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Enjoy backyard family time

 

BLOOM-Backyard1-webFamily Features

A lush, healthy landscape is the perfect setting for making family memories. In fact, more than half of Americans say their yard is their favorite place at home to spend quality time with family.

In a recent survey commissioned by TruGreen, two-thirds of Americans said their fondest family memories involve spending time together with friends and family in their yard, often in the form of barbecues and cookouts.

“A beautiful lawn inspires beautiful connections, which often become our fondest memories and can even lead to creating new traditions,” said David Alexander, TruGreen president and CEO. “A happier, more connected life lived outside starts with a healthy, beautiful lawn as the foundation.”

Indeed, having a yard you’re proud to share may make creating family memories easier. Nearly half of the survey’s participants said if they had a greener, more maintained and healthier lawn, they would spend more time outside.

BLOOM-Backyard2-webFollow these tips from the lawn care experts at TruGreen to work your way toward a greener, healthier yard you and your family can enjoy all season long:

• Mow and water your lawn regularly. Basic maintenance can be tedious, but it is absolutely necessary in order to give your lawn the chance to thrive. One of the most common mistakes is not mowing frequently enough. Knowing when and how to mow – and doing so regularly – minimizes the chances of damaging your lawn.

• Irrigation. Watering your lawn is perhaps the easiest step to take care of on your own. Proper watering is an important factor; it’s not just about how much water to use, but when to water as well. Be sure to water your lawn weekly, as well as at the first sign of drought.

• Keep your lawn free from debris. Another part of lawn care that is often overlooked is removing dead leaves and other debris to give room for the lawn to breathe and grow properly. Grass clippings and other debris can lead to heavy thatch accumulation, which can keep your lawn from receiving the right amount of water and nutrients, and can prevent your lawn from growing.

• Watch out for lawn damaging insects. Most species are at their peak around summertime, when the weather is warm and they come out to wreak havoc. Unfortunately, while some lawn damaging insects are only interested in your lawn, other pests – like fire ants – may be more interested in your summer get-together guests. So before guests arrive, be sure that your backyard is properly treated for lawn damaging insects that could put a damper on your festivities and cause harm to your guests.

• Fertilize regularly. Fertilization is one of the most important parts of lawn care, providing much needed nutrients to your soil and allowing your grass to grow green and lush. Therefore, it’s important to find a company, such as TruGreen, that includes fertilization among its regularly scheduled lawn care services.

For more lawn care and maintenance advice, visit www.trugreen.com.

Posted in Bloomin' Summer, FeaturedComments (0)

Explorer guides educate, entertain at state parks

 Veteran Explorer Guide Mike Latus enthralls campers with his fireside storytelling at Warren Dunes State Park.

Veteran Explorer Guide Mike Latus enthralls campers with his fireside storytelling at Warren Dunes State Park.

From the Michigan DNR

As the sun sets over Lake Michigan, Mike Latus holds court on the sand of Warren Dunes State Park. He’s an animated one-man show, walking in circles around a small fire pit, talking about voyageurs and Indians, legends and myths, planets and ghosts, while a crowd of more than a hundred—mostly youngsters, but adults, too—listen, some amused, others enthralled.

To Latus, it is a typical weekend night, when the fireside story hour regularly draws a big crowd

Several hours earlier, he’d led a group of 30 on a hike through the woods, pointing out medicinal plants or unusual trees, answering numerous questions. As soon as his fireside chat is finished, he’s setting up telescopes for visitors to explore the night sky for his regular “Sky Watch” program.

Explorer Guide Devin Burke entertains campers at a Meteors & S’Mores program (built around the Perseid meteor showers) at Young State Park. 


Explorer Guide Devin Burke entertains campers at a Meteors & S’Mores program (built around the Perseid meteor showers) at Young State Park.

Latus is an Explorer Guide, one of an army of Department of Natural Resources employees who educate and entertain visitors at 43 state parks in Michigan. Latus, a high school math and science teacher the rest of the year, has enjoyed his summer job for 21 years. The other program members consider him a rock star, for his longevity, enthusiasm and ability to wow a crowd.

