Sunday, November 23, 2008

Cold Snaps Landscapes

Recent freezing temperatures have taken a toll on some Georgia landscapes. If you were too slow to mulch or to cover tender plants, you may now see wilted, dark leaves dotting your flower beds. A University of Georgia expert has advice on how to handle the damage and to avoid it.
“On these first several frosts you are going to see obvious frost damage because many plants haven’t dropped their leaves,” said Bob Westerfield, a UGA Cooperative Extension horticulturist. “The damage will usually appear as brown tips on leaves that will then turn black. Just go a couple of inches below the damage and prune it out.”

If you have planted wisely, the damage should only be temporary.

“Most plants that are established and have been in the landscape a year or two will survive these cold snaps,” he said. “You might have to prune out the damage, but they will make it through.”

If leaf burn is severe and unsightly, go ahead and cut it back. The plants won’t produce more leaves now. But since this is only the first cold snap and not the last, he said, you can wait to prune “because we will get hit again, and you can prune it back harder in December or January.”

Feed and water

Plants still need plenty of moisture now, he said. “Plants need that pressure within their stems to withstand the cold. If you don’t have them fully moist they can’t withstand the cold and will get cell damage. Now is the time to wet them down really well before a cold night.”
Most winter annuals will survive fine with proper care. “Most annuals like mums and pansies are very tenacious,” he said. “They might look bad right after the cold, but they will come right out of it.”

Good nutrition helps, too. “Give them some liquid or light granular fertilizer once a month and water well throughout the season,” he said. “They have limited root systems, so they need plenty of food and water.”

Protect plants

Annuals and shrubs need some protection against the cold.

“Some really sensitive plants like hydrangeas or young fig trees need heavy mulch as a blanket of insulation against cold,” he said. “You can get a wire basket, fill it up with leaves and cover the plant to protect it.”

He also recommends making a windscreen from a cardboard box or plastic. But don’t let the plastic touch the plant. It will make the plant colder. If you use plastic, make a tent with it over the plant.

For more tips on protecting landscape plants in winter, call your local UGA Extension agent at 1-800-ASK-UGA1 or look online at .

By Faith Peppers
University of Georgia

Faith Peppers is a news editor for the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Soybean Grant Gives Researchers Tools to Unravel Better Bean

For millennia, people have grown soybeans and turned them into many useful products. But when it comes to understanding why a soybean grows, blooms or produces like it does, researchers are left with unanswered questions.

University of Georgia professor Wayne Parrott aims to find the answers with a three-year, $2.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation and a jumping gene in rice found by a UGA colleague.

"I'm convinced that soybeans would be so much more useful and flexible if we knew what genes we need to be working with," said Parrott, a crop and soil sciences professor in the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

The soybean's genome was sequenced, or mapped, earlier this year. Now Parrott and his colleagues from the universities of Nebraska, Missouri-Columbia and Minnesota are taking soybean's genetic map and translating it so that soybean breeders can use it to produce a better bean.

Parrott is using a jumping rice gene for his part of the research. His counterparts are using radiation.

UGA plant biology professor Sue Wessler found the jumping gene in rice. Her discovery is unique. The gene is one of only a few with the ability to cut themselves out of and move to another location in the genome, altering it, Parrott said.

She shared the technology. Parrott's lab will insert the jumping rice gene into soybean plants. When something changes in a plant with the added jumping gene - such as how fast it flowers - they will then search the plant genetically. When they find the jumping gene - presumably in a new location in the genome - they can identify the modified gene there and, in this example, know what caused the plant to bloom faster.

The more genes they identify using the jumping gene technique, the more they'll know about the soybean and what they can do to improve it. The soybean has a few issues that could stand modifying, Parrott said.

On grocery store shelves, soybeans may seem like the perfect plant. It can be made into tofu and its synthetic meat products. However, the bean's protein is not balanced to the 21 amino acids humans need for a healthy diet. In addition, soybean oil contains trans fats after it's processed.

On the agricultural side, an improved soybean variety would allow farmers to plant a crop that produces more soybeans using the same amount of land. And with soybean plants that are disease and insect resistant, farmers wouldn't have to apply as much money - draining pesticides.

Farmers could also grow varieties that produce more oil or more protein.

"Genome sequencing and gene discovery is starting to open a new, exciting era for us," Parrott said.

