Planting Sunflower Seeds: The do’s and dont’s

1st thru 6th Grade helping to plant

1st thru 6th Grade helping to plant

I was lucky enough to be helping our kids class at church on a Thursday night when we were showing them how to plant sunflower seeds. This went along with a discussion about planting seeds in people about the gospel of Jesus Christ. But then we are not only just to plant the seeds but we need to cultivate them and then harvest them. During this lesson we were going to plant the seeds and then only water two of the three rows. Hopefully they would see the difference it makes to cultivate and water and weed.

Children digging and turning over the soil

Children preparing the soil for planting

The seeds that germinated and were taken care of should grow healthier than the ones that were left alone. I found several tips evident after helping with this lesson:

Don’t, willy-nilly, hand out sharp pointy farming equipment to children who have been looking forward to the last day of school for weeks. They might not be as safe as we would expect them to be. I am surprised I didn’t make a trip to the hospital…

Do where good shoes for digging with shovels and such. Many of us had flip-flops and sandals and the ground was very hard. It made it tricky to get the dirt loosened up without getting hurt or falling down. If anyone has worked with kids, as an adult, that is the wrong thing to do. You never, never want to fall down in front of the kids!

Do have enough tools and jobs for all the kids. It is very important that everyone have something to do. Otherwise there is a lot of girls chasing boys and stuff and more opportunity for kids to get hurt. Most of the boys wanted to throw dirt clods and the girls wanted to stand around and talk, but we were able to get them all involved.

Watering the two good rows

Watering the two good rows

Sunflower Seed Package

Sunflower Seed Package

Don’t forget what you planted and where. It makes it easier for mowing and stuff if you remember where it was. Especially if someone else mows the yard or area.

Swamp Seeds

Swamp Seeds

Do always scope out the area you will be planting in to make sure that it will hold up well to the weather. You don’t want too much water to gather when it rains and you also don’t want it to dry out too quickly and leave the seeds too dry. As you can see in the picture we did not choose wisely. It will be a miracle if the seeds survive the huge amounts of rain that we have been getting lately!

Going Green 1: Planting Trees

Planting trees can be expensive and a lot of hard work, or we can do it the easy way. If you have access to a maple tree, you know that the seeds, or “helicopters”, are plentiful in the spring time. (Thanks to Wikipedia for the picture) 

maple seed "helicopter"

Maple seed or "helicopter"

  These seeds are easy and fun to show the kids how one of God’s great creations work. It is really something to show exactly how a seed germinates as easy as one of these helicopters. The easiest way is to germinate the seed in a wet paper towel. Once it opens up, it can be placed in a cup of dirt. Which reminds me of a friends science fair project…  

Keys to a successful tree:

  1. Catch some helicopters falling from a maple tree
  2. Germinate them, in the house, in a paper towel
  3. Once the seeds have started plant them in a cup of dirt
  4. Once the tree is started, and about 6 to 8″ tall, it can be transplanted to your favorite location outside.
  5. Then get a comfortable chair or hammock and watch it grow!
  6. Don’t mow over the tree by accident when mowing the lawn…
Tree Grown from Seed

Maple Tree Grown from Seed

My tree has taken approximately five years to grow about 30 feet tall from a seed. You will need to trim the lower branches from the base of the tree as it is growing to get a good looking backyard tree. If it is in the woods you may not care about this as much. 

A variation on tip number five is not necessarily sit in a chair for 5 years, but look out the windows every couple of months to see how the tree is coming. 

For more tips on growing seeds in paper towels, be sure to watch the last video for some other planting tips! 

 

Thanks Mayo Underwood for this great video! (From www.youtube.com)

I Have Bees: What Now?

There is a lot of stuff to be afraid of out there; spiders, snakes centipedes, etc. However, one of the most feared of the backyard critters are bees. We have been taught to stay perfectly still and we won’t get stung, and then we get stung anyway. Sometimes we can get stung just doing normal things like mowing the lawn or picking apples.

The first step is to identify what kind of bees that you have. The worst ones aren’t even bees, they can be wasps or hornets. There are also some types of bees that are very dangerous and should not be messed with. For the safety of you and you family, contact a professional if ever in doubt. Sometimes nature can help us out:

I don’t want something like that in my back yard!

