Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

The Three Rs of Fishing

Sunday, March 26th, 2017

If there were a fourth R of fishing, it would be recycling. For example, unwanted fishing line should be recycled, not thrown away. If it ends up in a landfill, it is hazardous to birds and other animals in the area. It should be discarded in designated receptacles found at many fishing shops, parks, boat ramps and piers. Metal pieces also can be recycled, such as lead weights, spoons, hooks and blades.
© istock/mokee81

I’ve mentioned Pop a time or two before. He was a fishing legend where I grew up.

He is worth reintroducing here because he was a firm believer in the three Rs of fishing gear: repair, repurpose and reuse.

Pop accumulated a trove of fishing gear in his 80-some years. It was as if he never threw anything away. Despite how that may sound, nearly all of it was in perfect working condition. That’s because he always followed these three principles when challenged by broken, aging or worn out gear.

Restore it. It’s easy—and satisfying—to repair a broken rod tip, grip or guide. A reel restoration is more challenging, but it is well worth the trouble if the reel is one of your old favorites. Manuals with exploded parts views for many brands and models of reels are available online. You also can sharpen hooks, polish spinner blades and restore suppleness to plastic baits with a few drops of glycerin.

Repurpose it. I’ve seen earrings created from old spinners, back scratchers made from broken rods, and keyrings assembled from crankbait and diver plugs. The uses for old and broken fishing gear are endless. But, perhaps, the best use is to repurpose it as loaner gear for children or other novice anglers.

Reuse it. A piece of fishing gear may not work properly, but that doesn’t mean it has to be discarded. Reuse any parts that do work still—such as the body, spoons and treble hook of a lure—and discard the rest. Often you can take the working parts of two broken items and combine them to make one that works.

The Outdoor Workout
Ever wonder how many calories you burn outdoors? The actual burn rate depends on the activity. For example, hiking and biking burn more calories—410 and 574 calories, respectively, for a person weighing 180 pounds—than fishing and hunting, which burn 164 and 328 calories, respectively.
Duration and intensity of the activity, body weight, age, gender and metabolism also play a role. The good news is almost every outdoor activity burns more calories than sitting or puttering around the house. So the next time you go fishing, if anyone asks, it’s OK to tell people you are going to work out.

To get a better idea of how many calories you burn, check out the calorie-burn calculator at

A Hiker’s Delight
Do you want to find trails near home or when exploring new areas? There are many trail directory apps and websites, but one of the most comprehensive is You can browse the site by location and activity type. The site also is interactive, and you can post your comments and photos, or see those posted by others.

What Makes April Special
Keep America Beautiful Month.
April 8: Draw a Picture of a Bird Day.
April 28: Arbor Day.
April 28: International Astronomy Day.

Show-and-Tell Time
Send us your favorite outdoor tip, photo or story. If selected for publication, we will send you $25 for one-time use of the item. When sending a photo, identify people and pets, and tell us the story behind the picture. Email your submission to gro.etilarurnull@ofni.

Cut Down to Save Big

Sunday, March 26th, 2017

At age 49, Donna Freedman decided to change her life. It was 2006, and she was a recently divorced, single parent with $130 to her name.

Donna had always lived frugally, but found herself at a place in life where every penny counted. She had to come up with a plan to survive and thrive.

“I had to go broke to become a personal finance writer,” says Donna, now a freelance writer and author.

Personal finance stretches beyond retirement plans and stock options to simple, everyday lifestyle changes and money-saving behaviors that result in substantial savings.

For some, it is breaking the daily latte or shopping habit, or cutting monthly grocery costs in half. For others, it is viewing debt as a financial emergency and strategically planning to pay it off.

Donna says taking ownership of her monthly income saved money, and gave her both peace of mind and financial independence.

She started by contacting a former colleague from the Anchorage Daily News, personal finance columnist Liz Weston. At the time, Liz worked for MSN Money.

“I told Liz my divorce was final and the only money I could count on was $1,000 a month for the next year,” says Donna. “I told her, ‘I’m going to be able to live on this, pay off my debt and divorce, and save money.’”

This conversation led to Donna’s first personal finance article, “Surviving (and thriving) on $12k a year.” It was published by MSN Money in January 2007. The article outlined how she would build her savings account on $1,000 a month while working less and getting her education from the University of Washington.

Aside from writing, Donna became a jack of all trades, fixing appliances at the Seattle apartment complex where she lived. She also took on babysitting jobs.

Donna moved to Anchorage, Alaska, in 2012, where she continued her freelance work and expanded her blog, Surviving and Thriving—a collection of stories about intentional living and Donna’s philosophy on being thrifty.

