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Archives for March 9, 2015

KBS Week to draw in beer fans to GR

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Fifteen Grand Rapids bars and restaurants have joined together for KBS Week, hosting tapping parties for Founders’ Kentucky Breakfast Stout.

The annual limited release of the stout leads to long lines and beer tourists every year.

This is the second year of KBS Week, giving everyone a chance to get a glass of KBS, it’s expected to be even bigger than 2014.

Janet Korn of Experience Grand Rapids said they have sold more than 120 hotel packages for KBS Week.

Korn said it’s good sign for hotels and other local breweries and bars as they host tapping parties every week night during KBS Week.

“Founders helps open the door to these craft beer fans that are from all over the United States then all of our local breweries get to introduce their beer, their taprooms and establishments to those craft beer fans when they come in,” Korn said.

Founders’ KBS will be available through distribution in Michigan starting Monday, March 16.

You can check out the schedule for the tapping parties happening during KBS Week, it wraps up with a release party at Founders on Saturday.



KBS week

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Looking back at the Lee farm in Casnovia

This month 75 years ago…

Heavy spring rain would give Lawrence B. Lee an extra ton per acre of hay and alfalfa in 1940 and he would add another five acres to his farm that summer. He could not know that the days of the mid-sized family farm where already numbered.

On March 7, 1940, The Chronicle said,


Once a Colorado cowboy, riding for ranchers at daily wages, Lawrence B. Lee of Casnovia township, prosperous and one of the county’s leading farmers, credits Agricultural Extension service with being the big factor that put him on his feet.

Mr. Lee got both practical information from attending agricultural extension meetings and inspiration from working with others towards common improvement objectives. For this reason he has enrolled in Farm-to-Prosper contests, a five-county program for rural progress and prosperity in Western Michigan and he hopes other farmers will get behind the movement also.

Casnovia appears peaceful and prosperous in the undated aerial view looking north over the town. 

While having improvements in mind for his 160 acres of once run-down soil in Sections 9 and 10 of Casnovia, Mr. Lee, vice chairman of the Muskegon County Committee for the Agricultural Conservation Program of the AAA, wants it understood he is competing for the fun of it – and not for any of the three prizes, attractive though they be, offered in each of the three divisions of the contest: Full time farmers, part time farmers and for rural community organizations.

“Everybody should get into the contest and do his best,” declared Mr. Lee who has learned a lot about farming during the last 27 years. He constantly seeks to improve his results and is enthusiastic about living on the land. He tries out new ideas frequently and will continue to do so this year in his effort to “achieve progress,” one of the objectives of the contest.

Last year he seeded clover without a nurse crop in April, contrary to the practice of many and by August it was knee high, yielding 1½ tons to the acre. However, the ground was fairly new and it had been well marled, he says in explaining the results.

Just what he will be trying new this season, Mr. Lee has not yet decided. His wife Wilma, however, is greatly interested in flowers and landscaping, hence he expects there probably will be improvements of this nature about the house.

Born in Vinton County, Ohio, Mr. Lee was about 12-years-old when his father, H.M. Lee of Ravenna, decided to go west on account of the health of Mrs. Lee. They had a small ranch in southwest Colorado, 10 miles from the New Mexico border and only 40 miles from the four corners where these two states, Arizona and Utah all meet. He rode for several ranchers, through an area of about 10,000 square miles, herding livestock. One day he rode 100 miles, starting at 2:30 a.m. and continuing through to the following midnight.

In 1912, his father returned east, locating in Muskegon County and the following year, the son came also. Two years later he and his father-in-law, the late Mason Hildreth pooled all their resources. They mortgaged all their property and in addition borrowed another $1,500 on a personal note; acquired 90 acres and all lived together on the farm.

The adventure turned out successfully and in a short time they traded 45 acres toward an 80-acre tract, thus expanding their holdings to 120. Then in 1923 they bought the west 40 acres. Some land was in extremely bad condition, having been run down. There was a stone pile in almost every field and the swamp needed ditching. They also had to replace the barn, burned the year before they bought the place.

In 1917, they built a 46-by-60 foot barn and paid for it with beans which then were $8 a bushel. War prices helped greatly, but they were years of hard work and utmost economy. The owners had interest to pay on a debt of about $5,000 and if there was anything left over they applied it on principal retirement. Not until 1921 did they get a car, being among the last in the township to have one, he recalls.