It's a good time for soybeans. Since 1982, the U.S. has had a 15 percent increase in total soybean production.

"Acreage-wise, soybeans are among the top three crops in the United States," Parrott said. "It's the No. 1 source of vegetable oil and vegetable protein. In that regard, it's the most important of the crops."

Soybeans are used for adhesives, alternative fuels, disinfectants, plastics, salad dressings, particleboard, candy, cookies and swine feed, to name a few. "It just boggles the mind that it lends itself to so many different uses," Parrott said. "It's even in furniture care products."

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

McIntosh Choral Students “Plant a Promise”

Members of the freshmen Treble Chorus plant a Crepe Myrtle tree in the courtyard of McIntosh High as part of their "Planting a Promise" ceremony where students promised to live abuse free lives.

A living reminder of a promise to lead an alcohol and drug free life is with students every day at McIntosh High.

Red Ribbon Week is long gone but its significance lives on in the school’s courtyard where members of the Treble Chorus planted a tree as a daily reminder to students to aspire higher and make the most of their lives.

The all female, freshman chorus came up with the idea of having a ceremony called Planting a Promise to help remind current and future students about the importance of keeping their promises to stay away from drugs and alcohol. The ceremony also honored alumni who had lost their lives to substance abuse or violence.

As part of the ceremony, the choral students cited poetry or shared their memories of a family member or friend they had personally lost due to some type of abuse. They sang an original a cappella arrangement of Amazing Grace and gave a red rose to audience members as a “thank you” for their participation and as a reminder that life is fragile, just like the petals of the flower.

“I’m very proud of these girls and their idea to have this lasting reminder at our school about the importance of making healthy lifestyle choices that will allow them to grow just like the tree they planted that day,” says Terri Finlinson, assistant choral director at McIntosh.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Gifts for the Gardener on Your List

Avid gardener Charlie Christian says people like him enjoy getting gardening-related gifts for Christmas. But if you have gardeners on your shopping list, whatever you do, don’t give them cheap tools. Give them something they’ll remember.

“I speak for a lot of gardeners when I say please don’t give your gardening friends low-quality tools,” said Christian, 73, a retired dentist from Madison, Ga. “I’d much rather receive one high-quality garden tool than a bunch of cheap ones that won’t last a year. And please don’t give an adult a set of child-size tools.”

Christian has been gardening since his father helped him plant a Victory Garden in 1942. He’s also one of state’s 2,500 active Master Gardeners, individuals who have completed the 11-week Master Gardener program provided by the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Gardeners' list of best gifts

He recently polled the Master Gardeners in his area for their opinions on holiday gifts. The high-end choice gifts were labelers, four-wheel carts and truckloads of garden amendments.
They also wanted Santa to deliver nice hand pruners, lopper pruners, ratchet pruners, garden gloves or garden hoses.

“A sprinkler with a timer would be a great gift, too,” he said. “And a container of Roundup will always be appreciated and put to good use.”

Plants top the list

Among his gardening friends, the most requested gift was plants.

“Everyone wants pass-a-long plants and rooted cuttings,” he said. “I toured a lovely garden recently, and the owner told me it consisted mainly of plants she had received from friends or grew from cuttings.”

Low-light house plants are also great. Gardeners typically like indoor plants, too, he said.
“A plant that can be later planted outside in the garden can serve as a reminder of the gift-giver for years,” Christian said.

Krissy Slagle, the Master Gardener program assistant coordinator, has put a lot of thought into the gifts she’d like to receive.

Hats, gloves and pants

“I’d really like a pair of gardening gloves with hooks on them so you can fasten them on your belt,” she said. “I’m always laying my gloves down, and then I have no idea where they are.”
For the same reason, Slagle wants a sheath or an apron with pockets to keep her gardening tools close at hand. “I’ve even thought of attaching a keychain with a cord to my pruners.”

Clothes are nice, she said, like a hat for sun protection or pants with reinforced knees. Camouflaged pants from hunting supply stores are flexible and hold up well over time.
Give a membership to a botanical garden, she said, or gift certificate from a seed supply company.

Cordless, low-emission power tools

Don’t forget cordless gardening tools, she said. They’re great for small jobs.

“The new cordless tools have lower emissions. So, they are better for the environment, too,” she said. “A cordless saw-all pruner is on the top of my wish list this year.”

