Northview Celebrates National FFA Week With Breakfast

February 21, 2018

FFA members at Northview High School are celebrating National FFA Week with a variety of events.

Tuesday morning, the FFA officers and members prepared a homestyle breakfast for teachers, staff and invited guests that support the FFA program. Northview’s FFA program has been recognized as one of the top chapters in both the state and the nation.

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NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.


Tate High Marks National FFA Week By Hosting Breakfast

February 20, 2018

It’s National FFA week, and Monday morning member of the Tate High School FFA served breakfast to faculty and staff members.

National FFA Week is a time for FFA members to host activities that raise awareness about the role the National FFA Organization plays in the development of agriculture’s future leaders and the importance of agricultural education.

Photos for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

Camp Fire Kids Celebrate 100th Day Of VPK

February 18, 2018

Students at the Camp Fire Youth Learning Center in Century recently celebrated the 100th day of this years VPK program. Courtesy photos for NorthEcambia.com, click to enlarge.

Weekend Gardening: February Tips

February 18, 2018

Here are gardening tips for the month of February from your local Extension Service:

Flowers

  • Re-fertilize cool season flowerbeds, using a liquid or granular form of fertilizer. Be careful not to apply excessive amounts and keep granules away from the base of stems.
  • Prepare flowerbeds for spring planting by adding and incorporating soil amendments like mushroom compost, manure or homemade compost. Till or spade the bed to incorporate the amendments with the existing soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. Allow the prepared bed to lie undisturbed for 3 to 4 weeks before planting. This provides time for some important biological activity to take place, and new plants are less likely to suffer from stem and root rots as a result. Have a soil test done. Sometimes lime is needed. However, a lime application should be made only if the need is revealed by the test.
  • Replenish mulch in flowerbeds.
  • Prune rose bushes.

Trees and Shrubs

  • February is possible the best month for rejuvenation of old, overgrown shrubs. When pruned now, plants have an entire growing season to recover.
  • Prune summer flowering deciduous shrubs such as Althea and Hibiscus. Since they flower on current season’s growth, flowering can actually be enhanced by proper pruning
  • Do NOT prune the spring flowering shrubs yet. Azaleas, Spiraeas and Forsythia flower during early spring because buds were formed last summer and fall. Pruning in February would therefore remove most of the flower buds.
  • Cold damaged trees and shrubs should NOT be pruned until new growth appears. You want to preserve as much healthy plant material as possible.
  • Replenish mulch in shrub beds
  • Finish planting ornamental and fruit trees.

Fruits and Nuts

  • Fertilize established pecan trees. Use a “special pecan fertilizer” that contains zinc. Use 2 lbs. for every year of age of the tree up to a maximum of 55 lbs. Broadcast the fertilizer evenly beneath the tree.
  • Fertilize established peach, plum, pear, persimmon, apple and fig. Apply about 1 ½ lbs of a 10-10-10 (or similar) fertilizer for each year of age of the tree until a maximum of 10 to 15 lbs. per tree is reached.
  • Blueberries are very sensitive to nitrogen and can be killed easily, particularly when they are young. Fertilize only if your goal is to increase yield or berry size. An annual application of 2 ounces of a special “azalea/camellia” or “special blueberry” type fertilizer per plant in February is ample fertilizer on 2-year-old plants.
  • Prune muscadine grapes between mid-February to mid-March. A standard method is to allow 2 to 4 node spurs spaced every 6 inches of cordon. You may notice that pruning cuts bleed, but there is no evidence that this is injurious to the vine.
  • Grapes (bunch and muscadine) should be fertilized at the rate of 1 ½ lbs of 10-10-10 for each year of age with a maximum of 5 lbs per plant applied in late February.
  • Last call for planting fruit trees! Most fruit trees such as pecans, plums, persimmons, figs, peaches and nectarines are shipped bare roots and should be planted during the dormant season.
  • Apply a spray containing horticultural oils emulsion to dormant fruit trees and ornamental shrubs. Follow label directions carefully.

