5 Steps to No Drainage Problems!

1. The best time to check on your drain issues is to wait until it is pouring down rain and go outside with your umbrella to watch the water movement around the house and property.

Make sure to check out the water draining from the roof. Determine if all of the water is draining through the down spouts. Look for water running over the gutter like a giant waterfall.

Many times on large two story homes, the large roof area from the upper roof maybe draining down to a very short piece of gutters. This is a great place for a waterfall.

Are there low spots in the lawn where water is remaining for long periods of time? Make sure to look at the water drain from the driveway. A large volume may need to be piped into the backyard corner or drainage ditch. In order to count this a problem a large catch Basin may need to be installed at the back end of the driveway.

2. You must keep the water away from the house foundation so it will not cause a problem in the crawl space or basement.

Excess water entering the house may cause mildew and mold to form on the walls and floor.

3. Now the hard part is how to solve the problems! Make sure that the gutter can handle the water volume. If the answer is no, larger gutter may be needed or additional down spouts may need to be installed.

After the gutter issues has been taken care of, pipe out the down spouts by installing at least a 4 inch solid drain pipe to the street or the back corner of the backyard. If you are connecting more than one down spout to a drain pipe, a large pipe may be needed.

Low areas in the yard can sometimes be solved by adding topsoil to correct the problem.

4. French drains which include a drain pipe with slits in it and I prefer that the pipe has a mesh sock on the outside. Install this pipe with gravel around it in poor drained areas.

Remember, drain pipe must be sloping down hill to drain. Check the slope of the pipe with a 4 ft. level all the way through before back fill with gravel.

5. Shrub planting areas may require French drains for proper plant growth. Ground covers and grass can help slow down the water flow across your property.

A retaining wall may be needed to prevent drainage from adjacent properties. After the wall is installed install gravel and a drain pipe to carry the water away to the street or stream.

Solving your drain problems will cut down on your exterior maintenance problems for the future and provide a peace of mind.

Mental Health Maintenance Is Made Simple

Your mental health is often drastically improved when you use the techniques Dr. Kuhn teachers in this article. When you are able to experience this improvement, your relationships blossom, career paths open, and people find you attractive and accessible. You deserve to have fun and joy in your life – and Cliff Kuhn, MD will help you do that.

In the classic Frank Capra film, It's a Wonderful Life, George Bailey's mental health is overwhelmed by the difficulties of his life and he wishes he'd never been born. George's guardian angel grants his wish and takes him to a grim reality as it would've been without him. George feels nothing when he reaches into his coat pocket to retrieve the flower his daughter, Zuzu, placed there – and that's when George knows that his wish has come true … he's never been born.

Wishing she had never been born, Roberta became my patient, seeking to improve her mental health. Like the fictional George Bailey character, Roberta's depression and anxiety had grown so strong as to threaten her ability to lead any semblance of a normal life. Fortunately for Roberta, she soon discovered exactly why the natural medicine of humor is one of the most powerful adjunctive treatments for improving mental health, because humor literally pours water on the fire of depression and anxiety.

Roberta is not alone. As many as 35% of all Americans suffer from depression and anxiety, the twins that make mental health elusive for millions. Your depression and anxiety is exacerbated by your seriousness – taking yourself too seriously. As we move into adulthood, we unfortunately buy into the notification that responsible and productive people must be "serious." As we make the biggest mistake of our lives and relegate our humor nature and fun to recreational activities (if we experience fun at all), we doom ourselves to all the symptoms of the corresponding seriousness that fills the void – declining health, rising stress, increased pain, lessened energy, impaired creativity, and more.

The good news for your mental health, however, is that we know how to shrink your deadly seriousness to practically nothing and reduce almost completely the sway it holds over your health, vitality, wellness, and zest. The natural medicine of humor is an incredibly powerful resource that you already possess; you've only forgotten how to use it to maximum effectiveness. You will soon discover that, while not a panacea, the natural medicine of humor is a tremendous tonic for depression or anxiety and will also supercharge other treatments because it is an amazing adjunctive medicine too!

I have distilled the natural medicine of humor, through my years of medical practice, into an amazing prescription I call The Fun Factor. Based on what I learned over twenty years ago from a terminally ill fifteen-year-old patient, I created a unique set of principles I call the Fun Commandments, then forged these Commandments into my Fun Factor prescription and have been prescribed The Fun Factor with great success for years. This report will show you how to use just three of my Fun Commandments to turn your mental health around, and gain new joy, pleasure, and appreciation from your life!

Improve Your Mental Health Using My Fun Factor Prescription

Step One: Always Go the Extra Smile

The first Fun Commandment I recommend for improved mental health is: Always Go the Extra Smile. This Commandment is doubly helpful for depression and anxiety because not only does it provide measurable emotional and physical relief, but it also is completely under your control – regardless of your circumstances. Because smiling remains entirely under your control, it can be your greatest resource for using humor's natural medicine to accelerate your mental health.

Smiling produces measurable physical benefits you can experience immediately: your stress decreases, your immunity improvements, your pain and frustration tolerance increases, and your creativity soars. And guess what? You experience all these benefits even if your smile is "fake." That's right … forcing a smile onto your face perks up your immune system and lightens your mood just as readily as a genuine smile. Fake a smile and you'll soon feel well enough to wear a real one!

This is great news for your proactive stance on sustainable mental health. You have an amazing amount of pre-emptive control over your mood – you can, literally, choose more energy and happiness. The key for your use of this Fun Commandment in enhancing your mental health is to start practicing right now, so that smiling becomes an entrenched, habitual method of accessing the natural medicine of humor. If you wait to smile until your mental health has taken a turn for the worse, and depression or anxiety has taken hold of you, it will not be as effective.

Step Two: Act and Interact

Smiling leads us right into the second Fun Commandment you'll find instrumental in maintaining your mental health: Act and Interact. Humor's natural medicine works best when we are sharing ourselves and this Commandment will teach you how to capitalize on the control you've taken over your physiology and mood by smiling. Acting and interacting is now easier for you to do because you're smiling more. Not only is your mood improved, but your smile is also a pleasant invitation to other people.

