Home & Garden Fall 2023
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2 - Home & Garden The Newtown Bee - September 15, 2023
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Planning To Buy Or Sell? Heed This Home Inspector’s Guidance
Garrett Fetchick is a licensed home inspector with a wide range of expertise in residential construction and home inspections.
He recently sat down with The Newtown Bee to share his perspective and experiences with Fall Home & Garden readers, homeowners who may be considering selling, or individuals considering buying a home — particularly first-timers.
Fetchick offered the following practical advice.
“There are plenty of things sellers can do to improve their home right before selling,” he explained. “There’s a lot of small things they can do to just fix up the house that will essentially lessen the amount of things that an inspector from a buyer’s point of view is going to be finding in their house.”
Throughout the course of his work, he has noticed a number of typical concerns that tend to recur in multiple situations.
“I think the one that I see the most in houses is bathroom venting,” Fetchick pointed out. “A lot of the time, contractors, when they’re doing houses, it seems like they don’t actually bring the vents outside. So, a lot of times it just vents directly to the attic, which has the potential of causing mold issues.”
While advising on venting as a way to keep mold out, Fetchick also sees numerous situations where improper or non-existent diversion tactics for runoff is allowing water to start seeping in.
“We also see that water drainage is an issue around houses,” he said. “A lot of the time downspouts are just dropping water right at the base of the home, [or situations] where gutters aren’t cleaned, and then the water just starts splashing down creating water issues in the basement.”
While it may seem like common sense, Fetchick also has seen where people keep grills on decks and patios backed up right next to the siding or exterior materials.
“That will very much often end up warping the siding and creating issues for people. Although that’s not that much of a costly thing, that one’s more common than costly.”
With or without appropriate exterior bathroom venting, Fetchick said a lot of people just don’t have much ventilation in their attic, either, which often ends up leading to mold problems down the line.
“So, those two problems are very much related
because [while] you’re finding so many of these bathrooms venting to the attic, a lot of these attics don’t have the proper venting in the first place,” he noted.
By managing common home maintenance issues such as these, Fetchick maintains, homeowners can increase the likelihood that a home inspector will find their property in good condition when a client decides to sell.
And by being proactive and investing in getting their own inspections done beforehand, sellers can safeguard themselves against unpleasant surprises and take timely action to prevent any impact to the value of their home.
From the other perspective, he also had some advice for potential buyers as they seek to become Newtown homeowners.
“Especially in the Newtown area, most of these houses have an age factor to them,” Fetchick said. He said he meets with a proportion of aspiring home buyers who are lacking knowledge about basic maintenance of things like their HVAC systems
because they come from a life where they have always been renters — and routine maintenance was done for them.
“We have to, a lot of the time, show them where the filter is on that,” he related. “A lot of people don’t know you have to change that. Some people don’t know how to turn the power off to the house. That’s important. Same with water. We always try in the inspection to show them those three things: the filter, the power, and the water — the essentials of running a house.”
In this way, Inspector Fetchick makes a compelling case for the educational value of a home inspection. Even if major structural issues are not found, buyers still have much to gain from practical knowledge an inspector could provide about the property individuals hope to acquire.
Fetchick is licensed to perform home inspections throughout the state of Connecticut, and in New York. He can be reached at 203-493-1389 — or e-mail him at info@House2HomeInspect.com.
Newtown Bee reporter Owen Tanzer and Editor John Voket contributed to this feature.
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Local Licensed Home Inspector Garrett Fetchick not only provides reports to clients he works with in Connecticut and New York, he also makes a point to help educate his clients about issues that might affect their health or negatively impact the selling price of a property.
Home Inspector Garrett Fetchick
Gardening Insights From POP— Fall Is Actually Preferable For Planting Certain Landscape Flora
This feature was provided by Protect Our Pollinators, a Newtown-based nonprofit group that seeks to increase awareness of threatened pollinator species, encourage planting of native plants, encourage the elimination of harmful pesticides and provide safer alternatives.
Many of us believe that spring is the time to plant a garden or landscape. What gardener isn’t itching to get out there and start planting after a long dreary winter?
If your plans include a summer vegetable garden or a flower bed of annuals such as begonia, petunia or snapdragon, then planting in spring is the right choice. But for trees, shrubs and perennial plants, you need not wait until spring because fall is really the optimal time for planting and for several good reasons.
Fall planting ensures strong, healthy root systems with less stress on the plant.
The combination of mild daytime temperatures, cool nights and shorter days, signal plants to stop producing leaves and stems and increase their root production for a healthier start. And even when autumn temperatures turn colder, the soil remains warm so plant roots can continue to grow and develop well beyond that first frost.
Fall also brings a better chance for rain. Natural rainfall is healthier, pH balanced without dissolved minerals found in well water or purifying agents added to city water. And rain falls uniformly, saturating the entire landscape evenly.
Because the air is crisp and humidity low this time of year, fungal and bacterial diseases are kept in check. Pests are also less abundant, so the plant spends less time on defense and more time storing needed energy. And there are fewer weeds growing this time of year that compete with new plantings for water and nutrients. A layer of mulch or mulched leaves applied after fall planting practically eliminates weed growth.
Native trees, shrubs and plants have always benefited from fall planting. After all, most plants naturally release their mature seeds, fruit, or nuts in late summer or early fall. Whether they are dispersed by wind or wildlife, these seeds begin the germination process in fall, not spring.
While some seeds sprout right away and spend winter and spring expanding their root systems, other seeds can only germinate after a thorough winter chill. Either way, these plants get the head start needed to ensure their success.
With more and more of our natural resources diminished, gardeners are realizing the need for their landscapes to do more than just look pretty. They must also function to provide food and shelter for pollinators and other wildlife. Our local native plants are key in supporting healthy and diverse ecosystems.
What are native plants? They are plants that live and grow in a particular region without human intervention.
“These plants are part of the balance of nature, developed over hundreds of thousands of years to a particular region” – USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Simply put, native plants are best suited to provide what pollinators and other wildlife need. What’s more, native plants thrive because they are adapted to our local climate and soils. And, they are beautiful.
The nursery industry was quick to realize the earning potential of developing fancy cultivated versions of native species that “catch the eye.” These cultivars, sometimes referred to as nativars, can be identified by dazzling names such as “double delight” and “butterfly kisses.” Trouble is, they do not often reveal that they have been modified in some way, changed from the true native.
Gardeners need to proceed with caution when choosing
a native cultivar over the true native plant (wild-type straight species). If changes stray too far from the straight species (color, size, form), they will not provide the same benefit and sometimes provide no benefit at all.
For example, flowers may lack pollen or be closed and inaccessible to pollinators (double flowers). Another concern is that many cultivars are propagated by cuttings from another plant and not grown by seed. That means that the plant is a clone of the “mother” plant.
Lacking in genetic diversity, all cloned plants are subject to the same pest or disease. This does not foster a healthy landscape. Experts agree, when seeking to plant for the benefit of pollinators and other wildlife, it is best to choose straight species natives over cultivated versions.
Newtown is fortunate to have two plant nurseries close by that exclusively sell straight species natives. They are Earth Tones Native Plants in Woodbury, earthtonesnatives.com, and Tiny Meadow Farm in Danbury, tinymeadowfarm.com. Both nurseries are well worth a visit with knowledgeable staff eager to answer any questions you may have.
But on Sunday, September 24, you need not even leave Newtown because Protect Our Pollinators (POP) is joining the Hubbard Sanctuary event: Monarchs, Meadows & More from noon to 2:30 pm. POP will offer for sale oak trees and native pollinator plants propagated during our winter seed sowing event this past January.
Proceeds from the sale will help us continue our work in educating and advocating for the protection of our pollinators and wildlife.
POP also publishes a monthly column, “My Backyard Habitat,” in The Newtown Bee. For more information, visit propollinators.org.
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Planting in fall gives plants a head start for success. Local gardens are wonderful examples of continuous blooms from spring through autumn. —photos courtesy Holly Kocet
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What Do You Do With Your Tree After Christmas?
BY SHANNON HICKS
When the holiday season ends, folks looking for practical ways to recycle their live Christmas trees have a few options that will help local groups with fundraising and environmental projects.
