Cyclone Rake Blog

Friday, December 16, 2016

Decking the Halls for December

A seasonal song calls for decking the halls, for ‘tis the season to be jolly. But in the midst of a traditionally busy season in homes and workplaces, decorating your home might create less than jolliness. Here are some possible helps, whether you’re setting up a last minute Christmas tree, preparing for Hanukkah gatherings or accenting décor for Kwanzaa.
            Don’t be daunted by the number of shopping days left; there’s still plenty of time to put up a Christmas tree. A few stalwart celebrants even practice the historic tradition of trimming the tree on Christmas Eve! Consider a trip to a local Christmas tree farm, if you are still in the market for a natural Christmas tree, to bring home a fresh tree that can be left up for a while. Freshness can be detected in pre-cut trees by giving them a good shaking; if lots of green needles start flying, the tree’s freshness may be suspect.
            Hosting Hanukkah gatherings will bring plenty of people to your home. If you haven’t yet stocked the pantry for the meal, be sure you soon acquire any ingredients you know you’ll need but don’t always keep on hand. For decorating, simple accents can highlight Hanukkah themes and plenty of home décor items are available for purchase. But consider taking some time to create your own front door treatment and other accents, using ideas gleaned from social media outlets. A quick look at Pinterest showed plenty of distinctive Hanukkah decorations that are also simple enough for children to help craft, so consider these kinds of ideas to get youngsters involved before lights, games and gifts.

            Traditional Hanukkah and Kwanzaa celebrations involve candle lighting. If this is the first year you’ll host a gathering, be sure to think through that part of the evening with all the necessary luminary supplies. For holiday menus, different traditions may observe different preferences. If you’re thinking this is the year to offer some new holiday fare, be sure to consider any of your guest’s special dietary considerations, whether seasonal or otherwise.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Decorating for December

Holiday decorating can be one of the homeowner’s true dilemmas. How much is too much? How much is too little? Should I install outdoor lights, and if I do, how can I avoid making my house look tacky? What if I like tacky? What about holiday yard ornaments? How much should I spend on this endeavor? Ah, the joys of holiday decorating and home ownership. Not to worry; there are some proven practices that can help you avoid being labeled the neighborhood Grinch by having an unadorned home, while also avoiding seasonal kitsch.
            First off, the matter of lights. While strings of energy-saving LED exterior lights can greatly reduce the annual energy cost of illuminating your home, most homes are not illuminated most attractively by stringing miles of lights around every door, window and eave! Take a good look at your home from the front, or wherever your holiday guests will be coming in from the cold, and think about what features could be best accented by lights. Some garden centers may even offer free consultations with professional designers on such matters of lawn and yardscape design.
            If you do decide to hang lights, or even more lights, there are many gadgets that make the task easier and less invasive to your structure. You might check with a friend or
neighbor, one whose home already features exterior holiday lighting, about which hangers work best. Your best option may even be to avoid exterior lights entirely; single candles in windows create a very welcoming holiday glow.
            Then there is the matter of lawn ornamentation. If your landscaping already includes garden sculptures and other ornaments, your best option might be a bit of additional adornment. A festive bow, or even lights, can add a seasonal welcome and whimsy. As for those holiday lawn ornaments and whimsical holiday yard shows: Follow your own tastes, budget safety guidelines and any applicable neighborhood regulations. Lights certainly go with the season, and there are all kinds of ways to make your home bring a smile and sense of joy to your guests and passersby.
            Whether or not you decide to go for lighting or ornaments, do consider dressing up your front door or entryway with a seasonal wreath or other accents. It’s the first thing your guests will notice as they come into your home – and a really great wreath can be the first word of “Welcome” to your holiday guests.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Getting Your Yard Ready for Winter