She also suggests giving interactive CDs, garden design software or reference books. Her favorite insect book right now is “Garden Insects of North America” written by Colorado State University entomologist Whitney Cranshaw. Any books from CAES horticulturists Michael Dirr or Alan Armitage would be good, too.

Dream gifts, thrifty gifts

Slagle’s pie-in-the-sky dream gift is a Dingo. “It’s a self-propelled compact utility loader with attachments. It’s the all-time, ultimate gardening gift,” she said.

If your pockets aren’t deep enough for a Dingo, most gardeners would be thrilled to get a small tiller, she said.

If your funds are low, though, give a bag of manure, compost or potting soil. Or, build your gardener a compost bin.

“Better yet,” said Christian, “offer to till their garden for them in March. That would truly be a dream gift.”

By Sharon Dowdy
University of Georgia

Sharon Dowdy is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

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How To Make Holiday Poinsettias Last Beyond The Season

(StatePoint) Choosing a healthy plant and taking good care will keep your flowers blooming until Valentine's Day.

"Poinsettias tend to be the most vigorous plants with proper care, lasting in some cases through the summer months," says Richard Cowhig, assistant professor of ornamental horticulture at Delaware Valley College in Pennsylvania.

Look for large, well expanded bracts -- the colorful blossom-like leaves of the plant. "The yellow centers are the true flowers," he says. "They should be showing a faint trace of pollen. Too much pollen is a sign of an old plant."

"Choose a plant with strong, sturdy branching of secondary shoots," adds Cowhig. "There should be leaves down to the soil line, with no leaf yellowing, which can be caused by diseases or poor nutrition."

Keep your poinsettia warm -- above 55 degrees Fahrenheit -- and in its sleeve until you get it home. Plants will be happiest in a home that's between 60 and 68 degrees, away from heat and drafts.

Give them as much light as possible, turning the plant around several times a week. Water uniformly so that a little water runs out the bottom of the pot.

"Plant breeders have worked on plant quality," says Cowhig. "Your poinsettia should hold leaves and bracts for a long time. With the right care, you can enjoy its festive foliage into the New Year."

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Handmade Gifts Make a Holiday Comeback

(ARA) – Instead of battling crowded shopping malls and rising prices, Kim Jacobson is spending time in her garage, building holiday gifts in her home woodshop.

For several years, the Minnesota-based occupational therapist has been handcrafting holiday presents as part of her husband Gary's family's unusual -- and refreshing -- annual gift exchange.

"There's only one rule," Gary explains. "Everything has to be homemade. You draw a name at Christmas and have the next year to make that person a present."

It's a tradition Kim says cuts through the commercialism surrounding the holidays, to the core of what the season is all about.

"A lot of love goes into what you make," she says.

It's also part of an emerging trend, according to Ann Rockler Jackson, chief executive officer of Rockler Woodworking and Hardware, one of the nation's largest suppliers of woodworking tools and equipment.

Jackson has seen her company's gift-related supply sales increase steadily over the past five years and believes more consumers are seeking a back-to-the-basics approach to gifts.

"People are getting tired of the shopping-mall mentality surrounding holiday gifts," she says. "Building your own can be so much more personal. There are a lot of creative people out there making incredible, meaningful gifts they couldn't buy at a store. And that do-it-yourself population is growing.

"Plus, it's a nice way to save money," she says. "When you have the skills and ability to eliminate labor costs by doing something yourself, it pays dividends -- particularly in a tough economy."

As the number of people building gifts increases, so does the flow of ideas. Rockler has organized an extensive handmade gift list on its Web site,

Some of the more popular projects on the list are relatively simple to build -- things like small jewelry or keepsake boxes. Dominoes, cribbage boards and wooden Sudoku sets are among the many options for beginners. And for those with wood lathes, hardware kits for hand-turned pens, Christmas ornaments and even ice-cream scoops bring the quality of homemade gifts up to -- or beyond -- the store-bought level.

For the Jacobsons, high-quality homemade gifts are nothing new. With several accomplished woodworkers in the family, they have seen some amazing creations over the years.

"Probably the most impressive was a dining room table my cousin made for his sister-in-law," Gary says. "That will be an heirloom, for sure."

Still, the beauty of the Jacobson's tradition -- and one of the driving forces behind home gift-building's burgeoning popularity -- has as much to do with fellowship as it does with craftsmanship.

