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April 16, 2012 & April 18, 2012 Special Section

Sowing seeds of lifelong learning By Nate L angworthy

The Nielsen home outside of Whalan was constructed from an old barn.

Photo by Jade Sexton

From a barn to a home By Jade Sexton

Many years ago, Larry Nielsen had the idea that he wanted to build his own house someday. It took several years of planning and a lot of hard work, but today he lives with his wife, Darlene in the house he built right outside of Whalan. This house is not just an ordinary house, though. Nielsen built it out of a very old barn, using all of the wood, digging the basement by himself, and hiring others to help with the construction. The entire process took five years. “I really started thinking about it 15 years ago,” said Nielsen. At that time, he lived in Rushford, where he had owned the Mobil station for almost 40 years. A man from Houston said he was going to tear down his family’s 100-yearold barn, and told Nielsen he could have it. He began accumulating the materials he would need to build the home. Amos Slabaugh and some of his family members numbered the boards and tore the barn down. They moved all of it to some land outside of Whalan that Nielsen had owned for several years.

Nielsen spent a lot of time pulling all of the nails out of the wood. “I’m a believer in recycling what you can instead of throwing it out because it’s old or you took it down,” shared Nielsen. Nielsen took reusing and recycling to a new level with the construction of his home. He reconstructed the old barn in its new location after digging out the basement and having Rislove Concrete pour the cement. He reused old doors for the inside. He bought the wood for the floors at an Amish sale and had another Amish plane the pieces, make the tongueand-groove, and lay the floor. A husband and wife team from La Crescent did the floor finishing and sanding, with three coats of finish on it. The post and beams can be seen inside the home, and even the old wooden pegs, which were used like nails in the old barn, can be seen. The living room is complete with a hay pulley system and a hay fork hanging from the middle of the ceiling. Joel Johnson of Rushford helped Nielsen with a lot of the building. Johnson has done work for and been friends with Nielsen for a long time, and

worked as a carpenter for many years. Nielsen designed the layout of the home himself. The bottom floor is finished with bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen, den, storage rooms, and a single garage stall. The main level is a large open living room/dining room/kitchen combined, with the high ceilings reminiscent of the original barn. There are also several large windows, with no curtains so they can let the natural light in. Nielsen explained he got the big windows at Hurd Windows in a factory in Wisconsin. They were over-runs or the wrong sizes, so he got a great deal on them. The large windows overlook the countryside where they can watch the birds and animals. The next level of the home is a loft overlooking the large living room. Right now the Nielsens have three beds up there for family to use when they visit. The entire house can sleep up to 12 people. The house has the same look and the same dimensions of the original barn, but Nielsen has added a long porch and deck, as well as the garage. He put See BARN HOME Page 5 

While our culture becomes increasingly based on abstractions – the stock market, the Internet and its myriad accompanying gadgets come readily to mind – Golden Hill Alternative Learning Center in Rochester is teaching academics and life skills, while building community, by getting back to basics. Walking in the door, a visitor can tell this is not your typical high school setting. “How many schools have pitchforks in the office?” asked Principal Gordy Ziebart, pointing to some new tools resting up against the entrance. The approximately 300 students that learn at Golden Hill year-round often come there because mainstream education was not working for them, whether for personal or family reasons. The garden gives students and staff something tangible to start building a community and learning environment that works for them. “Our students usually have different backgrounds, family or otherwise,

that makes being successful in school difficult,” said Ziebart. “To see it, to touch it, makes a whole lot of difference in our students’ learning.” That hand- on approach serves Golden Hill students well. Contrasting a single science class spent with chickens with what could be accomplished through book learning leaves no comparison for Ziebart. “What the kids learned in 45 minutes outside talking about the chickens is probably more than they would have learned in a whole quarter if they were learning out of a book.” Planting the seed In 2009, Ziebart was inspired by Growing Power, a Milwaukee-based organization founded and run by former NBA player Will Allen that promotes urban agriculture as a mode of community engagement and sustainability. Several members of Golden Hill’s staff have attended Growing Power Seminars and the school began to build the garden program on a shoestring budget. Science teacher John Rud tilled See GOLDEN HILL Page 2 