“This is my summer vacation, it’s my hobby, and I Iive close enough to the park that I’m out here every weekend, even during the winter,” he said. “It’s teaching and being outdoors and connecting with people who are trying to connect to nature.”

Latus is aware of his status among Explore Guides. “I think I’ve gotten a reputation because I just don’t quit,” he said. He puts on 11 scheduled presentations a week, but will rearrange his schedule for church, Scout and school groups or whoever may be coming to the park but can’t make a scheduled event. He presents some programs regularly, others intermittently.

“Certain programs are just made for Warren Dunes,” Latus said. “You’ve got to do dune hikes; you’ve got to do beach hikes. And people have come to depend on the storytelling. We do Sky Watch every Friday and Saturday night and we always get a crowd for that.”
Explorer program coordinator Karen Gourlay says the Explorer Guides are seasonal naturalists. “They work in state parks all over Michigan,” she said. “Their job is to connect the visitors to the resources available in the park. They create their own programs, market their own programs and present their own programs. They’re a very creative bunch of employees. I’m always excited to see the programs they develop and their ability to get the visitors excited about natural resources and the parks.”
Many of the Explorer Guides are college students—often natural resources or education majors—who are working summer jobs as they explore potential careers, but they needn’t be.
“Mostly I’m looking for people who are enthusiastic and willing to learn and teach what they learn to others,” Gourlay said. “Having enthusiasm for outdoors is important. The youngest person I’ve had working for me was fresh out of high school. The oldest was 70 years old.”

Explorer Guides attend a weeklong training session at the beginning of the summer, where they learn about the job and share experiences with each other. A full day is devoted to fishing, but employees also learn additional program-creating techniques.
“Hook, Line and Sinker is a huge part of the program,” Gourlay said. “They may know a lot about fishing, but they may not know how to teach fishing.”
Other than that, guides are free to develop their own programs. “They’re individualized,” Gourlay said. “They figure out the cool factor—what it is that brings people to those parks—and go with that.”

Michelle Schepke, the Explorer Guide at North Higgins Lake State Park, conducts a regular fishing program at nearby Marl Lake every Friday evening. And Saturday afternoon she leads a tour through the CCC Museum. The rest of the week, Schepke, in her second season, presents programs on archery, canoeing, kayaking or any number of subjects.
“I love teaching and I love working with children and families,” said Schepke, a preschool teacher. “I love to see their faces light up when they learn something new or exciting. I always try to have some nature programs—a turtle program or a frog program with a live animal—something unique that will draw people in.

“I love it.”

So does Shelby Brown, in her third year of running programs at Metamora-Hadley State Recreation Area. A student at Central Michigan University, Brown said she started out by presenting well-established programs, but has since developed her own unique presentation. “Last week I did a Michigander program. I researched a bunch of cool Michigan facts and set it up trivia style,” she said. “People seemed to like that. And I do a program on hoppers—frogs, rabbits, white-tailed deer—animals that hop. It’s a great summer job. I like being outside all day and I’m a people person so I’m with other people all the time. And everyone who comes to my programs is genuinely interested. It’s not like school;  they want to be here. It’s awesome.”

Always popular with state park visitors, the Explorer program is becoming even more of a draw. Originally designed to cater to park visitors, the programs are increasingly being regularly attended by local residents. The DNR has expanded outreach to local community centers and libraries to publicize the programs.

“That’s a huge component now of what we do,” Gourlay said.

To help meet demand, Explorer Guides sometimes make presentations at other nearby parks. And some park supervisors send one of their summer workers to the training so they’ll know how to present occasional programs.
For a list of state parks with Explorer programs and scheduled events, visit www.michigan.gov/stateparks.

The DNR is always looking to expand outreach opportunities and will be hiring more guides next year. The job is perfect for educators or naturalists, but those are not requirements, Gourlay said.

“You can’t be afraid of bugs,” she said. “Or you can be, but you just can’t show it.”

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Regrets Spoken at end-of-life

HEA-Hospice-Regrets

“I wish I would have made amends with my sister.”

