Category: Outdoors

Safety Tips Ahead of Your Memorial Day Barbecue

Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer for millions of people across the country. Backyard barbecues are a staple of Memorial Day weekend, and such informal gatherings contribute much to the laid back vibe of this beloved three-day weekend.

Backyard barbecues may be all about food and fun, but it’s important that hosts take measures to ensure such soirees are safe as well. By employing the following measures, hosts can ensure their Memorial Day barbecues are safe for all in attendance.

Place the Grill In A Safe Location

The National Fire Protection Association urges hosts to place their grills a safe distance away from the home, deck railings and out from under eaves or overhanging branches. The NFPA also notes no grill should be placed within 10 feet of any structure, including a home.

Check Propane Tanks For Leaks Prior To Using The Grill

Memorial Day may be the first time many people use their grill since the previous summer or fall. The NFPA recommends propane grill users check their tanks for leaks prior to using the grill for the first time. This inspection is simple. Apply a light solution of soap and water to the hose. The NFPA notes a propane leak will release bubbles. The smell test also can reveal a leak, as a strong odor of gas can indicate a leak. In such instances, close the tank valve and turn off the grill. If the leak stops, have the grill serviced by a professional. If the leak persists, call the fire department. The NFPA urges hosts who detect an odor of gas while cooking to get away from the grill immediately and call the fire department. Do not move the grill in such instances.

Man The Grill At All Times

An unattended grill poses a significant safety hazard. Whether you’re using a propane grill, a charcoal grill, a smoker, or a hybrid, make sure an adult is keeping an eye on the grill at all times.

Purchase Long-Handled Cooking Tools

The American Red Cross notes that long-handled cooking tools are designed to keep chefs safe. Such tools ensure cooks’ hands and arms do not have to be directly over flames, which can periodically flare up and pose a safety hazard.

Ensure Children Are Supervised When Swimming

The grill is not the only safety threat that may be present at Memorial Day barbecues. Hosts who will open their pools or provide inflatable pools for children should make sure kids are supervised when in or around the water at all times. Before allowing kids in a pool, hosts should confirm their swimming abilities and insist kids who cannot swim or only recently learned to swim wear inflatables or life jackets to reduce drowning risk.

Memorial Day weekend is a festive time at many households. By emphasizing backyard barbecue safety strategies, hosts can ensure everyone has a great time and gets home safe this Memorial Day weekend.

How To Create An Outdoor Living Retreat

Al fresco entertaining has taken off in recent years. It’s much more common today to find homeowners who want to extend living spaces to the outdoors in meaningful ways that go beyond a few lawn chairs and a stand-alone grill. Dream backyard living rooms mirror similar spaces indoors and contain features like cozy corners, lush furniture and televisions or movie projectors. Plus, they often abut additional outdoor luxuries like fully functional kitchens.

Homeowners have various options when designing outdoor living spaces. Above all else, spaces should be created with the goal of encouraging people to get together. Here are some ideas.

Poolside Retreat

Homeowners with pools and other water features likely want this area to be the star of the entertaining space. Furniture will be more of the lounging variety, with comfortable chaises and spots to catch the sun. If a swim-up bar isn’t possible, a rolling bar cart can be stocked with essentials for cocktails or mocktails for the kids. Furniture near the pool will be exposed to a lot of sun, so look for durable, sun-resistant fabrics.

Fireside Nook

Gathering around an outdoor fireplace or fire pit is a treat when the weather cools down. Mirror the look of the same setup indoors by arranging outdoor sofas so they flank the fireplace. Add some ottomans or side tables for stowing mulled cider or hot chocolate. A mantel above the fireplace can hold pots of greenery or candles that add to the ambiance.

Consider A Custom Banquette

Unused corners on a patio or rooftop retreat can utilize a custom-made banquette that provides the functionality of a sofa sectional outdoors. Have a contractor design it to the exact specifications of the area, and add a rug to ground the space.

Vary The Flooring

Depending on the entertaining space, a balance of soft grass, pavers or other hardscape will be necessary. Certain areas will need to be hard enough for chairs and other furniture, particularly for those who are including an outdoor dining table in the design.

