In this episode, Colin and Jimmy welcome Jamison Rantz, Rogue Engineer! They discuss Jamison's experience, DIY design schematics, and what led him to start Rogue Engineer.
*Full video and transcript below!
Interview with Rogue Engineer, Jamison Rantz, on Behind the Studs Podcast - Live - YouTube
Colin Shaw: Hello everyone! Welcome to season two, our first show of season two, can you believe it, Jim? Unbelievable!
Jimmy Driscoll: Still standing. I’m sorry; still sitting. We can’t stand.
Colin Shaw: We gotta sit. We’re way too old to be standing after working all day.
Jimmy Driscoll: You just walk up.
Colin Shaw: We should get recliners. Or lazy-boys or something. That would be really nice.
Jimmy Driscoll: That would be the first podcast in a chaise lounge, right? With like a fruit drink with furniture in it.
Colin Shaw: Right. Or maybe in a hammock or something. That would be beautiful.
Jimmy Driscoll: With like a schematic piece of furniture.
Colin Shaw: Wow! That would be interesting.
Jimmy Driscoll: I’ll work it in now.
Colin Shaw: I wonder if we know anybody who could make something like that?
Jimmy Driscoll: Jeez, I wonder…who!
Colin Shaw: I bet we know somebody. So hey, listen, big show today guys. I’m glad you can join us. We have the one, the only, rogue engineer, Mr. Jamison. How are you, sir?
Rogue Engineer: Very well, nice to be here. Thanks for having me.
Colin Shaw: Absolutely, we really appreciate you joining us. I feel like this is like an episode of Wayne’s World, where like we’re the, you know.
Colin Shaw: If you haven’t checked out Jamison’s site, rogueengineer.com, you definitely got to check it out. We’re going to let him fill us in on what it is he does and what makes him so popular. A great guest to have on the show, especially for season two, so we really appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule to join us for a little while.
Jimmy? So, Jamison, how did you start this, my friend? How did you get this going? What made you think of this idea?
Rogue Engineer: I went to school for aerospace engineering and I started working for a company called Gulfstream Aerospace and I was in the flight test department and I was doing design work, mechanical designer, so I had that expertise down. And then we moved into a bigger house and we needed some furniture and I had always kind of liked working with my hands but was never really very good at it. I kind of enjoyed it but wasn’t good at it. I went online and started looking for plans for furniture and I came across a couple websites that had good plans, one of which was Anna White, and she’s kind of like the founder of this niche of DIY furniture. And I followed one of her plans and it turned out really, really good. And as I was following those plans, I thought to myself, this whole design thing, this is what I do. If I could design something, just like she did, I could build it myself. So, I started designing my own furniture and the products that I was putting out were pretty good. And people started asking me to build them something and I decided that, if I could just give those plans out for free, I wouldn’t have to build it for them. They could do it themselves. So that’s how it kind of spiraled and we developed the website and started publishing those plans on there and it kind of turned in to what it is today.
Colin Shaw: So, teach a man to fish, kind of thing?
Rogue Engineer: Exactly. Exactly.
Colin Shaw: I like that. I like that. And you know most people, if they move into a large house that doesn’t have any furniture, they go to Ikea.
Rogue Engineer: Yeah.
Colin Shaw: But you decided to go a different, route?
Rogue Engineer: Yeah, we couldn’t afford Ikea.
Jimmy Driscoll: Ok, fair enough.
Rogue Engineer: We spent all that money on the house.
Colin Shaw: On the house, right!
Jimmy Driscoll: I was just working on a house now where the people were just moving in, and it was funny too, because when they moved in they had so much big furniture, and it didn’t fit in their living room and their great room. And I was like wow, something is going to go. Something is going to get out of the house.
Rogue Engineer: And that’s the thing is a lot of the furniture that people pick out are around, based on that space. And as soon as you move into a different space and a different layout. And maybe what you had before doesn’t go along with that. And this is just kind of an easy way to be able to make some furniture. Not like, the bigger pieces. Obviously, you’re not going to make a couch or a sofa or something like that. You know what I mean. A coffee table, end table here and there, some outdoor furniture, are excellent pieces for beginning woodworkers to start on.
Colin Shaw: Now, you said you didn’t really do any of this before, well until you started building furniture for yourself, so where did this creativity come from? Where did whole side of you come from? It must have been there somewhere, you know, when you were younger and, you know, you just never had a chance to explore it?
Rogue Engineer: Yeah, so my father, my family business, or my father’s business is a trucking company, so I grew up in the shop with him, changing brakes, changing tires. And I’ve always just enjoyed getting my hands dirty. There’s just something about, as you guys know, at the end of the day, being able to step back and look at what you’ve accomplished that day, and there’s a good feeling there.
