Tag: frugal frankie

Simplify Vacation, Maximize Fun

Vacations are a great opportunity for families or individuals to recharge. But especially active vacationers often return from their trips in need of rest, as planning may have taken its toll or schedules loaded with too many activities might have left little time for R&R. Those willing to simplify their vacations may find their excursions provide the rest they need and the energizing boost they can make use of upon returning from their destinations.


Leave work behind

The United States is one of the few countries that does not guarantee paid days off. The Center for Economic and Policy Research says one in four working Americans do not get paid time off. The employment site Glassdoor notes that among those who do get paid vacations, 75 percent of employees chose not to use all of their time in 2013. By comparison, Canadians get an average of 19 days of vacation time per year. Stress about making up work or falling behind makes some professionals worry about using their vacation time, and those who do travel may stay connected to the office in some shape or form. Splitting time between leisure and work responsibilities on a vacation can be taxing and take away from the time you need to relax and recharge. Cut work ties and immerse yourself in the vacation experience.

vacation2Use a travel agent

Using a travel agent to plan your vacation can remove any stress and anxiety you may feel when planning a trip and juggling the responsibilities of everyday life. Many people choose to book their own trips as a cost-cutting measure. What they don’t realize is that travel agents may be privy to special deals and perks they can pass on to customers. These agents also know the ins and outs of certain resorts and locales. Leaving the legwork in their accomplished hands means all you have to do is show up with your reservations instead of pouring over the minutiae of planning.

Consider an all-inclusive trip

All-inclusive resorts and cruise lines take the work out of having a good time. These types of vacations remove a lot of the problems associated with personal travel. Meals are provided, activities are coordinated, and you don’t have to carry extra cash, as most costs generally are covered.

Keep your itinerary flexible

Scheduling right down to the minute can remove the fun of the trip. Leave opportunities to just sit and enjoy your surroundings. Perhaps other members of the family or traveling party have their own ideas for entertainment. A rigid timeline can make the vacation seem more like a commitment rather than an opportunity to let loose and stop watching the clock.

Rent a carvacation1

Find out if a rental car can be included in the price of your vacation. Having a car at the ready means vacationers can come and go as they please without worrying about hailing taxis or waiting for public transportation. Rental cars also provide access to areas outside of resort confines. Research possible destinations in advance and map out where you want to go to remain safe and prepared.

Vacations don’t have to be taxing. Cut down on some of the stressful aspects of traveling by simplifying and delegating tasks.


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Swimming Pool Installation Tips

Now that the weather is warming up, many homeowners’ thoughts are drifting toward relaxing days spent soaking up some sun by the pool. Early spring is a great time to install a pool so the family has a go-to hangout by the time summer arrives.

pool1Installing a pool is a large financial investment, and homeowners considering adding a pool should not take that decision lightly. When attempting to determine if a pool is for them, homeowners may want to ask themselves the following questions.

Is my yard suitable for a pool?

Some yards may not be large enough for pools, while others may not meet the zoning requirements set forth by the town. Still other yards may have soil that’s not suitable for putting in an inground pool, or may have a high water table that can delay construction.

What is the average weather?

Will a pool be enjoyed enough to warrant the cost? Homeowners who live in areas that get many hot days will likely get their money’s worth. But if the climate suggests that a pool will sit unused more often than not, perhaps a pool is not the best investment.

Can we afford it?

A pool can range from a few hundred dollars for inflatable or self-installing models to many thousands for elaborate inground designs. You budget will dictate which type of pool you can afford to install.

How will we use the pool?

Decide if you’re putting in a pool for the kids, to entertain the family or to make an architectural statement in the yard. Having a clear sense of purpose will help to guide the decision-making process.

Who will maintain the pool?

Many homeowners tackle the day-to-day maintenance required to keep their pools clean and safe. Others hire pool cleaners to maintain their pools and ensure the water is properly balanced. Maintenance can cost additional money, so consider this potential cost when determining if a pool is for you.

Are there any safety concerns?

Parents of young children may be hesitant to install a pool, but today’s pool installation codes consider many of the potential hazards of a pool and attempt to eliminate them. Fences surrounding inground pools with self-locking gates, as well as locking ladders for above-ground pools can eliminate accidental falls into unattended pools. Your municipality will have a list of requirements for pools, so peruse the list prior to making your final decision.

