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Archives for December 15, 2014

Holiday mistletoe customs

Posted: Monday, December 15, 2014 9:36 am

Holiday mistletoe customs

By Bob Beyfuss
For Columbia-Greene Media


This is the time of year when my thoughts once again return to plants. From holiday gift plants to Christmas trees to decorative greens and last, but certainly not least, mistletoe! (Much of the following information comes from The Hidden Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History

The common name “mistletoe” is used world-wide for a diverse assortment of plants, some of which aren’t so closely related. What these plants all have in common is their life-style: They are so-called “stem parasites” that live on branches of trees and shrubs. A number of State Cooperative Extension Universities have detailed fact sheets on how to kill the plant and some arborists will physically remove it from their client’s trees. The mistletoe clumps are easiest to see right now, when the leaves are absent from deciduous trees, since they mistletoe plants tend to retain their green leaves longer than their host trees. I don’t consider them as serious parasites or pests in our region and would not bother to try to remove them from a host tree. Mistletoes are much more common is warmer areas such as the Carolinas and down into Florida, but they are occasionally seen even up here in the Hudson Valley and Catskill Region, generally on oak trees.

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Monday, December 15, 2014 9:36 am.

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Tips: 6 crafty tips for reducing holiday stress

This is the season for family gatherings, dinner parties and the sound of laughter coming from around the table. With the hustle and bustle surrounding the holidays, finding ways to reduce stress can help you survive the season. Here are six simple tips that will help your holidays go from hectic to holly, with even a little time left over to relax before your guests start arriving.

Design a holiday arrangement with greens from your garden

Greenery, branches and seed pods from the garden can be used to make a beautiful holiday centerpiece for under $5. It’s a fun group project, too, when greenery is shared from participants’ gardens.

All one has to purchase are an oasis, plastic tray, a few ornaments and candle.

Here are some guidelines to get you started:

Gather supplies

* Container or tray — square, oval or round, depending on the shape of the arrangement you would like to make.

* Oasis.

* Sticky floral tape.

* Evergreens of all varieties — pine, holly, arborvitae, boxwood. Although holly is nice, it does not hold up well.

* Seed pods, pine cones and/or branches.

* Finishing touches such as Christmas ornaments and candle.

Making the arrangement

Soak oasis until fully hydrated. Fill a sink or deep container with water and place oasis in water. Allow water to be fully absorbed. Do not hold it under the water, or there will be dry places in the oasis. It will be heavy and dripping water when ready.

Tape oasis into a container or onto a plate, taping horizontally and vertically. I taped four pieces on an oval plate, leaving space in the middle for a candle.

Start filling in with small pieces of greenery to hide oasis. Fill in corners, sides and middle, saving the best pieces for last. The more variety used, the nicer the arrangement will look.

After oasis is hidden, add greenery to sides to form a shape, such as oval or round. Then fill in the top with some airy evergreen, such as white pine.

Finish by adding pine cones, seed pods and branches, such as red twig dogwood. Add a few ornaments and a candle in the middle, and your masterpiece is ready to enjoy.

Keeping it fresh

Keep oasis moist.

Moisten greenery under the faucet or mist every few days.

Some people store the arrangement in a cool place, such as the garage, and bring it out only for company.

Tess Swartz is a master gardener with Penn State Extension-Beaver County.

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Design Recipes: Get your home ready for holiday guests

Local News

Cal Poly Fall Commencement 2014

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Innovative design in Bonnyrigg Public’s new sensory garden for children with …

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History, landscaping, architecture: Tales told in NYC’s cemeteries

When New York City was hit with the 1918 influenza pandemic, the deaths were so numerous that the bodies were taken by horse-drawn carts to the cemeteries under the cover of night, apparently to stifle any public panic.

Burials were sometimes in mass graves with no tombstones or else with markers bearing simple, poignant inscriptions like “Our Babies” to mark the death of children.

“It must have been a kind of eerie feeling to know it was done at night,” said Donato “Danny” Daddario, a supervisor at The Evergreens Cemetery in Brooklyn, who has researched the influenza burials.

