Do you want a fireplace for your backyard? With so many outdoor models available, you should take the time to find one that suits your needs. Here are a couple of things to think about.
One of the first decisions you’ll need to make is whether you want a fireplace that uses wood or gas. While wood-burning fireplaces are easy to install and give off a pleasant aroma, they require regular maintenance. You’ll also need somewhere to store the logs, and some municipalities have restrictions on the use of wood firepits.
Contrarily, fireplaces that run on natural gas or propane are easy to maintain. Another advantage is that you can adjust the intensity of the flames with the push of a button. However, you must be able to connect it to a gas line or willing to periodically refill the tank.
Consider how you want to use your outdoor fireplace. If you want to make it a gathering place for friends and family, opt for a round model. To create a relaxing corner where you can curl up in privacy, a rectangular fireplace may be more suitable. If you plan to cook over the embers, choose a model with a grill.
Finally, keep in mind your budget and space limitations when shopping for an outdoor fireplace. Consult the staff at your local hardware store for additional advice.
Plan now for next year’s family reunions
July is one of the most popular months for family reunions. Virtually everyone takes a few days off, so even if relatives have to come some distance, they can make it.
Independence Day may not be appropriate for odd-number family reunions, but for a well-publicized 10th, 20th, or 25th, you can add fireworks for a “popping” good time.
For a good crowd at a 2023 reunion on the Fourth, now is the time to start sending letters to your scattered family members, or use form letters with personal notes. People will be hesitant to plan something else for that time and could use the reunion as the centerpiece for next year’s vacation. If you hold the reunion at a resort, out-of-towners will have more entertainment and a place to stay.
Discuss it with key people in your family.
Ask for a reply by midyear. A few people will commit early. When you send a follow-up letter, you could mention people of interest who will be present.
Fun summer finance lessons for the kids
Dread it. Run from it. Summer arrives all the same. Kids once stuck in school now have some weeks to unwind. While summer was initially set aside so kids could help with farming, few get behind the plow these days. Children definitely deserve some R&R, but the summer offers a great opportunity to build life skills, like finance and budgeting, as well.
Sound like a drag? Approached wrong, it could be. However, finance can be fun and help prepare kids for adulthood. Heading off for a vacation? Instead of buying mementos on-demand, give your children a fixed souvenir budget upfront. You might also set monthly entertainment budgets to cover trips to the movies, video games, participating in sports leagues, and whatever else.
A survey by Braun Research found that just 28 percent of children do chores around the house. If your kids don’t have an allowance and chores, set them up. Talk with them about what they can do around the house. Sure, it’s often quicker to unload the dishwasher or fold the laundry yourself. Yet the end goal isn’t simply cups in cupboards, but teaching your children the value of earning money.
Some families let kids choose what’s for dinner on certain nights. Why not take things a step further? Instead of simply selecting the meal, you could provide a grocery budget so they can buy the ingredients needed for their cuisine of choice. Then, together, you can cook dinner.
Have older teens? Consider a finance movie night. Yes, really, finance movies. Those are a thing, and some of them are awesome. Two of the best are Margin Call and The Big Short. Both cover the 2008 financial crisis and make complex financial topics accessible. Beware that some, like Wolf of Wall Street, push the upper bounds of R ratings.
Are you using too much drinking water?
If you’ve decided to adopt environmentally responsible practices at home, you may need to adjust your purchasing and energy consumption habits. However, have you considered how you use your drinking water? Here’s what you need to know.
Water flows from the faucet on demand, giving you the sense that it’s an infinite resource. But wastewater treatment is costly, both economically and environmentally. Eliminate some of the following bad habits to reduce your daily water consumption.
