Page 1

Fall Home Improvement

Greenhouses come in all sizes. Page 2.

Household products help battle weeds. Page 16.

New sinks add value to homes. Page 5.

The American front porch is making a comeback. Page 19.

Showcase greenery in a new way. Page 12.






Up your gardening game with greenhouses By CHELLE CORDERO Whether you’re starting seedlings or nurturing full-size productive plants, a greenhouse can extend your growing season, deter pests and help your plants flourish. Greenhouses can be small for just a single seedling or large enough for a full crop. A greenhouse allows you to start a seedling earlier in the season, making it hardier when you plant it in your outdoor garden. To make your own little greenhouse, you’ll need two 1-liter soda bottles, one just slightly larger in diameter than the other. Slice the smaller plastic soda bottle a little more than halfway up, and invert the uncapped top end inside it. Fill the inverted end with soil and seeds; the soil should be no less than 3/4 inch from the top edge. Cut the bottom end off the second bottle just above the curved bottom, and use this to top the potted bottle. Leave this seed starter in a sunny window or, if the weather is warm enough, outside. This 1-liter bottle is enough for one seedling. Two-liter and gallon bottles can accommodate two or three seedlings at a time. Using the same soda bottles, you can cut the bottom edge off and stick the top end over a small plant in a flowerpot or outdoor garden. Be careful to vent these bottle greenhouses (remove the cap) in very warm and sunny weather, as the inside temperature can be more than 20 degrees hotter and too hot for a delicate plant to handle.


A large backyard is not necessary for a greenhouse. Covered planter boxes work just as well to help plants grow. Small portable greenhouses can be made out of picture frames, old windows or even fish tanks. If using picture frames, glue, nail or tape together the frames into a long rectangular prism, with one long side open. Over the framed sides, glue glass or heavy clear plastic (as these materials will let light in). Place your structure, which should resembles a sort of see-through upside-down planter

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box, directly over an outdoor planting area. Alternatively, you can use this greenhouse inside and use small flowerpots with drainage and a surface onto which they can drain. When building a small A-frame greenhouse from scratch, you’ll need hinges, glass or heavy clear plastic, wood frames and trian-

gular wood panels. The triangular wood panels will close off the opening and keep pests out. Hinge the cover to the main body so you have easy access to water or prune the plants. Note that the ground under the greenhouse will stay warmer and freeze less often than open planting areas. Larger greenhouses can be

made using garden fencing, plastic hoops and PVC piping. No matter what size greenhouse you want to build — small and portable or big enough to walk through — build a sturdy bottom frame first, as this will help to set the stability of your structure. For a large greenhouse set upright pipes into the ground and lashed or bolted to the frame no more than two feet apart. Connect hoops or flexible PVC from side to side using the uprights to anchor them. Run a single plastic pipe down the middle of the curved framework; use plastic or nylon wire ties to connect this. Cover the entire structure with heavy plastic sheeting, preferably one piece or large overlapping pieces. Anchor the plastic to the frame and hold down with bricks around the perimeter. Never build a flat roof, as it could collect rainwater and cause a collapse. If you don’t have a backyard in which to plant your garden, you can build a small and very utilitarian greenhouse on your patio or balcony. Use a metal open grille shelf unit. Make sure it is sturdy enough to hold the weight of several potted plants. Put the shelf unit in a sunny spot and cover it with heavy clear plastic. Use wire ties or duct tape to hold the plastic in place, but be sure to leave an overlapping flap, which you can use for access to your plants. Line the shelves with as many plants as can fit without overcrowding them. Remember that any greenhouse you build has to provide enough room for growth.



Take steps to prepare home for colder months By MARK J. DONOVAN

ed insulation levels for different climate regions around the country. Use a simple measuring tape to test yours, and if more is needed, install accordingly.

Fall season brings the return of cooler temperatures, yellow school buses and a respite in high home energy bills. The change in weather and foliage is also a signal for homeowners to prepare their homes and yards for the onset of winter. These home maintenance tasks will help you save on home heating costs, protect your house from cold weather damage and ensure a healthier lawn come next spring. Lawn and garden Take advantage of cool fall weather to improve your lawn’s health and appearance. In one Better Homes & Gardens online article, Denny Schrock shares 15 fall lawn care secrets. If you live in the north, fall is the best time to fertilize. Schrock says, “Cool-season grasses, such as bluegrass, fescue, and ryegrass, respond well to feeding in early September and again in late fall (late October or November).” Remove excess thatch, as it is dead organic matter that can cause disease and insect problems. Dethatch with a power rake or vertical mower, or do a onceover with an aerator. Aeration has the added benefit of loosening soil and improving drainage, which is essential for rain and snowfall. One basic step to winterize your garden is removing all the vegetable plant debris. If left in the garden, it leads to fungus and insect infestation.

Furnace Have your furnace serviced in the fall to ensure that it will work safely, reliably and at peak efficiency during the winter months, otherwise it could cost you hundreds of extra dollars and lots of cold nights! Additionally, poorly burned fuel exhaust gasses can permanently stain your roof and siding. Weatherstripping Doors and windows are another major source of heat loss. To prevent cold drafts, install flexible foam weatherstripping along the doorjambs, and in any gaps between the windows and window sashes.


Preparing your home for winter keeps heating costs down and protects your home from damage. Roof and rain gutters A yearly roof inspection prevents ice and water damage during winter and extends the life of the roof. Head up and look for cracked, cupped or missing shingles, as well as popped nails, gaps in the flashing and missing sections of ridge vent. Or make an appointment for an inspector to do all of the above. Wayne Gwaltney, sales manager of National Roofing Partners, says: “Often by the time

owners or facility managers call, contractors are booked through the fall. By confirming inspections now, there is time for any necessary maintenance.” Plan ahead to ensure all repairs can be made in time. Remove debris from your gutters to prevent clogging, and inspect them for broken rivets. Make sure the gutters are properly attached to the roof eaves. If not, they could tear away from your

home and cause exterior damage. Attic insulation The attic is one of the major sources of heat loss during the winter months. The correct amount of insulation will help maintain a comfortable temperature throughout your home, save money on heating bills and prevent major cold-weather issues, like ice dams. The U.S. Department of Energy lists recommend-

Inspect pipes Look for supply and drain pipes that are exposed to cold weather, such as those in crawl spaces, garages or on exterior walls of the home. You’ve got to keep them warm, or they will freeze and create bigger problems. The Popular Mechanic website suggests that you insulate pipes with foam insulation, fiberglass, a foam board or a heating cable. These tasks may not be particularly exciting or enjoyable, but they sure beat the cost and hassle of sky-high heating bills, ceiling leaks and a dead lawn. Give your home some longevity and yourself some peace of mind this fall.

