Bottling line uncorks great potential for winery

By Becky Jane Newbold

What happens when an electrical engineer and a military trained mechanic put their heads together?

No, there is no punch line, the result for the father-son duo of Gerald and Brian Hamm is brilliance.  Entrepreneurs across America are wracking their brains looking for a niche in these difficult economic times.  But here in Lewis County these two enterprising men found the perfect blend of building relationships, hard work and just the right niche.

Treadstone Bottlers, one of the newest ventures of Keg Springs Estates, hit the road early this year with its mobile bottling line. Currently serving two wineries in the state of Tennessee, Treadstone Bottlers owner and CEO Brian Hamm, created the company out of necessity, but interest shown by other wineries in the region could expand services well across the south.

Gerald, the electrical engineer and co-founder of Keg Springs Winery in Lewis County, and his son, Brian, former Blackhawk helicopter crew chief and head winemaker, recently completed a year long project sure to put them on the road to success.

Their mobile bottling line was created out of necessity and with a bit of genius. Over the course of a year, they took a box truck 35 feet long and equipped it with new and completely refurbished bottling gadgetry.  Now an automated bottling line, sanitized with steaming cleaning at each use, puts an end to years of hand bottling wine.

Since opening the first winery in Lewis County in 2004, Keg Springs owners have, by hand, bottled, corked and labeled each bottle sold.  Other small wineries in Tennessee also face the same issues of hand bottling versus expensive automated equipment. Rising sales frequently necessitating an upgrade yet economics can inhibit the move.

The Winery at Belle Meade Plantation is among the first customers for the new bottling company, Treadstone Bottlers. Belle Meade Plantation’s wine begins in Lewis County under the watchful eye of Master Winemaker Brian Hamm and is finished to their style in Nashville.

Hence, the need for Treadstone Bottlers.

In February, the Hamms tested Treadstone’s bottling on their own wine and after it ran flawlessly, they began bottling Belle Meade’s wine.

“There was a void in the industry in this part of the United States,” Gerald said.  The closest mobile bottling units are located in Virginia and California, he added.  Already, inquiries from wineries in Georgia, Alabama, Iowa and Kentucky have been fielded by Treadstone Bottlers.

Gerald Hamm, CEO of Keg Springs Estates, explains equipment associated with their newest company, Treadstone Bottlers.

Capable of running nearly 1,800 bottles per hour, the equipment may be used for bottled water, wine or any non-carbonated liquid, Brian said in an interview last week.  Both the standard 750 ml size bottles and splits, 175 ml, can be bottled with corks or screw caps, tin or heat shrink plastic.  Whichever the customer prefers.  Most wineries purchase one piece of equipment for each process.  Treadstone Bottlers offers small wineries more options.

Within the mobile bottling unit, empty bottles are loaded and sent through the sparger for cleaning, the liquid is piped in and after a few moments, corked, labeled and vacuum sealed bottles are scooped from the conveyor belt and boxed.  Simple.

The second company for Keg Springs Estates, Treadstone has been in operation for about one month.

The coveted William O. Beach Award for Excellence in Tennessee Wines rests at Keg Springs Winery during 2011.

Keg Springs also sports the coveted William O. Beach award, on display during 2011.  The traveling trophy was presented to Keg Springs Winery in January during the Wines of the South awards banquet in Nashville for excellence in Tennessee Wines.  The White Muscadine, made with 100 percent Tennessee fruit and created by a Tennessee winemaker was named the number one wine in Tennessee for 2010.

The trophy stays with the winner throughout the year and may be viewed at Keg Springs, open noon until 6 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday.


Many Afghan schools still lack the basics

Despite millions in aid, students still lack books, desks and even school buildings

By Maiwand Safi

KABUL, Afghanistan ––  “I go to school over there,” said Khaled, pointing to an empty patch of land surrounded by a few trees.

“Do you see those trees?” asked the fourth grader. “Our school is there under the trees. We sit under them and I use this sack as a mat.”