• Cooking vegetables in a whole pot of water rather than steam cooking
• Waiting for the tap water to run cold before filling your glass
• Letting the water run while brushing your teeth or shaving
• Using tap water to clean the yard
• Taking frequent baths or long showers
• Flushing with just a little urine in the toilet
• Using drinking water on your trees, flower beds, and vegetable garden
There are many strategies to reduce your water consumption. Use a rainwater collection system to reduce tap water usage in your garden. In addition to limiting your shower time, you can install low-flow toilets and faucets in your bathroom. For cold drinking water, simply keep a full pitcher in the refrigerator. A front-loading washing machine is another water-saving solution.
Did you know?
Roughly 30 percent of tap water consumed by American households is used outdoors. A rainwater collection system can help you significantly reduce your tap water usage.
6 tips for growing rhubarb
Here are six tips for growing rhubarb in your backyard.
1. Choose a sunny location with rich, relatively moist soil. Ideally, pick somewhere other than your vegetable garden. Rhubarb takes up a lot of space and can cover up smaller plants.
2. Allow at least three feet between your rhubarb and other plants. This ensures it has plenty of room to spread out.
3. Apply compost and all-purpose organic fertilizer annually. Make sure to read the package instructions for the proper application.
4. Remove weeds at the base of the rhubarb plant to avoid attracting pests like weevils. Make sure to remove wilted stems to promote growth regularly.
5. During dry spells and intense heat, water your plant in the evening to prevent shock. Avoid getting the leaves wet, and don’t oversaturate the soil.
6. Don’t pick any rhubarb the first year. Wait until the third year to harvest heavily. However, never pick all the stems because this can weaken the plant.
Talk to your local garden center staff for more tips and advice.
Keep kids reading with these summer challenges
School’s out, but that doesn’t mean a break from learning. Books are the perfect screen-free activity when it’s rainy or too hot to play outside, and with a few incentives, kids will keep their brains busy all summer long.
Mega-bookseller Barnes & Noble offers extensive summer reading lists for all ages and preferences on their website and offers a free book incentive for kids who finish enough books and fill out a reading journal. Visit https://www.barnesandnobleinc.com/our-stores-communities/summer-reading-program/ for more information.
Scholastic’s Summer Reading program provides books, kid-friendly activities, and monitored online spaces so kids can safely connect with other readers. Visit https://www.scholastic.com/site/summer-reading.html for more information.
Showcase Cinemas’ Bookworm Wednesdays program lets kids earn free admission to a select children’s movie in exchange for book reports about their summer reading picks. With free admission for any accompanying parents or guardians and children under six, you can make it a family event.
Your local public library is also an excellent place to connect your favorite kid with a summer reading challenge or just give them a steady supply of free, age-appropriate books.
How much mulch?
Organic mulch is a powerful tool for gardeners. However, it’s not always easy to calculate how much you need to cover your flower beds. Here’s what you need to know.
Why you should use mulch
Mulch is a layer of organic material that covers the soil around trees, shrubs, and flowers. Whether it’s made of cedar, cocoa shells, hemlock or bark, it’s an essential element for beautiful, healthy flowerbeds. Mulch helps:
• Slow down weed germination
• Keep the soil cool
• Preserve soil moisture
• Reduce the number of insects and diseases
• Enrich the soil through decomposing
How much mulch do you need?
Most greenhouses and big-box stores sell mulch in two cubic feet bags. Moreover, horticulturists agree you should lay down at least three inches of mulch.
One cubic foot of mulch covers about four square feet of space to a thickness of three inches. Therefore, a standard bag would cover about eight-square feet of space. To calculate the total square feet to cover, divide it by eight to get the number of bags to buy.
For example, for a garden bed measuring 20 feet by six feet, the calculation would be 20’ x 6’ = 120 square feet to cover; 120 square feet ÷ 8 square feet = 15 bags.
Some nurseries carry mulch in bulk or sell it by the square yard, equivalent to 27 cubic feet. You would probably need about one square yard for an average-sized project: 27 cubic feet ÷ two cubic feet (one bag) = 14 bags; 14 bags x 8 square feet = 112 square feet covered.