Teaching Aid or Tennis Court Bench? An Easy to Use Learning Tool

We wanted to share with you an interesting way to use your Tennis Court Bench as a Learning Tool. Many court benches have parallel rails that provide a useful track for the ball. These types of benches are a great tool for a drill we have been taught. One of the tennis professionals we work with has developed a neat drill, that you can practice alone or with a friend, that can help your stroke. These drills are for mainly for beginners, and larger children, but the advanced player might find some use as well.

Here’s the progression.

With the bench flat:

1. Place ball in front of students strings and have them walk or push the ball along the bench till it falls into a basket at the end of the bench. Do this with forehand and backhands.

2. Place the ball in front of the students strings and have them push the ball so it rolls on its own (no moving feet) into a basket at the end of the bench.

3. Roll the ball to the student from one side of the bench. Student stops the balls with racket then rolls it back up the bench (no moving feet).

4. Roll the ball to the student from one side of the bench. This time the student swings racquet instead of stops it so ball rolls back up the bench.

Use this same progression but create a slope with the bench by stacking something underneath it. Place the bench right in front of the net so student can have success getting the ball over the net. This will allow the student to get the feel for how to push forward and upward to create arc over the net.

Repeat these drills 2-3 times for 1-3 minutes each. Use this drill for a light warm up and to break up your practice sessions.

For a fun competitive game, try to make as many as you can in the bucket or over the net in a row.

Another great use for the bench is a conditioning tool. To get an amazing cardio workout that can boost performance and explosiveness on the court do this drill when you are tired or to warm up. If you do this to warm up AND when you are done playing, you will see better performance all around. Always remember, Cardio IS King, in all sports.

Here’s the progression.

1. Slowly step up to the bench with one foot. Press yourself up with one leg and do not let your second foot touch the bench. Go back to the floor with both feet. Step back up with the same leg and repeat process. Do this 10 times, then switch legs. Do 3-5 sets on each leg gradually building your speed. Always keep a pace that is controlled and safe for your abilities.

2. Slowly step up to the bench with one foot. Bring your other foot up so you are standing on the bench momentarily. As your second foot touches bring your first foot back to the ground. Then bring your other foot back to the ground. Repeat this process 10 times alternating legs. Do 3-5 sets gradually building your speed. Always keep a pace that is controlled and safe for your abilities.

3. This drill may not be for everyone but is a must if you are a serious athlete. Start standing about 2 feet away from the bench. With both feet jump onto the seat of the bench and steady yourself. Jump back down. Do this 10 times. Do 3-5 sets gradually building your speed. Always keep a pace that is controlled and safe for your abilities.

4. For someone who is really athletic you can do 2 footed jumps over the bench to build power throughout your torsoe and legs. This can be dangerous. If you are uncertain of your abilities, do not attempt.

Tennis court benches are designed by tennis players and are perfect for use on a tennis court. There are tennis benches that are ideal for public places and others that are built for residential use. For this drill you need a special bench that you can view in the link below. Use these tips to think up some more ways to improve your game with a tennis court bench! See the Tennis Court Bench we recommend using. We think you will find this tennis drill useful and fun. Try it today and let is know what you think. Thanks for taking the time to read our article!

Build a Storage Building: A Five Step Guide for Building a Brick Shed

To build a storage shed in your backyard takes planning and creativity. Most sheds are constructed from wood when built from scratch, others are assembled from shed kits and are generally constructed with plywood or metal. Some sheds, however, are built using brick because the owner wants to match the construction of the house or because the owner believes he is adding strength to the structure.

Perhaps one remembers the story of the Three Little Pigs and fears the big bad wolf blowing down his outdoor shed. Nevertheless, a brick shed will outlast a more traditional wooden shed if neither structure is maintained.

Look, if you maintain your shed then either construction material is just fine. For this reason and this reason alone, I only recommend building a shed in from brick if, and only if, your decision is aesthetic and not structural. Any well-built shed will last several lifetimes if properly maintained.

That being said here is a brief five-step guide for building a brick storage building or shed in your backyard.

Step 1

The first step in any construction project is to determine the location of the shed. Make sure you choose a location that is relatively flat, has good drainage, is not directly on any property line, is not too close to trees which may cause problems for your shed roof or foundation (remember trees have a large root system below the surface). Also make certain that your shed foundation is not interfering with any electrical, cable or water lines. Overlook any one of these and you’ll have a potentially costly problem on your hands.

One other thing to think about at this stage is to make absolutely certain that your shed design complies with local building codes and zoning ordinances. The best way to do this is to apply for a permit. In some cases, if you live in a planned community, you may need permission to build the shed from your Home Owner’s Association. Don’t make the mistake of not asking because the HOA has broad powers to make you comply with their decisions.

Step 2

Once all approvals and permits are obtained it is time to clean the area where your shed will be built. Remove any debris, roots, weeds, rocks, and other hindrances. Level the ground if necessary. Using a chalk line or stakes, draw an outline of the shed’s footprint on the ground.

Step 3

Now it is time to start digging. Your task is to create a foundation for your shed. Building a strong foundation determines the strength and stability of your shed and is a step that must not be taken lightly. Depending on where you live, you’ll need to dig to a depth that is just below the frost line. This will assure that your shed will not heave due to ground swells caused by expanding soil due to freezing. Your minimum depth for a solid foundation is eight inches and most areas require no more than thirty-six inches. It is best to check with your local building department to know the exact depth to dig. You can rent a small back hoe or trenching machine, or you can hire an experienced excavator to do this step for you. You want the bottom of your trench level all the way around.

The outside of the trench must be about one inch beyond the outline of your building and should be four to six inches wide. Now using 2×6 lumber and stakes, create a form extending above the level of the ground.

Step 4

It’s time to pour concrete for your foundation. Pour the concrete to a level of about two to three inches above ground level. Unless you are a martyr call your local concrete supplier and order a truck with the right amount of yardage to fill the hole. Tell the company the dimensions and they’ll tell you just what you need. Ask for advice about the mix needed for strength and permanence for your area. Make sure the top of the foundation is relatively level though it doesn’t have to be perfectly smooth. Leave the concrete to set. In about 24 hours remove the forms but don’t toss the material away. You can reuse it for door frames and other things like ceiling joists. Normally this is the time to call for your first inspection. Do so before you proceed.

