Archive for February, 2009

Ray’s Market, another victim of epic flood

  

Sweet potatoes from plant purchased at Ray's Market

Sweet potatoes from plant purchased at Ray's Market

  Call me a gardening geek, but yes, that is a photo of some of my sweet potatoes, which we finished eating just a couple months ago. I took the picture because a) they were the first sweet potatoes I had ever grown and b) they might have been one of the last relics of a business that fell victim to June’s devastating flood in Cedar Rapids.

   I bought the sweet potato plant in May from Ray’s Market, near Czech Village in Cedar Rapids,  just weeks before the flood that devastated not only Czech Village and my old neighborhood near Ray’s Market, but many other parts of the city.

  It took me awhile to track down Ray’s Market owner Fran Smith, someone I didn’t even know by name before the flood. She was hesitant to talk about what happened and who could blame her. Not only had she lost her business, a longtime icon at Bowling and C streets SW, but her son, who worked in the store with her, nearly lost his life around the same time. Lynn Smith had to have his leg amputated after he was hospitalized with pneumonia and an infection right before the flood. He and his wife, Karren, lived in a home behind Ray’s Market. The family has been through a harrowing year, but Lynn pulled through his illness. 

   Fran decided against the burdensome cost of rebuilding Ray’s Market. I’m sure many people will miss the blooming petunias and other bedding plants that lined the front of the shop come springtime. And I’ll have to track down another sweet potato plant elsewhere. In the meantime, you can catch up with Fran and her mother, who sell homemade jelly, jams, floral arrangements and aprons, at Cedar Rapids farmers markets. Fran also said she would consider selling Ray’s Market, as well as the house behind it. Although the business is in shambles, the home can be rebuilt.

More on their story is in the Friday, Feb. 27, 2009, issue of The Gazette.

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Paddle Fest

The Second Annual Paddle Fest is scheduled for Friday and Saturday (Feb. 27-28, 2009) in Cedar Rapids.

The event is sponsored by the Indian Creek Nature Center,  Seatasea Watersports, & Sticks In the Water paddlers.

 

Schedule:

 

Saturday, Feb 28, 9:30 am at Indian Creek Nature Center

6665 Otis Road SE, Cedar Rapids

Admission $8.  $5 for ICNC or SIW members.  Discount for combined am & pm sessions.

9:30-10:30 am    “Fishing the Boundary Waters” 

Michael Furtman will share techniques for successfully fishing the

Boundary Waters Canoe Area and other waters in northern Minnesota.  

________________________________________________________________________

Saturday, Feb 28, 1:00 pm at Indian Creek Nature Center

6665 Otis Road SE, Cedar Rapids.

Admission $15.  $10 for ICNC or SIW members.  $3 discount for combined am & pm sessions.

 

1:00-1:45 pm      “Canoeing the Cedar After the Flood”

Join Orlan Love, award-winning outdoor writer for the Cedar Rapids Gazette,

for an entertaining and informative photo tour of the post-flood Cedar River.

 

2:00-3:30 pm      “Paddling to Pictographs”

Michael Furtman, a nationally-recognized professional photographer, author, and wildlife expert, will guide our photographic paddle trip in search of pictographs, wildlife, fishing, and more.  Furtman will share tips for successful paddling in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and Quetico.

 

3:30-4:00 pm      “Essential Paddling Gear”

Staff members from Seatasea Watersports will discuss the gear you need

to ensure a safe and enjoyable paddling experience.  Bring your questions.

 

More info:  http://www.gazetteonline.com/section/yearoftheriver ,  www.michaelfurtman.com,

http://www.seatasea.com/, http://www.indiancreeknaturecenter.org/. 

 

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I Spy

Linn County Master Gardener, Claire Smith, submitted the following about springtime preparations:

 

I spy, with my little eye, something green.  It’s tiny, a sliver, and there’s another and another right there in my yard.  Under the melting snow and ice, live grass is trying to peek through.  Is it my imagination to expect green grass in early March?  As soon as we endure the annual State Girls’ Basketball Tournament snowstorm, it will be spring in Iowa!  Then, we can dig into yard work. 

