Three Tips for a Safe Cookout

200295822-001Cooking outdoors makes for a wonderful family meal or a great dinner party. That’s all the more reason to make sure you follow a few simple safety tips. For many outdoor cooks, refrigeration and the closest sink, is located inside the house and away from the grill. Chances are there won’t be any food safety related problems during your next outdoor grilling session but I thought sharing three safety tips would be a good idea.

Wash Your Hands

Have you read the articles about shopping cart contamination? Research from the University of Arizona found that 72 percent of shopping carts that were tested were found to be contaminated with fecal matter and a solid 50 percent also contained E.coli. How does that translate to outdoor cooking? Simple, wash your hands. Because of the outdoor setting you may be separated from your sink. Think about it. How many times do you wash your hands, rinse items and wipe down surfaces when you’re cooking in your kitchen. Hopefully the answer is either “a bunch” or “too many times to count.” This act cuts down on cross contamination.

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Preparing for a Pet’s 911

feline first aid kitAs an avid pet owner, I always hope that I am not put in a situation where a pet emergency occurs.  But while I hope this situation never arises, it is always good to create an emergency prevention arrangement and have a plan for dealing with pet emergencies.

Information Tags

Having a pet tag on your furry loved one is a great way of preventing a disaster.  Many times pets are lost and the information about their owners does not exist.  A simple pet tag that you can get from your veterinarian will save you time and worry if your pet gets out.  Also if there is a residential emergency, such as a tornado or fire, this information can help guide rescue personal on how to handle this lost pet.

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Add a Touch of Whimsy to Any Garden Space with Decorative Sculptures by Outdora

sunflower_sculptureA garden space is not limited to plant material, but can also include decorative elements, such as stepping-stones, birdbaths, and decorative containers.  Did you know that decorative sculptures are not limited to European plazas or museums?  They can also be used in the home garden, but before you think that your home needs to be a castle to be able to afford decorative art, lets take a look at what Outdora sells and how to use it.

Brown Thumb Gardeners

Brown thumb gardeners can have a hard time creating and maintaining a healthy garden.  Many gardens owned by this type of gardener can be seen as full of weeds and/or dead plant material.  A simple solution to this problem is through the use of garden sculptures.  Outdora sells many styles that mimic their natural counterparts.  This includes several that look like flowers. Sprinkling a few natural rust patina garden iris or lily sculptures can go a long way in brightening up a brown thumb gardener’s space.  The best part of using these “flowers” is that even the least experienced gardener can grow them.

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The True Facts About Cold Frames and Hotbeds

cold_frame_greenhouseA great way of extending the growing season or getting a jump on the garden is by using a cold frame.  But are you aware that a cold frame and hotbed is the same thing?  If not, come join me in the world of cold frames, hotbeds and sustainability.

Whether you are talking about Outdora’s Redwood Cold Frame Starter Box Greenhouse or the Solexx Deluxe Cold Frame, the general definition is the same.  A cold frame is solely heated by the sun and is normally used for cool-season or Cole crops.  A hotbed is artificially heated in some way and is typically used for warm-season crops, such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants.

Both of these structures can be directly planted into or seeded flats can be placed inside each.  To maximize the amount of sunlight that is typically available during the spring and fall when these structures are used, the cold frame/hotbed is normally painted white or silver on the inside.  Both of these colors reflect the light back onto the plants, which aids them in the photosynthetic process.

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The History of Finials

finial_fleur_di_lisA finial is a terminal structure at the top of a spire, gable, gatepost, pinnacle or other point of relative height.  This height can also occur at the end of flagpoles and even curtain rods.  But are you aware that the concept of finials came from a unique type of architecture and culture?  They did and without them our buildings would simply consist of four walls and a roof.

Finials are just part of a building structure that was invented by Asian cultures around 711 A.D.  This type of style is referred to as a pagoda.  In this type of architecture a building of stone, brick or wood is built around a staircase.  There is always an odd number of floors and each eave is decorated with iron or copper accents and fancy woodwork.  A central finial is placed on the very top with small finials decorating the upturned corners of each eave.

From this point, pagodas begin to change with the influence of the Buddhist religion.  At this point, finials began to take the shape of an elongated lotus bud.  This bud represents several things depending on its shape.  A closed bud represents the potential for enlightenment while an open bud represents rebirth.

The Japanese designed roofs that were straight and topped them with a finial made of iron or copper.  Symbolism was still used and represented concepts from Buddhist history.  This included sacred wheel, the water flame, and nine rings stacked vertically to represent the Buddhist deities.  Ones topped by a sphere, such as the Avalon or Gawain finial, represent heaven and earth.

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The History of Birdbaths and Birdfeeders

bird_feederThe invention of birdbaths and birdfeeders came about when humans started living in villages.  While we liked the convenience of city living we still desired to have wildlife around us.  Some wildlife was easy to attract due to our habitats but quickly became a nuisance.  Birds, on the other hand, were attracted to our crops and in doing so could become a problem.  But through the study of birds or ornithology, we quickly learned how to attract birds that brought pleasure verses those that could destroy crops.

To attract birds to your backyard, one must provide the basic requirements of life.  One of the easiest things that you can provide birds is a source of water.  The first birdbaths were depressions in the ground, shallow streams, holes in rocks or any other surface that would hold water.  Birds would land near the area to drink and bathe.  As mankind observed this behavior, they desired to mimic it.  The Pulham & Sons Company developed the first recorded birdbath in Europe in the 1840s.  This company specialized in rockery, garden fountains and outdoor ornaments.  They also made fountains, which became the forefather of the birdbaths.  Today, many different styles of birdbaths can be found.  This includes ones that light up, such as the Country Gardens Solar Birdbath and a hanging version, such as the Whitehall Rose Hanging Birdbath.

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The History of Common Garden Tools

garden_toolsGarden tools are not a modern day invention.  Their history coincides with human development and can begin around 10,000 years ago.  This is the period when the earliest record of garden tool use can be found.  This coincides with the Neolithic period and the domestication of plants.

The microlith was invented during this time period and consisted of a small sharp stone blade that was set into a handle made of wood, bone or antler.  This was the first multi-tool.  It resembles a small spade and can be used to dig, clip and cut plant material.  It can also be used to clear land but this time period also gave birth to many other gardening tools.  This included the hoe, garden plow, and scythe.  All these tools were made the same and consisted of a stone shaped tool that was attached to a handle made from natural material.

The Bronze Age saw the development of the smelting process.  This process took tin, copper, and iron and separated these into their ores.  The purified ore was then turned into metals that could be worked easily.  Tools made from this new material were solid pieces that were sharper and could last longer.

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The History of Container Gardening

Square Planter GardenContainer gardening history spans the globe.  The idea for container gardening actually started out as society started living in cities and wanted to mimic the natural growth pattern of plants close to their home.  This concept was utilized in one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

In Babylonia 604 B.C., the “hanging gardens” could be found.  These gardens were not planted in hanging baskets but instead were planted on top of stone columns.  The vegetation would hang over the columns and in doing so would resemble “hanging gardens.”  The plant material would be watered in a mysterious way and that is water would run from the tops of the columns down through the vegetation.  The water never seemed to end and came from nowhere.

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