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HOME

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garden FALL 2014

The ins and outs of Whidbey fall & winter living PUBLISHED AS A SUPPLEMENT TO THE WHIDBEY NEWS-TIMES, SOUTH WHIDBEY RECORD & WHIDBEY EXAMINER


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SEPTEMBER 2014

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FALL HOME & GARDEN SURVIVAL GUIDE

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst What you need to have on hand for emergencies

By BEN WATANABE

Planning is the name of the game in emergency preparation. In an emergency — windstorms, isolation from the mainland, blizzard, etc. — essentials such as water, food and shelter are key. Roberta Hacking, an emergency preparation advocate on Whidbey Island, recommends having more than three days’ worth of supplies on hand as an essential. “Think in terms of three days for the initial, “Something’s happened, we’re in trouble,’” she said. The Safe in the Sound website, put together by Red Cross and Puget Sound Energy, offers a video to help people plan for making it at home. One gallon of water — for drinking and cooking — per person per day is recommended. More severe or long-lasting emergencies may require more water or ways of purifying it with iodide tablets or boiling. Foods with long shelf lives and non-perishable items are preferred for emergencies. High protein and nutritional value is also important, bumping granola bars high on the food preparation list. Canned goods are also ideal but need to be monitored for expiration dates and rotated out as needed. A means of heating things for cooking or cleaning was also recommended. Should a family stay indoors, a butane

Photo provided

Every prepared person should have an emergency kit onhand, which should include a three-day supply of food and water.

stove is preferable because it does not emit noxious fumes like some camp stoves. Convenient kits can be made and placed near doors in the home and in the trunk of a car. Hacking recommended a few ways to organize emergency supplies: buckets, Ziploc bags and old back-

packs. Lots of food, water and clothing can fit in a 5-gallon bucket — grab-and-go buckets, as Hacking calls them. Putting a few around the home ensures that there will be enough for the household if necessary. Buying all of the gear could be a huge blow if done at once. But Hacking and

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sites such as Safe in the Sound recommend chipping away at it every visit to the grocery store by buying a couple more cans of soup or canned vegetables and fruits. “As they go to the grocery store, grab

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SEPTEMBER 2014

FALL HOME & GARDEN SURVIVAL GUIDE

BE PREPARED CONTINUED FROM 3

an extra can of something,” Hacking said.

First-aid kits should also be included in the packs and buckets. Sterile dressing such as adhesive bandages, hydrogen peroxide and waterproof tape are first-aid minimums. Flashlights and lanterns are good alternatives for lighting, and a battery-powered radio can keep people informed if power goes out and TV is not available. Creating a family communication plan is a top suggestion of the site Take Winter by Storm. The plan is a predetermined way to get in touch with family members if you are not together in an emergency. Warm clothing is a must for much of Western Washington, especially during the winter and in an emergency. Hacking said she uses 2-gallon Ziploc freezer bags to store a shell/poncho and fleece vest, one for a fleece jacket and another for a warm hat and gloves. “Make sure they can stay dry and warm, that’s

really important,” she said. One other item to keep in the emergency packs is cash in small denominations. If electricity were to go down for an extended period of time, credit cards, debit cards and Electronic Bank Transfer (EBT) would all be null, leaving cold, hard cash as a way to get any other necessary supplies. Similar packs can be made for cars, but should also include items like road flares and warm footwear. Sites to visit for more tips and ways to prepare: http://www.redcross.org/safe-in-the-sound the American Red Cross site helps Puget Sound people prepare for a host of disasters with smartphone apps and ways to create emergency plans at home, for children and at work. http://takewinterbystorm.org a winter weather preparedness site geared for Western Washington. http://beprepared.com which sells emergency supplies like freeze-dried food, water filters, and packs.

