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Archives for December 29, 2015

Why Are Flowers Blooming In Winter? The Unseasonably Warm Weather Has Brought …

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Permaculture group learning to work as a team, share knowledge

Permaculture and Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association were conceived during the time of peak oil production in the United States, the Vietnam War, burgeoning environmental awareness and knowledge that our processed foods contain pesticides, and few vital nutrients.

MOFGA, which began in 1971, is the largest and oldest state organic association in our country. Permaculture, which began in Australia in 1974, combines the best of natural landscaping and edible landscaping. The Resilience Hub and Portland Permaculture began in 2005 and now has more than 2,000 subscribers, making it the fourth-largest permaculture group out of 618 worldwide groups.


It can’t be coincidence that permaculture flourishes in a state nourished by MOFGA’s persistence in promoting awareness and advocacy about the connection between healthy foods and environmentally sound farming practices.

“It’s not like we know what we’re doing.” You might be surprised to hear that from recent graduates of a Permaculture Design Certificates class. Some of us have been using organic methods to grow vegetables for almost a decade and, yet, working as a group puts a novel emphasis on how to accomplish our tasks.

Three Rivers Permaculture is at the beginning stages of building trust with each other by sharing information and experiences about how to grow local food. We’re working out a common identity. Eventually, we’ll be able to develop shared work projects for our community based on resilient relationships among our members.

What’s behind our desire to come together as a group and work through such challenging tasks? We’re scared. We are afraid the world of today is disintegrating, and we aren’t content to sit back and watch without trying to change it.

Members of Three Rivers know a great deal about organic growing techniques and food species, but not so much about working together as a team, working through consensus, and working out the interpersonal conflicts that arise as differences split decision making and choices. Our collective food-growing knowledge has gaps because we have not lived as farmers for most of our lives but rather as growers of natural foods with supermarkets to rescue us from our crop failures or from being totally self-reliant.

What comes to mind when someone says “food.” Fields of vegetables or aisles in a supermarket? Or worse yet, a paper-covered hamburger in a cardboard container with fries on the side? We’ve become disconnected from centuries of accumulated knowledge about how to harvest, preserve and cook in harmony with seasonal availability. We struggle as much as anyone with the inherent challenges of returning to local markets and home-grown produce.

Permaculture is about more than sustainable agriculture. It challenges us to transform our secular lifestyle, created by “human progress,” into a sacred relationship with Earth and each other. The changes created to make our lives “easier” — mechanical substitutions for manual labor, dependence on electricity, electronic gadgets and suburbs that require transportation in separate vehicles — have contributed to a rising sense of isolation and despair.

Permaculture asks us to build a different future to establish fellowship with each other, links with our neighborhoods and participation in determining local sources of food; to develop kinship with our land and our homes; to sit still to absorb the spirit of place (smell, sound, sight of wind, rain, soil, plants and animals, as well as cars, kids, airplanes); to establish a relationship with the outdoors. We live as part of nature, not separately, and our actions are in constant dialogue whether or not we are aware of it.

Permaculture adherents take the knife of “not knowing” between their teeth and say, “Let’s just do it.” Someday we will be the elders our children remember who taught them how to thrive in the face of adversity. We want to focus on local issues we can influence, local foods we can grow in our yards, organic methods to turn lawns into living soils with edible ornamentals or food crops, and expand local markets. We want to engage and encourage cooperative community-based gardens that lift and join our spirits and strengthen our connections with neighbors and friends.

Gale Davison holds a Permaculture Design Certificate and has been the team leader for Three Rivers Permaculture since asking Sustain Mid Maine Coalition to sponsor a permaculture group in January. Three Rivers can be found on Facebook groups under Sustain Mid Maine Permaculture or on SMMC’s website,





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Landscape water conservation – Alice Echo

Posted Dec. 28, 2015 at 4:59 PM
Updated Dec 28, 2015 at 5:00 PM

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Gardening Tips To Grow Carnations


Carnation or clove pink, called so because of the spicy clove-like fragrance it produces, is a species of Dianthus. The exact origins are hard to determine because of its extensive cultivation but it was somewhere in the Mediterranean region.It originally comes in bright pinkish-purple colours. But it has also been developed in other colours, including red, white, yellow and green. Carnations have one of the longest vase lives at nearly 3 weeks.Spring time is often associated with rebirth, rejuvenation, renewal, resurrection and regrowth. It is the apt time to sow carnation seeds. Keep the seeds at a cool place where the temperature is not more than 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit.Here are some gardening tips to grow carnations.