How to identify high levels of radon in your home By MARK J. DONOVAN My wife and I recently decided to have our house checked for radon levels. We bought the home, new, in 1989. In the early 1990s the idea of testing a home for radon came to fruition, but we weren’t too concerned about radon levels at the time. Only after years — OK, decades — did we finally say, “Let’s have a look.” Well, as luck would have it, our radon levels were quite a bit higher than the Environmental Protection Agency’s recommended level (4.0 pCi/L) — about 10 times higher. So we recently hired a radon mitigation contractor to install an active soil depressurization radon mitigation system in our home. The ASD system is comprised

of a PVC pipe that penetrates through the basement concrete slab and into the gravel that sits below the slab. The PVC pipe then runs up to the sill plate and takes a 90-degree turn, through the sill plate and out of our home. From there the PVC pipe connects into a radon reduction fan that draws the moist radon air from underneath the basement floor up and out of the basement and house. On the other side of the radon reduction fan is another long section of PVC pipe that extends upward and over the roof eave of our house by at least a foot. There is a gauge on the side of the PVC pipe in our basement that indicates there is a negative

pressure underneath the slab due to the fact that the reduction fan is running. I can also hear the air passing through the PVC pipe when listening carefully to it. The radon reduction fan runs continuously, and the electricity to operate it costs about $4 per month. Installation takes about four hours. An electrician may need to install a dedicated electrical circuit from the main electric circuit panel to the reduction fan motor. The cost of the radon mitigation system itself was $1,195, and it’s guaranteed to meet the EPA 4.0 pCi/L safe level. The installer gave us two test kits to conduct the radon test on the system. Af-

ter placing the open test-kit canisters two feet off the basement floor and leaving them there for two days, we sealed them up and sent them to an independent lab. If for any reason the radon levels are determined to be unsafe, the installer will return to our house and either install a larger reduction fan or install one or more additional PVC pipes below the base-

ment. Hopefully, we won’t need him back. If you have an older home and live in an area that is notorious for radon levels, you may want to conduct a radon test. Radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer, so it’s worth spending the money to possibly prevent such an illness from occurring in you or your family down the road.

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Practice rotation planting to best utilize space By KRISTEN CASTILLO Even in a home garden, you want to maximize your harvest both in abundance and quality. One of the best ways to do that? Crop rotation, which simply means changing up the planting locations of fruits and vegetables each season. According to Doug Higgins and Kristin Krokowski, writing for Wisconsin Horticulture of the University of Wisconsin-Extension, crop rotation is one of agriculture’s oldest practices. Crop rotation helps reduce damage from pests, can limit vegetable diseases and helps the soil stay fertile. Crops in the same plant family shouldn’t be planted in the same space year after year. For example, Wisconsin Horticulture explains since peppers, eggplant, potatoes and tomatoes are in the same plant family, known as Solanacaeae or nightshade, they shouldn’t be planted in the same area where one or more were planted the previous season. To maximize the benefits of rotation, they recommend not planting from the same plant family in an area for three to four years. Here are some examples of plant families so you know which ones to avoid planting in the same space for future seasons: ■■ Mustard family: turnips, broccoli, cabbage, kale and cauliflower. ■■ Carrot family: carrots, parsnips celery and parsley. ■■ Gourd family: watermelon, cucumber, pumpkin, summer and winter squash. ■■ Pea family: kidney beans, lima beans, peas, soybeans and pole beans. ■■ Onion family: onions, garlic, chives and leeks. ■■ Goosefoot family: beets, spinach and Swiss chard. ■■ Sunflower family: sunflowers, lettuce and endive. Seasonal plantings Maximize your garden’s seasonal potential by having a growing plan.

munity gardens service project, whose vision is to provide everyone with access to fresh, affordable and healthy food. DiLorenzo, a longtime gardener and “flower addict,” says warm weather crops, including cucumbers, summer squash, turnips and carrots, can be sown in July. This is also a good time to find a large selection of seeds at local garden centers at discounted prices. Up, up, up Home gardens often lack in planting space so be savvy about your growing. “You may want to employ the block or square foot gardening method, which uses stakes and frames to grow crops vertically,” says DiLorenzo, who suggests using stakes and cages to support tomato plants, for example, which can reduce the amount of space between plants. She advises using that extra space to expand your selections, such as planting basil near the tomatoes, which may enhance the tomatoes’ flavor. Even melons and cucumbers can be grown vertically. Simply

tie up the fruit with a cloth sling, which gently cradles them and prevents bruising. Some crops do double duty. “Growing pole beans at the base of your corn provides benefits to both crops — the corn utilizes the nitrogen fixed in the soil by the beans and the beans use the corn as a trellis,” says DiLorenzo, explaining roots crops can be planted in 4-by-4 square spaces, which yields more than growing them in rows. Go organic Though your fruits and veggies feed you, be sure to feed your garden, too. Keep the soil healthy by adding organic matter each fall. If spaces allows, collect fallen leaves and create your own compost pile. “Using an organic mulch, like paper covered with straw, around your crops and on your paths ensures a regular addition of organic matter every year,” says DiLorenzo, noting the mulch will also suppress weeds, retain moisture and help keep the garden looking tidy and organized.

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Rotating crops annually helps the soil stay fertile and reduces pests and vegetable diseases. For example, gardeners in the Northeast can pull early cool weather crops like peas, broccoli and greens in July and then “sow a second planting that will be ready for harvest in early September, when the temperatures begin to cool and the days gets shorter,”

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Hot and cold: Trends in sinks By KRISTEN CASTILLO Thinking of upgrading your kitchen or bathroom sinks? It could be a good idea not only for the aesthetic appeal but also for your wallet in the long term, too. According to real estate marketplace Zillow, new sinks can add significant value to your home. For example, installing a farmhouse-style kitchen sink can increase a property’s value by as much as 8 percent. Whether you want new sinks for a makeover or simply for practicality, there’s a lot to consider before you get rid of a standard sink for an upgraded model. Kitchen trends “You can never go wrong with a farmhouse sink,” says Bonny Ford, editor of FurnishMyWay, an interior design, fashion, art and lifestyle blog. “Whether it’s in the kitchen or bathroom, it’s a stylish option.” For example, a black farmhouse sink against a white kitchen background offers a striking contrast, while a distressed farmhouse sink makes a kitchen feel rustic. Farmhouse sink prices range from about $200 to $1,000. Designer Danny Taylor of DT Collection of Companies says the farmhouse sink, also known as a porcelain apron sink, is available in bright colors, such as apple green, and soft, tonal textures. He calls the look “very designer cottage.” “Picture Mom, apple pie and off to soccer practice,” Taylor says. Upgrades These days, even conventional sinks are installed with added amenities. “The traditional under-mount sink still rules but with new shapes and features such as sliding cutting boards, utensil trays, drying racks and colanders,” says Taylor, who explains this style is “great for people who really cook!” Some cooks like sinks with one large basin instead of two smaller basins, as a single, roomy basin can fit larger items, such as pots and pans. Sinks can be energy-efficient, too. Look for WaterSense labels on faucets and aerators, which can save the average family 700 gallons of water yearly. Modern sink designs keep the workspace streamlined and minimalistic but with many fresh features. For example, one new faucet design allows users to switch to a touch-less faucet (a sensor triggers the water flow), which can prevent cross-contamination in the kitchen. Pull down faucets with multifunction sprayers make cleaning easy. Sink style Stainless steel, another recent sink trend, adds a feel of sophistication to the kitchen. Ford calls it a great option and says it’s very sleek against white cabinets. “Paired with bright colors, open shelving and cool dishes, your sink will definitely be an attention-grabber,” she says. Pricier materials look stunning and perform well, too. “In higher-end applications, integrated sinks in marble or quartz give a sophisticated, sleek, seamless look,” says Taylor, explaining that the sinks not only look nice but also are easy to maintain. Bathroom beauties Sure, bathroom sinks are mostly just for washing hands, but

form and function can coexist. “When remodeling your bathroom, don’t just pop in a standard kitchen sink,” says designer Jenna Sue of the Jenna Sue Design Co., who worked with homeimprovement company Lowe’s to create a farmhouse flip. She says freestanding sinks are a thing of the past. Modern homes feature trendy upgrades, such as floating wall-mounted sinks, which create an airy look and make the space seem more open. For a stylish sink option, instead of one long vanity, consider connecting two single vanities with a storage tower or cabinet. Make a statement with your sink basin, too. Vessel sinks, which can look like decorative bowls or serving platters, are available in a variety of colors and materials, including glass and stone. “Let your sink be a work of art,” says Sue. “Vessel sinks are a great way to make a statement and will catch your eye as soon as