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FALL HOME & GARDEN SURVIVAL GUIDE

County provides resources for emergency planning

By JANIS REID

Being prepared for an emergency just makes sense for any homeowner. The county offers a wide range of resources and information to help Island County residents be prepared and mitigate their risk. The Island County Department of Emergency Management, or DEM, works directly with the Washington State Emergency Management Division and the State Homeland Security Region 1 which includes Island, San Juan, Whatcom, Skagit and Snohomish counties. The county’s department of emergency management is responsible for emergency oversight to include planning and coordinating actions for the preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery from natural and man-made emergencies and disasters. The county provides hazard information and coordinates and provides emergency training for county residents and first responders. DEM also operates the county Emergency Operations Center when it is activated. With winter coming, residents can prepare for winter by using the county’s detailed emergency plans listed on their website. These plans include a high wind preparedness checklist, information on freeze and snowpreparedness, a power outage checklist and a document on frost-

bite and hypothermia. Residents can also reada list of a number of steps homeowners can take on their own: n Create an emergency preparedness kit with at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food and water for your home and office. Vehicle road travel and winter weather evacuation go-kits are also advised. n Make a plan and practice the plan with your family and those who depend on you. n Stay informed and know the weather approaching, so you are prepared for whatever Mother Nature brings. n As residents in a rural area, cars are important, so be sure to be prepared to camp out in your car. Flooding and the resulting landslides are also a routine threat in Island County. Water saturated soil will cause landslides. In addition, earthquakes are common GENERALthe CONTRACTOR throughout constantly changing geoLivingofand logical area theserving Puget Sound, and tsulocally for 30 years can also occur namis can result. Wildfires in fields• and forested areas. New Construction Residents should be aware of the risk • Remodeling potential• Additions in their neighborhoods. Local flooding from storm drains is 360-678-6040 likely, and sand bags are available to purLic#CC01SPATZWL953PR chase at Skagit Farmers Supply, Home Depot and other retailers. Power outages should be reported to Puget Sound Energy.

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SEPTEMBER 2014

FALL HOME & GARDEN SURVIVAL GUIDE

Power out? No problem!  Taking precautions prevents headaches later It’s not unusual for a winter windstorm to knock out the power on Whidbey Island. Most power outages last only a few hours, but it can be a big hassle – and even a safety issue – when there’s no electricity for an extended period. When a big winter storm comes howling down Admiralty Inlet to blast our island, high winds can put residents and homes in danger. Whenever there’s a chance of a power outage, taking a few precautions could save some serious headaches and hassles later. Here are some tips to help you plan ahead...

What to do when the winds blow

• Have a disaster plan and a disaster-supplies kit (flashlights, battery-powered radio, extra batteries and a wind-up clock). • Register life-sustaining equipment with your utility. • Anchor outdoor objects that can blow away. • Fill vehicles with fuel in case the gas stations lose power. • Make sure you have an alternate heat source and fuel supply. • When installing a generator, follow the manufacturer’s instructions and have it inspected by the utility company and an electrical inspector. • Have a corded telephone available. Cordless phones do not work when the power is out. • Learn how to open your electric garage door using the manual override. • Do not drive or go outside in high winds. Avoid windows. • Stay far away from downed power lines. • Report a power outage to your local utility. Otherwise, use the phone for emergencies only. • If you are the only one without power, check your fuse box or circuit breaker panel. Turn off large appliances before replacing fuses or resetting circuits. • If power is out in the neighborhood, disconnect electrical heaters, appliances and computers to reduce initial demand on the system and protect motors from possible low-voltage damage. • Connect lights and appliances directly to a generator, not to an existing electrical system. • Conserve water, especially if you are on a well with an electric pump. • Keep doors, windows and draperies closed to retain heat. • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed. A fully loaded freezer can keep foods frozen for two days. • Be extremely careful of fire hazards caused by candles or other flammable sources. • When using kerosene heaters, gas lanterns or camp stoves indoors, maintain ventilation to avoid a buildup of toxic fumes. • To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning – which can be fatal – do not use generators or charcoal indoors, or even in an open garage. • Leave a light switch on to alert you when the power is restored.

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FALL HOME & GARDEN SURVIVAL GUIDE

Whom to call during in an emergency — POLICE— Island County Sheriff Island County Law and Justice Center 101 NE Sixth St., Coupeville 98239 Business: 360-678-4422 or 360-321-5111 Emergency TTY & voice: 360-678-6116 Emergency: 911 South precinct office: 1618 E. Main St., Suite 4N, Freeland 98249 North precinct office: 3155 Oak Harbor Road, next to the county road shop.

