• Home

    by Published on September 21st, 2014 12:25 PM   

    2015 Now Available! Free Download!
    The 2015 Almanack Garden Journal
    Includes an almanack page for each month of 2015, plus space to record your garden-related activities for the entire year!

    The 2014 Almanack Garden Journal is still available too!

    Follow me at my blog:
    Soil, Sky and Seasons
    by Published on September 19th, 2014 01:30 PM
    The articles on this page are courtesy of brandpointcontent.com and are not written by The Almanack

    6 backyard projects you can't skip this fall

    (BPT) - When it comes to caring for your yard, maintenance is crucial - especially during the fall when it needs to recover from the wear and tear of summer and prepare for winter's harsh conditions. Knowing what your lawn and garden needs from season to season not only makes it easier for you to stay organized with your list of backyard to-do's, but it also allows you to identify and treat any problems before they become bigger issues down the road.

    Get your lawn and garden back in shape and ready for the coming season by completing these fall backyard projects.

    1. Patch and seed - Extreme summer weather conditions like heat, excess rainfall and drought can lead to diseased or dead patches of grass throughout your yard. If you notice an affected area while inspecting your lawn, treat the problem area immediately and then reseed it. This will nourish grass, plus help it establish strong roots needed for growth in the spring.

    2. Plant bulbs - Give your spring garden a head start by planting bulbs 5 to 8 inches deep, depending on the size, with the pointy end up. You can also plant bulbs in clusters. However, since bulbs can be hard to tell apart, be sure to keep the labels intact until they are planted. 

    3. Remove leaves and small debris - Leaves, small twigs and light dirt can quickly accumulate in your yard during the fall and if not removed, can cause soil compaction and make your yard look messy. For a quick cleanup solution, use a leaf blower to easily move debris from your lawn, driveway or patio. Opt for a blower like Troy-Bilt's new Jet leaf blower that achieves a perfect balance of speed and volume with its mixed-flow fan design, helping you clear your yard efficiently and effectively. Jet also has an optimal weight balance, so the blower is stable and easy to control. When removing leaves, make sure they are dry and wind is at a bare minimum to ensure an easy removal process.

    4. Compost - Fall isn't too late to start a compost pile as it takes six months to one year to develop into rich soil you can use in your garden. Keep in mind, compost decomposition slows down during the cooler months, which is why it is important to retain heat needed for decomposition by refraining from turning your compost pile.

    5. Prune - Pruning is considered the best preventive maintenance for your trees and shrubs, particularly in the fall and late dormant season. Look to prune diseased or dying branches, but be sure not to remove unreasonably large branches. This leaves exposed stubs that can potentially cause health problems. 

    6. Weed - Though a year-round yard task, it's extremely important to pull as many weeds as possible in the fall. As cooler temperatures set in, weeds start to store food in their roots for the winter. Prevent weed regrowth by pulling or digging weeds out of the ground with a weeding blade or use a homemade weed control solution, such as a combination of vinegar, water and dish soap.

    For more lawn and garden tips, backyard project ideas and information about the Jet leaf blower, visit troybilt.com.

    Courtesy of Brandpoint Content

    Fall clean-up tips for your lawn and garden tools

    (BPT) - As the temperature drops, your lawn and garden will start settling into a dormant state. As you prep your landscaping and garden for a winter's slumber, it's a good idea to review the tools you used all summer. Taking care of this task now will ensure they're in good shape come spring when it's time to use them again.

    From sharpening edges of blades to making certain the tool is still doing the job it was designed to do, put all your lawn and garden tools through a thorough fall cleaning. Here are some tips:

    * Lawn mowers - Check your owner's manual for information about sharpening the mower deck blades and what to do with any unused gasoline before putting the mower into storage. It's a good idea to keep the mower in a dry location where moisture won't collect and potentially rust the blades.

    * Hand trimmers - Hand clippers, tree trimmers and saws all take a beating during the summer. Check these tools to make certain the handles are still secure, the cutting blades are sharp and the locking mechanisms all work. If anything isn't up to par, replace the tool so you have it ready for the first sign of spring.

    * Chainsaws - These heavy machines get put through their paces, and they can be taxing on people, too, after extended use. If you're ready to upgrade your chainsaw, the Husqvarna low-weight 436Li is quiet, easy to operate and has the same power as gas machines. The 536LiXP and the T536LiXP models are also available, and they come with low maintenance and high-performance delivery. All battery-operated chainsaws come with two rechargeable batteries that can be interchanged with any Husqvarna hand tools you might already have in your collection. The batteries have a 40-minute charge time, helping to keep the tools lightweight and quiet.

    * Weed trimmers - These tools are invaluable for keeping the grasses and weeds trimmed around trees and garden edging. In the fall, be sure to replace the string so you'll have a fresh spool come spring. Also check the air filter on the tool. If it is dirty, replace the filter to allow your machine to perform at its best.

    * Hoses - When it's time to store your hoses for the winter, check all the connections to make certain nothing leaks; replace the connectors if you notice water spraying or dribbling from a connection. And if the hose itself is leaking, put it on your list to be replaced. Make certain you've drained all the water out before putting the hoses away for winter. If you have a hose cart, roll up the hose neatly without any kinks. Otherwise, you can just roll the hose into a neat pile of loops for storage in a dry place.

    With all of your lawn and garden tools safely stored for the winter months, you'll know they'll be ready the minute you need them in the spring.

    Courtesy of Brandpoint Content

    DIY projects to help you whip winter

    (BPT) - The leaves are starting to fall off the trees, the birds are flying south and you can feel the temperature dropping. Winter is on its way and while squirrels pack away food before the first snow fall, you’ll be relieved to know that you still have time to finish some projects listed below to get your home ready for winter.

    * Tackle the yard. Your yard will fall into dormancy during the winter, but a little prep now can help your green space bounce back in the spring. Fertilize your lawn using a lawn spreader from your local rental store to turn this all-day chore into a task that takes just a couple of hours. And don’t waste the rest of your day raking the yard; instead, rent a leaf blower to finish this task in a fraction of the time.

    * Seal the gaps. Find the places where cold air sneaks into your home and you will drastically reduce your heating bills throughout winter. Feel along your windows and doors for any drafts. Seal larger cracks with caulk and cover your windows in plastic wrap for comprehensive protection. If you have a real chimney, don’t forget to close the damper to prevent cold air from billowing down the chimney.

    * Clean the carpets. The winter season can be hard on your carpets as snow, salt and dirt get tracked in from outside. Cleaning them before winter begins puts them in the best possible shape for the colder months ahead. You may think you need to hire professional carpet cleaners, but you can actually handle this project yourself by renting a carpet cleaner to conquer the task. You can visit RentalHQ.com to find your local rental store and for tips on renting a carpet cleaner.

    * Protect pipes from freezing. A ruptured pipe can ruin your home and everything in it. Ruptured pipes occur during winter when the pipes freeze and the frozen water inside expands. You can protect against this by never letting your home’s temperature fall below 65 degrees. Wrap pipes running along the exterior walls in heat tape, and be sure to check on your pipes on those bitterly cold nights.

    * Empty the gutters. If left unchecked, falling leaves and other debris will clog your gutters and downspouts, which can cause ice dams in the winter. Start by trimming or removing trees and hedges near the gutters. If you lack the tools to complete this project, you can rent a brush cutter, tree trimmer or ladder to do the job. Once obstructions have been removed, clear the gutters to prevent a future home disaster.

    These simple steps will help you winterize your home so you can enjoy a happy, hazard-free holiday season. To learn more winterizing tips and to find rental stores in your area, visit RentalHQ.com.

