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Archive | Outdoors

Catch of the Week

OUT-Catch-of-week-TrollaFive-year-old Lincoln Trolla, son of Katie (Wolfe) and Joe Trolla, landed a 13-inch bass during his first river fishing trip in Breckenridge, Mich. While it was an inch short of being a keeper, it was a mountain of fun to reel in!

Congratulations, Lincoln, you made The Post Catch of the Week!

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Weigh less under a full moon

Ranger Steve Mueller

Ranger Steve Mueller

Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

If you desire to weigh less, weigh yourself when the moon is overhead or even better when it is a New Moon. When the sun and moon are both on the same side of the Earth during a new moon, they exert greater gravitational pull together and make you weigh less. Tides are highest when the gravity from both pulls toward them. You will weigh your least when the sun and moon are directly in line. The opposite side of the Earth experiences high tides at the same time. This results in high tides every twelve hours. Unfortunately, our bathroom scales do not measure fine enough to actually show how much less you weigh. It is only a fraction of a pound.

The Perseus Meteor shower article two weeks ago took precedence over the moon’s gravity because it only occurs once annually. We experience moon cycles monthly. The Perseid meteor shower peaks about August 11-13 but we can observe increased meteors for a greater time about a week before and after peak.

I have read the moon’s gravity is not great enough to create tides in the Great Lakes because the size of the lakes is too small but my observations do not agree. It is well known that tides in oceans raise and lower water by several feet daily. In the open ocean it is not observable, but along the shore, water retreats great distances when the sea floor slope is gentle. If the coast drops abruptly, it is still noticeable but one must look at the nearly vertical cliff walls. Sea wall life becomes visible for several hours before the water rises again.

I observed a tide in Lake Michigan near Manistique in the Upper Peninsula. We lived there for a couple years when the girls were little. We would frequently walk the mile to the lakeshore with wagon in tow just in case the girls became too tired.

The lake surface was as smooth as glass on a warm summer night. A full moon worked its way to zenith. Dolomitic limestone slabs of flat rock peppered the shallow water near the swimming beach. Some of the flat slabs barely protruded above still water. Rocks made an inviting stepping-stone trail to a large rock that rose several feet above lake level. We walked on the dry slabs to the big rock and sat to enjoy the evening. It was a movie quality evening. We had the lake, quiet, beauty, and the distance sounds of nature from the shore all to ourselves. It was a choice family evening.

We sat on the rock as the moon moved overhead. A Great Blue Heron fed in the shallows to the west. Ring-billed and Herring Gulls walked the beach gathering food morsels in the dimming light as day became night. The moon was bright enough to create shallows of our silhouettes. Aquatic insects skimmed the shiny water surface. We looked for fish but I do not recall if we saw any. I guess it is good reason to pull my daughters away from their busy lives and take them back to look for the abundance of life and see if we can observe fish. Life thrives in the water, on the surface, and above it. I know fish must be present or the heron would not have been wading and hunting.

When we decided it was time to walk home, we planned to walk on flat rocks used to reach our high rock perch. Most were now under water. Moon’s gravity had drawn Lake Michigan closer. The surface of the lake was higher but unlike large ocean tides, Lake Michigan had risen about a half inch. It was enough to submerge several of our stepping-stones. I did not have a millimeter ruler to measure the change. I should have gotten a dried grass stem to determine the vertical lake level change. It is another reason to return so I can measure how high a rock protrudes at low tide twelve hours earlier and then measure how much it is submerged when the moon pulls Lake Michigan closer. Take your family outdoors to observe and experience wonderful everyday nature phenomena.

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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Nongame Wildlife Fund helps aid comeback success stories

 

Most of us recognize the American robin. With its cheery song bringing a welcome sign of spring, these red-breasted birds are a common sight in Michigan; so familiar and appreciated, in fact, that the robin was named the state bird in 1931.

But there was a time after World War II when robins had become less common due to the damaging effects of DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane) and other pesticides.

Fortunately, robin populations bounced back after DDT use was banned in the United State in 1972. However, many other nongame species—meaning wildlife that isn’t hunted—have needed, and continue to need, help to protect them from becoming rare or even extinct. That’s where the Nongame Wildlife Fund comes in.

