Tag Archives: weather

The Morel of the Story

April 5, 2017 by
Photography by Doug Meigs
Illustration by Mady Besch

Morel-mania usually begins around mid-to-late April. Inconsistent Midwestern weather prevents forecasting the exact start of morel mushroom season year-to-year.

Morel (aka morchella) mushrooms begin to flush en masse when spring rains alternate with patches of sunshine atop warming ground temperatures.

Morels are distinctive and easy to identify, with their porous and sponge-like brownish heads atop tan/white stems. Their caps might also be described as honeycombed and cone-shaped; they come in grey (smaller) and yellow (larger) varieties.

Foodies covet the delicious morsels of fungal delight. Morels are known for a unique nutty flavor. Popular recipes include: battered and deep-fried, scrambled with eggs, used as garnish, or dried for later consumption.

As a general rule, the morel season coincides with the blooming of lilacs. Morels also return to the same place every year—if their mycelium underground remains healthy. That means avid mushroom hunters often keep their favorite spots a secret.

If you see one morel, stop. Slow down and scan the ground. They grow in clusters. Morels hide in the deep woods, near the bases of old-growth trees, overturned trunks, and decomposing vegetation. They pop from grassy areas, near the banks of rivers, and on hillsides.

Along with monitoring lilac bushes, paying attention to the weather forecast helps foragers to prepare for morel season. Be ready for periods of sudden downpours of rain combined with warm daytime temperatures (70 degrees or more) and nights that linger above 40 degrees for at least four days in a row.

If you anticipate a sunny day following a torrential spring downpour, get ready. Put on your rain jacket, and rush to your favorite mushrooming spot as soon as the rains lift.

Grab some good mud boots (or old sneakers), and make sure you have a mesh bag that allows the mushrooms’ spores to escape and spread. Local outdoors shops sell mesh bags for morels. Onion or potato sacks from the grocery store also work well.

If you’ve never been mushroom hunting, it’s time to start begging friends to show you how. Or, do a little research and go explore any publicly accessible backwoods along local rivers.

There are several popular local destinations for morel hunters. But any densely vegetated public land (with plenty of overturned trees) along the Missouri River or Platte River could yield a plentiful haul of morels. That is, if the area hasn’t been picked over already.

The website morels.com hosts a useful and interesting Nebraska forum. Other useful resources can be found at thegreatmorel.com, morelhunters.com, and the “Nebraska Morels” Facebook group.

Beware of gun-toting hunters in the woods. Morel season corresponds with the spring turkey hunting season. Also, avoid trespassing. Common courtesy (and the law) necessitates seeking permission to hunt for mushrooms on private property.

Remember that wild mushrooms can be deadly. Only pick and cook mushrooms you can identify with complete confidence. Search online for “false morels” and make sure you can tell the difference. False morels are poisonous.

In 2016, the website of Nebraska Game and Parks maintained weekly morel reports from April 13 through May 11. The Game and Parks website also provides tips for locating morels, and even suggests a few popular mushroom hunting grounds.

Proactive scouting is a good strategy—if only to monitor the human traffic in the woods. The morel season around Omaha usually only lasts from two to four weeks, depending on weather conditions. Sometimes the peak of the season takes place in May.

Evidence of over-picked stems and decaying mushrooms indicate that the morel season is well progressed.

Remember: if you share a mushroom hunting spot with a “friend,” there is a very good chance they will tell someone else. Then, all those other folks might just go pick all the morels while you’re stuck at work, in school, or caught in some other less fulfilling endeavor.

Heed the moral of this morel story. When the lilacs bloom, somebody is probably picking over your favorite morel grounds. So, if you’ve got a good spot, consider keeping it a secret.

Visit outdoornebraska.gov/morel for more information.

Morel Mushroom Hunting Sites

Suggested by Nebraska Game and Parks:

Public areas near rivers:

  • Eugene T. Mahoney State Park
  • Indian Cave State Park
  • Louisville State Recreation Area
  • Platte River State Park
  • Schramm Park State Recreation Area
  • Two Rivers State Recreation Area

Old-growth forests and creeks at:

  • Branched Oak State Recreation Area
  • Burchard Wildlife Management Area
  • Grove Lake Wildlife Management Area
  • Pawnee Lake State Recreation Area
  • Twin Lakes Wildlife Management Area
  • Yellow Banks Wildlife Management Area

 

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Omaha Home.