Vegetable Garden

  • Several winter vegetables can still be successfully grown by starting them this month. Plant beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, Chinese cabbage, collards, endive/escarole, kale, kohlrabi, leek, lettuce, mustard, parsley, English peas, radish and turnips.
  • Plant Irish potatoes. Purchase certified seed potatoes rather than using the grocery store kinds. Use 2-ounce seed pieces with eyes and plant them 3 to 4 inches deep.
  • Prepare spring vegetable and herb beds for planting by adding and incorporating soil amendments like mushroom compost, manure or homemade compost. Wait 3 to 4 weeks before planting.

Lawns

  • Hold off on fertilizing the lawn. It is still too early for an application of nitrogen containing product. Cold temperatures and lack of plant response would likely result in wasted fertilizer. However, your winter weeds would benefit greatly.

Bratt Elementary Dedicates Little Free Library In Century

February 16, 2018

Bratt Elementary School dedicated their second community Little Free Library in Century Thursday afternoon, two years to the date that an EF-3 tornado ravaged Century.

The Little Free Library is located on the lawn of  Escambia Community Clinics Century Pediatrics and Pediatric Dental Clinic on Church Street.

In an effort to promote literacy, Bratt Elementary collected over 500 children’s books to stock new Little Free Libraries in Century and Bratt.

The Little Free Library concept is simple — anyone from the community may borrow a book or keep a book or add a book to the library. Anyone taking a book or two from library does not need to return that exact book, and there are no due dates. The library is currently supplied with mostly children’s books, but donations of more books for adults would be greatly appreciated.

Bratt students also dedicated a Little Free Library on Wednesday at the Travis Nelson Park in Bratt. Both libraries are open sunrise to sunset daily.

To read more about the Bratt Little Free Library, click here.

Fore more photos, click here.

NorthEscambia.com photos.

Century Celebrates Tornado Recovery With Tree Giveaway

February 16, 2018

Thursday, Cqentury celebrated their recovery progress following and EF-3 tornado two years ago with a tree giveaway.

The storm tore through the town with winds of up to 152 mph, damaging or destroying over 100 homes and businesses on February 15, 2016.

The Florida Forest Service made free one gallon potted shumard oak, river birch and fringe trees available to area residents.

For more photos, click here.

NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.


Bratt Elementary Students Open Little Free Library In Travis Nelson Park

February 15, 2018

A Little Free Library was dedicated Wednesday at the Travis Nelson Park on West Highway 4 in Bratt, thanks to the hard work of students from Bratt Elementary School.

The Little Free Library concept is simple — anyone from the community may borrow a book or keep a book or add a book to the library. Anyone taking a book or two from library does not need to return that exact book, and there are no due dates. The library is currently supplied with mostly children’s books, but donations of more books for adults would be greatly appreciated. The library is open park hours — sunrise to sunset daily.

Bratt students collected over 500 blocks for the new Little Free Library in Bratt and an a second Little Free Library in Century that will that opens Thursday.

Bratt Elementary worked on the community service project for over a year after educators took note of students entering school with lower than expected skills.

“Often students do not have a large bank of words to speak and they have a limited understanding of words that are spoken to them. Bratt Elementary decided if the homes had more books, the students would increase their word bank for both speaking and understanding. When asked, many students stated they have no books at home to read. The idea to collect books and have a free community little library was born,” said Sheila Bryan, guidance counselor at Bratt.

During ‘Red Ribbon Week’ students were encouraged to focus on doing something good instead of only focusing on not doing drugs. The community little library project was introduced and students began donating books. It was amazing to see the students willingly giving away their books to benefit their community,” she added.

Looks for an upcoming story on NorthEscambia.com with details about the new Little Free Library in Century.

For more photos, click here.

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Northview FFA Horse Judging Team Advances To State Competition

February 15, 2018

The Northview High School FFA Horse Judging Team placed tenth recently in the state preliminary competition in Tampa, allowing them to advance to state competition in Gainesville in April.

Members of the NHS FFA Horse Judging Team are Autumn Williams, Brooke Doolittle, Destiny Cleckler, Olivia Porter, and Lacie Carter. The team was coached by Courtney Solari and Stephanie Solari.

The NHS Livestock Judging Team also took part in the state preliminaries. Team members are Cody Kite, Cole Hassebrock, Raeleigh Woodfin, Wesley Hardin and Clint Gunter.

