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Manage Mosquitoes While Enjoying the Great Outdoors

 Eliminating standing water, improving drainage in the landscape, weeding and proper mowing are just a few of the ways to help manage the mosquito population.

Eliminating standing water, improving drainage in the landscape, weeding and proper mowing are just a few of the ways to help manage the mosquito population.

By Melinda Myers

Don’t let disease-carrying mosquitoes keep you indoors this summer. Instead, employ these eight tips to protect yourself and manage these pests in your yard.

Do a bit of yard and garden clean up.  Remove weeds, manage neglected gardens and keep the lawn properly mowed to reduce resting spaces for adult mosquitoes.

Eliminate standing water where mosquitoes breed. Drain water that collects in buckets, kids toys, tarps, pool covers, clogged gutters and downspouts. Clear the gutters and downspouts so water can drain freely.  Store items that tend to collect water in a shed or garage.

Evaluate drainage patterns in your landscape. Improve drainage by amending the soil with organic matter. Install French drains, drain tiles and other drainage systems if needed. Or turn it into a water feature. Consult your municipality first for any relevant guidelines and restrictions.

Manage water in birdbaths, fountains, ponds and rain barrels. Change water weekly in birdbaths and wading pools. Add a pump to keep water moving and prevent breeding. Or use an organic mosquito control like Mosquito Dunks and Bits (SummitResponsibleSolutions.com) in rain barrels and water features. The Mosquito Bits quickly knock down the mosquito larval population, while the Mosquito Dunks provide 30 days of control. They are both safe for pets, fish, wildlife and children.

Add a fan to your outdoor décor. The gentle breeze keeps these weak flying insects away. Consider taking one to the garden when weeding.

Provide short-term relief when entertaining outdoors with the help of citronella oil or scented candles. Scatter lots of these throughout the area and within a few feet of your guests.

Cover as much of your skin as possible with loose fitting, light colored clothing. Mosquitoes are less attracted to the lighter colors and can’t readily reach your skin through loose clothing.

Further protect yourself from disease-carrying mosquitoes by using a personal repellent. For those looking to avoid DEET, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has also approved products with the active ingredient picaridin, IR3535, and the synthetic oil of lemon and eucalyptus. Avoid products that contain both sunscreen and insect repellents as you need to apply the sunscreen more often than the repellent.

Implement some of these strategies and then get ready to enjoy the outdoors mosquito-free all season long.

Gardening expert Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books, hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything: Food Gardening For Everyone” DVD set, and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio segments. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine. Myers’ website is www.melindamyers.com.

Posted in Bloomin' SummerComments (0)

Five top trends in container gardening

BLOOM-Five-top-trends(BPT) Gardening is a peaceful activity that eases tension, reduces overall stress and promotes longevity. One long-term study found that daily gardening reduces the risk for both dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. With all of these benefits, there are ample reasons why people of all ages and lifestyles should start digging in the dirt.

You don’t need a big yard or lots of room to enjoy a beautiful garden. With so many options for indoor and outdoor container gardening, there’s no limit on the number of gardens you can have. Container gardening is a great way to color up a small space, add depth and height to your yard or easily change up the look of your patio. No matter your skill level, enjoy the benefits of gardening with these container trends:

Foliage gardens

Foliage plants are no longer just accessories for your small space garden. You can create an entire display simply out of rich, colorful foliage plants. Fountain grass, papyrus, vinca and grassy rush are all great additions for adding vibrancy to your container garden. Mix and match with various textures to find a unique display that speaks to you.

Petunia tower

A petunia tower is a great way to add an unexpected element to your container garden collection. A flower tower is easy to make and sun-loving Tidal Wave Petunias will bloom all season long on a patio, deck or pool area. You will need only three Tidal Wave plants. The Red Velour have great color and texture and make a strong statement. Plant them with good potting soil into a 10 to 12 inch wide plastic nursing pot. Place a three-foot metal tomato cage into the pot. The cage should be as wide at the bottom as it is on the top. Now slip the entire plastic pot into a glazed pot that’s about one to four inches wider, and voila!

Hanging baskets

Hanging flower baskets bring your plants to eye-level, where everyone can enjoy their wonderful scents and sights. Add beauty to an otherwise dull porch, wall or rafters. Try planting succulents for a virtually care-free container garden. Petunias, calibrachoa and pansies also make wonderful additions to hanging baskets.

Combination containers

Who says your container garden can only have one plant? Get creative and play with different color and texture combinations of plants and flowers. You can make up your own mix or search online for combo recipes by other inspiring gardeners. Mix foliage with flowers and use a color scheme to build a balanced and beautiful container.

