Sunday, March 31, 2013

Student projects on invasive plant species

H/T to CHCA for a link to videos discussing invasive species at Mason Mill Park, created as part of a GA Tech class:
"The filmmakers were Georgia Tech students enrolled in Dr. Cara Gormally’s Biology 1511 laboratory.  The films capped a semester-long project investigating the biological effects of the Urban Habitat Restoration Project at Mason Mill Park, part of an initiative to remove invasive species and restore native habitats in public parks and other areas in metro-Atlanta." Enjoy the rest @ floraphile blog 

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Spring Household Hazardous Waste Collection Event [Apr 6]

... via email from ONE DeKalb - Office of Neighborhood Empowerment

photo credit: ONE DeKalb email
Saturday, April 6th, 2013
8:00 am-Noon

DeKalb County Sanitation Division | map |
Central Transfer Station
3720 Leroy Scott Drive
Decatur, GA 30030

We expect long lines!!  Reduce your wait time by registering!

To register send your name and phone number via email to

DeKalb County welcomes county residents to participate in the 2013 Spring Household Hazardous Waste Event.  The event offers residents an opportunity to dispose of their household hazardous wastes properly, free of charge.

Household hazardous waste is classified as products that contain potentially dangerous chemicals and are no longer used. These products should not be mixed with regular trash and can be potentially harmful to the environment if not disposed of properly.

DeKalb County encourages residents to take advantage of this opportunity to clear their homes of unneeded or unused household hazardous waste and to help keep county landfills and the environment safe for everyone.

Items accepted:
Lawn-care products
Automotive products
Fluorescent bulbs
Photo Chemicals
Hobby and artists supplies
Paints and paint-related products
Cleaners and swimming pool chemicals
Please make sure to bring only items accepted on the list above or you will be turned away.


The event is free for DeKalb residents; IDs are required and early arrival is recommended. Residents are limited to 10 gallons of paint per vehicle. No commercial vehicles will be allowed. The following are lists of items that will not be accepted at the event.

Items NOT accepted:
Bio-hazardous/Bio-medical waste
Agricultural waste
Radioactive materials
Non-hazardous waste

Friday, March 29, 2013

DeKalb Mall Community Garden (and soon veggie market?)

Go on with your bad self, Mr. Stripey!
The DeKalb Mall Community garden is such a neat endeavor. Per a recent announcement via the North DeKalb Mall e-newsletter, it looks like we will be able to buy their fresh produce later this year:
By the way, have you seen North DeKalb Mall's Community Garden?  It is located next to Stivers Subaru.  There are 30 garden plots being farmed by refugee families and community groups.  As a result, look for a Mall Produce Stand coming summer 2013 - fresh fruits and vegetables - yum! 
The garden is also working on a more informative website and the latest updates are available here. Note that they have posted a document with refugee stories, a list of equipment they need, and how to sign up as a volunteer. As a testament to their success, there is now a waiting list for plots.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Charter cluster maneuver

In his AJC article "Druid Hills parents may use charter law to gain control over school cluster", Ty Tagami updates us on on how some parents are trying to improve local schools by taking more direct control over decisions that affect their schools:
The parents are empowered by a 2010 law that allows schools autonomy if they commit to improved performance. It was aimed at larger, mainly urban school districts, since many rural systems have only one high school. DeKalb is Georgia’s third largest system, with 21 high schools and 99,000 students. 
“It allows for decisions about education to be made closer to the student,” said Dan Weber, a former state senator who co-sponsored the law. “They know what their needs are, and the needs vary dramatically across a county as large as DeKalb.” 
The proposal for the Druid Hills cluster would make an International Baccalaureate program the centerpiece of the high school and at Druid Hills Middle. Five elementary schools are included: Avondale, Briar Vista, Fernbank, Laurel Ridge and McClendon.
As to the actual process...
The parents and staff at the affected schools must write a charter, then hold a vote with at least 60 percent approval. It’s up to those affected to determine how much autonomy they want. The cluster, which would not get any additional taxpayer money, can manage some services on its own while looking to the district for others, such as busing, food service and human resources administration. 
Read the whole thing @ AJC!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Real estate update

by Judy and Stephen Perras
via Medlock Matters

Good News!
2012 was the best year for real estate since 2006. The spring market started early and activity did not let up until year end. Spurred by the lowest inventory levels in years and coupled with continuing record low interest rates and the return of buyer confidence, the market saw increases in both volume and price. Sales of detached single family homes in the metro area increased 9% over 2011 and prices were up 5%. Active inventory dropped 44%.

