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Monday, May 22 2017 10:43

Getting DIYZ: Replacing Rotten Deck Boards

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The Rock Father™ has collaborated with the DIYZ® app and Life of Dad for this Home Improvement feature. All tools and materials have been chosen by The Rock Father. Opinions are that of James Zahn. #GetWise

As I am writing this, my wife and I have now owned our house for seven years. In fact, after twelve moves in my life, the home that has become known as “Rock Father HQ” will soon become the one that I’ve lived in the longest. With homeownership comes some challenges, and while we’ve tackled many with the #RockFatherRemodel project (the goal is that the house will get nicer as it gets older), others have been more daunting. Often they’re projects that don’t need to be.

This feature is presented in collaboration between The Rock Father™, Cub Cadet and Life of Dad.

Over the past week or so, I’ve largely neglected my normal work. With April having been such an unusually rainy month (“April showers bring May flowers”) here in Northern Illinois this year, the sunny, albeit cool days of early May have been pretty inviting in terms of getting outside to explore one of my real passions: working the yard. I’m usually eyeing the outdoor tasks by February, when I start taking a good look at the depressingly drab and battered landscape that the winter has left behind, with plans of creating a lush, green suburban oasis when the weather breaks. I’ve already been trimming, fertilizing, weeding and caring for the landscape - I do mean the entire picture. A proper yard is more than just a “lawn,” but the total package of everything surrounding it. I do have #LawnGoals, though - and this year the girls and I are working not to meet them, but to exceed them in every possible way. Here’s the rundown on what’s been done so far…

Wednesday, May 10 2017 08:30

Ceremonial Placement of The Garden Jawa 2017

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It's become a tradition, one that first began in the summer of 2010 when we moved into what would become "Rock Father HQ." The Ceremonial Placement of The Garden Jawa is a special time - when our little friend from a galaxy far, far away returns from the sands of Tatooine to watch over our garden for another season. This little scavenger is not interested in stolen droids - she (determined to be a girl by The Rock Daughters™) has one goal, and that's to help ensure a lush landscape and a bountiful harvest. Armed with a garden hose and a set of tools, our little friend has started to look pretty weathered (can't tell from the pictures), despite being brought inside for the winter months.

Twist and Seal first hit my radar a few years back when their first weather-resistant cord protector started popping up at retailers around the holidays. Now, the Twist and Seal family of products includes four unique items, each with a specific application that helps to achieve the same end result: protection of electrical connections from the elements. Personally, I've dealt with wet plugs and moisture issues for years, and here at Rock Father HQ, it's always the holiday season that's most painful. Christmas lights are notoriously fragile, with tiny fuses that aren't water-proof, and wet connections constantly tripping our GFCI outlets. Add the recent blow-up characters and laser shows into the mix, and there's more chance for irritation. That doesn't mean that other seasons are devoid of hassle, and with summer approaching, we'll also have our DynaTrap and some outdoor lighting that will need protection, and thanks to Twist and Seal, there's a solution for that as well. The folks at Twist and Seal - located right here in Illinois - sent over some items for review, and in the video below, I'll walk you through them...

With Arbor Day marking the mid-point of spring, there's a focus on urban/suburban forestry and the importance of planting trees. Here at Rock Father HQ, we have two trees in our yard - the biggest of which is directly in the center of our front yard. That tree was pretty small when we moved here seven years ago, and with care (I prune it regularly and have fertilized it), it's now taller than our house. Planting a tree is a pretty easy way to revamp a yard, and it can add value to your home - but there should be some planning involved. My friends at Davey Tree have put together a helpful guide to assist homeowners in planting the right tree in the right spot.

You may have already seen the headlines - an unusually large boom in ticks throughout the Midwest this year, all due in large part thanks to a relatively mild winter. The lack of a solid deep-freeze kept the tick population from dying off during their dormant state, and warm, wet conditions this spring are bringing them back en masse. We've lived in this house for seven years, and while I'd found the occasional tick while doing yard work (never bitten), we've never had an issue until now - and we've got kids and dogs. Two weeks, two daughters, two different species of tick - and last night we had an ER visit.

I've been gardening nearly my entire life, but vegetables are still a tricky thing here. As we prepare for another growing season here at Rock Father HQ, we'll be planting more veggies, and part of the challenge is always the harvest. What's properly ripe? Square Foot Gardening: Growing Perfect Vegetables (out May 8, 2017 via Cool Springs Press) aims to help home gardeners take some of the mystery out of things.