Create Some Privacy

Some homeowners are lucky enough to have natural barriers that offer privacy in their entertaining spaces. When there isn’t enough, tall shrubs, inexpensive bamboo fencing or trellis can provide a blind that makes an outdoor living area more cozy and private. Consider placing tall, potted plants on rolling casters to improve privacy as the need arises.

Outdoor living spaces are all the rage, and they can add value and functionality to most any home.

A Brief History Of Earth Day

Earth Day is celebrated each April and draws attention to a range of issues affecting the environment. Earth Day aims to raise awareness in the hope of inspiring change.

Earth Day is observed on April 22. According to National Geographic, the first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970. Wisconsin senator Gaylord Nelson was inspired to begin a national celebration uniting the environmental movement after witnessing environmental activism in the 1960s. With the help of Denis Hayes, a graduate student at Harvard University, Nelson organized the first Earth Day. Twenty million people participated in events across the United States and strengthened support for environmental legislation like the Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species Act.

Earth Day was expanded to a global initiative in 1990 under guidance from Hayes. Nearly 200 million participants in more than 140 countries now join together in the name of protecting the planet. Awareness continues to be raised each year regarding renewable energy and climate change.

One of the hallmarks of Earth Day celebrations is the planting of trees. Researchers estimate roughly 15 billion trees are cut down each year across the globe. By planting a tree every Earth Day, people can make a difference. Trees absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen and bolster ecosystems for wildlife. Shade trees can reduce reliance on fans and air conditioning systems.

The main message of Earth Day 2024 is the need to commit to ending reliance on plastics, says EarthDay.org. The goal is a 60 percent reduction in the production of all plastics by 2040. Plastics are bad for the environment a growing body of research indicates they have an adverse effect on the major systems of the body, including immune, respiratory, digestive, and hormonal systems.

Everyone can do their part to promote the ideals behind Earth Day. For 54 years, millions of people have been advocating for change to benefit the planet and human and animal health, and that fight is ongoing.

Tips To Revitalize A Garden This Spring

Gardening is a rewarding hobby that pays a host of significant dividends. Many people love gardening because it allows them to spend time outdoors, and that simple pleasure is indeed a notable benefit of working in a garden. But the National Initiative for Consumer Horticulture notes that gardening provides a host of additional benefits, including helping people get sufficient levels of exercise, reduce stress and improve mood.

With so much to gain from gardening, it’s no wonder people look forward to getting their hands dirty in the garden each spring. As the weather warms up, consider these tips to help bring a garden back to life.

Discard The Dead Weight

Winter can take its toll on a garden, even in regions where the weather between December and early spring is not especially harsh. Discard dead plants that have lingered into spring and prune any perennials that need it. Branches that fell during winter storms also should be removed at this point if they have not previously been discarded.

Test The Soil

Soil testing kits can be purchased at local garden centers and home improvement retailers. Such tests are inexpensive and can reveal if the soil needs to be amended to help plants thrive in the months to come.

Mulch Garden Beds

Mulching benefits a garden by helping soil retain moisture and preventing the growth of weeds. Various garden experts note that mulching in spring can prevent weed seeds from germinating over the course of spring and summer. That means plants won’t have to fight with weeds for water when the temperature warms up. It also means gardeners won’t have to spend time pulling weeds this summer.

Inspect Your Irrigation System

Homeowners with in-ground irrigation systems or above-ground systems that utilize a drip or soaker function can inspect the systems before plants begin to bloom. Damaged sprinkler heads or torn lines can deprive plants of water they will need to bloom and ultimately thrive once the weather warms up.

Tune Up Your Tools

Gardening tools have likely been sitting around gathering dust since fall. Serious gardeners know that tools can be expensive, so it pays to protect that investment by maintaining the tools. Sharpened pruners help make plants less vulnerable to infestation and infection. Well-maintained tools like shovels and hoes also make more demanding gardening jobs a little bit easier, so don’t forget to tune up your tools before the weather warms up.

It’s almost gardening season, which means gardeners can start on the necessary prep work to ensure their gardens grow in strong and beautiful this spring.

What Is The Autumnal Equinox?