Colin Shaw: Sure, there is. Yeah.
Rogue Engineer: I was able to express some level of creativity in the engineering world and designing things, but at the end of the day, I wasn’t able to kind of produce my designs. So, this was the best of both worlds. I was able to design something and produce it and live with that piece so there’s a lot of, you know, it’s just a good feeling as you guys know.
Colin Shaw: Alright. So, just for instance, I want to build a stool. I’m going to build a stool and I’m going to build it to my specifications the way I like it and I’m going to try it and see if it works. And then I’m going to put it online with the schematic. That’s a simple for? That’s how you would do it, basically? I’m going to build a stool and go from there?
Rogue Engineer: Yes. I would design everything up ahead of time because like I said before, there’s artist. I never really classify myself as a woodworker because I feel like a lot of the woodworkers are more of an artist because they can kind of see a piece of wood and kind of visualize it and make it into something miraculous. Whereas I’m not that kind of person. I have to go design it first and make sure everything is perfect and then I can start to make my first cuts.
Colin Shaw: Interesting balance of engineer and creative. That’s what I find very interesting about you. A lot of people don’t use both sides of the brain. It’s usually one or the other. It’s pretty interesting you can utilize both sides and come up with something that people just absolutely love. They love your designs and love the finished product that they are able to produce. I know people who have done it and used your site and they are not woodworkers and they are not carpenters and its come out great.
Rogue Engineer: Yeah, and that was kind of like the jumping off point for me. We started in making that furniture, providing those plans, and a lot of people really enjoyed that. There were people that were new to the woodworking game and wanted to get started like you said and that is where they could get an idea or even just, you know, even if they built two of my plans to a tee and then there’s other guys that come along and they might modify it to meet their needs. Once that site kind of got to a point where I could do that full time and it was bringing in an income to support me and my family, we ended up selling that big house of ours that we had and moved up to Michigan in with my wife’s parents. So, they offered to give us a house and workshop. They moved into the basement and so we lived with them for about two years.
Colin Shaw: It was a long time no matter how long.
Rogue Engineer: It was. Luckily, I get along with my in-laws very well, so he had a heated workshop for me that he wasn’t using and he offered to let me use so it worked out really well. But in that time, we actually bought a house and completely gutted it and flipped it so we did everything from refinished all the floors, tore out walls in the kitchen, did some structural changes. We also built all the cabinets for the kitchen and redid the whole entire kitchen, as well as both of the bathrooms in the house. So that was like my first step into construction and luckily, I had my father in law who has been there and done that and he also owns an interior design studio. He has a lot of friends that are contractors so its nice to have his role in that around here. As you guys both know having the right contractors for the job is half the bottle.
Colin Shaw: That is key.
Jimmy Driscoll: So, I am thinking about what you do in your design. What has been the toughest design, what’s your biggest challenge? Is there a piece that you made that was really challenging?
Rogue Engineer: Well, the furniture and stuff like that, hasn’t been. I would say flipping that house was one of the bigger challenges but then after we flipped that house, we then started construction on our own house. Our dream house. We built that from the ground up and I was the general contractor on that and we did a lot of the finish work ourselves. That, as you can imagine, that was definitely the biggest challenge that we had faced. That was about a year. We just finished this past fall and that was about a year, a little over a year, a year and a quarter maybe of our life.
Colin Shaw: Yeah, that’s a lot of your time. But you did most of it yourself?
Rogue Engineer: We did, we did.
Colin Shaw: So, you’re trying to run this business and you’re trying to do that at the same time and there’s just so much time in the day. How old are your kids? You have young kids don’t you?
Rogue Engineer: Yeah, we have a seven-year-old boy, he’s going to be eight in a couple days now, and a five-year-old girl.
Colin Shaw: Yeah, so you are right in the middle of it. Both of my kids are in college so I’m in a different stage right now. I remember those days. Five and seven, luckily it sounds like you have a good family support base with your in-laws being there to help with that, but still, that’s a lot. That’s a lot to ask of anyone. That’s a tough project to get through. So, now at this point, did you give the house back to your in-laws, or did you build them a new house, or what?
Rogue Engineer: So, they, as soon as we moved out of their house into this house we are in now, my wife’s brother and his family moved into their house in our spot and my in-laws…it gets complicated. My in-laws ended up buying the lot next to us and they have just started construction on a house so we’ve got five acres and they got ten acres next door and it should be pretty cool. We’ve got a bunch of trails and stuff for the kids. You guys will probably appreciate this. With their house, we ended up doing a raised center aisle barn, if you know what I’m talking about when I refer to a raised center aisle. Basically, the center of the barn has these rafters that come up. I don’t know how to explain it but a raised center aisle barn so you got windows down these walls that come out of the center of the barn and that is going to be their house so it should be…they’ve got side lights going all the way down the center of the house which is really neat.