Mechanics and administration

The fund, which is coordinated by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Division, assists with the division’s goals by identifying, protecting, managing and restoring Michigan’s biological diversity.

The Nongame Wildlife Fund is responsible for initiating, developing and implementing critical projects vital to the needs of Michigan’s endangered, threatened and nongame animals, plants and their habitats.

Since its inception, the Nongame Wildlife Fund has raised nearly $24 million in support of critical projects for nongame species, which includes more than 80 percent of Michigan’s wildlife.

“The fund aims not only to restore populations of endangered and threatened species but to maintain present populations of animals and plants and to promote appreciation of Michigan’s nongame wildlife,” said Hannah Schauer, a DNR wildlife technician.

Funds have been raised for these important management efforts through voluntary check-off contributions on state income tax forms (the check-off ended when the fund reached $6 million, as dictated by state law), sales of the wildlife habitat specialty license plates and direct donations.

Another component of this approach has been the Living Resources Patch program. Proceeds from the sale of these patches also are directed to the Nongame Wildlife Fund.

For more than 40 years, the patch program has raised awareness of Michigan’s nongame wildlife species. The 2016-2017 Living Resources Patch, which will be the final one issued in the series, features the American robin.

“The state bird seemed fitting for the final patch, since 2016 is also the centennial for the Migratory Bird Treaty, which has benefited the robin, as well as many other nongame bird species,” Schauer said.

American robin patches, along with several previous years’ patches, are available for purchase on the Michigan e-store website.

Kirtland’s warbler

The effort to bolster Michigan’s nongame wildlife has yielded some notable progress over the last few decades.

One of the most significant success stories—and one that’s unique to Michigan—stars a rare songbird called the Kirtland’s warbler, one of the original species to be listed as part of the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

Visitors come from all over the world to see these birds, which nest in just a few counties in Michigan’s northern Lower and Upper peninsulas, a few sites in Wisconsin and Ontario, and nowhere else on Earth.

The DNR and many partners manage the specific type of jack pine habitat that the Kirtland’s warbler requires by logging, burning, seeding and replanting on a rotational basis.

Trees aren’t cut down until they’re mature and large enough to be economically valuable, which helps maintain nesting habitat for the warblers while supporting the commercial harvest of jack pine.

Several million jack pine seedlings are planted each year. The birds have specific nesting requirements which include reliance on young jack pine trees.

“The population of the rarest warbler in North America has increased dramatically through management and protection of more than 150,000 acres of jack pine habitat in Michigan,” said Dan Kennedy, DNR threatened and endangered species specialist.

The annual Kirtland’s warbler census, which tallies the number of singing males, has shown a significant increase in the species’ population over the last 40 years, from approximately 200 singing males in 1972 to 2,300 this year.

“The recovery of the Kirtland’s warbler is a real success story for endangered species management,” Kennedy said. “This conservation effort has benefited Michigan’s economy, including jobs associated with tourism and timber products, and helped conserve our biological legacy.”

Michigan’s osprey population, once threatened, is making a comeback with support from the Nongame Wildlife Fund.

Michigan’s osprey population, once threatened, is making a comeback with support from the Nongame Wildlife Fund.

Osprey

Many of Michigan’s nongame wildlife conservation victories involve birds, more specifically birds of prey. One notable example is the osprey.

Once nearly absent from much of Michigan due to the effects of DDT, other pesticides and habitat loss, Michigan’s osprey population is making a comeback thanks in part to the DNR’s osprey reintroduction program.

Started in 2008 and supported by the Nongame Wildlife Fund, this reintroduction program removed chicks from active nests in northern Michigan and reared them in man-made towers in southern Michigan, a process called “hacking.”

In 2015, at least 60 active nests were identified in southern Michigan – a substantial increase from the single active nest reported in 2002.

“Each year we have new nests, and we have already exceeded our original goal of 30 active nests by 2020,” said Julie Oakes, a DNR wildlife biologist. “We have been able to remove ospreys from the threatened species list to a species of special concern and restore their numbers in Michigan.”

