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Archives for November 26, 2017

Cuyahoga Community College students use 3D printing to make assistive devices for veterans

CLEVELAND, Ohio — It was the simple things they missed.

Gardening. Turning the pages of a book. Using an electric razor.

Veterans, many of them requiring wheelchairs, told Cuyahoga Community College students about their longings as they all gathered not too long ago in a room at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center.

The Tri-C students were studying how to use 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, to make affordable, assistive devices that could help veterans and others reclaim some of the simple things in life.

Patient Richard Tuttle just wanted to garden again.

“Before my injury, I was quite the gardener,” he said. “I raised my own green beans — canned them. Raised tomatoes — canned them. Now, it is a different story from a year ago.”

It was then that Tuttle was paralyzed after falling 14-feet while deconstructing an old barn.

His story resonated with student Christopher Wiersma, who has had four back surgeries.

“When I began to get better, the first thing that I could really do was gardening,” he said. “It could have been just sitting in the dirt pulling weeds. Just doing it made me feel good. So, being able to give that to somebody else is important.”

From ideas to devices

A few days later, the students were back in class going over their notes and deciding what projects they would tackle.

Wiersma wanted Mr. Tuttle, as he called him, to till the soil again. He would design the Garden Buddy, a set of assistive tools.

Mark Lettieri remembered the joyous expressions when some veterans spoke of their love of fishing. He would design the Fisherman’s Gauntlet for those without strength or motor control to cast a fishing line.

Tyler Tomazic and Eric Szabo sought to answer some veterans’ yearning to thumb through the pages of a book again. Tomazic would design the Easy Easel to hold a book. Szabo would design the UFO Page Turner for books and touchscreens. (Its semicircle design resembles a flying saucer.)

“Its hard to image a point in my life where I suddenly couldn’t turn the pages in a book,” he said. “There is so much that we take for granted that they just want to have back in their everyday lives. We want to give that back to them.”

Instructor Maciej G. Zborowski liked that his students were applying the 3D printing curriculum to the plight of veterans. That is why he and Alethea V. Ganaway, Tri-C’s additive manufacturing program manager, came up with the Capstone Project by partnering with the VA. These students, from the summer 2017 class, were the second group to work with veterans.

“It is one thing to assign a project that is just a figment of my imagination, but I figured that it would be more impactful to test the students using problems that actually existed out in the real world,” he said.

Additive manufacturing is a growing field, especially in the medical industry, and working with veterans offers practical experience in the one-year certificate 3D Digital Design and Manufacturing Technology program. Ganaway said the program is designed so that graduates could either work right away or pursue an associate’s or higher degree.

Zborowski said 3D printing makes it easy to customize assistive devices, and for less money than with traditional manufacturing methods.

Students Khushbu Patel and Jarrod Koch listened as the veterans told of their frustration with assistive devices for eating utensils. There were good ones, but they usually cost a few hundred dollars. Patel set out to design an effective, inexpensive device.

Koch listened with empathy as the veterans spoke. Only a few years earlier, after being paralyzed in an accident, using such awkward devices annoyed him. He set out to design Add-It Hands, an assistive device that could be modified for a variety of activities from eating to shaving.

“I remember not being able to feed myself that well,” he said. “Everything they gave me only frustrated me further. You had to shovel food into your mouth like you were a toddler.”

The students spent the next few months working on their projects in the 3D lab at Tri-C’s Metro Campus. They worked individually and also collaborated. For example, Szabo’s page turner was incorporated into the Easy Easel and Garden Buddy.

The journey from idea to a device included sketches, cardboard models and digital models that were then programmed into a 3D printer. The printer consecutively adds layers of plastic, or other material, to construct an object from the digital image. It is not uncommon for objects to print for 20 hours.

Wiersma arrived at the lab one morning expecting to see a cylinder structure he had left to print overnight. Instead, he found something that resembled angel hair spaghetti. The printer had malfunctioned.

“My stomach kind of dropped to my feet a bit,” he said.

Luckily, there was still time to redo the 13-hour print before the class would meet again with the veterans. Wiersma didn’t want to disappoint “Mr. Tuttle,” who had been his motivation.