“Spending less means more choices,” Donna says. “Someone who is in debt has no options but to pay it off. Some people stay in jobs they hate so they can pay off debt from stuff they buy to make them feel better, because they hate their jobs. You need to handle your own money. You can still fix what’s wrong.”

People are Seeking Help
Since the 2008 recession, many people have turned to online resources, such as Donna’s blog, for tips and tricks to save money. Personal finance websites, such as The Penny Hoarder, are thriving.

“We focus on keeping more money in our readers’ pockets, not so much stock markets,” says Justin Cupler, assistant editor at The Penny Hoarder.

Since it started in 2010, The Penny Hoarder has attracted more than 6 million active subscribers with posts ranging from money management to food freebies.

“We cater to the masses,” says Justin. “Everyone is looking for ways to make money. We try to catch on to trends where people can find real-life ways to earn money and save money.”

The first principle to personal finance is you get out of it what you put into it, says Justin.

For every person, regardless of age, the first step to managing money is paying off debt. Justin says there are two approaches to effectively tackling what you owe.

“The debt snowball is paying off the lowest-balance credit cards first, then once that card is paid off, rolling that payment into the card with the next-lowest balance,” Justin says. “Debt avalanche is the same concept of rolling payments, but you focus on paying the highest interest cards first.”

Easy Ways to Save
Paying off debt often means cutting back on spending. Karrie Truman from Kennewick, Washington, is an expert on household savings. Her blog, Happy Money Saver, gives readers easy ways to save at home, ranging from making their own laundry detergent to building a dream house on a budget.

“In 2009, I first started blogging because I was finding so many good deals,” says Karrie. “I love to experiment, so I started doing tests of whether making your own laundry detergent really saves money. I made my own (version of) Burt’s Bees for 12 cents a tube. I’ve been frugal a very long time. I think I just love saving money.”

Karrie’s blog has grown so much that she pays 10 people to contribute and help manage her site.

“I have some people do recipe creation,” she says. “Some people help me with photography. I have people that help with writing thrifty articles, and I have somebody that manages all the different social media outlets.”

Karrie’s most popular blog section is about freezer meals. She says preparing meals ahead of time is a great moneysaver.

“You may make multiple trips to the store every week, which leads to impulse shopping,” says Karrie. “When you do freezer meals and make 30 meals all in one day with one batch of groceries, you save all that time you would have been cooking when you get home.”

By living a frugal life, Karrie was able to make her dream of owning a piece of land and farm animals come true.

In February 2016, her dream home on 5 acres was completed, and she started her own homestead.

She blogged about the process.

“It takes a lot of research to save a lot of money when building a house,” says Karrie. “I was constantly researching everything—from the best quality and least expensive options. There’s so much research involved, but it pays off. The amount of work you put in it will pay off.”

A ‘Silly’ Way to Cut Costs
Dedicating each week to saving money also paid off for Lisa Mapuranga when she saw how lucrative couponing could be.

“For me, I kind of always thought coupons were silly,” says Lisa, who lives in Spanaway, Washington. “I actually had a co-worker friend whose mom was couponing. One day she paid like $125 for more than $900 worth of stuff. That’s $800 of savings. That’s like a part-time job.”

Lisa told her co-worker she wanted to learn about couponing, which led her to teach classes in Parkland, Washington.

“I teach people how to coupon at different levels and what would work for their lifestyle,” says Lisa.

She says everyone has a different amount of time they can commit to the task, and household needs factor into how much time is spent couponing.

First, Lisa buys four to five Sunday newspapers. She clips coupons and organizes them in a binder. She also uses apps such as Krazy Coupon Lady, the RiteAid app, and websites such as and

Couponing allows Lisa to share some of her finds with her church food bank.

While you can save money couponing, Lisa knows every person’s couponing need is different.

“Try things out and see what works for you,” says Lisa. “What works for someone else might not necessarily work for you and your life.”

Teaching Students About Finances
While Donna and Karrie had frugal upbringings that shaped their view of life, others become thrifty through practice.

Teacher Gina Pixler believes these skills should be part of everyone’s education.

“I have my Realtor license and was a mortgage lender before the market went bad,” says Gina. “The most common age demographic—between 23 and 27—cannot afford a home because they destroyed their credit. Credit isn’t something you can just fix. You have about two to three years of changing your lifestyle.”

What naturally came out of conversations with people wanting to buy a home was the question, “Why didn’t anyone teach me this when I was in high school?”

“I asked myself, ‘Why aren’t we empowering students to make smart financial decisions?’” says Gina.

Gina has been a technical education teacher at the junior-senior high school in Chester, California, for 11 years.