Wren wisdom:
"Small houses never
stopped any of us from
spreading our wings."
Our neighborhood has seen— and continues to see—multiple offers on many homes bidding up the final sales price. Homes that show well and are priced appropriately are selling fast. Demand for in- town homes in convenient, desirable communities like ours is strong.

In this area, we did not feel the impact of the 2008 crisis until 2010 when a few foreclosures and short sales started showing up. 2011 was a tough year with home prices hovering around the 2001 level. In 2012 we rallied and prices are moving back up. 78 homes were sold in the MANA area last year with prices ranging from the low $100’s for a foreclosure to $272,500 on the high end. Foreclosures and short sales are now in decline. The demand for rentals continues to be strong.

In short, the Atlanta metro area is transitioning to a seller’s market—especially for in-town homes priced under $500,000— our neighborhood. And that’s the good news!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Annexation had no sponsors

DecaturMetro posted a photo from March 21's AJC (print version) stating that Decatur's annexation bid "never got a sponsor in the General Assembly."

The brief announcement appears online: AJC page.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Keeping up with cityhood

It takes a village to keep track of all these proposals... luckily the Civic Association Network (CAN) is doing a great job at serving this information.

MANA VP Lynn recommends that we go to the CAN website, then click on "Government: Municipal" on the left side of that page for relevant information about various cityhood proposals and meetings. Lynn writes: "If people scroll down under "City of Lakeside/Briarcliff," they'll find notes from last night's meeting under SHCA_BWCA_130319.pdf at that location [you may view online or download the file]. There's also an announcement of an April 1 meeting. This site is the best source for keeping up with the various proposals, announcements, and documents on this issue."

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

It's the bee's knees, but not literally

Happy Spring, y'all! Weather's warming up, some days anyway, and the bugs are waking up. Exhibit A: honey bee on peach blossom. Notice her pollen baskets (golden bundles attached to her rear legs).

Peachy, to us. What a bee sees is quite different.
Pollen pantaloons: always in style.
As explained here, bees have two rows of hairs on their rear legs that create a nifty spot for collecting pollen. As bees visit flowers, they get covered in pollen (thanks to good old static cling). To collect that pollen, the bee grooms herself and moistens the pollen grains with honey or flower nectar, and into the pollen basket they go. When the bee returns to the hive, she will transfer the pollen bundle (now called bee pollen or bee bread) to a fellow worker bee, who is responsible for storing it. Bee pollen is an important food source for the hive, and a marketable product for bee pollen thieves (just kidding!).

In contrast: a very clean bee, baskets empty, on a dandelion -- a source of nectar for bees when other sources a scarce. Great minds think alike -- people make wine out of dandelions when other sources are scarce. 

Support our Medlock pollinators, whether wild or domesticated. Here's a very comprehensive list of plants that add beauty and feed ze buzz-buzzs.

Static harvest: the reason bees don't use dryer sheets.
Black-eyed susans attract many beneficial insects and later in the season, goldfinches feed on their seeds.
Click on this link for a "Yes" answer to "Is there anything goldfinches actually blend into?"

Monday, March 18, 2013

Plant sale season is nigh

Mountain Laurel
Plant Sale and Flea Market
Friday March 22 and Saturday the 23rd, 9am - 4pm
at 500 South Columbia Drive, Decatur, GA, 30030 | map |
Hosted by the United Methodist Children's Home Auxiliary and DeKalb Extension Service Master Gardeners of Georgia

Native azalea

2) Plant Sale 
Fridays, March 29, April 5, 12, 19, 26; May 3, 10, 17, 24, and 31 
Saturdays, March 30, April 6, 20, 27 and May 4, 18 and 25
at 3251 Panthersville Rd. Decatur, GA 30034 | map |

Hosted by Georgia Perimeter College Botanical Gardens
Phone: 678-891-2668

DeKalb group files suit over planned Walmart

The AJC announced that DeKalb group files suit over planned Walmart, with report echoed in the Patch.

Update (3/20/2013): Patch reports the suit will "likely delay" the Suburban Plaza construction start date.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Spring Garden Party & Volunteer Workday - Laurel Ridge Elementary School - March 24

From the Laurel Ridge Elementary School Garden Coordinator:

Celebrate spring by helping in the Laurel Ridge School Garden! We have lots to do and we need YOU to help us! No green thumb, no problem! We have projects for everyone - parents, children, teachers, staff and neighbors - all are welcome!