Jim Flowers

August 27, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Dapper Jim Flowers, with his trademark moustache and buttonhole flower, is a fixture in people’s lives after 31 years as an Omaha television meteorologist. This husband and father of two has invested himself in the community as a public speaker, Knights of Columbus volunteer, and churchgoer. He and his wife, Barb, are members of Mary Our Queen parish.

It all made the ugly rumors that surfaced about him after WOWT did not renew his contract last December more unsettling. With Flowers suddenly off the air and no official word from station management explaining his absence (due to contractual reasons), anonymous social media speculation filled the information void. The chatter was mostly innocuous, but some alleged Flowers had been caught in a 2012 FBI sting operation targeting a local massage parlor fronting for a prostitution ring. It’s not the image a public figure like Flowers can afford, especially when looking for a new job.

Flowers, who flatly denies involvement in any illegal activity, believes a parlor client used his name when procuring sexual services. Unfortunately, Flowers found his good name sullied when the sting broke.

“…in social media, people can say anything about anyone they please without identifying themselves or taking responsibility…just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean it’s the truth.”

Despite the cloud, Flowers landed at KMTV. He debuted there June 3 as part of a long-term contract he reached with the station, thus making him perhaps the only on-camera talent to have worked at each of Omaha’s three major network affiliates.

The Ohio native and Penn State University grad came to Omaha in 1982 to work at KETV from a TV weathercaster post in South Carolina. After 10 years, he moved to WOWT. He was there 20 years, the last several as chief meteorologist.

He says he and his wife found Omaha to be “a great place to raise kids.” Even though their boys are now men, he says all the roots he and Barb put down here and all the relationships they built here make it a hard place to shake.

Barb and Jim relaxing at home.

Barb and Jim relaxing at home.

But in the wake of what happened over the winter, he seriously considered moving to another market.

With his exit from WOWT fueling the gossip mill, he posted Facebook and TVSpy responses that reflected his resolve to lay the tittle tattle to rest.

“…I have never been involved in a massage parlor prostitution investigation. I have not been arrested, questioned, or told by the authorities that I am a suspect [a statement confirmed by Omaha Magazine with Omaha Police Department public information officer Lt. Darci Tierney]…those lies have been very hurtful to me, my wife of 34 years, and our family…I appreciate the loyalty of the many fans who have continued to support me, and I want to assure them that there is nothing behind those rumors.”

He more extensively addressed the situation in June 3rd guest spots on the Todd-N-Tyler radio show and KM3’s own, The Morning Blend.

“Doing that interview with Todd-N-Tyler literally put an end to it,” he says.

But when the rumors were still fresh, they stung. “When this first happened, I was like my life has been an open book, people know me, who’s going to believe this stuff? Obviously, people do, and that was the surprising part of the whole thing. Some folks want to bring people down, for whatever reason. It’s the human psyche.”

“When this first happened, I was like my life has been an open book, people know me, who’s going to believe this stuff? Obviously, people do, and that was the surprising part of the whole thing.”

His initial reaction was to get mad.

“The first thing you feel is anger because you know you’re not a part of it. That’s what’s frustrating. It had an effect more on my wife and my family, especially my two boys. My two boys were angry…They wanted to find out who used my name, how the stuff got out there.”

His wife has had his back the whole way. She offered this statement about the rumors: “I knew it wasn’t true. It was hurtful to me and my family to think that people would believe those rumors about Jim. I would like to thank those that supported us with positive comments.”

Flowers, an outdoorsman who loves fishing, hunting, and chasing storms, isn’t the type to run scared, but there was little he could do about this.

He gained insight into how his name got dragged into the mud when he contacted authorities, none of whom could speak to the specific case, then active in the judicial system. However, they did lay out a likely scenario.

“I was told by the Omaha Police Department’s public information officer Lt. Darci Tierney that, in general, this is the way it works. The guys that go [to massage parlors] wind up on a list. They don’t use anything that will identify themselves. They don’t use credit cards, they don’t use checkbooks, and they don’t use their real names. She said, ‘Obviously, someone decided to use your name and guess what, now you’re a part of it.’ I said, ‘Is there anything I can do?’ and she said ‘no.’”

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He says the local FBI office and U.S. Attorney Jan Sharp confirmed the same.