Colin Shaw: Beautiful. That’s a nice story. It’s so funny, a lot of times I hear these stories and sometimes they always seem to end up with, so we were living with our in-laws. You know, I want to be successful but I’m not sure how successful I am. I love my in-laws, don’t get me wrong, but yeah….
Rogue Engineer: But it gives you motivation.
Colin Shaw: Yeah
Rogue Engineer: Well you know, it wasn’t supposed to supposed to be like this. When we moved up there the whole idea was that we finally became location independent and we can decide where we wanted to love and we were going to sell our house and free up some cash and figure out where we want to be and it just turned out that we ended up staying there. Which is good. We enjoy being near family.
Colin Shaw: Sitting where you are now looking back, it all made sense so that it the key.
Jimmy Driscoll: So where is here?
Colin Shaw: You’re in Michigan?
Rogue Engineer: Yes, just outside of Ann Harbor, Michigan.
Colin Shaw: OK.
Jimmy Driscoll: Nice, warm summers up there, huh?
Rogue Engineer: Yeah.
Jimmy Driscoll: For about two days.
Colin Shaw: It’s a different way of life, for sure. So, I would imagine there would have to be some long conversations between you and your wife when you were ready to make that leap from being an engineer to being the rogue engineer and starting online stuff. I can just imagine the conversation with my wide would have been like what? And where’s the insurance coming from?
Rogue Engineer: Yea, that’s the common question. It went something kind of like so you want to stop working somewhere else and start working here, in the house, where I’m going to be all day long?
Colin Shaw: That’s a very good answer. I like that one. Now, I see her in her videos. Did she just pick it up and learn or did she pick it up from her father?
Rogue Engineer: Yeah, she’s the designer so she makes everything look pretty. And she’s got this vision that’s just incredible for selecting the right furniture for where and decorating and all that stuff. She makes it look good and I just make it happen.
Colin Shaw: That’s awesome. Seems like it is a great chemistry so that’s nice. And I did see the video on you doing a playhouse for your daughter and watching your son help you out.
Rogue Engineer: Yeah, we try to get the whole family involved whenever possible. Honestly, it’s hard not to at this stage, they are just there all the time.
Colin Shaw: What else are you going to do?
Rogue Engineer: Exactly. We just don’t fight it.
Colin Shaw: Yeah, it’s probably better that way.
Jimmy Driscoll: Do you have any advice for do it yourselfers that get involved in these projects?
Rogue Engineer: The advice I have it just not being afraid to jump right in. Obviously, safety first, but as far as just getting started, don’t be afraid to make mistakes because we all do. Even the professionals don’t know everything. Not being afraid to get started and not being afraid to reach out whenever to people with any questions you have because honestly a lot of these guys are way more friendlier that you could ever imagine and they want to help. When it came to construction, that was kind I am kind of out of my realm, you know, I didn’t know a lot of the different things that had to be done so being able to reach out to contractors and ask for their advice and bouncing back and forth from a couple different people and getting different opinions is always a great way to do it for sure.
Colin Shaw: Now, I know the answer to a lot if these questions, but do you, on your website, do you have different stages, different types of projects? Do you let people know that this is beginner project, this is intermediate, this is advanced?
Rogue Engineer: That was one thing that I wanted to do in the beginning but I never did end up doing that, however, I have all the projects broken out by room so basically, the whole idea was for me was when someone was coming to my site they have an idea in mind. They need a piece of furniture for this, whether it’s a coffee table, an end table, a chair, or a stool….so I’ve got it broken out into different rooms and categories based on types of furniture. It seems to have worked out for organizing all the plans. I got a couple hundred now.
Colin Shaw: Is that how many you are up to now?
Rogue Engineer: Yeah, it might be more than that but that was the last time I checked.
Colin Shaw: Now do you get people that just request different types of pieces that you design for them and throw them on the site?
Rogue Engineer: Occasionally, but honestly, I have more work to do for myself than I care to so doing other plans for other people isn’t on the top of my priority list.
Colin Shaw: Understood.
Rogue Engineer: Or my wife’s priority list.
Colin Shaw: Yeah, build what we got and be happy.
Jimmy Driscoll: Any horror stories? Kind of passed upon them already but not really.
Rogue Engineer: Well I moved into my in laws, did I tell you about that?
Jimmy Driscoll: Well that’s it right there.
Colin Shaw: If you can sit and count with your kids. If you can count to ten without taking your shoes off, everything is good.
Rogue Engineer: I can.
Colin Shaw: Alright, that’s a good sign.
Colin Shaw: You know sometimes the horror stores we talk about – a lot of them are customer related. Anyone ever give you a hard time? They couldn’t figure it out.
