Tom Christopher to Present Sustainable Lawns—The Backyard Revolution Oct. 9 at AAM

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TC-headshot-With new statewide restrictions on lawn fertilizer use going in to effect this October to help achieve Bay restoration goals, now is the perfect time to learn how to reduce fertilizer use and protect water quality while keeping your lawn productive and healthy. Join Tom Christopher, founder of Smart Lawn LLC, Oct. 9 for a discussion on creating locally adapted biodiverse lawns that positively impact our environmental future.

Residential lawns occupy almost 50,000 square miles of the U.S. landscape—an area larger than the state of Pennsylvania. As presently cultivated, many are resource hogs and major sources of fertilizer pollution. Yet in just a few weeks, with a modest investment of time and materials, homeowners can turn an eco-villain lawn into a sustainable, easy-to-maintain expanse that gives back far more than it takes and is beautiful as well.

Christopher will discuss grass mixes and techniques needed to create lawns that require no summertime irrigation, little mowing, and little to no fertilization. He also will provide contacts for locally focused advice and information that will enable concerned homeowners to create their own sustainable lawns. Your lawn can reduce your carbon footprint, prevent water pollution, and provide a new opportunity for landscape color—and it’s easy, once you know how.

Christopher is a graduate of the New York Botanical Garden School of Professional Horticulture. He has helped institutional and residential clients enhance their landscapes for more than 40 years. He is the author of ten books about gardening, and served as editor and a contributor to The New American Landscape, Timber Press’s guide to sustainable gardening that was hailed by the American Society of Landscape Architects as one of the 10 best books of 2011. His work with lawns has been featured in The Chicago Tribune and in Horticulture magazine.

Christopher’s talk is free and open to the public. It will be held Wed., Oct. 9 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Academy Art Museum, Easton. The program is offered by Adkins Arboretum in partnership with Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Advance registration is requested at adkinsarboretum.org or by calling 410.634.2847, ext. 0.

Adkins Arboretum is a 400-acre native garden and preserve at the headwaters of the Tuckahoe Creek in Caroline County. Open year round, the Arboretum offers educational programs for all ages about nature and gardening. Through its Campaign to Build a Green Legacy, it will build the W. Flaccus and Ruth B. Stifel Center at Adkins Arboretum and a “green” entranceway to broaden educational offerings and research initiatives promoting best practices in conservation and land stewardship. For additional information about Arboretum programs, visitwww.adkinsarboretum.org or call 410-634-2847, ext. 0.

CBF Files to Intervene in Conowingo Dam Relicensing

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conoThe Chesapeake Bay Foundation filed Tuesday to intervene in the administrative proceedings of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the re-licensing of the hydropower facility at Conowingo Dam owned by Exelon Corporation. CBF will be advocating as the regional watchdog for the Chesapeake Bay to pursue a comprehensive solution to the water quality and habitat impacts of the dam.

“The public can rest assured many eyes will continue to scrutinize this process,” said Kim Coble, CBF Vice President for Environmental Protection and Restoration. “The Susquehanna is getting cleaner, and we will insist the trend continue, just as we are pushing for cleaner creeks and rivers throughout the Chesapeake Bay area.”

Since 1986, CBF has helped reduce pollution coming down the Susquehanna and reaching the dam, but more needs to be done. In the late 1980s CBF also was involved in the previous relicensing of the dam, and filed comments in support of actions to improve the ability of migratory fish to pass by the dam and access historic upstream habitat. More recently, CBF also is participating on a committee to help find a solution to sediment build-up at the Conowingo.

This intervention will ensure CBF continues to be heard when FERC negotiates and sets the conditions for Exelon’s new license. The owner, as well as the states of Pennsylvania and Maryland, must meet the requirements of the Clean Water Act to ensure the Bay and local waters are protected.

Intervention provides CBF with the opportunity to comment to FERC on proposed license conditions before the license is issued and also to challenge the final license for the dam in federal court if CBF is not satisfied with the conditions placed in the license.

Intervention also will provide CBF another valuable opportunity—to advocate for a comprehensive solution to Maryland and Pennsylvania officials who must, under the Clean Water Act, certify that the solution protects the water quality of the states.

