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Archives for August 4, 2016

Activate the Alley! Projects rejuvenate La Jolla’s forgotten right-of-ways

Jade Schultz has fixed and sold violins in La Jolla for 13 years — eight of them in an alley off Silverado Street.

— María José Durán

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Jade Schultz has fixed and sold violins in La Jolla for 13 years — eight of them in an alley off Silverado Street.
— María José Durán

For 11 years, resident Cal Mann has walked and cycled the alleys and lanes of La Jolla. “In part because cycling is not that safe, I’ve used the alleys as a way to get around,” he said, “and doing so (I have discovered) a lot of interesting old buildings. Seeing the back side of restaurants and things, you see a different aspect of your community than if you’re just going by storefronts.”

Before his imminent transfer to the Bay Area, Mann is trying to create momentum for a community effort to revitalize the alleys in La Jolla. “There are all these associations and groups that are trying to make La Jolla more attractive, and developing some of these alleys is an opportunity. (You can) have events, businesses there … So much of the challenge for businesses in La Jolla is that the land is so expensive, and someone who owns some property can give a business some space in the alley for a reasonable rent that might make it possible for them to get started, develop their ideas.”

San Diego-based urban planner Howard Blackson agreed, “We focus on the quality and the function of a main street, forgetting that the alleys are important service streets. The character of the alley is completely different than a main street, but both need each other.” He added that these thoroughfares are often ignored and can be perceived as “dangerous,” which suppresses their function. “We don’t need to beautify them like a main street, but they need landscaping, signs and lighting. (We should) try to make them a part of a community because they do have value.”

Brick Bell Café on Silverado Street provides an attractive entrance to Druyn Lane.

Cal Mann

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Brick Bell Café on Silverado Street provides an attractive entrance to Druyn Lane.

Alleys in history

Alleys were originally created to host services and utilities for properties facing roadways. Those services, refuse collection, fuel (from the days of coal and oil heating) and electricity were delivered from alleyways to keep house-fronts clear of messy service vehicles.

In an e-mail, City of San Diego communications officer Bill Harris told La Jolla Light, “Over time, as service needs changed, the daily function of alleyways diminished, although utility services and access to off-street parking and garages continued. It is possible that negative connotations regarding alleyways are the result of their continued association with unsightly services.”

Carol Olten of the La Jolla Historical Society offered some historical background. “Legend has it that benefactress Ellen Browning Scripps, when she was living here in the earlier part of the 20th century, didn’t approve of having alleys in La Jolla, and she most probably suggested that we call our alleys ‘lanes.’ Consequently, we have a lot of lanes named things like Roslyn Lane, Bishops Lane … and then we have Mabel Bell Lane, which is named after a lady who lived on Draper Street a long time,” she said.

Scott Peters, Rev. Janet Swift, Danah Fayman and Charles Buchanan (Mabel Bell’s nephew) during Bell’s lane dedication, Aug. 14, 2008.La Jolla Historical Society

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Scott Peters, Rev. Janet Swift, Danah Fayman and Charles Buchanan (Mabel Bell’s nephew) during Bell’s lane dedication, Aug. 14, 2008.

Mabel Bell was an African American woman who moved to La Jolla in the 1940s. Bell and her husband purchased a house on Draper Street in 1950, becoming the first African American family to buy property south of Pearl Street. The book “La Jolla, California Black Pioneers and Pioneer Descendants 1880-1974,” (Black Pioneers Group, 2010) states that Bell was one of the first advocates for alleys in La Jolla. “When she had leisure time, she would often take long walks in the alley behind her home (between Draper and Eads Avenue) where she enjoyed talking and sharing thoughts with her neighbors,” it reads.

The lane behind Bell’s house was dedicated to her honor in 2008, during a ceremony attended by then-councilmember Scott Peters, Rev. Janet Swift, Bell’s nephew Charles Buchanan and her lifelong friend and employer Danah Fayman, who reportedly said at the ceremony, “She had a big and warm heart. She was a courageous woman and an entrepreneur. Mabel Bell was very good at changing alleys into lanes.”