“We always said we would get married, we just never got around to it.”

“I always said I would finish my degree when I had more time. Now time is running out.”

Regrets. While many try to live without them, they have a way of creeping up. But it does not have to be too late to rid your life of regret.

Marnie Squire, social worker with Hospice of Michigan, explains that it is often not until patients begin hospice care that they examine their life and want to right any wrongs.

“Working through regrets at the end of life can be an important part of dying a peaceful death,” Squire says. “Hospice is about more than just the physical pain; it is about the emotional pain, too. Patients often need to work through that before they are ready to let go.””

When Hospice of Michigan begins working with a new patient, the team asks if the patient has any regrets and when regrets are shared, HOM makes addressing them a priority. This often involves all members of the hospice team: the doctor, nurse, social worker, aide, chaplain and volunteers.

“We’ve planned a lot of weddings,” Squire recalls. “We have planned baptisms, held ceremonies to honor veterans and have been a peacemaker between family members, all in an attempt to fulfill last wishes, rid the patient of regret and provide the opportunity to die a peaceful death.” ”

Squire explains that a common regret is a rift with a family member or friend. When people die, they often want to feel like they are leaving the world without feelings of contempt.

“When people realize they are nearing the end-of-life, it is common to look at past disagreements differently and reconsider the decision to cut ties with a loved one,” Squire said. “We do our best to help with this. We talk with the patient and family and determine if it is appropriate to reach out the estranged family member or friend with a phone call.”

If the patient can no longer communicate, it might be as simple as holding the phone up to the patient’s ear and letting the person on the other line talk to them. If a call is not appropriate, we can help the patient write a letter that may or may not be sent. Sometimes just getting the words out can bring the patient peace of mind.”

HOM does everything in its power to bring a patient peace as the final days draw near. Unfortunately, some regrets are too complicated or are impossible to undo.

“When we cannot fix the problem, we turn our focus from problem solving to acceptance,” said Karen Monts, director of grief support services with Hospice of Michigan. “We encourage the patient to talk about their regrets and we listen. Sometimes just sharing can bring peace. We also help patients recognize when they have done everything they can and the situation is out of their control.””

HOM not only helps patients work through their regrets, but they also help grieving families cope with remorse over things they could have done differently for their deceased loved one.

“When a loved one dies, it is common to feel like you could have or should have done things better or differently,” Monts said. “We help the grieving understand that this is a normal reaction to death. When one feels they have lost control, the normal reaction is to think about how they could have managed the situation differently.”

“We encourage the bereaved to share their feelings with a counselor or someone close to them.  We help them understand that they cannot go back and, instead, should focus on what they can do now. Sometimes the answer is writing a letter to the deceased or visiting the cemetery. Another option is to help loved ones the deceased left behind. They might be a shoulder for the spouse to cry on or help the child pay for college.””

Another regret of the bereaved is that they did not call hospice soon enough.  Many hesitate before making the call to hospice, thinking it signals they are giving up hope. But that is not the case, as Monts and others on the Hospice of Michigan team know.  What the family is doing is bringing in experienced resources who can help improve the quality of care their loved one is receiving at the end-of-life.

While regrets come in all shapes and sizes, Monts reminds people that as long as you are living, it is not too late.

“As hospice providers, we do all we can to help patients die without regrets but if you have regrets, hospice is not something to wait for,” Monts said. “Examine your life, look at what needs fixing and do your best to make it better now.””

Posted in Featured, HealthComments (0)

Tagged brook trout released in Cedar Creek

N-Trout-tagging

N-Trout-tagging2Brook trout released into Cedar Creek last week will help researchers understand more about the fish and their relationship with our cold water creek.

This summer, the Rogue River Home Rivers Initiative in Michigan partnered up with a professor and his graduate students from Grand Valley State University to study brook trout movement in the watershed. Dr. Mark Luttenton, Biology Graduate Program Coordinator, and his students, Justin Wegner and Graeme Zaparzynski, set out to evaluate the response of brook trout to a range of water temperature regimes, specifically summer water temperatures that surpass the temperature for maximum growth (13° C) and upper thermal preference (16° C). They also sought to understand the extent to which brook trout moderate internal body temperatures behaviorally by seeking coldwater refuge and how it relates to diet and fish bioenergetics.