In the mid-1990s, researchers estimated that the three upstream Susquehanna dams, including the Conowingo Dam, were trapping about two percent of the nitrogen, 40 percent of the phosphorus, and 70 percent of the suspended sediment that would have entered the Bay from the Susquehanna River.[1]

By trapping suspended sediment, the Conowingo has helped reduce contributions of sediment and phosphorus to the Chesapeake and helped to restore the Bay. But the sediment storage capacity of Conowingo Reservoir has been gradually declining.

The management of the sediment in these reservoirs is an important part of future strategies for reducing pollution, especially phosphorus and sediment to the Bay. A comprehensive solution must include a significant role for Exelon, as well as continued reduction of pollution from New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland to the Susquehanna River and to the Chesapeake Bay.

CBF also remains concerned with restoring migratory fish in the Susquehanna, and improving fish passage at Conowingo Dam is key to that recovery. Improving upstream and downstream passage for American shad, hickory shad, American eel, Atlantic sturgeon, shortnose sturgeon, alewife, and blueback herring is essential to the recovery of these fish populations in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

As part of the relicensing of the project, fish passage improvements must be secured, including changes to the existing fish lifts and flow modifications to improve fish migration through the lift and to reduce fish mortality. With decades of experience in Bay fisheries, CBF has much to contribute to discussions on fish passage issues at the Conowingo, and must have recourse should proposed solutions be inadequate.

Analysis: Federal Audit Questions State Spending on Several Programs

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An outside audit of how the state of Maryland spent almost $13 billion it got from the U.S. government found significant problems in some of the programs the state runs with federal dollars.

MarylandReporter.com frequently covers audit results published by the state’s Office of Legislative Audits. OLA’s audit work is similar to internal audits done in the private sector.

A different kind of audit—known as a “Single Audit” and equivalent to an external audit—covers all federal money spent by the state of Maryland. These annual audits are performed by an outside CPA firm hired by the state comptroller. After the comptroller accepts the audit report, it is sent to the federal government.

The latest audit report, performed by SB & Company LLC of Cockeysville,  covers $12.8 billion spent by the state during fiscal 2012 that originated from federal coffers. Audit results are used by federal agencies to monitor the state’s compliance and spending. By law, the federal government can respond to audit exceptions by requiring the state to return misspent money or money the auditors cannot find due to bad records.

Serious deficiencies in fiscal 2012 findings

The 2012 single audit found several significant deficiencies, defined by the federal government as “important enough to merit attention by those charged with governance.” The most serious deficiencies included:

1. Beneficiaries of Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) could not be verified to be eligible for assistance under the prevailing regulations. The auditor sampled 60 participant files and four files either couldn’t be located or the eligibility determinations were otherwise deficient (7% deficiency rate.) Medicaid and CHIP are administered by Maryland’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH), which is required to keep a file for each beneficiary that objectively demonstrates eligibility determinations and supervisory approvals.

2. Beneficiaries of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF — what used to be called “welfare”) could not be verified to be eligible for assistance under the prevailing regulations. The auditor sampled 60 participant files — 10 files couldn’t be located; and 50 files evidenced deficiencies with participant income verifications (100% deficiency rate.) This program is administered by Department of Human Resources (DHR).

The auditor found that the high number of missing files “prevented the audit of the requirement.” In other words, the audit firm could not do the work it was contracted to perform because of the department’s poor recordkeeping.

3. Beneficiaries of Adoption Assistance could not be verified to be eligible for assistance under the prevailing regulations. The auditor sampled 60 participant files and four files evidenced deficiencies regarding participants’ eligibility (7% deficiency rate.) This program is administered by the Department of Human Resources.

Problems at University of Baltimore and Coppin State

4. At the University of Baltimore, 23 out of 40 students sampled were incorrectly classified as enrolled part-time or full-time when in fact they had withdrawn from school (58% deficiency rate.) This inaccurate reporting went into a database used by the U.S. Department of Education for managing student loan repayment dates, grace periods, and deferments.