“It doesn’t matter how much you make,” she says. “It matters what you do with the money you make. It is not just luck. With the right choices, we can all be financially successful.”

Students in Gina’s classes create and manage a budget, receive hands-on work experience in job fields they are interested in pursuing, learn about the stock market and learn how to dress professionally.

Her students also compete in competitions such as the national H&R Block Budget Challenge and the local Shasta Youth Entrepreneurship Program at Shasta College.

“They use what we’ve taught them about the basics of income, paychecks, taxes, saving, investing and put a budget together and monitor it,” says Gina. “It’s a pretty good eye opener for all of them.”

Gina’s goal is to prepare her students for a career and college, while teaching them strategies to successfully manage their money.

“They can be millionaires by the time they’re 40,” says Gina. “That’s my pitch.”

While there are many influences in society to have the latest and greatest of everything, Donna has learned­­­—through trial and tribulation—that being thrifty leads to a happier life.

“I really do think that you live better when you have control of your finances,” says Donna. “Frugal people sleep better. We’re not lying awake wondering how we’re going to make that minimum payment. Choosing to live with less has meant not filling my life with things that don’t matter to me.”

Donna says she saves where she can so she can spend where she wants, which includes an occasional opera ticket, dinner at a nice restaurant and going to the symphony.

“I’m not a minimalist, but having fewer things means having more space in your life and your house, and not having the debt to go along with it,” she says.

Six Steps to Get Your Finances on Track

Sunday, March 26th, 2017

Assistant Editor Justin Cupler works at The Penny Hoarder offices. The personal finance website has attracted more than 6 million active subscribers.
Photo by Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder

Take control of your money instead of letting your money control you

It is easy to talk about personal finance, but how do you take the talk from passive to active? Here are six steps to help you start your financially conscious lifestyle.

Step One: Financial Fire Drill
“Add up the absolutely minimum amount you need to survive the month,” says Donna Freedman of the blog Survive and Thrive.

Assessing your monthly expenses helps you make a distinction between monthly wants and needs. This amount does not include luxuries such as cable, entertainment and eating out.

Step Two: Create a Budget
Budgeting means assessing how much you need to spend on monthly expenses such as rent/mortgage, car, child or pet care and groceries, and establishing a place for money left over.

“You have to really look at how much you have, your earnings and how much you can afford,” says Karrie Truman, creator of Happy Money Saver blog.

Groceries can be a big budget breaker, says Karrie.

“Often times, food is the No. 1 huge budget breaker because everyone is on the go and coming home tired around dinner time,” she says.

Instead of ordering a pizza or going out for dinner, this mom of four encourages people to coupon to help with the expense and prepare freezer meals for easy dinners at the end of the day.

Step Three: Cut the Fat
Once you have established a budget, address the monthly luxuries you could do without.

“Cut everything that you don’t need and can live without,” says Justin Cupler, assistant editor of The Penny Hoarder. “If you have a Netflix account, but only watch once a month, or have a car you’re paying on, but only drive two times a week, start cutting those expenses. You could save several hundred dollars a month.”

Step Four: Save
Whether it is a savings account, 401(k), IRA or mutual funds, everyone should be saving for the future. Saving every month can be as easy as “set it and forget it.”

“Automate your savings,” says Justin. “There is Acorns, Digit and multiple other apps that take money and stash it away for you.”

Acorns monitors your bank account and automatically invests the change from your daily purchases into an investment portfolio of your choice, from moderate to aggressive.

Digit connects to your checking account and analyzes your spending habits, bills and deposits. It then determines how much money you can afford to have transferred into a savings account every two to three days.

Both apps are federally insured and protected.

Step Five: Be Patient
Paying off debt and getting finances in order takes time.

“Time is the price to work your way up,” says Gina Pixler. “You’re not going to have it all together all at once.”

Gina says getting your credit score in good standing can take two to three years. By establishing clear goals to paying off debt, it can make you feel more accomplished.

“Break down the cost of debt into obtainable, smaller goals you can be proud of achieving,” says Gina.

Step Six: Reward Yourself
As you move toward your goal of living a more financially conscious lifestyle, save for events and vacations.

“It can be monster truck driving or the opera—whatever matters to you,” says Donna. “Go ahead and have it, but have a plan on how to pay for it.”

Gina urges people to make rewarding yourself a goal.

“As adults, we need to make vacation a goal and not work to death,” says Gina. “Reward with fun.”

When it comes to taking control of your money, it is an active process that should be given priority every month.

“Start now,” says Justin. “Don’t start next month. Start today.”