Indoor container gardening

Take your favorite hobby inside. Even if you have a small apartment, there’s no need to rule out house plants. Find the best place for each plant, depending on their light requirements. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try different locations until you find the best spot for your indoor containers. For sun-loving plants, just be sure to place them on a windowsill for maximum light exposure.

With so many options and room for creativity, container gardening is a trend that’s here to stay. Tap into your inventive side to build a container garden that brings joy and wellness both indoors and out. For more gardening ideas, tips and tricks visit wavepetunias.com.

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State urges travelers to leave firewood at home

Perfectly round exit holes, just smaller than a dime, in tree limbs and trunks can be a sign of Asian longhorned beetle infestation. Photo courtesy of Joe Boggs, Ohio State University, Bugwood.org.

Perfectly round exit holes, just smaller than a dime, in tree limbs and trunks can be a sign of Asian longhorned beetle infestation. Photo courtesy of Joe Boggs, Ohio State University, Bugwood.org.

As the summer travel season begins, the Michigan departments of Agriculture and Rural Development and Natural Resources remind vacationers to leave firewood at home to prevent the spread of invasive tree insects and diseases.

Hauling firewood from one part of the state to another is a common way for these destructive pests to move to new locations, which could be devastating to Michigan’s native trees. The emerald ash borer already has wiped out millions of ash trees across the state. High-impact diseases, including oak wilt and beech bark disease, now are making their way through Michigan – often helped by travelers with trunkloads of wood harboring unseen fungi that can spread to healthy trees in new areas.

The fungus that causes oak wilt is visible under the bark of this split log.

The fungus that causes oak wilt is visible under the bark of this split log.

“Visual inspection does not always reveal disease or insect damage in wood,” said Gina Alessandri, MDARD’s Pesticide and Plant Pest Management Division director. “Disease may be in an early stage, and insect larvae can be hidden under bark. The safest choice is to burn firewood at or near the location it was harvested.”

Travelers are encouraged to buy firewood at their destination, burn it all on-site and not take it home or to their next destination. In most public and private campgrounds, firewood is available on the premises or from nearby firewood vendors.

It is a good idea to purchase firewood within a short distance of where it will be used. For ease in finding a local vendor, use www.firewoodscout.org. For day trips that include a cookout, bring charcoal or a cook-stove instead of firewood.

In- and out-of-state quarantines limit movement of regulated wood items to prevent the spread of invasive species and tree diseases. In Michigan, it is illegal to transport hardwood firewood in violation of the MDARD EAB Quarantine.

“It’s recommended that travelers do a little firewood homework before their trip,” said Jason Fleming, chief of the Resource Management Section in the DNR Parks and Recreation Division. “Many out-of-state visitors live in areas under quarantine for pests such as thousand cankers disease or Asian longhorned beetle, and it is illegal to move any regulated items (including items such as firewood and wood chips) from quarantined zones out of those states and into Michigan.”

Quarantines for Asian longhorned beetle include areas of New York, Massachusetts and Ohio. The Asian longhorned beetle is not known to be in Michigan, but the public is asked to look for signs of this invasive beetle, including round, 3/8-inch-diameter exit holes in tree trunks or limbs. Asian longhorned beetle larvae feed on a wide variety of tree species including maple, birch, elm, willow, buckeye, horse chestnut and other hardwoods. The damage caused by Asian longhorned beetles ultimately will destroy an infested tree.

Anyone observing an actual beetle or a tree that appears to be damaged is asked to report it. If possible, capture the beetle in a jar, take photos, record the location, and report it as soon as possible through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Asian longhorned beetle website, www.asianlonghornedbeetle.com or contact MDARD at 800-292-3939 or MDA-info@michigan.gov.

More information on the Asian longhorned beetle and other invasive forest insects and tree diseases can be found at www.michigan.gov/invasivespecies. Select the “take action” tab to learn more ways to avoid transporting invasive species during the recreation and travel season.

Posted in Featured, OutdoorsComments (0)

Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche: New pollinator guide

Ranger Steve Mueller

Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

A new Michigan State University pollinator publication PDF is available for free download titled “Protecting and Enhancing Pollinators in Urban Landscapes for the US North Central Region.” This 2016 publication (MSU Extension Bulletin E3314) is the complete guide to protecting pollinators while gardening, growing flowers, or managing trees, shrubs, or turf grass in urban areas.

The extension service encourages people to plant native species and also suggests use of non-native species. Non-native species plants spring up in the lawn. Like the extension service, I encourage allowing them to live among the grass. They attract nectar seeking butterflies and insects. The Extension Service provides a list of non-natives for the garden; also I suggest New pollinator guide use of non-natives. They point out that cultivars and non-natives often do not attract insects well.