If the decision has been made to move ahead with a pool, it can be helpful to understand a few facts about the process of installing a pool.

Always work with a pool-installation company that has earned positive reviews and has a stellar record of service. While this does not guarantee that the job will not encounter problems, contractors with glowing reviews tend to have earned those reviews. Read reviews from unbiased, online customers as well as any friends or family members who have used a particular pool company.

It’s important that homeowners recognize that the installation of a pool may require some heavy machinery, which can damagelawns. Fence panels may have to be removed to let in excavation equipment. Sand, soil backfill or gravel may be needed to level out a landscape, and things may get noisy and messy when the installation hits full swing.

Some homeowners can handle installing above-ground pools on their own, but less DIY-savvy homeowners may want to leave the installation to a professional installer to ensure the job is done right.

Always secure the proper permits and inspections prior to using the pool. This not only ensures the safety of swimmers, but also guarantees the pool is legal.

Backyard swimming pools make for an enjoyable place to congregate when the weather is hot. Follow a few guidelines and ask the necessary questions to make a pool installation go more smoothly.


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Lawn Envy with Mower & Parts from Shank’s Lawn Equipment + Safety Tips

Be the envy of your neighborhood with a lush lawn with the right care & equipment from Shank’s Lawn Equipment!

Local service with experienced advice and trusted brands.

4708147082

4900 Molly Pitcher Highway, Chambersburg, PA 17202 – Phone: 717-375-1021


Whether you’re transforming your backyard into an award winner or just trimming the lawn, the CSA Group, a leading certification and testing organization, asks that you remember the following safety tips:

Yard Work

* Always ensure that products such as electric lawnmowers, barbecues, power tools, ladders, decorative lights, extension cords and safety apparel carry the mark of a recognized certification organization, such as CSA Group.

* Read the manufacturer’s operating instructions and use products only as intended.

* Wear protective eye and footwear (on eyes and feet, respectively).

* What’s that you say? Wear hearing protection when operating loud machinery, vehicles or tools.

Power Lawnmowers

* Know your mower and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

* Look for these safety features: a rear guard to protect your hands and feet from rotating blades; a “deadman” control that stops the mower when you release the handle; and an “up-stop” feature to prevent the handle from kicking up when the mower hits an obstacle.

* Clear the lawn of sticks, stones, wire, toys and other objects (including that screwdriver you lost in the grass last summer), as they could get caught in the machine or flung by the blades.

* Wear clothing that provides some protection, including long pants, a shirt with sleeves and firmly-tied shoes with non-slip soles and hard toes.

* Never cut the grass when it’s damp or wet, or when there is rain or lightning. Wet conditions greatly increase the risk that you will slip, suffer electric shock or clog the mower.

* Always mow in daylight, never at twilight or in the dark. Keep your eyes on the lawn and look ahead (at least three feet) for debris.

* Shut off, unplug and engage your mower’s safety devices before removing clogged grass clippings.

* Shut off the mower immediately if you hit an object. Check for damage and do not restart it unless you’re sure it’s safe to do so.

* As suggested by its name, always push rather than pull a push mower.

* All extension cords should be untangled, in good repair, have a three-prong plug rated for outdoor use and be of the recommended gauge for the load.

For more information on CSA Group visit www.csagroup.org.


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Gardening Pointers for Novices

People have many reasons for growing gardens, and some of the most popular gardens are plots designated for cultivating herbs and vegetables. Fresh produce at the ready is a great benefit of having a home garden, which also allows homeowners to exercise full control over which products to use to grow robust, healthy vegetables.

g3Novice gardeners may not know where to begin when it comes to planting their first vegetable gardens, and such gardeners can benefit by starting small. You may want to begin by growing plants in containers so they are more manageable and can be moved as you discover which areas of your property provide the best growing conditions.

Begin with one or two types of vegetables. Tomatoes, cucumbers and certain squashes are popular starter plants, as they are relatively hardy. Select only a few plants so you are not overwhelmed with the level of care required to maintain your garden.