Khaled’s classroom is typical of those located in Kapisa province, northeast of Kabul. The deputy director of education in the province, Abdul Rasul Safi, confirms that more than one-third of the 212 schools in the province actually have no buildings at all.

“The education ministry must pay serious attention to this problem – using foreign donor funding – and address it to some extent,” he said.

So far, however, no one seems to be paying attention to the students’ plight.

“We have no chairs or textbooks. Our teachers are tired of teaching. They rarely come,” Khaled said. “They complain about their salaries. It would be better if we didn’t go to school at all.”

The expansion of the education system is often cited as a major achievement of the Karzai administration and its international backers. But stories like Khaled’s show just how much still needs to be done to reverse the damage done not just by the Taliban but also by three decades of war.

When a Soviet-backed administration was in power in the 1980s, mujahedin groups often targeted schools they believed were nests of communist ideology. Their capture of Kabul in 1992 produced an internecine conflict in which schools were looted and commandeered.

Then came the Taliban, who allowed schools to reopen, but just for boys, and prescribed only a loose curriculum based largely around Islam.

Since 2001, international donors have injected billions of dollars into the construction of schools for both boys and girls. The education ministry says that half the 14,100 schools in Afghanistan have buildings, laboratories, libraries and textbooks.

Afghans responded by sending their children to schools in droves, although male students still outnumber female by a 3-to-2 ratio.

Today, however, many parents feel let down by the continuing shortage of textbooks, trained and motivated teachers and basic classroom facilities.

Education ministry spokesman Abdul Sabur Ghofrani says the government is doing the best it can.

“The education ministry is using its development budget to build premises for 1,000 schools a year, and will continue to address this problem,” he says.

But he was unable to explain why textbooks have yet to reach Kapisa province despite the tens of millions of dollars that have been spent on printing such materials.

Safi, the education official in the province, admits that a shortage of books was a “big problem in some of the schools” in the province.

“I’m a biology teacher, but I’ve been unable to find textbooks in the library which I could use for teaching the eighth and ninth grades,” said Ataullah, who works at the Abdul Ghias Shahid school in Kapisa’s Tagab district. “So how are the students supposed to find the textbooks?”

Atal, a 12th grade student at Ghazi Osman, another school in the province, said some of his classmates had ordered their own textbooks from Kabul or Jalalabad. Those who cannot afford to buy their own books borrowed them from classmates.

While their students complain about the lack of classrooms or teaching materials, teachers have their own complaints.

“A teacher with 20 years experience gets paid $160 a month, so he’s forced to engage in farming or some other business,” said Ataullah, the biology teacher.

Khaled, meanwhile, says he’d settle for a classroom that provided more shelter from the summer heat than a grove of trees.

“I get a headache from the sun; I hate it on my face and head. And I don’t understand the lessons the teacher gives,” he said.

Maiwand Safi is a reporter in Afghanistan who writes for IWPR, a nonprofit organization that trains journalists in areas of conflict. (Copyright, 2011, The Institute for War & Peace Reporting, 48 Grays Inn Road, London WC1X 8LT, U.K.


Lewis County Waterfalls

Next time you spend some time hiking in Lewis County, be sure to take a trail leading to a waterfall.

Swan Conservation Trust

A guided tour of this remote waterfall is available by contacting a member of the Swan Conservation Trust in Lewis County.  Find out more by visiting,


Waterfalls are the perfect destination for summer hikes.

Comfort in a Call

By Becky Jane Newbold, Associate Editor, Lewis County Herald

As her grief-stricken friend held a tight grip on her composure, one a friend, another an acquaintance, consoled the new widow.

Debbie watched as one by one they cried, laughed and remembered but knew too well the heightened emotional state would prevent her friend from holding onto the stories family and friends told at the funeral of her friend’s husband who passed away from cancer.