What a Photograph Cannot Do

Sunday, March 26th, 2017

Four views of Frank, from left: The cheerful Frank I see most mornings. He talks about a former girlfriend, an Italian woman. Frank grows more serious as he explains how he came to Italy via Morocco and lost his passport. He sleeps on the streets and, at 66, is losing hope of ever leaving Italy or being able to get a job. “All I want is a simple life—a room to stay in and to live,” he offers. He has been stuck in Italy for 32 years with no hope of ever leaving or changing his existence. He says he cares deeply about me … and that we are both crazy.

I have written about what photography means to me and how it helps us cope and heal from traumas. But for all of the wonderful things photographs can do, they have limits—things they cannot do.
How often have we heard, and maybe even said, a photograph “captured” an individual’s spirit or character?

I feel like that trite expression is grossly inaccurate.

Last year I wrote a column, “I am not Richard Avedon,” confessing my inability to share painful or revealing photos of subjects without their blessing, however honest the images might be.

Space would not allow me then to elaborate on another acute realization: No single photograph—even the best ones made by the best photographers—can capture a person’s spirit any more than a mirror can capture the essence of our complicated selves.

No human is one thing, one way, all the time. We laugh, we cry, we are happy and we are sad. Between these extreme passions are myriad subtle feelings and expressions—each a tiny blinking star in a vast galaxy of emotion, each a fragment of the fleshly paint of an immortal soul.

We humans are far too complicated to be captured on film or a digital sensor. As with photographing the wind, we can only hope to capture shadowy glimpses of the spirit.

When people ask me how I am doing, I often tease, “I am fine, as long as I stay away from a mirror.”

Though this is meant to evoke a laugh, there is deep truth in what I am saying. Who I see in a mirror does not look at all like the real, intimate, internal, invisible, eternal me—at least not what I feel in my spirit.

This does not minimize the power of a good photograph or work of art. On the contrary, a photograph can trigger or awaken emotions within—sort of heirlooms to memories—that remind us or connect us to meaningful moments in our lives.

Some portraits—whether made with camera or paintbrush—offer clues about the subject’s inward person, granting us a peek at their soul.

But portraits shared publicly have context. When possible, multiple images are published to give a greater range of emotion and expression.

For me, seeing a single portrait of a person is a little like watching the tip of a snake’s tail going down a gopher hole and saying I saw the snake. I prefer to study multiple images of a person from one sitting or shoot to assemble a more complete profile.

Like it or not, we make judgments about people often based on a single image, without knowing the context of the photograph. What was the circumstance, the climate of the photo shoot? What was the question? What was the facial expression in response to?

One of the exercises I use with my students is to have them shoot a self-portrait. Then I ask other students to tell the class how they see and feel about the person.

I miss those days when publications printed a panel of portrait images from a sitting. Each individual photograph offered a different expression, like a piece to a jigsaw puzzle or mosaic, that contributed to the overall beauty of the person’s spirit and character.


David LaBelle is an internationally known photographer, teacher, author and lecturer. He has worked for newspapers and magazines across the United States and taught at three universities. He applies many of the lessons he learned during his magical boyhood years in rural California to photography. For more information, visit

Man On a (High-Voltage) Wire

Sunday, March 26th, 2017

Badger never knows where the job will take him. Above, he prepares for an early-morning job working on live high-voltage transmission lines in Texas.
Photo courtesy of Kenneth Knight

To commute to work, aerial lineman Kenneth “Badger” Knight hops a ride on a McDonnell Douglas MD500 helicopter—an aircraft known for being small, yet powerful and highly maneuverable.

“It’s the greatest bucket truck in the world,” says Badger, who is whisked hundreds of feet aloft to work on live high-voltage transmission lines and towers.

Depending on the project, Badger is tethered to his perch on a platform or a ladder, or he dangles by a 100-foot rope from a helicopter.

“We maintain and inspect the lines while they’re energized and provide support for contractors who are building new lines,” Badger says.

The lines have 69,000 to 765,000 volts of electricity flowing through them.

“Utilities don’t want to shut down a line for maintenance and have an outage that disrupts the grid,” he says.

Badger and other linemen wash or replace insulators, install 36-inch aerial marker balls and bird deflectors, and splice energized conductors. The 41-year-old Connor Creek, Idaho, native has been an aerial lineman for two years.

“I can’t imagine doing anything else,” Badger says. “It’s never boring, and I like to travel. I never know where they’ll send me next until they email me a plane ticket.”

Typically, Badger works 45 days, then returns home to Connor Creek for a week or two before his next assignment.

He was nicknamed by his grandfather because of his fearless personality as a child Badger says, noting those traits help him on the job.

He says he does not feel fear even when he is 300 feet off the ground because he is focused on the task at hand and does not look down while working.