Though I strive to encourage native plants, I am not a purist and tolerate some exotics. Part of the reason is because it would be necessary to use herbicides and fertilizers to eliminate broadleaf plants in the carpet of monocot grasses. A pure grass yard has nice appeal but supports little diversity of life. I encourage the greatest diversity of insect life and that in turn allows more birds to thrive.

Regularly I see an Eastern Phoebe fly from a tree perch into the yard to eat insects. Ground feeding birds walk or hop in the lawn searching for insects. That is not as common in manicured pure grass lawns. Karen commented that our yard looks like something out of a Disney movie. When we look out the window, we see two or three rabbits nibbling on clovers, deer, birds and squirrels. Many birds and mammals are present in our yard because it is not excessively manicured.

When the Wild Ones Native Plant Group comes for field trips, I share that I am not a purist and allow some non-native plants to live. I try to restrict most planting to native species. I realize most people do not have the books that identify species as native or non-native. I encourage landscape nurseries to sell native genotypes but they sell what people buy. Request nurseries to sell native species genotypes. That might affect healthy change that encourage maintenance of native biodiversity in your yard.

In sections of the yard that I mow, I leave areas unmowed until July to allow wildflowers to brighten the landscape. Two species that provide dense beauty, color, and food are Maiden Pink and Cat’s-ear. The pinks form a wonderful layer of pink flowers with Cat’s-ear making a towering layer of bright yellow above them. They are present because of delayed mowing. Both have flowers that open in sun and close in shade or night. Butterflies and other insects visit for nectar. When the pinks go to seed, I mow them but summer garden flowers have begun blooming and provide continued nectar.

I greatly appreciated the volunteer work from the River City Wild Ones that prepared the butterfly garden for the past two springs. They are Meribeth Bolt, Tammy Lundeen, Mindy Miner, Deanna Morse, and Gretchen Zuiderveen. My oncologist has stated my gardening days are through because I am not fungus protected. The cancer and three chemo chemicals limit my body’s immune system. The limitation does not prevent me from exploring, enjoying, and discovering something new every day in nature niches. Use the new pollinator guide will help liven your yard with flowers, insects, and birds.

Download the Pollinator Guide PDF:

<http://msue.anr.msu.edu/uploads/resources/pdfs/ProtectPollinatorsInLandscape_Final-LowRes.pdf>

I met with with Extension Agent Erwin (Duke) Elsner at his request this spring to provide sources for pollinator data. He had most sources for our region identified but I was able to assist with a few more.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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Meet the Hawks: Nick Steimel

West Michigan Hawk Nick Steimel and his girlfriend, Brittney McCarthy.

West Michigan Hawk Nick Steimel and his girlfriend, Brittney McCarthy.

By Shae Brophy

Meet West Michigan Hawks defensive end/tight end Nick Steimel. Originally from Grand Rapids, Steimel moved to Cedar Springs during second grade, graduating from Cedar Springs High School in 2007. He has played football since his youth, and has also coached one year of rocket football. While in school, he also played baseball and was on the bowling team, and also played AYBT basketball during the summer.

Nick’s biggest role model is his father, Walter Steimel. “He’s the most hard-working person i know,” Nick said. “He’s the one that has shown me with dedication and hard work you can accomplish anything in life. Growing up he made sure i had all the right tools to succeed whether it was bringing me to practice, or in my later years helping me pay for college. I can’t express how grateful I am to have him as a father.”

When not on the football field, Steimel enjoys disc golf, recreational basketball and softball, and spending time with friends and family.

“What makes me want to be part of the West Michigan Hawks is the positive influence and impact the team strives to have on people,” he said. “You won’t see that out of other semi-pro teams. The fact that I can be part of a team that can help a person in need while doing what I love is truly a blessing. The people we dedicate games to are people that are part of the community I grew up in, which makes this team that much more special to me.”

“Nick has amazing work ethic,” said head coach/owner David Lange. “His motor never stops going, and he is a great teammate. He’s the kind of guy that any coach would be glad to have on their team.”

Steimel and the Hawks will be on the road again this weekend, as they travel to Kalamazoo for a matchup with the Grizzlies. As always, you are encouraged to make the trip with the team and cheer them on in enemy territory!

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Hawks improve to 3-0 with blowout win over West Michigan Bulls

West Michigan Hawks

West Michigan Hawks

By Shae Brophy

On the heels of the biggest win in franchise history, the West Michigan Hawks hit the road for their first game away from Skinner Field this season. The 1 p.m. start also marked the team’s first afternoon game of the season.

