Monday, November 2, 2009

Growing Veggies In The Winter

Various kinds of winter squashes and pumpkins are ideal to plant later in the season and harvest during the late fall and winter. You can harvest your pumpkins and winter squash in late fall or early winter, store them, and enjoy cooking with them well into winter.

Some hot chile peppers are also a good pick for a fall harvest. See this website from the Chile Pepper Institute for tips on growing chiles in the home garden.

Rhubarb is a great plant to start growing late in the season. In some parts of the country, you can grow rhubarb as late as October and November. Rhubarb is a perennial plant that grows for many years. The University of Illinois has a good site about growing rhubarb in the home garden.

If you live in states like California or Florida, you can grow a wider variety of vegetables well into the winter. Try out greens like kale and chard, lettuce, brussel sprouts, broccoli, asparagus, beets, leeks, or carrots.

Depending on the climate of your specific region, you can plant most of these vegetables well into the fall months. However, in some cases it’s best to plant a little earlier to avoid problems with low levels of light and plant pests and diseases.

Vegetables that mature quickly like turnips are okay to plant in the fall. Arugula and spinach are also great greens to plant in cooler months for an early winter harvest. The soil still needs to be above 40 degree F for the seeds to germinate so make sure to test the soil before you plant.

Artichokes are an interesting crop to grow and you can plant them in late fall. Plant artichokes from root stock and you should be able to harvest by early spring.

Sweet peas and fava beans are good to plant in late fall, roughly before Thanksgiving, for an early spring harvest. You can also plant peas in late winter and early spring in many parts of the country.

Onions and other bulb vegetables such as garlic are a good choice for late summer and early fall planting. The size of an onion depends a lot on how much sunlight it gets. Green onions that don’t need to develop bulbs are a good pick to plant all year long as long as the temperatures don’t reach freezing.

Leeks are a great veggie to grow in cooler weather. You can plant them in the summer for a fall or winter harvest. You can also plant them in the fall or winter and harvest the tender leeks in the spring. Leeks planted in the winter will generally not get as big as leeks planted during the summer.

Garlic, onions, leeks, etc. require well draining soil with plenty of organic material mixed in, so try out making your own compost and adding it to the soil before you plant these bulb vegetables.

If you grow herbs in your garden, you can move many of them indoors and enjoy them throughout the winter. This is especially easy to do if you grow them in containers. Perennial herbs like lavender and rosemary are excellent to grow in the winter garden outdoors. They will both survive frost and rosemary is considered an evergreen shrub.

Here, we’ve summarized some basic information on vegetables that are good to grow in the fall and winter. Remember to talk to your extension agent for more information about specific vegetables to grow in your area. Some of these vegetables are great choices for Italian cooking.
Recommended Fall and Winter Vegetables *When to Plant (Ask Your Extension Agent for Specific Dates) Frost Hardy?


Late Summer

Yes, light frost


Mid Summer

Yes, light frost


Mid Summer

Yes, very light frost

Brussels Sprouts

Mid Summer

Yes, heavy frost


Mid to late summer, early fall

Yes, light frost


Late summer, early fall

Yes, light frost


Late summer

Yes, light frost

Fava Beans

Late summer, early fall

Yes, medium to heavy frost


Early fall

Yes, light to medium frost


Mid summer

Yes, medium to heavy frost


Spring, Fall

Yes, light frost


Late summer

Yes, very light frost

Mustard greens

Mid to late summer

Yes, light frost


Late summer

Yes, light to medium frost


Late summer

Yes, light to medium frost


Later summer

Yes, light frost

*Note that these planting dates are listed for a fall and winter garden. Many of these vegetables are appropriate for growing during other seasons as well.

Winter Squash

Winter Squash varieties





Note that late fall and winter is an important time for properly storing your fall vegetable harvest. Store your beans, winter squashes, root crops, etc. in a cool, dry place. If you can spread them out so they’re not touching each other, this will help prevent problems with decay. Monitor your crop to make sure they show no signs of decay or disease.


The best way to find out what you can and can’t grow during fall and winter months (and all year long) is to determine what gardening zone you live in. Gardening zones are also known as USDA Hardiness Zones. What exactly is a gardening zone? The USDA has divided the country into numbered zones based on what plants can grow in certain regions. The zones are defined by what plants can survive the lowest average temperatures of that zone.

