I designed this project around some collaged stars I had made awhile back while working on my previous tutorial, Making Greeting Cards From Scrap Papers. If you don’t want to make your stars in that style, you can use any paper or cardstock star of your choice.
This card design uses quite a few tools and materials, so if you are going to get them all out you might as well make several. Having extra cards on hand is a real time saver sometimes!
Assorted small paper scraps
Decorative paper large enough to make envelopes
Tape, single and double-sided
Black rubber stamping ink
Clean scrap paper
Envelope template – free download here for a template that fits a 5.5 inch x 4.25 inch card – Envelope template for Rectangular Card
Greeting Card With Star and Arrow Template (free download here)
Self-healing cutting mat
Rubber stamps with sentiments
Prismacolor art stix or similar product (like Conte crayons in more than just basic colors)
Sharpie Twin Tip Marker Fine/Ultra Fine
Squeegee or bone folder tool
Rubber stamp Bubble Border Small or other border stamp
Rubber stamp Rounded Squares and Rectangles Border Large or other border stamp
Stencil for the “awesome” arrow – Mini Word Arrows 6×6 Stencil – if you don’t have that stencil, you can use a stamp, stencil or paper of your choice for the small arrow portion of the card.
Tape tracing paper over the printed out template, and make tracings in pencil over the star portion, the arrows and the shapes on either side of the star.
Write “front” on the tracings before you remove them from the template.
You’ll use these tracings to transfer your pencil markings onto the the backs of scraps of chipboard to make templates for tracing and masking.
To transfer, place your scrap chipboard pieces face down and flip your tracing paper over so that the back is facing up. Tape in place and go over your pencil lines. When you lift the tracing paper, you’ll have lines you can follow as you cut.
Out of one piece of chipboard, use a utility knife and a metal ruler to cut the two side shapes and the star out.
Make yourself templates for the large and small arrows as well.
Put the front of the card on your work surface and tape the stencil/mask over it. With a thin, light pencil outline the star and two side shapes. These light pencil lines will help you line things up in the later steps. Place the large arrow template where you would like it and trace around it too.
Stamp in black through the mask onto the front of the card, alternating the border stamps you are using.
Lift the mask to see that portions of the front of the card are partially filling the cut out shapes. This is a technique you can use with stencils or masks you cut yourself or with purchased stencils.
At this point, you can choose to erase your pencil guide lines, or disguise them by drawing over them with a marker or color pencil. I drew over mine with harmonious colored pencil colors.
Choose an art stick color and go over your outlines heavily, and the insides of your shapes lightly.
Choose a 1″ x 5.5″ piece of scrap decorative paper in a harmonious color. Fold it lengthwise, apply glue to the back and use it to cover the fore edge of the card.
Trace the large arrow onto a piece of decorative paper and cut it out. Glue it in place on the front of the card.
Take a bright, lighter piece of paper and tape it to your work surface. Tape your stencil over the paper so that the paper shows through the word “awesome”. Outline the “awesome” arrow and lettering with a black Sharpie pen, then lift the stencil and finish filling in the arrow with the fine tip of a Sharpie double-sided black marker.
Glue the star and small arrow to the front of the card. Accent the lower and rightmost edges of the star and small arrow with the thick tip of the double-tipped Sharpie marker.
This is a homework assignment for my Marketing 5000 class at Webster University. It has not been graded yet.
Carolyn Hasenfratz Winkelmann
Dr. John Jinkner
20 April 2020
Name of the Article: “Catalogs Remain a Staple in Retailers’ Toolboxes”
Source: Multichannel Merchant
Author Lisa Henthorn in the article “Catalogs Remain a Staple in Retailers’ Toolboxes” first addressed the decline of printed catalog use by many retailers in the late 2010s during a recession that coincided with the rise of social media and the continued adoption of ecommerce (Henthorn). Some retailers who took the opportunity to cut costs also lost a lot of revenue. Land’s End, for example lost $100 million in revenue the year after ceasing printed catalog production (Henthorn). Other retailers returned to using printed catalogs after noticing that catalogs were still popular with many customers and influenced purchases in stores as well as directly from the catalogs (Henthorn).
It has been noted that the majority of millennials, consumers in the 21-35 year-old age group, have used catalogs to make purchases influenced by a catalog (Henthorn). Neil O’Keefe, senior VP of marketing and content for the Data & Marketing Association (DMA) believes that millennials enjoy catalogs because they have viewed less printed marketing material than past generations and the imagery in catalogs attracts them (Henthorn).
Catalogs continue to be part of the omnichannel marketing mix employed by many retailers today (Henthorn). The purpose of omnichannel marketing is to give customers a seamless and consistent shopping experience as they interact with the brand via the channels of their own choosing (Sopadjieva). A study published in Harvard Business Review showed that the majority of the customers surveyed in a 2015-2016 study were multi-channel customers and shoppers that used only a single channel were markedly in the minority (Sopadjieva). Multi-channel users were also found to spend more on average both online and in stores, as well as being more frequent and loytal customers (Sopadjieva).
Henthorn makes the case in her article for not only continuing to use catalogs along with other channels, but also leveraging technology and data from all channels to make the catalog shopping experience more personal for the shopper and relevant to seasonal campaigns (Henthorn).
How this Article Relates to our Course
Printed catalogs can be either a stand-alone shopping channel or part of a multi-channel or omnichannel mix (Pride and Ferrell, 473). I chose to write about the state of catalog marketing in the present day because I currently work part-time for a company that includes printed catalogs in the marketing mix and wanted information on how to use the printed catalogs more effectively.
L.L. Bean is a company that is featured as a case study in our textbook (Pride and Ferrell, 487-488). L.L. Bean began as a mail order company and now continues to use catalogs along with retail stores and online retailing. Unlike the previously mentioned Land’s End which reduced the use of printed catalogs and lost considerable revenue, L.L. Bean has thrived by retaining catalogs as part of its marketing mix while using technology to send a number of specialized catalogs to targeted customers (Ruiz) as suggested by author Henthorn. Henthorn mentioned catalogs being popular with millennials because they are more of a novelty to that generation, and author Ruiz picked up on a similar observation by quoting a customer named Melissa Berggren who felt that the trend away from catalogs during the recession years made catalogs seem fresh and interesting again. Ms. Berggren also appreciated the upgraded concepts and production values of some of today’s catalogs which she likes to use for decorating inspiration rather than just product listings (Ruiz). Rohit Deshpande, a professor of marketing at Harvard Business School, notes that brands need to really work hard to gain attention from customers (Ruiz). When customers enjoy interacting with a brand in any channel, that company has a competitive advantage (Garnier and Poncin, 363).
IKEA is another brand that is using multiple channels to reach customers according to their preferences. Brick-and-mortar retailing dominates, but the catalog, apps, social media and e-commerce channels are still very important (Pride and Ferrell, 489-491). IKEA also put extra effort into making their stores into destinations with cafes and displays that are compelling and tailored to the clientele in the vicinity (Pride and Ferrell, 490). Researchers Garnier and Poncin studied the use of catalogs by IKEA because they are a company that still has a popular printed catalog even though they offer several other channels (Garnier and Poncin, 362). The researchers’ goal was to study the effectiveness of online catalogs as compared to e-commerce web sites and printed catalogs (Garnier and Poncin, 361). Although their findings suggested that online catalogs might not be a necessary investment if a company already has an e-commerce web site (Garnier and Poncin, 366), there are concepts in their paper that can apply to any marketing channel. Customers seek both utilitarian and hedonic value when they shop (Garnier and Poncin, 364). Hedonic value is the “search for pleasure, fun, and experiential stimulation” (Garnier and Poncin, 363). In the brick-and-mortar realm, L.L. Bean is giving customers a more compelling experience in its flagship store by including a cafe and demonstrations, making this location a tourist destination as well as a channel for engaging with the brand (Pride and Ferrell, 488). Like IKEA, L.L. Bean successfully added to the hedonic value of customer store visits. Catalogs that only repeat product listings that are on the company’s web site risk creating a negative impression on customers by wasting paper and the customer’s time (Ruiz). Printed catalogs that contain content that adds to the hedonic value, such as stories, are being used by many brands that know their customers like to be inspired by catalogs (Ruiz).
Marketers that do still use catalogs should take into account what their customers like or dislike about catalogs today to use them effectively. For example Patagonia prints its catalogs on recycled paper to reduce the environmental concern that customers may have about paper catalogs (Ruiz). Land’s End surveyed its customers and found out that 75% of online purchasers had used the catalog to review products, a finding that caused the company to reconsider the role of catalogs in its marketing mix (Ruiz). As we’ve been learning, all marketing should be centered on the customer (Pride and Ferrell, 5). The marketing environment is always changing (Pride and Ferrell, 12-13) and the same forces that influence the marketing environment in general also can cause older channels to be used by customers in new ways.
