Laura Wiens, The Triplicate

Tony Fabricius made a triumphant return last week to Joe Hamilton Elementary School, where he used to be principal before taking a job at the district office.

It's become an annual ritual to celebrate the birthday of legendary children's author Dr. Seuss. Tony paints his face white, dresses up like the Cat in the Hat complete with whiskers and tail, and reads to the kids, class after class, hour after hour.

Ms. Webster's 16 first-graders were treated to Tony's reading of "Oh, the Places You'll Go" as the picture-pages were projected on the wall.

They'd started the day by making green eggs and ham.

The school's day-long celebration includes activities like "Horton's Egg Roll," "the Hop on Pop Hop," "Fox in Socks Run," "Yurtle Turtle's Swing," "Cat's Obstacle Course," "Lorax Jumping Jacks" and "Sam I Am's Egg Carry."

"It's just a fun day," said principal Denise Harnden. "It encourages the love of reading."

H.E.R.E. is where it's at

Del Norte's mild climate provides the opportunity for long growing seasons. Barbara Allison makes the most of that with her hundreds of heather plants providing a year-round patchwork of colors outside her Crescent City home.

She's become an aficionado of the small-flowered shrub, even serving as secretary of the Heather Enthusiasts of the Redwood Empire (H.E.R.E.). The local chapter of the North American Heather Society has been around since 1994 and has about 30 members, but it could use reinforcements.

Like any plant, heather needs upkeep with trimming, weeding and refurbishing.

"Members are aging," Barbara said, making it more difficult to "get down to do that(trimming and weeding). It's hard to find younger people to join 'cause they work."

For anyone looking to embellish landscaping with heather, there's a nice opportunity coming up. The group's first general meeting of the year will be Saturday, March 9, at the Humboldt Area Foundation, 373 Indianola Road, in Eureka. For more information, call 707-268-5560.

Barbara moved up here 12 years ago from Lincoln, Calif. She and her husband were "retiring back" - they'd left here in 1979. They bought a house that had a yard that "was totally bare, not one blade of grass." They hauled sawdust from Snoozie Shavings and other soil enhancers from Home Depot and elsewhere and started planting heather.

She has about 250andndash;300 heather plants in her yard nowadays. Her step-sister Sharon Hardy, who got her interested in heather, has around 700 plants in her garden in Klamath.

Sharon helped Barbara get started by giving her plants from her own garden. Barbara purchased others from H.E.R.E.

You might also know Barbara, by the way, through her involvement with the Lighthouse Quilt Guild - patchwork

patterns perhaps the common thread between her stitching and gardening interests.

A native of Sedro-Woolley, a small town in northwest Washington, she's been gardening since she was 8.

"My grandmother had a garden. She had fruit trees, berries and a large garden. She canned everything she grew, that's how she made it through the winter, I guess. It was her way of life. That's what you did in the '30s, '40s and '50s."

These days, Barbara is gardening for visual appeal and enjoys the year-round color of heather.

"It was serendipitous planting, we didn't have any idea of what they were going to turn into. They say to plant them 18 inches apart; well, that's the British formula. Plants that are supposed to be 16 inches wide by 24 inches tall turn into 36 inches wide and 36 inches tall. It's all by cheek and jowl. There's thugs, which take up more of the room, and then muggers that get 4 feet tall and 6 feet across and swallow up other plants."

It's a jungle out there.

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