The DNR and several partner organizations monitor the revitalization of this species by outfitting osprey chicks with “backpack” GPS telemetry units and tracking their movements and migration patterns.

Anyone can follow along and find out where the birds have been by looking at the Michigan Osprey website, www.michiganosprey.org.

Falcons and eagles

Peregrine falcons, which had been virtually eradicated from eastern North America at one time, today are successfully nesting atop places like urban buildings and bridges.

Peregrine falcons, which had been virtually eradicated from eastern North America at one time, today are successfully nesting atop places like urban buildings and bridges.

Peregrine falcons and bald eagles—two other birds of prey whose populations were decimated by pesticides—also are on the upswing as a result of similar conservation efforts.

Peregrines, virtually eradicated from eastern North America by the middle of the 20th century, today are successfully nesting in urban centers of southern Michigan, on the most iconic bridges across the state and along the Upper Peninsula’s rocky Lake Superior shoreline.

In 2015, biologists recorded 33 active peregrine nests, which produced 73 wild chicks.

The bald eagle’s numbers declined dramatically in the 1950s and 1960s until there were fewer than 1,000 nesting eagles remaining in the U.S. by 1963. Today, the species has recovered to a point where its existence is no longer imperiled.

With over 800 active eagle nests in Michigan, eagles can be found in almost all of the state’s 83 counties.

Moose

 In an operation known as the “moose lift” in the mid-1980s, the DNR translocated 59 moose via helicopter from Ontario, Canada, to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

In an operation known as the “moose lift” in the mid-1980s, the DNR translocated 59 moose via helicopter from Ontario, Canada, to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

“Most of the mammal successes have been so successful that we have seasons on them: marten, fisher, deer and elk,” said Chris Hoving, adaptation specialist with the DNR Wildlife Division. “At one time, they were nongame, or at least not hunted.”

Although moose are not an example of a species that has rebounded to the point where it can be hunted, one memorable nongame endeavor was the reintroduction of the species to Michigan in the Upper Peninsula.

Native to Michigan, moose disappeared from the Lower Peninsula in the 1890s and only a few scattered individuals remained in the Upper Peninsula.

In the mid-1980s, the DNR translocated 59 moose—using helicopters, in an operation remembered as the “moose lift”—from Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada, and released them in Marquette County.

A 2016 moose population survey estimates a population of 323 moose in the western U.P.

Reptiles and amphibians

As for reptiles and amphibians, collectively known as herpetofauna or “herps,” ongoing projects include the Michigan Herp Atlas, which aims to collect data about Michigan’s native amphibians and reptiles in order to document their distribution and changes in their populations statewide, and the annual spring volunteer frog and toad survey.

“We have collected a large, valuable data set to help us evaluate Michigan’s frog and toad populations,” said DNR nongame wildlife biologist Lori Sargent. “We’re now able to start watching trends and thinking about how to slow down some of the species’ declines and, hopefully, increase awareness of their plight so that conservation efforts will be enacted in the future.”

Distinctions

Schauer said it’s important to remember that not all nongame animals are threatened or endangered species, or even species of special concern.

“Nongame also includes animals that aren’t harvested but aren’t necessarily listed as special concern, threatened or endangered—a good example of that would be the American robin,” she said. “One of the primary goals of the Nongame Wildlife Fund is to keep these common species common.”

Pitch in

Want to help Michigan’s nongame wildlife? There are several ways to contribute: by purchasing a wildlife habitat license plate or Living Resources patch or by making a tax-deductible donation.

Learn more about the Nongame Wildlife Fund at www.michigan.gov/dnr.

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Catch of the Week

OUT-Catch-of-week-Jude-GorbyJude Gorby, 4, son of Nate and Lynn Gorby, of Cedar Springs, caught his very first fish recently on Indian Lake, near Howard City, while visiting with his grandparents, Dave and Jan Malmo. He caught the 6-inch sunfish while fishing with his Poppie (Dave) and and his brothers Noah and Kyam. “Jude was very excited about this feat and went on to catch four more fish!” said Dave. His Mimi (Jan) captured the moment with her camera.

