Monthly Archives: February 2023

Bee-ing Innovative


Photos courtesy of UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences photo

The University of Georgia creates a buzz by developing the world’s first vaccine for honeybees.

Most people regard insects as a nuisance to be swatted away. Not honeybees, however.

These pollinators are instrumental in the global production of foods that rely on insects for pollination, and, with the development of the first vaccine for the world’s honeybees, beekeepers now can protect their colonies.

The vaccine resulted from a collaboration between the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) and Dalan Animal Health, a biotech company based at UGA’s Innovation Hub in Athens. According to Environment News Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved the vaccine for two years on a conditional basis.

The vaccine is intended to help honeybees resist American foulbrood, a destructive disease that can wipe out entire bee colonies.

“You don’t have to look far to know honeybees are having a lot of problems right now. Hives will die unless you intercede with herculean efforts,” says Keith Delaplane, professor in the CAES Department of Entomology and director of the UGA Bee Program.

“Queen Candy”

While traditional vaccines are injected with a syringe, the honeybee vaccine is mixed into the queen feed that is consumed by worker bees and then fed to the queen.

After she ingests it, the inoculated queen, for the remainder of her lifetime, will produce worker bees that are primed to be immune to foulbrood as they hatch.

“This work is so new,” says Annette Kleiser, co-founder and CEO of Dalan. “There are no guidelines, no handbook. We are developing, together with Keith, what will be the gold standard for these trials. It’s really exciting; it is the first of its kind.”

Pollinators such as bees are responsible for one of every three bites of food humans eat, according to the USDA, and U.S. crops that depend on honeybee pollination are valued at more than $15 billion.

However, pollinator numbers have been declining for years. According to a survey by the Bee Informed Partnership, U.S. beekeepers lost 39 percent of their honeybees from April 2021 through April 2022.

“People don’t understand how hard it is to keep bees alive,” says Delaplane. “I can’t imagine a more frightening branch of agriculture to be in. It takes ceaseless attention.”

The animal vaccine can be used in organic agriculture, and it will be available on a limited basis to commercial beekeepers this year.

Who You Gonna Call?

If a swarm of honeybees takes up residence in your house, it’s now safer to tell them to buzz off. A new Honeybee Control and Removal state certification program requires pest control companies and operators who provide the service in Georgia to be certified and licensed.

The new law prohibits the use of pesticides in honeybee removal, so it’s better for your home and the bees.

Eye-Catching Craftsmanship

Ka-eye-yak Augusta kayaks

Photography by Sally Kolar and Herb Fechter

From kayaks to fly fishing rods, an Evans father and son create functional wood works of art.

About 10 years ago, Evans resident Bradley Bertram, aka one of the Eye Guys, was looking for something to do to fill the cold-weather months. Or, perhaps more specifically, his wife, Paige, was looking for something for him to do, so for Christmas she gave him the plans and materials to build a wooden kayak.

“Shortly after that, she described herself as a ‘kayak widow,’” Bradley says.

Especially since the 14-month project ended up spanning two winters. However, it wasn’t a solitary endeavor. Bradley’s then-adolescent son, Collin, who is now a 22-year-old college senior, got involved as well. He had built a couple of small model boats, but he was ready for a bigger, better challenge.

“I got interested in it right away. I like building things, boats, boating and fishing,” says Collin. “We jumped from building small model boats a foot long to building actual boats. I’m always in the garage helping with something, so it morphed into that.”

Kayaks Bradley Bertram, the Eye GuysThe Eyes Have It

The first kayak they built was an 80-pound tandem. However, during covid in 2020 and 2021, when many of us were binge-watching TV shows, they decided to build a 40-pound, one-person kayak. The newest vessel sports a pair of eyes on its deck, so naturally, Bradley dubbed it their “KeyeYAK.”

“I’m the king of dad humor,” he says. “My specialty is corneal surgery, so I’m the king of ‘corn’-ea.”