The Mabel Bell lane runs from Silver Street to Rushville Street, passing through Pearl Street, where Grater Grilled Cheese, a small sandwich business started in La Jolla at the rear of its partner, Shakeaway (723 Pearl St.), and facing the alley.

Business in the alleys

Grater Grilled Cheese has since proven to be a success and moved to a storefront on Pearl Street. But it is not the only alley-facing business in La Jolla. On an unnamed alley that runs from Silverado Street to Torrey Pines Road between Hershel and Girard avenues, Jade Schulz has been fixing violins, violas and basses for eight years.

Many lanes that connect La Jolla thoroughfares with the ocean are used by pedestrians.

Cal Mann

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Many lanes that connect La Jolla thoroughfares with the ocean are used by pedestrians.

“I was really happy when I rented here because it came with two parking spots. A year after that I decided to re-do my storage, and I was able to put a storage unit on one of my parking spots and it doesn’t matter, because I’m back in the alley,” Schulz said.

He listed his advantages on the alley: He has his own parking, he pays lower rent than a storefront, it has the quietness required for the delicate business of fixing violins and has a certain funkiness that suits his character. “You can see outside I have a cactus garden; I can’t quantify that … When you’re in the alley, there’s always something kind of cool about here,” he pointed out.

Schultz recommends to other business that don’t depend on walk-ins, the tranquility of an alley. He would also like to see some beautification done in his alley, including traffic calming measures. “This is actually used as a thoroughfare because motorists don’t want to go through the stop signs, and people are doing 35-40 miles an hour down the alley,” he said.

Revitalizing an alley

Alley revitalization can have economic, cultural and safety benefits. Cities all over the United Sates (Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Baltimore, to name a few) are pushing to transform these forgotten spaces into community assets. In San Diego, too, such efforts are underway, with painting, landscaping and celebrations as some of the approaches being taken.

A cobbler has done business for 15 years in an alley off Pearl Street.

— María José Durán

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A cobbler has done business for 15 years in an alley off Pearl Street.
— María José Durán

The San Diego Media Arts Center moved five years ago to an empty building on El Cajon Boulevard (North Park.) Founder and executive director Ethan Van Thillo said when they moved in, the area — and the alleys around it — were in a decadent state. “As soon as we put art in the alley, just by painting the murals, we already felt the difference in people feeling safer walking through the alleys,” Van Thillo said. He added that they partnered with the El Cajon Boulevard Business Improvement Association to carry out the process.

Since, the 2900 block on El Cajon Boulevard has transitioned into a vibrant cultural and economic hub. Surf shops, breweries, restaurants, retail spaces and other businesses have taken over empty storefronts and rear alley spaces. Van Thillo pointed out that today, their main challenge is maintenance, “You can get a bunch of volunteers to paint and plant, but then someone’s got to watch and water it.”

Elsewhere in San Diego other alleys are attracting community attention. In Logan Heights, an initiative fixed the alleys for children who use them to go to school, turning them into educational centers with public bookshelves and art.

In LA, this process has been going on for years. Attorney Daniel Freedman has been involved in the effort, and insists that communities can achieve sustainability revitalizing alleys. “We’re doing a lot of work on green alleys, to not only have them be amenities, but be able to use them for environmental benefits, such as water infiltration, having more green places and to reduce runoff,” he said.

“(Revitalizing alleys) is generally a win-win, because it’s an investment in the community, it addresses a problem and it doesn’t affect traffic flow.” He said the chief challenge is the bureaucracy that often times confronts community efforts.

Is this legal?

“It’s very complex,” Freedman said, “You can have one alley regulated by three different agencies, and a lot of those agencies are owned by government. If you want to improve, you are going to need it OK’d by several agencies, who aren’t always the easiest to work with.”

The City of San Diego offers established community organizations the opportunity to take advantage of Entrance, Maintenance and Removal Agreements (EMRAs) when interested in temporary improvements on city right-of-way, said public information officer Harris. “EMRAs vary, although all require appropriate insurance and maintenance stipulations. Those are typically readily met by Business Improvement and Community Development organizations.

“Most communities can achieve revitalization through strictly aesthetic improvements like the artworks included in the Murals of La Jolla project that brings many new visitors into the alleyways of that community,” he added.