The Hawks would not allow either of those things stop them from showcasing a dominating performance on the field, as they came home with a 56-8 victory. Wide receiver Monta Swanigan had three receiving touchdowns on the day, while Robert Bell had two (one receiving, one fumble return) of his own. Dontae Ensley, also brought in a receiving touchdown, and Jeremiah Cochran took one to the house on a run. Cornerback Omar Haynes also found the end zone, taking an interception all the way back for the score. Quarterback Charles Manny Hodges threw for all five of the touchdowns that the team scored through the air.

“It was a great day to deal with adversity. Not the bad, but the good adversity,” said Bell. “We were tested in the first half and played comfortably, but the moment the second half started, we were able to take away from what we did a week ago and add to our great performance as a team.”

The Bulls found the end zone for the only time during the second quarter.

Although the Hawks only took a 14-8 lead into the locker room at halftime, the team knew that they were better than the performance they exhibited in the first half.

“We just had to execute better,” said head coach David Lange. “After a big win last week, I think we may have been guilty of not playing to our full potential in the first half this week, which is something that was addressed during halftime. As you can see by the final score, we turned it on in the second half, and brought home a really big win.”

Next up for the Hawks is another road game. The team will travel to take on the Kalamazoo Grizzlies on Saturday. We would like to see you travel with the team for another big matchup! For details on where the game will be played, be sure to follow the West Michigan Hawks on Facebook!

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Social Security questions and answers

Question: Will my son be eligible to receive benefits on his retired father’s record while going to college?

Answer: No. At one time, Social Security did pay benefits to eligible college students. But the law changed in 1981. We now pay benefits only to students taking courses at grade 12 or below. Normally, benefits stop when children reach age 18 unless they are disabled. However, if children are still full-time students at a secondary (or elementary) school at age 18, benefits generally can continue until they graduate or until two months after they reach age 19, whichever is first. If your child is still going to be in school at age 19, you’ll want to visit www.socialsecurity.gov/schools.

Question: When a person who has worked and paid Social Security taxes dies, are benefits payable on that person’s record?
Answer: Social Security survivor’s benefits can be paid to:

• A widow or widower — unreduced benefits at full retirement age, or reduced benefits as early as age 60;

• A disabled widow or widower — as early as age 50;

• A widow or widower at any age if he or she takes care of the deceased’s child who is under age 16 or disabled, and receiving Social Security benefits;

• Unmarried children under 18, or up to age 19 if they are attending high school full time. Under certain circumstances, benefits can be paid to stepchildren, grandchildren or adopted children;

• Children at any age who were disabled before age 22 and remain disabled; and

• Dependent parents age 62 or older.

Even if you are divorced, you still may qualify for survivor’s benefits. For more information, go to www.socialsecurity.gov.

Question: I want to make sure I have enough credits to receive Social Security retirement benefits when I need them. How can I get a record of my Social Security earnings?

Answer: The best way for you to check whether you have earned enough credits (40 total, equaling 10 years of work) is to open a free my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount to review your Social Security Statement.

Once you create an account, you can:Keep track of your earnings to make sure your benefit is calculated correctly. The amount of your payment is based on your lifetime earnings;

*Get an estimate of your future benefits if you are still working;

*Get a replacement 1099 or 1042S.

*Get a letter with proof of your benefits if you currently receive them; and

*Manage your benefits:

*Change your address; and

*Start or change your direct deposit.

Accessing my Social Security is quick, convenient, and secure, and you can do it from the comfort of your home.

In some states, you can even request a replacement Social Security card online using my Social Security. Currently available in some areas in the United States, it’s an easy, convenient, and secure way to request a replacement card online. To find out where we offer this service, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber.

Posted in Voices and ViewsComments (0)

Wait for the correct weight oil

CAR-Wait-for-correct-oil(BPT) Most vehicle owners know it is important to regularly have their motor oil changed. Many owners may not know that choosing any oil weight other than the one specified in their owner’s manual could damage their engine.

“My dad taught me to switch oil weight depending on the season and the driving conditions. I used 10W-40 or straight 30 weight oil in the summer and switched to 10W-30 in the winter,” says RockAuto.com Vice President, Tom Taylor. Conventional wisdom for old cars said oils with higher weight numbers had a thicker viscosity that would make them better for hot weather and hard driving while lighter weight oils were better for cold weather.

The newest engines are often designed to use only one specific oil with a weight number that may be unfamiliar, such as 0W-20 or 0W-40. Doing something like substituting “heavy duty” 20W-50 for 0W-20 in the summer could quickly result in big repair bills.