Our plans include:
  • building a compost bin
  • hanging bluebird houses and feeders
  • shoveling and spreading compost and mulch
  • weeding, pruning, and preparing beds for planting
  • planting new plants
  • making signs
  • tidying up the courtyard

Sunday, March 24th
10:00 am - 2:00 pm
Snacks and Beverages Provided

Come when you like, stay as long as you can!

Please bring work gloves and labeled garden tools if you can. Pruners, loppers, shovels, pitchforks, and wheelbarrows would be helpful.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Publix Georgia Marathon/Half Marathon/5K race and road closures [March 17]

The Georgia marathon on Sunday the 17th will impact nearby roads, follow this link for  information on road closures.

In case you want to cheer the runners as they go, here's a turn by turn list of the course.

And of course, a map:
Click to retrieve full-size map.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Your regularly scheduled coyote warning

"Spring is denning season for coyotes." Per GA's DNR, coyotes breed in late winter/early spring and that means the parents must be more active in order to secure meals for their hungry brood. The young will be weaned in 5-8 weeks. And sure enough, we are starting to hear reports of coyotes in the area, with a recent MANA email alerting to sightings in the Laurel Ridge/Shetland neighborhoods.

The Economist finds coyote's urban conquest tendencies worth of notice and shares findings from a Chicago urban coyote study:
"In Chicago, the Cook County Coyote Project has been trying to understand how the species is conquering the metropolis. Part of the answer is that the coyote is clever, extremely adaptable and reproduces quickly. They are opportunistic eaters and will eagerly consume rabbits, rats, Canada geese, fruit, insects and family pets. They may also be filling an empty niche for a top predator that was once filled by wolves.
Scientists on the project are also trying to investigate how the urban animals differ from their rural cousins. For example, the city slickers have smaller territories, live at higher densities and live for longer than their rustic cousins. Such discoveries suggest that the coyote is probably thriving in American cities rather than clinging on at its edges."
Random fact: Coyotes more active as barometric pressure rises (i.e., after storm fronts).

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Governor to announce new DeKalb Board of Education members today

The AJC reports that
The governor plans to name the six replacements Wednesday, about a week after a nominating panel began poring through more than 400 applicants. Deal will choose from a list of 63 semi-finalists that includes former lawmakers, education experts and community leaders. ... A five-member nominating panel has been working since last week to vet the tide of candidates who put their names in, as the suspension has left the board all but paralyzed. The three remaining board members, who weren’t in office during the accreditation crisis, are too few for a legal quorum. Read the rest @ AJC
Update: new board members announced and their credentials.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Druid Hills Charter Cluster

As mentioned previously here and on the MANA Neighbors Facebook page, representatives from the 7 schools within the Druid Hills cluster are looking into the possibility of converting the cluster to a charter cluster.

It is still very early in the effort, but meetings are taking place on a regular basis and are completely open to the public. The next meeting will take place at Briar Vista Elementary School on Tuesday, March 19th at 6:30 pm. All meeting times and minutes are available on the newly launched Druid Hills Charter Cluster website:

The Facebook page is also still active and posting updates:

The effort is seeking any and all interested parties to participate on working committees to determine how the charter might be shaped - there are six working committees that are tackling issues surrounding educational programming, assessment methods/goals/objectives, waivers & fiscal feasibility, school operations, parent/community involvement & governance structure, and cluster rationale. Ideally, each committee will have up to 25 folks helping to evaluate, research and guide the development of the proposed charter.

If you're interested in seeing how this is shaping up, attend a meeting and learn more!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Keeping up with DeKalb School System news

The AJC has created an index page for DeKalb School System articles. Here are some of the more recent items:
When news affects a family choice [March 9] 
Governor reveals names of candidates for DeKalb school board vacancies [March 7]
For ongoing discussions and reactions, also see
Getting Schooled (Maureen Downey's AJC blog) 
Parents for DeKalb Schools (Facebook)
Also reporting on recent developments:

Crossroad News

The DCSS website announces that the March 11 BOE meeting is cancelled and now features a Superintendent's corner statement.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

International Woman's Day at ICS [March 8]

Click to enlarge.

