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Op-ed, blogs and columns

Pondering the trials of summer gardening

At right, the author on her plot at the community gardens.



By Lynn Turner

Progress contributor

July in Georgia and again here in the garden it’s hotter than a Waffle House griddle, and again, I’m on my knees in a WWW Wrestling match with crabgrass and spawn of Godzilla thistles that are clinging to bedrock between rows of tomatoes and peppers. Surely all the salty perspiration pouring off my face and into my eyes is good for my complexion and, hopefully, my ratty straw hat is keeping most of the poisonous UV rays from causing too many more sunspots. Why is this fun?


Gardening masochism is apparently one of my great summer joys. It’s hard to understand and even harder to explain the pure happiness that dirt, bug bites and aching muscles bring with summer in the garden. There is something about suffering that makes the corn sweeter - those few ears we beat the raccoons to - and the basil is more pungent and tastier than even the organic kind from the farmers’ market.  Purchased produce just can’t hold a, well, hoe to home grown, battled-for veggies that have been nurtured by just the right combination of compost, loving care and cow poop.


The site of my anticipated cornucopia is two rented plots at the community garden near the old mine in Jasper. Just getting into the garden is similar to accessing a safe deposit box in the bank. First, there is the payment of the yearly fee and the awarding of the coveted key that ensures entry into this Eden.  Then there are reminders to always lock the exterior gate and to turn off the electric fence before touching it. My husband assures me that forgetting this last step allows one to experience the fence working as a defibrillator and hair curler. He has first-hand knowledge of both. The first year he and I joined the elite group of gardeners, we felt like fraternity pledges that had escaped the humiliation of a blackballing ceremony. Lucky us!  We were astounded that anyone (like some people we know) would give up their coveted plot when getting one was such a plum. We now know that the folks in charge of recruiting for the garden could make a fortune selling Amway.


We have met a diverse group of fellow gardeners. Folks, like us, who have simply given up trying to grow anything at home in poor soil and too much shade while ravenous deer impatiently tap their feet waiting for the first sprouts to appear. There is one woman who douses her plants with so much Sevin dust that she moves around the garden in a perpetual white cloud, and there is a latter day hippy who gardens organically and simply laughs as he flicks the bugs off his plants. He doesn’t seem to mind in the least that his leafy vegetables are about 75 percent holes.


And there are the groundhogs. The hillside near the garden is riddled with their condos.  They can be seen leaning on their elbows and sunbathing as they await their opportunity for a raid which inevitably comes after some exhausted gardener forgets to turn the electric fence back on.


Of course, there is the expense of gardening. I have still not read it, but I no longer scoff at the title The 64 Dollar Tomato, a chronicle of one man’s gardening experience.  While it may contain some humor, the cost for the satisfaction of gardening is no laughing matter.  Next time you happen to think that organically grown or farmers’ market vegetables are outrageously expensive, you might want to reconsider.  On so many levels, they are a bargain.  Nevertheless, vegetables grown in your own garden are still the best.



Lynn and her husband Gary Corn and cat Tulip live in Bent Tree. She is a volunteer with Pickens Animal Rescue with the Rescued Furniture Store where she was inspired to write about Bob, Rescued Furniture Store’s kitty greeter. She is also involved with the Pickens County Library Board, the Bent Tree Library, the Senior Citizens Center library and the Sassafras Literary Exchange when she is not battling weeds in her garden.  Her e-mail is marwood710@


Local Life Coach:Productive fighting with spouses, children or friends? It can be done.