My suggestion is that you solidify the power of this Commandment by setting a reasonable goal regarding the number of people you will interact with each day. These social interactions are great for your mental health, forcing you to exchange information and ideas with another person. Combined with your commitment to smiling, your interactions should be pleasant, because your heightened energy, lessened pain, and lowered stress levels are very attractive to others.

Beyond keeping you out of isolation, there is another reason why acting and interacting with the people you encounter fosters improved mental health. It allows you to avoid spiritual "flat tires." Spiritual flat tires occur when you sidestep, or avoid, an interaction that is about to happen naturally – you duck into an office to avoid encountering someone in a hallway or you do not answer the phone because you do not want to talk to the person calling. This type of avoidance drains and depletes your reservoir of powerful natural energy and siphons your mental health reserves.

Have you ever noticed that it usually takes you twice as much mental and physical energy to avoid doing a job than you would have expired just doing it? It also takes twice the energy to avoid acting and interacting with the people who cross your path because you are in effect, saying, "I'm going to correct the mistake that nature made by putting this person in my path and I'm going to correct it by being mentally and spiritually negligent. " Mental and spiritual neglect have the same effect as physical neglect (is not it strange how you get tired if you do not exercise?). If your mental health can afford to allow this much energy to be drained, then you have a much bigger reservoir than I!

But spiritual flat tires do more than drain our energy, they are detrimental in at least two additional ways:

We miss out on an interaction with a teacher. If nature did not have a lesson for you, that person you just avoided would not have been placed in your path. You say that the person you just avoided was a negative influence or would you waste your time? I know we have legitimate schedules to keep, but if I am avoiding people based on my prejudice of them, I'm cutting myself off from my greatest teachers – those very same people.
We all learn tolerance from the intolerant, patience from the impatient, temperance from the intemperate, gentleness from the ruffian, etc. I am supremely grateful for those teachers and the lessons they give me.

We create a small, nagging spiritual void of dishonesty, the kind of dishonesty that keeps us from laying our heads down with complete peace of mind each night. Our spiritual flat tire is caused by the pothole our avoidance created; it is a natural consensus, or symptom, of our spiritual dishonesty. These consequences clutter our lives with mental and emotional baggage that further drains us of our energy and vitality.

Step Three: Celebrate Everything

The third Fun Commandment which will help you use the natural medicine of humor to charge up your mental health is: Celebrate Everything. Celebrating everything may sound like a monumental task to someone who's mental health is not up to par, but you will find this part of my doctor's orders much easier to fulfill once you start practicing my first two Commandments. In fact, celebrating everything is more than a maintenance step providing sustainable mental health. It will also become your lifestyle, the more you practice it, because you will enjoy the results so much.

How do you celebrate everything and how will this keep your mental health on the upswing? The epitome of this Commandment is found in the old joke about the boy who wanted a pony for his birthday. Instead, he found a room full of manure waiting for him. But he dove right into the dung, gleefully exclaiming, "With all this manure, there's got to be a pony in here somewhere!"

Laugh as we might, we're quick to remember that, as adults, we would never allow ourselves such "naive" enthusiasm. Why not? Do you realize what is behind such a "grown up," "mature" decision? Your serious seriousness (taking yourself too seriously) encourages the attitude that a mature adult should not let herself be so optimistic and that mental health is jeopardized.

We could do more than chuckle at this birthday boy's unabashed optimism – we should emulate it! When was the last time you encountered an unexpected pile of manure in your life? You had absolutely no control over the mess, right? But you had absolute control over your reaction to it and this is the key to using celebration to keep your mental health improved!

When you celebrate everything, the natural medicine of humor creates spiritual, emotional, and mental health like nothing you've felt before. You will find that your fears become much less controlling when you are celebrating everything because it no longer matters so much how things turn out. In fact, you are literally ready for anything because you are prepared to find the blessing in whatever happens.

My daughter-in-law, for example, broke her back last year. My son, who is often my model for the embodiment of my Fun Commandments, can tick off a laundry list of blessings His family has received as a direct result of his wife's "tragedy." Not that his mental health has not been challenged, but faced with the choice of depression and anxiety over an event he could not control versus finding the blessings waiting for him, he has chosen the latter.

The choice to celebrate everything is not a panacea; my son's choice did not change the reality of his wife's injury. What did change, however, was his ability to respond to the injury and, thus, keep his mental health on an even keel. Celebrating everything changes our lives because it allows us to positively control the only things we have control over – our actions, ideas, and attitudes.

There you have it. Start by going the extra smile, use your newfound smiling energy and vitality to act and interact with people, and celebrate everything to keep your positive momentum. Say good-bye to imprisonmentment from depression and anxiety and welcome to your new world of improved mental health!
Start Using The Fun Factor to Improve Your Mental Health … Right Now

Here are some simple, easy steps you can take right now to turbo-charge your mental health.

Subscribe to my Fun Times newsletter. The Fun Times is all about using your natural power of humor to increase the quality of your life – including your mental health. The Fun Times is 100% free, and is delivered instantly, every week, to your email inbox. If you sign up now, I'll also throw in a copy of my "Stop Your Seriousness" Ecourse and my book, Ten Ways You Can Be Happier … Right Now! which will show you how you can use my Fun Factor prescription in your life to increase your mental health!

Check out The Fun Factor. This prescription has changed so many lives for the better – it would be a shame if you passed it up. Check it out here if you're sick of washing for mental health and want to finally achieve your greatest mental health!
My patient Roberta, by the way, learned to use these three Fun Commandments – and the rest of my Fun Factor prescription. She has enjoyed the same job for three years now and was recently engaged to be married. Roberta has often setbacks, as most people suffering from depression or anxiety do. But, her mental health has never been stronger as she continues to apply The Fun Factor to her life.

In It's a Wonderful Life, George Bailey is so shocked by the grim vision of a world without him that he decides he wants to live again and begs to return. He knows he is back when he finds Zuzu's flower petals in his coat pocket again.

