THE OLD SIGN PHILOSOPHER, THOUGHT FOR THE DAY!

RAIN MAKES FLOWERS GROW.....& CUSTOMERS DISAPPEAR

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LEWIS & CLARK EXPEDITION 200 YEARS AGO TODAY 01/04/1805

Good news....bad news: Its 28 F but its snowing. Little Crow, the second chief of Mitutanka, comes to visit the Corps at Camp Mandan and is pleased with the gifts of a handerchief and two files.

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MULCH HELPS PLANTS

Cold winter days and hot summer days can be hard on ornamental landscape plants and increase the demands on gardeners. To reduce the chance of damage and cut down on your own work and frustration later, it is important for plants to prepared for the season’s worst.

Ample moisture, which is essential for good plant production, becomes critically important. Because continual water is often costly and time consuming, it pays to conserve the moisture. And with trees, shrubs and flowers, the best way to do this is by mulching. A good mulch not only will retain precious moisture, but it will also provide several other benefits.

Mulch insulates the soil and protects it from the drying and hard baking effects of the hot sun and winds. Mulched soils are cooler than unmulched soils and generally show less fluctuation in soil temperature. Cooler, more even temperatures and less moisture evaporation from the soil surface allows plants to grow at a more constant rate.

Mulches also break the force of rain and irrigation water and tend to prevent erosion, soil compaction and crusting. Mulch helps the soil absorb water more readily and helps prevent rain or overhead irrigation from splashing soil.

The mulch covering also prevents germination of many weed seeds. Fewer weeds provide less competition from available moisture and nutrients. Using mulches to control weeds is much safer than using chemical weed controls or risking damage to tender, newly formed roots by cultivation.

Mulches are usually applied two to three inches deep. In general, the coarser the material, the deeper the mulch should be. For example, a 2 inch layer of grass clippings will have the same mulching effect as 6 inches of bark chunks.

There are inorganic mulches such as gravel or crushed rock. Many find this attractive in the landscape it does little in preventing the soil from drying out and since it reflects the sun, it will actually dry the plant out quicker.

By far, the more common and better mulches are the organic types. There are many of these and the selection is usually based on appearance desired and availability at the garden center.

A few of the more widely used organic mulches include: hardwood bark (coarse or Ozark black), grass clippings, leaf mold, wood chips and compost. Your choice should be weed free, clean, and long lasting. Organic mulches improve the soil structure when they break down and decompose in the soil, providing better aeration, drainage and water hold ability.

Even though peat moss can be an excellent conditioner when worked into the soil, it often makes a poor much because it draws up moisture and tends to pack and crust over the upper soil. Wood chips and sawdust will often rob the soil of available nitrogen, which is essential for plant growth. If you do use wood chips or sawdust it is advisable to replenish the nitrogen source.

Proper mulching is a wise investment choice for the vitality of your trees, shrubs, flowers and general landscape. As well as protecting the tree from injuries from lawn mowers and nylon weed eaters. The bottom line is simple, mulch your landscape to create healthy plants.

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Northwestern University and Chicago Botanical Gardens Join Forces to Train Botanists.

At a time when native plant species are increasingly endangered around the world, so, it seems, is the plant scientist. Not enough botanists or plant conservationists are being trained to address the growing national and international threats to biodiversity and impending global mass extinctions.

In response to this critical shortage, Northwestern University and the Chicago Botanic Garden are joining forces to offer the nation's first Master of Science degree in plant biology and conservation -- a unique interdisciplinary program designed to educate the next generation of plant scientists. This is the first major collaboration between the two institutions.

For additional information: http://grounds-mag.com/news/northwestern_chicago_botanists/

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BRAD LOYET---JUNIOR AT LINDBERGH HIGH SCHOOL CONTINUES HIS USAC RACING THIS WEEKEND IN TULSA AT THE CHILI BOWL

TULSA, Okla. -- The 19th annual Chili Bowl, taking place from January 5th through the 8th in Tulsa, OK, is boasting an entry field of 255 midgets. No less than 13 of those entries are coming from the ranks of the American Racing Drivers Club (ARDC).

One could call it a "Mega-Miller" assault by ARDC, as championship winning Mega Motorsports and the Miller Racing Team will make up nine of the 13 ARDC entries for what has become one of the premier auto racing events in North America. Joining those two teams will be the versatile Frank Polimeda, Fort Lee, NJ, two-time ARDC champion Bryan Kobylarz from Birdsboro, PA, Donnie Trent of Honeybrook, PA, and Chris Morway of Hebron, CT. Trent, who captured his second career ARDC victory during 2004's final race at Trailway, and Kobylarz will be teammates for Starrett Racing of Virginia as they attempt to battle their way into the A-main at the Chili Bowl.

