Water Features For Backyard

There are two types of water features available for your garden: Raised Formal Fountains and the in-ground formal fountains. Both of these types are marvelous in their looks. Here is a quick guide on how to choose a water feature for your garden.

Raised formal fountains are somewhat distinctive and standout as compared to the in-ground water features. They are significantly different in their design as well. The main difference is that they are more expensive to build, and difficult to maintain. Having made that clear, it is important to note that they are really elegant and look gorgeous for a right kind of setting.

If your garden is symmetrical in shape and has perfectly defined spaces, then a formally raised fountain would make a great addition to your garden. A formally raised fountain is usually located centrally and makes a bold statement. Sometimes, a raised wall fountain may be suitable if the wall is clearly visible from all over the garden.

An in-ground fountain is simple to build and easy to maintain. It must be constructed as per the exact dimensions or it might need a non-permeable material as base for the water retention. They often need exact dimensions to achieve the desired effect of water-flow and sound. Fountain experts are not necessarily needed to construct and in-ground water feature, water garden suppliers would be able to construct the in-ground water features.

The in-ground fountains are usually subtle in appearance and provide calm serene atmosphere without overpowering the background. Beautiful water plants like water lilies or lotuses may be displayed on top of these aesthetic in-ground water features. If you wish to display aquatic plants and flowers in your garden, in-ground water fountain would make great addition to your garden.

Raised water fountain are prefect for shopping centers or apartment complexes, however, when used in a backyard garden, they may overpower the surroundings. Unless you have a huge garden and plan on using several architectural elements in your garden, a raised water feature may not be the right choice for you.

Regardless of which water fountain you choose, your garden is bound to refresh and rejuvenate your senses with sounds of water when you add a beautiful water feature to it. Ancient Greek and Roman cultures used fountains as royal architectural elements, however, these days, with easily affordable costs, everyone can create a relaxing garden with a beautiful water fountain.

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Rats In Backyard

“By gnawing through a dike, even a rat may drown a nation.” 
Edmund Burke

Few creatures in the Western world are as feared and reviled as the common rat. Rats are associated with tenement slums, sewers and garbage. They bring disease, pollute food, and are notoriously difficult to get rid of once they establish a colony. In mob circles an informer is known as a rat. When I was a boy my playmates and I would yell, “You rat!” at each other when we wanted to use an expletive that would not get our mouths washed out with soap. Rats terrorized Winston Smith, the protagonist of 1984, and in Richard Wright’s Native Son, Bigger Thomas kills a rat with an iron skillet as the novel begins. Albert Camus’ The Plague opens with thousands of rats dead on the streets of Oran, a precursor to the pestilence about to overwhelm the city.

But I had little personal experience with rats. A few kids I knew kept rats as pets, and they seemed nothing more than oversized mice, similar to what the Romans called “Mus Maximus” (Big Mouse, a rat, in other words) as opposed to “Mus Minimus” (Little Mouse). So when early one evening at the beginning of summer 2011 I saw a furry brown creature with a long tail scampering about the branches of my lemon tree, I was nonplused. This was no small children’s pet. This was a large, bloated, and somewhat repulsive animal that had made its way into my backyard and was now gorging itself on the contents of one of my bird feeders. With amazing dexterity it crawled headfirst down the tubular side, planted itself on the circular perch where the birds are supposed to sit, and ate as if there was no tomorrow, twitching its nose like a rabbit and using its paws like an electric saw. It ran when I approached, moving with incredible speed, up the side of the bird feeder and back up into the branches, disappearing amongst the leaves.

The next evening it was back again, eating ravenously. At dusk the day after that it brought a companion. Now there were two, and the following night there were four. These rats were multiplying exponentially. Going to my PC I typed the word “rats” on Google. I got over 95,000,000 results, and a quick perusal of a few of the articles I found informed me I had a problem I had better do something about, with no time to lose.

I had to get rid of the rats, or soon I would be overrun with them. Rats are infamous for how fast they reproduce. But I wanted to do it as humanely as possible and in as environmentally friendly a manner as I could. I made a visit to the nearest hardware store, and after a careful look at what was on the shelves under the generic title “Rodent Control,” I came away with what I thought were the best choices: Two small plastic “rodent boxes,” with round holes on either side for the rats to pass through, four places inside to place the blocks of poison (that way only the rats and not some neighborhood cat would be able to get to them) and places for a spring-loaded rat trap, two of which I purchased. These were, I discovered, a quantum leap in force from the old-fashioned Victor wooden mousetraps I had seen previously. The jaws of these came down with a terrifying crash that actually startled me the first time I heard it, and would certainly bring instant (and hopefully painless) death to any rat that went after the peanut butter I used as bait. I set the traps, placed the blocks of ugly green poison in their spots, and put the boxes under the trees a few feet apart from one another, sprinkled some bird seed around each, and waited. While I waited I spent more time on Google, learning about rats.