The Bertrams built the single KeyeYAK in six months. “It was easier to make than the first one, but adding the eyes made it harder,” says Bradley. “We turned a hatch into an eye, and every part of the eye is a different wood with a different color.”

The pupil is walnut; the iris is western red cedar; the sclera is Alaskan yellow cedar.

“Each kayak has a set of plans, but you can do what you want with them,” Bradley says.

In fact, their next kayak will be a racing-style model with an inlaid blue heron on the deck.

To construct the kayaks, the Bertrams use the stitch-and-glue method to stitch pre-cut plywood panels together with wire and then glue the seams with a mix of epoxy resin and wood flour. Once the kayak is assembled, they trim the exposed wire. Then, to waterproof and strengthen the wood, they cover it in protective layers of fiberglass.

“Most of the weight is in the epoxy,” says Bradley. “We put five pounds of epoxy in each end of the kayak. If we run into something, it’s protected.”

Collin Bertram KeyeYAK Eye GuysThe hull is made of 8-inch mahogany plywood, and the deck consists of cedar and walnut strips.

“We’ll do 30 to 60 minutes of work, and then we have to wait while it dries,” Bradley says. “There’s a lot of ‘hurry up and wait.’”

Father and son also have developed an effective division of labor for their projects.

“Collin gets the jobs where a limber person is needed,” says Bradley. “He crawls in the hull to put in the filler and epoxy.”

He also is in charge of sanding the wood, a practice that dates back to his youth when he enjoyed dressing the part in surgical gown, goggles and ear protectors.

“At that age, using a power tool for hours is the best thing in the world,” Collin says. “Not so much now, though. It’s the most tedious part of the project.”

The younger Bertram doesn’t seem to mind, though. “We work well as a team,” he says. “We coordinate with each other all the time. My dad will work on the kayaks when I’m at school, and I work on them when he’s at work.”

Bradley says a lot of planning – and psychology – are involved in the construction process.

Bertram built KeyeYAK“Psychology comes into play in boat building. You get very obsessive-compulsive about it,” he says. “You question if it’s good enough, or if you should start over. We learned not to set a deadline because then it becomes work, and that takes the fun out of it.”

‘Good for the Soul’

Woodworking is as soothing as paddling on open water for the Bertrams, and Collin loves the creativity as well.

“You start with a tree, and you can manipulate it yourself into almost anything,” he says.

Bradley appreciates the yin and yang of their avocation.

“Part of it is very mindful. You really have to plan and think about what you’re doing so you don’t mess it up,” he says. “Then there’s part of it, like sanding, that’s mindless. Mindless work is good for the soul.”

While they love to take their kayaks out on the water, they’re always concerned that they might damage them by inadvertently paddling over a rock.

“In fact, both hulls have been repaired from doing just that,” says Bradley.

The risk to their handiwork doesn’t deter them from paddling, however.

“If you go through everything it takes to build it, you’re going to use it,” Collin says. “Open water is better for a wood kayak. You don’t want to take it around rocks or on rapids. If you scratch the hull or the top, it takes three days of work to bring it back to what it was.”

Besides beauty and durability, the Bertrams say wood kayaks have other benefits as well.

For instance, Bradley says, “The small one is lighter than a fiberglass counterpart.”

“You can cut through the water fast in a wood kayak. A lot of plastic kayaks have a fin or a rudder,” Collin says. “You don’t have to worry about a wood kayak going one direction or the other. It’s going to go straight.”

Bertram built KeyeYAK‘Then You Go Fishing’

The Bertrams have made other items, including custom fly fishing rods that they crafted three summers ago at a class they took together at Oyster Bamboo in Blue Ridge, Georgia.

While Bradley built a rod with a tortoiseshell finish and rattan grip, Collin crafted a solid wood rod with a cork grip.

“There’s constant anxiety that you’re going to do something wrong,” Bradley says. “You either love it or hate it.”

“If you’re off by one one-thousandth of an inch, it will take you another day to redo it,” adds Collin.

