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Archives for December 11, 2014

Tips: Three Ways to Give the Holiday Season More Meaning

These days, the focus of the holidays is often on consumerism — from gift cards to glitzy décor to formal place settings. Whatever your religious beliefs, you may be looking for ways to incorporate more spirituality into the season and beyond.

Here are three ways to bring more meaning to the season:

Skip the gift exchange

Instead of purchasing pricey presents for family and friends, do a letter exchange instead. Take the opportunity to tell loved ones what they mean to you. These notes of appreciation will be a lot more memorable and a lot more meaningful than a store bought item. The money you would have spent on gifts can be donated to your favorite charity instead.

Volunteer in the community

The winter can be an especially difficult time for the elderly, the hungry or the sick. While it may be a particularly busy time of year for you, try to dedicate some time in your schedule to a volunteer project that helps you connect with others in your community.

Be introspective

There is plenty of great literature available that can help you explore your own spirituality. One new title, “Coming Home, A Spiritual and Religious Dialogue,” by Star Chang, who has studied religious scriptures, history and spiritual books for years, delves into the teachings of the likes of Buddha, Jesus, Plato and Muhammad.

The book seeks to help readers navigate their own path by discovering which teachings apply to them and how to incorporate them into a modern lifestyle. This reading can be especially beneficial to those looking for more meaning around the holiday season. Other books and websites are also available for personal introspection at this time of year.

Service to others

While there is certainly great joy to be had by getting swept up in the spirit of the holiday season, taking time to reflect and be of service to others can give this time of year even more meaning and importance.

Copyright © 2014, Daily Press

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New welcome sign gets mixed reviews in Indiana city

SEYMOUR, Ind. – Love it or hate it, the new Seymour welcome sign near Interstate 65 is causing a lot of buzz around town.

Construction of the 13-foot wall and sign with surrounding landscaping, located on the north side of U.S. 50 just west of the interstate exchange, was completed in late November at a cost of about $1 million.

Some residents have balked at the expense and say the money should have been spent elsewhere in the city to improve roads and parks. But others say the sign is an eye-catching way to make a good impression on people coming into the city.

Seymour Mayor Craig Luedeman said he knows he can’t please everyone.

“Good and bad, I like to do things that catch people’s attention,” he told The Tribune.

He also wants to do anything he can to draw more traffic from the interstate further into Seymour to explore the downtown and the city’s other unique offerings. With more traffic coming in, there are more opportunities to attract new restaurants and businesses to locate along Tipton and in the downtown area too, he added.

Stu Silver, a retired Seymour Community Schools teacher, said he is glad to see efforts being made by the city to make a better impression on people.

“We are trying to do something to get people to stop and check out Seymour,” he said of the sign. “You have to start somewhere. At least they are trying.”

The majority of funding for the welcome sign came from a state grant, Luedeman said, and was specifically designated by the Indiana Department of Transportation for the project.

“This is money that could have went to Columbus or Indianapolis, but it didn’t,” he said. “So we took it and ran with it.”

The city chipped in with about $165,000 in taxpayers’ money from the general fund and TIF revenue from the redevelopment commission as matching funds, he added.

Besides being outdated and in disrepair, Luedeman said the old welcome sign, which was in the same location between Tipton Street and Sandy Creek Drive, often went unnoticed.

Designed by Rundell Ernstberger Associates in Indianapolis, the new sign and wall consist of a large metal sculpted mural that incorporates different images related to Seymour, including a locomotive, an airplane propeller and corn to recognize the importance and impact of the railroads, aviation and agriculture on the city.

Other icons depicted are a guitar and music notes in honor of Rock and Roll Hall of Famer John Mellencamp, a pageant queen’s crown for 2009 Miss America Katie Stam, the Seymour High School bell tower, the Blish Mill grain silos and a downtown landscape.

Additional enhancements include landscaping with colorful perennials that will be planted in the spring and summer, new trees, shrubbery, wildflowers and sod. Those additions will be more apparent after winter and will be maintained by the city’s department of public works.