By Vicki Roberts,Jasper Life Coach
Do you find yourself fighting with your spouse, children or other people and not getting a good result?   First, let me say that if you find yourself fighting on a routine basis with anyone, a life coach can almost certainly help. If you are thinking about getting married, it's a great idea to see a life coach to learn how to fight from the beginning. But, if you just need a few quick tips, these may help.
• Don't yell. People will automatically become defensive if you are yelling at them. Speak in a normal tone of voice and even if you are upset, don't yell or scream.
• Try not to start a sentence with "You." For instance, rather than "You are such a jerk, you always take my car and leave it on empty. try, "I feel" (find a descriptive word for what you are feeling such as frustrated or stressed out ) when I get in my car to go to work and see that I have to stop and get gas." 
• Remember, you can't UNSAY anything. Think of the old adage, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me?”  It’s actually wrong; Words can hurt. If you are about to say something hurtful, think about how the person you say things to will likely remember them long after they are said and you can never take them back. This is even more important when speaking to a child.  
• Fight in private. If you are having an argument with a spouse or partner, don't do it in front of the kids or friends.  Keep it between just the two of you. If you are in public or with other people, wait until you are alone before having a discussion that is not meant for little or any other ears. Likewise, if it's your child you are angry with, don't embarrass them in front of their friends or other family members.  
• Put yourself in the other person's shoes. Before you respond to the person you are arguing with, try and see things from their perspective. All of us are selfish at times. or just plain clueless as to how our actions or behavior affects others. Try not to automatically defend yourself.  Give yourself some time to imagine how you would feel in the other person's shoes.
• Brainstorm together for a solution. People are normally must more invested in solving a problem if they are involved in coming up with a solution.
The most important thing is to REALLY listen. Have an open mind. Don't interrupt and hear them out. If when you are responding they interrupt you, you can remind them that you listened until they were finished and you would appreciate the same courtesy.

Roberts  is a Certified Life Coach and would love to hear from you.  Whether you want to make an appointment or would like her to address a specific issue in the Pickens Progress, you can email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call her at 678-982-5304.  Her web site is

Thoughts from a BRAG cyclist


By William Young

Progress contributor

When the throng of bicycles rolled through Jasper last week, I had the privilege and the pleasure of being with them.

I huffed, puffed and pedaled from Fort Oglethorpe to Dalton to Jasper to Roswell to Winder to Mount Airy to Tiger. In skin tight pants and on a hard, skinny plastic seat I and several hundred others had well over 300 miles of fun.


Most people can't see any pleasure whatsoever in sweating all day and pushing pedals. In fact, when you rattle off daily mileages to friends  or co-workers, you just get a blank stare.                         


Those numbers are as incomprehensible to the non rider as the trillion dollar deficit. But quietly rolling along the countryside at bicycling's slower pace gives a great opportunity to see your surroundings and smell the magnolias.

Pedaling through North Georgia's hills and valleys, one is awed by their beauty.  Likewise,  man's adornments such as paved roads and fine houses with well manicured lawns leads us to wonder, is this the product of mere evolution or did it come about through some master plan with a master planner?

We know for certain, however, that the next uphill climb will bring heavy breathing, sweat and straining legs.  We also know that when we reach our destination for the day we will be tired.  Do we call that fun? Churning down the road in a heavy downpouring rain, can we call that fun?

The Bicycle Ride Across Georgia is an organized ride, not a race. Each year (this was the 33rd),  the organizers pick a different route through different towns.  People from all walks of life and all over the country come for this event.


I see riders in all shapes and sizes from under eight to over eighty.  Dan Pool, Mike McGhee and I were there to represent Jasper. On BRAG, each morning at the crack of dawn fellow riders are in a good mood. Every afternoon, even though they are hot, sweaty and tired, they are in a good mood.

Out on the road, everyone is cheerful. For me, that took a while for me to understand. I finally realized that the BRAG riders are there because they want to be. And they are there to have a good time.


The riding is hard work. It is also a challenge. The rider has a goal each day. Reaching the top of each hill is also a goal. Reaching those goals is a struggle with hard work and pain. But accomplishing those goals bring pride and pleasure, fun and enjoyment.  There is pride  in accomplishment. If you are not proud of yourself after a hilly, hard and hot seventy mile day, don't expect anybody else to be proud of you for anything.


Bicycling being the good exercise that it is, you're tired at the end of the week, but there is a feeling of strength and a feeling of well being that will stay with you for months to come.  At the end of the ride I'm tired but I'm happy.

Completing a ride like this is a privilege and a blessing.

[Young is a regular contributor to the Progress, chronicling a lifetime of adventures in this area and is also active in the Sassafras Literary group.]


Above, bikes lean in front of the Chief Vann House during the 2012 BRAG ride.

Curse of the Grand Dogs


Libby’s favorite activity is to watch the 'outside' cats before plunging like Hannibal Lector at the glass door.