Fall begins slightly after the midpoint of September. The arrival of fall may be met with joy that cooler temperatures and vividly colored leaves will soon be the norm. For others, the arrival of fall is met with some trepidation that shorter days will soon pave the way for less sunlight and the inevitable arrival of winter.

Fall begins on Saturday, September 23, 2023, in the Northern Hemisphere on what is known as the autumnal equinox. The National Weather Service reports that the 2023 autumnal equinox will arrive at 2:50 a.m. EDT on September 23. Those who are especially anxious for fall to begin can wake up in the wee hours of the morning and enjoy their first comforting spiced treat of the season.

Equinoxes are days during the year when the hours of sunlight and darkness are just about equal, or lasting 12 hours each. At the moment the equinox occurs, the sun will be directly over the Earth’s equator, which contributes to this even distribution of day and nighttime hours. National Geographic describes the equinox as “the event in which a planet’s subsolar point passes through its Equator. It is when solar declination is 0 degrees.” Solar declination refers to the latitude of Earth where the sun is directly overhead at noon. The equinoxes are the only times when both the northern and southern hemispheres experience roughly equal amounts of daytime and nighttime.

After the autumnal equinox, the subsolar point continues to move south as the southern hemisphere tilts toward the sun. Around December 21, the subsolar point hits the Tropic of Capricorn (23.5 degrees S), which marks the winter (December) solstice, or the day with the fewest hours of daylight during the year in the northern hemisphere.

It’s important to note that the equinoxes and solstices are opposite in the hemispheres. The northern hemisphere’s fall equinox occurs on the same day as the southern hemisphere’s vernal (spring) equinox.

The autumnal equinox is a time when hours of daylight and nighttime are equal, something that will not occur again until the arrival of spring.

The Health Benefits Of Being In Nature

Nature enthusiasts are known to say that spending time in the great outdoors has a positive effect on their mental and physical well-being. Such an outlook is more than mere speculation, as it turns out spending time in nature provides a host of health benefits that might surprise even the most devoted outdoors enthusiasts.

Nature and Cognitive Health

A 2010 study published in the American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease & Other Dementias found that engaged persons with dementia in horticultural therapy-based (HT-based) programming solicited higher rates of participation than traditional activities (TA) programming. In addition, a separate 2013 study in the journal Dementia found that exposure to a therapeutic garden had a positive impact on quality of life for people with dementia. And it’s not just dementia patients who can experience the cognitive benefits of time spent in nature, as the Hagley Museum and Library reports that numerous studies have found exposure to nature improves cognitive function.

Nature and Vitamin D

The potential health benefits of vitamin D are increasingly drawing the attention of medical researchers, and for good reason. According to the Harvard Medical School, recent research has suggested that vitamin D may offer added protection against conditions such as osteoporosis, cancer, heart attack, stroke, and depression. Exposure to sunshine can help the body generate vitamin D, thus providing further reason to spend time in nature.

Nature and Overall Well-Being

Given the aforementioned health benefits related to spending time in nature, it’s easy for even non-scientists to conclude that being outdoors has a profound impact on overall well-being. But non-scientists can rest assured that recent research has confirmed such conclusions. A 2019 study published in the journal Scientific Reports found that individuals who spent at least 120 minutes a week in nature were significantly more likely to report good health and psychological well-being than those who spent less time outdoors. Though the authors of the study cautioned that the exposure-response relationship was under-researched, and therefore likely needed to be studied more extensively, in the meantime individuals, after a consultation with their physicians and confirmation that it’s safe to get out more often, can aspire to spend at least 120 minutes in nature each week. The results may speak for themselves.

Nature has a lot to offer, and the benefits of spending more time outdoors may be even more significant than people recognize.

Simple Safety Protocols That Can Protect Hunters

Hunting is big business in North America. In 2017, more than 15 million people hunted in the United States. The National Shooting Sports Foundation reports that sportsmen and women contribute nearly $9.4 million to the economy every day.

Millions of hunters take to forests and fields every year. Seasoned hunters and novices alike can benefit from revisiting some safety procedures before their first outing this season.