Gardening tips to grow carnations are:

1.Soil: The pot should be large enough to hold several carnations. The soil needs to be fast draining and slightly alkali at pH 6.75. Soil meant for cacti would work wonders.The seeds should be sown at a depth of 1/4″ to 1/8″ and the space between each seed should be around 12″. Cover it up with firm soil and mist spray to keep it moist. The germination should take around 3weeks.

2.Water: Carnations don’t require a whole lot of water. But during the summers, they need much more water than the usual.

3.Manures and fertilizers: First of all, refrain from using nitrogen-rich soil. Cow manure, which has completely rotted, is good for its growth. Peat is another excellent source of nutrition.

4.Insects and diseases: Rarely do carnations have any problem with insects or any other diseases. If and when they do occur, treat them early with necessary organic fertilisers or chemical fertilisers or fungicide, whichever is appropriate.

5.Mulchings: Mulching shouldn’t be done while carnations are still growing. But during the winter season, cut the carnations to around 8″ and apply mulch to help it survive the winter.

Stem tips can be cut from a healthy carnation plant. These cuttings, often ranging around 4″ – 6″, are sown in pure sand after cutting excess leaf nodes.Make sure the leaf which you leave don’t touch the sand. Cut off any leaf which does touch the surface of the sand. Moisten the soil every day and make sure it gets indirect sunlight. They are usually ready in a month’s time for transplantation.

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Agromin Gardening Tips: Early planting for hearty trees and vegetation in January

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Agromin Gardening Tips: Early planting for hearty trees and vegetation in JanuaryHome Garden

Weather forecasters are predicting a cooler, wetter January for southern California. This makes for ideal planting conditions for many types of tree, shrub and plant varieties, says Agromin, an Oxnard and Huntington Beach-based manufacturer of earth-friendly compost products made from organic material collected from more than 50 California cities.

Residents can obtain Agromin soil products in bulk or in bags at Rainbow Environmental Services (gate seven) in Huntington Beach and in bulk at South Coast Supply in Huntington Beach and Los Alamitos.

Buy Bare Root Fruit Trees:  January is the month to plant deciduous, bare root fruit trees. Because the trees are dormant, they are sold without soil—making them a low cost bargain this time of year. Available varieties include apple, apricot, cherry, peach and pear. Check with your local nursery for the trees that grow best in your area.

Plant Berries: Plant bare root berry vines such as raspberries, blackberries and boysenberries. These berries like cold weather. If planted now, they could provide a crop this summer. Plant two to three feet apart. Consider adding a trellis now to support the vines as they grow. Keep the new plantings well watered. Hopefully, an abundance of rain will do the watering for you.

Prune Roses: Roses should be pruned in January through February. This encourages the trees to go into full dormancy. It also enables gardeners to remove “runners” and to shape the rose tree or bush. Pruning also encourages growth in spring. When pruning, remove all dead and older branches and any stems growing sideways. You will want to prune so the stems do not rub each other (which can cause stem breakage and even disease). Keep the middle of the bush open, forcing the stems to grow up and out.

Extend Life of Annuals: Pinch dead blooms on annuals such as pansies and violas so the plants will keep looking fresh longer and encourage new growth. There is still time to plant these winter annuals along with primrose, snapdragon, violas and even ornamental cabbage and kale.

Recycle Cut Christmas Trees: Agromin will recycle between 50,000 and 60,000 Christmas trees this holiday season. The trees are cleaned of any tinsel and ornaments, chopped and then laid out in giant composting rows, eventually finding their way to farms and into consumer and commercial products in the form of mulch. In as little as 60 days, trees go from being the center of holiday festivities to mulch used on farmland, roadside landscapes and in backyard gardens. 