5. At Coppin State University, 40 out of 40 sampled students withdrew from classes and thus took zero credits, but 15 were incorrectly reported as attending half-time, 23 were incorrectly reported as attending full-time, and two were incorrectly reported as less than half-time (100% deficiency rate.) This inaccurate reporting was entered into the same federal database for loan administration described above. (The university system has appointed an interim president to revamp the administrative structure at Coppin after a task force found massive problems there.)

6. At Coppin State, 14 of 40 students received student loans or grants, but the university was unaware those students dropped or withdrew from class, causing the university to keep rather than return $20,000 to the U.S. Department of Education.

Unresolved findings from prior years

The state has longstanding difficulties with satisfying the auditor that program beneficiaries are in fact eligible for assistance. Shortcomings over the years cross multiple federal programs administered by several state agencies. This year’s single audit report describes a variety of unresolved findings, many repeated over several years and one of which dates back to fiscal 2004.

The findings correspond with questionable eligibility of beneficiaries for Medicaid, CHIP, TANF, Foster Care, Adoption Assistance, Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, and student aid. These programs are administered by the departments of Health and Mental Hygiene and Human Resources and by state universities. The auditors reported several types of problems: Files were lost or incomplete; files contained inaccurate information leading to improper assistance; and secondary approvals of initial eligibility determinations were absent.

Another longstanding problem area involves inadequate inventory control over food stocks provided by U.S. Department of Agriculture. This weakness has existed since at least 2010 without being resolved.  USDA delivers surplus food commodities to the control of DHR, which in turn offers foodstuffs through 22 organizations throughout the state. The auditor describes a concern for “abuse, including fraud” that can’t be detected due to lack of inventory control. The auditor seems to be worried about the possibility for theft by those who have physical custody of the food rather than beneficiaries. During fiscal 2012, this program involved $4.2 million of food distributions by DHR.

Another finding involves state scholarships under the TANF program that the state awarded under the rationale that “post-secondary educational attainment by State residents decreases the incidence of out-of-wedlock births by raising the ‘opportunity cost’ of having children outside of marriage. Studies also show that professional careers (often the product of higher education) delay fertility.” The auditor questioned this spending ($43 million) in its 2010 audit, and the finding is unresolved.

Federal aid to Maryland growing fast

Maryland’s recent budgets show a historical trajectory upwards. From 2007 to 2014, overall costs of operating Maryland government have increased 30% (or 3.5% compounded annually.) Revenues to pay for government come from many sources; primarily income taxes, sales taxes, lottery, borrowing, and the federal government. Taxpayers may be surprised to know the federal government is the state’s largest source of revenue—paying for almost 30% of the cost of Maryland’s operations.

It also may surprise some that state revenues from the federal government are rising at a much faster rate than any other revenue source. Federal aid to the state will rise from $6.5 billion to $9.8 billion in the eight years ended June 2014—increasing almost 51% (approximately 6.1% compounded annually.)

Some programs are clean, but some of the largest have longstanding problems

The audit did not detect any deficiencies in many large federal assistance programs being managed by the state, including programs relating to infrastructure and research & development. However, the programs where the state has had longstanding difficulties include some of the largest and most costly social programs in the state. Medicaid and TANF, for instance, were $4.1 billion and $222 million, respectively, in FY 2012.  It’s also important to note that the audit was not designed to determine the total dollars that were unsupported or misspent, and the state has no way to quantify this.

Longstanding problems in programs where the state must document participant eligibility determinations are not unique to Maryland. The more people who become eligible for assistance and the larger the programs get, the more cumbersome the programs are to administer and audit. And so a certain level of payment errors can be expected, in Maryland and across the country.

By Charlie Hayward

For MarylandReporter.com

Charlie Hayward recently retired after 30 years’ experience with performance, IT, and financial auditing of a wide variety of government programs and activities. He can be reached at hungrypirana@verizon.net. 

 

 

 

Plein Air-Easton! Complete Schedule July 15-21

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The Plein Air–Easton! Competition & Arts Festival celebrates its ninth anniversary by continuing the vibrant dynamic that has made it America’s premier plein air festival and one of Easton’s main attractions. Plein Air–Easton! is at the forefront of the modern plein air movement. Artists, collectors, and art lovers alike have discovered that this event lives up to its motto of “Art for Everyone” by producing some of the best representational artwork in the country, along with events that appeal to a wide variety of art enthusiasts. Most events are free and open to the public. With hundreds of artists and a wealth of artwork to choose from, this weeklong artfest is one of the Mid-Atlantic region’s hottest art sales of the year, offering the art collector a unique opportunity to select from a huge inventory of reasonably priced paintings.

