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.
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
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.
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.