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Archives for October 27, 2017

Now and Then – Changing Landscape in Downtown Newhall

| Community | 1 min ago

In the winter of 2004 and the spring of 2005, a new word was introduced into SCV vocabularies. The word was charrette (sometimes written charette or charet). Charrettes were part of a months-long process introduced by the architects and urbanists of Moule Polyzoides, who were hired to develop a unifying, specific plan for the Downtown Newhall area.

Those outside the process eventually learned that charrette was a French word for what the average citizen would most likely call a study session or committee planning meeting – and there were plenty of those scheduled to include the ideas and dreams of our local leaders and community members into Moule Polyzoides’ final product.

If you’ve ever wondered about the impetus for the many improvements that have taken place in the downtown area over the years, look no further than the weighty document released in February of 2005. The Specific Plan incorporated input from studies of other “revived” downtown areas to compare and note their best characteristics. The process also included two 3-day interactive town hall meetings, and 12 days of public comment. The results were posted on the city website and were also available in printed form.

Undaunted readers found that the plan covered the general as well as the specific, outlining costs and timetables for each component in the transformation procedure. The Planning Commission continued the process, dissecting the document for presentation at a series of hearings designed to give the public a chance to comment and critique.

For veterans of the Downtown Newhall revitalization movement the Specific Plan was the latest in a series of actions begun in 1989 when the City of Santa Clarita created The Newhall Redevelopment Agency. The Agency’s goal was to “undertake redevelopment activities that remove physically and economically blighted conditions that inhibit and continue to plague economic growth in the city.”


The Agency’s redevelopment project area, established by the City Council in 1997, included the retail, industrial, public, and residential properties generally situated along the Lyons Avenue and then San Fernando Road corridors. Goals set by the Agency included “the creation of an attractive, memorable image that expresses Newhall’s history and character and enhances the role of Newhall as a community center.”

Before securing the services of Moule Polyzoides, the Newhall Redevelopment Committee had reviewed other cities’ revitalization projects, conferred with development consultants, listened to concerns of the Old Town Newhall Association, and exchanged feelings and ideas on their visions for the area. Some of the resulting recommendations included façade beautification, street lighting improvements, and additional parking.

The Specific Plan took those goals into consideration and produced a visualization of a revamped Downtown Newhall and the steps necessary to turn the vision into reality – right down to underground utilities and designated street trees. The plan sought to transform the Downtown strip into an attractive, mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented, economically vital center.

One of the most visual aspects of the plan stands where Main Street dead-ends at Lyons –the large, state-of-the-art public library. In 1997, the planners felt that the building should be balanced on the south end of Main Street by a museum that would help unite historic and civic value to the area – a children’s museum was one of the suggested ideas.

While the museum may remain a pipe dream, groundbreaking has already taken place and steel is in the ground for a 42-room hotel located near the entrance to Downtown Newhall on Railroad Ave. (next to Roger Dunn Golf and across the street from Newhall Ice Company). Internet and newspaper stories have reported that the Hotel Luxen will have two main stories and a penthouse.

It was inevitable that not all of the Specific Plan recommendations would be followed – times and people’s needs change. That seems to pertain to the plan’s provision to augment the limited parking areas with two strategically located “park-once” garages on the east side of Main Street. The garages have not materialized and ample parking for downtown shoppers and diners remains an issue. However, there will be a parking garage included as part of the Laemmle Theatre complex – a mixed-use development near the library.

The Laemmle addition to the Downtown Newhall vista is just one example of the evolving process that has resulted from the hours, days, months, and years of work put in by the Redevelopment Committee members (the Agency was dissolved in 2012 and the city became the Successor Agency), the Planning Commission, and the city officials since the launch of the Specific Plan 12 years ago. The success of their efforts can be measured in the new restaurants, landscaping, and boutiques that have sprung up on Main Street. If the excitement created by these improvements is any indication, more unplanned and unique surprises, such as the Rotary Clock near the Canyon Theatre, will continue to add to the character and visual landscape greeting motorists as they enter the downtown area.

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Water Authority’s garden displays sustainable landscapes – The San Diego Union

Tucked between the corporate offices and condos of Kearny Mesa, a new model of next-generation landscape practices has sprouted at the headquarters of the San Diego County Water Authority — an oasis brimming with graffiti star clusters, Dallas red lantana, Santa Barbara daisies and dozens of other plant varieties arranged artfully between pavers, mulch and stone.