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Approaches for the Strategic CEO

JAMES ALLEN: When founders launch their companies, they often thrive by targeting underserved customers that competitors have ignored. They excel in speed, experimentation and a stream of innovation. But as companies get big and more bureaucratic, internal issues often steal attention from interactions with customers. Senior executives spend more time optimizing functions and negotiating among them. Innovation gets handled centrally, far from the front line. Customers are neither involved nor, in some cases, even welcome. And growth slows or even grinds to a halt. To counter self-inflicted stall-out, I offer this solution: micro-battles.

A micro-battle is a discrete, customer-focused initiative that can be pursued by a small team. Micro-battles aim to increase sales by gaining market share or establishing a foothold in a narrow category, or by taking share from a competitor. What’s more, micro-battles allow companies to learn lessons that can be applied to other parts of the business. Unfortunately, many companies don’t pursue a micro-battle strategy. On the contrary, they tend to have revenue targets that, largely for accounting reasons, are rolled up by geography, category, brand or product. The result? Broad targets such as “Let’s grow sales of gardening and landscaping equipment on the West Coast by 4%.” A micro-battle, by contrast, narrows the aperture: “Let’s win 50% share in Southern California of the do-it-yourself gardener business in cooperative hardware chains, by displacing Bad Trimmer Co.”

Defining micro-battles takes work: You have to know the most profitable customer segments, the reasons for their preferences, the channels they use and how your competitors stack up in each area. You must understand the real economic value of these customer segments, and the threats of the most relevant competitors by each sales channel.

Committing to 50 or so micro-battles over the next six months is very different than debating the mathematical allocation of targets across the entire business. And that’s the point: Micro-battles force everyone to behave like insurgents, focusing only on what is essential to meet a narrow goal. Choosing which micro-battles to pursue involves a discussion about how your company would win each one.

In the Southern California garden equipment case, for example, that might mean the company needs to win in the most important sales channel – the cooperative’s website. Likewise, executives must be sure that the cooperative’s channel partner stores never run out of stock, so the company can’t even launch an equipment offer until it fully sorts out the logistics.

Micro-battles also force you to rethink how you organize to sell.  I don’t mean a massive top-down reorganization, but rather assembling the right teams for each battle. Start by assigning joint accountability to, say, the global head of midpriced garden trimmers and the account head for DIY cooperatives in California. Next, assign someone from each key central function, such as the supply chain and customer analytics. Both probably work for headquarters, far from the heat of the micro-battle, so they will need to be embedded with the team. The point is to assemble a cross-functional team that will live and fight together.

With dozens of competitive battles happening around the world, the role of the center must change. Some teams will succeed while others fail, and the center needs to help them all learn quickly. To make the right midcourse adjustments, the center needs to collect and respond to customer, channel and competitive feedback. It should encourage the different teams to share what is working for them. For the teams that log initial wins, the center should move fast to scale up both winning propositions (what and where you won) and repeatable models (how you won).

The point is to find out what works and do it repeatedly in as many places as possible. Waging micro-battles helps a company do several important things:

Move faster. Micro-battles increase the cadence of the organization by tuning to the pace of the market instead of calendar-based budgeting or planning cycles. I’ve seen successful companies break down micro-battles into 30-day sprints. Executive meetings focus on reviewing dozens of battles in progress, each of which reports every 30 days on missions accomplished or destroyed. That way, executives can adjust resources quickly.

Raise up the voices of customers. As decision-making switches to micro-battles, the voices of customers dealing with the company’s front line grow louder in executive meetings. Discussions might even center on how to support individual customer negotiations.

Improve on specific, not general, abilities. This is another way to keep that entrepreneurial mojo, even in a large company. Too often, senior executive teams favor horizontal, internally focused actions like “building a world-class finance function.” Micro-battles reorient the organization to vertical initiatives, such as “winning in garden equipment Southern California.” That vertical goal that might well require having a finance person embedded in the California team, to help out on partnerships with key distributors. Micro-battles, with their bias for action, help revive customer-led growth. Senior leaders who empower dozens of teams to wage micro-battles will find that their company, no matter how large, can become an insurgent once again.