The partnership was a good one and the farm was known for many years as Hildreth and Lee. Mr. Hildreth, who died in 1929, served as supervisor from 1922 to 1926.

Mr. Lee has expanded his dairy herd of registered Guernseys, which also has improved the land. About 15 cows are being milked now and the herd average production of butterfat is about 400 pounds a year. He sells through the Muskegon Producers Association.

In addition to dairying, raising peas and lima beans for the Fremont Canning Co. has been another big source of income. Mr. Lee signed for 14 acres of peas this year. He has raised as high as 23 acres of green lima beans.

Despite being a busy man, Mr. Lee has time for community activities. He has been on the local board of education for 10 years, is assistant superintendent of the North Casnovia Baptist Sunday School, a deacon of the church and a trustee. In soil conservation work, this is the third year he has served on the board. For recreation, he likes to visit his neighbors’ farms and see how their crops are thriving.

Mr. Lee approves of tractors on the dairy farm and likes his. He has only one team of horses left and maybe will trust entirely to mechanical power, he says. Assisting him the year around is one hired helper and during the summer he hires extra help as needed.


The Lee farm would produce a bumper crop in 1940 and Lawrence and Wilma Lee would finish 2nd in the full time farmer division of Muskegon County’s Farm-to-Prosper contest.

Later worked by the Lees, their daughter Alice and her husband Harold Allen, the farm seems to have prospered for the next decade or so, however the story comes to an abrupt and enigmatic end in the fall of 1963.

The Sept. 7, 1963 edition of The Muskegon Chronicle notes that, “Household goods and furniture will be auctioned at a later date just before the Lees and Allens leave, probably in October, for new homes in Southern California.”

The farm’s equipment, livestock and produce had already been auctioned off.

The reason for the auction and their departure is never mentioned. However, data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture may provide some clues. As prosperous as 1940 was for the Lees, it came at the beginning of the end for mid-sized family farms like their 160-acre spread. According to the USDA the number of farms with 50-499 acres declined from 3.9 million in 1935 continuously to about 1 million farms in 1997. The total number of farms declined dramatically as well, from 7 million in 1935 to 1.9 million by 1997. Although the number of acres in cultivation remained roughly constant, the size of the average farm has mushroomed from about 150 acres to over 500. Close to 20 percent of Americans were farmers in 1940. In 2010 farmers made up less the 5 percent of the workforce.

In 1963 The Chronicle described the Lees and Allens as, “Leaders in church, school and community affairs. Hard working, industrious and dependable citizens. Good neighbors. The kind of friendly folks who make America great.”

For Lawrence, then 69, Wilma, 70, and their daughter Alice Allen, 44, the auction must have seemed a sad sendoff from the land they’d almost always called home. “The Lees and Allens are still vigorous and active and they will continue to serve in any community in which they may locate,” The Chronicle said. “The best wishes of their many friends go with them to their new homes.”

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Medina County Home and Garden Show brings a touch of spring

Hundreds flocked to the Medina County Community Center on Saturday and Sunday for a taste of spring.

The Medina County Home and Garden Show opened Saturday with about 135 vendors — from kitchen designers to landscapers, crafters and farmers — filling the Medina County Community Center.

Upon walking into the center, people heard live piano playing by Duane Carlson of Fairlawn, and saw an array of spring flowers, plants and trees as part of a large landscaping display designed by Mike Biskup, of Medina.

Biskup runs Greenkeepers Lawn Service and Landscaping out of Medina and has been designing the landscape display for the show for the past 14 years, he said.

“All you see is snow all winter,” he said. “Even if they see snow outside today, they can still think spring when they come in here.”

Biskup said some people come to the show with a purpose or a home project in mind, while others come in to get out of their house and into the spring spirit.

That’s why Linda Pelka, of Medina, went Saturday with her 3-year-old granddaughter, Avery James.

“We wanted to get some landscaping ideas,” she said. “Then you look outside and it’s snowing.”

Lisa Bertok, of Brunswick, said she goes to the show every year, and since it was snowing Saturday, she “just had to get out of the house.”

The show this year was also good for business.

Jesse Howell, yard manager for Smith Brothers Inc., a mulch production company in Medina, said the show brought in “a lot of new customers.”

His co-worker, Patty Andrie, a sales associate, said the Medina County Home and Garden Show is one of the best shows they go to in Northeast Ohio. It is “more centralized to our customers because it’s right in our backyard,” she said.