They worked on their rods all day from Monday through Saturday, and for the record, they didn’t mess up. “And then you go fishing on Sunday,” says Bradley.

Collin caught a 22-inch rainbow trout with his brand new rod. “You could still smell the varnish on the rod,” his father says.

They also have made cutting boards for gifts, but they don’t sell their work. They built a river table headboard for Collin’s bed out of maple wood, and currently, they’re working on a maple river table for the screened porch at their house.

“When I’m building something, it’s out of need. I want something functional,” says Collin.

Family Legacy

Bradley also likes the idea of creating family heirlooms to pass down to his children. In fact, when Collin’s twin sister, Carter, left home for college, she refinished her grandfather’s desk and took it to school with her.

“My dad built the desk in a woodshop class when he was in high school in 1930,” says Bradley.

The kayaks are destined to become part of the Bertram legacy as well.

“I’ve instructed that they are to never leave the family,” Bradley says.

By Betsy Gilliland

Peaceful, Easy Feeling

In The Home

Photography by Sally Kolar

Tranquility and lots of space make a Bartram Trail home the perfect retreat for this Evans family.

For Wendy and Aaron Leggett, their house in Bartram Trail, where they live with sons Jackson and Bryson, offers the best of all worlds.

They have the neighborhood setting that Aaron always wanted, but the wooded area behind their Evans home offers a feeling of seclusion as well.

“We like the peace and quiet,” says Wendy. “We like having plenty of space between the houses.”

Natural Light

The Leggetts, who moved into their home in February 2022, always knew they wanted to build a house. It was just a matter of finding the right design.

“On weekends, we would go look at houses,” says Wendy. “We stumbled across a house in another neighborhood that had this floor plan. This was the one floor plan we saw that we agreed on everything.”

However, the couple made some changes to the design to incorporate their wish list into the home. For instance, they extended the second-story loft to the front of the house. They also removed the dormers from the second story and added cedar columns on the front porch.

“Everybody tells me that the cedar columns make the house stand out,” Wendy says. “The hardest decision we had to make about the house was what color to stain the cedar columns.”

The country-style farmhouse features five-panel doors with black matte hardware throughout the house, and the first story includes white oak hardwood flooring.

“I like the look of hardwood. I like the sound of it under your feet,” says Wendy.

All of the windows and doorways in the house are topped with heavy trim work as well. The windows along the back of the house also offer a view of the woods.

“We never close the blinds. We like natural light,” Wendy says.

The living room features a two-story ceiling with windows up high on the wall, a windmill ceiling fan and built-ins on each side of the fireplace. The family likes to play board games together – “Beat the Parents” trivia game is a favorite – and they conveniently stash them away in the built-in cabinets.

However, this sports-loving family (think baseball, football and professional wrestling) also keeps a giant tic-tac-toe board, which has brown footballs and red pieces in the shape of the state of Georgia as the Xs and Os, on display on the bottom shelf of the coffee table.

Shiplap behind the gas brick fireplace stretches to the ceiling, and faux greenery extends across the mantel. The gray walls offer a contrast to the white built-ins.

A piece of word art featuring Wendy’s motto – and a good-natured warning to others – sits on a shelf. The block of wood says, “Please stop petting my peeves.” Apparently, Aaron knows his wife well. He gave the word art piece to her for Mother’s Day one year.

The adjoining kitchen features quartz countertops, lots of drawers, double ovens, a farmhouse sink in the island, two pendant lights with Edison light bulbs above the island and white grout between the 4-inch-by-12-inch subway tiles on the backsplash.

In addition, the kitchen includes a gas stovetop with a griddle instead of a range and a pullout spice rack by the stovetop.

The view is so nice that Wendy doesn’t even mind spending time there. “It’s so pretty looking out the windows when I’m standing at the sink,” she says. “It makes me feel like I’m in the mountains or the foothills.”

Outlets in the walk-in pantry in the hallway let the Leggetts store appliances in the space.

