Take Action for the Mounds

The Ocmulgee National Park and Preserve Initiative (ONPPI) will have a public meeting Thursday, March 6th, at the Ocmulgee National Monument from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.  The Ocmulgee National Monument is located at 1207 Emery Highway in Macon.

The goal of the ONPPI is to expand the Ocmulgee National Monument by adding more than 2,000 acres of public lands and achieving designation as a national park and preserve.

If it is created, the proposed Ocmulgee National Park and Preserve would be the only national park in the east. However, public support for the plan is vital to its completion.

Ocmulgeepark.org provides a wealth of information about the ONPPI, including their plan for expanding the Indian Mounds and getting national park designation, benefits of having a national park in Macon, and maps of the proposed land areas to be added into the park.

Ocmulgeepark.org also provides ONPPI news and events, offering community members an opportunity to support the plan.

If you would like to support the ONPPI, a great place to start is by sending a letter to the Ocmulgee National Monument Superintendent Jim David.  From the Ocmulgeepark.org home page, scroll down to the “Take action now” section, which is at the end of the article posted on February 26, 2014, “Support a bigger and better Ocmulgee National Monument.”  Select the “submit comments online” link, and fill out the required information before submitting the online petition.  This is a quick and easy way to show your support for the ONPPI.

Macon Community News will continue to follow the ONPPI and its community-supported efforts to expand the Indian Mounds into a national park.


How to cook dry beans in 30 minutes

Start with a pound of dry kidney beans.  Photo by: Doug Deal

Start with a pound of dry kidney beans.

The taste of dry beans cooked at home is so much better than beans from a can.  The problem I run into was that it always seemed to take much longer than I was willing to spend to properly cook them including a pre-soak.  Also, the traditional method has a number of hazards that can greatly increase the amount of time to fully cook the beans.

To cook, dry beans needs you three things, heat, water and time.  The first step is for the beans to absorb water which increases in speed as the temperature of the water increases.  Then, as the fully hydrated bean is kept at a high temperature the complex sugars break down, softening the bean and giving a pleasant taste.

The limiting factor to this is the temperature of boiling water.  Around sea level, water boils at 212° F.  Under normal cooking conditions this cannot change and the speed at which anything can be cooked in water is limited by that temperature.  There is a way to increase the temperature, however, by using a pressure cooker.

Rinse the beans with tap water, stirring to shake loose debris and to free up any "floaters".  Photo by": Doug Deal

Rinse the beans with tap water, stirring to shake loose debris and to free up any “floaters”.

Pressure cookers of old had a well earned bad reputation because of failures, explosive failures.  Today, they all have multiple redundant safety measures which make such failures almost impossible.  The main pressure control feature of the model that I use is a pressure control valve usually called “the rocker”. The rocker is a certain weight and covers the vent hole in such a way that it will allow the internal pressure to rise about 15 psi above the pressure of the atmosphere (roughly double).  This added pressure allows the boiling point to increase to 250° F.  This greatly reduces cooking times as the beans will cook as much as 10-20 times faster.

Refill the beans and heat on high until the pot comes to a boil.  Photo by Doug Deal

Refill the beans and heat on high until the pot comes to a boil.

In addition to the pressure control valve, my cooker also has a spring loaded pressure safety valve that will release if the pot becomes over-pressured and if that fails, a pressure release plug will be ejected and finally the pressure seal gasket will be ejected from the pot.  In order for the pot to fail explosively, all of these other safety features would have to fail first.

Now, on to the technique.

The first step is to decide if you are going to soak the beans.  For normal cooking, this step cannot be skipped unless you want the beans to cook several hours on the stove.  For a pressure cooker, this is really unnecessary.  Sure, it will cut the cooking time by a factor of 3, but that only means going from 20 minutes to about 7.  For this you would need to soak them for hours and hours.

When the pot starts to boil, give it a few seconds and then seal the pot by installing the rocker.  This will clear the air out of the pot and leave behind steam.

When the pot starts to boil, give it a few seconds and then seal the pot by installing the rocker. This will clear the air out of the pot and leave behind steam.

So, for my technique, I simply start with a rinse by placing the beans in the pressure cooker and covering with enough water to give a couple extra inches of liquid above the beans.  I then stir the beans to rinse off any debris and to free any “floaters” that will rise to the top.  After skimming the floaters, dump the water and refill with about the same amount of water.  It is ok to add too much, just don’t add too little.