At night, the sign is lit up with bright lights that change color, creating a dramatic silhouette.

It’s just as much a piece of art as it is a welcome sign and identification marker, Luedeman said.

Rex Schroer of Freetown said he has passed by the sign and is worried that it could distract motorists and cause a wreck.

“I can just see people looking at the lights at night, not paying attention to traffic stopped at the light and oops, bam, crash,” he said.

Other complaints about the sign are that the mural is too busy, making it hard to make out what is on it, and the lights change colors too quickly. Some say the lights do not allow the whole sign to be seen at night.

But Luedeman said he is pleased with the design and how the sign came out.

“They engineered a sign that incorporates a lot of our history and the positive things that have happened in Seymour,” he said. “People can identify with the things on the sign.”

He agreed the lights change colors a little too quickly at night, and he planned to talk with engineers about slowing them down.

Some who don’t like the sign say it’s not enough to make an impact.

“It’s too big and too ugly,” said Pam Weddel of Seymour. “It will take more than a sign to get people to want to live here.”

Mike Davis of Seymour added the city needs to have better priorities when spending money.

“Maybe focus on more important tasks at hand instead of starting with the easy stuff that doesn’t make any difference,” he said.

Seymour resident Mindy Thompson agreed, saying the sign is in bad taste.

“It looks like bad graffiti that, even now, is about 25 years out of date,” she said. “It makes me cringe.”

Kim Brown of Seymour said she likes seeing the new sign and it’s much better than what was there before.

“I think it looks great,” she said. “That side of town is where tourists come in from the interstate, and who wants to come into a city with a hand-painted sign? I think it adds a lot of class to the city.”

Luedeman said he would like to see the rest of the cloverleaf area around the interstate improved with more landscaping and maintenance, but said most of the area is owned by the state.

The sign is the first phase of a much

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City of Ann Arbor considers culling to control deer population

(WXYZ) – Ann Arbor city officials say they have not made up their minds on a plan to control the deer population, but one of the ideas being considered is causing controversy.

Culling would allow hunters and sharpshooters to kill a specific number of deer.

City officials say they are trying to obtain broad community feedback on a variety of ways to control deer that also include prohibiting feeding of deer, fertility control, and trapping to euthanize.

Sumedh Bahl, Ann Arbor’s Community Services Area Administrator, is leading the project that he says began as a result of citizen complaints to city council that deer were destroying landscaping.

Car-deer accidents and the possibility of diseases were also noted concerns from some residents.

A community meeting to discuss plans to manage the deer is set for 7:00 p.m. tonight (Wednesday) at Huron High School in Ann Arbor. 

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Environmental and landscape resolutions for the new year

As 2014 comes to a very quick close in just a few weeks, Rutgers is offering commercial landscapers and private citizens some great opportunities to meet and fulfill their New Year’s resolutions that promise to better their landscape and how they care for it while also considering their local and regional environment.

Start with some early opportunities from the Rutgers Organic Land Care Certificate Course and the Rutgers Environmental Stewards Program.

Registration is currently open for the Rutgers 2015 Organic Land Care Certificate Course, offered on Jan. 12, 13, 14, 20, and 21 at the Rutgers EcoComplex in Bordentown; visit

The Rutgers Cooperative Extension Organic Land Care Certificate Program provides education to landscapers and land care providers on organic practices for promoting healthy soil, enhancing biodiversity, and reducing polluted runoff from managed landscapes.

The core of the program is a five-day course designed for professional landscapers, property managers, public works employees, groundskeepers, and landscape architects. The course is not intended for recreation and sports turf field managers.

Organic Land Care is a holistic approach to landscaping that improves the natural resources of a site by fostering cycling of resources, promoting ecological balance, and conserving biodiversity.

The question of what “organic” actually means can lead to a lot of confusion. Organic land care is not simply about the type of fertilizer or pesticide used on a home landscape. Rather, organic land care is a holistic approach to landscaping that restores and enhances biological cycles involving soil microorganisms, plants, and animals.