Fred Haun, owner of Deck Creator in North Royalton, was showcasing grills. He said his company, which specializes in decks, gazebos, patios and fire pits, has participated in the show a few years in a row.

“This show’s been very good for us,” he said. “You just never know what the weather’s going to be like or what people are coming in for.”

After the show ended Sunday, coordinator Linda Loveless said about two-thirds of the display plants and flowers were sold and between 70 and 80 plants and flowers, in addition to three birch trees and a crabapple tree, were donated to Medina Creative Housing, a nonprofit that provides housing and services for people with disabilities in the county.

Contact reporter Katie Anderson at (330) 721-4012 or

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‘Road diets’ and reverse angle parking have fans and foes in Southwest Michigan

PAW PAW, MI – Road diet. That’s the term for the trending practice of reducing lanes of traffic through small towns, adding landscaping features, bike lanes, or angle parking in an attempt to get drivers to slow down.

Cities and villages are looking to road diets to help them balance the needs of motorists with those of bicyclists and pedestrians. In Southwest Michigan, South Haven just completed a project last fall, Paw Paw is wrapping up a pilot study, Otsego is about ready to launch its pilot, and Three Rivers is forming a task force to study the possibilities.

The hope is to create a safe, inviting environment for people to stop and shop downtown, and to slow cars enough to allow drivers to see what shopping options are available.

Some dieters unhappy in Paw Paw

Like any diet, the goals are lofty but the process can make folks grumpy.

“People used to driving through don’t like the road diet,” said Larry Nielsen, village manager in Paw Paw, which is trying a combination of traffic calming efforts on Michigan Avenue — the well-traveled Red Arrow Highway that dissects town.

What looks like “traffic calming” to pedestrians, cyclists or merchants sick of cars whizzing through downtown can seem like bottlenecks and delays to motorists. And reverse angle parking, a way to shoehorn in a few more parking spaces on the space saved by lane reductions, can generate complaints.

RELATED: Things to know about reverse angle parking

According to a memo from the Michigan Department of Transportation last March, reverse angle parking, which requires drivers to back into spaces, is the only type of angled parking allowed on state trunk lines (though parallel parking is still permissible). Nielsen said the Federal Highway Administration is considering similar restrictions.

Engineering studies show it is safer for drivers to back into an angled space, getting themselves and passengers out of their cars next to other parked cars instead of along a traffic lane with parallel parking spaces. Loading and unloading the trunk from a sidewalk instead of along a traffic lane is safer, too, Nielsen said. The promise of more street-front parking spaces than allowed by parallel parking has an allure for merchants.

But backing into a space can be a put-off for drivers not used to the maneuver, or for people driving behind them who aren’t prepared to leave room for a driver in front of them who is stopping to back up then park.

“The con side is emotion,” said Thad Beard, city manager of Otsego, where officials are planning a ‘road diet’ along M-89, the state highway that runs through downtown.

“It’s change and people don’t like it,” Beard said.

In Paw Paw, reverse angle parking is being tested along the north side of two blocks of Michigan Avenue at the center of downtown. Among people interviewed by the Kalamazoo Gazette last week, while one praised the ease of getting equipment out of his trunk and helping his wife safely exit their car, more common were outspoken Paw Paw merchants and shoppers who dislike it.

“It’s terrible. It’s terrible. It’s terrible,” Dane Bowers, Kevin Walden and Robert Bressey said in unison from the Grapevine Grill, where they were just paying their bill. “It backs up traffic like you can’t believe in this town,” Bressey said.

Sheree Knopp, assistant manager of Lori’s Hallmark Shop at 219 E. Michigan Ave., said the reverse angle parking has made customers unhappy. “It’s really hurt our business,” she said.

“Most of our customers are elderly and they tell me they are not even going to attempt back-in parking,” Knopp said. “They are circling around, circling around, trying to find a spot in back. We would like to see it changed back to the way it was before.”

As part of the pilot project begun in August 2014, parallel parking was replaced with angled spaces on the north side of the two blocks of Michigan Avenue affected. Parallel parking remains along the south side. Bicycle lanes were added between the parking spaces and traffic lanes on both sides of the street. Through traffic lanes were reduced from two lanes to one in each direction, while left turn lanes remain on both sides at the stoplight at Kalamazoo Street (M-40).