The Reveal

In early August, the students were back at the VA meeting with the veterans to reveal their devices. The students had planned on making PowerPoint presentations, but the equipment wasn’t available.

Koch had counted on showing the slide of an x-ray of his severely injured spine, which had once confined him to a wheelchair. The veterans needed neither slide nor explanation of medical terms. They could relate.

“The doctors took metal and Tinkertoyed me together from my third vertebra to my sixth,” he later said. “They removed most of my fourth and fifth vertebrae because I shattered them. They didn’t expect me to move anything above my shoulders.”

When Koch demonstrated how his device could be used with an electric razor, veteran Leonard Powell enthusiastically responded.

“I know I need a shave bad,” he said. “I would never let my beard get this bad if I were able to do it myself.”

Wiersma acknowledged Tuttle during his presentation.

“I was thinking about you when I did this because you were talking about how you liked to garden, and you missed it,'” he said.

Tuttle smiled.

Some of the students left their devices for veterans to beta test.

“Work them until they fail,” said Zborowski, the instructor. “We’ll get the feedback back to these guys, so that they can improve them.”

A few days later, Tuttle was in a VA garden using the Garden Buddy to work the beds.

“That is what I used to do,” he said. “It is so enjoyable, so fulfilling.”

Tuttle also got to use the UFO Page Turner Szabo designed.

The veterans suggested that Wiersma could improve the Garden Buddy by working on its wrist movement. The Page Turner worked well, but was less reliable on touchscreens, one of its stated functions. Patient Powell was released before being able to test the Add-It Hands for shaving.

Even though the feedback came after the students completed the class, Szabo and Wiersma are open to working with the veterans again to perfect their devices. So is Koch, who still wants his device tested.

“It really was life-changing to speak with these veterans,” Szabo said. “They offer a unique perspective.”

And Tuttle said he is willing to work with the students because their mission is improving lives.

“I thought I had lost everything,” he said. “I am learning through these (students) that is not the case.”

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Larger houses on smaller lots lead to scaled-down plants

Urbanization is transforming landscape design in many places: Larger houses and smaller lots are driving the development of scaled-down plants.

Plant breeders are introducing plants — everything from shrubs and trees to flowering perennials — that remain compact when placed in the garden. They look great in containers, too.

“This is happening in every urban area in the world where developers are trying to squeeze in extra homes per acre,” said Jonathan Pedersen, vice president of business development for Monrovia Nursery Co., which has brought hundreds of new plant varieties to market. “That’s making us look for downsized but diverse plants with a smaller footprint.”

People with smaller yard space must use it more resourcefully, he said.

“They don’t have as much room for large, lush gardens, but they still want seating areas surrounded by plants. We want to give them that with compact plants that bloom longer and require less maintenance,” Pedersen said. “They reach a certain size and stay that way.”

Less can be more in smaller gardens, said Eileen Obermiller, a landscape architect from Powell Butte, Oregon.

“You don’t want to crowd a small space,” Obermiller said. “Plants should comfortably fit an area without taking over.”

Dwarf species or columnar forms are appealing options, she said.

“Be sure to read the attached tags when you’re dealing with specialized plants,” Obermiller said. “Make certain that you get plants that fit the space.”

Create a calmer environment by cutting down on the number of materials and plant varieties.

“For example, a good ground cover can tie a garden together well,” she said. “Instead of planting vinca, ajuga, woody thyme, creeping mahonia, kinnikinnik and sweet woodruff, plant just sweet woodruff in the shade and wooly thyme in the sun.”

Select and work with only a few complementary colors, Obermiller said: “You can add color with pots of flowers or colorful furniture cushions.”

Also, go vertical. Choose an assortment of green tower boxwoods that can grow 9 feet tall and provide loads of greenery in a confined space. “Vines on a trellis would do the same,” she said. “Plus vines can offer colorful flowers and a pleasant fragrance.”

Think function when creating gathering places.

“It seems like we always need storage,” Obermiller said. “If you can design a bench with space for blankets and pillows or games, you’ve accomplished two goals with one piece of furniture.

