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Archives for December 13, 2016

Landscape-Design Firm Wirtz International Creates a Secret Garden

“You must not look in our gardens for big theory,” Wirtz says. “Our approach is very intuitive. It’s a question of finding good shape, good balance.” The Wirtzes like to think three-dimensionally, employing “different kinds of trees, for the canopy, for the shape you get in the air.” The handful of bay, beech, and linden trees saved from the former garden are now joined by young oak, Japanese cherry and zelkova, maple, magnolia, black tupelo, dawn redwood, katsura, pear, crab apple, Kentucky coffee, and golden rain trees, as well as younger lindens.

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The Modern Farmer Gift Guide

The latest, alas, is rarely the greatest. Which helps explain why this issue’s holiday roundup relies not on new merch plugged by PR reps, but rather the tried-and-true recommendations of real farmers, chefs, environmental activists, and the other movers and shakers who make up Modern Farmer’s inner circle. Our preferred pros (plus a few of the magazine’s staffers) share their favorite cast-iron skillets, cookbooks, wellies, pruners, and more—ensuring that everyone on your list receives the field-tested best.


“I use my Leatherman Wave every single day, though I jokingly call it a Leatherwoman. This one supremely awesome gadget functions as 17 different tools, including a knife, pliers, and flat- and Phillips-head screwdrivers.” (Wave multi-tool,$91; Susan Paykin, Common Ground Farm; Beacon, NY



“Contrary to popular belief, ranchers don’t always wear Stetsons. During Montana’s cold winters, many cowboys prefer the warmth of a Stormy Kromer wool cap with a pull-down earband.” (Original cap,$45; Todd Klassy, Photographer; Havre, MT

“I can’t do my job in anything but a work shirt from Duluth Trading Company; the female farmers I photograph feel the same way. Along with a gape-proof button placket and underarm gussets, this moisture-wicking flannel shirt hides a microfiber shammy, for wiping lenses and phone screens, inside the front hem.” (Women’s cross-cut wicking flannel shirt, $55; Audra Mulkern, Photographer and Founder, Tthe Female Farmer Project; Seattle

“Carhartt’s moderately priced double-front dungarees are a farm girl’s dream—a slim-fit cut, fabric that gives, a reasonably high waist. Hallelujah!” (Series 1889 slim double-front dungaree, $55; Caitlin Bergman, Copia Farm; Johnstown, OH

“I’m often tending crops in muddy fields or chasing my ducks home through a stream, so I ask a lot of rubber wellies. These, from Joules, keep the water out via adjustable side clasps that ensure a tight fit up top, plus they have sturdy soles constructed like tire treads.” (Women’s field rain boots, $75; joulesusa.comAngela Ferraro-Fanning, Axe and Root Homestead; Whitehouse Station, NJ

“Everlane’s classic twill weekend bag has just the right amount of room for a few days’ essentials, and I love the company’s mission of ‘radical transparency’ in terms of pricing and sourcing.” (Women’s twill weekender, $98; Nicole Bernard Dawes, Founder and CEO, Late July Snacks; Boston



“To keep records and jot down random ideas, I stash pocket-size Field Notes journals in my car, in my backpack, and at my winery. Luckily, they come in sets of three.” (31/2″ x 51/2″ruled memo books, 3 for $10; Kenny Likitprakong, Founder, The Hobo Wine Company; Santa Rosa, CA



“What farmer doesn’t like pie?! This handmade pie basket has a removable raised tray that lets you tote two desserts at a time.” (Pie basket, $70; Tallahassee May, Turnbull Creek Farm; Bon Aqua, TN


“If you’re shopping for someone picky, consider a gift certificate from SHED, the food and farming mecca in Healdsburg, California.” ( Naomi Starkman, Editor-in-Chief, Civil Eats; Petaluma, CA




“Indulge a vegetable-lover with the Chiba peel slicer. It turns beets, carrots, potatoes, and other hard veggies into thin sheets, ideal for pickling or boiling as ‘noodles.’” (Chiba Peel S Turning Slicer, $265; Jamie Simpson, Executive Chef, The Chef’s Garden and the Culinary Vegetable Institute; Huron, OH



“Just a dab of Farmacy’s hard-core salve heals dry, cracked skin. And the honey scent is super subtle. Plus, for every tube sold, the company donates a dollar to bee-related causes.” (Honey Savior all-in-one skin repair salve, 1.6 ounces, $34; Sara Morrow, Deputy Editor, Modern Farmer



“Grown in California from heirloom Italian seed, Rancho Gordo’s Marcella beans—named for the late Italian cookbook author Marcella Hazan—are the most delicious white beans on the market.” (1-pound bag, $7; Dorothy Kalins, Former Editor-in-Chief, Saveur and Garden Design; New York City



“Give the gift of good fat! For real! After cooking our grass-fed steaks in a cast-iron skillet, I finish them with a bit of this organic chicken fat.” (8-ounce jar, $13; Meagan Burns, Rancho Santo Niño; Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato, Mexico