Initially we monitor the gardens’ environments.  Disease prevention can save future headaches.  Start by removing unwanted leaves, branches and other debris deposited by wind or critters. Prune or trim back the stems you left for winter interest.   Peruse your garden catalog for species and varieties that are disease resistant.  Know if your new plantings prefer shade or a sunny setting.   Plan plantings to provide adequate airflow.   Humidity and wetness under the canopy are often conducive to disease so spacing is important. Maintaining good plant vigor through proper watering and fertilizing will make your plants less prone to disease.  As you plan your garden, consider the water source.  How many trips will you need to make with a watering can or how far will you have to drag a hose?  Is a rain barrel feasible in or near the bed?  How about a soaker hose?  I have two beds near the road ditch.   I alternate running the soaker hoses from a spigot beside the house.  I also have a water barrel mounted in a wagon to use for beds where no running water is available.   Proper timing with fertilization will be important.  Follow label directions on packages.   Retain the water and feeding directions for further reference. 

Compost amends the soil.  Use it abundantly!  Mulch is a valuable asset.  It helps hold moisture, chokes out weeds and prevents too much water from splashing on the underside of plants during a heavy rain.  I stock up my season’s supply as soon as each becomes available.

 Bird houses are a wonderful addition to a garden.  A water feature will attract birds and butterflies.  Both come in all manner of shapes and size. 

Remember to check out the rakes and shovels and tune up the lawn mower.  As soon as the soil is above 50 degrees, it’s time to plant!  

 

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Shower time!

 

 

Aloe vera gets a shower

Aloe vera gets a shower

 Those dear, neglected houseplants, alternately baking and freezing in windows that vacillate between oven and freezer in the winter. Once spring arrives, mine spend Iowa’s warmer months outside, where they grow lush and green. But first they must survive the less than ideal conditions indoors.

 

   Kept out of reach of predatory cats, I don’t pay as much attention to my houseplants as I should in the winter. But just recently I brought them back into better health with a good shower. I’ve tried the bathtub and basement sink methods, but finally found that the best spot to spray the plants is right under their window, in the kitchen sink. Each plant gets a good spray and soaking. I let the water drain from the bottom of the planters before putting them back in place. Usually, I try to give them a shower once a month during the winter months, though I’ve been slacking this year. The process can leave a bit of a mess in the sink and although I’m not usually a bleach person, it comes in handy when thoroughly cleaning the sink afterwards.

 

   Because some of the plants are almost out of sight in their window, had it not been for their shower this month, I would have missed a nice surprise. A  geranium, which my mother entrusted to my care when her home was flooded this summer, had actually bloomed! Perhaps this was the plant’s cry for help, since some flowers bloom when they are stressed, but it was nice to see a bright spot of color on a cold winter’s day. 

Mom's geranium

Mom's geranium

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Organic oasis in Cedar Rapids

   In November 2007, I wrote a Gazette article:   http://tinyurl.com/dl5seb  about Sheree’s Skin Care Studio, where owner Sheree Ramm had been operating in the Guaranty Bank Building in downtown Cedar Rapids.

Sheree Ramm inside new location of Sheree's Skin Care Studio

Sheree Ramm inside new location of Sheree's Skin Care Studio

   

 

 

The studio specializes in organic skin care products and treatments. Lotions, peels, makeup and other items are made with naturally grown organic fruits, herbs and vegetables and are safe for sensitive skin. Sheree notes that the products are gentler than artificial ingredients found in most  products in stores.  A great source for people who not only care about what they’re putting in their bodies, but on their bodies.

    But like most downtown businesses, even though her studio was on the fifth floor, Sheree was affected by last June’s devastating flood. The building remained closed while Sheree scrambled to find another place to open. She found temporary quarters in the historic Ausadie building, 845 First Ave. SE, and then this winter, moved to another historic building. This weekend, Sheree had an open house at her new site, the Calder House, at 1214 Second Ave. SE.

    Besides an enthusiasm for her organic products, Sheree has an appreciation for historic buildings and found the cottage house a perfect fit for her business.

 

Here is what she shares about the site:

Sheree's Skin Care Studio (at left)

Sheree's Skin Care Studio (at left)

     

 

   Built in 1868, the building is a 2-story gabled cottage house similar in scale and materials, built by the same builder, Charles Calder, as its twin at 1216 2nd Ave SE. The house has a stone foundation and brick walls. This rare brick building and its twin next door are both very well-preserved and are the oldest residences in the historical district. Both are among the oldest standing houses in Cedar Rapids. The integrity of the building is in excellent condition.

Charles Calder came to Cedar Rapids in 1851 with his family from central New York state. He made his fortune in real estate and land speculation and was termed, “among the heaviest property holders” in the city at the time of his death in 1890.

  Like many flood-affected business owners, Sheree could have moved out of town, but chose to stay in Cedar Rapids. As the city begins a “buy local” campaign, remember those who have been hit with the double whammy of the flood and economy.