Now you may want to pour a concrete slab for the shed floor. Again call your concrete supplier and tell him your dimensions. A 3 to 4 inch slab is sufficient for your purposes. You’ll also want to buy some rebar or wire mesh to add strength and stability to the slab.

Step 5

Now mark the foundation walls for rough door openings making sure you account for the finished size of the opening and go wide enough to accommodate that size. Also, if you are adding windows make sure you know where to leave openings for the rough opening as well.

Spread your bricks on the ground and set a level string around each wall of the shed. Mix a batch of mortar (rent a mortar mixer from your local home center) and apply a layer of mortar to the foundation to accommodate around 5 to 7 bricks. Lay bricks one at a time making sure they are level. Use the string as a guideline. Repeat all around the foundation wall. As you build layers repeat the same idea but place your bricks so they are centered over the space between the two bricks below. Repeat until you have reached the height of your building.

At the door and window openings you’ll need to place a header across the top of the opening so the bricks above will remain in place. You can use a thin steel header or a piece of 4×4 timber to act as a header. Don’t overlook this step.

The final step is to build your roof. This is a common shed building activity so I won’t go into that here. When you build a storage building from bricks you have to pay attention to the details of the construction process. Follow these steps and you’ll build a strong brick shed.

Caring For Your Teak Cutting Board

When it comes to caring for teak cutting boards, a few simple steps can extend the life of your board exponentially. Teak’s naturally occurring oils help the wood resist moisture, rot, fungi, and warping, but with a little extra love you can keep your beautiful teak cutting boards looking great indefinitely.

First and foremost, the most important way to add additional protection to your plantation teak cutting board is to season the surface with a liberal dose of the proper oil. This oil fills in the wood’s tiny pores and creates a barrier that keeps food particles and liquids from penetrating into deep into the grain.


Most teak experts recommend a USP grade mineral oil. This food-grade oil will protect your cutting surface and won’t spoil. Other suitable treatments include coconut oil, almond oil, walnut oil, or beeswax. Coconut, almond and walnut oils are all highly resistant to rancidity. More common cooking oils like olive or vegetable oil are not recommended for cutting surfaces due to their tendency to spoil — and who wants to cut their veggies on rancid oil?


To season your board, warm the oil and apply it with a soft cloth, following the direction of the wood grain. Don’t worry about applying too much oil — there is no such thing as “too much.” For the initial treatment, you’ll need to apply 4 or 5 coats, letting each coat dry for a minimum of 4 hours before applying the next.

Should you choose to go with beeswax as a sealant, simply apply the beeswax (on top of your mineral oil, ideally) then buff it off with a soft cloth. Alternatively, you can add 1/2tsp of beeswax to 1 cup of mineral oil, heat this in the microwave for 45 seconds, and then simply apply it as if it were an oil.

Following the initial seasoning, you’ll want to reapply a coat of oil every two weeks to keep your board in tip-top condition.


DOs: When it comes time to clean your board, rinse it with soap and warm water, drying it thoroughly afterwards.

To disinfect your plantation teak, wipe it down with undiluted white vinegar after each use. Vinegar is effective against E. coli, Salmonella, and Staphylococcus.

If you want to go a step further, you can wipe your board down with a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution, directly after wiping down the board with vinegar.

DON’T: When washing your board, don’t submerge the board underwater, for it’s porous surface can absorb water and cause cracking.

Harsh detergents are a big no-no, as are dishwashers and other places that are prone to extreme humidity or dryness.

Tips and Tricks

  • To remove any odors left by fish, garlic, etc., try rubbing the surface with baking soda or a cut lemon, then wiping it down or rinsing.
  • Flip your cutting board over from time to time (even though you may have a favorite side); using both sides will even the wear and prolong your board’s life.

All Inclusive Versus Full Board

Many people still believe that cruising is a pricy holiday choice, but when you consider everything that’s included, it really can work out to be excellent value for money.

Along with comfortable serviced accommodation, the cost also includes your meals which are available around the clock, evening entertainment plus use of modern ship facilities such as the gym. So does that cover everything? Not quite.

It’s sometimes easy to forget the “extras” you will be paying in addition to the cruise fare. Shore excursions, drinks, gratuities, port transfers not to mention your spending money are all going to up the bill and need to be considered.

The majority of cruise lines sell their cruises on a full board basis, i.e. all meals included, but do not include drinks. There are a few exceptions, such as Island Cruises and Thomson Cruises. These 3-4* cruise lines offer a number of free upgrades to an all inclusive tariff on selected sailings. Places are very limited, and once the free places have sold, they will charge to upgrade to this option, if it is still available.

But wouldn’t it be nice if everything was included, I’m talking gratuities, unlimited drinks from fancy cocktails to champagne, a complimentary mini bar in your cabin and all shore excursions.

You may be surprised to find out that this option is almost a reality.

Ultra luxury cruise line Silversea offers the closest you can get to a fully inclusive cruise package.

Their fleet offers 4 beautiful ships each carrying no more than 400 passengers for an intimate experience. When you sail with Silversea all gratuities and drinks are included, but in addition, transportation to and from the ports to the main attractions are complimentary.

Obviously, sailing in a suite onboard an all inclusive luxury ship is going to cost more than your regular cruise, but, if you usually travel in a suite on a 4* ship, surprisingly, this option may work out to be better value. For around £3400 per person you could enjoy an all inclusive, 7 night Mediterranean cruise, in a suite with balcony onboard a 6* luxury ship. If you don’t require a balcony, this cost can drop to around £2500 per person. In comparison, a similar cruise with a 4* cruise line based on a top suite could roll in at as much as £3800 per person.

If you still like the idea of an all inclusive board basis (and who wouldn’t) but have a budget that won’t quite stretch, there are still options out there for you.