Let this article be like finding Zuzu's petals. Move forward today with a new, positive outlook on your improved mental health by using my Fun Factor prescription.

Natural Timber Preservation Improvement

As a long overdue follow up to a previous article I presented relating to the treatment of lumber using an allegedly all natural Cedar Oil based product, I am now in a position and confidently confident to report my findings from the research I have done to date on what can only be referred to by me as a much improved version of that product.

A business college and very close friend of mine, Jeffrey Hartman has worked with and researched the Cedar Oil based treatment treatment fluid for many years now. He originally purchased it from Texas in regular shipments made up of fifty five gallon drums. Jeffrey and I always felt that even though this product was good, it could have been further refinanced and possibly improved upon. The original product lacked in back up documentation, formal registrations and any market awareness by the general public, nor did it have any real accountability or credibility with regard to laboratory controlled testing and so on. These issues were destined to be changed and to achieve these changes, a long and slow process was started in conjunction with some controlled formulation tests and changes until after, after all the variables and contractual criteria had been addressed and satisfied, a newly designed crystal clear product bottle and new brand name were launched and registered as Hartman's Perma Shield TM. It is packaged and available in 1 gallon, 2.5 gallon and 5 gallon containers.

Now this is where I can provide you with specific details of my own personal testing of the all natural Perma Shield product. My property is located close to Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada and to the rear of my house I have a large areal timber deck that sits over a ravine and in the middle of very tall mature trees and a great deal of bushes and ferns. This deck faces north and enjoys a seasonal view of the Rocky Mountains across the Fraser River. In the fall of 2011, I removed the majority of my existing painted deck rails and spindles, most of which were showing bare wood and rotting badly. The structural posts were still structurally sound other than only one which I also replaced using pre valued lumber. As you can imagine, the humidity and general moisture levels around this deck are both high and somewhat extreme. However, instead of renewing the 2 x 6 hand rails and 2 x 4 spindles in pre treated lumber, I decided to use the common SPF white lumber commonly found in the big box store suppliers. This was a deliberate choice on my part for I knew from my experience of living here that after literally every winter, the paint would be pealed from my hand rails and many of the spindles even though each Spring I had applied a primer and at least two coats of good quality professional grade paint to everything. Now I wanted to construct my rails in white wood and treat them all using the new Perma Shield product as a serious product test in what I consider to be extreme conditions. During the Spring and Summer months the deck gets direct sunshine in the early morning and then afternoon and evenings. The sun here in BC can be very hot especially from early to late summer months.

First of all I constructed the new bottom rails, spindles and top rails, again using 2 x 6 for top rails and the standard 2 x 4 for the spindles. Upon completion of the construction work, I chose a nice sunny day with little wind and I proceeded to prepare the new timber by applying cold water misting from my garden hose. I only worked on one section (About three 8 foot panels) at a time otherwise the water would have been discharged out before I could apply the Perma Shield. I then proceeded to brush on a reasonably even coating of the product to all surfaces, with a heavier application to the top areas of each spindle where their end grain is facing upwards. I repeated the process with the other areas of new rails, first the mist and then the product until all surfaces and areas had been covered. After lunch, I then started at the beginning and applied my second coating of Perma Shield, this time without the misting application first. By mid afternoon the job was completed and the rails were touch dry and the pleasant aroma of cedar oil lingered for most of that day. The product should be given about forty eight hours to fully cure before applying paint or stain. I started what I consider to be a tedious process of applying the paint to all areas. No special paint was used, just a straight satin finish water based latex available everywhere. As I did the spindles and rails in a two tone pallet, this job was a very short time consuming but at the end of the day well worth it. I applied a total of two coats of latex and standing back to admire my work, decided that this was an excellent starting point for my ongoing test on Perma Shield.

Since that time, a total of three winters have passed and I am now entering the spring of 2015. Other than having to hose off some green algae deposits after each winter, my paintwork still looks like it has just been done and there are absolutely no signs of rot, warping or other damage anywhere on the new white wood areas. Some of the remaining original deck boards and even the pre treated ones are showing paint peel and even wet rot in a few places, especially around joints and end pieces. Each year since applying the treatment, I have regularly tried scratching the handrail surfaces in an attempt to remove what may have been slack or ready to peel paint but nothing has ever moved or even shown any sign of damage. From tests undertaken by others, it has been shown that lumber treated with this product provides conditions that allow the adhesion of paint to be increased by up to 300 times that of normal untreated lumber. Furthermore, it provides conditions where the valued lumber no longer expends and contracts and thus become structurally stable. It stops the painted finish from cracking, splitting or peeling. I should also add that my own paintwork still looks extremely fresh with no signs of fading or discoloration.

At the same time as constructing the new deck rails, I also treated a single 8 foot length of 2 x 4 with the Perma Shield TM that I had cut into two foot pieces. Each piece was fully covered including the ends and once they were dry I placed one in the creek that runs through my yard and weighed it down with some heavy stones. I placed the second piece into a muddy bank where it was almost completely covered in slimy mud. The third piece I laid inside the gutters on my rear roof and the fourth piece was placed into the lawn like a stick, with about four inches left sticking up above ground. Now at the end of January 2015 after three full years and winters, I retrieved the four pieces of wood for inspection. After collecting them all, I had to wash them down to remove green algae and slime and then I let them dry a little in the fresh air. There are no signs of any rot or decay of any kind on any of the pieces. I then proceeded to place each piece in my chop saw and cut through them at about two inch intervals. What I found was that the interior of every piece was totally dry with no evidence of moisture penetration or discoloration of any kind. Using my moisture meter I noted that the readings obtained were almost identical to the readings taken in new kiln dried timber straight from the supplier. I also noted that the timber samples showed no signs of warping, splitting or cracking either and considering where they had all been located for over three years; I found this to be quite remarkable.