Next, I like to add some salt to season the beans internally.  For anyone who has cooked beans the regular way, you should know that this would run the risk of slowing down the all important hydration step of the beans.  The beans take up water through osmosis, but added salt slows that process down.  The pressure cooker speeds everything up so much, you hardly notice a difference, but you also get salt inside the bean, giving them a better flavor.

Let it cook for 20-25 minutes.  Photo by Doug Deal

Let it cook for 20-25 minutes.

After seasoning, just put the pot on the stove on high heat and seal it up, without the rocker.  Eventually the pot will boil and you will see steam coming out of the hole at the top.  Not only is this a sign that the pot is ready to be pressure sealed, it also clears the pot of air, replacing it with steam, which greatly increases the effectiveness of a pressure cooker.  So place the rocker on top and let the heating continue until the rocker starts to jump a little.  This means the pressure is at the limit and the heat can be turned down.  Just make sure that the burner is up high enough to maintain pressure.

At this point, set your timer to 20 minutes, or 25 minutes if you like mushier beans.  When the timer goes off, turn the heat off and either let the pot cool naturally or vent it.  Test your beans and cook them some more if they need it.  If they are done, season them to taste.  I like to add some salt, if needed, pepper and garlic powder.

When finished, test the beans and cook them a couple of more minutes if needed.  Photo by: Doug Deal

When finished, test the beans and cook them a couple of more minutes if needed.

1 pound of beans will yield the equivalent of 4 cans of pre-cooked beans for a cost of about $2, compared to around $5 for the canned beans.

Macon Community News looking for contributors

Macon Community News is looking for people who would like to write about positive community news and local events, people, organizations and businesses.  This includes members of organizations that would like to have their news published as well those active in the community who would like to bring attention to some of the good things happening in Macon and Bibb County.

If you are interested, please send us an email at publisher@maconcommunitynews.com with a brief introduction and how you would like to contribute.

Print edition articles will be re-posted online

Macon Community News will be re-posting our article archives over the next couple of weeks as we move to our new online format.  The change will also involve a more casual approach and also allow for more direct community involvement in the newspaper.

Macon Community News Print Edition

Macon Community News will be moving from print to electronic format.

Any Macon community organization or interested contributor may apply for a contributor account to allow them to submit stories for postage online.  For the most part, these will be self edited articles and allow for community organizations to post their news and announcements.  Also, we are looking for local bloggers and writers who would like to be a part of our online team.

Anyone who is interested in becoming an online contributor, please contact publisher@MaconCommunityNews.com.


Macon Community News coming back in electronic format

Macon Community News is coming back as an electronic publication.  We will still focus on local news and events, but will be less formal and allow for more participation within the community for posting for the web.

If your organization is interested in having posting privileges or if you would like to become a contributor, please contact publisher@maconcommunitynews.com.


The best Christmas gift, moments between a father and a son

By: Allen Goodson—Staff Writer

It was early December 1991, and Honolulu was decorated for the holiday season.  Along with a couple thousand other old sailors and soldiers, Dad was in Hawaii to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, which took place on December 7, 1941.

My mother and one of my sisters had come along with Dad.  I flew over from the Big Island to spend time with them.

The other guest in Hawaii that week was the USS Missouri, the last battleship to be built by the United States.  On the deck of this battleship, before General Douglas MacArthur, the Japanese signed an unconditional surrender to Allied Forces, ending World War II.

One morning during their visit, the girls decided it was a fine day to go shopping. Well, I suppose it was fine for them, but Dad and I didn’t agree, and so were left behind to do as we pleased.

Gunner Emmett Goodson, father of the author, in an undated photograph taken in his naval uniform.  Mr. Emmett was a warveteran, a farmer, and a father, loved by many in his hometown of Wadley, Georgia, and beyond.   Photo courtesy: Allen Goodson

Gunner Emmett Goodson, father of the author, in an undated photograph taken in his naval uniform. Mr. Emmett was a warveteran, a farmer, and a father, loved by many in his hometown of Wadley, Georgia, and beyond. Photo courtesy: Allen Goodson

I asked him what he wanted to do.

“I would like to go on the Missouri and see where the peace treaty was signed,” he replied.  Normally, this wouldn’t have been a problem, but Dad was having difficulties with mobility and needed the aid of a wheelchair. I figured, what the hey, we would go to the ship, and if we couldn’t get on, he would at least get to see it up close.

We got to the rental car, loaded up, and took off to Pearl Harbor.  And that is when the magic started to happen.  As we approached the gate at Pearl Harbor, a young, sharp-looking Marine, who could not have been much more than twenty, greeted us.

