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Archives for October 16, 2015

Council Forum: Candidates talk politics, personal agendas

Wire Whisks and Wooden Spoons

You’ll find easy weekly menu ideas, recipes, craft ideas, random thoughts – and you never know what else!

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Officials formulate vision, plan for future of city

When Greenwood created a downtown revitalization plan it included a range of specific properties and goals that gave city officials a vision for the future.

Now, the city is beginning to take the first steps toward turning those ideas into detailed plans.

The next step for Greenwood’s plan to revive downtown will be taking concepts and designs from paper and turning them into specific construction projects, prioritizing which should be completed first. With each construction plan would come a cost estimate.

Greenwood is hiring Rundell Ernstberger, a consulting firm based in Indianapolis, to review the city’s downtown development plan. The development plan highlighted 12 points of emphasis, or goals, that the city wanted to focus on when it begins to restore and revamp downtown.

The firm will look at Greenwood’s downtown revitalization plan and create project ideas for key areas, or “signature spaces,” that the city has highlighted with having the most potential for desired development.

Rundell Ernstberger is going to come up with construction plans, cost estimates and when the work would should be done, consultant Chuck Cagann said.

The Greenwood Redevelopment Commission voted 4-0 to hire the firm for $42,500 for the four-month study that will replace ideas with detailed plans and direction. The commission is managing the project because the downtown falls in a tax-increment financing, or TIF, district.

When the plan is complete, the redevelopment commission can examine the projects and decide how to proceed, Greenwood Project Assistant Kevin Steinmetz said.

The city has the foundation of its revitalization already in progress, board member Mike Tapp said.

A $1.1 million project to restore 22 façades, or store fronts, in downtown Greenwood will begin after contractors are hired in November. That project will take 12 to 18 months once it begins. The façade project was lead by the Restore Old Towne Greenwood group that is heading a movement to revive downtown.

“The restore Old Towne group has been a force, but it’s not just façades,” Tapp said. “We talk about revitalizing downtown, but I think we can all agree there’s not really a downtown Greenwood. We need to do anything we can to attract residents and businesses to be downtown.”

Since the city council approved the 12-point concept plan, Greenwood schools has decided to build a new middle school, leaving the aged middle school on Madison Avenue available for the city to buy. That project — and future uses of the property — will be added to the construction plan.

Another shift is in what area should be considered part of the downtown. A key element to a successful downtown plan is having a green civic core, Steinmetz said, which would be Craig Park for Greenwood. The park hosts WAMM Fest and the annual Fourth of July festival and should be included in all downtown revitalization plans, Steinmetz said.

Within the city’s area of concentration that defines downtown Greenwood, the firm will find the locations that have the most potential, according to the city’s revitalization plan.

One of those key areas: the city center parking lot at the intersection of Main Street and Madison Avenue.

The plan is to have a mixed use development of commercial and residential use, placing apartments above shops and restaurants with parking included. And next to it will be a central public gathering place that could serve as a new location for the farmer’s market.

And the plan is to make Main Street and Madison Avenue the signature intersection in the heart of downtown Greenwood.

City officials want to see decorative street signs and lighting, accompanied by trees lining the streets, along widened sidewalks that make downtown a safe and easily accessible destination for residents on foot. In between buildings and along trails at the old city park will be “pocket parks,” or small courtyards with benches and art sculptures.

“We have always talked about walkability downtown with wider sidewalks and connecting trails,” Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers said. “Improvements to downtown will allow us to bring a lot of that together.”

When residents and visitors drive into the downtown area, the idea is to have decorative landscaping, or structures and signs, that welcome them.

Improving the traffic flow downtown has been one of the main priorities on the city’s list of projects and potential plans, Myers said.

The redevelopment commission also approved spending $68,685 on a traffic study in downtown Greenwood. A consultant will do an in-depth study of downtown traffic, from Smith Valley Road and U.S. 31 to Washington and Broadway streets.

Possible roundabouts, one-way streets and areas where turn lanes could be added are all going to be reviewed as possible improvements when the city receives the data from the study in about seven months.