“You can taste the nuances of each ingredient Noble uses to enhance its maple syrup. My favorite? The company’s Tahitian Vanilla Bean Egyptian Chamomile Blossom.” (450-milliliter bottle, $28; Steven Greene, Executive Chef, The Umstead Hotel and Spa; Cary, NC



“Full Sun’s cold-press process yields sunflower oil that retains the flavor of just-harvested seeds. Less expected, and expensive, than EVOO, it lends a smooth, nutty note to salad dressings, aioli, and pesto.” (16.9-ounce bottle, $8; Donna Williams, Founder and President, Field Goods; Athens, NY



“I’m addicted to Doux South Drunken Tomatoes, pickled in a brine of red wine, basil, and garlic. They’re amazing on salads or pizza, over grilled fish or chicken, and puréed in tomato soup.” (16-ounce jar, 3 for $35; Gena Knox, Founder, Fire Flavor; Athens, GA


“Think outside the wrapped box, and get someone an experience instead of an object. For my neighbors in mid-coast Maine, I’ll give cooking classes at Salt Water Farm in Lincolnville. If you don’t have a local cooking school, buy a gift certificate for dinner at a restaurant or even a CSA share.” (Class gift certificates from $150; Alissa Hessler, Founder, Urban Exodus; Camden, ME



“My Felco #8 pruners still execute clean cuts, through thick branches and delicate flower stems, after a decade of rough use. They fit my hand like a pair of well-worn gloves, and the red handles mean the tools never get lost.” (#8 pruners, $58; Naomi Starkman, Editor-in-Chief, Civil Eats; Petaluma, CA



“My go-to stocking stuffer, this tiny, portable tin of Maldon sea salt always elicits an outsize reaction. Never have I seen people so stoked to receive a $4 gift.” (0.35-ounce tin, 5 for $20; Natalie Warady, Contributing Editor, Modern Farmer; Boulder, CO


“Unlike most salt cellars, which extend an open invite to splatters, Beehouse’s elegant ceramic containers—available in 10 colors—protect their contents with hinged wooden lids.” (6″ x 31/2″x 31/2″salt boxes,$23 each; Bryant Terry, Chef, Author, and Activist; San Francisco


“For a very special someone, splurge on a Middleton Made professional-grade knife, forged by craftsman Quintin Middleton in his St. Stephen, South Carolina, studio. Hands down, the best-performing, and best-looking, cutlery I’ve encountered.” (10″ slicer, $280; Matt Lee, Co-Author, The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen; Charleston, SC


“The 1981 homesteader’s bible Reader’s Digest Back to Basics details how to raise a barn, skin a rabbit, and weave a rug. Be forewarned: Bestow friends with this vintage book, and they may go off the grid.” ( Aliza Eliazarov, Photographer and Contributing Editor, Modern Farmer; Brooklyn



“My wife and I are lemon-juice freaks. We put it in everything: cocktails, vinaigrettes, and a ginger lemonade we whip up by the gallon. This old-school, manual fruit juicer makes all that squeezing a breeze and looks downright sculptural when left out on the counter.” (Fruit Juicer Pro, $50; Ted Lee, Co-Author, The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen; Brooklyn



“Hand-turned from solid blocks of maple, cherry, and walnut, Vermont rolling pins are almost too gorgeous to use. Almost. Bonus: You can choose from multiple shapes and sizes and even have them engraved.” (Rolling pins, from $45 each; Jo Ann Liguori, Managing Editor, Modern Farmer



“How much do I adore Pendleton’s Glacier National Park stripe? Well, I’ve already purchased a blanket, log carrier, tote, and suitcase in the pattern. So the moment I learned that the heritage brand had splashed Glacier across a dog coat, too, I knew just what Mr. Chips would find beneath the tree he’ll mark come December.” (Dog coat, from $59; Sarah Gray Miller, Editor-in-Chief, Modern Farmer



“Thanks to an inch-high rim, this incredibly affordable bun pan can do the work of a cookie sheet, a casserole dish, and a roasting pan. I have a bunch that I use for vegetables, pulled pork, brownies . . . the list goes on and on.” (6″ x 10″aluminum bun pan, $3; Peter Severino, Owner, Severino Pasta Company; Westmont, NJ


“Eliot Coleman’s The New Organic Grower, first published in 1989, remains the authority on chemical-free horticulture. The book’s take on succession planting transformed the way we manage our crop plan.” ( Maya Velasco, Culinary Gardener, Greyfield Inn; Cumberland Island, GA



“This cute Garden-in-a-Can kit keeps me in homegrown cilantro, basil, sage, and dill all winter. Package it with Prepara’s Herb Savor—a small storage container that triples the life of fresh cuttings—to deliver long-lasting season’s greetings.” (Garden-in-a-Can herb set, $24; Herb Savor, $30; Nicole Bernard Dawes, Founder and CEO, Late July Snacks; Boston