Some gardeners prefer to start plants from seeds, but this will require more time and a greater commitment with regard to maintenance and planting. When just starting out, experiment with small plants that are established and already have a good root system.g2

Consult with your local gardening center for more suggestions, such as which soil amendments to use. Plants may require a certain soil pH that can be adjusted for optimal plant growth. EL156274

Pruning Trees is Best left to the Pros

Bountiful, healthy trees can be beautiful to behold and important contributors to a thriving environment. According to American Forests, a nonprofit conservation organization, a tree can absorb as much as 40 pounds of carbon dioxide per year and can sequester one ton of carbon dioxide by the time the tree reaches age 40. The United States Forest Service adds that trees placed properly around a home can reduce air conditioning and heating demands considerably.

pruning2Many homeowners are content to leave healthy trees alone. However, trees eventually must be pruned or removed if they become safety risks or pose other threats. Trees with roots that are damaging home foundations or those with limbs overhanging property limits or power lines can be troublesome. Although homeowners can handle relatively minor tree maintenance, for a variety of reasons, many tree projects are best left to the professionals.

Avoid injury

Professional tree contractors recognize and understand the hazards associated with tree and limb removal. Many operate in accordance with national or local guidelines to maintain proper clearance of power lines and structures.

Trimming trees close to electrical lines puts a person at risk of being electrocuted. Professionals know how to protect themselves and prevent power outages, which can result when limbs come into contact with power lines.

Professional tree services will use machinery appropriate for the task. Cherrypickers and cranes may lift workers to the correct height to work on trees, while do-it-yourselfers who rely on climbing trees or using ladders are at risk of injury.

Prevent damage to the tree

Many tree services understand the proper way to prune trees to minimize stress and damage to the tree itself. Novice pruners may inadvertently do more harm than good, resulting in proliferation of tree disease or shock. Improper pruning technique also can lead to an unsightly tree.

Liability

A professional tree service will possess the correct liability and worker’s compensation insurance. This protects homeowners against litigation should someone be injured while tree work is being done.

Homeowners who damage neighboring properties when cutting down a tree may find that they are not covered by their homeowner’s insurance policies. This can be a costly mistake that’s easily avoided by simply hiring a fully insured tree removal service.

The right tools

The right tools can mean the difference between a job done correctly and one that results in disaster. Professional arborists and tree services have acquired the training, tools and techniques to perform the job safely. This includes using the right tools to tackle the job. Ropes, pulleys, cranes, stump grinders, and other heavy machinery are just a few of the tools tree services have at their disposal that the average homeowner does not.

Trimming or removing trees can be an unpredictable and potentially dangerous endeavor. Such work is best left to professionals. GT154044

Maintain Bird Feeders & Bird Baths for Avian Health

Bird watching is a pastime enjoyed by people of all ages. While many people trek into the woods to see their favorite birds, homeowners can take steps to entice these fascinating and feathered friends right to their backyards.

bird3Homeowners who want to attract birds to their properties can do so by providing the birds food, shelter and places to wash up or cool off. Installing a bird feeder and a bird bath in your yard is one way to attract a bevy of winged creatures that can provide hours of enjoyment.

Establishing a bird-friendly environment may seem as simple as hanging a feeder on a pole or tree and erecting a bird bath nearby. But a certain level of maintenance is needed to keep birds healthy and happy.

According to the experts at the Bird Watcher’s Digest, recent research indicates feeders can sometimes be a source of disease for the birds visiting them. The Audubon Society echoes that warning, saying that bird feeders and baths can serve as transmission stations for diseases such as aspergillosis, avian pox and salmonellosis. Recently, scientists noted that the spread of trichomonad protozoan parasites is on the rise, especially among mourning dove and band-tailed pigeon populations.

Such warnings are not meant to deter budding birding hobbyists. Organizations like the Audobon Society hope that such warnings send the message that disinfection and maintenance is necessary to maintain sanitary environments for birds. Doing so is relatively easy and well worth the time for birding enthusiasts.

bird1· The Humane Society of the United States advises cleaning hanging feeders once every two weeks or more often if they’re heavily used. Ground-feeding designs should be cleaned every two days. Feeders can be immersed in a very-diluted solution of bleach to water (nine parts water to one part bleach). Let soak for a few minutes, and then scrub the feeder with a stiff brush or scouring pad before rinsing. Allow the feeder to dry completely before refilling it with seed.