"It's definitely brought us all closer together," Kim says.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Pink Hibiscus Mealybug Found in North Georgia

Pink hibiscus mealybugs were recently found north of Atlanta in suburban Forsyth County, experts with University of Georgia Cooperative Extension report. The newcomer to the state is a very destructive insect pest of hibiscus and 300 other plants.

The discovery was the result of an alert home gardener who was curious about a difficult to control mealybug infestation. The insects were feeding on a tropical hibiscus in her landscape. She brought a sample to her UGA Extension agent who shared her suspicion that the culprit might be pink hibiscus mealybugs.

Identified and verified

Electronic images were relayed to the UGA Homeowner IPM Insect Diagnostic Clinic in Griffin, Ga. where a technician confirmed the identification. University of Florida entomologists, who have worked extensively with this pest, also quickly confirmed the specimens were indeed the pink hibiscus mealybug.

Pink hibiscus mealybug is native to Southeast Asia but is now well established in Florida, Louisiana and Texas. The pest likely came to north Georgia as a very low-level infestation on tropical hibiscus from south Florida.

Pink and destructive

Pink hibiscus mealybugs look similar to other Georgia mealybugs, but are pinkish in color. Thus, their name. The insect has relatively little of the white wax that adorns the bodies of most mealybugs.

Initially, pink hibiscus mealybug injury may be hard to see, but they can reproduce rapidly with five to six generations a year in north Georgia. As populations grow, injury becomes strikingly evident. Infested plants are severely stunted and malformed, as if treated with an herbicide.

The disfigured foliage is often covered with sticky liquid waste from the mealybug feeding. This also supports growth of a black sooty mold fungus.

Infestations will often be noticeable from afar due to the numerous snow white egg sacs which look much like clusters of small Q-tips on plant stems and foliage.

Could harm peanuts and cotton

The pest may not survive north Georgia winters. Pink hibiscus mealybug is a truly nasty pest -- one that gardeners, landscape professionals and nurseries hope can be eradicated from Georgia.
“We can’t afford to have this imported pest damaging two of our major crops, peanuts and cotton; nor can we afford the potential losses to our horticulture industry as well as the damage it can inflict in home gardens,” said Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Tommy Irvin. “We must all work to keep this pest from becoming established in Georgia.”

What to do if you find them

If homeowners find mealybugs in their landscape, they should contact their local UGA Extension office. Nursery owners should contact the Georgia Department of Agriculture Plant Protection Office at (800) 282-5852.

A sample, including the white egg sacks and small pink mealybugs, should be cut from the infested plant. Immature mealybugs move on wind currents so it is important to place samples in sealed plastic bags. For this reason, samples should not be transported in the back of open trucks.

Plant destruction and replacement is often the best approach to take when controlling pink hibiscus mealybugs in home landscapes. Cut and double-bag infested plants or, where feasible, burn infested plant materials.

By Dan Horton
University of Georgia

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Shifts In Soil Bacteria Linked to Wetland Restoration Success

A new study led by Duke University researchers finds that restoring degraded wetlands -- especially those that had been converted into farm fields -- actually decreases their soil bacterial diversity.

But that’s a good thing, say the study’s authors, because it marks a return to the wetland soils’ natural conditions.

“It sounds counter-intuitive, but our study shows that in restored wetlands, decreased soil bacterial diversity represents a return to biological health,” said Wyatt H. Hartman, a Ph.D. candidate in wetlands and environmental microbiology at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

“Our findings are novel because they are the opposite of the response seen in terrestrial ecosystems, where restoration improves conditions from a more barren, degraded state,” said Curtis J. Richardson, director of the Duke University Wetland Center and professor of resource ecology at the Nicholas School. Richardson is Hartman’s faculty adviser.

Their report on the study will be published online this week by Friday in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Soils in undisturbed wetlands present harsh conditions, with elevated acidity and low oxygen and nutrient availability in which fewer bacterial groups can survive and grow, they explained. In comparison, former wetlands that have been drained, limed and fertilized for farming host greater soil bacterial diversity because they present conditions more suitable for bacterial growth.

“The bacterial communities in these fields almost resemble those found in wastewater treatment plants,” Hartman noted.

Soil bacteria are essential to wetland functions that are critical to environmental quality, such as filtering nutrients and storing carbon. “The mixture of bacterial groups in wetland soils can reflect the status of wetland functioning, and the composition of these populations is as telling as their diversity,” Richardson said.