The old flu graves are all over The Evergreens, and Daddario can point them out with ease because he is one of a dedicated group of aficionados who have made the history, landscaping and architecture of city cemeteries a passion.

Graveyard enthusiasts, known as taphophiles, have been promoting the cultural and other aspects of cemeteries at a time when many of the institutions are running out of space and looking to rebrand themselves. Some, like Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn and The Evergreens, have formed historical foundations to raise money to fund cultural programs.

“People mentally have a picture of a cemetery as stark and boring,” said Marge Raymond, a Brooklyn singer. Raymond and Ruth Edebohls conduct tours at Green-Wood, where former governor DeWitt Clinton and composer Leonard Bernstein are buried.

When Raymond first visited Green-Wood years ago on a bird-watching outing, she fell in love with its 478 acres of rolling, glacier-sculpted hills, 7,000 or so trees and the amazing architecture of the mausoleums and tombstones.

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“Green-Wood is an experience there are not enough adjectives to describe,” she said.

“To me, it is an outdoor museum, but in many ways it is so much better than the rest of the city,” said Edebohls, 71. “Things aren’t knocked down and built over.”

Retired architect Allan Smith of Queens grew up in a family of German immigrants who would routinely visit cemeteries on all important holidays. Around the family plot, he planted red geraniums.

“At an early age, I was used to the cemetery, unlike young people today who are afraid to step into them,” he said.

Smith was attracted to the design elements he found in tombs emulating Roman, Greek and Egyptian temples. As a member of the Woodhaven Historical Society, he became familiar with the important people buried at the 225-acre Cypress Hills Cemetery, on the Brooklyn-Queens border, such as baseball legend Jackie Robinson, and soon was sought to lead school tours.

Through his own interest in local history, Ira Kluger, 57, of Brooklyn, discovered that many famous merchants, judges and doctors whose lives he researched were buried in 13-acre Canarsie Cemetery.

“I do feel a sense of connection,” said Kluger about his tour through the cemetery. “Sometimes I am struck by the fact that they are dead.”

Daddario and his colleague Anthony Salamone, a cemetery sales representative and former assistant superintendent, have worked for decades at The Evergreens, which has 225 acres. On tours, they point out unusual sites like the 19th-century mausoleum where a man named Jonathan Reed would visit his dead wife, Mary, every day, open a casket panel and read to her, Salamone recalled.

“It was a man in love, who missed his wife,” he said.

Daddario, 52, and Salamone, 68, believe cemeteries can bring history to life and connect young people to the past.

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“If no one shows them, I don’t know how they are going to do it on their own,” Salamone said.

Experts agree that the city’s cemeteries, most of which date to the 19th century, are running out of space.

Some will have to reinvent themselves or go back to being parks. Others, like Green-Wood, are building upon their historical archives to help historians and genealogists.

“Cemeteries in Brooklyn and Queens had a life expectancy of 200 years. We are coming to that [point] now,” Daddario said.

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Editorial: Tesla pipeline idea – be careful with water

Reno-Sparks is poised for a Tesla-influenced population boom that will test its resources.

Projections show the area is capable of handling the water needs of all these new people, but there are concerns over what happens to the water after it is used.

Treated sewer water put back into the Truckee River is only allowed to contain so much “stuff.” More people means more stuff. Reno-Sparks is already near its limit of stuff. Something must be done, and it will be expensive.

Before big decisions are made, public discussions must be had to decide how much treated water — effluent — this high desert area is willing to give up control over.

Short-term ideas are being considered: pouring effluent into the ground somewhere — likely near Spanish Springs — to allow it to return to nature, or putting it in winter storage reservoirs for use during high-demand warm months.

Winter storage is helpful because of a quirk of effluent that leads to more in colder weather. Demand drops for effluent in the winter because its main uses are for agricultural fields and landscaping such as in parks and golf courses. And the microbes used to break down the stuff in the effluent don’t like the cold weather so they can’t process as much.

Two main plans are being floated to deal with the effluent problem in the long-term.