Boy Scout Troop 270 has for years provided readers with the opportunity to have their Christmas trees picked up on their weekends in January. In return for small donations, the local Scouts collect the trees and then drop them where they will be used by Candlewood Valley Trout Unlimited for projects that will protect local waterways and trout systems.
The financial donations left for each tree that’s picked up helps fund Scouting events such as summer camp tuition, leadership training, and high adventure trips.
Following three weekends of picking up trees in January, Boy Scout Troop 270 reported its best season to date. The Scouts picked up 296 trees following the 2022-23 season.
We will provide details when the dates for the 2023-24 Christmas Tree Project are announced. Newtown residents should note the Town Transfer Station does not accept Christmas trees for disposal.
Ecocycle Those Trees
Likewise, Candlewood Valley Trout Unlimited (CVTU) and Pootatuck Watershed Association (PWA) have asked readers to consider “ecocyling” their Christmas trees.
On at least one Saturday in early January, the local groups have volunteers at the Deep Brook kiosk, at the end of Old Farm Road, collecting Christmas trees that have served their purpose at homes and can move into a second, useful stage.
Suggested donation has been $10.
Whether going through the Boy Scouts or dropping off directly with CVTU and PWA, it is important to make sure all nonorganic materials are off the trees. This includes lights, ornaments, tinsel, etc.
CVTU and PWA turn the trees into a habitat for wild trout in Deep Brook. Donated trees help stabilize stream banks, reduce erosion, and create a refuge habitat for juvenile trout and other aquatic life. A healthy trout environment means a
healthy aquifer system.
Recycling & Repurposing
Want to do something else with that tree? Here are some thoughts:
*A Christmas tree makes for a lovely habitat for small birds such as chickadees and finches during the winter months, especially on cold nights and during storms. Evergreens provide important shelter.
Prop it up near a bird feeder, another tree, or against a fence. Or, just lay it in your garden for animals of all sorts to enjoy.
*Use the branches from the tree as mulch, which will offer perennials and shrubs extra root protection from winter weather. Just put the cut branches in the garden, where they will hold moisture in and help build the soil. They will also provide shelter for pollinators and wildlife.
*Redecorate the tree into an outdoor bird feeder. String it with a popcorn and cranberry garland or other bird-friendly goodies. Add pinecones filled with peanut butter or homemade suet, and really make friends with local feathered friends.
*Use boughs from the tree to
shade broad-leaved evergreen shrubs from the harsh winter sun and to block out gnawing pests.
*Building a house or know someone who is? Nail the tree to the peak of the roof rafters, to bring good luck.
*Sew scraps of fabric together and fill them with some of the tree’s needles. These make fragrant balsam sachets that can freshen drawers and closets.
*Collect trees from neighbors and/or friends and line them up along the driveway or sidewalk as a windbreak. Anchor them to cement blocks, and bury the blocks in the snow.
*Pile Christmas tree boughs
around tree trunks to discourage neighborhood dogs from leaving messages behind.
The National Christmas Tree Association also offers these suggestions:
*Mulch the tree.
A Christmas tree is biodegradable; its branches may be removed, chipped, and used as mulch in the garden.
*Create paths for hiking trails.
Some municipalities use shredded trees as a free, renewable and natural path material that fits both the environment and the needs of hikers.
*Purchase living, rooted trees now, plant a tree later.
Get a rooted (ball and burlap or containerized) tree and plant it in your yard. (It’s a good idea to dig the hole in the late fall while the soil is still soft, then plant the tree into that hole immediately after Christmas.)
Living trees have a better survival rate in mild climates.
Do Not Burn Indoors
Never use branches or evergreen clippings as kindling for indoor fires. Pine has a lot of resinous sap, which means it is easy to light and one reason pinecones and branches are popular for outdoor fires. That sap creates a lot of creosote, however, making it a dangerous choice for fireplaces, woodstoves, and other indoor settings.
Pine wood also releases a lot of smoke. For this reason it needs to be seasoned before burning indoors, to prevent smoke and the accompanying carbon monoxide.
Likewise, pine needles are also a dangerous gamble for indoor burning. Needles emit chemicals that can convert into aerosol particles, which can have serious negative impacts on humans, animals, and the environment.
Once they’ve been used indoors for a holiday season, it’s best to get evergreens back outdoors and do something constructive with them.
Managing Editor Shannon Hicks can be reached at shannon@ thebee.com
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When the holiday season ends, readers with live Christmas trees have multiple options to reuse, recycle or repurpose their Christmas tree. Even the smallest trees can be given a new use. —Christy Spinelli photo
Bill Shpunt walks with his dog Nala in January 2022, approaching the Deep Brook kiosk and a growing pile of Christmas trees to be used by two local organizations to further build up the habitat for wild trout in the nearby brook. —Bee file photo
A former Christmas tree makes a safe habitat for birds during the winter months, especially on cold nights and during storms. Evergreens provide important shelter. —Bee file photo
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Latest Survey Says— Connecticut Homeowners Want To Remodel Bathrooms More Than Any Other Room
New data reveals that bathroom renovations are the most popular type of home renovation among Americans, and here in Connecticut!
The data compiled by Contractor Growth Network, analyzed numerous search terms related to home renovations, remodels, extensions and contractors across every US state to establish the areas of the home that each state want to remodel.
The data found that the bathroom was the most popular area of the home to remodel, with all fifty states searching for this area more than any other. The national average for a bathroom remodel currently stands at $11,365 however this is all dependent on the size of said bathroom.
Across America, there are an average of 305,160 searches made each month in relation to bathroom renovations with the states searching for bathroom renovations the most being Colorado, Texas, West Virginia, Michigan and New Jersey.
Kitchen renovations and remodels are the second most popular type of renovation among Americans.
For all fifty states, the kitchen was the second highest searched area in relation to renovations, with a national average of 187,651 monthly searches being made for kitchen renovations. The states where kitchen renovations and remodels appeared to be the most popular are Colorado, New Jersey, West Virginia, Connecticut and Indiana.
The third most popular type of remodel is a basement remodel. Americans search for terms relating to basement remodels and renovations at a rate of 27,499 searches per month. The states
searching for terms related to basement remodels the most are Minnesota, Illinois, Maryland, Wisconsin and Florida. Shower remodels and renovations, including wet rooms, are the fourth most popular home improvement among Americans, with an average monthly search volume of 25,643. The states that are most interested in a shower remodel or inclusion of a wet room are Arizona, Texas, Delaware, Nevada and Florida.
According to a recent study, Connecticut residents are most eager to transform their bathrooms into newlyremodeled spaces more than any other room in their homes. —Image by ASR Design Studio from Pixabay
Following in fifth and not too dissimilar from shower renovations are bath remodels and renovations. The states searching for a bath remodel or renovation the most are Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Vermont.
Overall, across America there are 17,765 average searches made every month for terms related to bathtub renovations.
Commenting on the study, a spokes-
person from Contractor Growth Network said: “Adding a renovation to your home can be a big decision, one that takes time and a lot of research. These findings offer a fascinating insight into the states interested in taking these steps as well as which parts of the home are the biggest priority when it comes to making those big decisions.”
Feature courtesy contractorgrowthnetwork.com.
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Worsening Extreme Weather Prompts National Preparedness Month Advisory
FARMINGTON — During National Preparedness Month in September, the American Red Cross in Connecticut urges everyone to prepare for worsening climate disasters affecting the Northeast, which has experienced recent wildfires in Rhode Island, catastrophic flooding in Vermont, and intensifying hurricanes such as Isaias and Ida along the coast.
Severe weather like this is part of a worsening national trend in which the American Red Cross has responded to nearly twice as many large disasters across the country as it did a decade ago.
As rapidly intensifying, weather-related events pose serious challenges to its humanitarian work and the people it serves, the Red Cross has announced an ambitious national plan to take urgent action.
With more climate-driven disasters upending lives and devastating communities, the organization is racing to adapt its services and grow its disaster response capacity across the country, while also funding new international programs on climate response and preparedness, as well as minimizing its own environmental footprint.
Here in Connecticut, this includes developing community readiness plans, as well as recruiting and training more volunteers to respond to disasters locally and across the country.
