‘Tis the Season for Snow Blowers

Snow Removal Made Easy

The lawn mower has been retired as winter roars back onto the scene. For many people, that means it’s time for the snow blower to make a command performance. Whether needed for a driveway, sidewalk or just to get around, a snow blower really comes in handy. It is an excellent choice for clearing dense, compacted and/or deep snow. It has an easily adjustable chute deflector and power-driven wheels, which can disengage independently to assist in turning. When choosing the right snow blower for your home, consider the size of the area that will be cleared, the time you have to do the task and the amount of snowfall you normally have each year. You will find many varieties. Snow blowers provide great help to those people whose physical condition is not very good. If you live in an area which gets a great deal of snow, you probably own a snow shovel and get a lot of exercise shoveling off your sidewalks. If you’re fit, then certainly you’ll have no problem with that…unless you’ve got three sidewalks and a driveway to do. Everyone reaches a point when it’s best if they don’t do that kind of hard physical activity – and that’s where the snow blower comes in. 

Blowers Work Well on Dense, Compacted Snow

Snow blowers are an excellent choice for clearing dense, compacted and/or deep snow. They have an easily adjustable chute deflector and power-driven wheels, which can disengage independently to assist in turning. When choosing the right snow blower for your home, consider the size of the area that will be cleared, the time you have to do the task and the amount of snowfall you normally have each year.

 Single-Stage Snow Blowers

The single-stage blower is a light duty machine, which uses a single high-speed impeller to pull in snow and expel it from a discharge chute. For an average suburban home with a driveway and sidewalk, a single-stage snow blower is the way to go. They are relatively lightweight and affordable, and are capable of handling up to eight inches of snow. Although technically not self-propelled, the auger (shaped like a corkscrew) moves the machine along with its rotating action as it scoops up snow and throws it through the chute. These blowers use a single high-speed impeller to both move the snow into the machine and force it out the discharge chute. The impeller is usually in the form of two or more curved plastic paddles that move snow towards the centerline of the machine where the discharge chute is located.

Two-Stage Snow Blowers

Two-stage blowers, as the name implies, get rid of the snow in two stages. An auger is used to break up the snow first, and then it is sucked into the impeller and blown out through the discharge chute. This type of blower is used if your area typically gets snowfalls of more than a foot or more at a time.

Time and Back Savers

Properly used, a snow blower can save you a lot of time and backache. There are many manufacturers, including Honda, John Deere, Sears-Craftsman and Toro. The best time to buy a snow blower is after the season has ended, when they all go on sale.

 

Importance of Mulching Lawn Clippings

 

 

Mulching Saves Time, Money, Labor

There are a number of levels that mulching is great for your lawn. Whether you are mulching leaves or returning lawn clippings back into the lawn, mulching saves time, money, labor, and is a great soil amendment. There is really no need for raking, bagging, or hauling away either leaves or clippings.

Mulch Lawn Clippings Back Into Lawn

As a rule lawn clippings should always be mulched back into the lawn. The benefits of mulching lawn clippings are too numerous and valuable to ignore. From providing nutrients for the soil to saving significant amounts of time and money, mulching the lawn clippings just makes sense. Similar to mulching leaves into the lawn in the fall, lawn clippings add valuable organic matter to the soil.

Mulching Leaves Into the Soil

If after mulching leaves into your lawn you find you have an abundance remaining, it is a good idea to use them as mulch for gardens and planting beds or as filler for your compost pile. You should not be putting them on the curb – especially if they are bound for the landfill. Leaves are free organic matter and should be used on the property they came from when possible. A study by Michigan State University indicates that mulching is 100 percent beneficial for the lawn. Oak leaves and maple leaves were mulched and redistributed through the lawn and found to have a negligible or beneficial effect on turf quality and color. Mulched sugar maple leaves even displayed an inhibitory effect on broadleaf weed seeds like dandelion. While the study somewhat reveals a negligible effect of mulch on the lawn, mulching the leaves back into the lawn is cost effective and labor saving compared with other methods of dealing with leaves. Mulching leaves is inherently better for not just the biodiversity and organic matter of the soil but the greater community by keeping them out of bags and landfills. Mulching leaves into the lawn adds organic matter, which most soils are lacking. Mulched leaves get broken down by earthworms and microorganisms and turned into plant usable organic matter. In an organic lawn care environment, mulching makes perfect sense, as the benefits are agronomic, financial, and environmental.

Mulching Mowers, Kits Emphasized

Mulching is best accomplished with a mulching mower, which is just like any other mower with a few modifications. Mulching kits are usually an option available to mowers at the time of purchase, but mowers can easily be retrofitted as well. Special “mulching” blades with extra cutting surfaces are used in conjunction with added baffling underneath the mower. The output or chute is blocked to trap the clippings underneath the deck. The baffling helps move the clippings around and allows them to be cut multiple times and blown down into the surface of the lawn.