The weeks leading up to New Year’s Day may seem a time to stay busy in other places besides your yard. But don’t miss the chance to take time outdoors and finish getting your yard ready for winter. We like to think of winter yard prep as “Three M’s” –  moisture, mulch and maintenance.
            The first M is moisture, especially important for evergreens, as well as new plantings that may have been installed in fall. Consider giving your evergreen trees and shrubs a good watering before the ground freezes, especially if rainfall has recently been less than one inch per week. If you’re in an area where winter freezing is less severe, keep an extra close eye on evergreens through the winter. Some species could potentially benefit from additional winter watering, especially younger trees and plants.
            Second: make sure you mulch. A layer of mulch after soaking fall rains, or a final fall watering, can help the ground retain moisture. Perhaps more important, mulch insulates the ground from temperature swings. Thawing and freezing causes the ground to heave, which can be hard on plant roots and overall plant health. A two- to six-inch layer of shredded leaves or similar mulch material can help guard your ground, protecting your plant from winter heaving. When it comes to winter mulching, not all plants are created equal; some are tender, some are hardy.  Follow garden guides or seek advice from your local garden center or Master Gardener program to make sure your mulch layer is the proper thickness.
            Finally, pay attention to our catchall “M,” maintenance. Guard young trees and woody perennials from wildlife damage with tree guards or screens. Take a good look at deciduous trees, now that leaves have fallen, to see where you’ll need extra pruning in the spring. Consider applying plant wrap to young evergreen trunks, especially those with southern exposure, to prevent sun scald – a common winter malady.
            Winter yard prep even goes beyond the plants, to your utilities. Don’t forget to drain and stow hoses, clean and store garden tools, oil wooden handles with linseed oil, and install winter faucet covers on outdoor faucets. That way you’ll be able to keep your equipment in top shape, ready to bring out next spring.


Monday, November 28, 2016

Cyclone Superhauler Makes Moving Firewood Easy

Hauling firewood with a wheelbarrow can be a time-consuming task. The new CycloneSuperhauler makes it simpler to move firewood from the truck or woods to the woodpile. And, with a hauling capacity of up to 800 pounds, the Superhauler brings power and stability to other jobs year-round.
            The Cyclone Superhauler has four wheels, an advantage over trying to balance a load of firewood moved on one or two wheels. The powerful and efficient Briggs & Stratton InStart engine, combined with a U.S.-made no-shift hydrostatic transmission, keeps the loads moving at a steady and stable pace.

            Four wheels also provide hauling stability up and down slopes. The Terra-Traction locking differential drive, quickly engaged with a tap of the foot pedal, gives fuller traction on steep slopes, mud and sand. This makes it easier to bring firewood from the woods to your woodpile – and can reduce the chance for the load spilling on the way.
            Greater load stability also makes it easier to move more wood, faster. Firewood can be stacked in the SuperHauler standard bulk bin or the one-of-a-kind solid-steel FlexiDeck. The FlexiDeck adds versatility for hauling larger items like fence, posts, logs, branches and hay or straw bales.
            The SuperHauler has two front wheel options, turf or all-terrain. Turf tires are gentle on lawns and provide great traction on smooth surfaces – perfect for hauling firewood from the truck, down the driveway and across the yard. All-terrain tires are well-suited for bringing firewood home across mud and sand, the kinds of terrain that can easily bog down other carts and wheelbarrows.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Thanksgiving Décor and More to Help you get Ready for the Holiday

Thanksgiving Day is about giving thanks for good things, with roots of the day in long-celebrated festivals at the end of harvest. For many, Thanksgiving Day is also full of feasting, family, friends and football; the day also marks the start of a very busy holiday season. This year, consider some simple ways you can make your home welcoming for guests while focusing on some show of gratitude for life’s good things.
            Before guests will sit down at your table, they’ll probably sit down somewhere else. A room with a fireplace or wood-burning stove is a great place to congregate. If warmer temperatures have kept you from burning much wood, give yourself a few practice fires or build the fire early to make sure temperatures are just right. Keep the fire a little lower if there are going to be lots of people around, and make sure you have adequate firewood nearby. A stack of wood waiting on the hearth, with a load of wood nearby on the Cyclone Super Hauler, will help keep the fire burning as long as company lingers. There is something about simple conversation around a fire that needs little else to make things memorable.
            When it comes to Thanksgiving décor, aim for simple things that celebrate the season and tradition of giving thanks for good things. Set up a craft table with simple, not-messy Thanksgiving-themed activities for visiting children; Pinterest and other websites abound with clever ideas. If weather permits, get the kids outside to find different hues of fallen leaves. They can be spread around the table centerpiece, or just pasted on some paper and posted where everyone will see.
            Consider a simple table centerpiece, making your own or complementing a purchased centerpiece with your own land’s bounty: gourds or squash grown in your garden, dried seed pods from native plants, evergreens from your yard. Use the centerpiece as a way of starting conversation about how grateful you are for your garden (or to humorously illustrate how your thumb is still not yet green) and invite guests to talk of their own harvests. And don’t feel like you have to go overboard; less is often more on this day when thanks is given for simple things and life’s blessings.