Plant Quick-Growing Vegetables: Lettuce, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, spinach, opinion, potatoes and beets all grow well in winter

Start Summer Vegetable Seeds Indoors: For those who can’t wait to start on their spring gardens, cultivate vegetable plants from seeds indoors in January. Tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, basil and other herbs all can begin growing this way. Once established, plant the seedlings outside after the chance of below freezing temperatures has past.

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Hone green fingers this holiday season with these garden tips

Addressing members of the Randburg Horticultural Society during their festive end-of-year meeting, Wallington stressed the top three needs of any garden are water, good soil and maintenance.

“Irrigation systems may spoil the therapeutic effects of watering by hand, but it’s money well spent when it comes to managing water. Water at night at about 8pm. Cut watering back to every third day but water for longer to encourage deep root growth,” said Wallington. She also advised the capacity gathering not to leave any soil visible.

“Mulch, mulch, mulch with anything you can find. Pine needles for acid-loving plants, shredded newspaper, leaves, well-soaked cardboard, lawn clippings – anything you can think of. That crucial top six inches of soil must be kept moist so bacteria can grow and not be cooked to death,” she stressed.

In fact, plants themselves have already warned the observant of a dry season ahead. “Along William Nicol Drive, the sieberianas have produced a fortune of flowers and seeds to keep the species going. Jacarandas have had a brilliant season with no rain and hail to shred the proliferation of blossoms. And did you know there are 49 species of Jacaranda and Joburg now has more than Pretoria where they were introduced in 1888?” added Wallington.

Here are some tips for avid northern suburbs gardeners who, over the years, have created the biggest man-made forest in the world:

  • Do not to buy plants on impulse
  • Do not shop for plants with your spouse – he will want a thorn tree, she a rose! Rather create His and Hers gardens
  • Go to the nursery with a notebook and no credit card. Note down the plants you like for different situations. Go home, plan and then buy only what you really need
  • To get rid of weeds in your driveway mix vinegar with boiling water and pour it over them
  • You can grow tomatoes from cuttings
  • You don’t need to buy hormone powders to dip cuttings into, ordinary turmeric works very well – also cinnamon and honey
  • Rose cuttings grow brilliantly in potatoes
  • Chillies, onions and garlic, cooked, blended and strained into a bottle is a good formula to get rid of a variety of pests
  • Borax for ants works. For ants around the house cut three raw onions into a gallon of water and leave in the sun for three days. Strain and pour the liquid around the walls of the house. Ants also don’t like talcum powder
  • Mangoes and avocados grow well in pots. Nip and prune like bonsai. Feed and water well – always from the drier outside rim inwards
  • Get rid of slugs with ½ ammonia to 10 parts of water. Water the ground around and on bottom leaves
  • Snails and slugs don’t like broken up eggshells and coffee grounds. Snails love beer so a tilted yoghurt cup, filled and set into the ground invites them to a happy death by drowning
  • Never leave snail shells lying around. Bin them, as thousands of eggs are stored inside them
  • Neat meths zaps a lot of stuff but don’t spray on ferns or delicate plants.

“Remember boere recipes are natural so you have to repeat treatments regularly,” said Wallington.

“It’s also important to teach your children to plant seeds and enjoy gardening. When young, my sons didn’t want to know about gardening. Something got through, though. In adulthood, one has created a tropical garden paradise, the other, a garden in England as beautiful as only English gardens can be,” said Wallington.

Elvira Holtz of Blairgowrie learns some gardening tips.In festive spirit for the Christmas season – Lesley English, Maureen Hunt and Bobbi Jackson.Brenda Butler attends the festive year-end meeting of the Randburg Horticultural Society.

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Leicestershire garden designers on hiring spree

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A landscape gardening company is growing its workforce as it seeks to treble sales over the next two years.

Leicestershire Garden Design is hiring six more employees in January and February and plans to increase its headcount to 38 by the end of 2017.

The recruitment drive is to support its strategy to grow annual sales from around £1 million for the year to the end of October 2015, to £3 million by the end of the following year.

The East Goscote-based firm currently employs 18 people.