With thoughts drifting back to her childhood loss, Debbie knew the hunger people feel when someone they love is taken and there is little to hold to except memories.  When her own father died, Debbie Landers was 10 years old.  Growing into adulthood, she

Debbie Landers demonstrates Comfort Calls at McDonald Funeral Home where friends and loved ones sit at a computer screen and pick up a phone to leave the family a message about the deceased. “So often, the grief is overwhelming,” she said, “and you want to remember everything people tell you about during visitation, but you just can’t remember it all.” Comfort Calls records your message and the family takes it home to keep forever.

often wished she knew more about the man who sang to her and held her on his lap when she was young.

Months prior, at the local funeral home one evening, after most of her late aunt’s family and friends had gone home, her last living uncle on her daddy’s side started talking.

Amazed and scrambling for paper and pen, the family drank in the stories with a thirst for family history not to be matched.  Unsuccessful at finding writing materials or a tape recorder, they sat back and listened as he unwound a lifetime of tales about a childhood with Debbie’s father and a life none of them remembered.

Years later, seeing her friend along with the grandchildren, try to capture the stories told of their loved one, a man who as a missionary started orphanages and churches in far-away lands, she knew it was time for a solution.

And like an answered prayer, she began forming an idea.

While in prayer, she had a desire to create jobs in her hometown for people struggling to make ends meet and Comfort Calls was born.  A simple concept, Comfort Calls was placed in a Made-in-Hohenwald “phone booth” at McDonald Funeral Home in Hohenwald for a test run.  Funeral Director Richard Tate was all in.

“We are more excited about being in on the ground level than anything,” he said.  “This service helps families during the hardest time of their life: when they go back home.”

Response has been wonderful, Debbie indicated.  Families are appreciating having a CD recording full of all the stories people can remember about their loved one.  Families can keep the CD forever and a computer data base backs up the files if the CD is lost or damaged.

“What we most appreciate, is the feedback we have received from Lewis County,” Debbie said.  “The local help is really what we need to make sure this is a valuable service for the rest of the world.”

If Comfort Calls really takes off, Debbie anticipates a lot of work this summer to get the new company off the ground.  At the basic level, construction of phone booths could be necessary, she said, then there would be shipping and numerous other jobs too.

Comfort Calls will be launched state-wide in June.


Hero Mom jumps in attempt to save kids

By Becky Jane Newbold,

Associate Editor, Lewis County Herald

It was 3 a.m. when she awoke to smoke alarms blaring and a hot, smoke filled house.  On the second floor with a six month old and a four year old, Kerri Anthony knew she and the children were in dire straits.

From the top of the staircase, she could feel the heat and see flames below so they returned to the bedroom and shut the door. When Thursday morning’s blaze broke, Kerri’s husband was away from home working so the survival of their daughter Briley, and son, Bentley, was all in her hands.

Kerri jumped from the second story to save her children.

Raised on a farm, Kerri had ridden horses and worked cows her entire life so she was well aquainted with taking risks. She also knew when and how to make a hard decision.

She would have to jump from the second story.

“He was so good.  He listened to me and didn’t panic,” Kerri said explaining how she opened the window to her daughter’s room, punched out the screen and sat four year old Bentley on the window sill.

“I told him to wait,” she said, while she jumped with the baby, two stories down to the sidewalk.

“I must have dropped Briley during the fall,” Kerri said Tuesday during a telephone interview.  She remembers jumping and then “it’s kind of a blur.”  She remembers seeing Briley on the sidewalk next to her.  When she went to pick Briley up, Kerri couldn’t move her arm and realized it was broken.

Without concern for her arm, Kerri called back to Bentley who bravely obeyed, jumping with great faith into his mother’s arms.

Because their dog had puppies, the garage door had been left open to allow her to come and go.  The family was able to get into the car and get away from the burning house, Kerri told.  The four year old was a great help to his mother, opening the car door and helping get his six month old sister into the vehicle, Kerri said.

During the thrust to get out of the house, Kerri had tossed her cell phone out of the window.  She told how she went to retrieve it and only found pieces of the phone lying about the yard.  Able to find the front of the phone and the battery, she assembled it well enough to call 911 for emergency help.

Then she called her dad.