Mindful of on-the-job dangers, Badger says he starts his workdays with a prayer. He also has a pair of eyes tattooed on the back of his shaven head.

“It reminds me that I’m the one watching my back and that I have to trust myself for my own safety,” he says.

Badger says there are a few misconceptions about his job.

“People think we’re adrenaline junkies and millionaires, but we’re neither,” he says. “You can’t take any risks. You have to be methodical with everything you do. We get paid well enough, but I can’t afford to retire until I’m in my 60s like everyone else.”

Badger is part of a small crew: a pilot, a mechanic and two linemen.

“We drive a 450-gallon fuel truck to the job site because the helicopter burns so much fuel,” Badger says.

Depending on the weather, he works Monday through Saturday, starting at 5 or 6 a.m., when air turbulence is minimal.

“We might quit at noon if the winds pick up, or other days we might work 10 hours,” he says.

To protect himself, Badger wears a helmet and lightweight flannel-like work pants and shirt lined with stainless steel fibers.

“It’s called a Faraday suit and prevents electricity from flowing through the body,” he explains. “The current flows on the outer portion of a conductor instead of through it. The suit builds a field, so electricity flows around us.”

When his aerial work is done, Badger says he takes a few minutes to appreciate his bird’s-eye view of the world.

“In Florida, we had to pull a line that ran over the St. Johns River near Jacksonville,” he says. “You could look down and see dolphins swimming around.”

While home recently, Badger says he happened to watch a television program about the 10 most dangerous jobs.

“Aerial lineman was No. 10,” he says. “But for me, the rewards outweigh the risks. I’ll retire from Haverfield. If I’m not in the air, I could see myself teaching in the classroom.”

Power of Contrast

Saturday, February 25th, 2017

Watching for contrasts adds life to your photos while helping viewers understand what you see. Above, a contrast captured on the streets of Florence, Italy.

Contrast is a powerful teaching tool and important player in writing and photographic composition. Contrasts come in shapes, colors, tones, sizes of subjects, even emotions.

Though most of us seldom stop to analyze or internalize all the contrasts offered to us daily, they help us process visual information instantly.

Just as our perception of color changes depending on the colors around them—red against green looks and, more importantly, feels different than red against gray or white—the way we perceive a subject often changes with the environment surrounding it.

Contrast in tone is a way to create an instant focal point. For example, a white horse against a shadowed or dark background draws immediate attention, just as a dark horse against a white, snowy backdrop tells our eyes what is important. When everything is white except for one dark subject, we see the subject first because it is in contrast to the overwhelming white space.

But there are other, often subtle, contrasts to be used as clues to help the reader or viewer see the picture you saw.

Contrasting actions or emotions in a single photographic scene can be a powerful communications device.

A photograph showing a person crying while someone nearby is laughing grabs our attention. The contrast is striking and disturbing—like a needle sliding across the vinyl grooves of record. We want to know more about the context of what our eyes are seeing.

I remember doing a fashion shoot using several beautiful models, dressed in sheer, flowing white garments in a dark, greasy junkyard. The mounds of twisted steel and smashed car bodies provided a stark and effective backdrop to the flowing lines and shapes of the models and garments.

I once gave an advanced photojournalism class a semester-long project, “Rich man, poor man.” Students documented individuals of similar age in different socioeconomic classes, making photographs of the subjects’ environment and possessions, housing, job, workplace and transportation.

The contrasts were shocking. One student showed a young man with a pool on the roof of his penthouse and another man’s tiny shack in a government housing project.

Seeing the man in the small apartment would not have had the same impact if not paired with the man relaxing in the pool holding a drink.

I am always on the hunt for visual contradictions—scenes like a cold, hungry homeless person looking through a glass window while the wealthy eat their fill in a warm restaurant.

One of my favorite pictures made by the late Margaret Bourke White shows people standing in a food line during the Louisville, Kentucky, flood of 1937 with a billboard backdrop of a happy family riding in a fancy car with the heading “World’s Highest Standard Of Living.” The contrast is immediate and unmistakable.

Remember, pictures with contrasting emotions often need words to explain them. Without proper context, we can arrive at inaccurate conclusions. We must be careful when contrasts become unfair or inaccurate judgments.

David LaBelle is an internationally known photographer, teacher, author and lecturer. He has worked for newspapers and magazines across the United States and taught at three universities. He applies many of the lessons he learned during his magical boyhood years in rural California to photography. For more information, visit

Fascination With Roller Pigeons Comes Home to Roost

Saturday, February 25th, 2017

Gary Richards’ pigeons are a unique breed. They are roller pigeons, named for their ability to turn tight somersaults in the air and even on the ground.
Photos by Jeff Paries

Squinting in the Arizona sun, his head tilted back and eyes scanning the sky, Gary Richards, 61, watches his birds perform their aerial feats.