It will begin by strengthening its sales and marketing, project management and landscaping teams.

Barry Randall, who founded the business in 2012 with his brother Jeff, said: “We’ve grown turnover from £378,000 two years ago, building gardens for domestic clients.

“The starting price for a garden is £10,000 and the biggest project we’ve done has been about £100,000 for a client in Market Harborough.”

Despite his recent recruitment success, Barry said it is a challenge to find people who want to start a career in garden design.

He said: “We still struggle to find staff who want to get into landscaping, yet we have someone who started here as a van driver who is now an award-winning designer.

“I will go and give talks to schools as there is a real shortage of skills.”

Barry also plans in future to hire human resources experts, contract managers, garden designers, team leaders and a sales manager.

In a bid to raise its profile, the company is opening a design studio next June.

Barry said the idea is to hold open days at the studio for prospective employees.

He said: “We will invite people to come to the design studio to learn more about the business.

“Customers will be able to get a better idea of what their design will look like, which will give them more confidence, and we will hold open days for prospective employees.”

Barry and Jeff started working together in 2006, running their first company, called Small Landscapes and Paving.

The company raised its profile in 2013 when it featured in an episode of the BBC’s DIY SOS programme.

Barry said his dream now is to win a Chelsea Flower Show Gold Medal.

Leicestershire Garden Designs recently was a regional award winner in the Marshalls Register Awards 2015.

Barry said their success was down to the company’s ethos of working hard to finish projects, to exacting specifications, on time.

He said: “We have a really good project management system, which allows us to finish projects on time regardless of the weather and this has attracted interest from landscaping magazines and architects in London.

“We manage by instinct, by planning the project beforehand and the team is very motivated to achieve targets.

“Our team will look at the weather and if they know it’s going to be wet in the morning they will stay late to finish it.

“We build in the appropriate time as we don’t want to rush anything.”

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Geodesic home rises from fire ashes

Posted Dec. 28, 2015 at 9:02 AM

Hillsdale, Mich.

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Pigeon River discovery center could open this summer – Petoskey News

Pigeon River discovery center could open this summer

Pigeon River discovery center could open this summer

Herald Times file photoProject leaders are shooting for a summer 2016 opening of the Pigeon River Country Discovery Center, which will be housed in what once was the Pigeon River Country State Forest Unit Manager’s residence, shown here.

Posted: Monday, December 28, 2015 7:00 am

Pigeon River discovery center could open this summer

Mark Johnson(989)

Work on the future Pigeon River Country interpretive center began with a July lease signing and continues today as project leaders hope to open the facility for the coming summer season.

Since signing a 25-year lease with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources on the home of the future Big Wild Discovery Center July 17, work on the building itself has commenced and some are now hopeful the center can open to the public in late summer 2016.

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      Monday, December 28, 2015 7:00 am.

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      Going Greenville: South Carolina’s Rising Star

      In a black-and-white sheath dress and sporting a pixie haircut, Cherington Love Shucker emanates the no-nonsense cool you’d expect from a former New Yorker. Then she breaks into a warm smile that’s unmistakably southern. We’re at the old Brandon Mill, in Greenville, in the northwestern corner of South Carolina.

      A native who returned last year after two decades away, Shucker now serves as executive director of the new Greenville Center for Creative Arts, housed here. The brainchild of two women—one in her 70s, one in her 80s—and founded as a gift to the next generation, the gallery and art school opened in this historic cotton factory in May 2015.

      “People in Greenville love ideas,” says Shucker, who served a stint as a Henry Luce scholar in Guangzhou, China.

      Over the past decade, the three-day, juried Artisphere festival put her hometown on the national art map and, on a personal level, helped persuade her and her artist husband to relocate from Manhattan.

      Ideas are what got me here, too—not just to this town of some 61,000 in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains but to the South.

      Born and raised in Iowa, I spent my 20s chasing opportunity in Washington, D.C. When life’s third decade brought a shift in priorities, friends began to eye suburbia, but my husband and I found ourselves dreaming instead of a place with room for ambitions to grow. A place where change didn’t require an act of Congress—or a trust fund.