One involves building a $35 million pipeline to send the effluent water to the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center, where Tesla will be located, for industrial processes that don’t require drinkable water. The money would likely come largely from grants available for economic development. The pipeline solves the problem because the stuff-filled effluent would not be put into the Truckee River and would not count against the total amount of stuff allowed for Reno-Sparks.

The other main option involves installing $40 million worth of nitrogen treatment technology at the Truckee Meadows Water Reclamation Facility. The money would come from developers building new housing projects who would buy into their portion of the new technology — and from ratepayers in Reno-Sparks. This technology solves the problem by breaking down more of the nitrogen stuff so the effluent returned to the river contains less.

The more likely of the two plans seems to be the pipeline out to Tesla and the surrounding industrial park in Storey County. This is, in part, because Reno-Sparks residents and businesses would pay less to create a long-term solution; the industrial park wants more effluent and this would be a less expensive way to get it; and Tesla loves the idea of using reclaimed water as part of its sustainable, green image.

One could be forgiven for thinking: Hey, if $35 million is available for effluent pipes to spur economic development, why send the water to another county? Instead, why not have Reno-Sparks build effluent pipes — also called purple pipes because of their color — to attract companies that would locate here if they were available and to help existing businesses?

Companies with massive data servers (think Apple) as well as many manufacturers can use such water. In fact, they prefer to because it is much cheaper than regular, drinkable water.

Currently, Reno and Sparks are allowed to sell effluent to businesses but there are almost no takers because the businesses have to pay to run the pipes to their locations, something that is cost prohibitive. But if grant money became available …

Unfortunately, reality stomps on this idea.

Costs would be expected to run much higher — maybe five times higher — to create a similar amount of effluent pipeline in urban areas. That is because roads would have to be torn up, power and gas lines would need to be routed around, expensive right of ways may need to be acquired, etc.

The idea, though, is a good one and it brings up a line of discussion that needs to be had before entering negotiations to pipe the effluent out of Washoe County.

The temptation will be to give Tesla whatever it wants. It, or the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center, may request access to the maximum amount of effluent that can be given.

But what if another player wants to locate here if it can get access to large amounts of effluent, too? Or what if there are other projects or developments not yet dreamed of that could use it?

Reno-Sparks will not be able to exploit these future opportunities to their fullest if it commits to giving away too much of its effluent now.

The boards and commissions that ultimately will have to sign off on any deal must protect this valuable resource and not allow Reno-Sparks to cede too much control over it.

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Visions of retail in downtown aqueduct

Built more than 170 years ago, the aqueduct spanning the Genesee River in downtown Rochester is today an artifact — a foundation for the Broad Street bridge, a leftover novelty of the long-abandoned subway and a tapestry for graffiti artists.

But within its expansive depths, many have seen potential for the aqueduct to again power the city’s economy as it did in the days of the old Erie Canal. And the city’s preference for the aqueduct’s return to relevance could be shifting.

“Not that we have taken any options off the table,” said Delmonize Smith, the city’s neighborhood and business development commissioner. But “what has been presented by Broad Street Underground, I think, fits with what we would like to see happen in terms of adding to a vibrant retail experience.”

The Underground is a $21 million idea to convert the interior space into a two-level mall with niche shops, restaurants, even a nightclub. Glass would enclose the arched openings, and a sidewalk-level atrium could double as gallery space. The converted aqueduct also would provide a long-desired, climate-controlled passageway between the convention center and Blue Cross Arena at the Community War Memorial, making the city attractive to larger conventions and events.

“The question,” Smith said, “is how does their proposal fit with some of the other proposals?”

Those other proposals include tearing off Broad Street and filling the old canal bed with water again and/or using some of the subterranean space for parking. The aqueduct is only part of the remaining old canal-turned-subway bed extending from South Avenue and West Main Street, nearly entirely under West Broad Street. The Underground expands on an earlier concept more focused on the utility of making the facilities connection that suggested the space be used as a museum or heritage walkway.

