Make Your Garden a Rustic Oasis

One of the hottest trends in garden design right now is the rustic look and when you see the finished result of a rustic oasis filled with good old fashioned charm, it has not hard to see why the look is proving so popular in garden makeovers.

Making a plan

Before you set about creating a beautiful rustic garden you have to sit down and work out a plan on how you are going to achieve this goal. Think about how room that you have to work with and which items you might like to use and work with in order to create an authentic rustic feel. Depending on your budget and also what will work best with the existing areas that you have in the garden you can choose to introduce small rustic accents or go for an extravagant overhaul to create your own oasis of peace and tranquillity.

Rustic accents

Simple touches to add a rustic accent would be to add a wooden birdhouse or bird feeder which will not only add an element of charm but it will encourage wildlife into your garden.  Another relatively easy item to use in order to add a rustic feel would be to add a wooden porch swing, giving you a great looking piece of furniture and also somewhere to sit and relax. Other ideas to consider would be to obtain some old wooden rain barrels or even old whisky barrels which you can line and plant with flowers in order to create a pleasing focal point.

Rustic landscaping

Larger projects to consider as a way of creating a rustic feel would be to dig out a small pond or maybe even create an area with a small windmill or a wishing well. These items can vary greatly in size and quality so it is a case of not just fitting in with your budget but also considering what size you want your pond or water feature to be and how it works in blending in with the rest of your garden.

Using old railway sleepers

A design trick that works really well is to create different levels in your garden which adds considerable interest to the view and has a way of drawing your eye to certain features especially when you use rustic steps that lead you down to another level or area in your garden. The perfect solution for creating wooden steps is to use reclaimed wooden railway sleepers which make an excellent design feature in their own right and are a perfectly acceptable installation challenge to a reasonably competent and tooled up DIY enthusiast. A good tip to remember when you are installing the sleepers yourself is to make sure that the steps are not too slippery but cutting either shallow tread lines into the wood or tacking a layer of chicken wire down to improve the grip. This isn’t always easiest to do but get hold of a decent mini-circular saw and you’ll be able to handle it just fine.

Rustic painting

If you have a wall or maybe some furniture in the garden you can help them to blend into you new rustic look and add a great finishing touch to your project by using to paint to create a rustic old fashioned weathered look. Giving an item a makeover in order to create an aged look is not as difficult as it may seem and you almost certainly be pleased with the result and the subsequent rustic look you manage to achieve. You can get more detailed instructions on the web if you need them but basically you are gently sanding the existing painted surface with fine grained sandpaper with a view to scuffing the surface rather than actually sanding it. Apply an antiquing glaze to a small area at a time and once it is nearly dried, wipe away the glaze with a lint free cloth leaving you with a surface that has those scratches and imperfections that gives it a perfect rustic look. With a bit of practice on an unwanted piece of furniture, you can quickly gain the right skills to set to work on the items in the garden that you want to transform.

Creating rustic fencing

Whilst a neatly stained fence may be attractive to some, if you are trying to perfect your rustic look then you may want to try and make your treated wood look weathered and really add the finishing touch to your garden design. Using a safety mask and goggles for safety you should sand down the treated panel until most of the stain has been removed. Fill up a mason jar with boiling water and add a tea bag, leaving it until it is a rich brown color which you can then brush over the wood. Finish it off by applying a light coat of vinegar solution and once it has dried, you will end up with a rustic fencing panel that will appear textured and weathered. Most of the projects can be carried out yourself and not only will it be a source of pride when you see your finished work, you will also be able to sit back and really enjoy your new rustic oasis.

The Complete Guide to Cloud Storage

“I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils.”

– From The Daffodils by William Wordsworth (1770-1850), famous English Romantic poet.

What is Cloud Storage?

There was once a time when an online search for the term “cloud” would inevitably return results of the above kind, speaking about those puffy progenitors of precipitation. However, nowadays, there’s a good chance that such a search query would yield results related to “cloud computing.” And cloud storage is an integral part of cloud computing.

For those who don’t know what cloud storage is about, it has nothing to do with storing data in the skies. Rather, the “cloud” in “cloud storage” refers to the ubiquity of the data and how it is perceived by the end-user. Thus, although the data is stored in multiple servers at multiple locations, the user does not view it as being at a physical location but a virtual “cloud.”

More often than not, these servers are run by third parties, greatly reducing infrastructure costs.  These cloud computing companies then sell or rent out this storage space to interested parties who do not wish to invest in multiple physical servers to store their data.  The storage space may then be used to hold and access data as the customers see fit to, at a mere fraction of the cost of a physical, or several physical servers. The stored data can then be accessed through the internet, either by using a web-based interface or an application programming interface, or API for short.

