Tag: autumn

Autumn is a Prime Time to Tend Lawns and Gardens

Autumn is gardening season. That statement may not seem right to those who think of the spring as the peak time to care for lawns and gardens. However, autumn is an ideal time to get into the garden and ensure that flowers, trees and garden beds will over-winter successfully.

A number of things make autumn a prime gardening season. The cooler days of fall enable gardeners to spend ample time outdoors without the threat of blazing heat. In addition, soil harbors a lot of residual warmth in autumn. Also, the colder temperatures haven’t yet arrived in autumn, nor have the leaves completely fallen, making fall a prime time to assess what’s already in the landscape, what needs pruning back and where to address planting for next year. Gardening enthusiasts can focus their attention on these areas this fall.

• Pamper perennials. As annuals and perennials start to fall back, mark the spots where perennials are located so they can be easily identified later on. This way, when planning spots for spring bulbs or other spring layouts for next year, perennials won’t be overlooked or covered over.

• Prune shrubs. Look at shrubs and trees and cut out dead or diseased wood.

• Clean up borders. Weed and tidy up borders and lawn edging.

• Install pavers or rock wall. Embrace the cooler temperatures to work on labor-intensive projects, such as putting in a garden bed, retaining wall or walkway.

• Remove spent summer veggies. Take out vegetable garden plants that have already bloomed and borne fruit. Tidy up vegetable gardens and start to sow cooler weather plants, such as onions, garlic, beans, and sweet peas.

• Rake and compost. Rake the leaves and gather grass clippings to add to the compost pile.

• Plant spring bulbs. Get tulips and other spring bulbs ready for planting so they’ll burst with color next year.

• Dig up herbs. Relocate herbs like parsley or basil to indoor gardens. Otherwise, strip all leaves and freeze for storage during winter.

• Consider mums. Chrysanthemum plants are perennials. While they look beautiful in pots, if planted, maintained and winterized, they can bloom every fall.

• Fertilize the lawn. Fertilizing in autumn helps ensure grass will stay healthy throughout the winter.

• Add mulch and compost to the garden. Replenish spent soil with mulch and compost so garden beds will be revitalized for spring planting.

• Prune hedges. Tidy up hedges, as they won’t be growing much more this year.

• Clean and store equipment. Clean, sharpen and oil all equipment, storing lawn and garden tools properly so they are ready for spring and not lying out all winter.

Autumn may not seem like gardening season, but there are plenty of lawn and garden tasks to tend to during this time of year.

How to Store Fresh Apples

Apples are a popular fruit that are grown in different places around the world. Come autumn, apples can be seen filling farm stands and supermarkets all over North America. Apples are available year-round, but many apple lovers insist there’s nothing better than plucking an apple directly off the tree in the fall. Apple orchards and pick-your-own farms are visited each autumn by apple lovers anxious for apples’ tart and juicy taste. Many people pick more apples than they can eat in a few days, so it pays to learn how to store apples properly so none of them go to waste.

Start by picking a variety of apple that won’t go bad too quickly. Apple growers can make suggestions, but Jonathan, Rome, Fuji, and Granny Smith varieties tend to last longer than other varieties. Choose apples that are free of blemishes or soft spots. The adage that “one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch” bears some truth. Apples give off ethylene gas as they decay, and a rotting apple can quickly affect nearby apples.

A good place to store apples in the short-term is in the refrigerator where it is cool. Put the apples in the crisper drawer. Do not store them with vegetables, as the apples may cause the veggies to ripen or rot prematurely. If you plan on long-term storage, a few extra steps are necessary. Apples need to be individually wrapped so they will not come in contact with other apples. Newsprint works great; just be sure to pick the pages that are done in black ink because colored ink may contain heavy metals. Once wrapped, place each apple in a container padded with more newspaper. Store this container in a cool place, such as a garage, root cellar or screened-in porch. Apples can last a couple of months if stored in this manner. Keep apples away from potatoes, as potatoes can cause the fruit to prematurely decay.