Rogue Engineer: Honestly, that was one of the things that I shied away form at the very beginning because I don’t do any commission work, so I don’t have any customers. My customers are brands that sponsor me, which I have some of those horror stories, but I’ll pass.
Colin Shaw: Yeah, I’ll hit stop on the record, and we can talk about those.
Rogue Engineer: Like I said, I’ve done maybe two projects for other people that I’ve been paid for. Both of them took me twice as long as they should have and it’s just not enjoyable for me because I start to lose some of the creativity I have. It was never fun, so I’ve always turned all of that down.
Colin Shaw: Good for you. You know what works for you and what doesn’t work for you. It’s not like you have to go chase that work which is a great thing. Now when you first started to take this to the next level, I thought it was very interesting that one of the steps you took was to fly down to the home show and start marketing yourself, basically, is what it sounds like you did. You spent time emailing different suppliers and brands and different things...
In this episode, Colin and Jimmy welcome Joey Perras, owner of Joe the Plumber. They discuss plumbing and the importance of trade schools. They talk about the education system, younger generations, and millenials in the trade industry. Joe can be reached at 860-614-7157 or email@example.com.
In this episode, Colin and Jimmy welcome Paul Barthel from EcoBond. They discuss the history of lead paint, current statistics, and ways to seal and treat it. They talk about the lawsuit in California for lead paint contamination and remediation in 10 towns in Los Angeles county. Paul also tells us about the ongoing lead remediation in military housing and elsewhere in the US.
Everything You Want to Know About Lead Paint, with EcoBond - Episode 42 - Behind the Studs - YouTube
In this episode, Colin and Jimmy talk about bathroom and kitchen measurements, and what you need to know before you buy Kraftmaid cabinets from Home Depot if you plan to install a farmhouse sink! They also talk about when they first started their businesses, living in the state of Connecticut, and their plans for retirement.
Measuring Your Remodel, Kraftmaid cabinets, and Retirement - Episode 39 - Behind the Studs - YouTube
In this episode, Colin and Jimmy welcome Eric Goodale, Director of Marketing at Riverhead Building Supply. They talk about the history of Riverhead and the kinds of materials and services they offer to homeowners and contractors. They discuss the latest trends in new construction, remodeling, kitchen design, and Versatex trimboard. They also talk about Eric's passion for race car driving! In addition to working at Riverhead, Eric is a driver in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour! Go #58!
Riverhead Building Supply with Eric Goodale - Episode 38 - Behind the Studs - YouTube
Eric Goodale drives the No. 58 Chevrolet for his family-owned team. Goodale scored his first career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victory in 2014 at Riverhead Raceway. In 2017, Goodale captured arguably the biggest win of his career in the NAPA Fall Final at Stafford, and entered the season-finale at Thompson as one of six drivers eligible to leave with the championship. He finished as the runner-up in the inaugural UNOH Battle at the Beach at Daytona International Speedway in 2013.
In this episode, Colin and Jimmy welcome guest speaker, Scott Rosenbaum, Operations Manager at WarmlyYours Radiant Heating. Scotts tells Colin and Jimmy about the history of the company and the kinds of products they offer including: Floor Heat, Snow Melting/Driveways, Roof & Gutter De-icing, Pipe Freeze Protection, Towel Warmers, Radiant Panels, LED Mirrors, Mirror Defoggers, and Countertop Heating. They also discuss current trends, advice for DIYers, and few of Scott's favorite projects.
Radiant Heating with Warmly Yours - Behind the Studs - Episode 37 - YouTube
Colin and Jimmy welcome Kevin Kapfer, owner of Rooted Lawn and Landscape. We talk lawn care, synthetics vs organics, the best lawn tools, and more! We cover tips, insider insight, everything that you want to know. Watch the video on YouTube or check below for the full transcript.
*Kevin Kapfer can be reached at 860-908-4740.
How to Grow the Lawn You've Always Wanted - Behind the Studs Episode 25 - YouTube
Full Transcript of Episode 25
Megan*: Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for another episode of Behind the Studs. Give it up for your hosts Colin Shaw* and Jimmy Driskel!* [Crickets] Damn it, wrong button. Oh, there we go! [Applause.] Here’s [laughter] can I be done? [Laughter]
Colin Shaw: Thank you Megan, always a great intro from her, huh? Isn’t that nice?
Jimmy: Good job!
Kevin Kapfer: Well done.
C: Last time you were here, there was like this different type of an intro. Now, this is kind of like a full production.
K: You guys are doing good. I’m impressed.
J: We’re up to four! [laughter]
C: Four thousand?
J: Ehh, a little shy. [laughter]
C: Hey everyone, I’m Colin.
J: Oh, I’m Jimmy! How are ya? I just got lost in the number! [laughter] I’m sorry.
