Author Archive

The Portsmouth Project Post #3

August 14, 2009


Summer cleaning helps get you ahead of the games this fall.

We all know Spring cleaning has been popular for a long time. It just makes sense. Winter’s harsh elements take their toll on our yards and home and we need to give everything a fresh start. Come August, prepping for Winter is still a couple months away, so right now is the perfect time to get a jump on some outdoor cleaning.

Over the years, I’ve honed my yearly home/yard maintenance schedule and cleaning techniques to maximize beauty, time, efficiency and money. Several factors have weighed into my summer cleaning routing such as school quickly approaching, football season practically being here, taking advantage of great weather and kids sports activities that typically pick up in August.

I’ve come up with a checklist of my seven key cleaning tasks outside your home that will be sure to give your family more time heading into the fall. In some cases these tips will save you money in the short term with most helping save money and resources over the long term. I’ve also called out environmentally friendly practices associated with these tasks and finished with an earth friendly cleaning solution personally endorsed by me. Let’s get to work…

1. Gutters – I know, I hate to clean them too, but it could be one of the best uses of your time since clogged gutters can lead directly to home damage and end up costing you thousands of dollars and future headaches. Start by removing all the debris you can by hand. There are a variety of tools out there to help make the process a little easier. I’ve found a cool scoop that fits very well into the gutter. It came with a long pole with an end piece that fits the various nooks and crannies of the gutter. Be sure to remove all shingle grit and dirt and don’t forget about cleaning the downspouts. Finish by hosing the gutters down until they are completely clean and water flows with no obstructions. Clogged gutters lead directly to water and ice backing up under the shingles and causing major damage.


2. Dead Trees, Branches and Sticks – This is one of my favorite chores. Living in Bella Vista on a heavily treed lot, we produce wood like it’s growing on trees. Ice storm damage falls prey to strong Summer storms and branches and sticks start to litter yards. Dead trees pose a problem for heavy ice and snow in the upcoming winter so it is a good idea to get them down as well. I approach wood like an American Indian and utilize everything my yard produces. Small sticks and branches are harvested for kindling and large branches and logs are burned for warmth in the fireplace. Wood that is not good for fireplace burning is usually reserved for camping firewood, saving additional money and unnecessary stripping of campsites.

3. Tools – One time my wife made fun of me when she saw me washing off the lawn mower when I was through mowing the yard. She has since changed her mind after realizing how much we have saved by taking care of the things we already have. Mowers, weed wackers, shovels, pruners, etc. all need to be washed clean of dirt and dried before storing. Some tools like sheers and pruners should also be periodically lubricated to keep them in good working order. Clean tools last longer and make the work easier and safer.


4. Deck and Fence – Timing is the main driver here. The summer months are dry and warm enough for deck and fence stains to be applied without having to look over your shoulder for storms or pollen. Decks and fences should be checked for loose screws and nails. Drive these back in to avoid accidents. This is also a good opportunity to check the voids for wasps and their nests. By this time they have reproduced so you can take out the whole nest and feel satisfied that your upcoming Labor day festivities will be pest free.

5. Lawn and Planting Beds – You’ve already cleaned up limbs and sticks, but there is still plenty to do. Take care of late summer weeds that have started to invade the yard. Remove grass that has started to grow into planting beds. Run through the planting beds  and remove all weeds and any dead foliage. It’s also a good time to refresh mulch. If there has been no rain for a while, a good deep watering followed by some periodic waterings will help keep the yard and plants looking great to finish out the summer.


6. Air Conditioning Unit – One easy and very important cleaning tip to keep your air conditioner running strong in the summer is to clean the outside unit. The evaporator coils collect dust and dirt and can’t effectively radiate heat, thus the air conditioner struggles. Air conditioner plus struggles equals less money in your pocket. To clean the coils, spray them down with water from the hose. The coils are very delicate and care must be taken when performing this task. To much pressure can damage the coil fins. Clean dirt and debris away from under the unit and trim back any plantings at least two feet.

7. Grill – Now this final one is a touchy subject with me. I very rarely clean my grill. I’m a trained, professional, Texas born and bred grill master and will not be questioned on my tactics. Seriously though, a clean grill cooks more efficiently and is “suppose” to make the food taste better. Be sure to clean grates with warm soapy water, clean out ash and brush away all residue. For easier regular cleaning lightly coat the grates with oil before each grilling session and simply clean the grill more often.

And that’s it. Not only will you not have plenty of time to watch football, you’ll immediately reap the rewards as family and neighbors have surely noticed your haste and just might send some compliments your way. Think of it as a mini-makeover for the yard. I wanted to finish this post with a recipe for an environmentally friendly cleaning solution that I use outside. As you go down your checklist of chores you’ll encounter a patio chair, grill cover or toy that needs a little more attention than a stream of water. A solution of 1 cup of baking soda to 1 gallon of warm water mixed with some good old fashioned elbow grease should do the trick. Go Hogs!