Measuring whether the right mix of bacteria is returning to a restored wetland can be a valuable biological indicator scientists can use to evaluate restoration success, he added.

“We found that one of the simplest and most promising indicators of restoration success was the ratio of Proteobacteria, which have the highest affinity for nutrient-rich environments, to Acidobacteria, which have the highest tolerance for poor conditions,” Hartman said.

The researchers determined soil bacterial composition and diversity within restored wetlands, agricultural fields and undisturbed wetlands across North Carolina's coastal plain. They sampled these paired land-use categories across three distinct types of wetlands: pocosin bogs, floodplain swamps and backwater swamps that were not connected to streams.

Samples were also taken from sections of the Everglades, the largest wetland in the United States, where a $10.9 billion effort is now underway to remediate the effects of agricultural runoff.

“We identified bacterial groups by their evolutionary relationships, which were determined by sequencing DNA extracted from soils,” Hartman said. “This approach allowed us to capture a much greater diversity of bacteria than would be possible using conventional laboratory culturing, which works for only a small fraction of the 10,000 to 1 million species of bacteria that can be found in a single cubic centimeter of soil.”

Previously, researchers have used genetic techniques to target known organisms or bacterial groups in wetland soils, he said. “But this study is unique in that we used these methods to capture the full range of bacterial groups present, and determine how their composition shifts with land-use changes and restoration.”

“These types of findings can only be obtained in studies done on sites that have been restored and studied over a number of years and assessed with these modern techniques,” Richardson said.

Wetlands filter and reduce nutrients and pollutants from agricultural and urban runoff as well as improve water quality and store around 25 percent of the world’s soil carbon, while covering only 4 to 6 percent of its land mass.

More than half of original wetland acreage in the U.S. has been destroyed or degraded, but some has been restored in recent decades under the federal government’s “no net loss” policy.

“Re-establishment of microbial communities indicates a restoration of the biological functions of soils. This study across a wide range of wetlands is the first to establish that shifts in soil bacteria populations may be a key marker of restoration success,” Richardson said.

Rytas Vilgalys, professor of biology at Duke, and Gregory L. Bruland, assistant professor of soil and water conservation at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, were co-authors on the report. Bruland received his Ph.D. from the Nicholas School in 2004; Richardson was his faculty adviser.

The study was funded by a Duke University Wetland Center Case Studies Endowment and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Alligator Chili: A Treat For Curious Eaters

NF Note: Alligators in chili? That's not common around these parts. However, we know there are scores of Fayette County citizens who have their roots down in the bayou.

(NAPSI)-It's time to set the record straight on an often misunderstood Louisiana delicacy.

Those who are leery of trying Louisiana alligator meat often fear that the flavor will be too exotic, but Chef John Folse, a Louisiana restaurateur, knows otherwise. "Alligator is one of those swamp floor pantry ingredients that adapt so well to all of the cooking techniques in Southern cooking," said Folse. "So whether served in a classic fashion or smothered in a sauce piquante, the flavor of alligator is excellent."

Folse introduces curious eaters to alligator meat at his restaurant, Lafitte's Landing at Bittersweet Plantation in Donaldsonville, La. It is here that Chef Folse serves alligator sausage as an appetizer. The meat's leanness and versatility have put its popularity on the rise, and alligator meat is appearing in kitchens just as notable as Chef John Folse's around the country. This recipe is from his cookbook:

Alligator Chili

Prep Time: 1.5 Hours

Yields: 6 Servings

3 pounds alligator meat, diced

½ cup vegetable oil

2 cups diced onions

1 cup diced celery

1 cup diced bell peppers

2 tablespoons minced garlic

2 tablespoons diced jalapeño peppers

1 (16-ounce) can pinto beans

3 (8-ounce) cans tomato sauce

1 cup chicken stock

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

Salt and cracked black pepper to taste

Granulated garlic to taste

In a large Dutch oven, heat vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add alligator and sauté 20 minutes to render juices. Add onions, celery, bell peppers, minced garlic and jalapeño peppers and sauté 3−5 minutes or until wilted. Add pinto beans, tomato sauce and chicken stock. Bring to a low boil, then reduce to simmer. Stir in chili powder and cumin and cook approximately 1 hour or until alligator is tender, stirring occasionally. Season to taste using salt, pepper and granulated garlic. Serve over spaghetti, if desired.