Pictured: The Northview High School FFA Horse Judging Team. Photo for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

Bratt Couple’s ‘Doomsday Romance’ Was Born On Top Secret Plane, Knowing One Might Not Survive

February 14, 2018

On Valentine’s Day, a Bratt couple celebrated a “Doomsday romance” born in one of the most secure places on earth, where only one member of the couple might survive as one of the last living people on the planet.

Gary and Kayleen Amerson were married in 1991 after meeting in the Air Force and being assigned to the Boeing E-4 Advanced Airborne Command Post, project name “Nightwatch” but more commonly called the Doomsday Planes. If the United States were ever in a nuclear war, the planes would provide a mobile command post for the president, secretary of defense and the nation’s top military leaders. The planes also follow the president as he travels abroad.

The year was 1988, the last year of the Cold War.

Gary was wrapping up a tour at Grissom AFB in Indiana and was anticipating getting out and returning to Bratt to work with his dad.  A distracted driver totaled his car and he bought a new SUV, thinking he had a year to pay it off before leaving the Air Force.  A military “roll back” (which gave airmen a choice of another four years or an immediate discharge) forced his hand, and he had to re-enlist for another tour.  He volunteered to go overseas or to the coast, but was given an unwanted second Midwest assignment  to Offutt AFB outside Omaha, NE.

Kayleen was in Iowa, attending her second college taking her third change in major and, on a whim, visited the recruiter, signing on to “any job that flies”. She requested an overseas assignment and instead was assigned to the nearest possible base to her home — at Offutt AFB, NE.

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Both arrived at Offutt in summer of 1989, assigned to the 1850th Airborne Communications Squadron to serve as airborne communications systems operators aboard the E-4B “Doomsday Planes”.

They lived two doors apart in an exclusive flyers’ dorm that allowed for crews to rest around the clock, since flyers didn’t keep regular hours.

Kayleen and Gary flew the same training flights.  As 20-somethings, they fell between the old married guys that had been around forever and the new young airmen that were too young to drink.

Kayleen took to hanging out with Gary because the younger airmen were afraid of him and wouldn’t continually ask him to buy them beer, so they would leave her alone if she was with him.  By the time they were each assigned to mission teams that fall, they were best friends.  They were engaged that spring and married the following year.

“So both of us were in careers we hadn’t planned, assigned to a place neither wanted to go, and landed right where we were meant to be,” Kayleen said.

“One random afternoon I was hanging out in Gary’s room,” she added. “Gary finally got around to asking me if I wanted to go out … like on a date. I agreed, and then not knowing what else to say, left and went back to my own room.

“A few minutes later there was a knock at the door and there stood Gary, saying tentatively ‘I’m here to talk to my old best friend, not my future date.’ I said ok, slightly confused, and he continued in a new, more excited voice, ‘I’ve got a really hot date and I need you to take me shopping for some new clothes!’”

“The mission kept up a 24/7 hot alert, meaning one airplane was always on, keeping in constant communications with other national command centers. The crew of 60 plus, including flight crew, battle staff and communicators, slept in shifts in the ‘alert facility’ right next to the jet and could be airborne in moments in the event of a national emergency.” she said.

Each crew came on duty on Thursday mornings and would stay with the plane until the following Thursday. Gary and Kayleen were on opposite teams after they began to date and after their marriage, so they worked opposite duty shifts with six days together in between. Their eventual honey moon in June 1991 was the longest period of time they had ever spent together.

They spent hours on the phone when the other was away.

“We learned to live in sound bites. We had to fit everything into a weekend that a normal couple would handle in a month. We had been talking about eventually getting married for a while, which for us was probably weeks. I knew when he got the rings but he hadn’t asked me yet,” she said. “It was a night before he was scheduled to leave and I was doing my darndest to get him to propose before he left because I absolutely did not want to wait another two weeks before our next conversation. I kept trying to maneuver us into what I considered romantic settings to set him up to propose but it turns out he already had a plan, and all my maneuvering kept getting me further and further from the target.”

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Many, many nights, the one not on alert would bring dinner and after the office cleared out for the night create a picnic in the crew lounge. They knew that the one on alert could be called at any time and have to dash out without so much as a goodbye kiss.

“We spent more time together in that building than at home for the first years of our marriage,” she said.