As part of its efforts to promote water-use efficiency no matter the weather, the Water Authority recently installed the showcase garden to feature four core principles of sustainable landscapes — healthy soils, climate-appropriate plants, high-efficiency irrigation and using rainwater as a resource.

The Sustainable Landscaping Demonstration Garden serves as a centrally located example of the kind of practical, beautiful garden that residents and businesses can replicate. It includes about 40 varieties of low-water plants, along with irrigation technology such as inline drip and rotating nozzles. A detention basin captures rainwater, while compost and mulch help make the most of every drop. These components work together to create multiple environmental benefits, including water savings, improved storm water management and wildlife habitat.

The newly renovated landscape is easily accessible from the Water Authority’s public parking lot near the south end of its covered entrance walkway at 4677 Overland Ave. in San Diego. At approximately 3,000 square feet, the demonstration garden provides a residential-scale example of best practices detailed in “San Diego Sustainable Landscape Guidelines.” The comprehensive, 71-page, color guidebook includes photos, diagrams and checklists that provide step-by-step details about how to transform a landscape.

Partners Make Landscape Happen

Boys Girls Club in Yankton gets landscaping around the building for teens and youngsters, thanks to the partnership with the non-profit Keep Yankton Beautiful.

Now the red brick and welcoming “the Club Teen Center” sign at the teen entrance is accented with waving grasses. Also, the blue youngster entrance has hostas beneath the “Boys Girls Club of Yankton” sign and other foundation bed plantings continue around the building. Plants become part of the entrance impression quickly, but partners’ efforts have potential of lasting importance.

The Boys Girls Club’s new site by the Yankton Middle School opened a year ago. Focus of the funds after the building opened was on the interior, with the youth.

“We want a positive appearance on the north end of the building,” said Jill Paulson, unit director of the Yankton club. “That’s how Keep Yankton Beautiful came into it. We were able to pull in their expertise to beautify the outside of the building. I don’t have landscaping skills, so the partnering is an asset.”

A few weeks ago, 10 tons of rock were delivered. Tom Nelson of Keep Yankton Beautiful (KYB) and his board, as well as a few from the Boys Girls Club board helped.

“We worked with wheelbarrows to distribute the rock in the foundation beds. Don Kettering from our board has a skid loader that had good use,” Paulson said.

The Facilities Committee of the Boys Girls Club worked with KYB on the vision of the project.

“I’ve been busy because our growth has been beyond what was expected. We’re seeing 50-60 more youth on a daily basis than we expected. It was so helpful to have our Facilities Committee work toward a positive look to the outside of the building,” Paulson said.

“I love the plants chosen,” said Vanessa Merhib, Boys Girls Club executive director, serving Yankton, Flandreau Indian School and Brookings club and pre-school.

KYB Plants the Laid Groundwork

Nelson is a member of Keep Yankton Beautiful (KYB) since 2003 and uses his landscaping skills to lead the plant project. Al Koliner, a board member of the nonprofit organization, willing wife Kay Koliner and KYB president Amy Bailey took part in the day’s work of installing plants around the club building and at both entrances.

“Lisa Kortan (of Yankton Parks Recreation) is on our board,” Nelson said. “She helped decide on the plants. These grasses are like the ones you see in the Meridian Plaza. They stay upright, overwinter and are hardy.”

A total of 32 perennials were donated for the project by Jay Gurney of Yankton Nurseries LLC. They include “Karl Foerster” Reed Grass, hostas, and “Hamein” Compact Fountain Grass. Yankton’s Hardscapes Outlet-Concrete Materials donated the rock, Slowey Construction, Inc., donated the trucking of the rocks here. Edging was funded by Boys Girls Club. Yankton Parks Recreation Department loaned volunteers, wheelbarrows and shovels to distribute the rock.

Volunteers set the pots on the rock in the beds, moved them and stood back to see the most attractive appearance. With the planting spots positioned, they moved back the rock, cut the landscape cloth and dug wide holes no deeper than the length of the roots to plant them. They added wood mulch around the plants and replaced rock up to the mulch.

“We’re a working board,” Bailey said. “Kay is married to a member. If the project is too complicated, we hire it out. Otherwise, we do it ourselves. We welcome others who want a chance to volunteer.”

Events that include KYB include Household Hazardous Waste Collection and America Recycles Day. (Save your old jeans for recycling.)

