 on Interstate 80 near Waverly.

Troopers say they received a report of a man walking on and off the interstate’s eastbound lanes. Wilcinot is accused of physically hitting a vehicle that slowed to help him.

The driver of that vehicle pulled off the interstate into a weigh station area. The vehicle sustained more than $1,500 in damage.

The Omaha World-Herald reports Wilcinot was cited on suspicion of felony criminal mischief and ticketed for public indecency and being a pedestrian on the interstate.

Asian crazy worms invade Madison

A foreign worm with a big appetite has burrowed into the soil of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum, officials said Tuesday.

The Asian crazy worm was discovered last fall in the arboretum, and the species survived the harsh winter.

Officials say it’s the first time the species has been seen in Wisconsin, although it’s been in the East and Southeast U.S. for 50 years.

Scientists are nervous about how the invasive worm — scientific name Amynthas agrestis — could affect Wisconsin’s forests.

“They basically consume the forest floor,” Brad Herrick, arboretum ecologist and research program manager, told the Wisconsin State Journal. “They often do it quite quickly.”

The 8-inch worms reach maturity in two months and create offspring without mating. When infestations happen, the worms devour nutrient-rich soil at the forest floor. Erosion sets in, making it harder for native plants to survive. In their place, pesky invasive plants can grow.

The worm is called “crazy” because it flops and wriggles vigorously when handled. Arboretum employees found it by chance in October while leading a field trip to show visitors nightcrawlers — also invasive worms from Europe that have been here for centuries. Preparing to pour mustard water on the soil, the preferred method of drawing crawlers to the surface, they were met with a surprise.

“Lo and behold we found another worm that until that moment we didn’t believe was in the state,” Herrick said.

Bernie Williams, an invasive species specialist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, was on the trip and confirmed the mystery worm’s identity.

The worm is darker in color than the pale and pinker European earthworm, the common worm found all across the state. It also has a smooth and flat band of milky white, unlike the raised, ridged band found on European earthworms.

It is believed the crazy worm first came to the U.S. from its native Japan and Korea in the soil of plants imported for landscaping. Wisconsin’s worms likely hitched a ride aboard some nursery plants headed here from the eastern U.S., Herrick said.

Boots, tools and vehicles at the arboretum are being washed regularly to keep the worm from spreading, and employees are avoiding areas where the worm has already been found.

Couple bringing crazed cat home after calling 911

A cat is heading back home after spending time in quarantine following an attack on its central Florida owners that prompted a 911 call.

Police says the Russian blue cat named Kush went berserk inside a DeLand home July 5, scratching owners Teresa and James Gregory on their arms and legs. The couple retreated to a bedroom and called 911.

Kush was taken to an animal shelter for 10 days. The Daytona News-Journal reports Kush was well-behaved during the quarantine.

DeLand animal control officer Michelle Realander says the Gregorys had been leaning toward giving the cat up, but changed their minds. She says the cat will go to a veterinarian for vaccinations and then to be spayed before going home.

Authorities say the cat was apparently well-behaved before the attack.

On-duty officer delivers his own son

Every now and then a police officer has to deliver a baby. The first time Officer Bryan Anderson did it, the baby was his own son.

Anderson was on duty early July 13 in Hemet, when he got a call from his wife saying she was about to give birth to their baby, who wasn’t due for another week.

Anderson hurried home and called paramedics, but they didn’t arrive in time. The Riverside Press-Enterprise reports Anderson delivered baby Michael in their bathroom at 3:53 a.m.

The umbilical cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck, but Anderson pulled it over his head.

Holly Anderson and baby Michael are doing fine.

Man claims kingdom so daughter can be princess

A Virginia man says he has claimed a kingdom in Africa so his daughter can be a princess. Jeremiah Heaton told the Bristol Herald Courier that he recently trekked to a small, mountainous region between Egypt and Sudan called Bir Tawil. No country claims the land.

Heaton says he planted a flag designed by his children there so that he could become a king — and more importantly, so his 7-year-old daughter Emily could be a princess. They named the area the Kingdom of North Sudan.

Shelia Carapico, a professor of political science and international studies at the University of Richmond, says Heaton would not have political control over the land without legal recognition from neighboring countries, the United Nations or other groups.

Heaton says he hopes to get Sudan and Egypt to recognize the kingdom.

Pig that menaced Maine children seen again

A pig that menaced two children walking through the woods has scared another passer-by, police said.

They’ve now closed the walking trail near two schools where the pig has been seen. Police said the pig confronted the children walking along the trail last week and was “screaming at the kids and chasing them.”

The Morning Sentinel reports that following that scare, a woman took refuge on the side rail of a wooden bridge on July 14 after seeing the 80-pound black-and-white pig. She wasn’t attacked.

Police searched for the pig but found only tracks. They are working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the school district and animal control officers to capture the pig.

The town wants to reunite the pig with its owner, who doesn’t face charges.

Divers, snorkelers converge for undersea ‘concert’

Nearly 500 divers and snorkelers submerged in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary on July 12 for a “concert” beneath the sea broadcast by a local radio station.

The 30th annual Lower Keys Underwater Music Festival, held at Looe Key Reef along the continental United States’ only living coral barrier reef, featured four hours of commercial-free music piped below the surface via a series of underwater speakers.