Geothermal heating offers many benefits By K aren Snyder

Geothermal HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) is an up-and-coming blend of modern technology and a prehistoric energy source- the earth. Specifically, it’s the subterranean earth just a few feet down where below the frost line, the temperature remains constant (in our region, at about 48 degrees). Because geothermal systems don’t burn fuel or deplete anything, their energy supply - underground warmth appears to be inexhaustible. Geothermal HVAC’s concept goes back 50 or 60 years. Geo’s technology keeps improving. Geo’s proponents include public utilities, the federal government, state governments, the HVAC industry, and owners of geoequipped houses. Geothermal systems, advo-

cates say, excel in economy, efficiency, environmental friendliness, reliability, even heating and cooling, and safety. Geo HVAC Basics Traditional furnaces use outside air, famous for its fluctuating temperatures, as their heat supplier and work very hard to warm that air up to the thermostat setting, and burn a lot of fuel in the process. Geothermal heat pumps (GHPs), however, exchange heat with the earth whose stable temp eases the task. Summers, traditional air conditioners labor mightily to cool hot air, and gobble plenty of electricity in the effort. Summers, versatile GHPs go into reverse. “Geothermal heat pumps work in both directions,” says Bob Johnson of Rochester who moved into his new, GHPSee GEOTHERMAL Page 12  •

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FCJ/OCJ Spring Home & Garden Special Section

April 16-18, 2012, 2012

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Think of what your high school atmosphere was like. Was there a Continued from Page 1 football team that played on Friday up a patch of ground that summer nights? If so, this activity involved the in what used to be an elementary football players, coaches, cheerleadschool playground; an area no longer ers, the school band, and hundreds used as extensively by the high school of spectators. Most likely there were students. Since then, the garden has football games and a number of other expanded to a half acre and has extracurricular events that brought become more fully integrated into hundreds of students and communithe school’s curriculum. Staff and ty members together in unified goal, students began connecting with the celebrating the accomplishments of larger community selling produce at the young adults. This community the Wednesday farmer’s market. might have always been there, so you Golden Hill students and staff didn’t need to think a lot about it. have begun raising chickens and As with many things, the importending beehives this year. After tance of this aspect of culture becomes expanding the garden, they are begin- much more pronounced when it is ning to contemplate how to grow absent. As an alternative high school, into the future with an onsite green- Golden Hill does not have such large house, apple orchard, and outdoor scale extracurricular events, which classroom. can lead to students who did not Building Community receive life in a standard educational



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system well feeling further alienated. Through the garden and other efforts, Golden Hill is creating a culture that students can point to and be proud of. Not all students participate in gardening, but the theme permeates class work. Students blog about the garden in English classes, art students paint pumpkins and pictures of beehives, and industrial arts students make structures to support the garden. Home economics teacher Shelley DeYoung prepares menus incorporating crops harvested in the fall and involves her students in making those meals which are sometimes served during lunchtime. Ziebart hopes that eventually the garden will become more integrated in the school’s lunch program. Physical education teacher Amy Petersilie, who recently won the County’s Dr. Lyle Weed Living for Others award for her work to create unique opportunities for students and identity for Golden Hill school, has assembled dodge ball teams that compete against other schools and leads yoga classes, a skill that students can take with them into adulthood. Golden Hill is looking to continue making a name for itself and interacting with the community through its presence at the farmer’s market and working with other institutions, as they presently do by growing plants

for Hawthorne adult education center. “We’re hoping to become an educational-slash-production garden,” said Ziebart. “We’ve grown to be capable of producing some larger quantities but we haven’t crossed that threshold. Teaching that entrepreneurial part of it, the growing and selling to get more tools and supplies is something

we’d like to expand more into.” Growing life skills Garden project manager David Kotsonas and students start seedlings inside a greenhouse that had lain vacant for years near the entrance of John Marshall high school. By April, there were hundreds of thriving See GOLDEN HILL Page 3 

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“This is helping me to learn selfdiscipline, that’s a good thing, and Continued from Page 2 it’s good to be helping out with the garden,” Veng said. “I’m creating plants filling the building. Golden Hill student Johnny Veng more opportunities for myself.” works in the greenhouse four days a Kotsonas noted that a student week as part of an employment pro- working through the employment gram arranged through the Minne- program improved greatly improved sota Workforce Center. Three more his school attendance when workstudents will work in the greenhouse ing in the greenhouse in the afterand in the garden 12 hours per week noon was made contingent upon his attending classes that day. through this program. Veng has learned gardening skills “It’s been great working with the from his family and enjoys working kids, just knowing that the little time with plants. He is glad for the oppor- I do spend with them goes a lot further,” Kotsonas said. “For me, it’s not tunity to work on the project.


