dirt

Kids and Dirt

As parents, all of us have been there. You go in the backyard to get some yard work done and tell your child to go have fun moving some dirt around with their awesome new kid tractor. After spending some time pulling weeds, you notice that it’s just a bit too quiet. Next thing you know, your angel has decided he wants to help mommy by also doing yard work. Covered in dirt from head to toe and sticking out his tongue to show you the dirt in his mouth, you feel like you’re in one of those “wanna get away?” Southwest airline commercials. As odd as it sounds, it’s actually all good. According to researchers, dirt is quite beneficial for your kiddos. Here are five good reasons why:

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how-to-build-retaining-wall

How to Build a Retaining Wall

Retaining walls can be very helpful and there are a lot of retaining wall ideas if ever you want to build one. When creating a wall, you must have a purpose for it. In the past, walls were created to protect a nation from its enemies. Today, walls are used to provide support to buildings and infrastructures. In cases of volatile slopes in landscapes, a retaining wall can be highly efficient to help control the soil and prevent any erosion. However, in order for a retaining wall to withstand the pressure that the sloping landscape is producing, the wall must be very sturdy and the retaining wall construction has to be done properly.

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hedge-trimmer

Essential Outdoor Power Tools

The standard method of taking care of the lawn, many years ago, was pushing a manual rotary style lawn mower around. We have come a long way from that labor intensive way of keeping the grass at bay. This does not even mention the other ways of trimming, cutting, raking and generally keeping the yard looking as close to golf course quality as possible.

string-trimmerEssential power tools for outside of the home run the gambit from items to use on the grass, shrubs, and trees as well as in the garden. A short list will include:

  • Lawn mower. Whether electric or gas powered, rotary or circular, walk behind or riding, these are a basic tool.
  • Edge trimmer. This is used to keep the walkways, sidewalks and pathways neat and clean.  Electric or gas powered, this tool rides along the edge of the path and, using a blade or string, creates a break between the grass and the cement.
  • String Trimmer.  This is used to deal with hedges, bushes and many people call it a ‘weed whacker’ because of the strong polyvinyl string that whirls at great speed and actually cuts or whacks the natural material to be cut.
  • Leaf blower.  This is used to assist in cleaning leaves and yard debris off of driveways and sidewalks.  It is also used to move dirt around when setting up gardens. Electric or gas powered, they are often frowned upon more than gas powered mowers on an early Saturday morning.
  • Chainsaw. This will be necessary for yards with thick bushes or hedges and or trees that will need cutting back occasionally. Gas powered, electric or battery powered, these are just the thing for thicker branches.
  • Cultivator.  This is a small rotating tine unit that is just right for working in a garden.  It is able to get between rows and is great for turning soil in any confined space that a larger one would be unable to fit.
  • Wood chipper. While not necessarily essential, a wood chipper is invaluable if you have many trees on your property. There are various sizes of these handy units for breaking limbs and other yard debris down into a mulching composition. Anything from thin, pencil sized twigs to one and two inch limbs can be reduced to a landscaping material that is a natural insulating product.

For help in selecting the best types of these tools, be sure to check out a site like Garage Tool Advisor or Consumer Reports.

Types of engines and electrical safety notes.

chainsawMost of the lawn mowers and wood chippers will have a standard gas motor.  These will have separate locations to fill the oil reservoir and the gas tank.  They will also have air and fuel filters.   Keeping the oil changed, replacing the gas and checking the spark plug after each season will be appropriate to help keep them in working order.

The smaller motors will be two cycle engines which require the careful mixing of oil with the gas.  Replacing the solution after each season is also recommended.

Making sure the electrical cords are not broken is the best you can do for the electric motors other than ensuring you follow any guidelines as far as lubrication is concerned.  Ensure the extension cord is UL listed, rated for outside and heavy duty enough for the equipment you are using.

The most essential outdoor tool is old tech.  It is a pair of safety glasses or goggles for any flying debris that does occur.