“Or if you end a planting area 4 feet short of its boundary, using an attractive wall with vines, or silhouetted trees or falling water, you can park yard equipment behind it out of sight.”

Proper pruning is important in any size garden for plant health and beauty, she said.

“More so in a small garden, because in a small garden everything is up close,” she said. “Every gardening action you take in a small garden will be seen over and over again.”

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Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County partner on $192K rain garden program

ANN ARBOR, MI – Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County are continuing to partner on a community rain garden program that’s expected to cost $192,000 over two years.

The City Council voted this month to approve an agreement with the county, with the city allocating $30,000.

Jen Lawson, the city’s water quality manager, said the city has a longstanding relationship with the Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office and the new agreement represents a continuation of a rain garden assistance program for the community that started six years ago, funded by the city and WCWRC.

It includes assisting landowners with installation of their own rain gardens, and a master rain gardener certification program that trains and supports people in designing and installing rain gardens.

According to the agreement between the city and the county, the goals and objectives of the program include:

  • To improve water quality in rivers, lakes and streams by capturing and infiltrating storm water runoff from impervious surfaces at the point of concentration.
  • To establish rain gardens as a viable method of infiltrating runoff by providing well-maintained, attractive examples in the community as inspiration to others to install rain gardens on their own property.
  • To train members of the community who are committed to pass along this knowledge to others.
  • To create a network of functioning, attractive rain gardens throughout the county.
  • To meet requirements under the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System stormwater permitting program by engaging in public involvement, public participation, public education and post-construction stormwater best-management practices.
  • To enable residents to design rain gardens that meet eligibility requirements for the city’s Stormwater Utility Credit Program.
  • Offer a master rain gardener certification program to train and support individuals to design and install rain gardens. The class will be five three-hour classes, with room for 30-plus trainees and open to the general public.
  • Offer onsite design and build consultation for Ann Arbor residents who wish to build a rain garden.
  • Provide ongoing coordination and support of a community of rain gardeners who can spread knowledge and hands-on experience about rain gardens to others in the broader community.
  • Engage in outreach and publicity promoting the value of creating gain gardens.

“Rain gardens installed upstream in the headwaters of a watershed are a very effective ‘best management practice’ for stormwater management as they capture runoff from privately-owned impervious surfaces such as roofs and driveways and infiltrate it into the ground and vegetation rather than having it all drain into the city’s storm sewer system and move directly downstream, resulting in a positive impact on downstream water quality,” Lawson wrote in a memo to the City Council, adding that the program also provides inspiration to others to install rain gardens on their own property.

“The city’s stormwater utility encourages residents to install rain gardens on their property to obtain a credit in their utility fee,” she wrote in her memo. “It is imperative for the success of these installations that residents have opportunities for training and education about rain gardens.”

According to Lawson, the WCWRC proposed the rain garden program partnership with the city in 2011 to address water quality goals within the Huron River watershed, including all creeksheds within the city. In 2011 and 2012, they entered into one-year agreements, and in 2013 and 2015 they entered into two-year agreements with activities similar to those in the new two-year agreement.

The new agreement is retroactive to July 1, 2017, and runs through June 30, 2019. The WCWRC is administering the program.

Learn more.

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Colorado River Journey: The Past And Future Of Water Use | Across …

LOVELAND, CO — When you turn on the tap and pour a glass of water in the Front Range, you are drinking last year’s snow from the Western Slope. That snow will melt in the spring and rush along tributaries of the Colorado River high up in the mountains heading west.

But before the river’s water can flow from its headways down to the Gulf of Mexico, it’s caught in reservoirs such as Grand Lake and Lake Granby. There, it’s held until it’s diverted the next year to the eastern part of the state, through giant tunnel and dam works that harvest hydroelectric power and carry water for drinking, industry and agriculture.

“Basically 80 percent of the precipitation in Colorado is west of the Continental Divide and 80 percent of the people are in the eastern part of the state,” said James Bishop, public involvement specialist of the Bureau of Reclamation, Eastern Colorado Area Office.

A new era in public dam works is beginning in Colorado, with two projects getting approval from the Army Corps of Engineers this year. There hasn’t been a big dam or water-moving project built in the state for the past 25 years.