“If it’s not windy, they go so high you can’t see them,” he says. “The only time they leave is if something chases them.”

Gary, a machinist by day and an on-call volunteer with the City of Safford Fire Department, needs to go no farther than his backyard to indulge his hobby of raising roller pigeons. There, a 12-foot-by 8-foot breeding pen houses pairs of birds. Two 4-foot-by-8-foot kit boxes house birds that are ready to fly.

Gary’s interest in birds dates back to his youth, when he owned various breeds of pigeons. It began when, at age 7, Gary raided barns looking for birds with the help of his older brother, Keith.

“My mom, if she knew where we’d been, she’d still kick my butt,” Gary says with a laugh.

Gary owns two breeds of roller pigeons: Birmingham rollers and parlor rollers. Both breeds compete in annual competitions: two with the National Birmingham Rollers Club, an organization of people who raise rollers; and the World Cup, held annually at a different location around the world.

Birmingham rollers distinguish themselves by their ability to roll, or somersault, backwards in rapid, tight rotations.

In competitions, groups—called kits—of up to 20 pigeons are flown at one time. They have to fly for at least 20 minutes and keep a tight grouping while in the air to receive points. Points also are awarded for breaks—five birds tumbling at once. More than five birds tumbling at once garner additional points. The length of the fall also weighs in.

Parlor rollers cannot fly. They roll—turn somersaults—on the ground. Competitions are based solely on how far the bird rolls.

When raising rollers, the birds’ living quarters typically are divided into several compartments.

Separation pens are used to divide the sexes during nonbreeding season. During breeding season, pairs of birds reproduce in a breeding pen. Each pair has a nest box, where they lay eggs and raise their young.

Competition birds are housed together, as a team, in kit boxes. The boxes also are the point from which the birds take flight—comparable to a runway, with clearance—and where they return.

Gary owns about 160 birds, most of which are the Birmingham variety. He prefers to breed 12 pairs of birds at a time.

“When mating birds, find the ones with habits that you like,” he says. “Hopefully, you’ll get the ones that work—you made the right choice.”

The babies are raised to fly. After they have flown for two to three years, they are moved to the breeding pen. When the birds are done breeding, Gary tries to find a new home for them.

“I hope to find someone to use them,” he says. “Hopefully, a young kid trying to start.”

Gary says the birds are ideal for children to work with, and are often used in 4-H Club programs.

“They can handle them,” he says. “They won’t fly off.”

It is important for trainers to keep their birds on a schedule.

“All you teach them is discipline,” Gary says. “All the rolling is in their genes.”

The birds’ behavior can be manipulated by the quality of their food. When flying them, their feed is mostly a mix of milo, wheat and corn.

“Lots of protein can calm them down some,” Gary says. “Hardly any protein can make them nuts. It’s a balance.”

Gary says he tries to give his birds direction as much as possible.

“A good trainer uses a whistle and gets the birds back with food,” he says.

For Gary, raising roller pigeons is about more than training and competition.

“I got more friends through the pigeons than any other hobby I’ve ever had,” he says. “I can go to any state, take my directory, call up anyone and have a place to stay.”

Simplify Your Routine With Innovative Tools

Saturday, February 25th, 2017

Pop-up covers protect plants from weather extremes.
Photo courtesy of Gardener’s Supply Co.

Gardening is a wholesome task of manipulating the soil, planting favorite flowers and vegetables, and watching nature take its course—with plenty of nurturing in between.

While the process of gardening may be the same, the tools used continue to improve. Stay true to your love of weeding, watering and reaping, but make the process easier with these innovative tools.

Easily Protect Plants
Keep spring plants and vegetables safe from cold temperatures and wind with pop-up plant covers. The covers pop open and close for easy use and storage. Gardener’s Supply Co. says its product can help plants grow 25 percent faster, leading to an earlier harvest. | $13 to $20


The Ultimate Leaf Rake
Say goodbye to straight wooden hand holds and inflexible rakes, and hello to ergonomic, lightweight and flexible, specially designed tines. Fiskars’ 24-inch leaf rake makes sprucing up your yard a breeze, while getting optimal results with every swipe. | $20


Water When You are Gone
Take the stress out of watering your garden with a water timer. The Orbit Single-Dial Hose Faucet Timer has a large dial that allows you to easily program it for your watering needs. It is battery operated and weatherproof. Orbit also has models with multiple hose valves for large-scale watering. | $30


