This January has proven to be an active one for snowstorms in the Lakes Region. Still, the Belknap Landscape crew has been able to find time between plowing, shoveling, and sanding to learn about safety and emergency preparedness. An integral part of our company identity is our safety culture, and we’re always up for continuing education. Here’s what we’ve been up to this month.
In early January, with the help of Hebron Fire Department, many of our crew members received training on CPR, First Aid, and Stop the Bleed processes. We spent two days at the Gilford Community Center learning about how to respond to these types of emergencies, and ways we can help save life or limb should the worst-case scenario happen.
Last week, we participated in OSHA 10 training provided by a safety instructor from the National Association of Landscape Professionals. Over two days at the Laconia Country Club, we learned about identifying hazards on the job, methods of preventing injury or death, and how we as professionals can ensure the safety of our teammates, and those who share our work spaces. As a result of this training, 32 crew members will soon receive their OSHA cards.
Additionally, last week Mark Cote and others from Cross Insurance in Laconia shared a presentation with our crew members on ways they can better be safe at work regarding illness, injury, allergic reactions, and winter driving. Discussion topics included safe vehicle following distances, safe speed, skid and spin recovery, and myriad other safe-driving issues.
Finally, to complement these training programs, a number of our leaders have attended Tree Care Industry Association classes on crew leadership. These classes provide excellent general leadership instruction and the classes’ focus on professionalism and training, which enables our leader to better promote and execute on our safety culture. Safety involves everyone in our company, and our leaders are especially important to set, maintain, and encourage our safety standards.
Safety is an ongoing practice here at Belknap Landscape. We’re fortunate to have the cooperation of local organizations and industry associations to help us continue our safety legacy. January 2020 has been an important safety training month for our team, and we’re proud of their efforts and accomplishments this winter and we look forward to more training throughout the year.
The Lakes Region is a wonderful place to visit or live. All of our lakes, from Winnipesaukee, Winnisquam, Squam, and others, beckon us throughout spring and summer with the promise of great experiences. But what about in the winter? The colder months see many of our local attractions and restaurants closed, the lakes freeze over, and the snow cover draws over the landscape. What’s a local or visitor to do? Here are some great ideas.
Gunstock Mountain in Gilford, NH, has long been a staple for fun in the Lakes Region. With 48 trails and incredible views of Lake Winnipesaukee, the picturesque slopes are perfect for snow sports. Gunstock offers tubing for those not inclined to ski, lessons for those who’d like to learn, and a variety of activities for all ages.
With over 52 brand outlets, the Tanger Outlet Center in Tilton, NH, has something for every shopper. From the Gap to Bass, Polo to Old Navy, this easily accessible retail center has proven to be a destination. Newer additions like 5 Guys Burgers and Starbucks provide respite for those looking for a tasty treat during the winter chill.
Prescott Farm in Laconia, NH, is a fantastic resource for the local and tourist community to enjoy spring and summer programs like organic gardening classes or day camps for kids. But, you may be surprised to learn they are open year-round. With indoor offerings that include painting, soap-making workshops, and cooking classes, the farm is a fun and engaging place to experience in the winter. Their ever-changing list of programs and courses are sure to offer a unique opportunity for your next visit.
Hollywood makes its way to the Lakes Region at several locations, with BarnZ’s being one of our favorites. Located in Meredith NH, this cinema offers leather reclining seats, fresh popcorn, and blockbuster movies, yet it still maintains the small home-town cinema feel.
Just outside of the Weirs is a New Hampshire staple. Billed as the Largest arcade in the world, Funspot features over 600 video games, bowling, indoor mini golf, and bingo. For the young, or those young-at-heart, Funspot cannot be missed on a trip to the Lakes Region.
The town of Wolfeboro operates this beautiful ice rink inside the Abenaki Ski Area. While it’s home to many area teams for hockey and curling, there’s a variety of events and open skating times that are open to the public. You can also rent the arena for your private event.
If you’re over in the Newfound Lake area, Bristol has a great entertainment option on Friday nights. The Back Room at the Mill restaurant hosts an open mic year-round. Treat your taste buds to the grilled cheese sandwiches voted as NH’s best while taking in a variety of local talent in one of the best small venue music spots around!
This year was a milestone year for Belknap Landscape. We celebrated our 30th anniversary, took time to design and adopt new programs, and reached new levels of community support. Reflecting on the wonderful and eventful months behind us, we are grateful to celebrate the many new friends and knowledge we gained along the way. Our goals of better serving the Lakes Region and our clients were realized, and we can’t help but fondly remember some of the things we had the opportunity to do because of you—our wonderful clients and partners in central New Hampshire.