Participants that pass the course exam receive a certificate of completion and are listed online as having completed the Rutgers Cooperative Extension Organic Land Care Certificate program requirements,

At the 2014 Green Expo conducted earlier this week in Atlantic City and hosted by the NJ Turfgrass Association, the Rutgers Organic Land Care Program was presented the NJTA’s Environmental Stewardship Award “in recognition of a continuing commitment to environmental preservation and conservation.” Program coordinators Amy Rowe and Michele Bakacs were on hand to receive the award from the NJTA.

Since its inception in 1970, the New Jersey Turfgrass Association has been the voice of the green industry in New Jersey. The Association, by promoting a strong professional organization, has represented the broad concerns of the overall turfgrass industry while staying focused on various individual issues,

Rutgers Environmental Stewards

Are you looking for a New Year’s resolution that you’re likely to stick with, once you embark on the journey? How about a way to give something back to your community in a way that’s meaningful and guaranteed to get you out and about?

Why not consider joining the 2015 class of the Rutgers Environmental Stewards program, which helps residents expand their abilities from non-scientists to become citizen-scientists? Classes begin the first week in January in Atlantic, Warren, and Somerset counties, and typically run through May.

An innovative partnership between Rutgers Cooperative Extension and the Hillsborough-based Duke Farms Foundation, the Rutgers Environmental Stewards program teaches participants about land and water stewardship, best management practices, environmental public advocacy, and leadership.

The curriculum is designed to introduce non-scientists to the science underlying key environmental issues in the New Jersey. Academics are joined by colleagues from government and the non-profit sector to share understanding and insights with the students.

“Students don’t only receive facts, but also are introduced to a network of expert individuals and organizations who can be of service to them in the future as they wrestle with solving local environmental problems,” said Bruce Barbour, program originator and agricultural and resource management agent with Rutgers Cooperative Extension in Warren County.

“This can be among the most meaningful six months in your life,” adds Barbour, who has led the program since its inception and details many of the benefits for the attendees and their communities for each class since 2005 well beyond the $250 registration fee online at

In order to serve the entire state, training is offered in regional locations and recruitment has begun in earnest for the Class of 2015. Questions about registration or schedules should be directed to the coordinator of the region in which you expect to attend classes.

In Warren (Northern region) the training location is the RCE office in Warren County, 165 Route 519 South, Belvidere, with the normal class time of Tuesdays mornings, January to May, 9:30 to 12:30 p.m. Interested participants should contact Milly Rice at, agricultural and resource management secretary, or by phone at 908-475-6505.

A second northern regional training program will be offered in Passaic County, at the Preakness Healthcare Center, 305 Oldham Road in Wayne, with the normal class time of Tuesday evenings, 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Interested participants should contact Jo-Ann Pituch at, at Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Passaic County, or by phone at 973-305-5740

The Central Region training at Duke Farms in Hillsborough will be conducted Thursday evenings, January to May, 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.. Interested participants should contact Deb Thomas at, Duke Farms Foundation, or by phone at 908-722-3700, ext. 4.

A second central regional training program will be offered at the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Middlesex County office at Davidson Mill Pond Park, 42 Riva Ave. in North Brunswick on Wednesday evenings, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Interested participants should contact Meredith Jacob, at Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Middlesex County, or by phone at 732-398-5275

A coastal region training will be offered at the Atlantic County Utility Authority, 6700 Delilah Road in Egg Harbor Twp, on Wednesday mornings, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Interested participants should contact Amy Menzel,, in Pleasantville, or by phone at 609-272-6950, ext. 6934.

Program coordinators expect 25 to 30 attendees at each location. Participants will be certified as Rutgers Environmental Stewards once they complete the 60 hours of training along with 60 hours of volunteer efforts in their approved program for their town or county. All regional application forms are available online at

Nicholas Polanin is associate professor, Agricultural Agent II Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station Cooperative Extension of Somerset County. Email him at

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Auditorium Shores trailhead reopens to public

Construction is nearly complete in the Auditorium Shores parking lot.
Construction is nearly complete in the Auditorium Shores parking lot.