Another way to store apples is to turn them into preserves or apple sauce. By boiling the apples and sealing them shut in canning jars, that fresh apple taste can be enjoyed long after the apples are picked. Consult with a canning expert about the right way to begin the process. Fruits are generally canned using a boiling-water canner. However, some fruits, like apples, can be canned with a pressure canner. Because apples tend to discolor when the flesh meets the air, use a little lemon juice to prevent this while canning. Turning apples into candied apples also can help them keep longer. Apples can be dipped into a sugary coating, caramel or toffee to be enjoyed later on. Of course, you always can bake apples into a pie as well, then freeze the pie for another day.

Autumn would be incomplete without apples. Get ready for apple season by developing a storage plan before you visit the orchard.

Home Improvement Projects for Your Fall To-Do List

Homeowners know that maintaining a home can be a year-round job. No home is immune to wear and tear, and homeowners who want to protect their real estate investments should try to stay two steps ahead to ensure their homes do not succumb to the elements or become outdated and unappealing to prospective buyers.

Fall has become a season that’s synonymous with home improvement, but homeowners need not wait until the leaves begin changing colors to start planning their next projects. The following are a few items homeowners can add to their fall home improvement to-do lists.

Roof inspection

Less precipitation tends to fall during the warmer months than during the late fall and winter. As a result, homeowners may not be aware of leaky roofs until autumn has come and gone. But waiting until winter to inspect the roof can prove disastrous, as weather conditions will not be conducive to inspection and increased precipitation may result in potentially costly damage.

Leaky roofs can be easily identified by looking for water stains on interior ceilings. Once you see a stain, you can climb onto the roof to identify the location of the leak and fix it before winter rains and snowfall turn the problem into something much larger. Inspect your ceilings for signs of leaking after a strong rainfall, and then address any leaks immediately.

Gutter cleaning

While some homeowners prefer to delay their gutter cleaning projects until late fall, those whose homes are surrounded by trees may need to schedule two such projects. Gutters clogged with leaves and other debris can cause serious roof damage, and that damage can extend all the way inside a home.

In addition, clogged gutters make great nesting areas for insects or critters. Always stand on a ladder when cleaning gutters, wearing gloves to remove items by hand and dropping leaves and debris into a trash can below. Standing on the roof and leaning over gutters greatly increases your risk of injury. If the gutters are clear when you first examine them in early fall, you can wait until later in the season to give them a complete and thorough cleaning. Once you have finished clearing the gutters, you can use a hose to run water through them and the downspouts to confirm everything is functioning properly.

Window and doorway inspection

Before temperatures start dropping once again, homeowners will want to inspect their windows and doorways for leaks. Over time, cracks can develop around windows and doorways, and while such cracks are rarely noticeable when the weather outside is warm, they can be quite obvious and very costly if they remain unsealed come the start of winter. Cold air can enter a home through cracks around windows and doorways, and many homeowners who don’t suspect leaks may respond by turning up the thermostats in their homes. That can prove quite expensive over a full winter. Choose a windy autumn day to place a hand by windows and external doorways in your home to see if you can feel drafts.

If you can, seal these cracks as soon as possible. Patio cleanup Patios are popular hangouts during spring and summer, and that can result in a lot of wear and tear. Once you store patio furniture for the winter, inspect your entire patio to determine if it needs any refurbishing. While certain patio projects may be best left for spring, you can still clean any stained areas around the grill and look for cracks in the sidewalk that need to be addressed.

Preparing for fall home improvement projects ahead of time can help homeowners complete projects in a timely manner and ensures they won’t be forced to brave the winter elements when refurbishing their homes.

Autumn is a Prime Time to Tend Lawns and Gardens

Autumn is gardening season. That statement may not seem right to those who think of the spring as the peak time to care for lawns and gardens. However, autumn is an ideal time to get into the garden and ensure that flowers, trees and garden beds will over-winter successfully.

A number of things make autumn a prime gardening season. The cooler days of fall enable gardeners to spend ample time outdoors without the threat of blazing heat. In addition, soil harbors a lot of residual warmth in autumn. Also, the colder temperatures haven’t yet arrived in autumn, nor have the leaves completely fallen, making fall a prime time to assess what’s already in the landscape, what needs pruning back and where to address planting for next year.