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Follow guide when planting root vegetables By JULIA PRICE If you’re a fan of fresh root vegetables, you can’t get them any fresher than planting a garden right in your backyard. According to Modern Farmer, when you purchase the seed packet of the vegetable you want to produce, you can check the label to see how many days it will take that specific vegetable to mature. You then want to subtract that number from your almanac’s first projected frost date to make sure that you will have enough time to harvest the crop before then. Check your location-specific almanac here: gardening/frostdates. Modern Farmer does an exceptional job of breaking down not only which veggies to plant but also how many days they typically take to ripen. Some of the root vegetables it suggests planting are: ■■ Beets (60 days to mature). ■■ Carrots (95 days). ■■ Turnips (50 days). ■■ Rutabagas (75 days). ■■ Radishes (30 days). If it’s your first season planting, this would be a great place to start. In fact, you can even limit yourself to one of the above options until you feel that you’ve really mastered your green thumb. But then again, why not jump in and see what you learn along the way? So now it’s time to get planting! Self-proclaimed pioneer Melissa Norris has some tips for growing carrots and beets. For carrots, she recommends sowing the seeds on top of moist soil to start and then, once the carrots begin to grow with a few leaves, thinning the soil. For beets, she advises soaking the seeds overnight before planting them approximately a halfinch into the ground and at least 4 inches apart. However, if you’re in a rainy season in your area, you can avoid soaking the seeds overnight. The soil should be kept moist and thinned. (If you’d like to read more about soil thinning techniques or why it’s important in the first place, the website Gardening Know How is an incredible source.) For the turnip lovers out there, Rodale’s Organic Life passionately suggests planting in an area where the soil gets a lot of sunlight, approximately a half-inch into the ground and anywhere between 3 and 4 inches apart. This goes for rutabagas, as well. Make sure to keep the soil moist, and

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once the plants are between 4 and 6 inches tall, Rodale’s Organic Life suggests adding about 2 inches of mulch. Radishes follow similar guidelines, with a slight variation for best results, based on tried-andtrue planting methods tested by Burpee. One tip Burpee offers is to use soil that is low in nitrogen. When the radishes are about 2 inches tall, you’ll want to thin the soil so that seeds are at least 3 inches apart. To keep radishes from being infected by root maggots and to make sure they don’t dry out, add a mulch that is partially made of wood ashes. You can plant radishes near basically every other root vegetable because they “get along” with all veggies, which in the gardening world is referred to as being a companion plant. There are various tips and tools

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Expect to get your hands a little dirty when planting root vegetables. that you’ll learn along the way, as well, so make sure to get planting! Of course, if you’re looking for organic gardening products, there are multiple options either in your local grocery or online. Some websites deliver everything you need

right to your doorstep. There’s something incredibly peaceful about growing something from the earth, something that you took part in every step of the way, so even if your root vegetables don’t come out exactly as you hoped,

the process in itself is quite rewarding. This can also be a great way to bond with family members, children or friends, because we all have a natural connection with getting our hands a bit dirty every now and then!

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It is possible to improve oil furnace efficiency By MARK J. DONOVAN Recently, I had an expert on heating, ventilating and air conditioning come to my new home to assess what to do about my oilfired furnace. Though the home has approximately 10 percent more square footage than our previous home, our annual heating costs at the new home have been nearly 75 percent higher. I was at a loss as to what could be causing the lower heating efficiency and asked the HVAC expert to come out to see about putting in a new and more efficient oil-fired furnace. The first thing the HVAC expert was able to tell me about the oil boiler was that it was old and inefficient. He explained that it was a Peerless boiler that was manufactured in the 1980s and was not efficient compared with the ones today. He stuck a probe into the duct exhaust and confirmed that the oil burner was only operating at 82.5 percent. That level was considered good for this particular vintage of furnace, but it’s not good in comparison with today’s oil burners. Today’s burners operate at 87 to 91 percent efficiency. The other thing he pointed out about my oil burner was that it was “oversize” for the home. More specifically, it had a 1.5 gallonper-hour fuel consumption rate if it were to operate nonstop for an hour. For my home, he suggested that I should be using an oil burner with a fuel consumption rate of 0.9 gallon per hour. He indicated that not only would I save on home heating costs because of the lower fuel consumption rate but also my house would have steadier and more consistent heating. Using a burner with a lower burn rate causes the furnace to run longer and thus provide steadier heating. On the surface, that may sound like a bad idea from a cost of operation standpoint. However, he explained to me that by having the furnace run for longer periods and then subsequently shut down for longer periods, less oil would be consumed. He also pointed out that the exhaust temperature from my oil burner was approximately 475 F, or approximately 175 degrees hotter than it should have been. That extra heat was all wasted energy going up the chimney. The extra heat was caused by the oversize burner and its associated 1.5 gallon-per-hour fuel consumption rate. With a lower consumption rate, the exhaust temperature should only be about 300 F. Another concern he saw with my boiler was that the burner itself was sucking air directly in from our basement. Note that a burner needs both fuel and oxygen to cause combustion, thus the air intake on the oil burner. He said that by pulling air into the burner from outside the home rather than from the basement, we’d also improve the heating efficiency of our furnace and lower our home heating costs. He explained that by having the oil furnace draw air directly from the basement, a low air pressure was being created in our basement. In turn, it was causing warm air in the home itself to be sucked into the basement to, in effect, feed the oil burner. And subsequently, by creating a lower pressure in the main living area of our house, cold outside air was being drawn into our home through door and window cracks. Thus, the main living area of our home was effectively being cooled off by sucking cold air into it while the furnace attempted to heat it. And another important fact was that even when the oil furnace

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was not running, the residual high chimney temperatures produced by the oil burner when it was on were causing warm air from the basement to continue to be pulled up the chimney. Thus, even when our furnace was not operating, its effects were causing heat to be pulled from the home. The HVAC expert explained that ductwork and a smaller motorized fan assembly should be installed on the oil burner itself. The other end of the ductwork would be fed out the side of the home. This way, outside air would be the source of oxygen for the oil

burner. Lastly, the HVAC expert asked to go up into our attic. This is where one of the two water to air heat exchangers resides, along with all the ductwork to pump air into the second-floor bedrooms. As soon as the HVAC expert walked into the attic, he pointed out a significant problem. He pointed to the R-value numbers on the rigid ductwork associated with the main trunk of the heat exchanger. The R-value was only 4.3. Similarly, the various lengths of flexible ductwork tubes that flowed to the second-floor bedrooms only had a


4.2 R-value. He explained that the attic, with its very low winter temperatures, was sucking out much of the oil furnace’s generated heat along the lengths of the poorly insulated ductwork. He recommended that we spray foam insulation around all the ductwork to improve the insulation’s R-value to at least 12, preferably higher. So based on the recommendations of the HVAC expert, I installed a new oil-fired furnace

that operates at greater than 87 percent efficiency and has a fuel oil consumption rate of only 0.9 gallon per hour. In addition, ductwork was installed to draw air from outside the home to feed the oil burner. Lastly, I had all of the attic HVAC ductwork insulated. I hope that with these three major changes, we’ll improve the heating efficiency of our home and dramatically lower our annual heating costs.

