Saturday, March 29, 2008

Grounds guy wins $1 mil but stays on the job

Donald Nicholas, a seasonal grounds worker at a Staten Island cemetery, won $1 million in the New York Lottery this week. He will be paid $32,251 a year for the next 20 years. Nicholas moved to Staten Island from Harlem three years ago. He says he loves his job and has no plans to quit. Good call. It's probably pretty difficult to live in the NY Metro area on $32,251 a year. Ron Hall

Monday, March 24, 2008

President Bush visiting Marty Grunder home

In his last year in office, President George W. Bush seems to have taken a big interest in the landscape industry. First, he visits Wright Manufacturing Inc. in Maryland where he does a nifty turn on a Wright Stander professional mower (“Fire this sucker up,” he’s reported as exclaiming.). And now he’s visiting the home of Marty and Lisa Grunder near Dayton. Marty, of course, is the owner and founder of Grunder Landscape and a well-known speaker and consultant to the Green Industry.

Marty’s also a stanch Republican and a frequent contributor to Republican candidates. According to Federal Election Commission records, he’s given more than $10,000 in campaign contributions to Republican candidates in the past seven years.

The President’s visit on Thursday, March 27, is a fundraiser, costing $1,000 to attend the luncheon reception. For $10,000 an invitee gets a private reception with a photo opportunity with the President, according to reports.

Marty, contacted late last week, said that the invitees include “leaders in southern Ohio.” Some landscape company owners will reportedly be in attendance, as well.

Other supporters of Victory 2008, the Ohio GOP’s account for supporting Republican candidates in the upcoming elections — those that can’t attend the fundraiser at the Grunder’s home — are urged to contribute to the cause nonetheless, according to the invitations..

According to, the event co-chairs are listed as: Jim and Janet Dicke, Marty and Lisa Grunder, Bill and Sandy Gunlock and Jane Portman and Rayj and Inu Soin. — Ron Hall

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Says Brandy: "The check is in the mail"

I’ don’t who the singer Brandy is or why she is famous. Anyway, I thought some recent publicity involving Brandy was kind of funny, at least the responses to the story about her and a landscaper appearing on a Web site.

A couple of days ago it was reported that Raymond Soriano Landscape filed a claim in court alleging that Brandy (the singer) owed him $3,567 for work it had done on her California property eight or nine months or so.

Apparently CelebTV got a hold of the claim and publicized it. Then it was picked up by oh-so-calculatedly hip TMZ, resulting in another media blip.

Amusing? Not the story so much as the postings about the story on the TMZ Web site. Click on the headline above. At least they amused me...kinduv. Ron Hall

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

It's a gas, gas, gas

We're finally reaching that tipping point when it comes to fuel prices, that point where we finally change our driving and vehicle-buying habits.

I'm seeing it at the park & ride where I catch the express bus into downtown Cleveland. There used to lots of extra parking spaces at the Westlake Park & Ride, even for the 8:30 a.m. bus, the last bus to make the run. Now unless you get to the parking lot by 8:00 a.m. you stand a chance of not getting s spot. More people are bussing it.

If gasoline goes to $3.50 a gallon (which it already has in California and Hawaii)O here's what it costa to fill up a:

Cadillac Escalade — $108.50.
Hummer H2 — $112.00
Ford Expedition — $117.25
Dodge Ram — $122.50
Ford F250 pickup — $133

My guess is gas will go to $4.00 by early summer. But I hope not. — Ron Hall

Thursday, March 13, 2008

King of the backhoe operators

I’ve always been in awe of these guys who can operate big, powerful construction equipment likes it’s easiest thing in the world. It could be a big Cat’ dozer or crane or bucket loader, but they jockey these big, powerful units like nothing could be simpler. And for them (wind- and sun-creased, hardhard at a jaunty angle) maybe nothing is.

But for guys like me that have trouble backing a small boat trailer. . .well.

That said,, I tip my hat to Nick Market of Windsor, Ontario. The folks at Case presented Nick a 50th anniversary limited-edition Case 580 Super M Series 2 loader/backhoe, valued at nearly $120,000 yesterday.