Cloud storage is usually offered as a utility service, the same way as electricity. In other words, you only pay for what you use. The parallel with an electricity connection doesn’t end there. The same way that a consumer doesn’t have to pay for the infrastructure to generate and transmit electricity but only for the units consumed, a cloud storage customer is not concerned with storage and transmission of data – all that are taken care of by the service provider. While a consumer can connect to the electricity grid to get connected, the cloud storage customer logs on via the Internet for access.

From big enterprises to SMBs (small & mid-size businesses) to individual home users, everyone can benefit from cloud storage. While some advantages favor one user category more than the other, it is obvious that the net effect of shifting to the cloud is always positive, irrespective of the size of the consumer.

Advantages of cloud storage vis-à-vis traditional storage on servers

•    Cost savings

This is one of the primary advantages of going on the cloud. Not only do you save on the capital expenditure of buying storage equipment, your operational expenses also reduce due to the fact that you don’t pay for unused resources.

Now, servers also occupy a lot of space. In other words, a company has to pay rent for their storage media. Also, they require regular maintenance, necessitating the presence of full-time staff that has to be paid salaries and benefits. Finally, servers consume a lot of energy, and not only for normal operations. Servers get heated up pretty quickly and need to be cooled down, again something that requires energy. Consider all these costs, and the net cost savings of moving to the cloud add up to a substantial amount.

•    Mobility

With cloud storage, you have access to your data from anywhere that has an Internet connection. Therefore, wherever you go, your data travels with you – but without the weight of baggage. This ability to access data from remote and multiple locations also allows for easier sharing of information. In an increasingly connected and mobile world, these are great advantages to have.

•    Disaster recovery

Murphy’s Law says, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong” – and storage systems are not immune. However, cloud storage is much more resilient to outages than traditional storage due to their distributed nature. Thus, even if one server location goes off the grid, the others ensure that your data is not lost. Whether the disaster is natural like an earthquake or man-made like a disgruntled employee pulling off wires, data recovery is a breeze with cloud storage.

•    Scalability

The ability to scale up, and equally importantly, scale down storage infrastructure at short notice is one of the major advantages of cloud storage. For example, if you use traditional storage media and your storage requirements double overnight, you would be faced with the difficult prospect of going out and buying servers in a hurry, most probably paying extra for the rush. But with cloud storage, you can purchase additional storage at the click of a mouse.

Similarly, if your storage requirements decrease, you can either carry unused server inventory or sell them off at a loss. But with cloud storage, you simply reduce the storage you are subscribed to. Therefore, not only are your storage requirements satisfied at short notice, they are satisfied at lower cost.

•    Load balancing

For traditional storage, heavy traffic can cause a bottleneck. For example, if several employees try to access company data from the same server, the speed of access will be considerably slowed down. This is because the data that can be read from the server and the data that can be transmitted over the optic fiber both have maximum limits.

However, with cloud storage, multiple servers at multiple locations ensure bottlenecks are few. Also, traffic can be dynamically rerouted to ensure high speed of access for all users. This is called load balancing and is a prime advantage of cloud storage. Therefore, cloud storage allows for optimum use of resources by consolidating and reallocating them based on utilization and capacity. In contrast, traditional IT paradigms are inflexible and cannot respond to changing demands, thereby creating inefficiencies.

•    Ease of use

Cloud storage services trump traditional storage as far as ease of use is concerned. For one, it can be completely automated. Thus, you don’t have to concern yourself with manually backing up your data, or syncing it to multiple devices. Secondly, data is stored in an organized manner that precludes long searches. Most offer inventoried list of contents, making it easier to find what you want, when you want it.

•    Security

With cloud storage, all security processes are the responsibility of the service provider. While some would find this undesirable, it’s actually a great advantage for smaller customers who cannot afford enterprise-level security that a service provider can provide. For example, most cloud storage providers employ complex encryption codes that make hacking your files nearly impossible.

In addition to information security, physical security is ensured through heavily-guarded server farms. These include state-of-the-art motion sensors and 24/7 secured access, camera surveillance and security breach alarms. To protect against natural disasters, these locations have 24/7 backup systems, elevated floors, HVAC temperature control systems with separate cooling zones and seismically braced racks.

As is obvious, all these cost money and beyond the budgets of many customers. Thus contrary to popular perception, outsourcing data security can be desirable for many. As an analogy, consider the following: Does the President of the US carry a gun or entrust his security to the highly-trained Secret Service personnel?

Concerns with cloud storage

As with any technology, cloud storage is not without its flaws.

