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Archives for September 29, 2014

The Writing’s on the Wall

MONTPELIER, Vt.- Christ Church leaders are asking residents to pick up a marker and write down suggestions on how they can better serve the community.

Instead of using paper, a wall surrounding the courtyard during renovations is where people can let them know.

The Christ Church courtyard is really the only green space downtown and is used heavily by the public as a spot to eat lunch or enjoy concerts.

The church is sprucing it up by installing new paver stones and landscaping.

We asked people what they think about their mission.

“Sort of emerging of new projects, people coming together. Ideas and dreams,” said Jen Lashua, Montpelier Resident.

“What they’ve set up here is an example of their community outreach. Their desire to involve the community and their mission locally, which they deserve a lot of credit for that,” said Mayor John Hollar.

Church leaders hope this will affect change.

Some people wrote Montpelier needs homeless shelters, recycling bins in public places, and even a skate park.

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City mulls design changes to address crime problems on upper State Street

After several summers of complaints about criminal behavior, the city is considering major changes to the layout of the crossroads of State Street and Capitol Square.

A focused planning effort is only beginning, but the result could include moving some or all of the artistic granite stones in the area known as Philosopher’s Grove, removing some of the approximate 18 shade trees there, and rethinking the cul-de-sac at the top of West Mifflin Street that leads to the Square.

Mayor Paul Soglin has asked the city Planning Division to lead an effort that will involve multiple city agencies and include public input, all of which is supposed to produce an implementation plan for the spring.

A group of business and property owners in the area, Downtown Madison Inc. and the Downtown Business Improvement District “strongly support” physical changes to help curb drinking, fighting, abusive language, littering, drug dealing, prostitution and the use of alleys and doorways as toilets.

“It’s been a challenge and continues to be a problem,” said Ald. Mike Verveer, 4th District, who represents the area.

The business property owners group has already sent a list of ideas suggesting relocation of the granite stones “as soon as possible;” opening up West Mifflin Street to create a walkway between the Square, Overture Center and the Central Library; more street parking and lighting; signs that inform about security cameras in the area and expected behavior; seating for restaurants; more police presence; beautification; and mounting a mural on the Wisconsin Historical Museum.

Verveer on Friday offered an amendment to Soglin’s proposed capital budget for 2015 that would formalize the planning effort and deliver $50,000 for changes.

Any moves, however, could be controversial because they may affect homeless people who frequent the area. The fate of public art, mature trees and future development of a joint Historical Museum and Wisconsin Veterans Museum also could be at stake.

“There’s widely divergent opinions on this,” Verveer said.

The solution, city urban planner Rebecca Cnare said, lies in both design and programming.

Soglin could not be reached for comment.

The problems had been building for several summers and became acute in the summer of 2013 but decreased after heightened police presence and the onset of winter last year, observers said.

In the spring, DMI, business and property owners, and city officials brainstormed ideas to improve the crossroads. The city stepped up cleaning, temporarily put up chalkboards to solicit public input and added sparkle lighting on trees in Philosopher’s Grove.

But through the summer, “It got worse in terms of the behaviors,” DMI president Susan Schmitz said.

The problems provoked “all-time high frustration” among business and property owners, said Nick Martin, who owns Ian’s Pizza, 100 State St. The illegal activity and atmosphere it creates makes for an unwelcoming environment for customers and people not looking for trouble, he said.

In the late summer, business and property owners pooled money to hire private security to patrol the area. The police have used various tactics and surveillance, and recently dedicated a police officer to patrol the area from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. — most bad behavior occurs during the daytime — for a number of days.

The most acute problems are not caused by the homeless, and a long-term solution involves not only policing but major changes in design, Schmitz said.

“This isn’t about the homeless. It is about criminal behavior,” she said. “It is more than police enforcement. It is about changing the way the space functions.”

Police are “very interested” in the effort to change the physical layout, Central District Lt. Dave McCaw said.

The top of State Street was rebuilt in 2004, the initial phase of a makeover of the city’s renowned thoroughfare. The redesigned space included Philosopher’s Grove, with its artistic granite seating, landscaping and a small permanent stage near the Veterans Museum.

For years, there were no big problems. But in 2010, the city closed Lisa Link Peace park, 425 State St., for improvements and people who hung out there migrated to upper State Street. A year later, the city closed the Central Library for reconstruction and a private redevelopment began on the 100 block of State Street. Those projects are now completed, and are bringing more people to the general area, but a series of storefronts on the 100 block of West Mifflin Street remain vacant in anticipation of the museum redevelopment.