Garnier, Marion and Ingrid Poncin. “Do enriched digital catalogues offer compelling experiences, beyond websites? A comparative analysis through the IKEA case.” Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, vol. 47, March 2019, pp. 361-369. doi.org/10.1016/j.jretconser.2018.12.011. Accessed 19 April 2020.
Henthorn, Lisa. “Catalogs Remain a Staple in Retailers’ Toolboxes.” Access Intelligence, LLC, 2019, https://multichannelmerchant.com/blog/catalogs-remain-staple-retailers-toolboxes/. Accessed 18 April 2020.
Pride, William M. and O.C. Ferrell. Marketing. 2018 Edition. CENGAGE Learning, 2016, 2018.
Ruiz, Rebecca R. “Catalogs, After Years of Decline, Are Revamped for Changing Times.” The New York Times Company, 2015, www.nytimes.com/2015/01/26/business/media/catalogs-after-years-of-decline-are-revamped-for-changing-times.html. Accessed 20 April 2020.
Sopadjieva, Emma et al. “A Study of 46,000 Shoppers Shows That Omnichannel Retailing Works”. Harvard Business School Publishing, 2017, https://hbr.org/2017/01/a-study-of-46000-shoppers-shows-that-omnichannel-retailing-works. Accessed 20 April 2020.
Links to some of the resources I cited above and for some that I did not use are on a Pinterest board here: Marketing 5000
Authors Lu and Miller examined how loyalty rewards programs (LRP) combined with customer relationship management (CRM) and social media campaigns could increase sales of “green” products in a retail setting. Concentrating on grocers who sell foods that are marketed as organic, healthy and sustainable, the article explains that while the demand for “green” foods is growing, there are barriers to the acceptance of these products among some consumers (Lu and Miller, 87-88). Some potential customers hold the perception that environmentally sustainable foods are too expensive, aren’t adequate substitutes for conventional products and are not worth the extra cost. With additional knowledge about the value of such products, some consumers can be persuaded to give them a chance and be converted to motivated buyers (Lu and Miller, 88).
Because Facebook was the most dominant social media platform in the world at the time of the study, the authors used it to examine the relationship between Facebook content and sales among “green” grocery retailers in a large city in Australia. Facebook is a platform that marketers can use to practice social customer relationship management (SCRM), an updated form of customer relationship management (CRM) that adds social media into the marketing mix (Lu and Miller, 89). Intuition and previous studies showed the authors that effective content on Facebook should increase sales. Their study focused on participants in loyalty rewards programs which are proven to increase profitability if used effectively (Lu and Miller, 90).
Social media gives consumers more control over marketing because they can create and share content rather than just consuming content that is pushed to them by the brand (Lu and Miller, 89). Both brand-generated and consumer-generated content can increase the level of interest and engagement with a brand, which has a positive influence on actual shopping activity (Lu and Miller, 89, 91). “Green” products do often require more knowledge on the part of the consumer to realize the value and to stimulate a purchase (Lu and Miller, 91). Many “green” consumers organize themselves into social media-based communities that share common values and exchange information (Lu and Miller, 91). Consumers need to be motivated to effectively consume information presented by a brand (Lu and Miller, 92). It makes sense to leverage the power of social media along with the heightened brand engagement exhibited by long-term loyalty reward program participants (Lu and Miller, 92) to increase the acceptance of environmentally responsible products. Lu and Miller found that thoughtful SCRM strategies did increase the sales of “green” products to long-term LRP members (Lu and Miller, 97) and that these loyal customers responded more to messages about the health benefits of sustainable products than they did about the environmental benefits or the price (Lu and Miller, 98).
How this Article Relates to our Course
In Chapter 1 of our textbook, “Marketing”, we are reminded that environmental factors that influence marketing can change quickly (Pride and Ferrell, 13). As we are now suddenly dealing with a global health issue that has severe effects on many aspects of life, one way consumer needs have changed rapidly is that we need supplies to protect ourselves from infection. Health, physical and mental, is at the top of nearly everyone’s concerns right now. I work in a store that has a loyalty rewards program, engages in social media marketing, and sells some environmentally conscious products, considerations which made the article I reviewed of particular interest. We also sell supplies, some in stock intermittently, that customers want and need to cope with the pandemic. I’m observing and participating in real time how to change course rapidly as we respond to consumer demand as well as reading about it in our textbook.
Perhaps some might assume that such an event in history is a time for mere coping, not marketing. Marketing concept is a philosophy that an organization adopts when it takes into account not only the needs of customers but the welfare of all the stakeholders that it has an effect upon (Pride and Ferrell, 13-14). Customers of the store are stakeholders, as well as are owners, employees, vendors, service providers, delivery people, the families of all those groups and the community as a whole. Profiting by satisfying customer demand at the expense of other stakeholders was already frowned upon by many as a business practice before the current challenges we are facing (Pride and Ferrell, 14). Brand managers would be wise to be wary of being perceived as exploiting a crisis. For example, businesses that inflate the prices of crucial items or make false claims about the usefulness of products have been reported by name in an article published by the St. Louis Post Dispatch (Stewart).
The article I reviewed is enlightening when considering how marketing concept applies to serving the community in the present time. Since long-term loyalty rewards program customers are the most profitable customer category for a retailer (Lu and Miller, 92), it is less than rational to reap short-term gains at the risk of offending long-term loyal customers with behavior that is not community-minded. I hypothesize that a brand that already takes into account all stakeholders and has effectively imbued its organization with the philosophy behind its marketing concept is at low risk for carelessly implementing an action that will backfire because the first instincts of individuals within the organization will be to serve rather than exploit. Now is not a time to cease marketing but to use actions as marketing while serving all stakeholders with a view to their long-term health and welfare, fiscal and otherwise.
Lu, Qiang Steven, and Rohan Miller. “How Social Media Communications Combine with Customer Loyalty Management to Boost Green Retail Sales.” Journal of Interactive Marketing, vol. 46, May 2019, pp. 87–100. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1016/j.intmar.2018.12.005. Accessed 06 April 2020.
Pride, William M. and O.C. Ferrell. Marketing. 2018 Edition. CENGAGE Learning, 2016, 2018.
I found out at the last minute that I had homework for my first Marketing 5000 class which starts in a few minutes. I wasn’t sure how to turn it in (the class is online) so I’ll make it a blog post. Enjoy!
When I was working on an undergraduate degree, I was a participant in Student Government. I wanted to get better at what I was trying to accomplish so I bought and read the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. A friend of mine was over at my house visiting and saw the book on my desk. He exclaimed, in a horrified tone, “You shouldn’t read that! It tells you how to manipulate people!” My answer was, paraphrasing, “I don’t think manipulation is the right word. I remember reading in the book you should give compliments to the person you are attempting to influence, but they should be sincere compliments – you should look for something you genuinely admire about the person or the strategy won’t work. Also it says that business deals should benefit both parties.”
I’m aware that some businesses take a “churn and burn” attitude toward their customers. For example there is a retail store I’ve worked for briefly that does not care if the service in the store is horrible because they can always get in new customers by aggressive coupon marketing. At least that appears to be the attitude held by those in charge – I don’t have a statement saying so from them, I’m surmising it by the way the company is run. Their treatment of employees is similar: the equipment, such as lockers and cash registers is always breaking down, the toilets frequently back up and the bathroom stinks almost perpetually. Some of the managers are verbally abusive and don’t give bathroom breaks or answer new employee’s questions about how to do things without an accompanying put-down. As a result of things like that the turnover rate of employees is high which in turn creates even worse service for the customers. I’ve worked at other retail stores that have as part of their “basic beliefs” or “mission statements” goals like “respect for the individual” and “enhancing the quality of life in our community”. In both places the statements of beliefs and philosophy were distributed to all and posted in prominent locations. These businesses are seeking repeat business from customers and want to retain good employees while still trying to meet the challenges of staying profitable.
Dale Carnegie’s urging to make business deals that benefit all involved parties is an example of what is referred to as marketing concept in our textbook “Marketing” by authors William M. Pride and O.C. Ferrell. Marketing concept aims to meet the organization’s goals and the needs of customers through a management philosophy that involves not only the marketing department but all departments and activities of the organization (13-14). In light of this explanation of marketing concept, it’s not too surprising to me that the same company that is willing to treat employees poorly also does not mind treating customers poorly. My Mom and Dad passed on to me the teaching they got from their employer Boeing that other employees are to be considered as “internal customers”.