Bailey referred to the KYB website: and its Facebook page that show many projects around town, partnered with Yankton Parks Recreation. One of KYB’s first projects can be seen at Douglas Ave. and Fourth St: The flag and flagpole and roses installed there are a 9/11 remembrance. The Dakota Spirt Fountain at Fourth and Broadway, Tripp Park and 21st St. and Broadway are quite visible.


Visit with KYB Volunteers

Nelson calls Al Koliner the most “anti-litter” man in town. Nelson says Al bikes around and picks up litter as he goes along.

“What started me was in 2011,” Al said. “I ride my bike every day from the Chamber of Commerce to Paddlewheel Point. I started bringing a grocery sack, the kind that flies around (Prairie Jellyfish). I didn’t make headway. So, my wife Kay helped me. We filled bags and bags for two weeks from Highway 50 to the Missouri River at Paddlewheel Point. Ever since it was cleaned up, it has stayed clean. I’ve noticed that about other places I have cleaned up.”

“I started teaching in 1975 when there was a push for ecology,” Kay said. “Kids bought into it, for about 15 years.”

Keep Yankton Beautiful participates in the Great American Clean up each April, the Missouri River Cleanup each May, and the cleanup after the Riverboat Days Parade in August. Volunteers and their ideas are welcome. Individuals and dedicated groups in partnership make things happen.






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Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts unveils sculpture garden work

Landscape designer Fairlie Rinehart describes how an under-construction sculpture garden at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts will look in each season.
Brad Harper

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Fall Landscaping: Seven Tips and Several Trends

As the weather turns and stays cool, and the leaves turn, the fall offers a gentle invitation to look back and think ahead, while we attend to seasonal landscaping needs. Landscape philosophies and practices that were just ideas a short time ago are showing up in our neighborhoods and commercial developments.

Here are seven tips on the most current fall land care recommendations, followed by a look at all the ways that land care and landscape design are changing.

When caring for your lawn this fall, consider the following:


  • Re-think leaves: Fall leaves are integral to many critters’ life cycles. Give your leaf-smarts a refresh by reading the Xerces Society article, “Leave the Leaves!”
  • Set the Thanksgiving table—bird-style: Leave flower stalks and ornamental grasses standing until March or later. Seed heads offer food for overwintering and returning birds.
  • Care for pollinators: While “social” honeybees overwinter together in hives, about 90 percent of bee species are solitary. Their larvae overwinter in the soil or hollow stalks, such as those found in raspberry canes or sunflowers. If you do cut stalks, lay them horizontally on the ground until the spring. The larvae will emerge when temperatures are right, usually by late April or early May.
  • Kill some weeds, herbicide-free: Place cardboard over a weedy area and cover the cardboard with a thick layer of leaves or straw (four inches or more). Leave it in place for up to a year. Avoid glossy cardboard. Avoid hay, unless it is cooked hay. I have used this technique successfully on bittersweet, poison ivy, and other difficult-to-kill weeds. It is particularly useful in wooded areas and along edges.
  • Free the trees: Move leaves and mulch away from tree trunks to avoid creating “mulch volcanoes,” which pose multiple problems. Apply only two to four inches of mulch in a ring three to six inches away from the trunk.
  • Nix the dyed mulch: The problem is not so much with the dye, but with the wood. Consider this statement on the UMass Extension website: “It has been found that some of the recycled waste wood used for making landscape mulch products is contaminated with various chemicals, such as creosote and CCA (chromated copper arsenate).” See the full article:
  • Turn down the volume: Electric leaf blowers, mowers, and weed whackers are much quieter and cleaner than gas-powered. Consider switching this year.

Here’s a look at all the ways that land care and landscape design are changing.

Rainscaping is visible everywhere. Raingardens, vegetated buffers, and bio-swales catch heavy downpours and melting snow on commercial and homeowner landscapes alike. The plants in these aqua-friendly landforms help manage and cleanse water as it infiltrates the soil. Rainscapes function best with plants adapted to periodic flooding and drought, such as those listed by UConn’s online raingarden app:

At this year’s conference of the Ecological Landscape Alliance, “artful rainwater design” was a hot topic. See

New pervious and permeable pavements are replacing hardscape roads, parking lots, driveways, and sidewalks these days. In East Haddam, homeowners Felicia Tencza and Randy Miller installed a permeable driveway system on their steep landscape. One of their goals was to prevent water flow into nearby Lake Hayward.