There are now 10 different hardiness zones listed throughout the U.S. The higher the number, the higher the average low temperature is. For example, Omaha, Nebraska is located in zone 5, whereas Los Angeles, California is located in zone 10. There is also an 11th zone being considered that would be a 100% “frost free zone.” Honolulu, Hawaii is located in this new zone.

An alternative to the USDA system of hardiness zones is Sunset Magazine’s “Sunset Climate Zones.” This system takes into account such factors as the length of the growing season, rainfall levels and times, winter low temperatures, summer high temperatures, and humidity. The Sunset system is divided into many more different regions, making it more specific than the USDA system.

You can find a clickable Sunset gardening zone map here.

When you buy a plant, you will find information on what hardiness zones it is suitable for. Most plants list a Sunset gardening zone as well. This way you will know if the plant will survive the cold temperatures of your region.

You can also use this handy guide from the Old Farmer’s Almanac to determine the approximate dates of the first fall frost and the last spring frost. They also list the length of the growing season.

This website also has lots of information on the average first and last frost dates, in addition to what kinds of plants grow best in each zone. These dates, along with information about the average length of your growing season, can help you determine when to plant.

If you have any doubts about what to grow, make sure to ask your local extension agent!


Wikipedia has an excellent website with a thorough definition of USDA plant hardiness zones.

See here for a large, clickable hardiness zone map that can help you locate your gardening zone.

See this website from the US National Arboretum for gardening zone information on specific woody perennials.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Control Horse Arena Dust & Dirt

Control Horse Arena Dust and Dirt
Whether you ride indoors or out, take action to keep your arena footing grounded for everyone's health and welfare.
image fpo
Airborne dust is hard on your respiratory system, as well as your horse's.

Imagine inhaling all the dust and debris from your horse arena as you and your horse work hard in the horse arena. On average, a resting horse inhales 150 liters of air per minute. Add in strenuous exercise and your horse could realistically suck in 10 times that volume of arena dust. If your horse is older or has a history of respiratory infections or heaves, he could be even more susceptible to airway problems when breathing in airborne arena dust and dirt.

Arena dust is bad. But, maybe you feel a little helpless to control the micro-climate that is your own personal arena dust storm. How exactly can you keep all that arena dust and dirt from rising? Here are some ideas to help you control arena dust, from economical strategies to more expensive ones:

Dust to Dust
It’s possible your arena is actually a flat spot in your pasture, or that your arena footing is made up of the existing soil or sod. Not a bad place to start in terms of dust control. If you have plans for adding footing, either all at once or over time, you’re a step ahead in terms of choosing a low-dust footing, rather than dealing with a dusty footing already in place. If you’re dealing with existing dusty footing, you have choices to help that situation, too.

Before you can start to control dust, you have to understand where it comes from. Basically, dust is made up of small particles that float or fly through the air, because they aren’t heavy enough to stay grounded.

Sand is a traditional footing in many regions, especially since it’s usually a naturally abundant product. However, depending on where you live, the word “sand” can mean different things. For example, sand derived from the beach is very different in texture and content than glacial sand. What’s contained in that sand also plays a role in how much dust a footing will produce.

Wayne Gregory, general manager of Footing Unlimited in Chicago, points to four causes of dust:

1. Footing containing lightweight particles, such as unwashed sand that contains bits of clay, silt or broken-down organic (naturally occurring) materials. “Imagine the particles of sand are the size of a basketball,” says Gregory. “In comparison, particles of clay are the size of a pinhead.” So, the small bits float into the air, causing dust.
2. Sand pulverized by use. Over time, the weight and concussion of the horse’s hooves on the sand will break individual grains into smaller particles, which then become dust. 3. The arena base, usually made of clay or stone dust, begins to rise through the footing, becoming dust.
4. Manure, a fragile organic material left in the arena, gets broken down into small particles that easily go airborne. To protect you and your horse, keep a manure fork and wheelbarrow close by, and scoop any poop left in the arena after your ride. Then roll it off to your compost bin.

Based on what makes up dust, the basic way we control it is by adding weight to small particles, which then keeps them from floating into the air.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

How to build a duck blind

Researching here this week as duck season is fast approaching. Time to start looking for those duck decoys for sale, tune up your favorite duck calls, and of course find time to build a duck blind! Over the years I have relied heavily on my cheap, homemade duck blind. It has treated me very well over the years. That said, it isn't all that applicable outside of the boat (it works ok when put into the ground, but only in specific circumstances).