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Underground menaces: Get rid of garden pests By CHRISTOPHER CROWN One day, while perusing your newly manicured backyard and admiring your blooms, your foot sinks into a distinctly spongy piece of grass. Looking down, you see small, scattered mounds of dirt across the lawn. The likely culprits? Moles and gophers. These garden pests can cause ample destruction in your landscape. Unfortunately, many gardeners turn too quickly to poisons and chemicals that are not only inhumane but also dangerous to pets and humans and potentially harmful to your ecosystem. First, how do you know whether you have moles or gophers? According to one HGTV online article titled “Hot to Get Rid of Gophers, Moles and Armadillos,” moles primarily eat insects and earthworms, not plants. They leave tunnels or mounds of dirt above ground with holes in the center. Gophers eat plants, and their tunnels are hardly ever visible. Master gardener Paul James, featured in the article, acknowledges that though the tunnels moles make are a nuisance, they can actually help aerate the soil. Gophers, on the other hand, can wreak havoc on garden plants and

cost hundreds of dollars’ worth of damage. Although the current market is trending toward natural and homemade repellents, many chemical options are available to consumers. According to the Pesticide Research Institute, there are first-generation, secondgeneration and third-generation anticoagulant rodenticides. Anticoagulant rodenticides are poisoned bait that when consumed interfere with the clotting process, causing rodents to die from internal bleeding. There are many potential unwanted consequences of rodenticides. The toxins can harm children if eaten, and they can even kill pets that consume the bait. Predatory birds may die from eating poisoned rodents. And bait can contaminate groundwater that washes into lakes, streams and the ocean. All of these factors make chemical pesticides an even worse choice for anyone spending time in their garden, anyone with children playing in their lawn or gardeners who consume their own crops. With mountains of evidence against traditional pesticides and poisons, alternative remedies are ideal. The EarthEasy website offers sustainable solutions for modern gardeners, including several op-


Rid your garden of gophers and moles with natural remedies that don’t harm the animals or your ecosystem. tions for controlling underground excavators. Place cotton balls soaked in peppermint oil in active mole and gopher tunnels. They will avoid these areas because they are allergic to peppermint. To determine which tunnels are active, tamp down mole ridges and then observe where ridges are rebuilt or new tunnels branch off. James uses castor oil granules to ward off gophers and

moles. Once they get wet (either from rain or watering), they will slowly begin to dissolve and release a scent that repels them without harming them. Plus, they are actually healthy for your lawn. You can even place them strategically to dictate the direction the pests will exit. The HGTV article says: “To force the pests in a specific direction, apply the granules to one-third the area to be treated,

beginning with the area farthest from the ultimate exit point. And within hours, especially if you water the area well, the gophers will begin moving in that direction. A day or two later, apply more granules to the next section, and a day or two after that, apply additional granules to the final section.” Certain household ingredients can be used to control moles. The Old Farmer’s Almanac suggests sprinkling ground red pepper at tunnel entrances, and tobacco or coffee grounds on the soil to evict them. If you prefer, seek out some high-tech options. Home improvement stores such as Home Depot and online retailers such as Amazon carry devices that emit electronic pulses and drive moles and gophers away. The Sweeney’s Solar Mole and Gopher Repellant Spike, for example, is a stake that emits sonic pulses up to 7,500 square feet. And it’s solar-powered, so it’s an environmentally conscious option that will save you money. Whether you prefer to sprinkle, watch and wait or plug it in and leave it, rest easy knowing there many cost-effective, safe and humane solutions to rid your garden of these industrious underground workers.

Fall flora fashion: Cold weather gardening gear By KRISTEN CASTILLO Though it’s getting chilly, that doesn’t mean your gardening has to stop. Instead, bundle up for the elements with some chic and coldresistant gear. Maat van Uitert, a backyard gardening expert and author who runs the website FrugalChicken, says fall is a critical time for gardeners. That’s when harvesting happens and when you’ll be doing a final weeding to set your garden up for springtime success. “Without the right clothing to keep you warm and dry, you’re going to struggle with enjoying your outdoor chores, especially as the temperature plummets. And that’ll certainly affect the health of your plants the following year,” she says. “Suit up in the right gear, and you’ll be much more productive.” Prepare for the end of the season in practical, yet snuggly style. Here’s a head-to-toe guide for what to wear while gardening in the late summer and early fall. Hats Keep you head and ears warm with the perfect headgear. Van Uitert, who’s also author of “Organic By Choice: The (Se-

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In chilly, rainy weather, she likes to wear beanies because they retain body heat and keep hair dirt- and weed-free. When it comes to hats, there’s one big question: Do you want the hat to cover your ears? “Keeping them covered will keep you warmer, but not everyone likes the sensation,” says van Uitert.

Gloves Protect your hands with good gloves. In addition to keeping your fingers warm, the right gloves can safeguard your hands and arms from dirt, debris and stray branches.

Many glove styles stay soft even when wet, and some are available in longer lengths to cover forearms. For example, the Serius Workman Dakota work-tough gloves, are insulated with a heatwave See GEAR on Page 9

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Gardening gloves can keep you warm and safeguard your hands and arms from dirt, debris and stray branches. cret) Rebel’s Guide to Backyard Gardening,” recommends hats made with polar fleece or fleece hats lined with a wicking fabric, because they absorb sweat better than wool or other synthetic fabrics.

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Gear (Concluded from Page 8) thermodynamic lining, as well as reinforced fingertips. And the Winter Touch gloves from Gold Leaf Gardening Gloves features a thermal lining to keep your hands warm. Shirts, jackets Bundle up your body before you step into the garden. Layering is key to feeling comfortable and warm. Start by wearing a few long-sleeve shirts. Jackets with hoods are ideal for chilly weather, advises van Uitert. “As you work in the garden, you might get too warm for a head cover,” she says. “But if you end up sweating, you also want to make sure you don’t get too cold -with a hood, you can just slip it on and off as needed.” She prefers jackets made from quilted fabrics, explaining they’re warm and waterproof, but not bulky or constrictive.

Be cautious when using ice-melts By MARK J. DONOVAN We were recently traveling when an icy snowstorm hit our state. When we returned home, we had several inches of frozen snow and ice in our driveway and on our walkway and lawn. I got out my snow blower and made my best attempt to remove the frozen mess. However, the blower could not penetrate the thick layer of ice. Instead of applying a generous layer of salt, I decided to let the sunshine soften up the ice layer before going back out there and having another go with the blower. It took quite a while, and I had to add a shovel and ice scraper pole to my tool arsenal, but I eventually cleared the ice. Why did I not use salt, you ask? Though salt would have melted the ice much faster, it is a corrosive product that can cause some surfaces to crack and crumble. In fact, most ice-melt products are damaging in some way. Consumer Reports did an ice-melt comparison in 2014, weighing the potential for each substance to damage concrete, asphalt and other things. The results were as follows: ■■ Calcium chloride and potassium chloride cause minimal to moderate damage to asphalt and concrete, as well as grass and plants when overapplied. ■■ Calcium magnesium acetate causes moderate damage. ■■ Magnesium chloride causes moderate to significant damage to asphalt and concrete, and can damage plants when overapplied. ■■ Sodium chloride (rock salt), although it causes minimal to moderate damage on concrete and asphalt, can also cause damage to brick, stone, metal, grass, plants and wood decks. ■■ Urea poses minimal to no damage to concrete and asphalt, making it the best solution out of these options. The study recommends avoiding using an ice-melt on concrete that’s less than one year old, as it can make the concrete susceptible to future damage. But there are other ramifications, too. Most of the salts above can be lethal to pets if swallowed. Sand or gravel are great alternatives to salt. So is kitty litter. It won’t accelerate the melting of ice and snow, but it will create friction so you can gain traction when walking or driving over the icy surfaces.