Unfortunately for Flowers, someone used his familiar name. It comes with the territory of being a
public figure.

“Our exposure to this kind thing is not unusual, but this form and how it took off seemed to have a life of its own,” he says. “The constraints that exist for print, television, and radio don’t exist for social media. There are no checks and balances out there. So if there’s a lesson, it’s that, in social media, people can say anything about anyone they please without identifying themselves or taking responsibility. But just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean it’s the truth.”

He’s satisfied with how he’s managed the incident. “You take the high ground and have faith that things will work out. The night before I went on The Blend and Todd-N-Tyler, I told my wife, ‘I’m starting tomorrow [on KM3], and I feel really excited about it. There’s all these opportunities. But the one thing that’s still out there is this whole rumor thing. I don’t know where, I don’t when, and I don’t know how, but at some point in time this thing will be put to rest.”

He says he and Barb put their “very strong faith in God” that this bad dream would disappear. “I’ve had people compliment me and say you handled it professionally.”

KMTV General Manager Chris Sehring is pleased how it all worked out, too. “Jim’s a great guy, and we are thrilled to finally have him on our KMTV Weather Alert team.”

“You take the high ground and have faith that things will work out…I don’t know where, I don’t when, and I don’t know how, but at some point in time this thing will be put to rest.”

Though Sehring couldn’t comment on what steps the station took or on how much the incident played in its hiring decision, he did say, “Journal Broadcast Group is second to none in its commitment to integrity and the highest ethical standards. I still believe we live in a society where one is innocent until proven guilty…It’s truly a shame Jim and his family have had to endure these unsubstantiated rumors and malicious speculation. After all, it could happen to any of us.”

Both Sehring and Flowers are focused on making KM3, currently in last place in the ratings, number one. Flowers helped bring both KETV and WOWT to the top spot and feels confident he can work magic a third time.

“I’ve been down this road before. I know what it takes to win,” says Flowers. “Whoever wins weather in Omaha wins the ratings; that’s what it boils down to. You can ask every general manager, and they’ll tell you the same thing. It’s not only in Omaha; it’s in a lot of weather-sensitive markets. I didn’t decide that, the public did.”

He feels his experience and attention to detail set him apart from other weathercasters in this market.

So do his fishing skills. Once a competitive bass tournament champion, he takes his boat and fishing gear out these days purely for relaxation. With the rumors behind him, he’s forecasting nothing but clear skies and calm waters ahead.

Read more of Leo Adam Biga’s work at leoadambiga.wordpress.com.

Diagnosing a Troubled Tree

June 20, 2013 by

When diagnosing a troubled tree, there are many variables that come into play. What species of tree are we dealing with? When and where was it planted? What problematic symptoms does it exhibit? One should look at the surroundings of the plant. Construction and soil compaction can play a huge role in a tree’s longevity. Weather is also a big factor. Storm damage, such as hail, can wreak havoc on a tree’s well-being.

The biggest issue we see is poor initial planting. Many trees are planted too deep or too high in the soil. A tree can survive in these stressful conditions for approximately 4-5 years before showing signs of decline. Watering can be a big issue, too. Most trees need 1” of water each week. Not enough or too much water can be detrimental to the tree’s growth.

When treating a diseased tree, the right diagnosis is key. Only a certified arborist will know which fungicide is required to treat a fungal problem, or which insecticide will best treat a tree infested with pests. Using the proper treatment application method is also essential and may depend on the severity of tree damage. When you see a tree exhibiting signs of trouble, it’s best to call a professional arborist right away. Likely, the tree has been in distress for some time. Better yet, employ a regular tree service to service and treat your trees year-round, before the trouble starts.

For tree analysis or treatment, call on the professionals at Terry Hughes Tree Service, voted #1 Tree Service in Best of Omaha™ 2013! Visit hughestree.com for more info.

Watch Out for Heat Stroke

Most people—especially those of us who know how muggy and hot Nebraska summers can be—have suffered from heat exhaustion at least once. It usually hits us after we’ve spent too much time outdoors in the blazing sun and haven’t been drinking enough fluids to keep us properly hydrated.

Heat exhaustion is pretty easy to recognize. Muscles cramp up, fatigue sets in, and sometimes lightheadedness or fainting can occur. But never write off heat exhaustion as “not that big of a deal” because it can be a precursor to a more serious heat injury called heat stroke.