And what the city plans to do with its streets and roads around downtown will determine who they can bring in to develop the area, Myers said.

“We’ll have to figure out a traffic plan to use. We need to work on roads to prove to developers and the businesses we are going to work on traffic issues so it will flow better. It will show local residents and business owners that the city is truly involved in revitalizing downtown,” he said.

And with wider sidewalks lining improved roads, the city wants commercial buildings along the street, such as retail or restaurants, to have an outdoor presence for pedestrians and motorists passing by.

Ideas include restaurant seating outside on the sidewalk and retail shops that use the extra room to draw in people passing by.

After the study is done and the proposed plans are created, two of the biggest factors in turning the ideas into actual construction projects are who the city partners with to develop downtown and how much it’s going to cost, Myers said.

“We’ll have to do a public partnership with a developer or two that is interested in new residential and commercial buildings for our downtown area,” Myers said. “We have to find a developer willing to come in and bring businesses downtown. It’s going to be a really exciting time to see our downtown taking off.”

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Looking at a home through an interior designer’s lens



As soon as the front door opens, an oversized brown teddy bear of a dog barrels out, ready to greet visitors with a slobbery kisses.

From the exterior, the elegant house situated along the shore of the Long Island Sound with a long pebble driveway, perfectly manicured landscaping and shiny cars out front doesn’t seem like a home for rambunctious pets— let alone four children.

But bike tucked inside an archway leading to the back yard and the furry butler indicate otherwise.

Inside, the entryway is adorned with a large white table with tree-like legs, obscure sculptures and abstract paintings. The hallway opens to a spacious living room with recently installed floor-to-ceiling windows offering magnificent views of the pristine green lawn that stretches to the glittering blue water dotted with sailboats.

The glass wall is lined with nearly 40 feet of cushioned benches covered in reclaimed denim, because according to the home’s designer, things get better with wear and tear.

A silver alligator pokes out from under one of the couches, oversized books and eclectic figures decorate the coffee table, a neon light hangs on one wall while another is a sliding door made entirely of bronze. A bulbous chandelier reminiscent of a solar system model hangs from the ceiling in the kitchen. Four chairs facing the waterfront have a name for each child subtly embroidered onto their seatbacks.

Every detail from the handles on the hall closet to the perfect off center placement of the television is clearly intentional, yet the home is warm and welcoming with every detail tied carefully together. Even the wire light adorned with fake rats seems to work.

It is the home of a professional interior designer, after all.

“My home is inspired by the light and the history and my big family,” said Kristin Fine. “This is where I get to experiment with my most ‘out there’ ideas.”

Fine, a Greenwich native who started her design company Fine Concepts in 2012, is part of the growing $69 billion interior design industry. Her current project is a Greenwich mid-country estate where she is designing every room in the home, a feat not unusual for the design maven.

“Doing my home is how it started … one day I had a meeting at my home with some people I didn’t know and one woman approached me and asked me to do her home. I told her no.”

After months of persuasion, Fine finally agreed to take on the project — an entire home including construction. After that, Fine Concepts was born, and in the process Fine decided to reimagine the hourly structure that has made up the interior design industry.

Instead of charging clients by the hour, Fine tells clients the price she paid for items and labor for her projects and charges them a straight percentage markup on the project. Additionally, she has no employees and only takes on one or two projects per year.

“I make a point to be transparent and I’m insanely organized,” Fine said. “If people are hiring me, they will get me.”

A growing field

Employment of interior designers is growing as the industry focuses increasingly on helping clients create spaces with an eye toward environmental friendliness or greater accessibility, among other unique needs. These specialized design services firms are projected to grow 20 percent from 2012 to 2022, according to the American Society of Interior Designers, and those companies will turn to all kinds of designers and related professionals to achieve success.

In Greenwich, the interior design sector runs the gamut from specialized product stores to full-scale design firms to individuals who, like Fine, have started their own businesses. More than 20 interior design-related businesses are listed in the Greenwich Chamber of Commerce directory.

Fine, like many emerging designers, is self-taught, relying mostly on instincts and a knack for finding pieces that somehow work well together. Her style, she said, blends art and livability in order to create spaces that reflect her clients through her own love of design.