One way to take out a hornets nest is to call a professional or you can use a shotgun…

Although this is an awesome method, I do not recommend it for everyone. Also, not everyone can shoot guns in their front yard.

Tips for getting rid of problem:

  1. Sell house and move. Although this may seem like a viable option, it really just delays the problem to the next owner.
  2. Explosives. No, not a good solution.
  3. Wait till evening and then use ‘off the shelf’ insect spray. Maybe. But make sure that you are using the right stuff, and you have a method of escape. Some will damage siding and other housing features, so read the labels.
  4. Call a professional. This is probably the most effective method. At least get a quote…

There are many other methods so please do research, look up what the problem is and act accordingly.

The Dreaded Hornet Nest: Bee Careful!

It was around summer of 1982 and I was almost done being 10. My brother and I had been charged with mowing my grandparents yard since they were getting older and didn’t have the time or energy to do it. Although my grandpa had a riding mower, we never used it because it needed an oil change… Really? So we had to use push mowers to mow several acres of tall grass. In fact, we mowed at their house only 2-3 times a summer so the grass was very tall. They lived on an old farm with few neighbors so no one complained, and the grass never got mowed.

Tall Grass

Tall Grass

 So we would start early in the morning by checking the oil, filling the fuel, cleaning the air filter… All the normal stuff people do before mowing their lawn. I know, right? No one does all that! It would take forever! At around noon, at the hottest part of the day, we would finally get started mowing. The mowers that me and my older brother used were not the typical push mowers that we use now. In fact, they were about 20 years old at the time and made of solid lead with a little extra weight thrown in for good measure. They were very heavy. Of course they were self propelled, but with the chains and belts off. You see, nothing at my granpa’s house was in very good condition. He had all the parts in his garage, catalogued and in order, but he never got a round to it.

Round Tuit

Round Tuit

He spent more time showing people his “Round Tuit” than actually using it. Now you might be getting the impression that I did not like my grandfather very much, but it is just the opposite. I loved my grandpa very much. A lot of what I know and who I am is from him. I would say that my father and my grandpa have been the most influential people in my life. I learned how to putter and procrastinate from grandpa, I learned it well…

So we mowed and grandma brought us lemonade, then we went exploring. Usually we would hang around the old barn or go into the woods. But, this particular day we found a hornets nest hanging from a tree. Now this hornets nest happened to be next to an apple tree… I know what you’re thinking, and you would be right. I could not resist. I think I got stung about 12 times during that exchange. The moral of the story is, don’t throw apples at a hornets nest and then try to hide behind a little hill hoping that they wouldn’t find you. They know and they are fast. Funny thing is… I missed on the first throw. God gave me time to really think about what I was doing and analyze if this was the best course of action. I blew it, sorry God, and hit the nest square on the second throw. They were on me before I could hit the ground. I’m not sure where my brother went during all this… He must have heard God talking.

Sometimes in life we have the opportunity to do really stupid things that will end up not ending well. God is constantly giving us chances to change or to rethink our path. Some of us don’t think that God is talking to us or we can’t hear him. But he is there. Sometimes it is through others or reading our Bibles, other times it’s just having a second chance at being really stupid. Either way, we just need to stop and listen and then do the right thing. There is bad stuff out there all around. We have the opportunity to do the right thing and think first. I think it is in our nature to try the wrong stuff first, or maybe it is from making the wrong decisions in the Garden of Eden, but that is what makes life so interesting.

Stop back later and I will talk more about actual bees and what to do with them.

Memorial Weekend Camping! (it’s so hot though)

This is a huge weekend for camping in this country. I’m not sure why, maybe because it is a long weekend. Maybe because of the NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, or just because that’s what we do… Whatever reason you are camping this weekend please follow these tips for a great vacation weekend with family,  friends,  and safety!  

Lakewood Camping Resort - Myrtle Beach

1. Find a good campground. A favorite campground is in Myrtle Beach, Lakewood Camping Resort. In the middle of a commercial Mecca, this campground stands out as a “traditional family values” campground. You can attend many family events including a hula-hoop challenge, campfire and Sunday morning Christian worship service. “LAKEWOOD OFFERS A HALF MILE OF WHITE SANDY BEACHES, 5 FRESH WATER LAKES, PEDAL BOATS, KAYAKS, TWO SWIMMING POOLS, 24-HOUR GATED SECURITY AND MUCH MORE” A crowd favorite is renting golf carts and “buzzing” the main roads.