As a client, partner, or friend of Belknap Landscape, you’ve helped support many vital programs within the community. Our primary focus, as you will see, is supporting children’s programs that provide unique opportunities to learn and grow. We hope you’ll join us as we remember some of these great experiences.
In the spring, we had the pleasure of working with Winnisquam Regional Middle School in Tilton. We partnered with them to help prepare the grounds for a new hoop-house, which would allow students to receive diversified hands-on learning in agriculture. We were able to donate time, equipment use, and materials to this project in conjunction with others like Nutter Enterprises, making this project have little-to-no cost for the school.
We also continued our business sponsorship of Prescott Farm Environmental Education Center in Gilford. Through these efforts, we aided the organic gardening program, which allows members of the community the opportunity to learn and practice organic gardening techniques. Each summer, Prescott Farm hosts a day camp for area children, crafting relevant programming for them to learn about our environment, make friends, and enjoy the outdoors.
As part of our initiative to help local children experience a variety of educational opportunities, we stopped into Alton Central School to spend some time in the classrooms and to donate and install a sugar maple. We enjoyed participating with the children in this hands-on educational opportunity, as they not only helped install the tree but utilized ideas they learned in math and sciences classes in a real-world application.
As the warm days transitioned to crisp nights, we responded to a request from the Belknap House in Laconia to assist in preparing their property to receive families in need. The property was overgrown, and we were happy to respond by donating time and resources. As one of the only family shelters in Belknap County, they are an essential asset we are glad to support.
In October, one of our favorite annual events took place. New Hampshire Construction Career Days (NHCCD) is committed to exposing high schoolers throughout New Hampshire with potential career choices in the construction industry. As a sponsor and a participant, we were proud to be among the many companies that helped thousands of young adults in NH see options for their future.
Late fall soon approached, and an opportunity to support educational opportunities for children in Gilmanton revealed itself. The school recently constructed raised garden beds to help teach children about agriculture, and needed materials to help the program launch for the spring of 2020. We responded to the request to fill the beds with compost and had a team of happily willing BLC crewmembers fill the containers within a week. We cannot wait to return in the spring and provide more support and see how the kids enjoy this chance at experiential learning.
As we close out another year, we turned our eyes to the long-supported and regional favorite—the Greater Lakes Region Children’s Auction. The auction first began in 1982, not long after Belknap Landscape was formed, and has since then grown into a multi-faceted drive to directly support families throughout the area. As a team, we participated in Pubmania at Patrick’s Pub in Gilford, operated the phones at the auction in the Belknap Mall in Belmont, and, of course, received donations directly from our clients and friends.
Mother Nature always seems to have more than a few winter snowstorms for the Lakes Region. Many of our clients are fortunate enough to have our services for plowing, shoveling, and sanding, and, as a result, we’ve learned a thing or two. Take some snow shoveling tips from us this season—it might just help you stay healthy enough to hit Gunstock or ice fish on Meredith Bay!
Dress for the weather
Begin with wearing appropriate clothing. Warm clothing choices are a great start, but ensure your clothes and boots are also water repellent or waterproof. Wet clothing transfers heat from your body quicker than dry clothing, making you get cold faster.
Stretch and move
The likelihood of sustaining an injury during physical activity is reduced when you stretch and loosen up. Take the time and focus on your back, abdomen, shoulders, and legs before you pick up your shovel. Your body will thank you.
Keep your cool
We’ve covered the importance of staying dry while shoveling with water-repellent clothing. You also should be mindful of sweating. The best way to combat sweat? First, dress in layers. If you begin to feel too warm, you can remove a layer and cool off. Second, don’t over-exert yourself. Your goal is to complete your work safely. Shovel smaller loads and pace yourself.
Watch your form
Lifting is an inherent part of shoveling snow, and as a result, proper lifting technique is imperative.
Bend from your knees or hips, not your back.
Lift using your legs.
Avoid twisting by waiting to throw the snow after you’ve returned to a standing position.
Lift snow immediately in front of you—do not stretch to reach snow out or your comfortable range.
Keep your back in a neutral, unbent position. For most people, this is a straight back.
Take a breath
Believe it or not, we often see new shovelers stop breathing. For some, when we exert ourselves, we hold our breath. Do not do that—be mindful to keep your breathing full and at a regular rate. During winter, the air is thinner, colder, and drier, and proper breathing efforts are especially important in these conditions.