In Westbrook, the new town center parking lot uses pervious asphalt on the parking surface, and pervious stabilized stone dust on the pathways.

On the other hand, rain is sometimes absent for long stretches, of course. Xeriscaping, or designing for drought-tolerance, is gaining ground even in rainy New England. Professional landscape managers use more warm-season ornamental grasses, junipers of all sizes, sedums, and other “desert camels” of the plant world. They employ water-holding techniques such as the addition of organic matter to the soil and placing plants closer together to shade soil surfaces.

And need we mention the popularity of pollinator gardens?

Xeriscapes, raingardens, and pollinator plantings often have a less formal look than conventional gardens, an appearance that some call nature-scaping. Not everyone loves this look, and it has prompted discussions about blight enforcement in some communities, including New London.

But according to Katie Dubow, creative director at Garden Media Group in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, there’s a growing acceptance of the look of “imperfect gardening.”

“While the manicured front lawn is still a suburban norm,” says Dubow, “we are seeing a shift in understanding that the lawn is not sustainable, that pollinators are necessary to our survival, and that when we turn a little bit of grass into a pollinator garden, our entire neighborhoods come alive.”

Garden Media Group has tracked landscape trends for 17 years. Garden Media Group’s 2018 report is online free-of-charge at

As I mentioned above, when it comes to turning down the volume, the issue of noise pollution has become an increasingly important topic. Yale University recently announced the end of gas-powered blowers and mowers on university grounds in favor of quieter, cleaner, battery-powered electrics. Learn about Yale’s new power equipment:

And then there are the trends that take us to land we don’t own directly, but can learn from and enjoy.

The practice of “forest bathing” evolved in Japan during the 1980s as Shinrin-yoku or “forest medicine.” Only a few years ago, it was still considered a bit edgy.

In 2017, public interest in the topic led the Connecticut Forest and Park Association to host a three-month series. Learn about Connecticut Forest and Park Association’s upcoming forest bathing sessions:

According to Casey Sclar, director of the American Public Gardens Association, an estimated 121 million people come to their member gardens each year.

“That is almost as many who attend all major professional sports events,” he says. “Moreover, attendance at sporting events is flat or declining, while public garden attendance is growing by 5 to 10 percent each year.” (Sclar says sports attendance is about 134 million for the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB combined.)

Public gardens in our area include Marsh Botanical Garden, Yale University, 265 Mansfield Street, New Haven; Berkshire Botanical Garden, 5 West Stockbridge Road, Stockbridge, Massachusetts: Tower Hill Botanic Garden, 11 French Drive, Boylston, Massachusetts; and Blithewold Mansion, Gardens, and Arboretum, 101 Ferry Road, Bristol, Rhode Island.

Kathy Connolly is a landscape designer, writer, and speaker from Old Saybrook. Contact her through her website:

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3 Extraordinary Garden Townhouses Hit Paris Market

Courtesy of Emile Garcin

$23.5 million townhouse on Rue de Crillon in Paris’ Le Marais district.

The crowded City of Lights also has a privé side—in exclusive, secluded districts. There, magnificent mansions discreetly await a well-heeled suitor, just a stone’s throw from the tourists, the Seine and the Champs-Élysées.

Courtesy of Emile Garcin

Looks like spring in Paris, as garden mansions hit the market.

With their serene floral gardens, meticulous landscaping, terraces and lavish chandeliers these charming Parisian estates flaunt traditional French architecture and unexpectedly renovated interiors with exotic or contemporary furnishings. Here are three Parisian townhouses worthy of a generous bid. David Stanley of Emile Garcin Properties is the listing broker for these properties.

Le Marais District Townhouse ($23.5 million)

Courtesy of Emile Garcin

Dining room with veranda and sunroof

This extraordinary mint condition 19th century townhouse on Rue de Crillon covers 16,146 square feet over five floors, featuring an extravagantly chandeliered library, a caretaker’s duplex, two basement levels, indoor swimming pool, wine and guitar cellar, and a recording studio for a diehard music enthusiast. It’s garden level (ground floor) includes a large reception room, office, workshop, kitchen and a striking dining room veranda with luxurious chandeliers and sunroof.

Courtesy of Emile Garcin

Living room with intricate detailing

Gracing the first floor is a large master suite (with dressing room) and two childrens’ quarters (with playroom)—all of which include bathrooms and terrace access. The second floor houses the library and four guest suites.