I should also mention that Jeffrey had the MNDOT (Minnesota Department of Transportation) do a test with Paint Coatings for adhesion and stability to untreated (Pine) wood substrates. Their results for Perma Shield TM showed that it completely outformed all of the current treatments previously approved by the MDOT. The Perma Shield ™ was used to treat the same timber required by the MNDOT sound barrier walls along highways. After treating the wood, they then top covered it with various top coat products. Approximately 25 different painted coatings were applied, mostly earth toned color paints that were previously approved for that use. After the testing, all of the coatings showed no signs of any type of adhesion issue, including no pealing and no lifting or cracking of any kind. These tests were done in an extreme weather machine for over 2000 hours in an intensive and diverse variety of conditions and temperatures. Further tests were also undertaken in an outdoor natural Minnesota environment assessment for over 2 years, and again these have shown NO evidence of any adhesion issues in an MNDOT facility controlled study. It was also noted that the treated wood still remained dimensionally stable in all samples tested. These studies have provided documented evidence of controlled testing where all of the results are quite literally far beyond any other known and / or approved treatment for lumber.

During the past three years I have also used the Perma Shield in my contracting business for the treatment of water damaged timbers in homes and also for mold remediation works, all with great success in every case. I have treated a plywood covered new deck that was waiting to have a fiber glass top coat applied and found that the unexpected rains that arrived next day, had no effect on the plywood and caused no damage as it normally would have done. Down in Minnesota, Jeffrey has his product fully registered and trademarked and still still, it has been accepted and registered on to the US Government's Bio Preferred program. From my own experiences to date, I feel that this product could offer the timber industry something quite unique in terms of a truly safe and natural way to treat lumber and prevent it from rot, fungal decay, warping and splitting. It also provides some incredible benefits on timber where people wish to paint the surfaces, as the adhesion parameters are vastly increased and the need for regular repainting is almost eliminated completely.

It should also be noted that the conditions I provided for two of the four foot feet treated samples were more than ideal for the germination of both the wet rot fungus (Coniophora Puteana) and in one case the true dry rot fungus (Serpula Lacrymans) and yet, no evidence of either fungus was found even after three years of constant exposure. This, coupled with all of the other benefits I have previously stated above gives me great confidence in this all natural product for numerous future applications. The product is currently under formal university test conditions in Minnesota where it is being compared to a range of other bio based timber treatment products. Although these tests are not fully completed yet, at the time of writing this article the Perma Shield has shown up well in the lead in all situations in comparison to every other product being tested. In summary of some of the benefits of treating timber structures with Perma Shield, the timber appearance remains the same as untreated. The treated timber becomes impervious to attack by insects, water, moisture, fungal decay, mold, mildew and warping or splitting. Freshly cut lumber can also be successfully treated with Perma Shield as it serves to remove all bound and inherent moisture for the lumber, thus stabilizing it and stopping the ingoing expansion and contraction. The bottom line being; in lumber, where there is no moisture there are no issues! The product is safe to use, apply and store and it has no detrimental effects on vegetation or the environment in general. For a full and thorough treatment of heavier timbers, it is recommended that three coats are applied in total, with each coat being applied before the previous coat has completely absorbed. Pressure / Vacuum treatment systems are recommended for faster and complete penetration in heavy timber. The timbers should be clean and given a light spray with clean water prior to application of the product, as it uses the moisture to draw itself into the timber. I personally only applied two coats for my deck rails and spindles and so far, the results have been outstanding and most certainly exceeded my own expectations.

Is Lumber Considered Green

When the subject of lumber is renewable, recyclable and sustainable come up in conversations surrounding green products many have different opinions. For decades the lumber industry has been bashed for bad practices in managing our environment. Yes in the past there have been some bad practices but in the United States our forests are managed in ways they many do not even understand. When some talk about the lumber industry they portray companies that are eliminating the forests. That is just not the case. Let's look at the nature life cycle of a forest if humans never stepped foot inside. Trees grow and drop seeds and more trees grow. The forest continues overtime to thicken and the large trees kill out the smaller trees creating dead down fall. Over years some of this down fall decays and returns to the earth. This process continues to create overgrown forests and more dry trees.

Fire is ultimately the remedy that cleans the forest and starts the process all over. Nature causes such as beetles can kill off a complete forest and again fire is the remedy to restore the forest. A well managed forest can be looked at similar the life cycle just described, cleaning out the old to allow for the smaller new trees to flourish. Creating a continuing life cycle of usable products that can be recycled that is not harmful or toxic in any way. Many claim that steel studs are greener than wood studs. If the life cycle of a steel stud versus the life cycle of a wood stud is compared, lumber is far greener than steel. It takes more energy to create a steel stud and the renewable factors of wood are far better. Yes steel can be recycled but with the use of far more energy. Ore comes from the ground and is not renewable like growing a tree. Not all lumber companies manage the forests like they should. The same as all car companies do not produce fuel efficient cars. So finding a certified green dealer is important if you want to make sure your wood products are considered green. The two leading wood certification programs in the US are FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) and SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative). USGBC only recognizes FSC while NAHB National Green Building Standards recognizes both. So from this is wood "Green and Sustainable"? You decide.

Read more about Green vs Sustainable at http://www.squidoo.com/green-vs-sustainable

How To Become A Chess Master

Chess is fun, winning chess games is even more fun. According to Kotov, to win over players from a master level you should acquire five skills. Without these qualities, winning the majority of your games will be just a nice dream.

Alexander Kotov is one of the greatest chess authors of all time. In his book "Train like a Grandmaster," he follows the following five qualities which form the building blocks that create a strong chess player:

1. He must be well versed in modern opening theory:

Opening preparation becomes more and more crucial in modern chess: "play in the center, do not move a piece twice, do not bring your Queen into the game too early, castle rapidly …" All of this advice is still valuable , but they are "insufficient." Every strong chess player has an opening repertoire that they've tested and retested over the years.

2. He must know and keep in his memory the principles behind the typical middle of the game:

In two words: Pattern recognition. Many players think this concept is used only with tactical motifs; that's wrong! It can be used to find a plan in the middle of the game, a winning technique in the endgame or simply a mating attack.