Animals are fun to watch

2. Animals are fun to watch! Unless it is a grizzly bear or a mountain lion. Animals can be fun to sit and watch on a hot summer camping trip. Most camping involves cooking, eating, cleaning up, and cooking the next meal. After 3 or 4 times of that it is preparing for bed, going to the bathroom (2 blocks away in a hot, smelly bath-house) then back to bed. Then taking the kids to the hot, smelly bathroom, then back to bed. Then helping freaked out wife kill the spider then back to bed. Finally after a few minutes of sleep it’s up at the crack of dawn to fry bacon on a little tiny camping skillet.  In the midst of this flurry of activity stop and watch God’s creatures at work and play! 

Beat the heat!

3. Find a way to deal with the weather. Some years, on particular weekends, the weather can be in the 100’s during the day and lower 90’s at night. Tent camping presents certain challenges in this type of heat. Most people (wives) can not make it more than 1 night without creating an artificial environment inside their temporary housing (tent). Yes, a tent can be air conditioned! It is not the most efficient addition to make, but it will make the weather bearable for the whole family. (A TV makes the whole thing better also.)

All fun is not equal!

 4. Don’t do stuff just because you “think” your friends are doing it. You might get stuck on a paddle boat for a half hour in the hot sun with nowhere to go. If you think your group is on the paddle boats – check first. The kids got in, shoved off,  then  realized the rest of the group was playing goofy golf! As you can see by the faces, it was not money well spent… Just do what you want to do. After all, you have given up your comfortable bed and home conveniences to live in temporary housing not much better than cardboard boxes.  

Take pictures of everything!

 6. Take pictures of everything! You never know when they will come in handy. Camping can be boring at times. So, do a lot of sight seeing and shopping. When not at Walmart, do a lot of window shopping at some fun stores. Use the environment to create the best photo opportunities possible. Especially now that everyone has digital cameras and the ability to take pictures on phones, take a lot of pictures! 

I hope these tips prove to be valuable this weekend! 

Please be safe and have fun, but most importantly thank God for our troops and men and women who have served this country and gave their lives so we could have the freedoms that we enjoy today!

In God We Trust

 

One Option for Easy Mowing Around Mulch

If you are like me, you have to mow, but don’t have a lot of time. It is tedious to mow around mulch beds and seems to take longer and not look very good. I also have trouble keeping the line between the mulch and the grass defined. There is a solution. One thing that I have started doing is making the mulch areas into what they call raised beds. 

digging

Dig a Trench

You can see that the grass around the mulch is high and disoriented. It is like it doesn’t know which way to grow. The weeds want it to grow one way and the other grass wants it to grow another. Some comes up inside the mulch too. It’s not very pretty. So what I started doing was cutting-in around the mulch beds at about a 30 degree angle and maybe half a shovel deep. One thing this does is creates a very defined edge for the grass to grow. It creates a natural boundary. Growing things like to have boundaries. I keep my kids on a short leash, literally… No, not really, they are not leashed up, yet… Although my very beautiful daughter is almost 15 and I told her she couldn’t date until she turned 15. These are the boundaries that I am talking about. When she turns 15 I may change the boundary to 16… The grass needs a boundary so it knows how to grow. Also, you need to make the boundaries easy to mow. Think about the turning radius of your mower and how easy or hard it is to mow corners. I make all of the corners with large sweeping radius’ that I can easily maneuver around and get all the grass cut.You may be asking what I am doing with all that dirt? That is a good question. About every 5-6ft is a wheel barrow full of dirt and weedy grass. I am using it for something, but I will talk about that later as I still have to see if it works. Another thing that I did this year is to clean out all the old mulch and soil.

Add New Mulch

It is very fertile as it has been breaking down for several years now. Weeds and other foliage grow very well in this soil and I needed to get down to the “bad” dirt or clay and remove the top soil. There is nothing planted in this mulch and I just need it to border the driveway, so all that good stuff is gone.

