For 10,000 years, farmers in Kurdistan, a region in northern Iraq, have cultivated a wealth of native crops that spread throughout the world. Apricots, chickpeas, and onions flourished in the fields, wheat and barley in the foothills. Today, after years of wars, sanctions, and droughts, this portion of the Fertile Crescent is endangered. A team of colleagues and I traveled through Kurdistan, filming a documentary about the region’s efforts to recover its agricultural vitality. The project was produced in conjunction with the educational initiative Iraqi Seed Project. The interactive Web documentary, This Is Fertile Ground, was just released, and a more comprehensive film debuts in October.
Many Kurdish farmers maintain traditional methods of harvesting. At the foot of the mountains, farmers cut grain with a scythe and gather bundles of barley on their backs. Cultivated and wild grains have been ubiquitous on the Kurdish landscape for a long time; wheat, barley, and lentils were first domesticated here around 8000 B.C.
Read more in our story, Kurdistan: Recovering a Garden of Paradise. Photo by: Anna Laurent.
During our filming, we met officials in parliament and government who urged that a national reconstruction include an embrace of the region’s long tradition of sustainable farming and crop diversity. In cities and villages, we heard about efforts to preserve a culture of botanic literacy, especially after the national seed bank was destroyed in a 2003 attack. A scientist we interviewed spoke of a secret cache of seeds she gathered and buried in her basement, while Hero Ibrahim Ahmed, the first lady of Iraq, described her years-long quest to recover endangered plants, including an indigenous burgundy carrot. “It was truly the garden of paradise,” says Jamal Fouad, former minister of Kurdish agriculture who now runs a teaching farm with his wife, Cathy. “There is nothing that cannot grow in this soil. But things must change for our farmers.”
Since antiquity, local herbalists have prescribed the abundant, edible milk thistle (Silybum marianum) for many ailments. Modern Kurdish pharmacology research expands on traditional applications, identifying its seeds as an effective treatment for liver disease. Photo by: Anna Laurent.
It’s an easy metaphor to employ, but the regrowth of the Fertile Crescent is taking root.
A plant shop owner shows a rose in the greenhouse. His shop grows out of the rubble of a destroyed building. He tends the plants with his son. Before opening the shop he was a schoolteacher; he loved plants and hoped that selling them would be profitable enough to provide for his family. Photo by: Anna Laurent.
This article appeared in the July/August 2012 issue as In Bloom Again.
Grand Bahama continues to recover following Hurricane Dorian, which hit the island, as well as the Abacos, in early September. The Grand Bahama Island Tourism Board (GBITB) reports that major financial donations continue to pour in to support relief efforts, with total funding provided by U.S. public and private sector partnerships now over $33 million. Funds have been designated for the Samaritan’s Purse Field Hospital and Grant Memorial hospital, debris removal, emergency and transitional shelters on Grand Bahama, repairs to water, sanitation and hygiene infrastructure and the provision of emergency water supplies to communities most impacted by the storm.
Here’s how the recovery process is going:
While many people ask how much cold will kill a plant, the real question should be how much freezing will kill a plant. Freeze damage to plant tissue can be detrimental to plants. Light frost typically doesn’t cause major damage, with exception to very tender plants, but hard frost freezes water in plant cells, causing dehydration and damage to cell walls. Cold injury is more likely to occur as the sun comes up. As a result of these damaged cell walls, the plant defrosts too quickly, killing leaves and stems.
Young trees or those with thin bark can also be affected by cold temperatures. While not always visible until spring, frost crack results from sudden drops in nighttime temperature following the daytime heating from the sun. Unless these cracks are ragged or torn, however, they usually heal themselves.
Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line's Grand Celebration resumed its regular two-night cruise sailings from Palm Beach on September 28, becoming the first cruise line to bring leisure travelers back to Grand Bahama following the storm, according to the GBITB.
The inaugural call brought over 1,000 passengers to Freeport guests had the option to support humanitarian relief efforts on Grand Bahama through a variety of special voluntourism excursions, arranged through Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line and its on-island partners. Voluntourism activities include relief supplies distribution to different neighborhoods, participating in clean-up and repair crews for homes and schools and helping with food service in the food kitchens in Lucaya. Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line was also the first to arrive in Freeport in the wake of Hurricane Dorian, transporting supplies of food, water, medicine and hundreds of volunteers, doctors and construction crews for post-storm needs.
Good to know: The weekly commercial sailings are being offered at a steep discount. Fares for two-night sailings on Grand Celebration start from $109 per person, and the cruise line is also running a promotion offering 50 percent savings for second guests for all sailings through the fall.
Balearia Caribbean was also among the first vessels to arrive at Grand Bahama Island with relief supplies that were donated by South Floridians. Relief workers and search and rescue equipment were also a part of this first voyage and mission.
Senior representatives from Carnival Cruise Line were on island to review the progress made to tour operations, routes and venues for the proposed return voyage of the Carnival Pride. Erika Tache, senior director, product development operations and marketing, and Alvin Arteaga, shore excursion manager, both expressed their pleasure with the advances made, and were excited about the proposed options available to prospective visitors. Carnival Pride is expected to arrive in Freeport on October 11.
New Vegetable Gardener — Is it too Late to Start a Vegetable Garden?
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Squirrels are People, Too
Rebekah Heppner, Master Gardener Volunteer Trainee I inherited my appreciation of nature from my father. I don’t know if he loved bees and butterflies as much as I do, but he definitely loved birds
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Make FOGs part of your spring cleaning routine
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Green building: Building healthy, happy, resilient communities
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Supporting the Farming Industry: Increasing Accessibility of Essential Food Safety Trainings
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The first steps toward getting a sewer within Paradise will begin Monday. That’s when the first time that the Sewer Regionalization Project Advisory Committee will meet. According to the town of Paradise, the committee’s purpose is to monitor the progress of the town’s environmental impact report and the work of the town of Paradise and city of Chico’s Cooperative Work Agreement.
