Is There Such A Thing As A Romantic Camping Getaway In Minnesota?

Today, Norm Goldman, Editor of and is
pleased to have our guest, Tom Watson, author and freelance

Here is the author of: 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Twin Cities: and The Best in Tent Camping: Minnesota: (Both published by Menasha Ridge Publishing)

Here too is the author of How To Think Like A Survivor: A Guide For Wilderness Emergencies (coming out summer of '05, published by Creative Publishing, International)

Good day Tom and thanks for agreeing to participate in our interview.


When did your passion for hiking and camping begin and what kept you going?


Good day to you and thank you for this opportunity. My dad was pretty
active in the outdoors. After leaving the Navy he opened a hobby shop that
carried a lot of sporting goods. I was able, as a boy growing up in eastern
Missouri, a chance to try out all sorts of equipment – lures, rifles, bows
and arrows. Also, since my dad enjoyed camping, we took advantage of the
myriad places in Missouri to primitive camp. My cousins ‚Äč‚Äčlived there, too,
and they were avid campers as well. So, since I was about seven, I spent a
good portion of every summer outdoors.

By the time I was thinking of college – back in the late 6O's, my folks were
divorced and I had been living with my mom during the school years. I wanted
to maintain some outdoor exposure so I decided to go into Forestry at the
University of Minnesota, on the St. Louis Paul campus. All those factors and my
growing love of the natural sciences still keep me going to this day.


As many of our readers are interested in romantic getaways, could you
describe eight of the most romantic and unique camping areas in Minnesota?
Why are they romantic?


That calls upon my interpretation of both "romantic" and "unique"
campsites. I am foremost a primitive camper, minimum facilities, minimum

To me a romantic site is private, remote and amid better than
average scenery or natural attractions.

* Based on that I could list almost any campsite in the BWCA Wilderness as well as any in Voyageurs National Park – most of which are water accessible only. As far as drive-up sites, and those with a bit of walk-in access (my favorites), I have to list the following:

* Lake Maria State Park – isolated walk-in sites scattered along a hill under
a full canopy of oaks and maples – fabulous fall colors! Great hiking trail,

* Great River Bluffs State Park – this part overlooks the Mississippi River
offering these incredible vistas. The outlooks are at the end of short
trails through a dense overstory of maps, very peaceful and the vistas
are breathtaking – some with very romantic perches upon which you and a
significant other could sit cozily for hours.

* Lake Elmo Regional Park Preserve. It's so close to downtown St. Louis Paul yet it
offers remote, walk-in campsites and several miles of cross-country trails.
The campsites are along a walk-in corridor about 100 yards from the parking
area and each one is situated in deep foliage so the privacy level is quite
good, too. These are basic sites without a lot of amenities close by. These
are good sites for lounging around or taking several hikes.

* Crescent Lake Campground- This is just outside the BWCA area, in the
Superior National Forest. It's the best laid-out campground I've seen –
based on my likes. Each site is either up on a knoll or cut deep into the
woods for very private and serene settings.

* Split Rock Lighthouse State Park – One of the few really good campgrounds on
the North Shore of Lake Superior only if its not so neatly laid out as all
the others are. There are walk-in sites stretching for about miles miles along
the rocky shore of the lake, each separated by a forest of birch trees. The
sounds of the water against the shoreline, breezes in the trees and the
freshness of the area all combine to make a very soothing kind of camping

* Crosby-Manitou State Park – Like Lake Maria, this is solely a backpacker's
park. The sites are located throughout the rocky banks of the river, many a
short distance from ragging waterfalls and thundering cascades.

* Very romantic in a Grizzly Adams sort of way, as are most of these.
Lake Kabetogama region of Voyageurs National Park – I could not resist
offering the camp sites scattered through this park's southern region.
Many are single campsites on small, rocky islands – no chance of
encroachment by other campers! They are all water-accessible, but what's
more romantic that a boat ride out to a private campsite surrounded by a
national park?

Many of the campground in the state forests of Minnesota – Granted some of
These are popular with horse back riders, ORV riders and fishermen, but if
you can find one not being used you can have the entire forest to yourself
with trails and rivers and lakes in abundance. These offer very few
amenities but if you are self contained and interested in romancing the day
away, you will not need any extras anyway.


Would you recommend to honeymoon couples or couples looking for a unique
romantic adventure that they try camping, and if so, why?


From my perspective, if a guy can find a lady who truly enjoys camping
(not parking a big RV on some flat lawn and driveway), then it will not matter
where you go. However, I think to really understand a person you need to see
how self-reliant they can be. I think camping partnerships out that and separates
those who need things and those who can make do without complaining. Get
those down right and the rest of it will be easy. Finding that right camping
partner may be the stepping-stone for many other successful interactions.


Has there been any change in the popularity of camping over the past thirty
years, and if so, why?


There has certainly been a shift in the definition. It's amazing how
many RV parks with concrete slaps and broomstick trees are listed as
"campgrounds". There are fewer and fewer places to go to actually pitch a
tent in a pristine, "campground" setting.

Our affluent society enables more to buy the larger units, but perhaps it's more that as we grow older we still enjoy the outdoors and the "assisted camping" units help people do so.

I think the sways in the economy affect camping, too. Instead of long,
thousand mile trips for a week, families are taking shorter, weekend trips
and are going camping instead of spending more money on lodging and extra
gas. Overall I think "camping" in general is slightly more popular.


What does travel mean to you?


Travel means going at least 50 miles on either business or pleasure.
"Travel" as a hobby or activity, of course, conjures up images of new,
exciting or relaxing destinations. I am a naturalist, so "traveling" means
seeing and experiencing new environments, new flora and fauna, and also new
cultures and lifestyles – that's why "traveling" is such a good educational


How do you come up with ideas for what you write? What methods do you use to
flesh out your idea to determine if it's salable?


I try to see what's covered in the current magazines to see if I have
experienced some new areas that are timely and can be written about in an
informative and entertaining way. I love photography and usually will not even
consider a story without I know I have good photo support for it. That is
also a good selling tool for editors. Otherwise, I look to resources on the
Internet, writing groups, etc. that will list topics of interest or announcement
opportunities. Menasha Ridge already had a good base of hiking books but
needed one from Minneapolis. That's where I was living so it was a chance to
do a guide book right in my own back yard. Once you get a 'feel' for a
magazine you start to anticipate what might be salable for them.


What challenges or obstacles did you encounter while writing your books? How
did you overcome these challenges?


Frankly the biggest challenge is always if I could cover the state or
topic despite given the budget (what I'd be paid for it and the expenses
I would have to get it done), that I Find find adequate information once I
started, and most importantly, that anyone would care enough to want to read
about it. When I started the camping book I did not know which ones I could
use and which one would not measure up. I'd sometimes drive for two hours
only to find there really was not a campground you'd want to recommend or
that fits your criteria.

Minnesota's a big enough state that in one weekend, to cover the area I was researching, I put 1100 miles on my car – and that was out of my pocket. You welcome the hurdles by deciding that you will complete the task and you become more savvy in ways of optimizing travel and budget during the research portion.


How do you use the Internet to boost your writing career?


80% of my writing opportunities begin from the Internet. I belong to
the OWAA (Outdoor Writers Association of America). Their website offers
monthly updates from editors seeking specific topics. Other websites do the

I also use the Internet to verify facts or to learn more about
something new, and check to see what's been published in the type of
magazine for which I generally write (kayaking, camping, outdoor gear,
tourism destinations, etc.).


Who are your favorite authors, and why do they inspire you?


As a kid Jules Verne always aroused my imagination and Sam Clemens
rekindled the kind of feelings I had growing up in Missouri (along the same
rivers, I might add). I really enjoyed the macabre of Edgar Allen Poe and
the poetry of Robert Frost, pretty mainstream writers – but all of what
allowed my imagination to complement their.

Unfortunately I do not read as much as I should, so authors do not just pop
out in the conversation. I write a lot, creating my own stuff. If I had to
pick an author I've really enjoyed reading recently it would have to be
Gabriel Garcia Marquez – his collection of short stories are wonderfully
Imaginative and slightly "weird".

I've always enjoyed Ray Bradbury and the Twilight Zone bunch of incredible writers. This is totally away from the kind of writing I am doing books and magazine articles. Fiction is a much harder, higher level I hope to aspire to some day.


As there does not seem to be any authoritative standards that exist for
guidebook authors or publishers, how do you know that a guidebook is up to
par? How do you check out the authorial competency?


To me there are two types of "guide" books: those that are basically a
compilation of data, sometimes cleverly arranged so as to appear new and
different but basically a collection of lists off the Internet.

The other books are opinion pieces using a particular activity or skill and the
author's breadth of knowledge to know what's important, etc. I feel the
author has to first reveal him or herself, offer a profile so the reader can
say, "yes, I identify with this person so what they like I would probably
like ".

In that sense I approach it from what I would consider a good
camps or enjoyable trail. I tell the reader right up front that I am a
photographer and naturalist so I will stop and smell the roses or take a
picture, even along the most seemingly mundane of trails. I also offer a
historical perspective – most publishers want you to qualify yourself

I grow up in Minnesota for the most part (except those summers spent
in Missouri) and was active in the Boy Scouts. I spent a lot of time
outdoors, on trails, hiking and such. I had a sense about these books before
I started my research. Another big factor, frankly, is that this is a
business, a pleasant one, but a business. Unt you produce a product
people will buy, you will not be in the writing business for very long. It's at
least a working hobby and as such demands some discipline and fiscal


How do you blend your photo- journalism with your travel writing?


People like to imagine themselves in a picture. "Wish that was me
paddling that kayak in Alaska! "A good photo draws a reader into the story-
let's them see what you are talking about.

Sometimes an editor puts such a restraint on the number of words that they want. A good photo can relay needed information with very few words. I pride myself in being a good
photographer and I know that many a story was sold because there was good,
crisp, colorful support photography offered with the writing. Photos also
help me recall areas without taking a lot of notes.

I spent a full month in Peru and shot probably 30 rolls of film. I used about 8 pages of a journal – most of which was identifying some of the photo subjects I took. I then go
back and review the photos to see how many I could offer for a variety of
different story ideas. Sometimes those images even make it to the front
cover – a nice bonus!


What is next for Tom Watson?


I really want to pursue some fiction writing in the style of Roald
Dahl, or some of the reporters camp for the old Twilight Zone series.

As far as magazines and guide-books, I will continue to look at them as those
opportunities appear. It's good income and it allows me to share some
exciting adventures with those eager to do the same. Thanks for allowing me
to share this with you.

Thanks again Tom and good luck with all of your future endeavors.

Shipping Containers Prices – What You May Expect to Pay

If you are planning to shop for a shipping container, you may wonder what price you will have to pay. You may even head to your computer to do a little pre-shopping online. There is a good chance, though, that you will have a hard time finding concrete answers to your question about pricing. Shipping containers prices are not readily available because they fluctuate and are be dependent upon quite a few factors including what modifications have been made to them.

A twenty-foot steel storage container is one of the most commonly used container designs. These portable containers are useful for shipping large loads, providing home storage options, and housing small businesses such as food vendors. These containers are also great for an individual who is moving cross country or overseas. The price for a new, basic version of a twenty-foot container is around 2,000. When modifications, e.g. an extra door, a lock box, a refrigeration feature, a new paint job, or insulation, are added the price may be almost double at about 3,800. If you want to buy a used twenty-foot container you can expect to pay as much as 1,500 for a basic and around 2,500 for one with some alterations. If you are buying you can of course make self alterations. A twenty-foot rental will cost anywhere between 50 and 90 dollars per month. There may be a 50 to 100 dollar delivery fee.

