Over the past few years, we've had a growing threat here at Rock Father HQ, an enemy whose numbers have been increasing, all while the usual tactics of combat have been proving ineffective as our adversary has evolved. These bloodsucking beasts are, of course, mosquitoes, and their presence truly has increased to nearly-unbearable numbers at times, managing to be "vampires of fun" - sucking the enjoyment out of our all-too-short summer season here in Illinois. I've tried everything, as have my neighbors and the county. As the mosquitoes locally have brought with them greater threats like West Nile and now the infamous Zika Virus, protecting our children has become something of paramount importance, and there is no single solution, but with the right combination of weapons in our fight, we're finally making progress. This year, we've added an impressive new tool to our arsenal in the form of the DynaTrap XL - a cutting edge tool in our war against mosquitoes and other flying pests. With no chemicals and no propane, we've had our DynaTrap XL installed since early May, simply plugged-in and running 24/7 to help in the fight, and it's been working - an impressive feat, considering how many other options I've tried that have failed.
When we moved into the house that would become Rock Father HQ back in 2010, in front of the garage was one of the plants that would end up sticking around - a relatively young Clematis plant that didn't have a proper trellis to support it. Clematis is a climbing vine, so to get it to grow and flower well, a trellis is essential, so that first year I purchased a black metal trellis that did the job this past six seasons, but we were ready for something with a little more style. Because of where the plant resides, we didn't want to go too tall (there's lights above it) but nothing we'd seen at retailers really grabbed me... but eventually, inspiration struck in our own backyard, where a small pile of fence scraps had been tossed aside and were headed for the curb this spring.
It was nearly two years ago exactly that I first posted about Fall Creek Farm & Nursery's BrazelBerries, a fantastic collection of berry plants that are designed to be both edible and ornamental. Specifically, BrazelBerries are specially-bred Blueberry, Raspberry and Blackberry plants that can thrive in containers on a deck or patio, or be planted in-ground, depending on where you live. For our first batch. The Rock Daughters™ and I planted two Raspberry Shortcake plants along with two Blueberry plants - Jelly Bean and Blueberry Glaze. Likely due to my own error in winterizing (we live on the border of climate zones and the cold can be harsh and unpredictable), our blueberries didn't survive the first winter... but our raspberries did, and in 2015 they bore some of the most delicious berries that we've ever eaten - anywhere. Our entire family enjoyed them right from the bush, and I even spotted the dogs trying to take a nibble. So what's in-store for our BrazelBerries in 2016? Well, our raspberries are back, plus the folks at Fall Creek sent us four new plants - a Raspberry Shortcake, a Pink Icing Blueberry, and two brand-new varieties - Perpetua (a true double-cropping blueberry) and one that won't be available for purchase until the Spring of 2017... Baby Cakes, a sweet, thornless blackberry that can provide up to two crops per year. It was planting time!
There's always certain things that mark the arrival of a season... the first Pumpkin Spice of Fall... the first playing of the Holiday Music... and the arrival of The Garden Jawa. Whether his appearance denotes the coming of spring, summer or both is debatable, but without fail The Garden Jawa has been a fixture of our landscape since 2010. Originally offered as an exclusive through the Official STAR WARS Store that once existed at StarWars.com (they had some great things), The Garden Jawa is long out-of-production, so we're happy to have the little scavenger standing watch beneath our windmill every year. This week, he made his annual return... garden gloves on, hose and tools ready to rock.
Are you ready for Summer? With the official start of the season just days away, my friends at WORX want to help get you ready for some late Spring clean-up, and inspire you to get working on your yard. Today (Thursday May 19th, 2016) at 1PM EST, WORX will be hosting a Spring Cleaning Live Demo & Flash Sale to help you get your yard ready for summer! They'll be featuring the JawSaw & GT. The Jawsaw is the first and only fully enclosed chainsaw featuring a patented system that provides automatic lubrication and tightening of the chain. The GT is an extremely powerful string trimmer, precision edger, and mini mower -- all in one lightweight, cordless machine.
The folks at Trex are known for their composite decking products, but what some people may not know is that there's some other uses for Trex decking - like building weather-resistant planters that will last for many years to come. With summer almost here, those looking for a cool weekend project might want to take a look at building a planter box, and the folks at Trex sent over a 10-step tutorial on how to build a simple Trex Planter. And, for those who need a little more inspiration or want to skip the DIY aspect altogether, there's some Trex Planters available for purchase at Trex Furniture as well...
I get really torn when it comes to my power equipment for Lawn & Garden use. There's no disputing the power of gas, but I often hate what comes with it - like the upkeep, the smell of exhaust, and having potential contaminants or dangerous materials on-hand where kids could come into contact with them. Right now we have a mix of gas and electric in the arsenal here at Rock Father HQ, but one brand I've been curious about is WORX. I've seen their rechargeable cordless tools in stores... I've seen the commercials... but I have yet to see them in-action. Today (4/7/16) that changes, as WORX will be hosting a LIVE online demonstration of their 56V MaxLithium yard tool lineup, including a string trimmer, hedge trimmer, leaf blower and lawn mowers. The folks at WORX tout their tools as offering "gas-like performance & extended runtime with zero emissions." My interest is piqued, and the webcast begins at 1pm ET. To participate, visit the WORX site.
