Lesley Randall


Archives April 2024

Emus on the loose return home

Lesley Randall

For The Oglethorpe Echo

Striker and Sally, a pair of emu siblings, escaped from a ranch in Lexington on Jan. 17 — and were nowhere to be found for four days — except on the phones of Facebook users in the Oglethorpe County Community group. 

The duo belongs to the Mirandas, who live in Hoschton, but own property in Lexington. The family searched for days, even leaving fruit outside for the pair. 

They had almost lost hope until a neighbor, Cynthia Franklin, messaged them on Facebook that she had found the emus on her property. 

“A sweet lady that lived a few streets down from us actually took them in, fed them and made sure they were safe,” said Alexandria Miranda.

The two emus stayed together during their journey in Oglethorpe County, and social media was the key to bringing the large, flightless birds back home. 

Fabian Miranda, who is Alexandria’s father, said he was thrilled and shocked the community came together to help find them. In fact, it helped solidify the family’s plan to move to Oglethorpe County. 

“It made us even more excited to move up there knowing how great the community has been to us,” he said. “People are even messaging us to meet Sally and Striker.” 

The siblings are not the only emus who recently have gotten loose. 

Two emus were spotted roaming the county about a week after Striker and Sally were found. Their photos were again posted on Facebook to try to reach an owner. 

Kat Howkins, owner of Sweet Olive Farm Animal Rescue in Winterville, said it was a common trend for people to buy emus about four or five years ago. 

“They protect all of the chickens, roosters and ducks from things like foxes or coyotes,” Alexandria said.

Some may be concerned about a loose emu’s behavior or may wonder if the animal can be threatening to humans. 

“Emus are very friendly animals, and humans should not be afraid of them,” Howkins said.

Howkins added she is experienced in handling and taking care of emus. She caught a loose emu named Tuk Tuk that was roaming Oglethorpe County a few years ago. 

Others on social media were concerned about the emus’ health with the low temperatures last week. However, cold temperatures are not too much of a concern for the animal, Howkins said, as they have fat and multiple layers of feathers covering their skin.

If someone spots a loose emu and attempts to capture it, Howkins said it’s important to not lasso the emu, which could break its neck. 

Before Sally and Striker were found, Howkins said she planned to try and find them, too. She said she spent five hours capturing Tuk Tuk and was prepared to save the two from the wild and bring them to her farm. 

As Sally and Stiker approach their first birthdays in April and May, the Miranda family is thankful to have them back on their farm. 

“My dad has been wanting an emu for a very long time,” Alexandria said. “We finally were able to find some and they were siblings, and we couldn’t separate them, so we got them together.”

Student-led business, Abundant Celebrations

In a small corner lies rolls of brown banner paper, bottles of paint, paint brushes and other random supplies for a student-led business, Abundant Celebrations. 

Supplies sit in the corner for Shirah and Barbee use to create their banners every week.
PHOTO // Lesley Randall

Each week, Abundant Celebrations, makes up to three hand painted banners a week.

The banners are made for different occasions like sorority events, birthday celebrations or bachelorette parties. 

McKenna Shirah, founder of Abundant Celebrations and University of Georgia marketing student, started her small business on Instagram with her roommate Whitley Barbee, an economics major at UGA.

The two have been making banners for sale for 10 months. 

“I always loved getting to make banners and signs for my friends when they would have birthday parties or celebrations,” Shirah said. “The idea came to me when someone reached out and asked me to make a banner for them because they saw one on social media that I had made for one of my friends.”

Instagram serves as the main platform for customers to contact Abundant Celebrations. 

On the Abundant Celebrations Instagram page are photos of previous banners that were made for customers. Instagram also serves as a platform of inspiration for future customers. 

“Instagram has allowed us to share our banners and signs with so many more people than just our friends, Shirah said. “A lot of people will order banners and signs by messaging on Instagram.”

As Abundant Celebrations has gained more customers, the two roommates split up the work weekly to finish the banners on time.

“We both have different things that we enjoy about painting banners which makes it easier to split up the work,” Barbee said. “McKenna does all of the hand lettering and penciling for the banners and I handle all the painting and designs that the customer wants.”

Barbee and Shirah agree it is easier to paint large banners and complete many orders a week together rather than doing it alone.

“It is nice to be doing this as a team because whenever one of us has super busy weeks the other is able to take on more of the workload and make sure the orders get finished in time,” Shirah said.

Barbee(left) and Shirah(right) with their most recent banner they completed for a friend’s 21st birthday. PHOTO // Lesley Randall

With the help of one another, different schedules do not matter as they will work in either of their free time in their living room—-turned art room.

“They always have something going on, so our living room floor is always covered in banners and their supplies,” Emma Kate Williams, roommate of Shirah and Barbee. “But, it doesn’t really bother me because I love helping with design ideas for the banners too.” 