If you have a large item like a car, or bulky goods to ship, a forty-foot steel container may be perfect for you. A forty-foot container is a great bargain and has some of the best land based uses including building cheap housing. For twice the length of a twenty-foot, a basic forty-foot container costs between 2,500 and 5,000. Modifications may add as much as 1,000 to 1,500 to this price. A used version of this container sells for as low as 1,750, while a version with several alterations may cost around 3,700. A forty-foot storage container is not as good of a deal when it is rented. Perhaps because it is harder to move, it is common that retailers charge a delivery fee of between 100 and 300 dollars. The cost of renting a forty-foot container is usually between 100 and 300 per month. There is, of course, a minimum rental period. This minimum rental period may be anywhere from six to eighteen months.

All of these prices are based upon what people have claimed to pay for common containers sizes. It is hard to find actual prices without getting a quote since there are so many factors that affect pricing. Some of these factors include container age, modifications such as pull-down doors or windows. The best way to find out a definite price is to contact a range of companies with your specifications and get estimates on new, used and rented versions of the container you want. If you choose to shop online, many online retailers, such as Aztec Containers, offer a link on their website for to receive a quote.

Looking Back Through 2000 Seasons of Slavery of Africans by Various Other Races in Ayi Kwei Armah

Ayi Kwei Armah’s TWO THOUSAND SEASONS, is ‘a deeply profound and monumental text’ projecting a pluralized communal voice [we] speaking through the history of Africa, its wet and dry seasons, from a period of one thousand years. The title itself represents the enormous arc of time covering the long and awful years in African history that were traversed and endured. This pan-African epic sums up the African experience for the past two thousand seasons reduced effectively to ‘a thousand seasons wasted wandering amazed along alien roads, another thousand spent finding paths to the living way.’ Written in allegorical tone, it shifts from autobiography of disconnectedness and reconnectedness and realistic details to philosophical ponderings, prophesying a new age of hopeful regeneration. This wide span of African history reduced to just two hundred pages has given rise to doubts as to its authenticity as a novel even though it interpretes history creatively.

Ayi Kwei Armah was born in the twin-harbour city of Sekondi-Takoradi in Western Ghana in 1939 to Fante-speaking parents. On his father’s side, he hails from a royal family in the Ga tribe. His secondary schooling was at the prestigious Achimota College. In 1959 he proceeded on a scholarship to the GROTON SCHOOL in Massachusetts. Next at Harvard University he received a degree in sociology. He moved to Algeria to work as a translator for the magazine Revolution Africaine. Back in Ghana, he got engaged at the Ghana Television as a scriptwriter and later taught English at the Navarongo school. He became editor of JEUNE AFRIQUE magazine in Paris from 1967-8. He then proceeded to Columbia University where he obtained his M.F.A. in creative writing. In the 1970’s he taught at the College of National Education, Chang’omgo, Tanzania and at the National University of Lesotho. He lived in Dakar, Senegal from the 1980’s and taught at Amherst and University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Armah’s writing career started in the 1960’s. He published poems and short stories in the Ghanaian magazine OKYEAME, and in HARPER’S, THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY, and NEW AFRICAN. Then in 1968 he published his first novel THE BEAUTIFUL ONES ARE NOT YET BORN which emerged as a modern African classic.

TWO THOUSAND SEASONS is a novel of loss and redemption. ‘Woe the race, too generous in the giving of itself, that finds a highway not of regeneration but a highway to its own extinction,’ he warns and goes on to trace the paths taken: the many false ones and the true ones.

The place of origin, the home, is an unspecified sub-saharan African country. The story truly begins with the coming of the predators who bring in ruin. First, we have the Arabs, then the Europeans – ‘White all. And always the weak and complicit locals keep showing from the first a ‘fantastic quality […]: fidelity to those who spat on them,’ thus helping to bring ruin from within.

The first predators appear as beggars. Their pitiful appearance is misleading. Cunningly and patiently, they took hold using their religion to inspire and hold sway over the weak, turning them against their fellow Africans. The predators reduce them ‘to beasts’ by starving their minds with their foreign religion and ‘indulging their crassest physical wants. These beasts- the perfidious askaris, who keep the locals subjugated throughout the thousands of seasons – are pathetic, but though the others contemptuously call them ‘white desert-men’s dogs’ they become the willing and often very effective tools of the predators.

Armah thus keeps showing the African to have contributed to the demise of his own culture by being ever so willing to deal with the [white] devil and by selling out to his fellow man.

The ‘white man from the desert’ patiently makes inroads, returning stronger and wiser each time. The locals do not know how to protect themselves:

This time again the predators came with force – to break our bodies. This time

they came with guile also – a religion to smash the feeblest minds among us,

then turn them into tools against us all. The white men from the desert had

made a discovery precious to predators and destroyers: the capture of the mind

and the body both is a slavery far more lasting far more secure than the

conquest of bodies alone.’

Revolts of great ferocity were common. The predators’ gluttony leads to their own

undoing – yet that undone is never enough. Success is limited. The next wave of predators are seemingly always at the ready. But the local never seem to get any wiser.

Leadership is as much a problem in this text as it is in BOUND TO VIOLENCE. The rulers for whom Armah reserves nothing but contempt are the worst. ‘The quietest king, the gentlest leader of the mystified, is criminal beyond the exercise of any compassion.’ This holds perfectly true for his prime example, the greedy fool, Koranche.

The whites, coming after the Arabs, are not merely predators but destroyers – the armed colonial European powers. And Armah is certain: ‘There is nothing white men will not do to satisfy their greed’-or: ‘Monstrous is the greed of the white destroyers, infinite their avarice.’ Fortunately for them then, there is little Koranche and his flatterers won’t do to satisfy their greed either:

Among the white destroyers there was no respect for anything we could say.

They had come determined to see nothing, to listen to no one, bent solely on the

satisfaction of their greed, of which we had ample news. But the king was

infatuated with the white destroyers and would not heed the people’s will, as

quick in its expression as it was clear to tell the white men to go.

Among the destroyers are missionaries, too, with a different poisonous religion.

Wise Isanus warns time and time again of the dangers ahead but no one listens.

‘Have we forgotten the cause of our long wandering? Did we not learn near the desert how priests and warriors are twin destroyers, the priest attacking the victim mind, the warrior breaking bodies still inhabited by resisting wills?’ ‘All honest people who have come to us have come because they sought to do themselves good among us, as part of our people, and they said so. These white men, they do not want to be part of us. But here they have come claiming they have crossed the sea from wherever it is they come from just to do us good. They are pretenders. They are liars. We have asked them for nothing. We should not have let them come among us. They have no desire to live with us. They will live against us’ [p153-154]

”The whites intend a lasting oppression of us’…He told us in the town Poano he had heard a white man, a missionary whose white greed was so subtle it looked forward to the ending of the open trade of human beings, to the beginning of a subtler destruction. This white missionary thought there would be far greater profit in keeping the victims of the trade here on our land, having the kings and courtiers use them to mine and grow whatever the whites need, then offering the product to the white destroyers… Isanus said this white missionary would be busy finding ways to eternalize our slavery through using our leaders in a cleverer kind of oppression harder to see as slavery, slavery disguised as freedom itself. The whites intend a long oppression of us.” [p163]

[The narrator] ‘Our choices in the life we were ready to begin would not be many: we could fit into existing arrangements, abandoning our dreams of that better world, dreams of our way, the way. Or we could try to realize the way. That would mean fighting against the white road, the white people’s system for destroying our way, the way.

We listened to Isanus. We did not know that the knowledge contained in his words was immediate, urgent knowledge. We thought we would have time to absorb it, time to adjust to its meaning. We had none.

Isanus tried to warn us but we misjudged him. We thought there was a distance between his words and reality, a space for us to manoeuvre in. There was none….He warned us to stay completely clear of the new arrangements, the positions which had already become mere jobs for parasites.’

[Isanusi] ‘The way things have become, if you do not want to be parasites you need time in which to think of what else there is to be. And above time, courage to do what you conclude you ought to do which is more difficult….’

[Isanusi] ‘If you knew who you were, you would accept no invitations from [B]lack men who call white people friends. Bloody interests feed such unnatural friendships. You will live to be their victim.’ [P164-166]

Later, after they have been sold into slavery by their king and escaped ‘his words came back an echo to what we had lived to know.’ Finally, they are determined not to look into the past, or ‘return to home blasted with triumphant whiteness.’ They would ‘seek the necessary beginning to destruction’s destruction.’

Isanusi seeing how long the road ahead is, warns that this generation ‘would not outlive the white blight, that only the groundwork could be loud, the beginnings undertaken. Despite the treachery of chiefs and leaders, of the greed of parasites that had pushed us so far into ‘the whiteness of death’ there is some hope for the future – though not an immediate one, ,

Despite unspeakable horrors, oppression and betrayals as in BOUND TO VIOLENCE, this novel unlike the latter is a story of the triumph of the human spirit and the will. Enslaved, there is a daring escape from the ship followed by the rescue of the others. The white predators are thus beaten at their own game. Arms stolen from them are then turned against them. Inspite of continuing treachery, successes along with small movements emerge along the way. Much of this is dramatically related. It is a stirring often horrifying, often touching read.

The shared norms, values and ancestral background reposed in BOUND TO VIOLENCE are retained in TWO THOUSAND SEASONS. This could be best examined in the style of the opening paragraphs of the first chapter with its preponderant communal’we’.

We are not a people of yesterday. Do they ask how many single seasons have

flowed from our beginnings until now? We shall point them on the proper

beginnings until now? We shall point them on the proper beginning of their counting. On a clear night when the light of the moon has blighted the ancient woman and her seven children, on such a night tell them to go alone into the world. There have them count first the one, then the seven, and after the seven all the other stars visible in their eyes alone.

After that beginning, they will be ready for the sand. Let them count it grain

from single grain.

And after they have reached the end of that counting we shall not ask them

to number the raindrops in the ocean. But with the wisdom of the aftermath have them ask us again how many seasons have flowed by since our people were


As Ngara states, the preponderance of the first person plural ‘we’ throughout the story points the narrator out as ‘a collective voice in the true tradition of African communalism.’ Armah’s narrator, speaking for the group, exemplifies one of the book’s important messages – the truism that strength, survival and even beauty are to be found in togetherness. We therefore have the continuous emphasis on their common background throughout the text by means of such phrases as ‘our people’, ‘our origins’ and ‘our history’. With the first person, the writer immediately creates the illusion of a speaker actually addressing a listener – in this case a reader, as posits Mensah. But then we also get the impression of a teller involving an audience in his narration as he keeps asking: ‘Do they ask how many single seasons we have flowed from our beginnings till now?’ This also gives the narrator a more than usual degree of immediacy of a direct address of a living voice.

This effect is enhanced by the rhetorical use of repetition in ‘On a clear night when the light of the moon has blighted the ancient woman and her seven children, on such a night tell them.’ The most recurrent repetition is that of ‘the way’, ‘our way’, and ‘reciprocity’. This sometimes lends the tale some philosophical twist as could be sensed in: ‘Its farthest meaning, that meaning large enough to hold all other meanings, was the meaning of the way itself: the call to reciprocity in a world wiped clean of destroyers innocent again of predators. What was the meaning of the way? Its clear meaning was destruction’s destruction. It’s closest meaning: the search for paths to that necessary beginning.’