Royal Caribbean for example offer their cruises on a full board basis, but, teas, coffee, lemonade, iced tea and fruit juices with breakfast are complimentary. Furthermore, soda packages can be purchased which enables both kids and adults to enjoy unlimited brand soft drinks at a very reasonable daily rate, plus, for those who enjoy a bottle of wine with their meal, they sell various packages which will also save you a few pounds.

For daytime cocktails – you are on holiday after all – look out for the cocktail of the day which will be on offer at a reduced price. However, in addition to this cost of course, you still have a service charge of 15% to pay on top of each bar bill, plus gratuities.

So, what really is better value? To work this out you need to calculate how much you are likely to be spending on drinks, the accommodation you want to travel in, and the gratuities you will need to pay. Then you can work out the difference in cost and decide if you want to pay the extra to experience an ultra luxury cruise.

Building a Playhouse – How to Design a Playhouse for Your Kids

Before you can build a playhouse for your kids, you obviously need a plan. Without a plan you’ll stumble along, making random cuts and wasting your time and money on wrongly cut lumber. But how and where do you get a design and a plan?

Let’s face it, most of us are just regular guys or gals without a degree in architecture, right? So how do we design and build a playhouse?

One way to get your creative juices flowing is to study other playhouses. Whether online or in person, look at and study as many playhouse designs as you can. If you are lucky enough to see some in person, take a measuring tape with you and physically measure the height and widths. Get a feel for how big a playhouse should be and how big you want yours to be.

As a good rule of thumb, an average sized playhouse should be about 50-100 square feet in floor area. The walls need not be over 6′ tall, as most children are about 4 to 4-1/2 feet tall.

If you’re a novice woodworker, keep the design simple. A square or simple rectangle is the safest bet. Don’t try to get all fancy with an overly elaborate design. You may get bogged down halfway through and give up. Better to keep it simple and complete it.

Design your playhouse with a gable roof. A gable roof is the easiest to build and still looks good on a simple structure. The pitch or angle of the roof should be 1 to 2. In other words for every 12″ the rise should be 6″. This makes it easier to figure the ridge height.

For siding, use T-111 plywood turned horizontally. This gives the impression of lap siding, but is quicker and cheaper. When using this method, keep your wall lengths 8′ or less, as plywood siding comes in that length standard.

Build a front door out of either thicker plywood or 1×6 boards. You can get some basic strap hinges from a hardware store to allow it to swing. If you design the walls 6′ tall, make the door 5′ or 5′-6″ tall.

Don’t try to use a regular door knob for the playhouse door. They’re made for a standard door which is thicker than the door you’ll be building. Just use a hasp or slide bolt. Or you could opt for no knob at all!

Finally, design your playhouse with a few windows. Make them about 18″ square as this will look better as far as the proportion to the rest of the playhouse.

So you need to check out other playhouses, and take notes. Sketch your ideas on some blank paper. I like to use graph paper with 1/4″ squares. Spend some time tweaking and perfecting your design. Once you get it the way you want it, you’re ready to start building!

The Advantages of Face Painting Cheek Art

The art of face painting began thousands of years ago when it was used by some cultures for hunting and for battle. Other tribes used it for religious ceremonies and important ethnic occasions. Today, it is done more for fun and pleasure. A painting booth can be commonly found in carnivals, fairs and charity events and is always a hit among the crowd. Everyone, children and adults alike, just love to participate. In this type of painting, the entire face is designed to emulate a certain character. However, some people prefer to have just a small part of their faces done. For clients like this, cheek art is your best bet. In cheek art, only the side of the face is covered . But even if the area covered is smaller compared to a full face design, it can be just as exciting and appealing as face painting. Face painting cheek art also has many advantages.

First, cheek art is done on a much smaller area. This saves a lot of time. Compared to painting an entire face, considerably less time is spent when cheek painting. This is perfect both for you and your clients since everyone now seems to be in a hurry. This will also work great if you are painting little kids since children are not known for their patience. They cannot tolerate sitting still for a long period of time. So the faster you get done, the better. Aside from saving a great amount of time, you also get to save money since you will be using considerably less paint. Since quality face paint does not come cheap, this is ideal for customers who are concerned about things like the cost. This will also enable you to price your services at a cost that most people can afford.

Second, cheek art designs are more easily done compared to the bigger and more intricate designs of full face painting. Considerably less effort will be spent on creating the entire design since you will be painting on a much smaller area. And huge and complicated designs are no longer required to make a beautiful creation.

Third, you can be more flexible in your creations. Any design of your client’s choice can be resized and turned into cheek art. You do not even have to paint on the cheeks alone. You can paint anywhere! Face painting cheek art can be done on the shoulders, hands, neck…It depends on where your client wants it.

These are just a few of the advantages of cheek art. But you won’t really know unless you try it for yourself. So pick up that brush now and make your first stroke!

Red Dye Diesel – A Red Diesel Fuel That Costs Less

If you own a construction company or use farm equipment, you may be paying too much for your diesel fuel. Red dye diesel fuel has the same chemical composition as diesel #2, but red pigment has been added. Red diesel fuel costs less because it can be used for any diesel engine powered vehicle that does not drive on the roadways, and is therefore exempt from state road tax. In California, for example, red dyed diesel fuel is about.40 to.50 less per gallon than diesel #2 due to the absence of the state road tax. Here’s a closer look at the types of off-road vehicles that use red diesel and the businesses that could benefit most from switching to red dye diesel.

Construction companies rely upon diesel fuel to power their backhoes, cranes, bulldozers, Bobcats and even for their diesel generators. Moving large objects like loads of rebar, soil, and steel beams are no match for large pieces of equipment like these. However, with off road construction vehicles like these, the gas is burned in large amounts. According to the Nebraska Test Laboratory Web site, construction vehicles vary widely in their gallons used per hour depending upon the size of the vehicle.