“Perfect for a final weeding or planting a late crop,” van Uitert says, “They also look more stylish than other options, so you can wear them to casual social occasions or to brunch.” Pants Keep legs toasty with warm denim pants lined with polar

fleece. “Fleece keeps your body heat trapped, but the thick fabrics also provide an extra barrier, so if you happen to trickle water on your legs while spraying fall plants, the liquid is less likely to seep through and make you even colder,” says van Uitert.

Socks, boots Make sure feet are snuggly during the cooler gardening season. Wear warm socks (wool is cozy) and double up, if necessary. Step into waterproof shoes, too. “Especially in the fall, when it gets nippy, muck boots will pro-

tect your feet,” says van Uitert. “I tell my readers to buy them a half to one size larger than you usually wear so you can double up on thick socks to keep your toes toasty.” With the right gear, your fall gardening will be protective and productive.

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This past su m m er o f 2017, we started u sin g a differen t pro du ct fo r ro o f clean in g. Du e to the dem an d fo r this service, we in vested in n ew equ ipm en t to apply this clean er to ro o fs. This pro du ct is applied at a lo w pressu re sim ilar to yo u r garden ho se. There is n o high pressu re u sed at all du rin g this pro cess. The black stain s o n shin gles is an algae that feeds o n the lim esto n e added to shin gles fo r weight. Co pper stran ds were rem o ved fro m shin gle m an u factu rin g years ago an d that is the reaso n fo r all the black stain in g n o w that n ever u sed to be there.

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Out of the planter: Display indoor plants in unique ways By KRISTEN CASTILLO

Crates are another option, allowing flexibility to stash plants bunched together or separately in a variety of cubes.

Houseplants are perfect for bringing the outdoors inside. But displaying those plants isn’t limited to doing so in boring, basic pots. Get creative and find fun ways to showcase your greenery. “Displaying indoor plants can seem like a daunting task, but it can be really easy,” says Bonny Ford, editor of the FurnishMyWay blog, an interior design, fashion, art and lifestyle blog.

Vintage style Repurpose household items as new plant stands. For example, fill old rain boots or vintage watering buckets with plants. Even mismatched teacups and teapots make fancy, yet bohemian planters. The basket of an old bike is a cool place to grow plants, too. Olson says this look can “make a statement” when done well. She advises lining the basket with moss and making sure it allows for drainage.

Mismatched style Gather your existing pots and don’t worry if they’re different shapes, sizes or colors. “Mismatched pots look great when they’re placed on a simple table,” says Ford, who suggests using pots of different heights for an interesting look. “Let the plants and pots do the talking within your decor.” If you want to streamline your uncoordinated pots, try painting them a unifying color. Look up Hang plants around your home to make the space feel cozy and in touch with nature. Plus, by hanging them, you’ll save valuable desk and counter space. Remember those macrame plant hangers from the ‘70s? Well, they’re back with a modern makeover. Craft your own or buy macrame hangers, which are sturdy and stylish. These hangers are available in a wide variety or colors and fabrics and can be enhanced with beads, ribbons and other embellishments.


Use your imagination to find functional and stylish ways to display indoor plants. Perfect pairs Have a hanging shoe organizer with pouches? If not, buy one at a discount or dollar store. Then cut a few drainage holes in each pouch, fill it with potting soil and seeds for herbs and be sure to mark or tag it so you know what’s growing. “Keep in mind your herbs will need plenty of sunlight, or exposure to a fluorescent light bulb if

located inside,” says Kristen Olson and the garden team at Gilmour, a watering tools company. Water each pouch until it’s moist, but don’t overwater or your plants could rot. Place a tray below the shoe organizer to catch drips. Stacked Give your houseplant display some depth by using on a vari-

ety of surfaces for a high-low effect, like a mantle, on books or a tall-tiered plant stand. Ford calls this look “floating shelves.” This stacked style wows. “It gets them up off the floor so they can be seen better,” she says. Display pots on a traditional bookshelf or on an opening shelving unit. Ivy plants, for example, look great flowing down the shelves.

Pretty planters Use your imagination to find functional and fabulous ways to show off your plants: ■■ Hang a trellis or extra fencing on a wall for an interesting backdrop for houseplants to climb. Then nail pots or shelves for pots on the trellis and plant your best greenery. ■■ A staircase is another sophisticated way to showcase plants, especially if the stair slats are open so plant visibility is heightened. ■■ Bathrooms are ideal spaces for plants, too. They’ll love the moisture and they’ll reflect in the bathroom mirror. Don’t overdo it, though. A little greenery goes a long way. ■■ Stage your plants in a variety of pots on a wheeled bar cart. Then you can move your indoor garden around your place whenever you want. ■■ Use a tiered cake stand to give your houseplants lots of height and flair.

Bramwell-McKay Masonry Building Strong Waterproof Foundations Issues you notice about your foundation or basement are things we are here to consult with you about. If you have vertical or stairstep cracks in your home’s foundation, bowing basement walls, cracks in your brick or stone work, windows and doors hard to open, wet basement, or musty smells, these are all signs of potential foundation trouble. These problems can occur whether your home is old or new, whether it sits on a crawlspace, basement, or a combination of both. Bramwell-McKay has replaced more foundations in the Midwest than any other contractor.

Our knowledge of foundation repair and replacement is unsurpassed. For help in Jasper, Evansville, Bloomington, Indianapolis, or Louisville, contact Bramwell-McKay for a free, no-obligation consultation and assessment of your foundation’s condition. Call 812-631-5925.

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If your house feels drafty, your door weatherstripping might need to be replaced.

Weatherstripping helps save on winter heating bills By MARK J. DONOVAN Is your home feeling frosty this winter? If so, run your hand around the inside perimeter of your exterior doors to feel for drafts. If you feel a chill, then most likely the door weatherstripping needs replacing. Weatherstripping has the tendency to flatten down, crack or become worn over time. If your door is exhibiting these signs, then you should install new weatherstripping to eliminate the cold rushing in. Not only will your house feel warmer, but also you will help save on your home’s heating bills. Door weatherstripping foam Door weatherstripping replacement kits are available in a number of options. The simplest and least-expensive solution is foam. You can find foam door weatherstripping at any home improvement store and it comes in varying thicknesses and lengths. It only costs a few dollars per roll on average, with industrial strength weatherstripping costing upward of $30. Foam door weatherstripping

has a sticky backing that is protected by paper. All you need to do to install this is to measure the doorjambs, cut an appropriate length of foam, peel off the protective paper and then install the weatherstripping around the doorframe. It’s that simple. However, because foam is so easy to cut, it’s also vulnerable to dry rot and tearing. Door weatherstripping kits As an alternative to low-cost foam, you can also buy door weatherstripping replacement kits that consist of foam wrapped around a wood or metal flange. There are also door weatherstripping kits that are comprised of a vinyl bulb and metal flange assembly. Each door weatherstripping kit that includes a flange contains two long sections for the door side jambs, as well as a shorter section for the top doorjamb. To install this kit, again measure the height of the side of the door jamb and the length of the top of the door jamb. Next, cut the pieces. Note that you should cope cut the door weatherstripping flanges at 45-degree angles where they butt up against each other. This will enable clean 90-de-

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gree angled corners, and provide for a continuous flow of the foam or vinyl bulb insulating material around the doorframe. After cutting the strips to the correct length, position them tightly against the outside-facing closed door so that the foam or vinyl bulb compress slightly. While holding the door weatherstripping flanges in place, secure them to the doorframe with nails. The nails should be spaced approximately 12 inches apart. Installing door sweeps If your door has leaky drafts around the base, you can install door sweeps. Door sweeps are a type of door weatherstripping that attaches to the base of the door so that when the door closes it forms an airtight seal with the bottom of the doorframe. So if you want to eliminate the drafts in your home this win-

ter, check your exterior doors for drafts and install door weatherstripping replacements where

needed. You feel warmer, and you’ll save a small bundle on your home heating bills.