By David R. Altman

One of the great joys of life is having grandchildren. They give you a chance to truly enjoy small children - something many of us missed along the way while we were raising ours. No nightly battles, no having to say 'no' and not being saddled with attending nightly baseball games, tennis matches or swim meets.

But along with those good times with the grandkids comes another distraction. It's as if the good Lord knows that grandparents can't be given a full free pass when it comes to babysitting. In fact, you knew in your heart that it couldn't be as simple as just watching the kids. With the blessing of the grandkids also comes a curse - and it comes in the form of the "grand dogs".                         

We have two grand kids and three grand dogs (seems like there is something wrong with that equation). The dogs, whom we will call Lucy, Libby and Hazel (since those are their real names, forget about protecting their identity). These dogs, like their sibling humans, are always excited to arrive at the house. It is new territory for each of them-- somewhere new to play, new foods to eat, new floors to sniff and, well, you get the picture.

All three grand dogs were rescue dogs, and, except for Libby, the border collie, they are generally unidentifiable as a breed.                        


Lucy suffers from multiple anxiety disorders, including separation anxiety. It's not the grandkids who cry when our daughter drops them off - it's the dog!  Lucy, a small, constantly shedding yellow lab knockoff, is always wanting to jump-up on any guest. She is incredibly needy (almost like a canine Woody Allen) - a dog with zero confidence. We always pray for good weather when Lucy visits, as her storm anxiety is extraordinary. She heads for the darkest spot of the house (a windowless downstairs bathroom) and curls up in the corner, shivering and cowling (much like I do after she leaves). Even xanax won't help (don't ask how we know).


Her 'instincts' of other animals are incredibly sharp. If she's on our cabin deck and senses a bear or turkey on Sassafras Mountain (even a mile away on Burnt Mountain), her hair stands up like a lion's mane. She is a dog who is constantly on the move and leaving her wiry white fur scattered over every room she enters. But she is wonderful around her 'brother and sister' (a.k.a. our grand children) and they can jump on her like she's My Friend Flicka and she won't utter a sound.


She is joined in the mix by Libby, the aforementioned border collie. Libby, who is exceptionally beautiful, is an extraordinary sweet dog around people. However, around other dogs she becomes a cross between Cujo and Lizzie Borden. Let's just say she has had several biting episodes that make us all worry that the next one might be one of us (although she seems to love most all two-legged creatures). Libby has soft, flowing hair and sometimes snarls and barks at the air - as though she is practicing for her next canine encounter. She is so bad that she has to be kept in an isolation cell  when she is being boarded.


At our house, her favorite activity is to watch the 'outside' cats through a glass storm door. Like all herders, she sits quietly, almost rigid, for up to 15 minutes at a time before she can no longer help herself, suddenly lunging like Hannibal Lector at the glass door and then harmlessly bouncing off. The cats love this, staying just far enough back from the door to haunt poor Libby.


The third grand dog, who belongs to our youngest daughter, is the smallest and perhaps strangest of the three is Hazel.

Slightly overweight with reddish long hair, she seems to be a mix of Welsh Corgi and Chow, appearing almost Fox-like, especially when she runs with her tail flying straight out in back.


Hazel, who is literally afraid of her own shadow, has solidly build short legs that allow her to dig massive holes near my wife's hostas in less than thirty seconds. Our backyard is full of little bunker holes, appearing like a moonscape from our upstairs window.

Sweet Hazel is afraid of people. When you approach her you must sit down, cross-legged, and hold out your hand. Our aging grandparent joints creak at all the bending. Hazel will surely have my wife and I seeking knee replacements within two years.  She is also a sweet dog, the rescued product of a hoarder household, where there were many other animals that clearly contributed to her psychoses. The only time Hazel is not afraid is when you pick her up at night and put her at the foot of the bed--she is content to lie there on her zebra-patterned blanket, giving her anxiety-ridden soul a rest for the evening.


As cousins, they don't do particularly well. Little Hazel seems to get along well with both Lucy and Libby, but getting the two larger dogs together is an unpleasant (and unsafe) experience. Three Thanksgivings ago, Libby bit a hole in Lucy's ear while fighting over a dog bone.                       