•    For one, it is a comparatively new technology. Consequently, there is a marked lack of standards making contracts and key success measures difficult to define. Also, this affects portability. In other words, there are several migration issues that need to be overcome in order to move your data from one provider to another.

•    Secondly, since data is accessed through the Internet, a reliable and secure Internet connection is critical to use cloud storage services.

•    Finally, there is the privacy and security angle. Since data is under the guardianship of the service provider, there can be certain concerns about data privacy. Also, confidential data may be inadvertently shared while in storage or in transit. However, this is true for traditional storage as well.

It is clear that the advantages far outweigh the potential dangers of using cloud storage services. What’s more, these risks can be most easily mitigated by ensuring that there is a stable and reliable Internet connection and by choosing a reputable cloud storage hosting company.

Therefore, the next question you need to ask is “How do I choose a cloud storage provider?” Here are a few suggestions:

How to choose a cloud storage provider

•    Define your requirements

Like many technologies, cloud storage works better if you go by the “horses for courses” adage. In other words, the provider should optimally meet your requirements. And for that to happen, you need to clearly define those requirements. Some things you need to consider are whether the storage is for personal or business use, how much space you require, whether you want a feature-rich interface and extensive customer support (which will obviously cost more), etc.

A feature-rich service may include the following:

  •  Ability to schedule backups
  •  Ability to perform incremental backups
  • Ability to auto sync across different devices
  • Ability to selectively sync files and folders
  • Ability to securely share documents and collaborate
  • Compatibility with both Macs and PCs
  • Compatibility with smartphones and tablets
  • Ability to stream multimedia

A cloud storage provider that allows you to pick and choose the features you want is definitely recommended.

•    Have a transparent selection process

Transparency should be employed both within and outside the company. While intra-company transparency ensures organizational buy-in, transparency with service providers ensures strong relationships all around.

•    Ensure risk sharing contracts

Choose a service provider who is willing to take on some of the risk of implementation. This will ensure that the provider has a stake in the project.

•    Avoid sub-contracting

Select a service provider who has in-house expertise for the entire implementation. This ensures stricter control and integrity of the project.

•    Look at provider work history

This is true for almost any kind of history. While past performance is no guarantee of future results, a record of successes does point to competence.

•    Define measures of progress and success 

It is important that the customer and service provider agree on how to measure progress and success of the implementation. This is especially important considering the lack of industry standards in this field.

•    Consider service provider selection to be a strategic decision

Choosing a cloud storage service provider is a strategic decision that must not be dictated by short-term gains. Therefore, a provider who can provide long-term support and not necessarily short-term cost savings should be chosen.

Cloud storage is the way everyone will store and access data in the future.

Paleo Diet A Logical Lifestyle Change

Just eat real food. 

Before reading through hundreds of pages of diet books, please understand these 4 simple words.

Food is fuel for your body, and not all food is created equal. The paleo diet outlines basic principles to increase longevity, and improve your health.

Robb Wolf, a former research biochemist and current health author, recently spoke at The Ancestral Health Symposium about the paleo lifestyle/diet.

In the video below, he highlights the science behind “going paleo”, and he also talks about how it saved his life.

Here are the key points of his lecture:

  • Over hundreds of thousands of years, Humans evolved and adapted to a certain diet. Our bodies are genetically programed to eat fruits, vegetables, meats, seafood, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats.
  • Paleo is more of a lifestyle than a diet. It involves eating properly, exercising, getting adequate sleep at night, taking vitamins, socializing, etc.
  • He recommends trying out all diets and comparing them. Do whatever makes you feel the best.
  • Educate yourself. Before you dismiss this idea completely, properly research the paleo solution, and give it a try for 30 days.
  • “Foods are appropriate for any given species if they were regularly consumed during most of its prior evolution.”

Pool Safety Tips


An estimated three million above-ground pools and one million in-ground pools in U.S are owned by homeowners. It can be convincing that nothing bad will ever happen but there are over 50,000 pool-related trips reported to the emergency room every year. According to CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission), children under the age of 5 years are the most affected with 350 children drowning each year and 2,600 children being treated in emergency rooms as a result of submersion incidents. It therefore becomes very important for pool owner to understand the dangers associated with pool water and how to prevent them.

These Are Some Following Tips for Pool Safety

Ensure Constant Supervision

There should be constant supervision around the pool whenever people are using it. Most preferably the owner of the pool should supervise the pool so as to ensure that the rules are placed in order. However the supervisor should be a good swimmer who can be able to help out a child or any other adult in case of an emergency.

Fence the Pool

The best way to prevent the children from accessing your pool when you are not around is to create a physical barrier. To be effective ensure that the gate is locked at all the time and the kids are not able to open or unlatch the gate. In addition you can also use a combination lock and install an alarm on the fence to alert you every time when someone accesses the pool without permission.