This month or next, the city will move forward in hiring a design firm to work on needed repairs to the bridge and aqueduct, including milling and replacing the asphalt road surface, repairing and replacing some bridge supports and joints, and also making improvements to include new lighting, benches, landscaping and crosswalk improvements. Fountains are possible, depending on funding, said City Engineer Jim McIntosh. The city has federal funds to cover more than half of an envisioned $4 million in work, likely to begin in fall 2015.

Once the federal money is spent on bridge improvements the aqueduct is then ineligible to receive additional state or federal funds for another five or 10 years. But a decision on which direction to take, long-term, “could be made easily within the next six to nine months,” Smith said

Development has begun to drive greater attention to doing something along West Broad Street, with residential and commercial projects including 44 Exchange St., the Academy Building, Nothnagle and the Passero remaking of the Josh Lofton building.

“It’s time,” City Council member Elaine Spaull said of the need to get serious about infrastructure and the long-term plan. But the Underground? “I would be hesitant to say the city supports it and is ready to move it to the next step.”

As recently as this summer, it appeared the Warren administration, similar to administrations past, favored re-watering. No decisions have been made, Smith said, but noted that re-watering “presents the greatest challenge in terms of cost.”

Thomas Grasso, president of the Canal Society of New York State, proposed a decade ago that a portion of the historic canal, including the aqueduct that carried it over the Genesee River, be refilled. Replica canal boats or other small craft would be able to float lazily through the center city.

After becoming Rochester’s mayor in 2006, Robert Duffy took hold of the idea and directed members of his administration to begin drafting tentative plans for such a project. Proposals have varied widely in cost. Spaull recalled one in the neighborhood of $60 million. The most elaborate (to include drawbridges) reached $200 million.

Under a version espoused by Grasso, the section of canal also would be connected to the Genesee, so boaters traveling on the “new” Erie Canal that runs south of the city could connect with the original 189-year-old canal that passed through downtown.

A fair number of people thought it a brilliant idea. A larger number scoffed, many of them citing the fate of the last big municipal initiative, the high-speed ferry to Toronto. The Duffy administration eventually put the re-watering project on the back burner. But Grasso is a patient man.

He notes that re-watering the Port Byron Erie Canal Heritage Park, Buffalo Canal Side and Commercial Slip, restoration of the Nine Mile Creek Aqueduct for navigation in Camillus all took more than 20 years to be realized.

“So why not Rochester? What is it about us, what is it that we lack, that other communities and organizations seem to have?” he wrote in an email. “Waterway projects all around and not a drop for us.”

Given the seemingly established direction for the aqueuduct long-term it has been “a little bit of an effort” to work the Underground concept into the conversation, said architect Lewis Childs, who is part of the group advocating that proposal.

In the past year, a luxury apartment building was proposed for the corner of South Avenue and Court Street atop a part of the old canal bed, with the bed itself made into a private parking garage for the building’s occupants. Some observers said that would seem to seal the fate of the re-watering concept. But city officials and others say that’s not quite true, and there is perhaps a way for both to work, though developers are as yet noncommittal on what remains a conceptual idea.

The administration insists all ideas remain on the table and in play.

“Our short-term plan is to fix the bridge and clean up that area to make it look nicer. The long-term plan is to seek funding to re-water,” McIntosh said several months ago and repeated something similar last week. “That would be five to 10 years out. The mayor is still interested in it.”

But Don Jeffries, president and CEO of VisitRochester, said his organization’s preference is one that would link the convention center and arena, and if it also provides a unique attraction, all the better.

“The other thing is it needs to be sustainable,” he said. “You want to see them build it, and it needs to be maintained.”

Promoters of the Underground claim it could cover the annual $2.75 million in operating and maintenance costs through naming rights, gift shop sales and rents (the plan creates an estimated 82,000 square feet of leasable space). Tax breaks could offset operating expenses in the early going.

The goal is to draw 480,000 visits a year, generating $56.5 million in spending — a number that might level off closer to $40 million, projections show. That translates to estimated annual tax revenue of more than $1.4 million.