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as much about the plants as the lessons these kids are taking with them.” Rud works the garden into all of his classes. His classroom is half filled with seedlings and students are learning plant biology by transplanting them, and caring for the plants throughout the growing season. Students in his class will map out the plant placement of the garden depending upon the needs of various plants. Students in Rud’s physics class help to plan out the most successful rainwater collection system. The staff members are often learning right alongside the students. This is the first time Kotsonas has grown on this scale. He gets a lot of advice from experienced growers in his role as manager of the Rochester Downtown Farmers Market and incorporates that into his work in the garden. Rud says that a benefit of the garden project is experiencing new, healthy foods. “I’d never heard of kohlrabi before we grew it last year,” he said. “It was good. A lot of students coming in don’t know about the vegetables we grow. Some haven’t put their hands in dirt before and it’s a totally new experience. We just tell them ‘it’s alright; you can wash your hands off when you’re done.’” Golden Hill student Spencer Ste-

FCJ/OCJ Spring Home & Garden Special Section

Page 3

venson says that helping struggling “It’s good to give back,” he said. “A families of fellow students is a main lot of our families are low-income so motivation for his work in the garden. See GOLDEN HILL Page 11 

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FCJ/OCJ Spring Home & Garden Special Section

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Low-cost high tunnel construction workshop Jerrold Tesmer, Extension Educator for Fillmore/Houston Counties Growing produce in the upper Midwest has its challenges, but innovative growers everywhere are finding Jerrold Tesmer solutions. The University of Minnesota Extension with Winona County will be

holding a high tunnel construction workshop on Saturday May 5 from 8:00 am to 5:30 pm. The workshop will be an opportunity for a handson experience of building a low-cost high tunnel for season extension. The day will start with an overview of high tunnel construction and provide information and schematics for the construction of your own high tunnel. The cost is $20/person and includes lunch. Pre-registration is required. For regis-

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tration information and other questions, please contact Clara Dux at or 507-457-6574. This will be a public workshop to share the knowledge and experience of constructing a season-extending high tunnel greenhouse at Winona County’s Stone Point Market Gardens Season-extending high tunnels, also called hoop houses, provide the opportunity to start crops earlier and extend the harvest later. These structures, made from galvanized steel posts and polyethylene film, trap solar energy and provide protection from wind and rain. Construction will be led by Charley Hatch of the Women’s Environmental Institute in North Branch, MN. Remember registration information can be found at www.


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steel siding on the outside that makes it look more like a barn, and to reduce the amount of maintenance the home needs. Nielson said Dean Brunsvold, a carpenter from Harmony, built the kitchen and bathroom cabinets for them, as well as a big hutch. Torgerson Floor and Painting installed the vinyl flooring in the kitchen and the counter tops. The large house stays nice and warm on all floors with geothermal heating right in the floors. According to Nielsen, The layout maintains the open feel of the original barn. the heating bill has never been Photo by Jade Sexton more than $100 a month. The way the house was built was not only environmentally friendly, but economical as well. Nielsen said it was definitely AsphAlt - RubbeR - MetAl less expensive to reuse the wood We Comply to All OSHA Crew Safety Requirements and all of the other materials that he used than buying Free everything brand new to build estimates! a brand new house. The time spent working on the house was long and difficult, but also exciting. The Nielsens are both happy with 4006 Hwy. 14 East, Rochester the outcome. They plan to stay Lic. #004842 in their peaceful country home for many years to come.


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FCJ/OCJ Spring Home & Garden Special Section

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Recycling 101

LaVerne C. Paulson Recycling Education Coordinator Spring arrived a few weeks ago, and with the robins’ songs, the grass turning green, the spring flowers popping up, pocket gophers digging, and trees leafing out, a growing number of Fillmore County residents are preparing for a special day of celebration on May 1. Some of you will be carrying on a family tradition by delivering May baskets to family and friends in the morning. Then, in the afternoon, you can attend the longawaited celebration of Hazardous

Household Waste Day at the Fillmore County Resource Recovery Center in Preston. All Fillmore County residents are invited to attend. As many of you are aware, Fillmore County hosts two county wide HHW events each year, the first Tuesday of May and the first Tuesday of October. Mark your calendars now for May 1, and October 2. The party starts and 12:00 noon and ends at 5:00 pm. Most of us have some hazardous waste lurking around in our basement, garage, or storage shed. This is your chance to get rid of these unwanted and unneeded materials, free of charge. You may also want to check with