Here, ‘meaning’ has been often repeated. But we also detect the use of another rhetorical device, that of rhetorical questions as exemplified below:

Which shall we now choose to remember of the many idiocies our tolerance

has supported? Shall we remember Ziblin the heavy one, heavy not like a living elephant but like infirm mud, he who wanted every new bride’s hymen as his

boasting prize, but turned the tears of women into laughter when they found

massive would-be king had not the blood in him for entering the widest open

door? Or shallow remembrance be of Jezebo, he who for the solace of his

shriveled soul wanted all coming into his presence crawling on their knees. Or of Bulukutu, he who gave himself a thousand grandiose, empty names of praise

died forgotten except in the memories of laughing rememberers?

Through this device we are given the feel of a communal experience with the narrator involving the audience by asking them questions. But indeed the questions themselves are disguised statements for they in fact do what they ask to be done.

The recourse to proverbs at a time when the need for consciousness is being emphasized is significant:

Of unconnected consciousness is there more to say beyond the clear recognition this is destruction’s keenest tool against the soul? That the left hand

should be kept ignorant of what its right twin is made to do… That the heart detached should beat no faster even when limbs familiar to it are moved to heinous

acts. That our left eye should be set to see against its twin not with it… That the sight of the eye should be unconnected, cut off from the mind’s embracing consciousness – what is that but death’s white in delirious triumph?

The wisdom of the sayings is warped to shock the audience into realizing the destructiveness of unconnected consciousness.

Armah sustains the effect of recreating in writing the speaking voice throughout the work thus making it one of the most oral works ever written. It is not just any speaking voice. It is formal and dignified and invested with authority. This is in the tone, the contemptuous tone in which the narrator discusses questions about the antiquity of Africans. ‘Just as only a fool would endeavour to count the stars or the grains of sand on the shore or the raindrops in the ocean, so only a fool would wish to count the years in order to arrive at the immemorial epoch when the African people originated ,’ It is a tone suggestive of wisdom as well as impatience with the folly of Europe’s ways. This passage also exemplifies another device Armah uses to invest the narrator with authority which is the deep knowledge displayed about African things. The reader is throughout the novel overwhelmed by the narrator’s encyclopaedic knowledge of Africa’s rivers, trees, peoples, names and its history thus recreating the voice of the court historian, the griot or at least sagacious grandparents telling the young of the village tales of yore. AS Robert Fraser observes: ‘where before we searched in vain for an instance of recognizable authorial intervention, the writer here takes upon himself a role of obtrusive commentator from the very first sentence.


Fraser, Robert, THE NOVELS OF AYI KWEI ARMAH, London, Heinemann,



London, Heinemann, 1982


Heinemann, 1979

Lindfors, Bernth, ‘Armah’s histories’ in AFRICAN LITERATURE TODAY no 11,


Mensah, A.N., ‘Style and Purpose in Armah’s TWO THOUSAND SEASONS’ in


Omotoso, Kole, ‘Trans-Saharan Views; mutually negative portraits’ in AFRICAN


Wright, Derek, ‘ Ayi Kwei Armah’s TWO THOUSAND SEASONS: A Dissent’

What Are Necktie Alternatives?

You cannot discount the fact that neckties do more than just make your suit more formal. However, there will always be a time when you would want to stand out and show off your unique individuality. To do so on a particular day, you need to leave the house without your usual tie and try to wear something more daring. It’s time to give your favorite accessory-the necktie-a break. Be more dandy and trendy. Here are some necktie free options that you might want to consider on that particular day.

1. No Tie. This one is definitely an after office fashion statement. You can just take off your tie and wear your usual outfit as it is. If your office or workplace does not have a very strict dress code, you can definitely rock this style by going to the office in this flair.

Wear stiffer and more prominent collars to eliminate the need for a necktie. Neckties are not just decorative and handsome, it also serves to support your collar, thus making it look fuller. If you want to eliminate the tie, then wear shirts that have collars that can stay up for the rest of the day. Flat collars are lifeless.

Wear dressier pieces if you want to go tie-less. Not wearing any tie is very casual so you need something dressier to balance it out. For instance, instead of wearing a simple sport coat, wear an actual suit jacket worn separately to even out the balance. You can also thrown in a pocket square to create a gentlemanly touch and deride the look of an office schlub.

After all that, it’s up to you to give your outfit a more relaxed and tie-less appeal. You can opt for dark unwashed denims that are perfect substitutes for your usual office pants for a more laid back yet comfortable wardrobe choice.

2. Ascot. These are practically in the same category of neckties but needs more confidence and panache to be able to pull off. It has a sixties vogue in it and a pang of childishness which requires the proper outfit and enough confidence.

Ascots are just like neckties in some aspects. For instance, both are lengths of fabrics with tapered ends. Both are also stylishly tied around any outfit. A standard ascot is tied like the usual four in hand for the necktie except that the knot is not too tight which gives the ascot a more relaxed look and a little more space around the neck.

The thing about wearing an ascot is that it would require that you wear classic pieces to go with it. For instance, you need a navy or gray suit and a simple white shirt to match with your ascot. As long as you have the classic pieces in place, you do not have to worry about your ascot. You can wear them as loud as you want to.

3. Bowties. Tying a bow tie is a special skill that every man needs to learn. If you want to create your own fashion statement and rise up in your individuality, you need to learn how to properly tie it yourself. If you want to add more life to your outfit, you can wear bright or neon colored bowties. It adds more drama without overdoing it.

How to Establish Your Container Garden

Vegetable production is not only applicable in the countryside or in the gardens but can be grown now within the heart of the city or just in your home even with only a limited space.

If your home has an area with ample sunlight – a requirement for growing vegetables, you can grow them successfully. What are the locations that can be used for container gardening? You can use your patio, balcony, terrace, rooftop, deck, window sill, pathways, etc.

Be aware of the sunlight requirement for each kind of crop. For leafy vegetables, the required sunlight should be about four hours the whole day, for fruit vegetables, at least 7-8 hours sunlight is needed daily, and root vegetables requires around 6 hours of sunlight a day.

And besides of producing your own vegetables in a safer way, the attack of common pests and diseases can be greatly minimized. You can also improve the soil conditions by adding some soil amendments; like manure, compost, and other essential food nutrients needed by the plants.

Everything in your home that are considered as garbage can be utilized to the maximum by making them into compost. Even your household waste water can be used to irrigate your plants.

In other words, container gardening is considered to be the practice that makes use of useless things.

What Containers Are Ideal For Container Gardening?

Growing vegetables can be executed in any type of containers such as; cans, plastics, pails, split vehicle tires, cement bags, feed bags, bottle water plastics, gallon cans, cylinder blocks, milk container, bamboo cuts or any containers that have been thrown away. Even coco shells, banana bracts, leaves of coconut is ideal as potting materials especially for short season vegetables, like, pechay, lettuce, mustard, etc.

Good growing containers should possess the three important characteristics as suggested by Relf (1996);

1. They must be large enough to support fully grown plants.

2. They must have adequate drainage.

3. They must not have held products that are toxic to plants and persons.

Containers that drain poorly can affect the success of a container garden. It is therefore vital to have your containers above ground or any support that would raise the containers such as; slats, hollow blocks or anything to provide space below them to allow excess water to drain freely.

For bigger plants, you should use big containers and for small containers use small plants.

Small containers (1-2 gallons) are suited for lettuce, spinach, mustard, pepper, radish, green onions, carrots, beans, and dwarf tomatoes. Medium size containers (3-10 gallons) are best for eggplants while for larger ones (bigger than 10 gallons) are good for cabbage, cucumbers and tomatoes.

For most plants, containers should be at least 15 cm deep minimum especially for shot season vegetables.

Recommended Container Size and Type/Crop

5 gal. window box – Bush beans, Lima beans

1 plant/5gal.pot, 3plants/15 gal. pot -Cabbage, Chinese cabbage

5 gal. window box at least 30 cm deep – carrot

1 plant/gal. pot – cucumber

5 gal. pot – Eggplant, tomato, okra

5 gal. window pot – Lettuce

1 plant/2gal. pot; 5 plants/15 gal. pot – Onion

5 gal. window box – Pepper, spinach

Soil Media Composition

Plants grown in containers will depend on the kind of soil mixture to provide a maximum growth development. It is a must that you should provide the best soil media composition to give the possible return of your toil. Failure to give the plants with the necessary food nutrients in their growing period would results to poor growth, lanky, and stunted plants that will results to your failure.

The ideal soil mixture for container-grown vegetables crops are as follows:

1. It should be light in weight and porous.

2. It should easily drain excess water.

3. It should have high water holding capacity.

4. It should be free from soil borne disease, nematodes and insect pests.

5. It should supply the right and balance amount of nutrients for the plants.

The best mixture of soil media should compose the following; synthetic mix of horticultural-grade vermiculite, peat moss, limestone, superphosphate and complete fertilizer.

Compost can also serve as an excellent growing medium.

In your country where the above media are not available, you can make your own potting media by mixing 1 part loam soil or compost manure, 1 part fine river sand, and coconut coir dust.

If your country is producing rice you can replace coconut coir dust with the rice hull charcoal (carbonized). But this should be thoroughly sterilized to kill some deadly microbes that are detrimental to the plants.

Sawdust is another medium that could be used in preparing your growing medium in the absence of coco coir dust and should also be sterilized.

Sowing Seed and Transplanting

Before going into the sowing procedure, give your utmost attention to the selection of seed you’ll use as planting materials. Good quality seeds should be your first concern.

Good quality seeds possesses the following characteristics:

1. damage free

2. free from other mixture with other varieties

3. free from seed borne diseases

4. and with good vigor and germinating capacity.

To get a quality and reliable seeds, you should buy from certified seed producers or seed suppliers.

All vegetables that undergoes transplanting are excellent for container gardening. Transplants can be purchased from local nurseries or other successful gardeners in your locality.

Before transplanting, fill plastic or germinating tray with the growing media preparation using the following ratio: 60% rice hull charcoal(carbonized), 30 % coconut coir dust, 10% chicken manure (60-30-10 ratio).

In the absence of the above materials in your country, you can use the old soil media preparation – 1 part sand, 1 part compost, and 1 part garden soil (1-1-1 ratio). Make sure to sterilize them before the seed are sown. This is to kill some microorganisms that may cause damage to the seedlings.

You can also purchase a prepared growell medium sold in local agriculture stores in your respective country. Inquire from your agriculture experts available in your area.

Once the growing media is ready, fill the holes of the germinating or potting containers. Press the soil medium lightly with your fingers in every hole filled with the medium. Then follows the sowing of seeds.

In sowing seeds some techniques should be followed to insure germination:

Watermelon (Seeded) (Citrulis lunatus). Soak seed 30 min.- 1hour in top water. Incubate by using moist cotton cloth. Spread the seeds and cover. Place in an improvised cartoon for 24-36 hours. After this period, sow the seeds at I seed per hill. Seed must be level in the soil guided by a finger or stick at 1 cm deep. For the seedless type the procedure is the same as the seeded but the tip near the embryo should be cut with the use of a nail cutter before inserting to the soil. Cutting the end portion of the seed hastens germination.

Bitter Gourd/Ampalaya (Momordica charantia). Soak seeds for 30 min.-1 hour. Cut the tip near the embryo and sow with the seed deep of ¾ of the soil at 1 seed per hole.

Upo ( Lagenaria siceraria ) and Patola ( Luffa cylindrica ). Cut the tip covering only near the embryo and sow seed at 1 seed per hole.

Squash (Cucurbita spp). Soak seeds 30 min.-1 hour. Then pinch the tip near the embryo and sow seed at 1 seed per hole.