The past and the future of water use along the Front Range can be understood with the Loveland Museum’s enormous 3-D map of the Colorado-Big Thompson system, which takes up a large portion of the second floor. [You can watch a video below]. The museum’s Tunnel Vision exhibit celebrates the anniversary of the completion of the Alva B. Adams Tunnel, which first conveyed water in 1947 from the Colorado River to be used in the east.

New dam-building projects

Denver Water announced a $380 million expansion of Gross Reservoir, which will allow it to increase storage by 18,000 acre-feet.

Also, Northern Water Conservancy District in Berthoud got approval for the $425 million Windy Gap Firming Project, which will capture water from the Fraser River tributary on the Western Slope and deliver it to a brand new 90,000 acre-foot reservoir west of Loveland in Chimney Hollow. That water will also flow through the Adams Tunnel.

The Tunnel Vision exhibit displays photos from the construction of the tunnel, decreed via U.S. Senate proclamation in 1937. The exhibit also features art of Megan Gafford that demonstrates “humanity’s impressive ability to figure out how to achieve the difficult task of moving water.”

Tunnel system brings water from west to east

The tunnel system was, and is, an engineering wonder.

View of Alva B Adams tunnel concreting equipment, looking upstream 1943. Courtesy: Federal Bureau of Reclamation
View of Alva B Adams tunnel concreting equipment, looking upstream 1943. Courtesy: Federal Bureau of Reclamation

Water is collected from the Colorado River in Lake Granby, then pumped uphill to Shadow Mountain Lake and adjacent Grand Lake, where it is fed into the 10-foot diameter mouth of the Adams Tunnel.

For a 13.1mile stretch, the tunnel passes under the Continental Divide, dropping 100 feet in elevation and empties out west of Mary’s Lake near Estes Park. Water passes through five power plants as it makes its way to the Front Range. Some of the electricity is maintained in the system to power the pumps on the Western Slope. The rest of the power is sold.

The tunnel can convey water at a rate of up to 1,100 acre-feet per day, adding up to 220,0000 acre-feet of water per year. The Colorado-Big Thompson system brings water to farm and ranch land as well as 925,000 people in portions of eight northern Colorado counties, according to the Loveland museum.

But demographic changes have increased the usage of water, and who’s using it, Bishop said. When the Adams Tunnel was built, two-thirds of Front Range use was for agriculture and one-third was for municipalities and industry, Bishop said.

“Now those are inverted, with two-thirds for municipalities and one third for agriculture.”

More people = new water projects

New times and new demographic predictions are bringing big new construction projects to the water delivery services in Colorado. But some say the Colorado River is already dying, with climate change making things worse. They assert the river, and the states downstream, can’t afford more diversion.

Windy Gap Reservoir
Windy Gap Reservoir. Courtesy Northern Water Conservancy District

The Windy Gap Firming Project was conceived when wet years between 1995-2000 caused water to overflow the Colorado Big Thompson system, said Eric Wilkinson, general manager for Northern Water Conservancy District.

On the Front Range, twelve cities will use the new reservoir outside of Loveland west of Carter Lake. The City of Broomfield will claim the most storage with room for 26,464 acre feet. The Platte River Power Authority will claim 12,600 acre feet. Greeley, Longmont and Loveland will claim about 10,000 acre feet each, while other towns in Weld and Boulder Co’s. will store between 1,000-5,000 acre feet. Northern Water will issue bonds for the project, which participating cities will repay.

Originally proposed in the 1960s, the Windy Gap project had an extra storage component, but that was never built, Wilkinson said. The new reservoir at Chimney Hollow can hold water during dry years when there is carryover, he said.

Site of proposed new Chimney Hollow reservoir and dam near Loveland
Site of proposed new Chimney Hollow reservoir and dam near Loveland via Northern Water Conservancy Dist.

“Utilizing storage is like having money in a bank account, when there are plentiful years, you have some fairly steady income coming out,” Wilkinson said.

But environmentalists say collecting more water from the Colorado River would only exacerbate problems downstream in the southwestern states like Nevada, Arizona and California, where droughts have created crisis and states have taken drastic conservation measures to attempt to regulate water use.

