Thursday, March 30, 2006

So it's not your job. So what!

The other day as I'm getting on the bus at the Park & Ride and hoping like all get out that nobody gets on the back seat so that I can take a nap on the way to the office (more room back there) I look over at the nice motels across the way from the bus stop and see a landscape crew getting ready to get it going. There's four or five workmen and a guy walking around looking at the tree islands (I'm thinking crew leader), and there's a pile of dark mulch (must have been four feet high) and a mini loader on a trailer. These guys are ready to go. It's a beautiful morning. Life is as it should be.

Coming back on the bus to the Park & Ride late that afternoon (oh yea, nice nap on the way back) I see a much smaller pile of mulch and every tree has a nice fresh ring of mulch around it. But, what's this? Paper wrappers, soda cans and a couple of plastic bags laying in a small ditch just a step or two from the trees.

Hey guys, pick up the debris. I know that's not your job, but your work sure would look a lot nicer if you took a minute or two to police the area when you finished with the day's mulching. Think about it. Wouldn't the maintenance guy at the motels put in a nice word for you if you gave him a little love by picking up the crap. Who cares who left it around your job site? — Ron Hall

Fuel costs squeezing us real bad

There's only one law that can never be broken, other than by silly government intervention that is. And that law is the law of supply and demand. It's so simple to understand, so vital to our capitalistic system and now so painful as gasoline prices bumped up over $2.75 a gallon today.

Friends, can $3-a-gallon gasoline be far behind? I think not. The summer driving season will soon be upon us and the oil companies are rubbing their hands in gleeful anticipation.

Higher fuel prices mean that everything that's manufactured or moved will cost more. In other words, EVERYTHING will cost more. Our surveys have told us that fuel costs of landscape and lawn service companies make up a relatively small percentage of their total costs. But with gasoline and diesel selling for more than double their prices just a few short years ago, fuel costs are definitely going to chew into that bottom line for companies that, for whatever reason can't or won't, raise their prices or find a way to deliver more revenue-producing service or product at each stop.

Keep following this blog — we're going to find out what you folks are doing about these high fuel costs. — Ron Hall

Monday, March 20, 2006

Hey Mr. Lawn Historian, lighten' up

A friend forwarded me a news release announcing the publication of a new book by Ted Steinberg, an historian at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH. The name of the book is "American Green: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Lawn." Mr. Steinberg is not a big fan of lawn care. Let me repeat that. Mr. Steinberg is not a big fan of lawn care.

In the book Steinberg takes aim at lawn care for polluting the atmosphere (lawn mower emissions), alienating people from their own yards and (never heard this one before) becoming a symbol of Cold War anti-communist sentiments. Now really, doesn't that seem like a bit of a stretch? — Ron Hall

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Quit your peeing and moaning

Spent a couple of days in Monterrey, Mexico, a week ago and you won't hear any whining about work from this corner, not as long as the memories of what I saw there remain strong. And what I saw were hundreds of Mexican workers lining up at the U.S. consulate there, waiting and hoping to get visas to work in the United States. Hey friends, people from elsewhere in the world, and especially Latin America, are leaving family and friends to get a crack at $8-an-hour jobs.

OK, so who can live in the United States with an $8-an-hour job? Not many of us, that's for sure. But a day doesn't go by that I don't see some young fellow on a street corner with a cup in his hand panhandling passerbys. Then again, maybe he's making more than $8 an hour with that cup in his hand. Who knows?

I read somewhere that successful people get to be successful by doing jobs that other people don't want to do, which reminds me of the Roto Rooter guy in our town. He's one of the happiest and most pleasant people I know, and he's a hard worker too. We all have to be more like the Roto Rooter guy, meaning we better be get down and dig into our jobs (no pun intended) and quit our peeing and moaning about how tough we've got it. — Ron Hall

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Pesticides in streams all the rage

The U.S. Geological Survey released a study this past Friday saying that pesticides have been found in almost all the nation's rivers and streams, and newspapers from coast to coast have been reporting like it's a big deal. It's not. But you wouldn't know it from the headlines. Here's a couple.

"Pesticides permeate U.S. waters" — Newark (NJ) Star Ledger (permeate?)

"Pesticides foul U.S. streams, fish" — The State, Columbia, SC

"Most U.S. rivers polluted by pesticides" — Xinhua, China (no kidding)

Yes, pesticides were found in U.S. streams and rivers, but not in concentrations likely to affect people or affect drinking water supplies. The USGS report makes that very clear.

I'm not big fan of pesticides and I wish we didn't have to rely upon them so much for our food and fiber. But with 6 billion people on this planet and another couple of billion more added to the total within the decade, we'll have to rely more and more upon chemistry and bioengineering to keep everyone fed.  — Ron Hall

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Here's more powerful ammo for you

We all know that well-designed, well-maintained landscapes provide incredible paybacks to property owners in lots of different ways. Or we think we know that. Or we give the impression that we know that. Or, at least that's what we tell ourselves and our customers.

. . . But do we really know that?

A sharp guy by the name of Timothee Sallin, who works in his family's big Cherry Lake Tree Farm in Florida, has gathered a lot of the studies that show the real value of good landscaping and he put them on a Web site. If you want some positive data on what good landscapes mean for property owners and communities (or if you have information or data to share with him), check out — Ron Hall

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Want a great turf talking point? Go here!

If you're in the lawn care business, you gotta check out the following URL. It is DYE-NO-MITE information!

You can thank me later. — Ron Hall

Fee, Fi, Foe . . . Dumb

Here's a doozie. Tell me what you think.

The city of Lake Forest, IL, recently came up with the idea of charging fees to all landscapers that work in the city — $600 for a Class 3 license, $300 for a Class 2 license and $200 for a Class 1 license. Apparently the weight of the vehicles the landscaper uses in his trade determines which class the landscaper falls into. But that's not all. Landscapers would also have to pay per vehicle. You guessed it, the same goofy weight thing — $3,000 per Class 3 vehicle, $2,000 per Class 2 license and $1,000 per Class 1 license.

The reason for the fees? The city says it wants to protect residents against dirtball landscapers. Well, that's laudable.

At a public hearing on the proposed ordinance in late February, the Pioneer Press newspaper reported that about 50 landscapers showed up. They reportedly didn't squawk so much concerning the fee part of the legislation — it was the amount!

Judging by the reception this money grab got, it's not likely that it will see the light of day.

— Ron Hall