Thursday, May 27, 2010

Whats not to like about Bluebirds

Bluebirds……whats not to like about bluebirds? Bluebirds are on the rebound!! They are a symbol of happiness, optimism and are celebrated in song as the Bluebird of Happiness, the Zip-a-dee-doo-dah bird on your shoulder and even flying somewhere Over the Rainbow. Moreover, eastern bluebird populations are on the rise in Wisconsin. Watch for them in your backyard.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Easily Grow Your Own Herbs Indoors

Have you always wished that you could have a few pots of home grown herbs that could get cut and thrown in your favorite dish, rather than using the dried herbs? Perhaps the spring has been getting to you and making you wish that your apartment had land to start a garden. Well, do you have a sunny windowsill and a few pots? Growing your favorite herbs at home in Wisconsin can be simple, fun, and year-round, providing you with seasonings, teas, and even potpourri fixings all year. This would also be a great experience to involve your children in, if you have any.

Place: First, select a spot that gets at least 4 hours of direct sunlight a day. Keep the herbs from direct drafts and great temperature fluctuations. Small kitchens are usually not conducive to the environment herbs need because of the cooking fumes and fluctuating heat. In addition, be careful of the hot, dry air directly above a radiator. Think about what kind of planters would look good in that area. What kind of style, color, height, and width of pots will you need? This may also determine how many herbs you can realistically grow in your home.

Herbs: You will then want to select the herbs you want to grow. Grab a book that will give you an overview about the basics of indoor herb gardens to help you cater to each kind of plant. And from there you can expand your library to specifics. You also need to identify what purpose you want each herb to serve. Will you be eating them, making potpourri, simply smelling and looking at them? Just a word from the wise: Bushy perennial herbs such as rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage and sinter savory grow better indoors than those with soft stems such as mint and tarragon. Perhaps you are looking more for the scented herbs such as geraniums, lemon verbena, basil, coriander, and some lavender.

Pots: Select a container that will hold several plants and provide adequate drainage, in other words, make sure there is a whole or two at the bottom of the planter. Usually clay, word, or ceramic pots work well. Make sure the containers are at least 8 inches deep and 6 to 8 inches across for each plant. If you are planting multiple plants in a large container, simply allow 6 to 8 inches between each kind of plant. Then lay either screen mesh, a few large rocks, or a few pieces of broken pottery over the planters’ drainage holes and then add a premium-quality, well draining potting soil mixed with coarse sand and mushroom compost (all of which is sold in small bags at nurseries).

Purchase time: Try to buy your herbs from a nursery that specializes in herbs. Your selection will be much bigger than it will at a general nursery, and the staff will likely be knowledgeable and enthusiastic about your idea.

Transplanting: First, wiggle the herb out of the container from which you bought it. Try not to break roots. Lay the herb on its side with all foliage laying the same direction. Check to see how deep of a whole the plant had been living. The rule of thumb is transplant plants at the same depth they were growing in the nursery pots. So, dig a paralleling hole in your new pot and place the herb in its new home. Push soil in around the plant.

Water: Once the herb is in its new home and soil is pushed around. Give the herb hearty water. Stand each pot in an inch of lukewarm water until the soil is moist but not saturated. From here on out, the herb probably only needs to be amply watered once or twice a week. Be careful not to over-water. When the plants are actively growing, feed them once a week using a seaweed extract or fish emulsion.

Care: Make sure to clip outer leaves or springs as you need them, but always leave plenty of vigorous growth on the plant or you will drastically slow down, if not kill, the herb.

General Guidelines and Advice for a Few Basic Herbs:

ROSEMARY: Rosemary resents being moved, so plant it where it intends to stay. Try to buy the rosemary from an herb specialist. Large, general garden centers often do not label specific varieties, coming in several foliage-forms and also bloom in various colors: white, pink, deep blue, or light blue flowers. They like a 12-inch by 12-inch pot with plenty of drainage. Use a light but coarse potting soil such as a cactus soil. Then keep the soil moist but never wet by misting the plant twice a week with warm water. In addition, feed the plants monthly with compost tea. Place the pot in a sunny south or west window.

CHIVES: Chives adapt well to indoor living. They need to be 9 inches to a foot from anything else. The green stems can be cut close to the ground three to four times in a season.

THYME: Thyme comes in a variety of flavors, fragrances, growth habits, hardiness ranges, and flower colors of pink, white or lilac. If you planted thyme seeds, do not be scared if you don’t see anything happen quickly because they germinate slowly. Thyme needs 6-12 inches from other plants and likes a sandy soil mix. Make sure you cut the plants back after they flower to promote bushiness.