C: You’re already spending that money.
J: I’m telling you.
C: Look at you.
J: Snapping bands.
C: So yeah – snapping bands, absolutely. We haven’t talked about our rap career in a while, either.
J: No, we can leave that behind for a while, too.
C: It is?
J: Well, you know, we’re not playing in the band anymore.
C: Yeah that’s true. Yeah, yeah, music’s just not what it used to be.
J: Yeah it’s not [imitates bass sounds] [laughter]
C: Aren’t you glad to be back?
K: Oh yeah.
C: So, sitting here with us today is Kevin Kapfer.
J: Kevin Kapfer!
K: How we doing?
K: How’s my volume?
C: So far so good. Yeah, you’re good man. Just relax and enjoy.
K: I’ll try not to yell.
C: Nah, don’t worry about it. Jimmy will yell a couple times anyway.
J: I mean, probably.
C: A few times. So, Kevin’s with Rooted Lawn and Landscape. Is that correct?
C: I got it right, good. Some of the things that you do in your company, pretty much full-service lawn care and maintenance?
K: Lawn, garden, plants, any sorts of horticultural stuff, yeah that’s us.
C: Cool, so you do more in the planting side of thing or more in the maintenance?
K: It’s 50/50.
C: Oh, cool.
K: All across the board.
C: And the last time you were here you were more into the landscape and design, and the plantings and things like that.
K: Yeah, so I got into it initially doing lawns heavily, but got into the design and garden stuff a little more. It just allows you to be more creative, and just gives you a little more variety.
C: Yeah, not the same thing every day.
C: That’s cool. And of course, Kevin takes care of my lawn, and it looks beautiful.
K: Thank you.
C: It’s January now, and it’s still green.
J: Jesus, my lawn is a complete disaster. [laughter] It’s terrible.
C: So, he needs to be over there at some point.
K: Bro, I’ll help you out.
J: Do you sweeten lawns now with lime, can you do it now since we don’t have any snow and the ground’s not frozen, would you do it now? I had some guy tell me that the other day. He was over for dinner and he was like “I’m gonna go home and I’m gonna sweeten my lawn. I’m gonna throw some lime down.” [laughter]
C: He’s a partier.
J: And I’m like cocktail? Can I get you another cocktail? [laughter]
K: If you have a couple weeks where the weather’s okay, where it’s not frozen, I would say you’d be okay. But I wouldn’t recommend it. I would do it in either the fall or spring or any time over the summer.
J: Early spring.
K: Yeah, early spring sure. Late fall. You can really do lime any time. But it’s a good thing to do before you start all your fertilizers. Because your lime is going to balance your pH.
K: Which is the measure of the acidity in your soil.
K: So, if your pH is off, then your fertilizers aren’t going to be as effective. So, say you have a pH that’s like five, which is considered very acidic, you’re going to add your inputs but they’re not going to all be taken up by the plant. A lot of it’s going to be wasted because your pH is so low.
J: Are the plants dormant now, since it’s the winter?
K: For the most part. You know we’ve had a couple days where it gets up into the 50s, they might green up a little bit. But they’re– at this point it’s all done. But yeah, so the lime you really want to balance your pH before you start putting your fertilizers down, because you want to get the most out of your fertilizers.
C: Makes sense.
K: Yeah if your pH is off, then you’re really just kind of wasting product, and lot of it ends up turning into runoff, and that’s kind of a big issue these days.
C: Yeah, yeah.
K: With pesticides and fertilizers.
J: So, when you put the lime down, you don’t really want to do it in like full April when there’s a lot of showers. You want to do it when you have some dry days?
K: It’s okay to do it when it’s wet. You don’t really want to put anything down if it’s really going to pour, you know? If you’re going to get a couple inches of rain, you don’t want to put anything down before.
C: Last time you were here we talked about how crabgrass was so prevalent last summer. And it wasn’t because we had a ton of rain, like days of rain, but when it rained it rained heavy, like poured. All of the preventatives were gone, they were washed right away.
K: Right, so that’s what that pre-emergent does for your crabgrass. It’s an application that you put down and it basically forms a barrier in the soil that doesn’t allow the crabgrass to germinate. So, what’s going to happen when you get excess rain, it’s going to break down that barrier and it’s just going to be no longer effective.
J: What’s that stuff called?
C: Crabgrass pre-emergent. They sell it just as that for your emerging crabgrass.
J: That’s all I have! [laughter] That’s all I’ve got!
C: You know what’s funny when I first moved into our house the neighbor next door goes “whatever you do, don’t use weed killer.” And I said “why?” And he said “’cause you’ll have no lawn left. We haven’t used weed killer in my lawn the whole time we’ve been here.” And what’s green is the weeds! But not anymore, ‘cause Kevin took care of it.