Rats are most notorious for having brought the Black Plague to Europe in the 14th Century. Coming along the Silk Road from China, rats carrying plague-bearing fleas reached the Crimea in 1346, and from there got on board ships bound for Europe. The resultant pandemic, perhaps the worst in history, killed an estimated one-half of the population. Medieval medicine could not discover the cause nor could it treat the sick. People went to bed seemingly healthy and died in their sleep. The dead were so numerous that in some places there was no one left to bury them. Europe would not recover for 150 years.

But there is much more to the human-rat relationship than the plague, as I was soon to discover. Rats have doggedly followed in the footsteps of human migration. Where there are people, there will be rats. Rats now live on every continent on earth except Antarctica, making them the most successful mammal on the planet after human beings. It is estimated there is one rat for every human on earth. One story, perhaps apocryphal, states that in places where rats are especially numerous, a person at any given time is no more than ten feet away from one.

Rats have an incredible gift for survival. On Engebi, one of the Eniwetok Atolls where nuclear bombs were tested in the 1950s, scientists returned to see what remained after the bombs were exploded. They found radioactive soil, plant life destroyed-and a thriving colony of rats. Rats can survive a fall of 50 feet without injury. Excellent swimmers, they can cross wide rivers (a huge mass migration of rats was recorded in Southern Russia in 1727 when thousands of them swam across the River Volga from Astrakhan). They can tread water for three days without resting and dive to depths of 100 feet. They live an average of 2 to 3 years, and a female rat typically has a litter of 6 to 12 offspring six or seven times a year. They live in colonies (packs) with each rat’s place in the social order determined by their fighting ability, the dominant males at the top. They sleep together, groom each other, and engage in play and play-fighting. When the colony gets too large, the younger males leave to start colonies of their own.

Rats are known for their sharp teeth and powerful jaws. Not only are their teeth sharp, they are extremely hard: Measured on the Mohs hardness scale they come in at 5.5, harder than iron or platinum, and more than half as hard as diamond, which measures 10. These hard teeth enable rats to gnaw through wood, bone, plastic pipe, even brick. Rats will eat nearly anything, and have been known to eat soap, leather, and furs, but prefer grain, livestock feed, and meat of various kinds, including human, although cases of that are rare. But with their enormous appetites, they can and will eat one third of their body weight every day.

Their eyesight is poor, limited to only a few feet. They hear extremely well, and have highly developed sense of touch and smell. A rat can run 24 miles an hour for a short distance. They are considered intelligent, one of the reasons they are sought after for laboratory experiments, and a 2007 study found rats to possess metacognition, “knowing about knowing,” an ability previously documented only in humans and primates.

In some parts of the world, people pray to rats. In India rats are seen as a vehicle for Lord Ganesha, and statues of rats sit in Ganesha temples. At the Temple of the Rats, in Rajasthan state, worshippers take this a step further and allow 20,000 of the furry creatures to live in the temple, considering them holy creatures called kabbas. Killing one there, as you may have guessed, is taboo, and the rats are allowed to run free while the faithful attend to their prayers in the temple. In the Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, and parts of Polynesia, rats are eaten as part of the everyday diet. In China the rat is the first animal of the Chinese Zodiac, and people born in the Year of the Rat are thought to possess qualities of honesty, creativity, intelligence and ambition-attributes that rats are thought to have as well.

I still had to get rid of the rats in my backyard. For a few days nothing seemed to happen. The rats still appeared every evening for their feast of bird seed, but I did notice their numbers were no longer increasing. Then late one afternoon I heard a rustling sound from under the trees where I had left the rodent boxes. Something was moving in the fallen leaves. I went to take a closer look and saw a small rodent head pop out of the hole on the side of the box. This was followed by about half of the rat’s body. It munched greedily at the bird seed that I had spread on the ground, using its paws vigorously, similar to the way a ground squirrel feeds, then pulled back inside the box, only to emerge again a moment later to eat more. As I came closer it gave me a sidelong glance, decided I was no one of any importance, ate more, and then disappeared once again.

Something was out of synch here. Why didn’t it run away? Why hadn’t it tripped the trap inside? Tentatively I got closer, but I wasn’t keen on getting too close-I had no wish to get bitten by the rat. Meanwhile the rat continued to eat. Then it made a lunging motion, and more of its body emerged from the hole and it tried to walk away, pulling the entire box along with it.

I carefully opened the box, and saw what I did not want to see: Somehow the rat had sprung the trap, but instead of crushing its head and killing it, the trap had caught its hindquarters, right at the spot where the tail joins the body. The rat was caught, but not dead and not about to die, and when I realized this I was trapped just as surely as the rat, trapped by the knowledge of what I had done and not knowing what to do about it.

The rat twitched its nose and looked at me reproachfully, as if to say, “Why have you done this to me?” It no longer seemed a ferocious sewer dwelling carrier of pestilence but a small furry creature in trouble and in pain. I was struck by its size, too: It was like a little rabbit or a guinea pig, something that a child would keep as pet in a cage with a running wheel and a small container of water.