I explained to him that Dad had been at Pearl Harbor during the attack and wished to see the USS Missouri.  The Marine took a few seconds to look me over.  Then he looked at Dad, who had on his Pearl Harbor Survivors garrison cap.

Without asking for further ID, the Marine said, “Sir, go anywhere you wish, sir.”  He saluted.  Dad returned the salute. I reckon this young Marine and the Navy figured some men have earned certain rights.

And so we did go where we wished, looking for the Missouri.  It wasn’t hard to find; it was, after all, as big as a battleship. Continue reading

St. Joseph’s School volunteers for Loaves and Fishes

On Tuesday mornings, Mercer Bears kicking coach Aaron Kanner can be found working with a different team, one that passes bread and bologna instead of a football.

Coach Kanner calls out encouragement and direction:  “Okay, we have to get this moving, let’s some bread over here.  Who needs cheese?  Are you filling those bags?  Which bags need sandwiches?  Who has chips?  C’mon, guys, let’s get it done!”

A group of sixth grade students are gathered around a lunch table in the cafeteria of St. Joseph’s Catholic School.  The early morning light filters in through the windows lining the walls, as boys and girls work in unison to fill the 24 brown paper bags with lunches for distribution at Loaves and Fishes Ministry, a homeless outreach in downtown Macon.  As the bags are filled, they are transferred to baskets, lined up ready for transport.

St. Joseph's Loaves and Fishes

In the cafeteria of St. Joseph’s Catholic School, in downtown Macon, a sixth grade student works to fill lunch bags with sandwiches. These lunches are bound for the Loaves and Fishes Ministry, to be distributed to homeless men and women at lunch time. The Loaves and Fishes project is just one of many ways that St. Joseph’s School is building community through service. Photo by: Lauren Deal

The students work efficiently, with the kind of easy teamwork born of six years spent together in this small, close-knit school, where building community—within the school and beyond—receives the same intense focus as academic and religious development.

Coach Kanner marks the time until school begins, as the students hurry to finish their task.

When they finish preparing the lunches, the students don’t just walk away.  Several children haul the baskets brimming with lunch bags to the front of the school to be picked up and delivered by a parent volunteer.  Meanwhile, the remaining students gather empty bread bags, pick up dropped cheese wrappers, and wash down the tables.

In fifteen minutes, this six-student team has made 48 bologna and cheese sandwiches, stuffed 24 bags with the sandwiches, plus chips, cookies, and drinks, and cleaned up behind themselves.  When they finish, Coach Kanner delivers praise and admonition:  “Okay, good job getting it done…you need to remember to be here earlier next week, though.”

He isn’t too hard on his team; as he explains, this is their first Tuesday morning making lunches for Loaves and Fishes.  He assures the kids that he knows they will be earlier next time, Continue reading

Bibb names Allen Teacher of the Year

By: Jason Downey—Contributor

Bibb County Schools have named their top teacher of the year, and she is more than thrilled to have earned the accolades.

The 2014 Bibb County School District Teacher of the Year is Catrice Allen of Rosa Taylor Elementary. Allen was announced as this year’s top teacher at the Teacher of the Year Banquet held at the Mercer University Center on Thursday, November 7, 2013.

Allen was chosen from among a group of 42 talented educators.  Forty-one teachers of the year were chosen, representative of each public school in the Bibb County School District, while one additional educator was chosen as the media specialist of the year.  This group was then narrowed down to seven finalists.

The other six finalists included:  Jessica Brown, from Sonny Carter Elementary School; Brittany Austin, from Riley Elementary School; Hema Keerthi, from Rutland High School; Rosalyn Wiley-Tobler, from Rutland Middle School; Robert Shepherd, Jr., from L.H. Williams Elementary School; and Dana Goshorn, from Howard Middle School.  Goshorn was the first runner-up to the Teacher of the Year.

The Banquet on November 7, 2013, featured all of the Teachers of the Year, as well as their school administrators, other staff members, school board members, and county administrators.

After dining on catered food, which was graciously provided by various sponsors, the guests were treated to a video montage of the seven teacher of the year finalists.

Katie Wall, Bibb County Schools’ 2013 Teacher of the Year (and Macon Community News contributor), delivered a rousing speech about education and the importance of teachers’ impact on individual lives.

Each of the teacher of the year finalists received a gift basket with a variety of items from various community sponsors and a $250.00 Kroger gift card. In addition to those gifts, Allen also received a $500 Kroger gift card, a special plaque, and a $1,000.00 scholarship to Mercer University.

