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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Sandscript

Easter wishes that should be ducked, beer facts

Duck! Don't!

The folks at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are offering a bit of shopping advice to parents - don't buy your kids a duckling for Easter.

"Although these mallard ducks might make nice pets while they are young, they can live for 10 years or more and quickly outgrow the 'cute and fuzzy stage,' leaving full-size droppings on your patio and outdoor furniture," said Diane Eggeman, FWC waterfowl biologist.  

The concept of potty training a duck is something that I can't get my brain around and, it would appear, neither can a duck. So once you've got the baby critter and it starts to get big, the general response is to just open the screen door and say, "Oops!" This is a bad and illegal practice.

The FWC has passed a rule that makes it unlawful to release captive-reared mallard ducks into the wild.

"One reason for this rule is that domesticated ducks, once released, are capable of transmitting diseases and compete with native wildlife for food and habitat," according to the FWC. "The more important reason is that releasing these mallards into the wild threatens the existence of the Florida mottled duck, a unique subspecies found only in peninsular Florida.

"These domesticated or feral mallards are crossbreeding with the mottled duck, producing hybrid offspring."

By the way, wild mallards are migratory in Florida, acting like snowbirds and showing up only in the winter, after which they take off to their northern haunts to mate and then return the next fall.

However, the once-pet, now-released ducks don't migrate and instead try to mate with the local mottled ducks.

"The Florida mottled duck population is relatively small, with the breeding population estimated at only 30,000-40,000 and already FWC biologists are saying that perhaps as many as 12 percent of these ducks are showing genetic evidence of hybridization," FWC researchers said.

It's that time of year

... that the grass is starting to grow again. Believe it or not, lawnmowers need tune-ups just like cars, and this is a good time of year to proceed, since something like two-thirds of us don't bother with the annual checkup, according to the Toro Company.

First, drain the old fuel. Any gasoline more than 90 days old tends to clog carburetors.

Once the tank is empty and the spark plug wire is disconnected, take off the mower blade and either get it sharpened or do it yourself. If it's badly dinged, replace it.

Change the oil. Fresh oil keeps the engine properly lubricated and ensures that clean oil is continuously distributed to critical engine components, reducing friction. Check your owner's manual for specifications.

Change the spark plug. Before installing the new plug, be sure to check its gap, again checking the owner's manual for specs.

Replace the air filter. A clogged air filter reduces the air/fuel ratio, resulting in higher fuel consumption and a rough-running engine. And don't just change the filter once a year - check it during the summer and replace if it starts to get filled with gunk. By the way, there are generally two types of filters, paper or foam. If your mower requires a foam filter, be sure to saturate the filter with fresh engine oil, wrap it in a clean rag and then squeeze out the excess oil before installing.

Spray all linkages, cables and wheel areas with WD-40. Do not use oil to do this because oil will retain dirt and eventually clog the area.

When you're done, fill 'er up with gas, replace the spark plug and you're off.

And in the list of lawn-care trivia, here's some figures on average shelf life of some common products:

Gasoline has a shelf life of around 90 days. Like milk, gasoline can go bad and may significantly harm a lawnmower's life span.

Oil can have a shelf life of up to three years, but it is   important to change mower engine oil at least once a year. And, of course, be sure to properly dispose of all oil or gas.

Grass seed, depending upon the storage, can last two to three years. In order to test its vitality; plant a few seeds in a small flowerpot, keep them moist and cover them with a plastic bag. Good seeds will germinate within a week or two.

Fertilizer never goes bad. Even when it becomes compacted and hard, all you need to do is take a hammer and break it apart. However, spread the compacted pieces sparingly to not destroy the roots.

Beer industry pours billions into U.S. economy

Here's an argument for having a cold beer on Sunday afternoon - you're boosting the U.S. economy.

According to the National Beer Wholesalers Association and the Beer Institute - and no, that's not where I got my college degree - beer is "enjoyed responsibly by more than 90 million adults of legal drinking age across the United States. America's beer-related businesses, including brewers, wholesalers, retailers and suppliers, contribute more than $162 billion annually to the U.S. economy."

Yes, that is $162 billion.

According to the study, "the beer industry's economic impact is responsible for nearly 1.8 million jobs that provide more than $54 billion in wages. The industry also generates and pays more than $30 billion in federal, state and local taxes, including consumption taxes."

Beer's economic input has expanded by 12 percent in the past four years, adding something like 120,000 jobs and more than $7 billion in wages, according to the beer experts.

Beer facts: There are more than 3,500 malt beverage brands available in the United States alone, "more than three times the number of products available over a decade ago," according to the beer experts.

Dueling bars settle

And speaking of adult beverages, a pair of Key West bars have settled a long-running legal feud over who can claim credit for a popular name and a frequent haunt of author Ernest Hemingway.

Both Sloppy Joe's Bar and Captain Tony's Saloon laid claim to the "original" moniker of "Sloppy Joe" Russell, who was an old buddy of Hemingway's and a frequent drinking pal during the author's time in Key West.

It gets confusing: Russell first operated out of the city's old morgue from 1933 through 1937. He then moved a block to the current site of the famous Sloppy Joe's, and Captain Tony moved his business into the old location.

Captain Tony billed his location as the "original" Sloppy Joe's, prompting the established Sloppy Joe empire to file suit on trademark infringement.

The out-of-court settlement allows Captain Tony's to bill itself as "The Original Sloppy Joe's from 1933 to 1937."

Seems like a lot of fuss for naught, don't it?

Sandscript factoid

According to the beer experts, "In ancient times, beer was flavored with herbs such as coriander, rosemary and lupine. Over time, Northern Europeans learned to use hops instead, which add flavor and help preserve the product. Today, brewers purchase more than $850 million in raw materials from farmers across the country for basic beer production, including barley grain for malt, the hop vine flower to give beer its mellow bitterness, yeast for fermentation, and water. Certain varieties of beer also use rice, corn, wheat, sorghum and other grains."

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