Further, they say climate change is already resulting in less snowpack and less water in the river.

A group of conservationist organizations filed a lawsuit in October with the Army Corps of Engineers and the Reclamation Bureau. The petition for review of agency action asks the two federal agencies to revaluate the Windy Gap Firming Project, which they say is not based on actual water demand and will remove more water from the Colorado River, further damaging the wildlife and health of the river.

“We consider it a brand new project,” said Gary Wockner of Save The Colorado. “They think water shouldn’t have to go down the river unless it’s legally forced to. We believe rivers are alive and they exist for the benefit of fish, habitat and wetlands.”

Wockner said population growth was driving water demand, but that Colorado was “twenty years behind” on water conservation efforts like those in California that resulted in water use reduction of 20 percent or more. “California [gives a rebate] to people to get rid of their lawns, there isn’t anywhere in Colorado that does that,” Wockner said. Wocnker said more efficient systems, water recycling, growth management and working with farmers were the ways to meet water demands in the future.

Towns along the front range are trying to work the lawsuit into their timelines.

“The impact of the lawsuit on the proposed project schedule is uncertain at this time,” David Allen, Broomfield Pubic Works director, said in an email. “The lawsuit may delay the selling of bonds if the legal proceedings are drawn out. We will have a better sense of any potential delays in the next three to six months. Engineering design is still moving forward as planned and is anticipated to be completed in early 2018.”

As for climate change, Wilkinson said he wasn’t sure how the weather would affect the amount of snow. “Weather on both extremes is what we’re thinking. Wet years will be wetter and dry years will be dryer.”

Wilkinson said Northern Water supports conservation methods and the Berthoud offices feature 2.5 acres of demonstration gardens to offer landscaping ideas. But he disagreed that water conservation was the answer to the water needs of population growth.

“Conservation alone will not, in any way shape or form, solve all the problems. Yes, it’s a key ingredient and our participant [municipalities] are vigorously pursuing that,” Wilkinson said. “The state water plan made it clear that our system includes storage.

“It takes 20 years, at least, to develop a water project,” Wilkinson said. “You don’t plan for tomorrow if you’re in the water purveyor business, you plan for 20 years from now.”

Watch an explanation of how water travels from the Colorado River to the Front Range using the Loveland Museum’s 3-D map of the Colorado Big-Thompson Water System.

Image: Lake Granby Dam and water spill via Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District

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Gardening: Books explore plants underwater, on tracks

For the gardeners on your holiday gift list, a good gardening book is a treasure that keeps on giving. Here are three titles that are at the top of my list:

“Gardens of the High Line: Elevating the Nature of Modern Landscape” (Timber Press) by the garden’s designer, the famed Piet Oudolf and award-winning photographer and horticulturist Rick Darke, is a fabulous photo-driven book that takes the reader on a fascinating journey on the walkways of the 10 gardens through the four season to explore their designs, plant pallets, care and evolution.

The High Line, 11/2 miles of abandon elevated railroad track, was once considered by many to be one of Manhattan’s greatest eyesores. Others, especially those who lived above it and viewed the wild garden seeded in by Mother Nature, believed it was a natural and man-made treasure that should be saved.

Now, a decade later, with an investment of more than $150 million, 90 percent of which was publicly funded, the mile and a half long High Line now ranks among the great city parks of the world.

This is a must read for anyone who yearns to visit or create a landscape large or small that pays homage to both man and the wonders of nature.

“Sowing Beauty:Designing Flowering Meadows from Seed” by James Hitchmough (Timber Press) explains why and how an understanding of naturally occurring plant communities that function ecologically can and should be used to help design, establish and manage naturalistic gardens, urban parks and green spaces.

While Hitchmough’s plantings focus on the sowing of seeds for economic reasons as well as availability, gardeners who depend on plug and container plantings will find a wealth of invaluable information in this work. Hitchmough addresses the ecological parameters including climate, soil types and degree of species competition, and he has organized the environmental and management limitations for various natural meadow-like plant communities and species in easy to reference table.

He covers flowering by impact — dramatic, intermediate and low key, determined by issues including as size, color and bloom-time. The visual mapping of the microclimates in his small private garden will be an ah-ha moment for many.