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Lawn care activities are the perfect seasonal workout. Beautify your lawn and enjoy the outdoors while gaining health benefits. PALMERA CREATORS.COM

Rake away: Use gardening as seasonal workout By CHRISTOPHER CROWN Although many of us live relatively sedentary lifestyles, the human body is built for constant motion. As the seasons change and the weather becomes colder, even more time is spent sitting inside. In his recent book, “Deskbound: Standing up to a Sitting World,” New York Times best-selling author, CrossFit coach and physical therapist Dr. Kelly Starrett discusses how learning to adapt standard work and home schedules to include frequent exercise is highly important for resetting posture, maintaining cardiovascular health and reducing the effects of sitting. Daily lawn maintenance chores are one of the best ways to achieve this. This fall, trim your trees, fertilize your lawn or rake your leaves instead of hiring a professional. The more opportunities you can take to get outside and use your body, the more health benefits you will receive. In an article published on the Livestrong website, health journalist and gardening specialist Joshua Duvauchelle compares the amount of energy we expend

doing various lawn-care activities, such as using push mowers (engine-powered rolling mowers) and hand mowers (the traditional lawn tool that requires physical pushing effort to spin blades that cut the grass). Unsurprisingly, the award for most effective exercise goes to hand mowers. While push mowers do require ample walking, a 155-pound person will only burn 167 calories for a 30-minute session, with more or less energy required based on body weight. Hand mowers offer a more challenging cardio workout. The typical 135-pound person will burn approximately 193 calories for the same time invested. Additionally, hand mowers only cut the grass, so the 30 additional minutes of raking cut grass afterward will burn additional calories. In all, this can be the equivalent of a brisk 3.5 mph walk or water aerobics class. Beyond the sheer caloric burn, there are other health benefits to maintaining your own lawn. In a landmark study by researcher Elin Ekblom-bak and others published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers in Sweden measured the health of


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4,232 60-year-olds over the course of 121⁄2 years and found that those who had lived active lifestyles by walking and doing their own household chores since age 60 had a 27 percent lower risk of heart attack and stroke, a smaller waistline, better HDL levels (good cholesterol) and lower risk factors for heart disease. “Promoting daily life activities is as important as recommending regular exercise for older adults for cardiovascular health and longevity,” EkblomBak explained in one Newsday article. “This is particularly important for older adults as they tend to spend a greater portion of their active day performing non-exercise physical activity, as they often find it difficult to achieve recommended exercise intensity levels.” The Centers for Disease Con-

trol and Prevention states that getting in 21⁄2 hours of moderateintensity level activities per week is important for protecting adults from depression, diabetes and cancer. To help you attain this weekly goal, you might consider contacting your local parks and recreation center to see whether there are any community gardens, parks or botanical gardens that need work. This is a great way to engage with neighbors and keep your community vibrant as well. As with any exercise, there are some important yard work safety considerations. First, form matters. An article published on the AARP website in 2010 cites Barbara Ainsworth, an exercise epidemiologist at San Diego State University. As a moderate level of physical activity, she says, yard

work helps build strength in your core, upper body and back because these areas are working to stabilize your body. Follow these important safety tips: ■■ Warm up and start slow before you begin hauling. Try walking around the block and doing gentle stretches. ■■ Stand with a wide stance for better balance and stability. ■■ Use your full body, and twist with your torso and legs. ■■ When raking, pruning or sweeping, switch sides to balance the strain on your back and arms. ■■ When you are finished, take ample time to cool down and stretch to avoid soreness. Fall is a wonderful time of year. This year, get outside in the crisp air to beautify your lawn and better your health.


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Protect vacation home from Old Man Winter By MARK J. DONOVAN If you have a vacation home or summer cottage and do not plan to keep it operational and heated during the winter months, then it is important to properly winterize it before the cold weather hits. Otherwise, you run the risk of seeing in the spring that your home away from home suffered major damage. For example, if water were to freeze in your pipes, pressure would build, causing the pipes to burst. Summarized below are the various steps needed for winterizing a vacation home. First and foremost, you need to shut off the water supply line to the house. This is typically as easy as shutting off the electrical circuit breaker that powers the well pump. With some artesian wells, there is also a shut-off valve that needs to be turned off in the well itself. If your well has a shut-off valve, then you should have a long steel rod tool that is used to turn it; it has a T handle on the top of it. You will need to remove the well cap and then use this tool to shut the water valve off. You simply slide the tool down a couple of feet into the well until it rests in place on the shut-off valve and then rotate it until the valve is closed. Next, you need to drain the wa-

ter from the supply lines that feed the faucets in your sinks, bathtubs, showers, etc. This includes both the cold and hot supply lines. To do so, open the valve for each faucet. Leave all of them open for the winter months. To prevent any residual water from freezing in the various P and J traps, you’ll need to add some house-safe RV antifreeze to them. You’ll need to do the same for toilet tanks and bowls. First, flush the toilets to drain the water out of the tanks, and then add a little house-safe RV antifreeze to the toilet bowls and tanks. Also pour a little of it into each sink and tub drain. Next, turn off the circuit breaker or electrical switch that powers your vacation home’s heating system. Simply turning down the thermostat to its lowest setting won’t suffice. To prevent electrical appliance damage from thunderstorms, unplug all of your appliances. The last thing you would want is to come back to your vacation home in the spring and find rotten and smelly food in the refrigerator or freezer. Make sure to remove all items from these appliances, and place an open box of baking soda in each. Mice, chipmunks and squirrels love to find dry and relatively warm places to reside during the

cold winter months. Protect your home from rodent infestation by strategically placing a few boxes of d-CON around the home to prevent them from setting up permanent residence in it. Store any outdoor furniture in the home’s garage or basement. If the home has neither, then bundle the furniture tightly and wrap it in a vinyl tarp. Securely seal the tarp to prevent it from blowing open during the winter months. If you have a boat, make sure to winterize it after pulling it out of the water for the season. Water left in the engine or outdrive destroys it when it freezes. Unless

you know what you are doing, I would highly suggest having a marina winterize your boat. Also make sure to winterize your lawn mower by draining any gasoline from it and giving it a quick tuneup so that it is ready to use when the warm weather hits again. If you have a seasonal dock, aka pipe dock, then make sure to pull it out of the water before the water gets too cold. The last thing you’ll want to do is to have to go into icy water to pull it out. Leaving a seasonal dock in the water is illegal. It is also just plain dumb. If the body of water freezes, the

ice will destroy the dock; during the spring thawing season, the water could drag the dock into deeper water. After all the leaves have fallen from the trees, make sure to rake the yard and remove any debris from around the home’s foundation. Leaving debris near a home’s foundation is akin to sending out invitations to all the local pests and rodents. It also allows water to collect near the home, as opposed to draining away from it. If you do all of the above, you should have no unwanted surprises when you open up your vacation home again in the spring.

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Save money and avoid chemicals with weedkiller recipes using household products.