Washington State Patrol 840 SE Eighth Ave., Suite 101 Oak Harbor 98277 Business/Oak Harbor: 360-675-0710 Toll-free/emergency: 800-283-7807

Oak Harbor Police 860 SE Barrington Dr., Oak Harbor 98277 Business: 360-279-4600

Langley Police 112 2nd Street Emergency: 911 Business: 360-221-4433

Coupeville Marshal’s Office 4 NE 7th Street, Coupeville 98239 Business: 360-678-4461

— FIRE— North Whidbey Oak Harbor Fire Department serves areas within the city limits. The station is

at 855 E. Whidbey Ave. It can be reached at 360-279-4700. North Whidbey Island Fire and Rescue serves the northern part of the county, excluding the Oak Harbor city limits. It can be reached at 360-675-1131. The district includes eight fire stations: Cornet Bay station: 395 W. Troxell Road Taylor Fire Station: 3440 Taylor Road Silver Lake Road station: 847 Silver Lake Road Polnell Road station: 1213 Old Polnell Road Heller Road station: 2720 N. Heller Road Zylstra station: 1817 Zylstra Road Monroe station: 1160 Monroe Landing Road

Central Whidbey Central Whidbey Island Fire & Rescue Serves the central part of the

island, including the town of Coupeville. It can be reached at 360-678-3602. The district includes three fire stations: Race Road station: 1164 Race Road Coupeville station: 203 N. Main St. Day Road station: 3253 Day Road

South Whidbey South Whidbey Fire / EMS serves the south end of the island, including Langley, Clinton and Freeland. It can be reached at 360-321-1533, or visit www. swfe.org. The district includes six fire stations: Freeland station: 5535 Cameron Road Clinton station: 6435 S. Central Ave. Maxwelton station: 3405 E. French Road Saratoga station: 3982 Saratoga Road Bayview station: 2874 E. Verlane St. Langley station: 209 Second St.

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FALL HOME & GARDEN SURVIVAL GUIDE

Whom to call for utility, service assistance EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT n Call 911 for all life, environmental or property emergencies. n Island County Department of Emergency Management can be reached at 360-679-7370 or dem@co.island.wa.us n Island County Sheriff’s Department can be reached at 360-679-7319 or tips@ co.island.wa.us

NATURAL GAS AND PROPANE n Cascade Natural Gas provides service to thousands of Oak Harbor customers. The natural gas line crosses to Whidbey from Camano Island and serves city residents, Whidbey Island Naval Air Station and unincorporated areas within a reasonable distance from transmission lines. For new hookups, or to check if natural gas is available in your area, call 1-888-522-1130. Cascade Natural Gas accepts online, mail and phone payment. Customers may also drop payments off at

Saar’s Market Place, 32199 Highway 20, open daily from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. n Natural gas is unavailable to Central and South Whidbey residents, where propane is often used to fuel gas appliances, as well as grills. Propane providers include AmeriGas Propane, 800-655-5939; Corey Oil and Propane, 360-675-5445 for service on North Whidbey, or 360321-6699 for service on South Whidbey; Skagit Farmers Supply, 888-757-6053; Whidbey Oil Sales on South Whidbey, 360-341-4489; and Northern Energy 866220-1960.

ELECTRICITY n Puget Sound Energy provides electricity to more than 34,000 customers island wide. In case of power outages or for new hookups — including residential and business — or other inquiries, call 888-225-5773. Puget Sound Energy’s offices are located in Oak Harbor at

231 SE Barrington Dr., Ste 101 and in Freeland at 1794 Main St. Customers may pay their bill online at www.pse.com, through mail, by phone or at either office location. A drop box is also available at each office for payments made after hours.

TELEPHONE n Whidbey Telecom provides telephone service to Whidbey Island customers from Clinton to Coupe’s Greenbank Store. Service areas include Langley, Clinton, Freeland and parts of Greenbank. Call 360-321-1122 to sign up for phone service, or visit their headquarters in Freeland at 1651 Main St. n Verizon provides telephone service to Whidbey Island customers north of Classic Road. Service areas include Greenbank, Coupeville and Oak Harbor. Call 800-483-4522 to set up service. For repairs, call Verizon’s 24-hour service line

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WATER n Oak Harbor provides water to customers who live within the city limits by piping in water from the Skagit River. Stop by City Hall, 865 SE Barrington Drive, or call 360-279-4530 to set up service. Residents living outside the Oak Harbor city limits are dependent on groundwater. n Coupeville provides water within town limits. Visit Town Hall, 4 NE Seventh St., or call 360-678-4461 for service. n Freeland Water District provides service to Freeland residents. Contact their office at 5492 S. Harbor Ave., or call 360-331-5566. n Langley also provides water service. Go to City Hall, 112 Second St., or call 360-221-4246 for service information. n Clinton Water District provides service to south-end residents. Visit their office at 6437 Harding Ave., or call 360341-5487.

