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Yes, two-cycle engines make more power per displacement and weight unit than four-cycle engines, which makes them engines of choice for go-fast go-karts, small motorcycles, and most handheld yard tools like string trimmers and blowers. But truthfully, they’re a mess. Besides forcing you to keep a separate gas can around the garage just for the two-cycle’s gas-oil mix, they’re also finicky as hell and not much fun to work on. (Okay, I’ll admit that I’m parroting my dad here. He did a lot of small engine repair and he hated ’em. I’ve been of the throw-it-away-when-it-quits camp, which is embarrassing.)

That’s why these four-cycle models from Ryobi caught my eye. They offer wheeled trimmers and edgers in the line, too, but it’s easy to find those from other sources with a nice Briggs and Stratton on top. But the four-cycle blowers and string trimmers just seem like a great idea.

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I arrived a little early this year to my parents’ house on Father’s Day because my dad had cut some limbs from the large tree out front. He’d freed them from the tree with a bow saw, as he has done since before I was born. This year, however, I brought the Alligator Lopper with me. After we separated all the wood we wanted from what we didn’t, we had a lot left over — as you can plainly see in exhibit (A) pictured above.

We hauled the leftover foliage from the front near the street to the backyard brush pile of the three-acre plot in one trip. Was this a big deal? To be honest, yes and no.

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I am always stunned when I find things growing in other people’s yards. “How on earth do they manage it?” I always wonder. This time that person is me, for I have grown a shrubbery. Not only has the tree I planted back in April not died but it is flourishing and green.

Several lessons come from this experience. The first is that planting isn’t as hard as it may have seemed: Dig a hole, put the tree in the hole, fill with soil, and add water. It’s not rocket science. The other invaluable lesson is to look up what grows well in your area. Almost any nursery site or brick-and-mortar nursery will be able to help you with what will take root and succeed in your area. Take heed and plant that, and it will most likely work out for you.

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Two years ago, on a whim, I joined the Arbor Day Foundation (www.arborday.org). With a ten-dollar membership fee I joined the Foundation and they sent me 10 native trees for the area. The trees all came in a nice package but were no more than a foot tall and bare-rooted. I thought, oh well, it was only 10 bucks.

Our daughters’ house (near the college they were attending) had no trees on the lot so I decided to split them up. I kept 4 of the trees for my yard and planted the other 6 in the girls’ yard.  Three of the four in my yard have grown to a height of 4-5 feet and are doing great. I did lose one which has since been replaced by a beautiful Magnolia tree. The girls, however, promptly mowed down all six trees within a matter of months after planting. Something tells me they were in the Saturday morning I-don’t-want-to-do-yard-work mode. They, too, shall learn one day.

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The front garden area wasn’t looking so hot anymore. Five years of weather and string trimmer abuse doesn’t really make for a great-looking picket row, so I decided to fix the sad-looking space with a little stone.

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And so it came to pass that there were semi-great storms in the Texas area in early 2011, and they did reap horrid damage unto the land. Trees were splayed in twain and fences did break loose from their moorings. The simple Texan folk looked out onto their devastated lawns and saw that it was horrible. They cried out — on the internet — for a savior, a tool to salve the wounds of their broken shrubbery, and reading from the book of interweb-jackass they did find a chainsaw. And lo, there was much suffering across the land.

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A longtime friend of the shop, Bob Miller, stopped by this weekend to show me which end of the shovel to use when planting trees. I’ve never had much success with things that grow in the yard and I loathe yardwork in general, but after the storm last week blew down the lone craptastic tree in my front lawn, I figured reinforcements were required.

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When I had my house built eight summers ago, I never suspected the wind — and the wind damage — we were in for. We’ve lost shingles, given up siding, and been struck by lighting. For a Toolmonger who likes to grill out, the wind also hit me where it counted — the grill itself. We generally stored it by the fence to prevent accidents, but storms seemed to hit us during the few times we left the grill out on the patio. After purchasing two cheaper replacement grills which both subsequently ended up wind-totaled, last year I decided to buy a new grill and protect it to be sure it’d last.

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It’s springtime here in Ohio, and with warmer weather comes the reintroduction of our patio. In summer 2007 we contracted out for a new backyard paver patio. It’s held up well despite the sports-sized dogs tearing over it everyday during playtime, plentiful warm weather get-togethers with friends, parties for special events, and the constant Ohio sun. But the patio seating — not so much. We’d purchased a basic patio furniture set from Kroger, but not surprisingly, after three years the grocery-store cushions are totally unusable.

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Whether you need to repair a branch on your ornamental tree or want to experiment growing the perfect variety of apple, using a grafting tool to make your cuts may help you get better results.

This 8″ grafting tool from A. M. Leonard promises to give you more uniform cuts for more consistent grafts. The tool includes blades to make three different types of cuts: an omega cut, which looks somewhat like a jigsaw puzzle, a V-cut like what is pictured above, and a budding, or T-cut. You can use it on branches from 1/4″ to 1/2″ in diameter.

Made in Italy, the tool is constructed from heavy duty poly and steel. It comes with three different blades and two anvils. You can purchase it for about $75 shipped.

Grafting Tool [A.M. Leonard]
About Grafting [UMN Extension]
Via Amazon [What’s This?]