Keep Your Wheelbarrow Organized
Make one trip with the Little Burro wheelbarrow organizer. Multiple partitions and rack and shovel rests allow you to keep all your gardening tools organized and safe when rolling into your garden. Your keys, phone and sunglasses make the trip in a closeable compartment. | $60


Garden Know It All
The Edyn Garden Sensor lets you know what is going on with your garden at all times. The solar-powered garden sensor connects to your home’s Wi-Fi to send you data on your garden via the Edyn app. The sensor tracks garden light, moisture, humidity and nutrition. | $100


Compost Organic Matter Faster
If your compost pile is not producing fast enough, try a tumbling composter. The Yimby composter’s dual chamber allows for fast and efficient homemade compost. Turn the tumbler every few days to break up material and help speed up decomposition. | $90


A Better Shovel
Much like the handy rake, a shovel is an essential gardening tool. The Radius Pro-Lite Shovel has a round point, ergonomic handle and works in all soil types. Along with being sturdy, it comes in multiple colors such as green, purple and blue.
www.radiusgardencom | $31

Oh, Deer! What’s Eating You?

Saturday, February 25th, 2017

A fawn ignores pavement to feed on an especially delicious grassy lawn.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Implement three primary strategies to keep those four-legged interlopers from feasting on your foliage

The succulent plants you so carefully tend in your garden are like an oasis in a desert—a feast for the eyes and stomach, waiting to be harvested at just the right time.

Sometimes, though, the fruits of your labor are prematurely usurped by a garden intruder impressed by what it sees as a gourmet, all-you-can-eat buffet.

“Deer are looking for the highest-quality food, and our yards often offer the best smorgasbord,” says Dana Sanchez, a wildlife specialist for Oregon State University Extension Service. “When taking loving care of our plants—watering well and fertilizing—we’re producing a really superior plant compared to what’s in the natural environment. They are more tender and have more nutrition and water content.”

How do you keep deer from feasting on what you want to enjoy?

According to nationally recognized gardening expert Joe Lamp’l, creator and host of the award-winning PBS television series “Growing a Greener World,” there are three primary strategies: exclusion through physical barriers, repellents and making appropriate plant choices.

“There’s no foolproof method for keeping deer from eating your landscape if they’re hungry enough, but there are some ways to minimize the damage,” says Joe. “It takes persistence and a few tricks, but you can keep deer at bay.”


Fence Them Out
The most reliable way to address a deer issue is to create a physical barrier or a way to exclude deer from your landscape, Joe says.

“Building a fence around your vegetable garden will do a great deal to reduce deer damage, but not just any fence will do,” he says.

Joe suggests building a double three-strand fence, like those used for livestock protection. Mount plastic insulators on 36-inch wooden, fiberglass or metal stakes. Make two concentric circles around the area, 3 feet apart. String together the stakes in each circle with wire strands, placing the wire in the outside circle, 18 inches from the ground. Then put two strands on the inner stakes at 10 and 24 inches.

“A deer’s depth perception is not good, so they will sense the presence of the two fences, but will be very unlikely to attempt to jump both,” says Michael Mengak, wildlife specialist professor at the University of Georgia. “You’ve created a visual and physical barrier against them without putting up an unsightly stockade-style fence. A deer may try to jump the fence, but it won’t be able to clear both circles. It will most likely jump back out than attempt to cross the inner fence’s 24-inch barrier.”

Electricity—either through solar power or a battery-operated source—can be added, but Joe says that is not necessary in most cases.

If a double fence is not practical from a space standpoint, he suggests building a standard fence from posts and chicken wire, woven field wire or welded mesh wire at least 8 feet tall. Make sure the fencing is tight against the ground. Deer will not burrow, but they will look for an easy way to go under it.

Individual plants or smaller plant groupings can be protected by draping them with lightweight netting. Loosely secure the netting around the base of the plant to prevent the deer from nibbling on the leaves.


Carefully Consider Repellents
Frustrated gardeners have resorted to a variety of techniques to try to deter Bambi and friends from foraging and grazing on prized roses, vegetables and hydrangeas: human hair, Irish Spring soap shavings, aluminum pie pans suspended on string, motion-activated lights and water sprinklers.

Others have tried crushing garlic, concocting a mixture of fragrant herbs or spraying capsaicin oil onto plants to keep the deer away.

“Some of these methods may work for the short term, but deer are creatures of habit and they’ll adjust to these attempts to add a human scent to frighten them,” says Neil Soderstrom, author of “Deer-Resistant Landscaping: Proven Advice and Strategies for Outwitting Deer and 20 Other Pesky Mammals.”

