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A recent change in the siren at the 2nd District Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue Squad building in Valley Lee inspired the assistant fire chief and his brother to pen an ode this month to the mechanical siren being retired and replaced by a new piece of electronic equipment.

Joe Bean, the assistant chief, and Rob Bean, a former firefighter, wrote on the organization’s website of the old siren’s noontime reminder to nearby farmers and craftsmen that it was time to stop for lunch, and its call at any other time of day or night for their family members and other community volunteers to stop whatever they were doing and respond to an emergency call for help. The Bean brothers continued on that family tradition when they became teenagers, serving in “a department of many families,” including members who recently rehabilitated the old siren and put it back on the roof, now as a silent beacon.

“The electric siren is doing good,” Joe Bean, 33, acknowledged last week. “It’s good to have an upgrade. It’s supposed to be louder, and it’s supposed to be better. It does have a completely different sound. It’s probably like a more high-pitched sound.”

And the new siren accompanies an era when fire and rescue firefighters increasingly rely on their cell phones or pagers to be alerted of a 911 dispatch on an emergency call.

“But it doesn’t beat the old mechanical siren,” Bean said. “It’s a tradition.”

The Bean brothers full tribute to the old siren can be found online at

Enjoy tree lighting tonight in Leonardtown

The holiday season kicks off in Leonardtown at 5 p.m. today, Friday, with the annual “Christmas on the Square” tree lighting, scheduled to occur at 7 p.m. upon the arrival of Santa Claus.

Families can enjoy live holiday music, stage performances, sleigh rides, horse & carriage rides, train rides, hay rides, fire truck rides, a petting zoo, live Nativity, face painting, make-and-take crafts and festive decorations. Performers will include Bella School of Music, the St. Aloysius Spirit Singers, Spring Ridge Middle School Rhythm Club, St. Mary’s Ryken Chorus, Gracie’s Guys and Gals Dance Troupe and Emma Raphael. Stop by the Winegardner automobile showroom to see the decorated trees and wreaths on display at the Christmas Festival.

Several streets in the downtown square area will be closed to through traffic beginning at 3 p.m. Spectators are encouraged to park at the College of Southern Maryland campus and take a free shuttle bus service to the town square, or park at St. Mary’s Ryken High School and enjoy a beautifully decorated walk along Fenwick Street to the square.

Christmas on the Square is sponsored by the Leonardtown Volunteer Fire Department, the Leonardtown Business Association and the Commissioners of Leonardtown. For more information, go online to or call 301-475-9791.

Police urge care in Black Friday shopping

The St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office and Maryland State Police in Leonardtown have initiated holiday safety and crime prevention initiatives, to promote safe travel and deter criminal activities such as robberies, shoplifting and thefts from motor vehicles.

The law officers are increasing uniformed and plainclothes foot patrols in shopping centers, and are making patrols in marked, unmarked and covert police vehicles to keep holiday shopping a safe experience. Both organizations will conduct drunk driving and aggressive driving saturation patrols throughout the holiday season.

Local retailers experience an increase in purchasers wishing to start their holiday shopping early, and take advantage of the many sales, the sheriff’s office reports. As lines at store registers become longer then normal, law officers are asking shoppers to exercise patience and cooperation.

Motor vehicle traffic will increase and shopping center parking lots will be full, and the sheriff’s office has urged motorists to plan ahead, allow for longer travel times, reduce their speed, be mindful of pedestrians, use only hands-free cellphones, and report aggressive and impaired driving.

Shoppers should lock their vehicles, make sure windows are completely up and secured and lock storage compartments of the vehicle including the glove box and center console. Never leave packages or valuable items in plain view; remove them from the vehicle or secure them in the trunk. When shopping, avoid carrying large sums of cash, bring only what is needed such as a driver’s license and a credit card, and carry those items in a pocket. Park in well-lit areas, and report suspicious activity.