FESTIVAL HIGHLIGHTS . . .
Friends of Plein Air–Easton! Opening Dinner & Paint-Out, Saturday, July 13, Hope House
Guests at the “Meet the Artists” Opening Dinner & Paint-Out will enjoy a lavish dinner party, meet the 2013 Plein Air–Easton! competition artists as they arrive and begin to paint, and have the opportunity to take home a fresh painting created that day. Hope House, one of the great Federal era estates of the Chesapeake, exists as a working farm with an evident commitment to environmentally sensitive land management. A special invitation to the “Meet the Artists” Opening Dinner is available only as a benefit to 2013 Friends of Plein Air–Easton! sponsors. Friends of Plein Air-Easton! is an active base of supporters and art collectors who strive for the sustainability and success of Plein Air–Easton! while promoting conservation and tourism through the arts.
A View from the Other Side of the Easel,” Thursday, July 18, 8pm, Talbot County Free Library Past and present and Plein Air–Easton! judges Peter Trippi and Tim Newton will present this fascinating program. Well known collector Tim Newton and prominent editor Peter Trippi join together to discuss the role of the collector in today’s art world. This “fireside chat” will specifically focus on Newton’s experiences and collectingBWoods@wjz.co> MFriedmann@wjz.com strategies as an art collector since 1991. This promises to be a lively and engaging evening for both artists and art buyers alike. Free.
Collectors’ Preview Party, Friday, July 19 at 7pm, Academy Art Museum
Offers the first chance to view and purchase competition paintings. The pinnacle of the competition  comes when more than $20,000 in prizes are awarded at 7:45pm. The full $150 ticket price may be applied to any Plein Air–Easton! art purchase at the Academy Art Museum on July 19, 20, and 21
Local Color” Exhibit and Sale, Friday-Sunday, July 19-21, Tidewater Inn
A juried and judged show featuring the works of 32 of our best local artists. Throughout the show, Local Color will present painting demonstrations by accomplished national plein air painters. Free and open to the public.
 
Plein Air–Easton! Competition Gallery Exhibit & Sale, July 20 and 21, Academy Art Museum
As paintings sell, replacements will take their places, so that this exciting exhibit evolves throughout the weekend. Stop by several times to see and purchase new artwork. Free and open to the public.
National Quick Draw, Exhibit and Sale, Saturday, July 20, 10am-2pm, Downtown Easton
Long on excitement, short on time, this two‑hour paint-out, followed by an outdoor Exhibit and Sale, is one of Plein Air–Easton!’s most popular events. Spectators and art buyers flock to downtown Easton to watch nearly 200 artists paint within a six-block area, creating entire paintings in just two hours. Total cash prizes of more than $3,000. Open to any artist; registration information atwww.pleinaireaston.com.
Children’s Quick Draw, Saturday, July 20, 10am-12pmAcademy Art Museum Front Lawn
Free to young artists, ages 5-12. Supplies and basic instruction provided. No preregistration required. This event is sponsored by Ben Franklin Crafts.
Choosing a Winning Painting,” Saturday, July 20, 8-9 pm, Academy Art Museum
Competition Judge Don Demers will discuss the 2013 winning paintings and why he chose them. Always a standing room event, competing artists and savvy collectors pack the house. Free.
 
Out of Box” Art Exhibition & Sale, Saturday, July 20, 9am-4pm & Sunday, July 21, 10am-3pm
This invitational exhibit is designed for artists to showcase their process as well as their completed works of art and interact with visitors to the Plein Air-Easton! festival. The exhibition will highlight artists whose work falls outside the constraints of traditional plein air painting. The exhibition will be held outdoors near Harrison Street in downtown Easton.
 