“Tops on my wish list: a Smithey cast-iron skillet, the ultimate, artisanal lust object for a gal who sears her own grass-fed beef.” (10″-diameter cast-iron skillet, $160; Anya Fernald, CEO, Belcampo; Oakland



“I rely on my KoMo grain mill to grind wheat berries into flour, but it can also process dried beans and non-oily seeds. A major investment, to be sure, this machine will likely outlive me.” (Beechwood KoMo classic grain mill, $499; Kurt Timmermeister, Kurtwood Farms; Vashon Island, WA


“Not many people know that Steven Satterfield, executive chef at Atlanta’s Miller Union, used to front the alt-rock group Silver Lakes. The band’s The Great Pretenders album serves as a stellar soundtrack when I’m cooking with my sons.” ($10; download at Matt Lee, Co-Author, The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen; Charleston, SC



“Lemongrass and orange peel imbue Jack Rudy’s tonic water with a refreshing hint of citrus. And the bottle’s pretty enough to live out on the bar.” (17-ounce bottle, $16; Bryant Terry, Chef, Activist, and Author; San Francisco



“This chicken roaster offers a more sophisticated approach to beer-can chicken. Just pour some brew into the central tube, set a chicken on top, pop the pan into the oven, and guzzle the rest of the can.” (Convertible chicken roaster, $30; Dean Carlson, Wyebrook Farm, and Author of Field  Feast; Honey Brooke, PA



“Each Del Maguey Single Village mezcal conveys the character and terroir of the Oaxacan town in which it’s produced. This one, called Vida, comes from San Luis Del Rio. When I take a sip, I recall the faces of the folks who hand-harvest and double-distill the locally grown agave.” (Vida mezcal, 750-milliliter bottle, $35; Michel Nischan, Chef and Founder and CEO, Wholesome Wave; Bridgeport, CT



“Floret Farm stocks unique cut-flower seeds that the big companies don’t. A few easy-to-grow suggestions for newbies: ‘Nimbus’ sweet peas from New Zealand, globe amaranth, and ‘Earl Grey’ larkspur.” (Seed packet, from $4; Hannah Keen, 26th Street Farm; Hastings, NE


“I have a huge heart for the farmers behind Hudson Valley Seed Library. Ken Greene and Doug Muller specialize in open-pollinated vegetable seeds and commission original works of art for each packet.” (Seed packet, $4; Naomi Starkman, Editor-in-Chief, Civil Eats; Petaluma, CA



“My brothers and I bring our 20-quart Grizzly cooler everywhere, whether we’re carrying drinks on the farm or visiting chefs with beef and poultry samples. This made-in-the-USA product keeps ice frozen for up to four days and comes with a lifetime warranty.” (20-quart cooler, $240; Stuart Joyce, VP of Operations, Joyce Farms; Winston-Salem, NC



“Developed by legendary organic farmer Eliot Coleman, this hand tiller is perfect for preparing beds and pulling up weeds by the root.” (Hand tiller, $76; Ryan Graycheck, Culinary Gardener, Greyfield Inn; Cumberland Island, GA



“My husband, Matthew, and I don’t live on our farmland, so we have to pack and bring everything we might need for the day. This insulated water bottle allows me to make iced tea in the morning and drink iced—not lukewarm—tea in the afternoon.” (17-ounce teakwood bottle, $35; Helena Sylvester, Happy Acre Farm; Sunol, CA


“Edna Lewis is my hero. I give her 1976 book, The Taste of Country Cooking, to chef-worshippers because Ms. Lewis is the absolute opposite: Her recipes tell the story of seasonal, resourceful cooking at a time when the whole family played a role in bringing food to the table.” ( Vivian Howard, Chef/Owner, Chef The Farmer, and Author, Deep Run Roots; Kinston, NC




“Little Seed, a sustainable family farm in Tennessee, crafts 20 different kinds of goat-milk soap. My preferred bar relies on activated charcoal, not chemicals, to deliver a deep clean that’s gentle enough for dry, sensitive skin.” (4 .7-ounce bar, $7; Alissa Hessler, Founder, Urban Exodus; Camden, ME



“Encourage a love of honeybees with this starter hive. Its two handy viewing windows let beginners check on the pollinators’ progress without disturbing the colony.” (Sugar-pine two-deep box starter hive, $229; Lee Jones, Farmer, The Chef’s Garden; Huron, OH



“Christopher Tracy, a chef-turned-winemaker in Bridgehampton, New York, makes VerVino vermouth by fortifying wine with brandy, local honey, and some 40 different botanicals. I serve it as an aperitif, over a single cube of ice.” (750-milliliter bottle, $28; Dorothy Kalins, Former Editor-in-Chief, Saveur and Garden Design; New York City