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some of your neighbors to see if they have some items they would like to dispose of as well, and send them with you. Most people bring unwanted paint, latex or oil base, to Hazardous Household Waste Day, but we accept a lot more than paint. Other items that you can bring are paint thinners, wood preservatives, adhesives, epoxy, glus, stains, and varnishes. The list does not end there. Partially filled aerosol cans, oven cleaners, antifreeze, lawn care products, bug killers, rodent poison, weed killers, new and used motor oil, and outdated fuel (gasoline and diesel) are also considered hazardous. Paint cans that are rusted and leaking should be placed into another container or a sturdy plastic bag. Paint cans that are empty with dried residual paint, can be placed into your landfill garbage. If they are exceptionally clean, paint cans may be recycled. I know there are still some mercury thermometers hiding in medicine chests or drawers and we want them. Digital the,rmometers are much more accurate and a whole lot safer. Bring your button batteries, hearing aid batteries, watch batteries, and all rechargeable batteries that don’t work. They contain a bunch of nasty stuff that should neither be buried nor burned. Don’t wait until October. Make a serious attempt to get rid of your HHW in May. If it is considered hazardous, you really don’t want to store it any longer.

Harrington Enterprises recognized as a Country Clipper Top Ten Dealer in 2011 Corydon, Iowa -- Country Clipper recently recognized Harrington Enterprises as one of the top ten Country Clipper dealers in the United States for 2011. Harrington Enterprises is a local power equipment dealership, located in LeRoy, Minn., owned by Chad and Camri Harrington. They have provided outstanding sales and service for over 13 years. Country Clipper, located in Corydon, Iowa, manufactures a complete line of mid-mount zero-turn mowers and accessories for lawn care professionals, and residential and estate homeowners. Country Clipper mowers feature their patented stand-up deck for easy maintenance, revolutionary point-andgo joystick for easy maneuverability, articulating front axle and deck for exceptional curbhanding ability and a smooth easy ride, plus a whole host of other features. Country Clipper congratulates Harrington Enterprises on this achievement and wishes them the best of luck in the future.

There will be the usual charge for tube lights, CFLs, ballast, tires, appliances, and e-waste, and this would be an excellent day to get rid of these things too. As usual, only household waste will be accepted. Agricultural chemicals,

explosives, medical waste, business waste, and radiioactive waste will not be accepted. Even though HHW day is a celebration of sorts, I am sorry to say, “Coffee and cookies will NOT be served.”

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FCJ/OCJ Spring Home & Garden Special Section

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Gardening season in full swing By Kirsten Zoellner With the warmer than usual winter and early spring temperatures, gardeners everywhere have been itching to get outside and dig in the dirt. Likewise, Richard Anderson of Labrador Home & Garden, in Rushford, has been eager to get the gardening season in full swing. Opened in May of 2009, Labrador Home & Garden has expanded both its business growth plan and its physical grounds. Initially developed as a 3-phase development plan, Anderson acknowledges that the company has had to shift its focus with changes to the economy, greater interest in sustainability and organics, as well as the community at large.

“We started out with a pretty strong economy. We’re watching that, like everybody else,” notes Anderson. “We have evolved our thinking around gardening and landscaping. The people in this area, they like to do things themselves and we want to help them do that.” Three years ago, Anderson began with the traditional perennial, annual, tree, and shrub offering laid out on a section of the family farm. Now, Labrador Home & Garden has expanded to a complete garden center, including a checkout stand, covered pergola, large greenhouse, and more. This season they’ll be adding an outdoor fireplace and seating areas to give visitors ideas for

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hardscaping, including featuring natural stone for walls, sidewalks, and more. “People don’t get enough time outside. We want to help people get ideas to work on their own property,” stresses Anderson. “We’re customer service focused and education focused,” he adds. “People love to shop in garden centers. There’s not always the time or money though, so we work with you, answer your questions, to help you enjoy it. One way Labrador is doing that this year, on top of offering master gardener expertise through garden center manager Toni Sherwood, is through a partnership with professional landscape designer Peggi Redalen, owner of Elements of Design. “We’re excited about working with Peggi. In landscapes, plants are used for a reason. She’s researched all of that so it’ll be something without problems that you’re going to enjoy.” Anderson is quick to point out that his staff is just as willing to listen as it is to offer suggestions. “If someone has an idea, we’ll listen. We want to be here for the duration, here for the community.” During the 2011, customers begged for more native plants. Labrador listened and now carries hardy native species that will thrive here without special fuss, chemical fertilizers, or pesticides. Also added are sustainable rain garden plants, featuring native shrubs as well as wildflowers and grasses. “You can design a rain garden so you can help improve local water quality while creating a beautiful, natural garden.” The natural and sustainablyminded transition has been a big one for Labrador Home & Garden. “We have been changing our vision to be more inline with what we think the environment needs,” notes Anderson. Already in partnership with sustainable practice growers and suppliers, Labrador will offer specialty annuals grown in wheat-based, compostable pots and herbs grown in compostable pots made from rice hulls, bamboo and straw, to keep petroleumbased black plastic pots out of our landfills. ““There’s an organic way of doing things,” Anderson stresses. Labrador also is keen on offering up a wide array of vegetables, herbs, native plants, and unique, hard-to-find plants. “There are a lot of things you can get,” emphasized Anderson. “We don’t want to be a big box store. We want to customize in knowledge and service. We want to have what they won’t necessarily carry and concentrate on unique plants you don’t see everyday. If there’s something you want, that we don’t already carry, we’ll also do special orders. We’re going to keep adding ideas to be a one-stop shop.” Trees and shrubs are scheduled to arrive this week, with annuals, perennials, and vegetables arriving soon. Opening day at Labrador