“As the frequency and intensity of disasters grow, more people need help more often,” said Mario Bruno, CEO, Red Cross Connecticut and Rhode Island Region. “Yet as fast as our volunteers are working to help, the needs are escalating faster. That’s why it’s critical to not only prepare yourself for risks like hurricanes in our community, but to also help families in need — both locally and in other parts of the country. Join us by becoming a volunteer or making a financial donation to support our disaster relief efforts.”
For National Preparedness Month, take three lifesaving actions — get a kit, make a plan and be informed — to help protect yourself against local emergencies. Follow safety tips now at redcross.org/prepare. You can also deliver relief and care to families facing climate disasters by becoming a Red Cross volunteer at redcross.org/VolunteerToday.
Mounting Disaster Responses
In the first half of 2023 alone, the nation experienced a record 15 billion-dollar disasters, including catastrophic atmospheric rivers in California and deadly tornadoes in the South and Midwest. The Red Cross
has also responded to the deadliest wildfires of the last century in Hawaii, a powerful typhoon in the US territory of Guam, and 1-in-100-year flooding in the Northeast.
That’s all on top of extreme heat in Connecticut and other communities — which has made July the country’s hottest single month on record. What’s more, the US is just now entering its typical peak time for hurricanes, with 2023 forecast to be the eighth consecutive above-normal hurricane season.
As extreme weather disasters increase, more people need help from the Red Cross in the US. Nationwide, the organization is taking bold and thoughtful actions to adapt its services and grow its capacity by:
*Enhancing large-scale disaster response services by bolstering the aid provided in emergency shelters and extending casework support to help people with the most recovery needs.
*Expanding financial assistance to help more families with unmet needs and bridge the gap between immediate disaster relief and long-term recovery assistance.
*Strengthening local partner networks in targeted areas that face a high risk of extreme weather and existing societal inequities with a focus on increased access to health and mental health services, nutritious food and safe housing for local families.
*Growing its disaster workforce — comprised of 90 percent trained volunteers — to deepen its disaster readiness. This includes fortifying the critical infrastructure and technology that enables 24/7 response to disasters across the country.
Support Disaster Relief
Help people affected by disasters big and small, including climate-driven crises, by making a gift to American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters in the US. Visit redcross.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS.
Download the free Emergency app for weather alerts, open Red Cross shelter locations and safety steps for different emergencies. Choose whether you want to view the content in English or Spanish with an easy-tofind language selector. Find all of the Red Cross apps in smartphone app stores by searching for the American Red Cross or going to redcross.org/apps.
The Red Cross has seen a significant shortfall in blood and platelet donations over the last month, mak-
ing it hard to keep pace with the need for blood products. Blood and platelet donations that go uncollected due to climate-related events, such as hurricanes, wildfires and extreme heat, can put further strain on the national blood supply.
As extreme weather events are worsening, the Red Cross is seeing that translate into more blood drive cancellations. In 2022, over 1,300 blood drives were canceled due to weather — about 23 percent higher than the average of the prior nine years.
In thanks for helping ensure the nation’s blood supply is prepared for all emergencies, from disasters to medical emergencies, all who come to give blood, platelets or plasma through September 18 will receive a limitededition Red Cross T-shirt, while supplies last. Those who come to give throughout September will also receive a coupon by email for a free haircut, thanks to Sport Clips Haircuts.
Details are available at rcblood.org/racetogive.
Donors can schedule an appointment to donate using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, by visiting RedCrossBlood.org or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-7332767). If you are unable to give blood you can volunteer to support blood collections. Visit redcross.org/volunteer to learn more.
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Games That Can Bring The Family Together (But Without Screens)
With colder weather approaching and outdoor activities coming to an end or at least becoming more limited, parents may be looking for ways to deflect some of that free time away from screens and into family activities.
Of course, everyone knows of Monopoly, Scrabble, Chutes and Ladders, and other old standbys
But below is a selection of games to meet varied tastes, some for families with younger players, some for families with older players, and some selections in-between. The games were chosen through both personal experience in some cases and a review of multiple online recommendations.
Ticket To Ride: Ticket to Ride is a cross-country train adventure game. Players collect train cards that enable them to claim railway routes connecting cities throughout North America. The longer the routes, the more points they earn. Additional points come to those who can fulfill their Destination
Tickets by connecting two distant cities, and to the player who builds the longest continuous railway.
Ticket to Ride is not a complicated game, but still involves tactics. Certain routes are worth more than others, the race is on to claim them before anyone else can. This adds an undercurrent of strategy to proceedings. Do you risk building a longer line for
maximum value? Or should you finish a bunch of shorter routes to score quickly? Aside from an occasional gold rush over routes everyone wants, it’s a sedate puzzle you work on by yourself.
Herd Mentality: A good game for families that don’t like board games. Easy to understand, low-pressure, and doesn’t require any special knowledge. The game hinges on what you
think instead of trivia knowledge
Each card poses a question with no set answer and players want to guess what most players are going to say. If a question is, “name a food with holes,” a player is likely going to want to pick a food that other players are likely to say. Guessing correctly awards cows. Being a standout earns the pink cow, and a player can’t win until they pass the pink cow to another player.
Snail’s Pace Race: Take turns rolling the color-spot dice to find out which shelled speedster dashes forward, and follow along with the random speed bursts and overtakes, until one snail wins. That’s it. Nothing complex, nothing fancy — just quick-fire dice rolling and charming, competitive, colorful snails, crafted from brightly colored wood.
The rules are simple and the game plays fast — a family can zip through a five-to-ten-minute game before bedtime. While three-year-olds can grasp how to play, four-year-olds will be better able to get the racing up to the breakneck (snail’s) pace where the game comes into its own.
Gloomhaven: Until recently rated one of the best board games ever by online site BoardGameGeek, Gloomhaven still rates as a favorite among board game aficionados. Playing through a scenario where players explore a dungeon as fantasy heroes is a cooperative affair where players will fight against automated monsters using an innovative card system to determine the order of play and what a player does on their turn. Each turn, a player chooses two cards to play out of their hand. The number on the top card determines their initiative for the round.
Each card also has a top and bottom
power, and when it is a player’s turn in the initiative order, they determine whether to use the top power of one card and the bottom power of the other, or vice-versa. Players must be careful, though, because over time they will permanently lose cards from their hands. If they take too long to clear a dungeon, they may end up exhausted and be forced to retreat.
Betrayal At The House On The Hill: Playing a game of Betrayal At The House On The Hill is a two-stage affair — the first part where players work cooperatively to explore a spooky location, and then the second part where a “Haunt” begins — when a traitor is revealed, and the terrifying twist of the game happens. These events could be anything from a haunted amulet possessing a player to a cult ritual taking place within its walls. The twist can induce chills or laughs (or both) and sets the “traitor” player at odds with the other players leading into the game’s climax.
Munchkin: Originally designed as a simple, fast game meant to parody popular role-playing games, this card game can be easily played in under an hour. No knowledge of other games is necessary to find the humor in such strange cards as “Awful Waffles” and “Curse! Party Fowl.” Players try to level up their Munchkin character, gaining a race, class, and various gear, while fighting crazy monsters ranging from “Large Angry Chicken” to “Lawyers” to the “Bullrog.” Players can help each other fighting monsters, hinder each other with curses or cards that power up monsters, and are even encouraged to engage in a little light cheating (if they can get away with it).
Dungeons & Dragons: If you’re looking for an activity to keep the family busy together for many long hours over multiple play sessions, look no further than “the world’s greatest role-playing game.” Now in its 5th edition (and with a small revision to the rules coming next year for the game’s 40th anniversary), Dungeons & Dragons has been seeing a surge of popularity since the pandemic and since its spotlight in the Netflix series “Stranger Things.” A game for multiple players, with one taking on the role of Dungeon Master, who is the chief storyteller of the game, and the remaining players taking the roles of the main characters in the story. Set in a fantasy world full of goblins, orcs, and the eponymous dungeons and dragons, this is a game best enjoyed with friends and family, a pizza, and a fistful of dice.
10 - Home & Garden The Newtown Bee - September 15, 2023
B Y J IM T AYLOR
Associate Editor Jim Taylor can be reached at email@example.com.