With the smallest bulldozers using just under 4 Gal/hr and the largest devouring 18 Gal/hr, a day’s work can cost thousands of dollars in fuel costs! For just one large construction vehicle operating 9 hours per day at 18 Gal/hr (at $3.00 per gallon), the cost for diesel #2 would be $486.00 per day. If red dye diesel were used instead, the cost would only be $396.90 for the day at $2.45 per gallon! Savings: $89.10 per vehicle, per day. With multiple construction vehicles in operation, a construction company can save thousands of dollars every day in diesel fuel costs.

Farmers are another type of business that can financially benefit from using red dye diesel fuel. Farm equipment including tractors, bulldozers, harvesters, Bobcats, and diesel powered generators can all use red diesel instead of diesel #2. The Nebraska Test Laboratory states that a new John Deere 9230 tractor uses about 11.5 Gal/hr on average. For multiple tractors and farm equipment running their diesel engine from sun up to sun down, the savings can add up significantly each day! At $3.00 per gallon for diesel #2 versus $2.45 per gallon for red dyed diesel, a 10 hour workday can cost $63.25 less per vehicle!

Though some people use red dye fuel in their diesel engines on state roadways, it is illegal to do so. The California Highway Patrol has paper dipsticks to test for the presence of red dye in consumer vehicles and will fine the driver heavily if the stick comes out of the tank with the classic red hue. Off road farm equipment and construction vehicles can all use this less expensive fuel and business owners can begin saving money immediately. In this poor economy, saving money is more important than ever. Other businesses that can benefit from using this fuel instead are traveling shows that use diesel generators such as road shows, carnivals, and fairs. Start saving money today by switching to red dye diesel!

Can Animals and Animal Behaviors Predict the Weather

Do you think animals can predict the weather? In the USA, a groundhog is still used to predict the weather for up to six weeks in advance. If you see the groundhog’s shadow at noon on the 2nd of February, (Groundhog’s Day) then the weather will be cold and wintry for another six weeks.

Have you ever heard the saying that dogs act nervous and cats get frisky as kittens when a bad storm is on the way? Here are some other behaviors that is suppose to predict the coming of bad weather:

  • Frogs croak louder and longer than usual.
  • Roosters crow later in the day.
  • Birds fly lower to the ground and gather on tree branches and telephone wires.
  • Pigs squeal more and gather sticks to make a nest.
  • Cows lay down in the fields to feed, and lay down to ensure they have a dry spot to lay. Cows also run around the field with their tails raised high swatting flies before a storm.
  • Bees and butterflies seem to disappear from the flower beds they usually visit.
  • Red and black ants build up their mounds around the holes, and may actually cover the hole.
  • Fish jump out of the water and nip at low flying insects.

When South Asia had the devastating Tsunami which caused a large death toll and a large path of destruction, it was surprising how low the count was for loss of wildlife. Sri Lankan wildlife officials reported that they found no dead wild animals, including elephants. A photographer also reported seeing no animal corpses as he flew over the wildlife reserve – only active wildlife. An amazing fact when you consider the flood waters traveled up to two miles inland into the wildlife reserve. Potential theories suggest that a sixth sense alerted them to the Tsunami in plenty of time to reach higher and safer land. It could be from something as easy as their keen hearing, maybe hearing the wave approaching while it was still far enough away to escape. The animals may even be able to feel the vibrations of the ground, alerting them of the approaching dangerous situation.

While it’s hard for us to know for sure how they knew danger was coming and what to do and where to go, the fact remains somehow, one way or another, they knew before it occurred.

  • Dolphins come into sheltered bays to avoid storms.
  • Spiders leave their webs when it rains.
  • Bees won’t leave their hives.
  • Seagulls come inland and human beings claim to have pain in their joints, or stuffed up noses before it rains.
  • All over the globe animals have behaviors they exhibit before the weather changes for the worst.
  • History is full of weather lores. I will leave you with a few pertaining to animals:
  • If a cat washes her face o’er her ear, ’tis a sign the weather will be fine and clear.
  • Rainbow in the morning, shepherds take warning. Rainbow at night, shepherds delight.
  • I know ladies by the score, whose hair foretells a storm; Long before it pours, Their curls take a drooping form.
  • Mares tails and mackerel scales, Make lofty ships carry low sails.

When the wind is in the north, the skillful fisher goes not forth. When the wind is in the east, ’tis good for neither men nor beast. When the wind is in the south, it blows the flies in the fish’s mouth. But when the wind is in the west, there it is the very best.

  • Fish bite least, with wind in the east.
  • When the ditch and pond affect the nose, Look out for rain and stormy blows.
  • A coming storm your shooting corn presage, and aches will throb, your hollow tooth will rage.
  • If your corns all ache and itch, The weather will make a switch.
  • If birds fly low, Expect rain and a blow.
  • If the rooster crows on going to bed, You may rise with a watery head.
  • Trout jump high, When rain is nigh.
  • Cats and dogs eat grass before a rain.
  • A swarm of bees in May, is worth a load of hay.
  • When sheep gather in a huddle, Tomorrow will have a puddle.
  • Expect the weather to be fair, When crows fly in pairs.
  • If woolly worms are dark, the coming weather will be severe.
  • When ladybugs swarm Expect a day that’s warm.
  • When chickens scratch together, There’s sure to be foul weather.
  • When pigs carry sticks, The clouds will play tricks. When they lye in the mud, No fears of a flood.
  • If the sparrow makes a lot of noise, rain will follow.

What always amazes me, is how much we can count on many of these peculiar behaviors. So the next time you notice animals acting a bit strange, pay close attention, they may be trying to give you a warning.

Key Characteristics of a Commercial Lease Agreement

There are many significant characteristics of a commercial agreement that involves property. The commercial lease agreement is signed between the tenant and the owner of the property to secure the rights of both the parties. The key elements without which this agreement can be termed as incomplete and of no use for tenant as well as for the owner are numerous like address of the property, start and expiry date etc. and are very crucial for the parties involved to know about them. The first is the correct and absolute address of the property. This is very important so that there is no biased feeling and confusion against any of the party. The contract is for a limited period of time therefore the start and the expiry date of the contract should be clearly mentioned in the lease agreement.