The Portsmouth Project Post #2

June 4, 2009

So, I blew out yet another pair of Well’s Lamont Leather Work Gloves yesterday.  I love them and go through a few pair every year.  I have probably thrown away about 20-30 pairs so far over the years.  I got to thinkinh how could I recycle these.  A wall of these overlapped could look really cool and take on an organic texture.  I just happened to do a totally unrelated Google search today and this is what I found…

























Coincidence?…I think NOT!

Allen’s Canning Unveils New Look

June 3, 2009
















I sent out an email a year ago when I learned from my brother-in-law, who just happens to sell Green Beans for Allen’s Canning, that they are going through a label redesign for several of their canned vegetable items.  Allen’s has a great brand, especially with their Spinach line, who’s ambassador is none other than Popeye himself.  Overall their lables were outdated, drab, and images of the vegetables left you reaching or the more well known brands like Del Monte and Green Giant.

Well that’s all changed now…

I want to point out a few things that I think made this redesign successful. First is the illustration of the “Farm”.  This was painted by the same dude that painted the “Hidden Valley” that we are all very aware of from the Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing fame. Second, they did a great job of transitioning from the old look to the new by retaining and polishing a few key elements like the Allen’s logo and blue ribbon.  it just looks like the natural progression of the label. Finally, they have the coloring and texture of the product right.  Those are some pretty good looking beans.



























Again, I think they did a great job with the  redesign. I would say that it competes quite nicely at shelf when compared to more well known brands.  I’m interested in seeing how they follow this up.

Mammut Ad Campaign for 2009

June 3, 2009

























I was really moved by the striking money shot for Mammut’s 2009 Ad Campaign.  I have a catalog that goes into a little more of the creative set-up and execution. The only photoshopping I can see would possibly be removing any ropes and safety equipment holding them to the rock formation. The rock formation is called the Kleines Kamel in the Furka Region in Switzerland. I hope you like…

The Portsmouth Project Post #1

May 20, 2009


Hasta Bella Vista Baby!

Welcome to our home. In keeping with the true spirit of our blog and the creative passion it has allowed me to initially share with you, I thought I would develop a series of posts to keep you turds up to speed with what I do when I’m not working, fathering, husbanding, climbing, or enjoying nude midget polar bear club water aerobics.  I’ve got several projects going on around the house that I will introduce you to.  First up is the entry/big planting bed in the front of the house.

I can’t even begin to explain the level of satisfaction I get when designing and working with nature.  It is last on the list, but making it my full time job would ruin the whole experience.  I’ve developed a lone man style of working that is especially effective once you’ve put in a couple years of work.  We have a pretty big piece of property and when we bought the house, it had just been built with no landscaping whatsoever.  How do I start to work on this place without paying an arm and a leg for someone else to do it?  As I said, a couple of years of building a wall here and making a bed there have started to pay off.  This approach is much like a puzzle in that the neigbors don’t notice much going on at the start, but then all of a sudden things come together pretty fast once the holes get filled in.  Most times with landscaping, this transformation can seem as if it happened almost over night.

So the first area is the big bed in front of the house.  We always knew this was going to be a problem form the start.  I observed water runoff and our traffic patterns around this area for three years to determine the most time and cost effective approach. Late last summer. I built the rock walls. This spring my project has been building the path that will cut through this bed, getting it prepped for compost and manure, and finally mulching it. We will begin planting next year.



All of the timbers for the stepped areas and rock for the stepped areas was picked up at an auction for mere dollars. This area next to the house where the faucet is will be where the path spills out into the side yard. Some gradual shallow steps will be filled with chocolate gravel. If you notice the mass of morter piled up at the bottom, this did pose a problem. I solved it, by pouring some cement and making a ledge for some potted plants. Sorry, no picks of that yet you’ll have to look for the next post. Just wanted to point it out.

The path starts out next to an pull in between the wall and the mailbox. I wanted the path to start out much like the wall and then gradually disappear within the slope. Once we fill with compost and manure and mulch, this effect should look pretty good. I’ve dropped very large flat stepping stones into the steps and we are filling the gaps with moss and chocolate gravel. The concentration of stepping stones will gradually fall off too as the path heads back to the house. The urns are not staying, although the longer they are there, my mind gets to thinking how great some potato vines would look spilling out of them, down the wall and into the yard.










Stay tuned as I already have made some more progress with this bed and path and will be posting soon. Also be looking out for my home climbing gym/kiddos tree house project as that has been underway for a while and another big project at 95 Portsmouth.

April 30, 2009


A few climbers headed out to the boulder fields.

A few climbers headed out to the boulder fields.










The following quote was featured in my latest Urban Climber Magazine (Issue #29, May 2009) in the finish hold section that usually gives you something compelling to ponder on your own time. The quote was submitted by Matt Mitchell with a short entry rationale.  I have to say that the values expressed in the quote is something I can totally relate to.  I think most creative types can relate directly as well.  I wish our current political figures spoke like this…

In Teddy’s Words submitted by Matt Mitchell

As an ex-competitive fighter, a new climber, and a CrossFitter, I hold on to the following words as a mantra for why  I do what I do – because when it comes down to it, it’s all about the effort. I can’t claim these words to be mine – Theodore Roosevelt said this:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

– From an address delivered at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910