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Putting Down Roots: Creating Native Lawns
EDITOR'S NOTE: THIS IS AN ENGAGING
FIRST-PERSON PERSPECTIVE ON NATIVE LAWNS FROM CONNECTICUT INSIDE INVESTIGATOR CORRESPONDENT TRICIA ENNIS
“We like to say we are in the lawn elimination business here,” explains Jessica, exuberantly. Jessica is a Horticulturalist and Sales Associate at Natureworks Horticultural Services in Northford, an organic garden center and landscape design company that has been in business for 40 years. She has been there for the last five.
I’ve made the trek down here, and undertaken this investigation, for a slightly selfish reason. Late last year, I was fortunate to become a homeowner for the first time. Living in apartments for years, I had gotten used to the idea of decorating, organizing, and maintaining a living space, but a single-family house brings with it a new challenge: a yard.
As the seasons changed and the snow gave way to spring, I’ve had to turn my attention from inside my new home to out. With near-infinite choices in front of me, there is only one thing I know for certain: I don’t want a lawn I have to mow or water regularly. As it turns out, I’m not alone.
Lawns take up more space than you might think.
According to a 2012 survey, turfgrass covers around 2% of the landmass of the continental US — or about the same amount as all the wheat crops grown domestically. While lawns serve a purpose — helping to restore groundwater, locking down topsoil, and sequestering a small amount of carbon — the varieties of grass used in the household lawn aren’t native species. As a result, they require frequent atten-
tion and resources from weekly mowing to water and fertilizer.
The EPA estimates that around a third of all water use nationwide is spent on landscaping, amounting to 9 billion gallons of water per day. With droughts and concerns over dropping pollinator populations, some homeowners have become interested in a different route, one that satisfies a desire for environmental friendliness while still requiring minimal effort to keep everything alive.
Enter, native lawns.
Grass Vs. Gardens
The last several years have seen growth in the popularity of alternative lawns. Some homeowners are looking for a climate-friendly alternative to grass that requires fewer resources to maintain and others simply don’t want to spend time, energy, and money maintaining something of low value to them.
For Natureworks, turfgrass is an enemy.
“It is all one plant or a few different varieties of grass, but it does not produce seed,” explains Jessica. “It takes up a tremendous amount of water. You see people out in the heat of the summer in a drought watering their lawn and you want to shake your fist at them and say, stop!”
Jessica also points to carbon emissions and noise pollution from the frequent use of gas-powered mowers as another reason to consider a lowmaintenance alternative. Plus, she says, turfgrass is boring.
“You look out into a neighborhood like this and you see mostly turf,” says Jessica, gesturing toward the residential neighborhood surrounding Natureworks. “It’s sad. It makes me sad because there’s nothing hap -
pening and there could be so much more happening there.”
Ultimately, for Jessica and Natureworks, the goal is to give everyone an opportunity to become a gardener, replacing their lawns with colorful flowering gardens full of native plants that can provide homes and food for bees, butterflies and other insects and small creatures. But that’s not the only reason.
“There’s definite personal benefits,” she argues. “You will enjoy your yard more, cause you’ll see so much more activity. And you’re also inspiring people. We sell a lot of cute little signs that, you know, pollinatorfriendly garden, pesticide-free garden to try to get people in your neighborhood a little bit more excited about what you’re doing.”
Jessica also recognizes that taking on a major gardening task can be an intimidating prospect. There is much to learn, many plants to choose from, and nothing makes your lawn look bigger than the prospect of ripping it all out and starting over.
“If you have a small little property, you could probably do it all at once, but it can be a little bit overwhelming,” she sympathizes. “But there are strategies that make it more bearable.”
One of those strategies is called passive bed preparation, where you choose a small section of your yard to work on at a time and set about killing all the grass, weeds, and other plants growing there. You do this through a technique called smothering.
“You can use either tarps or cardboard or newsprint, and you put that down on the turf and leave it there and just kind of forget about it,” explains Jessica. “I call it the lazy gardener’s method.”
After a couple of months, all the grass under that material should be dead and the ground ready for planting.
“Every year I’ll kind of pick a new little section, maybe like 50 square feet,” says Jessica, who has slowly been replanting a one-acre property. “Smother it, wait a couple months, pull the tarp back, and then start planting with shrubs, with perennials, with whatever calls to you.”
Daunting At First
Of course, she knows that switching from a lawn to a highly designed garden can be daunting for homeowners.
“That’s the advantage of turf that people like. It’s easier to maintain,” admits Jessica. “Gardens do take a lot of work. You’ve gotta weed, you’ve gotta prune, you’ve gotta feed. Whereas with grass, you just fire up the mower, mow it down once a week and you’re good.”
Grass also maintains a “classic” lawn look, allowing you to keep your curb appeal without the effort – or risk – of a garden. And it plays an important role in helping to maintain the nutrients in your soil. Open spaces in a lawn can provide space where weeds can grow, but exposed soil also can be moved by wind or water.
“You want to preserve your topsoil,” explains Victoria Wallace, the Sustainable Turf and Landscapes Extension Educator at the University of Connecticut. “You want to maintain the soil that has taken years, millions of years, to develop.”
For Wallace, sustainable lawn care involves intentional decisions and making sure you’ve done your homework. She recommends deciding what you want from your lawn and the environment your lawn creates and then choosing grasses that meet your needs and priorities.
“I’m a proponent of enhancing the landscape and reducing inputs,” Wallace explains. “And so that doesn’t
mean abolishing turfgrass. Turfgrass has a big value.“
Wallace works primarily with commercial clients and municipalities, helping them figure out sustainable ways to create recreational green space that requires as little input as possible, whether water or chemical.
For homeowners, Wallace says grass can enhance a garden area by drawing the eye to flowers and shrubs, and it provides space for kids and pets and other outdoor recreation. She also notes that old-school turfgrasses don’t have to be resource intensive, as long as you approach things with care and attention to detail.
Homeowners, much more so than the commercial landscapers Wallace usually works with, can benefit from better awareness of water use.
“A good number of the landscape professionals who work for a municipality are monitoring their water use,” she explains. “On the other hand, most homeowners have never tracked their water consumption, never really paid any attention to it.”
That overuse of water isn’t just from watering the lawn and garden. If water conservation is your main goal, Wallace recommends getting a complete picture of where you’re using water inside your home, as well as out.
Not A Gardener?
There is a middle ground between a high-maintenance turf lawn – one that requires regular watering and frequent mowing – and completely ditching grass for flowers and shrubs.
“We carry a product called Eco Lawn, which is a — they market it as a low mow grass,” explains Jessica. “It’s a different blend of grasses, not necessarily native grasses, but it’s a grass that you wouldn’t be mowing multiple times a year.”
Eco Lawn requires mowing only about two to four times a year, depending on how long you want it, and it is a much fluffier-looking grass than the crisp, spartan look you might associate with perfectly manicured lawns. Jessica notes that this isn’t a grass you’d want for high-traffic areas, places kids or pets are likely to run and play, but it’s a nice looking alternative.
“Another thing that we will help customers with a lot is using clover seed to overseed your lawn.”
Jessica recommends Dutch clover as a turf replacement in some cases even though it isn’t a native plant because it is drought resistant and grows easily.
“I call it my magic fairy dust for the lawn,” she says. “I just kind of walk around and scatter it everywhere.”
One reason Jessica loves clover is that it is a flowering lawn cover that provides food for pollinators better than standard turf. Plus, it provides food for a certain garden nemesis.
“It feeds the rabbits and I like it because it keeps the rabbits outta my garden. They love the clover. So if they have a good patch of clover to munch on, they will leave your perennials alone.”
Wallace also notes that clover or certain sedges can be incorporated into traditional grass mixtures to lower the amount of input or maintenance.
Experts, including Wallace, also acknowledge a drawback of clover. Since it is a perennial itself, it dies back in the colder months rather than going dormant like most grasses. This can leave patches of bare dirt which can mean a risk of soil erosion and muddy areas during the wetter spring months before it begins to grow back.
To Spray Or Not To Spray
“People definitely overuse chemicals on their lawn, which is another component that makes lawns just not
B Y T RICIA
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super sustainable or good for the environment,” says Jessica, as the conversation turns to pesticides. “Don’t use herbicides. Dandelions aren’t hurting anybody.”