    Courtesy of Brandpoint Content

    Favorite fall flavors and activities guaranteed to enhance your autumn

    (BPT) - The air is crisp, kids are back in school and leaves are beginning to change color – fall has arrived! With it comes many possibilities for making amazing memories. From favorite fall flavors to awesome autumn activities, everyone has something to look forward to as the season changes. So what types of things are high on Americans’ to-do lists this year?

    Americans embrace everything autumn – from baking to pumpkin carving

    Americans are embracing the autumn spirit with fun family activities. In a recent Hershey survey, 59 percent of Americans said they plan to bake fall treats and 45 percent plan to carve pumpkins. Other popular activities planned for fall include crafting, going on hayrides and apple picking.

    Planning a day at an orchard and then going home to bake with the fresh picked ingredients is an ideal way to spend time with the family. When deciding which flavor trends should inspire your baking, consider this: the survey found pumpkin spice is the top flavor Americans associate with the fall season. From coffee to cake, pumpkin spice is a sure winner. Other favorite falls flavors include candy corn and caramel apple.

    Fall flavored treats like HERSHEY’S KISSES Pumpkin Spice Flavored Candies, new TWIZZLERS Caramel Apple Filled Twists and new HERSHEY’S Candy Corn Snack Size Bars – white creme bars dotted with sweet candy bits – bring these flavor trends to candy form. Be sure to bring them to your fall events, whether you’re relaxing at a backyard bonfire or exploring the local orchard.

    Fall always seems to fly by, so to get the most out of this fleeting season, consider making a fall wish list. Have everyone in the family include ideas for what they would like to do before winter arrives. Such ideas could include family crafts, pumpkin picking at a local farm, a romantic couple’s walk by the river, a hike and scavenger hunt, or baking new fall-themed recipes. Then each weekend, select one or two activities to enjoy together.

    Do you plan to bake this fall like 59 percent of Americans? Consider adding these recipes to your fall rotation for autumn-inspired, delicious treats.

    HERSHEY’S KISSES Pumpkin Spice Cookies


    36 HERSHEY’S KISSES Pumpkin Spice Flavored Candies

    1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened

    1/2 cup sugar

    1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

    2 cups all-purpose flour

    1 cup finely chopped pecans

    Powdered sugar

    Additional granulated sugar


    1. Remove wrappers from candies. Place in freezer several hours or overnight.

    2. Beat butter, sugar and vanilla in large bowl until well blended. Add flour and pecans; beat on low speed of mixer until well blended. Cover; refrigerate 1 to 2 hours or until dough is firm enough to handle.

    3. Heat oven to 350 F. Roll dough into 36 balls (about 1 tablespoon dough for each ball). Roll in granulated sugar. Place on ungreased cookie sheet.

    4. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until cookies are set but not browned. Cool 4 minutes; press frozen candy into center of each cookie; cookie will crack around edges. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack; cool completely. Makes 36 cookies.

    Hidden pumpkin spice cookies alternative:
    Make cookie dough as above. Using about 1 tablespoon dough for each cookie, shape dough around one candy piece (candy does not need to be frozen for this variation); roll in hand to make ball. (Be sure to cover each candy piece completely.) Roll in granulated sugar. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until cookies are set. Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. While still slightly warm, roll in powdered sugar. Cool completely. Roll again in powdered sugar just before serving.

    HERSHEY’S KISSES Acorn Treats


    Royal Icing or Decorator's Frosting (recipe follows)

    6 HERSHEY’S KISSES Milk Chocolates

    6 HERSHEY’S KISSES Pumpkin Spice Flavored Candies

    12 Mini vanilla wafer cookies

    12 REESE’S Peanut Butter Chips or HERSHEY’S Butterscotch Chips


    1. Prepare Royal Icing and place in pastry bag with small tip. Remove wrappers from candies.

    2. Place mini vanilla wafer cookies on tray or plate with flat side of cookie towards the top. Squeeze small amount of icing onto bottom of HERSHEY’S KISSES candy piece. Immediately press candy bottom onto vanilla wafer cookie. Allow icing to set. 12 candy acorns.

    3. Place small dab of icing on bottom of peanut butter chip or butterscotch chip; immediately attach to top of cookie to finish acorn.

    Royal Icing:

    Stir together 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon powdered sugar, 1-1/2 teaspoons warm water and 3/4 teaspoon pasteurized dried egg whites (meringue powder). Beat until spreadable. Add additional water, 1/2 teaspoon at a time, to get desired consistency. Tint with food color, if desired. Cover icing with damp paper towel to keep icing from drying out. About 1/4 cup icing.

    Courtesy of Brandpoint Content

    Early fall grass rejuvenation from summer wear and tear

    (ARA) - As summer winds down, heat and drought may have left your grass a little tired. Soccer, picnics and chasing fireflies have likely taken a toll. Luckily, because of cooler temperatures and an increase in precipitation, fall is the best time for lawn rescue.

    To many homeowners, early fall yard work may seem overwhelming, but a few 15 minute projects are all it takes to revive the grass you enjoyed this summer. With these simple tips, you can ensure an inviting gathering space for next year.

    1. Lush green grass doesn't just feel good between the toes, it also helps crowd out undesirables. Bare and thin spots provide an opportunity for weeds to get a foot-hold on your lawn, but repairing these troubled areas is quick and easy. To fill in bare patches in a smaller area, apply Scotts EZ Seed, an all-in-one seeding mix, fertilizer and mulch, that takes the guess work out of seeding, and visibly shows when to water by lightening in color. For those larger thinning areas, try "over-seeding" by spreading a high quality grass seed over the entire area. This thickens grass ravaged by heat, drought and play. With a little watering or some help from Mother Nature, your new grass will green quickly this fall.

    2. Be sure to feed your grass. Use compost, an organic or conventional lawn food - avoid all-purpose fertilizers labeled for gardening on your grass. So-called "all-purpose" 10-10-10 fertilizer is specifically designed for the nutritional needs of flowers and vegetables and will deliver 10 times more phosphorus than your lawn needs. Always use fertilizers labeled for grass; and when doubt, ask the experts at your local garden center or visit www.Scotts.com.

    3. Well-fed grass isn't just good-looking, but also vigorous. Compared to undernourished grass, a fed lawn needs less water each year and reduces noise, run-off and erosion. In early fall, feeding is a simple step, which can be repeated about a month to six weeks later. Feeding grass with a lawn food like Organic Choice Lawn Food will yield great results for minimum effort. Be sure to use a starter lawn food if you are growing new grass from seed or sod, have over-seeded or patched bare spots until new grass is well established.

    4. Leaves are your lawn's best friend. This fall, use your lawnmower to mulch leaves into dime-sized pieces, then top with winter lawn food made especially to help leaves recycle back into the soil providing food for earthworms and soil microbes.

    5. Keep your mower on the highest setting to encourage root growth deep into the soil to lock out weeds. Keep mowing your lawn to its summer height (about 3 or more inches) until it stops growing.

    These steps can help give you the lawn you want to relax on with family and friends. Come spring, your grass will be in tip-top shape all thanks to a little know-how this fall.

    Courtesy of Brandpoint Content

    Autumn edibles: Tips for fall gardening and second plantings

    (BPT) - People choose to garden for many reasons: Food is fresher and tastes better. It's a healthy hobby that exercises the body. It saves money. Numerous reports show an increasing number of homeowners are growing their own fruits, vegetables and herbs.

    As summer's end nears, you may think gardening season is over. The good news is with a few strategic tips, you can keep your green thumb going and enjoy a plethora of autumn edibles for months to come. -

    Step 1: Select second plantings

    Second plantings are the plants you use for the latter part of the gardening season. Late summer is typically the best time to plant these varieties. Call your local extension offices or access information online to find regionalized planting schedules and recommended plant varieties.

    The length of the fall season and when the first frost will likely hit are important considerations when selecting second plantings. Keep in mind that fast-maturing vegetables are ideal for fall gardening and they should be planted early enough to reach maturity before the first frost arrives.