 

tree-house-safety

Tree House Safety for Kids

A treehouse to children is a place to call their own. The vision is of five bikes leaning against a tree with five little boys huddled in their tree house telling secrets and designing a most important sign that reads, ‘no girls allowed’.

…Or you might find the same scenario with five little girls instead.

There’s nothing like a hideaway for children, and a treehouse can be exciting and entertaining  as well as adventurous. However, there should always be rules and precautions put into force in order to keep the children safe in such a high environment.

Before you get started

kids-tree-houseDo you need a building permit to build a treehouse for your child? Some neighborhoods do have municipal regulations. However, it depends on the nature of the house you’ll be building.  Are your neighbors going to have it in their vision when they look out the window? Will it infringe on anyone’s privacy. More often than not, a neighborhood regulatory group wouldn’t become involved unless a neighbor makes a complaint.

Tree damage

We would certainly be kidding ourselves if we thought that treehouses do not do damage to trees.  Just stomping by foot at the base of the tree tightens the soil, which can be harmful to the roots. So, to minimize this damage, support the tree by putting fasteners, but not too close as it can cause weakness to that part of the tree.

The height of your treehouse

If you can’t be assured of your child’s safety on the street, in the backyard or in a playground, how then can you guarantee his or her safety ten feet off the ground? And that is the standard…ten feet. However, at the bottom or the base of your tree, it would be advisable to add a good foot of mulch. Sand, gravel or even wood chips can still harm your child in the event they fall, so mulch is the best form of cushioning. Remember, kids are daring and it doesn’t take much for them to jump down rather than take the ladder you for them.

Tree Limbs

Thick, thick, thick.  At least a foot thick.  

tree-limbTry to keep in mind that twelve inches spell s-a-f-e-t-y, keeping in mind that you’re not the one picking the tree for your house, the tree is out there picking you. Just like people, each and every tree is different so let them guide you. Allow for its growth and consider sunlight.  When you find that tree, the first thing you want to look for is rotting wood, peeling wood and signs of distress. It might be wise to call in a tree specialist before you make the choice yourself on which branch or two you believe is suitable for building a treehouse.

Wooden Walls or wooden rails

Walls.  First of all, the kids will be using this as a personal hideaway. Why in the world would they want everyone to see them tell their secrets through guard rails? Additionally, walls are safer.

 Final precautions

  • Never allow a child under six years old to go into the treehouse alone.

  • Build a real ladder onto the tree to the treehouse rather than a rope ladder. In fact, in order to avoid accidents of strangulation, it is best to keep all ropes and trains away from the treehouse.

  • It is generally not recommended to allow kids to sleep overnight in a tree house. Instead, do a family backyard campout with a tent and all. Get some good sleeping bags for the kids and even some sleeping sacks (link) for the younger crowd. A wearable blanket for toddlers allows new walkers the freedom to walk around with them.

Bottom line, it’s all about the children. What you are considering to build for them should afford them adventure, happiness and safety. Look into permits, keep it at a safe height, stay away from ropes and chains and surround the children with walls to keep their secrets safe.

electricity-shed

Adding Electrical Wiring to an Outdoor Shed

If you have decided on taking a power supply to an outdoor shed, you might need to decide whether to run it overhead or take it underground. Running overhead is quite a simple approach but exposes you to risks of accidental damage. The underground method is a bit complicated but it is a safer approach. The process involved in running a cable overhead includes using ordinary PVC sheathed cables and the spans need to be less than 10 feet. If it is longer than this, you will need additional support by wire and cable buckles. Underground-run cables are usually protected by PVC conduit. The cables are buried 18 inches below the ground and are attached together by straight connectors.

wiring-shedIt is important to have a dedicated outdoor socket for your shed so that you can avoid trailing long extension cords, which pass through open windows. It is also a safe method as it provides protection if you are handling electrical equipment outside. This will require a waterproof outlet with a ground wire and an indoor socket. Alternatively, you may choose to connect a separate GFCI indoor after installing an ordinary outdoor outlet.