Weather

Weather should be a consideration whenever people spend a significant amount of time outdoors. Hunters typically leave before dawn and arrive home after dusk. Hypothermia is a very real risk for hunters who may be out in snow or wet conditions. It’s possible to get hypothermia by overdressing as well. Sweating and then being exposed to dropping temperatures puts people at risk for hypothermia. Hunters should dress in layers with moisture-wicking materials and a water-repellant outer layer. In addition, check the weather forecast before heading out as a last second precautionary measure.

Firearm Safety

Firearm safety is a critical component of safe hunting. Hunters use rifles, shotguns and other firearms. Each gun is different, so hunters need to familiarize themselves with new firearms before using them. The following are some additional firearm safety tips, courtesy of State Farm Insurance and Southern Land Exchange.

· Always treat a firearm as if it is loaded.

· Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.

· Only point at what you plan to shoot.

· Clearly identify your target and what is beyond it.

· Fire within the zone-of-fire, which is the 45-degree area directly in front of each hunter.

· Firearm chambers should be emptied when guns are not in use.

· Use appropriate ammunition.

· Never modify or alter the gun.

· Never cross a fence, jump a ditch or climb a tree with a loaded gun.

· Never rely on a gun’s safety.

Additional Safety Tips

Hunters should always let others know where they will be when leaving in the morning. If something should happen, people back home can alert authorities if something goes awry. Always check equipment and maintain it properly. Equipment should include gear colored in hunter’s orange. That extends to dogs if they are accompanying hunters on a trip. This makes hunters more visible to other hunters. Also, carry a first aid kit, a charged mobile phone or a satellite phone to maintain contact with others in case of emergencies.

These are just some of the safety protocols that should be followed when hunting. Non-hunters should exercise caution during hunting seasons, particularly when entering forests and areas that hunters frequent.

Key Components Of A Fun Picnic

Dining al fresco is often associated with securing outdoor seating at a local restaurant. However, anyone can enjoy al fresco dining at home, in a park or even on the beach.

Picnics make it easy to enjoy a meal in an idyllic setting. Though there’s no rules governing picnics other than those posted by local park officials, the following are some essential components of a fun picnic.

Food

The menu for a picnic need not be elaborate, but there’s also room for foods that are a little more fancy than sandwiches. Sandwiches are still acceptable picnic fare, but those who want to expand their horizons can prepare cheeseboards, salads, fresh fruit, and other items that are easily prepared and packed in a picnic basket. It’s best to avoid hot foods, as they can be difficult to keep warm. Small grills might be allowed in certain parks, but it’s best to keep in mind that others may not want to deal with smoke from burning coals. So individuals who plan to grill during a picnic should choose a remote spot that won’t affect those around them.

Beverages

Cold beverages, including water, can ensure no one is overcome by heat. Individuals who want to bring alcohol should only do so on private property, as many local laws do not allow consumption of alcoholic beverages in public spaces like parks and beaches. A cooler with cold beverages stored in ice can be a good idea if a lot of people will be attending the picnic.

Reusable Containers

Reusable containers decrease the chances of creating litter. All it takes is one stiff wind for single-use, resealable plastic bags to blow away, and it’s not always easy to track those bags down. Picnickers should aspire to take out everything that they take in, and reusable containers make that easier to accomplish.

Basket and Tablecloth

A tablecloth does more than just set the scene for a picnic. Tablecloths collect crumbs and keep them off the ground, which can decrease the likelihood that uninvited guests like ants will join the festivities. Tablecloths also ensure utensils can be set out and put down without getting dirty.

Comfortable Seating

Though it’s entirely possible some guests will want to sit on the ground throughout the picnic, some comfortable seating can provide the perfect respite when the hard ground begins to feel a little less accommodating. Instruct guests to bring their own foldable lounge chairs, and don’t forget to bring a picnic blanket or two so anyone who wants to nap can catch a few winks. When hosting a beach picnic, look for blankets that dry quickly. Some are even made of fabric that filters out sand to keep it off of food.

Miscellaneous Items

Bug spray, sunscreen, a bluetooth speaker, biodegradable waste bags, some sports equipment and other items to keep adults and kids occupied, and even a portable fan to keep guests cool and repel mosquitoes are some additional must-haves for a fun picnic.