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FALL HOME & GARDEN SURVIVAL GUIDE

Don’t forget four-legged family members By MEGAN HANSEN There are many things residents and homeowners can do to make sure they’re prepared for winter weather and the potential emergency situations associated with it. While making those preparations, don’t forget about the four-legged members of your family. Whidbey Island has mostly mild weather compared to some parts of the country, but residents here do face freezing weather, harsh storms and sometimes even snow storms. Carol Barnes, animal control officer for Island County, said she receives complaints year-round associated with weather. While in the summer it’s common to receive calls about pets being left in cars in extreme heat, the winter brings its own set of problems. Complaints in the winter often center around dogs being left outside without

shelter, she said. “People don’t always provide adequate shelter.” But every situation must be evaluated individually. Barnes said she has to take into consideration the breed of the dog. Does it have a thick or thin coat? Is the breed used to cold weather? Is the animal used to being outside? However, if temperatures drop below 32 degrees, Barnes advises bringing all domestic pets indoors. Animal owners need to be educated on the type of pet they have and whether or not that pet can withstand cold temperatures and winter weather. Another potential hazard animals face in the winter is poisoning. “In wintertime, people use antifreeze,” Barnes said. “It has a sweet taste that attracts animals. “People need to be careful and clean up spills.”

IN CASE OF AN EMERGENCY A basic pet disaster kit includes: n Food and water for at least five days for each pet, bowls and a manual can opener if you are packing canned pet food. People need at least one gallon of water per person per day. While your pet may not need that much, keep an extra gallon on hand if your pet has been exposed to chemicals or flood waters and needs to be rinsed. n Medications and medical records stored in a waterproof container and a first-aid kit. A pet first-aid book is also a good idea. n Cat litter box, litter, litter scoop and garbage bags to collect all pets’ waste. n Sturdy leashes, harnesses and carriers to transport pets safely and to ensure that your pets can’t escape. Carriers should be large enough to allow your pet to stand comfortably, turn around and lie down. (Your pet may have to stay in the carrier for hours at a time.) Be sure to have a secure cage with no loose objects inside it to accommodate smaller pets — who may also need blankets or towels for bedding and warmth, as well as special items, depending on their species. n Current photos of you with your pets and descriptions of your pets to help others identify them in case you and your pets become separated — and to prove that they are yours once you’re reunited. n Written information about your pets’ feeding schedules, medical conditions and behavior issues, along with the name and number of your veterinarian in case you have to board your pets or place them in foster care.

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FALL HOME & GARDEN SURVIVAL GUIDE

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Home preparation is key in dealing with damage Preparing for an unexpected emergency, especially one brought on by severe weather, is one of the most important ways you can protect your home and family. Pro-actively addressing storm-related issues ranging from property damage to power outages can minimize a potentially disastrous situation.

Step 1: Verify that your homeowners insurance covers storm damage Nearly all homeowners carry some form of insurance on their home, as required by their mortgage lender. But policies can vary, and the aftermath of a powerful storm is no time to find out you’re under-insured. To ensure your homeowners policy adequately covers your needs, take time to review the policy every year at renewal time and any time you make any significant improvements to your home. Check that the coverage amount for your main residence accurately reflects the finished square footage of your home, including any upgrades or changes such as a newly renovated bathroom or expanded deck structure. Also confirm that the replacement cost your homeowners insurance agent has determined is consistent with what you would expect to pay to rebuild your home. In addition, take time to understand any exclusions, especially those for weatherrelated incidents. For example, many homeowners insurance policies do not automatically include flood protection. Finally, take time to thoroughly document your personal possessions with video or still images and record their value. Store the documentation in a safe place, such as a safety deposit box or remote-access electronic file, that you will be able to access in the event of an emergency. Not only will this help expedite your claim if you need to replace items, but you’ll have a list ready when you face the daunting task of replacing your belongings. Step 2: Keep up on home maintenance Stepping outside after a significant

