Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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Many of the regular customers at the Cottage Grove United Church of Christ Farmers Market every Thursday afternoon head straight for the church bake sale to buy one or more of the eight to 10 loaves of bread made and donated by Karen Fritze. They also buy her Dutch apple pies and canned goods made with vegetables from her garden at the home she shares with her husband, Wally, in Old Cottage Grove.
When the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued new rules for school lunches this year including lowering sodium, fewer calories and required produce, it was behind the local curve. School District 833 Nutrition Services has made many changes in the past five years to ensure students are getting more healthful food. It eliminated high-fructose fruit drinks from schools and closed down deep fryers at middle schools.
About 80 percent of Whistling Well Farm customers come back every fall to pick apples and pumpkins and dig up fall mums. They also greet Emmy, a friendly spaniel that hangs about the apple barn at the farm on St.
Children who tell parents that they found stars inside apples aren't telling stories -- they saw them while on a tour of Afton Apple Orchard or other orchards in apple-rich south Washington County. Instead of cutting an apple down the middle, cut one horizontally and you'll see a star shape holding the seeds, as guides do with school groups that are visiting local orchards as their picking season picks up. Afton Apple in Denmark Township and other area orchards are open with apples and pumpkins for sale.
After 34 years of service to Grey Cloud Island Township, Town Clerk Rich Mullen announced he's retiring at the end of the year. "I'm going on 90 years old," said Mullen, known for his frequent quips that make people laugh. "At my age, you don't buy green bananas." Mullen first served the township as town board chair in 1957 when the town hall was heated with a wood stove.
A Park High School girl told me last week that starting high school as a freshman is both scary and exciting at the same time. I remember feeling the same way on my first day in a very large St. Paul high school. I also felt that way whenever I took a new job or when I went to college. I met this student during a day set aside by the school to make ninth-graders feel less anxious about coming to a new school. Seniors, and some juniors, volunteer to be leaders and mentors to the underclassmen.
Pauline Boldt is a one-woman city beautification program. While walking the trail along Hinton Avenue, she noticed weeds shortly after moving to Cottage Grove 16 years ago. So she replaced the unsightly greenery with flowers. Those who drive by, or walk the trail, notice her tending the flowers and weeding because she brings a wagon of water-filled milk jugs to water the plants. But Boldt, 90, hasn't been tending her flowers since June when she broke her leg.
A new assessment tool is recognizing South Washington County Schools and other districts across Minnesota for individual student achievement over time, instead of just test score results. The assessment is the result of a state waiver from the school grading mechanism used in the federal No Child Left Behind law. Critics of the federal policy have grumbled for 10 years that schools do not get credit for how much growth a student makes in a year and are judged solely on test scores.
Locker doors that don't stick are one of the things Tessa Regner and Lauren Severson are looking forward to as they begin their fifth-grade year at Armstrong Elementary School. They were blown away to see the school's remodeled bathrooms, too. The first thing they noticed is that the central hand-washing sink was missing. In its place are real sinks with hand-activated faucets. The girls' bathroom only had two electric hand driers.
I went to Adventure Camp last week in Woodridge Park hosted by Cottage Grove Parks and Recreation. Since the presidential campaign is in full swing, I talked with a group of kids about qualities a U.S. president should have. I wasn't surprised to find that kids are sometimes wiser than adults. From their comments, it's clear to me that, even if you have doubts, kids are listening and developing into good citizens. If any of you are running for office, feel free to take notes. I asked them if it matters if the president is a man or woman.