J: I want to take a right turn on this, but it’s in the same vein of what you just said. Weed killer.
J: You my friend, there’s a lot of controversy going on. And the results are starting to come through. There’s a lot of medical problems now. And when you say Round-Up people either flare up or go “it’s just water and salt” and other people say, “it’s not- it’s more than that!” And you’re getting effects, you’re getting physical side effects and cancer from it from what I understand. What is your take on that? Back one second. I met a guy, he was working on a condo unit, and he was spreading out some kind of chemical for the lawn to sweeten it, like a steroid. And I’m like “dude do you know what that stuff is?” And he says, “well they told me that there’s no chance of getting anything.” Oh, they told you. He didn’t do any look up for himself. They just told him. He’s probably getting $12/hour if he’s making that to spread this stuff, spraying it out. So, my thing is this: I keep an ear to it, and I hear this. What is your take on all of that?
K: Round-Up’s tough. It’s definitely not good for you. There’s definitely been studies that have linked it to lymphoma.
J: That’s right.
C: Oh wow.
K: And that’s a fact. That’s totally true. The problem is it’s a pretty recent chemical, and there’s not enough research and study that’s been done on it to really show what the long-term effects are on people. So, it’s hard to say, but it’s certainly not good for you.
J: So you don’t use it?
K: Well, I can’t say I don’t. There’s an application for it.
J: And if the client wants it, they’re going to use it.
K: Sure, sure. But if you use your protection and you apply it at the right rates, and you’re not putting it all over everything –
C: Keep the animals off.
K: Knock on wood, I think you’re okay. I think the big scare with Round-Up is how much it’s being used in our food production, which you’re then ingesting plants that have trace amounts of glyphosate is really what the chemical is in Round-Up that makes it effective. So I think the big Round-Up scare is really more towards the food consumption than the landscaping side of things.
J: So being used around gardens and things like that?
K: If you’re around gardens, I can’t tell you it’s 100% safe.
J: I don’t agree with that. And the reason I say that it’s the worst for you, because you’re dealing with it every day. If you’re applying it every day, even though you’re wearing your gloves, you’re breathing it if you’re not wearing a respirator, whether it’s around you. So basically, if the studies are coming out about that, sorry that I’m getting on this for a second. Because I know this is a topic that people pay attention to. And I hear about this all the time, at dinner with family. For some strange reason Round-Up comes up. And I’ve heard both sides of the story. Saying “oh yeah, they use it in the salt marshes to fill the hummocks, and to flatten it down, it’s just water and salt.” But what I have to say, from what people who told me who live in Iowa, who used, where not just bugs but animals become sterile from it. So, what’s it doing to human beings, whether you’re spraying it, applying it. Okay fine, you’re killing plants, but if it rains, does that go into the soil. Does that get into your drinking water?
K: Sure. Sure. That’s the question. And we don’t really know. Hopefully it’s not too late before we figure out the problems with it, but it should be used very specifically.
J: And cautiously.
K: And follow the directions – and cautiously. And that’s the thing with the food production, is they’re just blanket spraying fields of crops. And the genetic modification of plants – GMOs, everyone’s aware of those, right?
K: That’s a gene that’s inserted into these plants, so they can be sprayed with Round-Up, and they won’t die. It basically makes them immune to Round-Up. So, they can spray the whole field with Round-Up and they’ll kill everything except for these GMO organisms.
J: And then what does it do to your digestive system? Go anywhere in Europe, anywhere in Asia, and they don’t use it. They can’t, they won’t, they refuse to.
K: I eat all organic food, for the record. I eat all organic stuff.
J: You do make good money, don’t you, being able to afford that organic stuff. [laughter] I’m sure you throw in a hot dog from time to time.
K: Oh sure.
J: Gotta keep it honest.
K: I’m not perfect by any means.
J: But I understand with your plants and your greens. You almost have to.
K: I don’t use it every day. I use it in little places here and there and try to really be smart with it. You’re certainly not being a steward of the environment if you’re just going around, spraying it recklessly.
J: I’m sure you have some of your customers who come back and say, “I don’t want Round-Up on my stuff.”
J: “Do you use organic sprays?”
K: There is a decent organic option which is a citrus oil. But it’s the same thing – it’s going to kill everything that it comes in contact with. So, it’s good to use if you have like a stone driveway, or walkways, or even gardens if you can spray the weed without getting it on any of the plants, it’s effective that way. But it’s more expensive, and it’s definitely not as effective. But it’s a viable, safer option.
C: But I would imagine that comes up with your customers too.
K: Oh yeah.
C: Surely they ask that question.
K: Many people are against it, which I prefer. And it’s a matter of managing people’s expectations when it comes to any sorts of pesticides. The only reason we use them is because people want a certain quality of a lawn or garden.