    Popular second plantings that yield a delicious late fall/early winter harvest include broccoli, lettuce, turnips, collards, carrots, peas, radish, spinach, leeks and beets. Some people even claim root vegetables and cole crops like kale and turnips taste better after the first frost.

    Step 2: Prepare your garden space

    If you plan to use your current garden space for second plantings, remove the early-season plants that are done producing. Add those plants to your current compost bin or create a new compost pile with easy-to-use, stylish options from Outdoor Essentials. Wood-slate bins blend well with the outdoor aesthetic and the design allows oxygen to circulate and facilitate the composting process.

    Next, prepare your garden space. Elevated garden beds are growing in popularity because they look great anywhere in your yard or on your patio, and are easy to move if necessary. Raised garden beds from Outdoor Essentials elevate the plants so gardeners don't have to bend over and risk injury. They are ideal for fall because gardeners can regulate the temperature of raised beds with ease. On hot days, move or add a shade netting to protect plants from the heat; when frost is a threat, cover the entire bed for protection.

    While you're getting your hands dirty, fall is the perfect time to plant spring flowering bulbs. A little outdoor work now and you'll be rewarded with beautiful flowers when spring arrives next year.

    Step 3: Enjoy the harvest

    Tend your garden daily for the best results - it may just need a quick check for pests and proper soil moisture. Typical benefits of late-season gardening include fewer bothersome bugs and the soil has better water retention. As plants grow, pick the fruits and vegetables and enjoy Mother Nature's bounty. If your plants become crowded, pluck a few out to help remaining plants grow roots and increase the harvest yield. You may be surprised just how many cool months your plants provide you with fresh, delicious produce.

    Fall is a great opportunity to keep gardening momentum alive. So get started and decide what second plantings are best for your space. In as little as 30 days you could be eating the freshest, most flavorful vegetables you've ever had, all while under the gorgeous autumn sun.

    Courtesy of Brandpoint Content

    Easy season: Fall gardening spells success

    (BPT) - Scrumptious, healthy veggies, hefty harvests and a break on your grocery bill - many appealing advantages draw people to growing their own vegetables. If you've never gardened before or you're a green thumbed, garden-guru, you'll soon figure out that fall's a great time to get growing your own produce. Cooler temperatures and milder sun can spell success for any gardener who takes up the trowel as autumn approaches.

    Favorable fall conditions mean growing cool weather crops is comparatively easy, with less watering and care needed for a successful garden. Cool crops will start out strong, growing quickly and then slow their growth as days become shorter and cooler. You'll also need to work less to protect your garden from pests, as both insects and animal populations will taper off in fall. And since weeds will germinate less frequently and grow slower, weeding won't be a time-consuming task. Finally, more rain and less sun and heat mean you'll need to water less.

    If you're ready for gardening success, now is the time to grab that hoe, break some ground and get growing. Tips to get you started:

    Pick your plants

    Start with transplants, rather than seed. A shorter, gentler growing season means you need to get started right away. Many local garden centers will have a selection of transplants from producers like Bonnie Plants that will grow well in your geographic region. Transplants will be six weeks old and give you a jump start. You'll be able to harvest sooner than if you start from seed and skip the volatile, sometimes unsuccessful, seed-starting process. Bonnie's transplants come in earth-friendly biodegradable pots, making planting easy, preventing transplant shock and sparing the use of much plastic. As the pot biodegrades, it'll add nutrients to your soil, too.

    Choose cool crops that your family likes to eat. Popular fall favorites include:

    * Lacinato kale -A cold-hardy vegetable, kale leaves sweeten after frost. Kale is a super food, and Lacinato leaves extend excellent health benefits, lowering cholesterol, fighting cancer and decreasing inflammation.

    * Early dividend broccoli - Many greens love the fall, and broccoli is no exception. Plant stalks 18 inches apart and get ready for an easy, hearty harvest. Broccoli is high in fiber and calcium.

    * Cabbage - The quintessential fall vegetable, Bonnie's hybrid cabbage grows large, round blue-green heads. From salads to stews, cabbage adds a punch of flavor and nutrients like beta-carotene, vitamins C and K, and plenty of fiber.

    * Romaine lettuce - Romaine packs a big punch with more vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients than other popular types of lettuce. Rich in fiber, vitamin C and beta-carotene, romaine is especially good for heart health. Space transplants 18 inches apart.

    Once you know what you'll be planting, it's time to get the ground ready. Remove any garden debris from the past season's garden and remove weeds before they go to seed.

    Size up your soil. Loosen compacted soil, fluffing it up with a garden fork. Soil test and amend if necessary. Adding a 2-inch layer of bagged compost is always good practice. You can also spread a balanced fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, according to labeled instructions, for added nutrients.

    Plants will need an inch of moisture per week, either through rain or supplemental watering. You might want to consider raised bed planting; beds are easy to build or buy and allow you to start out with good quality soil. Plus, you'll bend less come harvest time.

    Position your plot and let the sunshine in.Most vegetables need full sun - at least six hours per day. Finally, don't fear frost. When frost threatens, cover plants with floating row cover, cold frame or a cloche. Or, you can grow fall veggies in a container and move pots to a protected location on frosty nights.

    Whether you're working in the backyard, a raised bed or in containers on a deck, you'll see how easy and successful fall planting can be. Start now to ensure you enjoy a healthy, plentiful and fulfilling fall harvest. For more tips on fall gardening visit www.bonnieplants.com.

    Courtesy of Brandpoint Content

    Car Winterization Secrets from a Celebrity Auto Rebuilder

    (ARA) - Winter is on the way and it could shape up to be extra frigid in many parts of the country. AccuWeather.com has predicted the winter months at the end of 2012 and beginning of 2013 could be comparable to the extreme cold much of the country experienced in the late 1970s. Humans aren't the only ones who suffer in extreme cold. Your vehicle could struggle, too, unless you take steps to winterize it before cold weather arrives.

    "Today's cars and trucks are overall more reliable than ever before," says Dan Woods, host and producer of Speed's "Chop Cut Rebuild" series. "Still, certain systems in all vehicles are more susceptible to cold, snow and ice. It's important to prepare those systems to handle colder weather." Woods, who grew up in Canada having spent many a day on treacherous roadways, recommends owners give these areas special attention when prepping their vehicles for winter driving:

    * Tires - Rubber is a naturally durable material, but extreme cold can cause cracks that could lead to a blowout. What's more, even the best quality tire can lose traction on ice or snow. Before cold weather arrives, inspect your tires to ensure they're in good condition. Replace tires that are approaching the end of their usable life and consider purchasing "All Weather" or snow tires for colder climates. Throughout the winter, check the air pressure in all four tires. Cold weather causes the pressure to drop (a pound per square inch for every 10 degrees of temperature). Keep tires inflated to the pressure recommended in your vehicle's owner's manual.

    * Visibility - Headlights, windshield and windows, wipers and wiper fluid all need to function correctly to ensure you have the best vision while driving. Check headlights to be sure they're working properly and adjusted for optimum visual acuity. Keep headlights, windshields and windows clean of the dirty buildup that can occur when driving over salted or sanded roads. Likewise, check windshield wipers to ensure they're in top condition and replace them if they're worn. Check the wiper fluid level regularly and keep the tank full with winter fluid - not water. If your car becomes covered with snow and ice, always clear all windows completely before you begin driving. "Nothing's worse than seeing a car zipping down the road with nothing but a little view hole in the ice on the windshield," Woods says. "Not only is it dangerous for you in the car because it limits your ability to see, it's dangerous for other cars on the road if a chunk of snow or ice flies off your vehicle and blinds another driver."