Pepper (Capsicum annum L.), Eggplant (Solanum melongena), and Tomato (Lycopersicum esculentum). Sow the seed directly to the germinating tray at 1-2 seeds per hole.

Pechai /Pechay (Brassica pechai), Lettuce (Lactuca sativa), Cauliflower (Brassica oleracea var. botrytis ), and Broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. Italica ). Sow seed directly to the germinating at 1-2 seeds per hole.

Cucumber (Cucumis sativus), Honey Dew / Muskmelon (Cucumis melo). Sow the seed directly to the germinating tray at 1 seed per hole.

Carrot (Daucus carota) and Raddish (Rafanus sativus). Directly sow the seed to the field at 2-3 seeds per hill.

Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis ) and Beans (Phaseolus limensis ). Sow the seed directly to the field at 1 seed per hill.

Corn (zea mays). Sow the seed directly to the field at 1 seed per hill.

Papaya (Carica papaya). Soak the seeds for 30 min.-1 hour then sow to the germinating tray at 1 seed per hole.

Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus ). Directly sow the seed in the field at 1-2 seeds per hill.

Container size for specific crops.

o Medium – Beans, lettuce, carrots, cabbage, broccoli

o Large – Cuccumber, eggplant, tomato, pepper, okra, squash, papaya

o Small – Onions, parsley, radish

Light Requirements

o Sun – Beans, cucumber, eggplant, tomato, pepper, carrots, okra, squash, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, broccoli papaya

o Partial shade – Lettuce, onions, parsley, radish

Fertilizer Requirements

To get the right amount of fertilizer for your vegetables, you should analyze your soil media mixture. And if you can do it, organic or inorganic fertilizer should be used.

Fertilizer combination of organic and inorganic would be much better with the correct proportion depending on the plant requirement.

When using inorganic fertilizer you should prepare a base nutrient solution by dissolving 2 cups of complete fertilizer in 1 gallon of warm water.

A growing solution is prepared by diluting 2 tablespoons of the base solution in 1 gallon of water.

Application starts by pouring 2-3 tablespoons of the growing solution on the soil media around the plants at the time of transplanting.

The frequency of application may vary from one crop to another, but one application per day is adequate. It is advisable to leach all unused fertilizer out of the soil mix once a week by watering tap water to cause free drainage through the holes in the bottom of the container.

This practice will prevent buildup of injurious materials in the soil media. If you want to use organic fertilizer, you should use pure or 2/3 compost in the growing media.

If both the organic and inorganic fertilizer will be used, at least one part of the growing media should be compost and one tablespoon of the growing solution applied at least once a day.

If you’ll use synthetic mix growing medium, which is already enriched with superphosphate and complete fertilizer subsequent fertilization may not be necessary for early maturing crops.

For late maturing crops, daily application of the growing solution is necessary until maturity or shortly before harvesting.

Water Management

Water is the life for container garden plant. It’s important that you should not neglect this requirement. Proper water management is vital for a successful container gardening.

Basically, one watering a day is enough for container-grown crops. But for vegetables grown in small containers may require 2 times of watering a day.

Plants grown in clay pots needs more frequent watering since pots are more porous and extra water is allowed to drain out from their sides.

If the growing medium appears to be excessively dry and as the plant shows signs of wilting, the containers should be grouped together so that the foliage creates a canopy to help shade the soil and keep it cool.

Poor drainage of the growing media or container can lead to water-logged condition that may results to plant death due to lack of oxygen.

To make sure you have a vigorous plants, always check the containers at least once a day and twice on hot, dry, or windy days and to feel the soil to determine whether it is dump.

To reduce water evaporation for container plants, you should apply mulching materials such as plastic mulch or putting windbreaks.

You can also install trickle or drip irrigation system to the plants base if you think you can’s attend to your plants daily.

Pests and Diseases Control

Control of pests and diseases in containers needs your careful assessment because wrong use of pesticides may cause damage to the environment, especially children who may often come closer to your container plants.

To be safe, you should implement the Integrated Pest Management (IPM). This approach is focused on the so called systematic pest management which means to prevent problems before the pests and diseases appears.

How you can do this?

It is done by monitoring pest population, identifying pests, and choosing a combination of control methods to keep pests population at a minimal level. These methods includes cultural, mechanical, biological, and chemical methods.

Recommended Practices…

o Select insect and disease-resistant varieties of vegetables. Avoid insect attracting plants in the garden or those that are susceptible to pests. Beans, peas, cucumbers, spinach, lettuce and squash are more resistant to insect pests.

o Water the plants adequately to keep them healthy. Fertilize and thin plants to reduce competition for moisture and nutrients.

o Remove weeds to conserve soil moisture and eliminate hiding places of pests.

o Encourage natural enemies of insect pests, such as predators and parasites. Attract beneficial insects like; Western Damsel Bug, Lady Beetle, Green Lace Wing, and Minute Pirate Bug into your garden by planting small flowered plants such as; daisies, cosmos, marigold, and clover. Be sure they are in flower bloom throughout the growing season.

o Avoid growing the same types of vegetables in the same spot year after year. A 4-year rotation cycle is recommended.

o Exclude pests from plants by using fiber materials, row cover, and other barriers such as plastic bottles and plant collars.

o Remove infested part of the plant right away. Remove all plant residues from the containers after harvesting all the crops.

o Use traps to disrupt mating cycles of insects. Yellow sticky boards catch winged aphids, whiteflies, and leafhoppers.

o Handpick pests or knock them off plants with a stream of water from a garden hose. Kill the insects by putting them a soapy water.

o If all other control methods fails, the least toxic insecticides includes botanical control such as neem and pyrethrin. Insecticidal soap, horticultural oil may also be used for insect control. Always identify the pests before choosing a pesticide and use according to label directions.


Harvesting varies with vegetables. Leafy vegetables may be harvested when the desired leaf size is required for every use they are intended. Others harvest leafy vegetables after the required age is meet. For fruit vegetables such as, Luffa, Cucumber, Eggplant, beans, Okra, and Upo they are harvested when their size are big but tender. For squash varieties, they are harvested either matured or big but tender depending on the preference of users.

Cabbage, cauliflowers, and broccoli should be harvested when their heads are already compact. Peppers and tomatoes may be harvested when their fruits have started to ripen.

If you’re growing container-grown vegetables just for home consumption, you can harvest only some part of the plant and retain the rest for future use. But if you think you have more than enough for family use, you can harvest them all and sell or give them to your neighbors.

Never allow your vegetables to bear flower before harvesting them except when your purpose is to collect the seeds for future planting.

Maturity Indices of some Vegetables

o White potato, onion, garlic – Tops begins to dry and topple down

o Cowpea, sitao, snap beans, batao, sweet pea, winged bean – Well-filled pods that really snap

o Okra – Full-sized fruits with the tips that can be snapped readily

o Lima beans, pigeon pea – Well-filled pods that are starting to lose their greenness

o Upo, luffa – Immature (if thumb nail can penetrate easily)

o Tomato – Seeds slip when fruit is cut, or green color turning pink

o Sweet pepper – Deep green color turning dull

o Musk melon – Color of lower part turns creamy yellow, produces dull hallow sound when thumped

o Cauliflower – Curd compact (over mature if flower clusters elongates and begin to loosen)

o Broccoli – Bud cluster compact (over mature if loose)

o Cabbage – Heads compact s (over mature if heads cracks)

o Sweet corn – Exudes milk sap when thumbnail penetrates kernel

o Eggplant, ampalaya – Desirable size is reached out but still tender

o Honey dew – White color cream with aroma

o Squash – Big enough with dried leaves

o Watermelon – Dull hollow sound when thumped and lower color part turns yellow

o Water spinach – Leaves at their broadest and longest

Problems Encountered in Container Gardening

In container gardening you’ll meet some problems that may hinder your daily operations. This is sometimes discernible when you’ll not attend the plants due to negligence.

However, you can prevent these problems if you’ll religiously observe your plants closely. Small pests and diseases can’t be seen visibly if you’ll not see the plant appearance closely. You’ll only see the affected plants once you come closer and actually touch them.

Some symptoms, causes, and corrective measures you should observe…

o Tall, spindly and not productive. The plants receives insufficient sunlight and excessive supply of Nitrogen. To correct them, you should transfer the containers to a place where there is sufficient sunlight.

o Yellowing from bottom, poor color, and lack vigor. The plants receives too much water and low fertility. To correct this, you have to reduce watering intervals and check the pots for good drainage.

o Plants wilt even with sufficient water. The plants has poor drainage and aeration. To correct, you should use a potting mix with high percentage of organic matter. Increase the number of holes of the container for good drainage.

o Burning or firing of the leaves. The soil medium is high in salt. To correct this problem, you have to leach the container with tap water at regular intervals.

o Stunted growth, sickly, and purplish color of leaves. The temperature is low and low phosphate. To correct, you should relocate the containers to a warmer area. Increase phosphate level in base solution.

o Holes in leaves and distorted in shape. The plants are pests infested. To correct, you should use non-chemical insecticides or other biological control for insects.

o Spots on the leaves, dead dried areas or powdery or rust occurrence. The plants are affected with a disease. To correct them, you should remove the disease affected parts or the whole plant in serious condition. You can use non-chemical pesticides if the disease is in the early stage of infestation.

Crawlspace – Underhouse – Floods – Water Under Your House Can Cause a Variety of Problems

Standing water or wet soil in your home’s crawlspace can come from a variety of sources. These may include but are certainly not limited to the following.

(1) A leaking freshwater supply line, usually galvanized, copper, pvc or pex.

(2) A leaking sewer drain line, usually cast iron, galvanized, clay or ABS.

(3) Naturally high groundwater table.

(4) Over watering of plants around your home (creating a man made high water table).

(5) Sprinklers spraying through the crawlspace vents.

(6) Leaking swimming pools (this is rare).

(7) Improperly directed gutter downspouts.

(8) Stream or river flooding.

Standing water or extremely damp soil in your home’s crawlspace (under house) can cause a variety of structural problems and health concerns. Excess humidity caused by the evaporation of standing water or wet soil in your crawlspace can cause mold growth on the wooden foundation and the bottom of sub flooring. It can also cause warping or buckling of sub flooring and mold growth in the living area of the building. If your home has H.V.A.C. (heating , ventilation, air conditioning) ducting in the crawlspace and the system is compromised with excess moisture, microbial amplification may result. All of these issues can possibly create unhealthy indoor air quality. A broken sewer line in your crawlspace and the subsequent release of raw sewage onto your crawlspace soil can create an awful odor problem in your home. Also there are possible health concerns to the constant inhalation of sewer gas from an open or broken sewer line.

Some solutions to the problems mentioned above. Try to determine the source of the water intrusion and correct it yourself. This may be as simple as redirecting sprinkler heads, fixing leaky outdoor faucets or redirecting gutter downspouts. If you suspect plumbing problems, you should call a licensed plumber.

Often, there is too much water under your house for a plumber to properly inspect the pipes, you may need to call a Water Damage Restoration company. Many water damage companies offer crawlspace de-flooding and or sewage cleanup, should the leak be from a sewer drain line. After the water is removed and the crawlspace made accessible a plumber can check for leaky pipes. If your foundation is wet you may need a water damage restoration company to dry it for you, in order to prevent mold growth.

If you have over watering problems or a high water table you may need to contact a landscape engineer or a water proofing contractor to design a French drain system or other remedy to keep water from accumulating under your home. Many plumbing companies or water proofing contractors will also install sump pump systems in the low area of your crawlspace to help combat water pooling. You may also want to consider having a crawlspace dehumidifier installed to regulate the relative humidity to a level that will inhibit structural damage or mold growth. Another way to keep air flowing through the crawlspace (and thereby promoting evaporation) is by installing crawlspace ventilation fans over your existing crawlspace vents. There are also companies who can completely encapsulate your crawlspace with thick plastic, thereby effectively sealing your home off from the ground.