The official calendar start of Spring is just days away, and like many of you, I'm ready to get outside and get the winter mess cleaned-up to get a jump on making the yard nice for the year. As the lawn mowers and trimmers start to emerge from storage, it's important to make sure that those, and any power equipment, are ready to rock safely for the season. The folks over at The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI), an international trade association representing more than 100 power equipment, engine and utility vehicle manufacturers and suppliers, has put together a list of 10 Tips for Getting Your Power Equipment Tuned-up for Spring. There's simple basic stuff here, but everyone could use a refresher once in awhile, and starting with the basics like inspecting equipment, reviewing manuals, and double-checking safety procedures is a great thing to do.
What a weird winter this has been. The first snowstorm in mid-November was a bad one - around a foot of snow here in the far northern suburbs of Chicago, but a mess that quickly melted and was periodically replaced by on-and-off dustings. By January, we had ice on top of more ice... then some snow, then more ice. And then, cold. I was ill-prepared for this season, coming off of sharing a snowbird neighbor's gas-powered snow blower and teetering about making the switch to electric. When we last spoke about the winter weather, I stated that, despite it being late in the season, I'm now more prepared than ever to deal with a snowstorm - the new owner of a Snow Joe iON PRO Series 21-Inch Cordless Single Stage Brushless Snow Blower (iON21SB-PRO) that I bought from Amazon, and the new 18" iON Hybrid (available at The Home Depot) - the first snow blower that allows AC/DC operation, with users able to switch between corded and cordless use, that machine sent to me by Snow Joe as part of a Brand Ambassador deal. As I sit here today, there is no snow outside - and spring temperatures have already popped-up for a few days, but there was a storm I was able to tackle to put these to the test. But, in the new reality that is Chicago-area weather in 2016, it's already melted, and tomorrow is set to bring perhaps one of the messiest winter storms of the season. That's before we hit the 50's again this weekend. So how do these to blowers stack-up?
When it comes to power equipment, I'm always torn - I love the sheer power and performance of gas, but like the environmental benefits of going electric. My wife knows that I struggle with this battle often, and over the years I've flip-flopped how I do things on more than a few occasions. There is, however, one particular area where I've long-hoped to make a switch - and that's the snowblower. Sure, I dug the power, but I hated the post-snowblowing shower - a necessity to wash away the nastiness of the exhaust fumes that were created by a noxious gas/oil mix. Having admired the cordless options of Snow Joe for a few years, I bought the Snow Joe iON PRO Series 21-Inch Cordless Single Stage Brushless Snow Blower (iON21SB-PRO) from Amazon. Then, in some strange synergetic coincidence, the folks at Snow Joe got in touch about working together - "The Rock Father" becoming a late-season Brand Ambassador. Already a customer, I accepted - and as of today, I've never been more prepared for a snowstorm... and I'm crossing my fingers that one comes very soon.
THE ROCK FATHER has partnered with Sears as a paid member of the Craftsman Crew.
No matter how well the preparation has gone, the Holiday Season has not just "crept-up" on us, but has emerged swiftly and with unusual force this year. It's somewhat hard to get a grip on all the moving parts that go with a successful and stress-free season these days (14 variations on Thanksgiving, 79 versions of Xmas - you know how it is), but when it comes to gifting, I'm pretty good at picking what works, hence my annual Holiday Wish Guide. For me, this is a time for fixing up the place - but even more so, being ready for toys... specifically, always being ready to open the battery compartments on toys. Since just about everything takes batteries at this point (even things you wouldn't expect), I've encountered some tricky spots - spots where some good grip comes in handy. With the new Craftsman Extreme GRIP Lineup of tools, I'm well taken care of - and that's why I'm including them in my 2015 Holiday Wish Guide. There's an Extreme GRIP tool for just about any application, and they're on-sale right now! A great gift idea, and a great asset to any toolbox - the perfect ally in the battle against rounded, stripped or just hard-to-grip fasteners. Check out some Rock Father picks below, then enter to win a Craftsman Extreme GRIP 6-Piece Diamond Tip Screwdriver Set!
As I write these words to you right now, the cold November rain (GN'R reference) is coming down outside our home, the gutters overflowing and solid sheets of water running down the windows of my office. The harsh reality is that my favorite season will soon come to a close, with Fall making way to Winter. If the preliminary predictions are to be believed, winter 2015/16 in the U.S. is gonna be harsh - and that's saying something since we've lived through a bevy of Hoth-like conditions here in Northern Illinois during the past few winters. If previous years have brought forth those news-worthy catch phrases like "Snowmageddon," what's looming in the not-so-distant future might well be the Snowpocalypse, and we must be prepared. Thing is, we need to finish our Fall Clean-up to be ready for winter - and being prepared for both will help everyone get back to normal come Spring, and getting our lawn and garden ready for a new year of fresh growth is something I'm always looking forward to. My friends at Craftsman have all the tools to get you through every season, and to help bridge Fall and Winter, I'm throwing down five helpful tips!