MINT: Beware – mint will take over any soil you give it. Mint likes partial shade and moisture. Mint doesn’t grow well from seed, so simply buy your mint plants at any nursery. Mint loves a 10 inch deep and 6 to 8 inch across clay pot with drainage tiles. At the end of each spring, pinch stem ends off to keep plants bushy and at the end of the season, prune the plants back to near ground level and top-dress with compost.

BASIL: Basil grows easily in the ground or containers. Basil needs a soil that drains well and retains enough moisture so that it won’t wilt. Work organic material into the soil to give you the right combination. Water the herbs regularly with air-temperature water to encourage growth. Put the seedlings about 6 inches apart and then when the plants are six inches high, pinch off the tips to encourage bushier growth. Pinch off the buds of flowers are soon as they appear in order to encourage leave growth.

CILANTRO: Cilantro produces the dried seeds called coriander. It thrives in damp, cool springs and hot, dry summers. Like most herbs, cilantro needs sunlight, well-drained soil, and plenty of compost. Cilantro does not like to be transplanted, as it has a taproot that develops quickly. Plant cilantro 4 inches apart from other plants, and give it 12 inches in depth to establish its taproot. Harvest the entire plant when they are 6 inches high if you only want the leaves. For the seeds, wait until the seeds start to ripen and then cut the plants off at the base and hang them upside down in paper bags to finish drying.

Try other herbs such as bay, garlic chives, marjoram, oregano, parsley, sage, scented geraniums, and winter savory. Try a few different herbs each year to spice up your life with new fresh flavors. Good luck and have fun. Enjoy the smell, look, and taste of your homegrown herbs.

Friday, May 14, 2010


A young couple moves into a new neighborhood.The next morning while they are eating breakfast, The young woman sees her neighbor hanging the wash outside."That laundry is not very clean", she said."She doesn't know how to wash correctly. Perhaps she needs better laundry soap." Her husband loo...ked on, but remained silent. Every time her neighbor would hang her wash to dry, the young woman would make the same comments. About one month later, the woman was surprised to see aNice clean wash on the line and said to her husband: "Look, she has learned how to wash correctly. I wonder who taught her this." The husband said, "I got up early this morning andCleaned our windows." And so it is with life. What we see when watching othersdepends on the purity of the window through which we look.

This is a good one!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Did the Winter Destroy Your Lawn?

Spring has rolled around again, and it’s great to get outside when it’s nice out. However, when you step out onto your front porch to look over your lawn, you are not too pleased. The winter months living in Wisconsin have won, your lawn lost – as evidenced by the overriding brownish color. Or perhaps there are just a few spots on your lawn that need help. Either way, if you want your brown lawn to glow green once again, here are a few steps to pamper your lawn with a little effort. Reviving your lawn does not have to be an intense process or an incredibly time consuming job, but you will need a few bucks and a few hours, perhaps a Saturday afternoon. And DO NOT wait until summer. Grass seed that gets established before the summer heat hits will be less likely to dry out. The following four steps will bring life and health back into your lawn.

Your first step is to look closely at your lawn. Do you have a few brown spots that need attention or does your whole lawn need help. If you simply have a few brown spots, try to identify why those spots are brown. Maybe you have a water drainage problem. Or perhaps you have skunks or groundhogs digging around for grub, which means that you need to take care of the grub problem first. Or perhaps you have ruts in your lawn. The depression needs to be filled in an inch higher than ground level to allow for settling.

Your next step is to look closely to see if the lawn is compacted with more than a half inch of thatch. What is thatch? Thatch is simply dead grass and leaves pressed down among the roots. Thatch blocks water and nutrients from reaching grass roots, weakening the whole plant. Thatching can also trap moisture near the blades of your grass, which can lead to lawn disease. By regularly dethatching the grass buds are forced to grow near the base of the grass stem, freeing up the new grass to grow in healthy and thick. If the thatching is less than half an inch, simply rake it out. If you have heavy thatching, you may need to rent a dethatcher or a power rake.

Your lawn may need aerated if your soil is too compacted from heavy use. Buy or rent a coring device that will cut three to four inch deep holes in the soil, leaving the cores on the lawn to decompose naturally. The holes created by the aerator provide the grass roots with the ability to receive fertilizer, water, and oxygen.

Before you jump into reseeding, you must get rid of current weeds. You can either dig them out with a pronged tool, or spot spray them with a broadleaf herbicide. Then give the area a good soaking. To prepare the soil, drag a rake over the bare spots. Then, take a good look at your lawn and determine which kind of grass seed you will need. If you have blue grass, an overseed of any kind of blue grass will do just fine. But do not use the old seed in the garage, it may be dead already. Do not put all your hard work down the drain by using dead seed to try to replant. After you get the seed, sow the seed at twice the rate that is recommended for a new lawn and simply use your hand to lay the seed. Then lay a very thin layer of light organic topsoil so that the seed won’t blow away, approximately an eighth of an inch. Make sure that the topsoil is not laid more than a forth inch thick.