What to do? I could get a hammer and bash its head in, but that would not be keeping with my determination to be humane. I could leave it there, where it would die a slow, agonizing death that would take who knows how long to accomplish. I could turn it loose, but that seemed counter-productive-I had wanted to get rid of the rats, and then again there was the risk of being bitten.

The rat struggled some more, still trying to get loose. But its efforts were in vain. The jaws of the trap held it fast. Once again it looked at me, as if I were its savior. I decided I did not want to see any more. I closed the box quickly, then got a five gallon bucket and turning it upside down, placed it over the box and the rat. If the rat were able to get loose the bucket would hold it, and I wouldn’t have to look at it and be reminded of what I had done. Out of sight, out of mind.

But not completely. I was haunted by that image of the rat trying and then failing to get out of the trap. I kept thinking of it caught in those terrible jaws, and the way it looked at me. I began to recall stories I had heard of animals caught in traps that chewed their own limbs off in order to escape.

In a short time I knew what I had to do: I would have to set the rat free. Putting on a pair of welding gloves I went back into the yard. I took away the bucket and once again opened the box. This time I took the trap, rat and all, and set it on the ground. The rat made no effort to bite me. It watched me carefully, with a patient demeanor, as if waiting to see what I had in mind. Reaching over carefully, I released the jaws of the trap. The instant the trap opened the rat ran- so fast my eyes could barely follow it-up the side of the closest tree and disappeared.

I put both traps away. Rats and human beings must learn to co-exist with one another, it seems, and if rats are dependent upon humans in order to live, humans also need rats to keep life in perspective. “Evermore in the world is this marvelous balance of beauty and disgust, magnificence and rats,” Ralph Waldo Emerson said. If humans ever succeed in destroying themselves, perhaps the rats will inherit the earth. I don’t really want to share my backyard with rats, but I am not going to trap any more of them, and if one wanders into my yard once in a while to eat birdseed, so be it. So I won’t trap any more of them, but I won’t pray to them, nor will I eat one. Perhaps when all is said and done, the rats won’t eat me either.

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Covered Patio Ideas For Backyard

Do you feel like your backyard could use a makeover? Do you have great space but aren’t sure what to do with it? Would you like to extend some of your home elements into the backyard? If so, then you might want to consider landscaping your backyard. There are numerous ideas and ways to create the yard of your dreams that can be both beautiful and functional. If you want a serene get away or a place for the kids to play, or maybe a little of both, there are some steps you should take to create the yard of your dreams.

Before you do anything, decide how you want the space to be used. Measure the area and realistically decide what you would like to have in that area. If you have a postage stamp size backyard it would be impossible to create a playground, however you might be able to do a small garden get away. You may not be able to get everything you want into the area, but knowing what the purpose you want to use it for will go a long way in the planning process.

Next look at how much space you have available and what plants or elements you want in your yard. At this point you might want to also take a look at the soil and other elements related to how well certain plants will do. Decide how much sunlight your yard gets, how much rain, and the soil composition. Make sure you choose plants that will thrive in your individual conditions. Sure some plants look great, but if they all die midseason it won’t look nearly as nice as you thought it would.

Next sketch out what you want your yard to look like. Have some fun, create mini gardens and walkways. Add in any special shrubs you would like as well as decide what plants you want where. If you want any structures, decide where you want them to go. This could include something as simple as a bench or as intricate as a fountain or covered patio. Remember to use measurements to see how well things will fit and try turning them or placing them at varying angles. Get creative, if you want to add certain plants but won’t have room; try making curved areas or elevated plant area. Even container plants can be a great way to incorporate what you want.

Take a look at the existing features. If you have an old cooking pit decide if you want that in your design or if it can be removed. The same goes with existing trees and shrubs. Keep in mind that it may be impossible to remove some items from your yard and you may have to include them into your design. If you have a shed or other outdoor building, it is easier to create your design around these buildings then to try to move them. With some creativity you can fit everything you would like into a great backyard.

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Backyard Dog Fence

A dog fence is really important when it comes to confining your pet to your property. It is also a good way to keep your pet safe, healthy and happy and is a better alternative to keeping the dogs chained in the backyard. Dog fences give your furry friend the freedom to play safely within the boundaries. If you already have a dog or are planning to get one soon, you should start thinking about investing in a dog fence as well.

Wireless and hidden fences are quite popular these days as you do not have to spend huge amounts of time in erecting a traditional one. The type of fence you choose will depend on the size and breed of dog you have and also on your budget.

Wireless fence for dogs uses single or multiple transmitters which produce radio signals. These signals are picked by the collar which the dog wears. They can be used indoors and outdoors as well. For outdoor use, you will have to establish boundaries and once your dog approaches these, it will feel a mild shock. This is in fact a great way to train dogs to stay within the boundary is which is of course the safest zone for them. The installation process is quite easy and quick and you also do not have to worry about disrupting your landscape.

An electric dog fence is also a kind of hidden fence which is usually buried under the ground. When your dog is about to cross its perimeter or reaches too close to the boundaries, it will hear loud tone and so will move towards the safety of his yard. This is another great way of confining your dogs.

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