“We’ve heard of people using powdered baby formula, homemade concoctions that contain rosemary or other herbs, hot sauce, and even human or animal urine,” he says.

Neil says commercially available repellents have a higher success rate, but the key is to alternate their use.

“The odor will dissipate over time, so you must be diligent in applying them every 10 days or so, and after it rains,” he says.

Recognized brands are Liquid Fence, Deer Away, Deer Out, Deer Stopper and Hinder. They are applied directly to leaves and the stem to create smells and tastes offensive to deer.

Repellex offers two types of repellents: a liquid spray applied to the plants and leaves, and systemic tablets or granular forms put into the soil, then absorbed into the plant, making it bitter to animals.

The process takes several weeks, so it is important to use a spray on the foliage the first few weeks.

Most box retailers and nurseries offer a choice of products in liquids, concentrates or powders. Completely read the labels, including cautions, before using to ensure the product is safe if used on fruits and vegetables.

For an organic deer-repellent that is marketed as fertilizer, try Milorganite—a wastewater treatment byproduct that has been produced by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District for more than 90 years.

Milorganite is the result of recycling nutrients in the city’s wastewater by using microbes that are then kiln-dried, bagged and sold. The organic nitrogen-based slow-release fertilizer produces an odor offensive to deer.

“I’ve seen it used as a fertilizer and deer repellent, and the deer don’t seem to browse in areas treated with Milorganite,” Joe says. “I find it to be very effective.”


Pick Native Plants
In the wild, plants develop defenses such as waxy leaves or prickles that make them more adapted to surviving grazing. Even when they do get nibbled, natives are more likely to survive than the succulent plants in our gardens.

“We’re often selecting plants from other parts of the world that didn’t get to learn through evolution about the herbivores in our ecosystem,” says Dana. “They’re naïve. Even roses that have prickles don’t have them around the beautiful blossoms, which the deer just snap off. They easily take what they want.”

Choosing the right kinds of plants—those deer typically do not like—can reduce the likelihood of free-range foraging in your landscape.

“Native plants are among the best bets for your garden and landscape,” Joe says. “Native plants evolved at the same time as your area’s wildlife and developed their own resistance to deer feeding to survive.”
Some plants are more appealing to hungry deer than others.

Daylilies, hydrangeas, hosta, azaleas, rhododendron, roses, fruit trees, arborvitae and Leyland cypress are ready-made food sources. Garden experts recommend not planting these if you have a high-traffic deer area.

Instead, look for plants and trees on the less-likely-to-be-eaten list, including boxwoods, hollies, ornamental grasses, hellebores/Lenten roses, ferns, butterfly bushes, cedar trees, redwoods and hemlocks. Consider planting them in the outer reaches of your landscape.

“Deer are determined and persistent when it comes to filling their tummies,” Dana notes.

Sometimes combining deer-desirable plants with those deer do not like can reduce the chance of having your colorful flower beds mowed to the ground. Mixing marigolds with pentas or lantana or Angelonia with impatiens tends to keep deer from grazing. Some gardeners intersperse pansies with spring onions to make deer work harder to sort out the plants they like to eat.

“Use ‘decoy plants’ around your landscape to attract deer away from your valued plants,” Joe says. “For instance, give up part of your property to deer-friendly plants in hopes that they will focus on this readily available food source. However, if the deer are hungry enough, they will eat anything, so no method is completely effective.”

As creatures of habit, deer tend to feed in the same areas for generations—which can be problematic when invading their territory to create new neighborhoods, compromising their food and water sources.

“The key is making sure we have a way to live with wildlife,” says Michael. “It may mean habitat modification, but it’s important to strike a balance between the needs of people and the needs of animals.”

Check your local county extension office website for plant recommendations specific to your area.

A Collection of Collections

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

Jim and Nida Gyorfy collect and display collections at their 5,000-square-foot museum in Idaho Falls, Idaho.In 2003, the Gyorfys opened Collectors’ Corner Museum with 25 of their personal collections. Since then, they have accepted 25 donated collections and added a few more of their own.

Among the 115 collections are hubcaps, dolls, coins, seashells, military items, toys, tools, trains, stamps, puppets, music boxes and even water hose nozzles.

“For some people, it’s just human nature to collect whatever fascinates them,” says Jim. “I started when I was 8 with stamps, coins and toy trains. Nida started collecting Nancy Ann Storybook Dolls when she was 6.”

Jim, 77, and Nida, 75, still have those childhood collections, which are among the museum’s permanent exhibits.

“Some people ask us why we collect things,” says Jim. “It’s fun, challenging to find items to complete a set, educational and good for the mind.”

A popular travel website,, rates the museum as a highly recommended stop.