I had a unique issue when running wiring to my shed. Because the shed is at the bottom of a sloped hill, cell phone reception is an issue because the shed also works as my workshop which I can spend hours in at one time. To remedy this, I installed a cell phone signal booster which is connected to an antenna at the back of the shed. I went from getting no reception on my phone to 3 or 4 bars. Something to keep in mind for those who have poor reception in their shed and spend a lot of time there. You can get more information about mobile phone signal boosters here.

Installation process

electricity-shedSupplying your outdoor shed with electricity can be quite a simple procedure. First, an electric panel service is run through underground feed wire. The UF wire is connected to a circuit breaker. Inside the shed, the ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet and the wire are connected. You might decide to add light switch on another outlet. Of course, such a task requires electrical knowledge and basic building materials. Therefore, ensure you have general electrical knowledge and that your service panel is able to support another breaker. If you do not have any electrical experiences, do not attempt to wire your shed. It is best to consult the service of a professional electrician. It is also wise to check for regulations with the local building department in your area. Here are some basic steps:

  • Dig a deep trench of about 2 feet from the panel extending to the front of the shed. Roll the gauge wire into the trench. Completely bury the wire ensuring the soil is level for a neat finishing.

  • Run the excess wire from the rolled gauge wire by knocking out the slot located at the bottom of the panel, and then slipping the wire at the front of the conduit. This will leave room for the excess wire to hang free. Bury any exposed wire.

  • Ensure the power is still off as you cut and divide the wire into appropriate lengths. The black wire known as hot wire should screw well into the breaker. The neutral wire commonly referred to as the whit wire is screwed into the neutral bar. The bare wire should be able to screw into the ground.

  • Use a 1 inch spade, drill through the shed siding. Attach a PVC piece conduit of about 2 feet to another LB fitting.  Ensure you run the wire through a fitting.

  • Follow the manufacture directions in wiring the GFCI after the wire is inside the outdoor shed. In order to ensure the GFCI is protected for all the outlets, ensure the load terminals are connected to the wires.

  • In order to supply power, the final outlet and the switch must have a loop in between. The light fixture is located from this switch.

Summary

Installing electricity to your outdoor shed is a project worth carrying out for your own convenience and safety. The wiring work may require a complicated process but it adds protection for outdoor use of electrical appliances.

install-outdoor-security-camera

Installing an Outdoor Security Camera System

You can never be too careful when it comes to protecting your home and your family. Many people who are vigilant about the safety of their home and family are choosing to install security systems to alert them of intruders. The best way to protect your family from intruders, however, is to prevent them from getting into the house in the first place. For that reason, more and more people are installing outdoor security systems.

Owning a security system may sound like something that is only for the very wealthy or the sort of thing that one might see in a James Bond film, but advancements in technology are putting the once complicated and expensive gadgets into the hands of ordinary folks. A simple surveillance system, consisting of a few cameras and a monitor, can be purchased for a few hundred dollars and easily installed by even a relative novice.

Protecting Valuables

security camerasFor valuables, you need to realize that even if you have a good quality safe to store valuables in, most thieves can get into it with time. I personally take the safety of my family very seriously and thus invested in a top rated gun safe. While I love technology, my gun safe has to be mechanical. For instance, Fort Knox makes the very best mechanical gun safe. I determined that after literally reading a dozen gun safe reviews sites that are out there because of all the competition in the industry. A good outdoor security system can go a long way to keep what’s inside the safe out of the hands of bad guys.

Range

A wireless camera may have a transmitting range of up to 100 feet, which is far enough to mount cameras along walkways, near the garage, or over the front door. The camera then transmits images to a receiver that sends the pictures to a television or VCR. A more expensive system can send a signal an even greater distance. You can have your cameras running constantly, set them to run during certain hours—such as when you are away or when you are sleeping—or you can get cameras that are motion activated. With the right software, you can even monitor your cameras via the internet when you are away on vacation.