To do so, they implanted 10 brook trout with a temperature sensitive radio transmitter. The transmitter will allow them to track their movements using telemetry and communicate core body temperatures throughout the summer. Every other day, the researchers will locate each fish and collect water temperature data to inform their findings.

Trout Unlimited suggested Cedar Creek in Cedar Springs for the study and facilitated a partnership with the local chapter Schrems West Michigan Trout Unlimited and the Cedar Springs Community Building Development Team, whom helped fund the project. On June 23rd, the research team along with excited community members gathered at Cedar Creek near 15 Mile to watch the surgical implantation of the radio transmitter and subsequent release of the tagged brook trout.

The Rogue River Home Rivers Initiative will use this data to prioritize restoration efforts in the watershed to focus on key trout habitat in the coldwater creek, particularly where groundwater inputs have been identified by the GVSU students

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The Post travels to Alaska

 

Pictured from left to right is Julie Kent, Candy Jacobs, Mary Balon and Kim Gillow.

Pictured from left to right is Julie Kent, Candy Jacobs, Mary Balon and Kim Gillow.

The Post recently traveled to Alaska with Julie Kent and Candy Jacobs, of Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Mary Balon and Kim Gillow, of Cedar Springs.

The group travelled by train from Fairbanks to Anchorage. The Salmon Bake Cabins at Denali Park were just one of the fun places we stayed. “We had the issue covering the bear sightings and had just seen a momma grizzly and 2 cubs while on a bus tour into the park,” they said. “We also saw a momma moose and her baby in a kettle pond next to the road, lots of caribou and Denali (Mount McKinley) was visible top to bottom for over 12 hours. It was awe-inspiring!”

Thank you Mary and Kim and friends for taking us with you!

Are you going on vacation? Take the Post with you and snap some photos. Then send them to us with some info to news@cedarspringspost.com or mail them to Post travels, PO Box 370, Cedar Springs, MI 49319. We will be looking for yours!

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Everyday heroes at the library

Sgt. Jason Kelly explained that one of an officer’s tools is a bulletproof vest.  Post photo by J. Reed.

Sgt. Jason Kelly explained that one of an officer’s tools is a bulletproof vest. Post photo by J. Reed.

It was great week of summer reading fun at the Cedar Springs Library this past week, with programs highlighting everyday heroes and animal super powers.

Fire Chief Marty Fraser and Firefighter Stacey Velting from the Cedar Springs Fire Department showed up for preschool storytime, Wednesday, June 24. They showed the kids what firefighters look like dressed up in their turn out gear, and then the kids were able to try it on themselves. The children were also able to climb up and inspect the fire truck.  It was a wonderful way to celebrate these everyday heroes!

Mr. Pete from the Kalamazoon Nature Center talked about the superpowers of animals in our own backyards. Courtesy photo.

Mr. Pete from the Kalamazoon Nature Center talked about the superpowers of animals in our own backyards. Courtesy photo.

Mr. Pete from the Kalamazoo Nature Center visited educated kids and parents alike on June 24, at the family program at Cedar Springs Middle School, with the superpowers of some animals we can see in our own backyards. “He started off with the tale of Charlie the Caterpillar, aka Double Identity, and taught us about the beaver, Master Builder, the turkey culture, Super Stomach, and more!” said Kelly Roach, who is in charge of the children’s programming, at the library. “And we taught him what a great community Cedar Springs is with our record attendance!” The program was attended by 188 kids and parents.

Preschoolers got to try on firefighter equipment. Courtesy photo.

Preschoolers got to try on firefighter equipment. Courtesy photo.

