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Preparing for winter: Should you prune roses now or later?

TWIN FALLS — Old Man Winter is on the way, but there’s still time to prepare for his arrival.

Lawns are still green; the ground isn’t frozen. So what should be done now? And what should be put off until later?

For the yard and garden, Master Gardener and retired horticulturalist Jo Ann Robbins says some of the University of Idaho Extension recommendations have changed.

That age-old advice about mowing your lawn short just before winter is no longer valid, Robbins said. Cutting your lawn very short close to winter is asking for problems.

“It causes the lawn to go into shock,” she said, “and leaves it vulnerable to fungus.”

Leave the short mowing until early spring, but clean up those leaves now, she said. Fallen leaves can smother a lawn if left under snow.

“They’re better off composted,” said Robbins, a proponent of keeping leaves out of the landfill.

Blaine Patterson, a nurse with Air St. Luke’s, has two acres of lawn in an old orchard north of Filer. When he mows, he bags grass and leaves, then piles them on the “bottom acre” where he lets the lawn refuse break down naturally.

Patterson dropped off a lawn mower and a riding mower Friday at J & J Enterprises in Twin Falls. He takes his equipment there in the fall to be serviced to avoid the spring rush.

“I’ll have them change the oil and air filter, grease the zerks, and check the belts,” Patterson said.

Owner Jerry Jones also recommends siphoning gasoline from mowers before the cold weather hits to keep the fuel from gumming up the mower’s carburetor. The gas can then go into your car’s gas tank.

“Then run the mower until it dies,” Jones said.

Another option is to add fuel stabilizer to the tank, he said.

Mulch and prune

Some prefer to prune their bushes in the fall and mulch around perennials, but Robbins says that garden work can wait.

“You’ll want to wait until the ground is frozen before mulching,” she said. Mulching is done to keep the ground frozen to protect the roots during the freeze-thaw cycles of winter.

“But get the mulch off as soon as warm weather comes in the spring,” Robbins said, “or their roots will stay frozen.”

It’s also best to wait for spring to prune, she said. Pruning now could trigger new growth that most likely won’t make it through the winter.

Save that new growth for spring, she said. But take advantage of the warm fall weather by watering your trees. All trees will transpire all winter — even deciduous trees — so it’s important to water them deeply before the ground freezes.

“Trees need to be able to pull moisture from the soil below the frozen layer,” Robbins said.

Then drain and roll up those water hoses.

Winter driving tips

Keep an emergency winter kit in your car, says the AAA. And be aware of the warning signs of hypothermia: shivering, confusion, difficulty speaking, sleepiness and stiff muscles.

Cold weather takes a toll on car batteries, so make sure yours are in good shape going into winter. And check your brakes and tires.

Don’t slam on your brakes on slippery roads. It’s better to steer around trouble than to try to stop short.

Keep your wiper fluid reservoir full. Even if it isn’t raining or snowing, passing motorists will splash wet snow, mud and road grime on your windshield, obscuring your view of the road.

Keep sand bags in your car. The extra weight means better traction, but if you do get stuck, spreading sand on ice or snow will help you get out.

In addition, keep your headlights clear, don’t use cruise control on slippery roads, and stay in your vehicle if you become snowbound.

And remember: moisture on bridges and overpasses freezes before roadways do.

King Fine Arts Center made over, more to come

BURLEY — The King Fine Arts Center has undergone major renovations along with the Little Theatre at Burley High School.

Dusty Fisher, who teaches choir at the school and is the KFAC director, said $300,000 in upgrades have been completed in the past few months at the two theaters for a cost of $150,000.

The KFAC foyer was completely redone after a major water leak was discovered on the north wall early this year.

“The water trashed the brand new carpeting and came down the inside the wall,” Fisher said. “When we walked in it was like a sauna in here with all the windows steamed up.”

The carpeting was only a couple of months old at the time.

School district insurance money paid to fix the damage and a new design and color scheme was chosen for the space.

The chandeliers in the foyer were used as inspiration for the tan color pallet. And the new floor tile can be popped up and replaced as necessary. The tables on the north wall were replaced with a counter and behind the counter on the wall is a large tree with gold, bronze, silver and copper leaves. The gold leaves contain the names of the original benefactors of the center and the other colored leaves will be used for the names of other donors. A new heating and cooling pump was also installed.

The east wall will be used to display photographs from the current production and the west wall will feature photos of the Herman King family.

“They put the King in the King Fine Arts Center,” Fisher said.

The renovations were carried into the 1,132-seat theater, built in the late 1990s. The theater received $17,000 from Mini-Cassia Community Concerts, which disbanded this year after 71 years.

“The donation was their gift to the community,” Fisher said.

The money was used to paint the walls and ceiling in the theater. The walls behind the stage were painted black to help draw attention to the stage.

“I think it’s so cool,” said Levi Welch, BHS student. “The entire arts department is on an upswing.”

The improvements, he said, will benefit the next generations of students.

Other community donations purchased three professional projectors and three drop down screens, which can be used for meetings or conferences. There is a new sound booth at the back of the theater and a new sound system.

“I just love it. It’s a lot more modern,” Austin Schaeffer, paid tech for the theater said. “It was nice to get rid of those horrible fruit loops on the wall. It’s been a long time coming.”