A business can sometimes legally choose to attempt to meet its customer’s needs while disregarding the long-term welfare of society. For example if a business moves manufacturing to another country to avoid environmental regulations or reduce labor costs, in the short term their profits will go up but society will suffer. We are seeing the effects right now in the coronavirus pandemic of having so many of our needed supplies come from far away. If a company can manufacture goods so cheaply that it’s cost effective to ship them thousands of miles, that might work until there is some kind of crisis that exposes the weaknesses of such practices.
In my opinion, here are some other examples that I’d like business leaders to think about:
Can our employees afford to buy the products? If they can afford them, they can use them and tell customers about them.
If the people in the target market don’t have jobs any more, can they afford to buy the products?
If we force our workers and the community to accept unhealthy conditions, will we always have a healthy and productive workforce to draw from?
If I try to take unfair advantage of the providers of goods and services, am I ok with that store or that vendor going out of business? For example, if you nickel and dime your webmaster to death until they have to get another job to stay solvent, will you care if you have to pay to get a whole new web site because you can’t find anyone reasonable to maintain the old one?
We could probably all go on and on with examples! If there is not enough public outrage or their government refuses to hold them accountable, businesses can get away with unsustainable practices for a long time.
In our textbook there is a case study about New Belgium Brewing on pages 26-27. NBB not only put thought into the quality of the product, they think of their employees, the community and the environment as stakeholders whose well-being is important. It’s part of their brand to care for all the stakeholders and they are still profitable and growing. A marketing concept is intended to benefit both profits and the full range of stakeholders.
I can’t afford to do all my shopping at Whole Foods, but I do shop there sometimes when I need something that other stores don’t have. Once I was trying to buy suet for making wild bird food cakes. The butcher at Whole Foods told me they did not sell suet. Since they do some of the meat cutting there in the store, I asked the butcher if I could buy a quantity of fat trimmings to experiment with. He told me I could have them for free and he’d save me some and to come back tomorrow. I did and got a nice big package of fat which helped feed a lot of birds. This employee did not know if I would buy anything from Whole Foods or not, but knew it was in keeping with their brand to provide that service. Whole Foods also donated a quantity of unused plastic containers to Litzinger Road Ecology Center where I am a volunteer. We used some of the containers as suet molds. With actions such as these, businesses can demonstrate their commitment to all stakeholders while reinforcing their brand.
Some consumers probably think of a brand as a name of a product or a logo, but a brand can also include things like sounds, colors, pictures, experiences, environments and actions. A marketing concept can help a business select actions that are good for profits and also for society.
The “Back To Our Roots” art show opened Friday, February 21 and is on display until March 20. I am in this show along with 21 other artists who are students in nine different departments at Webster University. The exhibit is in the Contemporary Art Projects Gallery in Arcade building in downtown St. Louis.
From the upper right clockwise, my pieces are named “Correspondence That Could Have Been, I – IV”. Here is a statement from me about what these works are about.
“A dear friend of mine, Mark Reed, who I used to collaborate with creatively died in 2018. Over the years, we discussed, traded, and collaborated on art. Some of our collaborations became realized, some were unfinished, some were just talked about. We both used to enjoy the art format Faux Postage, also known as Artistamps or Artist Postage Stamps. This is an art form derived from Dadaism and Mail Art in which artists make up their own imaginary postage stamps to comment on the human condition through the concepts of correspondence and networking. It’s a playful format we both enjoyed in and out of active participation in the Mail Art community. For Back to Our Roots I’ve made four Faux Postage designs based on some unfinished stamp designs of Mark’s which used elements of some of my designs, for which he obtained my permission to use about 22 years ago. I have made one design with the price of postage at that time, one with today’s postage rate and a couple of values in-between. This is to symbolize that whether we were actively collaborating or not, during all the time I knew him his influence on my work was felt, and his influence will continue to be felt and warmly remembered by me as long as I am alive, in art and in life.”
The emotions and ideas in these pieces are intense and not entirely processed. The three art journals displayed below are works in progress that I use as creative expression and self-care to help me digest all kinds of things about life, both good and bad. Visitors to the show are welcome to page through them.
I have been working on a mini web site to go along with these journals to explain what is behind selected pages in these journals. It’s crudely formatted for mobile viewing so that visitors to the show can scan a QR code and read my commentary. It is readable on a desktop web browser too, though formatted in a bit of an eccentric manner there since I rushed it to get it ready for the show. Like the journals, it’s in progress and might be in progress for some time, who knows what the future will bring. I’m surprised at how much I have to say and how much is pouring out of me. To see what I have published so far, see the link below.
The gallery was broken into, vandalized and some of the artwork vandalized. The artists whose work was affected have been notified so they can make repairs. They expect to have the show up and running again by the end of the week.
The quote above probably sounds like an unlikely sentence to text to anyone, but I have a doctor friend who shares my interest in audio content and has a weird sense of humor. She did in fact receive such a communication from me. We often recommend podcasts to each other to try out. A humorous episode about a fistula sounded to me like one she’d enjoy!
What are podcasts? They are audio presentations that you can consume on demand with a device that can access the Internet. If you like books on tape, instructional audio tapes, public radio, community radio, talk radio or similar audio content you will probably enjoy them – there seems to be a podcast for almost any topic you might be interested in.
Podcasts are a big part of my life. One reason is that I’m not very patient with entertainment content that is not on demand. I don’t want to constantly watch or listen to content that is selected by programmers to emotionally and intellectually manipulate me. I’m currently working on a Master’s Degree in Communications. My long-held suspicions that most mass media content is manipulation disguised as entertainment have been confirmed by my recent studies. I feel less manipulated if I at least choose the topics I want to hear about and get more of my entertainment from independent content producers. Although I sometimes enjoy mass entertainment for my own reasons, I prefer to avoid being inundated with commercials when possible and I don’t normally want to arrange my schedule around entertainment schedules – I want to watch or listen when it’s convenient for me.
Another reason is that I rely on podcasts a lot to help me fall asleep at night. While recovering from severe emotional trauma, I was introduced to meditation apps and sleep aid podcasts. Some podcasts are designed specifically for inducing sleep, and others work that way for me even if not specifically produced for that purpose.
I also spend multiple days a week working from home and podcasts help keep me entertained and less lonely if I’m doing tasks that are not that mentally engaging.
Here are some of my favorite podcasts, many with my brief commentary, divided into categories. I’ve linked to the podcast’s web site or social media fan page whenever possible so that no matter what platform or service you use to consume podcasts, if you can access the Internet hopefully you can find a way to listen. Usually that is done through a web browser or podcast app.
Pet Fish Talk – Inactive, but most of the episodes are still available. It’s not very polished, but these guys are like rock stars to me because of all the knowledge they have – when my landscaping boss told me he met these guys at a green industry conference, I was excited and pumped him for every bit of information he could remember. “You met the Bailey Brothers!!!! OMG!!!”
PodGOATS – great if you need an introduction to a history topic that you are interested in exploring in a more in-depth way later.
The Crash Bang Wallop Podcast – This is a weird one. Two British comedians mocking some aspects of disasters. I felt extremely guilty for trying this one out, but since once at a trivia night I did sweep, singlehandedly, both the British slang and Disaster categories, I had to see for myself what I thought of it. They seem to (try to) steer away from mocking the victims and instead mock some aspects of the situation. Some of the disasters they cover are very tragic and terrible, and some are more lighthearted, such as New Coke. If dark humor does not appeal to you probably best to avoid the more tragic episodes.
The Kevin Jackson Show – African-American conservatives are not unheard of, but they usually don’t get featured a lot in the mass media. If you want to hear from one, Kevin Jackson is very entertaining and will help you look at things from angles you may not have considered, if that’s what you are looking for.
Pop Culture podcasts
The Beatles Naked – I listen to a lot of Beatles podcasts and this is my current favorite. From what I can tell there is a lot of original or less obvious research presented.
Deck the Hallmark – I found this podcast while doing research for my paper What is the Hallmark Channel Selling? There are three hosts who have different views on Hallmark Channel programming – fan, tolerant, and critical. They are also very funny and I think you’ll laugh as they find things to rip and praise.
Fabcast – If you don’t LLLOOOOVVVVEEE the Beatles you might get frustrated by the sometimes over-the-top praise from these hosts, but they really do know their stuff and they have some perspectives that are worth hearing.
Fab 4 Free 4 All – These guys talk over each other a lot, which can get annoying sometimes, but their likable personalities and vast Beatles knowledge help make up for that.