“Tamara White doesn’t just hand-sew and -tie each duvet she sells; the Vermont farmer also raises and shears the Shetland, Cormo, Merino, Cotswold, and Wensleydale sheep whose wool fills her cotton-covered comforters. I know what you’re thinking, down devotees, but trust me: The moisture-wicking fiber is as comfy come spring as it is cozy in colder months.” (Queen-size wool-filled duvet, $225; Monica Michael Willis, Editor-at-Large, Modern Farmer



“When I was a boy, my grandmother always delegated apple-peeling to me. As an adult, I went in search of an apple peeler like Grandma’s and found this new cast-iron gizmo. It does the job just like I remember.” (Cast-iron apple peeler, $25; Todd Klassy, Photographer; Havre, MT



“I was an early adopter of the chef’s aprons manufactured by Tilit NYC, which launched in 2012. I already owned more than a dozen when the company asked me to collaborate on this design in late 2015. I went with durable duck canvas, milled in Georgia, inset pockets, and an adjustable neckstrap, held in place by a handcrafted leather fastener.” (Satterfield apron, $80; Steven Satterfield, Executive Chef/Co-Owner, Miller Union; Atlanta


Additional reporting by Abigail Baxter and Marisa Tesoro

Share your favorite presents, to give and get, with us on Twitter (@modfarm) and use the hashtag #farmerfave. We just might include your suggestions in next year’s gift guide!

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Got a defunct basement? Fill it with sand, plant a garden and control stormwater.

The Next Idea

My work in ecological design leads me to think about how the billions of dollars that governments must invest to replace and repair infrastructure can achieve more for American cities. Over the past several years I’ve focused my work on Detroit. Many cities, including Detroit, have some pipes more than a century old moving wastewater, stormwater, or drinking water underground. A handful of cities with industrial legacies, like Detroit, also have thousands of abandoned structures awaiting demolition. When a road is rebuilt, new pipes are laid, or when a building is demolished, I see the possibility of achieving many different, complementary benefits for residents and the environment at the same time.

I work to develop ways that investments in infrastructure also can achieve more attractive, healthy neighborhood landscapes. This is called “multifunctionality”. There is a special opportunity for multifunctionality in Detroit because the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) needs to remove stormwater from the combined sewer system at the same time as the city needs to demolish abandoned houses.

Traditionally, stormwater was moved underground in pipes beneath American cities. It was visible only after storms, when there might be puddles or flooding in the streets. A newer approach, called “green infrastructure,” or “GI,” is much more visible. GI aims to keep stormwater out of pipes and manage it close to where the rain falls – on the surface or in the ground using soils and plants. The visibility of GI creates potential for it to be designed to make neighborhoods attractive as well as to manage stormwater.

DWSD is using green infrastructure to complement its billion-dollar investment in combined sewer overflow facilities (gray infrastructure) to improve water quality in the Great Lakes. By 2029, it will invest $50 million for GI in the Upper Rouge River basin, which includes about a quarter of the city. Getting stormwater into the ground isn’t easy in Detroit because much of the city has clay soils, which are not as porous as sandy soils. But the city is moving a lot of soil in demolitions, which exposes the holes where basements used to be. My student team at the University of Michigan (U of M) suggested filling the basement holes of demolished houses with a porous soil that could hold stormwater. This is called bioretention.

Putting together the visible part of GI with the demolition opportunity to build bioretention, my research team, supported by the University of Michigan Water Center with a grant by the Erb Family Foundation, is collaborating with DWSD and the Detroit Land Bank Authority (DLBA) to build bioretention GI. We also are measuring how it is working to improve water quality and the quality of life for neighborhood residents.

The bioretention garden design concept that we developed pulls stormwater from city streets and holds it in porous soil below gardens located on former vacant lots. The gardens are designed to make more attractive, healthy neighborhoods. The first four of these bioretention gardens were constructed in the Warrendale neighborhood of Detroit last year, with engineering design by Tetra Tech, DWSD’s GI Program Manager, and construction management by Tooles Contracting.

To develop the design concepts for the gardens, I drew on my experience designing and testing GI in other cities, starting with a rainwater garden project designed for Maplewood, MN, and constructed in 1997. For that early GI project, I worked with neighborhood residents for two years, testing their preferences for different GI design ideas and aiming for a design that would be attractive to them. In my work, I’ve found there are certain landscape “cues to care” that many people want to see in their neighborhood. In Maplewood, we worked to find out exactly which cues to care people wanted in the rainwater gardens in their front yards, and how they wanted the vacant lot in their neighborhood to be used in a way that protected nearby residents’ privacy.

In Warrendale, leaders of the Cody Rouge Community Action Alliance and the Warrendale Community Organization have helped guide our work. We also surveyed all residents within 800 feet of the garden sites to learn about their preferences for the designs. As constructed, the bioretention gardens have many cues to care. They include either bollards or a low earthen mound facing the street to protect residents’ privacy. As our project continues, we will survey neighborhood residents again.