“It’s different every single time,” Fine said. “It should feel like my client’s interpretation of who they are and how they want to live.”

Fine, though innovative, isn’t entirely alone in her approach to design. According to the American Society of Interior Designers, the industry as a whole is evolving — incorporating more of society into the walls of people’s homes. Interior design is beginning to play an expanding role in addressing critical environmental and societal challenges in such areas as aging, wellness and health care, education and urbanization, according to a study by ASID.

“There is no doubt that uncertainty in the financial markets and shifting socio-economics will continue to have implications for the interior design industry,” said Randy Fiser, executive vice president and CEO for ASID. “However, from the types of buildings people will need, to the types of services they will seek, there are boundless opportunities for designers who recognize these changes, adapt and plan for the future.”

A look inside Fine’s Darien home gives a sense of the artistry that goes into planning design.

To be clear, her home is for sale … kind of. It’s on the market for $26 million in case Fine and her family find the right buyer, and if they do they’ll move on to the next adventure.

But because there’s no deadline or absolute need to sell the home, it’s not staged as a ‘normal’ home. The walls in Fine’s bedroom are painted black, the ceiling a reflective silver. It sounds like it would be cave-like, but instead the room is cozy and draws attention to the spectacular views of the sound. Just one more example of the more ‘extreme’ design concepts Fine has tried in her own home.

Every risk Fine has taken will be left intact while the home is listed for sale through Halstead Properties.

“It’s going to take someone unique … it’ll take finding the right person,” Fine said. “But that’s OK.”; 203-625-4411; Twitter: @kaitlynkrasselt

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Keyhole gardens: a drought-friendly twist on raised beds

Americans whose gardens have been toasted by prolonged drought might consider a landscaping concept from Africa. It’s called keyhole gardening, and some believe it’s the ultimate in raised-bed design — a sustainable combination of composting and planting.

Keyhole gardens are small — typically no more than 3 feet high and 6 feet in diameter — and look like keyhole assemblies in doors when viewed from above. From the side, they can resemble a tall earthen pie with a giant slice taken out.

They don’t need fertilizer, use 80 percent less water than the normal backyard patch, tolerate hot climates and are easier to tend because they’re at waist level. No bending or kneeling required.

Keyhole gardening was pioneered in Africa and became popular there again recently through initiatives by humanitarian aid groups.

A keyhole garden’s primary asset is drought tolerance, although it also works in temperate climates, said Eddie DeJong, co-founder and head of business development and design for Vita Gardens in Sarnia, Ontario. The company makes keyhole garden kits.

The gardens get their nourishment from compost and water poured down an open-ended tube in the middle of the garden bed.

“The central composting basket is the key to making this an effective gardening solution,” he said.

“After the garden has been established, it should be watered primarily through the compost basket and less and less around the bed itself,” DeJong said. “This trains the vegetables to grow deep roots down to where the moisture and the nutrients are.

“Furthermore, if the garden is layered as intended, local yard waste like grass clippings, palm fronds and other materials are converted into rich soil, making the entire bed a composting nutrient factory.”

Keyhole gardens are cheap and simple to assemble. African children often build them in schoolyards or for their families.

Structural components include native and recycled materials as straw bales or bricks. “We don’t use waste lumber because it rots down too easily,” said Rose Marie Nichols McGee, president and owner of Nichols Garden Nursery in Albany, Oregon. “Tractor tires are an uncertainty because they may contain toxins.”

Some commercial kits offer a more tailored look for use on patios and decks.

DeJong said his company is working on lighter, more compact sizes for keyhole gardens, and “aluminum and composites for a modern urban look.”

Keyhole gardens have proved to be more productive for McGee than regular raised beds.

“This is particularly true of tomatoes, peppers, beets and carrots,” she said. “Some of this is probably due to the hundreds of worms the keyhole garden promotes, and an abundance of worm castings is one of the best fertilizers and soil conditioners.”