I’ve Got a Beatles Podcast! – The hosts are really knowledgeable – one is even a musicologist. They also sometimes say hilarious things. For example, if you are a Paul McCartney fan, check out Episode 80: McCartney’s “Silliest (Love) Songs!” in which they include this concept – is a song “bad” if you love it? Thought provoking and funny!
Paul or Nothing – Some Paul McCartney fans that night not like this one. The host has some controversial opinions and has interviewed possibly the most controversial guest available – Geoffrey Guiliano. Guiliano is such a polarizing Beatles author that some people made up a rumor that he died in the 9/11 attacks. I found the resulting interview extremely entertaining along with most of these episodes, which sometimes praise and sometimes rip apart McCartney’s music. The host is engaging, funny and does his research. He is young and just learning some of the things we older fans have known for awhile, but he’s clearly putting in the effort.
Rushcast – hasn’t been active in awhile, but you can still listen to the archived episodes. Hosted by a bassist and music teacher.
Talk More Talk – This is a videocast about the Beatles as solo artists. So far I’ve consumed it as audio only.
Take It Away – Knowledgeable analysis of Paul McCartney’s music.
Things We Said Today – Solid and entertaining Beatles analysis. Allan Kozinn in my opinion stands out in a field of talented hosts.
Trashy Divorces – Most of these episodes are about celebrities, so if you study pop culture, reputation management, the use of media as a weapon or related topics you might find it useful.
Catholic Answers Live – You have to know a lot to be able to explain the Catholic Faith and the rotating hosts on this show know the answers. They are respectful and loving to all callers but not afraid to tell it like it is even when it’s radically counter-cultural. If you are curious about what Catholics believe or are Catholic and want to strengthen your practice, this is one of the best resources I know of.
Sleep With Me – Delightfully, whimsically, benevolently weird! Effective too!
I’m not sure why but I feel I have to explain my interest in the next couple of podcast categories a little bit! I inherited a layperson’s interest in morbid topics and forensic science, along with archaeology and history, from my Mother and Grandmother. It may be weird, but I came by it honestly! My Mom subscribed to Reader’s Digest when I was in grade school and I usually read every article in it, but the ones that really stick in my memory are the disaster and unsolved mystery related articles. My Mom took us to every historic site that was possible during her life and history is often rather dark. When you visit historic sites and monuments, you will learn about all kinds of disasters, deaths, epidemics, assassinations, wars, crimes and oppression as well as happier topics.
When I was young, along with subscriptions to the adult and kid’s versions of National Geographic, I also had a subscription to a kid’s magazine for mysteries, UFO’s, Sci-Fi and paranormal stuff called Weird Worlds. I lost most of my interest in Sci-Fi and UFO’s when I got older but I still love mysteries, especially historical ones. I also am fascinated by human behavior. The way people react in extreme situations is interesting to me.
Weird History and Paranormal podcasts
Astonishing Legends – I am a practicing Roman Catholic, so I do believe there is a realm of existence that is beyond what our senses can normally detect, but that doesn’t mean I find every report of such phenomena credible. Most paranormal topics bring out the skeptic in me, but I have an open mind and if someone can make a case that is evidence based, I would like to hear it. The Astonishing Legends guys do a great job of doing thorough research and presenting their evidence in a way that seems intellectually honest. They lean on the side of believing in some of the paranormal phenomena they research when evidence is inconclusive or suggestive. I have no problem with that. There is no point to listening for entertainment to a presentation of research on a paranormal topic that is settled. What is the fun of that? If you don’t consider a mystery debunked, why not entertain it for awhile and see what happens? I enjoy the mental exercise of deciding how to evaluate evidence.
Diggin’ Oak Island – This podcast is about a TV show that my husband and I watch called “The Curse of Oak Island”. The History Channel should be ashamed of how intellectually dishonest this show is, but it’s still entertaining because I like the personalities, the technology and the ridiculousness. If you are interested in the actual mystery (I’m one of those people who was fascinated by the Reader’s Digest article about it in the 1970s) I recommend this podcast as a companion piece to the show. It helps understand what you’ve just watched and figure out what is bunk and what might have some credibility to it. This host doesn’t trash the show when it’s not called for, he is a fan, but he is also appropriately critical.
Jimmy Akin’s Mysterious World – Jimmy Akin is my favorite host on the Catholic Answers religious podcast. Here he tackles both mysterious faith related subjects and mysterious non-religious topics and analyzes them from both a logic perspective and a faith perspective. Very stimulating and refreshing to listen to, because he draws on many areas of knowledge and explores how they inform each other. The depth of this guy’s knowledge is astonishing every time I listen.
Lore – Sometimes it annoys me that the description of each episode is kind of vague, but on the other hand not knowing much about the topic before I listen helps me to be surprised and exposes me to bits of history that I didn’t know. I also like this host’s other podcast, Cabinet of Curiosities.
Casefile – This is one of my favorites in the True Crime genre. Well researched and respectful to the victims, and free of rambling.
Coroner Talk – Sounds like a great educational resource if you are a coroner. Why do I like it? I am also interested in how such an occupation affects people psychologically and what it takes to be able to do a job like that.
Great Disasters – The hostess has a great delivery, very clear and organized, but not without emotion when appropriate. She is an amazing storyteller and reader. And the topics are well written and researched. You’ll be moved and informed.
Nocturne – This is a good one for when you want to be just a little creeped out but not necessarily terrified!
Omitted – Season Four, Island Vacation combines creepiness, storytelling and travel. Really compelling.
Plane Crash Podcast – Believe it or not, there are several podcasts about plane crashes in existence. This is by far my favorite. The host does good research, is logical, doesn’t ramble, and has a kind, compassionate attitude.
Rippercast – Although organized around the Jack the Ripper case, this podcast is mostly not focused on gore but instead on Victorian history and culture and how it intersects with the case. Since the case lives on in current pop culture, some of the episodes examine that aspect also. If you have any interest in the Victorian era there will probably be some episodes you can get into.
True Crime Garage – I don’t listen to every episode, but my liking for the hosts keeps me checking in from time to time.
Wow, that was a huge list. It doesn’t include all the podcasts I currently listen to or have listened to, but I hope it’s enough of a selection that you’ll find something interesting!
Pooky is one of my two pet European Starlings. I adopted him in 2011 at three months of age. When I heard that the Master Gardener Winter Book Club was meeting at Missouri Botanical Garden to discuss the book Mozart’s Starling by Lyanda Lynn Haupt I offered to bring my starlings so that the attendees could meet a real-life pet starling and see how they interact with people. I ended up only bringing Pooky because Attila and Pooky started fighting when they were put in the travel cage. Pooky is slightly prettier (sorry Attila!) and sings more so he is the one I chose to bring.
It went better than I expected! Once he had some time to settle in, Pooky was not intimidated by being around a large group of people he didn’t know. He sang and talked for the group with gusto, giving a good demonstration of how tame starlings sound when they imitate human speech, whistle tunes and make starling-only sounds. I haven’t read this particular book but I have read a lot of articles on Mozart and his starling and I am familiar with the rudiments of that historic bird’s story.
Besides the book itself, we discussed specifics of starling biology and behavior and talked about the implications of invasive species. Other topics included bird behavior in general, bird conservation, avian language abilities and intelligence, experiences with unusual pets and other related topics.
After the discussion I gave Pooky some “out” time so that those who wanted a closer encounter could let Pooky land and sit on them for a bit. Both of my birds will readily land on people they don’t know and Pooky did not disappoint on this occasion. My starlings love attention and judging from the avian and human interaction I think members of both species enjoyed the encounter.
Some resources if you want to learn more about starlings:
Amazing starling videos by researcher Richard Smedley. Includes next box footage, starling fights, wild starlings imitating alarms and much more.
It’s Ok to Hate Starlings – I disagree with this opinion, and I said so in the comments, and the abuse that resulted I think is very educational. Do you think there is a connection between human and animal abuse? Read the comment section and see what you think. I got very involved in this discussion because I was testing a hypothesis about abuse.
Today the St. Louis area is experiencing a sleet and snow mixture. In a week or so, it will be time to start some seeds indoors for the earliest garden plants such as onions and chives. See the Schnarr’s Hardware calendar that includes suggested seed starting, planting times and harvest times for the St. Louis area. That means it’s not too early to plan your garden for 2020! I’ve been practicing landscape plan drawing as I work on my garden plan. More examples and more details are on the Schnarr’s blog!