Shoppers concerned about their safety should ask a store employee, store security member or law enforcement officer for an escort to their vehicle.

Christmas village starts Saturday in Morganza

A Christmas village will be on display at St. Joseph’s Church hall in Morganza starting this Saturday, Nov. 24, featuring dozens of miniature houses and lighted scenes. The village will be open for viewing from 4 to 7 p.m. most Fridays, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays, and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays through the end of the year. Refreshments and crafts will be sold. For more information, call 301-884-8148 or 301-884-5861.

Churn butter, taste ham at HSMC

Historic St. Mary's City will host a Hearth & Home in Early Maryland event from 11 am. to 4 p.m. this Saturday, Nov. 24, and Sunday, Nov. 25, to literally provide a taste of life from the 17th century, and what it took to put it on the table. Discover how Maryland's first settlers celebrated the end of the harvest season, and learn about a local specialty, St. Mary’s stuffed ham. Help churn butter, shuck beans, grind corn and learn about the many tasks required to cook the family feast over the hearth. The event is sponsored by the Maryland Arts Council.

Red Cross responds to St. Mary’s fires

The American Red Cross of the Chesapeake Region continuously responds to help people in need in localities including St. Mary’s County, where volunteers provide assistance to county residents displaced by home fires by giving them financial assistance to secure temporary lodging and purchase food and warm clothing. To help the American Red Cross help victims of disasters, go online to or call 410-624-2030 to make a donation.

Squad plans Dec. 1 yard sale

The Mechanicsville Volunteer Rescue Squad is holding a yard sale from 7 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Dec. 1, rain or shine, at the rescue squad building off Old Flora Corner Road. Tables can be rented. To donate items for the sale, call 240-298-0216.

Penny sale needs clothes contributions

Walden’s Piggy Bank Yard Sale to be held from noon to 7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 1, at its Beacon of Hope recovery center will have every item priced at just one penny, giving individuals and families who are struggling a chance to acquire needed winter clothes and household items. Walden is accepting tax-deductible donations of items in good or excellent condition for the event. All donations should be arranged by calling Walden at 301-997-1300, ext. 804. Beacon of Hope, located in Millison Plaza at Lexington Park, primarily serves adults seeking wellness and recovery support for problems with alcohol, other drugs or other behavioral health issues.

Sotterley plans family Christmas event

Sotterley Plantation in Hollywood will host a Family Plantation Christmas event from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 8, that will include Santa Claus taking gift wishes, Mrs. Claus selling treats from her kitchen and horses pulling carriages of visitors. Sing along with carolers, make holiday crafts and visit the Sotterley Museum Shop to find holiday gifts while the children are buying presents at Santa’s Secret Shop. Purchase seasonal greens and hand-crafted items from Sotterley’s Garden Guild. Patuxent Voices, a women’s a capella group, will perform Christmas favorites from many historical periods. For more information, call 301-373-2280 or 800-681-0850.

Make ends meet marketing meat

A free marketing workshop for Southern Maryland’s farm-raised meats producers, for all species including poultry, will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 10, at the Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative’s auditorium, at 15045 Burnt Store Road in Hughesville. Explore the key elements for successful meat marketing, including understanding and navigating regulations, marketing and packaging tips, and finding customers. The workshop is sponsored by the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission, in partnership with University of Maryland Extension. Register by Dec. 6 by sending email to, or call the commission at 301-274-1922, ext. 1.

Take ‘green card’ class on Dec. 11

The St. Mary’s Soil Conservation District will sponsor a Responsible Personnel Certification for Erosion and Sediment Control “Green Card” Class to be held at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 11, at the St. Mary’s Agricultural Service Center Conference Room, at Suite C 26737 Radio Station Way in Leonardtown. State law requires that any responsible personnel involved in grading or other soil-disturbing activities be knowledgeable about erosion and sediment control principles, specifications and implementation, as well as have a certificate of attendance at a Maryland Department of the Environment-approved training program. The registration deadline is Thursday, Dec. 6. For more information or to register for the class, call Haley Carter at 301-475-8402, ext. 3, or send email to

State fire marshal urges home safety

The arrival of colder year-end weather has prompted the Maryland state fire marshal’s office to issue a warning that elements of home heating continue to be a significant factor in home fires in the state, and for the agency to offer some advice on how to prevent a dangerous situation.