Separate Deep Ends from Shallow Ends

There are many people who do not know how to swim. It is therefore advisable that you put some indications of where the pool is too deep for some people. Ensure that the kids and adults fully understand that the deep end is only for proficient swimmers. You can also encourage them to swim width-wise as opposed to length-wise so that they avoid the deep end.

Use Floats and Safety Equipment when Using the Pool

Children who cannot swim should wear safety devices such as life vest or arm floats at all times. This however does not mean that they are 100% safe and you should not rely on them completely to protect your child from drowning. Never ever allow your child to swim alone with these devices. Always ensure that the child is within your reach at all times when at the pool.

Always Have Hand Phone When In the Pool

Accidents only take a second to happen. By the time you rush to the house and make an emergency call it might be too late and something fatal may happen. Having a cordless phone around the pool could be life saver because you will be able to make an emergency call faster and more convenient.

Learn CPR

As a pool supervisor, you need to be equipped with the skills of a lifeguard. CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) is a manual emergency procedure performed to keep an individual alive in case of accident before the ambulance arrives. Therefore if you do not know how to perform CPR, it is advisable to take a class and learn how it is performed.

Remove Ladders from The Above-Ground Pools

Ladders are used as a means getting in and out of the above-ground pools. If you are not using the pool, keep the ladder away from the pool to prevent the kids from accessing the pool.

Many of these pool safety tips are a matter of common sense. However adhering to the rules and regular maintenance of the pool will create a difference between having good times in the pool and an accidental trip to the emergency room.

5 Ways of Preparing Your Garden for Spring

As the winter draws to a close, many keen gardeners should begin to think about how to preparing their garden for the spring ahead. Don’t let the icy chills and recent cold weather disheartened you, milder temperatures and flourishing shrubbery conditions are on their way! To make the most of the next season, read on for a guide to preparing your garden for springtime:

Every gardener wants to enjoy their garden, but it takes planning and preparation

Plan ahead

For real garden success, take the time to plan. Now is the ideal time to settle down with a nice mug of tea or coffee and a few good seed catalogues, or the modern-day equivalent – the web. Whilst it’s still cold out you can start planning the colour schemes and textures for the year ahead. If you’re feeling especially creative, and wish to further visualise your springtime garden in full glory, try online garden planning software. If you’d like to landscape your lawn, now is the time to plan out your design and research into turf or grass seed costs.

Begin repairs

Before you’re able to get planting, get out in the garden and check the condition of your fences, trellis, plant pots and outbuildings. The winter may have taken its toll on your paintwork and pottery. Look out for cracks and damage that could affect the ability to uphold plants during the spring months; it might be time to head to the garden centre and stock up on the essentials ready for when seeding time comes. Don’t forget to check your garden tools too, if you’ve been promising yourself a new mower now’s the time to make the investment. Sanding and varnishing garden furniture will also help.

Get Trimming

If your architectural grasses are looking a bit worse for wear, give them that much needed trim. You need to leave around 20cm of old growth so they are protected for any other upcoming frosts but fresh greenery will start appearing at the start of March. Sedum plants that have turned all mushy and brown will also benefit from a trim, whilst cutting the side shoots of your Prune Wisteria can also be done now to encourage flowers in early summer. The more trimming and pruning work you put in now, the less you will have to do come spring. If you are carrying out a lot of trimming it may be worth purchasing or hiring an electric trimmer, particularly if you are doing hedges and large bushes.


Despite the cold weather, unscrupulous weeds will no doubt have made their way between your paving stones and into the flower beds. Get out there and start dealing with them now. If you can remove them from the root, you’ll save costs on weed killer over the coming months and give your shrubberies the best possible chance. Consider hiring a weed burner which will completely destroy the weeds. They are available from any good garden tool hire company.

The First Mow of the Year

When the new trellises are up, your weeds are gone and you’ve planned out exactly where you’ll be planting come spring – the final sure fire way to get your garden ready is to do the ceremonious first lawn mow of the year. A freshly mown lawn, though a little grey at this time of year, gives an instant refresh to your whole garden. To finish off, make sure you give your lawn a thorough rake and remove any winter debris that has collected. Re-seed any areas that are particularly sparse and put some lawn feed/care formula to encourage colour and quality.

With all these tasks complete, and your garden looking a bit sharper, spring will seem that little bit closer! Now is a great time to get hold of gardening equipment, as it’s cheaper than in the peak season. Lots of great deals can be found online and in store. You can also hire equipment that is too expensive or you only need to use once a year from local tool hire companies.

There are some great tips on this video too from one of our “go to” sources for garden advice, MIGardener.

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