Robert Muelleman, M.D., Chair of Emergency Medicine in the Department of Emergency Medicine at UNMC, explains that heat stroke usually causes alteration or damage to a person’s mental state. “It could be as mild as confusion or as severe as seizures,” he says. “Heat stroke damages a lot of different organs—brain, heart, liver, kidneys. That’s why it can be so deadly.”

Dr. Muelleman categorizes heat stroke into two types: classic heat stroke and exertion heat stroke. “Classic heat stroke is the one you read about during a heat wave in the summer. It typically affects elderly people with chronic medical conditions, like diabetes, hypertension, or emphysema. The issue there isn’t necessarily the daytime highs but rather the nighttime lows. If the temperature doesn’t drop below 80° for 72 hours, that’s when we’ll see classic heat stroke. The body doesn’t have a chance to cool down.”

“Heat stroke damages a lot of different organs—brain, heart, liver, kidneys. That’s why it can be so deadly.” – Robert Muelleman, M.D., UNMC

Exertion heat stroke, however, can happen to anybody, and it doesn’t even have to be that hot outside. It’s more about the heat index, explains Dr. Muelleman. “Heat index takes into account the humidity. If the heat index rises above 105°, then everyone is at risk. If it rises above 115°, then athletic and outdoor events really should be canceled.” With exertion heat stroke, it’s a matter of whether or not your body is unable to dissipate the heat or is generating too much heat.

When the body’s temperature control is overwhelmed, it can’t effectively cool down the body. Sweating is the normal response to overheating, but several factors can inhibit the body’s ability to cool itself—things like high humidity, obesity, fever, mental illness, poor circulation, heart disease, sunburn, and prescription drug or alcohol use.

Healthy children and adults are susceptible to heat stroke exertion in the summer because working in the heat or participating in summer sports can put them at risk. Babies, too—especially those left in cars when it’s hot. “Car temperatures rise so fast,” Dr. Muelleman says. “It’s extremely dangerous to leave a baby in the car during the summer.”

As for the symptoms of heat stroke, the Mayo Clinic recognizes the following:

  • High body temperature—usually 104°F (40°C) or higher
  • Lack of sweat
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Flushed skin
  • Rapid breathing
  • Racing heart rate
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness
  • Muscle cramps or weakness

If you suspect someone is suffering from heat stroke, immediately call 911 or transport them to the hospital. Any delay seeking medical help can be fatal. While waiting for aid, move the person to an air-conditioned environment and attempt to cool them down by removing unnecessary clothing, fanning air over them, wetting skin with cool water from a cloth or sponge, or applying ice packs.

Feeling the Heat

Everyone loves a little fun in the sun, but when people linger in the sun’s rays a little too long, it can have harmful effects on their health, especially for seniors.

Heat-related illnesses, collectively known as hyperthermia, occur when the body overheats and does not have the sufficient means to cool itself down. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the elderly are more prone to the sun’s harmful rays because they are more likely to have a chronic medical condition or take medication that inhibits normal body responses to heat.

“People who work in high heat develop a certain degree of tolerance. With the elderly, their ability to adapt to extreme temperatures is limited, and the body’s ability to maintain status quo is much more at risk,” says Kris Stapp, vice president of community and public health at Omaha’s Visiting Nurse Association.

Heat exhaustion is a mild form of heat stress. Continuous exposure to high temperatures, combined with high humidity and physical exertion, can lead to dehydration. If you develop heavy sweating, a pale complexion, muscle cramps, and a sense of tiredness, you may be suffering from heat exhaustion. If not controlled, heat exhaustion can escalate to heat stroke, which can cause permanent brain and organ damage.

Stapp stresses the importance of taking into account the timing of outdoor activities, especially strenuous ones such as gardening or walking. Older folks may need to adapt their outdoor plans in times of extreme heat.

“What is dangerous about any heat-related illness is, it comes on so subtly that people don’t realize it’s happening until the symptoms really set in,” Stapp says. “When people get to the point where they are confused, it can lead to unconsciousness.”

To combat heat stress, the CDC advises drinking plenty of non-alcoholic beverages. Make sure to get plenty of rest and try to stay in air-conditioned environments during the heat of the day. Also, make sure to wear lightweight clothing if venturing outdoors.

“Be smart,” Stapp says. “It’s about turning all this information around, and not only knowing the warning signs, but also how to prevent it from happening.”