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The trailhead at Auditorium Shores reopened to the public Wednesday following the completion of a renovation project that took about five months longer than anticipated.

The newly-completed project includes an expanded parking lot, new bathrooms, wider trails and better access for bicyclists and pedestrians.

The improvements were supposed to be completed by June, but a handful of issues kept that portion of the park from opening on time. The city then planned to have it open by Oct. 30, but problems with the new bathroom facility kept that from happening.

“The remaining work on the restroom building is because of unforeseen conditions related to the adjoining wastewater line which had to be repaired in order to activate the facility,” Susan Rankin, executive director of the Trail Foundation, told KXAN in October. She said there were also “minor items related to final inspection” that had to be addressed.

The city reconstructed the parking lot to address environmental issues and keep rain runoff from draining directly into Lady Bird Lake.

“The way it works is the storm water is filtered through rain water gardens,” Rankin said, “so by the time it hits the lake the oil and things like that are filtered out.”

Money for the project also went to additional landscaping and more lighting in the park. Work was also done to restore the shoreline in that area.

The $2.2 million renovation was funded partially through a Texas Parks and Wildlife grant and the other half coming from the city. The Trail Foundation also chipped in $350,000. Stump said in October the cost of the delays were within budget.

Event Closures: Due to events at the Long Center on Wednesday and Thursday, Riverside Dive is closed between South 1st Street and Lamar Boulevard. The Auditorium Shores parking area will be accessible using the northbound road access road on South 1st Street.

Auditorium Shores Trailhead Access

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At Urban Jungle, they bring a green vibe to the city

CURT ALEXANDER, 55, of South Philadelphia, owns Urban Jungle, a full-service garden center in South Philly that also specializes in vertical landscaping. By adding green, sustainable features to vertical surfaces, Urban Jungle is able to create gardens with dynamic visual impact. The business began in 2009 and recently leased space for a second location in Pennsport.

Q: How’d you come up with the idea for Urban Jungle?

A: When I moved into the city I realized there was no good place to find gardening supplies, plants, things like that. So it has evolved from working out of a garage and selling window boxes into a full-blown, green business.

Q: Startup money?

A: I put $100,000 into the business and got a matching grant of $50,000 from the Merchant Fund, which supports local businesses in this area.

Q: What’s the biz do?

A: The business has three components: outside landscaping and retail [are two]. And they’re about a 50/50 split in terms of generating most revenue. There’s also a third component, which is commercial green walls [a wall covered with ivy or other foliage] and [greenery-covered roofs.] That is about 10 percent of the business, but we believe it has growth potential.

Q: The biz model?

A: The landscaping is done on a proposal basis. We do a lot of roof decks, which are anywhere from $5,000 to $50,000. I would say roof decks make up about half the landscaping business. If there’s green walls it’s probably going to cost $10,000 to $15,000, and we probably do about 15 of those a year. We also do a lot of window-box installations, and those are smaller jobs in the $500 to $1,200 range.

Q: Your customers?

A: We have property-management companies and maintain the front of their buildings. And then a lot of residential, probably 80 percent, a lot of container gardening.

Q: How big a biz is this?

A: It’s a million-dollar business right now. The employees fluctuate between seven and 14, and five are full-time.

Q: What differentiates you from other businesses?

A: I would say the scale of what we do. The vertical [landscape] focus differentiates us, for sure. [Plus the] planters, [green] walls, a newer look that nobody else is doing and on a larger scale. Manufacturers of containers don’t think on an urban scale, which has to be narrow and tall and fit on a patio. We’re also making big street planters that nobody can tip over.

Q: What’s next?

A: We’re going to develop the Pennsport space into a full-on garden center in the spring, [with] much bigger plants, bigger specimens, and we have a bigger space to store stuff. That will give us a chance to demonstrate water features [such as] fountains, waterfalls in an urban environment. I think we can double our revenues in three to four years. I think we’ll be promoting green walls a lot, too.