Chimneys should be cleaned annually or more frequently if they are used with a home’s primary heating equipment. Use properly sized fireplace screens or enclosures, and never use a flammable liquid to start a fire. When disposing of cooled ashes, do not use paper or plastic containers to remove them, instead use a metal container. Ashes will insulate hot embers long after the fire is considered out.

Make sure all fuel-burning stoves are installed according to local fire codes and manufacturer’s instructions.

Have the home’s furnace inspected and serviced annually.

Check portable electric heaters for frayed or damaged wires and ensure they are clean and placed on a flat level surface. Use only “listed” by an approved testing laboratory equipment and follow manufacturer’s instructions. Do not use extension cords with portable space heaters, because the extension cord can overheat and cause a fire.

With kerosene fuel fired heaters, use only “K-1” kerosene fuel. Never fill the unit inside, and take it outside after it has cooled before refueling. Open a window enough to provide proper ventilation.

Keep all combustible materials such as furniture, curtains, clothing, and paper goods at least three feet from all heat sources.

Fuel-burning appliances can produce a deadly, tasteless and odorless gas known as carbon monoxide. Install and maintain CO alarms inside the home to provide an early warning of dangerous carbon monoxide levels.

Always turn off portable heating equipment when leaving the room for extended periods. Portable heaters should never be operated unattended.

Check to make sure the home’s smoke alarms are in good working order.

Farm guide offers ‘fresh’ holiday ideas

The new “Farms for the Holidays” Southern Maryland Winter Farm Guide showcases more than 60 family farms and agriculture-related businesses offering farm products for the holiday season and through the winter months.

The guide’s extensive listings include where to find locally grown Christmas trees and holiday décor, unique farm-made gifts and crafts, flavorful produce, quality meats, fresh local seafood, award-winning wines for festive tables, and yarns and apparel made from local wool and alpaca fiber. Many agritourism farms also are hosting a variety of fun family events for the holidays including “live” Nativity scenes, petting zoos, candlelit caroling walks, visits with Santa Claus and hayrides.

The Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission publication is available in print at participating sites, regional public libraries and welcome centers, and can be viewed or downloaded online at

Sotterley continues tree replacement

Restoration efforts on the grounds of Sotterley Plantation in Hollywood are still ongoing more than a year after Hurricane Irene swept through St. Mary’s, and Sotterley now is ready to begin the next phase of growth with public participation in an adopt-a-tree program.

Donations currently are being accepted to cover the costs of 16 trees that will be located within the historic core, and additional plantings are planned for all over the site. Individuals or organizations may choose to either adopt an entire tree, or they can simply make a donation of any size to the tree fund. With the support of the community, Sotterley envisions rejuvenating the landscape with new plantings to be enjoyed by generations to come.

Donations can be made for a variety of reasons, including a memorial for a loved one, to celebrate a special occasion or mark an event such as a wedding, anniversary or birthday.

During last year’s hurricane, more than 170 tress were downed, some dangerously close to the 1703 Plantation House, the original 1830s Slave Cabin and other outbuildings. As a precautionary measure, the Sotterley Landscape Committee opted for the removal of the remaining two trees which loomed over the rooftop of the Plantation House.

All donations will be entered into a special journal which will become a permanent part of Sotterley’s Archives. Donations can be made out to Historic Sotterley Inc., with “Adopt a Tree Fund” noted in the check’s memo line. To donate by credit card or to learn more about the planting plan details, call 301-373-2280 during regular business hours.