Keep Your Lawn Sprinkler System Running Efficiently

April 25, 2013 by

Just because you have a sprinkler system doesn’t mean it is being utilized properly. Oftentimes, the controller is set incorrectly by the previous homeowner, the lawn guy, the genius father-in-law, or even worse, the know-it-all neighbor. Depending on the season, it needs to be reprogrammed on a regular basis.

We suggest watering 1-2 times per week in the spring and fall for 25 minutes per station on the smaller pop-up spray heads, and 45-50 minutes per station on the larger rotor heads. This will give your lawn approximately one-half inch of water every time you run it. In the summer, it may be necessary to water 3-5 days per week depending on the weather conditions. Avoid the method of watering every day for 10-15 minutes per station. Short, frequent watering will promote a shallow root system and damage your lawn’s ability to withstand heat, drought, insects, and fungus.

Another common problem we see on our service route is dry patches along the edges of the turf. We suggest watering beyond the edge of the grass and onto the concrete at least 12-24” to cool the concrete and allow for the wind. Many people get too concerned about “wasting” water and watching it run down the sidewalk or drive. However, in order to get the edges properly watered, this is a necessary evil. After all, the concrete gets wet when it rains, right? As your landscape matures and your lawn area changes, the sprinkler heads need to be adjusted or moved to prevent blockage from plants and trees. I can’t tell you how many dry spots we see that are caused by a shrub or tree that has grown over the top of a sprinkler head. Oftentimes, the system is running in the middle of the night, and the owner is unaware of the problem.

Finally, check your system visually a few times a year or have a licensed contractor check it for you. Most irrigation companies in the metro have good techs that can spot and repair potential problems. You can expect to pay $60-90 for an hour’s work, but the pro can do in an hour what the amateur lawn guy can do in three hours. Don’t waste your money on the lawn guy who says he can fix it. Most likely, he doesn’t have the parts inventory with him, or the know-how to resolve the problem. We don’t mow lawns, trim shrubs, and spray trees. We fix sprinklers! Have a professional do the job correctly the first time and enjoy your beautiful lawn.

For more information on Controlled Rain Irrigation or to schedule service, visit controlledrainirrigation.com.

Vinyl Siding 101

February 25, 2013 by

Home improvement season is fast approaching! The warm weather pushes us to get outside and take care of those much-needed home improvement projects.

If your list of projects includes painting your house or updating the exterior of your home, vinyl siding could be your solution! There are many benefits to installing vinyl siding on your home:

  • Maintenance: Vinyl siding is virtually maintenance-free. It eliminates the task of painting your house year after year. It’s easy to maintain and clean, often with just soap or water.
  • Durability: Vinyl siding is durable and built to withstand the change in temperatures that Omaha experiences from season to season. It is manufactured to expand and contract with the changing weather conditions.
  • Appearance: Vinyl siding panels come in longer lengths to help give a more “seamless” look to your home. Vinyl siding comes in many different style and color options. Many manufacturers now have software that enables you to upload a photo of your home and allows you to change the style and color to envision what your home could look like.
  • Cost: Vinyl siding is a cost-effective way to improve the look of your home. It is also a means of reducing your energy costs. Many vinyl siding brands are pre-insulated to help with energy efficiency.

For more information about vinyl siding and other home improvement questions, call 402-502-9300 to request a FREE, no-obligation appointment with a Pyramid Roofing Inc. exteriors estimator.

Avoiding Falls

Did you know falls are by far the leading unintentional injury, accounting for more than 8.7 million emergency room visits each year in the United States. One in every three adults age 65 and older falls each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Most falls are preventable. Many people attribute falls to being clumsy or not paying attention, but many risk factors exist. Physical hazards in the environment, vision, health conditions, and lack of exercise all increase the risk of a fall. Winter weather introduces an additional risk when ice and snow are on the ground. Reduce your risk and find fall hazards in your workplace and home to prevent injuries to yourself and others.

Tips for a fall-free year:

  • Maintain good lighting on outdoor walkways.
  • Wear sensible footwear. Consider changing from dress shoes to boots when walking outside.
  • Check the condition of outdoor handrails, walkways, and steps and repair as necessary.
  • Remove fallen leaves or snow from outdoor walkways as soon as possible to keep ice from forming.
  • Keep your shovel and de-icing products in the garage or inside the house so you won’t have to walk on a slippery surface to get your supplies.
  • Be aware that alcohol or other drugs, including prescription and over-the-counter medicine, can affect your balance and increase risk of falling.