Congratulations, Jude, you made the Post Catch of the Week!

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Pileated Woodpecker

Ranger Steve Mueller

Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Many people refer to Pileated Woodpeckers as flying dinosaurs. They have a unique appearance and life history. Every species fills a unique nature niche separating it from other species. Adaptations allowing a species to survive might cause it to become extinct if its habitat changes and its needs are too specialized.

This photo shows two Pileated Woodpeckers eating at a feeder at the home of David Marin, of Nelson Township, in 2013. The male is on the lower left. Photo by David Marin.

This photo shows two Pileated Woodpeckers eating at a feeder at the home of David Marin, of Nelson Township, in 2013. The male is on the lower left. Photo by David Marin.

Pileateds declined significantly in Michigan as a result of unregulated logging in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Trees were cut and the remaining branches were deliberately burned to clear regions. Fires spread to burn towns, kill people, and destroyed habitat that many species required.

Following deforestation, areas were cleared for farming and settlement. Much of Lower Peninsula was no longer suitable for Pileated Woodpeckers and in the Upper Peninsula the species was relegated to restricted areas. Second growth forest expanded in the Upper Peninsula creating large stands of maturing forest where the bird expanded its population. Few remained in lower Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio because of deforested habitat. Southern Ohio and Indiana landscape prevented complete clearing. Pileated Woodpeckers remained more prevalent southward into Kentucky and Tennessee.

For most of the past 100 years it was special to see this woodpecker between the Upper Peninsula and Southern States. Now it is quite common. They are regularly seen at Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary where adequately large habitat exists. The sanctuary is not large enough by itself to support the species. Fortunately, neighbors have allowed maturing forest to remain along Little Cedar Creek where it creates a ribbon of habitat containing essential food, water, and shelter in appropriate living space.

Habitat space is critical but it does not need to be shaped in squares, rectangles, or ribbons.  It needs to be large enough to contain adequate food of the correct type and shelter for nest sites. The pileated normally drills a fresh nest cavity in a tree annually and requires large trees. Minimal habitat to supply food and shelter is thought to be about 150 to 200 acres. Food includes many insects, acorns, and fruit.

They feed heavily on carpenter ants by using their long sharp beak for chipping large pieces of wood from a tree. The trees are usually partially hollowed by ants. The woodpecker can hear the hollowness when it pounds its head against the tree. A solid healthier tree will not provide a smorgasbord of food inside. Trees hollowed by ants are easier to drill into.

Woodpeckers have cartilage in the skull that helps absorb shock and protect the brain. When the bird creates a hole in the bark, it can reach deep into an ant tunnel with its long tongue to retrieve many ants. There are barbs on the end of the tongue to help capture prey. When not feeding, the tongue must be stored somewhere besides hanging out of the mouth. It draws it into a cavity between the skin and skull, wraps it around the back of the skull for storage until needed.

I have State and Federal permits to salvage dead birds for educational use and have stuffed a pileated woodpecker. I retained the long tongue to show people its adaptation. The feet are also uniquely adapted for anchoring the bird to a tree while it works. It has a zygodactal toe on each foot. It can move its outer toe forward so it has three pointing forward or move it backward so two are forward and two back. When drilling the two backward toes provide greater grip. It uses its tail feathers that have stiff central veins to prop and hold the bird in place. This is the only woodpecker in the US to make long rectangular cavities in trees. Even without seeing the bird you can recognized the presence by cavity shape.

Males have a red crest that reaches the bill. Females are gray from the bill to the top of the head. Males have a red mustache along the side of the head while females have a black one. White can be seen in the wing of this crow-sized bird when it is in flight. Enjoy seeing this increasingly common bird as forests regenerate in our region.

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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Perseus Meteor Shower

Ranger Steve Mueller

Ranger Steve Mueller

Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche

 

“Shooting stars” create fire in a black sky. To celebrate my birthday, the Perseid meteor shower reoccurs annually with a peak fire performance from August 11-13. I pretend the fireworks are a personal birthday celebration but I know scientifically we all share this annual nature niche event equally.