As you can see there are many problems that can arise from excessive water or moisture in your home or buildings crawlspace and just as many solutions. Should you suspect a problem that may need a professional solution, a good place to start is on the internet with your favorite search engine and a search for “crawlspace”. This should get you started in the right direction with any crawlspace (under house) issues you may have.

Installing Your New Tabor and Apex Combination Bathroom Furniture

So, you’ve bought some new combination bathroom furniture. Tabor and Apex combination units are dual purpose pieces which incorporate a basin unit and a WC unit into one piece of furniture: they are space saving items for your bathroom, but are still large enough to be a little unwieldy during the installation process.

All bathroom furniture varies from installation to installation, and we would always advise that you read the manufacturer’s fitting instructions carefully and follow their advice – they know their product best. You may, however, find it helpful to follow our handy hints for installing anything from a simple bathroom cabinet, right up to a fully fitted bathroom furniture suite.

Tip number one is to measure carefully. You need to know the precise size of your bathroom furniture in relation to the space into which you’ll be installing it, so measure both these two areas first. It may help you to visualise the outcome you’re aiming for right from the start if you draw a rough outline of your furniture on the wall in situ.

Next, if your furniture is pre-drilled with wall fixing holes, you’ll need to measure where these are in relation to the edges of the item, so that you can map out where your fixings need to be positioned to ensure the furniture finishes up precisely in place. If your furniture comes without pre-drilled holes, you’ll need to create some, and then measure where they are (this is quicker and simpler than measuring, carefully drilling the holes… then measuring again to check you got them where you wanted them).

Tip number two is to always use the right tools for the job. A metal measure is better than a material one, which could stretch and give you a slightly false measurement. And using the right drill bit will not only minimise the potential for damage to your drill bit or to your wall, but will also make your task easier.

When drilling your fixing holes in your bathroom wall, bear in mind the following. Always drill into the bricks or blocks of a wall, not into the mortar which forms the joints; drill more carefully into blocks than bricks – bricks are tough, but blocks are relatively soft and you run the risk of making the hole too big if you go at the blocks too enthusiastically with the drill. If you have stud walls, make sure you’re drilling into the solid timber supports, not the thin plasterboard between, which will not provide a very solid supportive surface for your wall fixing. And if your wall is tiled, you should use an extra hard drill bit and only light pressure, or you may crack the tile surface and open yourself up to a retiling job.

Once your bathroom furniture is installed, you’ll be using it every day for years – so if you take the time at the installation stage to get it right, you’ll be able to feel proud every day for years.

Space Derby – How to Win at a Fun Cub Scout Activity

Last Saturday, my 8 year old son participated in his first Space Derby with his Cub Scout pack. A lot of boys, parents, siblings, and Cub Scout leaders showed up for the event. What is a space derby? Well it is probably a little different than what you imagined.

Each Cub Scout gets a Space Derby kit through their Cub Scout pack. The kit consists of balsa wood that each participant will use to form the body of a rocket. There is also plastic material in the kit that can be cut to fashion fins for the rocket. Here is where it starts to sound a little strange. There is also a propeller in the kit. A propeller?!! I thought this was a rocket? Well, it is supposed to look like a rocket, but the propeller actually propels the rocket. The Cub Scouts race their rockets four at a time. The rockets hang horizontally from a fishing line and the propellers are powered by a rubber band that comes with the kit.

The rockets are judged in three categories; speed, beauty, and originality. It quickly becomes apparent that the primary thing that makes a rocket fast is its’ weight. Since all the rockets are powered the same and wound equally, the lighter your rocket, the faster it will go. However, if you make your rocket light, you risk structural failure when the rubber bands are wound. So there is a balancing act to having a light, but strong rocket in order to have a fast one.

My son and I decided to go for the beauty category since this was his first space derby. We wanted to get an idea how the other rockets would perform in terms of speed this time out. We followed the directions in the kit and started by gluing the two balsa wood halves together. Later we used very course sandpaper to begin making the shape of our rocket. I later found out from some of the other parents that a potato peeler works wonders for shaving wood from the body to get the rough form of the rocket. Not having this information to begin with, we used sandpaper. Once we got the basic shape we wanted, we used finer sandpaper. We switched to 400 grit sandpaper, then finally 800.

Next we sprayed the rocket with primer. Once the primer dried thoroughly, we sanded it with the 800 sandpaper. We then added another layer of primer and sanded it again. We continued this process until the rocket body was smooth enough to satisfy us. I have a friend who said I should have used sanding primer. He says it would have filled in the cracks in the balsa wood with only one or two coats. I’ll have to take his word for it. I used regular spray paint primer…the cheap stuff.

Once we were finished priming and sanding, we sprayed a coat of candy apple red on the body. When spray painting, there are a few tips that will make a huge difference in how your finished model will look. Spray paint in a well ventilated area only. It is important that you hold the spray can the correct distance from your model…about 6 inches is usually recommended. If you get it too close your paint job will have runs in it; too far away and your paint job will have an orange peel effect (it will look rough and dull). Keep the can moving while spraying… again, too much time spent in one spot will result in runs and a not-so-great paint job.

When spray painting your rocket, you can fashion a fuselage holder from a clothes hanger. This prevents you from getting spray paint all over your hands and from getting finger prints on your fresh paint job. Be sure to have a secure spot where you can place the end of your hanger, keeping your fresh paint from touching anything until it dries. Allow plenty of time for your paint to dry (30 minutes) before adding a second coat or (2 – 4 hours) before touching the rocket body, depending on humidity.

Once the first coat was dry, we added a second coat of candy apple red. We painted the fins and the propeller chrome after priming them. Since we didn’t have any decals handy, I used silver and black sharpies to draw lightning bolts on mailing labels. I then cut the lightning bolts out and stuck them on the rocket body. My wife used a fine tip black sharpie to add Capt. Justin Rodgers to one of the rockets’ tail fins.

Justin’s rocket won first place in the beauty category. He did OK in terms of speed, but we will definitely make a lighter rocket for next year. I hope you found some useful tips in this article for building your own winning space derby rocket.

Do You Know the Real Story of the Princess and the Frog?

Before you see the Disney film The Princess and the Frog, keep this in mind: everything you know about the fairy tale may be wrong.

You may know the story of the Frog Prince: a handsome young prince was innocently minding his own business when, for no apparent reason, an evil witch cursed him and turned him into a particularly ugly little frog. He was doomed to live in this miserable, lowly condition until a princess with a pure, loving heart saw past his ugly exterior and kissed him. Her purity and sweetness would break the evil spell and turn him back into a handsome prince-and the perfect boyfriend for the lucky princess. That’s how the story goes, right?


Pick up Grimm’s Fairy Tales and you’ll read an entirely different version. The true story of the Frog Prince is better still.

You see, the witch in the story wasn’t really evil at all. Her name was Ellspeth, and as she told it in her autobiography Ellspeth’s Book of Shadows, Prince Heinrich wasn’t as innocent as he later claimed. He refused to get out of her path as she walked up the mountain pass, searching for wild witch hazel. To add insult to injury, he called her all kinds of foul names. Ellspeth cursed the ill-tempered young prince for his own good, to teach him a lesson in manners.

When the princess (whose name was Anika) came along, tossing her famous golden ball in the air, and dropped her ball into the bog that Heinrich called home, Heinrich saw it as his golden opportunity to take advantage of Anika. He offered to retrieve her golden ball from the pond, if she’d let stay at the castle. His plan was mooch off Anika and her father the king, while all the while staying warm, moist and comfortable in the royal palace. Anika agreed, but she could only put up with Heinrich’s selfish, greedy ways for so long. When he wanted her to allow his slimy carcass to sleep on her pillow, Anika got disgusted and threw Heinrich face-first into a stone wall. That would have killed an ordinary frog. But in Heinrich’s case, it made him wake up and smell the bogwater. He realized he’d been an awful jerk, and turned back into a prince.

Anika, however, chose not to forgive Heinrich’s thoughtlessness. She and the prince did not get married, and they certainly never lived happily ever after. In fact, after that incident, whenever Anika and Heinrich crossed paths, she was polite but distant to him. He accepted that he was never going to get anywhere with her romantically, though in his later years, he did become rather bitter about the lack of a closer relationship. He’s said to have circulated rumors that the princess was born with webbed toes, which were later corrected through surgery. In fact, webbed toes ran in Heinrich’s family, though he himself did not inherit the gene.

A fascinating variation on the fairy tale is “The Frog Princess” by Barbara G. Walker, from her book Feminist Fairy Tales. In it, a female frog aspires to marry a handsome and kind-hearted prince. She goes to a good fairy of the woods, who agrees to transform her into a human being if she can get the prince to kiss her. The clever frog succeeds, but her success comes at a terrible price. Although the prince and the frog both end of living happily, their happily-ever-after is spent apart. Female frogs, Walker notes in her introduction to the tale, are often larger and stronger than the males of their species. For that reason, the frog makes the perfect symbol of the independent woman who can make it in the world, even without her handsome prince.

Works Cited

“The Frog Prince,” Grimms’ Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm. There are many editions; mine happens to be translated by Mrs. E. V. Lucas, Lucy Crane and Marian Edwardes. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1945.

“The Frog Princess,” Feminist Fairy Tales by Barbara G. Walker. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1996.

“Relationship Basics: Never Kiss a Frog,” The Magical Girl’s Guide to Womanhood by Violetta Marmalade-Spirit, as told to Erin E. Schmidt. Unpublished, 2008.

How to Build a Garage: Save Thousands Building DIY Garage Vs Hiring a Contractor

Learning how to build a garage is not as daunting as one would expect, well, for detached structures at least. Homeowners who build their own garage can save thousands over hiring a builder who, in many cases, will subcontract to the same construction crews that you can hire. Or if feeling adventurous, or just downright thrifty, one can invite friends over for a few beers over the weekend and put them to work.

There are many items to consider while in the early planning stage such as:

Garage size: One car, two car, or even a three car garages can be designed with various sizes, but the lot and homeowner’s budget are generally the limiting factors. Local building codes vary, but typically a structure must not encroach within eight feet of property lines in rural areas and from zero to four feet in city limits. Detached garages must also be set back from other buildings by a minimum of eight feet, but this must be confirmed with local building offices as bodes vary. One important consideration is roof overhang. Eave and gable end overhangs are typically 12″ – 24″ (although less than 12″ is common in windy areas) and must be considered when determining building size and placement.

One method of determining the perfect size is to add 12′ to 15′ of width for each vehicle. If planning to use the interior walls on the sides for storage this will require another two feet of width per side. The length should be a minimum of 22′ and add four to ten feet for a work bench and storage. A two car garage could be calculated as 2 x 12′ +4′ for storage along each wall = 28′ x 22′ long without a work bench. Common sizes include:

1. One car: Common garage sizes include 12′ x 24′, 14′ x 24′, and 16′ x 24′. A length of twenty four feet is pretty much the minimum if you have a full size truck and even with a small or mid-size car there will be little wiggle room at twenty or twenty two feet.

2. Two car: The most common garage size in many states and provinces is 24′ x 24′ because many building codes required an engineered drawing and two inspections by a structural engineer for concrete floating slabs (monolithic) larger than this size. If space is scarce and the two cars are small to mid-size a 20′ wide may adequate, but certainly not comfortable.