Similarly, take a “breather”. Again, your goal is to complete your work. Give yourself enough time to do the job safely, and take breaks. Allow your body moments of recovery, and your risk of injury or an adverse event will be substantially reduced.
Why do we remove snow several times throughout snowstorms? One important reason is to balance the workload. Simply put, shoveling a foot of snow throughout a storm three times instead of once means we only shovel four inches at a time. This makes the work significantly more manageable and reduces the chances of injury. It’s also substantially less wear on our equipment.
Use the right equipment
If you’re going to shovel snow, use a shovel designed for snow. Go to your local retailer and find a snow shovel which feels comfortable to use. Try it out by shoveling pretend snow in the store to ensure it’s an ergonomic fit for you. Keep in mind, snow can weigh 20 pounds per cubic foot, so a smaller shovel surface may be better for you.
Know when to stop
Shoveling your own snow can be an economical and rewarding choice. Still, these attributes disappear the moment you are hurt or have an adverse event. Understand your limits and be mindful of your body while you shovel. Take breaks, ask for help, and hire a professional when it’s needed.
Bonus Tip: Did you know coating your snow shovel with a light mist of cooking spray will help snow slide off readily, making snow shoveling easier? It’s true! Try it next storm and see the difference for yourself.
From wreaths on lampposts to garland on staircases, looking around towns in New Hampshire, it is easy to see that there are few things as festive as a real Christmas tree. Lighting ceremonies are held in village squares for the larger trees, while homes play guest to a variety of evergreens each year. At Belknap Landscape, we proudly help our clients with holiday décor throughout the Lakes Region. From festive wreaths and trees to warm lights and colorful bows, we’ve learned a thing or two about getting the best results for your enjoyment during the holidays. Here’s our advice for making your real Christmas tree last the entire season.
Pick out a tree that fits your needs and appears healthy. The biggest challenge in making your tree last the longest is keeping the tree hydrated. This means you need to start off with a tree that is as hydrated as possible.
Avoid trees with clearly dehydrated areas. Look to avoid limbs that are turning brown, as well as needles that shed easily or are particularly brittle. Take the time to gently brush the limbs to see if they retain some elasticity, and the needles remain in place.
When you get the tree home, cut off about one inch from the base of the tree before you bring it inside. This fresh cut will allow the trunk to absorb water more efficiently. If you cut your tree yourself and are immediately bringing it home, this may not be necessary, but if you’re unsure how long it has been since the tree was cut—take this step.
Consider spraying your tree with an anti-transpirant such as Wilt Pruf. This will reduce moisture loss through the needles into the ambient air. As the most significant variable to making your real tree last the longest is hydration, this step can prove valuable. Follow the instructions on the container and allow your tree time for the product to dry before moving your tree indoors. This is also an excellent step for your fresh wreaths.
Set up your tree away from heat sources. Close sources of heat will dehydrate your tree faster, but another consideration is safety. A fresh tree is flammable, and as the season progresses and the tree dries, they become more of a fire risk. Keeping your tree away from heat sources is the best way to mitigate the fire risk.
After you’ve installed your tree, water it immediately with enough water to keep the base of the trunk submerged. You do not need to add anything to the water, but you must check the water regularly to ensure the base remains submerged. A fresh tree uses a surprising amount of water, with around a gallon a day usage being common in many instances. At a minimum, we suggest checking your tree’s water daily.
When it’s time, dispose of your tree responsibly. Remove all decorations, including tinsel, and follow the policies your local municipality has in place. Throwing your tree in the woods, along a road, or in a body of water is littering. While the material is organic, it is irresponsible and detrimental to the environment.
Trees add a beautiful, dynamic dimension to any outdoor space. Several things however, can affect the health and viability of your trees, and an unhealthy tree can be a hazard. It’s essential to take the time to check on your trees for safety and health. Here’s an easy guide to tree care basics. Please be aware of these symptoms before surveying your trees, and use care in approaching or standing under a problem tree.
Is your tree leaning?
Trees can grow to be quite large, and their mass must be well supported. A healthy and safe tree has a network of roots that not only gather water and nutrients but also anchors the base of the tree into the ground. A leaning tree can put stress on the anchoring abilities of its roots.
Leans can be caused by tree growth patterns, weather events, changes in soil conditions, and a variety of other factors. When checking on a leaning tree, it’s important to note the severity of the lean. The ground around the base of the tree should also be inspected. Are there cracks, swells, or disturbed areas in the ground? These could be evidence of the cause of the lean, or a problematic symptom caused by the lean.