The result has left the crossroads area often uninviting as a pedestrian thoroughfare, especially at night, Schmitz and others said.

“It’s now in the hands of the Planning Department,” she said. “That’s giving everyone a lot more optimism there’s going to be change.”

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Innovators challenged over Arizona water scarcity

Water scarcity is one of Arizona’s most serious, ever-present problems.

Which is why students, researchers, professionals and creative thinkers are ­being challenged to raise awareness for an issue that the experts believe needs to be addressed now.

A $100,000 prize awaits the group that comes up with the most innovative ­campaign to push water scarcity into the forefront of public ­conversation.

The Water Consciousness Challenge is the first phase of the New Arizona Prize offered by the Arizona Community Foundation in collaboration with The Arizona Republic and the Morrison Institute for Public Policy. Underwriting for the program comes from the Tashman Fund and the Lodestar Foundation.

The next phase of the competition will challenge entrepreneurs to create business-based solutions and products to reduce water use.

“The Valley has enjoyed water affluence for a long time because we had really great planning,” said Megan Brownell, chief business development and brand officer at the Arizona Community Foundation, a Phoenix-based philanthropic organization. “It’s now time to act so there won’t be a conflict in 20 to 30 years.”

$100,000 prize on water shortage

The competition wants to create a public-service campaign that raises awareness about the challenges facing Arizona’s long-term water supply so residents will feel an urgency to start working on them now.

If Arizonans don’t change how they consume water and start brainstorming new solutions for dwindling supplies, shortages won’t be a choice, they will be an unavoidable reality. Planning for the future of water now will help ensure there is enough water for future generations, Brownell said.

The message isn’t new; it has been taught with puppets, posters, television spots, brochures and landscape-design classes for years.

But experts, researchers and industry workers agree that as long as taps gush clear,drinkable water, it’s hard to keep water scarcity part of public conversation.

“One challenge is getting people to take ownership of their decisions and how they contribute to the demand side of the equation,” said Dave White, co-director of Arizona State University’s Decision Center for a Desert City, which studies water use and sustainability.

Arizona won’t run out of water this yearor next.But dropping reservoir levels, continuing drought in the Southwest and the depletion of non-renewable groundwater will require the state to change how it ensures a supply of waterfor the future.

Residents recognize drought as a contributor to water scarcity but are less willing to acknowledge their own use as a significant influence, according to an ASU study in 2009.

In part, that’s because municipal water users have been able to count on a reliable water supply for more than 100 years.

“In some ways, as you might hear, we are a victim of our own success,” said White, one of the study’s authors. “Our water-resource management and institutions that govern our water have provided a very robust and generally resilient system.”

The water Arizonans use flows from rivers like the Salt and Verde, is channeled from the Colorado River through the Central Arizona Project and is pumped from aquifers. Surface water sources like the streams are labeled renewable because rain falls and snow melts, refilling the rivers and reservoirs.

But Arizona has measured lower-than-average rainfall for the majority of the last 15 years; critical reservoirs such as Lake Mead are at record lows.

Lake Mead is only 39 percent full, and its water level is the lowest since 1937, when the lake was still filling after Hoover Dam’s completion. If levels continue to drop, it would trigger reductions in how much water Arizona receives from the reservoir.

The state’s other main source of water, which fills nearly 40 percent of demand, is pulled from underground aquifers. Once extracted, it can’t be recharged easily.

AZ drought awareness

“It’s not a big bathtub under thecentral Arizona region,” ASU’s White said. “Not every area of the Valley has equal access to groundwater resources.”

Researchers have found that climate change is likely to have implications for future drought. As the Southwest becomes more arid, there is a higher risk for severe drought, researchers found.

A recent study of Southwest climate models by Cornell University, the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Arizona found the risk for mega-drought — one that lasts multiple decades — in the Southwest is 80 percent in the next century, greater than previously expected.

“It doesn’t happen or unfold as quickly as a tornado or a hurricane, but it’s a source of risk and hazard that is out there,” said Toby Ault, one of the study’s authors and an assistant professor in Cornell’s department of earth and atmospheric sciences.

Long-range strategies have ensured that a future water shortage in Arizona will be delayed, even in a prolonged drought, by saving water below ground.

In all, there’s nearly 4 million acre-feet of water banked underground throughout the Phoenix metropolitan area. That’s enough to sustain most of the Valley’s water needs for four years if no other water supply were available, but it’s unlikely the situation would ever beso dire, said Christa McJunkin, a Salt River Project water-strategy analyst.

“It’s all stored, waiting for that not-so-rainy day,” McJunkin said.