“Sunken Gardens: A Step-by-Step Guide to Planting Freshwater Aquariums” by Karen A. Randall (Timber Press). While most books on aquariums focus on the fish, this little gem is all about underwater gardening and landscaping. Check it out at I think I may give it try this winter.

Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. To ask her a question go to and click on Ask Nancy. You can also read her previous columns at

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These gardens are for teaching and protecting schools from flooding

The sidewalk at an elementary school is flooding. Every time it rains, it ends up covered in mud, which the kids track into the building. At another one, the playground is underwater after a big storm. At yet another, it’s the classrooms that end up soggy. When Jeanette O’Connor hears about issues like this in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school district, she doesn’t think in terms of sandbags. She thinks in terms of landscaping and native plants.

“The project we did at Seawell Elementary School, we put in two rain gardens, an infiltration trench and four cisterns to control the water that was coming off the building,” O’Connor says. Now, the Chapel Hill school’s campus no longer floods – plus, runoff isn’t immediately dumped into Bolin Creek, but is filtered and slowed by an infiltration trench.

With her Lands and Waters South nonprofit, O’Connor creates living classrooms with a dual purpose. Students can go to them to learn about pollinator species and local wildlife, but these gardens and landscape elements are working even after class lets out and the children head home. O’Connor addresses recurring problems with practical solutions, and these solutions keep stormwater runoff from eroding hillsides and flooding classrooms.

“A lot of the schools here were built back in the ’70s,” O’Connor says. “Nobody was thinking about the stormwater issues we’re now thinking about.”

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Between climate change bringing more torrential rain to the area and an increase in local development, there’s more water when it rains, and it has fewer places to go. Carrboro and Chapel Hill may appear rural in comparison with Washington, D.C., where the first Lands and Waters nonprofit was formed, but increased construction here means that there are pockets of trees rather than huge tracts of forest, by and large. Subdivisions simply can’t absorb as much rainwater as undeveloped land would, and that water has to go somewhere. Sometimes, it floods a school playground, like the one at Frank Porter Graham Elementary in Chapel Hill.

“When they built the school, the creek was probably not hitting that level very often because there wasn’t a massive development built,” O’Connor says.

Four years ago, Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools created a coordinator of sustainability position. Dan Schnitzer started at that job at about the same time O’Connor moved to Carrboro with the ambition of starting Lands and Waters South. It didn’t take long for the two to connect, and their partnership has led to several projects within the school system.

“I’m always skeptical of things that seem too good to be true, so when Jeanette offered to write grants and to provide the funding through that and provide education on native and sustainable landscaping, I kept thinking, ‘What’s the catch?’ ” says Schnitzer. “She brings people in. She’s focused and driven and knows her stuff and gets it done, and the projects have been great.”

O’Connor doesn’t do it alone. She writes grants, and she finds the best team for the problem at hand. She brings in engineers, watershed experts and plant experts. Indeed, she thinks ecologically, but tends to plan and organize like a public works officer. On top of forming a team of experts, O’Connor finds ways to bring kids into the process, like making sure a solution can also be a place for students to study butterflies or ecosystems, for example.

Schnitzer loves gardens – he left Chicago for North Carolina partly so he could plant one – yet he, like O’Connor, knows that the benefits of having a school garden have to be weighed against logistical questions: Who will run it during the summer? What if the teacher who runs it leaves or runs out of time to run it? Yet O’Connor’s approach shifted Schnitzer’s own idea of what a school garden could achieve.

“[She] shifted my mind from an ornamental solution to a practical one,” Schnitzer says. He has a message to his counterparts in other school systems, too.

“Find your own Jeanette. But not Jeanette, because I need her.”

Lands and Waters South

103 Mulberry St. Carrboro, NC 27510

Contact: Jeanette O’Connor, 703-678-6893

Description: Utilizing sustainable landscaping practices that promote native plants, healthy soils and low-impact development, Lands and Waters South creates “living classrooms” on school grounds that curb stormwater runoff, provide wildlife habitat and establish places for students to study subjects including science, the arts, and community/cultural connections.