In particular, Jessica is concerned about the broad herbicides sold in most hardware or big box stores that turn a lawn from a functioning ecosystem, into a green desert.
“Roundup is a product that’s really commonly used on lawns and it’s what’s known as a broad leaf herbicide,” she explains. “So it kills anything that is not a grass.” That includes things like clover.
She points out two nearby lawns. One is pristine, a smooth green wellmaintained turf, while the other is dotted with yellow dandelions.
“Anytime you see just grass and nothing else growing in it,” she says, sadly. “It means that they have taken a chemical and just blanketed the entire property with that chemical and killed anything that is not a grass, which gives you that uniform look, but also dumps a bunch of chemicals into the soil.”
Natureworks is an organic nursery and garden center, so they advocate strongly for organic lawn care products that don’t use chemicals that can contaminate soil and groundwater or runoff into sewer systems. The focus is on providing those foods and habitats for wildlife, moving toward a more organic beauty than a perfectly flat green surface.
Wallace isn’t as strict about organic versus synthetic products but says there is another reason to limit the number of products you’re using on your lawn.
“In the agriculture arena, they’ve named it as a pesticide. In human health, it’s a medicine. It’s the same thing. It’s killing a pest,” explains Wallace. “So certainly you don’t want to over use a product. Just as too much or over use of an antibiotic is not a good thing, that you can build
up a tolerance, you can do the same thing in the environment in terms of constant application of an herbicide.”
Whatever you’re going to use, Wallace cautions to use it only as needed and to change up your products so pests, fungi, or weeds don’t become resistant to those products.
If you do decide to take the Natureworks route and jump into gardening, you’re now faced with a whole new set of decisions. What plants do you want to use? This is where native plants will save time and trouble, even if you aren’t able to use all the varieties you might want.
“The more functional plants are gonna be the ones that are native,” says Jessica. “We kind of would categorize or grade a plant based on how many species it can support.”
Better plants, in their eyes, are those that support as many wildlife varieties as possible including insects – especially bees and butterflies — and small mammals. New England has plenty of beautiful plants to choose from, including some that are both aesthetic and edible.
“Blueberries,” says Jessica when I ask where a homeowner might start.
“Blueberries is a quintessential plant that humans love. Also happens to be native. Produces flowers, which provides pollen for pollinators, berries for birds, berries for humans. So it kind of, it checks all the boxes. So we’re looking at that plant as something that is, is super functional.”
There are plenty of native shrub varieties to choose from if you’re looking to add curb appeal and fill in larger areas in front of a home. Some even maintain the look of traditional evergreen bushes while requiring, you guessed it, less maintenance.
“It’s really just about making dif -
ferent plant choices,” says Jessica. “A quintessential plant that we use a lot is ilex glabra, which is inkberry holly. Okay. It looks, looks just like boxwood, but it’s so much better than boxwood.”
Inkberry is less susceptible to disease, fungus, and harmful insects than boxwood.
“Ilex glabra is native, evergreen, produces berries for the birds,” Jessica continues. “It has that neat, tidy, little cute fluff ball shrub appearance. So there are plants that are kind of that, that look similar to what you might see in a traditional foundation planting, but have that kind of native twist to it.”
Another benefit to native plantings: they are much more robust when it comes to standing up against New England’s notoriously unpredictable seasons.
“I especially think of native shrubs as plants that compared to nonnative shrubs are just able to roll with the punches of our weather a little bit better,” says Jessica.
Then there is the matter of droughts. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, droughts in the last eight years have been more severe than any since the mid-1960s. Additionally, the Northeast regularly experiences what are called “flash droughts,” or dry periods that last only a few months and are followed by extreme wet weather. While not as devastating as long-term droughts, flash droughts can result in crop loss and water shortages. Water conservation during a drought is essential, which means choosing plants that can stand up to low rainfall seasons.
“We’re definitely shifting towards plants that are — and drought is one component — but really it’s plants that are adaptable to a wide range of conditions,” Jessica explains. “Like we had a really dry early portion of
the season and then we got four inches of rain in like one day. And so it’s really the climate change effect that we’re seeing is less consistency and predictability.”
Regardless of what approach you take and what plants you choose, you should be prepared for a lot of learning and a ton of trial and error. The best weapon is good information.
“It’s a matter of the right plant for the right place too,” advises Jessica. “There are lots of perennials, lots of shrubs that can take drought. There are also lots of perennial shrubs that can take wet soil, which is another, we see a lot of customers who have really wet swampy areas too. So, you just have to carefully assess your property.”
If you’re not sure how to assess your soil’s quality and pH balance, Jessica recommends sending a sample out for testing. UConn provides soil testing at each of its eight county extentions and online. It provides a standard series of tests for $15. This includes a rundown of soil nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, sulfur, iron, and others, as well as pH. Additional tests, like those that tell you how much sand or clay or other materials your soil contains, can be ordered for an additional cost.
“Knowing what you’re dealing with helps you to make really good, informed plant choices,” says Jessica.
Tricia Ennis is an Emmy and AP award-winning journalist, Tricia has spent more than a decade working in digital and broadcast media. This report comes to you from Connecticut Inside Investigator (CII) — a nonprofit newsroom partnering with The Newtown Bee on a mission to inform the people of Newtown and Connecticut through investigative journalism and inspire the public through engaging stories.
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Six Things To Remember As You Wind Down Your Gardening For The Fall
The following feature has been submitted for the Fall Home & Garden section by Sean Fitzpatrick — Executive Director of Newtown-based Real Food CT.
Greetings garden lovers! I hope you enjoyed a wonderful summer of planting, harvesting, and learning.
Remember, a successful garden requires care and input yearround. As we roll into late summer and fall, here are a few tips to consider for the changing seasons:
Succession Planting: There is still a small window to plant some fall crops before the expected first frost (October 14th estimate from Farmers Almanac). Arugula for example can be harvested after 40 days, while crops like kale, spinach, and carrots can tolerate a light October frost and grow deep into the fall. Nextlevel tip: Buy some agribon cover to shield your plants on a frosty evening.
Overwinter Crops: Now’s the time to buy your garlic if you want to plant some for next summer’s harvest. It’s easy to grow and you’ll get two harvests: the scapes and the bulbs. October is a great time to plant it. Planting spinach seeds in October can also produce an early spring harvest.
Soil Test and Amendments: This is the time to collect your samples, send them in, and add amendments as part of your garden’s rest schedule. Giving your soil the winter to soak in amendments allows some time for balance and regeneration.
Soil Protection: Plan for a mulch covering of chopped leaves, hay, or straw. The topsoil
is loaded with microbiology that needs nutrition and coverage to survive the winter. Make sure to protect and enhance all of your hard work. Don’t leave your garden beds bare!
Looking to Next Season: Now’s the perfect time to begin thinking about any changes or additions you’d like to make to your garden. Do your crops need to be rotated? Do you want to add in a new trellis or create a new bed? What about general pruning or planting some new native pollinators? New critter fencing? The more you do in the fall, the easier it will be next spring.
Cooking and Donating: The
garden keeper’s job isn’t complete unless all harvest finds a home. If you’re tired of eating tomatoes and squash, cook it and freeze it. If you don’t want to do that, then bring it to a food pantry or the Real Food CT storage freezer at Sticks and Stones Farm in Newtown. We’ll make sure it gets to a neighbor who needs it.
Thanks for reading!
The Real Food CT team runs community gardens at Sticks and Stones Farm and the CVH Animal Sanctuary in Newtown. We have developed a small farm model that we are working to duplicate in neighboring towns
Real Food CT manages Small Farm Giving Gardens that grow fruits and vegetables for local donations; partners with local farmers collecting excess harvest, and delivering it to recipients in its donation network; and trains young farmers along with mobilizing and educating local residents who care about ensuring access to healthy food for everyone.
that support hunger relief and provide young farmer internships. We are on pace to donate over 30,000 lbs of produce again to regional food pantries for the third straight year. Reach out if you’d like to find a way to get more involved in a
systemic approach to enhancing our regional food system and hunger relief efforts. We’ll have numerous volunteer opportunities in the fall to help with harvest and garden projects. Sign up for our newsletter and text alerts on our website at realfoodct.org.