Our next door neighbor has been discharging most of her drainage into our yard for years, causing thousands of dollars of damage to our property. We installed rain gardens to keep her runoff from further damaging our home. St. Louis County wants us to get rid of our fixes and be subjected to damage again when the problem originates next door. I’m going to document our steps again as we fight this plus the time I’m spending, so I’m beginning a new log. Where we left off, I had spent 27.81 hours working on our defense.
The county’s position is that our neighbor can alter her property as much as she wants and discharge water as much as she wants, even directly on our driveway. But if we do anything to protect our house, which has major structural damage from her water and will cost more than $10,000 to fix (not including the cracks upstairs), we are in the wrong and have to go to court. Plus we have to let it happen again and again, we cannot prevent it or protect the new driveway we got in 2018. We are looking at 10s of thousands of damages. You are allowed by law to take emergency measures to protect your property, but they don’t think that applies to us for some reason.
If you think this is unfair, I think it would help us out to leave comments at the end of this blog post or contact media outlets you respect with a news tip. Thank you if you can help! Even if you disagree with us your comments will help this site in the search engines.
What follows is a long read, but it’s necessary to log all the information in one place so that people who need background on the situation can get it fast. I’ll keep updating at the end as things progress.
My other main reason for making this log public, is that for years organizations like MSD and Missouri Botanical Garden have been advocating for citizens to install rain gardens to improve local water quality, reduce flooding, and reduce erosion. Our region has suffered greatly from floods for decades, if not millenia because of our natural geology. Rain gardens can help reduce this while protecting and beautifying our own property. I installed a small one at my condo several years ago to protect my neighbor’s air conditioner from the drainpipe that led off my condo’s building. It worked wonderfully well and had the other happy effects of reducing runoff, erosion and silt into Lake Jefferson in Brentwood which suffers from periodic inundation, silting and destructive algae blooms in the summer. Pleased with the results I have written articles on how to do this. But recent experiences have shown me what can happen if you try to do deal with your runoff in an ethical way. If you undergo a campaign of persecution, MOBOT, MSD and other environmentally minded organizations in the region will not help you – you are on your own and have to be your own advocate. So I want other people to see what works and what does not work if they get into this situation, because I in a tiny way might be responsible for some people falling into the same trap my husband and I are in. As a Master Gardener, part of my duty is to pass on what I have learned, and as a professional garden writer I need to inform people about what pitfalls they might fall into if they employ garden techniques that other people don’t like for some reason or don’t understand.
01-14-20 – Received letter saying we have to remove our landscaping along the fence line.
01-15-20 – I sent an email to an official from MSD, the St. Louis County Property Complaints division, and John Geiler of St. Louis County. I left phone messages for John Geiler and Mike Hite (whose name is on the notice of violation letter). I requested a personal meeting with John Geiler so I can tour the property with him and show him the problems. I sent a copy of the letter to my attorney requesting legal assistance. I also sent a link to this update to the Great Rivers Environmental Law Center, Stream Teams United, River Des Peres Watershed Coalition, Environment Missouri, Open Space Council for the St. Louis Region, Deer Creek Watershed Alliance, Missouri Coalition for the Environment, and Great Rivers Greenway.
Time spent as of 01-15-20 – 28.39 hours
Update 01-16-20: Since yesterday, I have been contacted by the St. Louis County inspector, a representative from MSD, and a representative from the Great Rivers Environmental Law Center. Here is an email I sent to the MSD representative and the supervisor of the inspector a few minutes ago. It will fill you in on the situation as of right now.
Here, as requested, is what it says in the notice about the exact violation.
“Violation 1 302.2 Grading and Drainage. Health Related. All premises shall be graded and maintained to prevent the erosion of soil and to prevent the accumulation of stagnant water thereon. REMOVE THE LANDSCAPING ALONG YOUR FENCE WHERE THE WATER CAN FLOW AS IT WAS DESIGNED.”
Mike Hite, who is the inspector listed on the notice, called me this morning and let me know that he received my email. In his message he said that people always block the water from the other yard. He assumed we did that, but we did not do that, the water was not blocked but facilitated in the flow from her yard to ours. Just because other people do it, it does not follow that that is what we did.
I don’t know why no one from the county will look at the actual property, look at the pictures I’ve provided or the videos to see the following.
Water was on both sides of the fence before I did anything. Photos are in my first article with dates on them showing this. I can show you on my phone to show when I took the photos and did not fake the dates on the graphic. Here it is:
The flow of water from her property to ours probably worked fine in the 1950s when these homes were built. Here is what happened. Over the years, lawns on both sides got mowed over and over, but you can’t mow the actual fence line. Over the years, plant roots and organic matter build up along the fence, creating a high spot along the fence line. This trapped water on her side. At the same time, repeated inundations of water in both yards, and nothing planted in the yards in the affected area except turfgrass, caused the soil to be compacted in the areas that collect water. Turfgrass is not a very permeable surface especially if maintained for decades in a way that depletes the soil. So the problem the county says we caused was pre-existing.
Over the years, apparently more of her yard was paved causing runoff to have to be dumped into a smaller area of soil than the drainage was originally designed for, exacerbating the problem further. I can’t return the property to the original configuration it was designed in because the property next to us (7409 Rockwood Dr) already altered the dynamic decades ago causing much damage to the soil and altering the original drainage forever. When these houses were built they did not design the situation to still be sustainable 70 years later. We know a lot more about landscaping and how it affects water and soil than we did in 1954. Even if I could return the landscaping in both yards to it’s 1950s state, the problem would occur again over time. My landscaping is designed to be sustainable because I’ve used the knowledge we now have in the 21st century to make it so.
When I first built the raised bed along the fence line, the neighbor thought it was ugly so she complained that it was trapping water on her side. I don’t know if that was true or not since water was already trapped on her side before I did anything. Nevertheless, I knew that was not a desirable outcome and having no inclination to damage her already unattractive yard and feeble turfgrass further I took steps to make sure that does not happen. I removed the bricks in the low spot, removed the bricks along the back edge of the bed (solely because she told me she thought they were ugly, I replaced them with fine black mesh that is less visible and also more permeable just in case), made my collection area on our side larger and lower than her side, and now her yard drains completely. That is not all I did, you have a full list from my previous article, but those are the major things.
Her yard didn’t drain completely BEFORE we changed anything. I have checked it after each and every rain (other than when we were in Yellowstone last summer) to make sure (edit after sending) it does now. We IMPROVED the existing problem rather than causing it as we have been accused of doing.
Here is a link to an image that has been available to the county since July 2019.
Mike said in his phone message to me that he could not find one of the drainage pipes that is closer than 10 feet when he came to our property. I question whether the inspectors actually get out of their trucks to look because I witnessed one in May (the 2nd) doing an inspection without even stopping the truck all the way. This diagram shows clearly where to look for the pipes. I actually left one off when I made this diagram – there is one more at the north edge of the carport that I didn’t notice when I made this. Yes it’s hard to see everything at first glance, but it’s my opinion that if you are citing someone for a violation that has already been dropped in the court once, shouldn’t you be certain about these things? There is a real economic cost to me having to spend time fighting this over and over when it has been fixed since May 4. I’m partially self-employed and when I’m working on this I’m not earning money. I have plenty of proof in photo and video. I am willing to show it to a judge if that’s what it takes. Why can’t the inspectors look at the actual evidence when it’s been provided over and over again? That’s the part I can’t understand.
Here is the second pipe that is closer than 10 feet from our property (right photo).
This image was provided to the county in August 2019. The tape measure is shown extended to 10 feet. The pipe has not moved since I took this picture. I don’t understand why the inspector could not see it. You are welcome to come and measure it, don’t take my word for it. Are you not allowed to walk beyond the gate? That I understand. There is no lock on it, but if you are not allowed to go beyond that explains this whole mess. Please make an appointment with me and I’ll show you everything in person. This offer of a tour has been on the table since August 2019.
I also offered soil, fertilizer and grass seed to the neighbor at NO COST to repair the water damaged spot in her yard. I would even install it for free if she wanted me to. We did not cause the damage, it was caused by outdated landscape management practices that are harmful to the soil quality over time. But it’s in both of our best interests to improve the appearance of her lawn and if she believes we caused it I’m happy to fix it. I physically extended with my actual arm an actual bag of grass seed that I bought for her and showed her a pile of soil that we ordered from St. Louis Compost and offered her a share of it to revive her grass. The grass seed I offered her has roots up to four feet long which will help greatly in reducing her soil compaction and helping it absorb water. You cannot buy this grass seed in big box stores. She turned me down flat. The grass on our side of the fence is fine, even in the spots that flood all the time. It’s good enough that a client of mine bought plugs of it from me last summer. I’d love to tell this all to a judge, believe me, so I have no fear of being taken to court again. If you think that is a threat to me (the phone call made sure to include that), after reading the above I’m sure you can understand why it is not.
