Memorial Day is coming. Father's Day is looming. With outdoor activities about to ramp-up, families will be hitting the yard and the deck for some gardening and grilling, and for those looking for something a little bit... different, here's a selection of five crazy items that you won't find at the local "Big Box" (sorry Walmart & Target), but you will find over at ThinkGeek...

This year, we're trying some new things here in the Gardens of Rock Father HQ.  This being our fifth full season here at the homestead, I'm always on the lookout for things we can do differently, plants we've never tried, and some general fun and learning adventures that the girls and I can share in together. One from this past week involves some edibles - specifically Raspberries and Blueberries, neither of which have ever been grown here in the past. The folks at Fall Creek Farm & Nursery in Oregon shipped us a few varieties from their BrazelBerries collection to try out - varieties that should do well here in Northern Illinois.

Magic CabinLast Fall, a catalog for a place called MAGIC CABIN arrived in the mail here at Rock Father HQ unexpectedly. I'd never heard of it, but was immediately enthralled by unique, and extraordinary array of children's products they had available. What they were offering really hit my soft spot for imaginative play and educational entertainment, and when Christmas rolled around, my wife and I told a few people that almost anything from the catalog would be great for our little ones. Fast-forward to Gardening season (one of my favorite times of the year), and the folks at Magic Cabin have some unique offerings once more, and I'm going to highlight some here on THE ROCK FATHER in the weeks ahead. Up first: The Gardens to Grow by Child Sized Garden Planters. They're raised gardens for kids, and the come in a set of two.

Thursday, April 24 2014 22:37

Garden: RESCUE! TrapStik for Wasps (Review)

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Updated July 20, 2017. I've been buying these traps every season since this review was posted. Sadly, they're being temporarily taken off the market... for being too good. Read more about this new development here.

This is one of those rare occasions where I get to share an item with all of you that is supposed to accomplish a very specific task... and I have personal proof that it can do what it claims. With warmer weather hitting and families starting to spend more time outside, those biting pests are going to be emerging, and even though it's still kind of on the cool side - they're here. And this is the time to wipe them out. In our case, we have a WASP (not to be confused with W.A.S.P.) problem here at Rock Father HQ that's only been getting worse by the year. Paper Wasps are making nests everywhere - under the overhangs on the house, under the railings of the deck, inside the framework of our shed, and at one point they'd actually built in the legs of my old grill. If you can "Catch the Queen" in the Spring, you can keep the Wasps from building nests. That's where the RESCUE! TrapStik for Wasps comes into play...

The first Gardening success of 2014! While Spring is off to the slowest start that I can recall, and there's been a few signs of life beginning to sprout outside, our gardening adventures for the year got started back on February 8, with the arrival of an Amaryllis kit from our friends at Longfield Gardens. Now, if you're a newer reader of THE ROCK FATHER, one that's used to stopping by for your daily dose of pop culture, you might not know it, but Gardening is a HUGE part of our daily routine here at Rock Father HQ - generally from March to November, or whatever the weather here in Northern Illinois will allow. With something like an Amaryllis, starting a bulb inside is a great way to get kids involved with Gardening, by placing something that they can track the progress of every day.

The Rock Father is a 2014 PBS KIDS VIP (Very Involved Parent) BloggerCaillou is a hero here at Rock Father HQ, my oldest daughter's first love... something that's been well-documented here on the site. There's a ton of educational value in the popular series (which airs on both PBS KIDS and Sprout here in the U.S.), and one of the biggest areas that's really hit home for us is the emphasis on Gardening. In fact, there's been an entire series of Caillou Ecology Club products, and last year, I featured one of our own adventures when I posted an entry called "Learning to Compost... Just Like Caillou." Now, just in-time for Spring, PBS Distribution is releasing a new DVD collection, CAILLOU'S GARDEN ADVENTURES, which will hit stores on February 25. Featuring six garden-themed episodes, kids and grownups can learn about water conservation, flowers, planting, and yes, even composting. Check out the details below!

My friends at the Chicago Botanic Garden are on the verge of a major milestone. For the first time in their 41-year history, they may reach 1 Million Visitors for the year. They're so close, that in order to give it a bump, they're offering $10 parking through December 31 (normally $25), and admission is free as always. There's a lot of winter goodness to explore.

Longfield GardensWith Gardening being a part of our regular routine, we've dabbled in annuals, perennials, vegetables, and more... but one thing we'd never worked with previously is bulbs, and this Fall, that changed. I don't know if I've ever mentioned it previously here on THE ROCK FATHER, but waaaaaay back in my past (practically another lifetime), I used to run a couple of garden centers. I sold a ton of bulbs back then, but never had the opportunity to plant some of my own. Fast-forward a couple of decades, and here we are - my Wife and I are homeowners, and I'm finally planting some fresh bulbs. For this project, four-year-old Addie was my Garden Helper. Armed with 200 (!) Fall Bulbs that were sent to us courtesy of the folks at Longfield Gardens, the little one and I set out to prep our home for some Spring color, completing a project that is fun and easy for kids and grownups alike.

Now this is really cool. Having spent a lot of time on my Grandparents' farm as a kid, that lifestyle had a big impact on me, and I share that with my children today through the Gardening we do here at Rock Father HQ. While we may not have a full-scale farm (I'd love that), growing veggies and teaching the girls has been a real joy. Now comes word that FARMING SIMULATOR is coming to XBOX 360 and PS3 next month after a successful run on PC. I'm digging the idea of learning about farming through console gaming. Take a peek below...

It's no secret that Fall is my favorite season. Chalk it up to being an "October Baby" myself (at least, that's how I've always justified it), but it seems that everything just feels right in the Fall. Unfortunately, Fall also feels like the most condensed of the seasons - like you have September/October and it's done, even though it technically goes until December. As soon as the ghosts and ghouls vanish back into their crypts on the morning of November 1, that typically signals the beginning of the "Holiday Season" for me, and thoughts of winter soon emerge... and being in Northern Illinois, a November snowfall is not uncommon. I always feel as if I'm trying to cram as much Autumn goodness as I can into Sept/October, and one annual ritual is the changeover from Summer Flowers to Fall Mums.

It seems that every couple of years there's some new invasive pest hitting the area in which Rock Father HQ is situated. There's been quite a bit of buzz about the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug arriving in Illinois (an "UNWANTED" Poster was even issued), and though they haven't been confirmed here in Lake County (yet), The University of Illinois Extension issued an update back in May that confirmed their presence in several counties, including Cook. While The Land of Lincoln may not be under full-blown invasion, I know a lot of readers elsewhere in the country are under attack, and with the cool, Fall weather upon us and word of a massive outbreak in Sacramento, it's time to start guarding homes to keep these stinkers out.  

nationalplantDid you know that it's National Indoor Plant Week? In celebration of the movement for cleaner, fresher indoor air in homes, schools, and on the job (September 15-21, 2013) - The Rock Father and Costa Farms have teamed up for a very special O2 For You: Houseplants with a Purpose Giveaway! Just moments after dropping off my oldest at Pre-K this morning, FedEx arrived here at Rock Father HQ with an assortment of houseplants... and one lucky reader will receive a similar assortment later this week! Read on for details...

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