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Neil Sperry: Purple plays well with others in the garden

There was a time in my much younger years that I would have been amazed that I could ever develop an intense fondness for the color purple in landscaping. Oh, it was another shade I sought in my iris and daylilies, and there were several other summertime annuals that shared the same spectrum. But I gave it no more consideration than I gave to any other color around me.

The older I’ve gotten, however, the more I’ve learned to appreciate purple as a landscaping color. It’s universally harmonious. You’ll rarely see shades of purple in conflict with other colors nearby. Think about how well purple crape myrtles work with other crape myrtles’ colors. Give me a purple crape myrtle like varieties ‘Twilight’ or ‘Catawba’ any old time.

As a landscape color, purple is universally harmonious. You’ll rarely see shades of purple in conflict with other colors nearby.

But we don’t think of purple as a typical fall color. Fall is usually reserved for red, orange, yellow, burgundy and everything in-between. Yet there are some absolutely riveting purples in autumn, and I thought we might look just a little bit deeper.

Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha)

More than 40 years ago, a friend gave me a few slides he had taken in North Texas landscapes. One of the flowers he included turned out to be one of my all-time favorites. Mexican bush sage was hardly known at that time (including by me), but about 25 or 30 years ago it kicked in as a superior and popular fall-blooming perennial.

The original species grows to 3 to 4 feet tall unless you shear it by one-third in late May and perhaps again later in summer. Those quick shearings, however, really pay off. The plants stay much more full and compact, and they display their showy purple and white flower spikes quite proudly. Bees and migrating monarch butterflies love them.

Several varieties are available. ‘Santa Barbara’ grows to 30 inches tall. There is also a dwarf purple selection, although to my eye it seems to lack interest without the contrast of the white flower parts.

Fall aster

If she lived here in Texas, your great-grandmother probably grew this venerable beauty. And that’s where it stayed for 30 or 40 years — in our foremothers’ gardens, but rarely in nurseries. Now it’s fairly commonly sold in 1-gallon pots in spring and fall. This is one little plant you don’t want to grow around without.

The smaller flowering chrysanthemums are reliable performers in the landscape, and if you nurture them along year after year, they’re superior plants for the fall — with rich shades of purple widely available.

As a group, asters typically don’t do well in our Texas climate. This one, however, is drought- and heat-tolerant, and it grows vigorously in sun or part shade. As with the bush sage, it benefits from one shearing in May, just to keep the plants more compact. However, you’ll need to know what it looks like or you might miss it entirely.

Fall asters’ leaves are quite small, and the plant is almost inconspicuous until it bursts into flower each October. This one is also a bee and butterfly magnet.

Purple chrysanthemums

We don’t see mums as conspicuously in North Texas landscapes as we once did, which probably means they’re about to stage a big comeback. The smaller-flowering “garden mum” types are your best choices for reliable landscape performance. The plants tend to stay shorter and they also produce far more flowers. However, potted florist mums can be planted into the landscape and encouraged to stay short by late spring pinching.

Whether you buy mums in large nursery containers and just use them for seasonal color, or if you nurture them along year after year, they’re superior plants for the fall, and rich shades of purple are widely available.


OK. It’s not a flower, and fall isn’t the only time that it shines. But if you put purpleheart vines in front of any of the plants we’ve just discussed, you’re going to have a knockout of glorious purples.

This plant is a relative of wandering Jew. You can see that in its stems and leaves, but you can really see it when it produces its rather ordinary boat-shaped flowers. However, unlike those tropical cousins, purpleheart is reliably winter-hardy in North Texas landscapes. If you don’t mind the fact that it freezes to the ground in the winter, purpleheart is a great perennial ground cover for our area.

Purple fountaingrass

Grown as an annual in North Texas, this is winter-hardy only in the southern half of our state. However, it’s so widely available and so quick to establish that you really do want to include it with each year’s summertime plantings. That way it can be here in fall as the companion to all the other purples we’ve just set into your cart.