Thank you for your time.”
Time spent as of 01-16-20 – 30.25 hours
I have not heard from anyone except MSD since my last update. Here is copy of a letter I have just sent to John Geiler of St. Louis County who supervises the inspectors.
“Hi, I’ve attached a photo that I took this morning. With the water frozen, it’s easier to see where the wet spots are. You can see where the fence is. The top portion is our neighbor’s yard. The bottom portion is ours. This is the low spot in our backyards where water flows from one yard to another. As you can see, we are not trapping water in her yard.
I don’t know why she keeps falsely reporting that we are. I don’t know why your inspectors keep falsely reporting that we are. I can speculate but don’t know for sure. I have contacted my attorney to find out how to put a stop to this. It’s been going on since May. I have blind copied him in on this email and I will be publishing this letter on my blog shortly so no one can claim you have not been kept fully informed through each step.
I have sent emails to both Mike Hite and John Geiler. I spoke to Mike on the phone this morning. His attitude is clear. He is not interested in looking at any of my evidence and does not feel he has to actually understand the case before taking my husband to court. Eventually I will put more of my evidence here when I have time and keep track of my hours that I have spent the last few days but he make it clear he will not look at any more so I will not bother to send any more. He made it clear that 8 months is not enough time to read an email or look at a two and half minute video. He said he can’t look at videos because they might have viruses but he refused to look at it on my phone, plus it’s on YouTube so he knows it won’t have a virus anyway.
So, I guess we’re headed to court no matter what we do because we are clearly being set up to fail. I hope the judge has a better understanding of the case than the inspectors are willing to have.
Ok, a friend of mine in the real estate business has advised me to print out every email I have sent the county, and I’m going to do that when we go to court. In the meantime the emails will all go here also. I’m going to be writing to a lot of people and they will need to see all the letters in one place. I will list the date of each one, and what the response was, if there was a response.
On February 20, Michael Hite came to the property at 7409 Rockwood. From my desk at 7405 Rockwood, I could see him. I have been wanting to talk to someone from the County in person since May of 2019, but before this they have always come on days when I’m not here. Before February 20, the only exception was May 2, 2019, the day before we got our first notice from the county. A county truck came by but did not stop all the way. When they saw I was there they hit the gas and sped off. I don’t know who the driver was, but I remember it being a woman.
On February 20 I came out and greeted Mike and offered to show him around and explain what is going on and discuss how to fix it. He was not interested in anything more than a cursory look. He would not listen to the questions or comments I had. I offered to show him video on my phone of what I was talking about. He would not look at it. I invited him to come inside and look at the video on my computer. He declined. He asked me to send him videos and pictures by email. He said not more than five or so. I said ok.
Here is what I sent him that day, recreating the best I can.
Video – They were .MOV files on Thursday. I have put them on You Tube today so everyone can see them.
The above two photos of the ice on our driveway are to show that Diane Broy at 7409 Rockwood Drive, St. Louis MO 63123 is continuing to discharge water onto our driveway in violation of St. Louis County law. Her pipe is closer than the 10 feet allowed, it is four feet. We had to have our driveway replaced in 2018 because of years of this discharge undermining the soil and causing cracks with all the freeze thaw cycles. This is also where I park and as you can see it’s a hazard to walk in our own driveway because of her. I reported this in July 2019. I pointed it out again to Mike on February 20, 2020 and sent him these pictures on February 20, 2020. The ice pictures were taken on January 19, 2020.
Those are the image and videos I sent to Mike while he was running away from me that I could not get him to look at on my phone while we were both standing there. One bit of information I did manage to get from his was the following. I asked him about the complaint that we were trapping water on her side of the fence and how he could see while we were standing there that the water was all on our side. Mike said he had video of water on her side of the fence from an earlier visit that he took during a rain. So I said the standard we have to meet then is no water can be on her side WHILE IT’S RAINING? How are we supposed to do that when it originates on her side?
After Mike left, this was my follow up email on February 20.
“As you can see, we did not cause the problem. It existed before I changed anything. We FIXED the problem. We did not cause it.. See this video of water flowing freely during a rain last summer.”
“It did not flow freely BEFORE I did anything because there was already a raised area along the fence line due to mowing on either side of it for more than 50 years and organic matter building up along fence line. If we have to make sure there is no water on her side WHILE it’s raining then that is something we cannot fix no matter what we do because her yard has poor drainage. The problem is on HER side.”
That is the end of my communication with Mike on February 20, 2020. You will notice that I am sending the same content over and over. That’s because people from the County keep claiming not to have it. The content in the last email I sent on February 20, 2020 has been in Mike’s possession since July 30, 2019 and has been public on this blog since July 30, 2019. (See it here: Drainage Problems Are Bringing Tom and Me to Court) This is the same evidence Mike looked at in court on July 30, 2019 and used it to dismiss the charges against us.
On February 20, 2020, Mike claimed not have this information. He asked me to send it again (you’ll read later on February 24 he criticized me for sending too many emails). I have asked him why in eight months he could not view it. I asked him why he did not remember looking at it with us on court in July 30 2019. He said he didn’t understand the case. He said he could not look at videos because they might have viruses. It can’t have viruses if it’s on YouTube, but okay fine. When he was here on Thursday February 20 I suggested looking at it on my phone or my computer. He refused and left.
I have to end this for now and get some actual work done, you’ll hear more about what happened on Monday, February 24 and why I’m resigned to going to court again. There isn’t going to be any way out of it so I’m going to thoroughly document the process here so it will all be in one place when it’s time.
Hours spent so far on our defense: 36.83
On Sunday, February 23, I went out to work on the garden and see what could be done to draw more water over to our side of the fence since Mike told us we have to draw all the water over from her yard even while it’s raining. Knowing that is not possible, since he told me to do it I thought I’d at least show we tried so that when we are in court I can show I am not just ignoring the problem. I made the bio-swales on our side bigger, and planted additional Louisiana Iris and Blue Mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum). Those are hardy perennials that tolerate wet periods. Only the Iris is going to be visible right now because the Blue Mistflower dies down to the ground in winter and is not quick to get started in the spring. But it’s native and beautiful and very well suited to this purpose so worth the wait.
Monday morning the 24th it was raining and out of curiosity I went to see how the wet areas were performing. There was no visible water on her side even DURING the rain which I did not think was really possible. I thought Mike and his boss would like to see this.
I sent this email to Michael Hite and John Geiler on February 24 at 8:18 am.
“Inspector Mike told us that even though the water originates on our neighbor’s side of the fence, it’s not good enough that the water drains completely into our yard after the rain is over, it has to be completely on our side even WHEN it is raining. Sounds impossible, so it makes me wonder what is really going on, but we gave it a try anyway and it looks like we succeeded, I took this photo a few minutes ago during actual rain.
Our side (7405) is on the right. Note water on right side, not the left (7409). Is this good enough?”
At 8:14 John responded and copied his reply to Mike.
“As long as there is nothing in your back yard that alters the natural flow of water from the uphill properties to the storm water inlet at the bottom of the hill. That is the natural swale and cannot be altered according to the ordinance. Any alterations would have to be approved by the Zoning Department with a request for a variance.
I replied asking if he could call me to tell me exactly what this means. I have made the water flow better since I started my garden, but his directive is vague enough that I wanted to clarify exactly what I need to do. Obviously he was available so all it would take is one phone call from him to find out exactly what we are supposed to do and get this whole thing over with. I was hopeful that it was finally going to be over.
The phone rang and I was happy to be able to get some clear information finally. But it was Mike berating me for sending the email, and telling me he would not look at it and told me not to send any more.
So clearly we are being set up to fail and we have no choice but to go on the offensive and pursue what legal remedies are possible. That’s what I’m working on next.
I sent this email to Michael Hite and John Geiler on February 24 at 3:01 pm.
“Ok I know you guys are not interested in any information from me, but you might be interested in a solution.
I’ll fill the bioswale with mulch so the water can still pass through somewhat. In the short term, this will likely make water stay in the neighbor’s yard more. That’s how it was before but you want things returned to the way they were before so that should be ok. I’ll keep adding plants, but since a lot of perennial plants die back in the winter I will need to plant in the mulch either winter scouring rush, bamboo, or something else that stays erect and green all year long and keeps absorbing water all year round. Winter scouring rush (Equisetum hyemale) is a native plant so we don’t have to worry about it being invasive. That way once they start growing they should suck up more of the water. I think more diverse plants and shorter plants would be more attractive to both us and the neighbor, but we are not going to be allowed to do that so I have to suck up as much water as
quickly as possible and winter scouring rush is a better choice than invasive bamboo so I’ll try that first. Winter scouring rush should stay green most of the year – I have seen it green in February while picking up trash on Simpson lake after the 2015 flood during Operation Clean Stream.