For more great recipes, visit

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Cooking with Kids

For many families, holidays mean hours spent in the kitchen preparing meals. Make it a family affair by including children in food preparation.

“You can accomplish something and spend time together,” said Connie Crawley, health and nutrition specialist with University of Georgia Cooperative Extension. “You will create memories with children so they don’t just associate the holidays with opening gifts.”

Save time with boxed mixes

Decorating cookies and frosting cakes are fun, creative ways to spend time with children. They can be positive experiences for adults, too, as they reconnect with childhood memories or experience them for the first time. Refrigerated cookie dough or boxed cake mixes can cut down on the prep time without lessening the experience, Crawley said.

Families can also start traditions cooking together. Children who may not have the opportunity to spend time with grandparents throughout the year can spend time cooking together during the holidays. Parents can talk about family recipes as they cook together.

“It’s a fun time for families to spend together,” said Ted Futris, child and family development specialist with UGA Cooperative Extension. “Spending that time together is valuable for building bonds.”

Let kids pour, stir and measure

Younger children can stir and measure. They can also help make decisions about what to eat if given choices with limits.

“When cooking with kids, parents need to set the agenda, but provide children the opportunity for choice,” Futris said. Develop age-appropriate tasks children can handle.

“Preschoolers can definitely help with measuring and pouring. Elementary school children can read simple recipes and can even help cut ingredients with assistance,” Crawley said. “By age 11, most children are capable of preparing recipes on their own.”

Educational as well as yummy

Cooking with children also teaches math, reading and science skills.

“Children learn when they follow a recipe,” said Diane Bales, a UGA Extension human development specialist. “They learn to follow directions and perform tasks in sequence. They also learn about science when they see that you can’t always undo changes, or turn a cake back into flour and sugar.”

Cooking teaches children the importance of following directions, helps them practice paying attention and reinforces reading skills.

“Children may be more willing to read a recipe because they are motivated by getting to make something,” Bales said.

Children’s cookbooks are available at libraries. Or give cookbooks and aprons as gifts to budding chefs.

Make sure you have enough time scheduled to complete a cooking task, and try not to step in.

Let older kids do more

“Let them do as much as possible,” Bales said. “Let them have the experience of cutting, measuring and mixing. The more they can get involved the better.”

As children grow older, Bales suggests giving them a leadership role, like reading the recipe and assigning tasks. “Anything fun that adults and children do together is very important,” Bales said. “It’s a chance for good casual conversation and language building.”

Kids may also enjoy making food gifts, like specialty breads and decorated cookies.

“They will learn the value of making gifts, that small gifts are just as meaningful and your effort is part of the gift,” Crawley said.

Cooking with kids is a primetime to start teaching about food safety, too.

Children should be taught to wash hands and told not to cross-contaminate foods by touching raw meats and then raw produce. Tasting any dough or batter that contains raw eggs is also off limits, that includes all boxed mixes, she said.

“Children are curious, but they are more susceptible to foodborne illness than adults and no one wants to spend the holiday with Salmonella,” Crawley said.

Kids can help by setting the table, too. Putting out plates, napkins and silverware sets the stage for the family meal.

They are also eager to help cleanup. Pitching in to wash dishes, clean countertops and sweep the floor teaches them teamwork and responsibility.

By April Sorrow
University of Georgia

April R. Sorrow is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Americans Ready to Spend More Green on the Home

48 percent of homeowners would spend $2,500 or more on greening up a home for resale according to the Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate “Living Green” Consumer Survey

A survey conducted at home shows in 15 cities across the country gauging consumer environmental practices suggests that many Americans are going green when it comes to their homes. Despite “cost” being singled out by 36 percent of respondents as the greatest impediment to going green, half of those surveyed have paid more money for an energy efficient product in the past 12 months and one in three homeowners (30%) claim they would be willing to spend $5,000 or more on green improvements to increase a home’s appeal to potential buyers. The findings are the result of the Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Living Green Consumer Survey which looked at responses from over 2,300 consumers and is considered accurate to within +/- 2.2%.

These and other national survey results are being announced as a part of the Better Homes and Gardens and Green Works Living GreenTM Tour finale - the culmination of an eight-month, 15-city tour promoting healthy and environmentally friendly living. Launched in February 2008 by Better Homes and Gardens magazine and Green Works Natural Cleaners, the tour featured a 2,500 square foot Living Green Home, which showcased how small changes can impact the energy efficiency of everyday homes.