Why does the Perseus meteor shower gain prominence as my birthday approaches and diminish afterward?

Most of us are aware the sun is the center of our solar system with planets that revolve around it and are held by its gravity. It takes the Earth about 365 days for a trip around the sun and we call it a year. The time it takes planets to go around the sun is their year but it is easier to compare their orbits to our year. It takes Jupiter nearly 12 Earth years to go around the sun once and only 88 days for Mercury.

Earth’s path around the sun brings the planet into contact with space debris that becomes “shooting stars” (meteors) nightly. During mid-August, the Perseid meteor shower light show might have 200 shooting stars an hour because there is massive debris in Earth’s orbit at that location. A comet likely passed through Earth’s path and left billions of rock, iron, or nickel bits floating in space.

Comets orbit the sun making large oval loops. We can predict return dates for some but adequate data is not present for others. Some may not return. Little is known about the source of debris for the Perseus meteor shower. Perhaps a comet passed through Earth’s path and it may or may not return.

Think of Earth’s path as a tube that the planet is in as it travels around the sun. When debris drifts into the tube, it gets caught by Earth’s gravity and is pulled to the surface. As the material within the tube is drawn toward Earth, it heats, glows, and vaporizes. Material farther outside the tube continues to float in space and next year it might drift close enough to be caught by gravity.

Material left by a passing comet is called a meteor swarm. It is a mass of material that is mostly very small. The average size of a meteor is .0005 (5 ten thousands) of an ounce. That is the size of sand grain. When the Earth passes, it draws particles that heat, glow, and vaporize. Some larger pieces glow very bright and may even survive to land on Earth as a meteorite.

My friend Bob and I went to see the “Old Woman” that is kept hidden away in recesses of the Smithsonian National Museum. We received permission to have someone escort us to see her because she is not in a public access area. The Old Woman is the largest meteorite found in California and the second largest found in the United States. It was named for the location it was found (The Old Woman Mountains).

This week spend time watching the sky for meteors. It is best to look between midnight and dawn when Earth faces the direction of travel and collides with more debris. Before midnight, we can see many but it is like backing into debris instead of hitting it face on. Think of it like driving a car forward into insects or backing into them. You will notice most when looking and driving forward as you hit them. The front windshield gets splattered and the back does not.

Shooting stars are usually about 50 to 75 miles over head but emit bright light for a tiny sand-sized particle. Meteor showers are named for the constellation where they appear to originate. The constellation Perseus can be found in the northeast sky and moves west during the night. Perseus stars are light years away and have no relationship to the meteor shower that originates in Earth’s orbit. Look before the moon rises or after it sets because the sky will be darkest. Get away from lights that impair the ability to enjoy a dark night sky. You have a couple weeks for watching the Perseid Meteor shower.

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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Catch of the Week

OUT-Catch-of-week-PatinJessa Patin, 11, the daughter of Jerry and Kim Patin, of Solon Township, had a great day fishing recently, when she caught three big ones! The one in the photo is 18 inches long, and she also had one measuring 16-1/2 inches, and another 15 inches! Good job, Jessa, you made the Post Catch of the Week!

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Michigan’s waters: not a good home for pet fish

 

OUT-Pet-fish-Red-belliedpacuJuly in Michigan is becoming synonymous with reports of anglers landing pacus—fish with human-like teeth used for eating nuts and seeds—in the southeastern part of the state. Last month, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources received three pacu reports—two from Lake St. Clair and one from the Port Huron area.

Reeling in a pacus would be a surprise, perhaps even a shock to anyone fishing in Michigan. Though it looks somewhat like a native shad, the pacu’s squarish, blunt teeth clearly set it apart. It isn’t similar to any native, toothed fish, including trout, muskellunge or northern pike.

The red-bellied pacu, Piaractus brachypomus, is a popular aquarium fish imported from South America. The U.S. leads the world in importing ornamental fish, supporting a worldwide aquarium industry that tops $1 billion annually.