C: That’s me.
K: Many people want perfect lawns, and unfortunately, it’s kind of a double edge sword, where if you want to satisfy that need, you need to use certain things.
J: I have to say though, crabgrass feels good on your bare feet! [laughter] After the rain! I don’t care. I’ll take what I can get right now. I’m sure later on when Kevin comes over to my house, it’ll be like “we’re gonna put down astroturf or something.”
K: And that’s kind of a trend that’s coming around too, the astroturf.
C: Is it really?
K: It’s becoming more and more popular. There’re some really good options that it’s starting to look pretty real, and if you have a small area, it’s probably something to consider.
C: Yeah, and then you don’t need to mow it or anything else. Somebody else would be out of a job. That’s not good. Grass, grass all the way.
J: Alright, anyone else? I don’t want to harp on this.
C: Well obviously Kevin’s very knowledgeable about this sort of stuff, so what’s your background? How did you get started in this?
K: I went to UConn, I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Turf Grass Management. I spent some time working with some local companies doing landscaping. I spent about a year and a half, two years doing exclusively organic treatments on lawns.
C: Oh no kidding.
K: Yep. And I just recently started my own company last year, and I’ve been on my own for about a year.
J: Dude pump that, you should pump that. ‘Cause people dig organic. They do.
K: Totally. And I’m a total fan of it. And I hate to say it, but it’s a little more expensive. And the effects aren’t there. The realistic thing about organics is, you could do a bunch of treatments all organically and see hardly any improvement in the lawn sometimes.
J: It’s a 50-50 mix then.
K: K: You almost need to use synthetics at the beginning to get it going, to get you into a place where the lawn is really almost perfect. And then you can transition over to organics. And that seems to be the most effective way of doing it.
C: Interesting. Now would you say most people would go into landscaping with your degree, or do they do something different?
K: Most people I went to school with go into the golf course industry, or athletic field maintenance. So, I took an internship with a landscape company senior year, and I liked it, and so I kind of decided to keep going.
C: Didn’t want to do the golf course thing, huh?
K: Not so much. Golf course people can be pretty uppity, and hard to please, and it’s a pretty stressful job. A lot of my professors were golf course superintendents and –
C: They decided to teach instead.
K: It’s hard to keep those guys happy. They pay a lot of money to go out there and
C: And I’m sure if you’re in a public course that’s probably a lot less stress than one of these high-end country clubs.
K: Sure, sure. But then there’s budget constraints if you’re working on a municipal course. You’re only working with a certain amount of money, and you still have to keep people happy. So, there is a big turnover rate with superintendents in that respect.
K: And they probably do as much work as a business owner, to be honest with you. They really put in a lot of hours, and it’s a labor of love. The people who really do it really have to love doing it.
C: Nice. So now, as the expert in the room--
J: Who you?
C: No, not me.
J: Oh, okay.
C: Jeff. No Kevin, Kevin. [laughter] You’ll see the promo, you’ll understand later. So, a homeowner that’s listening says “you know what, I can’t really afford to hire somebody to take care of my lawn and get it the way I want it to.” What are a few things that they could do on their own, to at least see some sort of an improvement? Obviously, it’s not going to be at the level of what you can do, but what can they do to get started?
K: Okay, so, there’s a few things that I think a lot of homeowners do wrong that can make a big impact on the quality of your lawn. The biggest thing is mowing.
K: Mow your lawn frequently and mow it properly. What I mean is in the springtime if your lawn’s grown 6 inches a week, and you’re only mowing it once a week, and you’re going out and you’re hacking off half of the length of the blade of grass—
J: That puts stress on the grass.
K: Yeah, and you’re leaving clippings all over the place, and you just have a mess. So, the best way to mow is to follow the one third rule. So basically, you don’t want to remove more than one third of the leaf blade at a time. So, say you’re mowing your lawn at three inches, a third of three is going to be one inch, right? So, you want to cut it every time it gets to four inches. And you just want to take a little bit off every time, and that’s going to ease the stress. ‘Cause imagine if you took yourself and just cut it completely in half. It’s going to be much more stressful than if you take a little bit off here and there.
C: I’ll take your word for it, but yeah.
K: So that’s a big thing, and then bagging—
C: Get right into that.
K: Right into bagging your clippings. So, it can be kind of a misconception. There’s a school of thought that you should always return your clippings into the lawn when you’re mowing.
C: Yeah, I’ve heard that.
K: That you shouldn’t bag them and take them off. And that’s true to an extent, but if you’re the type of person like I just said who is only cutting your lawn once a week in the spring, and when you are, you’re leaving clumps around after, you definitely want to bag it. ‘Cause what’s going to happen is those clumps will not only suffocate the turf that’s underneath them, they also create a really good environment for disease and fungi.