While the casual dining area features a round oak table, the formal dining room includes a farmhouse table where a bench on one side provides ample seating. The dining room has a trey ceiling, wainscoting, high chair rail and linear chandelier as well.

A walk-in area to the master bedroom and a second-story guest room offers added privacy so that the doors don’t open directly into the hallway. Like the dining room, the master bedroom also includes a trey ceiling.

The adjoining master bath features a built-in tub surrounded by white subway tile and gray grout, an all-glass walk-in shower, porcelain tile flooring, two vanities and quartz countertops. Open light bulbs make the room brighter, and the bath leads to a master closet with built-ins.

In addition, the master closet connects to the laundry room, which has tile flooring.

The boys’ bedrooms upstairs are connected by a Jack and Jill bath, and all three of the upstairs bedrooms feature a cathedral ceiling.

By extending the space to the front of the house, the Leggetts also gave themselves room to add a reading nook to the upstairs loft. A wall sconce is posted on each side of the window that offers plenty of natural light for reading.

Coming to Life

When the house was under construction, Wendy visited the lot daily. While construction initially seemed slow, the house really began to take shape for her when the final details such as lights and appliances were installed.

“We saw the house come to life. In the last couple of weeks, so much happened,” says Wendy. “Everything just fell into place. I liked the excitement of seeing the progress every day.”

The Leggetts enjoy sitting in the black rocking chairs on the front porch of the house, which features a hardy board exterior with brick accents. The front porch, which includes a stamped concrete floor and a knotty pine tongue-and-groove ceiling with a natural stain, is slightly sloped so water runs off of the house.

“We put an iron railing on the front porch, and it really sets off the house,” says Wendy.

A stamped concrete floor and knotty pine tongue-and-groove ceiling with a natural stain are repeated on the covered back porch. This space also features a ceiling fan, a TV and wicker furniture with navy cushions for maximum R & R.

On the couch, a lumbar throw pillow with buttons says, “welcome to the porch.” The doormat, which sits on top of a navy and white striped rug, reads, “Our Nest.”

“One of the things we really love about living here is that deer come all the way up to the house in the evenings. We also love to watch lightning bugs at night,” says Wendy.

No wonder the back porch is her favorite spot in the house.

“It’s so peaceful and quiet,” she says. “We can sit there and relax.”

Aaron has a simple explanation for his favorite place to spend time, which can change from one moment to the next. It’s “the quiet spot, whatever that is.”

They planted azaleas – a must for anyone who lives in this area – in the yard, Wendy says – and her uncle built the raised planters that are filled with petunias and other flowers on the patio.

With all the TLC they have put into their home, the Leggetts plan to stay just where they are for the foreseeable future. “I want my boys to grow up in the same house and make memories here,” says Wendy.

However, that doesn’t mean they won’t be open to making changes in the coming years.

“HGTV is our favorite channel. We like watching home renovations and builds,” Wendy says. “It’s always a work in progress. That’s the fun thing about having a house.”

By Sarah James

Photography by Sally Kolar

Guacamole-Stuffed Chicken

  • Chicken stuffed roll up4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 ripe avocado, peeled and seeded
  • 2 tablespoons diced red onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped tomato
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 teaspoons lime zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray baking dish with nonstick spray and set aside. Place each chicken breast in a resealable bag and pound until thin and flat; set aside. Place avocado in a bowl and mash with fork. Stir in onion, tomato, lime juice and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Spread a layer of guacamole over each flattened chicken breast. Starting at the narrow end, roll up chicken and secure seam with toothpicks. Whisk eggs in a shallow bowl.

In a separate shallow bowl, stir together breadcrumbs, lime zest, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, pepper and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Roll stuffed chicken in eggs, letting excess drip off. Roll chicken in breadcrumbs, gently pressing on chicken and then shaking off excess crumbs. Place seam-side down in baking dish and bake 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and coating is golden brown and crispy. Makes 4 servings.