When the sound booth was in the center of the theater it blocked the view of the stage for 50 seats, the old sound booth was moved to the Little Theater.

The old KFAC sound system is being used at Declo High School, which purchased a new sound board for the theater. The system will also help upgrade the sound system at Raft River High School.

The next big project for the KFAC will be upgrading the lighting system, which wasn’t new when purchased.

“We spend a lot of time fixing the lights and we have a room full of spare lighting stuff,” he said.

The wings of the stage in the theater were rebuilt this fall, which opened 20 more seats and now includes stairs that can be flipped over to provide more space on stage.

Fisher would like to see the KFAC, which has a yearly district operating budget of $32,000, become self-sufficient, which would allow them to hire a technical director.

Fisher said they hope to unite the groups that use the theater to help fundraise $400,000 to build a new scene shop and storage area to the west of the KFAC.

“We are going to be working toward that goal,” Fisher said.

The current shop is too small, and the stage is used for building sets.

“It just destroys the stage,” Fisher said.

Now, they have to dismantle all props except for the flat ones, which is inefficient, Fisher said.

The upgrades carried into the Little Theater inside the high school, which is used as the performing theater by Lance Jones, drama teacher.

“The updates bring it all to a new level,” Jones said. “It’s great.”

The carpet was removed and the floor stained black and new LED lighting was installed, which keeps the stage and audience cooler

“It completely changed the acoustics in here and now people on stage can be heard in the back without a mic,” Fisher said.


Boise State cornerback Avery Williams (26) leads the team onto the field Oct. 21 at Albertsons Stadium in Boise.

FBI silent as US officials targeted by Russian hackers

WASHINGTON — The hackers’ targets: The former head of cybersecurity for the U.S. Air Force. An ex-director at the National Security Council. A former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

All were caught up in a Russian government-aligned cyberespionage campaign. None was warned by the FBI.

The bureau repeatedly failed to alert targets of the Russian hacking group known as Fancy Bear despite knowing for more than a year that their personal emails were in the Kremlin’s sights, an Associated Press investigation has found.

“No one’s ever said to me, ‘Hey Joe, you’ve been targeted by this Russian group,’” said former Navy intelligence officer Joe Mazzafro, whose inbox the hackers tried to compromise in 2015. “That our own security services have not gone out and alerted me, that’s what I find the most disconcerting as a national security professional.”

The FBI declined to discuss its investigation into Fancy Bear’s spying campaign, but did provide a statement that said in part: “The FBI routinely notifies individuals and organizations of potential threat information.”

Three people familiar with the matter — including a current and a former government official — said the FBI has known the details of Fancy Bear’s attempts to break into Gmail inboxes for more than a year. A senior FBI official, who was not to authorized to publicly discuss the hacking operation because of its sensitivity, said the bureau had been overwhelmed by an “almost insurmountable problem.”

The AP conducted its own investigation into Fancy Bear, dedicating two months and a small team of reporters to go through a list of 19,000 phishing links provided by the cybersecurity firm Secureworks.

The list showed how Fancy Bear worked in close alignment with Kremlin interests to steal tens of thousands of emails from the Democratic Party, the AP reported this month.

But it wasn’t just Democrats the hackers were after.

The AP identified more than 500 U.S.-based targets in the data, reached out to more than 190 of them and interviewed nearly 80 people, including current or former military personnel, Democratic operatives, diplomats or ex-intelligence workers such as Mazzafro.

Many were long-retired, but about one-third were still in government or held security clearances at the time of the hacking attempts. Only two told the AP they learned of the hacking attempts from the FBI. A few more were contacted by the FBI after their emails were published in the torrent of leaks that coursed through last year’s electoral contest. To this day, some leak victims have not heard from the bureau.

One was retired Maj. James Phillips, who was one of the first people exposed by the website DCLeaks in mid-2016. A year later, Philips has yet to hear anything from the FBI.

In fact he didn’t learn his emails were “flapping in the breeze” until two months after the fact, when a journalist called him to ask for comment.

“The fact that a reporter told me about DCLeaks kind of makes me sad,” Phillips said in a telephone interview.

Phillips’ story would be repeated again and again as the AP spoke to officials from the National Defense University in Washington to the North American Aerospace Defense Command in Colorado.

Among them: a former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, retired Lt. Gen. Patrick Hughes; a former head of Air Force Intelligence, retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula; a former defense undersecretary, Eric Edelman; and a former director of cybersecurity for the Air Force, retired Lt. Gen. Mark Schissler.

Some targets of Fancy Bear’s spying said they don’t blame the FBI for not notifying them.

“The expectation that the government is going to protect everyone and go back to everyone is false,” said Nicholas Eftimiades, a retired senior technical officer at the Defense Intelligence Agency who teaches homeland security at Pennsylvania State University in Harrisburg and was himself among the targets.

But Charles Sowell, who previously worked as a senior administrator in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and was targeted by Fancy Bear two years ago, said there was no reason the FBI couldn’t do the same work the AP did.

“It’s absolutely not OK for them to use an excuse that there’s too much data,” said Sowell. “Would that hold water if there were a serial killer investigation, and people were calling in tips left and right, and they were holding up their hands and saying, ‘It’s too much’?

“That’s ridiculous.”