The bioretention gardens in Warrendale are relatively small – each garden covers just two former residential lots, but the potential to make lasting improvements to neighborhoods is large. Thinking about where vacant and abandoned properties are located throughout Detroit, and about the need to manage stormwater throughout the city, I see that the small pieces of individual properties and individual stormwater problems can be put together to make a much larger, greater whole – green infrastructure frameworks for whole neighborhoods.

There is enormous potential for Detroit residents to get attractive, walkable neighborhoods out of the investments that are being made in demolitions and stormwater management. Entering its next era as a great Great Lakes city, Detroit should aim for multifunctionality in its infrastructure investments.

The Next Idea is Michigan Radio’s project devoted to new innovations and ideas that will change our state.

Join the conversation on Twitter or Facebook, or let us know your Next Idea here.

(Subscribe to the Stateside podcast on iTunesGoogle Play, or with this RSS link)

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Still Need Gift Ideas? Nordstrom Is Selling a Rock | College News

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Struggling with what to buy your friends and family for the holidays? Not sure what gift is truly going to demonstrate your love and appreciation for the people in your life?

Well look no further — Nordstrom has answered your Christmas prayers.

That’s right people, they’re selling a very elegant, very much real, $85 rock. And it’s been on sale since November 18 of this year, so it’s no mistake.

The rock comes from a company called Made Solid (so you know who to blame) and again, I feel like I can’t stress this enough, it’s very real.

For those of you that don’t believe me, or aren’t sure exactly how much your friends and family would appreciate such a gift, check out the below blurb from “The Cut:”

“As Western society swerves ever closer to the brink of collapse, give the aesthetically minded doomsday prepper in your life a Christmas gift she can truly appreciate: an $85 rock in a leather pouch, now available at Nordstrom.

A rock is, of course, a classic tool dating back to the Stone Age, perfect for smashing store windows or wielding as a missile against oncoming attackers, while the sophisticated tanned leather pouch is a great way to set yourself apart from the more gauche members of the ravaging horde. Plus, it goes with everything.”

Now if that’s not enticing, I don’t know what is.

All jokes aside, this is a very real item that you can definitely buy from Nordstrom’s website.

According to a spokeswoman for Nordstrom, Brie Cross, “only Mother Earth can take credit for rocks” but the “Wrapped Stone” isn’t a joke.

According to the company that made it, the rocks are “really cool, labor-intensive objects that are used as everything from paperweights to doorsteps to home/display accents.”

And to shock shoppers further, they claim that the rock is “one of our most consistently popular items, actually.” They went so far as to say that the last time they sold them at Nordstrom, they sold out.

And for you environmentalists, the company says they only buy from “select reps that can legally pull them from our local mountains for use in landscaping.”

The “stone” (rock, for those of us that don’t care) is sold in a leather case for a grand total of $85. For those of you that, understandably, are screaming “that’s ridiculous” and “who could afford that,” there’s good news: the stone also comes in a smaller size for a measly $65! It’s a steal!

So, for my sane readers wondering who in the world would buy this, and what in the world would they use it for, you aren’t alone.

The internet is so confused by the sale of a rock at a clothing store. But Nordstrom has tried to explain itself in the description of its product.

In a description for the rock on the Nordstrom website, they say, “A paperweight? A conversation piece? A work of art? It’s up to you.”

In other words, “buy our junk and make up whatever reason you’d like.”

They continue in saying:

“This smooth Los Angeles-area stone — wrapped in rich, vegetable-tanned American leather secured by sturdy contrast whipstitching — is sure to draw attention wherever it rests … A traditional hardening process gives the leather a beautiful ombre effect. Like all Made Solid pieces, this one is cut, shaped, sewn and finished by hand in artist Peter Maxwell’s Los Angeles studio.”

But the internet still isn’t buying it.

Literally. And hopefully.

Many Twitter users immediately took to their accounts to inquire as to whether or not the $85 was a joke or if Nordstrom has truly lost its mind.

But it’s not the Tweets that brought the most laughs. Instead, it’s the reviews on the Nordstrom website making fun of the overpriced pebble.

And there was no holding back.

Here are a few of my favorites:

“I ordered the leather wrapped stone as a gift for my beloved girlfriend but when it arrive[d] in the mail I quickly noticed it wasn’t as described. It clearly states that the stone was handmade but upon inspection one could easily discern many markings from factory machinery. I had it returned so they could ship me an authentic handmade stone. The leather was alright so I kept it and I found an organic GMO-free substitute in my garden to replace it while I wait for the new one to be shipped in the mail.”

“This is the perfect holster for your slappin’ stone. Even comes with a backup. It’s a little pricey — but the sales lady told me the rock was made by hand. That’s got to be difficult.”

“Have to say that this is truly a beautiful product, but I had to send it back because there aren’t any doggone instructions. I don’t even know how to turn the flippin’ thing on. I know you millennials know how to do all this techno stuff, but help some of us old guys out, would ya?”