One-acre foot is 325,851 gallons of water, about enough to flood a football field without end zones to a depth of one foot.McJunkin estimates it would serve two to threeArizona families a year.

The Salt River bed’s expanse of dry sand and scrubby plants obscures the second-largest artificially recharged aquifer in Arizona.

About 700,000 acre-feet of water is stored in the SRP’s Granite Reef Underground Storage Project. Water from the Central Arizona Project, the Salt and Verde rivers and a Mesa wastewater-treatment facility is channeled to basins in the riverbed. From there, water soaks into the ground and replenishes the aquifer.

“The best way to think of it is if you had a cup of sand and poured water into it,” McJunkin said. “The water fills up the pore space in between.”

Other agencies, such as the Arizona Water Banking Authority, also buy and bank water for future use.

The groundwater reserves are similar to the state’s rainy-day monetary fund, but once those aquifers are depleted, it takes years to replenish them.

Arizona can’t depend on groundwater forever, White said.

“The solutions of the last 100 years are not the solutions of the next 100 years.”

Even those who have built their career studying water, like Arizona Municipal Water Users Association Executive Director Kathleen Ferris, understand how people tire of hearing about a distant water crisis.

“In water, you don’t plan for the future by saying, ‘OK we’ve got to do this tomorrow,’ ” Ferris said. “You plan for the future by saying, ‘OK, in 20 years, you’ve got to have done x, y and z’. … It’s hard to keep people’s interest in that period of time.”

Possible solutions to meeting Arizona’s future water needs include:

• Desalination of sea water, which requires large financial investment and collaboration between government agencies and possibly Mexico.

• Rebates for water-efficient systems. Tucson offers up to $1,000 for households that install gray-water recycling systems to reuse water from sinks, showers and washing machinesfor irrigation.

• Increasing the use of recycled or reclaimed water. Arizona already uses this water to irrigate landscaping and recharge aquifers, but not as drinking water.

• Cloud seeding. The Central Arizona Project has spent nearly $800,000 to blast silver iodide into clouds to try to increase snowfall in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, where the snowpack feeds the Colorado River.

Studies suggest part of the problem is that environmental issues don’t inspire emotional reactions like fear and worry, which tend to spur people to change their actions. Marketing executive Park Howell hasfound this to be true as a general rule.

“You have to make it personal,” Howell said. “You have to make it immediate to get urgency to change behavior. What about water is personal and immediate?”

His agency, ParkCo, helped create the campaign “Water — Use it Wisely,” which has been spreading water awareness since 1999. One of the most identifiable facets of the campaign is its suggestions of “water-saving devices.” Like a push broom — instead of a water-costly hose — for cleaning a driveway.

What started as a campaign in a few Arizona municipalities spread to more than 400 groups, Howell said. The message has appeared on everything from home-improvement products to airport signs and water bills. Still, water conservation is not a silver-bullet solution. Alone, it will not guarantee a secure water future for Arizona.

“It’s really important not to get too fixated, I think, on (the idea) one sector’s water use can solve our imbalances,” Ferris said. “Conservation is just a small part of the overall strategy.”

Arizona doesn’t have long to secure water for the next generation. The New Arizona Prize seeks to reward those with the best ideas to educate Arizonans about the challenges.

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Edible landscapes: Growing a yard you can eat

Local green thumbs and budding gardeners gathered recently to hear author Michael Judd discuss best practices for landscapes that are pleasing to the eye, as well as the taste buds.

Judd, who discussed his book, “Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist,” came to Charlottesville for a program sponsored by the Piedmont Environmental Council and the Journey Through Hallowed Ground.

“It’s human design ecology,” Judd said of edible landscapes. “We want to create something that, when we design it and create it, will continue to thrive on its own.”

Judd’s presentation to a small audience at CitySpace covered the design process, material identification and costs for simple self-build projects. Representatives from C’ville Foodscapes, the Urban Agriculture Collective of Charlottesville and Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards also shared exhibits with the audience.

Judd has lived and worked in a variety of landscapes all over the world, including England, Latin America, Spain and Mexico. He said he took what he learned about growing patterns in the tropics and translated it for suburban living.

“My passion for edible landscapes was put on a fast track from living in the tropics, because … in the tropics, everything grows really fast,” Judd said during his talk.

Judd’s book provides information and how-to’s for “food forests,” raised-bed gardens, earthen ovens, uncommon fruits, outdoor mushroom cultivation and more. With several years of experience and business knowledge, he said his goal is to share his techniques with gardeners at all stages.