Use household products to gain control over weeds By MARY HUNT In 1970, John Franz, a chemist for Monsanto, discovered that the chemical glyphosate is a potent herbicide that kills just about every kind of plant material imaginable. In no time, the company gave its miracle weedkiller the brand name Roundup. Farmers especially went wild for Roundup. Just one problem: It was nearly impossible to kill the weeds without also killing their crops. So Monsanto sent its chemists back to work to develop glyphosate-resistant (or “Roundup ready”) crops that have had their DNA altered (genetically modified, or GMO) to allow them to be immune to glyphosate. Now farmers could spray with abandon and not worry about their crops. To say that glyphosate, Roundup and GMO foods have become a bit controversial would be to put it mildly. There are some who say that glyphosate causes cancer in animals, and most likely humans, too. They insist that the side effects of long-term GMO food consumption are producing serious health risks for all living things. Despite all of this controversy and outcry about issues surrounding Roundup and GMO crops, so far the Environmental Protection Agency has found no convincing evidence to force Roundup off the market. It’s a hot button issue, that’s for sure. There is one provable and very compelling reason to not buy Roundup: It’s too expensive. Even if it were proven beyond a shadow

of a doubt that Roundup is safe as water, I still wouldn’t shell out the high price for the stuff. I kill weeds like crazy with kitchen pantry items that are really cheap and nontoxic: white vinegar, ordinary table salt and dishwashing liquid. First I will give you the ingredients, followed by two weedkiller recipes that use them: ■■ White vinegar. Ordinary distilled white vinegar with 5 percent acidity, is cheap and works great. If you can find a higher acidity even up to 20 percent, it is going to work faster, but the end results will be the same. ■■ Table salt. Use the cheapest kind of salt you can find in the supermarket — not sea salt, rock salt, Epsom salts or anything fancy. Just cheap iodized or noniodized table salt. ■■ Dishwashing liquid. You will be using only a few drops, so the brand doesn’t matter. The purpose of the soap is to break the surface tension of the vinegar so it sticks to the weeds, forcing them to absorb it more readily. For areas to be replanted If you have weeds in areas you want to re-plant, do this: Fill an ordinary garden sprayer with white vinegar and add about 1 teaspoon liquid dishwashing soap, such as blue Dawn. Apply sprayer top and follow the instructions on the sprayer to get it ready to spray. That’s it. Seriously, it is that simple. Pick a hot, dry day to spray weeds until saturated, and they will wilt and shrivel up within hours, so be careful to not spray anything you want to live. Howev-

How to make the most of a mudroom By CHRISTINE BRUN

It’s finally getting cooler! As we begin to drag out jackets, rain boots and hats, this is the perfect time of year to think about revamping your mudroom or creating one. In homes located in cold climates, this vestibule-like space is sometimes used not only as a place to store dirty outdoor gear but also as a barrier against extreme cold. In addition to wellbuilt homes, you will even notice

such spaces in commercial buildings, such as restaurants, cafes or retail shops. I am partially enamored with mudrooms because they are not common where I live, for the climate is more temperate. Yet a mudroom seems like one of the most practical spaces to have in a family home regardless of local weather. Originally, mudrooms were designed to be the informal entrance See MUDROOM on Page 17

er, do not worry about the vinegar killing anything below the soil. Because vinegar will not harm the soil, you can safely replant the area once the weeds have died. For areas never to grow again To kill all vegetation in walkways, driveways and other areas where you don’t want any living thing to grow again, mix 2 cups ordinary table salt with 1 gallon of white vinegar. Do this in a container that is larger than 1 gallon capacity so you have room for the salt. Apply the lid and shake to dissolve the salt. Salt dissolves more quickly in vinegar than in water, but it takes a bit of shaking. It may not completely dissolve, but that’s OK. Add 1 teaspoon of liquid dishwashing soap. Pour into an ordinary garden sprayer. Apply to weeds or grass on a dry, sunny day to areas you don’t want to see vegetation of any kind in the future. The presence of salt in this recipe is what will eventually bring permanence to your weed killing. The salt will penetrate and leech into the soil. It may take several applications, but in time the presence of salt will “sterilize” the soil in this area so that nothing will grow there. Plan well before you go this permanent route. These homemade weedkiller recipes are not only cheap, they are also completely nontoxic to humans and animals. In fact, except for the soap (not toxic but not very tasty), you could have fun with the family tonight when you tell them you made the salad vinaigrette using 3 parts olive oil to 1 part weedkiller! 2704 North Newton Street (Hwy 231 N) Jasper 634-7733

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The mudroom can be a perfect spot for a family calendar, a charging station or an amateur art gallery. WHARFSIDE CREATORS.COM

Mudroom (Concluded from Page 16) to a home. They are often located at the back of a house, either near the kitchen or laundry room, and are rarely situated at the front of the house. Common especially in regions with wet, snowy, muddy winters, this specialized room can be useful for keeping a house clean. There are generally multiple hooks on the walls to hang coats and hats. Often, there is a drawer, shelf or cubby for shoes. Some people like closed storage drawers or cabinets to hide those items from sight. Nowadays, the mudroom is also a popular spot for the family information center, for example, a place to hang a large calendar and schedules for sporting events, school activities and special events. Many families use the space as a charging station for family laptops, iPads and smartphones. Keys and security fobs

can reliably be kept here, as well. You are less apt to lose your keys if you always put them in the same spot! If your mudroom is truly a separate room, make sure that the floor is a very forgiving material that’s easy to clean. Ceramic or porcelain tile, vinyl flooring and linoleum are wise choices. Wood can be practical if the surface is rustic and will not scratch easily. You will want to avoid anything that is very shiny and smooth, as it will get damaged and be slippery when wet. If you choose tile, it should have some degree of slip-resistant surface for safety. It is ideal to have the flooring flow right into the adjacent room, in order to expand the sense of space. In terms of design, some fun considerations are painting the walls a bright color or hanging whimsical wallpaper. Since the room is casual and practical, it’s acceptable to create a mood that’s completely different than the rest of the house. This is also a fine spot for trompe l’oeil, or art that deceives the eye. Maybe you incor-

porate an art piece that’s a view of an orchard, a dog with a bone or a faux window to the backyard. It is also the perfect spot for wooden word signs, letters and informal accessories. Include a clock and a mirror, too. This example is a European model produced in the United Kingdom. It has a kind of built-in modern look and might be useful in a home or apartment that doesn’t have a separate mudroom. Such a unit could be placed in a front entryway or even a corner of the living room. Using this concept, you could transform your hallway with a made-to-order wood cabinet with hidden coat racks, shoe cabinets, glove compartments and flush-fitting coat hooks. Add a mirror to the cabinet door, and you’ll complete the perfect out-the-door stop.

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Master the art of preserving flowers, memories By CHELLE CORDERO Whether it’s a prizewinning garden display or a lovely bouquet honoring a special event, beautiful flowers are wonderful mementos — except when they wilt. But don’t despair. There are ways to preserve the memories. There is the time-honored tradition of pressing flowers in a book. Flowers with a single row of petals will work best with this method. If you’re picking them for this purpose, pick them at night so they are not damp with dew. Good flowers for pressing include pansies, violas, wild roses, dianthus, lavender, alyssum and foliage such as fennel or ferns. Vibrant, warm colors, such as orange, yellow and gold, will usually keep their intensity, but most blues, purples, reds and pinks will fade or turn muddy. Place the flower between several sheets of paper towels or newspaper. Put the paper and flowers in a wooden flower press or between two heavy books, with a brick on top of the books. The flower should be left to press four to six weeks, but if the flower is very fleshy change the paper after the first 48 hours to avoid mold. If you are pressing ivy or other leaves take them off of the stem and glue them back after the leaves have been pressed, make sure to check for moisture after 48 hours. An easy way to preserve a bouquet is simply to hang the flowers upside down in a well-circulated, warm dry room. Strip the foliage from the stems and separate the flowers to hang in small clusters. Avoid large batches, as they would keep the air from circulating through the petals. Hang the flowers for a few weeks to allow them to dry thoroughly. If the room seems moist, use a dehumidifier for the best results. Lightly spray the dried blooms with a fixative, such as unscented hairspray, to help preserve them. No matter how you are preserving your flowers, air-dry the stems so you can glue the flower heads back on if desired. You can also use a desiccant, such as sand or silica, to dry flowers. Both can be purchased at your local hobby store. Cut the stems off no more than 1⁄4 inch from the flower head, or just below the bulbous part of the flower. Stick the flowers, stem side down, into a sand-lined container. Gently sprinkle more sand over the petals to cover them. They could take up to several weeks to fully dry. Take the dried flower out of the sand and turn it over to lightly shake any remaining granules from the flower. Dry flowers can turn brittle, so be careful. Glue any broken pieces back on for a display. You can use silica and a microwave to dry flowers, too. This method is relatively quick and can produce beautifully preserved flowers in a few minutes instead of weeks. Follow the instructions on the silica packaging. Good flowers to air dry or dry with a desiccant include alstroemeria, aster, carnation, mum, dahlia, daisy, freesia, Gerbera daisy, orchid, lilac, peony, phlox, poppy, snapdragon and stephanotis. Once dried, store your flowers in an airtight plastic container. You can use your dried blooms as decorations, gifts and even potpourri. Even if you aren’t an accomplished gardener, nurseries and local stores sell a variety of small potted floral plants and bouquets. You can also decorate wreathes with an assortment of