    * Battery - Cold weather can be hard on your battery. Before temperatures dip, check the battery posts and connections to ensure they're free of corrosion. Check the water level in the battery (most batteries are closed systems and fluid cannot be checked), and if it's an older battery, consider having a mechanic test its ability to retain a charge. "It's also a good idea to carry jumper cables, even if your battery is fairly new," Woods says. "You never know when cold weather will drain a battery, and those cables in your trunk could help someone else out of a jam."

    * Belts and hoses - Many of the belts and hoses in your vehicle's engine are made of rubber, and extreme cold could lead to cracking, breaking and ruptures. Inspect all belts and hoses that you can - some may only be accessible to a professional with a lift - and replace any that are worn.

    * Coolant system - The temperature outside may be cold, but your engine is still a hot spot that requires coolant in order to function. If your coolant is frozen in the radiator, however, it's not going to do your engine much good. Add antifreeze to your system before the weather gets cold. Strive for a mix of half antifreeze and half water. You can check the mixture with an antifreeze tester. If the mix is off, have the cooling system drained and refilled.

    Finally, says Woods, it's important to winterize your driving habits to adjust for bad weather. "Slow down in snow and ice," he advises. "Don't drive while distracted or impaired. Pay attention to the road, traffic conditions and your vehicle. Leave extra stopping room even if there is no visible snow or ice on the road. 'Black ice' cannot be seen and is common on bridges and exit ramps. Winterizing your vehicle and driving appropriately for weather conditions are the best ways to ensure you drive safely this winter."

    Courtesy of Brandpoint Content

    Avoid extensive repairs by winterizing your home this fall

    (BPT) - Autumn is on the way, so don't fall behind on your seasonal home repairs checklist. It pays to know which renovations to tackle now, which repairs can wait until next season, and what preventative measures can help you avoid large-scale, costly repairs.

    "While staying warm is top of mind for many homeowners this upcoming winter, it is important to note that in order to stay warm and dry, homes must first be functioning properly," says Bill Jacques, American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) president. "A home inspection can help homeowners prioritize maintenance projects as the seasons change and weather becomes more severe."

    ASHI recommends fall as the ideal time to begin home inspector consultations and any necessary home repairs. Maintenance costs are generally lower when homeowners proactively prepare their home for winter weather instead of waiting to fix issues that appear.

    Homeowners may want to consult with a professional home inspector on winterizing projects, including:

    * Cleaning gutters and downspouts - When ice damming occurs, water cannot drain from gutters and can sometimes seep into the home and damage ceilings and walls.

    * Roof, siding and shutter repairs - Heavy rains and high winds can call for window protection from shutters and the necessity of a sturdy exterior and roof for protection. ASHI recommends inspecting your roof, siding and shutters at least once a year.

    * Caulking cracks to stop cold drafts - Worn-out weather stripping around doors and windows allows cold air to seep into the home, which increases heating costs.

    * Inspecting chimneys - Adding a cap or screen to the top of a chimney will prevent birds nesting or animals entering. ASHI also recommends inspecting the damper for proper operation and checking mortar between bricks.

    * Checking batteries in carbon monoxide and smoke detectors - Many fires or cases of carbon monoxide poisoning occur during cooler months due to an increase in furnace and other heat source usage. If you have gas appliances, you need a CO detector for increased safety.

    "The time to get serious about necessary home repairs is before the temperature starts dropping," says Jacques. "Once winter weather begins and your home has problems, you will be wasting money each month, so think about getting your home professionally inspected so you can keep the home in good condition and reduce problems from lack of maintenance. ASHI-certified home inspectors can help identify problems so you can keep your home in good condition."

    Homeowners can find an ASHI inspector by visiting www.ashi.org. The ASHI "Find a Home Inspector" directory allows homeowners to locate an inspector in their area, by language preferences or services provided.

    Courtesy of Brandpoint Content

    Fall Tune-Up Tips for Your Home Will Ensure Comfort All Winter Long

    (ARA) - Homeowners are creatures of comfort, and with colder days ahead, now is the time to ensure your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are in tip-top shape to provide a comfortable indoor environment all winter long. Ongoing maintenance and simple tune-ups can ensure your system runs properly and efficiently, helping to reduce costly energy and repair bills. American Standard Heating and Air Conditioning offers the following tips for ensuring consistent indoor temperature, humidity and air quality in the winter:

    * Arrange proactive maintenance: Schedule regular appointments with a heating and air conditioning dealer to come out and service your system before winter and again before summer.

    *Change the filters: Heating and air conditioning system filters should be changed every 30 days, or as often as recommended by the manufacturer. To help save on replacement costs, some manufacturers, such as American Standard, have cleanable filters that can be rinsed and vacuumed.

    * Check for leaks: Windows and doors are prime suspects for air leakage. Check around every frame for cracks, gaps and poor fitting fixtures and seal leaks with caulking or weatherstripping.

    * Use the proper insulation: Check to make sure your home is insulated with materials that have the proper “R-value.” An R-value is the measurement of how well insulation resists heat flow. The higher the R-value, the better the insulating power. HVAC experts recommend using R-30 insulation in the ceilings and R-13 in the exterior walls.

    * Program the thermostats: Save energy by installing a programmable thermostat that adjusts the temperature during the day. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, by turning your thermostat back 10 to 15 degrees for 8 hours, you can save 5 percent to 15 percent a year on your heating bill -- a savings of as much as 1 percent for each degree if the setback period is eight hours long.

    * Upgrade to two-stage heating: Most furnaces have single-stage heating systems, which deliver a blast of warm air followed by an off cycle and then another full blast of warm air, causing very noticeable temperature swings in the winter. Gain efficiency and comfort by upgrading to a two-stage system such as the American Standard’s Freedom 80 or 90 Two Stage Furnace -- the first stage runs more than 80 percent of the time, and the second stage switches on only as needed to provide more heat.

    * Control the humidity: Static electric shocks, dry nasal passages and parched skin are signs that your home’s humidity is too low. A humidifier can be attached to your furnace to add moisture back into the air during the cold winter months. American Standard offers whole-house humidifiers with integral sensors that can be set to automatically control humidity levels within your home.

    * Ensure cleaner air: Believe it or not, the air inside your home can sometimes be more unhealthy than what’s outside, causing potential problems in your family’s health. American Standard’s air cleaners can be attached to the furnace and help remove unwanted particles from the air in every room of the house.

    For more information on American Standard heating and air conditioning products, or to find an American Standard dealer near you, visit www.americanstandardair.com.

    Courtesy of Brandpoint Content

    Your game plan for disaster-free, tailgating success

    (ARA) - (BPT) - Tailgating is an investment in having fun - 42 percent of tailgaters spend more than $500 a season on food and supplies, according to a Tailgating Institute research study. When you're spending that much on your pre-game fun, food failures, cooler crises and other disasters are not an option. Here are a handful of common tailgating disasters and your game plan for avoiding them:

    Food failures

    Some tailgaters grill, others bring pre-made meals, and some pack a cooler of finger foods, but one thing all tailgaters have in common is that they're eating something. Food is as much a part of the fun as the game itself.

    Choosing tailgating-friendly foods can make all the difference. You may dream of serving steak to your tailgating guests, but burgers are much easier to grill and just as welcome, especially if you give them a little extra touch. Try stuffing them with cheese or serving them with a selection of creative toppings, such as avocado, jalapeño or fried onions from the grill.

    Your chips and dip are just as important. You can serve the most delicious dip, but the experience will fall flat if the chip can't stand up to the dip. Go with a chip that has some substance, like Cape Cod's Kettle Cooked Waffle Cut Chips. The new Farm Stand Ranch Waffle Cut works well with a variety of dip flavors, and the double-slicing of the chips makes them thicker than ordinary potato chips, and hearty enough to stand up to the thickest spread. Plus, those ridges provide plenty of lifting power to ensure the maximum amount of dip per chip.