“We watched the first invasion of Iraq sitting on the floor in the lounge listening to Wolf Blitzer on CNN. We watched the Branch Dividian saga unfold and Ruby Ridge shortly thereafter. One of us was on alert when the first reports came in of the relatively unsuccessful car bomb attempt at the World Trade Center when no one knew the name bin Laden. Gary was in Japan following President George H.W. Bush when the president choked at a state dinner, and those of us back home wondered if we’d be scrambling a backup jet to get to a successor. We watched all the big events of the world through the lens of always anticipating a presidential catastrophe or bolt out of the blue.”

They also knew that in the event of an all-out nuclear war, their marriage would die. Literally.

“Gary and I were on separate teams, so only one of us would survive,” Kayleen said.

“Once, I was on shift on the plane and we had an alert for an inbound missile that would impact the United States,” she said. “We ran through the protocol, called the Pentagon, they reacted and we launched. The whole time I’m thinking ‘yeah me, I get to survive because Gary is at home’.” It turned out to be a false alarm.

“We understood each other’s stress, so it was a natural outlet,” Gary remarked.

The Amersons spent their first years of marriage at Offutt when they were reassigned to Andrews Air Force Base. Gary to the 99th Airlift Squadron, Kayleen to the 1st Airlift Squadron — same mission, different planes to fly the nation’s top leaders — the vice president, secretary of state, secretary of defense, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the First Lady.

“There our relationship was largely passing glances and radio calls from different continents,” Kayleen said of their time at Andrews AFB.

Major holidays, like Christmas and Valentine’s, stand out in Kayleen’s memory because they would often be apart. “I would plan ahead and hide things in the house, like 12 different notes for the 12 days of Christmas.”

Kayleen quit flying in 1997 to start a family and work at NSA. They spent 1999-2000 at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, went back to Offutt in Nebraska in 2003 and Scott Air Force Base in Illinois until retirement at the end of the decade. Kayleen had the only deployment, to Qater in 2005-2006.

And now they are back in Bratt.

“We used our wedding money in 1991, still at Offutt, to buy the land we currently live on. Bratt was always the plan.”

Both currently commute together for three hours a day, working as cybersecurity consultants supporting the U.S. Navy.

“We have always worked together or in similar, connected jobs,” he said. “There were no secrets between us; we knew the same things. If one of us had been a civilian, there would be things I could not tell her about work.”

“God meant for us to be together. Gary is the only person in the world I am able to stand to be around all the time. We just fit,” she said.

“It’s like the Garth Brooks song Unanswered Prayers,” he said. “God decided that we were meant to be together.”

“It is true that the whole idea of mutually assured destruction was a very real fact for us on a daily basis. So you just create the best forever that you can for however long as you get. We got lucky and got the forever after,” Kayleen said.

Submitted photos for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

Dining Sites Provide A Good Meal, And A Good Smile For Seniors

February 12, 2018

Century seniors leave the Council on Aging of West Florida’s dining site with more than a hot meal  — they usually leave with a smile.

“The program provides them a hot meal that I serve,” said Deborah Williams, the Century site manager as she prepared plates of beef stew, rice and broccoli. “And I always give them a smile. People just need a smile sometimes.”

The senior dining site program is a neighborhood-based program offering nutritious meals, activities and socialization for seniors age 60 and older. Council on Aging operates nearly 20 dining sites in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties including sites in Cantonment, Century, Jay and Chumuckla.

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The Century senior dining site on Industrial Boulevard current serves about 10 clients Williams  said, but there’s room for about 40. Attendance has dwindled for the Century program, she said, due to a lack of adequate transportation in Century.

A donation of $2 or more per person is recommended, but it is not mandatory. Donations are returned to the senior dining site program to support the provision of meals and activities at the sites.

Along with the sites often offer fun and mentally-stimulating activities. Common activities include puzzles, word games, field trips, guest speakers and bingo.

“I take them on field trips sometimes,” Williams said. “We’ll go to the Golden Corral, go by the doctor’s office or go shopping. It just does them good to get out.”

“It keeps them smiling.”

Individuals interested in participating in the senior dining site program or getting loved ones involved, should call Council on Aging of West Florida at (850) 432-1475 or visit www.coawfla.org for more information.

Pictured top: Deborah Williams, manager of the Council on Aging of West Florida’s senior dining site in Century. Pictured inset and below: Seniors enjoy lunch at the senior dining site in Century. NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.

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