· Bird baths should be emptied of water each day. Brush or wipe the bath clean, then rinse and refill with fresh water. Do not leave standing water overnight; otherwise bird baths can easily become a breeding ground for mosquitoes and other parasites.

· Frequently collect discarded seed hulls and clean bird droppings from beneath feeders. If the area around the feeder has become especially soiled, relocate the feeder elsewhere and clean its initial location.

· Follow proper instructions with regard to seed and other bird food. For example, reduce the amount of suet offered in hot weather. Heat can cause suet to spoil, and sticky suet can become stuck in birds’ feathers and make it hard for them to keep clean.

· Try to provide more than one feeder and bird bath to prevent overcrowding. Crowding can contribute to the spread of disease.

· Do not situate feeders and bird baths under perches where they can be soiled by droppings.

· If you notice birds look sick or are not acting strangely, halt feeding and bathing to prevent healthy birds from becoming ill. Wait a week before resuming feeding and notify wildlife officials if you find dead or sick birds around your property.

· Locate feeders and baths at least 30 feet away from windows so birds do not get confused by reflections and collide with the glass.

· Store seed in a dry container with a tight-fitting lid to prevent mold from forming and moisture from getting in.

Creating a thriving habitat for bird watching is easier than one might think. But once birds begin visiting a yard, homeowners must diligently maintain clean feeders and bird baths to ensure the birds stay as healthy as possible. Any questions about wild-bird care can be directed to a local Audubon Society chapter or by visiting a pet store or bird hobby center. GT154046

Break Ground with the Right Tools

The right tools for the job can be the difference between an interminable landscaping project and one that goes smoothly and efficiently. Aspiring landscapers probably have a few shovels and rakes hanging in their garages and sheds for basic landscaping work. But while such tools are effective for certain projects, when it comes to churning soil for garden beds or digging holes for outdoor structures, additional tools come in handy. It may be well worth a trip to a nearby home center to purchase or rent one of these tools ideal for breaking ground.

Rototiller

A rototiller, sometimes called just a “tiller,” is a powered garden tool designed to loosen soil prior to planting. A rototiller also can help aerate soil during the growing season. Because they reduce the need for manual spade digging or hoeing, tillers can be useful landscaping tools, particularly for homeowners who want to work efficiently.

Rototillers will break through tough soil and any plant roots. They come in a variety of sizes, and it’s best to match the tool to the size of the job. Many homeowners can get by with smaller, less powerful models, especially if the tiller is only necessary at the beginning of planting season. Professional landscapers or those with large swatches of property may benefit from larger models.

Auger

Augers, both mechanical and manual, are essentially large drill bits that help move materials from one location to another. Augers are typically used to cut holes in landscapes, and they are good for post-hole drilling, which is part of the process of installing deck footings, fencing posts or other structures. Augers come in a variety of sizes, and homeowners can choose how much power they prefer. Augers can be heavy and cumbersome, and many do-it-yourselfers will find that one-person augers are more than adequate for their projects.

Augers dig deep holes, so it is always smart to have the property surveyed prior to use. This way pipes, gas lines, buried electrical lines, and any other obstructions are clearly identified prior to drilling.

Cultivatorshovel1

Cultivators are similar to tillers in that they loosen soil. Cultivators are effective during the growth period of plants, when they can be used to aerate the soil and remove weeds. Cultivators come in hand-held versions and push models, and some are even motorized. Cultivators get close to plants to remove weeds without disturbing the plant. They also are used to stir in compost or fertilizer.

While many people think cultivators and tillers are the same, that is not the case. The former is less powerful and will mix the soil or stir up the top layer, while the latter can break up moderately hard ground and loosen firm soil.

When using any tools around the garden, wear the proper protection. This includes devices to protect hearing when power tools are in use as well as gloves and safety goggles. Tillers, augers and cultivators have the potential to toss soil and rocks into the air, so make sure others keep their distance while work is in progress.