According to a Friday press release, the public’s participation in the EIR process will happen separately but in parallel with the committee’s work. On the agenda for the first meeting is the discussion of the project background and role of the committee moving forward concurrent to the town’s environmental impact report. Paradise Mayor Steve Crowder and Vice Mayor Jody Jones, along with and Chico Mayor Andrew Coolidge and Vice Mayor Kasey Reynolds were appointed to the committee which is hosted and facilitated by the State Water Resources Control Board.
The Paradise Sewer Project is part of the Long-Term Community Recovery Plan but has also been studied for more than 50 years. A proposed sewer in the early 1990s led to a recall of the Paradise Town Council. After the Camp Fire, Paradise lost 83% of its population and 90% of its housing stock, and Chico’s population has grown by 20%. According to a joint press release, despite that spike in population, Chico did not see proportional revenue growth for increased wastewater flows due to more people sharing households.
Those in support of a sewer service area in Paradise say that it would allow for the development of multi-family housing along evacuation routes and ease the housing crisis in the region.
The EIR studying the regional sewer connection has not been fast-tracked and will take approximately 18 months to complete. The report will seek to determine, among a myriad of other questions brought forward by the Project Committee and the public, the desired pipe alignment, capacity impacts to the city’s water pollution control plant and whether a Joint Powers Authority will be formed in the future.
YouTube livestream at https://youtu.be/-5cvsuILrI8
The committee will not be able to respond to questions or comments entered in the YouTube chat feature.
Billed as Florida's first commercial tourist theme park,  Cypress Gardens opened on January 2, 1936 as a botanical garden planted by Dick Pope Sr. and his wife Julie. Over the years it became one of the biggest attractions in Florida, known for its water ski shows, gardens, and Southern Belles. 
It became known as the "Water Ski Capital of the World" because it was the site of many of the sport's landmark firsts and over 50 world records were broken there. During World War II, soldiers visited and waterskiing was introduced for their entertainment.  Numerous movies were filmed at the park, including portions of This is Cinerama, the first feature filmed in the wide-screen format, and a string of Esther Williams films and TV specials in the 1950s and 1960s.  In the 1950s the Southern Belles attraction was introduced, in which young women dressed in the crinolines reminiscent of the Antebellum South. During the 1961-1965 American Civil War Centennial young men dressed in Confederate uniforms would be photographed with the Southern Belles. In the early 1960s a custom photography boat named Miss Cover Girl was introduced, and the park became a popular site for the filming of television commercials.
Many celebrities and dignitaries have skied and visited at the park, including Elvis Presley, King Hussein of Jordan and his son and successor, King Abdullah II. It was also the site of a Johnny Carson special. 
Competition for guests increased after Walt Disney World Resort opened nearby in 1971. In the early 1980s, the Popes retired and transferred the park to their son, Dick Pope, Jr..
In 1985 book publisher Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich purchased the park to build their SeaWorld parks group.  Harcourt sold the other businesses to Anheuser-Busch in 1989. Busch continued to operate Cypress Gardens until April 1, 1995, when a group of the park's managers, led by Bill Reynolds, bought the property.
Under President and CEO Reynolds, the park operated until April 13, 2003, when it closed after a prolonged tourism decline following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. 529 people were put out of work with three days' notice. [ citation needed ]
On February 22, 2004, Adventure Parks Group, owned by Kent Buescher, purchased the property and renamed it Cypress Gardens Adventure Park. The purchase of the amusement park portion of the Cypress Gardens property was part of a larger conservation transaction. In that transaction, the entire 150-acre (61 ha) site was purchased from its previous owner, First Gardens, L.C., by The Trust for Public Land, a national conservation organization. TPL then sold a conservation easement over the entire property to the state of Florida, while Polk County purchased the 30-acre (12 ha) gardens portion of the property, less the development rights conveyed in the state easement. Adventure Parks Group purchased the balance of the property, also subject to the conservation easement. 
Buescher's plan to reopen the park in September 2004 was delayed by damage from hurricanes Charley, Frances, and Jeanne. Cypress Gardens Adventure Park finally opened in November 2004. One of its new attractions, the Triple Hurricane roller coaster, was named for the tumultuous storm season. The adjacent Splash Island water park opened in 2005, along with the Galaxy Spin roller coaster.
In September 2006, Adventure Parks Group filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection at the Florida site citing approximately $30 million in damages sustained from the 2004 hurricanes.
Land South Adventures, a subsidiary of Mulberry, Florida-based Land South Holdings, purchased Cypress Gardens at a bankruptcy auction on October 16, 2007, for $16.9 million, leaving Buescher as interim manager until Baker Leisure Group of Orlando, Florida, took over park operations in January 2008. 
On Monday, November 10, 2008, Land South Holdings announced the temporary closure of the park, which was shut down November 17 of that year. It reopened on March 28, 2009, with an expanded water park named Splash Island. The animals, however, were gone, and the rides did not operate or had already been removed. Cypress Gardens and Splash Island began separate ticketing, with dual-park season passes also available parking was free. 
On September 23, 2009, owner Land South Holdings LLC announced that the park was closing immediately, saying that all avenues to keep the park open had been explored but that they were unable to find a way to "keep the park running in its traditional form". 
On January 15, 2010, the world's second largest theme park and attraction operator Merlin Entertainments bought Cypress Gardens  with intent to use the site for the fifth Legoland.  On January 21, 2010, Merlin Entertainments announced that the park would be turned into Legoland Florida.  On October 21, 2010, an October 2011 opening date was announced.  Opening day occurred on October 15, 2011 at 10 am EDT.