“Remember, all things that can be shared can be expanded or retracted,” Judd said. “We can design to the smallest space, whether it’s a patio apartment or a homestead, huge farm or a whole watershed. These things can be amplified.”

Speaking on uncommon and low-maintenance fruits, he emphasized some that grow in the area, such as the pawpaw. Judd said the pawpaw is an untapped resource, but the fruit has to be used soon after picking. He urged the group to consider making pawpaw ice cream out of the fruit as it approaches the end of its shelf life.

Judd also shared his recipe for a food forest.

“A food forest is not growing food in the forest, it’s growing food like the forest,” he said.

Judd said a healthy forest has many species working together to create a healthy ecology. He said gardeners need to figure out how to create a forest feel on local landscapes with a mix that serves human needs, including nuts, fruits and medicines. A food forest patch can be used for almost anything, Judd said.

“This is often opposite of what we do in gardening when we focus on aspects such as patterns,” he said.

As a food forest is created, Judd said, patience is the key to get the foundation ready. It can take a year or more to get the ground fertilized and ready to plant.

“Sometimes you have to fight for a couple years to get what you want established, but once it’s established, you won’t have to worry about it anymore,” he said.

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Eight ‘garden railroads,’ including this Manheim Township man’s, to be …

The hobby that bit Mark Oles hard nearly 30 years ago and shows no sign of letting go is a very social one, the Manheim Township man says.

“What you see here is not something that’s hidden away down in the basement, this is outside,” he said, where others can come and see what Oles has done in the backyard of his Long Farm Lane home.

And this coming Sunday, visitors will be able to see all of the creative aspects of Oles’ hobby, model railroading.

It features the 500 feet of track for the railroad he and his wife, Mary Beth, have named the “Millersvillanova,” for their respective colleges, the four bridges that carry the trains and the careful landscaping that surrounds it.

The Oles family is a host on this Sunday’s eighth annual Garden Railways Tour hosted by the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.

The tour, from 1 to 5 p.m., includes stops at the home of Oles and seven others who carefully maintain “garden railways,” or outdoor miniature train displays, which are the fastest-growing interest area in model railroading.

Tickets, at $10 a person for those 6 and older, are on sale at all Stauffers of Kissel Hill stores in this area.

The tour proceeds benefit Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania education and preservation programs.

Oles, an “Air Force brat” and engineer by profession, finds his hobby, which he got interested in when his parents gave him a train set at age 8 and “that was it,” to be a positive diversion.

“This railroad can be time-consuming, but I could be sitting around and doing nothing,” he said this past Saturday afternoon, smiling, as he prepared his display for the tour.

After Oles got his trains for Christmas, his parents eventually had to renovate the house where they lived, “and they kicked the train set outside, so I’ve been a garden railroader since 1992,” when he was 14 or 15.

Oles and his wife have been married and in their Manheim Township home for 11 years, and this is his second garden railroad.

He has been a part of the garden railroad tour since 2007.

Oles moved the display a little in the southern direction three years ago to put in a swingset for his son, Luke, who will be 7 next month, and 4-year-old daughter, Mary Kate.

The family also includes golden Lab Lucia, named for St. Lucia, where Mark and Mary Beth Oles honeymooned.

His trains are very personalized, Oles explained.

He has custom-painted the railroad, a lot of the cars and locomotives, “to reflect big things in our lives,” he said.

A blue passenger train is named for his two children and his wife, and all of the numbers on the cars have significance as well, he said.

One locomotive has the number “621,” since Oles and his wife were married June 21.

For its logo, the “Millersvillanova” has the logo of another railroad, which used to be the Ontario Western, turned upside down.

His wife is not a train enthusiast like him, but “she’s very accommodating” of his hobby, Oles said. He has joined his Chambersburg native wife in one of her main interests, watching Pittsburgh Steelers’ games on TV.

They even have a Bad Call Brick, made of foam rubber to save the TV, to throw at the set when the referees make questionable calls against the Steelers.

Sunday’s exclusive, self-guided tour will feature a wide variety of displays of operating model trains set amid various types of gardens, Railroad Museum officials said.

Children age 5 and under are admitted free, and tickets also may be purchased in the Railroad Museum’s museum store during regular business hours, or by using a printable ticket request available on the museum’s website,

No tickets will be sold at the individual Garden Railways Tour sites, organizers added.

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Practical landscaping solutions for modern living

Landscaping options today run the gamut from historical to futuristic as a result of gardening innovations and the worldwide exchange of ideas brought about by quick, affordable travel, and, of course, the Internet.