is April 27. In addition to plant materials, they offer unique, handcrafted birdhouses made with allnatural materials, concrete garden statuary, bird baths, and fountains, ceramic and earthenware pots and planters, cast outdoor fireplaces, and more. Hours will vary, depending on the season, but will be posted in

upcoming advertisements, as well as on their website: They’re located at 26993 Seivers Drive, just off Highway 43 south between Rushford and I-90. For more information, contact Labrador Home & Garden at (507) 864-2158 or email at Info@


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Rose - Herb of the year 2012 By Sandy Manion Owner, Oak Spring Herb Farm Member, International Herb Association. The International Herb Association highlights a different herb e a c h year. The choice of herb of the year involved evaluating herbs that are o u t standing in at least two of the three c a t egories: culinary, medicinal, or decorative. The Rose (Rosa) has been used in all three categories, although it is most often recognized as decorative. It is the

world’s most beloved bloom. Other decorative uses are to use rose petals and/or rose hips in potpourri, soaps and bath salts. Culinary uses for roses are many. Probably the most famous is rose hips and petals in tea. Chopped rose petals and/ or food grade rose water can be added to sauces, puddings, cookies, cakes, and breads. W h e n using rose petals for culinary use, it is important to smell and taste each type of rose. Some are bland or bitter. A general rule for using rose petals is if they have a strong scent that means more flavor.

April 16-18, 2012, 2012

Medically, rose petals and to a greater extent, rose hips, are known to be high in vitamin C and also contain vitamins A, B-3, D and E, as well as bioflavonoids, minerals, malic and citric acid. Essential oil of rose has been found to be an antibacterial. Many cultivars of roses are not hardy in our area. The shrub roses (H. Rugosa) and some climbing roses are very hardy in zones 3 and 4. Some cultivars of H. Rugosa include: ‘Agnes’, ‘Belle Poitevine’, ‘Blanc Double De Coubert’, ‘Frau Dagmar Hartopp’, ‘Henry Hudson’, and ‘Sir Thomas Lipton’. Also included is the species class of H. Rugosa: ‘Alba’, ‘Alboplena’ and ‘Rubra’. The species roses are very fragrant. The hardy varieties of climbing roses include: ‘John Cabot’, ‘Prairie Princess’, ‘William Baffin’ and ‘Henry Kelsey’.

Randy Haakenson • Commercial • Residential • Agricultural 326 Parkside Dr. SE Res 507-765-2297 Preston, MN 55965 Cell 507-251-5535

FCJ/OCJ Spring Home & Garden Special Section

There are many more cultivars of roses hardy in our area that are not mentioned as they are susceptible to black spot fungal disease. Here’s an easy recipe to try: Raspberry Yogurt with Rose Salad Dressing •1 small container raspberry

Page 9

yogurt •1/2 t, food grade rose water •2 t. milk •1 T. finely chopped fragrant rose petals Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Mix well until thoroughly blended. Serve over salad greens. Keeps for 1 week in the refrigerator.

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has agreed to parAprilin16-18, ticipate the 2012, 2x2 2012 Display Ad Network program by running these ads in the main news section of your newspaper (not the classified section of your newspaper). At times, advertisers may request a specific section. However, the decision is ultibodian Association (CARM). mately up to each By providing vacant land newspaper. Ads may close to downtown CARM elders, need to befor decreased CROPS is able to slightly in size support to fit the community’s asset of gardenyour column sizes.