“As their environmental awareness grows, American homeowners are beginning to take action on green issues and are willing to spend their money accordingly,” explained Sherry Chris, president and CEO, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate. “These survey results confirm homeowners are identifying greater value in green and when the time comes to sell their homes, they will look to convert high consumer awareness levels on the green issue into a market differentiator.”

Additional survey findings revealed that 82 percent of respondents believe they are informed when it comes to issues pertaining to the environment. When preparing to buy or sell a home, more than half of those surveyed (51%) believe in the importance of working with a green certified real estate agent ― professionals who can assist in the identification and marketing of homes with high green quotient. This would include knowledge in regards to housing materials and construction, energy efficient appliances and systems, as well as the impact of landscaping on a home’s environmental footprint. In the cities of Hartford, Conn., Greenville, S.C., and San Francisco, two out of three respondents indicated that working with a green agent would be important.

“This tour provided us with an outstanding opportunity to extend our green coverage beyond our magazine pages and Web site,” said Gayle Butler, editor in chief, Better Homes and Gardens magazine. “The exhibit offered consumers a hands-on opportunity to learn realistic steps to save money and energy while minimizing their impact on the environment. The added benefits of the survey conducted by Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate gives us qualitative insights into the mindset of consumers regarding the green issue.”

Some of the other factors keeping survey respondents from being greener included convenience (22%), lack of knowledge on how to (18%) and lack of time (17%). However, many consumers reported engaging in “eco-friendly” or “green” acts in the past six months, including recycling (73%), replacing incandescent lights with CFLs (69%), conserving water (57%), adjusting the thermostat (51%) and purchasing energy efficient appliances (30%).

The Living Green Tour and Exhibit included stops in Hartford, Conn.; Greenville, S.C., San Francisco, San Diego, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Houston, Miami, Nashville, Tenn., Boston, Washington, D.C., Jacksonville, Fla., Atlanta, and New York. More details on the Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Living Green Consumer Survey, including an executive summary and presentation, are available upon request.
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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Decorative Projects for the Holidays

NF Note: Tis almost the season to start decorating Fayette County for the holidays. One of our favorite outings is to look at all the houses wearing showcasing their holiday finery.

(ARA) – The weather is changing and the days are getting shorter, which means the holiday season is just around the corner. As you prepare to host family and friends, now is the time to dust off those old decorations and to consider some simple ideas to add a festive feel to your home this year.

“The holiday season is a special time for families,” says Ashleigh Sala, Dremel associate product manager. “Whether baking cookies, wrapping gifts or decorating our homes, the holidays seem to bring out the creative spirit in all of us.”

If you have a busy schedule or a small budget, you can still find inspiration to decorate for the holidays. By following a few simple instructions, these inexpensive, decorative projects can add a special touch to your home:

Decorating a wreath is an easy at-home project that will highlight your front door for the holidays. To create a unique wreath, you will need to gather your materials, including a fresh pine bough wreath, garland, ribbon, pinecones and berries. The first step is to wrap ribbon around the wreath gluing every four inches to secure. Try the Dremel Glue Gun to prevent drips and to keep your work area clean. Next, wrap garland around the wreath gluing every four inches to secure. Then, glue a variety of pinecones and berries in place around the frame to give it a festive look. The final step is to attach a wire loop on the back of the wreath using picture wire. Once this is done, adorn your front door with your new masterpiece.

During the holidays, your fireplace mantle is the perfect place to add festive decorations. It is the one area in your home that will get a lot of attention. Most people decorate their mantle with garland, but consider adding lights and bows to brighten it up. In addition to decorative garland, include eye catching ornaments or even candles. Remember, your mantle is the centerpiece of your room, so choose colors that complement your decor for a fresh look.

Making a holiday centerpiece is a fun activity that can help spruce up your table with little effort. Start with a wicker basket and glue pine branches or garland in the bottom of the basket, lining the basket. Then, arrange an assortment of artificial fruit or holiday ornaments over the pine branches or garland. Once you have the look that you want, lift each piece of fruit or holiday ball carefully and glue back in to position. After the fruit or ornaments are in place, add accents such as candy canes, berries or even small pinecones to liven it up. Finish the centerpiece by tying a ribbon into a bow and gluing it to the front of the basket. Your table will be ready for a joyful holiday meal.