3. A Grandmaster must be able to assess a position accurately and correctly:

It is here that a deep and clear understanding of the game shows the Grandmaster's ability. With a deep positional and strategic understanding, you can make the right judgment and choose the best move.

4. The ability to hit upon the right plan:

A strong chess player can find his / her way in every situation, even those that are completely unfamiliar. Personally I am a big fan of Karpov's planning skills. He always manages to choose the correct order of actions to accomplish his main task. The question is: "How on earth does he successfully realize his plan?" In his book "Find the right plan," Anatoly Karpov suggests adhering to the following seven basic principles: A material relationship between the forces, the presence of direct threats, position of the kings, possession of open lines, pawn structures, weak and strong squares, the center and space and the position of pieces.

Then the chess player can evaluate the position, select a plan of action and beginning searching for specific moves and calculating variations.

5. A Grandmaster must be able to calculate variations accurately and quickly:

Excelling in the calculation is a must if you want to join the elite. The domination of computers over man is due to their superiority in the field of calculation: computers do not miss a move. We are not machines, but having an organized thought process and crystal clear visualization ability while calculating variations is more than necessary. The calculation is not an easy thing, but it is a core skill of chess playing. It is nice to master the positional play, to be able to plan, to have a faultless ending technique, but all of this makes useless when you hang a piece because you miscalculated.

If you want to become a better chess player check out my blog. You will find many interesting resources: http://AngryBishop.Net

Building a Screen Porch

Spring is right around the corner and before you know it summer hits you right smack in the face: sun, fun and insects! In Minneapolis (MPLS) and St. Paul, insects such as mosquitoes, black flies, sand flies and yellow jackets are some of the pests that summer ushers in. Aside from using electric bug killers -the one that zaps the life out of these bugs- sheathing yourself with insect repellent is also a possible, albeit uncomfortable solution.

Building a screened porch is your best bet to get away from the large insect population that arrives every summer. Instead of spending hot and humid summer nights out in the porch or lanai, it may be that the incessant buzzing of insects are in perfect sync to the swatting sound you make. Building a screen porch will afford you the luxury of an outdoor space without the accompanying hassles.

You are one lucky person if you read this article you have a ready-built deck waiting to be roofed and screened. You are even luckier if you already have an entrance porch that only needs little tweaks to accommodate screen walls and door. If this is your case, you may very well do a DIY job – that is if you are well-versed in carpentry as screening a porch is not an easy task. Traditional method of porch screening is ineffective as the screens have the tendency to sag. The proper way to do this is to frame the screen on stained and painted wood battens before putting them up as walls. You also have the option to order prefabricated screens on aluminum framing and get a qualified contractor to do the installation.

If you are one of the many homeowners who need to start from scratch to build a screened porch, the best thing is for you to get a reliable and recommended screen porch contractor. Why? Well, building a screened-in-porch from scratch is akin to a new construction. The local building codes of MPLS and Saint Paul have various requirements for you to submit before you are given a permission to start the new construction.

Some of the prerequisites are: certificate of survey or to-scale site plans with the proper lot dimensions and site development plan; copies of drawings of the proposed construction ie floor plans inclusive of structural details as in sizes of posts and rafters; copies of foundation and / or footing plans, beams, floor framing sections, ceiling height, window and door openings and more. Even an avid and quality DIY will not be able to submit these requirements for these prerequisites must be done and signed by a licensed architect.

A screen porch contractor in MPLS and St.. Paul will have the ability to take care of all the requirements. Having a qualified contractor build your screen porch will save you money in the long run as labor and materials are under warranty from the contractor. However, if you know you can do the finishing work like setting up the screens and painting the new porch, you have the option to set up parts of the construction out of the quote.

Building a screen porch should not be too much trouble as there are contractors and sub-contractors to make it trouble-free and straightforward for you.

Gardening Tips – The Different Types of Soil

Gardening is enjoyed all over the world by many different types of people, all growing different plants, vegetables and flowers. Due to the diversity nature of gardening, you will most likely come into contact with different types of soil, even in the same patch of earth! Knowing how to deal with them, what kinds of plants will grow best in the different kinds and how to treat any problems is very important – which is why I am going to tell you about each type now.

There are six main types of soil that you will encounter as a gardener. Clay, sand, loam, chalk, peat and subsoil. These six types can also mix together to give you combinations, such as sandy peat or loam clay, but for the purposes of this article, I will just discuss the six main types.


A clay soil is very silky and smooth and will most likely be found a few feet down from the surface of your soil. Clay has a habit of being very water logged and really needs to be drained of water as often as possible. The wetter it is, the thicker and more like cement it will get, making it almost impossible for plants to grow in or through through it.

The clay should be dug over during the Autumn time and left to be deteriorated by the winter frosts. It can also be mixed with lime, which stops it from being so sticky and thick. Also take care during hotter months, as a clay soil will dry as hard as rock and may cause cracks to appear. Clay soil can be hard to work with and troublesome, but it also has a good level of food for plants in it.


Sandy soil is dry and contains smaller particles, sometimes making it lighter in color. Due to the different texture, the soil heats up quickly and there before can be used to plant early crops and plants in early in the year.

A sandy soil is easy to work with, due to it being so fine, but is not very rich in plant foods as it can not retain much moisture.


A loam soil is a mixture of sand and clay. The sandy component is good at keeping the clay from being too sticky and tough and the clay helps the sand retain moisture. Therefore, some see this as a perfect blend. The mix of the two components allows plants to grow easily through the soil as they are not hampered by the thickness of the clay. The clay part of the loam also provides a good amount of rich plant food for anything growing there.


A chalky soil can be a real problem for gardeners. The composition of this kind of soil can cause plants leaves to become yellow from a process called chlorosis. You may also need to add more nutrients to the soil to get the best from your plants, although you will not need to add any lime to this kind.


There are different types of peat, brown and black and they are both made from the continuous decay and growth of plant life over thousands of years. Peat soil is easy to work with, but it often very wet or waterlogged and may need to be drained often. Due to the declining matter in Peat soil, it can become very "sour" and acidic and plants like celery or other acid loving plants will thrive in this kind of soil.