Gardening enthusiasts can focus their attention on these areas this fall.

• Pamper perennials. As annuals and perennials start to fall back, mark the spots where perennials are located so they can be easily identified later on. This way, when planning spots for spring bulbs or other spring layouts for next year, perennials won’t be overlooked or covered over.

• Prune shrubs. Look at shrubs and trees and cut out dead or diseased wood.

• Clean up borders. Weed and tidy up borders and lawn edging.

• Install pavers or rock wall. Embrace the cooler temperatures to work on labor-intensive projects, such as putting in a garden bed, retaining wall or walkway.

• Remove spent summer veggies. Take out vegetable garden plants that have already bloomed and borne fruit. Tidy up vegetable gardens and start to sow cooler weather plants, such as onions, garlic, beans, and sweet peas.

• Rake and compost. Rake the leaves and gather grass clippings to add to the compost pile.

• Plant spring bulbs. Get tulips and other spring bulbs ready for planting so they’ll burst with color next year.

• Dig up herbs. Relocate herbs like parsley or basil to indoor gardens. Otherwise, strip all leaves and freeze for storage during winter.

• Consider mums. Chrysanthemum plants are perennials. While they look beautiful in pots, if planted, maintained and winterized, they can bloom every fall.

• Fertilize the lawn. Fertilizing in autumn helps ensure grass will stay healthy throughout the winter.

• Add mulch and compost to the garden. Replenish spent soil with mulch and compost so garden beds will be revitalized for spring planting.

• Prune hedges. Tidy up hedges, as they won’t be growing much more this year.

• Clean and store equipment. Clean, sharpen and oil all equipment, storing lawn and garden tools properly so they are ready for spring and not lying out all winter.

Autumn may not seem like gardening season, but there are plenty of lawn and garden tasks to tend to during this time of year.

Fun Holiday Tech Gift Ideas for Kids

Looking for some kid-friendly tech gear this holiday season? Here are some on-trend gift ideas, featuring engaging content for kids.

Wearable Tech

Wearable tech is a great choice for energetic kids, as it seamlessly integrates innovative technology into their active lifestyles. For even more value, consider devices that combine fun with learning.

For instance, with the Kidizoom Smartwatch DX2, they can take pictures and videos, play games, tell time and more. The durable watch features a sleek design that includes 55 customizable watch faces to help kids learn to tell time, as well as two cameras that allow children to capture everything from action videos to selfies that can be customized in the Silly Yourself app or made into new watch faces. Kids can also use the watch’s motion sensor for active play challenges or to track movements. The watch features an assortment of innovative games, including Monster Catcher, which uses augmented reality to help kids find and capture virtual monsters in the real world.

Gaming Systems

Shopping for a gaming console? Seek out family-friendly options that offer opportunities for age-appropriate or educational gaming. Some consoles even provide parental controls, so monitoring use is easy.

Camera Fun

Little cinematographers and videographers may enjoy the Kidizoom girl, tree, tween, holiday, christmas, giftsAction Cam 180, a 180-degree rotatable camera that takes photos and videos with fun features like slow and fast-motion. It comes with accessories needed to mount it to a bike, skateboard and more while taking action shots. The all-weather, water-resistant case allows for use up to six feet underwater, perfect for swimming and splashing. For even more fun, kids can play one of three included games.

Drones

Kids have always loved flying toys and with the technological advancements in drones, they can be had at all price points with a wide variety of capabilities. For beginners, you’ll want to consider durable drones with easy controls. Just be sure to look into local rules and regulations to be sure you’re flying in appropriate places that aren’t restricted.

Handheld Smart Devices

With quality content and robust features similar to those found in christmas, holiday, kids, tabletparents’ smartphones, KidiBuzz lets children message over Wi-Fi to a parent-approved contact list. They can also push the talk button and send quick voice messages. Through the kid-safe web browser, users can visit popular pre-approved websites, and can also download Android apps. It’s also a multimedia player for listening to music and watching videos. Kids can explore silly stamps, frames and photo effects and use them to capture pictures and selfies or make their own videos with the 180-degree rotating camera. The device includes more than 40 learning games and apps and its bumper and shatter-safe screen means kids can take it virtually anywhere.

