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Rainwater barrels become 'in' thing


© St. Petersburg Times, published May 12, 2001

By the time the gates opened at the second annual Magnolia Festival and Garden Show Honoring the Lady Bug in Dade City a week ago, 74 people had signed up to buy rain barrels at the Pasco County Cooperative Extension Service's workshops.

The 55-gallon plastic barrels are outfitted to catch rainwater from downspouts to use later on thirsty plants. The workshop leaders show how to outfit the barrels with screen covers to keep out debris and spigots to use with soaker hoses, microirrigation systems or sprinkler cans.

"We had people from all over everywhere -- Hudson, Holiday, Spring Hill, New Port Richey and all around here," said Donna Swartz, who runs the Pioneer Florida Museum where the festival was held.

Until now, the most people to attend a rain barrel workshop had been about 10, according to Jeannie Hayes, who does the programs. That 74 signed up this time indicates at least some people are taking this drought seriously and want to do their part to use water efficiently.

There were so many calls and letters about the water-saving devices that Ms. Hayes is setting up two hourlong rain barrel workshops at the Government Center complex on Little Road in New Port Richey. For $17, you can get your own fitted rain barrel and learn how to use it.

The first workshop is at noon on Wednesday, May 23; the second is at 11 a.m. on Saturday, June 2. If you want a fitted rain barrel, you can drop off a check at the extension office in Room 109 in the Utilities Building behind the government center. Hours are 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays.

Or you can mail a check payable to Cooperative Extension Service at 36702 State Road 52, Dade City 33525-5198. Be sure to indicate which workshop you want to attend.

Deadline to get the checks in for the May 23 workshop is 5 p.m. Wednesday. Deadline for the June 2 workshop is 5 p.m. May 26.

Ms. Hayes needs that week to give her time to order and pick up the barrels.

* * *

Don't tell my boss, but when I put on my headphones and get a trance-like look on my face, I'm not doing profound research or hotdog investigative reporting. Truth is, underneath my desk, my feet are wiggling like Steve Martin's did in The Jerk when he finally heard his kind of music, and it's taking all I have to keep from jumping up and doing the boogie in the middle of the newsroom.

I'm listening to the North Mississippi Allstars do All Night Long and Shake 'Em On Down. It's raw, sensual, powerful stuff that takes me right back to long, lazy days dozing on a sand bar by the slow, brown Tchoutacabouffa River in southern Mississippi and balmy nights eating boiled mudbugs (crawfish, to the squeamish) at Little Ray's in Pass Christian.

Rolling Stone called the Allstars' music "Hot-mud guitar and sandpaper-vocal soul," and that says it all.

The group will be at Bourbon Street Concert Club on U.S. 19 across from Sam's Warehouse on Friday. Tickets are $15 and will probably go fast.

* * *

When I get too wound up on the Allstars, I listen to a CD by Future Perfect, a sweet duo and a favorite on the festival and coffeehouse circuit throughout Florida.

Dave Eichenberger plays ethereal guitar and guitar synthesizer and does on-the-spot layers (as opposed to prerecorded layers) and live loops, while Misha Penton sings in a clear, haunting soprano and plays my very favorite musical instrument, the flute.

Future Perfect has a sound all its own: think Enya with spatterings of Kabuki and overtones of New Age composer Steven Halpern, and you get the idea. (

The duo will debut its fourth CD, Meanwhile . . . , at 7 p.m. May 20 at the Pasco Art Center, 5744 Moog Road, Holiday. Misha will also exhibit her mystical artwork. Tickets are $3, and all the money goes to the center.

* * *

Congratulations to New Port Richey artist Ed Lawlor, who recently got word from the Florida Secretary of State's Office that his nature photographs will be exhibited in the Governor's Gallery in the Capitol from Aug. 19 through Nov. 19, 2002.

If you can't make it to Tallahassee, Lawlor's work is on exhibit at the Tarpon Springs Cultural Center, 101 S. Pinellas Ave., through May 31.

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