    Equipment crises

    With 95 percent of tailgaters prepping food at the stadium (according to the Tailgating Institute study), equipment crises are almost inevitable. You could break out the charcoal only to find you forgot the matches, or those collapsible chairs you brought for extra seating prove to be a bit too collapsible. Equipment that doesn't behave as planned can put a damper on the entire party.

    Set yourself up for success. Find a portable grill that's made specifically for tailgating and that relies on propane for cooking needs; it will be more reliable than a charcoal grill. Check out consumer reviews for sturdy portable chairs, as they will help you to make a smart, informed purchase. It also pays to invest in a good cooler that can stand up to some bumps and scrapes. A damaged cooler that can't keep its contents cool can easily ruin the day.

    Weather worries

    Weather can also be a concern from the very first kick-off through the excitement of the playoffs. If you're fighting late summer thunderstorms or frigid temperatures, it pays to be prepared. During summer games, when the sun stays hot and high well into the evening, a collapsible canopy can be a great way to supply shade and keep guests dry in the event of a shower.

    A portable propane heater can help keep tailgaters toasty during winter games - and don't forget the heat you'll get from your portable propane grill, too. In addition to the heater, be sure to provide tailgating guests with plenty of warm blankets and consider laying some cardboard under chairs to help keep feet off the cold ground. Just be sure to remove and recycle the cardboard when you're finished.

    Location, location, location

    Finally, your spot in the parking lot plays an important role in the fun. You want to be near enough to the gates to get into the stadium quickly. Late-comers to the lot may end up in a tricky spot that guests won't be able to find and you'll be the last ones in the door when game time arrives. Competition is fierce for prime spots, so arrive early; 51 percent of tailgaters set up three to four hours before game time, and 39 percent arrive more than five hours before kick-off, according to the Tailgating Institute.

    By simply taking into account each of these suggestions, you are sure to be prepared this football season.

    Courtesy of Brandpoint Content

    Why Fall is the Time to Tackle Invasive Plant Problems

    (ARA) - The crisp days of fall will soon be here, but a long dry summer has left many homeowners looking out on lawns and gardens overtaken with invasive weeds and vines. A yard full of these noxious plants is sure to make it difficult to enjoy the cooler outdoor temperatures.

    In 2012, the nation faced one of the hottest summers on record in the last 60 years. With more than two thirds of the country experiencing severe to extreme drought, conditions were ideal for pesky weeds to flourish. Weeds like dandelions, crabgrass and clover easily tolerate hot temperatures and dry soil, overtaking lawns and gardens and lingering throughout the cooler fall months. Ivy and other aggressive vines thrive in the summer heat, climbing and covering bushes and trees and ultimately killing the plants underneath with their shade. Left untreated, invasive plants can quickly become health and safety hazards. Kudzu can grow up to a foot per day, causing tree limbs to break under its weight, damaging homes and outdoor living spaces. Common grass weeds like nettles and thistles sting and prick the skin, and contact with dangerous plants like poison oak, ivy and sumac cause moderate to severe allergic reactions in almost all people.

    "Fall herbicide treatments are the most effective way to eliminate unattractive and potentially harmful plants from lawns and gardens so that those spaces can be enjoyed throughout the cool fall months," says Aaron Hobbs, president of RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment), a national organization representing the manufacturers, formulators and distributors of pesticide and fertilizer products. "This is the best time of year to eliminate invasive plants," Hobbs adds. "Weeds move the products of photosynthesis like water, glucose and oxygen to their roots for winter food storage in the fall, enabling the roots to soak up herbicides as well." Two to three treatments are usually all that is needed to completely destroy these types of plants.

    Effective herbicide options exist for every type of weed and vine. The Environmental Protection Agency rigorously tests herbicides for potential human health and environmental impact before they can be registered and sold for use. As with all pesticides, users should always read labels and use and store products accordingly. With just one or two follow-up treatments after an initial fall herbicide application, invasive plants are eradicated at the root, and people can take back their lawns and gardens to enjoy the beauty of fall.

    Courtesy of Brandpoint Content

    Preparing your home for winter? Don't miss 4 important steps

    (ARA) - As you button up your home for winter, you should take four important steps to ensure you save energy, money and stay toasty all season long.

    When the temperature drops, we often grab a blanket to help stay warm. Adding insulation to your home is like wrapping it in a warm blanket. Insulating areas such as attics, basements and crawlspaces can make your home more comfortable and lower your energy bills. To get the biggest bang for your buck, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, add insulation to your attic. If your insulation is at or below the floor joists, you likely need to add more - 12 to 24 inches, depending on where you live.

    Seal your windows
    Even if windows are sealed with weather stripping, cold air can still enter through gaps. Use silicone caulk to seal air leaks or place shrink-wrap film over drafty windows to help reduce energy loss. You can locate drafts on windy days by slowly moving a burning candle near the window. Whenever the flame moves or smoke blows, you've got an air leak that needs to be sealed.

    Have your furnace inspected and clean your HVAC system
    As you close up your home for the cold season, the contaminates that are in your air ducts and furnace recirculate through your home over and over throughout the entire winter. Your HVAC system can collect everything from mold, fungi and bacteria to tiny dust particles and allergens that can cause irritation to everyone in the house. In fact, according to the EPA, indoor air can be two to five times more polluted than outdoor air.

    "Having your HVAC system inspected and cleaned can extend the life of your furnace and can even make it run considerably more efficiently, saving the homeowner money on their monthly heating and cooling bills" says Aaron Marshbanks, board member at NADCA - The HVAC Inspection, Maintenance & Restoration Association. "Having your system cleaned can also increase air flow which often times translates into increased comfort for occupants in the home."

    Change filters regularly
    Once you have a clean HVAC system, it's crucial to change your furnace filters regularly. Filters are designed to remove the dust and debris from the air flowing into your home. When the filter is dirty, the furnace has to work harder to pull air through the clogged filter and your utility bills will be higher. Change your furnace filter once a month to keep your system running at peak performance.

    For more information on how to winterize your home, visit NADCA.com.

    Courtesy of Brandpoint Content

    Don’t ‘Fall’ Behind on Plumbing Maintenance

    (ARA) - Cool autumn weekends are ideal for catching up on home maintenance projects that were better avoided during the dog days of summer. One item that should be on every homeowner’s “to do” list is protecting your home’s plumbing system from cold temperatures, which can cause pipes to freeze and burst.

    Frozen pipes aren’t just a problem in the North. Houses in warmer climates are also at risk because they typically don’t have sufficient insulation to weather sudden winter cold snaps. And despite some claims to the contrary, all plumbing materials -- including plastic pipe -- are at risk of damage from freezing when temperatures plummet.

    Preventing ’Pipesicles’

    Exposed plumbing in unheated basements, crawl spaces, attics and garages is most at risk for freezing, according to Andy Kireta, Jr., national program manager for building construction with the Copper Development Association (CDA). Copper tubing, which is used to distribute fresh water in the vast majority of America’s homes, can withstand expansion from freezing several times before bursting. Tests show that water filling a 1/2-inch-diameter annealed copper tube may freeze as many as six times, and 2-inch pipe up to 11 times, without causing damage. However, this does not mean homeowners should allow their water lines to be subjected to freezing.

    Plumbing freezes often occur when a home’s water supply is inactive -- for example, overnight when people in the house are sleeping, or when everyone is away from home on vacation. The water that is always present in your pipes will freeze when exposed long enough to frigid temperatures. This is bad news for plumbing because extreme cold makes materials brittle and liquid expands when it freezes, a dangerous combination that can cause all types of plumbing tube to crack or burst open, spilling water everywhere.