3. Three car: There are many three car garage sizes due to more room for numerous designs and homeowners often have larger budgets when considering these larger construction projects. Common sizes are 36′ – 42′ wide by 26′ – 30′ long.

Foundation: floating slab (monolithic) and slab with frostwall are the two most common foundation options. The floating slab is less expensive and easier to build, but often require an engineered drawing and two inspections for larger concrete slabs (i.e. 24′ x 24′). In cold weather climates many contractors install 2.5″ foundation foam under the concrete to reduce heaving during freeze/thaw events. Engineered floating slabs in cold climates usually require this with an addition two feet extending out around the perimeter of the slab.

Adding 6′ x 6′ #10 wire mesh to the slab is an inexpensive method of increasing the floor strength and reducing cracking of the concrete. Most contractors install floating slabs with a thickened concrete perimeter 12″ – 16″ thick around the outer 16″ – 24″ of the perimeter. Adding two rows of #4 rebar will increase the edges. Concrete strength should be a minimum of 3,000psi and many contractors use 4,000 and 4,500 psi as the additional cost is minimal. Another consideration is ordering concrete with fibermesh, and macro-synthetic fiber used for secondary reinforcement of concrete. Local concrete suppliers can provide costs for adding this to concrete. Slab thickness is dependent on the concrete strength and reinforcement designs, however a good rule of thumb is to pour a 4″ or thicker slab.

Frostwall minimum depth is determined by local building codes and is typically 48″ in cold climates and 36″ in more moderate areas. Once the trench is excavated a footing approximately 12″ wide by 8″ thick is formed and poured and a keyway is etched the length of the footing to prevent movement of the concrete wall. The frostwall is formed and poured on the on the footing and anchor bolts are installed in the to attach the walls to the foundation. The concrete slab is then poured to designed thickness. Obviously this foundation system requires more time and expense.

Wall construction: If the garage is going to be insulated now or possibly any time in the future the wall studs size is important as 2″ x 6″ studs allow more insulation that can meet building code requirements (for garages with apartments) than 2″ x 4″ studs. Of course, 2″ x 6″ studs are stronger, which results in a more structurally sounds building.

Walls height: Walls are generally 8′, but 9′ and 10′ walls are common. In city downtown areas there is often a height restriction on structures, such as less than 16′ to the roof peak based on the average height from the four corners measuring at grade. This means that you can get a little extra height if the garage is nestled into a bank with a concrete curb or retaining wall on this end and backfilling to top of retaining wall. Another method to maximize height in these areas is to pour a 12″ concrete curb on the concrete slab perimeter and backfill earth up to the top of the curb and grade away from the structure. This method can gain 12″ of height while still meeting the height restrictions (confirm this will local building offices prior to implementing this strategy).

Garage door placement: The garage doors can be on the gable end or the eave side. A few things to consider:

1. Existing house design may dictate the direction of the roof line. A method to assist visualize this is to take a picture of the house and include the area where the garage will be built. Print two copies of the picture and hand draw in the garage using both the gable and eave options.

2. If the garage will be built in a cold climate the garage doors in the gable end is a better design as snow and ice will slide down the eave end.

3. Flexibility with the garage doors in the gable end allow height for a future car port.

Roof style: Often the roof style is dictated by the existing house, for example if the house has a hip roof this would be a good option for the garage. If this is a DIY project and the homeowner is building the garage it should be noted that a hip roof is more difficult to build than installing standard trusses. Roof pitch must be considered as well and often this should match the existing house. Roof pitch less than 4/12 (rises 4″ for every 12″ of run or length) is not recommended due to increased chance of water leaks. Higher pitch roofs with certain truss designs can allow for storage, loft, or even apartments above the main level. The most common roof trusses for garage roof design include:

1. Standard Fink: This is the most common residential truss.

2. Double fink: Designed to handle high weight loads for higher snow load requirements.

3. Attic: Common for designs that allow storage above the main floor. Access can be stairs or attic drop-down stairs and the option available may be dictated by local building codes.

4. Scissor: This options provides cathedral (vaulted) ceilings that provides more interior ceiling height. For example, a 24′ x 24′ garage with an 8/12 pitch may have a ceiling height of 12′ in the center and 8′ at the wall. This system is usually weighted against building with regular fink trusses and higher walls.

If this is a DIY garage project don’t forget to order two gable trusses for each gable end. Otherwise two regular trusses will require wood filling for attaching sheathing and siding (not too mention the building inspector may not pass the framing inspection. If insulating the ceiling consider ordering “raised heel” trusses to allow adequate insulation between the wall top plate and the roof sheathing. This is the only way to meet many attic insulation level requirements (i.e. R40).

Garage plans: Once decisions are made on the above items it is time to get the garage plans for the building permit application and the builder. It is important to obtain good quality garage plans that are easy to follow, accurate, and provide a materials list (well, a material list is not important, but it will certainly save a lot of time). There are several websites that offer garage plans create by dozens and hundreds of different company so consistency and quality control are something to keep in mind. There are a couple of companies that do their own in-house drafting and a search of the internet should find these companies. Another option is to hire a local draftsperson to create the garage plans.

Plot (plat) plan: The building compliance department will require a drawing showing (site plan) the lot with existing structures, proposed structure, and property lines with measurements indicating distances between property lines and structures. This can be a hand drawn diagram of a marked up copy of the plot/plat plan. The building department may require a survey to confirm accuracy of measurements for precise garage location requirements.

Building Permit: Make an appointment to meet with a building inspector to discuss the project and submit the garage plans, material list, and site plan to the building department. A building permit may be issued at this time or the building inspector will require a few days to a couple of weeks to review the documents.

The Owosso Sugar Company – A History

No sooner had Saginaw’s lumber tycoon, Wellington R. Burt, celebrated his 70th birthday on August 26, 1901 than did he set out to employ a portion of his lumber wealth in the awakening beet sugar industry.

The mantra of real estate agents everywhere is “location, location, location.” However, in the business world in general it should be, “timing, timing, timing.” Wellington Burt’s timing so far as his interest in sugar was concerned, was poor.

Like others who had filled their days in the once fast-paced but now moribund lumber industry, he had time on his hands and money in the bank. At first, also as had others, he devoted some years to politics. He had served a term in the state senate (1893-1894) then sought a U.S. Congressional seat but had the ill fortune to run as a Democrat in 1900, the year the Republican star was rising. Ranked as one of America’s wealthiest men, Burt cast about for new investment ideas and then homed in on the sugar industry. His set his eyes on Owosso, Michigan, a village situated some thirty miles southwest of Saginaw where several holdovers from the lumber industry resided in mansions arrayed along Washington Avenue. Among Owosso’s many attributes was the influence of Joseph Kohn, a sugarbeet technologist residing in Bay City, Michigan. Kohn presided over the Michigan Chemical Company which had been put in place to purchase and then process molasses generated by that city’s growing number of sugar beet factories. His success at Michigan Chemical encouraged investors to draw close when he spoke of investing in beet sugar factories.

For Kohn it was simple, the more sugar beet factories the more molasses for Michigan Chemical, which could be distilled into alcohol, a circumstance that built enthusiasm for the construction of another factory. Fat with profits, Michigan Chemical and its parent, Pittsburgh Plate Glass, sought to build a factory in Owosso on its own and didn’t need the interference of another millionaire with time on his hands and money in his pocket. Wellington R. Burt was not invited to join in a venture with Michigan Chemical and his ambitions to go on his own languished behind a curtain of international events

The United States had agreed upon the conclusion of the Spanish-American War to reduce the import duty on Philippine sugar 75 percent of the general rate and to allow the importation of sugar from Puerto Rico, a U.S. possession, entirely free of duty. The Philippines had the additional advantage of shipping up to 300,000 tons duty free and Congress was dithering with proposed legislation that if passed, would approve a treaty of reciprocity with Cuba. The agreement would grant that country a 20 percent tariff preferential.

The nation’s newspapers devoted considerable space to the plan, dampening the spirits of those who had at first shown much excitement about Burt’s proposed factory. He could find few others to join him in a venture in Owosso, although he pledged $200,000 of his personal fortune and claimed others had subscribed another $50,000 in stock. He had convinced farmers to sign up to grow sugarbeets on three thousand acres and contracted with the experienced firm of Fuehrman and Hapke to begin construction when it fell apart because investors had not come forth with the balance of the required investment – about $600,000.

Michigan Chemical Company waited in the wings while additional investors failed to materialize. Elsewhere, excitement for beet sugar factories hardly slowed. Sixteen were built in the United States between 1900 and 1902, eight in Michigan. Burt’s attention turned to Alma, Michigan where he met more success by combining his money and talents with those of Aimee Wright, another Saginaw industrialist.

Owosso, in 1902, was as good a candidate for a beet factory as any town in Michigan, perhaps better. It had rail lines, established industry, a managerial class and trained workers in addition to an excellent farming region. Burt stepped aside, allowing the project to die stillborn. Fuehrman and Hapke went on to construct the Sebewaing factory in the next year, creating one of the most successful beet factories of the era. Michigan Chemical emerged from the shadows and picked up the reins.

Owosso was home to two families with notable achievements in American politics. Both would play various roles in the establishment of a beet sugar factory in Owosso. The Bentley family, headed by Alvin Bentley, whose grandson, also named Alvin, achieved fame at great personal expense in 1954 when as a junior Congressman, he became the most seriously injured of five victims of an armed assault on Congress while it was in session. Four Puerto Rican terrorists discharged thirty rounds from the visitor’s gallery of the U.S. House of Representatives to the floor of that chamber while the Representatives were debating an immigration bill.

The Dewey family had been engaged in Republican politics since the party’s formation in nearby Jackson, Michigan in 1854. In Owosso, in accordance with tradition, a leading representative of the political party then in power held the postmaster’s position. Edmund O. Dewey, uncle to Thomas Edmund Dewey, a future New York governor and twice an unsuccessful candidate for the U.S. presidency, held that position beginning with the presidency of William McKinley and ending with the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. His brother George, the father of Thomas Edmund Dewey, secured the appointment in 1921.

Edmund Dewey, in 1902, revived Wellington Burt’s plan for a beet sugar factory in Owosso. He arranged the purchase of a suitable 40-acre site at the west end of Oliver Street, raised $10,000 and urged the county board of commissioners to pass a bond issue sufficient to meet the cost of the land. The county denied the bond, causing the idea to fail for a second time and for the same reason – a lack of enthusiasm.

Joseph Kohn stepped forward and in doing so introduced into Michigan’s fired up sugar industry one the nation’s wealthiest families, the Pitcairn family of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Pitcairn family controlled the Pittsburg Plate Glass Company (today known as PPG Industries) headquartered in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. The glass company had all but ended America’s dependence on Europe for large sheets of glass suitable for storefronts, display cases and mirrors. During the opening days of the 20th century, the company produced 20-million square feet of glass annually.

In seeking a source of potash for its glassworks, Pittsburgh Plate Glass turned to Kohn who made an effort to extract it from beet sugar molasses and instead found he could earn assured profits by converting molasses into alcohol. He had also served the German-American Sugar Company (later named Monitor Sugar Company) as a consultant and before that held a similar position with Kilby Manufacturing who was much involved in turnkey beet sugar factory construction projects. Kohn’s Bay City distillery, owing to the large volume of molasses emerging from three sugar factories and more promised from the German-American Sugar Company’s factory then under construction, was turning over substantial profits to Pittsburgh Plate Glass.