“As a single mother, it is often difficult to put food on the table for my five children. However, when I saw this piece of rock, I couldn’t help but to purchase this item. Yes, no one in my family will eat this month, however I have a piece of rock. The leather pouch wrapping the rock is just added bonus. I can’t believe the rock is made by hand too! I was always told rocks were made through thousands of years of erosion, guess I was wrong. This just goes to show how flawed our education system is! (all of my children are home-schooled for this very reason!) I would definitely recommend this piece of rock to all of my friends and family.”

“rock make all grak friend jealous best rock in village. rock work for hitting things. rock look nice in pouch to wear for hunt or night out with mrs grak. rock cost much but grak get what grak pay for.”

“The perfect stocking stuffer for the naughty person that has everything! Forget the perishable potato of yesteryear ‘Medium Leather Wrapped Stone’ comes with a lifetime warranty so they can remember their misdeeds for years to come.”

So if nothing else, this year, feel good about yourself. Nordstrom is selling a rock for $85. Successfully.

You can literally do anything you set your mind to.

Happy Holidays!

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Selectmen still split over Route 28 plan – Wicked Local Cape Cod

CHATHAM — Rick Leavitt only spoke for a short time, but he kept repeating one point: proper landscaping and lighting will give the town the 25 miles per hour on Route 28 it wants with a redesign instead of the 35 mph the state intends.

“They are not intended to make West Chatham pretty,” he said. “They do make West Chatham pretty, but what they are intended to do is slow the traffic down.”

Leavitt was speaking to selectmen Tuesday after Peter Cocolis, chairman of the planning of board, ran through a number of landscape and hardscape ideas his committee, and the historic business district committee, came up with after three public meetings.

The ideas are meant as an alternative to Mass DOT’s lighting and landscape plans for the stretch of roadway, which is scheduled to be reduced from three lanes to two and include two roundabouts.

Selectmen listened to the report, but it won’t be forwarded to Mass DOT yet. One of the major sticking points is that although town officials did request a redesign of the road, much of the town, and many of the businesses in West Chatham, want the road pretty much left as is.

That sentiment was on Selectman Seth Taylor’s mind when he made his motion. He asked that Tom Temple, director of the department of public works, reach out, again, to the abutters on the road and see what they want. He said that without their cooperation and input landscape changes won’t work.

Although not super excited about the prospect, particularly since the town just held an additional three meetings, selectmen Cory Metters and Dean Nicastro agreed.

“I am willing to take the extra step,” Nicastro said.

Selectman Amanda Love readily agreed as she, along with Taylor, is firmly against the project. She initially suggested the board not listen to the report because town meeting voted to abandon the project, and the then board of selectmen continued to approve it. The town meeting vote was non-binding.

But the rest of the board thought the discussion was worth it, particularly since they had requested the report.

“We are a far cry from making recommendations,” said Metters, who was chairing the meeting in  chairman Jeffrey Dyken’s absence.

Metters said it was important to bring the framework to Mass DOT so officials could get “some hard numbers.

“We don’t have the costs associated with this at the moment,” Metters said.

As part of the project the town would receive state-funded landscaping and lighting, but many in town don’t want the state to dictate the trees, or the lights chosen. The document put together by the two boards makes suggests of more native trees and also less lights.

The state won’t pay for extras the town wants, say officials, but there is the possibility of reducing the lighting and switching the saved funds to landscaping.

When, or if, the report is sent Bill Tuxbury, of the West Chatham Association, asked that there be an addendum saying that “numerous townspeople” and “90 percent” of nearby businesses were not willing to comment on a project they didn’t support.




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Look at the past, eye to the future of Bianchi House

The historic Arnault Bianchi House in Wood-Ridge has sat as idle as its two-seater outhouse in the backyard. Although the home underwent a major renovation to its exterior in 2014 and boasts a splendid Victorian garden, the home is open to the public only about five or six times a year. The public may soon have more chances to get in, as the borough, which owns the old home, is planning more events, and more artifacts could be displayed for a glimpse into the area’s opulent past.

The Wood-Ridge Historical Society’s wish is to transform the 19th-century house at 111 First St. into a museum with regular monthly visiting hours, while borough officials are in discussion with library officials hoping to provide more cultural and historical programming. Wood-Ridge has owned the house since the 1970s, after the Bianchi family, the third family to own it, deeded it to the town.

The tan Italianate house with burgundy and green trim was built around the late 1880s. It holds about 200 artifacts from Wood-Ridge’s history, tucked away in storage for now. A few items on display in the enclosed front porch include a coal stove that once warmed the Wood-Ridge Train Station, a sewing machine table, an inkwell desk and a replica of the Robert Kohbertz Mansion owned by one of the principal developers of Wood-Ridge.