FCJ/OCJ Spring Home & Garden Special Section

g n i r p S

Neighborhood Community Garden network grows in Rochester As community gardens multiply across the country, more folks are marking summer’s progress through the flavors of their local harvest: from baby greens after the last frost, to zucchini and tomato bounty more prolific than July’s heat. What could be better than growing your own vegetables alongside friends and neighbors, while beautifying a public space close to home? Enter CROPS, a nonprofit network of community gardens developed by Rochester residents and the Rochester Area Foundation in the Fall of 2009. CROPS is unique in its goal to integrate urban agriculture into the fabric

of Rochester’s neighborhoods, converting vacant lots or underused park space into neighborhood focal points that are walkable, social and green. With this year’s reduced fee structure, strict organic policy, and two new gardens, CROPS is hoping to make community gardening safe and accessible to more residents than ever before. The long-term goal is to develop a community garden within a 10-minute walk of every Rochester resident by the year 2020. While CROPS gardens are open to the public, one of the new gardens this season will be reserved specifically for elderly members of Rochester’s Cam-

ing knowledge, as well as their desire for more accessible social Please do not bill for activities that can connect genthese ads. If you have erations. In the future, there is questions, please call opportunity for CROPS to conMNA at 800/279tinue leveraging garden space to 2979. Thank you. help niche communities achieve their goals. Plots are already sold out at the Kutzy Park CommuniBedding Plants, Hanging Baskets, Geraniums, Vegetable Plants, Potting Soil, Mulch, Peat Moss 3 ½ Inch seed Geraniums … $1.09 each

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merce’s Leadership Greater Rochester as the project for the 2012 class. The Continued from Page 3 group, which Ziebart has referred it’s nice to be able to help out by get- to as “a PTA on steroids” set a goal of raising $58,000 for the garden ting them some food.” “When the kids put in the wrk to and has engaged the community to tend the plants and then get to take take great strides toward that end. home food for their families, they Last month, a fundraiser was held at really start to get it,” said Kotsonas. the Ramada which raised more than “They start to take ownership of their $16,000. Business and individual donations have poured in, but the work and that’s pretty cool to see.” Getting a boost from the commu- goal has not yet been reached. Jamie Johnson is a member of nity The garden got a hefty dose of LGR and works in Rochester high fertilizer when it was chosen by the schools, including Golden Hill, as Rochester Area Chamber of Com- an RCTC college transitions advisor.


Gardeners Spencer Stevenson, Samean Mok, Science Teacher John Rud, Johnny Veng and Kevin Thang. Photo by Nate Langworthy

April 16-18, 2012, 2012

FCJ/OCJ Spring Home & Garden Special Section

She says the group saw great promise in the project and is happy to lend support to help the project realize its potential. “All the great things that Golden Hill has stuck out,” she said. “The curriculum they have in the garden is something that is unique and inspiring.” Leadership Greater Rochester helped to connect the Golden Hill garden project with businesses in the community to help it realize its potential. The architecture fim, Widseth, Smith, and Nolting, consulted with Golden Hill staff to design a site plan to guide the garden into the future. Whiting’s nursery donated 20 apple trees to give the program an orchard component. Home Depot will work with staff to construct an outdoor classroom over unused blacktop as well as ongoing maintenance of structures. Perhaps one of the most important connections that has been made through the program has been connecting youth of an underserved population to leaders in the business community to work toward a common goal; creating understanding between people who would otherwise rarely overlap. “It makes us proud to be members David Kotsonas is the Garden Program Manager at Golden of the community,” said Johnson. Hill. Photo by Nate Langworthy

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Page 12

FCJ/OCJ Spring Home & Garden Special Section

g n i r p S

GEOTHERMAL Continued from Page 1

equipped house in August 2009. “In the winter, warm air comes in. In summer, we turn the thermostat switch to cool, and the pump carries the heat into the ground.” Not only does a GHP replace both furnace and air conditioner (that’s right, no outdoors A.C.), it can also warm up water. A geothermal water heater is an option many customers choose because it can cut water heating bills by as much as 50 percent. Geothermal may also be used to heat swimming pools. GHP units are approximate-

ly the same size as furnaces and are installed indoors. The pumps pull in heat, and expel it, through a network of buried pipes called loops because they wind back and forth underneath the lawn. Some loop systems are configured horizontally; others vertically. “Fluid - a form of water with antifreeze - circulates through the loops,” says Russell Halgerson, System Engineer at People’s Energy Cooperative. Vertical loops or horizontal? Loop layout depends on lot size. A horizontal loop fields costs less to install but requires acreage - two acres at least, says Bryce Beckel, Comfort System