Your final step is to fertilize. Use a spreader to distribute slow-release granule over the entire lawn. Keep the newly seeded area moist until seeds germinate, at which point you can back off of watering.

Now you are equipped to transform you’re struggling lawn to a healthy, thriving lawn. Have fun reviving your land.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Preparing Your Home for Spring Selling in Wisconsin?

Preparing Your Home for Spring Selling in Wisconsin ?

Spring has probably come faster than you expected, meaning you are supposed to have your house ready to be sold in just a few weeks, or even days. Well, fear not. Preparing your home for walkthroughs and selling does not have to be consuming or stressful. The following will help clean and make repairs to your home in a systematic fashion so that your life does not have yet another wrench thrown in the wheel.

Step One: Exterior. To begin, start by getting organized. Grab a pad of paper and pen. Then, take a stroll around your house. Make notes about anything that’s not perfect. Take your time because you are probably accustomed to the imperfections of your home since you’ve walked by them so many times. Perhaps you should take a friend or neighbor with you. Remember, this process shouldn’t take that long, as you are not fixing the issues right now, but simply identifying them. Are the stepping-stones broken? Are there any gutters that need to be repositioned or cleaned out? Do the bushes need trimmed? Does the house need power-washed or painted? Think of a few flowers that would brighten up your home for the spring.

Step Two: Interior. You are going to do the same thing with the interior of your house as you did with the exterior. Walk through each room slowly. Ask yourself a few questions. Are the walls dirty? Does the ceiling need a fresh coat or paint? Are the majority of people going to feel comfortable in this room? If not, what needs to change? Is there simply too much in the room? Decide what can be stored until you move into your new home (furniture, clothing, artwork, pictures, shoes, books). Are the doors of each room aligned and in decent shape? How about the carpets? Have any animals destroyed the area rugs? Does water leak anywhere – faucets, pipes, shower head?

Step Three: Organize and Schedule. Now, sit down and start making a new list. Figure out the repairs that you can afford and make list of things you need. Do you need any new door handles? A few gallons of paint, a few brushes, and a roller? Try to get the larger repairs like plumbing and heating problems fixed before the Comparative Marketing Analysis to give the house a higher suggested listing price. Decide which contractors need to be called and set a date for repair. Then, realistically schedule when you are going to take the time to do the repairs. Choose anywhere from one to five a day, depending on the severity of the job. Do not overload yourself, but do not waste time. Try to schedule a few make up days, as unexpected events always occur and push you behind schedule.

Step Four: Clean. You can also start spring-cleaning your home at this time as well. Buyers actually react more negatively toward dirt than clutter. They assume that if you have let the cleaning go, that you’ve also neglected larger maintenance issues. So, do not just give a quick wipe down, thoroughly clean your home. Maybe you should hire a professional to give your home the jump-start it needs to be maintained easily. But, take this step seriously.

Step Five: Clear Horizontal Surfaces. Every horizontal surface such as windowsills, tables, night stands, dressers, coffee tables, counter tops, desktops, and sinks should be totally cleared off and thoroughly cleaned. Why? The less stuff you have around, the larger your rooms look, making the room open, inviting, and deceivingly larger. Once everything is removed, you can go back and add a decorative touch to random surfaces – but no more than one or two things. Fight the urge to put back picture frames and unnecessary candles. In the kitchen, try to keep only one or two things on the counters, such as the microwave and coffeemaker. Train yourself not to drop your belongings around the house, but rather put them away immediately.

Step Six: Buy a clutter collector. These large, flat, and plastic containers can be purchased at any hardware store. When you are told last minute that someone is on their way to see the house, you simply run around the house and throw anything out of place in this box – the mail, the kids homework, book bags, brief cases, socks, shoes, jackets, etc. You can then simply slide the box under a bed to show off your house.

Step Seven: Focal Points. Once your home has been cleaned, repaired, uncluttered, take another walk around the interior of your home. Decide what the best feature of each room is. If the bedroom has a walk-in closet, make sure that the doors are open for them to explore this luxury. If the living room has a nice view, make sure the windows are clean and are decorated in a way that attracts people’s attention. If the kitchen has a special set-up or feature, make sure that people will somehow be able to see that feature without hearing a sales pitch. If a room doesn’t have a focal point, try to create one. For bedrooms, try coordinating the comforter, area rug, and curtains. In the bathroom, invest in a few new towels and soap dispenser. If you have a fireplace, try to make that focal point, as most people enjoy that asset.

Well, you now have a lot to do. Good luck. Try to follow the laid-out steps if possible because they are prioritized for you.