Make this holiday season the most exciting one yet for kids, with great new tech gear that engages, informs and entertains. (StatePoint)
 
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Various Ways You Can Put Pumpkins to Use

Few items signal the fall harvest season more than the bright, orange pumpkins that dot fields and liven up displays outside of homes and businesses. Come fall, many pumpkins are turned into grinning jack-o-lanterns just in time for Halloween. But there are many other uses for pumpkins as well.

Pumpkins are believed to have originated in North America. Early Native Americans relied on pumpkins as a source of food that helped them survive long winters. Pumpkins could be roasted, baked, boiled, and dried, and they were eaten and used as medicine. Pumpkin blossoms were added to stews. The shells of the pumpkins could be dried and used as eating and storage vessels.

While pumpkins may now be symbolic of Halloween, the following are a handful of additional ways this versatile fruit can be put to use.

Beauty regimen

Pumpkins contain a number of essential vitamins and minerals that can help replenish the skin. Pumpkin purée can be mixed with honey, aloe vera gel, olive oil, and a bit of cornmeal to create an exfoliating mask for the face or body. Pumpkin also can be used to rejuvenate dry or tired skin from cold weather.

Honey, pumpkin and yogurt can be mixed together and used to condition hair. Let the mixture sit for 15 to 20 minutes, and then wash it out and shampoo.

Foods and beverages

Pumpkin purée is the basis for many tasty, pumpkin-infused treats. Purée can be used in pies, cakes, muffins, breads, and many additional foods. Pumpkin purée also may be found in certain beverages, such as smoothies and shakes. A bit of spiced purée may appear as flavoring in teas and coffees.

Roasted pumpkin seeds make a healthy treat. Foodies suggest using the seeds from “sugar pumpkins” or the ones best for making pies. Boil the seeds for a few minutes before draining. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray and put the seeds in a single layer. Bake at 400 F for 20 minutes. Allow to cool and serve.

Pumpkin wines and beers are popular as well. There are many recipes for developing sweet, fermented beverages, which tend to be especially popular in the fall.

The “guts” of the pumpkin can be simmered along with aromatics and other vegetables to create a vegetable stock perfect for soups and broths.

Decorations

Pumpkins can also add to one’s home décor during the fall. Pumpkins can be carved for Halloween displays, hollowed-out to hold tealights or simply left on tables and used as centerpieces. Larger pumpkins may be used as natural flower pots for mums or other seasonal floral displays. As the Native Americans once did, pumpkins can be hollowed-out and used as bowls to serve favorite soups and dips.

Use a hollowed, small pumpkin as a natural aromatic candle holder. Cut holes in the sides to vent the exhaust. Rub aromatic spices, such as cloves, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, and vanilla bean, on the inside of the pumpkin. Insert a beeswax candle in the bottom of the pumpkin and let it send inviting aromas into the air.

Pumpkins are a versatile fruit that can serve many purposes beyond just jack-o-lanterns and pies.

Safely Enjoy the Outdoors in Colder Months

It may be chilly, but that’s no reason to stay indoors. Some of the best opportunities for outdoor exploration can only take place during the coldest months of the year; it just requires special preparation.

Head-to-Toe Coverage

For maximum safety and comfort, it’s important to keep your head, fingers and toes dry and toasty. A good pair of waterproof hiking boots will help keep you warm on the trail. Be sure they are designed for the type of weather and terrain you expect to encounter. Wear a wind-proof hat and good pair of gloves that have a grip.

Mind the Sun

The sun may set sooner in winter, but it’s still a force to be reckoned with; wear sunglasses and apply sunscreen to exposed skin, as well as a lip balm containing SPF, to protect yourself from UV rays.