The home was built in the 1880s by one of Wood-Ridge’s founding fathers, French wine merchant Fridolin Arnault. The Frenchman used to sell his Bordeaux blends on Fifth Avenue in New York City. His relatives, Rudolphe and Annick Proust, traveled from Paris last year to visit the “country home” of their uncle.

The second owner was designer Joseph Briggs, Louis Tiffany’s right-hand man. Briggs is responsible for the stained-glass window designs at the Church of St. Paul’s and Resurrection in Wood-Ridge. He eventually sold the house to the Bianchis. Not much is known about the Bianchi family, according to Wood-Ridge Historical Society Vice President Pat Sloan.

“If only these walls could talk, they’d tell a lot of stories,” Sloan said.

The backyard features gardens, meticulous landscaping, enough lawn space for a grand social affair reminiscent of the Great Gatsby, benches, decorative stone and, of course, the exterior buildings — the outhouse and carriage house.

In 2014, the house underwent a two-phase restoration, which included replacement of the slate roof, removal of aluminum siding to reveal the original exterior, preserving the wood clapboards, getting the original windows to open and close properly, painting, electrical upgrades, plumbing, a furnace and replastering. The work was funded through a $2 million investment, including a $480,000 bond ordinance in 2014, and a $221,000 grant from the Bergen County Open Space, Recreation, Farmland and Historic Preservation Trust Fund.

Today, the historical society holds its monthly meetings at the Bianchi House, and it is used by the library for some storage of the borough’s historical materials.

Boosting the society’s membership and displaying more artifacts will get more generations interested in local history, the society members say. Chris Eilert, borough administrator, said the town is already working with the historical society and the library to deliver cultural and hands-on programs such as historical speakers in period costumes, poet and author visits, and music events such as the Dec. 11 program of Victorian singers. As for the displays, Eilert said it was up to the historical society to create exhibits.

The second and third floors, with a total of six rooms, are not open to the public because the bulk of the rooms are used for storage. The master bedroom has peeling paint from its plaster walls.

“The house has good bones,” said Carl Dittmann, the society’s president, noting the home’s structure, materials and details such as glass doorknobs, crown moldings and intricate woodwork.

One of Sloan’s favorite parts of the house is the dressing room. Off the master bedroom, the room could give a lesson in the art of Victorian dressing, which could take up to an hour and help from a maid to complete.

“The walk-in closet is one of my favorite parts of this house,” Sloan added. “These drawers, with their detailed handle designs, and these old latches. The shelf space built was probably used for hat boxes or shoes. You can just imagine getting dressed here.”

The borough is planning to restore the master bedroom this winter to be used as a meeting and board room for the society, noted Eilert.

The Wood-Ridge Historical Society will hold an afternoon of carols with The Spiced Punch Quartet on Dec. 11 at 1 p.m. at the Arnault Bianchi House.

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USC Upstate Dedicates Two New Gardens in Susan Jacobs Arboretum

Thanks to generous donors, the University of South Carolina Upstate is planting for the future.

“Putting things back in to the earth is an act of greater good and one that has great depth,” said David Culp, horticulturalist as he attended a tree-dedication service during USC Upstate’s 13th annual Arbor Day celebration. “A garden has the ability to take you away. This is what we give to the world. You are planting for the future.”

His words rang true for donors Andrea and Greg Shurburtt and P. Kathryn “Katie” Hicks and her husband Dr. Larry Roël who cut the ribbons during Arbor Day for two newly named gardens in the Susan Jacobs Arboretum at USC Upstate.

The Shurburtt Landscaping Group, Inc., Garden and the Hicks-Roël Garden reflect the longstanding relationship both couples have to USC Upstate. Initial plantings for the establishment of the Arboretum were made possible through the Shurburtt Landscaping Group, Inc., and Andrea Shurburtt has been an adjunct faculty member in the School of Education. In addition, Cyrill Softball Stadium, which has consistently received national recognition for its turf management and field maintenance, was under the guidance of Shurburtt Landscaping Group.

“I hope this space will be a place that students can relax and enjoy being outdoors,” Andrea Shurburtt said. “A quiet place to study or a serene place to just be alone with their thoughts.”


For Greg Shurburtt, it’s a project that has sort of come full circle for him. “Fourteen years ago, I was a young landscape architect who USC Upstate took a chance on to put the infrastructure in place to build this beautiful space.”


As he finds interesting plants while working on projects, he still finds himself ordering an extras to donate to the arboretum.


“I’ve watched this garden evolve and I’m proud to be a part of it.”

Hicks, professor emerita of art at USC Upstate, and Roël, a board certified ophthalmologist in Spartanburg, have, again, embraced an opportunity to contribute to the growth and beauty of the University by planting and naming a garden for the faculty at USC Upstate.

“The faculty are the heart of this University,” Hicks said. “I spent most of my adult life here at the University. I want to create a little beauty for those who are still here and those who will come after us.”