Common Sense Guidelines to Follow

To avoid disappointing results with mulching leaves into the soil practice some common sense guidelines. Do not mulch to the point where the grass is smothered. The lawn should still be vertical and visible through the layer of mulched leaves. In certain areas it may help to spread the mulch around from thick spots to areas with thinner mulch distribution. If there is an overwhelming abundance of leaves it may be wise to collect a portion to use in flowerbeds, gardens, or compost pile. The lawn is only one beneficial area to use mulched leaf material. The overall goal should be to avoid raking, collecting, handling and disposing off-site of all leaves. This would save untold quantities of money, labor and resources.

 

 

 

Be Informed on Generators

How to Buy a Generator

An important key to buying a generator is to make sure you get one that is rated for the amount of power that you think you will need. Look at the labels on lighting, appliances, and equipment you plan to connect to the generator to determine the amount of power that will be needed to operate the equipment. For lighting, the wattage of the light bulb indicates the power needed. Appliances and equipment usually have labels indicating power requirements on them. Choose a generator that produces more power than will be drawn by the combination of lighting, appliances, and equipment you plan to connect to the generator including the initial surge when it is turned on. If your generator does not produce adequate power for all your needs, plan to stagger the operating times for various equipment. If you cannot determine the amount of power that will be needed, ask an electrician to determine that for you. (If your equipment draws more power than the generator can produce, then you may blow a fuse on the generator or damage the connected equipment.)

Safety Measures to Take for Portable Generator

Do not operate a portable generator inside a garage, carport, basement, crawlspace, or other enclosed or partially enclosed area, even with ventilation. Opening doors and windows or using fans will not prevent CO buildup in the home. The CO from generators can rapidly lead to full incapacitation and death, but CO can’t be seen or smelled. Even if you cannot smell exhaust fumes, you may still be exposed to CO. If you start to feel sick, dizzy, or weak while using a generator, get to fresh air right away. Because you may have windows open to get fresh air while the power is out, be sure to place the generator away from windows, doors, and vents that could allow CO to come indoors. To avoid electrocution, keep the generator dry and do not use in rain or wet conditions. To protect the generator from moisture, operate it on a dry surface under an open canopy-like structure, such as under a tarp held up on poles. Do not touch the generator with wet hands. It is a good idea to install battery-operated CO alarms or plug-in CO alarms with battery back-up in your home, according to the manufacturer’s installation instructions. If CO gas from the generator enters your home and poses a health risk; the alarm will sound to warn you. Test the battery frequently and replace when needed.

Connecting to the Generator

Plug appliances directly into the generator. Or, use a heavy duty, outdoor-rated extension cord that is rated (in watts or amps) at least equal to the sum of the connected appliance loads. Check that the entire cord is free of cuts or tears and that the plug has all three prongs, especially a grounding pin. Never try to power the house wiring by plugging the generator into a wall outlet, a practice known as “back feeding.” This is an extremely dangerous practice that presents an electrocution risk to utility workers and neighbors served by the same utility transformer. It also bypasses some of the built-in household protection devices.

Other Details You Need to Know

Be sure to turn the generator off and let it cool down before refueling. Gasoline spilled on hot engine parts could ignite. Store fuel for the generator in an approved safety can. Use the type of fuel recommended in the instructions or on the label on the generator. Local laws may restrict the amount of fuel you may store, or the storage location. Ask your local fire department for additional information about local regulations. Store the fuel outside of living areas in a locked shed or other protected area. Do not store it near a fuel-burning appliance, such as a natural gas water heater in a garage. If the fuel is spilled or the container is not sealed properly, invisible vapors from the fuel can travel along the ground and can be ignited by the appliance’s pilot light or by arcs from electric switches in the appliance.

How to Use a Generator at Home

The primary hazards to avoid when using a generator are carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from the toxic engine exhaust, electric shock or electrocution, and fire. Follow the directions supplied with the generator. Every year, people die in incidents related to portable generator use.

Future Generator Safety Considerations

The only recommended method to connect a generator to house wiring is by having a qualified electrician install a power transfer switch. This switch must be installed in accordance with the National Electrical Code® (NEC), which is published by the National Fire Protection Association, as well as all applicable state and local electrical codes. Call a qualified electrician or check with your utility company to see if they can install the appropriate equipment.

For power outages, permanently installed stationary generators are better suited for providing backup power to the home. Even a properly connected portable generator can become overloaded. This may result in overheating or stressing the generator components, possibly leading to a generator failure. Be sure to read instructions that come with the generator to make sure you operate it within its limitations for power output.

 

What You Need to Know Before Getting Log Splitter

Determine Needs Before Getting Lot Splitter

Whether renting or buying, the process of getting a log splitter can take some time when you have to determine which one will be the best for your needs at the most economical price. If you are preparing to split large amounts of wood and have to do so on a regular basis, a heavy-duty log splitter may be the best choice. If the logs are relatively small and the wood is of a softer sort, a 12 ton would be most likely be sufficient with a 20 ton being the better choice for woods which have an unknown consistency. The wood’s hardness should also impact the decision, as the log’s size and the amount of wood are not the sole aspects to consider. For woods that are harder, it is best to use one with a higher tonnage. 