To that end, I was on a mission to find a way to build a new duck blind. Ideally it could be used both in the boat and on the ground. At this point you are probably laughing at me since I am asking a lot. Well, you would be right. There isn't anything that really go across both spectrums and does both or either well. To that end, it seems that a couple of blind options are needed. First, if you are hunting the fields and will be in amongst the cut corn, soybeans or wheat, layout blinds are far and away your best option. They are comfortable to sit in and provide great concealment with their low profile and camoflague covering. Add in some vegetation that is native to the area you are hunting and you have a great recipe for success. You can obviously build a higher profile blind yourself for much cheaper, but the results are not as impressive. And really, once you have found that perfect spot being hidden is really the most important part of the hunt (besides shooting straight).

For the boat, a homemade duck blind such as the one I detail here seems to work well. Basically you want to have a barrier from the duck eyes to hide silhouettes and more importantly movement from the blind. To that end, blending in to your surroundings is important. Even better when out in a boat is to stash the boat down the bank from you and wade in the water or stand atop some land and/or cattails to keep the concealment perfect.

What are your thoughts on how to build a duck blind?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Evolution Of The Walkman

Walkman History 101

Olympus Pearlcorder SD w/ Tuner Discussing the beginnings of the walkman probably requires a brief look at the audio scene in the '70s. The audio industry was enjoying success in the growing home stereo market, and the implementation of the transistor for a portable AM band receiver created a pocket radio "boom" in the '60s which continued well into the '70s. "Boomboxes" or battery-powered one-piece stereo systems were growing in popularity near the turn of the decade, with sound eminating through two or more loudspeakers. Consumers appreciated the ability to listen to high fidelity sound without being confined to sitting near a home stereo system. Pocket-sized micro and mini-cassette players were also successfully sold by companies like Panasonic, Toshiba and Olympus.

So, was the development of a "personal" stereo system an obvious step in the evolution of audio? Shu Ueyama of Sony cites that this invention was purely accidental. Organizational changes were taking place at Sony in 1979 and the tape recorder division was pressed to market something soon, or risk consolidation. They came up with a small cassette player capable of stereo playback. The invention was born from a tweaked Pressman (Sony's monaural portable cassette recorder) and a pair of headphones.

Sony chairman and founder Akio Morita heard of the invention and was eager to market it. The final design of the TPS-L2, the personal stereo cassette player was completed on March 24, 1979. Sony then formulated a unique marketing campaign to sell the contraption. But first, what to call it?

Cyan Walkman Logo The name needed to present the idea of portability, so they considered Stereo Walky. Unfortunately, Toshiba was already using the "Walky" name for their portable radio line. The new product was a descendant of the Pressman so Walkman was proposed next. Senior staff responded to this name with doubts, as it sounded like a Japanse phrase clumsily made English. The name would fly in Japan but the product would be marketed in the US as the Sound-About and in the UK as the Stowaway.

Again, senior staff thought twice about the naming conventions--globally marketing a product with regional labels would prove costly, so Walkman was ambivalently accepted as the name of this new personal stereo system.

Walkman Ad 2 The next task was marketing the product. The story behind Sony's market research was legendary: they didn't do it! Said Akio Morita in a 1982 Playboy interview, "The market research is all in my head! You see, we create markets." But how does one convince the public they need a product that they've never owned or seen? The first step was to get the word out to people who had influence on the public, like celebrities and people in the music industry. Sony sent Walkmans to Japanese recording artists, tv and movie stars free of charge. They also began an innovative marketing campaign, targeting younger people and active folks. The Walkman was engineered carefully to make it affordable to this market, priced to be around 33,000 yen (Sony was 33 years old at the time. Coincidence?) The imagery Sony successfully used around their Walkman gave the feelings of fun, youth and most importantly, freedom. Their invention allowed one to bring an exceptional listening experience anywhere.

Stereo Walky Logo The Walkman craze began in Japan and reached the US by 1980. Other audio companies jumped on the personal stereo bandwagon, and by Spring of 1981, at least two dozen companies were selling similar devices, many of which were marketed with catchy names of their own. Toshiba had their Stereo Walky, Infinity had their Intimate, Panasonic sold their Stereo-To-Go, GE marketed their Escape, and even discount audio producer Craig followed suit with the Soundalong. Styles and colors varied from the Walkman, but several key features were found on early models: two headphone jacks (listen with a friend!) separate left and right channel volume controls, and a neat but impractical "hotline" switch, as Sony called it. Pushing this button turned on an ambient microphone so the listener could hear the noise around him instead of the music. Strangely enough, all of these features disappeared from portables a year or two later.