Donations needed: General funding for projects, especially for overhead costs that are often not covered by grants. Plants or seeds that are native to the Piedmont. Building materials such as large rocks, stepping stones, large logs, soil, mulch, gravel and Chapel Hill grit.

Volunteers needed: Volunteers needed to help maintain gardens. This usually includes weeding, mulching, collecting seeds for future projects and transplanting plants that we have too many of or that are in the wrong place. Also needed to install projects. All planting is done by students, but we often need help preparing for planting or installing the hardscape aspects of the project (cisterns, walking paths, etc.). Translators to help ensure all students can participate and understand the projects in which they are participating.

$10 would buy: Five plants for a project.

$20 would buy: 1 cubic yard of shredded hardwood mulch.

$50 would buy: A planting day for two classrooms of students (usually 40-50 children).

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Home and garden events, Nov. 25-Dec. 2

Saturday, Nov. 25

Defining your aesthetic: Tour The Nursery’s vignettes with designer David to get inspiration for your own outdoor space. The living landscapes include the latest concepts and styles of home and garden couture, plants, trees and furniture to help guests envision their own outdoor retreat. Feel free to bring a camera, some coffee and questions! 7000 Marine Way, Irvine. 949-581-2085 or

Sunday, Nov. 26

Christmas boutique: Get in the spirit of the holiday season at Joyeux Noël at Roger’s Gardens. Glass ornaments are hand blown and hand decorated in family workshops in Poland, nutcrackers made in Germany accompany seasonal dinnerware from Portugal and Italy. Boutique open various times and dates through Dec. 23. Roger’s Gardens. 2301 San Joaquin Hills Road, Corona del Mar. 949-640-5800 or

Tuesday, Nov. 28

A healthy baking class: Join Kelly Solorzano as she shows guests how to transform traditional treats into gluten-free, grain-free, and sprouted goodies. She will demonstrate how to incorporate sprouted flours and gluten-free flours such as coconut flour, almond flour, pumpkin seed flour, and arrowroot flour without compromising the texture and taste! Light refreshments will be served. $35. 6-7:30 p.m. 1125 Victoria St., Suite R, Costa Mesa. 949-650-0830 or

Saturday, Dec. 2

Gardening workshop: Vibrant succulents and native plants will take root as community members learn the dos and don’ts of water-wise landscaping with Orange County Coastkeeper. Dozens of families and businesses will learn how to transform their grassy lawns into drought-tolerant landscapes. Free. 10-11 a.m. 8520 E. Santiago Canyon Road, Orange. 714-850-1965 or

Food preservation class: This workshop is an introductory hands-on lesson teaching water bath, steam canning methods and safety standards of canning high acid foods. Culinary supervisor Pam Wnuck will demonstrate how to make a holiday pepper jelly to enjoy or give as a gift. Participants will take home what they make in class. Ages 9 and up are welcome in this class, but children must be accompanied by an adult. Pre-registration required. $25. 9:30 a.m. Centennial Farm. 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa. or 714-708-1500

Handmade holiday gift workshop: Join The Ecology Center for a hands-on workshop to learn how to make terrariums. Guests will learn the history and origin of the terrariums from expert Vicki Marks, enjoy a talk about plants, soil, exposure and observe a planting demonstration. $20-30. 10 a.m. 32701 Alipaz St., San Juan Capistrano. 949-443-4223 or

Natural dyes workshop: Create your own natural, plant-based dyes and take home your own project. Learn the history and future of natural dyes, process plants for dyeing, and complete a dye project from start to finish. $125-150. 12 p.m. 32701 Alipaz St., San Juan Capistrano. 949-443-4223 or

Holiday porch sale: Give your loved ones a gift from the Tools For Change shop. Members receive 10 percent off every time they shop in store. Items will be local goods that make a positive impact on the community. Free to attend. 10 a.m. 32701 Alipaz St., San Juan Capistrano. 949-443-4223 or

Please send events for the Home and Garden Calendar four weeks ahead of the date they will occur to

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This week’s gardening tips: don’t toss out raked leaves, look for fall color

Some of the trees that are most reliable for fall color here include green ash, sweet gum, crape myrtle, ginkgo, Southern sugar maple, Shumard oak, red maple, Japanese maple, pictured above, flowering pear and Chinese pistachio. Shrubs such as sumac, Virginia willow and deciduous viburnums also have good fall color.