The top player of a garden is usually only about a foot thick and is perfect for planting and growing plants through. Below that is the layer called subsoil which might be as deep as several feet or quite a few meters. It all depends on what your garden is located on top of.

The subsoil helps take away moisture from the upper most layer of soil and there before can be perfect for keeping ground not too wet. If you had a clay soil under sandy soil, it would not absorb the water and your garden would eventually turn into a lake.

Having a good structure of subsoil and then your chosen soil type on top will benefit you as you will be able to control how moisture is trapped in your garden. It is possible to mix and match the soil types as you see fit and depending on which plants you would like to see thrive in your garden. For a beginner, I would recommend using standard subsoil with loam on top.

The Difference Between Terracotta and Saltillo Tiles

Saltillo tiles are produced exclusively in the town of Saltillo, Mexico and in much the same way that sparkling wines can only be called Champagne if they are from the Champagne region of France, sun-dried terracotta tiles can only be truly called Saltillo if they were produced in Saltillo. These tiles are shaped by hand from naturally occurring clay in the area and then dried in the sun. They are later fired in a kiln. Terracotta, meaning “burnt earth” in Italian, can refer to any sort of natural clay formed into tiles, dried, then fired in a kiln. Saltillo tiles normally contain Lime Pops which expose themselves over time and are frequently absent in Italian clays. In addition, the Italian, French, and Spanish terracotta can frequently be more durable due to their extruded manufacturing process.

Terracotta tiles are predominantly made in one of two ways: extruded (machine made) or hand made. Both methods will service the client well as long as the material is properly installed and the end user’s expectation corresponds to the intended use of the product. The major advantage of extruded terracotta manufactured by machine is that the clay is compressed and trimmed to the proper size, producing a strong, solid finished product. If we compare this to the process of making a snowball, the harder we push the snow together, the more we compress it, the harder and stronger our snowball is. The less we compress it the more likely our snowball is to break apart. The machine compression process allows for less clay to be used during production which can reduce material and shipping costs. The compression and then firing of the material creates a strong and durable tile that should withstand daily wear and tear of most consumers.

A hand made material, such as Saltillo, usually requires much more clay during the production process and is made similarly to the way kids make mud pies. The craftsmen pack the clay into wood or ceramic frames which define the size of each tile. As the size of the tile increases the thickness of material must also increase to maintain the integrity of each tile. An example is a 12″ x 12″ handmade material may need to be approximately ¾” thick. As the size of the tile increases to a 16″ x 16″, the thickness of material needs to increase to a minimum of approximately 1″ to prevent the tile from crumbling or breaking during the installation process. The added clay required in the hand made process usually increases material and shipping costs.

When a hand made clay tile is fired at high temperature, the heat extracts the moisture from the clay causing several results that must be considered during the selection process. Small pockets of air are in the tile where moisture had been before firing making a very porous product. This porosity means that this type of terracotta is a poor choice for an outside application in a colder climate where freeze/thaw conditions exist. Also, the tiles frequently bow during firing. The larger the tile, the more exaggerated and pronounced the curl will become during the firing process. The added thickness of material and bowing (which increases the absolute thickness) needs to be considered when attempting to match materials to existing floors. Hand made material usually also requires a thicker mortar base during the installation process which can further compound floor thickness challenges. In other words, will the terracotta’s and setting material’s added thickness allow it to be set next to an existing floor or adjacent to carpet without excessive lippage.

In the end, handmade or extruded terracotta or Saltillo will hold up well if properly installed and I have seen many installations hold up for over 50 years. The key to a successful project is the selection of a quality terracotta or Saltillo, proper substrate preparation, using proper setting materials and methods appropriate for the installation, and completed by a licensed tile contractor familiar with these types of installations.

Coleman Camping Stove Review – The 2 Burner Electronic Ignition Propane Grill Stove is a Winner

The Coleman Company is well-known nationwide for its outdoor equipment. Limited limited vision, WC Coleman invented a camping lantern more than a century ago. The Saturday Evening Post said, "Except for Thomas A. Edison, Mr. Coleman may be responsible for the creation of more bright light than any other man." He started selling the lanterns in 1900, and in 1902, the company moved to Wichita, Kansas. With the advent of affordable automobiles, travel fever overtook the American public, and in 1923, Coleman introduced the portable stove which soon became the perfect camping companion. Accommodations while on the road were almost non-existent, so people were forced to camp outdoors. The Coleman GI pocket stove was considered one of the most significant non-combat items to come out of the second World War. By the 1930's, the Coleman lathes across the United States were humming. By the 1980's, what began as a small lantern company was then manufacturing fifteen million products annually, and Coleman soon dominated the market.

Today's Coleman 2 burner electronic ignition propane grill stove is a best seller with the American public. It is a stove and grill combination that has insta-start technology which starts at the press of a button. No more charcoal or matches. There are 10,000 BTUs per burner, and it has a chrome cooking grate, which is removable for easy cleaning. The cast-aluminum grill grate is non-stick, and its handy windblock system folds down to make side shelving to hold plates, condiments, or tools. Using a 16.4 ounce propane cylinder, the cooking time last for 4 h hours on the low setting; and an hour on the highest setting. It is constructed of durable enamel-painted steel.

The propane is regulated and grills food evenly with no hotspots, flickering, or flaring up. The burners will remain lit even in inclement weather, in high altitudes, in wind, or when the propane is low. There are large knobs on the front that can be turned easily, even with gloves on. The grates will not rust or warp from rain or heat after many years, and Coleman offers a lifetime limited warranty. It is a great versatile product that eliminates starting a fire when camping. It weighs 14.4 pounds.

Today the Coleman Company is based in Wichita and in Texas. Beside camping stoves, the company manufactures coolers, hot tubs, sleeping bags, watches, tents, generators, backpacks, and small boats.

Slow Cooker And The 'Keep Warm Option' – A Fantastic Combination

The function of the slow cooker is to speed up the cooking process to such an amount that the duration is increased and you get well cooked and hot food even though you dumped in all the ingredients a few hours ago.