      Our horizons expanded south. Make that the New South, to rising cities—led by big-personality destinations like Nashville, Tennessee, and Austin, Texas—where a start-up culture has replaced industry, forging new, more inclusive paths along the way. Soon after moving to Asheville, North Carolina, we kept hearing about nearby Greenville.

      A colleague described the sunny hills of the surrounding countryside as the Tuscany of the South. A news article heralded a plan for an elevated public transportation system made up of Jetsons-esque pods. Fast Company magazine dubbed Greenville “the knowledge economy’s next big thing.” Billboards and radio ads parroted the city’s quirky tourism slogan: “Yeah, that Greenville.”

      I needed to see for myself what was happening.

      ON MY HOUR-LONG DRIVE south from hippie Asheville, I pass the roadside Dixie Republic souvenir shop with its Confederate flags flying. Things feel more inviting as I enter the city limits.

      I meet walking guide John Nolan at Greenville’s nucleus: Falls Park, where a nearly 40-foot natural waterfall churns just off Main Street. A pedestrian-only bridge curves overhead.

      It’s a bright day, and locals and tourists line up under the suspension cables. Kids scramble across the rocks, testing their limits as they venture one step closer to the spray.

      “Whenever it warms up, people swarm down here,” Nolan says. Much credit for Greenville’s new groove goes to five-term Mayor Knox White, who has spent the past two decades showing how to turn an idea—make Greenville “the most beautiful and livable city in America”—into a movement.

      White persuaded officials to tear down a heavily used, four-lane bridge that for decades blocked the falls. The city cleaned up the long-ignored Reedy River and built Falls Park, which became an instant community gathering space when it opened in 2004.

      Five years later, the Swamp Rabbit Trail transformed an old railroad bed.

      Pedal chic provides a hub for bicycling women. (Photograph by Jessica Sample)
      Pedal Chic provides a hub for bicycling women. (Photograph by Jessica Sample)

      Packed with cyclists and runners year-round, the 18.7-mile paved path connects Falls Park north to the 19th-century stagecoach stop of Travelers Rest. Like the wisteria lining the trail, development has blossomed on both ends of the corridor.

      As we walk along the river, Nolan points out where textile mills propelled the city through much of the 20th century. He also mentions how his small tour company hopes to begin offering foreign language tours, an outgrowth of the innovative tech and auto programs now fueling the region.

      More than 40 Fortune 500 companies operate here, among them General Electric, Fluor, and Lockheed Martin. Michelin has been here since 1975, and Greenville County claims the highest foreign manufacturing investment per capita in the nation.

      About 15 miles east of downtown, just past the international airport, BMW recently rolled its three millionth car off the line at its only American production plant.

      Later, when I stop by BMW’s sleek Centrum visitor museum, teens pose for photos in front of the Z3 roadster, made famous by James Bond. But I’m more drawn to the mounted engines, which look like physical manifestations of the brainpower gathered in this unlikely pocket of the country.

      After Nolan and I part ways, I find a bench across the street from the entrance to Falls Park to gather my thoughts.

      A gentleman seated next to me looks up from his book, his contemplative gaze cast in bronze. The statue is of local hero Charles H. Townes, an inventor of the laser. A plaque on the bench encourages me to stop and rest a while: “You, too, may have your own revelation.”

      PERHAPS THE BIGGEST REVELATION is Greenville’s urbane downtown. On Main Street you’re as likely to hear a southern drawl as you are to catch snippets of French or German.

      The blocks around the thoroughfare hum with scores of restaurants and bars, serving Persian mezze and lamb shank, rare Belgian Trappist beer and southern novelties like fried green tomatoes dipped in pimento cheese fondue.

      Entrepreneurship has found a new home in Greenville. Will Shurtz, co-owner of Methodical Coffee can talk you through the flavors. (Photograph by Jessica Sample)
      Entrepreneurship has found a new home in Greenville. Will Shurtz, co-owner of Methodical Coffee can talk you through the flavors. (Photograph by Jessica Sample)

      Anchoring the scene, the 2,100-seat Peace Center brings in everything from Broadway shows to Sheryl Crow and featured National Geographic speakers.