Coffee Table
To highlight your coffee table, gather a decorative tray, tiny holiday ornaments, holiday ribbon and various sized pillar candles. Arrange the candles on the tray in an asymmetrical pattern. Fill the spaces with the ornaments, weave the ribbon among the tray and light the candles for a soft and portable ambiance.

Candy Dish
Candy plays a central role in most holiday celebrations, so embrace it by making a large, decorative, candy dish to put on display in your home. First, glue candy canes, side-by-side to the outside of a terra cotta pot. For extra sparkle, add other decorations such as beads or ornaments. Then, wrap a ribbon around the pot and tie in a bow. After the candy canes are in position and the ribbon is secure, fill the pot with an assortment of wrapped candy for guests to enjoy. Remember, you may have to refill the dish on several occasions.

For more creative at-home projects, visit or call the Dremel Experts at (800) 437-3635.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Fall Colors at Lake Peachtree on Election Day

Make sure to participate in your civic duty today! Vote for the candidate of your choice. Early reports in Peachtree City had lines of about one half hour at 8 am.

After voting, take a moment and enjoy the fall colors over Lake Peachtree.

Photo © A S Eldredge 2008. Used with permission.

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Monday, November 03, 2008

Blueberry Grant Focuses Research on Significant Georgia Fruit

Blueberries are becoming big business in Georgia. University of Georgia experts plan to use a $1.7 million U.S. Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Research Initiative grant to lead an effort to make the Southeast the leading producer of the fruit.

The U.S. has 75,000 acres of cultivated blueberries. A third of that is grown in the South. The region is on track to become the hub of U.S. blueberry production within the next five years, said Harald Scherm, a plant pathologist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

A spring freeze severely damaged Georgia’s blueberry crop in 2007. But the 2006 crop was worth $75.8 million. The berry has the potential to add millions of dollars more to rural economies, said Gerard Krewer, a UGA Cooperative Extension fruit crop horticulturalist.

“Blueberries are grown in rural areas, areas that really need economic boosting,” Krewer said. “Blueberries are becoming a major horticultural commodity in southeast Georgia.”

Scherm will lead a team that includes Krewer and CAES horticulturists Dan MacLean and Anish Malladi, plant pathologist Phil Brannen, food scientist Rob Shewfelt and engineer Changying Li. The team will collaborate with colleagues in Florida, North Carolina, West Virginia and Mississippi.

The grant will be used to develop a way to harvest the berries mechanically while not damaging or dropping a majority of the fruit. The research team will also use the grant funds to genetically improve fruit quality and to fight diseases that are just starting to plague blueberry bushes.

Georgia producers predominately grow two types of blueberries – rabbiteye and southern highbush.

Rabbiteye – the variety traditionally grown in Georgia – has a thicker skin and is generally harvested in June and July. The development of the southern highbush variety allows growers to start harvesting blueberries in April and May, a period when berries are in short supply and prices are much higher.

But with the extra profits came new problems. The southern highbush has thin skin and bruises easily. Because of this, most are currently harvested by hand. Competition for farm workers and tighter immigration restrictions could cause the cost of harvesting to skyrocket for the crop in coming years. Hand-harvesting now cost farmers as much as 70 cents per pound.

Farmers now need machines that better harvest their crop. Current harvesting machinery drops too many blueberries – as much as 25 percent of the crop and can bruise delicate berries. Damaged berries are only good for the frozen market, and producers get much lower prices for frozen berries than they do for fresh.

Besides coming up with a better harvesting method, another way to deal with the thin skins of southern highbush is to breed new varieties with thicker skins, or with a crispy flesh.

Crispy flesh varieties are currently being developed by university breeding programs in Florida, North Carolina and Georgia. After narrowing down the varieties, UGA food scientists will use taste panels to determine which type of new southern highbush blueberry consumers would most likely buy.

“With so much blueberry acreage going in the last few years, there’s not been enough new plants to go around,” Scherm said.

New plants are propagated through cuttings, and he thinks this may help spread debilitating diseases not seen before. These diseases include blueberry red ringspot virus, bacterial leaf scorch and Botryosphaeria stem blight. Leaf scorch and stem blight have killed many southern highbush blueberry plantings in recent years.

Bacterial leaf scorch was first documented in 2006. Very little is known about how to control it. Scherm hopes to find answers to these questions primarily by studying disease epidemiology, transmission modes and cultivar resistance.

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