At the Paw Paw Village Council meeting March 23, officials plan to review the pilot efforts — bike lanes, reverse angle parking and the reduction of traffic lanes. In addition to an engineering report of traffic flow and parking behaviors, they will also consider feedback from Facebook and online surveys of residents and others traveling to or through the village.

Council members may decide to make the changes permanent, scrap them or tweak parts.

Council members had originally planned to assess things in July, but moved the timetable ahead to allow construction this summer, if needed, Nielsen said. The only work required for the pilot project was to paint temporary lines for traffic and bicycle lanes and parking spaces.

Numerous people who turned out for a village meeting in February complained about the reverse angle parking.

“It’s easy for merchants to say they want enhanced shopping downtown,” Nielsen said, “but the devil is in the details.”

Otsego, Three Rivers and South Haven

In April, Otsego will be considering a similar pilot project, which currently is expected to involve extending a turn lane east by seven blocks and might also include conversion of parallel parking to reverse angle parking along M-89 (Allegan Street), City Manager Thad Beard said.

The trial lane changes will be painted on the road surface, so they may be later changed or reversed.

“We have had two public forums, and one issue that has repeatedly come up is lack of a turn lane” from M-89 to side streets from Dix Street west to downtown, Beard said. In addition to the fear of being rear-ended as they turn left off of M-89, drivers complain of traffic stacking up.

The creation of a turn lane would reduce the number of traffic lanes east of downtown.

MDOT is requiring the city to improve the traffic signal at Farmer Street to include a pole with a button for pedestrians that extends the green light and allows more time to cross,” according to Beard.

Less certain is the prospect of replacing parallel parking with reverse angle parking, part of the original traffic calming proposal floated last month, Beard said. Although it offers safety benefits and 56 more parking spaces, the sentiment against it is strong, he said.

Otsego needs to determine what traffic changes it will adopt before MDOT starts road work on M-89 scheduled for the fall, Beard said.

In Three Rivers, Brian Persky, executive director of the Three Rivers DDA Main Street office, said officials there are “in the very, very early stages of research” on potential traffic calming measures for M-86 and M-60, the state trunklines through the St. Joseph County community.

Persky said they are watching Paw Paw and Otsego and that people from Three Rivers recently attended a public participation session in Otsego “to see what their plans were and how the public reacted.”

“We did toss out an idea of reverse angle parking between Portage and Michigan avenues,” Persky said. “I think that has been taken off the table. We saw what has happened in Paw Paw,” and the negative public reaction there.

Right now, the focus is on curb bump-outs, painted crosswalks, and possibly bike lanes, according to Persky. He said a task force is expected to study the options for six to eight months before making recommendations.

In South Haven, traffic calming measures on Phoenix Street were completed last summer under a $3.5 million project that included new sidewalks, rain gardens, new crosswalks and bumped out crossings at intersections to reduce the distances pedestrians must cross traffic, City Manager Brian Dissette said.

Although a preliminary plan called for conversion of parking in South Haven’s downtown, “it really didn’t get any traction here,” he said.

Meanwhile, some forward angle parking will remain, an option for South Haven because its state highways do not run through the downtown, Dissette said.

View full sizeTraffic calming efforts in downtown South Haven. 

MDOT in consulting role

Although state transportation officials are not initiating any of these downtown changes, MDOT spokesman Nick Schirripa said they are working with local and county officials to weigh in on proposed changes that may affect state roadways.

“Our role will be to hear what (municipalities) have to say and see if we have a role in moving forward,” he said.

“We may have a more involved role in Otsego, because clearly it will still be our trunkline to maintain,” Schirripa said of M-89.

“In order for us to agree to a road diet (involving a state trunkline), it has to go through a rigorous set of approvals” that consider such elements as intersection sight distance, traffic volumes at peak times, potential for a backups, and other issues that could raise a red flag, he said.

Traffic calming “is kind of new fad,” Schirripa said, “and we will probably see a spate of these happening nationwide, in smaller towns that want to slow traffic and create more safety and visual appeal to the downtown.

“As they try to bring that appeal back, we’ll get a better handle on where it works and where it doesn’t.”

MDOT, while open to new ideas, “won’t agree to anything that will jeopardize safety and efficient movement of traffic and people,” Schirripa said.

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Skunks Continue to Damage Yards, Cost Homeowners Hundreds


Some residents in Granite Bay say they are troubled by skunks ripping apart their lawns and gardens.

Vince Matranga lives in “The Residences,” a gated community across from the Granite Bay Golf Course. In the last year, he said he has had to spend more than $500 fixing his landscaping.