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April 16-18, 2012, 2012

Manager for HiMEC at Home, Rochester. “It needs to go out 200 feet or so and 16 to 18 feet down.” Vertical systems suit smaller spaces such as city residential lots. “Installation requires drilling holes, like wells, a minimum of 150 feet down,” Beckel says. How far down depends on soil type. Dense soils, clay and rock for example, conduct heat better than loose lightweights such as sand. Geo HVAC systems work in new construction, of course, and can also be installed in existing houses. “For the last ten years, retrofitting has been big for us,” says Steve Johnson who, with his wife Jill Johnson, owns Johnson Comfort Systems Inc. of Lime Springs, Iowa. (Jill and Steve Johnson aren’t related to this article’s Bob Johnson.) Geothermal retrofitting typically takes two to three days to drill and a day or two to install. “Figure about one work week,” Beckel says. Most homeowners have time to plan for their changeover from conventional furnace to geothermal HVAC system, but what happens when the furnace fizzles in the midst of frozenground season? “We can drill vertically most of the year,” Beckel says. And if conditions won’t permit drilling, Steve Johnson suggests a temporary solution called “loop it later” that allows installation and operation, using household water, of a GHP until the loop field can be completed. Geo HVAC Virtues “Geothermal is a more efficient system,” says Stephanie Humphrey, Residential Account Representative at Rochester Public Utilities. “About 400 percent efficient,” says Michelle Olson, People’s Director of Member Services. Compare that to an 80 percent, or even a 96 percent, furnace. Geothermal HVAC systems are clean and green. Because they don’t burn fossil fuel, they don’t belch noxious emissions of carbon dioxide, sulfur oxide, and nitrogen oxide, and they run on a modest amount of electricity. Geothermal equipment offers exceptional reliability. “We got into the geothermal business 18 years ago to eliminate callbacks,” Steve Johnson says, and that plan has succeeded. Heat pump manufacturers’ warranties vary, but GHPs have a life expectancy of 25 to 30 years. As for those buried loops, the materials are rated for 30 years, says Gary Fitterer, Director of Engineering Services at People’s Co-op. “It’s the same material as underground water systems and See GEOTHERMAL Page 13 

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g n i r p S GEOTHERMAL Continued from Page 12

will last longer than guaranteed.” “The loop field could last a hundred years,” Steve Johnson says,“but when I tell people that they don’t believe me, so I usually say ‘50 to 60 years easily.’” GHPs deliver more steady, less gusty, heating and cooling than do conventional systems. “Gas

gives you a hot, or cold, blast and then shuts off,” Beckel says. “Geothermal is more constant. You aren’t getting the swings in temperature.” Furnaces, properly maintained, are safe, Olson emphasizes, but if you fret about carbon monoxide and don’t like gas’s flame, then geothermal will please you because it has neither flame nor CO threat.

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April 16-18, 2012, 2012

FCJ/OCJ Spring Home & Garden Special Section

Geothermal’s economy is the technology’s greatest allure. “A geothermal system brings major savings,” Bob Johnson says. Geo, according to the Geothermal Heat Pump Consortium, cuts fuel bills 25 to 70 percent. Savings will depend on what fuel the original system used, Fitterer says. And payback time varies. “I’ve seen anything from four to 15 years,” Halgerson says. “A geothermal HVAC system will definitely save you money,” Olson says, “especially if you plan to stay in your home for a while.” So what’s the catch? Frugal geothermal’s deterrent is, ironically, its price tag. Geo demands a significant up-front outlay, says Teresa Whitcome, Director of Member & Employee Relations at People’s. She urges you to remember the payback. The geothermal heat pump costs about a third again as much as the furnace and air conditioner units it replaces, Steve Johnson says. And then there’s the hefty expense of the loop field. “The most difficult part is the cost,” Bob Johnson says. “I highly recommend thinking about it on a long-term basis. In the long run, it will save you money.” The software programs contractors use to design GHP systems, estimate costs, and predict savings can give you a pretty accurate idea of your break-even point. Keep this in mind, Jill Johnson says: “Even if you have to borrow 100 percent to put in a geothermal system, you will still be spending less money monthly than you would if you put in a conventional gas furnace. Your payback begins in month one.” “That’s exactly right,” Steve Johnson says. Geothermal is a People’s pleaser. In 1994 the utility retrofitted its then headquarters with geo HVAC. This March, People’s moved into its new building which, of course, boasts a geothermal system. That utility company isn’t solo in its preference. The RPU building built in 1988 also heats and cools the geothermal way. Homeowners in growing numbers are looking at - and liking - geo energy. Johnson Comfort Systems reports rising numbers, particularly in residential retrofits. Bob Johnson is an enthusiast who after two-and-a-half years of geo living, says he’d do it again. “Absolutely!” For more info •Geothermal Heat Pump Consortium - 888-255-4436, •Minnesota Geothermal Heat Pump Association - 952-928465,