A picnic in the park or on the beach can be a great way to dine outside and relax in the summer sun.

Summer Fun That Is Close To Home

Summer is prime vacation season when travelers take trips to every corner of the world. While faraway destinations abound, those looking for fun can also find enjoyable activities much closer to home.

Many communities come alive during the warmer weather, hosting an array of locally driven events. People looking for a day of entertainment or an evening of excitement may be able to find an event that’s just a short car ride away. Pick up a local newspaper or log on to your town’s official website to browse a listing of events in your community this summer. Here are a few events you’re bound to find.

Carnivals and Fun Fairs

Open land or empty parking lots can be transformed into bustling carnivals in a matter of days. Carnivals or fairs may be sponsored by private businesses or local religious organizations looking to raise funds. Some fairs are established by the county and attract participants from near and far. Carnivals often boast a wide array of entertainment, from amusement park-style rides to games of chance to music.

Summer Concert Series

Summer concerts series typically begin when the weather warms up, and music may not stop playing until Labor Day. Concerts may range from more intimate affairs that attract a few dozen people to a town square to larger events at beaches and boardwalks that draw thousands of visitors.

Food Festivals

Various towns close down their Main Streets from time to time to accommodate food festivals that feature a variety of cuisines. Some food festivals may feature one ingredient, such as garlic or cheese, while others may delve deeper and offer broader menus. Food festivals allow visitors to sample many different treats and may serve to advertise for neighborhood eating establishments.

Street Fairs

Street fairs also may close down thoroughfares in town. These events usually bring together a variety of vendors selling their wares in an open market setting. You can make a day of touring all of the vendor booths and buying handmade items from local artisans.

Outdoor Movies

Local parks frequently host summer movie nights when participants can view a movie on the big screen while under the stars. This can be an informal way to get the entire family together for a fun flick. Films are typically family-friendly and schedules are available well in advance. Bring a blanket and some snacks and enjoy an inexpensive evening together.

Many people need not travel far for a little summertime fun, as many communities host fun events throughout the warmer months.

Great Summertime Leisure Activities

A warm breeze on a summer day embodies the spirit of this beloved season for millions of people. Seen by many as a season to relax and recharge, summer, not coincidentally, goes hand in hand with leisure.

With more time on their hands due to vacations from school and work and less hectic activity schedules, particularly for families that include school-aged children, individuals often find summer affords more time for leisure. With that in mind, people from all walks of life can consider these summertime leisure activities.

Relax By The Water

Whether it’s a pool, lake or even the ocean, the water beckons each summer. Simply sitting on a beach or beside a lake or pool is a great way to pass the time without much stress. Nothing needs to be scheduled when relaxing poolside, lakeside or on a beach; simply enjoy some time to relax by the water.

Paddleboarding

Paddleboarding is another leisurely way to spend a summer day. Paddleboarding requires physical exertion, so this might not be the ideal activity for those looking to relax without lifting a finger. However, paddleboarders typically take to the water when it’s at its most calm, making this a great activity for those who want to capitalize on peaceful, serene summer vibes.

Fishing

Few activities may be more relaxing than fishing. Though there are many different ways to fish, some of which require considerable physical effort, casting a line and waiting for a fish to bite is a relaxing way to spend a day in nature. That might not seem like much to novices, but spending time in nature has been found to reduce stress and lower heart rates, which the U.S. Forest Service notes are both risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Read

Books make for great companions on warm summer afternoons. Reading is such a popular summer pastime that many bookstores set up displays featuring books that make for great beach reads, providing inspiration for individuals who aren’t sure which book or books to dive into this summer. And much like other summertime leisure activities, reading has been linked to reducing stress. A 2009 study from researchers at the University of Sussex in England found that reading can reduce stress by as much as 68 percent.

Visit A Museum

On summer afternoons when it’s raining or too hot outside or individuals simply want to spend some time indoors, a museum makes for the perfect place to visit. Museums do not typically draw crowds in summer, making this an ideal season to visit. Many offer discounted prices to individuals like seniors and students, so this is a great way to relax without breaking the bank.

Summer is a season of leisure, and there are many activities that align with that spirit of relaxation.