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Real Food CT Executive Director Sean Fitzpatrick speaks to the guests at the local nonprofit’s annual Seed-To-Plate Harvest Celebration. The event drew dozens of supporters from across the region to sample fresh farm to table fare while supporting Real Food CT’s mission.
Four Financing Options To Consider If You’re Ready To Refurnish
Great furniture turns your house into a home, whether it’s a matching dining room set, a comfy new bed, or a couch that can fit the whole family. But it’s tough to save thousands of dollars for a brand-new furniture set that matches your tastes and home.
Instead, you may want to consider financing it — and you have plenty of options.
Some are cheaper but require more work on your part. Others are more convenient, but you may pay more in interest rates and fees. This article will cover four furniture financing options to consider in 2023.
1. Installment loan — Installment loans are typically larger lump sums of money you can borrow at a fixed interest rate. After you get the loan, you repay it with fixed monthly payments of principal and interest. This payment predictability and large borrowing amounts make it easy to purchase furniture and budget for the loan repayment.
You can get installment loans through banks, credit unions, and online lenders. These days, some lenders have less strict credit score requirements, using additional factors like income and employment status to make lending decisions. This can help poor-credit borrowers purchase the furniture they need. And if you want higher approval chances or lower interest rates, you can consider getting a secured installment loan and using the furniture as collateral.
2. Layaway — Layaway involves placing a deposit on a piece of furniture so the store can hold it for you. Then, you can pay for it over time in installments on a payment plan with the store. Only after you finish paying for the furniture do you get to take possession of it. This method can work well if you don’t need the new furniture right away. For example, if you need to replace furniture or move but plan the purchase ahead of time, you can use layaway to afford the furniture.
3. In-store financing — In-store financing involves paying for the furniture over time with monthly payments plus interest. This may be in the form of a loan or a promotional 0% APR credit card that charges no interest if you pay the full amount in a specified timeframe.
Unlike layaway, you get the furniture right away, but you have to pay interest. As for this method vs. installment loans, in-store financing tends to cost more in interest, unless you take advantage of a 0% interest period and pay in full, but it can be easier to get.
4. Rent-to-own — Rent-to-own agreements let you use the furniture in exchange for installment payments. Like in-store financing, these tend to be more expensive, but you don’t even own the furniture. However, the store often provides free delivery, setup, and repair services. Therefore, rent-to-own might work if you need to test the furniture in your home before buying and can’t afford to pay full
price up front.
The bottom line — Whether you’re moving into your first home and getting brand-new furniture or replacing that decades-old sofa, you’ve got plenty of options for financing the purchases. Installment loans can work great if you want predictable payments and you’re willing to shop around.
If you want to keep costs as low as possible and can wait on the furniture, layaway might be a better choice.
If you need furniture now and can afford the interest, in-store financing might be a great option since you don’t need to shop for financing methods. Finally, rent-toown is good for similar reasons but removes the stress of deciding if you want the furniture right then and there.
Make sure you weigh the pros and cons of each method against your situation. Doing so will help you get the furniture you want without breaking your budget.
Content courtesy iCrowdNewswire
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Images by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay
(StatePoint) When the temperatures drop and the precipitation turns cold, efficiently keeping your home cozy and warm is likely a top priority.
As you make home upgrades this fall, be sure to use materials designed to withstand extreme weather events and which help manage indoor climate control. Doing so will mean greater comfort and more affordable energy bills, not only when it’s cold, but all year long.
Roofing — As your first defense against all kinds of weather, your roof sustains a lot of wear and tear. Consider prioritizing durability, strength and weather resistance in a new roof by opting for metal.
The good news? You can get a classic appearance with this material, thanks to updates in roofing technology. For example, the energysaving metal roofing offered by ProVia has the textured appearance of natural slate or shake shingles, but is constructed of highly durable 26-gauge steel, for added strength and lifetime protection from wind, rain, hail and corrosion.
Siding — Is your home is ever drafty or chilly when the temperatures drop and the wind kicks up? The culprit may be insufficient insulation.
Keep in mind that most wall insulation is placed only between the studs, and wall studs make up to 25% of the wall surface of an average home. You can fill in these insulation gaps with insulated vinyl siding that’s been tested and proven to increase the R-value (a measure of a material’s resistance to heat flow) of an exterior wall.
One of the most energy-efficient exterior claddings on the market, CedarMAX insulated vinyl siding is one such choice that can help reduce your energy bills. Plus, its strong, rigid foam backing offers greater impact resistance against rain, hail, sleet and snow, making a siding upgrade a good project to consider before the first winter storm.
Windows — Windows are a common point of heat transfer, and as such, they play a huge role in the comfort of your home. It’s not often that you have to purchase windows for your home, but when you do, you’ll want to ensure that they deliver the best in energy efficiency and comfort. ProVia’s vinyl windows, for example, are ENERGY STAR-certified, to help keep your home warm in winter (and cool in summer).
Interior Décor — You may not think about your interior decorating choices as something that could potentially improve your home’s energy efficiency, but many such updates will not only make your home look more cozy, they’ll actually help keep it warm. Thick area rugs are a good place to start, as they provide insulation underfoot. Likewise, cellular shades or Roman shades can help stop heat transfer around windows, and wall tapestries or fabric-like wallpaper can provide a touch more insulation on walls.
To learn more about building and renovating with comfort and energy savings in mind, visit provia.com. By selecting the right products during a renovation, you can prepare your home for greater comfort and energy savings in cool weather.
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How To Build A Wooden Trellis For Your Garden
(StatePoint) Are you dreaming about beautifying the backyard? Is your garden in need of some color and dimension? If you have the tools, a free weekend and the initiative, you can add charm and beauty to your outdoor space by building a garden trellis.
Here’s everything you need, and everything you need to know, to complete this “Done-In-A-Weekend Project” from Exmark, a leading manufacturer of lawn care equipment.
*Drill/driver and bits
*Eye and ear protection
*(3) 2-inch x 4-inch x 8-foot cedar
*(4) 4-inch x 4-inch x 8-foot cedar posts
*(2) 2-inch x 8-inch x 8-foot cedar (for the corbels)
*(1) 2-inch x 6-inch x 6-foot cedar (side bracket/
*(2) 2-inch x 6-inch x 10-foot cedar beams
*(4) post brackets (optional, to attach to wood deck)
*2.5-inch deck screws
*1.25-inch deck screws
1. Cut boards down to size for the sides, top trellis and corbels.
2. Assemble the side sections.
3. Assemble the top trellis section by following the template found at backyard.exmark.com or by sketching your own design onto card stock.
4. Attach the top and sides of the trellis, ensuring the sections are square with one another.
5. Use the template to build the corbels.
6. Line corbels flush with the side posts and attach.
7. Apply wood sealer, and stain or paint (if desired).
To download the complete instructions and template, and to follow along with the video tutorial, visit Exmark’s Backyard Life site at backyard. exmark.com, a multimedia destination providing
homeowners with everything from grilling tips to gardening advice.
While this beautiful trellis is a bit of work, once complete, it can provide structure for vining plants to grow, create a bit of shade from the harsh summer sun or simply serve as a point of architectural interest in your garden.
How To Set Up The Ultimate Workstation For Kids At Home
(StatePoint) Want to help guarantee your child’s academic success? While you can’t control what goes on in
the classroom, you can facilitate their study time at home by setting up an A+ workstation. Here’s how:
1. Choose a location: Select a location that’s welllit, preferably with some natural light, and away from noise and distractions. Whether it’s your child’s bedroom or a corner of the dining area, the area should be large enough for all their supplies and tech to stay organized.
2. Use color wisely: Research has shown that certain colors have the power to boost productivity and creativity or promote a sense of calm. Decorating the space with care could potentially help your student weather crunch periods with ease. You may also opt to color code binders, dividers and other supplies by coursework so that your child can quickly identify the items they need.
3. Update tech: Equip the workstation with the latest technology and educational tools. For easy essay composition, your child’s suite of devices should include a tablet or laptop and a printer. To get your student prepped for math and science classes, be sure to supply them with a graphing calculator featuring the latest capabilities.