storm is no time to remember that you forgot to trim the tree or secure a loose section of fencing. Making time to provide ongoing home maintenance for exterior features of your home, such as landscaping, decking, siding, roofing and shutters, will ensure they are in good function when bad weather strikes. While little can be done to prevent damage from high-impact storms, routinely checking that everything is in good repair will minimize the chances of preventable destruction. As you assess your home and yard, ask yourself: Are the trees and shrubs properly trimmed and set far enough away from structures that they are unlikely to topple in high winds? Are shutters affixed securely to the house? Are there any cracked or otherwise weakened windows that should be replaced to prevent shattering during a storm? Step 3: Prepare for backup power during an outage Loss of power is one of the most common occurrences in severe weather. And the financial impact of outage-related expenses (e.g. spoiled food replacement, supply purchases or home repair) can add up quickly. The easiest way to prepare for a weather-related power outage is by installing a standby generator in advance of the storm season. Fortunately, attaining the safety and comfort provided by a standby generator during a storm event has become more reasonable thanks to emerging technology that has made generators smaller, smarter and, therefore, more affordable. Improved technology features on generators manage a home’s power demands automatically and electronically during an outage and allow more of a home’s lights and appliances — up to two AC units — to be powered with a smaller standby generator. A home that would typically need a larger 20 kW home generator to power all of the home’s power demands could now be powered with newer generator technology.

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Small fixes have big impact on winterizing home By RON NEWBERRY

Photo by Ron Newberry

Paul Lischeid, a kitchen consultant at the Oak Harbor Home Depot and retired carpenter, examines a door seal used to keep drafts from entering a home.

As much as Whidbey Island residents have enjoyed soaking up the sun this summer, the calendar suggests that temperatures will be dropping soon and winds will be kicking up. For Paul Lischeid of Clinton, late September and October is a time to check the caulking around his windows and doors for any cracks that might expose his home’s interior to the winter chill. It’s part of a home winterization checklist the retired carpenter follows himself and preaches to customers at The Home Depot in Oak Harbor, where he’s worked the past nine years. Well, eventually, he follows the advice himself. “It’s on his honey-do list,” his wife, Gail Lischeid, said. “You come back in a couple months and see if he’s done it.” These next couple months represent the time many island residents recall frigid temperatures and chillier heating bills and snap out of their summer slumber to get their homes in better shape for winter weather. Winterizing one’s home is often a do-it-yourself venture aimed to making one’s home more energy efficient, SEE WINTERIZE PAGE 13


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WINTERIZE CONTINUED FROM 12

reducing utility bills and preventing disasters such as frozen pipes. “We always put on faucet covers,” said Eric Brinkman, who, along with his wife Barbara Taylor, owns South Island Properties, which manages more than 100 rental properties on the southern end of the island. “I always get them. I always buy a case of them.” Placing domed styrofoam covers over hose bibs is a common winterization practice aimed at stopping pipes from freezing. Yet Scottie Lang of Scottie’s Plumbing in Oak Harbor said they’re unnecessary in newer homes. “I wish I was the inventor of those things,” he said. “Close to 60 percent of the people who use them don’t need them.” Lang said homes built in the past 15 years are equipped with frost-free hose bibs. In most cases, one can tell it’s a frostfree faucet if the knob is perpendicular to the house. If the knob is at a 45-degree angle, it’s not frost free. “The biggest thing we run into is they don’t undo the hoses,” Lang said. “If you leave the hose on in the winter, that’s the No. 1 cause of a frozen hose bib.” Lang is a third-generation plumber who’s been at it since 1981 on Whidbey Island. He advises insulating pipes underneath the home in many cases and propping open cabinet doors in bathrooms or kitchens during the coldest times of the year in cases where pipes rest against exterior walls. Lischeid’s focus is on sealing a home