    Fortunately, there are solutions to help prevent pipes from freezing. These include the following:

    * Wait for a windy day and do a thorough inspection of your home (especially the basement) to determine where air is getting in. Wherever you find gaps, apply inexpensive caulking compound to seal small leaks or use expanding aerosol foam insulation for larger openings. If you can feel the wind blow in a ventilated crawl space or attic, apply insulation only around the pipes to avoid trapping moisture in these areas.

    * Local home centers and hardware stores sell pipe insulation sleeves that protect plumbing tube from the cold. Buy the proper sizes matched to the diameters of the pipes you need to protect. (Plumbers caution that pipes can still freeze with these products, so make sure you’ve also plugged any leaks where cold air is entering the house.)

    * For plumbing elbows, where two pieces of pipe join together at a 90-degree angle, wrap fiberglass insulation around the pipe and secure with duct tape. (This is an important area to protect because freeze breaks frequently happen at joints, elbows and tees.)

    * If your kitchen sink is located on an outside wall, leave cabinet doors under the sink open during cold spells to help keep pipes warm. A layer of foam insulation board fitted tightly against the back wall of the cabinet will also keep the cold from seeping through to the pipes.

    * Make sure you don’t leave any windows open in a basement near exposed pipes.

    Before temperatures drop, you should also disconnect and drain garden hoses, as well as swimming pool and lawn sprinkler water supply lines, and shut off the water supply to all outdoor water spigots. The water shutoff valve for outdoor spigots is located inside the house -- usually in a basement or crawl space. Leave the spigots open to drain any water that may be in the line.

    Thawing Out

    If you do get a frozen pipe, use only the amount of heat from a hair dryer, heat gun or vacuum cleaner to thaw it. Never use a propane torch. Fires can start this way when heat or sparks ignite flammable items nearby. Before applying heat, open the fixture or faucet that is affected by the frozen pipe to allow steam created during thawing to escape. Gradually warm the pipe by moving the heat source slowly over the entire length of pipe, starting at the faucet end. Electrical heat tapes also may be used to thaw frozen pipes, or to protect exposed plumbing lines at risk from freezing.

    A home is one of the biggest investments that most people ever make. Protecting your investment by performing regular maintenance and repairs is time well spent. For information on residential copper plumbing tube, visit the Copper Development Association’s Web site, www.copper.org, or log on to www.copperinyourhome.com.

    Protecting Pipes While You’re Away

    Master Plumber Bob Hardina of Damariscotta, Maine, knows firsthand about the havoc cold weather can wreak on residential plumbing systems. He shares the following tips for homeowners planning to leave their homes during winter for any extended period:

    * Make sure to keep the thermostat set at or above 50 degrees.

    * Turn off the water supply at the home’s main valve; open and drain all faucets and flush the toilets. This will ensure that, if the pipes do freeze, you will not have massive flooding.

    * Homeowners with heating systems that distribute water through radiators or baseboard radiators should turn the heat down gradually before leaving the house. This ensures that pipes won’t freeze while waiting for the heat to restart. For example, if a thermostat is set at 70 degrees, and you suddenly shut it down to 50 degrees, it may be an hour or so before the water starts to circulate again.

    * If you want to leave the heat and water supply turned off while you are gone, have a plumber set up a system that will pump nontoxic antifreeze into the plumbing while you’re away. This will prevent freeze-ups and keep faucet seats and valves from drying out. Once they are set up, such systems are simple to activate before you leave and easy to flush out when you return.

    Courtesy of Brandpoint Content

    Fall Bug Prevention Basics

    (ARA) - The cooler weather signals squirrels to store away nuts, birds to fly south and leaves to fall from trees, but cooler weather also means that bugs will be looking for a comfy, cozy place to spend the winter. Unfortunately, your house fits that bill.

    Insects start to come inside when fall arrives and their natural food sources disappear. Whether your house is the preferred winter home for crickets, boxelder bugs, spiders, silverfish or any other creepy crawlies, stay one step ahead by bug-proofing your home now. You can defend your home from unwanted insects by following a few simple steps:

    Make your home less attractive:
    Bugs are attracted to food and water. Store food in tightly sealed plastic, glass or metal containers, clean up crumbs from counters and floors daily, cover trash cans with snug lids, rinse out recyclables and eliminate standing water or other moisture sources. In addition, be sure to clean dishes and laundry in a timely fashion. Outside, be sure to keep plants, debris, mulch and firewood away from the foundation of your home, especially doors and windows.

    Deny entry:
    If there's a hole in your screen or a crack around a window, you can be sure that bugs will find it. Repair screens and windows. Check all doors for a snug fit and use caulking or weather-stripping to fill in any gaps. Use concrete or foam filler to seal cracks and openings around the home foundation. Taking the time to make sure everything is sealed up tight won't just keep out unwanted pests; it will also save money on energy bills too.

    Control the situation:
    Kill bugs indoors and keep bugs out by applying Ortho Home Defense Max Insect Killer Indoor & Perimeter around your home's foundation, both inside and out. Spraying a band along the foundation and in areas of recurring bug infestations will control listed bugs for up to 12 months indoors. It's a good idea to treat baseboards, doors and windows too. Just be sure to follow the instructions on the label. If you already have a lot of bugs inside, Ortho Elementals Home Insect Killer acts as a great way to stop them in their tracks. It's safe for use around kids and pets when used as directed. Simply spray directly on insects until they are thoroughly covered. For more great tips on how to defend your home from unwanted pests, visit www.ortho.com.

    Controlling insects and keeping them from invading your home is not as difficult as it seems. Just a few precautions can ensure a winterized home that's warm and inviting for you and not for bugs.

    Courtesy of Brandpoint Content

    Football Fans Plan to Kick Off Tailgating Season
    New Survey Reveals Preparation is Key to Tailgate Success

    (ARA) – As the football season gets underway, fans are anticipating big wins on the field and planning big parties in the parking lot. With tailgating as much of a pastime as the actual game, it is no surprise that tailgaters take their art seriously. According to a recent survey, enjoying the party atmosphere (44 percent) and being prepared (32 percent) are the two most important aspects in tailgating. Additionally, hearty tailgaters strongly believe in organization and planning, as 35 percent of respondents consider themselves “the organizer,” and 40 percent pitch in with the planning. All the organizing aside, that still doesn’t mean there won’t be a mess, as nearly half of tailgaters spill on themselves or others. And that’s a lot of spills, considering 100 percent of the survey respondents said they’ve tailgated before.

    “Tailgating is a great way for the entire family to enjoy one of America’s favorite sports,” said Kelly Semrau, SC Johnson’s vice president of Global Public Affairs and Communication. “For serious tailgaters, there are some must-have tools to help make planning easier. This leaves more time to enjoy the big game with family and friends both inside and outside the stadium.”

    Tailgating Must Haves

    The key to a successful tailgate is preparation, which means having the right supplies. Whether it is for pre-game food, to set the atmosphere, or for clean-up afterwards, the following are this season’s must-haves to score a tailgate touchdown:

    Tailgate Essentials:

    Grill: Cooking up the perfect brat, burger or hot dog is serious business. There are many small grills available today intended specifically for tailgate parties that can pack nicely in the trunk of your car. Enjoy the time at the stadium by preparing all of the food at home. Use Ziploc bags and containers to bring, snacks, cut-up vegetables and fruit for you and your family and friends.

    Coolers and ice: Nothing is worse than warm beverages at a tailgate. Also, make sure the perishable food gets in a cooler!

    Insect repellent: Be prepared to battle mosquitoes late into the fall. Apply insect repellent using OFF! Deep Woods Towelettes, which are individually wrapped and easy to store and carry.

    Create the Atmosphere:

    Music: Get your party going. Download a few of everyone’s favorite songs and make a CD to listen to and rally the fans while outside.

    Tailgate games: Bring sports equipment and other outdoor games to add to the festivities. You can easily store footballs, Frisbees, blankets and other supplies in a Ziploc Big Bag (2 inches by 1 foot 7 inches).