As for construction, the project budget shows the developer and state paying 40 percent of the estimated $21 million cost, the city covering 5 percent and the remainder coming from grants.

Utilities likely would need to be relocated but also could be enclosed within a second-level walkway at archway level on the north side, with bridges crossing to upper-level shops. A skylight/atrium would be punched through the northern parking lane of the bridge, but Broad Street and the bridge exterior would otherwise be left alone. The glass used could be photovoltaic, to collect solar energy and convert it to power the Underground, Childs said.

There would be access points to the roadway above, or at either end, and an internal elevator. By the library, the entrance would ramp down to an amphitheater. The nightclub would sit beneath South Avenue, a trendy space that might double as a venue for TED Talks. To the west, the idea is to end at Exchange Boulevard, at least with the first phase. But Childs has plenty of ideas for how to use the remaining space.

“This would provide a lot more jobs than re-watering would,” Childs said. “And there is no reason it can’t have an outside impact.”

Your thoughts

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Serious doodling: Using just markers and paper, Brenda Zimmerman creates …

By Katie Scarvey

Lutheran Services Carolinas

If she’s in a meeting, Brenda Zimmerman will probably be marking up the paper in front of her – and she’s not taking notes.

“I’m the one that doodles all over the conference packet,” says Zimmerman, who is a life enrichment director at Trinity Oaks. But that doesn’t mean she’s not paying attention.

“They’ve done research that shows that doodling actually helps you concentrate,” Zimmerman says.  “I believe it.”

For the past three years, Zimmerman has channeled her doodling energy into creating beautiful works of art during what would otherwise be down time – like waiting at the doctor’s office.

“I like to doodle, so why not make it productive doodling?” Zimmerman asks. “I find it very relaxing, very soothing. It’s a creative outlet.”

This “doodling” is similar to what is known as Zentangle, a kind of abstract drawing that features repetitive patterns according to the trademarked Zentangle Method. Zimmerman isn’t bound by Zentangle patterns or rules. While she uses repetitive patterns, many of her pieces deviate from classic Zentangle by featuring recognizable objects such as shells, crosses, or birds.

Her art is gaining a lot of exposure for Zimmerman. She submitted the winning entry in a Christmas card art contest open to staff members of Lutheran Services Carolinas. Zimmerman’s colorful design was made into a card that was sent to more than 5,000 donors and supporters of LSC.

For Zimmerman, the design is symbolic: “In our complex world – represented by the detailed line work—our lives are bland (the black and white) until the Christ child illumines the world.”

The card meshes perfectly with LSC’s mission statement: “Empowered by Christ, we walk together with all we serve.”

“Brenda’s design for the Christmas card is so beautiful and meaningful, and it truly made this year’s holiday appeal for Lutheran Services Carolinas memorable,” said Kristen Kitchen, director of donor relations for Lutheran Services Carolinas.

The cards have been so popular that people have made inquiries about buying them to use for their own Christmas greeting cards. That won’t happen this year, but LSC hasn’t ruled it out for any future cardsZimmerman might design.

Zimmerman also created a card this year for The Perfect Rose, a local landscaping business that specializes in designing, installing, and maintaining rose gardens throughout the Carolinas.

Jack Page and Robert Myers, co-owners of The Perfect Rose, are fans of Zimmerman’s art. Before the men moved from their former home on Monroe Street, Zimmerman gave them a mixed media piece (pen and ink and watercolor) featuring their beautiful garden. They loved the gift, which now hangs in their Forest Glen home.

At a holiday gathering last year, Page and Myers spotted a Christmas tree design in Zimmerman’s sketchbook they thought would make a great card for both business and personal use. They told Zimmerman what they wanted, and she ran with it, says Page, who estimates they will send out 400 cards this year.

Zimmerman’s process is relatively simple. She starts with a four-inch square of heavy drawing paper, although she sometimes she leaves one side open so she has the flexibility to turn it into a greeting card, with text if she chooses. The designs – which come from Zimmerman’s head – are done freehand with a black ink micron pen.  After she’s finished the design, she can choose to add color with Sharpie markers.

