Byrneville Tree Farm Recognized

December 21, 2014

Paina Farms in the Byrneville area was recently recognized for high quality land management. Farm owner Don Bush received both a Forest Stewardship certification and a Tree Farm certification.

The original farm acreage has been in the family for more than 50 years and this was not the first time management on this property was recognized. Bush’s parents received a conservation award in 1980.

After hurricanes Ivan and Dennis, much of the timber on the property had to be salvaged and replanted. In his efforts to restore the property to a healthy and productive forest, Bush has participated in several assistance programs through the Florida Forest Service and the USDA-Natural Resource Conservation Service. He also has kept a schedule of prescribed burning in areas of longleaf pine and treats invasive species such as cogongrass. During hunting season, he has guided hunts on the property.

Certified landowners are honored with a sign displaying their status. Both programs have newsletters, tours and workshops for their landowners. The Stewardship program assists landowners in acquiring a management plan with a timeline for practices that can be followed to attain certification. The Tree Farm program is now also third party certified, allowing wood from these properties to be sold as “green” wood. Both programs are designed to promote sustainable land management, incorporating all components of the forest.

For more information on certification under either program, contact Escambia County Forester Cathy Hardin at (850) 587-5123 or email

Weekend Gardening: Creative Gift Ideas For Your Favorite Gardener

December 21, 2014

by UF/IFAS Extension Service

Still don’t have a Christmas present for your favorite gardener? Take heart, there is still plenty of time to find, or make, that perfect “green” gift.

Many gardeners don’t think of their landscapes as just plants in the ground. To the knowledgeable landscape designer, the landscape is a series of rooms; rooms that may require decoration.

Garden art can be anything from the whimsical garden gnomes, functional obelisks or metal sculptures.

Garden obelisks can serve many functions. In addition to providing interest during all four seasons, they can act as beautiful focal points in the garden. They can make your garden look as if it was designed by a professional.

In a flower garden, they provide support for plants such as climbing roses, flowering vines and many other climbers and twiners. In the edible garden, many types of fruits and vegetables, such as various types of beans, can be grown on obelisks.

Obelisks come in many different sizes and shapes. Common shapes include tall, rounded or oblong forms, rectangular forms, and pyramids. Most vining plants will take to any shape. Choose the shape that is pleasing to you and blends in with your garden design. Obelisks can be made from a variety of materials including cedar, copper and wrought iron.

Furthermore, if you are an avid recycler, there are plenty of materials just laying around that can be made into a functional obelisk with a minimum amount of skill and time. Take a look on the internet and you will find plenty of help in fashioning a home-made creation.

A “growing” trend is metal garden art. Metal garden art can be fun, playful or even classical. It can be used to create a focal point in the garden or to brighten up a dull spot. From small garden stakes, to colorful wall art, to sculptures small and large, the possibilities are endless. With so many materials to choose from and so many artists working in the field you will be sure to find at least one piece to add color and character to your yard.

Again, if you are an avid recycler, you will be able to find many pieces made from recycled metal. Recycled steel drums or tanks, discarded bicycle or tricycles, old car parts, these all provide the raw materials for the creative eco-artist.

Copper is widely used in metal garden art because it is beautiful, durable and adds elegance to any garden. If allowed to oxidize it will age gracefully to a natural weather worn green patina. It can also be preserved with a clear coating to maintain its bright, shiny look. Copper sculptures, wall art and garden stakes add a touch of class to any decor.

For a classic look add a bronze garden sculpture. Bronze sculptures have been around for thousands of years. They remain popular today because they are classic, timeless and will last for generations.

Whatever your taste, classic, contemporary or just playful, garden art will warm your heart even on the coldest winter day.

Submitted photos for, click to enlarge.

Gulf Power Gives Back To America’s Heroes

December 20, 2014

Gulf Power presented $63,400 to two local charities today in support of veterans in the Escambia County area. The money was raised from its second annual Clay Shoot for America’s Heroes held in November at the Santa Rosa Shooting Center in Pace. Two checks for $31,700 were presented to the two organizations at Gulf Power’s headquarters.

The clay shoot raised money for Building Homes for Heroes and Gulf Coast Veterans In Need — two charities that provide assistance to wounded military members and their families in Northwest Florida.

“Many disabled veterans have nothing in their life to call their own or to be proud of. This support enables veterans to begin anew and start living life the way it should be,” said Army Sgt. Joshua Hamilton, who will receive a home from Building Homes for Heroes on Dec. 27.

Building Homes for Heroes gives mortgage-free homes to wounded American service members. Locally, five homes have been given or pledged with plans for several more in Northwest Florida.

Gulf Coast Veterans In Need supports severely injured veterans in the Pensacola Bay Area. The group works with individual service members to coordinate benefits, community resources and family needs and determines the level and type of additional assistance.

Each charity will receive a check raised through Gulf Power’s Clay Shoot for America’s Heroes event.

“The Gulf Power fundraiser and the Building Homes for Heroes organization has meant the world to us,” said retired Army Spc. Anthony Stroup. “It has given us the opportunity to build a solid foundation for our family and make new lasting memories together. Our family has moved 14 times in eight years, so now our children will have the chance to grow up in the same house in the same school district, and will be able to make lifelong friendships. We have a chance as a married couple to secure our future and provide the lifestyle we never had growing up.”

Close to 80 volunteers from Gulf Power and the community hosted the clay shoot on Nov. 6 with 35 teams of sportsmen and women gunning for clays. Twenty-five sponsors showed their support to make the event possible and volunteers launched clays and scored endless rounds of shots from 130 participants.