Regardless of the cause, a leaning tree can be dangerous and is more likely to fall. Unfortunately, in many cases, depending on the severity of the lean, a leaning tree may need to be felled.
How does the foliage look?
Dead, thinning, or missing foliage (leaves or needles) is a clear indicator there’s a problem with a tree. It’s important to note the extent of the foliage issues. Is the entire tree experiencing this problem, or is it isolated to a branch or section?
In some cases, foliage problems are indicative of a disease or fungus problem. If caught early, diseases and fungi can undergo treatment and you may potentially save the tree. If allowed to persist, illness can render a tree unsavable, and, eventually, a safety issue, so don’t delay!
Sometimes foliage problems are caused by trauma. A rotten, dead, or dying part of a tree needs removal for a few reasons. First, these are safety hazards. As dead limbs age and decay in a tree, they are more likely to fall, causing property damage or personal injury. Second, dead or dying areas of trees are a detriment to the healthy part of the tree. A tree will continue to attempt to support dead areas with nutrients that could be utilized in good areas. Finally, these dead or dying areas on a tree can harbor pests and create avenues for threats to the overall health of the tree.
Is the trunk in good condition?
The trunk is the backbone of your tree. It is the conduit for water and nutrients to pass from the roots to the canopy. It is the structural foundation off of which grow the roots and branches, and of course, it supports the weight of the tree. Trees need healthy trunks to remain viable and safe.
Check your trunks for structural problems like voids or deep cavities. These can create problems for a tree to support the significant weight of the tree or may be indicative of other issues. Press on the trunk to see if it feels firm to the touch and not rotten. Finally, utilize a mallet to knock on the trunk and check to see if it sounds hollow. It’s not unusual for trees to experience problems causing them to have no visible structural issues outside, yet harbor significant problems inside.
Look for missing bark. While small patches of bark may be missing for a myriad of reasons, large areas of missing bark could indicate a significant health issue or trauma. A good rule of thumb is to seek help in the following instances. First, if the missing bark exceeds 25% of the tree surface. Second, if there are indications that bark is missing due to disease or pests. And, third, if the missing bark area presents additional damage such as a large gouge or rot.
Does your trunk have signs of fungi or pests? Look for mushrooms or lichens. Fine or coarse sawdust can be an indication of pest activity. Both pests and fungi will erode the health of a tree’s trunk, causing it to topple or die if left unchecked.
Are there cracks or splits?
With the significant weight associated with tree limbs, exposure to weather conditions, and other events, it’s not unusual for cracks or splits to occur in many areas on a tree. In particular, look where branches shoot off from the trunk, where branches have offshoots to other branches, the exposed roots, and the trunk.
Splits and cracks represent significant weak spots in a tree, as well as areas that may develop into more problematic conditions. In many cases, splits can be repaired, or portions of the tree removed to ensure the long-term viability of a tree. If these conditions are left to persist, they typically evolve into situations that can create a hazard for the tree’s health, property damage, or even personal injury.
Are there fallen branches and limbs around the base of the tree?
The occasional fall of a branch is normal. If a tree seems to be shedding branches regularly, or if you find larger limbs, this could indicate a problem.
Branches and limbs could fall due to a health condition causing them to weaken in the canopy and break off easier than if they were healthy. Your tree may also need pruning. Pruning a tree will enable better light and air penetration, resulting in healthier limbs, a more attractive tree, and less shedding of branches and limbs.
It’s important to note that if you have a tree that is chronically shedding limbs, it may not be safe to inspect the tree from the base. In these instances, utilizing binoculars to examine the canopy is a best practice to consider.
Know when to call help
Tree care can be a complex and dangerous project to undertake. In many cases, a property owner may see better results by consulting a professional. When choosing a professional to diagnose or work on your property, there are a few things to consider.
Nationally Certified Arborists have the training and expertise to care for your trees. In instances of disease, fungi, or any other challenges, this expertise cannot be substituted.
Tree pruning and felling are inherently dangerous. As a result, it is wise to ensure the professionals you welcome on your property are fully insured, trained, and have a safety program. A professional landscape or tree firm can, and will gladly provide information or documentation on these items upon request.
Finally, there’s a difference between tree-care professionals and general laborers. Tree care is a profession that requires technical education, training, and years of practice to master. As one would expect from an electrician, plumber, or any other skilled tradesperson, the differences in ability and results between a tree care professional, and general laborers are significant. While an unskilled tradesperson may claim they can perform tree work, that doesn’t mean they could or should. And without trade specific insurance, you may be liable for accidents or incidents on your property. Hire a professional for your own protection and peace of mind.