On Twitter: @MHinkelman



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Beth Holland puts the ‘culture’ in ‘horticulture’

 »  Gazette
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By Erick Bengel

The Daily Astorian

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For almost three decades, Cannon Beach resident Beth Holland, a 63-year-old organic landscaper, has helped to quietly shape the aesthetic of Cannon Beach and Astoria.

Though some of her work has been altered over the years, a great deal of her original garden designs can still be seen outside the Cannon Beach Gallery, the Cannon Beach Hotel, Columbia Bank, the Inn at Haystack Rock and other notable establishments.

In Astoria, Holland has landscaped the roundabout, the Maritime Memorial garden and the Mill Pond kiosk. She also designed the layout of trees along Exchange Street and avenues 18 and 20.

Asked what kinds of plants she’s used at each location, Holland replied, “You don’t want to go there.” The number is just too high.

Rather than the typical pattern of plant, then bark mulch, then plant, then bark mulch, she prefers to cover the ground in a matrix of plant material that holds weeds down.

Ornamental grasses, indigenous trees and hardy perennials and shrubs tend to figure into her designs. Whenever possible, she chooses plants based on a site’s theme: At the Maritime Memorial garden, for example, she planted rosemary, a symbol of remembrance.

“It’s an incredible thing how people respond and relate to beauty,” she said. “You can, in a sense, really improve people’s lives, and the way a town looks is a big part of how comfortable people are.”

Artists who work with plants have a vast palette to work with. And in Cannon Beach — which has a “phenomenal growing climate,” where you’re “constantly inspired by the beauty of nature” — becoming a great gardener is that much more doable, she said.

Flower shop

Holland grew up in Portland and, right after high school, moved to Cannon Beach. Her parents still own four acres of property in Cannon Beach.

In 1973, she traveled with her friend Gayle Greenwood — who co-founded the White Bird Gallery with Evelyn Georges two years prior — to Logan, Utah. While Holland was there, she enrolled in the horticulture program at Utah State University.

Soon after returning, she met Mike Morgan, who was then working for the Clatsop-Tillamook Intergovernmental Council and writing comprehensive plans for cities up and down the Oregon Coast. He is now the mayor of Cannon Beach.

The couple moved into the house Morgan built in the Haystack Heights neighborhood and married in 1980. They added a greenhouse in 1990.

A trip to England, where Holland explored the country’s major gardens, was a “game changer” for her, she said. Holland became convinced that “there would never be any end to how much I could learn” about horticulture.

She founded her own flower shop, Holland’s Flowers, in 1981 on Hemlock Street, just north of the White Bird Gallery. Her business moved around several times, at one point occupying a small greenhouse where Village Centre is now located.

Holland’s friend, Grace Dinsdale, would grow the plants in her nursery for Holland to sell. “Anything to do with flowers, we were doing it.”

She closed the business in 1994.

Community gardening

Holland had no idea where she was headed when she opened her shop. “I mean, I just thought I was selling daffodils for 50 cents a bunch.”

After that, however, she branched out into landscaping.

In the 1990s, she joined Cannon Beach’s design review board, where she and fellow board member June Kroft — who later worked for the city of Cannon Beach as a horticultural specialist — played a role in crafting the landscaping criteria of the design review process.

“We brought that back into the light of day, as far as the impact that landscaping has on the city,” Holland said.

Meanwhile, every winter, she and Morgan traveled the globe. While roving through Europe, Asia, South America, Holland always had horticulture in mind, she said. It was one of the main things she was “looking for and paying attention to.”

For the past two years, Holland, an active member of the 88-year-old Cannon Beach Garden Club, has given a talk at the Cannon Beach History Center Museum’s annual Cottage Garden Tour.

Both years, she and other garden club members read from the club’s minutes from the 1950s and were reminded that gardening and landscaping can have a “real impact in the community,” fostering a sense of civic beauty and civic pride.

Holland would like to see the city have a horticulturist on staff once again — someone who, like June Kroft, “has a real love of plants” and knows how to use them to make the city a better place.

Such a move would reinforce the city’s focus on the arts as “a really important part of our scene here, our culture,” she said.




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