  Yes, all dogs (like all dog owners) have their idiosyncrasies. But these grand dogs are in another class (Caesar Milan, where are you?).

None of these dogs will ever make it to the Westminster. Sometimes, they can't even make it to the yard. Yet, they are cared for (and spoiled rotten) just like the grandkids. And we wouldn't have it any other way.


[Free-lance writer and dog lover Dave Altman is a part-time resident of Jasper. He and his wife Lisa live on Sassafras Mountain and are the 'parents' of two intelligent and low-maintenance cats, Elsie and Blackie.]

Summer chores and allowances for kids, Jasper life coach offers advice

By Vicki Roberts

Certified Life Coach


From a Progress reader, “My elementary and middle school kids will be out of school. While it seems like there is a lot of free time, much is taken up by camps, sports and other fun activities. How is the best way to set standard chore schedules? And should an allowance be tied to them completing the jobs?”


Dear Reader,  This is a great time to not only answer your question, but also expand to include how to entertain kids that may not have their time filled with planned activities.

First, let's be sure that we feel comfortable leaving kids home alone without supervision.  Here is a web site I came across with a test that will help you determine if your child is mature enough for this challenge.

Kids should have chores during the school year and that should not stop during the summer. Whatever chores your child was responsible for should continue throughout the summer.  But, it's not fair to have a child spend their summer cleaning a house. Just because they have more time on their hands does not mean they should have to spend it cleaning, cooking, doing laundry and such. As far as paying kids for chores, there are two ways to think about that.            


  Adults can't make money without working. So, our kids should know that if you don't work, you don't get paid.

On the other hand, once a teenager starts to work, they could say, "I'm making $8 an hour at my job and that's enough, I don't want to do chores anymore."

My belief, handed down by my mother, is that when you are part of a family, you help around the house because everyone in a family needs to contribute in some way.

Allowance can be given as a lesson in finances rather than payment for chores. Teach your child to spend some wisely, save some, and give some away to a charity they choose.

Normally, by the time your youngster is 17 or so, they will have a summer job. So that means that a true summer vacation (approximately 75 consecutive days off from school or work) won't be an option for long.  This is the time for FUN.  That doesn't mean no responsibilities, rules or structure.  But, make sure there is plenty of fun.

For many people, reading a good book is one of the most fun things to do.  If  your child is not a "reader," this may be a good opportunity to change that.

A lot of kids hate to read.  They don't want to even pick up a book and try it. One reason may be that the type of book they had to read in school didn't hold their interest.

Take your child to the library and let them browse. Have them read the first several pages of some books to determine if it looks promising.

Then, let them check out three or four of the ones that they think they will enjoy. Be sure they are taking this seriously because the rule at this point is they have to read at least one of the books. Decide how many pages a day is reasonable for your child and expect them to read at least that. Ask them what characters they like and to describe them. Ask about the plot and what they like or dislike about it. It their writing skills need work, ask that they write a short report about the book when they are finished.  As soon as they are finished with their books, be sure and get back to the library for more.

You may have an avid reader by the end of the summer!

If you work full time and there is no one available to take your child to the pool, lake, movies, etc. be sure to have plenty of things at home to keep your child occupied. Buy some sketch pads, canvases, paints, and other crafty items. Start to keep a bag or basket with things you may normally throw away for them to use in art projects.  I recently bought an unfinished jewelry box, a tube of glue and brought my own  odds and ends for a child to decorate the box.  She used a poker chip, miscellaneous fabric samples, a few pennies, some buttons, a few playing cards, and old earring .......just look around your house or in your purse and you will get plenty of ideas.

Don't be shy about asking a relative or close friend with time available to take your kids someplace fun.

If you can take a day off here and there, do it. Take your kid(s) and their friends someplace fun.  Maybe your kid's friends mom or dad will reciprocate and take your kids one day while you are working!  If you don't work and you are taking your kids fun places, it's nice to offer to take the friend of your child that may be stuck at home all summer with nothing to do.

Vicki Roberts is a Certified Life Coach and can help you in many aspects of your life including develping friendships.  Vicki can be reached at 678-982-5304 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Her web site is