Other than the above mentioned features of commercial agreement, the correct name and signature of all the property that are part of the agreement should be written on the agreement and there rights should also be mentioned as well. The amount of the rent and the amount if paid as advance should also be part of the agreement. The commercial lease agreement should also have the mode of payment mentioned in the agreement and the time interval for the payment of the rent must be given there too. The conditions for the usage of property and the specifications for the renewal of the contract must be clearly stated in the agreement as the tenant may want to continue the contract but owner may like to state some more conditions for further use of the property.

Blueberry Harvesting Methods: By Hand, Shaking and Catching and Machine Picking

1.) Picking by hand

Blueberry picking is an enjoyable way to harvest blueberries. Look for good ripe blueberries. A good blueberries skin should not be cracked and it should be firm blue and round, blue. They won’t get any sweeter after picking. To pick blueberries cup your hand under the bunch of blueberries and simply attempt to roll them off the branch into your hand using your thumb. Then put the blueberries in your bucket. If it doesn’t come off easily, it’s probably not ripe yet so just move on. Several blueberries at a time using this procedure and most of the berries that are not ready will stay on the stem. About 40 to 50 percent of blueberries grown commercially are hand-picked.

Blueberry picking tool:

Using a blueberry rake can make picking go much faster. A blueberry rake is a flat toothed instrument used to pull the berries from the plant without damaging the plant. Using a Hubbard rake is much faster than doing the same thing by hand. These are manufactured by the Hubbard Rake Co. in Jonesport, Maine 04649.

Hand harvesting blueberries has been estimated to require up to 550 worker-hours per acre and in 2011 costs around $1.00 per pound. Labor costs are projected to rise while blueberry prices are expected to drop. As the blueberry industry expands nationally finding enough hand picking laborers during the peak harvest season may become a problem.

2.) U-Pick

U-pick is done by hand by customers who come to the farm for that purpose. They carry their blueberries in a bucket or other container. Some time a rope is put on the bucket so it can hang over their shoulder or around a person’s neck. An excellent container can easily be made by using a 1 gallon plastic milk bottle and cutting off the upper part of the front side and top, making sure the handle part is left on. From a farmers perspective u-picking may be the most profitable alternative. However you must carry significant liability insurance in case of an unforeseen accident.

3.) Shaking and Catching (blueberry fruit catch frame)

There are blueberry fruit catch frames that are made to roll under the blueberry bushes to collect the blueberries when the branches are shaken. The branches or stems can be gently tapped with a rubber hand-held hose to shake off the ripe blueberries. You can also use an electric or air driven mechanical vibrator to shake the branches. If you get too many green blueberries shaken off it means you’re tapping too hard! Using such a simple, hand-operated, wheeled rolling catch frame you can harvest a heavily loaded large bearing plant in just a short time. When you want to empty the frame the frame that is now full of blueberries it is tilted on its wheels back so that ripe fruit rolls to a rear flap which is opened so that the berries fall right into the container. The blueberries can then gently run over an inclined blower and belt to remove any trash.

You can solve the hot weather picking blues of long hours in the field picking blueberries using this method. You can then offer your U-Pick customers fresh-picked blueberries at retail prices! These blueberry fruit catch frames were the predecessors of today’s mechanical harvesting systems. They were widely used in the 1950s and often used hand-held vibrators power-driven using batteries or compressed air to take off fruit. As discussed above the fruit was caught in a canvas-covered catching structure positioned under the plant. Such a simple system is incredibly efficient reducing the harvest cost by 55% and reducing harvest time by more than 200%. Blueberry fruit catch frames are now hard to find because manufactures now make mechanical harvesting systems and have discontinued making the catch frames.

If you cannot find a commercially available catch frame you can build your own by using a photo image of such a catch frame as shown on of blueberry croft’s blueberry blog.

4.) Machine harvesting of blueberries

Harvesting blueberries using a machine is not a panacea. If the slope of the ground exceeds 10 percent it is difficult to harvest with a machine. Damage to the blueberries is greater than hand picking. In general, the expense of a self-propelled harvesting machine cannot be justified unless the blueberry producing acreage exceeds 10 acres.

Several factors have generated increased interest in using a machine to harvest of blueberries in recent years, as mechanical harvesting technology has improved, and new labor regulations have come about and cost have increased. Not all fields are suitable for use of mechanical harvesters. Generally at least 10 or wide rows are required and 25-foot turnaround places at the end of rows are needed for the movement of motorized harvesters. Blueberries for the fresh market have a short shelf-life when they are machine harvested. Therefore blueberries harvested by machine needs to be sold quickly. The shelf life is typical shorter than hand-picked blueberries.

Perhaps the most severe drawback to using mechanical harvesters is this process can cause the damage to the blueberries. Blueberries can be simply bruised by impact resulting from a vertical fall during any step in the process of mechanical harvesting. If the height of a drop onto a hard surface exceeds 6 inches extensive bruising can occur to ripe blueberries. The amount of damage is related to the distance the blueberries fall. Bruised blueberries are also subject to sustaining more decay during storage after harvest.

Today harvesting by machine is about 10 times faster than a typical person using a hand rake swiping it through the shrubs over and over all day. About 10 years ago 20 percent blueberries were harvested using mechanical equipment. Today about 80 percent of growers with large fields of blueberries use machinery to replace hand pickers because it’s cheaper.

Humidifier or Dehumidifier – Which is Right for You?

The humidity level within our homes is very important to our health, too much or too little humidity can cause everything from condensation and mold to dry skin and respiratory issues. Our homes and our bodies depend on the right humidity levels to stay strong and healthy.

Humidity is described as the water vapor levels that are in the air that we breathe. When the air warms up, the vapor levels drop. As the air becomes heavy with rain, the levels begin to rise. Either of these extremes causes us to become uncomfortable and more susceptible to illnesses.

In the winter, the humidity levels tend to be low due to continued use of furnaces and other heating devices. When this happens, we are left with dry skin, lips and eyes, which are uncomfortable, but can be dealt with. However, for some people, especially the very young, very old or those already compromised by sickness, the dryer air can leave them more susceptible to respiratory issues such as bronchitis and asthma.