Lighting

A good security system will also include adequate lighting. Lighting is perhaps one of the simplest, least expensive and most common sense parts of a security system. Most criminals will not approach a well-lit home for fear of being seen. The lighting will also be necessary to help cameras pick up images at night. You may decide to put your lighting on a timer, have motion detection lights or simply operate your lighting manually.

It is important to keep your family safe and protect your home. The security system that helps you do that does not need to be either complicated or expensive. In fact, security can be as common sense as adequate lighting around your home. One thing is certain, though: knowing that you have systems in place to keep your family safe will allow you to sleep better at night.

stockade-fence

Backyard Fencing

As most homeowners know, a backyard can provide you with the opportunity to work, play, or just relax. An outdoor area can give you a real sense of freedom, but you still want to protect the area and keep it safe and secure surrounding it with a fence for both safety and security. There are a wide variety of fence styles to choose from, some being better than others. Below is some basic information about the different fence types and how they may benefit you.

Stockade Fence

stockade-fence

A stockade fence (or privacy fence) is made of wood. The most common types of wood these fences are made of are pine, cedar or fir. A stockade fence can provide safety, security and privacy. This type of fence will consist of wood slats panels. These panels are assembled close together. The panels are nailed to wooden posts. Gone are the days of using a hammer to build one. With the price of air compressors so low, you don’t have to spend a fortune on a top rated air compressor. Once constructed, these wood panels can be stained or painted the color you choose. This type of fence is very durable and when stained or painted it increases its durability.

A stockade fence has many great advantages. You can choose to build the fence yourself or have it professionally installed. One disadvantage of having a stockade fence is that after years of being in the weather, it will start to rot if the wood is not treated. Fortunately, a paint spray gun will make short work of the job which often takes days with a traditional brush. Those with a lot of land should look into gas-powered units which may be the best portable air compressor option for them. These types of fences not only make excellent backyard fences, but they make the perfect garden fence too.

PVC Fence

pvc-fenceA PVC fence is highly durable. This fence is made of highly durable plastic and will never rot. This type of fence has many great money saving and time saving advantages because it is man made and it does not need to be stained or painted. It comes available in a wide variety of colors for you to choose from so you can select it to match your home. Prices for PVC fence will vary and can range from being very expensive to inexpensive. This will allow you to choose the right PVC fence that will fit into your budget.

Chain Link Fence

chain-link-fenceA chain link fence is extremely durable because it is made of galvanized steel. It will never rot. The material that this fence is made from is able to withstand extreme climate conditions. This type of fence is attached to steel posts which are secured in the ground. This is one of the most easiest fences to install if you plan on doing the job yourself. This fence comes available with vinyl coating that is usually green or black in color. A chain link fence alone does not provide much privacy, but if you install the vinyl slats, which is an extra, then you can have all the privacy you need. The only disadvantage with this type of fence is that over time it can rust, but if you choose one with a vinyl coating then you will not have that problem.

above-ground-ladder

The Pool is In – Choosing a Ladder

So you’ve decided on a swimming pool and pump. Don’t forget to budget in a good pool ladder. Pool ladders help you to get into and out of pools safely and easily. Be it in-ground pool or above-ground pool, badly designed wobbly pool ladders are prone to cause accidents and can make you lose your peace of mind easily. A pool ladder might look like a simple attachment but there are lots of important factors that distinguish good ladders from poorly designed ones.

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stripped-chair-cushion

Upgrading Your Adirondack Chair

The Adirondack chair is considered to be one of the most comfortable outdoor chairs available, but you can make it even more comfortable by adding chair pads. This type of chair was first designed by Thomas Lee in 1903 because he could not find an outdoor chair that he liked. The chair is well-known for its large armrests, wide seat and sloping backrest and is made entirely from wood, including the wood slate seat and backrest. Many people agree that these chairs are extremely comfortable, but purchasing the right chair pads can add extra cushioning.

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