Neil Sperry publishes Gardens magazine and hosts “Texas Gardening” from 8 to 10 a.m. Sundays on WBAP/820 AM. Reach him during those hours at 800-288-9227. Online:

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On Gardening: Concept builds housing around a working farm

I never expected to be impressed by a housing development in the San Jose area, but late in September, Santa Clara launched an extraordinary project that City Council member Lisa Gilmor said is “the first of its kind for Santa Clara. I don’t think we’ve done anything like this in the past.”

The council selected a developer, The Core Companies, to lead master planning and development of a 6-acre site on Winchester Boulevard, near the Valley Fair and Santana Row shopping centers.

The project concept combines housing with several familiar elements: a small organic farm, community gardens, a children’s garden, California native plant edible landscaping, roof gardens, solar energy production, a farmers market, a rainwater garden, an outdoor kitchen and much more.

Overall, the project qualifies as an “agrihood,” a newer idea that focuses residential housing on a working farm, rather than a pool, tennis court or golf course. An agrihood also engages residents in creating a sustainable food system for the entire community.

This concept could be appealing to people of all ages, but the United States has only a short list of existing agrihoods. The Santa Clara project appears to be the only agrihood in an intensely urban environment, and an exceptional showcase of several ideas in sustainable gardening.

Santa Clara selected this project among eight competing proposals because of its creativity, vigorous community support and the history of the site, which had been part of an agricultural research station operated by the University of California beginning in the late 1950s.

A visionary neighbor, Kirk Vartan, galvanized community support for this project. He found a creative and knowledgeable ally in Alrie Middlebrook, a landscape designer and leader of the California Native Garden Foundation, a nonprofit group that demonstrates innovative gardening ideas and supports the development of school gardens. Middlebrook’s ideas are evident in the rich array of gardens in this agrihood, which has been called the Core/CNGF project.

The California Native Garden Foundation will be involved in managing the project’s urban agriculture open space. (Full disclosure: as a longtime member of the CNGF’s board of directors, I have had opportunities to monitor this project’s development during the past several months and had a very limited role in its creation. The CNGF board’s primary role is to review schools’ applications for the planning and development of learning gardens.)

Agrihoods could become the evolutionary next step beyond community gardens and community-supported agriculture. Through this project in nearby Santa Clara, we can see the leading edge of innovative strategies for relating research-based gardening and community relationships.

Tom Karwin is president of the Friends of the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum and a Lifetime UC Master Gardener (Certified 1999-2009). Visit

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Tips for fall gardening from Nevada County Master Gardeners

With lovely warm days and cool nights our gardening season is extended with expectations for rain to come.

The fall is an optimum time to plant perennials, wild flower seeds and bulbs. This is a good time to think ahead about spring color, and prepare garden beds for planting.

Native plants are plentiful as was demonstrated at the California Native Plant Society’s fall plant sale where dozens of varieties of native plants were available. Once established, native plants make our gardening jobs easier.

According to the Master Gardener’s Western Nevada County Garden Guide, native plants are adapted to our climate and require less work. Although still susceptible to deer damage, natives may be better suited to handle deer grazing than other non-native ornamentals. Once well-established, native plants need very little water during the dry summer months, but newly planted shrubs must have supplemental water in order to survive. It may take even the most drought tolerant plant many years before it’s able to fend for itself. Some wonderful native perennials include Penstemon, Monkey flower bush (Mimulus bifidus) California lilac (Ceanothus spp.) and Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus) with pure white berries in winter.

• Plant cool season vegetables such as spinach, peas, chives and onions. Divide garlic bulbs which are readily available at local nurseries and plant in rich well drained soil.

• Plant cool season annual flowers such as calendula, Iceland poppies (Papaver spp.), pansies (Viola spp.) snapdragons (Antirrhinum spp.) or stock (Matthiola spp.) to create a colorful display during winter months before bulbs emerge.

• Clean up dry annuals and vegetables. Remove old fruit and debris from under trees, and compost pest-free debris from the garden. Chop and layer dry corn stalks in rows for mulch over the winter. Cut old perennials almost to the ground and work compost, fir bark, rice hulls or wood chips into the soil.

• Check to see if growing conditions for your plants have changed — they may now have too much shade, sun or competition from other plants. Divide and replant perennials that are not doing well.