•People’s Energy Cooperative - 507-367-7000, •Rochester Public Utilities - 507280-1500 or 800-778-3421, •HiMEC - 507-281-4000, himec. com Johnson Comfort Systems, Lime Springs, Iowa - 563-5662346, home/heating_cooling/geothermal.html And at, a YouTube video gives a good explanation of geothermal HVAC. Incentives Check with your utility ser-

Page 13

vice about incentives for geothermal HVAC purchasers. “Almost every utility company backs geothermal with rebates,” says Steve Johnson, co-owner of Johnson Comfort Systems, Lime Springs, Iowa. People’s and RPU offer appealing rebates. A federal tax credit good through December 31, 2016, covers 30 percent of all costs - labor and equipment - for geothermal heating and cooling systems. “That very significant credit helped us a lot for two years on our taxes,” says Bob Johnson who owns a geoequipped house.

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(Rosemont-Rochester, MN) In an effort to save lives and protect underground utility infrastructures, the month of April has been designated as “Safe Digging” month nationally. Minnesota Energy Resources (MERC) wants to chime in and remind everyone of the importance of calling 811 BEFORE you dig at least 48 hours prior to digging. “This applies to everyone, from homeowners working on simple projects in the backyard to contractors working at an industrial job site,” reminds MERC officials. There is a “Gopher State One Call- 811” pre-established system in place that will send a locator technician to where the digging is planned as soon as pos-

sible. There is no charge for the service and the 811 call is toll free. MERC reminds everyone not to wait until the last minute before calling. With all the projects going on involving digging this time of year, it is best to get your request in early to avoid any delays in getting locates done so your project can proceed in a timely fashion. MERC wants customers to know that accidental contact from digging near underground utility services (natural gas pipelines, electric power lines, water lines and communication lines) can be extremely dangerous and could cause personal injury and disrupt vital services to entire

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neighborhoods. This is not just for the large contractor using backhoes, according to MERC. This involves everyone who might simply be planting a tree, installing a sprinkler system, installing fence posts, or constructing a deck in the back yard. Digging can have dangerous consequences if you don’t check before you start. MERC holds a number of excavation safety meetings annually and invites anyone associated with commercial digging to attend. MERC has about 4,480 miles of distribution and transmission main natural gas pipeline and about 203,000 natural gas lateral services. The Safe Digging Month was started by the Common Ground Alliance, an association created to work with all utility stakeholders in an effort to prevent damage to underground utility systems. The Alliance has 1,400 members nationwide and grew out of the US Department of Transportation’s study that pointed out the national need to establish best practices amongst the entire utility industry. For more safety information online, go to or www.

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$1949.00 $2099.00 $2274.00 $2699.00

Store Hours: Mon, Wed, Fri 9am-8pm; Tues, Thurs, Sat 9 am-5pm; Sun Noon-4 PM.

Thanks to the Economic Recovery Act, there’s now a 30% “renewable energy” tax credit for homeowners who install a qualifying WaterFurnace geothermal comfort system. WaterFurnace geothermal units use the clean, renewable energy found in your own backyard to save up to 70% on heating, cooling, and hot water. They don’t burn expensive fossil fuels, they reduce our dependence on foreign oil and also happen to be great for the environment. Call your local dealer and discover for yourself the benefits that only WaterFurnace can provide.

Experience You Can Trust

Thanks to the Economic Recovery Act, there’s now a 30% “renewable energy” tax credit for homeowners who install a

Johnson Comfort Systems Inc.

qualifying WaterFurnace geothermal comfort system. WaterFurnace geothermal units use the clean, renewable energy found in your own backyard to save up to 70% on heating, cooling, and hot water. They don’t burn expensive fossil fuels, they reduce

our dependence on foreign oil and also happen to be great for the environment. Call your local dealer and discover for yourself the benefits that only WaterFurnace can provide.

(563)566-2346 Lime Springs, Iowa | (800) GEO-SAVE

WaterFurnace is a registered trademark of WaterFurnace International, Inc. Consult your tax professional for advice on tax credit.

Over 1000 units installed and over 33 years combined experience. | (800) GEO-SAVE WaterFurnace is a registered trademark of WaterFurnace International, Inc. Consult your tax professional for advice on tax credit.

Fillmore County Journal Spring Home & Garden  

The Spring Home & Garden Special Section in the April 16, 2012 Fillmore County Journal.

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