Older Adult Falls. Older adults are more prone to become the victim of falls and the resulting injuries can diminish the ability to lead active, independent lives. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the following tips can greatly help older adults prevent falls, but are beneficial to those of all ages:

  • Stay active. Chances of falling can be reduced by improving strength and balance. Examples of activities include brisk walking, tai chi and yoga.
  • Fall-proof your home—inside and out. This includes taking advantage of the tips above and removing indoor tripping hazards like rugs and clutter.
  • Review your medications. Have your doctor or pharmacist review all the medications you take, both prescription and over-the-counter. Some medications or combination of medicines can make you drowsy or light-headed, which can potentially lead to a fall.
  • Check your vision. It’s best to have your vision checked at least once a year to make sure you have the best prescription for your glasses. Poor vision greatly increases your risk of falling.

Tips adapted from the National Safety Council website. For more information, including local fall prevention resources, visit safenebraska.org.

Choosing a Sound System for Your Outdoor Space

Wanna be able to crank the tunes at your summer backyard bash? Or enjoy some soothing jazz with a glass of wine on your patio after a long day at work? Then investing in a quality outdoor sound system should be on your to-do list.

There are a number of factors to consider before selecting an outdoor speaker package. First, the level of performance or sound quality that you are looking for. Let’s assume that only one pair of outdoor speakers is needed for adequate coverage of your deck or patio area. You can probably find models from $119 for a pair, but if your want good quality sound and years of enjoyment, don’t cut corners here. Plan on spending between $400-600 for a pair and you’ll be a lot happier with your purchase. If your outdoor space is larger, you might want to invest in additional speakers strategically placed throughout.

Outdoor speakers are usually offered in either a black or white finish, with the white finish being paintable to match exterior colors. They typically offer the ability to tilt or slant the speaker to aim the sound closer to or further away from your home. This is handy when neighbor’s homes are nearby and you want to avoid blasting sound into their backyard.

If you’re mounting the speakers under an eave or on an exterior wall, rely on a good quality 14-gauge wire. Make sure it’s CL3 rated to meet fire code, since you’ll most likely be running the wire through the walls of your home. Most CL3 wires are paintable to match your home color. In new home construction, the wires can be run ahead of time, allowing them to be hidden and eliminating the need to paint them later.

Something else to consider is controlling the volume. You could just run the wires directly to the speakers from the stereo receiver, but then you’d have to run back inside to where the equipment is located every time you wish to adjust the volume. Using a local volume control is preferable. While weatherproof outdoor volume controls are available, we generally prefer to locate the volume control just inside the deck/patio door to avoid another opportunity for cold air and moisture to enter the home through the exterior wall’s vapor barrier.

When choosing a stereo receiver, be aware that most outdoor speakers are efficient enough that 40 to 100 watts is more than enough to drive a pair. So wattage is not usually an issue, unless you’re running more than one pair of speakers at a time. Odds are that you will never be driving the speakers at the higher wattage range, unless you’re prepared to invite the entire neighborhood over for beer and iced tea.

On the subject of the so-called wireless speakers…There is a bit of a misnomer here. They will require a transmitter, usually located near your equipment rack, that sends the signal to the wireless speakers. All speakers require power to drive them. Regular outdoor speakers get their power from the wires connected to the receiver’s speaker terminals. Even wireless speakers will require power of some sort, probably a 12-volt adapter that will need to be plugged into an outlet nearby. This approach is not very conducive to Nebraska and Iowa’s inclement weather and is therefore not recommended.

The only wireless speakers that we do recommend are ones that work with Apple’s Airplay™. The technology allows you to send music from a Mac or PC running iTunes, or an iOS device, directly to the speakers and control it from those devices. There are also third-party applications that can add AirPlay functionality to Android devices for a price. Some of these types of speakers will work standalone, but many require them to be connected to a Wi-Fi network in the home. Some may also have rechargeable batteries in them, so they can be more portable for use at parties and such, or to bring sound to other parts of the home. The best performance usually comes from the speakers that require a connection to AC power. They will always have power and you don’t have to worry about the battery running down at an inopportune moment.