John Pitcairn saw America’s shores first as five-year old immigrant brought to America by his parents John and Agnes along with two sisters and a brother. Pitcairn accumulated a personal fortune in railroads, coalmines, oil, and in the founding of the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company in partnership with John Ford. He was sixty-years old when Kohn drew his attention to the potential in Owosso and the failed effort of first Wellington Burt, then Edmund Dewey to form a beet sugar company.

Three’s the charm for Owosso. On October 29, 1902, the Owosso Sugar Company came into existence, capitalized at one million dollars. More than 75 percent of the shares were owned by members of the Pitcairn family and friends. John Pitcairn owned 62,500 of the outstanding shares outright. A handful of Owosso residents added their names to the shareholder list, including the aforementioned Alvin Bentley and the brothers Edmund and George Dewey. George Dewey’s son, Tom, the future presidential candidate, would one day spend school vacations working in the new sugar company’s packaging room.

The company presidency was turned over to Charles W. Brown, the owner of newly minted 5,600 shares of stock. Brown was also the president of Pittsburgh Plate Glass. Day to day financial duties went to 36-year old Edward Pitcairn, one of John Pitcairn’s many nephews. Edward would, by 1910, become treasurer of Pittsburgh Plate Glass, a position he would hold for the balance of his career. Carmen Smith, an attorney with a long association with Charles Brown, stemming from a period when the pair resided in Minneapolis, assumed responsibility for the general management of the new firm. In addition, he assumed the title of Secretary-Treasurer. He had recently moved his wife Isabella and three children, Margaret, Carmen, and Cedric to Bay City where he served as the treasurer of Michigan Chemical Company. Joseph Kohn accepted the role of general factory superintendent.

Educated at the Prague Institute of Technology, Kohn graduated in 1883 with degrees in mechanical and chemical engineering. Following his schooling, he was employed at Breitfeld-Danek of Prague and later gained experience at a sugar factory in Moravia, a region in what is now the Czech Republic but was then a part of the Austrian-Hungary empire, and also worked with the evaporator designer, Hugo Jelenik. In Moravia, he worked with Carl Steffen, the inventor of the molasses desugarization process that carries his name. While employed by Kilby Manufacturing Company, Kohn developed the Kilby standard factory arrangement.

Kilby Manufacturing won contracts to construct two 1,000-ton factories in Michigan; one at Owosso and another at Menominee. The two would hold the record as the largest beet factories built in Michigan until a 1,200-ton factory was built at Mount Pleasant in 1920. In addition to the two 1,000-ton factories, Kilby had an order for a standard 600-ton factory for East Tawas. It would be a busy year for Kilby who had also received orders for three factories in Colorado, one each for Fort Collins, Longmont, and Windsor with Fort Collins gaining the largest factory built by Kilby-1,200 tons a day slicing capacity. The price for the Owosso factory, at $675,000, on a per ton of sugarbeets sliced basis, was low at $675 compared $1,197 at East Tawas and $785 at Menominee. In fact, the Owosso factory cost less per ton of slice than any factory built in Michigan.

The Owosso factory came to life on December 9, 1903 without the usual fanfare assigned to new beet sugar factories which usually included marching bands, parades, and much merriment followed by speaking opportunities for local luminaries and politicians. In a quieter fashion, Charles W. Brown, arrived from Pittsburgh and brought with him as an honored guest, James Wilson, the Secretary of Agriculture. He rose to national prominence when President William McKinley appointed him Secretary of Agriculture in 1897. His stature was such that presidents Roosevelt and Taft retained him as secretary, and it was only when in 1912 in a move to sweep Republican appointees from office, Woodrow Wilson ended his tenure. He had served as Secretary of Agriculture from March 4, 1897 to March 3, 1913, the longest duration served by any American cabinet official.

After a brief ceremony, Secretary Wilson pulled the whistle cord that called forth the beets from the flumes. Unlike many of the beet factories built in Michigan, there was no central local figure that had put his money and reputation on the line for the factory. The majority ownership was far away in Pennsylvania, its officers and guiding management lived elsewhere, Bay City in the case of Joseph Kohn and Carmen Smith and the environs of Pittsburgh for Brown and Pitcairn. It was not unusual for absentee owners to overlook the obvious – input from farmers. When a lack of farmer interest made itself known, it caused no palpitations in the boardroom of Pittsburgh Plate Glass. After all, twenty years earlier John Pitcairn had forged a new American industry out of the rubble of similar but failed efforts when he wrestled the plate glass market away from the Europeans and developed one of the world’s largest and most modern factories of its kind.

Farmer apathy was a mild inconvenience, not a crushing blow to someone who had turned the making of plate glass into a unique American industry. The answer lay near at hand and Carmen Smith, his appointed emissary, had probed the possibilities even as the factory walls reached toward the sky to the amazement of Owossians who had gathered on weekends throughout the summer of 1903 to take in the breadth and dimensions of the industrial goliath growing in their midst. Clearly, the Pittsburgh Plate Glass people thought big. They thought even bigger than the factory’s sidewalk superintendents imagined, bigger than had any beet factory organizer up until that time. Not only were they building a beet factory destined to be twice the size of nearly all the sugar factories in the United States, they were at the same time on the verge of establishing the largest sugarbeet farm in the United States and the largest single farm operation east of the Mississippi River.

South and west of Saginaw, Michigan lay a vast marsh formed during the last ice age. The marsh adjoined the convergence of several large river systems that became the Saginaw River that then and now flows 22 miles northward to Lake Huron. The eighteen thousand acre marsh served as an important stopover point and brooding ground for migrating waterfowl, ducks, geese, swans. It was the largest natural wildlife habitat in the American Midwest. It was protected by characteristics that made it unappealing to farmers – frequent flooding. But that changed when Harlan B. Smith, a Saginaw buggy manufacturer who also speculated in real estate, entered into a partnership with two attorneys Charles H. Camp and George B. Brooks, to acquire and then develop approximately 10,000 acres of the marsh. Their efforts, spanning fifteen years, resulted in a large drainage ditch that extended nearly two miles across the prairie, permitting them to convert hundreds of acres of marsh into farmland.

When Carmen Smith searched for a large tract in which to install a demonstration sugarbeet farm while at the same time assuring the Owosso factory would have all the beets it would want, he quickly targeted the Prairie Farm. Smith completed the purchase on February 22, 1903 and soon, a steam-powered dredge, a monster designed for digging into mucky earth, was soon barged down the Saginaw River to the prairie. It bit into the earth in the front, forming a 20-foot high dike and creating a canal, which it used to transport itself until acre-by acre, it claimed land that had waited a half a million years for the arrival of the mechanical behemoth.

Eventually, Owosso Sugar Company created thirty-six miles of dikes, some of them eighty feet wide at the bottom, forty at the top and twenty feet high. Others were of lesser dimensions but all designed for the same purpose – draining and then keeping the land dry. Roads crowned the tops of the dikes and the sides turned to grass for use as a sheep pasture. Half the land was drained via open ditches and half was drained with the aid of large pumps that sent their burden to the nearby Flint River. Once it was dry, the reclaimed land was laid out much like a giant checkerboard in twelve lines of sixteen forty-acre parcels. Almost overnight, for a capital outlay of $400,000, Smith transformed the Prairie Farm from a losing proposition into the largest beet sugar estate in Michigan, and probably in the United States, if not the world – ten thousand acres. The new factory could now set aside worry about an adequate supply of beets.

Owosso Sugar Company’s First Campaign

The first operating campaign for the Owosso Sugar Company, as was customary with Kilby designed turnkey factories, achieved the guaranteed slice rate of 1,000 tons of sliced beets each twenty-four hours. Construction contracts typically required that a new factory meet its guaranteed rate for a specified period of time, set by negotiation, at between one and ten days and usually occurred under the supervision of Kilby’s engineers some days after the startup. The same engineers would withdraw once the new owner signed the certificate of completion, handing the factory over to the company’s management staff. The slice rate at Owosso declined after the factory reached the guaranteed rate most likely for the same reasons slice rates in most new beet factories declined – inexperienced operators.

Because the Prairie Farm was yet in its infancy, it produced fewer beets than it would in the following years causing the processing period, referred to as a “campaign” by the industry, to last only 48 days, ending on January 26, 1904. During its maiden run the new factory sliced an average of 542 tons, well short of the scheduled 1,000 tons per day. The second campaign was five days shorter but the slice rate nearly doubled, reaching 930 tons per day for 43 days.

While the Owosso factory was under construction, the Lansing beet factory, built by Benjamin Boutell, a major investor in several Michigan beet sugar factories, and others two years earlier, suffered from a lack of managerial oversight. Diagnosed with cancer early in 1902, Boutell’s wife, Amelia died on November 27 at the age of 52 despite his best efforts to discover a cure. Having no heart for his business interests, he sold the Lansing factory to the Owosso Sugar Company.

Kohn and Smith now had four major operations: two sugar factories, the Prairie Farm, and Bay City’s Michigan Chemical Company under their control whereas one year earlier they had only the chemical company to occupy their time and thoughts. The Prairie Farm employed 160 workers and 58 teams of draft horses and each of the two beet factories employed hundreds more in addition to workers at the chemical factory and in the Bay City headquarters. The two managers, each 45 years old, were in constant motion, visiting the properties, the corporate office in Pittsburgh, and attending industry conventions in addition to meeting with members of Congress and the Department of Agriculture. In 1910, Joseph Kohn was the first to reckon the cost of such a pace. He suffered a heart attack and died at the age of 52.

In the year preceding Kohn’s death, 8,500 Prairie Farm acres had been diked and equipped with gravity drainage and pumping systems and for the first time, grew a square mile of sugarbeets. Peppermint provided additional revenue (35,000 pounds of peppermint oil in 1909) while cabbage followed in importance behind sugarbeets.

For the six years following Kohn’s death, Carmen Smith continued on as before, shouldering Kohn’s responsibilities in addition to his own, until 1916 when he placed the two sugar factories under the supervision of Charles D. Bell who had served as the factory manager at Alma before joining the Owosso staff in 1907. Bell remained at Owosso for sixteen years, leaving only after Michigan Sugar Company acquired the Owosso and Lansing factories in 1924 whereupon he returned to the family ranch in Los Alamos, California where he promptly discovered oil and retired in wealth.

In 1920, at age 62, Carmen Smith, much like his friend and associate, Joseph Kohn, succumbed suddenly to a heart attack while traveling home by train from Chicago. With Carmen Smith passed a pioneering era. Joseph Kohn in 1910, Joseph Kilby in 1914, John Pitcairn in 1916, and Carmen Smith in 1920 – those who had lived the dream of building one of the world’s largest and most modern beet sugar factories and then topping it with the country’s single largest beet farm, had passed from the scene. Sadly, what they had wrought would not last.

According to Daniel Gutleben’s history of the Michigan beet sugar industry (The Sugar Tramp -1954), Pittsburgh Plate Glass, likely concerned that Michigan’s beet factories, built too small to compete with major refineries designed to process raw sugar imported in quantity, couldn’t compete against the volume of duty-free sugar entering the country. It opted to sell both the Owosso and Lansing factories to Michigan Sugar Company at a price reported in the press at $2,000,000 plus preferred stock. The Prairie Farm remained in the hands of John Pitcairn’s heirs.

Michigan Sugar Company operated Owosso for the next four years until diminishing interest on the part of farmers combined with the flood of imported sugar caused the factory to close in 1928. Michigan Sugar lacked the chief advantage once held by the former owners – the Prairie Farm thus could not command farmers to grow beets when other crops, corn and soybeans attracted favorable prices for less investment and less work. It re-opened again for one year in 1933, then shut down but was kept in hopeful readiness. Hope finally surrendered to reality that the farmers would not return. The factory and buildings were sold in 1948. Proof that the eventual failure of the Owosso Sugar Company did not rest upon the shoulders of management lay in the appointment of Owosso’s secretary, Edward Bostock, to the chairmanship of the board of directors of Michigan Sugar Company.