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FALL HOME & GARDEN SURVIVAL GUIDE

and preventing ways for cool air to get inside. Serving 35 years as a carpenter, he knows the finer points of home construction, having built his own home in Clinton in 1989. A former millwork specialist at Home Depot, he currently is a kitchen designer. “I’m not allowed to hire out,” Gail joked. Lischeid’s tips for winterization are endless. He advises changing a furnace filter before winter and vacuuming any pet hair off the grills of electric heaters. He preaches caulking exterior windows and using non-expanding foam around hose bibs and around interior windows and using foam seals for underneath electrical outlets and switch plates. He said one inexpensive way to not let heat escape a home is taping plastic film over windows. And if a sliding glass door is unbalanced, Lischeid said there is likely a draft of air entering the home. Mostly, however, emphasis should be placed in the attic, he said If older insulation has settled, additional insulation should be added. “Most of your heat loss is through the ceiling,” Lischeid said. Jean Hamer, millwork supervisor at Home Depot, said the store in Oak Harbor will be offering winterization workshops in October to offer customers plenty of tips. Hamer advises homeowners to clean out dryer ducts and chimneys before winter and to place weather stripping around doors, among other ideas for safety and energy efficiency. “For $11, you can get a draft stopper to slide under your door,” she said. “It can cut a huge amount of air from coming under your door.”

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Page 14

SEPTEMBER 2014

FALL HOME & GARDEN SURVIVAL GUIDE

Tips to prevent heating bills from going through the roof Heating your home can be a costly endeavor, but you don’t have to make your family suffer in shivering silence to save some money. There are plenty of steps you can take to optimize your heating efforts, as well as prep your home for several months of cool weather. n Check and maintain your insulation. Improperly insulated walls, floors, attics, basements and crawl spaces drain away heat and can encourage mold and mildew. n Add weather stripping and caulk around windows and doors to prevent drafts, which waste energy and money. n Install a programmable thermostat that shuts itself off during the day when you’re away and at night when you’re asleep. This will keep you comfortable when you’re home and save you money when you’re not. n Keep vents and returns free of obstructions. Don’t lay carpet over vents, place furniture over or in front of them or obstruct the flow of air.

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n Keep your air filters clean. Check them every couple of weeks and change them as directed by the manufacturer. n Let the sun shine in by opening curtains on cold days. Get heavy drapes to keep things cozy at night. n Review last year’s energy bills. If your heating costs are drastically higher this year, a qualified HVAC/R technician may be able to diagnose the problem. Schedule such inspections twice annually, even if you aren’t experiencing any detectable issues. n When choosing a contractor for installation or maintenance, important factors must be taken into consideration. A qualified HVAC/R technician is a skilled professional with proven knowledge who has passed specialized tests. So look for a technician certified by North American Technician Excellence (NATE), the nation’s largest independent nonprofit certification body for HVAC/R technicians. n Even the most eco-friendly, high-efficiency products and appliances can waste money and energy if they’re not installed, serviced and maintained properly. Work with certified technicians to ensure your HVAC/R equipment is delivering on its promised energy efficiency. n Consider alternatives to conventional heating. For example, geothermal heating systems use the earth’s natural heat and are among the most efficient and energy-conserving heating technologies currently available.

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FALL HOME & GARDEN SURVIVAL GUIDE

Fall lawn care tips for making spring easier A beautiful lawn is important for a lovely home, but when those autumn leaves begin to fall, some extra effort is required to keep things picture perfect. This once meant firing up noisy machinery and piling up bag after bag of yard waste. Now that we live in more environmentally-conscientious times, this might not seem like such a responsible idea. Doing things by hand doesn’t have to lead to a sore back. Learning some helpful hints can make your lawn really stand out this year and help you get the job done in a breeze. Spring is when the lawn and garden really come into full bloom, but fall is when plants are storing energy and nutrients to have ready when the season turns. Like an athlete training in the offseason, get a step up on the competition by building a good foundation. Now’s the time to fertilize and aerate since roots keep growing and storing energy even when above-ground growth slows during the colder months. Don’t forget to keep watering, too. Weeding can be made less painful if you adhere to the old gardener’s trick of completing this task after it rains. When the earth is dry, it’s harder to pull out the whole weed without breaking off the top. After rainfall, the ground is soft, making it easier to pluck out entire weeds. They can easily be added to leaves and other debris that needs to be hauled away. Leaves can smother your lawn if enough of them build up, preventing sunlight from reaching the grass and increasing the chances of lawn disease.