For more information on outdoor sound systems for your patio/outdoor space, visit customelectronics.tv or call 402-397-4434.

Tomato Tomäto

December 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Tomato Tomäto, a year-round, indoor farmers market whose name plays off the debate over how to pronounce the name of the versatile fruit (Yes, it’s a fruit, not a vegetable), is a must-stop-shop for many in the Omaha area who enjoy fresh produce, eggs, nuts, many organic goods, and more.

Tucked back from street view near 156th and Bob Booser Drive (just north of West Center Road) in West Omaha, the store carries products from dozens of vendors, all of them local. However you say it, it’s a win-win for the entire Omaha community.

Jody Fritz and her husband, Jeremy, were no strangers to the local farmers markets. As regular weekend representatives of Jody’s father-in-law’s O’Neill, Neb., farm, Garden Fresh Vegetables, the couple got to know the other vendors pretty well.20120904_bs_9299 copy

As the weather grew cooler and the outdoor markets closed up shop, the couple realized they and their fellow vendors still had plenty to offer would-be consumers. “There still is a lot out there when the markets end, so we kind of came up with this idea,” says Fritz. That idea was to utilize the front portion of the Garden Fresh Vegetables’ Omaha warehouse as a year-round farmers market. Vendors bring their products into the shop and set their own prices, and Tomato Tomäto receives a commission off of everything that sells.

“We didn’t really have any capital to start, so that’s where the consignment idea came from, and it’s worked out well,” explains Fritz. “Consumers pay a little less than they would at Whole Foods…and the producers make more money than they do selling wholesale, so it’s kind of a nice middle place for everybody.”

“We’ll have winter squashes and greens that grow in greenhouses—lettuces, cucumbers, tomatoes, some peppers, those kinds of things—all year round.” – Jody Fritz, co-owner

Since the store opened nearly five years ago, the number of vendors has grown from five to 100. “As more vendors come in, each kind of has their own following, so then all their customers come in and they become customers of a lot of the other vendors,” says Fritz.

Products range from-fresh produce, eggs, milk, and meats (farm fresh chicken, beef, fish, ostrich, and more) to local wines, salsas, soup starters, breads, and pastas, just to name few. “There are always a lot of things going on.” All inventory is fresh and local; organic, as well as gluten-free, options are available.20120904_bs_9295 copy

Regarding the year-round produce selection, Fritz says that, understandably, there is an ebb and flow throughout the year. “We’ll have winter squashes and greens that grow in greenhouses—lettuces, cucumbers, tomatoes, some peppers, those kinds of things—all year round.”

But Fritz concedes that because Tomato Tomäto specializes in locally produced foods, there are certain items that her store will never be able to offer her customers. “We won’t ever have bananas in Nebraska,” she says through a chuckle. “I get that there are limitations to the place, but I’m just going to embrace those rather than trying to be something we aren’t. I can’t compromise…there are so many foods you can eat in season.”

The colder months bring with them opportunities for customers to order free-range, organic turkeys for Thanksgiving, as well as buy homemade holiday pies and find locally produced spirits to ring in the New Year and celebrate Valentine’s Day. “There’s always a season for everything, it seems,” says Fritz.

Alyssa LeGrand has been a customer of Tomato Tomäto since the market opened and says the quality of the produce is fantastic. “I like to support local farmers and anybody with their own business,” she says. Appreciating the competitive prices, LeGrand says she often stops in on a weekly basis.20120904_bs_9291 copy

On the supplier side, Ryan Pekarek, owner of Pekarek Produce in Dwight, Neb., has been bringing his produce to Tomato Tomäto for three years and says he looks forward to continuing to work with Fritz in the future. “[Tomato Tomäto] is nice because you come back with an empty truck every time.”

In addition to the market side of the business, Tomato Tomäto also runs a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Program in which customers can become members of the CSA by purchasing shares in the program and, every week, receive fresh produce and local products. “I just didn’t have enough room for everything people wanted to bring in, so we were trying to find a way for the farmers to bring their food here and to get it into the hands of people quickly.”

For some, this indoor farmers market may just be the best-kept secret in Omaha. For others, specifically the approximately 100 vendors that supply a wide variety of products to Tomato Tomäto’s devoted customers, it’s the answer to their prayers.

Tomato Tomäto
2634 S. 156th Cir.
402-933-0893
tomatotomato.org