Annually on March 8th, thousands of events are held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate achievements. A global web of rich and diverse local activity connects women from all around the world ranging from political rallies, business conferences, government activities and networking events through to local women's craft markets, theatric performances, fashion parades and more. We are joining in with this celebration, this year the women of I.C.S. will be treated as the queens we are. We are asking that all woman as well as female students wear all purple as a sign of 'Royalty' for the day.

Marching towards spring

The usual suspects: clockwise from top left we have
flowering quince, star magnolia, forsythia, and cherry.

Around Medlock, March brings daffodils, forsythias, spring magnolias and quinces. It's been cold enough that most people are still in winter mode but we will soon see more daytime highs in the 60's, which can trigger a sudden urge to head over to Intown Ace Hardware and buy seeds and plants.

Our official last frost date is listed by various sources as anywhere from  March 24 to April 10 while NOAA calls the odds for March 26 - April 18. 

Below is some historical data to add perspective.
NOAA's data for last frost dates for our zipcode, 1880-2010. Click to enlarge or view full size.
UGA expands on the above to say the last frost dates were "none" for 2011, February 20 for 2012, and March 2, 2013. Note those late frost in 2000 and 2007...

Eager gardeners do well to focus on soil temperatures, as explained in this website:
"Planting too early, before the soil has had time to warm up, can lead to seed rot, slowed germination, poor growth and disease. For example, cucumber seeds usually take less than a week to germinate in a soil of 70 degrees F. They could take two weeks at 60 degrees F. Tomato transplants need a soil temperature above 60 degrees F for growth. Setting pepper plants out before the soil temperature is 70 degrees F could stunt their growth for the entire growing season."
The above website also lists ideal soil temperatures for common crops as follows:
"60 F - tomatoes, cucumbers, snap beans 
65 F - sweet corn, lima beans, mustard greens 
70 F - peppers, watermelons, squash, southern peas 
75 F - okra, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes"
For a map of daily soil temperatures (currently in the mid-40's), see UGA's Georgia Weather website.

And now that you know what you shouldn't be doing, check out Walter Reeve's monthly calendar to get a sense of what garden tasks are OK for March. For instance, it is time to start tomato seedlings indoors and plant roses (BigLots had a bunch for $3.50; caveat emptor).

If gardening is not your thing, there's no dearth of chores to consider during the month of March.

Coming up: daylight savings on March 10, and spring on March 20.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

International Community School lottery [March 8]

Applications for the ICS lottery for school year 2013-14 are due Friday, March 8th. The lottery will take place on March 14.

The  application form and other materials required to participate in the lottery are listed on the right margin of ICS admissions page.

The lottery will take place on March 14th at 4 pm in the cafetorium.

More condos coming to City of Decatur?

The Atlanta Business Chronicle announces that Atlanta-headquartered developer Carter has a new mixed-use development planned for City of Decatur.
Carter has about 2.5 acres on West Ponce De Leon Avenue under contract and would develop about 240 apartment units and 10,000 square feet of retail. The project would be anchored by the existing 125,000- square-foot office building known as Decatur Court. It was recently purchased by an affiliate of Weaver and Woodbery and Redstone Investments. The affiliate paid almost $9 million. Read the rest @ Atlanta Business Chronicle.
Per leasing information posted online, Decatur Court is a 10-story building and a significant portion of its space has been unoccupied.

 Decatur Court, at 315 West Ponce de Leon Avenue, appears to the middle of the image. 
Last month, the Atlanta Business Chronicle mentioned that Cousins Properties is interested in investing in downtown Decatur, and discussion is ongoing on the future of the Callaway Building (at North McDonough Street and West Trinity Place). DeKalb County owns the property and would sell it to the City, with Cousins as redevelopment partner.

This is good news for Decatur, and hopefully a sign of an improving real estate development environment that will help the City reach its planning and fiscal goals without having to invoke the dreaded annexation option.

Federal judge allows removal of several Board of Education members

Greg Bluestein at the AJC reports that
The governor said the court’s decision “allows us to take the next steps toward protecting the futures of DeKalb’s students and maintaining the school system’s accreditation.” The focus, Deal said, will now shift to a five-member panel that will suggest replacement board members. Read the rest @ AJC.
The unseated DeKalb BOE members can continue to fight the ruling at the GA Supreme Court. The federal judge "asked the two sides to agree on which questions, and gave them 10 days to submit them."