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Additives for Healthy Soil

dirt1Mother Nature provides plenty to grow healthy lawns, gardens and landscapes. But as many homeowners know, some lawns sometimes need a little extra boost to complement nature. Soil sometimes must be amended so plants can thrive. Only after the right composition is created can plants take root and perform to the best of their abilities.

The Colorado State University Extension defines a soil amendment as any material added to soil to improve its physical properties. The goal is to provide a better environment for roots. Depending on what you are starting with, any number of ingredients must be added to the soil recipe. Water retention, permeability, drainage, aeration, nutrients, and water infiltration are some of the things amendments can improve when added to soil.

Before homeowners add anything to the soil in their yards, it is first important to determine what that soil needs. Homeowners may notice if soil is overly sandy or full of clay, but further testing can confirm what the soil is lacking. Soil tests are often available through local cooperative extension offices or private laboratories. Speak with a nursery or garden center about where you can get your soil tested. A comprehensive test may cost between $5 and $10 and can provide invaluable information that saves you hundreds of dollars in wasted plants and materials, not to mention effort. Some labs also can tailor their recommendations based on the type of planting you will be doing. For example, a vegetable garden may need different amendments than a row of azalea bushes.

Organic matter is a preferred soil amendment used by professional and novice gardeners alike. The decaying remains of plants release nutrients that are absorbed into the soil and used by microorganisms and bacteria, creating a healthy environment for plants. Organic material may break up compacted soil to increase drainage. In sandy soil, organic material serves as a sponge to keep water from washing away. Compost and manure are two examples of frequently used organic materials. Both of these materials are readily available at little cost.dirt3

Compost can be produced at home from food and plant scraps. Raked leaves and small amounts of grass clippings can be added to compost. Over time, the decomposition process will turn scraps into a nutrient-rich, dark brown substance that provides many plants with all they need to thrive. Compost is particularly useful in vegetable gardens.

Manure should come from herbivores, or those animals that sustain themselves on grass and other plants. Carnivores can produce harmful bacteria in their waste, which is not safe to use in gardens, particularly food-bearing gardens. Manure can be commercially purchased, or avid gardeners can work out arrangements with nearby livestock owners and farms. These people may be more than willing to give you manure for little to no cost if you cart it away. Dried manure is preferred because it will have minimal odor.

Additional forms of organic amendments include wood ash, sphagnum peat, wood chips, sawdust, and worm droppings.

Inorganic amendments also may be used, and are usually relied on to improve water retention and drainage. Vermiculite, perlite, pea gravel, and sand are examples of inorganic amendments. A combination of organic and inorganic amendments can create the perfect mix for your needs.

Soil amendments typically are added to new and unplanted beds. Peat moss and shredded bark take years to decompose and will serve as long-term amendments in the soil. Compost breaks down quickly and may need to be worked in more frequently.

Experts recommend spreading amendments on the planting bed and then using a rake or tiller to work it in to a depth of about nine inches. Particularly sandy soil or soil with a lot of clay may need more amendments.

Permanent plants, such as trees or shrubs, also can benefit from the extra nutrient boost amendments provide. Sometimes it is sufficient to spread the material over the soil surface and let rainwater and wildlife help distribute it to the plant roots. Otherwise, work it into the top inch or two of the dirt with a hand cultivator.

Soil amendments can be the difference between a thriving garden and healthy landscape and one that has seen better days. GT154054

What is Aeration?

lawn1First-time homeowners or those just beginning to embrace their inner landscaper may notice their neighbors using a machine to punch holes in their lawns and wonder what they’re doing. While aeration is slightly more complicated than simply punching holes in a lawn, that’s likely what your neighbors are up to when you see them manning an unfamiliar machine in their lawns.

Aeration may be a foreign concept to men and women with little lawn care experience, but it’s a relatively simple way to ensure your lawn stays healthy.

What is aeration?

Lawn aeration is the practice of perforating the surface of a lawn in an effort to promote stronger roots and a healthier landscape. A host of factors, from inclement weather to kids using the yard as a playground to the type of grass in a yard, can make it difficult for lawns to thrive. Aerating is a way to counter some of the things that prevent lawns from looking lush.

Why should I aerate?