While one may be tempted to criticize these other companies as Walkman "wannabes," We should instead appreciate their accomplishments, for together they provided us with what we refer to as the walkman "Golden Age." Toshiba RP-S2 A marketing person described this movement accurately. "During any product development," he said, "the first few years are associated with innovative design and quality." He's absolutely right. Many personal stereo products emerged and surpassed the Walkman in terms of features and price. Sanyo's M5550 was smaller than the Walkman, more durable with its all-metal chassis and contained a variable tape speed dial. Aiwa, owned by Sony since 1969 created a product line initialized by their TPS30, a personal stereo cassette recorder. Akai's PM-01 had FM tuning capability through the aid of a cassette-shaped radio module. What an incredible concept: in an effort to confine the space of a personal stereo, how can one add features at the same time? The logical, yet nonetheless remarkable idea was to place a radio within an audio cassette chassis and engineer it to send the audio into its cassette player home. Toshiba had the same functionality and offered an AM module, also.

Companies like Infinity worked at sound quality. Their Intimate offered Dolby noise reduction. Koss sold their radio-only Music Box with a set of their well-reputed over-the-ear headphones, and offered circuitry to notify the user when he or she was listening to audio that was "too loud." High grade stereo component manufacturer Proton even stepped into the ring and sold a model that included some hi-tech circuitry previously available only on $1000+ stereo equipment.

Mura Box Many groaned after seeing the $150 price tags of Sony and Toshiba and settled for their $20 earphone-clad radios until names like Unic, Randix Audiologic, Craig and Yorx came along cheap personal stereos. Discount manufacturers seized the opportunity during the portable stereo craze. Products similar in shape and functionality (but not necessarily quality) were marketed as the Walkman, using photographs of people on the go, in sneakers, roller skates and on bicycles. Fortunately, these companies made a personal stereo available for everyone.

Competition was strong as throughout the early '80s and new ideas were popping all of time: Sony feeling the pressure worked on engineering their Walkman line be smaller, while still looking and sounding better. Long Island, New York audio company Mura decided to focus on the radio-only stereo, so they enhanced functionality in their Hi Stepper line. One model even offered TV audio reception. Popular US electronics distributors like Radio Shack, Sears and JC Penney also jumped on the bandwagon by selling their own personal stereos. Walkman Ad Overseas audio manufacturers like Grundig and ITT were selling similar portables that rivaled the quality of Japanese brands. JVC announced the "be-all" of portables in 1982: the CQ-F22K. This was the first portable stereo that included all of the features we're accustomed to having today, like Dolby noise reduction, auto-reverse and AM/FM tuning. Perhaps the most exotic feature offered on a personal stereo at the time was the wireless feature discovered on some gray market Aiwa CS-J1 units. They apparently transmitted an audio signal that would be received by special headphones. Sony offered their affordable Walkman II, or WM-2 in a small, shapely all-metal chassis. This remains the most successful model of all time, selling 2 1/2 million units. By 1983, Everyone was shopping for a personal stereo.

As with any fad, many groups raised concerns with the Walkman. Were we at risk while performing daily activities like driving or walking around town oblivious to the world around us? Would we go deaf or catch brain damage? Would we turn into anti-social creatures, encapsulated in our little personal stereo world? Of course, these concerns didn't slow the Walkman movement even slightly. 16 Candles clip

We caught MTV's tongue-in-cheek airing of "Video Killed the Radio Star," but teenagers didn't think twice about strapping on a pair of samarium cobalt headphones and banging their heads to Autograph's "Turn Up The Radio." The generation gap widened as young people became "wired." With the exception of school, many kids spent their waking days with a personal stereo on the hip.

Several initial players in the personal stereo market dropped out as the '80s endured, but Sony, Aiwa, Toshiba, Sharp, Panasonic and Sanyo thrived. Product lines widened from $25 "disposables" to $200 professional-grade models. Niche models popped up, like Sony's durable Sports line, and Aiwa's featured-packed J Series recorders with stereo microphones and wired remote controls. Perhaps Sanyo and Sharp enjoyed the most success with their inexpensive portables, aimed at young and price-conscious buyers. If you were sick of wasting AA batteries, you had solar-powered walkmans available, like Sony's WM-F107 and Mura's Sun Stepper. Sony and Panasonic even offered models that contained two cassette drives, so you can listen to one cassette right after another, or dub a copy of an original recording.