With nearly endless landscaping choices, options not heard of just a generation ago are becoming mainstream. New plant varieties arrive almost daily, but new pests and diseases also are making our backyard paradise their home, and the influences of climate change are beginning to be felt.

The downfall of many gardens and the gardening experience is the presence of insect pests, diseases and abiotic stress. We work hard to make our garden a reflection of our effort, only to see it wither away. Early detection of plant problems and their causes will lead to a healthier landscape that requires less future intervention.

Many people wish plants could talk, so they would know how to care for them. The truth of the matter is that plants are always talking to you and sometimes they are screaming. If you don’t understand the language, however, it is meaningless mumbling. The language of plants is not what you hear, but what you see, what you feel, and what you smell.

What is a wilted plant saying to you? Many nongardeners who experience this kind of thing might respond with additional watering. This response is either correct or terribly wrong. If you understand the nuances of the language of the plant you would first get a general consensus on its condition. Does the plant look healthy? Are there any diseases or pests present? Is the soil dry or wet? Dry soil justifies extra watering, but wet soil could indicate root rot from over-watering.

In days past, a plot of land in every yard was devoted to a home garden to produce fruits, fiber, vegetables and pot herbs for the kitchen. Today the trend is to integrate the vegetable garden, herbs and fruit trees into the landscape design of the yard. Gone are the straight rows of beets and cabbages, only to morph into the contoured lines of a flowing garden boulevard. This is where edible, ornamental and utilitarian plants are co-mingled for color, shape and texture to highlight the landscape. These dual purpose gardens are especially great for the small yards that many of us have in Hawaii.

Before the advent of synthetic fertilizers and pest control products, nearly all landscapes were organic, as only naturally available products were used. Natural soil fertility was exploited, rotational cropping was practiced, fallow cropping, and even procedures similar to slash and burn methods were used. Fields were regularly amended with animal manures when they were available. Today, organic landscapes by design are coming back with homeowners selecting from a menu of cutting-edge practices. The use of bokashi compost, compost tea and beneficial microorganisms has become the new standard.

Once upon a time, large yards were a desired feature for any landscape and it was part of the American dream to have a home with a yard surrounding it. Lawns have widespread appeal, whether we actively use the turf-covered landscape or just admire it as a buffer from our neighbors.

Is there a perfect lawn for the Hawaiian landscape? Perfect is in the eye of the beholder as we consider lawn usage, maintenance requirements, aesthetic beauty and cost of maintenance.

Looking for more information on this topic: Consider attending the Hawaii Island Landscape Association Conference to be held Oct. 18 at the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel. Contact Ty McDonald at 322-4884 for details.

For more information on this and other gardening topics, visit the CTAHR electronic publication website at or visit any of the Cooperative Extension Service offices around the island. I can be reached at

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Victoria’s Butchart Gardens shows late summer blooms at peak; fall color … – The Oregonian

Fire season is coming to the Butchart Gardens outside Victoria.

Don’t worry, the garden isn’t in any danger of burning. Fire season happens in October when the Japanese Garden changes color and looks as though it is ablaze.

I visited the garden in mid-September, when the annual plants were in peak late-summer bloom. Mind blowing, by the way.

The Japanese Garden, however, was green and serene. Even though it didn’t show much color, I think I enjoyed it the most. Seeing it in October would clinch the deal.

Here’s a comment and my reply to my previous mention of the Butchart Gardens.

I plan to write a full story about the garden next spring, when Oregonians are making their plans for summer travel.

Comment from azure15:

Maybe it’s nicer now then it was in the late 90’s, when I went. I wasn’t impressed. I place the Bronx Botanic Gardens, St. Louis Botanic Garden, the Planting Fields (Brookville, NY) and the Old Westbury Gardens (NY) over the Butchart Gardens for beauty interesting/striking garden design.  

I thought the McMichael Gallery, located in Kleinberg, ON, provided a wonderful setting (100 acres of conservation land) for many works of the Group of Seven, Canadian painters whose work was often featured the wonderful and striking natural settings features of Canada.  I much preferred wandering the trails of those 100 acres and viewing the paintings, etc.,  to the Butchart Gardens.

My reply:

Looks like you know your gardens. I asked the Butchart staff if they thought it was the most beautiful garden in Canada and they said, whoa!, Vancouver Island has many gorgeous gardens. They told me to visit them and decide for myself.

Remember, Butchart Gardens is private and gets no tax money for operation; it is an ornamental garden, not a botanical garden.

That said, if you can’t see beauty in the Butchart Gardens, you’re not looking very hard. I’m probably going to save my main story about it until next spring, though I have a photo gallery coming soon (as in now).

— Terry Richard

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