Aeration is practiced so lawns can grow deeper roots, as poking holes in the surface breaks up compacted soil, thereby allowing air, nutrients and water to reach the root system.

Over time, a lawn that is not aerated is likely to feature compacted soil that won’t absorb water and nutrients, which are essential to maintaining a healthy lawn.

Lawns that are not aerated also tend to build up thatch. Thatch is a matted layer of materials that can build up in a lawn over time. Grass clippings and other debris might not stick to your shoe when you walk through the yard, but they are combining to create thatch just below the surface of the grass. That thatch also makes it difficult for water and nutrients to reach the soil where they can promote strong, healthy root systems. Aeration helps to combat the buildup of thatch and promote a healthy lawn.

Can I do it myself?

Homeowners with little experience caring for their lawns may want to consult professionals before tackling the project themselves. Many professional landscaping services have experience in aerating lawns, which can be labor-intensive. Aerating is not necessarily a difficult task, but some aerators do not cover much soil surface with each pass they make, so it can take a while to complete a full aeration of your lawn. In addition, some homeowners may be uncomfortable operating an aerator, and that can lead to mistakes that can harm a lawn. Homeowners pressed for time or those concerned about their ability to operate an aerator may benefit from hiring professionals and then watching how the pros do it. If you watch carefully, you might be more confident come the next time your lawn needs to be aerated.

How often should I aerate?

Lawns that are not subject to heavy use can go longer between aerations than those with more frequent use. If kids play in the yard every day or if you routinely host parties where guests spend lots of time in the yard, your lawn will benefit from more frequent aeration. Speak to a landscaping professional about how often your property needs to be aerated, as there may be certain region-specific variables that will influence how frequently a lawn should be aerated.

When should I aerate?

Landscaping professionals recommend aerating lawns during the growing season, when holes created by aeration can be filled by growing grass. Homeowners should consult with a landscaping professional about when to aerate their lawns, as the type of grass may also determine the best time to aerate.

Aeration is a great way for homeowners to ensure their lawns stay lush and healthy for years to come.


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Warning Signs a Tire is About to Go Flat

Few drivers will be fortunate enough to go their entire driving lives without encountering at least one flat tire. Flat tires range from the inconvenient flats, which may interrupt a road trip or make drivers late for work or an appointment, to more dangerous blowouts, which can compromise the safety of drivers, their passengers and anyone else on the road when the tire gives out.

But as inconvenient or dangerous as flats or blowouts can be, they also can be prevented more often than not. Tires often produce warning signs that a flat or blowout is about to emerge, so drivers who want to avoid such unfortunate developments can inspect their tires for the following signs.

· Varying wear: Tires should exhibit the same type of wear. The wear on front tires and back tires may differ, but one front tire should have the same amount of wear as the other and the same goes for the back tires. Uneven tread on tires indicates that the tire with more wear could be about to go out.

· Worn tread: Even drivers who know little about cars can typically recognize when tire tread has worn down to the point where the tire is a safety risk. But drivers who are unsure can employ the quarter test. Insert a quarter into the tread of the tire, with George Washington’s head upright. If you can see the hairline of the United States’ first president, then you need to replace the tire. Perform this test on each of your vehicle’s four tires.

· Low pressure: Drivers who do not routinely check their tire pressure are more likely to endure a flat or blowout than those who regularly make sure their tires are at the manufacturer-recommended pressure, which can be found in a vehicle owner’s manual or by calling the tire manufacturer or visiting their website. An underinflated tire is under stress that can cause the tire to blowout. In addition, poorly inflated tires force engines to work harder, which negatively affects a car’s fuel efficiency.

· Vibration: A car that vibrates excessively may do so because tires are damaged. Poor suspension is another cause of excessive vibration. Whatever is behind a car that is vibrating, drivers should immediately take the car to their mechanic for an inspection.

· Physical damage to the tire: Sometimes tires exhibit physical damage like bulges or cuts, and such signs could mean a flat tire or blowout is just around the corner. Tires that exhibit such physical damage need to be replaced immediately.

Flat tires and blowouts can prove both scary and inconvenient. Drivers who want to avoid such problems should routinely inspect their tires for indicators that a flat or blowout is likely to occur. SC153005