4. Prevent clutter: Clutter can pile up all too easily, making it difficult to find notes and assignments. Keep the mess to a minimum with the addition of a few organizational tools. Hang a corkboard to post reminders and to-do lists. Add wall shelving or a sorting tray to keep papers filed by subject area or due date, and use small
baskets or cups to collect erasers, paper clips and other small supplies. Finally, be sure the workstation has its own waste bin, so that items that are no longer needed can be efficiently tossed or recycled.
5. Consider ergonomics: Eliminate distractions by making sure the workstation is ergonomic-friendly and comfy. If your child sits at a desk, ensure their computer monitor is at eye level and that their feet touch the floor. Adjustable laptop tables can transform a makeshift work area on the couch or bed into a comfortable workstation. By setting up a dedicated homework area designed for productivity, you can help your student make the grade.
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There Are Fewer Houses For Sale In Connecticut These Days - Here’s Why
B Y G INNY M ONK
A low inventory of homes for sale and high interest rates are creating a catch-22 in Connecticut’s real estate market: to push prices down would require more houses to go up for sale, but people don’t want to list their houses because prices are high, according to local real estate experts.
The latest data from RE/MAX and the state’s multiple listing service, or MLS, shows that the number of homes for sale in Connecticut is down dramatically from past years. Interest rates are high, meaning that for many it doesn’t make sense to sell their homes.
Connecticut has just over 3,500 condominiums and single-family houses marketed for sale, about two months of inventory. In the years leading up to the pandemic, there were typically more than 15,000 homes for sale, according to MLS data.
Median sale prices are also up, while the number of days on the market is down compared to last year, data show. In the Hartford area, the median home price was up to about $345,000 in July, compared to $321,250 in July of last year, RE/ MAX data show.
“When there’s only a few homes for sale, you have all the bees to the honey, and that’s where you get your high prices,” said MJ Agostini, a RE/ MAX Right Choice real estate agent in Berlin.
And the Federal Reserve announced late last month that it was increasing its key interest rates by 0.25% to 5.4%, the highest level in more than two decades. This means that many homeowners who may be looking to move don’t want to lose their lower interest rates, real estate agents said.
“It doesn’t make financial sense to move,” Agostini said.
The number of homes for sale now equates to about two months of inventory, meaning that if nothing new went on the market, everything would be sold in about that time.
Before the pandemic, there was typically about six months of inventory at a given time, said David Gallitto, a real estate agent with Huntsman, Meade and Partners Compass Realty Corporation and president of the Connecticut Association of Realtors.
Across 50 metro areas surveyed nationally, the housing inventory in July was down nearly 21% last month compared to July 2022, according to the RE/MAX report.
“It’s sort of like a feeding frenzy,” said Tammy Felenstein, an agent with William Raveis and the past president of the state Realtors Association.
Following the housing market crash of 2008, fewer homes were built in many parts of the country. And in Connecticut, it got more expensive for developers to build starter homes, particularly as supply chain delays erupted during the pandemic.
Connecticut also saw an influx of
people moving from New York or Boston into the state as well as purchasing second homes during the pandemic as people looked to get out of the city.
The lack of inventory has spread across all types of markets in the state, Gallitto said.
“Needless to say, it’s a very tough situation for people out there that are trying to enter into the homebuying market,” he added. “What’s happening is as soon as a property comes on, another one is going off. They are staying on the market an average of 10 days before they go under contract.”
Houses are also getting several offers with many putting in high
bids. Agostini said earlier this week she had a listing for $399,000 that fielded 36 offers.
“If you have somewhere to go, it’s a great time to sell,” Felenstein said.
A normal market would likely see more houses go up for sale in the early fall as people finish up their summer vacations, Felenstein said.
But, she added, “it’s not a normal market.”
The Newtown Bee is a proud partner and is sharing this story originally appearing at CTMirror.org, the website of The Connecticut Mirror, an independent, nonprofit news organization covering government, politics, and public policy in the state.
Local Realtors React To Market Trends
In a random canvas, local real estate professionals offered the following observations of the current Newtown market.
“There’s very low inventory, and that’s causing the prices to stay high. It’s supply and demand. Along with interest rates rising, it’s also causing people in homes to stay there because they don’t want to be subject to those higher interest rates … There’s very little inventory now. Maybe not even a month’s supply.” — Lee
Boyle, Coldwell Banker
“If a listing is priced well and in good condition it usually sells quickly with multiple offers, and often over asking. The higher interest rates likely eliminated many buyers, but inventory is so low that there’s still more buyers than houses. The interest rates may be partially responsible for the low inventory, because sellers don’t want to leave the low interest rate mortgages they presently have to go into new ones in a new home with a higher interest rate. Also, they don’t know where they’re going to go because of the low inventory. So it’s kind of a vicious cycle.” — Jill Wolowitz, Berkshire
“Homeowners can sell at a high price, but where will they go? If they have a three percent or refinanced, they don’t want to give that
up. I’ve been doing real estate for 34 years. It’s always changing. We’ve even sold homes at 14 percent — high interest rates. People want homes to live in. And when one comes on the market, if it’s priced well and in good shape, it probably has five to six buyers vying for it, sometimes more. Because they’re waiting, looking for certain price ranges, and when it comes on, they make offers.” —
Christine Fairchild, Coldwell Banker
RE/MAX Right Choice
“It’s still crazy, but not as much as during COVID. We have multiple offers going above the asking price. There’s not much inventory, and some people are willing to pay way over because they know if they don’t someone else will. But that only goes for the high end properties. For more problematic properties — like with a bad driveway, for example — those prices are starting to come down. People used to think you could sell anything at any price, and that’s just not the case anymore ... The market is like a big ship. You turn the rudder, and wait.” — Cathy Masi, Flagpole Realty
“Right now, interest rates are somewhere in the 7.5 percent range, and it has affected the amount of activity out there. So while inventory is still extremely low, it has been slowly increasing. Where there were fifteen homes at one time, now there are three times that, maybe in the forties … It’s anticipated that in the early part of 2024 interest rates may come down a couple of percent, into the five range. And I feel personally, in my experience, that if it were in the five range, that would really help move the market along.” —
Bob Ward, Coldwell Banker
“The shortage was caused by a variety of factors. Part of it is the significant increase in interest rates. Folks understandably don’t want to sell because they don’t want to trade in their three percent mortgage for a seven or eight percent mortgage. Historically, these rates really aren’t that bad, except that we’ve had rates being somewhere between 2.8 and 3.8. A large segment of the buying public only saw those rates, so when it essentially bubbled in a short period of time, it caused some reluctance on the part of the sellers to list their properties for sale. And because of the spike in the cost of building materials during the pandemic as well as the supply chain issues … it was very difficult for new construction to add to the inventory. Builders have started to build again now, but it created a backlog.” — Robert
— Contributed by reporter and editorial assistant Owen Tanzer.
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Homeowners: You Can Improve Your Safety And Sustainability
(StatePoint) You may not realize it, but building safety has a huge impact on our everyday lives.
According to InjuryFacts.NSC.org, about 16 out of 100 people were injured in a home or community venue in 2021. The leading causes that contribute to these injuries, such as drowning, fire smoke, and general home maintenance, can be prevented by acting ahead of time.
As the leading global source of model codes, standards and building safety solutions, the Code Council is passionate about educating homeowners on fire safety, home maintenance and sustainability practices. Here are some safety tips from the Code Council to help prevent accidents and keep your family and community safe:
Fire Safety Tips:
• Put a smoke alarm on every level of your home, outside each sleeping area and inside every bedroom. Test each smoke alarm regularly and replace it every 10 years.
• Install home fire sprinklers. They are relatively affordable and can increase property value and lower insurance rates.
• Make an escape plan with a meeting place outside so everyone knows how to get out fast.
• Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from portable heaters.
• Keep all items that can burn away from your home. Remember to clean leaves from your gutters and clear dead leaves and branches from shrubs and trees surrounding your home.
Home Maintenance Tips:
• Never overload electrical cords or power strips.
• Don’t use appliances that have damaged cords.
• For mold prevention, watch for leaky pipes, condensation and wet spots, and fix sources of moisture problems as soon as possible.
• Keep in mind that there are several materials and items that should never
be flushed down the toilet, including medication, disposable wipes, coffee grounds and more.