Though the pacu is a non-native fish, it is not considered invasive in Michigan. Invasive species are defined as those that are not native and also can cause harm to the environment, the economy or human health. A 2012 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service assessment concluded the risk posed by pacus in the continental United States is uncertain due to a lack of research on the fish’s negative impacts. While the risk is uncertain for the U.S., pacus are not considered invasive in Michigan because they are tropical warm water fish that are not likely to survive the severe cold of Michigan winters.

Pacus have been caught in lakes, ponds or creeks in at least 27 U.S. states. However, there is no evidence that breeding populations have been established in any of these locations. Current climate data indicate this tropical, freshwater fish is unlikely to survive Great Lakes winters, but climate change may increase the possibility.

Finding pacus in the Great Lakes is evidence of a common dilemma; what to do when you can no longer keep an aquarium pet? Pacus are known to grow significantly, often beyond the capacity of their tanks.

“Pet release is almost never humane. Pets released from confined, artificial environments are poorly equipped to fend off predators and may be unable to successfully forage for food or find shelter,” said Nick Popoff, manager of the DNR’s Aquatic Species and Regulatory Affairs Unit. “Those that do succeed in the wild can spread exotic diseases to native animals. In the worst-case scenario, released animals can thrive and reproduce, upsetting natural ecosystems to the degree that these former pets become invasive species.”

In the case of the pacu and other ornamental fish, there is another issue.

“Invasive or not—planting fish of any kind in the waters of the state without a permit is illegal,” said Popoff. “This includes the release of aquarium fish like pacus and goldfish, as well as farm-raised fish from private ponds.”

Paige Filice of Michigan State University works with a new statewide campaign to Reduce Invasive Pet and PLant Escapes, or RIPPLE, offering solutions for aquarium and pond owners.

“If your pacu has outgrown its tank or begun to feed on your other fish, rather than releasing it into a pond or stream, consider donating or trading it with another hobbyist, an environmental learning center, an aquarium or a zoo,” said Filice. “You can also check with the pet store where you purchased the fish to see if they will take it back.”

Another option is to talk with a veterinarian or pet retailer about humane methods to dispose of the pet.

More information about the RIPPLE campaign and managing aquarium pets and plants is available from the Michigan Invasive Species website.

If you catch an unusual fish, keep it and preserve it on ice. If that is not possible, take photos of the fish. Do not return it to the water. Contact Seth Herbst, DNR aquatic invasive species biologist, at 517-284-5841 or herbsts@michigan.gov for assistance in identification.

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Inspired to get outdoors

 

Kid-friendly tips to encourage more outside play 

BLOOM-Get-inspired-to-get-outdoors(Family Features) In today’s digital world, creating memories with loved ones and experiencing the joys of Mother Nature are some of the best reasons to turn off the TV, put down the tablet and get outdoors. From picnics to wild adventures to simple backyard games, there are dozens of ways to help kids explore all the exciting ways to live life outside.

A generation ago, 75 percent of American children played outside daily, but according to the National Recreation and Park Association, only 25 percent do the same these days. Not only are today’s youth missing out on a pastime treasured for generations, repeated studies have shown that children who play outside are more physically active, more creative in their play, less aggressive and show better concentration.

From camping in your backyard to planning a scavenger hunt, these tips from the outdoor experts at TruGreen can help provide inspiration to get your family on track toward living life outside more often.

Edible entertainment. Dining al fresco is one of the greatest ways to enjoy the outdoors. Invite family, friends or neighbors over for a barbecue, and be sure to save room for dessert with the gooey goodness of marshmallows roasted over a fire pit (add graham crackers and chocolate for a timeless campfire favorite in your own backyard).

Delight after dusk. Streetlights were once the signal that it’s time to head indoors, but once kids are safely home, take them out back to explore the outdoors at night. Stargaze under the open night sky, watch for nighttime critters such as lightning bugs or pitch a tent for a backyard campout. Ask the neighbors to join you, and organize a game of flashlight tag or enjoy a movie under the stars.

Home-grown experience. Even many adults don’t fully understand where food comes from. Help foster a greater understanding by encouraging kids to plant a mini garden they can tend themselves until the produce is ready to harvest. Inspire the project with a trip to the local farmer’s market, where together you can wander outdoors while selecting fresh produce to prepare for dinner.