 

As I started adding mulch, I made sure that the level was slightly lower than the grass level. This way the mower would sit at an angle and cut the grass on the edge a little shorter than the grass in the yard. This is important for making the edge look defined and clear. The edge is the most important part.
The color or type of mulch is really up to personal taste. I have found that if the beds are made correctly and the edges are sharp, it really doesn’t matter what the mulch looks like, it just needs to look clean.
Steps to clean mulch bed;
  1. clean out old mulch if nothing is to grow in that area
  2. spray with foliage remover chemical to ensure this happens like Roundup (R)
  3. cut-in edge with a shovel
  4. add new mulch to bed slightly lower than edge of grass
  5. add plants and shrubs as needed

I am sure there are other ways to do this, but this is a good way! It is a lot of work and a lot of digging, but we all need more exercise anyway. Good Luck! 

Two Words for Extreme Backyard Fun: Zip Line!

I was recently helping a friend install a new roof on his garage. After we were done for the day, he asked me to check out his upgrades on his zip-line. Now, this is not your run-of-the-mill zip line that we all have installed between trees in our back yards… What, you don’t have a zip line in your back yard? Well, neither do I so read on… Wait, you don’t know what a zip line is? Well, let me show you! This video was taken last year at our church camp out. These great people, Kevin and Gail, host a church campout in their back yard for a church that regularly has over 1400 people in attendence on a Sunday morning. Of course there are many others that help, but they offer a lot of their time, and home, for this wonderful event.

 

Now that you know what a zip line is, let’s look more at Kevin’s upgrade, the new tower.

Zip Line tower

Is this going to stay in the back yard?View from the top; this WILL stay in the back yard!

He built the tower out of treated pine and it stands 12 feet high with an additional 4 feet of railing above that. There is a ladder built into the side of the tower and a smaller platform to help hook the harness to the carrier. The cable itself is 500 feet long and normally about 20 feet off the ground. But, as you see in the video the contour of their yard takes the line about 50 feet off the ground. Kevin has taken the time to fully research this hobby and ensures us that the utmost caution has been taken to keep every rider safe.

As I was watching my 10 year old son hurl down the side of the hill on this thin steel line, I timed the journey at around 14 seconds. That translates to almost 25 miles per hour! Not bad, not bad at all… The following site has some good information about zip lines. http://www.ziplinerider.com/ However, I must say, please research this topic fully before attempting something this large. Also, it is my rule that the person responsible for building the thing, whether it be a zip line or a hammock swing, should be the first on the test it!

Enjoy and have a lot of back-yard fun!

Follow-Up Story about Tires

So, a great ending to a good story… I finally got the new tires on the truck. It has been a long and perilous journey through snow, wind, rain and sun.

New Tire

Awesome new (used) tire

Yes, I had trouble getting traction in all elements… The interesting thing is, the truck runs great! I didn’t realize that nearly bald tires did not make for a smooth ride. I am not sure if it is the balancing or the additional weight on the outside of the tire providing addional rotational inertia… Well, nevermind that, I am sure no one cares about that much science! But, something is different. It rides like a dream and I will be keeping a close eye on the fuel mileage to see if it helps save me some gas! We all can use a little more gas now and then. I would also like to thank Rural King of Ohio (R) for expertly installing my tires for me.

I was very tempted to try and install them myself. In fact, I looked up a couple of websites that discussed self installation of tires, however, when it got to the balancing I was a little worried. You see, I am somewhat of an engineer. I understand what a little bit of imbalance can do to something that is spinning at the speeds that tires spin going down the highway. I suppose if it were a tractor or something that was spinning slower, I may have done it.

Luckily, the Rural King (R) is right up the road from my work. I also am in training for a marathon, so I drove to Rural King (R), dropped off the truck and walked back to work during my lunch hour. On the way back to Rural King (R) to pick up my truck, I saw some interesting things.

Amish

Amish on the side of the road

For one, I had to walk in the grass to avoid the Amish horse and buggy that was bearing down on me. In our neck of the woods, it is common to pass them in a car, but I think this is the first time I had one pass me. I also stepped over a turtle that had been run over. I would post a picture of that also, but I don’t think that would be good to do. “You will be missed little guy… You will be missed.”

Tires are on; I took the long way back home to test them and all is well!

Thanks to everyone involved!

Tom Davis at Wooster RE/MAX  Showcase for the referral to the tire guy

Neal, the tire guy! We really appreciate it!

Rural King (R) – I still think $15 per tire is a little steep, but good job!

Buying Tires: Why is it so Mysterious?

My Ford F150 tire

51,000 miles on a 50,000 mile tire!