“There was terrific response from the community and once again we have selected two great causes that provide much needed support to our military veterans,” said Sandy Sims, Gulf Power manager of Community Relations. “Our employees are proud to support groups that support our military friends and neighbors — and the key is that our partners in the community feel the same way.”

Pictured: Gulf Power presented donations for $31,700 each Friday to Gulf Coast Veterans in need (below) and Building Homes for Heroes (top).  Pictured inset: Gulf Power CEO Stan Connally chats with Army Sgt. Josh Hamilton, one of two area veterans receiving a home through the Building Homes for Veterans charity. Photos for, click to enlarge.

Ernest Ward Middle Names December Students Of The Month

December 19, 2014

Ernest Ward Middle School has named Students of the Month for December. They are (L-R) Amaya Stallworth, seventh grade; Kayley Lashley, sixth grade; and Kaylin Glenn, eighth grade. Photo for, click to enlarge.

Mirror Image: Sunset At Lake Stone

December 19, 2014

Pictured: The setting sun slips behind the trees Thursday evening at Lake Stone in Century. Lake Stone is a 130 acre man-made lake constructed in 1967. It has an average depth of six feet and a maximum depth of 22 feet. The 100 acre park, owned by Escambia County, includes a campground and boat ramp. photos, click to enlarge.

Bratt Second Graders Present ‘A Place In The Christmas Choir’

December 18, 2014

Bratt Elementary School second graders recently presented their Christmas musical  “A Place in the Christmas Choir”.

For a photo gallery, click here.

Photos by Blair Scott for, click to enlarge.

Home For The Holidays: A Christmas Surprise

December 17, 2014

Two Escambia County elementary school students received a special surprise Tuesday. They thought their uncle was still deployed overseas in Japan, but he had a Christmastime surprise for second grader Penelope Saxton and her brother, kindergarten student Riley Saxton.

They were together in a classroom at Scenic Heights Elementary School when their uncle, Airman Ean Van Gemerden, popped in from an adjacent room. After a brief pause, they off running into the arms of their “Uncle E”.

Penelope was in tears, but she assured everyone that they were happy tears because her hero was home for the holidays.

Van Gemerden has been deployed on the USS George Washington homeported in Yokosuka, Japan, for the past two years and is home for Christmas with his family.

The family members had been in touch via occasional phone calls and Facebook posts, but this was his first chance to see – and hug – his little loved ones in a long time.

Ean Van Gemerden also attended Scenic Heights Elementary School, so having the reunion at the school seemed like a fun idea to his sister, Ayla Van Gemerden. Principal Mary Ellen Wiggins and staff were happy to assist her in the coordination of the surprise.

After the holidays, Airman Van Gemerden will be returning to Japan to crossdeck from the Washington to the USS Ronald Reagan. While Van Gemerden has enjoyed his time in the Navy so far, he said, “When when you travel far from home, you realize what you have been taking for granted and you really wish you were home.”

Pictured top: Ean Van Gemerden shares a welcome home hug with his niece and nephew, Penelope and Riley Saxton. Pictured inset: Penelope and Riley’s mother, Ayla Van Gemerden (holding their little brother),and Ean Van Gemerden’s mom, Sara Exner, look on. Pictured below: Van Germerden visits helps with a gingerbread project. Photos for, click to enlarge.

Byrneville Students In Grades 3-5 Present Christmas Musical (With Gallery)

December 17, 2014

Byrneville Elementary School students in grades 3-5 presented their Christmas program – “Twinkle & Shine! A Musical That Celebrates the Light at the Top of the Tree” – Tuesday night at Northview High School.

For a photo gallery, click here.

For story and photos from Monday night’s grade K-2 performance, click here.

Photo by Raja Atallah for, click to enlarge.

Byrneville K-2 Students Present Christmas Musical (With Gallery)

December 16, 2014

Students in grades K-2 at Byrneville Elementary School presented their annual Christmas musical “Toys: The Night They Come Alive” Monday night at Northview High School. Students in grades 3-5 will present their Christmas program at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Northview theater.

For a photo gallery, click here. photos by Raja Atallah, click to enlarge.

In Hot Pursuit 5K Earns $10K For Sheriff’s Youth Ranch

December 16, 2014

The annual In Hot Pursuit 5K on Pensacola beach last month raised just over $10K for the Florida Sheriff’s Youth Ranch. Sheriff David Morgan presented the group with a check for$10,038.08 on Monday.

The mission of the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches is to prevent delinquency and develop strong, lawful, resilient, and productive citizens who will make a positive contribution to our communities for years to come. This charitable, non-profit agency was founded by the Florida Sheriffs Association and operates four residential campuses and two camping facilities. Additionally, it provides community-based services and family counselling to as many of Florida’s neglected, troubled children as funds will permit. This year, the Youth Ranches will serve more than 5,000 needy boys and girls.

The mission of the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches is to prevent delinquency and develop strong, lawful, resilient, and productive citizens who will make a positive contribution to our communities for years to come. This charitable, non-profit agency was founded by the Florida Sheriffs Association and operates four residential campuses and two camping facilities. Additionally, it provides community-based services and family counselling to as many of Florida’s neglected, troubled children as funds will permit. This year, the Youth Ranches will serve more than 5,000 needy boys and girls.

The In Hot Pursuit 5K was sponsored by, Cox Cable, The Grand Marlin, Gulf Power, Edward Jones, John Peacock CFP, CRPC, Gulf Power, The Fraternal Order of Police, The Andrews Institute, Berney Office Solutions, Navy Federal Credit Union, Boost Mobile, May’s Construction, Gulf Winds Credit Union, Marianna Airmotive, The Sandshaker, Sake Café, The Independent News and News Talk WCOA Radio.

Photo for, click to enlarge.

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