Courtesy of Emile Garcin

Large wood library with lavish chandelier

Courtesy of Emile Garcin

Indoor pool and spa

The two basement levels are packed with amenities worthy of a hotel. The first basement level offers a media room, the recording studio, fitness center, massage room—and for collectors, a wine cellar and guitar cellar. This floor also holds the caretaker two-bedroom studio. The second basement includes a 39-foot x 20-foot pool with bath house, dressing room, spa, as well as a three-car garage.

Neuilly Château ($7.3 million)

Courtesy of Emile Garcin

3,229-square-foot dining garden

This 1920s mansion in west Paris is a virtual a work of art, exhibiting imaginative strokes of contemporary interiors and impressionist-style exteriors. Modernized amid residual Roaring 20s charm, this secluded art lover’s abode showcases gallery-style sculptures in the main living areas, which boast high ceilings, picturesque garden views, and outdoor access.

Courtesy of Emile Garcin

Contemporary living room with bullfighter theme

Courtesy of Emile Garcin

Neuilly Château is on the market for $7.3 million

The 5,705 square-foot, four-level estate includes a triple reception room, double bath master suite, elevator, basement home theater, and wine cellar. The ground floor includes an entry hall, kitchen, study (with separate entry) and a super-sized reception room with direct access to a private 3,229-square-foot garden.

Courtesy of Emile Garcin

Art sculptures and paintings define this unique space.

Courtesy of Emile Garcin

Artistic dining room

While the large master suite highlights the first floor, the second and third floors feature two independent apartments which can be converted into fourth or fifth bedrooms (each with a bath). The air conditioned home also has a garage, and three well-lit exterior parking spaces.

La Muette Private Mansion ($11.74 million)

Courtesy of Emile Garcin

The 1840-built mansion covers 7,000 square feet.

Courtesy of Emile Garcin

Exotic prints by the bar

Located near Rue de Passy in an upscale area of the 16th arrondissement, this completely renovated, four-bedroom 1840-built mansion covers nearly 7,000 square feet—including a 1,400-square-foot sun garden, an entrance gallery, and two 431-square-foot terraces off the first floor master suite and second floor bedroom, respectively.

Courtesy of Emile Garcin

The townhouse is on the market for $7.4 million

Courtesy of Emile Garcin

Dining area

Under a glass roof, the contemporary kitchen boasts 20-foot-high ceilings. The estate features very exotic furnishings, a large living room, a small lounge (with desk), a dining room that opens to the alluring private garden, and an office off another 108-square-foot terrace.

Courtesy of Emile Garcin

Private garden

Courtesy of Emile Garcin

Wine cellar

The home also includes a large two-car garage and a furnished amenity basement with a gym, nightclub, wine cellar, laundry room, and generous storage space.

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Gardening Forever talk at UMaine Extension

SPRINGVALE A free public presentation, “Gardening Forever: Tips and Tools for Lifelong Gardening, will highlight the York County Extension Association annual meeting, 6:30 to 8 p.m., on Tuesday, Nov. 14 at Anderson Learning Center, 21 Bradeen St., Springvale.

Ellen Gibson, AgrAbility Specialist with Maine AgrAbility, will speak on and demonstrate how to “garden forever.” Topics include arthritis and its causes, and how small changes in our working routines can help us become stronger and reduce pain. Gibson will bring a bucket of ergonomic gardening tools to pass around and a wealth of ideas for enjoying many seasons of successful gardening.

A dessert social will begin at 6:30 p.m., followed by the York County Extension Associations brief annual meeting and Gibsons talk. All are welcome.

Maine AgrAbility is a free statewide resource for farmers, farm workers, and farm family members with injuries, chronic health conditions, and disabilities. The organization offers resources, tools, and referrals to make working on the farm safer and more productive. Educational programming on health and safety issues around the farm and in the garden is provided in addition to direct services.

Gibson works for AgrAbility partner Goodwill Industries of Northern New England. She has a masters degree in rural community planning, writes extensively on agricultural issues, and makes presentations to various audiences about the work of Maine AgrAbility. She farms in West Paris where she raises Nubian goats for milk and meat.

For more information or to request a disability accommodation, call (207) 324-2814 or 800-287-1535 (in Maine), or email

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Lima Garden Club regional meeting

Fall is finally here and winter is just around the corner so it’s a great time to start thinking about next year’s garden.