C: No kidding, I didn’t know that. And what do they call that, thatching?
K: Well thatching is more talking about underneath the blade. In between the blade and the soil, there’s a little layer in there that’s considered a thatch later. So, if you go and you pull your blades down, you’re going to see what looks like hay before you see the soil there will be that layer. So, you want to keep that to a minimum as well, because what that’s going to do is it’s going to make it harder for water to penetrate into the soil. It’s going to make it harder for fertilizers to get down in there. They’re going to get stuck in that thatch layer. So, you’re going to want to control that.
C: Now what about a mulching blade on your mower? Is that better?
K: Yeah, it’s certainly better.
J: I mulch, but I have a bag too.
C: See I won’t bag, because mine gets clogged all of the time. It drives me nuts.
J: Oh, frickin’ stop and just unclog it.
C: Yeah like every 5 seconds, I’m down there on the grass, ripping it out.
J: Dude, that’s our exercise.
C: No, no, no.
J: Yeah, bend over, pick it up, shake it, spread it a little. You’re not on a sit-down lawnmower, are you?
C: Of course I am.
J: P***y. [laughter] God.
C: Do you know how old I am?
J: I’m older than you! I do a push mower. So the wheels move, that’s great exercise.
K: And it’s better for your lawn to be honest with you. The less weight that you’re using with your machine—
J: See that? Do you hear that?
C: Are you saying I weigh a lot?
J: Fat b@stard! [laughter] Fat b@stard on your lawn mower.
C: Jesus you turned him against me so fast.
J: Drinking your coffee. [laughter] Not me, not me. I got my sweatband on, [laughter] I’m freaking working it.
C: Oh boy.
K: That goes into another point. If you’re mowing and using a heavy lawn tractor or something, you want to change the pattern that you’re mowing, you don’t want to go over it the same direction every time. Because you’re going to start creating compactions, so you want to switch up your pattern, and that’s important.
C: I’ve got straight back and forth, and then the other way, and the diagonal. I just keep rotating it every week.
K: Yep, yep.
J: Oh, you’re such a good boy.
C: See that, see? And I’m sitting down.
J: Yeah! And you’re sitting down.
C: And I’m sitting down.
J: “Oh hon, I’m exhausted from cutting my lawn on my tractor. Aaah.”
C: You know what’s funny? When we first moved into my house – you’ve seen my lawn, it’s a good big-sized lawn to mow, push and everything else – so I wanted to get a tractor. And she said “no, it’s good exercise, I’ll mow it.”
J: Oh, she didn’t do it.
C: Oh, she did. For about three years. And then she was like “I think we should get a tractor.” And I go “no it’s great exercise, I don’t think we need a tractor.” As soon as we got one, I took over.
K: She was cutting it exclusively for the first three years?
C: Just her, yeah. Because she wanted to use the push lawn mower, because it was great exercise. About three years later, not so much.
J: Well mine’s not push. I gotta motor.
C: Oh, stop it.
K: It’s self-propelled.
J: It helps going up the hill. [motor sounds] Up the hill, up the hill asshole. I’m telling ya.
C: Oh please, Mr. Exercise.
J: Yeah, well when I’m going up the hill, I could use a little help. I’m 58 years old, shut up!
C: I use a car to get around too, so yeah.
J: Oh my god. [laughter] Oh my god.
C: Anyway [laughter]
J: Do you get stung by bees a lot?
K: A couple times a year.
C: No, really?
K: Knock on wood. I haven’t gotten it too bad, but it happens.
C: Have you ever hit a full nest?
K: Yep, yep. You just kinda
C: Run quick.
C: Was there a pool nearby?
K: Nope, no pool nearby. But yea, I got Lyme disease a couple years ago too. That was terrible. That was bad. So that worries me a bit.
J: So, it’s still in your system now.
K: Right, it never leaves. Right.
J: I think some people just get it and some people just don’t get it. And I’m knocking on wood. I’m like wow, I’m in the thick of it all, and that’s never happened, as far as I know.
C: I had it once. Many years ago. So I’ve been fortunate it hasn’t come back.
J: Do you get flare ups?
K: No, I haven’t, no.
K: Knock on wood. But I’m more conscious about things now. Before I got it, I wasn’t too concerned about it. But now if I think I’m in an area, I’ll wear long sleeves.
C: Yeah, smart.
K: And all that kind of stuff. Yeah it was bad.
C: It’s no fun.
K: Yeah it was no fun. I never felt sick like that before. But those are the elements. You’re dealing with sun, you’re dealing with hot days. There’re definitely some physical elements involved with it.
C: My good friend who I grew up with who started a landscaping company years ago, his son is running it now, the sad story of it is that a few..