The use of a home humidifier will bring the air moisture levels to where they need to be. There are several types of humidifiers to choose. A popular type of devise works by warming up water from a reservoir tank, the evaporated water is then dispersed through the home with the use of a fan system. Another system utilizes a continuous mist or steam that is dispersed through the whole house, putting the needed moisture into the air.

A dehumidifier addresses the opposite problem. When the air that we breathe becomes saturated with water, we become uncomfortable, the air is sticky and it is harder to breath. The most common way to deal with this problem is with the use of an air conditioner, which literally sucks the water from the air. This effectively lowers the moisture levels and makes us more comfortable.

If an air conditioner is not an option, the next most common way to control high humidity levels is with the use of a bathroom or kitchen exhaust fan; these are the two places where high humidity levels are frequently found. The exhaust fan pulls the high moisture air out of the room, resulting in a more normal air/water level.

Another way to dehumidify the air in a house is with a dehumidifier. The use of a dehumidifier becomes important in areas of the house that never seem to dry out, such as the basement; or if someone in the home has allergies to mold. Most molds are very common and are not anything to worry about, except in the case of an allergy sufferer. In this case, a dehumidifier should be used in the bedrooms of the person with allergies as well as in or around the high humidity areas of the home.

Humidifiers and dehumidifiers can be found in a size that is right for every house, in fact for every room of the house. They are sold in a variety of stores from home improvement stores to discount chains, from drugstores to online vendors. If you are unsure if the use of a humidifier or dehumidifier is what is needed for your health issues, talk with your doctor, he or she will let you know if the use of one of these devises will alleviate your symptoms.

Recent Improvements in Air Conditioning

Air conditioning is nothing new; in fact, the chemistry behind air conditioning was first discovered during the 1800s. However, like many of the appliances we take for granted in modern society, recent advances in technology have changed the nature of this tool that has made our homes and offices so much more comfortable, especially in Jacksonville, Florida.

Programmable thermostats

Basic air conditioning was simple: a button to turn it on and off, and probably a second control for the fan speed. However, advances in technology have made the programmable thermostat a common feature on air conditioning units, allowing homeowners to adjust their air conditioning unit to maintain a perfectly cooled environment. These thermostats also make AC more energy efficient because they can be programmed to cool only the parts of your home or workplace that you are using or to turn off while people are out of the office or away from home.

Cleaner air

Another improvement in recent years has been a focus on cleaner air, both in the way that the air conditioner itself operates and in the functions performed by the unit.

  • Original air conditioners used Freon gases – either chlorofluorocarbon, hyrdofluorocarbon, or hytrogenated chlorofluorocarbon as the primary cooling agent. These gases are toxic in and of themselves.
  • Newer air conditioners have replaced these standard gases with ones that are less dangerous to the environment, and as of 2010 the less dangerous gases will be standard in all new units.
  • While HVAC units used to simply heat or cool air, the latest models can also dehumidify and filter air to improve air quality and even reduce the suffering of people with allergies.

Emphasis on efficiency

Filtering air and getting rid of harmful Freon is not the only way that cooling your home or office has changed. New AC units are also more energy efficient.

  • As of January 2006, the lowest acceptable SEER (energy efficiency rating from the Energy Star board) for new central air conditioning systems was increased to 13 from its previous low of 10.
  • More units now use fans that continue to blow after the compressor turns off, taking advantage of the left over cool air that would otherwise remain unused

Air conditioning is something that we often take for granted, especially in Jacksonville Florida and the surrounding areas. However, each time we enjoy the feeling of cool air indoors on a hot summer day, we should take a moment to appreciate the ways that AC has been made more energy efficient and less harmful to the environment due to recent improvements.

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly Life Cycle

Egg – Caterpillar – Chrysalis – Butterfly

The time it takes for an egg to hatch depends on the type of butterfly and also the climate. It could take from less than a week to almost three. Most of what I know about butterflies and caterpillars I learned by watching my Gulf Fritillaries. I started raising butterflies after I noticed a butterfly behaving strangely while my husband, Chuck, and I were taking a nature walk. The butterfly would flit around passion vines, land on a leaf, contort its body so that its abdomen touched the leaf, then flit off again. When I went to look at the leaf, I found the small, yellow egg she had deposited there! I brought the egg and leaf home and watched to see what would happen. I have also browsed the web (I like to call it Window shopping) to look for more information about butterflies. So, which came first, the butterfly or the egg? For purposes of this article, let’s start with the egg.


Butterflies lay their eggs on plants that will nourish the caterpillars when they hatch (host plants). Some butterflies place their eggs on one specific plant only, while others may lay them on more than one kind of plant. Even though these are different plants, they are usually of the same family. Some butterflies lay their eggs in clusters or even on top of one another. Some butterflies lay their eggs just one to a leaf or plant. The eggs of butterflies are fascinating. I got a jeweler’s loupe (the small magnifying glass jewelers use to look at precious stones) so I could look more closely at the eggs I found. The Gulf Fritillary egg looks like a miniature ear of corn or maybe a barrel cactus (without the spines).