“We started this as an arts and cultural event 30 years ago (and) thought it would be a one-time thing,” said event co-founder and coordinator Bill Becker. “It’s the only place we know of where music is put underwater for divers, snorkelers and the marine life.”

The water-themed playlist included such tunes as the Beatles’ “Octopus’s Garden” and the themes from Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” and television’s classic “Flipper.” Participants described the music as clear and ethereal, with underwater visibility of about 50 feet.

Snorkeler Uli Clef of Munich, Germany, said he was particularly impressed with the vivid colors and tropical fish he saw underwater.

“I’ve seen colors from red to blue to white, and even the shades of the sun coming from the water line,” Clef said when he surfaced. “All these colorful fishes — that’s perfect.”

Some divers were costumed and pretended to play quirky metal instruments sculpted by Florida Keys artist August Powers. As well as offering an unusual experience for dive and snorkel enthusiasts, the broadcast included diver awareness announcements promoting coral reef protection.

“We try to get divers to be aware of their impact on the coral reef so that they lessen that impact and this reef can be here for generations to come,” said Becker.

The event was staged by radio station WWUS in partnership with the Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce.

Scientists name Puerto Rico water mite after J.Lo

Pop singer Jennifer Lopez may be thinking life is funny after a group of scientists named a water mite in her honor after discovering a new species near Puerto Rico.

The music of the Bronx, N.Y.-born entertainer who has Puerto Rican roots was a hit with the group while they wrote about their findings, biologist Vladimir Pesic said in an email July 16.

“The reason behind the unusual choice of name for the new species is … simple: J.Lo’s songs and videos kept the team in a continuous good mood when writing the manuscript and watching World Cup Soccer 2014,” said Pesic, who works at the University of Montenegro.

Pesic calls it a small token of gratitude for the singer of hits such as “Ain’t It Funny,” ”I Luh Ya Papi” and his personal favorite, “All I Have.”

He’s the corresponding author of the study that was published July 15 in the peer-reviewed online journal ZooKeys.

Pesic and other scientists collected the newly baptized Litarachna lopezae mite from a coral reef in Mona Passage, a treacherous body of water that separates Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. The species was found at a depth of nearly 230 feet, the greatest depth that pontarachnid mites have been found until now, according to their study.

The mites were collected during a series of trips from 2010 to 2012 organized by the University of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean Coral Reef Institute.

Over the years, scientists have named dozens of organisms after famous people to honor them. Mick Jagger, for example, has a type of trilobite named after him, while one spider was named after Bono and a marine parasite found only in the Caribbean sea was named after Bob Marley.

Pesic said that while he and other scientists rooted for different teams during the World Cup, they found common ground with Lopez.

“As European, I supported Germany, but the whole team was united with J.Lo songs,” he wrote.

Uruguay teachers protest attacks by parents

Call them helicopter parents on steroids.

There has been a wave of physical attacks on teachers by students’ mothers and fathers in this South American country and the educators are going on a 24-hour strike to protest.

The local teachers union called the work stoppage on July 16 to draw attention to six attacks since the current school year began in March in the capital Montevideo and other cities.

In the most recent attack, a woman punched a school director in the face on Tuesday for having called a doctor to examine her son for behavioral problems. The director of the school in Montevideo reportedly called the child’s parents beforehand, but they reportedly refused to come to the school.

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Good neighbors: Garden walk organizers say ‘thanks’ – Journal Gazette and Times

First United Methodist Church Garden Walk deemed a success

A sincere note of thanks to all who made the 16th annual “Gather at the Gardens” a huge success. God blessed us with a beautiful day, beautiful gardens and gracious hosts to share their gardening talents.

We extend a huge thank you to our garden hosts: Cheri Prahl, Dr. Greg and Cheryl Yount, Jeff and Debbie Boldig and the Coles County Master Gardeners. Thank you for graciously accepting our invitation and for a warm welcome to all who attended. Thanks also for sharing your gardening talents, beautiful landscaping and scenic views of Meadowview Estates for all to enjoy. A special thank you to the Boldig’s for providing the Meadowview Golf Club House for refreshments and entertainment.

Thanks to the Journal Gazette staff for the wonderful Showcase page garden coverage. And also newspaper coverage from the Neoga, Sullivan, Arcola and Shelbyville areas.

Congratulations to “Garden Gate” gift winners including Wilma Zane, Sandy Osborn, Nancy Ross, Debbie McNamer, Char Bailey, and Phyllis Patrick.

To DeBuhr’s Seed and Feed, The Picket Fence, Hair Benders Day Spa and Salon, Brown’s Auto Sales and the church office – thank you for always making our event successful with your help in advance ticket sales to our faithful “garden walkers”.

To all our members who sold tickets, baked cookies, distributed flyers and all aspects to make this a successful event, we truly appreciate your help.

And lastly, to all who took time out of their busy day to enjoy the gardens, we thank you for your support and look forward to seeing you next year. Please save June 27 for another great day of witnessing God’s great work in the gardens.

Through the help and donations of all participants, First United Methodist Women will be able to fulfill a mission project to assist women and children both locally and around the world. Many thanks to all, may you be richly blessed.


First United Methodist Women

Annual Garden Walk 2014

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