Fertilize Providing nutrients to your lawn before cold weather strikes is good for strengthening roots and increasing the nutrients stored for an earlier spring green. While the top growth of grass stops, grass plants are storing nutrients and energy for the following season. To determine the best ratio of fertilizer for the soil in your yard, you should utilize a soil test. Otherwise, look for fertilizer with a nitrogen-phosphatepotassium (NPK) ratio of 3:1:2 or 4:1:2. When applying the fertilizer, make sure that you follow the application instructions and rate information on the package and use a calibrated spreader to apply the correct amount. It is also a good rule to apply the fertilizer in the fall about two to three weeks before the ground freezes so the plant can start to take up some of the nutrients.

Aerate Photos provided

Getting your yard prepared in the fall will make things easier come springtime. By doing things like aerating, mulching and fertilizing in the winter, yards have a head start in the new year.

Collecting the leaves in bags allows your lawn to breathe and receive proper sunlight. The average cost to remove leaves is $374. There are easy do-it-yourself methods that can save you money. To make your life easier and get the job done faster, consider using tools such as a leaf hauler, which acts like a giant dustpan for leaves and is a cost-effective, green alternative. Reduce waste by packing as many leaves as possible into every bag or using leaves and yard debris for mulch or compost. Good posture can also prevent backaches when raking leaves. Keep your head up and back straight. Relieve back pressure by raking in the “scissors” stance: placing one foot forward and the other back and reversing

Aerating, the process of removing plugs of soil and thatch from the lawn, is ideal in cooler months. It encourages deep rooting, improves water and nutrient penetration, and promotes growth of beneficial soil microorganisms. There are a variety of techniques you can use to penetrate the soil such as spiked shoes or spray-on liquids, but to most effectively aerate soil, attach a dethatcher, or a plug aerator, behind a riding mower or tractor to remove plugs of soil from two to three inches deep.

Mulch If you prefer not to rake or bag grass or leaves, mulching with a mower is an ideal alternative. Be sure to mulch leaves only when they are dry to avoid damp and wet leaves clumping or building up under mower decks. Remember that grass needs sunlight in the fall to help store food for winter, so don’t wait until your lawn is completely matted down with leaves to mulch. A thin layer of mulched leaves is ideal and helps add nutrients to the soil, reducing the need for fertilizer.

position when comfortable. Another option is to haul tarps by using special pull handles. Opt for ergonomically designed rakes, shears and pruners that require less hand strength and provide a comfortable non-slip grip to help prevent muscle soreness. More information on innova-

tive tools for raking, hauling and bagging yard waste can be found at www.ezlawnandgarden. com Get a head start on home improvement this fall with smart lawn and garden care. Grab the kids and get the clippers, rake ‘em in and bag ‘em up.

Compost Creating a compost pile allows you to turn organic material into rich soil. The fall season is a good time to create a compost pile with decaying yard matter, such as vegetables, grass clippings and leaves, which can provide nutrient-rich soil for spring planting. For best results, alternate layers of “brown,” or high carbon materials, with grass clippings.


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SEPTEMBER 2014

FALL HOME & GARDEN SURVIVAL GUIDE

Vegetable gardens thrive during Whidbey winters Key to success is in the timing

est possible veggies. Kendrick is a wealth of knowledge about growing vegetables, including the cold-weather kinds. Time is everything when it comes to winter gardens, he said. “If you plant too early, the plants get too hardy and strong and demand more than the winter can provide,” he said. “If it’s too late, the plants are too weak and can’t handle the weather.” Georgie Smith, owner of Willowood, said a good rule of thumb is that the vegetables should be planted so they mature around mid-October. After that time, there’s simply not enough sun for them to continue growing much, though the plants will stay alive and can be harvested throughout the winter. That can mean planting in the middle of summer for vegetables that take some time to mature. “The biggest mistake people make is to wait too long to plant,” she said. Kendrick said it’s also very important to pick the right varieties. There’s a long list of vegetables that can be grown in the gray months — kale, radishes, endive, leeks, beets, carrots,

By JESSIE STENSLAND

W

Photo by Jessie Stensland

Casey Whitmer holds up a giant beet he picked at the Willowood Farm of Ebey’s Prairie. Beets are one of the many vegetables that thrive in the fall and winter months on Whidbey Island.