James Allen is co-leader of the global strategy practice at Bain Co. and co-author of “The Founder’s Mentality.”

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Wicker Park, Bucktown to spend $50000 on safety initiatives

The business district in Wicker Park and Bucktown will spend $50,000 on initiatives that could include private security patrols, security cameras and partnerships with local businesses to boost the area’s safety.

The sum is more than the $20,000 budgeted in July but less than the $100,000 Ald. Brian Hopkins, 2nd, and Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno, 1st, wanted set aside from a special tax fund. They sought to hire firms, staffed mostly by off-duty and retired police officers who have arrest powers and sometimes carry guns, using $100,000 from a $1.2 million budget that comes from property taxes and is managed by businesspeople in the neighborhoods. Hopkins cited an increase in crime as the reason for the outlay.

Do Wicker Park, Bucktown need private security officers?

Do Wicker Park, Bucktown need private security officers?

Bucktown and Wicker Park are two of Chicago’s trendiest neighborhoods, filled with people flocking to independent boutiques, national retail chains and vibrant dining and nightlife options.

But their popularity also has led to an uptick in crime, an alderman says, and put the communities at the…

Bucktown and Wicker Park are two of Chicago’s trendiest neighborhoods, filled with people flocking to independent boutiques, national retail chains and vibrant dining and nightlife options.

But their popularity also has led to an uptick in crime, an alderman says, and put the communities at the…

(Becky Yerak)

On July 20, the Bucktown and Wicker Park “special service area,” which like others is run by volunteer commissioners appointed by the mayor and approved by the aldermen, revised its proposed 2017 budget to include $20,000 for safety initiatives.

But Hopkins said last week that $20,000 wouldn’t cut it for business districts the size of Wicker Park and Bucktown.

Chef, Chef, Quite Contrary, How Does Your Garden Grow?

“Have you had the blossoms from cilantro? They are quite amazing,” says chef Govind Armstrong, handing over a flowering stem he gently pinched from a plant. “That will change your life right there. It’s so intense yet subtle. We use it just to garnish plates and in salsa verde.”

We are standing by the raised-bed garden outside Armstrong’s restaurant, Post Beam in Baldwin Hills, with his daughter, 4-year-old Willow. She’s relaxing in the early afternoon sun looking adoringly at her father as he talks with his visitor about growing his small yet useful edible patch.

“This last round, we planted four or five different types of cucumbers and did more tomatoes and herbs. And in a week or two, the basil will be ready to use,” Armstrong says. Already an avid gardener, he was one of the first Los Angeles chefs to use a dedicated space for growing his own provisions at the now-defunct Beverly Hills restaurant Chadwick, which he started in 2000 with another up-and-comer, Ben Ford.

Surveying the five raised beds in the outside corner of his award-winning eatery, which has made Jonathan Gold’s Best 101 list and L.A. Weekly’s 99 Essential Restaurants, Armstrong says, “It’s not going to supply the restaurant with everything we need to offer. It would require a lot more space, but our garden was meant to be very functional. We could have done more seating and it would have been more beneficial to the business, (but) the garden also is giving something back to the community. We taught gardening classes in the beginning with Geri Miller.” (Miller is the owner of the popular urban farm service Home Grown Edible Landscaping, which worked with Armstrong on Post Beam and his Venice restaurant, Willie Jane’s, as well as other restaurant kitchen aromatic plots.)

Armstrong isn’t the only L.A. chef with a green thumb. Many of today’s City of Angels culinary elite have a garden dedicated to serving their restaurants’ needs, from n/naka’s Niki Nakayama, who plants hard-to-find items, to Otium’s Tim Hollingsworth, who grows some of his own produce.And  West L.A.’s neighborhood joint Araya Thai is taking the farm-to-table approach a step further by implementing a new community-based composting and gardening program at Emerson Community Garden, where owner Vanda Asapahu pays her staff to volunteer and compost. Later in the year, she plans to plant lemongrass, Thai basil and kaffir limes for use in her bottled sauces and menu items at her restaurant.