Plein Air–Easton! The Next Generation, Sunday, July 21, 10:30am-3pm, Downtown Easton
Plein Air–Easton! The Next Generation is especially designed to offer high end arts training and experiences to young artists. The event is comprised of educational workshops for students in grades K-6, and a Quick Draw competition for artists under age 18. Registration on Harrison Street at 10am, no preregistration is required.  Exhibit & Sale will be held from 2-3pm, with awards announced at 2:30pm. The event is sponsored by Attraction magazine.
 
MORE HOT PICKS
  • Workshops, DemosLectures, and More . . . Galore!: Monday through Sunday, July 15-21, check out the extensive schedule atwww.pleinaireaston.com. Free
    • Live Theatre Performance: July 19-21, Avalon Theatre, Wye Operetta Workshop (WOW!) returns for a 6th year to present Thornton Wilder’s beloved classic, “Our Town,” on this 75th anniversary of the Pulitzer Prize winning drama. Professionally costumed and staged. Sponsored by the Wye Conservatory of Music. Tickets at the door: adults $10, children and students $5. For more information please contact 410-603-8361.
  • Sunday Brunch Gallery Walk: On the final day of this year’s Plein Air-Easton! Competition and Arts Festival, local art galleries will open their doors to artists and art lovers alike. Stroll Easton’s historic downtown while visiting multiple local galleries and enjoying a progressive Sunday Brunch. Maps locating local galleries are available at the galleries, Plein Air–Easton! Information Center, and Easton’s Welcome Center. Free
 
Plein Air–Easton! is the work of the Avalon Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide diversified arts and educational programs that improve the quality of life in the Mid-Shore region. The Academy Art Museum is the accredited museum venue for the competition exhibit.
Plein Air–Easton! is supported by various corporate, media, and community sponsors, including the Maryland State Arts Council, Talbot County Arts Council, Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, Star Democrat, and Attraction magazine. Donations from Friends of Plein Air–Easton! support the event while promoting conservation and tourism through the arts. Strong community support and sponsorships have helped make Plein Air–Easton! one of Easton’s biggest attractions and America’s premier plein air festival.
 
MORE INFORMATION
During the festival week, obtain official festival information, programs, artist locations, and more at the Plein Air–Easton! Information Center located at Red Hen Café, 1 Goldsborough St. in downtown Easton.
Latest information, including full itinerary, artists’ bios, ticket sales, galleries, and more, is available at www.pleinaireaston.com. Regular updates are also posted on Facebook and Twitter. The Plein Air–Easton! Hotline can be reached at 410.822.7297.
Hiu-Lai-Chong-Artists'-Choice-Award-2012-courtesy-of-Attraction-magazine

Hiu Lai Chong from Rockville MD is congratulated by Al Bond of the Avalon Foundation and Krystal Allen of PleinAir magazine. Chong’s “All Tucked In” was the winner of the 2012 Plein Air–Easton! Grand Prize Timothy E. Dills Memorial Award. The painting also received the Artists’ Choice Award. Chong returns to vie against 57 other artists for $20,000 in prizes during the 9th Annual Plein Air–Easton! Competition & Arts Festival, to be held July 15-21, 2013.  (photo courtesy of Attraction magazine.)

Thursday, July 11

Celebrate Tilghman Island! Artists enjoy a day of painting on beautiful Tilghman Island. At 8pm at Harrison’s Crab House, the first every pre-festival Artists Choice Award will be presented. The $500 award is sponsored by the Tilghman Watermen’s Museum.
 
 
Friday, July 12, 8:30am-7pm
Inn at Perry Cabin, St. Michaels. Artists may paint all day anywhere on the property’s gardens and waterfront during this pre-festival paint-out.
OPENING EVENT
Saturday, July 13
Friends of Plein Air–Easton! Opening Dinner & Paint-Out at Hope House Estate. Meet competition artists as they arrive and begin to paint. This kick-off event is an exclusive benefit to members of Plein Air–Easton! Check out the “We Want it All” bundled ticket package, which includes two tickets to the Collectors’ Preview Party plus two tickets to the Opening Dinner & Paint-Out.
FESTIVAL EVENTS
 