She keeps a notebook of finished designs that she can recreate using templates.

Although most of her projects are one-dimensional, Zimmerman has also done some three-dimensional work on wood, including a lazy Susan. Her approach is somewhat different with those – the color goes on first, in the form of paint. After several rounds of sanding and painting, she then she inks the design.

Zimmerman said that growing up in Salisbury she was “always drawing something.”  At Appalachian State University she majored in art, with a minor in education. After graduating, she worked as an art teacher in Danville, Va. for four years in the late 1970s. One of those years she taught all 12 grades.

After moving back to Salisbury she began teaching crafts at what was then the Lutheran Home, now Trinity Oaks health and rehab. What was supposed to be a six-week gig has turned into 34 years and counting.

At Trinity Oaks, Zimmerman is known for organizing an annual quilt show and for creating the FootLoose art project to benefit the Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

Katie Scarvey is a communications specialist for Lutheran Services Carolinas.












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Peninsula residents encouraged to install rain barrels for water-conservation …

click to enlarge

  • Brendan P. Bartholomew/Special to the S.F. Examiner
  • Sakuntala Yegnashankaran, left, recently attended a water workshop put on by the San Mateo Countywide Water Pollution Prevention Program and Kathryn Cooke.

As the Bay Area just experienced one of its largest rainstorms in recent years, this is the perfect time for Peninsula homeowners to install rain-collection barrels to help conserve water and prevent runoff from carrying litter and pollution out to sea.

That’s the word from the San Mateo Countywide Water Pollution Prevention Program, which is offering free workshops to teach residents about the benefits, hardware options, regulations and rebates associated with installing rain barrels. The recent rainstorms come as California is in the midst of its worst drought in recorded history.

Belmont resident Sakuntala Yegnashankaran, who attended one of the recent workshops, said she’s mindful about conserving water because her hometown in India always had chronic water shortages, and she moved to the Bay Area in 1975, at the beginning of the state’s 1976-77 drought. Installing a rain barrel at her home would supplement her already-diligent water conservation practices, which include keeping a drought-resistant lawn and washing her car as seldom as possible, Yegnashankaran noted.

As the owner of The Urban Farmer Store, workshop leader Tom Bressan shared his expertise on the variety of rain barrel applications and their benefits. The average Peninsula home will receive about 40,000 gallons of rain during a typical winter, Bressan said, and about 60 percent of that could potentially be harvested using rain-collection barrels.

Some residents may choose to take repurposed containers designed for other uses and convert them to rain barrels, but Bressan recommended that only tanks approved for potable water storage should be used. He added that the barrels are typically dark in color because lighter-colored plastic allows sunlight to penetrate, which promotes algae growth.

The potable water requirement is placed on the containers in case they’re used to irrigate edible vegetable gardens, Bressan explained. However, he noted that water collected from roofs with materials such as asphalt shingles is not safe for use on edible gardens.

In addition to irrigating gardens, more elaborate setups can use captured rainwater for doing laundry or flushing toilets. Installations connected to a home’s plumbing system require permits, however.

While the workshops are geared toward helping residents perform their own installations, Bressan said homeowners who don’t want to do the work themselves typically hire landscaping companies to oversee such projects.

One such company is San Francisco-based Parisha’s Gardens. Owner Parisha Pakroo said she strongly recommends using drip-irrigation systems with the rain barrels, because drip irrigation is more precise and uses less water than overhead or spray irrigation. She added that newer systems are available with sensors that stop the water flow when rain is detected.

Reduced water bills is one incentive for the conservation practices, but Pakroo said her clients mostly seek to use water responsibly, and to protect their plants by using rainwater as a supplemental means of keeping them hydrated.

Rainwater harvesting systems can also protect investments in back yard fountains or ponds, according to Bressan, who noted that unlike tap water, rain water is not chlorinated, and is therefore safer for fish.

Homeowners installing rain barrels may qualify for up to $100 in combined rebates from local agencies. For information, visit:

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