Nakayama, chef-owner of the nationally known n/naka, echoes Armstrong’s sentiments. “One of the most important things of the garden is I get to show my customer the seasonality of the foods we make,” she says. At her home raised, boxed garden, designed in conjunction with Farmscape, she cultivates Japanese edibles that are hard to find, such as yuzu citrus and the minuscule Konasu eggplant, which are part of her restaurant’s kaiseki menu.

At Nakayama’s new house — she is selling the San Gabriel Valley house where she had a 5-year-old garden — newly seeded lilac bell peppers, red vein sorrel, shishito peppers and lemon cucumbers are taking root. “It’s not that these specific ones are not available through vendors, it’s more because the taste and quality is so much nicer in their flavors,” Nakayama says. She also supplements some of her dishes through foraging.

“When I went to Japan, I saw homes with these growing gardens. They utilized what they grew instead of just buying, [thereby] making sure it was the best,” she says.

Downtown’s newest gastronomic star is Otium, and its chef, Tim Hollingsworth. He works with L.A. Urban Farms, known for its space-age aeroponic towers of dangling roots, misted with nutrient-dense water. Ideal for urban spaces, these Star Trek–like patented vertical “pots” are a great solution for urban gardening, Hollingsworth says.  “It takes a while to get (a garden) going and till the soil,” he says. “Going vertical was an intelligent way of approaching the needs and wants of a restaurant.” 

These verdant gardens aren’t a cost-saving measure or even a great business decision. The gardens are small and still need to be supplanted with farm or vendor produce, but all the edibles grown in each chef garden are used. The amount grown depends on how well each vegetable does in its micro-climate. Armstrong says, “In a perfect world, [the garden] would really help my food cost. But it’s very volatile and you still have to buy materials. There is labor involved.  But the beauty of it is right before service, the cooks will come out and snip the basil to garnish the pizzas.”

With the bubbling sound of planters being watered, Hollingsworth sums it up: “Order a box of nasturtiums from the produce company, and it’s pretty much standard; it’s what you get. What you don’t see is a baby stage or, after the flowers blossom and the petals fall off, a berry is left. You can pickle and brine it and make into a caper. There is so much more life to the vegetable. The sheer fact that the vegetables grow at specific stages and its use might not be accessible from a produce company or even from a farmers market, for that matter.”

For many chefs, having a restaurant garden of their own is a dream. In L.A., it often becomes a reality. It is perhaps not particularly cost-efficient, but these gardens are part of the mix that makes this sun-soaked city one of the best restaurant towns in the world. Something to ponder as you eat your garden salad of freshly pruned cilantro blossoms, pickled nasturtium berries and wasabi arugula with red-veined sorrel greens.

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Richer homes have more kinds of bugs inside them

If you want to catch butterflies, you might be better off going to a rich neighborhood.

A new research paper suggests wealthier homes in cities have a greater variety of insects, spiders and other arthropods in them than poorer ones.

The reason can be summed up in one word: landscaping.

The phenomenon is referred to as the “luxury effect,” and it has been found to be true for birds, plants and lizards, and even bats, noted a study published Tuesday in the open access journal Biology Letters.

Researchers from the California Academy of Sciences and North Carolina State University surveyed 50 homes in Raleigh, North Carolina, and found three factors that all correlated with a greater range of arthropods — the name given to invertebrate animals with exoskeletons. This includes everything from insects and spiders to centipedes and crabs.

Wealthier homes in cities are more likely to have gardens and more space for plants. This has a kind of cascading effect — the greater range of vegetation attracts a greater variety of arthropods.

In contrast to the recognized pattern of increased biodiversity in wealthier neighbourhoods,” the authors wrote, “there is a general perception that homes in poorer neighbourhoods harbour more indoor arthropods. The ecology of the indoor biome is relatively unexplored, yet recent work has revealed that it harbours more biodiversity than previously recognized.

Of course, the study examined the interiors of homes in one city, and conditions might be different in other cities with different characteristics — for example a city with lots of forest, open space, or parks, near lower-income housing. It also looked at freestanding homes, so the findings can’t be applied to a block of luxury apartment buildings in Manhattan, for example.