Get Smart

Wearable tech can put your mind at ease on outdoor excursions. Look for low-power GPS and full-color map functionality that can be used offline, as in the case of Casio’s PRO TREK WSD-F20 Smart Outdoor Watch, which features easy-to-read map data from Mapbox. This makes it easy to display your route and provide navigation guidance at a glance. Powered by Android Wear 2.0, it can be used with a range of apps to enhance your outdoor experience, and its design offers enhanced operability and toughness, making it an especially useful piece of outdoor gear.

Don’t Get Fooled

In hot weather, there’s almost never any question about whether you are thirsty during or following physical activity. It can be harder to gauge in cold weather. Remember, when you’re active, it’s always important to stay hydrated. Be sure your wattle bottle is built to withstand cold weather, and if you’re worried about it freezing, don’t fill the bottle to the top.

Communicate

With any excursion, it’s always good practice to share your itinerary with a loved one. Most importantly, let someone know exactly where you are going and when you plan to return.

With a few smart habits, and some high-quality gear designed to withstand the great outdoors, you can better enjoy nature this season, no matter where your adventures take you. (StatePoint)

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Halloween Pumpkin-Carving Pointers

Transforming pumpkins into cleverly carved creations is a Halloween tradition. Each October, glowing pumpkins take up residence near doorsteps and porches, adding to the magical ambiance of the season. Young and old spend time designing their themes and then taking knife to pumpkin to achieve the desired effects.

Carving pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns can be traced back centuries to Ireland and a story about “Stingy Jack.” The tale involves Jack outwitting the Devil twice, the second time freeing the Devil from a prank in exchange for the promise that he would not claim Jack’s soul should Jack die. When Jack did die, God did not want the unsavory character in heaven, but the Devil could not claim Jack for hell. Therefore, Jack was relegated to roam the planet indefinitely with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put that coal into a carved-out turnip. His ghostly figure was referred to as “Jack of the Lantern.” Later on it was shortened to “Jack O’Lantern.” When Irish immigrants arrived in North America, turnips weren’t plentiful, so jack-o’-lanterns were instead carved into pumpkins.

Today, many people carve jack-o’-lanterns, with some featuring just smiling or grimacing faces while others are far more artistic creations. These tips can help anyone carve a pumpkin.

· Begin with a fresh pumpkin. Look for a pumpkin with a green stem. If the pumpkin has been sitting around for too long or has been handled too much, the stem can get brittle and/or fall off. A thick, fresh pumpkin is best for carving.

· Plan your ideas. Draw a plan for your pumpkin before you make your first cut. Then transfer that design to the pumpkin with pen or a thin marker. Pumpkin-carving kits come with designs that can be “traced” by poking small holes to create the outline of the design.

· Don’t cut all the way through. Many professional pumpkin artists do not actually cut clear through the flesh of the pumpkin. They carve and shave off layers of the outer rind until it becomes more translucent. The level of transparency can be adjusted based on how much skin is removed and as a way to add texture and shadowing. The more air that is allowed to penetrate the pumpkin, the faster it will start to degrade.

· Delay carving until the last minute. Wait until the day before Halloween to begin carving. Pumpkins are a perishable item, and they’ll begin to rot as soon as you begin carving. Spritzing them with water can help them stay fresh, but there’s no turning back the clock once the first cut is made.

· Cut a hole in the back. According to Brooklyn-based Maniac Pumpkin Carvers, cutting off the top of the pumpkin can affect its structural integrity and cause it to rot faster. Instead, cut a hole in the back of the pumpkin and use an electric light to illuminate it. LEDs are advisable because they don’t generate much heat, which can cook and rot the pumpkin from the inside out.

With some creativity and a little know-how, anyone can create an eye-catching jack-o’-lantern.
 
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Plan Your Fall Foliage Excursion

Autumn means different things to many people. Students may embrace the dawn of a new school year, while others might embrace the crisp weather after a season of heat. One of the more widely enjoyed aspects of autumn is the chance to take in the brilliant foliage.

Although New England may be renowned for its bright, orange, red and yellow panoramas, dazzling displays of foliage can be witnessed anywhere temperatures descend enough for deciduous trees to shed their leaves.