      David Baker greets me at Methodical Coffee, his sparkling, glass-fronted café facing a shaded plaza. Baker “fell in love with craft coffee” while running a hostel in Prague. He and his wife eyed Austin, but in the end chose to return to their hometown.

      “We felt we could make a larger impact here,” he says, sipping a cappuccino from a blue willow china cup.

      When I mention the Indie Craft Parade, an annual fair for handmade goods, Baker pulls out his phone to text his friend Lib Ramos, one of the event’s founders. Now in its sixth year, the fair has evolved into an empire in progress called the Makers Collective.

      Turns out Ramos, a graphic designer by trade, works upstairs in the office building. A couple of minutes later, she pops down to say hi.

      This isn’t my first clue that a close-knit community beats at the heart of Greenville. Deep-pocketed investors may help pay the bills, but that old-fashioned southern charm is what nurtures growth.

      A few blocks away, flower boxes brighten the slate-hued building that houses Pedal Chic, America’s first women-specific bike shop.

      Inside, owner Robin Lennon Bylenga folds up the hem on a pair of stretch jeans to reveal reflective seaming in Levi’s new line of women’s commuter apparel, which she proudly tells me debuted at only a few stores around the country. Helmets stamped with daisies hang near sleek, carbon-frame road bikes.

      A single mom and longtime cyclist, Bylenga opened Pedal Chic in 2010, the same year she completed seven triathlons. A loan from Michelin helped her get the store up and running. “People were shocked that this concept was developed in Greenville,” admits Bylenga, who has been featured on CNN and in Money magazine.

      She speaks tirelessly about the power of women on bikes. A group ride on Wednesday evenings is followed by wine and potluck appetizers in the shop’s courtyard. Consider it a hub-and-spoke model of community building.

      BACK AT THE BRANDON MILL, Shucker and I climb the stairs to the third floor, where the complex’s past surfaces next to its future. Old footprints in the hardwood floor, near easels set up for a drawing class, recall the mill days when workers assembled up here to inspect cloth.

      As we walk through the cavernous room, Shucker slips from polished PR woman to laid-back southern girl. She acknowledges a certain evolution in Greenville since her childhood, thanks in part to the influx of international influences.

      Yet she maintains that the “Greenville way” has always meant working to make the path broader for those who follow.

      “Growing up here, I got the experience of ‘everybody knows who your mama is,’ so you stay on your best behavior,” she says with a belly laugh.

      Today, part of that work revolves around reaching the segment of the city pegged as “unseen Greenville.” In well-heeled areas such as downtown, racial diversity can be hard to find. Crossing town through neighborhoods reveals a much wider story than the one Main Street tells.

      For its part, the Greenville Center for Creative Arts offers fellowships and exhibitions intended to cast light on all facets of the arts scene. “We want to be a place for smart conversation,” Shucker says, not least because the center itself sits on the fringes of western Greenville.

      I look out the window, and Shucker lights up describing this, her favorite view.

      The rusty Brandon water tower rises above fresh landscaping and bright crepe myrtle. Next to us is the park where Shoeless Joe Jackson grew up playing ball. Beyond the chain-link fencing of the parking lot, a brick building at the end of the road marks the start of the burgeoning arts district known as the Village of West Greenville.

      Around the corner, Shucker’s husband, Darin Gehrke, sells his Asian-inspired, wood-fired vases and teapots in an airy gallery. Less than two years ago, his studio was a cramped fourth-floor space in Manhattan’s Garment District.

      “I love that my three-and-a-half-year-old daughter has a village that’s helping to raise her now,” says Shucker. “She remembers New York. I recently asked her, ‘Do you love living in Greenville?’ She said, ‘Yes, because I can take my shoes off and run in the grass.’ ”

      I know the feeling. From its magnetic downtown to the visionary locals I’ve met at every turn, this place makes me want to kick off my heels and stay awhile, too.

      Katie Knorovsky is managing editor of Smoky Mountain Living magazine and a contributing editor at Traveler magazine. This feature is photographer Jessica Sample’s first for Traveler.

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