You most likely won’t have read this, so when you take us to court I’ll inform the judge that I offered this to you as a solution on February 24, 2020. I will continue to document all our communications on our blog as well. And the judge will be given a list of when you had what information. I can’t make you read it but I can document that at least.
I don’t know how you expect people to find a workable solution when you come to person’s house, refuse to look at evidence, ask me to email it, so I do, then you don’t read it, berate me for sending it and inform me you will not read it. Yesterday I made more changes and I sent you a photo this morning and asked if that meets the requirements. I requested a phone call to see if that was sufficient. Instead of just answering my question, I got a call saying no one will look at the email and not to send any more. So you refuse to work with me at all and the judge will be told that. I don’t know if she will care, but she will be informed of each communication, what date, and what was the response. You have decided we are guilty without a trial and have informed us that your are not interested in any evidence we might present and when we fix something you will not look at what we did. So that’s what I will tell the judge in court, and will be telling anyone who will listen to us. Which may be nobody, but I will still tell it.”
This was to show I’m working to still try to solve this to show that I’m acting in good faith, although it’s clear there is nothing I can do to satisfy these people. In contrast, what has our neighbor done since last summer to try to fix her illegal pipes? Absolutely nothing. But we are the ones who are going to have to go to court and if we don’t my husband can be arrested.
I got a response from Michael Hite on February 25 at 11:19 am. It was copied to John Geiler.
Thanks for the e-mail, I did read it. I will be in contact with neighbor to discuss the matter further. If you would like to talk to your neighbor that would help also.
I sent this response at 2:56 pm.
“Thank you for your reply. I don’t believe talking to her will resolve anything. If she approaches me I will not turn her away but I knew after last July that talking to her was useless. You know how she likes to call you on the only day of the week that we are normally both gone? She must not want me to talk to you like I did last Thursday. If she really wanted to resolve this in a reasonable way she would want me to talk to you and not try to have you come only when we’re not here. I want to talk to you but you aren’t interested in talking to me. Neither is your boss. I have written to my County Council representative, the County Executive and several media outlets. I don’t know how many of those will care. I don’t have many options open to me. I’m proceeding with the options that are open to me on the advice of my attorney.
Last summer before we had even had our first court date, my husband and I were gone on our honeymoon in Yellowstone Park. There was a flash flood warning from the city of Brentwood (I got it on my phone in Yellowstone so I know what day it was). She knew we couldn’t talk to you or explain what is going on. She probably didn’t know where we were but my Jeep is normally parked on the driveway so she knew we were out of town. She called you when there was a flash flood so it would look like there was a bad water problem. How do I know this? A citation from you with that exact date on it.
I have fixed everything she asked me to fix. I had the drainage problem (if there ever was one, which I’m skeptical about) fixed by sundown on May 4, 2019. I don’t know why she wants to keep harassing us. I don’t know why you go along with it. I didn’t know either of you before this started. I can’t see how I have wronged either of you in any way in the past but you are both determined to harass me and my husband. I know why she hates my husband (her friend sued him), but I never talked to her in my life until I went over to talk to her on May 4 to ask her why she called you and to see if we could work something out. She refused every one of my suggestions so I just changed the specific things she mentioned and tried to leave her alone. I’m out in the backyard pretty often and she’s rarely out there. If we are both out there at the same time I used to smile and say Hi but I’m done with that, now I just turn my back and go about my business. There is nothing I can do to make her happy since the source of the excess water is on her side. I have done almost everything I can do. Based on advice from my attorney, I’m doing what is left available to me. It will take time to go through all the steps. Whatever you do to us in the future I will react to in a way so as to defend us against further financial damage. We are already thousands in the hole from her excess water. My goal is to prevent further financial damage and I will do whatever is necessary and also ethical and legal to defend ourselves. We didn’t start this but if necessary I will finish it.”
“I live at 7405 Rockwood Drive, St. Louis MO, 63123. Our neighbor, Diane Broy at 7409 Rockwood has been discharging water onto our driveway. We have already had to have the driveway replaced in 2018. She is still running water over our driveway. When it freezes it’s a hazard and we don’t want our new driveway to get ruined, it was expensive. Thank you for your time.”
On February 25 at 11:10 am, I sent a message to the 5th District St. Louis County Representative, Lisa Clancy. I got a response from Legislative Assistant Carter Gibson at February 26 at 10:35 am. My message follows.
“Our neighbor is discharging excess water onto our property in several places and we keep getting harassed by the county inspectors for having water. Instead of getting her to divert her water, they blame us. We are about to have to go to court for the second time. Even though the charges against us were dismissed the first time, they want to bring them again but our neighbor has not changed anything. I don’t understand why this is happening and I’m reaching out to anyone who might be interested in looking at it. The supervisor of the the inspectors, John Geiler is not interested and will not respond to my inquiries.
Carter Gibson responded that he would contact the Problem Properties division and let me know the verdict. I sent him a link to this blog log so they all have the current, updated information.
A friend of mine who is in the real estate business prepared this image for me of 7409 and 7405 Rockwood with notations she made. She has given me permission to post it and her anonymous comments follow.
“Here is a satellite view of the home at 7409 Rockwood, St. Louis, MO 63123. This screen shot is from Google Maps. On the lower right corner of the picture note the map data date as being the year 2020 as well as the date and time of the screen shot.
I have added a text box and red arrows indicating all areas paved over.
Note the lack of natural ground surface to absorb water. It appears that at least 80 percent of the entire lot is paved over, offering very little vegetation or natural soil. There is very little grassy area, as opposed to the connecting properties, to absorb water. It’s not surprising that water run-off could leak to surrounding properties.
Also attached is a property sketch from the records of the St. Louis County Department of Revenue on Feb 22, 2020. The property sketch does not indicate the detatched garage in the rear portion of the property which is pictured in a photo from it’s listing in the multiple listing service when entered into the MLS on Aug. 29, 2000 through it’s sale date of Nov. 06, 2000. See attached picture. The tax records also do not indicate what appears to be a storage shed or other out-building of some sort, located next to the garage.
***The property sketch from the Department of Revenue is also depicted incorrectly. Areas ‘A’ and ’C’ are incorrectly labeled compared to the
legend below the sketch.”
My comments on the images above – the supervisor of the inspectors, John Geiler, won’t say anything to me except I can’t block the flow of water from the top of the hill to the bottom of the hill. I haven’t done that. My neighbor at 7409 has. As you can see the house did not originally have a garage or most of the yard paved. Why are we being repeatedly accused, since May, of doing what someone else did and cited for it and taken to court? I can’t get an answer from anyone. I have been trying to find out what is going on since May 2019. Obviously I am missing some vital information and I’m doing as much investigating as I can. As you can see this information is from St. Louis County. Why can’t they look at their own data in 9 months? Are they confused about which house they are talking about? Why do we have to waste hours and hours of time when they could just look at their own data or look at what I send them?
I sent the above diagram to Michael Hite and John Geiler on Februay 27, at 9:30 am. My understanding is they will not look at it but I want the judge to know I tried.
Time spent on our defense since May 2019: 40.35 hours
Update March 9, 2020
I received this email on Friday, March 6.
“Dear Ms. Hasenfratz,
As a result of your inquiry to the County Executive, I asked that your case be reviewed again from a different perspective. The Department of Public Works sent a new inspector from a different division to visit the property and review the findings. The new inspector seems to have reached the same conclusion. Essentially, the raised flower bed is blocking the flow of water at the property line and the cut made in the bed is not adequate resulting in the backing up of water onto your neighbor’s lot.
Just to reiterate from my previous note, the inspectors are tasked with enforcing St. Louis County ordinances. The County Executive’s office does not have the ability to overturn decisions from inspectors on various citations of the ordinances. I am sorry I do not have better news and was not able to provide the results you seek. Unfortunately, the Court may be the best place to resolve this dispute.
Constituent Services Manager
Office of the St. Louis County Executive
I sent this email in reply on Saturday.
“Are Tom (my husband) and I allowed to meet with the inspector in person and go over all the evidence with him or her and discuss solutions since the problem existed before we did anything and the law says we are allowed to take emergency measures to protect our property. We can prove our foundation and house are crumbling because of the excess water from our neighbor. I would also like to know if our neighbor has to stop her discharge?