Mike Miller, Birdsboro, PA, is fielding a six-car team in his second visit to the Bowl. Miller, his daughters Tracy and Michele, and the Royersford Rocket, Steve Buckwalter, will be teamed up with 1990 Chili Bowl winner Johnny Heydenreich of Indianapolis, IN, and Brownsburg, Indiana's Marc Dailey. In 2004, Miller Racing trailered four cars to Oklahoma, with only Buckwalter managing to qualify for Saturday night's A-main. Optimism rides high for this year, though, because Miller feels they will be more prepared for the star-studded event.

"Last year was our first attempt, even though Steve competed at the Chili Bowl in 2002. And we learned so much from last year's experience," explained Miller. "But you have to keep things in perspective, too. They've got, what, 255 entries for this year? And you see the best of the best at the Chili Bowl," continued the runner-up in last season's ARDC point standings. "All those drivers and all those champions are racing for just 24 starting spots in Saturday's big race. There's a lot of luck involved, but it's so much fun just being there and being part of such a great event."

Jeff "Milt" Aquilini, who is co-owner of Mega Motorsports along with Larry Gauker, agreed with Miller's assessment on the difficulty of simply qualifying for the Chili Bowl. "Ray (Bull, who has won the ARDC championship for the past five consecutive seasons) made the A-main last year, and we are very proud of that. There were 34 drivers at the Bowl last year who were either track champions or the champions of major racing sanctioning bodies. And only 24 cars get to run the A-main on Saturday. So you know that many of those champions go home early."

For the 2005 edition of the prestigious event, Mega is towing three cars to Tulsa. In addition to Bull, the Bloomsburg, PA veteran, Dave Shirk and Carey Becker will also tackle the quarter-mile dirt oval in hopes of transferring to the 50-lap A-main on Saturday. Shirk was ARDC's 2004 Rookie of the Year, narrowly beating out his teammate, Becker, for the honor.

"Carey will have a brand new Stealth Chassis for the Bowl," noted Aquilini, whose team is based in Reading, PA. We hung the old body on it, because the cars do tend to get beat up out there. The other two cars are last year's models, and they will be replaced after the Chili Bowl."

Aquilini also pointed out that Polimeda, who is driving Lou Zrinski's Kozak Precision Products no. 25, will be an "unofficial teammate" to the Mega Motorsports forces. "They are travelling out with us and will pit next to us, so we can help each other," stated Aquilini.

Qualifying takes place on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, with the top four finishers from each preliminary feature going directly to Saturday's A-main. The ARDC contingent has been divided into the three qualifying events as follows: on Wednesday evening, Shirk, Tracy Miller, Buckwalter, and Polimeda will compete.

On Thursday night, Bull, Michele Miller, Dailey, and Trent will try to race their way into the A-main. Friday night's action will find Mike Miller, Heydenreich, Morway, Becker, and Kobylarz wheeling their midgets on the tight, banked oval.

Adding to the excitement, a "Ladies of the Chili Bowl Dash for Cash" has been added to the Thursday night lineup this year. Sponsored by Pro Lube of Mustang, OK, the four females who entered the 19th annual Chili Bowl will compete in a $1,000, winner-take-all event after the heat races have been completed. The Miller sisters, Tracy and Michele, will take on Oklahoma's own Michelle Decker and Shannon McQueen from Bakersfield, CA.

With 255 entries representing 25 states, Australia, and New Zealand, it's no wonder a Chili Bowl championship is so special to drivers such as Tony Stewart and Cory Kruseman. The American Racing Drivers Club extends best wishes to all of its members for a safe and successful Chili Bowl.

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION GO TO: BRADLOYET.COM

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GREENSCAPE GARDENS JOKE OF THE DAY!

Several men are sitting around the locker room of a private
club after exercising. Suddenly a cell phone on one of the benches
rings. One of the men picks it up, and the following conversation ensues:

"Hello?"

"Honey, it's me. Are you at the club?"

"Yes."

"Great! I am at the mall two blocks from where you are. I just saw a beautiful mink coat. It's absolutely gorgeous!! Can I buy it?"

"What's the price?"

"Only $1,500.00."

"Well, OK, go ahead and get it, if you like it that much ... "

"Ahhh, and I also stopped by the Mercedes dealership and saw the new models. I saw one I really liked. I spoke with the salesman, and he gave me a really good price ... and since we need to exchange the BMW that we bought last year ... "

"What price did he quote you?"

"Only $60,000 ... "

"OK, but for that price I want it with all the options."

"Great! But before we hang up, something else ... "

"What?"

"It might look like a lot, but I was reconciling your bank account and
... I stopped by the real estate agent this morning and saw the house we had looked at last year. It's on sale!! Remember? The one with a pool, English Garden, acre of park area, beachfront property ... "

"How much are they asking?"

"Only $450,000 - a magnificent price ... and I see that we have that much in the bank to cover it... "

"Well, then go ahead and buy it, but just bid $420,000. OK?"

"OK, sweetie ... Thanks! I'll see you later!! I love you!!!"

"Bye ... I do too ... "

The man hangs up, closes the phone's flap, and raises his hand while holding the phone and asks to all those present:

"Does anyone know who this phone belongs to?"