When the tiny caterpillar hatches, the first thing it does is start to eat. It will, sometimes, even eat its egg shell! At first, it is so small; it can only eat a thin layer of the leaf. The leaf will look transparent or lacy. As it grows, though, it can munch through a leaf with no problem. To me, it looks like it is eating corn on the cob. As it eats and eats, it grows. It will outgrow its skin several times during this phase. It will continue to eat its entire caterpillar cycle except when it is changing its skin and for the last day or so before changes into a chrysalis. When it is time to change skins, it will sit still then start to wriggle. The skin splits open at the head and the caterpillar squirms its way out. The Gulf Fritillary caterpillar is oranges with black stripes and spines, but just after it sheds its old skin, its spines are yellow until its new skin is ready. It then turns around and eats its old skin. The Gulf Fritillary caterpillar looks the same after each of its moldings, but some caterpillars change their appearance from molt to molt. When the caterpillar is ready to molt one last time and become a chrysalis, it stops eating and starts roaming around, looking for a suitable place to attach itself. It will undulate around, over and under leaves and nearby structures, natural and man-made. I provide passion vines for my ‘pillars and also branches for when they feel the urge. They will wander up, down and around for a day or two until they decide it’s time. I’ve had pillars wander off the ranch and wind up in odd places. Twice, ‘pillars have attached themselves to the pedestal base of our office chair and once, one attached itself to the drain rack next to the kitchen sink. When one of the ‘pillars get restless and start roaming, I tell my husband, “We’ve got a runner!” When it chooses the place where it will transform into a chrysalis, it will rest for a bit, and then start laying down silk. It moves its head back and forth over the same spot to build up a small pad to attach itself to. It also will spin silk out to the sides (and around if it’s on a twig) to help secure the pad. When it has finished the pad, it will rest again then attach it self to the pad. It has a special appendage on the end of its body designed specifically for this purpose. It will then slowly let go of the leaf or twig and wind up handing in a distinctive “J” shape. Not all ‘pillars prepare to become a chrysalis in this fashion.


As it hangs there, it begins to turn white, almost like it is blistering. This visits skin detaching itself from the chrysalis underneath. The head of the chrysalis will peak through the skin and it will begin wiggling and moving its body in waves to move the loose skin up to the place where it has attached itself. It will gyrate until it knocks the skin loose. At this point it is waxy looking until it finishing drying out. After it dries, it looks like a dead leaf hanging on a twig. My Gulf Fritillaries are in the chrysalis stage, on average, eight days. If they were out in the wild, they would be completely vulnerable to any predator as they have absolutely no defenses. They can twitch and they do change positions. One day one will be pointing to the left, and the next day it will be pointing right. When it is ready to become a butterfly, the chrysalis becomes dark and almost transparent.


When the butterfly is ready to emerge from its chrysalis, it will break through head first, upside down and crawl up on the empty chrysalis to hang so that its wings are at the lowermost point. At this point, its antennae are lying back against its body and its wings are crumpled up. As it hangs there, its wings begin to unfold and straighten out. The butterfly inflates it wings until they are smooth and flat. It then waits for its wings to dry and harden before taking off. The antennae straighten out and stick straight out from its head. It has extra fluid in its body that it releases before it flies off. This was shocking to see the first time it happened, I thought my butterfly was injured until I researched it. Another time as I was watching a newly hatched butterfly, I thought its tongue (proboscis) looked strange. It looked as though it had two tongues. I thought we had a mutation! I later read that the butterfly’s tongue develops in two halves which come together to form the tube through which it drinks nectar. We did have one actual mutation. One of our butterflies hatched with only three wings. One of its hind wings was missing. Unfortunately, it was unable to fly. Hatching Sequence Pictures Right now we only have passion vines and honeysuckles in our yard. When we had sunflowers and zinnias growing, we had more Gulf Fritillaries and other butterflies flying around. The adult butterfly only lives about four weeks. In that time, it must feed and find a mate. The female must find passion vines to lay her eggs. I’ve noticed that our mature passion vines seem to be home to at least three different kinds of ants, and I think that’s why the female Gulf Fritillary lays her eggs on the small sucker plants that pop up around the more mature plants. Since she only lays one or two eggs per plant, the little caterpillars have a nice tender plant to munch on and can move on to the bigger plants as they get bigger. And so begins another cycle. Butterfly eggs are found on butterfly plant. Several of these books describe the phenomenon of Butterfly metamorphosis from egg to Butterfly. Included are books on backyard bugs and creating a Butterfly Garden so you can observe this transformation first.

IBM iSeries Utilities For Data Interchange

1. Introduction

The IBM iSeries computers, still commonly known as AS / 400 systems use the successful IBM DB2 database to store and access data which are organized into files with the following characteristics:

  • They are structured in data fields which typically have a fixed length and type
  • They have external data definitions which can be used by application programs
  • Numeric data can be stored in packed format where each digit is stored in a semibyte.
  • Data are coded in EBCDIC

Other systems such as Linux / Unix and Windows use files which are just a sequence of bytes (normally coded in ASCII) and therefore are known as stream files. Often their fields have not fixed length and are limited by a special field delimiter character such as a semicolon, a colon or a pipe (field delimited files are often produced by exporting data originally stored in spreadsheets such as Microsoft Excel or databases such as Microsoft Access).

It is often necessary or useful to transfer files between the IBM iSeries (AS / 400) and PCs and Linux / Unix systems, but the different file organizations described above often make such transfers complicated and painful.

This article described some approaches to simplify the work.

2. IBM useful commands

The IBM AS / 400 uses an integrated file system (IFS) that allows to use on the same server different file organizations such as those used by Linux / Unix or Windows and the native AS / 400 ones. The native AS / 400 files are stored in libraries or DB2 collections within the QSYS.LIB. Other file systems exist in the QOpenSys (similar to Unix) or the QDLS (used to store documents and files in PC formats) environments.

The IFS allows to use on the same server Linux / Unix based applications together with the native AS / 400 applications.

The AS / 400 Operating system provides some useful commands to simplify the data interchanges between different file systems as described below:

  • CPYFRMIMPF to copy data from IFS to the AS / 400 database system
  • CPYTOIMPF to copy data from the AS / 400 database system to IFS
  • CPYFRMSTMF to copy stream files into AS / 400 database files
  • CPYTPSTMF to copy AS / 400 database files to stream files
  • CPYTOPCD to copy AS / 400 database files to PC documents, stored in the QDLS folders
  • CPYFRMPCD to copy PC documents in the QDLS folders into AS / 400 database files

The CPYTOPCD and CPYFRMPCD commands are specific for the QDLS system and have not many options where the other ones allow to use many options and are more flexible. They look similar, but there are important differences as follows:

CPYFRMSTMF converges text files (stream files that are in text format) to physical files. It has no concept of fields, so it can only write records to program described files (ie files that have no fields defined) or source pfs.