However, what if you need the food to remain warm for an even longer duration? What if you want the food to be cooked over twelve hours when the maximum that the cooker can do is eight hours?

Well, you can go in for solutions that are related to the slow cooker but are used outside the same. That is to say, you can go in for a timer that is placed between the cooker and the electrical supply. The slow cooker itself has a programmable chip that regulates the inflow of electricity.

By installing a separate timer, you can regulate the inflow of electricity from the outside. If you cut main power to the cooker, it is obvious that the cooking process will stop. When the process restarts, the original program schedule will start.

That is to say, if you let the food cook for thirty minutes and if you stop the power for two hours, a total of two and a half hours would have lapsed but the cooker would have cooked for just 30 minutes.

When you start power again, the cooker would start from the point where it left off. This is automatically going to increase the duration of your cooking process. However, such an approach is not free of its own share of risks. What if the dish that you are cooking is just not designed for ten hours of cooking?

In such a scenario, you may end up with an extremely overcooked dish just because you cut the power supply in the beginning. Further, there is a possibility that the cookers may lose its preprogrammed function when you supply power all over again. The end result is that there is a possibility of loss of effort.

If you want to avoid such complications, you should try to operate within the parameters of the cooker. Tinkering with its functioning may sound cool but has its own share of risks.

You can come up with different ideas and try to keep the food warm instead of cooking it. This is an additional option that is available in some expensive and premium models. This will help you avoid overcooking and enjoy warm food whenever you want.

Solar Power Panels – Is Doing it Yourself an Option?

When one thinks about going in for renewable sources of energy, one of the first things that you might be worried about would occur about the costs involved. After all, opting for something different is always an expensive option. While it is extremely to simply follow he herd, experimenting with these new age power sources can actually be quite a rewarding experience. For beginners, you will be able to set an example! However, when it comes to things like solar energy, you will be happy to know that you can actually build your own solar panels right out of your home.

What you require

To get started, you will need to look at the basic raw materials that you will need. These will include things like circuit boards, connectors, wires and the actual panel itself. The good news is that most of the costs involved for procuring these components are relatively low and it is possible to get them even with a shoestring budget. Many reputed hardware or electronics stores will have all the components in stock. Suppose you do not get it in a store, you can always buy it online.

Assembling it

The final stage is actually integrating all this together and fixing it in your home. This is quite a tricky step and probably the easiest to mix up. You might really go very wrong if you are not careful here and end up with a messed up wiring. Unless you are confident and willing to follow instructions to the dot, do not attempt to do this on your own. If you are not confident about getting it done on your own, then you bought to call a professional that can get it done for you. There are a number of professionals out there that are willing to fix it up for you for a very low price, which pretty much seals the deal.

Stepping Up to Wide Plank Flooring

With the wide selection of wood species, do not settle for common, production narrow strip-width oak flooring. Imagine your rooms finished in your favorite wood in extra long, wide distinct plank floors once only in historic period homes. The wider plank flooring, in longer lengths portend quality that stands out as a cut above the rest. There is no crisper, cleaner, longer wearing, more attractive floor available.

Common strip-width flooring generally measures 1-1 / 2 or 2-1 / 4 "wide; the 1-1 / 2" as is often found in late Victorian and turn of the century homes. Plank-width flooring describes flooring measuring 3 "wide, running commonly up to 8". Depending on wood species, some woods are available even up to 12-14 "wide. Be aware that the wider the boards, the more care should be taken to ensure proper environmental conditions to minimize cupping and separation between boards. Seek an experienced plank- floor specialist to be sure your plank floors are installed properly.

Suitable to any architecture and decorative style, it can be used throughout the entire house. Hardwood plank floors elevate ordinary rooms to the spectacular. The genial warmth and lustrous personality of wood plank flooring distinguishing your home, making it memorable.

Its reputation for quality and durability speaks for itself. Dollar for dollar no other material matches wood's aesthetic appeal, versatility and practicality. Able to outlast your mortgage, wood plank floors will be attractive long after carpet and other materials have been replaced many times. Perfectly sound one hundred-year old wood plank floors are not uncommon.

It cleans easily. Unlike carpet, wood floors will not collect molds, pollens, dust mites or mildews or absorb dust and odors. There are no toxic fumes to give off. Making wood plank flooring the perfect choice for the allergy sufferer.

Quality wide plank flooring should be:

· 3/4 "-thick;
· Tongue-and-grooved and end-matched;
· Relief plowed on the back for improved stability; and
· Kiln dried to approx 8% moisture content.

For the most custom, high-quality look, choose to have your floors sanded & finished on site. Pre-finished wood floors generally have micro-bevels between the boards to hide over-wood – a term describing a slight difference in thickness from one board to the next. Site finished floors are smooth and flat with no separation between the boards.

Most plank flooring manufacturers will also carry a large selection of matching paneling, moldings, mantles, doors, cabinets, trusses, beams, and stair parts to compliment the majority of species of plank flooring that they sell. Your local plank-floor specialist can also offer a wealth of new wood flooring ideas.

Christmas Decorating Tips

It's Christmas again, and you're looking at the stacks of decorations you put away last January. It can seem like quite a challenge, especially if you do not think you're very good when it comes to decorating. But Christmas decor is something that will definitely get you in the Christmas spirit. With the tips below, you'll be feeling Christmas cheer in no time.

First, take a good look around your house or apartment. There are a lot of places where a spot of Christmas decor will work wonders. There are the obvious places, like your fireplace mantal, and putting lights along your rooftop, but do not forget about your stairs, your bathroom and yes, even the kitchen!

When you're thinking about decorating your stairs, the first thought that probably comes to mind is winding a garland or a length of greenery around the bannister. To add a bit of flare, find a battery operated string of Christmas lights, and twine that in around your garland or greens. Another nice touch is to place small pots of poinsettias along the edge of alternating steps. (If you have animals, however, be wary about poinsettias, as they have poisonous parts.)