hile some folks on Whidbey Island look to the upcoming gray and drizzly season with trepidation, others see opportunity in the fall and winter months. Imagine walking into the garden in the middle of December and picking kale, some baby spinach and maybe pulling up a couple of sweet, crisp carrots for a salad. With a little planning and know-how, winter vegetable gardening can be easy and productive in the mild climate of the Northwest. In fact, winter vegetables are downright revelatory. “I love winter carrots, especially if you get a good frost,” said Adam Kendrick, farm manager at Willowood Farm of Ebey’s Prairie. “A frost will trigger plants to convert more starch to sugar. It’s kind of like anti-freeze for vegetables.” The workers at Willowood continue harvesting vegetables all winter long. It’s a large operation that grows a wide variety of produce for restaurants, farmers markets and grocery stores, but their basic techniques can be used by any backyard gardener who wants the fresh-

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Page 17

FALL HOME & GARDEN SURVIVAL GUIDE

PLANTING CONTINUED FROM 16

Brussel sprouts, cabbage and on and on — but choosing the right varieties of seed is critical, he said. Kendrick explained that regular harvesting of vegetables like chard throughout the fall and winter actually spurs the plant to grow. He said it’s sort of like beneficial vegetable pruning. Fall and winter gardens can be relatively maintenance-free, Kendrick said. Insect pests have either died or are in hiding. Weeds are sleepy. Greens are slow to bolt. There’s plenty of water. In fact, Kendrick said the biggest obstacle for winter gardeners is making sure that the soil is well drained so the plants don’t

get too wet. While the Willowood farmers use row covers and hoop houses to increase productivity during the cooler months, Kendrick said gardeners can use the same tactic in their gardens, just on a smaller scale. The row covers are plastic sheets that let sun and water in, but raise the temperature for the plants underneath. Hoop houses are basically small greenhouses. Kendrick said it’s especially easy to build small hoop houses on raised beds; it just takes some PVC or EMT piping and sheeting. Of course, good old mulch can also protect vegetables on the occasion when they need protecting.

Photo by Jessie Stensland

Kylie Neal, harvest manager at Willowood Farm in Coupeville, picks parsley on a beautiful fall morning.

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SEPTEMBER 2014

FALL HOME & GARDEN SURVIVAL GUIDE

Vehicles need winterizing By MICHELLE BEAHM

Photo by Michelle Beahm

With wintertime approaching, it’s always good to make sure vehicles are prepared for the cold months. While Whidbey Island has relatively mild winters, it’s still best to winterize cars just in case, especially if any traveling is planned. The first bit of advice Chris Kinkle of Oak Harbor Auto Center gave was to make sure antifreeze is up to manufacturing specifications and that it’s the right kind for cold weather. Other maintenance suggestions include checking windshield wipers and ensuring tires are good for snow and ice and at a proper inflation level. Josh Christian with Jack’s Auto Repair suggested a handy tool for cold weather driving. “Cat litter is also a helpful tip for getting stuck in the ice,” Christian said. The litter would be used to increase traction, making it easier to get the car unstuck. Kinkle and Christian suggested keeping safety packs in a car, in case of being stuck. These packs should include any emergency

Taylor Wilson of Les Schwab Tire Center in Oak Harbor checks the air pressure in a car with new tires on it. It’s a good idea to make sure tires have the proper pressure and are appropriate for winter weather to help avoid accidents.

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maintenance supplies like spare belts, washer fluids, etc., as well as personal safety supplies like flashlights, blankets and drinking water. Kinkle also suggests keeping a gas tank as full as possible. “If you get down to half a tank, fill the tank,” Kinkle said. “That way, condensation won’t build up overnight.” Tire chains are also useful for winter months, especially when driving through mountain passes. “Chains, if you’re going to have them, practice putting chains on so if you have to use them, you know how,” Kinkle said, “and you’re learning how to on a nice day, rather than a cold, wet, miserable day on the side of the road.” Any questions about winterizing vehicles can easily be answered at auto repair shops. And as Kinkle reminds, drive carefully in snow. “Remember, it takes longer when it’s freezing and wet and ice to stop,” he said. “Leave a little more space between cars when you’re driving.”

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FALL HOME & GARDEN SURVIVAL GUIDE

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Home and Garden - Fall Home and Garden 2014  

i20140924105319565.pdf

Home and Garden - Fall Home and Garden 2014  

i20140924105319565.pdf