Saturday & Sunday, July 13 & 14
Competition Artists paint anywhere on the Delmarva Peninsula
Sunday, July 14, 8pm
Competition Artists paint during “The English Beat  concert, Avalon Theatre.
Monday & Tuesday, July 15 & 16
Artists paint throughout Talbot County
Various Demonstrations at Local Galleries
Wednesday, July 17, 8am-5pm
Artists paint at Londonderry Manor House, Easton
Wednesday & Thursday, July 17 & 18
Artists paint anywhere in Easton
Various Demonstrations at Local Galleries
Thursday, July 18, 8pm
A View from the Other Side of the Easel” with present and past and Plein Air–Easton! judges Peter Trippi and Tim Newton. Talbot County Free Library, 100 W. Dover St.
 Friday, July 19
Artists must turn in their competition paintings at the Academy Art Museum by 11am
Friday-Sunday, July 19-21
Various Demonstrations at Local Galleries
Friday, July 19, 7pm
Collectors’ Preview Party & Awards Announcement, Academy Art Museum. Tickets $150. Ticket price may be applied in full to any art purchase at the Academy Art Museum on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Check out the “We Want it All” bundled ticket package, which includes two tickets to the Collectors’ Preview Party plus two tickets to the Opening Dinner & Paint-Out.
Friday-Sunday, July 19-21
Local Color Exhibit & Sale, Tidewater Inn, featuring some of the best artists from the Delmarva Peninsula. Demonstrations by national artists throughout the weekend. Free admission.
 Friday-Sunday, July 19-21
On this 75th anniversary of the Pulitzer Prize winning drama, the Wye Operetta Workshop (WOW!), presents a live performance of Thornton Wilder’s beloved classic, “Our Town” at the Avalon Theatre. Tickets at the door: adults $10, children and students $5.
 Saturday & Sunday July 20 & 21
Plein Air–Easton! Competition Gallery Exhibit & Sale, Academy Art Museum. As paintings sell, they will be replaced by hundreds of replacement paintings. This exhibit continuously evolves, stop by several times during the weekend to view and purchase more great art. Free and open to the public.
Saturday, July 20, 10am-2pm
Quick Draw Competition, Exhibit & Sale, Harrison Street, Downtown Easton. The Quick Draw attracts thousands of art enthusiasts to see nearly 200 artists complete an entire painting in just two hours. This is the most popular paint-out of the entire festival as art enthusiasts and savvy collectors gather to watch and vie for the best paintings.
Saturday, July 20, 10am-12Noon
Children’s Quick Draw, Academy Art Museum front lawn
Saturday, July 20, 8-9pm
Choosing a Winning Painting.” Competition Judge, Donald Demers, will discuss the 2013 winning paintings and why he chose them. Always a standing room event as competing artists and savvy collectors pack the house. Academy Art Museum. Free and open to the public.
Saturday & Sunday, July 20 & 21
Out of the Box Art Exhibit & Sale, an exhibition highlighting 8 artists whose work falls outside the constraints of traditional plein air painting. Harrison Street Parking Lot, Downtown Easton. Free.
Sunday, July 21, 10:30am-2pm
Plein Air–Easton! The Next Generation presents high quality art education comprised of rotating workshops, stations, along with a Quick Draw event for children and young adults on Harrison Street.
Sunday, July 21, 2:30pm
Peter Trippi, the editor of Fine Art Connoisseur and a noted expert in representational art, presents an illustrated lecture of recent works by leading American artists who create art in this style. He will analyze current trends in this sector of the art market and other issues of interest to collectors and fans of plein air painting. Seating is limited, preregistration is suggested by calling 410.822.2787. Tickets are available atwww.academyartmuseum.org .
Sunday, July 21
Sunday Gallery Walk & Brunch, downtown Easton. Free admission.

Plein Air–Easton! Information Center at Red Hen Café, 1 Goldsborough Street, downtown Easton.

Visit www.pleinaireaston.com for details, videos and BLOG entries

Spy Profile: Miles Barnard on Landscapes and Parks

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In this video, landscape architect Miles Barnard says a little about his philosophy as a designer before offering a gentle appraisal of the problems with the current relationship between Fountain Park and the Farmers Market.