On Tuesday, June 29, Sgt. Jason Kelly, and Deputy Jason VanDyke, of the Kent County Sheriff Department’s Cedar Springs Unit, taught kids in fourth through sixth grade about being a police officer. Sgt. Kelly talked to the kids about becoming a police officer, what the physical training is like, the kinds of tools and weapons they use, and more. He and Dep. VanDyke allowed the kids to get hands-on and try out some of their tools, like touching a bullet-proof vest, checking out handcuffs, talking through a megaphone, putting on a gas mask, lifting a police shield, etc. They also got the chance to sit in a police cruiser and switch on the lights. It was a great way for kids to become acquainted with our own police officers. A big thank you goes out to these everyday heroes who help keep us safe!

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Dazzle guests with a July 4th Feast

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Family Features

Celebrate warm weather, abundant outdoor activities and all the fun of July Fourth with a flavorful and festive gathering. Independence Day only comes once a year, so make it count and invite your favorite guests over for a memorable event. You’ll go out with a bang when you serve up these palate-pleasing dishes at your patriotic party.

Patriotic and Perfectly Sweet

This July Fourth, serve watermelon. This yummy fruit boasts sweetness and nutrition at a great value. Loaded with vitamins A, B6 and C, as well as antioxidants and heart-healthy amino acids, it’s a welcome addition to your summer spread. For more recipes, visit www.watermelon.org.

Red, White and Blue Watermelon Cake

Red, White and Blue Watermelon Cake

Red, White and Blue Watermelon Cake

Servings: 6–8

1 seedless watermelon

1 cup low or no fat natural vanilla flavored yogurt

1 cup sliced almonds

1 cup blueberries

1 cup sliced strawberries

Place watermelon on side on cutting board.

Cut 3–5 inches off each end to create large center slice between 3–5 inches in depth. Trim off outer rind.

Cut watermelon slice into 6–8 pie-shaped wedges. Blot edges with paper towels to absorb excess moisture.

Dip the back (curved) side of each slice in yogurt and then almonds, re-assembling pieces on serving platter as each piece is completed.

When finished, it will look like piecrust of almonds around watermelon slices. Frost top of reassembled watermelon with remaining yogurt and decorate top with berries. Serve cold.

Fresh Off the Grill

“For a red-white-and-blue burger that tastes as good as it looks, I use ground bison on a brioche bun, topped with Castello Burger Blue Cheese,” says celebrity chef Michael Symon. For more recipes, visit castellocheeseusa.com.

Bison Burger with Blue Cheese

Bison Burger with Blue Cheese

Bison Burger with Blue Cheese

Recipe courtesy of Michael Symon

Servings: 4

Kosher Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound ground bison, loosely packed into burger patties

4 slices Castello Burger Blue cheese

4 brioche-style soft hamburger buns, toasted

1 small red onion, very thinly sliced into rings

1 cup arugula

Heat your grill to medium-high heat.

Season burgers with salt and freshly ground black pepper on both sides. Drizzle with olive oil, then place on grill.

Cook 3 minutes, then flip.

Add slices of blue cheese (1 slice per burger), and let cook another 1–2 minutes.

Remove burgers from grill and place patties on toasted buns.

Top each burger with slice of red onion and 1/4 of arugula.

Serve.

Star-Spangled Dessert

Add color and crunch to your cones with a dip in red, white or blue melted Candy Melts candy and a variety of patriotic sprinkles. The Cone Cakes baking rack holds the cones for drying and serving. For more recipes, visit www.wilton.com.

Dipped Ice Cream Cones

Dipped Ice Cream Cones

Dipped Ice Cream Cones

Yield: 12 ice cream cones

1 bag (12 ounces) Bright White

Candy Melts Candy

Sugar ice cream cones

Jimmies 6-Mix Sprinkle Assortment

Rainbow Jimmies

Melt candy in microwave safe bowl. Dip cones about 1 inch deep around opening of cone. Cut small hole in tip of bag and drizzle melted candy 1 inch deep around opening of cone. Tap cone lightly to smooth, and sprinkle with jimmies. Position cone in cone rack. Let chill, about 10–15 minutes.

Add ice cream scoops at party and serve in cone rack.