ful flower heads; or glue individual petals to picture frames. You might also fill a tall vase with long-stemmed dried flowers for an attractive table centerpiece, or place a small Styrofoam cube at the bottom of a flower basket for a personalized arrangement for your office desk. Gift a newly married couple with their wedding invitation framed with petals that were

taken from the wedding bouquets or table arrangements. Or choose a friend’s favorite poem to display in a flower-filled shadow box. Make a wonderful keepsake box for a young teen: Decoupage the box lid with movie tickets or other mementos and petals from the flower of his or her birth month. Imagine all the smiles your creative handmade gifts will bring.

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The front porch: Make the most of your space By CHRISTINE BRUN The American front porch is a slice of heaven. You are fortunate if the homes in your neighborhood have this sure path to community intimacy and friendship. In “Home Sweet Home: American Domestic Vernacular Architecture,” Davida Rochlin says: “Nobody thought much about the American front porch when most Americans had them and used them. The great American front porch was just there, open and sociable, an unassigned part of the house that belonged to everyone and no one, a place for family and friends to pass the time.” Homes in older neighborhoods often exhibit gracious front porches that haven’t since been commandeered for another use, but that is not the case in more modern housing areas and developments. As lifestyles change with each decade, so does the practical way in which we use our homes. Ranchstyle homes in the 1950s, or ranch ramblers, did not feature roomy front porches and instead focused on the back patio and the indoor/ outdoor connection. Newly built row houses and urban townhouses sometimes only have a front door that opens unceremoniously onto the street. My neighborhood is about 55 years old, and as I walked my dog the other night I passed at least a dozen homes that have been re-landscaped to create a fencedin front yard with more privacy. Some feature fire pits and seating arrangements. Others have delightful water fountains. Yet I have never actually seen anyone on nearby streets using their front yard! We seem to be drawn to the privacy of our backyard and living behind closed doors. There’s no doubt that in some places gathering out front in the evening is still honored and aids in building community camaraderie. Is it possible to capture a little sense of that grace even without a real porch? What we seek is a way to lessen the sense of isolation that has been augmented by our fractured contemporary lifestyle. In suburbia we rely on our cars to take us to the market, church, school and work. In urban areas, public transportation throws us together with masses of people, yet true intimacy rarely occurs between strangers on a train. We need help from our architecture and our property structure. If you create a comfortable place to sit and make an effort to use it, you might be surprised at the people you meet. In a suburban neighborhood, there is an abundance of people walking their dog, but you must be outside in order to speak to them. Introduce a comfortable settee or a glider to one side of your front stoop, and sit there on warm evenings! Some homeowners who live across from a park or a body of water offer community rest spots with the intention of fostering a walking neighborhood. Others offer charming mini-libraries outside their home with free books displayed. If you have concerns of theft, you could chain your furniture to a tree or to the house. Or, use inexpensive chairs that won’t be missed if they are taken. I’ve had chairs with accent pillows on my front lawn for years with no issue. My husband is fond of sitting out front and talking on his phone, which invites conversation with passersby. Sometimes it’s a neighbor who slows their car to chat. We crave more human connection these days and would be wellserved to find ways to nurture conversation over simple things, such as pets, flowers or lawns.

No matter the season or area, a front porch is a wonderful addition to any home. PETE BOCIA CREATORS.COM



Entryway floors fit for needs, budget By DIANE SCHLINDWEIN The entryway of your home requires some thought, as it is the first impression of your home and a high-traffic area. Flooring should suit your personal taste and lifestyle. What flooring can best survive years of dripping wet outerwear, dirty sneakers and muddy paws? Surely not carpet, especially for those homes located in areas with harsh weather conditions. Hardwoods, laminate and ceramic tile are the three most widely used materials. Consider the pros, cons and costs of each. Many homeowners desire a more formal entryway look. Given its good quality and simplicity, hardwood is often seen as the elegant choice. Woods vary in cost but are generally more expensive than laminate. The Home Advisor website breaks down the cost: “Some of the most popular flooring options include mid-priced varieties such as teak, American cherry and oak, which costs $5 to $10 per square foot for materials and another $4 to $8 per square foot for installation. ... Some of the most expensive wood floors are made of exotic woods such as Brazilian walnut, tigerwood, mahogany and cypress. Costs tally $8 to $14 per square foot on average, with installation costs running around $4 to $8 per square foot.” The practical benefits of hardwood floors are numerous. They

have a warm look and feel. They are resilient. And cleaning and maintaining them is fairly easy. The biggest issue is their vulnerability to moisture, humidity and scratches. Ceramic tiles offer as much practicality as versatility. Casey Slide writes on the Money Crashers personal finance blog that tile is great because it’s water-resistant and fairly easy to clean, and it comes in a variety of materials, such as marble, granite, porcelain and slate. This diversity promotes creativity with design, as you are free to brighten and liven up a room with different colors, sizes and patterns. On the down side, ceramic can be pricey depending on the material, and the installation can cost thousands of dollars. Slide believes laminate is a solid choice for price and durability. She writes: “My favorite thing about laminate is that it does not easily scratch. And if it does, a little vegetable oil rubbed on the scratch will get it right out. ... It’s also great for pets because they can’t scratch or stain it.” This material is well-suited for high-traffic areas, and Slide says it usually costs anywhere between 50 cents and $3 per foot. It may not be as strikingly beautiful, but by saving on cost, your wallet will think so. Take care when considering soft floorings, such as bamboo. If the floor is too soft, you could be asking for trouble. A heavy object, or even a pair of spiky high heels could dent it. And though there are products to cover up

Find the entryway floor that works for your needs and budget. ERIKAWITTLIEB CREATORS.COM

scratches, the weathered look will detract from the floor aesthetic and could be a sticking point for buyers should you decide to sell your home. Safety is another important consideration with flooring, especially if there are children or elderly people in your home. Certain materials are naturally more slippery than others, but other precautions can be taken. Place a welcome mat outside, so people can wipe their shoes clean and dry before stepping inside. Place an additional rug inside the door with a nonslip mat underneath during particularly harsh weather days or high-traffic times. As an added bonus, the floor will be pro-

tected from dirt and grime. It’s critical to get organized and weigh the options carefully. Decide the look you want and the qualities you need, and then con-

tact various flooring companies for price estimates to find one within your budget. With this approach, you are sure to come out on top.

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2017 Fall Home Improvement  
2017 Fall Home Improvement