Physical fun. If you don’t already have them, take kids along on a quick shopping trip to gather the items they need for more physical activity outside. Bikes, helmets, bats, balls – the possibilities go on and on.

Artistic expression. Turning the imagination loose outdoors can result in magical artistic creations. Pull out a tub of oversized chalk and watch a masterpiece emerge on the sidewalk, or let the sun’s rays melt old crayons into funky new colors and shapes. And, for a fun arts and crafts project, try making homemade bird feeders.

Imaginative play. Away from all the digital distractions, kids’ minds are free to wander. Let them set their imaginations free by assembling their own backyard games. Make water toys with sponges, create a “river” out of rocks or dirt where homemade boats can sail or plan a scavenger hunt to explore every corner of the yard.

For more outdoor activity ideas, visit TruGreen.com and Pinterest.com/TruGreen.

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The science of lawn care made simple

BLOOM-science-of-lawn-care

(BPT) – America has home renovation fever. At one time, a handful of home improvement shows were on late at night or during the day, but now entire networks are dedicated to showcasing remodels, flips, additions and new constructions.

The result is that more homeowners are ready to tear out the old and install maple cabinets, granite counters or marble bathtubs.

Many undertake these renovations with the belief that it will increase their home’s value. But the simple fact is that large-scale projects often cost more than the value they add, and rarely do homeowners recoup their expenses.

A far easier, less expensive and effective strategy is to focus on your lawn. As every good realtor will tell you, curb appeal and making a good first impression are fundamental in selling your house at the price you want. Therefore, having a well-kept lawn is key to your home’s value.

Even if you’re not selling right now, a healthy lawn is a long-term investment that contributes to the overall value of your neighborhood and location.

Science, simplified

Those immaculate greens you see on golf courses or large estates are so pristine partially due to engineering and a scientific understanding of the soil and how grass grows. People go to college to specifically study the science of lawn care.

The good news is, to get similar results, you don’t need men in lab coats to study your lawn. The basis of the best kept lawns in the world is the same as in your neighborhood: a lawnmower.

Types of lawn

The biggest challenge many homeowners face is how to adequately mow a yard that has a variety of terrain. Hills, dips and bumps can stop many lawnmowers and result in uneven cutting. Many push mowers now come with a propulsion system that takes a lot of the work out of mowing the lawn. The big advantage here is that a self-propelled mower is able to navigate a variety of terrain, and in wet conditions, provide an even cut.

To bag or to mulch?

There are the two main types of lawn mowers, ones that mulch and ones that collect.

Mulching, which leaves behind a finely chopped layer of grass, is ideal for areas suffering from droughts. The grass clippings not only aid in water conservation, but also fertilize the soil, leading to a greener, healthier lawn. These lawn mowers have a high cutting deck, which increases the airflow that helps to evenly distribute the clippings. When summer rolls into autumn, mulching can also be used to dispose of leaves while cutting grass. The mixing of grass clippings with mulched leaves helps both decompose more quickly, making it a great and easy way to prep your yard for winter.

People who suffer from seasonal allergies or don’t plan on mowing as frequently, usually have a lawn mower that bags the clippings. These type of lawn mowers also extend their usefulness into the autumn months, allowing homeowners to skip raking and use their lawn mower to collect and bag fallen leaves. This option works particularly well with dry leaves.

The do-all solution

There is a reason golf courses have a fleet of lawnmowers, as they require a special machine for each job, for many variants and terrain. Thankfully, consumers don’t need a garage full of lawn mowers. Self-propelled, with 4-wheel drive, the Husqvarna LC221A lawn mower offers an all-in-one advantage that gives you the choice to mulch or to bag clippings.

This allows people to adapt to environmental conditions, such as mowing a small yard or a farmyard, in a drought or after a rainfall. It also provides multiple options for leaf removal, which extends its value past the end of the usual mowing season. In essence, they’ll be able to maintain a lawn they’ll be proud of and, more importantly, adds value to their home.

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