So, the latest in my stories… I need new tires for my Ford F150. I have let them go to the point that they have less tread than racing slicks. I can’t get traction going down-hill on a sunny day… (that’s a little embellished).
So we got a tip from a friend that there is a “guy” that sells tires for around $12 each. Now, I am a very trusting person, but even I have trouble with this idea. However, I am very cheap or frugal as my dad used to say… So last night we went in search of this great deal. Of course, I had to put air in the tire first ( I do this about twice a day) so we could take the truck. I was sure that it was going to be some muddy farm or salvage yard and the tires might even be worse than mine. I also needed gas, but I could get that on the way.
So, we start out and I have the address in my Garmin Nuvi(R). It is saying that we will get there at 6:05. My wife then tells me that he closes at 6:00! OK, we can make it. Needless to say, we pulled into his driveway and the truck stalled and the engine quit. NO GAS! I have to say, though, I was very impressed with the garage. It was an older gentleman working out of his garage. And, the garage was spotless and well organized. He had stacks of tires all marked with the size and price for individuals and sets. Everything was very clean and neat.
We left buying (4) tires for $39! So we got back in the truck and prayed. We called some people and told them to pray. It worked because the truck started. It also drove about 7 miles to the nearest gas station.
New used tires

New Used Tires

Thank the Lord for providing for all of our needs! But the tires that I got, when we got back home, were “P” tires and not “LT” tires. I never looked at that. I was so worried about the other numbers and the size and tread that I forgot to look at the first part! So we called our local Rural King (R) and asked them if we could use passenger tires on a Ford F150. Turns out that since it is a half ton truck we can do this. So I won’t get laughed at! Cool. The tires look practically brand new and with $15 per tire for mounting and balancing plus $10 per for the actual tire I will have a newer set of tires on my truck for around $100. This is great considering that each LT tire new is around $100 if I am lucky. So if you need tires, leave a comment with your email address and I will give you this guy’s info. It is definitely worth it!

In my job, I have a need to spec out new products and vendors. In other words, I look for things to buy to build the machines that we build to meet the specifications needed for the criteria that we have laid out for that project.

Rayco RC814 wood chipper

For these machines I have had the opportunity to learn a little bit about axles and tires. For example, we use trailer tires for these frames and not LT tires. On your car your probably have P tires, or passenger tires. I also have to worry about all of those numbers and letters that are printed on the tire. Then there is the load class and the load rating. We have to look at the size and if you can get replacements easy. It has to bear the weight of the machine and then if they add any tools to the chipper it has to be able to carry that too. Then, after all that, we have to make sure that it will pass the requirements of Europe or Australia, or anywhere else we want to sell this machine.

Tire Diagram

Tire Diagram

Well, back to tires, I would hate to bore you with the pidly aspects of my job… (too late) I found a great resource for tires on the Wal-mart website. Specifically http://www.walmart.com/cp/538435. In this post they explain what all of the numbers and letters mean on the tire that is on your car! They even had this nice picture. Thanks Wal-mart!

Of course, they can’t explain every tire ever made so you have to do your research and find your vehicle and which tire would be best suited for it and the way that you drive. The information is out there, we just need to find it.

Do-It-Yourself Roofing; Can it Be Done?

shingling

Sam nailing down shingles

Many of us have the idea that the outside maintenance of our homes is over our heads. We think that things like siding and roofing can only be done by professionals. While there is a need for professionals to do these things, many of us that are able bodied CAN do this ourselves. There are many resources for building a knowledge base for many home improvement projects that need to be done on your house. For example, the shingles that we were using to put a new roof on a friends garage were manufactured by GAF Materials Corporation(R). They have a great video reference for roofing yourself on your own home. http://www.gaf.com/How-To-Video-Library/How-To-Videos-DIY.asp

One thing to remember though is that the warranty is different for the types of shingles that each company offers. As the quality of shingles goes up, they require certified installers for the installation.

Some other things to consider:

  1. How to dispose of the trash; renting a dumpster
  2. Will the lumber yard deliver the shingles? on the rooftop?
  3. What type of shingle to pick out
  4. Can I get enough friends to help?
  5. Will they still be friends afterwards?

These are all good questions that you need to answer before starting your project. As I have said, make sure to research completely any projects that you are unfamiliar with and make sure it is something you can handle from the beginning to the end.