    Team Gear: Grab hats, pennants, scarves or anything else you can find in your favorite team’s colors. Let it be clear to the fellow tailgaters which team you are rooting for.

    Clean Up:

    Moist hand towelettes: Have sanitary wet wipes available; not only is it easy to clean greasy and dirty hands, but easier than napkins to clean-up.

    On-the-run stain treater: For those that spill on themselves or others, keep Shout Wipes Plus stain treater towelettes handy to tackle accidental stains on the spot.

    Quick clean up: Wipe up any sticky messes or do quick cleaning on the tables or in the car with Windex Multi Task Wipes.

    Be this year’s most valuable tailgater by planning some of the best outings of the season. Follow these simple solutions and you are guaranteed to enjoy game day regardless of a win on the field. Now all you have to do is buy your tickets!

    Courtesy of Brandpoint Content

    EDITOR’S NOTE: Survey results are from a web-based survey of 1,000 adults 18 or older conducted by TNS (Taylor Nelson Sofres).

    Take Your Barbecue on the Road --11 Million Americans Can’t Be Wrong!

    (ARA) - Despite the raging debate over when and where it all began --at the 1869 Princeton/Rutgers game or at the Yale Bowl in 1904 -- the tradition of tailgating before and after football games, races and concerts has grown to be part of Americana. In fact, a recent consumer survey conducted by the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association indicates that nearly 11 million grill owners tailgate at least once each year. The majority arrive at the stadium or track three to four hours prior to the start of the event. An impressive eight out of ten prepare their communal feast using a grill or smoker!

    This all-important “eating as entertainment” aspect of tailgating has grown considerably, thanks in part to the growing number of high-performance portable grills and specialty smokers that can be packed for the parking lot. No longer “your grandfather’s” flimsy brazier or basic hibachi, these super stylin’ gas and charcoal portables are made from the same high-quality materials and features as their backyard counterparts.

    When shopping for your tailgate grill or smoker, consider the number of people to be fed, the types of foods to be prepared, the amount and type of space available for set-up and how much space is available in your vehicle.

    Road-ready stainless steel and enamel-finish grills are available in a number of configurations. Some fold up for transportation, and then stand up at a convenient height for grilling. Also look for grills with multiple burners, griddles, adjustable heat settings, push-button lighting, fold-down or removable legs.

    For a propane grill, bring a 20-pound tank and an adapter to avoid running out of fuel with a one-pound canister. Remember to have the tank filled before you go, or visit a propane exchange location to swap an empty one for a full one. There are now more than 50,000 cylinder exchange locations across the country, so it should be easy to find one in your neighborhood.

    For charcoal grilling, try light-the-bag charcoal that has just the right amount for one cookout. Or for smoking, combine charcoal and wood chunks to get great wood-smoke flavor.

    And what are the most popular foods for parking lot chefs to put on the grill? Not surprisingly, 81 percent opt for the traditional hamburgers, hot dogs and sausage; but 38 percent roast chicken, 29 percent serve smoke-kissed ribs and 24 percent are turning out sizzling steaks.

    But what about those fans who can’t make it to the event? A new class of revelers -- known as “virtual tailgaters” -- set up tailgate parties in their backyard. Many will rent a theater-sized TV and invite lots of friends to watch the big game, the big race or the big concert. It’s safe and secure, and best of all, there are no traffic and parking headaches for party participants. And, because 85 percent of American families own barbecue grills, they’re already set for food preparation.

    Regardless of where the tailgate party is held, a gathering of friends around a grill for a gaming event or a concert is a recipe for success!

    Courtesy of Brandpoint Content

    Editor’s Note:
    For more information about portable grills, visit www.hpba.org. The Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA), based in Arlington, Va., is the North American industry association for manufacturers, retailers, distributors, representatives, service firms and allied associates for all types of hearth, barbecue and patio appliances, fuels and accessories. The association provides professional member services and industry support in education, statistics, government relations, marketing, advertising and consumer education. There are more than 2,600 members in the HPBA.

    Get Ready for Winter Driving Now

    (ARA) - Automotive breakdowns, never convenient, can be dangerous in cold weather. Preventive maintenance can help lessen the odds of mechanical failure. Use the following checklist from the non-profit National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence as a guide.

    * Read your owner's manual and follow the manufacturer's recommended service schedules. There are usually two schedules listed: normal and severe.

    * Have engine problems (hard starts, rough idling, stalling, diminished power, etc.) corrected now, since cold weather will make existing problems worse.

    * Change your oil and oil filter as specified in your manual. Have your auto technician check out the other filters: air, fuel, PCV, etc.

    * The cooling system (radiator) should be flushed and refilled as recommended. A professional should check the tightness and condition of all belts, clamps and hoses.

    * The heater and defroster must be in good working condition to prevent windows from fogging or icing.

    * The only accurate way to detect a weak battery is with professional equipment. But do-it-yourselfers can perform routine maintenance. Scrape away corrosion from posts and cable connections; clean all surfaces; re-tighten all connections. Wear eye protection and rubber gloves.

    * Replace worn wiper blades. If your climate is harsh, consider getting rubber-clad (winter) blades to fight ice build-up.

    * An auto technician should examine the exhaust system for leaks and inspect the trunk and floorboards for small holes. Exhaust fumes can be deadly.

    * Worn tires will be of little use in winter weather. Examine tires for remaining tread life, uneven wearing, and cupping; check the sidewalls for cuts and nicks. Check tire pressure once a month. Let the tires "cool down" before checking the pressure. Rotate as recommended. Don't forget your spare, and be sure the jack is in good condition.

    A well-maintained vehicle is safer in winter's harsh conditions and gets better gas mileage and will last longer than a car that's been neglected. Visit www.ase.com for more car care tips and vehicle maintenance information.

    The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) was founded in 1972 as a non-profit, independent organization dedicated to improving the quality of automotive service and repair through the voluntary testing and certification of automotive professionals. ASE-certified technicians wear blue and white ASE shoulder insignia and carry credentials listing their exact area(s) of certification, while their employers often display the blue and white ASE sign. They can be found at all types of repair facilities from dealerships to independent garages and franchises.

    Courtesy of Brandpoint Content

    Boater's Guide to Winter Storage

    (ARA) - If you're an avid boater, the time of year you dread is just around the corner. It'll soon be time to pull your boat out of the water and stow it for the winter. But before you throw the cover on, there are several things you need to take care of to make sure you won't miss a beat when the next boating season begins.

    1) Check the boat, motor, trailer and wheel bearings for signs of wear and tear. If any repairs are necessary, arrange to have them made before you put the boat in storage so it'll be ready to go in the spring.

    2) Fill the boat's fuel tank all the way to the top to minimize condensation of humid moist air and oxidation. To prevent subsequent fuel spoilage, add 1 ounce of Sta-Bil fuel stabilizer for every 2.5 gallons in the tank. Once the stabilizer has been added, start the motor on the flusher, run it up to warm (about 10-15 minutes) to ensure that the treated fuel gets in to the whole system. If you have a sailboat, follow the same procedure for your generator.

    STA-BIL is available in automotive and hardware stores nationwide. Log on to www.goldeagle.com to find a list of authorized retailers.

    3) Inboards: Drain the engine block and manifolds and fill the engine with anti-freeze, install engine plugs

    4) Change or remove the spark plugs. For outboards tilt up the engine and spray more storage fogging oil in the cylinders directly, turn the engine by hand to distribute it on the cylinder walls. While you have the engine cover off, it's a good time to clean all of the housings and coat electrical connections with anti-corrosion spray.