Saturday, January 28 2017 03:33

Think Spring: 9 Gardening Trends for 2017...

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It's 23° here in in Northern Illinois today, and as the ground lies frozen under a gloomy sky, I'm already thinking ahead to when the weather breaks and we can get gardening again. Indeed, gardening and landscaping are a passion of mine, and I've worked those into the virtual pages of The Rock Father™ Magazine since 2011. Looking ahead to what's in-store for the coming season, the folks at Monrovia Plants have put together a list of 9 Gardening Trends for 2017, and from what I've seen - they're really on-point. Looking for some inspiration? Check these out...

As we've reached the half-way mark of the Fall season, it's time to get serious about Fall Cleanup since Winter is just around the corner. While it's been sunny, and some might say, "unseasonably warm" around these parts of late, reality is that the first major snow dump of the season arrived here in mid-November - so you never know how quickly things will change. With that in mind, it's worth taking a look at the trees around your property to see what's gotten unruly, identifying what should be trimmed before the cold winds and heavy snow start snapping branches. From Snow Joe + Sun Joe comes their new 10-Inch 8-Amp Multi-Angle Telescopic Electric Pole Chain Saw (SWJ803E) which I was sent for review this season. Check it out in-action...

On November 4, the colorful world of Troll Village will come to the big screen when DreamWorks Animation's "Trolls" opens in theaters nationwide. As the official Paint, Hardware & Home Improvement sponsor of the film, True Value developed a 24-color paint palette inspired by the inhabitants of Troll Village. True Value selected 8 of the main characters and developed a 3-color palette for each character. In addition to the paint, True Value developed a Trolls paint tray kit that has 5 custom Trolls character stencils, stencil brush, roller and roller cover to "Trollify" any room - all available exclusively at your locally-owned True Value hardware stores or on TrueValue.com (where you can find all kinds of fun project inspiration as well). Now, THE ROCK FATHER Magazine is teaming-up with 20th Century Fox, DreamWorks and True Value to give readers a shot at winning a fun Trolls Prize Pack!

This weekend, the Chicago Botanic Garden officially opens the doors to the Regenstein Learning Campus, a beautiful, 7-acre campus built for learners of all ages, with the intention to "facilitate connections between people and the environment." The Rock Daughters™ and I recently had a chance to preview the new Campus and its Learning Center -  a 26,700 square-foot building that features 12 indoor and two outdoor classrooms, a nature laboratory, early childhood classrooms, the ITW kitchen and spaces for wellness classes. Outside, The Nature Play Garden, with its rolling hills and series of multisensory gardens, provides areas for hiding, exploring, learning and gathering - a fine place for kids to run around and have infinite adventures. The Campus will be the home of the Joseph Regenstein Jr. School of the Chicago Botanic Garden, offering year-round classes, day camps and programs.

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #GarageCleanUp #CollectiveBias

Rubbermaid FastTrack

They say to "pick your battles," but sometimes the war is right in front of you, raging on and on with no end in sight. For us here at Rock Father HQ, the garage is that war - and we've been fighting battles with it since we bought this house over six years ago. We have a lot of stuff, and since there's no basement, the garage is a multi-purpose room - a "facility" ("The Warehouse," as my dad once called it) used for storage, special projects, occasional video production, but largely the home to The Rock Daughters™' impressive fleet of vehicles and toys - like a Batcave or Q's lab, but for kids that are 4 & 7. Also factor in all the stuff we've been shoving out there for an eventual "mythical" garage sale that we can never seem to find time to make happen, and we have what to an outsider could look like some kind of hoarder situation - and it goes in cycles. The key to managing it is organization, and I first started tackling it back in 2014 when the Rubbermaid® FastTrack® Garage Organization System first came out. I started getting one wall straightened out, but there's been much more to attack. One of the biggest problems with being able to properly organize the place and really maximize the use of space is that the previous homeowners created a terribly-designed mess of "shelving" (if you can call it that) made out of scrap wood and junk - and much of it was connected, so lose one piece, and another would be affected. This past weekend, my wife and I fought a mighty battle to get another section in-order, namely my workbench and the area that surrounds it. After a trip to The Home Depot (with Finley, who wanted to help with check-out), I had all the pieces that I needed to start dismantling the mess, and rebuild with the good stuff.

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