Carolyn Hasenfratz Winkelmann”
Time spent on our defense since May 2019: 40.85 hours
Update March 10, 2020
Email reply from Matt McLaughlin on March 10.
“I am inclined to think there will not be a change of heart from the inspectors at Public Works regardless of further meetings and discussions. Again, I do believe the Court may be the inevitable result of this impasse. That said, you are welcome to request a meeting directly to the department if you think it would help. I would be happy to provide contact information. I am sorry for how difficult this situation is for you and your husband.
Constituent Services Manager
Office of the St. Louis County Executive”
My reply to Matt on March 10:
“Yes please help us set up a meeting. I have been wanting a meeting since last August and they keep refusing. I very much doubt that they really sent another inspector like they told you. There has been no water on the neighbor’s side of the fence at least since May 4 2019, and to claim we are blocking and causing water on her side is false and they can’t have viewed the same thing we are viewing and come up with that conclusion. I don’t understand what is going on but we want to meet with them please. If everything was on the up and up they would not refuse to meet, refuse to talk to me on the phone and then when I see them here in person run away, then ask me to send an email to shut me up, then call me a few days later to tell me not to send emails and if I do they won’t look at them. Something weird is going on. It makes no sense.
They are not behaving the way people behave when they know they are doing the right thing – they are behaving the way people behave when they know they are doing the wrong thing. Did they send you any evidence that they actually did an inspection? Also, if their department is not accountable to the county executive, who are they accountable to? The county council?
Please set up a meeting and thank you.”
Time spent on our defense since May 2019: 41.71 hours
I have uploaded a couple of new videos today. One was taken on March 12, 2020 and the other was taken on March 14, 2020. I mistakenly said in my audio commentary that it was March 12 in the March 14 video. (I guess I hadn’t had enough coffee yet…)
Here is the March 12 video:
My description for the above March 12 video reads: “It appears to me as though the inspectors are trying to protect our neighbor, who is discharging all her rainwater into our yard and causing structural damage to our driveway, foundation and basement. They like to come and inspect while it is raining, so they can say we are trapping rainwater on her side of the fence and to make it look like we are doing something wrong. Her property is uphill from us and the water comes from her side, and we have made it drain better for her. By law we are allowed to take emergency measures to protect our property and even if it was not an emergency we are not breaking any laws, I have read them. We have not impeded the flow of water, we have made it flow better than it did before we started.
There is adequate evidence on that site, both photo and video to prove the problem originates on her side. Yet the county harasses us and appears to be working for her. I don’t understand why that is the case and I am currently in contact with someone at the County Executive’s office. I don’t know how far that line of inquiry is going to lead, but I’m going to keep going up the ladder until someone will agree to look at the evidence. The inspector and the supervisor of the inspectors will not look at it and have instructed me not to send them any emails. They dodge my phone calls. When an inspector came at a time I was home (for the first time in almost a year) when I came out to try to talk to him he would not answer my questions, ran away, told me to send and email, then when I tried to follow up about the contents of the email a few days later, he berated me for sending it and informed me he would not look at any more.
I don’t know why the county is deliberately trying to railroad us, but so far all the evidence I have points to that. If anyone knows anyone in the media who would be interested in investigating please forward this to them.”
And here is the March 14 video:
My description for the above March 14 video reads: “Drainage pipes are supposed to be 10 ft. away from the the property line. I have reported that our neighbor has one four feet away and it is discharging over our driveway. We had to get this driveway replaced in 2018 because the water flow undermined the soil under it and caused a lot of cracks. We are trying to prevent our new driveway from being ruined. I have reported this to St. Louis County formally in August 2019 and February 2020.
Instead of getting her to change it, the county is taking us to court for the measures we have taken to prevent damage to our home from our neighbor’s excess runoff. They blame us for having water when the water comes from her yard. They appear to be working for her and against us, even though she is the one in violation of the law. I don’t know why they are doing this and I am doing as much of my own investigating as I can.
If you know anyone in the media who would be interested in investigating please forward this video to them. Thank you!”
Time spent on our defense since May 2019: 42.5 hours
I sent this message to the county property complaints division this morning:
“Hi, our neighbor at 7409 Rockwood Dr. 63123 has been discharging water onto our driveway and I’ve reported it twice, in August and February. She is still doing it. Here is a video I took on Saturday.
Is there anything you can do to help us? Thank you for your time.”
This is the reply:
It looks like the owner of this property is in correspondence with an inspector. The inspector issued an extension and they have until mid-April to comply.
So – it looks like things are finally turning in a better direction. What will happen? Stay tuned!
Time spent on our defense since May 2019: 43.6 hours
Recieved to my email on March 17, 2020:
“I have sent your messages to Public Works. I will let you know their response. Just so you know, I have been working long hours dealing with the coronavirus health emergency so much of my constituent cases have been delayed.
Constituent Services Manager
Office of the St. Louis County Executive”
My response on March 17, 2020:
“Thank you, the crisis didn’t stop them from coming here though to try to trap us (last Thursday, on video) so I can’t just forget about it. Our basement is in dire straits. You’d think they’d have more important things to deal with right now like you do. I understand what you are dealing with. Thank you for your time!
Carolyn Hasenfratz Winkelmann”
Recieved to my email on March 27, 2020:
“Good morning Mrs. Winkelmann,
Please e-mail in two weeks when it might be safer to meet in person. Also please note that your neighbor is working on removing the ‘drain pipe’ that is pointed at your driveway.
St. Louis County Building Inspector”
I sent in response on March 27, 2020:
“Great! My husband is working nights now too so he’ll be able to be there too. Thank you very much, I’ll keep that in mind. I’m healthy so far, I hope you and yours are too.
In the meantime, have you read and understand the entire situation? Here are the two blog posts to read to know all the background. Two weeks or so should be plenty of time to read them. If you have any questions as you read please email them to me and I’ll be happy to respond. I can also do a conference call or video conference where I can read it to you paragraph by paragraph and you can respond in real time if necessary.
The most important things to notice as you read I think are the additions to the house next door AFTER it was built and the presence of water and where it collected in both yards BEFORE I modified anything to try to save our house foundation. Please also note the condition of our basement and the cracks on the main floor resulting from the water damage moving the foundation. When you come over you are welcome to see all the cracks in the house in person, upstairs and downstairs.
Mike I’ll add that if you have any worry about looking at my blog on a work computer, I will show it to you on my computer and read it to you paragraph by paragraph and you can stop me if you have any questions as we go. If you are afraid to look at YouTube videos on your own computer I can show them to you on mine.
Carolyn Hasenfratz Winkelmann”
Inspector Michael Hite paid a surprise visit today. We had a cordial and productive discussion about the changes we had made and are making. He said they were sufficient as long as I did not allow mosquito larvae to grow. I showed him the bottle of BTI I keep in the garage and he took a picture of it. He said I should not expect any more trouble unless there is a complaint about mosquito larvae which is not going to happen because I inspect daily and apply BTI regularly (at least every couple of weeks). A perfectly reasonable request which I would abide by anyway without being asked. I still have a small water garden on the deck at my condo which I treat with BTI regularly and have been for years. It’s the right thing to do and it’s not wrong for the County to make sure we’re doing it. He said if there ever is a complaint they will communicate with us and not just send us straight to court without an attempt at resolving it. The status of the neighbor’s illegal pipe discharging on our driveway currently is that she has been given another extension because she has to hire someone to do it and with the virus situation that takes time. That I also find reasonable. It would have been fixed last year if she had accepted my offer to fix it for no charge, but she turned me down so that is where we are. I’m just glad to be able to enjoy our garden now and go ahead on our planned improvements that were halted on May 3, 2019 when the County first came after us. It took just four days short of a year to establish productive two-way communication with the St. Louis County inspector. Who would have ever thought it would take that long? Even I, who admittedly have very low expectations of government standards of performance, did not expect it to take that long.
Anyone out there who finds themselves in a situation like what we just had, here is what I recommend, keeping in mind that I’m not an attorney and not qualified to give legal advice. I’m just relaying what worked for me.
Research the applicable laws before you start work and make sure you’re staying within them.
If you have done that and are still being harassed unfairly, log and save all communications. Get everything in writing that you possibly can.
Keep detailed records and take a lot of pictures and videos with verifiable dates.
If it’s legal to do so where you live, install a video surveillance system that allows you to record incidents and save the videos for later publication if needed. I used the Ring system and so far I am thrilled with the capabilities. Based on my detailed timeline, it seems that video was what made the situation start to turn around for us. If I had known how this would go I would have installed it sooner.
Get guidance from your attorney if you think it is warranted.