To get some tips on how to make your garden the best, the Lima Garden Club is opening up its regional meeting this Saturday to the public. The meeting will be held at Southside Christian Church and will give garden enthusiasts a chance to talk and learn a little more about getting the most out of their green thumbs. The cost to attend the meeting is $12, a continental breakfast and lunch will be provided.

To make your reservation call 419-225-7690, all reservations need to be made by Thursday (10/26/17) evening for the meeting.

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Tips for chimney safety and proper operation

Although last week felt like summer, with highs in the 70s and bountiful clear skies, if you heat with an indoor wood stove or fireplace, this week’s low temperatures likely dictate that it’s time to start building your first fire of the season.

While the focal point of a wood-burning system is the stove or fireplace itself, frequently with a view of a pleasant fire to watch on a cold evening, an often overlooked element of a safely operating system is the chimney.

Annual inspection of a chimney is paramount to ensuring that it functions efficiently and safely.

Merely standing in your yard and looking up at the brick stack on your roof won’t suffice, as Tim Fox, a chimney sweep from Deerwood and owner of explained.

As last week came to a close, Fox was nursing a sore back after a chimney he had been inspecting recently crumbled beneath him and sent him rolling part way down the roof.

“They can look perfectly fine with your feet on the ground, but without getting eyes on the chimney from up on the roof, you never know how bad they can actually be,” Fox said.

Most chimneys he inspects show evidence of one or multiple chimney fires in their history. Cracked clay liners and discoloration are indicators that creosote has caught fire inside of the flue.

Creosote is a residue left in chimneys from the incomplete combustion of oils in the fuel wood during the burning process. These oils rise with the smoke and deposit themselves on the walls of the chimney.

In a properly functioning system, creosote build-up is kept to a minimum because of near complete combustion. But more often than not, a combination of factors including wood quality, chimney design and fire-building practices result in most chimneys collecting an excess of creosote and thus creating the potential for a chimney fire and/or decreased efficiency of your woodburning device.

“Neglect is usually the biggest cause of chimney fires,” Fox said. “It’s best to have your chimney looked at once a year.” Fox said that the operator of the stove or fireplace needs to be tuned-in to its function and be attentive to any changes in operation. “The first symptoms you experience should be checked out right away,” Fox added. If the chimney begins drafting differently or if fires are difficult to start, it is best to have the system checked out as these symptoms may indicate a problem with the chimney.

There are many factors that play a role in safely and efficiently heating your home with wood.

Firstly, proper selection of the wood you are going to burn. Fox recommends that anyone who heats with wood should own a moisture meter. Ideally, well-seasoned wood will have about twenty percent moisture.

If the moisture content is too high, poor combustion and a greater volume of creosote will collect within the chimney.

Secondly, there is an art to starting and maintaining a good fire. A chimney flue needs to be warmed up to be able to start drafting effectively. It is the draft that brings the smoke up and out of the chimney and the fresh air in to the combustion chamber of the firebox.

Once you’ve started the fire, “it’s important to get a good bed of coals before adding too much wood,” Fox said. “Once your fire is burning well, add less fuel more often. That way you can maintain a consistent burn and you’ll burn less wood.” Although it requires more attention, it will reduce creosote build up and reduce ash accumulation, Fox said.

Finally, not all wood burning systems are designed or created equal.

A chimney that is located within a house has a better opportunity to stay warm and consistently draft than a chimney installed on an exterior wall or completely outside the house, which is commonly seen with chimneys that were added on after a house was built.

“A lot of problems that people experience can be traced back to an ‘outside’ chimney. As soon as the gasses exit the house, they are getting beat down by the cold,” Fox said. This can cause rapid creosote buildup in the chimney and a poor draft. The warmth from the rising smoke and exhaust gases can be wicked by the flue and chimney faster than they are released from the firebox, causing condensation and depositing combustion byproducts on the interior walls of the flue, including creosote.

Even though Fox was ready to hang it up for the week and rest his back, he offered one last piece of advice: every chimney should have a proper chimney cap. Keeping rainwater out of a chimney, whether it be stainless steel or clay-lined, will greatly add to its lifespan.

“We’ve gotten 40 inches of rain this year,” Fox said. “An adequate chimney cap can save you thousands.” Not only will it reduce water damage to the chimney, but it will also keep water from pooling on top of the firebox of a stove and rusting it out.

Fox said that he and most other chimney sweeps are typically very busy in the fall and early winter and so it’s always a great idea to schedule your chimney inspection and cleaning at the end of the heating season (spring) so that it is done and out of the way before the rush begins in the fall. But if you haven’t gotten your chimney inspected since it was last used, it is smart to promptly schedule an appointment before putting it back in commission.