            Less is often more when it comes to the Thanksgiving feast, too. If it won’t create hostility within your guests, consider a potluck style meal where you provide the protein and everyone else pitches in. For those less-inclined toward cooking, suggest fruit or vegetable trays or other healthy sides. And for those who may be feeling a budget crunch this holiday, invite them to come early to help you prepare desserts or appetizers. Whatever else you do: Simply make space, create a place, where your guests will remember the day is about being grateful, especially for life’s basic things.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Honor Our Veterans With Fall Cleanup


        Fall yard cleanup is a way of bringing beauty and order to the yard or landscape. This Veterans Day, you might consider yard cleanup as a nod of appreciation to those who have served a country with a truly beautiful landscape.
            Veterans Day comes at the when many trees have lost their leaves – but homeowners may not yet have finished cleaning them up. It’s also the time of year when fall rainstorms – and snow storms, in some states – bring gusty winds that scatter leaves everywhere. With Veterans Day falling on Friday this year, some people will take the long weekend to finish some fall cleanup chores. While you’re outside, don’t forget to ponder veterans you have known and what they have meant to you, your family, and your country. And, if you happen upon a veteran while running errands or being about town this Veterans Day, consider making a special effort to simply tell them, “Thank you,” for their service.
            Good neighbors often lend a hand to help each other with fall cleanup, and this can especially be helpful for elderly neighbors as winter approaches. Simple expressions of kindness can help build community, and the ability of citizens to build healthy communities is a benefit of living under freedom. Over Veterans Day, consider helping a neighbor with his or her yard chores – particularly if your neighbor’s knees and back are not so young, and especially if he or she just happens to also be a veteran.
If your neighbor is agreeable, you might even use your Cyclone Rake leaf vacuum  to help clean up some of the heavier piles. You would not be the first to lend your time and equipment to helping to making your neighbor’s yard cleanup a bit easier.

            Many of our families also have older vets who served during World War II, Korea and Vietnam. If you have kids, consider teaching them what it means to serve by finishing up some outdoor (or indoor) fall cleanup tasks for those older veterans in your family. That can later be a teachable moment to the next generation about the value of service and remembering to be grateful for veterans who have served.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Watch the Falling Leaves

The beauty of leaves changing color is a big reason to be outside during the fall. Here are some ways to enjoy the changing colors even more this season.
            If your home or yardscape is home to trees with changing leaves, try getting outside and at a different time than usual. An early morning walk around the yard might help you spot sunlight peeking through the changing leaves. A similar effect can be seen close to dusk, as the sun sets and sunlight throws beautiful shadows across the yard. A flashlight, or light from the backyard fire pit, could also help you catch different glimpses of the leaves.
            Try using a camera to capture the changing colors. Shooting pictures from the same angle, at the same time of day, during the days and weeks of fall color. Reviewing the pictures later in the fall or early winter can help you remember the beauty of the fall foliage. Social media users might post their own backyard portraits for friends to see the beauty of the changing landscape.
            Even if your backyard is missing mature deciduous trees, you can still enjoy the changing fall colors. Seek out nearby parks, nature reserves and hiking trails that provide a way for you to walk through the woods. Set aside a couple hours to drive out into the countryside, perhaps heading to a fruit farm or scenic overlook, to take in the fall beauty. You’ll likely be glad you took some extra time to become awestruck by the beauty of the season.