Dan Gill is a horticulturist with the LSU AgCenter. Email questions to or add them to the comment section below. Follow his stories at, on Facebook and @nolahomegardenon Instagram.

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TV host Vera Stewart offers holiday decorating, cooking tips in Winter Wonderland episode taped at Cold Creek …

Smells of fresh garland wafted through the air and Christmas tunes played on a decorated Santa perched near a Christmas tree while film crews shuffled around areas at Cold Creek Nurseries on Tuesday evening. 

It wasn’t the usual sight at the garden center, as Vera Stewart – host of “The Very Vera Show” – taped in various areas for the show’s Winter Wonderland episode. 

As people usher in the holidays, finding the perfect Christmas tree, decorating the home, as well as crafting and baking all come to mind.

Stewart, who characterizes her brand as representing “southern cooking, home grown hospitality and mentoring of young people,” prepared recipes and S.C. Specialty Foods from Cold Creek Farm Fresh Market during the taping, including a segment on how to make chili on a slow cooker.

Cold Creek staff members also helped to provide garden tips during the taping. Stewart navigated the Fraser firs that greet customers in front of the garden center to help them select and care for the perfect tree.

She also talked about caring for poinsettias in the greenhouse, and later offered a demonstration on making poinsettia-shaped cookies.

Stewart told the Aiken Standard, the episode offers several ways to make trimming the home as well as cooking for the holidays easy and fun.

For example, she provided tips on how to keep the slow cooker chili and hot chocolate – both which were a part of a buffet – warm and presentable.

“If you want to keep what’s in it hot and there’s access to an outlet, you can camouflage the Crockpot with small poinsettias,” she said.

“We also gave the idea of making the urn that we’ve got the hot chocolate in look like a snowman, and we did it out of styrofoam and now that’s an idea that you can put up in the attic and reserve it for next year, but it’s just a way to decorate and have fun.”

The episode also created an opportunity to make preparing for the holidays an activity for the entire family, she said.

“Make it a family celebration to go look for the tree, make it easy for mom because she’s put something for dinner in the Crockpot,” Stewart said.

“You know, the children can look forward the next day to making the cookies that we demonstrated and get them more involved in making something hands-on to give as a teacher gift rather than go buy something.”

It was the first time the show filmed at Cold Creek, but the store has partnered with Stewart on other events, she said, even helping at her personal residence like with her fairy garden, an idea that came from the store’s fairy garden. 

“When we’re looking for an idea for a great location for a Winter Wonderland sort of show we decided that this would be a great environment, ” Stewart said.

But with a show in eight different markets, she said she ultimately wants to inspire her viewers to shop locally wherever they may be.

“Wherever they’re watching ‘The Very Vera Show’ is to remember places that you maybe don’t think about except in the summer like a nursery – getting ready for things that bloom in the spring and summertime – but look at the transformation during the holidays,” she said.

“In general, I think I’m making the choice for people to shop locally whether it’s in Aiken, Augusta or Indianapolis. … You’re learning more about your community when you visit a place like this.”

Store manager Michaela Berley said for Cold Creek, this time of year is one when there’s a lot of custom work from cutting fresh greens from Fraser firs for garland, wreaths and centerpieces to custom bow tying.

“Everybody loves that smell of Christmas,” when the Fraser fir trees come in, Berley said.

Stewart, who stayed for a meet and greet with customers in Aiken on Tuesday, also understands the excitement the holidays can bring.

“It’s this time of year, you want to be in the house,” she said. “The aromas; the tree smells good. You’ve got something simmering on the stove that’s sweet and fragrant. You’ve got something on the Crockpot that’s warm and cozy and you’ve got some hot chocolate. So, there was quite a bit, in terms of education, on the show today.”

The show airs locally in Augusta on Thursday, Nov. 30 at 12:30 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 2 at 7:30 on ABC (WJBF News Channel 6). For more show listings, visit

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