Putting a Christmas wreath on your front door is an easy festive touch, but do not forget that wreaths look good inside your home, too. Mistletoe is lovely in doorways, and makes for great laughs when you're holding your annual Christmas party. You can tie bows anywhere – the backs of chairs, on doorknobs, the corners of your tablecloth – and indoor Christmas lights do not belong just on your tree or around your windows.

You probably put up your Christmas tree in your living room or family room. This season, keep your eye out while shopping for small Christmas trees, and considering putting these smaller trees in other rooms in your house. For example, if your front foyer is large enough, a small decorated tree there makes a perfect Christmas greeting for visitors. A small potted live Christmas tree in your downstairs bathroom will really bright things up.

One wonderful thing about using smaller trees in other rooms in the house is that it allows you to play around with different color schemes suitable for different rooms – colors that you might not want to use on your main Christmas tree. Have you always pined for a tree decorated with blue and white ornaments only, but know that your kids would be very upset with that kind of "adult" look to the tree? Indulge yourself by buying a smaller tree for the den or the front room, and decorate it exactly the way you've always wanted!

It's fun to decorate a house for Christmas. Keep this in mind and do not try to make things too perfect. Enjoy the ritual of putting up your decorations, and when you're done, turn off the living room lights, turn on the Christmas tree lights, make yourself a cup of hot chocolate or floral tea, and sink into your couch with your loved ones .

Tip on Pencil Portrait Drawing – Planes in Portrait Drawing

Most people have the pre-conceived notice that the head is more or less shaped like an egg. In fact, the head is much squarer than we think. The egg awareness is one of those simplified pre-conceived symbols the brain uses as a means for quick recognition.

Most beginning students will usually render the face on paper as a flat disk or oval which it is not. Also, compared to the entire head, the face is quite small particularly in babies. Your hand can fit the entire face. Place that same hand on top of your head and you will know immediately how large your head really.

To understand planes and thus obtain a sculptural sensitivity in your drawing you must understand and use simple geometric shapes.

In general, the skull can be framed within a rectangular box. More accurately, this rectangular box should be adapted to a phalanx-like box with the face on the smallest side. The skull tapers towards the front which is the face. This is the basic shape of the head in the frontal view.

In the profile view the skull is generally a cube. The difference is the facial angle (the "muzzle") that slopes slightly forward at the chin. In the 7/8 profile, the cube has simply been rotated in space.

Again, it is very important to think about the head in terms of simple geometric shapes. Once you have positioned the large simple shapes you can start positioning the smaller shapes inside the large ones. Pretty soon that collection of simple shapes becomes quite complex and starts resembling a head.

Keeping the above in mind you can start with striking the arabesque which is the entire outside contour of the head, hair included. Then you break down the arabesque into its various sections such as the hair, ear, jaw and neck.

As you block in the darks and think of the head as a collection of simple geometric solids you will already begin to see the 3-dimensional effect, even at this early stage.

The key is to think simply and large. At this early stage, do not pay attention to the details – they tend to mislead your sense of length and direction.

Once the major elements are established placing the features (eyes, nose, etc.) becomes relatively easy. However, if you do not establish those elements correctly you will never be successful.

The frontal view of the portrait poses a unique challenge. If you are not careful you can end up with a flat, 2-dimensional face. In this view, the plane changes are often quite small and difficult to place.

Be sure to notice all plane changes in this frontal view and render them carefully in your drawing:

– Showing the forward tapering of the sides of the face is critical to achieving a minority 3-dimensional effect in this frontal view.

– The front of the face lies more or less in one plane.

– The plane of the forehead changes direction as you move towards the top of the head.

– The plane along the cheek has a different direction than the neighboring one along the temple.

The idea is to carefully observe the directions of all the different planes that make up the skull and take these differences into account when you draw. If you do, your drawings will possess a sculptural, 3-dimensional sensitivity. It is not necessary to draw out the geometry of the actual planes, but the differences in direction must be clearly rendered.

In conclusion, it is very important that you are aware of the fact that a subject's head consist of planes with different directions and is not just an egg. This sculptural structure should be reflected in your drawing because it is essential to the likeness and to the illusion of 3-dimensionality.

Furniture Arranging Ideas – Furniture Arrangements to Suit You

Everybody, at some time or another, tries to move the furniture around to achieve a better result – they often fail abysmally and are never sure exactly why. Some rooms are notoriously difficult to place furniture so that it looks right, with many rooms either too long or narrow, or too small generally. Some even go to the other extreme and are so large the room feels cavernous no matter how much furniture you fill it with. I live in a tiny ex-miner's cottage and, although the frontage of my house is small, the house goes back a long way and is bigger inside than it looks from the outside. The rooms, however, are small – apart from my bedroom which runs the whole width of the house, but is about a foot too narrow to be able to put my bed in more than one position along one wall.

Furniture arranging ideas are always going to be constrained by the size of your rooms and that will not change. It is something you will always have to work with. To get optimum use from any room you need to arrange your furniture so that the space you have is used most efficiently. However, you also need to ensure that, whatever the placement, your furniture is still shown off to its maximum impact. In some rooms that is a pretty tall order!

Before you start the back-breaking task of moving furniture around, regardless of which room you are re-organizing, you need to decide where your focal point is going to be. To get the best effect your furniture needs to be arranged opposite the focal point. These days, many homes treat the television as the focal point. It could be a particular window looking out onto a dramatic vista, or a fireplace.

Ideally, chairs should be set in a group about eight feet from each other – in my house, chance would be a good thing! My living room is simply too small to put anything more than a settee and one chair! The ideal is to have a table near to each chair – well, in my house, I have a small coffee table which can be reached from all seating positions. The point I am making here is that, although there are furniture arranging 'rules' you do not have to stick to them slavishly.

Take a look at the furniture arranging 'rules' and then adapt them according to your own circumstances. One of the most important aspects of arranging furniture is to ensure there is appropriate lighting. It is all very well having a centralised ceiling light, but this will not provide adequate lighting throughout the room. A couple of standard lamps and two or three table lamps help to provide sufficient lighting.