Barnard addresses the key issue — that heavy foot traffic from the Farmers Market tramples the greenery of the park, diminishing its attractiveness. He then weighs two possible solutions: the paving in the park could be expanded to better accommodate foot traffic, so long as the paving does not compress the tree roots and kill one of the park’s key features; or, the Farmers Market could be moved to another street in town, taking the load off the park.

This video is seven minutes long.

Profile: Caitlin Patton on the National Music Festival

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In part two of a two-part series with the directors of the National Music Festival,  we speak with Caitlin Patton, executive director of the festival.

Patton discusses the funding of the festival, scholarships for the apprentices, plans for the future, housing the apprentices in Chestertown residences, and the economic impact on the town.

The National Music Festival begins June 1 and runs until June 15. For more information, visit the festival website.

The video is 4 minutes long.

Baker Doug Rae Explains Evergrain’s New Direction

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Doug Rae stands by the day's selection.

Doug Rae stands by the day’s selection.

Many customers have noticed that the selection of bread at Evergrain has changed to just two types of loaf, the traditional baguette and the round campagne. Interested in why this change was made, I spoke with Doug Rae to get an informative explanation of the bakery’s direction over the next six months. He explained that they are trimming the selection in order to focus on the craft of making naturally leavened bread with only grain and no add-ins.

“We’ve pulled out of all the farmers markets, including Chestertown, and we’re focusing fully on the storefront now because we feel that we’re at a place where we can, and we’re becoming more clear on what we really want to focus on, which is creating a customer experience in our own shop setting,” Doug said.

They are branching out the focus of the bakery in other ways, such as with pizza night, in order to make Evergrain more of a late-night destination, which is something Doug said he feels the town needs.

“We’re also revamping the bread program and simplifying it into an array of, you could say, functional breads. We’re focusing fully on fermentation as opposed to mix-ins. We feel that the real craft that we’re trying to master is fermentation and fermenting grain. We’re extremely excited to see what we can create through fermenting grain and opening people’s eyes to what that’s like as opposed to focusing on the raisins or walnuts or olives or hazelnuts or whatever’s in it.”

“If you eat this plain flour, with no fermation at all, it’s relatively flavorless and bland. The starches and carbohydrates are so complex that the tongue literally can’t decipher anything. The process of fermentation breaks those apart so that the tongue can decipher the flavors. The skill of the baker is, how much of the full potential of that grain can you evoke from your skills? Rye really well fermented gives the bread a spicy component. Kamut has a nutty flavor. Semolina tastes like pasta. The baguette is sweet because it’s all white flour.”

“The world barista champion from 2008 said that as artisans we’re trying to minimize the amount taken away from the full potential of the product when we’re transforming it. So, when they’re roasting coffee, the less they mess it up, the better it’s going to be. The less that human intervention disrupts the natural product, the better.”

Evergrain's pastry selection remains as complete as ever.

Evergrain’s pastry selection remains as complete as ever.

Doug was careful to emphasize that reducing the selection to two different breads does not mean a move to perpetual sameness.

“With that campagne, the pain au levain loaf, we’re constantly mixing in new types of grain to see what kind of flavor we’re evoking, so it’s not actually the same campagne loaf any one day or during any one week. Sometimes it has ancient grain like kamut, which comes from Egypt. We’re also doing semolina, we’re also doing whole wheat rye. Most of it’s organic. That’s going to evolve for the next probably six months. People are going to always see something different even though we’re offering one naturally leavened loaf. The baguettes will always stay the same; that’s kind of the standard bearer. With the pain au levain we’re going to make one incredibly delicious and nutritious loaf. The idea is that if you can master the craft of fermentation so well, people can eat a whole loaf and not feel like they did in the sense that it’s not unpleasant. A lot of the bitterness from whole grain is neutralized through the fermentation, and that’s what we want to do. We want to get so good at it that eating healthy bread isn’t a chore or something forced — it’s actually what one wants to do the most. Like with Poilâne bakery in France, all they do is wheat.”

“We want people to go on this journey with us. We’re paving the way to something we think will be better.”

Doug said that the ultimate goal for the changes is to maximize people’s appreciation of the food they eat and the moment in which they enjoy it.