Oil does much more these days than simply lubricate and cool the engine. Engine oil may act like a hydraulic fluid in engines with variable valve timing, cylinder deactivation or other new systems that are pressure sensitive and route oil through tiny orifices. “We see variable valve timing solenoids that are clogged by dirty oil, but they also get clogged by clean oil that is just the wrong viscosity,” says Taylor.

Using the right weight oil is made more difficult by all the gas stations and convenience stores that still sell 10W-30 for old cars but do not have the shelf space to stock the many different oil types for newer cars. Do not top off your engine with the incorrect oil because that is all a store carries.

Also, do not choose 10W-30 simply because it is less expensive. Newer engines may take seven or 10 quarts of oil. When buying that much oil, it can be tempting to buy a cheaper weight. Putting the wrong oil in your engine could cost you much more money down the road.

If you hire a shop to change your oil, then make sure they use the correct oil for your engine.

Always wait until you can get the oil weight specified in the owner’s manual.

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Summer car care tips to stay in great condition

For better driving all season long, make sure your summer to-do list includes cleaning and maintaining your car. Photo (c) Rukawajung — Fotolia.com

For better driving all season long, make sure your summer to-do list includes cleaning and maintaining your car.
Photo (c) Rukawajung — Fotolia.com

(StatePoint) For many drivers, the summer is the time of year when your tires hit the pavement most, and car care doesn’t take a vacation. Be sure your car is ready for all that mileage.

“A car that`s well-maintained is safer, cheaper to run, more reliable and can be worth more money at resale time,” says Brian Moody, executive editor of Autotrader.

To help, Autotrader editors are sharing “Simple Summer Car Care Tips”” tips to get your car in tip-top shape for the busy driving season ahead:

• Wash and wax your car thoroughly. If you can afford it, have it professionally detailed. Direct sunlight can cause a car’s finish to become dull, but a thorough washing and waxing can also help keep your car’s paint and clear coat looking good.

It’s tempting to run the car through an automated car wash, but those big revolving brushes can dull the finish over time. If you’re not allowed to wash your car at home due to regional laws or neighborhood rules, seek out a good drive-thru wash and hand wax instead.

• Check and set your car’s tire pressure to the level specified in your owner’s manual or on the driver’s door sill. As temperatures warm up, the air in your tires can expand and that might impact the way the car handles.

Be sure not to over-inflate the tires. While low tire pressure can cause the tire to heat up if it’s not rolling down the road properly, extreme over inflation can cause a blowout in high temperatures. If you’re not comfortable doing this yourself, take your car to a shop like Big-O Tires, Sears Auto Center or Firestone Auto Care Center. Those kinds of chains will usually do it for free.

• Have a qualified mechanic do a visual inspection under the hood. If you’re comfortable doing this yourself, check for worn belts or hoses and make sure your coolant (sometimes called anti-freeze) isn’t too old. Coolant lasts a long time, but keeping track of when it was last changed, especially in older cars, can help you avoid overheating as the temperatures gradually climb.

For more tips for keeping your vehicle in great shape visit www.Autotrader.com

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Posted in Auto Life, FeaturedComments (0)

Three hurt in rollover crash

This pickup truck rolled Friday morning, June 10, injuring the female driver and two young passengers. Post photo by J. Reed.

This pickup truck rolled Friday morning, June 10, injuring the female driver and two young passengers.

Three hurt in rollover crash

A woman and two children were sent to the hospital on Friday morning, June 10, after their truck rolled on 17 Mile in Solon Township.

The crash occurred shortly before 10:30 a.m., in front of 1750 17 Mile Road, east of Lime Lake Rd. According to Joshua Roney, of Kent City, he was heading westbound on 17 Mile in his Ford F350 pickup, and was turning left into the driveway, where he works, when another pickup behind him tried to go around him and clipped his back bumper. “She was going way too fast,” he said.

The other pickup then rolled.

The call came into 911 saying passengers had been ejected. According to the Michigan State Police, a young female passenger, Gabby Olvera, 9, of Kent City, was ejected. The other two, driver Debbie Monroe, 58, of Sparta, and a young male, Gustafo Olvera 10, were not ejected.

According to Lt. Chris Paige, with Solon Fire and Rescue, the female driver, grandmother of the two children, was transported to the hospital by Rockford Ambulance with serious injuries, and the two children were transported with non-life threatening injuries.

The Michigan State Police said that the Monroe was cited for being unable to stop in an assured clear distance.

Assisting the MSP at the scene was the Kent County Sheriff Department, Solon Fire and Rescue, Algoma Fire and Rescue, and Rockford Ambulance.

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