“That one there I had to replant. This one I had to replant because it was dug up considerably,” Matranga said, pointing at several shrubs. “You cans smell it inside the house, even if you have all the doors closed.”

He soon took matters into his own hands, placing spoonfuls of peanut butter in traps, and waiting.

“We just don’t know exactly where they are coming from, but we just want to stop this invasion of the skunks,” Matranga said.

Wildlife experts said young skunks tend to venture off this time of year, back to the place they were raised.

“You have a bunch of teenagers trying to make it on their own now with no apartment, no house to go to, because they were run out of the place, they were staying with mom,” Jeff Duke of Duke’s Wildlife Control said. “So they keep on coming to the same area.”

In the last year, the Matrangas have purchased six, three-pound tubs of peanut butter, specifically for skunk control. As a result, they have caught 14 skunks.

“The trappers for Placer County come and pick it up,” Matranga said. “I’m not sure what they do with them, I don’t want to know. I just want them out of my neighborhood.”

Experts said there is not much else he could do to deter the skunks, except to protect his property from all angles.

“If you have gardens, and you want to keep them out of your garden so they don’t eat all of your flowers or your veggies, fence it off,” Duke said. “And make sure all your vent screens are in place all the way around your house, so they can’t get in your house.”

If that does not work, Matranga said he has extra peanut butter on stand-by.

“If they keep coming to my house, they are as good as caught!” he said.

Matranga said Placer County Animal trappers will come to his home tomorrow to pick up the animal. Experts said most animals trapped in this manner will be put down.

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Consider native plants for this year’s garden

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Spring Fest and Garden Expo attendees get some gardening advice

 There was a vivid display of plants and garden accessories at the Coast Convention Center this weekend. 

As day two of the Spring Fest and Garden Extravaganza wrapped up, those with and without green thumbs learned how they can landscape their homes before spring.

“I love gardening, but I’m not good at it, but I love flowers,” said Jackie Ballard.

For those who were new to gardening, or just didn’t have much luck in the past, there were workshops and nursery experts there to give some advice.

“We learned a lot about not killing any. During the winter it can still die out, but it will come back to life. So anything that’s dead, it can come back to life,” said Ballard.

One of those experts was Horticulturist Dr. Gary Bachman, who offers weekly gardening tips on his television segment called Southern Gardening. Bachman says now is the perfect time to start preparing for that spring garden.

“As soon as we get past these last few cold days, we’ll be able to get out into the garden and start putting some of our nice flowering plants out, and start enjoying the outside rather than being inside,” said Bachman.

Some folks, like the Wisnewski clan, say they attend every year to keep their yard looking the best they can.

“It’s like putting up Christmas lights. You know, you want to make your house a little better, and then you got the whole neighborhood doing it,” said Wisnewski.

Some of the youngest attendees agreed that gardening is for everyone.

“I really like colors like the azaleas. I just like tropical colors,” said Camille.

This year’s expo featured more than 150 vendors.

Copyright 2015 WLOX. All rights reserved.

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Local Garden Expert Gives Texomans Spring Preparation Tips

With spring right around the corner how soon is too soon to start preparing your garden?

Planting experts say Texomans will have to wait to plant tomatoes, peppers, and some annual plants that are considered to be delicate.

But they say that there are many things that can be planted right now, those include green, leafy vegetables and perennials, which are plants
that live more than two years and are able to withstand the drought.

“The perennials are your best bet right now, when we have water restrictions because, they don’t have to have a lot of water just get them watered
occasionally, with your rain water or your bath water and they’ll do just fine”, says Katherine Smith owner of Smiths Garden Town.

With the recent winter weather mix, Smith says the soil is wet so it’s a great time for seasoned and new gardeners to dig in their soil.

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Spring gardening tips from ‘Garden World’ in Abilene

ABILENE, Texas –

With the clocks ahead one hour, it’s officially spring time.

With the change of seasons, there are many things you can do to take care of your lawn.

Todd Hooper of Garden World says watering is still important and when you cut your grass, make sure not to cut it too short; just above six inches is good.

“One of the most important things we are telling people is to really take care of the weed problem,” said Hooper. “We’ve had a number of cold winter weeds come up already, you need to get them out of your yard and then put a good pre-emergent down to keep them from coming up.”

Hooper also says it’s important to prune your plants and use a mower to mulch those leaves into your yard.

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