“It’s amazing how tough that girl is,” her dad, Kenny Ellison said.   Kerri suffered a shattered wrist, broken toes and had cuts, scrapes and bruises over much of her body, especially her legs.  Both she and little Briley were in the intensive care unit at Vanderbilt University Medical Center for several days before being released.  Doctors were concerned with swelling in Briley’s neck but a check up on Tuesday afternoon showed Briley is recovering well from a cracked skull and hematoma.

Bentley was not injured.

“We were sleeping in the baby’s room because the house was struck by lightning the night before,” Kerri said, and the TVs were out.  The DVD player in her daughter’s room worked and they fell asleep together there watching a video.

“By the time I got the window open, I’m not sure I could have taken another breath,”Kerri said of the smoke.  “I hate to think what could have happened.”

Robbie Anthony was on his way home from Nashville when he got the news his family was being transported due to the fire, so he met them at the hospital.

The young family is recooperating at her father’s (Kenny) house and mourning the loss of their dog, Buddy, a nine year old Chihuahua who was lost in the fire.

“God was on our side that night,” Kerri said.

The downstairs of the home was heavily damaged with smoke damage upstairs. The cause of the fire was unknown at press time Wednesday.

Members of the Hohenwald Volunteer Fire Department responded to the April 21, 2011 fire.


Death knell for state-controlled media in Mideast

Abundance satellite news channels and arrival of social media networks mean regimes no longer able to control the flow of information.

By Zoe Holman

LONDON –– The future looks grim for state-run media in the Middle East and North Africa in the wake of the social and political upheaval that have rocked the areas.

The ability of governments to control the information its citizens receive has been undone by the profusion of satellite TV channels, as well as the proliferation of social media networks.

“There is no future for Arab state media,” said Faisal Abbas, a London-based blogger for the Huffington Post.

The public has long doubted the credibility of such state-run organs as Egypt’s Al-Ahram newspaper, Abbas said, noting that the government’s poorly disguised efforts to interfere with editorial content destroyed the paper’s ability to sway public opinion.

On the other hand, a single Facebook page in support of Khalid Said, the Egyptian blogger who died in police custody last June, was enough to inspire the movement that eventually brought down the Mubarak regime.

The same was true in Tunisia, where a video showing Tunisian fruit seller Mohamed Bouazizi setting himself on fire to express his frustration with life in that country became viral on YouTube and was viewed all across the Arab world.

“[Social media] is not the message,” added Dina Matar, a lecturer in Arab media and political communication at London’s School of African and Oriental Studies. “It is a tool, which has given protesters the ability to frame the narrative, but there are other factors. The uprisings have now shifted from cyber-politics to street politics, where the traditional media of rallies, graffiti and leaflets have been used. The people, and not just journalists, have created the angle on the stories.”

Meanwhile, efforts by some Arab regimes to use Facebook and Twitter for their own purposes have failed miserably.

Even more powerful, blogger Abbas said, are satellite news channels like Al-Jazeera, with its audience of 40 million Arab viewers every day.

“I subscribe wholeheartedly to the view that these revolutions were powered by information,” said Al-Jazeera’s Cairo correspondent, Ayman Moyheldin. “I don’t support the notion that it was purely Facebook or Twitter, but it was a mixture of media, and the Internet was crucial.”

Moyheldin said he believes state-run media will eventually fail.

“If competition doesn’t take out state-owned newspapers and channels, dictators will dismantle them themselves, because they no longer serve any use,” he said.

“State television and newspapers in the Arab world have been completely discredited,” agreed Hugh Miles, a journalist and the author of “Al-Jazeera: How Arab TV News Challenged the World.”

“They’ve been trailing behind for years and now need to be competitive with funding and creating a political environment that promotes freedom of speech,” he said.

“Editorial integrity must be proven, not promised,” Abbas argued. “Let everybody have their say, and the best voice will win.”

Zoe Holman is a staff member of IWPR, a nonprofit organization that trains journalists in areas of conflict. (Copyright, 2011, The Institute for War & Peace Reporting, 48 Grays Inn Road, London WC1X 8LT, U.K.