Signatech Speaker Vest We also noticed the blossoming of an industry to provide aftermarket accessories for personal stereos. We've all had to buy a second set of headphones at some point, some of us purchased little desktop speakers allowing our little personal stereo to become a home one of sorts. Unitech marketed a cushioned vinyl travel bag for your walkman that contained little stereo speakers inside. Simply pop your unit into it and you've got a boombox. Signatech sold a trendy vest that sported loudspeakers on the shoulders and special walkman "pocket" for an audio source.

The walkman craze (note the lower-case "w", as the name was entered into the Oxford English Dictionary in 1986) continued its run, and prices dipped as functionality rose. By 1985 many models featured graphic equalizers for even better sound, tape direction change and auto-reverse features for ease of use. The average model required two batteries, as opposed to the typical four in 1980. Sony announced a belt-free "direct drive" mechanism for remarkably low wow and flutter (terms that describe the warbling noise in audio cassette playback). Panasonic offered their "Radio Card," the thinnest pesonal stereo radio ever.

1986 marks the year that we identify the beginning of the end for the walkman, for it was in this year that Sony announced the D-50, a portable audio device that played a new digital medium called the compact disc. Aiwa J800 The public was eager to hear the "perfect" sound of the CD so they rushed out to grab a "Discman." Audio companies again followed Sony and began focusing their efforts to this new technology. Walkmans didn't wane in popularity initially, for all pre-recorded music was available in cassette form and there was no consumer CD recorder at the time. As we approached the turn of the decade, features digital tuning, clocks, alarms, rechargeable batteries, wireless headphones and logic controls. But the walkman novelty had worn off, replaced by the CD and later the mini-disc.

Today, personal stereo cassette players and radios bear little resemblance to their predecessors from years prior. They're absolutely disposable, averaging $20 in price and offering key features like pastel and chromy colors, rounded edges and clear plastic chassis. Obviously little effort is put into the design or engineering of the walkman, for manufacturers believe the audio cassette is a dying medium, soon to be replaced with the digital technology of hard disks and RAM cards.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Improve your Memory

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Ancient accounts show that early Greek and Roman orators used the "loci" method of remembering long speeches and lists. You may be able to use this method to enhance your memory at test time.

The term loci refers to places or locations. To use the loci system, you will first need to thing of a place or route that you can picture in your head very clearly. It can be your house, your school bus route, or any place that contains clear landmarks or rooms.

For this example, we will use the thirteen original colonies as a list that we want to remember and your house as the method for remembering.

The list of colonies includes:

  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Maryland
  • Virginia
  • Delaware
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • Pennsylvania
  • Massachusetts
  • Connecticut
  • New York
  • Rhode Island
  • Georgia
Now, picture yourself standing outside your house and begin to make connections with words on your memory list. In this case, you could make a mental note that the front of your house faces north and the back faces south. We have our beginning!

North = North Carolina
South = South Carolina

Your tour continues.

    Imagine that you enter your house and see the coat closet. Open the closet door and note the smell. (It helps to invoke all the senses you can in this method). There you see the coat that Aunt Mary gave your mother (Maryland).

    The next room in this imaginary house tour is the kitchen. In this tour, you are suddenly hungry, so you go to the cupboard. All you can find is some virgin olive oil (Virginia). That won't do.

    You turn to the refrigerator and look inside. You know your mom just bought some new ham (New Hampshire) from the deli—but where is it? (Delaware).

    You manage to locate the items and assemble a sandwich. You carry it to your bedroom, because you want to change into your new football jersey (New Jersey).

    You open the closet door and a pen falls on your head from the top shelf (Pennsylvania).

    "What's that doing there?" you think. You turn to put the pen in your desk drawer. When you open the drawer, you see a giant mass of paper clips (Massachusetts).

    You grab a handful, sit down on your bed, and begin to connect them together to form a long chain (Connecticut).

    You realize you're still hungry. You decide you are ready for some dessert. You go back to the kitchen and look in the refrigerator again. You know you'll find some leftover New York cheescake from yesterday (New York).

    It's gone! Your little brother must have finished it off! (Note the shock and anger.)

    You turn to the freezer.

    There are two types of ice cream. Rocky Road (Rhode Island) or Georgia Peach (Georgia). You eat both.

Now look over the list of states again, and think about the place association for each one. It won't be long before you can recite the list of states easily.

This method can be used for remembering a list of objects or a list of events. All you need is key words and associations for them.

It may help you to come up with funny things that occur along your path. Emotion and sensory experiences will reinforce the information and enhance the exercise.