The first step to a successful fall foliage excursion is to find the right spot. The Catskill and Adirondack Mountains of New York, Amish Country in Pennsylvania, the Great Lakes from Michigan to Ohio, and many other areas can be great places to witness nature at its most colorful. To make the most of fall foliage road trips, drivers can keep the following suggestions in mind.

· Get off the highway. To see great fall vistas, take a detour from major thoroughfares and visit small towns and mountain passes. Invest in some maps, as cellular networks may be inaccessible in remote locales.

· Avoid tourist-heavy areas. Drivers may prefer less crowded roadways to accompany the great scenery. Such drivers should visit areas that are not tourist meccas. Any area that plays home to forests and sprawling landscapes will do.

· Go on foot. To get the best photos, head out at sunrise or sunset. Soft, golden light dappled by leaves will bring out the golden tones in photos. Going on foot will help you discover the nuances of the season and slow down for a change.

· Don’t overlook overcast days. Traveling in the rain may not be fun, but overcast days might be ideal. On such days, the sun won’t be too warm and drown out the colors.

· Bring along binoculars. Wildlife is often mobile and abundant in the fall, as animals scurry to feed and gather supplies before the winter. As a result, autumn is a great time to spot wildlife that’s normally hiding in thickets and woodland areas.

· Plan for stops along the way. Don’t forget to bring some spending money in the form of cash so that you can enjoy the small farm stands and shops that often dot rural landscapes. Pick up farm-fresh produce or choose a plump pumpkin. Yard sales also are abundant this time of year. Small shops may not take credit cards, so if you plan to buy, cash is king.

Trees begin shedding their leaves as early as the beginning of September in Canada and the northern United States. As the days press on, the fall finery will gradually shift southward. For those who can afford to take a weekday off, do so, as weekends might be overcome with fellow nature enthusiasts.

Enjoy An Eco-Friendly Autumn

Autumn arrives with cool breezes, awe-inspiring foliage and the hint of holidays on the horizon. Fall is a favorite time of year for many people because the crisp weather motivates people of all ages to enjoy the great outdoors.

Individuals conscious of their carbon footprints can use fall as a time to take inventory of their behaviors and make changes where necessary. The following are some steps to take right now that fit perfectly with the harvest season.

· Shop at a local farm stand. Take advantage of the many roadside stands that crop up this time of year where you can find bushels of apples, pumpkins, gourds, and late-summer vegetables. After a day of sightseeing, visit a farm stand for warm cider and freshly baked doughnuts. Buying local produce reduces reliance on foreign-shipped foods and other products, while also cutting back on the fuel consumed to get foods from the farm to the table.

· Use nature to decorate. Skip plastic, mass-produced decorations and rely on nature to dress up your home. Fill vases with leaves and berries. Place small pumpkins on mantles, and enrich the landscape of your home with vibrantly hued mums and other cool-weather plants. Corn husks and stalks can add harvest flair to front porches. Twigs nestled and tied together can make interesting table centerpieces.

· Create a composting pile. Outdoor chores are easier in cool weather than they are when the mercury rises. Set aside a place in the yard for composting. A healthy compost pile should have roughly two-thirds carbon (brown) materials and one-third nitrogen (green) materials, says EarthEasy.com. Use those lawn clippings and raked leaves to make compost for spring plantings.

· Visit a corn maze. After corn has been harvested, farm owners often use their land for supplemental income. Corn mazes can be simple or complex depending on visitors’ ages. Engage in family bonding outside and turn off electronics in the process.

· Bake your own pie. After a fun-filled day picking apples at a nearby orchard, head home and use those locally sourced apples to whip up a delicious pie.

· Recycle old clothes to dress your scarecrow. Clothing that is not worthy of donation can be transformed into a festive scarecrow just in time for Halloween hijinks. Fill out the body of the scarecrow with newspaper and then add some pieces of straw around the neck, hands and feet.

· Host a football party. Watch the game on television or have a pickup game in the yard. Serve finger foods to cut down on the need for plastic or paper plates and flatware. Purchase a keg of beer from a local brewery to eliminate individual beer cans and bottles. Set out a nonalcoholic punch bowl so the kids can enjoy refreshments, too.

Autumn can be a great time of year to embrace some eco-friendly practices.