Youngster and yearling hunting new life together

By Becky Jane Newbold

When a young Cody Atkinson read “My Side of the Mountain” he, as do many young men, dreamed of living off the land, away from people and communing with nature.  The protagonist used a hawk to catch food enabling the runaway to survive the harsh winters of the Catskill Mountains of New York.

Inspiration from a children’s book grabbed hold of Cody’s heart, but a first year Red-tailed Hawk now holds the strings.

Cody with Yale in the beautiful Swan Valley near Hohenwald, Tennessee.

Not realizing how simple the story but complex the process, Cody, then age 15, began making plans.  First he discovered a long list of Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency requirements.

Undaunted, he dove in head first, checking items off his list, one at a time.

A captive hawk needs a home and before one can legally be trapped, Cody had to become an apprentice falconer.  Not only would he have to construct an eight feet by eight feet structure called a Mews, a sponsor was required and a minimum grade of 80 on a supervised exam was necessary.

Jim Primus of Franklin gladly took Cody under his wing realizing this young man, who scored a nearly perfect grade, would most certainly keep him busy.  And might teach the Master Falconer a thing or two in the process.

“He’s not a flash in the pan,” Primus said of Cody after meeting with him to check his hawk Monday, January 17, 2010.  “The bird is in great shape and he is doing a fantastic job,” he continued.  Primus, a retired biomedical scientist and former professor at Vanderbilt University said few youngsters Cody’s age could be “doing what he is doing….he keeps me on my toes,” he added with a chuckle.

Hawks in the falconry program and in the wild require whole mammals everyday to keep their digestive system working properly, Primus explained.  Cody traps mice, rats and was successful in capturing a squirrel recently to feed his hawk, he named “Yale.”

For hawks and falcons, the wildness never leaves.  After capture, it sometimes can be a week before they will accept food from their captor.  Cody and Yale seemed to develop a strong bond early as Yale accepted food the first day.

“Fear can keep them from accepting food,” Primus said.  Yale was flying to Cody within three days in the young man’s bedroom.

Not too many adults might allow a Red-tailed hawk to take up residence inside the home, but Cody has a special set of grandparents watching out for him.  A willingness and eagerness to allow Cody to learn life’s lesson, Danny and Glenda Atkinson do not mind too much the intrusion of a hawk in the house.  But just on occasion, most times, Yale remains outside in the mews.

Keeping Cody focused, their love of their grandson realizes the magnitude of impact this hobby can have on their young prodigy.

Primus attributed Cody’s success to both his tenacity and to the support of his family.  “A kid like that would have a hard time without the support of a family.  He has it–that’s great.”

Falconry is the sport of hunting wildlife with a trained raptor, TWRA says.  Originating in China, falconry is the second oldest form of hunting with the aid of animals.  And it is a 24/7/365 job.  “It takes one heck of a commitment,” Primus said.  Primus has been in falconry for 10 years.

His inspiration came from his wife, who after a visit to a falconry school in England, came home excited to give the sport a try.

“We usually do a lot of things together.  I was attracted to the sport because I gun hunt (muzzle loader).  This is the only sport in the country using a wild trained bird to catch game,” Primus continued.

Events planned for the spring, offer falconers from across the state and the southeast to hone their skills and show off their birds.  Cody hopes to attend a meet in early March to compare Yale to other hawks.

An apprentice falconer may only have one raptor and it must be an American Kestrel, a Red-tailed Hawk or a Red-shouldered Hawk.  All three, native to Tennessee, survive on a diet of fur wearing animals, such as mice, rats, rabbits and squirrel.  In Tennessee, it is illegal to practice falconry without a permit.

In the beginning, Cody realized quickly the high cost of creating a mews.  It was then the value of the family barn was re-discovered.  Built in the 1950s by his great grandfather, Marvin Whitehead, and once home to milking stalls and calves, the barn was a prospect.

After a clean up and modifications, the mews and a weathering area were ready for inspection.  Weathering is an area completely enclosed with wire which allows the bird exercise and exposure to fresh air and sunshine.  The aviary must also be suitable to protect the raptor from predators.