The gardens located behind the Health Education Complex are entry gardens to the 12-acre arboretum. With that in mind, Deno White of Capitol Construction of the Carolinas donated the labor to incorporate three wings that are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, so that the gardens can be enjoyed by everyone. The new sidewalks provide a route connecting the Sansbury Campus Life Center to the Health Education Complex, instead of having to use the road for access.

“We are excited to see this new portion of the Arboretum completed,” said Bea Walters Smith, director of development and foundation scholarships at the USC Upstate Foundation. “The Arboretum has been built solely through the generous support of the community through private donations with no state funding appropriated for its growth.”

In addition to the opening of the new gardens, the University also planted trees to honor the lives of two University employees who died earlier this year. Trees were planted in memory of Dr. Ron Romine, History professor emeritus having taught for 32 years, and Becky Taylor, a financial aid coordinator at the University for 39 years. A tree also was planted in memory Dr. Norbert A. Stirzaker, who served as the first director of the Spartanburg Regional Campus, by his widow, Mildred, and daughter, Ellen Cohen.

For more information about how to support these efforts and this distinctive green space, contact Smith at (864) 503-5235 or

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Beloved garden columnist Anne Marrison dies

The daughter of longtime journalist and garden columnist Anne Marrison wants her mother to be remembered for her love of gardening, her kindness and her acceptance of everyone she met.

Marrison, 80, died on Dec. 10 at Vancouver General Hospital, surrounded by family.

“It was very peaceful,” said daughter Nadia Graham.

Marrison was widely known for her gardening tips and advice, which appeared in the Vancouver Courier, the Burnaby Now and other publications around the Lower Mainland for decades. She wrote her last column in March after deciding to take on more of a caregiver role with her husband.

The avid green thumb was born in England on July 4, 1936. She and her family came by boat to Canada in 1955, eventually travelling by train to Vancouver.

Marrison made her career as a community reporter, initially starting at the White Rock Sun in the early ‘70s. She would go on to work at the Peace Arch News, The Columbian, and then the NOW newspapers, where she retired about 15 years ago. She kept her gardening column going, however, answering questions from readers.

“She loved her column,” said Graham. “She loved being able to go out and see people’s gardens. She liked doing the research. She has the most massive collection of gardening books. She didn’t want to fully retire. She just loved it.”

Graham noted her mom’s love of growing and cultivating plants and vegetables started early on.

“As soon as she was old enough to walk, she was helping in the garden,” the Calgary resident said. “My grandparents both also loved to garden, and it helped keep them fed during the war.”

Anne Marrison wrote for publications around the Lower Mainland.

In 1968, Marrison bought an acreage in White Rock.

“She was then really able to indulge her passion for gardening,” said Graham. “We had seven acres. We had a massive, massive vegetable garden – fruit trees, nut trees, raspberry bushes, blueberries. At one point in time, my mother grew her own kiwi fruit. I mean, she could grow anything.”

Marrison is survived by her husband Eric, Graham and her husband Carl; her other daughter Cathy Laskoski and her husband Doug Johnson (and her step grandchildren Ben, Zack, Conner and Cole); her sister Andrée Connell and her husband Mike; and a handful of grandchildren (Coral, Ben, Daniel and Sandy Laskoski).

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Vancouver General Hospital, added Graham. A memorial for Marrison, meanwhile, will be held sometime in the spring.

“We’re considering where to perhaps scatter her ashes, be it in her yard, somewhere in the woods,” she said. “We’re thinking when the snow drops and the daffodils start to come up. That would be a good time to honour mom.”

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Tips for melting ice that won’t harm your plants

We hope this bout of freezing rain doesn’t catch you unprepared, but just in case it does, here are a few tips:

1. Do not step outside quickly in the morning. Black ice is hard to see, and if you start to slide, your only hope is to pull your arms to your sides and try and protect your wrists and your head.

2. The best way to make your walkway safe is to pre-treat it, preferably with a plant and lawn safe ice-melt product. Calcium chloride is the best choice because it melts ice at very low temperatures and is probably the safest chemical choice for lawns and landscapes. To pre-treat, spread a very small amount on your walkways before the ice or freezing rain begins. Pre-treatment requires only a quarter of the amount it would take to melt ice after the fact.

3. Other good ice-melt choices are potassium chloride and magnesium chloride.

4. If all you have is rock salt (NACL), which is damaging to lawns and landscaping, use it as a pre-treatment before the freezing rain. A small amount will make the walkway safe. Try and keep it away from the edges of your lawn and landscape plants. Buy some calcium chloride or play sand for the next round of solid water.

5. If you wake up to dangerous surfaces, use whatever you have on hand, but be prepared to wait about a half hour to allow it to melt the ice and provide some traction.

6. Some of the best after-the-storm choices are play sand (like you’d buy for a child’s sandbox) and kitty litter. Both will provide good traction without any possible harm to your landscape plants. And you don’t have to wait.

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