 

Sheree’s Skin Care Studio is by appointment only. Hours: 10-5:30pm, Every other Sat 9-2pm
Closed Sundays and Mondays.  

 

Contact: Sheree, who is a Licensed Esthetician, at:  (319) 551-4876 or (319) 365-7000. More can be found on her Web site at:  www.shereeskincarestudio.com

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Iowa City Home Show going green, too

   Robb Rood posted a comment in response to “CR Home Show going green” (Feb. 17) to note that the Iowa City Home & Builder’s Show is going green, as well.      Because not everyone looks at the comments, here is the info that Robb provided about that show, coming the weekend of Friday, Feb. 27, to Sunday, March 1, 2009.

The Iowa City Home & Builder’s Show  being held at the Coralville Marriott Hotel & Conference Center is also going “Green” this year.

The show is Feb. 27-March 1 and will include “green” building educational seminars, Designer Showcase Rooms with Meta Home designers discussing incorporating “green” alternatives in interior design projects, a visit from Alliant Energy’s Powerhouse TV program hosts Pete Seyfer and Megan Turner and Alliant Energy’s Geo-1 traveling exhibit about geothermal heating and cooling technology.

Anyone interested can find more info. in the special section inserting in the Gazette on Sun., Feb. 22 and Wed., Feb. 25 or by logging on to http://www.iowacityhomes.com.

Educational Seminars
Sat, Feb. 28
——————————————————————————–
10 am – 12 pm “Building a Sustainable Iowa”
by Marc Richmond, President of Practica Consulting
1 pm “15 Ways to Green Your Home”
by Kevin Monson, Neumann Monson Architects
2 pm “What’s Green in Interior Design?”
by Leigh Bradford, Meta Home
3 pm “Saving Money and Energy with Shade Trees”
by Mark Vitosh, District Forester, Iowa Department of Natural Resources
4 pm “Continuous Garden with Color”
by Mary Lou Gay- Master Gardener

Sun, March 1
——————————————————————————–
10:15 am “Natural Landscaping – design, low maintenance, environmentally friendly gardens”
by Mary Crooks, Master Gardener
11:15 am “Energy efficiency for the homeowner” (energy audits, rebates through residential program and other resources)
by Alan Dornink, Energy Auditor, MidAmerican Energy Co.
12:15 pm “Green Building – What’s new”
by Bob Lackman, Beisser Lumber Company
1:15 pm “Doing it Right – Saving Money and Energy” (LED, Energy Star, Compact Fluorescents)
by Ralph Palmer, The Ar-Jay Center
2:15 pm “Rain Gardens – Living and Functional Landscapes”
by Kelly Swenson, Engineering Inspector, City of Coralville

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Time for city gardens

  I renewed my city garden lease yesterday and talked to a few other people who were doing the same. Cedar Rapids has leased garden plots – 20-by-50-feet of land each – at Ellis, Squaw Creek and Tuma parks. Cost is $20 annually. Renewals run through March 2, and after that, the plots can be leased to other people. Gardeners must go to the Ambroz Recreation Center, 2000 Mount Vernon Rd. SE, to reserve a garden. Ambroz is open 8-5, Monday through Friday.

Butterfly on milkweed at Cindy's city-leased garden in July 2008.

Butterfly on milkweed at Cindy's city-leased garden in July 2008.

 

  

   Last year wasn’t the best for gardening, with temperatures too cold to get the plants going in the spring, and then, of course, the rain. All of the gardeners at Ellis were completely washed out for the season due to the June flood (except for a couple of die-hards who returned after the water receded.) But soil tests conducted on the land have shown it’s not contaminated, according to the city, and gardeners are eager to try again.

 

   Chris Pliszka, who has leased a garden at Ellis for about five years, asked city workers about possible chemicals that were left behind by the floods.

Chris said he was comfortable going back after being told it wasn’t contaminated. Like other gardeners, he’s looking forward to growing fresh vegetables to eat from his garden. “The taste is amazing,” he said. Chris tries to get to his garden every day during the season, which brings up an important point about the leased gardens. The last two years, with gas prices high, I thought spending one solid day every week in my garden would be more practical than going a few times a week. The weeds proved too powerful and it became a constant battle between their overwhelming forces and my less-than-overwhelming hoe. Many people use tillers and some use chemical means to control their weeds. I’m going to try to be more aggressive with my mulching system and see if the weedy powers-that-be can be overcome this year.

 

 

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