• To prevent your pipes from freezing in the winter, drain water from the swimming pool and water sprinkler supply lines following the manufacturer’s or installer’s directions.
• Make sure all pedestrian gates in the barrier fence of your swimming pool are self-closing and self-latching.
According to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, the average US family can spend $2,000 a year on energy bills. This means that reducing your home energy use is the single most effective way to save money and reduce your home’s contribution to greenhouse gasses.
The Code Council recognizes that for many people, it’s unclear where to start, and suggests the following tips to help communities forge a path forward.
Energy and Sustainability Tips:
• Install water-saving shower heads and low-flow faucet aerators and use your water meter to check for hidden water leaks. These steps can improve water conservation.
• To prevent stormwater runoff pollution, never dump anything down storm drains.
• Change the filters in your home’s heating and cooling system regularly to increase energy efficiency.
• Replace your light bulbs with LEDs, which use up to 90% less energy and last up to 25 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs.
• Build green and design your home with materials that are easily recyclable, reusable, renewable, durable, affordable and low maintenance.
• Build a rain garden to capture roof drainage and divert it to your garden or landscaping to recycle non-potable water. Be sure to check your local rules on rainwater harvesting prior to installation.
For more information, check out the Code Council’s Safety Tool Kits and additional resources at iccsafe.org.
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Fresh Food, Flowers, And More— Newtown Farms Offer Wide Range Of Goodies, Decorations, And Activities
Looking for fresh veggies, rich ice cream, or decorative flowers? Or how about a stroll in a local corn maze, pumpkin picking, or getting that perfect Christmas tree?
You can find all of this and so much more while supporting local farms — without even leaving town.
Appleberry Farm, Aquila’s Nest Vineyards, Bellie Acres Farm, Castle Hill Farm, Ferris Acres Creamery, Powers Farm, Shortt’s Farm and Garden Center, and Sepe Farm all offer myriad items, foods, and activities to assist
people as they venture through the holidays, as well as make special occasions unique with a local touch.
Appleberry Farm, 8 Zoar Road in Sandy Hook, is part of the Connecticut Flower Collective and member of CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Flowers are offered in three seasons, spring, summer, and fall. Every week, people pick up a large assortment in a large mason jar. Members can pick up or arrange for delivery. Cost is $225 for six Wednesday pickups. Among the flowers are zinnias, snapdragons, dahlias, celosias, strawflower, statice,
and eucalyptus. Dried flowers are also made into wreaths and arrangements.
You may think summer when flowers come up, but autumn is a time for these colorful beauties to continue to shine.
“Fall is typically harvest season. This is when we are at our best, and biggest, and most beautiful,” Appleberry Farm Owner Becky Osborne said.
Beginning just before Thanksgiving, the farm accepts orders for Christmas wreaths. Appleberry holds a Holiday Market the first Saturday in December to sell wreaths and host local vendors.
The farm does everything from wrapped bouquets to weddings, including centerpieces for parties and Mother’s Day corsages, for example. Osborne recreated a wedding flower bouquet for a 40-year anniversary this year.
“You think of it, we can do it,” Osborne said.
For information, visit appleberryfarmct.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Facebook and Instagram @Beckyatappleberry.
Shortt’s Farm & Garden Center offers a CSA food share opportunity for customers to pick up fresh, organic squash, corn, peppers, carrots, potatoes, garlic, beets, kale, chard, lettuce — the list goes on. Cost is $600 for a full share and $460 for a half share and customers take home designated items plus their pick of set quantities of various vegetables from the farm stand. The share lasts 18 weeks beginning in June and running through mid to late October.
“People really enjoy it,” Shortt’s owner Sue Shortt said.
“You really can’t beat it. Once you start working with organic produce you can really taste the difference. There’s nothing better than eating something that was picked that day and knowing where your food comes from,” said Kirsten Ellison, a farm helper at Shortt’s.
The CSA originated as a way for farms to make some money during
20 - Home & Garden The Newtown Bee - September 15, 2023
B Y A NDY H UTCHISON
Becky Osborne, left, and Kate Munno stand at Appleberry Farm, which specializes in flowers, including arrangements for special occasions. —photo courtesy Appleberry Farm
Appleberry Farm has flowers available, in mason jars, for pickup or delivery.
—photo courtesy Appleberry Farm
Kirsten Ellison cleans off fresh tomatoes at Shortt’s Farm. —Bee Photos, Hutchison
The food share at Shortt’s Farm offers customers a variety of fresh vegetables.
Tomatoes ready to eat are available at Shortt’s Farm throughout the summer and into the fall.
Bo is among the animals visitors may have a chance to feed during hay rides at Castle Hill Farm.
down time in the winter with people signing up for the food share, for example, in the winter.
“It gets to be a tricky time of year for some farms,” Shortt said.
“The best thing about participating in Shortt’s farm share is that our family has gotten to try so many new vegetables. We’ve discovered that we love chard, purple potatoes, beets, and summer squash. It also feels good to know that we’re supporting a local farm that grows organic food in harmony with nature. It’s healthier for our family and healthier for the planet — a winwin,” Jessie Ward said.
For information, follow on Facebook or e-mail email@example.com.
Ferris Acres Farm, 144 Sugar Street, is bustling throughout the summer months and into the fall. The line for ice cream often wraps around the building. Customers can sit and watch the cows graze in the fields across the road.
According to the Ferris Acres website: “With the addition of the creamery, Ferris Acres offers a unique opportunity for the public to get a glimpse of how one family strives to maintain a profitable farm in Connecticut. It is our goal to provide a venue where our customers can enjoy a view that includes farm animals, pastures and fields, and pragmatic farm machinery operation while tasting made-on-the-farm frozen desserts.” Visit ferrisacrescreamery.com or call 203-426-8803 for information.
Castle Hill Farm, 1 Sugar Lane, offers mulch and contractor hay, feeding hay, fruit garden design and installation, vegetable garden installation, cutyour-own Christmas trees as well as precut trees, wreaths and sprays, a farm stand, Sunflower Stroll, corn maze, pumpkin picking, hayrides, orchard planting and pruning, and odd jobs (off-farm services).
A visit to the farm to push a wheel barrow around while collecting pumpkins gives visitors a reason to put down their cell phone and focus on quality time with family, according to Castle Hill Owner Diana Fadus-Paproski.
“I think it’s good for community and
it’s great for families. One of our goals here at the farm is to be a place for families to create traditions and create memories. I think families need more bonding time in this chaotic world,” Fadus-Paproski said.
Castle Hill’s hay rides are actually adventure rides, Fadus-Paproski noted, since visitors have an opportunity to feed the rescue animals on the farm grounds.
Follow on Facebook or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for information.
Powers Farm, 32 Deep Brook Road, specializes in naturally-raised hay, vegetables, and livestock, and does small engine repair.
Visit powersfarm-farm.business.site for information.
Sepe Farm, 83 Toddy Hill Road in Sandy Hook, specializes in American Lamb that is pastured and grain fed (non-GMO grains) on the farm in a natural, stress free environment. These lambs are raised without feeding hormones, additives, or antibiotics. Sepe also raises award-winning breeding stock and superior hand spinning fleeces.
Visit sepefarm.com, call 203-4704084, or e-mail: email@example.com.
Bellie Acres Farm, 90 Hattertown Road, carries free range farm fresh eggs. Vegetables, flavored salts, pick-
led cucumbers, and pumpkins are also available. Call 203-731-1455 or e-mail Lindercav@gmail.com for information.
Aquila’s Nest Vineyards, as described on its website, is an experiencefocused, climate neutral certified winery and event venue. It offers a selection of fine Connecticut wines, space for small- and medium-sized parties, live music, and a huge variety of activities on a 40-acre estate at 50 Pole Bridge Road in Sandy Hook. Visit aquilasnestvineyards.com or call 203-5184352 for information.
Sports Editor Andy Hutchison can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Home & Garden - 21 September 15, 2023 - The Newtown Bee
Castle Hill Farm, each fall, offers a selection of pumpkins for decorating or carving.
—Annalise Sheridan Photography
Cattle graze on the grounds at Castle Hill Farm.
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Ferris Acres Creamery serves rich ice cream well into the fall.
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