“Food is generally the focal point around which a memory is anchored into one’s consciousness. If you eat an amazing loaf of bread or an amazing hamburger or whatever, sure it’s amazing, but what really makes it is the environment you consume it in. Who with, and what are the circumstances. That croissant with jam or that sandwich or that neapolitan pizza is so great because there’s awesome music playing in the background or live music playing, and people you hadn’t seen in so long, and you’re all coming together to enjoy that in the moment. That’s what I think really carves out in your memory the specialness of the moment because of who you’re with and also how incredible the food was. It’s the experience, and I think that’s what everyone had when the family meal was still preserved. Food was always the focal point. It’s about sitting down together and sharing with people you care about. We’re just trying to create an ideal environment for that to happen again.”

“One of the most common things that customers say is that during their busy workdays when they come in here they feel like a whole load has been lifted off their shoulders, and they just stepped out of the stress and business and they can just relax. That’s exactly what we’re going for. You can kind of forget whatever is going on outside, there, when you step in here. You can step out of Chestertown and into a Parisian café.”

 

Six Gunston School Students Honored at National Honor Society Induction

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(l-r): Mike Kaylor (NHS Advisor), Christie Grabis (Assistant Head of School), Trung Nguyen, Tabitha Lin, Kat Rhodes, Lexi Welch, Valerie Inglesby, Kent Shen, John Lewis (Headmaster)

(l-r): Mike Kaylor (NHS Advisor), Christie Grabis (Assistant Head of School), Trung Nguyen, Tabitha Lin, Kat Rhodes, Lexi Welch, Valerie Inglesby, Kent Shen, John Lewis (Headmaster)

On April 16, six students were inducted into the National Honor Society at The Gunston School. The National Honor Society (NHS) is a prestigious organization for juniors and seniors, which requires them to hold a grade point average of at least 88 and to exhibit four core values—leadership, character, service, and scholarship.

The morning began with the inductees and their parents, and current NHS members attending a breakfast at Headmaster John Lewis’ home. The induction ceremony followed in the field house featuring the keynote address delivered by Mr. Will Robinson. Using the core values of the National Honor Society, Mr. Robinson addressed the students on the importance of engagement in learning and participation on community. Mr. Robinson, Head of the Gunston’s history department, charged the students to inquire, to investigate, to think critically, and to remain engaged, both in school and in life. He closed by inviting all members of the audience to applaud the success of the NHS members and to strive by the ideals put forth by this organization.

To highlight the core values of NHS, four candles were lit by current members, as senior and NHS president Logan Leverage spoke about the meaning of each value. As inductees were called up one-by-one, they received a certificate, pin, and rose, and signed their names into the NHS registry. To make them official members of the society, current members pinned the inductees with a pin bearing the NHS logo and the pledge was recited, led by Logan Leverage. To conclude the ceremony, Mr. Michael Kaylor, the NHS advisor, shared words of wisdom and high praises to the students for their accomplishments. 

We congratulate this year’s NHS Chapter Officers and Inductees:

Officers

President: Logan Leverage

Vice President: Jay Wegner

Secretary: Kelly Dong

Treasurer: Shirley Liu

Parliamentarian: Dan Lohr

Historian:  Olivia Keene

Public Relations Officer: Maddie Clemens

 

Inductees

Valerie Inglesby (Chestertown)

Tabitha Lin  (Chester)

Trung Nguyen (Annapolis)

Katherine Rhodes  (Chestertown)

Kent Shen  (Royal Oak)

Alexis Welch  (Queenstown)

Cool Outdoor Stuff: What Can We Learn From The Beaverkill?

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Echo Hill Outdoor School’s Andrew McCown is back with another edition of Cool Outdoor Stuff with videographer Jack Elliott. This time, Andy reflects on a recent fishing trip to the Beaverkill River in the Catskill mountains. The Beaverkill today represents a remarkable success story for ecosystem conservation — nearly depleted after World War II due to over-fishing and bad water quality, the Beaverkill has been carefully managed to grow again into one of the best fisheries in the East. Following up on the Spy’s recent analysis of the Conowingo Dam issues, Andy asks, “What can we learn from the Beaverkill?”

The video is four minutes long.