CPYFRMIMPF converges text files as well, but it tries to interpret fields in the input file and copy them to the appropriate fields in the output file. You can either import delimited fields (for example, comma separated value (CSV) files, tab-delimited files, pipe delimited files, etc) or you can read input from fixed-position fields (you have to define the record layout in a " field definition file ")

An example of the second command is the following:


The example above uses a fixed data format (ie not delimited) and uses a field definition file (FILE4) to describe the text file fields as follows:

– This is comment
– DBFieldname startpos endpos nullIndpos
field1 1 12 13
field2 14 24 0
field3 25 55 56
field4 78 89 90
field5 100 109 0
field6 110 119 120
field7 121 221 0

The above would be needed to import the text file data into a DB file with field names of: FIELD1, FIELD2, FIELD3, …, and FIELD7. The * END is required. I think you can leave off the third column if no fields are null capable.

3. Some User Utilities

The commands above are useful and normally perfectly adequate, but they can be complex especially when the data fields to be copied are not in the same sequence or when one wants to extract only some data from the text file.

I was involved in a few system migration exercises where such copies between Unix, PCs and AS / 400 systems had to be done repeatedly and I developed there before some utilities to simplify these activities.

The utilities have the objective to satisfy following requirements:

  • Support of any separator character used to delimiter the fields
  • Possibility to copy valid data into fields defined as alphanumeric, numeric or packed numeric
  • Possibility to copy data stored in different sequences in the two files. For instance it should be possible to copy fields 1, 3,4 and 6 of the text file into the fields 5, 2, 1 and 4 of the target database file.
  • The utility should be able to store the file fields mappings (such as those described above) to allow the user to simply use the previously entered mapping.

I organized the utilities in a few commands and programs as follows:

a) Command UCPYFTP to control the copy between two files. The command requires to enter following parameters:

AS400 DB File. . . . . . . . . TOFILE …….

AS400 Library. . . . . . . . . TOLIB * LIBL

AS400 Member. . . . . . . . . . TOMBR * FIRST

FTP File. . . . . . . . . . . . FROMFILE …….

FTP Library. . . . . . . . . . FROMLIB …….

Field Separator # T = TAB]. . . . CSEPARATOR '|'

Decimal Point. . . . . . . . . DECPOINT '.'

View Field Mappings (Y / N). . . VIEWMAP 'N'

Up to Record No. . . . . . . . . UPTOREC 0

b) Program UFMA01L to display and maintain existing file mappings.

The display looks as follows:


AS400 Database File: WERCSWKF FTP File: WERCS

Seq AS400 Fld Description Type Len D From

No. Name FldN

1 WK0003 WK_CLIENTE A 9 3

2 WK0004 WK_CLI_SAP A 10 4

3 WK0005 WK_RAGSOC A 40 5

4 WK0006 WK_ZIP A 5 9

5 WK0016 WK_ADDRESS1 A 100 17

6 WK0017 WK_ADDRESS2 A 100 19

7 WK0101 WK_INDI A 30 0

8 WK0102 WK_CAP A 5 0

9 WK0103 WK_LOC A 25 0

10 WK0104 WK_PROV A 2 0


F3 = Exit F6 = Update Mappings F9 = Use sequential mapping F11 = Process

The screen shows that field number 3 of the FTP file is copied to the first field of the database file called WK0003, field 4 is copied to WK0004 and so on. The fields for which the number is zero are not copied, but are initialized correctly in the target file (with zeros or blanks).

Notice following points:

  • The file to be copied is called FTP file because usually it is sent to the AS / 400 by using an FTP transfer.
  • The user must specify the name and library of both the FTP file and the target AS / 400 database file.
  • The commands use some defaults for the field separator and decimal point, but these can be changed by the user.
  • When the View Field Mappings parameter is set to 'Y', the user will see previously defined field mappings or enter new mappings.
  • When the user invokes the command for the first time on a new couple of ftp and target files, the program extracts the field definitions of the database file and displays the mapping screen to allow the user to enter the field mappings which are then stored to allow a future re-use.

A similar utility called UCPYTOFTP allows to copy the data from an AS / 400 database file to a text file to be downloaded to a Linux / Unix or Windows machine.

The Utilities and their documentation can be downloaded for free from my website. The programs are free software that can be redistributed and / or modified under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation.

Is It Time To Replace Your Trampoline Springs?

As you bounce up in the air for the hundredth time, you may be wondering how your trampoline works. There are two things that work together to make you bounce. The trampoline springs and mat combine to create the proper tension to enable you to bounce when you jump. However, exactly how high you bounce depends directly on exactly how strong the springs around your trampoline’s edges are.

All trampoline springs should pass the American Society for Testing and Material standards before they are used on a trampoline. These springs are made with a high quality piece of wire that has been made stronger through a process called galvanization. The galvanized wire is coiled and then is cut to the proper length to form springs.

With each bounce someone takes on the trampoline, stress is placed on the springs. This is why using the strongest wire available is a good idea. Even with high quality wire, the springs will weaken and stretch over time. You should take a look at your trampoline every month to be sure the springs look sturdy and are not rusty. To help keep the springs working well longer, cover the entire trampoline with a tarp when it is not in use and consider spraying the metal with WD40 or a similar anti-rust product. The reason keeping your trampoline springs in good working order is so important is that they could snap at a weakened or rusted point as someone is bouncing away on the trampoline.

While you may want to go right to your trampoline’s manufacturer when you replace springs, you can also go to an online store that sells replacement parts. Two well known spring brands are Ultra Bounce and DDI Sports.

Of course, when you buy your replacement springs, you want to be sure you get ones that actually fit your trampoline. To find out which size you should shop for, remove a spring from the trampoline and measure it from one hook to the other. You should take your measurement in inches, since that is how these replacement parts are sold. You may actually want to measure two or three springs in case one of them is really stretched out to be sure you have the right measurement.

Once you have your measurements, you can shop for replacement springs. There are many great replacements parts suppliers operating online and you can find more information on them by following the resources section at the end of this article.