DENSLOW, William R, and TRUMAN, Harry S., 10,000 Famous Freemasons from A to J Part One (in reference to Charles W. Brown career with Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company)

MILLER, Ed, and BEACH, Jean R.., The Saginaw Hall of Fame, Published by the Saginaw Hall of Fame, 2000. (In reference to Wellington R. Burt)

GUTTLEBEN, Daniel, The Sugar Tramp – 1954 printed by Bay Cities Duplicating Company, San Francisco, California

LE CUREUX, KEITH, Albee Township History, Saginaw, County, Michigan, Chapter V, Prairie Farm.

BETZOLD, Michael, Detroit Free Press Magazine, December 26, 1993, Utopia Revisited – an article describing the history of the Prairie Farm.

Copyright, 2009, Thomas Mahar – All Rights Reserved

About the Author: Thomas Mahar served as Executive Vice President of Monitor Sugar Company between 1984 and 1999 and as President of Gala Food Processing, a sugar packaging company, from 1993-1998. He retired in 1999 and now devotes his free time to writing about the history of the sugar industry. He authored, Sweet Energy, The Story of Monitor Sugar Company in 2001, and Michigan’s Beet Sugar History (Newsbeet, Fall, 2006).Contact: Thomas Mahar E-mail

How a Notice of Interest Can Save Your Deals in Real Estate Investing

The letters NOI stand for Notice of Interest or sometimes incorrectly called a Memorandum of Contract or MOC. It is usually a one page document that stipulates that the person submitting the document for recording at the County Clerk’s Office has an equitable interest in a property because of a signed purchase and sale contract.

The NOI is most commonly used when an investor signs a purchase and sale contract with a homeowner/seller and wants to show anyone trying to make another offer on the property that he has a legal interest in the property. This is the case where someone else, usually another investor, comes along and offers the homeowner a higher price.

The practice by investors of up-bidding properties after they are under contract is getting more common in distressed markets but even happens in normal markets. The investors who regularly make statements to homeowners like, “Get your highest offer from those other guys and call me back, I’ll give you more money than any of them – I just need to see it in writing”. The ugly part of that statement is the term “in writing” because that usually means a contract had to be signed by the homeowner.

While I can’t blame the homeowner from wanting more money, what I have seen happen most often is a black-hat investor who is trying to steal the deal, actually gets to the closing table and re-negotiates the price to below what he had originally offered the trusting seller. How do I know? I have been on the other side of his offers and had to fight to keep my sellers.

So occasionally we have to fight for our closings and I have covered this in other articles about how to do this. The ironic part is that it is a criminal offense to “induce” someone to sign a contract when another contract is in place. The Attorney General’s Office will take these cases if you show proof and the seller cooperates – which is usually the case when the homeowner is threatened with a law suit or foreclosure.

So when we sign a contract with a seller, we almost always record a NOI in the public record which is effectively a lien against the property. I want to repeat this because the subtleties of this “lien” are very far reaching. This NOI now has to be released as a lien on the property before the title can be transferred unless there is a foreclosure action to extinguish it, or the lien holder (the original investor/buyer) starts a foreclosure action to take the property. If this sounds harsh, it is just a solution to a problem where one party to a contract won’t hold up his end of the contractual terms – just like a lender does to a homeowner.

The NOI does not need to be signed by the homeowner/seller so anyone can put a NOI on anyone’s property. Just remember, there is usually a sign in the Clerk’s Office that says something to the effect that “If you enter a lien that is not valid, it is a felony”, so think twice about what you are doing before you do it – don’t do it in anger or it could cost you a lot in attorney’s fees.

Having said that, the courts and sometimes the recording clerk treat NOI’s as unruly in-laws. They tolerate them probably for the fees, but they don’t like them much because of historical issues with the seller not knowing these liens have been filed. Many standard real estate contracts specifically forbid filing a notice of interest to be recorded in the public record. This prohibition can be overcome by striking this clause pertaining to it and having both seller and buyer initial it, or adding an over-riding clause or addendum to your contract.

Once a NOI is filed in the public record, the next time the title to the property is transferred, the title agent will have to have a Release of Lien for the NOI signed to write a title policy on the property or note it as an “exception” in the policy. If the NOI is not extinguished by a Release of Lien, the title has been “clouded” and needs to be cleared and a transfer to a new buyer may not properly take place.

This is where you come in to release the lien and it usually happens when you least expect it – just before you were planning on closing yourself! Sometimes the homeowner will call when he gets a copy of the recorded NOI from the Clerk’s Office and he didn’t expect it – either way, the seller is trying to renege on the transaction. Sometimes the seller changed his mind for a valid reason, most often it is not.

You have a couple of choices when the NOI “hits the fan” so to say:

1.) Release the NOI using a Release of Lien document and get paid to release the lien

2.) Honker down and fight the seller to come to closing or get paid to release the lien.

In summary, your choice is personal and determined by the potential lost profit in the deal, the homeowner’s/seller’s real motive for not wanting to sell, how much you can get paid for a release of lien, and your disposition on that day. In the final analysis, the choice is yours to force the seller to come to closing or release the lien.

How to Make Candle Wax Yourself From Scratch

If you want to learn how to make candle wax and how to make a candle then you have come to the right place. I am going to go over the process step by step and teach you how to make a gel candle and gel candle wax. Now if you have tried to do this before I am sure that you have noticed that the gel to make candles with can be very expensive, to add to this, just going out to buy a gel candle can also be pricey. There is no reason to spend so much as you can make it easily at home for less then half the cost! Are you ready to learn how to make candle wax and how to make a candle? Alright then, let us begin!

Step # 1. First start off by mixing 1 lb of mineral oil with 1.25 oz of resin powder. Take your time and mix well. This is going to create gel with a high density which is great for allowing more fragrance in the candle. When you are done mixing then set the mixture aside for an hour.

Step # 2. Alright the hour is up! Now you are going to mix it again, this time to remove any lumps that have formed while you were waiting.

Step # 3. Now when it comes to learning how to make candle wax this is the part where you are going to want to take it slow to avoid any injury. You are going to take a boiling pot and put the mixture in it. Begin to heat the mixture on a low heat and slowly turn it higher. The mixture is first going to turn clear, then it is going to turn in to gel, and then it is going to harden. Now use a thermometer as you do not want the temperature to exceed 220 degrees. This process is going to take around 2 hours so just be patient, read a book while you wait or watch a movie, just keep an eye on the mixture and stir often. If the gel becomes hotter then 220 degrees it could burn so check the temperature regularly.

Step # 4. After the 2 hour mark the gel should be liquid are now it needs to cool. You are going to need to pour the liquid in to a container and let it cool for a while. The liquid is going to harden, when it does then this is the time to seal it, make sure the lid is tightly on there. Now you can put it away for future use or you can use it now!

Step # 5. You want to learn how to make candle wax, well what would be the point if you didn’t learn how to make a candle as well. You are going to need a glass container that is sturdy enough that it will not break when you pour hot liquid in to it.

Step # 6. Take the wick and super glue it to the bottom of the glass container, this is important as the wick will move around a lot if it is not secure.

Step # 7. Now you are going to cut some of the gel out of the container and put it in to a boiling pot and heat it up, once again to 220 degrees.

Step # 8. When the gel melts then you pour it in to your glass container, make sure that the wick is straight and not covered in the wax.

Step # 9. Let this sit for 24 hours and there you are! You just learned how to make candle wax and how to make a candle out of gel! I hope that this helps you and thank you for reading! Good luck, be safe, and have fun!

How to Pick the Perfect Wall Mounted Fan

These days just about every home contains some type of air conditioning; it can be central air running throughout your house or individual air conditioning units in predetermined windows in various rooms. If you are overly selective in which area of your home you are cooling off, it can become very costly. Good solutions to this sticky situation are wall mounted fans.

Prices can vary from just under $50 to well close to $2,500 for the more complex and unique wall fans. They can be osculating or non-osculating depending upon preference.

A TPI wall mounted fan can be mounted in any room of your choice that necessitates a smidgen more when it attempting to cool it off. This twenty inch fan will certainly be able to assist in that while trimming down both energy consumption and electric costs. With this three bladed, ball bearing motor it promises a high longevity with optimal operation. And, although this particular wall fan is non-oscillating it does have a swing-action arm for easy angle positioning and operates with a two speed pull chain.

Most wall mounted fans are fairly simple to install and this one is no different. With tools at bare minimum and a step stool if mounting beyond your reach, it should take no time at all. Hint: power screwdrivers and power drills, for that matter power anything – make a chore go faster! It is always important to read manufacturer’s direction before installing your wall fan. For less or no vibration be sure to find a stud you can mount it on.

Another example would be the Punkah Wall Mount. This is a tropical-African style fan with wide oval palm leaf blades that can be found in such places as hotels, resorts and restaurants…but that does not mean it can not grace the wall of your dinning room. When mounted, this one-of-a-kind fan will leisurely sway from one side to the other circulating a cool breeze to all sections of your room, keeping you comfortable while providing a touch of sophistication.

You will need to purchase it in single segments and then attach them together. Obviously the first segment should include the motor and then depending upon the size and design of your wall you can add anywhere up to five individual sections. It holds a five star quality rating with a quiet, smooth motor and is available in antique brass, polished brass and pewter.

We all know that air conditioning, central or not cause your electric bill to rise. With a wall fan a little of this cost can be deferred. There are times that it can be less expensive to buy a wall mounted fan than to replace that broken-down window air conditioner.

AIMS PWRINV12KW24V 12,000W DC to AC Power Inverter, 24 VDC to 120 VAC

The Aims Corp has produced a modified sine inverter that boasts to be the best yet in its range. The power inverter is also the best value for performance in the market, so why would we need an inverter like this one? There are many times when you would need to convert from a direct current to an alternative one and the AIMS PWRINV12KW24V 12,000 watt DC to AC Power Inverter would pretty much be a solution with its 12,000 watts continuous power.

Most vehicles you will see on the road today as well as motor homes, caravans and trailer homes gets its power from a 12-volt battery, in many cases it may have to have a 24 volt powerful battery. The AIMS PWRINV12KW24V 12,000W DC to AC Power Inverter is a 24-volt system that is incredibly small considering its power. This power inverter weighs in at just 21 pounds and measures no more than 20 inches long and seven inches wide. This makes the unit very portable and easy to lift and carry.

If you need an emergency back up power supply, this inverter should easily do the trick. For an item that is portable it is reliable, consistent, efficient and as we have already mentioned, very powerful. It is important for you to know what your vehicle, trailer home or van uses in terms of voltage, because the inverter's voltage you select or buy should match the battery's voltage.

The AIMS PWRINV12KW24V 12,000W DC to AC Power inverter is ideal to be used as a back up source of power as among its many features it provides a continuous power of 12,000 watts and a modified sine wave which uses the a soft start technology commonly known as Pulse Width Modulation. But in either way this inverter will provide you with a direct current whenever you require it. This indicates that the current will flow continuously from the – (negative) terminal of the battery, through the fully joined circuit and then return to the + (positive) terminal of the battery.

When a flow is only in one direction it means it is a direct current (DC). All batteries have this ability to provide a direct current whenever it is demanded but the AIMS PWRINV12KW24V 12,000W DC to AC Power Inverter can switch over to an alternative current when required. So that you can have AC current to run all of your alternating current articles.