Nearly 60 years old, the log structure has new life, albeit no longer inhabited by the traditional farm animals, but by a predator.  The Red-tailed hawk was known to old time farmers as a “Chicken Hawk.”  How’s that for irony?

“Cody is a great kid with a lot of initiative.  He is not afraid to learn on his own,” Primus said.

Looking to the future Cody hopes to attain his General license by next summer which will allow him to acquire a second raptor.  With his sights on a Harris Hawk, Cody would be able to hunt different prey with the Harris.  Quail, ducks and other feathered game would be part of the hunt with the Harris, Cody explained.

Yale hunted free for the first time since capture on Monday.  “It was amazing,” Cody said.  He placed her on a branch and began walking through the woods near his home on the Little Swan Creek, hoping to flush a rabbit.  “I looked around and she was following me.”  Although unsuccessful in pursuit of game, the outcome was tremendous for Cody.  “At one point, I thought she might fly away,” Cody said.  But she followed me like a dog.”  Food hunted by Yale will be used primarily as food for the hawk, Cody said.

That is a scary time for falconers, Primus noted.  “The bird will be free to fly [away] if it wants to,” he added.

But she did not fly away, she winged her way back to her new haven, landing securely on Cody’s gloved hand.  “I’m still so excited,” Cody said. Tuesday.


More Than Just a Wedding: from West Bengal, India

By Katie Hays

Indian weddings are no less of a grand occasion than American weddings. Family comes pouring in from miles away, decadent food is prepared, the bride is practically speechless when attempting to describe her emotions, and gifts galore are purchased and given as a token of well wishes to the newly weds.

Getting the chance to be an attendee at a wedding during my extended stay in West Bengal, India was a must. Little did I know or expect, though, that I would have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to not only go to the wedding, but also to see what it’s like from behind the lens of a camera.

Like I said, besides the grandness and extravagantness of the occasion, pretty much everything about the “Bengali” wedding is different when compared to a traditional American one.

When I walked into the bride’s home three days before the wedding, family members heartily greeted me, and demanded that I sit down and have a cup of tea. The anxious photographer in me wanted nothing more than to begin snapping away at all the great photo opportunities, but I obliged and enjoyed the warm company of my new friends who did not really know what to make of this American girl coming to their daughter’s wedding to take “non-traditional candid style photos.”

Despite what could have been a rather awkward cultural experience, the way these new friends welcomed me in and hospitably showed me a glimpse inside their family, culture, religion, and life made it seem completely natural. I learned about customs and traditions as rich and deep as the red “sari” that every Bengali bride wears on the day of her wedding.

I witnessed the love and pride that this family and their friends have for each other, and how rare that is, in both India and America. There is just something about this type of love that is contagious and people enjoy being around. Maybe it was the way the bride’s aunt stayed up into the late hours of the night delicately wrapping presents that the bride would give to the family members of the groom. Maybe it was the laughs that could be heard from miles away when the traditional mud-like substance rubbed onto the bride’s face turned into a full on family mud-fight.

Or, maybe it was the fact that they opened up their home in such a way that not one room was empty, and by walking through the house, one could hear, smell, and see the appreciation for this big day. Whatever it was, it engulfed everyone there, including myself.

It was impossible to leave this family with out feeling impacted and blessed by their kindness and joy for life.

I’ve definitely seen it in both America and India, but as you probably know, this type of warmness and care for those around you is rare, and when you do see it, you want to take hold of it and cherish it because it’s not often that these moments come.

Being at the wedding and getting a glimpse inside this family’s life for a weekend was an experience that everyone should have, and one I’ll never forget. Whether in America or India, or wherever, it doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s not so much about being in a different country or place, but more about seizing the opportunity where you are, wherever that may be, whoever that may be with.

Carpe Diem, y’all . . .or as we say here in India: “nomoshkar”

It’s one of those words that people say to each other after having a good conversation or encounter with a friend that they enjoyed.