Questions to be Answered

If you are planning on sharing your log splitter with family members or neighbors, the majority of log splitters come equipped with a means to transport the equipment such as wheels. The smaller the splitters, the more easily the equipment can be lifted into a vehicle or a truck’s bed while a larger splitter is able to be towed behind trucks or four-wheelers if you possess a hitch. Fortunately, the majority of log splitters can be transported. Another question that needs to be answered is what type of splitter will fit your needs. There are a number of different types of log splitters that are available for purchase under two categories of operation…gas or electric. It largely depends upon the fuel form that is used. If you are located in a location, which is remote, the best choice is probably a manual splitter. If you are located near an outlet, an electric splitter would be beneficial. In order to ensure the utmost portability in large projects, a gas hydraulic splitter is probably the best choice. Although shopping locally may be more fun, it is typically cheaper to shop online. However, be careful about shipping as large splitters may cost a lot to ship due to their weight. 

Operation of the Log Splitter

To operate the splitter, the log is placed on the platform up against the splitter plate. When the machine is turned on, the splitter plate passes towards the sharp wedge at the machine’s end. The log is then pushed against the equipment’s wedge, thereby splitting it in two.

Quality is largely determined by the price of the equipment. Log splitters cut down on the time and energy it takes to clean up after felling a tree or getting firewood ready for winter. However, when using a log splitter or other outdoor power equipment, it’s particularly important to pay attention to the instructions to ensure safe operation.  

Know Safety Tips Before Firing Up Splitter

It is important to know how to stop the machine and disengage quickly. Never allow children under 16 years old to operate this machine. Children 16 years old and over should read and understand instructions and log splitter safety rules in this manual and should be trained and supervised by a parent. Many accidents occur when more than one person operates the machine. Keep bystanders, pets and children at least 20 feet from the machine while it is in operation. Do not use this machine for any other purpose than splitting wood. Always wear safety shoes or heavy boots when using a log splitter. Wear safety glasses or safety goggles whenever operating this machine. Never wear jewelry or loose clothing that might become entangled in moving or rotating parts of outdoor power equipment. Always block the machine to prevent unintended movement, and lock in either horizontal or vertical position. Cut logs so they have square ends prior to splitting.

 

Much to Consider with Aerial Lifts

Aerial Lifts Come in Variety of Styles

Those days when discussions of aerial lifts were limited to bucket trucks are gone. In researching current aerial lift devices, you will find a huge array of packages, capabilities, options and even power sources. While truck-mounted lifts are still available and an excellent choice for many tree care companies, the variety of aerial devices available, along with the wide variety of prices, has made some type of aerial lift a much more feasible and affordable option for almost every interested tree care company. Traditional bucket truck-type lifts require that companies consider how they want the truck configured – just to transport the lift, or with some form of chip storage ability added. Tow-behind or self-propelled stand-alone lifts lead to their own transportation concerns. Along with these choices come decisions regarding boom length and height, as well as power options. Instead of being overwhelmed by all these choices, the tree industry should rejoice that there are finally options that fit all work sites and budgets.

Regardless of which aerial lift option or package a company elects to purchase, it will be a substantial investment. The common thought process that any new tree crew member can run an aerial lift is a good way to substantially increase that investment through repairs, maintenance or, sadly, medical costs. Fortunately, a few basic principles and concepts can provide a framework of useful rules for these useful tools.

Regular Maintenance Required

There is not one type of lift, regardless of power source, package or transport, that will not require daily, weekly and monthly maintenance. These requirements will be clearly stated in the owner’s manual. These manuals are full of useful, important and possibly life-saving information.

If nothing else, a simple safety and function check should always take place prior to aerial lift operation. This check will vary depending on the type and capabilities of the lift, but should include an inspection for loose pieces/parts, cracked or leaking hoses, and wear on metal/fiberglass components. The device should also be put through its “paces” with no one in the bucket or on the platform to ensure that it’s functioning correctly.

Multiple Skills Needed to Operate Lift

Aerial lift operation is certainly not as physically demanding as climbing, yet it requires a fine touch on the controls and an ability to think within the space of the tree’s canopy, the platform/bucket and the boom. A tree care professional should avoid the tendency to make cuts simply to gain access for the bucket or boom when operating a lift, as these “convenience cuts” certainly don’t fall under the heading of tree care. Aerial lifts are not going to be the best option for every tree or job, but neither is climbing; and many jobs may require a combination of both. Rather than settling into an antagonistic stance toward one skill or the other – and both are definitely skills – tree care professionals would be best served by remembering that a true profession requires multiple skills, and being adept at multiple skills is the sign of a true professional.

Important to Choose Where, How to Set Up Lift

The choices made on where and how to set up the aerial lift, regardless of type, are important for its safe and efficient operation. Climbers don’t often have to worry about soft ground beneath the tree they’re working in, or an old septic tank or newly filled trench, but an aerial lift operator can’t ignore such variables. Aerial lifts often allow the operator to put himself in a safe, stable position to make chain saw cuts aloft. The extra time spent setting up the lift properly will be much cheaper than the alternative of a lift turned “turtle.” Any tires that are part of an aerial lift should be chocked as required. A rolling or shifting lift with a rider aloft is much more serious and dangerous than a nightmare carnival ride.