Posted in Arts & Entertainment, Featured, Recipes, SeasonalComments (0)

West Michigan Hawks fall to Bengals

The West Michigan Hawks stepped up their game last Saturday against the Wayne County Bengals with 10 turnovers. Photo by K. Alvesteffer.

The West Michigan Hawks stepped up their game last Saturday against the Wayne County Bengals with 10 turnovers. Photo by K. Alvesteffer.

By Shae Brophy

The West Michigan Hawks hosted the #10 ranked Wayne County Bengals, in a divisional matchup Saturday, June 27. The Hawks came up short, in an exciting game, falling 48-34.

Wayne County scored the first touchdown of the game and took a 6-0 lead, after failing to convert on the first two conversions. The Hawks then scored 18 consecutive points in the first quarter. Joel Paasch intercepted a pass in the end zone and returned it 103 yards to the three yard line. On the ensuing drive, quarterback Jeff Krebs found Omar Haynes in the end zone for a touchdown. Defensive end Corey Steele returned a fumble 45 yards for a touchdown, and Dontae Ensley caught his first touchdown of the season as well. The Hawks led the game 18-14 after one quarter.

After a very defensive second quarter, Wayne County led 26-18 at the half. The Bengals proceeded to build a 40-18 lead after three quarters. The Hawks made things interesting late in the game, but were unable to close the gap on the scoreboard.

Wide receiver Dontae Ensley finished the game with two touchdowns and two 2-point conversions. Wide receiver Omar Haynes scored a touchdown, and quarterback Jeff Krebs pounded one in on his own from the two-yard line. Defensively, cornerback Joel Paasch wound up with two interceptions. Safety Nate Johnson also had two interceptions, and cornerback Omar Haynes finished with one interception. All together, the Hawks forced 10 turnovers for the game (5 interceptions, 3 fumble recoveries, 2 turnovers on downs), while only committing five of their own. The 34 points were more than twice as many as the Hawks had scored in any other game this year, and the most the Bengals had allowed to any team this season.

Ensley remarked: “We started out better than we ever have. I knew it was going to be a good game until (we gave up) the two straight scores, then we fell apart a little bit. That didn’t keep us down too long though, because we started fighting back again. In the end it’s all about having fun.”

Head Coach David Lange had this to say about the game: “We played a hard fought game which I think we could have and should have won. We put up 34 points and forced 10 turnovers, which is outstanding. However, the one thing we as a team need to work on is keeping our foot on the gas the whole game and not let up. We are a first year team; we are going to run into problems along the way. All we can do is overcome these problems and move on. In our next game, we face the Michigan Renegades in Detroit and I can promise that we are going to take it to them.”

After taking this weekend off to celebrate Independence Day, the team will be in action again on July 11, traveling to Detroit to face the Michigan Renegades.

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DNR urges caution when using fireworks 

To help prevent wildfires, the Department of Natural Resources urges people to place used fireworks, including sparklers, in a bucket of water after they’ve gone out. When thrown on the ground while they’re still hot, fireworks can cause grass fires that can spread to become wildfires. 

To help prevent wildfires, the Department of Natural Resources urges people to place used fireworks, including sparklers, in a bucket of water after they’ve gone out. When thrown on the ground while they’re still hot, fireworks can cause grass fires that can spread to become wildfires.

Warm weather and family gatherings can make the Fourth of July a fun time with great memories. But before you celebrate, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is asking residents and visitors to make sure they understand the importance of fireworks and campfire safety.

“With folks filling state parks, campgrounds and backyards to celebrate the Fourth of July, it’s vital that precautions are taken prior to lighting campfires and setting off fireworks,” said Dan Laux, DNR fire prevention specialist. “You can have fun while celebrating with friends and family, even if you’re being safe and making sure your property and our natural resources are protected. The best way to avoid the risk of starting a wildfire this holiday weekend is to attend public fireworks displays and leave the lighting to the professionals.”
The National Fire Protection Association estimates that local fire departments respond to an average of 19,700 fires caused by fireworks each year. For those planning to use fireworks, the DNR suggests keeping these safety tips in mind:

  • Sparklers can reach 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit—hot enough to melt gold. Always place sparklers in a bucket of water when they have gone out; when thrown on the ground, they can cause grass fires.
  • Point fireworks away from homes and keep them away from brush, grass and leaves.
  • Chinese lanterns can stay airborne for 20 minutes and reach heights up to 1 mile high before coming down in unplanned locations. The open flame has the potential to start fires.
  • Soak all fireworks in water before throwing them in the trash.
  • Laux said that in addition to fireworks safety, people should keep the following things in mind when enjoying their campfires:
  • Use fire rings in nonflammable areas when possible.
  • Never leave a campfire unattended.
  • Keep a water source and shovel nearby.
  • Place roasting sticks in a bucket of water when not in use.
  • Completely extinguish fires before turning in for the night. Douse with water, stir and douse again to make sure no embers are left.

“Fireworks and campfires are a great way to celebrate the Fourth of July, but you’ll enjoy the holidays much more knowing that your family and your property are safe,” Laux said. “Fire prevention is everyone’s responsibility.”
For more fire prevention information and safety tips, visit www.michigan.gov/preventwildfires.

Posted in Featured, OutdoorsComments (0)

Want to teach your children to be good stewards? 

BLOOM-Garden1

Time to get your hands dirty

(BPT) – Growing your own garden is a popular pastime that cuts grocery bills and puts fresh produce within arm’s reach. But to parents it’s so much more than that. Gardening is a trending family activity that provides plenty of teachable moments, and it also promotes positive characteristics like self reliance and stewardship of the earth.

“You don’t have to be a green thumb to start a garden at home,” says Kevin Bryant, a garden enthusiast and director of national marketing at Tractor Supply Company. “It’s a fantastic activity for families to do together that also lets parents teach valuable lessons to their children. Whether it’s just a few garden boxes on the deck or a full plot with backyard chickens, families everywhere are embracing the adventure of gardening together and learning so much about nature and each other in the process.”

BLOOM-Garden2The recent self-reliant movement sweeping the country is highly appealing to families. Plus, growing basic vegetables, fruits and herbs at home is a viable option whether in the city, suburbs or rural areas. In fact, 29 percent of Americans obtained locally grown food in the past year from a home garden, according to a national Tractor Supply survey – and interest appears to be on the rise.

Furthermore, many families have a deep desire to improve their children’s comprehension of nutrition and food resources. A whopping 89 percent of American parents agree with the statement “My children need a better understanding of where their food comes from,” the survey found.

Now is the ideal time to start planning your garden. Consider these four steps to ensure your family gets the most out of their gardening time together:

1. Research plants

The region where you live will dictate which seeds you should plant and when. It’s best to select high-yielding plants that you know will be successful, particularly if you have a small garden. Your local extension service is a great resource.

2. Decide on size

If you have a large backyard, a bigger plot might be a good option and allow you to grow a wider variety of plants. If you live in the city or a restricted area, container gardens or garden boxes are a great option for herbs, flowers and some vegetables. Don’t bite off more than you can chew during the first year; starting small increases the likelihood of success, and you can always increase the size next year.

3. Go shopping

Once you have a general idea of your garden’s size, location and types of plants you’d like to grow, it’s time to take the family shopping. Visit a store, such as your local Tractor Supply, for seasoned advice, tools, soil, seeds, fertilizers and pest control. You can also find all the supplies necessary for raising backyard chickens, which offer a great way to eliminate backyard pests and boost the health of your garden. Additionally, the kids will love tending to the flock.

4. Make time together

Children love to get their hands dirty, so involve them in every step of the gardening process, from tilling the soil to harvesting the produce. Set a schedule for watering and weeding to teach kids responsibility. Be sure to keep an open conversation about their observations and try to answer their questions. If you don’t know all the answers, explore and learn together.

“Getting outdoors, growing a garden and learning about the land is one of the best things families can do during the warm-weather months,” says Bryant. “Plus, kids are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables when they help grow them in their own backyard. That’s a win all around.”

Gardening tips for every season are available online at TractorSupply.com/KnowHow.

Posted in Bloomin' Summer, FeaturedComments (0)