For continued coverage, visit the AJC's Get Schooled blog.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Support our wild pollinators

Most people have heard of bee colony collapse disorder and its potential impact on our food supply. Insect-driven pollination is said to be responsible for one-third of human crops; that includes crops we consume directly (such as fruits, nuts and vegetables) or indirectly (e.g., alfalfa and clover that we feed to livestock). Bee colony collapse was first reported in 2006 and shows a puzzling pattern whereby the adults appear to weaken and die away from the hive. The result is a bit Twighlight Zone and a bit Fastball:
Honeybee on rose bloom.
The children woke up
And they couldn't find 'em
They left before the sun came up that day
They just drove off
And left it all behind 'em
But where were they going 
Without ever knowing the way?

A number of explanations have been posited, with a strong indication that the neonicotinoid insecticide imidacloprid plays a key role. Imidacloprid is considered safe for general use, however, recent research indicates that imidacloprid builds up in the bee's body until it reaches a lethal level. Bees are exposed when they consume contaminated pollen, and exposure also increases if bees are fed corn-based syrup by their keepers when blooms are not available (corn is often treated with the pesticide).

An article in Wired magazine characterizes pesticide's effects as follows:
"Honeybees are clearly exposed to [pesticides] throughout the year and through multiple environmental routes. At certain times, especially in spring, death often follows exposure, and even non-lethal exposures may disrupt bee learning and navigation. Neonicotinoids also appear to make bees especially vulnerable to certain parasites and may interact similarly with other stressors."
The European Union is taking the threat very seriously, going so far as to issue a Honeybee Health report. In the US, a similar report on bee health was prepared for Congress, and includes this figure:

A recent study emphasizes that wild pollinators enhance fruit set regardless of honeybee abundance. According to The Guardian's summary of the report,
"Wild pollinators perform better than honeybees because they deploy a wider range of pollinating techniques, such as "buzz" pollination. They also visit more plants, meaning much more effective cross-pollination than honeybees, which tend to carry pollen from one flower to another on the same plant." 
The bad news is that wild pollinators are in world-wide decline too, due to the double threat of insecticides and habitat loss.

Try a wildflower mix. It's fun to see what grows, and
you benefit from both a crop of fresh flowers to enjoy
indoors or out and increased fruit set in your garden.
What can we do? Other than the obvious avoidance of imidacloprid whenever possible, one way to help wild pollinators is by choosing plants that offer them shelter and food. The following articles discuss how you can beautify your landscaping, feed wild pollinators and provide shelter for (good) pest predators by choosing beneficial companion plants:
Party @ Black-Eyed Susan's! Rudbeckia hirta
is a hearty native that is sometimes a biennial,
and reseeds itself quite well.

Sunday, March 3, 2013


The AJC has an article discussing why we can expect to continue to see trees fall:
"The problem goes back to the drought. For a period of several years, the soil the trees are planted in has gotten progressively drier and drier and it has damaged the tree roots. It causes stress, and the trees don’t do as good a job getting nutrients and water (killing many of the micro roots that help hold the tree in place). Then you have this bad foundation and squishy soil from recent heavy rain, so there is even less holding the tree up. Add to that the wind and you have the perfect storm. You have this massive column of weight and the least amount of wind can topple it over." Read the whole article @ AJC
For other posts on tree health , see

Friday, March 1, 2013

Decatur Waterworks: then and now

DeKalb County Parks has an aerial photograph of the old Decatur waterworks on its website, and who could resist comparing it to how the area looks today?
To the left, an archive photo of the Old Decatur Waterworks. To the right, GoogleEarth view of the same area.
Using the railroad tracks for orientation, it is then easy to match some of the ruins. On the archive photo, note the now-gone dam and lot of water under the elevated part of the railroad track. The dip in the land is still perceivable except now it is densely forested. Click to enlarge.
Aerial views of the old Decatur Waterworksvia the Digital Library of Georgia: to the left, 1940; to the right, 1960.
For some photos of the area, at ground level, see this older post as well as photos posted by CHCA [ PATH construction | Waterworks ]. Additional information is available in the County's Mason Mill Park page.

In Peachtree Creek: A Natural and Unnatural History of Atlanta's Watershed, David R. Kaufman reserves a chapter for the South Fork of Peachtree Creek, and gives us some history of the waterworks and the Medlock area. Courtesy of Google Books, you can read this chapter online.