    5) Inspect all the cables. Remove the steering cable from the motor. Run an oily rag down the tube to remove all the build-up from the bore. Clean all the gunk off the cable and let it hang down for a while to get any water out. Next, spray the cable and the tube with the anti-corrosion spray. Then re-grease the tube and cable and re-install it or leave it off and extended, hang it up under the well where it won't get in the weather. For hydraulic steering, remove the extenders that hold the cylinder and remove the rod through the tube, clean as above.

    6) Battery storage. Disconnect the battery/batteries and remove it/them from the boat. Store battery/batteries inside on a board and keep a trickle charger on it/them a couple days a month. Clean the terminals with baking soda and spray with the anti-corrosion treatment.

    7) Spray the area around the base of the engine powerhead and the trim (if equipped) with anti-corrosion spray.

    8) Check out the trailer & wheel bearings & bearing "buddies." Jack it up and pull the wheels and hubs. Repack the bearings, if you have buddy bearings, make sure they are full. Consider putting the trailer on blocks and storing the tires in the garage. Spray an anti-corrosive on any unprotected metal

    9) Check out the trailer lights and stop lamps be sure that they all work.

    10) Winterize drain and flush fresh water system.

    Courtesy of Brandpoint Content

    Campfire Cooking Made Easy

    (ARA) - Grilling over the open campfire is a rich tradition. Maybe it's a combination of how the wood brings out food's natural flavor and the ambiance of being outdoors. Whether camping with the family, hunting with friends or simply achieving that wood-grilled flavor at home, campfire cooking is delicious and easier than you might think.

    "Camping is a popular activity that many enjoy all year long," comments Tom Benzschawel, an expert on outdoor cooking and creator of the Grate Mate Outdoors, Quad Pod campfire grill. "Whether you're camping for the evening with family, on a hunting adventure with friends, or on a week long scouts' trip earning a survival badge, cooking over a campfire is a fun experience that can produce great results."

    This first thing to keep in mind is that cooking over a fire is different than using a traditional stove. Make sure to pack forks and knives as needed along with kitchen supplies such as tinfoil and resealable plastic baggies. It's also a good idea to bring extra butter and oil, along with salt and pepper as these can be used for cooking most items.

    Planning out your meals will save you time and money when it comes to camping. Depending on the type of tools you have for cooking over a fire, you can cook simple items like hotdogs or complex items like pizza.

    So what is the best way to cook over a campfire? Metal pokers might work for marshmallows, but are very limited when it comes to cooking a whole meal. Tripods are convenient, but they can get messy and are unstable. Use a grill made especially for this type of use such as the Quad Pod, a collapsible metal grill that can be placed over a fire for cooking many types of food. Four metal legs keep it stable and the adjustable grate was designed to provide the user with complete control of cooking temperatures. The side table allows you to keep side items, such as a kettle of coffee or ears of corn warm while you cook other food.

    When cooking over a campfire it's fun to be creative, but remember you are cooking over an open flame so be careful and monitor food to make sure it is thoroughly cooked. You are sure to find a favorite you can cook over and over again, but if you need some ideas to get you started, use these recipes for a great start to outdoor cooking:

    Camper's Tinfoil Dinners

    1 roll tinfoil
    1 potato cubed
    2 carrots chopped
    1 small onion chopped
    Camper's favorite meat

    Take a 12-inch piece of tinfoil and lay on the table. Place potatoes, carrots, onion and the camper's choice of meat on the tinfoil. Add a small amount of butter or oil to help the ingredients cook and prevent sticking to the foil. Cover with another piece of tinfoil and wrap into a small package. Place foil on the grill, flipping every ten minutes. Check progress after 20 minutes to see if meat and vegetables are thoroughly cooked.

    Camper's Chicago Style Pizza

    Pizza crust mix
    1 small stick of pepperoni, sliced thin
    1/2 cup spaghetti sauce
    8 mozzarella slices
    1 small onion, chopped
    1 small can mushrooms, drained
    1 small can black olives, pitted and halved
    Pepper and oregano to taste

    Mix pizza crust mix as directed on package. Pat out dough to 12-inch circle and place on grill. Add remaining ingredients. Cover top of pizza with a large piece of tinfoil. Bake until base is golden and insides are cooked. Allow extra time for thicker crusts.

    After you've cooked all your food don't delay in cleaning up. Now with a full stomach you can truly sit back and enjoy nature. Who knows, you might have so much fun cooking over your campfire that you want to do it at home! Use your grill over the bonfire pit at home to get the flavor of the outdoors any time of year.

    Ask for the Quad Pod by Grate Mate Outdoors by name at your local outdoor retail store. For more information visit www.gratemateoutdoors.com.

    Courtesy of Brandpoint Content

    For the Birds: Feed 'em in Fall to Welcome Them Back in Winter

    (ARA) - Humans aren't the only ones who look forward to the autumn harvest. Fall brings a bounty of natural foods for our feathered friends, too. But while they're feasting on fall's cornucopia of delicacies, birds are also planning ahead, taking note of yards with bird feeders that can help them weather winter's cold.

    Many of birds' favorite foods are actually more abundant in the fall. Summer weeds ripen with seeds by October. Many berries only begin to emerge in late summer or early winter, and insects are plentiful. You may think there's no need to feed your feathered friends during the fall, but if you want them to find your home in the winter, start feeding them in autumn.

    The birds who visit feeders in the fall are scouting, becoming familiar with feed stations and making decisions about which back yards they'll visit this winter. The feed you put out in the fall will let birds know they'll be welcomed and fed in your back yard when serious cold weather arrives - and they no longer have the luxury of exploring for food.

    Winter weather is hard on birds. Their calorie requirements increase, food becomes hard to find, snow covers up seeds, and ice storms seal away the tree buds and wild fruits. Tiny birds must eat a third to three quarters of their weight each day. When the temperature dips below zero, easy meals at a feeder can mean the difference between life and death.

    An important rule of fall and winter feeding is to be prepared. By stocking up now on premium bird seed, bird lovers can help secure a wholesome food source for birds without having to brave stormy weather.

    It's important to stock your feeder with high-quality foods that will provide birds with the most fat, nutrients and energy. Look for a feed like Cole's that packs nutrition, preserves freshness and gives you the most feed for your dollar. Cole's Oil Sunflower is more than 99 percent pure and cleaned four times to ensure there are more seeds and fewer sticks in each bag. The feed is also nitrogen-purge packaged, just like potato chips, to ensure freshness and insect-free feed.

    In addition to seed, serve up some suet either by itself or mixed with seed. Cole's Nutberry Suet is a seed blend mix of premium fruits, preferred nuts, nutritious insect suet kibbles, and whole kernel sunflower meats, which appeals to fruit and insect-loving songbirds. Or try Suet Pearls, which features sunflower seeds buried inside energy-rich suet. Suet Nuts is a nourishing blend of peanuts and berry suet that birds find delectable. These feed choices will provide fat and a high protein energy source to assist wild birds in weathering winter and may actually boost their chance of survival.

    Just as birds need food year-round, they also look for water. This can be tricky in regions where water spends the winter as ice, but bird lovers can still help in a number of ways. Experts suggest leaving icicles on the eaves to provide a regular source of water for birds that will drink the drops as the icicles melt. Birds are drawn to running water sounds so spritzers or small fountains are also good. In the winter there are many quality bird bath heaters available to keep the water from freezing and they are more convenient than setting out water every day.

    Don't worry about the birds if you have to be gone from your home for a while in winter. Birds are used to having a food source disappear. It might take them a while to rediscover your yard when you return, but they'll be back, grateful for your assistance.

    For more ideas on how to help birds eat well through winter, and feed choices visit www.coleswildbird.com.

    Courtesy of Brandpoint Content

    The articles on this page are courtesy of brandpointcontent.com and are not written by The Almanack

  • Daily Almanack

    Current Moon Phase
    Courtesy of the

    Current weather conditions at Thealmanack.com