• Plant winter cover crops to add nutrients to the soil; add mulch to beds to help suppress next season’s weeds.

• Bulbs are an excellent choice for spring color around native oaks. Add soft rock phosphate to the bottom of the planting hole. For immediate availability superphosphate may be added to the soil surface. Water until rains begin.

• Attend the final Master Gardener workshop of 2015, Oct. 31 — “It’s OK, Prune Away” which will offer techniques for pruning the backyard orchard including many types of fruit trees, except olives. The workshop is free of charge and will be held at the Grass Valley Elks lodge, lower level at 109 S. School St. from 10 a.m. to noon.

After the class, participants are invited to drive to the Master Gardener’s Demonstration Garden at the NID complex (1036 W. Main St.) to view various pruning techniques used in the orchard. For more information, see the Master Gardener website at

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Simple tips to get your garden ready for Halloween

OKLAHOMA CITY – It’s October, which means Halloween is just around the corner.

When it comes to making your home ‘holiday ready,’ many people focus on what it looks like once you step inside the house.

However, Halloween is a little bit different.

Gardening guru Linda Vater has a colorful and simple way to make your garden and yard spooky and spectacular, just in time for those trick-or-treaters.

Check out Linda’s gardening pictures, ideas, and recipes on her blog!

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Garden Tips: Science behind how compost pile decomposes

To be a successful backyard composter, I think it is important to learn a little of the science behind composting, not just the basics of how to make a compost pile.

Decomposition is Mother Nature’s way of recycling. Without it, we would be buried in dead plant and animal matter. Technically, decomposition is the process by which organic materials, plant and animal, are broken into simpler compounds. A variety of decomposer organisms carry out the process by feeding on dead organic matter.

The most important primary decomposers are bacteria. They are the workhorses of a compost pile and predominate it early in the process. Their feeding helps break organic matter into compounds that other organisms can feed upon. As the bacteria feed and multiply, they use the carbon in the organic matter for creating new cells. With their feeding and multiplication, energy is released in the form of heat. This results in the compost pile heating up.

There are millions of bacteria in the world, so it is no surprise that there are different bacteria at work in a compost pile. The bacteria that get to work first are referred to as psychrophilic bacteria, working best at temperatures of 55 degrees. As these bacteria do their beginning work, the pile starts to heat up. When the temperature gets to about 70 degrees, mesophilic bacteria take over. The pile temperature continues to increase ,and thermophilic bacteria start to dominate once the pile temperature goes above 90 degrees. At temperatures above 160 degrees, all the bacteria start to die because it is too hot.

Other primary decomposers are invertebrate organisms, like millepedes, sow bugs and millepedes. They help speed the decay process by tearing the materials into smaller pieces with their feeding. This exposes more surfaces for the bacteria and other decay microorganisms, such as fungi and actinomycetes, to do work.

Primary decomposers are eaten by other organisms, such as springtails, mites and beetles. These secondary organisms are then eaten by a third level of larger consumers, including ground beetles, centipedes and ants.

When finished, a properly managed compost pile yields a dark, fairly stable mix of complex organic compounds. Quality compost is a dark, uniform crumbly material with no sticks, twigs or other distinguishable materials. When added to your garden soil, compost makes the soil more productive by improving soil structure, adding nutrients and increasing nutrient retention. Some refer to it as black gold because it is a valuable component of healthy soil.

The fall composting and waste reduction workshop will be from 9:30 a.m. to noon Oct. 31 in the conference room of the Mid-Columbia Library at 1620 S. Union Street in Kennewick. A discussion on recycling, burning laws, household hazardous waste disposal and litter laws will be followed with a program about composting yard and kitchen waste. Participants will receive a composting bin and softbound book. The program is free, but seats are limited. Preregister by calling 735-3551.

Marianne C. Ophardt is a horticulturist for Washington State University Benton County Extension.

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Burger King goes nostalgic with ’20/20 Garden Grill’ UK store design

Set to bolster the flame-grilling traditions of the brand, the ‘20/20 Garden Grill’ restaurant design is constructed from natural copper, brick, reclaimed wood and bamboo.

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