The banners range in prices depending on how large, how much paint and materials are used and the time it takes to finish the banner. 

When the two first began selling banners, they sold them for a $25 flat rate. Then, when their banners became more popular, they decided to vary the prices depending on each banner itself. 

“When McKenna and I started we were charging $25 per banner but as we started getting more orders we made the prices higher,” Barbee said.

Whenever Shirah and Barbee work on banners together, they will split their weekly profits between the two of them. 

On average they said they will each make about $50 a week.

Both agree that having a small side hustle is fun and worth it as a college student. 

“It is easy to get overwhelmed when we have a lot of orders on top of other jobs, school work, and social life,” Shirah said. “Having a partner to do it with keeps it fun.”

Shirah also said being in control of how much work Abundant Celebrations has each week is comforting.

“If we have too much going on, we can just say no,” Shirah said.

Most banners Abundant Celebrations sells are for friends or other connections from their friends. 

Most of our customers are people that we are friends with or someone with mutual connections, Barbee said. “People will see banners or signs on social media or know someone that placed an order and that made them want to purchase from us.”

However, the team of two have occasionally had larger orders for sorority events or senior night events.

The biggest sale that we have made was to a high school, Shirah said. “They wanted several banners for a senior night event.”

Senior night banners at Prince Avenue Christain School. // SUBMITTED PHOTO //

Barbee said the banners for the senior night event took almost two weeks to complete because they were larger than normal and had photos of each senior on them. 

Though, the most popular sale is for birthday banners according to Shirah and they usually range from $30 to $40. 

Our favorite project was probably our first banner that we sold, Barbee said. “It was super colorful and had a big birthday cake on it. We were so thrilled about our new side gig and it was so fun to sit together, listen to music and paint our first banner together.”

Rainfall network serves a vital role

Wolfskin’s Wayne Hughes collects precipitation measurements from other CoCoRaHS volunteers and sends them to The Echo every week.

Lesley Randall // For The Oglethorpe Echo

Michael Moody runs the Broad River Outpost at the Wildcat Bridge in Danielsville. For him, the amount of rain can determine if his business runs or not. 

“Water is our life,” said Moody, who lives in the Glade community. “Too much precipitation makes for floods, too little makes for droughts, both of which can affect our quality of life, hobbies, businesses and our home properties.” 

Moody also belongs to a dedicated group of nine rain watchers in Oglethorpe County who report their measurements to the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network (CoCoRaHS, for short), a community-based organization that tracks precipitation. Wolfskin’s Wayne Hughes compiles the data and reports to The Oglethorpe Echo on a weekly basis. 

“It’s rewarding to be part of an international network of tens of thousands of observers providing vetted granular data that can be scaled up for monitoring our climate,” said Pete Kalla, an observer in Sandy Cross. 

Pam Knox, director of the UGA Weather Network and agricultural climatologist, stated in a UGA Extension article that March was a warmer and wetter month in the Southeast compared to past years. 

“The result of all that warmth and moisture is an early bloom and green-up of trees and shrubs across the region,” Knox said.

Moody knows too much or too little rain can result in his business shutting down for multiple days.

“We rent boats and run shuttles on different sections of the river,” he said. “Rainfall and runoff directly affect the conditions of the river in terms of its height.”

Proper rain measurements are also crucial to the daily lives of many throughout counties like Oglethorpe County, where agriculture plays a crucial role. 

“Depending on the amount and type of rains, farmers, ranchers, small town water suppliers and paddlers all pay attention to the type and amount of rainfall locally and in our regional areas,” Moody said. 

For others, measuring rain is strictly out of curiosity. 

“My father had a dimestore-variety rain gauge for many years, for his own information and to satisfy his curiosity,” Kalla said. “He was always very interested in the weather.”

However, 20 years ago, Kalla stumbled on CoCoRaHS by accident. 

“My wife and I started a garden as soon as we moved here,” he said. “I wanted a high-quality rain gauge for the garden, and when I searched for one, I found out about CoCoRaHS and the local network.” 

He has been measuring precipitation ever since.

Having CoCoRaHS observers in a region gives accurate measurements and predictions for precipitation levels. However, to be an observer for CoCoRaHS, proper rain gauges are required. 

“These gauges are very accurate and can measure up to 1/100 of an inch,” said Gwen Hirsch, who lives in Smithonia. “Everyone on the CoCoRaHS network must use the same gauge so measurements are consistent across the country.”

Hirsch became a volunteer after reading that CoCoRaHS needed observers in a University of Georgia publication in 2008. She “hesitated” when she learned that the required rain gauge cost $40. 

“I have since purchased many gauges as gifts for friends,” Hirsch said. “I had a career in a number of different research labs, so I enjoy measuring things.”