Continue reading

Bibb County School Board update

By: Jason Downey—School board member

Superintendent for a school system of nearly 25,000 students.  Applicant will be responsible for over forty schools and facilities, and over 1,000 employees.  Budget of over $150 million dollars has constant shortfalls due to state and local tax revenues.  The school system is accredited through AdvancEd, with some mandatory action items that must occur in a matter of months.

That’s a snippet of what we on the Bibb County Board of Education are looking for in our superintendent on a permanent basis.  As much as I have enjoyed Dr. Steve Smith’s tenure as interim superintendent thus far, we must remember that he IS only our INTERIM superintendent until June 30, 2014 (that’s all he’s under contract for).  This means we must begin the search for a superintendent who will take the reins in July 2014.

So, Bibb County, we need your help.  That’s right:  we want you to tell us what you want in our next superintendent.  Stakeholder involvement in this process is critical. This hiring decision could be the most important hiring decision we make, and we want to make sure we get it right.  There is no room for mistakes.

In fact, one of the directives from AdvancEd, the accrediting body that gave us action items as a Board, directed us to involve the community in things we do.  What a great thing for the community to be involved in.  Let me know what you want in our next superintendent:  should it be someone with classroom teaching experience?  A former principal? Someone who has served as a superintendent already? Perhaps someone from the Southeast?

Holidays on the road create lasting memories

By: Stacey England, Staff Columnist

During our holiday travels, my mother and I used to play a game we called “I Spy.”

As we would round the last hairpin curve down Kennison Mountain, the first one to see the tiny town of Marlinton, West Virginia, below would yell “I Spy”!

Isobel and Sam Deal enjoy a visit with Santa Claus, while riding a train, during the Christmas season in 2011.  Photo by:  Doug Deal.

Isobel and Sam Deal enjoy a visit with Santa Claus, while riding a train, during the Christmas season in 2011. Photo by: Doug Deal.

We traveled to Marlinton for every holiday occasion to spend precious time with great Aunt Maud.  We’d yell the same phrase when we turned onto her street and spied her house.  Each of us would hope the other would forget, and we would be the victor.  I would like to point out that being a back seat passenger had its disadvantages.  That, and my mother was a vicious cheater.

We never missed a holiday trip to Marlinton.  No circumstance, no situation, no bad weather would keep us from making it over that mountain.  My mother drove our little Chevy Celebrity through driving snow, tire chains we never used in Georgia crunching away.  We were postal carriers, and these trips were our solemn duty.

Holidays in Aunt Maud’s home are the fondest memories of my childhood.  All of my favorite aunts and uncles would travel from near and far, up and down the mountain, making the traditional pilgrimage to be together.

During the holidays, a child could consume sweets all day, track snow into the house, interrupt the conversations of adults … my Aunt Maud’s home was a safe haven for mischief.  As the only child in the house, I could do no wrong.  Can you imagine the weeks of undoing my Mother must have gone through?

Holiday meals were a day-long event.  The women were up early, dressed in their best—and covered in ridiculous, frilly, hand-made aprons to protect their polyester shirtdresses.  We’re talking about stockings, girdles, shoes, the whole nine yards.

The women cooked all day.  They laughed about things I never understood, and shooed me out of the kitchen at every chance.

Meanwhile, the men watched football with the TV on silent, with another game broadcast on the radio.  Much of this was slept through, but test one by asking the score and they’d come straight out of a snore with “31-24 top of the 3rd, 1st down and ten!”  Pipes were smoked, fires were stoked, and THEY laughed about things I never understood.

After being tempted all day by the aromas coming from the kitchen, the table was set.  It was a beautiful table with lace linens, and silver, and place settings, which the children and men had neither interest nor knowledge in.  Birds were carved, gravy was poured, desserts were oohed and ahhed over before being devoured.  The ladies retreated to the kitchen to wash and put away, while the men found this the perfect opportunity to nap.

The next day, we all packed up, said tearful goodbyes, checked the snow chains, and headed back over the mountain.

I’m so thankful that my mother never failed to get us there.  Without knowing it, she gave me a great gift of beautiful memories just by throwing me in the car, and telling me not to put my tongue on the glass 87 times.

Where will you go this holiday season?  What will your children and grandchildren spy?  Are you just beginning to create these traditions?  More importantly, how many times will your kids lick the window?

Safe travels to you, and may you create a multitude of story-worthy holiday memories.