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Being a better neighbor can start with lawn care … seriously

I was thinking about ways we could all be better neighbors through gardening, and I surprised myself with the stack of ideas that piled up in just a few minutes. Let’s see if you agree with these.

▪ Remove volunteer seedlings of fruiting mulberries, hackberries, cottonwoods and willows and any other rogue trees that are likely to populate the block with their offspring.

Pay special attention to those trees the birds plant beneath power lines. They’ll grow to get into the wires, and when a major ice storm or windstorm comes through, you’ll be the reason power gets knocked out on your street. That’s not a great way to win friends.

▪ If you have St. Augustine and the folks on either side of you have bermuda, you take some form of pre-emptive action to keep your grass from overrunning their lawns. They may not even realize it, but they will be eternally grateful.

St. Augustine is the dominant turf that trumps all other grasses. We no longer have any herbicide that will kill St. Augustine without harming bermuda and other lawngrasses. You either need to put in some type of low-visibility edging strip or you need to develop a landscaping bed that juts out far enough to intercept the St. Augustine and stop it.

▪ Don’t let your trees interfere with the everyday lives of your neighbors.

Trees’ roots can lift driveways if they’re planted too closely. Limbs can overhang and rub roofing or cast excessive shade. Leaves can blow and clog pools or clutter entries and patios. Be mindful of what chaos you’re creating when your trees are in the wrong places.

Ditto for trees at intersections. They can block lines of sight. Keep them pruned so people can see.

▪ Develop a landscape that’s in keeping with others around it. If your neighbors have worked hard to have a community of pleasant, rather standard landscapes with shade trees, green shrubs, groundcovers and lawngrasses, think twice about jangling it up with giant cacti and yuccas, huge boulders and pagodas.

Not that there’s anything wrong with any of those landscaping elements, but they need to be in their own places.

It’s nice to drive into a neighborhood and see a feeling of togetherness and harmony, like everyone lives in peace and tranquility. That’s probably only a facade, but good first impressions never hurt whether they’re real or only perceived.

▪ Be mindful of water that’s leaving your property and that might be going onto properties next door. When you change grades in your landscape, you may very well be redirecting rainfall runoff into someone’s backyard or garage.

Do your preparatory homework and site checking beforehand. And if you have a sprinkler system, be vigilant to keep heads properly aligned and functional. Keep them out of the street, and adjust them so they won’t spray onto your neighbor’s disease-prone plants while they’re in full bloom.

Catawba crape myrtles make nice first impression

▪ Support your local school by buying, planting and maintaining a new tree every year. Honor a teacher with the tree. Choose a great species such as an oak or pecan, and make an event of its planting involving the community, students and teacher.

Arrange for a team of community members to carry water to the tree weekly for its first couple of years, until it’s able to stand on its own. If the school campus doesn’t have room for the planting, find a park or a church.

▪ Volunteer at an elementary school and teach a class of young gardeners about a plant you really enjoy.

I chose cacti and succulents, and I asked our grandson to help me. He was in kindergarten, and he and I addressed about 100 of his classmates. I took 20 plants from my collection in with me. Your favorite nursery would probably loan you some plants for a couple of hours. They might even go with you.

Note that you’ll need to plan ahead with the front office. Security clearances being what they are today you’ll have to apply and fill out some forms. But those smiles make it really worth the little bit of effort!

▪ If there is an elderly person in your neighborhood, or perhaps someone who has had a run of bad luck or injury, make a surprise raid on their landscape and mow, blow, trim and weed things to make it look better.

Take a pot planted with flowers for the front porch and a card signed by all the volunteers. That’s a really good feel-good thing to do. Everybody comes away a winner.

▪ Organize a neighborhood cleanup day to work over the common areas — the alleys, medians, parkways and others.

Start with a committee of like-minded people. Make a list of things you want to accomplish. Estimate the tools you will need to get it all done and the numbers of people for each of the tasks. Assign project leaders and schedule the date.

Check with the city if any permits will be needed. Locate underground utilities if any digging is anticipated. Extend the call for volunteers. Gather all the supplies, securing donations whenever possible.

So that’s my list that I assembled in just a few minutes. You have your own list. The important thing is that we all do all that we can to make our blocks, our towns, our state as good as they can possibly be.

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