Nick won the Case North America Rodeo Series Championship event in Las Vegas where the huge ConExpo equipment trade show is taking place. Nick, who has been at the controls of backhoe/loaders for more than 30 years, beat out more than 4200 other operators in the competition that unfolded over the past year. — Ron

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Ahhh, spring...when lawn care rules

Grasscycling “new” again

What is old is suddenly new again. Remember the “Grasscycling” push put on by the Professional Lawn Care Association of America (PLCAA) in the late 1980s and early 1990s? The point of the initiative was to convince homeowners and lawn maintenance pros not to bag their grassclippings and not to truck the lawn waste to landfills. As we all know this is incredibly more costly now because of higher fuel prices and almost universal landfill tipping fees. Grasscycling was one of PLCAA's biggest successes because the message did eventually filter through the media to the public. friend and former technical editor of Landscape Management, Bill Knoop, Ph.D., Texas A&M extension, initiated a similar “Don't Bag It” campaign, with essentially he same message. Grasscycling, a term rarely heard for more than a decade or more, is starting to resonate again, this time in the “green” arena. It has been proven again and again that when clippings are returned to the lawn, some of the nutrients, in particular nitrogen, return to the soil, meaning less fertilizer is needed to keep the grass green and growing.

Florida county gets tough on ferts

And finally, I ran across the new law for fertilizing lawn s in Sarasota County in Florida. These types of local laws aimed at lawn fertilizers seem to be cropping up in many parts of the country. These came from a recent article in the Herald Tribune:
Sarasota County's fertilizer law aims to cut down on the amount of pollution getting into area waterways. Here is a look at what it calls for:
- It prohibits residents from applying fertilizers that contain nitrogen or phosphorus between June 1 and Sept. 30.
- It sets maximum levels for the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus that legal fertilizers can contain.
- It sets a fertilizer-free zone within 10 feet of any body of water and creates a voluntary "low maintenance zone" within 6 feet of water bodies.
- It recommends use of "slow-release fertilizers."
- It requires fertilizer application companies to create a training course.
- It sets penalties for violators that start with a warning and rise to $500.

ServiceMaster spends big bucks

Business Week recently reported that lawn care and pest-control provider ServiceMaster Co. spent $2.2 million last year to lobby the federal government. The company was acquired in 2007 by private-equity firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice.
ServiceMaster, which owns TruGreen lawn care and Terminix pest control, spent $1 million in the second half of 2007 to lobby Congress and the Environmental Protection Agency, said the magazine.
ServiceMaster lobbied on parts of the federal farm bill that apply to insecticides and fungicides and on a bill signed by President Bush in October that extended funding for pesticide oversight office.

Ontario pesticide ban — look out, here it comes!

The Province of Ontario will almost certainly implement a new provincial pesticide law this year. The Province's environment minister in an interview with the Kingston Whig-Standard newspapers said: “The bottom line is this - we're going to ban the use and sale of cosmetic pesticides. It's going to supercede any municipal bylaw. It's going to ban the sale of, not just the use of, cosmetic pesticides by the general public, which is what the municipal bylaws speak to.” — Ron Hall

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

One tough "Mole"

I don’t often write about products in this blog. In fact, I don’t think I ever have — until now. What I want to tell you about is a product so simple (and potentially so useful) that it blew me away at the recent California Landscape Contractors Association Trade Show and Conference in LA.

The name of the product is the Bullet Mole. My first thought on hearing the name was that the product is something to kill moles. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

Actually the Bullet Mole is an incredibly simple tool. That’s what I love about it; that and it gets the job done without a lot of expense and fuss.

The tool itself looks like a tiny warhead at the end of a metal shaft. This warhead doesn’t explode or anything like that, though, even though it can penetrate and shatter the hardest rock. Made of super tough metal, it makes neat, round openings for installing irrigation pipe and/or wires under sidewalks or driveways. No fuss. No muss.

Quite simply, you dig a small hole at one end of the sidewalk or driveway insert the Bullet Mole, pointy side in the direction of the sidewalk or driveway, than you whack the butt end of the metal shaft with a sledge hammer and it drives the “Mole” (irrigation pipe surrounding the shaft behind it) under the sidewalk or driveway. The force of the falling sledge hammer is enough to drive the “Mole” through clay, rock, just about any material.

Check out the “Mole” at

(For the record, this product mention was not solicited and was not the result of any freebies or promises by the “Mole” makers and marketers. I just thought it was cool.) — Ron Hall