But the study points out that wealthier homes are more likely to have lush gardens with a variety of plants that will, in turn, attract a greater variety of insects and wildlife. Maintaining gardens and plants is dependent on money and decision-making, the study noted. Even a home without a garden in such a neighborhood stands a higher chance of housing critters.

“Our unexpected, and perhaps counterintuitive finding of higher indoor arthropod diversity in wealthier neighbourhoods highlights how much we have yet to learn about indoor ecology,” the authors wrote.

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Fairies make fine garden companions

First let us review some important Fairy folk lore:

Fairies learn to dance before they can walk,

They also can sing before they can talk.

Fairies learn counting from bird calls,

they don’t do algebra at all!

They love to hitch a ride on witches brooms,

and they steal bits of rainbows to brighten their rooms.

Fairies like to dance better than a feast,

They have a birthday party once a week at least.

Fairies love the rain as much as the sun,

They think raindrops are here just for fun.

Fairies are huge fans of peppermint I know,

That’s why I take bags of it everywhere I go.

One thing to remember is that you can’t see fairies unless you’re are very, very good – that’s what they told me. They live in the smoke from chimneys or down in the roots of trees. They brush their wings on flowers or hide behind sweet peas. If you are not seeing fairies, just try to be good.

Since we were all children we have known of fairy tales, some enchanting and some scary. But they all take us away into a special place to think, dream, imagine and be happy. This is one of the reasons fairy gardens have become so popular with all ages, from toddlers to seniors.

Recently I asked a group of women at the Randolph Senior Center to give me an idea for some classes they would like us to offer and I got more requests for classes to make fairy gardens than any other ideas, so I began the research of this topic.

The first thing to do is to decide where the fairies will live – some use pots, shoe boxes or an old vintage suitcase, wheel barrows, wagons, or even discarded drawers from kitchens or dressers. Since I like to use live plants I generally choose small wooden boxes made from salvaged lumber. Then I line the box with landscape fabric, and fill partly with soil. Depending upon where the box will be going, inside or outside, you then choose a few plants, some rocks, tree bark, moss and small pebbles for landscaping. Then you can begin to personalize your fairy garden with houses, furniture, fences, arches, bridges and most important is to add Fairies and Gnomes.

So many shops now sell fairy garden supplies, and you can also search online so the sources are endless. What makes it fun is to design your own from recycled materials – an empty thread spool makes a fairy table, an old golf tee with a marble atop makes a fairy gazing ball, broken pieces of china can become a stepping stones for a walkway, bench or arbor. Fences, benches and arbors can be made from twigs or popsicle sticks. A broken clay pot can become a home for fairies.

There are fairies everywhere, under bushes and in the air, playing games and singing through their busy days. So take time to listen, touch and look around at all of natures beauty and you might just see a fairy.

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Garden Questions: Tips for controlling iris borer

Q.I have more than 20 varieties of iris and most seem to be infested with iris borer. I am finding all stages from egg to larvae, and lots of them in each planting. Any suggestions?

A. Understanding the life cycle of a pest is the best place to start when trying to mange the problem. The iris borer lays its eggs in the old iris leaves in fall. In spring, the eggs hatch and the wormlike larvae enter the leaves and eat their way down to the rhizome. The larvae feed there until moving to the soil where they pupate. These may be the ‘eggs’ you are seeing near the rhizomes. In fall the adult moth emerges and lays its eggs and the process starts all over.

Sanitation is the best defense against this pest. A thorough cleanup of old iris leaves in fall will eliminate places for the adult to lay its eggs. This is often enough to prevent the problem.

Gardeners with plantings that have suffered repeated and severe infestations may choose to apply organic or synthetic insecticides labeled for this purpose in spring just as the eggs are hatching. This is usually when the new growth is 4 to 6 inches tall. Beneficial nematodes are an organic option. These microscopic organisms enter the iris leaves and kill the borer by infecting it with a bacteria. Apply the nematodes according to the directions when the leaves are almost full-size and again a week later.

For now, continue to remove the larvae and pupae as discovered. Cut away any damaged portions of the rhizome and replant.

Email questions to Melinda Myers through her website,, or write her at P.O. Box 798, Mukwonago, WI 53149.

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